Clement of Alexandria story

Clement of Alexandria 150-210AD wrote this account of the Apostle John in his Homily “The rich man who is saved” XLII. I thought it was interesting and worth passing along.

And that you may be still more confident, that repenting thus truly there remains for you a sure hope of salvation, listen to a tale which is not a tale but a narrative, handed down and committed to the custody of memory, about the Apostle John. For when, on the tyrant’s death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain such as were marked out by the Spirit.

Having come to one of the cities not far off (the name of which some give), and having put the brethren to rest in other matters, at last, looking to the bishop appointed, and seeing a youth, powerful in body, comely in appearance, and ardent, said, “This (youth) I commit to you in all earnestness, in the presence of the Church, and with Christ as witness.” And on his accepting and promising all, he gave the same injunction and testimony. And he set out for Ephesus. And the presbyter taking home the youth committed to him, reared, kept, cherished, and finally baptized him. After this he relaxed his stricter care and guardianship, under the idea that the seal of the Lord he had set on him was a complete protection to him. But on his obtaining premature freedom, some youths of his age, idle, dissolute, and adepts in evil courses, corrupt him. First they entice him by many costly entertainments; then afterwards by night issuing forth for highway robbery, they take him along with them. Then they dared to execute together something greater. And he by degrees got accustomed; and from greatness of nature, when he had gone aside from the right path, and like a hard-mouthed and powerful horse, had taken the bit between his teeth, rushed with all the more force down into the depths. And having entirely despaired of salvation in God, he no longer meditated what was insignificant, but having perpetrated some great exploit, now that he was once lost, he made up his mind to a like fate with the rest. Taking them and forming a hand of robbers, he was the prompt captain of the bandits, the fiercest, the bloodiest, the cruelest.

Time passed, and some necessity having emerged, they send again for John. He, when he had settled the other matters on account of which he came, said, “Come now, O bishop, restore to us the deposit which I and the Saviour committed to thee in the face of the Church over which you preside, as witness.” The other was at first confounded, thinking that it was a false charge about money which he did not get; and he could neither believe the allegation regarding what he had not, nor disbelieve John. But when he said “I demand the young man, and the soul of the brother,” the old man, groaning deeply, and bursting into tears, said, “He is dead.” “How and what kind of death?” “He is dead,” he said, “to God. For he turned wicked and abandoned, and at last a robber; and now he has taken possession of the mountain in front of the church, along with a band like him.” Rending, therefore, his clothes, and striking his head with great lamentation, the apostle said, “It was a fine guard of a brother’s soul I left! But let a horse be brought me, and let some one be my guide on the way.” He rode away, just as he was, straight from the church. On coming to the place, he is arrested by the robbers’ outpost; neither fleeing nor entreating, but crying, “It was for this I came. Lead me to your captain;” who meanwhile was waiting, all armed as he was. But when he recognized John as he advanced, he turned, ashamed, to flight. The other followed with all his might, forgetting his age, crying, “Why, my son, dost thou flee from me, thy father, unarmed, old? Son, pity me. Fear not; thou hast still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for thee. If need be, I will willingly endure thy death, as the Lord did death for us. For thee I will surrender my life. Stand, believe; Christ hath sent me.”

And he, when he heard, first stood, looking down; then threw down his arms, then trembled and wept bitterly. And on the old man approaching, he embraced him, speaking for himself with lamentations as he could, and baptized a second time with tears, concealing only his right hand. The other pledging, and assuring him on oath that he would find forgiveness for himself from the Saviour, beseeching and failing on his knees, and kissing his right hand itself, as now purified by repentance, led him back to the church. Then by supplicating with copious prayers, and striving along with him in continual fastings, and subduing his mind by various utterances of words, did not depart, as they say, till he restored him to the Church, presenting in him a great example of true repentance and a great token of regeneration, a trophy of the resurrection for which we hope; when at the end of the world, the angels, radiant with joy, hymning and opening the heavens, shall receive into the celestial abodes those who truly repent; and before all, the Saviour Himself goes to meet them, welcoming them; holding forth the shadowless, ceaseless light; conducting them,to the Father’s bosom, to eternal life, to the kingdom of heaven.

