What I Read Online – 05/03/2011 (a.m.)

03 May
    • As my old Ancient Near East history lecturer once put it, anyone reading the text would fail a first-year Hebrew exam if they called Genesis 1 a type of Hebrew poetry.
    • To label a text as ‘poetry’ is to say nothing of its historical value. In other words, the tension that people are trying to alleviate by calling Genesis 1 ‘poetry’ or ‘poetic’ is not alleviated; it is simply a confusion of categories. What they are doing is something else entirely, which gets hidden by the terminology.
      • John Piper offers ten theses to explain how all preaching should be gospel preaching, proclaiming Christ crucified:

        1. Whatever lasting good God ever does or ever did or ever will do for any individual person, he does and did and will do because of his free, utterly undeserved grace.
        2. This free grace, that gives every lasting good to people, can benefit us justly only because of Jesus’ wrath-absorbing, righteousness-providing, sin-atoning, guilt-removing, substitutionary death for us.
        3. Without this kind of atoning death of Christ, God’s grace would not save us, but only increase our condemnation because of the hardness of our hearts.
        4. But by the blood of Christ, God really purchased us for himself and secured not only every lasting good that we receive, but also the gift of repentance and faith through which we receive everything else.
        5. Therefore every sermon that holds out any lasting good to any person (as every Christian sermon must) should be based on, and interwoven with, the gospel of the living Christ’s substitutionary death.
        6. This gospel basis and gospel interweaving of our sermons should be clear enough so that gospel-deniers (like Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, legalists, libertines, etc) will not approve of our sermons. There should be enough of Christ and of his cross that those who deny the gospel don’t approve the sermon.
        7. This gospel basis and gospel interweaving of our sermons should be clear enough so that the living Jesus will be honored as the ground and goal of the message because of his grace-securing sacrifice for us.
        8. This gospel basis and gospel interweaving of our sermons should be clear enough so that the imperative that flows from the message is, first and foremost, faith in the blood-bought reality that God is 100% for us in Christ (that is, faith in the justifying work of Christ), and then, secondly, the obedience that comes from this faith (that is, the fruit of the sanctifying work of the Spirit).
        9. In this sense then every sermon proclaims Christ. His atoning work is the ground of all it offers. His glory is the ultimate goal of all it aims to achieve. And the written revelation of Christ’s unfolding ways in history (that is, Scripture) is the only authoritative source from which we bring this work and ground and this glory to light (expository exultation).
        10. Thus with Christ-crucified as the ground and goal and matter of every sermon (and all of life) the ultimate aim of God in creation is advanced: the praise of the glory of God’s grace, through the joy of his people in him.

        To see Scriptural support for these points, see pp. 5-8 of this syllabus (PDF).

    • Just a few cautions for Christians as they talk about this. The fact that we are all sinners, and that we all deserve death and judgment, is quite true. But if we hasten to remind ourselves of this reality at moments like this, the effect is not to heighten our sense of awareness of sin, but rather to flatten it. A bizarre kind of moral equivalence takes over our thought processes, and we begin to think that God will have no work to do in the judgment whatever — all He has to settle is that we are all sinners and we all died. But God will not judge us by the crateload. The Bible teaches plainly that the unconverted will be judged in accordance with their works, and the Scriptures say just as clearly that not all works are the same. Evil is something that can grow and mature. And when it does this, the judgment is greater. The judgment is so great, and the issues so momentous, that only God can do it. We should leave the judgment to Him, and when He judges the nations of men, that will truly be one of His greatest works. The only thing historically greater will be His accomplishments in the salvation of the nations of men.
    • There are really two questions to answer: 1) Did Osama bin Laden deserve to die? 2) Did those who killed him have authority to do so? I believe the answer to both those questions is yes. Consequently, his death was a matter of justice for which we can be grateful.
    • Capital punishment for murder is not an assault on the image of God, but a defense of it.  It is because human life is so precious, that the taking of human life needs to be punished so severely.
    • And yet, even with this doctrine of total depravity the Bible never acts as if everyone deserves to die physically right now. Some have deserved immediate death, so God killed Nadab and Abihu and struck down Uzzah and inflicted judgment on the Egyptians, Amorites, Canaanites, Israelites, Assyrians, and Babylonians. We all deserve condemnation apart from God’s grace, but some deserve death now because some sins are worse than others and some sinners commit more egregious sins.
    • It is one of the half-truths of our day that every sin is the same in God’s eyes. On the one hand, every sin renders us liable to God’s judgment (James 2:10). On the other hand, not every bit of iniquity is equally offensive. Some sins are high-handed. Some are premeditated. Some are slip ups. Some are habitual. Some are contrary to nature. The Law did not demand the same penalty for every infraction. Neither did Jesus (Matt. 10:15). We do not promote the glory of the gospel by pretending that no one is more righteous or more wicked than anybody else. Some sins so destroy the image of God that those who commit them deserve destruction.
    • Only God has the authority to take human life. But God has ordained that he should exercise that right through the power of the state. Romans 13:4 says the governing authorities are God’s servants to do good, “but if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain.  For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” The Navy SEALs that raided bin Laden’s compound did not violate the sixth commandment because, as the Heidelberg Catechism says, “Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword” (Q/A 105). Surely, this was an instance where the U.S. military, by killing bin Laden, was acting in an effort to prevent more American citizens from being murdered.
    • “There is nothing that throws any particular light on Christ’s attitude toward organized warfare, except that he seems to be rather fond of Roman soldiers.”
    • But sometimes we need to be reminded that we live in a moral universe where actions have consequences. And when deathly consequences are merited by despicable actions, we should be glad the world is working as God designed.
    • If ever there were a just use of force, this was it.
    • I shudder to think of what Bin Laden is facing right now. I do not question the justice of it, but I can hardly bear to contemplate the horror of it. If my thinking is defective now, it won’t always be. The day will come when God will command me to rejoice in His justice in the damnation of the wicked (Revelation 18:20). Until then, the horror should serve as a motivation to warn people to flee the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
    • But does this verse really teach that God never delights in the death of the wicked? If so, what are we to do with the myriad of biblical texts that say things like:
    • Perhaps a recognition of this kind of Justice would be less likely to result in patriotic celebrations in the streets and more likely to produce a kind of somber, humble gratitude for the common grace of God. I am not righteous, but God is. Even though I shudder to think of the Lord’s righteous judgment, I am nevertheless grateful to Him for whatever measure of common grace justice He grants us on this side of glory. With tonight’s announcement, I think what He has given is a generous portion.
    • Grief for a life made in the image of God but so destructive of human life and so dishonoring to God.

