Saturday, January 29, 2011

Who are we? What are we becoming? - Part 2

In Part 1 we saw that, as A. W. Tozer expresses it: "We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God." We are becoming like our idea of God.

What difference does it make if we see God as the Trinity or if we have a unitarian view of God? Will this have an effect on who we are and what we are becoming?

A Prevalent Type of Unitarianism

To a large extent, in her actual thoughts about God, the church in the United States and Canada has given up the Trinity. She stopped recognizing the distinction between the Persons in God. She began to see Them as only one person operating in different modes. This is nothing new. It is the old heresy called Modalism. It was brought in from Pagan sources, not from Jesus or the apostles.

What is Modalism? Here's an illustration. My name is Tom. I am only one person, but I do different things. I am a farmer, a computer programmer, and a lawyer. One day you might see me in a suit in an office. That day I appear as Tom the lawyer. Another day you might see me in a work shirt, boots, and work pants making repairs to a farm implement. That day I appear as Tom the farmer. Another day you might see me in shorts with an island shirt in front of my computer writing software. That day I appear as Tom the computer programmer.

The fact that I change work clothes and do different works does not give me someone to love or someone to love me. In Modalism, "the bed is too short to stretch oneself on, and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in." There is no comfort, no rest.

But God is not like that illustration. God is not one person whom we see at different times operating in different modes. When we say God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we should not mean a single person who one day is doing his Father work, the next his Son work, and the next his Spirit work. The Trinity is not a change of work clothes, works, or modes. It is as difference of persons, yet one God.

If God Loves Self, We Love Self

In Is Love a Lie?, we saw that without the Trinity, love is abolished or becomes hellish self-love. God would not love with the love of one person for another. The only love possible in a one-person god is the love of that person for himself.

When the church fell away from the Trinity, unconsciously we began to see God as a God of self-love, one person loving himself. Then we began to move toward that mental image of God. We mimicked the world's doctrine of self-love, self-esteem, and self-image. We actually teach it as if it were the gospel. Somehow the apostles missed it. The Holy Spirit forgot to give them that inspiration.

In answer to the questions, who are we and what are we becoming, with the reduced view of the Trinity, with the modal view of God, we are becoming lovers of self, as we think God is.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self . . . having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Christ, the Other-Esteemer

The Bible is full of teaching against the doctrine of self-esteem. Here is one passage that teaches other-esteem by the example of Christ.
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:1-8)
If Jesus were a preacher of self-esteem, he would not have gone to the cross. In his other-esteem, Jesus held to his promises to the Father and the Spirit by laying down his life for sinners.

Losses of Self-Esteem

Based on that passage in Philippians, here are some things we lose through self-esteem:
  • consolation in Christ
  • comfort of love
  • fellowship of the Spirit
  • affection and mercy
The price of self-esteem is too high. It's a poor investment.

Self-love is the root of manifold ills in society and in an individual's life. The church could be exempt from many woes of society by loving the love of others, by esteeming others better than self. Because we have gone the way of the world in our thoughts about God, we are going the way of the world in our lives. Consider just one important example: divorce is as rampant in the church as it is in the world. Would Christ divorce his bride, the Church? Was it so easy for Him to hold to his wife?

The world preaches. It heralds individualism, self-realization, finding your identity, becoming who you are, an ism of the human, a doctrine of man, being true to yourself, being an authentic person, finding meaning in choice. Yet, without life in the image of the Trinity, man as man is abolished. Kallistos Ware expresses it this way:
Why, then, believe in God as Trinity? ... First, a "person" is not at all the same as an "individual." Isolated, self-dependent, none of us is an authentic person, but merely an individual, a bare unit as recorded in the census. Egocentricity is the death of true personhood. Each becomes a real person only through entering into relation with other persons, through living for them and in them. There can be no man, so it has been rightly said, until there are at least two men in communication. (The Orthodox Way, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1995, p. 28)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who are we? What are we becoming? - Part 1

While many people have little concern for who God is, most take a personal interest in who they are themselves. They are concerned also with their future, what they are becoming, their destiny.

