Despised Mothers of the Church

Commentators often give special attention to two women listed in the genealogy of Jesus: one a Canaanite prostitute, the other a cursed Moabite: “and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse” (Matthew 1:5).

But Rahab is far from the first despised woman in Jesus’ heritage.

 Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”
…So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years. When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.
…And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.
Genesis 29:16-18, 30-31, 35

Leah, Rahab, and Ruth are of the blessed despised. They are mothers of the church. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

God chooses the foolish of the world, like Ruth. A young widow leaving her homeland to follow a mother-in-law to a foreign land where there would be no hope of finding a husband. Except the God of all hope…

God chooses what is weak in the world, like Leah. Poor weak-eyed Leah and her beautiful sister Rachel: how great the shame of knowing her husband was duped into marrying her. Her husband resents her and her sister mocks her. But God settles the solitary in a home…

God chooses the low and despised in the world, like Rahab. A cursed people, a surrounded city, a forbidden occupation. Darkness is her future. But the Lord reveals his righteousness in the sight of the nations…

Are you a child of God? Then “in the world” you will be foolish, weak, low and despised. Despair not. So was your mother.

Otto Weber on the Freedom of God’s Love

God’s love qualifies his freedom as divine, as freedom turned toward the creature, as freedom which incomprehensibly does not consist of the possibility that God could be “different” (he cannot be the devil, he cannot be wicked), but rather of the fact that purely of his own essence, unconditioned by anything else, with no regard to the quality of the object toward which he turns, God is and acts the way he is and acts.

Foundations of Dogmatics 1.408

Time and Eternity

Time is the measure of things not lasting. Its endurance distinguishes it from those things it measures. Yet time is not. It is always coming or going. As soon as time is here it is gone.

Time is the measure of things that cannot last. It is the measure of our inability to be anywhere now.

It is the measure of youth lost; age sought. It is the admission of discontentment.

When remembered it is as something no longer. Existence now is only in nonexistence.

To be timeless. To be neither coming, nor going. To be here, until there is not until.

Eternity is what we look forward to because there will be nothing to look forward to. Nothing better on the horizon. Nothing lost and mourned.

Christ is eternity.

Eternity is not the absence of time. Eternity is not because time is not: it is.

Time, my great enemy. Know that when you finally defeat me I will have already conquered you.

How Do We Talk About God: Classifying His Attributes

We can only say anything about God because we must say something. One of the most common ways of speaking about God is to discuss his attributes- those truths of God’s existence that He has reveled to us. Generally, God’s attributes are placed into one of two groupings. Some of those groupings (and the men who use them) are:

Incommunicable Communicable Grudem, Berkhof, Bavinck, Shedd
God is great God is good Erickson
Perfections of the Divine Freedom Perfections of the Divine Loving Barth, Weber
Deus absconditus (hidden God) Deus revelatus (Revealed God) Luther
Constitutional Personality Chafer
a se (in Himself) pro nobis (toward us) Photios
ousios (essence) energeia(energy, operations) Palamas
theologia economia  
Absolute/Immanent Relative/Transitive Strong
natural moral  
absolute relative  
original derived  
intransitive transitive  
Light Love 1 John
One For Us Romans

Of course, all such discussion and classifications are carried out in the knowledge of our inadequacy to the task and the very impossibility of it.

“An actual division of the attributes of God is not conceivable. Therefore every ordering has the actual intent of making indivisible (yet distinguishable) factors evident.”  (Otto Weber, Foundations of Dogmatics, vol. 1, p. 428)

“…God and his attributes are one. The attributes cannot be considered as so many parts that enter into the composition of God, for God is not, like men, composed of different parts. Neither can they be regarded as something added to the Being of God, though the name, derived from ad and tribuere, might seem to point in that direction, for no addition was ever made to the being o God, who is eternally perfect.” (Lois Berkhof, Systematic Theology New Combined Edition, pp. 44-45)

“…the attributes are so interrelated and interdependent that the exact placing of some of them is difficult if not wholly impossible. It is evident that no feature of Systematic Theology has occasioned more confusion and disagreement among theologians than has the attempt to order the category of the divine attributes.” (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, p. 189)




The Marriage Equality Sham

We live in Indiana. The State legislature is considering a constitutional amendment to define marriage as union between one man and one woman. The other evening we received a telephone call from some group pushing for marriage equality and wanting to add our names to the list of all fair minded, right thinking Hoosiers everywhere.

It is a sham. From both directions.

I didn’t answer the phone. My wife did. I hope I get to the next time.

“Hello sir, do you support marriage equality?”

“No, I certainly do not. And you probably don’t either.”

“Well, sir, I most certainly do.”

“Really? So you support the right of 40 year old man to marry an 11 year old boy?”

“Well, sir, that involves a minor so…”

“But you do support the right of one man to marry 3 consenting women? Or 4 consenting men? Or a consenting horse? What with you supporting marriage equality and all…”

“Thank you for your time sir…”

No one supports marriage equality. “Equality” is a sham. “Legislating morality” is a straw man. “Thou shalt not judge” is hogwash. Everyone judges. Everyone. That is why we are told to judge with right judgment. Jesus said that. Everyone judges. No one supports marriage equality.

But I am not too impressed with those politicians pushing for the passing of this legislation. I’m pretty sure they know any such passage wouldn’t stand for more than two weeks in the current judicial climate. I mean, I know it, so I am just assuming people who are doing this for a living know it too.

No Statehouse is going to remedy what ails this land.




