My Dad is With Jesus

My Dad, Ron Grow (1947–2021) died at 4am (pst) on January 11th, 2021. He had been in and out of the hospital over the last two years, and had other health problems over the years prior. This time he ended up in the hospital in July and then after being in hospital for close to three months spent the last month and a half or so in a nursing home under hospice care. He was a retired Conservative Baptist Pastor, and lived in Southern California (where he was also born). I love my dad immensely, and miss him more than words can articulate. Please keep our family, and me, in prayer through this season of grievance. He was suffering greatly at the time of his death, so I find great comfort in knowing he is now full of the joy and health of the Lord at this very moment (I try to imagine what that looks like, but it is hard). The sense and reality of absence right now can be overwhelming, as you many of you know who have lost close loved ones as well. Death still has a sting, but it is the last enemy that will finally be put under Jesus’ feet at the eschaton. I pray for the eschaton, that its eschatos, Jesus Christ, might come, and come quickly! I have all the more reason to want to be there now. I won’t end this with the typical RIP; that seems too final. I don’t want closure; I am remaining open to the notion that I know the One that sees my Dad right before Him right now. I find great hope and blessed assurance in this. I pray that the Lord tells my Dad, to his face, that I love Him; and I am confident He does. But please do pray for the family. The funeral will be in a few weeks, and so until that happens it will be hard to move forward with certain things; like the mourning process. You can read a tribute post I wrote for my Dad over a year ago now. I wanted him to read something like this before he left for glory (and he did read it).

PS. My blog post output might be even slower than it has been during this next season, we will see. On the other hand, writing has always been therapeutic for me.

A Sketch of 2020: Have No Other gods Before the Living God in Jesus Christ

And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. –Exodus 20.1-6

I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. –II Corinthians 11.1-6

What a raucous year, eh! The kingdom of the Beast was exposed by the most ironic of figures, none other than: Donald Trump. It wasn’t the church bearing witness to Jesus Christ in contradistinction to the world system; instead it was a narcissistic unlikely character like the Donald. The Beast exposed itself over and over again; whether it is through the forwarding of false Russia claims, an impeachment of Trump based on actions that those impeaching him had engaged in, with the Ukraine and Russia. I mean who comes up with things like this? As they say: the truth is stranger than fiction. Not to be outdone by all of the aforementioned fabrications, by the Beast, then they concoct a way, through mass media, to fear people into believing that a flu-like virus (of the sort we have known for centuries) was like the Black Plague of yore; or at least the Spanish Flu. The Beast was then able to use this fear (and still is) to lockdown the economy; destroy the livelihoods of millions of people, domestic and abroad; keep people from physically fellowshipping in the churches; and then construct an elaborate scheme to use mail-in-ballots (and other means) to defrock the American populace of their right to a fair and legal election. The Beast has done all of this out in the open for those who have eyes to see; seemingly many of you who read me don’t have those eyes. And now the result has been a serious polarization of the society with people running into their group-thinks rather than towards the truth (and the correspondence thereof).

The real lurch of this whole thing though is that because of this deep polarization Christians have come to elevate personages, parties, and ideologies up to the level of God. The concern I have now is that those who placed ALL of their hope in Donald Trump have equated him with God’s providential will for America. Many of these Christians have bet all of their hopes on him. When he fails, and he will because he is a mere man, many of these folks will walk away disillusioned and no longer have a trust in God. Of course if things are this fickle for them, and they are for many!, then it would only be illustrative of the fact that they never really had a real and saving trust in the living God; instead it was only an ‘incidental faith’ wherein they had a felt need for God to bring them a sense of stability and salvation against a clear and roaring dragon. Once this conditional wasn’t met these people will walk away in despair of soul attempting to fill this divine vacuum—created by the loss of Trump as Savior—with some other self-incurved means of worship and delight. I see this as a real and pressing danger; it is always present for Christians and non-Christians alike; the danger of idolatry.

On the other hand all the never-Trumpers out there have elevated their never-Trumperism to a level of the divine just the same. Once they have had their need met they too will walk away with a sense of smug self-assurance, and maybe even think that God truly is on their side. But the sickening part about this ‘side’ of things is what it took for these wanderlust souls to get the god they wanted. They had to sell their souls for a big pottage of lies and deception; all in the name of being polite, and submissive. These types see normalcy and the status quo as God; they believe that the institutions of society provide the order and regularity that any civil society must have in order to flourish; thus they will divinize the indomitable human spirit just so they can achieve these component parts of what they take to be the stuff of a normal, polite, and quiet life.

There is clear overlap between the two-sides just sketched: the primary overlap is that all involved, whether their aims are ultimately noble or ignoble, respectively, is that humanity ends up worshipping humanity rather than the true and living God pro nobis. All involved in these sketches violate the paradigmatic commands of God to have no other gods before Him; and they primarily do so by assigning the Christ’s attributes to mere humans, or human-formed ideas that are merely self-projections of an openly wicked and depraved heart. Don’t get me wrong, I do think the Christian, in particular, ought to be about bearing witness to the truth; but they must be vigilant to do so in a way that is genuine witness bearing rather than ‘divinity-signaling’ their self-constructed messiahs or ideas. It is a good to go where the truth, where the evidence leads people; since the truth always bears witness to Jesus Christ, who is the Truth. But self-deception in every human pursuit is always present, and dogs the truth-seeker all the days of their lives; this calls for vigilance in humility before the living God in and through the humanity of Jesus Christ—you know, the ground of our very lives as Christians, as humans simpliciter.

