Monthly Archives: May 2014

God GRACEFULLY leveraged the Devil’s GRACELESS BLUNDER

Asking who Jesus “paid” his ransom to may be a little like asking who I “caught” my cold from. [01/05/07] Scripture doesn’t specifically answer the first, although we may feel free to explore options; nor does medical science particularly satisfy the second, although it’s customary to place blame.

The Son of God is so holy/wholesome that he could touch disease and not get tainted: can embrace even death, yet bounce back…MORE ALIVE THAN BEFORE! [01/05/07]

If the Devil had read the Bible closer, he would have known that crime doesn’t pay, and that shedding innocent blood is a nasty business with, shall we say, decidedly unpleasant repercussions. He had sufficient warning. He was even well aware that Jesus was the Son of God come to save the world, rather contrary to Satan’s own agenda. But he did not know how. Surely the Lord’s performing of countless healings and demon expulsions rattled Satan’s cage, but continuing on in such a career still could never have brought the magnitude of salvation that God actually intended. It was too little, too slow for too few. (He maybe could have saved Israel from Roman oppression if enough Jews became his learners and started treating their enemies as he did. Maybe. But he out-and-out rejected their way of “peace,” i.e., commandeering the reins of political power. So they dismissed him as Messiah and he lost the popular support required for that kind of takeover.) Even the demons were surprised that he had shown up a bit too early, historically speaking, for a consummate cleanup job. This puzzled them. He dealt with them in a far less than wholesale and thorough manner. What was his career really up to, they wondered.

Jesus’ career was all about revealing his Father’s love and righteousness/justice to the world so as to draw them away from Satan’s control by gentle but highly effective persuasion, even in the face of Satanic backlash and worldly hatred, with all their ugly, painful results.

By allowing Satan to take him down…all the way down, Jesus would be able to stage a glorious COMEBACK! For his wrongful death would both show the full viciousness of Satan along with the sinfulness of sin and unveil the goodness of God beyond anything otherwise imaginable to mortals.

Clever, huh? And all this without so much as laying a finger on the Devil. The old Adversary deceived himself into cutting short the Master’s admittedly irritating career in the hopes of preventing him from his openly announced intention to save the world. Yet Jesus could never have saved the whole world on the trajectory he had been pursuing! Among other diabolical virtues, Satan was impatient to rid himself of Jesus’ aggravating little assault on even this tiny corner of his dark kingdom. After all, there was no telling what twelve “apostles” might do unless he made an example of their revered Leader. And we all know what happens next, although the reason why it “worked” seems to have become needlessly obscure and has caused theologians many a headache ever since the era of the early church. [01/05-06/07]

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Recovering the JOYFULNESS of God’s JUSTICE to victims of INJUSTICE

Why is it that Christianity no longer understands God’s justice? The Reformation, it would appear, hardly caused a ripple in the long term, although Luther’s initial intuition regarding the liberating, joy-giving, happy meaning of “the righteousness of God” was right on target. But this construct of the Truth was rapidly bulldozed and swallowed up by an exceedingly vindictive view of God’s justice being supremely penal, which can hardly draw folks to warm up to it! What went wrong with Luther’s bright and shining Light? What snuffed it out so quickly and, it would seem, lastingly?

Could it be that Western legal, judicial, and penal practices are to blame? In the Old Testament, God required overcompensation to the victim for injuries sustained. Where do we commonly see that kind of justice even (especially?) in our American courts? Where is the joy that God seemed to mandate for victims of crimes, payable by the perpetrator? Since when did a fine to the court or a prison sentence for the criminal bring about God’s truer, more authentic justice for the victim? And without that, is it any wonder that bitterness seethes among them, and vengeance is contemplated or, when impossible, backs up in the psyche to cause disease? Our whole cultural context conspires against our apprehension of God’s justice.

