Friday, September 30, 2011

Recounting God's Mercy and Grace

Yesterday, I was listening to the podcast Jonah from Issues, Etc. and was awed by God's mercy and grace throughout the short book.  Think about it:

1.  Jonah runs from his duty and God forces the issue with a storm.  Not only did the Lord withhold immediate punishment from Jonah, but he ends up witnessing of the Lord's greatness and sovereignty to the sailors, who end up worshiping and making vows.

2.  After being thrown overboard, God sends a great fish to swallow Jonah, saving his life and giving him time to repent of his actions, who delivered him to dry ground.

3.  Jonah preaches throughout Nineveh, capital city of one of the most bloodthirsty, ruthless nations ever to have existed.  Every person from the greatest to least, seeing they deserved God's wrath, repented and fasted from food and water for three days along with their animals, turning away God's wrath.

4.  Sullen Jonah was still pouting and complained that the Lord was gracious and merciful, and the Lord took care of him anyway by providing shade, then after removing the shed, teaching Jonah that he is even more merciful and gracious than Jonah understood.

Ten Lepers
Now if this was not enough, I later listened to Luke 17:11-19, Jesus Heals Ten Lepers.  Now, I understood the action of the Samaritan at the end (or so I thought), when the guest explained the full import of Jesus statement, "Go and show yourselves to the priests."  This was the prescribed action (Lev 14:2-4), but there is a catch.  Only the nine Jews would be allowed before the priest: Samaritans were outcasts and unwelcome in Jerusalem.  There would be no approach for examination or to offer the sacrifice for cleansing.  The only recourse for this man was to go to God in person:
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.  Now he was a Samaritan.  Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed?  Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
The Samaritan had faith in the right person, and because of this, he was made complete.  It was faith in the Lord Jesus that healed him boday and soul.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Giving Account of Careless Words

Matthew 12:36-37
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Arnobius is coming to the end of this section in which he has castigated the pagans for demeaning and insulting their gods by attributing to them character reprehensible if found in mankind, much less deity.  In summation he points out that relating something sinful and evil to deity to goes beyond the pale.  Any sentient being worthy of worship must be highly honored in every respect, whether concerning personal nature or name.  If one believes a divine entity is present (a reasonable assumption), every care should be taken to honor that one in every respect.
Now, while in this you might be held guilty in one respect for writing in such wise about the gods, you have added to your guilt beyond measure1 in calling base things by the names of deities, and again in defaming the gods by giving to them the names of infamous things.

But if you believed without any doubt that they were here close at hand, or anywhere at all, fear would check you in making mention of them, and your beliefs and unchanged thoughts should have been exactly as if they were listening to you and heard your words.  For among men devoted to the services of religion, not only the gods themselves, but even the names of the gods should be reverenced, and there should be quite as much grandeur in their names as there is in those even who are thought of under these names.
Arnobius of Sicca, The Case against the Pagans, Book IV, cap. 44
This same argument applies equally to Christians.  Though we may not overtly link God with sin and evil, we certainly can do that through how we carry his reputation in life and conduct.  God uniquely ties together his word and name (Ps 138:2), so that any defamation brought on one reflects on the other.  At Sinai God makes known that his people who are called by his name should conduct themselves in such a way that will never defame his holy character.
Exodus 20:7
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
As well, he gave specific instructions concerning those who are speaking something false in his name.
Deuteronomy 18:20
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.
Even if retribution is not meted out by the Lord immediately, all will be made plain at the final judgment with just reward or condemnation.
Luke 12:2-3
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
To an almighty God, we owe much that could never be paid, yet he is loving beyond all conception and has given everything by Christ's death for sinful man.  To him all honor is due.

1 Addere garo gerrem, a proverb ridiculing a worthless addition, which nullifies something in itself precious, garum being a highly esteemed sauce (or perhaps soup), which would be thrown away upon gerres, a worthless kind of salt fish.  Arnobius merely means, however, that while such stories are wrong, what follows is unspeakably worse.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

You Know It's True

Thabiti Anyabwile has a good post at The Gospel Coalition entitled Multi-Site Churches Are from the Devil that is worth your time.  I am sorely tempted to say the same about the multi-service church.

"But Steve, doesn't your own church have multiple services?"


