Reformation Day 2016 Homily

I Cor. 10:31 — So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
 
1 Peter 4:11
If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God. If anyone serves, he should serve with the strength God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

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With these passages we are taught that there is a distinctively Christian way to lean into life … to do all that we do from the most mundane matters to the most exalted. For the Christian nothing is done from a neutral position. For the Christian all is done to glorify God.

This mindset was captured in the Reformation byword of Sola de Gloria. To the glory of God alone.

The Reformed desired to re-order all of life in ways consistent with God’s Word for the purpose of glorifying God alone in ALL they did.

Increasingly that mindset … the mindset of doing all we do for the glory of God is absent in our thinking. The very few that remain that seek to employ that in their thinking and writing are met with the catcalls of their “brethren” saying that Christianity has nothing to do with those areas that they are thinking about how one might live for the glory of God.

There was a time for example when it was routinely understood among Reformed folk that Christianity had a doctrine that had implications for our social order.

It was not thought that Christianity was to be applied only to the matter of salvation of souls. It was understood widely that Christianity created a whole unique social order.

And so with this cry of Sola Dei Gloria Reformed Christianity reshaped the West. This is so true that

World renowned German Historian Leopold Van Ranke could write,

“John Calvin was virtually the founder of America.”

“He that will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty”

George Bancroft — Historian
History of the United States of America — Vol. 1 — pg. 464

These men were not speaking of the fact that Reformed Christianity had particular doctrines of Grace that were unique. They were speaking of the Doctrines of the Reformation that created a unique social order and way of living as a people.

So, in seeking to do whatever they did to the glory of God they approached a social order that maintained distinctions and which denied egalitarianism. They saw passages such as “Honor thy Mother and Father,” as passages that taught social hierarchy.

Westminster Confession

Q. 124. Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?
 
A. By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents,[649] but all superiors in age[650] and gifts;[651] and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family,[652] church,[653] or commonwealth.[654]

Calvin echoed this,

“All are not created on equal terms … This God has testified, not only in the case of single individuals; He has also given a specimen of it in the whole posterity of Abraham, to make it plain that the future condition of each nation was entirely at His disposal.” – John Calvin

And so wanting to do all they did to the Glory of God and believing in social hierarchy the Reformation created a social order that was opposed to both a static hierarchy and the kind of egalitarianism that the much of the visible Church promotes today.

But it did not stop here. All along the social order the Reformation did all it did for the glory of God.

As another example … The idea of covenantal solidarity that we find communicated in Reformed understandings of Baptism found its way into our Constitution when the Founders wrote they were seeking to,

“secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,”

This is a very Reformed and covenantal way of thinking.

And so the Church has become silent and in becoming silent a vacuum has been created so that other worldviews have achieved a cultural hegemony that would never have been possible in cultures that were epistemologically and self consciously Reformational.

Where the Reformation once called for social heirarchy, the Church has now retreated and  so soul killing egalitarianism is all the rage. Where Reformation thinking called for a social order with Limited Governments, the modern Church has retreated and so no tocsin is sounded warning about the rise of Tyrants and Usurpers. Where the Reformation talked about the effects of man’s original sin, the modern Church has retreated and no word is spoken of how original sin manifests itself in our political, educational, aesthetic or economic programs.

In the name of saving souls the Church has become silent about doing all that is done Sola Dei Gloria. As a consequence, we have lost our social order and it is now informed and shaped by pagan religions with the effect that the Church can in no way compete with an alien messaging that is being drummed into people 24-7. Further, because Christianity has surrendered the social order people are now shaped by that social order and bring that shaping into the Church with them with the result that Christianity ends up being reinterpreted in a pagan direction.

We should not be surprised that the Church, with a Reformational message, is largely seen, by a now alien culture, as being hateful, mean, and not nice. We should not be surprised that the Church that does not carry a Reformation message are seen as the haunts of the Simpson’s Rev. Lovejoys of the world.

And God’s people love it so.

What other examples besides the few we already communicated demonstrate this Reformation desire to do all that was done to the glory of God get in and create our social order?

