Thursday, February 11, 2016

Joseph's Legacy in Modern Statists

So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for ]every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. Thus the land became Pharaoh’s. As for the people, he removed them to the cities from one end of Egypt’s border to the other. Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had an allotment from Pharaoh, and they lived off the allotment which Pharaoh gave them. Therefore, they did not sell their land. Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have today bought you and your land for Pharaoh; now, here is seed for you, and you may sow the land. At the harvest you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own for seed of the field and for your food and for those of your households and as food for your little ones.” So they said, “You have saved our lives! Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s slaves.”    Genesis 47:20-25  NASB
Here in America, politicians (from the right and the left) attempt to gain political momentum by stirring up a majority of fear. Whether national defense and terrorism or social programs, the attempt is to have some crisis distill in the hearts of the nation that allows government to tax and spend outlandish sums, take over some area of independence and self-reliance, and to otherwise get the lot of us to be quiet and do what we're told. Once we've lost our independence and stand demurely begging like Oliver in the poor house, we're right in the spot statists want us. The elite, of course, will always find a way to profit from it.

In this country over the last 50 years or so, in every area that government programs have filled a feeding trough through some program that propaganda sold as a helping hand, inflation has followed and made it nigh unto impossible for the average person to pay for his or her own way in that area. In '65 Medicaid and Medicare began spending billions, since then medical inflation has risen over four times the rate of the rest of the economy. Now most folk can't even begin to afford medical care. The same thing happened in post-secondary education.

The economic crisis we're still muddling through now is in no small measure the result of the same phenomenon. Government policy (not just from Bush and Republicans mind you) allowed the troughs in the housing economy to be filled by artful risk spreading, providing easy money and granting credit to the unworthy. Prices shot up far in advance of the rate in the broad economy (along with the debt to pay for them) inflating the bubble that burst and left us all struggling. Few here can afford to buy a home in the traditional sense anymore.

When we give up our freedom to fail in whatever crisis we fear for a governmental risk-free safety net the same pattern unfolds. Prices in whatever area that government is causing cash to be infused soon advance beyond our ability to do anything for ourselves in that area. Government then steps in to refine its fix and ratchets up its control over our lives another notch. It's subtle, it seems good, but I think it's devilish. Joseph and the Pharoah may have invented the rudiments of the method during a real crisis and genuine fear, but I think it's safe to say it sure didn't work to the benefit of the Egyptians in the end! 

In light of where we are in America today, maybe it's time to...

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Good Shepherd Discourse: Does Election Cause Faith?

The Good Shepherd discourse in John 10 (actually two addresses on the same subject) is undoubtedly allegorical, and as such involves some art in its interpretation. Interpreting allegories is not an exact science after all. It seems to me, the chapter is more about the qualities of the Good Shepherd than it is about the qualities of sheep. However, what it does say about sheep can been seen in a rather exclusionary light (see e.g. vs. 8, 14, 16, and 26-7). I wonder, in regard to those sheep and their response to the Shepherd, are Jesus' statements meant to be a description of attributes or an attribution of causes?

Among other things, the text tells us that sheep (people) who hear (believe and respond to) the shepherd (Christ) do so because they are his, whereas people who do not believe in Christ do not because they are not his. What must be determined in order to understand the figure properly is if is it saying that the mere fact of ownership (which could be seen as akin to election) causes response in sheep. In other words, does ownership (election) of the sheep cause them to hear the shepherd or does "hearing" merely establish that they are, in fact, owned by the shepherd (something akin to a brand).

One viewpoint sees a cause, where the other sees a description.

Sheep in the real world imprint to their shepherds during the process of being raised and tended by those shepherds. Apart from the ability to imprint at all, there's nothing intrinsic (or genetic) in a sheep that connects it to its particular shepherd. Only the relationship that has been established over time between them connects one to the other. The preference resulting from discerning hearing in sheep is developmental, so the hearing of the sheep presupposes a trusting relationship with the shepherd.

Now, the Pharisees and others in the audience were oblivious to whatever points Christ was making by using this figure. They missed the gist of the allegory all together: namely, that Jesus (and not any other including them) is the means for those that follow him to have life and all it brings. They had shown no inclination to accept him as a shepherd (they called him a raving lunatic), nor any willingness to develop a relationship with with him that would have tuned them to his voice. Even his miracles did nothing to elicit any kind of trust from them.