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The King Who Took a Stand

There were eight good kings of Judah, after the kingdom divided in 931 BC, with the first of these being Asa whose 41-year reign began in 911 BC.  His famous great-grandfather, Solomon, had begun well but allowed his many wives to turn his heart from the Lord.  In return He brought retribution on the nation by dividing it after the king's death.  When Asa took the throne, peace came to the land (2 Chr 14:1-2), but his was an uphill climb.  In different areas, the new king had to make a stand.1

Stand against an awful heritage (2 Chr 14:3-7; 15:16-19)
The two kings of Judah preceding Asa, Rehoboam and Abijah, both did evil in the Lord's sight.  The former did so passively by turning away from the Lord after he had been established (2 Chr 12:1) and allowed worship on high places to Asherim as well as cult prostitution (1 Ki 14:23-24).  Even the king's mother had to be dealt with directly because of idolatry.  Asa had made a decision that the sin which marked the last two kings was not going to rule over him.

Stand against a dreadful enemy (2 Chr 14:8-15)
An army numbering almost double that of Judah came up from Ethiopia and was making its way north.  We are not told what stirred the invasion: perhaps their ruler heard of the reforms being done in Judah and thought such drastic action would cause dissent in Judah, making it an easy target.  Asa saw the threat and went out to meet it.  Acknowledging the immense force of the enemy and understanding that his own brave army of valorous men faced certain defeat, Asa turned to the Lord as the only one capable of winning the victory.  Because the army of Judah was fighting in the Lord's name (i.e., servants of all the Holy One of Israel represented) and not for their own glory, they won the day.

Stand upon God's unshakable promises (2 Chr 15:1-15)
While the spiritual and military victories were impressive, one must ask why Asa had made such a turn from his fathers to the Lord his God.  We are not told directly, but a logical assumption ties his actions with what he knew of God's word plus Azariah's visit in chapter 15.  The prophet seems to have come at some point while Asa was bringing reforms to Judah and encouraged the king with the certainty of the Lord's presence and blessing if he continued to walk in his commands and precepts.  With this encouragement, Asa was able to make sweeping reforms and lead the people in worship and a renewal of the covenant.  The divinely-inspired scriptures were necessary to understand the present condition and what the Lord had done for a fallen world that they might have life.
The Wheels Fall Off (2 Chr 16:1-14)
As with any man of Adam's race, sin remains a very present reality.  So it is with a man who reigned wisely for 35 years but forgot who had provided him the wisdom and peace.  Baasha, king of Israel, was building Ramah to prevent those in the north from going south after seeing the reforms happening in Judah.  Asa wanted to stop this, so he bought off the king of Assyria to break the latter's treaty with Israel.  Though this had its desired result to stop the building, but because Asa relied on Assyria to handle the problem instead of going before the Lord, God sent a prophet to point out the sin with the consequence of continuing war the rest of his days.  Rather than repent, Asa jailed the prophet and treated some of the people cruelly.  Finally, he became diseased in his feet, yet still refused the Lord's help by seeking out physician's.

Asa's refusal to confess his sin and repent allowed bitterness to reign in the last few years of his life and rule.  This is a problem that can overcome Christians today, if allowed.  Lives have been ruined because bitterness from unconfessed sin has been allowed to fester and spread like gangrene, not only in the individual but to the church body.  The solution is to fall on the grace of Christ.  His death, burial, and resurrection is the final solution for all sin for all time.  Receiving the gift of grace that covers that sin allows the person to live in freedom.  This sounds like an easy solution: it is because the work of grace has been done on my behalf, yet accepting can be difficult because, even as a Christian who has been taught and known the release of sin's guilt, we can stumble because of pride.  Early on the believer has won early victories with the Lord help but now has become self-satisfied in his walk and relies more on himself or the world than the Lord who bought him.

Consider what God told Asa, "The Lord is with you while you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you" (2 Chr 15:2).  Does this mean we must work to build ourselves up to somehow become better in God's eyes?  No, but we come before the Lord of glory, recognizing that he alone is sufficient to remove our sin and to whom we go for our daily bread.  The life of faith is lived in knowing there is nothing within ourselves, but all comes from our Lord.

