Worldviews

Behind all reasoning is a worldview, a frame of reference, a set of principles, that must be assumed before we can begin to discover the how and why of things.  Logic is not simply logic.  The machinations of our thought processes must depend on some ‘in the beginning’ (Genesis 1:1). some starting point, which we tend to forget about while we are attempting to figure out the dynamics of who we are and why we are here.  We need to appreciate the significance of our worldview to our definition of ‘truth.’A worldview is what the Free University of Brussels’  Center Leo Apostel” defined as “a system of representation that allows us to integrate everything we know about the world and ourselves into a global picture.⁠1  The christian scholar, N.T. Wright, explains a worldview as the foundation of a house [the thought process]: vital yet invisible.  Our worldview ultimately gives meaning and reason to everything we do in the name of right from wrong.  

Said another way: our worldview  is the unrecognized thought process behind all our conclusions which we find reasonable. Ultimately it provides the logic that shapes our principles, values, and moral code—that shapes our lives and our futures.  

See it this way: at the center of anyone’s worldview are the core convictions “about the nature of what is real, true and important.”⁠2  

Evolutionary or Societal View

Civilization now comes with a new perspective, a new worldview,⁠3 a different kind of reasoning, an evolutionary approach deemed more scientific, more appropriate for educated minds, than what christians surmised from reading their Bible.  Carter Phipps referred to it as “transformative insights of an evolutionary perspective.” It is a new way of imagining the past and the future.  It comes with a new consciousness.  It is known as the new truth, “the broader view.”⁠4  It is a brand new way of thinking. We no longer grow or develop.  We evolve: socially, culturally and psychologically as well as physically. Every aspect of being is in the genes.  It is the new consciousness and whether or not it is the right approach to the meaning of life is a question never asked any more in academia.

Henri Bergson in his 1907 classic, “Creative Evolution” assured his readers, that “this..will not be made in a day…it will only be built by the collective…effort of many thinkers.”⁠5  The societal worldview represents the frame of reference by which a group explains the meaning to life, defines or trains a collective conscience, decides what morality should call right from wrong, and  gives the culture its identity.  A worldview, for good or bad, creeps slowly unnoticed into the cultural mind.  

Nazism was a worldview that saw the extermination of millions as a reasonable exercise in cultural development—something that would never have been accepted by the German people if the ugliness of this ideology had been put to an open and honest vote instead of fed piece meal, idea by idea, to a nation starving for self-identity and meaning. 

And for the sake of social acceptance and cultural support, some will accept a society’s ‘way of thinking,’ as their own.  It happens often unnoticed in the darkness of some tragedy or in the heat of some spiritual or psychological battle.  For good or bad:  a strange thought strolls down the memories of our minds and walks us into the the light of a new idea that once we would never have accepted.

Evolutionary thinking proposes an eventual utopian world without sickness, poverty, or “evil”.

Materialism or Consumerism

Another example:  it is a creeping materialistic worldview that unchecked can choke the Word of God, Jesus warned.⁠6 

Science

We may wish to be more scientific in our approach to understanding life, but a scientific perspective can itself be a worldview: a faith in man’s ability to ultimately discover all that is there to be discovered and to create his own heaven.  It is the tower of Babel all over again. The erroneous thought is:  man is getting smarter and smarter and wiser and wiser and better and better at eradicating evil, disease, poverty, etc.  Who needs a god, anyway.

Creator

Christians endorse science but find a belief in the Creator, the Intelligent Designer, behind it all as a more reasonable explanation.  Christians recognize an attribute of holiness in that Creator that defines moral truth. Believers find the message of saving grace reasonable. For the believer, it is spiritual enlightenment, the miracle by which the love of God shares with us His worldview.  It is a worldview in which salvation in Christ is a real experience.  It is coming into a worldview that is mind transforming and reshapes our very perspective on the Bible and life itself.⁠7

Touchstones

Every worldview, also, has what  philosopher William Halverson called a “touchstone proposition.”⁠8   For the christian this is the belief in the involvement of an immanent God of Love whose purposefulness and plan makes life a progressing toward the fulfillment of God’s promises to us. Miracles make sense.  Our worldview, because it includes God as an author of history as well as a director of it, can comfortably wait on science to “catch up.”  

