Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

June 28, 2007

John 14:9 Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 7:50 pm

A faithful correspondent from Texas with abnormally white skin, confused by my statement in an earlier post that said "I was not asking to know Jesus. I was asking God to reveal himself to me" writes:

Not trying to be argumentative at all here. I really am trying to understand what you mean. Didn’t God reveal Himself to you with a personal touch of Jesus Christ in your life? You always seemed to me like you knew the Lord Jesus, and if you’ve seen Him, you’ve seen the Father. Unless you really didn’t know Him. I’m confused.

All sorts of moves have been made by various correspondents to recast my story, trying to spin it in some way that always ends up in denying what I did. So, for one last time, I will say that there was no Christ involved and I wanted to ascend the ladder in some sort of mystical move to see God in the nude. I wanted him to uncover (you know – apokaluptw – reveal) himself to me.

So I get a question, an attempt to understand. I will brush aside the, interesting in itself, juxtaposition of the four horseman of "reveal", "personal touch", "know" and "see" only to say that conspicuous by its absence is the only important verb "hear". Had the question been something like "since you said you made a profession of faith in Christ and since faith comes by hearing then you must have heard Christ. So what was your problem? I don’t understand." then I would have said "Now that’s a good question". But instead I have to deal with reveal, touch, know, and see.

Specifically "see" as in John 14:9 Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. At this point I have to make a guess as to what the Texan was driving at. It could be one of two things I think. What makes it difficult is that the writer from Texas has to know that I have never seen Jesus. But he says "if you have seen Jesus you have seen the father". So my guess is that the idea is that there is here posited some kind of ontological equation between Jesus the Son and God the Father. But maybe not. In the immediate context of the John 14 passage is Philip making his own gaffe which is incredibly reminiscent (in a lot of particular details) of my own gaffe. Here is the passage beginning from the first verse of the chapter:

John 14:1-8 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father‘?"

Don’t you find this absolutely riveting? Rather than preach a sermon on this passage, it hardly needs to be said that had the sermon I got that day which was entitled "A Visitation From God" instead been an exposition on John 14, this whole episode could have been been avoided. Nevertheless, it seems that the Texan’s question forms a mild rebuke. "What were you thinking – going up there for your ‘show us the Father’ move. Didn’t you know that Philip was chided for asking for the very same thing?"

But I don’t think that was the drift. There was no rebuke from the Texan. The statement "You always seemed to me like you knew the Lord Jesus, and if you’ve seen Him, you’ve seen the Father" I think goes like this. Since you apparently knew Jesus then that altar experience must have been what you always claimed it was – a successful encounter with God. So now that you are denying it am I being forced to conclude that you are denying that you ever knew Jesus as well? I am speculating. Who knows?

So, moving ahead then, what about the "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father"?  The first thing to say is that we know what it can’t mean. The basic Sunday school principle that one must interpret the more difficult passages with the more clear applies here.

  • John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (Note that part ‘b’ of that verse also shows the folly in my move , but part ‘a’ is perfectly clear).
  • 1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
  • 1 Timothy 6:15-16 he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

So what does it mean? Based on John 14:10-12 I think that Jesus is saying that when one has seen Jesus working, one sees the Father working. In other words this isn’t about seeing God in his essence but in his works in history. Simple.

As I said earlier, I am grateful for being pushed to examine scripture to exegete my experience. Without the faithful correspondent from Texas, who knows how long the very helpful John 14 passage might have gone unnoticed?

Powered by Qumana

June 22, 2007

Gratitude

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 8:49 pm

I am grateful for being forced to examine even closer what happened 28 years ago.(Although I am not too thrilled that things turned personal and drifted off topic as far as it did). These pressures to question my own evaluation have been good because issues are being brought up that are squeezing the fine bits of pulp through an even smaller mesh.

For example, I wondered whether I should even be doing this questioning. But now upon further review born from reflection driven by responses, I see it as mandatory. You’ll remember that I mentioned that I am analytical. By saying this I may have given the impression that this is just a quirk of my makeup. And that most people who may not be so analytical would rightly be excused from going through such mental strains to arrive at what exactly may have happened in such as scenario as mine. I assert that it is incumbent upon us to arrive at some conclusion as to what may have transpired or what didn’t transpire.

I will answer the question of 1) why this is so and 2) how to go about doing this analysis.

