‘Twas The Night Before Christmas According to Edgar Allen Poe

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The rhythm is often off since I haven’t sat down with it as much as I would like. It’s not even finished, really, and I wouldn’t be surprised if thousands of people have already undertaken to do the same. After all, Edgar Allen Poe was a genius and Clement Clarke Moore’s poem lies close to the modern practices. Ah well, at least it’s good for a laugh: “T’was  The Night Before Christmas to The Tune of The Raven”.

T’was the night before Christmas Evening, as children slept (all weak and weary)
and naught a mouse was appearing, throughout my silent house,
that past my stockings hanging, there suddenly came a banging
As if someone quickly landing upon my lawn outdoors
‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered “this is all…
…nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in cold December where each family member
Lay down upon his (or her) precious bed.
My dearie’s kerchief flapping, and my head all night-capping,
And sugar-plums all a-clapping within our sleepy heads.
But that infernal clatter forced me to check the matter
as I jumped up out of my bed,
thus to the window I was led.

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering fearing
And then, suddenly, hearing a hefty voice appealing eight fearsome reindeer all by name!
“Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen!”
Shouted out and then revealing a sleigh that they bore
And a little Old Driver dressed in days of yore.

Furred from head to foot, under layers of chimney soot, there he rode he with all the presents that he bore.
Chubby, plump, sweet and cheery, eyes a-twinkling, dimples merry, rosèd cheeks and nose-like cherry fast he entered in my chamber door.
Not the least obeisance made he, nor a chuckle gave he, as he walked right past me
“No! It can’t be!” I gasped “Old St. Nick?”
Thus he answered: “Ho Ho Ho.”

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Belated Response to the Declaration of Independence

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Dearest Representatives of the united States of America;

We have received your letter declaring your absolving of all allegiance to the British Crown and we have a few belated issues.

We noticed that your claims consistently made claims to a Supreme Judge, which, by common consent, we can’t deny or support that he-it-or-she exists.

Indeed, you call this Supreme Judge the Creator and the God of Nature when we both agree that random natural processes over an infinite time is the proper teaching of what works behind nature. We must not call nature a “creation”. Calling it Creation assumes a creator, which we can not support or deny as existing.

Be that as it may, like you we agree that there should be a separation of Church and State. Since your decision is so fraught with religious considerations, it has no rational or scientific basis. Your position has no proper justification. And since a ruling can only stand if your proper (British) governor agrees, then your collective decision is simply overturned by default.

It is also obvious that your claims to ephemeral absolutes—like what is wholesome and necessary for the public good, or of self-evident truths, or even unalienable rights—are merely the marks of an oppressive fiction geared towards controlling others in your obvious effort in non-tolerance. We stand for freedom for all and that includes freedom from your specifically religious and biggoted claims.

So we must solemnly decline your request for independence. Ask your own judges and intelligentsia. They would agree with us.

Over You, Truly,

The British Crown.

July 4th, 2013

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Should I Buy A Lottery Ticket?

Today, a mess of people will be scouring the Internet trying to find an answer to this question hoping for some sort of assurance to guilt or proof to attack those who do purchase the ticket. But this subject, like others I’ve done on this site, takes some sober consideration from all angles, which I’ll try to keep pretty short.

Is Gambling unbiblical?
The Bible actually doesn’t speak about gambling. You’ll have people who seek God’s will by casting lots (Josh 18:6-10; Acts 1:26) but that was really never considered a gamble. It wasn’t like they were dealing with chance; they were waiting on the opinion of the all powerful and all-knowing God. Indeed, this is the case with all lot-casting apparently because if God really is the sustainer of all things and nothing happens without his say-so, then ultimately he stands behind the die roll (Proverbs 16:33) or the digital output—whatever.

So perhaps the problem with gambling isn’t the fact that you’re gambling (after all, it’s just as much a gamble winning a game of Settlers of Catan—though you probably have better chances in that than the lottery); maybe it’s something else.

What is Gambling aiming at?
Scripture is rife with warnings about loving money (1 Tim 6:10; Heb 13:5) and get rich quick schemes (Prov 13:11; 23:5; Ecc 5:10). It repeatedly warns about the inability to be an all out servant of two masters (Luke 16:13; 1 Cor 10). And in all things, the Scriptures underscore the principle that we are meant for work (Prov 10:4).

As unfruitful as this or that work may seem to us, work is actually tied to the very purpose that we’ve been put here (Gen 2). We might not all be tillers of the field, but we all are workers of some sort.

Gambling in the lottery has many of these markings. People want what money provides. They’re sick and tired of their situation. They want a quick way out. The lottery provides a shining momentary answer.

The fact is that if one is hoping for an answer from the lottery, they’ve lost focus on whom they should be properly focusing on: God himself (Psalm 62:5). He’s the one, in the person of Christ, who gives the ultimate rest (Psalm 23; 2 Sam 7:11).

