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Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

Thus far we have learned the first three commandments, which relate to God. First that with our whole heart we trust in Him, and fear and love Him throughout all our life. Secondly, that we do not misuse His holy name in the support of falsehood or any bad work, but employ it to the praise of God and the profit and salvation of our neighbor and ourselves. Thirdly, that on holidays and when at rest we diligently treat and urge God’s Word, so that all our actions and our entire life be ordered according to it. Now follow the other seven, which relate to our neighbor among which the first and greatest is:

Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.

To this estate of fatherhood and motherhood God has given the special distinction above all estates that are beneath it that He not simply commands us to love our parents, but to honor them. For with respect to brothers, sisters, and our neighbors in general He commands nothing higher than that we love them, so that He separates and distinguishes father and mother above all other persons upon earth, and places them at His side. For it is a far higher thing to honor than to love one, inasmuch as it comprehends not only love, but also modesty, humility, and deference as to a majesty there hidden, and requires not only that they be addressed kindly and with reverence, but, most of all that both in heart and with the body we so act as to show that we esteem them very highly, and that, next to God, we regard them as the very highest. For one whom we are to honor from the heart we must truly regard as high and great.

We must, therefore impress it upon the young that they should regard their parents as in God’s stead, and remember that however lowly, poor, frail, and queer they may be, nevertheless they are father and mother given them by God. They are not to be deprived of their honor because of their conduct or their failings. Therefore we are not to regard their persons, how they may be, but the will of God who has thus created and ordained. In other respects we are, indeed, all alike in the eyes of God; but among us there must necessarily be such inequality and ordered difference, and therefore God commands it to be observed, that you obey me as your father, and that I have the supremacy.

Learn, therefore, first, what is the honor towards parents required by this commandment to wit, that they be held in distinction and esteem above all things, as the most precious treasure on earth. Furthermore, that also in our words we observe modesty toward them, do not accost them roughly, haughtily, and defiantly, but yield to them and be silent even though they go too far. Thirdly, that we show them such honor also by works, that is, with our body and possessions, that we serve them, help them, and provide for them when they are old, sick, infirm, or poor, and all that not only gladly, but with humility and reverence, as doing it before God. For he who knows how to regard them in his heart will not allow them to suffer want or hunger, but will place them above him and at his side, and will share with them whatever he has and possesses.

Secondly, notice how great, good, and holy a work is here assigned children, which is alas! utterly neglected and disregarded, and no one perceives that God has commanded it or that it is a holy, divine Word and doctrine. -Luther’s Large Catechism

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A short post between my commandment posts…here is a phrase I heard from someone (Ellis Potter) who had converted from Zen Buddhism to Christianity:

We all must existentially bow and say,
I am small and God is great,
I do not create God in my own image,
God is right, and I am wrong,
God is good, and I am not…

The context was that one or more of these things happens at conversion (or something else along those lines).

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“As the First Commandment has instructed the heart and taught [the basis of] faith, so this commandment leads us forth and directs the mouth and tongue to God. For the first objects that spring from the heart and manifest themselves are words. Now, as I have taught above how to answer the question, what it is to have a god, so you must learn to comprehend simply the meaning of this and all the commandments, and to apply it to yourself.

If, then, it be asked: How do you understand the Second Commandment, or what is meant by taking in vain, or misusing God’s name? answer briefly thus: It is misusing God’s name when we call upon the Lord God no matter in what way, for purposes of falsehood or wrong of any kind. Therefore this commandment enjoins this much, that God’s name must not be appealed to falsely, or taken upon the lips while the heart knows well enough, or should know, differently; as among those who take oaths in court, where one side lies against the other. For God’s name cannot be misused worse than for the support of falsehood and deceit. Let4this remain the exact German and simplest meaning of this commandment.

From this every one can readily infer when and in how many ways God’s name is misused, although it is impossible to enumerate all its misuses. Yet, to tell it in a few words, all misuse of the divine name occurs, first, in worldly business and in matters which concern money, possessions, honor, whether it be publicly in court, in the market, or wherever else men make false oaths in God’s name, or pledge their souls in any matter. And this is especially prevalent in marriage affairs where two go and secretly betroth themselves to one another, and afterward abjure [their plighted troth].

But. the greatest abuse occurs in spiritual matters, which pertain to the conscience, when false preachers rise up and offer their Lying vanities as God’s Word.” -Luther’s Large Catechism

Luther goes on, of course, for a couple more pages on this. I think this sheds some light on this often misunderstood commandment.

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The point of this commandment, therefore, is to require that kind of true faith and confidence of the heart that is directed toward the one true God and clings to Him alone. The meaning is: ‘See to it that you let Me alone be your God, and never look about for another.’ In other words: ‘Look to Me for any good thing that you lack; come to Me for it. And whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, reach out to Me and hold on to Me. I, and I alone, will satisfy your need and help you in every trouble. Only do not ever let your heart cling to or depend on anything or anybody else.’ -Luther’s Large Catechism

This is part two of my post on the first commandment. Luther goes on for a few more pages. I think this is sufficient for my purposes here, and if you ever pick up a copy of the catechism or find one online, it’s worth the read.

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I asked someone if they see or feel God’s presence in things and people. I don’t mean in any very mystical, or measurable way. I mean, do you get the impression when looking and living in the world that there is the work of the divine? When you do a particularly kind act or receive one, there lies God, at least to me. In the sunset and sunrise etc etc, there I see the divine. But that person said that they don’t see that or feel that.

