Category Archives: Authors

NT Wright Quotations

‘Synergism’(from Justification pp 191-2)

We must read in Romans 2.16, particularly 2.6-7 and 13-16 [in the light of the rest of the letter].

[God] will render to each according to their works: to those who through patience in good work seek for glory, honour and immortality, he will give the life of the age to come…Glory, honour and peace to all who work what is good, to the Jew first and also the Greek….When Gentiles, who by birth do not possess Torah, do the things of the Torah, they are a “law” to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, with their conscience also bearing witness and their conflicting thoughts accusing or perhaps excusing them on the day when God judges human secrets according to the gospel through the Messiah, Jesus.

There are, of course, some good reasons for thinking that Paul might after all be referring here to the “moral pagan”. He may indeed be quite deliberately teasing at this point, wooing a reader on from the challenge in 2.1 to the possibility of a different way of approaching the whole moral task. But the forward echoes to 2.26-9 and 2 Cor 3 must be regarded as decisive. These people are Christians, on whose hearts the Spirit has written the law, and whose secrets, when revealed (see Rom 2.29 again), will display the previously hidden work of God.

The point of future justification is then explained like this. The verdict of the last day will truly reflect what people have actually done. It is extremely important to notice, in line with that sense of sudden anxiety in Rom 2.15, that Paul never says that Christians earn the final verdict, or that their “works” must be complete and perfect. He says, “Those who by patience in well-doing” (echoes here of Rom 5.3-4) “seek for glory and honour and immortality”. They are seeking it, not earning it. And they are seeking it through that patient, Spirit-driven Christian living in which – here is a paradox at the heart of the Christian life which so many have noticed but few have integrated into Paul’s theology of justification! – from one point of view the Spirit is at work, producing these fruits (Gal 5.22-3), and from another point of view the person concerned is making the free choices, the increasingly free (because increasingly less constrained by the sinful habits of mind and body) decisions to live a genuinely, fully human life which brings pleasure -of course it does! – to the God in whose image we human beings were made. As long as theologians, hearing this kind of proposal, shout “synergism” and rush back to the spurious either-or which grows out of a doctrine that has attempted to construct the entire soteriological jigsaw puzzle on the basis of a medieval view of “justice” and with some crucial bits (the Spirit, eschatology, not to mention Abraham and the covenant) still in the box, or on the floor, or in the fire, we shall never get anywhere. And at this point it is my instinct as a pastor that is aroused. I want my people to hear and understand the whole Word of God, not just the parts of it that fit someone’s system.

This passage tells us a lot about Wright’s way of thinking. He talks about ‘jigsaw puzzle’, ‘my people’ etc.; but although his apparent concern is with the theologians, the ultimate interest is pastoral.

Justification

The following passage, also from the book Justification (p. 80), is another example of Wright taking on established views. I quote it as support about Augustine for the article on Roger Forster. Wright quotes McGrath Iusticia Dei.

…there are many equally biblical ways of talking about how God saves people through Jesus Christ, and justification is but one of them. This (for instance) enables us at once to note that the four Gospels, where the term “justification” is scarce, are not for that reason to be treated as merely ancillary to , or perhaps preparatory for, the message of Paul – as has sometimes happened, at least de facto, in the Western Church. But there is more:
The doctrine of justification has come to develop a meaning quite independent of its biblical origins, and concerns the means by which man’s relationship to God is established. The church has chosen to subsume its discussion of the reconciliation of man to God under the aegis of justification, thereby giving the concept an emphasis quite absent from the New Testament. The “doctrine of justification” has come to bear a meaning within dogmatic theology which is quite independent of its Pauline origins.

I cannot overstress the importance of this statement, made by the scholar who, as much as any and more than almost all, has researched the entire history of the doctrine through many twists and turns unimagined by the ordinary devout Protestant. It is this statement, as much as any of my own, which justifies the claim, so threatening to writers like [X], that the church has indeed taken off at an oblique angle from what Paul had said, so that, yes, ever since the time of Augustine, the discussions about what has been called “justification” have borne a tangled, but ultimately only tangential, relation to what Paul was talking about.

