Sunday, October 21, 2012

Who was David Brainerd?

David Brainerd, missionary, born in Haddam, Connecticut, April 20th, 1718; died in Northampton, Massachusetts, October 9th, 1747.


From early childhood he had strong" religious feeling, and after entering Yale College in 1739, at the time of the great revival under Whitefield, his zeal led him into indiscretions. The' attitude of the College toward the "New Lights" was cold, and students had been forbidden to attend their meetings.

Brainerd, then in his junior year, disobeyed this rule, and was also heard to say of one of the tutors that he had "no more religion than the chair on which he sat." Refusing to make public confession of these offences in chapel, Brainerd was expelled. He never ceased to regard this action as unjust, though acknowledging that he had been at fault.

After leaving College he began to study theology, and on July 20th, 1742, was licensed to preach by the Danbury association of ministers. He had for some time been interested in missions, and in the autumn after he was licensed received an appointment from the society for the propagation of Christian knowledge as missionary at the Indian village of Kaunameek, twenty miles from Stock-bridge, Massachusetts.

He arrived at his post on April 1st, 1743, and labored there for a year, living in a wig-wam and enduring many hardships. After he had persuaded the Indians to move to Stockbridge and place themselves in charge of the minister there, Mr. Brainerd was ordained by the New York presbytery at Newark, New Jersey, and went to the forks of the Delaware, where he remained for about a year, making two visits to the Indians of the Susquehanna, but meeting with little success.

He next went to Crossweeksung, near Freehold, New Jersey, where his labor had a wonderful result. In less than a year he had baptized seventy-seven persons, of whom thirty-eight were adults, and the lives of most of these were permanently reformed. In 1747 Brainerd's health, exhausted by his labors, broke down completely. He had never been strong; while he was in College a severe illness had almost ended his life, and after that he suffered from consumption.

By advice of his physician, he determined to visit his friends in New England. July, 1747, found him in Northampton, Massachusetts, at the house of Jonathan Edwards, to whose daughter he was betrothed, and here he remained till his death.

Brainerd wrote an account of his labors at Kaunameek, which was published with the sermon delivered at his ordination. His journals, under the titles "Mirabilia Dei apud Indices" and "Divine Grace Displayed," appeared in 1746. His life, compiled chiefly from his diary, was written by Jonathan Edwards (1749), and a second edition, including the journals mentioned above, was edited by Serene Edwards Dwight (New Haven, Connecticut, 1822). J. M. Sherwood edited a third edition, with an introductory essay on Brainerd's life and character (Yew York, 1884). An abridgment, by John Wesley, of Edwards's life, was also published in England (2d American ed., Boston, 1821). See also Sparks's "American Biographies " and Sprague's "Annals of the American Pulpit."

(This biography was extracted from the public domain).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guest blogger: Dr. Matt Farlow

Dr. Farlow and his family reside in Folsom, CA where he currently serves as the Director and Pastor of Inreach Ministries for Lakeside church. Matt completed a Ph.D. in Theology and Literature at The University of St Andrews. Matt’s doctoral research focused on humanity’s participation in God’s drama of reconciliation. His project investigated God’s imaginative performance in order to make further attempts in realizing the relationship between personhood (being) and how our identity helps to define our role and mission upon the world’s stage.

************************************************************************
                           
              C.S. Lewis—A man enmeshed in the scandalous nature of       
                                           the Cross

Alcohol, suffering, pain, imagination, theology, tobacco, commitment, hell and the like…All the aforementioned have been discussed with regards to who this man is we know as C.S. Lewis. Each of the previous posts have brilliantly painted the portrait of the man called Jack (by his friends), a man who has arguably had one of the most profound and significant influences on Christianity, and in particular my own studies and faith.

Like all of us, Lewis wrestled with the question of who he is. At the age of 15 he claimed to be an atheist, even amidst growing up in a church-going family. Through his work, Lewis continued to wrestle with the question of “who am I?” – and it is my belief that Lewis knew each one of us wrestles with this question. The profundity of Lewis’ work is that he understood and embedded the reality that the question of who I am must be answered in light of who I say Jesus is. I can only be true to myself if indeed I know who I am.


