The Greatest Problem Mankind Will Face in 2014

What is the greatest problem facing mankind in 2014?

Militant Islam?

A nuclear Iran?

Global warming?

Poverty?

AIDS?

Cancer?

All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront together and at once, would be nothing compared to the problem of God: The He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him.

A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy 

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Athens and Jerusalem: Why drama is morally wrong i.e. sinful. Part one- The Actor

Premise: Acting is an immoral profession.

 What is the talent of the actor? It is the art of counterfeiting himself, of putting on another character than his own, of appearing different than he is, of becoming passionate in cold blood, of saying what he does not think as naturally as if he really did think it, and, finally, of forgetting his own place by dint of taking another’s. What is the profession of the actor? It is a trade in which he performs for money, submits himself to the disgrace and affronts that others buy the rights to give him, and puts his person publicly on sale. I beg every sincere man to tell me if he does not feel in the depths of his soul that there is something servile and base in this traffic of oneself. You philosophers, who have the pretention of being so far above prejudices, would you not all die of shame if, ignominiously gotten up as kings, you had to take on in the eyes of the public a different role than your own and expose your majesties to the jeers of the populace? What, then, is the spirit that the actor receives from his estate? A mixture of abjectness, duplicity, ridiculous conceit, and disgraceful abasement which renders him fit for all sorts of roles except for the most noble of all, that of man, which he abandons.[1]

Without doubt the most precious thing any man possesses is his individuated being; that by which he is himself and not someone else; that which cannot be finally voided by the man himself nor shared with another. Each one of us, however humble our place in the social scheme, is unique in creation. Each is a new whole man possessing his own separate “I-ness” which makes him forever something apart, an individual human being. It is this quality of uniqueness which permits a man to enjoy every reward of virtue and makes him responsible for every sin. It is his selfness, which will persist forever, and which distinguishes him from every creature which has been or ever will be created.
Because man is such a being as this all moral teachers, and especially Christ and His apostles, make sincerity to be basic in the good life. The word, as the New Testament uses it, refers to the practice of holding fine pottery up to the sun to test it for purity. In the white light of the sun all foreign substances were instantly exposed. So the test of sincerity is basic in human character. The sincere man is one in whom is found nothing foreign; he is all of one piece; he has preserved his individuality unviolated.
Sincerity for each man means staying in character with himself. Christ’s controversy with the Pharisees centered around their incurable habit of moral play acting. The Pharisee constantly pretended to be what he was not. He attempted to vacate his own “I-ness” and appear in that of another and better man. He assumed a false character and played it for effect. Christ said he was a hypocrite.
It is more than an etymological accident that the word “hypocrite” comes from the stage. It means actor. With that instinct for fitness which usually marks word origins, it has been used to signify one who has violated his sincerity and is playing a false part. An actor is one who assumes a character other than his own and plays it for effect. The more fully he can become possessed by another personality the better he is as an actor.[2]

 Result: Those continuing to engage in said activity are not to be considered in fellowship with the church and in fact barred from it.

 From our mutual love and your reverence for me you have thought that I should be consulted, dearest brother, as to my opinion concerning a certain actor, who, being settled among you, still persists in the discredit of the same art of his; and as a master and teacher, not for the instruction, but for the destruction of boys, that which he has unfortunately learnt he also imparts to others: you ask whether such a one ought to communicate with us. This, I think, neither befits the divine majesty nor the discipline of the Gospel, that the modesty and credit of the Church should be polluted by so disgraceful and infamous a contagion. For since, in the law, men are forbidden to put on a woman’s garment, and those that offend in this manner are judged accursed, how much greater is the crime, not only to take women’s garments, but also to express base and effeminate and luxurious gestures, by the teaching of an immodest art.[3]

If a harlot come, let her leave off whoredom, or else let her be rejected. If a maker of idols come, let him either leave off his employment, or let him be rejected. If one belonging to the theatre come, whether it be man or woman, or charioteer, or dueller, or racer, or player of prizes, or Olympic gamester, or one that plays on the pipe, on the lute, or on the harp at those games, or a dancing-master or an huckster, either let them leave off their employments, or let them be rejected.[4]

 


[1] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Politics and the Arts: Letter to M. d’Alembert on the Theater,trans. Allan Bloom (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973), 79-80.

[2] A.W. Tozer, “The Menace of the Religious Movie,” Tozer on Worship and Entertainment (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1997), 193-194.

