The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Saturday, January 30, 2016

No Exit Here; the Reasoning behind the Doctrine of Total Depravity

I. Our first parents, begin seduced by the subtlety and temptations of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.
II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.
III. They being the root of mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by original generation.
IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
V. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.
VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal. 

Whether you agree with this section of the Westminster Confession of Faith or not ( or any of it for that matter ), if you're a Bible-believing Christian, you must admit that Adam & Eve DID sin ( grievously ) & unwittingly unleashed a 'world' of trouble on their descendants! That this corruption persists to this day, even in the nature of the regenerated, is the question we must ask ourselves; if this 'fallen' nature persists in those who have been regenerated, then did Christ come in vain?! Are we not, as the apostle Paul wrote, 'a new creation' ( II Corinthians 5:17 )? The argument that the WCF outlines ( in bold above ) seems rather obvious in many cases, but is it really that simple; can or should we blame our failures on something over which we have no control: have we no responsibility to bear in the matter?

The doctrine of total depravity, along with being one of the five pillars of Calvinism, is one of the hallmarks of the orthodox Christian faith. Without the necessity of blaming our failures on some storied 'fallen nature', the redemption that Jesus brought seems almost unnecessary. If we did not inherit this corruption from the first Adam, then where is the need for rescue from the depravity of this world? On the other hand, though, if the Anointed One, the last Adam, did not save His people from their sins, then what veracity can we glean from statements such as that above? Since Jesus DID save His people from corruption, then what were the fashioners of the WCF thinking when they penned those words?!

The doctrine in question here is based upon the false notion that somehow man was able to irrevocably mar the Creator God's natural good Creation; to even suggest that is to put mere humanity ( not to mention this 'Satan' ) on par  with the Creator; this may not be! To suggest that mankind is fated to live with this corrupted nature until they die or Jesus comes back, whichever comes first, is to say that the Messiah of Israel failed in His original mission & must return in the selfsame Body to rule & reign on the earth. This of course, will be AFTER He burns up this present world in all its wickedness!

While this doctrine DOES seem to be supported by manifold proof-texts from Scripture, Jeremiah 17:9 for instance, when read in their proper & original context, we can see that they're not speaking of those who have entered the New Covenant, but of those that labored under that first covenant, Israel according to the flesh! Because the Messiah rescued His people from their distresses under that first covenant & ushered in the New, we no longer suffer from that corruption. Sure, through the weakness of the flesh, we still fail to keep His instructions at all times, but we have been given Strength in the Spirit & in that Spirit we live & breath & have our being; we are not depraved or corrupt, we are a New Creation & that means no more corruption ( or else Jesus failed )!

'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.' This passage ( I Corinthians 15:19 ) is probably one of the orthodox Christian's most quoted ones. The idea behind this is what is known as 'the Hope of Heaven', that someday Jesus will return & rescue His people ( AGAIN? ) from the mess they have made & transport them to a place where there will be no more tears, suffering or dying; this doctrine leaves us with basically no responsibility & renders us powerless, even with the Strength of the Spirit! We are NOT powerless; we are indwelt by the Divine & whether one wants to dicker about the separation of Church & State, Body & Soul or not, we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit!

The escapist notion that we must leave this humanity behind in order to enter God's good graces ( 'Heaven' ) must be wholly discarded! We ARE a New Creation & thus no longer corrupted by the weakness of the flesh. No doubt our Heavenly Father, as we are, is saddened by our failures, but it is not our failures that determine our New Standing; it is rather the Spirit within that has given us the Strength, though we do not always use it, to persevere in do what is right, just & good.

The Sign was given, the Exodus occurred & the People of the Creator God WERE rescued from their corruption, from the depravity of the first Adam! Through this True Exodus, of which that first from Egypt was significant, Jesus led His People out of darkness & into the Light of His Presence, forever.  Forevermore, may we be known, not as Totally Depraved, but as the People of the Presence, for that Sign occurred in the first century A.D. & we are no longer on the 'highway to hell'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Organism or Organization?

Organization is a good thing, right? Ordinarily speaking, anyway, being organized is something we all, to one extent or another, strive for in our own lives! In fact, this might be one of the most popular New Year's resolutions, to be more organized, to make things run more smoothly & more efficiently. Not a bad idea, when you think about it; learning to live more frugally & with more structure just makes sense, especially if you're living on a 'shoe-string' budget!

When it comes to bringing together individual organisms & trying to form them into one organization, we run into a bit of a problem; each individual ( person? ) has his or her own interests, likes & dislikes, as well as character & disposition! One 'problem', you might say then, with the modern-day 'church' is that certain individuals have tried to take what was already organized ( brought together ) & form it into their own image, in their own likeness, even though they claim that it's in the likeness of the Creator & His Son, who was Jesus the Christ. We have been formed in the Image of the Creator God & while there are multi-varied opinions about exactly what that means, one thing is sure, what we see in many institutional churches today is most definitely NOT the Image of our Creator; it' a fully-functioning, incorporated ( usually ) business, with all the necessary accoutrements, like W-2s, Payroll, employees & such!

It IS good business to have a good corporate structure, but is this what we're to be about? Is this what Jesus did? Oh, sure, He had a Purpose for everything He did & I'm sure He did everything in a very efficient & orderly fashion ( He was the God-Man, after all! ), but He never told His disciples that they should form individual congregations according to the various doctrinal stances of different people, nor that these congregations should incorporate themselves, conforming to the culture around them, rather than transforming the culture to bear the Image of the Creator God! Rather than simply BEING the Organism that the Creator God has formed us into, we have tried to organize certain individuals into the corporate entities that we know as 'churches'!

