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Synoptic Discussion of Books 1 and 2 from 'The Gonzo Journalism of Grace'
by gonzodave coulon
7/22/2008 / Christian Living
Blind Men and an Elephant - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"The story of the blind men and an elephant appears to have originated in South Asia, but its original source is debated. It has been attributed to the Sufis, Jainists, Buddhists, or Hindus, and has been used by all those groups. The version best-known in the West is the 19th Century poem by John Godfrey Saxe. Buddha used the simile of blind men in Tittha sutta in Udana (Pali canon). Buddha used a row of blind men as an example in Canki sutta as well to explain the blind following of a leader or an old text that had come down generation after generation.
In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one touches a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes on what they felt, and learn they are in complete disagreement. The story is used to indicate that reality may be viewed differently depending upon one's perspective, suggesting that what seems an absolute truth may be relative due to the deceptive nature of half-truths.
Various versions are similar, and differ primarily in how the elephant's body parts are described, how violent the conflict becomes, and how (or if) the conflict among the men and their perspectives is resolved."
"Minimalist - One who sees Christianity as a system of belief that only recognizes the least common denominator. In other words, let's just find out what all those who call themselves Christian believe and say that this is true Christianity and then let's not talk about anything else. Talking about what divides, well . . . divides. And division is bad, bad, and double bad. Therefore, let's just all get along."
C. Michael Patton, Reclaiming the Mind July 2008 Newsletter
"Justification 'By' Faith: Union with Christ - The word "by," per, lends itself meantime to the expression of another aspect of the subject. One of the great problems attaching to the mighty truth of Christ our Righteousness, our Merit, our Acceptance, is that of the nexus, the bond, which so draws us and Him together that, not in fiction but in fact, our load can pass over to Him and His wealth to us. The New Testament largely teaches, what lies assuredly in the very nature of things, as it puts the facts of salvation before us, that we enter "into" Christ, we come to be "in" Him, we get part and lot in the life eternal, which is in Him alone, by Faith. "He gave power to become the sons of God, to them that believed on His Name." "Believing, we have life in His Name" (John 1:12; 20:31). Faith is our soul-contact with the Son of God, setting up (upon our side) that union with Him in His life of which Scripture is so full. And thus it is open to us, surely, to say that justification by Faith means, from one momentous aspect, justification be-cause of the Christ with whom through Faith we are made mysteriously but truly one. Believing, we are one with Him, one in the common life with which the living members live with the Head, by the power of His Spirit. One with Him in life, we are therefore, by no mere legal fiction but in vital fact, capable of oneness with Him in interest also."
H. G. C. Moule, The Fundamentals, (reprinted by Baker Books) Vol 3, Ch XI
If you are the type of insufferable, christian hoo-rah who parrots a litany of how wonderful your family, job, house, and pets are; and, who expects all Christians to have the date memorized when they signed a card and accepted Jesus as Lord of their life, then these books, and this discussion are probably not suited to your outlook. It goes without saying that vast numbers of believers are unhappily married or divorced, sick, dying, broke, unemployed, incarcerated, homeless, persecuted to the point of death, naked, hungry, and discouraged by life in general.
Book One - The Paradox of Law and Grace
This work was created for anyone who is perhaps curious why Christianity is confusing. In regard to this confusion, I would like first to introduce a candle:
For many years a fabulous union had planned to make a candle. They possessed unlimited resources and the ability for continuity. An eternal flame that cast a perfect light was the goal of this union. Their intent was to prove any competition and innovation to be a futile endeavor. A new type of candle was to be created to support this flame. This candle was to be the first and last of its kind.
In due time, the prototype was fashioned, introduced, and successfully tested by an organization the union had developed. After 2000 years, this fabulous union, through a second organization, continues to freely give this candle to whosoever desires the beauty in the flame.
A confusing aspect of Christianity may be seen by the contrast between the Old Testament (OT) saints, Abraham (who was not sinless, himself) and his nephew Lot. The New Testament (NT) tells us that the nephew of Abraham was justified by faith - that he was saved. Also, that he was grieved by the behavior he saw (2 Pet 2:7).
Lot, burdened by the wealth of huge flocks, left his uncle's company and chose to compromise with a wealthy, sexually oriented society. He sat at the gates of a magnificent city in a position of financial power more so than any moral authority. Lot, though he was saved and belonged to "a great house," was a "vessel unto dishonor" (2 Tim 2:20). He obviously was not grieved enough to leave this city before the moral destruction of his wife and daughters. Lot did not come to saving belief nor did he mature spiritually while living in Sodom. But, by the grace of God, he did escape the destruction of Sodom with his life intact.