Conversely, what might happen when enough Christians recover the full apostolic truth (so overstated in the New Testament that it hardly seems possible so many could have missed it by so much for so long!) that the grand Truth starts percolating into legislation, judicial practice, penal institutions? That’s when the Reformation can start to pick up where it left off almost five long, bitter, war-torn, bloody, disgraceful, Messiah-dishonoring centuries ago. Crusades, inquisitions, and wars of religion could have found no nurturance whatever if we proclaimed God’s true righteousness with the same understanding and joyous vigor as the apostles all did. [01/04/07]

Jesus was wrongly penalized by being crucified, but it was for our sakes that he was wrongly penalized by crucifixion or we could not have been saved, because otherwise God would not have been justified in “avenging” his innocent blood by raising him from the dead and exalting him in a glorious repayment so gargantuan that it spilled over freely to all who accept it! SUCH A WRONG DESERVED SUCH A RIGHTING! YES, THANKS BE TO GOD OUR SAVIOR, JESUS EARNED, NAY, WON THE RIGHT TO SAVE OTHERS! [01/04/07]

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“SUPERABUNDANCE OF GRACE” according to John Chrysostom

As then if any were to cast a person who owed ten mites into prison, and not the man himself only, but wife and children and servants for his sake; and another were to come and not to pay down the ten mites only, but to give also ten thousand talents of gold, and to lead the prisoner into the king’s courts, and to the throne of the highest power, and were to make him partaker of the highest honour and every kind of magnificence, the creditor would not be able to remember the ten mites; so hath our case been. For Christ hath paid down far more than we owe, yea as much more as the illimitable ocean is than a little drop. — Chrosostom, Homily X (on Romans 5:17). Quoted in George Cadwalader Foley, Anselm’s Theory of the Atonement, The Bohlen Lectures, 1908 (New York, London, Bombay, and Calcutta, 1909), p. 67, from Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. III, 309. Emphasis added. [01/04/07]

God was exceedingly lavish in creation; why wouldn’t He be similarly lavish in salvation? Why wouldn’t His graciousness in salvation at least match His bounty in creation? Even so, as not all seeds germinate and grow and blossom and bear fruit, so not all who ever lived will be saved for life agelong. There is much loss in both creation and salvation. But this too accords with God’s wisdom. [01/04/07]

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Christ’s true humanity was crucial leverage to evoke the power of God’s justice

We have so persistently dissembled the power of the Gospel…that it is pardonable if those who judge of it by us should doubt whether it is anything more efficacious and inspiring than the pathetic guesses which adorn the writings of philosophy. — Canon B. F. Westcott, The Gospel of the Resurrection. Quoted at head of Chap. 2 of The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard (1997), p. 35. [01/03/07]

The emphasis of Athanasius upon Christ’s resurrection being due to “the indwelling Logos” actually undercuts the apostolic emphasis upon God’s righteousness as being the cause of his resurrection. This appears to correlate with Athanasius’ Alexandrian legacy, which laid more stress on “the complete union of the divine and human,” in contrast to the Antiochian emphasis on “the full humanity” (see Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power: Theories of Atonement and Forms of the Church [Eerdmans, 2005], pp. 174-5). Edward Irving magnificently clarified the necessity of affirming the thoroughgoing humanity of Christ in order to magnify the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation. The Athanasian formulation therefore must obscure the rugged struggle of Jesus to overcome the corruption of his Adamically inherited flesh in order to win our victory as our Rescuer and Champion through faithful obedience in the power of the Spirit given without measure at his baptism. If we lose sight of this quality of his work on our behalf, we also lose the ethical link to our own behavior as wholesome ones, which likewise is only by virtue of the finished conquest at the Cross that won us a share in his precious Spirit! We are grateful debtors forever to this graciousness of Father and Son!

