Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 6

I. To be more precise, you and I. It is almost always used wrongly now, because mostly, the correct expression is you and me.

When I was at school, we were taught to strip away the you and and see if the personal pronoun sounded correct on its own.

Technically, I is nominative and me is objective. If you bung you and in front of it, you must still use I when it is the subject and me when it is the object.

Here are some examples:
You and I have been living in Bathurst for over seven years now.
It's very important to you and me.
But I fear that you and I is going to completely replace you and me.

Public speakers, including preachers, use it wrongly all the time. The only Christian minister I hear using it correctly is Peter O'Brien, research professor at Moore College.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 5

Ontology and ontological always irritate me, even when used in excellent books, such as Graeme Goldsworthy's Gospel-Centred Hermeneutics.
Most sentences in which these words are used make perfect sense without them.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 4

Assembly required. These words strike fear in my heart! I have had so many disasters. I bought a table that needed to have the legs screwed on, and made a hole right through the table in attempting the task, even though I had called the neighbours in to show me how to do it.

The treadmill manual is mainly assembly instructions and looks horrendously difficult. We were so pleased the one we bought was already set up and ready for use.

I'm not at all a Do-It-Yourself man. The only time I would use the phrase is if I was asked to do one of those handyman tasks and it would be a retort, I can tell you!

The treadmill of life

I have thought for many years that home exercise equipment inevitably becomes a dusty item in the corner somewhere, with stuff piled all over it.

That's my observation as I visit people's houses, and so I thought that it would not be sensible to buy such equipment ourselves. I do little exercise, but this year I have been walking to and from work and around Bathurst more than ever before, as I try to multi-task and rehearse the book of Hebrews, or part thereof, as I walk.

But ... it's getting cold, and I have only been walking about once a week. And, my weight is creeping up. It is disturbing to look at the first year of my multi-year diary and compare today with 365 days ago.

My wife, Joan decided she needed to get herself active again and we went looking at exercise bikes and treadmills. She wasn't keen on bikes, but preferred treadmills, but I favoured the price of the bikes: they're about half the price!

But we had a go on a treadmill at a local Sport store and were attracted to buying a particular one, because the manager was going to deliver it already assembled. [See Words that make me cringe, part 4.] We have only had it a week, but in that time I have managed to lower my pulse as I walk from about 150 to about 130, and have also increased the speed I can do to about 6 kilometres per hour. So far, I can only manage about 10 minutes at a time, in which I am able to burn about 30 calories and travel about 1 kilometre. I'm pleased with my progress.

But, will it eventually be gathering dust in our playroom/musicroom/birdroom? We hope not.

Words that make me cringe, part 3

Limited atonement is another of my pet hates. It was presumably coined by those who believe that Christ died for the people whom God has chosen, and only them, but it is a most unfortunate term, beloved of those who would like to shoot this teaching down!

Particular Redemption, or my preferred term, Definite Atonement, convey the sense much better, but don't fit the flowery acronym TULIP.

In fact, those who deny the teaching that Christ died for those and only those he came to save have a much more limited atonement, because Christ only potentially died for people: maybe no one will choose to accept it!

A fascinating afternoon

Here is how I spent my time this arvo. Some would see it as a waste of time, but I'm pleased I had the time available to do it. From time to time, I read Mandy's Musings, having got there via a post from Mandy at Your Sydney Anglicans forum.
This afternoon, I took the bait, and clicked through to Mandy's self-described controversial post on Definite Atonement, and the 130 replies, which is an exchange between Moore College students and Oak Hill College, who are divided over whether Christ's death was for all [mainly Moore], but only effective for those whom God has chosen, or whether it was intended only for those for whom Christ died [mainly Oak Hill].

There was some valuable discussion in this long list of posts, which I have not yet finished.

It seems to me that most Christians are firstly Arminians, as Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon remarked more than a century ago. This means that they believe that Christ died for all, but not specifically for any particular people. So it is possible that no one will be saved, as it is entirely up to us to choose to accept God's offer.

This is the view I was taught in the Baptist Church I grew up in, and would appear to be the majority view of Christians today. There are many bible verses that could be cited in support of it, such as
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
But, if you read the whole bible, and read bible passages, not just isolated verses, I don't see how you can hold this view for long.

