He knew what it’s like

“Many pastors keep themselves clean in their bodies

But they are cumbered with covetousness, they cannot drive it from them.”

Piers Plowman, Passus 1

Greek Heroes vs. Hebrew Heroes

These are the notes I made for a presentation to a theological discussion group. They’re raw, but I think you will get the point.

 

Recently I was reading an essay by a historian who said the following, “The Greeks invented hero-based history.” That is to say, to study history by studying great leaders was invented by Herodotus, Plutarch, and Thucydides. That statement floored me. As I am studying through Judges, I wanted to show that Yahweh invented the study of history, and if we’re talking about civilizations, the Greeks likely gained what they learned about this historical method from the Jews.

The book of Judges is a book of heroes; the term “judge” can mean leader in more than a judicial sense. These heroes are great leaders but none can truly lead reformation in Israel (because Reformation begins in the house of God, a.k.a. the Levites).

The word “hero” comes from the Greek word “heros” which means “great warrior, defender, or protector.” The historian Thomas Carlyle developed an entire theory of heroes, saying that great men move events in history. He published a book, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, that listed six types of heroes: The hero as divine, the hero as prophet, the hero as poet, the hero as priest, man of letters, and king. Another book, entitled The Hero: A Study in Tradition, Myth, and Drama, by Lord Ragland, listed 22 elements of a hero in ancient literature. Our own good teacher, Dr. Leithart published a book on the subject entitled Heroes in the City of Man, a study in Greek literary heroes.

The main difference I see between the Greek view of heroes and the Hebraic view (if you could even call it a view) is the Greeks view heroes as the makers of their history, whereas the people of Yahweh understand that Yahweh providentially guides history while raising up men and in some cases women to complete His work.  Most of the Greek heroes are men whose strength and power to perform bold exploits. Men like Hercules, Theseus, Achilles, and Odysseus all were warriors, most of whom defeated terrible enemies and protected their people. Alexander the Great held Achilles as one of his primary examples. The Greek heroes are ends in themselves, that is they accomplish their work and things go back to normal. The Hebraic view of heroes is that they work toward the fulfillment of Yahweh’s purposes. There are similarities in the two civilization’s views of heroes, but they are not working toward the same ends. All the heroes in the Old Testament are shadows of the one true warrior and protector of God’s people: Jesus the Messiah. Continue Reading »

A vaccination against Roman Catholicism

 

I’ve noticed several changes in my thinking over the past year, having officially left my Baptist roots and become a moderately high-church Presbyterian. One of the most notable is a growing aversion to Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology, particularly with regards to justification, the atonement, and worship.

When my family moved away my senior year in college, I was forced to come to some more substantial beliefs. My first major flirtation was with Roman Catholicism. I attended worship there and was impressed by the earnestness and reverence with which they worshiped. Earlier in my life I appreciated charismatic theology and their appreciation for the ministry of the Holy Spirit. All of that to say I’ve studied several branches of Christendom, in addition to the different Baptist denominations. But as I moved closer to liturgical worship, I joined what is the most simple form of worship I’d ever been a part of: the Primitive Baptists (PB’s). It was an odd union in some senses, but they were the only Calvinistic Baptists in our county. I began preaching in the church early on, but continued learning from the same authors I had been learning from before (most of whom were Reformed, a few of whom were Baptists).

I came with an appreciation of liturgy (1). I didn’t know how different I was from Primitive Baptists, and I didn’t fully understand the sectarian nature of Primitive Baptists, i.e. closed communion and landmarkism. I thought that since each church was independent, each church could do it’s own thing. To a large extent we did, for a Primitive Baptist church, but I still struggled. I am not intending to complain about the Primitive Baptists. Those I knew best were godly, Bible-saturated, and wholesome people. But they were also true to their beliefs and I differed with those beliefs in the areas of closed-communion, rebaptism for all outsiders, and liturgical structure.

During the time I was the co-pastor of a PB church, I was forced to acknowledge that I was different than most of the congregation in liturgical beliefs. Those differences became too big to ignore when my beliefs on covenant theology and paedobaptism became concrete. There were many other issues in the church that led to my resignation and my difference in belief was not the most important one. However, after my family and I joined Trinity Presbyterian in Birmingham, something else came into focus. Continue Reading »

Not the way to stop a nosebleed

“To throw away the reality [of penal substitution] because you don’t like the caricature is like cutting our the patient’s heart to stop a nosebleed.” – N.T. Wright, quoted in a blog post by Derek Rishmawy

If God Had Not Been On Our Side

If God Had Not Been On Our Side – Martin Luther

If God had not been on our side
And had not come to aid us,
The foes with all their power and pride
Would surely have dismayed us;
For we, His flock, would have to fear
The threat of men both far and near
Who rise in might against us.

