The Meta-Narrative AD

14 05 2012
The Word Became Flesh
  • 4 BC John the Baptiser (The Greatest of all the Prophets)

Magi from the East...

  • Incarnation: Birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Life, Ministry
  • 30 AD Death of Jesus
  • 30 AD Resurrection of Jesus
  • 30 AD Ascension of Jesus and Current Reign
  • Pentecostal Spirit
  • Acts of the Apostles: Peter, James, John, Paul, Others
  • ‘The Spreading Flame’: Christian Faith and Community
  • Growing Opposition: Nero, Rome
Turning Points: “2000 Years of Christ’s Power”  (M. Noll, N. Needham)
  • 70 AD   The Destruction of Temple (Jerusalem)
  • 100, 200, 300: Expansion, Persecution, Emperors, Theologians
  • 325    Nicene Creed
  • 481    Chalcedon and Heresies
  • 530    Benedict and Monasteries

Luther, the Augustinian Monk - History Maker

  • 600    Gospel in China (Nestorians and Others)
  • 630    Muhammad Conquers Mecca with (sword not Word)
  • 800   Charlemagne Crowned on Christmas Day, …“by the Pope”
  • 1054  East and West Divide
  • 1095 The Crusades begin
  • 1382 John Wycliffe’s English Bible completed
  • 1521  Reformation: Luther (& later …Calvin)
  • 1534  England – Henry VIII
  • 1540 Counter-Reform, Loyola
  • 1738 Revivals: Wesley, Whitfield, Edwards
  • 1789 French Revolution
  • 1793 William Carey to India
  • 1807 Robert Morrison to China
  • 1854 David Livingstone to Africa
  • 1904 Revival in Wales
  • 1906 Azusa Street, LA, Pentecostals
  • 1907 Pyongyang, (North) Korea, Revival began
  • 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference
  • 1914-18 World War One  (P.T. Forsyth – “think in centuries”)
  • 1922 Karl Barth on Romans; and 1934 Barmen Declaration
  • 1929 Totoyohiko Kagawa, Indigenous Missionary in Japan
  • 1939 World War Two: Suffering and Nations
  • 1945 New Beginning, Service in Love (G. C. Bingham)
  • 1962 Second Vatican Council
  • 1966 Pray for China (cf. Mao’s Cultural Revolution
  • 1979 Aboriginal Australia Revival From Elcho Island
  • 1989 Fall of Berlin Wall: ‘The Twilight of Atheism’ (A. McGrath)
  • 2001 New York Twin Towers: Faith, NOT Religion
  • 2004 Tsunami Indian Ocean and Theodicy
  • 2012 Attempt to redefine Marriage (US Obama)
  • … New things
  • … More new things
  • … The Eschaton
  • Date Not Known: ‘Behold I make all things new’ [the ‘old things’ transformed into the ‘new’]
  • The Age to Come – Eternity – Glorification of All Things
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Stories That Tell: The War Stories

25 04 2012


“Thou shalt not kill”
(Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17)

 In mixing with members of SAPOL in recent years, I came across a saying, which is a bit of a take-off of the old diggers in Australia. They say something like ‘we were all standing around telling war-ies’. This term war-ies is short for ‘war stories’, and is a slang term synonymous with ‘tall tales’, bragging, or embellishing old exploits.

Geoffrey Bingham’s War Stories are not really that sort of thing. While some of them may truly recount and even embellish certain funny or even strange historical incidents, the stories are written not merely for entertainment, but in order to convey something of the truth of life, during war times, as a person of faith has seen, understood and experienced it. Most of the war stories, like the other types are undoubtedly written in the hope of helping to lead a person to ponder life more deeply, and in particular, to consider God and all his works in creation and redemption.  Christ has come to meet us amidst all of life, including painful, poignant, tragic, sad, miraculous and even, or especially in the humorous days of war.

THE PACIFIST POSITION—A BRIEF WORD

There are many Christians who regard pacifism as the only authentic response to war. One Internet blogger recently wrote: “Participation in the military… is a violation of one’s commitment to Jesus Christ”.[1] Familiarity with Geoffrey’ Bingham’s writings, and his own decision—as a pacifist—to join the armed forces during WW2, have helped me to think through this issue in a helpful way. The following extract is taken from Geoff’s theological teaching, and a subtitle: ‘The Christian and War’[2]

A “just” war might be said to be one, which, resists oppression and defends righteousness and freedom. Whilst killing in war is evil it is pleaded that the evil of tyranny, especially that which results from such forces as Nazism are worse evils and a choice between two is necessary. A realistic recognition of man as he is will determine a person’s view, e.g. whether a view of depravity is taken, or a humanistic view of man’s innate potential of good. The problem that complicates the decision about “just” or “unjust” wars is that it is rarely, if ever, that the evil is on one side. So many elements complicate the matter entirely. Such elements could be aggrandisement by one country against another, armaments interests, sub-Christian views of retaliation (for wrongs done or imagined), racial hatred, and personal lust for power by leaders or nations.

