Theology Thoughts

No Darkness Whatsoever

1 John 1:5b can be translated “God is light and darkness doesn’t exist in Him even slightly.” Continue reading

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Seeking First the Kingdom

I am sharing this extended quote from David Allen Black’s book Running My Race: Reflections on Life, Loss, Aging, and Forty Years of Teaching. It comes in the middle of the section on Aging (pages 94-95 if you’re reading along). The words below will speak for themselves. If you’re looking for a book to challenge how authentically you are living your life (and who isn’t, right?), I highly recommend this book. Continue reading

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Loved Me Thus

Foolishly I disaffected the law of the Most High
By exalting self-sufficiency and basking in my pride.
And yet you saved me from your wrath when I was truly lost;
Almighty, holy, righteous God, you have loved me thus:
You gave your own eternal son to die upon the cross,
By grace–repentance and my faith–your perfect righteousness.

My mind, oh Lord, it yearns to ponder wretched, fleeting thoughts,
And overlook the awe and wonder of You, immortal God.
Still, you have saved me from your wrath so I’m not truly lost;
Almighty, holy, righteous God, you have loved me thus:
You gave your own, eternal son to die upon the cross,
By grace–take captive every thought—your perfect righteousness.

I am a heathen on my own, ravening in despair;
Unaided I am helpless–unyielding, though, in prayer.
Daily you save me from your wrath or I’d be truly lost;
Almighty, holy, righteous God, you have loved me thus:
You gave your own, eternal son to die upon the cross,
By grace–God’s power dwells in me–your perfect righteousness.

No matter how I meet the Son–be it rapture or in death,
He will say to me, “Well done! Enter into my rest.”
Fully you save me from your wrath, no part of me is lost;
Almighty, holy, righteous God, you have loved me thus:
You gave your own, eternal son to die upon the cross,
By grace I’ll wear forever more your perfect righteousness.

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In the Beginning: Is Age the Issue?

The foundation for understanding the purpose of the Bible is a correct understanding of the meaning and purpose of Genesis 1-2. The first word of Genesis 1, “בראשית”, denotes the beginning of time and is essential to the doctrine of “ex nihilo.” In addition to showing God’s transcendence, the very idea of “beginning” with this particular word brings with it the connotation of an ending. The texts referring to the events of the beginning and the end of the work of God give limited details concerning timing. Therefore, it seems evident that dating is not the primary focus of the author. What is evident, however, is a rising emphasis on each section as the creation process proceeds. Few details are given at the beginning of creation and more are given on each subsequent day. At the end, the reader reaches the apex of creation: the blessing of man. This account spills over into the next chapter and becomes the catalyst to God’s redemptive history. In order to properly interpret these two chapters, the reader must pay attention to the linguistic clues given by the author. By investigating these clues of word choice, intertextual links to other passages and the immediate context, one will understand that the purpose of the Genesis 1-2 account is not necessarily to date God’s creation–though there are some temporal ideas–but to show the purpose of God’s creating.

The age of the earth is not the primary concern of this text. Sailhammer has suggested in The Pentateuch as Narrative, that there are three purposes for the first verse in Genesis: to identify the creator, to explain the origin of the world, and to tie the work of God in the past to the work of God in the future. The explanation of the origin of the world appears to take place in three stages. Lioy cites J. Templeton’s “Encountering the infinite” stating that the three stages of creation in Genesis 1-2 are as follows: I. The Primordial Earth (1:1-2), II. The Ordering of Creation (1:3-31), III. The Perfect Result (2:1-3).

Some scholars have argued that the temporal words are used only as symbols. Hodge concludes that the similarities between the text of creation and that of the description of the temple necessitate a symbolic view of creation and that they “represent a sacred event, not the time period of that event.” Hodge may be correct that the purpose of Genesis 1 is not to date the earth, but one cannot deny that the author uses temporal language to describe the acts of God. And while it may be helpful for there to be less emphasis given to the temporal ideas which are not presently clear in the text, denying any temporal meaning is also not helpful. Indeed, when God gives the ten commandments to Moses he compares what the Israelites do on the seventh day to what God did on the seventh day. Therefore, removing time altogether would remove meaning from the command about the Sabbath.

