Though several of the blogs that I personally follow have already linked to and mentioned an article in Touchstone Magazine, I thought I should put my own link to the wonderful article of N. T. Wright‘s interaction with and critique of C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity”. (Apparently to be a well-published author you just need two initials for your first name…perhaps its time to become R. L. Wadholm). 🙂 I found Wright’s critique to be pointed with regard to Lewis’s eschatology and Christology in particular. To be quite honest, I actually enjoyed Lewis more than Wright’s “Simply Christian” (which was dubbed as the “Mere Christianity” for today…or some such thing). Perhaps I’ll have to give them both another read in the near future (though it may need to wait until I’m finally out of school…which may be never… :-).
Proverbs 26:4 4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you yourself also be like him. Context (NET)
Proverbs 26:5 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own estimation. Context (NET)
These two proverbs which happen to be specifically placed alongside of one another are key to recognizing the nature of proverbs (and I believe the nature of Scripture). The first says “Do not answer a fool according to his folly…” while the second says “Answer a fool according to his folly…”. How should we understand this seemingly contradictory instruction? I believe that it is imperative to understand context and by “context” I do not simply mean the necessity to understand the biblical, religious, cultural, historical context of Scripture (as important as that is it is still only part of the context), but also our own personal context. This is where one must practice wisdom. Wisdom is not simply knowledge, but it is knowledge applied in the right time and the right way. This is the life lived in step with the Spirit.
The proverbs are not intended (at least most) as universal principles, but as teaching one to use discernment in all matters. One needs to recognize when it is the right time to help someone out financially (Prov. 3:28; 21:26; 25:21) and when and how to not help someone out financially (Prov. 6:1-3; 11:15; but contrasted in Prov. 20:16). One needs to know when it is the right time to confront a fool (Prov. 26:5; compare Matt. 23:17) and when not to confront a fool (Prov. 26:4; Matt. 7:6).
Reflecting on Scripture outside of Proverbs one needs still to know when they should be in mourning and repentance (James 4:8), and when to stand firm on the promise of their sure salvation (Heb. 6:11). One needs to know when it is the right time and manner to confront the hypocrites (Matt. 23:13, 15, 23, etc.) and when it is the right time to “turn the other cheek” (Matt. 5:39).
May I learn wisdom…may I learn to apply the truth of Scripture to my own circumstances in line with the leading of the Spirit of God…may I learn to not treat Scripture like a simple check-list where I go to know to do this-or-that, but where I encounter the living voice of the Living God and offer a living sacrifice of obedience.
24:1-5 – The siege begins. The exact date (January 5, 587BC according to Daniel Block NICOT I:772-774) is given in order to verify that indeed the word of the LORD declared what happened before it could be verified. Note the emphasis on the date in the second verse. The siege would be finished within 18 months. The LORD addresses those in Jerusalem as “this rebellious house”, but who is Ezekiel speaking to when he proclaims this message? Why does the LORD give a “parable”? Jerusalem is the cooking pot and the inhabitants are the “choice pieces” of meat for cooking. This could actually have been initially taken in a positive way by Israel if not for the following explanation.
24:6-8 – The “choice” portions ruin the pot. It is the blood which has been shed and treated contemptibly that Israel is charged with ruinous judgment (note the commands about “blood” in Lev. 17:10-16 and the failure to “cover it” in Deut. 12:16, 24; 15:23; and Job 16:18).
24:9-14 – The explanation of the parable is that the LORD will cook (judge by the suffering through the siege by Babylon) the inhabitants of Jerusalem and they will be completely cleansed from the pot (city) because of their rebelliousness and lewdness. It is guaranteed to be accomplished by the LORD. Why would He not have pity or relent? Will He really have no pity or relent?
24:15-18 – The love of Ezekiel’s life is taken and he is not allowed to publicly mourn. Why would the LORD take the life of Ezekiel’s wife and what purpose might be served by refusing him the comfort of the normal public mourning process? (cf. 1 Cor. 7:29-31)
24:19-27 – The death and mourning of Ezekiel’s wife serves as a sign to Israel in exile. They will lose the love of their eyes (the LORD’s Temple and their children) and will not be allowed the normal rites of public mourning because all of this happens as a result of sin’s judgment. What is the intended result? When the news finally reaches the exiles that Jerusalem has fallen suddenly Ezekiel will be freed to speak (Eze. 3:26-27).
