Archive for March, 2014

This is a great quote.

Advertisements

20140313-145127.jpg

Icon of the Passion, detail showing (left) the Flagellation and (right) Ascent to Golgotha (fresco by Theophanes the Cretan, Stavronikita Monastery, Mount Athos).

“While the theology of the cross proclaims God’s descent to sinners in the flesh, by Grace alone in Christ alone, theologies of glory represent human attempts to ascend away from the flesh to union with God through mysticism, merit, and philosophical speculation.”

— Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, Loc 862, Kindle File.

Today we live in a world obsessed with everlasting progress, always minimizing pain, and expecting the good life. Christians absorb this philosophy and express it by acknowledging the Cross, but using it as a means to an end; where the end can mean anything from self-improvement, transforming society, or finding your “purpose” or “your best life now”. This would be the “theology of glory” mentioned by Martin Luther.

In contrast to this, Luther also spoke of the “theology of the cross”, which is God hidden in suffering. It means strength in weakness, accepting the difficult thing instead of denying it, and staring right into the face of suffering, calling “a thing what it is”, as Luther put it.

Today’s American Evangelicals are completely unprepared to face the type of suffering experienced elsewhere by contemporary Christians. We call suffering being the brunt of some mild name-calling or social shunning.

Our default setting is to crave optimistic encouragement, flattery, positive thinking, and self-esteem reinforcement. Grace becomes just another supplement in our “bettering myself” regimen. We’re looking for one more rickety rung on our broken ladder of “prosperity” that never seems to reach its goal.

God simply exists for our personal transformation.

For most of us, real growth comes through suffering. Ironically, our closest moments with Jesus usually occur through the thing we want most to avoid-pain.

We don’t have to look for suffering. The Lord usually arranges it so that it finds us. Finding Christ in it will get you through it. Be a theologian of the Cross, not a theologian of glory.

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams

20140317-154702.jpg

Job 19:21-27 ESV

21Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me!
22 Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?
23 “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

I come from a large family. Compared to today’s small broods, it would be considered huge.

I have 4 sisters and a brother. I’m the baby. I’m quite sure I was a surprise, the proverbial “uh-oh” of the Adams clan. My dad was thirty-eight when I said “howdy” to Tanglewood Farm.

My siblings are all quite a bit older than myself. I was the perpetual spoiler of date night for my sisters, I’m quite sure. I remember being scared stiff lying in the back window of a car on one of my oldest sister Carolyn’s dates. There was a drive-in theater on Broad St. in south Chattanooga that was playing The Pit and the Pendulum with Vincent Price. I’m really showing my age now. It scared the googlies out of me.

I have lost two of my sisters. My sister Peggy passed away a few years ago. She had fought non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for over a decade. She was quiet, but a fighter. Even though we didn’t talk a lot, I miss her being in this world. It seems a little harsher without her.

I will write about her in another post. Today I want to talk about my sister Varena.

Varena Grace Adams was born September 20, 1956. She was born with spina bifida, and hydrocephalus.

In case you’re not familiar with either, I will give you a brief description of each.

“Spina bifida is a birth defect…It occurs when the bones of the spine (vertebrae) do not form properly around part of the baby’s spinal cord. It can affect how the skin on the back looks. And in severe cases, it can make walking or daily activities hard to do without help.

…The severe forms are less common. There are two types:

Meningocele (say “muh-NIN-juh-seel”). Fluid leaks out of the spine and pushes against the skin. You may see a bulge in the skin. In many cases, there are no other symptoms.

Myelomeningocele (say “my-uh-loh-muh-NIN-juh-seel”). Although this is the most rare and severe form of spina bifida, it is the form most people mean when they say “spina bifida.” Part of the spinal nerves push out of the spinal canal, and you may see a bulge in the skin. The nerves are often damaged, which can cause problems with walking, bladder or bowel control, and coordination. In some babies, the skin is open and the nerves are exposed.”(1)

My sister Varena had the most severe form. She was born with a totally open spine in the lumbar region.

Along with the spinal bifida came the hydrocephalus.

“Congenital hydrocephalus is a buildup of excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain at birth. The extra fluid can increase pressure in the baby’s brain, causing brain damage and mental and physical problems. This condition is rare.

…Normally, fluid flows through and out of chambers of the brain called ventricles, and then around the brain and spinal cord. The fluid is then absorbed by the thin tissue around the brain and spinal cord. But with hydrocephalus, the fluid can’t move where it needs to or is not absorbed as it should be. And in rare cases the brain makes too much fluid.

