Tag Archives: Theology

Barna: Minority Believe Satan is Real

Yesterday I posted a bit about my thoughts regarding the depravity of man, and touched on some insights given by Lewis Sperry Chafer in his book Satan, regarding the latter’s motivations and methods of operation, motivations which did not include trying to get men to commit gross sins like cannibalism and tortuous serial murders, but if anything would be trying to keep them from doing so. His primary goal is to take God’s place by acquiring the worship of God’s creatures, and proving that he can do just as good a job as God can. In fact, a better job.

In order to accomplish that, he has been willing, as Chafer pointed out, “to be ridiculed by the world as a being without reality… an imaginary fiend, delighting only in the torment of unfortunate souls; making his home in hell,” a metaphor, as it were, for “all that is cruel and vile.”

I have observed that he has had success in this area amongst the general run of people.  In fact, I noted in my post on What the Night Knows, this very fact was addressed by Koontz himself through the words of one of his characters. This character, a priest to whom the novel’s protagonist goes for help, informs us that the idea of demons and such is merely part of the silly superstitions of the past, that they do not exist, and that, in a world “of nuclear weapons, we don’t need Hell and demons, succubi and incubi and hungry vampires on the doorstep. We need food banks…thrift shops, homeless shelters and the courage to express our faith in social action.”

Indeed, we do live in the age of science where the immaterial and spiritual is supposedly not allowed to intrude on our rigorous scientific experiments. Only physical and material evidence will be accepted as proof of the True and the Real. Which in itself is clearly the handiwork of Satan. Because even if that view means he has to work in the shadows, disallowed as the powerful and brilliant creature that he is, it also means his nemesis — The One True God — is disallowed.

Thus I should not have been surprised by the results of a survey on worldview among Christians done by The Barna Group in 2009. Barna is  one of the leading research organizations investigating trends in Christianity and religion in the United States today, and their survey revealed that “just one-quarter of adults (27%) are convinced that Satan is a real force.” 

Okay, but that includes unbelievers, who have been blinded by the very creature they’re being asked about, so that shouldn’t be too surprising. But among born-again Christians it would be a different matter, right?

Sadly, no.

Despite much clear scriptural evidence for the existence of this greatest of all creatures to come from the hand of God, this one who rebelled against Him, and took at least a third of his fellow angels into rebellion with him,  less than half of self-identified “born-again Christians” believe he is real.

 A mere 40% of them.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  ~2 Co 4:3,4

We know that…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.   ~I John 5;19

Demonism or the Depravity of Man?

A month and a half ago, I did a post on the Dean Koontz novel What the Night Knows in which the villain, a nightmarishly cruel, self-absorbed, power-lusting, bitter, angry, hateful, lonely, unloved and unlovely psychopath, is urged along his path of the “art” of murdering families by a demon named Ruin. (Demons, says the narrative, are sometimes named for the sins they “most  particularly advocate — names like Discord, Envy, Jealousy or like Perdition, Disease, Ruin.”)

This got me to thinking about the depravity of man, the implication here being that on his own, man could never be as bad as someone like Koontz’s villain, Alton Turner Black. Or Jack the Ripper. Or Nero. Caligula. Ted Bundy. Adolph Hitler… No, man would need the help of a demon to be that bad.

Whenever there’s a story — fiction or real life — about a really nasty psychopath, the suggestion almost always arises that he’s demon possessed. I’m guilty of falling into that thinking myself, most recently regarding the “South Beach cannibal” down in Florida.

Lately I’ve been rethinking that.

Part of the reason for that is because of teaching Ive received from a book I’ve been studying called Satan, by Lewis Sperry Chafer (written in 1919, reprinted ins 1964). It’s fantastic.

Chafer  was a prominent dispensational theologian in the early 20th century and founder of Dallas Theological Seminary in Texas. He was mentored by C.I Scofield (of  Scofield Bible fame), and was in turn a  mentor of Colonel R.B. Thieme, Jr. I was introduced to Chafer’s work immediately after my salvation, when the man who led me to the Lord and taught our college and home Bible studies used Chafer’s book Major Bible Themes as a his class outline. Additonally, my first Bible was one of those above mentioned  Scofield Bibles.

What I like about Chafer’s work is how Scripture-based it is, and how clear;  he sets the various applicable verses in comparison and draws what seem to be the obvious conclusions.

In this case, talking about Satan’s plans, he cites the passage in Isaiah 14 where Satan’s motivations are clearly stated:

 “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars (angels) of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly (of angels) in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I WILL MAKE MYSELF LIKE THE MOST HIGH.”

