Monday, 31 March 2008

Meditation on the Text of the Week

The Real Songs of Bombadil

The Psalter opens with short song, which, like the songs of Tolkien's Bombadil, is a song of power. It sings up one of the most—if not the most—fundamental pattern of human existence. This song both creates and shapes the course and outcome of cultures and history, families and nations, rulers and ruled.

While the Psalm is addressed to an individual (“blessed is the man”), the Bible elsewhere makes it clear that it is a characteristic type that is being presented. The same applies equally to corporate entities which delight in the law of the Lord and meditate day and night in it. (For example, “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” Psalm 33:12)

The image of the fruitful tree is one which resonates deep within--(and very Bombadil-like). The streams of water give the tree verdant life. The consequent fruitfulness of the tree shows that it brings life and blessing to others. The person whose life is molded by God's Law is both prosperous and successful. He becomes powerful.

To delight in God's Law means ipso facto that one must spurn and reject the counsel, wisdom, advice, ways, and the seats of the wicked—who mock and despise God and His Law, either overtly and militantly, or by means of dismissive disregard—considering both the Lord and His Law relegated to the dustbin of history.

So normative and dominant is this pattern of divine governance over humanity that the Bible takes care to provide an explanation when it does not appear, at first glance, to be working. Psalm 73 when Asaph was envious of the initial success of the wicked and arrogant is a case in point. In Isaiah 42, when Israel lay plundered and despoiled, the Lord is particular to explain that while He had made the Law great and glorious, the people o f the Law were now plundered because they had chosen the seat of the scoffers and had not walked in the ways of the Lord. (Isaiah 42: 19—25)

The course of the Kingdom of God in the earth is a movement from a position of extreme insignificance to one of world-wide, universal dominance. Its commencement in any particular nation or culture is always very small (the mustard seed)—a mere two or three gathered together, yet with the Lord in the midst of them. Eventually, it fills the whole nation.

The extent, richness, profundity, and depth of the blessedness promised in Psalm 1 is magnified many times over as the Gospel takes more and more hold in a society, as Jerusalem grows and Athens weakens. The blessing moves from strength to strength, as it were. In our generation, however, we live in a temporarily post-Christian world, a latter day Babylonian captivity. For us, many of the blessings we experience are more personal, individual, familial and congregational. But because Christ has ascended to the Throne at the right hand of God, the time is coming when the hills will once again be torn down and the valleys filled. The blessings of Psalm 1 will be multiplied and magnified many times over.

As Bombadil's songs shaped fictional Middle Earth, so the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth has given us this non-fictional song of power to sing that our lives might be shaped to the Law of the Lord and so God's rich favour and power might flow down upon us and all with whom we are in covenant.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Sabbath Meditation #2

Avoiding the Love of Provinces

One of the great failings of our covenant fathers of old was to distort and pervert the faith of God into nationalistic and racialistic shapes. The true faith was seen as being inextricably tied to Israel and to Jews. It was seen as inextricably tied to the Temple and its worship ceremonies. This grave error, which in the end became an idolatry in its own right, was one of the reasons for the rejection of Israel as the people of God, so that the Gentiles might be called. The old wineskin could not contain the new wine.

As we cease from our six days of the privileged labour and gather together to turn our faces upward to God in holy worship we must contend against falling into the same failing as our older covenant fathers. Public sabbath worship always has an intense local element to it. Our most holy and blessed activity occurs at a certain time and place, with a certain pattern or liturgy, in the company of certain beloved brothers and sisters. At this place the Lord meets with His people. At this time and place the means of grace are powerful and saving.

Given such an intensity of favour and blessing it is inevitable that our local congregational gatherings will be regarded as our most significant and holy events. The place and the occasion come to be sacred in our eyes—and rightly so. Would to the Lord that this were ever the case, and increasingly so, amongst us all.

But we must never fall into the mistake of provincialising worship. As Stephen reminded the Sanhedrin in one of the most powerful and fateful recorded sermons of all time, the prophets said of the Temple: “Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for Me?” says the Lord; “or what place is there for My repose? Was it not My hand which made all these things.” (Acts 7: 49,50)

The Lord comes to meet with us as we worship. That is why it is such a holy and blessed and special event. He is in our midst. Yet because it is the Lord Almighty who is amongst us, our hearts must ever be drawn to take up the needs, the concerns, and the glories of His universal Kingdom. He is above all the earth; therefore, all the earth belongs to Him. As He taught us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Our worship will inevitably be intensely local, but must never be allowed to become provincial. The concerns of our Father's business must ever lift our hearts to heaven, and from heaven to the whole earth, that His will might be done everywhere, in every place.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

The S-Files

Church Leaders Receive S-Award

Contra Censum has given an S-Award to the church leaders who on the 28th March 2007 issued a “call to action” to politicians to restore benefit rates that were cut 17 years ago and have never been raised since, apart from adjustment to inflation. (NZ Herald, March 28)

S-Awards come in two classes.

S-Award Class One is given to a person or group which has made a significantly positive and inspiring contribution. “S” denotes behaviour that is “Smart, Sound, and Salutary.”

Class Two denotes a contribution that is significantly negative, harmful, or destructive. “S” in the Class Two Award denotes behaviour that is “Stupid, Shortsighted, and Stupefied”.


The S-Award voted for the Church Leaders is accompanied with a great deal of sadness. These men are sons of Jerusalem and the Holy City deserves better from them. In petitioning the government to increase benefit rates they have regrettably bowed down and worshiped at the feet of an idol.

When a civil government takes property from citizens and re-distributes it to others it violates two Commandments: the Eighth—thou shalt not steal; and the Tenth—thou shalt not covet. No amount of concern for the poor can atone for being party to actions which violate God's holy Law. No good can come from evil means. The Church Leaders need to reckon with the fact that civil governments can (and so) steal, just as they can (and do) commit murder. Governments are not above God's Law. Regrettably, and so sadly, the Church Leaders are guilty of inciting Caesar to greater lawlessness.

Contra Celsum calls upon these Church Leaders to repent and make restitution. If the Church Leaders were to rise from their supine positions before the great Idol, and stand up,and issue a clarion call for the Government to reduce taxes, so that the burdens upon the poor might be lessened, then they would be acting as true sons of the Holy City. Then they would be upholding the Eighth and Tenth Commandments, and would be defending the honour and glory of God before the nations.

Church Leaders: S-Award, Class Two for actions that were Stupid, Shortsighted and Stupefied.

Friday, 28 March 2008

The Chinese Curse is Upon Us

The Coming Tax on Agricultural Exports

When economic times get tough, venal governments tend to do stupid things. Throw into the mix falling polls, a looming election, and a predilection for cynical manipulation and anything could happen.

We believe the “ride” this year will be a case of “living in interesting times”—to employ the phrase of the ancient Chinese curse. The Labour-led Government is facing its first real test of economic harder conditions. For nearly nine years it has sailed before winds of a remarkably benign economic environment. It has cynically worked to turn this benefit to its own political advantage, to line its own pockets, sacrificing the longer term good of the country and its people. Now the jig is up.

Throughout the more benign years, the Government has deliberately taken the opportunity to become more centralist, more statist, and more intrusive than any previous government in New Zealand's history. It has taxed more, charged more, spent more, regulated more with a deliberate (and acknowledged) strategy of making itself the “natural” party of government. The more people it can make suck off the government tit, the more it can create a political constituency that believes it needs government assistance to survive, then the more the electorate becomes dependant (economically, socially, psychologically, and spiritually) and can be expected to vote accordingly. The god of government has consequently come to resemble a vast swelling Jabba the Hutt—a huge slug, feeding off its dependant slaves.

But when times get tough things can go awry—and quite quickly. An electorate that has been carefully groomed to rely on the Slug providing can get very angry, very quickly when bread, milk and cheese become too expensive. It is precisely during such a period as this that we can expect the Labour-led Government to flail in desperation.

We at Contra Celsum expect that these desperate times will produce some really desperate measures from the Slug. What is likely?

Here is what we believe will be being “hatched” right at this moment in the Slughive. (Please understand we are not insiders—but truth will out, and the Government's patterns are far too well known. It will be thinking and acting in character.)

Any time soon, the Government will announce a special tax will be levied on agricultural exports. Fonterra and dairy farmers will be the real target. Funds raised from the tax will be used to subsidize the price of food staples (bread, milk, meat, butter, cheese, etc). This targeted taxation will have a number of beneficial political spin-offs.

Firstly its political damage will be minimal. It will offend the agricultural sector—but that sector no longer carries large political clout. Given the list vote, and the swelling urban population, political power has moved to the major cities. This policy will buy huge numbers of votes and only an irrelevant sector of the electorate will pay. There is absolutely no political downside.

Secondly, it will demonise a segment of the population—in this case, dairy farmers—in the time honoured way that New Zealand has done for decades. Dairy farmers and Fonterra are the latest “tall poppy”; they are extracting windfall profits; they are benefiting from the suffering of others. You can see how it will so easily be spun, because it is appealing to that most basic venal instinct of a statist culture—envy. “Ah, yes, dairy farmers—you owe this tax to us all. Pay your dues you bloated leeches! We need to eat bread—and, oh, yes, buy the Lotto tickets and the beer.” We believe that the vast majority of the electorate will believe this tax is fundamentally equitable. It will ensure its popularity amongst the chattering classes. Institutionalised envy harvests many, many votes.

Thirdly, it will show that the Slug really does care for its slaves, and is working creatively and energetically (if that is not an oxymoron) for the “ordinary bloke.” NZ First will back it to the hilt. Again, no political downside.

