Pastor Ham

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Tag: God

May 7, 2015 Resources: God’s Holiness; The Gospel; Church History, and more

I am thankful for much of what the Gospel Coalition and its leading spokesmen stand for. They have done much good for the church. However, with some frequency I am troubled by decisions and positions (or lack thereof) that TGC takes. The most serious error is the confusion they inadvertently create over the definition of the Gospel. You would think an organization that calls itself the Gospel Coalition would take great care to differentiate between the Gospel itself and the Gospel’s effects. What someone must believe to be saved (the Gospel, i.e. the death and resurrection of Christ: 1 Cor. 15:1-4) is different than what the Gospel accomplishes in that person’s life, both in the short- and long-term. Theological liberalism has long blurred these lines by making things like social activism a part of the Gospel itself. It is disconcerting to see a conservative Christian organization that impacts thousands wandering too close to that line.

Church history is really important…even for many of us Baptists who are guilty of acting like it’s not.

Paul, the cultural conservative?

“Preferences”

Has anyone ever tried to shut you down in a discussion by playing the “You’re putting God in a box” card?

R.C. Sproul’s well-known The Holiness of God video series is now available for free on YouTube. Watch this by yourself or with your spouse when you have the time and space to be still and meditate on God’s greatness.

Knowing and Loving God: Part 5b

Click here for an explanation of this series

Friday, June 20, continued (previous post here)

We’ve finally reached the last post in the Knowing and Loving God series. It turned into a 9-part series spread out over the course of several months, which was quite a bit longer than I had hoped to take to get it posted. Barring unforeseen circumstances, my intent is to continue on and publish more series’ based directly off of my class notes from the modular courses I am taking at Central Seminary. In the future this should happen much quicker, as I type notes now during class instead of handwriting and thereby cut out the major step of transcribing.

I have already taken Systematic Theology IV (Sin and Salvation), and in January will be taking Hermeneutics and Sys. VI (Eschatology). Both would make for great series’ here. We’ll see what happens…

Remember our ending question from last time: “What sorts of things are appropriate to feel towards God?” You will find bits and pieces of answers to that question scattered throughout this final edition.

 

What constitutes a god? Anything that is worshipped.

So what does it mean to worship?

When we value a thing instrumentally (for what it can do, i.e. valuing a broom because it sweeps, or a pen because it writes) we are not worshipping it (in the true sense). We are valuing it for what it does. We value a pen because it writes. We value writing because it communicates, we value communication because….you get the idea. But eventually you must come to a fastening point, something that imputes value to other things rather than vice versa. When we find something that’s an end rather than a means, we’ve found something that identifies us. It becomes fundamental to who we are. When we find these types of things, we’ve found our gods (money, power, sensual pleasure, etc.). Another way of putting it: our gods are the things in which we delight, our ultimate pleasures, not because they take us to a higher pleasure, but in and of themselves.

Unconditioned Loyalty + Absolute Trust = Love

We worship what we love. There is only one Being in the universe worthy of our love. And it’s not that we are to love Him above all else. It’s that we are to love Him alone.

Only God.

But wait,” you say, “aren’t we commanded to love our neighbor? Wife? Husband? Others?”

Yes. All of those are obligations. But none of them are loves in and of themselves. If we love God rightly, we will love what God loves.

Why should I love my neighbor? God does.

Why should I love my enemies? God loves His.

Why should I love my wife? God loves the Church.

You see, my love for others is part of my love for God. If my love for them diverges from my love for God, now they have become my gods. They are my idols. To make a thing a god you don’t have to love it more than you love God, you just have to love it independently of God.

And the worse thing you can possibly do is to make God a means to one of these ends. (See: 90% of the titles at your local Xtian bookstore; they run something like this: “How Can I Make God Provide My Idols to Me?”)

Our churches are filled with idolaters.

We are idolaters.

 

There are two problems with idolatry

  1.     Our idols conflict with one another

As it turns out, all gods are jealous gods. And so idolaters are conflicted people. To pursue both wealth and sensual pleasures will create conflict. If I pursue sensual pleasures, it will cost me wealth. If I horde wealth, it will cost me some of my sensual pleasures.