(f) The Pacifist Position

There are Christians who are pacifists. The question of whether Christianity is pacifist is a wider question. Some reconciliation of the use of war in the Old Testament and the forecast of war to the end-time in the Scriptures has to be worked out by one who would be a pacifist or a non-pacifist. The whole question of righteousness, as of love, must be sorted out, with an understanding of penal elements within the context of nations and international relationships. Realistic views of man’s sin and depravity must be taken and then decisions made. In this regard it is to be considered whether pacifism springs from a Christian or a humanistic source, and if from the latter whether it is, nevertheless consistent with general Christian teaching where the Bible does not give a specific direction. A further consideration is that wars spring Out of the evil of man and simply to accept them as a necessary evil in passive fatalism is a contradiction of the moral powers the believer possesses and may even become moral (immoral?) acquiescence. The pacifist believes in non-resistance, non violence, non-killing. He claims that man being evil does not excuse wars. Positive pacifism alerts others to war’s evil and seeks to outmode war. Retaliation is sub-Christian as also selfish aggrandisement and all national and racial hatreds. Whilst wars may be predicted as continuing this is no reason for acquiescence in any. Christ took the way of non-resistance and accomplished his goal. Because pacifism has not worked, nor may not work is no reason why it should not be espoused and followed. Evils such as slavery have been diminished by teaching. If all refused to fight wars would cease and governments would wish to gain the support of their people by not fighting. It is not a utilitarian question but a (totally) moral one.

(g) Pacifist or Not Pacifist?

Each person must abide by his own convictions whilst he is sure they are right. He does not go against his own conscience for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. He is responsible, however, to make sure – as far as possible – that his convictions are correct. That honest believers see two views in the Bible is patently clear, i.e. war is right (in some circumstances) and war is wrong (in all circumstances). These conclusions ought to be reached only when the total Biblical portrayal is considered. No conclusion is valid which omits the fact of man’s depravity, of constituted authorities and of the working of penal elements of God’s wrath in history. The question may not seem, finally, to be an “either-or” but a concession that whilst war and killing are evil of themselves it may be simplistic to work from this basis alone. The whole matter of morality and judgement is also involved.

In war, or even if a crazed violent attacker is shooting people in any society, Christians must face the moral question of ‘what shall I do in order to truly love my neighbour?’ How do I lay down my life in love, to care for or protect others?  To my shock, Mennonite Christians often view police as merely agents of State violence.[3] 

THE FIRST WAR STORIES

Geoffrey Bingham’s first book of short stories was entitled ‘To Command the Cats’. It was published by Angus and Robertson in 1980; however many of the stories had been previously published in the Bulletin, a weekly Australian Magazine, in production from 1880 to January 2008. Geoff writes:

On return to Australia a story written in the POW camp—‘Laughing Gunner’—was snapped up by the Bulletin as soon as I submitted it. That was why I chose it s the title story to this book. Thirty-three more stories were accepted y the same journal within a few years, and I was dubbed as their most prolific writer. I owe most in my writing career to the poet and short-story writer Douglas Stewart, who was literary Editor of the Bulletin for twenty-four years’[4]

A SHORT PRÉCIS OF SOME WAR STORIES—AND SOME QUOTES

It Sometimes Happens But Not Often

A professor – a Dutchman – held captive as a P.O.W. loses hope, and intends to die.  But his dear friend, an army Chaplain prays constantly at his bedside.  Then a miracle occurs. A hen arrives and lays an egg on the bed – most suitable for making eggnog –, which the Dutchman loves. Hope returns – a mystery – and miracle of mercy takes place before their eyes, and in their hearts and lives. Geoffrey heard about this event:

The Dutchman had watched it from beginning to end. He had lain still, afraid lest the hen be scared away. When it had gone, his nerveless hands had fumbled towards the warm, smooth fruit of the fowl.

‘Oh, no!’ exclaimed the chaplain. ‘Don’t touch it. It’s too precious.’

Nevertheless he did let the skinny Dutchman feel it with his long, spatulated fingers, and then he took it.

‘Wait for the eggnog,’ he cautioned cheerily, and went away to beat the ingredients together, to grind the precious shell into lime-powder, and to make the drink complete and nourishing.

The Dutchman was sitting up, this being the first time in many weeks. An orderly had arranged a couple of pillows for him, borrowing them from empty beds.

‘Praise be!’ the academic was saying. ‘Praise be!’

‘Praise be!’ agreed the chaplain. ‘Now drink this up.’

The professor needed no urging. His hands trembled as he held the rusty cup, but he insisted on holding it himself. He kept sipping and sucking and sighing, and then heaving away with asthmatic joy.

‘Gott is goot!’ he said eagerly.

‘He is good!’ agreed the chaplain.

He watched the last precious drops disappear into the pink mouth of the patient.

The Dutchman was rubbing his hands together soulfully, glee­fully.

