Thursday, August 22, 2013

Who Is This God?

Who is this God you have come to worship?  The pagan gods worked in the world as faraway, capricious agents who affected history for petty reasons.  The god of evolutionism is impersonal, a force that drives things by chance, by whims, and by its own commandment – the fittest will survive.  The god of secular humanism puffs up the individual, lets him tell his own story, set his own boundaries, and in the end, cease to exist or to exist in an eternal loneliness and dark despair.

But you have come to worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This personal God of history  loves sinners enough to send His only Son, to be born of a woman, to be born under the law, and to die on a cross so that they might be saved, so that you might be saved.  Therefore, we approach God as Father and not simply as the impersonal uncreated being or power source.  His personhood, expressed to us perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ is loving and kind, relational and compassionate, strong and secure.

We are invited to come to God our Father in the name of Jesus, His Son.  When we come in His name, united in Him, we are wrapped up in the loving relationship of the Father with His Son.  That love is personal – in fact, that love is a Person Himself – He is the Holy Spirit, and He dwells in those who are found in Christ.  This is too wonderful to fully comprehend – in much the same way the love of a really great human father for his son is hard to fully comprehend – at least it cannot be comprehended like a math problem can be figured out.  Really, it has to be experienced, lived in, lived out – in real time, in real relationship and communion, and over and over renewed with His, the Father’s, kind words – come here, come to Me, come again.  I am your God and you are my people.

The Eternal Father Requires an Eternal Son

Athanasius's third example to prove the eternality of the Son is the requirement of an eternal Son in order for the Father to be an eternal Father.

"Again, the sonship image is about the honor of God.  Would it be honoring to God to say that he was incomplete?  No.  A father who has no son is not a father at all.  Therefore, it is an insult to the Father to say that the Son is anything less than eternal...A son is the perfection of a father's nature" - Leithart, Athanasius, p49.

Only if They are Moving Toward You

"Whether you are a parent, a minister, a healer, or a CEO, your communicant's capacity to hear you depends primarily on the emotional variables of direction, distance, and anxiety.  Others can only hear you when they are moving toward you, no matter how eloquently you phrase the message.  In other words, as long as you are in the pursuing, rescuing, or coercive position, your message, no matter how eloquently broadcast, will never catch up." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p128.

Anxiety, in particular, he mentions, works like static in the conversation, making it impossible to hear the other.  Turn up the volume on the message and the static only goes up as well because anxiety increases.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Environment of Education

There is no such thing as religious neutrality in anyone’s educational material, method, or philosophy.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7) means that you cannot go anywhere in pursuit of knowledge without answering this fundamental question – ‘do you fear the Lord?’  If it is true that God created the universe ex nihilo, and that ‘in Him we live and move and have our being’, then how can we ever faithfully study anything without acknowledging the full authority of God over the creation and providence of that thing?  As faithful disciples, we must learn to bring every thought captive to Christ, and to ‘the Queen of the sciences’.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chronic Anxiety and Books on Marriage

"It is remarkable how the explosion of books in recent years about management resembles the similar explosion that occurred in the 1960s regarding premarital counseling.  As society became anxious about the rising divorce rate and everyone talked about the demise of the family, the number of books being written for the clergy in this country on premarital counseling seemed to be exceeding the number of people getting married." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p113.

Books and blogs and chronic anxiety.  I am reminded of Solomon:  "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh."  There really is a way to study an issue that in the end is only wearisome.  This happens when one is attempting to solve a problem out of anxiety and not from a position in faith - faith in a sovereign and good God.  This occurs constantly in men (and I observe it far more in women) who constantly search the Internet for the latest studies on any issue that is causing them such anxiety.

"Be anxious for nothing..." Paul commands.  If we obey this first and receive the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (see all of Philippians 4:6-7), then it might be OK, after that, to do a little research.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fountain and Stream

The second image Athanasius uses to defend the eternality of the Son is that of the fountain and the stream:
  "Just as a fountain is no fountain without a stream flowing from it, so the Father is no Father without a Son." - Leithart, Athanasius, p47.
Jeremiah calls Yahweh the "fountain of living waters" (Jer 3:12) and thus the basis for Athanasius' second image.

