Daily Archives: January 9, 2020

January 9 Streams in the Desert

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18.)

I KEPT for nearly a year the flask-shaped cocoon of an emperor moth. It is very peculiar in its construction. A narrow opening is left in the neck of the flask, through which the perfect insect forces its way, so that a forsaken cocoon is as entire as one still tenanted, no rupture of the interlacing fibers having taken place. The great disproportion between the means of egress and the size of the imprisoned insect makes one wonder how the exit is ever accomplished at all—and it never is without great labor and difficulty. It is supposed that the pressure to which the moth’s body is subjected in passing through such a narrow opening is a provision of nature for forcing the juices into the vessels of the wings, these being less developed at the period of emerging from the chrysalis than they are in other insects.

I happened to witness the first efforts of my prisoned moth to escape from its long confinement. During a whole forenoon, from time to time, I watched it patiently striving and struggling to get out. It never seemed able to get beyond a certain point, and at last my patience was exhausted. Very probably the confining fibers were drier and less elastic than if the cocoon had been left all winter on its native heather, as nature meant it to be. At all events I thought I was wiser and more compassionate than its Maker, and I resolved to give it a helping hand. With the point of my scissors I snipped the confining threads to make the exit just a very little easier, and lo! immediately, and with perfect ease, out crawled my moth dragging a huge swollen body and little shrivelled wings. In vain I watched to see that marvelous process of expansion in which these silently and swiftly develop before one’s eyes; and as I traced the exquisite spots and markings of divers colors which were all there in miniature, I longed to see these assume their due proportions and the creature to appear in all its perfect beauty, as it is, in truth, one of the loveliest of its kind. But I looked in vain. My false tenderness had proved its ruin. It never was anything but a stunted abortion, crawling painfully through that brief life which it should have spent flying through the air on rainbow wings. I have thought of it often, often, when watching with pitiful eyes those who were struggling with sorrow, suffering, and distress; and I would fain cut short the discipline and give deliverance. Short-sighted man! How know I that one of these pangs or groans could be spared? The far-sighted, perfect love that seeks the perfection of its object does not weakly shrink from present, transient suffering. Our Father’s love is too true to be weak. Because He loves His children, He chastises them that they may be partakers of His holiness. With this glorious end in view, He spares not for their crying. Made perfect through sufferings, as the Elder Brother was, the sons of God are trained up to obedience and brought to glory through much tribulation.—Tract.[1]

 

[1] Cowman, L. B. (1925). Streams in the Desert (pp. 9–10). Los Angeles, CA: The Oriental Missionary Society.

The Gag-Reflex and the Doctrine of Hell: Realigning Our Emotional Response to God’s Justice — Credo Magazine

The new issue of Credo Magazine focuses on the question, “Will all be saved?” The following is an excerpt from Denny Burk’s article, “The Gag-Reflex and the Doctrine of Hell: Realigning Our Emotional Response to God’s Justice.” Denny Burk (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as associate pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Burk edits The Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and speaks and writes extensively about gender and sexuality. His books include Transforming Homosexuality (P&R, 2015) and  What is the Meaning of Sex (Crossway, 2013). He keeps a popular blog at DennyBurk.com.


In his recent book arguing for universalism, David Bentley Hart explains why he abhors the doctrine of hell as eternal conscious torment. It turns out that his reasons are not first of all to do with God’s revelation in scripture but with a gag-reflex—his moral revulsion against a deity that would preside over an eternal conscious torment in hell. Hart writes,

How viciously vindictive the creator of such a hell would have to be to have devised so exquisitely malicious a form of torture and then to have made it eternal, and how unjust in condemning men and women to unending torment for the “sin” of not knowing him even though he had never revealed himself to them, or for some formally imputed guilt supposedly attaching to them on account of some distant ancestor’s transgression.[1]

Hart’s rejection of the traditional doctrine of hell at least has the virtue of being clear. He does not mince words or hedge in the least. He rejects what the church has overwhelmingly taught and believed throughout its two-thousand year history. He knows he’s in the minority on this, but he nevertheless soldiers on in his contempt for any view of hell as eternal conscious torment. And it is clear that the doctrine of hell is not the only doctrine in his crosshairs. Hart is aware that the doctrine of hell sits atop a foundation of other theological commitments, including the doctrine of sin, the doctrine of man, and even the doctrine of God. Nevertheless, it is his doctrine of God that most drives his scorn for the biblical doctrine of hell. He simply will not bow the knee to a God who would preside over a hell of eternal fire and torment. Hart writes, “My conscience forbids assent to a picture of reality that I regard as morally corrupt, contrary to justice, perverse, inexcusably cruel, deeply irrational, and essentially wicked.”[2] Again, at least he’s clear.

