Friday, October 31, 2014

Counter-Cultural Sexual Ethics

What set the early Christians apart from the Grecco-Roman culture around them? Obviously, off course, they would not participate in the worship of pagan gods. However, they were also very conspicuous for their sexual ethic. In a piece that is very relevant for today, Michael Kruger writes:
In the first century, while Christianity was still in its infancy, the Greco-Roman world paid little attention. For the most part, the early Christian movement was seen as something still underneath the Jewish umbrella.
But in the second century, as Christianity emerged with a distinctive religious identity, the surrounding pagan culture began to take notice. And it didn’t like what it saw. Christians were seen as strange and superstitious—a peculiar religious movement that undermined the norms of decent society. Christians were, well, different.
So what was so different about Christians compared to the surrounding Greco-Roman culture? One distinctive trait was that Christians would not pay homage to the other “gods” (see my earlier article on this subject). This was a constant irritant to those governing officials who preferred to see the pagan temples filled with loyal worshipers (temples earned a good deal of money from the tributes they collected).
But there was a second trait that separated Christians from the pagan culture: their sexual ethic. While it was not unusual for Roman citizens to have multiple sexual partners, homosexual encounters, and engagement with temple prostitutes, Christians stood out precisely because they refused to engage in these practices.For instance, Tertullian went to great lengths to defend the legitimacy of Christianity by pointing out that Christians are generous and share their resources with all those in need. But then he said, “One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives” (Apol. 39). Why did he say this? Because, in the Greco-Roman world, people sometimes shared their spouses with each other.
In the second-century Epistle to Diognetus, the author went out of his way to declare that Christians are normal in regard to what they wear, what they eat, and how they participate in society.  However, he then said, “[Christians] share their meals, but not their sexual partners” (Diogn. 5.7). Again, this trait made Christians different.
We see this dictinction play out again in the second-century Apology of Aristides. Aristides defended the legitimacy of the Christian faith to the emperor Hadrian by pointing out how Christians “do not commit adultery nor fornication” and “their men keep themselves from every unlawful union.”
A final example comes from the second-century apology of Minucius Felix. In his defense to Octavius, he contrasted the sexual ethic of the pagan world with that of Christians:
'Among the Persians, a promiscuous association between sons and mothers is allowed. Marriages with sisters are legitimate among the Egyptians and in Athens. Your records and your tragedies, which you both read and hear with pleasure, glory in incests: thus also you worship incestuous gods, who have intercourse with mothers, with daughters, with sisters. With reason, therefore, is incest frequently detected among you, and is continually permitted. Miserable men, you may even, without knowing it, rush into what is unlawful: since you scatter your lusts promiscuously, since you everywhere beget children, since you frequently expose even those who are born at home to the mercy of others, it is inevitable that you must come back to your own children, and stray to your own offspring. Thus you continue the story of incest, even although you have no consciousness of your crime. But we maintain our modesty not in appearance, but in our heart we gladly abide by the bond of a single marriage; in the desire of procreating, we know either one wife, or none at all.'
This sampling of texts from the second century demonstrates that one of the main ways that Christians stood out from their surrounding culture was their distinctive sexual behavior. Of course, this doesn’t mean Christians were perfect in this regard. No doubt, many Christians committed sexual sins. But Christianity as a whole was still committed to striving towards the sexual ethic laid out in Scripture–and the world took notice.
Needless to say, this history has tremendous implications for Christians in the modern day. We are reminded again that what we are experiencing in the present is not new—Christians battled an over-sexed culture as early as the first and second century. But it is also a reminder why Christians must not go along with the ever-changing sexual norms of our world. To do so would not only violate the clear teachings of Scripture, but it would also rob us of one of our greatest witnessing opportunities. In as much as marriage reflects Christ’s love for the church, Christians’ commitment to marriage is a means of proclaiming that love.
In the end, Christianity triumphed in its early Greco-Roman context not because it was the same as the surrounding pagan culture, but because it was different.
(Image from the original article)

Nobody Is Purfact...Err...Parfect...Err...

...Whatever

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dangerous

Is God dangerous? Read these insights from the Book of Ezekiel from  Tony Reinke at Desiring God:
,,,the living God of the universe is untamable. He’s good, but he isn’t safe. Try to subdue him, and you might lose an arm, or worse.
The living God of the Old Testament roars like a lion (Isaiah 31:4Jeremiah 25:30;Hosea 11:10Joel 3:16Amos 1:2).
The living God of the New Testament is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).
As Michael Horton says, “Nobody today seems to think that God is dangerous. And that is itself a dangerous oversight.”
It’s dangerous because before we yawn at God, we must first replace the majestic, holy, awesome Tiger of Scripture with a domesticated kitten, conformed to the standards of the world, measured by the yardstick of political correctness. Who wants a God who roars, who threatens, who judges? Why not rather fashion a god in our taste — a friendly god we can pet, leash, and export for popular appeal?
The book he references in the post is Yawning At Tigers: You Can't Tame God, So Stop Trying by  Drew Dyck. I think I want to read it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

He is Everything

"When you put your trust in Christ, the overpowering attraction of the world is broken. You are a corpse to the world, and the world is a corpse to you. Or to put it positively, you are a ‘new creation’ (Galatians 6:15). The old you is dead. A new you is alive — the you of faith in Christ. And what marks this faith is that it treasures Christ above everything in the world. The power of the world to woo your love away is dead.

