Friday, December 30, 2011

The Prophets, Suffering and the Christian Life

Christ the Center podcast over that the Reformed Forum has a recording on Suffering and the Christian Life.  Dr. J. Ligon Duncan is the special guest and he has some great thoughts on the Old Testament prophets, the Christian life and the ministry as they relate to suffering.

Here are some quotes I picked up as I read it.

"Show me a preacher worth his salt and I will show you a man who has suffered because God makes his shepherds by breaking them and almost always there is a component of suffering that is a part of that holy breaking that the Lord does of his servants" -J. Ligon Duncan 
"You have to love the church before you can reform the church. And until you have felt the judgment of the sin of the church and until you have wept in love over the church in her waywardness, and in her wickedness, and in her fickleness, and in her fallenness you're not ready to reform the church." --J. Ligon Duncan.

Thoughts that are not direct quotes:

-The prophets always felt the burdens of the people as they were leading. This is a key part of being a minister.

-On feeling abandoned by God: the only one in heaven who will have known what it is like to be forsaken by God is the only one who didn't deserve it (Jesus).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Once More 'I AM' in John's Gospel

Earlier this month I posted on the 'I AM' in John's Gospel. It was in response to J. R. Daniel Kirk's post over on his blog. I think we should understand to larger function served by the unpredicated "I AM's" in John's Gospels. They are revelational (revealing Jesus is YHWH). They are Christological (pointing to the deity of Jesus). But they are also eschatological--they serve to point to the climactic revelation of God based upon the history of redemption in the Old Testament.

Jesus reveals Himself to be God. He takes up the divine identity that YHWH has been revealed as and designated with throughout the Old Testament.

In light of that earlier post, I recently found an old lecture of mine on the Ego Eimi in John's Gospel. The scan quality is readable but not superb. Enjoy.

'I AM' in John's Gospel

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Union with Christ as Foundational for Justification

Last week I was looking at John Owen's The Doctrine of Justifcation by Faith and I found several helpful comments about the relationship between union with Christ and justification by faith.
"The principle foundation hereof is, that Christ and the Church, in this design, were one mystical person, which state they actually coalesce in, through the uniting efficacy of the Holy Spirit. He is the head, and believers are the members of that one person, as the Apostle declares, 1 Cor. 12:12-13. Hence as what he did is imputed to them, as if done by them, so what they deserved on the account of sin was charged upon him." (p198 of The Doctrine of Justification)
And again,
"That our sins were transferred to Christ and made his; that thereon he underwent the punishment that was  due to us for them; and that the ground hereof, whereinto its equity is resolved, is the union between him and us, is fully declared in this discourse." (p200)

Quoting someone else "He is not saved by the cross of Christ, who is not crucified in Christ."... Owen concludes: 
"This then I say is the foundation of the imputation of the sins of the church to Christ, namely, that he and it are one person, the grounds whereof we must inquire into." (p.201).
p.221: "wherein all the precedent causes of the union between Christ and believers, whence they become one mystical person, centre, and whereby they are rendered a complete foundation of the imputation of their sins to him, and of his righteousness to them, is the communication of his Spirit, the same Spirit that dwelleth in him, to them, to abide in, to animate, and guide the whole mystical body and all its members."

If I understand Owen correctly the important thing is that Christ became the surety of the Covenant because of the pre-temporal compact between the Father and the Son. Christ becomes the mediator and the surety of the new covenant as the head of the body--a mystical person. As such Christ is able to take our sins for us as our guilt is imputed to him. He is able to impute his righteousness to us. 

The point is that Owen seems to suggest that the basis for imputation is union and the basis for union is the determination of the Father and the Son that the Son shall stand for the people.

So Owen says 
"The Lord Christ's voluntary susception of the state and condition of a surety, or undertaker for the church, to appear before the throne of God's justice for them, to answer whatever was laid to their charge, was required hereto. And this he did absolutely. There was a concurrence of his own will in and to all those divine acts whereby he and the Church were constituted one mystical person. And of his own love and grace did he as our surety stand in our stead before God, when he made inquisition for sin; he took it on himself as to the punishment which it deserved." (p.226)

I'm not an expert on Owen but this seems to be largely what Lane Tipton is arguing for in some of the recent debates between Tipton and Michael Horton on the relationship between justification and union with Christ. The language of foundation and ground for imputation couldn't be more clear as I read Owen--unless I'm missing something more.

Horton has argued that justification is the legal grounds or basis for union. You can check out the debate with links here and here.

I agree with Owen here--a doctrine of covenants is the way forward. Christ is given as a surety to us  upon which he takes up mediation. We must connect God's declaration on us (application of redemption) back to the acts of redemption themselves where Christ stands as representative in his death and resurrection.

None of this should be used to suggest or say that we are some how right with God prior to our justification before God. Rather as Christ works, His work is on behalf of His people. He can be placed forth as the covenant head prior to their receiving Him by faith and being justified through faith in Him. On the Cross, God concerns His Son crushing Him for the wickedness of His people, imputing their sins onto Him and propitiating his wrath against them. In His resurrection, because of the union, Christ is "raised up because of our justification." Thus, what happens to the one, has an eye towards those whom God the One represents.

Owen's use of union with Christ in no way prioritizes renovative categories over forensic ones, something that Biblically we must avoid. While we must always maintain that God justifies the ungodly the question is why does God impute our sin to Christ and Christ's righteousness to us. It is because when God looks at the death of Christ he considers Christ's representation--the mystical person that Christ stands for His people in his death and resurrection. Without the forensic there can be no personal relationship between the believer and God but just as God chooses us in Christ, he imputes our sins and Christ's righteousness because the Father and Son have determined together that Christ should stand for his people as Covenant head.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Biblical Defense of the Trinity

Here is another slightly longer Biblical defense of the Trinity with reference to relevant Bible verses. This is by no means exhaustive but if it something you can use, feel free to reproduce it.

