A Question for a Roman Catholic Theologian

You know what’s absent from any book of the Bible outside of the Gospels? Mary.

If Mary is intended to be such a central part of the Christian life, if she intercedes for us and works for us and cares for us and we’re supposed to pray to her, why is her name not anywhere in the Epistles, anywhere in Apostles’ teaching in Acts, anywhere in John’s Revelation? Why are Barnabas and Timothy talked more about than she is? Why is Mary so conspicuously absent anywhere after the biographical portion of Jesus’ New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) if God intends her to be a vital part of the lives of His Christians?

Is it possible the Roman Catholic Church has ascribed to a Godly but normal Christian woman the power and the role of the Holy Spirit?

I see the Holy Spirit all over the New Testament interceding and working for believers and caring for them and empowering them.

But I don’t see Mary’s name after the book of John.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. The Spirit intercedes for the saints.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Acts 13:2-4

The Spirit spoke and sent the Apostles to the Gentiles.

The Spirit.

God’s Word does not proclaim Mary an intercessor or an agent of spiritual power down through the ages. It just simply doesn’t. It describes her as a Godly woman favored and chosen by God for a monumentally special purpose. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.

As Godly as she was, I sincerely doubt Mary would want us treating her as we might treat the Holy Spirit of God.

My bet is that this woman who believed the Word of God once delivered to her by Gabriel would desire us to believe it, too.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15

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60 Seconds On Evil and God’s Judgment


One of the things the reality of the day of final judgment can do is give you comfort when you are confronted with violent, vicious evil.  God is a Judge, and He is returning.  So every finally unrepentant rapist or murderer or child abuser (or liar or gossip) will give an account and receive God’s fair, just wrath.  

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.

Romans 12:19

The Christian can know that His God, His Father and Friend and King, will account for every wrong and every wrongdoer.  None will slip by him.  Each and every sin will be dealt with in one of two places:  The Cross of Christ or Hell.  He can be comforted by the knowledge that every wicked evildoer who refuses to mourn his sin and believe in Christ will have his sin reckoned to him on the last day.  And for every day after that.  All of them.  Unto eternity.  

There are times when you’re confronted with pure, undistilled evil.  Toxic, nasty, virulent wickedness.  The Bible gives us many such cases, and the children of God often (in Psalms, Lamentations, and the Prophets, for instance) call out to God for justice in the face of them.  “Lord, they have ripped open pregnant women and murdered mother and child.  The have burned the homes of families for sport and spite.  They have maimed and scarred and slaughtered our people.  Please account for this.  Please judge them!”  These are adult feelings for an adult world.  In this groaning creation there are many times where humans do unspeakably evil things and then laugh at the pain they’ve caused and move on, with no true remorse and no second thoughts about doing more of the same evil as long as they can get away with it.  When the Christian sees these evils and is stunned by them, he can apply the truth of God’s final judgment to the grief and confusion in his heart.  

God is returning.  And all will give an account to Him.  

They do not escape His notice, these scoffers.  They do not escape His offer of pardon and re-creation, either.  

“Come, and be made new.  I saved a rotten thief who was right next to me on the day of my innocent execution.  I can save you.  But your sin must be dealt with.  It must be paid for.  Either here or in Hell.”

We can rest in the God of Judgment, Christian.  We worship a wise, loving, and just Judge.  All sins will be accounted for.  

Thankfully, even our own.  

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2:12

You Won’t Get It With Feminism


Our culture does not encourage men to marry, have lots of children, and then lead those families in sacrificial love.  Because of that, our society is filled with men who are not pressured to control their sinful sexual impulses and instead enjoy romance and sex with one woman in faithful marriage for their entire lives.  Our society is filled with men who are not praised for marriage, faithfulness, hard work, teaching their children, and submitting to Godly authority themselves.  Our culture admires rebellion and sexual deviance and then is shocked to find rebels and sexual deviants in its midst.  