The Alexandrian stream of thought lent itself not only to the danger of Docetism, but also to the perverting of the truth about the Son as a ransom for many. Because if he was raised from the dead out of the clutches of Satan (to whom presumably the ransom was to be paid) by virtue of his being the Logos (i.e., Deity) instead of because God’s righteousness/justice reversed and overcompensated his unjust suffering of abuse and death, then it was not only fraud and trickery, as Gregory of Nyssa admitted (though defending it!), but it was no genuine ransom at all!

This conundrum is easily solved by bearing in mind that Jesus actually did “pay” Satan what he wanted, namely, his blood, i.e., his life/soul via violent death, although because it was wrongly exacted, the Father was fully within His “rights” to right that wrong forthwith. Indeed, there had been NO “TRANSACTION” whatever between God and Satan. This mythical accretion only further corrupted the sense of Christ’s work as presented authentically in apostolic Scripture. To be sure, God’s very righteousness by which He vindicated His abused Son would be sullied if the Resurrection had cheated Satan out of an “agreed-on” victim, but he got his victim! Yet his ill-got gain got up and went, leaving Satan holding the body bag! We must grasp that Satan was perpetrating a crime in trying to dig Jesus’ grave.  God had nothing to do with it except to instruct His Son to play along with the evil, though fated, scheme that would FULLY EXPOSE SATAN IN PUBLIC AS A THIEF AND MURDERER FOR ALL HISTORY TO SEE. THUS WAS THE OLD FOOL FOOLED BY HIS FOOLISHNESS, FOILED BY HIS OWN FELONIOUS FOLLY. [01/03/07]

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“HEAD” (BRAIN) + “BODY” (ORGANS)

Consider Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer’s medical discoveries relating diseased organs to their corresponding relays in the brain and, in turn, to corresponding psychical traumas (“biological shocks”), in connection with the New Testament teaching about Christ as “Head” of the church, his “body.” For instance, do our sins and diseases and injuries as members of his body have some correspondence to “places in the mind” of Jesus, our Head, and, perhaps, in turn, to points of sorrow and suffering of abuse within the Father’s heart or Spirit? [01/02/07]

Adam, by his sin, all unbeknown to him, inevitably drew down into our ensuing plight the Explanation of Life, by a divine but as yet hidden (though unrepealable) law of graciousness. It was this astounding norm of God’s nature that “necessitated” His saving us from our tragic fate by means of gratuitous overcompensation for what our very corruption induced us to do to Jesus, God’s Explanation of Life in Person! [01/02/07]

It is somewhat startling to ponder for a while what kind of teaching by the apostle Paul could have aroused the false accusation that he had been spreading the notion of “doing evil that good may come” from it (Romans 3:8)! There can be no doubt that he taught that “God operates all together for the good” (Romans 8:28) of those who love Him. The Explanation of the Cross is the ultimate basis for such assertions. Yet this supreme demonstration of the covenantal troth underpinning the whole created universe can hardly be construed as a promotional for conjuring up and propagating evil, because “the rest of the story,” prophesied by Jesus himself and unveiled in 70 A.D. at the Desolation of Jerusalem, shows what kind of fate awaits those who refuse to avail themselves of God’s gracious and capacious treatment for sin and its evils. [01/02/07]

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IRENAEUS ON VIOLENCE AND THE ATONEMENT

The Word of God…dealt justly even with the apostasy itself, redeeming from it His own property, not by violent means,…but by means of persuasion, as became a God persuading and not using violence to obtain what He desires. — Irenaeus, Against Heresies, v. 1, 1. Translated and quoted by George Cadwalader Foley, Anselm’s Theory of the Atonement (New York, London, Bombay, and Calcutta: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1909), 34.  Emphasis added.  [01/02/07]