NT Wright

NT Wright is a theologian proper, which means that some of his books are not for everybody. A friend of mine, a very spiritual, godly person, with a good pastoral ministry tried to read his book Simply Jesus and got nowhere although it is far from being a heavy work . In this article, which I am reviewing constantly, I will talk a little about Wright the theologian, but he also is more generally a thinker; he was a pastor, actually a bishop, and his pastoral concerns come through again and again in his concern for the gospel to be relevant in today’s world; I will look at a book called Creation, Power and Truth in its own article.

Where he is both theologian and a thinker, Wright also has popular level books, a series of simple commentaries to accompany daily reading of each book of the New Testament, and although I think they have good points I wouldn’t  at this stage strongly recommend them, but they might serve to some as a good introduction to the New Testament; Wright is very sensible in his approach as well as readable, as the text is peppered with very nice anecdotes and illustrations. Although I have introduced Wright as a theologian, as I say he also has substantial pastoral concerns and was a bishop in the Church of England who cared for people. It would be difficult to negate the view, judging from the range of his sympathies, that he is one of the occasional people you come across who is not just a formidable intellect – and he is a hard-working scholar – but really a rather remarkable man. What seems to have happened is that early in his ‘course’, as Paul would term it, the modern word being ‘career’, he seems to have come across a fundamental flaw in the way much theology and church life was, and is, working, and this gave an impetus to his thinking that has carried him vigorously forward.

Wright’s major area is serious reappraisal of current thinking about God, which involves him in historical research, writing full length commentaries and engagement with academia, and, more loosely just  ‘talking about theology’. I suggest in the article Theology that there may be room for ambivalence about theology per se; personally I want ‘more of God’ and a lot of the theology is intellectual rather than spiritual; but, while engaging in theology can be a hiding place from God, somebody needs to do the intellectual spadework (so long as it’s not me); but Wright is more than this, having important things to say to our time. He frequently says things that for me are worth knowing and if I dip into his writing I always find something useful, some of it in a limited intellectual way, some of it touching fairly deeply the way I think, and some of it very illuminating.

Here is an example of the limited things. I knew I didn’t like the NIV translation; it’s biased. What I didn’t know is why I react like that. Here is Wright from Justification p.52:

Again and again with the Greek text in front of me and NIV beside it, I discovered that the translators had had another principle, considerably higher than the stated one [exact translation]: to make sure that Paul should say what the broadly Protestant and evangelical tradition said he said.

Does this help my walk with God? Not really, but it does confirm what I think and points in the direction of what Wright is saying. You note in this quotation Wright’s interest – what did Paul really say? He wants to find out what that is, rather than what current tradition says he said. This involves him in something very familiar to me – it is basically literary criticism by placing things in a historical context. This is what I studied at university, only we did it with Shakespeare and the like. A lot of what Wright does is therefore as a historian. Here is a nice example:

in 1 Thess. 5.3, Paul says, “When they say, there is a peace and security, then sudden destruction will come upon them”. Now, of course it is easy to read this text against the background of a placid German society on, say, Oct 30, 1517 [Luther], or placid American scene on Sept 10, 2001. But it helps to understand Paul if we know – as we certainly do – that phrases such as “peace and security” were part of the stock in trade of Roman imperial propaganda at the time. (Justification p.47)

The work that Wright does in this area seems to me to be outstanding, though here I cannot speak as a trained theologian, merely as a trained literary critic. (It is worth noting in the same breath that I can point to a similarly outstanding literary/historical/critical reading of the Old Testament in books by Walter Brueggeman; stunningly sensitive literary investigation; I don’t know at this stage that his work has so much to contribute to daily spiritual life.)

 I came to Wright’s writing out of an interest to get an improved understanding of Paul, but he also spends a lot of time talking about Jesus, again with the  reconstructive historical approach; I intend to add an article on Simply Jesus, a book which I initially misunderstood after a cursory first reading, but which on closer examination proves of great value. For now, the focus is on introducing what is said about Paul.

