Saturday, January 29, 2011

Can one affirm Semper Reformanda - "Always Reforming" - without actually affirming the Reformation?

If one wants to sincerely stake a claim for Semper Reformanda as the Reformers like Luther, Calvin and knox did, and in turn claim on top of that one's own theology is the fruit thereof, then it logically follows that:

1) There will be an affirmation of what Reformers past sought to contend for and a denunciation of whatever errors they rejected

2) There will be a continuation, as well as Contextualization, of what was fought for then and how the issues are applicable today

3) The core issues will become clearer and clearer consistantly and not merely adding to obscurity


4) There in no way will be a return to the mistakes of ages past. 

That being said, if you claim that you are "Always Reforming", what then, say you on the issues such as Works vs Grace, Justification by Faith, Election, Original Sin, et al? 

Or do you just write it off as just age-old debate with little relevance today?

To quote C.S. Lewis on the fallacy of "Chronological Snobbery":

"In the first place he [Owen Barfield] made short work of what I have called my 'chronological snobbery,' the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also 'a period,' and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them."
- Surprised by Joy (chapter 13)

When one looks at the history of the church-age, was it God's Will that men like Calvin and Luther ignited the reformation? If so, why should what they fought for not be a matter of study and contention in the church today? 

That's the spirit of "Semper Reformanda".

Friday, January 14, 2011

Where is God in the Queensland floods?

Amidst the chaos of floods and torrents dominating Queensland, surely the question has been asked in the minds of many: "Where is God? If he's all loving and all-powerful, how could he let this happen?"

Scripture is very explicit with regards to the range and extent of God’s sovereignty:

11 Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power 
   and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, 
   for everything in heaven and earth is yours. 
Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; 

you are exalted as head over all. 

12 Wealth and honor come from you; 

you are the ruler of all things. 
In your hands are strength and power 

to exalt and give strength to all.

1 Chronicles 29:11-12

 39 “See now that I myself am he! 

There is no god besides me. 
 put to death and I bring to life, 

I have wounded and I will heal, 

and no one can deliver out of my hand.
Deuteronomy 32:39

6 “The LORD brings death and makes alive; 

he brings down to the grave and raises up.
7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth; 

he humbles and he exalts. 

8 He raises the poor from the dust 

and lifts the needy from the ash heap; 

he seats them with princes 

and has them inherit a throne of honor.
   “For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; 

on them he has set the world.
1 Samuel 2:6-8

7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, 
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, 

or let the fish in the sea inform you. 

9 Which of all these does not know 

that the hand of the LORD has done this? 

10 In his hand is the life of every creature 

and the breath of all mankind.
Job 12:7-10

6 The LORD does whatever pleases him, 

in the heavens and on the earth, 

in the seas and all their depths.
Psalm 135:6

7 I form the light and create darkness, 

I bring prosperity and create disaster; 

I, the LORD, do all these things.
Isaiah 45:7

This also includes matters of “chance”, “luck” and “probability”:

33 The lot is cast into the lap, 

but its every decision is from the LORD.
Proverbs 16:33

God allows and uses the sinful actions of the wicked for the “greater good”:

4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.[a]
8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.
Genesis 45:4-8

21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.
Exodus 4:21

4 The LORD works out everything to its proper end— 

even the wicked for a day of disaster.
Proverbs 16:4

24 “This is what the LORD says—
   your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:
   I am the LORD, 

the Maker of all things, 

who stretches out the heavens, 

who spreads out the earth by myself, 

25 who foils the signs of false prophets 

and makes fools of diviners, 
who overthrows the learning of the wise 

and turns it into nonsense, 

26 who carries out the words of his servants 

and fulfills the predictions of his messengers,
   who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’ 
   of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt,’ 
   and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ 
27 who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, 

 and I will dry up your streams,’ 

28 who says of Cyrus [King of PERSIA] , ‘He is my shepherd 

and will accomplish all that I please; 
he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” 

and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’
Isaiah 44:24-28

6 When a trumpet sounds in a city, 

do not the people tremble? 
When disaster comes to a city, 

has not the LORD caused it?
Amos 3:6

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[a] put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
Acts 2:22-23

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
   “‘Why do the nations rage 

and the peoples plot in vain? 

26 The kings of the earth rise up 

and the rulers band together 
against the Lord 

and against his anointed one.
 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Acts 4:23-30
5 “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger,
   in whose hand is the club of my wrath!
6 I send him against a godless nation,
   I dispatch him against a people who anger me,
to seize loot and snatch plunder,
   and to trample them down like mud in the streets.
7 But this is not what he intends,
   this is not what he has in mind;
his purpose is to destroy,
   to put an end to many nations.
8 ‘Are not my commanders all kings?’ he says.
 9 ‘Has not Kalno fared like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad,
   and Samaria like Damascus?
10 As my hand seized the kingdoms of the idols,
   kingdoms whose images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria—
11 shall I not deal with Jerusalem and her images
   as I dealt with Samaria and her idols?’”
 12 When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. 13 For he says:
   “‘By the strength of my hand I have done this, 
   and by my wisdom, because I have understanding. 
I removed the boundaries of nations, 

I plundered their treasures; 

like a mighty one I subdued
[a] their kings. 
14 As one reaches into a nest, 

so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations; 
as people gather abandoned eggs,
so I gathered all the countries; 
not one flapped a wing, 

or opened its mouth to chirp.’”
 15 Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it, 

or the saw boast against the one who uses it? 
As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up, 
   or a club brandish the one who is not wood! 

16 Therefore, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, 

will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors; 
under his pomp a fire will be kindled 
   like a blazing flame. 