1 My thanks to Aaron Telecky for the first three points as given in his sermon of 9/25/11.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Drought Conditions

Photo by Mose Buchele for KUT News
You may have noticed that my output has been as fruitful as a Texas drought.  It is not that I have given up on gleanings from Arnobius of Sicca but lack appropriate material to post here.  In Book V of his work, the apologist reviews the sordid tales found in the histories of the Roman gods.  Oh, my!  These deities were a vile lot: kidnap, murder, drunkenness, adultery, incest, same-sex relations, bargaining information for sexual favors.  (A typical day in the District of Columbia, I suppose, but still difficult to absorb.)  What really caught my attention came in chapter 27, where he states:
Oh, what have we had it in our power to bring forward with scoffing and jeering, were it not for respect for the reader, and the dignity of literature!
It gets worse?!  He is sparing our sensitivities?!  I found it disturbing as is and struggled to properly summarize his sanitized content without being too graphic.  The editors of the two English translations I own leave one section in Latin because of the content.  Good for them.

I am approximately 75% completed with this book.  There may be something useful before the end, but I doubt it.  Book VI should have something worthwhile.  Be patient.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

God Offers Pure Grace

Romans 11:5-6
So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.  But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

But if we are saved by pure grace, why should our salvation be such a difficult task—provided it is really grace that saves us?  It is precisely because we are saved by grace that God must have arranged matters so that we need nothing but the means by which God offers us forgiveness of sins, grace, and salvation.  When God says to the sinner, "Only believe," He is saying, "Accept what I give you; have confidence in Me.  What I am telling you is the truth.  Just come, lay hold of My gift, and take it."  When I hear the gospel preached to me, I am supposed to believe that it is God who is bringing me these glad tidings by means of the preacher's proclamation.  At the same time, God is saying to me: "Why do you keep on working to accumulate good works?  Christ has acquired all that you need.  Just believe, and all is yours.  I am not lying."  That is what God says.
C.F.W. Walther, Thesis IX
Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible,
(trans. Christian C. Tiews; St Louis: Concordia, 2010), 175.

Monday, September 19, 2011

From Eternity to Here, Frank Viola - Book Review

I have enjoyed reading Frank Viola's books, so when this became available for free download, I jumped at the chance.  The best that can be said for this book is that it was worth the price. Had actual funds been transferred, a refund would have been appropriate.

The book is divided into three sections.  The first relates how God's ultimate passion was a bride for His son.  Now, I do not want to negate that a bride was not in God's mind since before the foundations of the earth, but to state that is His ultimate passion is to say that the eternal Trinitarian Godhead is incomplete.  Is this really Viola's claim?  Is the only begotten Son of God so lovesick that the Father must send the Holy Spirit out to find a suitable bride, and until that happens God is thwarted? What kind of a God is this?  Surely it is not the one found in Scripture who is all in all and complete within Himself.

To build his case, Viola begins with eisegesis: he states that Eve did not come along until after the seven days of creation were complete.  Where did this come from?  I have read most works of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and they do not mention this. Is this a later development?  A Google search gives many sights with this theory, but those I read were promoting a different race of man having been created before Adam and Eve came on the scene—more folly.

Section two outlines how God has always wanted a dwelling place.  Again, I do not wish to take away from His promises to dwell with the elect, especially that found in the new Jerusalem, but to claim God was basically homeless without the church is utter nonsense.  Again, where can we find apostolic or historic teaching that such is the case?

These first two sections were written in a sentimental style.  The aim was clearly to appeal to the emotions without reasoning through divine revelation.  This is sloppy teaching, and the author should know better.

Section three surprised me because of the clear, correct application that was made in spite of the faulty foundation built with the first two.  If someone could secure a copy of the book and read only this part, there would be some merit.

At the end of the book is a page of acknowledgements which disturbed me.  The scholars were a mixed bag—some I trust, other not—but the authors and friends I recognized frightened me: Tom Wright, Brian McLaren, and Mike Bickle.  These men are cover the spectrum from poor to heretical theology.  Frank Viola considers these men as influential or friends.  While someone might be able to divorce friendship from exegesis, eventually the errors will become ingrained.  Apparently, this book is the manifestation of that association.

If you choose to read this book, do so with your Bible open and sound commentaries at your disposal.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Knowledge of Scripture Leads to Christ-centered Solutions

These, [the mixed multitude,] being themselves indifferent to the true interests of the Christian life, are incapable of sharing in the government of a religious body; they will therefore gladly free themselves from a burdensome responsibility by casting it on their leaders.  The hierarchy gains strength in proportion as living piety declines.

