Jonathan Edwards, The Early, Accidental Dispensationalist

While studying today, I came across a list of Jonathan Edwards’ fascinating answers to objections about who can take the Lord’s Table. Edwards’ is answering this objection: “If sinners ate the OT Passover, why can’t they take the NT Lord’s Table? Why can’t all men and children take the Lord’s Table today the same way all men and children ate the Passover then?”

Edwards gave a long answer, but this paragraph summarizes it well.

“Whatever was the case with respect to the qualifications for the sacraments of the Old-Testament dispensation, I humbly conceive it is nothing to the purpose in the present argument, nor needful to determine us with respect to the qualifications for the sacraments of the christian dispensation, which is a matter of such plain fact in the New Testament. … But yet all allow that the Old-Testament dispensation is out of date, with its ordinances; and I think, in a matter pertaining to the constitution and order of the New-Testament church—a matter of fact, wherein the New Testament itself is express, full, and abundant—to have recourse to the Mosaic dispensation for rules or precedents to determine our judgment, is quite needless, and out of reason. There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines do so much differ, as the stating of the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and of Christ. And probably the reason why God has left it so intricate, is, because our understanding the ancient dispensation, and God’s design in it, is not of so great importance, nor does it so nearly concern us. Since God uses great plainness of speech in the New Testament, which is as it were the charter and municipal law of the christian church, what need we run back to the ceremonial and typical institutions of an antiquated dispensation, wherein God’s declared design was, to deliver divine things in comparative obscurity, hid under a veil, and involved in clouds?”

  1. Edwards uses the word “dispensation.”
  2. Edwards’ speaks of differences between the OT and the NT repeatedly.
  3. Edwards’ says that the NT is clear, full, plain regarding the church; and the OT is obscure, hid, and cloudy regarding the church.
  4. Edwards’ sees the difference and similarity of the OT and the NT as “perhaps” the most difficult in all of Scripture.  

I am not saying Edwards was a dispensationalist. I am saying that when he was confronted with applying the covenant of grace consistently to the Lord’s Table, he suddenly begins talking very clearly about the great differences between the OT and the NT.  

This is all my dispensationalism: A pastor focuses his church, his preaching, and his shepherding on differences between the OT people and the NT people. 

Posted in Hermeneutics | Tagged | 2 Comments

Total Depravity Applied to Elections

If we believe that the heart of man is corrupt (Jer. 17:9), man naturally hates Jesus (John 7:7), his moral reasoning is twisted (Tit. 1:15), and without being united to Christ he can do nothing truly good (John 15:5), then we should apply that general principle consistently to the electoral process of nations.

If a people group has significant numbers of its members bearing the seed of God in their souls so that they “cannot sin because they are born of God” then we might see a preserving influence in society as Jesus calls these members the salt of the earth.

However very few born again people support political parties that promote murder, theft, and adultery through abortion, expanded government, and laws that encourage and even celebrate fornication. Whether in Africa or America, true Christians tend to support parties that follow honesty and hard work more than parties that take power at all costs and appeal to the most sinful, foolish passions of their electorate.

We should expect therefore that sinful politicians will cheat in elections through numerous means unless they are restrained by the collective conscience of their voting base which is influenced by the Salt or restrained by other governmental powers.

Zimbabwe’s election history of the past 25 years shows this as does America’s. For example, in the last 3 presidential elections, democrats in America have consistently claimed the election was stolen, but now Donald Trump is indicted for the same thing.

Or just look at the numbers of votes:

2008 Election Results

CandidatePartyElectoral VotesPopular Votes
Barack H. ObamaDemocratic36569,498,516
John S. McCainRepublican17359,948,323

2012 Election Results

CandidatePartyElectoral VotesPopular Votes
Barack H. Obama (I)Democratic33265,915,795
W. Mitt RomneyRepublican20660,933,504
Gary JohnsonLibertarian01,275,971

2016 Election Results

CandidatePartyElectoral VotesPopular Votes
Donald J. TrumpRepublican30462,984,828
Hillary R. ClintonDemocratic22765,853,514
Gary JohnsonLibertarian04,489,341

2020 Election Results

CandidatePartyElectoral VotesPopular Votes
Joseph R. BidenDemocratic30681,268,867
Donald J. Trump (I)Republican23274,216,747

Observations:

  1. Obama (2012) and Clinton (2016) received about the same amount.
  2. Obama (2012) went down by 3 million votes from his previous term, and Hilary went down even further.
  3. Trump (2020) increased 11 million votes or 18% increase over Trump (2016).
  4. Biden (2020) however, increased 11 million votes over the first black president, Obama (2008).
  5. Biden (2020) shattered all previous voting records in American history beating both Obama (2012) and Clinton (2016) by 23%.

