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Movie Review: The Call of the Wild

I don’t remember much about the book from school, but The Call of the Wild was worth the visit to the theatre. Although the movie likely intends no Christian worldview, there were definitely some lessons that were worth more than gold.

For example, John Thornton (played by Harrison Ford) is a grieving father whose loss of his son evidently also destroyed his marriage. The adventure out into the land ‘beyond the map’ was an attempt to carry on what he regretted not doing with his boy. Nonetheless, he learned somewhere along the path that while everyone else was going out to find gold, that a man is happiest when he has just enough. Humorous scenes by the dog named Buck add to this part of the narrative picking up a large boulder only to throw it back in to the river because his owner for one doesn’t see it and for another thing is happy to be finding the little nuggets. Upon packing up to leave, John Thornton throws the gold he doesn’t need back into the river and simply keeps in his pocket what will buy him ‘groceries for life’! The audience in the theatre I was in gasped at this point, showing how counter-cultural such an idea is! In contrast, the antagonist presents a very different picture leading ultimately to where all the love for money leads.

Another lesson was that of whiskey being unable to solve one’s problems. Seeking to take away the pain of a broken marriage and dead son, the bottle was nearby for John Thornton. In comes Buck who with his humorous stare and at times tenacious methods who at least twice compels John Thornton to give up the bottle. Sometimes dogs are smarter than humans, or at least made to serve them well.

What should parents know? There is one H word from what I picked up on. And for Christians there may be some discomfort about the spirit dog per se that shows up in a few places throughout the movie almost as a picture of strength behind Buck. But in my estimation he ultimately disappears and doesn’t dominate the main storyline. That is, I find there is a lot more redemptive to find in this movie that overshadows what might have even been intended to be glorified. As in many cases, unbelievers may very well have a story to tell Christians that is more Christian than they realize. One that deals well with the love of money and the inability for man’s problems to be solved by his own methods.

There is a call of the wild that ultimately this story points to for believers like myself, that call is to not live like the world, but to go to the One who alone heals our deepest hurts on a journey of a lifetime called Christian discipleship. But to each their own. I think the movie can be enjoyed by all, but some will find it even better realizing the gift of all good story writing comes from above.

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Sermon: Loving God in a Complicated World

Today I preached from 1 Kings 3:1–4. The emphasis was on the love of God in precedence to our love which makes our love in anyway acceptable.

Loving God in a Complicated World, a sermon by Brian Mann on 1 Kings 3:1–4
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Sermon: A Firmly Established Kingdom

Today I preached from 1 Kings 2:12–46 on the basis of a firmly established kingdom all the enemies of the king will be wisely dealt with. I learned much from this study and offer this sermon forth with prayer that it might be a blessing to others as well. The Lord be praised who gives the gift of preaching.

A sermon on 1 Kings 2:12–46 by Brian Mann
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The Forgotten Trinity

I finished reading James R. White’s book The Forgotten Trinity today; well I actually listened to it on Audible, which I highly recommend.

The book appears at first to be written for everyone, but my opinion on the matter is that a little bit of knowledge of Greek would be helpful. Therefore, I think the aim of the book toward everyone is probably overly ambitious. It is probably best for pastors and seminary students.

That being said, the book is tremendously helpful in educating the reader about the Trinity. In particular, White’s working through the prologue of John’s Gospel is gold! This is where the books shines in my estimation.

Nonetheless, the rest of the book is also very well written, approachable with a little education, and I would dare say something that should be put essential on the bookshelves of evangelical ministers.

Be sure to check it out; and again, I heartily recommend the audible version as a way to get exposed to this material. And then pick up the print copy to reference. Gospel Cheers!

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The Biblical Literary Device called “Inclusio”

Yesterday in my sermon preparation I came across a literary feature which some call “inclusio” which basically speaks of the framing of a story with two parallel phrases. Inclusio is a literary device which some of the biblical writers use. It can be argued the whole Bible includes an inclusio with Genesis and Revelation having similar themes. However, I have learned that is more of a chiasmus (different yet similar use of Hebrew poetry). If you search “inclusio” on the internet you will likely get Wikipedia’s definition which speaks of Mark 11 including the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple in an inclusio so as to make a point that Jesus is judging. I tend to be suspicious of Wikipedia, therefore I don’t rely on this to give me a reliable definition.  Moreover Eerdman’s Dictionary speaks of the function of the inclusio in that it “functions as a frame to illustrate the major emphasis contained within.” They cite Psalm 8 which begins and ends with “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” (Psalm 8:1 ESV) But I am still not convinced that we have an accurate definition that stands out from other literary devices like chiasmus. 

