Filtering by Tag: Jesus Christ
This is an email response that I sent to a dear sister and fellow classmate who reached out to me after learning about the Grand Jury's decision not to indict Eric Garner's murderer. This came straight from the heart, so I thought I'd share with you all the emotions that many of my brothers and sisters are feeling at the moment. In all the cacophony of fellow Christians screaming, "facts!" There are people, like myself, who are image-bearers of the True and Living God, and we are hurting. Hear my heart and please disregard any grammatical errors.
I am speechless, sister! Thank you for taking the time to email me and mourn with me. Honestly, that is all we ask from our brothers and sisters in Christ.
It has been so very difficult for me to be at WTS as of late. Especially this semester, as I am the ONLY African-American woman in the MDiv program. It is difficult to sit back and see everyone carry on with life as usual while my life is spinning out of control and has been turned upside down with each subsequent miscarriage of justice. It hurts, so I weep andI tweet. I tweet out my rage because it is too hard to face the raw emotions. I try to focus on school, but I just can't.
Just as I was finally turning the corner on the Mike Brown situation, it happens again, this time Eric Garner. I wonder who will be next? Will it be my cousins or nephews? What will their future look like? What does my future hold? While I was praying this morning, I can honestly say that for the first time, I feel fear about living in America. My own country has put me into a state of fear. That is an indignity no human being should have to undergo.
With each death of my unarmed brothers, I feel a palpable loss. I have shed too many tears, and I am tired of grieving for my brother and sisters. What is a black life worth? Can we live like everybody else? These are the questions at the root of these atrocities. Sadly, America has answered us with a resounding "nothing" to the former, and "no!" to the latter. These injustices threaten to eat away at my very soul. I am weary and I need your prayers. Thank you for your empathy and care, it is a balm to my soul.
Grace to you,
This morning I am embarking on a three-part apologetic mini-blog series on Rhonda Byrne's book entitled, The Secret. I will examine The Secret on its own terms, its framework, plausibility, and blasphemy. In so doing, I will uncover the presuppositions that Byrne holds, while simultaneously demonstrating the inevitable incoherence of The Secret in view of the Christian faith, which interprets the world as it truly is.My sole intention for writing this blog series is for the edification and upbuilding of the universal church. Jude exhorted us long ago, "to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (Jude 3-4).
Since the release of Rhonda Byrne’s, The Secret in November 2006—coupled with a significant endorsement from Oprah Winfrey—the new-age philosophy it propagates has infiltrated the church.The Secret has shipwrecked the faith of many and rendered the faith of some anemic at best. The author gathered twenty-four modern day teachers, philosophers, and authors to share their insights regarding “the secret.”
“The secret” is the “law of attraction,” which teaches that our thoughts have a frequency, and what you send out to the universe, either positive or negative thoughts, is what you will receive. You can be, have, or do anything you want through the power of positive thinking, visualization, and action, because you are God. There is no sphere of life that is exempt from the power of “the secret”. Money, health, and wealth are a few of many areas which are governed by the law of attraction. You are in control of your destiny, and only you have the power to create and reconstruct your present reality.
The Secret Examined
Rhonda Byrne uses the mythological story of Aladdin and the Genie as a metaphor to explain what the secret is and how it works. Aladdin asks for what he wants, and the Genie is there to do his bidding. Metaphorically speaking, you are Aladdin and the law of attraction is the Genie. According to Byrne, “the law of attraction is always present and always listening to everything you think, speak, and act. The Genie assumes that everything you think about, you want! That everything you speak about, you want! That everything you act upon is what you want! You are the Master of the Universe, and the Genie is there to serve you. The Genie never questions your commands.”
Observe the way that Byrne describes the law of attraction, by ascribing to it anthropomorphic and transcendent capabilities. She assumes that it has the ability to hear all things and is also omnipresent. But how does she arrive at such a conclusion, given her admission that “the law of attraction is a law of nature. It is impersonal and it does not see good or bad things. It is as impartial as the law of gravity”? Her metaphor betrays her earlier claim that the law of attraction is impersonal, for if it is as she claims, then it cannot “listen” or regard anything said by you or anyone else for that matter, because to do so would contradict the impersonal and impartial nature of said law.
Let us briefly consider the law of gravity, since Byrne makes mention of it. In order for a law of nature to be such, at the very least it must be universal and empirically observable. For example, if I drop a glass of water from my hand in America and did the same thing in Africa, the result would be the same—shattered glass and water would be strewn on the floor. When Byrne describes the law of attraction, she is not describing a law of nature as she purports. Rather, she is explicating her subjective belief in the non-empirical, the law of attraction—which by the way is not named among the laws of nature. How did she come to import God-like attributes into a supposedly “impartial” law of nature? Could it be that she is projecting the attributes of the one true God she knows into the so-called law of attraction? We will answer and explore these questions in greater detail as we progress, but for the moment, suffice it to say that there is more to the proverbial story.
