Saturday, October 31, 2009

Repentance

I realized last night that related pieces of information have rattled around in my brain for at least 30 years without my making any correlation. Sometimes I'm slow. Now that you're curious, I'll pose the topic of my enlightenment as a question:

To the prayer of what former king of Judah was Jesus alluding when he told the scribes and Pharisees, "I have not come to call righteous ones, but sinners unto repentance."?

For those who know the answer, pat yourselves on the back. It took me thirty years to figure it out. For the rest of you, I'll simplify the question:

What former king of Judah is credited with the following prayer?

Thou therefore, O Lord, that art the God of the just, hast not appointed repentance to the just, as to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, which have not sinned against thee; but thou hast appointed repentance unto me that am a sinner: for I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea. (King James Version)

If you answered either question correctly, I commend you for your extracurricular reading in the Apocrypha. The scribes and Pharisees had complained that Jesus and his disciples ate with sinners, and Jesus answered them, "No need do the ones being in health have of a physician, but the ones having illness. I have not come to call righteous ones but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:31-32 (AB)

In fairness to scholars, although The Prayer of Manasseh is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 33:18-20, there is no continuity of manuscripts proving that the apocryphal version was penned by Manasseh. Perhaps it was re-inked at a later time from oral tradition. That Jesus alludes to it, justifies our study of it especially if we contemplate why Jesus referenced the prayer.

When Jesus encountered the Jews, he always confronted them with his identity. One technique he used was to quote Scripture to associate himself with his divine nature. Luke 20:42 is an example of this. Jesus asked the scribes,

How do they say the Christ [is] the son of David? And he, David says in the book of the Psalms; "The LORD said to my Lord, sit down at my right hand, until whenever I put your enemies as a footstool for your feet." David calls him Lord, so how is he his son?

Luke 20:41-44 (AB)

Jesus refers to the Christ as being both David's son and David's Lord and then asks the Jews to explain this. Of course, they could not explain it unless they changed their theology. Were they interested in knowing the Truth, or were they content to remain muddled in their belief system? By challenging the knowledge of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus also invited the common man to consider the meaning of the Scriptures.

When he alludes to The Prayer of Manasseh saying, "I have not come to call righteous ones but sinners to repentance," Jesus associates himself with the subject of Manasseh's prayer. Manasseh prays to God saying, You have not appointed repentance to the just, but you have appointed repentance to me because I am a sinner. Who appoints men to repentance? Who calls men to repentance? Through literary allusion, Jesus confronts the Jews with his divine identity. The subtle message that Jesus conveyed was not that the scribes and Pharisees did not need to repent. Rather, Jesus conveyed that he was indeed the one calling upon all men to repent.

Manasseh was a bad character. As king of Judah, he imported foreign gods, built idols, and initiated sacrifices on the high places. God sent the Babylonians to conquer Judah, and they carried Manasseh into prison. Manasseh repented and God restored the kingdom to him. Upon his return to the throne, he destroyed the idols and commanded Judah to worship only the God of Israel. Upon Manasseh's true repentance, God turned from wrath to favor with respect to Manasseh and Judah.

Manasseh seems to make a theological faux pas when he says that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had not sinned against God. However, when we consider Manasseh's words we should realize that the Patriarchs lived prior to the Law and God attributed them righteousness according to their faith (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, James 2:23, Hebrews 11:8-9). No where in the Old Testament does it give an account of the Patriarch's repenting. While each had his faults, their attitudes toward God expressed unwavering faith. Abraham was justified by his faith before the Law was given. Paul explained in Romans 5, "sin is not taken into account when there is no law." Even under the Law an act of faith was credited as righteousness (Psalm 106:31). When Manasseh says that the Patriarch's were not appointed unto repentance, it need not mean that they had never sinned. Rather, he recognizes that their lives exhibited the faithfulness that his own life did not.

So who does Jesus call to repentance—all men everywhere. Paul explained to the Romans that "All have sinned and lack the glory of God." Romans 3:23 (AB) Paul declared to the Athenians at the Areopagus:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. "For in him we live and move and have our being." As some of your own poets have said, "We are his offspring."

Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.

Acts 17:24-31 (NIV)

Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. However, as Paul also said, the same one calling men to repent will someday judge all men. Though Jesus said he came to call men to repentance by faith, he also said he was given authority to judge.

