People Are Good

I hi-jacked this article from Mike Bull’s Blog. It was too good to leave in only one place.

abrahambows

Why People are Good: or Why Idolatry is Adultery

“So [Abraham] lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground…” Genesis 18:2

“Then Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, the sons of Heth.” Genesis 23:7

I’ve finally gotten around to doing the post that was to follow Stuff Is Good.

In his little torpedo of a book, The Liturgy Trap, James Jordan gives a definition of idolatry that is worth the price of the book. Firstly, it is natural that the de-eschatologised churches, (the ones that think they need no death-and-resurrections) contain icons. A church that has already arrived [1] must be able to present the unseen as already-seen:

…seeing God is a good thing, but it is not for now. God tells us not to try and do it until He is ready to let us. We find exactly the same thing in Genesis 1-3, where God said that every tree would be for Adam and Eve to eat, and every tree in the garden is said to be good for food. Thus, the prohibition on the Tree of Knowledge was temporary. [2] Adam and Eve were to develop patience by responding to God’s “NO.” By eating the fruit, they rejected God’s plan for growth and development, and became corrupt. Similarly, sex is good, but we are not to engage in it until we are married.

Now, seeing God face to face is a good thing, and if we are faithful, we shall enjoy the “beatific vision” in the resurrection. But God has clearly and unmistakably said that we are not to attempt to see Him in this world…

God strictly forbids any attempt to make a “form” that connects to Him visually. [3] God will let us see Him when He is ready, and when we are. To set up an icon and say that this gives us a visual revelation of God or of some dimension of God’s heavenly existence is to jump the gun…

We are to be satisfied with the Word because the Word is ultimate. God is Word, but He is not visible. What we shall see is God’s voluntary self-presentation, not God Himself. But God’s Word is not just His voluntary self-representation: it is God Himself. Thus, the visual is always secondary. To insist on the visual is to despise God’s Word, and thus to despise God. Accordingly, those who set up images are said to “hate” God, which means to treat Him practically as second behind something else…

…those who break the Second Word by indulging in visual worship have proven impatient. They have rejected personal maturity, and have destroyed their posterity. But the third and fourth generation, their seed will have become so corrupt that some kind of new Flood will be necessary. Thus, there can be little or no personal or cultural maturity apart from the strict keeping of the Second Word.

This is related to Peter Leithart’s observation that the Spirit brings the saints an awareness of new plunder—people are precious possessions instead of things. [4] The process of death and resurrection brings an awareness of what is truly valuable. Even godless Hollywood movies tell us that on a personal level: ie. some tragedy brings wisdom and a new appreciation of family. So, we should not be bowing to idols, but we should be bowing—to each other:

Jesus said: “It is to your advantage that I go away” (John 16:7). Jesus then explained that the Spirit would come, and verses 8-15 speak of the Spirit’s work in exclusively non-visual terms… At the ascension, we are expressly told that “a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). This removal from sight was followed by the coming of the Spirit. [5]

All of this makes it clear that there is nothing to look at and nothing to bow down to in worship. We are living in an eschatological tension. The real absence of Christ makes us yearn for Him, and gives us something to look forward to. It is a serious mistake to jump the gun by filling the Church with icons that supposedly give a philosophically-realistic look into heaven. It is a serious mistake to pervert the meal into something to look at. It is a serious mistake to say Jesus is as this or that point in the room and bow down to His invisible presence. It is very important that we refuse to bow toward anything in worship…

The content of our worship is only visual at one point: when we are visually aware of one another, aware of the gathered community. Worship in the particular sense only takes place when two or three at least are gathered together… Human beings might be called the visible words of God, though perhaps “fleshly words” might be better. We are words in the sentences of the Divine Book of the Kingdom… The Lord’s Supper is not a visible word but an edible one. Baptism is not a visible word but a tangible one. The only “visible words” are human beings, the images of God made after the likeness of the Word of God Himself. In other words, the only thing to look at in worship is other people.

It certainly is appropriate in worship for the pastor to greet the congregation by bowing to them and saying “The Lord be with you.” In this way, the pastor honours the image of God, the visible words of God, thos he is to serve. Then the congregation should bow to the pastor, saying “And also with you.” Nothing else should be bowed to, however, since nothing else is the visible word of God, the special image of God.