And what is currently called “feminism” is a part of that foolish cultural curriculum.  

To be clear, I am not rebuking the belief that men and women are equal, which is God-given truth.  That I gladly hold as gloriously true as much as I do the personhood of men, of the unborn, of those with Down Syndrome, and of every single son or daughter of Adam and Eve.  No, modern Western feminism teaches much more than simply that.  It teaches that women should be able to murder other women simply because the latter are currently in the former’s womb.  It teaches that motherhood is a lesser achievement than a large salary.  But at the moment I have in mind simply its teaching (I think on the syllabus under “patriarchy”) that men should not want to marry and then sacrificially lead their wives.  

Modern “feminism” helps to create the very thing it detests.  It (appropriately) detests slovenly, uncontrolled, evil men who prey upon those weaker than them.  Unfortunately, it helps to create such men by fighting against society’s demanding of men to be what God calls them to be:  Loving leaders of families they are given by God.  It tells men not to use their strength for what they are supposed to use it for, and then detests what evil things they do use it for.  

Make no mistake:  These men will, if they do not repent and call on Christ to bear God’s wrath for all of their sins, spend eternity in Hell in His just wrath (along with everyone else who will not turn to Christ in this life).  But modern Western feminism is a part of this maelstrom of sexual violence and confusion.  It is not the solution.  It says that nothing is solid, anything goes.  And as it has gained influence, men (and women) are acting like nothing is solid and anything goes.  I’m sure most feminists would react furiously to that contention, but I think it’s fairly obvious, and so I contend it.  

Despite what feminism says, God has made men physically stronger than women and has commanded that they use that strength, as well as the rest of what makes them men, to sacrificially lead a wife and children (as well as to defend those generally weaker than they are).  A society that praises such men and denounces those who do the opposite, as well as teaches men how to be such men, will generally have more of them.  It will have more men who marry one woman, have children with her, work hard to provide for them, stay sexually and romantically faithfully to that wife for life, guard that family from physical and (if they are Christian) spiritual danger, and teach the children how to be good and capable human beings.  

Do you want that kind of society?  I do.  And I believe that God does.  

A society and its culture cannot convert men, but it can restrain them.  God lays out this principal in places like Romans 13, when Paul teaches that God has given humanity the governing authorities to at least restrain those who will not be truly changed into saints by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Let’s wrap it up.  I’m going to take my two oldest outside.  My exhortation to my society is this:  Abandon what we call “feminism” and drop, even faster, your normalization of pornography, adultery, unmarital sex, homosexual behavior, and attempted gender bending.  In place of these, uphold the beauty of femininity and the wonder of masculinity.  

God made both masculinity and femininity, just as He made us male and female.  There is wonder and majesty in this, in the grand story God is telling about Himself through men being brave and strong and loving and gentle and hard as rock for things, in women being beautiful and courageous and soft and childbearing and nurturing and loving and obedient and life-giving.  It is wondrous and, like all things He created, good.  

I want my society to fight against what men are being with the truth of what they should be.  

Modern “feminism” is fighting against an evil with a lie.  

Evil is much more effectively put down with truth.  

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’  Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’  Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.  The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.  But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.  So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. 

Genesis 2:15-25

This Great Revolution


The greatest revolution in history is the revolt of the Kingdom of Jesus against the ruler of this dark air, against the principalities of self-love and pride and idolatry and greed that have set themselves up as “kings” in this world.  

The greatest revolt of all time is the one eternal light is mounting against these temporary shadows.  

The church, flawed though she is, is the instrument of that revolution.  She is the people of the coming victory.  

The church, the beloved wife of Jesus Christ, is a people of dangerous love.  She is a people of violent forgiveness.  Christians are a battering ram to the world’s worst lies, both the ones it’s told and the ones it’s been sold.  Our Christian kindness undermines the world’s bloody economy.  The church’s mercy upends this world’s dark systems.  

