Thursday, May 23, 2013
In the course of my memory work in Romans, I am finding that I am not living up to my previously set verses per week goal. I'd say that my pace is somewhere around 15-20 verses per week. It isn't bad, but it's not where I had hoped to be. As with my experience in Ephesians, I find that I don't "get" a chapter in its entirety until I have almost worked through the next one. For example, chapter one hadn't "stuck" in my mind until I made it all the way through chapter two and into three.
I am currently in Romans 3 now, and I finished the Rom 3:10-18 passage recently. That is what I want to share with you today, along with some observations. I am reading a book about the Psalms titled Forgotten Songs: Reclaiming the Psalms for Christian Worship. I am reviewing it for a third party and will have a lengthy review that will be posted on another website; I'll share the link when it is up. For now, I would say that this book has been more than excellent in my opinion.
The book has showed me how this passage, the lengthiest citation of Scripture in all of Paul's letters, is almost entirely taken from the Psalms. There is also more than a hint of Isaiah in verses 10-12. Here is the passage, along with the corresponding Psalms references:
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth,
there is none that seeketh after God.
12 They are all gone out of the way, (Isa 53:6) they are together become unprofitable;
there is none that doeth good,
no, not one. (Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3)
13 Their throat is an open sepulchre;
with their tongues they have used deceit; (Ps.5:9)
the poison of asps is under their lips: (Ps. 140:3)
14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: (Ps. 10:7)
15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:
17 And the way of peace have they not known: (Isa 59:7-8)
18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Ps 36:1)
The unity of Scripture amazes me, and I am always put in a reverent and worshipful frame of mind when I am confronted with it. Paul's letters are literally swimming in the Old Testament, especially the Psalms, and the words of Jesus Himself are even more so. His statements while on the cross are straight from the Psalms, but that is another subject in itself. The Psalms are, in more ways than one, the very words of our Savior.
The book of Psalms is becoming more and more precious to me as I learn more about it. It seems that everywhere I turn in the New Testament, there are the Psalms.
I think that after I "tackle" Romans, I might attempt "the impossible," and spend a few years (!) doing memory work in the Psalms. Alternately, I might start slipping memory work with a few verses from the Psalms in the morning. It seems already that between memorizing Romans and the Westminster Shorter Catechism (a family project), my brain might explode. Memory work is like lifting weights, however. What seems impossible at first later becomes possible, and then even easy. For example, I now warm up for the bench press with a weight that was my max press just three years ago.
It is possible to push both your body and brain to new limits. You can do it. The more you push, the more you are able to push.
At any rate, making the Psalms a part of one's everyday vocabulary and thoughts would put a person in very good company.
Thanks for reading!
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Author: Derek Wilson
Publisher: Lion Fiction (Oxford, England)
Note: This book was provided by Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review.
I recently received an interesting book from KregelPublications for review, as part of their “Blog Tour” program. This book is titled Magnificent Malevolence, and is written in the tradition of the famous Screwtape Letters, which was published in the midst of the Second World War.
Magnificent Malevolence is the entertaining and thought-provoking story of the demon Crumblewit S.O.D. (Order of the Sons of Darkness, 1st Class), as he ascends to a position of power and influence in the forces of darkness in the wake of WW2, progressing on through to modern times. It serves, as the introduction says, as a sort of “Hell’s update.” How fortunate, then, says the introduction, that this account, rescued from the “Low Command’s Ministry of Disinformation,” has fallen into our hands.
I read this book through more than once, as it is not as straight-forward as one would expect. It is, after all, an account that is “distorted by Crumblewit’s truly diabolical conceit and also his ability for self-delusion.” Keeping this distortion in mind led me to think some issues through more thoroughly than I might have had I not kept this in mind. The truth of a given situation in Crumblewit’s account was not always apparent immediately, given that he is not exactly an honest demon (imagine that!), and he seems to be at odds with those on his own side more often than not. One is left wondering if he is truly a demonic “visionary,” a contrarian, or perhaps simply self-deluded. Perhaps he is all three. This leads the reader into some much-appreciated (by me) contemplation, as the layers of deceit and self-deception contained in this story are peeled back one by one.
Also interesting to me were Crumblewit’s ideas and thoughts on the Lord God Almighty, the “unmentionable one,” as he puts it more than once. Crumblewit saw himself as having the ability to use sneaky tactics and surprise against his adversary, though other demons he encountered were more realistic in their appraisal of God’s omnipotence and power. God is utterly sovereign, and he causes all things to work according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). Even those actions meant for evil are used by Him for good (Genesis 50:20).
Many times in his account, Crumblewit was very proud of the way he handled given situations, but was quick to disassociate himself from any disastrous (from the demonic perspective) future consequences of his actions. Crumblewit’s ability for self-delusion led him not only to think that he could actually sneak something past the omnipotent God without notice, but to also refuse to acknowledge any unanticipated or negative consequences of his actions. This thought leads me into self-reflection on my own tendency towards self-justification...
