Monday, March 24, 2008


Again, this series is important to me, because it affects how I understand truth. As I research, I notice there is a pre-established voice of criticism for Augustine complimenting what I was recently taught. Association with him makes certain doctrines/movements in history consequently get tagged as faulty, but I prefer to bypass the proper names entirely. It's the ideas that matter. In the realm of thought, conclusions bring limitations, and those limitations test logic and experience. Historical Christianity is the story of men handling the stuff of God for the purpose of sharper conclusions.

There is more at stake beyond just another apologetic ping pong match. What if the portion of error in just one conclusion is enough to cul-de-sac the Christian life? This is the testimony of more than just myself.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What do kids do who don't go to school?

Mommy, can I go outside and play in the frontyard?

How about I go play in the backyard?

Here; Logan, you're a boy, you can understand what I'm trying to tell these people....

I need one of those walking-talking kids to help me get this door open!

But, Mommy, look, Lizzy just opened the door and walked outside!

Okay, I'm pretty enough to go outside and play, mom.

What? What do you mean, all the kids can't play cause they're in school?


Now that I'm up here, how have I gotten down before? Oh well. Let's go for it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Original Sin

Augustine was the first theologian to suggest that because of Adam, all inherit his guilt from which they need salvation.

Prior, in the latin father's writings, the explanations given for the inherited sin nature were "ontological" (philosophical ideas of inheritance) or else "biological" (Hilary of Poitiers suggested a chromosomal-type of inheritance of sin nature).

In the eastern father's writings, they explained Adam's sin as resulting in physical death and a weakened moral will. Gregory of Nyssa was the first to use the term "original sin."

Augustine was the first church father to connect inherited sin nature with individual sin. Not a single church father wrote of original sin being more than "culpac" -- the sinful nature. He used the word "reatus," meaning the legal punishment of a lawbreaker, 69 times in context of original sin in his famous arguments with Pelagius.

He proposed his theology out of David's confession of being "conceived in sin" in Psalm 50, and also from Romans 5:12 "So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned." In the class I took recently, it was explained that his scriptures were the first latin translation in the third century of the greek New Testament. In doing some background research I discovered a professor of the University of Oxford, whose focus is latin and intellectual history, summarizing Augustine's use of the old latin bible in the exact manner taught me in class:

Ambrosiaster, commenting on Romans 5:12, which ends, in the Authorized Version's translation of the Greek construction, '...for that all have sinned', used instead the Old Latin Bible, which read 'in quo omnes peccaverunt', 'in whom [i.e. Adam] all have sinned' (my italics). This reading, also preserved in the Vulgate, is nevertheless a mistranslation of the Greek eph' from epi, 'inasmuch, because'. What had been a statement connecting death and sin in a casually ambiguous fashion became the statement that all had sinned in Adam, the fulcrum text for those who wished to argue for the biological transmission of original sin ('traducianism'), or for the seminal presence of all mankind in Adam's loins. This did not mean, however, that pointing out the error disposed of the doctrine, as ethical convictions are based on deeper foundations than chance mistranslations. Augustine, for instance, would alter argue for the seminal identity of all mankind in Adam on the reasoning that while Adam was made from the dust, which is something different from flesh, all his progeny were made from flesh, and therefore all creation was in Adam. {1}

(For future note, I will bother to focus most my contribution of research on the charges which are most crucial in the material I am presenting. In the above case, I even bothered to select a source which showed itself fair in attitude to Augustine's effort.)

Augustine apparently did not always think of "original sin" in such a way. In his writings up to the year 395 A.D., before the conflict with Pelagius, he still wrote of his belief in free will, he still had not incorporated pagan fatalism to his view of sovereignty, nor "lumped sin" from Adam to all men. Pelagius was his contemporary, and Augustine devoted much effort to defend against his ideas, considered heretical. The Pelagians believed absolutely in free will so far to claim there was no further dependence (post-regeneration) upon God's empowerment. Here is a short quote of Pelagian thought on the matter of original sin and free will:

Nothing impossible has been commanded by the God of justice and majesty... Why do we indulge in pointless evasions, advancing the gravity of our own nature as an objection to the one who commands us? No one knows better the true measure of our strength than he who has given it to us nor does anyone understand better how much we are able to do than he who has given us this very capacity of ours to be able; nor has he who is just wished to command anything impossible or he who is good intended to condemn a man for doing what he could not avoid doing. {2}

How can we righteously deserve punishment for Adam's sin? Adam doesn't make us eternally damned: all indeed depends on God, but not so that our free will is hindered.

"Culpac" means a tendency to sin, a weakness of the moral will on Adam's descendants. The ability to choose good is not annihilated, not destroyed... just weakened. Inherited sin doesn't remove us from God, only personal sins. We are responsible for our own sins, not our neighbors. Mankind did not lose free will just because of "original sin."

The early church fathers leading to Augustine all believed in "culpac" -- inherited sin nature. "Reatus" (legal punishment of a lawbreaker) was added to culpa only in the writings of Augustine. He speaks of this guilt for which we need regeneration from in his Pelagian writings as if the fallen human nature is the same as sin itself.

In closing I want to end with some critical thinking of Augustine's idea of original sin:

In discussing the subject of original sin and the difference between the Biblical and Augustinian viewpoints, a person told me that if it wasn't for the Augustian version they would not have become a Christian. You see it's not possible for some people to "become Christians," as they say, if they have to admit that their guilt is their fault. Some are so "good" in their own eyes that the only way they can think they are guilty is that someone else sinned on their behalf, and thus they are reckoned guilty because of what someone else did, and not what they have been doing. Or, they recognize that they actually sin - but given "total depravity" - it wasn't their fault. And yet they're willing to accept the Augustinian version of "guilt" - a faultless guilt - and be freely forgiven of sins (which by their own account they hadn't actually been responsible for to begin with). {3}

I use this poorly presented quote above because the reasoning is relevant. I struggle with accepting my responsibility in sin in a healthy process. I have also spent many years conversing with a church who gives the impression to be even more out of touch with sin than I am; the Jehovah's Witnesses give a simple answer that Adam is to blame for nearly all quality of sin and corruption implying even at the individual level. There is very little sense I receive that a Savior is needed for personal sins.

For a more modern Augustinian-favoring perspective of original sin, visit Study and Exposition of Romans 5:12-21. Especially helpful is the summarizing paragraph.

{1} Milton and the Idea of the Fall. William Poole, 2005, Cambridge Press; pg. 23.

{2} The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers. B. R. Rees, The Boydell Press; pp. 53-54

{3} The Boston Christian Bible Study Resources

Augustine's effects

I want to do a small series of posts on the histo-theological legacy of Augustine, as I have been given a short lesson recently. I give the disclaimer, yes, this is indeed just another opinion. This is not my knowledge, not my study, but someone else's, presented for what I hope is my benefit. The charges themselves, even if incorrect or biased as most opinions are to some degree, are intriguing, and challenge me to both think and begin to research for myself what happened, what I believe, and why I do so. I hope that, as you read along lightly, you too may get some small benefit from shared interest in these topics.

To quote the warning given me many times in five years of discussion with those at My LDS Stuff (currently disbanded for reconstruction), "You Protestants don't even understand the history of your faith and why you believe it."

I am hoping that it's only been me giving such a poor example all this time!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dear Saint Augustine:

Would you explain God's administration of the second gift (the first being regeneration) of grace: Perseverance?

For, by whatever holiness men may be distinguished, they are not yet equal to the angels of God; not yet, therefore, is the will of God done in them as it is in heaven. And if this be so, in that portion indeed in which we ask that men from unbelievers may become believers, it is not perseverance, but beginning, that seems to be asked for; but in that in which we ask that men may be made equal to the angels of God in doing God’s will,--where the saints pray for this, they are found to be praying for perseverance; since no one attains to that highest blessedness which is in the kingdom, unless he shall persevere unto the end in that holiness which he has received on earth. {1}

What does this gift enable us to do?

Now, moreover, when the saints say, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” [Matt. vi. 13] what do they pray for but that they may persevere in holiness? For, assuredly, when that gift of God is granted to them,--which is sufficiently plainly shown to be God’s gift, since it is asked of Him,--that gift of God, then, being granted to them that they may not be led into temptation, none of the saints fails to keep his perseverance in holiness even to the end. For there is not any one who ceases to persevere in the Christian purpose unless he is first of all led into temptation. If, therefore, it be granted to him according to his prayer that he may not be led, certainly by the gift of God he persists in that sanctification which by the gift of God he has received. {2}

So, if we are not tempted then we have proof that we have received this second gift of grace to persevere to the end? Does everyone who prays for this gift, receive it? If there are some who do not receive it, what is the reason?

Therefore, of two infants, equally bound by original sin, why the one is taken and the other left; and of two wicked men of already mature years, why this one should be so called as to follow Him that calleth, while that one is either not called at all, or is not called in such a manner,--the judgments of God are unsearchable. But of two pious men, why to the one should be given perseverance unto the end, and to the other it should not be given, God’s judgments are even more unsearchable. Yet to believers it ought to be a most certain fact that the former is of the predestinated, the latter is not. “For if they had been of us,” says one of the predestinated, who had drunk this secret from the breast of the Lord, “certainly they would have continued with us.” {3}

Are you suggesting that if anyone does not continue to persevere then they never received the second gift?

They were not of them, because they had not been “called according to the purpose;” they had not been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world; they had not gained a lot in Him; they had not been predestinated according to His purpose who worketh all things. For if they had been this, they would have been of them, and without doubt they would have continued with them. {4}

Can there be any assurance that anyone has received it? Are we waiting till we die to know the answer?

For we are speaking of that perseverance whereby one perseveres unto the end, and if this is given, one does persevere unto the end; but if one does not persevere unto the end, it is not given, which I have already sufficiently discussed above. Let not men say, then, that perseverance is given to any one to the end, except when the end itself has come, and he to whom it has been given has been found to have persevered unto the end. {5}

Dear Saint Augustine, you are telling me that when one is not continuing in holiness, God did not therefore grant the gift. Isn't He therefore worthy to be thought with criticism for not supplying according to the request?

But he who falls, falls by his own will, and he who stands, stands by God’s will. “For God is able to make him stand;” [Rom. xiv. 4] therefore he is not able to make himself stand, but God. Nevertheless, it is good not to be high-minded, but to fear. Moreover, it is in his own thought that every one either falls or stands. Now, as the apostle says, and as I have mentioned in my former treatise, “We are not sufficient to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.” [2 Cor. iii. 5] Following whom also the blessed Ambrose ventures to say, “For our heart is not in our own power, nor are our thoughts.” And this everybody who is humbly and truly pious feels to be most true. {6}

If God has foreknown that they will be good, will they not be good, whatever be the depth of evil in which they are now engaged? And if He has foreknown them evil, will they not be evil, whatever goodness may now be discerned in them? There was a man in our monastery, who, when the brethren rebuked him for doing some things that ought not to be done, and for not doing some things that ought to be done, replied, “Whatever I may now be, I shall be such as God has foreknown that I shall be.” And this man certainly both said what was true, and was not profited by this truth for good, but so far made way in evil as to desert the society of the monastery, and become a dog returned to his vomit; and, nevertheless, it is uncertain what he is yet to become. For the sake of souls of this kind, then, is the truth which is spoken about God’s foreknowledge either to be denied or to be kept back,--at such times, for instance, when, if it is not spoken, other errors are incurred? {7}

A final question for the Saint: In view of such cases is it really best to resort to "denying the truth"?

Would it not be better to counter the interesting charges laid at your feet, that as only one voice you had disproportionate sway on centuries of subsequent theology. You:

1) redefined free will
2) abandoned the teachings of 300 years of the early church fathers
3) redefined original sin
4) altered God's grace to be irresistible

On the Gift of Perseverance, St. Augustine, A.D. 428. Footnotes made to numerical chapters of work as follows: {1} 6; {2} 9; {3} 21; {4} 21; {5} 10; {6} 19; {7} 38

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Every time I breathe

I'm gonna keep singing!

You're beautiful

Romans 5:3-5

I felt the defeat last week, but, I woke up to fellowship:

Beautiful, by Rachel Lampa

There was a time when I
Thought I had no good in me.
There was a time when I
Was too blind to see.
But deep beneath the cold defeat
Under the snow,
You could see something in me
Waiting to grow.
A little seed of what I could be;
How did You know?
You saw my worth, and called it forth
With Your sweet love.
(You are beautiful to me.)
Yes, You are.
(You are beautiful to me.)
You're beautiful, You're beautiful.
Everything that's good in life
You've given to me.
You are beautiful to me.
Maybe it's true that you
Can't see your way forward.
Maybe it's true that you
Can't find your way home. oh....
But deep beneath the cold defeat
Under the snow,
There's a seed of better things
Waiting to grow.
And all it needs to set it free
Is One who can show the way...
Call your name, with heavenly love!
(You are beautiful to me.)
You, yeah.
(You are beautiful to me.)
(Everything that's good in life,)
You've given to me.
You are beautiful to...
(You are beautiful.)
I love to just speak Your name
(You are beautiful.)
In all that You do, ev'ry move that You make
(You are beautiful.)
Don't care what they say!
(Beautiful) to me;
(Beautiful) You're beautiful.
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful....
Yeah... (You are beautiful to me.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

That's Better

Yesterday I took another trip to the ER and all they did was give me more percocet and an anti-inflammatory drug called prednisone. As soon as I took it, nearly all the swelling went away. It works by suppressing the immune system, and it has a ton of side effects. So basically after the rest I got yesterday knowing finally that I wouldn't suffocate, I had a "normal" day going to church and beyond. But now I'm exhausted again.

I have so much stuff I want to do with my time; but I've been sick with this sore throat since two Wednesdays ago. I can't even drive because of meds. I hope that, underneath the various medicines managing the symptoms, the antibiotic is kicking its butt.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Not over it yet

It's been another nearly 48 hours on this antibiotic but since this morning at 4:30 am my throat has been completely collapsed/swollen. Somehow I am still able to breathe, but don't ask me how. I think I am still okay getting enough oxygen from the signs they told me about. Right now others are deciding for me whether or not I should go back in for an IV antibiotic to speed things up, and to do another puncture-check of the areas that are broken-down to make sure they haven't turned into abscesses.

Unlike this morning I am emotionally okay right now.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Throaty Story

It turns out to be more than just a strep throat, something called pharyngeal cellulitis. It's not very common, only 41,000 cases in the U.S. annually, usually only between the ages of 15-35. It is caused by means of a flesh-eating bacteria that destroys the epidermis (skin) of the throat.

Anyway, yesterday I noticed that after a golden 24 hours of antibiotics for strep, my voice and the pain was worse. I remembered in the office on Tuesday that Kim (my doc) said "I wonder if you have a throat abscess," and after having a second doc look, she decided no. An abscess is exactly the same as cellulitis only with pods of puss that need to be scapeled-out of the throat and drained before there can be recovery. I remembered how she nearly thought I had an abscess and I proactively read the list of symptoms online out loud to Ben. All them matched so I wondered if Dr. Kim had been right after all.

Went to bed, but, my throat kept swelling and the pain was getting worse. Then at one a.m. I started to feel the swell right into the back side of my nasal cavity, there was almost no more drainage; it was blocked. "What did those notes say online, again?" I wondered to myself, "Did it say anything about swelling out of control, so that you can't breathe?" I got online and it said "swelling can cause asphyxiation when gone untreated." Went back to bed, tossed and turned, then I felt something scary: right behind the uvula the swollen skin at the top of my throat had now reached down to touch the bottom. I woke up Ben but he was too dreamy to understand so I called my mom, a nurse of forty years. She said "come over and let me see." She looked and said "I think there's a good six hours before it could get close to swelling all the way shut." Then she looked again later in the light and said, "that hole where the air can pass through is not so big." At three-thirty in the morning, we were discussing whether I could last till eight-thirty a.m., when the doctor's office was open again, to avoid ER fees. She said I'd be fine. So I went back home. Laid there, and soon I could feel now, half, of my upper throat come into contact with the bottom. Went back up to talk with Ben; it was almost five a.m. But since I had just stopped anti-inflammatory meds (mom pointed out that I accidentally was overdosing), it was becoming re-inflamed and swelling out a lot faster than my mom predicted, faster than Ben hoped.

I went back downstairs and laid there. They wanted me to wait. But in another two hours at this rate my throat would be closed completely. While I waited for Ben to get up I had some reflection time. I was trying to think past the worry, and let God in. I spent a lot of time praying. I prayed for everyone I thought of who has a need right now, people at church, friends and family. People come and go, but I saw that God was there for me, just as He always has, and that He really is my best friend. I made myself ready. There was nothing here on earth that I felt any loss in attaining. And what I thought I'd miss most, wasn't any things. It was people, and the places I love so dearly that remind me of them and God. My request was that if I died, now, He'd somehow use it to advance His desires. And, that He would meet the needs of my children, and my dear husband.

I had to write everything down on a piece of paper before we left, showing in a drawing what was happening to my throat, above and below which I wrote in large hand "throat abscess" and "suffocation" so that the doctor wouldn't wait to see me. It was now 3/4 closed. They sent me right back and Dr. Kim was very nervous when she looked in my mouth. She acknowledged, "I'd say that's closed at least to the midline." She wasn't sure if I had an allergic reaction or what so she said she'd call ahead to the ER. Ben took the day off thankfully to take care of me and we arrived quickly. As soon as they gave me full anti-inflammatory drugs, the passageways became mostly open again. All the pain went away and an IV replenished my strength.

The ER doc called an ENT for protocol and numbed my throat three times before injecting four sore spots with a needle to see if they were holding infection, but they only bled.

Now as I write this I'm on a percocet and motrin. And I don't feel any pain. In fact I feel really good. They say that an abscess might still form between now and whenever the antibiotics start, and it could still swell closed, but, it's not even half-way shut, so I feel a lot less scared.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lijah's First Birthday

Ben put a video together last night commemorating the enjoyment of the Joyce's gift. He's getting so close to walking, but wearing a toolbelt makes him grow up just a little faster ;)

Yes, the house is a mess because his mommy just found out she has strep throat.... :(

Thanks to Becky, Ben and Maddy for a great evening of fun!

Monday, March 10, 2008

God in a Box

Who can thwart God?

This question has haunted me forever. It is responsible for lack of hope infiltrated in everything: prayer, faith, works, evangelism. How... can God be prevented from His purposes? How can God be stopped by me, from achievement of his will? If someone came along and said "But what you do, does matter," secretly on the inside I'd think "God can do whatever He wants; He's God after all." The M.O. of a bully.

I am irrelevant when it comes to affecting good. I am also helpless to prevent the bad.

However, if free will is true, then it must mean there is a limitation God enforces upon himself, a substantial restraint. If God's restraint is not true, then free will is just a pretty idea.

I learned recently in this class that most all Christians have a notion of specific sovereignty: God is in control of every detail, and has decreed all things, yet we cannot and must not ever think He was lending a hand toward sin. The only way to do this is to appeal to mystery and the inscrutibility of God. I never thought that was good enough. How does it make you feel?

Free will is real in a concept of general sovereignty: He is the ultimate boss, but leaves individuals their choices. God works all things together for good just like in a chess match; ultimately no matter if it takes us five moves or 50 moves, we're still the winner, God's purpose is still the winner.

If someone says "God causes all things," but then clarify that He only causes half, the good

If we really do have a child/parent relationship with God, then it makes sense to use an analogy from our own experiences. Certainly our children are free to choose where they go on the playground. There are times when we're lucky to catch them when they are about to fall, but, sometimes a child falls

Friday, March 07, 2008

Me Lucky Charms

Absorbing more from class again tonight, I'm wrestling a bit with my former attitude of spiritual disciplines. (The disciplines are things like praying, going to church, worship, reading the Word.) I used to think that how I became increasingly obedient to God's commands was by my spiritual participation in spiritual disciplines. As if doing these things (and having faith grow as a result) would make me want to obey God. They would change my mind, they would force themselves on me "as an irresistible gift." It also assumed that, once I had the faith that grew, said faith would automatically complete itself in obedience. This automationed idea of faith mixes the distinction between conviction and choice. The practice has been nagging at my conscience long before I discovered free will. But, I don't need more Spirit. What I need is to submit to the Spirit that I have. And that is what Romans 8 teaches.

It's funny, how I've been trying to massage these for all they were worth. It was getting tiresome.

Seeking Practical Truths

It seems to me, as I look over things, that my Christianity has been one of too much dreaminess. There's nothing wrong, per se, in thinking deeply into the nature of God in nature and man and life. I certainly take pleasure in that stuff. By calling it dreamy I am not trying to suggest that it has been one without works, because it has not gone uncomplimented and I say that without falling in the trap of comparison. I am trying to say that I would like it to be more sound, more biblically-practical. I'd like to see the theory and concepts be more intimately connected with the circumstances of life. As someone recently said to me, "If there's something wrong with God and His realness, then there's something wrong with your concepts." Boy does that seem the case recently.

I learned in my class last night (yes, I'm taking another one) that the doubt over eternal destination causes doubt over whether we've been given by God the ability to excel. That's a good thought, though my personal problem has been its sister-thought: Had I been given the gift of perseverance? I didn't doubt heaven was for me but I sure did wonder, on the premise that all good works come graciously from God, whether God had destined me to be a success or a failure. And who could know the answer? In fact, by experiencing failure (which I know now why is my own fault), I would be inclined to think that He had not given me much grace to obey. What a sad thought.

But why should I worry and strain to wonder as if I am not in control just because God is sovereign? By knowing my destiny is in my own hands, that God is just and I am responsible for myself, the truth becomes very important to read as if for me to study and apply.

Now that my walk is in my hands, there's only one thing left to do: Learn the truth. Then start practicing it. Sounds simple, but, you know, it's scary. Dreaming seems a lot more familiar. What if it doesn't work, I mean, for me? I confess it's scary, but I soon will be trying it out, to see if it really works.

Tuning in

Watch out! If you're driving through town with three children and find yourself accidentally tuning out your eldest child, you may start laughing when you tune back in. I did.

"Pablo said 'regurgitation' but he doesn't even know what that means; heh, that was funny."

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Sometimes it's funny how little it takes of a book to make a successful draw of its point.

A lady at church loaned this off to me when I said recently that I was looking for a verse to explain the trial I'm experiencing. Perhaps there could not have been a more suitable book following after a discovery of free will, to practically exercise it.

I'd like to share some highlights[1].

I've known several Christians who were never seriously motivated to quit smoking until they committed themselves to making an impact on their world for the Lord. One fellow commented: 'Nobody will take me seriously as long as I smoke. People look at me as if to say, "If God is so powerful, why doesn't He help you quit smoking?"'

Satan loves to keep us in the bondage of sin because it greatly diminishes our potential for the kingdom of God. It diminishes our potential because we feel like hypocrites and we may also look like hypocrites if others know about our sin.

Along these same lines, a third reason why you must once again take up the battle against the sinful elements of your lifestyle is that one sin always leads to another. ... One undealt-with area opens up other areas as well. Once you become accustomed to a particular sin, once it becomes entrenched in your lifestyle, it is only a matter of time until other areas become problems.

Another reason you must once again take seriously those areas of your life you have allowed to slip is that choosing not to deal with sin ultimately leads to what scripture calls a hard heart. A hard heart develops when people hear the truth, believe the truth, but refuse to apply the truth.

Come on, this is too basic. It is so straightforward and common sensical. But for me, it's like my ears are open to hear. Knowing that I have choice, and, pondering on simple concepts like these, I've made a few further assumptions:

1 -- My decisions make the difference for whether or not I am sensitive to God.

2 -- Little things falling in a Romans 14 category, can be either okay in moderation or else not beneficial, in excess.

3 -- I have to choose to limit those things which bring my slow conformity to the world, and dullness to believe.

4 -- If I want to make light of the little choices, then I need to remember where it ends, in feeling generally unfulfilled.


[1] Winning the War Within, by Charles Stanley. pp. 12, 13-14

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