Our love of children assaults abortion.  Our care for the poor undercuts materialism.  Our promise-keeping in marriage takes a baseball bat to lust.  Our humble serving stands against belligerence and hate.  Christian kindness towards our enemies is an assault on everything Hell stands for.  We are fighting against something just by being children of God.  

We are ice cold water thrown into the face of a world stunned and punch drunk by bitterness and rivalries and selfishness.  We make war with hate by the audacious power of love.  We overcome evil with good.   

We are the people of the greatest revolution.  

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

Romans 12:21

Texting Romans 5:14

  
Just in case it’d be helpful, I’m passing along my answers to some questions someone texted me about the Romans 5:14.  The person was reading the NIV translation of it.  

Happy Monday!

Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. 

Which translation are you reading?  

Romans 5:13-14 “For sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” (ESV)

The Law given via Moses showed human beings just how convicted they were.  One of its purposes was a sort of public reading of what we’ve done and reading of our sentence.   We were already convicted murderers, but now a town crier was announcing it from a mountain top, so that we’d hear and angels would hear and everyone would know.  We were already convicted.   Already sentenced.  Death already reigned.  But because of the Law it was all the more plain now just how sinful we each and all were…

Yeah, I think they’re doing a little more interpretation than translation there…

The trespass caused the death.  The sin caused the death long before the Law revealed just how awful it was.  But now the awfulness of what we are and what we do and what we’ve done is plain as day, because it’s published on Mount Sinai and delivered to a million of God’s people and recorded in His unbreakable Word and held in His holy Ark of the Covenant. 

Sin reigned before the Law, death reigned before the Law, but now it’s public knowledge just exactly what our sin was and and what it deserves…

The literal language is just “who did not sin in the likeness of the offense of Adam.”  The NIV guys are trying to help you by interpreting that for you as “did not sin by breaking a command.”   But in my opinion they’re probably just making it more confusing…  That’s what preaching is for.  I’d prefer a translation to simply translate…

FYI: Paul uses a word there in the “their trespass was not like…” clause that specifically means “transgress,” not the normal NT word for sin, which would be “hamartia.”  So I think he’s saying that what they did post-Law was an additional layer of wrongdoing.  It was a trespass of a now-public edict…

Paul is saying Adam was a sinless human who sinned, thus death reigned because of him.  Over everyone, pre-Law and post-Law. “But, all my Roman Jewish Christian friends,” he says, “Out father Moses read out an even greater condemnation of us then [sic] Seth or Enoch or Noah had.  We’ve heard from Moses just exactly what we are and what we do.  The Law condemns, it can’t save, and it can’t wind back Adam’s death.  Noah was dead in sin, we’re dead in sin and KNOW just how and why, and we’re all screwed.   

Except that there’s a free gift.  And it ain’t like the trespass…

“Just for Believing the Wrong Thing?”

  

I’ve heard an objection to Christianity that I was mulling this morning for reasons that probably aren’t interesting enough to mention.  It goes something like this:  “If the Gospel is that God offers eternal life to all who believe in Jesus, then I have a problem.  Because I don’t believe God would send someone to Hell simply for believing the wrong thing.”

*Quick sidebar:  I always want to ask someone when he says something like that, “Where do your ideas about God come from.  How do you know what God is like?”  Because in our day and place I think it is very common for people to think God must simply be like whatever they feel God should be like.  But if God is a real being (and He is), that’s totally incoherent.  Barak Obama and Michael Jordan and my father are all who they are regardless of what I feel they are. Only fictional beings can be re-written based on your own personal desires.  

Here’s the snag with that, though:  There’s an incorrect premise in the argument.  By objecting that the Gospel Christians preach is morally flawed because it means God would be sending people to Hell simply for believing the wrong thing, the person is assuming that we’re morally neutral people (or even good people) who are simply asked by God to pick the right religious option.  

But that’s not the case.  

