Monday, September 11, 2006

A New Place; A New Blog

I have moved back to North America and left Korea behind. Although I will attempt to continue this project, I will be posting shorter blogs, focused on current thoughts I am having on my new blog Ephesians 4.22. Hope you enjoy reading it, as much as I will enjoy writing it. I will talk about the current state of the church, things I am discovering in my current studies, and my passion for church planting. See you there!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Christbearers Mission: Preach the Word

What is the Christbearers most important duty? Paul wrote young Timothy:

2 Timothy 4
 1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Sadly this has been utterly disregarded in the contemporary church. Here is some advice from the most influential and effective evangelist and pastor of the 19th century, who saw the same thing in his generation that we can see in ours:

You are not getting distrustful of preaching are you?  Go on with your preaching. Cobler stick to your last; preacher stick to your preaching. In the great day, when the muster-roll shall be read, of all those who are converted through fine music, and church decoration, and religious exhibitions and entertainments, they will amount to the tenth part of nothing; but it will always please God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Keep to your preaching; and if you do anything else beside do not let it throw your preaching in to the background. In the first place preach, and in the second place preach, and in the third place preach.
-C.H. Spurgeon 1887 (Open air Sermon) p. 289 Drummond

We live in a world that desperately needs its Christbearers to be true to their calling:

There are the evils, brethren… But we have only one remedy for them; preach Jesus Christ, and let us do it more and more. By the roadside, in the little room, in the theatre, anywhere, everywhere, let us preach Christ. Write books if you like, and do anything else within your power; but whatever else you cannot do, preach Christ. If you do not always visit your people (though I pray God you may not be blameworthy there), yet be sure to preach the gospel… Preaching is our great weapon, so use it perpetually. Preaching is the Lord's battering-ram , wherewith the walls of Babylon are being shaken to their foundations. Work on with it, brothers, work on. Preach, preach, preach, preach, preach, preach, till you can preach no more, and then go above to sing the praises of God in Heaven, and to make known the wonders of redeeming love.

-C.H. Spurgeon 1887 (Lecturing his students at the preachers's college) p. 290 Drummond

A true Church is a Church that is following this pattern for ministry. If your Church isn't preach the word of God faithfully, get out of there and support a Church that is honouring God and under the power of the Holy Spirit.  For you're soul's sake and for your joy, get under the word.

For those of us who have the privilege of leading, let us never get away from the mission at hand. We are Christ's ambassador's and need to proclaim Him till He comes.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Part Six: The Prayer of the Christ Bearer

The Prayer of the Christ Bearer

Ignatius was a man of prayer. On One constant theme as he wrote to the  churches of his day was to encourag them saying, "Pray without ceasing, in behalf of other men" (Epistle to the Ephesians). He testified, "Through prayer to God I have… been granted more than I requested" (Epistle to the Romans). He was a man of prayer, who bore witness to the power of prayer.

“Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Mathew 6:8).  If God knows everything, why pray?

For many people, God is irrelevant and unimportant in their day to day decisions and actions in life. For many Christians, God is an incorporeal being, indivisible, spaceless, sexless, passionless, changeless, perfect and eternal. Like the mystic “Force” of modern physics and philosophy, he is not so much a person, as a magnetic power. He is for all practical purposes Aristotle’s primum mobile immotum- first mover unmoved- the somewhat mysterious power at the foundation of existence, but not the personal, relational, loving Father of Biblical Christian theology.

Many sincere believers who are evangelical, bible believing and generally orthodox, recognize the Fatherhood of God, yet they do not take advantage of it. All three of these: the unbeliever, the worldly Christian, and the ignorant Christian, share a common bond in missing out on the most exciting and dynamic relationship possible. They deny in principle the purpose for which they were created and deprive themselves in practice of the blessings they could receive.

A self-consciously honest believer asked me sometime ago, “in light of my biblical ignorance, how do we answer the question ‘If God already knows everything, why pray?’” Others offended by God’s sovereignty retort “While if God controls everything, what good is prayer?”

These principles, the omniscience and Divine rule of God, are true Biblical doctrines. And one of the paradoxes of the Christian faith is that while God does not need any of us, or any of our actions, He does use us and our actions as His primary method for converting the lost and effecting change in this world.

