Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.13-15

Chapter 13:
As the Jews were ruled by Judges, and either being punished by God for their sins or blessed according to His compassion and mercy, the pagans created increasingly bizarre myths about their gods, drawing ever farther from the truth and ever more into the city of man.

Chapter 14-15:
Even elevating the Greek myths to theological poetry (such as that or Orpheus) does nothing to help advance the cause of truth, however pleasing the poetry may be. Good art about a bad subject does no one any good.

Monday, September 1, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.12

Chapter 12:
More stories about the pagan origin of nations. Yet even when pagans say these are just stories and hold to a better view of the gods, we should remember that they still delight in the stories and so not give them credit for any kind of proper worship or reverence.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.9-11

Chapter 9:
Athens, that central city of pagan thought, was (if their own stories are to be believed) the child of demonic in-fighting and so regularly guilty of shooting itself in the foot that it's hard to see how anyone could look to this part of the city of man for inspiration for anything!

Chapter 10-11:
The development of Athens and Assyria continued while Moses and Joshua led the people into the promised land.

Friday, August 29, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.6-8

Chapter 6:
Greece finally gets a nod here, in contrast to the older aspects of the city of man. (But not much of a nod.)

Chapter 7-8:
We have the city of man in the times of Joseph and Moses, and the first (systematic) persecution of the latter by the former.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.3-5

Chapter 3-5:
Mixing a hefty dose of mythology and history mixed together, Augustine traces the development of kingdoms and the lines of kings in the Ancient Near East, emphasizing the paganism and idolatry of these kingdoms in obvious contrast to the faithfulness of God to His City in the previous book.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.1-2

Chapter 1:
Augustine recaps the first books, and then explains why he is going into so much historical narrative: it is because the two cities (that of man and that of God) exist side-by-side in the world, and the city of man has mostly overshadowed the history of the City of God. Augustine "wanted to bring it into the light during the period which begins with God's more outspoken promises and ends with their fulfillment in Christ's birth of the Virgin."
In this book, however, he is going to go back into the city of man and give us a rough outline of its development.

Chapter 2:
Despite all the variety among men, there is only one city of man. "The simple truth is that the bond of a common nature makes all human beings one." Of course, this is not to say that there is no diversity:
Nevertheless, each individual in this community is driven by his passions to pursue his private purposes. Unfortunately, the objects of these purposes are such that no one person (let alone, the world community) can ever be wholly satisfied. The reason for this is that nothing but Absolute Being can satisfy human nature. The result is that the city of man remains in a chronic condition of civil war. 
We're always trying to conquer others, and while God directs in his "mighty providence" who will win and who will lose in these conquests, they never truly satisfy us. We see this in the examples of the two mightiest empires the earth has seen to date--Assyria in the East and Rome in the West. Because Romans are so unfamiliar with Assyria, Augustine is going to share some highlights from its history to show how it is the exemplar of the city of man--all other kingdoms are in a sense merely appendages to these two great powerhouses.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"City of God" XVII.21-24

Chapter 21-22:
Augustine briefly mentions the kings of Israel and Judah who followed Solomon as being largely sinful, but still part of the prophetic foreshadowing of the City of God.

Chapter 23-24:
Into the exile and (slightly) beyond, the Jews continued to have and ignore Prophets, until their was silence through the time of Zachariah the father of John the Baptist. (There are of course several non-canonical works as well...)

Monday, August 25, 2014

"City of God" XVII.19-20

Chapter 19:
The 69th Psalm is also about the church, though in this case about the fact that the City of God will grow beyond the Jewish people as they turn away from it.

Chapter 20:
The Wisdom literature and the works of Solomon also point to Christ and the City of God, though of course Augustine was mistake about which books actually are Scripture and which are apocrypha.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

"City of God" XVII.17-18

Chapter 17-18:
Again, Augustine explains places where we see Christ in the Psalms, specifically the 100th, 22nd, 3rd, 41st, 15th, and 68th.

Friday, August 22, 2014

"City of God" XVII.14-16

Chapter 14-15:
David wrote the Psalms--probably all of them (those which claim the name of later kings and times were probably written prophetically). Augustine has already exposited one Psalm, and could very well do the rest to continue to prove his point. The problem is, in order not to be accused of selective proof-texting, he would have to exposit all of each Psalm, and that would take a lot of work. So instead he encourages us to take up his writings on the Psalms.

Chapter 16:
Yet, despite his claims not to have time to discuss in detail, Augustine proceeds to show how specific Psalms point to the church in their intermingling of literal and figurative language.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"City of God" XVII.12-13

Chapter 12:
More exposition of how the blessings and the promises made to Israel and David point to Christ.

Chapter 13:
These promises are not completely fulfilled in Solomon, though they are in part expressed there.

[I skim over the summary of these sections not because what Augustine is saying isn't true, but because 1) there is better exposition of any one of these specific texts available; and 2) what I find interesting is not the specific proof-texts he offers, but rather the overall point of this section that Augustine is making, which we'll get in later sections.]

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"City of God" XVII.9-11

Chapter 9-11:
Again, much of the OT Psalmady and Prophesy may be understood to be ultimately about Christ and the City of God, though not at the cost of actual historical application to the immediate setting of ancient Israel as well.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"City of God" XVII.8

Chapter 8:
Even the promises to David, which have some historical fulfillment in Solomon, are best interpreted as pointing ultimately to Christ and His Kingdom, which is the only one that will truly last forever.

