The Kuyperian Commentary

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

Archive for the tag “Trinity”

Book Review: The Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor

The Incarnational Art of Flannery O'ConnorThe Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor by Christina Bieber Lake

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is just phenomenal. Christina Bieber Lake is amazing in this book. She is interesting and keeps you moving through the book. She brings in philosophers and authors to shed light onto O’Connor’s writings. She frequently references books that O’Connor read or underlined and often does so in the context of O’Connor having read that book while writing a particular novella or short story.

Read more…

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Trinity Sunday: Divine Love

The Church celebrates this Sunday the blessed, Holy Trinity. God is Three and One. In the calendar, Trinity Sunday follows Pentecost. Pentecost was the pouring of the Spirit (The Third Person of the Holy Trinity) upon an infant Church. Pentecost enabled the Bride of Christ to be the instrument of change in the world. She has become the fiery sword that conquers evil and puts foreign armies to flight. Pentecost was the undoing of Babel. The unclean lips of Babel have become–by the Spirit– the clean lips of the messengers of Yahweh going to all the ends of the earth.

The Trinity seals this mission with divine approval. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have covenanted together to see that the divine promises are fulfilled. Trinity Sunday is the renewed call to go into the world not in the name of some unknown God, but in the Name of the True God who reveals Himself in Three Persons. Read more…

The Trinity: Weird Math, Obscure Doctrine, or Heart of the Christian Life?

Since belief in the Trinity lies at the very heart of the Christian faith, a tiny difference in Trinitarian theology may well have repercussions upon every aspect of Christian life and thought.[1]13th Century Trinity Shield

Trinitarian theology is just that, the very heart of the Christian faith, yet Christianity has largely pushed Trinitarian theology to the sidelines. As some have pointed out, it has become nothing more than an awkward mathematical formula that we must accept as part of the faith, but has little to no bearing on our lives beyond that. By way of illustration, the very word processor I’m typing this post into keeps trying to change my use of the word Trinitarian into the word Unitarian!

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Lent, Ligon Duncan, and Legalism

Collin Hansen wrote an article for the Gospel Coalition entitled Should You Cancel Good Friday? which has brought to the attention of many a conversation they have never had before. What is Lent? Why celebrate it?

As a committed Protestant, I am committed to the Church Calendar, not because I want to be a slave to it, but because I am aware of its inevitability. We all follow some calendar. The question is which calendar? I ask that question because Protestantism is grounded in a Trinitarian view of the world. In its best expression it does not isolate ideas; it brings ideas together to form a coherent system.

I suggest that Lent is highly Trinitarian. As the Trinity is a communion of love, so Lent provides a means to express that love to one another in the community. Where sins are confronted and battled, there you find a vigorous Trinitarian community and vision. Lent is service to the community by giving us a season of determined battle against sin for the sake of our neighbors.

It offers a vision of history that undergirds the biblical history and that reflects the normal routines, liturgies, and rituals of human beings. Lent is a form of restructuring our lives. All Christians need a re-structuring of order in their own lives. All Christians need to re-balance and re-form areas where there is disproportionate indifference. We all undergo a Psalmic journey of lamentation and feasting. Lent draws us into this journey.

In essence, Lent reveals the God who suffers in the Person of Jesus Christ. God’s image-bearers are formed from the dust of a fallen Adam to the glorification of the risen Final Adam. To disconnect Lent from the Church Calendar is to disparage history.

It is true we live in the age of an ascended Lord, but this same Lord guides a Church that is still broken, suffering, and healing from brokenness and suffering again and again. The removal of Lent is to proclaim an over-realized eschatology.

It is true that Lent can be abused, and history teaches us that it has. But it is also true, as Luther so memorably stated, “the abuse of something is not an argument against its proper use.” So if Lent can be proven to be profitable, then is there a legitimate way to benefit from it without falling into some its former abuses. Protestant Christians are not bound by Romish structures of food or rituals. We use wisdom in forming healthy habits for a Church and individuals while not binding the Church or the individual to a particular habit.