Why Do We Pray?

Since it is true, that God does know what we have need of, before we ask Him, why pray at all? In fact this is based on a Scriptural truth (cf. Mt. 6:8). God is all sovereign, all knowing and all powerful. What part can mere man play? It is not after all “as if He needed anything” (Acts 17:25). When Jesus makes that statement, “Your Father knows… before you ask,” what did He mean by it?

Jesus Teaching on Prayer

The context to that well known quote comes from Jesus direct teaching about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, where he explicitly instructs us to make certain requests of the Father.

First, He begins by clarifying how we ought to pray; the assumption, behind this is that we will! He says several times: “When you pray…” (Matt. 6:5,6,7). The Greek construction of Mathew 6:5 is a subjunctive temporal clause, best translated “whenever you pray.” It carries the underlying assumption that this is an expected, ongoing activity. Taking this assumption, Jesus clarifies for us, how we are to pray, commanding: “In this manner, therefore pray” (v.9).

Following this command to pray, Jesus gives us some guiding categories of requests, or petitions made through prayer: including the advent (coming) of the kingdom, the accomplishment of His will on earth, the appropriation of our “daily bread”, the forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from Satan (Mt. 6:9-11).

It therefore follows, that when Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you have need of before you ask Him” (v.8), that He could not have meant it as an instruction, not to ask! What does He mean then?

His words are an injunction against the repetitious wordy prayers of the heathen, “who think that they will be heard for their many words”. Pagan gods must be “reasoned with, pleaded with, informed.” So many words and carefully crafted prayers must be made to close loopholes and convince their gods to act. Our God is sovereign, and knows all things, thus we are not to “worry” (v25). We are rather to trust in Him, conforming our prayers to the reality of His being. Meaning, we follow the guidelines found in Scripture, not in our emotion, or in our human relations. Fancy words, fancy works and repetitious acts will get us no where, but….

The Promise of Prayer

Jesus says simply, “Ask, and it will be given to you… For everyone who asks receives” (7:7,8). Now it may not be that we get the Ferrari we ask for, as Jesus clarifies in the immediately following verses, God is our Father, and if earthly fathers, “Know how to give good gifts, to [their ]children, how much more will your Father, who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (7:11). In this way, as the human father will not give a child his requests in fulfillment of harm, but rather steers the child to ‘good gifts’, healthy food, safe activities, etc., so will the Father in Heaven do for us.

So as we can see the objection of the lazy reader is quickly answered by context of Jesus statement. Here is (1) an assumption that we will pray (6:5,6,7), (2) the command to pray (6:9), (3) guidelines on how to pray (6:9-13), and (4) motivation (7:7,11). But that’s not all…

The Consequence of Neglecting Prayer

What if you were to miss out on the good gifts the Father has waiting for you? What would you do? Would you pray? As it turns out, many Christians are not experiencing the joys and fulfillment of all the Father desires for them, because of this foolish neglect of prayer in their lives.

James, the brother of Our Lord, under inspiration, declares, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (Jms 4:2), quickly adding, “You ask and you do not receive, because you ask amiss” (v.3). That is, not according to the pattern Christ laid down in Matthew. So again, if we want, we must ask. If you fail to pray, you WILL MISS out. It is crystal clear, not only that we have an obligation to pray, “When you pray…”, but better then a duty, we have the privilege of prayer. It is only to our own detriment that we neglect this precious privilege. Because God doesn’t need us, we need Him. And he tells us, He will only answer because we ask.

When Sennecherib, brought the armies of Assyria in mighty array against the little state of Judah, he began his psychological warfare with a letter demanding surrender, in recognition of the powerlessness of their (the Israelites) God (II Ki. 19). Here is a prime example. Does God not know the Jews are in trouble? Will He help them? King Hezekiah, received the letter while at his palace and rushed it to the temple, laying the letter out before the alter of the Lord (v. 14). God has the ability to read in the palace, does he not? He can see through paper, so why does Hezekiah go through this process? He “prayed, before the Lord… save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you are the Lord God” (v.19).

