From the sea like pirates they came, a hundred or so Dutch women from "Women on Waves", a floating abortion mill, to the yacht harbor of Valencia. The locals came out in droves to protest the "Ship of Death", while the abortionist passed out matches with the message “The only church that brings light is the one that burns. Join us!” and images of burning churches. It was the largest pro-life rally in the city's history. The flotilla's purpose is to ferry impressionable women out to international waters to perform their heinous acts of death and dismemberment on the defenceless youths. On October 19, the feminists met again to distribute matches but decided to disband after they were overwhelmed by the large number of pro-life protesters who gathered at the port where the abortion ship was docked.
Churches around the world will join in prayer for the millions of Christians worldwide who continue to be persecuted for their faith.
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) on 9 November is an initiative of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Commission in collaboration with ministries that support the persecuted church, including Voice of Martyrs, Open Doors and Gospel for Asia.
Global IDOP coordinator, the Rev Johan Candelin said the day of prayer said it could be the “biggest prayer group in the world”. The theme will be “Refined in Fire”.
“When the Lord's children go into the refining fire of persecution, they come out purer with deeper faith and greater strength, more Christ-focused and more unified,” said the Rev Candelin, who is also the Executive Director of the WEA’s Religious Liberty Commission.
“Those who are being persecuted can therefore be encouraged to look with hope at how they are being sanctified. And those who pray for them can be reminded to place sanctification on a higher pedestal than prosperity.”
More Christians were martyred in the twentieth century than all previous centuries combined, and persecution continues unabated into the twenty-first century. In India’s Orissa state, scores of Christians have been killed and thousands left homeless in a wave of attacks by Hindu mobs since the end of August.
“More than 200 million Christians do not have full religious freedom today,” added Candelin. “The least we can do is the most we can do: Pray.”
Specific prayer requests concerning 36 nations and 46 national leaders plus other resources for targeted praying, are available from the global IDOP website.
“IDOP is an important opportunity for the church around the world to stand in solidarity with brothers and sisters from across the globe, who are suffering as they seek to follow Christ,” said Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, the International Director of WEA.
“I urge all churches to participate in IDOP. It will be life-changing.”
On the web: www.idop.org
At least a dozen police officers arrived in more than seven marked vehicles and then arrested, jailed, shackled, and/or strip searched 18 pro-life advocates, including the three women, after they held signs and shared their message along a public street.
"The state shouldn't persecute Christians for expressing their beliefs on important social issues, nor deny them their constitutional rights," said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot.
"This incident paints an ugly picture of the state of religious freedom and free speech in America today."
"The truth of the matter is that our clients were heckled, arrested, imprisoned, shackled, and strip searched twice for exercising their First Amendment rights," said ADF-allied attorney Daniel Cox, who is serving as local counsel.
"No excuse exists for how our young clients were treated."
At least 12 police officers handcuffed 18 peaceful participants in Defend Life's "Face the Truth" Pro-life Tour on August 1 of this year and denied them a reason for their arrests. They had relocated to Bel Air after being told by officers to move from another location for not having a permit to engage in free speech activities. Three young female participants - including teenagers - were subjected to two rounds of strip searches.
The first search took place in the police station parking lot in front of other males. A female officer pulled out the young ladies' shirt collars to inspect their breasts before reaching down their pants to feel around their waistlines. The Harford County Detention Center administered the second strip search after the women were transferred there. A female officer took the women one by one into a bathroom and ordered them to lift up their shirts and brassieres.
Officials cast the pro-life participants in leg irons, denied them permission to call parents until after midnight, and did not release any of them until the following day. None were informed that attorneys Steve Peroutka and Scott Whiteman had been prohibited from having any contact with them after arriving at the station earlier that night to assist them.
On August 12, the state decided not to pursue the charges against them, which included loitering, disorderly conduct, and failure to obey a lawful order. They were never charged for a permit offence.
The complaint was filed with the US District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division. The case is styled Swagler v. Harford County.
The Thomas More Society of Chicago and the American Catholic Lawyers Association represent some of the other pro-life participants.
The Rev Professor Michael Reiss, director of education at the Royal Society, believes banning creationism from the classroom is likely to backfire with children who hold sincere beliefs.
He wants teachers to be open to discussing creationist ideas. Some creationists reject the concept of evolution and suggest that the Earth is only 10,000 years old.
At the same time they should endeavour to explain scientific theories such as natural selection and the Big Bang.
Prof Reiss admitted he used to be "evangelical" about spreading the word of evolution when he taught biology in schools.
But he added: "I realised that simply banging on about evolution and natural selection didn't lead some pupils to change their minds at all. Now I would be more content simply for them to understand it as one way of understanding the universe."
Speaking at the British Association Festival of Science at the University of Liverpool, he said it was better for science teachers not to see creationism as a "misconception" but as a "world view".
Around 10% of British schoolchildren come from families with sincere creationist beliefs, said Prof Reiss, an ordained Church of England minister. In the US, the proportion of creationist schoolchildren was 40%.
Many of these children came from Muslim backgrounds or families with fundamental Christian views. Teachers in science lessons ought to be willing to talk about creationism if students brought the subject up, said Prof Reiss.
At the same time as making clear creationism is not accepted by the scientific community, they should convey a message of respect that does not "denigrate or ridicule" the children's beliefs
A federal judge ruled on Friday that a San Diego high school teacher has a free speech right to display patriotic banners in his classroom with messages such as “God Bless America,” “In God We Trust,” and “One Nation Under God.” School officials had ordered the banners removed on the grounds they promoted a “Judeo-Christian” viewpoint.
