Thomas Wolfe on Ecclesiastes (updated)

Very decent commendation from a non-Christian:

“For of all I have ever seen or learned, this book [Ecclesiastes] seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man’s life upon this earth – and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth. I am not given to dogmatic judgments in the matter of literary creation, but if I had to make one I could say that Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound.”

I had previously attributed this Thomas Wolfe quote, to Tom Wolfe because of a (now fixed) Wikipedia article: The Bonfire of the Vanities – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jensen spoke words of love…

A voice rarely heard…

Jensen spoke words of love not homophobia

I am a pastoral worker for Liberty Christian Ministries. I once identified as a gay man and lived actively as one for about five years. In that time I went to Anglican churches where Dr Peter Jensen was the archbishop, and I was frequently warned against living in sin. Though I resisted hearing that at times it never once made me feel suicidal or depressed: rather, I felt loved and safe (Letters, September 12.)

I knew living as a homosexual was wrong even independently of what the Bible said because I had to have regular health checks to ensure I hadnt picked up hepatitis, AIDS, or blood toxicity from the things I was doing. That is what the gay life involves – risky sex that puts life on the line. It diminishes life quality and life expectancy.

Health research bears out the reality of the risks of gay sexual practice. The 2010 national STD conference run by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US produced evidence that the rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men is more than 44 times that of other men and that the rate of syphilis among this population is more than 46 times that of other men.

Peter Jensen’s words on Q&A were reasoned, reasonable and said in love because he wants, as I do, people to have freedom in Christ and live life to the full now. Thats not homophobic, thats love.

via Sydney Morning Herald Letters to the Editor 13th September 2012.

We Need Hell

Terrific letter from Murray Campbell in The Age:

We need hell

GEOFF Strong uses Cardinal Pells comments to find that 1 per cent of reason to doubt hells reality, but on the basis of last weeks Q&A the cardinal proved he is as reliable in articulating Christian beliefs as a politician facing re-election.

I believe in hell for two reasons: First, Jesus affirmed its reality, and did so more than anyone else in the Bible. I trust Jesuss view of heaven and hell more than I do Cardinal Pells off-the-cuff deconstruction.

Second, I believe in hell because we require it. We need hell so that all the evil that goes unpunished in this world will be punished one day. Without hell we are surely faced with the appalling reality that countless millions of victims will never be vindicated and their abusers escape justice. Where human justice falls down, the doctrine of hell suggests God will bring final and complete justice.

And hell isnt just a place for atheists. Jesus assures us that religious folk will be there also, including those who hide behind their clerical collars.Pastor Murray Campbell, Mentone

via Lanes offer false sense of security.

A place for spiritual and ethical guidance | The Australian

Ian Harper adds facts and sense to the irrational attacks of the secularists:

Victoria was a pioneer of free, compulsory, secular education although in its original sense the word secular meant “devoid of sectarian bias” rather than devoid of religious sentiment. The founders of public education in Victoria did not intend young Victorians to know nothing of religion or of the claims that religion makes on people’s lives.

via A place for spiritual and ethical guidance | The Australian.

Moore to the Point – Arousing Ourselves to Death

This is a great article on the destructive nature of pornography.

Pornography, by its very nature, leads to insatiability. One picture, stored in the memory, will never be enough to continue arousing a man. God, after all, designed the man and the woman to be satisfied not with a single sex act but with an ongoing appetite for each other, for the unitive and procreative union of flesh to flesh and soul to soul. One seeking the mystery outside of this covenantal union will never find what he is looking for. He will never find an image naked enough to satisfy him.

via Moore to the Point – Arousing Ourselves to Death.

Why I Believe Jesus Christ was Bodily Resurrected #9

The Fulfilment of Old Testament Prophecy and Hope

There are so many Old Testament hopes and prophecies that come together in the resurrection. God promised King David there would always be a Davidic King on the throne: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me, your throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:16). This failed hope is fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus, the descendant of David who will rule forever at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1, Psalm 16, Psalm 132).

The resurrection affirms God’s commitment to his created order which is assumed throughout the Bible.

The resurrection makes Jesus the head of a restored humanity, the new Adam.

The more I read my Bible the more I see how much all the Bible’s hopes centre and are perfectly executed through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Why I Believe Jesus Christ was Bodily Resurrected #8

The Existence of the New Testament

The New Testament is an extraordinary collection of documents. Multiple authors, mostly independent, all testifying to the same historical events and reality. The groundswell of careful copying of these documents is amazing.

The resurrection accounts have the sense of authentic testimony, they feel real. They are imperfect enough such that they definitely do not appear to be made up.

It is hard to explain the shape and resurrection focus of the New Testament other than by the fact of the resurrection of Jesus.