Christian baptism is a great source of confusion. When the ancient poet, Homer, made use of the word baptism (Gk. baptizo) in the Odyssey, he wrote of ships that had sunk or burned in battle. Ships that had become completely immersed into and under the influence of water or fire. As a phenomenon, these ships had been consumed by the water and flames. The ships had been baptized because they disappeared into an elemental force.
A shipwreck was a different matter for the ancient poet. Any damaged ship not baptized would float or drift onto the shallows. Valuable parts and cargo could be salvaged by anyone willing to put forth the effort. Much like the ships in Homer's poem, Christian faith can either be baptized or shipwrecked.
The Christian with perfect church attendance, contented with reserved seating and generations of family ties and, who is salvaging their salvation as a committed follower of God should read no further. You stand on a fine moral platform shaped by the power of your determination. You have freely chosen righteousness. Should everyone do likewise, the world would be a much better place to live in and depart from. Amen?
This would truly be praiseworthy if God agreed. Even the unsaved are "ministers of righteousness" who have rejected the power of God. "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" (2 Tim 3:4) and "That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Cor 2:5).
Because the goal of Christianity is salvation, the confusion within Protestantism may be reduced to two wholly incompatible and logically self-excluding outlooks that are formed from believing different messages (there are dozens), or gospels, about Jesus Christ, namely:
(1) ***The Asterisk Contract - salvation is a successful or failed salvage effort. Irrespective of the message, there are those convinced by "common sense" that salvation cannot become a permanent effect until after death. Also, this conviction is framed by the conditional clause only if God finds me worthy. Therefore, out of self-concern, one must continue to salvage their salvation.
(2) The Unconditional Contract - salvation is the gift of eternal life. Because "God is not a man that He can lie," there are those who are worthless in and of themselves, and, who know eternal life is a permanent effect which comes through understanding and trusting "My Word" for salvation (Titus 1:3,4; 3:5).
Titus 1:3 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world (age-times) began. But hath in due times (its own due season) manifested his word through preaching [#2782, a proclamation, by implication the gospel itself], which is committed unto me according to the commandment [obey the gospel of God our Savior].
A chemical compound requires strict adherence to a formula to be safe and effective. There is unlimited room for careless error when producing these compounds. In the same way, there may exist many gospel messages that lead to error. However, fortunately or not, all error leads to the same wrong, graceless salvation. The correct "formula" for salvation is contained in Scripture. This excludes theory and common sense. Dr. Lewis Chafer writes:
"Sincerity is worthy, but it is not the measure of truth. It is revealed that the perfect manhood of Christ was wholly subject to the will of His Father. It is written of Him that, 'when he cometh into the world, he saith, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God' (Heb 10:5-7; cf. Ps 40:6-8). There could be no perfect humanity or creaturehood which is not completely subject to the will of God; and the first step in salvation on the part of those for whom redemption is provided is that they shall 'obey the gospel' (Acts 5:32; 2 Thess 1:8; Heb 5:9; 1 Pet 4:17). With this provision in view there is no need that any should be lost who desires to be saved." (Systematic Theology, Dr. Lewis Chafer, Vol 1, p 239)
The uncertainty between salvation by grace and salvation by faithful obedience, which is more correctly termed "by the obedience of [saving] faith," is clarified in Titus 3:5, where baptism is by the "washing of regeneration" that occurs at the moment of saving faith. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, If thou knewest the gift of God , and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest of asked him, and he would have given thee living water [the Holy Spirit (John 4:10). Water of itself has no saving effect. The power of God is in the blood of Christ.
Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
There are over thirty verses completely void of "repent" that are listed in the Appendix of this volume which establish obedience for salvation. This obedience is God's only command to the unsaved - "obey the gospel" and "his commandment is life everlasting." This is the only social gospel in the NT. Christianity aims to transform the destiny of one person at a time, not reform society.
