Friday, April 27, 2012

God In the Moment

As things are experienced in this universe, even for God, there really is only the now. The past isn't anymore and the future won't be until it is now. Foreknowledge doesn't blunt this, history doesn't diminish it. As God interacts with this realm, he is in that moment we call now. It's not that his now doesn't encompass more, or that in our now moment he doesn't know of past or future nows as he experiences it, but that his experience during that interface is in our now.

Our experience is the similar to his except we experience nows as a chain of events. We recollect past moments and anticipate future ones while always in the moment. Life and reality happen in that instant. The difference between God and ourselves in this regard is that we have no ability to slip out of the confines of this moment, whereas he always is outside those confines. Even if he "drops" into those moments in order to interact with them, he still is equally present in all our moments (omnitemporal).

So as God interacts with creation in any moment, whether by some act of his hand or some revelation of his heart, God has a "momentary" experience. His response or reaction is momentary even though his being is not limited to that moment--it is the effect of "stepping into time." In that moment in creation it can be said that God was (for instance) disappointed, although it cannot truly be said that he was surprised. God's experience is real, rather than illusionary or anthropomorphized, but it is consequent to his interface with that which is time bound and free, not to his timeless being.

When God interacts with that which is in time, he acts according to the convention of time--he is in that moment. Those in time see it as occurring in that moment as part of time and God experiences that moment in time. That does not mean that God ceases to be omniscient nor supertemporal (eternal). It only means that anything in creation experiences that now moment, even if it is only dropping in from outside.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Entropy, Sin and Renewal

Having said that entropy is a death principle, I must also say that death is an entropic principle. That characterization, naturally, would also extend to sin, since it was sin that gave rise to death. Therefore, sin is an entropic principle too. Sin requires the exertion of some soulish "energetic principle" which cannot be fully recaptured, or restored, or reused once is has been expended. Sinning empties the tank of something that made sinning possible.

Sin is soulish spilled milk. Once accomplished, even at some minimalistic level, sin marks the sinner for the rest of his or her life. He or she cannot go back to the spiritual quality he or she had before. Something is used up which cannot be unused or self-restored. Sin is the indelible stain of the soul.

To deal adequately with sin, the sinner must look beyond his or herself, and beyond anything else that suffers from entropy--something which cannot only jam the dhinni back in the bottle, but can also erase the record of the failure in time. Anything less would not be true restoration. There is nothing that fits that bill except for almighty God, for he alone is not entropic and also supertemporal.

God is willing to both erase the spiritual decay of sin and it's record. He is willing to reset the clocks, as it were, and start again. There is a time he's appointed to do that, and in the meantime, he has graced us with a taste of what is to come. What is necessary to overcome sin and death has been provided by the only source possible and it has been made widely available to all who wish it.

For all who've faced the undeniable conclusion that they are not what they should be, and that they can't do anything about it, there is great news in Christ. He's demonstrated his ability to take away our sin and overcome death. He promises to make anyone who trusts in him to do so new on the last day and take them into eternity without decay. Life without entropy awaits us, what are you waiting for?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Another Perspective on Romans 9: Part III

Mercy and Faith
Verse 19 of Romans 9 begins an aside in Paul’s dissertation. He has a hypothetical responder object to the repercussions of Paul’s presentation, arguing that if all depends on God’s mercy, than those hardened cannot be blamed for their hardness. This, of course, presages Paul’s revelation in chapter 11 that currently, a hardening has come upon the Jews. Hardness is not presented there as a necessarily persevering quality, so the response is more directed at the hypothetical questioner’s arrogance than at establishing any principle of deterministic election.

Regardless, the principle that God can do what he wants with whom he wants is the prerogative of creators. Potters call the shots, not pots. Who, then, is in a position to question God’s motives or demand anything from him? The created can but accept their lot, and be as they have been made to be. There is hope, however, in faith as we shall see.

Vs. 22-24 is Paul’s way stating what Peter said as well. There is a patience in God, holding back the expression of inevitable wrath, so that everyone destined for mercy can be shown it. Peter keys that to repentance, Paul keys it to faith (not only in this chapter but throughout his writings). So whatever this may be saying about God’s predetermination, by the end of the argument, it is said that faith is the means by which one gets into the class of promise.

Vs. 25-33 pull all of these concepts together in application by showing that God’s purpose was inviting a people, made up of Jews and Gentiles, to righteousness. This promise was entirely a matter of God’s mercy, rather than arbitrary status or works, and is accessed through faith. And not just faith, but specifically, trust in that stumbling block that is Christ. God had to make choices in time to bring this promised Rock into place, but now that he is, whoever puts their trust in him will never be ashamed.

Conclusion
The principle of Romans 9 is not that God arbitrarily chooses certain individuals to be saved and others to be damned. Instead, it teaches that anyone who receives God’s promise by faith and relates to God on the basis of his mercy, rather than works, will be part of his people. God is God and can do as he likes, but if Gentiles, regardless of lacking the Jews' “God-givens,” can be made righteous by faith, anyone can. And by God, you too, whoever you may be, can.

