Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Strange Rite at The Lord's Table


On the first Passover in ancient times
The hebrews were taught a strange rite
Egypt was perplexed at the sign
Of blood on Israel's doors that night

That quiet night was the last
For rebellious Egypt's firstborn
The Hebrews trembling and aghast
to find blood outside their doors the next morn

The solemn night and the sombre morn
The blood on the doors, the deadly breath
For a thousand years, Israel performed
One son spared on one son's death

When the age was ready and ripe,
This strange rite was perfected
One quiet and solemn night
A son prepared to be executed
But this was unlike the old years
When the weakly lamb's blood was shed
The new blood belonged to Heaven's Dear
God's own vein left to bled.

I came to the Table as Israel did
On the first Passover in ancient times
Trembling and aghast my petty wits
Couldst not fathom this strange design.
I, mortal, feeble and weak
Held in my hands God's Blood and Flesh
Unsure of many things, but this:
One son spared on one Son's death

Lord's Table, Aug 13 2006. BM Gospel Center

18 comments:

The Hedonese said...

Who wrote tat beautiful poem, bro?

"Unsure of many things, but this:
One son spared on one Son's death"

Sadly, the precious truth that we are adopted as children of God because of the atonement of The Son's death has become 'unsure' nowadays :(

Are We Too Atonement-centered? Nothing But The Blood

alwyn said...

It is indeed a beautiful poem, Jack. And an insightful link, David.

I think all Christians would affirm that Christ "gave Himself for us". The issue remains on how best to understand that. And whilst "penal-substitution" may be the best way (though I still do struggle with its immense complexity!), I think it always helps to listen to what others in the community are saying, thinking, *asking*.

Thinking deeper and wider about something precious to us is not a sad thing at all, bro.

The Hedonese said...

Hi Alwyn,

Of course, it helps to listen to what others say, think and ask.

No question about that, bro

We listen to non-Christians too, i wonder when was the last time you guys sit at starbucks with a buddhist or muslim friend :)

So absolutely 'no' to closedmindedness...

But I guess I wanna raise it to the '2nd level' and say (after listening) to say that it is nonetheless *SAD* when people are not just saying that substitutionary atonement is 'second best'; but that the God who did such things is guilty of 'child abuse'...

By all means, listen to others but retain the critical faculty where necessary

Amen and amen!

alwyn said...

Thanks for the dialogue-ing, bro.

If I'm not wrong, yes, various feminists have raised the concern about 'child abuse' being implied by the Penal Sub theory of atonement.

This is no doubt unfortunate but (putting aside the issue of whether we've adequately addressed this concern - maybe you can blog a more extensive response to the charge of child abuse? I think Piper's "Pleasures of God" includes some good points...) I'd urge us to listen carefully TO what they're saying and try to listen FOR the hurt/pain beneath the rejection of Penal Sub.

I suspect the 'argumentative' mode, whilst necessary in some cases, is less helpful here because you're dealing with real psychological/emotional issues.

I'm putting aside for the moment those people who like to attack for the sake of attacking (but since we have no way of knowing a person's *true* motives, I'd recommend giving ppl the benefit of the doubt in most cases).

Also, the article seemed to target a lot more than merely those who are accusing God of child abuse...it seems to target anyone wanting to explore other views...

As for sitting down w people of 'other faiths', I don't do Starbucks very often. Usually during my church's youth-group, my school canteen, etc. :)

The Hedonese said...

Wow, bro, since you've got all the 'facts' covered, why dun you do the honor to blog extensively about it le? :)

Saves us all a lot of time, ma

I dun think Mark Dever's article is targeting people who wanna explore other dimensions of atonement, unless of course any sort of critique is automatically perceived as an 'attack' :(

I do agree however tat we listen carefully TO what they're saying and try to listen FOR the hurt/pain beneath the rejection of Penal Sub...