The Truth of the Trinity

Monday, December 26, 2011

Jesus and the Trinity: a Handy Reference

Sometimes it can be good to have a handy reference guide to Jesus' Deity, the Holy Spirit's Deity and the Trinity in general. I created this one a couple of years ago for kids in my youth group. Maybe you can use it. Feel free to copy and distribute.

Jesus and the Trinity

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Meditation on Luke 1:13-14 & Hebrews 2:7

Christmas is first and foremost a season for worship. 
Luke 1:13-14
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The angels are glorifying God for the fact that he has sent His Son into the world. This is ‘good news’ that is to be announced to the peoples (Luke 2:10). The announcement of who Jesus is comes in 2:11 “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

They give praise to God because this is the marvelous plan through which he had determined to save the world. Scripture tells us that he made this determination to save a people freely by his own will before the foundation of the world itself. 

The angels are giving glory to God because God has sent his Son into the world, born of a woman. Jesus came “in the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4). The whole of human history centered on this moment--a little baby born in the manger.

Consider the greatness of the child and the greatness of God’s plan that he should be announced by angels. Not only this, angels rejoice and give glory to God for this marvelous moment to which they are attendant. 

Because the Son of God has come down out of heaven, the heavenly hosts which are gather under the throne of God have now come down to announce the birth of the king. In the Old Testament, the heavenly hosts gather around the throne and give praise to God (1 Kings 22:19; Ps. 103:21; 148:2). And so we find them visiting the Shepherds so that the shepherds might know that the LORD has come. Immanuel, ‘God with us,’ is here.

God is displaying his glory but entering his creation in the most humble of means. Jesus, the heir of the world, comes as little baby. He is God the Son and the angels praise him and worship him. 
Hebrews 1:6 “And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.””

The Mystery of Christmas is that the Angels Worship One Made Lower than Them.

The great mystery of the universe that is a cause for marvel and wonder is that God the Son who deserves all worship, should take on the lowly state of a human being. Philippians 2 tells us that although he existed in the form of God and was equal with God, he took on form of a servant and humbled himself. He emptied Himself meaning He made himself nothing. He suddenly has no wondrous appearance. He stepped down from His throne in heaven.
Isaiah 53:2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. 
In his humanity, he came in a humbled and humiliated state. Is rank and majesty was so low that in his human nature, he ranked below the angels.
Hebrews 2:6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 

In the context, Hebrews is focusing on the exaltation of Jesus. That Jesus is raised back of and ascends to the right hand of the Father. He is King over the creation. Ruling as a true human being--although he is equal God. 

The point is that he could never reign as a human being if he did not first come as a servant in lowly estate. This exaltation could not happen if Christ did not first come in utter humiliation, a humiliation that culminated on the Cross. To be the Son of David, it is was crucial that Christ come in total meekness, lowliness, his status is ignoble, he is of no account or reputation. It is this lowly state the we first see Jesus in while he is in the manager. 

His state is so low that the Son of God who created the angels and is to be worship by the angels, in his human form he has a rank lower than all the angels. So while he never stops being God and worthy of all worship, when he enters creation and takes on full humanity, he gets a human rank: utter lowliness.

The angels give glory to God because the one who is worthy of worship does not claim rank for Himself by self-exaltation but takes on abject servanthood, ignobility, weakness, lowliness so that he might be the suffering servant who defeats death by dying.

This is the way of our God. This is a cause for marvel and worship of the Mighty King. That the mighty King who was worthy of all glory did not use that to His own advantage. He did not take up the rights due him--rather he took on humility. He, as to his human nature, took on lowly rank.

We forever stand in awe that the one to whom the angels bowed, should stoop so low as to willing assume rank lower than the angels themselves so that God would save the world and raise us the Son in exaltation. Jesus gave up the glory of heaven so that we might one day join him as sons and heirs of the glory and riches of the age to come.

As the angels give glory to God, Christ--the glorious Son of God--is nestled in the manger with a rank lower then the angels whom he made and who forever rightly worship Him. This is the mystery of Christmas. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Last Days Have Begun

Here's a recent essay that I wrote on inaugurated eschatology and the beginning of the last days in the New Testament.

The Last Days Have Begun

The Offense of the Cross and Christ's Triumph

There is a tendency of some to favor an approach to the cross as solely Christus Victor in order to avoid the  offensiveness of the cross. Some seek to avoid their own personal offense to substitutionary atonement. Others think that they can avoid the offensiveness that culture and the world might have to "barbaric" notice of penal substitution.

The bottom line is that wherever hearts are in rebellion to God and Jesus you cannot avoid the offense of the cross. Christus Victor will be just an offensive. So to twist and dodge one aspect of the atonement or to seek to pivot from one aspect in order to play up another aspect will not truly evade the overall offensiveness people have with the cross and subsequent triumph of Jesus.

That is to say, there is a right way to bring Christus Victor and penal substitution into balance in the atonement. I think penal substitution is more basic and is first order for salvation, but the outworking of Christ's death for his people in their place (1 Cor. 15:1-4, Gal. 3:10-13; Col. 2:14) will bring out this aspect of Christ's death as victory (Col. 2:15) and his resurrection/exaltation as triumph (Eph. 1:18-23). It is this proclamation of triumph that is offensive. That Jesus actually achieves something that is effective by going to the cross is bothersome to the world. They like a Jesus who dies, but they do not like a Jesus who is subsequently raised up so that every knee must bow (Phil. 2:9-11).

Nowhere was this offense of Jesus' exaltation and triumph more obvious to me than in Michael Bird's latest posts. Check out the comments here, the response from a modern pagan blogger here, and the comments in Bird's response here.

