Don’t Drink the Blood

In the Reformed tradition, it is emphatically emphasized that the human is dependent upon God’s revelation to us for us to have any knowledge of salvation, or any clear, trustworthy, and whole understanding of who He is. Furthermore, according to Calvin, the way we reason is entirely based upon whatever religious principles we maintain, whether explicitly or implicitly. In other words, all people, whether they realize it or not, have a religious perspective, a worldview, that provides a foundation for how they think about anything and everything. Reasoning is not simply an action that we do in school, or when writing a philosophy thesis. We use reason in the simplest of tasks and in every human endeavour whether we realize it or not. Because of all this, it follows that a worldview that is true leads us to think and then act in such a way consistent with the truth. Right religion provides a basis for right reason, and therefore right living. As Christians who believe that the Word of God is absolute, immutable, truth about God and the universe He hath created, it follows that the Bible provides such a foundation for thinking and living.

This adds an interesting dimension to how we are to think about the incarnation. Christ is the Truth (as he tells us in John 14:6: ‘ego sum via et VERITAS’), and He is the Word of God (as we learn in John 1, for he is the logos). In Christ we realize that in God’s revelation to man truth is not revealed to be obscure abstractions or distant platonic conceptualizations. The revelation of truth is something tangible, that comes to bear within time and space. The revelation of truth is a man, a life, lived out in front of us. It is the fullness of God before us. In His teaching, living, eathing, breathing, healing, death & resurrection, the absolute truth of God is made known. We see then that true knowledge and right living are intertwined concepts. Knowledge of God and godliness in living are founded upon each other. In a certain sense, Truth is not really, truly, comprehended until it is revealed to us and actualized. There is no room for an existential split in Christian faith. Abstract truth is actualized and reflected in the physical, transient world, and they are one, whole, truth. Absolute truth can have a physical manifestation, there is no incoherence between them. We know through Christ that truth and Truth CAN be made known and actualized in the physical, reasonable, world. It translates into flesh and blood. As Francis Schaeffer warned often, opposite thinking is killing the church.

In John’s 1st letter, it is written: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we will see him as he is.” It is in our knowing and seeing (in Greek, ‘horaō’, which can mean to see physically, perceive with the mind, as well as to experience) Christ that we become like him. It is in perception of truth that truth becomes a part of our flesh. The Word of God is to direct and change the very motion of our bodies, to be in conformity with Christ. This is what it means to “abide” in Christ, and to be born of God through him. This is how we are to understand the relationship between faith and works, as James writes to us in great depth about. We are not saved by works, but works are the necessary sign of true faith. A faith that has no works is no real faith. Indeed, as James tells us, the body is dead apart from the spirit just as faith is dead without works. Our spirituality is not for the sake of our spiritual life, but for the “life of Jesus made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11). True faith can not be held as merely an abstraction, but as a time and space reality. The one who believes as such calls Christ an abstraction, too, for faith in Christ is not faith in an abstract principle but in a Lord who rose from the dead before many witnesses and walked among us within time and space. His very name, Immanuel, is a testament to this: “God with us.”

Unfortunately, the church has often forgotten these teachings. With our mouths we proclaim the inerrancy of Scripture and its importance to our lives, but we have increasingly reserved Scripture for only certain parts of our lives. We desire to use autonomous human reason for most of our earthly endeavours, reserving spiritual and Biblical truth to our internal life. Scripture often has nothing to do with our vocation, our everyday tasks, our leisure, our social interactions, our creative impulses, or our politics. To many, the idea that Scripture should affect these fields seems silly and entirely incoherent. We have oft been told that we should not simply be ‘Sunday morning’ Christians, and encouraged you have certainly been told to ‘take your faith to work with you’. Taking your faith to work means much more than putting a Christian slogan on your door, or being nice to your employees… it means totally having the mind of Christ in all that is done. No, our vocation is not something that we have in our secular life that we must wedge some Christian ‘niceness’ and ‘evangelism’ around the edges of. Instead, should not our vocation be subordinate to Christ first in our lives. We are His disciples. The life of the disciple is not just for some, although only some take it. We too are called to leave our fishing nets and follow him. This does not mean leaving the world, the Lord prayed that the Father would NOT take his disciples out of the world. This means putting Christ first. This means to expect nothing but to follow him, and all else will come as he dictates. All is subject to Christ FIRST. Even in un-ideal vocational circumstances, is it not the love of Christ that compels us to work hard for our family and do our duty? We expect nothing, except to follow. The Christian is not allowed to have a “Christian life” (as if he has such a thing as a non-Christian life) he is to have one life; entirely subjected to Christ. We are not called to take our faith to work with us, we are called to follow Christ to whatever work he would lead us to. Shall we proclaim justice with the tenacity of Christ as a lawyer or politician? Shall we heal as a Doctor? Shall we pick up garbage for the glory of God? Until one understands this, one does not understand the Protestant teachings on work.

