Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Theological Presuppositions

Presuppositions are those predispositions, even prejudices, that we come to the examination of any new knowledge already possessing, which affect our interpretation of that knowledge. In other words, we have some ideas about things which act as givens as we build understanding of new things. We can be unaware that we possess them and incognizant of how they color our understanding of things. We even have presuppositions about God, which affect our interpretation, acceptance or, God forbid, rejection of scripture.

I am no different than anyone else in this regard. My experiences and exposures, reactions to and ruminations upon life before the Bible was in the picture color the picture of God painted after I encountered him in the scriptures. For instance, I can remember, long before I was saved, walking down my street as a twelve year old on a sunny, breezy day, when something about the color and shape and way the leaves were fluttering on a maple tree struck me with the intense conviction that there had to be an intelligent, creator God. Prior to that, I didn't think there was one, but regardless, it was not the Bible that informed that new supposition.

That experience led me to reach out to God, to attempt the occasional talk with him, even though reading the Bible was the furthest thing from my mind. I would ask the "God out there" on those occasions about things, and I took the sudden inspirations that followed in my mind as responses from him. Sometimes, the inspirations came apart from any question on my part. I believed I was learning about God from God, even though I was fifteen before I understood who Jesus truly was (that's another story), and 19 before I started reading the Bible in any serious measure.

Sadly, it was actually some time from the moment I knew who Jesus was until I was willing to drop it all and follow him (a bit over 5 years). In my very first days of actually following Jesus, I had an encounter with him in my bedroom that left an impression on me that I'm still under. My experiences, before and after, have left me with with some presuppositions concerning God that (even though these convictions existed before I began to study the Bible) have proven serviceable in the time since when I've been studying the Bible.

Let me share some with you...

We can personally interact with God. God speaks to us today, not just to folks a long time ago in a culture far, far away.

Jesus Christ is the only visible God we will ever see--God in the flesh. The Father and Spirit are incorporeal and never will be discernible through the auspices of electromagnetic radiation (though they may choose to affect the visual realm). Jesus is the only means of knowing God and to know him is to know God.

The Bible is the infallible Word of God, preserved to us inerrant by God's oversight. It was inspired by God, not created by men. If we want to know with confidence what God wants to do in our lives, the Bible is the only place to look.

Freedom of will is the essential distinction between humanity and all other creatures. It is entailed in being made like unto God and is necessary to choice, purpose, and love. Eternity will not result in an abrogation of free will but in the harmonization of it with that of God.

Do you know what some of your presuppositions concerning God are? Have they proven serviceable or a hindrance in your journey with Christ?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Economic Nightmares

There is no sustainable way to attain anything apart from being productive. Producing something is foundational to wealth and well-being. We do not live in a Star Trek world where replicators pop out whatever one wants when he or she wants it. Someone has to grow, someone has to refine, someone has to fashion everything we get. It's the only way that something can be gotten honestly (and even thievery requires effort).

In an economy where no one produces all they need on their own, what one produces has to find a need or want in what someone else doesn't produce so that exchange can fill the gaps. Markets and currency grease the wheels of this commerce. In an economy like this, reality is that if one isn't producing or hasn't produced sufficiently, that one has no means of attaining what they want or need. Without being productive, no one is in a position to have anything.

If folk live in a political environment where their needs and wants have been promised to them apart from and without regard to their productivity, it will only be a short time before that environment crashes. It is not sustainable, for wealth attained by someone other than the benefactor, and not added to by the benefactor's own production, will fritter away. Everything that people get is unbreakably tied to what they produce whether they understand the connection or not, or in fact, whether or not they are even aware of it.

When people want healthcare, or housing, or education, or any other host of things without acknowledging that they can only have such to the extent of the value they add to the mix of everyone's production, they are living in a dreamland that will eventually prove to be a disaster. Because that is so, what should be foremost on a compassionate political leader's agenda? Namely, promoting economic development that (actually) produces jobs at the broadest level possible. Once people are producing, there is room for a discussion about the distribution of the benefits of production to those that produce it, but the priority has to be getting people producing.

Throwing an evermore unsustainable stream of cash at providing benefits to non-productive people, especially while hindering economic development, can only lead to collapse or tyranny. If we keep sleeping on Main Street while that stream flows on, hoping that somehow we'll stumble into the American Dream by it, I fear the only thing we'll fumble our way into is the nightmare on Elm Street.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Believers In Divine Healing Can Go to a Doctor

With this we finish the series on the subject of divine healing.

Show Yourself to a Priest
In modern western society, the professional tasked with certifying the health of individuals who have been sick is the doctor. In ancient Hebrew society that was not the case, the priests performed that function. According to Moses, a person who was ill (with certain symptoms anyhow) needed to have a priest pronounce them clean before they could rejoin the commerce of normal life. That is why Jesus told some of the folks he healed to show themselves to a priest. It was the way to verify that healing had taken place in that society according to the Mosaic law.

I understand, anecdotally, that Kathryn Kuhlman followed that pattern in her ministry. If someone was on medication or in treatment, she told them to show themselves to the doctor and let him or her see the healing for his or herself. I applaud that approach. Afterall, we are not promoting pretend healings (ones that are present in words but not in body) any more than we foist pretend deliverances (ones where spirits are roped and bound but the folk haven't changed).

