Tuesday, March 21, 2017


It is helpful to listen to the past, in order to get a perspective on the priorities of other people in other times. It is helpful also in understanding their fears. For what they fear, we might become.

On July 4, 1821 John Quincy Adams, at that time Secretary of State, gave a speech delineating the kind of nation the United States ought to be in regards to interaction with other foreign powers. Numerous parts of the speech stand out, but this one in particular:

Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.

Now, if you are a visual person, this description bears a striking resemblance to a certain section from a movie. You see, this description looks ripped right out of The Fellowship of the Ring. In the movie, the elf queen Galadriel is offered The One Ring by Frodo and instantly recognizes the test upon her:

You offer it to me freely? I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired this. 
In the place of a Dark Lord you would have a Queen! Not dark but beautiful and terrible as the Morn! Treacherous as the Seas! Stronger than the foundations of the Earth! All shall love me and despair! 

I have passed the test. I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.

In the Lord of the Rings, The One Ring is the physical manifestation of the axiom “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The only way (save for Tom Bombadil who is weird that way) to avoid the corrupt is to never wield the Ring. Even those who wield it for a short time are irrevocably contaminated.

The Founders feared the accumulation of power in individuals or even in groups of individuals. This is why so much of US government is systematically designed to thwart itself. Taking from the imagery, they saw Rings of Power throughout European and world history and sought to avoid the contamination that came with wielding them.

Adams’ desire to avoid participation in European conflict stems from his desire that America be an example of freedom and not its enforcer. “She goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Speaking in a similar vein, Nietzsche said, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.” If the wielder of power is not careful, they will become the very thing they seek to destroy.

The United States, both its government officials and its citizens, needs to look at its foreign policy in a proactive sense. We have been very reactionary of late. Times have changed since the days of Adams, as numerous Presidents have argued, but we ought to examine whether or not we have become and are becoming the nation we wish to be.

Even noble virtues can be corrupted and it would appear that the American monster is Tyrannical Liberty. After all, one of the mottos of the Roman Empire was Pax y Securitas, Peace and Safety. But it was also said of them by the Roman historian Tacitus, “They create a wasteland and call it peace.”

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Music and Heart Growth

[There is a lot of music to listen to here. Feel free to enjoy as you go through.]

Music is captivating. Every culture has music, each their own. Even when there are no instruments and all there is is a field before them, people have sung and made music.

Music is the thing, it is the thing that teaches the heart. A sermon or a class can teach the mind well, but often enough they do nothing to cultivate the heart and cause growth. I think we have wrongly equated the heart and the mind in our thinking about these two important governing bodies of our body. The mind may be the executive branch which sets the tone for the self, but the heart is the legislative branch which actually writes the laws by which a person acts. The actually physical body then seems to be the judicial branch which tells the other two when they’re writing checks they can’t cash.

The mind: I am going to work on homework.

The heart: But I really want to watch this show.

The body: zzzzzzzzzzz

…7 hours later…

The mind: OH NO! The homework!

I grew up in a church that espoused expository preaching. The pastor famously (or infamously, depending on your perspective) took four years to work through the gospel of Mark. The focus was on the acquisition of accurate information. The schools I went to growing up were, well, schools. They focused on providing the facts. Schools tend to educate a mind that will forget nearly everything it is told. Specific facts will be forgotten, or even entire classes (like the undergrad Minor Prophets class I forgot I took until I was taking a grad version of the class).

Talbot and other Bible schools have noticed the lack of heart growth that has taken place at their campuses during classes. Several years ago Talbot built a Spiritual Formation department and has been incorporating classes from it as part of the base curriculum in order to try and spur heart growth. The idea here is to provide a structured setting for reflection and spiritual growth. To be formed spiritually. It can be hard in the midst of classes/work/church/family/sleep (pick three to focus on and neglect the fourth. Ha ha. Just kidding. Pick two to neglect.) to make sure that the material being taken in is absorbed and transforms. That it is learned from and not merely regurgitated for a test.

Pictured here: The Dean and a professor discussing a student.

A couple years ago I wrote a post about my own personal difficulties in heart growth. Real emotional grow has indeed happened, especially since last summer. However, as I look to the future for more growth, I recognize a need for good music to spur heart growth. I can’t listen to most of the music I used to listen to, not because it is bad or anything. Most of it simply reminds me of loneliness and thus causes me sadness. I won’t grow if I continue to listen to what I used to be.

Paul in his letters to various churches often talked about the Christian life as running a race. In that race the runner focuses on the end of the race and the prize at the end and forgets what is behind them. If I want heart growth, I need to listen to things that will spur heart growth.

I’m introverted, but like to listen to fast pace music. So when a typical Sunday morning comes along and the music gets playing (originally accidentally wrote “flaying” which was hilarious) it is almost always well below the pace of music that I listen to. So while the lyrics might have substance (TBD), the pace is such that it doesn’t quicken my heart.