In other words, he wants to be like God. Not a fiend. Not a destroyer, per se. But like God. He wants authority, control and worship.  His motivation is to oppose God and exalt himself, to take God’s place, and his primary method is deception. Chafer describes it thus:

“He who was the measure of perfection, full of beauty and wisdom; he who made the earth to tremble; who shook kingdoms; has been willing to be ridiculed by the world as a being without reality, that he might , in the end, realize his own deepest desire.

“Again, his own subjects (unbelievers and ignorant believers) have strangely neglected the plain teachings of Scripture on his real power and authority.

” To them he has been an imaginary fiend, delighting only in the torment of unfortunate souls; making his home in hell, and himself the impersonation of all that is cruel and vile: when, on the contrary, he is real, and is the very embodiment of the highest ideals the unregenerate world has received; for he is the inspirer of all those ideals.

“With his own he is not at enmity, and he, like the most refined of the world, is in no sympathy with the grosser forms of their sin. He would hinder those manifestations of evil if he could. And certainly he does not prompt them; for they are the natural fruit of an unrestrained fallen nature…”

Matthew 7:21-23 confirms this last, stating:  “For from within, out of the hearts of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, amplifies this, speaking of man in his natural state: 

“As it is written, there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.

Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace have they not known.

 There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Having read that, cannibalism seems to fit right in. Yet how many of us reading the above passage would almost instinctively attribute such traits to other people, to another society in another time? Or even, unthinkingly, to demons?

We live in an era that promotes the good of man, the universal brotherhood of man. So many of our countrymen are engaged in making the world a better place, bringing about justice for all, perhaps even believing or at the least, assuming that their good intentions and efforts will ensure them a place in heaven. Or good status in their next life, if that is the direction of their beliefs. Of at the least make their life worthwhile if they think this is all there is.

In our times, people are outraged and incensed should someone even say something bad about another (unless the “other” happens to be George W. Bush :-)) . Oddly, should they happen to eat someone or shoot a bunch of them in a public venue, there doesn’t seem to be outrage so much as hand wringing and wonderment over what could have driven that poor perpetrator to do such a thing. Was it Sarah Palin? Talk radio? Incivility in public discourse?  Western Imperialism? Poverty? Drugs? Racism? Demons?

Never is it  just the fact that people — all people — are depraved and where’s the big shock when they act like it?

And yes, I do mean all people, for even us Christians still have that depraved nature inside us — that power that is totally against God, seeks always and insidiously, every chance it gets, to exalt self, and inevitably at times gets the better of us.

“For you were called to freedom, brethren (note Paul is talking to Believers– Christians); only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

“But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Note that we have a choice!) For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (ie, Godly things, like love your neighbor as yourself).

I’m not saying there is no demon possession. There is. But it’s done with a purpose, under the authority of the Prince of this world, the one who possesses all the kingdoms of the world (Lk 4:5-7) And his purpose is the same as that of our flesh: to oppose God and exalt himself. And his means of executing his purpose is almost always deception.

If he can get us to think we’re not that bad, not as depraved as the Bible says we are, well, then we won’t think we even need a Savior; or if we have believed, won’t understand what that Savior has truly done for us; won’t have the gratitude we ought to have; will think more highly of ourselves than we ought… won’t realise our need for the complete and total overhaul in our thinking and motivation that can only be effected by our daily immersion in God’s word.

Nor the ease with which we can be led astray, by others or by that deceitful power within ourselves.

Thoughts on Righteousness

Well, I’ve been sitting here at the computer for half an hour, waiting for God to give me some kind of words. Nothing came so I went and read blogs, and news sites, but I’m finding myself losing interest. So many lies, so much exaggeration, so much… negative and unpleasant stuff. I know my Lord is in control, know He’s allowed all that stuff, know, too, that He’s promised never to leave me nor forsake me, to provide my every need for as long as it’s His purpose that I remain on this earth.

I’m much more interested in the things we’re learning in Bible class about who we are. Particularly the idea that this righteousness we receive at salvation — God’s righteousness, not ours — is a gift. Not something we earn, not something we can improve on, not something we have in any way except as we are in union with Him. I still have it even if I’m sinning. I’m not operating in it, yes, but I still have it. Still in union with Christ even when I’m working myself into a tizzy over some situation I’m trying to control, thinking I have to control it or else…Even when I’m feeling sorry for myself or put upon, or whatever. It’s there. I’m righteous. Because I’m in union with Him and share everything He has.

But that’s my position. I want to be righteous in experience. But just wanting it doesn’t make it happen. Trying to be righteous doesn’t make it happen. In fact, if  one tries to be righteous one will unquestionably fail because… it’s a gift, for one, and two, the world’s idea of what is righteous and God’s idea of it are two different things. While you might succeed in erecting a form of righteousness, you’ll have done it from the wrong power. It’s the word of God, working its way into our souls from daily exposure to the teaching of the pastor that changes our thinking and by that enables us to experience the righteousness we’ve been given.