Central to the gospel fulfillment in Christ are some of these OT psalms:

Psalm 110:1  The LORD says to my Lord:  “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” 2 The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! 
Psalm 8:2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. ... 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 
Psalm 2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;  the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,  and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7  I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9       You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 
This verses are some of the most quoted in the New Testament and central to inaugurated eschatology that the work of Christ usher's in. God sets up his kingdom in the exaltation of Jesus Christ. Of course, the kingdom is won by Jesus' death and resurrection. Part of Jesus' ministry in saving people is God transferring them from the rebel kingdom to the kingdom of His Son (Col. 1:13-14). Redemption and reconciliation to former enemies is a central tenant to God establishing his kingdom. But equally some enemies are triumphed over by the exaltation even though they never receive redemption. Rival gods are shown to be not-gods--this is central to the eschatology incipient in Isaiah 40-66 which the NT fulfills with the return of YHWH to Zion themes, the Suffering Servant and the inaugurated New Creation.

The point is that the inbreaking of YWHH into his creation entails the overthrowing of all kingdoms that set themselves up as rivals. The other kingdoms will find this offensive. To think you can remove the offense of the gospel by going light on the cross and skipping to resurrection and exaltation is silly. These too are just as offensive. In the Old Testament people did not like finding out their gods were not gods when God thwarted them. This is what Jesus does.

People do not like finding out that their wisdom is foolishness--but this is precisely what the cross does (1 Cor. 1:18-31).

You cannot minimize Christianity conflict and triumph without de-godding God or de-Lording the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is not to say that Christians triumph is by military might--no, our triumph comes in the end but in the here and now we carrying the cross of Christ. But we are to be faithful witnesses, martyrs. Whenever we testify that Jesus is Lord we are implicitly proclaim Caesar is not, pagan gods are not, every other system of 'this world' will be brought into submission of the Kingdom of God or it will be removed. Christ will reign in the midst of his enemies until the last one--death itself--is brought under his feet.

Christianity is a victory unlike any other--victory comes by God hand as the Son of God humbles himself unto death--Christians likewise are to humble themselves. But Christ will be the victor yet--that is what Christus Victor proclaims and that too is a grave offense, an affront to those who want to win their way on their terms.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Myth of Pagan Tolerance

Michael Bird posted on the triumph of Christ over paganism. While his language was a bit forceful, it really is nothing that is not reflected in the content of the New Testament. Christ has put all the principalities and powers under his feet. He will crush his enemies, that refuse to repent. Greco-Roman gods of paganism are shown to be failures by Christ's death, resurrection and ascension. In this respect, consider Isaiah 40-66 which shows Babylonian gods to be utterly defeated and humiliated by God's deity and actions on behalf of His people. In fact, God consistently shows that the gods are not gods. Bye-bye paganism.

This of course riled up the comments section on Bird's blog. So now he is responding to the myth of ancient pagan's tolerance. See his new post: The Myth of Tolerant Paganism.

Bird concludes with this:
Ancient paganism was hardly a tolerant, inclusive, pluralistic, and gentle religious option. It was an instrument, even a chaplain, to the most violent and oppressive political power of its day. Note, I’m describing Roman paganism, not a bunch of new age Wiccans in Wisconsin. I have no interest in the contemporary expressions of paganism which I imagine to be radically different from ancient paganism. But you pagans out there need to face up to the fact that pagan religion was an instrument of oppression and violence against Jews and Christians in antiquity! It’s part of your heritage, you don’t have to like it (there’s plenty of parts of my Christian heritage that I don’t like). But please, please stop telling the world that Christians (young, old, male, female,  even children) deserved to be ripped apart by wild beasts for refusing to worship the pagan gods. Stop telling the story that all Christians went looking for martyrdom.  I have to ask, did the Christians who suffered these fates deserve them for, well, refusing to be pagans?

I posted before on the myth of Roman tolerance here and a the myth of polytheism's tolerance here. Suffice it to say they were tolerant so long as no absolute statements were claimed, then they could be quite intolerant. It is not that much difference from our culture today.

Bird's post gives three lines of evidence against the myth of pagan tolerance:

1. As Duke Uni Professor Kavin Rowe (World Upside Down, 162) writes: “[T]he notion that polytheistic religions issue in political tolerance and cultural understanding is at best a serious distortion of the realities of the Graeco-Roman world.” Roman authorities distinguished between religio licita (legal) and religio illicita (illegal). They treated foreign or new religions with violent contempt...  
2. Pagan cultural, political, and intellectual elites in Rome were notoriously xenophobic and routinely anti-semitic.  In order to protect the purity of its own religious traditions, the Romans routinely expelled foreigners from Egypt, Judea, and the East... 
3. Christians were persecuted by Romans authorities because they were “other,” because they refused to honor the local gods and so dishonored both the gods and their worshippers, they refused to worship the Emperor and were thus disloyal to the state. Persecution of Christians happened in a variety of ways including social ostracization, confiscation of property, loss of public office, anti-Christian riots, and spasmodically in capital punishment. (emphasis mine)
Bird backs these points up with documentary citation of original sources--as any good historian must do. Check out his post for his important elaboration. Michael Bird has left another myth busted.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

N.T. Wright and Biblical Theology

I first began reading N.T. Wright in college. I still had much to learn but I benefited tremendously from his Biblical theology even though over the years I discovered areas I disagreed with him. His understanding of the larger arrangement and an organization of Scripture's larger narrative is quite compelling.

Here is a 40 minute lecture that gives a good overview of Biblical theology. It is worth your time.

N.T. WRIGHT part 3 from ETS Productions on Vimeo.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jesus was an Occupier?!

This is pretty near the top of theological absurdity:
Civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson delivered a message of encouragement to Occupy London protesters this week....
"There is something powerful about this demonstration here at St Paul's. You represent Jesus standing outside the temple," said the church minister.
"Jesus was an Occupier, born under a death warrant, a Jew by religion, born in poverty under Roman occupation.”...
"The occupiers' cause is a just cause, a moral cause. They should not be dismissed but heard – listen to their message.
"Banks got bailed out, people got left out. Protesters are criminalised but not a single banker has gone to jail for their crimes, the corruption and greed which drove the global economy to the brink of collapse."

I will grant that Jesus' message to the tax collector--who are where both analogous to statists and big money swindlers today--was indeed repent.