There is a very significant, even poignant, irony in Satan’s ploy to persuade Eve to eat from the forbidden fruit. He enticed her with the words, “Not to die shall you be dying, for God knows that, in the day you eat of it, unclosed shall be your eyes, and you become as God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5, adapted from the Concordant Version of the Old Testament). Our immediate response should be to ask WHY SHOULD, AND HOW CAN, KNOWING GOOD AND EVIL PREVENT DEATH? However, in any case, God’s knowledge of good and evil did not prevent His Son’s tasting death! To be sure, a God who truly knows evil must surely know the worst evil of all—death. But Satan forced the issue! The Son of God need never even have known death had human beings never come to know good and evil. Thus Satan’s deception actually made the Messiah’s death necessary in order to save us. Yet by thus sealing Messiah’s doom, Satan sealed his own! How clever was that? Thus Satan’s lie, believed by Eve and acted upon by Adam, precipitated the yet worse injustice of murdering God’s own Son, sent to save us and set things right! Satan foolishly thought that by killing him, when he finally arrived, he could “kill ‘two’ birds with one stone,” i.e., both Jesus and Adam (with his whole progeny!). However, his aim was slightly off, and the Savior rose up intensively vitalized, drawing up together with him all who trust him. And in this classic case, TWO WRONGS DID MAKE A RIGHT! For God Himself reversed His Son’s wrongful death so that the whole captive human race could be rightly saved. [01/02/07]

A PATRISTIC ANGLE ON ANGLING

One fine day, the Father took His Son out fishing. And He said, “Son, it’s time we cast for really Big Game today.” With that, the Son climbed onto the biggest hook he’d ever imagined, well aware of the Game Plan. The Father directed him to hang on, no matter what happened, and promised to reel him back in, in time, unharmed (if scarred…) with their Prey in tow and perfectly harmless. To make a long fish story short, the Prey took the bait and in swallowing, got swallowed! And that’s the Gospel truth, so help me God. I’m not gonna lie to ya’! [01/02/07]

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NEANDER ON THE “APOSTOLIC FATHERS”

“Of a satisfaction paid by the sufferings of Christ to the Divine justice not the slightest mention is as yet to be found.” — Augustus Neander, Church History, II, 385. Quoted in George Cadwalader Foley, Anselm’s Theory of the Atonement (New York, London, Bombay, Calcutta: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1909), 25. [01/01/07]

If, indeed, “God does not dispatch His Son into the world that He should be judging the world, but that the world may be being saved through him” (John 3:17), and if Jesus could say, “I came not that I should be judging the world, but that I should be saving the world” (John 12:47b) and yet “neither is the Father judging anyone, but has given all judging to the Son” (John 5:22), then how strange and contrary to such revelations it would be for God the Father to show up as Judge, thus unannounced, at the cross! Even as Jesus tread the path up Calvary, he warned not of a judgment at the top of that hill, but of one at the end of that generation—the Desolation of Jerusalem (70 A.D.). It seems unlike him to have been so farsighted as to overlook the supposed “judgment of God” awaiting him minutes away, if such an event hung over him in actuality, especially if such an event had any saving significance as a “judgment” to spare his listeners from the dread judgment he then prophesied over them as certain and irrevocable! [01/01/07]

This inference is reinforced by Jesus’ declaration, “Now is the judging of this world. Now shall the Chief of this world be cast out” (John 12:31), meaning he himself was about to engage Satan in decisive combat, during which the Adversary would be cast out of Heaven while he himself would be “exalted out of the earth,” with the effect of “drawing all [mankind] toward [him]self” (John 12:32). (For the chiefs over the earth exist in Heaven and engage in battle there over earthly territory (Daniel 10:13, Revelation 12:7-10). However, at the Crossurrection tables are turned decisively, and “the Chief of this world” (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11), namely, “the ancient Serpent called ‘Adversary’ and ‘Satan’” (Revelation 12:9), gets cast out of Heaven into the earth by the ascending Savior in order to have to do battle with the people of the Lamb and get conquered by them through his blood and the explanation of their testimony and their fearlessness of death, Satan’s ultimate but now crumpled weapon, due to the resurrection of the Lamb, his exaltation to his Father’s throne, and the outpouring of the Wholesome Spirit upon his believing people. [6/21/08]

 

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