All those God, the Father, has given to Christ as his sheep (followers) will trust in him, whereas those who have no faith in Christ cannot possibly be a follower of Christ. If one has faith in Christ it means that one is one of the ones the Father gave the Son, if not, that one isn't--mere description. I don't think Christ would have appropriated this figure to demonstrate something the figure would not have demonstrated to any shepherd in his day, nor something that would fly in the face of later scripture. It is not saying that mere ownership (or election) causes trust, but merely that trust in Christ demonstrates that one is part of the fold his Father gave him.

This is accentuated from the viewpoint of the shepherd in vs. 11-13. Though sheep will not listen thieves and robbers, they will listen to and follow a hireling who, as their shepherd, has formed a relationship with them. However, only an owner, who is actually a shepherd too, will rise to the level of a Good Shepherd by hazarding all dangers in order to save them. So relationship, not ownership, grows faith, although ownership is what makes faith truly beneficial.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Is Socialism Biblical?

Under the current administration, the government and economy of the United States has taken a decidedly left turn. Many believers think that such concerns really do not matter, have nothing at all to do with the Gospel, and therefore should not be a concern to a strongly evangelical Christian. Whereas I agree with such sentiments on their face, that doesn't mean one form of government or economy is as good as any other, or more to the point, more biblical than another. Let's explore (superficially, I admit) the "biblicalness" of socialism.

The the notion of private property is firmly ensconced in the Bible: not just personal property but real property as well. Socialism, in its severest form, does not allow for private property and has a limited view of such in its more pragmatic forms. If God's design for the society of his people as espoused in the Old Testament gives us any clue, means of production are intended by God to be held by individuals as a basis of self-reliance and freedom for those individuals and their children after them. Political authority exercised over the individual's talents and the individual's use of his property was considered by God a detriment, not a noble goal.

Furthermore, trying to obliterate class distinctions in society is a fool's errand. Jesus said the poor will always be with us. In the kingdom, even in the eternal age, there will be distinctions in rewards. The petty jealousy of the natural human heart which can't stand seeing someone else have something that it does not should not be the driver of public policy. However, the economically powerful should not be allowed to benefit themselves while squeezing those that make their wealth accumulation possible. An equitable share of profits going to workers is good policy, whereas equality in earnings is a hopelessly misguided fantasy.

Personal initiative and responsibility is the foundation of personal righteousness. Taking care of the helpless, the resourceless, and the weak (the poor, widows, and orphans) is a biblical construct, but transferring personal responsibility to society is not. Whereas "helping the working man" fits within a biblical framework, welfare for the able but idle does not. In taking that concept to the nth degree, we hear the convoluted logic today that considers universal healthcare (or really, anything else that must be earned by the able) an inalienable right.

People, all of them, are sinful by nature: if there is a way to get without giving in return a sizable proportion of them will opt for that choice--some more, some less. This is just the reality of human nature. To assume that big government is capable of equitably administering the crash between demand and supply which will result from a policy of open access for all seems to me the most hubristic conception to come down the pike in the modern age. Supply will become inadequate and prices will rise despite the best intentioned interventions of socialistic public policy.

Sometimes socialism is said to be a biblical idea due to the experiment of the early church in Jerusalem. I would note that the model was not repeated anywhere else the church was planted; that Jerusalem was a pilgrim city where many would have been in town on a temporary basis without visible means of longer term support; and that the area was poor and subject to drought and shortage. People liquidating personal property to help out brothers and sisters in distress was never meant to model communal living, the weight of NT scripture makes that more than clear. So much, then, for "biblical socialism."

Concentrated human authority (e.g., a king) is not God's desired option for the government of his people. By extension, any authority (king or not) that can confiscate property, conscript sons and daughters, tax parasitically--in other words, endanger personal freedom--is not what's best for God's sons and daughters. Human beings are sinful: put power in their hands over others and they'll use it sinfully. Socialism, even if democratic, ignores this reality and puts sinners in stifling control over other humans.

Can such a thing ever be expected to produce anything other than bondage?