What reply did the King get? “Yes I know these things…” No. Instead He hears these key words, which echo through the ages to our time, “Because you have prayed to Me…  I have heard you” (v. 20). The next day Israel was supernaturally delivered from a humanly unbeatable force (v.35). What would have happened if he had not prayed?

In summary, it is not for God’s benefit that we pray, but superabundantly for our own. It is only a fool that says, “God knows it, so why pray?”!

1. We Pray So the Son May be Glorified in the Father!

Why pray? Because Jesus said: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (Jn. 14:13,14). You do not have, James warned, because you do not ask!

We ask rightly, we ask “In Jesus Name”, not through the magical incantation of His English transliteration of the Greek translation of the Hebrew name “Yeshua”, but rather by asking on His behalf, “Your will be done, Your kingdom come”.  This is why we do not ask with arrogance, but rather with confidence, asking what we know to be in God’s will with certainty.

2. We Pray to Bear Fruit!

Jesus says of the person who is in tune with Him, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (Jn. 15:7). It is for this reason that we were saved, that “Christ be glorified in us.” And it is through answered prayer that the Father is glorified in the Son (cf. Jn. 14:13).

In fact as you know apart from Christ, we can do nothing! But if we abide in Him and He in us, we bear much fruit. How do we bear that fruit? Through prayer: “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you” (Jn. 15:16).

3. We pray for fullness of joy!

Ask, “so that… He may give it to you.” Jesus instructs. One day, He will be gone, He warns the disciples, “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full” (John16:23, 24).

The Christ bearer shows forth Christ through his faith and his communion with the Lord. The Christ bearer cannot bear Christ without communing with Him. This is the spiritual foundation of the Christ bearer's life.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Part Five: The Christ Bearers Knowledge

Part Five
The Knowledge of the Christ Bearer

Where does the Christ bearer start? To be wholly committed to Christ, is to fulfill the prayer of Paul, revealed to his daughter churches. He does not cease to mention in his prayers,  “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom, and revelation, and the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:18). This is the path to unity, as he prays, “that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and al discernment” (Phil. 1:9). The Christ bearer is to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph. 4:23). We are to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:2).  Salvation, and the bearing of Christ is synonymous with the embracing of knowledge, God our Saviour wishes, “all men to be saved, even to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Ti. 2:4).  

Now many seek knowledge in the path to spiritual enlightenment. There are many truth claims from Eastern mysticism to rationalist atheists. And so the Christ bearer must first answer the question of knowledge. Representative of the thinking of many today, is the question:

Is there a difference between secular knowledge and God knowledge?  Didn't God create it all?[/quote]

Pilate asked, “What is truth?”, and all the philosophers of the history of the world have made this same inquiry.  What is it and can it be known? What is its source? The question of knowledge is at once simple and at the same time complex.

How do we know that we know what we know?

Our wisdom, our knowledge of truth comes from two foundations; knowledge of self and knowledge of God. Which comes first in concept is self. Which comes first in necessity is God. What comes first in time, is likely self. What comes first in precedence must be God. But without the knowledge of self, there can be no knowledge of God. In our self we begin to recognize consciousness and categories concepts, creating and understanding and framing an interpretation of the world around us. As God has implanted the innate knowledge of himself irrevocably in the heart of every person, in the very nature of our being, as image bearers and in the law of our conscience, it follows that in knowing ourselves we are immediately confronted by God.

As that self begins to explore and to reach out, all of our observations point us to God, whether it be the revelations of nature, which we interpret in light of our innate knowledge of the creator, or the testimony of our conscience, we are constantly confronted with the fact of God’s existence. Even the suffering and woe around us drive us to this conclusion. For as we see suffering and are hurt and wounded and scarred, we begin to see that we ourselves are part of the dilemma and see that there is a need for something beyond ourselves and what we see. Only when we come to realize the wretchedness of ourselves do we truly look to God.

True Knowledge

Epistemologically, that is as far as actual knowledge is concerned, “the facts ma’am, just the facts”, are always true. All truth is God’s truth. Whether we find truth in self contemplation, the revelation of nature, or in the meditation of Scripture, whatever is true is truth. For the purposes of definition, I would say: That knowledge of a thing is true, which corresponds to God’s knowledge of the thing.