Parts I, II

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another Perspective on Romans 9: Part II

Election
Paul’s use of the concept of election in Romans 9 is not accurately related to individual salvation (i.e. that God picks individuals to be saved or damned). In verse 11, election is cast in a redemption history light (and as evident by vs 4-5). Paul was neither trying to establish a principal of individual salvation by election, nor establishing, contra-Calvin, that election unto salvation was corporate. He was merely trying to establish the fact that in order to fulfill his purposes (which were salvivic), God made choices among men.

God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in that regard, and rejected Ishmael, Esau, and others. This choice had nothing whatsoever to do with establishing any pattern concerning personal salvation, nor was it made for personal merit.  These individuals (and their progeny after them) were chosen merely in regard to their role in bringing forth the ultimate promise--Christ. That progeny's counterintuitive rejection of Christ is the point Paul is exploring in Chapter 9.

In verse 16 we do discover something more akin to precedential regarding salvation—that God’s mercy was the determining issue, rather than any merit or lack of merit in his selectees. In the immediate context, this refers to his choices within redemption history, but in the broader context (see chapters 3, 4, 10 and 11), it does service the concept of salvation by grace. It seems that everything in redemption history and in redemption itself, rests in God’s mercy rather than the merits of man. As always, to God be all the glory.

In making these choices in time, which would ultimately result in the fulfilling of his purpose, v. 18 says that God shows favor to some folks and disfavor to others. Disfavor results in obstinacy (hardness) toward the purposes of God, although it is not clear that it causes such (especially in light of v. 30). Pharaoh is used as an example, and at least in his case, hardening was attributed to both God’s action and his. Regardless, the choosing of which is which is God’s alone, and he answers to no one for it, although I think it worth remembering at this point that these are not choices to personally save or damn, but to accomplish his purpose in making these choices.

That purpose is finally specified in vs. 23-24. God saw the end of making these choices prior to that end occurring, that end was his purpose: that Gentiles and Jews would be called together into his salvation in Christ. He endured with great patience those vessels hardened throughout history, because he saw the glory in the end for those vessels of mercy, even us, those Jews and Gentiles being saved in Christ. So God made choices in history, not to demonstrate his methodology in establishing who would go to heaven and who would go to hell, but in order to advance his purpose through history and to accomplish it in time.

Conclusion
Romans 9 is not speaking about election unto salvation at all, as if there could be an explanation of why God, solely by decree, would determine some to be saved and others to burn in hell forever. If anything, Romans 9 is trying to explain why the elect are not being saved--why Jews, despite their status as the chosen, are not embracing Christ. Neither corporate nor individual election unto salvation is in view at all! The conclusion of the explanation, in a nutshell, is that Jews do not accept God’s mercy by faith but try to establish their own meritorious record and end up missing the promised Messiah of the Jewish people.

Parts I, III

Friday, April 20, 2012

Another Perspective on Romans 9: Part I

Introduction
Romans 9 has to be the most controversial chapter in the entire Bible among believing Christians. Generally, the issue that causes all the sparks and gets all the attention is election; however, when I read the chapter, I don’t see election, as generally understood, as the intent or the focus of the chapter. All the hullaballoo about election is misplaced, in my mind, the result of misinterpretation. Romans 9 is merely the opening salvo in explaining why Jews were not being saved in the Apostle Paul’s day (chapters 10 and 11 continue the explanation), and the determining issue in that problem is stated to be faith, not election.

Overview
The initial subject of chapter 9 (vs. 1-5) is the disheartening rejection of Christ amongst the Jews, who were supposedly God’s chosen people (the elect). The chapter goes on to explain how the benefaction of God’s promises cannot be understood according to arbitrary qualifications (who your daddy is) or by human efforts (what one does to make himself meritorious). The conclusion (vs. 30-33) is that the promises can only be pursued through the auspices of faith, and not by dependence upon one’s status in a group over which they had no control, nor by personal merit (works).

Paul's Argument
Though it is true that the Jews were the recipients of the promises concerning salvation, they were, in Paul’s day, not beneficiates of those promises. The fault, Paul explains, does not lie in the promises (God’s word), but in Israel’s unbelief; and the puzzle of it lies in their misapprehension of God’s choice (election). An arbitrary membership in a class of people was not a sufficient way to understand or define those chosen to be God’s beneficiates. Abraham and Isaac were used to illustrate the point: though Ishmael (and others) were the offspring of Abraham, they were not the result of promise nor the beneficiates of promise; though Esau was Isaac’s son, he was not the recipient of promise either.

Furthermore, that choice was not predicated upon the determination or effort of man--it was purely and simply a matter of God’s mercy and not human merit. God’s mercy cannot be tethered to deserts in the recipients but is solely according to the pleasure of God, otherwise it would be reward rather than mercy. God has mercy on who he wills, as Paul ably illustrates by the examples of Esau and Pharaoh. The bracing repercussion is that we have nothing to say to God to defend our worthiness, nor detract from his judgment which excludes us from his beneficence.