The reason this must be done is that experiences are not what forms our theology. To allow one’s experience to sit in the chair of primacy over our faith and practice is to say no to the sola scriptura principle. So, for example, something dramatic or life-changing happens to a person and he then concludes without further ado that this must be the so-called ‘born-again’ experience. However, scripture must be brought into play to determine if regeneration is even an experience (in the sense we have been talking about) at all. To allow experience to be the dominant factor in our knowledge of reality, to say that the ultimate arbiter of truth is experience is to be an empiricist. This is not the Christian way.

However, I now must clarify an important point about this questioning or analyzing. The crux of the matter is how one goes about questioning and analyzing. A bare questioning or analyzing would fall prey to the same problems inherent in just letting a bare experience stand on its own merit. To place our reason in the chair of primacy over our faith and practice is no safer a guide for coming to the knowledge of the truth than to allow our experiences to dictate to us what truth is. The simple reason for this is that we are fallen creatures. To allow our reason to function in a magisterial way is essentially to say to God that we know better, or well enough – while we go astray every one to his own way. The proper way to use our God given gift of reason is in a ministerial fashion. It serves us as a tool, if you will, in our study of God’s word. So, when God says “Come let us reason together”, his reasoning is different from ours. His is magisterial. Ours is ministerial. He is saying don’t let your reasoning sail off on its own. It must be done in accordance with his reasoning – namely via his word to us.

My experience in 1979 was a direct violation of this principle. I was presenting myself, or better, my own reasoning capacity as one ready to handle his reasoned truth on a one-to-one basis. I see that now as foolish and a denial of sola scriptura.

Next entry will cover “if you have seen me you have seen the father”, the “Damascus road” and “has God really said?” – all three of which were brought out as objections to my previous writeup.

Powered by Qumana

June 16, 2007

Angel of Light?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 10:26 am

After three months or so of showing up once per week at Bible Missionary Temple here’s what happened. I walked the sawdust trail up front to the “altar” for the so-called altar call.1 Having spoken later to a few of the folks that were there at the time, I am pretty sure some thought I was going up there for the so-called refreshing or refilling or perhaps a rededication.But most of them probably thought I was going up there for the second blessing – the so-called subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit that all Christians must experience if they expect to be perfected in this life.2 But no one really knew what I actually went up there to do. I went up there explicitly for the sole purpose of begging God to reveal himself to me. I am not making this up or nuancing this act for the sake of writing some provocative article. In fact for a great many years I have stood in front of small crowds of SD County Jail residents where numerous times I made the testimonial statement that I begged God to reveal himself to me.

It’s not like I was proud of having begged for this revelation and I doubt that my hearers took it that way. It was more like I was deriving some assurance of salvation after so many years of sinful behaviour. I rode this experience hard for the next 20 years. This was my token act of pietism and it meant a lot to me. But I must confess that a long time ago I began to worry that its mojo would fizzle out before I died. At which point I would stop being a believer.3

I have been accused of being overly analytical in the past. No doubt I am analytical. But what I am doing here falls under the umbrella of “working out my own salvation”. So, this is what I have come to understand about that experience nearly 30 years ago. In short I now see it as an impetuous act by an immature drug user that was borne out of the kind of thinking and living I had been doing for quite a number of years.4

