A method of preaching

John Calvin on Hosea 4:1

Hosea now relates how vehemently he reproved the people, because every kind of corruption so commonly prevailed, that there was no sound part in the whole community. We hence see what the Prophet treats of now; and this ought to be observed, for hypocrites wish ever to be flattered; and when the mercy of God is offered to them, they seek to be freed from every fear. It is therefore a bitter thing to them, when threatening are mingled, when God sharply chides them. “What! we heard yesterday a discourse on God’s mercy, and now he fulminates against us. He is then changeable; if he were consistent, would not his manner of teaching be alike and the same today?” But men must be often awakened, for forgetfulness of God often creeps over them; they indulge themselves, and nothing is more difficult than to lead them to God; nay, when they have made some advances, they soon turn aside to some other course.

We hence see that men cannot be taught, except God reproves their sins by his word; and then, lest they despond, gives them a hope of mercy; and except he again returns to reproofs and threatening. This is the mode of address which we find in all the Prophets.

John Calvin, Hosea, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998).

Teaching Outline Hosea 4:1-3

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(This is an initial outline and observations on Hosea 4:1-3)
Hosea 4:1–3 (ESV)

4 Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,
for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
2 there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Therefore the land mourns,
and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
and the birds of the heavens,
and even the fish of the sea are taken away.

Observations:

This text consists of four parts:

First, a command

Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,

Second, the basis of the command

for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.

Third, the substance of the “controversy”:

There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
2 there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

Fourth, the results of bad acts (which are the substance of the controversy):

3 Therefore the land mourns,
and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
and the birds of the heavens,
and even the fish of the sea are taken away.

I. The command: Hear or Listen to the word of the Lord.

A. What is it to hear/listen

1. It is not bare auditory reception.
2. It is hearing coupled with response: there must be an acknowledgement which goes beyond a passive “hearing”.

B. What is meant by the “word of the Lord”?

II. What is meant by a “controversy”?

A. Translations:

ESV: controversy
NET: covenant lawsuit
HCSB/NASB95: case
NIV/NIV84: charge

B. What do we make of this?

1. A legal proceeding.

2. The covenant between YHWH and Israel

III. What is the substance of the charge

A. What Israel has not done

1. The specific elements

a. no faithfulness

i. This element is often found in conjunction with hesed/steadfast love

Genesis 24:27 (ESV)
27 and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.”

Genesis 24:27 (ESV)
27 and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.”

2 Samuel 2:6 (ESV)
6 Now may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you. And I will do good to you because you have done this thing.

See, also gen. 24:48-49

ii. It is a characteristic of God

Exodus 34:6–7 (ESV)
6 The Lord passed befor
e him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

2 Samuel 7:28 (ESV)
28 And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant.

Jeremiah 10:10 (ESV)
10 But the Lord is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
and the nations cannot endure his indignation.

iii. It is an aspect of God’s goodness

Isaiah 38:19 (ESV)
19 The living, the living, he thanks you,
as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
your faithfulness.

Isaiah 42:3 (ESV)
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

Isaiah 61:8 (ESV)
8 For I the Lord love justice;
I hate robbery and wrong;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

Jeremiah 32:41 (ESV)
41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

iv It is an element of true worship/life before God

Joshua 24:14 (ESV)
14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

1 Samuel 12:24 (ESV)
24 Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.

1 Kings 2:1–4 (ESV)
When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, 3 and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

2 Kings 20:3 (ESV)
3 “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Isaiah 10:20 (ESV)
20 In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.

v. It is what God requires:

Ezekiel 18:5–9 (ESV)
5 “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— 6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, 7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8 does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, 9 walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.

(This has multiple parallels to Hosea 4:1-3)

v. It is truth in communication

1 Kings 22:16 (ESV)
16 But the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”6 And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom,

vi. It is security in the social world:

2 Kings 20:19 (ESV)
19 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”

vii. God condemns its lack among his people:

Isaiah 48:1 (ESV)
Hear this, O house of Jacob,
who are called by the name of Israel,
and who came from the waters of Judah,
who swear by the name of the Lord
and confess the God of Israel,
but not in truth or right.

Isaiah 59:14–15 (ESV)
14 Justice is turned back,
and righteousness stands far away;
for truth has stumbled in the public squares,
and uprightness cannot enter.
15 Truth is lacking,
and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
The Lord saw it, and it displeased him
that there was no justice.