Icon worship replaces the true Bride for a false one:

…iconic worship tends against the development of the community. When we hear the Word of God, someone else must read it aloud to us. This creates a community of at least two people. Icon worship, however, is shrine worship. Thus, both the cathedrals and the lands of Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are full of shrines (what the Bible calls “high places”) where people go and talk to saints, who of course never talk back. Such people can never move beyond their own preconceived notions, because their worship involves no confrontation with the challenges of the Word mediated through other living, speaking people.

“When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” (Matthew 27:29)

“But what does the divine response say to him? ‘I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’” (Romans 11:4)

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

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[1] See Revived, Not Arrived.
[2] See Touch Not, Taste Not, Handle Not.
[3] See Graven Words.
[4] Plunder is always Step 5 in the Bible Matrix. See Vile Bodies or Bright Young Things. See also The Glory Are We.
[5] On the parallel between Moses’ and Christ’s ascension from sight, and the idolatry that followed see We Don’t Know What’s Become of Him.

Alexander Schmemann on Women’s Ordination

Concerning Women’s Ordination –
a letter to an episcopal friend

by The Rt. Rev. Alexander Schmemann, S.T.D., LL.D, D.D.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Friend:

When you asked me to outline the Orthodox reaction to the idea of women’s ordination to the priesthood, I thought at first that to do so would not be too difficult. It is not difficult, indeed, simply to state that the Orthodox Church is against women’s priesthood and to enumerate as fully as possible the dogmatical, canonical, and spiritual reasons for that opposition.

On second thought, however, I became convinced that such an answer would be not only useless, but even harmful. Useless, because all such “formal reasons” – scriptural, traditional, canonical – are well known to the advocates of women’s ordination, as is also well known our general ecclesiological stand which, depending on their mood and current priorities, our Western Brothers either hail as Orthodoxy’s “main” ecumenical contribution or dismiss as archaic, narrow-minded, and irrelevant. Harmful, because true formally, this answer would still vitiate the real Orthodox position by reducing it to a theological context and perspective, alien to the  rthodox mind. For the Orthodox Church has never faced this question, it is for us totally extrinsic, a casus irrealis for which we find no basis, no terms of reference in our Tradition, in the very experience of the Church, and for the discussion of which we are therefore simply not prepared.

Such is then my difficulty. I cannot discuss the problem itself because to do so would necessitate the elucidation of our approach -not to women and to priesthood only – but, above all to God in his Triune Life, to Creation, Fall and Redemption, to the Church and the mystery of her life, to the deification of man and the consummation of all things in Christ. Short of all this it would remain incomprehensible, I am sure, why the ordination of women to priesthood is tantamount for us to a radical and irreparable mutilation of the entire faith, the rejection of the whole  Scripture, and, needless to say, the end of all “dialogues” . Short of all this my answer will sound like another “conservative” and “traditional” defense of the status quo, of precisely that which many Christians today, having heard it too many times, reject as hypocrisy, lack of openness to God’s will, blindness to the world, etc. Obviously enough those who reject Tradition would not listen once more to an argument ex traditione….

But to what will they listen? Our amazement – and the Orthodox reaction is above all that of amazement – is precisely about the change and, to us, incomprehensible hastiness with which the question of women’s ordination was, first, accepted as an issue, then quickly reduced to the level of a disciplinary “matter” and finally identified as an issue of policy to be dealt with by a vote! In this strange situation all I can do is to try to convey to you this amazement by briefly enumerating its main “components” as I see and understand them.

The first dimension of our amazement can be termed “ecumenical.” The debate on women’s ordination reveals something which we have suspected for a long time but which now is confirmed beyond any doubt: the total truly built-in indifference of the Christian West to anything beyond the sphere of its own problematics, of its own experience. I can only repeat here what I have said before: even the so-called “ecumenical movement,” notwithstanding its claims to the contrary, has always been, and still is, a purely Western phenomenon, based on Western presuppositions and determined by a specifically Western agenda. This is not “pride” or “arrogance.” On the contrary, the Christian West is almost obsessed with a guilt complex and enjoys nothing better than self-criticism and self condemnation. It is rather a total inability to transcend itself, to accept the simple idea that its own experience, problems, thought forms and priorities may not be universal, that they themselves may need to be evaluated and judged in the light of a truly universal, truly “Catholic” experience. Western Christians would almost enthusiastically judge and condemn themselves, but on their own terms, within their own hopelessly “Western” perspective. Thus when they decide — on the basis of their own possibly limited and fragmented, specifically Western, “cultural situation” — that they must “repair” injustices made to women, they plan to do it immediately without even asking what the “others” may think about it, and are sincerely amazed and even saddened by lack, on the part of these “others” of ecumenical spirit, sympathy and comprehension.

