Blest is the Man, Forever Blest


Blest is the man, forever blest

Blest is the man, forever blest,
Whose guilt is pardoned by his God;
Whose sins with sorrow are confessed,
And covered with his Savior’s blood.

Blest is the man to whom the Lord
Imputes not his iniquities;
He pleads no merit of reward,
And not on works, but grace relies.

From guile his heart and lips are free;
His humble joy, his holy fear,
With deep repentance well agree,
And join to prove his faith sincere.

How glorious is that righteousness
That hides and cancels all his sins,
While a bright evidence of grace
Through his whole life appears and shines!

REFLECTIONS

This is such a beautiful song. Originally written in 1711 by the prolific hymnalist Isaac Watts [who is credited with over 780 hymns], this one probably would have remained in obscurity if not for Gregory Wilbur, who is the Chief Musician and liturgist at Parish Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee. I had never heard this hymn before- didn’t even know it existed, and then Gregory included it in his “My Cry Ascends” CD that was released just this last year. While the arrangement is composed by him, the song itself is sung by Katy Snow and Nathan Clark George, who harmonize excellently together.

As to why I am so fond of it, I thoroughly enjoy the Celtic and Southern-inspired minimalist arrangement, but it is the lyrics which appeal to me the most. They are so rich and deep and theological- revealing with Christ-centeredness God’s character . I especially really like the first stanza, and the whole song for convey so much information and so much wonderful truth, with the whole salvation and justification process clarified and confessed in just 16 verses. Really, really fantastic stuff.

Reconciliation and Homosexuality

I’ve been in ongoing discussions about the Christian Church and how reconciliation with the homosexual community would look like. Many people have made the claim that we are nothing but nasty towards them. Others have said that the Christian Church ought to fall on our knees and beg for forgiveness for the way we have treated that community for our hateful, judgemental, homophobic attitudes. I’m not sure though that such an action is particularly helpful though, in the way they want us to, and I have a few reasons for it.

If the Church is to be consistent in its beliefs that poverty, rape, thievery, abuse, idolatry and homosexuality are sins, then that would mean that the Church should be allowed to speak against all of them in some way, and not have that to be taken as hateful. We don’t apologize to the rapists for preaching against his sin, nor to we apologize to the thief for preaching against his sin. In like manner, I don’t see why we would apologize to the homosexual for preaching against his sin. These actions of course are labelled as hateful- that is, when I speak against the sin of homosexuals,  I am hating them, and am being hateful by virtue of the message I speak,. Many would hold that I need to apologize to the gay community for that.

Now, if we are talking about legitimately hateful acts, then that is another matter. I don’t think such acts are compatible with biblical Christianity- and I abhor the thought of that and would rightly condemn them. But we need to distinguish between these things. I don’t want to give the false impression about what I consider hateful actions towards homosexuals to be. There are implicit and explicit dangers there, as broad and borderless caveats are easy to misconstrue can lead to disastrous results. I don’t think the Church ought to hate homosexuals. In fact, I think more than anyone else, the Church should be loving towards them. But here is where we differ- I would say that it’s loving to walk with the homosexual and give him the gospel, and once he grasps that to call him to repentance and faith in Christ, so that he might understand God’s plan for sexuality and how marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and his bride, with the woman [bride] being the Church and the man [Christ] being the groom. I think that is the loving thing to do.

I think the Church ought to call all men to repentance and the forgiveness of sins- as an act of charity and love, and if anything, I would say that the Christians and so-called Christians who refuse to do this are the ones who hate  homosexuals. I mean that. More than the people protesting funerals, or people throwing rocks through windshields, or the people beating up gays walking down the street- as bad as that stuff is, that pales in comparison to the real hate that believers exhibit when they fail to call homosexuals to repentance. These opinions come across as kind, when in reality they are cruel. When believers and so-called believers have no problem with homosexuality and endorse it, they are promoting a lifestyle which thousands of years of historical and biblical Judaeo-Christian orthodoxy says is an abomination and is profoundly evil. They are encouraging them to live in and become hardened to a lifestyle of unrepentant sin, which in the end will result in these men and women being damned and  losing Christ forever. And so if anyone is going to apologize for the hatred towards homosexuals, and their personal complicity in the true hate of gays- I think it ought to be the ones who stay silent, or who take this brand new pro-homosexuality stance and advance that the loving position

