Thursday, March 23, 2017

Marco Polo - The Traveler

The Mongols conquered China and then began to move westward toward Europe, leaving destruction in their wake. This had the unintended consequence of bridging the gap between China and Europe and making contact between the two cultures. The medieval church sent missionaries to bring Christianity to China, but nothing much came of it. But there were also those who went as merchants, with the intent to make money in trade. Marco Polo, with his father and uncle, was one of these. And his accounts contained things so strange as to be dismissed as fictional.  (There were some fabulous elements, mostly heard about second hand, but some of the true elements also appeared to be fabulous.)

From China Europe learned of things like black rocks that burn, printing presses, and gun powder. It is unclear how many how many of these types of things came over from China and how many were invented or discovered independently, but the Chinese at least  pointed the way. But the main thing this did was to show the Europeans that there existed things that were beyond their current knowledge and technological development, Which, I am convinced, helped encourage the scientific and technological revolution in Europe. Also, while I cannot prove it, I have often wondered if the knowledge of gunpowder did not contribute to the development of impetus mechanics, which opened the way for the Copernican revolution. Aristotle had claimed that an object would not move unless it was being pushed by something directly in contact with it. In the case of something thrown, the motion was supposedly the result of the air moving behind it and pushing it. Impetus mechanics laid the groundwork for the correct theory of inertia, that objects in motion stay in motion until the friction of the air and gravity bring them down. This allows the motions of the planets to be explained as their simply remaining in motion, and allows for the earth going around the sun and being just one more instance of such a planetary motion. Rejection of Aristotle in this area made it easier to reject him in other areas. But be that as it may, knowledge from China put coal on the fire of the scientific and technological revolution.          

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Reaching Children

One of our problems with making disciples or raising children is a dependence on superficial morality rather than the gospel. I have noticed this tendency to major on moralism, particularly in curriculum designed for children. Now there are two types of legalism. There is the old-fashioned type of legalism, based on a multitude of rules and strict standards. Then there is a kinder, gentler legalism, based on loving people and being kind. Now the second kind seems much nicer and more attractive than the first. And as far as the content of the standard, it is more biblical (Matthew 22:35-40; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13,14). But the problem is that we are sinners and cannot properly keep either standard (Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6).

Scripture says that Christ came to pay the price for sin (1 Peter 1:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21), and we receive this through faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9). Now this should result in a changed life (Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; Romans 12:1,2), but it is not a result of our ability (John 15:5; Romans 7:14; 8:8) but of God’s power working in us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Galatians 5:16). Therefore, what people need is not simply a set of rules but to be connected to the power of God.

But sometimes we forget this when it comes to children. We get this distorted idea that children are innocent and not really sinners who need to be saved. I sometimes wonder if these people do not remember what it was like to be a child or have not ever worked with children. Children can be cruel, selfish, petty, and a number of other things that adults also are, but we adults have learned to hide it better. Another problem here is that we want children to mind, so we spend a lot of time teaching children that they need to mind. Now there is a place for this, but what we all need is not just to learn to mind; we need to be saved. We do not want to build superficially moral children who will dump it all when they get to college. We want to build adults who have the truth of God firmly rooted inside them. To do that we need to speak to the inner heart of the person (Proverbs 2:1,2; 23:26; 4:23). We must turn them to something beyond themselves, to trust and fear God (Proverbs 1:7; 2:3-5; 3:5,6). But to accomplish this we need to begin with the gospel.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Touch of Humor - Being Frank

Where do we draw the line between making our point and being nasty to the other person? How do we avoid crossing that line?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Old Erich Proverb - Facing

Sometimes following God means facing the things hard for us to face, with His power.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Voice from the Past - Patrick

For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.

Patrick, 390-460 AD, Confession, 4, (Christian Classics Ethereal Library, p.2)

What are the distinctions of the various members of the Trinity? What are the similarities? What implication does this have for our life?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Grace and Discipline

How do grace and discipline come together for the Christian? Do we throw out one or the other, or exchange one for the other at some point, or how does this work? First of all, salvation is totally by grace. We are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), who are saved by the work of Christ on the cross (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21), through putting our faith in what He has done (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2;8,9; 1 John 5:11-13). But after being saved, does God leave us on our own to advance in the Christian life, or does grace still play a part? Grace has a place, both as a motivator and as a source of power for living the Christian life. We obey God out of love for Him because of what He has done for us (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; 2 Peter 1:9). Also, God sends His Spirit into our lives to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29) and to accomplish His purposes in the world (Ephesians 2:10; Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:6,7),and we are not able to do anything of ourselves (John 15:5; Romans 7:18; 8:8). Nor, as believers, does God deal with us on any basis other then grace (Romans 5:1,2; 8:33,34; Hebrews 4:16). But does that mean we can avoid using any effort or discipline in living the Christian life?  

Scripture tells us we are to respond to God’s grace with a life of obedience (Titus 2:11-14; Romans 6:12-14; Galatians 5:13). Further, we are told that this life is not something that happens automatically, but it is a process we are called to participate in (Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 12:1-3; Ephesians 6:10-13). Our goal is nothing short of being conformed to Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10). In this process, the Bible tells us to exercise discipline (1 Timothy 4:7-10; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 5:11-14). We are told to know, understand, and apply God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16,17; Colossians 3:16) through meditating on it (Psalm 1:2; 119:99; Joshua 1:8). We are also to pray to God (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; James 5:13-18)--with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6,7; 1 Thessalonians 5:17,18; Hebrews 13:15)--which can at the appropriate time include fasting (Matthew 6:16-18; 9:15; 1 Corinthians 7:5). This does not mean we forget grace, but rather we do these things motivated by grace and trusting in the power of God to enable us to accomplish them. It is not a matter of gritting our teeth and trusting in our own will power to accomplish these things. But neither is it a matter of sitting back and expecting to grow in the Christian life without applying ourselves. Both aspects of this process are important.