Jesusians

A Courteous Contrararian

Predestination

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Jan• 13•15

I believe in predestination but not Calvinist version of it.

That’s not even true, I would agree with John Calvin as to an informal definition: Predestination is God determining before birth that some people will be followers of his. I only disagree with his ideas about who is in the chosen group and who is not. He would say everyone “saved” is by default part of the group that is pre-chosen, and that’s where I disagree.

Arminians, and I hope i’m not misrepresenting them either, also agree that those that are saved have been pre-chosen, but the reason God pre-chose them was because he knew they were going to decide to be saved. Because God knows every possible permutation of reality that could ever possibly have occurred or could possibly ever occur from the speaking into existence of the universe onward. I can’t really agree with any of that but I do agree with them when they interpret the Bible to mean that people have a real choice as to whether of not to follow Jesus.

Calvinists say, how could people have a choice if they have been predestined according to the Bible?

Arminians say, why would God offer us the choice so often in the Bible if we couldn’t choose differently than we do anyway?

They both have solid answers to the questions, and refutations of those answers, and refutations of the refutations. I followed a C vs A debate thread for years. Both sides quoted chapter and verse. The fiercest battlefields are spread across scripture: John 6, John 3, Ephesians 1, Romans 8 and 11, Genesis 2 and 12, to name a few. The funny thing is, both sides use these common chapters for their proofs. One side says look at verse 24 and the other side says yeah, but look at verse 37, and the other side says you’re ignoring verse 24. They speak at each other rather than looking for a conclusion that can match scripture. Both sides have to dismiss certain verses in light of other verses.

I think they’re both right. Well, they’re both right when the point to their proof verses. They are both wrong when they dismiss the other side’s proof verses. I talked about power distorting doctrine in my previous post and here’s how I can tell power’s at play here. They have to dismiss the opponent’s point of view.

If they could stop doing that, if they could validate their opposition, they could come to a conclusion that better matches reality and the Bible. It’s so simple. They’re both right! Problem solved. Let’s move on to the next subject, okay?

The fact that you think I’m crazy, that both sides can’t possibly be right, shows me how deeply the battle lines have been drawn. You personally may be neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian but their positions have become so deeply entrenched that you can’t think of a third alternative, let alone a third alternative in which they are both right, or least you couldn’t until you read what I wrote above. So let me explain my crazy idea.

Starting in the next post.

 

 

A Third Way (Predestination 0)

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Jan• 10•15

It’s time for me to stop dallying with silly football posts and start to address some of the ideas that made me want to start this blog in the first place. I want to deal with some places in our theologies and doctrines where we might have drawn some improper conclusions.

I know I might sound arrogant: the whole believing world has it wrong and I have it right. Let me offer the reason I think this may just be so. I am powerless and untaught. That sounds a little humbler, doesn’t it? But it is key. I believe God has molded and shaped me my entire life for just this task, and it is precisely because he has left me naive and powerless that I am suited for it.

Has I come to theology or a love of the Bible early in life, had I studied and gotten a degree and developed a specialization and an expertise, I would have naturally chosen positions I would have needed to defend.

Free will or predestination. Calvinism or Arminianism. Once we take a position it is hard to abandon it or grant any validity to the other side of the question. We all want to be right and we look for affirmation. Whether at church or online, we want to hang with those who believe like we do.

What I’m talking about here is power. Whether a Christian speaker, a theologian, a pastor, or a youth group leader, we adopt positions which we then need to defend. We defend them by teaching them to others. By influencing others we can justify our existence and augment our sense of purpose. Power in itself is not evil. It is human; understandable.

But the accumulation of powers, not by an individual necessarily, but by a group (let’s say 5 point Calvinists) can be a bad thing because it stops our brains in mid-process. The thoughts of such a group turn from seeking the truth and toward defending and amplifying their position. Such a Calvinist becomes unable to see the validity of certain Arminian arguments because they are so caught up in refuting them. And vice versa.