The Man who would be Hero

I learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence. I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood. In nothing was my ideal lowered, or dimmed, or grown less precious; I only saw it too plainly, to set myself for a moment beside it. Indeed, my ideal soon became my life; whereas, formerly, my life had consisted in a vain attempt to behold, if not my ideal in myself, at least myself in my ideal. Now, however, I took, at first, what perhaps was a mistaken pleasure, in despising and degrading myself. Another self seemed to arise, like a white spirit from a dead man, from the dumb and trampled self of the past. Doubtless, this self must again die and be buried, and again, from its tomb, spring a winged child; but of this my history as yet bears not the record. Self will come to life even in the slaying of self; but there is ever something deeper and stronger than it, which will emerge at last from the unknown abysses of the soul: will it be as a solemn gloom, burning with eyes? or a clear morning after the rain? or a smiling child, that finds itself nowhere, and everywhere?

George MacDonald. Phantastes, a Faerie Romance for Men and Women (Kindle Locations 2427-2436).

Praying the Lord contents me to be a humble hero of a man.

Does the Bible teach that Noah’s flood was universal?

 I must emphasize that I am not (at the moment) interested in whether or not Noah’s flood actually covered the earth. I am instead focusing on whether the Bible teaches Noah’s flood covered the earth. These are two separate issues that I would like to keep divided for the time being.

The Bible talks about the flood in these terms:

Genesis 6:13  And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

Genesis 6:17  For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.

Genesis 7:4  For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”

Genesis 7:19  And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.

Genesis 7:21  And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind.

Genesis 7:22  Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.

Genesis 7:23  He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.

Genesis 9:15  I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

According to Genesis 6-9 the flood annihilated
all flesh,
all flesh,
every living thing,
under the whole heaven,
all flesh,
all swarming creatures,
all mankind,
every living thing,
every living creature of all flesh,
all flesh.
After the flood, “only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.”

Being the good Calvinist that I am- perhaps I should look for reasons why “all” does not mean “all.” When God speaks of “all flesh” he means everything breathing under the sky (6:17 cf. 7:22). This would be good news for any one visiting the moon or vacationing in the space station, but for anyone on earth this does not seem to be very reassuring.

When God says he intends to destroy “every living thing” he is speaking specifically of those living things he had made (7:4). This is certainly good news for any life forms that arose by evolution; and I guess any Artificial Intelligence life forms would have rested easy too.

So we do have some wiggle room. According to the Bible, only those things that lived on earth, under the sky, breathing air, created by God, were destroyed. Any creature fitting those qualifications was wiped out, except Noah and those who were with him on the ark.

If you can cut through the sarcasm, you likely see that the Bible pretty clearly teaches that the flood of Noah was “universal;” though a better term would be global.

Once again, I am only asking what the Bible teaches about Noah’s flood. I am only concentrating on what the Bible intends for its readers to believe about the flood. If words mean anything, and I believe they do, the Bible teaches that the flood was global. The flood destroyed all God-created, land-dwelling creatures that breathe: except for the ones on the ark. This is the conclusion an unbiased reading of the Bible leads to.

The waters of Noah’s flood covered the entire earth: the Bible teaches this; the Bible intends its readers to believe this.

So what?

I enjoy a good argument as much as the next guy…which is to say, probably more than I should. But a “good argument” should also be a “fair fight.” I do not really enjoy arguing with someone who is making things up as they go along. Such an exercise is pointless.

For example, the other week I came across a Romanist radio program. The speaker was talking about the Roman Mass and as a committed Protestant I thoroughly enjoyed it! I thoroughly enjoyed it because the speaker spoke as a committed Romanist. He asserted that Rome believed the Eucharistic Host (the bread, the wafer) was God Himself and should be worshipped as such. If Rome is right, Protestants are refusing to worship God. If Protestants are right, Romanists are committing idolatry. His assertions were explicit, direct, and absolutely correct. Even though his belief is wrong, he was at least being honest with the ramifications of that belief. Good arguments grow in this fertile soil: men who are honest in their disagreement.

So do not tell me the Bible does not teach a global flood. Just be honest and tell me that you do not believe what the Bible teaches. That is where our discussion must begin.

Romans 8:26 Speaking in Tongues, Or Not, and Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

For our Midweek Bible study at Banquo Christian Church we are going through “Who is the Holy Spirit?” by Sinclair Ferguson. This week we will be looking at session 11- The Inward Groan. As one might guess, the focus of the lesson is Romans 8:18-27.

In preparing for the lesson I consulted I consulted Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. As I further studied the words “groan” (8:22, 23, 26) and “helps” (8:26) I was reminded once again about the “risk” in using resources such as TDNT.

In discussing “groanings” in Romans 8:26, J. Schneider writes, “Since the reference is not to something which takes place in us, the apostle cannot be thinking of the sighing of Christians in prayer. He is referring rather to times when we are unable to pray, when because of our “weakness” we do not know what we ought to pray for. This means that he cannot have in view speaking in tongues, or the inarticulate stammering of ecstatic in worship.” (TDNT, 7.602)

Turning then to the word “helps” in the very same verse, G. Delling writes, “This pneumatic prayer is a charismatic dealing with God like speaking with tongues, whether with or without the corresponding forms.” (TDNT 1.376)

In other words, someone studying certain key words of Romans 8:26 could come away radically different interpretations of the verse if they only looked up either “groan” or “help.”

Schneider’s interpretation is obviously the correct one.

George MacDonald on the Strange Woman in Proverbs

…the chief thing that makes her beautiful is this: that, although she loves no man, she loves the love of any man; and when she finds one in her power, her desire to bewitch him and gain his love (not for the sake of his love either, but that she may be conscious anew of her own beauty, through the admiration he manifests), makes her very lovely— with a self-destructive beauty, though; for it is that which is constantly wearing her away within, till, at last, the decay will reach her face, and her whole front, when all the lovely mask of nothing will fall to pieces, and she be vanished for ever.

George MacDonald. Phantastes, a Faerie Romance for Men and Women (Kindle Locations 685-689).