But can one play without hoping in it?
There’s churches that hold Bingo night to raise money and no one thinks they’re going to go home big after it—they play for fun, camaraderie, and for the sake of chipping in. Plenty of other people have office pools where the entire team chips in, not out of hope, but maybe out of a silly pool. They perhaps do the same thing with sports brackets or fantasy football.

Paul points out that as Christians, we are functioning as grown up sons (Gal 3:26) who are being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). As such we have to weigh things for ourselves and act with a clear conscience before God (Acts 24:16; 1 Pet 3:16-22) because eventually we must all give an account of our actions to Him (Rom 14:12).

Then I can play?
Well, here we still must be careful. We’re grown up sons who are not yet perfected but we must do all things for the purpose of peace and mutual edification (Rom 14:19) with conviction before God.

If you personally have a problem with gambling, and you are totally acting against your faith here, then I gotta’; tell you: to you this is an outright sin (Rom 14:23; James 4:17).  It might not be wrong in itself, but it is wrong for you before God: don’t play.

Further, if some Christian brother has a real problem with gambling (perhaps even fighting with recovery) it probably isn’t wise to start offering him some lottery tickets—you might just destroy him (Rom 14:21).  Perhaps it would be better if you keep the activity between yourself and God (Rom 14:22).

Yet, even if that is the case, remember that just because we have the freedom to do something doesn’t mean we should be doing something. Everything is permissible says Paul—but is it beneficial? (1 Cor 6:12). If one feels like pre-emptively mastering something that has no mastery over that individual, perhaps not playing is a way to do that. Not because it is sinful (it might not be); not because you think God has a problem with it (he might not care about it); but simply because you want to do this. That is ultimately your prerogative.

So what now?
Well, if you play do so with the right mentality and conscience before God. Don’t automatically trust your tricky heart with the promises of charity you make to yourself right now (Jer 17:9). Look around and take caution with how some people have dealt with sudden riches (it’s not good). Make sure you’re acting in a way that edifies others. And if you win, make sure to be rich in a way that is proper before God.

Paul tells the rich in this present world not to be arrogant or to trust in their wealth because although money comes, it also goes away. Their hope (just like the hope of the poor) should be in God who richly provides us with everything to our enjoyment. (1 Tim 6:17). So enjoy it, but don’t bank (punny) on them. Be rich in doing good and store up treasure in eternity right now: that wealth may have arrived in your pocket for a reason—pray to avoid becoming those who squander on self.

So should you buy a lottery ticket? I guess it depends.

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The Elderly: The Final Solution

ABSTRACT: With a growing population, and thus a negative impact on our resources, I suggest the termination of the senescent, labeled as geripragmus1, under proper stipulations and enforcement.

ARTICLE: What has been oft left unstated in our modern day political campaigns especially in regards to the economy and finances is that no small amount of cutting will properly address the United States’, much less global, fiscal problems. Governments around the world are noting that their economical problems can’t be easily addressed by slightly more taxes or reducing only a portion of some miscelanous spending—what is needed is something that addresses the very core of the issue: the problem of the senescent.

In 2010 the global population was about 6.8 billion people2, but the complete global labor force consisted of a mere 3.3 billion. Less than half of the global population is actually working, and that figure brushes over the fact that 9.1% of the complete global population is suffering unemployment. With 58.5% of the GDP contributing to public debt, these figures are admittedly alarming.

Things become more drastic when we note that the average life expectancy has increased to 65 years. With a half billion senescent in the world who are over 65 years of age and who must be provided for, these numbers spell certain catastrophe. Unable to apply their denigrating frame to the rigors of labor, they are provided for by taxes in the form of “elderly care” or programs with all types of extemporaneous medical benefits.

So you’ll find that the largest portion of the United States spending are not on defense, but rather Medicare and Social Security.

With a prediction of 9 billion people worldwide by 2050, this would mean that global resources will be overwhelmingly taxed and human life will be eventually unsustainable.

SOLUTION: When a participating individual of society counts 65 years to their presence on our global community, they will then enter into the home of one of the younger they have reared. These younger participants of society will pay for their own geripragmus, as it were, and wholly reserve the right to terminate the geripragmus which resides within their home.

The judgment, up to a certain age, for this will also be reserved by the internal convictions of these younger individuals. After all, they might find that they derive some sort of benefit from the geripragmus, which is not really contributing to the public scale as a whole. Perhaps the geripragmus knows the recipe for a sauce that has, heretofore, been undisclosed to the familial circle. This subjective thing doesn’t impact the public but it may bear some importance to the convictions of the family—but in that case they should, of their own accord, provide for this stage.

Of course, the government can gladly support the families and offer tax incentives to terminate the geripragmus sooner, but up to 72 years this stage can be financially viable for the younger couple. After 72 years, without proper allowances, the government must bear the right to terminate this stage of life due to the problems of continued support and the benefits of termination.

