Archive for January 2nd, 2009

I’ve been reading Walter Isaacson’s biography on Benjamin Franklin recently, and in a portion I read this morning, the fable of The Man, the Boy and the Donkey was referenced.  Franklin noted this fable in a pamphlet he wrote to instruct printers on how they should decide on what clients to take on.  Franklin was a big supporter of the free press, but he also realized there may be times when a printer must refuse to print something on moral grounds.  Perhaps more importantly, though, he realized that trying to please everyone would quickly lead to pleasing no one.

The fable he referenced is the following:

The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

A MAN and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor Donkey of yours—you and your hulking son?”

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the Donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the Donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:

“PLEASE ALL, AND YOU WILL PLEASE NONE.”

I have to admit that the first thing that came to my mind when reading that were the recent discussions we’ve had here concerning Rick Warren.  It seems to me that there is nothing he could where he doesn’t displease someone.  This could be said of many Christian leaders I think.  I know that when I was overseeing a campus ministry, I was amazed that I always managed to disappoint or tick off someone.

All of this is to not defend or demean Rick Warren, but rather to observe once again as we enter the new year, that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

May you all have blessed new year and continue to live honestly and with conviction!

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The End is NearIt seems to me that the topic of “Universalism” and “Christian Universalism” continue to boil up in most of the threads these days. As such, it is a bit frustrating to those who wish to discuss other matters of Christian living w/o having to bring Universalism into the discussion.

The initial hope was that if we closed the initial Universalism thread and let the holidays intervene that the topic might die down and allow new material/discussions to better enrich the discussion, but I don’t see that happening. As such, I’m putting up this thread (for the next 10 days, at least) and asking those concerned to please use this thread for the CU discussion, rather than other non-related threads…

With that said, here are a few of the recent items to start off the discussion:

One of the first off-topic posts regarding this was John Hughes’ “Universalist reinterpretation” of Matthew, which I found both a bit humorous (kind of like the Calvinist Bible) and enlightening as to how we would have to alter our view of Scripture to accept a “Christian Universalist” view that we should expect (and teach that we should expect) that all will be saved:

I was given a new Bible translation for Christmas. Here are a few of the highlights from Matthew:

Matt 5:29-30 – If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out put a patch on it and throw it away. It is better for you (to lose the use of one part of your body) than for your whole body to be thrown into helltime-out. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it awaydon’t wash it until it shapes up. It is better for you (to lose the use) of one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell time-out.

Matt 7:13 – “Enter through the narrow any ole gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that all leads to life, and only a few eventually everyone find it.

Matt 7:21-23Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does even those who do not do the will of my Father who is in heaven. . . Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’but come on in anyway!

Matt 10:32-33 – “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown acknowledge him anyway before my Father in heaven.

Matt 12:36-37 – But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemnedsent to time out until you learn better.”

Matt 13:28-30 – “…The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
” ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds proto-wheat, you may root up the now-wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds proto-wheat and tie them in bundles to be burnedput in time-out; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”

Matt 13:43 – “As the weeds proto-wheat are pulled up and burned in the firesent to time-out , so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed tather out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw gently sned hem into the fiery furnacetime-out, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, but they will eventually see the errors of their way and join the wheat. Then the righteous they all will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Matt 13:50 – “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad awayin time-out. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked naughty from the righteous and throw gently, but firmly, place them into the fiery furnace, into time-out where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, but they will get over it.

Matt 18:7-9 – “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away just don’t wash it for a few days. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled with dirty hands than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal firethe heavenly time-out. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it awaycover it with a patch. It is better for you to enter life with the use of just one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of helltime-out.

Matt 24: 31-46 – “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats proto-sheep. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats proto-sheeps on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. . . .

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, naughtly into the eternal fire temporary time-out prepared for the devil and his angels. . . .”Then they will go away to eternal punishmenttemporary time out, but eventually with the righteous to eternal life.”

Next, I would note that (unlike some other topics I’ll not mention, so as to not start them back up again) I would normally let a discussion about this die and try to actively stamp it out. However, I don’t know that such an effort would be all that successful, or that it would be prudent.