Being dead to the world means that every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes a blood-bought evidence of Christ’s love and an occasion of boasting in the cross. When our hearts run back along the beam of blessing to the source in the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything."

— John Piper, Fifty Reason Why Jesus Came to Die,  Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004 Page 85



HT: Of First Importance

Monday, October 27, 2014

Yoda the Evangelist

You Might Be An Idolater If....

Are you an idolater? Am I? The answer is probably yes. Check out this great piece by Stephen Altrogge via Crossway:
How can we tell if we love something too much? I love drinking coffee. Coffee is a gift from God to be enjoyed. It defibrillates my body into working properly each morning. My workday orbits around coffee breaks. Sometimes I daydream about the coffee I’m going to drink after dinner. Sometimes I dream about brownies too. Big, fat, chocolate brownies that are still slightly warm. Coffee plus brownies almost equals heaven. Not really, but you know what I mean.
Do I love coffee too much? Am I a coffee idolater? How can I know if I love coffee or brownies or work or children or anything too much?
Here are several symptoms of idolatry:
  • You’re crushed when you don’t get what you want.
  • You stake your happiness on getting what you want.
  • You grumble and complain when you don’t have what you want.
  • You demand what you want.
We know we’ve become idolaters when a good thing has become a supreme thing. And the result of idol worship is always discontentment.
Idols are terrible masters. They demand our love, thoughts, affections, time, dreams, and desires. But they never satisfy, never deliver as promised. Idols always leave us in a state of dizzy discontentment.
In 1 John 5:21 we read, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Most of us don’t do a jig of excitement when we read those words. Frankly, we’ve gotten a bit attached to our idols. We make sure they’re well fed and get plenty of attention. The thought of giving up our pet idol isn’t so appealing. We may not be able to have what we want, but at least we can dream, and that gives us some pleasure.
But playing with idols is like playing with boa constrictors. The longer an idol is left unchecked, the stronger its grip on our heart becomes. The idol crushes our heart until our love for God is almost extinguished. Idolatrous desires must be destroyed.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Redeem the Time

Thou Great I AM,
Fill my mind with elevation and grandeur
at the thought of a Being
with whom one day is as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day.

A mighty God, who,
amidst the lapse of worlds,
and the revolutions of empires,
feels no variableness,
but is glorious in immortality.

May I rejoice that,
while men die, the Lord lives;
that, while all creatures are broken reeds,
empty cisterns, fading flowers, withering grass,
He is the Rock of Ages, the Fountain of living waters.

Turn my heart from vanity, from dissatisfactions,
from uncertainties of the present state,
to an eternal interest in Christ.

Let me remember that life is short and unforeseen,
and is only an opportunity for usefulness.

Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time,
to awake at every call to charity and piety,
so that I may feed the hungry,
clothe the naked,
instruct the ignorant,
reclaim the vicious,
forgive the offender,
diffuse the gospel,
show neighborly love to all.

Let me live a life of self-distrust,
dependence on Thyself,
mortification,
crucifixion,
prayer.



Saturday, October 25, 2014

History in 1,000 Words

Below is a post from Crossway Called The History of Christian Theology in 1,000 Words written by Gerald Bray, author of God Has Spoken: A History of Christian Theology (October 2014).
Theology is essentially the way in which the Christian church has received the Word of God revealed to us in the Bible and in Jesus Christ. The early church inherited the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) and accepted them as a true picture of who God is and what he is like. He is absolutely unique and sovereign over everything that exists, which he created out of nothing and for a purpose.
Furthermore, he gave human beings the right to rule in his name and established them in fellowship with himself. Nonetheless, our first parents were tempted away by Satan and sinned against God. The rest of the biblical story recounts how God’s plan to deal with this rebellion, first by choosing a special people for himself (Israel) and then by giving them prophets to teach them how to respond to him.
The first Christians inherited all of this from their Israelite forbears. However, in the person and work of Jesus Christ they came to a new and deeper experience of God. In the Old Testament, God appeared as One, dwelling among his people yet remaining largely unapproachable. He was the fire in the burning bush that could not be touched. He was present in the Holy of Holies, which was off limits to all but the high priest, who himself could only enter the inner sanctuary but once a year.
In Christ, all this changed.
Jesus broke down the barriers separating God from his people, revealing more about who he is and how he works. Believers are now seated in the heavenly places, with access to God’s presence through the indwelling Spirit of the Son, who comes from the Father. The Christian experience of God is therefore Trinitarian.
The person of the Father was the focus of Jesus’s ministry. He taught his disciples to think of God as Father, because otherwise they could not have understood Jesus as the Son. The Aramaic word ‘Abba’ (Father) was so characteristic of Jesus that it is preserved in the Gospels as a reminder of him.
Next came the work of the Father, who was understood as both the Creator and the Redeemer. There were people who thought that this was impossible, because, if a perfect God had created the world, the world would also be perfect and would not need redemption. They therefore concluded that the Creator was an inferior deity, whose work was perfected by the Father of Jesus Christ. If that idea had been accepted, the Old Testament would have been rejected as the revelation of a lesser being. Jesus would not have fulfilled its promises, but overturned its false teaching. This idea was contrary to his purposes, and so the early church had to reject it by insisting that evil is not intrinsic to creation, and that the God who made us is the same God who saves us.