To summarize:

  • The geripragmus cannot work. They have no fiscally sound ability to support themselves much less the economic structure.
  • As already mentioned, the geripragmus are an economic burden to the society as a whole. Ensuring that the senescent are terminated will result in flourishing resources both financially and in global sustainability.
  • The geripragmus cannot reproduce. Their ability to ensure the sustainability of life on the planet has reached its term.
  • The geripragmus aren’t aware. Like the fetal stage of development, many geripragmus are in a fog of confusion and lost memories.
  • The geripragmus (unlike the fetus) no longer develop; they devolve.
  • The government has no right to impinge on the rights of individuals in their homes. As such, individuals can terminate the geripragmus whenever they see fit, unless it reaches 72 years at this stage and then the government bears the responsibility of termination.

Of course, there are some slight benefits to keeping the geripragmus alive longer. Medical testing of medicines and other scientific research can easily be performed on the geripragmus due to it’s expiration date and their similarity to a viable human population. They might not reproduce and have serious problems with circulation, respiration, and so forth but at the very least they bear a remarkeable semblance with the human population that we can yield excellent scientific results. The benefits to science and medicine would be incalculable and these often-burdensome aspects of human evolution can now ably be subsumed under the strictures of Darwinian survival.

Let’s move ahead and implement these plans before it’s too late.

(Get more satire in your diet.)


1 The Geripragmal Stage is the final, and static, stage of human life rapidly devolving before it expires, the subject which is properly labeled a geripragmus. They can be either male or female but since they’re reproductive abilities are compromised, and their activity progressively decreases, they are better described as asexual.

2 C.I.A World Fact Book

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Satire Series

The internet is chockfull of both the good and the bad. The good being that I am on it and the bad being that so is everyone else. In light of my extreme humility, here’s a collection of satire: since most people today don’t know what that is, I have provided a link to the internet’s inerrant repository of knowledge. No, not my site: Wikipedia.

This post will function as a series holding page for all other satire I’ve posted on the site. These things, after all, need a place to live without seeming legitimate.

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Spontaneous, Natural, Physical Resurrection

Oh the universe is full of amazing and wonderful things and very few subjects have been the source of more fiery debates than the topic of evolution. But in all the hubbub of debates about creation, or intelligent design, or cosmological origins one major facet of the Christian faith goes unnoticed: the explanation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Though the evidence for evolution is vast and far reaching and applied to origins, none of the same thinking has been weighed and married to this oft-neglected field.  If we as Christians are failing in our embracing evolutionary models in regard to Creation, we have been woefully neglectful in explaining the resurrection of Jesus Christ in terms of modern science.

In this post, I wish to posit a few possible reasons why the resurrection was not a miracle, but actually quite natural, spontaneous, and purely physical and why the Church must embrace this explanation to prepare for the future, especially in light of the overwhelming amount of data in support of biological evolution.

The proof I can offer is not as nebulous as it may seem. We Christians often supply a few proofs that the resurrection happened so we don’t have to belabor the point. He was seen among witnesses. His grave was indeed empty. His death was sure. And the actual resurrection accounts for the apostolic beliefs.

But this in no way implies that God couldn’t have used spontaneous and natural processes to ensure that this resurrection would happen. We must not allow magic or miracles to discredit the very reasonable faith that we Christians embrace!

First we have to admit that Jesus was fully man so he was limited by the knowledge of his day. He didn’t have a clue how he would live again or even if he would live again. He was under the impression that the “glory” was the process of dying (read the entire book of John) and then he cried about it when he was going to die. That’s not the reaction of a person who knew that they would die and come back.

Second, the disciples were surprised by the resurrection. They didn’t have a clue he would do what he did and that would only make sense if it was in fact spontaneous and natural.

Third, we have perfectly good explanations for a physical, random, non-miraculous resurrection. For example, we know that there are an infinite amount of Earths. Given an infinite amount of Earths, there are an infinite amount of circumstances. Just like our Universe came into being because in an infinite number, the chances of something happening are sure to happen, then the chance of a person dying and coming back from the grave most definitely would happen. In fact, I’d bet in this infinite series of worlds, there’s a good chance that each of us get our chance at resurrecting randomly.

Even if we didn’t posit infinite Christs, we can posit infinite physical universes where the laws of death and life are different.  With science firmly in our grip we can conclude that God used processes—like an infinite multiverse or infinite Christs—to arrive at a natural, spontaneous , physical and non-miraculous resurrection from the dead.

We haven’t even looked at Quantum particles which can be in two quantum states at the same time until observed. So Christ, while observed, w as in an alive state (a binary position of 1) and then he was in a two simultaneous states of dead and alive (0 and 1). If the quantum vacuum can bring something in from nothing, then the chance for Christ going from one binary state to a second one is infinitely possible. Heck, this could be a midichlorian process for all we know.

Fourth, we Christians need to stop being afraid of scientific explanations especially since Science is God’s hands. The very smart people (who incidentally are much smarter than us) have told us that the impossible is just that and if it’s physically possible it’s infinitely more probable than the impossible. We need to stop being unscientific, embrace the sciences which are also God’s revelation, his second Bible as it were, and teach that Christ’s resurrection was natural, spontaneous, physical even if ultimately belonging to God.