‘A hen, eh?’ he said. ‘Just a little hen, eh?’

He chuckled to himself, and then shook his hand feebly towards heaven.

‘What a humour, eh?’ he asked. ‘The goot Gott He sends the little bird to lay eggs all over the old professor so that the old professor must not die.’

‘That’s right,’ said the chaplain, scarcely knowing what to say.

He added, ‘The good God needs the old professor, eh? He doesn’t want to lose all that training, all that wisdom, all that knowledge.’

The Dutchman stared at him. ‘You t’ink that, hey?’ he asked. He looked admiringly at his old chaplain friend, shook his head and went off into his asthmatic gurgle.

‘Oh, the Gott, He is goot,’ he said. He kept chuckling. ‘He is very goot.’

Then he remembered the hen, and his gurgling became deep, even more asthmatic. After a time he was gasping, and the tears were coursing out of his fine old eyes, and on to the silver-grey thatch on his torso.

‘Oh, so goot,’ he was saying in helpless joy. ‘Oh yes, and oh, so lovink.’

When the chaplain slipped away because he could not hold back the tide of his own tears, he heard the Dutchman repeating to himself, like some endless refrain: ‘Oh, so lovink. So lovink.’[5]

Laughing Gunner

The story of a soldier – an unusual man – who held a strange obsession for machine-guns.  Nicknamed Tiger, he was not at all interested in the duties of a regular foot soldier, with gun and bayonet. However, he was very eager to operate the machine-gun. He was passionately involved in the fighting prior to the fall of Singapore, during World War Two. He revelled in his task, taking his stand with the machine-gun, as the Japanese invaders made their relentless approach.

The Life and Death of Puggi Mahomet – (This is not a précis, but is a small direct extract)

“How many times, down through the years, I have thought about that event, and Chikka has also! As I said before, Sproggie, Blower and Chips got theirs in action. Joe and Don R had to live with the thing for all the years they worked on their sheep sta­tions, but they never wrote to us, or rang us about the matter. Every Anzac Day we would not mention the subject, be­cause there was no way of settling the matter. We would just sit to­gether in the Botanical Gardens in silence, thinking about it.

The seven of us agreed that Puggi was a slippery cuss, and would worm his way out of any trial. What was worse, he knew the whole signal system now, and if the Japs came we were done for, with that sort of communication.

The six men said to me, ‘Danny, we make this decision to­gether—the seven of us—but only you can veto it.’

In a way, the decision was left to me, and I knew we had to do something. We were not at war with Japan, but give us a few days and we would be. Of that we were all sure. To let this man go free meant disaster.

‘The court decides against you, Puggi Mahomet,’ I said, but even then I felt a bit sick.

It was then Puggi rushed us. He was an expert in karate, and had Chips and Sproggie toppled in a second. He grabbed Sproggie’s rifle to keep us at bay. This decided the other men, and in a flash Blower’s bayonet went through the old ‘point, withdraw’ exercise. Puggi fired his .303, but the bullet went into the air. Joe and Don R rushed him with their bayonets, and we were all sick in the moment that we had done it. Whilst he writhed, I fired a shot and that finished him.”[6]

The Rim

An autobiographical account of a World War 2 gun-battle: a charge near Singapore.  Australians with rifles, against a Japanese machine gunner, other soldiers and snipers; one of the many Australian men charging is badly wounded by a bullet to the leg, and as his blood flows out onto the ground. New thoughts of life and death and survival and recovery come to the man as he lays still on the ground, until help comes; profound questions of duty, heroics and folly – are raised.

The Skylark of Takafau           

The freedom of a little bird, singing in a cage, in Osaka, signals something profound to Prisoners of War, during World War 2. A story of imprisonment, hope and freedom.

Three Rice Cakes

A crisis of faith occurs in the life of a Prisoner of War. Should he continue to take the smallest rice cake, and suffer personal deprivation and hunger – out of love for others – or should he abandon this principle, and select the largest rice cake for himself? Amidst an inner personal battle of immense importance, the prisoner reasons to himself that if there is no such thing as true law, and judgment then ultimately nothing matters. If nothing matters, then self-preservation at the expense of others is nevertheless the only truly logical course of action for him to pursue. An unseen miracle occurs – and a hidden resolve is strengthened – which has ramifications for the remainder of this man’s life. Autobiographical. (Also published in the booklet of the same name). [7]

The Power Within

Upon what strength does a person draw, in order to maintain the integrity needed for a moral life? This story from WWII is of a man who can behave well, and talk well, and even tell extremely funny yarns, yet can be a person who is driven, solely, by his own self-sufficiency. It illustrates how a person can behave with high morality, and do so entirely from one’s own resources. However, the great deceit is that a person, can—of themselves—be virtually faultless and blameless in thought, speech and action.  Such deception, of oneself, is a failure to face the reality of the human race as we find it, and share in it; if not faced, this way of being can end, sadly, in self-justification and ultimately, self-destruction. Faith draws upon true power. (Also published in The Raymond Connection and other stories, and in At the End of His Tether).

