30 March 2021

Israel was not a naval or trading empire. It was a nation of hills and valleys: it was agricultural and pastoral. The merchants of that time were the Pharisees, and they were part of a culture that had colonies from the Levant to Carthage. It was an empire eventually taken down by Scipio Africanus. For Cato the Elder was correct: Carthage had to be destroyed.

But here Isaiah is talking to the coastlands, which were generally not run by Israel but by their enemies, and beyong that to the Antipodes, where this blogger sits as Autumn comes in.

I had a mate refer to a picture of a Chinese man praying a couple of days, ago, saying he was sitting in Singapore in a Chinese church when someone began to pray in the spirit and he realized that he was, altough a stranger, among the brethren.

We are nations, true, but we in Christ are one.

Isaiah 49:1-7
49 Listen to me, O coastlands,
and give attention, you peoples from afar.
The Lord called me from the womb,
from the body of my mother he named my name.
2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow;
in his quiver he hid me away.
3 And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
4 But I said, “I have laboured in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my right is with the Lord,
and my recompense with my God.”
5 And now the Lord says,
he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him—
for I am honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
and my God has become my strength—
6 he says:
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
7 Thus says the Lord,
the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation,
the servant of rulers:
“Kings shall see and arise;
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;
because of the Lord, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

1 Corinthians 1:18-31
18 For the word of the cross is folly 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 discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? 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 did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

John 12:20-36
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.
27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgement of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.

It was the Greeks, who demanded wisdom (God bless them. We have our foundational theology from the Church Fathers, who were predominately Greek speaking), got a sign. The Jews, who demanded a sign, got wisdom, teaching, truth. God gives us what we need. Not what we want.

God chooses not to work with the great and the good. He works instead with the broken. Every elder was at one point broken, fallen, and turned to Jesus. Most of us are not saints: and those who I know who are saintly are more convinced of their sin and unworthiness than I am. Yet here we are.

What I do know is that the people of this time fear us. At Easter, the mockery begins. There are those who seem to consider that Christ is not whom he said he was, but their woke buddy. They see eveverything as political. It is not. Politics is downstream from culture, and culture is downstream from the Godliness of the nation.

Natasha Crain, replying to a fairly typical Holy Week editorial by Kristof, praising progressive Christianity without defining it, puts this position through the shredder.

Kristof plays his hand through this mixing: It’s not that he thinks the growth of progressive Christians in politics is good for America because he’s committed to the truth of progressive Christian theology, but because he’s committed to progressive politics. This isn’t about his Christian faith at all. It’s a political piece wrapped in a Christian veneer.
Of course, he doesn’t take the time to distinguish the difference between progressive theology and politics, but that difference is critical for understanding his writing, so let’s do the explanation for him.
Progressive Christianity is hard to define (and people would define it in a lot of different ways), but in general, it’s the belief that our understanding of God is evolving as society progresses, and the Bible simply reflects man’s understanding of God in the time it was written. In other words, the Bible is a helpful tool—maybe even a beautiful one—but it’s not God’s final say for all time.
In my most recent podcast episode (Critical Thinking in a Secular Culture), I explain that the number one idea that separates a biblical worldview from a secular one is the source of a person’s authority. For Christians who hold the Bible to be the inspired Word of God that describes reality and prescribes human action in response, the Bible will be authoritative because of its very nature. Progressive Christians, however, don’t share this view of the Bible. If the Bible is just one step on the way to our understanding of God, then humans are the source of authority for ourselves.
This idea of authority is no different than a completely secular view.
Whether you’re a progressive Christian who believes in God, or an atheist who does not, your authority is yourself, rather than any supposed revelation.
This understanding of the basis (or lack thereof) for progressive Christian theology is critical for responding to the rest of the article. Now let’s go on.
“That perception might arise because since the 1980s, the most visible Christians have been conservative evangelicals who often emphasize issues that Jesus never explicitly mentioned, such as abortion and homosexuality. But now more progressive Christians are moving onto center stage.”
The Gospels don’t record Jesus saying anything about child abuse, infanticide, racism, or domestic violence, either, but few would argue these things are unimportant or morally acceptable. Even aside from one’s view of the Bible, this is an illogical argument. Jesus couldn’t have commented on everything.
In this statement, Kristof betrays his progressive theological assumptions about the Bible—he believes the only words that matter are those of Jesus himself. He subtly passes this off as if we should all understand issues like abortion and homosexuality must not be very important to Jesus. Ironically, however, Jesus’s own words show that he considered the rest of the Bible to be authoritative. He repeatedly said, for example, he did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17-18; see also Matt. 22:29; Luke 16:31; 24:27; John 5:47).
Notice the slight of hand: Kristof takes the truth of his progressive theology here as a given, suggesting that we need more Christians who believe the same to move to center stage in politics. By specifically speaking to the hot topics of abortion and sexuality, it’s again clear he’s most interested in the support for progressive politics, which Christians with progressive theology are more likely to support.
Again, he is lumping politics and theology together without acknowledging as much.

If you want to learn about Christ, do what Bruce Charlton suggests. Read the Gospel of John. For Christ is there, and the more I read about him the less I realize that he would fit into our hyper politicized world. There are many who would coopt him, but he is God incarnate, sent to save us. Far better that we serve him.