On the other hand, a Church composed of earnest, active Christians, well instructed in divine things, is a self-governing Church; it does not surrender to any the conduct of its highest interests, which it regards no less than sacred obligations; its rights and duties go hand in hand, and the former are forfeited only as the latter are neglected.  A saintly life cannot be servile.  Primitive Christianity preserved its sacred liberty so long as it defended itself against the intrusion of foreign elements, and its stern discipline proved the strongest bulwark of its independence.  Thus so long as every Christian believed himself to be a priest of Christ, no special priesthood could interfere between him and heaven.  The true worshiper of the living God stands erect in presence of every human dignitary, and is intolerant of the superstitions of man just in proportion to his reverent submission to the authority of God.

E. de Pressensé, Christian Life and Practice in the Early Church, 
(trans. Annie Harwood-Holmden; London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1877), 7-8.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Live and Suffer as Servants of God

1 Peter 2:16
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

1 Peter 3:14-16
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.  Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

For why, indeed, have our writings deserved to be given to the flames? our meetings to be cruelly broken up, in which prayer is made to the Supreme God, peace and pardon are asked for all in authority, for soldiers, kings, friends, enemies, for those still in life, and those freed from the bondage of the flesh; in which all that is said is such as to make men humane, gentle, modest, virtuous, chaste, generous in dealing with their substance, and inseparably united to all embraced in our brotherhood?1
Arnobius of Sicca, The Case against the Pagans, Book IV, cap. 36

1 I.e., the communion of saints within the church.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Honor the Lord by Exposing Error

When followers of a worldview are presented with logical contradictions that expose the system as actually being disgraceful toward what it is trying to exalt, they often try to deflect and claim no culpability because the discipline's elements are being perpetrated by the worldview's teachers.  Arnobius points out that there is little likelihood that a thinking person inventing something that brings disdain on the worldview being communicated.  And even if that was true, the followers' guilt remains because nothing has been done to repel or denounce what is insulting.  Just the opposite, the teaching is being repeated broadly as true, and those outsiders denouncing the faults are being slandered for being correct.

"But all these things," they say, "are the fictions of poets, and games arranged for pleasure."

It is certainly not credible that men by no means thoughtless, who sought to trace out the character of the remotest antiquity, either did not insert in their poems the fables which survived in the minds of men and common conversation; or that they would have assumed to themselves so great license as to foolishly feign what was almost sheer madness, and might give them reason to be afraid of the gods, and bring them into danger with men.

But let us grant that the poets are, as you say, the inventors and authors of tales so disgraceful.  You are not, however, even thus free from the guilt of dishonoring the gods, who either are remiss in punishing such offenses, or have not, by passing laws, and by severity of punishments, opposed such indiscretion; and it has not been established by you that no man should henceforth say that which was very near to disgrace or was unworthy of the glory of the gods.  For whoever allows the wrongdoer to sin, strengthens his audacity; and it is more insulting to brand and mark anyone with false accusations, than to bring forward and upbraid their real offenses.  For to be called what you are, and what you feel yourself to be, is less offensive, because your resentment has less bite, being weakened by the testimony of silent reviewing; but that wounds very keenly which brands the innocent, and defames a man’s honorable name and reputation.
Arnobius of Sicca, The Case against the Pagans, Book IV, cap. 32

Sadly, the church, both local and universal, has sometimes taken the same stance regarding those trying to correct improprieties and what defames Christ from within.  Historical and present times afford multiple examples of practices, teachings, and movements put forward in the name of Christ which were contrary to divine revelation.  Those sounding alarms were exiled, castigated, reviled, and in the past even tortured or killed so the promoters of error should not face the facts of their ways.

