Category: Xtra Astronomy Stuff

Manifold

There existed from eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all distinct persons in one God. In order to put on full display His manifold wisdom to all rulers and authorities in the heavenly places the Father devised a plan for a mystery, namely that the Church, made up of godly offspring which He sought for Himself (Mal. 2:15) would be united to the Son as His Bride.

Now God could have just spoken those offspring right into existence like He did everything else, but remember the purpose of this plan was to put on full display all the many aspects and multi-colored-ness (that is what manifold means) of His wisdom (Eph. 3:10). So to set the stage for this display, He made the earth, a tiny speck of a focal point within an unfathomably vast universe. It too, could have all existed at the snap of a finger but God took a week to carefully layer each element of the setting of this Grand Redemptive Drama. Every piece of creation would play a part in the story: water, darkness, light, a canopy of water reserved for a judgement to come, land and rocks and plants and trees, the sun, moon, and stars, fishes, birds, and beasts, all with speaking roles, proclaiming God’s wisdom (Gen.1, Prov. 8:22-31). 

But the main feature on this set would be a man and woman. Now remember, the Father was seeking godly offspring so He could have just made multitudes of them all at once, but instead He started with 2, two very distinct persons, with very distinct roles, that would be united in one flesh to become one person with one purpose: to bring glory to God by displaying His manifold wisdom. 

God would use the man to display His authority and the loving, sacrificial headship of the Son for the Bride to come, yet unbought. He would use the woman to display the mystery of the bride He was fashioning for His Son, something wholly unlike Himself in form but with the glorious characteristic of helper, just as described in the person of the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:18, John 15:26). Just as Christ’s Bride, the church, would submit to the Son, the woman would submit to her husband, the man (Eph. 5:22). God’s manifold wisdom on display.

This next part still stuns me. All the godly offspring God was seeking would come from those 2 people. The fact that God uses me, a woman, to create and nurture, eternal souls for His glory, is a marvel. Even more of a marvel is that God chose to become a man and be born of a woman, Himself. Why did He do that?

Because part of the plan to put His manifold wisdom on display included that first man and that first woman turning their backs on God’s perfect design and rebelling against Him. Thereafter, every person born would be born in sin, a spiritually dead soul, destined for eternal destruction (Rom. 5:12).

But God, being rich in mercy, and because of the great love He had for this Bride, came to earth to buy her back, to pay the price for her redemption, and to make a way by His own blood to make her holy and lovely again. So great was the sin of the Bride that the atonement required was the life of the Son Himself. But by grace God grants His chosen offspring the faith to believe that the sacrifice of His Son met that requirement fully and that His resurrection from the dead means God’s plan is not thwarted, there will be the Wedding Feast of the Lamb when all the hosts of heaven will finally see the fullness, the brightness, the many-colored-ness, of God’s wisdom on display (Eph. 2:1-10).

Revelation 19 describes this scene for us. All the hosts of heaven are rejoicing and giving God glory “for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.” It’s a big deal when the bride is already to come down that aisle. All the months of preparation for this moment fall into place. The next verse even describes what she is wearing. “It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” 

The bride’s garment is a gift from God. He had designed it before He even made the world. Every good work the church is adorned with was planned in ages past and made possible through the sacrifice of the Lamb. Then God even gifted the Bride with the Helper, His very own Holy Spirit to work in her both to will and to do the good works that now adorn her (Phil. 2:13). God’s manifold wisdom on display.

As a fallen woman, some of those good works seem a lot harder than others for me to put on. Submission is one of those, as is a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3:4). This is just as God pronounced after the fall in Genesis 3, my natural inclination is bent to rule over my husband, but instead God is keeping him as head over me, even though he too is sinful and doesn’t do that perfectly. That’s why we both need the Helper. It is only through the Spirit’s working in us that what we display to the world can even resemble what will ultimately be on full display in heaven. And that is why God alone will get all the glory for the readiness of the Bride. He made her, loved her even when she turned her back on Him, laid down His life to ransom her, works in her to make her holy, and clothes her with His righteous deeds.

Today, marriage, even the concept of manhood and womanhood, is under cosmic attack. The easiest way to undermine God’s purposes for each is to cause us to forget them. Remember wives, marriage is not about you. Your happiness, personal feelings of fulfillment, or even doing whatever works, are not the main goal. There’s something infinitely greater at play in your union. To lose sight of that is to lose sight of the Gospel itself.

All glory be to God both now and forever!

Aquinas for Dummies

It’s October. My birthday was filled with all the pumpkin things that I love. The mornings are crisper, the leaves are changing and the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is just around the corner. There is much to celebrate. And yet a project looms before me like the bleak chill of winter and I’ve put it off long enough. I’ve been asked to write an essay. On a topic very few of you want to know anything about. But the fact is more of you should, because more of you are going to be affected by this than the nay-sayers would like to admit. While we yet bask in the glow of 500 years of Ex Tenebris Lux, the darkness of Catholicism is creeping as stealthily back into the church as a silent shadow.

