The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the tag “christ”

Sex, Magic, Power, and Christ

by Luke A Welch

800px-Veronese,_The_Marriage_at_Cana_(1563)

The Marriage at Cana, Veronese, (1563)

God created the world full of magic. He used his own divine magic to make men and women who would imitate him with glorious human magic. And God said it was very good.

He told them to fill the world with his glory, to be one flesh, to be fruitful and to multiply, to conquer the land with his power. And all along he had a plan that their obedience would, by image, preach the picture of his own union with humanity, his own son coming to conquer and be one with his creation. Glory. And divine magic.

Magic is a word in need of conquest. It’s a great word. A word for people who like Lewis and Tolkien. A word for people who treasure wonder and who long for great, out of nowhere surprises. The problem is that there are some very specific and awful actions, forbidden by God that take up some of the real estate of the word magic. When I say magic, I am not talking about these things. I am not describing communion with demons, or the usurpation and manipulation of spiritual power. What I AM describing is the wonder and surprise at watching God do mysterious and powerful things. When you are a child, and the world is full of wonder, as it should be, you think of magic in this way. And that is what I am unwilling to give up. I intend to grow the land of real magic and crowd out the perverse. That’s how dominion works, and that’s what we should do even in language. So, you see, I am saying: don’t freak out if you see the “m” word.

And now for my next trick:

Read more…

Lent, Fish, and the Feast of the Gentiles

lenten fish fry, fish fries for lent, symbolic fish for lent, lent symbol, lenten season fish, eating fish for lent, why eat fish for lent

(First, if you aren’t quite sure how to think about Lent, start here)

I like eating. Eating is glorious and it’s at the heart of the Christian life, so I think about it a lot. That being the case, I recently got to thinking about the historical practice of eating fish during Lent and about the possible rationale behind it. Aside from an apocryphal story about a corrupt pope who owned a fishing business, I didn’t find much to satisfy my Protestant curiosity. Still I came to the ultimate conclusion that regardless of one’s particular Lenten practices, we could afford to eat more fish during the season. Let me tell you why.

Some arms of the Church, Romans in particular, have a longstanding tradition of observing the Fridays in Lent as days of particular penance, marked by abstinence from the eating of meat. Historically, fish has served as a popular meat substitute on these days, distinguished from other prohibited meats because the fish is a cold-blooded creature (Lev. 7:26 seems to back this up). Excepting a sometimes-but-seldom-invoked acronymic relationship between the Greek word for fish—ἰχθύς—and the name of Jesus—Iesous ChristosTheou Yios, Sotor—the choice of fish, in practice, is mostly arbitrary or pragmatic (it is filling and satisfying like meat). But there better, deeper-rooted reasons to make fish a part of our Lenten diet.

In Scripture, the seas and waters under the earth are commonly a symbol of the gentile nations, and likewise the fish dwelling in them. The rulers of Tyre are called “the princes of the sea” (Ez.26:16), Nebuchadnezzar is pictured as a great sea monster (Jer. 51:34), the nation of Egypt is called a nation of fish and river-dwellers (Ez. 29:4). (for more on this, see Through New Eyes or pretty much anything else Jim Jordan has ever written…ever…probably even his grocery lists). In contrast, Israel is seen as a people of the land, and in the Old Testament the prominent men of God are farmers and keepers of livestock, not fisherman. That changes when Jesus comes calling fishermen into his service. With me so far? Okay, here’s where the ride speeds up.

The forty days of Lent are taken from the forty-day period our Lord spent in the Wilderness after his baptism, which in turn shares a typological relationship with other ”forty” periods in Israel’s (or protoIsrael’s) history—most notably the forty days on the ark after Noah’s flood and the forty years of exile after crossing the Red Sea. These earlier events culminated in further separation from and/or victory over the gentile “nations.” Jesus’ forty days, however, orient Israel in the opposite direction. He comes out of the Wilderness and departs immediately to Galilee of the Gentiles, the first order of business being to recruit experienced fish-catchers. Unlike the conquest of Canaan, Jesus doesn’t slay gentiles and drive them away, but begins drawing them to himself by the net-full.

In fact, after Jesus’ forty days of fasting, the first food mentioned in each of the synoptic gospels is fish. While the first Joshua supplanted the nations and took possession of their land and their vineyards, the final and greater Joshua desires to possess the nations themselves—fish is the sign of the gentile peoples being incorporated into the body of Christ. Throughout the gospels, fish is one of the few foods explicitly named as something Jesus ate, and he is always feeding it to his disciples. Alongside bread it is the food given to the multitudes in all the gospel accounts of miraculous feedings. Jesus not only tells Israel to embrace the nations (to love her enemies and be a light shining before all nations), he has them practicing it through meals of fish. Finally, the Lord’s “feed my sheep” admonition to Peter in Jn. 21 follows immediately on the heels of his preparing a breakfast of fish for his disciples and bidding them “come and eat,” a possible sign that the life and health of the Church will be bound up with the pursuit and inclusion of the gentile nations.