Personally, I have often enough criticized the historical limitations of the Orthodox mentality not to have the right to say in all sincerity that to me the debate on women’s ordination seems to be provincial, deeply marked, and even determined by Western selfcenteredness and self-sufficiency, by a naive, almost childish, conviction that every “trend” in the Western culture justifies a radical rethinking of the entire Christian tradition. How many such “trends” we have witnessed during the last decades of our troubled century! How many corresponding “theologies”! The difference this time, however, is that one deals in this particular debate not with a passing intellectual and academic “fad” like “death of God,” “secular city,” “celebration of life” etc.– which, after it has produced a couple of ephemeral best-sellers, simply disappears, but with the threat of an irreversible and irreparable act which, if it becomes reality, will produce a new, and this time, I am convinced, final division among Christians, and will signify, at least for the Orthodox, the end of all dialogues.

It is well known that the advocates of women’s ordination explain the Scriptural and the  traditional exclusion of women from ministry by “cultural conditioning.” If Christ did not include women into the Twelve, if the Church for centuries did not include them into priesthood, it is because of “culture” which would have made it impossible and unthinkable then. It is not my purpose to discuss here the theological and exegetical implications of this view as well as its purely historical basis, which incidentally seems to me extremely weak and shaky; what is truly amazing is that while absolutely convinced that they understand past “cultures,” the advocates of women’s ordination seem to be totally unaware of their own cultural “conditioning” of their own surrender to culture.

How else can one explain their readiness to accept what may prove to be a passing phenomenon and what, at any rate, is a phenomenon barely at its beginning (not to speak of the women’s liberation movement, which at present is nothing but search and experimentation) as a sufficient justification for a radical change in the very structure of the Church? How else, furthermore, are we to explain that this movement is accepted on its own terms, within the perspective of “rights”, “justice,” “equality,” Etc. — all categories whose ability adequately to express the Christian faith and to be applied as such within the Church is, to say the least, questionable?

The sad truth is that the very idea of women’s ordination, as it is presented and discussed today, is the result of too many confusions and reductions. If its root is surrender to “culture”, its pattern of development is shaped by a surrender to “clericalism.” It is indeed almost entirely dominated by the old “clerical” view of the Church and the double “reduction” interest in it. The reduction on the one hand, of the Church to a “power structure,” the reduction on the other hand, of that power structure to clergy. To the alleged “inferiority” of women within the secular power structure, corresponds their “inferiority,” i.e., their exclusion from clergy, within the ecclesiastical power structure. To their “liberation” in the secular society must therefore correspond their “liberation” i.e., ordination, in the Church.

But the Church simply cannot be reduced to these categories. As long as we try to measure the ineffable mystery of her life by concepts and ideas a priori alien to her very essence, we entirely mutilate her, and her real power, her glory and beauty, and her transcendent truth simply escape us.

That is why in conclusion of this letter I can only confess, without explaining and justifying this confession by my “proofs.” I can confess that the non-ordination of women to priesthood has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with whatever “inferiority” we can invent or imagine. In the essential reality which alone constitutes the content of our faith and shapes the entire life of the Church, in the reality of the Kingdom of God which is perfect communion, perfect knowledge, perfect love and ultimately the “deification” of man, there is truly “neither male nor female.” More than that, in this reality, of which we are made partakers here and now, we all, men and women, without any distinction, are “Kings and priests,” for it is the essential priesthood of the human nature and vocation that Christ has restored to us.

It is of this priestly life, it is of this ultimate reality, that the Church is both gift and acceptance. And that she may be this, that she may always and everywhere be the gift of the Spirit without any measure or limitations, the Son of God offered himself in a unique sacrifice, and made this unique sacrifice and this unique priesthood the very foundation, indeed the very “form” of the Church.