From Singapore to Sydney           

An autobiographical account of the release of prisoners from the Changi P.O.W. Camp on Singapore Island (in 1945) – the story – a true one – includes some interesting personal impressions as it traces the journey, beginning with the boarding of the transport ship – Oranji – and the subsequent return to Australia.  The whole account is very moving indeed, and the service of love and kindness rendered by the Australian women in the Red Cross imparts a beautiful insight into the mystery and communion of the human race, as a male-female entity.  One feels like applauding, as Geoff Bingham captures with words, the scene of the welcome in Darwin. One is drawn to contemplate the glory of Australia as a unique and grand nation.


[2] Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘Christian Ethics and Their Practice’, Living Faith Studies, Series 3, No. 30, N.C.P.I., 1978, p. 218

[3] Andy Alexis-Baker, ‘The Gospel or a Glock? Mennonites and the Police’, in The Conrad Grebel Review, Volume 25, Number 2, Spring 2007, p. 23-49 (Note: “Glock” is the name of a company that manufactures handguns popular with police departments for decades). Alexis-Baker says: “Because of the idolatrous character of the police, because police represent a threat to church order, and in the spirit of the early Christians and Anabaptists, Mennonites should ban police occupations for all current and potential members, and do so with the historical recognition that the police have served as the bridge for wider acceptance of warfare, idolatrous collaboration with the state, and further breakdown of community discipline and life” (Baker, p. 40).

[4] Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘Preface’ in Laughing Gunner and Selected War Stories, Troubadour Press Inc. Blackwood, 1992, p. xiii; This book as been very well received in Australia, winning the 1993 Christian Book of the Year award, from the Australia Christian Literature Society. It is a great gift suitable passing on to others, especially around Anzac Day, each year. Further to this, a most comprehensive summary of Geoffrey’s war years is included in the highly recommended book by Geoffrey Bingham, Love is the Spur, Eyrie Books, North Paramatta, 2004.

[5] Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘It Sometimes Happens, But Not Often’ in Laughing Gunner, p. 154-155

[6] Quote taken from G. C. Bingham, Laughing Gunner, p. 21-22

[7] This story appears in numerous books including G. C. Bingham, Angel Wings, p. 77-85.





Edenising the Whole World

25 06 2011

The term ‘Edenising’ is seldom used by theologians and preachers alike—and hardly at all, by the general public.  That is a pity really.

‘Edenising the whole world… that is God’s plan’.  It always has been his plan.

Edensing is a term which encapsulates the story of God, humanity and creation, and the purpose for which all has been created.  It is the whole story and counsel of God from Creation to the New Creation.  From the Garden of Eden, and the tragic event therein, to the “river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing … on either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, … and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:1, 3)

Some may be familiar with Jonathan Edward’s essay: ‘A History of the Work of Redemption (See The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, 1834 (1990), Banner of Truth Trust, p. 533-619). He picks up the details of the biblical story and tells them as a continual flow of events, one story.  This is the story of the Edenising of the world.

The mandate of fruitfulness given to the man, Adam, and his wife Eve, was a word of blessing which forwarded that work. It continued though failure appeared to thwart the whole plan, and it continued through Noah, Abraham, Moses and the whole nation of Israel. It continued through to the coming of Jesus Christ, the most frutiful person who ever lived. His fruitful life, is flowing out into the world now, as he is Lord of creation, and Lord of all fruitfulness.

He will speak his Word and bring forth true action, love and service in that great lan of the Triune God, until that day when he makes all things new, pristine, and full of glory. The glorification, of God, man and creation will be the Edenising of the whole world.

Israel has had a unique role in all this, being elected by God to be the focal point for the revelation of his grace ad love towards all nations.

Edenising the world, how wonderful. In Paradise again, only more fully assured. What a plan. This is the work of the Word of God, as it goes out to turn the peoples of the earth towards the central focus of the people of God – Jerusalem, outside of which Jesus was crucified, so that all through his merit, may enter the New Jerusalem, holy, sanctified, justified ad glorified.

No wonder we like to enjoy a garden and take delight in fixing and tidying it up ready for enjoyment.  No wonder blessing people with love and community in Jesus Christ, is like planting a good rich, vibrant, colourful and varied garden.

Well, by faith, come home to the Gardener, who first planted Eden and placed the man, and the woman, in it. Come home to the Gardener, and share in the work of gardening.

Responsibility and freedom were given to the first couple, with one note of caution. Sadly this warning was not heeded, and so the long saga of human history, battling with sin and death began. But it began in hope, and the flow of the rivier of life continued until it flowed fully from the belly of Jesus Christ – rivers of living water (John 7:38).

As Geoffrey Bingham said of Adam and Eve ‘they are to take what is the special life of Eden and take it to the whole world.’ (G. C. Bingham, Searching For God, RBP, 2000, p. 109)

Edenising the World. That’s the go.