Why I Believe Jesus Christ was Bodily Resurrected #7

Many Many Eyewitnesses:

People Who Saw Jesus’ Alive Bible References
Two women outside of Jerusalem Matthew 28:9-10
Mary Magdalene John 20:15-18
Two travellers on the road to Emmaus Luke 24:13-32
Peter in Jerusalem Luke 24:34
Ten disciples in the upper room John 20:19-25
Eleven disciples in the upper room John 20:26-31
Seven disciples fishing John 21:1-23
Eleven disciples on the mountain in Galilee Matthew 28:16-20
More than five hundred people 1 Corinthian 15:5
James 1 Corinthians 15:7
Many disciples who watched Jesus ascending into heaven Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8

(This table taken from Little, “Know Why You Believe”, p45.)

This claim that many people witnessed the resurrection is important for these reasons:

  • They explain the concrete memory of events with the risen Christ – eating meals etc.
  • The large amount of people explains the large number of proclaiming witnesses which led to such explosive growth.
  • The more witnesses are claimed, the easier it should be for someone to disprove – but this did not happen.

Why I Believe Jesus Christ was Bodily Resurrected #6

The New Day of Worship:

Pliny and other historical writers of the first century note the specific tradition of Christians to meet on the first day of the week – Sunday, corresponding to “The Lord’s Day”, that is, the day of the Resurrection.

Yet the the Christian “sect” emerged out from the disciplined religion of Old Covenant Judaism. One of the most core beliefs of the Jews was the Sabbath day (on the Saturday). This was one of their most cherished and distinctive beliefs. What would cause so many Jews to join this new movement and give up the Sabbath for the “Lord’s day”?

Why I Believe Jesus Christ was Bodily Resurrected #5

Why did the Apostles suffer so much for their message?

Acts 12:1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

“I [Paul] stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection”… The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them… (Acts 23:6, 10)

“I [Paul] have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” 2 Corinthians 11:23-27

Why I Believe Jesus Christ was Bodily Resurrected #3

The Explosive growth of the Early Christian Church:

A common theme as we read the Roman historians was the explosive growth of Christianity despite the intense persecution they received. For example Tacitus wrote at the end of the first century:

“Christus”, from whom their name is derived, was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. Checked for the moment, this pernicious superstition again broke out, not only in Judea, the source of the evil, but even in Rome, that receptacle for everything that is sordid and degrading from every quarter of the globe

The question raised by this historical evidence is: why did Christianity break out a second time?

Why didn’t this movement fade into nothing just like hundreds of other failed messiahs of the same era?

Why I Believe Jesus Christ was Bodily Resurrected #4

The Puzzle of Impotent Roman and Jewish Opposition

The announcement of Jesus’ resurrection and Lordship began spreading 40 or so days after the death of Jesus. The authorities did everything in their power to undermine or discredit the Christian movement. Why were they not able to disprove the 1-2 month old claim of resurrection? Why could it not be properly discredited by consulting the relevant parties in the first 5 years or so?

The Roman and Jewish authorities did everything in their power to stop the Christian movement in its tracks. They were not just concerned with masochistic punishment of non-conformist Christians, they were adamant to disprove its message from the very beginning. They had every resource of empire and education. So why couldn’t they disprove the resurrection?

Why I Believe Jesus Christ was Bodily Resurrected #2

The Transformation in the Life of the Apostles:

By their own accounts, the disciples Jesus chose were not much better than a selfish bunch of whingers! Their leader (Peter) denied Jesus on the night before his death. They all fled when Jesus was arrested. They were cowards and frightened.

Then suddenly they turned into great leaders of an amazing historical movement. What caused this transformation?

Why I Believe Jesus Christ was Bodily Resurrected #1

The Puzzle of the Empty Tomb:

Resurrection was at the heart of the message of the early church. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the ground of the message. All that had to happen was the body of Jesus be produced, and Christianity would be rubbished and completely undermined. Even just to show that the tomb had been tampered with or to check the guards on duty.

The empty tomb is presumed on in the preaching of the early church, and was not questioned as all knew it was empty – this was verifiable and undisputed at the time. Much of the preaching of the gospel in Jerusalem was done in walking distance of the empty tomb!

Differences between Apologetics and Evangelism

Apologetics Evangelism
Agenda Set by the unbeliever Set by the proclaiming believer
Content Tough questions about specific topics, some less important than others Centred on Jesus Christ – his death and resurrection, he is Lord and Saviour
Goal Remove sincere obstacles and hindrances in the persons mind AND expose shallow excuses for dismissing Christianity Repentence and faith (trusting obedience) in the Lord Jesus Christ
Results Person becomes more open to Christianity and ready to hear the gospel – considering Christianity becomes an option Conversion to faith in Christ

or a rejection of Christ

Attitudes Often intellectual questions Deals with the head and heart

The $40-Million Elbow

The world’s treasures are beautiful but fleeting. I’m devoting my life to plumbing the unsearchable riches of Christ.