When our views become so entrenched, so calcified, they can stop us from seeing the truths of scripture even when they are plain to see. The point of this series then will be to point out a third way, a scriptural way, to view these debates. In fact, I think I will deal with Calvinism Vs. Arminianism first.

What will become apparent as we work through these controversies is that a third way makes sense, reconciles differences, and grants validity to all the arguments. All we need to do is stop looking at the Bible through preconceived notions.

I’m Tradin’ My Sorrows

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Jan• 08•15

Or at least I’ve been thinking about it.

I’ve been a Chicago Bears fan for over 50 years. I watch the games, and record them if I can’t watch live. I listen to sports radio during the season (and preseason and now that the coach and GM have been fired and probably at least through the college draft and the mini-camps and the preseason). Like most knowledgeable diehard fans, I know what went wrong with my team, and when, and exactly how to fix it.

For the past two seasons, the end of the worship service has come into conflict with the start of the game. I haven’t cut the worship short in order to listen to the game on my way to my TV (I don’t think) but I have been tempted. It wouldn’t work anyway. If I cut a song in the middle of the service, Pastor Bob would just preach a little longer to fill in the gap.

Last year, I tried to not hear the score after the service. I’d rush home and watch my recording in progress from the start, fast forwarding through the commercials. I’d normally catch up to the live game somewhere near the end of the third quarter or start of the fourth, depending on how many commercials I forgot to fast forward through.

But this year I haven’t bothered. This year the Bears were so bad. Uniformly bad, and inept, and occasionally lacksadaisical, in all three phases of the game. And although I know what went wrong this year, and when, and exactly how to fix it, I have to admit my focus has strayed somewhat from the Bears. I know it seems evil beyond the adulterous, but another team has caught my attention.

It helped that they most often were a featured game with a 3:25 start, after my bumbling team had lost another one. It helped that the team was in close proximity to Chicago. They had a great quarterback and fine receivers and a real shot this year. You’ve probably figured out that I’m talking about the P–

I’ve had a flirtation like this a couple of times before. I rooted for the Peyton Manning- led Colts while it seemed like they would never get past the Patriots and win a Super Bowl. The Colts were very sexy back then. Featured games, great QB and receivers, and Indy was in close proximity to Chicago. And the Colts, after all, were in the other conference. I cheered for them to win the Super Bowl all the way up to, but not including their actual Super Bowl win. AGAINST THE BEARS. You’d think I would have learned my lesson.

But this time is different. Maybe it’s because I’ve come to know a couple of real live Packer fans and they seem like really nice people. Not so different than you and me. They even claim to be saved, as if such a thing were possible.

So there, I’ve let the secret out. I’ve been following the Packers. Aaron Rodgers is on his way to being the best quarterback who ever lived, and he’s got a biblical first name. Old Testament, but still.

To cheat on the Bears with our hated rivals feels more than adulterous, it is almost incestuous. Maybe more so since the Bears cut Julius Peppers and the Pack signed him. and then I got to thinking, if Peppers could change teams so easily, why couldn’t I? Am I tied to the accident of my birthplace?

I could be. If God choose for me to be born in Chicago, Illinois, could he have also presdestinated (KJV) me to suffer in this life in order to have a greater glory in the next? Are the Bears many weaknesses being made perfect through our many, many sufferings? (That reminds me of a joke: Did you hear about the Minnesota Lutherans that went to Hell? They kinda liked the heat because it was generally so cold in Minnesota. So the devil turned the thermostat to -30F. The they were happy because, since Hell froze over, they knew the Vikings must have won the Super Bowl.)

No. I believe in free will. Someday I will explain from Ephesians 1 how some were predestined but most of us were saved when we heard the word of truth. Aaron Rodgers and Gordie Nelson were probably predestinated (KJV) to become Packers, just like Bret Favre and Reggie White, while Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews were most likely accidents of the draft. And if Reggie White, ordained minister and all, could choose which team to play for, why can’t I choose the team for which I root?

