Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Obedience as a path to truth

A.J. Jacobs is a agnostic, secular Jew and the author of The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. I have not read the book. He gave a talk in 2007 on how the experience of trying to follow every law in the Bible changed him. It is a mildly amusing talk. Though he makes several errors in his conclusions it seems as if he made some positive progress. Of his insights I think this is one of the more profound, and I am not certain most Christians grasp the significance of this.
I couldn't believe how much my behaviour changed my thoughts. This was one of the huge lessons of the year is that I almost pretended to be a better person and I became a little bit of a better person. So it's that I had always thought you change your mind and you change your behaviour but its often the other way around, you change your behaviour and you change your mind. [6:20]
Rosaria Butterfield noted something similar during her conversion
But God's promises rolled in like sets of waves into my world. One Lord's Day, Ken preached on John 7:17: "If anyone wills to do [God's] will, he shall know concerning the doctrine" (NKJV). This verse exposed the quicksand in which my feet were stuck. I was a thinker. I was paid to read books and write about them. I expected that in all areas of life, understanding came before obedience. And I wanted God to show me, on my terms, why homosexuality was a sin. I wanted to be the judge, not one being judged.

But the verse promised understanding after obedience. I wrestled with the question: Did I really want to understand homosexuality from God's point of view, or did I just want to argue with him? I prayed that night that God would give me the willingness to obey before I understood. 
Elizabeth Goudge writes in her excellent (albeit slow) novel The Bird in the Tree,
Creative love meant building up by quantities of small actions a habit of service that might become at last a habit of mind and feeling as well as of body.  I tried, and I found it did work out like that. Feeling can be compelled by action not quite as easily as action by feeling, but far more lastingly.
While we need to renew our minds (Romans 12:2), obedience (when the pathway is clear) in the face of uncertain feelings eventually convinces us of the truth we have accented to.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Short answer Bible quiz

This is a sample quiz that Kevin DeYoung gives at his church after a 12 week course for aspiring deacons and elders. It is the knowledge part of the quiz. This is my attempt without checking my Bible. I will put my answers after the break in case readers wish to have a go. My answers may be incorrect so feel free to correct me.

A. Who did the following?
1.    Wrote the book of Acts?
2.    Appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration?
3.    Directed the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem?
4.    Killed a thousand Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone?
5.    Led the Israelites into the promised land?
6.    Was exiled to the island of Patmos where he wrote Revelation?
7.    Was going to curse Israel, but had to bless them?
8.    Became the first King of the 10 tribes that broke away?
9.    Rescued David from her foolish husband Nabal?
10.    Was rebuked by Paul for refusing to eat with Gentiles?

B. Where geographically did the following events take place?
11.    God gave Moses the Ten Commandments?
12.    A silversmith caused a riot?
13.    Elijah had a confrontation with the prophets of Baal?
14.    Believers were first called “Christians”?
15.    The river Jesus was baptized in?
16.    The walls of the city collapsed after the Israelites marched around it?
17.    Jesus walked on water?
18.    The place where Jonah was supposed to be going when he fled to Tarshish?
19.    The place where Paul was heading when he was blinded on the road?
20.    The river Ezekiel was at with the exiles when he received a vision from God?

C. In which book of the Bible do you find the following?
21.    Peter visits Cornelius where he learns that God accepts Jews and Gentiles?
22.    Paul asks a runaway slave to be welcomed back?
23.    Israel worships a golden calf made by Aaron?
24.    The story of Joseph and he brothers?
25.    Twelve men explore the land of Canaan, but only two trust God to give it to them?
26.    God’s judgment on Israel is pictured by a prophet as horde of locusts?
27.    A description of the armor of God
28.    The words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” in the Old Testament?
29.    A prophet marries a prostitute?
30.    The Magi visiting the Christ child?

D. In which book and chapter(s) do you find the following?
31.    God first speaks the Ten Commandments?
32.    The call of Abram?
33.    The Sermon on the Mount?
34.    The Great Commission?
35.    The Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples in wind, fire, and tongues?
36.    Just as Adam was the head of the old humanity, Christ is the head of the new: “Just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous”?
37.    ”But these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  And the greatest of these is love”?
38.    A religious leader hears “Unless a man is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven”?
39.    Satan bound for a thousand years?
40.    The three Hebrews saved from the fiery furnace?