However, I'd like to take the discussion to another level... that such discussions are not academic, disinterested, passionless armchair philosophizing

A sense of tragic sense of grief when precious truth is demeaned or caricatured in indeed appropriate.

When scripture puts up a fence, it is because what it protects is previous, life-giving and infinitely sacred and glorious :)

alwyn said...

As a matter of fact I thought a Piper fan might be a better respondent to the feminist concerns (I personally lean more to the Christus Victor and Abelardian models)...but hmm maybe this could be a future B.study/EMO/AGORA forum (4 views of the Cross??)

I think the "automatic perception" of attack works both ways (e.g. ask yourself if what you perceived as truth being demeaned/caricatured could not be as instance of this? and how could we check?), which is why it's important to have a big patient heart in these discussions, and why dialogue is necessary lor I guess. But yes thanks for the reminder.

Also debates like this may show that 'journey' thinking (process, context, etc.) is also critical, perhaps even more so than 'destination' thinking (dogma, conclusions). I think generally Christians have been better at the latter than the former.

As for Scriptural fences, infinite sacredness and glory, maybe it's so appropriate that we're talkikng about the Cross now. The Cross is infinite, beautiful and glorious, precisely because it involves the "taking in" by Jesus of all our dirt, slime, wretchedness, rebellion and so on, and transforming hearts into those in love with God. He felt sad at our decay and off-the-marked-ness, yes, but He also embraced it IN ORDER to save us.

Our Lord's critique was undeniable, but His compassion was unquenchable and incomparable.

Maybe this could be a good paradigm for theological engagement? That we 'suffer' for those we disagree with (i.e. listen, work, keep silent, refrain from putdowns, read more before disagreeing, etc.) 'proving' not just that we have the truth but that we embody this truth in love.

Indeed, as you said, such discussions must not be mere "academic, disinterested, passionless armchair philosophizing."

alwyn said...

(am reposting the comment as I can't see it from the main page though I CAN view it if I wish to leave a comment - blogmasters, SOS)

As a matter of fact I thought a Piper fan might be a better respondent to the feminist concerns (I personally lean more to the Christus Victor and Abelardian models)...but hmm maybe this could be a future B.study/EMO/AGORA forum (4 views of the Cross??)

I think the "automatic perception" of attack works both ways (e.g. ask yourself if what you perceived as truth being demeaned/caricatured could not be as instance of this? and how could we check?), which is why it's important to have a big patient heart in these discussions, and why dialogue is necessary lor I guess. But yes thanks for the reminder.

Also debates like this may show that 'journey' thinking (process, context, etc.) is also critical, perhaps even more so than 'destination' thinking (dogma, conclusions). I think generally Christians have been better at the latter than the former.

As for Scriptural fences, infinite sacredness and glory, maybe it's so appropriate that we're talkikng about the Cross now. The Cross is infinite, beautiful and glorious, precisely because it involves the "taking in" by Jesus of all our dirt, slime, wretchedness, rebellion and so on, and transforming hearts into those in love with God. He felt sad at our decay and off-the-marked-ness, yes, but He also embraced it IN ORDER to save us.

Our Lord's critique was undeniable, but His compassion was unquenchable and incomparable.

Maybe this could be a good paradigm for theological engagement? That we 'suffer' for those we disagree with (i.e. listen, work, keep silent, refrain from putdowns, read more before disagreeing, etc.) 'proving' not just that we have the truth but that we embody this truth in love.

Indeed, as you said, such discussions must not be mere "academic, disinterested, passionless armchair philosophizing."

The Hedonese said...

Thanks for the dupe post, man :)

Maybe Emergent Msia also can do a '4 Cross' follow-up to the '4 Jesus' forum too?? Good topic!