If we are interested in who we are and what we are becoming, we should know this: we are becoming like our idea of God.

Beholding and Becoming

A. W. Tozer said:
We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. (The Knowledge of the Holy, Harper & Row, 1961, p. 9)
John says it like this:
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (I John 3:2)
John talks about "what we will be," what we are becoming, our destiny. He says it has not yet appeared. He says that we may nevertheless know our future, know our destiny, know what we will become. We will be like Jesus.

What will make us like Jesus? How can we know that we will be like Jesus? "Because we shall see him as he is." He will appear, and we will see him not as we thought he was, but "as he is." The true sight of Jesus brings us to be like him. Beholding and becoming. This is the transforming power.

A Dim Mirror

The trouble for now is that we do not see Jesus as he is. We see him dimly.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor. 13:12)
The dimness of the mirror in which we see Christ is one cause of us not being fully like him yet. This is one of the tensions of the Christian life: already, but not yet. We are already justified in Christ, but not yet like him. God wills this state of affairs for a number of reasons, one being that we would learn the obedience of faith. We walk by faith, not by sight. We live under the cross. Our life is hidden with Christ in God.
While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor. 5:6b-7)

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col 3:3-4)
A Mirror, Nevertheless

Even within this, may I say, notyetness, things could be better than they are. John says, for now, we see dimly. He does not say we don't see at all. John says we know now in part. He does not say we don't know at all. Not all of our trouble is the dimness of the mirror. Some of our trouble is disuse of what we can see.

The cross speaks. The cross says God is triune. Christ offered his blood through the Spirit to God. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit all acted in our atonement.

How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb 9:14)
We can see the Trinity. We need to remove the Trinity from the shelf of academics and technicality. We need to make the Trinity our walk, our breath, our prayer, and our conversation. The Trinity is not just for the seminary professor or the pastor. The Trinity is for the babe in Christ and the growing christian.

But in the church today, although the creed is recited, surveys show that over half of many congregations really are unitarians.

Our Actual Mental Image of God

We have a mental image of God. It's what comes to our minds when we think about God. These are our actual thoughts and may vary from what we say outwardly. Though we might continue to recite creeds with a sound form of words, speaking the truth about God, those creeds might not express our actual thoughts of God. We can see this in a number of ways. One of the ways is through the Ten Commandments.

The First Commandment says:
You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)
Then, depending on which catechism we follow, either the First Commandment continues, or the Second Commandment says:
You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. (Exodus 20:4-5a)
We might think these two statements are the same. Both prohibit idolatry. There is overlap between them. But the second statement goes beyond the first. Thomas Watson gave a nicely brief statement of the difference (using the Westminster Catechism's numbering).
In the first commandment worshipping a false god is forbidden; in this [the second], worshipping the true God in a false manner. (The Ten Commandments, Banner of Truth Trust edition, p. 59)
The second has something to say. Not only will it hurt us to worship the wrong god. It will hurt us to worship the right God with wrong ideas about Him. Dr. Luther speak on this statement, including among "The First Commandment Transgressors ... He who engages in a false worship of God." (John Nicholas Lenker, Luther's Two Catechisms Explained by Himself in Six Classic Writings (Minneapolis: The Luther Press, 1908), p. 195. Both Watson and Luther are speaking of worshiping the true God, but worshiping him falsely.

The problem with carved images is that they are bound to draw our thoughts away to a lesser image of God than is true. Our sight of Him will be dimmed. This light of the body, our eye, the way we see God, becomes darkened. Then our understanding becomes darkened not only concerning God Himself, but concerning everything. Our life, as an imitation, even if an unconcious imitation, of what we think God is begins to move toward darkness.

What will seeing God as unitarian rather than as the Trinity do to us? What will we become if our soul is drawn toward that mental image of God? Follow on. The next posting will be Part 2 of Who Are We? What Are We Becoming?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How Are You Loved?

