Friday, January 29, 2010

The Christian Fundamental Yet Again

If you have followed my argumentation thus far, you may already see the necessary consequence of it for Christian practice. If salvation is founded upon an act already finished in history (as I've said the Word declares), what act after the fact can alter it? It's not like anyone can change what happened at Waterloo or Nagasaki (how would one even try?), so by extension the answer to my rhetorical question is none. What has to be done to achieve salvation has already been done, and nothing can add to or detract from it. All we can do is respond to it because of it.

Jesus rose from the dead: real body, real death, real resurrection. Take it as historical fact, believe it unconditionally without doubting. In Christ's act, our salvation (from sin, death and hell) was secured. How then do we respond to such a life changer? We can't ignore it without peril to our eternal soul. We can't redact it away and still be honest with ourselves. We can only acknowledge it, surrender ourselves to its inevitable conclusion, and admit to ourselves, to God, and to the world around us that it makes Jesus Lord. Lord of all, yes, but more particular, and perhaps more important, it makes Jesus Lord of me. If I believe in my heart, and confess with my mouth what my heart and mind knows, I will be saved.

I wish I could get my brothers and sisters off the spiritual roller coaster so many are on, where they feel saved when their devotion to God is cranking on all eight cylinders, but feel lost or in jeopardy if they've had a bad day or have fallen to some temptation. That is NOT faith in Christ and his resurrection, but faith in self. Though Communion has no "grace" in itself, it is meant to help us remember that by which we stand--not our own works, but a work by Christ finished in time. We must make up our minds once and for all about what it is we depend on and what secures us in the ark of safety. Everyone who will ever be saved will be saved for the exact same reason: Jesus died and rose from the dead so they acknowledged him as Master!

Enough said, at least for a while!  ;-)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Christian Fundamental Again

At this point, a few words should be written about the meaning of words. Some approaches to scripture often end up divorcing words from their natural meanings in context, thus "spiritualizing" or even negating what was intended to be communicated. It is extremely important that we don't allow such to cloud our perceptions of the biblical accounts of the resurrection (Matt 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-14; Luke 24:1-43; John 20:1-20).

The Bible reported that event like a newspaper reports a mugging: the authors attempted to state facts concerning an observed event in an accurately descriptive way. We need to hear their account as they intended to convey it, for only then can a choice be made to believe or disbelieve it. With that in mind, let's look at some of what was reported.

Jesus Died
One had to have been in live flesh in order to experience death. That which is ethereal doesn't die-- it may vanish in a wisp, but it doesn't die. Death leaves a corpse, which is made of the same molecules which before had been animated. Jesus, by dying, was proved to have been in real, living flesh. To deny that Jesus came in real flesh, and experienced real death, is to embrace the lies of the Devil and his antichrist.

Death Is Death
The biblical accounts do not report that Jesus swooned or only appeared to die, they say he died, expired, dead as a door nail. Some may try to discredit the poor ignorant bumpkins of that day and say they only thought he was dead, but that has it's own problems. First, the Romans were anything but bumpkins; second, the Jews made sure the event was explained as body snatching, not slinking away; and third, how could a crucified, beaten, blood-deprived man gain the strength necessary, unaided in the dark, to pick himself up, roll away the stone, and walk outside to face a brave new day? That would be a miracle more incredulous than the resurrection itself.

Jesus Rose From the Dead
I have to wonder sometimes if supposed Christians see Christ in heaven the way they see poor old Aunt Gladys in heaven: spirit with God, body in the dust. That is not resurrection, that is death! Jesus is not dead (spirit in heaven, body in, well, who knows?), but alive bodily in heaven, something like Enoch or Elijah. The real body that was dead as a door nail is alive forevermore, victorious over sin and death. As he is, so all those who believe will be.

The obvious tenor of the scripture is that the Apostles were absolutely certain they did not see a ghost, but Jesus alive and well after dying. We need to be just as certain through faith. Once so, our response should be a foregone conclusion, and then in the day of salvation we'll be just like him.

