Thursday, January 05, 2012

THE LORD SCATTERED, THE LORD CONFUSED; SOVEREIGNTY, FREE WILL AND LOVE

In our effort to find the balance in the debate often referred to as Sovereignty and Free Will (a misleading name due to a limited definition of sovereignty), we must endeavor to allow the Biblical text to inform us as opposed to the other way around. In my morning reading, I found the interaction between those working on the tower of Babel project and God quite fascinating (Ge.11:1-9). The project and the motive behind the project appear to be initiated by people and contrary to God’s good pleasure. God responds with a strategy that clearly demonstrates His opposition to the project. Certain definitions and views of sovereignty are forced to see such passages as God playing chess with Himself. But the text, taken in the way we normally read such a text, represents a group of people freely using their God given abilities to do something of which God is not in favor. God responds. Not by removing their freedom or their abilities but by introducing a factor that increases the degree of difficulty involved in the communication needed to pursue the project effectively. This is very interesting providential activity on the part of God but does not, in any way, suggest that man is void of free will or that everything that happens is the will of God. Surely, both camps in this debate must practice textual sensitivity in an effort to avoid proof texting simply to support a preconceived position.

One final reflection. There is a growing contingency within the church who have no place in their perspective for a God who deals with people the way this passage demonstrates. There is a limited, incomplete concept of “love” that suggests that embrace is the only option. There is, in this view, no room for division under any circumstance. This will prove to be quite devastating.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

AN ISOLATED SECTION FROM CHAPTER ONE OF "CHANGE YOUR MIND"

Concerning Moral Good and Moral Evil

            Recognizing the distinction between moral law/government and physical law is important on many levels. It is, as well, important to realize how such distinctions affect us in practical ways. The “influence and response” aspect of moral law/government must be kept separate from the “cause and effect” aspect of physical law. This being the case, I would like to promote awareness regarding the concept of producing fruit.
            In the account given of God creating the physical universe, we read in Genesis 1:11-12, “Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth’; and it was so. And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.” Notice the inbuilt procedure of “bearing fruit after their kind.” On the physical level, plants produce other plants “after their kind”[1], animals produce other animals “after their kind” and the human species produces human species “after their kind.”
            As we carefully consider the moral application of a similar procedure, we find certain interesting insights with which it is worth wrestling. First, we cannot simply say that a righteous man (or woman) will automatically produce righteous offspring “after their kind.” However, a righteous person will exercise an influence that tends to produce “fruit after their kind.” Again, this is not the “cause and effect” procedure seen in the physical realm. We can see this concept referred to and dealt with in a passage as Ezekiel 18.
            The next dimension to consider regarding the moral dynamic of producing “fruit” involves the challenge of cleansing what is impure in comparison to defiling what is pure. Consider the prophetic[2] proclamation found in Haggai 2:11-13, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Ask now the priests for a ruling: If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?’ And the priests answered and said, ‘No.’ Then Haggai said, ‘If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?’ And the priests answered and said, ‘It will become unclean.’” The basic emphasis in this statement is that it is easier to produce defilement than to cleanse and correct defilement. Touching something unclean with something clean does not produce cleansing. Touching something clean with something unclean does produce defilement. This is a physical analogy that, when applied to man’s moral condition, must be handled with appropriate sensitivity and care. Neither the morally defiled nor the morally pure are automatically altered by exposure to one another. However, it appears, by the intention of these words and by practical experience, that, sadly, it is more challenging for the morally pure to produce “fruit after their kind” than for the morally impure to “fruit after their kind.”[3]
            Recognizing this fact, sheds very intense light on God’s reaction in Genesis 6:5-6 where it reads, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” God did not, at all, take the realization of man’s condition and what would be involved in dealing with this great defilement lightly. I am amazed when seeing pockets of people within the church assuming that simply “touching” the unclean with a positive, uplifting message will make them clean. This type of undiscerning, immature underestimation will prove destructive and, even, deadly. Moral defilement must not be taken lightly!

[1] This is not to suggest that, through experimentation and crossbreeding, such arrangements cannot be tampered with and altered.
[2] This use of “prophetic” is simply in reference to spiritually and morally insightful analysis.
[3] This is not an indictment against the morally pure regarding their impotence or inability but rather a commentary on the responses to the efforts and influences of the morally pure as they “touch” the world around them.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

SEPARATION AS AN ACT OF LOVE


A seriously present theme in Scripture is that of "separation." It begins in the creation account involving the separation of light and dark (as well as other elements), continuing by separating Abram from his culture and will culminate by separating "sheep" from "goats." This is quite different from the misguided, pluralistic efforts being propagated by an imbalanced, undiscerning, relativistic concept of "love" that wants a cultural and religious homogenization in the name of tolerance that will prove intolerable and, ultimately, destructive.

"Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,' says the Lord. 'And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' says the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, NASB)

"And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, 'Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.'" (Ephesians 5:11-14, NASB)