Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dawkins is Half-right

"And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace... Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth... The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months." (Revelation 9)

The thing about Dawkins is that, like many men, part of what he says is true. Dawkins says that religion causes war and all manner of suffering. This is partially true. False religion does cause war and suffering, but so do all false belief systems, including Atheism.

Conveniently he forgets that Atheism is a belief system, and what it has historically led to. Think of the French Revolution (2 million
dead), Stalin (60 million dead), Mao (more than 40 to 72 million dead), the Khmer Rouge (2 million dead), and Communism in general. We may even include Nazism as basically an Atheistic belief system (55 million dead). I doubt that even the medieval Roman Catholic Church and Islam can beat these numbers.

What shall we say of the millions of abortions that have taken place as a result of humanism (527 to 836 million dead)? What a utopia Atheism brings in!

(You can see that I interpret Revelation in a symbolic/ spiritual way, and that I believe that Chapter 9 teaches that various false belief systems arise from the Devil's bottomless pit to deceive men, leading to suffering, and war in particular.)



Animal Rights and the Christian

I've been reading through Proverbs in the morning and Proverbs 12:10 hadn't struck Mary before, so I thought I'd pass it on:

"A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel."

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

What was Banned from Discussion in the PCI for 5 Years?

For 18 years from 1868 to 1886, every General Assembly of the mainstream Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) was exercised by the lawfulness of using musical instruments in worship. It caused such a controversy that it was banned for 5 years. You can read about this in Thomas Hamilton's History of Presbyterianism in Ireland (pp. 186, 187). What happened next, I don't know, but clearly they eventually adopted the practice. However, at this point they followed the historical practice of the Presbyterian, Reformed and Baptist churches in excluding them as they were part of the temple worship and not NT practice.

It is interesting to consider how many conservative Presbyterians are troubled by the increase in the use of orchestras in worship. In many ways this is a more consistent application of the Temple practice of musical instruments where a Levitical orchestra (as well as choir) served. Consider the multitude of instruments in Psalm 150, for instance.

Baptists may be interested to note that Charles Spurgeon rejected the introduction of an organ into his church: "The great congregation which is blessed with the privilege of listening to His instruction has no organ ‘to assist' them in singing their praises to their God and Saviour. They find their vocal organs sufficient. Their tongues and voices express the gratitude of their hearts... I would just as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery."

Although the Methodist Church was a break-away from the Anglican (or Episcopalian) church, John Wesley was also surprisingly opposed to the use of organs in worship. This despite the fact that this church was responsible for the production of many of the great hymns and for leading American Presbyterianism into the use of man-made hymns earlier than other branches of the P&R churches. In fact even in 1808 the British Methodist Conference continued to ban the use of organs. It should be noted that some instruments had begun to be used prior to this.

See these quotes from prominent figures in Church history against the use of instruments in worship. Various articles, including some written by the great Southern Presbyterians Robert Dabney and John Giradeau, may be found here.

I leave you with this quote from the Presbyterian Board of Publications (Philadelphia) in 1842:

Question 6. Is there any authority for instrumental music in the worship of God under the present dispensation?

Answer. Not the least, only the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs was appointed by the apostles; not a syllable is said in the New Testament in favor of instrumental music nor was it ever introduced into the Church until after the eighth century, after the Catholics had corrupted the simplicity of the gospel by their carnal inventions. It was not allowed in the Synagogues, the parish churches of the Jews, but was confined to the Temple service and was abolished with the rites of that dispensation.

Click here for the answer...

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wisdom from Lord of the Rings in Dark Times

Our Pastor was preaching on Esther 4, where she is confronted with her responsibility to use the position that God has put her in to save the Jews. Esther knows that she could die if she approaches the King without asking, but Mordecai says to Esther, "Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

Often we are not happy with the circumstances in which we find ourselves, esp. as the ungodly are increasingly attacking the people of God. So we are prone to become paralysed, asking ourselves, why do we have to live in this age of declension and opposition, and not in a time of revival?

I find the following from The Lord of the Rings helpful as reflective of Biblical thinking (I couldn't find where this is in the book, but this exchange happens in the Mines of Moria in the film):

Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in the world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you also were meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Troubled by the Silence of the Dead?

WSC Q. 37 What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united in Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection.

I was talking to a saint this day who was troubled by the following texts and others like them:

The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence. (Psalm 115:17)

Will You work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise You? Shall Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or Your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Shall Your wonders be known in the dark? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? (Psalm 88:10-12)

This saint was troubled by the thought that they might fall into a place of darkness and silence, an almost limbo-like state at death.

Let us always remember some of the basic rules of interpretation: to interpret individual Scriptures in the light of the whole of Scripture and in the light of God's infallible truth and non-contradiction, and to interpret the harder passages in the light of the clearer.

The following passages make clear what is the destination of God's saints after death (see also Rev. 20:4): the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect... (Hebrews 12:23)

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord... We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6,8)

For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. (Philippians 1:23)

Clearly the believer's soul passes immediately into the glory of heaven and the immediate presence of Christ, so the original passages cannot be speaking of the soul passing into a limbo or soul-sleep (let alone purgatory).

How shall we understand these Scriptures? Is there a contradiction? No, there is an easy explanation as to how to understand the original passages. They are speaking from the perspective of the earthly plane only, and are not meant to be an absolute statement (as Calvin is wont to say).

If we look at Psalm 115, we can see that the psalm is speaking about God blessing His people on the earth and preserving them alive as a people, so that there is a continuity of witness by the covenant community throughout the history of the earth to the very end. The dead cannot praise God on the earth. When we look on their corpses, they lie in silence.
The Church of God will never die, but 'will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore'.

Again Psalm 88 can legitimately be understood on its own as an appeal to God by the Psalmist as he 'draws near to the grave' that he may be preserved alive to glorify God on the earth, whereas the dead cannot do this. When one considers it in the light of the other passages, this is the only legitimate interpretation of the passage.

Let us not be troubled by these things, but let us gird ourselves about with the belt of truth, taking up the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith to defend ourselves from the Devil's assaults upon the peace of our souls.

Let us consider how short our lives are on this earth: we are but dust and like a short-lived wild flower of the field. Let us use our brief moments on this earth for God's glory and the advancement of Christ's Kingdom, for the dead cannot do this.

During the Covenanter period, a compromising minister once commented, "What needs all of this ado? We will get heaven and they will get no more." When
Donald Cargill heard it, he replied, "Yes, we will get more; we will get God glorified on earth, which is more than heaven." God grant us the spirit of Cargill in living our lives. Continued...

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