Heaven tourism; no one goes to heaven and back

From Challies.com

Travelling to heaven and back is where it’s at today. Don Piper spent ninety minutes there and sold four million copies of his account. Colton Burpo doesn’t know how long he was there, but his travel diary has surpassed 6 million copies sold, with a kids’ edition accounting for another half million. Bill Wiese obviously booked his trip on the wrong web site and found himself in hell, which did, well, hellish things to his sales figures. Still, 23 Minutes in Hellsold better than if he had described a journey to, say, Detroit, and he even saw his book hit the bestseller lists for a few weeks. There have been others as well, and together they have established afterlife travel journals as a whole new genre in Christian publishing—a genre that is selling like hotcakes, or Amish fiction, for that.

I’ll grant that the cost of this type of journey is rather steep (you’ve got to die, though only for just a few minutes), but it’s a sound investment when you factor in the sales figures. I can think of quite a few authors who would trade a few minutes of life for 50+ weeks on the bestseller lists and a few appearances on TBN.

The most recent heaven tourist is Mary C. Neal. Much like Todd Burpo, who is responsible for taking his son’s adventures to print, Neal only decided to write about her experiences many years after the fact, after all those other “I went to heaven” books began to sell in the hundreds of thousands. But that’s definitely just coincidence. She initially self-published her book To Heaven and Back, but once it started generating buzz (i.e. selling lots and lots of copies), Waterbrook Multnomah stooped down and scraped it off the bottom of a shoe somewhere, and promptly re-issued it. With the extra marketing nudge, it has now made its debut on the New York Times list of bestsellers. I gave it a skim—I just couldn’t bear to read it all the way—and found that it is much the same as the others. In fact, it may be worse than the others in that it contains even less Christian theology, less gospel and far more New Age, sub-Christian nonsense. That a publisher of Christian books would even consider taking this to print is appalling.

I am not going to review To Heaven and Back. It’s pure junk, fiction in the guise of biography, paganism in the guise of Christianity. But I do want to address a question that often arises around this book and others in the genre: How do I respond to them? How do I respond to those who say they have been to heaven? When a Christian, or a person who claims to be a Christian, tells me that he has been to heaven, am I obliged to believe him or at least to give him the benefit of the doubt?

No, I am under no such obligation. I do not believe that Don Piper or Colton Burpo or Mary Neal or Bill Wiese visited the afterlife. They can tell me all the stories they want, and then can tell those stories in a sincere tone, but I do not believe them (even when they send me very angry and condescending emails that accuse me of character assassination). I am not necessarily saying that these people are liars—just that I am under no obligation to believe another person’s experience. Here’s why:

In the first place, we have no reason to believe or expect that God will work in this way—that he will call one of us to the afterlife and then send us back to our old bodies. The Bible says that it is for man to die once and then to experience the resurrection. There are many experiences we can have in a near-death state I am sure—dream-like experiences that may even seem real—but the Bible gives us no reason to believe that a person will truly die, truly experience the afterlife, and then return. Those who have a biblical understanding of life and death and heaven and hell will know that for a person to die and visit heaven, to experience sinlessness and the presence of Jesus Christ—for that person it would be the very height of cruelty to then demand that they return to earth. None of these books are at all consistent with a robust theology of heaven and hell, of the work of Jesus Christ, of the existence of indwelling sin. On the surface they may seem compelling, but in reality they raise far more questions than the few they may appear to answer.

In the second place, the very idea of God calling a person to heaven and back and then having that person share his experience in order to bolster our faith is the exact opposite of what the Lord desires for us. We have no reason to look to another person’s experience of heaven in order to prove that heaven is real or hell is real. The Bible promises blessings on those who do not see and yet believe. Our hope is not to be in the story of a minister or toddler or doctor or anyone else who insists they have been to heaven; our hope is to be in Jesus Christ as God has graciously revealed him to us in the Bible. Faith is believing that what God says in his Word is true and without error. You dishonor God if you choose to believe what the Bible says only when you receive some kind of outside verification. You dishonor God if you need this kind of outside verification.

A question remains: How do I respond to a Christian who has read these books and who finds great joy or comfort in them? You point that person to what is true. You will need to be careful with tone and timing, but ultimately, it will be a blessing for any Christian to direct his faith to the worthy object of faith. Faith will be strengthened by reading the Bible and believing it. Faith will be weakened by reading the Bible and believing it only after reading 90 Minutes in Heaven. You can serve any Christian by directing him to the Bible and helping him to see that we are called to believe God on the basis of what he says in his Word, not on the basis of another person’s experience. 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven Is For Real and all the rest are not books that beautify the doctrine of heaven, but books that attack the doctrine of Scripture. The Bible insists that it is enough, that it is sufficient, that we have no need for further special revelation from God; these books insist that it is not.