This priesthood is Christ’s, not ours. None of us, man or woman, has any “right” to it; it is emphatically not one of human vocations, analogous, even if superior, to all others. The priest in the Church is not “another” priest, and the sacrifice he offers is not “another” sacrifice. It is forever and only Christ’s priesthood and Christ’s sacrifice — for, in the words of our Prayers of Offertory, it is “Thou who offerest and Thou who art offered, it is Thou who receives and Thou who distributest…” And thus the “institutional” priest in the Church has no “ontology” of his own. It exists only to make Christ himself present, to make this unique Priesthood and this unique Sacrifice the source of the Church’s life and the “acquisition” by men of the Holy Spirit. And if the bearer, the icon and the fulfiller of that unique priesthood, is man and not woman, it is because Christ is man and not woman…..

Why? This of course is the only important, the only relevant question. The one precisely that no “culture,” no “sociology,” no “history” and even no “exegesis” can answer. For it can be answered only by theology in the primordial and essential meaning of that word in the Church; as the contemplation and vision of the Truth itself, as communion with the uncreated Divine Light. It is only here, in this purified and restored vision that we might begin to understand why the ineffable mystery of the relationship between God and His Creation, between God and His chosen people, between God and His Church, are “essentially” revealed to us as a nuptial mystery, as fulfillment of a mystical marriage. Why in other terms, Creation itself, the Church herself, man and the world themselves, when contemplated in their ultimate truth and destiny, are revealed to us as Bride, as Woman clothed in sun; why in the very depth of her love and knowledge, of her joy and communion, the Church identifies herself with one Woman, whom she exalts as “more honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim.”

Is it this mystery that has to be “understood” by means of our broken and fallen world, which knows and experiences itself only in its brokenness and fragmentation, its tensions and dichotomies and which, as such, is incapable of the ultimate vision? Or is it this vision and this unique experience that must again become to us the “means” of our understanding of the world, the starting point and the very possibility of a truly Divine victory over all that in this world is but human, historical and cultural?

Subdue It and Have Dominion

“We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation; for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it at first.” ~St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation

From the very beginning of man’s existence, God gave man a special work to do, namely, to have dominion, or rule, over all the creation. Man was originally created for this task, as can be seen in the fact that man was created in the image and likeness of God. In Genesis 1:26-28, after God says, “Let Us make man in Our image after Our likeness” God immediately describes the way in which man is to be like God, and what this image and likeness of God looks like fleshed out in creation, that is, dominion over the whole created order. Psalm 8:6 reiterates this theme when it says, “You have given him (man) dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.” Man, as God’s image bearer, was to carry on the same work as God, by virtue of his created position as king.

But the purpose of kingly rule as was originally intended was not domination, but glorification. We can see in Genesis 2:15 that man was to “cultivate” and “keep” the Garden of Eden. “Cultivate” means “to serve”, and “keep” means “to guard or preserve.” So man, in his position of kingly ruler over the Garden was given dominion over the Garden, which was to be a rule of serving and preserving, glorifying, not destroying. As we will see later, this serving role carries with it priestly duties. Thus man, in the garden, was to rule over it as king, but also serve as priest. Adam’s serving God as priest was manifested in his serving the creation. This concept of king/priest has interesting implications when Scripture introduces Melchizedek, a Priest of God Most High, and King of Salem (Gen. 14:18), who is typological of Jesus Christ.

Along with his Dominion mandate, man was also to subdue the creation. The word “subdue” in Hebrew carries with it the idea that the one being subdued is hostile and fighting against the one attempting to subdue it. According to Harris’ Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, “‘[S]ubdue’ in Gen 1:28 implies that creation will not do man’s bidding gladly or easily and that man must now bring creation into submission by main strength. It is not to rule man. However, there is a twistedness in humanity which causes us to perform such a task with fierce and destructive delight. Try as we might, we cannot subdue this.”

But just as soon as man began his dominion rule, he lost it when Adam, the first man, representative of all mankind after him, disobeyed God, and fell in to sin. He then lost his ability to bring the created world into subjection because the creation was now not only working against him and fighting against him as before, but now the whole created order was cursed, particularly the ground. The ground signified the realm of man’s work, the place that was given over to him for subduing and dominion (Gen. 3:17,18). Man was now subjected to death, and he would be placed back into the ground when he died, the place from which he was originally created. The ground was not only cursed as a result of man’s sin, but the ground, now symbolic of the place of man’s death, now even takes over man’s role of dominion, whereby it now subdues and  has dominion over man in man’s death. Thus, when man dies he is put into the ground, and the ground then, or the grave, the place of death, now rules over man.