So, while time is not the primary focus, there are some temporal themes present which need to be addressed. The first theme encountered is one argued from grammar. Many scholars have argued that there is a gap between verses 1:1 and 1:2, or 1:2 and 1:3. This gap between God’s original creating of the heavens and the earth in 1:1, they argue, allows for an indefinite period of time to pass. A gap here allows for many unanswered questions about the creation account to be shoved into this time. A few of these include the angel rebellion, dinosaurs, and old earth. While this may be a possibility and smooths out some supposed inconsistencies between faith and science, it also detracts from the authors purpose of this text, which is to show God’s creative power and establish his rule over his creation.

What is likely the most debated temporal idea comes in verse five. The author writes describing the work of God, when he separated the light from the darkness, that “There was evening and morning, one day (translation mine).” Most English translations render this “the first day.” However, it seems as though the author used this phrase intentionally (he could have said “first day” if he wanted) in order define how he would be using the word “יום” in the following verses.

It has been argued in the past that even though the author uses the word “day” in these verses, he may not mean a literal day. It is written in various texts (cf Ps 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8) that a day for God could be a thousand years as we reckon it. The author of Jubiliee gives an example from Genesis 2:17, stating that God told Adam and Eve that they will die that day, yet it is recorded that Adam died at the age of 930. It would be odd, however, to use “day” as a thousand years–or any longer period of time–in conjunction with evening and morning descriptors.

Some have also argued that the days could not be literal because the celestial bodies, which is used to measure time were not fashioned until verse 14. However, it should not be difficult to believe that the God who created heaven and earth and everything in them (including time) could relate to mankind his creation process with respect to time. Perhaps he could do so even though the objects which humans use to understand time had not been fashioned or set in place as they are known today. In order to understand this better, it may be helpful to remember that Moses was not standing next to God at creation narrating what God was doing. Rather, many years after God had created all things, Moses wrote as he was carried along by the Holy Spirit, using language with which his readers would be familiar.

Another problem that many scholars have found with the timing of the creation account occurs in relationship between chapters one and two. Some have argued that there are, in fact, two contradicting creation accounts which take place in these chapters. Their argument states that on the one hand God creates everything in six days and rests on the seventh in chapter one. On the other hand, in chapter two, the author uses the phrase “ביום,” denoting a day, singular. Many translations render this as “in the day,” leading to an interpretation that Genesis two gives the picture that everything was created in one day.

There are a few problems with that argument. First, that word-phrase is used 138 times in 130 different verses in the Pentateuch. Depending on the context, this phrase can be used as the general temporal marker “when” or be rendered more literally “in the day.” When ordinal numbers, definite articles, or demonstrative adjectives are present, this phrase is most frequently used to mean “in that day,” or similar phrases. However, when these modifiers are missing, the phrase is used equally “when” or “in that day.” In addition, the other time the phrase “ביום” is used in connection with ״,תּוֹלְדֹ֖ת״ in Genesis 5, the translation “when” is used. In fact, the only two times in the first five chapters of Genesis that this construction is translated as “in the day” instead of “when” are Genesis 2:4 and 2:17. Both of these verses give interpreters trouble because “in the day” does not seem to fit naturally in either context and thus should be translated as “when.”

In conclusion, the author of the text of Genesis 1-2 has written this text in a way that the reader might understand that everything was created by God and that it was formed and given purpose in seven literal days. It is not clear whether this happened immediately after God created everything from nothing or if there was a gap between the creation and forming. The vagueness concerning the dating of the earth should point the reader to find the meaning of creation in the text; the one who created the heavens and the earth has given it a purpose which culminates when he makes man in his image.

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A Run in the Dark

I’m going to have to set the stage for this one: I was running late in the evening (as is my wont) and my jaunt took me to the historical district of Wake Forest down N. Main St. It wasn’t quite 10:00 PM but there were a few clouds out. Needless to say, it was quite dark where street lights were not installed. This was even more true where the trees had matured, growing over the sidewalks and blotting out any light. While my eyes could and would grow adjusted to the darkness, every so often a gap in the tree line would allow for a small amount of light to break through and re-disorient my eyesight. This wasn’t my first trip around the block (literally or otherwise), however, and I made sure to lift my feet just a bit higher to make sure that I didn’t fall prey to some mischievous and uneven crack in the sidewalk. What I had not prepared for was what lay ahead.