Monday, August 18, 2014

"City of God" XVII.6-7

Chapter 6:
How can we be certain about God's promises to us, when they seem to have failed concerning Saul and the Jewish Priesthood, both of which failed? Augustine points out that these promises were not to the specific people and institutions immediately concerned. Saul could not have expected to live forever as King, and the priestly line would not last. Instead, we need to understand that these promises are made to the spiritual City of God, while still having some immediate historical application.

Chapter 7:
When God takes the kingdom of Israel from Saul, for example, we should understand that He is divided Spiritual Israel from earthly Israel, just as He divides the City of God from the city of man.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What should the church do with "married' homosexual converts?

So with all the discussion about homosexuality and the changing political climate (or not) concerning gay marriage, there are a couple of questions that churches are going to have to face which I have yet to see be addressed. (I do not read all of the Internet, so kindly link to anything I've missed in the comments.) I do not claim to have answers to these questions, though I will point out a few considerations it might be helpful to keep in mind. The big thing here is to clearly articulate the questions so that those wiser than me can provide answers.

And I'll go ahead and say right now that if you are reading this blog and are not a Christian, this post is not really for you. I'm asking in-house questions about church membership. I have no intention of working through the theological, historical, or ethical questions concerning homosexuality.

The Questions to be Asked

Given that several states have now legalized gay marriage, within the next decade Christian churches are going to have to deal with some of the implications of these new laws and this new historical circumstance. Specifically, we're going to see homosexuals who have taken advantage of these new laws convert to the faith and want to join the church.

So, three questions that should be raised as a result:
  1. When one homosexual currently in a civil marriage converts, should he (or she, I suppose) be required to get a civil divorce before he can join the church?
  2. When a homosexual married couple convert together, are they required to get a divorce before they can join the church?
  3. Given that these couples may have children, how does that factor in?
At the risk of over-populating this post with numbered lists, you'll notice that there are a number of assumptions I'm making here. Each of them could receive its own post (heck, its own book). Specifically, I'm assuming that:
  1. Christians--truly converted Christians, not just those who are culturally Christian--should want to join a church. 
  2. A faithful Christian church will not allow for gay marriage, or even recognize such a things as "marriage" in the first place. Instead, it will hold to the Biblical view of marriage as being between one man and one woman. 
  3. Christians are generally against divorce and in favor of traditional marriage.
Given these assumptions, what are we supposed to do in response to the above-mentioned questions?

Yet another caveat: in this particular post, I am only interested in the institutional side of the question. There are certainly additional moral and personal considerations to be discussed that may come into play--to say nothing of the whole question of homosexual 'marriage' as a political and religious issue to begin with. But here I'm more concerned with the practical side that the church has to face. Churches need to have some kind of set rules and guidelines about what to do in such a circumstance, because this will be an issue. 

So what are we to do?

A Few Things to Consider

Again, none of these answer the questions, but I think they might be helpful to point out:

  1. Should the trend continue as it has, we will all eventually know at least one homosexual 'married' couple. Which means that our churches need to be working towards equipping us as members to navigate these relationships in a Godly way. Not being involved in this issue is very quickly becoming impossible. 
  2. The fact that our local church may not have yet made a decision about homosexual "married" converts in no way lessens our responsibility to be good friends and to share the Gospel with homosexual individuals, whether they are married or not. 
  3. Saying "we don't recognize what the state has done as a marriage in the first place, so they might as well get a civil divorce" is a problematic position, to say the least. It may be the best possible one, but it is one which churches should engage only after a good deal of thought.
    After all, Christians have traditionally recognized marriages conducted by the state. This is because marriage is a gift given to the whole world, not a gift like baptism or communion that is unique to believers. We rejoice both when non-Christians enjoy this blessing and when the state recognizes marriage as the positive good that it is.  However quickly the government is changing its position, we should not be equally quick to withdraw our support from the good that the state does in this area of life. Even after the establishment of homosexual marriage, we still need to recognize marriages between a man and a woman conducted by the state as legitimate marriages established by a legitimate authority. We want to be careful not to denigrate this authority when it is properly exercised, even if it is equally improperly exercised in other ways. 
  4. And of course, we certainly don't want to contribute to the divorce culture that is already so pervasive. Being cavalier in telling Christians to pursue divorce, even if it is an attempt to escape a sinful parody of marriage, is unwise. (There are, after all, certainly plenty of sinful parodies of Godly marriage among heterosexuals as well--among Christians and non-Christians alike.)
  5. Answering the questions listed above will only be the beginning, but it will lay the foundation for answering future questions that spring from this issue. As just two examples:
         a) If these new Christians want to get (re?)married in the church, what then?
         b) Can these new Christians someday be elders?
    The tone and thoughtfulness of our answers to the first questions will set the pace for future discussion, and so we need to be especially careful, thoughtful, and above all faithful to Scripture. 
  6. These are difficult challenges for us now, but in the grand scheme of church history this is pretty tame stuff. We need to be sure that we don't develop a "woe is me" mentality about this particular issue. At this point, we are not facing persecution; we are not being ordered to sin; and beyond some name calling we are not facing any true pressure from the culture at all. That may change, but it's not where we are now. 
All of this to say that the church is facing a challenge created by the culture which it needs to deal with sooner rather than later. As of now we have some time and space to think through this carefully, and we should take full advantage of that fact. If we put it off, we'll find ourselves scrambling to patch things together at the last minute. However much my professional work may flourish under conditions of last-minute panic, that's not a terribly wise or Godly way to run a church. 

So those of you out there who know more about this than I do, get to it!