Monday Monologue, Trinity in Creation, April 9, 2018 (Podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I share a prayer for church workers and a reflection on the Trinity as seen in the Creation accounts of the Book of Genesis.

To listen, click on the link below.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

 Monday Monologue, Trinity in Creation, April 9, 2018 (Podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

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Creation and Trinity

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Bible starts telling us that: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) What do these simple words tell us about God?

In the Beginning

The phrase—in the beginning—tells us that God is eternal. If creation has a beginning, then it must also have an end. This implies that creation is not eternal, but the God who created it must be. If our eternal God created time, both the beginning and the end, then everything God created belongs to God. Just as the potter is master over the pottery he makes, God is sovereign over creation (Jer 18:4-6). God did not win creation in an arm-wrestling match or buy it online or find it on the street, he created it—God is a worker (Whelchel 2012, 7).

Transcendence

God eternal existence suggests that as mortal beings we cannot approach God without his assistance, an immediate consequence of God’s transcendence. The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9 makes this point in a physical sense, but it also stands as a metaphor for philosophical towers that we might attempt to build, such as the Enlightenment Project.

Sovereignty

God’s sovereignty is reinforced in the second half of the sentence when it says: God created the heavens and the earth. Here heaven and earth form a poetic construction called a merism. A merism is a literary device that can be compared to defining a line segment by referring to its end points. The expression—heaven and earth—therefore means that God created everything.[1] Because he created everything, he is sovereign over creation; and sovereignty implies ownership.[2]

Holy

So, from the first sentence in the Bible we know that God is eternal and he is sovereign. We also know that he is holy. Why? Are heaven and earth equal? No. Heaven is God’s residence. From the story of Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush (Exod 3:5), we learn that any place where God is becomes holy in the sense of being set apart or sacred. Because God resides in heaven, it must be holy. Earth is not. Still, God created both and is sovereign over both (Rev 4:11).
Genesis paints two other important pictures of God.

Holy Spirit

The first picture arises in Genesis 1:2; here the breath, or spirit of God, is pictured like a bird hovering over the waters.[3] Hovering requires time and effort suggesting ongoing participation in and care for creation. The Bible speaks exhaustively about God providing for us—God’s provision. Breath translates as Holy Spirit in the original languages of the Bible—both Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament).[4]

Immanence

The second picture appears in Genesis 2, which retells the story of creation in more personal terms. As a potter works with clay (Isa 64:8), God forms Adam and puts him in a garden. Then, he talks to Adam and directs him to give the animals names. And when Adam gets lonely, God creates Eve from Adam’s rib or side—a place close to his heart.

Summary

Genesis 1 and 2, accordingly, paint three pictures of God: 1. God as a mighty creator; 2. God who meticulously attends to his creation; and 3. God who walks with us like a friend. While the Trinity is not fully articulated in scripture until the New Testament, God’s self-disclosure as the Trinity appears from the beginning (Chan 1998, 41).
The Lord’s Prayer casts a new perspective on Genesis 1:1when Jesus says: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10) Because we are created in God’s image, we want our home to modeled after God’s.

References

Dyck, Drew Nathan. 2014. Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Whelchel, Hugh. 2012. How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press.


[1] Heaven and earth can also be interpreted as proxies for God’s attributes of transcendence and immanence (Jer 23:23-24; Dyck 2014, 99).

[2] God’s eternal nature is also defined with a merism: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8)

[3] This bird (avian) image appears again in the baptismal accounts of Jesus. For example, in Matthew 3:16 we read: “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him.”

[4] Breath itself is necessary for life—part of God’s provision.

Creation and Trinity

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

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Giving Thanks in Prayer

October table setting of praise and thanksBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Oh Dear Lord,

We give thanks for our creation that you as Father have made us–

may we reflect your goodness, cherish family life, and grow as stewards of your creation.

Help us to honor your image and live into it.

We give thanks for the salvation that is ours in Jesus Christ–

his life, his teaching, his sacrifice, his death, and resurrection.

Help us to remember not only to give thanks, but to live thanksgiving each day

that our blessing may be shared with all those around us.

We give thanks for the presence that we have in your Holy Spirit–

that sustains us, provisions us, empowers us, heals our wounds, and grants us gifts to share.

Help us to use these gifts to sustain, empower, heal, and share with those around us

that our joy may be the joy of the world.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Giving Thanks in Prayer

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

 

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Prayer for the Potter

Remembering the Potter by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayer for the Potter

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty God, Father of our Lord, Spirit of Truth:

Why have you formed me, all-knowing potter, the way that you have? (Jer 18:2-7)

In your creative urge, did you have a special use in mind?

