Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Three points of the Gospel: Manger, Cross, Crown

I debated with my self about posting this video for several reasons. First of all it’s long (about 50 min), and secondly I try to be original in what I post. However, Tim Keller is amazing, everything I’ve heard from this guy continues to amaze me.

In this particular message that was a part of the Dwell Conference from 2008 in New York City, Keller address the question, “What is the Gospel?” His message is titled “Dwelling in the Gospel,” and it really gets into the vastness of the Gospel message.

You can link to the video here…

http://theresurgence.com/Keller_Dwelling-in-the-Gospel-video

Summary of Tim Keller’s Message:
He highlights the tension scholars have discuses for years, in that the Bible presents several different Gospels, yet claims there is only one. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke) present the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. John’s Gospel presents the Gospel of Eternal Life. And the Pauline Epistles present the Gospel of Justification.

Furthermore, Paul would argue that there is only one gospel in Galatians chapter one, but then in Galatians 2 he mentions his gospel is for the Gentiles and Peters in for the Jews… SO THERE IS ONE GOSPEL… BUT THEY ARE MANY?

Tim Keller addresses this question by concluding there is one Gospel, but that it has three main points; the Incarnation, the Cross, and the New Creation.

And if I categorized them correctly from his message it looks something like this table below…

table 2

Keller then goes on to say that how we present the Gospel depends much on our audience. Paul did not always present the gospel the same. In fact as Keller speculates that Paul made great distinction in his presentation between the Gentile and the Jew (the morally cognitive, and the morally relative).

Moreover, it would defeat power of the Gospel to address each of these every time, or to assume that “one size fits all.”
This video to me settles much of my uneasiness I’ve had about the gospel of personal conversion verses the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, which I addressed in my earlier posting, “The Presentation of the Gospel: An inspiring look at the news of the Kingdom of God. Part 1 & Part 2

I liked Keller question to the crowd to examine the “tension between people pushing an individual conversion agenda verses a corporate community agenda.”

There needs to balance… I agree. I was raised under the personal conversion classical evangelical 4-point gospel presentation, and I since then I have swung over to the “corporate community justice” gospel. But churches, our people, and our communities are in need of the full gospel if they are to be reached with maximum impact.

One last thing to mention… I enjoyed his comment (which he learned from his professor) that “the essence of the cross is substitution,” because as he said, in every instance and theory Jesus is doing the action on our behalf, whether liberating, or ransoming, or restoring, or reconciling, or saving, or justifying… we cannot do it on our own.

My hope now is that you will, or that you already have, watched this message from Tim Keller.

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Jesus Picture of Perfect God, or Perfect Man?

jesus man

“The truth is that the Man who walked among us was a demonstration, not of unveiled deity but perfect humanity.” A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy.

We often equate Jesus life on the earth as this great picture of God among us. However, this is not an appropriate statement. God did not come to this earth to completely reveal himself, but to completely reveal what was lost in the fall off mankind. Jesus is the picture of original humanity. Jesus is our example to live by, not as a picture of God, because we are not supposed to be “God” (for there is only one God) but we are supposed to be as God first created mankind, like Jesus. We are not to be god-like(per say), but Christ-like. We are not called to fill the role of God, but our role as men and women created of God.

Jesus was perfectly united with God in relationship and action. And because of this he was able to point others to the Father. Jesus did not point to himself as the embodiment of everything God was and is. He was nonetheless still God, but his purpose was to restore the knowledge of what it means to be human. He is the Second Adam. He reflects everything Adam was created to be. He was the restoration of a righteous heritage rather than sin nature. He communed and walked with God as man was originally supposed to. At every point Jesus restored, to a fallen and lost humanity, the knowledge of what it means to be human.

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The Existence of Demons Revisited

asselerant

This post is a follow up to a post I had written in January, “So what’s is the reality of Satan, demons, and the spiritual world? Truth or Fiction?”