"As for Scriptural fences, infinite sacredness and glory, maybe it's so appropriate that we're talkikng about the Cross now. The Cross is infinite, beautiful and glorious, precisely because it involves the "taking in" by Jesus of all our dirt, slime, wretchedness, rebellion and so on, and transforming hearts into those in love with God. He felt sad at our decay and off-the-marked-ness, yes, but He also embraced it IN ORDER to save us"

Wow! What a paragraph of dogmatic, conclusive propositions... ehehe!

And it's absolutely beautiful too...

But doesn't 'suffering' involve some degree of 'sadness' too?

Perhaps an inability to feel 'sad' shows a lack of 'suffering' :)

I want to believe that all of us wanna be conversational, pilgrims, patient and 'suffer' for those we disagree with, proclaiming the truth even as we embody truth in love.

The 'devil is in the details' - of course, which is essential/which is not?

But when we don't have some *doctrinal* essentials or cannot know *some* truth like 'rape is wrong', we're in big trouble :)

alwyn said...

Thanks for the comments, bro. Just two quick things:

1. I think we need to be clear about what the original 'sadness' was about. To me, when Green, Finlan, McKnight et al writes about non-Penal Sub views, there is no reason to be sad. As I shared, it's really about ministering to those who have felt pain/hurt as a result of (perhaps a misunderstanding of) traditional views. And it's also about listening to what the rest of the family is thinking about regarding a precious event/truth.

Sadness is when people's hearts reject Jesus and mock Him but I guess what I'm saying is that I don't see this happening among atonement scholars.

2. I fully agree that dogmatic essentials are necessary AS A SOURCE/INSPIRATION/PRELUDE to ministry, spirituality, radical loving, compassion, respect, etc. But when essentials become the be-all-and-end-all (as it certainly has in many theological discussions) i.e. dogma for dogma's sake, then something is very wrong. Because even the most essential dogma of the Cross cannot be separated from self-sacrifice, self-giving and aggressive kindness of Jesus.

Let's continue to hold this balance together, :)

Davechang said...

:) Thanks for loosening the muscle on radical epistemic agnosticism, bro! I'm glad to see the convergence here that "dogmatic essentials are necessary AS A SOURCE/INSPIRATION/PRELUDE to ministry, spirituality, radical loving"...

Since they are so necessary, may i ask "How do you what these dogmatic essentials are? What if some other community says it's not essential?"

It's perfectly ok if u need time to work on it :)

Amen, doctrine must be fleshed out in love, action and living for others (the horizontal 'love thy neighbor)

But just a quick gentle reminder, though, that this in itself cannot be-all,end-all of theology.

There is a higher peak, a deeper chasm, a wider ocean of 'vertical' love for the Lord our God with all our heart and mind.

Theology is also about doxology, (worship) and being faithful to the Lord who ransomed us with His precious blood

If we lose fidelity to Him and His Word, the fountain and spring of all compassion and mercy, our horizontal social action wud be superficial at best and life-destroying at worst.

Missing this dimension in theological discourse results in the frequent caricature of christian brothers who feel sad when precious truth is compromised as 'dogmatic', 'narrow', 'close-minded', 'unpractical', 'unloving' is anything but charitable or intellectually honest.

On a minor note, we may rejoice when rethinking deepens, widens and sharpens our understanding of substitutionary atonement (which is replete in scripture) or when it corrects 'misunderstandings' of it.

But to the degree they "pit these theories against each other and discount, ignore, or diminish biblical language that describes the atoning death of Christ", we have reason to be sad :)

The Hedonese said...

Soo Tian: Good piece, Steven! The last stanza kinda resonates with me. This very Sunday we had our communion, and as usual, I wasn't sure what to think, what
to focus on, or what to do with myself holding the bread and wine in my hands. But just as your ending says, all I know is that He died for me...

though comprehending what it all means will take me many communions more to grasp.