I am concerned for the church, for the world. Both need Jesus.   

Grace All the Way Down: Contra Analogia Entis and Pelagian Modes of Theologizing

It is either all of grace, all of God unilaterally for us in Jesus Christ, or it isn’t grace at all. This is what the incarnation declares loud and clear, and thus what contradicts any systems of theological reflection that would attempt to give any place for an abstract humanity to approach God in any way. If it is all of grace, then it is not possible for humanity to cooperate with God whatosoever. This is what a good theological ontology will tell the Christian; but it ultimately isn’t an ontology at all, it really is a sound Christology that informs all else. Without this frame of reference the Christian will be prone toward developing Cassianistic or Pelagian hermeneutics, and this will shape the way they exegete Holy Scripture and do the subsequent theologizing that follows biblical exegesis. Karl Barth saw all of this unfolding in the Catholic church’s systems of both Molinism and Thomism; he saw an analogia entis (analogy of being) present in the midst of both of these systems. He identified in these systems a space for humanity, in the salvific reality, wherein the would-be Christian could cooperate or even compete with God’s own Self-givenness for the world in Jesus Christ.

For an effective denial of Molinism is possible only when we cease to think in a God-creature system, in the framework of the analogia entis. It is possible only when theology dares to be theology and not ontology, and the question of a freedom of the creature which creates conditions for God can no longer arise. But this can happen only when theology is oriented on God’s revelation and therefore Christology. It has to be determined to think and teach about the relation between God and the creature only in the way prescribed by the fact of the assumption of the flesh by the divine Word in the person of Jesus Christ and the consequent assumption of sinful man to be the child of God. Where this is the case, there is no question of speaking of a being that embraces both parties, or creation’s grasping at itself and therefore at God. There can be no dream of a freedom that belongs to the creature in face of God. It will necessarily be seen that the decision about the existence and nature of the relation between God and the creature lies exclusively with God, as does the validity and continuity of this decision. God competes and co-operates with the creature in Jesus Christ. But in Him there cannot be any competition and co-operation of the creature with God. For a theology orientated on God there can be no question of the inversion made by the Jesuits. Everything depends, of course, on whether or not there is this orientation. Only if it begins with the knowledge of Jesus Christ can theology so think and speak that the divine and the creaturely spheres are automatically distinguished and related in a way that makes wholly impossible the replacement of the order A-B by the order B-A. It must be wholly and from the very first, and not merely occasionally or subsequently, a theology of revelation and grace, a christological theology, if it is to speak at this point conclusively and effectively. If it is not this, or not this absolutely, then the protest against the inversion will come too late and can never be effective. It will be forced to admit that within the complexio oppositorum [creative tension] the counter-theory is always possible. Indeed, if it is to speak in wider terms it will somehow have to fit the counter-theory in with its own position.[1]

We can see Barth’s critique of the ‘Jesuits’ (middle knowledge), which he later applies equally to the Thomists; which he argues has taken on the Jesuit character, even while maintaining the Thomist mode. But the point is that any theology, whether Catholic or Protestant (which he is getting to in all of this, as far as critique) that allows for this sort of ‘inversion’ of placing human being before God’s being for us in Jesus Christ will result in a purely grace-less theological system all the way down. To the extent that the Christian thinker appreciates this, is the extent that they will be living genuinely from the Grace of God in Christ, or not.

[1] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/1 §31: Study Edition Vol 9 (London/New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 151-52.

Christian Atheists, Woke Christianity, and the 19th Century as its Antecedent

Having historical perspective can actually change your life, but only as a subset of having eternal perspective; insofar that genuine human history is Christ’s history for us. As such I like to study church history and historical theology, among other histories, in order to gain this sort of perspective; particularly when it comes to ideas. I have been reading through James Ungureanu’s most excellent book (published PhD dissertation) Science, Religion, and the Protestant Tradition: Retracing the Origins of Conflict in order to help me get the sort of historical footing I think is so pivotal towards understanding my place in the stream of ideas and movements thereof. Ungureanu is a historian of science, but with a theological twist. In his book he offers a seismic perspective on how the so-called ‘conflict thesis’ (or warfare thesis) developed between science and religion. What he demonstrates is just how much of this ostensible warfare is really an anachronistic imposition upon the past; i.e. that this so-called conflict, and the people it is typically assigned to, as its progenitors (Draper and White), is fake news. Be that as it may, in order to establish his thesis, James must do the deep-dive archeological work of uncovering the artifacts of history that others have moved quickly past (without making the proper connections etc.).