Should Christian voters support overreaching governmental control in America, or curse our descendants with the burden of a relatively large, permanently underemployed, feckless welfare class akin to what exists throughout socialist Europe? American believers are free to join unbelievers in constructing a Tower of Babel against acts of God (that is what socialism seems to be an attempt at to me), but it won't be the Bible that influences such a choice. The Bible, as I see it, is relatively clear in its support for personal property, personal responsibility, economic freedom and trusting in God. Socialism, on the other hand, can only produce the tyranny of the sinner.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

What John Really Says About Drawing and Election

The Gospel of John is easy to misinterpret, not only because it shares so little with the other gospels, but because it is filled with commentary by Jesus about his reception among the Jews. Apparently, Jesus had a lot to say about why folks and about which folks were able to recognize him as he walked on the face of earth. If one is not cognizant of contextual cues, things which were only definitely being said about that reception can be applied to the broader context of humans in general throughout time and result in erroneous conclusions.

When one takes what Jesus was saying about his reception among the Jews and mistakenly applies it to humans in general outside that time and place, contradictions arise with other scriptures regarding God's intentions toward humanity in general. For instance, 1 Timothy 2:1-6 and 2 Peter 3:9 seem to be at odds with statements in John if that hermeneutical error is followed. Readily evident readings have to be discarded (really, twisted) in order to align with misreadings of John. Because God was highly selective before the resurrection in who would recognize Christ, associate with him, and form the core of the church after his resurrection does not automatically mean he exercises the same prerogatives after the resurrection and through the age of the church.

I want to reference 3 key places where this problem can be seen and demonstrate a hermeneutical framework that evaporates any issues.

First, John 12:27-33...

This passage is key because it says something explicitly about God's exertion of drawing power upon the post-crucifixion population of planet Earth (see also John 8:28). It is, in fact, different than what was said to exist for the population around Christ before the crucifixion. The member of the Trinity acting changes, as does the scope of the action. This passage must been seen, it seems to me, as the basis for understanding any other statement in John concerning drawing and election to Christ which is being applied to post-resurrection populations.

Second, the last half of John 6...

As he made these statements, was Jesus referring to witnesses of his physical visitation at that time, or was he making a broader statement applicable to all people throughout time? He seemed to speak broadly (vs. 28-58) and specifically (vs. 59-71) with regard to people responding to him within the same pericope, so the question is complicated. The section which clearly refers to specific people at that specific time (i.e. his contemporaneous disciples) is reiterated conceptually in the High-Priestly Prayer in John 17, which serves to focus, I think, Jesus' comments about effectual calling in John 6 upon those who witnessed his earthly ministry. Verse 65, in explaining v. 44, constricts the context to the more specific milieu, and therefore, vs. 44 and 65 can be readily applied to those folks at that time but cannot be applied without the mitigation of John 12 to the post-crucifixion population.

Third, John 8:42-47...

Jesus comments in this section of John were addressed to those that had some sort of belief in him (see v. 31-32), and yet contended with him and were rejected by Christ as children of the devil. They were unable to understand his words, to truly believe in him, and so be saved. I would say that their condition is not out of the ordinary for people pre-crucifixion, but does their example say anything at all about people post-crucifixion? It is an extremely important consideration given Romans 10:8-9. But there is nothing contextually that relates their condition to the human race in general, or to the post-crucifixion population in particular.

When statements in John about being drawn to Christ (which, incidentally, entails enablement to believe acc. 6:44-47) and God electing followers in the pre-crucifixion population shape our understanding about the those subjects in regard to the post-crucifixion population, confusion and contradiction occur. The sad state of Calvinism is an example of such an occurrence. When our understanding about drawing and election among the post-crucifixion population is informed primarily by the one text that deals with that subject specifically, we find that clarity and harmony between scriptures result.

Since the crucifixion, this should be clear from an accurate reading of the Bible: God is drawing all people to Christ because he genuinely wants everyone to be saved by hearing the word of Christ and responding with faith.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Twenty-four Elders of the Apocalypse

24 is a significant, symbolic number in the Apocalypse.

It's symbolic content can be understood in terms of two: two covenants and two flocks becoming one in Christ, the Good Shepherd. Twelve is an obviously significant number since there are 12 tribes in Israel and twelve apostles. 24 is merely the whole of twelve times two, and so represents the one people redeemed by Christ out of Israel and the Gentiles. That is clearly a major theme in the Apocalypse, though it leads dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists to vastly different conclusions.

