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Dawkins was asked in an article - Where does evolution leave God?  He answered:

“Before 1859 it would have seemed natural to agree with the Reverend William Paley, in “Natural Theology,” that the creation of life was God’s greatest work. Especially (vanity might add) human life. Today we’d amend the statement: Evolution is the universe’s greatest work. Evolution is the creator of life, and life is arguably the most surprising and most beautiful production that the laws of physics have ever generated. Evolution, to quote a T-shirt sent me by an anonymous well-wisher, is the greatest show on earth, the only game in town.

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“Where does that leave God? The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear. Evolution is God’s redundancy notice, his pink slip. But we have to go further. A complex creative intelligence with nothing to do is not just redundant. A divine designer is all but ruled out by the consideration that he must at least as complex as the entities he was wheeled out to explain. God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.”

Again ask the question - who or what has Dawkins taken aim at?  He's railing against a divine designer entirely dependent on its own creation.

Rail away Richard.  Christian theology does a far better job, but if it makes you feel better - go for your life.

And if you want to lay the smackdown on some god-of-the-gaps who is posited simply to explain the inexplicable, then please don't let us stop you.

And if you're invigorated by venting splenetic rage on a god 'ruled out' by the logic of its own creation well Richard, who isn't?  I'm regularly energized by such disdain.  And we certainly have no wish to spoil your fun.

While you heap adolescent contempt on those gods, we'll be over here - stoning modern-day Paleys for providing you with such irrelevant and idolatrous targets.

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By the way - if you read the Dawkins quote and thought to yourself 'Aha, but who created the laws of physics!?' - you are Paley.  And I'm coming to get you.

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dawkins_southpark

I think, actually, [Richard Dawkins is] a pre-Christian atheist, because he never understood what Christianity is about in the first place! That would be rather like Madonna calling herself post-Marxist. You’d have to read him first to be post-him. As I’ve said before, I think that Dawkins in particular makes such crass mistakes about the kind of claims that Christianity is making. A lot of the time, he’s either banging at an open door or he’s shooting at a straw target.

Terry Eagleton (via Halden)

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But before we feel smug.  Let's allow him (and others) to critique a knee-jerk theism that too often passes for Christian apologetics:

[Conservative Evangelicals] despise Richard Dawkins while actually believing in the kind of God he rightly rejects, as if the existence of God were, in principle, demonstrable, as if the proposition “God exists” were a hypothesis to be affirmed or denied, as if God were simply the hugest of individuals. 

Kim Fabricius (I object to his other points, but this one has a lot of truth to it).

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One God furtherDawkins himself says that all he does is stretch his disbelief one God further than the Christians. 

Which is absolutely right.  Both Dawkins and the Christian reject Thor and Vishnu and the Flying Spaghetti Monster and any other super-being you care to imagine.  The task of the Christian apologist is not to establish a deity but to proclaim the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Mike Reeves recommends - the question for the atheist is 'Which God don't you believe in?'

And once they've described it, the response to have ready is 'I don't believe in that either, let me tell you about the cross.'

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I'm loving Lex Loizides's blog.  At the moment he's taking us through the history of open air preaching from Howell Harris to George Whitefield to John Wesley.

Here's Wesley's journal entry the first day he tried open air preaching:

At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation.

Whoever desires to become more vile desires a noble task!

 

And here's Whitefield describing one occasion of preaching to thousands:

‘The open firmament above me, the prospect of the adjacent fields, with the sight of thousands and thousands, some in coaches, some on horseback, and some in the trees, and at times all affected and drenched in tears together, to which sometimes was added the solemnity of the approaching evening, was almost too much for, and quite overcame me.’