Chris Brauns wrote a post speaking of inclusio which gives perhaps the most concise definition:

“Inclusio – This literary term references the bracketing of a passage in the Bible by similar phrases. Identifying literary features such as inclusios helps us both better appreciate the literary beauty of God’s inspired Word and identify important themes”

(http://chrisbrauns.com/2015/02/the-gospel-of-matthews-use-of-inclusio-or-bracketing/) 

Brauns limits the definition of inclusio to “phrases.”  I think this is helpful because when speaking of other literary devices it may get very confusing. The inclusio that I came across was in 1 Kings 2:12 and 1 Kings 2:46.

“So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.” (1 Kings 2:12 ESV)

“…So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.” (1 Kings 2:46 ESV)

Now, we all have the same information to work with, but we don’t all interpret it the same. For example some take the inclusio to mean that this was “how” Solomon established the kingdom, while others speak of the things contained in the inclusio as being results of the kingdom being established. 

The natural reading is that the kingdom was established when Solomon was put on the throne and his enemies judged and his friends exalted with him. From that point because the kingdom was established the final judgment of the enemies was carried out. This is the vantage point that Iain Provan takes when he writes the following:

“His rule was firmly established: Since this is clearly something that the authors regard as already a reality (cf. also 2:24), it is misleading of the NIV to head 2:13–46 with the title Solomon’s Throne Established, as if this establishment was a consequence of the events described rather than their presupposition. This in turn has led the NIV into a misleading translation of v. 46b: The kingdom was now firmly established in Solomon’s hands. There is no now in the Hb. text. Verse 46b is simply a restatement of the God-ordained reality (Solomon’s grip on the throne is firm) that has just been illustrated by the events described.”

(Provan, Iain W.. 1 & 2 Kings (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series) (p. 41). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Others like Ryken take the whole matter as “how” the establishment of the kingdom takes place. Perhaps there is some truth to both, but I favor the former presupposed state of the established kingdom for two reasons:

1. The biblical context clearly teaches that what happened in 1 Kings 2 leading up to the 12th verse is Solomon being established as king.

2. The theological premise of the gospel gives a precedence to accomplished work preceding judgment of enemies.

The implications may be various, but take for example sanctification. Sanctification works in a manner that the kingdom has been established in a believer’s life, therefore sin can now be conquered and life can now be lived for the glory of God. Furthermore, and preceding this, the basis of how we invite people to Christ is that Christ is already on the throne and people are to bow to him now. His kingdom is established, therefore! One does not make Jesus king, one is to come to Jesus because he is king. So, that’s the idea and the reason why I take the approach I do to 1 Kings 2:12–46. Inclusio is a literary device that frames the text but interpreting what the author means by using it takes the use of context both theological and biblical. 

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A Theology of Suffering and Glory, Both.

The devil has a way of making men appear guilty when they are not. Suffering in this life sometimes happens to innocent people. Christian believers like the apostle Paul suffered greatly for the gospel. And it seems that in some measure all Christians are to suffer. However, this is not a badge of identity , nor is it the thing for which the Christian aims. 

The goal and real hope should be according to the apostle is “that we may lead peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim 2:2). To hold out such hope is not in vain. It is not the apostle holding a carrot before us saying this is the aim but it can nor will never happen. No, this is a really hope.

When I read in 1 Peter 5 of suffering, I also read of a proper time of exaltation and rebuilding in the believer’s life. 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:6–10 ESV)

We don’t hope for the suffering, but for the exaltation. Some early Baptists unfortunately held to the idea that suffering or persecution was a necessary mark of a Christian so much so that they ran headlong into persecution as a badge of honor. This was the error of the anabaptists. Although I am not of the persuasion that they are the line from which Baptists come today, the temptation may plague all denominations including reformed baptists to take suffering as a badge that entitles them to boast in itself. 