When a new movement or teaching arises, it is incumbent on the local church to ascertain the facts, not the motivation, behind it.  Promoters are by nature sincere and passionate in what they are promoting.  Discerning church bodies, especially the leaders, must wrestle with the issue or issues presented and compare with Scripture.  Reaction by a promoter may be negative, vociferous, and possibly vicious, but
the agenda of men is not our standard of conduct or practice.  We answer to the Lord of all—holding his name high and defending his honor to the utmost.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

True Worship Is More than Sacrifices

1 Samuel 15:22-23
Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
John 4:23-24
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Arnobius provides to the pagan worshipers a reminder of what true worship entails—obedience rather than sacrifice.  Christians, those purchased by the precious, shed blood of Jesus Christ, have no less obligation.  Let us fear lest we also become complacent and be like the Jews to whom was said:

“Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord.  But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’  You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God.  What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts?'"  Malachi 3:13-14

For it is not he who is anxiously thinking of religious rites, and slays spotless victims, who gives piles of incense to be burned with fire, not he must be thought to worship the deities, or alone discharge the duties of religion.  True worship and belief worthy of gods are in the heart; nor does it at all avail to bring blood and gore, if you believe about them things which are not only far remote from and unlike their nature, but even to some extent stain and disgrace both their dignity and virtue.

We wish, then, to question you, and invite you to answer a short question: Whether you think it a greater offense to sacrifice to them no victims, because you think that so great a being neither wishes nor desires these; or, with foul beliefs, to hold opinions about them so degrading, that they might rouse anyone’s spirit to a mad desire for revenge?  If the relative importance of the matters be weighed, you will find no judge so prejudiced as not to believe it a greater crime to defame by manifest insults anyone’s reputation, than to treat it with silent neglect.  For this, perhaps, may be held and believed from deference to reason; but the other course manifests an impious spirit, and a blindness despaired of in fiction.  If in your ceremonies and rites neglected sacrifices and expiatory offerings may be demanded, guilt is said to have been contracted; or if by a momentary forgetfulness anyone has erred either in speaking or in pouring wine,…you all cry out immediately that something has been done contrary to the sacredness of the ceremonies;…and yet do you dare to deny that the gods are always being wronged by you in sins so grievous, while you confess yourselves that, in less matters, they are angry, often to your ruin?

Arnobius of Sicca, The Case against the Pagans, Book IV, cap. 30-31

Friday, September 9, 2011


What happens when you enter a room designed and built for a prima donna?  You are expected to focus your attention on her alone.  Now what if there were several such women present at one time?

Arnobius paints a scenario using the five known goddesses named Minerva as an unsuspecting worshiper enters.

Grab some popcorn, and enjoy the show.

For suppose that it had occurred to us, moved either by suitable influence or violent fear of you, to worship Minerva, for example, with the rights you deem sacred, and the usual ceremony: if, when we prepare sacrifices, and approach to make the offerings appointed for her on the flaming altars, all the Minervas shall fly thither, and striving for the right to that name, each demand that the offerings prepared be given to herself; what drawn-out animal shall we place among them, or to whom shall we direct the duties of pious service?

For the first one of whom we spoke will perhaps say: “The name Minerva is mine, mine the divine majesty, who bore Apollo and Diana, and by the fruit of my womb enriched heaven with deities, and multiplied the number of the gods.”

“Nay, Minerva,” the fifth will say, “are you speaking, who, being a wife, and so often a mother, have lost the sanctity of spotless purity?  Do you not see that in all temples the images of Minervas are those of virgins, and that all artists refrain from giving to them the figures of matrons?  Cease, therefore, to appropriate to yourself a name not rightfully yours.  For that I am Minerva, begotten of father Pallas, the whole band of poets bear witness, who call me Pallas, the surname being derived from my father.”

The second will cry on hearing this: “What say you?  Do you, then, bear the name of Minerva, an impudent parricide, and one defiled by the pollution of lewd lust, who, decking yourself with rouge and a harlot’s arts, roused upon yourself even your father’s passions, full of maddening desires?  Go further, then, seek for yourself another name; for this belongs to me, whom the Nile, greatest of rivers, begot from among his flowing waters, and brought to a maiden’s estate from the condensing of moisture.  But if you inquire into the credibility of the matter, I too will bring as witnesses the Egyptians, in whose language I am called Neith, as Plato’s Timaeus attests.”