As far as what I would apologize for, if I were apologizing on behalf of the Church- I would not apologize for the theology, but rather how we have presented it. I would apologize that we haven’t been more accepting of homosexuals in the congregation and have not aggressively been evangelizing them. I would apologize that we have related to them as lepers, instead of human beings needing Christ. I would apologize that we have not denounced the young men in our congregations who have made a habit of telling “gay-jokes” and other shameful humor. I would apologize that we have been ambivalent and have not paid attention to the men and women in our congregation who have been struggling with same sex attraction. I would apologize for not ministering to them enough, and for not supporting them enough in their desire to be free from this. I would apologize for the tactlessness that certain ministers have exhibited in public forums and for the lack of loving tone with outsiders and unbelievers. Last of all, I would apologize that we have not been clear and intelligent and concise and consistent in our theology of marriage. We have let people who have no theology of marriage hijack the conversation and speak for us. We have let people with billboards saying “Adam and eve, not Adam and Steve” represent us, instead of thoughtful, wise and well spoken men and women of god being able to intelligently lay out a wonderful, clear presentation of why and what we believe marriage and sexuality to be.

Interdenominational Service II

So as I stated in an earlier post, I’ve decided to do a bit of a review of the message given at the Interdenominational interplay festivities, primarily because I was a bit surprised, appreciative, and concerned all at once, which is usually the basis for me writing what I do. To get things started though, I really don’t understand much of what KAOS radio does. I mean, I get it; I’m just not sure I see much of a point. Now to be fair I don’t listen to it often, or ever, and so I’m more than willing to be corrected on this matter, but through reading their website and then hearing comments like these, I find myself seeing tons of vagaries and platitudes. For example, what sort of hope is being exposed through music, talk and action? I would argue that unless it is Christ-centered and cross focused, then the hope ends up being ultimately quite hopeless. You can play all the U2, Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson and Dashboard confessional you want, but what sort of hope develops? What is the hope in? What is the nature of the hope? Who or what does the hope point to? What is the end result of the hope? And lastly, can someone have all the “hope” they can handle, and still go to hell? Yeah, I think they can. Personally speaking, I think I would relate more closely with a Christian radio station whose purpose is to bring the gospel to people of all faiths, of all creeds, of all cultures.

I’m not sure that’s a nitpick or not. I probably is,  but that as the first thing that struck me as I listened to the message- that I wasn’t sure what was being advanced, other than a general notion of hope and encouragement. Now, that may be because I don’t understand fully the mission of Kaos and am in the wrong, but that was my train of thought. So that’s one thing. On the other side of things, I was quite pleased to see that he gave a gospel presentation, and especially that he used a variation of the law/gospel. I think this is the best way to go, and was surprised that this is the technique he used. I attended the event being certain that it would be proto-typical evangelical god-shaped hole/ask Jesus into your heart deal, but that didn’t seem to be the thrust of the matter. Now to be sure it was a hybrid or sorts, in that it incorporated elements of that, but I think he did well in presenting it using a law/grace distinction, whereby we use to law to show that we need grace from the law, and that Jesus offers us that very grace. I think as a whole he succeeded in that, though there were a few peculiarities I wanted to draw attention to.

1. Nitpick. The Qu’ran is not a legitimate higher law and spiritual law. I mean, they may regard it as such, but I would argue that the Qu’ran is more likely than not demonically inspired and has the spirit of the “anti-Christ”, in that it directly opposed God. The law’s premier function is to be a schoolmaster, to show that we cannot follow the law and need grace. That inability points us to Christ. But for the Muslim and his Qu’ran, the demand is that they keep the laws, which in their view is possible, and so it does not point to Christ at all. They can believe that by adhering to this morality and these laws will give them a successful afterlife- anyone can believe that, but it does not make them so, and external adherence alone will result in inculpatory damnation.