Adieu,
Soo Tian


--
"Man is distinguished, not only by his reason, but by this singular passion
from other animals, which is a lust of the mind, that by a perseverance of
delight in the continued and indefatigable generation of knowledge, exceeds
the short vehemence of any carnal pleasure."
- Mr. Thomas Hobbes


"Not because of who I am/but because of what You've done/Not because of what I've done/but because of who You are."
- Casting Crowns, "Who Am I"

Alex Tang: I agree with Soo Tian that that was a wonderful and powerful poem.

I also agree with Soo Tian that just remembering the Jesus' sacrifice during The Lord's table is too passive. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to squeeze a thought out. Would the Lord's table be more active if it is partaking the Blood and Fresh of Christ as the poem implied?

Joshua Woo: phew~
It's a very nice poem.
Whole load of atonement theology is described substantially and
simplistically.
Rare gift, man.

"When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they
believe in anything."
--G.K Chesterton

Hedonese: Yesterday's sermon was about How and Why We Celebrate the Lord's Supper... as we celebrate communion at Bethlehem Baptist

Every spiritual blessing was purchased for us at the cross... victory over evil, unquenchable love and grace, sanctifying ethical resolve, forgiveness of sins, right standing before God, imputation of Christ's
righteousness, adoption into his family, future hope... everything is ours by the substitutionary atonement of Christ... No hope without it :)

http://desiringgod.org/library/sermons/06/081306.html

alwyn said...

I think we can dialogue more on the essentials issue, but we'll probably need a new blog forum. (I don't mind having it at AGORA...EMO's not that hot on boundaries, for various reasons)

i also think some serious reading/thinking has to be done, and it's far more complicated than it may at first appear. Maybe that's why more conversation and less "negative pronouncement" needs to be exercised.

(In fact, it is precisely because other Christian communities may see the essentials differently that I'm reluctant to be 'dogmatic' about WHO TO EXCLUDE DOCTRINALLY - could I not be mistaken? I think it's better to be firm on WHO TO CARE FOR PRACTICALLY i.e. everyone - it's difficult to be mistaken about this)

The Hedonese said...

Dialogue on essentials? Do it in my blog la, since it has been going on ANYWAY hahaha...

It wud be sad IF Emergent folks are not 'hot' to even 'look' at the essentials or even consider it as relevant reflecting upon, for whatever reasons, lor.

I suspect that's not what you are intending to say.

'Hot' = 'fixated'?

Well, lemme assure u that the Agora forum has more constructive projects at hand. After the DVC, we hope to develop some materials to help churches get involved w human rights issues and explore the socio-political dimensions of faith.

Looking around for help among suitably gifted believers :)

Although we dun agree on everything, we also dun need to revisit the basics again and again, not bcos we think they are irrelevant anymore. But bcos there is already unity on the essentials like Trinity, which are faithful to scripture and tradition :)

Instead of restricting us, it actually allows us to move forward be more constructive.

Well, I was just wondering how we know 'who to care for practically' if we dun even have any orthodoxy to evaluate our praxis at all?? :)

When i wanna care for homosexuals, do i care in the way of Credo which approves their lifestyle or Real Love ministry which helps them to change? Or it doesnt matter?

So it is unhealthy to create false dichotomy between orthodoxy and orthopraxis lor... why can't we have both?

Lacking any 'way' to tell which are the essentials and which are not, we may talk only about "dogmatic essentials are necessary AS A SOURCE/INSPIRATION/PRELUDE to ministry, spirituality, radical loving, compassion, respect", but in the final analysis, we have no basis whatsoever to say it

alwyn said...

I think this is why it's important to listen carefully. Note that I did NOT say:

a) That there is or should be a dichotomoy between orthodoxy and orthopraxis (or that we can't have both)

b) That there is no 'way' we could tell what the essentials are or are not

I just said we need to think more about it. Maybe even keep silent for a bit.

(I have, however, written a long-ish piece on Christian Boundaries at http://www.angelfire.com/journal/althehare/getouttahere.html but it probably has to be updated)

But sure we could do it on your blog, but I thought it might be better to get the rest of AGORA involved lor - or else always the two of us (smile).