Apparently in academic circles there is a quite a lot of controversy about what is called the New Perspective, of which Wright is seen as a principal promoter. Basically what they and he says is that it doesn’t do to read Paul (and the New Testament) through the ‘perspective’ of questions raised 400 years ago. The Reformers had particular issues by which they needed to distinguish themselves from the Roman church and justify their activities; they found in Paul what they were looking for to help their case and in so doing read things into Paul which were not part of Paul’s thinking and this distorts Paul. Well, all this seems quite familiar to me because with my background I found it hard to know what Paul was on about in the book of Romans in particular and a lot of the way I understood to approach what he says made it seem very sort of religious and headache producing; for this reason I began exploring Wright.

There is a good website, www.ntwrightpage.com where there are a lot of articles. I found that one called The Paul of History and the Apostle of Faith said a lot of what I needed. (There is also an interesting article on Paul and Elijah, saying that Paul would have seen himself as following Elijah, which would be why he talks about going into Arabia in Gal 1.17. ) I also bought Paul (in fresh perspective), Justification and, at great expense, his full length commentary on Romans. I have been unable to read any of these books right through because they are initially too theological for me, but every time I dip into them my ability to read theology improves, which I suppose is good.

Romans is a work of massive erudition. Basically, Paul’s concern, according to Wright, is making sure that faith in Christ is thoroughly connected to the Old Testament, or perhaps making sure that understanding of the OT is thoroughly reworked in the light of Christ ; and Wright’s concern is to correctly connect Paul to these concerns. Romans, says Wright, is not fundamentally about ‘me and my salvation’ (Justification p 23) but about God and his purposes; the Reformers concern was about salvation – ‘my and my salvation’ – and rightly so, but their understanding was limited to  this issue, where the gospel concerns so much more than ‘what must I do to be saved’ – and in fact this is frankly secondary. (I always wondered why Paul would be writing a letter to Christians about how to be saved – surely they were already saved). The following is Wright’s modus operandi:-

…when you hear yourself saying, “What Paul was really trying to say was….” and then coming up with a sentence which only tangentially corresponds to what Paul actually wrote, it is time to think again. When, however, you work to and fro, this way and that, probing a key technical term, exploring a larger controlling narrative there, enquiring why Paul used this particular connecting word between these two sentences, or that particular scriptural quotation at this point in the argument, and eventually you arrive at the position of saying, “Stand here; look at things in this light; keep in mind this great biblical theme, and then you will see that Paul has said exactly what he meant, neither more nor less” – then you know that you are in business. (Justification p.51)

Working like this is what Wright actually does. He consistently looks at Paul’s real concerns, that is, his immediate concerns – dealing with the opposition of some Jews, how to respond to the claims of Caesar, relationship between the church and Israel and so on; then, lo and behold! the book of Romans suddenly all fits together, it really does. The result of all this for me is that if I were, as I am not, dealing in a teaching, preaching, pastoral capacity with some specific issue that related to Romans, I would a) look into Wright to find out the background to what Paul was saying – Wright would help me dig into the matter, get some roots; and b) I would find in Wright a good general approach for digging. Personally I don’t need to do this, but believe it would be very useful.

Paul and Justification are more general. I think I have already indicated the way these books work for me – it is good to dip into them. Both books provide more material on getting at the heart of what Paul said – the need to do so and many contributions to doing so. The quotes in this article are from Justification because this is where I looked recently. This book is highly polemical, set in the context of a debate with a gentleman named John Piper who seems to strongly resent and, in Wright’s view,  misunderstand this new perspective. I think both these books are well worth looking at. Paul in particular is very good at bringing specific concerns of Paul which have traditionally been neglected, and make much more sense of him. Going back to Romans, just looking at the historical context in which  Wright shows it to have been written immediately enables a greatly sharpened understanding. I am in no position at present to really go into what the books say, not here or now; to discover what I understand to be Wright’s intent, please look at the articles on Simply Jesus and Creation, Power and Truth. These 2 books provide a good background to what Wright is aiming at. Romans, however, is an extensive exegesis of the book from Wright’s perspective, while the other two look more broadly at Paul; so while these books with their particular focus are all good independently,  they are not the best place to get hold of what Wright is saying to the Church.