In the last posting (Is Love a Lie?), we saw that without the Trinity, love is either abolished or love becomes hellish because it is only self-love. But in the Trinity we saw the love of one Person for Another. We saw the love that is no lie, the love that makes heaven heavenly. This is the love we desire.

That posting concluded with the question, can we participate in this love? Let's turn to this question now.

How Jesus Loves You

Drawing that perfection of love in the Trinity across to you, Jesus does not just love you. He loves you in a particular way. He loves you as the Father loves Him.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:9)
Jesus came to earth from His Trinitarian home in heaven to bring this love -- this love, not just any love, not a lie of love, but this love of the Father for the Son, to give it to you. As the Father loves Jesus, so Jesus loves you. Believe, and abide in his love.
This Love

To marry me
He chose the tree

To give me His Name
He bore my shame

To take me home
He was disowned

From heaven above
He brought this love
How the Father Loves You

This is so much to receive, but receive it. And receive more. For not only does the Son love you as the Father loves the Son, but Jesus reveals that the Father also loves you as He loves the Son.

I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:23)
Jesus wants you to receive love from Him, the kind of love the Father has for Him. Then He wants you to believe more, that the Father loves you just as He loves the Son. Just as He loves the Son. Just as He loves the Son. Say that again. Say it aloud. Get a hold on it. Know it. Breath it in. Walk in it. Just as He loves the Son, the Father loves you.

And more, still more, He wants the world to know it. He wants the world to know that the Father loves you even as he loves the Son.

People of the Cain spirit who envied Abel's acceptance with God will say of the beloved of God that they "wear it on their sleeves" or that "they parade it so." What if we do or what if we don't? It is the will of the Father that the world should know that he loves us as He loves His only begotten Son. God is not ashamed to be seen in public with you. This love is no lie. This is public, redeeming love that calls us to the Trinitarian home.

How the Spirit Loves You

Because of the Trinity, love is brought to us even more intimately. So far we have spoken of the Father and the Son loving us. But the Spirit also does, by coming to abide within us!

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)
The Son prayed to the Father to send the Spirit within you. That prayer was a Trinity event. The Father sent the Spirit and He did this because the Son asked. The sending was a Trinity event. All the Persons of the Trinity are active in the love which is no lie.
Hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)
Brought Into the Trinitarian Home

Love is in the Trinity, and nowhere else. To bring us into His love, God brought us into the Trinitarian home. On the basis of Christ's blood, the Father adopts us. We become His sons, brothers of Christ, and joint heirs with him. We know this adoption by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:15-17)
Jesus has gone to the house of the Father to prepare a place for us.
In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:2-3)
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit promise you love, the same love They have One for Another, and they promise you the place of a beloved child in their Trinitarian home.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is Love a Lie?

What is more common than talk of love? The word is overused. So much love is false. The despairing lyrics of an insightful song say:
Some love is just a lie of the heart
The cold remains of what began with a passionate start

Some love is just a lie of the soul
A constant struggle for the ultimate state of control

Some love is just a lie of the mind
It's make believe until it's only a matter of time
(Billy Joel, "A Matter of Trust" on The Bridge .)

Longing for Love

With all the lies of love, with all the wounds, betrayals, cruelties, deceptions, and abandonments, still we take a personal interest in the prospect, the hope, the promise of love.

Why do people keep falling for lies of love? We do because of a desire that is right and good, a longing rooted deeply in our hearts. We yearn for it and keep hoping it will be true. We want it to be true through and through, true in our heart, mind, and soul. We want something real and not a meaningless, empty, vain illusion.

For love to be true, it must be rooted in eternity. It cannot be a recent fad. It cannot be true only for now. Love must be true from eternity past, through the present, and into eternity future. For love to be true, it must be divine. Love must be something God does, wants, and shares.

The Abolition of Love

Do we have a personal interest in love? Do we want to believe in true love and love eternal? Then we should know this: without the Trinity, love is abolished.

Let's see why this is so. Looking to eternity past, before "In the beginning," before the creation of heaven and earth, there was only God. There were no creatures, no angels, and no humans. Suppose at that time there were not three persons in the Godhead. Suppose there were only one person as in Unitarianism or Islam. Where was the love? It never was.