Why not watch excellence instead of futility? I know I can get Milwaukee sportsradio after sundown. Why not extend my rooting interest into the playoffs for once? Why not take the Lambeau Leap and become an out-an-out full on Packers fan?

Nah.

A Set-Apart New Year

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Jan• 01•15

I’m not normally one for New Year’s.
I think I fell asleep about nine last night. About twenty years ago, I made a resolution not to make any more resolutions and it’s the only one I’ve kept.
So imagine my surprise this morning to realize I felt different about 2015. I grabbed my coffee and smokes and sat down to think about beginning my morning prayer and Bible reading and stopped. I felt the Presence. It was one of those rare (at least in my experience) moments of the realization of his holiness and the holiness of the moment.
Such moments for me are enthralling and yet somehow hard to live through. But when one passes, I long for its, and his, return. It might be my imagination, but this one felt like he took away his hand and I glimpsed his back, like Moses in Exodus 33.
But it was enough. It was enough for me to want that holiness in my new year, that holiness for my new year. Or at least a measure of it.

Holiness, at least the way we’ve been taught to think about holiness, isn’t something I can attain. Only God is Holy. yet we’re instructed in both Testaments to be holy as God is holy. It hardly seems fair to command it if it is unattainable.
I can strive, however, for holiness if I use the biblical definition rather than the Christian one: I can strive to be set-apart.
To set myself apart won’t be to set myself apart from people who don’t believe what I believe. It will be to set myself apart from myself: from the way I usually am. I feel as though I can be holy by staying closer to the Lord. I can be holy by listening better, both to him and to other people. By serving more,
By watching more sunsets, and stars in a country sky.
I can strive to be more aware of the holiness that’s always there. Because it’s always there, I filter it out. like background noise in a restaurant. I have felt, but now choose to feel more often, the holiness of time spent with family, how each moment, good or bad, is lived out in the presence of God. I will strive to enjoy the great gifts of God, most especially the gift of friendship, deep and holy friendship, that I have experienced my whole life. I will try to live with integrity, sinner that I am, and realize trying is a worthy goal.
God this morning has given me a worthwhile goal for the new year, and with it the hope that we can accomplish it together. My new years wish for you is that you walk with the King. And have a Set-Apart New Year.

New Computer Virus

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Dec• 31•14

My Laptop crashed so I took it to my guy. He said I had a virus and asked if I’d been on any sites I didn’t normally go to.
The only one I could think of was an online bowling game.
“Well that explains it,” he said, “your computer has contracted the E-bowler virus!”

My Book

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Dec• 26•14

 

I got the cover design for my new book. I’m excited!
I think the scene on the front is one of the traditional guesses for where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. I recognize it from a movie I saw of the book of Matthew.
On the parts where the KJV says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you”, the writers of the movie had Jesus say, very excitedly and earnestly, “I’m telling you the truth!” I liked it better than the King James vernacular.

 

Roger Goodell and leadership

Written By: Jon - Sep• 17•14

In keeping with my short tradition of things musical and/or theological, I’d like to offer my views on the current furor in the NFL.

Four players have been arrested, convicted, or indicted on some form of domestic violence. One, Ray Rice, was suspended for two games for knocking out his then fiance with a punch in a casino elevator. The length of his suspension caused a public uproar in many quarters and the strength and breadth of the protestations may have spurred the NFL’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, to set the length for future suspensions in stone: 6 games for the first offense and an indefinite suspension for a second.

So far, so good. I guess. I have no problem with the NFL policy and really, i had no problem when Rice was only given a two game suspension. Two games meant he missed two paychecks; about half a million dollars. That’d make me enter counseling pretty quick. But dollar amounts aside, he was essentially fined over twelve percent of his annual pay. That’s a large chunk of disposable income for many of us. For the rest of us, twelve percent keeps us from paying for essentials.