The major dilemma I discussed in the existence of demons is there purpose. Traditionally it has been taught that demons temp mankind to sin. However, this contradicts Scripture. For it’s written, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed (James 1:14).” Therefore if man’s lust and pride is the root of sin, what then is the purpose of demons?

Yet, after spending time reflecting on this issue and talking with others I feel I have come a suitable answer.

To deny the existence of demons would be to deny the reliability of the New Testament and it’s witnesses. Demons were not just an expression of the  “primitive” minds of the 1st century. Luke in his gospel account records both sickness and demon possession. Demon possession was not a misdiagnosis for the unknown illnesses.

Thus, if demons are real, as the New Testament claims, what is their function? It seems that they function like an accelerant to mans sin. Man does sin because he wants to, because he chooses to, because of his own lust and pride. Demons only add fuel to this fire accelerating mankind’s temptation. Present within Adam and Eve was the pride to “be like God.” All Satan did was hasten there fall by feeding them misinformation; misinformation that tickled the ears of Adam and Eve so that they felt comfortable sinning.

The same principle could apply to Jesus at the end of his 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. He was hungry, so the devil took advantage of his accelerate his desires. Likewise when he tempted him in the other areas. And when Jesus has resisted the devil for the third and, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time (Luke 4:13).”

The devil only exploits opportunities. He does not create them. The human heart is wicked. Jeremiah 17:9 declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

So we cannot pass the blame of sin onto demons, nor are they the unseen cause behind our temptation. Mankind is still responsible for their outworking of their pride and lust, which is sin. Demons only exploit the opportunity of our fallen nature.

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The Richness of Atonement Theories

As a Disclaimer this post is long. But well worth the read if you interesting in Atonement theology.

This had been an area of theology that I have spent considerable time investigating.  Atonement theology is at the core of Christian Theology, and depending how you view the work of Christ on the Cross will be reflected in all the other aspect of both the practical and impractical side of theology.

atonement

Atonement Theology

The Importance of Integrated Theology.
Theology is an integrated area of study, and it works to our disadvantage by compartmentalizing its many different facets. To study atonement without the understanding of its relationship to the rest of theology would be detrimental to its significance. The atonement would be meaningless without the depravity of man; it would be powerless to display the love of God without the incarnation, and it would be hopeless without the promise of a resurrection.

The Importance of Identification in Atonement Theories.

Yet atonement theology remains one of the most vital areas of study in Christian theology. And the fact that the church has not ratified a single view of the atonement speaks to the imperative value of identification between the sacrifice and the sinner. As one commentator writes, “The use of animal sacrifice relied heavily on the idea of identification between the sinner and the animal.1” The gravity of the human need is vast, and no single theory can bridge the gap. Therefore, each individual has the opportunity to identify with Christ in a different way. To some Christ is their liberator, to others the reconciler, or purifier, and yet still to others, their ransom, victor, or vicarious substitution.
Furthermore, this concept of identification is also what helps defend unlimited atonement against both limited and universalism. The debate between these three views is one of the classic controversies over atonement. Because if Christ died for all, why are some still judged for their sin? Shouldn’t all be saved? And to defend this idea a limited view of the atonement arose that states, Christ only died for those who would be saved. However, the concept of sacrificial identification settles this dispute. It is not simply enough that a sacrifice was given, but the sinner also had to identify with that which was being sacrificed.

The Importance of the Atonement and its Many Faces.

Traditionally there are five main possible views of the atonement; ransom to Satan, recapitulation, example/moral influence, governmental, concluding with the prominent view of modern atonement theology satisfaction/penal substitution. Yet by limiting the atonement to Penal Substitution, one is left with an incomplete humanity. The human need is greater than the provision of Penal Substitution. So to understand the atonement one must re-examine the doctrine of depravity.
Dwight Pentecost describes the depravity of man saying that, “men have slipped past the point of no return. They have gone over the cataract of sin, and have been swept into the state of sin. They are slaves of a sin-nature. They are producing the fruits of sin. They are spiritually dead; they are under judgment; they are under Satan’s power. That is what it means to be depraved. Man is not as bad as he can be, but man is as bad off as he can be. He is lost.2” This is a rather comprehensive definition. Although when discussing the work of the atonement one must not forget about the falls destructive effects on creation, and the provision which was also included in the atonement. This is why the atonement is the culminating theological event that not only reshaped history, but also redefines salvation theology. As Martin Hengel writes, “No human death has influenced and shaped the world of late antiquity, and indeed the history of mankind as a whole down to the present day, more than that of the Galilean craftsman and itinerant preacher who was crucified before the gates of Jerusalem in AD 30 as a rebel and messianic pretender.3”

