Christianity’s Uniqueness

Universal rejection of Christianity exists, or so it seems, because the god of this age has blinded men from the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4).

And in the case of Christianity, I am reminded of the saying, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

People are shocked in disbelief that Christians claim Jesus is the only way unto salvation. But therein lies the reason for Christianity’s uniqueness.

Most religions revere Jesus as either a Prophet, Priest, or King, but Christianity sees Jesus as the True Prophet, the True High Priest, and our True King.

But most religions do not see Jesus as God Himself (God of very God), and many do not see Jesus as God’s uniquely beloved Son and the Second Person of the Trinity and the Face of God.

Further, the God of Christianity is unique, in that, God is love; it is because God is Triune (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) that God is love, and no other god can be love because no other God is Triune.

Other religions see god as either one person (Islam) or many gods (Hinduism), but no other religion sees God as one being (mono-theistic) yet three persons.

It is this Christian God who has come to save all those who believe in Him, that is, Jesus.

J.R.R. Tolkien Reads A Poem In Elvish

“Before he was lauded by geeks and book lovers alike for his writing, Tolkien was a philologist, or a person who studies the origins of words. According to “The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the OED,” his first job after World War I was studying the histories of words with Germanic origin beginning with the letter W for the Oxford English Dictionary.”

Read more here.

Getting ready for the Hobbit

The Triune God and the Pastor

God created mankind in the image and community of the eternally existing Trinitarian God (Genesis 1:26) producing an inherent need and desire for “community” displayed in love by loving God with our whole being and loving others as ourselves (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37-39). God created us so that we may know Him. His creative work of mankind was the act of drawing near to us which was an act of love When God acts, He acts in love because God is love.

“…God’s nature is the grammar of God’s will, which is a Wittgensteinian way of saying that God’s being and acts are one. God is love (I John 4:8) – that is the defining divine perfection – and God is love from tip to toe. God’s only power is the power of love, in which there is no domination, coercion, or violence. Such is the imminent perichoretic, self-giving, non-rivalrous love of the Trinity, economically embodied in the cross (and, as Luther said, crux robat omnia). ‘Omnipotence,’ T. F. Torrance urges, ‘is what God does, and it is from His ‘does’ rather than from a hypothetical ‘can’ that we are to understand the meaning of the term. What God does, we see in Christ …” (HT: Curt).

Likewise, God’s love is what God does, and it is from His ‘does’ rather from a hypothetical ‘can’ that we are to understand the meaning of the term. What God does, we see in Christ. P.T. Forsyth explains,

What ought we say about the love of God? In the cross, God’s love for himself, his name and his authority, and his love for his creatures, is taken up and met in one action wherein God exhibits the very nature of his being as unconditional Holy Love. That’s why not only is the doctrine of the Trinity necessary to make sense of the atonement, but the atonement is necessary to reveal the Trinitarian fellowship of God. The Holy Love that defines the perichoretic life of the Triune God has, by the grace of the Father in the action of the incarnate Son and by the mission of the Spirit, overflowed freely towards those outside of God’s community that creatures may enter into the Holy Love communion that the Triune God has ever known and spoke creation into being for participation in.

In Jesus Christ, God has shown not only that he does not want to be God without us, but that he does not want us to be without him. And in the action of the Holy Spirit, the Triune God is present and active among us to hear and answer our prayers, to sustain us in all the happenings of life, and to continuously bring home to us afresh the good news of the Father’s sanctifying action in Jesus Christ, guaranteeing our inheritance, and empowering us to live in the reality of being ‘holy and blameless’ before God (Ephesians 1:4).

We must not think of ourselves higher than we are. We possess nothing special, nor do we offer any benefit to God for God to choose us. Deuteronomy 7 explains, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping [His] oath…” We are God’s treasured possession; not because of anything good we possess but because God loves us. And God loves us because He loves us. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

This great love with which God loves us can not truly be experienced without our setting love upon others. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21). I believe C. S. Lewis says it well,

“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” – Letters of C.S. Lewis (8 November, 1952)

And it is this love that fuels social action. And it is this great love to which Together for Adoption proclaims:

If you ever want to know what beats in the heart of T4A conferences and events, it’s the eternal love between the Father and the Son. We always want the main thing in the universe — the Love Story of God the Father and the Son in the communion of the Spirit — to be the main thing in our conferences. Nothing fuels social action like participation in the love between the Father and the Son.