In this book, many topics were discussed from the demonic point of view. The post-WW2 establishment of Israel is discussed, and makes for some interesting thinking. Crumblewit presents this as a great achievement, but one is left to wonder if his “achievement” is only one in a superficial sense. Crumblewit also discusses the destructive shifting of focus by ministers from God and their flocks to their “ministries,” liberal Christianity, the Charismatic movement, the ecumenical movement, fundamentalism, the process of rendering congregations fruitless, and different political/economic systems such as Marxism and democracy. There are some interesting observations made in the discussion of political systems that bear some thought, even if the reader is inclined to disagree to some extent.
In order to bring the story and the struggle into modern times, the book also looked at the use of the internet for both good and evil. I think that this section was valuable, in that it dealt with the realities of the internet both as a help and a potential hindrance to the Church. The internet is here to stay, and I think that we (as the human race in general and the Church in particular) have more than a little adapting to do. I appreciated that Mr. Wilson dealt with this subject in the book through Crumblewit’s point of view.
I find that Magnificent Malevolence is a work of fiction that has deeper implications, and deals with history, theology, the actions that theology drives, and the implications and consequences of seemingly unrelated events. It is entertaining, and as thought-provoking as the reader wants it to be. How many layers of the metaphorical “onion” of deception contained in this book to peel back is entirely up to the reader, but I found it a satisfying experience.
This book also encouraged me to look long and hard about self-deception and conceit, as these two traits defined Crumblewit, and were all but dripping from every statement he made. As I said earlier, one is never quite sure where Crumblewit really stands in the eyes of his demonic superiors, and the latter parts of the book definitely reinforce this uncertainty as Crumblewit grows in power and influence, and tension builds within the forces of darkness.
I enjoyed this book because it was an enjoyable, thought-provoking read. I read it twice: the first time solely for entertainment value. Once I realized the possibilities this book contained, I read it again more slowly, reflecting on the twists and turns of the events and issues it discussed, and the deceit that twisted everything.
I recommend this book for anyone looking for a good read in the spirit of The Screwtape Letters, and I encourage you to think hard on the distortions and deceit contained in it. Crumblewit was a master of deception- deceiving others and himself with equal skill. Magnificent Malevolence is one of those books that I see myself re-reading every once in a while, simply for entertainment and for the thought it provokes.
Thanks for reading!
I posted another article also titled Able Men, Such as Fear God, Men of Truth... not too long ago.
With that piece in mind, I will present again the verse upon which it was written, and then give you a cartoon for reflection.
Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:The cartoon:
Now, is this an example of an able man?
A man who fears God?
A man of truth?
Perhaps President Obama (who is a dedicated advocate of coercive redistributivism, aka theft) somehow hates covetousness?
Ideas and worldviews have consequences. God has provided us with direction on how to select our civil magistrates, leaders, and representatives. There are consequences for ignoring His instructions.
President Obama, in my opinion, is doing nothing more than being consistent in his God-denying worldview. This worldview, in the sense in which I am speaking, has nothing to do with words, but with actions.
I believe that in his eyes, there are no actions that he has taken to date that are inherently wrong, because he has no basis (assuming he stays consistently in his paradigm) upon which to make moral judgments.
I ask again, Why is Lying Wrong?
So he (both President Obama in particular and the Christ-denying man in general) governs arbitrarily, subjectively, with a "the ends justify the means" attitude, the ends themselves being only justifiable if they are what he decides they should be.
A God-denying rule by people intent on claiming their autonomy and asserting independence from God can only lead to tyranny.
Coercion, intimidation, and force are the ultimate means in such a situation.
So what are the ultimate ends of such a system? But very bluntly, they are whatever the person with the most guns decides they should be.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
R.C. Sproul's Critical Questions ebooks are now available free, forever.
I thought I would let you know.
A person can hold a library worth of books on a laptop or even a thumb drive, and much of it can be had for free. I generally prefer hard copies, but far be it from me to pass up something of value that is offered to me for no charge! I'd encourage you to take advantage of these free ebooks.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
|The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.|
"Can you prove that God (the God of the Bible) exists without using the Bible?"
Often, the person asking this question does not understand the implications of what he or she is asking. Taken in the context of the larger question this usually is a part of, whether or not the God of the Bible exists, he is begging the question, as he is presupposing the insufficiency of Scripture to prove the existence of the God of the Bible. In other words, he is taking for granted that the Bible is not true (by doubting its claims of sufficiency) from the outset rather than (as is often claimed) objectively seeking to learn and to discover whether or not it is true.
Asking a Christian this question is asking him to deny his faith. It's asking me to lay aside my worldview to "prove" that my worldview is correct.
The problem with this is that if I were to lay aside my worldview to "prove" its validity, I would be admitting that I did not believe that that my worldview is sufficient.
This would be a direct denial of the worldview and faith I claim to hold to.
It's as nonsensical as George Bush's bid to "save" the free market by "sacrificing free-market principles," only the stakes are much, much higher than a mere nation's economy. As soon as these words left his lips (and his actions were consistent with his words), he could no longer be said to believe in the free market in any meaningful way.
It would be like asking a rationalist to lay aside reason, or an empiricist to lay aside experience. That would be unthinkable, yet this exact thing is demanded of Christians all of the time.
To lay aside one's worldview in an attempt to "prove" it is to admit defeat from the beginning.
Christian, don't surrender (and therefore deny) your worldview to "prove" it.
To do so is to deny it... and nothing is more painful than hearing that rooster crow.