In conclusion, we must embrace this lest Science, and the world, moves on in their Copernican revolution leaving us behind mumbling about our magical myths. If we truly want to engage the world and not be relegated to a position of non-importance, we must employ robust scientific thinking with the defense of our faith proving that God is not only reasonable, he is constant. We cannot allow Christianity to become a cult—but this is what will happen if the Church continues to turn its head from scientific explanations!

</satire>

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Should Christians Rejoice Over The Death of the Wicked?

After some (long) time of hunting, the American special forces have successfully found and killed Osama Bin Laden, fulfilling the mission that was implemented under the command of President Bush. As President Obama echoed the words of said president, the American resolve remained united, and an enemy was stopped. And with the preparation for the announcement came a wave of rejoicing: “Ding Dong, Osama’s dead” and “Obama got Osama” and “Thank God, Osama’s dead!”

In all this, an ethical question arises: should a Christian rejoice in the death of an enemy?

In this article I will argue that not only is it fine for a Christian to rejoice, but also it should be done—though not done in the gruesome way that I have seen it being done. I think it would also be helpful if the reader references my examination of an imprecatory Psalm (that is, when the Psalmist prays for the destruction of his enemies) and the post on Christian and Curses and my post on the image of God.

This article will be divided into four major sections: (1) Where Rejoicing is Wrong; (2) Where Rejoicing is Right; (3) Where Theology Meets Practice;  and (4) Conclusion. The first three major sections will each have a summarizing point to help the skimmers but I strongly encourage reading through them and the cited verses.

Where Rejoicing Is Wrong.
It must be frankly admitted that there is a reason why Christians struggle with this. We do have explicit passages that speak into this matter of rejoicing over the fall of an enemy. Proverbs 24:17-18 says:

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; or the Lord will see and be displeased and turn His anger away from him.”

And the passage echoes other passages. Job, for instance, sees himself as righteous because he hasn’t rejoiced at the death of his enemies (Job 31:29). Or when we see the wicked doing it, we automatically know it isn’t right (Judges 16:25; 2Sa 16:5-6; Psalm 35:13-15; 42:10;  Micah 7:8).

Indeed, the Proverbs go on to be careful with gloating at all over disaster (Proverbs 17:5) and call for the righteous to care for their enemies—to clothe them and feed them (Prov 25:21) something our Lord Himself says (Lev 19:17–18; Matt 5:44) and which Paul repeats (Rom 12:14).

This whole idea of not rejoicing for the wicked is evidenced when God says (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11)

“As surely as I live,” declares the Lord God, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, oh house of Israel?”

God would rather the people repent. Peter echoes this idea when he looks back and sees that God’s forbearance is the only reason people haven’t been wiped out (2 Peter 3:9)

Section 1 Summarizing Point: Obviously we see that rejoicing over the death of “my” enemy is wrong. It seems to indicate that the personal tramping on an individual’s enemy is not something that is applauded. We see that although God judges the wicked, he’s not happy about it but rather patient, affording time so that they may repent.

 

Where Rejoicing Is Right.
Now there are also plenty of passages which are overlooked. For example, Proverbs 11:10 says

When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; they shout for joy when the wicked die

The Proverb seems to be working with the antithesis of what happens when the wicked are in charge. When they’re in charge the righteous groan and are oppressed (Prov 11:11; 28:12; 29:2,11 )

Indeed, this idea isn’t foreign to the rest of Scripture either.  For example we have in Psalm 58:10 this idea of the people corporately rejoicing in the death of their enemies

The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.

This bathing their feet in blood (battlefield imagery) happens elsewhere in the Psalms in case you’re wondering (Psalm 68:23). And lest we get ideas that this is something that merely happens and isn’t to be applauded, we have Psalm 91:8 making it an expectation, a final shutting up of the wicked (Psalm 107:42) . All of Psalm 52 seems to be an expectation for the righteous to witness the destruction of the wicked.

In Deuteronomy 32:43 we hear this clarion call to corporately rejoice:

Rejoice, O nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants; he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people.

Indeed, Jeremiah prays for it (Jer 11:20; 20:12).

We find the early church citing Psalm 2 as part of their corporate prayers after Peter and John were beaten (Acts 4:23-30) and they request that the Lord stretches out his hand to heal, perform signs and wonders in the name of God’s servant Jesus. This is interesting, because in Psalm 2, the Lord God is laughing at the enemies of his anointed one (Psalm 2:4) because they stand there daring to revolt. When the early Church prays for God to perform wonders, it is recalling the wonders done before Pharaoh: powerful signs that prove that God, the creator of heaven and earth, is in charge.

Upon the destruction of Babylon the Great, we see a calls or the people of God, heaven itself, to rejoice over her destruction (Rev 18:20):

Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has pronounced judgment  against her on your behalf!

