Monday, September 20, 2010

Galatians - duel fuels

I remember having a discussion on his blog with Ben Witherington III, the well known evangelical theologian who has an Arminian bent. Ben was going to buy a Toyota Prius having bought in to the global warming ideas. I argued that he should buy an old clunker since the carbon-cost of manufacturing a new Prius would outweigh what saving he would make on its running, but it got me thinking about duel fuels.

This week the Nissan Leaf is being launched in the UK. This is an all-electric car which does away with a petrol engine, but will only do 100 miles before it needs an 8-hour top-up from the mains electricity in your garage. This is fine in France where most electricity comes from nuclear sources, but in the UK the source of the electricity is mostly from coal, gas and oil, so it doesn't seem worth it putting £5000 of taxpayer's money into subsidizing the factory making them.

My only experience of duel fuels is when I put some petrol in my diesel Ford. I was convinced that I had at least ruined the catalytic converter, but it seems that petrol floats on diesel and will gradually dissolve in it, so that as long as I kept it topped up with diesel for a couple of weeks I should escape without damage. After all, you can run a diesel on chip-fat. The other way round would have been lethal. (Putting petrol in your diesel, not diesel in your chip pan, I mean.)

In Galatians chapter 1 Paul is inveighing against a duel fuels policy. Relying on keeping the Mosaic Law, when you have Jesus as a Savior, is not just wasteful, it is lethal. Suppose you go to buy your wife a golden ring. You have saved the correct sum and you know that you can pay the bill. But just in case you can't you borrow another £100 from a friend. What does it say about your savings? That you don't have full confidence in them. The same is true about Jesus's saving grace; do you have full confidence in that? Or do you need some plan B in case it isn't enough? If you do not have full confidence in Jesus then you doubt him. You are not confident on him. No wonder Paul is cross with them.

As he later writes to the Romans, "Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his (God's) sight by observing the Law; rather through the Law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:20) The purpose of the Law is to let people know that they are sinners. Most of us sinking in the sea would know that we are in danger of drowning. We have a built in gag reflex that tells us so. We begin to panic.

Unfortunately, today people do not realize the danger they are in. They have been so sucked in to an easy lifestyle, comfortable homes, television on tap, food and drink supplied, warm, entertained and looked after, that they think it will always persist. And when they die they assume that it will all be taken care of for them. That is what the Law is about. It is a source of irritation. It says this is wrong and this is right. And you, my friend, cannot meet the Law's demands - not with all the labor of your hands.

Paul writes, "What advantage then is there being a Jew?" (Romans 3:1) The advantage is that they have the Law; they know what is right and what is wrong. They should know they need a Savior.

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