      And gratitude for justice being served as an instrument of God’s wrath.

    • He is an evil man, and he must be stopped, but he is a man, and we should take no pleasure in destroying him. Vengeance is the Lord’s alone.

      Do not offer the alternative, “Should we weep for Osama bin Laden or hold him to account for his genocide and prevent him from carrying out his violent intentions?”

      The right answer is yes.

    • Though the comparison is by no means perfect, and though it is on a much smaller scale, I tend to think that we can rightly grieve that Osama bin Laden opposed the true and living God and will be punished accordingly. But we also can rightly rejoice in the defeat and judgment upon people who are evil–and he was clearly evil and deserving of every punishment earth can give. The dancing in the streets may not merely be American nationalism, but an appropriate response to the partial display of human justice as we await the final and perfect display of divine justice in the coming age.
    • hat single sentence, delivered in a nearly unprecedented late-night Sunday address by an American president, encapsulates the moral context of the action. First, the President took responsibility for the act that ended bin Laden’s life. Osama bin Laden did not die an accidental death, nor a death by natural causes. The United States “conducted an operation” that resulted in his death. Second, the operation ended the life of one who was “a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”
    • The act was fully justified by the demands of just war theory, the historic Christian means of moral reasoning that measures the justification for acts of lethal force.
    • The death of bin Laden was fully justified as an act of war, but not as an act of justice. The removal of a credible threat to human life — a clear and present danger to human safety — is fully justified, especially after such an individual has demonstrated not only the will but the means to effect murder on a massive scale.
    • And yet, there are two troubling aspects that linger. The first is the open celebration in the streets. While we should all be glad that this significant threat is now removed, death in itself is never to be celebrated. Such celebration points to the danger of revenge as a powerful human emotion. Revenge has no place among those who honor justice. Retributive justice is sober justice. The reason for this is simple — God is capable of vengeance, which is perfectly true to his own righteousness and perfection — but human beings are not. We tend toward the mismeasure of justice when it comes to settling our own claims. All people of good will should be pleased that bin Laden is no longer a personal threat, and that his death may further weaken terrorist plans and aspirations. But revenge is not a worthy motivation for justice, and celebration in the streets is not a worthy response.
    • We have been robbed before. History is filled with examples of opportunities lost because events did not allow. Bin Laden said he would never be taken alive. He was true to his words, and he died in the midst of a firefight. It was the best we could hope for under these circumstances, and there was more than adequate justification for his death. But we still should feel the loss of the greater satisfaction of human justice.
    • We did the best we could do, and that is often where we are left. We are left with a sense of sober satisfaction. This is no small comfort to all those who are still grieving — the loved ones of September 11, and the loved ones of all who lost their lives while wearing the uniform of the United States fighting bin Laden and the forces of terror.
    • But, as is always the case, we are left with a sense that a higher court is still needed. Christians know that Osama bin Laden escaped the reach of full human justice and a trial for his crimes, but he will not escape the judgment that is to come. Bin Laden will not escape his trial before the court of God. Until then, sober satisfaction must be enough for those still in the land of the living.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Posted by on 03/05/2011 in Current Issues


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