Fourthly, imagine how it will be used to prove the Slug's green credentials. Dairy, after all, is our worst polluter. It contributes significantly to greenhouse gases (remember the Fart Tax proposal). This will help restrict the untrammelled expansion of dairying by greedy capitalist farmers and would-be farmers who are lining their own pockets at the expense of humanity and the environment. The Greens will applaud.

Sound far-fetched. Well, no. Governments are under pressure all around the world to bring down food prices. A growing number have introduced taxes on agricultural exports. Included in the list are: Cambodia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Argentina, Ukraine and Thailand. They have all applied taxes on agricultural exports in an attempt to increase domestic supplies of food. (The Economist, March 27, 2008). It is only a matter of time before a similar measure is proposed in New Zealand. All we need is Sweden added to the list, and Bob's your uncle. Electoral desperation makes it all the more likely it will be rammed through very quickly.

The Economist goes on to describe how destructive these measures really are. Firstly, they increase the global prices for food by restricting the supply on global markets. Prices ratchet up faster and further. Secondly, they reduce economic incentives for farmers, leading to less production overall. Food shortages grow worse. Potentially productive land is left lying unfarmed. Again, prices rise further.

The more prices rise, the greater the incentive to hoard. Supply reduces still further, prices rise yet again. According to The Economist, “The more prices rise, the greater the incentive to hoard, which creates an upward price spiral. Across Asia, restrictions on the export of rice have helped increase its cost on world markets by about 75%. . . . Meanwhile, there is talk that importers, like China and Japan, are stockpiling rice to safeguard supplies.”

Taxes on agricultural exports have the effect that all taxes have: what you tax, you get less of. A tax on agricultural exports in New Zealand will be like throwing high octane fuel on the fire. It will make the cost of food rise further, requiring more subsidy, more taxes, more government spending. Our most productive industry will be weakened. Everyone will be poorer overall.

David Lange once said, famously and fatuously, that he could not support an economic policy which had the effect of increasing the income of everyone, but which widened the gap between rich and poor. Envy indeed.

In the face of harder economic times, we are about to see another take on Lange's doctrine. We believe Labour is deliberately promoting economic policies that will have the effect of making everyone poorer, but at least the rich will be less rich. And it feels better about that. It is already well down that track with its barmy carbon trading scheme and with other anti global warming “initiatives”. A tax on agricultural exports will be the next logical step.

But, hey, these are mere trifles amongst friends, as long as the Slug is returned to the Treasury Benches.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Impeaching gods

The “Problem” of Evil

There are many in the vortex of unbelief, which Contra Celsum refers to as Athens—the City of Unbelief—who appeal to the existence of evil as a reason why they do not worship and serve a god. There are many variants to the arguments and objections. Some are more philosophical. How could you love a god who has allowed evil to come to pass? If god is both good and omnipotent then god must be morally culpable for the existence of evil. If god were god why does he not get rid of evil? If evil exists then either god must not be omnipotent, although possibly good; or he must be omnipotent but not good. Either way god is not worth our regard or worship.

Other Athenians express the problem on a more personal and visceral level. There are accounts of people who survived the Nazi concentration camps, who, having entered a camp as professing Christians or Jews emerged as bitter atheists, denying that any god could possibly exist in the light of the evil they had witnessed and endured.

Still others are exponents of “armchair affliction” where they profess themselves to be deeply troubled and disturbed by evil in general and cite this as a reason for their unbelief.

Jerusalem, God's city, looks on these arguments with a kind of detached quizzical curiosity. On the one hand they are amusing in the same way that we find a three year old child's protestations against injustice to be amusing. There is something strange and incongruous in the protest. On the other hand, arguments using evil to “prove” the disreputable nature of any god are an Athenian in-house debate—something that “those people over there do” as a result of their spiritual blindness and foolishness.

The Believing Mind knows that arguments within Athens about evil ultimately have no meaning within that city. They end up being nothing more than idle babbling; all too often the occupation of the chattering, chardonnay drinking classes. Of course, the apostasizing survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and others who have been sorely afflicted in this life are not to be included in this group. The heart of Jerusalem goes out to those in Athens who have genuinely suffered evil and are troubled by it. But for the most part, Athens' attitudes to evil are fundamentally self-deceitful and are not to be taken seriously.

In the first place, it turns out that Athenian chattering about evil disproving a god or disqualifying a god from holding office in Athens is really a smokescreen. Ever since the Garden of Eden, Athens has had its god—and that god is Man. Arguments using evil to impeach any god from holding office are really a pantomime to underscore that Man is the one really in charge here. Truth and reality is what Man says it is. This spiritual reality—where the heart and mind of man determines the existence, being, character and attributes of god for himself—is the abiding animus of Athens. That is why, when we are analyzing the Unbelieving Mind of Athens, “god” is always to be written in lower case. “Man”, in Athens, is always regarded as being in upper case.

Secondly, arguments about evil within Athens have no meaning. Evil and good are not meaningful constructs. They are, as Shakespeare would say, much ado about nothing. Within Athens there is no standard, there is no canon, no measuring stick to define good and evil. The best that Athens can do is speak of good in terms of preferences, wishes, or longings; evil is merely that which is not liked or preferred. Concepts and standards of good and evil within Athens are no more than self serving prejudices—whether derived from custom, culture, rationalist speculation, or a ballot box.

When Athens argues from within its own world-view about the existence of evil it can only be referring to things which it happens to dislike at the time. But, one man's rubbish is another's treasure. What any current Athenian community may find objectionable, other (equally valid) Athenian communities may lionise as good. While it embarrasses Athens to face up to it, the fact remains that Hitler's Ultimate Solution and Stalin's Pogroms were deemed to be morally right, justifiable, and ethical by their perpetrators—and who are any in Athens to gainsay. The notion that Hitler went around perpetrating genocide while saying to himself, “I am evil,” is a laughable naivety. Yet that is precisely what Hitler, or Pol Pot, or Mao Tse Teng are seen by many as doing. No, these monsters were Athenians through and through. They were their own gods. They had determined that certain classes of people were sub-human. Or, that they represented wickedness that justified their “termination”. Or there was a higher principle that made their continued existence inconvenient at the time.

Athens, to be true to itself, has to defend the right of Hitler and Stalin and other perpetrators of horrendous evil to define good and evil for themselves. It is the essence of Unbelief. It is the fundamental charter of Athens. The best, then, that the chardonnay drinkers can do to criticise such horrors is to demur—“Well, that's not what I would do” or, “That's not my preference.” Big bickies. Give that man a DB.

Because good and evil to the Unbelieving Mind has no reference point outside the mind of Man, anything that Man does is possible and defensible—every kind of evil has been and will be seen in the future. In the end, Athens has to embrace it all. Athens does not have a problem with evil. In Athens, evil is a meaningless construct. Evil does not exist. Evil must always be written in inverted commas. Which is to say that Athens is riddled with evil through and through.

In Jerusalem, citizens have been delivered from the empty vanities of Athenian unbelief. They have come to believe once again in the Living God who, Himself, is the ground of all meaning and existence. Evil is real. Evil has its definition and standard in God. Evil is any thought, word, or deed that does not conform to His laws and commands. Such evil has been, and will be punished. Athens, the City of Unbelief, is intrinsically and totally evil, insofar as its entire existence is predicated upon denying the Living God.

It is God who declares what is good. It is God who defines what is evil. Because He has created all things of nothing the entire universe depends completely upon Him for its being and existence; there is nothing to gainsay or contradict Him. Therefore good and evil are meaningful constructs only in Jerusalem. We are entitled to speak of good and evil having an absolute reference point: we can speak meaningfully of ultimate good and evil. Good and evil actually do exist and they exist absolutely and not merely relatively.

Face to face with the infinite and eternal God, we, His creatures, must bow in humble submission and adoration. Not to do so is the height of stupidity, arrogance and folly. Thus, being creatures, a comprehensive understanding of God's purposes in allowing evil to exist are ultimately beyond us, in the same way an exhaustive understanding of why the creation came into existence in the first place are beyond us. The finite creature cannot judge, understand, or question the infinite God. It is precisely this attitude—the respectful attitude of deep humility before the Living God—that Paul enjoins in Romans 9 as he is discussing God's sovereign purposes in the world.
“You will say to me, then, 'Why does he still find fault? For who resists His will?' On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this,' will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?”

Romans 9:20,21
Does not the Potter indeed have the right! John Calvin, a great rabbi in Jerusalem, expressed the same principle of humility before God when we are confronted with questions about which God has not spoken nor revealed His mind. When asked once by an Athenian interloper what God was doing before He created the world, Calvin answered: “He was creating Hell for people who ask such foolish questions.” Indeed.

But we do know some things about why evil is allowed to exist. Scripture does give us one hint, one glorious insight with respect to God's present tolerance of evil in the world. Paul goes on to write immediately following the passage cited above:
“What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He has called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.”

Romans 9: 22,23.
God's apparent tolerance of evil is for a time only. It will one day face His full wrath and power when His patience is ended. But the longsuffering of God serves an additional purpose—that He might magnify and glorify His own Name in pouring forth mercy upon those whom He has chosen—when the harvest is fully in, and a great and innumerable multitude from all nations and tribes and tongues and peoples are found before His holy throne in His holy City.

The “problem” of the patience of God towards evil evaporates. It is subsumed in a higher purpose and glory. Evil will be dealt with fully, finally, and completely in time. But meanwhile the day of reckoning is put off and delayed so that mercy might indeed triumph over judgment.