We could talk of checks and balances in Government. We could speak of limited and diffuse Government. We could speak of ordered liberty. We could speak of the Protestant work ethic. We could speak of the idea of male and female roles. We could speak of how the Reformation affected views of Art in the West. We could speak of the formation of a vast network of volunteer societies that sought to ameliorate the hardships of the indigent and the poor. We could speak of adoption agencies and orphanages. We could speak of the pressing need for schools and education so as to teach children to think God’s thoughts after Him. We could speak of the valuing of human life that informed our Doctors and nurses for generations. We could speak of the Trustee family and how it informed generations of family life in the West.

Some of this existed before the rise of the Reformation but all of it was reinvigorated by the Reformation and all of it and a host of other unmentioned issues worked to form a Reformed culture that existed in order to do all that was done to the glory of God.

But now we are told, even by many of the Church, that all this must be shoved aside. It is whispered that all of this is the result of cultural bigotry…. white privilege … institutional racism even. Many in the Church are insisting that this concern about the Reformation in terms of how it leaves a decided stamp on cultures and social orders is something that the Church need not be concerned with.

But as for me and my house, it remains sola deo gloria whether we eat or drink … in word or deed, in every area of life.

God’s Schadenfreude and Ours

Schadenfreude

[shahd-n-froi-duh]

 

noun

1.

satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.

 

Jonathan Edwards

“The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardour of the love and gratitude of the saints of heaven.”

The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . .Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss.

[“The Eternity of Hell Torments” (Sermon), April 1739 & Discourses on Various Important Subjects, 1738]

Thomas Boston, Scottish preacher, 1732

“God shall not pity them but laugh at their calamity. The righteous company in heaven shall rejoice in the execution of God’s judgment, and shall sing while the smoke riseth up for ever.”
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Normally, the idea of schadenfreude would be seen as automatically out of bounds for someone who claims Christ but some of the best theologians of the Church throughout history have thought just the opposite and have embraced ideas of what we might call “Biblical Schadenfreude.” To be clear, there have been many of our greatest lights who have spoken that one character trait of the redeemed in heaven will be to delight in the misery of those who occupy hell who fought against Christ during their whole lives on earth.

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Peter Lombard, the Master of Sentences

“Therefore the elect shall go forth…to see the torments of the impious, seeing which they will not be grieved, but will be satiated with joy at the sight of the unutterable calamity of the impious .” Sent. Iv 50, ad fin

Gerhard

“…the Blessed will see their friends and relations among the damned as often as they like but without the least of compassion.”

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We should say at the outset that schadenfreude is a dangerous emotion only when injustice is celebrated, not when justice is served. In other words people can have a schadenfreude that is both consistent with a Biblical mindset and inconsistent with a Biblical mindset.  A Biblical schadenfreude would be to feel pleasure when the wicked who dug their pits for the righteous, finally themselves fell into those pits (Psalm 7:15).

The Scripture drip with this kind of biblical schadenfreude.  Read how Israel sings about Pharaoh’s defeat (Exodus 15). Go to the book of Proverbs and see the clear and  unmistakable schadenfreude of Woman Wisdom (Proverbs 1:20-33). Go to I Kings 18 and join in Elijah’s schadenfreude as he mocks the bloodied pagan Priests.

This schadenfreude in Scripture reveals again that the Church in the West, as following the PC codes, is attempting to be nicer than God. There is no longer any capacity by Christians to laugh at the overturning of God’s enemies or to delight and cavort when those who attempt to overthrow God’s Kingdom are themselves overthrown. Indeed, the very mention of such an idea turns the stomachs of most modern Christians.

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Andrew Welwood

(speaks of the saints as being) “overjoyed in beholding the vengeance of God ,” and their beholding of the smoke of the torment of the wicked as “a passing delectation.”

Bishop Newcomb

“The door of mercy will be shut and all bowels of compassion denied, by God, who will laugh at their destruction; by angels and saints, who will rejoice when they see the vengeance’ by their fellow-suffer the devil and the damned rejoicing over their misery.” Catechetical Sermon

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John Portmann, a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, set forth his own schadenfreude theory several years ago in his book, ‘When Bad Things Happen to Other People.’ Portman offers that we all consider justice a virtue and feel pleasure when we see lawbreakers brought low. We might say that it’s all to the good that Christians experience biblical schadenfreude, because this pleasure reflects our reverence for God’s law and God’s character. We rejoice in the wicked’s misfortune, not in a sadistic manner, but rather because their misfortune vindicates God’s righteousness against their attempts to de-god God and en-god themselves.  Thus, according to Portman, there is such a possibility as Biblical schadenfreude and to experience Biblical schadenfreude would be a corollary of justice rendered to the guilty and so God’s law being upheld.