A scientific touchstone proposition, however, needs to believe in the stability of the universe and the rules by which it is governed.  It needs to reason that such knowledge is comprehensible using rational inquiry.  It needs to rely on the discovery of unchanging principles of natural law.

Evolution represents a touchstone proposition that sees all things in flux, becoming, adapting.  An evolutionary worldview reasons that what is today was not here in the past and will be changed, gone, in the future., We are ever evolving into a better world—in the word’s of Teilhard de Chardin,⁠9We are moving; we are going forward.⁠10

A believer’s touchstone is Hebrews 11:6 (NLT), “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

‘Nough said.


1 Carter Phipps. Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea. (New York:Harper Perennial, 2012), 11.
2 Ibid,, 24.
3 I found this interesting in the Norwegian TV series “Okkupert” (“Occupied”) Season 1, Episode 1.  2015.   Prime Minister Jesper Berg (played by Henrik Mestad) explains:  the world as we created it is a process of our thinking.   It cannot be changed without changing the way we think.”
4 Carter Phipps.  Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea. (New York:Harper Perennial, 2012), 11.
5 Ibid, 12.
6 Mark 4:7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. NEW INT.
7 Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
8 Carter Phipps. Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea. (New York:Harper Perennial, 2012), p. 26.
9 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man
10 Carter Phipps.  Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea.  (New York:Harper Perennial, 2012),  27.
In grammatical terms, the ‘actionsart’ of the present tense could be repetitive or continuous state (as science might see life), nascent or the beginning of a state (as an evolutionist might see the evolutionary process always in flux), inchoative, the beginning of or having just now come into being (which doesn’t suit either evolution or science but might describe the ‘origin of life’ ) and progressive for the christian in which God’s plan is being worked by Him.  ..
Ephesians 4:13 “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” NEW INT.
Sleeping could mean 
falling to sleep; about to fall, on the verge of falling,  to sleep’ (nascent); 
being asleep’ (repetitive or continuous state); 
‘beginning to fall to sleep’ (inchoative); 
in rem sleep, in a deep sleep, dreamland’ (progressive, a working hypothesis for dreams).
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The Cross

[Taken from, “The Cross: Why Jesus Had to Die.”  The book is finally written.]

The fifth chapter in The Acts of the Apostles is an historical reference to possibilities when the church learns to unite behind the Gospel. In verse 12 Luke tells us, “Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles.“ We read this as if this were a one-off event instead of the possibilities for which the Church was commissioned. Verse 14, no surprise, testifies, “Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers…” Governments of the world, take notice!

Make no mistake about it: The Bible is the promise of Salvation offered thru Christ’s death—a message that counters today’s evolutionary worldview of an eventual utopia, a self-made heaven for mankind. The Cross represents a miracle of grace that science cannot confirm or deny because it is outside the realm of natural inquiry. The resurrection from the dead and what it means for believers has broken out of the confines of natural history.

We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:10) Christianity is, indeed, a bloody religion, an idea, perhaps, in and of itself, offensive (I’ll give you that) to logical minds, to academicians who reason from a scientific perspective, and who, therefore, see no value in the death of a Savior.

But with an unapologetic conviction, this is what our faith is all about! This is our living hope: the glorious return of the great God even our Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13) who shed His blood on a cross on our behalf, in our stead, to reconcile us to God. “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses..” (Ephesians 1:7) This has become our trumpet sound as believers. Paul unambiguously declared “… through him to reconcile everything to himself … by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20)

We asked specifically: Why did Jesus have to die? We must agree with John Stott in his work, “The Cross of Christ” (page 159)

The Cross was not a commercial bargain with the devil, any quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honor or a technical point of law.  Jesus was not forced into submission by God as some moral authority over Him, nor  punished by a harsh .. punitive Father.  Nor was God, the Father, reluctant to forgive or accept the Cross as a means of our salvation. 

