A Citation Worth Repeating Completely: Machen, on the Church Today

At such a time [as this], what should be done by those who love Christ? I think, my friends, that they should at least face the facts; I do not believe that they should bury their heads like ostriches in the sand; I do not think that they should soothe themselves with the minutes of the General Assembly or the reprts of the Boards or the imposing rows of figures which the Church papers contain. Last week it was reported that the churches of America increased their membership by 690,000. Are you encouraged by these figures? I for my part am not encouraged a bit. I have indeed my own grounds for encouragement, especially those which are found in the great and precious promises of God. But these figures have no place among them. How many of these 690,000 names do you think are really written in the Lamb’s book of life? A small proportion, I fear.

Church membership today often means nothing more, as has well been said, than a vague admiration for the moral character of Jesus; the Church in countless communities is little more than a Rotary Club.

One day, as I was walking through a neighboring city, I saw, not an altar with an inscription to an unknown god, but something that filled me with far more sorrow than that could have done. I saw a church with a large sign on it, which read somewhat like this: “Not a member? Come in and help us make this a better community.” Truly we have wandered far from the day when entrance into the Church involved confession of faith in Christ as the Savior from sin.   — J. Gresham Machen

From here, and heard about first here.

He’s right of course. 100% on the money. In too many places the Church isn’t the Church. It’s not even the church. We owe it to the Church to face up to this fact and return to our roots, whatever ‘society’ thinks and without even glancing in its direction for direction as to how the Church ought to be the Church.

Yeah, That’s Police Misconduct For Sure

That’s what a Pittsburgh teen looked like after the police ‘searched him for what they suspected was a gun’ but which was only a bottle.

The photos taken by Jordan Miles’ mother show his face covered with raw, red bruises, his cheek and lip swollen, his right eye swollen shut. A bald spot mars the long black dreadlocks where the 18-year-old violist says police tore them from his head. Now, 10 days after plainclothes officers stopped him on a street and arrested him after a struggle that they say revealed a soda bottle under his coat, not the gun they suspected…

Heavens.

“I feel that my son was racially profiled,” Terez Miles said. “It’s a rough neighborhood; it was after dark. … They assumed he was up to no good because he’s black. My son, he knows nothing about the streets at all. He’s had a very sheltered life, he’s very quiet, he doesn’t know police officers sit in cars and stalk people like that.”

Poor kid.

A judge continued the case until Feb. 18 after the officers failed to appear at a hearing Thursday, Miles’ attorney, Kerrington Lewis, said.

Failed to appear? If a suspect fails to appear aren’t warrants issued for their arrest? Why are the police treated differently?

Miles’ family describes him as a studious teenager who plays the viola for a jazz band and the orchestra at Pittsburgh’s prestigious Creative and Performing Arts High School.

Not the gang-banger the police appeared to have taken him for, then, eh?

Power corrupts. The power of a police department unfettered by a sense of authentic justice corrupts absolutely.

Incurvatus in se

I got an email responding to the previous post asking about Luther’s phrase.  I suppose where one asks, many wonder.

Luther’s phrase is ‘incurvatus in se‘, ‘curved in on self’.  He uses it a number of times, including in the following places in the English edition of Luther’s Works (probably the most accessible, which is why I cite it) – Incurvatus in se—10:241, 25:245, 291f, 313, 345, 351, 513, 33:175f.

Perhaps the fullest explanation is this one-

The “prudence of the flesh” chooses what is good for oneself and avoids what is disadvantageous for oneself, it rejects the common good and chooses what is harmful to community. This is a prudence which directs the flesh, that is, our concupiscence and self-will, which enjoys itself and uses everyone else, including God Himself; in all matters it looks out for itself and its own interests. This prudence makes man feel that he himself is the final and ultimate object in life, an idol, on whose account he does, suffers, attempts, plans, and says all things. He considers good only those things which are for his own personal good, and those things only as evils which are bad for him. This crookedness, this depravity, this iniquity is condemned over and over in Scripture under the name of fornication and idolatry, and it is, as we have said earlier in chapter 6,12 something most profound in our nature, indeed, it is our very nature itself, wounded and totally in ferment, so that without grace it becomes not only incurable but also totally unrecognizable. — Luther’s Works, Vol. 25, p. 350.

And here- addressing the command that we ‘love our neighbor as ourselves’ Luther astutely observes

Therefore I believe that with this commandment “as yourself” man is not commanded to love himself but rather is shown the sinful love with which he does in fact love himself, as if to say: “You are completely curved in upon yourself and pointed toward love of yourself, a condition from which you will not be delivered unless you altogether cease loving yourself and, forgetting yourself, love your neighbor. For it is a perversity that we want to be loved by all and want to seek our interests in all people; but it is uprightness that if you do to everyone else what in your perverseness you want done to yourself, you will do good with the same zeal as you used to do evil. — Luther’s Works, Vol. 25, p. 513.

Luther is fairly clear on his understanding of man ‘curved in on himself’.  It’s another way of saying ‘totally depraved’.