Here are four reasons that explain why that act was a mistake.5

  • There are two kinds of revelation not three. The two of course are general revelation and special revelation. We all know what general revelation is so I won’t say anything about it. But special revelation may warrant some words. It sure sounds like I was begging for special revelation that day in 1979 but special revelation does not include personal, private, unique, secret revelation. God reveals himself by means of his redemptive acts in history as recorded in Scripture. And this revelation is all we get. Any other modus operandi on the part of God would result in chaos, every person having his own personal word from God.
  • This next one has to do with my gross misunderstanding of what God is. In fact my error is concealed in the question itself. I asked for revelation of God himself. In other words, I was asking for God to reveal his essence to me. I think this analogy explains the problem best. It’s kind of like how Donald Trump who owns most of Manhattan (so they tell me) relates to some obscure janitor who works the night shift in some 5th avenue hotel. If you take this relationship and then multiply Trump by some positive number infinitely, then you get the idea of the scale of being that exists between God and man. In this view then, God is the Supreme Being. Thus, our being and God’s being are basically from the same cloth. This view, though, is impossible to maintain in the face of the Christian doctrine of creation. God alone is being, God alone is the being. All of creation He created out of nothing and into nothing. Therefore there is not just a gap of sin between ourselves and God, there is an even greater gap of existence between ourselves and God. Therefore all of God’s essence and our essence as beings are in two entirely different categories. We are created in His image, yes, but we are a mere analogy of God. What God is, is not something to which we have access. Scripture tells us that God dwells in inaccessible light. He is completely and totally transcendent from our perspective. So, my opening line in this paragraph that spoke of my gross misunderstanding of what God is was really a mistake of using the word what versus the word who. Here are two quotes that are pertinent to this discussion: “Creation is the theater of God’s glory. The church is the theater of God’s redemption. We never know God in his essence, we only know God in his works. The essence of God is to be adored, not to be acquired into. They are mad who seek to discover what God is.” The second quote I like even better and relates to the title of this article. I was thunderstruck the first time I heard it. “All of you scholars and monks are in the same category. You want to climb up and see God in the nude. OK. you’ll see him naked, go to the top of the ladder, you’ll have your beatific vision with blinding light and majesty because the devil disguises himself as an angel of light. But let God get dressed and clothe himself in our flesh and come down to us. Then we can survive the encounter.”
  • The next point has to do with the fact that I was also seeking information, knowledge if you will. This too was a big misstep. It’s okay for faith to seek understanding as long as you go about it the right way. Luther says that one becomes a theologian through the triple play of prayer, study and suffering. I wanted none of that. I wanted direct one-to-one knowledge. I wanted my faith assured without using the God ordained means to achieve it. More importantly I completely overlooked this scripture “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I guess “overlooked” would be the wrong word. I probably was no longer aware of this verse, although I undoubtedly had learned it prior to my career of self-inflicted dain bramage. Unless I was willing to receive God’s knowledge as He accomodates it to me mediated through scripture, there would be no knowledge for me.
  • This last point was my biggest crime – by far. I foolishly attempted to approach God with out the mediation of Christ. I will close with this quote since I can’t say it any better than this: “If we try to ascend that ladder and transcend our creatureliness through the quest for vision or whatever, a vision of God in the nude, what we will actually find is either a mirror of ourselves, our own imagination , or we will find a God of pure wrath because God apart from Christ is damnation. If you walk into that throne room without the mediation of Jesus Christ, without being clothed in his righteousness, and led by him into the sanctuary through his blood you will be incinerated. So we’ve got this problem. The majesty of God on one side and the need of our salvation on the other” C.S. Lewis captured this thought as well – Jill was always wondering – “Aslan’s safe isn’t he?” “No Aslan is not safe but he’s good.” He’s good in Christ. He is good in his being but he has no reason to be anything but wrathful and just toward us.

There you have it. There is obviously more I could say about, for example, how well my mystical experience served me through difficult times. Or how it shaped my understanding. Or how it may have hampered my working out of my own salvation. Maybe some other time, but I doubt it.

——————————————————————————————————

1. It is worth noting (and not at all the point of this article) that this act in itself is in violation of the regulative principle. This sort of behaviour is not authorized in scripture as a commanded act to be performed in worship. It is a man-made invention that probably hails back to C.G. Finney, that anti-christian arch-heretic from the mid 19th century.

2.We have John Wesley to thank for this invention. To be fair Wesley later equivocated on this formulation by saying that with the impetus of the second blessing, Christians will only be able to eradicate known sin. But this disclaimer falls apart since what the Holy Spirit actually does is convict us of our sin with the result that all sin is known.

3. In fact it did die. By the mid 1990s I had been operating on fumes for a good bit. The death of my sisterVirginia gave me a temporary boost after which I was impressed by the need to work with more zeal than I had been.

4. By this I mean that I had flirted in my reading with some pretty bad stuff. For example google “Theosophical Society, Madame Blavatsky, or Jiddu Krishnamurti”. Also, I was fiddling around with the Baghavad Gita. Couple this with drugs and you have the making of a thoroughly Platonic world view

5. I realize that this analysis is not news to many of my readers. But all of it was news to me. These discoveries have been very liberating, obviously.

Powered by Qumana

June 13, 2007

I’ll Take Door Number Three.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 5:58 pm

Our little family of four left Michigan for California in the fall of 1978. As I was in a quandary deciding for Rome vs. Geneva in the spring of ’79, when a co-worker invited me (us) to church in June of that year it meant that I could choose neither – if I said yes to his invite. So, off to Bible Missionary Temple we went.