But these explanations, to some, sadly, sound reasonable. They seek a story that explains Calvary. But the Cross is not a message in logic.  It is a message in grace! 

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Love Feasts

[taken from: my work, “The Cross: Why Jesus Had to Die“]

It is believed that the Love Feasts, Christian fellowship around a celebratory meal, were originally associated with our Lord’s Supper as a proclamation of His death on the Cross “until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).  These were designed as a practical expression of Christian community, ”a joyous declaration of faith”⁠1 from a thankful fellowship for Calvary while looking, with great anticipation, for their Lord’s soon return. If I may borrow a Catholic idea:  there is nothing more sacramental than this.  When Christians began to celebrate the Eucharist or participate in Communion, it was a “holy” communion, a true thanksgiving. We must take care not to marginalize the Spirit’s role in the Church in the name of orthodox purity. Whether we view the communion elements as symbolic or literal, they must always be significant.   

With time, these feasts ceased, for some, to  inspire a sense of spiritual awe, a sense that Jesus was indeed in their midst, as He promised (Matthew 18:20).  In our day, is it possible that, the old hymns like “The Old Rugged Cross,” that used to bring tears of gratitude, are never sung …or if they are, they merely embellish the phylacteries of a now meaningless ritual? Even during the early centuries of the Church, for some, love feasts were less love and more feast, a splintered assembly, eating apart from the poor, cliques of the more wealthy (“who feed only themselves.”⁠2 Jude 12)—a fellowship in name only. They began to eat apart, ignoring others who came from poverty and need.  Jude called it now “…dangerous blemishes at your love feasts as they eat with you without reverence.” (Jude 12) The message of the Cross was now—if I may imagine—lost in a haze of discussions over the dinner and good times without true thanksgiving. Paul described such a person as one who “eats and drinks without recognizing the body.” “(He) eats and drinks judgment on himself” because this is a sacred gathering that has degenerated into something horribly disrespectful of what the Spirit of God is doing there! (1 Corinthians 11:29). Lest we think this overstates the seriousness of the occasion, Paul explained, “This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep (a euphemism for “dead”).” (1 Corinthians 11:30) 

I might think myself correct in calling the elements “symbols” of Jesus’s passion (and I do. Sorry to all my friends of faith who disagree), but I would be wrong to see them as only an object lesson in something that happened 2,000 years ago. Jesus’s crucifixion, for a believer, should be the only thing that really matters and upon which hinges every hope, every promise, and every blessing from God.

 


1 Colin Brown. ed. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986), vol II. p. 547
2 The Greek: to entertain sumptuously in company with
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Holiness

God, Himself, commanded us, “Be holy, because I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16) Are we not capable of appreciating His holiness at least on a elementary level?  We are at least in the earliest grade of a divine schooling, learning to trust Him (Psalm 25:4), learning to identify His will for our lives as “good, pleasing, and perfect.” (Hebrews 12:2) It is not surprising that God’s servants find abortions as tearfully and angrily evil (Isaiah 49:1 & 15; Matthew 19:14; Luke 17:2). We cringe in disgust on hearing falsehoods and lies. All those movies that are uninhibited evil that have unabashedly abandoned any sign of moral decency for the sake of ratings are no longer watchable, even if we fail to explain why.

And what does a Holy God find abhorrent, disgusting? In addition to rebellion (1 Samuel 15:23) and idolatry (Leviticus 26:30) which in our cultural setting is “greed” (Colossians 3:5) Solomon can find seven (Proverbs 6:16-19).

  1. “arrogant eyes, 
  2. a lying tongue,
  3. hands that shed innocent blood, 
  4. a heart that plots wicked schemes,
  5. feet eager to run to evil,
  6. a lying witness who gives false testimony, and
  7. one who stirs up trouble among brothers.”

If we want a true picture of heaven just picture a place where these cannot enter. And now we know what words like “pure, clean, godly, saints, and sanctified” mean. These are characteristic of God’s holiness in us.

