Friday Fundamentals – Control & Decay

Wendy from Theology for Women has written with some insight. Click her name to get to the original piece. Keep it coming Wendy.

Fifty Shades of Genesis 3:16.

Well, Fifty Shades of Grey is coming out on Valentine’s Day.  Oh, what a warped view of love we have. I doubt Christian women need a lecture against reading the book or going to the movie. I can’t imagine anyone is going because they think it is a morally good thing to do.  It will be a blockbuster hit because there is a deeper issue in our hearts, and it is that deeper issue that I prefer to address.

The Twilight Series was a lighter version of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Call it what you want – erotic fiction, BDSM, or in the Twilight Series, paranormal young adult fiction.  But the bottom line of both series is the same — Good Girls fall in love with Bad Boys.  These particular series made the news because the individual books and movies reached a mass market audience, but “romance” novels involving the “hero” treating the girl badly and the girl wanting him anyway (with the hope of reforming him) have been hugely successful among women for hundreds of years.

The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t surprise me, because God predicted it in Genesis 3.  The woman’s desire or strong craving (addiction if you will) will be for the man, and he will rule over her. THAT is why Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight Series, and countless other lesser known masochistic “romance” novels have flourished over the years.   When Christ is removed from our relationships, that is what is left – men oppressing women and women lapping it up, even if it’s just in fiction.  I imagine men will not appreciate that characterization any more than women will. Yet, apart from Christ and God’s common grace among unbelievers, this is where both sexes default in my humble opinion, and I think history affirms my view.

This is not to say that, apart from Christ, we don’t have countless societal coping mechanisms for dealing with this phenomenon.   I see feminism as the major coping mechanism. I’m thankful for aspects of feminism, particularly the first wave of feminism.  I see it as a great manifestation of God’s common grace.  Feminism didn’t change anyone’s heart, but the movement did help to restrain sinful oppression of women in many countries and in many different walks of life.  But for every educated, take charge feminist woman you know, there remain hundreds in the shadows of life contributing to their own sexploitation.  After 3 waves of feminism, countless laws, and much education, millions of women would still run after the sulky vampire in their fantasies, choosing to suck blood for the rest of their lives rather than living in the light.

As for Fifty Shades of Grey, while it is in many ways like Playboy for men, there are motivating factors for women that are very different than a man’s for pornography. I think that understanding the reason that so many women are flocking to this book/movie can be a powerful tool to pointing them back to the gospel’s answer for the dark longings in their heart. To that end, I hope this analysis is helpful.

For many women reading this (and men too), a lot of this may sound completely foreign. If you’re saying to yourself, “That’s not MY husband or MY history,” then praise God! Perhaps as a child you were raised to know Christ and His Word. You recognized early on your creation in His image and your worth as His honored son or daughter. For the most part, that’s our family, though occasionally I get glimpses into my tendencies apart from redemption. I would have lapped up the Twilight Series hook, line, and sinker during my teenage years. I thank God regularly that He kept me from the kind of guys I would have been willing to date when I was too naïve and immature to recognize this in myself.

There is something much better than secular coping mechanisms that are helpful in some ways and detrimental in others though.  Christ has broken the curse and is slowly but surely redeeming His children from its effects. In Christ, women have the rescuer we need. We have a need to submit, and we need one who dominates our life.  But only One, Christ Himself, can fill those needs in a way that invites light, not shadow. I’m reminded in all this that we will offer our best solutions spiritually when we best understand the root issue.

My heart aches for women longing for their Christian Grey. That is not his real form, and he morphs into something dark and disturbing when you least expect it.  In Christ, we can recognize this dark fantasy for what it is and then move away from the dark towards the light to live in the real relationships God has given us.

It helps a lot if you understand Genesis 3:16.

This is a reworked version of a post I first wrote in 2012.

Text Tuesday – Is the Bible limited to 66 books?

Before my blog-break last October I had been posting (mostly re-posting other people’s thoughtful work) on the text of the new testament in particular and the Bible in general.

I plan to occasionally do that again and today is such a day. Before re-posting Rob Phillips‘ work I will give some personal context. I dialogue infrequently with some great Muslim chaps and they do love to try and tear apart the New Testament as we have it today. Howver, their concerns and criticisms have lead me to investigate this important part of the Christian faith more deeply. Much of what convincingly speaks to me has been re-posted on the Tuesday Text series – see Textual Studies in the Categories on the right hand side of the screen if you want to see more.