I want to simply pause and share a morsel of this artifactual work that implicates our current cultural moment, in regard to the socio-politico-religio sitz im laben we inhabit as Christians in the Protestant West. For some reason, most likely because of historical illiteracy among the masses, the Young, Restless, and Progressive seem to think they are engaging in something fresh and new; in regard to the liberal nature of the sort of activist and ‘woke’ Christianity they are attempting to live out in the churches and in the streets of America and across the Western globe. This all has ideational and historical antecedent that I’d propose most are ignorant of. It has already played out before. The young (and the historically ignorant) are simply playing out what has already been played out in the history; and to its adherent’s eternal destruction. Ungureanu writes of what was known as ‘new theology’ (or religion without theology), and its historical landscape this way:

The previous chapters give some indication of the vast changes Christianity experienced during the nineteenth century. Advances in natural and historical sciences, intentional or not, seemed to many a direct assault on traditional Christian belief. Debates about the character of Christian faith raged both inside and outside the church during the century, and out of these debates emerged new ways of thinking about the nature of faith, the historical Jesus, the character and authority of Scripture, the truth of revelation, and the future of religion.

While the nineteenth century was undoubtedly an intensely Christian era, it was also a time of much doubt and disillusionment. As scholar of religion Linda Woodhead has put it, the nineteenth century witnessed the “reinvention” of Christianity. Those who rejected traditional Christian belief, but who claimed to remain theists, often adhered to some form of liberal theology. This new or “reinvented” Christianity was part and parcel of nineteenth-century liberal Protestantism. For the religious liberal, there was an “acute sense of the need for a reformation of Christianity,” an attempt to accommodate Christianity to the modern era. Recognizing that advances in the sciences and historical-critical scholarship had supposedly contradicted established religious ideas, many attempted to ameliorate the emerging malaise by readjusting or reconstructing the meaning of religion. As we have seen, nineteenth-century liberal Protestantism generally responded to higher criticism and scientific naturalism by transforming rather than abandoning the faith. By the last decades of the century, the New Theology or “new religion” movement had found numerous supporters on both sides of the Atlantic.

What this “new” or “freer” religion looked like, however, was deeply contested, as we saw in the previous chapter regarding the “Quadrangular Duel” between Herbert Spencer, Fredric Harrison, James Fitzjames Stephen, and Wilfrid Philip Ward. However the “new religion” was conceived, many men and women in the nineteenth century believed that the reconciliation of science and religion depended on it. One important strategy used by liberal Protestants and religionists at the end of the century was turning “theology” into a pejorative. By contrasting the ideal of a free, progressive scientific inquiry against the authoritative, reactionary methods of theology, religious liberals imagined dogma, not faith, as the true obstacle of modern thought. Conflict occurred, they believed, not between scientific truth and religious truth, but between scientific truth and religious truth, but between contesting theological traditions. If religion would only rid itself of dogmatism and ecclesiastical authority, science and religion would be in harmony. The distinction between, and separation of, religion and theology was thus incredibly important—indeed, everything hinged on it. Many liberal Protestants believed the separation of religion from theology was the best approach to bridging the schism between modern thought and ancient faith, and thus for bringing about reconciliation between science and religion. The separation of religion from theology of course antedates the late nineteenth century. As we discussed earlier, a number of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century thinkers used this distinction in their effort to construct a “rational” or “natural” religion. But the distinction was tainted by a strong anticlerical polemic that largely remained in effect into the next century, when mainstream Protestants were beginning to adopt more modernist ideas. By the late nineteenth century, however, this anti-Catholic polemic has transformed into a Protestant self-critique, and subsequently into the “Protestantism minus Christianity” narrative we have seen in the work of Edward L. Youmans and the scientific naturalists.[1]

Earlier I may have laid too much emphasis on the young, but millennial and younger seem to have taken a certain reception of the mainstream progressive liberalism Ungureanu refers us to. But as noted, all of the ‘new’ developments have been around for many centuries, in their most modern instance, though, as we find it in the 19th century. If you have had any exposure to mainline Protestantism the ‘feeling’ that Ungureanu narrates for us in its historical iteration is a known quantity; in other words, these things are not foreign to you.

One problem with thinking this way is that progressives and the ‘new religion’ seems to think they can escape dogma and ecclesiastical authority. But as should be apparent this sort of movement away from such realities doesn’t actually remove them it only creates a vacuum wherein new dogma and ‘ecclesiastical authority’ emerges; even if it only masquerades as their negations. The issue of dogma and authority isn’t a matter of if there is going to be such components, but whether or not the dogma and authority are good. When we look at how this new religion has been fleshed out in the broader culture today it is clear that in fact a hyper-dogmatic and hyper-authoritarianism has replaced the old dogma and ecclesiastical authority. Wokeness, which is the new religion of today (that finds correspondence with the feeling of the 19th century iteration), has all sorts of dogmas, and authority figures that intend on keeping people in line with their works-righteous and liberating view of salvation.[2] This is what happens when we do a religion minus Christianity; or more pointedly, minus the orthodox and risen Christ who is homoousios.

[1] James Ungureanu, Science, Religion, and the Protestant Tradition: Retracing the Origins of Conflict (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), 216-17.

[2] Think, Liberation Theology and its neo-Marxist and Critical Theory nexus.