Their furious wrath, did God permit,
Would surely have consumed us
And as a deep and yawning pit
With life and limb entombed us.
Like men o’er whom dark waters roll
Their wrath would have engulfed our soul
And, like a flood, o’erwhelmed us.

Blest be the Lord, who foiled their threat
That they could not devour us;
Our souls, like birds, escaped their net,
They could not overpower us.
The snare is broken—we are free!
Our help is ever, Lord, in Thee,
Who madest earth and Heaven.

 

The only Catholic Man

“To the last fiber of his being Luther was German, Calvin was French, Knox was Scotch; Augustine bears the unmistakable impress of the Roman, and Chrysostom is as certainly Greek. Paul, with all his large heartedness and sympathies is a Jew, always a Jew. Jesus Christ is the only One who is justly entitled to be called the Catholic Man. Nothing local, transient, individualizing, national, or sectarian dwarfs the proportions of His wondrous character.” – Rev. William Moorehead,  from his essay, “The Moral Glory of Jesus Christ as Proof of Inspiration,” in The Fundamentals.

Learning to be a better friend

The Wind in the WillowsThe Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

I had wanted to read this book for a long time and I finally did this summer. It was written for children, but it is a delightful tale for adults as well, as least those who have an imagination. The chapters are well written and the story is reminiscent of Thorton Burgess, except the animals in this book have much more similarity to humans than in Burgess’s works.

This book illustrates Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” The friendship among the four main characters, Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad is warm and sharpening (even transforming for one of them). The author teaches us that being a friend isn’t just lending a shoulder to cry on but sometimes means taking a stand against your friend even when it hurts, which happens more than once. All friendships have ups and downs, but true friends don’t let those ups and downs erode the relationship.   This is no empty children’s story but one that teaches what real friendship looks like. And learning what it means to be a friend is timeless, no matter how old you are.

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Lord Keep Us Steadfast In Thy Word – Martin Luther

Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word;
Curb those who fain by craft and sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Thy Son
And set at naught all He hath done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Thy pow’r make known,
For Thou art Lord of lords alone;
Defend Thy Christendom that we
May evermore sing praise to Thee.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth.
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.

Engaged separation

Most of us are familiar with the warnings from Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Judges that if Israel didn’t remain a separate people in worship and live faithfully unto Him, Yahweh would give them into the hands of their enemies to be oppressed. What I didn’t know was that Jesus reiterated that warning in Matthew 5:13. There Jesus says His disciples are the salt of the earth. Then He says that if the salt loses its savor, it was good for nothing except to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. In other words, if God’s people in the new covenant age didn’t remain separate from the world in worship and obey His commands, they would be oppressed by God’s enemies just like old covenant Israel was oppressed when they were unfaithful.

But total separation is no option. Our standards are separate depending on how far away our civil realm has drifted from the law of God. But we must savor the world; if not we will be the slaves of our enemies.

The Eternal and Sovereign God – Isaac Watts


      The Lord Jehovah reigns,
      And royal state maintains,
         His head with awful glories crowned;
      Arrayed in robes of light,
      Begirt with sov'reign might,
         And rays of majesty around.

      Upheld by thy commands,
      The world securely stands;
         And skies and stars obey thy word:
      Thy throne was fixed on high
      Before the starry sky;
         Eternal is thy kingdom, Lord.

      In vain the noisy crowd,
      Like billows fierce and loud,
         Against thine empire rage and roar;
      In vain, with angry spite,
      The surly nations fight,
         And dash like waves against tile shore.

      Let floods and nations rage,
      And all their powers engage;
         Let swelling tides assault the sky;
      The terrors of thy frown
      Shall beat their madness down:
         Thy throne forever stands on high.

      Thy promises are true,
      Thy grace is ever new;
         There fixed, thy church shall ne'er remove;
      Thy saints with holy fear
      Shall in thy courts appear,
         And sing thine everlasting love.