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Archive for August, 2011

I read the following quote in Jim Hamilton’s book God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment (a book I’m reviewing and have enjoyed thoroughly) during his discussion on the sentence of death in Genesis 3 (p78), and it got me thinking.

Adam, at the moment of his sin, brings death into the world.  Death is alienation from the life of God.  Death truly removes the couple from the freedom and innocence and lack of shame and fear that is found only in perfect obedience.  The moment they sin, Adam and Eve are removed from that realm of life, and in the opening of their eyes (3:7), they find themselves in the realm of death.  This spiritual reality is made a physical reality when they are banished from the garden of Eden (3:23-24).  But even here there is mercy: they will not have access to the tree of life, whereby they might live forever in a fallen state.  God gives the gift of physical death (3:22; 5:5).

I’ve italicized the sentences that give me the most trouble theologically.  This is not the first time I’ve encountered this viewpoint, but I’ve never been able to understand how one squares this with the biblical teaching on death.  Even within his own paragraph, Hamilton is holding two views that seem to me to be contradictory: death is both a judgment and a gift.  How can that be?

There are strong arguments against this view, besides the context of Genesis 3 and following.  Look at Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 15.  There he refers to death as an enemy, in fact, the last enemy to be defeated when Chris himself returns (vv20-26).  Or how about these verses from Romans 5, where “gift” appears:

But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Here, there is a true gift- grace, righteousness, life- that overthrows the sentence of death brought about by sin.  It seems odd to me that God would give a gift to overthrow a previously given gift.  If that’s the case, was the first “gift” really a gift at all?

Now, I understand the logic behind what Hamilton is saying.  The problem with it, however, is that he doesn’t (can’t?) back it up scripturally.  Death is never referred to as a gift, at least not that I’m aware of. It is an enemy that has been defeated in Jesus’ resurrection (see 1 Cor 15, previously quoted).  Death did, for a time, have reign, but that reign has been cast aside by the reign of life in Christ (Rom 5).  And its end is pictured so powerfully in Revelation 20:14, when death itself is thrown into the lake of fire.

So what do you think?  Is Hamilton drawing a valid inference from Gen 3:22?  Can death be a gift from God, as Hamilton asserts, and an enemy of God (as I’m sure he also believes)?

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“For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” (Ps 1:6)

50 billion years from now, if I may dare speak of eternity in the categories of time, no one will be writing learned dispositions on the significance of Adolf Hitler or Pol Pot, but every cup of cold water given in the name of the Lord Jesus will be celebrated.  Because the way of the wicked will perish.

 

D A Carson, preaching on Psalm 1

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Facebook Dynamics

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Facebook on this blog, but I’ve recently reactivated my account, evincing a softening on my earlier position.  What brought me back?  I read an article by Mark Driscoll about Santa Claus some time ago that suggested three options for Christian parents who wrestle with the Santa Claus question:  (1) Reject it, (2) receive it, or (3) redeem it.  With Facebook, I’ve opted for (3).

While Facebook can degenerate into mere relational candy, it can also be used to stay legitimately in touch with friends and family.  Furthermore, like Santa Claus, it isn’t going away any time soon.  It’s already firmly embedded into the culture I inhabit, so I might as well deal with it rather than avoid it.  As I’ve made a start at this, I’ve done some housekeeping, which brought up some interesting dynamics:

(1)  In the “religious views” category of my profile, I selected “Christian,” as one might guess.  But Facebook also offers some for a description below the simple declaration.  I found filling in this area to be very difficult, because I wanted to fill in all sorts of things that Christianity doesn’t mean to me (e.g., I’m not a member of the Tea Party movement).  It’s so discouraging to think of all the baggage that is attached to the word, and I found it impossible to write anything simpler than just referencing Acts 11:26, which is the first mention of the word “Christian” in the Bible.  This was in part inspired by something I read in An Evangelical Manifesto some years ago: “In the first instance, Christians ought to define themselves, and be defined, by what they are for, rather than what they are against.”  Ironically, I don’t entirely agree with that statement, but I do agree with the larger point that it’s not very helpful merely to define what something isn’t.

(2)  It’s hard to un-friend somebody.  I went through my friend list and found people who I did not remember or recognize, no matter how hard I tried.   I also removed some friends whose names that I remembered, even though I couldn’t think of one shared moment or interaction from our past, other than, perhaps, that we were in the same gym together when we graduated high school.  Why is it hard to un-friend somebody with whom you’ve spent very little (if any) time?  When said time is most likely decades in the past?  My guess is that it’s bound up in the implied language of taking somebody off your list of friends, viz., “You are not my friend.”  It feels like I’m rejecting somebody, and that never feels easy to me, whether it’s a mouse-click or an actual conversation.

(3)  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a temptation to “collect,” friends, whatever that achieves.  “Two more friends and I’ll have 100!”  What’s the itch being scratched here?  Probably the basic human need for relationship, love, acceptance, and all the rest.  Cue sermon.

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Last Sermon of the Summer

The sermon I preached at the Harbor a few weeks ago is available here.  I promise my next post will be actual written content, rather than another sermon link :)

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