This is contrary to the lie of modern American civilization. People have been told they can have it all, and that this is their right. And since they don’t have it all, they think someone is keeping it from them. This leads to resentment. And resentful people are easy to manipulate. Sooner or later reality comes crashing in. Both political parties are courting disaster by manipulating in this way.

  2.     No god is capable of supporting the weight of the human soul

Only the true and living God can. Money will evaporate. Sensual pleasure will end. Your spouse will die. Your job may fire you. And if nothing else, all of your gods will be stripped away in eternity. One second into eternity, no one, including you, will care about these anymore.

At the end of the day, Jehovah alone is worthy of our worship and love. He alone is the center of all things, from which all other things derive their value.

HE ALONE IS GOD!

 

So how do we show our love for God?

Part of the way we show our love for God is how we respond when He puts His hand on an area of our life and takes it away (for instance, good health). Lesson #1: joyful submission to God. God loves us so much that He will not let us persist in worshipping a false god. He will expose it and put His hand on it.

A) You need a God who is worthy of worship.

B) You need a right inward response to that God. (this is a part of worshipping “in truth” John 4:24)

C) You need an adequate vehicle for the expression of that response.

It’s no good becoming more emotional until we know if those emotions are right or good. It’s actually worse because you are becoming more and more disobedient.

Mind game (or thought experiment, if you prefer): How would you teach your children to be irreverent if that was the goal of your church? How about giving them a show? Some puppets perhaps? How would you teach them to be legalists and externalists? How about giving them a trophy or a crown pin with little jewels?

All of this stuff converts Christianity into “glandular religion” (credit to Rolland McCune), or gut reaction (Religion of the gut).

One of the purposes of this course is to help us discern when the affections (ordinate) are in play and when the passions (inordinate) are in play.


Side note: There is nothing less relevant than a contemporary church. A contemporary church is declaring to all, “We have nothing to say.” In a society that attempts to cover its despair by grasping for new identities (sexual identities, for instance), a contemporary church is saying, “Hey, look! We’re in despair too!” (In other words, “We’re just like you. Come hang out with us, you’ll be comfortable here. What you get with us is just like what you get out there in the world.”)

The world needs real and true answers. The world needs a message of hope, the transforming message of the Gospel. And we aren’t living it.


 

Legalism: the effort to gain God’s favor through external observances; legalism is thwarted by John 4: loving God is preliminary to all legitimate worship

The term “legalism” is abused by both fundamentalists and evangelicals. Fundamentalist abuse: “as long as you aren’t trying to earn salvation, it’s not legalism.” Evangelical abuse: “If you have any external standards, you’re a legalist.”

DoxyPraxyPathy

If you only have one or two of these three, you end up with:

DeadLegalCharis


In closing, how ought you to behave if these things are being done wrongly at your church?

1.   Never do evil. If you cannot participate with a clear conscience before God, do not do it.

2.   There is a difference between doing evil and living in close proximity to it. There is no church anywhere free from all evil (And if it were perfect your presence would change that).

3.   There is tolerable evil and intolerable evil. You have to live with a certain amount of tolerable evil (And do it peacefully! Gracious living according to conscience; value the unity of the Body). If the evil is intolerable, you go and find another church or plant one.

 

This series has been enjoyable to transcribe as I’ve been forced to think back through all of these principles again. It does not offer exhaustive answers. Rather, the value of this material is in its opening up of categories of thought that many of us have never considered before. No doubt some of it makes us a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps you disagree with parts. But there is great value in a thorough and honest critique of our worship of God. If we’re getting this wrong (and all of us are at varying levels), there’s not a more important area we could scrutinize biblically and beg God to correct. May the efforts to spread these ideas result in the glory of God through true worship. “Hallowed be Thy name.”

Knowing and Loving God: Part 5a

Click here for an explanation of this series

Friday, June 20, continued (previous post here)

Emotions ought to have a place in Christianity. However, emotions is a poor term. It’s a blunt force instrument. There are different kinds of emotions and not all are appropriate for Christian worship. Using the term “emotions” in this conversation (regarding the inner life, or life of feeling) is like the hunter who Dr. Bauder once encountered who was cleaning his deer with his car keys. It is not the right tool. So let’s begin drawing distinctions.