So I asked if they ever did, perhaps as a child, when we all had a sense of wonder and awe at nearly everything. He tried to remember, but couldn’t. He concluded he never did, really. But then something sparked in his brain, and he recalled that yes, there was a sense of wonder and amazement. But as he grew up, it faded.

Why did it fade? He said that it had to do with learning about science and how the world actually worked. The more he learned, the less ignorant he became, and the more the wonder and awe about the universe left him. He could explain many common things, like the sunrise and sunsets, the northern lights, even what “love” was. There really was nothing that was extraordinary, just simple or less simple laws of the universe at play. It was really all reducible to mathematics.

So it is for him I guess. You see, when we were children, and saw a magic trick, we might have been stuck with amazement and wonder. There was magic, we believed. Then we grew up, and learned or figured out how that “magic” was done. We no longer we impressed by it, and proclaimed that “there is no magic”. But I get the feeling that some have said “there is no magician” either. I assume you all follow my meaning. Those who lose sight of God because they know how things work scientifically should not proclaim there is no being behind the substance that is science. That’s like saying because there is no magic, there is no magician.

I know you can argue about this, but this is how it seems from my perspective in this limited context and limited analogy.

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A Naturalist might ask a theist, or Christian to be specific, for proof of the existence of God. One might point to the bible, and then the naturalist will say that is rubbish, it is full of magic tricks called ‘miracles’. These are impossible, he/she might say, because of Hume’s argument against them: it is far more likely that a witness to such an event is either lying or mistaken, than the laws of the universe have been altered.

But imagine this: You ask for proof of divinity and Jesus rises from the dead and says that death no longer has a hold on humanity if you believe in Him. So you say that is rubbish, because clearly people don’t rise from the dead. Let’s say we go a step further and a miracle of one kind or another happens and you see the reports of it on the news. You then say that that too is rubbish and the whole lot of people must have been drunk, high, or stupid to believe anything they are reporting to have seen (or even better, it was some magician trying to make a name for himself by making a building disappear in NYC…damn those magicians…good special effects these days…). Then, let us say that a miracle happens right before your eyes. What do you say then? “O well, I must have had something bad to eat last night, I’m hallucinating, tired, delirious, insane, dreaming, mistaken, etc etc. You will never, ever, come to the proper conclusion, the truth of the matter, because you exclude miracles from the start. Even if one actually occurred right before your eyes, God proving His divinity and power over natural laws (not that a miracle must be that way), you would still not recognize it for what it is.

In conclusion, when a naturalist claims that they just can’t believe what was written thousands of years ago about miracles, and they sure would like to see some in the present day, preferably right before their very eyes, this very instant so that they may believe, they are mistaken or lying, because they still would not believe.

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“Men seem to proceed on their way in a twilight of indifferent neutrality; and this in spite of all their activity and suffering, their influencing and being influenced, their sowing and their reaping. But what fruits do they secure? What is the upshot of their journey? What signifies their behavior and their prowess? What do they achieve by their words and by their deeds in which they do but discover their own selves? What mean the ‘movements’, the alliances, and the rules within the framework of which they live their lives? Whither do progress and evolution lead them? What is the goal, the TELOS, the purpose of those innumerable ends for which men strive and to which they may, or may not, attain? Do men know the answer to these questions? Or indeed, can they know? In this harvest of human endeavor wheat and tares grow up in such entangled identity that it is impossible to detect which brings forth iniquity and which sanctification (vi. 19). Who is able to judge, and by what objective norm can it be decided, whether the limbs of our mortal body do right or wrong? Who can say whether a thing made by the finite and created spirit of man is evil or good, or whether this or that motion of the soul or historical achievement is iniquitous or holy? May it not be that everything that men do and say and bring into being lies wholly on one side or the other? Is there any visible iniquity which it is quite impossible to interpret as sanctification? Or is there any visible sanctification which may not be called iniquity? We possess, however, no Rosetta stone by the help of which we can decipher the unknown language of human life. We are manifestly ignorant of the harvest which the Lord will carry into His barns; ignorant, too, of the relation between His harvest and ours. And if the meaning of the things we bring forth is beyond our comprehension, how can we comprehend the meaning of our existence? If we do not know our end, how can we know our beginning? Are our affirmations and our negations anything more than chance or whim? When we judge one man a criminal and another a saint; when we destine one to hell and another to heaven; when we believe ‘good will grow better and better, and evil worse and worse’ (Harnack), are we not purely capricious? Moreover, what is good? What is evil? Is it not right that twilight such as this should mark the realm of tension and polarity, of dualism and allogeneity? Here ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ confront each other; here both are alike necessary, valuable, and divine–and, yet we can have no very great illusion about the necessity, value, and divinity of this ‘Yes’ and this ‘No’. Here wisdom can, no doubt, do its utmost to adjust a balance and arrange a compromise–so that the play can run on without a hitch!” p. 225-226 The Epistle to the Romans

Here Barth breaks down the basic questions that all men ought to ask and ponder. I’ve come across many non-religious folks who think that Christians just don’t think about these things at all. That these questions are passed over because they don’t “fit” in to our “religion”. I think Barth shows us how they do fit in, and how they are at the back of everyone’s mind whether they realize it or not.

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