Did you mean me for everyday use, something to hold the baked beans

or maybe a casserole or a tuna salad?

Are my colors plain to all who see me even as I am wholely blind?

Did you mean me for a special holiday, stored away in a special place until the season,

only to be displayed on a particular day, highlighted and remembered and cherished?

Am I brightly colored, festive, memorable even if only for a day?

Thank you, Lord, for veiling your purposes from me.

That I may serve you as you see fit, each and every day.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Also see:

Prayer for Healing, Comfort, and Deliverance 

Prayer for Shalom 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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Dreher Sees Flood, Offers Ark, Part 2

Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option

Dreher Sees Flood, Offers Ark, Part 2

Rod Dreher.[1] 2017. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York: Sentinel. (Goto part 1; Goto part 3)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

For those of us active in church leadership, the hollowing out of the Christian faith is nothing new. Biblical illiteracy has reached the point that seminaries routinely test their new students on their biblical competency and about 90 percent of incoming students are required to take remedial work in biblical studies. Because it is hard to apply biblical knowledge to solving life’s daily challenges if the Bible is largely unknown even by the clergy, it is small wonder that the church has not prevailed in influencing postmodern culture.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

In The Benedict Option Rod Dreher makes the point about biblical illiteracy citing sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton who define the religion of American teenagers as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD).  MTD has five basic tenets:

  1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to solve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die. (10).

  MTD is especially prevalent among Catholic and mainline Protestant young people, according to Dreher. The problem is that it has little to do with the God of the Bible and focuses on the worship of the self and material comforts (10-11).

If the church has lost the culture wars, the lost emanated from inside the church outwards. Therefore, the hollowing of the church is the problem, not barbarians at the gates. Still, Dreher sees barbarians anxiously taking advantage of the church’s lost vision (16-17).

How Did We Get To This Point?

Dreher sees five landmark events over seven centuries rocking Western civilization and stripping its ancestral faith:

  1. In the fourteenth century, the loss of belief in the integral connection between God and Creation—or in philosophic terms, transcendent reality and material reality.
  2. The collapse of religious unity and religious authority in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.
  3. The eighteenth century Enlightenment, which displaces the Christian religion with the cult of Reason, privatized religious life, and inaugurated the age of democracy.
  4. The Industrial Revolution (ca 1760—1840) and the growth of capitalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  5. The Sexual Revolution (1960—present) (22-23).

It is interesting that Dreher reverse-engineers the antecedents of the postmodern era. The enchanted world that he sees prior to William of Ockhams (1285-1347) development of nominalism or metaphysical realism. This world distinguishes God from his creation (not realism which keeps them united, according to Dreher) can actually be traced to the first verse of the Bible. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (23-27). In order to create the universe, God had to have been separated from it.

Commentary on Worldview

As a conservative Catholic, Dreher begins his march towards postmodernism with a Middle Ages world view, not a biblical world view, as might be more typical of a Protestant writer. Dreher’s starting point is important because it colors his view of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. In my own thinking, for example, I have often referred to scientific discoveries as “God’s Easter Eggs” which he hides from us in such a way to assure that we would find them. If all of knowledge is God’s knowledge, our faithfulness is not necessarily undermined by what we know so much as our attitude about it.

The more corrosive problem that arose in the nineteenth century was not so much the Industrial Revolution or the Enlightenment, but emergence of the Romantic movement. Dreher writes:

The Romantics, as they were called, found many aspects of the new rationalist, mechanized society distasteful but had no interest in returning to the Christian world. They prized emotion, individuality, nature, and personal freedom. (38)

Here attitudes about God and his relationship with human beings and the created order clearly changed. If Christians came to believe that God primarily worked through our feelings, not our minds, then it was a small step to insert the self in place of God. This is because no one outside the self can mediate our feelings, which ultimately undermines the authority of the church and scripture.

The Sexual Revolution

Sexuality might easily remain the domain of family life within the community. However, if the self mediates feelings, sexuality takes on a completely new role. Dreher writes:

‘Eros must be raised to the level of a religious cult in modern society, not because we really are that obsessed with it, but because the myth of freedom demands it.” Says political philosopher Stephen L. Gardner. ‘It is in carnal desire that the modern individual believes he affirms his individuality.’ The body must be the true subject of desire because the individual must be the author of his own desire. (43)

If this comment appears oblique, think of it as a creation story for the individual. Much like Marx banned Bibles because his communism lacked a valid creation story, postmoderns deny God’s sovereignty through the worship of desire and must have their own creation story, which however unlikely places the individual at the center of the universe [of desire].[2]

Summary

Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation ties together numerous concerns about the church. He then offers the development of new schools and community as necessary components to maintaining a vibrant faith community in the face of the coming secular deluge.