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From Spurgeon's book: All of Grace

Do not attempt to touch yourself up and make yourself something other than you really are, but come as you are to Him who justifies the ungodly. …The Gospel will receive you into its halls if you come as a sinner, not otherwise. Wait not for reformation, but come at once for salvation. God justifieth the ungodly, and that takes you up where you now are; it meets you in your worst estate. Come in your disorder. I mean, come to your heavenly Father in all your sin and sinfulness. Come to Jesus just as you are: filthy, naked, neither fit to live nor fit to die. Come, you that are the very sweepings of creation; come, though you hardly dare to hope for anything but death. Come, though despair is brooding over you, pressing upon your bosom like a horrible nightmare. Come and ask the Lord to justify another ungodly one.

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And here's a paper I wrote on how to preach evangelistically to sinners without demanding repentance first.

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I just used this quote from CS Lewis's The Great Divorce to illustrate the difference between the two sons in Luke 15.  

It's a parable about a bus-load from hell who are Ghosts.  They come to the outskirts of heaven and the Bright Men from heaven come out to try to convince the Ghosts from hell to come in.

In this conversation a Ghost recognizes a Bright Man who he knew in life - and he knew him to be a murderer.

 

 

GHOST:  Look at me now (says the ghost, slapping its chest – but the slap made no sound).  I’ve gone straight all my life.  I don’t say I have no faults, far from it.  But I done my best all my life see.  I done my best by everyone – that’s the sort of chap I was. I never asked for anything that wasn’t mine by rights. If I wanted a drink, I paid for it, see.  And if I took my wages, I done my job see.  That’s the sort of man I was.

BRIGHT MAN – It would be much better (said the Bright man) if you wouldn’t talk like that.  You’re never going to get there like that.

GHOST:  What are you talking about. (says the Ghost) I’m not going on, I’m not arguing.  I’m just asking for nothing but my rights.  I just want to have my rights.  Same as you see

BRIGHT MAN:  Oh no, (said the Bright man) It’s not as bad as that.  I never got my rights and you won’t get your rights either.  You’ll get something so much better.

GHOST:  That’s just what I mean (says the Ghost).  I haven’t got my rights.  I’ve always done my best and I’ve never done anything wrong.  And here’s the thing.  Well, if you don’t mind my saying so – here’s the thing I wonder about.  Why should I be put down there below a bloody murderer like you.  What’s a murderer doing up there? And what is a sort like me doing down there?

BRIGHT MAN:  Well (the Bright man says) I don’t know where you’ll be put, just be happy and come.

GHOST: What do you keep on arguing for (says the Ghost) I only want my rights.  I’m not asking for anyone’s bleeding charity.

BRIGHT MAN – Oh then do (said the Bright man) – at once.  Ask for the bleeding charity.  Everything is here for the asking and absolutely nothing can be bought

GHOST:  That may be alright for you (said the Ghost) if they choose to let a bloody murderer in just because he makes a poor mouth at the last minute, that’s their look-out.  I don’t want charity though. I’m a decent man, and if I had my rights I’d have been there long ago and you can tell them I said so.

(The Ghost was almost happy now that it could in a sense threaten)

GHOST:  That’s what I’ll do – I’ll go home.  I didn’t come here to be treated like a dog.  I’ll go home.  Damn and blast the whole pack of you.

And still grumbling but whimpering a little bit as it picked its way over the sharp grasses – it left.

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Here's a beef of mine - when people almost completely reverse Gregory of Nazianzus's famous trinity quote while expressing admiration for it.  You know the one...

"I cannot think on the one without quickly being encircled by the splendor of the three nor can I discern the three without being straightway carried back to the one.".

I too love the quote.  But many times this is what the quotation is wheeled out to mean:

When I spend 600 pages of my systematic theology expounding a simple divine essence I then force myself to examine the Persons and when I've had enough of discussing the Persons I gleefully return to the omnibeing.

or

After I've thought of the god of monotheism for a bit I make sure I spend at least as long thinking about the gospel.  And once I'm done thinking about the gospel, then I make sure I think about that other idea - you know, god's oneness.

