God’s Acts of Providence (25)

The Way that Refused to Go Away (3)

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The Crucifixion by the master of Dreux Bunde

The Death

Mark 15:37

15 37And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last.

Soon after Jesus “breathed his last,” both Pilate and the Sanhedrin would breath sighs of relief that this latest troublemaking messiah had been dispatched.  For Pilate the relief was that no civic unrest had broken out that would have made him vulnerable to imperial criticism.  For the Sanhedrin[1], this upstart religious usurper and threat to the civil peace had been dealt with in such a manner that no imitator would likely come forward for many years.

They had played the world’s power game perfectly, and, now could reap the rewards.  This ragged band of Jesus-followers would now disband and dissolve back into the faceless mass of nobodies from which they have been drawn.  The peace required for taxes to be collected, power relationships to be maintained and consciences to be free from challenge would return to a stable equilibrium.

Or, so they imagined.



[1] Nothing in this blog is intended to allow for the great sin of anti-Semitism to be supported.  It is an undeniable matter of fact that Jewish religious leaders (e.g., the Sanhedrin) played a central role in Christ’s Passion.  It is an equally undeniable fact that Christianity was born from the Jewish faith, that its earliest followers were virtually all Jewish, that the New Testament teaches that the Jewish Nation still has a special role to play in God’s plan for salvation, and that we Christians share the Old Testament in common with our Jewish brothers and sisters.  Even if none of the above were true, Christianity is a faith that values and loves the human being and the soul that is encased within.  Our calling is not to cast blame and hate but rather to seek and to save in the powerful Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  But if anyone were to demand an answer for who is to blame for Christ’s crucifixion, the answer is only as far as the nearest mirror.

Beyond crucifixion I will discuss the Jewish religious leadership’s opposition to the Jesus movement.  These actions by specific individuals and my comments are in no way to be interpreted as a general condemnation of the Jewish people.  It is a sad state of affairs to have to so carefully deal with this issue.  But the reality is that, in spite of Christ’s clear embrace of the “Old Testament” and the Apostle Paul’s clear teaching that the Jewish people are still beloved by God and hold a special place in His plan, some would seek to distort discussion of these controversies into paths that lead to anger and hate rather than love and understanding for our brothers and sisters who are in the Jewish faith.

God’s Acts of Providence (24)

Cross-NailThe Way that Refused to Go Away (2)

Opening Thoughts

We have already discussed the general environment in which Jesus met His Cross.  His path to this seemingly ignominious death has been discussed at length in The Language of Suffering.

What remains surprising is the determination of Christ’s enemies to overlook even the most convincing evidence that this Person might actually be the Messiah.  For example, read the descriptions of the career of Judas the Galilean in the previous post and compare it to that of Jesus.  The differences in action, motive, in every possible dimension could not be greater.  And yet the authorities lumped Jesus into the same category as this man of violence and shame.

In fact, with every demonstration of grace, healing, mercy and wisdom his enemies only increased in their hatred and determination to destroy Him.  One begins to sense that they were not in control of themselves, but rather were being driven forward by an unseen force.  Jesus Himself said as much.

“The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

(Luke 9:22)

Note the “must” in this statement, not “might be.”  If in God’s sovereign will the “elders, and chief priests and scribes” must treat the true Messiah in a particular way then can they anything but be compelled to do so?

God’s Acts of Providence (23)

And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.  Devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him.  But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Acts 8:1b-3

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Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter (Consign delle chiavi) by Pietro Vannucci Perugino

The Way that Refused to Go Away (1)

The “Church Visible” was opposed with all the power of this fallen world, as had Christ before.  But, although this visible manifestation of God’s power may have been broken and scattered in specific instances, the “Church Invisible” lived on triumphant.  For this Church always breaks out in visible form, it simply cannot be contained.

The LARGER CATECHISM, The CONSTITUTION of the PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.) PART I BOOK OF CONFESSIONS:

64. What is the invisible church?

The invisible church is the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head.