This theme is visited rather dramatically for the last time in chapter 21 as the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven to a new earth is described. The eternal home of the saints has twelve foundations and twelve gates. The combination of 12 and 12 in the structure of the New Jerusalem (which is 24, though not explicitly mentioned) is used to encompass the entirety of God's salvivic people, and picks up the theme which streams throughout the Apocalypse. Jew and Gentile who believe in Christ, though distinctive in some ways, form one eternal people of God.

The 24 are elders (presbyters) which means, basically, they are old men who are wise and worthy of respect. I think the use of the generic term, "elders," accentuates their symbolic quality, and yet excludes seeing them as non-human living creatures, or even angels, because those things are specified in the Apocalypse when they are meant. How long they've been there, or how they got there is not mentioned, so it's either unimportant or so obvious it's assumed to be known. Could they represent the sons of Jacob and the twelve apostles?

Although John is viewing and recording the vision, not much of an objection could be raised to the 24 representing the 12 Apostles (Paul substituted for Judas). It's a bit more difficult to see them representing the actual, less than exemplary, sons of Jacob. Throughout biblical history the names of the twelve tribes was always more important than the twelve people that gave those tribes their names, so specification as to person is not so important with the twelve representing Israel, which fits well given their generic identification. I suppose they could represent some exemplary member of each of the associated tribes, but it's not necessary.

They are given thrones placed in close conjunction with that of God, which, along with their victory (but not regnal) crowns, implies they are engaged in judgment and administration with him. That jives well with Matthew 19:28, which would tend to verify seeing at least twelve of them as representing Christ's Apostles. If that is the case, then it's hard to avoid the math and see the other twelve as faithful representatives from each of the twelve tribes. They are clothed in white which is always associated with purity or righteousness in the Apocalypse, so, in effect, the 24 elders are clothed in righteousness.

Aside from judgment, the 24 seem occupied with worship. They hold censers and harps. They fall to their knees (the implication of proskuneo), cast their victory crowns at the feet of God, extol the Creator's virtues, and sings songs of praise to God and the Lamb. The force of their worship is to attribute to God the action that accomplishes his salvivic and magisterial aims--God is the actor, everyone else is the benefactor.

We are told explicitly that the incense signifies the prayers of saints. That is not an endorsement for the doctrine of the Intercession of the Saints, but merely represents that the prayers of the saints rise directly before God. The elders, though themselves men and therefore representative in some fashion of all believing humans, are not the makers nor mediators of the prayers (interceders), but, really, only witnesses of such. The harps, in very similar fashion, signify the praise of those same saints.

So the prayer and praise of the saints rises to the throne of God, symbolically carried by those representative of all who follow. As they are before God in prayer and praise, symbols in the heavens, so are those they represent also before God as they praise and pray on earth.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Limits of Omniscience

Essential Omniscience: resting God's omniscience in the brute fact of his essence rather than sovereignty or observation. In other words, his divine essence is of such a nature that he knows all that can be known, including all free acts of agents throughout time, not because he sees all or controls all, but just because he is what he is.   (SLW)

If God knows everything by the brute fact of his essence, including the free acts of created agents, one has to wonder how and when such knowledge came to be. If God's omniscience is essential, rather than observational, then it would have existed as "long as" his essence has. Why not? On EO, he doesn't rely upon "waiting" for history to unfold or for agents to decide their choices--he "already" knows all by virtue of the brute fact of omniscience founded in his essence.

God's essence is eternal (i.e., without time rather than long-lasting). God is not developing, he doesn't gain some aspect of his essence (such as omniscience if that is the case) by means of time passing or by the instantiation of creation. That would make God essentially dependent upon something other than himself and breach aseity. So if God's knowing is by virtue of his essence, it means he always knew what he knows.

But if God knows every thought, every inclination, every action of every agent from all eternity, those acts and inclinations would have to be God's rather than the agent's. If EO is the case, then each and every one of those actually existed in God's essence quite apart from ever coming into being in the creature. How then could those acts and intentions ever be proven or understood to be anything other than a projection of God's own essence? They cannot.

We cannot have our cake and eat it too. We cannot say that God is not the author of intentions and acts (particularly sin) that were ultimately "in" him before they were in others. If God had in his mind the evil acts of devil and man before the devil and man had a mind, then that evil finds its genesis in God--he had evil in his heart before any of us had a heart that could be evil. If EO were true of God, we would have evil in us because God has evil in him and evil would, in fact, be God's will.