To illustrate this, I would say that God knows everything exhaustively. That is He knows everything about everything. For our knowledge to be true, it does not need to reach this extent, but it must be true as far as it goes. That is, a mathematician’s definition of a triangle may be much more comprehensive then an elementary school student’s knowledge, but both can truthfully describe a triangle, as far as they describe it.

Ethical Truth

But there is a problem. The above is true, according to Scripture (cf. Rom. 1) and reason from the good and necessary consequences of Scripture (eg. Ge. 1:27). But experience does not show that we always find truth. As creatures, created by God, we are finite, and so we can never know exhaustively. But we should be able to know truthfully, as image bearers of He who is Truth. So why is their error?

The problem is ethical, the problem is sin. Because of sin, it is the inclination of every person to seek to deny God his right as Creator. It is the inclination of every being to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Ro. 1:21). Because of this ethical dilemma, we cannot truly know ourselves, or our categories of observation aright. We skew our thoughts of ourselves. We skew our knowledge of all external things in order to fit, or to justify our perspective of ourselves.

But no man will accept this of himself. No one will admit that they are unable to know themselves or their environment aright, or how vile and ethically corrupt they are without seeing the comparison of their weakness, against God’s strength. The knowledge of God humbles, it caves in our self constructs and destroys the facades we have erected. This was the experience of young Jeremiah in the woods, to Moses at the bush, to Isaiah at the temple, who cried, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” that is dying, “I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in a people of unclean lips” (Is. 6:5).

Knowledge of God

Thus knowledge of God is necessary for a true knowledge of self. By knowledge of God here, I do not mean some mere profession of the existence of God, but rather the experiential knowledge of the Divine. The experience of the Holy Spirit and that grasp of the relationship with God the Bible calls the new birth, or regeneration. This confrontation does not lead all to Salvation. “Many are called but few are chosen”, Jesus said. This should, however, lead one to repentance and thus Salvation. That is why the gospel is a command, not an invitation, “Repent” an imperative, “And believe”. At this point we find ourselves “renewed in the spirit of the mind” (Eph. 23), and in “knowledge according to the image” (Col. 3:10). We have cast of the old man, which suppresses the truth and put on the new man which comprehends the truth.

Covenant Knowledge

Thus true knowledge is covenant knowledge. It is the choice of every person, to be a covenant keeper, or a covenant breaker in regard to the truth. Strictly speaking then, only God knowledge leads to true knowledge of anything. Secular knowledge is merely the knowledge of God in Creation (Science), the knowledge of God in Ethics and Relationships (Sociology) and the knowledge of God in Self (Psychology) etc. There really is no secular knowledge. Knowledge is either God knowledge or no knowledge at all. Knowledge is an ethical question of obedience to God’s interpretation of a thing.  

Strictly speaking, this would leave the unsaved man without any hope of knowledge secular or sacred truth. And it is the common Grace of God that this is not so.

The Two Natures of People

Christians, although redeemed and made new men and woman in Christ, may err, because they are fighting the old nature, still present as a principle within the reality of the new creation. We do not sin and err because of the new nature, but despite it (Ro. 7:14-23). But the unbeliever is in a similar state, he can know truth, when he castes himself on the foundation of the believer. He too has an old man. The man originally created I the image of God. Although corrupted, it is irrevocably implanted in him. So when he acts as if there were a God and acts on the principles contained in my fist few points he or she has true knowledge as far as they keep in this line. So the unbeliever can do math, and science and politics, but not on the foundation of their nature and view of self but despite it.

The Answer

I deny the distinction between secular knowledge and God knowledge, each kind of knowledge is implicit in the other and knowledge, truth is a matter of covenant faithfulness. It is a confrontation of obedience, when confronted with God in every fact, whether to acknowledge Him explicitly, or implicitly, and thus have truth, or true knowledge, or whether to sin and deny him and thus have no knowledge or truth of any kind. This latter is possible only in part, because of the old nature which is constantly floating up, necessitating the constant struggle of repression, spoken of in Romans one. All Truth is God’s Truth indeed, but not in the way most would describe it today.