Jeremiah 9:4 (ESV)
4 Let everyone beware of his neighbor,
and put no trust in any brother,
for every brother is a deceiver,
and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.

b. no steadfast love

This is the goodness of relationship between human beings and between human beings and God:

1. joint obligation between relatives, friends, host and guest, master and servant; closeness, solidarity, loyalty: a) חֶסֶד and בְּרִית (שֹׁמֵר הַבְּ׳ וְהַח׳ Dt 79, with שָׁמַר 712); בּ׳ comes about by a ceremony ח׳ results from the closer relationship between two people, the obligations are largely the same; ח׳ וֶאֱמֶת Gn 2427.49 and אֱמוּנָה וְח׳ Ps 8925 lasting loyalty, faithfulness; עָשָׂה ח׳ to show loyalty Gn 2123 Jos 212 Ju 124 835 1S 156 208 2S 38 91.7 102 Ru 18 1C 192; b) ח׳ exists between a son and a dying father Gn 4729, a wife and a husband Gn 2013 (cf. Jr 22 || אַהֲבָה), relatives Ru 220, guests Gn 1919, friends 1S 208 2S 91, people who do each other a service Ju 124, king and people 2S 38 2C 2422; c) > esp.: אִישׁ ח׳ confidant Pr 1117, cj. אִישׁ חַסְדְּךָ your faithful servant Dt 338 (alt. favourite) אַנְשֵׁי ח׳ the godly Is 571; מַלְכֵי ח׳ loyal kings 1K 2031; אִישׁ חַסְדּוֹ each one’s faithfulness Pr 206; d) community > protection Ps 1442 (prp. חָסְנִי), > favour Ezr 29.17 (חֵן וָח׳), ח׳ לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ the favour of the king Ezr 728; תּוֹרַת ח׳ kind teaching Pr 3126; charm (of flowers) Is 406 (cf. MHb. חסודה lovely, cj. חֶמְדּוֹ); —2. ח׳ in God’s relationship with the people or an individual, faithfulness, goodness, graciousness: a) ח׳ י׳ Ps 335 10317, ח׳ אֱלֹהִים 2S 93 Ps 5210; ח׳ עֶלְיוֹן 218; לְעוֹלָם חַסדּוֹ Jr 3311 Ps 1361-26 1005 1061 1071 1181-4.29 Ezr 311; cj. Ps 44 (rd. חַסדּוֹ לִי) and 122 (rd. חֶסֶד), בְּחַסְדְּךָ in your faithfulness (to me) 14312; mercy חָפֵץ ח׳ :: אַף Mi 718; b) עָשָׂה ח׳ to show faithfulness with עִם Ru 18, with לְ Ex 206 and above (→ 1a); שָׁמַר ח׳ Dt 79 Da 94 and נָצַר ח׳ to keep faithfulness Ex 347 זָכַר ח׳ to remember Ps 983, עָזַב ח׳ מֵעִם to withdraw faithfulness Gn 2427; c) God is רַב ח׳ abounding in faithfulness Ex 346 Nu 1418 Jl 213 Jon 42 Ps 865.15 1038 Neh. 917; —3. pl. חֲסָדִים, חֲסָדַי etc. the individual actions resulting from solidarity: a) (of people) godly action, achievements: by Nehemiah Neh 1314, Hezekiah 2C 3232, Josiah 3526; b) (God’s) proofs of mercy Gn 3211 Is 637 Ps 892 Lam 322; חַסְדֵי דָוִיד mercies shown to David Is 553 2C 642; רַחֲמִים וַחֲסָדִים Ps 256; —Ps 523 rd. חָסִיד, Pr 2028b rd. בַּצֶּדֶק (?).

Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 336–337.

c. no knowledge of God in the land

Joshua 4:23–24 (ESV)
23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

1 Kings 8:59–60 (ESV)
59 Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.

Isaiah 5:11–14 (ESV)
11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
that they may run after strong drink,
who tarry late into the evening
as wine inflames them!
12 They have lyre and harp,
tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,
but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord,
or see the work of his hands.
13 Therefore my people go into exile
for lack of knowledge;
their honored men go hungry,
and their multitude is parched with thirst.
14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite
and opened its mouth beyond measure,
and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude will go down,
her revelers and he who exults in her.

Isaiah 11:2 (ESV)
2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Jeremiah 9:5 (ESV)
5 Everyone deceives his neighbor,
and no one speaks the truth;
they have taught their tongue to speak lies;
they weary themselves committing iniquity.

Ezekiel 38:16 (ESV)
16 You will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

Malachi 2:7 (ESV)
7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
(God will condemn the priests for not teaching in the remainder of Hosea 4)

Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Which implies that the people addressed by Hosea do not have the fear of the Lord; rather, they are “fools”
Proverbs 1:29 (ESV)
29 Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,

2. Why are these particular things important?

A. These are the prerequisites for serving God and for living rightly in society. There can be no right action before man or God without right knowledge of relationship to God (knowledge of God).