Suffering does accompany the Christian life, but for many it is not severe and does not entitle. I was reading last night about the similar subject where Kenneth L. Gentry Jr. speaking on postmillennialism wrote the following:

“the postmillennialist agrees that we are to “suffer with Christ” until he returns, for we grieve over the sufferings of our forefathers, endure the pains and limitations consequent upon our fallen experience, bemoan our own indwelling sin as well as the sin of the unconverted, and  earnestly long for the eternal glory we will share in the presence of God…. Earthly suffering involves times of prosperity as well as times of adversity. Even at the height of the kingdom’s earthly development we will always need to struggle in order to “seek first His kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), always resisting the temptation to arrogantly declare: “my power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17).”

Thine is the Kingdom, p.95

Dr. Gentry understands that there is a mischaracterization being made about those who believe in the ultimate triumph of the gospel in this world.  That mischaracterization is that such persons believe in an absence of suffering. To rebut such a notion, he affirms suffering accompanies the Christian life, but it does not mean that we don’t hope for  and work toward otherwise.

So, all of this is to say that we need both a theology of suffering and a theology of glory in one. The gospel does not teach merely to suffer, but to also triumph. The Bible as the same author above puts it, teaches us to affirm a theology of the cross but “we also heartily rejoice in “the theology of the resurrection.” Let’s not leave that off of our theology of suffering. We live through sufferings to see something far better than suffering. Let us hope in God who raises the dead.

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Hope for Good Government

Yesterday I preached from 1 Kings 2:1–10. The Title of my message was “Hope for Good Government.” I hope you will find Christ exalted and the saints edified in this message. Blessings!

1 Kings 2:1–10 “Hope for Good Government” A sermon by Brian Mann

Credits: Song played and provided as illustration toward the end of this sermon are by Andrew Peterson, song title “Is He Worthy?”

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B.B. Warfield’s Eschatological Universalism

I read a tremendously thought provoking article by B.B. Warfield the other night. I had to pick up it the next morning. It was called “Jesus Christ the Propitiation for the Whole World.” In it Warfield gives his explanation of 1 John 2:2.

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

In this little work, Warfield claims that the apostle John is an eschatological universalist; that is,

“he teaches the salvation of the whole world. But he is not an “each and every” universalist; he is an “eschatological” universalist. He teaches the salvation of the world through a process; it may be—it has proved to be—a long process; but it is a process which shall reach its goal.”

He goes on saying,

“at the end, therefore we shall be nothing less than the world saved by him. The contact between the “our” and “the world” in John’s mind, therefore, is at bottom the contrast between the smallness of the beginnings and the greatness of the end of Christian development.”

Moreover,

“It is not merely a world-wide gospel with which he knows himself entrusted: it is a world-wide salvation which he is called to proclaim. For Jesus Christ is the Savior not of a little flock merely, but of the world itself: and the end to which things are working together is nothing other than a saved world.”

Agree or disagree with Warfield’s postmillennialism (I.e. what I see here as the same as eschatological universalism), one cannot deny the ultimate end. Our Lord Jesus Christ is Savior of the whole world. It is not that Jesus merely made salvation possible, but that he indeed saves the world. However, we know this does not mean each and every individual is saved. So, we must make some amends in our understanding that John was talking about a different world than we know at this time.

It is a world that one day will be completely Christian. And it is a world that is not yet in our experience. But it is a world known to the Lord. And it is a world we can hope for. It is a world that Jesus came to save (cf. John 3:17). It is city which Christians look forward to with Abraham (cf. Hebrews 11:10).

For a copy of Warfield's paper see this pdf here.
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Respecting Authority or Not?

I did some reflecting upon a text in Acts 23 this morning. Initially I thought I might right on the importance of respecting authority. However, as my investigation led onward, I discovered it was not that simple. Here is what I discovered below.

Respecting Authority or Not?