This is a call that is taken up elsewhere in the apocalypse (Rev 12:12 ) and obeyed in the Rev 19:1-4 in heaven rejoicing over the destruction of their enemy. It’s not the first time that there is singing in heaven as we see in Rev 15:3 the people singing the song of Moses.

Which immediately recalls two songs from the day of Moses. The song of Moses from Deuteronomy 32where we have clauses of God defeating Israel’s enemies, and the Song of Moses and the Israelites from Exodus 15 where Moses and the people sing and rejoice because the Lord has destroyed their enemies. It wouldn’t be the last time where the people of Israel rejoice over the death of their enemies (Esther 8:15;  2 Kings 11:20 )

Section 2 summarizing point: We can either conclude that there is a contradiction, or that the rejoicing in these passages is distinctly different from the rejoicing in the previous section. I think that the verses here reflect that, since it isn’t an individual rejoicing against his or her enemy, but an individual joining the corporate rejoicing against their corporate enemy. Rejoicing in this sense is apparently justified and expected. They also reflect that although God is not willing that the wicked perish, he does have the wicked perish and he expects his people to be happy about his activity.

 

Where Theology Meets Practice
I think we Protestants suffer from a very deistic view of reality, something that I applaud the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics for properly addressing (even if they fall short on much). Reality, say the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, is not a two-tier house where you have This Physical Realm and then, the second floor with That Spiritual Realm. Reality is more like one floor where the spiritual and the physical co-exist. Now, they take this to a whole ‘nuther realm by having prayer for the dead and praying to God through icons—which all is wrong—but they make a good point. A point that the Psalter repeatedly makes: justice is not merely the purview of That Spiritual Realm. The Justice of God definitively begins here, in This Physical Realm because it is all (yes, all) God’s reality.

So you’ll have Paul looking at sinful humans acting in accordance with their lusts and saying that the wrath of God is (currently) evident (Romans 1). Or you’ll have Paul warning believers to obey their governing body because it is God’s instrument and it properly carries the sword of wrath against injustice (Romans 13).

And when you have judgment poured out against Israel via the Assyrians or the Babylonians, we find that God is speaking saying that this is his judgment—a foreign people attacking the Israelites like a wielded axe. These foreigners are an instrument in his hand for wrath. So you’ll have the entire book of Hosea speaking about the righteous surviving God’s wrath not so much in some future spiritual realm but right then, holding on to the Lord’s salvation.

The idea of God’s justice is something that results not only in Angels chanting, or people rejoicing, but the very physical creation yearns for it (Romans 8) and rejoices when it happens. So you’ll see a great pairing of Psalms, with one calling for the Lord to stamp down the wicked (Psalm 94), the Psalmist depending on the Lord to do it, and then (Psalm 95 and 96) the mountains and oceans rejoicing when it does happen.

Of course, a point that I made in a previous post still stands: that when imprecation is leveled against the Psalmists’ enemies, it is almost always coupled with self-examination. The reason is that justice is a thematic thread throughout the Psalter—and all of Scripture. There is a constant expectation for the balancing of scales; but when it happens in the Now, there is rejoicing: something that the section up above reflected quite concisely.

You’ll see God saying things like Ezekiel 18:32 where he doesn’t rejoice in the death of anyone—and yet he still has people die and be punished because he judges the earth (Psalm 58:11). We hear Lamentations 3:33 where he doesn’t willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of Men and we have the entire book of Job where God was willing to bring affliction to a child of men.

The problem then becomes one of applying theology to our practical situation. Some Christians take Section 1 Passages and ignore Section 2 Passages, or worse, relegate Section 2 passages to some later day. They forget that the call in the book of Proverbs, is not one so much of law (which we Christians tend to gravitate toward—check out my article on the Pearl Method) but one for wisdom. This is why you have apparently contradictory Proverbs back to back (Prov 26:4-5) and contradictory Proverbs separated by space (Prov 11:10; 24:17). It calls for some serious wisdom on when to implement one over the other; and quite frankly it is sometimes just impossible. The nature of wisdom literature is to paint two extremes so as to reflect on the differences. It is either Lady Wisdom or Harlot Foolishness. It is either Life or it is death.

So when you read Proverbs 21:15

When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.

It’s not a command, nor is it something that will definitely happen, but it paints a picture of the evildoers position against justice being done.

And when you read Proverbs 24:19-20

Do not fret because of evildoers or be envious of the wicked; for there will be no future for the evil man; the lamp of the wicked will be put out

It might be read as a promise, but it should properly refer to the activity of the wise man in relation to the wave of wickedness.

Summarizing Point: Putting our theology to practice consists of a Biblical robustness that necessarily reaches beyond mere proof-texting. We can’t merely go with the romanticized internal feelings of something not feeling right, or with the rationalistic mentality of something looking like what evil people do. We need to examine a large swath of passages and see how they correlate and a wide variety of circumstances thus allowing God to say what God wishes to be said. God is supreme, and He is judge, and the Kingdoms of the World, when they do right, do right according to His will and should be applauded for that. When they do wrong, even if it is in accordance to his plans, they always are blamed because they willingly did wrong.

