Tag Archives: God

A Light in the Evanescence

Hey! It’s me again. I know, you probably thought I died or something because it’s been so long since I said anything here. Rest assured, I have not passed on but am instead alive, very well (thank you for your concern), and trying to restart this blog before IT dies.

Speaking about dying (bad transition, I know, but you’ll have to move on because I’m not changing it), I have been struck lately by how transient this world really is. From our births, we are stuck in a cycle that is doomed to end.

Whether it be fame, money, careers, youth, or even relationships, the cycle cannot last forever. Money is fleeting: princes have become paupers overnight. Youth only lasts for so long. Relationships very often end before they are properly started. And as for fame… can any of you name all the American Idols? I can’t. See. You can’t do it either. Case closed.

Even at its most basic level, life itself, we see a clear starting point and a definite end. Our world is built upon things that cannot and will not ever last. But, for some reason, we lose sight of the fact that the now is not the only thing that matters. It is so easy to get caught up in mindless entertainment and the trivial matters or today that we take our eyes down from the Goal and look down at the ground, or, as is oftentimes the case, into the gutter.

Everyone has their own things that distract them from the Goal. For some, as I mentioned earlier, it’s money. For some, sports. For some, relationships. I’m more of a I-want-as-much-personal-and-particularly-juicy-scoop-as-you-can-give-me sort of person. I’m not a gossip. Honest. Your secrets are safe with me. I promise. It’s just that I need to know what’s happening in people’s lives like some people need to know who won last night’s football (a.k.a. “soccer”) game. To me it’s just that kind of important. So when I heard that, for example, Carrie Underwood was getting married, I was very excited. Probably overexcited. But that’s not the point. Or, for something that more people can relate to, the Royal Wedding.

But what got me thinking was this: If a personal detail in the lives of a few people entire unconnected to myself can get me so excited, why can I not get so excited about what God (Someone very important) has done and is doing in me (someone entirely connected to myself) or my friends? Why can I not have at least the same level of concern for the salvation of those around me as for the floor I will get at Wheaton next year? What have I gotten out of knowing about Carrie’s wedding except for the ability to (finally) have a something to say in a conversation with an avid hockey fan (she married a hockey player)? Why would I rather spend my money on a new shirt, song, or video game when I could (and probably should) be thinking how to best maximize its impact in a place that matters.

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people that has to take everything to an extreme. Nothing is half-hearted. I either enthusiastically throw myself into a project or don’t even give it a second thought (or a first thought, for that matter). I either exercise fanatically or not at all. I can’t just like a singer – I either love her or hate her (keep your comments about Enya to yourself as we move on). But any one of those things – my hard-held opinions – can change in a heartbeat. A big mistake or continual frustration can quell my passion for the project I’m working on. A rainy day that throws off my workout routine can be enough to get me out of the gym for weeks. A few lame songs and I don’t really like the singer as much as I used to. Getting up a few minutes late or saying “I’ll do it later” can result in days without a quiet time.

But thanks be to God! For He is not like us! He is constant. Even though we may change, He is our firm Rock. He is an island in the chaos. He is our unwavering light in the cycle of evanescence (that’s my favorite word, just FYI). He is the Goal to which we should be striving, not the fleeting moment. I will die. My aviator sunglasses will go out of style and I will look back at the picture of myself and laugh in shame. I might end up hating my friends so much that I never want to see them again. I will get old and fat and ugly (and don’t you get so smug, because so will you). As Isaiah 40:6-8 says, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Nobody’s going to remember or care who did what and who wore what at which awards, who beat whom at which games, what your wore, what you ate, how clean your house was, or anything like that 100, 50, 20, 10, or even 5 years from now. But what will matter is how we have spent our time serving our Lord and making His presence known on the earth until He returns. And I pray that when He returns He will find that I did indeed utilize all the resources, gifts, and talents He gave me to my best ability and to His glory alone.

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Is the Created World Good?

For many, many years, the world has wrestled with the question, “Is the physical world good?” Many have attempted to answer this question, ranging from the Gnostics to Marcion and Cerdo of the early church. The main viewpoint of those previously mentioned is that anything physical is evil – if something is possible to be experienced on a physical level, then it is evil. The early church condemned these heretics, routinely denouncing them as anathema.