We might gain some insight into why Jesus’s crucifixion for sin in our stead was God’s plan from the beginning (Genesis 3:15). God cannot allow sin into His heaven because He is holy. But He wants us!  While suspended on the Cross, Jesus seem to sense the Father’s difficulty with what was happening (Mark 15:34). “God … condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering.” Paul explained (Romans 8:3).

But how to separate the sinner from his or her sin was the delicate operation grace needed to perform. Salvation had to be more than a word of forgiveness. It had to make provision for sinners to be transformed into saints; for believers to be able to follow Christ; to make us holy as He is. “Christ in us, all our hope…” (Colossians 1:27)

We have analyzed our Savior’s mission; we have studied His words and watched Him respond to His humanity but in a perfectly sinless way. We admired His compassion as something beyond our ability to love so completely and became breathless to hear His wisdom. We puzzled over His parables; they were more than parables to us.

But more than all this, we have theologized every possible cultural, spiritual, and natural reason that might supply us with a sound and consistent logic as to why a Cross. Even though Scripture is dedicated wholly to this divine task we felt it important to have a reasonableness to support faith.

But we have wept and rejoiced because of Him; we have hungered to know more of Him—all the while seeming to sense that our faith was all we ever really needed and then let Him do the rest in us (Philippians 1:6). “You believe in God,” Jesus encouraged us, “trust me, too.” (John 14:1)

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God’s Piece to The Puzzle

I commented to Joyce that we were never apart long enough to write to each other, whereupon, she got up and a few minutes later returned with an armful of correspondence we wrote to each other while I was in the second semester of my junior year of college and she was still working in Southern Jersey.  (We were planning a wedding!)

I did not remember we did this. I am glad she saved them, though.  I have been reading somewhere around 175 letters. There is a story here.  Much of what we discussed was the kind of wedding detail that everyone talks over but there were elements that required small miracles to make it all come together—and for that, I affirm, there was God!

Some details of our wedding needed to “fall in place” that couldn’t have by happenstance. Two details come to mind: One, I needed a good job to support the marriage while finishing my senior year of schooling. I had no car and no license to drive one. Family argued that I should return to the place of my Nativity and save money. Talk marriage in a year. The other puzzle piece of obvious importance was a place to live.  There were none according to the realtors within a 10 mile radius of the school. Married couples on campus had already gobbled them up. Beside, I had no job, remember!

The year before, the faculty advisor for the yearbook offered me the assistant editor position in training for Editor-in-chief in my Senior year. It didn’t work out as planned, but I was introduced to the current Editor in Chief, Don, who also worked at Longacres in Franconia, PA where they made chicken products. A month before the wedding following an intense conversation with the Lord, I met Don who approached me with a job opportunity to work there. The following year, an H.R. department was set up at the company making this kind-of offer impossible.  But for now, according to the correspondence, I would start at 1.80 an hour, a fantastic wage in those days.

The apartment?  I met Frank while attending school.  Frank was refused admission because he did not complete high-school. Frank came across state from the Pittsburgh area to attend the school and he too was looking for a place to live for a family of four. There was a two room and a bath a mile down the hill from the college that was too small for them which the local realtor forgot he had. When Joyce and I enquired, we were turned away the first time but Frank said, “Go back!  It’s there!”  We did and the realtor apologized.  Fifty dollars, utilities  included. I still wonder how many students sought out that agency for something and were turned away.  Did God hold it for us, using a brother who traveled across the state to attend a college that didn’t want him?

The letters also documented a very stressful disapproval of both families and some friends that we were planning a wedding in August—just 9 months after we met on campus in ’67. With the job and apartment we moved the wedding up to June 22.  This week will complete 53 years together..

