Sunday, April 26, 2009

Augustine on Eschatology

Been awhile since I've posted any thoughts from The City of God: this partly due to some other reading (and other time investments), and partly to a long segue by Augustine to explore the history of the two cities from Old Testament prophecy down even to the end of the world. Many of his historical observations are a bit mystical for my taste, but some of his thoughts on eschatology highlight the historical ignorance of dispensational premillennialsm. And while Augustine doesn't invest a lot of time defining his own eschatology, he does spend much of book 18 criticizing those who think they can predict the timing of the last days based on persecutions or any other metric. We might think modern teachers of biblical prophecy clever and original when they line up their numerology just so, proclaiming that the end of the world is at hand; but Augustine's lack of patience for the doomsayers and numerologists of his day shows that there's really nothing new under the sun:

I do not think persecutions were prophetically signified by what was done in Egypt, however nicely and ingeniously those who think so may have compared the two in detail, not by the prophetic Spirit, but by the conjecture of the human mind, which sometimes hits the truth, and sometimes is deceived.

We've all heard it said that the ongoing wars and rumors of wars across the globe are the harbinger of failing world powers and ultimately the end of the world... but keep in mind that Augustine was writing just after the fall of Rome. Civilization as they knew it was crumbling before their very eyes!

It is customary to ask, When shall that [the end of the final persecution] be? But this is quite unreasonable. For had it been profitable for us to know this, by whom could it better have been told than by God Himself, the Master, when the disciples questioned Him?

And just as some in our day claim to have figured out God's timeline, Augustine had to deal with the same presumptuous "scholarship" in his day.

Yet some have said that four hundred, some five hundred, others a thousand years, may be completed from the ascension of the Lord up to His final coming. But to point out how each of them supports his own opinion would take too long, and is not necessary; for indeed they use human conjectures, and bring forward nothing certain from the authority of the canonical Scriptures. But on this subject He puts aside the figures of the calculators, and orders silence, who says, "It is not for you to know the times, which the Father hath put in His own power."

Why try to use math, newsreel, or clever prophetic conjecture to make the scriptures say something they don't actually say; particularly when God has already told us that it's not for us to know?

You Gave Even the Sacrifice

"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16

God of our Fathers,

We stand still and marvel at Your mighty hand of provision and the wonder of all Your ways! Who else could have orchestrated a way for the second person of the Trinity to be found in fashion as a man, and be tempted in all points that we are? Who could have ordained that He should then become both our great High Priest, and the spotless lamb sacrificed for our sins? Who but You could have made us kings and priests with Your eternal Son, allowing us to come boldly before Your throne as a royal priesthood rather than mere mortals clad in the rags of our own righteousness? What wisdom of man could have concocted a scheme that would allow a Holy God to remove those rags and clothe us instead in the righteousness of His eternal Son? Only You can cause mercy and truth to commune together, and righteousness and peace to kiss. Only You hold the heart of every king and president in the palm of Your hand, and only You can turn them at Your good pleasure. You alone hear the prayers of Your people, and answer without fail. And only You can take our stammering praise and turn it into an acceptable sacrifice!

As assuredly as You made the wicked for the day of judgment, for Your own glory; so You have also made the very sacrifices that we offer back to You... for Your own glory. Guard us from the temptation to think that we, on our own, have anything worthy to present to You; and remind us constantly that we can't even bring You a sacrifice of praise without the tongues You have created, the thoughts You have implanted, the scriptures You have inspired, the hearts You have made new, and the identity You have provided us through Your eternal Son, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Acuity Lounge

I'm out on my back porch enjoying one of these right now... probably my favorite Nicaraguan cigar, which happens to be cultivated from Cuban seed. I know I owe y'all another post or two on the theology of tobacco, but right now I really just want to tell you how amazing this cigar is! It has the aroma of a newly planted field; moist earth and the undefinable odor of satisfaction in a day well spent. The draw is easy and smooth, with rich smoke plumes and a lingering taste of freshly cut hardwood and cocoa powder. And at $4 to $6 a stick (depending on size) it's quite a bargain! I usually enjoy a little dark chocolate and/or Scotch with my cigars, and today is no exception. I'm sipping a glass of Glenmorangie - Burgundy finish, which serves to highlight the woody notes of the cigar.

As with most upper echelon culinary endeavors, I find that cigar smoking and whisky drinking stimulate brain activity.

Stop laughing!

Seriously, despite their reputation for dulling the senses, I find myself tuned and sharpened in an effort to fully appreciate the many different elements of each sip and puff. Is that a hint of honeysuckle in the Scotch? Did that whiff of smoke remind me of a grassy field after a hard rain? I find my vocabulary stretched to the limit in an effort to capture my enjoyment in words!

Certainly one must exercise moderation, lest overindulgence should breed silliness, headaches, or intoxication. But savored appropriately, I find these gifts of God serve to facilitate my enjoyment of Him and His creation. Rushdoony and Van Til become easier reading, the truth of Scripture leaps from the page, and my creativity soars as I ponder sub-points for my next Men's Meeting lesson.

That's why I call my back porch "The Acuity Lounge".