Wright is a voluminous, prolific author; this suggests to me the strong tendency towards intellectualism that I am wary of, and I do at times feel there is a piling up of words and ideas to say fairly simple things, but underneath there is the solid basis of having something important to say (which probably is why he can be so prolific). One of the impacts of Wright on me is away from what might be termed ‘mysticism’. What does it mean, for example, to be ‘in Christ’, the frequent Pauline phrase? A mystical approach would say Paul is talking about a felt experience of spiritual communion with Christ; Wright would move it much more towards the doctrinal side and link the phrase with Paul’s very practical interests. In fact, as will be seen in numerous articles elsewhere on this site, particularly those linked with Daniel Bourguet and Orthodox thought, I have a lot of time for a ‘mystical’ approach; but I find the balance very helpful. I think this is a part of being ‘rooted and grounded’ in faith; I like the way Wright is constantly turning to Scripture and new light shines out from it as he does so.. There are further posts under the title NT Wright Quotations

 

Roger Forster

The book God’s Strategy in Human History by Roger T Forster and V. Paul Marston has a special place for me because it gave me the background to understanding the nature of faith and so,  mentally at least, liberty to go forward into receiving the Holy Spirit, healing and a basis for evangelism.

 

A short biographical note on Forster is that he was a prominent leader in London church life, a mathematician, as I remember, from Cambridge. On one occasion, I heard with great pleasure and benefit he and his spouse teach on the subject of the Holy Spirit; obviously, I was most favourably impressed.

In a sense the issue of the book comes down to this – does man have free-will? The authors answer decisively yes while examining and refuting reasons which constitute impediments to this conclusion. The book looks at a few passages of scripture giving a background to the conflict in which people and Christians in particular find themselves – the conflict in which free-will needs to be exercised; it investigates a few key concepts such as election and fore-knowledge; and finishes with with a frontal, indeed brutal, assault on Augustine who attacked the concept of free-will.

Firstly, as to our place in the conflict, the book opens with a summary of Job. Satan said to God that his kingdom was established solely on the basis of expediency; because God has power, people say they follow him and it is not out of love. Satan says he can prove it by attacking Job, and since God does not operate by force but by love, God allows this to happen. (We might note that Job foreshadows Jesus in this.) God ‘stakes his reputation on Job’:

Have you considered my servant Job? For there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one who fears God and eschews evil; and he still holds fast his integrity, although you moved me against him to destroy him without cause.

Thus Job is caught in a conflict to which his will is central, a conflict which is simply a necessary part of his faith. To add to his problems, however, Job gets attacked by his own friends, who think that a man suffers only because of his own unfaithfulness; they reject Job’s righteousness, asserting  that God is too high for Job’s righteousness to be of value to him; but they are wrong – God is engaged and enjoys Job’s righteousness and his continued choice to hold fast. (This is a  good introduction to the book of Job!)

The authors discuss Rom ch 9.18  ‘He has mercy on whom He will, and whom he will he hardens’. Does this mean that in fact man’s place in the conflict is passive? No….

Paul does not say here (nor anywhere else) that God’s plan or will for an individual is irresistible – and Luke in his inspired text plainly says they are not [Luke 7.30 – the Pharisees frustrated God’s plan for them]. We have seen that the Exodus story to which Paul alludes is far from implying any “irresistible will”. It is true that God will ultimately achieve his plan for the world in spite of those who resist it, but the individual still has his own moral choice of whether or not to reject God’s plan for him. (p.80).

