All That Requires Speech Will Influence

https://www.npr.org/2018/05/01/607181437/on-fire-for-gods-work-how-scott-pruitts-faith-drives-his-politics?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20180502

Everyone has a worldview. Christian or secular atheist, both come at issues with a core set of beliefs (clearly defined or culturally assumed, they exist) that inform them in their decision making processes. If a person’s work is to shape and govern a nation’s law, he should do so from his own genuine conviction, be they religious or not. The Christian should not limit Christ’s Lordship to his personal life, never challenging the laws established by unbelieving world-views. Engage the presuppositions, debate the standards for each law, challenge the consistency of truth claims…doing so requires speech, and speech will influence.

As a Christian, I believe Jesus Christ is the uncreated Maker of heaven and earth and is currently the Lord of the nations forevermore. God has revealed himself to man in nature through His creation, sent His Son to earth to redeem a people for Himself, and has spoken to His creatures in scripture; a core message in scripture is that everyone is accountable to Him. God is perfectly holy, loving, just and unchanging. Such core beliefs drive my worldview. Where God has spoken, I’m to obey and encourage others that obedience to God is a good and holy thing, however culturally offensive that may be. Since I trust in God’s goodness, I bow the knee to his revelation regarding life, marriage, and sexual morality. If I truly believe God’s design is good not just for me but for everyone who would follow after him, I ought to plead with others to do the same…I’m actually commanded to.

When it comes to faith and politics, there are helpful distinctions in scripture that Christians ought to remember when treading these waters. For instance, those in the church are to judge members from within the church according to the standards Christ has redeemed those members into. A Christian cannot expect an unbeliever to desire to bend the knee to Christ, indeed scripture says an unbeliever cannot truly follow Christ unless he be born again. We are to expect obedience from those who claim the name of Christ, but call those who do not to the faith once for all handed down to the saints.

There is no forcing someone into Christianity in scripture, the only way in is through God’s sovereign grace. God has commanded obedience to the nations yet grants it to His church alone. The church is called to proclaim repentance and faith in Christ alone to every person in every culture; the church and all her members are subordinate to the law of Christ before the laws of men. If by God’s common grace political power can be influenced such that it aligns more with God’s created order and His revelation, then his blessing is upon that land. History and scripture is a good teacher however that such blessings are temporary; man loves darkness and God withdraws his blessings from the land that spurns him. I’m convinced by scripture that no culture this side of judgement day will fully honor God in their government, for unbelievers are naturally opposed to His reign. For the Christian, the law of Christ commands obedience to the rulers of the land until those laws violate obedience to scripture. The inevitable result historically is persecution against those who do not compromise their Christian convictions.

How is a man, who’s conscience is held captive by God’s revelation, to withhold his speech on any given subject in any given theater of vocation or practice? Even in political office? Does not the secular atheist also have passionate convictions, creeds, and presuppositions by which they argue their position and derive their agenda? I say we must allow them both have their place in government, in school, in sport, in society. Let’s not send our representatives or our children into an echo chamber. Seems to me that Christians have by and large allowed the secular worldview go unchallenged for too long; this article sparks some hope for those of us who bow the knee to Christ and trust wholly in His goodness.

My Christian Allegiance 

I pledge allegiance to Christ my king who establishes and breaks the nations. 

No ruler has ever governed apart from His decree and His means to bless His people is the same He uses to judge the wicked. 

Even the most vile ruler among fallen man is better than what men deserve from His holy hand. 

My loyalty is to the Holy law of scripture before the laws of men. I pledge to never again vote for any human not completely committed to abolishing abortion in the land where I dwell. I rejoice in men’s laws that are just and true. A nation who rejects truth and justice must repent or God will sweep it away and the land spew it out. The unborn millions of people stand against the USA before a holy God – their blood is on our hands. 

I reject political conservatism and liberalism that is without Christ – it is utter foolishness and only feeds on controversy. 

My citizenship is in God’s kingdom before any other. 

My vote or non-vote for any canidite to rule over me is my own and I entrust it to my sovereign King who will establish my ruler – good or bad, they all ultimately come from the Lord. I reject the claim that a person’s non-vote for a given candidate ensures the opposite candidate’s victory. FALSE. The hand of the Lord is more than able to keep His subject’s loyalty in conviction while managing the nations as He wills. I choose neither when given the option of the lesser of two evils. 

Trump will not make America great again and Hilary is deceived to think America is good as it is. America has for a long time rejected God’s Son and it continues to kill it’s unborn children – only repentance to Christ alone by faith alone will bring blessing upon this nation. 