Mother and Mother and Child

"Parenting is no different from any other kind of "managing."  The critical issues in raising children have far less to do with proper technique than with the nature of the parents' presence and the type of emotional processes they engender.  I have, for example, almost never seen a mother who had a mature relationship with her own mother have trouble with her daughter.  Similarly, I never saw a highly reactive or hypercritical father who was not distant from his own family of origin (and who, thereby, made the members of his new nuclear family too important to him.)" - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, pp112-113.

Or, the sins of the fathers are passed down to the future generations.  In ministering to teens and young people interested in getting married, I have made it a practice to get them to see that improving their relationship with their parents, both mom and dad, will have more impact on how well their future marriage will go than almost any other relational investment they can make.  Also when seeking to get to know someone (whether they would be a good match for you or not), I have said that romantic, candle-light dinners will tell you very little; watching that person deal with their parents and siblings will tell you almost all you need to know.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Women in Combat

This is a public gathering of worship where the Lordship of Jesus Christ is to be declared, exposited, offered and applied by all who hear.  Our triune God alone is to be worshiped and we are to hear and proclaim His holy law and gospel openly, both here and throughout His land, without fearing any man.

Jesus said that the church is the light of the world and that we are not to put that light under a basket – it is to be put on a lampstand where it gives light to all who are in the house.  We are to be the salt of the earth, preserving the world from encroaching evil.  One of the applications of these things is that we are to speak openly as a church with regard to public darkness and public evil as it occurs.  It seems we have no lack of opportunity of late, and so as we gather to worship, we must again make a public declaration to our civil rulers.

As a founding member church of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches, our position on the latest action of the military is biblical and clear.  One of our memorials reads as follows:  “It is not lawful for women to be mustered for combat service, for our Lord has declared it an abomination for women to don the martial attire of a man (Deut 22:5).  Christian fathers must protect their daughters from being seduced or coerced into such a circumstance, and the Church must support them as they do so.”

In other words, we are required by the scriptures to declare to Mr. Panetta, “Mr. Secretary, you may not place women in combat positions as standard operating procedures.  It is an abomination to the Lord.”
This issue was discussed in two sermons I preached as we went through the book of Deuteronomy.  In Deuteronomy 14:21b we are commanded not to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk and we learned that this passage, in light of all of Scripture, teaches us that women were created by God to be life-givers, nurturers and sustainers of life – not dealers in death.  In Deuteronomy 22:5 we are told that it is an abomination for women to dress in warrior-garb.

Of course, the church is having a difficult time declaring this because we are just as guilty blending genders where the Scriptures make clear distinctions – for instance, ordaining women as though they could be pastors or elders.  We don’t obey the clear and obvious teaching of scripture; why should the world?  Our unisex, egalitarian culture is an abomination.  We are not to destroy mankind, with all of its masculine and feminine distinctions, as God created us.  We are instead to cultivate and glory in these distinctions.  To mess with them is to mess with the picture of the Gospel.

And this is why we are so mixed up.  This is why the church does not know how to wage real warfare with her spiritual weapons.  This is why the Gospel proclaimed to our generation is so impotent.  Our message is all mixed up, our pictures are all skewed, our unrepentant hypocrisies are unnoticed by us but as obvious as can be to the unbelieving world.  Let judgment begin with the household of God.

The Radiance of the Glory - per Athanasius

Leithart describes the four primary paradigms or images that Athanasius finds in Scripture to defend the eternality and full deity of the Son.  Here is the first:

"The point of the radiance image (in Heb 1:3) is to emphasize that the Son is necessary to the Father's existence, as necessary as the rays of light are to the light source, and therefore the Son is just as eternal as the Father.  Just as there is no light that does not radiate, so the Father is not without the radiance of his glory.  When one reads of the Son as the "radiance" of the Father's glory, "who has so little sense as to doubt of the eternity of the Son?  For when did man see light without the brightness of its radiance, that he may say of the Son, 'There was once, and He was not,' or 'Before His generation He was not'?" (Discourses 1.12)...The light-radiance imagery not only proves the co-eternity of the Father and the Son but also shows, in Athanasius's view, that the Arian position is nonsensical...The Father cannot create without his Son, any more than a light can illuminate without its radiance." - Leithart, Athanasius, pp44-45.