So, how should we then eat? As we—the Church, a mixed multitude—move through this season that appropriately culminates in both Jesus’ calling of the gentiles and his death and resurrection (if you aren’t already thinking about the Sign of Jonah, start now), giving thanks to God that the work of Christ is for all the world, we have a boat load of reasons to have fish on the table. Do my comments and observations translate into a biblical imperative to consume fish? No, of course not.. But, all things considered—whether feast, fast, or famine—I can’t help but find it beautifully appropriate.*

*Unless you’re eating fish sticks, which should only be served to children (as punishment for being picky) or to convicts (as punishment for being convicts).

Valentine’s Day: Christian Marriage, Cheap Love, and Sex

St. Valentine Day Valentine was a third century pastor who was imprisoned for his faith. He wrote small pastoral notes to members of his congregation on leaves he was able to pluck from a maple tree just outside his cell.  These little “Valentine’s cards” expressed his love for the flock, and his desire that they demonstrate like love toward one another. Gradually the tradition grew up for Christians to exchange notes of love and encouragement to one another every year on his birthday, February 14.

Dr. George Grant, http://grantian.blogspot.com/2013/02/st-valentines-day.html

We’ve seen baseball stadium proposals where a guy’s urgent question is slapped on the Jumbotron for all in attendance to see. Some men even think it’s romantic to shout their devotion in front of thousands of strangers. Several years back, Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson even tried to convince us that women would actually want this type of proposal. In case you might be contemplating this type of proposal, let me tell you that it is about as tasteful as the rest of Sandler’s work.

In many ways, American romance is Jumbotron romance. Valentine’s Day is a good example. We couch our love in the impersonal and to the cheap. When did the standard fall so low that somehow chocolate and flowers become the epitome of devotion. We should understand these are good things. Any man who forgets them will enjoy the spurn of his wife. But this type of impersonal devotion once a year is akin to attending Easter and Christmas services, yet claiming to love Christ.

A culture of cheap grace produces cheap love. 

“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cheap love is giving chocolate without cordial affection, flowers without real delight and pleasure, “I Love Yous” without contentment and satisfaction … Cheap love is love without submission, love without crucifying-self, love without Jesus Christ, living and Incarnate. Cheap love teaches, “Sex is such a hassle, talking is even worse.” Christian love teaches, “rejoice in the wife of your youth.”

Our romance should be modeled after Christ’s self-giving devotion to his bride, which is why St. Valentine is such a beautiful saint. This is not to say that the mark of Valentine’s Day is simply reading verses over flowers-rather that marriage is an image of loving tension. The tenderest love on one side, and loving obedience on the other. This means that romance is an adventure, not a commute. We don’t travel through life enduring the “trial of marriage,” but through the exploration of Godly marriage we are transformed by the circumstances of our love story.

Valentine’s Day is a day for us to look at our adventure, where we’ve been, and where we are going.

Valentine’s Day is a time for Christian men who once belonged to the old Adam to become priests of the New Adam. Where the old Adam betrayed the love of his bride, we -as Priests of the new Adam- guard, nurture, and protect our redeemed garden-helper.  And as such have been called to wash our wives in Christ’s love.

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate together as we see God transforming our brides into a holy bride without wrinkle, spot, or blemish.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a link is given.

In the past few months I’ve posted two articles on sexuality and marriage, you can read those here:

What NOT To Give Up For Lent

Everyone will soon be sharing what they will “give up” for this Lenten season. And whether you’re Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, or Lutheran, it is easy to predict that most people will choose silly things to “give up”.

Christianity Today posts a list from Twitter of the top 100 Lenten sacrifices, I’ll post the top ten here to show what I mean.

1. Twitter
2. Chocolate
3. Swearing
4. Alcohol
5. Soda
6. Facebook
7. Fast food
8. Sex
9. Sweets
10. Meat

These are great examples of what NOT to give up for Lent. Lent is not a 40 day long New Years resolution, yet this is what “fasts” like these above make it out to be.

Like all the Church Calendar, Lent is modeled after the ministry of Christ. Forty days, in commemoration of the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, enduring temptation by Satan before the beginning of his public ministry.

Rev. Steven Wilkins describes the abuses of Lent as such,

I know that traditionally, Christians have “given up” something for Lent and usually that “something” has been something they particularly enjoy. This may be seen as a form of “fasting” I guess, but if it is, it’s a very pale shadow of what “fast” (doing without food of any kind) really means. I understand the rationale for the practice, but given it’s very limited focus, it seems to me to miss the point of fasting in general and is easily metamorphosed into something like a “Pharisaical” act (i.e. “God surely must be pleased with me since He sees me foregoing my usual afternoon grande chocolate-caramel-cinnamon mocha latte with extra foam, which I’m absolutely dying to have right now!”).

Read his Post Why Lent? here

The heart of Christian reality is a society – a trinity- of persons living with and for one another. Our Lenten sacrifices should remind us of how we have sinned against the Triune God, and our neighbor-not serve as some superficial monastic flagellation.