Following on this is an examination of the passage in Exodus which says that God ‘hardened’ Pharaoh’s heart. The authors show that the ‘hardening’ was a strengthening of Pharaoh’s own defiant resolve, not ‘the infusion of evil passion but the animation of a resolute courage’; this is how God works in human history; that is to say, with man’s decisions, not as making them for him!

The discussion of election seeks to show that this is not election in the sense of God somehow inscrutably choosing one person to be saved and another not to be. Rather, the point about election is that it is ‘in Christ’; Christ is elect – we don’t get into Christ by election, but when in Christ we are in the elect. Interestingly there is an overlap between being chosen and being beloved; at the transfiguration Matthew and Mark say ‘this is my beloved Son’, but Luke says ‘this is my chosen Son’; we might say, my choice Son. Election and choice has also to do with office – our election in Christ is to particular works that ‘God has ordained that we should walk in’ – office. This passage is well worth reading, as is that on fore-knowledge. Here they show that fore-knowledge means to know everything about a person, from the past into the future; it is knowing, not ordaining; it is not connected with choosing. If things were fore-ordained then prayer would make no sense, but God hears and knows our groanings; that is how he works.

Foreknowledge implies a complete understanding of [Christians], of their characters, their weaknesses, and their reactions.[Paul] is saying that God completely understood those to whom he gave the destiny of being conformed to the image of Christ. Nevertheless, he gave them this destiny, he wants to cooperate with them now to bring in good, and he wants to give them all all things as Christ’s fellow-heirs. The whole context is one of their own destiny, as Christians, in the creation and its liberation.

The last chapter of the book is entitled an appendix, but it is for me the most substantial. The issue, to restate, is free-will. In the early church there were ‘three recurrent ideas’:

  1. The rejection of free-will is the view of heretics.
  2.  Free-will is a gift given to man by God – for nothing can ultimately be independent of God.
  3.  Man possesses free-will because he is made in God’s image, and God has free-will.

The authors then cite a number of early writers to show that this is so; they stress the orthodoxy of these writers and their continuity with and clear understanding of Paul.

Then they turn to Augustine. Augustine is cited to show that there came a great change in his thinking involving a rejection of earlier understandings. The issue is not whether salvation is by faith or works, but ‘whether faith itself is an irresistible gift’.

There were three possible views of salvation: that by works, in which God imparted grace ‘in proportion to deserts’ (Augustine’s rendering of this); that by faith, the early church view (and I would say Pauline view); that by an irresistible gift of faith, Augustine’s view. Clearly the first (known as the Pelagian view) is to be rejected.The discussion is whether faith as Augustine understood the early church to mean, ie the exercise of free-will, was in fact a work.  Augustine amazingly held that faith like this is work. He could only hold this view because of an extraordinary confusion about faith and works, a monumental misreading of Paul. Listen to this fantastic idea – “The apostle therefore distinguishes faith from works, just as Judah is distinguished from Israel….though Judah is Israel itself”. This, our authors say, is of course  a complete overturning of Paul who ‘always sets faith and works in antithesis’.

If God saves people by an ‘irresistible gift’ (which one might easily recognize as an oxymoron) then he uses force; Augustine began to pick out verses like ‘compel them to come in’ to back up his ‘innovation’ to show that if God uses force then so can we (we who consider ourselves to be righteous of course!); and then some. Infant baptism, in Augustine’s church alone of course, saves people. If people don’t join our church, we can force them to; indeed we should force them to; and so Augustine became involved in the persecution of a group who, though they held the same beliefs theologically as the ‘Catholic’ church, did not accept the authority of that group. Church persecution follows directly from Augustine’s doctrine, and of course the doctrine and the persecution became standard practice. This terrible church practice has its parallels in the personal practice of faith and the doctrine is still affecting people today.

‘Underlying the whole system of Augustine is a basic assumption that God’s will is always and inevitably done, and that man can never resist it.’

Thus Forster and Marston, and the intent of the book is to show the reverse, that we can and must freely cooperate with God who gives us free-will. From my confused and confusing background this book was immense, and so view it as highly recommended to anyone similarly challenged.