Without launching into a lengthy treatise on how individual congregations have capitalized on their pet doctrines, we may suffice it to say that denomiNATIONALISM ( along with certain other 'isms' ) is certainly one of the greatest plagues that has affected the Organism known as the Body of Christ! This is not to say that we, mere human beings CAN effect any change in the Body of Christ ( that's like saying we can change the weather or make the leopard lose his spots ), but we sure have made a mess of things by trying to organize what was already a living, breathing Organism!

Organizations are not inherently a bad thing;it all depends on the reason they were formed & the purpose they serve; some organizations, Mafioso, for example, that are formed with bad intent, are not good things. On the other hand, organizations that were formed for the purpose of protecting a certain thing or people are usually a good thing. The Ku Klux Klan ( KKK ) was originally formed to protect Southern widows & serve the interests of those who had lost their lives or livelihoods in the War between the States. However, good intentions pave the 'highway to hell' they say, & it wasn't long before the KKK became simply another terrorist organization, formed in its own image & serving its own ends! Other corporate entities originally formed with good intent might come to mind here, like the good ole U.S. of A.

'Our God is a God of order', any good Christian will tell you; that's true, just look out at the stars, study the make-up of the universe, the human anatomy, even Nature itself, and it cannot be denied; though seemingly chaotic at times, there is a definite Order to things & what is is most definitely the product ( Creation ) of an Intelligent Designer! The Material Creation has been organized into an intricate symphony for the ages, orchestrated from many living organisms! It is when we who have already been formed into One Living & Breathing Organism try to further organize ourselves into something we were never meant to be that we run into problems!

As the Body of Christ, we ARE One Living & Breathing Organism; we cannot incorporate failed elements & expect to retain the aspects of that which we were formed to be! Our business is to be about our Father's business & that doesn't involve W-2s or employees; it involves Sons & like Jesus said, 'the sons don't pay any taxes'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stoic Christianity

Is it possible to wade through this life without being affected by the situations that we find ourselves in, or at least surrounded by every day? Many people, Christians especially, seem to think that it is & not only that, but to truly BE a Christian, some would almost say that it is a necessity to live above it all, without letting oneself be touched by all the trouble & turmoil that we witness on a daily basis. If only we could live above it all & let the chips fall where they may ( so to speak ), THEN we could truly be happy & content, THEN we could truly live the Life of a Good Christian, without all the sadness & suffering that plagues the world around us!

According to, Stoicism is based on the philosophy 'that people should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submit without complaint to unavoidable necessity', in other words, that one should be able to live in peace, not being affected by all that is wrong with the world! In Christ, most Christians believe, this can be done, but is this really the way that Jesus lived? Are we really supposed to go through life with emotional blinders on, not having empathy for the suffering, though maybe well-deserved, that surrounds us?

The Stoics, as a good friend has pointed out recently, espoused many good virtues; in fact, the apostle Paul taught as necessary many of the same virtues ( Philippians 4:8 )! The difference, my friend tells us, is that Paul knew the Way to keep those virtues intact: he found that the only way to BE virtuous rather than just claiming them is through the Spirit Within. Without a redeeming knowledge of the Messiah of Israel, those philosophers, then & now, have found it impossible to practice the very virtues they espouse. In today's day & age, we find this to be true in many Christians as well; though they tend to blame it on their sin nature, many Christians have been found guilty of flouting these virtues in their own lives!

Much of the blame for this can be placed at the feet of a very faulty & weak eschatology, but the larger part must rest with something related to this  ( eschatology ), the fact that many Christians seem to have forgotten that THEY are the Church, not just on Sundays, or whenever they meet for a special purpose! 'Sunday Christians' have become a by-word to many these days, because a large part of Christendom seems to believe that we can leave Church, that we only go there for worship on Sunday ( or whenever we go ) & then the rest of the week is ours to do with as we will! To be fair, this is not always the case, but even though not all Christians have adopted this sort of life-style, some who worship the Creator in their Life are prone to view Sunday worship as a necessity to the Christian Life!

This is not an argument that we should NOT attend Sunday services, nor is it an argument that we should let our passions or emotions rule us! It is good to gather with other Christians for the purpose of fellowship & corporate worship; this strengthens our resolve & helps us to build each other up in the Faith of Christ! It is NOT good, however, to believe that, in order to be a Good Christian, one must deaden his or her sensibilities to the joy & grief, grief mostly, that we are faced with on a daily basis, something that many so-called Christians seem to think is a necessity!

The utopian dream that most Christians seem to see painted in the Scriptures ( Isaiah 65, etc. ) is based on the false eschatology that was referred to earlier! Most Christians seem to think that, in order for this dream to come true, Jesus, the selfsame One that rose from the grave ( death ), must come down from someplace in the sky called 'Heaven' & restore order to that of Eden, where there is no more pain or suffering or dying, where all things will have been made new!

All things have been made new! These same Christians espouse these virtues & seem to live them, at least on Sundays, or when they're in 'church', but once they leave those hallowed walls, all bets are off! Again, not ALL Christians live this way, but many seem to have adopted the policies of the Stoics in hoping for the day when we will no longer be affected by suffering, pain & the weakness of the flesh!

