Tag Archives: Salvation

Immaturity

This is certainly the most difficult thing for me to write. If I say that someone needs humility, that sounds awfully proud doesn’t it?  If I say that someone has immature faith that sounds even worse. After all, I’m young yet; I shouldn’t lecture anyone on anything other than Chemistry, the thing I know best. Perhaps that would be good advice for writers, movie stars, and celebrities of every sort. When these people are new Christians whose time and energy is spent on their primary work, I think we can forgive a little Spiritual immaturity. However, there is one type of spiritual immaturity that I must comment on. I am reminded of it every time I read Andrew Klavan talking about homosexuality. He is an author I admire, and he deserves it; he tells gripping stories with real insight into the nature of man. But there seems to be a disconnect on this topic. He argues quite persuasively that Christians should not participate in censorship, using persuasion instead, and here I couldn’t agree more. However, he displays his lack of discernment, or his lack of understanding in articles like this one:  Is Jesus Against Kooky Gay Guys?

It seems in this case that Klavan is demanding that Christians who think homosexuality is a sin shut up. He wants us to censor ourselves because (if I gather correctly over several articles like the one linked, where this exact topic is slightly tangential.): ‘From my reading and studying of the Bible, Jesus is concerned with re-directing your soul through him back toward its creator. Your soul, not someone else’s. He’s very specific about that. If you’re passing judgment on another guy’s soul, you’re thinking about the wrong thing.’ And because he has nice gay friends who are really happy together and he doesn’t think God forbids it, or at least, it isn’t that bad.

For the first, immature Christians are very obsessed by the ‘Do not judge’ passages. (In the article above, Klavan refers to the parable about the speck in your neighbor’s eye.) I find this also fairly prevalent in the Christian Novel Contest I help judge … 🙂 … Here is the problem. If we ‘do not judge’ as Mr. Klavan seems to mean, then are we to never say something is a sin? Are we never to say to someone: This or That is a sin? I certainly don’t suggest that we incessantly tell non-Christians that this specific thing is a sin. They must be first convinced that sin is real and that it is a threat to their eternity before they can even care what specific things might also be sins. But if, as Christians, we cannot point to behaviors, actions, or thoughts of our own, or of others, and say ‘This is certainly a sin.’ Then how, should sanctification proceed? If a Christian who through study of scripture and consultation with those who know more than himself becomes convinced that God abhors homosexual behavior then should he  censor himself? Or should he speak up?

And here is where a level of maturity is required. Simply because I believe that homosexuality is sinful does NOT imply that I find it the only sin, or the worst sin. Strangely enough, I hold to the traditional merciful Lutheran teaching that homosexuality is no worse a sin than adultery. They are both sexual perversions, and, without repentance and faith in Christ, they both lead to damnation. It is harder to have one sin be worse than another when they both lead the soul to damnation. But guess what: other sins known to lead to damnation include pride, avarice, sloth… the 7 deadly sins certainly. And since I am not a Catholic, I do not see anywhere any distinction between mortal and venial sins. I see it nowhere in Scripture, so I do believe that gossiping and the desire to commit a sin, even if never acted upon is worthy of damnation. (If those aren’t venial sins, my Catholic friends will correct me, but the point remains the same.)

But here is the thing, if all sins lead to damnation, then when a Christian points out that homosexuals are sinning, especially ones who are open to the message of Christ and Him crucified, showing someone their sin is the first step to sharing the Gospel. As for the people who speak specifically stridently about homosexuality, (Some of them are obviously, horrifically wrong: Westboro Baptist jumps into the mind). many people single out this sin since it is currently the one that is on a campaign to be normalized as ‘acceptable’ not just throughout  the secular culture, but in the church as well. And on this front, Mr. Klavan is on the wrong side. Jesus does stand against normalized sin in his Church.