And here’s the part that I am talking about. The heart is not the mind. The heart is a physical organ in a physical body, but is tied to the spiritual realm in a way that I am not quite convinced the mind is. Music and singing are vibrations of sound in the physical world that somehow seem to affect a person on the spiritual level. We’re talking weird mystical stuff here.

In C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, the demon Screwtape tells his demon nephew Wormwood that

“Humans are amphibians...half spirit and half animal...as spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.

He also says

At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.

Music, thus, affects our souls. What we listen to, and not just the lyrics, transforms us into what we listen to. Sometimes I feel like the Sunday morning worship I sit/stand through doesn’t understand this. The music seems targeted toward the people that have already prepared themselves for that morning. The lyrics lack depth to engage the mind and the music/pace itself does nothing to quicken the heart. The music doesn’t repair or heal, it simply cauterizes the wound. It deadens feeling in the area. Perhaps that is just me. I have my own difficulties in this area after all. All this to say, in my lifetime of growing up in the church, I can only remember being truly impacted by a song once, although this probably says more about me than it does about typical church music.

Most music I hear tends to fail in one of two directions: it either focuses on the music aspect and has vapid lyrics or focuses on the lyrics and ends up being a reading instead of a song. It’s rare and hard to get that good blend of both. Church music is different than typical radio music in that it is intended to be sung by a group in a group setting. It's just different.

Ultimately this post is not about bashing any past experience of music in church. I want heart growth and so need music that will actually move me into that. Heart growth will be very hard without it.

Those things being said, several songs have brought about heart growth for me, or are simply that rare blend of music and lyrics that have stuck in my heart somehow. Here are some of them:

Cornerstone by Day of Fire

It is Well with My Soul by Audio Adrenaline

Cannons by Phil Wickham

The Light Will Come by Phil Wickham

Beautiful by Phil Wickham

All of these songs are well below the typical pace of music I listen to these days, but are still so good. Some I have sung when I was depressed (It is Well, Jesus’ Blood, and The Light), some have been prayers (Cornerstone), and some have caused rejoicing (Cathedral, Cannons, Beautiful).

We have an entire book of the Bible dedicated to the soul life of the people of God (Psalms). Do we have any modern day equivalent? Do we have songs and music for when we have joy, for when we are sad, for when we are angry, for when we long for things? What do we have today to spur heart growth?

What music has impacted you? What has caused heart growth for you? It’s something to think about, for we will be moved, whether we know it or not.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Silent Poem

Context: This poem exists in a fantasy/sci-fi series I am working on writing. In this world there is a collection of poetry called "Verses from the Void" which is written by those who have traveled through space. This poem is one of those.

The title, like the last word, is silent and unspoken.

**       **

Voiceless whispers the light
Across dark waves of night
To speak in the silence
Against mankind's violence
Long have we waited here
From ages past to cheer
The defeat of the night
The victory of light

Before the dawn we burst forth
Into time we have stepped
From the darkness we sang out
Rays of truth and light have leapt
Joy was ours to fill the sky
To raise our light and sing out
Meeting night’s edge at our dawn
Our forces it sought to rout

Against the chaos we strove
Victors of a mighty lord
Behind his flag we marched
His light the guide of our horde
By his order we were set
In our sectors we would stay
In his name to rule the sky
To rule night and to rule day

Blue and Green was our treasure
The jewel of the skies our prize
Our delight where light brought life
And in man given to rise
Under our Bright One they rose
Greeting their dawn with loud song
Striding over blue and green
In light and life they grew strong

But it was not to last
As dawn waned and passed
Green was surrendered
Death for blue rendered
Light was traded for dark
Life boarded the last ark
One drew another’s blood
Opening the red flood

We were not indifferent
And dispassion was not ours
Though stained red was the ground
Yet bright white were still the stars
Messengers streaked through space
Even our prince through the sky
Yet not one was received
Burned red they were to die

With eyes towards the stars
And hearts upraised to Mars
You sought to leave your land
To seize us with your hand
To reach the bright regions
You raced as legions
Burning fires below
Seeking our light to grow

But peace was not your aim
And with you darkness came
Eyes darkened to light
Unable to see right
What darkness there is here
Was carried from your pier
For long ago with the light
We had banished night

Watchers of the skies are we
Rulers of the heavens now
Warriors who once drew sword
Who made the chaos to bow
Against the void we have fought
To fill all places with light
Witnesses before the king
At the trial of man’s night

We are old, from times unknown
Our king from ages yet known
Our voices carry through night
From the dawn to speak of light
Against him do man’s deeds cry
Charges to seek eye for eye
Yet we stars speak no violence
For man shall end in _______.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bonhoeffer's Question to Me: Do You Love Jesus?

Preface: Don’t Panic. Read the whole thing.

Something to listen to while reading:
zero-project: Touch of serenity

I am currently reading Eric Metaxas’ book “Seven Men,” where he looks at seven different men from history and asks what made them great men. In his chapter on Dietrich Bonhoeffer there is a line that says, ‘One of his students said that Bonhoeffer once asked him, “Do you love Jesus?” (pg. 99)’

Do I love Jesus?

