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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30 Seconds On Justice and Truth


Without God, morals are just preferences.

If you deny that there is a God, you have no philosophical grounding to be outraged by anything, from murder to racial hatred to poverty.  Without God, it’s all just opinion.  And you have no solid basis for indignance over an opinion.  Without God, racial hatred being evil is an opinion.  It may be a popular opinion, but without a higher appeal court than human judgment, an opinion is all it is.  

This is a lesson I want my country to learn.  A society cannot have long-lasting justice without upholding objective moral truth.  A society cannot have long-lasting justice without acknowledging God.  If you refuse to bring the question “But what does God say is right?” into any public discourse, you will not be able to administer justice for very long.  Because the only definition of “justice” you’ll be able to have will be a human one.  It’ll be subject to mob rule, or politicking, or purchase.  Justice is doing what is right, and if you don’t have an objective, non-debatable standard for what is right, then when you are just it will be by accident, not by design.  

You cannot have long-lasting justice without truth.  

And I want my nation to be just.  

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. 

Isaiah 59:14-15

I Know Someone Who Can Kill Your Racism


I write as a Christian, here.  And the Christian has a unique calling in the face of things like Charlottesville, because the Christian has something that can truly dismantle these evils.  

 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. 

Galatians 3:27-29

There is nothing in the universe that can unify human beings with more power and more permanence than the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth.  Where the Gospel is believed and lived out, racial hatred cannot long live.  There is no Jew nor Greek among His people.  

But let me put the disease under the microscope for a second.  Pride is at the heart of what we call “racism.”  And pride divides.  Now, the Gospel divides, too, but in a very different way.  Where pride seeks to exalt the self by demeaning some other person or group, the Gospel divides the redeemed, those made meek and holy by the Father, Son, and Spirit, from the hardeharted and impenitent.  Pride divides by breaking an island off from a continent; the Gospel divides by chiseling off a family from a mob.  And pride produces men who hate those from whom they’ve divided.  The Gospel produces men who pity those still in the mob.  

Now let me step away from the microscope and use what we just saw to form a hypothesis:  If you let the racially proud have their way, if you gave them a country made up of people who only share their skin color, it would only take about 10 years before they would start turning on each other for some other reason.  They would find a new way to identify the “pure” or the “fit,” and of course in each individual’s case that ideal citizen would always be someone just like himself.  Because pride always exalts the self, and thus it always produces factions.  Proud people always end up with smaller and smaller circles, because they always want to be the one at the center of those circles.  And a circle can only have one center.  

Allow me an athletic metaphor:  Pride always ends up being a solo sport.

But now back to the Gospel.  The Gospel sets a man’s sight on the One who is truly the center of the universe.  It takes a man out of himself.  It makes him hate who he was and love who his neighbors are.  It does to pride what RoundUp does to weeds.  And so here we as Christians stand with something, and truth be told it’s the only thing, that can kill what’s killing people.  The only thing that can destroy racial hatred and its cause.  Here we have something that can bring men and women of all shades and all cultures together forever in the face of a sin that pits one violent heart against another.  We have the power of the living, triune God:  His Gospel.  The Good News of the Christ who died to save sinners through faith in His Name.  This thing does what no law nor education nor mere moral reform can:  It kills old men and brings forth new ones.  It slays proud men and resurrects them humble ones.  We stand in a world of divided people, and we have something that doesn’t merely force black and white, old and young, city and rural people to tolerate each other; it changes them into men and women who want to die for each other.  

We have a power, here Christian.  

So, I know someone who can kill your racism.  

He is the maker of all men, the King of all cultures, and the Savior of people from every tribe and tongue.  

He is the God of the Gospel.  

He is Jesus the Christ.  

Some Personal Proverbs


The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:  To know wisdom and instruction,to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth — Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. 

Proverbs 1:1-6

I’ve been thinking about Proverbs lately.  About God’s book of general statements of wisdom.  I’m grateful for the book of Proverbs, because it’s helped me to think through some very practical matters.  What’s the right way to parent?  What’s the right way to work?  What’s the right way to speak? 

I’m not old, and there are many ways in which I’m still foolish (I still often prize people’s opinion of me more than God’s, for instance).  But I think the following observations I’m making are faithful to the witness of God’s Word.  They’re in no way inspired, in that they are not breathed out by God, as the real book of Proverbs is.  