Finally, we must make an appeal to those in Athens who indeed have suffered and witnessed great evils and whose spirits are broken. They are bitter towards the Living God and towards His people. Their bitterness has become an expression of pride that erects a barrier against their leaving the City of Death. To go over to Jerusalem will somehow trivialise their suffering and betray the monument they wish to erect to it.

But, listen, in your City of Unbelief your fellow citizens believe in their heart of hearts that your suffering was not really suffering. It was not evil. Athens may pity you because you got caught, but in the end Athens cannot agree or confirm that what has happened to you was evil. “Bad luck” is the sum and substance of Athens' comfort—and even then, the “bad” is questionable.

It is only in Jerusalem that evil is regarded as truly evil and monstrous. Only in Jerusalem is there an ineradicable conviction that Hitler and Stalin and their ilk were, and are, demonic. Only in Jerusalem is there a certain belief that eternal justice will be administered and evil will be punished forever. Only in Jerusalem is your suffering taken seriously. Within the walls of this City you will find much comfort and consolation. But to come over you must trust God, that He will make all things right, that He who created all things will punish evil and will wipe away every tear in His own time and in His own way.
Wherefore come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord
And do not touch what is unclean;
And I will welcome you.
And I will be a Father to you
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me
Says the Lord Almighty.

II Corinthians 6: 17, 18
But if you will not trust Him, despite what He says and promises to you, the only alternative left will be truly demonic and beyond your worst nightmares.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Lies, Damned Lies and Bureaucrats

Cindy Kiro's World of Half Truths and False Gods

“Violence breeds violence”, has become Cindy Kiro's new mantra as she seeks to defend the recent law banning smacking. She has at her fingertips, no doubt, countless examples and case studies of families where children were thrashed and abused when young. Then, in adulthood, those children subsequently went on to acts of violence, lawlessness, and degenerate behaviour, including violent abuse of their own children.

Kiro is right. We didn't need the sociological evidence or case studies to know that children grow up to walk in the footsteps of their parents. Parents who inflict uncontrolled, enraged violence on their children will produce children who are, either smashed in spirit and will as adults, or are equally lawless and violent as adults in their turn. But ironically this is also why Kiro is also completely wrong—or more to the point, naïve and simplistic.

She is only doing what all bureaucrats are forced into when they administer laws and regulations that are unjust and immoral: focus on superficial externalities that can be controlled and measured and administered. Since governments cannot change hearts and minds they are reduced to play acting with mere externalities. But they do so at at our peril—since the long and ignoble history of such hubris is that the problems only become worse, much worse.

As a result of Kiro's half truths, now institutionalised into the New Zealand legal fabric where smacking a child for the purpose of training and correction has become a crime, expect a torrent of societal violence to pour down in the next thirty years. Of course by that time Kiro will be long forgotten, as will Helen Clark and Sue Bradford, except perhaps for their respective parts in a government to which historians are likely to attach the sobriquet of being the most corrupt and corruptible in New Zealand's history.

But they will have been replaced with other, equally deluded, Athenian idolaters. Socialists all. Humanists all. Destroyers all.

Why am I so confident of this outcome—painful though it is to contemplate? Because Kiro is both right and wrong. She is right about the intergenerational connection with respect to violence (and the intergenerational connection of just about everything else—which is, of course, the way the Living God has made the world of men to operate and so it is and always will be the norm.) However, she is completely simplistic as to her definition of violence. Violence incorporates force of whatever kind—whether physical, verbal, emotional, or psychological.

There are two kinds of family violence—and they are worlds apart. Kiro has failed to discern this, or has deliberately decided to ignore it. The first is where forcible correction is administered to children by parents who are training and correcting their children, for the children's sake, so as to change their hearts, minds, and wills. The second is where parents are disciplining their children for their own (the parents') sake, out of anger, frustration, and selfishness. As stated above, these two are worlds apart. The outward actions may appear the same, but they are as different as water to hydrochloric acid.

In the case of the former—where discipline is for the sake of training the children—the rules and regulations of the home are clearly thought through and articulated to the children. Breaking the rules brings consistent juridical consequences, until the child is trained out of that behaviour. Discipline is never done in anger, annoyance, frustration, impatience, or temper. The voice is never raised. Regardless of the emotional stresses upon the parents, they too regard themselves as under discipline, and so control themselves to administer correction faithfully, fairly, and always for the sake of the child's wellbeing. In this context discipline is never retributive. It is always and only corrective. When the behaviour changes, the discipline ceases—or moves on to other issues.

In this case, violence does most certainly not breed violence. It breeds the very opposite. It produces peace, self-control, respect, and ultimately a productive member of the community.

In the case of the latter, discipline is erratic, mercurial, tempestuous, filled with anger and frustration. One day the parent/adult might ignore a child's actions because they are in a good mood. The next they explode and vent their wrath upon the little one for the self-same actions—because the child has done something to annoy them and they are in a bad, angry mood. In this context the violence is always retributive—it is a lawless act of retribution upon the child for the parent's perception of hurt and damage to them by the child.

People who are particularly uncontrolled and narcissistically self-absorbed will not stop from pouring our physical violence upon their children, regardless of what the law says. Moreover because blood is thicker than water, family groups will always move cover it up. The new law will have the unintended effect of driving the violence underground—so that its very existence in a family will have already placed that family into the orbit of the criminal underworld.

In the case of the less physically violent, emasculated metrosexuals, family violence amongst self-absorbed parents is more likely to take the equally destructive form of parental temper tantrums, screaming, biting and caustic words, sarcasm, ridicule, and bitterness poured out upon the children. While the bruises may not be physical, the home environment will be likely toxic in the extreme, leading to the destruction of the child's spirit. The consequence for the children will be growing up into one of two probable types: either the child will grow up mimicking the parents' lawless, uncontrolled outbursts of selfish petulance returning evil for evil upon the heads of their parents and anyone else who crosses them. Or, beaten and cowed, they will grow up broken and brooding—damaged beyond repair.

Either way, within two generations their line will have assumed a criminal mindset.

Governments and bureaucratic controls always focus upon outward behaviours, the tangible, the things that they believe can be subject to regulation, rules, bans, and controls. While statist governments aspire to the omnicompetence of deity, they lack just a few of the essential attributes. So their self-vaunted pride and vain boasting ends up focusing upon superficial externalities. What they promulgate ends up being naïve and simplistic in the extreme.

How about this for a novel approach. What would happen if Athens stood up and told the truth to its citizens? What would happen if the government admitted that it was utterly powerless and incompetent to control or change family life, and that any attempt to do so would make the problems many times worse? What would happen if the government told its citizens that each and every parent, each and every family had to sort it out and take responsibility for themselves?

We all know what would happen. The citizens would reject that government and vote another in its place. The people would regard acknowledged governmental incompetence and the need for self-accountability and self-responsibility as blasphemous. For both citizens and governments in Athens want a god. They need a god. To the modern man god is where the power is—which means the government.

So, the outlook for modern Athenian society is bleak. Its prescriptions for reformation and holiness within the human heart, mind, and soul are doomed to failure—regardless of the particular policy or government of the day. Its prescriptions will serve to make matters much worse. In the end, the only hope is to turn back to the Living God, Whom they have sneered at, ridiculed, derided, and mocked for many years

And what does God do in response? He laughs at them. Consider carefully the words of this Psalm which describe so clearly the dynamic of what is happening in these days in our nation—and what will be the outcome, in the days to come:
“Why are the nations in an uproar,
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand,
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed”
'Let us tear their fetters apart,
And cast away their cords from us!'

“He Who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury . . .

“Now, therefore, O kings, show discernment
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence,
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”

Psalm 2
So, there is an inevitability here. All will be made to bow before God. All mockery, ridicule, and sneering will cease. The only question is how it will cease. Either it will cease as Athenians hear the summons of God to repent and turn back, once again to kiss the feet of His beloved Son, or it will cease as His wrath is poured out upon them and the wretched city they have built.

And every day Jerusalem calls to Athenians, urging them to leave the Gomorrah of their vanity and the Sodom of their rebellion, and to enter the wide, cool, wholesome avenues of Jerusalem, where waters flow and fruit trees grow in rich unending abundance. Give up on your false prophets, your Cindy Kiros, and their rules, their regulations, their bans, and their false gods. Their city already lies desolate and barren. Return to God, own Him as your God, and be saved—while it is still today.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Meditation on the Text of the Week

Meditation on Isaiah 55: 10,11

One of the reasons to develop a truly Christian Mind is a pragmatic one. If we think about the world as it truly is we will operate far more effectively and powerfully. The Christian is called to be powerful and influential in the Creation. Adam was a powerful person before the Fall. In Christ, we are to be powerful again as He teaches us to think properly about His world.

In the verses immediately before our text of the week, (Isaiah 55: 8,9) the Lord declares that His thoughts and ways are higher than ours—not just higher and greater in conception, grandeur, glory and wisdom—but also in their primacy and importance. His thoughts and His ways are constitutive. They shape us. Our thoughts and actions do not shape God.

A fundament of proper thinking is to realise that “things are not always what they seem.” We mean by this that the most powerful realities are invisible. Of course, the most powerful of all is the Omnipotent God.

God has a plan for the world—its destiny is prescribed. That plan incorporates God bringing forth the fruit and results that He has intended and decreed for the world. The fruit is produced, comes into being, through His Word which conveys His thoughts and ways.