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Tertullian

“At that greatest of all spectacles, that last and eternal judgment how shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquefying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sages philosophers blushing in red-hot fires with their deluded pupils; so many tragedians more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers tripping more nimbly from anguish then ever before from applause.”

“What a spectacle. . .when the world. . .and its many products, shall be consumed in one great flame! How vast a spectacle then bursts upon the eye! What there excites my admiration? What my derision? Which sight gives me joy? As I see. . .illustrious monarchs. . . groaning in the lowest darkness, Philosophers. . .as fire consumes them! Poets trembling before the judgment-seat of. . .Christ! I shall hear the tragedians, louder-voiced in their own calamity; view play-actors. . .in the dissolving flame; behold wrestlers, not in their gymnasia, but tossing in the fiery billows. . .What inquisitor or priest in his munificence will bestow on you the favor of seeing and exulting in such things as these? Yet even now we in a measure have them by faith in the picturings of imagination.” [De Spectaculis, Chapter XXX]

Augustine

“They who shall enter into [the] joy [of the Lord] shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness. . .The saints’. . . knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted. . .with the eternal sufferings of the lost.” [The City of God, Book 20, Chapter 22, “What is Meant by the Good Going Out to See the Punishment of the Wicked” & Book 22, Chapter 30, “Of the Eternal Felicity of the City of God, and of the Perpetual Sabbath”]

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But where does all this biblical schadenfreude come from? Well, I would say that we laugh at the misfortune of the wicked because we laugh with the schadenfreude God of laughter.

Why do the heathen rage, and the people murmur in vain. The kings of the earth band themselves, and the Princes are assembled together against the Lord, and against his Christ. Let us break their bands, and cast their cords from us. 4 But he that dwelleth in the heaven shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure…

The wicked need repent or face God’s laughter and mocking. God laughs at the thought that the created would rise up to plot against the creator and God laughs as he vexes them in sore displeasure. God is a God of schadenfreude mirth and it only stands to reason that His people should be as well.

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Thomas Aquinas

In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned. . .So that they may be urged the more to praise God. . .The saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens. . .to the damned. [Summa Theologica, Third Part, Supplement, Question XCIV, “Of the Relations of the Saints Towards the Damned,” First Article, “Whether the Blessed in Heaven Will See the Sufferings of the Damned. . .”]

Isaac Watts:

During America ‘s “Great Awakening” the popular hymn writer, Isaac Watts (1674-1748), even set Christians’ feet to tapping with this crisp little verse:

What bliss will fill the ransomed souls,
When they in glory dwell,
To see the sinner as he rolls,
In quenchless flames of hell.

St. Anthony Mary Claret

“Once [a soul] is condemned by God, then God’s friends agree in God’s judgment and condemnation. For all eternity they will not have a kind thought for this wretch. Rather they will be satisfied to see him in the flames as a victim of God’s justice. (“The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge . . .” Psalm 57:11) They will abhor him. A mother will look from paradise upon her own condemned son without being moved, as though she had never known him.”–

“The Pains of Hell,” Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, consisting of thirty-five meditations from The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius as explained by St. Anthony Mary Claret. St. Claret’s “explanations” were written in Spanish in the late 1800’s.
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It is schadenfreude that the saints will experience in the judgment of the wicked at the great white throne judgment. The saints will and should find satisfaction and pleasure in the wicked’s misfortune because God’s justice is vindicated and their wicked plans to overthrow God are crushed.

Indeed, we might go so far as to say that where there is no schadenfreude where the wicked are caught in their own trap and so destroyed, there we find an example of sub-biblical Christianity.

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Catholic Truth Society

What will it be like for a mother in heaven who sees her son burning in hell? She will glorify the justice of God. – Pamphlet from the late 1960s, part of a catechismal teaching [cited in an essay by the English poet, Stevie Smith, “Some Impediments to Christian Commitment”]

J.I. Packer

“…love and pity for hell’s occupants will not enter our hearts.” J.I. Packer in article “Hell’s Final Enigma” in “Christianity Today Magazine, April 22,2002 .”