Click the image below to read more about the heartbeat of Together for Adoption because Big ‘A’ Adoption a big thing.

Switching Gears

Much of the confusion within the Eschatology discussion are the terms.

Each camp sees the definitions of each term based on what they see in Scripture. Of course, the definitions each side recognizes are colored by their perspective of Scripture in general and Eschatology specifically.

For instance…

Dispensationalists see the Rapture as something like, Jesus returns, resurrects believers, and takes them to Heaven. So, in essence, Jesus comes to earth and does a U-Turn back to Heaven, waits seven years (the Great Tribulation) and then returns (a second time) to reign physically during the Millennium.

Amillennialists contend the Rapture is something like, Jesus returns, resurrects everyone (Just and Unjust), and God’s people escort Christ back down to earth. So, in essence, Jesus comes to earth, and God’s people do a U-Turn back to earth (much in line with what “rapture” meant in ancient times.

Another word of contention is literal

Dispensationalists view the term literal as physical-oriented and face-valued, which in essence, flattens the meanings of words and discounts the purpose of different genres in Scripture.

Amillennialists see the term literal in a more nuanced way. Christ’s reign from Heaven is spiritual yet literal, and I would even go so far as to say, it is physical, as well. Christ rose from the dead physically/bodily and is seated at the right hand of the Father in a glorified, physical body.

This is why, at least in part, the Dispensational camp has a hard time understanding Amillennialism. They’re trying to understand Amillennialism based on the Dispensational definitions. So, ad hominem attacks ensue – like claiming Amillennialists pick and choose what they want words to mean instead of “looking to the face-value meaning of the words.” But, as I’ve mentioned previously, Dispensationalists must break their rule in order to keep it.

Speaking of Together for Adoption

Together for Adoption recently had its National Conference in Atlanta, GA. Here is a sampling of what people are saying…

  1. T4A 2012 Follow Up – Dan Cruver by Kim de Blecourt
  2. Together for Adoption: more than adoption by Noel Piper
  3. Together 4 Adoption Conference by Andrea Sisler

Other resources

Marriage and Hunger

In Niger, child marriage on rise due to hunger.

In Hawkantaki, it is the rhythm of the land that shapes the cycle of life, including the time of marriage.

The size of the harvest determines not only if a father can feed his family, but also if he can afford to keep his daughter under his roof.
Even at the best of times, one out of every three girls in Niger marries before her 15th birthday, a rate of child marriage among the highest in the world…

Now this custom is being layered on top of a crisis. At times of severe drought, parents pushed to the wall by poverty and hunger are marrying their daughters at even younger ages.

A girl married off is one less mouth to feed, and the dowry money she brings in goes to feed others.

‘Families are using child marriage, as an alternative, as a survival strategy to the food insecurity,’

In his letter, James explains what pure religion is: visiting orphans in their affliction.

Helping orphans has far reaching benefits

Ministries, such as Sixty Feet have found that visiting orphans in their affliction becomes more than just visiting the orphan.

Why Sixty Feed?
At the turn of the 20th century, Winston Churchill described Uganda as “the Pearl of Africa”. He was illustrating the beauty of the land. Indeed, in this lush African country, there is no shortage of water. Yet much of the water in Uganda is polluted. Experts tell us, often less than 60 feet down, they find crystal clear, clean water that changes these peoples’ lives forever.

Less than sixty feet below the dusty little feet of these orphans is the purest water they could ever drink…waiting for the children… just out of their reach.
For us this is not even close to being just about water. We have big dreams for these children that if we told you, you might think we are crazy. We know God loves these orphan children at “M”. Everything does seem just out of their reach, but we are doing something about it.

It doesn’t take much to go sixty feet.

Sixty Feet is about changing lives forever.