What happened next concerns me. The video of the actual punch was leaked and Goodell changed Rice’s suspension from two games to indefinite. He says it was because the NFL hadn’t previously seen the video and Ray Rice wasn’t totally forthcoming before he originally passed judgment. An inquiry has been launched to discover who knew what and who said what, and when, but I don’t need to wait for the results before I protest that the proceedings have become totally unjust.

If Ray Rice was suspended for two games for knocking out his fiance, he shouldn’t have the penalty increased because we now have definite proof that he knocked out his fiance. Did Goodell see the tape and think, “Oh, that kind of a punch! I thought he knocked her out with a wussy little punch.”

Goodell said Rice and his fiance were not entirely forthcoming. That was his justification for increasing the punishment. Either Goodell doesn’t have the imagination to see that a knockout punch is a knockout punch, and a serious offense in any event, or he truly doesn’t believe that domestic vio;ence is a serious matter. Because in essence, if what he said is true, he is penalizing Rice indefinitely for applying spin to his best advantage and only two games for the violence. An indefinite ban for lying.

Of course, I don’t believe any of the silly scenarios we’ve examined is true. I think Goodell has caved to public opinion. He caved when he announce future suspensions would be six games instead of two and he caved when he upped Rice’s suspension to indefinite. An therein lies the problem.

And finally we get to a little theology. We are talking about judgment: the judgment(s) by the commissioner and the judgment from the crowd of voices. What did Jesus say about judgment? “Do not judge.” God said judgment is his. When we put the two together (and bring in all the other pertinent passages) we find that we shouldn’t judge unless we are given the responsibility to judge by God.

He gives the responsibility to judge to parents when he grants the child. He gives the responsibility to our leaders whne they become our leaders, if you believe His claim that he chooses them and tells us to obey them. In each of the social institutions he has ordained (family, church and government), he has also given responsibility to nurture and judge. If leaders don’t lead and judges don’t judge, we will be left with a certain pandemonium, and that is what is happening right now in the world of sports.

Goodell, by caving to vocal public pressure, is doing much more harm than good. He must lead, he must be consistent, and he must be just.

Biblically, judgment must always be vertical. We can only judge those we have been granted the authority to judge. When Jesus said, “do not judge,” he meant it for everyone else in every other possible situation. And the verticality of judgment is a two way street. Leaders can be judged by their followers. I can and should leave my church if my Pastor is a leader I can’t follow. We can overthrow tyrannies when the injustice becomes too great.

This speaking of truth to power was exhibited when Nathan called King David out for his gross sin.

This counterbalance from below is necessary because all of us, even leaders, (or maybe even especially leaders) are flawed and sinful people. This is how God keeps us from chaos.
The problem as i see it with the the current situation is that the voice of the people has gained such power without its corresponding ameliorating counterbalance. The cacophony of voices has no responsibility and so will suffer no consequences if they are wrong. The self-righteous and holy response from those not in power comes from people who sound like they don’t think they’ve ever made a serious mistake. They can say what they want and react as they will because they don’t have the great weight of leadership upon their shoulders. They don’t have to worry about the measure they have used.
Until one day they come face to face with their Creator.

Worship Music

Written By: Jon - Sep• 03•14

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About a year ago, I became the worship leader at Standing Stones Church. It is a position I am still growing into.
There’s nothing like a change in position to bring about a change in perspective. I think about worship music so differently than I did a year ago.
A year ago, I could worship as led by the church band but I could be dissatisfied with some of its elements. Although I wanted electric guitar, bass, and drums, I also wanted more hymns. I didn’t understand why we repeated the same simplistic Bridge line seven times. Some of the lyrics we sang made me cringe, like “Jesus is mine.” Jesus is MINE? I thought that I belonged to him!
But mostly I suffered through the empty boasts we flung toward Heaven. I sang promises to follow after God every minute of every day. How I wish that that were true.