Brad Johnson, a high school math teacher, had displayed such red, white and blue banners in his Poway Unified School District high school for twenty-five years before they were ordered removed. The school district allowed classroom displays by other teachers that included posters of Buddhist and Islamic messages, Tibetan prayer flags, and other displays.
The Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against the school district on Johnson’s behalf, arguing that the school district’s actions amounted to government hostility toward a specific religion. The lawsuit also alleged that the school district violated Johnson’s free speech rights by imposing a viewpoint-based restriction upon him, according to a Tuesday press release from the Thomas More Law Center.
The Poway Unified School District responded to the lawsuit with a motion seeking to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim.
Federal District Judge Robert T. Benitez ruled that the lawsuit may proceed, stating in his decision:
“Whether described as speech from a religious perspective or speech about American history and culture, through display of his classroom banners, Johnson was simply exercising his free speech rights on subjects that were otherwise permitted in the limited public forum created by Defendants and in a manner that did not cause substantial disorder in the classroom. Thus, Johnson has made out a clear claim for relief for an ongoing violation of his First Amendment free speech rights.”
Robert Muise, the Thomas More Law Center lawyer handling the case, praised the decision by saying the judge’s “strongly worded” opinion “sends a clear message to school districts across the country that hostility toward our nation’s religious heritage is contrary to our constitution.”
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center, added his own comments, saying “Many public schools exhibit a knee-jerk hostility towards Christianity and seek to cleanse our nation’s classrooms of our religious heritage while promoting atheism or other religions under the guise of cultural diversity.”
If the lawsuit is successful, the speech restriction will be overturned and Johnson will be allowed to display his banners.
Blot out, O Lord, all my memories- except one. For memories make me old and feeble. Memories ruin the present day. They weigh down the present day with the past and weaken my hope in the future, for in legions they whisper in my ear: "There will only be what has already been."
But I do not wish for there to be only what has been. I do not wish and You do not wish, O Lord, for the future to be the past repeated. Let things happen that have never appeared before. The sun would not be worth much, if it only watched repetitions.
Worn paths mislead a wayfarer. Earth has walked over the earth a long time. Earthly walkways have become boring, for they have been traveled again and again from generation to generation throughout all time. Blot out, O Lord, all my memories except one.
Just one memory do I ask You not to blot out, but to strengthen in me. Do not blot out but strengthen in my consciousness the memory of the glory that I had when I was entirely with You and entirely in You, before time and temporal illusions.
When I, too, was a harmonious trinity in holy unity, just as You are from eternity to eternity.
When the soul within me was also in friendship with consciousness and life.
When my soul also was a virginal womb, and my consciousness was wisdom in virginity, and my life was spiritual power and holiness.
When I, too, was all light, and when there was no darkness within me.
When I, too, was bliss and peace, and when there were no torments of imbalance within me.
When I also knew You, even as You know me, and when I was not mingled with darkness.
When I, too, had no boundaries, no neighbors, no partitions between "me" and "you."
Do not blot out this memory, my Father, but strengthen it. Even if it reveals to me the abyss along which I am journeying in humbleness and nothingness.
Even if it separates me from friends and pleasantries, and demolishes all the barriers between Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.1
Even if it leads me outside of myself, and makes me seem mad in the eyes of my fellow wayfarers.
In truth, no companionship pleases me except Yours, and no memory pleases me except the memory of You.
O my Merciful Father, blot out all my memories except one alone.
Translated and Annotated by: Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Todor Mika, S.T.M. and Very Rev. Dr. Stevan Scott
I felt impressed to share this with you; Christ is our comforter.
In this world that is constantly being filled with foul deeds; (since the dawn of time) which is nothing new, it has just arrived to us in different packages different from the wrappings and mailing addresses of the past.
-5 views on apologetics-
1) Classical Method
Builds from Creation, natural revelation, to prove Theism. Uses historical evidence to build a case for Christ/refute other regions or views- It is usually argued that the order of the two phases in classical apologetics is essential. That is, before one can meaningfully discuss historical evidences, one has to have established God's existence because one's worldview is a framework through which miracles, historical facts, and other empirical data are interpreted. Without a theistic context, no historical event could ever be shown to be a divine miracle. The flipside of this claim is that one cannot appeal to alleged miracles in order to prove God's existence.- RC Sproul
2) Evidential Method
Same as above but includes Miracles, The Supernatural, and Focuses on the Resurrection- an approach to Christian apologetics emphasizing the use of evidence to demonstrate that God probably exists. The evidence is supposed to be, evidence both the believer and nonbeliever share, that is to say you need not presuppose God's existence- Evidentialism as an apologetic method may be characterized as the ''one-step'' approach. Miracles do not presuppose God's existence (as most contemporary classical apologists assert) but can serve as one sort of evidence for God. This method is fairly eclectic in its use of various positive evidences and negative critiques, utilizing both philosophical and historical arguments. Yet it tends to focus chiefly on the legitimacy of accumulating various historical and other inductive arguments for the truth of Christianity. Josh McDowell
3) Cumulative Method or the Cumulative Case Method
Builds an overwhelming case like a lawyer, uses massive amounts of factual data to overwhelm subject with the evidence for Christ- It is an informed argument that pieces together several lines or types of data into a sort of hypothesis or theory that comprehensively explains that data. The data that the cumulative case seeks to explain include the existence and nature of the cosmos, the reality of religious experience, the objectivity of morality, and certain other historical facts, such as the resurrection of Jesus.- Basil Mitchell, C.S. Lewis and C. Stephen Evans.