E. Give the main topic or event of the following Bible chapters
41.    Genesis 3
42.    Isaiah 53
43.    Romans 4
44.    Psalm 119
45.    Hebrews 11
46.    Acts 15
47.    John 17
48.    Revelation 21-22
49.    Luke 15
50.    Exodus 3

F. Who said the following?
51.    If I perish, I perish.
52.    What is truth?
53.    After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?…Will I really have a child, now that I am old?
54.    O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
55.    Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in the kingdom.
56.    The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?
57.    He must increase; I must decrease.
58.    Am I dog that you come at me with sticks?
59.    I know my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth?
60.    Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.

G. If you encountered the following error, to which book would you turn for help?  Choose the book that best addresses the error.  Use each  of the listed books only once: Genesis, Job, Song of Songs, Amos, John, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Timothy, James, Revelation.
61.    ”As long as you believe the right things, it doesn’t matter how you live your life.”
62.    ”I’m sure I don’t have any spiritual gifts.  Only special people do.”
63.    ”We are saved by Jesus, but we also have to do our part by obeying the law of the Old Testament.”
64.    ”If you are sick, you must have sin in your life.  Good people don’t suffer.”
65.    ”God doesn’t care about the poor and oppressed.  That’s the social gospel.”
66.    ”I know God promises to bless me, but I can’t really trust him through the hard things in life, like famine, barrenness, and imprisonment.”
67.    ”In the end it won’t make any difference who we followed or what we did with our lives.  Jesus will treat everybody the same when he comes back.”
68.    ”There’s nothing special about Jesus.  He’s just one way among many, just another prophet or good moral teacher.”
69.    ”The best way to pick your elders is by looking at how successful they are in the business world.  Next, consider how many degrees they have.  After that, popularity matters most.  Finally, if you still can’t decide, go by good looks.”
70.    ”The Bible doesn’t say anything about intimacy between a man and a woman.  That’s  too fleshly for God to care about.”

H. Arrange the following events in proper chronological order.
71–80.
a.    The giving of the Law
b.    The atoning death of Christ
c.    Malachi prophesies
d.    The promise to Abraham
e.    Creation and fall
f.    Pentecost
g.    Exile in Babylon
h.    David is King over Israel
i.    Paul is shipwrecked
j.    The Judges rule over Israel

I. Match the verse with the doctrine it best supports.  Each doctrine from the list will be used only once: providence, atonement, election, justification, immutability, sanctification, inspiration, deity of Christ, Trinity, total depravity
81.    Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do. 1 Peter 1:15
82.    God demonstrated his love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
83.    What you meant for evil, God meant for good.  Genesis 50:20
84.    He chose us in him before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4
85.    I the Lord do not change.  Malachi 3:6
86.    Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not count against him. Romans 4:8
87.    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1.
88.    Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19
89.    For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  2 Peter 1:21
90.    There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  Romans 3:10-11

J. In which Old Testament book would you find the following Messianic prophecies?  Books may be used more than once.
91.    The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
92.    He would crush the head of the serpent.
93.    He would come riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
94.    Born of a virgin.
95.    Came to preach good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, release the prisoners from darkness, proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and comfort all who mourn.
96.    Would be a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.
97.    Would be like a sun of righteousness rising with healing in its wings.
98.    ”They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
99.    Buried with the rich in his death.
100.    Like a lion’s cub of the tribe of Judah.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Monday quote

I take a very low view of 'climates of opinion'. In his own subject every man knows that all discoveries are made and all errors corrected by those who ignore the 'climate of opinion'.

CS Lewis (1898–1963), The Problem of Pain.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Responses to Austin Fischer's book

Austin Fischer has written a book about how he left Calvinism. It is not a treatise on Calvinist and non-Calvinist theology, rather his story and focus an a few Calvinist beliefs he wishes to push home and get a response to. Kevin DeYoung wrote a review; Austin responded to the review; and Steve of Triablogue responded to his response. There may be posts elsewhere, these are just what I have come across (Hat tip: Arminian Perspectives).