What do the Scriptures seem to say on this subject? When the Lord is creating the world, we read that God says that His creation is “good” or “very good” seven times in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis alone. Thus it is very evident that the world, at least in its original state, was good, not evil.

However, after Adam and Eve sinned, the world became cursed (Genesis 3:17) and death became a natural part of life (Romans 5:12). This begs the question: did creation cease to be good after it was changed through the fall, or was it merely “less good” or did the fall make no difference on the quality of creation? It is probably safe to eliminate the first question when we examine the verse, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4 – 5)

We are therefore left with two possibilities: did the fall make no impact on the inherent goodness of creation or did the fall merely lessen the goodness in creation but not totally eliminate it? The answer may be found by pondering the following question: could God, in His perfect deity assume a material form if matter has even a drop of evil in it? The answer appears to be “no”. Thus we must assume that, although our world is fallen and in bondage to sin, as we see in Romans 8:19 – 21, the goodness described in the first chapter of the Bible has not been marred.


The Martyrdom of Polycarp

Polycarp was one of the early church fathers who was martyred for his faith at a very old age. Many Christians were being martyred in those days by the order of the government. However, salvation was offered them if they would merely say “Down with the atheists!” the atheists being, of course, the Roman term for the Christians because they worshiped only one God whereas the Romans worshipped many gods. Polycarp was one of the Christians who, under the reign of either Antoninus or Marcus Aurelius, was martyred.
The martyrdom of Polycarp has great spiritual significance for Christians today. Jesus foretold this persecution on many occasions, such as in Luke 21:12 (“But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name”). Yet the Christians did not try to run from it, and neither did Polycarp. He stood firm in the face of opposition and did not back. Even though he was offered the opportunity to save his own life he merely said, “For eighty-six years I have been his [Jesus’] servant, and he has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Martyrs in the past, as well as many, many martyrs that die daily for the Faith prove to the world that Christianity is not a religion that can be suppressed by human hands. Martyrs are very important to us as Christians, not only for the obvious reason of showing us what an example of someone “sold out” for Christ, but also proving to us that the Christ who gave the martyrs strength to face terrible deaths is the same Christ who will give us courage to face the things in our lives that seem, rightly so, small in comparison.


Mythopoeia

This is a beautiful poem I just came across by J.R.R. Tolkien, author of “The Lord of the Rings” to his good friend C.S. Lewis just before Lewis came to Christ.

“To one [C.S. Lewis] who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though ‘breathed through silver’.

Philomythus to Misomythus

You look at trees and label them just so,
(for trees are ‘trees’, and growing is ‘to grow’);
you walk the earth and tread with solemn pace
one of the many minor globes of Space:
a star’s a star, some matter in a ball
compelled to courses mathematical
amid the regimented, cold, inane,
where destined atoms are each moment slain.

At bidding of a Will, to which we bend
(and must), but only dimly apprehend,
great processes march on, as Time unrolls
from dark beginnings to uncertain goals;
and as on page o’er-written without clue,
with script and limning packed of various hue,
an endless multitude of forms appear,
some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer,
each alien, except as kin from one
remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun.
God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,
tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these
homuncular men, who walk upon the ground
with nerves that tingle touched by light and sound.
The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs,
green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,
thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,
slime crawling up from mud to live and die,
these each are duly registered and print
the brain’s contortions with a separate dint.
Yet trees are not ‘trees’, until so named and seen
and never were so named, tifi those had been
who speech’s involuted breath unfurled,
faint echo and dim picture of the world,
but neither record nor a photograph,
being divination, judgement, and a laugh
response of those that felt astir within
by deep monition movements that were kin
to life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:
free captives undermining shadowy bars,
digging the foreknown from experience
and panning the vein of spirit out of sense.
Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves
and looking backward they beheld the elves
that wrought on cunning forges in the mind,
and light and dark on secret looms entwined.

He sees no stars who does not see them first
of living silver made that sudden burst
to flame like flowers bencath an ancient song,
whose very echo after-music long
has since pursued. There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jewelled tent
myth-woven and elf-pattemed; and no earth,
unless the mother’s womb whence all have birth.
The heart of Man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons, ’twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we’re made.