Love is a relation between persons. There are many levels of love and the Bible uses many words for the levels. We lose some of the richness in our English Bibles because all those words come out as the one word "love" in our translations. At the highest level, love is a relation in which one person does right by another regardless of everything. At other levels, love is brotherliness, attraction, arousal, emotion, kinship, companionship, and comfortableness, to name a few. At all these levels, love is a relation between persons.

In a god of only one person, there are not two or more persons to have relations. Before "In the beginning," one person would have had no one to love and no one to love him.

From Love to Hell

Someone might say that even though god was only one person, still, god loved.

The love of such a god must have been self-love. That person had only himself to love. If he loved, he loved himself. In that case, love's nature is so altered that it is no longer what we desire. It is no longer love of one person for another. Love becomes hellish.

Love cannot exist in isolation, but presupposes the other. Self-love is the negation of love. As Charles Williams shows to such devastating effect in his novel Descent into Hell, self-love is hell; for, carried to its ultimate conclusion, self-love signifies the end of all joy and all meaning. Hell is not other people; hell is myself, cut off from others in self-centeredness.
(Kallistos Ware, "God as Trinity," The Orthodox Way, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1995, p. 28)

The Trinity: Love's Eternal Home

In the Trinity, even before "In the beginning," there was love. There was a Father and a Son. The Father loved the Son and the Son loved the Father. This is family. This is home. The Son had a home in the Father and the Father had a home in the Son. The Trinity is love's eternal home.

Even richer, there was the Holy Spirit. The Father loved the Spirit and the Spirit loved the Father. The Son loved the Spirit and the Spirit loved the Son.

Gaze dwellingly upon the whole rich texture of filling, satisfying substance of love in the Trinity before a blade of grass ever felt the dew of morning, before a tree heard a bird song -- before Adam saw Eve -- love already was true and eternal between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
At the very heart of the divine life, from all eternity God knows himself as "I and Thou" in a threefold way, and he rejoices continually in this knowledge. (Ware, p. 28.)
Jesus said in prayer to His Father,

"You loved me before the foundation of the world." (John 17:24)
Perfect Love

Think of the glories and wonders, the pleasures and comforts of such love. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, distinct persons, but one divine essence, one in the heavenliness of heaven. What made heaven heavenly was their union in love. Put that love union anywhere and that place must be heaven!

What happiness to never have to wonder what the other person said behind one's back, to never wonder what was meant by a comment, to never be unsure of the attitude behind a look of the eye, for an expression of the face to never be a riddle or an enigma, to trust, to believe all things, to bear all things, to hope all things, for there to be no wrongs or record of wrongs, no envy, no rivalry, no rudeness, no gossip, for every moment and every blink of consciousness to be all kindness and faith perfectly.

Can we participate in such love? Follow on. The next posting will be, How Are You Loved?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Atonement: Offering and Trinity

Celsus said, "Christianity is founded on four absurdities."  One of them is:
Absurdity #2: The notion that in order to forgive sins, God had to sacrifice Himself to Himself. (see prior posting)
This includes three claims:

    1.  had
    2.  sacrifice
    3.  Himself to Himself

Absurdity #2 is compounded of three claimed absurdities. It is absurd that God was under compulsion to do the atonement the way He did. It is absurd that, for sin to be forgiven, there must be sacrifice. It is absurd that a sacrifice is from a person to himself.

This posting addresses two of the claims and leaves the third (sacrifice) for another time.

Speculation is Absurd and Unimportant

Whether God had to do the atonement the way He did, I don’t know. Some people claim God as a matter of absolute power could have forgiven without the cross, without Christ crucified. I don’t even know whether it would be a matter of power or something else. Answers to those questions are not revealed. Trying to answer beyond what is revealed is speculation.