He employs the analogy of rain to help us grasp the truth. When the rain falls, it has an inevitable effect upon the land. Life, fruit, and sustenance results.

God sends His Word forth from His mouth. Some of these commands we never hear, although we see their result. His commands shape the day to day experiences of all mankind—calling forth all the circumstances of each individual's life every day. Those unheard commands shape the entirety of our lives and circumstances. We call these commands “providence”—meaning, God's provision for us.

Then there is another “set” of commands which God has allowed us to hear. He has revealed these things to us directly and inscribed them in a library we call His Word, the Holy Scriptures. This Word is near us; it is in our language; we can access it; we can understand it. There is no conflict or disagreement between the Word-which-we-do-not-hear, and the Word-which-we-hear. The Word which we hear is for our sake. It enables us to make sense of the entire world. It enables us to understand the content of much of the unheard Word in the same way that a cause can be derived from observing its effect.

In the context of Isaiah 55, the Lord tells us what kind of fruit His Word will produce. It will bring a salvation that is so powerful, so comprehensive, so compelling that the whole creation will celebrate: the mountains and hills will shout for joy, the trees will clap their hands, the cypress and myrtle will replace the thornbush. This is the fruit that His Word will produce. It will be a veritable memorial to the Lord.

God gave this Word to Israel when they were on the verge of going down into a second slavery. We believe that Israel's coming out of Babylon to the Land of Promise, glorious in itself, was but a mere antetype, a pale and weak foreshadowing of the world-wide, global salvation wrought by the Son of Man—even Jesus our Lord. All of creation, all the universe, all the world is now being bent and shaped by this “higher Thought” of God. All circumstances, all events, all Providence is now aligned to bring forth this global redemption that will effect even the cypress and the myrtle tree.

Our duty is twofold: firstly, to believe it; secondly, to work. If we do neither, we will spend all our life kicking against the goads.

Monday, 24 March 2008

ChnMind 1.20 The Meaning of Death

Death Comes to All Men
Benjamin Franklin once opined that the only two certanties in life are death and taxes. But the question is begged, Why death? Why does death exist in the first place?
After all, scientists have concluded that there is no intrisinc physiological reason why men grow old and die. There is no physiological reason why a human being does not regenerate cells for ever.
In the mind of Athens, death tends to be regarded as just part of the natural cycle of life. It must always be written in lower case. Its sheer universality or ubiquitousness encourages the Unbelieving Mind to think of death that way―which is the point Franklin was making. But the understanding and interpretation of death captures and reflects one's understanding of life, of being, and of existence. Explore one's view of death and you will come face to face with one's world-view, or religion. Consequently, Athens has a theology of death which exhibits its understanding of life. Jerusalem also has a (very different) theology of death which reflects God's pre-interpreting revelation of absolute truth and, therefore, of life as it really is. Whatever your understanding of death is, it will tell you whether you are a citizen of Jerusalem or Athens.
In developing a Christian Mind we must think carefully the thoughts of God after Him with respect to Death. We must also cast off any remaining vestiges of Athenian miscontruction and misunderstanding of it.
Genesis is very clear. Death is a juridical punishment for sin (which, as we have noted earlier, is the “want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the Law of God.”) In Genesis 2:17 God says to Adam: “. . . but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” Death, then, is the consequence of disobedience to God's commands and directions. When Eve was debating with the serpent, the issue of death was raised again. Eve correctly stated that God had said that if they ate from the one tree, they would die. The serpent, however, flatly denied that eating the tree would result in that juridical punishment: “You surely shall not die,” he said. (Genesis 3:4,5)
Here lies the first clash of arms between the beliefs of Athens and Jerusalem: for Athens, death is never juridical; for Jerusalem, death is always juridical; it is always connected with punishment.
As soon as Adam and Eve ate, the judicial sentence fell. Man entered into a state of Death. The first and immediate consequence was shame. The second was an urgent need to be covered and protected from an external threat. The third was that they hid from God and did not want to be in His presence. (Genesis 3:6―8). But the sentence was progressively worked out upon Adam and Eve throughout their lives, leading finally to their actual physical death when their bodies returned to the dust when they came.
The death of the body, the cessation of bodily function, is the final end to life upon earth―but after the Fall one's entire life existed and exists as under the sentence of Death, which is progressively worked out and which progressively falls through all one's days upon earth. We are born to die. We are born condemned and in the state of judicial punishment. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism so aptly expresses it:
“All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself and to the pains of hell forever.” (Question 19: “What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?”
The first thing to understand about Death, then, is that it is the judicial punishment of Adam and Eve by the Judge of the heavens and the earth for their sin. That punishment and its consequence was progressively exacted over their entire lifetimes upon earth. This makes clear that Death was not, and never has been, natural. The ubiquity of Death has been used within the corridors of Athens as an evidential argument for it being a natural part of life—part of the natural order, as is breathing oxygen, conception, birth, or the existence of the sun, as it were. But God declares that Death is not part of the natural order at all. The only reason Death came to Adam was as a punishment for his sin.
The second aspect is to understand that Adam's sin was not a private individual act. It was a public act, a federal act, in which all humanity was deemed by God to have so acted. The entire race, all of humanity, descending from Adam was caught up and captured in this one crucial act of disobedience. The juridical sentence for that one act of disobedience fell upon all mankind, for all were judged and accounted guilty in Adam.
So, again, the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.” (Question 16: “Did all mankind fall in Adam's first transgression?”). You may ask, Where does the text say that? Where does the Bible assert that Adam's sin was a public act and the guilt of that sin fell upon all humanity descending from him? Well, it doesn't—at least not in Genesis. The reason, of course, is the self-evident existence of Death, its ubiquity, its comprehensive coverage of every creature upon the earth. Genesis does not state it because natural revelation, the universal experience of man—being born to die—made the point evidently clear. After all, name one human being who has not died, or who will not die. Franklin was right—at least with respect to death. Yet death was not part of the original created order. Death was the punishment for Adam's sin. Death, then, being not part of the original Creation which was declared by God to be good, but being the punishment for sin, since all men die, we conclude that all men have sinned.
Later, however, the matter was made explicit in the Bible, yet in a manner which underscores the self-evidence of our relationship to Adam, that he represented us and the guilt of his sin is imputed to every human being (apart from the Lord Jesus Christ—but that's another story.) Paul argues this almost dismissively, almost in passing—underscoring the self-evident nature of the case. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned . . . . Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's offense, who is a type of Him who was to come.” (Romans 5: 12,14)
The guilt of Adam's sin being put to every human being is demonstrated beyond doubt insofar as those human beings, who have never sinned pesonally, are yet subject to Death, sin's penalty. They die! They fall under the juridical sentence of sin. Paul refers to this, when he observes that “even those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's offense” are subject to the reign of Death. Miscarraiges, which Paul alludes to here, are a constant human reality, are the “living proof” that from conception onward, even before a person has done anything sinful by their own thoughts, words, and actions, we bear the guilt of Adam's sin, and its punishment—death. As the Holy Spirit speaking through David said, we are conceived in sin. (Psalm 51:5)
The Believing Mind, then, has a very different view of Death from that which prevails within Athens. In Jerusalem, Death is viewed with horror, as something terribly unnatural, as wrong—despite its universality and ubiquity. Death is a judgement. Its attendant horror and sense of wrongness is inextricably related to it being a judgement and punishment for evil. Our evil. My evil. Thus, in Jerusalem, Death is an enemy. It is my enemy because I have been at enmity with God. I have broken his Law. I reached forth in Adam and ate from the forbidden tree. I have followed it up with a lifetime of disobedience and sinful words, thoughts and deeds. Therefore, I am subject to Death. It is a punishment for sin.
But this great enemy has been and will be defeated because Christ, the Second Adam, has come forth into human history to make atonement for my sin—not only for Adam's sin imputed to me in the first place, but for all sins of which I am guilty by my own device. This is as certain as the reality of sin itself. Therefore, in Christ, the juridical nature of death remains, but is deflected to Christ. The concept of Death as horrible remains, buts its horror is concentrated upon Christ's death in my place on Calvary, where I have already juridically died in punishment for my sin. Therefore, since Christ rose from Death, my own (physical) death when it comes will have utterly lost its sting. As in Christ I died at Calvary, so in Christ I have risen and will rise. In Christ Death died.
Thus, Jerusalem knows that there are two kinds of death amongst humanity: the juridical and the non-juridical. When the citizens of Athens die, it is indeed Death—the juridical punishment of God upon the sinner because of his guilt. When the citizens of Jerusalem die, all juridical aspects have been removed, such that, in due time, physical death itself will be removed in the resurrection to come.
Within Athens there is an utter confusion of babbling voices over Death and its significance. In the first place, it must always be written in lower case. There are those who tell themselves that the dying loved one has gone to a “better place”. They want to ascribe some sort of immortality to the soul, which, having shuffled off its mortal coil, is set freed from this valley of toil and trouble. Other Atheniens fix onto some elements of the Christian Gospel and imagine that the dead has gone to be with a god. Still others imagine that the dead have become gods in their own right. Others tell themselves that there is nothing after death. There is only material reality. Death is the end. So they seek to recount in memory the person and deeds as a way of “keeping them alive” for the living. Others hope that the dead will come back again, in and endless cycle of existence. They will reappear in some other life form or as another human being.
However, amidst this babble of voices there are two doctrines common to all Athenian mythology concerning death: firstly, all Athenians insist that death is neither significant nor important; secondly, all Athens insists that whatever else it may be, death most certainly is not a sentence of judgement upon the sinner. Search all the annals of Athens. You will certainly not find anywhere the doctrine that death is a judgement of the Living God upon sin. You will struggle to find even a hint that death has anything to do with sin or wrongdoing or punishment of any kind at all. That is definitely inconceivable and unspeakable in the streets and drawing rooms of Athens. It is what Athens would call blasphemy.
These two “infallible” doctrines of Athens are, of course, related. In the Garden the serpent emphatically insisted that were Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit they would most certainly not die. The juridical punishment would not fall because there was nothing morally wrong with eating the fruit in the first place. There was a deeper morality, a higher ethic above and beyond God upon which Adam and Eve could rely and draw. God was “in fact” no more than a god, hissed the serpent.
When Death did fall the serpent had to modify the story. The serpent insisted that actually he was right all along. Although Death did come to Adam and his descendants, it was, and is not, a punishment for them doing anything wrong. The serpent's purported higher magic is still valid, he claimed It is just that death is unimportant and irrelevant. It is all part of life, part of being a god unto oneself.
All in Athens are under the thrall of the Devil. They are his seed and children (as we shall see, shortly in Genesis). When it comes to the meaning and significance of Death, they, like their father, follow the original lie utered to Adam and Eve. Death is not a punishment. Death is unimportant. It is simply natural. It is the way things ought to be.
In Athens, Death must always be written in lower case.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Sabbath Meditation #1