Lent and Wilderness

Lent teaches us that Satan’s gifts are easy to master. They come with first grade instruction manuals. They are made to be mastered quickly and enjoyed rapidly (fornication, drugs, alcohol; various temptations). God’s gifts are a little harder to master. They require self-control and patience. They anticipate spiritual growth; they demand a kingly attitude to grasp kingly wisdom. God’s instructions mean you have to seek others in the community to understand them properly. You have to exercise and express a theology of patience built into a theology of blessings.

In the wilderness, a garden stripped of colors, fruit, and water, Jesus faced the devil again in a re-match. He knew well that temptation had a triumphant history of subtly winning arguments. Jesus wasted no time and rebuked temptation. just like He would do with the demons and the demonic-like religious teachers of the day.

We are not to sit in temptation’s classroom. God already said we are to flee it; to rebuke it with the only source of authority that is permanent and stamped with divine truth.

The Church finds herself in a wilderness scenario. She is stripped of her former glory. But she is destined to journey from glory to glory like her Lord and Master. As in Luke four, we need to sit in Yahweh’s school house. We need to be instructed by the two-edged sword that muzzles the Tempter and tells him to not come back again. He is not welcome and neither are his offers.

Lent offers us a 40 day class on temptations and the glories and rewards of resisting it.

But Why 40 Days?

Lent follows the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. His fasting for 40 days speaks to the evil and the hardness of heart of the Israelites who succumbed to the Serpent’s whispers. So as the Church walks with Jesus from wilderness to Golgotha she re-lives the messianic journey. The 40 days are symbolic for that wilderness testing, and as a result it is chronologically set before the Great Paschal Feast, commonly referred to as Easter.

Should Lent be Observed?

Ligon Duncan and others in the Southern Presbyterian tradition argue that Lent has a meritorious history. Lent was a way to earn something. The Reformation fixed this soteriological error, and therefore Lent is no longer to be observed.

Duncan and others also go on to say that celebrating Easter and Christmas offer no such harm (he also believes that a National Holiday like Thanksgiving is also a uniquely American holiday to be celebrated). There is no doubt Easter and Christmas, and even Thanksgiving–to a lesser degree–offer wonderful benefits. But the question and the opening presupposition is that Lent is not biblical therefore it should not be practiced in the Church. If that is the case, then the question is not whether one day (or Season) is more beneficial than the other, but rather is it explicitly stated in the Bible or not? If the “explicit reference” argument is used, then Duncan will have to conclude that this is faulty reasoning.

I concur with Vance Freeman that “each of his (Duncan’s) reasons for not observing Lent are undercut by the observance of Christmas and Easter.” Mr. Freeman also concludes:

The biggest threat to Christianity today is not the church in Rome, or that Americans are prone to elevate traditional Christian rituals, like Lent, over discipleship. The biggest threat to the church is that our rituals are increasingly only secular ones. We are Americans before we are Christians. Super Bowl Sunday not only competes with the Lord’s Day, it dominants it. And when we relegate the Christian life to a mere facet of our American lives we fall into Moral Therapeutic Deism.

The formation of godly habits is the issue at hand. In other words, is there an adequate time of the year where the Church should have an explicit focus on the cross of Jesus and how that cross must shape our understanding of sin? Is there room for setting aside a season for a cruciform hermeneutic? I believe there is.

As Peter Leithart so ably summarizes:

Lent is a season for taking stock and cleaning house, a time of self-examination, confession and repentance.  But we need to remind ourselves constantly what true repentance looks like.  “Giving up” something for Lent is fine, but you keep Lent best by making war on all the evil habits and sinful desires that prevent you from running the race with patience.

If this is true, then Lent serves an enormously important role in the life of the Christian. Naturally, to quote Luther’s first thesis, “the Christian life is a life of daily repentance.” A faithful understanding of the Lord’s Service provides that for us weekly. However, an extended period where our sins are deeply brought to our attention by the preaching of the Word and prayer (and fasting) are regularly considered, practiced and meditated upon can provide great benefits for all Christians on each Lord’s Day and throughout the week.