A familiar objection

John Stott also reflects the instinctive reaction that many people have to the idea of eternal conscious torment.[3] He writes, “I find the concept intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterizing their feelings or cracking under the strain.”[4] Stott and Hart are not alone in recoiling from the idea of “eternal conscious torment.” Hardly anyone can contemplate the horror of an eternal hell without shuddering at the thought of someone having to bear such a fate. Nevertheless, are our visceral feelings about hell really a reliable guide to evaluating the doctrine of hell?

What if the gag-reflex that people experience against hell is wrong? Obviously, serious Christians wish for God’s revelation in scripture to be the ultimate arbiter of the debate. But oftentimes our feelings can blind us to doctrines that we prefer not to be in the Bible. And that is often the case when it comes to people’s grappling with the biblical doctrine of eternal conscious torment.

To be sure, many people oppose the doctrine of eternal conscious torment on exegetical grounds, and I have addressed those arguments at length elsewhere.[5] But many others simply express a moral revulsion at the doctrine and then revise or forsake the Bible’s teaching. Herman Bavinck explains, “The grounds on which people argue against the eternity of hellish punishment always remain the same.”[6]

The first three reasons he lists are based less on specific scripture than they are on human judgments about the way God ought to behave: (1) Eternal punishment contradicts the goodness, love, and compassion of God and makes him a tyrant; (2) Eternal punishment contradicts the justice of God because it is in no way proportionate to the sin in question; and (3) Eternal punishment that is purely punitive and not remedial has no apparent value.[7]

Over 1,500 years ago, Augustine dealt with similar questions in his defense of eternal conscious punishment.[8] Again, these objections are not new nor is people’s abhorrence for the doctrine. Hart argues that such objections have no good answers under the traditional view. We are left with the “primary question of whether the God who creates a reality in which the eternal suffering of any being is possible… can in fact be the infinitely good God of love that Christianity says he is.”[9] Given that the Bible teaches hell to be eternal conscious torment and God to be just, then hell must be an indication of how grave and awful it is to sin against an infinitely holy God. Click To Tweet

Reforming the gag-reflex

When I was in seminary, I wrestled with my own emotional response to the doctrine of hell and how my affections might be rightly ordered towards God’s eternal wrath against sinners. There were two items that shaped my thinking during that period and that still shape my thinking today. The first was a sermon by Jonathan Edwards, “The End of the Wicked Contemplated by the Righteous.”[10] This sermon is a meditation on Revelation 18:20, which says, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.”

Edwards observes something profound revealed in this text. One day, God will turn to His glorified people and command them to “rejoice” over the destruction of the wicked in hell. Why? For several reasons: because God has finally given justice to His people by punishing her persecutors (Rev. 18:20b); because God’s judgment reveals His righteousness and justice (Rev. 19:2a); because God’s judgment ends Babylon’s wickedness (Rev. 19:2b); because God’s judgment vindicates the martyrs (Rev. 19:2c; cf. 6:10); because God’s judgment is eternal (Rev. 19:3); and because God’s judgment reveals that He reigns as the true King (Rev. 19:6).

This text from Revelation reveals that—regardless of my feelings now—there is coming a day when I will rejoice in the justice of God revealed in his punishment of sinners. That observation led me to ponder the crucial question: Why would I hold in contempt now the very thing that I will praise God for in the age to come? In the age to come, my heart will be made new, and my affections will be rightly ordered. In that day, I will no longer be haunted by indwelling sin and its distorting influence on my view of things. Therefore, I ought to aspire to be now what God will enable me to be perfectly in the age to come. I won’t be despising God’s righteous judgement in that future day, so I shouldn’t be despising it now.

That doesn’t mean that the thought of hell ceases to horrify me. It does horrify me. I am overwhelmed by the thought that the most powerful Being in the universe will inflict all his holy wrath upon the damned for eternity. I tremble to think that when the damned have suffered a million ages of despair, pain, anguish, and aloneness, their horror will only have just begun. I shudder to imagine the shock and astonishment of the damned, that their grief and pain will only increase forever. So I understand the emotional recoil that causes some people to soften the doctrine of hell or to jettison it altogether. I have felt it.

When I feel it, however, I try to remind myself that the problem is not with the doctrine. The problem is with me. My gag-reflex is malformed and needs to be adjusted to reality. I just don’t see things as I ought to see them. I don’t see things the way I will see them when I am made new. What is it about me now that tempts me to resist what I will one day embrace? It’s my inability to perceive and feel the greatness of an infinitely holy God. My vision of Him tends to be so dim that an infinite hell seems to be an overreaction to finite sin committed in time.[11] If I understand the true greatness of God and the utter horror of sin, I would see that hell is not an overreaction on God’s part. It is an expression of his justice.