God have mercy. 

Weak on Dragons

“Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon’s lair but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.”
Excerpt From: C. S. Lewis. “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” 

How To Listen to Text Books Anywhere

This post is a summary of Dr. James R. White’s own post on his aomin.org website entitled The Single Most Often Asked Question (FAQmaximus) Geekfest. I’m starting in Seminary next month at SBTS and I plan on listening to a lot of my text books in my car rides; I figured I mind as well share the geekyness with you all. I find this info extremely useful and I hope some of you do as well.

For books I can get on kindle:

  • Kindle keyboard units will read books to you
  • Get a free audio recording program (like Audacity, Audio Recorder, whatever—there are dozens of them out there),
  • Plug the output of the Kindle into the input of your computer, fire up the reading portion of the Kindle, and record it
    • put on “faster” to get it done quicker
    • this requires real-time recording, so, set it up to record over night (depending on how long the book is)
  • Load the resultant file onto your iPod and away you go.

For all other materials I cannot get on Kindle

  • Use TextSpeech Pro with the voices from Cepstral
  • Dump PDFs, html, docs, rtf, etc., into the program
  • Choose to export
    • Works for articles, books, etc. Dr. White says he sometimes cuts and pastes portions out of books in his Logos library to read this way as well (sermon prep, for example).

If you’ve got a lot of traveling, cycling, running, etc. to do and want to work through any type of digitally written material while your doing it this is a geeky and productive way to go about it.

A Much Needed Contrast

Everything looks clearer when there is a proper contrast. I often think back to the point at which I first believed in Christ and the joy that came in the knowing that the God of the Bible had chosen to save me from my sins. The joy that overwhelmed me was so extravagant, so deep that its hard to describe.  It was so elevated because it came to me directly after the moment the darkness of my sin was exposed to me.  The contrast that gave way to the clarity was the bright holiness of my Savior and the filthy corruption of my rebellious heart.  He is pure, I am not – yet He led me to repent and showed me great grace and love which turned my sorrow into laughter!

Where there is darkness God still creates out of nothing. What great joy there is in the free gift of Salvation given to sinner’s through Christ Jesus. One cannot earn it. One cannot deserve it. How magnificent it is to realize the Bible is true revelation from God and can be trusted. It is good news that God grants new hearts, new ears and new eyes to sinful mankind.

The joy of the salvation that the one true God grants to men cannot be known if the call to repentance is not preached or received. The good news of the gospel of God’s grace shines most brightly against the dark reality of humankind’s depravity and inability to keep God’s perfect law.

Roaring Hills & Rain

The fact that God thought to sometimes mix in the rumble of thunder with rain storms is an awesome thing. Sitting in my study, on the 2nd floor of an old Dutch colonial type house, the thunder can sometimes feel as though it penetrates right into my chest. It’s like these old walls don’t even try to smother the sound as it enters into the room. Especially late at night when nothing else can be heard except the rain dripping outside or the occasional car passing by on the very wet road near my house. 

I was quickly brought outside of my self as I stopped and listened to the noise as it cracked the night sky and flooded over all the surrounding hills. The trees get no break, they’ve no insulation – they are completely exposed and they almost seem to amplify the effect. How far each wave of thunder reaches is incredible and I’m brought to thoughts of how small I am and how God’s powerful creation obeys and displays his rule; a rule that is beyond man’s capacity and which must be utterly terrifying to those who do not know the Sustainer of all things. 

The God of creation is terribly powerful indeed and I see that on display in such storms. Yet I also note that this natural order reveals that He also provides the rain through such awesome demonstrations of might. It is very much the case scripturally that the God of the Bible is revealed as one who brings salvation through judgement. It isn’t any wonder that the created order can be heard singing this tune also. A man may be struck with the fear of death at the horrid noise of thunder and raise his fist to the sky while at the same time another man raises praise for the life the rain of that same storm brings to his crop. 

While the storm parallel isn’t exact, the narrative fits: Christ who bore God’s wrath at the cross suffered terribly while at the same time completely gained salvation for His people. One can look at the cross and see only unnecessary violence and another can believe upon the Son, confess their sin and be brought to their knees in utter worship of the one who conquered death. The latter group rejoice to know that their Savior is also sovereign over such noisy affairs as thunder storms. The fear of the Lord trumps and subdues any fear common to humanity. Trust in Him and find rest. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 

Ecclesiastes: An Apology of Wisdom

A term paper I recently submitted in my OT Survey Class. I hope you enjoy:

As with any question of interpretation or of origin to any biblical text, many variants are sure to present themselves. There is no shortage of variables when it comes to the discussion of the book of Ecclesiastes. This paper seeks to find balance by accurately portraying some of the prominent differing views while offering a position that postulates the purpose of the book to be the ancient equivalent of a  modern day apologetic work created for a specific group of people. That specific group would consist of ancient Jewish sage-like self-professed disciples of Solomon. The overall purpose of the book is meant to invite the reader into the knowledge of the peace of God by knowing the fear of God which transcends the vanities incumbent of mortal beings by producing hope and meaning of eternal significance.