It’s hard to imagine that the very doctrines sisters half my age boldly gave their lives for (you can read about 2 of them by clicking here and here) were staunchly held by the very man now being touted by main stream Protestant seminaries as The Greatest Theologian. I am speaking of Thomas Aquinas, a name most Protestants a few years ago would only have been exposed to through philosophical references by RC Sproul who reverenced him as one philosopher would another. As a philosophy major, I too, held Aquinas in high regard placing him at the center of my doctoral pursuits in Medieval Epistemology (which pursuits I promptly abandoned to pursue the far greater calling of motherhood. I literally had my first symptoms of morning sickness during the flight home from a fellowship interview at Notre Dame). But while morning sickness was taking hold of my life, a far greater sickness was taking hold of some of my Christian colleagues. That sickness was Roman Catholicism. In the years to come I saw one after another fall victim to this disease.

Lest you think I’m being over dramatic let me describe 2 scenarios of particular closeness to me. The daughter of a beloved, highly respected pastor married a young man from their homeschooling circles. He pursued a degree in Philosophy, encountered Aquinas, was drawn into Thomism, then full fledged Roman Catholicism, he and his sweet wife both converted into the RCC and brought up their children in it, until completely disillusioned he abandoned the faith all together, leaving his wife hopelessly confused with a wedge now between she and her heartbroken parents. Another brilliant young man from a strong Christian family pursud philosophy, encountered Aquinas, was drawn into Thomism, then full fledged Roman Catholicism, converted, convinced his brother to do likewise, both abandoned the gospel truths their parents raised them in and commenced raising their own families in the RCC. Similar stories abound with other classmates.

Now granted, this is the risk of any secular education and frankly of just walking out our front door into the real world. Everyone comes face to face with godless ideologies that test the genuineness of our faith. No one is immune from the influence of worldly philosophy. So why pin so much blame on a dead Medieval monk? That, my friends, is not where the danger lies. Everyone should read a little Thomas. Just as they should read a little Plato and Aristotle who so influenced Thomistic thinking. Sproul was right in his estimation of Thomas’s philosophical brilliance. And it is good and right to think hard about ideas and exercise our minds in the testing of them. It is good and right to weigh the world’s philosophies against Scripture, to be able to discern and identify where they diverge from the truth. Aquinas is of great value in that regard.

But Aquinas wasn’t just a philosopher. He was a papist through and through. There’s a reason Pope Leo XIII exhorted the Catholic scholars of the 1870’s to “restore the golden wisdom of St. Thomas, and to spread it far and wide for the defense and beauty of the Catholic faith.” “Let carefully selected teachers,” he continues, “endeavor to implant the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas in the minds of students, and set forth clearly his solidity and excellence over others.”(from the 1879 Aeterni Patris) Today, Pope Leo’s dreams have been realized even beyond his wildest imaginings. For Thomistic doctrine is not only being successfully implanted into the minds of Catholic students by Catholic teachers alone, but into the minds of Protestant seminarians by Protestant seminaries as well.

When I walked away from academia in 2003, I could not have imagined that the contagion among Christian students immersed in secular philosophical studies would 20 years later be spreading like a cancer in our most respected Protestant seminaries. This means there is a high likely hood it will be impacting the local church near you. Under the guise of Classical Theism and couched in seemingly acute arguments over Divine Simplicity, Thomism appears to be far outside the range of the average lay-persons field of inquiry. They might hear their pastor throw out a quote or two from the Suma Theologica, a massive body of work affectionately referred to as the Suma, or scroll past the confusing debates on Twitter, or try and wade through the technical Latin jargon on a favorite podcast, but beyond that most of us are left relatively unscathed.

But as Reformation Day approaches, consider some of the following doctrines whose denial cost countless reformers their lives.

  1. That “the Roman Pontiff has universal jurisdiction over the entire Church of Christ,” “that to him belongs the right of deciding what pertains to faith,” and “that to be subject to the Roman Pontiff is necessary for salvation.” (Aquinas, “Contra Err Graecorum”)
  2. “That there exists a purgatory wherein souls are cleansed from sins not cleansed in the present life.” (Aquinas, “Contra Err Graecorum”)
  3. That Mary “exceeds the angels in her purity, for the Blessed Virgin was not only pure in herself, but she also obtained purity for others,” “that she was most pure with respect to guilt, because neither mortal nor venial sin could be imputed to this virgin,” “that in any peril you can obtain salvation from this glorious Virgin,” that Mary’s body did not meet with corruption because “she was assumed in the body into heaven, for we believe that after death she was raised up and borne to heaven,” and that “Christians are directed by Mary to glory.” (Aquinas, “On the Hail Mary”)

Those are just 3 of the Catholic doctrines that Aquinas defended by his own pen in a canon of personal works that spanned some 20,000 pages. There are many more I could add, just as there many more that would fall well within the bounds of Protestant orthodoxy. But the first one alone is enough to warrant sufficient concern that Thomism is undergoing a swell of popularity in Evangelical circles, and of greater concern, among those training to pastor our churches.