*Read Dr. Burk’s entire article in the latest issue: Will all be Saved?

via The Gag-Reflex and the Doctrine of Hell: Realigning Our Emotional Response to God’s Justice — Credo Magazine

January 9 From Silence to Singing

Psalm 30:11–12

You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.

God is certainly with us when things are going well, but He is also with us when things aren’t going so well. God is there when we achieve a major accomplishment or victory in life, but He is also there in the hospital room when we receive the bad news we were hoping not to hear. Whether in the ups or the downs, God is with us in every case.

The key thought is this: Whether you are going through weeping or joy, give thanks to God. Whether you are in an up time or a down time, give thanks to God. If you are experiencing prosperity or poverty, give thanks to God. If you are in times of dancing or mourning, give thanks to God. Don’t ever forget that the one constant in all of life is God’s presence with you, and for that He deserves to be praised.[1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (2002). Sanctuary: finding moments of refuge in the presence of God (p. 10). Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers.

How to Respond to the Claim: “We Don’t Have Free Will” (Video) — Cold Case Christianity

In this video, recorded at a Fearless Faith Seminar, J. Warner Wallace helps answer an audience question: If God is in control of everything, and if God knows the beginning from the end, how can we, as humans, have any free will?

via How to Respond to the Claim: “We Don’t Have Free Will” (Video) — Cold Case Christianity

January 9 Life-Changing Moments With God

You have given a banner to those who fear You,

that it may be displayed because of the truth.

Jehovah Nissi: Lord-My-Banner. When my enemy comes in like a flood, Your Spirit, Lord, will lift up a standard against him.

I will rejoice in my salvation, and in the name of my God I will set up my banner! You, Lord, have revealed my righteousness. Let me declare in Zion the work of the Lord my God. I am more than a conqueror through You who loved me. Thanks be to You, God, who gives me the victory through my Lord Jesus Christ.

I will be strong in You, Lord, and in the power of Your might. I will be valiant for the truth … and fight Your battles. “Be strong, all you people of the land,” You say, “and work; … do not fear!” I look at the field, white for harvest. For yet a little while, and You who are coming will come and will not tarry.

Light and dark; spirit and flesh; truth and lies; tolerance and discrimination … The battles are many, Lord. Keep me focused on You, a rallying point, my guide in conflict, and a banner of victory.

Psalm 60:4; Exodus 17:15; Isaiah 59:19; Psalm 20:5; Jeremiah 51:10; Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57; Ephesians 6:10; Jeremiah 9:3; 1 Samuel 18:17; Haggai 2:4–5; John 4:35; Hebrews 10:37[1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (2007). Life-Changing Moments With God (p. 18). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Donald Trump takes victory lap as court rules border wall building can proceed

President Trump claimed victory Thursday morning hours after a federal appeals court lifted a hold on some of his border wall construction plans, freeing the government to build what Mr. Trump called “one of the largest sections” of wall.

Source: Donald Trump takes victory lap as court rules border wall building can proceed

Trump’s Approval Rating Among Terrorists Hits All-Time Low — The Babylon Bee

U.S.—President Trump’s approval rating among terrorists hit an all-time low today according to a CNN poll. This comes just days after he killed several of them.

Of those surveyed, only six percent of terrorists–mostly white nationalists–said they approve of Trump’s performance. Of the 94 percent who disapproved, just half said they would like to see the president dead. The others claimed they would be perfectly happy with a pallet full of cash.

Trump was briefed on the issue this morning, but it is unclear whether or not he was paying attention. He did, however, offer a thumbs up in between bites of chocolate ice cream, according to CNN.

“We need to understand the importance of these numbers,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, who participated in the poll. “These numbers not only tell us how terrorists view our president, but they also represent widespread disapproval of the American idea in general. If we can murder terrorists, it’s only a matter of time before we order drone strikes on our own citizens.”

President Trump is scheduled to speak with the media in regard to the poll this afternoon and promises to answer any and all questions as long as Mike Pompeo answers them first.

via Trump’s Approval Rating Among Terrorists Hits All-Time Low — The Babylon Bee

Fed Adds $83.1 Billion in Short-term Money to Markets

The New York Fed added $83.1 billion in temporary liquidity to financial markets, as a top official said the central bank may keep adding temporary money to markets for longer than policy makers had expected in September.

Source: Fed Adds $83.1 Billion in Short-term Money to Markets

Migrant Apprehensions at Border Drop for Seventh Straight Month

The apprehension of migrants crossing the southwest border from Mexico fell in December. A CBP report issued on Thursday shows a drop in apprehensions for the seventh straight month following the implementation of new asylum and border enforcement policies by the Trump administration.

Source: Migrant Apprehensions at Border Drop for Seventh Straight Month