“He is originally good, good of himself, which nothing else is; for all creatures are good only by participation and communication from God.  He is essentially good; not only good, but goodness itself: the creature’s good is a superadded quality, in God it is his essence.  He is infinitely good; the creature’s good is but a drop, but in God there is an infinite ocean or gathering together of good.  He is eternally and immutably good, for he cannot be less good than He is; as there can be no addition made to Him, so no subtraction from Him.”

 

(quote by Thomas Manton; used by Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God, “The Goodness of God,” Chpt. 11, p57, 1930)

The Goodness of God

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Inspired by the Old Testament

Two weeks ago, I sat with my bible and a cup of Assam tea while reading through the Old Testament (OT) book of Deuteronomy.  I am following a chronological reading plan by George Guthrie.  When I came across this verse, the wheels in my mind began turning:

“To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it” (Deuteronomy 10:14, NIV).

I told myself that this passage sounds very familiar, especially the portion that I placed in boldface type.  My gut told me that there was a Psalm that used this wording.  One of things that I love about living in the Twenty-first Century is the accessibility of information over the internet.  Because I wanted to be sure about my hunch, I searched for the phrase “…everything in it” on the Bible Gateway website.  Sixteen verses came up, but only one fit the bill:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in itthe world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters” (Psalm 24:1-2, NIV).

Thus begins one of the most glorious Psalms about the majesty and holiness of the Lord.  Most OT scholars worth their salt attribute the twenty-fourth Psalm to King David.  His Spirit-inspired words sprang up from the pages of Deuteronomy penned by Moses, whom many in Judaism still view as Israel’s greatest prophet.  When David wrote the twenty-fourth Psalm, the only Bible in existence in his day was the Pentateuch or the Torah, also known as the five books of Moses.  Why is that significant?  Permit me to go one step further before answering that question.  I am a New Covenant, Gentile believer instead of an Old Covenant, Israelite like King David.  My Bible not only includes the Torah, but thirty-four additional OT books and twenty-seven that make up the New Testament (NT).

I have in my possession the fullest account of God’s divine revelation.  It is greater than what King David had in his day; however, rarely do I find an ounce of inspiration from the Torah like him.  Think about this for a minute.  King David wrote a worship song based on reading through the Torah.  I suppose that sounds like a miracle all by itself.  Here is more evidence that Israel’s greatest king drew inspiration from the Torah.  He begins the twenty-fourth Psalm with the independent clause, “the earth is the Lord’s.”  When one searches for it using Bible Gateway, the only other OT reference is in the book of Exodus.  This is what it says: “Moses said to [Pharaoh], ‘As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the Lord.  The thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth is the Lord‘s'” (Exodus 9:29, ESV).

It is clear from the context of the Exodus passage that God’s majesty is on display to Pharaoh and all of Egypt in his restraint of the thunder and hail.  In fact, God’s purpose behind the ten plagues had been to demonstrate his sovereign control over creation to the nations of Israel and Egypt and its ruler, Pharaoh (Exodus 7:2-5, ESV).  King David saw God’s glory jump out at him as he read about Israel’s redemption and deliverance from the hand of Pharaoh and the Egyptians.  The first verse of his Psalm, “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” is essentially a combination of the two references found in Exodus 9:29 and Deuteronomy 10:14.  King David is a remarkable poet, but he did not come up with that verse.  God spoke it first to Moses.  Has King David understood and seen more with less revelation than I have?  For me, large portions of the Torah are downright tedious, especially the tribal lists in Numbers or the details concerning the Levitical sacrifices.

To be fair, I’m beginning to see immense spiritual value in the book of Leviticus, which eluded me in the past.  The jury is still out on whether or not I could find enough inspiration like David to compose a poem in praise to the Lord.  Maybe I am being a little too hard on myself.  It is true that I live in a different period within redemptive history than King David.  He lived thousands of years before Christ, and I live thousands of years after him.  This partially explains my disconnect with the OT let alone the Torah; however, the simple fact is that both King David and me worship the same Lord.  One day we will sit together at the Lord’s table in the consummated Kingdom (Matthew 8:11, ESV).  It seems to me that I need to start seeing God’s glory in the Torah like my spiritual ancestor.  The apostle Paul states on two occasions in first Corinthians that the OT contains necessary instruction for believers in the New Covenant era (1 Corinthians 10:6 & 11, ESV).

Those thirty-nine books of the OT are as divinely inspired as the twenty-seven that comprise the new.  The Torah is every bit as inerrant, authoritative, sufficient, necessary, and clear as the gospel accounts of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  Dr. Luke reminds all readers of his gospel that Jesus asserted the OT’s divine inspiration and disclosure of his life and ministry to two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, ESV).  Before he ascended to the right hand of the Father, Christ reminded the eleven apostles of the same truth that he told the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “…everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled…” (Luke 24:44 & 46, ESV).