But I offer them for what they’re worth.  
A few personal proverbs, if I may:

  • Young, married men and women: Have children. I’ve never met a Godly older man or woman who wishes they’d had less children, but I’ve known more than a few who wish they’d had more.  
  • If I have a really long list of people that I can’t stand, it’s worth asking whether the issue might be me.  
  • There is nothing I’ve personally encountered that better illustrates the folly of the human heart than the movement to support the right to abortion.  “It’s not a life.  No, we don’t want to look at ultrasounds, I said it’s not a life!  And even if it is a life, a woman should have the right to end it.  No, she shouldn’t have the right to end other lives, just this one.  I’m not crazy, man, come on.  She should just have a right to end this life.  I mean if it’s a life.  And we celebrate that in this country.  Even though we want these things to be safe and legal and rare.  We celebrate it!  But no, seriously, I don’t want to look at an ultrasound!”
  • Forgiveness will be as hard as your heart is. 
  • The fundamental problem with ISIS is theological, not economic or social.  At root, they have a wrong understanding of the character and values of God.  Everything else flows from those headwaters.  
  • Where the world is a system of people moving further and further apart because of annoyances and unforgiven wrongs and technological isolation, the church should model people moving ever and ever closer in intimacy because of a shared love as big as the Gospel.  
  • Bitterness requires entitlement as it’s fuel.  You have to believe you were owed something that you didn’t get.  Remove the fuel and the spark won’t catch.  Replace the lie that you were owed something good you didn’t get with the truth that the only thing we were each owed is Hell, and bitterness won’t have any gas to keep blazing on.  
  • If you want to know how much a Christian man believes the Gospel, one way to find out is to watch how he treats his children.   
  • Remember, “father” is both a noun and a verb.  And appropriately so.   

Happy Wednesday, all!

    Love and Hate


    A Christian should have many loves, because the God He sees and knows as beautiful is the God who made this world.  And, like everybody, all of his hatreds flow from his loves.  But with the healthy  Christian, this principle works out for the benefit of the wider world.

    The Christian whose heart is in rhythm with God’s hates lies because they obscure truth. He hates death because it assaults life.  He hates suffering and injustice and idolatry because he loves men and God.  He has holy hatreds.  They are like a good knight defending a sacred castle, or a good husband defending his beloved.

    A person who is still living in the flesh will have things, maybe many things, that look like deep loves, but when they’re fully unraveled will be shallower than they might’ve been, because they had something other than the Father and Son and Spirit for their center.  And so when those loves are assaulted, the hatred that defends them is anxious or bitter or self-righteous or joyless.  It’s hollower than the full-throated hatred for death and Hell and false gods that the saint who’s in the grip of the Holy Spirit has.  His are hatreds that say, “Come, join me in fleeing the wrath to come!  God is good, and He will wipe every last scar and tear away!  Come meet Him!”  The carnal man’s hatreds say, “Away from my beloved thing!  I will fight you tooth and nail to protect it!  Because I know, see, deep down, how frail a god it is…”

    A Christian should love the sunset and summer and marriage and Gospel songs because the God who spoke light and love and song into being is His adopted Father.  He loves them because he loves Him.  

    His loves are deeper, his hatreds are holier, and his heart is open and hopeful.

    And so he has a good message to give his neighbor.

    Sentences (Again)

      
    A month or so ago I wrote a post simply made up of theological sentences that I held to and believed.  The idea was based (ridiculously loosely) on Peter Abelard’s classic Medieval theological textbook Sentences.  It was I think, the most read post I’ve ever had, so I figured I’d re-gift it.  

    Here are a few more theological/Spiritual/ecclesiastical sentences from the heart (via the IPhone) of yours truly:  

    • There is an almost universal temptation to assume the best possible motive for what you yourself do and to assume the worst motive for what other people do; resist that temptation. 
    • It is generally best not to trust the man who claims to know God but does not know his Bible.  
    • One of the things the Bible’s existence undergirds for me is this:  My belief that it is appropriate for entities, whether they be churches, marriages, or governments, to be built on written documents; if it’s worth having, it’s worth writing out.
    • If you are a Christian, then I can virtually guarantee that you have underestimated God’s love for you; I can do that because the love of God for His sheep in the crucified Jesus surpasses all the knowledge you could ever collect and store in your brain.  
    • Generally speaking, I don’t find it to be good to invest Christian leadership in someone who hasn’t shown (over a pretty good period of time) that he is ready to do the slow, steady work of personal holiness.
    • I know it’s a word whose definition isn’t as clear as I’d like (depending on the circle you’re talking in), but I am still more than ready to wear the label “evangelical.”
    • Ecclesiastes is a difficult book to interpret and exposit well. 
    • Evangelism can be both a dutiful hard work and an overflow of the heart; after all, the best kind of tired is joyful tired, where you’re worn out from doing something hard that you really love doing.  