Thus, Jesus’ question “Who do you say I am?” (Mat 16.15; Mar 8.29; Lk 9.20) is the great quenching question. It silences all others, for it is itself the answer to everything. Like Lewis, who as a child was angry with God, we all think we have the right to make certain demands of Almighty God. We are quite ready to place God in the dock so as to question Him, to question His ways. We approach Him with many questions, questions with a touch of complaint in them, with a note of self-excuse, with more than a hint of self-satisfaction. Yet, God is ready with His answer: “What do you think about the Christ?”

So many refuse to accept the person of Christ in His deity because of His scandalous nature. They cannot reply to the great question of who Christ is with “My Lord and my God” (John 20.28). They remain utterly silent not realising that God is here and He is not silent. This Christ who began by appealing to our heart ends by compelling our attention. Instead of giving attention to the scandalous nature of Christ, many desire for Him simply to be safe, but as Lewis wrote in The Chronicles of Narnia, Jesus (Aslan) is not safe, but He is good. Thus, the question remains, “Who do you say I am?”

Jesus Christ is Lord because He is God. In this vein, Lewis’ point made about the deity of Christ in his classic, Mere Christianity, must be stated:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come away with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." 
Christianity is rooted in the act and love of the Trinity. It is a faith rooted in the performance of Christ such that through the Holy Spirit we (humanity) might come to participate in the on-going transformative and redemptive drama of the Godhead. In some sense, it is faith in the absurd. The whole of our faith is focused on the appalling end of Jesus, of the Cross, as having been brought about pro nobis, (for us); Paul even says: for each one of us, thus, for me.

The foundation of Christianity is scandalous and, as theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar points out, this scandal cannot “be removed by further theoretical discussion but only by praxis. . . . God shows his truth to us through acting, and the Christian (including the anonymous Christian, the Samaritan) likewise shows that he is following in Christ’s footsteps by acting in love towards his fellow men.” Faith in Christ is an act that supersedes all others, because as an act that participates in Christ’s drama of salvation, it defines and answers the question of “who I am.”

However, in modern times, faith has been weakened in meaning so that some people use it to mean self-confidence. But in the Bible, true faith is confidence in, and surrender to, the Father through the Son and in the Spirit, not to oneself. Lewis wrote that “We must not encourage in ourselves or others any tendency to work up a subjective state which, if we succeeded, we should describe “faith,” with the idea that this will somehow insure the granting of our prayer…The state of mind in which desperate desire working on a strong imagination can manufacture is not faith in the Christian sense. It is a feat of psychological gymnastics.”

Thanks to giants such as C.S. Lewis we can confidently come to realize that while we are called to live by faith, we must know that we are not left alone in this call, as God is with us and we are with God. We participate in God’s eternal act of love (Christ’s salvific act) through our willingness to step into and live out the scandalous reality of the cross – a reality that transformed a 15 year old Irish atheist into one of the most profoundly influential Christian authors and thinkers of our time.

For more from Dr. Matt Farlow, check it out his blog http://lakesidechurch.com/godtalk or you can follow him at https://twitter.com/drmatthewfarlow .

Thursday, October 4, 2012

C.S. Lewis—A man who believed in Purgatory


Is this true? Did C.S. Lewis believe in the concept of Purgatory? See for yourself. 

Below are Lewis’ words:
“Of course, I pray for the dead (i.e. the dead in Purgatory). The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best with unmentionable to Him?” (Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on prayer).

“How do I know all her (Joy, Lewis’ deceased wife) anguish is past? I have never believed before—I thought it immensely improbable—that the most faithful of souls could leap straight into perfection and peace the moment death has rattled in the throat.”

Again, referring to Joy (his deceased wife),
“I know there are not only tears to be dried but stains to be scoured.”

And finally....
“The job will not be completed in this life; but He means to get us as far as possible before death.”

Therefore, it seems self-evident that Lewis wholeheartedly believed in some concept of Purgatory.