Successfully conforming to "authoritative advice" (#5219, 2 #3980) will be recognized by God as saving faith. Therefore, "obeying the gospel," "the obedience of faith," repenting (Gk. metanoia, a change of conviction, turning to trust from distrust, disbelief, etc., to Christ from self-concern), or believing in what the union of God, Jesus, and the Word says are all one in the same. This trust, or, full reliance in Christ for salvation must be recognized by God before He gives the believer "life more abundantly." Before He creates within the believer eternal life, as in "reborn from above" (Gk. anothen, John 3:3):
John 5:24 Verily, verily, [a Greek phrase indicating creative divine will, uniquely used by Jesus. God speaks and it happens before it happens (comes into being), as in the Genesis translation of the Hebrew phrase rendered, "Let there be and there was"] I say unto you, He that heareth [#191=to hear in various senses, J understand] my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting [#166 J eternal, for ever] life [#2222, same life "in Jesus," John 1:4], and shall not come into condemnation [the final judgment and the biblical "second death"]; but is passed from [spiritual] death unto [eternal] life [#2222].
Please note, a correct message that is undifferentiated from "my word" or "the gospel of Christ" becomes vital in (2) for "understanding" and saving belief that releases grace - which is "the power of God": "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power [#1411, dunamis, miraculous power], of God unto salvation to every one that believeth " (Rom 1:16). Altogether, God performs 33 works of power and grace (dunamis and charis, miraculous gifts), for the believer at the moment of saving belief and 7 more after they leave their natural bodies. 3 "But as many as received him, to them gave he power [#1849, the ability, freedom, i.e. applied the value of the blood of Christ which releases the graceful power of God] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12).
In short, if the message is not the genuine Word of God, it has no power to save. Well may a sincere desire to be a Christian result from a ingenuous message; but that person will not have entered into a new state of being Christianity. Paul said of the believers in Rome, "But God be thanked, that ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness (progressive sanctification), and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through (in) Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 6: 17-18, 22-23).
For these reasons, it may be understood and observed that from the beginning, the outlook resulting from "whatever" message was believed in (1), above, produced an incomplete self-centered effort. While, in (2) the Christ-centered gift is an effortless new beginning. " Yea, he [the believer] shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand" (Rom 14:4).
Book Two - Glorious Grace!
Three tenets of Christianity are the hallmark of Pauline teaching in his Letters to seven churches and three friends. Paul was used by God to explain the closure, or fulfillment, of the Mosaic Law, justification by faith, and the mystical union of the Christian with Christ. Four interrelated understandings will help the curious begin to separate the incompatible and irreconcilable gospel messages, namely:
(1) Those "who are called out" (Gk. ekklesia, church) and put their trust in Christ are placed by God into the Body of Christ. A body of believers who are the only past, present, and future church in the New Testament. There are no recognized differences in this "church." We live in the NT Church Age not the OT Age of Mosaic Law. For this reason, the man-made concept of denominations as acceptable differences in opinion is patently nonsense.
Each local group of Christians enjoy much liberty within that which is not expressly forbidden in the NT (the OT is a guide not the law for Christians). Most importantly, the gospel message that encompasses all of redemption is authored by God not men. Man has no authority to change God's sacred offer. Any change makes it of "no effect." The "legal" statements that identify the NT church from the OT church are given in God's Word.
The prime directive for believers is not the notion of mimicking the friendly act of a racial outcast (a "Samaritan") obeying every one of the Ten Commandments, or a "Golden Rule" of do unto others as commonly repeated by the religious pundit. I won't deny these truths are exemplary and heart warming. I do deny they warm the heart of Christ. Who was the undistinguished "naked man" the Samaritan rescued? "For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you [any believer] a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward" (Mark 9:41; see also Mtw 10:42; 25:40; Heb 6:10; 2 Tim 1:16-18).
To give money to build beautiful buildings or to charities that "live off" feeding hungry foreigners, while believers are in need, is worse than sin, it is worthless false obedience. I can give much anecdotal and personal witness to the lack of "friendliness towards Christ" exhibited by church pastors to the smallest unsolicited request from a mere nobody "in Christ".
The one insistent NT command for all believers is the emphatic, thrice repeated "my commandment" of Christ to love your fellow believer, not charities that feed the unsaved or grand buildings. And this, to the impossible extent that Jesus loves them. NT church "law" for the unsaved and the saved is stated by one verse in the Bible, 1 John 3:23:
1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
1 Pet 1:22-23 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye 4 love one another with a pure heart fervently. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.
