Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jesus and division

ChurchandWorld linked to a blog posting by Presbyterian teaching elder, Herb Swanson. Swanson’s blog posting, Jesus and Dualism, reminds me that slowly but surely the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is sinking under the weight of heresy. How many more PCUSA pastors will defame the word of God, reject the gift of salvation offered by the Lord of the Church, rend the two natures of Jesus apart, and fail to understand the willfulness of the unregenerate? I will explain.

Swanson’s first problem is that he has rejected the authority of God’s word, bowing instead towards what seems to be monistic Buddhism. He is shocked by Jesus’ division of humanity “into opposite categories of good and evil, saved and damned.”Swanson has failed to understand that that division hinges on the very person of Jesus. In the gospel of John, one reads:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

But John goes on to write, “He who believes in him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Swanson tries to correct Jesus’ supposed problem by referring to Matthew 25: 31-46. Here he rejects the grace of Christ; his work on the cross. He believes that Matthew 25: 31-46 proves that Jesus at least judged the good and the bad according to their works of compassion. But this is poor exegeses.

As John Calvin points out in his commentary, Jesus has already named the children of God before his judgment. They are called blessed of his Father. They are the ones who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and for this reason they are blessed and do the works that God has prepared for them, Eph. 2:7-10:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared before hand so that we would walk in them. (10)”

Swanson third problem is his insistence on rending the two natures of Christ apart. That is he separates the humanity of Jesus from his deity. He writes, “While the human Jesus reflected the dualistic heritage of his time and culture, the Spirit that filled him turned his teachings and his ministry in a different direction.” Here Swanson is doing two things: he is admitting that the Jewish faith is dualistic and he is insisting that the “Spirit” is not. (And as an aside, Swanson, given his thoughts about dualism and religion, not only rejects Jesus who is both human and God, he slams the Jews, first century Judaism and the whole word of God.)

This is interesting since Swanson must split the two natures in order to hold on to his pantheism or non-dualistic faith. In other words Swanson becomes dualistic in order to say that the human Jesus and the Spirit are not of the same mind. Pantheism always creates philosophical problems because it is an attempt to be too simplistic. C. S. Lewis saw pantheism as Christianity’s one great rival. In his book Miracles he writes:
Pantheism is in fact the permanent bent of the human mind; the permanent ordinary level below which man sometimes sinks, under the influence of priestcraft and superstition, but above which his own unaided efforts can never raise him for very long. Platonism and Judaism, and Christianity (which has incorporated both) have proved the only things capable of resisting it. It is the attitude in which the human mind automatically falls when left to itself. No wonder we find it congenial. If “religion” means simply what man says about God, and not what God does about man, then Pantheism almost is religion. (112-113) (Italics author)

Lewis went on to write about the particularity of God. He is not some beautiful ideal or some abstract idea, nor is he impersonal flowing energy. He is the personal God who confronts humanity in their brokenness and evil. He is that particular One who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Son, Jesus, took on flesh and redeems by his death on a cross. His resurrection gives everlasting life. And when a broken humanity rejects their Creator and Redeemer, judgment will follow. It will be God’s judgment not humanity’s. Because of that the judgment will be just and righteous.

There is a Creator distinct from creation. There is I and thou as well as good and evil. There will be the blessed and the dammed.


Anonymous said...

Took a look at Swanson's site, as well as his church's. The latter includes this utterly inadequate statement of belief:

We understand the presence of God in our lives. We worship God as Lord, creator and sustainer of life; the person of Christ as a model to our work here on earth and the Holy Spirit as being ever with us, guiding us daily.

Oh, and they also have the usually profession of "inclusiveness."

And here's the punch line: John Shuck is one of his predecessors at his current church. Color me surprised.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Viola Larson said...

Color me surprised too-or maybe I shouldn't be.