Therefore this paper will defend six different atonement views. The six views are Sacrifice, Justification by Grace, Penal Substitution, Liberation from Sin, Death, and Demonic Powers, the Renewal of Creation, and the Wondrous Love of God 4.
Each of these six different atonement theories were developed under unique circumstances, and those circumstances are reflected by the need that each theory addresses. Walter Rauschenbusch expresses this very idea as he writes, “It is important to note that every theory of the atonement necessarily used terms and analogies taken from the social life of that age. And that the spirit and problems of contemporary life are always silent factors in the construction of theory.5”

This is also why atonement theories circulate over time, rising and falling in popularity. The different atonement theories concentrate on a specific set of spiritual needs and their adherents identify with a particular atonement narrative as it relates most closely with their life. “Theories connect the story of Jesus with the believers in a new time and place. By identifying the needs of their context, the authors portray the saving power of Jesus in ways that draw a new generation into the believing community.6”

Another way of viewing all of these six different theories as a part of one larger united theology is by defining them by their object 7. The objects of the different atonement views are the law, sin & powers, creation, or mankind. It’s like four witnesses who testified about the same car accident. Each testimony is true but different. Likewise, the different atonement theologies are valid and correct, but different in their aim, and scope. This is possible because they have, as their foundation, the narrative theology of the Gospels, and the contextualized Epistles of the New Testament. This is why there is not one single view, but a melding of different views because each time it was written to address a different group of people, experiencing a different set of circumstances. In fact, Paul is the earliest pioneer of reshaping the purpose of the atonement to tackle the needs of his audience.  In Romans and Galatians he speaks of the atonement as Justification for both the Jews and the Gentiles. And later, in Corinthians he uses the atonement to address the needs of reconciliation within the body of Christ.
Moreover, upholding these six theories is not a defense of religious tolerance or an invitation for religious syncretism. Instead it is allowing the rich multitude of Scriptures, doctrine, and Christian traditions to bless the understanding of Christ’s work that was accomplished on the cross.

Sacrificial Atonement.
The Sacrificial View of Atonement draws heavily upon Old Testament imagery and law. The two primary sacrificial treaties that are related to the death of Christ, are Passover and Yom Kippur (or the Day of Atonement). It is interesting to note that these two sacrifices accomplished strikingly different results.  The Passover was done in remembrance of the 10th plague of Egypt, in which the angel of the Lord would pass over and spare the households that were covered by the blood of a lamb. On the other hand, Yom Kippur was instituted as the purification sacrifice for the tabernacle and the people. A lamb’s blood was sprinkled to symbolize the washing and cleansing of sins.
The New Testament authors fuse the imagery of the Passover lamb and the Atonement lamb. Jesus as the Atonement lamb is proclaimed by John the baptizer, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)!”  Yet, the imagery of the Passover lamb is self-attributed by Jesus.  During the last supper Jesus initiates a new ordinance as he replaces the blood and flesh of the Passover lamb for His blood and body. This theme is even expressed in Paul’s writings as he labels Jesus the Passover lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7.

Justification by Grace Atonement.
The Justification by Grace View of atonement (and the following view, Penal Substitution), both make light use of Biblical imagery and extensive use of the legal language of justification 8. The basic outline of the Justification by Grace Theory is that sin is a violation of covenant law, which results in the separation of man and God, and heralds the judgment of God upon man. It is impossible for man to ever bridge this gap of separation, or to make peace with God. So God, in his love, sent his son to die on the cross, so that by faith (and not by works) man could be justified before God, united and spared from wrath.