And I have just a little more to say...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Christian Fundamental Too

The author of Hebrews points to a quality of faith that in my opinion actually makes it functional: certainty. Faith is not reducible to a probabalistic scale nor does it arise in those who have nothing to lose. Faith is a conviction tangible enough to base proceeding on though proceeding could cost one his or her life. Paul calls such faith "belief in the heart" in the passage we've been looking at. Salvation requires it in those being saved.

I've said Christianity is based not on doctrine, but on an historical event. You weren't there, neither was I; nonetheless, in order to be saved we must be as certain that the event occured as if we had been there. As much as it would have been cool to be there, we miss no blessing coming along much later and believing despite not seeing. Let it be noted however, believing is not hoping. It's being drop dead certain. If one is not certain that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead, he or she cannot be saved, is not a Christian, and is still under the burden of sin.

Jesus doesn't stand at the threshold of his clubhouse and quiz potential members before they're allowed in the door, "Do you ascribe to the Sermon on the Mount?" "Do you accept the trinity?" "Do you acknowledge apocryphal and/or pseudepigraphal writings as canon?" He doesn't even ask if you've been good this year! That is not really the proper conception of what being the gate of the sheepfold is.

Yet, through the ages, that does seem to be the approach the church has taken. Is it any wonder the centrality of the resurrection has gotten lost in the shuffle? No one was ever saved by catechism, by theology, nor even baptism for that matter. Those that are saved, are saved because Jesus rose from the dead and they respond to that fact in an appropriate manner.

There is more to be said...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Christian Fundamental

Christianity is a simple thing, despite what C.S. Lewis thought (see Book 2.Chapter 2). It may look complicated due to the labyrinth of doctrinal formulations that have arisen through the years, but at its heart it is oh, so simple! Though you may find it shocking for me to say, Christianity is not really a question of what doctrines one holds at all. In truth, there is only one fundamental in Christianity-- Christ! Christianity is not a philosophy, nor a lifestyle, nor a hobby, and certainly not a religion-- it is a personal and spiritual fellowship with Christ. If you have the Son, you have the life!

Although there are many verses which speak to what makes one a Christian (or what doesn't, for that matter), generally the message is quite clear: one is a Christian if they perceive Christ in the proper light, period. If you think I'm overstating things here, let's explore together the following verse of scripture, and see if we don't end up seeing things the same way.

"...if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."   (Romans 10:9-10 NKJV)
Despite appearances, the order of belief and confession is not given by this verse. That stated is more a consequence of Paul's earlier quotation of Deuteronomy 30:14 than it is of any necessary sequence in the order of salvation. Logic, I think, would dictate belief in the heart preceding confession by at least some number of microseconds, but really, such considerations are beside the point. The text gives but one true essential, one fundamental, for being saved-- knowing with certainty that Jesus rose from the dead and thereby established himself as Lord. Simple, straightforward, but worthy of some more exploration.

Christianity is not founded upon the rigors of practice, as say yoga is; nor upon the formulations of logic and philosophy, as say Platonism; but rests instead upon a singular, seminal, historical event. As in all such events, the musings of those who follow and the spinning of analysts looking back have no impact on the work finished in time. What happened, happened and the genie can't be put back in the bottle. To be boorish, it is what it is, and all that's left to those who follow is how they will respond to it.

More to come...

Friday, January 15, 2010

When Bad Things Happen

Pat Robertson is in the news again. He usually is at the start of a new year for his ridiculous yearly prognostications. This week it's because of his statement about God's judgment being reflected in the events in Haiti. He said similar things about New Orleans when Katrina struck. Is he right or wrong?

I will not jump on the bandwagon led by the spokesman for our guru-in-chief in the White House. At this point, I'm not sure the big cheese knows anything about anything, but I'm downright certain he knows nothing of the Bible or the intricacies of how God governs the world. The White House is not alone in this; however, more than a few Christian clergy are singing the same song. Is it in tune, biblically, or just expedient for fundraising and image?

