Warner's TheoBlog

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Moses’ Corpse

Moses’ corpse

After Moses died, according to Jude, the devil and the archangel Michael had a ding-dong over who would get his remains.

“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”” (Jude: 9)

Evidently, the devil wanted to use Moses’ remains for his purposes, whilst Michael wanted to use them for the glory of God.

Arguments are like that. Different sides enter dispute, utterly conviction that their point of view is correct. They can so quickly and easily slide into slander and accusation, the original subject of dispute entirely forgotten in a blizzard of accusation and slander.

Let me give a simple illustration. Imagine if I were to argue with my sister over who would get the last biscuit. Before any time at all has passed, the biscuit lies forgotten on the plate whilst my beloved sibling and I fling accusations and past hurts at each other (Not that this sort of thing has ever happened, eh Debs?).

Jude tells us that Michael’s reply was the name of the Lord. We can be sure that this was the last thing on the devils lips, but Michael does something very interesting. He does not base his argument on the nature or value of Moses’ corpse. Instead, he simply gives the argument to God and allows the power of the Lord’s name to resolve the dispute.

I have to be honest and say that, most often, my disputes are not with the devil. I KNOW that the father of lies is wrong. Instead, my disputes tend to be with people I love. My children (often), my family, friends and other Christians. Further, ordinarily, these are not necessarily huge disputes. They almost never have to do with the bodies of dead prophets. It is almost always not worth losing relationship for the sake of the last biscuit on a plate. Biscuits are just not that important.

Sometimes, however, disputes are about matters of truth and theology. When there arises a dispute between the meaning of one prophet and who has the correct interpretation, both sides of a discussion might claim the metaphorical body of Moses as the evidence of their argument. Such a discussion can quickly slip into personal accusation and slander, causing a breakdown in relationship and, at worst, a split in the family.

It seems evident to me that ‘being right’ can, more often than not, lead to unnecessary division and hurt. At times it is necessary to agree to disagree and walk in separate directions… but not often. Most often it is necessary to guard unity because the root of our unity is not our ‘identicality’, but Jesus. In the end, it is the Lord’s name that will settle disputes and bring light to dark places. Accusation and slander NEVER bring peace and unity.

“All who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (Phil 3:15-16)

Paul’s perspective is very interesting.

He was utterly convinced that he was right on matters of faith and he wrote and spoke about his theological understanding with passion and vehemence. He confronted others when he disagreed with them (even Simon Peter) and planted churches by teaching the Gospel, as he believed it. It was his belief that if a person was in Christ and mature in their faith they would simply agree with him.

Yet, his security in his faith was such that he didn’t need others to admit that he was right. Often, the issue with arguments is not that we want to be right so much as we want others to tell us that we are right. Paul was happy to let others disagree with him and was not in any way shaken in his faith if they did so. He believed that he was right and his faith was founded in Jesus, rather than in his own understanding.

Paul’s faith, therefore, was that the Holy Spirit would lead others to the truth and that it was his task only to speak the truth in love. The Spirit of God would lead the one who was wrong to a position where they could come around to the truth and if the person who was wrong was Paul himself, then so be it. Paul seems, in the context of Philippians, to be entirely focused on the truth of Jesus and so is willing to be submit anything that he has wrong in order simply to be in step with Jesus.

That is not to say that he allowed people who were opposed to his theology to prosper where they might be dangerous to the health of the people of God. He had not truck with Gnostics and was more than willing to let those who taught a different gospel to be put out of the church community. His primary task was to protect and build the flock, in line with the calling of all Elders. He did not, however, accuse them or condemn them. He simply had faith in God.

It is so easy for a disagreement to become divisive and to slide into accusation and slander in order to win an argument. Yet, if we have a mature faith, the truth is God’s and our responsibility is to speak the truth in love and leave the persuasion up to the Holy Spirit.


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I don’t want balance… I want Truth

It is always great to receive comments following a blog post. Keep them coming readers!

After a recent post, where I offered some suggestions about useful web resources for theology, I received a comment from a friend who offered me some alternative sites with some theological views that were different to the ones I had offered. I would summarise them by saying that they were less Reformed and more Post-evangelical. He suggested that they might offer some balance to the sites that I had suggested and give people some alternative ideas. This got me to thinking…

Do I want balance on this blog?

I did have a look at the sites and they were very interesting. But I did not particularly agree with the theological perspective from which they were written.

This is not, in itself, a problem. If a person is a mature Christian and interested in theology, then there is nothing to fear from reading ideas and opinions that are different from their own. In fact, it can be both healthy and educational.

