January 2006


In this installment of the “two or more part series” (please hold the laughter) of reactions to A.B. Caneday’s “Veiled Glory…” (a chapter contribution to “Beyond the Bounds”), I’d like to say a few words about types and truth.

The thought that has been in the back of my mind for the past few weeks focuses on the manifestation of spiritual truth in physical reality by God. Caneday talks about God making man in his own image, and that image being the means by which we can understand something about God. God specifically applied certain characteristics to us that are his own. Thought, emotion, passion, being, appreciation for beauty, creative impulses, etc. Whereas we are not like God in his perfection, there is some image of him that he made us in (or in us).

Thinking about image, I considered the subject of spiritual truth present directly and analogously in natural things. For instance, Jesus in parables appeals to all manner of natural phenomena that most of us can relate to. Was he just really really clever in finding these analogies?

No. I think since Jesus created and sustains all things, he intentionally designed the universe to reflect those truths. So instead of plants having some chiefly pragmatic reason for growing the way they do, they grow primarily to illustrate spiritual growth.

Or as another example, when Jesus is explaining spiritual birth to Nicodemus (in John 3), he says that the “…wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”(ESV) Did Jesus produce that illustration “on the spot” if you will? I think while he could have, the analogy is inherent in God’s creation of wind such that it will illustrate how he made spiritual birth to function.

I was able to put this concept in words for myself for the first time after reading Canaday. It is an exciting moment to understand something new that is and feels quite old.

Next time, Lord willing, I’ll discuss some examples that highlight the import of this concept and perhaps explore some more examples.

Yesterday I read Justin Taylor’s post on abortion here.

I also recently listened to John Piper’s sermon “Love Your Unborn Neighbor”, that you can find here, or read it here.

This is obviously about more than abortion, murder, and greed. How can I live oblivious to a holocaust? How can I pass by as the levite and priest passed by the wounded stranger? Why do I not love my unborn neighbors?

I need Christ. They need Christ.

(Hat-Tip: Justin Taylor)

“Hear my prayer, O Lord, let not my soul faint under thy correction: nor let me faint in confessing unto thee thine own mercies, by which thou hast drawn me out of all mine own most wicked courses: that thyself mightest from hence forward grow sweet unto me, beyond all those allurements which heretofore I followed; and that I might most entirely love thee, and lay hold upon thy hand with all the powers of my heart, that thou mightest finally draw me out of all danger of temptation.”

(Taken from W.Watts’ 1631 translation of St. Augustine’s Confessions)

A brief compendium of quotes from church leaders on cessationism from Faith and Practice:

Cessationism’s Noble Lineage, by Nathan Busenitz

This is indeed a startling consensus, and quite a noble lineage. I am very thankful at this point that the internet (and blogosphere) exists and so much information is available so rapidly. As I am investigating what the Bible says on the subject of spiritual gifts, and reading what many of my heros have written concerning it, I am daily challenged.

(HT: Eric Nielsen)

“A company of travellers fall into a pit: one of them gets a passenger to draw him out. Now he should not be angry with the rest for falling in; nor because they are not yet out, as he is. He did not pull himself out: instead, therefore, of reproaching them, he should shew them pity. . . . A man, truly illuminated, will no more despise others, then Bartimeus, after his own eyes were opened, would take a stick, and beat every blind man he met.”

(Quote from John Newton from Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton, p. 105. as quoted by John Piper)

Recently the debate over the ceasing or continuing of spiritual gifts as in the time of the New Testament Apostles, a.k.a. Cessationism or Continuationism debate, has been all over the blogosphere (Challies w/ Grudem (you’ll find the links to Waldron), From the Head of the Moor, PyroManiac, Fide-O amoung others), and it has been educational to read views from all sides. I was reading 1 Corinthians 13 today and was surprised by what I found in reading and meditating on it.

Consider with me the following:

(starting with verse 2) “…[I]f I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

So far so good right? Love is the chiefly valuable part of exercising prophetic powers and removing mountains, without it we’re just hosers.

(then continuing from verse 8) “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

Notice that Paul says that currently we prophecy and know in part. Also, he says that our knowledge, prophecy, and tongues (speaking) will pass away or cease. It seems as though he is saying the gifts themselves will expire. I stopped at this point and thought, “that doesn’t make sense…while I can accept that prophecy and tongues cease…it does not make sense with knowledge? Won’t we know God more? Why would knowledge cease?” Well, let’s read on:

(continuing with vs 11)“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

This analogy flips the passage back around when we consider the shift from child to adult. As a child understands in a childish way, but a man understands fully (in the analogy.) Paul then presses home the point by highlighting how our knowing of God will deepen at this point (the coming of the ‘perfect’), and with how we will see fully as opposed to seeing darkly through a glass. It seems as though the ceasing and passing away is only applicable to the partial nature of the gifts. This leads me to the following conclusions and questions:

1.) Pre-“perfect” knowledge, prophecy and tongues are “partial.”