But what exactly is righteousness? The English word for righteousness I learned tonight, derived from “rightwiseness.” You’re right in the sense of being wise, having wisdom.

The online dictionary defines right as

1.in accordance with what is good, proper, or just.

2.in conformity with fact, reason, truth, or some standard or principle.

3.correct in judgment, opinion, or action.

4.fitting or appropriate; suitable: to say the right thing at the right time.

All those definitions relate to wisdom. You must have wisdom to ascertain what is good, proper or just. You must be wise in the ways of the Word to be in conformity to it. As a person thinks in his heart, so he is, the Bible says. Thinking is the source of speech and action. Righteousness isn’t being all glowy with power or rigidly adhering to some codex of behavior, whether the Mosaic Law or some modern-day code. It’s first of all thinking like He thinks. At salvation we’re put in union with Christ and given the ability to understand spiritual information and phenomena. But that doesn’t mean we have wisdom. Wisdom must be bought with hours and days and months and years of our lives, submitting to a Pastor’s teaching, learning more and more of what the Bible says, and through that more and more of the Lord who has saved us, and of the righteousness He has given us.

I’m learning more, too, about the importance of the filling of the Spirit. Only what’s done, said, thought in the power of the Spirit is of worth — gold, silver, precious stones. Whatever’s done in the power of the flesh is worthless. Outwardly two people can perform the same act, one from the right power, the other not. One will be rewarded, one will not.

In the same way, two people can study a particular verse, one filled with the Spirit, the other not. They will come to different conclusions. The one not filled with the Spirit cannot understand the divine meaning in the words. He will know the scripture according to the flesh, not according to God’s view.  The soulish man cannot understand the things of God. They are foolishness unto him. There is a way that seems right to a man… God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways are not our ways.

Not filled with the Spirit you can study the Word all you want but you’ll never understand true righteousness. You see that the Word speaks of it, but the world has its idea of what righteousness is, and that’s what you’ll glom onto; that idea will make sense, will be comfortable, will seem right… yet it is nothing but the ways of death.

2 Timothy speaks of those who have a form of the spiritual life but deny its power (the filling of the Spirit and the inculcation of the word). They are those who are ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. And they use the same words as those who know the truth use. Scriptures, concepts, terms from the Word… all the same.

Well. That last thought triggered a mental explosion of sorts, thought threads running out in multiple directions… the deception of our flesh, the deception of the world, the subtlety of it all… I think I’m having a brain cramp. And it’s time for bed, so I can either  save this for tomorrow, or publish this now and hope readers won’t be too confused. Which shall it be… hmm. I seem to be getting, “Take a risk on God”. So I guess I will.

Adjusting to the Unpredictable

One of the things that has so intrigued me about reading The Black Swan is that it seems like each new section brings up another thought-provoking idea that leaps off the page at me. Yes! I think. That IS how it is.

Or, No, wonder I was having problems with such and such. Or… Wow what a fantastic doctrinal analogy!

As I’m going back through earlier sections which I’ve already read, I’m finding nearly every page dog-eared. Just in the prologue, I came upon the notion that instead of trying to predict Black Swan events (seeing as they are, by definition, unpredictable) we should instead be seeking to adjust to their existence.

That thought alone triggered a rush of thoughts. How do you adjust to the unpredictable? You adjust to the Justice of God, to use a phrase often uttered by my pastor. You adjust to His justice first through salvation, and second through consistently being filled with the Spirit and growing in knowledge of His word. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, the Father’s justice has been satisfied and is therefore free to bless us when we believe in and appropriate that work for ourselves. He gives us His own righteousness and places us in union with His Beloved Son, and as a result we share everything His son has. (Meditate on that concept for a little bit!)

The more we learn, the more our thinking is changed to His, increasing our  capacity to receive the blessings He wants to give us. He is for us. He decreed everything that would ever happen to us, and it all fits into His purpose.

Whatever happens may not be predictable from my view, but to God, who is outside of time, it’s already happened. Just like the fact that from my side He’s conforming me to the image of His son even now, whereas from His I’m already conformed.

If you can really get your mind around those facts and live in them, there’s not much that can unsettle you. So then Black Swan’s don’t really matter. Because to God there are no Black Swans. What I love about this book is the crack it’s putting into the facade the world throws up — a facade that people know things, that things are getting better, that we have control, that there are experts and the rest of us better listen to them, that we can have security and safety and surety…

When really, who could have predicted 911? When the cold war ended, who could have predicted that the next big threat was going to be muslim extremists operating out of primitive villages in the Hindu Kush?

