A little R & R 1

Responsive Reid-ings 1. This is what blogging is all about.

Tuesday’s are typically my day off. If I’m a really good boy, Sky lets me blow the day @ Barnes & Noble. Yee-haw! Yesterday was one of those days. Fun, frolic, Starbuck’s coffee, books, magazines and a comfortable chair. Even had a grilled, sun dried tomato pretzel. Highly recommended.

Us, People and In Touch added nothing to me. All abuzz about celebrity child-bearing. I shudder to think. Always great fashion tips though.

I’m still going through the very in depth articles in this week’s Newsweek magazine. I would encourage you to pick it up. It is an eye opener. The state of the Church in America today is dire indeed. Are there great churches and church communities still? For sure. But they are growing fewer and farther between. Consider that 68% of professing Evangelicals in America today DO NOT believe Christ is the only means of salvation. We’re in trouble.

Spirituality is the buzz word. Has been for some time. And as Goldie Hawn says: “spirituality, you know, isn’t conceptual, its subjective.” BINGO!

Interesting new book on “The Thought of Cardinal Ratzinger”. If you are interested in the new Pope’s views on ecclesiology, eschatology (he holds out a hope that one day ALL will be eventually reconciled to God) and a host of other matters. Very philosophical. It should be noted that in no discussion covered is his starting point Scripture. For most topics, it is Augustine. Lovely man Augustine – just not the place to start.

Scientific American for Sept. 2K5 yielded two interesting articles. One diss-ing intelligent design. Big surprise. The other “Clash in Cambridge” by John Horgan was a report on the June Templeton Cambridge Journalism Fellowship held @ Cambridge. The theme tried to be about Science & Religion not being in conflict. It ended up being a crossed-arms, us-against-them discussion. Of the most interesting comments were these, by Peter Lipton, a Cambridge philosopher. He “spoke of his struggle to be a practicing Jew in spite of his lack of belief in a supernatural God. “I stand in my synagogue and pray to God and have an intense relationship with God, and yet I don’t believe in God.,” Lipton confessed with a rueful grin. He compared his religious experience with that of someone who gets pleasure and meaning from a novel even though he knows it is not literally true.” ‘” Another example of the disconnect postmodernism produces in the thought process.

The slumber of Christianity by Ted Dekker – Awakening Passion for Heaven on Earth is a fascinating read. His main thesis is that even Christians keep looking for happiness from the world and what it offers, and that this accounts for the poor state of Christianity in America today. His cure? Setting our desires upon Heaven. Worth picking up and thinking through. Not a real theological book, but well reasoned in most parts.

Thomas Eisner’s – For love of insects. A blurb at the beginning says it all – from a physicist: “what makes things baffling is their [insect’s] degree of complexity, not their sheer size…a star is simpler than an insect” – Martin Rees – Scientific American.

If you like bugs – and I do, this is an absolute must read. Great writing and photos about insects, written by someone in love with his subject – which makes it great fun to read. I’ve long been a fan of the Bombardier Beetle since a documentary I saw about 10 years ago. I just love this insect! Other chapters include: Vinegaroons & other Wizards (no, I won’t tell you what a vinegaroon is); Ambulatory Spray Guns; The Circumventers &
The sweet smell of success. Eisner has a most curious and satisfying interest in insects that have the intriguing capacity to spray a wonderful variety of stinging, blistering, vomit producing & putrid substances at their annoyers.

Why the Jews Rejected Jesus by David Klinghoffer

Intensely interesting read. In the final analysis, Klinghoffer contends that the Jews reject Jesus as their Messiah because: 1. He was not unique among the many claiming to be the Messiah in His day. 2. He never got a very large following. 3. There is no proof of His divinity. 4. He left crucial Messianic prophecies unfulfilled – the main ones being: He did not gather all the Jewish exiles together; He did not overthrow Roman oppression; He did not establish a just kingdom on earth.

In Klinghoffer’s view, the Jews are already “saved” – keeping themselves in the covenant by works. Shades of N.T. Wright – and E.P. Sanders. He quotes Sanders A LOT.

In fact, when it comes to Christianity, Paul is the real villain. In Klinghoffer’s eyes “the rejection of Paul, or rather of Paul’s conception of Jesus Christ, was the very turning point of Western history.” pg. 97

Chapter 4 is the truly crucial chapter for understanding this extremely well written and non-combative book. In it, the author makes the case against Pauline Christianity because Paul wanted to introduce “a new religion, the curse of the Torah.”

What really amazed the Jews who heard Paul can be expressed in that he “simply presented Himself as an exponent of, and an expert in, their faith, but what he really sought to do was undermine it from within.” pg. 106

For Klinghoffer, there is no “new covenant” replacing the Mosaic. It is impossible to replace physical circumcision w/spiritual as a matter of the heart.

