Two ways, one choice

“There are two ways, one of life and one of death,
and there is a great difference between these two ways”

The Two Ways


(bookcover)

The kind folks at Plough Publishing have once again shared a few new books with me for my review.
Sometimes I have time to read them, sometimes, I don’t.
Sometimes I have to settle for a bit of berry picking…pursing for those tastiest little
nuggets…nuggets that not only need to be shared but such nuggets are necessary when it comes to sharing.

I received a couple of books with today’s offering bieng from one of those books.

The Two Ways
The Early Christian Vision of Discipleship from
The Didache and The Shepherd of Hermas

With an introduction by Rowan Williams

The Didache, also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, an anonymous work composed in the late
first century AD, was lost for centuries before being rediscovered in 1873.
The Shepherd of Hermas was written by a Roman Christian named Hermas in the second century AD
or possibly even earlier.
A tale in which the “angel of repentance” appears to Hermas, a Christian living in Rome in the form of a shepherd.
Both works were included in early lists of canonical books.

There was, in the eyes of Rome, a deadly difficulty in the claim made by the early Christians
and that of their loyalty, or lack thereof, to the state.
As it appeared that their loyalty was no longer found in the authority of Rome and of the state
but rather in a man who Rome considered dead and gone.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in his introduction to the book
examines the life of Christians during the infancy time-period of the new ‘religion’
as seen from the eyes of the political and governing body of Rome.

Williams notes that “any Chrisitan in this period knew that, even if things were relatively peaceful,
it was always possible that a suspicious government would crackdown.
(Sound familiar 21st century Christians?)

The suspicions were well-founded in one sense.
If you look at the eyewitness accounts of martyrdom in these early centuries—
documents like the wonderful record of the martyrs of Scilli in North Africa in AD 180–
you can see what the real issue was.
These Christians, most of them probably domestic slaves, had to explain to the magistrate that they
were quite happy to pray for the imperial state,
and even to pay taxes, but that they could not grant the state their absolute allegiance.
They had another loyalty—which did not mean that they wished to overthrow the administration,
but that they would not comply with the states’ demands in certain respects.
They would not worship the emperor, and, as we know from some texts, refused to serve
in the Roman army.

They asked from the state what had been very reluctantly conceded to the Jews as an ethnic group—
exemption from the religious requirements of the empire.
What made their demand new and shocking was that it was not made on the basis of ethnic identity,
but on the bare fact of conviction and conscience.
For the first time in human history, individuals claimed the liberty to define the
limits of their political loyalty,
and to test that loyalty by spiritual and ethical standards.

That is why the early Christian movement was so threatening–and so simply baffling—
to the Roman authorities.
It was not revolutionary in the sense that it was trying to change the government.
Its challenge was more serious:
it was the claim to hold any and every government to account,
to test its integrity, and to give and withhold compliance accordingly.

The Early Christians believed that if Jesus of Nazareth was “Lord,”
no one else could be lord over him, and therefore no one could overrule his authority.

We use the word “Lord” these days mostly in a rather unthinking religious context,
as a sort of devotional flourish: for a Roman, it meant the person who made the decisions you had to abide by,
from the master of a slave in the household to the emperor himself.

To speak of Jesus as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” was to say that his decisions
could not be overridden by anyone.
You might have to disobey a “lord” in our society in order to obey the one true Master of all—
the one who used no violence in enforcing his decisions but was all the more unanswerable
an authority because of that.
He alone needed no reinforcement, no temporal power,
to overcome external threats of rivals.

The theology of the early centuries thus comes very directly out of this one great central
conviction about political authority: if Jesus is Lord, no one else ultimately is,
and so those who belong with Jesus, who shares his life through the common life of the worshiping community,
have a solidarity and a loyalty that goes beyond the chance identity of national or political life.

The first claim on their loyalty is to live out the life of Jesus which is also the life of God–
a life that needs no defense and so has no place for violence and coercion,

God, says Clement of Alexandria in the late second century, shows his love supremely in the fact that
he loves people who have no “natural” claim on him,
‘Humans love largely because of fellow-feeling, but God’s love is such that it never depends
on having something in common.
The creator has in one sense nothing in common with his creation—how could he?
But he is completely free to exercise his essential being, which is love, wherever he wills,
And this teaches us that we too must learn to love beyond the boundaries of common interest and
natural sympathy and, like God, love those who don’t see to have anything in common with us.

So many good nuggets here to taste, savor and finally digest…
And that’s just from the introduction!!!

From the notion of how we currently use the word “Lord” when referring to Jesus…
With it being more of a case of mere verbiage rather than a true sense of one who actually is in sole
authority over us.
As in one of true Lordship.