2. I like that he stated clearly that “None can keep all those laws. None can keep all those things.” This is a good reminder, because so many people think they are, but all you have to do is whip out the 10 commandments to see that everyone has broken every single one, myself included. It is clear that he understand this portion of it, and so good on him for emphasizing that. On the flip side though, he did misappropriate a few scripture verses. I attribute this to him speaking extemporaneously, but still- it is somewhat of a misapplication. He says ” Scripture tells us Jesus said “there’s no one that does good, there’s no one that can keep this high standard.” I assume he is quoting Luke 18:19“And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone”. And then the second part of that quote is a commentary on that, and not actually what Jesus said. And yet contextually, we see Jesus assuming the perspective of the rich young man. It’s not about doing good, but being good. No one is completely good except God alone, therefore it is not proper for the young man to address Jesus as “Good Teacher” until he is ready to acknowledge that Jesus is God. Contextually, Jesus does not let the ruler’s superficial view of “goodness” go unchallenged, and instead directs the ruler’s attention to God, in whom ultimate goodness resides. Only in understanding God as infinitely good can he discover that human good deeds cannot earn eternal life. That’s what’s being is being said.

3. I like the judicial analogy, and think it works quite well. He’s right about only being two ways we’re going to stand before God, with or without Christ. But here is a concern/ possible nitpick . And again, as with all things, it comes down to precision. First of all, why clarify that the good news is from the Christian perspective and worldview? Why qualify it like that? It is not just from a Christian perspective, but from a factual, world perspective and “world worldview.” It is a blanket statement about how the world functions with or without Christ, and so it seems to be that qualifying it like that needlessly softens the blow.

4. I could be way too sensitive, but am I the only one who gets the impression that the good news of Christ’s atonements is spoken of in a way that is already applicable to everyone, without them needing to make a confession of faith and without needing to repent and believe? I don’t believe he believes that, and I’ll definitely be gracious about it, but on a few occasions he speaks to all people and offers them a comfort that many do not possess. Again- it’s imprecise.

5. Like almost every preacher out there, it would seem that he makes the law the gospel. That is, he seems to forget that Matthew 22:36 is not the gospel or the good news, but rather a summary of the law. Therefore, the law is not the good news, but rather our inability to love god or love others points us to the good news, which is grace. And that’s why he also tweaks the verse. The verse doesn’t say “love god” it says “love god with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, ALL your mind, and ALL your strength”. Because here’s the thing- only if I am a believer, can I love God. The quality of it is pretty miserable, but I can still do it. But unbelievers cannot and will not love God. Even as a believer, what I cannot do is love God as he demands to be loved, and my imperfection in this area is sin. In this, Rick tacitly takes away some of the beauty of  grace and  gives it instead to works and the law. I don’t think that’s his intention, but I think that’s what winds up happening.

6. Is “God, I can’t do this on my own, I need your help.” the equivalent of repentance and faith in the person of Jesus Christ and his meritous work on the cross for our sins?” I don’t believe so.

7 “I said well that’s the good news with God, it’s not about how good you are, its not about how good we are.” That is very true, and a good point. Though here is a thought- where in the Bible does it say that “the only thing he requires of us now to reach out to him the best way we can, and honestly and with openness and say God I need your help please help me.” Where in the New Testament is that language used that we just need to reach out to God the best we can to be saved? Is that concept a biblical one? I don’t think so. It’s completely foreign to scripture. I’m just not sure that is helpful language to use.

In any case, those are a few of the thoughts I have. I understand that various arminian stripes run deep through this message, and that it more or likely is the basis for the gospel call. I don’t know the man’s soteriology, though I believe it is essentially solid, even if there seems to be some semi-pelagianism thrown in for good measure. The end result is a few great highlights and solid christian preaching, mixed with at times a lack of clarity and precision. Though unfortunately  if I was listening to this as an unbeliever, my takeaway would be that I can’t keep God’s commandments on my own, but that’s ok because Jesus did it for me, and if I just love him and and other people the best I can, then all will be well with me. That’s a pretty hopeful thought, but more often than not it’s a hope that leads to hell.