One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church

Public worship on the Lord's Day is the holiest activity of our day to day existence. It occurs on the one day in seven which the Lord God has commanded us to set apart (that is, institute as holy) from the other six days of the week. This command and institution has stood from the initial existence of time itself.
But ever since the resurrection of our Lord it has adopted a new significance that it did not represent before. The Sabbath—the day of rest and worship—of recreation and communion of the Lord's people, together with the Lord—took on a universal significance. Our Lord was resurrected, and was therefore appointed the universal Lord over the heavens and the earth. He declared that all power in heaven and on earth, consequent of His resurrection, had been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). In being raised to the right hand of God all enemies were and are going to be placed under His feet (Hebrews 2:8).
As the Son of Man, He is Lord over the Sabbath. In rising, and being made the universal Lord, He necessarily made the Sabbath universal—an institution for all people, in all places. So today, on this holy Sabbath, we join with the saints before God universally. Our gathering is not just of one local congregation, small or large, a handful or thousands, as it may be. Our gathering is universal. We gather and commune as members of “One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church” as the Nicene Creed puts it.
We are gathered from every place on earth. We are gathered out of every social class, every race, every tongue, every clan, male and female, child and adult. We are gathered in one voice and one tongue—that of the Overword—the Word of the Living God. On this day, our resurrected Lord gathers us to the heavenly Jerusalem. In this one great congregation today will be gathered into the City of God not just our local fellowship or our immediate Christian brethren, but also myriads of angels, and the spirits of all righteous men made perfect, enrolled in heaven. Above all, we are gathered into the presence of God. Our Risen Lord summons us on this holy day, to the great universal heavenly convocation before the face of the Living God. (Hebrews 12: 22,23)
For twenty-four hours, as the earth rotates majestically, the songs of praise will be heard gradually spreading around the globe like one great antiphonal choir, each answering to each in song. “Glory be to God the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit” they will sing—and they will be answered as other congregations join, adding their amen.
But, not only do the voices raise to God and His Christ, God Himself actively greets His people. His Spirit this day will pour forth upon the earth, to comfort, to bind, to heal; to bring courage, faith and hope. Tears will be wiped away today. Burdens will be lifted. Hearts will be made light. Thousand this day will be converted out of darkness into light. The myriads of angels will be rejoicing over many lost sheep that will be found today. Just as the great antiphonal earthly choir answers praise with fresh and new praise around the world, so the Living God also answers His people, ministering to them in His grace and mercy.
As we gather for worship on this day, let us do so conscious that we are part of the universal congregation of the Lord, the general assembly and church of the first-born. This, too, is part of the fruit of His resurrection. Because He rose the church has become truly universal. Let us therefore be conscious as we worship of our joining with the universal congregation of the Lord, and let our prayers and thoughts be for our brethren everywhere that God might bless them and keep them, that He might make His face to shine upon them and be gracious unto them; that He might lift up the light of His countenance upon them, and give them peace.
New Zealand has a unique “position” with respect to the Sabbath Day. By providential arrangement of global time conventions New Zealand happens to commence the Sabbath activities first, ahead of all other nations. We, in this far flung outpost of the Kingdom of God, have been granted the privilege of commencing the worship and convocation of the universal church this holy day. Let us, then, truly lead our brethren and sisters in worship of the risen Lord. Let us know that for the next twenty-four hours antiphonal voices will be raised in echo and response. Above all, let us know that our Lord Himself will rise to greet us and be amongst us.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Easter Poem

For those of you who enjoy poetry and in view of the season, ContraCelsum is republishing this wonderfully ironic, yet hopeful piece.


When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 21 March 2008

The Seventh and Final Word

“Father, into Thy Hands I Commit My Spirit”: our Lord’s Seventh Word from the Cross

One of the most beautiful and encouraging epitaphs in Scripture is found in Genesis 25 where the death of Abraham is described. All believers who understand something of the Covenant have a desire to be patriarchs and matriarchs. We long to found a spiritual dynasty—a thousand generations of children, flowing forth from us, that will love the Lord, and will bring glory to Him in the church, in their allotted days upon the earth—even as the Lord has promised us.
Abraham, our father in the faith, is archetypical in this regard. He is the great patriarch. We read, “And these are all the years of Abraham’s life that he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years. And Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people.” (Genesis 25:7, 8)
It is a wonderful picture of the man called the “Friend of God”. It is a portrait of a man blessed by the Lord:—heir of the promises of God; with innumerable descendants to come bound to God by His holy promise; seeing the fulfilment of God’s promise in his son, Isaac; favoured with long days upon the earth; dying in ripe old age; satisfied with life, and being gathered to forbears who had gone into God’s presence already and await his coming. In a fallen world, under the curse of sin, what height of blessedness could one hope to achieve greater than our father, Abraham?
In comparison, our Saviour’s life stands in rude and bitter contrast:--short days upon earth that were filled with suffering and anguish; a life where even the wild animals were better tended and cared for than He; mocked, despised, and rejected; suffering the cursed death of the cross; without heirs or inheritance amongst the covenant people; completely deserted; cursed by God and man; torn apart; utterly broken —a stronger contrast with Abraham’s course could not be imagined.
Yet the two life histories, that of Abraham and the Messiah, are inextricably linked. Indeed we know that Abraham’s blessedness would not have ever transpired, were it not for the later life course of the Messiah. Abraham’s blessedness was brought about by our glorious Saviour’s cursedness. That is why Abraham looked forward, saw the day of the Christ and rejoiced.
Our Lord did not die in ripe old age. He did not die satisfied with life. But He did die. He died with a loud cry—His last word from the Cross. It was not a cry of anguish, but of faith, of hope, of love for His Father. It was also a cry of progress, of moving on—but more of that later.
“Father, into Thy hands I commit my Spirit.” This word, like all the other utterances of our Lord from the Cross, is an official word, full of significance and meaning. There is much more here than meets the eye. In the first place, this word comes as the last of the seven words. It immediately follows His loud, triumphant declaration, “It is finished”. It is over. All things, we are told, had been fulfilled. The Gospel accounts indicate that the seventh word came immediately after the sixth. The two are closely related. The seventh word can be uttered because all had finished. Therefore, this seventh word reflects not just an end of physical life, which is almost incidental, but a beginning.
As we have said before, the Father gave clear confirmation that it was both an end and a beginning by rending the curtain in the temple that barred the way to the Holy of Holies as Jesus uttered these words.
Moreover, this word is yet another quotation from the Psalter. As such it is not random. It evokes something particular and significant. It comes from Psalm 31, written by David; the fifth verse of which says, “Into Thy hands I commit my spirit”.
Our Lord would probably have uttered these words many times as a prayer in the course of His life. They were prescribed by the Rabbis as a short evening prayer, just before sleep. Pupils in synagogue schools, such as Jesus would have attended at Nazareth, were instructed to pray this prayer every evening. Every Israelite was encouraged to pray these words before lying down to sleep. The holy and faithful of Israel, Jesus included, would utter these words every evening as they retired for the night: “Into Thy hands I commit my spirit.”
In the Scriptural repertoire of Israel, then, these words were uttered as people lay down to take evening rest, before arising the next day to serve the Lord. They were not words of capitulation or departure; they were simply not used in that fashion. They were used as an expression of faith that the Lord would keep them while they slept—so that they might arise the next day, greet the Lord in the morning, and re-commence their service of Him.
This suggests that we err if we interpret the final word from our Lord while on the Cross as a capitulation to death, as a final utterance—a kind of death bed speech. We know that this is how the seventh word is most commonly understood. “Father, I die” is how we generally understand the seventh word, or “Father, I surrender to death” is how these words are most often interpreted. Yet, as we have said, that is not how these words were used both providentially and liturgically in Israel—and that would not have been how the Jewish hearers, including the watching disciples, would have understood this final utterance.
Moreover, the fact that these words amounted to a loud cry indicate that it was not a statement of capitulation, of giving in and giving up, but of the power and triumph of faith.
We also need to review the content of Psalm 31 itself. As we said earlier with respect to that terrible Cry of Dereliction, the quote from Psalm 22 evoked all the content of that Psalm. So, we should see that when Jesus quotes Psalm 31:5 as His final word upon earth before giving up His Spirit and dying, He is not using this quotation out of context. Rather His intent is to evoke the meaning of the Psalm itself and call up its true and highest application unto Himself.
Psalm 31 is a song of triumph, of faith, and of redemption, amidst suffering and oppression. It is a cry of praise to God Who has saved the human author, David and has brought him to a place of safety and deliverance.
Now, then, consider the opening stanzas of the Psalm, and think of Golgotha and how these word find their greatest fulfilment in the Messiah:
“In Thee, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed;
In thy righteousness deliver me.
Incline Thine ear to me, rescue me quickly;
Be Thou to me a rock of strength,
A stronghold to save me.
For Thou art my rock and my fortress;
For Thy name’s sake Thou wilt lead me and guide me.
Thou wilt pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me;
For Thou art my strength.
Into Thy hands I commit my spirit;
Thou hast ransomed me, O Lord, God of truth.”

