So Nimm Denn Meine Hande...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The 8th point...

"Nothing angers a man so much as seeing his own sin in someone else..."

- Ravi Zacharias

In the last several months, I've had to endure something that has been horribly tough; I've sat by and watched as a friend's life crumbled around him. I've tried to encourage him, whenever we've talked (which has been fairly frequent). I've prayed for him, and I've done my best to give him biblical advice.

What has been the frustration is that in the light of biblical counsel, and in the light of fairly obvious scriptural teaching, he has gone off and done what seemed right in his own eyes. He's added mistake to mistake, and sin to sin, and the fruits of his labors are now coming down on his head...and there's not much I can do.

One of the most discouraging things in my adult life has been seeing people whom I love, people with whom I've served the Lord, turn their back on God when they needed him the most and reject the faith when the refiners fire burned the hottest. I remember when news of a spiritual mentor's suicide came to me shortly after I completed my first undergrad; right when God seemed to be burning away the chaff in his life, with one motion of a finger he made a lasting comment on his view of Christ's sufficiency and soveriegn provision in his life; that day was dark indeed.

Over the years, I've had so many conversations with people who used to be mentors, or spiritual brothers, or even pastors, who've thrown in the towel and given up either on God or on hope. I've talked to friends who've been burned out by pain/trials/suffering and embraced anything BUT God, whether that be in the form of abandoning a call to ministry, the simplicity of no longer fighting sin (like making justifications for sexual immorality), or an alternate 'faith' altogether (like Islam or theological liberalism).

As a theologian I study the scriptures and expect plenty of seed to fall on the rocky ground, get scorched by the sun or choked by weeds...but seeing grain get choked by weeds or scorched by the sun never gets any easier.

And the worst is when I see weeds rising and the sun getting higher in my own life. Something I'm learning the importance of remembering is this:

"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
- 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

I don't want to run the race in vain...I must not run the race in vain.

Lord, grant me the strength to run the race and reach the finish. Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeez! It's like this Bible School stuff doesnt even work!

1:23 PM

Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Well, I'm not exactly sure what you mean by that. Are you being sarcastic or serious? It's always hard to read 'tone' into straight text.

What do you suggest? Any ideas?

5:32 PM

Blogger BornAgaiNatheist said...

Many times when people turn their back on God and fall away I think its because they feel God turned his back on them first. It's not a matter of have more faith, pray harder, dig in your heels more; when a man hits the end of the rope and then some, there's nothing he can do but fall off.

I'm one of the seeds that fell in the rocky places, and if it turns out that there is a God, I'll have a clean conscience knowing there's nothing I could have done differently without God's intervention.

Maybe the parable of the sower is accurate when it implies that the seeds really have no choice where they land.

12:19 AM

Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Yeah, I hear you. I definitely see people feeling like 'God has let them down' a fair amount. I find that people often experience pain or trial and fall on their faces, coming away thinking that God should have 'done something' (whatever that may be).

BUT, I also continually hear those same people expecting something of God that I cannot find biblical support for. People expect so many things from God:

- health
- happiness
- wealth
- understanding of his plans
- absence of *certain* pains (marital troubles, sick children, death of loved ones, ect.)
- feelings of peace or tranquility
- apologetic victory over all cynics

And the list goes on and on...but God doesn't promise ANY of those things in the Bible...well, that's not entirely true. God doesn't promise any of those things continually, unconditionally and on earth.

What I mean is that God does heal some people from sickness. God does give some people money. God does grant some individuals greater wisdom and insight into his plans and operations on earth. God does bring happiness, though not always.

Time and again, I sit in a car or at Dairy Queen or wherever with people who break down and say "How could God do that? Why would he let that happen?" or "The Bible makes no sense and it's a load of crap and (insert whatever the semi-understood 'rational' argument against the scriptures is)!" At the end of the day, the answer is always the same one that God gave Job; Who are you to demand daily project reports from the Almighty? Since when does God need to ask your permission to run space and time? Since when does God promise that you'll understand everything about everything?