According to many theologians, Genesis 1-4 is the foundation to the whole Biblical story. Everything that happens in the Biblical story is an outworking of Genesis 1-4. The major themes are repeated over and over again, but are flushed out more and more as redemptive history keeps moving forward through time. I mention this because I want you to see that along with the mandate given to man to have dominion, there is always a place given to man to work out this dominion. At first it was given to man in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8).

But after man was kicked out of the Garden, man became broken up in to two groups of people, the Godly line of Seth, and the wicked line of Cain. The Godly line of Seth, the line from which humanity was to be redeemed, came about after the first death was recorded. The wicked line of Cain was the descendants that came after the one responsible for the first death. We can see in this, the foreshadowing of Christ’s death and resurrection which would redeem humanity. Christ the righteous (Abel) was killed by the wicked (Cain), only to have redemption carry on through a new birth, or a “resurrection” (Seth).

We see that as Genesis 4 comes to a close, the blessed man went from a living in a Garden to being cursed and living in a city (Gen. 4:17). This is important because we see throughout Scripture God is always bringing man back into the Garden, restoring his position of dominion. At the same time we see that God’s people are constantly being opposed by those who build cities, (Cain’s city, Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, Egypt, Babylon, etc.)  I mention this strange idea that seemingly has nothing to do with dominion because as we see God bringing his people into cities, and into lands, God’s people transform those cities and lands, and gradually man’s dominion mandate is being restored, and it is often referred to in a manner that is similar to a return to Eden.

Joseph (the man whom God brought into the pagan city, over which he became ruler over all the land [Gen. 41:43]), in order to protect his family from the famine, provides his family the best land in all of Egypt, the land of Goshen (Genesis 45:18; 47:5-6,11,26). We are told that Egypt is even similar to the “garden of the Lord” in Gen. 13:10. Thus we can see God bringing his people to “rule” over the place that is “like the garden of the Lord.” Nonetheless, they are even brought into the very best part of the land, reminiscent of Eden, a mini dominion restoration story.

God then sends Moses to redeem the children of Israel from their bondage to Egypt, and He promises to bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey, another Edenic type land (Joel 2:3). On their journey, God provides them with the Tabernacle. Something interesting to note here is that the Tabernacle entrance was on the east side (Ex. 27:13-16). When man was cast out of the Garden of Eden, he was cast out of the garden from the east, and the cherubim were placed there with flaming swords to guard the tree of life (Gen. 3:24), which is the place where man met with God in communion and fellowship. Now, in the tabernacle, only one man, the high priest, who “served” the Lord in his “priestly” duties once a year, entered into the Holy of Holies, from the east, meeting God at the Ark of the Covenant, which was “protected” by two cherubim (Ex. 25:17-21), signifying a return to the Garden of Eden, the place where man has fellowship and communion with God, the place where God meets his people (Ex. 25:22).

Jesus Christ is now serving in the true tabernacle / temple in Heaven (Heb. 8:1-2) as the Melchizedekian priest (Psalm 110:4; Heb.7), making intercession on behalf of all those who can now draw near to God through Christ as a result of his death and resurrection (Heb. 7:25).

It was through the tabernacle and the giving of the divine law by which the Israelites were to be a kingdom of priests and a light to all the nations. This was to make them a distinct people, but not to be a reason for separatism. God redeemed them and gave them the law so that they might continue the dominion work, the expansion of God’s kingdom, on earth. Dominion was lost in the Garden because God’s Law was broken, therefore the restoration of dominion will carry with it obedience to God’s law, as is promised in the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31; Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:25-27).

This return to Eden and the restoration of man’s dominion was amplified even more so when the children of Israel were in the land of promise, the place of dominion, observing the holy festivals that God gave them. For example, during the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths the Children of Israel were told to, on the first day of the week of the celebration “take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days” (Lev. 23:40). This was to remind them that God was bringing them back into the garden.

