Standing On The Promises

There is unquestionably an element of understanding to faith. But there is more to it than that. For Luther, Faith is fundamentally trust. He uses the word fiducia, which means confidence. Faith is about trusting a God who makes promises, and whose promises may be relied upon.

Luther wrote in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, “Where there is the word of God, who makes promises, there must necessarily be the faith of the person who accepts those promises.”

Faith lays hold of promise. Assurance is not established on reason or science but on the apprehension and acceptance of the word of God.

Witsius comments on Hebrews 11:1 by stating that there is ‘substance,’ or hypostasisor existence to the objects of our faith, “the properties and circumstances of things have a hypostatis, that is, really exist, and are not mere figments of our imagination. Accordingly, faith causes the thing hoped for, though not yet actually existing, to exist in the mind of the believer; who assents as firmly to the promises of God, as if he saw the blessings promised already present.”[1]

Calvin also used this term hypostasis when referring to the object of our faith. Calvin states, “Faith is the hypostasis, that the support or possession, on which we fix our foot.”[2]

Witsius also states that, “We understand by the term [faith], a principle which pervades all the faculties of the soul, and is the proper mean of uniting them to Christ, and of thus quickening, and making them holy, and happy.” [3]

The final resurrection of all men has not yet occurred, nor does it exist in itself, but faith gives it substance in our mind, because we believe God’s promise. The object of our faith; God’s promise of the resurrection, becomes a fact, a historical event just like the battle of Gettysburg.

Likewise, this principle works backward in time to lay hold of the promises of past events. Christ’s declaration in John 19:30 that “It is finished,” though stated in the past and fulfilled in the future, has substance or existence as truth in the present by faith.

Also, in communion we believe that Christ is present in the elements because He said He is, and faith in those words makes the communion, not a figment of our imagination, but something substantive and real. We believe and by believing we come to know that it is not merely bread and wine we hold. And this faith animates our spiritual life and relationship with Christ.

Faith lays hold of God’s words, objects both past and future, and makes them present.  This supports the soul, upon which it steadfastly fixes its foot and stands firm.

[1]The Apostle’s Creed, Vol. 1. Witsius, Herman. 43

[2]The Apostle’s Creed, Vol. 1. Witsius, Herman. 44.

[3]The Apostle’s Creed, Vol. 1. Witsius, Herman. 35.

The Transposition of my Imagination

I was listening to an audio book of C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory when I blinked a few times in the striking light of his prose, realizing for the first time what it meant to look along the light and not merely at it.  I was stunned. Lewis argued logically in poetic prose. It was so rich and clear. Lewis conversed so long in the western cannon that he wrote with a Western-Christendom accent. He spoke like one who had walked with Truth in the cool of the day through the English countryside and could imitate the Poet’s cadence and tone.

I was overcome with the idea that I was listening to someone who didn’t think about God as much as He thought like God. I purchased a copy of The Weight of Glory before I was done with the audio book and devoured the print by night and audio by day. I was transported out of myself. I had been looking through borrowed contacts. The eyes of my faith were altered. Continue reading “The Transposition of my Imagination”

Love at the Center

In contrast to the philosophies of atheism and pantheism, Jesus Christ put love at the center of life. Love is the central concern in Christ‘s apologetic to the world. Both John 13:35 and John 17:20- 23 indicate that the world will not know who Jesus is through the means of his ultimate apologetic-love among believers-unless believers demonstrate his love first to each other and then to the watching world. The New Testament emphasis on agape is utterly unique among world religions. The statement “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16) cannot be said in any other view of life. The ultimate demonstration of love is the cross, and that is the painful, self-sacrificial, other-directed love to which we are called.

Art Lindsley. Love, the Ultimate Apologetic: The Heart of Christian Witness (pp. 160-161). Kindle Edition.

Attacking Brothers with Blessing

Paul usually included a benediction of grace and peace in his letters. “The God of peace be with all of you. Amen” (Romans 15:33). “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1 Corinthians 16:23-24). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen” (Galatians 6:18). Here our greetings convey both human love and divine favor. Paul was not merely talking about a blessing; he was imparting it. In doing so, Paul was drawing on a rich Old Testament tradition. The “blessing” was standard practice among the people of God from the very beginning. Fathers pronounced a blessing on their children, a leader on the people. The blessing was given through prophetic utterance or the change of a name. Such a blessing communicated God’s favor. The loss of blessing was considered a terrible curse, as we learn from Esau, who wept bitterly when his father decided to let the blessing on Jacob remain, even though he had received it under false pretense.

Esau’s cry-“O Father, bless me!”-has echoed through the centuries in the hearts of those who have never received a greeting that carries the blessing of God. Children, parents, spouses, lovers, colleagues and friends want to know that our love for them reflects the love of God, that our love for them channels the love of God. People want to know that God’s favor rests on them. They depend on us, at least in part, to receive that blessing.

Our Christian enemies need that blessing too. I am not proposing that we ignore or dismiss tensions in the church today, but I am suggesting that we mitigate them by praying the favor of God on our Christian opponents whenever we meet them, whether in cordial or adversarial situations. They belong to God, as we do; they believe in God, as we do; they stand in need of God, as we do. The substance of our disagreements might not change, but the spirit of the relationship often will if in our greetings we bestow God’s blessing. We need to remind our opponents that though we differ with them in theology or practice, we still regard them as Christian brethren.

Gerald L. Sittser. Love One Another: Becoming the Church Jesus Longs For (Kindle Locations 316-328). Kindle Edition.

The Son of Man Came…?

How would you complete the sentence: “The Son of Man came. . .”? The Son of Man came . . . preaching the Word . . . to establish the kingdom of God . . . to die on the cross. Perhaps the question is more revealing if we make it, “We should go . . .”? We should go . . . campaign for political change . . . preach on street corners . . . make the most of new media . . . adapt to the culture we want to reach.

There are three ways the New Testament completes the sentence, “The Son of Man came . . .” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45); “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10); “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking . . .” (Luke 7:34).

The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third is a statement of method. How did Jesus come

The Last Supper (Luke 22:21-23)
The Last Supper (Luke 22:21-23) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

? He came eating and drinking. “Son of Man” is Daniel’s label for one who comes before God to receive authority over the nations (Daniel 7). And now Jesus, the Son of Man, has come. But how does he come? Does he come with an army of angels? Does he come on the clouds of heaven? Does he come with a blaze of glory? No, he comes “eating and drinking.”

Chester, Tim (2011-04-07). A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table (Re:Lit) (p. 12). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

C.S. Lewis and the Academic Theology Echo Chamber

But, more positively, it is at least possible that Lewis – despite not being an academic theologian himself – might have something to teach academic theologians about their own subject. Among other things, this may have to do with the way in which Lewis harnessed his imagination, reason, historical knowledge, wit, and considerable rhetorical gifts in a sustained effort to communicate the substance of his convictions to as wide an audience as possible. In its commendable quest for disciplinary purity and intellectual integrity, academic theology is actually in great danger of sealing itself within a very small, self-enclosed echo chamber in which experts talk to other experts while losing all contact with the outside world. Meanwhile, Lewis continues to sell millions of books a year and to shape the religious faith of thousands.

(2012-10-17). The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis (Cambridge Companions to Religion) (p. 4). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.