Jesus message was far from "occupy ____". It wasn't "Send the lying, cheating and oppressors to jail." Jesus' message was not try to get back what was allotted people who were exploited. Jesus' goal and mission was not to use the power of the world to force the power brokers to yield. He didn't stage a sit-in, a protest or a riot. He eschewed an attempts to seize the kingdom by force. In fact, just the opposite. It was the radical power of the kingdom that demonstrates itself in submission and service.

The kingdom culminates in the cross. If there is any Christus Victor in the cross it is because Jesus did not occupy the powers of the world instead he overthrew them by yielding to them. He let himself get conquered by death.

This of course, lead to a radical sacrificial kingdom ethic for his followers.
Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ 39 “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. 
Let's compare Jesus' kingdom ethic from Matthew 5 with the methods of OWS:
  1. The redistributive justice of 'social justice' theories, for all that may be right or wrong about it, still operates on the plain of lex talionis. It assumes that the rich swindled money to get rich (not always the case in capitalism) and so we should repay them eye for an eye in the sense of redistributing money dollar for dollar--from one to another. It therefore still operates on a retributive justice: You made dollar A through exploitation therefore I will take dollar A from you. How is that not eye for eye? It is not a kingdom ethic.
  2. The occupiers are not teaching a radical cheek turning ethic but rather an active (even if non-violent in some cases) resistance. There is debate about how passive the 'turn the other cheek' is. It may force people to acknowledge equal dignity--and thus would have some sympathy to what occupiers claim to want.  More likely, it demonstrates a servant's heart that allows oneself to be mildly injured, ridiculed but utterly humiliated and despised for the sake of others. This thought is demonstrated in the further articulation of Jesus' message.
  3. Jesus taught that if people were going to exploit us from our money through lawsuits we should be willing to give more. If they sue you for your shirt (to exploit you); give them your shirt and coat. If OWS thinks Wall Street exploited them--a kingdom method would teach the radical irrelevance of money for kingdom ethics by handing over more of it to the exploiter. This is not an ethic on how to make a living but how to disarm the exploiter by showing his values are in fact unvaluable when faced with the kingdom. --I hardly see OWS saying 'they've exploited us, let them have more' --just the opposite they crave the value of a worldly systems of money and essential want to redistribute it equally. A kingdom ethic actually gives it away rather than crying out for equal redistribution.
  4. Jesus taught us to go the extra mile for the one exploiting us. Again, this is hardly what OWS is doing. If they really wanted to have a kingdom ethic maybe they should carry an executive's brief case, drive their car covering the expense of gas, or carry a cup of coffee to them at no charge. Overturn their greed by going above and beyond in the face of it. This is the kingdom ethic.
  5. Give to him who asks. Instead of sacrificially giving and lending to others, OWS is more worried about people who have borrowed from others. They a group A trying to tell group B (Government) to take from Group C (Wall Street/Rich) and Give to Group D. In the kingdom ethic--if Group D has a need group A give sacrificially.

For Jesus is was the meek, the low and the poor who will inherit the earth and be blessed by God. This was the kingdom blessing but it was on the meek, lowly, and poor as such. Their exaltation was not in the here and now. The blessing of their current state is indeed now but the out come of that blessing "they shall..." remained future.

I have yet to see any Occupier considering their status as blessed--assuming they are truly even poor. Their ethics seem to leave much to be desired by way of humility and meekness. Rather just the opposite, they are attempting to overturn the powers that be by seizing power through protest and sit in. 'Seize' might be a strong word but the basic motive is to use their methods to force another's hand. It is to  'force' people via worldly method to "listen to us." Hardly the radical servanthood of the kingdom, definitely not the ethics of the kingdom.

The point: Jesus and the ethics of the Kingdom are hardly aligned with OWS.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Inaugurated Eschatology Central to Christianity

Since I first came to understand the Biblical scheme of inaugurated eschatology, I've been a "fan." By fan I mean that it is Biblical and I'm committed to what is presented in Scripture. But by fan I also mean that is was formative in shaping my understanding of the New Testament and the fulfillment of the Old Testament in the New. I had grown up reading the Bible, but when I discovered the concept of inaugurated eschatology as it related to Jesus' teaching of the Kingdom of God, it was for me like major pieces of a puzzle were dropped into place. Soon I began to discover that inaugurated eschatology was core to Pauline epistles and the rest of the New Testament.

Thanks to Dane Ortlund for posting these two great quotes on inaugurated eschatology. I reproduce them here:

William Manson, 1953:
When we turn to the New Testament, we pass from the climate of prediction to that of fulfillment. The things which God had foreshadowed by the lips of His holy prophets He has now, in part at least, brought to accomplishment . . .
The supreme sign of the Eschaton is the resurrection of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church. The resurrection of Jesus is not simply a sign which God has granted in favor of His Son, but is the inauguration, the entrance into history, of the times of the End. Christians, therefore, have entered through the Christ into the new age . . . What had been predicted in Holy Scripture as to happen to Israel or to man in the Eschaton has happened to and in Jesus. 
--William Manson, ‘Eschatology and the New Testament,’ in Scottish Journal of Occasional Papers 2 (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1953), 6

Joachim Jeremias, 1971:
There is nothing comparable to the resurrection of Jesus anywhere in Jewish literature. Certainly there are mentions of raisings from the dead, but these are always resuscitations, a return to earthly life. Nowhere in Jewish literature do we have a resurrection to doxa as an event of history. Rather, resurrection to doxa always and without exception means the dawn of God’s new creation.
Therefore the disciples must have experienced the appearances of the Risen Lord as an eschatological event, as a dawning of the turning point of the worlds. 
--Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus (trans. John Bowden; New York: Scribner’s, 1971), 309 
I'm still a fanboy of inaugurated eschatology. I love reading stuff related to the topic and concept. Major portions of the NT are clarified and brought to a clearer understanding when we see that inaugurated eschatology permits their thinking.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Brief History of Christmas

Over on his blog, Doug Wilson posts 'a brief history of Christmas.'