Why?

We often get asked by ADM’s & ADM-types if there are any topics/movements that we consider to be dangerous to the Christian faith. Usually, the first one we bring up is the Word-Faith/Prosperity Gospel movement, which is little more than materialism (thinly) wraped in the garb of Christianity. Some of us also bring up the phariseeism and nastiness brought into the church by the hyper-exclusivity of certain systematic theological views (pointing to quotes like “There are two views concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ. First, there is what we call Calvinism. Then, there are varying degrees of unbelief”).

I would include one more movement in this list of gospel perversions, that being universalism – the belief/teaching that all roads (eventually) lead to heaven, and its subset which says that all roads will (eventually) lead to heaven, through Jesus, with most conversions happening after death.

While systematic theologies primary sin is one of hyper-exclusivity, succumbs to the draw of legalism by drawing boundaries far tighter than those drawn by God in Scripture, “Christian Universalism” errs in an equal, but opposite measure, via hyper-inclusivity which succumbs to the draw of hedonism by drawing boundaries far beyond those drawn by God in Scripture.

Where Hyper-Systematology (HS) focuses on the eternal to the neglect of the temporal, CU does the opposite.

Where HS focuses its view of eschatology by “who’s in” (almost nobody), CU commits the equal-but-opposite error by focusing its eschatology by “who’s out” (nobody – eventually).

Each has good and noble intentions – HS with a focus on personal holiness and basis of faith in Scripture – CU with a focus on loving your neighbor and worshiping God in a manner that fits the culture. But each is damnable in its own way – HS with its “the world be damned” attitude that drives people away from the church (much like the Sadducees’ temple practices which led to Jesus’ turning tables); and CU with it’s “heaven be damned” attitude which “loves” people to hell (much like all of the false Greek and Roman gods of Asia Minor in Jesus’ day).

Part of being “in the word (kosmos) but not of it” means avoiding being corrupted by its dominant systems. Each of the three ‘false gospels’ mentioned is representative of the church’s capitulation to a system of the world – materialism (WF/PG); post-modernism (CU); and modernism (HS).

And that’s why I care about this one a little bit more than most…

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What are your terms? In days of old when one king would defeat another king he would offer him terms. It was pretty simple, accept the terms or be killed. Very rarely was there a negotiation, it was adherence or death.

It hit me the other day, there’s a danger that we all have terms. We have terms for everything in our life. To some extent that is probably healthy and reasonable. We should all have terms about an abusive person, and the people in our life that brings destructive forces to it.
But I wonder. I wonder about the terms we have that aren’t spoken. What about the terms we have for people who have hurt us? What does the Bible mean when it says we are to forgive those who hurt us? (Eph 4:32; Matthew 6:14-15; Colossians 3:13 to only name a few)

When someone offends us or hurts us, do we write them off? Do you or I make them beg for forgiveness? Do we make them accept our terms?  I think most of us are at least tempted to do that. Have you ever been on the other side of that? Have you ever been the one who did the wronging and despite whatever you did to seek forgiveness from that person, they had terms for you? Now, the roles switch and life gets messy once again.

Jesus doesn’t offer a lot of comfort either. I mean come on, if you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven? What kind of terms are those, God? Don’t You know about how my Dad hurt me? Don’t you know about how my wife/husband/son/brother/daughter/sister…fill in the blank hurt me?

This is what makes God so revolutionary, so radical. God takes our innate desire for justice and turns it upside down. He calls us to forgive those who wrong us. Forgive those who intentionally mistreat us. It’s a crazy command. God asks us to lay down everything, including our desire for revenge and justice. He asks to trusts Him with our hurts. But, let’s be honest, He also asks us to do one step further.

I don’t know what are your terms. I do know terms that I’ve used in the past. I know times I’ve been tempted to use terms and I can imagine the terms I’ll be tempted to use in the future.  I also know God’s terms:

“But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
~Jesus in Matthew 6:15

Talk about some terms!

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