Yes! ‘wish-fulfilment dreams’ we spin to cheat
our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!
Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,
or some things fair and others ugly deem?
All wishes are not idle, nor in vain
fulfilment we devise — for pain is pain,
not for itself to be desired, but ill;
or else to strive or to subdue the will
alike were graceless; and of Evil this
alone is deadly certain: Evil is.

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate
that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;
that seek no parley, and in guarded room,
though small and bate, upon a clumsy loom
weave tissues gilded by the far-off day
hoped and believed in under Shadow’s sway.

Blessed are the men of Noah’s race that build
their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,
and steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,
a rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.

Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme
of things not found within recorded time.
It is not they that have forgot the Night,
or bid us flee to organized delight,
in lotus-isles of economic bliss
forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss
(and counterfeit at that, machine-produced,
bogus seduction of the twice-seduced).
Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair,
and those that hear them yet may yet beware.
They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,
and yet they would not in despair retreat,
but oft to victory have tuned the lyre
and kindled hearts with legendary fire,
illuminating Now and dark Hath-been
with light of suns as yet by no man seen.

I would that I might with the minstrels sing
and stir the unseen with a throbbing string.
I would be with the mariners of the deep
that cut their slender planks on mountains steep
and voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,
for some have passed beyond the fabled West.
I would with the beleaguered fools be told,
that keep an inner fastness where their gold,
impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring
to mint in image blurred of distant king,
or in fantastic banners weave the sheen
heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

I will not walk with your progressive apes,
erect and sapient. Before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends
if by God’s mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name.
I will not treat your dusty path and flat,
denoting this and that by this and that,
your world immutable wherein no part
the little maker has with maker’s art.
I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,
nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.

In Paradise perchance the eye may stray
from gazing upon everlasting Day
to see the day illumined, and renew
from mirrored truth the likeness of the True.
Then looking on the Blessed Land ’twill see
that all is as it is, and yet made free:
Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,
garden nor gardener, children nor their toys.
Evil it will not see, for evil lies
not in God’s picture but in crooked eyes,
not in the source but in malicious choice,
and not in sound but in the tuneless voice.
In Paradise they look no more awry;
and though they make anew, they make no lie.
Be sure they still will make, not being dead,
and poets shall have flames upon their head,
and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:
there each shall choose for ever from the All.”


Is the World of “Beowulf” More Christian than America Today?

Every person and every age has its own understanding of the relationship between good and evil. America is known as the great “melting pot,” indicating the infusion and assimilation of many people and ideas from the entire world into one country. This has led to the diversity and breadth of beliefs that can be seen in America today, most of them unbiblical. Writing in a likely unchristianized Britain in the late first century, the “Beowulf” poet, seemingly as a Christian, held a view of good and evil that was probably not typical of the time. Although his view may not have been typical of the age, the “Beowulf” poet’s view of good and evil is more Biblical than that of American culture today.

To understand where the poet and the culture aligned with and have strayed from the truth of the relationship between good and evil, a study of truth itself would be in order. The Bible repeatedly states that God and God alone is perfect – every aspect of His nature is wholly and utterly good. This means that anything contrary to His nature is not good, for it is not God. Humanity cannot hope to meet God’s standards. As Romans 3:10 states, “No one is righteous, no not one.” Humanity is fallen and incapable of doing any good, and when life is over, God will judge our lives and we will see that our supposed “good deeds” are as filthy rags in His sight and really worth nothing at all. Only by salvation through His Son may we escape eternal judgment. As C. S. Lewis once said, “No good work is done anywhere without aid from the Father of Lights.” Such is the standard that humanity can never attain – if our good deeds are as rags, what must our wicked deeds be in His eyes?