And this brings up the other immaturity so rampant among the newly Christian, and the denominations that have deserted their heritage; forgetting to hate the sin. Being a follower of Christ, an imitator of Christ, means to do your very best to love what Christ loves and reject what He rejects. Christ certainly loves the sinner, but you cannot love the sinner without rejecting the sin. Christ, the only one who was qualified to cast the first stone and does not, certainly loves the sinner. Then what happens?

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

He doesn’t just stop at ‘Neither do I condemn you.’ He also commands her to go and sin no more. He never says that her adultery was acceptable, or not that bad. He forgives her sin, and tells her not to do it again.

And that, that is the other side of the coin. We must search out what God himself despises as sinful behavior, and recognize it as such. And if we find ourselves in disagreement with God, well, that too is sinful and we must repent and learn to submit our opinions to the knowledge of God. So, for the many Christians who find themselves in disagreement with traditional church teaching about what constitutes a sin should do something about it. I do not suggest that they must automatically accept the traditional teaching, (again, I’m not a Catholic) but they absolutely must take it into consideration. This is especially true if for almost two thousand years, every Christian group taught something was sinful. This includes those that are schismatic, even those considered to be heretical amongst each other. In this case, the weight of that consensus should demand a careful, prayerful consideration of what the Scriptures do indeed say on the topic. And if you find that you disagree with the Scriptures, remember that you are the one that is wrong.

The belief that God permits homosexuality, so popular in many modern denominations, is a few decades old aberration out of almost two hundred decades of Church history. It also happens to be most popular in denominations that have just as recently abandoned the teaching or doctrine that the Scripture is the inerrant Word of God, and also, frequently the teaching or doctrine that there is only one path to God. It seems from my point of view that these churches are confounded by heresy, and their acceptance of homosexuality is perhaps the least of their problems.

There, I hope that I don’t come across as prideful, but the scriptures say that:

 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

So just between you, reader, and me  🙂

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The Impossible Red Car (of DOOM!)

Update: Due to the claim made in the comments below, this post has been updated somewhat. (A picture has been deleted) That might make the point seem less cogent, but perhaps not. Maybe it wasn’t so coherent in the first place…

Anyway: to start off with a good quote about what is possible and what isn’t.

First, not everything that exists in the imagination can be achieved. Wishful thinking is no guide to policy. Just because you desire something does not mean it will or can be achieved. The whole purpose of human logic is to estimate the odds and chances.

Second, though, within limits change of a positive nature is possible. That’s why one has to experiment and try. On these decisions and deeds many lives depend. The decision of American colonists to take on the strongest power in the world, Britain, in 1776 and that of Israeli leaders to declare independence in 1948 were risky ventures. Yet although outsiders might judge them more so, those involved realized that the attempt was not beyond the possibility of success.

But, again, you have to understand, with unflinching realism, the problems and the risks involved. This judgment is not a matter of ideology, of set and predetermined and unwavering blind belief. At a certain point, ideology gets in the way.

About so many things, moderns, especially liberals, wish to only try the impossible. They wish to change the nature of man, or reorder society like Mao in the Great Leap Forward. (And they want to be judged for their intentions, rather than their results… another childish characteristic.)

Mao’s stipulated purpose was to mobilize the entire population to transform China into a socialist powerhouse — producing both food and industrial goods — much faster than might otherwise be possible. This would be both a national triumph and an ideological triumph, proving to the world that socialism could triumph over capitalism.

That is from an article comparing several governmental interventions, project that tyrants of semi-tyrants plunged into to do the impossible. (and to take power and such.)

I also suspect that it is a remarkably similar idea that makes people believe that they can be good enough to deserve salvation… In any case, remember: You cannot do the impossible. You might be able to do something that most people think is impossible… which is an entirely different proposition.

 

Prayer

I was reading an article: The Collapse of the Liberal Church and was struck by something at the end. First, however, I was struck by the very nature of the piece. It is not very popular to discuss the death of churches that have abandoned preaching Christ and Him crucified. This article specifically notes the lack of prayer in the church.

