The Living Presence Of God

“The living presence of God in the heart of authentic Israelite culture, that is, in Israel’s laws and ordinances, explains why the Psalmist so loved the law and ordinances of God. They were sweet to him, a joy to keep and a light to ones path, because the Lord God of Israel was present in them. His presence gave to them their sweetness, their joy, and their light; to keep the law accordingly was to enter into the presence of the living God Himself. The life that one lived by keeping the law was the life of the Lord God Himself, and the character of that life was the character of the Lord God Himself. Biblical theology is therefore not produced but received from the God of Abraham Himself. Accordingly, authentic biblical theology is of a particular character, for it is a description of the particular Lord God who stands at the heart of biblical worship, who has brought Israel into being and given to him his distinctive character and identity.”

Kenneth Paul Wesche
Pastor — St. Herman’s Orthodox Church
Essay – Keeping The Faith

Let us posit that Wesche’s observations are correct just for the sake of argument. Let us agree that the living presence of God was in the heart of authentic Israelite culture, that is, in Israel’s laws and ordinances. Now as Reformed people we all confess that those who lived in the anticipatory covenant were living in an age front loaded with the eschatological ‘not yet.’ Now certainly there were adumbrations and lineaments of the eschatological ‘now’ but overall the age of the anticipatory covenant was weighted with the eschatological ‘not yet.’ Now, if even in the eschatological age that was weighted with the ‘not yet’ God’s living presence was in the heart of authentic Israelite culture how is it that so many Reformed people deny that in this age that is weighted with the eschatological ‘now’ — weighted so since the ‘age to come’ arrived in the advent of Christ — God could be be in the heart of authentic Christian culture?

Here we are living in the new and better covenant — new and better because the Kingdom has drawn near in the resurrected and ascended Lord Christ — and yet we are told by some that though the Israelites knew the living presence of God in the heart of authentic Israelite culture, those who comprise the new Israel must realize that the living presence of God cannot be possibly known in culture since there is no approximation of a such a thing called Christian culture.

Secondly, note the high estimation of God’s law that Wesche records about the members in the anticipatory covenant. Their delight was in God’s law and on it did they meditate both day and night. Now, quite obviously they did not love God’s law because they could use it as a ladder to acquire acceptability with God, but rather they loved God’s law because they were a Redeemed people, who being acceptable with God because of God’s provision in the sacrificial system, knew that life, shalom and vitality was found in a due respect for God’s law. Again, we should be reminded that this love for the law was found in the people who only dwelt in the anticipatory covenant. As Christians we are living in the ‘age to come.’ In light of that how much more should we find God’s law sweet to us? How much more should we as Christians, who will never increase our acceptability with God by loving the law, find God’s law a joy to keep and to be a light to our path? How much more should we testify that we love the law because the Lord God of Israel is present in them? Do we believe that God’s presence gives to the law its sweetness, its joy, and its light? Do we believe that to pursue the keeping of the law accordingly is to know the presence of the living God as Father?

Third, allow me to suggest that this quote gives hints that the supernatural comes to us in a way that is far different then the way we typically look for the supernatural. We look for the supernatural in the spectacular and the astounding. Perhaps though we should find the supernatural nearest to us when we participate in a community that is breathing with the presence of God as seen in its collective attention to and individual incarnation of God’s law. Is not the supernatural demonstrated and close to a people, who possessed by the Spirit of the Word of God, get that word of God into everything they touch and build? Is not the supernatural seen in families living out Christ? Is not the supernatural seen in Churches exalting Christ in Word and Sacrament? Is not the supernatural seen in communities that build their civil social institutional structures rooted in the Word of God? The Pentecostals have it wrong. The supernatural doesn’t normatively come to us in flashes of brilliance or demonstrations of strangeness but rather the supernatural comes to us in the rhythms of living in a community devoted to Christ the great Priest King. The living presence of God remains in the heart of authentic Christian culture.

Superiority Of Western Culture

“Cultures are equal in value only if there is no standard against which to judge them. The culture of the West, infused as it is with Christian values, is superior to any other, and all the valid charges against the West are indications that it has betrayed its own heritage. It is not superior because it is wealthy. It is wealthy because it is superior, because it believes that work is a calling, that matter is important, that reason is a gift of God. This culture, God’s gift, transmits its material blessings along with its interpretation of reality.”

Herbert Schlossberg
Idols For Destruction — pg. 72

That which differentiates Christian from Pagan society

“It is not enthusiasm, but dogma, that differentiates a Christian from a pagan society.”

T. S. Eliot
Christianity and Culture: The Idea of a Christian Society and Notes towards the Definition of Culture — pg.47

It seems in our church and culture today that enthusiasm is like a drug, the dosage of which, constantly needs to increased in order to get the same high. In light of this one can hardly fault those who abjure from the cult of enthusiasm who look upon Christians and mock the whole notion of what passes for Christianity. To be honest, there are times, when I don’t even want to be known as a Christian.

The more we continue to pursue enthusiasm, the more we communicate to our children that Christianity is about attending F.I.R.E. conferences, and the more we refuse to attempt the heavy lifting of knowing, understanding and entering into our dogma the more we will justifiably be characterized as pagan.

Cultural Ecosystems

“Our anti-philosophers are especially vulnerable in this age, because the media fill our environment with popularized philosophies. Marshall McLuhan was right in saying that environments tend not to be noticed….We see many of their explicit contents, but the environments themselves are imperceptible. We do not see the environment, as Os Guinness says, because we see with it. That means we are influenced by ideas we do not notice and therefore are not aware of their effect on us. Or, if we see the effect, we find it difficult to discover the cause.”