17 The Light of Israel will become a fire, 

their Holy One a flame; 
in a single day it will burn and consume 

his thorns and his briers. 

18 The splendor of his forests and fertile fields 

it will completely destroy, 

as when a sick person wastes away. 

19 And the remaining trees of his forests will be so few 

that a child could write them down.
Isaiah 10:5-19

At this point, some may ask “If indeed God uses the King of Assyria as his weapon of judgment (v15) against Israel in spite of such not being what he intends in his mind to do personally, why does he pronounce woe upon him?”
While the destruction of Israel may not be upon the King of Assyria’s agenda IN HIS MIND, his HEART IS STILL INCLINED towards tyranny and destruction (v8-11) – which is still displeasing to God.  

Furthermore, God is sovereign over the actions of Angels AND demons/evil spirits:

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels, 

you mighty ones who do his bidding, 

who obey his word.
Psalm 103:20

19 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. 20 And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
   “One suggested this, and another that.
21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’
22 “‘By what means?’ the LORD asked.
   “‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
   “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’
1 Kings 22:19-22

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:31-32

Psalm 104 beautifully describes that God is the prime sustainer and operator over all creation:

1 Praise the LORD, my soul.
   LORD my God, you are very great; 

you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
 2 The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; 

he stretches out the heavens like a tent 

3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. 
He makes the clouds his chariot 

and rides on the wings of the wind. 

4 He makes winds his messengers,[a]
flames of fire his servants.
 5 He set the earth on its foundations; 

it can never be moved. 

6 You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment; 

the waters stood above the mountains. 

7 But at your rebuke the waters fled, 

at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; 

8 they flowed over the mountains, 

they went down into the valleys, 

to the place you assigned for them. 

9 You set a boundary they cannot cross; 

never again will they cover the earth.
 10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines; 

it flows between the mountains. 

11 They give water to all the beasts of the field; 

the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 

12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters; 

they sing among the branches. 

13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; 

the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work. 

14 He makes grass grow for the cattle, 

and plants for people to cultivate— 

bringing forth food from the earth: 

15 wine that gladdens human hearts, 

oil to make their faces shine, 

and bread that sustains their hearts. 

16 The trees of the LORD are well watered, 

the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. 

17 There the birds make their nests; 

the stork has its home in the junipers. 

18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats; 

the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.
 19 He made the moon to mark the seasons, 

and the sun knows when to go down. 

20 You bring darkness, it becomes night, 

and all the beasts of the forest prowl. 

21 The lions roar for their prey 

and seek their food from God. 

22 The sun rises, and they steal away; 

they return and lie down in their dens. 

23 Then people go out to their work, 

to their labor until evening.
 24 How many are your works, LORD! 

In wisdom you made them all; 

the earth is full of your creatures. 

25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, 

teeming with creatures beyond number— 

living things both large and small. 

26 There the ships go to and fro, 

and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
 27 All creatures look to you 

to give them their food at the proper time. 

28 When you give it to them, 

they gather it up; 
when you open your hand, 

they are satisfied with good things. 

29 When you hide your face, 

they are terrified; 
when you take away their breath, 

they die and return to the dust. 

30 When you send your Spirit, 

they are created, 

and you renew the face of the ground.
 31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; 

may the LORD rejoice in his works— 

32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, 

who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
 33 I will sing to the LORD all my life; 

I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 

34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, 

as I rejoice in the LORD. 

35 But may sinners vanish from the earth 

and the wicked be no more.
   Praise the LORD, my soul.
   Praise the LORD.[b]

In light of all this, man has no right to challenge God’s will:

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
   “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, 
   and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[b] 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[c] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? Romans 9:14-24

Returning to the original question of “Where is God in the midst of the QLD flood”?
Some may strongly object to the idea of God yielding so much control over creation.
 “Are you actually saying God
allows things like rape and murder? Or earthquakes and tsunamis? That doesn’t seem like a very loving God if you ask me.”
But does the alternative – a God who proffeses to merely be “in charge” yet is not actually “in
control” – really seem that better? Unless God does have perfect Providence, what then, is the point of putting faith into our prayers or trust into his promises? Acknowledging the providence of God should settle within our hearts a trust towards Him that no matter what is going on, “God works all things to the good of those who love Him.”

Furthermore, within God’s providence, love and mercy are expressed in that while the universe is so well fine-tuned that nothing is outside of God’s grasp or control, such is done in a manner that demonstrates his love and mercy: 

25  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28  And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
Matthew 6:25-32

Hence, we can trust that within the overarching scheme of God’s sovereignty, there exists the grace to allow for provision in the midst of lack, healing in response to sickness, comfort during hardship. All of these things are in God’s hands.

When I pray for the situation in my home town, I do not do so as one quick to put God at fault while he runs around in frustration crying out “How could this happen?!” It is blasphemy to think in such terms, much less actually pray as such were true.

I don’t by any means claim to know the ins and outs of why anything and everything happens apart from knowing that God is God and neither is Satan, the weather, or even myself. I pray with the assurance and peace of heart that because God is in control, he does answer our prayers – spoken from submission, not assertion – and has the power to renew and restore.
I do not know what the outcome of all of this will be. But one thing that is for sure is that the city of brisbane will never again be the same. 

Some may ask, “What good can possibly come of this?”
Look at the Haitian earthquake: a nation given over to Voodoo and Witchcraft came under the awesome power of God.

Almost immediately, the doors were opened to the church to serve and minister. While Haiti is still in ruins, we can still praise God that faithful Christians were able and willing to secure the flag of the coming Kingdom upon Haitian soil.

Should we not expect the same for Brisbane and Queensland?