In the past few years, Mr. Ewart (A retired pastor) has spent time hanging out with evangelicals – people who actually talk about loving Jesus. He admires their personal, emotional connection to God. Lately, he has even started praying. Perhaps he could pray for the church in which he spent his life to stop its self-immolation. But it’s probably too late.

This is a pastor of the Canadian Anglican church, and lately (retired now) he has begun to pray. Liberal churches like this are dead, and any churches that are now emulating this are terminally ill. the only thing that can heal the sick churches and resurrect the dead ones is the power of Christ in the Gospel, and of course, prayer.

This led me to think of the excellent post by my friend medievalotaku on the topic of prayer. While I do think here and there in the article he confounds together Justification (passive faith that saves) and Sanctification (Active faith in love for Christ) a bit,  it is certainly true that without prayer, the Christian is willfully cutting himself off from God, which is highly dangerous and to be repented. However, medievalotaku discusses the topic thoroughly and you definitely should read his advice on prayer.

Remember that the unassisted human will or intellect will fall without God’s aid.  So, all serious falls may be attributed to people trusting too much in themselves or being too proud to beg.  (The Latin verb for to pray, orare, also means beg.)  Remember Martin Luther’s last words: “We are beggars.  This is true.”  And especially in our reliance on God, nothing is more true.  Nor should we despair of gaining the object of our prayers, especially if we pray “(1) for [ourselves]; (2) things necessary for salvation; (3) piously; and (4) with perseverance.”  (From St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica Second Part of the Second Part, Question 83, Article 15)  Did not Christ say: “And of which of you that is a father shall his son ask a loaf, and he give him a stone? or a fish, and he for a fish give him a serpent?  Or if he shall ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13)

It is a thoughtful and excellent exposition, to it is worth reading the whole thing. (all those links are for the same page 🙂 seriously go read it 🙂 )

Hypocrite

A very common accusation made against Christians is that they are such horrible hypocrites, why cannot they just be honest and allow everyone to peacefully life in their own ideas of morality. Of course, who is a hypocrite actually depends on how you define the word. I am afraid most people who make this accusation are not even attempting to use it as anything other than an insult. These people we will ignore, why defend yourself against the charge of being a poopy-head?

However there are people who legitimately believe that Christian, and anyone who believes in an objective morality, are hypocrites, and who say it, not as an insult to distract but as a legitimate objection. After all, a hypocrite is a liar and a cheat, if only they were honest. For all these people there are two actual definitions of the word that are useful. (This is from Merriam- Webster online, from mostly memory.) 1. A person who pretends to be virtuous or religious and is really not, and 2. A person who acts in contradiction to his stated beliefs.

Most people who argue against Christianity in this vein mean definition number two, however it is not impossible for someone to believe that every single Christian who has ever lived was just pretending. But, since someone who believes that no one actually believes Christianity (despite the thousands and perhaps even millions who have died rather than stop ‘pretending’) cannot be convinced it is useless to try.

However, the last point, that Christians act in contradiction to their beliefs is true. This accusation is thrown around as if a grand discovery by atheists, but most pastor and priests, most theologians through history, the Church fathers, and St. Paul all could have told him this was the case.  The accusation ‘you don’t practice what you preach!’ is an uninformed outside view of Christianity. Of course we do not practice what we preach. That we cannot practice what we preach is the central message of what we call the ‘Law’ which convicts us of our sins and points out our need for a savior. That every week Christians are beset by temptations, and commit sins, even horrible and vile sins, is no surprise to Christians.

We preach that God requires perfection, not some Olympic judge’s idea of perfection, but real perfection: perfection in thought, word, and deed. So, we expect every single Christian to be a hypocrite in the second definition. That is why we need salvation from Jesus Christ who was perfection for us.