Determinism, Compatibilism, Molinism and Essential Omniscience all fail in this same way.

The interplay of omniscience and freewill can never be posited to be such that free actions were settled or known certainly in the mind of God before creation. Any attempt to do so hits this same brick wall, which has God very specifically and extensively knowing evil before evil was. If evil acts were known by God by virtue of his essence eternally, then in his essence God contemplated evil and plumbed the depths of temptation and enticement apart from their existence in creation. Therefore, permutations of Simple Foreknowledge which resort to omniscience by brute fact of God's essence fail God's scriptural disclaimer that sinful acts in general (James 1:13-15), and certain sinful acts specifically (Jeremiah 19:4-5), were founded in the hearts of sinners and not at all in God.

The only way I can see to avoid this error is to align with the scriptural accounts of God in action and the biblical instances of his self-disclosure and attribute God's omniscience (at least insofar as creaturely freedom goes) to Omnitemporal Observation. Regardless of how philosophically distasteful it may be, any of the more philosophically palatable theories fail to keep God from being the source of evil. Scripture demands that sinful intentions and sinful deeds not be attributed to God--not in conception, not in practice, and not first in the heart of God before in the hearts of our countrymen.

God doesn't think evil thoughts, how would he preconceive them for others? It seems to me that even omniscience has its limits!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How Does God Know the Future?

The future does not really exist (nor for that matter, does the past).

The past is merely the record of what used to be the present, and the future can only be what will be the present when the present gets to that point. It is the present where the action is and it is that action that produces either the past or the future. So the present is what is necessary for either the future or the past to have what existence they might, and never vice versa.

There are of course, circumstances which were in motion in the past and which determine the future to some degree. A huge asteroid could be hurtling toward us from ages past that will impact our future in very tangible ways. Celestial bodies move according to the laws of physics and their courses can be charted and accurately projected. Earthly bodies, and by that I mean humans, cannot--their responses to their environment, to one another, to God, or to themselves cannot be charted because their free actions are uncertain until taken (the Heisenberg principle of free agents?).

Freedom is entirely wrapped up in the present. It exists in the moment of decision. Insofar as choice is concerned, the past is inert and the future is is inaccessible. Decisions are made in the moment their action occurs, necessarily. Some choices are made which effect the future and/or are influenced by the past, but freedom to act, to choose, always and only happens in the present.

Therefore the future cannot be fixed in any real sense, because it is dependent upon a present which is in flux. A future which is dependent upon that which is in flux has to be in flux itself. It seems to me that if there is any truth at all to the notions of will, freedom and spirit (which produce flux) it is impossible for the future to be fixed, and by that fixity control the present. Nothing is actually written until it's written in its present.

That does not mean the future cannot be known. 

If an omnitemporal observer (God) could view all of the presents that will ever exist from a vantage outside of time, the future would be known to him, exhaustively, through observation of the present. That the future is known by this God would not make it fixed, in the sense that it determined the present, for it is the present in which action occurs, the uncertain becomes the established, and which God observes and thereby knows the future. God knows the future because God has seen the present timelessly, but it is never his knowing that causes what he sees.

It is, in fact, a confounding of cause and effect to assume God's knowing the future would bind the freedom of an agent in the present. That God knows an agent will act in some fashion at a particular time is not equivalent to saying that the agent must act in that fashion at that particular time because God knows that agent will. On omnitemporal observation of freewill, the act of the agent causes the knowledge, the knowledge doesn't cause the act. Seeing timelessly is out of our wheelhouse as humans, and therefore justifiably confusing, but it should be straightforward enough to perceive that seeing an act omnitemporally cannot be said to necessitate causing that act in time.

Furthermore, an infinitely wise and powerful God could shape the panorama of time by a directive interposition here and there (or as often as he saw fit) without affecting the existence of freedom, generally, in any present. He could shepherd time to an appointed end without meticulously determining anything that occurred in time. In being able to do so, I see no reason to posit that he would require a mental "trial run" (i.e middle knowledge and/or deterministic decrees) in order to do so. He saw all at once, once he created.