May we realize the glorious truth that all things having been made new means that we as the Body of Christ, while we DO, in a sense, live above it all, are not without passions or emotions! Rather than letting these passions or emotions rule our lives, all the while blaming it on our fallen flesh, we should instead, use these passions & emotions empathetically to help others rise above it all, to do our best to use the pain, suffering & grief in our own lives so that we can better help others to do the same!

To this End,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Effects & Affectations of Life

In this life, there is much that causes stress, but it doesn't have to! It's much easier said than done, but when something happens to us that we don't particularly like, we always have a choice as to whether we'll let it get us down, or let it become the wind beneath our wings & just soar with it. Whatever occurs to us is going to affect us & sometimes it seems we don't have a choice as to how it does, but we do have a choice as to how we are going to face those effects. Will we bow under the load, or will we bravely face the storm, even riding it out to our destination, using it to the best effect?

Sometimes, we become stolid, in our own minds thinking that we can handle whatever life throws at us. We like to think, especially depending on the Strength of our Heavenly Father, that we can forge ahead without being affected by all the meanness, sadness & brokenness around us, but we weren't built that way! We were made with emotions & being made that way, it is not wrong to listen to our emotions. Now, some people are ruled by their emotions; they're not a toy & they are a fragile thing: we must take great care how & when we choose to let our emotions flow & affect our actions!

Of late, it has become abundantly clear to this blogger just how much of an emotional creature he is & that this is not necessarily a bad thing! Now, again, we must be very careful with our emotions & not let them overrule our common-sense, but neither should we stifle them to the point that we become apathetic ( uncaring ). Letting emotions rule our life ( actions ) is not wise, although it seems that more & more people are doing this very thing; that's probably one reason why we have so many failed marriages! One could even make an arguable case for this being the deciding factor in the cancer we call abortion. In fact, one might say that emotions, including the love of money, is the root of all kinds of evil!

No, just because I said that emotions are the root of all kinds of evil doesn't mean that I believe that emotions are evil, or wrong, though some are! Not all emotions are wrong; some are completely good & wholesome. For instance, the emotion that one might feel toward a member of the opposite sex or even the same sex, while not necessarily wrong in a certain situation, in the wrong context would be very wrong indeed, a great evil! On the other hand, an emotion like empathy, which helps us to be considerate of the feelings of others, is normally a good thing. It helps us to get through life, although at times it seems more of a burden!

Emotions are a funny thing; they can lead us into great evil or they can help us make up our minds to do good! They are a fragile thing & we must be careful how we let them affect us. Emotions are akin to feelings; they change like the weather. The choice is always before us; will we let our emotions decide our course of action, will we allow our feelings to rule us & determine what affect we will have on those around us, or will we, without denying or feelings or emotions, let wisdom chart our course? Despite our emotions, we can act according to what we know is right, rather than acting according to our feelings!

It is tempting, when emotions like empathy gain a foothold in our inmost being, to stifle those feelings & ignore them, trying to pretend we're stronger than that! Sometimes this almost works, to whatever extent & for however long, but sooner or later, those emotions will reach the boiling point & bubbling to the surface, will cause such a storm as we may find it hard to weather! It is best to let our emotions affect our actions to the point that we act rightly, but when our emotions or feelings make us want to do what is wrong, then we should reign in those feelings & remind ourselves that we are to rule over our emotions, not the other way around!

Life is full of ups & downs! When we are on an emotional high, it's very easy to forget ourselves & let them carry us away to somewhere we might later regret, but with a certain wisdom, we may choose to dissect our feelings to the point that we can clearly see where such a path would take us. Emotions are not a bad thing, though; sometimes, we just have to bypass what we know as 'common-sense' & just go with our feelings; they're not always wrong!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Implications & Applications: The Lesson of David & Jonathan

Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David,
 and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
I Samuel 18:1 

We live in a society ( culture ) that has been over-sexualized & over-sensualized for so long that we have accepted many things that, 100 years ago would have not only been disdained but abhorred & castigated. We live in a society where a female's most glaring attributes have become the most widely-accepted 'selling point' for everything from burgers to cars to clothes, but a women who breastfeeds her hungry child in public is castigated for it, even if she covers herself. We live in a society where the murder of children ( in the womb ) is perfectly legal & is accepted almost without compunction by many young mothers.

In reading the 'love language' in I Samuel 18 ( as above ), certain individuals have concocted an almost lurid picture of homosexual 'love'! David & Jonathan most certainly DID love each, they even made a covenant together, for God's sake! In our culture, these two friends & companions would very likely have been branded homosexuals by society, but why, when two men or two women love each other, do we always sexualize the situation? Can't two men, regardless of whether they are married or not, show their appreciation for each other, their commitment to each other, without being branded a homosexual? The same goes for women; can't we just enjoy each others company without bringing sex ( more correctly, 'sexual intercourse' ) into the equation?

Much of the reason behind the way we view these unique body parts in this society, or culture, in particular, is BECAUSE they're unique! Most males are Intelligently Designed with a certain piece of anatomy that are not present on most females. Females, on the other hand, not only have a corresponding piece of anatomy that reacts rather delightfully with man's, they also have two other unique features that serve a dual or even triple purpose. Not only are they sexual 'triggers' ( for most women ), but they are natural feeders for young children. Add to that most men seem to have an almost unnerving attraction to them & there you have it; BREASTS RULE!!!!!!!