Playful Puppies Bible vs Velociraptor Kitten Bible.

So there is a new Bible soon to be released from Zondervan, who quite frankly need to give their heads [or their paws, badum tish] a shake. According to their press release, which is 100% legit

Playful Puppies Bible

If you love puppies, you will love this Bible! Inside you will find 12 color pages of adorable puppy photos with inspirational thoughts that will encourage you day after day. The Playful Puppies Bible is just the right size to take along wherever you go. Features include: * Presentation page for gift giving * Ribbon marker * Words of Christ in red * 12 pages of adorable puppy photos, Scripture references, and inspirational thoughts * The entire Bible in the New International Version (NIV)

Here’s the deal- If this is not an example of crass consumerism then I don’t know what is, only that this is yet another example of the church conforming to the culture because they don’t feel the Word is sufficient enough. Doesn’t this also mean that its open season on any Bible I want? For anyone who likes this idea, could I not, by the very same arguments that created this bible, make my own bible called “The Cute Kitten Raptor Bible”? And inside would be 12 pictures of Kittens posing like Velociraptors, much like this one here;

Here would be my press release;

Cute Kitten Raptor Bible

If you love kittens and dinosaurs, you will love this Bible! Inside you will find 12 color pages of adorable kittens posing like velociraptors photos with empathetic thoughts that will encourage you day after day and show you that even if your friends and peers reject you, Jesus never will. The Cute Kitten Raptor Bible is just the right size to take along wherever you go. Features include: * Presentation page for gift giving * Ribbon marker * Words of Christ in red * 12 pages of adorable raptor kitten photos, Scripture references, and inspirational thoughts * The entire Bible in The Message Edition.

 

What do you guys think? Which Bible would you rather buy?

Christians don’t need Secular Therapists and Psychologists

I recently found myself embroiled in a skirmish with some people in regards to the usefulness of secular counseling and psychotherapy to the Christian believer. Specifically it was with a Pastor who was saying that he recommended those in his flock who were experiencing anxiety, depression, and various distresses to go see a secular counselor. In response to this,  I took the position that what he was doing is a bad idea, and that he was failing in his responsibility to protect and raise up those members of his flock that he sent their way. Here’s why.

It is an abdication of his duties to lead his people well because it fails to grasp that most therapy is grounded in secular humanism, which will always fail to address the heart of issues. It is a system that is not equipped to adequately handle things like guilt, depression, shame, bad deeds, selfishness, and could never, ever understand true perspectives of human nature and motivation. As such, I would generally consider it destructive to a human mind and soul. Even a cursory examination of their techniques and their developmental and psychoanalytical theories are all man-centered and are not God-centered, and because they don’t stem out of an accurate reflection of how God designed man to be, think, and act, it cannot properly diagnose the problem.

The secular humanist therapist isn’t going to go along willingly with what the scriptures say about mankind and what our problem is, as well as the solution. For example, here is a portion from Ephesians 2

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

That’s going to give the secular humanist therapist apoplexy! We followed the prince of the power of the air?! We followed Satan!? We were dead in our sins? Children of wrath!? Romans 6 says that all humanity is a slave to sin. That is one hell of a problem to have. Romans 3 says that no human does good and that no one is a good person. How is the secular humanist going to meaningfully interact with those actualities? Do you think they even believe that about mankind? Are they equipped to handle spiritual realities and matters of our intrinsic nature when they don’t even believe in it? How do they account for the Holy Spirit living inside of people, and the sanctifying work that he does? How do they deal with our list of sins that we must battle against? In fact, they are hostile to such beliefs- especially the big overarching one- that only being born again through faith in Christ can bring true peace of mind and joy.

My view is pretty simple. Secular humanistic psychology may help a troubled mind and bring some solace, but I neither like or would endorse that, as it has at its core an unbiblical view of man and his human condition. It is all “needs based” with preys on selfishness and ego more than anything, and it is antithetical to the gospel and the human condition as laid out by God. I am also highly skeptical that they will just go along with the idea that man is a slave to sin and that only in abiding in Christ can they find true and everlasting joy. Or how about this- I don’t know many secular therapists who will go along with the idea that ones struggles and emotional and psychological problems may be the result of the harassment of demons. Are we to suppose that they would be adequately trained to address those spiritual realities?