Here are some highlights:
"The early church celebrated what we call Easter (and others, Pascha) right away. This included the weekly “Easter” of the Lord’s Day (Heb. 4:10; Rev. 1:10). One of the biggest controversies of the second century concerned how the date of this annual Easter was to be calculated. So the early church celebrated the Lord’s resurrection (His being firstborn from the dead) from the very beginning. They were a bit slower with celebrating His birth. But given the amount of space the gospel writers gave to accounts of His birth, it is not surprising that this celebration came eventually. 
·    The birth of the Lord began to be commemorated (on an annual basis) somewhere in the third or fourth centuries, A.D. 
·    It is commonly argued that this was a “takeover” of a pagan holiday, celebrating the winter solstice. But it just as likely, in my view, that this was actually the other way around. Sol Invictus was established as a holiday by Aurelian in 274 A.D., when the Christians were already a major force. So who was copying whom? And Saturnalia, another popular candidate for being an “ancestor” of Christmas, actually occurred on December 17. 
·    St. Nicolas, who was later morphed into Santa Claus, was a godly man, known for his generosity to children. He attended the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), and at least one urban legend has him punching out Arius the heretic. Let us hope so. 
·    In the medieval period, the holiday became known by its current name (Christmas) in the 11th century. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives us the first use, recording something that happened in 1038. A.D. An archbishop died, “and a little after, Ethelric, bishop in Sussex, and then before Christmas, Briteagus. Bishop in Worcestshire.” Some may object to the fact that the suffix -mass is still in the name. But the objectionable doctrine of transubstantiation was not codified by the Roman church until the 13th century (1215) at the Fourth Lateran Council. The word mass originally came from the fact that in the ancient church catechumens were dismissed from the service before the Lord’s Supper was observed. “Ite, missa est,” which roughly translated means that “you may go now.” We see it still in our word dismissed. The vestigial reference to the Mass in this name should not be a trouble; Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to celebrate Christmas at all, and they deny the deity of Christ. 
·    By the time of the Reformation, the ship of the church was absolutely covered with barnacles—saints’ days and whatnot. The Reformers scraped virtually all of them off, keeping only what they called the “five evangelical feast days”—Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. All five are related to things that Jesus did, and we are not distracted by the Feast of St. Bartholomew’s Finger Bone. 
·    Much of what we identify as “Christmas-y” is no more than a century or two old—our idea of a “traditional” Christmas is basically Victorian. This is not bad, although it can be bad if you are not paying attention to your heart, and wind up judging your neighbor. I refer to Christmas cards, snow, silver bells, electric lights for your house, and a Saturday Evening Post Santa with a Coke."
I've posted before the theory of Sol Invictus cult and the date setting of Christmas on Dec 25.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Give your Kids some Chores

Here's an interesting excerpt:

Poor kids often have a fire in their belly, a desire to improve their lot and help their parents. Upper-middle class kids can be harder to motivate, especially if they've never been taught to work by their parents. 
You think I'm kidding. I remember once seeing a 21-year-old struggle with how to hold a broom and sweep the floor. It wasn't his fault. No one had ever taught him how to do that chore -- or any other. Whenever I write about young people and the jobs they won't do, I hear from dozens of employers with stories of their own. The common theme in all those e-mails is that we've been too soft on our kids and haven't demanded enough from them, something we hardly notice because we've allowed illegal immigrants to pick up the slack. 
Parents used to make their children work after school, or on weekends, or during summer break, to earn extra money to buy what they wanted. They gave them a list of chores to do to earn their allowances. No chores, no allowances. Today, parents find it easier to skip the chores and buy their kids what they want, which is no good for anyone and no good for society.
(1) I almost laughed out loud about a 21 year old not quite sure how to handle a broom. I have four kids and my toddler has almost mastered how to handle a broom--a full size adult broom 3 times taller than her. You had better believe that my two oldest (5 & 8) know how to sweep the floor.

(2) Children need to be given chores. They need to have increasing levels of responsibility given to them as they get older. This isn't mean; it's life. We don't have to work our kids to the bone or force them to go out to put food on the table--but a little work never hurt anyone. Now I'm going to sound like my parents but: work builds character.

(3) The preference in our family is you have chores without pay. Why? Because life often makes demands of us that offer little or no immediate payoffs. I don't get paid for cleaning up my plate at the dinner table-- why should I bribe my kids to do it? Yes, if you have to pay them to what should be expected of them it is a bribe.

My wife and I see this at our children's public school. Good behavior is rewarded to the point that children are not expected to do what is right because it is right but because they get a reward. It creates a "what's in it for me mentality." Can you saw: entitlement. On top of that there is often a reward for stopping some bad behavior. Try that one in the real world: "No need to resort to handcuffs, honest officer I would have stopped beating the man if you had given me some candy."

What you reinforce is what the child will come to expect.

There is a difference between chores and work. Chores are a form of work but not all work is a chore. Some work has a monetary payoff--(a paycheck); some work is necessary. You do it because it is right and necessary. 

In our home we are a family. It means we live in a mini-community. We all have a responsibility to each other. Yes, mom and dad are the caretakers--and I'm the bread winner. But I pay for the home and we expect everybody who lives in it to help take care of it. You can call that collectivism if you want--but it's just good old fashion family values. 

It also teaches respect for property--which is essential to living in society. If my kids don't keep their rooms clean they are disrespecting the good gifts God has given us. 

(4) Teach your kids the value of money. We do from time to time give our kids some money spending money. For example, my oldest wanted to buy some Christmas gifts so we were gracious. We probably won't do an "allowance" because it doesn't really teach the value of money--that money has to be earned.  By and large the principle is though if you want some money from mom and dad, you simple need to propose some work. Or when they ask for money the answer is: "Great, I have some leaves in the back yard that need raked. I will pay you ________ for ________ amount of work."And guess what: occasionally we say "no" because as they say: money doesn't grow on trees.