The Media, including the Internet, has done much damage to relationships & society in general by sexualizing & sensualizing the differences between the sexes, most notably, unfortunately, the human female breast, that squishy lump of fat that sits tantalizingly on most women's chests ( to whatever extent ) & also serves as a handy dandy milk dispenser for the 'nectar of the gods'. It is hard, admittedly, to admire the beauty of the Good Creation without giving due homage to arguably the most beautiful, the biological human body, whether male or female! Now, one of the results of this over-stimulation is that certain criteria must be met for any certain body to be considered beautiful, although I must admit, this is becoming less & less the case; many people, mostly women, but men as well, are manning the trenches & battling this notion!

The Story of David & Jonathan is well-known & loved, particularly in the Christian Community, but really, for an almost universal example of what true friendship looks like. The Love of David & Jonathan had nothing to do with 'sex'; as we read above, 'the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David' & 'Jonathan loved him as his own soul'. Their Love was True, they didn't depend on their feelings to determine their friendship, rather, as we read later, 'Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul'. Although, in the course of events, we find that the Love of Jonathan & David was very advantageous to David, not only did it not give Jonathan any material advantage, it wasd rather disadvantageous for him!

What lesson ( or lessons ), then, can we take from the Story of David & Jonathan? Well, maybe the readiest is that theirs was the truest kind of friendship, the truest kind of love, a pure love! David & Jonathan did not love each other because of what they thought they could get from the other, they loved each other & made a covenant together, mostly for David's protection ( at least, that's how it seemed to work out ) & because their 'souls' were had been intertwined ( knit together ). You might say that David & Jonathan enjoyed a marriage of sorts, although Scripture gives us no hint that any kind of sexual intercourse was involved. Another lesson that we can take from this Story is that relationship need not be sexual to based in love; we should not be ashamed or afraid of our love for any friend, whether of the opposite or same sex!

The damage has been done, however; it's well-nigh impossible to interact with a certain member of the opposite sex without having to fight these feelings, thanks in large part to the over-stimulization by various media outlets! This is not to say that it's impossible though; there IS such a thing as 'self-control'. We have been programmed to think of the advantages we can gain from exploiting these God-given ( Glorious ) attributes; we can be deprogrammed to remember that this ( sex ) IS part of the Good Creation, but it is not our primary purpose. We must, with the help of the Spirit within us, reprogram ourselves to that Original Purpose, that of relationship, even same-sex, where the act of sexual intercourse has nothing to do with it, but a Pure Love without restraint, a Love Without Boundaries!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

'Come, Follow Me!'

'What Would Jesus Do': though not so much of a huge thing anymore, as early as the late 80s & as late as the early 2,000s, 'WWJD' was quite the statement, anywhere from bumper stickers to t-shirts to key fobs, this meant you were a Christian, following Jesus, doing what He did. Maybe this is one reason why it's not so fashionable anymore, but what DID Jesus do: what DOES it mean to follow Jesus in this day & age?!

Many people seem to think that going to a special buildings on Sundays ( or Saturdays ), singing ( with gusto ) a few Psalms, hymns & spiritual songs, then listening to a preacher spew his thoughts & opinions for anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes is enough to guarantee an easy entrance to the 'Pearly Gates'! On the other hand, there are those who will have nothing to do with any organized 'church', yet go out of their way to feed the hungry, clothe the naked & help widows & orphans in their hour of need. We should ask ourselves 'which of these two groups is actually following in the footsteps of Jesus?'!

When Jesus first gave these instructions ( 'Come, follow Me!' ) to His disciples, He actually meant for them to leave what they were doing & follow Him, at least, that's what they understood & that's exactly what they did! Eschatologically speaking, at least while Jesus walked the earth with the Twelve, He actually meant for them to drop what they were doing & do what He did. In the context of Israel in the first century A.D, this meant learning a new way ( which was not really 'new', but 'renewed' ) of doing things, as well as literally following ( walking after ) their Messiah ( Jesus )!

To follow Jesus meant for them to leave their old way of life, even if it meant leaving father, mother, brother, sister, wife or children to do so. This was their long-awaited Messiah & to listen to Him made everything else pale in comparison; it was almost as if nothing else mattered! Those that Jesus chose to be His apostles, or the Original Twelve, were staunch Jews; most of them believed in the Law & the Temple for their salvation. Jesus showed them a better way, that He WAS the Law & the Temple, He was the One hat the Law had tutored them to & what the Temple had signified, Heaven ( the Dwelling of the Creator-God ) on Earth!

Since the Eschaton was fulfilled & the Creator-God DOES now dwell with ( in ) His People once more, Jesus no longer physically walks the earth, as He did in the first century, though one might argue that He does indeed, in the form of His People, His Body, the Church! Even so, to follow Jesus today means much the same; it means to forsake your sins, to do things according to His Word & Way & depending on how you lived previously, to forsake your old way of life & begin anew to do what He did. If your previous life included living selfishly, to satisfy the lusts of your body, then to follow Him would mean to start living for the advancement ( expansion ) of His Kingdom & no longer for your own selfish ends!

Some of the things that Jesus did would probably land Him in 'hot water' with some Christians today, but one thing Jesus did NOT do was start a new religion! He never instructed His disciples to meet once a week ( maybe twice ) in a specialized building for a special service of worship. Now, this is NOT to say that there is anything inherently wrong in doing so; even Jesus, as a good Jew, seemed to follow the tradition of going into the synagogue every Sabbath Day, to open the Word ( Himself ) to His brethren. No, Jesus showed the Congregation of Israel that both the Law & the Temple, which they revered as sacrosanct, pointed directly to Him as the Fulfillment of both!