 

Concluding Points.
So we have passages that speak of individuals not rejoicing over the death of their personal enemies and passages speaking of corporate rejoicing over the death of their corporate enemies. We have an understanding that God judges in the future, but that we see his judgment and justice sometimes right now in the present—and that rejoicing is expected in these situations. But at this point we have to make some mental ties while avoiding extremes.

  1. One extreme is to become holier than God. Since the sinner has been punished, we should weep and pray for his soul or some such thing. It is appointed for man to die—and if his life is cut off via judgment of his instrument. It is in this world that God has cut the man off to introduce him to judgment. End of opportunity for repentance. A decision has been made. If it happens in the house of God with certain sins, suggests John, what makes us think that the God who even numbers the hairs on heads doesn’t act this way in reality? All of Scripture tells us he does (re-read the book of Daniel for instance). Trying to be holier than God is ultimately idolatrous. God judged, we must agree that He has done right, and we should be happy about that.
  2. Another extreme is to become holier than other believers in not-rejoicing. Christians are told to weep with the mourners and rejoice with the rejoicers but it also tells us to be careful when we do either. If there is a legitimate time for mourning, it is actually wrong to look at fellow tear-shedders as doing something morally wrong.  Christians should be incredibly leery of merely finding a proof-text to justify judgment of fellow believers when there is a very deep theological grid-work underlying all of it.
  3. And yet another extreme is to revel in rejoicing. We’re believers who have been called to live where we are (1 Cor 7) but that doesn’t mean that we are to be carried away in the actions and activity of the world around us. John tells us that the World System is antithetical to the Christian even while Paul tells us that the World’s Systems have been established by God. To do (horrid) things like raising a decapitated head of one’s enemies is just really missing the point of both the image of God and God’s own justice.

All of this tells me that when the enemy of the People is judged by God, cut off, and justice is served: the Lord has done right; the people should rejoice. Just like the Song of Moses rejoices in the cutting off of enemies, there is a rejoicing that should go hand in hand with justice being served. It is not to be avoided merely on the grounds that the Wicked also rejoice in wrongdoing—that just means that they have perverted something that is proper and right.

It might be a sticker situation deciding Who Are The Wicked and Who Aren’t The Wicked but that goes beyond the boundaries of it being okay or not to rejoice. I think that Hitler was obviously “The Wicked” even if the people being killed were sinners. I think that Stalin was obviously “The Wicked” even if the people being killed were unrighteous. In each of those cases, the unrighteous become “The Innocent” that can rightly bring a charge against “The Wicked” and demand a balancing of the scales. In both cases, I think it is right for the people to rejoice over the death of the wicked, but not in some horridly gruesome way (like banners with decapitated heads).

Justice, which belongs to God, triumphed and we should rejoice in that. It happened in time, right now, and that is a foretaste of a future balancing of scales where the God of heaven surely does right and every mouth is shut. We shouldn’t look down on fellow Christians that are rejoicing, but we also shouldn’t become bloodthirsty in our rejoicing.

We should, I think, act wisely in even this and realize that a robust theological foundation is much broader and all-encompassing than a mere proof-text or a blanket statement. One day, we will definitely rejoice when every knee bows, by hook or by crook, to the seated and reigning King—but in the present we can rejoice when we get a foretaste of a government that functions correctly.

Now, what about Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden: should we rejoice that justice has been served against these men? Yes, I think we should. We shouldn’t be morbidly happy about it, but we should say that a government has properly used it’s God-given sword and be happy about that. We shouldn’t be morbidly happy with gruesome depictions of the dead, but we should stand with those who mourned and say “Yes, God’s arm can be seen in this.”

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Questioning Salvation

Narcissism. The web (a blog) is all about Me. Who cares about what I say? Who cares if I’ve gotten to a point with soteriology (that is the study of salvation) where I might tentatively define myself by a label again? No one cares. But I post it anyway. I’ve often said that I write for myself and you should feel free to read over my shoulder. So this is going to be more stream of consciousness than my usual writing.

Years ago, when I first became a believer and actually started to read Scriptures, I thought that everything that happened, everything that occurred, was predetermined and ultimately the cause for everything happening. Everything was inevitable and outside of anything to do with me. I very much believed that if I sinned, it was preordained; if I did good, it was preordained; If I preached, it was preordained; if I didn’t preach it was preordained.  I was, quite literally, a fatalist.

It was a depressing place to be even if I only knew that in retrospect.