Many cultures and people see orphans as the least of these (Matthew 25:34ff). In fact, when Sixty Feet comes on the scene to help the orphans, they must also help the village at large;

For to help the orphans, they must help the village

Creating access to fresh, pure water to the orphan means bringing fresh, pure water to the village, because you cannot do one without the other. Lessening the drought also provides access to food that was not possible otherwise.

And parents would not need to be “pushed to the wall by their poverty and hunger” as much, and the proclamation of the Gospel may be more readily received.

What do you think?

The Power of the Cross

The Power Of The Cross
by Stewart Townend and Keith Getty, Thankyou Music, published by Kingsway.

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

CHORUS:
This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev’ry bitter thought,
Ev’ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
“Finished!” the vict’ry cry.

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

FINAL CHORUS:
This, the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Two Age Model

It is entirely unfortunate that the KJV should translate the Greek word αἰών as “world,” for generations of English-speaking Christians have come and gone without realizing what the Scriptures teach regarding the number of remaining epochs. While there is some semantic overlap between αἰών and κόσμος (cf. Ephesians 2:2), the two words are not merely synonymous. Thus, it is best to translate αἰών as “age” so that it is referring to a time period, not a cosmological arrangement per se. When we do this, as in the NASB, an interesting pattern emerges that was not so easily seen before.

The Scriptures uniformly speak of only two remaining ages in which all will be said and done.

These periods are described as “This Age” and “the Age to Come.” Christ taught that anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven “either in This Age or in the Age to Come” (Matthew 12:32). Those who make sacrifices for Christ shall “receive a hundred times as much now in This present Age … and in the Age to Come eternal life” (Mark 10:30, Luke 18:30). Paul wrote that Christ has been exalted above all authorities, powers, and names “not only in This Age but also in the One to Come” (Ephesians 1:21). Regarding the topic of marriage, the Lord Jesus tell us that “the sons of This Age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to That Age and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20:34-35). This last text is an important revelation, for it teaches plainly that a physical resurrection occurs at the juncture between the two Ages.

Sometimes one of the Ages is mentioned without the other. For example, Christ rescues believers “from This present evil Age” (Galatians 1:4). Satan is called “the god of This Age” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Christians are not to “be conformed to This Age but be transformed” (Romans 12:2). The reason why Demas forsook Paul was because he “loved This present Age” (2 Timothy 4:10). Likewise, it is possible for people to taste of “the powers of The Age to Come” and still fall away from Christ (Hebrews 6:5-6).

Also, there are places where This Age is simply called “the Age.” One example is the recurring phrase “the end of the Age” (Matthew 13:39, 49, 24:3, 28:20). Likewise, part of the reason why those who hear the Gospel can ultimately reject it is because of “the cares of the Age” (Matthew 13:22, Mark 4:19). And the people who remain unbelievers are referred to as “the sons of the Age” (Luke 16:8). In all these cases it is best to interpret the definite article as following a demonstrative usage. Thus, any reference to “the Age” can be properly translated as “This Age” without doing any damage to the text.

Now, the fact that there are two remaining Ages fits in perfectly with Amillennialism. The Amillennial scheme holds that This Age is a reference to the entire period of time prior to Christ’s second advent, after which we are ushered into the New Heavens and New Earth or, in other words, the Age to Come. At the juncture between these two Ages, there would be a general resurrection and general judgment. Thus, Amillennialism very nicely accounts for this picture of two Ages. (The astute reader will immediately recognize that postmillennialism also fits in with the two Ages pattern, but in a little bit I will show why it fails to match it perfectly.)

Why should the two Ages teaching be a reason against Premillennialism?

It is apparent that the Premillennial scheme requires that there be three remaining Ages, each being qualitatively distinct from the others. The millennium is said to be not as “earthly” as This Age nor is it as “heavenly” as the Age to Come, but instead occupies a sort of middle ground both in character and time of fulfillment. It thus constitutes its own qualitatively distinct epoch, which is differentiated from the two Ages that are plainly taught in Scripture. This supposed existence of a third Age is problematic for Premillennialism.