To those who are fellow charismatics, let's be honest: a healing either has occurred or it hasn't. Some may be delayed in appearing, but we were never tasked with making excuses for the inactivity of God by using wispy exercises in semantics if they haven't. If a healing hasn't occurred, we say it hasn't happened,YET!  Having folks confess healings that haven't actually occurred is just plain lying and more worthy of rebuke than anything Jesus' disciples did.

Healing has also been turned into a carnival and a sleight-of-hand show by some. Whereas Jesus and the Apostles drew crowds when healing, they never resorted to revving them up nor manipulating them emotionally in order to "build faith". My point is this: nothing akin to what is often practiced today in the name of healing and deliverance was even remotely testified to in the Bible, and if not there then why here? Where are the demonstrable results, anyhow, for such antics when the dust settles after they're done? 

When a healing occurs in someone who has had a prior diagnosis, we should want it verified so that all the glory can go to God. Jesus did. A physician may not be able to admit that God was the cause, but at least he or she can verify that what was, no longer is. The faithless will posit everything other than God as the reason, but at least they won’t be able to justifiably deny that something actually did occur.

Use Your Head, and That of Others
God has been known to provide food miraculously, without toil and sweat, sowing and reaping. Just because he has chosen to do that at times, doesn't mean he chooses to do that at all times. So a sensible believer sows and reaps, eats a balanced diet, and prays that God will bless the efforts. Generally, he does and we eat with thanksgiving.

God has been known to miraculously zap folk from one place to another or to allow them to pass through or over things they could not otherwise get by. Just because he has chosen to do that at times, doesn't mean he chooses to do that at all times. So a sensible believer flies or drives, walks into the depths only with scuba gear, and prays that God will grant traveling mercies. Generally, he does, and we thank God for reaching our destinations.

Should we be too good to use the fruit of sensible efforts, and demand nothing but the miraculous? Good diets, good habits, joy in God and peace with people go a long way toward providing our bodies with what they need to function well. Even though we have the earnest of the invigorating Spirit of God sustaining our dying flesh; a fatty diet, a taste for tobacco, or disdain toward a brother or sister will likely produce less than optimum health. So we do what makes sense and trust God to bless us.

Generally, we see the clear sensibility of using our understanding of how things work to aid our journey through life, and we do so with thanks to God. To that end, what's the difference between spraying bodies of water with a pesticide oil to rid the environment of a pesky infestation of gnats, and taking an antibiotic to deal with a bodily infection? Bugs in the wilderness versus bugs in us. Does faith in God’s provision of healing preclude using the knowledge of the physician? Before we exclude using the sensible, shouldn't we ask ourselves whether doing so is truly faith in God or just hubris in us?

The Bottom Line

The last thing believers want to do is displace their faith in God with faith in men and women in lab coats. It is an unspeakable joy to know that God is willing to exert his awesome power to address our mundane needs. He has purposely made effective blessing in the here and now (healing in this case) part of the atonement of Christ. Can we let the wonder of that sink in for a moment!

Does that mean that the blessings won by Christ can only come to us by way of the miraculous? I don't see that kind of sentiment anywhere taught in scripture. Trusting God is what we're asked to do by God. So, in the words of an old Keith Green song, which I think we can apply to the subject of divine healing well enough, "keep doing your best, and pray that it's blessed, and Jesus takes care of the rest."

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Even the Lame Can Limp Into Glory

Continuing with the subject of Divine Healing, with a review of some pertinent scripture verses: Isaiah 53:3-51 Corinthians 13:9-10Romans 8:10-11Ephesians 1:13-14John 9:1-3Luke 10:1-12Mark 16:15-181 Corinthians 12Matthew 9:28-30Mark 9:23-24Mark 6:1-61 Corinthians 11:27-32James 5:14-20; Revelation 22:1-3

As grateful as we can all be for the manifold blessings God brings our way in this life--forgiveness of sin, reconciliation with God, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, participation in the work of God, answer to our prayers, provision for our needs, healing for our bodies--we need to remember that these mortal coils were born of Adam's race and can only receive the earnest (i.e. down payment) of our inheritance in Christ. We don't get anything perfectly or completely in this life, because what is mortal must be put off before what is immortal, or perfect, can be put on.

I think this proves true for the Spirit of God we receive through Christ, for our knowledge of God, even for our faith in God, and certainly for those bodily blessings made possible by Christ's death and resurrection. For now, we live in the realm of the partial awaiting the day of the complete. In this divine health is no exception to the rule! It has always been thus for the redeemed of God on fallen earth, it will be so until Christ returns.

Look at those who have gone before: Paul had physical problems; Timothy had physical problems; Jacob had physical problems; David had physical problems. All of them had the same gracious Father we have, who granted them the same kinds of promises and benefits we depend upon. How can we avoid the same experience of bodily health they faced? If faith is the key, as I've claimed it is, which of us would seriously put our faith up against any of theirs?