What, then, do we suppose will be the result?  Will she indeed cease to say that she is Minerva, who is named Coryphasia, either to mark her mother, or because she sprung forth from the top of Jove’s head, bearing a shield, and girt with the terror of arms?  Or are we to suppose that she who is third will quietly surrender the name? and not argue and resist the assumption of the first two with such words as these: “Do you thus dare to assume the honor of my name, O Sais, sprung from the mud and eddies of a stream, and formed in miry places?  Or do you [turning to the fourth Minerva] usurp another's rank, who falsely say that you were born a goddess from the head of Jupiter, and persuade very silly men that you are reason?  Does he conceive and bring forth children from his head?  That the arms you bear might be forged and formed, was there even in the hollow of his head a smith’s workshop?  Were there anvils, hammers, furnaces, bellows, coals, and pincers?  Or if, as you maintain, it is true that you are reason, cease to claim for yourself the name which is mine; for reason, of which you speak, is not a certain form of deity, but the understanding of difficult questions.”

If, then, as we have said, five Minervas should meet us when we approach to sacrifice, and contending as to whose this name is, each demand that either clouds of incense be offered to her, or sacrificial wines poured out from golden cups; by what arbiter, by what judge, shall we dispose of so great a dispute?  Or what examiner will there be, what umpire of so great boldness as to attempt, with such personages, either to give a just decision, or to declare their causes not founded on right?  Will he not rather go home, and, keeping himself apart from such matters, think it safer to have nothing to do with them, lest he should either make enemies of the rest, by giving to one what belongs to all, or be charged with folly for yielding [as you do] to all what should be the property of one?

Arnobius of Sicca, The Case against the Pagans, Book IV, cap. 16

Cheap Building Materials

1 Corinthians 3:11-13
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
Over time, the pagans against whom Arnobius writes have moved from the foundations of their religious system by inventing new gods with the same names as preëxisting gods.  As well, their theologians are teaching this whole system.  Christ's church fell into the same type of trap.  Not content to build on the foundation and cornerstone of Jesus Christ with the gold, silver, and precious stones as did the apostles, adaptations have been made, even now abandoning the biblical names for the Triune God with other, more "culturally-relevant" monikers as the Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ have done recently.

Arnobius points out the obvious results of such decisions—difficulty and confusion without any visible mooring.

But if it is true and certain, and is told in earnest as a well-known matter, either they are not all gods, inasmuch as there cannot be several under the same name, as we have been taught; or if there is one of them, he will not be known and recognized, because he is obscured by the confusion of very similar names.  And thus it results from your own action, however unwilling you may be that it should be so, that religion is brought into difficulty and confusion, and has no fixed end to which it can turn itself, without being made the sport of equivocal illusions.

Arnobius of Sicca, The Case against the Pagans, Book IV, cap. 15

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Am the Lord, Who Does All These Things

Isaiah 45:5-7
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
        besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
        that people may know, from the rising of the sun
        and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the Lord, who does all these things.

After chiding the pagans for their many gods, Arnobius asks how they can be sure there is not one God who is over all these things making them seem to be under the influence of many deities.  And since they do not trust Christians, let them ask the other nations who have finally come to some conception of a supreme god.  Then they might finally understand.

Or, if you refuse to believe this on account of its novelty, how can you know whether there is not some one being, who comes in place of all whom you invoke, and substituting himself in all parts of the world, shows to you the appearance of many gods and powers?

"Who is that one?" someone will ask.

We may perhaps, being instructed by truthful authors, be able to say; but, lest you should be unwilling to believe us, let my opponent ask the Egyptians, Persians, Indians, Chaldeans, Armenians, and all the others who have seen and become acquainted with these things in the esoteric arts.  Then, indeed, you will learn who is the One God, or who the very many under Him are, who pretend to be gods, and make sport of men’s ignorance.

Arnobius of Sicca, The Case against the Pagans, Book IV, cap. 13

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Worshiping Virtue: The Idol of Political Correctness

People sense that virtue is a divine attribute either as a result of inherent knowledge from the imago dei, or by reasoning that since evil is prevalent in mankind, divinity must be somehow transcendentally other.  In either case, God can be said to have placed eternity in man's heart though he is unable to understand it all (Eccl 3:11).  At some point in Roman society and history the decision was made to deify virtues themselves turning attention from the creator to the created.  This allowed men to promote and magnify themselves if they attained to these virtues as a goal in itself without purpose for society as a whole.