Much can be learned about the nature of the book of Ecclesiastes by asking questions of its authorship. No final consensus exists as to who wrote the book. For most of church history, many have placed Solomon as its author because of the clear appeal to royalty found in the opening chapters. There is also a strong desire on the part of the ancient church and Jewish rabbis to tie all the wisdom literature directly to that which comes from Solomon’s pen, and rightfully so. Seemingly direct references to Solomon’s authorship appear in verses 1:1, 1:12, 1:16, and 2:9. In these verses are found phrases like “the son of David, king in Jerusalem,”1:1;  “king over Israel in Jerusalem,”  v.12; “surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me,” v. 16; cf. 2:9. It would be hard for any reader to read these passages and not come to the conclusion that Solomon is the author as these titles would fit nicely with his office in Israel’s history. Although, conflicts arise in later portions of the text where the speech used doesn’t seem to fit well with the historical setting in which the king would have wrote. For those who seek to keep Solomon as the author, there are reasonable explanations for the style differences that are found between the unique form utilized in Ecclesiastes in contrast with other of Solomon’s wisdom literature. Some propose possible explanations theorizing that Solomon was in his elder years when he wrote Ecclesiastes; this supposedly speaks either to the skeptic tone that can be traced through the text as well as to the profound insight in the author’s capability to cast the complexities of life compatibly with the fear God while still promoting the enjoyment of life. Another proposal for giving reason to the different styles while maintaining Solomon authorship comes by analyzing the purpose and occasion for taking up the writing of Ecclesiastes itself. This paper takes the stance that the work is apologetic and not so much written in the same way a proverbial/poetic book serves the believing community. It is no wonder that each work one writes carries certain presuppositions which directly affect the tone and approach of his work; each varying purpose of writing demands a unique writing style and the tone the Preacher takes is one of argumentation.

Solomon’s authorship comes into question by skeptics mainly in their historical dating approach of the book and in their rigid analyzing of its lyrical form. Many argue that the content used strays further than most other forms of pre-exilic text and this conclusion forces such form critics to normally place the date somewhere around the 300BC period, thereby throwing away the idea that Solomon could be the author. Lasor puts it this way: “Protestant scholars since Luther’s time have tended to date Qoheleth [Preacher] much later than Solomon. The rabbis’ view of Solomon’s authorship was based on their literal interpretation of 1:1 and their tendency to tie Solomon’s name to all wisdom literature: he was viewed as master sage” (Lasor, 498). Lasor sides with the textual critics for a most interesting reason. He asserts that Qoheleth clothed himself in “Solomon’s garb” to grab the attention of those who would claim to be followers of Solomon; then he digs in and challenges these followers through his  most unique form of argumentation (Lasor, 500). Such a motive resounds with the likeness of much of the New Testament’s call to professing believers to test themselves, to make their calling and election sure…such is the motive of any good and weighty apologetic work. There is much to be said in terms of form criticism and what can be learned from that process when it comes to engaging the text of scripture. Indeed, much effort has been spent toward these ends and “While these redactional observations advance our understanding of the literature, the larger theological implications for interpreting Qoheleth remain relatively unexplored” (Shepherd, 182).

Putting questions of authorship aside and looking closely at the way the author speaks, one can begin to better determine its purpose. Douglass Miller, in his paper The Rhetoric of Ecclesiastes provides a useful summery that speaks to five different views on the purpose of the book of which I analyze and breakdown below, I also add the apologetic method of understanding not found in his list:

  1. A Repentant King. A very early understanding of the book’s purpose. In line with Solomon’s own story, this approach of understanding assumes Solomon writes the book with a repentant heart and warns of the folly and consequence of the mistakes he himself had made.
  2. The Ascetic. Also a very early understanding. This view is one that seeks to correct perspectives onto the right view of humanity in its own mortality and how eternity is right around the corner. Using that weight of mortality then to call its readers to deny themselves in preparation for the afterlife. The challenge for some with this view is in seeing the emphatic call of Qoheleth to enjoy life on the earth. The rejection mentioned here seems to be a rigid form of complete self-denial of pleasures in this life; a theme the Preacher heavily contradicts.
  3. The Bitter Skeptic. A new understanding developed within the past two centuries. This view sees Qoheleth as a cynic rambling his frustrations with a world not as it should be. This method forces the placing of any positive affirmations of Qoheleth’s views on life, which directly contradicts this thesis, to be of later editing. Though appealing to post-modern scholars, this understanding is not at all viable for God-fearing scholars.
  4. The Preacher of Joy. This view is also a new understanding which attempts to be compatible with the problems that arise from the purely skeptic approach. While the author is still a cynic, his purpose is to encourage others to see the joy in life by realizing the absurdities (vanities) that come with life. The problem remains though that life itself is said to be vain in the book and this approach doesn’t seem to capture that complexity.
  5. The Realist. A more modern nuance to the earliest two forms of understanding. This approach seeks to allow for the complexities of life to enter into the whole of human experience not subjected to cynicism. It also gives the repentant king and the ascetic voice their own valid rhetorical framework (Miller 216-221). This view also fails to bring into balance the sovereignty of God over time and over mankind who operate under the sun as His creatures.
  6. The Apologist. Many scholars believe that the book itself is apologetic in nature, as Dr. Sproul’s commentary on the book suggests:

“Ecclesiastes has been understood as an apologetic work, an attempt to recommend faith in God to unbelievers by               way of answering negative arguments. While the book’s teaching may be used in evangelism, most Jewish and                     Christian interpreters have understood Ecclesiastes to be addressed to God’s people, rather than to those who are               ignorant of God or in rebellion against Him. The book is God’s wise counsel to those who know His ways but have                 found them at times to be frustrating and perplexing” (Sproul,1074).

Lasor further draws such an apologetic parallel when he writes:

“His strategies [the Preacher’s] are to capture his reader’s attention and to use the circumstances of Solomon to                   probe ironically the weaknesses in his fellow sages’ teachings. (Lasor, 500).

As is much of the tradition of the inspired writers of God’s Word, the force by which the books come down to us is meant to shatter man-centered views of the position of God in the universe. God’s Word consistently places God at the center of His creation and commands men everywhere to get off the throne of their own hearts. In his own commentary, Dr. Constable comments that this is the very purpose of the book, that the reader would “develop a God-centered worldview and recognize the dangers of a self-centered worldview” (Constables, 3). Truly, most misunderstandings of the Word of God fall into this dilemma: man’s underestimation of God and man’s overestimation of man. I thought it interesting how much the proposed Ascetic purpose resonated with me in light of how the whole testimony of scripture speaks to man’s frailty in the scope of eternity, and how we are but a breadth, a vapor. I agree with Miller’s observation that this construct, in its rigid form of abstaining from pleasure to prepare for the next life misses the book’s call to also enjoy this present life; but at the same time I hear the consistent scriptural emphasis to repent, for the time draws near. Death and pleasure are both unapologetically on the lips of the Preacher in order to bring a much needed sense of urgency to the reader’s heart. As Ringe rightly points out in his journal article entitled Enjoyment and Mortality: The Interplay of Death and Possessions in Qoheleth, “Qoheleth displays an intense interest in the interplay of death and possessions. No other book in the Hebrew Bible gives as much attention to the intersection of these two motifs” (Ringe, 265).

To reflect on the word vanity in the context of my own life in general is a complex process. As one who is redeemed in Christ, who knows the weight of Paul’s arguments that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Plil 1:21), there is a temporary lens one can look through and observe that indeed, much of life’s ordinary experience could be construed as prospects of vanity. One who is not delighting in the Lord, who is not refreshed by His infinite Word, can easily look upon the functions on earth and tire of its repetition. I look at my book shelf and think, “what good will attaining an abundant wealth of knowledge be to me 3,000 years from now.” Yet a calm fear sets in knowing that God has the answer to that question, and that there is purpose in it. Everyone, to one degree or another has at one point had a mother. Mothers are so common that one can tire of seeing mothers do the things that mothers do. Yet, a mother who trusts in the Lord and not in her understanding, though she may observer her labor is near exactly mirroring 4,000 other mothers in the same way, and in the same time all throughout the world, she will see the purpose and meaning in what she does even if it is extremely frustrating at times. Why? Because the Lord who determined that there be motherhood in the human experience opens her eyes to see its value and the dignity that is intrinsic to that office. This same Lord opens my eyes to see the value in growing in knowledge and understanding though at times I grow weary and struggle with an extremely frustrating proneness to laziness.