Since we cannot avoid the thing (death itself) that more than anything else proves that this is not place of ultimate fulfillment, should we not walk in humility while we humbly accept what it is that God will do for us hereGod can do virtually anything, that's true. But how often, really, does he replace a detached limb, or separate a set of conjoined twins, or fuse a severed spine? Likely, there are anecdotes of healing concerning each of those scenarios, and there is no reason to believe, should the Holy Spirit inspire the gift, that any one of us could not speak forth such wonders today, but are we guaranteed such action here and now?

Personally, I look in faith for the blessing of Moses and Caleb to be mine. Yet, in that pursuit I also know that a refusal to accept reality is not the same as faith, that bearing false testimony is not the same as confession, and that nothing in life is a reason to give up on God. So please, dear readers, don't settle for less than God's grace and faith provides, but understand this: even blind with only one arm to raise in praise, we can still limp into glory.

Addendum: A great post on this subject by a Southern Baptist missionary.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Issue of Sin in Healing

Continuing with the subject of Divine Healing, with a review of some pertinent scripture verses: Isaiah 53:3-5; 1 Corinthians 13:9-10; Romans 8:10-11; Ephesians 1:13-14; John 9:1-3; Luke 10:1-12; Mark 16:15-18; 1 Corinthians 12; Matthew 9:28-30; Mark 9:23-24; Mark 6:1-6; 1 Corinthians 11:27-32; James 5:14-20; Revelation 22:1-3

Experience tells me, what I am about to share with you will cause some of you some anguish. However, since my commitment in writing is to be boldly scriptural, I'm going to tell you what I think is scripturally true come what may. So give this a read, and if it upsets you, leave a comment. We'll talk.

In dealing with in the subject of sickness from a scriptural perspective, there is no avoiding the fact that Paul and James both connect sickness to sin in their Holy Spirit inspired writings. Paul does so quite directly, James merely implies it, but both connect the two beyond a shadow of a doubt. Neither offers the correlation that if one sins, one consequently becomes ill, but there is cause and effect in some cases. James nebulously mentions that if a sick person has sinned he will be forgiven in the process of healing (causal link implied), but Paul specifically mentions the sin of eating and drinking from the Lord's table in an unworthy fashion as leading to sickness (and even death).

The concept is nothing new. We looked into God's ancient pattern of governance earlier in the series to establish that God wanted his people well. If we look there again, we'll see that the sin and sickness connection is long established under the rule of God. Isaiah said that sin puts us at odds with God, even out of earshot, which goes a long way toward explaining why sickness can follow sin in a believer's life. If we need to ask for healing, which is what I have asserted, and sin interferes with our ability to be heard by God; certainly, sin could effect our ability to receive all that God has made available to us.

For those of you who would have trouble envisioning God making us ill, let me point out that he would not have to act directly against us for sickness to follow sin, he would merely have to leave us to our lot. This concept may put a chill down your spine, but don't let it get you down, even though death is part of the possibilities that Paul brings up. James makes it clear, that if sin is associated with the sickness someone is experiencing, it will be forgiven him when he calls for the elders and the church prays for him. Mistreating your brothers and sisters may bring illness your way, but calling on those brothers and sisters to pray for you can bring forgiveness and healing.

Friday, March 1, 2013

What God Cannot Do, Even If He Wanted To

Is there anything that God cannot do? Whatever God wants to do he certainly can do, in that there is nothing outside of himself that could possibly prevent him. That is true in regard to beings (for there are no other beings beside God at his level), or with regard to things that are abstract, like morality. In the instance of morality, there is nothing which could be imposed upon God as to measure him by, because there is nothing greater than him which could label a thing he would want to do as moral or immoral. God, in his perfections, is himself the only and final measure of what is good. Therefore, his very wanting to do a thing would be sufficient to make it moral.

Furthermore, if we tried to formulate a conception of the character of God that described him as being unable to do anything against his own nature, we would end up with a self-referent piece of fluff that neither described nor clarified anything about the actual nature of God. Besides, God has done and continues to do things we don't understand, or for which we don't have a full enough picture to be able to say whether or not it went against his nature in the first place. There is a black box phenomenon at work here. We understand God's nature to the degree we do, not because we can dissect him and see for ourselves what he is, but because we hear his word and see his actions.

All of that not withstanding, there is at least one thing God could not do even if he wanted to: God could not make a replica of himself. If God could be made, even in replica, then God wouldn't be the unmade. The great I AM wouldn't be but would begin. The Creator would be but a creation. If God could be more than one in essence, the ones being considered are not the One. If something else could be made almighty, then the almighty would be so no longer. No, the best that God could do along this line is to make someone like himself, in his image, but not him in his power and perfections.

Which brings me to another thing God could not do even if he wanted to--preserve his image in a being made in it while determining that being's actions. If a being were made in God's image, that being would have to have freewill analogous to God's, or it would not be in his image. God is not under necessity nor are his actions determined, and neither could a creature in his image be thus confined in will. This is verified by the descriptions of Adam's freedom in the Garden. He had the freedom to do a thing or to not do it, and God "waited" observationally to see what Adam would do.

So, though God is the very perfection of all that he is, in power and in ability, there are a few things that God cannot do, even if he wanted to.