4) Presuppositional Method
The mind is fallen, “The Noetic Effects of Sin” - is a school of Christian apologetics, a field of Christian theology that aims to (1) present a rational basis for the Christian faith, (2) defend the faith against objections, and (3) expose the perceived flaws of other worldviews. Due to the Noetic effects of sin, presuppositionalists usually hold that there is not enough common ground between believers and unbelievers that would allow followers of the prior three methods to accomplish their goals. The apologist must simply presuppose the truth of Christianity as the proper starting point in apologetics. Here the Christian revelation in the Scriptures is the framework through which all experience is interpreted and all truth is known. Various evidences and arguments can be advanced for the truth of Christianity, but these at least implicitly presuppose premises that can be true only if Christianity is true. Presuppositionalist attempt, then, to argue transcendentally. That is, they argue that all meaning and thought - indeed, every fact - logically presupposes the God of the Scriptures.- Francis Shaffer
5) Reformed Epistemology
People come to Christ without logic or reason- the focus will tend to be on negative or defensive apologetics as challenges to one's theistic belief are encountered. To encourage unbelievers to put themselves in situations where people are typically taken with belief in God attempting to awaken in them their latent sense of the divine. It is perfectly reasonable for a person to believe many things without evidence. Most strikingly, they argue that belief in God does not require the support of evidence or argument in order for it to be rational. The Reformed epistemology apologist will not necessarily eschew making positive arguments in defense of Christianity, but will argue that such arguments are not necessary for rational faith. If Calvin is right that human beings are born with an innate sensus divinitatis, then people may rightly and rationally come to have a belief in God immediately without the aid of evidence.
1st Peter 3:15-
vs. 15- Christ is in control, see if our hearts are right- why are you living the life you are? Treat others with respect when responding to the question. Give an intellectual reason why you follow Christ-
…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;…NASB
2nd Corinthians 10:1-
vs 1- Paul being sarcastic
vs 2- states that you may think I am timid but I will confront you
vs 3- we are two in hearts yet different in the world
vs 4- our weapons are prayer, fasting, kindness, compassion
vs 5- this Stronghold is anything that keeps us from coming to Christ, we come against the arrogance/pretention of this world and we take captive ALL thought (false views) to the obedience of Christ.
…Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…
Is it arrogant to say that Christ is the only way?
All points of truth are and all truth is relative to the individual.
No absolute truth exists. (when you make such a claim you are also making an absolute claim that everything is relative)
It is self contradictory.
Whatever you feel is right to you- just follow your heart.
You cannot say that there is no god then make moral claims…
If Stalin felt is was right to purge Russia then it was right for him to do so, he just followed his heart.
Sees all religions or faiths as legitimate and valid within their cultural background and tradition.
All religions say the same thing.
Differences in the major world religions/faiths-
Hinduism- god is everywhere and in everything.- Sects: Vaishnavas, Shaivites, Shaktism, Smartism, Ganapatya, Saura, Arya Samaj,The Tantric traditions. Tenets: Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha, Karma, Samsara, Yoga, Bhakti, Maya, Puja, Mandir.- Writings: Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, Purana.
Buddhism- there is no god.- Sects: Theravāda, Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna (Early and Pre-sectarian). Tenets: Sotapanna, Sakadagami, Anagami, Arahant.- Writings: Pali Canon, Mahayana Sutras, Tibetan Canon.
Islam- monotheistic.- Sects: Suni, Shia, and other mystic diversions. Tenets: five pillars (Shahadah, Salah, Zakah, Sawm, Hajj)- Writings: Qur'an, Sunnah, Hadith, Fiqh, Sharia, Kalam, Tasawwuf.
Judaism- monotheistic.- Sects: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Haredi, Hasidic, Modern Orthodox, Reconstroctionist, Renewal, Rabbinic, Humanistic, Karaite, Samaritanism.- Tenets: Brit-Milah, Shabbat, Torah, Temple, Feasts, Kashrut.- Writings: Torah, Tanakh, Mesorah, Targum, Midrash, Mishnah, Tosefta, Talmud, Mishneh, Tur, Kabbalah, Siddur, Piyyut.
Christianity- Trinitarian.- Sects: Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant (this sect has thousands of local and cultural diversions) Tenets: Ressurection, Forgiveness, Rebirth Grace. Writings: The Bible, Apocrypha, Gnostic writings.
Behavior- Peacfully co-exsist with people who maintain other “worldviews”.
Belief- All “worldviews” and religions are equally valid or true.
There is no tolerance for prostylization; it is viewed as an infringement on others rights to believe as they wish if you were to prostylitize another to your set of beliefs or views.
(Worldview-was coined by the Third Reich, it came to designate the instinctive understanding of complex geo-political problems by the Nazis, which allowed them to openly begin invasions, twist facts or violate human rights, in the name of a higher ideal and in accordance to their theory of the world)
How do we respond to this world?
1) as a friend thru our behavior
2) as a servant in our lifestyle
3) to proclaim by persuasion not intimidation- sharing with words.