Penal Substitution Atonement.
Penal Substitutionary atonement parallels this basic legal outline. The major differences being (as its title makes reference), the focus is on the divine requirements of the law. The penal law required that, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22).” Death was required from all men as their punishment for transgressing the law of God (Romans 6:23). However, God in his love not wanting to be eternal separated from man, provided his son as the vicarious substitution for all of mankind.  Therefore in his death men are released from the payment of sin because Jesus paid for it on the cross.
Wayne Grudem defend that the Penal Substitutionary view is the heart of the atonement. For he writes “there is an eternal, unchangeable requirement in the holiness and justice of God that sin be paid for, “ adding, “Before the atonement could have an effect on our subjective conscious, it first hand an effect on God and his relationship to the sinner. 9” Paul Enns also labels this theory the “emphasis of the New Testament, 10” and the fulfillment of the Isaiah 53:5 prophecy that states, “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.”

Liberation Atonement.
However, turning the page one discovers the Liberation of Sin, Death, and Demonic Powers Theory of atonement. It is said that “the New Testament overflows with references to two aspects of the saving work of Christ: forgiveness of sins and liberation. 11” The Liberation view gained ground in the wake of World War I and II, and with the rise of liberal, neo-orthodoxy, and social gospel theologies.  Men like Walter Rauschenbusch argue against a cosmic or divine accounting and transference of sins to the cross of Christ. Instead he writes, “he [Jesus] did in a very real sense bear the weight of the public sins of organized society, and they in turn are causally connected with all private sins. 12” Moreover, men like John Howard Yoder write, “The cross of Calvary was not a difficult family situation, not a frustration of visions of personal fulfillment, a crushing debt or a nagging in-law, it was the political, legally to be expected result of a moral clash with the powers ruling his society. 13”

Liberation Theology operates under the general assumption adopted from Immanuel Kant, “that we have it within our powers to reform ourselves. 14” Yet, it should be noted that power within stems from the theological assertion that we have been liberated by Christ to live for him. And unlike the previous theories which divide and bicker over the nature of justification verses sanctification, liberation atonement expresses that salvation occurs by the incarnation of the Word of God, and sanctification, or the ability to live out God’s will, was provided in the liberating work of the cross. The Liberation view of atonement stresses the call to social action as well as personal reform. Unlike justification and Penal Substitution advocates who might have a tendency to become comfortable resting on justification by grace through faith, liberation advocates actively seek to be a force that emancipates man from evil powers.

Renewal of Creation Atonement.
The Renewal of Creation view of atonement may sound like it was created just in time for earth day, but its roots branch back to the Fourth Century, to a theologian named Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria. Contrasting the four previous views of atonement, the Renewal of Creation Theory takes a completely new and different approach to viewing God’s work through Christ on the cross.  The outline of this theory is that through Jesus all things were created but in the fall all had been lost, even the knowledge of God. However because of the love of God and the divine purpose of creation, God sent Jesus into the world to “renew creation” in his life, “restore life in the face of death,” forgive sins and “restore the true knowledge of God. 15”

Wondrous Love Atonement.
The Wondrous Love view of atonement affirms that the primary reason for Jesus’ life and death, and in fact all of God’s interactions with mankind, has been to demonstrate the love of God. 1 John 4:16b-17 supports the concept that love is the fundamental characteristic of God, saying, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.” And although, “some of the legal concepts of the atonement have obscured the love of God in the death of Christ. 16 ” Love still remains as one of the chief expressions of God throughout the different atonement theories. It is the common thread that intertwines all the atonement views together.
The outline of the Wondrous Love Theory of atonement is that God’s reason for creating the world was love, and the relationship between God and man is regulated by the love of God and it’s result: obedience. This unity in love that was present in the original relationship of mankind and God was corrupted by the sins of pride and self-centeredness.  Therefore, in the incarnation God came to demonstrate his love and obedience, which were completed in atonement. In the resurrection, God vindicates Jesus and “makes him Lord, thereby establishing a new community of Love for the sake of the world’s redemption. 17”  The basic principle of this atonement view, and the very reason for its universality, is that as God demonstrates his love, man will respond by loving God.