The culture has many points of view on the relationship between good and evil – as many, it seems, as there are people who make up the culture. However, there are some predominant themes that seem to rule American culture as a whole. In a relativistic society, there is no true meaning to the word good, as there is no meaning to the word evil. Good seems to mean something that helps others, promotes popular causes, or supports popular ideologies. In America today, it seems to be very hard to do anything evil at all. The end justifies the means in our world – if the end result was “good”, it doesn’t matter how one gets there. This belief is reflected widely across our culture though the various forms of entertainment, specifically mass entertainment. As long as one doesn’t hurt another in the process, it never was really bad in the first place. However, as askew as America is today, it is not completely off the mark. A corrupt politician exploiting the citizens of his district for financial gain and power plays is universally disdained. Nothing is more despised than one who hurts another for his own personal benefit. An overwhelmingly large percentage of Americans believe in some kind of eternal reward, but the popular conception of heaven is not quite the paradise as described in the Bible. “As long as I’m not terribly bad, or at least more good then bad, God wouldn’t send me to Hell,” they say. Yes, the culture does acknowledge Hell, but they reserve it almost exclusively for the Hitlers and Stalins of this world. As can be seen, the culture has strayed dramatically from the Biblical view of good and evil and is not likely to return anytime soon.

The “Beowulf” poet had a view that is more similar to the Bible’s as compared to that of the culture’s perspective. “Beowulf” does not deal so much with goodness as much as the evil that dwells within this world. Within humanity, the poet frequently calls people “good” when referring to their physical or behavioral characteristics. People that are “good” within the poet’s story are those that are strong and powerful or good to others, most notably those who are unselfish, self-sacrificing, and generous. The poet also acknowledges that God is both sovereign and powerful as well as good on many occasions. The poet also has a very well-defined view of evil as well. The list may seem rather similar to the culture’s list: murder, cruelty, and other things that seem to unjustly hurt others. Then a surprising addition pops up. According to the poet, striving against God is a terrible evil (lines 106 – 114) and condemns worship of idols, calling Satan “the killer of souls.” Regarding eternity, God is the judge of the deeds of mankind, says the poet (lines 180 – 188), but we are left to guess whether or not the God of the poet’s world is as just as the God of the Bible or if it rather like the wishy-washy god of the culture.

God alone is the standard of perfection and the judge of all things. While the culture takes an elastic stance on the issue, the Biblical standard of good and evil is inflexible and unyielding. “Beowulf” falls somewhere in between The “Beowulf” poet seems rather undecided – sometimes mirroring the Bible and other times mimicking modern culture – and eventually lands with view of good and evil that is markedly more Biblical than that of American culture today.


The Perfect Hero

Beowulf. Batman. Brad Pitt. The idea of a hero conjures up many images in the mind that may run the gamut from the demigods of ancient Greece to the celebrities of pop culture. From supermodels to superhumans, we as a culture lack any real definition for the term “hero” and use it with little care. A true hero is a magnificent tapestry woven of many fine and beautiful threads composed of different qualities and character traits. Unfortunately, the cultural heroes of today have at best only bits and pieces of the larger puzzle. Only in the person of Jesus do all the heroic qualities come together to form a true and perfect hero. If the Bible is the Word of God, and if God is perfect, then Christ, who is God and who followed the Scriptures perfectly, is the absolute standard for perfection and for being a perfect hero. Although the different qualities are widespread, they can be divided into three separate and distinct qualities: the hero’s relationship to good and evil, his relationship to others, and his relationship to God and truth.

A hero must have a proper view of good and evil if he is to be considered a true hero. To be considered a true hero, as Christ is, a hero must fight for what is good, right, and true. Although this seems perhaps overly fundamental, this is, in fact, crucial. If heroes are pictures of Christ, how can one be called a hero when he is blatantly antagonistic to Biblical values? Digging deeper, the method one uses to fight is almost, if not just as, important as the side on which one chooses to fight. Many “heroes” of today, such as the infamous Jack Bauer, are not known for always choosing good over evil when both options are presented. Heroes over the ages have resorted to less than Biblical techniques to complete their mission or satisfy their desires. If Jesus, the perfect and sinless man, is our standard for a perfect hero, however, then it is easily seen how the belief that the end justifies the means is a seriously flawed one.

A hero wouldn’t be a hero if he was the only person is the world. It is vital that the prospective hero also has the correct view of how to interact with other human beings. When the Lord was present on this earth, He demonstrated many qualities that add to the tapestry of the perfect hero. In an age where our idols are often too cruel or too lenient, the true Hero knew when to show mercy and when to exercise justice. A hero must also be wholly honest and trustworthy. Why would people put their hopes in one who they knew to spin lies? Furthermore, just as Christ was humble despite great authority and power, a hero must demonstrate a similar trait. Celebrities and superheroes alike often show a destructive tendency towards a cocky, prideful vanity that is infinitely removed from the demeanor of Christ while on this earth. Self-sacrificial love is an essential component of humility that was vividly portrayed in the life of Christ, especially in His death on the cross. Although God does not call most heroes to die in such a tragic way for others such as Sidney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities, He does call them to have the will to do such a thing if it was necessary.