The Text and Canon of Christ’s Life: Holy Scripture

“and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”

The Bible, Holy Scripture, the Word of God is neglected at alarming rates by Christians; at least according to the polls, and based upon what the churches look like. I think and work in the ‘theological’ world, but for me this means being constantly bathed in the words of Holy Scripture. If Scripture is God’s ordained place for us to encounter His dearly beloved Son, Jesus Christ, then it behooves the Christian to be saturated in its text; just so that they might be saturated in the very power of the resurrected Christ. Christ is the res (reality), and the text is the signum (sign) that points beyond itself (like Calvin’s spectacles) to its transcendent yet immanent reality for us in Jesus Christ. It is as the Christian inhabits Scripture that they are made aware of the reality and ground of their life in the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ; a life that is indestructible, and not only impervious to death, but an eternal life that has dismantled death from the inside/out. And yet this ‘last enemy’ remains; death that is.

The Apostle Paul was well aware of this last enemy, and he informs the Christians in Ephesus of the means by which they might confront death, and its minions, who is the satan and his fallen cohort. As the Apostle knew, while living in the far country of this world system, the Christian would be beat here and there by the darts and lies that the great deceiver would attempt to thrust at them; with the might of a dragon. God in Christ has provided for us (pro nobis) the means, through Holy Scripture, by which the Christian cannot just be an ‘overcomer,’ but be so through a vibrant life of participatio Christi (participation with Christ in the triune life of the living God). Jesus in His humanity for us understood the outright power of simply inhabiting Holy Scripture; of internalizing it, and organically living it out. We see this best in the satan’s attempt to tempt Jesus in the wilderness.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. –Matthew 4:1-11

As many of you already know Jesus is recapitulating Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness because of their failure to obey God’s Word. Here Jesus quotes Deuteronomy at the satan, from that very context, and prevails over the devil himself by the living Word of God; ironic, since He is that Word in Himself (in se). But this is how Christians ought to inhabit God’s Word, just as Jesus did. We need to inhabit, internalize, and deploy it (by the Spirit) in such a way that it is canonical and contextual. This means, in order to experience the power of the Word of God, as that finds its reality in Jesus Christ and the triune life of God, that we need to rightly divide it (II Tim. 2:15). We need to labor over it, and in it. We need to allow the canonical reality of the text itself, as that finds its life blood through Immanuel’s veins, to so flow through our lives that it might shine out of our broken bodies into a shadowy and dark world.

But I am afraid Christians are not being vigilant in knowing, inhabiting, meditating, and thus rightly dividing the Word of God which is truth. There is a raging spiritual attack to keep Christians from their primary means of offense (let alone defense), in regard to taking up the Word of God and reading it. The Christian will never experience the real power of God in their lives outwith an obsessive, even myopic focus on Holy Scripture. The very breath of creation and recreation itself underwrites the very ink and paper upon which God has chosen to disclose Himself to and for the world; indeed as that lowly paper and ink bears witness to the flesh and blood of God in Jesus Christ. The satan knows that if he can keep the Christian away from the text of Holy Scripture, OR if he can indoctrinate people with bad hermeneutics (i.e. which would mean that people mishandle Scripture for their own vein or misguided ends), that the Christian will have no power to be an ‘overcomer.’ Remember the seven sons of Sceva in the book of Acts? They attempted to do an exorcism, as the Apostle Paul and the other Apostle’s were known for, and the demons said they knew who Paul was, but they didn’t know these men; at which point the demonic power surged through their human dwelling place and beat the Scevans to a bloody pulp. This remains the reality today. Even if they aren’t always physically beating people up (although they still do that too), they most certainly are entrapping people, Christians, who do not know the reality of Holy Scripture.

Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy.

Pelagianism and the Flowers

It is almost impossible for certain evangelical types to get their heads around the idea that they engage in theological exegesis of the text of Holy Scripture; i.e. that they aren’t simply just reading the Bible de nuda. I have been having an ongoing engagement with Leighton Flowers, and his so-called provisionist soteriology for a couple years now. This engagement has been almost completely one-sided, but he just responded to me on Twitter. I tweeted out, once again, that I do not see how he escapes the Pelgian label. Historically he does not. But he wants to dismiss the history of interpretation tout court. He wants to start from scratch, from a tabula rasa when it comes to biblical interpretation. He doesn’t want to be bogged down by the ‘man-made’ labels that might arrest what he is attempting to do with his soteriological offering (which ironically is steeped in philosophical anthropology—i.e. libertarian free agency etc.). Here is his last response to me on Twitter from earlier today: “You broaden the definition to make us fit in the “species” of semi-Pelagianism and some work to fit you under “semi-Gnosticism”. Who cares? Tell us what’s unbiblical about the claims and drop the manmade labels.”[1] Flowers, as can be observed, is allergic to “manmade labels,” until of course he identifies himself as a Provisionist; but let’s not quibble, eh. Since Flowers wants the theological and biblical problems of Pelgianism spelled out then I thought it apropos to do that for him. I am sure this will not meet his expectations, since he doesn’t like people making reference to other people (unless he’s doing that); he just wants us to reference Scripture (de nuda). Be that as it may, let me share, at some length, from Karl Barth (surprise!). Coincidentally, or better, providentially, as the case may be, I just ran across a paragraph in my CD reading that explains what theological Pelagianism looks like, conceptually; and what its multitudinous problems are. Leighton, this one is for you (be warmed).