Now I see music, and our job when leading worship, much differently. God took me through a process of learning to see worship through the eyes of those I served. Many Standing Stonians didn’t see music the way I did, and I wasn’t there to please myself. The process took months and a major turning point came when our drummers suggested we learn a new song, Oceans.
I fell in love with the song as I hadn’t loved a song in years. It was powerful, brilliant and honest. Then I realized the Bridge repeats six times. And it wasn’t a simple little one line bridge, it was eight lines long.
Spirit lead me
Where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me
Take me deeper
Than me feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

The bridge alone repeated for over four minutes. The average radio song last less than three and a half minutes, the whole song!
And each chorus ended with that dreaded line, “I am yours, and you are MINE.” Yet I loved the song. What had happened to me?
I came to see “I am yours and you are mine” as nothing more than a modern iteration of God’s oft-repeated promise, “And I will be their God and they shall be my people.” He is mine in that he is most definitely my God and I, of course, remain his as well.
AS for the droning Bridge; for the first time I understood the purpose of it. It is implicit in the lyric. The repeat allows time for the Spirit to truly lead us.
The first time or two through, we sing it. Then we can forget the singing and move to a truer worship. Then we can absorb the message like we absorb calories at a meal. They both become part of us, even if only for a time. And finally there is room in the repetition for the petition: oh that we might be led by the Spirit in just such a manner!

Now Where Was I …

Written By: Jon - Sep• 01•14

It’s been two years since my last post, and a lot has happened to all of us, I’m sure. For that is the way God holds our interest; by changing our circumstances to keep us from becoming bored with our own existence.
We slip toward our common end while striving to be more, to mean more, than we do now. We grasp for joy in the striving as we endure the blunt force body blows of outrageous fortune. And all the while our God works behind the scenes in the good and the bad like the wizard behind the curtain. But unlike the wizard he is not without resources.
The book of Hebrews, in a couple of places, tells us Jesus was made perfect or complete by his sufferings. This idea of an imperfect or incomplete Jesus used to clash with my image of him. Hasn’t he always been perfect? Complete? But of course he hasn’t. He grew in wisdom and stature. He grew into the task set before him. And the final step was suffering.
Jesus was tempted (or put through trials; the word for both concepts is most often the same in the Greek) as we are tempted so that he might fully sympathize with us. So he could advocate for us before the Father. The steps leading to the Resurrection completed the process and we have the witness of his words to confirm it. I’ve heard 20,000 Jews died on Roman crosses but I imagine only one said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

I have often thought that, when I returned to this blog, I would list the calamities that have befallen me since that last post. It is a long list. But I wouldn’t be who I am today without them, and I wouldn’t be inching closer to who I Am wants me to become.
It is trite to say there is no joy without suffering, but trite is only trite because it is thought so often, and we think it so often because it is true. We couldn’t know love without apathy and pride, or faith without certainty, or hope without sin.
This awesome existence God has birthed us into is as terrifying as it is marvelous, as mysterious as it is mundane. We dread the mundane as much as the terrifying, although they are opposites.
Yet instead we should thank him for the marvelous as we seek him through the mystery.

Real Perfection

Written By: Jon - Jul• 09•12

We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood except that he grew in wisdom and stature. That he grew in stature is apparent; we’re first told of an infant and later we see him as a grown man. At first thought, the idea that he grew in wisdom was much more interesting. But then I realized that he didn’t speak parables that first Silent Night. Wisdom and stature were linked, as is common to all of us.

Jesus progressed like we do. At twelve, he amazed the teachers at the Temple. About that time, he must have attained sexual maturity. He faced the same temptations we do, yet was without sin.

We’re told he began his ministry at about 30 years of age. I wonder how old he looked. Perhaps he looked younger, untouched by the early ravages of sin.  Or older, bearing the face of the man who had the weight of the world on his shoulders. “O Jerusalem … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” – Matthew 23:37 NIV

What if Jerusalem had been willing? What if he had indeed gathered her children together?

I’m not an alternate history buff, but it seems like it must have at least been a possibility. If it wasn’t possible, if it was only a fantasy, why would Jesus have longed for it so often. I’d like to entertain the possibility for a few paragraphs.