-How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?-Romans 10
| O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace, help me in all things to rely upon your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by you. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray. And you, yourself, pray in me. Amen. |
- St. Philaret of Moscow
Try this morning prayer for a week or two......
I asked God to take away my habit.
God said, No.
It is not for me to take away,
but for you to give it up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, No.
His spirit is whole,
his body is only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience.
God said, No.
Patience is a byproduct of tribulations;
it isn't granted, it is learned.
I asked God to give me happiness.
God said, No
I give you blessings;
Happiness is up to you.
I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, No.
Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares,
and brings you closer to me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, No.
You must grow on your own,
but I will prune you to make you fruitful.
I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said, No.
I will give you life,
so that you may enjoy all things.
I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.
finally you have the idea.
'To the world you might be one person,
But to one person you just might be the world'
thanks to Fanny Robicheaux for this very apt and insightfull look at life and prayer
Two male priests exchanged vows and rings in a ceremony that was conducted using one of the church's most traditional wedding rites – a decision seen as blasphemous by conservatives.
The ceremony broke Church of England guidelines and was carried out last month in defiance of the Bishop of London, in whose diocese it took place. News of the "wedding" emerged days before a crucial summit of the Anglican Church's conservative bishops and archbishops, who are threatening to split the worldwide Church over the issue of homosexual clergy.
Although some liberal clergy have carried out "blessing ceremonies" for homosexual couples in the past, this is the first time a vicar has performed a "wedding ceremony", using a traditional marriage liturgy, with readings, hymns and a Eucharist.
Both the conservative and liberal wings of the Anglican communion expressed shock last night.
The Most Rev Henry Orombi, the Archbishop of Uganda, said that the ceremony was "blasphemous."
He called on Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take decisive action if the Anglican Church were not to "disintegrate".
Archbishop Orombi added: "What really shocks me is that this is happening in the Church of England that first brought the Gospel to us.
"The leadership tried to deny that this would happen, but now the truth is out. Our respect for the Church of England will erode unless we see a return to traditional teaching."
The Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester – a powerful conservative figure – said that the service represented a wedding "in all but name". He said: "Strictly speaking it is not a marriage, but the language is clearly modelled on the marriage service and the occasion is modelled on the marriage service. This clearly flouts Church guidelines and will exacerbate divisions within the Anglican Communion."
The bishop said that it was up to the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, to act, adding that it would become a high-profile test case of Church authority.
"Can we stand for the clear teaching of the Church of England or are we powerless in the face of these actions, which I regret enormously have taken place," he said.
The service was held at St Bartholomew the Great in London – one of England's oldest churches, which featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral – and was conducted by the parish rector, the Rev Martin Dudley.
The couple, the Rev Peter Cowell, who is a cleric at one of the Queen's churches, and the Rev Dr David Lord, had registered their civil partnership before the ceremony.
Mr Dudley opened the service by saying: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God to join these men in a holy covenant of love and fidelity. Such a covenant shows us the mystery of the union between God and God's people and between Christ and the Church." In the vows, Mr Cowell and Dr Lord pledged to "hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part".
Mr Dudley blessed the union with the words: "As David and Jonathan's souls were knit together, so these men may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made."
Leading church figures expressed astonishment at the language and grandeur of the service, claiming that it was a highly provocative act. Although, the use of such a traditional ceremony does not constitute a marriage in the eyes of the law, Church figures on all sides said the event went further than any gay blessing ceremonies that had gone before.
The "marriage" will revive the war over homosexual clergy that has engulfed the Church since 2003 when Gene Robinson was made Bishop of New Hampshire and Jeffrey John, another gay cleric, who was about to become Bishop of Reading, was made to step down.
It is likely to embolden liberal clergy who have been reluctant to offer a full "wedding service" and will open the floodgates to other homosexuals who want a traditional ceremony.
Mr Dudley agreed to conduct the service despite Bishop Chartres warning that Church guidelines – drawn up when the Civil Partnerships Act was introduced – do not allow formal blessings of gay relationships. He argued that it was not a wedding but a blessing and that he was not "offering" blessing services, but responding to personal requests from friends. "I believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, but I see nothing wrong with blessing a couple who want to make a life-long commitment to one another."
A Church of England spokesman said: "Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances. But the House of Bishops affirmed that clergy should not provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership."
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent for the Telegraph.co.uk
The Penal Theory of Atonement
The enduring influence of Augustine, Calvin and Luther on modern culture in general, and on Christianity in particular, continues to this day. Although Augustinianism's influence on Christianity waned in the 19th century with the burgeoning of Enlightenment thought and the establishment of the democratic idea (i.e., Thomas Jefferson and the early Deist views on the intrinsic goodness of man), the emerging forms of evangelical Christianity in the West incorporated some Augustinian elements through Calvinism and Lutheranism.
Although the sacrificial theory of atonement was first articulated only in the 11th century, by Anselm of Canterbury, and reformulated in the 19th century by the Evangelical Christian Charles Hodge, Anselm's explanation for the atonement was based on a traditional Augustinian concept of God. This concept of salvation was yet another example of Augustine's corrupting influence on Christianity. Since sin is an offense to the "honor" of God, God has to punish people or have them offer "satisfaction" to make amends for the offenses committed. In order to satisfy God's justice, Christ agreed to die on the cross in substitute for sinful human beings. Christ's death is an act of obedience that outweighs humanity's sinful acts and therefore merited God's reward. Since Christ did not need God's reward, He passed it on to humanity, thus allowing God to forgive us for our sins.66 In Hodge's version God is a prosecutor or a judge who is satisfied only when the punishment rightly deserved by mankind has been discharged.