Eventually I rejected that and became something closer to a Calvinist, though a slightly mixed bag one. I was convinced that the only reason I believed was because God decided to prepare me beforehand as a vessel of mercy. I saw the Fall as something God preordained and used as a means to ensure that the elect are saved and the damned weren’t. I would speak to people as if God’s genuine grace was being offered to all but I never knew if it was being offered to this or that person. I thought that a sinner was dead in his sins, unable to respond to God without God’s specific calling of them.  I thought that if you continue believing (especially before passing away), then you were always one of the elect; if not, you weren’t. I felt dishonest when I said things like “God loves you.” And I started, in my mind, to mean “You, plural.”

Eventually I rejected that as well because I had too many Biblical questions. Mostly from the book of Romans; always from context of passages. I found myself unable to make excuses for passages or embarrassed when I was redefining things to fit into what I believed. At that point I stopped thinking about salvation and just let it be: it was beyond me, just preach the Gospel. Stick to the text.

Years after, I was handed books: Saved Without A Doubt by Macarthur; Chosen by God by Sproul; Horton’s Putting Amazing Back Into Grace and others. I was told that these books would reinvent the way I thought about God and my position before him. They would open my eyes to the Awesomeness of God. Here were people that thought things through!

The old questions came back. This time with a vengeance. I was reading my Scriptures at the same time and I made a point of studying Romans with several commentaries close at hand. I read through systematic theologies that pointed to the necessity of believing in Calvinism. I was nervous. I was seeing things in Scripture that was completely contrary to what these guys kept inserting into their books but who am I? I don’t know Greek. I never went to seminary. Who am I?

I examined the footnotes and read the books these people were responding to. Geisler. Robert Shank. The list grew. I’ve found myself reading the writings of Van Til, Warfield, occasionally Bavinck, Luther, Edwards, Arminius, Ockham, Modern day Thomists like Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Roger Olson, the writings of Augustine and the Early Church, the work of William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, the quotes of Pelagius and recently the works of Thomas Oden and also Luis De Molina. These books aren’t even the full range of the things I’ve read on the topic. All of these people using Scripture. All of them working out a theology from the text and trying to make sense of something they almost all call inscrutable.

This all repeatedly sent me back to the text of Scripture. Questions were raised in light of these teachers. I am firmly not a Calvinist, I know that. But I also don’t think I’m an Arminian though I’ve been called that. Maybe I am. Like I said, I’ve tended to avoid the labels.

I’m not going to bother unraveling or examining the systems. Calvinism isn’t really TULIP and you can’t really address it in five easy to contain posts. Plus, back in the day I had a guest poster who did that already. But even so, Calvinism is a tapestry whereby each of its points runs through the entire thing. Arminianism likewise contains many ins and outs and one might want to differentiate between Classical Arminianism, Wesleyism, Finneyism and modern day Arminianism. And how can one even touch on Pelagianism, Thomism, Molinism and so on? So these series of posts are questions, raised by (1) Scripture, (2) reason and philosophy and sometimes (3) Church History that have brought me to somewhere else.

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Christ Didn’t Die For All: He Died For Paul

It is patently obvious that we have gotten the atonement wrong this whole time. We keep saying things like Christ died for all but the fact is that this is completely unscriptural and dangerous. Scripture is clear about the extent of the atonement: one man.

Note that Paul explicitly points out the particularity of the atonement (Gal 2:20):

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Now, after thousands of years of Church History (in this post-enlightenment era influenced by the individualism of people like Schleiermacher) we wind up getting this exceedingly unbiblical idea that Christ died for Me since I am part of the world. But that’s just wrongheaded. The fact is that Christ died for one man alone and that was Paul.

Now, I can hear the responses like John saying that Christ gave himself as a propitiation for us and the entire world—yes, I hear the simple proof texting already. But in context, John is referring to several things. Propitiation is the sating of God’s wrath in regard to a specific problem. That specific problem is made evident by understanding that John was Jewish and the Us being mentioned is Israel. The term “the whole world” then refers to breaking the boundary of Israel and expanding the proclamation of the Gospel (that it is for one person) to the entire wicked system espoused by the Gentiles.

At this point the proof-texters will point out that how can Paul be both an Israelite and a Gentile—I admit, there is a fair amount of tension and mystery here but we can’t throw out other parts of Scripture just because a doctrine isn’t palatable!

First, note what Paul outright says in Romans 9:6—it’s not like all Israel is Israel! This is an important point in his entire treatise. He argues that Israel was hardened but only a remnant was saved—who are the elect, who have been covered by the definite atoning work of Christ. He then makes this important statement in Rom 11:1: I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. You see, Paul knew that the rest of Israel was not saved because God chose that they were not to be saved. His wishing is hypothetical (I wish I could be cut off and accursed for them) but he knew that was an impossibility. Christ’s death was sufficient for all but definitely applied to only one: Paul, who was chosen before he was born (Gal 1:15).

Secondly, note that Paul’s Israeliteness was able to be subsumed in Gentile-ness. After all, Gentiles (Pharaoh) and Israel (Jews) were both of the same lump of clay. In that same way, Paul argues that he became a Jew for the Jews and a Gentile for the Gentiles—he became all things to all men so that he might save a few. Of course, he knew that they wouldn’t be saved (just like he knew the rest of Israel wouldn’t be saved) but he was speaking hypothetically because his mission was to preach the good news that he was saved!