Perhaps he would have become what the OT predicted, but all at once: the victorious Messiah come to rule first Israel and then all the world in peace and justice. But then what?

Wouldn’t he have gotten old and died? That was the arc of his life; the way he was headed. He was a man, a descendant of Mary and of Adam, and death had spread to all men.

Yet he was without sin. We’ve been taught that the wages of sin is death. How could he die without a reason? Where would be the justice in that?

Maybe he would be alive today, having just celebrated his 2015th birthday. Since he matured at the common pace, if not faster, in wisdom and stature, he would look unimaginably old. I’m not glad that he had to die but I’m glad he got the first glorified body.

Maybe in our glorified bodies, we will look like ourselves at eighteen, or better yet, what we would have looked like at eighteen if we were sinless. Maybe that’s why the disciples didn’t recognize him at first. Maybe they thought, I know that face but I just can’t place it.  They wouldn’t have scanned their memories for the faces of dead people. And then he spoke, or moved in a certain way, with a certain mannerism, and they knew.

In our alternate universe, if Jesus had died at a ripe old age, what would it mean? Would his death have accomplished penal substitution? In this future, we would not be his killers, he would have succumbed to the laws of our fallen world. Could he have atoned for us without the accompanying shame, rejection, and torture?

I think the rules of penal substitution would force us to answer in the affirmative. Either way, he died sinless to counterbalance our receiving life while yet sinful. Either way, the demands of substitutionary atonement would have been met. But then why did he have to endure all he did? Why were his years cut so tragically short?

Hebrews tells us Jesus was made perfect through suffering. I knew he was the perfect man, but I hadn’t known that he didn’t achieve perfection until the end. How could a sinless man not be perfect? We keep piling up questions in our little thought experiment as we attempt answers. Hebrews tells us he had to suffer. But did he have to suffer for us or did he have to suffer to become perfect?

The answer that occurred to me comes from a passage in The Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus explained perfection. He first taught that we’ve got no shot at staying sinless (because of pride) in Matthew 5:20-7. Then he gave us something different to strive for. He wanted us to give witness through extraordinary acts. In 44-47, Jesus tells us to love our enemies because the Father loves everyone. It is our only shot at perfection; not to be sinless, but to love everyone like the Father loves everyone. How do we know this? By the therefore in verse 48. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48 NIV.

This is how Jesus was perfected as a man, I think. By showing that much love.  It’s not that he didn’t show that much love prior to the Passion, it’s just that he had to show it to the end, despite the torture, shame, and rejection. His degree of suffering was meant to show he loves us no matter what. No matter what what he had to endure and no matter what we do. That was his goal.

His goal wasn’t to die. Death was just the means, the instrument he played. Had he died a natural death, it would have been the same. Either way would have been efficacious as long as he rose from the dead. Death was the tool and death was the enemy. He defeated death through spiritual judo, he used the weight of death against death. He defeated death by dying, and rising again.

Love was the reason he had to suffer. He can say he lived a perfect live from beginning to end, because he loves us no matter what.

There is a debate afoot: Penal Substitution vs. Christus Victor. Christ’s victory is defeating sin and death. Both sides generally concede that both sides are true, but argue about which is more prominent. Is the greatest act in human history to save us from wrath by taking that wrath upon himself? Or was it to lead the captives free through irrational, perfect love?

Did he die so the Father could love us or did he love us so much he was willing to die? Which was the motivating factor? If it is the first, we have a logic problem. We have a Savior who loved us so much as to die for us at a time when the Father was incapable of embracing us because of our sin. The unity of God would be destroyed as we see Jesus doing something he didn’t see his Father doing.

Jesus’ perfection through suffering, his love despite the pain, and his willingness to take that pain as an emblem of how much he loves us, leaves us with the ultimate reassurance. God is love and always has been.

Divine atonement was God’s radical solution, and necessary, but it was motivated by his love for humanity. Love is preeminent.