 

 





The Bursting Wineskin

16 08 2010

Jesus talked about the New People of God, (The New Testament Church) as New Wine.

It would burst the Old Wineskin of Judaism.

Well it also bursts the “Churchy” Wineskins that we get into our own head, nation, denomination, etc:

All over the world, Christian churches have, unfortunately, taken up a weakened view of the church and ministry, by adopting an idea that kinda-seems right but is not.

Example of what happens:    

* Clergy are put in place as the “trained” leaders.

* Laity (from ‘Greek’ word ‘Laos’), meaning ‘The People’ are gathered to follow, or be passive recipients of the Clergy teaching and leadership:

MODEL No. 1:   The ‘old’ diagram of the church — Clergy at the top, the Laity beneath:                      

                           CLERGY

_______

                            LAITY

MODEL No. 2:   The ‘new’ diagram of the church  

                     

              LAITY        […CLERGY, within]

MODEL No. 3: The New Testament Church

Commenting, Geoffrey Bingham writes:

“All members of Christ’s body are ministers (diakonoi) and the changes history has wrought in the Church have been unhappy ones. I have made the point that the outward form of ministry is wrong, but that Christ has raised up both domata and charismata in succeeding years. Underneath the clergy-laity order, the true order of the Church must have beenand is—in spite of the imposition of the biblically wrong clergy-laity division.”

From ‘The Beautiful City of God’ by Geoffrey Bingham, p. 149-150

http://www.newcreation.org.au/books/pdf/377_BeautifulCityGod.pdf

May the Church of today be a genuinely bursting movement of the Spirit, Jesus leading onward and inspiring, new ways ahead – in this type of formation:

Church NT (Model 3)

 





A Distinct Bugle Sound

28 11 2009

As a kid, I used to really enjoy the cowboy movies, we were shown on TV; especially the ones where the US cavalry, heard of the impending problems on the frontier, and to the sound of music … came charging over the hill, to the rescue – just in time! US flag held aloft, bayonets at the ready, and a fine stream of horses and riders… (back in the days before it was politically correct, to hate all things US).

Like the urgent call of the fire siren, to the CFS volunteers in a country town, so the call of a bugle was once used to awaken the troops – to do battle.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he asks the question: “..if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” (1Cor. 14:8). Speaking in tongues, a lovely, yet somewhat minor matter, had become the big focus for some, rather than the clear Word of the Gospel, proclaimed to the nations. The Gospel is a bugle blast!  It is a clarion call. It is a trumpeted song of resurrection joy!  It makes great, grand sense of the seemingly sad and sombre notes, that cry forth, in the crucifixion.

The bugle. Yes. For what reason?

Ah, the battle!  The life of faith is undoubtedly, a battle. There is a clash of two kingdoms. The kingdom of the Son of God’s love, and the kingdom of the deceptive, evil one.

We usually nominate the enemies, in our battle, as 1. the world, 2. the flesh, and 3. the devil.  However, a more complete list really comprises of: 1. sin, 2. death, 3. the wrath of God, 4. the law, 5. the conscience, 6. satan, 7. world powers, 8. the world, 9. the flesh, and 10. the idols (see G.C. Bingham, The Things We Firmly Believe, NCPI, p. 115).

People of faith are engaged in a battle, a battle to stand firm in the freedom we have already received. Human beings are being called into freedom, through the gospel, or good news of Christ Jesus. Christians are kept in freedom by that same gospel. However, it really needs to be a clear gospel, a distinct sound. And this needs to be the case, even as we are engaged in the great mysteries, revealed to us.

Clarity. Clarity. Clarity. These three are needed amidst the information overload of our age. Especially, we need gospel clarity. To this end, many rightly turn to modern day teacher, John Piper. I do too.

Recently, however, I reviewed one of John Piper’s small talks: What is the Gospel? I appreciated his words, and work, but felt that they lacked something. I would like to make an important point, therefore. Here is his summary:

The Gospel is

  1. A Plan From Eternity
  2. An Event in History
  3. An Achievement between the Son and Father
  4. A Free offer to the world of these things
  5. Application of this Achievement – Forgiven, Justified (do not stop here, he adds, for many do!)
  6. To Bring us to God (Reconciliation for Fellowship)  (What-Is-The-Gospel—John-Piper).               The wonderful point he makes, is that we are to know, love and enjoy the Triune God. So true. But here in point 7, is a further addition, which connects the benefits of the Gospel, to the setting in which we will always find ourselves, namely – the Creation!
  7. To equip us to participate in running the Universe, together with God, eternally.

In all his writings, and especially in his stories, Geoffrey Bingham taught the significance of Salvation in relation to the Creation, and to the New [renewed] Creation. Only recently, theologians were discussing what was, or is, the priority of God – the story of salvation, or the work of creation, in order to bring humanity into fellowship, eternally.  I think the confusion comes, or the question arises, because we seldom ever glimpse the wonder of creation, from the outset, when all the angels sang and shouted for joy (Job 38:7). As a result, we fail to anticipate the role of humanity in relation to creation, into the future. We, as it were, stop short at fellowship and communion.