The Importance of Love in the Atonement: the Thread that Binds.
Today evangelicals pronouncement of the gospel is, “Jesus loves you and died for your sins.” Theologically many would affirm that the significance of this phrase is the forgiveness of sins. Yet, what stirs the heart and creates the change in people’s lives is the response to the love of God.  1 John 4:19 decrees “We love because he first loved us.” Not only did God take on the likeness of a man, dwell as a servant among his creation for 33 years, but he also submitted his life to death in the ultimate revelation of humility and love. This is one of the strongest attracting forces of the cross. The symbol of God dying for mankind (in every atonement theory) has an irresistible moral influence of the heart of man. Skeptics accuse the Old Testament to depict a God of Wrath and the New Testament a God of Love. And their criticism is not completely unmerited. The epicenter of the New Testament is the life and death of Christ, which is the greatest revelation of God’s love in all of history. Theologians want to see a systematic God that displays all of his attributes in equal proportion throughout all of his actions. Yet, God does not do this. Instead he tends to highlight only one of his many characteristics at any given time in history. And the atonement without a doubt is the demonstration of God’s love.

Footnotes

  1. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power: Theories of Atonemnt and Forms of the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishng Company, 2005). Pg 21.
  2. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things Which Become Sound Doctrine (Gand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1965). Pg 16.
  3. Martin Hengel, The Atonement: The Origins of the Doctrine in the New Testament (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1981). Pg 1.
  4. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 11.
  5. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock).
  6. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 7.
  7. J. Denny Weaver, The Nonviolent Atonement (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001). Pg 70.
  8. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 56
  9. Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrines: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999). Pg 254
  10. Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989). Pg 232.
  11. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 123.
  12. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock). Pg 247.
  13. John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Willaim B. Eerdmas Publishing Company, 1972). Pg 132.
  14. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 124.
  15. Ibid. 170, 171.
  16. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel. Pg 272.
  17. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 290.

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The problem of God & the existence of evil.

evil and god

There seems to be a contradiction by the affirming of all four of these propositions:

•    God exists
•    God is all-good
•    God is all-powerful
•    Evil exists

Because is God is real, all good and all-powerful, then evil would not exist.
Or God is real, all good, but not all-powerful and this is why evil exist.
Or God is real but not all good, so in power he created evil.
Or lastly God is not real and evil therefore exists.

Or are they all right!?

The problem with this argument has to do with the arrangement of this argument. “Evil” is spoken of as a being, as a thing. But evil is not a thing or a being.

“Things are not evil in themselves. For instance, a sword is not evil. Even the stroke of the sword that chops off your head is not evil in it’s being—in fact, unless it is a “good” stroke, it will not chop off your head. Where is the evil? It is in the will, the choice, the intent, the movement of the soul, which puts a wrong order into the physical world of things and acts—the order between the sword and a neck… Augustine defines evil as disordered love, disordered will. It is a wrong relationship, a nonconformity between our will and God’s will. God did not make it we did.”
(this quote and the one above were taken from Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics, by Peter Kreeft & Ronald K. Tacelli, Pg 45,46.)

God cannot create evil, because in him there is not evil, there is no disunity in his persons. God is holy, united, perfect love. However, as created beings we are not perfectly united with our creator, we live in relationship with Him. In that relationship there is an ebb and flow. The further our relationship grows apart from God the more “evil” we become in our heart, minds, and actions. Likewise, the closer we draw to God, and unify ourselves with him, the less evil we become in our heart, mind, and actions, or the more holy our heart, mind, and actions become.

Evil will always exists until man becomes perfectly united with God.

This is why Jesus prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23

*So in one sense God did create evil, because he did create something different than himself, which opened Pandoras box for evil. However, looking at it from another direction God did not create evil. He created us and we created evil…  So can we really blame God?

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