(In accordance with the views expressed here, an article faith has been added.)

(The authors have another book Reason and Faith  which I also review. Should you wish to read my translation of Galatians, a note there points to an excellent commentary by Forster on Galatians and Ephesians.)

‘On the offensive’

In this article I wish to cover the attacks, often nasty, made in particular on such as Kenneth Hagin, but more generally as well.

If you go onto the internet and search for almost any well-known charismatic type Christian ministry, that is ministries which focus on gifts of the Holy Spirit, healing and even evangelism, there will be a rash of websites attacking them, saying they are evil heretics; and there have been books written.

These sites and books rarely go beyond unreasoned attack, offence; they claim to be written by Christians, but is hard to know quite why a Christian person would attack people who preach Christ come in the flesh, Christ crucified for our sins, Christ coming again… One can understand not liking another person’s emphasis, but to then spend one’s time viciously attacking someone who is preaching Christ leads one to wonder what the source of such activity is.

Valid criticism is fine; attempts to bring balance. I have personally seen and experienced the results of over zealous adherence to, in particular, Kenneth Hagin’s teaching; there is a need for balance and experienced teachers to help those who are growing, and this of course is not what is being objected to here. What is wrong is unqualified ignorant people being led astray and leading others. An example would be a rumour I heard about a prominent church group here in Australia which was said to be preparing to accommodate homosexuality; I therefore looked the matter up and found that the claims were absolutely untrue, and that this group in fact is merely struggling with exactly how to deal with the issue.

There are common factors to the abusing of ministries. The first and the main one is simply not finding out what other people actually say. With regard to Hagin, books and articles repeatedly misquote, quote out of context or rely on hearsay. It becomes very clear that the attackers have not actually read the books and certainly have not absorbed the message. Brethren, these things ought not to be! My pastor in England used to say that by the time Truth has put his boots on, the Lie has gone round the world seven times; we should be slow to speak. No doubt the ease of communication through the internet has a lot to do with it, but that there should have been best-selling books attacking others ……!!  A problem here is that there are legitimate criticisms that can be brought and when foolish things are said they mask the things that should be looked at.

Secondly, the use of unsubstantiated innuendo. I am thinking specifically of the claim that Hagin was expelled from a church group for heresy. What the claim forgets to point out is what the heresy was; it was something that Paul said he did ‘more than you all’ and wished that all practised ie speaking in tongues. You might not agree with speaking in tongues, but if you are going to call someone a heretic, you might at least say in what the heresy consists.

Thirdly, a lack of scholarship. Hagin was accused of plagiarism, but I don’t think his accusers know what plagiarism is; it is the deliberate passing off of someone else’s material as your own, not incidental and accidental quotation. This matter, as the following, has been well dealt with by J McIntyre in EW Kenyon The True Story. Surely, in the Church we should have high standards, and if we are going to write books they should be properly researched.

We are talking here about popular level things; unfortunately things get much worse when it comes to attitudes towards serious thinking, with severe disregard for the work of others all too common; there is a place for proper intellectual training, and when this is not part of a person’s life, it would be good to have some respect for it. An interesting observation here would concern TL Osborn; his ministry changed the world, and a remarkable aspect of his life is the way he, a farm boy, educated himself; unfortunately, in a sense, he was not at all keen on ‘theology’, in part because his experience of ‘theologians’ was of people who did not believe in the healing ministry. He would frequently use words to the effect of ‘…as long as I get there first before the theologians…’; I think this reflects badly on the ‘theologians’, not him, but it is better not to load all theology into the same basket!

Fourth, guilt by association. EW Kenyon in his writings had considerable influence, particularly on TL Osborn; as a young man, before becoming firmly established in Bible faith, Kenyon investigated New Thought. Therefore, the reasoning goes, all his thinking, which apparently is not pleasing to some because of its emphasis on the miraculous, must be infected; and therefore, further, anyone connected with his writings, like Osborn, is similarly infected. By this reasoning, Paul must always have been unsatisfactory as a pharisaical persecutor and as for me, well, the less said the better…..