I couldn’t predict that when I took my mother to the dentist the other day to get her cleared before taking a drug her oncologist wants her to take, that they would going to find decay in one of her teeth and tell us she needs to have it pulled. My mother is nearly 82 and has excellent teeth. Only two tiny cavities and those having appeared only in the last few years. Yet here she is with decay hiding between two of her back teeth.

Nor could I have predicted I’d lock myself out of the house yesterday morning, but that happened too. Nor that today, when I was hanging out the laundry, a sock would drop and Quigley would pounce on it (he hasn’t done that in over a year I think) and I’d spend the next ten minutes chasing him to a standstill so I could get it back. Neither incident remotely measures up to the immensity of a Black Swan event, but in my life at least, they serve to illustrate that you really never know how things are going to come together to completely change the day. Or maybe the week, or month or even the rest of one’s life.

 

It Feels So Good

Continuing on the subject of human good…

While the sin nature is the source of personal sins (So then no longer am I the one that’s doing it but sin which dwells in me. Ro 7:17) it also produces human good, acts that, while they spring from sinful motivation, appear on the surface to be good. Altruism, feeding the poor, helping others, and philanthropy fall into this category.

The sin nature also has areas of strength. For example, some people would never be tempted by the sin of homosexuality or drug addiction, whether believers or unbelievers. Others are extremely disciplined and capable, not at all given to laziness. They are naturally organized, emotionally controlled and they can be very successful in life. They can seemingly be very successful in the Christian life, appearing good and right to others. And it could all be done in the flesh.

Others are naturally loving and outgoing. They are emotionally warm, they connect easily with others, they are often sincerely complimentary and very sweet. In today’s spiritual climate with its emphasis on loving everyone as the pinnacle of Christian activity, these people are often viewed as very spiritual, very “godly”. Yet that, too, can easily be something done through their flesh.

I say this because I know unbelievers who are like this. I know people who are religious (but not Christian) who are like this.

Another complication of human good is that the people performing it feel good about it. Like Cain, who offered the works of his hands to God as a sacrifice, they think God will be pleased. And often, because those works are pleasing to them and pleasing to others they think God is, indeed, pleased.

The following is from a little e-newsletter I used to receive called The Daily Intake. It was written by David Grande, and based on the teachings (if not the actual notes) of our pastor, Robert R. McLaughlin.  Here’s what The Daily Intake had to say about human good:

“Satan’s main strategy is, of course, human good. It is his genius plan to counterfeit the divine good produced in God’s plan. Satan’s plan, the improvement of the world and of the human condition, is secured through the human good that God Himself rejects. In reality, what Satan puts to use is God’s rejection, buy hey, it works for him.

“It works for people too. People love to feel that they are doing their part and inserting their portion. [They love to feel needed and wanted.] This is antithetical to God’s grace policy, but it sure pleases the old sin nature. In God’s plan, the believer operates in his new nature and in divine power. That is the only avenue to the production of divine good.

“In Satan’s world system as we know it, man operates in his flesh, his old man, i.e., the old sin nature. And the reason it feels so right is because the flesh loves that which the flesh produces.

“This is greatly applauded by the enemy and his vast host of fallen angels. If they can get Christians wrapped up in producing human good, they offer no threat nor resistance to Satan’s endeavor. And this is exactly where most Christians function from… deep in the deceit of the devil’s strategies.”

 The word of God says that the devil deceives the whole world (Rev 12:9) and that includes Christians (2 Co 2:11; 11:3,4). Paul writes in 2 Co 11:15  that the devil sends out servants of righteousness to teach people how to do good, and in I Corinthians 3 that believers are not only capable of producing both divine good and human good but that they will ultimately be judged by the type of work they produced in life.

Even the unbeliever will be judged not for his sins (since all sins were judged on the Cross), but for his deeds according to Rev 20:12,13.

So in many ways, the issue in the Christian life isn’t so much our personal sins which Christ paid for on the cross and which we need only confess to be restored to fellowship, but whether we’re performing human good or divine good. And the difference between them can be difficult to discern.

Form of Godliness

Tuesday I began a bit of musing on the problem of human good and today, I’m going to continue that. I started with the statement, “If the unbeliever can do it, it’s not the Christian way of life” and used morality as an example.

Another example is that of religion and ritual. An unbelieving Jew could bring an animal for sacrifice, fulfill tenets of the Law, tithe, give and persecute those who were not Jews. Likewise today an unbeliever can attend church regularly, eat a wafer, drink some juice, pray, sing, weep, give money, etc. Many of these actions are things Christians are commanded to do in the New Testament, but if the Unbeliever can do it, it’s not the Christian way of life. So while we are to do those things, they’re still not the Christian life.