It is the job of the shepherd to protect the flock from the wolves without and within. The ravishing teeth of the Roman Catholic Church are bent on devouring the pure light of the gospel, robbing the flock of the gift of grace, setting before Christ’s precious bride idols of men to entice her unto whoredom. And yet there are those who would usher in these doctrines of demons under the pretense of learnedness, of tradition, and of reason. One only has to read 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 and Paul’s warnings to the church against the very Greek philosophies Aquinas builds upon to understand the arrogant futility of this kind of learning.

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased, through the foolishness of the message preached, to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

1 Corinthians 1:18-24

A Strong Tower

(This is an excerpt from a ladies Bible study lesson I gave last night)

As I’ve taught through these Psalms, I’ve taken occasion to share from the lives of woman martyred for their faith, women who were deeply immersed in the Psalms, who sang them, memorized them, and died quoting them. So far the women I have covered have all been subjects of the British Crown. One even wore it herself before she was executed by the rival heir to throne (click here for that epic tale). Today I would like to share about a woman who bore the unique distinction of having been the only female subject of the Crown to have been both tortured in the Tower of London and burnt at the stake. What kind of treachery earned her such renown? 

She refused to deny Scriptural truth.

Anne Askew was born in 1521 to a gentleman in the court of King Henry 8th who had the honor of having been a juror in the trial of Anne Boleyn. Even though she was a devout Protestant, when she was 15 years old she was forced to marry a Catholic, Thomas Kyme, who was betrothed to Anne’s older sister, Martha. But Martha died before the wedding and in order to save the price of the dowry which had already been paid, Anne’s father married her off for free.

On account of the fact that Anne refused to stop reading her Bible aloud to all who would listen, her husband eventually threw her out and in 1545 had her arrested. She managed to escape house arrest, returning immediately to London where she continued loudly proclaiming the Gospel in the public squares which earned her a second arrest in 1546 and then a third arrest that same year. This time however, she was taken to the Tower of London, where she became 1 of the only 2 women in history recorded to have been tortured within its walls.

During her time in the Tower, Anne underwent several examinations in an attempt to draw from her the names of like-minded sisters and brothers as well as a repudiation of Protestant doctrine. It is speculated that the main object of these examinations however, was to gain testimony that the current Queen, Catherine Parr, was in fact a practicing Protestant herself. Her refusal to give the officials what they wanted resulted in Anne’s being shown to the rack, which was illegal on account of her sex. Given one more chance to name other Protestants, she refused and was fastened to the bed of the rack by her ankles and wrists. Again she was asked for names. Again she refused and the wheels of the rack were turned, pulling Anne taught and up to about 5 inches above the bed, at which point she fainted. She was then lowered, revived and offered another chance to confess. Her refusal angered her torturers to the extent that they pulled her up again, this time turning the handles so hard that she was drawn apart, dislocating her knees and elbows and pulling her hips and shoulders from their sockets. 

Still alive, she was sentenced to be burned at the stake on July 16, 1546. On account of her extensive injuries she was carried to the stake on chair and granted one last opportunity for pardon. The Bishop mounted a pulpit and began to preach to her the Catholic doctrines. Anne listened carefully, audibly voicing her agreement on matters of truth. But whenever the Bishop said anything outside of Scripture she boldly proclaimed,

“There he misseth, and speaketh without the book!” 

Anne Askew was 25 years old when she was martyred for her faith.  She left behind extensive writings, including this version of Psalm 54 put in poetic form.

For thy name’s sake, be my refuge, And in thy truth, my quarrel judge. Before thee (lord) let me be heard,
And with favour my tale regard Lo, faithless men, against me rise,
And for thy sake, my death practise. My life they seek, with main and might
Which have not thee, afore their sight Yet help’st thou me, in this distress,
Saving my soul, from cruelness.
I wote know thou wilt revenge my wrong,
And visit them, ere it be long. I will therefore, my whole heart bend,
Thy gracious name (Lord) to commend. From evil thou hast, delivered me,
Declaring what mine enemies be. Praise to God.

The voice of Anne Askew out of the 54 Psalm of David, called Deus in nomine tuo.

How well do you know your Bible? If a Bishop, or book, or Instagram post, or ladies conference speaker, said something outside of Scripture, would you even recognize it as such? Could you point out where he or she “misseth and speaketh without the book”? 

How well do you love your Bible? If asked to die for truths it contained, would you do so?

How well do you rely on your Bible? If faced with trials and persecutions are the promises on those pages enough to sustain you? 

More than any other parts of Scripture, it is the Psalms which fellow sufferers throughout the ages have turned to for comfort. The very first Psalm we will be looking at is no exception. Imagine what the following words from Psalm 61:1,2 would have meant to Anne as she was held captive in that infamous Tower.

“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;  From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”

My prayer this semester is that through these Psalms we would come to know, love, and rely on Scripture as the sufficient source of truth and comfort for whatever trials lie immediately at hand or far ahead. But more than that my prayer is that we would come to know and love the Savior they point us to, our own Strong Tower, Jesus Christ.