King David saw God’s glory in the Torah, which became the basis for his twenty-fourth Psalm.  The apostle Paul taught the Corinthian believers that the OT contained vital truths for their growth and life in the church.  Jesus revealed to his disciples and apostles that the OT proclaims him.  This brings to mind another key point.  When Jesus spoke his words to the apostles, the OT was all they had to read and study.  Those Corinthian believers most likely had access to some of the first books of the NT; however, their Bible was not complete as it consisted mainly of the OT.  It was their Bible for worship and study about their new lives in Christ.  Consider this statement for a moment.  The first Christians taught the gospel from the OT.  Does that sound strange?  I think it does, and it needs to be rectified.

“Democrats who have been filibustering the Senate’s consideration of legislation to combat human trafficking cited concerns with language they claimed would greatly expand the reach of Hyde Amendment restrictions on abortion.  But when John Cornyn (R-Tex.), chief sponsor of the trafficking bill and Senate majority whip, offered a compromise that would seem to answer their stated objections, it was rejected out of hand.  Perhaps Democrats thought they could score political points, or maybe they didn’t want to anger their traditional allies in the abortion rights lobby.  Either way, it became depressingly clear that what they weren’t thinking about was the needs of vulnerable people, mostly young women and girls, who are the victims of sex trafficking.”

 

(The Washington Post Editorial Board, The Washington Post, “Democrats are the New Party of No,” 20 March 2015)

When Politics Trumps the Vulnerable and the Oppressed

“From its inception, however, Christianity was a marginalized not a culturally powerful or influential religion. Our Prophet, Priest, and King was crucified as a common criminal outside the city walls.  He called us to take up our cross and follow him.  Often that cross requires us to be culturally marginal.  It’s not easy nor always pleasant to follow the Savior who had nowhere to lay his head but he has made a promise to his people:

‘And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life’ (Matt 19:29)

Heaven may not be a cocktail party at AAR but it will do.”

 

(R. Scott Clark, “Presbyterians and Homosexuals Together: The Crisis of Christ and Culture,” 18 March 2015)

The Cost of Being Christ’s Disciple

The Legacy of Margaret Sanger

Yesterday, one of the main outlets for all things Evangelical, Christianity Today, published an article by Rachel Marie Stone, who posted her piece on the blog Thin Places.  Stone attempts to redeem or repristinate Margaret Sanger’s legacy, which I find rather appalling.  Before I proceed any further, I want to express up front that I am setting aside the ethical and/or moral considerations regarding the different methods of birth control and contraception.  In my mind, those are secondary concerns.  For example, the ethical and moral controversy surrounding the use of abortifacients is a matter of deep concern to me; however, my primary focus is Margaret Sanger herself.

Stone’s piece turns a blind eye toward Ms. Sanger’s staunch advocacy of eugenics.  In my own research into Ms. Sanger, I have come to the preliminary conclusion that her advocacy of birth control and contraception grows out of her embrace of eugenics.  Some might be asking what in the world is eugenics?  Webster’s Dictionary defines this term as the science that tries to improve the human race by controlling which people become parents.  Eugenics blossomed during the late 19th Century due to Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory under the moniker of “survival of the fittest.”  This was known as Social Darwinism.  The renowned British philosopher, ethicist, and critic, John Stuart Mill, developed eugenics alongside his utilitarian ethic.

For those who unfamiliar with utilitarianism, Webster’s Dictionary offers a couple of definitions: first, it is a belief system that asserts that a morally good action is one that helps the greatest number of people; and second, the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number.  Another way to describe this perspective is the greater good.  For example, when societies, cultures, or peoples institute laws and ethics, the basis for their implementation, according to the utilitarian ethic, rests upon achieving the greatest good for the greatest possible number.  If a law or ethic or policy fails in this endeavor, then it is to be rejected outright.

Rather than pontificate endlessly on eugenics and utilitarianism, I will let Ms. Sanger’s own words reveal to us how she sees these things playing out in government and society.  On January 17, 1932, she gave a speech before the New History Society titled “My Way to Peace.”  New York University’s website is the source for it.  I found the following portion most illuminating:

“(d) apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization, and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.

“(e) to insure the country against future burdens of maintenance for numerous offspring as may be born of feeble-minded parents, the government would pension all persons with transmissible disease who voluntarily consent to sterilization.

“(f) the whole dysgenic [or biologically defective] population would have its choice of segregation or sterilization.”

Now, allow those three points to sink for a bit.  They came straight out of the horse’s mouth.  The late Ms. Sanger is responsible for Planned Parenthood, which is the legacy that nearly everyone knows without blinking.  It is the story that receives the most airplay so to speak.  Over time, it drowns out the real darkness contained within her views.  Ms. Sanger’s speech that I quoted from is one example among many where she discusses population control (a euphemism for eugenics) and ways to implement it.