An unbeliever can study the Bible. Many Old Testament scholars, particuarly in regard to languages, were unbelievers. Many of the men who translated the Bible into the King James English were unbelievers.

Saul of Tarsus, that Hebrew of Hebrews, knew the Old Testament backwards and forwards and had it all memorized. He studied daily and strove to fulfill the Law. He persecuted Christians with great zeal, believing he was serving the Lord. But he was an unbeliever.

So studying and reading the Bible, quoting it and memorizing scriptures, being a Bible scholar, is not in itself the Christian way of life either, though studying it and knowing it is vital to living the Christian way of life.

What’s interesting about unbelievers or even non-Spirit filled believers studying the Bible is that they aren’t going to be able to understand it.  The naturally minded man cannot understand the things of God.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1Co 2:12-14

This explains to some degree the passage in 2 Timothy that speaks of those who have a form of the Christian life, and who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2Ti 3:7

According to Vine’s Expository Dictonary, the word for form  is morphosis, which is a form or an outline, an image or impress, an outward semblance — but one which is  more than just an outward facade, which would have been schema. Such people have an inward form of the Christian life as well, which I take to mean that they are not just putting on an act. They actually believe that they’re doing the right thing.  They believe they are in the light, thus always seeking to learn… but never coming to truth because they’re doing it in their souls, without the power of the Spirit.

The Problem of Human Good

Since I wrote about the problem of human good last week, I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit.  I love the way God combines events from one’s life, information from class, words spoken by friends and enemies, things heard on the radio or TV, songs and even words from classes taught decades ago… to encourage one to grapple with a concept.  

That’s what He’s been doing lately with this concept for me, and when I asked Him what He wanted me to write about for today’s post, it seemed He said to write about what I’ve been grappling with. I protested that whatever I wrote wouldn’t be finished or clear, because my thinking on it isn’t yet clear. Which of course, He knows. But in writing about it here, I can set down the ideas to see how they fit together and where they might lead.

The first thing to set down is that human good may look like the Christian way of life to many, but it is not. The Christian life is a supernatural way of life. If the ubeliever can do something, my pastor says, than that thing is not the Christian way of life. It may be part of the Christian life, but it is not the core of it.

Morality, for example, is something the unbeliever can do. I know, because I was a very moral unbeliever. I didn’t lie, cheat, steal, fornicate, do drugs, murder…smoke, drink, defy authority (at least not openly), rack up debts I could never pay… I worked hard, tried to be fair and honest, didn’t litter, was kind to animals… I know other unbelievers who are also moral.

The idea that the Ten Commandments constitute the Christian Way of Life is a teaching that has been around for some time and believed by many to be a manifestation of what it means to be a Christian. (Worse, some even believe that keeping them is the way of salvaton)  But the Ten Commandments were given as part of the Law to the nation of Israel as a means of stabilizing society. They were for everyone when they were given — believer and unbeliever —  and remain so to this day.

As Church age believers — Christians– we are no longer under the Law spiritually, but we are still required to observe God’s laws of divine establishment and to respect the four institutions of free will, marriage, family and nationalism that God has set up for all people. As those institutions are attacked today, the stability of our nation suffers, so it’s not like they don’t matter. Nevertheless, observing those divinely appointed laws is not the Christian way of life. Part of it, but not it.

As I said, the Christian life is a supernatural way of life.  The naturally minded man can’t even understand it, let alone execute it. The Bible says we must worship God in Spirit and in truth, that God gives us the power to live the life He wants us to live and that power resides not in our flesh — not in our self-discipline or our loving personalities or our earnest desire to serve — but in His word as it permeates and infuses our thinking and in the Spirit when He controls our souls.

If one is not filled with the Spirit one can be moral all day and it’s nothing. It’s human good — nothing but wood, hay and straw. The Pharisees who crucified Jesus were moral, religious, upstanding people. Yet most of them were unbelievers.

So morality is not the Christian way of life. The Christian way of life goes way beyond morality…

To Get and Acquire

I woke up this morning reflecting on Sunday’s post, specifically Genesis 4:1 where it says, “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.””

Two things struck me. The first was that “Cain” means “to get or acquire”  or “gotten one”.  Eve had gotten this manchild with the help of the Lord. Why would she say such a thing if she’d “gotten” children before? And why would the Holy Spirit have Moses record it? 

Secondly, the significance of the idea of getting or acquiring. It occurred to me that the very first act Adam and the woman performed after the fall was one of human good: seeing they were naked, they tried to make things right between themselves by covering themselves with fig leaves. By this act they sought to get or acquire reconciliation. Peace. Normality.