To follow Jesus means, not to do exactly & only what He did! To follow Jesus means to do greater things, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked & yes, to help widows & orphans in need, but it also means to heal the hurt, to lift the broken-hearted. There is so much pain & suffering in this world ( not so different, you might say, from His 'world' ) that is needless! 'Jesus healed the sick & raised the dead', you say; doctors do the same today & plain miracles do happen where nothing but a supernatural explanation will suffice, but our Heavenly Father still works in & through His People, including those we would not normally call 'His People'!

'What Would Jesus Do?' Well, we can be pretty sure that He would NOT do much of what passes for Christianity Today! We can also be assured that He would be doing much that would fall under the banner of 'pagan' or 'non-Christian'! Would Jesus, for instance, do the 'church' thing? If Jesus walked the earth today, the selfsame Jesus, the first-century Jesus, there is no doubt that He would be turning tables & kicking some ass in His Righteous Indignation! However, since the Temple is no longer a specialized building, but a Special People ( as it always was ); He would probably do more ass-kicking than table-turning, don't you think?!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Realization of Temple

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
I Corinthians 6:19 

What does the apostle mean here; if we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, then why do most Christians act as if one must attend a special meeting on a certain day or days of the week, partake of the 'elements' & ascribe to certain man-made creeds, in order to worship the Creator in Spirit & in Truth? Might it have something to do with the fact that most Christians still believe that though we already have the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, as a Guarantee, we have not yet been Married to Christ? If indeed, as I & certain others believe, we HAVE been Married to the Son ( of God ), wouldn't that make more sense & coincide better with what the apostle Paul has to say about us being the Body of Christ ( I Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 4:12, etc. )?!

If we are simply 'the temple of the Holy Spirit' but not yet the Temple of the Son of God, or the Creator of Heaven & Earth, then doesn't that mean there is still Separation in the so-called 'God-head'? Oh, sure, we've all heard, as far back as Sunday School, that the Creator-God is omnipresent, He is everywhere at once! As crazy as this may sound, there DOES almost seem to be support for this doctrine in Scripture. Not to go too far into speculation though, the argument could conceivably be made that though the Holy Spirit dwells within our 'hearts', He is also in 'Heaven';  as well, one might say that even though Jesus is currently in 'Heaven', He is also in our 'hearts'! The same goes, then, with our Heavenly Father; He sits on His Throne in 'Heaven', ruling over ALL, but He is everywhere at the same time ( Psalm 139:8 ? )!

I have said before that 'Jesus was the ( God ) Man for the Eschaton'; the import of that statement is, of course, that since the Eschaton came & went, that He is no longer the God-Man! Now before you crucify me for even allowing myself to make such a consideration, please consider hearing me out. As believers in Fulfilled Eschatology ( AKA-Covenant Eschatology ), we do not believe that Jesus still dwells in 'Heaven' in the selfsame Body in which He rose, though many Christians do. Since, according to Scripture, we, the Church are the Body of Christ & 'the temple of the Holy Spirit ', it only makes sense to understand that, metaphorically speaking, but true nonetheless, we have taken the place of the Son at His Father's right hand!

The name 'Israel', as we have noted previously, put simply means 'prince, or ruler with God; literally, it means 'struggles with God, given as such to Jacob after his tussling match with the Angel of the Lord ( Genesis 32 ). If indeed we are rulers with the Creator-God, as this would imply, along with Jesus' words to His disciples, 'Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel' ( Matthew 19:28 ) doesn't it make sense to understand that since this Eschaton has been fulfilled, IN Jesus the Messiah & this 'regeneration' HAS occurred, that we are NOW where He is, ruling with Him & thus by metaphorical extension, One with ( Married to ) Him?

The Trinity, in most Christian circles, is one of those doctrines you just don't mess with! It's abundantly clear from Scripture & from Nature itself that the Nature of the Creator-God is three-fold, right? Yes, we can easily see in Nature itself, whether plants or stars, that the Law of Relation is based upon the very Nature of the Creator Himself, but does this, on its own necessarily imply what we have come to know & love as the doctrine of the Trinity?! Yes, the Scriptures, which are a Record of the Eschaton, show clearly, in the Greek Scriptures anyway, a separation with the 'God-head' wherein the Father sent of His Essence to become Man, in order that He might dwell among us & then left His Spirit with the Early Church to comfort them in tribulation till He should return on the clouds ( Psalm 68:4, et al ) to rain judgment on His enemies! Since the End of the Eschaton & the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to His disciples in John 13:23, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with Him', can we seriously aver that we still await His return & the Realization of Temple?!

When we understand the writings of Paul & the sayings of Jesus in the context in which they were given, then we should clearly see that we ARE the Temple, not just of what is traditionally called 'the Third Person of the Trinity', but of 'the fullness of the Godhead' ( Colossians 2:9 )! The Marriage has taken place, we celebrate the Marriage Supper of the Lamb every day; there IS no more waiting; He came to us & made His home ( dwelling ) with us & NOW we sit at His Right Hand, ruling with Him in His Kingdom: what MORE could we ask?!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Implications & Applications; the Marriage of Heaven & Earth

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!  
For the Lord has spoken: “I have nourished and brought up children, 
And they have rebelled against Me; The ox knows its owner  
And the donkey its master’s crib; [ but ] Israel does not know, My people do not consider.
Isaiah 1:2 & 3 

One might consider, in light of Covenant Theology, including the hyperbolic language of Covenant Eschatology & Covenant Protology ( AKA, Covenant Creation ) that the heavens & earth spoken of here & elsewhere in Scripture refer, not to the material creation ( the sky & the land, to be precise ), but to the priests of the Temple ( Tabernacle ) & what we refer to in today's jargon as the 'laity'! I realize that though this kind of statement is defensible from a more careful reading of Scripture, not many Christians in today's theological landscape would agree or dare to make such a stand. Though it is not clear to many Christians that the Creation Account in Genesis 1 & 2 refers to the Creation of Covenant, rather than of the material elements, it is becoming more & more clear to others that such is the case!

Much of the problem, especially with Western ( American ) Christians, is that we have attempted to ( anachronistically almost, as we do in other parts of Scripture ) take Ancient Near Eastern literature & translate into both our Western literature & culture! The result has been anything from a simple misunderstanding of Jesus' teachings ( serious enough ) to outright war, base on a faulty eschatology, among other things. With the understanding that Covenant Theology gives, the understanding that the creation in view in the earliest parts of Scripture was the beginning of the Creator's plan to invest Himself in His Creation, we may begin to view these Scriptures in a different light!

The main complaint against Covenant Protology, against the notion that the Creation Account is NOT a referent to the material creation, is that IF indeed it is not, then the material creation was NOT made by the Creator-God we read about in Scripture, 'Yahweh' by Name! This is NOT the case by any means, though I must admit that some who are of a certain persuasion have reached such conclusions. Covenant Creation, rather than weakening the case of our Creator-God's good Creation, strengthens this position by showing that the Creator of all things has shown Himself to be a Relational God & entered His Creation by making a marrriage with it!

By holding to the position that I outlined earlier, saying that we ( here in America, especially ) have attempted to translate Ancient Near Eastern literature using our Western mindset, I am NOT saying that we have misinterpreted everything based on this faux pas! By no means have we done such a thing; there is much universal truth to be gleaned from the pages of Scripture, in particular, the teachings of Jesus, but we have come to understand that much of what we thought was so is not so, through further study of both Original Language & Audience Relevance. We may, without compunction or reservation, wholeheartedly aver that our Creator-God, our Heavenly Father DID form, from nothing, all that we see & all that we don't see!

If then, one considers that the terms 'heaven' & 'earth' referred to the spiritual leadership of Israel & the 'common' man ( or woman ), what import does that have in today's theological landscape; what application can or should be made considering the implications? Some have already, based on a Fulfilled Eschatology, made the application of the cessation of the priest versus laity distinction; this may not be wrong in & of itself, though some may have taken this to extremes, with a haphazard & careless approach to Christian ( Kingdom ) Living!

The Marriage of Heaven & Earth, as we have noted in previous posts, means that the Creator of all has invested Himself, as our Heavenly Father, into ( the midst of ) His good Creation! This is not to say that all are in blessed relation to our Heavenly Father since this Marriage has taken place, but that He now dwells in the midst of His good Creation, in His New Temple, where His People, those who enjoy the blessings of His Covenant, are His Priests. 'The Priesthood of the Believer' though maybe a bit stale & ambiguous by now, is a true statement nonetheless. Since the Marriage HAS taken place, the traditional distinction between priest & laity no longer exists; every man is a priest to his own household & within the household of faith!

May we continue to make this traditional distinction & appoint elders in every city, as the apostles did in the Early Church? As there is need & the need is fairly apparent, elders should be appointed as leaders in the Community, not as superior to the 'laity', but as more mature men & women, teaching the younger generation the blessedness of the Christian ( Kingdom ) Life. This is no different than what the apostle Paul taught, although we must consider his circumstances in his other writings. In consideration of these matters, we may always find clear instruction in the written Revelation of the Word of God, but we should also consider these Truths within ourselves, that which is written on our 'hearts'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Chasing Happiness

'If I could just ( fill in the blank ), I know I'd be supremely happy!'

Now, if you're honest with yourself, really & truly honest, you'll admit ( to yourself ) that you've at least thought this once in your life. That is, before reality came crashing down, spoiling all your hopes & dreams, or so you thought at the time! I must admit & this is my caviat, that not EVERYONE reading this will have had this happen to them or even felt the way I just described, but too often this is the case. Why IS this the case? Why do many or most people seem to think that 'the grass is greener......', that their happiness is in someone else's hands, so to speak?

When you see an advertisement for the latest, sleekest model ( car, bike, etc. ), whether on a billboard or on television ( or hear about it on the radio ), in what direction does your mind jump first? I know that when I see pictures of an exotic location, I picture myself with an equally exotic & stunning beauty of the opposite sex hanging onto my arm, enjoying the moment with me! I tend to think, 'Ah, how happy I would be if only.............' But that's just me, right? I'm a special case; no one else ever thinks like that, right!?

Some people have become world-travelers, 'chasin' down a dream', ever searching for that elusive dream we call 'happyness' but never really finding it! Why does 'the grass' always seem 'greener'? Is there something about the world that makes us feel like that donkey with a carrot suspended in front of his nose, tantalizingly close, but always dangling just out of reach? Much of the reason that we tend to search for this Gift outside ourselves is that we have been taught that it is ( outside ourselves )!

Media outlets, especially the retail ones, are well-known ( infamous ) for pushing this subliminal message across, making people think that if only they could get their hands on the latest technology or live with the latest comfort, etc, they would finally achieve such a level of happiness as they had never known before! And we buy it! Why? Don't we realize that if we aren't happy with what we have & where we are, we'll never be happy, though we do live in an exotic location with an equally exotic beauty hanging on our arm & on our every word!

Most recently on Facebook ( 'cuz that's kinda where I live ), there have been a lot of statements to the effect that happiness comes from the inside, that if you can't be happy yourself, no one can ever make you happy! Many people, I believe, would agree with that ( if 'likes' on FB says anything ); if we cannot find happiness within ourselves when we're on the downside, how can we expect to BE happy on the upside? Does our happiness indeed depend on our environment? Should it? Can we just BE happy, no matter what life throws at us, or are we forever fated to ride this roller-coaster of feelings where we're down in the dumps one day, the next higher than a kite, only to return to the doldrums the next?!

For those whose search for happiness lies in the pursuit of the next 'great' thing, whether it be a house, a car.................a wife/husband ( in some cases, just a 'lover' ), happiness may never truly come; oh, sure, for a time, they might 'feel' happy & content, but as soon as that 'thing' disappears, that husband/wife leaves & that boyfriend/girlfriend/'love' hits the road ( Jack ), all hope for this elusive dream seems to go up in smoke, as well! Why do you suppose that is? Why are we so ingrained with the notion that we must seek fulfillment outside ourselves?

When you think about it, it's not only the media & retailers that are pushing this subliminal agenda; it's all escapist thinking! 'If only we can get out of this frying pan & over that fence......................hey, look at the brightness over there! I bet I'll be happy over there!' Sound familiar? Many of us have found ourselves in a similar situation & decided to pursue that tantalizing goal, only to find ourselves in the same situation or worse.

Personally, I have found that wherever I go, there I am; I can't seem to get away from me, myself & I! No matter how far I go, no matter what I do, I will always be me & if I'm not happy with where I am now, I'll never be happy with anywhere I go! Oh, sure, like I said before & we've all 'been there done that', for a time, it may seem we've found 'happyness', but once the source of that 'happyness' disappears, so does our 'happyness', in many cases, leaving us in worse shape than we were before!

'So', you may ask, 'how does one go about finding this true happiness that you say resides within?' 'Be happy' just sounds too simple; easier said than done! Well, yes, it IS easier said than done; I can tell you from personal experience that when the waters are closing in on you & the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to look pretty damn good, that it's hard to be happy! Yes, it is difficult & seems well-nigh impossible, sometimes to BE happy, but it's NOT impossible; when we look to the Source of all things for our happiness, when we learn to be content with what we HAVE been blessed with ( no matter how it looks ); THAT is happiness! Basing happiness on how others treat us, or on the things we possess is not true happiness; things will always change, but One thing will never change; YOU will always be YOU, if you can't be happy with THAT, you'll never be truly happy!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The Degradation of Marriage

You've heard it said that America is no longer a Christian nation! However misquoted this statement is, there's a lot of truth in it! Though you might object that a good 70-80% ( at least ) of Americans claim to be Christians; since the beginnings of the sexual revolution in the 40s & 50s, leading up to the 'free-love 60s & beyond, Americans have witnessed & countenanced much that, 50-100 years ago would have quickly gone the way of the 8-track tape! Abortion, one of the worst ( maybe THE worst ) by-products of this disease, which, in essence was legalized in 1972 is but one of the abominations that a truly Christian nation would not have allowed to flourish!

Though much of the media buzz & general 'hub-bub' has died down, the recent legislation granting license for homosexual couples to 'marry' has been under much scrutiny of late. Many or most Christians have condemned this legislation as abominable, not realizing that it is only the permission to 'marry', not the actual redefining of marriage, which is impossible. Marriage, in the Beginning, was defined by the Creator as union between one man & one women for the purpose of procreation ( physical & spiritual ); it CANNOT be redefined!

Another thing that many or most Christians fail to realize is that the federal government of these United States of America ( AKA, U.S.A. Inc. ) has unlawfully taken it upon themselves to regulate marriage, which cannot be regulated except by its Creator )! By doing so, by passing legislation that couples wishing to marry must first apply for & receive a license from whichever state they wish to reside in, this Corporation opened the gateway to grant any manner of couples ( no matter how unnatural ) to 'marry' under license from the State! As early as the mid-19th century, permission had to be granted by license in the United States to be considered legally married. Although this varies throughout the U.S., most states require some sort of license in order to reap the benefits of this legal contract!

Much of the problem lies in the fact that the term 'marriage' has come to mean ( to the uninitiated ) merely a legal contract, an agreement entered into by two individuals & the State! As originally instituted by the Creator, marriage is covenantal in nature. It involves two individuals agreeing together to live together as One ( in purpose ), to enlarge their borders & ultimately, those of the Kingdom of their Heavenly Father. Today, 'marriage' is viewed as more of a social contract, entered into by consensual partners for the mutual advantage of all parties involved!

Marriage by Covenant alone has seen a resurgence in the past decade or so, showing that not ALL Christians have missed the importance of this distinction! The Marriage Covenant, which is the only way to be truly married, over against the mere social contract, bears the fruit of life, not merely for the benefit of the individuals involved, but for that of the Corporate Body, for the Kingdom! The social contract that has been called 'marriage' is simply a selfish consideratio made by individual to come together for mutual advantage; one that mutual advantage disappears, so does the 'marriage' dissolve!

'Quick, save the holy State marriage license from the limp-wristed infidels!' In most Christian circles, as well as outside, it is an accepted fact that one must receive license from the State in order to lawfully wed. In fact, some Christian ministers, for whatever reason, will refuse to perform a 'marriage unless this infamy is foisted upon the often unwitting participants! Because the Church leads the culture, we now have the State ( Federal Government ) taking the next logical step & granting permission for homosexuals to 'marry'. For many centuries, much of what goes on in this nation today would have not only been condemned but harshly penalized, but for the aforementioned reasons has not only been accepted but has flourished, becoming the established 'norm'!

As the influence of the Church over the Culture around It has waned, It has rather become the other way around; churches have become more institutionalized, more business-like than the organic Body that She is! Marriage is but one of the areas in which the Church has failed to rightly influence the Culture! Don't get me wrong, She HAS influenced the Culture, but by accepting the idolatry of the State marriage license, She has shown the Culture around her that is good, right & just to worship false gods, those which have no Authority except as granted by the Creator!

Many Christians have begun to realize the inherent evil of the State marriage license, but as many yet fail to see what the logical conclusion of the matter must be! If the State ( alone ) can & must grant license to marry, then it can grant permission to anyone to be wed to....anything ( any number of absurd & abominable conclusions could be reached here)! How may we, as the Church begin again to rightly influence the Culture around us? Not by bowing to the idol of the State marriage license as We have done for the past 100+ years, but only by recognizing & upholding the 'betterness' of Covenant Marriage in our own lives & living it before the 'world' around us!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, January 01, 2016

One Flesh; the Spiritual Union of the Son of God & the Sons of God

Haven't you heard that He who made them in the made them in the beginning made them male and female? This is how Jesus responded to the Pharisees asked him a question regarding divorce. He went on to say that He made them thus that they might become 'one flesh'. This 'one flesh' has been the subject of some controversy; do a man & woman, after they are joined in marriage, actually become one person? Obviously they are still two separate beings! How then do we define 'one flesh'; do they simply become one in purpose, with a single vision & goal? Or is 'one flesh' simply our translation, or transliteration of an archaic Hebrew phrase, which has lost something in the translation over the centuries?

In certain circles, there is a discontinuity about whether the Body of Christ today should be called he Church, the self-same Body that Scripture calls the Bride, or whether we should more correctly be termed simply the Children of that Union. Aside from the question of whether this is even worthy of serious consideration, we might ask ourselves if the sort of language used in the Scriptures should be understood in the same sense that we are prone, with our Western mind-set, to interpret them. When the Scriptures call the People of God, or the Body of Christ the Bride of Christ, should we understand in the same sense as when Jane becomes the bride of Dick? Should we expect the same result?

The phrase 'sons of God' in Scriptural use DOES connote one who has entered into Covenant with their Creator! Speaking of discontinuity, there is some disagreement concerning this phrase, as to whether it is inclusive now, in this New Age, of all of God's creatures, or if just because one is a creation of our Heavenly Father, that one should be considered a child of God! Although one must, according to Scripture, be united to Christ ( by Covenant ) in order to be considered a 'child' or 'son of God', is this still a prerequisite under the New Covenant! Most would immediately respond with, 'yes', definitely so! However, we must consider that when these words were spoken, in the first century, they were spoken in relation to those who first were presented its their Messiah; those who either became 'sons of God' or were found to be children of the 'devil'!

Jesus told those same Pharisees, 'you are of your father the devil'! He did mean to say that they were creations, or products the devil we call 'Satan', for He clarified this statement by saying, 'the deeds of your father you want to do'. By doing wickedly, as had their forbears, these Pharisees had proven themselves to be of their father the devil! By following Jesus & emulating Him, those who accepted their Messiah were given the privilege of being called the 'sons of God', in the New Covenant, which Jesus Himself personified, those who accepted their Messiah were in direct opposition to those who clung to the elements of that first covenant & rejected Him. With the Scriptural fulfillment of all prophecy, some have made the case that, though that first covenant, what might be called a betrothal covenant, was exclusive of Israel according to the flesh ( there's that pesky term again )' the New Covenant, in all its Glory, is inclusive of the entire creation! 

This is not to say either that, simply by virtue of physical generation, all individual human beings are in Christ, for this speaks of a spiritual, not a physical union! Just as Dick & Jane do not physically become one in the bonds of holy matrimony, or marriage' so we, as the Body or Bride of Christ do not physically become one with Him, but spiritually, as with our spouse, we become one in purpose. Some have called this a 'mystical union' in almost the same vein as the so-called Trinity, & while this is debatable, when it comes down to it, just as man & woman become one by ascribing to the same purpose? As the Church became the Bride by following in the footsteps of Jesus. Even today, people are shown to be Children of their Heavenly Father when they do what He did, when they continue His work on earth!

It is certain & true that only male ( seed ) & female ( egg ) can produce, at least physically speaking! However, we might ask ourselves if that's what it's all about; are we here merely to procreate in order to expand the Kingdom or is there such a thing as Spiritual Procreation! The apostle Paul, we know, called Timothy his spiritual son & John wrote several letters to his spiritual children. Is it possible that we are called to be fruitful & multiply spiritual, not just by procreation? As we ponder these & other questions, let us determine, whether in a physical or spiritual manner, to emulate Him with whom we have Union!

Charles Haddon Shank