Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Worse and worser

Continuing with talks by Don Carson at the UCCF Graduate Network Conference last weekend: this time on 2 Timothy 3:1 - 4:3. Here my notes were more sketchy as I was more tired, I'm sure Dr Carson was speaking quicker than before, and I probably didn't note down some of the main things he said because they were obvious... which isn't a good way to take notes! Still, there's a lot to learn from this if you take time to look at the passages while reading the notes. It won't make sense otherwise.

Is the contemporary obsession with the End Times dangerous? Carson proposed that moreso is the complete ignorance of being in the last days - the fixation on the here & now, not laying up treasure in heaven but on earth, not eagerly awaiting Jesus' return. Here Paul writes that we're in the last days (cf 1 Jn 2, 'last hour') - the time between Jesus' ascension and coming again.

False teachers in the last days - in 1 Tim 4 the focus is on the demonic influence; here in 2 Tim it's on the lifestyle. It's all getting worse? From bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived? What's the situ? Carson referred to the old D-day - VE day analogy. On D-day the war was won, decisively. It was obvious that the Allies had won. But the war still went on until VE day - and actually that period showed some of the worst battles in the war. So D-day was won with the cross. We know who's going to win! But Satan, knowing his time is short, doesn't lie down & admit it's over: some of the worst battles are between the cross & the VE-day of Jesus' return.

It is in that context that this passage comes, with its catalogue of evil:
1st 4 are selfishness (lovers of self, money, proud & arrogant)
2 are socially destructive behaviour (abusive, disobedient to parents)
4 privitives (ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving - all showing lack of grace)
2 more speech-behaviour (slanderous, without self-control)
2 privitives (untamed [brutal], unloving of good)
4 probably on the false teachers' character (treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than God)
--> having the appearance of godliness but denying its power.

We are to "avoid such people". How? This isn't to be applied to anyone who's ever had anything to do with these things - then we'd have to start by avoiding ourselves. But vv6-7 these are people who prey on the vulnerable (suggests a sneaky infiltration into Christian homes, & immorality - men out for power and women weak out for affirmation). I'm not sure what else Carson said on 'avoid such people' - anyone else who was there have anything to fill in?

Is this passage rather negative? Is finishing a grad conference on this passage not rather depressing rather than encouraging? There is a necessity to see the reality of evil and not be surprised by it. So...

1) Hold the right mentors in high regard vv10-11
Say to others, "Watch me" as Paul could - not suggesting a cult person control thing: he says that he hasn't 'got there' yet, not apprehended, but God has apprehended him so he presses on. We're to immitate him as he imitated Christ. (It occured to me today as studying 1 Thess 1.6-10 with a student that God's really into plagiarism in the Christian church - not to produce mini-MEs but mini-Christs. In a sense: without undermining his revelatory, salvitic and ontological uniqueness.) Find men and women with a foot planted firmly in heaven and yet so related to what's going on here, and hold them in high regard.

2) Hold few illusions about the world vv.12-13
If you love righteousness, unrighteous people will find you embarassing. You'll attract some & repel others - stench of death to some and the aroma of life to others. NB Discussion doesn't make evil go away. We're not basically good. Don't go Polly-Anna-ish. We're not all nice theists just needing a dose of Christianity to become Christians; we're a world in anarchic rebellion.

3) Hold on to the Bible vv.14-16
Back to Psalm 1: the controlling factor in the life of the righteous - enjoying and meditating on the Word.

4) Hold out the Bible to others ch4.1-8
Paul appeals not only to Christ, and God, but God in Christ judging the world! Preach the word. Keep your head. It won't be easy. I'm dying, says Paul, and he'll give me a crown, and to all who love Christ's appearing... [link again to looking forward to God in Christ judging the world.]
So how live like this? 1 Cor 7.29-31 The world defines self by these things - but all these are relativized by the gospel. These things 'as if not' --> they're not the ultimate good, ultimate goal. I.e. if you want to build a happy marriage or home, dont live with it at the centre of your life!
Christians don't overcome by close fellowship but by evangelism.

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