As for Emergent, we don't "focus" so much on boundaries because since other groups are already doing it and since there's an area not frequently 'taken up' (dialogues with new groups, conversations on political issues, church problems, etc.), we thought we could work on those instead. Still, yes, we MAY do a session on the various '-isms' out there and in the past...stay tuned...

As for homosexuals, I think it's still possible to CARE FOR a homosexual regardless of which position you take. "Love your neighbour as yourself". People - and the gay person - may not know or even bother with your doctrine. But they will wonder if you care about them or not, and your compassion will shine through even if you don't "approve of their lifestyle".

I don't think Jesus necessarily 'approved' of the tax collectors or the Pharisees' lifestyle either. But He loved them and, well, I'm sure they knew it.

But I'm curious: Surely you're not suggesting we CAN'T care for a gay person WITHOUT first having our doctrine of sexuality right, are you?

alwyn said...

(I really think something is malfunctioning in the blog, guys. Either that or it's not used to handling multi-multiple comments, *smile).

Hedonese said...

The Internet is wide open, man. Just organise and invite people to come lor... whether others wanna join in or not depends, lor. Cannot force rite? heheh...

Well, if our first knee-jerk reaction whenever people speak of essentials and boundaries is to launch off-tangent attacks about them being intolerant, close-minded, unloving etc, that seems to perpetuate a dichotomy between orthodoxy and orthopraxis lor..
(even if we pay lipservice to it)

We shouldn't be too quick to judge people's motives ma... heheh...

maybe these people do it because they love God's truth and people can be set free by truth, leh?

So are we saying that there is a 'way' we could tell what the essentials are but you just dunno? Or we cannot know?

Being silent on this matter if u dunno is ok, but we cannot fall into an 'epistemic agnosticism' that even Brian Mclaren reject. i.e. being so allergic to moral absolutes that EVEN butt-grabbing female colleagues is also subject to cultural relativities, moral exemptions or clauses... Or being so "open minded" tat we can't tell the color of the traffic lights...
That is postmodernism gone crazy extremes!

With regards to ministering to homosexuals, sure, there are people who 'care' for homosexuals and yet positively approve, even encourage homosexual lifestyles... but is that genuine or true 'love'?

Maybe you still call it 'care' la.

But merely showing 'care' while compromising on truth robs these needy people from genuine freedom in Christ. It is superficial at best and ultimately, sugar-coats a poison pill that destroys lives. in the final analysis, it is anything but redemptive.

Bro, that is not compassion in the way of Jesus at all!

He accepts us as we are, and crosses boundaries to reach us NOT so that we can remain in sin... We are all sexually broken creatures whom Jesus accepts to be transformed to be like him.

Your idea of 'love' is too small, too man-centered.

Genuine love is God-honoring and therefore ultimately liberating...

When we see doctrine of sexuality as unhinged from love as if they go against each other and lose fidelity to God and His Word, the fountain and spring of all compassion and mercy, our horizontal social action wud be superficial at best and life-destroying at worst.

Real Love Ministry is a shining beacon, in this regards, in showing BOTH genuine care AND a truthful liberation to the needy

alwyn said...

Bro, I think it's when you start commenting the way you did your last, that people "turn off".

Your tone is off. Your 'slur index' is very high.

The sheer number of issues and "adjectives" renders the conversation convoluted (what issue are we talking about now?) and over-heated (with little chance of people actually deriving value from the dialogue).

Tone down, brother. Try again.
(And I invite other members of AGORA to comment - are *you* clear on the issues that David is raising? Is this conversation helpful?)

The Hedonese said...

C'mon la... Alwyn, for someone who is unsure about so many things, how come you become so *certain* that you are accurately sensing my tone when you have no access to facial expression, body language, voice intonations or inflections?

Is it even remotely possible that the 'slur' is in your perception?

Heheh... Thanks for 'warning' people about me - have a nice day!