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How Thomas Aquinas Defines Theology

I have often wondered why theology covers so many subjects. Aquinas explains the boundaries of theology: it is always ultimately about God, and it rests on the Bible. The following quotes are from this Kindle version, pages 45-48.

Theology Studies God

“For it is called theology, as treating of God. Therefore God is the object of this science.”

Theology Studies Creation Only as it Relates to God

In sacred science, all things are treated of under the aspect of God: either because they are God Himself or because they refer to God as their beginning and end.

Scripture is the Sole Infallible Rule of Faith

Sacred doctrine… properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): “Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning.”

Biden Sends Navy in Search of White Whale

Since his inauguration, President Biden has thought of little other than the white whale whom he calls Covi Dick.

Some doubt the existence of the whale, and others think it was genetically engineered by the Chinese military. Some see it as a divine judgment against humanity, and others think it is a force of nature that can’t be stopped. But the president is sure that this whale is a mask for Satan himself, and that it is his destiny to kill it.

Critics are questioning whether this is a proper use of the military, and whether hunting whales is an enumerated power of the executive branch. But the president will hear no dissent. “You can build more boats, you can have more sons, but there is only one whale, and one Biden to kill him.”

The Navy was hesitant at first, but Biden offered them plenty of money to head toward the whale at “warp speed.” Some generals tried commanding their fleets to stay and defend the United States, but Biden “got them out of the way.” Now, hundreds of miles from the coast, some sailors are questioning whether this is what they really signed up for when they joined the Navy.

The president assured the sailors that they are completely safe, and that he understands their anger at those who endangered them by refusing to volunteer for the Navy.

Fruit

Fruit is a product of labor that is produced organically instead of by a mechanical process. In the beginning, God gave fruit to man and animals (Gen 1:30). Man was made to work and keep the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:5), but not to assemble its fruit. Fruit is produced through relationships and health as well as by labor, and a farmer cannot completely control it. Literal fruit is a result of rain sent by God, soil with organic matter, animal pollination, and light. With these conditions, a healthy plant grows fruit according to its nature. A child, the fruit of the womb, is similarly a gift from God produced through relationship and labor.

God’s old covenant people are sometimes described as his vineyard which He works and cares for. The fruit which they are meant to produce is not only wine, grain, oil, flocks, and children, but also justice and righteousness (Isaiah 5:7). All of these blessings depend on being in right relationship with God by keeping his commandments, and they are especially threatened by idolatry. A great description of the Old Testament picture of fruitfulness is the blessings described in Deuteronomy 28:1–13.

While Israel and Judah are often judged for their lack of fruit, God’s new covenant people fill the whole world with fruit (Isaiah 27:6, Matthew 21:43). The New Testament continues to stress the importance of producing the fruit of righteousness (Matthew 3:8, Romans 6:22, Ephesians 5:9, Philippians 1:11, Colossians 1:10, Hebrews 12:11, James 3:17–18), and also discusses ministry in terms of sowing and reaping (e.g. John 4:35–38). The way that we produce all of this fruit is by remaining connected to Jesus in a relationship of faith (see What Does it Mean to Abide in Christ?), as our Father prunes us to make us fruitful. Like a healthy tree, the fruit we bear should multiply through ministry, so that others will bear the same fruit of righteousness.

Why will we meet Jesus in the sky?

While watching a video of a dispensationalist preacher mocking a post-tribulation rapture by comparing it to a bungie cord (we go up, then right back down), I realized that there are a lot of Christians who do not understand why we will meet Jesus in the sky when he comes. This preacher’s own view of the “coming” of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4 might be compared to a bungie cord (Jesus comes down, then right back up), but in reality there are no bungie cords in this passage.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

The Greek word for “meet” here is a somewhat technical term that often means “the action of going out to meet an arrival, especially as a mark of honour” (Liddell, Scott, and Jones). The noun and verb forms are used in 4 other places in the New Testament. A man goes out to meet Jesus’ disciples to show them to the upper room where they will celebrate Passover on the night Jesus is betrayed (Mark 14:13). Ten lepers go out to meet Jesus when he arrives in their village (Luke 17:12). When Paul arrives in Rome, Christians come from all over Rome to meet him (Acts 28:15). But the most relevant passage is the parable of the ten virgins, discussed in the next paragraph.

Jesus compares his coming to a bridegroom coming to his wedding feast. Ten virgins go out to meet him, although in the end only five are there to meet him. The purpose of going out to meet him seems to be hospitality and celebration. They are welcoming the bridegroom into the feast, and they walk with him into it. Like Jepthah’s daughter “came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances” (Judges 11:34), the virgins celebrate Jesus’ arrival and make it a joyful occasion.