Knowledge may still be classified as natural, spiritual, anthropological, theological even secular, if it is understood to mean categories of God knowledge. The knowledge of Daniel 12 for instance, is eschatological knowledge. But despite these definitions, there is only one source of knowledge and only the redeemed, or the man standing on the foundation of the believer however conscious he may be of it, can know truth.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Legacy of the Christ Bearer

The Legacy of the Christ Bearer
In the bustling City of Antioch man and woman of the Roman Empire were up in arms. The ancient enemy to the East had made havoc in the boarder state of Armenia, and the citizenry had just a short time ago had no confidence in the decadent empire to rescue them from destruction. But then the gods had favoured them, or so they reasoned, by putting the divine Nerva in command of the Empire, followed by his enterprising and constructive heir Trajan. The Empire was alive again. After decades of decline the economy was on the rise, jobs were available. Corrupt governors were weeded out and the fabled Roman justice system was being restored. There was a renewed confidence and a renewed vigour. As the young men rushed to the standards and stood proudly to experience the glories of a valorous war, the mothers and fathers and essential service members prayed for their safety and praised their courage.
It was a time of hope a time of progressive thinking and optimism. Utopia might be just around the corner, and with a victorious Empire, a just state and a restored Republican government, sitting on a booming economy there was little room to doubt that the future looked Roman!
The merchants plied their wares with confidence of men knowing they would make a sale. People spent their money, keeping little in reserve, knowing there was more to be had from gainful employments and trade. The military headquartered in camps around the city was a vociferous consumer and laughter and drunken pleasure echoed from the better homes in the City and its environs.
Deep within the cozy walls, a small group of the poor and the downtrodden, with a score of merchants and a few slaves of the great houses gathered in a more somber mood. They wept great tears of sorrow.
“He did what?” One cried as the tale was told.
“He went to the Emperor himself.”
“And he was condemned.” Another added. A moan escaped a young woman nearby.
“Let us pray for his deliverance.” She pleaded
“And what good will that do? It is finished, over. The Emperor has decreed it. And it will be the end for the rest of us soon…” A gruff voice tinged with sorrow bemoaned. Yet a soothing voice came from one of the aged,
“Remember the words of our blessed Apostle Paul, ‘But I want you to know brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord having become more confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.’” He let his voice trail off. The young woman nodded solemnly. This was Josephus, he had sat at the feet of Paul himself. Many in the room were calmed and listened to the weak voice of the elderly man. Josephus was an elder in the church, once a rising light within Synagogue scholarship, Paul had converted him. He became a Presbyter, an elder in the church at Antioch sometime after the demise of Paul, but he had been an intimate of Ignatius for most of the century.
“What shall we do, elder Josephus?” One young man asked,
“Let us pray that God would count us worthy to live up to the courage of our pastor and that of our Apostles. And let us rejoice that we are counted worthy, not only to believe on our Lord Jesus Christ, “but also to suffer for His sake”.