    Happy weekend, all!

    His Good Authority

      
    It’s surprisingly easy to fall in to what Proverbs calls “folly.”  Foolishness.  A lack of wisdom.  Incorrect thinking and feeling and behavior.  The heart and the flesh love folly, and I know from experience that my own flesh is no different from anyone else’s in that respect.  

    One of the marks of folly is to mock good things while defending twisted ones.  Unbelievers do it all the time, and even Spirit-wrought Christians can fall into it.

    For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.

    1 Peter 4:3-4

    O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 
    Galatians 3:1

    Last night I saw something on Facebook.  

    I know, I know, how many positive things start with that sentence?  Subtle rebuke taken.  

    But nonetheless, here’s what it was:  A graphic from some supposed Christians (I can only take them at their word) mocking what they perceived as the Bible’s inconsistencies on the teaching of marriage.  They apparently believe that while they are “Christian,” they are not obliged to follow the Bible’s teaching on marriage because it is, in their minds, hopelessly inconsistent.  To them, the Bible is written by people making their best efforts to talk about God, not by men as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (which is what I believe, because it’s what Peter tells us in the New Testament).  They laid down this slick, well-made, intended-to-be-witty graphic/chart in the context of an interchange about the sinfulness of homosexual activity.  They, as Christians, were defending the goodness of same sex activity and same sex “marriage,” and thought the graphic playfully exposed the Bible as a slightly  misguided book just like any old slightly misguided book.  
    I’ve seen that sort of approach before, and you might’ve seen it, too.  I’ve seen it from unbelievers and, sadly, I’ve seen it from those who claim faith in Christ:  Playfully ribbing the Bible in the defense of some thing the God of the Bible calls sinful.  

    It’s a mark of spiritual blindness.  It is a sign of a prideful and foolish heart.  

    And in this context, in the conversation about same-sex intercourse and romance, I want to be as clear as I can be:  The Word of God is a sure hope of truth and salvation, while sodomy kills souls, wounds hearts, and damages bodies.  Christ gives life, sexual immorality brings death.  Mocking the Bible to defend homosexuality is like mocking a doctor to defend pancreatic cancer.  

    We have only one certain authority to rest morality on.  If we doubt or disdain God’s Word, we have nothing higher to appeal to.   Nothing stronger than human reason or speech to ground our ethics in.  Person A says God told him homosexual activity is good and permissible, Person B says God told him it is sinful and deadly.  Who’s right?  Does majority vote decide morality?  If so, how can we say Nazi Germany or the Antebellum South were sinful?  The majority vote in both cases was in, and Jewish persecution and African slavery were deemed ethically acceptable.  If we say the Word of Christ isn’t the moral appeal court, how do we say those cultures and governments were doing anything objectively evil?  We could say we don’t like what we did, but how do we authoritatively stand in judgment against it?  How do stand your intellectually consistent ground against any evil if you’ve said the final definer of “evil” is human judgment?  The guy you’re trying to stand against will just tell you his judgment landed him in a different spot than yours.  So out of the way, please.  He has a TV to steal.  And God told him it was OK.  

    But the truth is that there is an objective reality to good and evil.  Some things are truly beautiful and good and others are truly detestable and harmful.  And they are defined by the One through whom all things were created:  Jesus.  He has revealed them in the Old Testament He quoted and called Scripture and in the New Testament that records His words and those of His chosen apostles.  Those words, all of them, are theopneustos, or “God-breathed,” according to the Apostle Paul. They tell us who God is, what He blesses, what He loves, and what He wants for us.  

    The Bible is God’s good authority given to a world made to reflect His beauty and glory.  

    We mock it, and so mock Him, at our own peril.

    After all, He tells us woe to those who call good “evil” and evil “good” for a reason. 

    He’s told us what they are.   

    The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner.  And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after.  So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.’

    Numbers 15:37-40

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11

    Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God,  for he will abundantly pardon.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

    Isaiah 55:6-11