As we develop our Lenten sacrifices we should move away from petty moralism and understand that as a Reformed Protestant, Lent is going to look much different for us than for the Roman Catholics. The early protestants were accused by the Roman Catholics of having a faith that was, “too glad to be true,” as C.S. Lewis once said. The Bible tells us that Jesus, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). If the gruesome cross was a joy, what does that say about his fast in the wilderness?

All of Christian living is joyous, not morbid. Fasting and somberness in themselves do not contribute to holiness, and the council of Nicaea even forbade fasting on the Lord’s day.

In closing:

And if you fast, let your fasting and prayer be toward particular ends, particular needs, particular hurts, not vague feelings. Fasting does not benefit us. Fasting is a bodily posture. Just as you might kneel or lift your hands in prayer, so too fasting is a posture of humility and urgency… abstaining ought to always be pointed toward some sort of giving. If we celebrate Lent as a community it ought to be an obvious blessing to everyone around us. – Pastor Toby Sumpter

Remembering that we are to:

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 (NKJV)

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a link is given.

Neither Were They Grateful

By Kuyperian Commentary Special Contributing Scholar, Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr.

It is a sure sign that we are sinners that we tend to be more concerned about what we do than what we are. That is, our guilt or peace oftentimes is the fruit of our own judgment of how often we commit a known sin, less often grounded in what we think and how we feel. I may hate my brother, but if I can keep myself from killing him, well, how bad could I be?

In Romans 1 Paul is setting about the business of explaining the universal guilt of men before God. There he answers the telling question, what about the innocent native in Africa who knows nothing of Christ by affirming that all men everywhere both know who God is, and reject that knowledge. Before we have done anything we stand guilty, if only because our eyes tell us there is a God and our hearts hate that truth.  Paul then, however, in describing the universal sinful condition of all men outside of Christ adds this condemnation- neither were they grateful.

If it is true that all men exist, were made to glorify God, our gratitude failure is not simply a failure of manners, akin to forgetting to write a thank-you card for a gift. Instead it is like adultery, like murder, like cosmic rebellion. How so? Well, a failure to be grateful is grounded in the conviction that we are due better than what we have been given. We are all born with an expectation of a certain level of comfort, a certain level of fulfillment, a certain level of pleasure. When these exceed our expectations we believe all is right with the world.  We have received our due. When they fall below our expectations, however, we grumble, we complain, we howl. We scratch our heads thinking something is wrong with the universe.

Something is wrong with the universe- us. The lost are, well, lost. They have not been changed. They do not have the Holy Spirit. They are on their own. But we complain just like them. We have the same set of expectations, and so mimic their grumbling.  We, because we are worldly, look at the world and our place in it just like the world.

Gratitude, however, isn’t the fruit of happiness, but its root. When we give thanks, when we look at the world and our place in it realistically, remembering what we are due in ourselves, what we have, and all that we have been promised in Christ, we are astonished, overwhelmed.  And therefore overjoyed.

I have with me four daughters who love me, and their Lord. I have three sons who love me, and their Lord. I have friends who love me, and their Lord. I have work that I love, that serves the Lord. I have a church where our Lord and His Word are preached.  Most important of all, I am beloved of the Father. How could I ever even begin to think “It isn’t enough”? And, when I fail, my Father forgives me, His Spirit works in me, and I get better. Saint, thanksgiving isn’t a holiday to be observed, but a lifestyle to be practiced. Give thanks. And when you are done, do it again.

(Original piece can be found here. Also visit R.C. Sproul Jr. at his new website)

The Biggest Problem after Tomorrow’s Election

The biggest problem I will have with the results of tomorrow’s election is not who wins. As much as it pains me to say this–especially because I know so many object to it–there is not a dime’s bit of difference between the two candidates. The biggest problem is the continuing problem with short term memories in America.

Tomorrow, if Obama is re-elected, Americans will be admitting to the whole world that everything they grumbled against George W. Bush for (indefinite detention, not closing Guantamo Bay, troops in the Middle East, criminalization of marijuana, etc.) really weren’t that important.

Tomorrow, if Mitt is elected, Americans will be admitting that they only opposed what was happening because it was Obama doing it instead of another Bush (healthcare–remember Medicare Part D?, education–remember No Child Left Behind?, wars, detention, lack of transparency, etc.)

What I want is more men like John Piper, who criticized Bush and the Gulf War even when it cost him congregants. I want men like Greg Bahnsen, who opposed the First Gulf War, at odds with GOP. It was Greg Bahnsen who first demonstrated such character to me. From him, I learned how to judge war, not according to whether it was a Republican or Democratic war, but whether it was Biblical.

My biggest problem, however, could be my biggest surprise. Regardless of tomorrow’s results, maybe I will see men who will oppose tyranny and injustice because it is happening, not because of who is doing it. Maybe, after tomorrow, I will see Christian leaders stand up for what is right, not for who is saying it.

Or, maybe, I’ll just see a new four years that will tick by until I can be told again, “The 2016 Presidential Election is the most important election you will face in your lifetime.”

Either way, I can say with fellow blogger Steve Macias, “Christ is still faithful and Christ is still King.”

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