Clark Pinnock and Robert Brow argue that this theory has been a major obstacle to the understanding of Christianity: "It demotes the resurrection from its central place and changes the cross from scandal to abstract theory. It makes things sound as if God wanted Jesus to die...Surely not! Jesus is God's beloved Son, the Father and the Son are not divided or in opposition...Before the cross happened, God loved sinners and wanted to save them. The cross did not purchase love for sinners. It is we, not God, who need to be changed in attitude."67 The penal theory is not without deep biblical resonances in the Old Testament's depiction of God's wrath, but it is certainly inconsistent with the essential message of Christ's gospel, that God's offer of salvation was extended to all. As Clark Pinnock puts it, "The decisive element in Jesus' teaching and acting was communication of the boundlessness of God's grace to sinners."68 As Jesus stated, "I tell you...there will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:7) Or in Michael Winter's words, "In Jesus' own dealings with sinners and in His teaching about forgiveness, compensation is never required as a prior condition for being received back into the love of God. This is true of the parables of forgiveness, the narratives of conversion or reconciliation of individuals or in the plain teachings of Christ. Satisfaction is never required as a condition of their being reconciled with God the Father."69
In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), the son is accepted by his father even though he does not repay him the money he squandered. In Matthew 8:21-22, Peter asks Jesus how often he should forgive his brother ("Should it be up to seven times?"), and Jesus replies, "Until seventy times seven." He makes no mention of prior compensation. Even on the cross, as sinners drive nails through His hands, Jesus says, "Father, forgive them." The goal of the Father is a reconciled human community—the new covenant of Christ. The means to this goal is forgiveness and repentance, not retribution and compensation. What God asks of human beings is certainly not less than He is willing to give Himself. In Matthew 6:14, after reciting the Lord's Prayer, Christ explicitly states, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you."
Advocates of penal atonement sometimes insist that because God is just He must grant justice and punish transgression. But as Christos Yannaras, the Greek Orthodox theologian, asks:
“But from what do they derive this "must" to which they subordinate even God? Does there exist, then, some necessity that limits the love of God, limits His freedom? If there is, then God is not God or at least He is not the God that the Church knows. A "just" God, a heavenly police constable who oversees the keeping of the laws of an obligatory - even for Him - justice is just a figment of the imagination of fallen humanity, a projection of its need for a supernatural individual security within the reciprocal treachery of collective coexistence..."As a grain of sand cannot counterbalance a great quantity of gold, so in comparison God's use of justice cannot counterbalance His mercy," says St. Isaac the Syrian.”70
I am not of course denying that Christ's death was a voluntary sacrifice undergone for the salvation of humanity. On this fact the biblical witness is unequivocal. But the point is that the Western, Roman Catholic--Evangelical Protestant penal satisfaction theory of atonement is an inadequate explanation for the efficacy of Christ's mission, death, and resurrection. It exaggerates the gulf that exists between humanity and God by depicting the human being as Sinner and God as the Judge, and it violates the biblical witness to God as the Father who desires the restoration of communion with and among His sons and daughters. It reflects an Augustinian preoccupation with guilt and ontological deficiency,
and it assumes that the whole purpose of Christ's work was merely to secure individuals' legal acquittal in the heavenly tribunal, thus partially mitigating their ontological deficiency and sparing them from the torments of eternal Hell. This is an impoverished conception of redemption that eschews its social, political, and cosmic implications.
A corollary to the penal atonement theory is a conception of faith that is entirely unbiblical. Justification is reduced to a private transaction between the individual and God. Faith is defined as a passive acceptance of the fact that one is a sinner and Christ is one's savior. On the basis of this passive acceptance one is declared legally righteous by God. "Christ's righteousness is imputed to the sinner in a forensic or legal sense, even though one does not yet display righteousness or holiness of character."71 This view is in conflict with the biblical concept of faith, justification, and righteousness, all of which are means not simply to expiate the individual's guilt but to create and sustain a community that conforms to a "new social-spiritual order of human relationships under the authority of God,"72 and a community that lives in communion with God.
Faith is understood by Paul not as the passive acceptance that one is a sinner saved by Christ, but as an attitude that is instrumental in bringing about the reconciliation of humanity and God: "For Paul, Abraham is the classic example of faith. In Romans 4 (cf. Hebrews 11:8-19), Abraham's faith is described as a continuing attitude of trust in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties and temptation to despair...So like the Old Testament concept of (emunah) [faith], Abraham's faith was a matter of attitude and conduct."73
It is beyond the scope of this article to examine the various theories of atonement. (Such a "fully-orbed Biblical perspective" is provided by Driver, who takes into account all of the dimensions of the atonement, e.g., expiation, sacrifice, intercession, etc.) The point here is merely to show how certain Augustinian deformations of Christianity (1) conflict with scriptural witness and (2) lead to an acceptance of the status quo, and a capitulation to the powers of this world, and thus prevent us from understanding the Church as a force for transformation in a world in bondage to sin and death.