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Christ, Our Representative

Jesus’s death was not merely substitutionary but also representative. The dictionary reads,

When one person takes upon himself suffering which another would have had to bear, and therefore not only endures it with him, but in his stead, this is called substitution or representation—an idea which, however unintelligible to the understanding, belongs to the actual substance of the common consciousness of man….it has found its true expression in sacrifice….”⁠1

Paul advanced Isaiah’s message: Jesus not only took our place; we, too, were crucified with Him. His death becomes an inclusionary⁠2 substitution. Dr. Craig [in  Atonement and the Death of Christ: An Exegetical, Historical, and Philosophical Exploration. Waco, TX. Baylor University Press. 2020] explains this using the illustration of a proxy vote.  Whenever the shareholders meet to discuss any action to be taken over the funds I have investments in, I elect to sign my vote to a proxy.  I allow someone else to vote in my place.  But it is still on the record as my vote.   I am included. In this way, consider the possible explanation the Adam in the garden was our proxy. “…in Adam all die…” [1 Corinthians 15:22]  Adam was to blame and so was I …and you! We were in Adam at the time and sinned with him.  “…because⁠3 all sinned…” [Romans 5:12] And what is the benefit to including us in Adam’s sin?

This is great news because now God can show mercy to all who seek Him.  For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” [Romans 11:32]   Godet interprets this to mean moral solidarity or community of life.⁠4  Perhaps the logic that says we were there is not sufficient to satisfy reasonableness. But if we were to say, “all humanity was represented in Adam” we have a clearer understanding.  All died in Adam  or as Godet interprets,“in whom they [all] were embraced.⁠5  

Jesus’s victory over sin became ours! What was true of the first Adam, is true of the second Adam, Jesus. “He  [Adam] is a type⁠6 of the Coming One [Christ Jesus].” Paul taught [Romans 5:14]. But with a difference:  Jesus did not sin and through Him God offers the gift of eternal life to all who believe. Jesus’s sinlessness is a critical aspect of His life that makes His death representative.  In terms of our example of a proxy: My proxy has one vote.  It is either his or mine.  As my proxy, it is mine.  Jesus’s death on Calvary was for my sin, humanity’s sins, since He had none of His own to expiate.  

… the gift is not like the trespass.” Paul continues.  Adam brought death; Jesus brought eternal life. “For if [and it is true] by the one man’s trespass [Adam’s sin] the many [all humanity] died [spiritual death and natural death] , how much more [death is final but life is eternal] have the grace of God and [even?] the gift [the concrete expression of grace, i.e. our salvation] which comes through the grace of the one man Jesus Christ overflowed [as Paul wrote to the Ephesians 2:7, in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace] to the many [salvation is not universal but to those who believe].” [Romans 5:15]  By summary: we sinned in Adam, we were crucified with Christ. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” [Romans 6:6] 

And what is the ultimate truth here? “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, …So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 6:8, 11] The overarching message of the cross for us is being “alive to God,” being made in His image, at last by the transformation of our minds (and hearts) we again, as Adam before the fall, can walk in the will of God and perceive it [Romans 12:2] as good [Jeremiah 29:11], and acceptable [1 Timothy 6:6], and perfect [Ephesians 4:13] for us.  It will be, in this life, as if God rolled back time before the fall but this time we resist the snake. [Hebrews 5:14] When we reach the kingdom shore, we ought not look for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  It is not there, but the tree of life is. [Revelation 22:2, 14]


1 Keil & Delitzsch. vol VII. p 316
2 exclusionary is understood as “one party taking the place of another in such a way that the guilty party is excluded from the obligation or fate.” cp Craig page 81 footnote 2.
3 ἐφ᾽ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον.   ἐφ᾽ ᾧ  in its primitive meaning translates “near.”  With time it signifies “at the date of.” In a moral sense “on the ground of” and logically: “as may be seen by.” Professor Godet admits that the simplest interpretation might be “as a consequence” of Adam’s sin, all have sinned and all die, but he confesses that this meaning is “without precedent.” [Godet, Romans. 207ff]
4 Godet in his Epistle to  the First Corinthians, 352
5 ibid. 353
6 “a person … prefiguring a future person.” Thayer. 632
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Made In The Image Of God

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”⁠1 [Genesis 1:26] 