Consider carefully these words. In the context of Psalm 31 we are directed to see in Jesus final word from the Cross, an act of confession of faith in His Father as He passes through the first death. He is declaring that God is His strength, His stronghold, His rock, His fortress. He is proclaiming His belief that as He dies, His Father will lead Him and guide Him, will pull Him out of the net; and that God has ransomed Him. It is in this context that He says in a loud, confident voice, “Father, into Thy hands I commit my Spirit.”
It is clear that the heart and mind of Jesus has already moved on from Golgotha. He is anticipating the resurrection and all that follows. He believes that the love, power, and faithfulness of His Father will raise Him from the dead. It is a given, as we say.
Some time later, on Easter morning, when the women came to the tomb, two angels appeared to them. The women had come with the affairs of death in their hearts and pharmaceutics of death in their hands. (Incidentally, this is one of the most beautiful pictures of faithful service in all the Scripture.) The angels gently rebuked them—almost, one is tempted to think, with wry humour: “Why”, they wanted to know, “are you seeking the Living One amongst the dead?” It was a rhetorical question—almost, as we would say, in the vernacular: “Look, will you please get with the programme.”
They went on, “He is not here, [of course]! He is risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 23:5—7) They could also have added, “Remember His last word on the Cross. Did you not utter that same prayer when you lay down to sleep last night? And have you not risen with the dawn, to be busy about your Father’s work? So, of course, He too has risen to be about His Father’s business. Of course He is not here.”
So we come to the end of days upon earth of the Messiah. All the while we have been on holy ground while we have stood as spectators at Golgotha. Figuratively and spiritually we have had to remove our shoes, as our father, Moses was instructed to do on the mountain of the Lord. In a way, we have been interlopers. We have had no right to be here. Terrible and holy things have been transpiring between the Father and the Son that have kept us transfixed—indeed, they will do so for the rest of our days, upon the earth, and stretching on through eternity.
We have watched through the hours of daylight as the crucifixion began and we have heard His prayer to the Father that the crucifiers be not held immediately to account, for they have acted in ignorance. The time will come when they will know what they have done as His apostles proclaim the Gospel of the Cross throughout Jerusalem. A day of salvation will be offered to the murderers. But the day will turn to night if they do not repent and judgment will fall—as indeed it when the Roman legions fell upon Jerusalem in AD68-70. In this first word from the Cross, we see our Saviour amidst His sufferings still accepting the responsibility of Kingship and directing the affairs of His Kingdom. The faithfulness of our Saviour to His duties is both breathtaking and utterly convicting. Would that may even remotely approximate His nobility and glory!
As we have watched, we have witnessed one of the murderous thieves become converted. With our Saviour we have heard the mockeries and jeering. Our heart has shrivelled. But then we have seen one-who-mocked transformed. He moves from darkness to light. He professes faith in the Saviour. Our dear Lord, from amidst the most unimaginable extremity as He draws nearer to Hell, is comforted and encouraged with a new son of God being added to His Kingdom.
Then, we have heard Him dismiss His mother. It is His last act before He descends completely into Hell. Yes, it was gently and lovingly done. But within there is a steely determination because He is fixed upon His duty to be the brother of all His people, and to regard them as His mother, His brothers and His sisters. His dismissal of His mother is an act of love toward us. For you and for me, He does this. He makes Himself public property, as it were. Thank God that He is willing to be so.
Then the darkness has fallen. For three hours we have watched and waited. The dread and the horror are indescribable. None of us can understand or comprehend. Then we have heard His terrible cry. Never before, or since, was such a cry uttered in the hearing of a living creature. We understand that He has been forsaken for our sakes, that we might never, ever, ever be forsaken of God.
We sense that this terrible Cry of Dereliction is also a Cry of Grandeur, for although He has been utterly hated by the Father for our sakes He does not, will not let His Father go. He loves Him and will think nothing bad of Him. He will trust Him utterly.
Finally, it is over. Our Lord knows that now all things have been accomplished. He asks His Father for help, in that He is thirsty. He needs a drink that He can utter two final words. He gathers His strength, and cries out with a loud voice, “It is finished.” It is over. The darkness lifts.
Then, this final word, “Father, into Thy hands I commit my Spirit.” He dies. But this great word tells us how He dies. He dies in faith. He dies entrusting Himself to His heavenly Father. His times are now in the hands of His Father (Psalm 31:15). He looks to His Father for deliverance and vindication:

“Make They face to shine upon Thy servant;
Save me in Thy lovingkindness.
Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I call upon Thee;
Let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol.” (Psalm 31:16,17)

So we understand that the Saviour gave up the ghost at His own will and command, completely entrusting Himself to His Father. He died, therefore, as He had lived. He arose from the manger. He departed from being the homeless refugee in Galilee. He was striding past the Cross to the house of the Resurrection, to the hill of the Ascension, to the Enthronement and Session upon high, to the pouring forth of His Spirit at Pentecost, to the proclamation of the Gospel to all peoples, to the gathering of the nations, to the discipling of the world, to the subjugation of all His enemies, and to the Last Judgement. It is for these things that departs Golgotha; it is to these things that He entrusts His Spirit to His Father.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

Yes, we were there. As the years pass, we find that we were there, more than we ever thought or imagined. But because we were there, we have, like our Lord, been able to move on, to follow Him, and leave Golgotha. We have died with Him. We been buried with Him. We have also risen with Him. We have ascended with Him. We have received His Spirit. We reign with Him.
And, like our father, Abraham, we are privileged to work for Him and with Him all our days. And by His grace, we too like Abraham will end our years filled with days and satisfied with life. Has there ever been a people so honoured, so loved, so blessed?

To Him be the glory, forever and ever. Amen

These meditations on the Seven Words have been drawn from several sources, but most particularly from the great Klass Schilder Trilogy, in particular Christ Crucified which is a sequel to Christ in His Suffering and Christ on Trial.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Inconvenient Truth Indeed

Chris De Freitas is one of the those annoying academics who just will not shut up. Holding the position of Associate Professor in the School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science at Auckland University, one would think that he would have sufficient sense of academic, social and political decorum to “pull his head in.” Surely he must know that he is increasingly seen as a modern-day luddite, opposing the relentless advance of knowledge.

Such contumacious stubbornness may be laughed off as the crotchety prickliness of an ivory tower academic—a sort of tolerable, even charming, eccentricity—were it not for the magnitude of the issues at stake. For we are dealing with the survival of humanity and a threat to the planet. So enormous are the stakes that even if we are wrong in thinking that the earth is under threat, it is prudent to support everything that attempts to combat global warming—government taxes, government imposed costs, and, yes, more government taxes—because the consequences that possibly face us are just too awful to contemplate. Oh, did I mention more taxes.

Even if we are all wrong, what is the worst that will have happened? We will have just paid more taxes, the government will have got a whole lot bigger, our economy will be carrying a huge drag, and everyone except politicians and bureaucrats will be poorer. That's not so bad. So the poor and the underclass can stay that way a bit longer—well maybe a lot longer actually, but at least they are still alive.

So, it's high time the University Council acted to control this meddling nit picker. Maybe a phone call to remind him who pays his wages would be in order. Good grief, the University got rid of that trouble-maker in the Political Studies department (what was his name—ah, yes, Buchanan, that's right) really quickly. Compared to De Freitas, he was a trifling irritant. He just insulted an overseas student. The stakes are so much higher with the issues in which De Freitas traffics.

What has Chris done now? The NZ Herald (Wednesday, 13th March 2008—incidentally, the Herald is not blameless either—possibly also necessitating a phone call to the editor) carried a piece written by De Freitas (hat tip, No Minister ) in which he reviews some inconvenient truths—well, not truths, theories really, but let's not quibble over words when the salvation of the planet is at stake. In the words of De Freitas:

“It is important to keep in mind that greenhouse gas-induced climate change can also act to substantially reduce sea level.
“There is now a substantive body of research reported in peer-reviewed scientific journal literature that suggests that sea levels, which have been rising since the end of the last ice age (long before industrialisation), are likely to stabilise or fall in a greenhouse-warmed world.
“This is because empirical evidence indicates that a modest warming of the Earth could lower sea level by increasing evaporation from the oceans. The result is increased deposition and accumulation of snow on the polar ice caps, principally in the Antarctic, thereby transferring large amounts of water from the oceans to the ice sheets.
“The reasoning is that if the Antarctic air were to warm, it would still be below freezing, but its water holding capacity would increase as it warms. With more moisture in the atmosphere over the Antarctic, snowfall would increase and ice sheets would grow, locking up water that would otherwise be in the sea.
“In this context, it is significant that during the strong warming episode of 1920-40, sea level rise did not accelerate but actually stopped.”
The threat of rising sea levels has been one of those images and symbols of anthropogenic global warming ideology that is powerfully visceral. If anything makes us sit up and take notice it is the spectre of millions of people crowding on to ever smaller parcels of land—a sort of relentless global tsunami that has the potential to engulf us all in a latter day Noahic deluge.