Besides, gratitude has a way of changing what is important. "In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them." (1 Cor. 5:19)  The cross speaks. It says, never mind whether God had to do it this way, God did do it this way. Contained in this news is the announcement that He did do it instead of not doing it, never mind how. Gratitude to Him because He did do it saps the speculative questions of any importance for me. My sins, which are many and enormous, are forgiven because God reconciled the world to himself. I do not care how else He might have been able to do it, but I am very interested in how He did do it.

Christ Offered Himself through the Spirit to the Father

Celsus says Christianity is absurd because God sacrificed himself to himself. But the cross speaks. The cross says God is triune.

In the innocent suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the atonement for our sin was worked.  But the atonement was not worked by Christ in solitude.  Christ offered Himself through the Spirit to the Father.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.  (Heb. 9:11-14)
Before the earthly tabernacle (tent in the ESV above) was made, the heavenly tabernacle existed as a divine and spiritual reality. God revealed to Moses that an earthly shadow of the heavenly tabernacle should be made. God wanted to portray to us in a form we could see an unseen reality of the spiritual realm.

With the tabernacle, God instituted the priesthood. The priests offered sacrifices. The greatest sacrifice was offered once a year by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. (Lev. 16)  Like the tabernacle, those sacrifices were shadows, physical realities, but only shadows of the spiritual reality that would come to pass later in the purpose of God.

That purpose was accomplished when Christ, in the true heavenly tabernacle, entered the Holy of Holies and offered the true sacrifice, Himself, His blood, the sacrifice to end all sacrifice.  When Jesus had died and had been buried, the Spirit raised him to life (1 Pet. 3:19), he was resurrected, and when he ascended into heaven, he entered the true tabernacle to offer sacrifice to God on our behalf.

Christ offered Himself through the Spirit to the Father. The atonement was a Trinity event. The Trinity is the gospel. The Trinity is your salvation.

Dr. Pieper says:

The Christian knowledge of God, however, calms the troubled conscience.  In fact, it is our salvation.  Scripture does not propose the doctrine of the Trinity as an academic question or a metaphysical problem.  With the proclamation that in the one eternal God there are three Persons of one and the same divine essence Scripture combines the further gracious message that God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son into death as the Savior from the guilt of sin and death; that in the fullness of time, the eternal Son became incarnate and by His vicarious satisfaction reconciled the world to God and that the Holy Ghost engenders faith and thus applies to man the salvation gained by Christ.  When the Christian confesses, "I believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," he is saying "I believe in that God who is gracious to me, a sinner.
(Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol. I, p. 378 (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis 1950)

In the most familiar verse of the Bible we see it again, the Trinity saves: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."  (John 3:16)  The Father gave the Son. This is the Trinity event of the cross.

The cross on the world's terms appears to be absurd. It appears to be a person offering a sacrifice to himself. The world likes monisim and unitarianism. The world did not think of the Trinity. The cross speaks it. The cross on its own terms -- the cross on trinitarian terms -- while foolishness to the world is the wisdom of God, and the power of God to save. I Corinthians 1:18-25

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How the Church Answers

Celsus wrote on Amazon that "Christianity is founded on four absurdities." (see prior post) As we go forward, I intend to discuss questions about the atonement that his four propositions raise. It is important, because we are "betting the farm" on the atonement.

But first we will benefit from an excursion. This excursion will illustrate something important about the methods the church has used to answer propositions like those Celsus wrote. Collectively, these methods are called apologetics. Generally, the church's apologetics have been poor, and the church is itself to blame for what people have come to think of Jesus.

Our excursion begins with the name the writer on Amazon chose. He uses the pen name Celsus. I think this writer is a knowledgeable person. Celsus was the first person whose work is historically preserved that provides a broad-ranging and organized criticism of Jesus. The church father, Origen, thought Celsus' attack on Jesus was important enough to be answered point by point. Origen quoted verbatim each passage from Celsus' work, and then answered each proposition.