Mercy is not merely arbitrary, however. Although mercy is not extended on the basis of worthiness (which would seem to make it arbitrary), it is received on the basis of faith (which seems to make it anything but arbitrary). If this was not the intended point of Paul's dissertation from verses 1 through 29, he would never have brought up the pursuit of righteousness starting with verse 30. The long and short of it is that God extends mercy to whomever he wishes regardless of works or geneology, but that ultimate, saving mercy can only be received through the auspices of faith.

The force of the argument in Romans 9 is that Jews who thought they had the privileged position of being chosen by God because of their heritage and their works, were in fact missing the ultimate promise of that election. It is not that they were not chosen or even chosen no longer, as chapters 10 and 11 make abundantly clear. Their loss (hardening) revolves completely around their unwillingness to respond to God's mercy with faith. Instead, they endeavored to establish their own record of worthiness by the law and thereby missed out on God's mercy in Christ.

Parts II, III

Friday, April 13, 2012

All This Talk About Vision

God speaks to people about what he will have them do. Today. He hasn't changed.

The experience of such would be called a vision, even if it wasn't something optically perceived. It seems funny to me, but everyone in the church world is all about vision these days, even if they are blatant cessationists (thanks for nothing Peter Drucker).

When a man or woman of God has an ambition or dream, ostensibly inspired by God in some way, they labor to put together all the pieces necessary to accomplish it. He or she puts up a target, and then pushes and pulls, moves and shakes, and out comes...

...a calf. These may (and I only say that by concession) not be our golden gods, but at the very least, they are our bronze serpents. The truth is that they are our Ishmaels.

The church world has so thoroughly embraced the strategic management techniques used in the world, that though the product resulting from this kind of vision may be accurately consumer-driven, it is about as far away from the model described in the manual as sand castles are from real ones. Since this kind of vision is the product of human imagination, in what way can it be said to be a vision from God? For that matter, would God even bother to give us a vision if the thing we were endeavoring to accomplish could be achieved by human ingenuity in the normal course of affairs? The results of these managerial efforts never produce Isaacs, and can never measure up to the model in the heavens.

When God does grant a vision to a person, it is not like he places an order with that person, or is commanding that one to accomplish the thing shown. The vision is a demonstration or a display, really a sneak preview, of what is coming to pass. He doesn't give us visions for us to figure out how to make it so, he gives us visions of what is he is bringing forth. Generally, they are beyond any possibility of us making them so anyhow, and they only come about by the most unusual and bizarre of circumstances.

Our efforts to produce the vision from God instead produce hardship. They result in Ishmaels which strive against all men. They result in the trashing of those who can't "keep up," the disdain of those less perceiving, and the exploitation of the blood-bought as if they were mere raw materials. They produce pride and division, and leave heritages of animosity. To hell with such visions!

By contrast, God's efforts to fulfill the vision he shared produce the joy of the Lord. They result in Isaacs, which are pleasant in their surprise, gentle to all, and demonstrate the peaceable fruits of righteousness. They do not trash, belittle, or otherwise relegate to trophy cases the blood-bought and beloved of God. They produce laughter and praise, and leave the sweet savor of heaven behind.

Perhaps it has something of a biblical precedent, all this talk of vision: it leaves a sour taste in my mouth!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Entropy, Zombies, and Eternal Life


en·tro·py  

 [en-truh-pee]  Show IPA
noun
1) In Thermodynamics:
   a. on a macroscopic scale, a function of thermodynamic variables, such as temperature, pressure, or composition that is a measure of the energy that is not available for work during a thermodynamic process. A closed system evolves toward a state of maximum entropy.
   b. in statistical mechanics, a measure of the randomness of the microscopic constituents of a thermodynamic system. Symbol: S
2) In Data Transmission and Information Theory: a measure of the loss of information in a transmitted signal or message.
3) In Cosmology: a hypothetical tendency for the universe to attain a state of maximum homogeneity in which all matter is at a uniform temperature (i.e. heat death).
4) a doctrine of inevitable social decline and degeneration.

Entropy is a death principle. On a large enough scale, everything is winding down and does not have the ability to wind itself back up. The spring is springing and eventually will be sprung, for nothing in all of creation can reset itself to what it was before. Something would always be lost in the effort. Even if it could "come back to life" it would be less than life--zombie life, only a shadow of its former self.

The classic proof of First Cause is true: the caused cannot cause itself. Therefore, to observe, not only the self-initiated return to a former state, but an improvement in that state is an evidence of something truly supernatural. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is such a circumstance. Not only did he come back from death, he came back better--more powerful and not subject to death again.

One could dismiss such an occurrence because he or she was not there to see it. But for those who cannot shake eyewitness testimony, nor the need to explain the rise of Christianity in a hostile, pagan world, Christ's entropy-defying defeat of death and his return, not to zombie life but to eternal life, becomes the central event in human existence. Even more than that, it becomes the window to heaven and the gate to eternal life. Open up the shade and crack open the door, the world may offer zombiism at best, but light and life await you in Christ.