If I expect God to be Michael Jackson, I'm only bound for a lifetime of disappointment upon disappointment upon disappointment, all building up to one giant pool of despair.

What's worse is that plenty of people then get the "been there, done that" attitude regarding Christianity when they've never really understood it in the first place. The person who rejects a false version of God isn't rejecting God; they never knew God in the first place.

And what's WORSE than that is that God hasn't hid himself. He's not hard to find; he's revealed himself in the Bible, clearly and in language, for any who would seek him.

At the risk of being a broken record (which I FULLY admit I am), so many people approach the Bible wrongly:

They approach the Bible as a claim to truth that they must weigh on the scales of their own reason. They think that THEY can test and approve what parts of it they like, and what parts that they don't like. They think that they, or even mankind as a whole, can hold the examine the Bible and, by their infinite wisdom, judge God's revelation by their own guesswork.

Those same people then have their own 'rational deductions', often based on semi-Biblical theology, that they think God must allign himself to. They have their own version of God that suits their fancies and amazingly, they find that God in the Bible when THEY read the Bible.

A perfect example of this is actually the argument that you gave me:

"God is sovereign, but because that is so, it's HIS fault that I reject him"

I mean, will God call me to account for my sin?

Matthew 12:36, Romans 14:12, Hebrews 4:13, 1 Peter 4:5, Acts 17:31, Romans 2:16, 1 Corinthians 4:5 and Hebrews 12:23 (among MANY others) would definitely suggest that such is the case.

Does God desire me to believe the gospel and be saved from the impending judgment?

2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (among others) would suggest this.

Then, if God still IS sovereign, does that give me any excuse for sin?

Romans 9:19-21 give a resounding "NO!".

I have a question for you though, Mr Born Again. How do you know which ground you are? Isn't that a tad presumptuous?

What's more, I think you misunderstand the parable of the sower. The parable isn't about the seed, but the ground. When Jesus explains it, he comments on the four types of ground; that they are 4 different types of people. The seed is the gospel... if you claim to be the rocky ground, and you seem to believe the parable (enough that you classify yourself in it), what trouble or persecution did you face that caused you to reject the good news of Christ? Just asking.

1:32 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you beat up on everyone who posts here? It's as if you're terrified of an argument contrary to your own. Rather than the dripping sarcasm and emotional overcharge you dispense, why not try rationally and calmly responding to people? If you don't want random people or anyone other than your closed and close-knit group of ideologically homogenous friends posting, moderate your posts. Otherwise, please at least pretend to be open-minded.

4:38 PM

Blogger BornAgaiNatheist said...

I think your right about the sower, the seed is the gospel and the ground is the people. I was just going by memory and I'm probably not the rocky ground either, all I can say is that I’m definitely not the good soil (all this assuming God is real and the parable is truth).

There are tons of straight forward passages in the bible that mislead people into thinking God will take care of them and answer their prayers. It’s not surprising so many people become disillusioned with God and his word.

Take the passage in Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus tells us not to worry about our clothes, or what we will eat or drink because God already knows we need them and then in vs. 33 it says that if we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things (clothes, food, drink) will be given to us as well.

Then there’s the passage in Matthew 21:21-22, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea', and it will be done. If you believe you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." It’s worth noting that the context of this verse is the disciples inquiry about the fig tree that Jesus withered out of spite!

I know there are some counter verses that can be used but that doesn’t diminish the impact that these straight forward verses have on people. If Jesus knew these verses would mislead people, why did he say them? Why didn’t he just preach about taking up your cross and hardships and persecutions?

There is also truth when you say that people "have their own version of God that suits their fancies and amazingly, they find that God in the Bible when THEY read the Bible." I think that’s true for almost all xians. Catholics, Lutherans, evangelicals, liberals, etc., all have their own version of what God requires and even who he is to a certain extent. Even xianity as a whole tends to ignore the rather vengeful, angry, jealous God of the OT and focus on the more gentle, loving Father God of the NT.