What would be far more beneficial would be that the pastor himself [if he is trained and competent] ought to function as the counselor,  or a trained elder, or at the very least recommend them to counselors who are Christian, who will bring that spiritual understanding to the equation.  We need a theologically informed psychotherapy and a distinctly pastoral, therapeutically informed art of spiritual and moral counsel. Because here’s the thing- every counselor brings a “message”: an interpretation of problems, a theory that weighs causalities and context, a proposal for cure, a goal that defines thriving humanness. How does a pastor-counselors message compare with their messages? Simply consider what our culture’s other counselors do not say, according to David Powlinson.

  1. They never mention the God who has a name: YHWH, Father, Jesus, Spirit, Almighty, Savior, Comforter. They may mention “a god” but he/she is a formless, ethereal blob, and is not the personal deity of the scriptures
  2. They never mention that God searches every heart, that every human being will bow to give final account for each thought, word, deed, choice, emotion, belief, and attitude.
  3. They never mention sinfulness and sin, that humankind obsessively and compulsively transgress against God.
  4. They never mention that suffering is meaningful within God’s purposes of mercy and judgment.
  5. They never mention Jesus Christ. He is a standing insult to self-esteem and self-confidence, to self-reliance, to self-salvation schemes, to self-righteousness, to believing in myself.
  6. They never mention that God really does forgive sins.
  7. They never mention that the Lord is our refuge, that it is possible to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil.
  8. They never mention that biological factors and personal history experiences exist within the providence and purposes of the living God, that nature and nurture locate moral responsibility but do not trump responsible intentionality.
  9. They never mention our propensity to return evil for evil, how hardships tempt us to grumbling, anxiety, despair, bitterness, inferiority, and escapism.
  10. They never mention our propensity to return evil for good, how felicities tempt us to self-trust, ingratitude, self-confidence, entitlement, presumption, superiority, and greed.
  11. They never mention that human beings are meant to become conscious worshipers, bowing down in deep sense of personal need, lifting up hands to receive the gifts of the body and blood of Christ, lifting voices in heartfelt song.
  12. They never mention that human beings are meant to live missionally, using God-given gifts to further God’s kingdom and glory.
  13. They never mention that the power to change does not lie within us.

In other words, they always counsel true to their core convictions.

And that’s not something we need. I’ll take a pastor-counsellor who WILL mention those things every time.

Veggie Tales: “Morality”, not Christianity

Image

Taken from Bob Thume

VeggieTales “convinced kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity.” So says founder Phil Vischer in a new interview.

VeggieTales was a rags-to-riches entrepreneurial success story. Vischer and his counterpart, Mike Nawrocki, left college to pursue their dream of making wildly creative children’s videos. At the height of their success in the late 1990s, VeggieTales videos sold 7 million copies in a single year and generated $40 million in revenue. Though primarily aimed at a Christian market, VeggieTales had a broader cultural influence, pushing forward the boundaries of computer animation and children’s programming.

But success brought failure. Though Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber are still around, they aren’t the same. Big Idea Productions went bankrupt in 2003 and Vischer lost ownership and creative control of the whole enterprise. VeggieTales is no longer VeggieTales. The characters still exist – and in some cases are even voiced by Nawrocki and Vischer as hired talent – but the decisions are now made by studio execs who don’t share the vision or worldview of the original founders.

In a recent issue of WORLD magazine, Vischer acknowledged to interviewer Megan Basham that the bankruptcy and subsequent trials have given him perspective. His words reveal a man who’s beginning to see the difference between moralism and the gospel. And a man humble enough to acknowledge his role in confusing the two:

I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,’ or, ‘Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!’ But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality.

American Christian[s]… are drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god… We’ve completely taken this Disney notion of ‘when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true’ and melded that with faith and come up with something completely different. There’s something wrong in a culture that preaches nothing is more sacred than your dream. I mean, we walk away from marriages to follow our dreams. We abandon children to follow our dreams. We hurt people in the name of our dreams, which as a Christian is just preposterous.

I’ve been strongly critical of the Christian subculture over the years because I believe it does more to distort and discredit the gospel than almost any external threat or influence. It’s good to see one of the former saints of that subculture putting his finger on the same weaknesses. It’s even better to see “gospel awakening” in a man with such deep wells of creativity and talent. My kids loved VeggieTales, despite the moralistic overtones. Cut Phil Vischer loose with an even better, tighter, deeper theology of the gospel… and something great is bound to happen.

And now, it’s time for Silly Songs with Larry….