Within this sphere, which is itself the only sphere of being, God wills everything. God’s willing something can therefore mean that He loves, affirms and confirms it, that He creates, upholds and promotes it out of the fulness of His life. His willing it can also mean that in virtue of the same love He hates, disavows, rejects and opposes it as that which withstands and lacks and denies what is loved, affirmed and confirmed by Him and created, upheld and promoted by Him. He still wills in it in the sense that He takes it seriously in this way and takes up this position over against it. He wills it in so far as He gives it this space, position and function. He does not do so as its author, recognising it as His creature, approving and confirming and vindicating it. On the contrary, He wills it as He denies it His authorship, as He refuses it any standing before Him or right or blessing or promise, as He places it under His prohibition and curse and treats it as that from which He wishes to redeem and liberate His creation. In this way, then, in His turning away from it. He wills what He disavows. It cannot exist without Him. It, too, is by Him, and is under His control and government. There is nothing that is withdrawn from His will, just as there is nothing hidden from His knowledge. There is no sphere of being or non-being which is not in some way wholly subject to His will. For such a sphere would inevitably be that of another god. Anything withdrawn from His will can only be pure nothing. Whatever exists belongs either (as it is affirmed by Him) to being or (as it is disavowed by Him) to non-being. In either case it is subject to His will. Thus nothing that exists is withdrawn from His will. His will is therefore done in all and by all. There is no escape from what is done by His will. Again, of course, there is the desire to escape. But there is no goal where this desire can be realised. We can adopt an independent attitude to the divine Yes and No. We can hate what God loves and love what He hates. We can accept what He rejects and reject what He accepts. This is our sinful will. But it does not lead us to a sphere where we have withdrawn from the will of God or hidden and secured ourselves against its realisation and fulfilment in us and by us. If we will to sin, we enter the sphere of the divine prohibition and curse, disavowal and rejection; the realm of death. We can certainly attain this goal. But even if we do, we do not leave the sphere of the divine will or escape from God. Here, too, we cannot actually govern ourselves. In fact we are under no other government than that of the will of God. By our decision, our decision against God, we merely fulfil God’s decision. Besides willing and deciding for God or against Him there is no third possibility of choice or decision. There is no neutrality in which we can slip between the divine Yes and the divine No (which circumscribe the area of being), thus saving ourselves in this neutrality from the will of God in a middle position between faith and belief. There is no such place outside that area. The Yes and No of the divine will are absolutely and definitely the true circumscription of the area of being. There is nothing beyond. If we want to be neutral, we definitely want to be disobedient. For to struggle against adopting the position of agreement with the divine Yes and No, to look instead for a third possibility beyond the antithesis set up by the divine decision, to make a refusal to will the object of our will is a piece of folly in which we have already hated what God loves and loved what He hates and therefore sinned. If there is no neutrality towards God, we are already against God if we will to remain neutral. It is, therefore, impossible—really impossible—to fall out of or escape from the lordship of the divine will. His will is done in heaven and on earth both when we are obedient and when we are disobedient. This is no less true when our disobedience take the form—as it usually does—of trying to avoid the decision marked out for us in the divine pattern. But God’s will is God Himself, and God is gracious and holy, merciful and righteous. Therefore, again, to say that God is the One to whose will all things are subject is a word which is full of warning and yet at the same time full of comfort.[2]

Ultimately, sharing this isn’t for Leighton Flowers; it is for those who can see through the theological problems that Flowers is presenting to those who might be under his spell. Flowers himself is a lost cause, and is drunk on his subscriber’s count on YouTube. But I digress. Barth’s basic premise in the whole of the aforementioned is to think all things from a doctrine of creation (protology). In nuce, for Barth, all of reality is sustained by the singular will of God. There is no going outside of it; there is no independent wills in competition with God’s. The moment a theological position claims human beings have an individual and natural capacity to be for or against God, even as that might be externally aided by ‘grace,’ this position has strayed outside of God’s singular will and now is asserting its own independence (which as Barth rightly notes, is an illusion); this is theological Pelagianism, and is grounded in the idea that humanity has some modicum of independence and neutrality from God. This is the heinous danger of what Flowers is peddling his little buddlings. He is giving them a theology based on the idea that humanity has a natural in-built capacity to be for God or against Him; but of course, as Barth develops, this is an impossibility, and only reduces that person into the sphere of pure and demonic idolatry.

Flowers has demonstrated to me that he is un-teachable. He is full of bluster, and no substance. His arguments are made in appeal to the people and not the theological implications of Holy Scripture as he claims. I engage with him, not because he is theologically capable, but because he sells himself to the people as if he is. He is a theological Pelagian; he fits Barth’s description above, in regard to human neutrality vis-à-vis God. I pray he repents.

[1] Leighton Flowers, Twitter comment, accessed 12-27-2020.

[2] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/1 §31: Study Edition Vol 9 (London/New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 122-23.