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

John 5:24-30 (NIV)

When we consider that Jesus has both the authority to call men to repentance and to judge the unbelieving, we should acknowledge our condition and pray as Manasseh did, saying, "You have appointed repentance unto me because I am a sinner." Just as Manasseh's repentance turned God's judgment into reconciliation and restoration, our repentance to faith transfers us from realm of death to eternal life in Jesus Christ.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Hitherto shalt thou come

I stumbled upon a speech by President Lyndon Baines Johnson which he delivered at the escalation of the Vietnam War. He asked, "Why must this Nation hazard its ease, and its interest, and its power for the sake of a people so far away?" His answer? US soldiers would fight and die in Vietnam because Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy had committed the US to support the government of South Vietnam. Moreover, Johnson declared, "I intend to keep that promise." His commitment was based upon a moral principle. We as a nation had vowed an oath. "To dishonor that pledge, to abandon this small and brave nation to its enemies, and to the terror that must follow, would be an unforgivable wrong." He elaborated,

We are also there because there are great stakes in the balance. Let no one think for a moment that retreat from Viet-Nam would bring an end to conflict. The battle would be renewed in one country and then another. The central lesson of our time is that the appetite of aggression is never satisfied. To withdraw from one battlefield means only to prepare for the next. We must say in Southeast Asia--as we did in Europe--in the words of the Bible: "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further."

Johnson quotes God's discourse in the Book of Job, Chapter 38. God asked Job whether Job had commanded the oceans, saying, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?" Job 38:11 (KJV)

Perhaps Johnson overreached when he compared his resolve to stop totalitarianism with God's command of nature.

Although Johnson promised, "We will not withdraw, either openly or under the cloak of a meaningless agreement," the Nixon administration did exactly that, and the war in Vietnam ended badly. The Killing Fields of Cambodia followed with millions paying the price of America's capitulation.

Today America's enemy knows we lack resolve. The question they ask is not whether we lack resolve, but how long before we grow tired of war. Iraqis are dying en masse again because US troops have withdrawn from the cities. US leadership equivocates regarding Afghanistan telegraphing the Taliban that they have indeed won; it is only a matter of time. Iran, North Korea, and even Venezuela beat drums of war while America talks compromise. America lacks resolve to finish the fight. We lack the resolve to deal more brutally against our enemy than they deal with us. We ignore Johnson's warning, "To withdraw from one battlefield means only to prepare for the next." Perhaps there is wisdom in our cynicism. In Johnson's words,

We often say how impressive power is. But I do not find it impressive at all. The guns and the bombs, the rockets and the warships, are all symbols of human failure. They are necessary symbols. They protect what we cherish. But they are witness to human folly.

Perhaps we no longer believe, as Johnson did, that righteous wars will someday end war. Instead we see war after war on the horizon and we, like the French in Indochina, prefer capitulation to conflict. C'est la vie. Perhaps we realize, unlike Johnson, that victory will not end conflict. Consequently, we choose life above sacrifice, and assuage our moral conscience with SSRI's. How we feel about life, rather than what we do in life, becomes our standard of our self-examination.

In the 1960's, President Johnson tried to entrench against a wave of aggression in the world. His successor capitulated hoping for the praise of the people. Instead Nixon resigned in disgrace after abusing the power of the Presidency. Today America faces enemies in other parts of the globe. Nevertheless, American leadership has failed to grasp that you cannot foster freedom abroad while infringing on freedom at home. America's enemy is totalitarianism; however; we fight and eventually capitulate to external enemies while condoning the decay of freedom within our borders. If we must fight foreign wars, we should fight for stability, not freedom. Perhaps we should instead defend freedom at home with the same zeal with which we try to impose it elsewhere.


The church today is engaged in war. The dramatic cultural changes of the last century challenge the church to respond. Some churches have endorsed a Christ-less Christianity. A few months ago we visited a church in a city where we used to live. In the entire service, the name of Jesus was mentioned once and then only in an empty context. The songs and the sermon were ambiguous. The production quality was somewhat better than we remembered, but the content was void of Gospel truth. I suppose the church leadership would take this criticism as a compliment because this was the direction toward which they had chosen to go. Before we moved away, they expressed determination to do anything to make church attractive to the culture. Returning, I could see nothing distinguishing them from the culture.