Once the Tabernacle was replaced with the Temple, even more Edenic imagery occurs in the construction of the Temple.  In 1 Kings 6:29-36 we are told that Solomon, the King, has built a Temple for the Lord. And inside the Temple is was full of Edenic imagery: “Then he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, inner and outer sanctuaries.” Solomon, the Wise King, whose reign was peaceful and full of rest (1 Kings 5:4), symbolizes what a return to the Garden will be like, peace and rest, while David, his kingdom reign was characteristic of war and violence. He fought against the enemies of God, the wicked line of Cain, in order to bring peace to the land, and to establish the Godly kingdom. David fought to bring about peace by killing off the enemies of God and God’s people. And Solomon, once peace was ushered in, brought the people into the presence of God, via the Temple with all of its “back to Eden” imagery.

Even when the Israelites were taken into captivity by the Babylonians, Daniel, who was a Joseph type character who had dreams and interpreted them for the foreign ruler in whose land he was in, brought about restoration even to pagan Babylon. Daniel and his three friends were exalted to ruling positions over Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:46-49). But even more importantly, God was exalted among the pagan Babylonians (Dan. 3:29). As a result of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams which Daniel interpreted, as well as his humiliation, Nebuchadnezzar was converted and was shown “How great are His signs, And how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And His dominion is from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:3, 34). Babylon, which at that time was considered to be the kingdom of kingdoms on the earth, was shown that another kingdom was to come, and this kingdom, with all of its dominion restoration and ever increasing rule was coming with it.

In Daniel 2 and 7, two visions are given. In chapter 2, Daniel interprets a dream for Nebuchadnezzar in which he interprets a huge statue as symbolic of four kingdoms (2:31-45). The statue is destroyed by a “stone cut from a mountain without hands.” It was symbolic of another kingdom, that would never be destroyed. “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever” (Dan. 2:44-45).

A similar vision is given in chapter 7, except this time the four kingdoms are represented by four beasts. The four kingdoms are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.  13 “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.  14 “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:12-14). Here we see that not only is a new kingdom coming, but a new king, who is referred to as the “Son of Man.”  This king is given, by God, the Ancient of Days, dominion, everlasting dominion in which all peoples, nations, and languages would serve him. And his kingdom will never pass away.

I pause here to collect our thoughts about all that we have seen thus far. The concept of dominion in intrinsically connected with the garden, and a return to Eden, i.e. New Creation. Also God’s kingdom and priestly serving is all intertwined. I have not said all that could have been said, but I feel that I have sufficiently provided thus far the foreshadowing and typology that Scripture lays out for us, which is, as Our Lord Jesus spoke to those two men on the road to Emmaus, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). And so, I shall at this time do the same.

Jesus Christ is the Second or Last Adam. He is the true image of God (Col. 1:15), the true Man. Just as man was given dominion and kingship over the creation, Colossians tells us that Christ was the one who not only created all other dominions, and thrones, and rulers, but that he created them for himself. I quoted Ps. 8:6 earlier to show that man was given dominion and that all things were put under his feet. This idea of “having all things put under feet,” is extremely kingly, as can be seen by the fact that it is directly related to Christ’s reign as King in 1 Cor. 15:27. In this verse Paul quotes Psalm 8:6 (and alludes to Psalm 110:1 earlier in verse 25), and reinterprets it/them to show that by nature of Christ’s resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God, all things are now put in subjection under his feet. Jesus Christ is the true King over all creation and has restored humanity back to his original position as kings, hence we are told that we will “reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 5:10).

Man was created to be a king/priest to serve God, but as a result of the fall and death, he forfeited that role. Jesus Christ, as a result of his resurrection and defeat of death, now occupies that very same position that we lost. The upshot of his resurrection and ascension, Jesus Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father, reigning as the Davidic King over all his enemies (Acts 2:22-36; 1 Cor. 15:22-26), who, like his father David, destroyed, except he did this via his death and resurrection (John 12:31; Col. 2:15).

In the garden we saw that man not only ruled as king, but served as priest. Hebrews 7 tells us that Psalm 110 is to be interpreted Christologically, and therefore when Ps. 110:4 says, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,” we are being told that as a result of Christ living forever, via his resurrection and ascension, he is now occupying the position of the Eternal King / High priest. But he has also “made [us] to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and [we] will reign upon the earth.” Our position of serving God and the creation is restored in Christ, and we are to, as before, glorify and not destroy the creation. Our attitude toward the creation shows our attitude toward God, for he gave us dominion over the creation as a means of serving Him. If we, in our duty to subdue the creation “perform such a task with fierce and destructive delight,” and end up destroying it and polluting it, and exhausting its resources, and if we lack the wisdom and the know how to worship God by means of our dominion mandate, then we are returning back to our position of post fall man, and render the work of Christ meaningless, and we inevitably are spurning the work of God by not recognizing our “newness.”