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This is a hard truth for modern Christians with our Arminian sentimentality.  People in the modern Church see this as mean, and yet they do so without pausing to consider that not having a sense of satisfaction and pleasure at the misfortune of the wicked would be to not have a sense of satisfaction and pleasure that God’s name is upheld and esteemed.

Of course we should not enter into schadenfreude to soon. Even now, we should plead with the wicked that they might escape both God’s shadenfreude and ours. Even now, out of passion for God’s glory, and compassion for the rebellious we should command all men everywhere to repent. We should remind the need of men to “Kiss the Son lest He be angry and they perish in the way.”

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Martin Luther

When questioned whether the Blessed will not be saddened by seeing their nearest and dearest tortured answers, “Not in the least.”

Samuel Hopkins

“This display of the divine character will be most entertaining to all who love God, will give them the highest and most ineffable pleasure. Should the fire of this eternal punishment cease, it would in a great measure obscure the light of heaven, and put an end to a great part of the happiness and glory of the blessed.”


 

 

Random Thoughts Surrounding Advent

During this Advent season we celebrate that the King has come and that the Victory has been won. During this season there is no gloom and doom because Advent shrieks that the Lord of Host has sent His Captain to gain the certain victory. The age of the “not yet” which was front loaded in the Old Covenant is now past and the semi-eschatological age to come is now front loaded in the consciousness and disposition of God’s people. Advent pronounces that the Warrior King has come and in remembering Advent we remember we are a Warrior king class ourselves pursing the allegiance of every nation for the crown rights of the Lord Christ.

Advent reminds us that the Governments are now upon the shoulders of He who is the Prince of Peace. In belonging to Christ there is no negotiation in us with those whom Christ defeated in His Cross work. In leading captivity captive He has already defeated all His enemies so that we need not yield one inch to them.

Our victory is inevitable because the Victory has already been won.

If you can’t postmillennial during Advent then there is something wrong with your Christianity.

Be of good cheer … Christ has overcome the World.

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During this advent season we must be mindful that the two Advents of our Lord Christ, past and future, are really one advent when viewed as coming as Inauguration of the King and Kingdom and coming as Consummation of the reign of King and Kingdom. Celebration of the Advent season reminds us of our “now, not yet” theology. The King and Kingdom has come. The King and Kingdom is coming.

Advent reminds us of the logical consistency of postmilliennialism. The King who has come bringing the Kingdom, will not come again until the purpose and intent of His inaugural coming flowers in the visible expansion of His already present Kingdom. The first advent, for the Postmillennialists, is a physical coming with a physical global impact that is capped by the second Advent of our Lord Christ. The Postmillennialist finds the consummative in the Inaugurative, yet not so much so as to blur the 2nd advent.

Amillennial Advent celebrations disconnect 1st advent from 2nd advent by positing that the first advent was a physical coming with only a spiritual impact. For the Amil, the “not yetness” of the Kingdom swallows whole the “nowness” of the Kingdom by turning the “nowness” of the Kingdom into an abstracted spirituality. The amil is all Inaugurative with no consummative for the here and now except in spiritual (gnostic?) terms.

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During this Advent season we are reminded that the blood Mary spilled in birthing the Messiah, was promissory of the blood the Messiah would spill in birthing the re-creation.

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From the Mailbag — Charlotte Pastor’s Chit Chat

Bret,

To be honest with you there is no good fruit to come from the argument that will ensue if we continue this conversation. I used to enjoy apologetics in my early years in ministry. I have lost my taste for that and this invitation to pray was not intended to spark debate nor win in any argument anyway. I want to see the Kingdom of God come in our city. I will not convince you to ENCOUNTER Jesus in any way that you are not already expecting. And you will not convince me that what I EXPERIENCE is not valid. GREATER THEOLOGY IS NOT WHAT THE CHURCH NEEDS, what we need is Greater revelation of who Jesus is.

Blessings,

Rev. Sandy Andrews
Full Life Church
Charlotte Mich.