On a personal note, I have had some bitter disappointments with God, but that wasn’t what caused me to ultimately lose my faith. The disappointments helped break down my faith enough for my reason and common sense to shine through. They turned the mighty wall of faith into a wall of paper and enabled me to poke through and discover that there was nothing on the other side. I was able to read the bible and see it for what it is (all the atrocities, contradictions, and absurdities) without the blinders of faith distorting the picture.

7:45 PM

Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Mr. Anonymous,

You seem determined to read a negative 'tone' into everything I say. How would you propose that I no 'beat up' on everyone who posts here?

What would being open minded look like? Pretending like all statements are equal and valid and there's no transcendant foundation of truth from which to judge truth claims?

I'm a Christian. My worldview is built on an metaphysical foundation of the existence of God and the epistemic foundation of his self revelation in the Bible. There IS a transcendent foundation of truth by which I can judge truth claims, and that foundation is revealed to me in the Bible. To pretend otherwise is to pretend to operate outside of reality.

I won't apologize for that, and I don't need to. If people don't like that, they're more than free to reject my foundations and work from some other foundations.

If I try to be rational and calm, and you misread me, what can I do?

I CAN definitely see how you can misread me. If people come in swinging, I don't hold back and prance around whatever issue or idea is thrown out. Where I come from, to prance around is to not take people seriously, and I try to take people seriously. If a boxes with king's rules, it's only respectful to box back with king's don't open handed slap him and pee on him when he gets close.

Let me also attempt another clarification. When I encounter new ideas or concepts that seem unbiblical, the only way I can test them is to test them vigorously. I 'lay the fire' to any and all new ideas...and 'laying the fire' to an idea is not equal to 'laying the fire' to a person. I can hate an idea and not hate the person who holds it. My own theology and worldview are admittedly wrought with heresies and foolishness...and in as much as it's a painful process, I constantly get grilled when people 'lay the fire' against me. There's almost always a little blood involved, but I seem to survive...and often come out stronger.

If you catch me making personal attacks and personal insults, then by all means call me to task on it. If I aggressively attack an idea and call the proponent of that idea to defend his premise, or the logical extensions of his premise, that's being neither rude nor least not where I come from.

I respect you for sticking around and throwing in comments. I also respect bornagainatheist for attempting to 'lay the fire' to me. I'm not scared of rational argument. I find you both in disagreement with Scripture, which as I understand it, makes you actually in disagreement with truth, which makes you wrong. If I actually cared about you, and if I actually believed the Scripture, I'd actually attempt to persuade you of your error; not for personal gain or some stupid 'blogging glory', but because I actually believe you're in error. I do not and will not pretend that I don't hold the position that I DO hold.

My aggressiveness isn't against people, which is one of the things that I hate about blogging. It's not condusive to real solid communication...I tend to let fly a lot more than I would in person, and the anonymity of the blogging world seems to give people a license to forget their manners, or at least many operate that way.

I admittedly do that too.

And if you find me so horrible a person, why stick around? Why would you care, even for a second, what I think or what some fool says on some idiotic blog? I'm not suggesting that you take a hike; you're more than welcome here. But, I honestly admit that I find you confusing.

(I also don't know who's who when people post as anonymous. Are you always the same 'anonymous'? Is this your first time here?)

10:50 PM

Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Mr. Born Again,

Interesting and good observations. I have a few observations for you:

1. You said:

"If Jesus knew these verses would mislead people, why did he say them? Why didn’t he just preach about taking up your cross and hardships and persecutions?"

Did the people in the scripture seem to misunderstand Jesus?