[3] Cyprian, Epistle LX, ANF 5.356

[4] Apostolic Constitutions, ANF 7.495

A.W. Tozer on Regret (Or…the best Tozer quote you have never read)

Regret for a sinful past will remain until we truly believe that for us in Christ that sinful past no longer exists. The man in Christ has only Christ’s past and that is perfect and acceptable to God. In Christ he died, in Christ he rose, and in Christ he is seated within the circle of God’s favored ones. He is no longer angry with himself because he is no longer self-regarding, but Christ-regarding; hence there is no place for regret.

That Incredible Christian, “The Futility of Regret”

For All Saints’ Day: You are the saint you want to be

Early in William Law’s A Serious Call to A Devout and Holy Life, the author provides the kind of slap in the face missing from all too many “Christian Life” books:

And if you will here stop, and ask yourselves, why you are not as pious as the primitive Christians were, your own heart will you, that it is neither through ignorance, nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it.

This statement was a punch to the gut when I first read it. Being a somewhat active reader in church history I do have a tendency to romanticize the past. Being somewhat pessimistic by nature I do have a tendency to think things will never be that good again: “there were giants in the earth in those days.”

In his article “Our Unclaimed Riches”, A.W. Tozer elaborates on the same thought as Law. Tozer offers 4 convicting statements that get to the root of explaining your present condition in the Christian life:

  1. You will get nothing unless you go after it.
  2. You may have as much as you insist on having.
  3. You will have as little as you are satisfied with.
  4. You now have as much as you really want.

Taken in isolation these statements appear to be little better than the message of contemporary health-and-wealth televangelists. From beginning to end, however, Tozer is speaking of spiritual riches. For instance, immediately after the fourth statement Tozer writes, “Every man is as close to God as he wants to be; he is as holy and as full of the Spirit as he wills to be.”

So are Law and Tozer right? Am I as holy as I want to be? Consider:

  1. God’s plan for you is holiness and Christ-likeness: from eternity God has intended this (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4).
  2. God’s will for you is holiness and Christ-likeness: this is what God wants for you now (1 Thess. 4:3).
  3. Christ’s passion was accomplished to make you holy (John 17:17-19; Eph. 5:25-27; Titus 2:14).
  4. Holiness and Christ-likeness is what the Holy Spirit is trying to form in you (1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2).
  5. Beyond His own personal plan, desire, sacrifice, and work, God has given everything we need to escape sin and live righteously (Acts 20:32; 1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Tim. 4:18; 2 Peter 1:3; 3:9)

We must agree with Law and Tozer. Every man is as holy as he wants to be. But, as Tozer concludes,

Yet we must distinguish wanting and wishing. By “want” I mean wholehearted desire. Certainly there are many who wish they were holy or victorious or joyful but are not willing to meet God’s conditions to obtain.

A.W. Tozer on Moses, Creation, and Men who Know Too Much

I have leafed through a book entitled Earth’s Earliest Ages. I will not say that I have actually read it because I quickly concluded that the author seems to believe he knows more about the antediluvian period [the period of earth’s history before the flood in Noah’s day] than Moses did. When I discover a man who claims to know more than Moses on a subject in which Moses is a specialist, I shy away from his book. (A. W. Tozer, Christ the Eternal Son, p. 18)

One thing I have enjoyed about reading through Herman Bavinck’s reformed Dogmatics is his understated way of completely eviscerating views he disagrees with. Such grace in dealing with opponents is rare. Tozer demonstrates the same quality here.

Many called Tozer a 20th century prophet: thankfully he never claimed the title for himself. Nevertheless, Tozer saw things as they really were and was long ago foretelling the demise of the evangelical church. Here again he demonstrates a clear vision of the core issues.

How did Moses know about the Creation, Flood, and world before Abraham? There is a chance that he received this information traditionally: handed down orally or in written form. Given that nearly every ancient culture has similar accounts of these events, this is possible. But given their variety, I find it unlikely. I am of the opinion that Moses received such information directly from the Spirit of the Lord. However Moses received the information, God set his seal upon it by making it Scripture. Whether the Spirit guided Moses is “selecting” the truth from the oral or written sources he had; or whether the Spirit revealed it to Moses directly; Genesis 1-11 is God’s Word given to God’s prophet.

When someone, anyone, challenges the veracity of Genesis 1-11 he makes bold claims. He claims that Moses got it wrong. And since Moses acted as God’s prophet, he claims God got it wrong. When a man makes such claims we are quite justified in ignoring him. He is a three year old claiming to be Superman.