God made man in His image. Likeness means similitude or resemblance, which, indeed, speaks to the external appearance of one person compared to another. Seth did look like Adam, his dad.  “Seth was, [in turn?] in [Adam’s] own likeness, after his image.” [Genesis 5:3]  If this, however, means a father-son relationship could be established in their genomes (and indeed it could) the Biblical terms “image” and “likeness” must be expanded⁠2 to explain Adam in God’s image because “God is a Spirit.”[John 4:24] If I may paraphrase the rest of the Savior’s words:  We relate to Him, to God, on a spiritual—not a physical—level.  If you want to stroke His face, it is done in intercessory prayer not in a physical sense.⁠3

The word “image” is spoken of painting⁠4 and sculptures.⁠5 Adam was made in God’s image, as if God formed him from the dust of the earth while staying true to the details of His own image [Genesis 1:27].  (Abortion is a dangerous practice for which some will give answer! “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans his blood will be shed, for God made humans in his image.” [Genesis 9:6])

According to Athanasius of Alexandria:⁠6

Man is “..the impress of His [God’s] own Image, a share in the reasonable being of the very Word Himself, so that, reflecting Him and themselves becoming reasonable and expressing the Mind of God even as He does….” 

Man was made for fellowship with each other and God, therefore, God equipped him with a “reasonableness” or the ability to have such fellowship.

So, what is the comparison being made in Scripture between God and us? We used to maintain that unlike animals, we have a soul.  But Paul even seems to attribute a soul to the animal world claiming they, too, are “groaning together with labor pains until now.” [Romans 8:22]⁠7

There was one difference, though: Adam and Eve were capable of comprehending a “knowledge of good and evil.” [Genesis 2:9] In direct terms, we, who are made spiritually “like” God, are conscious of righteousness and sin.  Some animals may experience attrition, like fido, when his master catches him tearing into a sofa cushion.  But Fido doesn’t feel contrition nor can Fido repent.  There is something about us that has a built in consciousness of right and wrong even if we deny it. It is this simple condition of the heart that makes us capable of understanding and appreciating God and His holiness. And Holiness is the ultimate “likeness” God is working toward in us. [Romans 8:28-29]

Sadly society might be proposing an evolutionary redefinition of who we are. “Perhaps the greatest sin in the world today,” says Bishop Fastiggi of Sacred Heart Seminary, “is that men have begun to lose the sense of sin.”

 


1נַֽעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּכִּדְמוּתֵנוּ
2cp. Isaiah 13:4 “Listen, a commotion on the mountains, like that of a mighty people .” where “likeness” is simply “like referencing anone aspect of comparison—in this case the level of noise.  It is within the meaning of this word to make a comparison between God and Adam on another, non-physical-level,
3Exodus 32:11 CSB: “sought the favor of the LORD his God:” Hebrew: “to stroke the face (in flattering)” The BLB.
4Ezekiel 23:14 “male figures carved on the wall, images of the Chaldeans
51 Samuel 6:5 “images of your tumors and of your mice
6On the Incarnation by Athanasius of Alexandria (The original writing of this work is public domain. Athanasius of Alexandria (2012-11-27T22:58:59). On the Incarnation . Blue Letter Bible. Kindle Edition. )
7cp Genesis 1:21 where the word “creature” is the word “soul.”
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Is Physical Healing In The Atonement?

[Taken from a work I am working on “The Cross: Why Jesus Had To Die, Everlasting Provisions of Grace“]

I must admit, I didn’t expect to read Isaiah say, “he himself bore our sicknesses; we are healed by his wounds.” (Isaiah 53:4-5) and if we want to equate this only with spiritual healing, i.e. salvation and not physical healing, we need to explain Matthew:

When evening came, … He healed all who were sick, so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: He himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17

He was referencing the verses above. But I remain a bit perplexed for a few reasons:

  • Peter seemed to be thinking about spiritual healing “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)⁠ [Interestingly, Peter switches persons from “we” to “You.”]
  • Calvary’s spiritual provisions are otherwise universal and immediate. The Cross represents the vehicle by which God provided forgiveness for sins and the opportunity by faith for us to to be reconciled to God. “we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10)
    • When we seek salvation, He saves us. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
    • But is this true of physical healing? Are believers in need of a physical touch from the Master but they fail to reach out and grab hold of the hem of His garment? Is physical healing available for the taking (in seeking the Lord for it) as is true of salvation? And if not, why not.
  • Faith is Faith. Is it appropriate to think of faith for salvation but not for healing? Would the Lord give us faith to trust Him for the one and not the other. Could we ever say God can be trusted to save but not heal?

There might be reasons why physical healing is not more apparent in the church in so-called civilized countries.

  • Perhaps, we lack a certain “faith” to trust God for healing being dependent more so on science or the medical professionals. “He was not able to do a miracle there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5-6a)
  • Perhaps, we are not serious about wanting a healing. “Do you want to get well? “ John 5:6
  • Perhaps, the complexity of life in which the spiritual and physical inseparably intertwine, healing is never a simple matter of physical well-being. “The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:15)
  • Perhaps, we need to ask again, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” (Matthew 9:5) Our Lord’s interest is always the spiritual. Does He utilize physical healing for spiritual growth?

“Therefore, … a thorn in the flesh was given to me, … to torment me so that I would not exalt myself.” For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

There is also something noteworthy about the language. Isaiah used an interesting form for the word “healed” in Isaiah 53:5. Scholars translate this as if it were a gerund. Perhaps a better translation might be “with His stripes healing is provided to us.” What is different is that this form is not used elsewhere in this chapter. Physical healing is a provision of Calvary but it is viewed in a different light. If we appeal to the Greek Septuagint or to Peter for clarity, both use a form indicating complete healing.  Isaiah agrees with this interpretation. God never leaves anything half done.

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A Powerful Message

The fifth chapter in The Acts of the Apostles is an historical reference to possibilities when the church learns to unite behind the Gospel. In verse 12 Luke tells us, “Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles.“ We read this as if this were a one-off event instead of the possibilities for which the Church was commissioned and authorized to promote. Verse 14, no surprise, testifies, “Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers…” Governments of the world, take notice!

When the sick were carried on cots out into the streets hoping that Peter might pass by, believing that just the apostle’s shadow was enough to heal them, the earthly authorities knew that God was getting out of hand. The theology in Jesus’s day was: touch Him to be healed (Mark 6:56). But for the apostles, their shadow was sufficient. (It had to be, obviously, during sunset when a person’s shadow was longer and more likely to sweep the crowd along the side of the road or Peter had to step over them!). What a parade! Touch or no touch, it is not a question of theology but of faith, and the crowds were there, swept up in the assurance that God was there and God would heal. They came—I dare say—by the hundreds, and now whoever saw themselves in office were under immense social pressure to stop it.

Verse 17, Luke noted, they were “filled with jealousy.” You see (not to preach but, just saying) God gets in the way of the would-be powerful, famous and rich, and they don’t like it! “So,” verse 18, “they arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.” That is that!

No that wasn’t that. The following morning, the political leaders, had to check it out for themselves. Peter and the apostles with him were in the public area, the Temple court, (verse 21) teaching. Teaching what? Verse 28: teaching “in this name” [Jesus’s name, i.e. The message of the Cross]

And how did they get out? I can imagine the soldiers being asked and replying, “Don’t ask, sir!” So now what do we do. An official statement with the force of law should be issued. It should work to silence them.

It didn’t. Peter and the others were re-captured and brought before the religious leaders. They’re in serious trouble now! Jesus warned them, “You will even be brought before governors and kings because of me.” (Matthew 10:18) He gave them a heads-up, “You will be hated by everyone because of my name.” (Matthew 10:22) And here we are!

(Reminds one of Martin Luther before the Diet of Wörms, a formal deliberative assembly called by the Emperor Charles V. to deal with this maverick. Luther dared teach against established religious order. According to tradition, Luther is said to have declared “Here I stand, I can do no other,” before concluding with “God help me.”)