I would suggest that OUR misunderstanding and THEIR misunderstanding are two different things. (I'm not claiming that people DIDN'T misunderstand Christ.) As a biblical exegete, I am admittedly around 2,000 years removed from the language and culture of the time in which Christ was speaking. For me to misunderstand a passage doesn't say something negative about the passage; I'd instead suggest that it says something about me.

I'm not the original audience. To understand any biblical passage, I have to cross the gap of language, history and culture. That takes lots of work, and it's not a simple task...though not impossible.

2. Jesus admittedly DID talk in parables:

Right after the parable of the sower, the disciples asked Jesus why he spoke in parables (Matthew 13:10) and Jesus responded:

"He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:
"Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
" 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.'But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." (Matthew 10:11-17)

Jesus claims that his speaking in parables is a fulfillment of a prophecy found in Isaiah 6:9-10

I would suggest that Jesus' self explanation suggests that his parables seem to be nonsense to those with calloused, unbelieving hearts.

The Messiah, the long awaited prophet foretold by Moses, the Branch of Jesse, the Good Shepherd, stood among his people; the Jews. He came to them, preached the truth to them, and was killed by them for telling the truth about himself.

John 1:10-13 comments on this, saying:

"He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."

The Jews of Christ's day rejected him when he told them the truth, and their rejection of truth made discerning truth impossible. Christ's teaching of parables only added insult to unjury, shrouding the truth from those who had already rejected it.

Yet, 1st John says "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name..."

And that's the ticket. I'd suggest that belief in Christ is the foundation of understanding the truth about Christ.

Another passage that talks about such is 1 Corinthians 1:20-25:

"Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength."

I would suggest that the crux is the last portion of that text; "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom..."

I don't believe the message of Christ because I weighed it in the scales of my own reason, 'laid the fire' to the idea (so to speak) and found it coming out on top.

I don't believe the message of Christ because a scholar, or large body of scholars, has declared the message of Christ to be true.

I don't believe the message of Christ because some Christians were nice to me and I wanted their acceptance, so I bought into their 'gospel'.

I don't believe the message of Christ because I was born into a Christian family. (And in my case, that was a negative...not a positive!)

I believe the message of Christ because God, in his graciousness, granted that I may "see with my eyes, hear with my ears, understand with my heart and turn, and be healed." ("to those he has called...", like 1 Corinthians says)

I didn't reject reason and embrace 'blind faith'. I have articulate and thoughtful reasoning behind my faith, though my faith doesn't rest on itself. Instead, I embraced Christ IN faith and allowed my reason to stop trying to steal Christ's throne; that's much to big a seat for my tiny mind.

I learned, over time, that God is SO much wiser than me.

For every single one of your "atrocities, contradictions, and absurdities", I've hammered through a different rational puzzle or problem text and come out the other side with increased understanding, seeing how majestic and mind bogglingly brilliant God's word actually is.

Even more so, sheer, autonomous reason is the worst blinder of all. The worldview where one thinks that they can sit above God and his word and judge it by their own standard of truth is possibly the worst recipe for despair ever...


IF God is real and IF the Bible is his word, and IF one rejects THOSE premises, one attempts to live outside of reality...and I wouldn't expect ANYTHING to make sense to a person who rejects reality. Life for such a person would be being tossed to-and-fro on the winds of one's own rational flippancy.

NOT saying that is you. Just making a general observation.

11:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

1 Corinthians 8: 1a: "...We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But the man who loves God is known by God."

does the bible school stuff or preaching in church not work because it encourages knowledge and not necessarily love of God or knowing or being known by God? maybe its because the knowledge we have we don't put to use.

one great example to me of someone who loved God and was known by him was an old lady who worked long hours cleaning houses since she was 12 who was such an amazing servant and was always joyful, which contrasts with people like me who are comparitevely "educated" in science and in christian thought but often miss the point.

'bornagain' is right that God is both the "Lamb" or loving merciful god and the "Lion"-a god of justice and vengenence on the wicked, which is hard to grasp and accept but even more incredible to grasp is that he loves people in spite of the fact that we do stupid things. that is out of this world!