I now officially sound like my parents. And that's not a bad thing. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Aseity of God

The basic doctrine of the aseity of God is that God is wholly independent of his creation. God's creation is dependent upon Him. God is wholly complete without His creation. So for example, while God delights in His creation, His creation doesn't "complete Him" or "fulfill Him" whether emotionally or metaphysically.

God's aseity is one of the foundational doctrines upon which other doctrines are built. Like the Trinity, the doctrine of aseity is indispensable to all of our theological thinking. Even more, it is important for worship. God alone is self-sufficient in Himself. We come to Him as the dependents coming to the Independent One.

Consider K. Scott Oliphint:
"The aseity of God, therefore must be the place on which we stand in order to assert anything else about him, given that anything else we say about him depends for its proper understanding and meaning on that aseity. Or, to put it a bit more succinctly, unless God is a se (of himself), he is not God, and no characterization of God that excludes this aseity can be true of him. Any theology that denies of otherwise negates this aseity cannot be sustained as a true, biblical doctrine of God. A god who is not a se, and thus who is essentially dependent, is a god who is unable to be god. In order for God to be who he is, he must be and remain essentially independent." [God With Us, p. 19]

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chaplains & Shepherds

This essay and this follow up are particularly hard hitting but it needs to be said. Kudos to Mark Galli for nailing the real elephant in the room.

Rarely for me does something level the expression "must read"--these essay might come close, but my reserved personality can't bring myself to type.

Here's a teaser of the first essay:

One wonders where we got our other ideas about the pastorate. For centuries, the pastorate was thought to be about "the cure of souls"—souls being understood not as the spiritual part of us, but as the fullness of our humanity. The pastor has traditionally been thought of as one who does ministry in the midst of a people who are sick and dying, and who administers in word and sacrament, in Scripture and in prayer, the healing balm of the Lord. 
So who told us that the pastor is primarily a leader/entrepreneur/change agent and anything but a curer of souls? And why do we believe them?
I've been a parishioner in many churches over many years. In each church, the pastor has been tempted, as I was, to become the great leader, to shape himself in our culture's image of success. To be sure, the modern pastor does have to "run a church"; he or she is, in fact, the head of an institution that has prosaic institutional needs. I've been thankful when my pastor carries out these institutional responsibilities with efficiency and joy. 
But the times I remember most, the times when my troubled soul has been most deeply affected and moved—outside of preaching and receiving the sacraments—have been when my pastor acted like a chaplain. When he pulled me aside in the narthex, put his arm around me, and prayed with me about some matter. When he visited me in the hospital. When in unhurried conversation I felt less alone, because I knew in a deeper way that God was present. 
Some say that pastoral moments like these are like germs, and if we let such moments take over, they'll make the church sick. I beg to differ. During such moments, the church is never more healthy.
 Here's a teaser from the second follow up blog post:
This does not mean that each and every member of the church is primarily called to make the local church the be all and end all of his/her life—as if the church were nothing but a happy holy club.  Some are called to give themselves to the church in this way.  But most are simply called to spend the bulk of their energies raising families, being good neighbors, fulfilling their callings.  In this sense, the pastor is the “chaplain” of these people—leading them in worship, catechizing them, praying with them so that they can go about their daily lives as witnesses to the love of Christ.  The pastor is not “the leader of a people on mission,” but the shepherd of a community that worship and grows together in unity, and of people who are learning to love God and neighbor in their daily lives.
For those who disparage the role of the pastor as chaplain, these two essays are a healthy corrective. There is a reason that the Bible calls the elders in the church as 'shepherds/pastors'. God has entrusted a flock to them and they are to see to the care of those souls.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The End of Jesus' Kingdom

Here’s an interesting theologically conundrum:

Does the kingdom of David end?

On the one hand we are told that this kingdom is forever.

On the other hand we are told that David’s descendant sits at the right hand until...

1 Cor. 15:24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 
25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 

Here we have both the ‘handing over’ and the reigning ‘until’

So should we say the kingdom does not end but it changes in phases... at the ‘end’ the vice-regent establishes regency for the son.

The exercise of his reign will lose his judicial enemy-crushing-quality about it. Jesus’ reign doesn’t stop--but their is a time point where Jesus’ reign finally defeats his enemies. He moves from a King reigning in military might--to King who has established peace and can rest from his throne.

But if the reign of Jesus actually ends in the sense of stops--then the David promises would find themselves winding down to a close. Forever would not really be forever.

Luke promises: Luke 1:33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

Jesus hands over the kingdom to His Father, because as the vice-regent He has finally and fully established the reign of God. He has exercised His authority and finished executing justice and righteousness. He has ushered in the eschatological new creation.

Jesus continues to reign in the eternal state. It is of sort a new phase of his reign. He no longer reigns over a cursed creation, he no longer reigns in the presence of his enemies with sin and death lurking amongst creation. His throne is there and death and the curse are vanquished.

Revelation 22:1 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 
2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 
3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 

Thus the kingdom moves from Jesus ‘reigning in the midst of his enemies’ to reigning in the fullness ‘Sabbath rest,’ the eschatological peace has been established over all creation. It is now enjoyed with presence of the King on his throne.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Adjective 'Social'

I found this article over at the American Spectator, to be quite apt as a discussion of what adding the word "social" in things like "social business," "social justice" and "social Gospel" can do in robbing the terms of their power. As it points out, on the face of it adding social really should add anything because business, justice and the Gospel are inherently social: namely they involve people and interactions.