Here's how I reckon the reversal happens.  First people take Gregory to be saying something very basic - i.e. the One and the Three are 'equally ultimate' (or, if you're really posh, equiprimordial!).  Then you run away with the 'equally ultimate' thought and think of it as some kind of 'equal air time' agreement between competing political parties. 

But first of all, Gregory is saying something much more than that basic thought.  Look again at the 'cannot', the 'being encircled' and the 'carried back.'  Gregory is not forcing himself to give equal air time to One and Three.  Gregory says that the Oneness of God actually gives him the Three.  And the Three give Him the Oneness.  It's not that he's ensuring equal treatment, he doesn't need to turn from a consideration of Oneness to a consideration of Threeness.  It's a right contemplation of the Oneness of God itself that presents him with the Three.  And the Three simply present to him as the One God.

This is how the One and the Three are related.  The One God simply is the loving unity of those Three Persons. And those Three Persons simply are without remainder who this One God is.

Trinity simply means 'unity of three'.  That's how the One and the Three are co-ordinated. They are not separate topics to be separately studied.  You cannot talk about the One God if you're not talking about the Three Persons who are the One God.  That's the radical importance of Gregory's insight.

Now go and re-write those 600 pages.

Rant over.

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I think I need to get this book by Paul Miller - A Praying Life:

Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor, stumbling toward the palace of the great king. You have become your prayer. As you shuffle toward the barred gate, the guards stiffen. Your smell has preceded you. You stammer out a message for the great king: “I want to see the king.” Your words are barely intelligible, but you whisper one final word, “Jesus. I come in the name of Jesus.”

At the name of Jesus, as if by magic, the palace comes alive. The guards snap to attention, bowing low in front of you. Lights come on, and the door flies open. You are ushered into the palace and down a long hallway in to the throne room of the great king, who comes running to you and wraps you in his arms.

The name of Jesus gives my prayers royal access. They get through. Jesus isn’t just the Savior of my soul. He’s also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus. “Asking in Jesus’ name” isn’t another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. It is one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect.

HT Blazing Centre

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jonathan-edwards

Christocentrist has done a wonderful job of summarizing Edwards' views on the justifying faith of OT saints.

Here are some highlights of the highlights...

 

I. The person that in Jeremiah 2:2 and in many other places is spoken of as espousing that people Israel to himself, and that went before them in the wilderness, and brought ‘em into Canaan, and dwelt amongst them in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and temple, was the Son of God, as is most manifest by that, that he is often called the “angel of the Lord,” “the angel of God’s presence,” “the messenger of the covenant,” etc.

II. It was plainly and fully revealed to the church of Israel that this person was a different person from him in heaven that sustained the dignity and maintained the rights of the Godhead, and acted as first and head and chief in the affairs of God’s kingdom; and that this person, that had espoused the church of Israel to himself and dwelt amongst them as their spiritual husband, acted under him as a messenger from him. And as this was sufficiently revealed to that people, so the church of Israel all along understood it.

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V. The church of Israel had it plainly signified to ‘em that God, the first person in the deity, had committed them to the care and charge of this angel of his presence, that he had set him over them to be in a peculiar manner their protector, guide and Savior, and head of their communication and supplies, and God’s people trusted in him as such.

VI. The people of Israel could not but understand that this person was transcendently dear to God, i.e. to the first person in the deity.

VII. The saints in Israel looked on this person as their Mediator, through whom they had acceptance with God in heaven and the forgiveness of their sins, and trusted in him as such.

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X. God’s saints in Israel supposed that the Messiah, when he came, or the angel of the covenant, when he should come to dwell amongst men in the human nature, would make an end of their sins and wholly abolish the guilt of then by an atonement which he should make; and that the guilt of their sins, though removed from them and as it were laid upon that divine person who dwelt on the propitiatory in the temple, and was by him taken on himself, yet would not properly [be] abolished and made an end [of] till he should come.

XI. The saints in Israel understood that the way that the Messiah was to make a proper and true atonement for sin, and make an end of it, was by his own suffering and by offering up himself a sacrifice for sin.