B. We can think of these as a summary of the covenant obligations: Knowledge of God and right life before God and with men. Or,

Mark 12:28–34 (ESV)
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

(Note also “hearing”).

B. What Israel has done?

1. there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

2. Details of these elements:

a. Swearing

1 Kings 8:31–32 (ESV)
31 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven and act and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.

Hosea 10:4 (ESV)
4 They utter mere words;
with empty oaths they make covenants;
so judgment springs up like poisonous weeds
in the furrows of the field.

Matthew 5:33–37 (ESV)
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

James 5:12 (ESV)
12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

b. Lying

כָּחַשׁ (kā·ḥǎš): v.; ≡ Str 3584; TWOT 975—1. LN 23.142–23.184 (qal) be thin, become lean, i.e., lose body weight as an indication of lack of health (Ps 109:24+), see also domain LN 86.1–86.3; 2. LN 17.20 (nif) cringe, cower, i.e., bow in submission, but in fear and not in respect or relationship, as an extension of lying or not being truthful in the relationship (Dt 33:29+); (piel) cringe, cower (Ps 18:45[EB 44]; 66:3; 81:16[EB 15]+); (hitp) cringe, cower (2Sa 22:45+); 3. LN 33.251–33.255 (piel) lie, deceive, i.e., to not tell the truth by speaking lies, or acting in deception (Ge 18:15; Lev 5:21[EB 6:2],22[EB 6:3]; 19:11; Jos 7:11; 24:27; 1Ki 13:18; Isa 59:13; Jer 5:12; Hos 4:2; Zec 13:4+), see also domain LN 72; 4. LN 57.37–57.48 (piel) fail, lack, i.e., not have enough of a quantity of items (Hos 9:2; Hab 3:17+); 5. LN 34.31–34.39 (piel) disown, i.e., to no longer be in association, and so be unfaithful (Job 8:18; 31:28; Pr 30:9+)

James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Leviticus 19:11 (ESV)
11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.

c. Murder

Exodus 20:13 (ESV)
13 “You shall not murder.

Numbers 35:30–34 (ESV)
30 “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses. But no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 31 Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death. 32 And you shall accept no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the high priest. 33 You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. 34 You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.”

d. Adultery

Exodus 20:14 (ESV)
14 “You shall not commit adultery.

Jeremiah 23:9–14 (ESV)
9 Concerning the prophets:
My heart is broken within me;
all my bones shake;
I am like a drunken man,
like a man overcome by wine,
because of the Lord
and because of his holy words.
10 For the land is full of adulterers;
because of the curse the land mourns,
and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up.
Their course is evil,
and their might is not right.
11 “Both prophet and priest are ungodly;
even in my house I have found their evil,
declares the Lord.
12 Therefore their way shall be to them
like slippery paths in the darkness,
into which they shall be driven and fall,
for I will bring disaster upon them
in the year of their punishment,
declares the Lord.
13 In the prophets of Samaria
I saw an unsavory thing:
they prophesied by Baal
and led my people Israel astray.
14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his evil;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”

(There are multiple parallels with Hosea 4-5)

C. The list of what has and has not been done roughly parallel the Ten Commandments

IV. The Results of the Sin

A. De-creation:

1. Zephaniah 1:2–6 (ESV)
2 “I will utterly sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
3 “I will sweep away man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds of the heavens
and the fish of the sea,
and the rubble with the wicked.
I will cut off mankind
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
4 “I will stretch out my hand against Judah
and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal
and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,
5 those who bow down on the roofs
to the host of the heavens,
those who bow down and swear to the Lord
and yet swear by Milcom,
6 those who have turned back from following the Lord,
who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him.”

2. This is a specific instance of the general curse of the Fall:

Genesis 3:17–19 (ESV)
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

Romans 8:19–22 (ESV)
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

3. When God brings judgment, he removes his blessing – which entails even the existence of the created order.

B. Common Grace is implied here. Discuss that doctrine?

V. Use

Use 1. Israel’s fault was first not listen. Therefore, we must know how to listen rightly. Hebrews 3-4

Use 2. Why did Israel fall into this sin? Because they stopped hearing, they stopped listening to the word of the Lord.

a. Why does one stop listening?