When I was studying theology I looked at many ideas that were properly opposed to my own theology. I had severe concerns about the writings of Fredrik Schleiermacher, Rudolf Bultmann and John Spong, who were on my reading list. There are also whole swathes of the works of Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and Karl Barth that cause me some trouble. In honesty, even now, there are certain things that Mark Driscoll teaches (who I recommended in my previous blog) that I am not sure I agree with.

But that is OK. People do not need to agree with me to be saved. They need to believe in Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life. If it were up to me, Bolton Wanderers supporters would not get into heaven and anyone who thought computer games were a waste of time would be dancing on the edge of heresy.

One of the things that Mark Driscoll teaches, which I have found incredibly useful, is that idea of Closed and Open handed issues. Mark says that the closed handed issues of theology are those for which one would face death to uphold. Among these would be the divinity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, the Sovereignty of God, the Trinity and so on. The open handed issues are those which, were an agent of evil to hold a gun to my head, claiming that they will pull the trigger if I did not back down, I would back down. One of these, for me, might be 6-day creation. I am in no doubt that God Created the heavens and the earth, but I am not really sure I would take a bullet over whether he did it in a literal 6 days or a metaphorical 6 days. (I am sorry if this offends you, dear reader).

As far as I am concerned, on the closed handed issues, I do not want balance, I want truth. On the open handed issues, I am open to discussion.

This Blog is my own work and my own ideas. I am concerned less with balance, and more with expression of what is bubbling up inside of me. There are aspects to it that people might not agree with and that is OK. If you believe that Jesus is Lord and have accepted Him as your saviour, then I am happy. You might be wrong on some things, but that is the most important one and the rest we can discuss (vigorously if necessary).

In our society, it is not acceptable to say that someone is wrong. It is believed by the majority of people that, as long as a person’s belief does not hurt anyone else, they have a right to hold that belief and that it is ‘true for them’. This is a travesty of truth. If a person is wrong, then they are wrong. There is nothing wrong in my pointing it out to them, or their pointing it out to me. It is what one does to that person when they are wrong that matters.

You might be wrong… but I promise not to burn you at the stake or hand you over to the inquisition. I hope that you will offer me the same respect. I don’t want balance, I want truth! But I don’t need to stone people when they disagree with me.

It comes down to this…

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

It is not about being right; it is about how we treat people when they are wrong.

I hope that this does not read as too much of a ramble and I would be fascinated to have people’s thoughts on this subject. I look forward to your replies.


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Jesus was overwhelmed

As I spent time meditating on the Bible this morning (25th June), I was struck by a verse in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus, about to be arrested and crucified, goes to Gethsemane to pray. When he arrives he turns to the closest of his disciples and speaks these words.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matt 26:38)

This statement and request are so rich and poignant.

In the darkness that precedes the whole purpose of Jesus’ ministry on earth, his death on the cross, he feels overwhelmed by the prospect and cost of what is to come and he shares it with his closest disciples.

Jesus displays such vulnerability. It is not a weakness to be honest and his confession of such sorrow and darkness does not disqualify him from what is to come. Ultimately, his disciples cannot share his burden or his task, but they can watch with him and Jesus tells them that he needs them to do so.

Jesus is so honest. In his darkest time, Jesus does not push people away or hide his feelings and pain. He tells them what is going on and asks them to be with him in prayer. Time and again, Jesus told his disciples to imitate what he did. I find this quite a profound implication as a leader and as a disciple.

There is an honesty that is breathtaking about the way Jesus speaks out his situation to his disciples. There is also a deep security that is evident in him. That Jesus feels able to share such a dark feeling without fear of the perception of others.

We do Peter, James and John a disservice if we simply move quickly on to the fact that in the next hour they fell asleep. “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (v 41) . I think that Jesus’ friends will have seen the depth of his pain and sorrow in his eyes and movements, as well as hearing it in his voice. They would have been deeply concerned that their master was so close to breaking point and full of sorrow. Yet all they could do was watch with him.

Praise God for the people who simply make themselves available to watch with us during times of great sorrow and stress. Those who we are aware will simply be next to us. A presence of comfort and a gift of loving friendship.

How many of us know friends who are going through a wilderness time? All we can do is listen and pray. It seems like so little, but it is as much as we can do. Someone once said that prayer is the least and most that we can do.

This verse has profound implications for me and, I think, for others. As a leader, I find that to witness Jesus’ vulnerability and honesty is humbling. As a disciple, seeking to follow my master, I find the depth of Jesus security in His Father and faith in the midst of darkness a simple inspiration. As a friend to others, I see the need for others, to simply watch with those who are at their most vulnerable and pray, unable to do any more. It is a profound encouragement to show love by simply drawing alongside and being present in Gethsemane.

  • If you are going through a dark time, share it with honesty and openness with someone you trust and pray together.
  • If you know of someone who is ‘overwhelmed’ with what they are facing, watch with them and love them.