There is one more reason why we’ll want to be in the sky when Jesus comes. Jesus also compares his coming to the flood that swept away the people of Noah’s day (Matthew 24:38–39). As Noah floated above the waters of God’s judgment, we will float above the earth as Jesus comes in judgment. When the bride is ready for the wedding feast, Jesus will come “to strike down the nations” (Revelation 19).

Justin Martyr on Malachi 1:11

Not having read anything by Justin before, I learned tonight that I’ve been missing out. I was getting ready to write something about Malachi, and happened to know that Justin cites this verse in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew. As it turns out, he cites it at least three times, and I thought this was worthy of its own post. I also just converted the whole dialogue from text to speech, so I’ll go ahead and upload that to the bottom of this post. (Pro tip: pasting books from Logos into a text to speech program works really well.)

But though a man be a Scythian or a Persian, if he has the knowledge of God and of His Christ, and keeps the everlasting righteous decrees, he is circumcised with the good and useful circumcision, and is a friend of God, and God rejoices in his gifts and offerings. But I will lay before you, my friends, the very words of God, when He said to the people by Malachi, one of the twelve prophets, ‘I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord; and I shall not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for from the rising of the sun unto its setting My name shall be glorified among the Gentiles; and in every place a sacrifice is offered unto My name, even a pure sacrifice: for My name is honoured among the Gentiles, saith the Lord; but ye profane it.’

Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, 28

In response to the story of Justin’s conversion (2-8), Trypho says “first be circumcised, then observe what ordinances have been enacted with respect to the Sabbath, and the feasts, and the new moons of God; and, in a word, do all things which have been written in the law: and then perhaps you shall obtain mercy from God” (8). So Justin argues from the scriptures that the Jews do not please God by keeping the law of Moses, but Christians receive true righteousness through Christ. Malachi 1:11 proves that “our sacrifices [God] esteems more grateful than” those of the Jews” (29). We do not need the Jews’ circumcision, but they need our circumcision. We do not need their baptism, but they need the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

And the offering of fine flour, sirs, which was prescribed to be presented on behalf of those purified from leprosy, was a type of the bread of the Eucharist, the celebration of which our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed, in remembrance of the suffering which He endured on behalf of those who are purified in soul from all iniquity, in order that we may at the same time thank God for having created the world, with all things therein, for the sake of man, and for delivering us from the evil in which we were, and for utterly overthrowing principalities and powers by Him who suffered according to His will. Hence God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: “I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord: but ye profane it.”

Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, 41

This passage follows an argument that Jesus’ sacrifice fulfills the types of the sacrifices in Jerusalem, which in God’s providence the Jews can no longer offer. Since we are purified by Jesus’ sacrifice, we remember this by taking the Eucharist and thus fulfill the type of the flour offerings. Malachi 1:11 once again judges our sacrifice (the Eucharist) to be more pleasing than that of the Jews (the flour offering).

We, who through the name of Jesus have believed as one man in God the Maker of all, have been stripped, through the name of His first-begotten Son, of the filthy garments, i.e., of our sins; and being vehemently inflamed by the word of His calling, we are the true high priestly race of God, as even God Himself bears witness, saying that in every place among the Gentiles sacrifices are presented to Him well-pleasing and pure. Now God receives sacrifices from no one, except through His priests… Now, that prayers and giving of thanks, when offered by worthy men, are the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God, I also admit. For such alone Christians have undertaken to offer, and in the remembrance effected by their solid and liquid food, whereby the suffering of the Son of God which He endured is brought to mind, whose name the high priests of your nation and your teachers have caused to be profaned and blasphemed over all the earth… But as to you and your teachers deceiving yourselves when you interpret what the Scripture says as referring to those of your nation then in dispersion, and maintain that their prayers and sacrifices offered in every place are pure and well-pleasing, learn that you are speaking falsely, and trying by all means to cheat yourselves: for, first of all, not even now does your nation extend from the rising to the setting of the sun, but there are nations among which none of your race ever dwelt. For there is not one single race of men, whether barbarians, or Greeks, or whatever they may be called, nomads, or vagrants, or herdsmen living in tents, among whom prayers and giving of thanks are not offered through the name of the crucified Jesus.

Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, 116-7

Chapter 117 of the dialogue is entirely devoted to the interpretation of Malachi 1:11, and includes the final citation (which I passed over in my huge quote). First, at the end of chapter 116, Malachi 1:11 proves that all Christians are God’s priests, because we offer sacrifices. Justin describes these pleasing sacrifices as “prayers and giving of thanks” and “the remembrance effected by” the Eucharist. He argues that Malachi 1:11 is about Christians, not about the Jewish diaspora, because Christianity has spread to all peoples and the Jews have not.

This dialogue is full of interpretation of prophecy, so I’m sure this won’t be the last time I quote it here.

Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, 1-30
Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, 31-60
Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, 61-90
Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, 91-120
Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, 121-142

Generate Interactive Bible Citations With Powershell

According to Jesus, God continues to speak to us through His written word (Matthew 22:31–32). This Powershell script and video demo will make it easy to create Bible citations that draw your readers into God’s word. Note that Logos Bible Software must be running in your profile when you run the script.

#-------------------------------------------------------------------------
# Script to generate interactive html Bible citations.
# Requires Logos Bible Software to be running from your profile.
# The translation is based on your default Bible in Logos.
# Do NOT run as administrator, since Logos is installed in your user profile.
#
# By Jacob Halvorson 2021-03-26
# Updated 2021-04-08 to remove "8" from $logos8
# Updated 2021-05-22 to add target='_blank' into html
#-------------------------------------------------------------------------

$verse = Read-Host "Enter a Bible reference: "

# Get Bible text and citation from Logos
$launcher = New-Object -ComObject "LogosBibleSoftware.Launcher"
$logos = $launcher.Application
$ref = $logos.DataTypes.GetDataType("bible").ParseReference($verse)
$cbv = $logos.CopyBibleVerses
$req = $cbv.CreateRequest()
$req.Reference = $ref
$citation = $ref.Render()
$text = $cbv.GetText($req)

# Generate URL for verse on esv.org
$url = 'https://esv.org/' + $citation.Replace(' ','+')

# Generate html of citation 
$html = "(<a href='"
$html += "$url' " 
$html += "target='_blank' "
$html += "title='$text"
$html += "'>$citation</a>)."
$html

# Copy to clipboard
Set-Clipboard $html

Revelation 19:17-21 and Gog = 11th Horn = 7th Head = Man of Lawlessness = Antichrist

“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.”

Revelation 19:17-21, ESV

This passage clarifies a number of confusing eschatological passages by conflating them. These passages all require more study, but for now it is helpful to show how they are all tied together in the last book of the Bible.

The “great supper of God” is a reference to Ezekiel 38-9, in which Gog attacks God’s people when they have returned from exile (Ezek 38:8) and are dwelling securely without walls (Ezek 38:11). Doesn’t that description perfectly fit the worldwide church just before Jesus’ return? This Gog passage is quoted all through Revelation, which probably deserves its own post. The relevant quote here is:

“Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field: ‘Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth—of rams, of lambs, and of he-goats, of bulls, all of them fat beasts of Bashan. And you shall eat fat till you are filled, and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors,’ declares the Lord GOD”

Ezekiel 39:17-20

The seven-headed beast of Revelation is a combination of Daniel’s four beasts (Rev 13:1-2, c.f. Dan 7:3-8), which probably represent Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome resepectively. The seven heads are five past kings, one present king (Rome?), and one future king who will only rule for a little while (Rev 17:10). The description of the seventh head and his ten horns (ten kings who join him) echos the description of the 11th horn of Daniel’s fourth beast: “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them” (Rev 17:14, c.f. Daniel 7:21-22). Why is this horn attached to Rome instead of being a separate beast? My current theory is that his reign is so brief that he doesn’t count as a great empire; but he is organically connected to Rome because he is the next form of the same seven-headed beast. Another way to think about it is that when Jesus’ kingdom first entered the world, the authority of every other empire was shattered (Dan 2:34-5), so in Daniel it wouldn’t make sense to introduce a new beast after the coming of the Son of Man. As with all eschatology, there is an “already-but-not-yet” aspect to the antichrist, so that we see many antichrists (1 John 2:18) led by the spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:3). I bring this up now to assure you that I think the message of Revelation applies to every generation, though the 7th head of the beast isn’t physically here.

Finally, compare “the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image” with 2 Thess 2:8-12:

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness

This man of lawlessness is the seventh head of the beast, who will come for a little while to deceive many and oppose God, and will be killed at the Lord’s coming. Notice that the deception is sent by Satan and by God. In Revelation 20:7-9, this comes together as God releases Satan “to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle.” This large but pathetically short rebellion is one of the last stages in God’s good plan. The battle lines are drawn black and white in the end, so Jesus can clearly destroy all evil and save his people when he returns.