Some church denominations are entrenching, confronting cultural change at the front door, saying, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further." Yet the congregations lack the resolve to remain traditional. The liturgies of old seem empty and irrelevant. Reaching out to a specific demographic succumbs to pandering to a demographic. The effectiveness of church is judged based on how it makes people feel rather than its faithfulness to the Truth and the Light. Cultural morass creeps in disguised as youth programs and activities. The question of surrendering to the culture is not "whether" but "when." We fight a war of attrition to slow what we perceive as decay within the traditional church. We fail to see that the battle is not beginning, but rather this battle has continued from the beginning.

Jesus warned the Galileans, saying, "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force." Matthew 11:12 (NASB) Jesus warned that violent men use religion to increase their own power and influence. This is not a new concept. Jesus referred to John the Baptist's ministry. John the Baptist had rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to be baptized by him, saying, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance." Matthew 3:7-8 (NASB) The Pharisees and Sadducees would submit to John's baptism if it meant that they could remain relevant. Paul warned Timothy that the battle would continue.

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

1 Timothy 4:1-5 (NASB)

The real battle lines are not drawn then between traditionalism and modernism, but rather the battle lines are drawn between truth and deception. To the extent that the emergent church and the traditional church both promote church above Christ, they are merely opposite sides of the same coin. They both seek power and influence at the expense of their congregants. The congregations seek leaders who tell them what they want to hear. Both define church as something that Paul never described 1 Corinthians 14.

In Gary Hamel's Management 2.0 blog, "Organized Religion's 'Management Problem'", he writes, "Back in the first century, the Christian church was organic, communal and mostly free of ritual—and it needs to become so again . . ."

To the extent that church models supplant the organism—the body of Christ—with an organization, they misrepresent Christ.

We organize, but we are not organic. We take "Communion", but we are not communal. Whether we rock or recite our liturgies, we ritualize the Christian experience. From a first century perspective we have fallen away. We are the apostate church the New Testament warns against.

The apostate church battles amongst itself regarding methodologies that achieve the same eventual alienation from Christ. The assembly, the body of Christ, is not a place where unbelievers should feel comfortable. We should evangelize, but we should not compromise. Likewise, the assembly, the body of Christ, should not be cold and sterile, ritualistic and intermittent. The early Christians lived together as family because the Apostles taught them to. Do we presume to understand Christianity better than those who walked with Christ?

We have forgotten that only God can say, "Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further." Christian leaders of any variety can no more define church than Job could command the oceans. The Apostle Paul described church very clearly in his letters, especially 1 Corinthians chapter 14. What we feel that church should be has little relevance compared to the Apostle's command, but we drown our guilt with professional performances or perpetual programs.

The choice confronting Christians today is not a choice between traditionalism and modernism. Rather the choice confronting us is, as it has always been, obedience or disobedience. After hearing God's discourse, Job repented in sack cloth and ashes. What will we do?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Propitiation

The Greek word,  [propitious], is first used in Genesis 43 in the LXX (Septuagint). In this passage, Joseph's brothers have returned the silver that Joseph surreptitiously had refunded on their original trip to Egypt. His brothers plead their case, saying, "We do not know who put the silver in our bags." Genesis 43:22 (AB) Joseph replied to them saying, "Kindness, be to you, do not fear. Your God, and the God of your fathers gave you treasures in your bags." Genesis 43:23 (AB)

While Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai, Israel compelled Aaron to fashion a golden calf for them to worship. Aaron declared to the people, "These are your gods, O Israel, who hauled you from out of the land of Egypt." Exodus 32:4 (AB) Israel's rebellion angered God, and he said to Moses, "And now allow me! For being enraged in anger against them, I will obliterate them." Exodus 32:9 (AB) Moses interceded for the people, pleading, "Cease in the anger of your rage, and be propitious to the evil of your people." Exodus 32:12 (AB) In response to Moses' intercession, "The LORD dealt kindly concerning the bad which he said he would do to his people." Exodus 32:14 (AB) In this passage from the LXX (Septuagint), the root word translated in the New Testament as propitiation, appears twice: Moses asked God to be propitious, and the LORD dealt kindly.

Moses again interceded for the people in Numbers 14 after their refusal to enter the land which God had promised them. God spoke to Moses, saying, "I will strike them in death, and I will destroy them, and I will make you into a great and populous nation rather than this one." Numbers 14:12 (AB) Moses pleaded, "Dismiss the sin of this people according to your great mercy, just as kindness happened to them from Egypt to the present."

After Naaman was healed of leprosy by bathing in the Jordon River, he requested that Elisha give him dirt from Israel so that Naaman could offer burnt offerings to God on ground that was not contaminated by his former idolatry. Naaman said, "And the LORD shall deal kindly with me, your servant in this matter." 2 Kings 5:18 (AB)

David cried out to God saying, "Because of your name, O LORD, atone [propitiate] my sin! For it is great." Psalm 25:11 (AB) In another Psalm, David declares, "Lawless words overpowered us; but you shall atone [propitiate] our impieties." Psalm 65:3 (AB) Asaph, another contributor to the Psalms, writes of Israel in the desert,

And they loved him by their mouth, but by their tongue they lied to him. And their heart was not straight with him, nor did they trust in his covenant. But he is one pitying, and he shall atone [propitiate] their sins, and he will not utterly destroy. And he will fill the turning of his rage, and shall not kindle all his anger.

Psalm 78:37-38 (AB)
In these and other Old Testament passages, the words propitious, propitiate, and propitiation convey a reversal of outcome. Joseph's brothers discovered that what should have been debited against them was credited back to them. Israel's rebellion warranted God's wrath, but instead God turned his wrath into kindness. Naaman was healed of leprosy. David was forgiven his sin. When we look throughout Scripture we see propitiation turn away from the natural outcome towards kindness.

In the Old Testament tabernacle worship on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would once a year pass through the veil, into the most holy place, and sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat, or propitiation seat. On this day, Israel would confess their sins, and God would propitiate. In the New Testament, the word atonement or propitiation is used to describe the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Understanding the meaning of propitiation is crucial to our understanding of the cross. The Apostle John writes, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 1 John 4:10 (NASB)

At times we fill words with our preconceived ideas. Often Christians fill the words atonement or propitiation with un-Biblical theology. Some perceive atonement to be a surrogate punishment; however, the principle meaning of the word deals with kindness. While other words can be translated kindness or kind, propitiation is a special type of kindness. Propitiation reverses adverse circumstance into kindness. When we read that Christ is the propitiation for our sins, we should recall that he turns God's wrath into God's favor. The word propitiation alludes to the Old Testament system of tabernacle worship, the Mercy Seat, and the Day of Atonement. The NIV translates 1 John 4:10, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." The Apostolic Bible renders the literal English translation, "In this is the love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son as an atonement for our sins." We could also translate 1 John 4:10 to say, "This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son [to deal kindly with our sins]." How does the cross of Jesus Christ demonstrates God's kindness toward sinners? The Apostle Peter writes,

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

1 Peter 2:24-25 (NASB)
In what way did Christ's death on the cross demonstrate kindness? He demonstrated kindness toward us by carrying our sins into death. Because he carried our sins into death, we do not have to die in our sins. The Apostle Paul explains it:

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:8-18 (NIV)
Though necessary, why was the cross of Jesus Christ such a brutal ordeal? Would a peaceful death have accomplished the same objective? Some claim that God punished the Christ instead of punishing us. They claim that the Father poured out his wrath on the Son and then turned his face away. They concoct support for this theory based on Jesus' quoting Psalm 22 while hanging on the cross. However, Jesus' words are an invitation to read the entire Psalm, and reading the entire Psalm in the context of the crucifixion one would not come to the absurd conclusion that the Father ever despised the Son.

After crying out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" the Psalmist prophetically affirmed,

God has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
Nor has He hidden His face from him;
But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.