We are told in Romans 8:19-23 that “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Some people think that because the earth is going to be burned up in the end before the New Heavens and New Earth are ushered in, that caring for the environment is pointless and futile. But I believe that since we have been restored to our original position as kings and priests over the creation, even though the fullness thereof will be fulfilled in the New Heavens New Earth, I believe we will be doing the same thing there, so we should also be doing the same thing here not only as preparation, but to symbolize that we are redeemed people of a new creation restored back to our dominion mandate. I feel that by caring for the environment and by glorifying our surroundings we are glorifying God and acting like Him, and are living out our being created as the image of God, i.e. dominion over the creation as king priests.

Where the first Adam fell and brought death, the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, through his death and resurrection, like that of the story of Cain and Abel and Seth, brought life and restoration and redemption (Rom. 5:17). By virtue of Christ’s resurrection in particular, we can see that, just as death and the grave had dominion over man, Jesus Christ now has dominion over death and the grave, for Rom. 6:9 says, “We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” And since we are now in Christ, death no longer has dominion over us. Yeah, we still die physically, but there will be a day when Christ will raise us up into glorified bodies, so that we can live and reign forever with Him in / as the “garden city” of the Heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:10; 22:5).

In summary, we can see that man’s original created purpose was to glorify God by serving the creation and glorifying the creation. In effect, man was to turn the whole world into Eden. Man’s role of dominion over the creation was lost when Adam sinned, and the ground, the place of man’s work then had dominion over man in man’s death. God promised to redeem man, and throughout the Bible gave mini-redemption stories and used a lot of imagery which carried a lot of Edenic imagery, representing God was restoring man back to his original state. Jesus Christ came, defeated death, restored the image of God in man, reversed the curse of the fall by becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). He resurrected from the dead, taking dominion away from the grave. He ascended to the right hand of God where he now reign as the Davidic King, and serves as High Priest to God for His people. He has everlasting Dominion as the Son of Man and his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. His people therefore, through Christ, are now restored back to their position as king/priests on the earth and are to serve God via dominion over all creation since Christ made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and Father. In short, Christ is bringing in the New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17), and therefore we, as new creations, are to live accordingly, and are to reign and serve as kings and priests to our God and Father by virtue of our union with Christ, the Second Adam.

Bibliography

Chilton, David. Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion. Horn Lake, MS: Dominion Press, 2007.

Jordan, James B. Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World.Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt Pub, 1988.

Some Thoughts on Contemporary Worship Music and Evangelism

The other day was a beautiful day. Both my Daughters were Baptized into the Covenant Family of God. So naturally we called our friends and family to join us in celebration for this joyous occasion.

It was a combined service (usually we have two, one more “contemporary, the other more “traditional”), and naturally there were more people in the sanctuary than usual. The music began, and the drums started pounding, guitars started playing, and people began clapping.

For some, this is a regular experience in their worship, and they whole heartedly approve of it. I myself am more of a “traditionalist” I guess you could say, and, if I might have the audacity to interject my own thoughts and “preferences” in choosing a “style” of worship, I suppose that I am more of a hymn kind of guy.

Now before I get tinto my little rant concerning the use of of Contemorary Christian Music (CCM) in Church services, let me first begin by saying that I am not against CCM outside the church context. I myself am frequently blessed by the medium of Christian Hip Hop, and sometimes listen to other Christian rock bands as well. So right from the start, I wanted to state that I am NOT anti-CCM. And I am not even necessarily against the use of drums and guitars and the like in worship services. I believe God should be glorified by the use of all musical instruments (Psalms 98, 150).

So what am I getting at? Just that I think it is Ironic that alot of CCM is used for the sake of making unbelievers or non-churched peoples “comfortable”, as in the seeker sensative movement, and yet, I believe that the use of CCM in church services actually HINDERS evangelism and evangelistic purposes for which it was originally intended because it makes people feel uncomfortable. Shoot, it makes ME feel uncomfortable. And this is exactly what happened the other day in church.