Here are several paragraphs that stuck out:

I'm all for spiritual renewal and the common good, but the term social gospel leaves the impression that the ordinary Christian Gospel is some sort of Gnostic religion -- without a horizontal plane extending through the flesh and blood and toil of human society -- until properly incarnated by good-hearted socialists. The notion is odd in the extreme. Christianity played a pivotal role in the birth of political, economic, and religious freedom in the West, and was crucial in establishing institutions like the university and the hospital. At a more obvious level, the Gospel involves a billion or so people getting together every few days in things called churches in anticipation of what's supposed to culminate in an enormous cosmic wedding feast. 
The third term, social justice, is unlike the other two in its having a justifiable raison d'être. It stretches back to 19th century Catholic social thought and was used in the context of nuanced explorations of law, ethics, and justice. Unfortunately, this nuance and precision usually falls away in popular usage, and the term has been co-opted by the left to imply that ordinary justice is a mere tool of the ruling elite, with the real deal being "social justice." 
This impoverished meaning needs to be addressed. If a society extends justice to the rich and well-connected but allows the poor to be bullied and swindled by corrupt players inside and outside of the government, the problem isn't unsocial justice but a lack of justice. If the poor in many developing nations can't get access to credit or the courts because they can't register their businesses, and they can't register their businesses because they don't have the bribe money and connections to navigate a byzantine regulatory maze, the problem is injustice, plain and simple. Such a society doesn't need a social brand of justice any more than a poor neighborhood without stores needs a social grocery store. The neighborhood needs an ordinary grocery store, and the unjust society needs basic justice. Grocery stores and justice are already intrinsically social. 
More than accurate semantics is at stake here. Often the popular call for "social justice" boils down to an ill-conceived call for coercive wealth transfers -- for instance, getting rich countries to transfer more of their tax revenues to the governments of poor countries as foreign aid. It'd be nice if this approach actually helped the poor, since we've been using it for the past 60 years. Unfortunately, the statistical and narrative testimony on this strategy hovers between mixed and scandalous.
Christian should of course be concerned with justice. God's character in the Old Testament was one of justice and righteousness. God established his King, David, to rule in justice and righteousness. The OT prophets were concerned with Israel's failure of justice and righteousness. The Messiah would rule in justice and righteousness.

But we need to be careful of the fallacy of equating Old Testament conceptions of justice and righteousness with modern concepts of social justice. If there are people that do not have equal treatment under the Law, then of course that is a matter of justice. The rich and the poor are to be treated equal according to the OT. In fact, not only was one not to favor the rich because they were rich, the OT was clear you were not to show favoritism to the poor simply because they were poor going up against the rich. That to was deemed injustice. (Exodus 23:3; Lev. 18:15)

The article goes on to highlight the devastating effects 'social justice' can have. It can actually lead to moral corruption and it can cultivate to situations where actual injustice is perpetuated upon those one seeks to help. This should not be an argument against the right kind of help and true showing of mercy--but rather an honest evaluation of whether or not one's efforts do more harm then good. Even unintended consequences are still consequences one bears responsibility for.

As Christians we should avoid what is trendy just because the crowd is telling us it is trendy. Is the addition of the adjective 'social' one of those trendy words? Has it become a sort of Shibboleth for identifying particular 'it' crowds or signaling who is truly compassionate? While it may seek to add content what has it actually take away from the discussion? 

As the article concludes: "All the same, it's important to recognize that these terms, as often used today, share some of the same confusion that characterizes socialism. It's a confusion that sees business, profit and the market economy as intrinsically greedy and predatory; that undervalues the power of ordinary justice for liberating the poor; and that regards the problem of poverty in materialistic terms."

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kuyper and Sphere Sovereignty

I have often found myself appreciating Abraham's doctrine of 'sphere sovereignty.' Basically in his book Lectures on Calvinism he lays out his chapter three a lecture on Calvinism and Politics. He argues that there are three God-ordained spheres of power in life each one governing a different area: church, family and government. So for example the church has doctrinal responsibilities that include church discipline for wrong beliefs but this area of 'sovereignty' is not granted to the government. Nor is the church to punish murderers with criminal penalties--that is governments job. Similarly family has responsibilities that government cannot reproduce--nor should it because if it does it is overstepping its God ordained boundaries.

This is why I find Collin Hansen's concluding statement here so helpful:
I give thanks that so many Christians look at the social decay around them and want to make a difference. We should remember, however, the wisdom of theologians who have gone before us. In particular, Abraham Kuyper's "sphere sovereignty" distinguishes between the responsibility of the state, society, and the church. What we see now in the West is a breakdown of society, which includes families, voluntary organizations, and local communities. The government has overstepped its responsibility by seeking to occupy this sphere. Our financial crisis and political stalemate should disabuse us of any notion that the government is capable of replacing these so-called mediating institutions. 
But neither can or should the church bear this burden; otherwise, it will lose sight of the unique mission Jesus gave us. And that would be a critical loss indeed for all who need above anything else to hear and believe his liberating gospel. Perhaps if we trust God to demonstrate the power of this gospel to save, he will rebuild the fabric of our torn society.
The issue of 'what is the mission of the church' will not go away. Indeed it could be the next area of debate where respondents are already staking their claims. What has God ordained the church to do? What has God not ordained the church to do?

Similarly I've been reading a little in economics and politics lately and find myself more and more drawn to views of limited government that enhance liberty. This leads me back to questions that Kuyper's sphere sovereignty sets the grid for: what is the God-ordained role of government? Are there things that civil society and communities should be doing that are collective goals that do not need to be run or overseen by government (so long as they are done legally)? 

What about the family? What is the role of the family? Certainly the family does to varying degrees submit to both the government and the church. But what is the family as an institution that the government and the church are not? Certainly the church values the family but the church doesn't replace  the family. The church should seek to enhance families--and even be a second family for those who family life is suffer or lacking. But what is there in the family that is irreplaceable and cannot be duplicated or engineered by the government and the church? 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Quarrelsome vs. Seeking Advice

Sometimes a person will mask their quarrelsome spirit under the guise of "seeking advice." How do we discern someone really seeking counsel from someone

What is a quarrelsome person? It is not just one who picks a fight but the one who shares stories in such a way that strife results and ‘discord’ is created.

ESV Proverbs 6:19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
NAU Proverbs 6:19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.

The word for ‘quarrelsome’ or ‘contentious’ is used most often to describe a kind of  wife in Scripture.
Proverbs 27:15 A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike;
Ever hear of a nagging wife? The one who “when are you going to mow the lawn? Why don’t you do the laundry? Why can’t you be like so-and-so’s husband? Why didn’t you do this for me?” Etc.