We can go on, but we need to measure things against the Bible. One listens to people with a proven track record. Jesus told us to ‘preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead’. If we wish to criticize people who are doing that and say they are doing it wrong, we should at least be able to show that we can do it right! ‘Love the Lord your God and your neighbour as yourself’; it’s good to correct someone who is wrong, maybe, but it needs to be done in love; maybe it is better just to stick to proclaiming the truth as it is in Jesus.

Short quotations

Here is a typical Richard Wurmbrand thought from The total blessing #23

The sense of prayer is to bring to God’s remembrance things he has known from time immemorial. Like every unselfish being, the one he forgets most is himself. Therefore our prayers should begin with the words ‘Hallowed be thy name’. Usually they start with the request ‘Do something for me’, which is not right. He needs most to be reminded of himself and his Kingdom.

From the same book, #31

I once saw a performance of an old classical Japanese dance.Its subject was a young king of such beauty that wherever he appeared all activity stopped. No one could do anything but hold their breath while gazing at the king’s splendour. His appearance negated the possibility of a normal existence for anyone else. His subjects could no longer love one another because they compared their neighbours unfavourably with the beautiful king. For the good of his citizens, then, the young king had to wear an ugly mask.

Do you understand the significance of this story? Could human relations and falling in love and the world itself exist if we were able to see our God in all his majesty? He too had to wear an ugly mask by taking the form of sin-sick humanity. In the person of Jesus, God appeared among us with ‘no form nor comeliness’. He had ‘no beauty that we should desire him…We esteemed him not’ (Isaiah 53.2-3). Thus he made it possible for us to esteem one another’s beauty and desire after the love of our fellows.

Think about this story. It might help you somewhat to make peace with the existence of evil in a world created by a good God.

About being narrow-minded…

About being narrow-minded or broad-minded taken from The Total Blessing # 11 by Richard Wurmbrand

Narrow-mindedness is the object of much scorn……When we pass from jokes to reality, narrow-mindedness becomes a virtue. In fact, the Bible endorses it. Paul was so convinced that the gospel he preached was sacrosanct that he wrote: ‘Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel to you than that which we preached unto you, let him be accursed’ (Gal 1.8). He would not have joined ecumenical councils with those who thought differently in theological matters. He would consider them ‘accursed’. Today, believers are far removed from this narrow thinking. Most consider broad-mindedness a virtue to be praised.

John the Evangelist knew he had the doctrine, besides which there was no other. Therefore he wrote, ‘ If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine [of Christ], receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed’ (2 John 10). He even adds (v 11), ‘He that bids him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds’. He left little room for an ecumenical council. It is told that Cerinthus, a heretic, once entered the house where John was bathing, and the latter left his bath naked and fled, not wishing to be under one roof with a man of another doctrine.

Luther warned, ‘The peacock has the garb of an angel and the song of a devil. He is the true picture of a heretic. All heretics look pious, even angelic’. He was so narrow-minded that he refused to shake hands with Zwingli, with whom he differed about the real presence of Christ in holy communion.

God is all-embracing, but his messengers have always been one-sided. Rarely have they been capable of teamwork. It could scarcely be otherwise, because they have stood alone. Steel columns need no wooden props. God’s messengers are pillars in his Church, supporting but unsupported. They can afford to be narrow-minded because they need no one’s approval.

Narrow-mindedness does have its negative side, however. Christians are taught to be hospitable. We should be hospitable toward ideas, too, not only toward people, because truth can never be the possession of a single individual. The Church embraces all kinds of individuals, with all sorts of experiences, in many diverse cultures, throughout the centuries. It is obvious they cannot all think alike in every detail.

But we proceed at our peril if we avoid narrow-mindedness when we seek to pass through a strait gate and walk on a narrow way. On the other hand, narrow-mindedness can also hurt the truth.