Congenital hydrocephalus may happen because of:

Bleeding in the fetus before birth.
Certain infections in the mother, such as toxoplasmosis or syphilis.
Other birth defects, like spina bifida.
A genetic defect.”(2)

As it turns out, many children who are born with the severe form of spina bifida also suffer from hydrocephalus.

Varena was one such child. She spent her short life only being able to move her arms and head. Because of her enlarged head, even that became impossible as she got older. She spent her life in what we called a chaise lounge.

Varena was 7-1/2 years older than myself. I was her constant companion, and she was my world. I know sentimentality and time can cause us to lose perspective of our loved ones, but she was one of the sweetest and happiest persons I have ever known. My wife Lisa, is the only other person I know with that quality. She was smart as a whip, and she may be responsible for my writing left-handed, since I am ambidextrous in other contexts. She taught me how to read and write. We were inseparable.

In fact, I never wandered far from her, and my play area became limited to a few-foot perimeter around her lounge. I didn’t learn to ride a bike until after she passed. I had difficulty socializing in kindergarten because I was so attached to Varena.

On a largish farm, you were limited when it came to having kids to play with. I loved her so. She was my best friend in a grown-up world. The next closest was a dog named Blackie.

Her bones were so brittle. Her heart was so large.

In 1970, Varena was admitted to the hospital. I don’t remember what she went in for. I do remember being in the kitchen when my sister Theresa got the call that Varena had passed from this life. Varena succumbed to a deadly strain of pneumonia, which was unrelated to her reason for being in the hospital. She drew her last breath on September 20, 1970. It was her 14th birthday. I was 6-1/2 years old.

I don’t know who’s bright idea it was to take me to the funeral home. She was at Lane’s Funeral Home in Ft. Oglethorpe, GA. I remember slipping away from whoever was supposed to be watching me. I went up to the casket, and tried to wake Varena up. Until that moment she just seemed to be sleeping, just as I had seen her do all of my life. I received a hard lesson about death that day. Maybe it was a good thing, maybe it was not. I lean towards the not.

We all must face the specter of death. My hope is that you didn’t have to face it the way I did, at the young age that I did.

Death was not the original plan for mankind. It is unnatural. It is an enemy, at least for those who aren’t in union with Christ. Death is the very real result of the very real sin of our federal parents Adam and Eve, and subsequently, our own. Even though God knew man would fall, and Christ was slain before the foundation of the world, we were created for eternity.

Job experienced the death of his children, the destruction of his own health, the scorn of his own wife, and the judgmental condemnation of his own friends. He did all of this without the benefit of the knowledge of our peek into the heavenlies we have access to at the beginning of the book. He didn’t know that God was bragging on him. He just knew his suffering, and he didn’t understand it.

As a side-note, notice The Lord didn’t give a thorough explanation for Job’s suffering. The ones who did try to give an explanation totally blew it, and nearly lost their heads. Maybe before we try to give the suffering a piece of our minds, we should just keep it to ourselves and weep with them.

Somehow in the midst of all the chaos, Job made his declaration about resurrection. In my mind, that’s the point of the book.

He also makes the very Gospelly declaration about his need for an mediator, and the problem of Original Sin :

Job 9:30-34 ESV

30 If I wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye,
31 yet you will plunge me into a pit, and my own clothes will abhor me.
32 For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together.
33 There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.
34 Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me.
35 Then I would speak without fear of him, for I am not so in myself.

I too, suffer from spina bifida, but a much milder form. I didn’t know until I started having back problems that I was born with no discs between certain vertebrae in my lower lumbar. My deterioration may be slower, but it is none-the-less certain

In one form, or another we are all confronted with our own mortality. For those of us who are born of God, death is not our greatest foe, to be vanquished by medical science. It is a temporary inconvenience-the last remnant of a fallen, sinful existence-the explanation point to the seriousness of a rebellious creature to a holy God.

Though we still avoid death as long as possible, it has lost its dread for us in Christ. For goodness sake, our own baptism commemorates our death. Our sanctification is just that baptism catching up with us, culminating in our demise. But that’s not the end.

I go see my sister Varena’s grave several times a year. That’s not the end of her. Somewhere, in the intermediate state, my dear sister is enjoying the presence of God, and one day, maybe soon, that frail body will rise fitted for eternity. So will mine. I too know my Redeemer lives, and I know He is my arbiter, bringing myself and God together in reconciliation, because He is both fully God, and fully man. That’ll preach!