The ancient Greeks (specifically Plato) had categories of emotions, and they located them within various parts of the body. These ideas will be helpful to the discussion.

Plato's Emotions

 

HEAD (kephalē): pure thinking (think of Data from Star Trek)

UPPER CHEST  (stēthos): courage, patriotism, reverence, wonder; folks like warriors and explorers would be governed by this

LOWER CHEST (splangchna): altruism, gratitude, kindness, mercy, compassion, hope, delight, humor; friends and philanthropists

Both categories of the chest were later combined into one. These feelings can be governed by the understanding, and with the understanding govern other feelings. Chest = affection

BELLY (koilia): bestial/animal emotions, appetites of the body, jealousy, envy, rage, grief, terror, vanity, lust, pity, resentment, avarice, ambition, self-promotion, shame, contempt, disgust, bitterness, remorse, hilarity, vindictiveness; gluttons, drunkards, tyrants, conceited, libidinous; Belly = Passion or appetite

According to Plato, you ought to be governed by your head, never by your belly. Problem: the belly makes a lot of racket. (And by the way, Plato is speaking in metaphors. He didn’t actually believe these locations were literally where these things were located.)

Next important figure: Philo

Philo was a Jewish biblical historian/interpreter who mediated Platonic thought into Jewish life. By Philo’s time, Plato’s four-part distinction had become three by combining the chests. According to Philo, the head can never overrule appetite on its own. Given a struggle between the head and the belly, the belly always wins (this is bad). However, the chest can overcome the belly.

The modern interpreter of this thought is C.S. Lewis (see: ‘The Abolition of Man‘). As he sees it, we’ve raised a whole generation of men without chests, unable to resist their appetites having furnished only their heads (and this was nearly a century ago).

So where is the sin nature in all of this?

Total Depravity: every part of us has been affected by sin; we are prone to using every part of us in rebellion against God; so we are not saying that vice is only in the belly and the splangchna is truly virtuous

How does the N.T. treat these terms?

(I implore you to look at these verses so you can see how these terms come to bear on the conversation, and what the N.T. writers had in mind when they were using them.)

Splangchna: Luke 1:78 | 1 John 3:17 | James 5:11 | Phil. 1:8, 2:1 | Col. 3:12 | usually regarded commendably in the N.T.

Koilia: Rom. 16:17-18 | Phil. 3:18-19 | the term was used a little more flexibly, sometimes just as a metaphor for the innermost self; when used in the sense of moral capacity, it is always used in a negative light

The church fathers borrowed these categories and developed the idea of a higher and lower soul. The problem is not that all of these inner desires are inherently sinful, it is that they are so powerful that if left to unregulated gratification, one will be led into sin.

These are the distinctions you still find when you get 1700 years down the line to Jonathan Edwards. Knowing what is right is not of itself enough of a defense to keep from doing wrong. We often know we are sinning and we do it anyways. Only when reinforced by the chest can we overcome the passions that would rule us.

Improper affections cannot be ruled by the head alone. They must be ruled by right affections. The problem is we’ve lost the distinctions and no longer think in terms of appetites and affections, only “emotions.” And hence we employ improper appetites (especially in regard to worship) thinking they are actually affections.

What Dr. Bauder is getting at in all of this is that not all emotions are appropriate for the worship of God. It’s not just a matter of loving God more, or worshipping Him more, it also has to be loving Him with the right kind of love, and worshipping Him with the right kind of worship. It’s more than a mere quantity issue, it’s a quality issue. We can be loving God with the wrong kind of love, so offering Him more of it is not the fix. We can be offering God inappropriate worship, so increasing it only increases our error. We can do both while thinking (incorrectly) that we are loving Him and worshipping Him rightly.

Take the categories of Fear, Joy, and Love

Are all of these fears the same types of fears? Of course not. Joys? Not a chance. Loves? No. If you tell your wife you love her like your hunting dog, you’ll be in big trouble. Disordered loves are wrong. (You can spot them. You can see when a 56-year old man loves his long-lost youth so much that he dresses like a teenager and gets botox. It’s embarrassing for everyone!)

These are not all the same fears, or joys, or loves. To fear God in some of these ways would be sinful! Insulting! They are not all the same.

So what sorts of things are appropriate to feel towards God?

Stay tuned…

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