It is wrong to be narrow-minded and also wrong to be broad-minded. The ‘I’ that asserts itself should not be. I have to deny myself, denying also the ‘I’ that denies. As a person embraced by their beloved is no longer conscious of an ‘I’ and a ‘you’, so the being embraced by God is neither narrow nor broad-minded. We lose our ‘mindedness’ in the holy embrace in which the Eternal and the believer have become one. Here all distinctions between broad and narrow-mindedness lose their significance, along with the distinction between selfishness and unselfishness.

Why should we not be selfish when our self is God? Why should we not be unselfish when nothing remains of our former self, so that we have nothing to lose?

The one true doctrine, the one true gospel on which Paul and John insisted was this doctrine of oneness with God. Away with the speculations of righteous men about a God outside themselves!These speculations, of narrow-minded bigot or broad-minded liberal, will be false if there is no union with God, in whom problems and divergences disappear.

Therefore don’t be narrow-minded, and don’t be broad-minded either. Don’t be! Blessed is the person whose epitaph is like that of a saint of old: ‘Hic jacet nemo’. (Here lies no one.) Christ is all.

Love

Love The way to Victory

We see immediately in the title Kenneth Hagin’s objective – victory; we find that this means victory over the world, the flesh and the devil. He says this:-

If we’ll just listen to the Bible and make the love of God our great quest and develop the love of God on the inside, we’ll prosper in every area of life.

He says this in the context of marriage but he applies it to faith in general; “faith which works by love”. If his faith is not working the first thing he would check up on is whether he is walking in love, so this is the background to this straightforward but strong book.

Kenneth Hagin is very sound and  good within his sphere! As I look through the book to determine what to say about it I am struck with how simple but how deep and practical it is; if you were going to choose a book outside of the Bible for new believers perhaps  this would be it! As is his practice, he talks about basic Biblical principles and illustrates with incidents from his life; everything he says, he does.

The first chapter concerns the ‘Characteristics of God’s Love’. Turning to 1 Cor 13, love is defined; then two very important points are made, firstly that love is a fruit of the Spirit, and therefore it grows, and it grows by exercise, and secondly, this love is within us, it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and therefore we just have to learn to let it dominate us. What do you do if someone wrongs you; well you don’t retaliate but ‘contrariwise’ bless (the last chapter of the book is on loving your enemies). Very good examples are given. ‘Divine love is a peacemaker’. Turning back to the subject of faith, he says this:-

You’ll never be able to believe God fully until you understand and walk in the God-kind of love. Why? Because God is love and the God-kind of faith works by love.

Unfortunately this is something that can be rather pushed to the side  in some versions of teaching about faith.

Chapter 2 is titled Divine Love: the evidence of the New Birth. ‘We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren…‘ 1 Jn 3.14. What a plea there is here to walk in love! Here is Hagin:-

..we’ve got to realize…the Holy Spirit can be in your heart in the new birth, but if you don’t allow the love of God to dominate you, you’ll just walk on in carnality and be defeated.

The next chapter is about love as the law of the new covenant. Hagin retells a wonderful story of a woman who was a fairly new Christian and very worried about her son, a lad who was running with the wrong crowd and wouldn’t do what his mother said. She wanted prayer, but Hagin said this was not action he would take, it would be fruitless; instead she had to do something. Quit worrying and start surrounding him with love. Don’t pester him about going to church, just leave him alone, but every time you think of him fill your thoughts with love and how God is going to transform him; commit him entirely to God…. A year later Hagin was back at the same church and a smiling, unrecognizable person approached him – the same lady. She said it was difficult at first to stop worrying, but she did and surrounded her son with love. One Sunday morning after a late night and 2 hours sleep, the son announced he was coming to church; she amazed herself by saying that he didn’t want to do that, he needed his rest, but he came anyway…….and was soon a transformed boy, on fire for God.

And so Hagin continues. He talks about the importance of forgiveness, benefits of walking in love, how not walking in love can affect your health, about judging yourself and loving your enemies. This a good foundational book!