And so, to those who say ‘At least I am not a hypocrite.’ Or ‘At least he’s honest.’ I have one thing to say: ‘At least I am a hypocrite!’ (I am also honest about the fact that I am sinful. But that is not what people mean when they say ‘At least he’s honest.’) At least I have a rule to live by!

This all reminds me of the different way that politicians get treated depending on their party affiliation. If a democrat has a male prostitution ring busted in his basement, or abandons a drunk girl to drown in his car , or has sex with the interns (you know that one), the reaction is entirely different that if a Republican is caught in a sex scandal. The republican gets ostracized by society, the democrat (for occasionally much worse things.) end up being respected members of their caucus. The entire difference is that somehow, being a hypocrite definition #2 has become one of the worst crimes in many people’s minds rather than the natural states of everyone who tries to be better than they are. Ultimately, every human being is sinful, every human being does bad things, and some try to do better and tell others they should try to do better… and they are hypocrites.

Christians preach about what people should do for two reasons: the secondary reason is to guide them in their lives of faith into being better people, the second and most important reason is to remind everyone that they need Jesus Christ, his death and his resurrection to be perfection for them.

This great article is related to the idea of perfection and salvation and titled: Should we stone abortion clinicians?  

Everyone needs reconciliation. Tough guys are victims too. Bullies, gang bangers, drug dealers, prostitutes, murderers – they are hurting and empty inside. They are enslaved to their desires.They need serious healing. We tend to overlook their need for redemption, and only wish swift justice upon them. Such desire for justice is good, but not at the expense of mercy. They too can be saved – look at Mary Magdalene or the good thief on the Cross or Saul or Augustine the playboy or Giles the Satanist or Vladimir the rapist and practitioner of human sacrifice – they all have one thing in common: Conversion. And now their names begin with 2 special letters: St. They became saints. That’s the power of the gospel for sinners – it makes them saints. Why the complaining? Why the qualifications? Don’t be a Donatist. Instead, hear the words of Jesus, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Jekyll

The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is perhaps one of the most subtle and truest investigations into human nature and the soul of man to be penned. (Incidentally, a book study for it is available under the book study tab in the collection ‘Monsters and Men’.) It is a little book, but it brings to life what is perhaps the most soul-shivering monster ever: the inner man. (Something I talked about when writing about Agnes Mallory.)  The inner man is Jekyll, stripped of all self control, and filled with every unbridled passion.

However, I actually wish to talk more about the TV series, Jekyll. The series comes from a man I am almost convinced is a true master. He has made the show Sherlock as well. I saw that first. While Sherlock is a complete (and very successful) transplanting of Conan Doyle’s work to modern London, Jekyll is subtler.

I don’t want to give away even the slightest about the show, although the basic conflict is exactly what you think: Jekyll vs. Hyde. The interesting thing I wanted to leave this post with, (other than a recommendation for the stout- hearted to watch the show) is the three instances when someone in the show gives their opinion of what Jekyll is, and the final instance when (not Jekyll but.. you know, Jekyll…) gives his.

Hyde is first said to be ‘a child’ in a super-powered body. And this is part of the truth, he is the un-trained, un-restrained, selfish passions of an occasionally spiteful, cruel, child. He is also then said to be evil… which is also partly true, it is undeniably true. Then again, he is described as love.; and this is the most shocking, and yet, the series makes its case. Love, corrupted human love, does frightening things.

However, the real truth shines when Jekyll/Hyde (they coexist in consciousness at one point) is talking to one of the villains who calls Hyde a psychopath. And at this moment, Jekyll/Hyde makes a comment that could easily be overlooked, but I think was the key to the whole show. He basically says ‘isn’t everyone?’

Hyde is unrestrained, undisguised, human nature, and, though there was not even a hint of God or Christianity in the series, Hyde is fallen man. (Jekyll is also sinful, but Hyde has all the love, passion, pleasure, hate, spite, cruelty that live in the soul of man.) And as such, Hyde too, can be saved.