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Click image to source

However I love to refine my understanding and position on things as I go along. While I have regularly told muslim friends if an early letter by Paul or similar was found and could be authenticated I would be happy for it to be added to the New Testament (as such). This post has given me pause for thought on this matter. Over to you dear Baptist brother.

Rob Phillips: click here to get the source of this material

Some scholars today cast doubt over the canon of Scripture — those 66 books that the church has long held to be the complete written revelation of God. They justify their views by claiming: 1) that surviving texts of the Old and New Testaments are corrupt and therefore unreliable or 2) that early church leaders deliberately excluded certain books for personal or political reasons.

As Craig L. Blomberg responds in his book “Can We Still Believe the Bible?”: “… there is not a shred of historical evidence to support either of these claims; anyone choosing to believe them must do so by pure credulity, flying in the face of all the evidence that actually exists.”

But what if we discovered an apostolic writing that has remained hidden for the last 2,000 years?

For example, in 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul alludes to an earlier letter to fellow believers in Corinth. We don’t have that letter, nor are we aware of its specific contents. Let’s say, however, that archaeologists unearth a clay pot containing a manuscript dating from the mid-first century and fitting the description of Paul’s letter.

Should the church welcome 3 Corinthians as the 28th book of the New Testament? Not so fast.

The New Testament offers hints of the process of canonization, but little more. As Jesus prepares His followers for His passion and return to heaven, He promises to send the Holy Spirit, who will enable the disciples to remember Jesus’ teaching (John 14:26), testify further about Him (John 15:26) and proclaim truth (John 16:13).

In other words, the same Holy Spirit who authors Scripture will ensure that authentic testimonies about Jesus are written, preserved and shared.

Some New Testament books receive a great deal of scrutiny before their inclusion, most notably Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude and Revelation. And some don’t make the cut for a variety of reasons, such as the gnostic gospels of Judas, Barnabas and Thomas.

So, what criteria did the early church use as a guide? Blomberg notes three predominant requirements: apostolicity, catholicity and orthodoxy.

Apostolicity

This does not mean that every book is written by an apostle, but rather that each book is written during the apostolic age.

In addition, no book in the New Testament is more than one person removed from an apostle or another authoritative eyewitness of the life of Christ.

Mark, for example, is not an apostle, but he is a traveling companion of both Peter and Paul. Early church tradition attributes much of Mark’s Gospel to the memoirs of Peter.

Luke, in a similar manner, travels with Paul and interviews eyewitnesses of Jesus.

Catholicity

This has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church. The word “catholic” simply means “universal.” Catholicity means that believers throughout the world to which Christianity was spreading were in agreement on the value of these books –- and used them widely.

No books that were found only among one sect of Christianity or in a single geographical location are included in the New Testament canon.

Orthodoxy

This refers to the faithfulness of the books to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Blomberg writes, “It is a criterion that could not have developed if people had not recognized that the heresies afflicting the church in its earliest centuries were parasitic on orthodoxy. That is to say, the heresies developed in response to apostolic doctrine –- modifying it, challenging it, trying to refute it, supplementing it or simply rejecting it.”

By the late second century, we see lists of 20 to 22 books accepted as authoritative, increasing to 23 early in the third century, and finally to 27 by no later than AD 367, when Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, writes his Easter encyclical to the rest of the church and lists the books that Christians still accept today.

So, back to our original question: What if Paul’s earlier letter is discovered? While the letter would be instructive, and might pass the tests of apostolicity and orthodoxy, it would fail the test of catholicity. There is no evidence this letter was read widely in the early church.

The key is to remember that the Holy Spirit ultimately fixes the canon of Scripture. The tests of apostolicity, catholicity and orthodoxy do not determine which books are inspired; they simply help us discover them.

Free Audiobook

Christian Audio is for the month of September giving a free download of the excellent and important book by Francis Schaeffer How The Shall We Live?

ScaeferGo register and get it.

As mentioned before – they are a very credible outfit and I receive very little in the way of unwanted email from them.

Pass this on to others who might be interested. There is a free download each month.

 

Quotable Quotes 2

Continuing a series of quotes from books I am reading or have read. Chosen because stood out to me because of their ability to summarise or zoom in; their poetry, strength or arresting beauty. Sometimes just because they arrested me with their sheer Truthness.