Throughout the bible we read about God choosing people and rejecting others. We read that all of us deserve to suffer God's anger for turning away from him, but that God in his mercy, has chosen to
save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

At many times the bible speaks of Christ as having died for the sins of the whole world. I don't think I need to cite those verses. But at many other times we are told Jesus died for those God has chosen. For example
we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10

And in John we are told
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day... All whom the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. John 6:37-39,44.
So Jesus welcomes everyone who comes to him, but because of our sin, we can only come to him by God's gracious enabling.

It seems clear from reading through the whole bible that Jesus died for those God gave to him, and only them. His death is sufficient for all, and everyone is called to turn from living for themselves, and to give their lives in service to God. But we don't want to do this, because of our own evil natures.

So God chooses people whom he will save through Jesus' death. They are not chosen on the basis of their own goodness, because we are all wicked and deserving God's anger and punishment forever.

The discussion between the Moore and Oak Hill people was over whether Christ's death is potentially for all, but eventually for those whom God has chosen [known as Amyraldianism], or whether Jesus died for the specific people whom God has chosen, and only them [properly called Definite Atonement. The latter view is an aspect of Reformed theology which may sound harsh, but does seem to be clearly taught in the bible: I don't understand why minds much greater than mine don't see it.

In coming to an acceptance of Reformed Theology, many people seem to firstly be Amyraldians, but later realise that belief in Definite Atonement is more consistent with the whoel of the bible's teaching.

Well-spent arvo, or waste of time? Gotta admit, I had other jobs to do!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The importance of the wrath of God

More helpful stuff from The Shepherd's Scrapbook. If you are like me, the topic of God's wrath [which English people and Aussies should pronounce to rhyme with broth, please] is not something you like to think about. Tony reminds us of how much it is a part of the bible's message for us. Please read his timely article.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Understanding Legalism

Tony Reinke's Shepherd's Scrapbook is worth bookmarking, or grabbing an rss feed. His musing on legalism is a good example of his writing. It is influenced by C J Mahaney's Living the Cross-Centred Life, which is an expanded version of a similarly titled book that I've found very helpful. I'm no Caro, but I sure like C J!

So ... am I legalistic? Are you?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How to read the bible: is there a right way?

I think that there definitely are helpful and unhelpful ways of reading the bible.

I recently read a little book called Dig Deeper: tools to unearth the bible's treasure. It is authored by two British writers: Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach. It has heaps of good advice, and would indeed give a person tools for a greater understanding of the bible, but ... there's something missing.

Graeme Goldsworthy's Gospel-Centred Hermeneutics is a much larger book and harder to read. [I'd like to see the word "ontology" and its relations cast into outer darkness, and I assure you there'd be no weeping and gnashing of teeth here in my home in Bathurst.]

But Goldsworthy includes the element that I thought was missing from Dig Deeper. I'm thoroughly enjoying reading a few pages each day.

What Beynon and Sach fail to say and Goldsworthy says over and over is that the bible is about Jesus Christ and his saving life, death, resurrection and ascension for us. [Some people are not sure about the life, though.]

I think it is reasonable for people who have read the whole bible to point out to those who are beginning to read it that they must realise that the whole book is written to tell us about God and who he is and what he requires of us and what he has done for us and that this is mediated to us through Jesus Christ.

When we read the bible there are a lot of helpful tools to use, but the most essential of all is to read it in relation to its central message about Jesus. Miss that, and you've missed the boat.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 2

αγάπη love [agape love] is another expression which gives me the horrors, because it shows a misunderstanding of the way language works, and it sounds like a parading of misinformation.

A simple study of the Greek words for love in the bible shows they are often used interchangeably. Sometimes one word is used with widely differing connotations, just as we do with the word love in English.

Some of the best stuff written debunking the idea that the bible's Greek has a special word for each concept has been done by Don Carson in his Commentary on John, his book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God and in his book Exegetical Fallacies.

Of course there is such a thing as a whole-hearted devotion to God, and there is such a thing as God's special love for Christ and for those he has chosen as Christ's bride, but the bible plainly uses a variety of words for this, including αγάπη [agape] but also many others, often compounds of a completely different word.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Is Christianity good for the world?

is the title of an online debate being published by Christianity Today, between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian Douglas Wilson. There have been two exchanges published so far, with the promise of more over the next month.

I have appreciated reading Douglas Wilson's online contributions in his Blog and Mablog and in Credenda Agenda, as well as reading Easy Chairs Hard Words, his stimulating imaginary conversation between a Calvinist pastor and a thoughtful Arminian who currently attends another church.