On page 109 he writes – “Paul taught the dissolution of the terms of every Jew’s relationship with God: the commandments. However, in the Hebrew Bible there is no escape clause, no honorable “discharge”. As we saw in Chapter 1, everywhere the assumption is that the commandments are well within man’s reach to follow and that God “commanded His covenant for eternity.” Paul taught that at the center of his system was “faith”, as opposed to “works”, and in this point above all others he thought that his understanding of what God wants differed from that of the Jews.”

What you end up with is realizing that for most Jews (if Klinghoffer is to be taken at his word) A. Lack a real motivating sense of personal sinfulness due to their covenantal status. B. They confuse the Mosaic covenant as final. No new covenant is needed. For them, the Mosaic covenant is salvific and concrete instead of foreshadowing. The role of the New Covenant will only be realized after a worldwide Messianic restoration. But even then, it will be the same laws – just a new attitude.

This is a very important book and well worth reading. Klinghoffer is NOT antagonistic toward Christianity per se, he just doesn’t see the need for it, and feels Paul got it way off track. It is very useful for understanding the New Perspective on Paul from a Jewish standpoint. They would heartily agree with Wright & Sanders and the Auburn Ave. Theojockies.

The American Prophecies – Michael D. Evans. Interesting but not worth buying. Evan’s thesis is 911 happened because of our sin in general, but more precisely because of our (the US’s) failure to better support and protect Israel above all. He is basically arguing that the US is specially charged with being the protector of Israel, and that the prophecies throughout Scripture about those who bless or curse Israel has special significance for us. Thus, because we have not protected them as well as we ought from Islamic attacks, we are being held especially accountable. America needs to wake up in terms of its Christianity generally (can’t argue there) but needs to take up its post in protecting Israel especially if we don’t want to be overthrown completely. Passionate and well intentioned, but a lot of prophecy misapplied and Americanized.

OK – That’s all I had time for yesterday. I’ll try for more later.


7 thoughts on “A little R & R 1

  1. Do you think that 68% of evangelicals truly believe that Christ is NOT the only way to salvation or do you think that 68% simply think that if they admit to believing that, they are being exclusionary and narrow-minded, and they prefer to be thought of as open-minded than as religious extremists?

  2. Given the nature of the survey, and weighed against others I’ve seen, I’m sad to say I think that Christ’s own claims for exclusivity are being abandoned more and more by those who profess to have saving faith in Him. He happens to be their “Savior of choice”, but that does not necessarily exclude other “possibilities”.

  3. I think this fear of “exclusivity” is common. I asked a friend of mine if she had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Her reply included that this idea is too exclusive for her “faith system,” but that she does choose Christianity.

  4. Wow – That does exemplify the very thing we are discussing. What is interesting is how it enters more and more into the public arena. It used to be people would be shy about saying such things even if they believed them. No more.

  5. Evangelicals’ reticence about the exclusive claims of the gospel appears to be one of the more pervasive results of nearly 200 years of “soft-pedaling” the gospel. Spurgeon (following Christ and the apostle Paul’s example, no doubt) seemed to look at the gospel as the most polarizing force in existence. “I do not believe that any man has regularly sat under the sound of a gospel ministry for three months without being either sensibly hardened or manifestly softened by it.”

    Also, I took the little Newsweek poll you mentioned and the wording of the question itself belies the lack of understanding of the issue at hand by those writing the poll. It went something like “If you are an Evangelical Christian, do you think that a good person can get to heaven even if they don’t subscribe to your belief system?”
    Come on. “Good person?” “Subscribe?” What a loaded question. It’s like asking “Do you still beat your wife?” There was no way for me to answer it accurately the way that it was asked.

    Being a good person assumes that there is a standard for determining who is good and who isn’t. If we assume God’s standard of goodness, nobody makes it to heaven. Nobody even comes close… except Christ.
    And “subscribe to your belief system?” As if being born all over again was as easy mailing in a subscription card to “Self” magazine…

    Is there a point in the history of the church that you think most accurately compares with the circumstances and attitudes within and surrounding the church today?

  6. Yeah, the world does think in those terms however. It is pretty clear from Romans that the Israelites thought the way you are describing about the covenant. Because they saw the Old Covenant as inherently salvific, one merely needed to subscribe to it and become a Jew to enjoy its salvific benefits. Certainly the Judaizers in the early Church thought that way.

    The issue of speaking of a “good man” is also subtler than we might think on first blush. The way they mean it of course is simply “is this an outwardly moral person?” And many people – – even Christians do have trouble understanding where “really moral people” – (like “good Mormons” for instance) – stand. Christ’s righteousness is not seen as the basis of our right standing with God, but our own righteousness is. And this problem is a perennial one in the Church.

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