Psalm 22:24 (NASB)
Christ did not suffer by the hand of God, the Christ suffered by the hands of men as Isaiah 53 eloquently prophesies. God's supposed wrath against the Son did not propitiate our sins. Rather the complete obedience of the Son merited his Father's favor. The writer of Hebrews tells us, "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation." Hebrews 5:8-9 (NIV) Paul wrote to the Philippians regarding the depth of Jesus' obedience, saying,

Although He existed in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father

Philippians 2:6-11 (NASB)
Jesus excruciating death on the cross is not a picture of God's wrath against sin. Rather it is a demonstration of Jesus' complete obedience to the Father. What Adam destroyed through disobedience, Jesus restored through obedience. By the disobedience of one we became enemies of God, and by the obedience of one we are reconciled to God. God's wrath will come, Jesus said,

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

John 3:25-26
The obedience of Jesus Christ is our propitiation. In obedience to the Father, he dealt kindly with our sins. Jesus reversed our outcome of wrath into the overwhelming kindness of God.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fire or ice

The American poet, Robert Frost, once wrote,
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Today bloggers of the world unite to discuss climate change. Politicians say the world is getting warmer, while some statisticians now say it it getting cooler. So we, the non-experts, are left to speculate, as Robert Frost once did, “Fire or Ice?”
How ironic that Blog Action Day would waste Internet bandwidth and its immeasurable electric wattage from dubious coal-fired generators to discuss the amelioration of global climate change as if the weather was an issue of social justice or morality. We have gathered together today in virtual self-righteous hypocrisy to ignore true causes of social injustice and human suffering to talk about the weather. Why? The anti-pattern, “low hanging fruit,” I suppose.
When you address the problem that isn’t a problem, then you’re guaranteed the appearance of success. Kudos, we’ve already saved the planet. Empirical evidence reveals that the earth  in previous centuries has been warmer and cooler than present. Empirically, then, we might suppose that the earth might be both warmer and cooler in the future. To claim any degree of accuracy in our calculations, however, would be absurd. Most of us can’t solve complex mathematical equations without at least a calculator, and fewer of us can program supercomputer algorithms. Even those who program supercomputers are prone to human mistakes and their algorithms fail to account for all data. Otherwise, the weather would never surprise.
Aside from the empirical, I refuse to indulge in any debate regarding global climate change because any historical data older than 30 or 40 years is woefully incomplete and possibly a work of fiction. I place no more faith in climatologists than I do in meteorologists. They can only be right part of the time. Climatologists use current datasets to extrapolate historical sets based on certain assumptions, and then use this data to prophesy doom and gloom scenarios. Their circular logic translated by politicians into social imperatives is merely a form of shamanism or juju.
We have only begun to measure the weather; let’s give technology a millennia or two to calculate man’s impact on climate change before we start extrapolating absurd conclusions. Meanwhile, let’s focus on real issues that plague our society.
I met a man the other day who works as a probation officer for a county in the Kansas City metropolitan area. He told me that the issues he faces everyday are symptomatic of the deterioration of the family. I introduced this man to another acquaintance of mine who works in a residential treatment center for at-risk teenagers. I was amused that these two strangers knew so many people in common having never met each other. Both have dedicated their careers to ameliorate the impact of the disintegration of family within our culture.  Meanwhile, both strive to protect their own families from the destructive influences of our society. I wish them success on both fronts of the culture war.
The deterioration of the family may not be the only cause of cultural morass. Selfishness is the root of all other vices. Consequently, selfishness is the root of the family decay. In Frost’s analysis of the world’s predicament, fire and ice represent the spectrum of human self-centeredness. Greed and hatred both grow from the same root of inflated self-importance. While Frost viewed fire and ice from a universal perspective, hubris devastates at home, too.
The biggest problem the ideology of global climate change faces is the absence of a norm. The earth has gone through an ice age; deserts were once inland seas; Greenland used to be green. What in-between state is the appropriate norm, and who gets to decide the acceptable variance? Meanwhile, Martian  polar caps are shrinking, begging the question whether Earth's observed climate changes might be extraterrestrial in nature.
But climate change is not about the weather. Climate change has become a weapon of political engineering wherein scientists and politicians seek to exert patrician control over the proletariat. The global-climate-change faithful exult, not in the process of cooling the planet, but rather in the opportunity to reengineer society: hence BAD 2009.
The entire culture of global climate change is predicated upon faith in fallible humans and their mystical equations. You may believe it, but I remain skeptical. Better wisdom comes from a lesser poet than Frost: “Don’t follow leaders, watch the parkin’ meters.” Ironically, this revolution has forgotten that governmental mandates infringe on freedom. This generation rushes headlong into a type of eco-fascism demanding that the government infringe upon personal and economic freedom of others. To what end?