Today’s quote is helpful in growing our understanding of and love for the truth of the triune nature of God. The alliterative verbs are instructive and insightful – italics in the original. Why not meditate for a while on the by, in, and through of the second sentence.

The Trinity is not an abstraction but a living, working Creator-Redeemer. God is who he is in his triune being for our salvation. We are chosen by God the Father, in Christ the Son, through God the Holy Spirit. Or, as we have already noted, salvation is administered by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and applied by the Spirit. To express the same truths in yet another way, the salvation that was planned by the Father has been procured by the Son and is now presented by the Spirit. Whatever words we use to describe it, the point is that our salvation from sin depends on a gracious cooperation within the Godhead. ( Page 21)

Our Triune God: Living in the Love of the Three-In-One Philip Ryken & Michael LeFebvre, Crossway 2011.

TriuneI wholehearted recommend this little book. It’s solid, simple yet deeply beneficial for the growing christian or the christian in need of growth.

£5.67 from ICM Books Direct as of today – free shipping in the UK – click the book.

Quotable quotes

Today I am beginning a series of quotes from books I am reading or have read. They stood out because of their power to summarise or zoom in; their poetry, strength or arresting beauty. Sometimes just because they arrest.

pencils-2They caused me to pick up my pencil and leave some lead on the page. This liberty with a pencil is relatively new to me. Being less precious about the book has allowed me to me more precious with what the book is saying. I’m glad for that.

Recently got a kindle and have used the highlighting feature with equal abandon – colours aplenty.

From The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable by Stephen D. Boyer & Christopher A. Hall  Baker Academic 2012  Page 78

The quote

We noted a few pages back that “image of God” is a phrase that is given maddeningly little formal definition in Scripture. This is true – except that when we examine the New Testament testimony, the christological and incarnational focus of the imago is striking. Paul preaches to the Corinthian Christians about “the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4), and he tells the Colossians that it is Christ who “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15). Christ, the image of God, is the Word made flesh (John 1:14), “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18 NASB), the eternal Son who has created all things (Col. 1:16). The Letter to the Hebrews states that the Son “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb. 1:3). We may want to know what the obscure language of imago Dei really refers to, but the New Testament does not define it. Instead, it points to where we can see the imago in action: we must turn our eyes to Jesus Christ. To look closely at Christ is to see at last what a real human being looks like.

What is truth?

truth

I previously mentioned (here) this valuable book Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith by Douglas Groothuis, Professor of Philosopy at Denver Seminary, USA. Here’s a piece from the introduction (p16)

We are all citizens of the universe – anxious travelers, much of the time, passing through our days and nights in uncertainty and confusion concerning what matters most. In one sense, we are alone. No one else will live our life or die our death. Each self is unique, responsible and indissoluble. Yet our fate is bound up with our world and our fellow travelers, each of whom has a particular way of coping with – or avoiding – these insistent immensities. We are alone – together.

What if the millenia of human cries echo only into the empty sky and no further? That possibility must be faced if the quest itself is to have any meaning. In the end, hope without truth is pointless. Illusions and delusions, no matter how comforting or grandiose, are the enemies of those who strive for integrity in their knowing and being. Statements such as “I’d like to think of the universe as having a purpose” or “The thought of an afterlife gives me peace” reflect mere wishes. These notions do not address the truth or falsity of there being purpose in the world or of our postmortem survival, because there is no genuine claim to knowledge; a warranted awareness of reality as it really is. A hearty, sturdy and insatiable appetite for reality – whatever it might be – is the only engine for testing and discerning truth. Truth is what matters most, particularly truth concerning our human condition in the world – its origin, its nature, its purpose (if any) and its destiny. Knowing the truth and living according to its requirements should be the hope and aspiration of the reflective person. Only our knowledge of truth – our awareness of reality, no matter how sketchy or partial – can help resolve the inner bickering between the claims of hope and the fears of despair.

In many ways, my own journey to faith in Jesus, has been through the question ‘What is truth?’. What is the truely true and the really real? The Father in drawing me into the truth of the Son by the Spirit practically destroyed me – literally. But on the battlefield between life and death I arrived at a precipice thought – If God is really there, I do want to know him. This was beyond wishful thinking, comforting ideas, childhood reminiscences. I had already visited those shrines and found them desolate. Life and the prospect of death had stripped me bare to my most real and now I was asking a question not solely as an intellectual exercise but I had positioned myself or been positioned to surrender to the answer. If God was not there – then futility would be explored to the maximum. If God was there – then I would live in the reality, beauty, suffering and life of that reality. Again to the maximum. For the first time ever I was falling without a parachute. When you are at your most real, your most true, when everything is stripped away – then the one who lives in unapproachable light just may approach you.

