Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Church

It does not matter what a church's historical connections may be. It does not matter if a church was founded by Peter or Paul, or if a bishop had Saint John's hands laid on him to commission him for ministry. It does not matter if a church sings the ancient songs of Christianity or reads from the ancient Scriptures, or practices the ancient Christian practices.

If a church does not believe the teaching of Christ, then that church is not a Christian church. God has nothing to do with that church.

"Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9)

The Church is not a sporting club that can be passed from one management to another regardless of their teaching. The Church is the one, ever present Body of Christ, made up of many members from every tribe, tongue and nation: people, all over the world and also in heaven, who believe the teaching of Christ. These people are the Ekklesia, the Church. They are the called out ones, who are set apart from the world by their faith, not by their physical appearance, practice and location. This is the one true Church. It has always remained and will always remain.

"Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God!" (Galatians 6:16)

Friday, August 09, 2013

The Supreme Problem of Guilt

There is no one on earth who can live his life in guilt and fear of a wrathful God and be content with himself. All people everywhere want to reconcile themselves to their physical and mental environment; that is, they want peace. Yet the way to peace is not by denying the reality of those things which rob us of our peace, but by being reconciled to those things; by dealing with them. For example, if I am hiking one day and happen to encounter a grizzly bear, suddenly my physical environment has lost its peace and I experience fear. I want to get back to peace as soon as possible. The way to peace is not by denying that the bear exists, but by dealing with the problem of the bear. Who can live in the presence of a dangerous physical threat like a bear? No one. But how do we go about solving the problem? Denial of reality or dealing with reality?

Applying this to guilt, guilt is one of the most objective and significant realities in our lives. The fear that guilt brings, whether the fear of the reaction of other people or of God, is real. We not only live in a physical world but in a moral world that is just as real and just as controlled by moral laws as the physical world is real and controlled by physical laws. We must come to terms with total reality. Every person has a moral sense; a sense of justice and of behavioral rightness; a sense of how we should and should not act. This sense has no other explanation than that we are made in the image of a God who Himself is by nature love. Everyone knows the language of love. If we seek to explain this sense of righteousness apart from God, we are actually seeking to explain it away, for morality has no basis apart from God. Yet no matter how much men may attempt to explain it away, it cannot be eradicated because it is a true sense for we are truly made in the image of God.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Book Reviews

"Apology" by Plato
"Believing Christ" by Stephen E. Robinson
"Commentary on Galatians" by John Calvin
"First Epistle to the Corinthians" by Clement of Rome
"How Good Do We Have to Be?" by Harold Kushner
"Joy Unspeakable" by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
"Justification" by N.T. Wright
"On the Freedom of a Christian" by Martin Luther
"On the Incarnation" by Athanasius
"Power from on High" by Charles Finney
"Straight Talk to Elders" by Frank Viola
"The Art of Manfishing" by Thomas Boston
"The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
"The Free Offer of the Gospel" by John Murray
"The Great Tribulation" by David Chilton
"The Kingdom of God" by John Bright
"The Knowledge of the Holy" by A.W. Tozer
"The Latent Power of the Soul" by Watchman Nee

Book Review: "The Knowledge of the Holy" by A.W. Tozer

 

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) was an prominent author and pastor in the 20th century, who, along with other men like Leonard Ravenhill, were critical of the Church's apathy and compromise and called her to examine the reality of her faith. His influence has outlived his life. Whether that influence is a good influence or a bad influence is debatable. I believe it was largely bad.

Unlike Ravenhill, Tozer proves himself in this book to be a serious intellectual. He is well read and displays a sharp mind. However, men who have sharp minds and are well read are not in any way immune to error, and I believe Tozer spoils an otherwise excellent book by his errors.

The Knowledge of the Holy is Tozer's call for the Church in the 20th century to re-acquaint herself with God and return to the knowledge of the one true God. He understood that what we think about God will effect everything else that we do. He saw that in his day people were perverting the knowledge of God, seeing God as one like themselves who simply desires to help humanity accomplish their own desires. He laments the lack of reverence and wonder of the Almighty God. He wrote the book to correct this.

The book covers the usual attributes of God that one would find in a standard theology textbook. The metaphysical attributes are covered in the first half (omniscience, eternality, infinitude, immutability, etc.) and the moral attributes in the second half (faithfulness, goodness, grace, love, etc.). One error Tozer introduces early in the book, and then afterward repeatedly contradicts himself, is that he states that faith is not based upon evidence. This is by itself false, for faith is, by its dictionary and Biblical definition, a "conviction", and a conviction is always based upon evidence. Tozer then contradicts himself throughout the book by providing evidence for why we should believe such and such attributes of God. However, if you can see past this common error that many make, the book can still be a blessing.

I think Tozer does just as good a job of discussing the metaphysical attributes of God as any introductory theology textbook would do, and with this bonus: Tozer is not dry. Theology should never be dry, and Tozer shows us that. I found myself greatly blessed as I meditated with Tozer on the majesty and the magnitude of God.

The second half of the book, however, which deals with God's moral attributes, is the weakest half. The average evangelical pastor could (hopefully) write just as good a discussion of the grace and love of God as Tozer did; and perhaps even better than he did. This is because Tozer's understanding of the gospel was sadly not very clear. Tozer, along with Ravenhill and many other criticizers of the Church, did not understand the central doctrine of righteousness through faith apart from works as well as he probably thought he did. You can see this throughout the book, because whenever Tozer talks about salvation it is far more focused on man than on Christ; on our cross rather than Christ's cross; what we need to do and how we need to repent rather than what Christ did for us and how we simply are to rest in His finished work through faith. Tozer is either ambiguous on conversion or worse. This is why his discussion of the moral attributes of God was not very good, leaving many important things to be desired.

The most ironic thing about this is that the moral attributes of God are the essential attributes that show us who God really is. When God showed Moses His glory, He did not pass by Him and proclaim "The Lord, the Lord God, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, infinite, etc." although all these things are true and wondrous about God. But the Lord proclaimed "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, etc." (Ex. 34:6) Jeremiah the prophet wrote that through the New Covenant all Israel will know God, from the least of them to the greatest, because God will forgive their sins and remember their iniquities no more (Jer. 31:34). The apostle John wrote that it is Jesus Christ who came "full of grace and truth" that alone reveals to us the Father (John 1:14-18). He who does not know God as the loving God of saving grace in Christ, although he know all the metaphysical qualities of God, does not truly know God. It is the grace and love of God revealed in Christ that is the supreme revelation, that gives us the knowledge of the holy, without which we do not know God. Yes, we need to fall on our faces in reverent wonder that God is the eternal and self-existent God. I do not in any way intend to suggest otherwise. But until we also stand up and rejoice in the God who gave His blood to wash away our sins by His pure, undeserved, free, and unconditional grace, we do not yet know and worship God.

It is too bad that this is the case with Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy, because I would otherwise have highly recommended it as an exciting and lively introduction to the attributes of God.