A new perspective
From our perspective, the death sentence given to Ignatius seems like the end of a chapter in the history of the church of Antioch. But even if Rome meant it or evil, God meant it for Good. Because as may have been said in such a meeting of the church in Antioch, this day was not the end, but the beginning of a chapter not just for the church in Antioch, but the church universal!
What a shepherd this man was, who “willingly laid down his life for his sheep”. There is an interesting parallel with the life of the Apostle Paul, a former pillar in the very same church Ignatius led. His people, and the Pastor himself must have seen the connection which was so obvious. On the road to Damascus, just a few decades before Paul was told by the Lord that he should be a chosen vessel to bear His name, “before the nations, kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Paul was a Theophorist a Christ bearer. The Apostle passed on to his spiritual son Timothy the command to take, “the things that you have heard form me in the presents of many witnesses and commit them to faithful man who will be able to teach others also (2 Ti. 2:2). Now Ignatius in his epistle to the Magnesians calls this young man, --you guessed it—“Timothy the Christ-bearer” (Chap. 3). This was Paul’s mission, to bear Christ and recreate Christ bearers.
And Ignatius kept this solemn charge, he took what was passed to him and he passes it on even today through his writings, all of which he wrote on the way to his death. With humility of spirit he usually began by saying something like this:
I do not as Peter and Paul issue commandments unto you. They were Apostles, I am a condemned man: they were free, while I am even now a servant. But when I suffer, I shall be the freedman of Jesus, emancipated in Him (Epistle to the Romans)’
Yet with the Bible on his mind he penned letters to the churches in every city he passed.  He gave practical instruction and encouragement that stilled the souls of an entire generation to persevere through persecution. And the church that followed the purge of Trajan was stronger by far than it had been before. Not a little of this influence can be traced to the brave Pastor, who for sake of the flock poured out his life’s blood.
The Christ bearer has an influence felt throughout eternity. The works of Paul and Timothy and Ignatius, Athenatius, Augustine, Chysostom, Anslem, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Whitfield, Edwards, Spurgeon and a host of other lights of Church history have paved the path of our own Salvation and by God’s grace have been His instruments to hear his glory throughout the known world. Each man in the list above has been used to mold the very fabric of Christianity. Each man has changed the course of secular and sacred history with the faithful and persecution filled ministry they endured. And the first three, with a veritable cloud of companions have marched into the ranks of the church Triumphant through the Cross of Christ.

A new commitment  
Our Lord said, “He who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:38). The Christ bearer is radical in his full blooded commitment to the Lord. He says with Paul, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil 2:21). There is no lesser commitment he is not willing to give.
There is no room in the Kingdom for the cowardly (Rev. 21:8), there is no room in the kingdom for the half hearted disciple, but “he who loses his life for [Christ’s] sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39).
The Church and the Roman world experienced the full power of the Christ bearer for only one reason. Namely, this man, Ignatius, was able to say:
Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings. Breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of my members; let shatterings of my whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come to me: only let me attain Jesus Christ. All the pleasures of the world profit me nothing. It is better for me to die in behalf of Christ, then to reign over the ends of the earth, “For what shall a man be profited if he gain the whole world and yet lose his own soul” (Epistle to the Romans Chap 5).
     Can you make the same commitment? Are you a Christ bearer?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Christ Bearers Witness: Happy and God Pleasing Thoughts and Actions

The Christ Bearer’s Witness: Happy and God Honouring Thoughts and Actions

With Trajan’s offer of peace and common ground hanging in the air, the aged Bishop composed himself. The court must have looked on with hushed silence. The judicious Emperor had just offered an intellectual escape. No need to believe as we do. Just recognize we have the same concern as you, live and let live. Ignatius delivered his answer, “You are in error when you call the spirits of the nations gods. For there is but one God…” The aged pastor offered.
Trajan was always ready to embrace an extra god. What was the problem with these Christians? What held Ignatius in check? He finished his answer, “There is but one God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that are in them…” (The Martyrdom of Ignatius). Ignatious sought to conform all of his thinking and reasoning to be pleasing to the Lord. Here is you’re and my challenge, does our thinking please God? Is their a way of thinking that leads to happiness, and have I found it? What was the main difference between Trajan and the Saint?
The difference was worldview. As I have continued to explore the culture around me, I am seeing more and more the all encompassing nature of worldview. Many people, like me, have study worldview classes at college and university, and we have indeed taken to the idea that a worldview is very important.  But I don’t think that we understand how all pervasive and domineering this statement is.
We have, all of us, been brainwashed into the great myths of our cultures. We have bought into a certain way of thinking, and living. Even when we are rebels, we usually rebel, by using the principles, that we do not realize also frame the structure we are rebelling against.
What makes a Worldview?
A worldview, in my current understanding, is a framework for interpreting the world that we experience daily. It is built on our presuppositions, these are our assumptions, those things we hold to be self-evidently true, and require no argument to prove. It is constructed by philosophy and girded in theology.
So, what I am saying, is that all men and women everywhere, like me, have core beliefs, that they may never even consciously realize they have. These presuppositions include such things as the validity of our experience. Most people just assume they really are alive and acting and experiencing various things as they go through their lives. This is an un-argued, unproved assumption. We all have these assumptions. These are our presuppositions. We suppose them to be true and this impacts all things else that we consider.
There is a wonderful passage from Will Durant that says:
     Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art; it arises in hypothesis and flows into achievement. Philosophy is a hypothetical interpretation of the unknown (as in metaphysics), or of the inexactly known (as in ethics, or political philosophy); it is the front trench in the siege of truth. Science is the captured territory; and behind it are those secure regions in which knowledge and art build our imperfect and marvelous world (The Story of Philosophy xxvi).