Then, after the fall and leaving the garden, the action first noted by the Holy Spirit as being displeasing to God is also an act of  human good performed by the one whose name means “to get or acquire”.  Cain offered the work of his hands, the fruits and vegetables, products of the earth instead of the blood of the slain lamb he was supposed to have offered.

 (This is indicated by God’s rebuke in vs 6,7; and by the precedent set by God’s provision of the animal skins for Adam and the woman in Gen 3:21 — skins mean an animal had to die for them to be covered, a perfect metaphor for the work of Christ on the cross).

Trying to substitute his own works and efforts for what God had already provided not only showed Cain’s unbelieving state, but also something that I think is the underpinning of human depravity: human good. The desire to get or acquire God’s favor by one’s own effort or merits or righteousness.

Cain’s sins of jealousy, anger and murder came afterward in reaction to the failure of his plan and the thwarting of his desire. (Though technically I suppose that the arrogance underpinning the very idea of human good is the real depravity. It just doesn’t look depraved.)

So many make such a big deal out of sin, but it’s really human good and independence from God that’s the problem. Jesus already paid for everyone’s sins and no one will be judged for them in the end. Instead, they’ll be judged by their deeds. Were they righteous deeds, performed in the power of the Spirit by a perfect individual, or where they human good?

That tree of the knowledge of good and evil… that wasn’t  the knowledge of divine good. They already knew about divine good, because they’d been walking with God every day in the cool of the evening. No, that good was human good, which is a part of evil.

And yet, it looks so good. It feels so good. It feels so right. It is so darned hard to see someone who is sweet and nice and “loving” and doing all these nice things as being a wicked sinner. Human good does not seem gross to us, but in God’s eyes it is as filthy menstrual rags. (Is 64:6 )

I think human good is one of the biggest obstacles not just to admitting you need a savior and believing in Christ, but to really living the Christian way of life.

“Woe to those who call evil good…who substitute darkness for light…” Is 5:20

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Pro 14:12; 16:25

“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.” Pro 21:2

“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”  I Cor 3:11-13 

The problem of human good doesn’t get near enough the attention that it should. And that suits the enemy just fine…

CSFF Blog Tour Wrap-Up – Nephilim

Well, another CSFF Blog Tour comes to a close. I found it fun and informative, and was pleasantly surprised by the level of participation and the number of really good posts.

Becky Miller, apparently the CSFF Blog Tour Overlord (who would have guessed?) finally unveiled her own review of  The Enclave, which I found quite insightful.

Becky’s essay at Speculative Faith called The Truth in Speculative Fiction: a Look at The Enclave by Karen Hancock  is also well worth reading.

Rachel Starr Thomson did an excellent Third Day post on men trying to be God.

Elizabeth Williams did three detailed, thoughtful and very thorough posts on various aspects of the book. On Day 1 she gave an overview, on Day 2  she shared her observations about the scientific aspects of the story and her desire for … well, more development. At which point I was ruefully reminded of my struggles to keep to the allotted word count, which I exceeded, and to finish in the allotted time, which I grossly exceeded! But oh well. The book is what God wanted it to be and all books have flaws.

More than that, no book is going to satisfy everyone, though admittedly, from Elizabeth’s final post on Day 3, when she considered the Christian aspects, it seemed she was overall more satisfied than not. (I particularly appreciated this last post of hers)

For his Day 2 post, John Otte detailed his objection to my inclusion of Nephilim into the story, provoking a number of interesting comments. So many, in fact, that he decided to scrap his original Day 3 post and continue the discussion of Nephilim in Christian fiction . He also offered  a sort of apology. I love that he takes into account his own perspective and frame of reference and acknowledges it in his approach.

Because in all this talk of Nephilim several have suggested that the people who think these creatures were half human/half angel have arrived at that conclusion solely based on a reading of the English translation of Genesis 6:1-4, I’ve decided to address that issue today as something of a wrap-up.

Being one of those who believe they were indeed human/angelic crossbreeds, I can attest to the fact there’s more than just the English Gen 6 that has led me to that conclusion. And I’m not talking about The Book of Enoch, which one person cited as a probable source. I had arrived at my conclusion long before I’d ever heard of The Book of Enoch, though I did skim it in preparation for writing The Enclave. To me it seemed obviously not written by God but some legalistic somebody… so I give it no more credence than Greek myths — which like many other myths most likely contain seeds of truth, and may record the traditions of belief at the time of writing, but are not the absolute truth of God’s word.

No, my reasons come pretty much straight from the word of God:

Item #1

The phrase in Gen 6, “sons of God” is “beni ha Elohim” in the Hebrew. It is a phrase used only three other times in the scriptures, all three in Job. I would note that Job is regarded as the oldest book of the Bible in terms of content — that is, the events it records occurred before Abraham and were believed to have been part of an oral tradition that pre-existed the writings of Moses (which Moses would have known about), though it was actually preserved in written form some time after he wrote the Torah.