“And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”” (Acts 23:1–5)

This account is most interesting first of all because of Paul’s very tenacious rebuke, but also because of his response when discovering the one he rebuked was God’s high priest. His discovery immediately brings him to the passage in Exodus 22:28 which reads:

“You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.” (Exodus 22:28)

There is debate on what this whole incident means. Some state along the lines that it is a point of irony and that Paul certainly knew who this man was but in some way was quipping back that he didn’t know because of how hypocritical this man was. In stating the law, Paul would be making it even clearer how ignorant the leader of Israel was being to him. It was apparent that he would not get a fair trial from such people.

Others take it at face value that Paul is sincerely apologizing. However, this is doubtful. It would have been an insult to the high priest either way. What I mean is that Paul is instructing him in the law better than this man was obeying it in his proceedings. The actions that follow also confirm this when the apostle is wise to bring up the resurrection and show clearly that he was in the middle of two political parties at each other’s throats on the issue. They were not concerned as much with Paul as they were with being right about everything. They certainly were not concerned with the truth in its right Spirit. Paul was. 

Therefore, the call to respect authority certainly has its place. But from Paul’s example we see there is a time to be shrewd and even to speak very rough concerning the hypocrisy of leaders.  In other places Paul speaks very respectfully to leaders, even Gentile leaders who are yet to believe in God. It seems that Paul was following his Master who also had a great disdain for those who claimed to be Jews but were really not by their hypocritical two-faced way of living. We would not err by having the same standard. Judgment begins at the household of God. 

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A High View of Citizenship

The Apostle Paul had a high view of citizenship, as well as those who were attempting to flog him. The moment he uttered that he was a Roman citizen, things stopped. People were called in. Someone has said it was a punishable offense by death to claim Roman citizenship falsely. Nonetheless, citizenship was a big deal.

Rome evidently protected its citizens in a way that it did not others. These protections were afforded to Christians as well. Citizenship was actually bought by some. I’ve reflected upon the issue of citizenship below. I hope it will be helpful in promoting a high view of citizenship.

A High View of Citizenship

Citizenship, what a privilege. It was something fearful to hear about the apostle Paul to those who were seeking to harm him in Acts 22. 

“But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.” (Acts 22:25–29)

Roman citizenship was  evidently a big deal. Rome was likely not the Babylon of the book of Revelation. If many of the the Postmillennials today are correct (and I think they are) Babylon was Jerusalem that was judged for its unbelief (Cf. Gentry, Wilson, others). Roman citizenship was positive. It carried with it tremendous privilege. 

One commentator describes the matter this way:

“The Lex Valeria and the Lex Porcia were ancient laws that prohibited the beating, and even the fettering, of Roman citizens, and this right was confirmed by the Lex Julia which gave citizens in the provinces the right of appeal to Rome. There were circumstances in which a magistrate might so act against a Roman, but only after a proper trial. It is quite clear that Paul had the law on his side in this particular instance (Sherwin-White, pp. 57–59, 71–76). We do not know how a Roman proved his citizenship; at the very least a formal claim to citizenship led to a stay in the procedure.” (TNTC)

The law rightly protected Paul. And there seems to be an added gravity that his citizenship was not bought but was by birth.  Another writer speaks about someone’s claim to citizenship if proved false would mean death; so no one claimed citizenship in Rome without seriousness.

Some conclusions:

1. A good government will put laws in place to protect its citizens.

2. Citizenship is thus a privilege and protection to its holders.

3. Citizenship is not something everyone had.

4. Citizenship in a good country that protects its citizens also affords protections to Christians from harm. This protection afforded by a high view of citizenship may protect its members outside of its own country.

5. Citizenship for those who do not inherit it by birth can cost a great deal.

6. Citizenship in Rome was taken with great reverence because of these things and likely other things.

7. Therefore, it seems that it is right to value citizenship and to use it appropriately. It also something that should be expected to cost something for those who are not citizens by birth. Open borders without any regulations is out of step with a high view of citizenship. And this high view of citizenship also must have positive implications as to how we might view the greater citizenship that Christians have in heaven. Lower the view of citizenship that protects its members in a certain country, they will likely not understand the great privilege otherwise. Government serves the Lord as it is appointed by the Lord. Therefore, it is right for citizenship to be taken seriously and with a high view.