The nebulous facts of global climate change propels the political rise of a new patrician class at the expense of personal and economic freedom. Whether the outcome is justified will be determined by those in control. The absence of an objective norm will leave the proletariat believing their beloved fathers saved them from from something.
I agree that social values should be re-engineered or realigned, but global climate change is not my motivator. Society cannot be reformed by top down declarations from political scientists.
Unlike global climate change, the devastation of the family and the fire and ice of interpersonal relationships can be ameliorated by applying absolute standards with predictable results. Such a claim is predicated upon faith in the Creator God who has expressed Himself through graphos and logos, i.e. the Scripture and the revelation of God through Christ, His Son.
Accepting the words of Scripture, and especially the words of Jesus, as authoritative regarding family provides a framework which will transform our personal relationships. Two of the Ten Commandments deal with familial relationships:
“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
“Do not commit adultery.”
The commandments of God that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai did not speak in part to children and in part to adults; consequently, the command to honor Father and Mother speaks to adults as well as to children. The command against adultery has been abandoned by the most modern Christian denominations in deed if not in word.
The prophet Malachi confronted Israel’s problem with divorce. He tells them that God no longer listened to them because they had abandoned the wives of their youth. Malachi writes,
. . . guard in your spirit, and the wife of your youth do not abandon! But if by detesting, you should send her forth, says the LORD God of Israel, then impiety shall cover over your thoughts, says the LORD God almighty.
Malachi 2:15-16 (AB)
The health and prosperity of the entire nation turned upon the commitment within individual marriages. Jesus echoed Malachi’s proclamation when he said, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:11-12 (NIV) Most Christian churches today seek to affirm adulterous relationships as a type of second chance rather than encourage repentance. In so doing, the church has made itself complicit in the disintegration of the family.
The foundation of a family must be a committed marriage as defined by God from the beginning, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 (NIV)
Real marriage requires selflessness to succeed. The degree of selflessness required for a successful marriage and family is enumerated by the Apostle Paul, he wrote to the Ephesians, saying,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:25-32 (NIV)
The love and respect commanded within Christian marriage mirrors Christ’s love for us and our regard for him. Society is built one family unit at at time. Some of us still have the power to contribute to the success of one family. The church, in turn, is to build upon those familial relationships and operate as extended family or community focusing inwardly toward the building up of the whole.
To be effective the church must define itself apart from the culture, “In the world, but not of the world.” Modern Christianity is clearly of the world. The erosion of family within the church is symptomatic. Many churches cater to families, not by drawing families together but by driving them apart. Church has become like a Disney family cruise, with something for everyone, but little substance to bind all together.
Even as churches resist moral decay in the culture, they do so by engaging in external political tactics rather than internal edification. The morality of the culture should not matter to the church, but morality within the church should be of high importance. The Apostle Paul did not care about cultural morality, but he cared deeply about the purity of the church, he writes, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (NIV) Clearly, not everyone belongs in church, but modern Christianity takes a different stance – they accept everyone. Today, people are not expelled from church for immorality, but rather for confronting abusive leadership.
The man expelled by the Corinthians later repented of his sin and Paul encouraged the Corinthian church, saying,
The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.
2 Corinthians 2:6-8 (NIV)
The purity of the church and the reconciliation of sinners is not inconsistent. Yet, today, churches are so eager to forgive, and even indulge immorality, that they become a stumbling block to the innocent and the guilty alike. Children learn that there are no consequences to sin, and the sinner learns that there is no need for repentance.
The modern church is more concerned with creating a culturally accommodating environment than a spiritually nurturing environment. In so doing, church has become an extension of the culture rather than an extension of the family. The church has abandoned its first love, and one wonders whether the depreciation of marriage and the family, as Malachi lamented, is to blame.
Between the rabid lust of the culture and the moral indifference of the church, Christian families today face external perils of fire and ice.
Though the culture and the church will proceed like the weather, Christian fathers can make a choice within the family to set aside their own selfishness and take upon themselves the selflessness of Jesus Christ. This begins by obeying the command, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”