In much the same way, American domestic policy has turned in a similar direction.  Understanding, tolerance, equality, justice, etc. are worthwhile traits for any person or group, but they have been elevated to a status that may be considered divine.  Laws are enacted, corporate policies are reworked.  Specific values are set up as laudable goals but deemed
by those in authority to be idols worthy of worship.  If the knee is not bowed, the consequences will be suffered.  As was true centuries ago, we as a nation are now bowing to idols that reflect our humanity.  What godless men hope to attain, though in reality never shall, they deify and worship, ignoring the Lord of all who bestowed on man the very gifts and attributes being idolized.

Arnobius saw the folly in this whole line of reasoning amongst the Romans and asked why they are worshiping human virtues as gods?  They have nothing in themselves—no divine power of their own.  In fact, the opposites are demonstrated daily through human actions.

And that being the case, how can these things be deified, either then or now?

We would ask you, especially you Romans, lords and princes of the world, whether you think that Piety, Concord, Safety, Honor, Virtue, Happiness, and other such names, to which we see you see altars built and splendid temples, have divine power, and live in in the regions of heaven?  Or, as is usual, have you classed them with the deities merely for form’s sake, because we desire and wish these blessings to fall to our lot?  For if, while you think them empty names without any substance, you yet deify them with divine honors, you will have to consider whether that is a childish frolic, or tends to bring your deities into contempt, when you make equal, and add to their number vain and feigned names.  But if you have loaded them with temples and couches, holding with more assurance that these, too, are deities, we pray you to teach us in our ignorance, by what course, in what way, Victory, Peace, Equity, and the others mentioned among the gods, can be understood to be gods, to belong to the assembly of the immortals?

For we—but, perhaps, you would rob and deprive us of common-sense—feel and perceive that none of these has divine power, or possesses a form of its own kind; but that, on the contrary, they are the manliness of manhood: the safety of the safe, the honor of the respected, the victory of the conqueror, the harmony of the allied, the piety of the pious, the recollection of the observant, the good fortune, indeed, of him who lives happily and without exciting any ill-feeling.

Now it is easy to perceive that, in speaking thus, we speak most reasonably when we observe the contrary qualities opposed to them, misfortune, discord, forgetfulness, injustice, impiety, baseness of spirit, and unfortunate weakness of body.  For as these things happen accidentally, and depend on human acts and chance moods, so their contraries, named after more agreeable qualities, must be found in others; and from these, originating in this wise, have arisen those invented names.

Arnobius of Sicca, The Case against the Pagans, Book IV, cap. 1-2

Monday, September 5, 2011

An Argument against Modalism

The Romans had a propensity to affix different deities to an object, so that, as pertaining to the moon mentioned below three separate persons—Diana, Ceres, Luna—are invoked for the one object.   Arnobius argues: that being the case, then two of the persons are completely unnecessary thus ruining the argument the pagan is attempting to make.

In the same manner, this logic can be addressed to adherents of modalism: that God is one but shows himself in any of three personalities as the situation requires.  One can argue against it that if there is only one person in the Godhead, then the manifestations of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are man-made constructs devoid of any meaning.

Some of your learned men—men, too, who do not chatter merely because their humor leads them—maintain that Diana, Ceres, Luna, are but one deity in triple union and that there are not three distinct persons, as there are three different names; that in all these Luna is invoked, and that the others are a series of surnames added to her name.  But if this is sure, if this is certain, and the facts of the case show it to be so, again is Ceres but an empty name, and Diana: and thus the discussion is brought to this issue, that you lead and advise us to believe that she whom you maintain to be the discoverer of the earth’s fruits has no existence, and Apollo is robbed of his sister, whom once the horned hunter1 gazed upon as she washed her limbs from impurity in a pool, and paid the penalty of his curiosity.

Arnobius of Sicca, The Case against the Pagans, Book III, cap. 34

1 Actaeon.

Happy Labor Day

Or as Gene Veith might restate it: Happy Vocation Day.

Ecclesiastes 3:9-13
What gain has the worker from his toil?  I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.  He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Latest from Church Growth Solutions

My hat goes off to Paul McCain at Concordia Publishing who posted this on his blog.

I always knew there was less expensive solution to increased numbers.  Who says you need a bigger building?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jonathan Edwards Journal

The initial issue of Jonathan Edward Journal is available here with articles in PDF format.  I have opinion on this yet—maybe down the road.