1. Idolatry (Ps. 115/Mark 4:9)
2. Trials and riches: Mark 4:1-20
3. Heb. 3:12-13

Use 3. Why does God call Israel to hear if he has convicted Israel of crime and has already pronounced sentence? God’s pronouncement of judgment is first meant to sound an alarm to bring sinners to repentance. Jonah 4

Ezekiel 18:21–23 (ESV)
21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

Repent and believe

Mark 1:14–15 (ESV)
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Carl F. Henry, Secular Man and Ultimate Concern

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(Chapter 8, God, Revelation and Authority. Btw, these short takes on his essays cannot begin to cover the density and wealth of thought in Henry.  They really must be read, but) Theologian Millard Erickson once said, “I love Carl Henry’s work. It’s extremely important. I hope someday that it is translated into English!”

Secular Man and Ultimate Concerns

There is a Woody Allen joke, “If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit, in my name, at a Swiss bank account.” But what sort of evidence would show that God exists. No matter how power an agent were to display itself, would that ever be proof of God? If something as powerful as the aliens in a thousand movies were to appear about a large city, would that prove God? What if the agent were as dazzling as the sun?

In this essay, Henry argues that the radical secularism – which the is the default “intelligent” position of the age – itself bears witness to God. It is an answer to the question, “If God is real, then why don’t I see Him?” To answer this question, Henry speaks of “cognitive levels of experience”. The reason why God is not obvious is because He is not being sought in the right place and the right way. (This is an interesting sort of presuppositionalist argument.)

Western secularism has made naturalism, a radical empiricism to be the entire basis for rational discourse and understanding. This radical naturalism entails a number of related entailments:

A correlative implication of this theory of the comprehensive contingency, total transiency, and radical relativity of all reality and experience is the absolute autonomy of man. Man alone remains, self-sufficient and autonomous, to rescue the cosmos from absurdity and worthlessness. No divine sovereign places human life under unchanging commands, no divine revelation tells man what is true and trustworthy, no divine book stipulates what is permanently right and wrong. External reality supplies no transcosmic supports for human security. A clean break is required with all transcendent, heteronomous absolutes as alien and arbitrary.

Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 139. The universe – and us – are contingent, transient, relative – and somehow also autonomous. It is an odd sort of agency, because it is grounded in absolutely nothing.

This autonomous agent, contingent and existent only for a whisper of time, seems strangely to be completely unable to believe this true. For instance, if we are truly meaningless, then what is the basis and what is the point seeking for “meaning” and security. Then why do we do what we do? “Modern man actually has a much wider range of experience than the naturalistic credo acknowledges.” (145)

This simply does not work.

And when we move beyond just our desire to be meaningful, we run into other problems.

For example, how do we explain any moral fact? Why is murder wrong? It certainly and without question is evil. But why? Because we don’t like it? There is no naturalistic explanation. But what if someone were to make the adaptive argument: not murdering was necessary for the survival of the species and those camps which held to the no-murder position survived better than others. That merely proves it is more adaptive, but not that it is truly right or wrong. Moral facts are just feelings about things, not truths. If one were merely able to overcome the feeling, there would be no morality at all.

Here is where makes the argument for God. God is “inescapably an aspect of everyday experience” (149). God is there and cannot be gainsaid or avoided. The fact of God is built into our consciousness; a “primordial ontological awareness of God as the ultimate given.”

If this is so, then why do we deny its truth:

The reality of God as depicted in his revelation best explains why secular man refuses to order his life exclusively by the naturalistic world life view, while the fact of sin best explains why he refuses to order his life exclusively by the truth and will of God. (148)

He makes an interesting observation which deserves further consideration. The conflict inherent in humanity as a result of a conflict with a sovereign God creates psychological damage within the human being, which we attempt to manage by various psychological and psychiatric methods. (149)

Our very existence, our concern for meaning and morality, our refusal to take our own and other life as utterly meaningless (which is precisely what secular naturalism teaches), is constant undeniable evidence of God. Sin makes hypocrites of Christians; God makes hypocrites of secularists:

Not only his secret alternatives to meaninglessness, but also his distressing anxieties concerning personal worth, imply presuppositions that touch upon man’s responsible relationship to his Maker. The ongoing revelation of God and remnants of the imago Dei in man supply the continuing conditions of man’s humanity. The ineradicable convictions we harbor about the character of reality and the way we frame the fundamental questions of our lives reflect, however unwittingly, a response to God’s revelational confrontation of his creatures. The universal disclosure of God penetrates deeply into all man’s confidences and doubts. God is the Eternal with whom unrenewed man, in all his experiences, has a vagabond relationship. Evidence of God’s reality and power and truth and goodness is ongoingly refracted into the course of man’s daily life. (151)

In short, the espoused secularity of the modern world cannot account for itself. Even the bare attempt to “explain” the world in terms of secular naturalism is itself a contradiction of that naturalism.