The legalism concern is legitimate. We are all tempted to fall into this trap, but it does not have to be so. If we view Lent as a time to additionally focus our attention on mortifying our sins and killing those habits that so easily entangle us, we can then consider the cross in light of the resurrection, not apart from it. If we do so, Lent will become legalism’s greatest enemy and repentance’s best friend.

Audio Series: How to Read the Bible for the First Time…Again

Just this past weekend (04/22/2013), Steve Jeffery, minister of Emmanuel Evangelical Church in Southgate, North London, England, hosted a colloquium for those who wish to experience the Word of God with new eyes.
The event featured special guest speaker Reverend James B Jordan, director of Biblical Horizons and soon to be joining Dr. Peter J Leithart at the Trinity House Institute for Biblical, Liturgical, & Cultural Studies in Birmingham, AL, who gave a four-part lecture entitled How to Read the Bible for the First Time…Again. Read more…

DJesus Uncrossed, Saturday Night Live, Judgment, and the God of the Bible

DJesus UnCrossed is SNL’s latest attempt to de-christ Christ. Of course, in our day, Jesus is easy to disrespect. One wonders if SNL would attempt a comedy journey through the life of Muhammad. No further comments needed.

David Flowers believes that the skit has something to teach us, and that we should begin to listen to our critics. He argues that the skit has hermeneutical problems, but that it shows our hypocrisy and inconsistency in our faith. Flowers argues that this is the result of an American-shaped Jesus. He is correct to assert that humor has a way of offending Christians and revealing weaknesses and hypocrisy. We should be aware of them.

The Jesus raised from the dead murdering Romans out of revenge seems bizarre in light of the biblical narrative. Flowers is correct to assert that it reveals the Jesus kick-ass motif portrayed by many in our evangelical culture. It is easy to object to the video’s false portrayals, but in what sense is this skit true, even with its exaggerative, undoubtedly heretical, and faulty hermeneutics?  There is something to be learned here. Flowers is correct that we are to listen to our critics. The point, however, is that our critics don’t go far enough.

Surely the 2nd Amendment Rights’ Jesus is very American and Neo-Conservative like. But that doesn’t even begin to describe the type of justice-driven Messiah we as Orthodox Christians believe.

For starters, we believe in a Messiah that is ascended to the right hand of the Father, and from that place of kingship rules and reigns over us and creation. He is not an unmoved Mover. Further, Jesus did not have the Romans in mind when He judged, He had the corrupt and idolatrous first century Jewish generation in mind. Upon them, He brought a profound tribulation (Mt. 24). The Gospel Lesson this Sunday is Luke 13:31-35 where Jesus laments over Jerusalem. He sought her with love, but she continued to kill and murder the prophets sent with a message of salvation and deliverance. The vengeful Jesus portrayed by SNL has no interest in context, but it should well observe that the Messiah who destroys is first the Messiah who shows mercy.

How Can we Learn from SNL?

First, Saturday Night Live is not a theology show. Its humor is devoid of accuracy, and frankly, that is not their interest. They have been on the air for 37 years because of their exaggerated (especially in the last ten years) view of current events. This is important to keep in mind.

Secondly, use these opportunities to correct false information. Bill Maher, the well-known HBO atheist host, does this better than anyone I know. He takes a portion of Scriptures and twists its meaning in a fashion that would make even the devil jealous. This is a good time for Christians to be hermeneutically savvy. In fact, go ahead and make a t-shirt with that slogan “I am hermeneutically savvy.”

Thirdly, do not allow an exclusively New Covenant narrative to shape your theology. As James Jordan observes: “The division of the Bible into “Old Testament” and “New Testament” is merely for convenience, for the Scriptures are one narrative from beginning to end.” It is important to note also that this one narrative portrays God as a God of justice who says all vengeance belongs to Him. The modern Marcionites have failed us just as much as SNL has.