We are all philosophers and we are all theologians. There is no escaping it. But what does this mean exactly?

This is a virtual parallel to Philosophy. The study of philosophy and theology pursues the same questions and affects the same circumstances in our lives, albeit from a different perspective and with different vocabulary.

     Move with me to the real world. Forget all the things you know about the staleness of philosophical wrangling and we’ll look at the only place most of us should care about philosophy. When in impacts our faith, and our lives…

Practical examples

     Let me tell you how I have been discovering this, in a more practical way. Here in South East Asia, there is an entirely different culture from the one I hade been familiar with, there is a different history and a different religious heritage and an entirely different set of presuppositions. There is a different philosophy and a different theology.
     In close conformity to ancient Rome and the Greco-roman culture of Ignatius’ time, the people of Asia developed a complex superstition regarding their ancestors and the spiritual realm. If this is not one more evidence for Babal, and the Satanic origin for all world religions… The Celtic people of North Europe, the ancient Greek, the Roman of Antiquity and the Korean today, all venerate their ancestors as gods, or godlike guardians of the family. The pater familias, the eldest make in the family, was priest for his family and responsible for the moral spiritual and physical wellbeing of his family. Why should this protection change upon death? And so the roman Lares, the household gods, ancestors of the home were worshipped. The Greek tribal chiefs, became the pantheons we know today, the Asian ancestor, is divine and worship specially on two great holidays, roughly equivalent to Thanksgiving and New Years day. On each of these holidays, Koreans go to their ancestral homes and are hosted by the eldest family representative, and they have a great feast, including seats set for the dearly departed for a number of generations. The bowl of rice left for them has a set of chopsticks left standing in the rice and the food is offered as a way to commune with these protectors. Following this the family goes to the actual familial grave sites and offers incense and prayers to the ancestors, thanking them for the good harvest and seeking their blessing for the coming year. All this is held in common by all the ancient faiths. The particulars alone set them apart, and not by much. But as we move from this interesting phenomenon of common faith, and realize that great religions grew as these people groups “enlightenened themselves” as it were, we find the flower of Plato, and the Glow of Buhda. Some faiths, finding in the natural revelation, the tell tale signs of the ultimate God, who was creator, others, suppressing this fact (as Romans one tells us they are want to do), so deeply as to deny the reality of existence, itself.
     Some religious philosophy, or Philosophical Theology is almost bereft of God or gods, and others incorporates them to the maximum. All of the great pagan monotheists, like Greece and Rome embraced the polytheistic pantheons as convenient manifestations of the one god and as helpful for the morality and well being of the ignorant. The non theistic religions, see the gods as helpful steps on the ladder to enlightenment. In reality, they are all the same and so the traditional faiths of ancestor worship and polytheism have continued, wherever the Biblical faiths did not come to dominate.
So in many ways, as Christianity spreads through Asia, I am provided with a marvelous window into the reality that faced Ignatius. He would have looked about his culture and seen its paganism everywhere, as I can see in Korea.