I see no other possible way than this for the future to be known exhaustively by God, for creaturely freedom to exist in the present (see this and this), and for God to not have conceived evil before evil existed. We'll address that last concept later, for now, suffice it to say that if the future is fixed and thereby determinative of the present, will and freedom would have to cease to exist in any meaningful fashion. I see no biblical warrant to suggest such a course. To posit such is to put the cart before the horse and totally miss how God knows the future.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Measure of Grace

"I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away."    Luke 19:26  NASB

I think grace may be something that is shown to us by God in increments. Not that I'm suggesting the spiritual equivalent of quantum mechanics, but I do think divine light dawns upon the human spirit in measures. If that light has the intended effect, then more light is shone. If it doesn't, then what light had been shining is withdrawn.

When "grace" (or "light") is used in this manner, what it really is referring to is the action of the Spirit of God. Grace, I think, is a term which is used, generally, very inaccurately in the Church. When it is used, more often than not, it conjures up a picture of some mystical force or power flowing from God unto that which he has made. Grace is not such a force or power, it is merely a sentiment in the heart of God toward that which he has made--joyful kindness, unmerited favor.

It is the Holy Spirit (or, at times, those ministering spirits called angels) that actually reaches out and touches someone or something with the application of light and power. God's grace actually does nothing, but God by grace surely does! Nonetheless, in keeping with the way in which grace is used broadly (even if erroneously), I use it here to refer to the unseen activity of the Spirit by which spiritual qualities are imbued to the spirit/soul of one who is a believer or one who may become a believer. In other words, grace is shorthand for the work of the Holy Spirit.

I do not believe that the seed of Adam is capable of receiving such grace unmitigatedly. The darkened souls of Adam's sinful race would be overwhelmed if that were to occur, and the effect would be to blight the image of God they still possess. The image of God entails freewill by necessity and God's design, and it is not God's will to emasculate or eradicate the independence that comes thereby. Therefore, God's drawing, convicting grace does not and cannot come upon man as a storm surge, irresistibly, or it would incapacitate the image of God within.

Grace, it seems to me, is measured out by incremental nudges.

Light shines in some measure upon the souls of men. The soul so illumined which responds to that light gets more light, and softens. The soul repulsed by that light remains in darkness and hardens. The journey of the faithful from rank unbelief to oneness with God is one of responding to increasing grace and brightening light.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why I Tithe

The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ put an end to the practice of hopeful sinners reticently approaching God from respectable distance while carefully managing their behavior according to script (law). "It is finished!" wasn't just the end of an earthly mission, but the period at the end of the old covenant sentence the faithful had been serving. Jesus wrote a new story in which the cleansed sinner bounds into God's presence and jumps into his lap, invited and accepted, because of the shed blood of the Lamb. Under this new covenant, any and everyone who believes can enter God's presence, and if they need something, they merely ask and they will receive.

Given such a view on the new covenant, some folk are amazed to hear that I've practiced tithing for virtually my entire life as a Christian. In fact, I can't hardly imagine a scenario in which I wouldn't give at least a tenth of my increase in the name of the Lord. Considering Paul's Holy Spirit inspired stance on legalism and my views on the contemporary practice of tithing (see this), some might wonder why. Hopefully, this article will explain my reasoning.

Jesus taught that believers should be giving people. Since we're meant to be like Christ, that certainly makes sense, for who is more giving than he? Jesus did speak about tithing within the framework of OT Jews giving as commanded; however, his three word declaration on the cross announced the fulfillment of that economy. Giving, under the new covenant, is a matter of identification and collaboration with the joyful kindness (grace) of God; therefore, Christians give, not under compulsion, but in exhilaration whatever they purpose in their hearts to give.

Years ago (1979), upon hearing the invitation of Christ, I knew I wanted to experience life as God does (he is the model for the image). I saw readily from the Word that becoming a giver was part of that, but in what way? I yearned for some dependable instruction from God that would clarify the nebulous purpose of my heart. In reading the scriptures and hearing some good preaching, I discovered that holy men of old found tithing an expression of faith in this regard, apart from any law, and something clicked for me.

I've been tithing ever since.

In all the years that have followed, I haven't secured anything nor assured myself of any measure of blessing by tithing. God has been faithful sure enough, and he's been real to me, but not because I've locked him into an arm's length contractual agreement by putting forth consideration. He's not a stranger I'm doing business with, after all. He shares what it's like being him with me, and it's my joy to cooperate with him and so experience what it's like to be kind and generous.

So I'm alive and well and free in the Holy Ghost, and I don't tithe because I have to...

I tithe because I want to.