 

Dangers are Tyrants’ Desires

Reading Medea by Euripides today. Here is a quotation appropriate for the 4th of July:

Deina turannon lemata kai pos

Olig’ archomenoi, polla kratountes

Chalepos orgas metaballounsin

To gar eithisthai zen ep’ isoisin

Kpreisson.

 

Dangerous are tyrants’ desires

For how little are they are ruled

And how much they command:

Rarely will they cast off anger.

The best custom is to live as equals.

Trophos  (119-124)

Notes on the Mechanics of Spurgeon’s Preaching

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Spurgeon was a master preacher. Today, preachers often quote him when they wish to particularly emphasize a point.  This passage, taken nearly at random, illustrates two of his common attributes: (1) Turning abstractions into images; and (2) divide concepts into their parts and examine each in turn. (I could also discuss his expert use of rhetorical figures, but that would be too much for this already long post).

Consider this portion of a paragraph

We know that nothing can occur to us save as it is written in the secret roll of providential predestination; consequently all the trials resulting from circumstances are traceable at once to the great First Cause. Out of the golden gate of God’s ordinance the armies of trial march forth in array. No shower falls unpermitted from the threatening cloud; every drop has its order ere it hastens to the earth. Consider poverty for instance. How many are made to feel its pinching necessities. They shiver in the cold for want of raiment; they are hungry and athirst; they are houseless, friendless, despised. This is a temptation from God, but all this Christ knew—“Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have not where to lay my head.” When he had fasted forty days and forty nights he was an hungered, and then it was that he was tempted of the devil. Nor does the scant table and the ragged garment alone invite temptation, for all Providences are doors to trial. Even our mercies, like roses, have their thorns. Men may be drowned in seas of prosperity as well as in rivers of affliction. Our mountains are not too high, and our valleys are not too low for temptation to travel. Whither shall we flee from their presence? What wings of wind can carry us? What beams of light can bear us? Everywhere, above and beneath, we are beset and surrounded with dangers. Now, since all these are under the superintendence and direction of the great Lord of Providence, we may look upon them all as temptations which come from him. But in every one of these Christ had his part.

C. H. Spurgeon, “A Tempted Saviour—Our Best Succour,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 9 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1863), 3.

The first proposition is common place in Reformed theology: God is the sovereign over all occurrences. Here is the doctrine from Chapter V of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

I. God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

II. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly, yet by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882), 612. Now look at what Spurgeon does with that concept:

We know that nothing can occur to us save as it is written in the secret roll of providential predestination; consequently all the trials resulting from circumstances are traceable at once to the great First Cause. Out of the golden gate of God’s ordinance the armies of trial march forth in array. No shower falls unpermitted from the threatening cloud; every drop has its order ere it hastens to the earth.

Note: it is not providence as an abstraction; it is providence as an action. Providence is written upon “a secret roll”. Like Borges’ library, the entire history of the world has been written down in a book (although this book contains no false histories).

Spurgeon takes then the second point of the chapter: God is the First Cause of all things. Notice how he takes the abstruse and abstract “First Cause” and draws it with a pencil: The First Cause is simply what God has written down.

Look further: he takes the same idea and repeats it in a new set of images. Now, rather than a book, the decrees come marching through a gate. The troubles you face are an army which God has sent marching in order. Next, it is rain rather than an army; this image he takes from Jesus:

Matthew 5:45 (ESV)
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Spurgeon takes that rain and merely pays attention to every drop as it falls, “every drop has its order ere it hastens to the earth.

IV. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

V. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support unto1 himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882), 613–614.

Look at what this becomes in Spurgeon:

Consider poverty for instance. How many are made to feel its pinching necessities. They shiver in the cold for want of raiment; they are hungry and athirst; they are houseless, friendless, despised. This is a temptation from God, but all this Christ knew—“Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have not where to lay my head.” When he had fasted forty days and forty nights he was an hungered, and then it was that he was tempted of the devil.

He does not slavishly follow the original; but he carries out an element of it.  He turns “manifold temptations” into “pinching necessities”. We could show how the other ideas in the Confession are found in other parts of this sermon.

Another aspect to note comes in the division: he takes the concept of trial/temptation and looks at it from parts. A trial/temptation can from poverty. Well what is poverty — a lack of money. What is the opposite? Wealth. Can wealth brings its own temptations? Yes. Have we ever met a wealthy sinner? What did abundance due to Solomon?

Look at how Spurgeon makes this point:

Even our mercies, like roses, have their thorns. Men may be drowned in seas of prosperity as well as in rivers of affliction. Our mountains are not too high, and our valleys are not too low for temptation to travel. Whither shall we flee from their presence? What wings of wind can carry us? What beams of light can bear us? Everywhere, above and beneath, we are beset and surrounded with dangers.

