Jars of Clay

If you have a mathematical or science background this post is fascinating: Your Body Wasn’t Built to Last.

Of course theology got there a long time ago:
Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” (Gen 6:3 ESV)

The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty (Psa 90:10 ESV)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2Co 4:7 ESV)

Google Serendipity

This was the Google Icon this morning. It is sometimes interesting who they pick, but today’s was fascinating. Here is the Wikipedia entry for Nicolas Steno. Here is the Catholic Encyclopedia Entry. What a fascinating life. Lutheran, World Class Scientist, Convert, Priest, Bishop, Pious Ascetic, Missionary, Tragic Death.

This quote found in the Wikipedia entry betrays the lost foundations.

Fair is what we see, Fairer what we have perceived, Fairest what is still in veil.

He never gave up the hunger for truth. And from that quote what you can see is what he believed the foundation of all truth was. The world made sense – was fair, beautiful and true – because God made it make sense. Though parts might be veiled now, there is an order we can perceive.

Sainted by John Paul the Second, feast day Dec 5th.

Those who have, more will be added…

That is the start of a pithy saying of Jesus. So pithy it found its way into the Synoptic gospels (Matt, Mark and Luke) in at least four places – Matt 13:11-12, Matt 25:29, Mark 4:25, Luke 19:26. And those 4 places represent at least 3.5 stories: the explanation to the parable of the sower, the parable of the talents, the lamp on a stand and Luke’s version of the talents which is sufficiently different that Matthew’s to at least rate half a story. The full saying is roughly: those who have, more will be given; those who don’t, even what they do will be taken away.

Andrew Sullivan records an interesting physical aspect of this here. From a sports analogy, the more we practice shooting baskets the better we get – its called muscle memory. It is also why if we practice the wrong motion it takes a bunch of time to fix it. Spelling teachers new this when every spelling word you missed on a test had to be written correctly 50 times.

I’m usually sceptical or at least hesitent to point at things like this because it can either reduce the Spirit to a material effect or it just smells like a “just so story”. But this one brings together a few strands of thought that I’ve been pondering together. First and anyone who reads or listens to my sermons has heard – prayer, study and trial being the Christian life. Break the cycle, stop praying, don’t be in the Word, avoid living the faith – and the faith stops building. Second, read Hebrews 6:1-6. If you break the cycle when do vs 4-6 come into play? We talk about being in an unchurched society. Really instead of unchurched is it not a society that has rejected the Gospel? At least portions of that society? There are younger generations now that may have never heard the gospel, but would some portion of the society not be more like that generation in the Exodus that would wander 40 years and not enter the land? Even what they had will be taken away?

The biggest one that stood out is empathy. As society has become more secular, has it not also become harder? Are we not hardening our hearts? The language of Christianity has its own vocabulary formed by the Scriptures and 2000 years of living the faith. That language can sometimes be an impediment to teaching or understanding, but it gets it right. It describes our experience and our reality better than anything else. And if the strict materialists were right, that language would have no right to be right. You can’t build a sturdy building on sand so to say…

Burden of Leaders – Laws of the Left Hand Kingdom/The Kingdom of the Law

Text: Deuteronomy 16:18-20, Deuteronomy 17:14-20

One of the great confusions of the day is that between the Kingdom of Grace and the Kingdom of the Law. God is in control of both of them. That is the biblical witness, but He chooses to operate differently in each. In the Kingdom of Grace God operates and rules directly. Jesus is present in the Word and in the Sacraments of the church which He rules through that same Word and those sacraments offering His grace to all believers.

In the Kindgom of the Law God operates at a remove. He allows freedom within rules. Some of those rules are the physical rules of the universe. We can discover what those are and they put boundaries and safety on our existence. In a more biblical way think of what God asked Job – were you there when I streched a plumb line over the universe or who keeps the sea in its boundaries? It is pretty hard to transgress the law of gravity, but other “laws” are still binding but can be transgressed. Some of those laws are the expectations placed on those who have power in the Kingdom of the Law. Rulers have been given the authority for a purpose – to rule justly and ensure order. When Israel takes the land the judges and officers are to rule justly, not pervert justice, don’t show partiality, don’t take bribes. Those that are set like a king receive that power and authority not to ‘multiply silver and gold for himslef.’ They should instead have the book of the law at their side in their own hand. [Imagine copying the entire Torah yourself. It would ensure at least one reading.] The judgement on those given authority is surely harsher.

We get these kingdoms mixed up all the time. We are always ‘looking for God’s will’ in the Kingdom of the Law while trying to take God’s authority in the Kingdom of Grace. Believers usually make the mistakes in looking for God’s direct involvement in the Kingdom of the Law when that is exactly where God has given us freedom. We want surety about choice of wife/husband or even something as mundane as monetary investments. God does not give surety in those places, but does counsel wisdom. Read Proverbs or Ecclesiastes. Wisdom is rarely followed, but it is something we can learn and follow.

And then there are the multitude of ways we confuse the Kingdom of Grace. We try to usurp God rule by turning grace into a law – works righteousness. Or trying to apply the Law to grace like this article by a Scientist. Here is the money quote…

So while scientific rationality does not require atheism, it is by no means irrational to use it as the basis for arguing against the existence of God, and thus to conclude that claimed miracles like the virgin birth are incompatible with our scientific understanding of nature.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that these issues are not purely academic. The current crisis in Iran has laid bare the striking inconsistency between a world built on reason and a world built on religious dogma.

Perhaps the most important contribution an honest assessment of the incompatibility between science and religious doctrine can provide is to make it starkly clear that in human affairs — as well as in the rest of the physical world — reason is the better guide.

Of course the Virgin birth is nonsensical to the Kingdom of the Law becuase it was God’s direct action as part of the plan of salvation. It was an act of the Kingdom of Grace. God rules both. Occasionally to further Grace the law is superceeded.

The only way we know this is by the grace of revelation. I completely argee with this scientist that in human affairs reason is the better guide. The path of wisdom is the best one in that Kingdom. In fact in human affairs that is the only path. For Christians to be looking for Special revelation beyond the dictates of Wisdom is a confusion of the Kingdoms. But just becuase Christians (or Iranian Imams) have tried to enlarge the kingdom of Grace beyond its borders doesn’t mean that the revealed truths of it don’t exist – like the virgin birth.

Confusion of the Kingdoms is one of our fundamental flaws, but those Kingdoms are part glory of how the universe operates both giving us freedom and salvation. They each have things to say to each other, but usually we are too busy trying to usurp each Kingdom’s unique rights.