Now before I give my thoughts regarding Purgatory, I want to be clear on what Lewis believed (and didn’t believe) about Purgatory.

Some would say C.S. Lewis believed in the (recently popularized) sanctification (i.e. cleansing) model of Purgatory, rather than the classic model of satisfaction (i.e. punishment for your sins).

But if you are like me you are wondering, "What is the sanctification model of Purgatory?" 

Basically, it is the idea that Purgatory is necessary to make the Christian fully or completely sanctified before you enter Heaven.

Lewis explains,
“Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleansed first.” “It may hurt, you know”—even so, sir.”
Again, this is fascinating. Lewis believes that Christians will actually demand to be placed in Purgatory. The beauty and purity of Heaven will still be too much for their sinful disposition, so the Christian must be purged so that they can reside in their eternal home. But let us not overlook that (according to Lewis) God seems to be willing to complete the process of Sanctification unilaterally, which continues to be the theological position of most Protestants.  

So, is Lewis’ correct? Should Protestants reexamine this doctrine, especially since most of us revere the legendary Oxford Don for his literature and his apologetics?

Here is my answer in four distinct arguments:

#1—There is not one explicit (or implicit) verse advocating the concept of purgatory.

Those who oppose this doctrine often argue this point: There is no biblical evidence. And if there is no biblical evidence, then there is no theological evidence. What else do we base our theology on?


#2—It cannot be reconciled with justification by faith alone.


This was the main objection by the Reformers. The concept of Purgatory (i.e. the satisfaction model) requires justification by works. In other words, it is your works that releases you from Purgatory. It is your works that satisfies the wrath of God. It is your works that reconcile you to God. And finally, it is your works that grant you entrance into Heaven.

The truth: The doctrine of Purgatory distorts the gospel of Jesus Christ, therefore, it is heresy.


#3—Scripture seems to teach immediate placement of individuals in Heaven (and maybe in Hell).

What else can we conclude from the interaction of Jesus and the thief on the cross?
Luke 23:42 And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

It seems clear that Jesus and the thief went immediately into Heaven.

Someone may ask, “Is it possible Purgatory is Paradise?” I mean, didn’t C.S. Lewis believe in something like that?

Yes, he did.

Notice the words of Lewis’ guide in The Great Divorce:
“It depends on the way you are using the words. If they leave that grey town (i.e. Hell) behind it will not have been Hell. To any that leaves it, it is Purgatory. And perhaps you had better not call this country Heaven. Not Deep Heaven, you understand. You can call it the Valley of the Shadow of Life.”
Interesting, isn’t it?

Ok, let us reason together for a moment. Now if there is any legitimacy in the sanctification model of Purgatory, isn’t the thief on the Cross the example Par Excellence? In other words, if anyone needed the “sanctifying work of Purgatory”, it is the thief on the cross, because he had no time to grow in sanctification or prepare himself for the beauties of Heaven.  

So it seems reasonable to me that if you add the conversion of the thief with the finality of Hebrews 9:27, the reader must conclude that when you walk through death’s doors, there is no opportunity for purging, learning or changing your mind. All sales are final.


#4—The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

I believe this is main scriptural evidence against the sanctification model of Purgatory. 
Matthew 20:1-16 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' 7 They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' 13 But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' 16 So the last will be first, and the first last."
So now if we use this parable as the grid for understanding Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross, then this guy was paid for WORKING ONE HOUR. 

Do we have the right to condemn God for being gracious to the thief? Let us remember that God does not have to show His favor to anyone. 

Apparently, it brought God glory to save a wretched sinner just moments before his death.

Someone might ask, “Was it legitimate?” or “Was it a foxhole conversion?” Well, we have two options at this point. Either Jesus knew his heart or He didn’t. Oh….and if your answer if Jesus didn’t know, then He lied to the thief. Absurd!

Conclusion

C.S. Lewis is one of the greatest storytellers and apologists ever to walk the face of the earth. Christians should not hesitate to read his works over and over again. But was he right about Purgatory? Nope. Dead wrong…..no pun intended.