He uses the commonplace of roses bearing thorns. The image works because he does not belabor it. He alters, slightly, the commonplace and uses it as an intellectual anchor. Yes, good things may come with complications.

He then switches the image immediately to death by water: “Men may be drowned in seas of prosperity as well as in rivers of affliction.”  Then a new image, “Our mountains are not too high, and our valleys are not too low for temptation to travel.” We are in constant danger of temptation: the world is rife with its danger.

He then takes over an image from Psalm 139:

Psalm 139:7–10 (ESV)

7  Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9  If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10  even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.

Which he delivers as “Whither shall we flee from their presence? What wings of wind can carry us? What beams of light can bear us?” Note also that this is a “legitimate” use of the original in that it is God who sends the trials, who is the First Cause.

Now to the division into parts. This is has already been noted: poverty comes paired with wealth: temptation and trial can come from any direction

Christians Must Grow Deeper In Biblical Doctrines

Years ago, a fellow Christian asked me why I spent so much time trying to understand doctrine when we would all just “know it” when we got to heaven (so why “waste time” now). This post is the answer to his question.

The Domain for Truth

Christians do you desire to grow more deeper in biblical doctrines?  By doctrines I mean the truth found in God’s Word.  While I have written more on defining doctrine and theology in my post ‘Doing’ Christian Theology in the 21st Century here in this post I want to look more at Bible verses on the topic that Christians must grow deeper in doctrines.

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Carl F. Henry, The Jesus Movement and Its Future

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Theologian Millard Erickson once said, “I love Carl Henry’s work. It’s extremely important. I hope someday that it is translated into English!”

Briefly summarized, this essay gives a taxonomy of the Jesus Movement as it appeared. First, he ties the Jesus Movement to the general countercultural movement

Many in the Jesus movement (the name originated with the February 1971 issue of Look magazine) boldy identified themselves with much of the general countercultural protest against contemporary social trends. They deplored racial discrimination and wanton pollution of the environment. They lamented a pursuit of problems and of solutions to those problems indifferent to personal values. They disowned technological totalitarianism which assumes that human needs are primarily technical in character and which by social engineering manipulates and depersonalizes human beings.

However, the Jesus movement differed fundamentally from the general countercultural critique:

But the Jesus movement declared that sin, and not technocracy, is the root of all evil, and disputed the countercultural assumption that man is basically sound and needs only to be liberated. It proclaimed unapologetically that “Christ is the answer.” It boldly emphasized that the Christian gospel carries in it a divine revelation and redemption absent from the counterculture no less than from the technocratic society it assailed. It was aware that historic Christianity is by nature both counterculture and counter-counterculture, indeed has less the character of a protest movement than of a witness movement that affirms Jesus Christ and his kingdom.

 Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 123–124.

This relationship to the broader culture gave the Jesus movement peculiar display of Christianity:

The Jesus movement was in some respects as much a product of the times as a manifestation of the Spirit of God. The depersonalizing aspects of rationalistic and technocratic cultural excesses triggered a reaction from which not even the Jesus movement escaped. On the whole the movement was experience-centered and antihistorical in respect to Christian tradition. Theological orientation was minimal, but that was not unlike the plight of many congregations whose pastors were more socially oriented than biblically illuminated. Some Jesus followers no doubt came to know more about the nature ofGod than their former Sunday school teachers.

Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 126. I would like to note here, that this Jesus Movement, which swelled the ranks of the church for the most part never outgrew its lack of depth in the Christian tradition. The “traditions” which developed from the Jesus movement have seemingly remained largely experiential. And while I have never studied the matter, I would not be surprised to find that the “Seeker Sensitive” its cousins have their roots in this soil. This is of course ironic, because the Seeker churches are marked by their consumerism

The apologetic of the movement took a true strand of Christianity, the doctrine of love, but put it a slogan which left susceptible to manipulation and decay as we have learned. Henry explains:

Most Jesus people—although not all—deplore the fundamentalist reduction of the spiritual life to a list of “don’ts.” Churches prone to such negation displayed the weakness of their own traditions when they refused to welcome young believers simply because, after accepting Christ, they retained long hair and mod dress characteristic of the counterculture. The Jesus movement wanted above all else to be known by its love for God and man. Its greeting to others became “God loves you.” Whereas deference to evangelical traditions ran the risk of straight-jacketing the Spirit, the experiential approach of the Jesus movement ran the risk of spiritual aberration and left many young believers vulnerable to cultic excesses. The ecumenical movement with its focus on “what the Spirit is saying to the churches” rather than on what the inspired Scripture ongoingly says, has meanwhile been more open to an emphasis on charismatic renewal than on a recovery of the Reformation.

Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 131.

There was an earnestness and a desire; however, that earnestness (from this perspective) never seemed to rightly mature in many (most?) instances. The Charismatic tendency of much of the Jesus Movement reduced to emotionalism. It’s lack of doctrinal depth, left it without resources to develop:

The Jesus movement’s revolt against institutional religion has issued in no clear alternative in the way of a united Christian front. It is vulnerable therefore to personality cults and to fads that lack the stability of a viable permanent movement. Its stance is basically isolationistic and escapist with regard to society, and its life style is countercultural. Some biblical wrestling with the nature of community in the light of the doctrine of the church was ventured by those devoted to pacifism or to a communal life style, but on the whole the Jesus movement was not inclined to serious academic investigation, particularly by those who recognize that communes have not demonstrated themselves to be the family of the future in view of the evident breakdown of open marriage.

Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 133–134. As we know, a great deal of that counterculture devolved into nothing more hedonistic excess or went indoors and became consumeristic (if there was evolution, it was in the nature of different pursuits around the self). The Jesus movement  came before a generation of Christians who were barely distinguishable from the broader culture. There was a great emphasis on getting people through the door — a great emphasis on the porch: but once inside, there was little Christian to offer, and so consumerism filled the bill.

 

James Denney, The Superlative Way

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From his collected sermons, The Way Everlasting. The sermon concerns 1 Corinthians 13, on the call for Christians to love:

For what the theologian defines and the Apostle depicts is illustrated and embodied in our Lord Himself, and what we have to do is to look at Him. “Herein is love.” We do not know what love is till we see it in Jesus, and when we see it there we see Him identifying Himself with God’s interest in us. The revelation is not only made before our eyes, it is made with special reference to ourselves. In Christ’s presence we are not the spectators of love only, we are its objects. Christ exhibits towards men, He exhibits towards us, that wonderful goodness which Paul describes. When we think what our life has been, and what has been His attitude to us from first to last, do we not say, “Our Lord suffers long, and is kind; He is not easily provoked; He does not impute to us our evil. Where we are concerned, where God’s interest in us is concerned, He bears all things, He believes all things, He hopes all things, He endures all things.” These are the thoughts, or rather these are the experiences, out of which love is born in our hearts. We love, because He first loved us All the time it is His love which must inspire ours. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.”

James Denney, The Way Everlasting: Sermons (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), 163.

James Denney, Degrees of Reality in Revelation and Religion

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(From The Way Everlasting).

This sermon is based upon 1 John 5:6:

6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (ESV)

This sermon concerns the reality of Christ’s coming:

The reality of God’s redeeming love. It is easy to puzzle the mind with questions about reality, especially where God is concerned. Every one has heard of the astronomer who swept the heavens with his telescope and found no trace of God. That is not very disconcerting. We do not ascribe to God the same kind of reality as we do to the stars, and are not disappointed if the astronomer does not detect him as he might a hitherto unnoticed planet. M. Renan somewhere speaks of God as “the category of the ideal”; that is, he ascribes to God that kind of reality which belongs to the high thoughts, aspirations, and hopes of the mind. Certainly we should not disparage the ideal or its power, and still less should we speak lightly of those who devote themselves to ideals and cherish faith in them. But to redeem and elevate such creatures as we are, more is needed; and what the Apostle is so emphatic about is that God has come to save us not with the reality of ideals, but with the reality of all that is most real in the life we live on earth, in the battle we fight in the flesh, in the death that we die He has come with the reality of blood. The Christian religion is robbed of what is most vital in it if the historical Christ and the historical passion cease to be the very heart of it.

James Denney, The Way Everlasting: Sermons (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), 143–144.

He then considers some ways that the reality of Christ’s coming are made bloodless, distance, mere abstractions. First consider the ethical, philosophical arguments which try to reduce Christ and his work to an ethics and example. But,

I had rather preach with a crucifix in my hand and the feeblest power of moral reflection, than have the finest insight into ethical principles and no Son of God who came by blood. It is the pierced side, the thorn-crowned brow, the rent hands and feet, that make us Christians—these, and not our profoundest thoughts about the ethical constitution of the universe.

James Denney, The Way Everlasting: Sermons (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), 145. He also considers those who try to dehistoricize Christ’s coming; but that likewise will not do.