The Mental Health Industry has ADD

"It is as though the entire mental health profession suffered from its own form of attention deficit disorder.  For example, when the family therapy movement began in the 1960s, Masters and Johnson had just published their books on sexual dysfunction.  For a while every family therapy conference anywhere began to have as its keynote speaker an expert on sexual dysfunction.  Families were going to be made healthy through lack of frustration.  And then, suddenly, the issue receded into the background.  Did everyone suddenly become sexually satisfied?  The focus on sex was replaced for a while by anorexia, then attention deficit disorder, then repressed memory syndrome, and today it is either post-traumatic stress disorder or child abuse.  These issues do not get cured; rather, everyone gets bored because the issue itself is a symptom.  The intensity surrounding it is not due to its own nature but to the fact that it has taken center stage for a while as a focus of societal anxiety." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, pp109-110.

Societies which refuse to submit to and acknowledge the Savior and Healer of the world will never find themselves saved or healed.  They will dab around the wound, a little here, a little there, but they will refuse to deal with the true substance of the trauma.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Arianism is Pantheistic

"At several points, Athanasius argues that Arianism reduces to pantheism or polytheism.  If the Son participates in the Unoriginate, just like everything else, and yet the Son is called "God," then what difference is there between the nature of the Son and the nature of all other originated things?" - Leithart, Athanasius, p24.

Sloppy Christian thinking often does not carefully defend the deity of Christ.  When this happens, even those who are not Arians begin to blur the distinction between "the art of God in creation" and "God in creation."

Medical Studies and a Failure of Nerve

"The propensity of such studies to induce a "failure of nerve" lies not only in their sheer volume, but also by the way a regressed civilization's focus on pathology and drive for certainty causes them to be formatted in the first place...Studies will constantly conclude that your chances of obtaining a particular disease are three or even five times greater if you eat this or do that.  Even though the numbers of people involved in almost all of these studies are very small, a chronically anxious public mind concerned with certainty extrapolates that proportion out in real numbers to a very large portion of the population." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p 106.

My thought:  How does your relationship with Christ, or with your earthly father, figure into all of these health issues that seem to plague our culture?  These may be far more critical issues with regard to health than how much sugar, coffee, wine, or butter you have consumed.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Athanasius the Man

"There is no doubt that Athanasius was a tough customer, and he employed methods to combat heresy and to shore up the Nicene settlement that would make modern bishops blanch...Without excusing his errors and sins, we should recognize that only a tough man, a man of extraordinary determination, could have so single-mindedly fought off Arian views that he regarded as dangerous blasphemies threatening the foundations of the gospel and the church.  Only a very determined man could have stood against emperors and councils of bishops, endured five exiles, and fought off numerous false accusations, all in defense of the gospel." - Peter Leithart, Athanasius, p15.

What is Hindering New Leaders?

"...if a society is to evolve, or if leaders are to arise, then safety can never be allowed to become more important than adventure." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p83.

Take off the bike helmets and light up your pipes (tobacco, that is - jeepers, I forget I live in Washington State).

Friday, August 2, 2013

It Only Takes One to Change

"Contrary to popular thinking, it does not require two people working on a marriage to change it.  Rarely are both partners equally motivated.  But changing a marriage fundamentally does require that someone function as a leader in the sense in which I have been using that term.  Where one partner can be taught to regulate his or her own reactivity, the other will often begin to imitate that behavior, and adaptation can ultimately be reversed.  But for this shift to occur a critical point of departure must be reached:  the more motivated partner must also be able to stop shifting blame to the other and to look more at his or her own input.  This does not mean that they should look more at their own faults, but rather at how they have been compounding the situation." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p81.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Symptoms Come in Fads

"My thesis here is that the climate of contemporary America has become so chronically anxious that our society has gone into an emotional regression that is toxic to well-defined leadership. This regression, despite the plethora of self-help literature and the many well-intentioned human rights movements, is characterized principally by a devaluing and denigration of the well-differentiated self. It has lowered people's pain thresholds, with the result that comfort is valued over the rewards of facing challenge, symptoms come in fads, and cures go in and out of style like clothing fashions." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p53.