Heidegger’s Techno-Cult is Nigh Upon Us

Michael Gillespie continues to do a masterful job in treating what he calls ‘the ground of history’ in the thought of both Hegel and Heidegger. In this instance (what we will be reading from him below) we will engage with his development of Heidegger’s critique of modernity; particularly as that gets fleshed out in what we might call a technocracy. I want to share Gillespie on Heidegger at length because I think that what Heidegger thought, in regard to history’s reduction to technological determinism vis-à-vis human enablement and projection, is highly pertinent for what we are seeing unfold before our very eyes in the broader culture and global societies now. Let’s read along with Gillespie on Heidegger, and then I will offer some concluding comments following.

The will to power, according to Heidegger, is the penultimate form of modernity. In it the distinction of subject and object dissolves. As Nietzsche puts it: “this world is the will to power—and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power—and nothing besides!” The will to power thus makes possible the universal objectification of everything, for objectification becomes nothing other than the subordination of the will to itself. The end of the will is the subjugation of man and nature, i.e., power. This power, however, has as its end only the security of the will to will. The will to power is thus implicitly the will to will. As such it is merely the means to further means with no end beyond itself and thus fundamentally nihilistic. The will to power, which rests upon the recognition that God is dead, thus passes over into the all-encompassing and all-establishing will (Ge-Stell) of an irresistible world of technology.

The advent of will to power as the will to will opens up the possibility for the unlimited exploitation of everything. This occurs through the universal establishment of everything not merely as objects but as pure instrumentalities (Bestände) and through the subordination of all subjectivity and freedom to the overarching necessities of the will implicit in technology. Man is organized on a global scale by political, social, and economic agencies for production and consumption, and the earth itself becomes nothing but a reserve of energy and raw materials that are brought forth and directed by a technology that aims only at its own continuation and growth. The absolute technical state itself serves only to guide the total mobilization of human and natural resources for the unlimited exploitation and consumption of the earth. Politics along with all other institutions thus becomes an appendage of technology. In this “planetary imperialism” of technical organization subjectivity and modernity reach their end.

With the advent of world technology freedom is extinguished. The general conception of technology as a tool in the hands of a self-determining humanity is in Heidegger’s view a fundamental misunderstanding, for technology has a logic and necessity of its own that passes beyond human control. All men are governed by economic and technical necessities: the competition for the unlimited exploitation of the earth requires the objectification and subordination not just of some men to others but of all men to the world task. Man thus becomes human to the extent that he constitutes himself as raw material that has no determinate characteristics, or as a pure instrumentality that can be used as momentary necessity dictates. Man becomes an interchangeable part.

In the midst of this technological frenzy of production and consumption of subordination and exploitation, man fails to recognize, according to Heidegger, that it is the very subjectivity and freedom he regards as the essence of humanity that uproots him and casts him into uncertainty, insecurity, and alienation. Hence he does not recognize that all his striving only more completely obliterates his place in the world and his true humanity. Indeed, man and the world are thereby so transformed that the very possibility of a place, of an ethos, and hence of an authentic ethics and politics is extinguished. Man who had a home in the world in the context of the polis and traditional life is at home in the modern world everywhere and nowhere: as a pure instrumentality man can adapt himself to anything as homo faber man becomes mass man.

Man’s reaction to this universal homelessness and alienation in Heidegger’s view is not a thoughtful hesitation and reflection upon his own being but an overly hasty decision to fabricate a place for himself, i.e., to objectify himself and his tradition in such a way that every place becomes a necessary place, determined by the inevitability of historical development. The science that achieves this is History (Historie). As the science of the res gestae History is the objectification of what has occurred. Insofar as it is an objectification, however, History is severed from history (Geschichte) itself, from the tradition of which it was a part and in which it had a place, and hence can be made and remade according to the momentary necessities of power and technological development. In this manner History not only fails to establish a secure place for man but indeed itself becomes an, if not the, crucial weapon in the struggle for power and thereby more thoroughly fosters human insecurity and alienation. History thus serves only as an apologetic and polemic for the various conflicting forces concerned with unlimited objectification and exploitation and thereby becomes entangled in this conflict itself.

The resulting disagreement about the Historical interpretation of history in Heidegger’s view leads not the abandonment of History but to a relativism that rests upon the recognition of the subjective element in all History. However, this does not resolve the question about the character of history but only gives rise to a thorough confusion, which further obliterates the truth of tradition and man’s place in the world. This Historical confusion about history in Heidegger’s view is Historicism. Modernity’s response to Historicism, however, is not a return to or a reconsideration of the traditional but rather an ever more vehement attachment to a particular Historical interpretation and an increasingly comprehensive attempt to persuade and indeed to force others to recognize and accept its manifest truth. History thus becomes ideology and replaces philosophy, politics, art, etc., as the determinative explanation of human life.[1]

With the advent of the superclass, the oligarchs and technocrats, as they make their parousia (presence) known to the world, at least for those with eyes to see, what Heidegger (according to Gillespie) ‘prophesied’ in regard to the “masters’ of the universe” seems nigh upon us. When humanity abstracts itself from its ground in the humanity of the triune God pro nobis (for us) in Jesus Christ all that is left is a negated-self. This self must chart out in brave new ways in an attempt to construct a reality of its own making; particularly as that must be done against what seems to be an insurmountable and untamable natural order. As this self gains an ostensible mastery over the created order (per its own perception), it takes its self-assigned ‘freedom,’ which it has acquired by its conscious differentiation from nature simpliciter, and sublates it to this nature as that takes shape in technological machinery and apparatus. In this process the self hands over its self-constructed notion of freedom, and gives it to the technological commodities it becomes enslaved to in order to continue to advance and exist in this sort of monsterized and artificial world. In other words, the ‘man’ becomes the machine (nature simpliciter) out of pure survivalistic necessity; and as Heidegger divinized the distinction between raw-nature and humanity dissolves into a unitive abyss. This is the nihilistic way of the world order currently.