I wished to comment on a few things that were mentioned in these posts.
Kevin: Fischer suggests that Calvinists believe that when people are raped, maimed, murdered, and tortured that God ultimately did those things to them (21). What’s missing here is an awareness of the distinction between remote and primary causes. No Calvinists I know would say God rapes people. God is never the doer of evil. Arminians may not find the distinction compelling, but Reformed theologians have always made clear there is a difference between God ordaining what comes to pass and the role of human agency in actually and voluntarily performing the ordained action.
The point is that while Arminians acknowledge that Calvinists point to remote causes and deny the distinction is meaningful, Austin was a Calvinist. He was aware of such distinctions (he acknowledges in his response) as a Calvinist but eventually found the position lacking.
Kevin: Fischer makes much of the fact that in Jesus we see a desire to love at all costs, not a desire to glorify himself at all costs (58), as if the high priestly prayer in John 17 was not chiefly concerned with the glory of the Father and the Son.  
The key term is "at all costs." John 17 emphasises glory, but it not glory at all costs; and how is that glory manifested? Thru love. Which is the point: that love is a higher focus than glory. Jesus left glory for the sake of love, not to maximise glory.
Kevin: No doubt, Paul is trying to explain in Romans 9 how the promises to Israel have not failed. But to make his point, he argues that not everyone descended from Israel belongs to Israel (9:6), which leads him into an explanation of election and reprobation. And Paul’s thinking must include the idea of individual predestination, for he uses the example of twins who were set apart for different purposes by the plan of God (9:9-13). The point in “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” is that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy and hardens whomever he wills (9:14-18). Fischer’s comments on Romans 9, like his comments on most passages, are true enough in broad strokes, but fail to engage the particularities of the text. To settle for the exploration of big themes at the expense of verse-by-verse exegetical work is to enjoy the wonders of the forest and ignore all the trees.
Except that quoting "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" from Malachi Paul is referencing nations and not individuals. The Calvinist insistence on words and verses taking precedence over paragraphs and books means that they have constructed a tree out of Romans 9:20 that does appear to have any place in the forest of the Bible.
Austin: I do think God causes suffering. I think the Bible teaches me that God does, often for purposes such as discipline (Hebrews 12:4-11). But I find it very difficult to look at the way Jesus interacts with suffering in the Gospels and then sit comfortably with the doctrines of Calvinism where God ordains the most terrible suffering imaginable on the majority of humanity.
A helpful comment here would have been to note the difference between suffering and evil. There is no problem in God ordaining suffering; if may be in the context of needed consequences, or punishment. The problem is when God is described as an author of evil.
Austin: I don’t think that if salvation is by grace, through faith, and faith itself is a gift from God, and yet I have to respond to this gift in some way, this means I was the decisive factor in my salvation (of course lots of this hinges on what is meant by “decisive”). That math will never add up for me. So if the math of salvation has to equal 1, with no room for human boasting, then I’m just fine saying the equation I see in the Bible is 1 (God) + 0 (Me) = 1, and that while my 0 contributes nothing, it is still necessary. I think this tends to be the way the Bible handles this, admittedly, mysterious issue of divine grace and human repentance/discipleship/faith.
I am not certain that faith is a gift. Faith is what we have. As to the boasting complaint, this is a non-starter. Calvinists are simply wrong. Nor is it usually helpful to appeal to mystery. This was a complaint by Kevin: that Austin replaces Calvinist mysteries with Ariminian mysteries. Mysteries reflect a lack of knowledge (due to incomplete revelation by God) and to limitations of our reasoning. But that we reason incompletely does not mean we reason incorrectly. We can know what we know.
Steve: Then there's his simplistic claim that God wanted "evil and sin and hell to exist." But, of course, that doesn't mean God wanted them to exist for their own sake, as if that's good in itself. Rather, they serve a purpose. Keep in mind that the Arminian God wanted "evil and sin and hell to exist" more than he wanted them not to exist, for it was within his power to prevent it. God "permitted" them because that's offset by the compensatory goods. So the Arminian must also resort to a greater good defense.
It depends on what the greater "good" is. For God to create hell and men to be placed in that hell to maximise his eternal glory may not be so "good." God doesn't want evil and sin to exist at all. He permits them if that is a risk in love. And he does not permit hell, he created it.
Steve: He doesn't say what "euphemisms" he has in mind. But while we're on the subject of euphemisms, about about the Arminian's euphemistic appeal to divine "permission"
Permission is not a euphemism. Parents understand the concept. It may seem a euphemism if one is trying to understand Arminianism on Calvinist terms, but not on its own terms.
Steve: The Bible in general has many "hard edges" and "hard doctrines." There's something in Scripture to offend everyone. Since Fischer thinks people ought to be consistent, why doesn't he become an atheist? 
This is a problem that Austin identifies with Calvinism. It does not disprove Calvinism, nor is it universal, but the arrogance among the young Calvinists is frequent enough that they form a distinct category even alarmingly noted by other Calvinists. Really, should a Christ follower tell a fellow traveller to become an atheist? Even if we ignore the fact that atheism is not consistent. Perhaps this is some sort of Galatian-type response to Judaisers: Austin is a false teacher. Consistency is hardly a false gospel. It does not cause men to abandon Christ. Or does Steve see Calvinism synonymous with salvation excluding Catholics, Orthodox, and large portions of Protestantism including Pentecostals? One is always going to be in relationship with Christians that have different beliefs than oneself. This is not a good thing, but it is and will remain. One should be saddened if someone who once held to orthodoxy becomes heterodox yet,
Steve: The moral of the story is that intellectually lightweight ex-Calvinists like Fischer make the best Arminians. 
And in the comments we read,
Steve: Since I don't think Fischer is a loss to Calvinism, I don't feel "bitter" about his defection from Calvinism.
I want all people to believe the truth, intellectual lightweights included. I am pleased when anyone renews his mind and thinks more like Christ, and saddened when he abandons the truths of the Bible. Moreover, the kingdom is full on people who the world considers nobodies. It is this arrogance which I think is dangerous in Calvinism. We don't read: Speak the truth to God's glory whoever may be damned; rather we are to speak the truth in love. Words of rebuke are appropriate for false teachers to protect the sheep, especially if the person is a wolf (which means that they are not a sheep and not in God's kingdom). Nevertheless, we should desire that all join the kingdom and be saddened if any leave.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Monday quote