Herbert Schlossberg
Idols For Destruction – pg. 7

The Chinese have a proverb that says, “If you want to know what the water is like, don’t ask a fish.” The thrust of the proverb is the same as the thrust of what Schlossberg is getting at above. Like a fish swimming in water people swim in their culture and like that fish in water, a person in their given cultural environment, doesn’t tend to notice the ecosystem of which they are a part. For a fish not noticing that ecosystem is no problem but for people not noticing their cultural ecosystem can lead to grave problems when that ecosystem and the assumptions upon which it is premised is in revolt against King Christ.

It takes a great deal of work to begin to see the cultural ecosystem in which we live, and where the work is successful the result can be a sense of alienation if one concludes, as a result of the work, that there is something profoundly wrong with the cultural ecosystem in which one is living. People who are self conscious regarding the cultural ecosystem in which they are swimming and who take great pains to point out the deficiencies of the premises upon which the cultural ecosystem is built are sometimes called prophets. People who like their cultural ecosystem don’t typically like prophets — hence the alienation.

Most people spend their whole lives not questioning their cultural ecosystem. They absorb their convictions by way of the osmosis that comes in the course of being saturated in the culture. I believe when the Apostle told the Romans that they were not ‘to be conformed to the world’ his warning was tantamount to saying don’t absorb the premises of non Christ honoring cultural ecosystems. I believe Christians, by definition, are supposed to be a people who do the work of seeing the cultural ecosystem in which they live for what it is.

The reason that this work is so difficult is that it often amounts to taking out your eyes in order to look at them. That is how close the cultural ecosystem is to people who live in and with their system. As the quote says above we see with our cultural ecosystem and so in order to see it we have to either get out of it or we have to get it out of us in order to examine its premises and how it is shaping us in troublesome directions.

Lord Christ, grant your people grace to see with and not through their eyes.

The Myth That Equality Brings Utopia

“Fairness for all citizens is not the same as equality of all citizens. To level all individual citizens without regard for their abilities, achievements, offices, or obligations is not only unfair and unjust it will only bring manifest disorder.”

Johannes Althusius — 157-1638
Calvinist Political Theorist

The Christian believes in equality of all men before God’s law, which is to say that it is the Christian teaching that there is one law, by which all men are measured and held accountable to, regardless of their station, rank or place. This is the Christian idea of equality. This Christian idea of equality does not, as Althusius understood, serve as a means by which superior men are leveled, nor does it eliminate the idea of social hierarchy intent on flattening out the kind of distinctions among men that Althusius mentions (distinctions of abilities, achievements, offices and obligations).

This idea of equality is far different then what modern man has embraced. In these United States, because of our long leveling history, we tend to think that equality means equality of opportunity, and even equality of outcome. And now because of our lust for ‘equality’ we are working on creating a society without distinctions, reasoning that distinctions undermine equality. Consequently, distinctions between the roles of men and women, the roles between superiors and inferiors, the roles between children and parents, and the roles between Elders and non-Elders are eliminated in the name of equality.

Let’s take these one at a time.

Currently there is a legislative push to make sure equality expresses itself in equality of opportunity. Such an idea is sheer nonsense and intrudes upon God’s sovereignty. God places men in their stations and ranks and it is hubris of the highest nature to think that men can legislate that the son of farmers or factory workers (and I am both) should or could have the same opportunities as the sons of wealth, power, and position. Such a thing could only be accomplished by the most severe government intrusion into family life and if pursued could only lead to least common denominator opportunities. In short, if equality of opportunities were ever realized the net effect would not be to give the sons of the less fortunate the opportunities of the sons of the more fortunate but rather it would work to make sure that the opportunities of all sons were equally dismal. The mad search for equality never ends in lifting all to a higher plateau but rather always ends in pulling all down to a least common denominator dreariness. Equality is certainly achieved but it is the equality of the miserable. Keep this principle in mind the next time you think about the foundational premise of ‘no child left behind.’

If equality of opportunity is disastrous then the pursuit for equality of outcome is disastrous on steroids. In the name of equality of outcome we are currently adding points to minority applications for entrance into University settings just on the basis of their being minorities or women. The consequence of this is that people who are less qualified then other people who are competing with them are being given consideration over the more qualified simply because we are pursuing equality of outcome. The consequences of this are obvious. First, when lesser qualified people gain admittance into places they have no business being because they are not qualified what happens is that excellence cannot be pursued at the same pace because those who are equipped to pursue that excellence are retarded because of the necessity of giving time to the unqualified to catch up, or if that doesn’t happen the unqualified are passed along with the qualified, even if they are clueless just so the elites can tell themselves that they are building a culture of equality of outcome. Keep this dynamic in mind the next time you visit a minority doctor, lawyer or minister. Second, the larger consequence of this is that we end up filling our cultural and intellectual leadership with second rate people and once again the equality that is achieved is not a equality that provides cultural lift but rather a equality that produces cultural deterioration. The pursuit of equality of outcome tends towards a culture where all are equally inept.

Now the mad lust for equality, inherited from the French Revolution, and being part of every post revolutionary West state hence has us striving towards the curing of God given distinctions. This has led to the claim that men and women are really not distinct but rather are interchangeable parts. Women can fly fighter jets the same as men. Men can be caregivers and nurturers as well as women. The consequence of this ungodly egalitarian lust is not the lifting up of men and women and their relationships but rather it works the diminishing of both men and women and wreaks mass confusion in how they relate one to another. In the name of equality men are trained to treat women just like they treat one another. In the name of equality women are taught to be just as tough as the guys. Is it any wonder that sexual roles are confused? Once again the pursuit of equality among the sexes doesn’t end up in lifting men and women to a higher plane but rather works a ugly lowest common denominator blandness.

Althusius was right that fairness for all citizens is not the same as equality for all citizens. Indeed it is the situation that when equality is pursued in the name of fairness the result is that all are harmed.