Although Augustinianism is associated with an epoch that the modern world is believed to have long transcended, it will be shown (below) that the Augustinian narrative, along with its root metaphor of the irreparably damaged soul, retained its hold upon the collective imagination-it merely clothed itself in secular garb suited to the fashion of modern times. The philosophies of the Enlightenment were generally optimistic and thus presented a stumbling block to Augustinianism, with its bleak vision of human possibility. However, Augustinianism had sunk its roots deep into the collective imagination of Western humanity, and it was not destined to fade away.
St. Gregory of Nyssa
The solution to the debacle of civilization requires the recovery of an anthropology that is both Christian and humanistic. The antithesis posited by Augustinianism between God and humanity must be overcome in theory and in practice if Christianity is to be a force for cultural transformation. The Russian Orthodox philosopher S. L. Frank wrote approximately fifty years ago that "Christianity is the religion of worshipping God not as opposed but as deeply akin to man."90 A Christian humanist anthropology could provide the philosophical foundation needed for the development of the capacity for love.91 Eastern Christian theology, Orthodoxy, has not been marred by the misanthropic premises that have been characteristic of Western Christian theology, Roman Catholic and Protestant, for centuries. From the early Greek fathers to modern Orthodox theologians, one dominant theme has been sounded again and again: the purpose of the Incarnation was to make it possible for human beings to be reunited with God, to become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). As St. Athanasius put it, "He (the Son of God) became man that we might become God (divine)."92
Western Christianity would have taken an entirely different course had it assimilated the teachings of the early Greek Fathers instead of taking its lead primarily from Augustine. For instance, we can only imagine the impact on Western Christianity of St. Gregory of Nyssa, whom Hans Urs von Balthasar described as "the most profound Greek philosopher of the Christian era, an incomparable mystic and poet,"93 would have had if he, and not Augustine, was the major influence of Western Christendom.
In contrast to Augustine, St. Gregory denied (1) that human nature is sinful, (2) that all human beings are equally sinful, and (3) that humanity can do nothing but sin. St. Gregory said human nature cannot be sinful, for nature is what is created by God, and it was not created evil or sinful. What is constitutive of our nature is that it is created in the image of God. Christ is the image of God, and man the image of Christ; man is the image of the Image. Gregory's definition of God was succinct: "God by His nature is goodness itself. Or rather, God transcends in goodness everything that man can conceive or comprehend. Consequently He made human life from no other impulse than because He is good...Man was made in God's image. For this is like saying God made human nature a communicant of everything good." By saying that man was made in the image of God, it is implied that it is man's destiny, as Lossky put it, to participate "in the plenitude of the Divine Being, in the abundance of Divine Goodness."94
The source of evil lies in the freedom of man. Sin is not in the nature of humanity but is entirely an act of the will. Sin is sin because it is voluntary. Otherwise God would not condemn us for it.
Before the Fall, man existed in communion with God in a state of immortality. Then, death was not, disease was absent, "mine and thine"—these bad words—were far from the life of the First Man. For as the Sun is common to all and so is the air, and before, all the grace of God and His blessing was common to all, so also in equal measure was participation in all good according to capacity open to all, the sickness of greed was unknown, the hatred of the superiors towards inferiors was not. (In fact there was no such thing at all as superiors.) And a thousand such other things which no one will ever be able to enumerate exhaustibly in words, and which man possessed in his greatness, I mean equality and honor to the angels, boldness of access into the presence of God, the vision of the super-cosmic good, and all the ineffable beauty of the Blessed Nature could then be seen in us also, manifesting the divine image in
themselves, in the prime of the soul when it was still shining.95
Once the commandment was broken by Adam and Eve, man was destined to die because he had abandoned God. "For sin is estrangement from God, who is the True and Only Life."96 The Fall "shattered man's union with the angels"97 and subjected humanity to an endless cycle of birth and death. This life, which most people today assume is natural, Gregory called a "life in death."98 Death now casts its shadow over all existence, transforming the original state of ecstatic life into a "chilled life"99 characterized by "sexual union, conception, birth, pollution, the nipple, food, excretion, gradual growth to full stature, adult life, sickness, death."100
Human nature is not evil in its essence, for it is God's creation. As St. Gregory puts it, "Human nature is still free to choose between good and evil, and that is the basis on which the call to repentance can be addressed to man."101 For
For He said: "Return, oh sons of men." What is the teaching here? The word refers to the nature, and implies the healing from evil. For since being changeable you fell away from the good, you need again to be changing for the good...Thus it is in the choice of men to conduct themselves to that which they wish, either to the good or to the evil...For him who returns again to the good from his turning away, even if his life is spotted with myriad faults, the multitude of evils appearing together as a thousand years, when he turns to God it all becomes nothing..."102
Gregory does not accept the idea of irresistible grace. He writes, "virtue compelled is not virtue."103 In his theology and the teaching of the Orthodox Fathers, human effort complements the grace of God.