Just like cloud watching, shadows often resemble identifiable objects; I have dodged many ethereal people in my nighttime runs. This shadow, however, did not a person but rather a dog. As I approached the dog it disappeared, just as most of the other figures I encounter–but not without a bit of foreshadowing. A few steps later there was a medium to large white dog standing in the middle of the sidewalk. I say it was medium to large, but honestly I jumped off the sidewalk, out of the way and ran past it so quickly that I didn’t really get a good look at it. As I passed I did see the owner out of the corner of my eye and let out a surprised and anxious chuckle as I realized what I had just done.

Then my mind started to think: Why did I startle? The dog wasn’t that big and I wasn’t scared of it–if it came down to it, I’m fairly certain I’d have won that fight (big black dog–little white dog, Mike). On top of all of that, I know that Jesus holds all of the world (including my fate) in his hands. Like many people, I encountered a situation that didn’t mesh with my worldview. So I had a couple of options.:

1. I could rewrite what I believed about the world and thus reinterpreting what the Bible has said based on my experiences. By that I mean I could read my experiences and thoughts into the Bible so that it said what I wanted it to say.
2. I could review what I believe the Bible says and then view the previous events based off that. In this case, it is likely that it wasn’t that this experience clashed with my worldview, but that my worldview was incomplete in this point and I needed to fill in some gaps.

I’m afraid that too many times in life we try to rewrite the Bible based on how we feel or what we experience rather than viewing our lives through the lens of God’s timeless truths. The first will leave us in a state of despair hopping from one ideological position to another, lost in a state of relativity. The second gives us hope that no matter what we experience here on earth, God sits on his throne and has a plan to redeem all of creation for his glory.

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Beginning of the end

The company I work for was recently acquired by a larger company. The transition has been fairly smooth. However, because of the differences in operations there has been no shortage of craziness (my desk currently has two laptops and one desktop on it–each of which serve a different purpose). One of the biggest changes came when we switched the software that we used to manage our accounts. When we finally began the new system, a comment was made that “now the real craziness is about to begin.” I responded that at least it was the beginning of the end of the craziness.

That got me thinking that business acquisitions are similar to salvation. There we are leading our life of slavery to sin when God purchased us by the blood of his son. As much as we would like it to happen, we are not immediately zapped into heaven or transfigured into perfectly holy people. Just like the business acquisition a lot of craziness ensues. While you now have a new owner and guiding spirit, you already had your own modus operandi, special quirks, and thought pattern in place which sometimes causes you to slip back into old habits.

That’s why the corporate office sends some people to help guide the new acquisition until everything has been converted. We have three types of corporate guides in the christian walk. First, we receive the Holy Spirit inside of us who draws us to God, illuminates scripture, convicts us of sin, and comforts us in times of need.

The second person corporate sends/sent down is the bible. Everything we need to know about our transition from sinfulness to godliness can be found in the pages of scripture. Of course it isn’t going to mystically jump off the pages and into your mind (just like the chemistry notes didn’t in high school)., but with faithful reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on the word, the Holy Spirit will use what you read/learn to change you from the old man to the new man.

The final person corporate sends is other people just like you. These people are called the church. God has not saved us in a vacuum to study his word and become monastic nomads. Rather, as we grow in godliness we will be able to reach,teach, love, and minister to others who are all at different points in the journey of removing off the old man and putting on the new. Eventually (and not here on earth), we will be fully assimilated into God’s ownership (read: sanctified). Until then, embrace the craziness; that is how God has chosen to make you more like him.