The oracles which follow in the next chapters until the thirty-third are against the nations surrounding Israel that persecuted and joyfully benefited from Israel’s judgment. Daniel Block (NICOT II:5) notes that the order of the nations mentioned (with the exception of the closing messages concerning Egypt): Bene-Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre and Sidon are listed in clockwise order from the north east of Israel to the north west. Iain Duguid succinctly writes concerning the shift to judgment of the surrounding nations that “Judgment may begin with the house of God, but it doesn’t end there” (NIVAC 325).
25:1-7 – The prophecy against Ammon. Who were the people of Ammon? (A son of Lot born by his daughter in Gen. 19:36-38; Deut. 2:19; Judges 10-12; 1 Sam. 11:10-11; 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:11-12; 10) Why was Ammon to be judged? Who would conquer them and what would become of their territories? What was the goal of the judgment of Ammon?
25:8-11 – The prophecy against Moab. Who were the people of Moab? (Another son of Lot born by his other daughter in Gen. 19:36-38; they enticed Israel to sin after several failed attempts to have Balaam curse Israel in Numbers 21-24; Judges 3:12-30; Ruth 1-4; 2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27) Why was Moab to be judged? Who would conquer them and what would become of them? What was the goal of the judgment of Moab?
25:12-14 – The prophecy against Edom. Who were the people of Edom? (Gen. 25:30; 36:1-43; Num. 20:14-23; 1 Sam. 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:11-14; 1 Kings 11:14-16; 2 Kings 3:1-27; 8:20-22) Why was Edom judged? (cf. Obadiah) Who would conquer them and what would become of them? What was the goal of the judgment of Edom?
25:15-17 – The prophecy against Philistia. Who were the people of Philistia? (Gen. 10:14; 21:34; 26:1-18; Judges 3:3-4, 31; 10:6-7; 13-16; and the continual struggles against them in 1-2 Samuel) Why were the Philistines judged? Who would conquer them and what would become of them? What was the goal of the judgment of Philistia?
Perhaps you may be wondering why I would say that I’m done with the Christian life (which is following suit after Dietrich Bonhoeffer who states as much in the final pages of his “Cost of Discipleship”). I’m a pastor after all and shouldn’t say such things…right? Before you start writing to me to compel me to not abandon the faith…please read on.
The reason I’m done with the Christian life is because I’ve determined not to live the Christian life any longer, but to have my life hidden in Christ. If I live the Christian life it means I have some ethic or guiding principle that seems to be culturally “Christian”, but this says nothing about its correlation to the very real life, death and resurrection of Christ. I will not let my life be judged by some “Christian” standard, but by the one who is Faithful and True…who alone bears the judgment of the world. I will not be conformed to Christianity, but to Christ who is the very Image of God. I will not live for Christianity, but for Christ who gave His life for the world and has taken it up again.
I pray that I may cease living a “Christian life” and truly take up the life of Christ crucified and risen. May my baptism be a baptism into Him. May the cup and the bread be his presence and power. May my prayers be taken up into His prayer. May the spirit that dwells in me be His Spirit. May I be found hidden in Christ and crucified to the world. And may I never be only a “Christian” again…
19:1-9 – Singing the prophetic lament (or dirge). The Lion Lament. “What a lioness was your mother” should read, “What is your mother? A lioness!” (see Block NICOT 595; Duguid NIVAC 247). What does it mean? Who are the two lions, what are their characteristics and what is their end? The first lion seems to refer to Jehoahaz who was exiled to Egypt by Pharaoh Neco in 609BC (2 Kings 23:33-34), but the second lion possibly could be either Jehoiakin or Zedekiah. “He broke down their strongholds” (LXX and Targums) is read as “he knew his widows” (MT). Note the reference to the lion in Gen. 49:8-9 concerning the tribe of Judah.
19:10-14 – The Vine Lament (cf. Gen. 49:10-11). Who is the vine, where is it planted and how is it described? Note the reference to the “ruler’s scepter”. What is its demise (note the “east wind” which destroys it and see 17:10) and where is it finally planted? Why emphasis the “lament” aspect of this prophecy?