When I reflect on the above quoted points, either d, e, or f, the question that arises is who determines the population segments that are tainted, feeble-minded, or biologically defective?  Remember now, eugenics is about purifying the human race by selecting only those most capable at strengthening the human race.  On the other side of the coin is utilitarianism, which seeks to employ only those actions that achieve the greatest good for the greatest possible number.  It seems to me that those deemed tainted, feeble-minded, or biologically deficient, will be left out and deservedly so based on eugenics and utilitarianism.  Both of these fly in the face of the twin Biblical truths that God created human beings in his own image, and they bear his image.

For Christianity Today to run this piece by Ms. Stone displays at best a poor lack of judgment, or worse, the mindset of some of its editorial staff.  Eugenics poses a serious threat to those who value the sanctity of life. Every human being on this planet lacks intrinsic worth in the light of this worldview.  Eugenics has no place in the church, or in society or in our nation’s policies.  In my mind, Ms. Sanger’s true legacy has to do with masking a reprehensible science in the name of birth control and contraception.  She was no friend to the poor, the down-and-out, and the African-American.  I will end by sharing the following quote, which is an eye-opening example of Ms. Sanger’s attitude toward the African-American:

“The ministers work is also important and also he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach.  We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

  • Commenting on the ‘Negro Project’ in a letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, December 10, 1939. – Sanger manuscripts, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, North Hampton, Massachusetts. Also described in Linda Gordon’s Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1976.

“Let us now consider some of the properties of the Divine decrees.  First, they are eternal.  To suppose any of them to be made in time is to suppose that some new occasion has occurred; some unforeseen event or combination of circumstances has arisen, which has induced the Most High to form a new resolution.  This would argue that the knowledge of the Deity is limited, and that He is growing wiser in the progress of time–which would be horrible blasphemy.  No man who believes that the Divine understanding is infinite, comprehending the past, the present, and the future, will ever assent to the erroneous doctrine of temporal decrees.  God is not ignorant of future events which will be executed by human volitions; He has foretold them in innumerable instances, and prophecy is but the manifestation of his eternal prescience.”

 

(Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God, “The Decrees of God,” Chpt. 2, p 14, first printing 1930, Baker 1985)

The Erroneous Doctrine of Temporal Decrees

Indian Lake, NY

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Upstate New York is very pretty and very rugged.  The people who live in the Adirondack region are built of sterner stuff.  When it snows, it falls in feet not inches.  One of my younger brothers lives here with his wife and son.  The actual town is Indian Lake.  In the photo, my brother’s house is in the background along with my blue rental car. This is what March looks like in the Adirondacks.  It was snowing lightly earlier this morning.  The temperature was about 23 or 25 degrees.

My nephew wanted to go for a walk, so his parents obliged him and I joined them.  It is so quiet in this area that one can hear the wind brush over the mountains and trees.  After that, the snow would fall a little heavier.  The wind picked up and knifed through our layers.  It is cold air, but fresh air.  No city has air this good; although, enjoying it requires braving the elements.  I do not think it is possible to prepare for this kind of cold.  One must experience it.

I have experienced city cold, but mountain cold is very different.  The latter tests the mettle of a person.  Cities make sure to alleviate the problems as best they can by plowing, salting, and sanding the roads. These things take place in the mountains, but the locals do it.  The logistics of city workers arriving into the Adirondacks is not always reliable due to the conditions of the mountan roads.  The freeways and state roads are well maintained, but the residential roads can be dicey.

The locals help each other in the neighborhoods with plows.  It is a Do it yourself mentality.  Take the bull by the horns and turn it into a steer.  I wonder how I would do in this environment.  It is conceivable that I would turn chicken inside of a year.  The truth is that I do not know how I would perform.  My brother does well, but he is fortunate to be with a woman from this area.  She knows all of the ins and outs about living in the Adirondacks.  It is in her blood.

My nephew is in phenomenal hands.  He has parents who love and care for him in the midst of a harsh region.  I found myself struggling to keep my balance on the snowy driveway while my nephew walked along like it was business as usual.  I guess the sunny weather of South Florida and Southern California make whimps out of people.  Now, I must say that the tropical humidity of Miami is downright brutal;   however, there is something different with winter in Indian Lake.

I lived through Hurricane Andrew and other lesser tropical storms.  These come and go with advanced warning.  Winter is a season that stays and stays and stays in Indian Lake.  The folks in this town experience maybe four months of mild weather between June and September.  Eight months of cold sounds rough and wearying.  I commend my fellow Americans for braving this climate.  From my perspective, one needs to really, really, really love the area in order to make a living.  See you soon Indian Lake.