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XIII. Such a dependence on the divine Mediator as has been spoken [of] was the revealed and known condition of peace and acceptance with God.

And thus I suppose the saints under the old testament trusted in Christ and were justified by faith in him.

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The original is here (it begins a third of the way down the page - p372 onwards).  What's fascinating about all of Edwards' arguments is that he makes them exclusively from the OT texts themselves.  He only quotes a NT text here or there to show that this has indeed been the correct interpretation.  Wonderful!

Do go read Christocentrist's whole summary.  And have a look around at his newish blog.

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Something I think the Lord has been teaching me recently is to prize both these truths:

I am in Christ

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Christ is in me

I am clothed in an alien righteousness but also filled with an outworking Power.  My standing before God is entirely outside myself - in Jesus.  Yet my walk in the world is enabled by an energy that is no less heavenly in origin but that springs from a new core within - the new heart.  Will's sermon on the New Birth is a great help in this direction.

Here are some more thoughts from Watchman Nee's little book on Ephesians - Sit, Walk, Stand.  In this section he is moving from our 'seated' reality with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph 1-3) to our 'walk' in the world (Eph 4-5).

God has given us Christ.  There is nothing now for us to receive outside of Him.  The Holy Spirit has been sent to produce what is of Christ in us; not to produce anything that is apart from or outside of Him...We have been accustomed to look upon holiness as a virtue, upon humility as a grace, upon love as a gift to be sought from God.  But the Christ of God is Himself everything that we shall ever need... Our life is the life of Christ, mediated in us by the indwelling Holy Spirit Himself.

No wonder that this is Paul's prayer as he transitions from the 'seated' reality to our earthly 'walk':

 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.  (Eph 3:14-19)

 

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From Watchman Nee's Sit, Walk, Stand.

"An engineer living in a large city in the West left his homeland for the Far East. He was away for two or three years, and during his absence his wife was unfaithful to him and went off with one of his best friends. On his return home he found he had lost his wife, his two children and his best friend. At the close of a meeting which I was addressing, this grief-stricken man unburdened himself to me. 'Day and night for two solid years my heart has been full of hatred,' he said. 'I am a Christian, and I know I ought to forgive my wife and my friend, but though I try and try to forgive them, I simply cannot. Every day I resolve to love them, and every day I fail. What can I do about it?' 'Do nothing at all,' I replied. 'What do you mean?' he asked, startled. 'Am I to continue to hate them?' So I explained: 'The solution of your problem lies here, that when the Lord Jesus died on the Cross he not only bore your sins away but he bore you away too. When he was crucified, your old man was crucified in him, so that that unforgiving you, who simply cannot love those who have wronged you, has been taken right out of the way in his death. God has dealt with the whole situation in the Cross, and there is nothing left for you to deal with. Just say to him, 'Lord, I cannot love and I give up trying, but I count on thy perfect love. I cannot forgive, but I trust thee to forgive instead of me, and to do so henceforth in me.'

The man sat there amazed and said, 'That's all so new, I feel I must do something about it.' Then a moment later he added again, 'But what can I do?' 'God is waiting till you cease to do,' I said. 'When you cease doing, then God will begin. Have you ever tried to save a drowning man? The trouble is that his fear prevents him trusting himself to you. When that is so, there are just two ways of going about it. Either you must knock him unconscious and then drag him to the shore, or else you must leave him to struggle and shout until his strength gives way before you go to his rescue. If you try to save him while he has any strength left, he will clutch at you in his terror and drag you under, and both he and you will be lost. God is waiting for your store of strength to be utterly exhausted before he can deliver you. Once you have ceased to struggle, he will do everything. God is waiting for you to despair.'

My engineer friend jumped up. 'Brother,' he said, 'I've seen it. Praise God, it's all right now with me! There's nothing for me to do. He has done it all!' And with radiant face he went off rejoicing."

 

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