But now someone who comes to us may not be quarrelsome in the sense that they say “I hate X” but they might do the same kind of nagging: Do know what so-and-so didn’t do? Do you see this problem? Can you believe he acts that way? I think so-and-so has an agenda. People are leaving the church because of X. Why can’t we be like church Y.

Sometimes people seek us for counsel. There is sometimes a fine line between seeking counsel and someone coming to nag. Sometimes we can unwittingly be a party to gossip.

(a) People who seek counsel ask you to evaluate their heart. –People who gossip ask you to evaluate other people’s heart, motives and attitudes. 

(b) People who seek counsel do not have a bitter spirit—although they may be hurt. People who gossip are bitter and they often sow seeds of doubt and distrust in others. You start to wonder if there is really something secret and hidden going on.

(c) People who seek counsel are willing to go to great lengths to follow Godly advice and confront Biblical problems—i.e. with Matthew 18. etc. 

(d) People who seek counsel labor hard to not portray others in a bad light. People who gossip are ‘blowing off steam’ with an intent to see if something will catch on fire.

(e) People who are gossiping think they already know the solution. People seeking counsel are not sure what to do.

*This post simply reflects some devotional notes from a Bible study I did a few years back*

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"I AM" in John's Gospel

In John's gospel there are several uses of the words "I am" that are unpredicated. Meaning all that is said is "I am." This stands out slightly from statements like "I am the good shepherd" or "I am the door" although all of them fit together as part of a theme in John.

Over on his blog, J. R. Daniel Kirk proposes that the unpredicted "I am" may not be a reference to Exodus 3:14. He writes:

There are a couple of problems with this reading. First, it is not entirely clear that “I am” is a better reading than “I will be.”
But what would someone think who had read and heard the passage from the Greek Old Testament?
God says to Moses, “I am the one who is”: ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν. So there’s an apparent argument in favor of reading the “I am” statements, ἐγώ εἰμι…, as allusions to Exodus 3:14.
But this brings us to the second, and more significant problem with the common assumption.
When God then goes on to give Moses the name to speak to the Israelites, he does not use “I am,” ἐγώ εἰμι, in the Greek (LXX) but instead, “the one who is,” ὁ ὤν: “Tell them that the one who is, ὁ ὤν, has sent you.”
So when Jesus says, “I am _____,” what’s he saying? He’s making important claims about his identity and the function he performs in the story of Israel.
But is he claiming to speak to his people as the YHWH who spoke to Moses? Maybe not.
Here is the comment that I left:

What about David Mark Ball’s study “”I am” in John’s Gospel: literary function, background and theological implications” that argues pretty convincingly in my view that the major background to the unpredicated ‘I Am’ is deutero-Isaiah use of ‘I am He’ [אֲנִי הוּא] which in the LXX is regularly translated “ἐγὼ εἰμί”. 
If I remember correctly [hope I got the reference right, I'm not at my office], he argues that Isaiah itself uses the “I am he” as an echo of Exodus 3:14. 
It seems to me that Jesus is claiming to be YHWH by echoing His name as used in deutero-Isaiah which was pregnant with eschatological expectations of what YHWH would do in the fullness of redemptive history. In this light, the ‘coded’ references to Jesus’ deity in the unpredicated “ἐγὼ εἰμί ‘s of John seem not only to stand but are strengthened 
The unpredicated “I am’s” of John’s Gospel might not directly (as in 1 step) go back to Exodus 3:14, but it seems that at worst they are only two links removed: John’s Gospel to Isaiah to Exodus.
By deutero-Isaiah, I am not endorsing dual authorship (or more) of Isaiah but just the section 40-66 which clear takes on distinct themes.

While we shouldn't jump from John's Gospel to Exodus 3:14 in a manner that is artificial, it seems to me the thematic connection to Isaiah is the best linkage. The connection, as Ball argues, is not merely on the word level but on a thematic level as well.

It seems clear to me from John's text that this one of the clues to Jesus' identity and his divinity. Of course, these unpredicated uses of the "I AM" do not bear all the weight rather they are one brush stroke in a whole painting that pictures Jesus as the Son of God, bearer of the divine identity of YHWH and co-equal in power and glory with the Father.

On the Quarrelsome

Proverbs 26:17-22   17 Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.  18 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death  19 is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, "I am only joking!"  20 For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.  21 As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.  22 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

How do we handle strife and contention within the body of the church? How do we control our tongue?

1) Be sure not to meddle in quarrels that are not your own. –One does not grab a dog by the ears and not get bit. So also—if we hear of a quarrel or a fight—that so-and-so is offended because someone did such-and-such.
a) We are not to be a party to the dispute.
b) We are not to take sides.
c) We should not compare notes: “I see what you mean—because that same person has done this and hurt me in another instance”.
d) We should not keep records of wrongs—particularly when we hear how so-and-so has wronged so-and-so.

2) If we hear whispers, we are to put them out. –a fire dies when it doesn’t have fuel so also where there is no whispering or ‘swapping stories’ or “sharing concerns” quarreling ceases.

3) Strife will continue when people are unwilling to deal with issues. A quarrelsome person is a person who does not follow Biblical principles to actually resolve things.

When we become a party to gossip, it is not simply enough not to repeat the tales we hear. In fact the gossiper will often just take his little hot coal and look elsewhere for some tender kindling with which to start a fire. But when the whisperer is gently rebuffed and honestly confronted with things statements like "you should not be talking in such a manner" it becomes like water on his hot coal.

We may not be participating in the gossip, but do we take advantage of the opportunity we have to douse  the choice morsel of gossip? When someone comes to us with gossip we can and should take positive steps to see the hot coal is put out. Simply ignoring it or not repeating this will not by itself stop the spread of gossip. 

*This post simply reflects some devotional notes from a Bible study I did a few years back*
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...