The only premillennialist who seems to have ever come to grips with this conundrum is George Eldon Ladd in his book The Gospel of the Kingdom. Ladd uses the concept of telescoping to explain how the millennium can be an intervening Age between This Age and the Age to Come (36-39). This at first sounds plausible, especially when considering how telescoping is a real phenomenon in Scripture.

But this also has its problems

When, for instance, Christ taught that the sin against the Spirit won’t ever be forgiven, whether in This Age or in the Age to Come, He clearly views the two Ages as exhausting all of time and eternity. If there is really a 1000 years separating the two, then the assumptions behind Lord Jesus’ teaching are no longer quite so accurate (cf. Mark 3:29).

But Ladd is not finished yet. It is at this point that he comes through with a pure stroke of genius. Ladd envisions the two Ages as overlapping with each other, and he then views this non-empty intersection as being the millennium itself (see his diagrams on ages 38 and 42). I have to say that I’m very impressed with this nifty device for escaping the problem of having three Ages instead of two. Seeing two sets intersect can indeed give the appearance of a third set in between them. Admittedly, this maneuver does preserve Christ’s perception of the two Ages as covering all of time and eternity.

However, this attempt at a solution has one fatal flaw. In his scheme Ladd requires that This Age not come to full and complete closure until the millennium is over. But Ladd forgot that the Lord Jesus consistently taught that the final consummation of This Age occurs at the Second Coming (Matthew 13:39, 49, 24:3, 28:20). Therefore, This Age must end when the millennium supposedly begins — not when the millennium is supposed to finish, as Ladd requires. This would seem to force Ladd back to square one in his attempts at reconciling his Premillennialism with the Bible’s teaching of just two remaining Ages.

How does this contradict Postmillennialism?

Well, it goes back to the fact that Postmillennialism teaches that there will be a transformation of This Age apart from the second coming of Christ. It asserts that the general character of This Age is getting better and will eventually become holy and righteous prior to the Age’s consummation.

But as we have seen already, this appears to contradict the uniform teaching of the New Testament concerning the moral nature of This Age. Satan is the god of This Age (2 Corinthians 4:4). We are not to be conformed to This Age (Romans 12:2). This Age is opposite and antithetical to the light (Luke 16:8). It is an age of evil (Galatians 1:4). To walk according to This Age is the same as being dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Postmillennialism requires a radical re-orientation of verses like these in order for its assertions to hold up.

Amillennialism is naturally able to account for the doctrine of the two Ages. Any other eschatological scheme requires explanations of a strained nature.

Nate Claiborne sums this issue up nicely1:

In summary of the two ages, this age is marked by home, fields, families, marrying and being given in marriage, people being blinded to the truth by the god of this age, evil in our hearts and in the world, Christ’s present heavenly reign, the command to not be conformed to this age and live godly live, and the promise that Christ will by the Spirit be with us until the end of the age (see Matthew 28:20; Luke 10:30; 20:34; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:20-21, Titus 2:12). At Christ’s Second coming, this age is brought to a close and a new age, that has been present as a promise of the future fulfillment, completely overtakes it. In the meantime, we are living in the overlap, having been given a down payment of our inheritance, but still awaiting its ultimate realization.

This Age

  1. Matthew 12:32 – No forgiveness for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
  2. Matthew 24:3 – The end of the age will be preceded by signs
  3. Matthew 28:20 – Christ will be with us until the end of the age
  4. Luke 18:30 – There are material rewards given to us in this life
  5. Luke 20:34 – The people of this age marry and are given in marriage
  6. Mark 10:30 – The present age is an age of homes, fields, and families
  7. Romans 12:2 – We are not to be conformed to the pattern of this world (age)
  8. 1 Corinthians 1:20 – Philosophy is the wisdom of this age
  9. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 – Wisdom and rulers are of this age
  10. 2 Corinthians 4:4 – Satan is the god of this age who has blinded the minds of men and women
  11. Galatians 1:4 – The present age is evil
  12. Ephesians 1:21 – Christ reigns in present age
  13. Ephesians 2:2 – The ways of this world (age) are evil
  14. 1 Timothy 6:17 – Those who are rich in this age, are not to hope in their wealth for the next
  15. Titus 2:12 – We are to live Godly lives in the present age

In every instance the qualities associated with “this age” are temporal in nature. These texts describe the present course of history before the return of Christ and are things which pass away at his return.