One thing which emerges strongly from any case-by-case study of intellectuals is their scant regard for veracity. Anxious as they are to promote the redeeming, transcending Truth, the establishment of which they see as their mission on behalf of humanity, they have not much patience with the mundane, everyday truths represented by objective facts which get in the way of their arguments. These awkward, minor truths get brushed aside, doctored, reversed or are even deliberately suppressed.

Paul Johnson, Intellectuals.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Patenting patents

Amazon patents taking a photograph against a white background.
In a patent simply called Studio arrangement Amazon took IP ownership on what we all call shooting against a seamless white backdrop.
It might seem like satire but the patent is here.

So if patents are going to be given for the bleeding obvious and concepts that have been used for decades then I am going to apply for 2 patents that will make me millions!

The first patent is for the concept of filing patents. Everyone who intends to file a patent will be breaching my patent. Licensing to apply for patents will be permitted on payment of a small fee.

The second patent is for the concept of licensing, of receiving payment when someone wishes to use a patented concept. Thus no one will be able to receive any royalties for patented concepts without violating my patent which, again, will be permitted for a small payment of 1% of the agreed license fee.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A market for abortions

I would question the veracity of this article but she is acknowledging her own despicable activities. Not only did she make her living through the death of innocents, to maximise her profits she encouraged people create life solely to destroy it.
“We had a goal of 3-5 abortions from every girl between the ages of 13 and 18, because we all work on a straight commission inside the abortion industry,” she said. With every customer, Everett became a little richer.

But in order to reach her financial goal, Everett said she first had to create a “market for abortions.”
And maximising pregnancy means encouraging promiscuity from a young age.
“My goal was to get them sexually active on a low dose birth control pill that we knew they would get pregnant on.”
Not only is her occupation predicated on sin, its intent was to cause people to sin; something Jesus condemns with strong words,
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Mat 18:6)
Fortunately she responded to God's intervention in her life.
My life changed when I came to know the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ in 1983.
Horrendous destruction had been done, but we worship a God of immense grace.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Monday quote

Although sexual pluralism has no rational grounds—theologically, historically, or scientifically—it might be useless to resist with rational argument. For a view which rises to prominence by abandoning reason can hardly be defeated through the use of reason.

Jim Spiegel

Monday, 5 May 2014

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