This reality transcends all party and social demographics. In America, for example, it doesn’t matter if you’re for Trump or Biden, on the left or the right, this sort of nihilistic technocracy as understood by Heidegger is the inescapable reduction of a humanity shorn of its groundedness in God’s extra life of triune love. Globalized humanity, which we already are, has been reduced back to a technologized people of Bab-el. We have divested ourselves, at least those who have not repented, of any semblance of what it means to be genuinely human coram Deo. There is only one ground of existence that does not finally dissolve itself into a techno-occultic liturgy of worshipping creation; and that ground, of course, has been gifted to and for us in the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ. The ground that God has graciously provided for us is nothing less than the indestructible reality of His life, which is mysterium Trinitatis. There is no other possibility for salvation from the inevitable dystopic technocracy that this world has plunged itself into. God in Christ is it; this is the Way.  

[1] Michael Allen Gillespie, Hegel, Heidegger, and the Ground of History (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984), 128-29.

Trump is Not the Savior: Christians Worship King Jesus and the Triune God

Donald Trump is who he is. He is not the Savior of America. God has not inspired modern day prophets to prophesy about him. He is not the Messenger of Q mythology. Donald Trump is a flawed human being who just happens to be the President of the United States right now. I wanted to provide some clarity on my own position on all things social and political at the moment; particularly since there is clearly a cult following of Trump at this point.

There is an astounding amount of deception in the air in this political moment. Much of that is framed by a false-dilemma. People think that either you must be for Biden/Harris, or that you’re for Trump/Pence. Personally, I do think that if we are going to have any consequence in the political process we will be for one or the other in this combine. But there is a way to be for either party. Unfortunately, and this is what my reference to a false-dilemma is about, people on either side seem to think that there must be a religious and worshipful veneration of either the democratic platform, or the republican. What I want to highlight is how this is being manifested on the Trump side. If you are on social media (and you must be because you’re reading this post) it becomes quickly apparent (especially on Twitter) how Trump is being literally worshiped, even while in the name of Jesus Christ. There are people like Matt Couch, Anna Khait et al. who are claiming that modern day prophets have prophesied that God has sent Trump to ‘save’ America. I don’t doubt that America needs to be saved, but the idea that Donald Trump has been sent by God to do that is erroneous at biblical best. God certainly and providentially raises up and puts down kings (presidents) as He sees fit; for His purposes. But this is different than maintaining that there are modern day prophets (which is also exegetically erroneous) who have come to tell the world that Trump is something like an iteration of King David shown up to usher in the Kingdom of Christ through a dynastic purge of contemporary Baal and Mammon worship.

In contradistinction to these false prophesies the New Testament is rife with themes and motifs that are staurological or cruciform in shape. In other words, typically the way God acts among His churches, in the church catholic, is to bring discipline in order to prepare and purify His bride for the Kingdom come and coming. Pope Peter writes:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. –I Peter 4:12-19

When we look around at the churches in America, and in the Western world in general, we see churches that are consumed by the immorality of consumerism. We see churches that look like the world itself. For my lights what it looks like to me is that God is allowing the judgment already at play in the world (Romans 1:18ff) to be unrolled even further; to the point that the evil and darkness in the world is simply coming out into the open to be seen for all that it is (I’m referring to political deep-statism, election frauds, globalism, pedophilia, occultism, human sex-trafficking, human child sex-trafficking, abortion/euthanasia so on and so forth). But it is this very culture of death and wickedness that the consumerist churches have been imbibing, maybe even only in passive ways (for some), for many decades in America. I would contend that the oppression and evil that the Biden and democrat side, along with the establishment republicans, has come to represent might well be God’s judgment rather than an unrestrained evil attempting to overtake the world order; or it might be both (in God’s providential ways).

What I am attempting to underscore is that Christians should not be about worshiping a man named Donald Trump or Joe Biden; no matter what the fervor is, in regard to all the political implications of all of this. And yet this is exactly what is happening, and in many cases it is Christians themselves; often, and from what I have seen, on the extreme charismatic side of Christianity. This seduction is tempting, to a point. But all those with the Spirit, who is Holy, ought to be able to finally discern how unhealthy it is to place all of their hopes in Donald Trump. Christians worship the triune God, and Jesus Christ as the King. We are on this earth as ambassadors of Jesus Christ; we are to bear witness to the truth (even on political matters). But we are not here to blindly elevate and worship a human being, no matter what political persuasion, and no matter what political and social realities are at stake. Christians do have a prophetic role: we are to tell the world that Jesus is King; that He loves them; that He has been judged for them; but that being outside of Him will result in Him coming in final judgment and sudden wrath wherein all those not ‘in Christ’ will spend an eternity in a Gehenna of Hell.