Finally, the most important, and perhaps the most overlooked, set of qualities is the hero’s relationship to God and truth. If a hero has an incorrect understanding of God and truth, he is not a hero at all. There are many men and women, many of whose names are unknown to the world, who have quietly worked for the glory of God’s kingdom on earth from behind-the-scenes for their entire life without receiving recognition for their efforts, and have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to humility. God calls heroes to be above reproach in all areas of their life and obedient to Him in all things. If one misses this factor, he misses the entire point of the qualities of a hero.

But whether it’s Mario or Link rushing off to save the princess yet again and somehow saving the world in the process, or your friendly neighborhood Spiderman just settling for New York City, the heroes that we admire as a culture are the saviors of their people, just as Christ is the Savior of all those who are predestined to adoption as sons. While anybody can exhibit heroic qualities from time to time, only Jesus fully exhibits all the qualities of a hero all the time to their fullest degree. Only Jesus has the wholly correct view of good and evil. Only He relates to others perfectly. And only He serves God without any mistakes. Therefore Christ is the only perfect hero and we are called to imitate Him. The term “Christian” means “little Christ”. As we strive to model our behavior after Christ, the one and only true Hero, we have become His representatives on earth and are “little heroes” after His image.


Can Protestants Trust the Canon of Scripture?: A Personal Response Paper

There are many questions surrounding the authenticity of the canon of Scripture. Is it infallible? Is the canon an accurate source of truth? Is it really inspired by God? Although I do not have the time to delve into questions of this sort, I would like to explain why I believe the Protestant canon of Scripture is trustworthy.
2 Timothy 3:16 – 17 states that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In other words, the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God and is applicable to our lives. The term “divinely inspired” means that every word in the Bible is God’s Word for His people. This gives us confidence that what we have in the Bible is what God wanted us to learn.
When the early church fathers convened to assemble the canon, they used the following qualifiers to determine which books would be considered as part of the canon:
– The writings had to be written by an apostle or a close associate of an apostle
– The writings had to be widely distributed and read in the churches of the time
– The writings had to be quoted by church leaders.

The fathers had chosen these qualifiers so as to preserve the purity of the canon. For example, if one book was not widely read and distributed they asked if the book was applicable to the Christian life. If any book could not pass all three points, it was not accepted into the canon. God chose these qualifications for all of His divinely inspired words that He wanted to be in our Bible.
A way that I personally find comfort in the infallibility of the canon is that, God, in His sovereignty, had already ordained which books would and would not be included in the canon. I like the way the author of the article entitled “How Can Protestants Trust the Canon of Scripture?” phrased it: “Ultimately, it was God who decided what books belonged in the biblical canon. A book of Scripture belonged in the canon from the moment God inspired its writing. It was simply a matter of God convincing his human followers which books should be included in the Bible.” Although the way this author phrased particularly the final sentence may raise a few reformed eyebrows, the concept is still, I believe, valid. God did not just wait for the church fathers to try to put the canon together on their own – with all the mistakes and blunders that, as humans, they most certainly would have made! God had already chosen which books would and would not be included in the canon and simply guided His people in their selection of the books. This fact gives us confidence that every word of the Bible is exactly what God knew we would need for our lives as Christians.
Praise the Lord for His sovereignty over all things! If we do not hold fast to this beloved doctrine we may instead walk in the fear that the Bible as we know it may not be what God intended for us to know. Yet, in His sovereignty, I personally am convinced that everything we have in the Bible is what He wanted us to know about Him.
Works Cited:

“How Can Protestants Trust the Canon of Scripture?” (Author Unknown)
Systematic Theology, pgs. 54 – 69 (Wayne Grudem)
Omnibus II: Church Fathers through the Reformation, pgs. 3 – 12 (Stuart W. Bryan)