It is interesting that much time is spent by the preacher on the subject of time, and of the position “under the sun.” Us creatures who live under the sun are bound by time, we are governed by it and we measure time by the sun. The sun itself provides guidance and light to the human family completely apart from man’s own control. It is no coincidence that “The Preacher teaches that man’s activities are ordered by God’s timing” (Sermon 1). Who is under the sun if not all who walk upon the entire earth? Does one who walks in the righteousness of Christ walk under the sun in the same way that an unbeliever does? Yes & no. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Yet the just have knowledge that the unjust do not. Coming to grips with the brevity of God’s sovereignty over creation, even over the salvation of men’s souls is most beneficial when trials come the Christian’s way. Shane’s online article draws from a classic commentary on Ecclesiastes which speaks to this awesome sovereign trait of God working through life’s complexities: “This awareness coexists with a firm belief in God – whose power, justice, and unpredictability are sovereign” (Lems citing Fox’s commentary).

Faith in the God of the Bible is not always best kept to a simple and surface level understanding; Qoheleth’s seemingly realist slant is meant to guide teachers of the believing community to acknowledge and allow for the inevitable complexities and frustrations bound to challenge one’s faith. One could be sure that this preacher would agree with the Apostle Paul, whose theology drove him to use a phrase like “rejoice in our sufferings,” a joy that believers must tap into if they hope to weather the storms that are sure to come (Romans 5:4 ESV). The fear of the Lord is of the greatest value, for it puts into perspective the greatness of God and the futility of man. The sage wisdom that permeates from the Preacher is not that man is purposeless in all his thriving and suffering, but that he ought find all his purposes ultimately in his Maker.

Works Cited

ESV: Study Bible : English Standard Version. ESV Text ed. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2007. Print.

Lasor, William Sanford. Old Testament Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1996. Print.

Lems, Shane. “The Reformed Reader.” The Reformed Reader. 9 May 2015. Web. 15 June 2015.

Miller, Douglas B. “What The Preacher Forgot: The Rhetoric Of Ecclesiastes.” Catholic Biblical   Quarterly 62.2 (2000): 215. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 June 2015.

Rindge, Matthew S. “Mortality And Enjoyment: The Interplay Of Death And Possessions In Qoheleth.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 73.2 (2011): 265-280. ATLA Religion   Database with ATLASerials. Web. 14 June 2015.

Sermon 1 by unknown author. “God Made Everything Beautiful in Its Time.” Pasig Covenant Reformed Church. 13 Jan. 2011. Web. 15 June 2015.

Sheppard, Gerald T. “Epilogue To Qoheleth As Theological Commentary.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 39.2 (1977): 182-189. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 14 June 2015.

Sproul, R. C. The Reformation Study Bible; ESV. Orlando: Ligonier Ministries ; Reformation Trust, 2015. Print.

Stress – A Threaded Discussion

So, I just posted in a threaded discussion and before I forget about it I thought I’d share it with the blogoshpere as I haven’t posted in over a month. The context for this post was in response to an evaluation where I scored super high on a stress test…I hope you enjoy 🙂

I scored a stress level of 26 on the report! Well, it must have to do with the timing I find myself in my career. I wear a lot of hats in my current profession, and at times the task I’m responsible to complete do overwhelm me. Currently, something that has been weighing heavily on my mind is a sequence that I need to coordinate where I order (62) pre-fabricated wall panels (roughly 19′ tall x 8′ wide) to be shop fabricated in a warehouse in northern NY and delivered to my job-site in Eastern CT. These panels will then have to be lifted by crane along with my 6 man crew (who truly need to be on their toes as far a safety measures are concerned) on a very busy job-site with other trades trying to get their work completed. I’m super excited about this task, but unfortunately, it is only one of at least 15 others that I could probably rattle off the top of head. Stressed? Yes! In my opinion, this is why we have beer, (I just took a sip).

In all seriousness though, when I read the article regarding how the practicing of religion in general supposedly helps aid in reducing the effects of stress I couldn’t help but feel unsettled. True religion is to look after the voiceless and the broken, to bring the offensive message of the cross before a crown, one of repentance before acceptance, this too can be stressful and darn right ought to lead to persecution from this ungodly world. God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I don’t deny that I get stressed, but prayer is powerful and God truly does give me the grace to siphon through and prioritize my life so that I don’t go crazy. My flesh constantly warns me of burn out, yet when I dwell on the things of God (mainly by filling my crazy amount of driving time between jobs to listen to sermons in my car) God sustains me and in my weakness He is my strength.