Touring the ancient Palaces of Insadong, in Northern Seoul, I was treated to a full measure of “architectural philosophy”.
The palaces all had main gates, which faced in a certain direction and once inside, one crossed a small man made stream, before coming to the main buildings. This was in accordance with the Fen sheui, the buildings have roofs with upturned corners, in order to uphold the celestial order.
On each “wing” of the roof, were statues of monkeys, representing the monkey god. Monkeys, are fun loving and playful, and so naturally, they would want to keep dark, evil spirits away, because the dark spirit spoils the fun mood. Thus the Monkey statuery protects the inhabitants of the building from evil spirits. Architecture is heavily influenced by worldview. Think of the difference between Imperial war monuments and Vietnam war monuments. War moved from glory to gory! All of our building reflects our cultural consensus. At one time in the West, the church steeple was the dominant feature of any town and the Cathedral the most glorious adornment of any city. Today, the temple is the shopping centre, the Mall, the greatest architectural marker of our day, the god of greed sits enthroned in the Towers of Wall Street.
The way we run our governments and the way they run us are definitely affected by our worldview. This was seen in the way in which the Emperors were treated here, until the 1930’s, the Emperor was forbidden, in according with the teachings of Confucius to exercise in any way and so he was carried everywhere. As it turns out this was a touch unhealthy, and the average age of death was about 47 years old (the longest lived monarchs in Asia!).
The King had a council, which dictated according to religious omens and astrological signs, nearly every aspect of his life, including, when he could, “go in” to the queen. When the omens said she was fertile, he was free to visit. Other days, he had a harem to serve his needs. The emperors, were thought of as having divine right and in fact being at least semi-divine themselves.
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In Korea, you cannot say a word, without determining an entire posture. All verbs have different ending and nouns different forms, depending on whether you are addressing and older/higher person, or a younger/lower person, or a person your equal. English cultures, are first name cultures, primarily, reflecting the Christian value of the equality of all men under God, as they are “devoted to the proposition, that all men are created equal…”.
Yet even deeper the very framework of language is a worldview issue. The Confucian system of politics, had a further impact on language. Because all must reflect balance, so does the very alphabet, with which Koreans form words and sounds. The Hangul script was purposefully designed, unique amongst Asian nations, to be easy, orderly and lead to the literacy of the whole Korean people. It was so effective that the King who commissioned it, King Sajon, is the namesake of the UN reward in recognition of literacy achievement today. The Mongolian government, furthermore, is carefully considering the adoption of  Hangul, as their own form of communication today. But on what foundation was this language laid, was their any spiritual or philosophical aspects to it? Many assume at least the alphabet is neutral. If language cannot be neutral, at least symbol can be, right?
The Hangul alphabet, then consists of three types of Characters, Consonants, vertical vowels and horizontal vowels. These are grouped in consonant squares. (Note: if you have trouble viewing the Korean script, go to the “view” tab of your internet explorer, and choose, “encoding” then click on the Korean ISO. This will enable you to see the Korean Script).
There must, in accordance with Confucian principle be a balance between these, and so no consonant may appear without a vowel. For example, my name is Chad, a simple English construction, which can be transliterated into Hangul simply, 채드, or chad-uh. The ‘uh’ at the end very soft, yet definitely there, it balances the spelling of my name and gives full representation of the three balancing aspects. Now if there is no consonantal sound, the principle of balance must still be kept. Thus, a “null” consonant was created.
Similar in function to the Hebrew Aleph,(a)the Korean eiung (), this symbol represents the Confucian principle of “heaven”. It is a circle, because a circle is never ending perfection. Earth is represented by horizontal vowels, most easily represented by the straight horizontal line (), which makes the ‘uh’, as it were at the end of my name. These represent our planet, because, the Earth was thought to be a flat square. Between heaven and earth, stands the creature which bridges the gap, and thus vertical lines represent man, ().
There is absolutely “nothing” that is unaffected by our own, or someone else’s presuppositions. How can we figure out what is of God and what is of man? How can we know whether what we are hearing is pleasing to God, or rebellious? How can we tell if a certain way of thinking will make us happy?

Well to tie this all together, is a challenging task. Like Ignatius, we live in a world surrounded by philosophical and theological assumptions, and consciously, or unconsciously, everything we think, and say and do, reflects or is influenced by our theology/philosophy and the pre-assumptions which they give us. But why should we worry? What is the practical point?
The question we have to ask ourselves, is this, “Do we want to please God in our thinking and action?” and secondly, “Do we want to be satisfied, really and truly happy?” if the answer is yes to both questions then we are on the right track.
First I want to explore, how thinking about the way we think, can move from a boring tedious exercise, to a vibrant fun foundation for a happy and fulfilled life. Then I will explore how to please God in my thinking and actions.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My Mission field, Sanbon, Korea Posted by Picasa