I came across Celsus while meditating on Jesus in Gethsemane. Celsus disapproved, ridiculed, and mocked Jesus for his behavior in Gethsemane. Celsus is the classic example of critics who compare Jesus unfavorably to others who have faced death, particularly death by execution. Think of Socrates and Stephen. He weighed Jesus in the scale of classical Pagan ideals of bravery and courage. Compared to classical heroes, Celsus saw Jesus as pathetically weak and whimpering. He used his picture of a groveling Jesus to prove that Jesus would unravel civilization with cowardice.

Fast forward to the 20th century. Celsus' criticism of Jesus in Gethsemane is represented by, for example, M. M. Mangasarian. He was ordained into the Congregationalist ministry. He studied for the Presbyterian ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary. He became pastor of Spring Garden Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Twenty one years later he published his first book to prove that Jesus was a myth. He showed his and Celsus' picture of the pitiful Jesus in Gethsemane. He quoted Jesus from the cross saying, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He concluded that all this "was tantamount to an admission by the [gospel] writers that they were dealing with a symbolic Christ, an ideal figure, a hero of a play, and not a historical figure."

Of course the answer given in the 20th century for Jesus’ behavior in Gethsemane would be that he is a myth. That was Origen’s answer to Celsus in the 3rd century. Celsus had rejected Jesus as a myth. That was odd because Celsus was a pious adherent to the myths of classicism. Origen replied that such stories as are told of Jesus are admitted to be true when told of Pagan divinities such as Apollo, so why can they not also be true when told of the Christian Messiah? If Apollo, though a myth, may be accepted, what could be wrong with adding the myth of Jesus? (see by searching in The Truth About Jesus: Is He a Myth)

What kind of answer is that? What kind of truth does that ascribe to Jesus? That is only mythical truth, not true truth, not historical incarnation and historical crucifixion. Origen’s classical formulation of a defense of Jesus capitulates to mythology. No wonder unbelievers take Jesus as a myth. The church told them to see him that way! Seldom does the church answer as Ole Hallesby did, saying, "The cross is a reality, the world's most real reality." (Religious or Christian, Augsburg edition, 1939, p. 101.)

The church's apologetics generally have had an objective and a method. The objective has been to remove the offense of the cross or the scandal of the cross. Supposedly, an inoffensive cross will be more attractive. The method has been to submit the cross to examination by the world's thinking. The apologists try to force the cross to explain itself within the narrow categories of secular philosophy and Pagan religion.

In the case of Origen and Celsus, the category of Pagan religious thought is myth, so Origen answered on the basis of myth. But then, everything became mythical including Jesus and the cross.

In the West, philosophy has had five branches: metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, logic, and morals. The church has tried to force the cross to answer within this or that metaphysic, within this or that epistemology, within this or that logic, and so on. But then everything became nauseating metaphysical speculation that turned ordinary people away from Jesus, and then from philosophy, and then back to Paganism. This is the post-modern world. The West today is very much like the Pagan context in which the New Testament was written.

There are two problems with the church's typical objective and method of apologetics. First, when the offense of the cross is removed, the cross stops being the cross. Therefore the offenseless cross does not explain the offensive cross. It only explains a caricature, not the historical cross. Evangelistically, then, the world seldom hears about the cross -- the offensive cross -- from the church.

Second, when the cross is forced to explain itself in, say, metaphysical terms, metaphysics are never forced to explain themselves in cross terms. When the cross is forced to explain itself in epistemological terms, epistemology is never forced to explain itself in cross terms.

All this is solved by Luther's theology of the cross. By "theology of the cross" I do not mean what men, though theologians, say of the cross. Hallesby says of it, "I do not mean now what men say of the cross, but what the cross says of men." (Religious or Christian, Augsburg edition, p. 110.)

The cross is the totalizing category. Metaphysics exist, if at all, within the category of cross. Epistemology exists, if at all, within the category of cross. The cross speaks of everything, and everything is what the cross says it is.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Moralism is not Christianity

Justification by faith is as rarely understood by moralists within the church as by secularists outside the church. However, of the two groups the latter are far more knowledgeable and sophisticated about the sinister effects of a religion of law.
C. FitzSimons Allison