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Invictus: Redo

In reading a book of English/Irish poetry I came across “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley. It is an intriguing poem depicting the resolve of mankind to fight and win his own fate. And while it is true that we are responsible for our own thoughts and actions, as Solomon says, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD. (Pr 21:31)” With that in mind, I made a few revisions to Henley’s account to better reflect the course of human history:

Henley’s Invictus:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of cicumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bldugeonings of chance
my head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
and yet the meance of the years
finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

My Convictus:
I’m in the night that covers me,
Black as the pit my nat’ral pole,
I thank my self-corruptor: me,
For my dead and sinful soul.

In the pangs of sin and death, glance
Not I to God nor cry aloud.
Under the curse of sin’s advance
My will is battered and unbowed.

But to the cross of wrath and blood
The LORD himself went in my place,
And through the preaching of the word
I can receive his loving grace.

When then I’m caught up to his gate,
I’ll say to him who reads the scroll:
You are the master of my fate;
You are the captain of my soul.

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Fundamental Nature of Sin

     There are typically four positions concerning the nature of sin: pride, unbelief, rebellion and idolatry. In order to better understand this nature, one should look at the original occurrence of sin as well as the overarching theme of sin throughout the Bible. If one uses a bit of logic, pride and unbelief could be removed since it could be argued that they are derived from idolatry and rebellion. Pride can be considered a form of idolatry of the self, whereas unbelief is a rebellion of wrong trust. Having eliminated pride and unbelief, the remaining positions, rebellion and idolatry, can be examined.
     In the garden, God commands Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. One might conclude that because their disobedience comes in a direct violation of that commandment that rebellion is fundamental nature of sin. Paul depicts the sinful nature in Romans 1 as one of suppressing of the knowledge of God found in natural revelation. In addition to these statements, the people of Israel are repeatedly being depicted as rebellious. This picture is picked up by the author of Hebrews as well and applied to the believer.
     On the other hand, when one looks a bit more closely at the garden scene, an idolatrous nature becomes evident. While the act of eating the fruit is indeed an act of rebellion against the direct command of God, this is merely the result of the elevating of their own desires above God’s desire. This causes them to fall. They are deceived when Satan makes ‘equality with God’ an idol for them to grasp. This same fall is played out throughout the Old and New Testaments. During the period of Kings, the evil rulers and the people of Israel follow after false gods, or idols. Ezekiel portrays the people of Israel as bad harlots because they traded a pure relationship with God for a selling of themselves to idols. Jeremiah, similarly depicts them as using a ‘holey’ water pot type religion. Jesus confronted many people guilty of idolatry. Two examples of this include the rich young ruler, who would rather his riches than eternal life, and the pharisees, who would rather their traditions that a relationship with God.
     While rebellion, pride and unbelief are all representative of the fall, they are merely the result of an idolatrous natures. After a believer is given a new nature he then worships the true God in a reversal of idolatry. The ensuing reversal includes that of humility and the ability to believe in and faithfully follow God.

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Revelation 19

To the tune of Taylor Swift’s “White Horse”

Say you’re sorry, that face of an sinner
Came out just when it shouldn’t have,
As I show you mercy all this time
Cause I want you to believe in me;
Holding back my wrath from you,
Foolish girl, you should have known
You should have known:
You’re not a princess, this ain’t a fairy tale;
You’re not the one I’ll sweep off her feet,
Lead her up the stairwell;
This ain’t Hollywood, this is My town;
I was creator before you went and let me down;
Now it’s too late, for me and my white horse have come around;
Child you were naive, got lost in your pride
So I gave you another chance;
I had so many dreams to make you holy
Happy endings, but now your gone:
You’re not a princess, this ain’t a fairy tale
You’re not the one I’ll sweep off her feet,
Lead her up the stairwell;
This ain’t Hollywood, this is My town;
I was creator before you went and let me down;
Now it’s too late, for me and my white horse have come around;
And there you are on your knees,
Begging for forgiveness, begging for me,
Just like you always should’ve, but I’m so sorry:
Cause you’re not a princess, this ain’t a fairy tale;
You’ll now worship me for eternity from the darkness of Hell;
Heaven’s a big world, old earth was a small town,
There in my rear-view mirror disappearing now;
And its too late for me and my white horse;
Now its too late, for me and my white horse have got you now;

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