But here comes the bite of the sermon: if Christ came in such a real way, in the way of blood and water, then this lays upon the Christian the call to a life answering that reality:

It follows from this that no deliberate seeking of a sheltered life is truly Christian. The Son of God came in blood. He faced the world as it was, the hour and the power of darkness; He laid down life itself in pursuance of His calling; and there must be something answering to this in a life which is genuinely Christian. Yet we cannot help seeing that in different ways this conclusion is practically evaded. It is evaded by those who aim at cultivating the Christian life solely in coteries, cliques, and conventions of like-minded people; by those whose spiritual concern is all directed inward, and whose ideal is rather the sanctification of the soul than the consecration of life to Christ. There are so few people who make holiness in any sense whatever the chief end of life that one shrinks from saying anything which might reflect on those who do pursue it, even in a mistaken sense; but who has not known promising characters fade away and become characterless, through making this mistake? Who does not know how easy it is to miss the Gospel type, the type of Jesus, and actually to present to the world, as though with his stamp upon it, a character insipid, ineffective, bloodless? Nothing has a right to bear His name that is not proved amid the actualities of life to have a passion in it like His own.

James Denney, The Way Everlasting: Sermons (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), 148–149.

This then leads to a final question: I am willing to concede and even believe this fact of Christ coming so, but it still seems distant and abstract. Christ did come in blood and water, but my life and my experience does not seem truly touched by this fact. What of that? To which Denney answers:

The answer to such questions, I believe, is suggested by the next words of the Apostle: “It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth”. There is a point of mystery in all religion—not the point at which we know nothing, but the point at which we know everything and yet nothing happens—the point at which we are cast absolutely on God. But the mention of the Spirit reminds us that though the Christian experience depends absolutely upon God, it is not for that reason blankly mysterious. The Spirit is a witness; he takes the things of Christ and shows them to us, and under his showing they become present, real, and powerful. This is his work—to make the past present, the historical eternal, the inert vital.

When the Spirit comes, Christ is with us in all the reality of His life and Passion, and our hearts answer to His testimony. We read the Gospel, and we do not say, He spoke these words of grace and truth, but He speaks them. We do not say, He received sinners and ate with them; but, He receives sinners and spreads a table for them. We do not say, He prayed for His own; but, He ever liveth to make intercession for us. We do not even say, He came in blood; but, He is here, clothed in His crimson robe, in the power of His Passion, mighty to save. Have we not had this witness of the Spirit on days we can recall? Have we not had it in listening to the word of God this very day? We know what it is to grieve the Spirit; we know also what it is to open our hearts to Him.

Let us be ready always to open our hearts to His testimony to the Son of God—to Jesus Christ who came with the water and with the blood; and as the awful reality of the love of God in Christ is sealed upon them, let us make answer to it in a love which has all the reality of our own nature in it.

James Denney, The Way Everlasting: Sermons (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), 150–151.

How Your Associations Effect the Way Others See You

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We are known by the company we keep: to be associated with another may raise or lower the opinions of others. Therefore, one important means of persuading others is to be aware of, and manage our connections to others

At the height of his wealth and success, the financier Baron de Rothschild was petition for a loan by an acquaintance. Reputedly the great man replied, “I won’t give you a loan myself; but I will walk arm-in-arm with you across the floor the Stock Exchange, and you will soon have willing lenders to spare.” Apparently the baron was wise in more than matter of finance. He understood and intriguing fact with the psychology of impression management: It is possible to influence how we are viewed by managing information about the people and things to whihc we are merely connected.

Robert B. Cialdini, “Beyond Basking: Indirect Techniques of Image Management,” in Impression Management in the Organization, ed. Robert A. Giacalone and Paul Rosenfeld (Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 1989), 45.

Cialdini then proceeds to offer 8 variations on this theme. First, we may wish to establish either a connection or distance from the “other”.  In these four instance, our connection is ambiguous, and thus we are seeking to making the connection — or lack thereof — clear. He labels these mechanisms as

Boasting: Proclaiming a Positive Link to a Favorable Other

Burying: Disclaiming a Positive Link to a Favorable Other

Blaring: Proclaiming a Negative Link to an Unfavorable Other

Blurring: Disclaiming a Negative Link to a Favorable Other

What of circumstances where we are unquestionably united to another, such as a business partner or family member? In these instances, we are not seeking to establish our tie to that person, but rather to effect the way the audience thinks about that person. These techniques he labels as

Burnishing: Enhancing the Favorable Features of a Positively Linked Other

(Our firm is the best!)

Boosting: Minimizing the Unfavorable Features of an Positively Linked Other
(my brother’s not that bad)

Blasting: Exaggerating the Unfavorable Features of Negatively Linked Other
(Yes, he doesn’t like me — but he’s a jerk.)

Belittling: Minimizing the Favorable Features of a Negatively Linked Other
(Sure, he doesn’t like me, but he’s not really that important)