The real goal of the plan, is to form ‘a peer community’, together with Jesus the Son, Redeemer, who enjoy one another, in relationship, and in the ongoing action of the creation.

One of the Lord’s dear servants, Geoffrey Bingham, has put it like this: ‘God’s purpose in having a church is to train people up to be able to run the universe, with him, for eternity’.

Now, I believe, this is …. A Distinct Bugle Sound.





Pateriology: Study 8

4 12 2008

Pateriology: The Person and Work of the Father

Prayer: ‘I ask… that they may all be one. As you Father are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’. (John 17:20a, 21) Jesus

The Father—His Person and His Work—is a vast subject, which is indeed at the heart of the universe, and so of Trinitarian theology. It surely deserves to be given a higher priority in our churches, and—I believe—far more attention within our theological and bible colleges. This may yet happen. Last century, Barth, (and since the Reformation, Luther) and others have laboured to show that Christian theology is Christocentric. This has had a beneficial effect on the church. While at times subject to experimental overkill, and in some quarters, a play-off between doctrine and experience, the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements have nevertheless in recent decades been a positive factor in the renewal of the church. As can happen with a good crop, at the end of a season, some have suggested—with good cause—that these movements have in some respect ‘gone to seed’.  As Tom Smail once said: ‘Your Renewal is too small’.  For this reason, a rediscovery of the treasures of knowing the Father also, may indeed awaken the church to fresh waves of renewal, rich theology and worship.

 

Since this is the final study (in the current series of 8 studies, in 2008), for those attending the New Creation Teaching Ministry Thursday morning classes, there are a number of important points that should yet be clarified, or underscored.

1.     ‘Abba Father’ is Not a Metaphor but a revelation of what is essentially so. It is a revelation given by the Holy Spirit, where faith is present. Ian Pennicook writes:

“the cry ‘Abba! Father!’ is actually the cry of the Spirit himself. Christ came to effect adoption and because his work of redemption was accomplished, the Spirit of his own sonship was given to us. So I am suggesting that Pentecost brought in an amazing realisation of who God is and what redemption has accomplished. That does not mean that explanation and teaching was not required but it does mean that here was no ‘appropriate’ picture language constructed for the hearers. Instead a powerful revelation came to the church, which was born that day: God is Father! Ephesians 3:14-15 introduces Paul’s prayer: For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. Far from ‘Father’ being a metaphor, the ‘Application of a name or descriptive term to an object to which it is not literally applicable’, quite the opposite is true. ‘Father’ is literally applicable to God alone, and then only to others by virtue of their being the image or reflection of the true Father”. 

2.     The Trinity is a Love Hierarchy (See John 14:28; 14:10, 10:30, 5:17-18; 7:29) The Father is the Divine Fountainhead (Fons Divinitatis), “in which the being of the Son has its source; the Father is God sending and commanding, the Son is God sent and obedient”  (C. K. Barrett) Over and against the heresies of tri-theism and of subordinationism, we need to assert that—rightly understood—the Triune God is hierarchical! This has implications for all of life, for humanity is created in the image and likeness of God. Consider the following paragraph, by Geoffrey C. Bingham:

“Some years ago a theologian in our city said he had ceased to read my books because my theology was hierthere was—and is—truth in the comment. I asked whether he or others had researched the idea of hierarchy—especially biblical hierarchy—and the frank answer was, ‘No. I don’t really understand hierarchy; and no, I don’t know of any material done on it’. I suggested that we might be missing out on an essential dimension of the truth if we did not at least inquire into hierarchy.”           

This is a large subject, unable to be dealt with at depth in these brief notes. However, we need to open things a little. If we first see that within the love-creation, there is hierarchy, then we may be open to consider the whole matter. In Genesis 1:16 we read:

God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars.

 The sun and moon—prior to the entry of sin into the cosmos—exercise ruling authority. The term ‘hierarchy’ usually evokes thoughts of an oppressive regime, where authorities are arrayed in steps and stairs, and the worst location, is at the bottom—eg. it is not good to be the family dog, or cat, on a ‘bad hair day’. This is not, however what is in mind. Rather, the ideas of flow and offunctionality and service are paramount, together with mutual indwelling—a combination of Jesus’ statements in John.

 

Superordination does not mean superiority

This oft-repeated statement of Geoffrey Bingham’s is hard for sinners and rebels to hear. It indicates the heart of the matter: Superordination does not mean superiority, and subordination does not mean inferiority. Further, Bingham says: One of the keys to understanding hierarchy is to see that the most prior within its order is the person who takes the highest responsibility and who must serve the most. Another key is the fact that each member of the hierarchy is in another. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11:3 the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father. The Son is in the husband, and the husband in him.  The husband is in the wife and the wife in the husband, and in fact every member of the hierarchy is in every other member. This inter-dwelling of the members ensures unity, and works against the principle of oppression. 