2.) Post-“perfect” knowledge, prophecy, and tongues will be in fullness.

3.) The ceasing of these gifts will be the partial component and they will be replaced with fullness of gifts.

4.) Has the “perfect” come?
A.) whether the perfect is Christ in his return, or the Holy Bible in it’s closed canon, the result is still a fullness of these gifts in the presence of the perfect.

5.) This passage says nothing of the experience of these gifts as a metric for determining thier presense in a specific epoch or the time of thier cessation.
A.) I am not saying that there are not other passages that deal with cessation of gifts, but it doesn’t appear to say they will end here, but rather come into greater fullness!
B.) Although, I do find it interesting and educational that Phil Johnson (for whom I have great respect) begins his discussion at this point (specifically that we don’t experience, or shouldn’t claim to experience, the fullness of the spiritual gifts.)

(finally finishing with 14:1) “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

I find it interesting that Paul who clearly had all these gifts in great measure, did not encourage the church at Corinth to look for the perfect and then the complete ceasing of gifts, but encouraged them to earnestly desire gifts as a means of loving the body of Christ. By doing this they were “pursuing love” in action by using the grace God provided in the spiritual gifts.

Now for the provisos:

1) I am not a greek exegete (yet)
2) This is only one passage among many (and only part of Paul’s letter) that deal with spiritual gifts and timing, and is not an exhaustive study.
3) I am apt to make logical errors.
4) I learned these things today and would like to share them, I am not however the sole holder of truth and spiritual enlightenment on this matter, and am eager to be corrected and set in the right if mistaken.

So please comment! 🙂

(all passages here quoted are the ESV, emphasis and brackets my own)

Yes, the price paid for sin was finished with Christ’s death on the cross, and everything in the world goes back to God…
But here I start speaking of something different, of finishing Les Misérables. That French classic, conquered after a month of intense reading (myself being a slow reader), plunged me into the world of Jean Valjean in an attempt to build my vocabulary. It did more than that. Here, I would like to share a little of the world the author opened up to me.
As I closed the volume, I found myself in mediation and trembling. The subject matter of the book is the redeeming of human life from evil to good, of benevolence towards the poor, of virtue, and of death. I disagree with the author, Victor Hugo, on his analysis of man and soft-pedaling of sin in places, and on a few of his theological fineries, but I admire the liberty he takes in unbosoming his heart to the reader. How else can a heart or anything else be corrected, except that it is laid open and allowed to circumspection.
I meditate on the reality of death and what will be said of my life at the end; I wonder, though too lightly, in the fear of God who is ever watching. I soberly take in mind that He is watching right now. Do not mistake me on the fear of God. Some dismiss this as simply being awe or reverance. I take this, from my own studies, my own zeal, possibly my own youth and lack of experience, and possibly from a gracious shedding of a truth by God, as being true, yet incomplete, as it lacks the substance of the very word that defines it, namely, FEAR, the synonyms of which are terror, dread, etc. I will address these shortly, though by no means compose an irrefutable proof.
Hugo brought back the reality that my life will soon, in mist like fashion, dissipate. What will await me on the side of that irreturnable gulf between the living and the dead? No human in history, crossing that chasm, has come back (with exceptions given to a few prophets- Moses and Elijah- and to Christ himself). With each turn of the gears and tick of the clock, the one way passage across the bridge that affords no returns looms nearer. And what stands there?
I AM is there, as the passer is shuttled from the bridge to the foot of a majestic throne, under a gaze that melts the mountains like wax. I think the reflex under that gaze would be described in fear, terror, trembling, or something similar. That is why I say that fear of God is more than simply awe, but more appropriately a trembling of the limbs, a weakness of the bones, a collapse of the body, and fainting.
As thoughts of fear, God, and eternity arise, suddenly the plans on Friday night are not so important, and suddenly the earlier insult carries the weight of a feather, and suddenly I must take into account how I am spending my time, my money, and my words.

And so, all of human history and purpose ties into God and the finished sacrificial act of Jesus Christ. Death and life are to one purpose, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for that is the WHOLE duty of man.”
-Ecclesiastes 12:13
And the greatest of God’s commandments… To LOVE- God and your neighbor.

Less Miserably,
Larry

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