Although the image of God in man has been obscured by sin, it has not been destroyed or irreparably damaged. It is understandable, given the existence of evil, that some have come to this conclusion. St. Gregory notes, "Through those who have rightly ordered their lives, we can see the divine image in man. For someone who is carnal and a slave of passion makes it unbelievable that man was originally adorned with divine beauty, other persons who practice noble virtue and keep themselves pure from pollution should confirm you in the better conception of human nature."104
St. Gregory writes that since the fall "the Godlike beauty of the soul which came into being as imitation of the archetype has been discolored like some iron implement by the rust of evil." And he urges his readers to wash this image by a pure way of life as if "with water" so that "the beauty of the soul stands revealed once more."105
In the Orthodox Church, through the initiative of the Holy Spirit and the response of human beings, an eschatological process is taking place that will culminate in the gradual process Gregory refers to as "passing through the fire of purification." Eventually there will be a universal restoration: "Participation in bliss awaits everyone...After many ages evil will disappear and nothing will remain except good. This will be the completion of the return of all intellectual creatures to the original state in which they were first created, when there was as yet no evil...The beauty of our similarity to God, in which we were formed at the beginning, will again shine forth.106
Contemporary Orthodox theologians agree with St. Gregory that salvation is a product of divine and human action, that the image of God has not been destroyed by the Fall; and they decisively reject the doctrine of double predestination, affirming with scripture that God desires the salvation of all. St. Gregory of Nyssa and the Orthodox tradition are at one with western Christianity in their belief in a tragic fall. Where the traditions diverge radically is in their conception of the anthropological consequences of the Fall. Whereas Western theologians typically state that the Fall has partially or totally destroyed the image of God in man, Eastern theologians state that the image of God in man has been obscured by the Fall. The eschatological implications are obviously profoundly different. The doctrine of the destruction of the image of God coheres with the Augustinian idea of the bondage of the human will, and the utter dependence of human beings upon the “predetermining” decrees of God only for salvation. But if the image of God in man is merely obscured, then it lies within the power of those who become aware of the existence of the image—in however latent a state, to make it manifest once again and to summon others to the same task.
Twentieth century Orthodox theologian Father Georges Florovsky emphatically affirmed the indestructibility of the image of God in man. "Without doubt even in the demonic depths the creature remains the work of God and the traits of divine design are never effaced. The image of God, obscured by the infidelity of sin, is nevertheless preserved intact, and that is why there is always, even in the abyss, an ontological receptacle for divine appeal, for the grace of God."107
This is also why humanity retains the freedom and the responsibility to work—with the assistance of the grace of God—for the liberation of all humanity and for the reunion of all of creation with its divine Creator. "Our Lord left to us His own work to carry on and to accomplish. We have to enter into the very spirit of His redeeming work. And we are given power to do this. We are given power to be the sons of God."108
My selected quotes were written by Gregory A. Boyd, a Christus Victor advocate, in response to a Penal Substitution treatise (written by Thomas R. Schreiner) in a book that is like a debate among advocates for four of the theories of atonement: The Nature of Atonement: Four Views edited by James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy (InterVarsity Press Academic, 2006. ISBN-10: 0-8308-2570-3. ISBN-13: 978-0-8308-2570-7.)
Boyd is using the atonement as shown in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to help make his point, and the "deep magic" refers to God's "self-sacrificial love" [Nature of Atonement, Page 102] in Lewis' book.
"Because law and love are both equally deep magic for Schreiner [Penal Substitution advocate], the ultimate problem the atonement resolves is a legal conflict within the godhead. In contrast, for Lewis [Christus Victor advocate], God expresses holy rage, but 'God is love' (I Jn 4:8)." [Page 102]
What this says is that Love and Law are inherent parts of God's essence in Penal Substitution. With Christus Victor, Love is the inherent part of God's essence, and the Law (holy rage) is expressed by Him, but not an inherent part of His essence.
Furthermore, in the next quote, "a kill" refers to the demand that there be a death (at all) in order to bring atonement to mankind in his sin. (We are accustomed to knowing that a death was required for atonement, but this is from an academic perspective that God's forgiveness might not necessarily require a death.)
"Who demanded that the deep magic of the law be satisfied with 'a kill'? For Schreiner [Penal Substitution advocate], it is God. For Lewis (and most advocates of the Christus Victor view) it is the devil." [Page 103]
This quote may be a little more clear. Penal Substitution says that God the Father requires a death for forgiveness to be given. Christus Victor says that the demand for an atonement death does not come from the Father, but from the accuser, the devil. "God does not hold our feet to the fire of the law: satan, the 'accuser'...does (Rev 12:10; cf. Job 1-2; Zech 3:1)." [Page 103]
I hope this is not too confusing. I didn't realize the complexity of the context that these quotes would require. Anyway, I progressed much in my understanding and grasp of these two main views of atonement by seeing their root differences from this section, and I thought that I would share it (or at least try to!).
AUTHORITY AND SUBJECTION
Obedience to God’s Will – the Greatest Demand of the Bible
Why did Samuel say that “obedience is better than sacrifice”? Because even in sacrifice there can be the element of self-will. Obedience alone is absolutely honoring to God, for it alone takes God’s will as its center.
Obedience Must Be Recovered
Everyone thinks he is able to distinguish good from evil and to judge what is right or wrong. He seems to know better than God. This is the folly of the fall.
Obedience is a foundational principle. If this matter of authority remains unsolved, nothing can be solved.
Some Lessons on Obedience
1. Have a spirit of obedience.
2. Practice obedience.
3. Learn to exercise delegated authority.
Authority Is God’s Choice, Not Man’s Attainment
Spiritual authority is not something one attains to by effort. It is given by God to whomever He chooses. How very different is the spiritual from the natural.
The Lord Initiates Obedience
God exalts whoever humbles himself. This is a divine principle.
The Riches of Christ Is Authority
We often misunderstand authority as something which oppresses us, hurts us, and troubles us. God does not have such a concept. He uses authority to replenish our lack.