John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him who he hath sent.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
John 15:14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
2 John 1:5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we 1 love one another.
1(v.5) Law (of Christ), Summary: The new "law of Christ" is the divine love, as wrought into the renewed heart by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5; Heb 10:16), and outflowing in the energy of the Spirit, unforced and spontaneous, toward the objects of the divine love (2 Cor 5:14-20; 1 Thes 2:7, 8). It is, therefore, "the law of liberty" (Jas 1:25; 2:12), in contrast with the external law of Moses. Moses' law demands love (Lev 19:8; Duet 6:5; Lk 10:27); Christ's law is love (Rom 5:5; 1 John 4:7, 19, 20), and so takes the place of the external law by fulfilling it (Rom 13:10; Gal 5:14). It is the "law written in the heart" under the New Covenant (Heb 8:8 note).
(8:8) [ref. Isa 61:8 and Heb chapter 8] The New Covenant, Summary: (1) "Better" than the Mosaic Covenant, not morally, but efficaciously (Heb 7:19; Rom 8:3, 4). (2) Established on "better" (i.e. unconditional) promises. In the Mosaic Covenant God said, "If ye will" (Ex 19:5); in the New Covenant He says , "I will" (Heb 8:10, 12). (3) Under the Mosaic Covenant obedience sprang from fear (Heb 2:2; 12:25-27); under the New from a willing heart and mind (v. 10). (4) The New Covenant secures the personal revelation of the Lord to every believer (v. 11); (5) the complete oblivion of sins (v. 12; Heb 10:17; Cf. Heb 10:3; (6) rests upon an accomplished redemption (Mt 26:27, 28; 1 Cor 11:25; Heb 9:11, 12, 18-23); (7) and secures the perpetuity, future conversion, and blessing of Israel (Jer 31:31-40; see also "Kingdom (O.T.)," and 2 Sam 7:8-17. The New Covenant is the eighth covenant, thus speaking of resurrection and of eternal completeness. i
(2) Let me suggest that I seriously promised you were going to become "saved" by believing a message that I would share with you. Would it not be reasonable to expect me to offer you an explanation of "what and how" might cause that to happen? And, would not the most important question of yours be: Why are you telling me? Why should I believe your message? There would be a great difference in the overall "attitude" of my message should I consider myself a commendable working example, as opposed to a suddenly generous starving leper who has found more food than he can possibly eat.
The primary sin of the race is the answer to the question of - Why? All men were condemned before they were born because of Adam's sin. Man cannot be made over from what they are cursed, sinful, and headed for hell on a non-stop conveyor that takes them from the "age of responsibility" to the grave. Any "responsible" person who remains descended from Adam and not born into Christ will remain on this conveyor of condemnation.
The much unpublished truth is that a forgiven sinner is not saved. All men have their sins canceled by the death of Christ. Thus, the premature death of small children is provided for in the death of Christ. All men have been reconciled by God to Himself. Thereby, all men are rendered deserving of salvation through faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ. The correct gospel message is the power of God for salvation. The message of reconciliation is that men reconcile themselves to God when they believe to receive His promise of eternal life.
Most gospels given today are a corruption of God's message. The observable fact is the people hearing these messages are offered nothing to believe. A simplified who, when, and where is hardly news, definitely not "good news," in today's world. No valid explanation of what and how is given. The only why that is ever offered is the wrong reason personal sinfulness. The unsaved are simply told they will become a Christian. Much like taking an oath to join a club. Thus, the "power of God" to create a "new man" is omitted and a gospel of grief, or some construction of a "Lordship" is substituted for "power".
To reverse the gospel from accepting the graceful offer of believing in Jesus for salvation to one where Jesus must accept an invitation to enter one's heart and be the "Lord of their life" is spiritual and biblical fraud. It is not without reason that these corrupted gospels cannot be in accordance with God's Word. Because God's power of grace would destroy their "theory" of salvaging salvation.
God's power acting, freely and without obligation, in behalf of the believer is His grace which satisfies His love. Consider the blood of the Paschal Lamb of the first Passover (of sin and death) and the power (grace) needed to part the Red Sea. The death of Christ fulfilled the symbol of the Lamb's blood and "took away" sin that was only "covered or passed over" before. God's power (grace) for this age was the resurrection of His Son so that all who trust in Him can never be condemned with the world for sin. This kind of forgiveness and permanent redemption is a "hard thing" and "the offense of the cross" that staggers a religious mind into disbelief and rejection.
The gospel is the message of what God has done. God has a perfect "message of reconciliation." Reconciliation guarantees the "righteousness of God" will become a reality for the lost because Jesus Christ "became" sin when He died. He also became "righteousness" for all who believe when the power of God raised Him from among the dead to be glorified, never to die again. Salvation comes by "blood" and "power".