There are many biblical precedents of God bringing judgment in response to sin to individuals and peoples. Since God is immutable, what he's done before in time, I could seeing him doing again. Therefore, this is not just an OT paradigm--God is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Is this not what so much of the Apocalypse is about? Perhaps Herod, the worm-fed, might have something to say on the subject.

There are also biblical precedents for tragic events occuring having nothing directly to do with judgment for sin. Towers fell, children died untimely deaths, folk lost everything, capriciously it seems. Such things occur because of sin and the judgment upon it in a general sense, but hardly ever as the specific retribution for a specific sin. In eternity none of that will be the case, but in the now, we are broken vessels living in a broken world. Walking amidst the chards, someone's bound to get cut.

Even though it's cliched, we need to see that we're all in the same boat. Everyone dies, even the best among us; everyone sees pain and heartache, it's the human condition. Our response to the beaten and bloodied should not be speculation about the motives of God in bringing them to that condition, that's not something God has given us eyes to see. Our reaction should be binding the wounds we can bind, that our God-given eyes can see just fine.

Though God's grace meets us in this broken world, it doesn't change the nature of it. There is a day appointed when God will intervene, do away with all that's rotten, and start again without it. Until then, we must live with the perplexity, the seeming capriciousness, of tragedy in mutual pity and compassion. Now's not the time for ex post facto jeremiads, but for giving a hand to a injured shipmate. When bad things happen, good neighbors are needed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Saving the Enemy

My analysis of biblical end-times prophecy has brought me to theorize that the Antichrist will start out as a nominal Muslim and that his initial empire will be among the Muslim nations in the Levant. Such a thought holds the potential of eliciting an animosity toward Muslims in those persuaded by it. Seeing them as the accomplices of the Antichrist's end-times villainy doesn't cast them in the best of light after all.

I've also stated that opposing the rise of the Antichrist is like spitting into the wind. I believe the rise of the Antichrist will seem logical and even good in its day, and it is part of God's stated plan to wind up redemption history an initiate redeemed eternity. God wants all men saved and all the saved in eternity with him. To poke a finger in the dike trying to withstand the rise of the Antichrist is tantamount to crying "Nahchetlawd" instead of "Maranatha!"

With this in view, what should our attitude be toward the Muslim tribe? Is God's attitude and reaction to Saul of Tarsus any clue? This post by my blogging friend, Dr. Michael Davis, may be of some help in answering those questions. The old iconic image of an alarm clock, with its two bells sounding the alarm, might be a useful illustration. A resurgence of jihadist Islam sounds one ominous tone; the miraculous, Holy Spirit launched rescue mission among Muslims closed off from the evangelistic forays of the church sounds another.

The harmonious ringing of discordant alarms says to the the church, "Wake up, our redemption draws nigh!"

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Push Me Pull Me

Blogging has reignited a tension I've felt almost since coming to Christ all those years ago. I was saved during my time in a secular college, and immediately involved myself in campus ministries. There I was taught it was of utmost importance to know what I believed and why. I appreciated the perspective but realized early on that a body of knowledge was not the same as Christianity. Jesus is not our Headmaster, and Christianity is not gotten by degree.

The things most important about Christianity cannot be reduced to curricular study. Christianity is not knowledge to master, it's a master to know, and experience. The truth is that it's not what you know that counts, but who. A quick read of Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17 should clear up any doubts on the matter! It wasn't a textbook (not even the Bible) that Jesus handed out to those first followers, it was the Holy Spirit. Christianity at its heart is a mystical experience, not an academic exercise.

Please understand me, I'm not saying that study and academics have no benefit to the Christian community. What I am saying is that study and academics are not the means by which someone knows God and is made one with him. We must be born of the Spirit to see the Kingdom of God, and walk in that Spirit in order to truly live.

I thoroughly subscribe to the tenet that the Bible is our only rule of faith and conduct, that's it's the very word of God, and indespensible to learning about God. On the otherhand, I thorougly realize that knowing what's in a book is not the same as knowing God. I suppose when it comes to this tension between knowledge and knowing, we're destined to look a bit like Push Me Pull Me.