Age to Come

  1. Matthew 12:32 – No forgiveness for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
  2. Matthew 13:40 – The weeds will be thrown into the fire
  3. Mark 10:30 – Eternal life as a reward
  4. Luke 18:30 – Eternal life as a reward
  5. Luke 20:35 – No marriage or giving in marriage
  6. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – Evil doers will not inherit the kingdom of God
  7. 1 Corinthians 15:50 – Flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of God
  8. Galatians 5:21 – Those who live evil lives will not inherit the kingdom
  9. Ephesians 1:21 – Christ will reign in age to come
  10. Ephesians 5:5 – Immoral people will not inherit kingdom of God
  11. 1 Thessalonians 2:12 – We are encouraged to live lives worthy of the kingdom
  12. 2 Thessalonians 1:5 – Faith will count you worthy of the kingdom of God
  13. 1 Timothy 6:19 – The coming age has life that is truly life
  14. 2 Timothy 4:18 – The Lord will bring us to kingdom of God

In marked contrast to “this age” the qualities assigned to the age to come are all eternal (or non-temporal) in nature. These references are clearly describing the future eschatological state of believers (and nonbelievers if you factor in the references to judgment).

This Age Or The Age To Come

  1. Matthew 12:32 – There is no forgiveness for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
  2. The use of this phrase “either in this age or in the age to come” is intended to exhaust all of time and eternity.

The Line of “Demarcation” Between the Two Ages

  1. Matthew 13:39 – The harvest is the end of the age, and the angels are the harvesters
  2. Matthew 13:40 – The weeds will be burned in the fire at the end of the age (judgment)
  3. Matthew 13:49 – The angels will separate the wicked from the righteous

The Resurrection
The first coming of Christ and his resurrection ensured that in the present age, Christians are already raised with him. Christ’s resurrection from the dead also ensured that we believers will be raised bodily at the end of the age. ~ Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism

1 Corinthians 15:42-44 – So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

Hebrews 9:27-28 – And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

We are clearly dealing with two ages; the current age in which we find two kingdoms in conflict and the future glorious age in which we live eternally with our great King (Matthew 12:32; Luke 18:29-30; 20:34-35; Ephesians 1:21; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 2:6-8; 3:8; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 2:2; 1 Timothy 6:17; Titus 2:12; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:18).

References
1The Overlap of Ages in The Kingdom by Nate Claiborne

Jesus Is Better

In a post called, “I Don’t Wait Anymore,” the writer explains,

When I was 16, I got a purity ring.

And when I was 25, I took it off. …

…It shows that while marriage is good, He is the greater goal.

Another author asks the question, “For or Against?”

The more I think about this, the more I would rather be accused of being soft on sin in favor of lifting up Jesus and offering blessings and service in his name, than to be known for all the sins I’m against. God knows I have enough of my own sins without being preoccupied with the sins of others.

Another author wrote in “I Am Not The Christ,”

I left because I didn’t find Jesus there, or more precisely because in order to know Christ more, I had to leave. That is not to say that Christ is not to be found there. …

… Fundamentalism became less and less about Jesus, and more and more about Fundamentalism. …

… There may come a time when the people whom we have pointed to Christ may need to leave us in their pursuit of Christ. And if we have done anything to hinder them, anything to equate their loyalty to Christ with loyalty to us, then we have done great damage. If anyone wants to know why I left the Fundamentalist movement, this is why. I was following hard after Christ. And I pray that I will always be willing to let others follow Christ, even if it is away from me. However much God uses us, we can never think that our ministry is the best suited to reach everyone. God is too big, and people are too diverse. We need there to be witnesses unlike ourselves. We need people to abandon us if that is what it takes for them to know Christ.

How willing are you to let people walk away from your ministry to follow Jesus?

Do you see a theme?

Jesus is better than our movement. Jesus is better than sin. Jesus is better than our desires. Jesus is better than our friends. Jesus is better than life itself.