When the music began and people began clapping, I felt uncomfortable, knowing that unbelievers were there. Unbelievers are most likely expecting to hear hymns and the like and would probably not feel as uncomfortable. I know it makes them feel that way because I was told by a person that it made him feel uncomfortable. I don’t blame Him.

I just think that when unbelievers come in to our churches, we should be looked upon by them as “wannabe” wordly rockers with a Christian flavor. We should sing hymns and Psalms, and maybe even chant. This would actually make the unbeliever feel more comfortable in a worship service because this is what He is expecting. Solemnity, reverence, awe, and seriousness (note: I am still not advocating for making worship service “seeker friendly” when I say this, I am just noting the irony).  Just some thoughts, maybe I’m way off in left field. Or maybe not.

Reformed Catholicity

When we say we are “Reformed”, what does that mean? What is being “Reformed”? The Reformers understood the word as an adjective describing their catholicity. They were “Reformed Catholics.” Since then it has become a noun, we are “Reformed.” That needs to change. Moves toward ecumenism is not a bad thing, and understanding that Jesus wanted His church to be unified might help us become more unified under the banner of catholicity.

We need to stop seeing and living our Christian experience through the lens of the Liberal/Fundamentalist controversy of the early 1900’s. We need to stop attacking each other on every single possible doctrinal issue, attempting to make every other Christian church denomination or person conform to our interpretation and tradition of Scripture. The amount of energy expended on such pursuits could be put towards greater issues of importance, than whether or not someone holds to all 5 points, or views justification as forgiveness of sins instead of imputation of active obedience. Doctrine is important, we need to know the truth and teach the truth, but at what expense?

“Sorry I wasn’t feeding and clothing the poor and homeless, and loving my enemies, and working to see your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven Lord, I was too busy being engaged in meaningless theological debates that produced anger and malice amongst my fellow Chrsitian brothers and sisters. I know that you would be proud of me.”

Calvin on: Election (1 Peter 1:1)

Commentary on 1 Peter 1:1:

To the elect, or the elected. It may be asked, how could this be found out, for the election of God is hid, and cannot be known without the special revelation of the Spirit; and as every one is made sure of his own election by the testimony of the Spirit, so he can know nothing certain of others.

To this I answer, that we are not curiously to inquire about the election of our brethren, but ought on the contrary to regard their calling, so that all who are admitted by faith into the church, are to be counted as the elect; for God thus separates them from the world, which is a sign of election.

It is no objection to say that many fall away, having nothing but the semblance; for it is the judgment of charity and not of faith, when we deem all those elect in whom appears the mark of God’s adoption. And that he does not fetch their election from the hidden counsel of God, but gathers it from the effect, is evident from the context; for afterwards he connects it with the sanctification of the Spirit As far then as they proved that they were regenerated by the Spirit of God, so far did he deem them to be the elect of God, for God does not sanctify any but those whom he has previously elected.

However, he at the same time reminds us whence that election flows, by which we are separated for salvation, that we may not perish with the world; for he says, according to the foreknowledge of God This is the fountain and the first cause: God knew before the world was created whom he had elected for salvation.

But we ought wisely to consider what this precognition or foreknowledge is. For the sophists, in order to obscure the grace of God, imagine that the merits of each are foreseen by God, and that thus the reprobate are distinguished from the elect, as every one proves himself worthy of this or that lot. But Scripture everywhere sets the counsel of God, on which is founded our salvation, in opposition to our merits.

Hence, when Peter calls them elect according to the precognition of God, he intimates that the cause of it depends on nothing else but on God alone, for he of his own free will has chosen us. Then the foreknowledge of God excludes every worthiness on the part of man. We have treated this subject more at large in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and in other places.

As however in our election he assigns the first place to the gratuitous favor of God, so again he would have us to know it by the effects, for there is nothing more dangerous or more preposterous than to overlook our calling and to seek for the certainty of our election in the hidden prescience of God, which is the deepest labyrinth.

Therefore to obviate this danger, Peter supplies the best correction; for though in the first place he would have us to consider the counsel of God, the cause of which is alone in himself; yet he invites us to notice the effect, by which he sets forth and bears witness to our election. That effect is the sanctification of the Spirit, even effectual calling, when faith is added to the outward preaching of the gospel, which faith is begotten by the inward operation of the Spirit.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles: 1 Peter 1:1.  Available at:http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom45.iv.ii.i.html. Internet; Accessed 3 April 2009.