Conclusions

  1. Christians should expect that unbelievers will try to lie in elections because their father is Satan and they are pulled to follow his lusts (John 8:44).
  2. Stolen elections and voter fraud should be assumed in modern elections with the only question remaining, “To what degree were fraudulent votes admitted?”
  3. Denying voter fraud as a general principle is like denying total depravity. Why wouldn’t Christians assume that politicians who at the core are bad people are trying to do bad things?
  4. In a technological, globalized world, voter fraud can happen in numerous, hidden ways.
  5. Elections do deserve a portion of our heart, labors, and time, but only a small, measured portion since we are looking for a better country whose builder and maker is God.

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An Improvement on The LGBT+ Acronym

The control of names is a vital function of leadership. Adam named the beasts not only as a symbol, but as the first practical step toward ranching, farming, and animal husbandry. Would Cain have done a good thing had he labeled a snake with Adam’s name for a lion?

Commonly today the acronym LGBT stands for the fuller words, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender with a “+” sign to indicate that other categories will continue to emerge. Are these the right words?

Since women were made to help their husbands, bear children, and raise a family, two females uniting would produce barrenness. Not all women have husbands, and not all women can bear children, but all women are under moral obligation by their Creator to support the role of women in general as helping their husbands, keeping the home, loving their children, and raising a family. A woman or man who denies this role as the general stereotype for all women is promoting a self-defeating, depression-multiplying and worldly scheme that will harm the emotional and spiritual well-being of men, women, and children. Women shall be saved in childbearing, not by literally having children but by openly and happily accepting and even promoting the goodness of God’s plan for the great majority of women to be homemakers (1 Tim. 2:15; Tit. 2:5). Feminism, pretending to support women says, “Men are so stupid that women should be just like them.” Were a man not governed by pity toward those affected by sin, a woman who fell for such bad logic would be the subject of mockery rather than compassion. As such, the “L” of the common acronym should rather be a “B” for intentional, honored barrenness.

Since men were made to lead their wives with wisdom, love, and hard work, two men who neglect the duty for which they were designed in order to pursue their own unnatural and disgorged passions should be labeled as it was in history. The first recorded account of men choosing this path was at the town of Sodom. It is a crime against nature as Noah Webster wrote in his dictionary of 1828, and many societies have included this word in their penal code showing it had broad, historical acceptance and usage. Webster defines “gay” as “merry; airy; jovial.” The term “sodomy” carries the Christian moral message much more accurately than a word that for centuries meant happy (James 2:3). A respect for the laws of language, history, and theology, would replace the “G” in the acronym with an “S.”

Since a man was made to be joined to one woman, trafficking between both men and women is a perversion of both the created sex as well as the exclusive nature of marriage. What is called by the world “bisexual” is a turning from the faithfulness of a marriage covenant as well as the unchangeable decree of heterosexual marriage. Thus, “P” for perversion stands more accurately for the “B” of the 3rd position in the acronym.

Since sex can no more be changed than age, he who purports to have changed the unchangeable is whipping the waves of the sea like the Persian King Xerxes when a maritime storm thwarted his conquest of the Greeks. What word is right for a man who fights against and even pretends to change reality? Such might say that a Tyrannosaur sired a chicken or that poverty comes from the weather or a nation can always pay its bills by printing currency or a world without God created the beauty of Bach’s music. Something unsound in mind or intellect is rightly called insane. What is called transgender is still treated at length in the book on mental disorders, and more importantly, Paul said that sinners were corrupted in their thinking (Tit. 1:15). Where could we find a clearer example of corrupted thinking than a man who calls himself a girl? This should not surprise a Christian since we are named after one who was called insane repeatedly (Mark 3:21; John 10:20), and our best strictly human pattern, the apostle Paul, was also tagged that way (Acts 26:24; 2 Cor. 5:13). Does God in Heaven call men anything other than men? Does He follow their pronoun preferences? The definition of sanity is aligning my thinking as best as possible to the thinking of God. Therefore, a better letter for the acronym than “T” is “I.”  