Also, the first time we meet Hyde, it is superbly done, and terrifying. Be warned, but remember, fallen man is terrifying.

The Mountain

So, my competitor Thalia and I gave ourselves a one day extension, since she was visiting me all weekend. However, since I am done, here is my sonnet. Hers should be up by tomorrow sometime, and I will link to it when it arrives. Here it is: Evil Spirits.

A brief introduction here with a picture of the Collegiate Peaks in Colorado. I worked for a while on a dude ranch in CO, and I was a van driver, and one day a week I got to drive people down to this area for white water rafting. But that’s the end of the correlation between the mountains in this picture and the Mountain in the poem.

And now the poem.

The Mountain:

The mountain stretches its neck to the sky
Colossal and proud without pretention,
Pyramids stand in low imitation
Of its grandeur and might raised up on high,
Higher than even the eagles can fly.
Standing apart it calls my attention,
Singing the song of my heart’s affection,
Calling my spirit. And yet I do cry.
Not yet, not yet, from this world may I turn.
Rebellion and sorrows are piled ‘round
Of billions of people like tinder found,
Who, lacking water, are destined to burn.
My gaze I avert from the mountain’s height,
And, bringing Water, return to the fight.

Agnes Mallory

It has become official; I am on a Klavan kick. I have now read 4-5 of his books, which are all well put together and enjoyable. Some are better than others, of course. The Identity Man was good, Corruption was just ok. The Uncanny was quite fun, as was Hunting Down Amanda, the first unpredictable and the second predictable, but both very enjoyable nonetheless. However, there is this one  that I have found to be excellent literature. I don’t think it falls for certain in any genre, but I suppose it would be classified psychological thriller perhaps. Agnes Mallory, I think, should, and perhaps will be remembered as an actual classic. A book whose content, storytelling, plot are so captivating, so well done: a book whose philosophy strikes so true, that it is can stand the test of time.

The narrator of Agnes is a loathsome man, Harry, who had been a relatively typical boy when he actually knew the eponymous Agnes (who is Agnes Sole as a child).  As one reads the book, you are ‘treated’ to the present day Harry, a man whose respectable outer shell has been removed, who has collapsed in on his own depravities as a recluse. You also get glimmers of the past, when as a child, Harry spent time with Agnes.

As I mentioned before, the narrator (and dare I say, the main character) is an ‘inner man’. He has many characteristics of Dostoevsky’s ‘Underground Man’ (Found as the nameless main character and narrator in Notes From Underground: a chillingly accurate look at the nature of man.) He is entirely self-absorbed, he is petty. He is… unmasked. In all too much of modern writing and movies, the false facade that people put up is considered the worst part of a person which is based upon the idea that societies constraints make a person untrue to themselves. This last is, perhaps ironically, true. The true nature of the man without the socially enforced facade of kindness, selflessness, and forbearance restraining the ‘inner man’ is one entirely consumed by corruption and petty, or not so petty, evil.

The other very important person is Agnes (of course). Agnes is a brilliant sculptor, and also, well, crazy. The book does not give reasons for her insanity, but instead shows glimpses of shadows of reasons. I believe that Agnes is crazy because she cannot reconcile the greatness of mankind with its utter depravity. (Seen in the contradiction between the art of the West and Auschwitz.)

In the end, Harry is unable to save Agnes, and the books real power comes with the realization that even if Harry had been a good an, even if he had not been incessantly thinking of sex, and the repercussions of his moral and political corruption, he would not have been able to save Agnes. In fact, no man or woman could have done so.

I do not want to talk at all about the plot in any more detail than this, the book deserves to be read and found afresh, without someone else’s imprint. Agnes Mallory is spooky, is unpredictable, and beautiful in the paradoxical, sad, beaten, and yet still glorious fashion that depicts so well the state of man: simultaneously made in God’s image and cravenly fallen.  The book is worth the time and worth incomparably more than the money. Give it a read (or two) sometime.