There’s a larger context that must be set in order for the persecution of the early church to be fully understood.  Simply stated, Christ’s claim to be the Messiah was not only at odds with prevailing expectations (i.e., the expected conquering king as opposed to the actual suffering servant) but also simply one more in a sequence of claimants to this position.  In fact as recently as 6 A.D. a messianic claimant by the name of Judas the Galilean[i] had been dealt with (Acts 5:37).  Prior to him another named Theudas was similarly handled (Acts 5:36).

The implication is clear.  The Jewish leaders were dealing with a highly charged religious-political situation. The common people were looking for the Messiah and occasional individuals declared themselves to be just that.  Their experience was uniform that such claims were false.  But beyond being false, these claims and the accompanying unrest created the conditions for Roman retribution.  Thus, there were good theological as well as political reasons for dealing aggressively with messianic movements in their midst.

What they didn’t take into account was the possibility that God would actually send the Messiah.  And, if He did, that “God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things which we cannot comprehend.” (Job 37:5).  And so when Jesus Christ arrived on the scene many of their minds were already inoculated against the possibility of God’s acting then and there to create a new world.  Beyond that, the machinery of persecution was kept in good working order, ready to snuff out the sure-to-come next fools’ messiah movement.  As with all bureaucratic institutions, this one was designed to execute on its mission, not to deliberate on the deepest issues of mankind’s destiny.



[i] Josephus, who became known, in his capacity as a Roman citizen, as Titus Flavius Josephus, was a 1st-century Jewish historian and apologist of priestly and royal ancestry who survived and recorded the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70. His works give an important insight into first-century Judaism.

There was one Judas, a Galilean, of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Zadok, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt. Both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty; as if they could procure them happiness and security for what they possessed, and an assured enjoyment of a still greater good, which was that of the honor and glory they would thereby acquire for magnanimity. They also said that God would not otherwise be assisting to them, than upon their joining with one another in such councils as might be successful, and for their own advantage; and this especially, if they would set about great exploits, and not grow weary in executing the same. So men received what they said with pleasure, and this bold attempt proceeded to a great height.

[Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.4-6]

 

Judas the Galilean was the author of the fourth branch of Jewish philosophy. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man lord.

[Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.23]

 

All sorts of misfortunes sprang from these men, and the nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree. One violent war came upon us after another, and we lost our friends, which used to alleviate our pains. There were also very great robberies and murder of our principal men. This was done in pretense indeed for the public welfare, but in reality for the hopes of gain to themselves; whence arose seditions, and from them murders of men, which sometimes fell on those of their own people (by the madness of these men towards one another, while their desire was that none of the adverse party might be left), and sometimes on their enemies. Famine also came upon us, and reduced us to the last degree of despair, as did also the taking and demolishing of cities; nay, the sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemies’ fire. Such were the consequences of this, that the customs of our fathers were altered, and such a change was made, as added a mighty weight toward bringing all to destruction.

[Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.7-9]

 

 

 

Comments on the 222nd General Assembly (3 of 3)

apostasy-definitionThe Consequence of Apostasy

While it appears that the progressive elite who dominate the PCUSA want to drive out all opposition to their ongoing project, the reasons why are less clear.  Why not, for example, pursue a policy of reconciliation that encourages members and churches to remain?  By so doing they would benefit in numerous dimensions, including financial, diversity and credibility, among others.

And yet, even with these indisputable advantages, the 222nd GA has chosen as co-moderators individuals who have led the charge to demean and discourage what remains of non-progressive Christians in the denomination.  Personnel is policy, and thus they have chosen a policy of continued decline.  Why?

To begin answering this question we must first answer another, apparently unrelated one, that being:

Why, in over 24,000 words of Overture Rationale argumentation in support of same-gender marriage did its proponents not once quote their supposed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

The answer is obvious.  They didn’t quote Jesus Christ even once because the overwhelmingly relevant statement about Christian marriage by our Savior is:

He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

They had no intention of allowing the teaching of their supposed Lord and Savior to prevent the obtaining of a goal that they had received from (in their minds) a higher source of authority.  And so, they proceeded to render Holy Scripture irrelevant in order to create a false “Jesus Christ” who supports their goal.