Some Christians have mocked the “+” sign at the end, but that is very important to the agenda of the authors of the LGBT acronym. It means that more categories will burst out in time as sin constantly digs away the weakest parts of the wall. But this is a very Christian concept. The sin lists of the NT seem to read like a thesaurus in Rom. 1, Col. 3, 2 Tim. 3, and other places. In Galatians 5, the works of the flesh conclude with the phrase “such things” because the darkness of the sinful soul energizes the world to labor until exhaustion (Gen. 19:11) looking for new sinful expressions.

Should rapists be labeled the Strong community, or drunks and drug addicts the Enlightened community, or thieves the Entrepreneur community, or liars the Narrative community? A more Biblical and therefore more honest acronym for what is commonly called LGBT+ would be BSPI+ standing for those who promote barrenness, sodomy, perversion, insanity, and further evil inventions.

Posted in Definitions, Multiculturalism, Pastoral | Tagged | 3 Comments

Praying for America in Africa: A Fourth of July Christian Reflection

By Tim Cantrell

My wife and I are Americans who have now lived more of our lives on African soil than on American soil, for the past 25 years and counting.  All five of our kids were born in Africa, and we are willing to be buried in Africa for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.  We love our adopted home nation of South Africa, and see her great potential for impact on the African continent and beyond![1] 

Yet we still also love and pray often for our native land, the United States of America, and we realise the tremendous impact she has on the world for better or for worse.  The longer we live overseas, the more deeply we appreciate what America once stood for, unlike any other nation in history.  We yearn for more of those same liberties, and more of human dignity, to be enjoyed by our South African neighbours.

In 1862, in the middle of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln called the United States, “the last, best hope on earth”.  As Christians, we do not look to earth at all for our hopes – our hope and our “citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Php. 3:20).  King Jesus does not need America or any other nation; He “will build His Church” and His Great Commission will prevail in the end (Matt. 16:18; 24:14)!  Yet as far as earthly prospects for freedom and security in the world, we dare not underestimate the vital role of the USA, and the massive benefits and generosity it has brought to global missions and much more.

Anders Rasmussen, a Danish politician, states:

Only America has the diplomatic reach, the financial resources, and the firepower to lead the free world against the autocrats, rogue states and terrorists that are trying to overwhelm it. As the Prime Minister of Denmark from 2001 to 2009, and the secretary-general of NATO from 2009 to 2014, I know how important American leadership is. I’ve seen firsthand what happens when America tries to lead from behind instead of leading from the front.

…Europe is too weak and divided to lead the world. The free nations have an essential role to play, and they must shoulder their full share of the cost, but only America has the credibility to lead. This is not just about money or manpower. It is also about morality. Only America has the moral greatness to lead the free world—not for the sake of power, but for the sake of peace.

An American retreat will unleash a new plague of dictators and oppressors who seek to undo all the good America has done to secure peace and prosperity around the world for decades.[2]

Pastor Tommy Nelson sums up well the history and legacy of the USA, from a Christian perspective:

…our American forefathers…left us with a Christian, biblical perspective of God, as outside of government, to Whom government is subservient. Of God in a biblical sense, not just a G-O-D idea, but the God of the Jew, the infinite personal God who has made himself known and redeemed man through Jesus Christ.  …They understood that human rights were taken from nature’s God, of “life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

And so, we had a government that was legislative, judicial, and executive, that checked and checking the others. Nobody was sovereign, all checked by the Constitution. …It was an idea that sprang out of the Protestant Reformation, concerning God and man and how he should live and be governed.

Our country had problems – and our problems did not come from the inherent flaws of our system. Our problems came because of a national lack of courage to live out our Constitution. The idea of racism and the Jim Crow laws were unconstitutional. They existed not because of our belief system, but because of our lack of national courage to get rid of them! 