In part one of this review, I outlined Dreher’s book. Part two looks at his definition of the problems facing the church. In part three, I will look at his solution to those problems.

References

Gardner, Stephen L. 1998. Myths of Freedom: Equality, Modern Thought, and Philosophical Radicalism. Greenwood.

Smith, Christian and Melinda Lundquist Denton. 2005. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. New York: Oxford University Press.

[1] @RodDreher, TheAmericanConservative.com/Dreher

[2] This is why gender advocates express no interest in hearing about the problems—disease, drug abuse, suicide, depression—created by the risky behavior that they advocate. To recognize these problems, they must admit that they have no credible creation story and that God is sovereign.

Also See:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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Prayer for Today and Every Day

Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra

God of all mercy, Loving Son, Healing Spirit:

We praise you for creating the heaven and earth; all that is, was or will ever be; things seen and unseen.

We look upon your creation and marvel at its beauty, seeing not you but merely the work of your hands, and, having seen it, we want to praise you.

We thank you for sharing yourself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; who in life was a role model for sinners, in death became a ransom for sin, and in new life gave us the hope of salvation.

We look upon the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and see your love for us and want to praise you.

We thank you for your Holy Spirit; who is ever close, sustains all things, provisions all things, and gives every good gift.

We see your power displayed throughout creation, making all things new, and just want to praise your name.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, the giver of life, and the redeemer of men and women, in whom we trust

and have our being. Amen.

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26. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webGod of all mercy and grace,
We praise you for creating the heaven and the earth, all that is, that was, and that will ever be; all things seen and unseen. We look upon your creation, smile, and praise your name. We praise you for the example of your son, our savior, Jesus Christ— who in life lived in service to others, who in death atoned for our sin, and who in rising from the death granted us the hope of eternal life. We see your son’s example and feel your love for us. We praise you for your Holy Spirit, who draws us to you, grants every good gift, and provides all things. We look upon your spirit’s power in the world and break out in praise. May your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven today and every day, with us and through us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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21. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webAlmighty Father,

You are the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end, the one outside of time that created all things. We praise you for providing the bread of life and well-spring of everlasting life which is your son, Jesus Christ—our redeemer, the author of our faith, and our only true friend. We thank you for simple things, like family, bread to eat, clean water to drink, work to do, and friends in Christ. Through the power of your Holy Spirit who makes all things clear, help us to share our physical and spiritual gifts with those around us—first our family, then our friends, and even those we do not know well so that your name would be praised among the nations. Forgive us when we play the fool out of pride, not for you, but out of our own ignorance. Humble us that we might become worthy servants of your church and not ourselves. Help us to find our identity in you—not in our accomplishments, nor our friends, nor our wealth, but in you—
so that if we play the fool, it is for you and you alone. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

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Prayer Day 28: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Available on Amazon.com
Available on Amazon.com

Almighty Father. We praise you for creating heaven and earth; creating all that is, was, or will ever be; and creating all things seen and unseen. We look out on your creation and praise your name. Keep us safe in your hands: seal our hearts; strengthen our minds; and shelter our bodies from all evil. In our hour of weakness, may we ever turn only to you. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Padre Todopoderoso. Te alabamos por crear el cielo y la tierra; por crear todo lo que es, lo que fue, o lo que nunca será; y por crear todas las cosas visibles e invisibles. Observamos tu creación y alabamos tu nombre. Mantenos a salvo en tus manos: sella nuestros corazones; fortalece nuestras mentes; y refugia nuestros cuerpos de toda malvadad. En nuestra hora de debilidad, haznos retornar siempre y sólo a tí. En el nombre del Padre, del Hijo, y del Espíritu Santo, Amén.

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Prayer Day 24: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Available on Amazon.com
Available on Amazon.com

Heavenly Father. We praise you for hope in the future and for the gift of patience. We praise you for the vision of Eden and for the promise of new creation where the fullness of salvation will be revealed and all things made new. For in Christ we know the end of the story. You are our rock and our salvation. To you and you alone be the glory. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Padre Celestial. Te alabamos por la esperanza del futuro y por el don de la paciencia. Te alabamos por la visión del Edén y por la promesa de una nueva creación donde se dará a conocer la plenitud de salvación y todas las cosas hechas nuevas. Porque en Cristo sabemos el fin de la historia. Tú eres nuestra roca y nuestra salvación. Para Tí y sólo a Tí sea la gloria. En el nombre del Padre, el Hijo, y el Espíritu Santo, Amén.

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