Finally, remember that the life of Jesus–especially as we meditate upon it in this Lenten Season–is a life of cross before glory; suffering before resurrection. The Jesus that came out of the grave was first a Jesus that came riding on a donkey as the Prince of Peace. But that same Jesus has promised to come again riding a horse of judgment upon Jerusalem in AD 70 and upon all those who despise His Name at the end of history.

The Mormon Thing No One Talks About

With a plethora of Romney apologists in the internet, Mormonism couldn’t be happier. The distinctly American religion has found its way to the American audience. Mormonism continues to grow in America. CBN reports “that if present trends continue there could be 265 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) worldwide by 2080.” That is a staggering number!

Evangelicals find Mormonism largely non-threatening. After all, what is threatening about well-dressed young men handing tracts at your door on a Saturday morning? Make no mistake. Mormonism is a threat to the well-being of this country. It may even be a greater threat than Islam. I say that because the majority of Americans are vaccinated against Islamic talking points. Most Americans view Islam for what it is: a religion shaped by Sharia Law whose purposes are dominion-oriented. Further, Americans are– by and large–incapable of distinguishing between between different branches and schools of thought within Islam. In their mind, Islam is Islam. They blow up things, and that is the core of their philosophy. Sometimes ignorance can be good.

On the other hand, Americans are hardly able to differentiate between a cult and Orthodox Christianity. This is seen in religious polling, when pollsters include Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons and non-affirming Trinitarians under the “Christian” category.

Very few have considered the claims of Mormonism. Apart from the polygamy aspect–which is no longer practiced in mainstream Mormonism in the 21st century– evangelicals can offer no sound apologetic against it. Hank Hanegraaff summarizes the absurdity and confusion of the Book of Mormon:

How millions can take the Book of Mormon seriously is almost beyond comprehension. While Smith referred to it as “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion,” its flaws run the gamut from the serious to the silly. In the category of serious we find that Ether 3:14 (“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, I am the Father and the Son”) is modalistic and militates against Trinitarian theology, while Alma 11:44 (“Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God”) is basi­cally consistent with the biblical doc­trine of the Trinity.

In the category of silly is the account in Alma 44 of a man who becomes irate after being scalped and stirs up his soldiers to fight “more powerfully.” And in Ether 15 we read of a man who struggles to catch his breath after having his head cut off. The Book of Mormon has now been altered over 4,000 times to compensate for Smith’s poor command of English, as well as for the numerous errors and incon­sistencies it presented.

After having read several classic books on cults over the years, after listening to dozens of debates, after having taken two classes on cults in college, and after interacting extensively with the average American evangelical, I can say that Mormonism will only continue to rise.

What does this mean?

This means that with a Romney victory on November 6th evangelical pastors will need to do a lot more homework. They will need to instruct their flocks with greater precision, and perhaps Trinitarian theology will need to be more foundational than a systematic category. Trinitarianism will need to be the source of life and worship; the very pattern of existence and human relationships.

With Obama at least we knew that liberal christianity is just that: liberal. At least we knew that he was going to always misuse the Sermon on the Mount. At least we knew that he was going to open his wings to religious diversity and ecumenicism. At least we knew that he was a fulfillment of Machen’s dire warnings about liberalism. At least we knew his social and moral agenda. But with Romney, what do we know? Will a moderate appoint other moderates to the Supreme Court? Will he appoint someone like Roberts who stabbed the conservative heart through legislative technicalities? Will he fill the White House with General Authorities of the Mormon Church? In particular, who will be his spiritual advisers?

And when that happens will evangelicals separate religion from policy? Do we truly believe evangelicals have been discipled under Kuyperianism long enough to discern right from wrong? Truth from error? Trinitarianism from Non?

The Mormon thing is actually an important thing to discuss. There is more at stake than the economy in this election. There is the future of the Church, her members, and the responsibility to present a God who is One and Three.

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