…Everybody wanted (and still wants) to come to America; we greet them in the harbour with a Lady Liberty holding her torch…that Lady of Light and glory that awaits you in the harbor, with these words inscribed upon her (by Jewish poet, Emma Lazarus): “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”[3]

Dennis Prager describes America’s founding, Judeo-Christian values:

…[These values] can and must be adopted by every nation and culture in the world; Americans must relearn and recommit to these values, and…vigorously export them. For if the world does not adopt [these core] values, the result will be chaos and barbarism on an unprecedented scale.

America is the only country that was founded not on a race, ethnicity, or nationality, but on an idea: limited government—because the founders of America believed, first and foremost, in liberty. America became the freest country in world history, which is why France gave the Statue of Liberty to one country: America. And America has given more liberty and opportunity to more people from more nations than any country in world history.

Yes, America allowed slavery in half of its states. But every society in the world practiced slavery. What rendered America unique is that Americans killed one another in its bloodiest war to abolish slavery, and that it eventually became the least racist, most multi-racial country in history.[4]

How then should Christians in Africa, or anywhere, pray for the USA on this, her Independence Day? 

  1. Pray that she would repent and turn to Christ! 
  2. Pray that she would return to the God of her fathers and to the one Book that made her great, the Word of God. 
  3. Pray that she would repent of all her shameful slaughter of infants, wanton immorality, sexual perversity, and arrogant pride. 
  4. Pray that she could once more be a beacon of hope, light and liberty to the nations of the world for the glory of God. 
  5. Pray that God would awaken His Church in the USA to be the “pillar and support of the truth” that she is called to be (1 Tim. 3:15), to preach and practice the Bible faithfully and fearlessly.

A few years ago I heard a Russian Christian say to an American pastor:  “We are a country in the darkness and we are looking for light. You are a country in the light and you are searching for the dark.”  May God have mercy on the United States of America.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

(1893, Katherine Lee Bates)


[1]  http://cdn.desiringgod.org/pdf/blog/1088_why_i_would_die_for_south_africa.pdf

[2] https://www.prageru.com/video/why-america-must-lead

[3] https://www.drjamesdobson.org/broadcast-new/america-the-great-idea/archived

[4] Still the Best Hope, by Dennis Prager

Posted in Unusual character | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Pride Discovered in 12 Common Practices

1. Imagining that whatever strengths I have are somehow originating and sourced from and intrinsic to myself.
For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? 1 Cor. 4:7

2. Taking pleasure in reminiscing on and returning to my strengths.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Gal. 2:20

3. Pretending my weaknesses are not really there or that they are not so many or at least that they are not so debilitating as they are.
Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times. John 13:37-38

4. Accepting my own judgments and conclusions without really opening them up to honest self-critique.
If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8

5. Arranging my schedule without time or investment in pleading for divine aid.
In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Heb. 5:7

6. Taking comfort when the constraints of accountability are slackened so that I may go on smoothly and unhindered in the path of my own making without the pinch of other godly eyes nearby.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes… Pro. 12:15 All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight… Pro. 16:2 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Pro. 16:25

7. Nursing a pattern of thoughts that have a great deal of my own interests and a proportionally small platform for God and Christ and His Kingdom and eternal plan.
If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:26-27

8. Refusing to lean on and be amazed by the righteousness of Christ, or having once seen it to count it a small thing and only return to it infrequently or with a detached spirit.
I count all things to be loss… that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ… Phil. 3:8, 9

9. Retreating quickly to the comfort of “my view” in interpersonal problems not bothering to try on the perspective of others or even phrasing their concerns in words they would use.
In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

10. Savoring the sweetness of my own plans, projects, and position especially because they are “mine.”
…‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built… by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ … Immediately… he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle… Dan. 4:30, 33

11. Stretching out my desires past my position as a servant and creature.
…‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ Isa. 14:13-14

12. Picturing my friend’s, my wife’s, or my enemy’s face when I hear a convicting warning about some sin.
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. Rom. 2:1

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Pictures of Christian Dignity

Christian faithfulness includes learning to talk the way Scripture talks. This is not easy because sin complicates the simplest things, bogs down the most effortless tasks, and pulls the soul of track. God does call believers slaves and sheep. But those pictures are not the whole story. We need a frame large enough to take in everything God says, and the salvation planned in the Covenant of Redemption reaches down very low to sinners in their mire only to lift them very high. Here are some of the key metaphors used to describe men.