Blanket Statements on Being Gay… The Prop 8 Trial

At the Prop 8 trial today it was asserted that ‘being gay isn’t a choice‘. This, however, is not true.

There are a number of reasons why people are gay. Some are ‘gay for pay’. Actors in adult films have for years been willing to play whichever part was necessary.

Some are abused as children by a same sex neighbor, relative, or stranger and are thus psychologically ‘driven’ to recreate those encounters.

Others are gay by choice. Think of Ellen Degeneres’s ‘partner’ old what’s her name who only ‘dated’ her to gain fame; along with the other hollywood-ites who thought it chic to be gay.

Hence, for witnesses to assert in a trial that being gay is not a choice is simply a falsehood. Some do in fact choose it or are ‘made’ gay by events during childhood.

On the other hand some, apparently, do not choose such a lifestyle. Neither abused nor acting out a choice, they seem to be genuinely ‘gay by birth’. The question remains, are they?

Or are they not? Is it in fact possible that those who act out homosexual behaviors are – in Luther’s phrase – ‘curved in on themselves’? Is homosexuality self love taken to its logical conclusion?

Don’t get mad at the questions. And don’t accuse the questioner of some horrific anti-this-or-thatness. Just consider the possibility that the answers may be correct and ponder them.

Zwingli: On the Foresight of God

Nothing is hidden from Him, nothing unknown to Him, nothing beyond His reach, nothing disobedient to Him. Hence not even the mosquito has its sharp sting and musical hum without God’s wisdom, knowledge, and foresight. His wisdom, then, knows all things even before they exist. His knowledge comprehends all things, His foresight regulates all things. For that which is God would not be the supreme good unless it were at the same time supreme wisdom and foresight. The only proper response to this is to contemplate with reverence what God has willed to disclose to us, and not to wish impudently to touch what he has hidden from us. — Huldrych Zwingli

Canon and Canonicity

Canon and Canonicity: The Formation and Use of Scripture, is a new volume which is comprised of essays which

… discuss such crucial issues as the history of the formation of the Biblical canon, examples of the canonization of books in Antiquity outside Christianity, and the nature and function of canonical texts in general.  Several essays, furthermore, deal with the numerous ways in which Biblical canonicity has been construed and utilized in more recent European history.

The Supreme Court’s Murder of Democracy

Or at the very least they have poisoned it with their decision to allow corporate money to significantly influence the outcome of elections, in their really amazingly stupid decision.

Corporations can spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, a landmark decision denounced by President Barack Obama for giving special interests more power. “The Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics,” Obama said after the 5-4 ruling that divided the nation’s high court along conservative and liberal lines.

Special interests (read, corporations) already control Congressmen. Now they’ll be able to own them before they’re elected too.

Thanks, Supreme Court. The 5 of you who voted for this madness have just killed authentic democracy.

The Gospels as Rewritten Bible

There’s a new project just getting underway at the University of Copenhagen titled ‘The Gospels as Rewritten Bible‘, and which will attempt to alter the field’s understanding of Gospel formation.

During the next tree years a group of scholars will map the development of the four gospels in order to establish that the Gospel of Luke is not, as believed so far, a contemporary of the Gospel of Matthew, and that the shared content of the two is not to be explained by the existence of a lost scripture, but by the fact that the author of St. Luke’s Gospel used St. Matthew’s Gospel as well as that of St. Mark as basis for his own scripture.

Read the entire news release.  The project should generate a lot of interest, and discussion.

Talpiot Dethroned

That’s the title of a new essay at Bible and Interpretation. It includes such insightful observations as

A new book by Darrell L. Bock and Daniel B. Wallace, Dethroning Jesus, is another example replete with errors similar to those of a number of scholars in debunking the Talpiot tomb. In this book, the authors attempt to address a variety of claims that challenge the traditional evangelical views of Jesus. They devote one chapter to Jesus’ tomb at Talpiot.

Which causes the author of the present essay to write

Here, we argue that the authors demonstrate a lack of sophistication in their interpretation of name frequencies and the statistical probability that Talpiot contained the family of Jesus. A more troubling aspect of their critique is they appear to engage in Christian apologetics in defending the resurrection as plausible, but a tomb containing Jesus’ family as not.

After shredding Bock and Wallace in a way that would make Dexter (a Shotime serial killer for those who haven’t seen it) jealous, Elliott concludes

We admire the authors’ clear and unambiguous attempt to defend Christian dogma, the validity of the Gospels, and a bodily resurrection, but this is theology, not a scholarly inquiry.

Actually theology is itself a scholarly inquiry. So though I appreciate Elliott’s good work, I have to take issue with his presumption that theology is un-scholarly whilst historical work is scholarly and the suggestion that if work is mere ‘theology’ it is somehow less viable than historical inquiry.

Truth told, much historical work is un-scholarly and much theology is quite scholarly; similarly, some historical work is scholarly and some theological work is un-scholarly. It all depends on who is doing what and whether or not they know what they are talking about or are mere dilettantes.