Now De Freitas wants to prick the balloon, pointing to some extremist hair brained research, that suggests that global warming actually reduces sea levels by aggregating snow over the Antarctic cap. “Substantive body of research”, blah blah; “peer-reviewed scientific journals”, blah blah; “empirical evidence indicates”, blah blah.

Getting everybody on the global warming bandwagon is hard enough, what with antediluvian countries like the US not signing up to Kyoto, and with quibbling wealthy businessmen complaining against deeply flawed emissions trading schemes, and the world apparently getting colder. De Freitas is far more dangerous because he is actually tarnishing our most sacred and powerful marketing image.

Why doesn't someone tell De Freitas that we're just not interested. He is wasting his breath. In fact, maybe we should tell him to stop breathing all together. Go ahead, Chris—reduce our greenhouse gases—step off the planet.

Saving the planet and humanity is a high calling—dare we say it (yes, we should because it is that significant)—more than a high calling, it is Messianic. When we are doing truly Messianic work, saving mankind, doesn't De Freitas understand that we are not going to be deflected or distracted by a few inconvenient truths.

Come on, Vice Chancellor. We have had enough. Pick up the phone. Do the planet and humanity a favour. Make that call!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Wilful Blindness: a Malady of our Times

There is none so blind as those who will not see

Proverbs represent the pithy distillation of wisdom tested by successive generations,and, if deemed true, passed on to next generations. The proverb, “There is none so blind as those who will not see” comments upon the condition of stubborn blindness. A refusal to face the truth or the evidence, for ulterior reasons, leads to the worst form of blindness—a wilful, determined ignorance. Or, as one sage put it, an ignorance that is invincible.

But this kind of blindness is the worst, not just because of its inveterate nature, but because of its moral culpability. It is at root a blindness which is evil since it arises out of an act of the will. In this case, ignorance is not bliss, but wickedness.

It is ironic that modern Athens betrays on every hand this worst form of blindness. Ironic, because modern Athens boasts of its enlightened character. Its much vaunted “scientific method”, its scholarship, its institutions of research, its mass media promulgating knowledge far and wide, its halls of learning, its publicly funded education system, its technological prowess—all play a part in reassuring us that modern man is truly advanced, enlightened, and wise. The modern Athenian citizen has banished all superstition and ignorance from the playground. Or, so the mantra runs.

Every human action, including the discovery and promulgation of knowledge, draws deeply upon a reservoir of assumptions. In the case of learning and research those assumptions will determine from the outset what conclusions you are likely to draw. Evidence or data that conflicts with the pre-determined conclusions will be explained away. There is none so blind as those who will not see.

The honest broker, the truly enlightened, the properly wise commences with a frank disclosure of his fundamental and guiding assumptions. He puts them out there for all to see. He discloses his prejudices from the beginning. He is rigorously self-conscious of them. Of course, this procedure—the only one which avoids the trap of invincible moral culpable ignorance—forces a great deal of humility into academic and learned debates. That's partly why it is avoided like the plague. Declaring one's pre-commitments from the outset forces everyone to face up to the fundamental circularity of all knowledge—which, to the modern rationalist Athenian, is a deep embarrassment.

The dishonest broker will not acknowledge his pre-commitments. Rather, he appeals to the neutrality and objectivity of the facts, of the data, and of his “seeing things as they really are”. His claim to authority is based upon the “evidence”. He presents himself as dispassionate, detached, objective. For him, knowledge is not circular because he, the investigator, has not intruded himself onto the facts. He is not part of the facts. His pre-commitments have not informed him throughout. His net has not determined from the outset what fish he will catch. The dishonest broker, by denying the circularity of all knowledge, including his own, is nothing more than a propagandist.

A couple of examples may serve to illustrate tendency to wilful culpable ignorance. I am currently reading a truly remarkable book (Norman Golb, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? The Search for the Secret of Qumran. [London: BCA, 1995]) The initial modern discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (there were prior discoveries) occurred in 1947. For 50 years it was asserted that these scrolls were produced by a Jewish sectarian community, the Essenes, living at Qumran on the Dead Sea during the time of the incarnation of Christ our Lord.

It has now finally been demonstrated to have been an egregious error. But for 50 years the error held sway amongst scholars, governments, universities, journals and media. Fifty years of error in a supposedly enlightened world! Reputations and careers were made by promulgating the error. Careers were ruined by those with the temerity to question the then current orthodoxy. There is no doubt that the reigning mode of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship for over half a century was flat out dishonest and culpably ignorant. How did this happen in such an enlightened, modern age? It occurred very simply. Here are the steps:

1.Initial scroll research asserted the Essence theory without a full disclosure of the fundamental assumptions lying behind the theory which undergirded it. (In this particular case, the assumptions were utterly baseless, and had never been examined, verified or tested.)
2.Academics began promulgating the theory as established fact—based on the “evidence”.
3.Those who questioned the theory were personally attacked and ridiculed as fantasizing ignoramuses.
4.A wilful sociology of ignorance took over. The more the error was stated, the more widely it was promulgated, the more believable it became. Credulity runs in packs. Repetition means truth. Mantras have huge influence in a culture dominated by culpable ignorance as is the case with modern Athens.
5.As data or evidence was subsequently found that did not fit with the Essene theory, it was explained away (“the evidence was forged”, etc).

Eventually, the theory collapsed and was shown up for the folly that it was from the beginning. So, we had a grand conspiracy—but one where the culpable perpetrators allowed themselves to be duped and then defended their duplicity. They turned out to be nothing more than propagandists. This arose because they suppressed their starting assumptions.

Now, of course, if they had been honest from the beginning and disclosed them, their initial findings on the origin and provenance of the scrolls would have been far more tentative, far less sensational, far more humble, and much more quickly revised and corrected. The circularity would have been evident from the beginning, and therefore much more quickly scrutinized and (in this case) rejected.

A church caretaker once noticed the preacher had left his sermon notes on the pulpit. Scrawled in the margin at one place in the manuscript was the notation: “Weak point—speak more loudly.” The prevailing modern blindness which refuses to accept the circularity of all knowledge and hides fundamental pre-commitments and assumptions has fallen into the same deceit: the modern world thinks that by repeating something loudly and often, it establishes its veracity. Truth becomes a matter of shouting down the opposition. Truth becomes politicized. Truth becomes propaganda.

Another example, far more widespread, is the current prevailing Athenian belief in Evolutionism. This truly has become the Great Lie of the modern world. But it has been allowed to prosper because of the unwillingness of those who recite its mantras and incantations to make its fundamental premises explicit. And for good reason. If they did so, the circularity would soon be scrutinised and shown to be vicious, not virtuous.

Evolutionism asserts the randomness of the universe and insists that randomness accounts for the creation.

Imagine at the commencement of each evolutionist tract the following disclosure was made: “My starting assumption is that the universe is random, chaotic, and the ultimate reality is brute chance.” Who would bother to read further? The very disclosure itself is vitiated by the starting assumption. Or, if the starting assumption is meaningful (that is, we understand the meaning of the proposition) it cannot possibly be true.

Consider some of the assumptions packed into the initial disclosure:

1.“My”: a personal pronoun asserting identity and personality and distinction from those persons who are not “me”.
2.“starting”: the word indicates commencement and implies a procession of events or activities thereafter. Procession implies continuity, connectedness, relation, order.
3.“assumption”: a noun meaning a belief set or a propositional statement, which implies a world where meaning is not only possible but it can be represented in propositional forms.
4.“is”: third person singular, present tense of the verb “to be”, implying continuity of existence, a settled state, non-randomness.
5.“that”: a conjunction, introducing the following noun clause, implying that in the world things such as matter, ideas, and concepts can be joined together and related meaningfully.

We could go on, but the point is made. The initial disclosure that all evolutionists should make only has meaning if the world is anything but what they assert it to be: that is, not random, but ordered in both space and time, such that regularity and continuity actually exist, along with personal identity.

As Karl Popper once said, with respect to Evolutionism: if evolution can be described, it cannot possibly be true. If it were true, it could never be described.

The circularity of Evolutionism is vicious because some of the fundamental assumptions upon which it trades and is built exclude the very possibility of it being asserted or described in the first place. So we are left with loud, insistent repetitions of the nonsense to confirm its veracity. We are left with propaganda.