As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’ But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

Romans 3:10-12, 21-22(a)

No one goes to Hell merely for believing the wrong things.  Every single person who has ever entered God’s eternal wrath and judgment has done so because he is a sinner against the perfect God who made him.  And God gave His Son to redeem us from us our own lawless suicide.  The Gospel is God’s offer of restoration to those who don’t deserve it.  To not believe on Jesus is to not receive the medicine God procured (at an unimaginable cost) to heal you.  If I refuse the treatment, it is not the medicine’s fault, or the doctor’s, that I die; it’s the gaping, self-inflicted bullethole in my head.

We are not blank slates commanded to fill in the right bubble on God’s spiritual ACT exam.  We are willful rebels against the good King, idolaters and liars and adulterers and hatemongers all, and rather than wipe us from the face of His good, green Earth He chose to bleed out on a shameful Roman Cross that we might be made eternal sons and daughters.  

If you think the Gospel is that some morally neutral people believe the right thing and go to Heaven and other morally neutral people believe the wrong thing and go to Hell, you’ve totally misunderstood our situation, here.  

You, I, and our first father Adam tried to kidnap the glory of the only good King and hold His innocent world ransom, all while clawing our brothers’ and sisters’ eyes out as we tried to be kings ourselves on His free soil.  But He has offered to ransom us from our own suicidal treachery.  

The Gospel isn’t “Believe the right thing, good man, or you’ll get worse than you probably deserve.”  The Gospel is, “Believe, wicked man, and be my son forever; I offer with open arms more than you could ever deserve.”

Don’t be deceived:  A man will reap what He sows.  And everyone reading this (and the man writing it) started adult life having sowed a gallon of poison into his own veins.  

But the unfathomable Good News is that Jesus went to a cross to spill the antidote from His own side.  

The One Where the Smoke Clears

  
I think like a fool sometimes.  

I think, and then of course act, as though my fiercest enemy is someone or something out there.  I fret about a problem or a person just on the other side of the hill, something or someone I know is ready to make trouble for me tomorrow. I sweat and stress and stew about it or him or her.  

And so I’m often preparing for the wrong battle.  

Every Christian will have to wrestle the world and struggle against Satan, but the pivotal war of my life is being waged inside my own skin.  My biggest enemy, and the thing causing my most glaring vulnerability, is my own sin.  

Have you ever felt really wronged by somebody?  You know how it eats away at you?  Or apprehension about something coming down the pike?  You know that palm-sweating, can’t-sleep sort of worry?  

I can be so absorbed in that sort of thing, with what or who might assault my comfort, my peace, or my loved ones, that I neglect the thing most poisonous to any of those:  my sin. I bloody my knuckles on a punching bag preparing for the wrong enemy.  I’m so obsessed with financial problems or job worries or car troubles that I miss the fact that my rage or doubt or idolatry or deceit are right at the door, threatening to blow it off the hinges and kill everyone inside.  

The most important battle you’re ever going to load your musket for is the one against your own flesh.  Your sin is a far more deadly foe than a layoff or a leak in the roof or a bitter relative you can’t please.  Your anger, gossiping, lust, and idolatry are far better armed, and far closer to the front lines.  This is Gettysburg.  This is Normandy.  I’m warning you and I’m warning me:  Don’t get too distracted by life’s little skirmishes with less toxic dilemmas.  The one that can cost us most dearly is right behind our own breastbone.  

The devil and my flesh would love for me to spend six hours wondering how to pay a bill and no time praying for victory over my anger.  So this is a written redirect, as well as an attempted clarion to fellow Christians:  this is the battlefield where most eternal blood is spilled.  This is the war our Savior died to win, and rose to prove He can’t lose.  This is the one where the smoke clears and the faithful are left standing, swords of Spirit in hand, ready for a peace that never ends.  

This is the one that counts more.  

Be brave, and be focused.  

I’ll let Scripture shut the door for me:

For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me… For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’