20:1-3 – The specific time reference marks off what follows as a distinct unit in Ezekiel and makes the date of the prophecy August 14, 591BC. The elders of Israel again go to “seek” (Heb. darash) the LORD (see Deut. 4:29; Block NICOT 619). However, the LORD will not allow their inquiry, but why? Compare and contrast what follows in this larger passage with Psalm 106 (Block NICOT 615-6).
20:4-9 – Israel leaving Egypt. Note the comparison/contrast of “the detestable practices of their fathers” with “of the nations” (Deut. 18:9-12; 1 Kings 14:23-24). The LORD swore by Himself to be bound to Israel and to give them a blessed land when He chose them. In what way did his choice of Israel require holiness and singular devotion? What is the significance of the refrain: “I am the LORD your God”? Was Israel free of idolatry during their deliverance from Egypt? What kept the LORD from completely destroying Israel in Egypt and what part of does His self-revelation play in all of this?
20:10-17 – First Generation Israel in the Desert. What did the LORD give to Israel in the desert and why? In what way is the continuing reference to “Sabbaths” a “sign” for Israel? Note that the plural “Sabbaths” (cf. Exo. 31:16-17) may refer to more than just the weekly Sabbath (Exo. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15; Isa. 56:2-6; Jer. 17:19-27; Block NICOT 632). How is the Sabbath defiled? (cf. Num.15:32-36) What stopped the LORD from completely destroying Israel in the desert?
20:18-26 – Second Generation Israel in the Desert. What did the LORD command this generation to do and to not do? In what way would this facilitate Israel knowing that He was the LORD their God? What does it mean for the “man who obeys [the laws of the LORD] will live by them”? Is this even possible or is the LORD holding out something that is impossible for Israel (or anyone for that matter)? Once more, what is the motivation for the LORD not utterly destroying Israel in their rebellion? In verse 25, what are the “statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by” which the LORD gave Israel (see Block NICOT 637-41)? Also, how were they defiled through the sacrifice of their firstborn? (see 2 Kings 17:17)
20:27-29 – The Generation that Lived in Canaan. Not only did Israel repeatedly sin against the LORD on the way to the Promised Land, but once in the Promised Land they worshipped other gods desecrating the whole land of promise.
20:30-38 – The Generation of Israel in Ezekiel’s Day. Did they continue in the sins of their fathers? Note how this demonstrates the justice of the LORD’s judgment against them for their own disobedience in light of chapter 18. Again, the LORD explains that they are not allowed to inquire of Him in their current state. “We want to be like the nations” (compare 1 Sam. 8:5-18) who “serve wood and stone” (Deut. 4:28)? What was the motivation? How will the LORD exert his ruler-ship over His people? He would punish them with the same might and power of His deliverance of them from Egypt (Exo. 6:6; Deut. 4:34; compare 1 Kings 8:42). They will meet with the LORD in the desert as judgment and purging of the wicked among them. What is the stated purpose?
20:39-44 – Why does the LORD tell Israel, “Go and serve your idols”? (cf. Jer. 44:25; Rev. 22:11) How will the LORD redeem His people and what does it mean for His name to not be “profaned”? When was (or will) the prophecy of the return from exile for Israel and the establishment of the LORD’s “holy mountain” fulfilled? Why is the LORD’s Name so essential and how is the promise of the Promised Land connected to His Name? Note that the righteous lives of returned Israel will result in recognition of self-loathing (contrasted to the modern notions of self-aggrandizing and self-loving). Has Israel (or anyone for that matter) been deserving of the goodness of the LORD? Even once they are accounted as righteous will they be deserving of the goodness of the LORD?
I was absolutely elated yesterday to get my copy of the newly published “Letters and Papers from Prison” (Vol. 8 in the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works). This is the volume wherein Bonhoeffer (I believe) has been most misunderstood and misrepresented (though some would certainly disagree with my conclusions). His notion of “religionless Christianity” deserves a careful consideration and not a knee-jerk reaction as is so often the case. I would encourage anyone interested in (the later…more controversial) Bonhoeffer to find a copy and read it thoroughly.