There are none so blind as those who will not see. Athens is awash with vacuous, wilful, evil ignorance. It is racked with a frenzied suppression of the truth. It has built an edifice of scholarship on a sea of self-contradictory nonsense. Athens is the great charlatan, the peddler of superstitions. But it wills it to be so. It wants it to be so. Anything but the truth. Therefore, God has given it up.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

ChnMind 1.19 The Entrance of Unbelief into Human History

A Snake in the Grass

A mind operating “independently” of God. Musings presuming to operate outside God's pre-interpreting Word. To mankind now, this is “deja-vu all over again”, to quote Yogi Berra. Thinking neutrally, or in a way that presupposes from the outset that God and His Word is external to, and outside of me, is Athens stock-in-trade―now. It happens everywhere, on every hand, in every place. But universality is not an evidence of truth―regardless of how “natural” it may seem.
In Genesis 3, we are confronted with evil. Sin―which is “every want of conformity unto, or transgression of the Law of God”―(Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 15) enters into the world and human history. How it enters is most critical, most instructive. Mind and thought preceeded action. Before disobedience of God acted, it thought. In Genesis 3 we are confronted, for the first time, with the Unbelieving Mind―a Mind which is now both universal and “normal.” So universal is Unbelief that it has become normative. To recover the Christian Mind, we have to lay aside thought frames and patterns that have become normative―the lie―and return to the original―the truth.
The serpent comes to Adam and Eve as a creature―one of the creatures created on the sixth day. While the text is not explicit, subsequent scriptural revelation confirms that the serpent was animated by Satan, a created heavenly being who, shortly after his creation, had rebelled against God. Satan comes to enlist man, the one creature made in God's image, to his ranks. But Satan is incredibly clever. He does not come directly, but obliquely. He chooses the most subtle or clever animal as his emissary. His sole objective is to encourage the man to think “for himself” outside of God, as if he were an independent being. Therefore, the temptation comes “from below” which plays to Adam through the position of authority which Adam held.
How often we have seen this satanic and demonic pattern repeated. Satan will ever take our strengths, play to them, magnify them, exalt them―until they pervert us and lead us into evil.
If Satan had come to Adam in all his malignant demonic power and confronted him as an enemy, demanding his fealty, Adam would immediately have sought security in God. Instead he comes obliquely, indirectly, and seeks to insinuate himself subtly into the mind of man. Adam's defences were down. So the serpent speaks, not directly to Adam, but indirectly. He speaks to Eve.
We can assume that Adam knew that the serpent was acting beyond his created abilities and that he was being animated by another, external being. The assumption rests upon Adam's already demonstrated and confirmed ability to discern the true nature of all the creatures on the earth, and name them accordingly. Further, the text confirms that Adam was present throughout the interchange. Adam was “with her” when Eve took the fruit and ate (Genesis 3:6).
In order to enter into this interchange, Adam had to tolerate a perversion of the structures and order of creation itself. Both Adam and Eve had to allow themselves to be led by an animal. Adam relinquished his God-given duty to exercise dominion and rule over all other creatures upon earth. Secondly, Adam allowed himself to be led by his wife. Tolerating and acting within this perverted order was already to be outside the pre-interpreting Word of God. At the very commencement of the interchange with the serpent, Adam was thinking sinfully.
The serpent leads the woman and the man to a position where they are exercising judgement over God's Word. God had commanded that, whereas they could eat freely from every tree in the garden, there was one from which they were not to eat―the one designated the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:17). Firstly, the serpent asserts a rule that is more restricting than God's command and attributes the more restrictive rule to God. “Has God really said you should not eat from any tree in the garden?” Satan has always delighted to entice God's people to add to God's Word―to make its commands more high, more restrictive, more exacting than God has actually commanded―because that very action makes man the lawgiver, the lawmaker, and implicitly over God. Man's word is thereby more important than God's and carries higher authority. The generation that sets itself up to be stricter than God's Word will be followed by a generation that denies the authority of God and His Word totally.
Next the serpent openly denies the truth of God's Word: “you shall not die!” (Genesis 3:4) God is lying. Neither God nor His Word is true. As Adam and Eve entertained that hypothesis as a possibility, they sinned in their mind, in their thoughts. But to strengthen the proposition, the serpent attributed a motive of envy to God. His explanation as to why God might lie and deceive the woman lay in God's envy of man. In other words, God did not have Adam's best interests at heart. The fallacy of attacking the “man” not the proposition was present right from the first entrance of evil into the world. He also appealed to human pride: if they ate, they would be divine, equal with God. They would know good and evil for themselves. They would be able to determine their own law, independently of, and equal to, God.
Here, then, is the essence of sin and evil. Man, the creature, arrogates to himself the position (the “right”) to work things out for himself, independently of God. Neutrality towards God is actually a position of enmity toward, or rejection of, God. The Unbelieving Mind―for by the stage Eve had gone over to the Dark Side―began to consider two conflicting propositions: either God was true or the serpent was true. Mmm. Let me see now, which is right? That frame of mind is the mind of Unbelief. It is the very essence of Athens. It is when Athens first appeared in human history.
Then Eve engaged in a bit of neutral empirical research. She “saw” that the tree was good for food. That is, she formed the view, contrary to God's command. Her empirical research led her to the conclusion that the tree was a delight to the eyes―it was indeed beautiful. She had forgotten that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that by now her eye was well and truly corrupted. She was no longer seeing things as they were, but was seeing things as she wanted them or constructed to be. Similarly, the tree would make her wise. All of that empirical research on the tree was not neutral; it was informed by and animated by a growing rebellion against God.
So she and Adam ate.
Rationalism and humanism began in the Garden of Eden. Rationalism is the belief that human reason is sovereign over life. By means of reason, man can discover and determine truth for himself. Man can determine truth independently of God. Man can determine God's existence, God's commands on his own authority. Man can verify the Word of God. This belief isas innate to fallen man now, and as unconscious to mankind, as breathing. It only changes when someone is born again from above, by God. When we are born again, when we are subsequently converted from unbelief to belief in God and His Christ, then we are able to stop being rationalists. In principle we move back to the position of Adam before God, before the Fall. We are able, once again, to think God's thoughts after Him. We are able, once again, to see the world truly and truthfully―as it really is. We are able to see and know the world as pre-interpreted by God and His Word.
Humanism is the belief that the ultimate being in the universe is man. Man is the measure and standard of all things. Man is god. All citizens of Athens, all unbelievers, are both rationalists and humanists―regardless of whatever denominational stripe they may adopt. Of course, rationalism and humanism are in themselves idolatries, and, like any and every idolatry, will be ultimately destroyed. Pity the unbeliever who clings to his idols.
But―and here is where Jerusalem needs to grow up―the currency of the realm of rationalism and humanism is neutrality. Athens both presupposes and asserts that data and truth have an objective reality―a meaning that is of itself and from within itself. When Eve conducted her empirical investigation on the tree, deciding that it was desireable and so forth, she was framing reality according to her (already) sinful mind. But the assumption, the presupposition upon which she proceeded was that these supposed characteristics of the tree existed independently of God and had reality apart from God. She could investigate, learn, prove, and conclude these things whether God existed or not. (Which is to say that Eve had already decided that God did not exist. She was already replacing Him mentally with a false god―one who was envious and evil.) Man, likewise independent of, neutral toward, and objective over the data can discover and determine truth for himself. Man can prove God, or disprove God. It matters not.
To assert that man can prove or establish God, is to assert that the God revealed in the Scriptures cannot possibly be true. In “proving” God, the rationalist by that action or proof disbelieves the God of Scripture. There is no other possibility. There is no neutral, middle ground. Either God establishes and pre-interprets man, or man establishes and pre-interprets one or more gods.
When Christians―no doubt with all the best intentions in the world―seek to clothe themselves with the garb of rational neutrality so they can go down to the Athenian market place and seek to discuss the “facts” with Unbelievers in an effort to get them to believe, they regress to the lying attitudes adopted by the serpent and Adam. They have compromised the truth of God and His world before they start. They have again put on the smelly rags of Unbelief. God, as Calvin says so acutely, is not served by our lies.
Or, to approach the issue in another way: the Believing Mind knows that there is not one atom or sub-atomic particle in the universe that does not depend for its existence utterly and completely upon God. To enter a discussion where man is invited to consider, determine, or confirm for himself whether that might be the case is to take the form and shape of the serpent. It is to make man the measure of all things, including God.
Athens is idolatry. Everything it is and does is idolatrous. Jerusalem has been delivered from Athenian idolatry, but like our fathers in the desert who longed to return to Egypt, many citizens of Jerusalem employ rationalist and humanist modes of life. Nowhere is this more evident than at the point of interchange between believers and unbelivers. Many Christians think the only way they can appeal to unbelievers successfully is to go and stand with unbelievers on their fields of idolatry and lead them step by step to the Christian faith.
A favorite approach has been to argue the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If we reasonably consider the evidence for Jesus' resurrection it becomes clear that overwhelming evidence is attached to the event. As we work through the evidence and the rational arguments arising out of the evidence, unbelievers will be confronted by the truth and will be lead to faith―or so it is claimed.
This leads us to ask whether the problem that confronted Adam and Eve in the garden was a lack of evidence. Adam had the facts, the truth, all around him. The problem was not the facts or the obscrurity of the evidence. The problem lay in Adam filtering the evidence through mind of Unbelief―the mind of sin. How could that happen? It happened as soon as he asserted a “right” to examine the evidence “neutrally”, outside of God, for himself.
Thus, to return to the issue of leading people into the Kingdom by means of objective, neutral, “just the facts, ma'am” consideration of the resurrection or any other Christian doctrine, the rationalist will say, in heart, “Even if I am persuaded that the facts indicate that Jesus did actually rise from the dead, they are utterly uncompelling in convincing me to become a Christian. For if I can establish such truth for myself, why do I need God at all? If I can establish that Jesus rose from the dead, I can un-establish it. After all, in a random world, such things as resurrections may actually occur. But the significance and meaning of that random event, I will determine for myself.”
God is not well served by our lies. If we stand with Unbelievers in the field of Unbelief and join with them in their lies agreeing with them that they we can verify and establish God as it seems good to them, we are promulgating a lie. We are entering into the age-old Satanic deceit. There is a snake in the grass.
God alone is true. Every man, apart from the One, is a liar. And Satan is the father of lies, from the beginning. So entered sin into the heart and mind of man.