The guests came at five-thirty, and Wynn ushered them in. On the wall to his left and right were several paintings, including a Matisse, a Renoir, and “Le Rêve.” The other three walls were glass, looking out onto an enclosed garden. He began to tell the story of the Picasso’s provenance. As he talked, he had his back to the picture. He was wearing jeans and a golf shirt. Wynn suffers from an eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa, which affects his peripheral vision and therefore, occasionally, his interaction with proximate objects, and, without realizing it, he backed up a step or two as he talked. “So then I made a gesture with my right hand,” Wynn said, “and my right elbow hit the picture. It punctured the picture.” There was a distinct ripping sound. Wynn turned around and saw, on Marie-Thérèse Walter’s left forearm, in the lower-right quadrant of the painting, “a slight puncture, a two-inch tear. We all just stopped. I said, ‘I can’t believe I just did that. Oh, shit. Oh, man.’”

via Doh! Dept: The $40-Million Elbow : The New Yorker.

Douglas Wilson, Canon Press – Full View on Google Books

It looks like all of Douglas Wilson’s Canon Press published books are ‘full view’ on Google Books.

Well worth an online read, you’ll end up buying some of them!

Fidelity

Future Men

Reforming Marriage

Mother Kirk

The Paideia of God and Other Essays on Education

Heaven Misplaced – Christ’s Kingdom on Earth

Angels in the Architecture – A Protestant Vision for Middle Earth

A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking

Son of Hamas: The Q: GQ

“Son of Hamas” will be an important book:

GQ: But aren’t there two sides to Christianity as well? The side that launched the crusades, and that many believe is still active, steering the last administration’s foreign policy. Aren’t we really talking about the human failing here, not tied to a particular faith?

MY: No, no, no, no. This is what I'm trying to avoid. I point to the book, to the god. I am not pointing to the people. I judge and compare books and gods. In Christianity, it’s very clear that the god we worship is equal to love. The bible says, ‘God is love’;. The god we worship was sacrificed, crucified on the cross, tortured, spit on, and was still forgiving. This is our highest example. The god of Islam tells his people, “Beat your wife. Go kill infidels. Go Kill Christians and Jews.” This is in the Koran; it has been for 1400 years. Their god tells them to kill everybody who doesn’t believe in the god of the Koran. The problem is ideological—it’s not a people problem. Now, most Muslims don’t obey the order of god to kill infidels. This is why I say Muslims have more morality than their god. To be honest with you, I’m amazed at how Muslims keep their humanity after reading the Koran.

via Son of Hamas: The Q: GQ.

Dawkins on the Meaninglessness of the Universe

Found this great discussion and Dawkins reference from big bad Bill’s website:

If life is simply about survival, and the replication of genes, then things like morality in general and truth-telling in particular seem quite out of place. As an example, atheist Richard Dawkins has been fairly candid about life without God. As he wrote in his 1995 volume, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:

“Theologians worry away at the `problem of evil’ and a related ‘problem of suffering.’ … On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies… are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A.E. Housman put it: ‘For Nature, heartless, witless Nature. Will neither care nor know.’ DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.”

The question is: on what grounds do the atheists rail against the supposed ‘lack of morals’ of the God of the Bible when according to their own standard there are no such categories?

Solzhenitsyn – A World Split Apart

This man was a prophet – this speech to Harvard graduates in 1978 is a powerful condemnation of Western pride in the middle of the cold war. His commentary on materialistic self-destruction seems even more apt 30 years later. His Christian faith points the way out of the burden of humanistic modernism.

Various quotes:

Truth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter.

In the process [of achieving Western prosperity], however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still mroe things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings.

Western society has given itself the organization best suited to its purposes, based, I would say, on the letter of the law. The limits of human rights and righteousness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in using, interpreting and manipulating law, even though laws tend to be too complicated for an average person to understand without the help of an expert. Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required, nobody may mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless risk: it would sound simply absurd. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody operates at the extreme limit of those legal frames. An oil company is legally blameless when it purchases an invention of a new type of energy in order to prevent its use. A food product manufacturer is legally blameless when he poisons his produce to make it last longer: after all, people are free not to buy it.

I have spent all my life under a communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man’s noblest impulses.

The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counter-balanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

On journalism: How many hasty, immature, superficial and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, without any verification. The press can both simulate public opinion and miseducate it. Thus we may see terrorists heroized, or secret matters, pertaining to one’s nation’s defense, publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: “everyone is entitled to know everything.” But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era: people also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information.

Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day.

But should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just mentioned are extremely saddening.

This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.

However, in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the Twentieth century’s moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the Nineteenth Century.

We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests tend to suffocate it. This is the real crisis. The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections.

Barnabas Fund – Prayer Focus Update May 2009