1 Timothy 6:11-16 *

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

So my prayer to the triune God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) for you is:

  • That you will strive for integrity in your knowing and your being
  • That you will pursue the meaning of life beyond your mere wishes
  • That you will have a hearty, sturdy and insatiable appetite for the really real
  • That this insatiable engine will test and discern the truely true
  • That through reflection and aspiration you then live according to the truth
  • That hope grounded on the reality of truth will aid you to live in a despairing world
  • and I ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen (so let it be).

All this puts me in the mood for the serious and beautiful song Skin by Vigilantes of Love from their album Blister Soul (1995). Let the reflective beware this song rewards the repeat button.

* Scripture sourced electronically from http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Timothy%206&version=NIV

Christian Philosopher & Professor Doug Groothuis owns a supermarket chain in Ireland! Read All About It!

On a recent visit to the beautiful land in Western Europe closest to the USA east coast, Ireland; I frequently came across an ad for a european supermarket which caused me continual double takes each time I saw it. The ad, among a series of ads, for ‘Love Ireland Like Aldi’ (and why wouldn’t you? – Love Ireland – that is) feature more than a passing resemblance to the jacket of a book I have been slowly making my way through.

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on arrival in Dublin’s fair city ……..

It’s the well written and helpful big book by Christian Professor and Philosopher Douglas Groothuis (pronounced grote-hyce apparently). I bought the book mid way through 2013 and have got through almost half of it. It’s good. Very good. Let me just say I am no academic by any stretch of the imagination but as time goes by, I am beginning to know exactly what I don’t know. Previously I knew I knew next to nothing but increasingly I know what the nothing, I know nothing about, is. I could have written that more simply but I enjoyed the ‘word-mess’ too much. For those still reeling, here’s what I mean. In the past, I didn’t know enough of anything and didn’t even know what kind of things I didn’t know but with increasing knowledge I now have a better sense of all the areas that can be known but that I do not know. That’s much simpler I am sure you will agree (perhaps not). I’m in a bit of a silly mood today. Recovering from a bug – maybe still slightly feverish.

All the jumble about knowing and not knowing above is simply to say that when I say a book is good or very good I am usually saying it is helpful to me. Books that I read and consider helpfully good tend to do a number of things. They stretch me with new knowledge, give my current level of knowledge a work out, and confirm my knowledge as being fairly on track with another body of knowledge. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith is all of these things for me at this stage. It’s enlightening me, improving the rigour of my current thoughts and generally encouraging me with the warm glow of shared orthodoxy. That’s a warm glow not a pompous glow. There is a difference. More on pomposity in another blog post.

It is a delight to see a christian take his not inconsiderable brain and apply it to the work of looking at the philosophical ‘legs’ which support the christian faith and in fact demand faith in it, and do it all so reasonably. Groothuis brings an overarching sense of reasonableness to the whole affair and that spoke to me.

Doug Groothius 1

It also highlights how important and adventurous it can be to engage with other perspectives who approach their task of (counter) apologetic (defense) or even polemic (attack) in a reasonable manner.

I will, I’m sure, revisit you with some further thoughts from the book but suffice it to say it is a ‘good read and keep’ reference book as part of your library. (You are building a little library I hope? Let’s talk again about this.) The book is available from Amazon UK, Amazon Us or the Book Depository – shipping free from the UK all around the world. I got it at the bargain price of 15 english pounds. Cheap for a hardback reference book by an academic weighing in at 752 pages. I love a bargain. Oh dear just feeling hungry.  Maybe I should head down to Doug’s supermarket and get some bread and treats in. Well done brother and thanks you for your labours. Doug blogs intermittently, relative to some others I frequent, over at The Constructive Curmudgeon. He is straight talking, you may not always agree with him, he is experienced and therefore has a perspective that is not soaked with naivety. He is political with a big P. He loves Jazz and is quite spiritual about it. But most of all he is a fellow labourer in the fields of the Lord. Hope his next book jacket gets hijacked by another supermarket. Look forward to seeing it while driving by – anywhere in the world.