All men

  1. Image of God                        Gen. 1:26
  2. Children of God                     Acts 17:29

All believers

  1. Salt of the earth                    Matt. 5:13
  2. Light of the world                  Matt. 5:14
  3. Friends                                  John 15:15
  4. Servants of the Most High God   Acts 16:17
  5. Conquerors                           Rom. 8:37
  6. Holy ones                              1 Cor. 1:2
  7. Ambassadors for Christ       2 Cor. 5:20
  8. Body of Christ                       Eph. 1:23
  9. Dwelling of God                     Eph. 2:22
  10. Chosen race                          1 Pet. 2:9
  11. Holy nation                            1 Pet. 2:9
  12. God’s own people                  1 Pet. 2:9
  13. Partakers of the divine nature     2 Pet. 1:4
  14. Priests                                   Rev. 20:6
  15. Kings                                     Rev. 20:6

True pastors

  1. Shepherds                             Acts 20:28
  2. Overseers                             1 Tim. 3:1
  3. Leaders                                 Heb. 13:17

This category may be in danger of being abused to serve the sinful ends of the world’s lies about self esteem under the Christianese phrase of “who we are in Christ”. I have personally heard unbelieving false pastors use that phrase to entirely skip the Biblical pictures of humility and jump to wealth and prosperity with some of the metaphors listed above.

Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit speaks of men and believers with these words, so we must pray that these too would blend together with the pictures of humility and guide our relationships, responses, and ambitions.

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Pictures of Humility

Scripture speaks in pictures commonly showing us in metaphors the right way to imagine ourselves. Rarely do we think consciously of the pictures that control our relationships, responses, and ambitions.

This year in reading and rereading the Psalms, the images used of believers and of all men have fascinated, convicted, and strengthened me. We ought to think of ourselves in these terms because the words are closely tied to the imagination which eventually influences our decisions.

Before conversion

  1. Rotten heart                          Jer. 17:9
  2. Goat                                       Matt. 25:32-33
  3. Condemned to be executed John 3:18
  4. Child of Satan                       John 8:44
  5. Blind                                      John 9:41
  6. Powerless                              Rom. 5:6
  7. Slave of sin                           Rom. 6:17
  8. Dead                                      Eph. 2:1
  9. Enemy of God                        James 4:4

Even after conversion

  1. Dead dog                               1 Sam. 24:14
  2. Flea                                        1 Sam. 24:14
  3. Servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord. 1 Sam. 25:41
  4. A worm                                  Psalm 22:6
  5. Spiritual beggar                    Matt. 5:3
  6. Unworthy slaves                   Luke 17:10
  7. Sheep                                    John 10:11
  8. The least of all saints           Eph. 3:8
  9. Brick                                      Eph. 2:20
  10. The chief of sinners              1 Tim. 1:15

All men and nations

  1. Only a breath                        Psalm 62:9
  2. A drop in the bucket             Is. 40:15
  3. Dust on the scales               Is. 40:15
  4. Nothing                                  Dan. 4:35
  5. A puff of smoke                     James 4:14

True pastors

  1. Nothing                                  1 Cor. 3:7
  2. Scum                                     1 Cor. 4:13

Imagining yourself or mankind without these guiding pictures is foolish because it contradicts reality, and worldly because neglecting humility is a function of unbelief.

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Men in the Rural Areas

My life is devoted to the rural areas of Africa. I love the people who live with little access to English, jobs, or cement roads. But neither they nor I love the poverty and environment in which they live. The solution to the poverty, crime, witchcraft, fear, and sense of hopelessness that many feel is the Christian religion. I am a missionary because I want to prove with my life that Christ is not only worthy of my devotion, but that He alone can change the backward condition of the endless string of villages in which the majority of Africans live. The problem in the poor villages is religious and thus the solutions are also religious.

I offer here three lists as broad evaluations of the society as viewed through the lens of Scripture.