                                                    

3.     Sonship and Inheritance: The Cosmic Dimension

The Father is creator—together with the Son who is co-creator. The family, the community of God, are placed in their home within creation. The entrance of sin however, outworks itself in alienation (due to guilt), anger, denial and disorientation concerning the whole plan of God. Many today live as if there were no plan, no future, and no point to life, except what we make of it ourselves. Not so for those who have faith. In Jesus Christ, they are redeemed and sanctified in order to participate within the new (regenerated) creation, including a profound homecoming and a grand inheritance—namely all things! (Romans 8:15-25;) Assurance from the giving Father who did not withhold his own Son, and has not abandoned us to our own miserable, little agendas, gives a person real confidence in God as Father, and as Love. The substantial nature of life, to come makes sense of creation, at last! For the creation itself anticipates glorious freedom. Bingham notes: ‘In almost every reference to sonship there is a forward looking to the end-time.  This end-time we call the eschaton, and so we say the sonship is eschatological.’  See for example, Ephesians 1:5 which speaks of adoption. And at the end of this great passage Ephesians 1:11, 1:14 and later 1:18 speaks of inheritance, as co-heirs with Christ.

The reality of adoption, sonship and inheritance refers to those who have come to maturity. A mature son is no longer a minor, under bondage to the slavery of sin. The new experience is of great freedom, even of embracing necessary suffering. The destiny is co-inheritance of the regenerate cosmos (Rom. 4:13).


   

 Thomas A. Smail, The Forgotten Father, Paternoster Press, 1980, p. 202

 Ian Pennicook, The Father and his sons, PDF File, February, 2004, p. 6

 D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, Eerdmans, 1991, p. 508.

 G.C. Bingham, All Things Are Yours, NCPI, Blackwood, 1996, p. xiii

 G.C. Bingham, All Things Are Yours, NCPI, Blackwood, 1996, p. 55

 Thomas A. Smail, The Forgotten Father, Paternoster Press, 1980, p. 156

 G.C. Bingham, I love the Father, NCPI, Blackwood, 1974, 1990, p. 116





Pateriology: Study 7

26 11 2008

So Many Orphans

Globally, there are approximately 14 million orphans, with the vast majority (approx 9 million) living in Africa. These children are among the most vulnerable in the world. They have decreased access to education, healthcare and possibilities for future employment.  They are at increased risk of living in poverty, working in exploitative child labour, and becoming victims of abuse.

The plethora of reports from media, concerning human suffering, can desensitise or numb us to such news. Perhaps the shock and grief of this state of affairs, evokes helplessness before the enormity and complexity of it all.  Such horror, absence and neglect of genuine fatherhood, has roots in a sinful race.

The gospel teaches that God so loves the world, that he sends Jesus Christ into this world to bring salvation, where there is desolation, despair and loneliness. Jesus comes to effect redemption, and to work the Father’s triumphant grace and hope amidst all the pain, and evildoing that humanity knows. Nothing is too difficult for God. Our Father sends and brings his Word to bear upon our global pain. Christ comes, to the world, with—among all others—orphans in his mind and heart. It has been said that ‘to be an orphan is perhaps the most lonely of all states’. So many people – so much loneliness! So many resources to meet human need, yet so much inequity and unfairness and brutality, and sickness and squalor. Of faith in Christ, James writes that ‘religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world’ (James 1:27). The Apostles did not teach withdrawing from society (1Corinthians 5:10). Rather they exhort us to take up genuine service in the life of the cosmos. This involves resisting the godless ‘world system’, while exercising a diligent participation in the unseen kingdom of God.  This is life.

Destined For Adoption

Creation groans awaiting future freedom. The Father has in love, destined redeemed humanity for adoption (Rom. 8:23; Gal. 4:4-8). He chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, for adoption as his children (Ephesians 1:5).  Baxter Kruger writes:

Adoption! Adoption! Adoption! This is the first thought, the mystery the secret of the entire universe. This is why this world is here, why man, humanity, the universe, history exists. Delete this purpose and there simply is no creation, for there is no reason to call it forth nor to sustain it.

Jesus is Immanuel, ‘God is With Us’ (Matt. 1:23). Jesus said, ‘I am with you always’  (Matt. 28:20). The Lord has promised ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ (Heb. 13:5; Josh. 1:5). John Wesley, once said, ‘The best of all is this, God is with us’. The mystery of the Gospel is that the Everlasting Presence comes to dwell within our world, our life, our lot, as human flesh, forever. He walks our streets and feels our pain:

Immanuel! Immanuel!

God in our flesh forever,

You walk our streets, and feel our pain

With love that none can sever.