Let us continue to examine the rest of Byrne’s statement. Based on her metaphor, the Genie is there to serve you and give you everything that you think, act, and speak about. You are the master and the universe is your servant; it does not question your command, but fulfills it. In this statement, there is self-deification language, not unlike what happened in Genesis 3:5 when the serpent said, “for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” In their pride, Adam and Eve willfully dethroned God as their Master and Lord—and ascribed to themselves the title that is His alone. This sinful act resulted in the Fall, and with it, all humanity has inherited sin, guilt, shame, misery and separation from the God with whom our first parents once walked intimately. The noetic effects of sin are evident in Byrne’s statement. She is espousing an idolatrous mode of thinking in which the creature (self) is to be worshipped rather than the Creator, to whom all worship is due. If this idolatrous thinking is left unabated, she will inevitably plunge deeper into her delusion—and incur the judgment of eternal separation from God.
Byrne is truly a chip off the old block, following in the disobedient footsteps of her first parents. In order for her to live in the alternate universe of her own making, she has chosen to disregard and deny God’s self-revelation. This is what sin does: it makes us utterly irrational. “It is what robs us of being truly human; it is what is always at work to dehumanize us.” We exchange what the Triune God has revealed to us as true, good, and perfect for that which is false, despicable, and corrupt. Byrne is correct when she says, “you are the Master of the Universe.” Indeed, you are the master and creator, but only of the illusory universe within God’s Universe which He created in the beginning (Gen. 1:1). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that in this illusory world, the Genie—which is an idol—never questions your command, because he has been created by Byrne and made in her own image and likeness (Exod. 20:3-4).
In fact, Byrne’s god sounds eerily like Satan when he said to Jesus, “all these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:9). And worship she does. Regardless of Byrne’s futile attempts to uphold her illusory universe and deny the Triune God, He does in fact question our requests when they are riddled with selfish motives (Jas. 4:3). Ironically, in her illusory universe, there is a feeble attempt to uphold the Creator-creature distinction while simultaneously rejecting this reality in the Triune God’s universe. She is recapitulating what she knows to be true, yet she suppresses this truth by erecting an illusory universe—in which she is the creator and God is the creature. Coram Deo is an inescapable reality for all image-bearers; therefore, this illusion is nothing more than an exercise in futility, because the Triune God is revealing Himself to His creation at every moment.
Additionally, embedded in Byrne’s metaphor is a presupposition of sinlessness and autonomy. The idea that sin has stained our whole being and hindered our ability to think, act, speak, and emote is absent from her metaphor and the pages of The Secret. “Trust your instincts. It’s the Universe inspiring you. It’s the Universe communicating with you on the receiving frequency. If you have an intuitive or instinctive feeling, follow it, and you will find that the Universe is magnetically moving you to receive what you asked for.” What would happen if everyone were to follow Byrne’s advice and fulfill every instinctive desire they felt? This world would be thrown into complete and utter anarchy. Only animals live by instincts alone. This is exactly what our first parents did; they trusted in themselves and the serpent over against the Triune God and the Fall was ushered in (Gen. 3). Byrne is advocating the same, when she says you should trust your instincts. “A little autonomy involves absolute autonomy, and a little reality set free from the plan of God involves all reality set free from the plan of God.” Our fallen world is still reaping the sinful effects of autonomy.
What Byrne fails to acknowledge is that we are all born in sin and shaped in iniquity (Ps. 51:5; 14:2-3). We are descendants of Adam, united to him, and enslaved by sin (Rom. 5:12; 6:16, 17). We are all guilty before our Holy God and our conscience bears witness to this truth (Rom. 2:15), but God being rich in mercy sent the second Adam, Jesus Christ, to fulfill righteousness on our behalf (Rom. 6:17-19), so that those who believe in Him are no longer slaves to sin, but to righteousness (Rom. 6:18). Those who receive this salvation are given a new heart (Ezek. 36:26, 27) and are a new creation; the old man has passed away and the new man has come (2 Cor. 5:17). Though we are made new, we live in the “already-not yet.” We have been made holy in the sight of God due to Christ’s finished work, but we still have indwelling sin that remains (Rom. 7)—we are simultaneously saints and sinners. Consequently, we do not rely on our autonomous reasoning, because it is fallen. Instead, we are “fearlessly anthropomorphic” and rely wholly on the self-revelation of the Triune God given to us in the Bible. Cornelius Van Til elucidates this point when he says, “man as the creature of God needs supernatural revelation, and man, become a sinner, needs supernatural redemptive revelation.”
 Rhonda Byrne, The Secret (Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Publishing, 2006), 11.
 Since the Byrne uses the terms, “the secret,” and “the law of attraction” synonymously, from this point forward, I will do the same.
 Ibid., 46.
 Ibid., 13, 43.
 Also known as “the Universe,” “the law of attraction,” “god” or any label you choose is fine, so long as it works for you (page 46).
 K. Scott Oliphint, “The Irrationality of Unbelief: An Exegetical Study,” in Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics, ed. K. Scott Oliphint and Lane G. Tipton(Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2007), 70.
 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008),134.
 Van Til asserts that the problem is not with God’s revelation to us, rather our sinfulness is the problem. Therefore, when it is difficult for us--as creatures—to reconcile God’s eternal decree and His will of command we must be “fearlessly anthropomorphic,” that is embrace our creatureliness and fully trust our Creator-God when there are things we don’t fully understand. In so doing, we honor Him and recognize our finitude; this is the sense in which I use the term.
 Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2003), 194.
When you hear “church membership,” what word comes to mind? Perhaps, “enigma”? After all, there is no commandment that says “thou shall be a member of the local church.” We are living in an age where people call themselves Christians and believe themselves to be a part of the invisible church, yet refuse to join the visible, local church. In fact, many of these people believe that their “Me and Jesus” approach to Christianity is more “spiritual” than those who are committed members of the local church. This individualistic approach to Christianity is not supported anywhere in Scripture, and is an unbiblical phenomenon that is wholly rooted and perpetuated in individualistic American culture. The pervasiveness of this message cannot and should not be underestimated.
From the outset, it is important to note, that church membership did not begin in the New Testament; rather, it began in the Old Testament. Before we discover what the Bible has to say about church membership, it is necessary to define the church. According to the Bible, the church consists of those who have been effectually called by God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit and have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb through faith in Christ Jesus. The Bible affectionately refers to the church as: the elect (Matt 24:22; Rom 11:7), the bride (Rev 21:9, 22:17), beloved (Ps 60:5, 2 Cor7:1), the people of the God (Judg 20:2; 2 Sam 14:13), and the body of Christ (Rom 7:4; 1 Cor 12:27). God’s love for the church is from everlasting to everlasting, nothing can separate the church from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:39). Jesus Christ came to earth in order to save His bride, the church.
I. Church Membership in the Old Testament
The story of the church begins in the Old Testament. Exodus 19 is considered the first church gathering in the Bible, because God commanded Moses to consecrate and assemble the people of God before His presence. Deuteronomy 33:2-3 describes church gathering at Sinai in this way, “The Lord came from Sinai…he came from the ten thousands of holy ones,…yes, he loved his people, all his holy ones were in his hand” (Deut 33:2-3). This passage captures an eschatological glimpse of future glory; in it, heaven meets earth there at Mount Sinai. Exodus 19 also presents an eternal reality which cannot be overlooked. That reality is the dynamic of the visible and invisible church. Edmund Clowney defines the invisible and visible church in this way, “the church invisible is as God sees it, and the church visible is as we see it.” Church members only interact with the visible local church, and have no access to the invisible church, because God alone knows His elect ones. A profession of faith does not necessarily indicate a possession of faith. Those who are members of the invisible church will indeed be members of the visible church if they are not already, but membership in the visible church does not guarantee membership in the invisible church. Therefore, the redeemed and the unredeemed will remain in the visible church until Christ returns.
II. Church Membership in the New Testament
Jesus gathers the members of His church. During His earthly ministry, He was determined to preach the message of the kingdom to sinners so that by faith, they would be saved and become members of His church. Upon Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ in Matt. 16:18, Jesus says that He will build His church. The great commission in Matt 28:18-20 is another passage that shows the necessity of church membership. Jesus’ great commission presupposes the existence of the church; if this were not so, then baptism and teaching the whole counsel of God—as set forth in the great commission—would not be possible. In order to teach the full counsel of God, the people of God had to gather together consistently, so that new converts would learn to become disciples of Jesus apt to teach and fulfill the great commission. Jesus said, “I will build my church…” (Matt 16:18) and He is still building His church, through the gathering of the elect until the full number have been brought in; He will not lose one (John 6:39).
Acts 2:42-47 describes a glorious picture of the early church. The members of the early church were committed to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship with those of like precious faith, prayers, and the breaking of bread—which is the Lord’s Supper. “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). This passage describes the church, the preaching of the Word and administration of the sacraments. The members did not neglect to meet with one another; they were unified and shared all that they had, so no one wanted for anything. Again, we see that the Lord is the One who added the members of the church through His sovereign election. The members of the church were not added, for the sole purpose of enjoying their union with Christ exclusively, but also in communion with fellow believers in the church. God’s people are to glorify Him and image Him in all that they do; God is primarily glorified when His people assemble together in the community of the church.
III. Church Membership is Not an Option
Though our salvation does take place individually, there is a corporate aspect to our salvation clearly demonstrated in the canon of Scripture. When an individual is saved, he is saved unto Christ and brought into the community of the church, this is the divine pattern laid down in Scripture. The church is a corporate entity comprised of individual people whom God has elected with the intent to be glorified within the community of believers. Just as a mosaic tile piece is only a mere tile apart from the collective body of tile pieces, so it is with those individuals who practice their Christianity apart from the community of the church.
There is no salvation outside of the church. Individualistic Christianity is nowhere to be found in the pages of the Bible. If you say you love Jesus, you will love what He loves—His church. Church membership is required for those who name the name of Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. He died for His bride and gave Himself up for her. Those who insist on practicing their Christianity individualistically are separated from the church. Hear the words of early church theologian, Cyprian, “whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”
 Edmund Clowney, The Church (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 109.
 Cyprian, “The Treatises of Cyprian: Treatise 1—Treatise on the Unity of the Church,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed October 30, 2013, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iv.v.i.html.
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