9 benefits that would come to the rural areas if men acted Biblically

  1. Crime would decrease because men would take responsibility for their sons and also, though to a lesser degree, for their neighbors.
  2. Businesses would begin to flourish because men would try to support their families.
  3. Education would improve as fathers start attending meetings, talking with their children, and actively involving themselves in the next generation.
  4. Roads would be repaired by individual men, families, or committees who care about saving time and money on vehicle spares.
  5. Title deeds would be obtained for individual property in the place of “permission to occupy” papers as men see the value in owning and improving their own land.
  6. Churches would move away from offering entertainment and acting as witchcraft reinforcement camps as men demand a logical, spiritual religion for their families.
  7. Black languages would see a new flowering in anticipation of Heaven when the nations bring their glory and honor into the New Jerusalem.
  8. Confidence, hope, and optimism would replace doubtful low expectations in the sensibilities of the youth as the see more clearly the dignity of the image of God in their fathers and uncles.
  9. Rural areas would give way to developed and prosperous areas as the citizens reflect Christian virtues.

8 ways men in the rural areas are neglecting their duties

  1. They are not restraining their urges within marriage.
  2. They are not redeeming their moments and days as precious gifts that could create wealth.
  3. They are not leading their communities in integrity, honesty, and diligence.
  4. They are not multiplying their wealth in a moral and lasting way.
  5. They are not improving themselves as they should in skills, philosophy, religion, and art.
  6. They are not promoting true religion in their families and communities.
  7. They are not protecting women, children, and the weak from present and future calamities.
  8. They are not taking responsibility for training and disciplining their children.

7 reasons we should pity men in the rural areas

  1. They have lived for generations with animistic paganism and all its demonic effects.
  2. They have grown up without active fathers in the home.
  3. They have been raised without books commonly in the home.
  4. They have learned patterns of communication that stunt the acquisition of knowledge that could be gained in common conversation with adults.
  5. They have a feeling of hopelessness when they try to imagine a path out of cultural practices and toward practical success.
  6. They have very few examples near to them in the village of those who have reached a middle-class level of success in character, finances, and life.
  7. They have the debilitating consequences of sin along with the fear of death and eternal damnation with almost no true churches or Christians within their reach.

My focus is on the men because that is where the Bible focuses. As the heads of their homes and leaders in society, men must be truly Christian in order to see any large scale social change.

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3 Reasons Protestants Should Read Dante’s Divine Comedy

1. Eternal realities are exalted to their rightful place by his poetry.

Who does not revolt at the thought of eternal condemnation when he reads The Inferno? Dante’s vast imagination conjures levels of judgment for common and uncommon sins. He casts his readers into a caldron along with their sins and differing punishments so that the mind practices to unite each transgression with its fitting torment. This kind of exercise builds a godly hatred of sin as well as a sense of proportion.

In Paradise the equal and opposite affection for glory is developed. Our Lord said that some would bear 30, 60, and 100 fold fruit. Dante presses the reaches of human imagination in an attempt to color what that might look like for all eternity. For those of us with dwarfed imaginations, it is a regimen to stretch our minds so that they might begin to take in some of the metaphors throughout Scripture.

For any Bible-believing Christians who are afraid of imagination as if it is a back-door attack on Sola Scriptura—“Imagination sounds a lot like ‘fiction’ which does not sound like Truth”, a truncated imagination will struggle with the “marriage of the Lamb”, “we shall be like Him”, “we shall judge angels”, “my Father’s house”, “great white throne”, and “all things new.” Dante takes two large buckets of Scriptural images and tries to compel us to think about them. The result in my heart was more godly fear and more driving hope.

Who takes much time to think about eternity? In The Divine Comedy, eternity becomes at once both terrifying and awesome.  

    2. The end of beauty is achieved through meticulous order.

    Like Baroque music, The Divine Comedy is an orderly masterpiece in a trinal structure. There are 3 sections (Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven) with 33 Cantos each set in rhymes of 3. The Inferno has an introductory Canto so that the entire work reaches 100.

    The edition I read had Italian on the left hand side with English on the right so that I could see the original words and their rhymes, though I do not speak Italian. As I compared his word selection in Italian, I often found my mouth gaping as he used so many unique words in sets of three. For more than 14,000 lines, the rhymes are set like gears in a Swiss watch in a linking pattern of a, b, a, b, c, b, c, d, c, d, e, d, e, f…

    He originally called his work The Comedy meaning a happy ending which points to a great unity, but the three sections, 33 cantos each, and rhymes in sets of thee point pleasingly to the One true God in three Persons. Unity and diversity; Grand, overarching oneness and particular threeness.