Dear Sandy,

Sandy,

1.) You want a “greater revelation of Jesus” but expect to have that greater revelation apart from a greater understanding of our undoubted catholic Christian faith and the doctrines and theology that convey that greater revelation? That is passing odd and demonstrates a false dichotomy on your part. There will be no greater revelation of Jesus apart from a greater theology.

2.) I appealed to Scripture. You appealed to experience and encounter. You do realize that your appeal is classical liberal theology right? Have you ever read or are your familiar with  Schleiermacher? I ask because you are channeling him right now Sandy.

3.) Honestly, I think I’m the only one with the different theology here. Inasmuch as y’all are coming together you express that you have a unity in theology.

4.) With all due regard, given your language, I will be praying that your vision and understanding of the Kingdom of God will be kept at bay.

A man with an argument is never at the mercy of a man with an experience.

I promise to pray for your repentance while I am praying for my repentance and while you are praying for “revival.”

How can two walk or pray together Sandy, unless they agree?

May the Lord Christ grant us grace to be His genuine under-shepherds,

Bret

Contrasting Gnostic Spiritual With Scriptural Spiritual

“The spiritual is that which is of or by the Spirit. It is not the same thing as spirit, which is invisible and non-physical (i.e. like “breath”). Spiritual is that which is empowered by or shaped by the Spirit. The original creation was spiritual in this way in that Spirit of God hovered over the face of the deep and formed and filled the formless and empty world. The creation which comes under the effects of the curse of sin is re-created by the Spirit so that it might fulfill God’s original intentions for it as creation. So, for instance, when God promises to Abraham that in him all the families of the earth will be blessed (Gen 12.3), I believe that he is promising that families as families will be brought into a state of blessedness. They will have to go through death and resurrection through the waters of baptism (cf. e.g., Rom 6.1ff.), being transformed as a families. But they will be transformed as families, fulfilling God’s intention for the family in creation. Spiritual, in my understanding, is not, then, the opposite of or to be sharply distinguished from physical or material creation. It is not that which parallels but stands outside of the physical. Rather, spiritual has to do with the Spirit empowering and shaping and transforming a very material creation.”

Bill Smith
INFANT BAPTISM, THE NEW MAN, AND THE NEW CREATION: A Response to Stephen J. Wellum’s “Baptism and the Relationship Between the Covenants” in Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ

Given Smith’s observation above we can seee that “Spiritual” in the NT does not mean ephemeral, invisible, or incorporeal. A spiritual reality is not a non-corporeal reality. Conversely, when we are told that “our weapons are not carnal” we are not being told there that our weapons are not corporeal. We are being told that our very real corporeal weapons are to be handled in a way that is in keeping with the Spirit empowering and shaping and transforming a very material instrument — whether that instrument is a protest sign or a evening gown.

“Spiritual” thus has more to do with that which animates the behavior or actions of the actor. Spiritual is the afflatus that animates the Christian in whatever they do in this corporeal world. The Christian, when animated by the Holy Spirit, so as to be walking according to God’s precepts, while full of faith in Christ, is at that moment the “Spiritual Man” — and that status of Spiritual applies whether the Christian is on their knees in prayer or in a foxhole fighting God’s enemies.

That “Spiritual” has to do more with the divine afflatus that animates us then it has to do with some kind of gnostic connection to matters non-corporeal or invisible is articulated by Sinclair Ferguson in his book on the Holy Spirit,

“Energy rather than immateriality is what is in view… While in the natural order ruach may occasionally denote a gentle breeze (as in some translations of Gn. 3:8), the dominant idea in the Old Testament is that of power. The parallelism in Micah 3:8 well illustrates this: ‘But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord.’ When used of God (around one third of the Old Testament uses), therefore, ruach does not connote the idea of divine immateriality (spirit, not matter), although doubtless that is implied in the general biblical perspective. The emphasis is, rather, on his overwhelming energy; indeed one might almost speak about the violence of God.” (Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996).

The attempt to make “Spiritual” mean something pietistic so that we are passive or so as to support a quietistic disposition in the Christian life, or something disconnected from our daily living in the public square has been one of the most successful tools at castrating the modern Christian. It’s time we started re-thinking this idea of “Spiritual” so as to be better equipped for the times God has given us.