Even when Christians do attempt to apply Scripture to these human actions, we fall miserably short of totally immersing our every action in the Word. For example, we may heartily acknowledge that as Biblical Christians we must speak and act against abortion, but when we must answer other political questions, we turn off our Christian mind, and put on our secular one. Yet, by reserving Scripture to a small part of our considerations and actions in the world, this is not to say that we do not still engage in other action. We still act. We still make other political decisions. Yet, let us be warned: If Scripture has not saturated our approach to something, another worldview by default will operate in its stead since, according to Calvin, reason must be based upon religious/philosophical preconceptions of some sort. Therefore, if not in conformity with the Word of God and with Christ, our actions will be in conformity with lies, and not with the truth of Christ. If this is so, we are not giving power to the force of the gospel in the world, but to something else. We worship and sacrifice to a false god. This is why Romans 12 tells us that our spiritual act of worship is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God, and that we must be RENEWED by the transformation (Greek: ‘metamorphoo’, from whence we get our word metamorphosis) of the MIND, and all that comes with the life of the mind. Ideas have consequences, the way we think directly affects our actions. If we are to live as Christ, we are to think like him, and learning the depths that this command demands of us is by no means simple. Sola Scriptura! Not Scripture for my Sunday mornings, pop songs for my relationships, Hollywood celebrities for my politics, media for truth, and the politically correct educational system for all else. No, Scripture, Scripture, Scripture! God-breathed Scripture!

In Psalm 16, the psalmist declares: “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.”

Calvin writes on this passage: “We know that God, in order to teach his ancient people to hold in greater abhorrence murder and all cruelty, forbade them to eat or to drink blood either in their common food or in sacrifices. On the contrary, the histories of the heathen nations bear testimony that the custom of tasting the blood in their sacrifices prevailed among them. David, therefore, protests, that he will not only keep himself uncontaminated by the corrupt and false opinions by which idolaters are seduced, but that he will also take care not to show outwardly any token of his complying with or approving them.”

It is not enough to say with our lips that we reject the lies of the contemporary ideas that would seek our allegiance, such as Atheism, Buddhism, Islam, Secular Humanism, or Marxism. We must proactively shape our actions towards Christ and not towards all false worldviews. These worldviews make claims about how we should engage in all human activity, and so does Christ. Let us choose the right one, and not drink of the offerings of blood to a false god. Then, we will join the Psalmist in proclaiming a few verses later, “bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.”
The Lord will give us counsel, and instruct us in the night. We must set the Lord always before us and our whole being will rejoice.

We are not called to passively accept the thought patterns of the culture around us. We are called to live our whole lives in conformity with Christ, and let that challenge every idea that would claim us and our actions. The Muslim who becomes a Christian understands this, when a conversion means their complete alienation from their culture. The early church understood this, when she was persecuted for failing to follow the status quo in Rome; refusing to bow to Caesar (although others, of all other sorts of religions, would do so), rescuing the unwanted children that were thrown in the river, speaking against abortion, and treating the slave and the freeman as equals. We must learn to test all truth claims, all that would dictate how we see and live in the world, against Scripture. We must take every thought captive and make it unreservedly obedient to our beloved Christ. Instead of understanding Biblical truths to be culturally relative, we must learn to study Scripture in such a way that we see the truths that transcend all the transient shifts of culture, and that must be compared to every idea proclaimed in our culture. We must not ask ‘what does this passage teach me about my life’ with simply our private spirituality and emotional life in mind, but our very actions in the world. We must question everything, and test it against Scripture. Even, especially, the ideas we take for granted and the politically correct. Dalrymple writes, “In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”

The Christian can not become an emasculated liar, and therefore lose all ability to speak against that which is wrong. If this is so, Christ has disappeared from the church, and the church becomes something else altogether.

We must give up what makes us comfortable and socially acceptable, and join Abraham on the side of the mountain with Isaac, prepared to have a faith large enough to defy the normal… trusting that God is just and proclaiming that we will follow Him, ‘accidat quod potest’.

In the time of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the development of German philosophy and theology led to a preconceived notion that faith and political life have little to no relationship. Specifically, that the church was to have nothing to do with the state. They govern separate realms: one the spiritual and the other the physical, and such things can have no union and no coherence between them. Yet, when Hitler began oppressing and exterminating the Jewish people, Bonhoeffer spoke against this status quo. According to Bonhoeffer, in caring for the Jews the church could not simply “bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself.” Later, while in prison, he wrote these words:

“During the last year or so, I have come to appreciate the “worldliness” of Christianity as never before. The Christian is not a homo religiosus but a man, pure and simple, just as Jesus became man… It is only by living completely in this world that one learns to believe. One must abandon every attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, a converted sinner, a churchman, a righteous man, or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one… This is what I mean by worldliness — taking life in one’s stride, with all its duties and problems, its successes and failures, its experiences and helplessness… How can success make us arrogant or failure lead us astray, when we participate in the sufferings of God by living in this world? ”

“…That is faith, and it is thus that he becomes a man and Christian.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

No, we will not drink the blood offered to other gods, only the blood of Christ will flow through our veins and direct our every human faculty. Giving the Lord our heart is not enough. He demands all. He poured out his life, pouring out real, tangible, blood for us, and now our very flesh and blood are his.

“You are the blood flowing through my finger ……
You are the blood that I may see you that I may see you
You are the blood in me.”
(Sufjan Stevens)

I will end with a quotation a good friend recently used in another blog:

“We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the Twentieth Century does not reckon with. But we are ‘harmless,’ and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are ‘sideliners’–coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God un-challenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!” -Jim Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty


~ by thelastinkling on June 20, 2009.

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