    3. The message of “Press on!” is imprinted on any honest reader.

    The implied message in Hell and Heaven is to avoid the one and gain the other at any cost. But then in The Purgatory, Virgil repeats to Dante over and over the command to press on, do not delay, quicken your pace, and keep moving. For any readers who have the wisdom to apply this to their present life, it is a vital Scriptural injunction (Heb. 6:1).

    Biblical errors in Dante’s Divine Comedy

    Even though it is worth reading, the errors are serious and reflect the unbiblical nature of core Catholic teachings.

      1. Very little Christ.

      With such astounding powers to build with words, why could Dante not make our hearts pull toward Christ? The entire work rarely references the Son of God. The poetry of Isaac Watts, the sermons of Spurgeon, and even the portrayal of Prince Emmanuel in Bunyan’s Holy War do much more to draw the heart to Jesus than the 14,000 lines of Dante. The one who determined to know nothing save Jesus Christ, to boast in nothing save the cross, would have found a great deficiency in a theology that produces such a bloodless portrait. 

        2. Too much Mary.

        Faithful to the false teaching of Rome, Dante walked by the King to exalt a woman who knew that she needed a Savior, a woman who was content to stay in the background after fulfilling her role in the divine plan. Even up to the 100th Canto, he writes of Mary with little attention to the Son of God. At best, it is a foolish overemphasis on a creature which Mary does not desire. At worst, it is idolatry which Mary hates.

          3. Purgatory is set after death.

          Following the unscriptural dictates of a religion justly compared to the Great Whore of Babylon, Dante tries to breathe some life into the teaching of a second chance after death. But this can be dealt with easily if the reader will simply imagine the lines of Purgatory addressing the Christian in his life on earth.

          Disregarding Jesus and praying to a creature are serious errors, but the vibrant portrayal of eternal realities are so avoided by the human heart and lacking in modern literature that I recommend you to read Dante.

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          How Psalms Differs from Other Books

          This year as a church, we are reading and rereading the Psalms. How does this book differ from the other 65 inspired books of the canon? What words are used over and over? In the list below, I have only recorded one term, but my Logos searches included related terms in Hebrew and English. This list includes only words used over 100 times and found throughout the book rather than in one kind of psalm alone such as lament or praise.

          “Yes,” you may say, “but there are 150 psalms so we should expect more usages in this large book.”

          I only include here terms that are used overwhelmingly more in psalms than any other place in either OT or NT. Also, Psalms has 30,147 Hebrew words whereas Jeremiah has 33,002, Genesis 32,046, and Ezekiel 29,918 (counts by Logos). So at least three other books are very similar in length.

          1. Enemy. More than 100 occurrences. Far more in Psalms than any other book.
          2. Joy and rejoice. More than 100 occurrences. Far more in Psalms than any other book.
          3. Lovingkindness (Mercy KJV; Hesed Heb). More than 120. Far more in Psalms than any other book.
          4. Sing. More than 160 occurrences including all forms of praise and exalt. Far more in Psalms than any other book.
          5. Save. More than 160 occurrences. Far more in Psalms than any other book.
          6. “O Lord”, “O God”, You, Your, Yours (capitalized for deity). Just under 2,000 occurrences. Far more in Psalms than any other book.
          7. I, me, my, mine. More than 2,000 occurrences. Far more in Psalms than any other book. References to deity excluded.

          Other terms were used frequently, but not over 100 times, or they were commonly found in other books.

          1. Anger. 50 times. Also found in the prophets.
          2. Trust, believe. More than 60 occurrences, only surpassed by the Gospel of John. Far more in Psalms than any other book of the OT, but found commonly in many NT books.
          3. Fear. 70 times. Also found in Proverbs.
          4. Wicked. 80 times. Also found in Proverbs.
          5. Bless. 100 times. Also found in the Pentateuch.
          6. Nations. 100 times. Also found in the prophets.

          We think of psalms as a songbook, but perhaps it is more accurate to think of it as a prayer book. If you, like I, feel particularly weak in the art and discipline of prayer, and long to see more answered prayers, perhaps we should study this book written largely in the first person to God Himself about enemies, mercy, and salvation. Perhaps then we would learn to sing in private and corporate prayer like David.

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