Concerning the topic's question, it seems to me that while Christians have, along with non-Christians, created much evil in the world, they have also done a lot of good. The few atheists I have encountered do not seem interested in healing the sick, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, etc, though they are eager to spread their message.

While Christians are most certainly intent on spreading their message, which they believe to be the best and worst news the world will ever hear, they don't seem to be able to stop themselves alleviating poverty, preventing and curing sickness and speaking up for the down-trodden. Throughout the past two thousand years of Christian history they have been so active in this, that at times they have forgotten to tell their story, which has the unfortunate consequence of making people comfortable on the road to destruction (if their message is the truth they believe it to be).

Where atheists have been involved in supporting charitable causes, they have often been of the nature of fighting for human rights, or civil liberties, which sometimes have been really organisations that have been founded to stamp out the spread of religion or the freedom to teach it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

12 ways to love your wayward child

This article is written by Abraham Piper, who was once John Piper's wayward boy. The whole article is a treasure and is well worth your time.

Many parents are brokenhearted and completely baffled by their unbelieving son or daughter. They have no clue why the child they raised well is making such awful, destructive decisions. I’ve never been one of these parents, but I have been one of these sons. Reflecting back on that experience, I offer these suggestions to help you reach out to your wayward child.

In summary:

1. Point them to Christ.
2. Pray.
3. Acknowledge that something is wrong.
4. Don’t expect them to be Christ-like.
5. Welcome them home.
6. Plead with them more than you rebuke them.
7. Connect them to believers who have better access to them.
8. Respect their friends.
9. Email them.
10. Take them to lunch.
11. Take an interest in their pursuits.
12. Point them to Christ. (reprise)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 1

There's nothing wrong with the word. I like it. But it makes me cringe when it is devalued to mean the person I currently sleep with or the person I'm somewhat committed to. Sometimes it seems to be used to equate a same-sex sexual relationship with marriage. Another misuse.

My wife is most certainly my partner. By God's grace we intend for our partnership to last for the rest of one of our lives, though we wish it were for both.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What did Jesus do?

I've always thought What did Jesus do? was a much better question than the hypothetical What would Jesus do? and it seems Mike Fleischmann agrees. His article in Today's Christian, published by Christianity Today, is well worth reading in its entirety.

Fleischmann lists 7 priorities, gleaned from his reading of the four Gospels which he believes guided Jesus' earthly life:
1. He sought the Father.
Forty-five times in the Gospels we are told Jesus went away alone to pray.
2. He embraced the outcasts.
Jesus embraced the sinful and sickly, the unseemly and unimportant.
3. He restored broken lives.
He cast out demons, healed broken bodies, raised the dead, forgave the sins of the guilty and even provided for people's financial needs. He showed that God's power is sufficient to meet every need.
4. He confronted hypocrisy.
Jesus demonstrated the heart of God by standing against lifeless religion. He openly confronted religious hypocrisy, inciting great opposition that ultimately led to his execution. Jesus repeatedly rebuked religious people who buried the true heart of God in their manmade traditions He cleansed the temple because people were using God's house for their own gain.
What would Jesus do? He would go on record against people who act in the name of God to hurt others. He'd stand up against crusaders parading with signs that venomously attack and label others. And he'd speak out against those who profit from the oppressed but who claim their God is full of compassion.
5. He taught God's Word.
He was always helping people discover his Father. Although he was the incarnate Word, he often directed people back to God's written Word.
You don't need to be a minister of Sunday School teacher to do this. Teaching simply requires being so filled with God's Word that it naturally overflows from our lives into the lives of those around us.
6.He served.
Sometimes we feel we're so busy doing God's work that we don't have time for people. But God's work is people! His business is helping a homeless couple find shelter before nightfall. His business is praying with a child for her sick kitty and reading the Bible with a new Christian. His business is pushing a stalled car through the intersection and taking that midnight phone call from a struggling friend.
7.He equipped leaders.
Besides sharing God's love with others, Jesus trained a future generation to continue his mission mission and change the world after his departure.

These seven priorities should drive us back to the gospels to take a fresh look at how Jesus lived. The fad phase of WWJD may be over, but we need to hold on to those bracelets and keep asking ourselves—What would Jesus do? It's a great question. But remember: If we're not sure what Jesus actually did in his life, then we're just guessing at what he might do in ours.