We Are in a Battle, But Most Don’t Know It

We are in a spiritual battle. If we don’t think in these terms we have already lost. We are born into a great spiritual battle. The whole Bible is dripping with this reality. Whether it be the Old Testament, and the battles of the nations against the covenant nation of God; whether it be Jesus coming and dying on the cross; whether it be the Apostles being martyred; whether it be Paul’s point about us being in a battle against the principalities and powers; we are in a damn battle!! Christians of all people ought to be able to recognize this. But here in the Western world most of us Christians are consumed by consumerism; we are consumed by creature comforts; we wouldn’t be able to recognize that we were in a battle even if the devil himself bit us on our asses. The Patristic church understood that we are in a battle; they labeled the church here, the church militant, and the church absent from the body present with the Lord, as the church triumphant. The early church martyrs recognized that they were in a battle, and they didn’t submit to the evils and darkness of this world system to the point of being shred to pieces by starving tigers, lions, and the tip of the Roman’s sword. Christians need to wake up!

There is a battle of darkness versus light right in front of our faces right now. But we have collectively submitted to our desire for peace and safety, and consigned our power as the people of God, and as a mass of people in general, to a small cabal of evil overmasters; overmasters possessed by the power of the Beast himself. If you’re still thinking myopically and in terms of Trump as some form of Hitler, you’re only illustrating how you have submitted to a lie. Trump is not the Savior, he is not the answer: Jesus is. But if you are only focused on him then that is to your demise, and to the rest of our demise. What Trump, as a figurehead is up against is the globalist evil that uses your health and mine against us. They create pandemics and diseases in order to create vaccines that are worse than the diseases they claim to be healing people of.

My only point with this post is to rant and vent. I simply cannot believe the utter foolishness and empty-headedness and laziness mainstreamed Christians are willing to live with (this applies to most evangelicals too). People don’t put in the work. People don’t even read their Bibles (so much for the Bible in the vernacular … thanks, Luther, but no thanks). Anyway, I am totally pissed. People are dying because most people are lazy and unwilling to fight this world system. This world system is the Beast that the book of Revelation refers to. Christians fight this system through the blood of Jesus and the proclamation of their testimony as that bears witness to Him. This means that the Gospel is all encompassing, and involves all-truth. We as Christians are to expose the darkness with the light of Christ. But if we have conflated the darkness with the light we have already lost the battle. To me it seems as if the church has lost her witness because she is simply part of the Beastly system and cannot make a distinction between the two. We aren’t even trying; that’s the demonic thing of it. /rant over

The New Religion of the 19th Century is the American Folk Religion of Today

More from James Ungureanu, on and from president Charles W. Eliot (1834–1926) of Harvard Divinity School on the ‘new [Christian] religion’:

The dramatic advances in the natural and historical sciences convinced Eliot that the new religion of the future will not be based on any external authority, nor on the personifications of the primitive forces of nature, nor on the worship of dead ancestors, teachers, or rulers; it will not be propitiatory, sacrificial, or expiatory, not gloomy, ascetic, or maledictory; it will not perpetuate Hebrew anthropomorphic conceptions of God. Rather, the religion of the future will combine elements of the “Jewish Jehovah, the Christian Universal Father, the modern physicist’s omnipresent and exhaustless Energy, and the biological conception of a Vital Force.” The God of this “new religion” will be called the “Infinite Spirit” in which “we live, and move, and have our being.” God will be conceived as “absolutely immanent in all things.” Concomitantly, the new religion of the future will reject “the entire conception of man as a fallen being, hopelessly wicked, and tending downward by nature.” Future generations will rather find knowledge of God through knowledge itself. Moreover, the new religion will recognize in every great and lovely human person an individual willpower that is the essence of the personality of God. “In this simple and natural faith,” Eliot asserted, “there will be no place for metaphysical complexities or magic rites, much less for obscure dogmas.” For his part, Eliot welcomed the coming new Christian brotherhood.[1]

Do you recognize your Christian religion in all or at least part of this? I see this strewn all over the mass of social media, and concrete life all around. What I often refer to as the American Folk Religion, what many simply take to be Christianity, is what Ungureanu alerts us to by paying attention to Eliot’s thinking in years past. Do you ever wonder if what you’ve been “saved to” is actually the biblical orthodox Christian faith? No. You should maybe wonder that sometimes. If you affirm any of the above in a self-conscious intentional way you are not a Christian in any meaningful sense. Indeed, Eliot’s thought is simply a total negation of what the orthodox and Dogmatically oriented Christian faith has always already maintained and articulated. The Christian faith isn’t a private faith between you and your God, it is a public faith wherein God put Himself on display for the whole world to see on the cross of Jesus Christ. Here he made a public spectacle of the principalities and powers, the powers we are born under as we come into this world. He came to set us free from this through unioning with us that we by grace might union with Him, and become participants in the triune life of the eternal God through adoption and thus co-heirs with Christ. This is the most ‘public’ occurrence that has ever or will ever happen.

If you affirm the new religion, or any part of it: repent.

[1] James Ungureanu, Science, Religion, and the Protestant Tradition: Retracing the Origins of Conflict (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), 168.