Of course, the proof-texters will point out passages like John 3:16 but in all honesty, this has nothing to do with the atoning work of Christ with every individual. The way some people read it is that God loved everyone in this way: that he gave his son to die for them—but that’s just wrong. Calvinists do better by offering that the World there is limited to all believers. And that is true in some cases (for example, Romans 5 is referring to the Many and All but it is in fact speaking about Paul who is a representative of every nation, tongue or tribe by his malleability in the proclamation and the fact that he speaks more tongues than any (1 Cor 14:18).

The fact is that John 3:16 supports my point. The passage is saying that God loved the Antithetical System of Sin which persists under the heading of World (remember, in 1 John he says that the World and Satan are enemies!). As God is light and good the World has the qualities of being dark and sinful. The fact is that Christ Himself says that men loved darkness rather than light so God just left them in their situation while the Elect One (Paul) was Chosen. Indeed, Paul underscores this point when he says he is the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15)!

Yes, I know there are some tensions and mystery since Paul uses sinners plural or the fact that Peter says that Christ purchased the reprobate false teachers (2 Pet 2:1) or places where Christ mentions many members in one body (and frankly, he’s just speaking about all of the parts of his body and the way people confess Christ as Lord with no hope of being saved) but that’s just the nature of God: he’s above our understanding and some of these things are hard to understand. One thing we can’t do is expand the boundaries of the atonement to cover everyone—even in the Church—because that will deny the particularity of the atonement (that it was for Paul), overturn total depravity and unconditional election, and ultimately prove that sinful man just wants to rebel.

So prayerfully, consider this an invitation to Paulinism whereby all of us hear the message, understand the message, believe in some sense, can hope to be saved, but really are rejecting God in our rebellious sinful nature because the truth is Christ died for Paul. And, if you’re going to complain, realize that this questioning came up to Paul and his response was “who art thou o’ man to respond to God?” If he chose one lump (the entire world) for dishonor and another lump (Paul) for glory, who has the right to question the Potter?

Not I. I humbly, prayerfully, acknowledge my worthlessness and God’s right to send Christ to die only for Paul.

😉

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Quotables: Inspiration of the Original Autographs


quotables

Every now and then I like posting something incisive that was written in the past because it speaks so well into the present. The sweet thing about this is that these guys, who are often waved away today, have dealt with a lot of the same issues while remaining simultaneously (by the modern mind) ignored. This one comes from James M. Gray in The Fundamentals.

Let it be stated further in this definitional connection, that the record for whose inspiration we contend is the original record—the autographs or parchments of Moses, David, Daniel, Matthew, Paul or Peter, as the case may be, and not any particular translation or translations of them whatever. There is no translation absolutely without error, nor could there be, considering the infirmities of human copyists, unless God were pleased to perform a perpetual miracle to secure it.

But does this make nugatory our contention? Some would say it does, and they would argue speciously that to insist on the inerrancy of a parchment no living being has ever seen is an academic question merely, and without value. But do they not fail to see that the character and perfection of the God-head are involved in that inerrancy?

Some years ago a “liberal” theologian, deprecating this discussion as not worth while, remarked that it was a matter of small consequence whether a pair of trousers were originally perfect if they were now rent. To which the valiant and witty David James Burrell replied, that it might be a matter of small consequence to the wearer of the trousers, but the tailor who made them would prefer to have it understood that they did not leave his shop that way. And then he added, that if the Most High must train among knights of the shears He might at least be regarded as the best of the guild, and One who drops no stitches and sends out no imperfect work.

Is it not with the written Word as with the incarnate Word? Is Jesus Christ to be regarded as imperfect because His character has never been perfectly reproduced before us? Can He be the incarnate Word unless He were absolutely without sin? And by the same token, can the scriptures be the written Word unless they were inerrant?

But if this question be so purely speculative and valueless, what becomes of the science of Biblical criticism by which properly we set such store today? Do builders drive piles into the soft earth if they never expect to touch bottom? Do scholars dispute about the scripture text and minutely examine the history and meaning of single words, “the delicate coloring of mood, tense and accent,” if at the end there is no approximation to an absolute? As Dr. George H. Bishop says, does not our concordance, every time we take it up, speak loudly to us of a once inerrant parchment? Why do we not possess concordances for the very words of other books?

Nor is that original parchment so remote a thing as some suppose. Do not the number and variety of manuscripts and versions extant render it comparatively easy to arrive at a knowledge of its text, and does not competent scholarship today affirm that as to the New Testament at least, we have in 999 cases out of every thousand the very word of that original text? Let candid consideration be given to these things and it will be seen that we are not pursuing a phantom in contending for an inspired autograph of the Bible.

The Fundamentals : The famous sourcebook of foundational biblical truths (2:12-14).

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