1 Pet 1:2-5 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience [of faith] and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively (living) hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from (from among) the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled; and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. Who are kept (guarded) by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Blood. In His death the forensic imputation of righteousness is justification. "But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34; see Eph 5:26= blood, then Titus 3:5=power). Whereby, all penalty for sin was suffered by Christ. This graceful gift of forgiveness is justification. It is a legal act and like the Mosaic Law - or any law - has no power to stop sin.
Power. The graceful gift of righteousness is the divine act of sanctification that becomes a reality and an imparted possession of believers. It is the power of God to control sin. Holiness, separation, setting apart unto God, or sanctification (not to be confused with progressive spiritual maturity, experiential sanctification or personal righteousness) is accomplished by the organic "impartation" of righteousness which comes by the indwelling Holy Spirit and the divine act of being baptized "into" Christ, the Head of the Body. Whereby, the righteousness of Christ is shared by all believers past, present, and future. Believers have been so immersed into and completely influenced by Christ that they and He become indistinguishable in the perfect eyes of God.
God has made salvation possible. Justification by faith is available. The sins of all men have been redeemed. Men need only, "Be reconciled to God!" to become the "righteousness of God" in Christ.
2 Cor 5:17-21 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed awaylook, what is new has come! And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting (imputing KJV) people's trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God!" God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God. NET
(3) Contrary to popular religious assumptions, Jesus the unique God-man never called himself an example. He did say: "I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5) and Paul wrote: "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God" (Phil 1:11).
Jesus only said: "Follow [#190=union with the same road, go together] me." Someone who invites you to go where they go is not asking for an imitator, but a companion to share a journey. "Can two walk together, except they be agreed" (Amos 3:3). The Apostle Peter in I Peter does suggest that Christ is an example, not for our blessings or behavior, but for our "momentary" suffering. The Apostle Paul correctly used himself as an example and said: "Be a follower [#3402 and #4831=imitator, mimic] of me."
An unregenerate soul may only mimic petty acts of morality; but has no "power" to imitate the deeper spiritual realities of the "righteousness" possessed by Paul and all believers. The unregenerate soul who only practices righteousness cannot truthfully accept the offer of companionship by Jesus. They do not share in the righteousness of Christ because they have never trusted in Him for the gift of eternal life, forgiveness, and righteousness as explained above.
(4) A system of theology that denies, overlooks, never mentions, and is not centered in propitiation is common to "another gospel." God has no immutable righteous nature, no grace to give, and no "message of reconciliation" for lost men without complete satisfaction (propitiation) in the judgment of all sin. Without propitiation there is no such thing as "good news." There is only the temporary deception of a new self-concern, albeit religious. This lie, that one must salvage their salvation, leads only to the horrible realization of the blasting truth revealed after death to every unsaved soul. Dr. Lewis Chafer, writes:
"The three [divine] imputations named above [(a) Adam's sin to all men which makes all men guilty at birth, (b) the sin of all men to Christ in which the whole gospel resides, and (c) the "righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil 3:9) that is the "justified" believer's perfect standing of "not guilty" before God] prove foundational to all that enters into Christianity. They are wholly foreign to the Mosaic system and never mentioned in any Scriptures related to the coming kingdom [Sermon on the Mount (the King's Laws or Rule of Life in His Future Kingdom) and the Olivet Discourse (the Kings Farewell Speech and Promise to Return)]. This teaching, along with other foundational doctrines such as propitiation [God's completed satisfaction in the substitutionary, penal death of Christ for the redemption of sin and the reconciliation of men. This is God's plan for a completed foundation upon which grace is available for the salvation of men.], accordingly should be comprehended by every student at any cost [so they might understand fully and correctly share the complete gospel of the grace of God as it is revealed in the NT]." ii
So in closing this introduction, the curious should be told the bad news first. Christianity, by and large, will become more and more hypocritical and confusing. Jesus predicted this would happen in the seven mysteries of the kingdom of heaven found in Matthew 13 and Revelation chapters 2 through 3. The Apostle Paul predicts, "But evil men and seducers (juggling imposters) shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2 Tim 3:13).
And lastly, the curious should be told that one must believe in order to receive the good news. Ordinary common sense is useless. God's grace is beyond the ordinary. The true gospel of God's grace is the "good news."
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