For in the word “Lord” one finds deep humility, yielding to and the deferring of self to that of another…
all of which is actually found in the use of what most consider to be a simple single word.
All of which are concepts so foreign to the 21st-century self-sufficient mind.

And so here’s the thing…
we have a new year.

The gift of a new year.

Yet for so many reasons, we needed to throw out this past year a long time ago.
It was caustic, volatile, vitriolic, hate-filled and divisive.

We have watched a nation, and an entire civilization, turn her back on her
Omnipotent Creator.

We have seen sinfulness legalized and legitimized while those who cry foul are victimized, scorned
and are actually now deemed criminal.
Criminal for holding, claiming, speaking and standing firm in the Faith of the One True God.
While sadly the majority who claim that belief stand idly by saying nothing.

Our friend the Wee Flea, Pastor David Robertson, has been offering his own review of a book with
a somewhat familiar title.
That Hideous Strength: How the West Was Lost
The Cancer of Cultural Marxism in the Chruch,
The World And The Gospel Of Change

by Melvin Tinker

The book’s title is a nod to a novel of the same title by C.S Lewis
(That Hideous Strength–the last in a space trilogy from 1945),
Tinker takes Lewis’ work and runs with it…making a novel applicable to our current times
as we watch a Post Christian world teetering on the brink of irreversible destructive harm.

Our dear friend, the rouge Anglican cleric Bishop Gavin Ashenden, states that “if this book manages to wake
the Chruch to the danger it faces it will have done a great service to the Kingdom of heaven today”.

In his reflection of Mr. Tinker’s work, John Steven, FIEC, contends that
“The last sixty years have witnessed the death in the West of the Judeo-Christian worldview and its
replacement by an increasingly totalitarian secularism. Melvin Tinker deftly explains how this
revolution happened, and exposed the tactics that enabled Cultural Marxism to triumph
amongst our institutions and elites. We are deceiving ourselves if we think that this new ideology
is simply about achieving equality.
Rather it seeks the abolition of the family as the basis for society.
Having identified the challenge he helpfully shows how Christians should respond.
Following in the footsteps of William Wilberforce we must proclaim the gospel of God and
vigorously refute the ideas and values of the present day.
He calls for bold and courageous evangelical leadership, which is often sadly lacking
in the contemporary church.
Although a challenging read, this book provides invaluable help in understanding our
contemporary context.
It will make you grieve, pray, and deepen your confidence in the gospel fo the Lord Jesus,
which is alone able to free lost men and women from their bondage to sin and Satan.”

And we have grieved have we not?

I have felt much palpable grief this past year, living in the obvious descent into this
post-Christian world.
It has been a slow yet painful, none the less, descent.

But this year, this new year there are faithful voices crying out into the wilderness for us all to
take heart, to repent, to put on our armor and to be bold.

Be silent no more we are told.
But rather proclaim…and do so vigorously.

Be bold and courageous…for it will take boldness and courage to take on the cultural ideology
while showing our loyalty…loyalty not to the current state but rather to the one true Lord.

Get ready…the clarion call has sounded.

“Let the nations be roused;
let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat,
for there I will sit
to judge all the nations on every side.
13 Swing the sickle,
for the harvest is ripe.
Come, trample the grapes,
for the winepress is full
and the vats overflow—
so great is their wickedness!”
14 Multitudes, multitudes
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near
in the valley of decision.
15 The sun and moon will be darkened,
and the stars no longer shine.
16 The Lord will roar from Zion
and thunder from Jerusalem;
the earth and the heavens will tremble.
But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
a stronghold for the people of Israel.
Joel 3:12-16

Be bold going forward

“What God says is best, indeed is best, though all men in the world are against it. Seeing, then, that God prefers his religion; seeing God prefers a tender conscience; seeing they that make themselves fools for the kingdom of heaven are wisest; and that the poor man that loveth Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates him: Shame, depart, thou art an enemy to my salvation.”
― John Bunyan

My trust in a higher power that wants me to survive and have love in my life,
is what keeps me moving forward.

Kenny Loggins

DSCN1118
(swan at Ross Castle /County Kerry, Killarney, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

On the cusp of a brand new year—be not afraid.

Go forward, being bold in your faith.

Pray for the faithful around the word who are persecuted.
Be the voice that stands up for those who have been silenced.
Gird yourself with the armor of God.
Be prepared to take, as well as make, a stand for righteousness and goodness.
Do not be swayed by the lies of this world.
You are God’s representative, as well as His ambassador, to an ailing world.

Go forward
Be Bold
And be not afraid….

“I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire,
and never become discouraged.
Be not afraid.”

― John Paul II