Posts for June 2011
3 Posts found

Matt 13.27-30 and Rev 16.5-12 – Eternal punishment
Posted: 30 June 2011 in Matthew, Revelation

“So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”

“And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments. And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.”

It is easy to feel uncomfortable with the above description of what awaits those who refuse to repent or embrace the means of salvation offered to them in Christ. That fact might help to explain the often heard assertion that God is far too nice to punish anybody eternally. The fact which has to be confronted, however, is that the Bible says what it says, and it is actually quite blasphemous for the creature to imagine himself more just or merciful than the Creator. God is always both just and righteous. Furthermore, it seems to have been the expectation of Jesus that hell would not be devoid of inhabitants, as the above quotation from the Parable of the Tares (amongst a number of other passages) seems to indicate.

Should we give in to the temptation to ignore the testimony of the Bible and construct a fluffy God, who is altogether more to our liking, and who punishes nobody, we will have created an idol – and it is precisely the consequences of idolatry which are spelt out in the above passage from Revelation. Humility, and in particular the humility to submit ourselves to God’s revealed word, is enjoined upon Christrians for a good reason – namely that it is a necessary part of the attitude known as faith and trustful obedience.

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Amos 3.1-2 and Romans 9.1-3,6 – Trembling at God’s word.
Posted: 22 June 2011 in Amos, Romans

“Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”

“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh….. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.”

Israel is here told that being God’s chosen people does not make them immune to his wrath, and that, in fact, a failure to live up to their vocation would make them it’s especial recipients. But at first sight, there is a contradiction here. How can a people fail to be true to their vocation if God has specially chosen (and ordained) them for it? Can God’s purposes fail? Paul resolves the difficulty by saying that they sre not all Israel which are of Israel. In other words, God’s chosen ones cannot be identified with a political grouping.

Today God has a new chosen people, in those whom he has chosen in Christ. To extend Paul’s comment, and apply it to the present day, it could be said that they are not all chosen who are outwardly members of Christ’s visible body (the Church). That does not automatically mean that there are people in the Church whose profession of Christian faith is insincere, but it could mean that it is something of their own manufacture, and not something bestowed by the God – who alone can bring people to salvation.

The identity of those whom he has chosen is something known only to God, but prima facie evidence for it lies in obedience to his will. So we, like ancient Israel,  have reason to tremble at his every word. Back then God’s word was mediated to the populace through the prophets, but for us it is to be found in the pages of the Bible. It has been said that the Bible contains all things needful for salvation, and that is most definitely true, but it could, however, it also contains nothing superfluous or not needed.

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Luke 5.18-26 – God and the existence of suffering.
Posted: 15 June 2011 in Luke

And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.

It there is an idea which even Christians who profess themselves conservatives have bought into, it is the idea that God’s primary concern is to make our lives as comfortable as possible – even though that idea is really a product of liberal theology. In the above passage the suggestion seems to be that Jesus was originally unconcerned to physically heal the man sick of the palsy, or at least that physical healing was not his primary concern. When he did heal him, it was in response to the words of the Pharisees, and it was not for the man’s own sake that he was healed, but for the glory of God.

Of course it is true that God does not inflict suffering for no reason at all, but he is prepared to inflict it if a higher purpose can be served thereby. Were it the case that God’s primary concern was our comfort, that would make it very difficult to account for the existence of suffering. As it is, that kind of naive theology makes it very easy for atheists to take pot shots at Christianity, because they can see as well as anybody that an omnipotent God, whose purpose is to take away all suffering in this life, doesn’t quite accord with what we can easily observe in the world around us.

A spot of theological realism is what is needed.

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