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan also came among them.

Job 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself to the Lord.

(Since they are presenting themselves to the Lord in heaven it’s pretty obvious these are angels)

Job 38:7 — the last line of a passage wherein God asks Job where he was when “I laid the foundation of the earth! Tell me if you have understanding. Who set its measurements, since you know? Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy…”

This reference is also pretty obviously depicting angels, if the earth was still in the process of being created as they were singing and shouting. Additionally, the morning star phrase links to Is 14:12 where it refers specifically to Satan, before his fall.

Item #2

First Mention Principle. One of the means of understanding what a term or phrase means in the Bible is the “First-Mention Principle” wherein you look at the first time a word/phrase is used to glean its meaning for later usages. Looking at beni ha Elohim in Genesis 6, its first usage could certainly be ascribed to angels, but it’s inconclusive. However, if you consider that Job is the earliest surviving account through oral tradition, then technically Job is the first mention of the phrase, where the usage is not at all inconclusive. And as I mentioned earlier, Moses was probably familiar with it.

Item #3

Genesis 6:2 says that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.

“took wives” is laqach, the BDB Definition of which is “to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, receive, acquire, buy, bring, marry, take a wife, snatch, take away”

Other scholars suggest “to take by sheer strength, overwhelming whoever protected them.”  Thus an alternate translation could be, “seized women for themselves, whomever they chose.”

Which sounds like rape and conquest to me. An examination of ancient history and cultures, especially Greek mythology, shows that women were more often taken and snatched and seized as wives than they were “married” as we know it today.

Item #4

If the sons of God were just men, and the daughters of men were just human women, then why bother referencing some special kind of progeny? ie, “Nephilim” who were around “in those days and also afterward.” Wouldn’t they be the same as other people? Why call them mighty men? Why use the same term later to refer to the giants in the land? Giants who clearly weren’t just regular men if the Jews saw themselves as grasshoppers in their sight.(Numbers 13:33)

Item #5

Jude and 2 Peter tell of a special group of angels who sinned in a particular way, different from the rest, who are currently being kept in prison:

Jude 6ff And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bounds under darkness for the judgment of the great day. Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh (ie, flesh they were forbidden to go after, including flesh of a lower creation), are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

The angels who did not keep their own domain are equated in this passage with some sort of sexual sin comparable to the sin of homosexuality of Sodom and Gomorrah, a sin God refers to as an abomination in Lev 18:22 comparable with copulating with animals (a lower creation), forbidden in Lev 18:23

2 Peter 2: 4,5   For if God did not spare angels when they sinned but cast them into hell (the Greek word here is Tartarus) and committed them to pits of darkness reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of rightousness with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;

These verses tie the angels to a sin of “gross immorality” outside the boundaries God had apparently set up, and are here clearly linked to the judgment that came upon the pre-flood world.

I consider this, taken together with Gen 6 and the verses in Job to be convincing support for the angelic/human crossbreeding interpretation.

Item #6

Why would the angels do this? Just out of lust?

I think it’s because Satan was right there when God made his promise to the woman in Genesis 3 that the human race would be saved through her seed and that that same seed would crush Satan’s head. I think he wanted to thwart that plan by corrupting the genetics of the human race so that it was no longer human. Then the promise of a purely human female seed could not be fulfilled and God would be proven a liar.

The first sentence of that paragraph is supportable in Gen 3. The second is logical extrapolation. There are other verses that do support it indirectly, but that involves many more doctrines than I want to pursue in this wrap-up which is already long enough. I’ll save it for another time.

Again, I want to thank everyone who participated for taking the time to read and review The Enclave — or at the least just make mention of it on their blogs — and especially those who went the extra mile in providing additional reflections, comments and humor.

Godliness

Lately I’ve had cause to reflect on what I believe the Bible teaches about what the plan of God is for us as Christians after salvation, a reflection from the point of view of making a defense. If you’ve read my old blog for any length of time, you probably know that I believe scripture teaches  we are, in fact, called to a very specific plan and mode of operation: we are to submit ourselves to the prepared pastor teacher God has assigned to us and sit, filled with the Spirit, under his teaching, which, according to scripture should be done on a near daily basis. In this way the water of the word and the work of the Spirit transforms our thinking into our Lord’s, as per Ro 12.

It is a long, gradual process. In between classes, we are attacked by our flesh, the world system in which we live and sometimes agents of the kingdom of darkness, though that happens most frequently when one first becomes interested in following this mode of operation and then later when one has begun to move into spiritual maturity. The scripture terms this eusebeia, often translated “godliness,” the latter a word that’s frankly never really meant anything to me. Being good? Being like God? Being pious — and what is pious, for that matter?