Our eyes had never seen our God

Nor known that He would shed his bloo

I will not leave you orphaned

Jesus spoke of the ‘must’ ‑ the necessity of his death, and of his resurrection (Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; cf. Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). In John’s recounting of Jesus teaching, he spells out the conversations in greater detail. Jesus anticipates his resurrection appearances, and his ongoing Presence as God with us, by the Holy Spirit, following his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension:  Jesus said I am going to the Father (John 14:12c). He also said, concerning his care for his friends, the disciples, I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you (John 14:18).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is for the making known of both God’s fatherhood, and Jesus Presence, as the everlasting God. Jesus did not leave the disciples to figure out the Gospel. He came to them, Risen from death. They were not left orphans. The Gospel comes to the world, to incorporate the isolated, lonely and abandoned into the family of God. The Gospel comes to rebels, to forgive the sin of unbelief, and of all anti-family, anti-nation ways, that all nations, might constitute the love community. The Gospel comes to us where fatherhood is absent.

Faith of the Fatherless

In an intriguing book Faith of the Fatherless, psychologist Paul C. Vitz examines the lives of many well-known atheists. Some who’s dad’s died when they were quite young including: Friedrich Nietzsche, David Hume, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Albert Camus, Arthur Schopenhauer. Those with an abusive or weak father included: Thomas Hobbes, Jean Meslier, Voltaire, Jean d’Alembert, Baron d’Holbach, Ludwig Feuerbach, Samuel Butler, Sigmund Freud and H.G. Wells. Vitz discovers that most of these atheists had an absent or abusive father.

As a control group (similar era), Vitz considers some theists, and their fathers: Blaise Pascal, George Berkeley, Joseph Butler, Thomas Reid, Edmund Burke, Moses Mendelssohn, William Paley, William Wilberforce, Francois Rene de Chateaubriand, Friedrich Schleirmacher, John Henry Newman, Alex de Tocqueville, Samuel Wilberforce, Soren Kierkegaard, Baron Friedrich von Hugel, G.K. Chesterton, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Buber, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Abraham Heschel.

The results have been criticised as merely anecdotal and hardly scientific. However, they certainly indicate that earthly fatherhood matters!

Where fatherhood is absent

Sociologist Ronald Conway probingly evaluated the dynamics of Australian society, in 1971, and highlighted the long-term effects of a conspired ‘mateship’ as the major expression of masculinity. An anti-authoritian attitude has been perpetuated, which fails to adopt any substantial grasp of true fatherhood. A matriarchal society often forms, where true fatherhood is neglected. Many SNAGS (sensitive new-age guys) of today once took their brief for fatherhood from the mantras of feminism (often following Marx, Freud or both). The failure rate in marriage of 50%, and children scattered across the continent often in deep agony, indicates a lack of genuine perception.

Q. What type of society might develop where wise, creative fatherhood is practised?

The following points belong the John Piper.  He has, together with his wife and family, adopted a new child into their own family. He is a biblical theologian, who has reflected upon the whole matter of adoption, in the light of Scripture and experience. It may well be that churches, as the family of God, would benefit, from thinking more often in terms of adoption, (than say, in terms of nuclear families, primarily). This means embracing those who are new and different, and even difficult, in the love which is Christ’s, and extending the grace of true family, to the wider community. The message of faith, and new life in the Spirit, would, still, of course, be paramount. Here are Piper’s great insights:

Adoption of us by the Father (cf. Adoption of children by us)

1. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) costly (Gal. 3:13)

2. Adoption did (for God) and does (for us) involve the legal status of the child (Gal. 4:4-6)

3. Adoption was blessed and is blessed with God’s pouring out a Spirit of sonship (Romans 8:15-16)

4. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) marked by moral transformation through the Spirit (Romans 8:14)

5. Adoption brought us, and brings our children, the rights of being heirs of the Father (Romans 8:16-17)

6. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) seriously planned (Ephesians 1).

7. Adoption was (for God) and often is now (for us) from very bad situations (Ephesians 2)

8. Adoption meant (for all Christians) and means (for Christian parents) that we suffer now and experience glory later.

May these biblical insights, thoughts and suggestions, press us to know the Father, and to enjoy and embrace the adoption as Sons and daughters (technically we are all Sons, and simultaneously members of the Bride of Christ!!!), which the Gospel proclaims and bestows.

Geoffrey C. Bingham, I love the Father, NCPI, 1974, 2008, p. 65

Baxter Kruger, [God] Is For Us, Perichoresis Press, 1995, p. 4

Geoffrey C. Bingham, New Creation Hymn Book, No. 282 (1993)

Paul C. Vitz, Faith of the Fatherless, Spence, Dallas, 1999

Ronald Conway, The Great Australian Stupor, Sun, Melbourne, 1971 p.55   

John Piper, Eight Similarities Between God’s Adoption of Us and Our Adoption of Children, Micah Fund Adoption Enrichment Seminar, 2007.

See: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/1991_Adoption_The_Heart_of_the_Gospel/








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