There’s a lot I could say about this church. But this outline correctly indicates that they held to:

  • The practice of laying on of hands to be filled with the Holy Spirit (with the evidence of speaking in other tongues).
  • The practice of laying on of hands to impart spiritual gifts other than tongues.
  • The belief Christians can be demonized and need to be delivered through the laying on of hands.
  • The belief that God has now restored all the ministry gifts back to the Church, especially the office of the prophet and apostle.
  • Divine healing is imparted via the laying on of hands
  • The concept of the restoration of the Tabernacle of David. Praise & Worship emphasized as a means to usher in God’s presence and to usher God’s people into His presence.
  • Singing in the spirit congregationally, i.e. in other tongues
  • The “song of the Lord” – a prophetic song
  • Emphasis on personal and directive prophecy
  • Women have a full and equal ministry role in the Church, i.e. women pastors, prophetesses, elders, etc.

This is not my outline but is a description of what was known as the “Latter Rain” movement. I have edited out some features that this movement was known for since I don’t believe I ever saw these features practiced or taught. What remains in this list, however, I saw or had related to me (in the demon possession case). The only objection I have to the above description is the term “speaking in tongues”. I have another phrase for it but I won’t be going into that here, since it is not my intent to launch a polemic against Pentacostalism on these specific points. There is one point above that I will address later.

Another point to note is that I had no idea that this is what this church either taught or believed or practiced – with these two exceptions which I heard our very first time there: Singing in the spirit congregationally, and the so-called prophetic “song of the Lord”.

Here is what happened. When I walked into that church, I heard the best horn band playing the best music I’d ever heard. Okay. I am exaggerating. A lot. But for a guy who used to play in bars in a horn band, I thought it was really cool that a church could give me the same feeling I used to get in bars. The next week, I showed up with my trombone and was in the ‘orchestra’ as they called it. From that point on we got even better. I’d never had that much fun playing trombone in church. And I had played often in church in Michigan, too. Both in ensembles and as a soloist. But none of that was anything like this.

What you have to take away from this is the incontrovertible fact that there was absolutely nothing about the Word of God that played any part in my returning the next week. It was entirely the music.

If this little report is a let down, you’ll have to stay tuned for the next installment where you find out what really happened behind door number three.

Powered by Qumana

June 7, 2007

Here’s a Blast from the Past

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 8:27 pm
  • I was baptized in July, 1948 (that’s a guess based on my birthdate of June 22, 1948)
  • I was reared in a Christian home

    • We prayed (father prayed) before every evening meal
    • We read the Bible and read a Bible lesson and then prayed again after every evening meal.
    • My mother read Bible stories to me (and my sister).
    • We of course went to church twice every Sunday.

      • Our church was in the Christian Reformed denomination – I remember being shocked that its total constituency as a denomination totalled around 300,000 in the early 60’s. These numbers were statistical noise compared to the Catholics, the Baptists, the Methodists. Even back then Reformed thinking was in a huge minority.
      • My favorite part was when the elders (12 strong) would walk down the aisle carrying 48 trays of wine in the communion cups. The smell was out of this world. Amazingly, today I don’t like the taste of wine – sour grapes.
    • I went to private Christian schools all the way from kindergarten into my junior year in college. (How much did that cost you, dad?)
  • I was a church member, having made my profession of faith somewhere around  1966. Later, for some weird reason the church never brought church discipline upon me. I was in need of it because 
  • Somewhere along the way I developed into

    •  a smart-aleck.

      • I think that for a long time this verse applied to me: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
    • later a rebel.
    • and eventually a habitual drug user – 10 years of it, in fact.

      • I managed to replace my father’s daily meal-time prayer and Bible reading with daily (hourly) drug use. Nice work.
  •  I got married and had kids. And for some reason – drugs rendering my mind even more childish and my rebellion even more stark – I never even considered getting my kids baptized.
  • In 1978, we moved to California to escape our friends in the hope that we could free ourselves from drug addiction.
  • We decided to go to church – I was in the habit of describing my life to that point as a tumbleweed – or as the phrase most eloquently puts it "one damned thing after another".
  • We had to make a choice between:

    • The Roman Catholic church – this was where my wife’s roots were.
    • The CRC – an easy and natural choice. I even met some CRC people in SoCal who were from back home. Plus, I tuned pianos for the San Diego CRC.
    • Or a possible third option
  • Stay tuned for the next installment where this wandering sheep, who – it seemed – was well on his way to ruining a good story, (in fact, patrons were seen leaving the theater well before the end of the first act) follows a path that brings ’em back in droves.

Powered by Qumana

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.