So, what does all of this have to do with the original question?  I do not pretend to be a mind reader, so I can only posit a theory that can be checked by past information and compared to future events.  But, given all that I have learned about these post-modern PCUSA elites, my best theory is that they wish to eject non-progressive Christians in order to create a “safe space” for their apostasy.

Therefore, all of the financial and credibility gains are far more than canceled out by the possibility of theological diversity that forces them to face that Jesus Christ, as revealed in Holy Scripture, said:

“Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

The progressive elites are happy to make room in the PCUSA for openly Gnostic heretics and aggressive atheists.  However, it appears that there is no longer room for Bible trusting Christians who might blurt out in polite progressive Christian community that Jesus said:

“Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

I believe that this is the most likely motive force for their compulsion to drive us out or bend us to their wills.  If you or your church doesn’t have the Christian stability and courage to repulse the coming onslaught, then you are likely best off fleeing now.  If you and/or your church do, then stay and shine the light of the Gospel into this dark and demented denomination.  Their 24,000  empty words are conclusive testimony to the fact that they have no answer to the fact that our Lord and Savior,  Jesus Christ said in Holy Scripture:

“Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Amen.

Comments on the 222nd General Assembly (2 of 3)

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The Worst of the Rest

Here’s part two of what the post-modern, post-Christian elites who lead our denomination wrought at the 222nd General Assembly.

  • Firstly, note the lack of a single Christian symbol on this image from the  official GA web page.  When you are post-Christian the idea to include a Christian symbol on your event’s images just doesn’t necessarily enter your mind.
  • An opening prayer was led by a practicing Muslim, Wajidi Said of the Portland Muslim Community, who said in his prayer, “Lead us on the straight path – the path of all the prophets: Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. ”  This statement was interpreted by an ex-Muslim as follows:

pcusa-multim-prayerMateen Elass, a former Muslim who now works with a ministry for Arab-speaking individuals called Voice of the Truth, called the event one which “denied the gospel and lordship of Jesus Christ.”

Elass criticized the PCUSA for inviting “a practicing Muslim … to lead the worship of Christians,” and pointed out that Said asked “Allah to convert the assembly” during his prayers.

“Praying to Allah … he was pleading that the Presbyterians gathered there would be converted to the straight path, i.e., becom Muslims,” Elass wrote in his blog.

  • Approve a report that calls for a re-evaluation of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Critics said the report questions the right of Israel to exist as the sanctuary for Jews it was created to be. The report was approved 429-129.
  • Call for the “prayerful study” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which trumped a move to end any church affiliation with BDS, a global campaign to apply economic pressure to Israel and boycott its institutions and products.

See here for the two-state re-evaluation resolution and  here for the BDS resolution.

  • The GA officially approved that the Confession of Belhar be added to our Book of Confessions.  As I pointed out previously, Belhar is at odds with our historic Confessions and will be used as a club to force conformity on whatever Social Justice issues the elites decide to support.
    • We can now expect people who have denigrated and ignored our historic Confessions to begin using Belhar as if it is the only (with the possible exception of the Confession of 1967) relevant Confession.
    • The Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns (ACWC) has already used the Confession of Belhar to justify their support for “On the Admission of, and Apology for, Harms Done to the LGBTQ/Q Members of the PC(USA), Family and Friends—From the Presbytery of New York City.”

      Therefore the opportunity to seek reconciliation (conciliation) through confession of wrong is urged and supported. The Belhar Confession calls us to take our acts of repentance and reconciliation personally and corporately.

They are less tolerant of conservative theologies within the denomination. Some remain hopeful that conservatives who are upset with the 221st General Assembly (2014) decisions on marriage will see that there are different ways to interpret scripture, and will choose to stay and accept the changes, over time. Others would simply be happy if the conservatives left the PC(USA), and a few offered suggestions for helping dissenting congregations to leave the denomination with grace and dignity.

There are two options described in the thinking of these “Purposeful Progressives,” (1) conform and stay and (2) get out!

These are just the lowlights.  I could go on, but I suspect that the point has been made.