10:42 AM

Anonymous tap this bong said...

Hoy! Nony-muss! Your motha so fat, that when she jump for joy.........she got stuck!

Ok sank you!

Yes, we do stupid things on this blog, that sometimes only the "IN" crowd will understand!

The In Crowd

9:42 PM

Blogger The Armchair Geek said...

okay. Now we're getting something good. Anonymous, you said :

"does the bible school stuff or preaching in church not work because it encourages knowledge and not necessarily love of God or knowing or being known by God? maybe its because the knowledge we have we don't put to use."

And I would partly agree with you. That was Israel's sin in the Old Testament. They had the law, but they didn't obey the law; they had doctrine with no practice.

But I would also suggest that there was another party in the Ancient Near East that had the opposite problem:

The Samaritans. They did NOT have the law, but they had hearts that wanted to obey God. They wanted to do what was right, but their doctrine (understanding of God's righteous decrees) was actually WRONG. Jesus talks about this in John 4 when he talks to the woman at the well:

"You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews" - John 4:22

After that, Jesus delivers his famous line:

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." - John 4:23-24

I would suggest that yes, you are right. Those of us that 'know' and do not 'do' are living in sin. But, I would suggest somthing else:

A much larger quantity of us actually 'do not know' and therefore 'do' wrongly, with good intention of heart.

In fact, I'd say that around 98% of us don't 'know' properly. In Israel's day, it's leaders were called to account and yet they were hundreds (if not dozens) where as the nation was millions. I'd even go so far to suggest that much of our Christian leadership does not 'know' as it should.

So yes, you are definitely correct.

There are many who 'know' and don't 'do'...but I'd suggest that there are exponentially more that attempt to 'do' without properly having the 'know'

9:56 AM

Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Well, in re-reading myself, I can see how one would disagree strongly with me. 98% is a rather large number, and I'm guessing it's more like 60-70% that simply "don't know" as they should, but still attempt to do what they know (wrongly) is 'right'.

But looking from a different angel, 100% of the people who don't 'do' actually also don't 'know', for knowledge and action are two sides of the same coin. "Faith without works is dead", as James says in his 2nd chapter.

If we have 'preaching' but we still don't produce righteous deeds, that doesn't necessarily mean that we should have less preaching.

That simply might indicate that we have BAD preaching, for some would suggest that GOOD preaching, by definition, would encourage people to act.

But, I am more interested in your comment when you say:

"does the bible school stuff or preaching in church not work because it encourages knowledge and not necessarily love of God or knowing or being known by God?"

I'm curious how you'd expect to encourage knowledge of God AND love of God?

Oh, and Top This Bong? You make an insightful point. My mother is fat. I'm not sure how that contributes to this dialogue, but it's interesting none the less. Thanks for coming out.

11:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i guess i'm not real sure about HOW to do such things. but it strikes me that in a few places its observed in the bible that people are amazed at the way someone can teach without being "educated". at least one of these references is to jesus, another time people are amazed at his disciples teaching despite being formally educated. in the disciples cases, they were being taught and shown directly by Jesus, and if you consider him as Gods son, then it makes sense that their education is top notch despite not being formal.
maybe the difference is that when we're taught by God its both our knowledge and love that grows, but when we're taught by men without God's tough then just knowledge, [or truth on lips but not applied further].

John 6:43:Jesus answered. 44"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.'[d] Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.

that's a pretty attractive prospect, instead of learning from lewis or yancey or bonhoffer or other christian writers or the pastor in church, be taught by God. of course we can learn from these other people as well, but sometimes just asking God to teach us might be better, or at the very least asking him to teach in conjugation with these other "human" resources.

perhaps you're right in that lots of people "do" without knowing, perhaps not, i can't argue that one way or another but i know for myself i often forget to go to straight to God rather than going to "God as percieved by another author or person".

12:30 PM


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