Didn’t we strictly order you [Peter and those with you] not to teach in this name? [Freedom to speak has limits. Talk about anything or anyone you want, Peter … but not “Him,” not Jesus, not the Cross!] Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” This verse is psychologically rich. Peter’s message was not one of guilt but it was the Spirit’s opportunity to convict (John 16:8). Sad, when someone doesn’t see the difference, not knowing that “godly grief produces … repentance that leads to salvation without regret.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) Peter didn’t fill Jerusalem with anything …God did!

But what interests us here is the official executive order that was issued against teaching the Gospel message of the Cross and Peter’s and the other’s response: They replied, “We must obey God rather than people.” (Acts 5:29)

Make no mistake about it: “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11) is real. We must not be “…ashamed of the gospel, because it [alone] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16) If our message were the misinformed ramblings of a few unrealistic visionaries, we would be more entertaining than threatening (perhaps, an SNL parody in the U.S. we might laugh at). But this is not the case. The Gospel is empowered to change the world, to bring a sweeping spiritual revival that, subsequently, has political consequences for governments that find God somewhere between a nuisance to a genuine providential force that cannot be ignored.

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The Christian Message

The doctrine of the Atonement (or the Sacrament of Reconciliation, for our Catholic friends) is not only central to all Christian truth, it is all Christian Truth. “I decided to know nothing among you ,” Paul vowed to the Corinthians church, “except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) As Pastor David Platt, Lead Pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C., so aptly states it, “The Gospel is the lifeblood of Christianity.” The missionary council meeting in Jerusalem in 1928 expanded, “The Gospel is the answer to the world’s greatest need. It is not our discovery or achievement; it rests on what we recognize as an act of God… We believe that men are made for Christ and cannot really live apart from Him…”

As believers, the Savior in our life is beyond question our trumpet call, our motive for living. Herein lies the Christian motive;” states the 1928 Missionary Council, “it is simple. We cannot live without Christ and we cannot bear to think of men living without Him… Christ is our motive and Christ is our end. We must give nothing less and we can give nothing more” [DuBose, Francis M. ed. Classics of Christian Missions. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1979 .] We are, in simple truth, missionaries to cultural change. And we must let that missionary side of our love realize more its potential in the hand of God. Jesus’s  life is what our lives are all about. “in him we live, and move, and have our being; …For we are also his offspring.” (Acts 17:28)

It’s All About The Blood

We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:10) With an unapologetic conviction, this is what our faith is all about! This is our living hope: the glorious return of the great God even our Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13) who shed His blood on a cross on our behalf, in our stead, to reconcile us to God. “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses..” (Ephesians 1:7)

Paul unambiguously declared “… through him to reconcile everything to himself … by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20)

The Confrontation

But this message runs counter to the cultural changes in the civilized world as Dr. Platt writes, “As followers of Christ, we are fooling ourselves if we don’t face the reality that belief in and obedience to the Bible in an anti-Christian age will inevitably lead to risk in one’s family, future, relationships, reputation, career, and comfort in this world.

We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians 1:23)

Make no mistake about it: “[Christianity’s] critical edge,” Graham Ward cautions, “is important … not only to read the signs of the times but to radicalize the postmodern critique by providing it with …a position outside the secular value-system.” In English: as Jesus prayed to the Father,

I have given them your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14)

Discussions around topics, like a nuclear family or infanticide, that appear peripheral and less important have been dragged into dialogue because we cannot escape certain conclusions about the God we are getting to know and to love. Somehow, we have discovered, that our faith, our love for God, our salvation, is a wisdom crying in the streets (Proverbs 1:20) pleading with us not to be lured in by worldly concepts that ultimately lead to denying who we are or who we want to become in Christ.

A Powerful Message

Now on the eve of Christ’s return, this makes our voice as necessary as it is unwelcome. Make no mistake about it: “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11) is real. We must not be “…ashamed of the gospel, because it [alone] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)

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