The way God grants His grace to us is twofold: sometimes, though rarely, He grants grace to us directly; mostly He gives His riches to us indirectly – that is, God puts above you the brothers and sisters in the church who are more advanced spiritually so that you may accept their judgment as your judgment. This will then enable you to possess their wealth without you yourself having to go through their painful experiences.
The Manifestations of Man’s Rebellion
In what particular areas is man’s rebellion most obviously manifest? In words, in reasons, and in thoughts. Unless there are practical dealings in these areas, the hope of deliverance from rebellion is very dim.
Ham Broadcast His Father’s Failure
Let us see what Ham did when he saw his father’s nakedness. He went out to tell it to his brothers, Shem and Japheth. He who is insubordinate in heart always expects the authority to fall. Thus Ham got his chance to reveal his father’s fault. His doing so fully proved that he was not at all in subjection to his father’s authority. Ordinarily he outwardly submitted to his father, but it was only half-hearted. Now, though, he had discovered his father’s weakness, so he seized the opportunity to broadcast it to his brothers. Today many brethren, due to a lack of love, enjoy criticizing people and take great delight in disclosing others’ faults. Ham had neither love nor subjection. He is a manifestation of rebellion.
Rebellion Is Linked with Fleshly Indulgence
Christians today lose their power no less through mouth than through act; nay, they lose even more power through mouth. All rebellious ones have trouble with their mouths. Those who cannot control their words cannot control themselves.
Slander Comes from Reason
People of this world live in reason. Wherein, then, are we any different from worldly people if we too live in that realm?
Recapturing the Captive Mind
Whether or not a brother has met authority may be readily discerned by observing:
1. whether he has any rebellious words,
2. whether he reasons before God, and
3. whether he still offers many opinions.
Life and Authority
Difficulties within the church are rarely found in matters of outward disobedience; mostly they are related to a lack of inward submission. But the governing principle of our life ought to be submission, just as that of birds is to fly and that of fish is to swim.
Saints may possess different opinions and yet there still be no insubordination, for even with differing opinions we can nonetheless submit to one another. Thus are we one in the faith. The life we have received is not only for dealing with sin – the negative side – but more is it for obeying – the vital and positive side. If all the local churches walk in this way of obedience, the glorious fact of the unity of the faith will verily appear before our eyes.
Three Requirements for a Delegated Authority
- He must know that all authority comes from God.
We ourselves have not the slightest authority in the home, the world, or the church. All we can do is execute God’s authority; we cannot create authority for ourselves. The policeman and the judge execute authority and enforce the law, but they should not write the law themselves. Likewise, those who are placed in authority in the church merely represent God’s authority. Their authority is due to their being in a representative capacity, not because they in themselves have any merit more excellent than the rest.
For one to be in authority does not depend on his having ideas and thoughts; rather does it hinge on knowing the will of God. The measure of one’s knowledge of God’s will is the measure of his delegated authority. God establishes a person to be His delegated authority entirely on the basis of that person’s knowledge of God’s will. It has nothing at all to do with having many ideas, strong opinions, or noble thoughts. Indeed, such persons who are strong in themselves are greatly to be feared in the church.
Only God’s acknowledged judgment is authoritative; whatever comes from man is wholly void of authority, for it can only represent himself.
Do not think that because one is older he can suppress the younger, because one is a brother he can oppress the sisters, or because one is quick-tempered he can subdue the slow in temper.
- He must deny himself.
- He must constantly keep in fellowship with the Lord.
Those who are God’s delegated authority need to maintain close fellowship with God. There must be not only communication but also communion.
May I speak frankly, that the difficulty today is that many of God’s servants are either too bold or too strict or too overbearing. They dare speak what they have not heard from God!
Never Try to Establish One’s Own Authority
Authority is established by God; therefore no delegated authority need try to secure his authority. Do not insist that others listen to you. If they err, let them err; if they do not submit, let them be insubordinate; if they insist on going their own way, let them go.
Make No Self Defense
Vindication or defense or whatever reaction there may be should come from God, not from man. He who vindicates himself does not know God. No one on earth could ever be more authoritative than Christ, yet He never defended Himself. Authority and self-defense are incompatible.
Resurrection Life Is Basis of Authority
Sprouting of the Dried Rod Keeps Men Humble
Only the foolish can be proud. Those who are favored will prostrate themselves before God, saying, “This has been done by God; there is nothing of which man can boast.”
Touchstone of Ministry Is Resurrection
Men are chosen to exercise spiritual authority not because they are different from the rest but on the basis of grace, election, and resurrection.
What Is Resurrection?
Resurrection is that which I cannot, but which God can; what I am not, but what God is.
Authorities Must Be Both God’s Choice and Church’s Choice
After Saul’s death David inquired of God as to what city he should go to. Humanly speaking, David with his army should quickly descend on
All those who know God can wait. If one’s condition is right he will be recognized not only by the Lord as His representative but also by the church as God’s representative.
No one should ever permit another person’s authority to be damaged in order to establish his own.
To Be Great, One Must Be a Servant
God has never used a proud soul. God only uses the useless.
To Be in Authority Often Means Loneliness
Loneliness is the mark of authority. It is not due to pride but for the sake of representing God’s authority.
Authority Is Based on Sanctification
He who is in authority does not grasp authority; he serves God, is willing to pay the price. To be in authority requires one to climb high, to not fear loneliness, and to be sanctified.
-many thanks to Matt Cuthbertson from Aniheim California for making this book abstract available to the students of SMS-