A study of the word itself helps. Eusebeia comes from eu (well) and sebomai (to be devout) Thayer defines it has having reverence and respect for God, and characterized by being devoted to the fulfillment of religious obligations or mandates. Thus, perhaps a better, more meaningful translation and one my pastor uses is “the spiritual life” or  “the spiritual lifestyle.”

Vine’s Expository Dictionary notes that the releated word eusebes (also from euand sebomai)

“directs us [not toward piety of the inner being but] rather to the energy which, directed by holy awe of God, finds expression in devoted activity.”

It’s a manner of living where everything is directed toward God. Since you are what you think as Proverbs 23:7 says, this direction begins with thinking. What you think directs everything else. And if your thinking has been transformed into His thinking, and you spend much of your day filled with the Spirit and thinking His thoughts, obeying His commands, then you are living the spiritual life. So the primary objective is to take in the instruction that will cause one’s thinking to be changed — i.e., daily. It is a slow, incremental process since it’s estimated that in any given lesson, people are actually able to recall only about 5% and able to apply a mere 1%.

I don’t think this is the usual meaning people ascribe to the word “godliness,” nor is this the usual lifestyle most Christians pursue or even believe they should be pursuing. In fact my experience is that many argue against it as being fanatical, not supported by the word, weird, excessive, etc. Besides, the argument goes, what about 1 John 2:27, which says,

“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”

 Yes, there it is… you have no need for anyone to teach you. That does seem to contradict the view that says you must be taught on a daily basis.

But what about Eph 4:11 – 15?

“And He gave some as apostles…and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

The and between “pastors” and “teachers” is not accompanied by a definite article before teachers and so, according the Granville-Sharpe Rule, should rendered with a hyphen to indicate that both nouns refer to the same person. Hence, “pastor-teacher.”

2 Ti 4:1,2 makes it clear that pastor-teachers are supposed to be teaching. (“Preach in season and out of season.”)

I Thess 5:12, 13 instructs us to “appreciate those who have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction.”

 I Pe 5:1-3 instructs pastors to feed the flock…”not lording it over those allotted to you.”

Okay, but where does it say it has to be daily?

Well, that is not quite as obvious, but still clear I think, if you pause to consider. First we have the example of Jesus, who taught daily (Lk 9:14;22:53), as did Paul (Acts 17:11; 19:9), the early church met daily (Acts 2:46) and even in the OT the devout were advised to wait daily at the gates where doctrine was taught (Pro 8:34)

Job considered doctrine or the teachings of the word of God to be more needful than his daily food (Job 23:12). We are told to live one day at a time. God gives us our daily bread, referring  not just to the physical food we need each day but also the spiritual. The manna given to the Israelites in the desert is a picture of the provision of daily spiritual food. Jeremiah wrote of the metaphor specifically: “Your words were found and I ate them…” (15:16)

It’s interesting to me that people consider the gathering together to listen to God’s word on a daily basis as fanatical, but no one has a problem with people gathering daily to eat food. They don’t even have any problem with a daily walking or running group gathering together to exercise. In fact, daily exercise is preached everywhere these days as needed for good health.   And if you should want to be a first class athlete (or artist or doctor or pianist or anything) it’s expected that you will put in daily practice time in that field . Of all things to be world class in in life, shouldn’t it be so with our Christian walk?

Okay…but what about that verse about not needing a teacher? Well, I believe that’s refering to the fact that as Church age believers we each have the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who, if we are under His control, makes whatever the pastor-teacher is teaching understandable. The Holy Spirit is the one who guides you to your pastor teacher, and it is His message you are receiving through the man. It’s not the man, it’s the message. In fact, I’ve been in correspondence with a pastor-teacher recently who told me that sometimes his experience of presenting a message is very much like my experience of writing The Enclave — you feel as if you have little idea what you’re doing, and yet the hearers are hit right between the eyes with information precisely targeted to issues they are dealing with.

As a message recipient, I have to say this happens to me constantly. Something I tusseled with earlier in the day, some question that arose in reflection, an argument, a difficulty, a discussion… hardly a day doesn’t go by that I don’t put on class live at the appointed time and somewhere in the message the exact issue is addressed. In such specificity it is truly like God is talking right to me.

And if you consider that the pastor-teacher, being filled with the Spirit himself, and having spent hours and days and weeks and years studying the Word and preparing his messages, then Spirit-filled when he delivers them to, ideally, an audience of Spirit-filled believers ready to receive them… you begin to see that the whole operation is the Spirit’s and not the man’s at all… Hence it’s not the man you need to teach you but the Spirit.

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