Thank God that that terrible experience of touching my cold sister will be washed away in the joy of seeing my Redeemer Jesus and my sister Varena face-to-face.

Do you have that joyful hope, friend? A casket is in your own future. Is death a fear for you, or is it an inconvenient road-bump on the highway to eternal bliss?

Remember Job, dear one, remember Job.

1. http://www.m.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/spina-bifida-topic-overview?page=1

2. http://www.m.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/congenital-hydrocephalus-topic-overview

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams

20140313-134055.jpg

Science was birthed from the womb of philosophy.

True science can’t be accomplished without the undergirding of philosophy. Without metaphysics, we couldn’t come to conclusions about “what” exists. Without epistemology, we couldn’t understand “how” something exists. All of these assumptions in science are non-empirical. It is important to remember this when dealing with science and faith.

“Here’s the thing: science is utterly dependent upon philosophy to survive. If we didn’t have philosophy–if we didn’t have the developed notions of rationality, inference, and the like–there would be no science. Other theists (and philosophers) have contributed things like parsimony/Occam’s Razor to the wealth of philosophical methodological backbone which makes the scientific enterprise possible.”

– J.W. Wartick

via http://jwwartick.com/2012/05/21/krauss-jump/

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams

20140312-142604.jpg

(more…)

20140317-181016.jpg

Jesus giving the Farewell Discourse (John 14-17) to his disciples, after the Last Supper, from the Maesta by Duccio, 1308-1311.

There really is a false dichotomy being promoted in modern Evangelicalism, epitomized by Rick Warren’s creed (sic), “…deeds, not creeds…”

We cannot practice the Christian Faith without knowing what we’re doing. It’s like trying to build a house without a blueprint. Sure you could start building immediately, but I wouldn’t want to live in it.

We should never be forced to choose between loving God with our minds, and loving God with our hearts, or loving God with our hands. All three are necessary.

We would rather do than think. Google has made us stupid, because we don’t know the steps to critical thinking, and intelligent inquiry.

‘Tis laziness that compels us to bypass theology for practice. Avoiding either step is detrimental to our maturity as believers.

“The modern dichotomy between doctrine and life, theology and discipleship, knowing and doing, theory and practice has had disastrous consequences in the life of the church and it’s witness in the world.”

— Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, Loc 111, Kindle File

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams

If the NSA had driven by our house last night with their superdy-dooper eavesdropping devices, I’m sure I would be in trouble today with PETA for simian abuse.

You would have heard this conversation last night:

“Go get your monkey”!
“Give me that monkey”!
I’m gonna throw the monkey way over there”!
“Turn loose of that monkey “!
“You’re slobberin’ all over that monkey”!
“Quit trying to eat the monkey”!
You’ve chewed the legs off that monkey”!
I’m gonna throw the monkey in the air…yay, you caught him”!
If I keep tugging on that monkey, were gonna rip his head right off”!
“That’s it…I’m puttin’ the monkey in my sock drawer”!
“Bad ol’ monkey”!
“Uh-oh! The monkey’s eye fell out”

Taking that conversation out of context could get me skinned alive.

If we are careful to do that in our own conversations, don’t you think we should do the same with the Bible?

“Get the Whole Picture. The most important rule for discovering what this or any Bible verse means is to interpret the verse in its context. Interpreting a verse in its context means interpreting that verse in light of all the factors that shaped its meaning when the author wrote it. Context is similar to a jigsaw puzzle: by looking at only one puzzle piece we can’t really tell what part of the puzzle picture it is. Only by seeing all the pieces together can we know for sure how that one piece fits…The context of a verse is, of course, more complex than a jigsaw puzzle, but in both cases the parts are correctly understood only within the whole…Sometimes even a sentence is not enough context. The sentence, “I bet that trunk can hold five gallons of water” needs further context in order for us to know what is being described…The same is true for the Bible: the words, sentences, and thoughts are connected. Interpreting something in its context is a matter of understanding how those words, sentences, and thoughts are connected. If we isolate a verse and ignore its context — its connection to the surrounding text and thought — we may end up with an incorrect interpretation of what it means, just as we would if we isolated a single piece of a jigsaw puzzle and tried to figure out what part of the picture it is.”

– Steve Bright, CRI Journal

via http://www.equip.org/articles/context-context-context/

By-the-way, if you’re wondering about my conversation, these pictures should explain it.

20140319-222657.jpg

20140319-222719.jpg

Haha! Charlie loves his monkey. Made ya look!

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams