The God Of Death

Amos 3:6 Or shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people be not afraid? or shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?

Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.

For a short season of my life I worked for a Funeral Home in Charlotte. I did it to earn a little extra cash on the side. The people in the Funeral Home were pleasant people but I eventually had to quit because the Funeral Sermons I was hearing in the Churches were so hopeless. There was the time when a Pastor quoted John 14,

2 In my Father’s house are many dwelling places: if it were not so, I would have told you: I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there may ye be also.

At this point the Pastor referred to the deceased and began to talk about how the many dwelling places was a metaphor for the deceased’s many interests. With that lead in he began to talk about the many hats the deceased person wore. A third time was a high Eastern Orthodox funeral service. There was so much smoke from the burning incense and so much water being splashed around from all the sprinkling I began to wonder if I would die of smoke inhalation first or of drowning. At another time the Pastor spent the Funeral sermon talking about the deceased’s interest in Rush Limbaugh. One would have thought that Limbaugh had died. What all the Funeral sermons had in common was the lack of Christ in the message.

One particular Funeral sermon however took the first place award in the, “I can’t believe the Pastor just said that” awards. This Funeral was a situation where the deceased had perished in a particularly violent auto accident. That kind of death can be hard on the loved ones that remains because it so sudden and so violent. No time to say good byes. No time to make amends for harsh words perhaps recently said.

At this particular service the Pastor mounted the pulpit and the first words out of his mouth were,

“I want everyone here to know that God had nothing to do with this. This was not God’s will.”

I was so shocked that I instinctively was looking for a rewind button so as to replay what I just heard to confirm I had indeed heard it. Later I did confirm it with my co-workers. All these years later I still can’t believe the Pastor actually said that.

Of course the Pastor was (I think) trying to defend God. (As if God needs defense.) And the Pastor was probably trying to bring some kind of comfort to the family in the thought that a loving God would never have anything to do with such a tragic happening. Maybe the Pastor reasoned that as Jesus came to defeat death, death was not God’s will?

But really, if you think about it, where was the comfort in being told that God had nothing to do with the auto accident? Will the family leave comforted knowing that God didn’t want that accident and death to happen, but darn it, there is only so much a Deity can do. After all, God can’t always get what He wants. Where is the comfort in knowing that there are some matters that God is not sovereign over and so we are left to … to what exactly?
When deaths happen that God doesn’t will does that mean when it comes to death we are up against time plus chance plus circumstance instead? When deaths happen that God doesn’t will does that mean when it comes to death we are up against the sovereignty of King Devil? Where is the comfort in knowing that tragic death visits us for no reason or for unknowable mystery as opposed to being confident that even tragic death is the will of a Sovereign and merciful God who is working out His all knowing purpose and plan?

And if you think about it, since the death of the Lord Christ was about as tragic and undeserved as is possible to arrive at are we to conclude that the death of the Lord Christ wasn’t the will of the Father either? I wonder how it is that we can talk about God’s will in the death of the Lord Christ and comfort ourselves with the knowledge that the death of the innocent Lord Christ was a part of God’s plan and not at the same time comfort ourselves in the face of other less tragic deaths with the thought that God never willed it and had nothing to do with it?

I know the death of loved ones is difficult but I would suggest that we only make it more difficult when we tell people “it wasn’t God’s will.”

As a minister I’ve conducted services for death by suicide. I’ve conducted service for babies who were battered or shaken to death. I’ve conducted services for those who have died of grisly and long wasting cancers. I’ve conducted services of those who have died in accidents. Speaking only of myself, I am certain I could not have ever had the composure to conduct those services if I did not believe behind each of them and all of them there ran the inscrutable will of a God who, as Job teaches us, has reasons that cannot be demanded of us in all He does.

As a minister, I understand, that some truths need to be delivered at their appropriate times. I understand that for those who are grieving it is probably not best to go into a long explanation on the decretive will of God. I understand that when folks are drowned in grief for a loved one that it isn’t perhaps the time to cheerily put forth how “all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” People need time to grieve. They need time even perhaps to be angry with God. They need time to sort out their flooding emotions.

However, something else they don’t need is for members of the clergy to tell them, “God had nothing to do with this. This was not God’s will.” We must keep before ourselves as Ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that which we intone at every graveside service,

“The Lord Giveth, The Lord Taketh Away, Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord.”

Top 11 Reasons To Read oddlife.org

Top Ten Reasons I Like Dr. D. Gnostic Hart and his blog,

11.) A constant reminder to be gentle and tender towards and with women who are on their cycle

10.) Every Holmes needs a Moriarty to bring out the best in him. Still looking for my Moriarty.

9.) My home-run totals are at “Hall of Fame” proportions because they let the guy with the “hanging curve-ball” play

8.) Never a need to worry about losing my Muse

7.) Everybody needs a living “Wizard of Oz” to remind him of the principle of impotent men with large egos

6.) Allows me to practice receiving him that is weak in the faith and to bear the faults of one another

5.) Every day is a new day to Praise God that I escaped being lobotomized

4.) How could the virtue of compassion be cultivated if there were not some people to pity?

3.) The constant living reminder why it was a good idea NOT to go for the Ph.D since Ph.D. programs have been so terribly dumbed-down

2.) Reminds me to pray for the Church which is by schisms rent asunder, and by heresies distressed.

And the number 1 reason why I like Dr. D. Gnostic Hart and his blog,

1.) Provides a daily reminder that old heresies like Gnosticism are constantly reinvented

What They Didn’t Tell Me In Seminary

This post is inspired by a column I read today at,

http://thegospelcoalition.org/mobile/article/tgc/what-i-wish-id-known-reflections-on-nearly-40-years-of-pastoral-ministry

The chap there (Rev. Storms) has been in the Ministry for nearly 40 years. I’ve only been in this calling for 25. So, with 15 fewer years, take this for what it is worth.

1.) They didn’t tell me in Seminary how to help someone die. There has been nothing more difficult in the 25 years I’ve been in the ministry then to minister to the dying. No matter how often I step into this role as a midwife of the soul’s entry into the presence of God I always walk away from the committal service wondering if I had read enough scripture with the now deceased. Had I given enough comfort to them? Had I prayed long enough with them? Had I laughed enough with them or played enough of their favorite games with them on their good days? Had I pointed them towards Christ enough?

There is nothing more humbling about the ministry then the sense of inadequacy that washes over a minister after the time worn gruel of seeing death have its short term victory. Seldom has faith had to so tenaciously engage then upon the long jagged death of a well loved parishioner. I can only hope to die as well as those I’ve been honored to shepherd.

2.) They didn’t tell me in Seminary how much fighting would have to be done for orthodoxy. Maybe they didn’t know. Maybe it is not seemly for a Seminary Professor to talk about how the life of a minister who cares would be characterized by one conflict after another in the setting of local Church, the denomination, the refereeing of congregational family dust ups, or local meetings among the clergy in the community where one is ministering. Maybe Seminary Professors had themselves learned that it is better to go along to get along and so figured that they would, by their silence, teach us to go along to get along as well. They didn’t tell me in Seminary how the Church is the problem as much as it is the solution.

3.) They didn’t tell me in Seminary how to deal with the sense of betrayal that arises when people, who you’ve long been close to, leave the Church. They didn’t teach me how to put off the bitterness and hurt. They didn’t teach how to fake before everyone else in the Church and act like the departure of loved people doesn’t hurt. All this said, quite admitting that when people leave they leave for reasons they believe to be absolutely legitimate.

4.) They didn’t tell me in Seminary how ill equipped any man is to be a minister of the Gospel. It would have been good for us to have drilled in our heads how the position of Minister is way beyond the capacity of any one man. They should have told us that a sense of inadequacy is a something that a minister daily lives with and they should have told us that the constant sense of inadequacy would be better for us to live with then the sense of thinking ourselves perfectly adequate unto the position.

5.) They didn’t tell me in Seminary how strange I am and neither did they tell me in Seminary how strange other people were becoming. My Father-in-law entered the ministry in 1956. He used to tell me, when he was winding down from the ministry in the late 90’s, how odd people had become compared to when he first started. Twenty-five years later for me now, I can say that people are odder now then they were when I started. Worldviews have consequences and the stranger a culture becomes in its worldview, the odder the individuals in that culture become. In Seminary I graduated with an emphasis on Culture. We examined cultures and probed as to how they worked. Nothing though could have prepared me for how strange our own culture has become.

6.) They didn’t tell me in Seminary that Ministers should not take themselves too seriously. Ministers, like myself, have a terrible habit of self-importance. We would have been well served to have been told early on to get over ourselves.

7.) They didn’t tell me in Seminary that it was acceptable as a minister to just blow people off when they need to be blown off. If we are not supposed to take ourselves too seriously then it is perfectly acceptable not to take non serious people seriously. Ministers have a tendency to want to please and satisfy people, (it’s part of the reason why they went into ministry) and as such Ministers tend to compromise themselves by trying to satisfy people who should not be satisfied.

8.) They didn’t tell me in Seminary that it was alright to be a failure, or at least they didn’t tell me how to properly measure failure and success.

9.) They didn’t tell me in Seminary how it is normal for most church people, in our accelerated culture, to not have time to meditate, to read, and to think. Of course as people don’t have time for this it makes it next to impossible for a Minister to really help people on a deep permanent level. As such, much of the ministry is, at best, a triage and band-aid routine.

10.) They didn’t tell me in Seminary how generous and kind many people could be. Of course that is something that is easy to learn and appreciate after the fact. It is amazing how the Lord Christ, after some “people encounter gone sour,” will bring into the Minister’s life people who are kind beyond measure.

It is amazing how many of the people I have served over the years have had the virtue of kindness and generosity.

Seminary Level Course 501 — “Continuing To Build The Reformed Weltanschauung”

Reformed Weltanschauung; Teasing Out the Implications

This course of study is intended as an extension to the previous Prolegomena course. The purpose of this course is to build the Weltanschauung superstructure upon the foundation already laid in the Worldview Prolegomena course. The emphasis will fall on the idea that Theology is the Queen of the Sciences and that all subject matter is merely Theology under another name. As such you will be studying different disciplines (culture, history, science, etc.) in order to understand how those are disciplines that are animated by a presupposed Christian Theology. As part of that theme you will be focusing on how ideas concretely work themselves out. You will begin to be able to identify a Theology by reverse engineering from its manifestation in different disciplines.

Main Texts

1.) Worldview: The History of a Concept — David Naugle
2.) Ideas Have Consequences — Richard Weaver

Required Reading

1.) Revolutions in Worldview: Understanding the Flow of Western Thought — W. Andrew Hoffecker
2.) The Calvinistic Concept of Culture — Henry Van Til
3.) Basic Ideas of Calvinism — H. Henry Meeter
4.) Lectures on Calvinism — Abraham Kuyper
5.) Roots of Western Culture — Herman Dooyeweerd
6.) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions — Thomas Kuhn
7.) Science and Hermeneutics — Vern Poythress
8.) The End of Darwinism: And How a Flawed and Disastrous Theory Was Stolen and Sold — Eugene Windchy
9.) Foundations of Christian Scholarship — Gary North (Editor)
10.) Dust of Death — Os Guinness
11.) American Minds — Greg Stowe
12.) Prevailing Worldviews of Western Society Since 1500 — Glenn R. Martin

1.) Read the main Text books and write chapter summaries.

2.) Read the rest of the Required Reading and write a paper on the following Subject Matter

A.) An explanation of the impact of Calvinism on culture
B.) The way Worldview effects Science
C.) An overview and review of Kuhns as applied to worldviews especially
D.) A review of Windchy revealing that you understand Windchy’s exposition Darwinism’s terminal Worldview problems
E.) Summarize the thrust of what Gary North is seeking to teach in Foundations of Christian Scholarship
F.) Guinness, Hoffecker, Martin, and Stow are works that deal with the History of the flow of Ideas. Write a paper that indicates that you understand how worldviews effect the flow of ideas.

4.) Interact 1 hour weekly with the Instructor regarding points of interest in the book that you are currently reading.

5.) Be prepared for pop quizzes or short essay requirements.

Prolegomena — The Beginnings Of A Reformed Weltanschauung

Prolegomena — The Beginnings Of A Reformed Weltanschauung

This course of study is intended to begin building the framework that will be the basis upon which the Lion’s share of the rest of the curriculum will based. It will spend a great deal of considering issues of Epistemology. Because it is foundational there will be additional reading then what you will find in your subsequent courses.

Main Texts

1.) A Christian View Of Men & Things — Gordon H. Clark
2.) Van Til’s Apologetic; Reading and Analysis — Greg Bahnsen

Required Reading

1.) Thales to Dewey — Gordon H. Clark
2.) Introduction to Philosophy — Gordon H. Clark
3.) Three Types of Religious Philosophy — Gordon H. Clark
4.) Reason, Religion, and Revelation — Gordon H. Clark
5.) God’s Hammer — Gordon H. Clark
6.) Historiography; Secular or Religious — Gordon H. Clark
7.) The Meaning of History — Ronald Nash
8.) The Word of God and the Mind of Man — Ronald Nash
9.) The Light of the Mind — St. Augustine’s Theory of Knowledge — Ronald Nash
10.) Language and Theology — Gordon H. Clark
11.) The Philosophy of Science and the Belief in God — Gordon H. Clark
12.) From Rationality to Irrationalism — C. Greg Singer
13) Essays on Ethics and Politics — Gordon H. Clark
14.) The Clark – Van Til Controversy — Herman Hoeksema
15.) Classical Apologetics by John H. Gerstner, Arthur W. Lindsley and R.C. Sproul

1.) Read the main Text books and write chapter summaries. Identify where you find differences between Clark and Van Til.

2.) Read the rest of the Required Reading and write a paper on the following Subject Matter

A.) A Christian View of Epistemology
B.) A Christian View of History
C.) A Christian View of Language
D.) A Christian View of Science
E.) A Christian View Of Ethics
F.) A Christian View of Politics
G.) A Christian View of Education

3.) Write a paper critiquing the methodology of S.L.u G. (book #15).

4.) Write a paper detailing the foundation and authority of and for a Biblical World and Life View

5.) Interact 1 hour weekly with the Instructor regarding points of interest in the book that you are currently reading.

6.) Be prepared for pop quizzes or short essay requirements.