I like him. I like the things he said. I agree with them. I think he is a good king and ruler, but do I love him?

How can I evangelize when I don’t even have an acceptable answer to that most basic of questions? How can I impact positively the people around me if I am unable to give that question an answer?

How can I persuade people to the absolute greatness of Jesus when I myself have not yet been fully persuaded in my own heart? I say “in my heart” because in my mind I have been persuaded. But those two things are not the same. The mind and the heart are not the same. My affections are separate, separated.

The three most important things in real estate are location, location, location. The three most important things in interpretation are context, context, context.

I say this as a warning for interpretation of the previous statements about whether I love Jesus. Here is part of my context.

My emotions are totally broken, and willfully so. It’s not a matter of them being underdeveloped, or malnourished. It’s a matter of my willfully having killed them; of knowing how to control my heart and the physical aspects of my body (like heart rate) so that I do not feel when I do not want to. This has been by modus operandi for dealing with sin and disappointment.

Even now, as I sit writing this and reviewing in my mind these things, I can feel myself controlling my heart rate and forcibly clearing my mind of emotions and thoughts that would make me sad. As I said, this is how I deal with sin and negative emotions. I have never been taught how to biblically process through negative emotions. All I know is that I do not like them and I have the ability to not feel them. So why not kill those emotions and move on? As for sin, I was never taught how to resist sin. I was told to flee it. The easiest way to flee sin, in my experience, is to kill the emotion leading me to that sin in its infancy; to calmly, coldly, rationally say no, and to murder the emotion. And it’s worked out pretty well so far.

Except, as you will have guessed, this “And it’s worked out pretty well so far,” comes with some problems. Namely, that I do not feel and am not moved from the heart when I ought to be. How do I love Jesus with all of my heart, when I killed and buried my heart behind a placid face a long time ago? How do I love anything for that matter?

Do I love Jesus?

No, but that is not because he is not lovely. It is because my heart and my emotions are so totally broken that I have no idea of how to love, or what it even looks like.

I would like to believe that my heart is actually really sensitive at its core, maybe even more so than most people. But I hate it getting hurt. And so the only way to protect it has been to seal it in a vault and throw it into the sea.

But perhaps that is only wishful thinking.

How do you help someone when you feel sadness at their state, but do not feel love for them? How do you get motivated to do anything, when your motivator is broken? I have a computer that works perfectly fine when on. However, the power button does not work and thus cannot be turned on. I view affections as the “on-button” of actions. How do I do anything, if I cannot be powered on?

This whole project, of feeling again (?), has been a long project in the running, beginning in January of last year with the start of a story I wanted to write. I knew at the outset that the story would fall flat on its face if I, as the author, were not able to feel the various parts of the story. Thus I picked out songs that I felt fit various scenes from the story and made a playlist so that I could feel my way through the story. The only problem with this process is that there are significant parts of the story that are sad, and so there were a lot of songs that reflect that emotion. So eventually I had to stop listening to the playlist, to preserve my sanity.

But this was a defibrillator shock to my heart that I needed. In fact the whole writing process has been really good for me, on various levels (now I just need someone to listen to the outline I have for the first book and ask good questions that will help me better be able to direct my writing).

However, the process of integrating my emotions into my actions is scary for me. This (killed emotions) has been the way I have operated for numerous years, and I don’t remember when I have not operated this way. I feel like I am messing with the bios of my heart, where one wrong move will irreparably brick the machine.

So how does one wake up a coma patient? “Hey, Heart, you awake?” No answer. How does one fix what one does not know how to repair?

I hate showing process, because people look at you as though you are already completed and judge you for that. I don’t like showing myself or what I think or what I write until I am completely done because I do not want to be judged and evaluated on work that is only half done. But when in this life will anything be fully done?

Do I love Jesus?

In the broken state that I am in, so far as I am able, yes. But I need further sanctification before I will truly be able to say that I love him with all my heart.

[Note: This article has not been written as perfectly or as coherently as I would like it to have been written. It does not contain everything that I could have said, the other parts of the context that might be helpful to further grasping the proper interpretation of the article. But that’s process for you.]

Friday, June 14, 2013

Captain's Log

I wrote this over the past two days at work:

Earth Date 2013.06.13: Captain’s Log: Here follows the adventures of Jonathan Wheeler and the automobile Buick LeSabre.

9:30 Local Time (LT) – Have landed on the planet Biola in the La Mirada sector of the galaxy California. The population appears sparser than the last time I was here.  I wonder what has happened to the people. Perhaps a plague has struck since last I was here. Their Facilities continent, while accessible, is dark and empty. While filled with foreboding, I press forward.
9:40 (LT) – They are all gone. The box containing keys to local buildings and non-stellar transports appears to have been looted by the local populace. I am at a loss; perhaps I will borrow the keys of a local prefect.
10:00 (LT) – Having obtained keys, I proceeded to the designated transport. They do not work. I then obtained a second set; they also do not work. In anger and frustration, I contemplate going home.
10:30 (LT) – While staying, I remembered that an oracle spoke about an upcoming famine of light for the next season of this planet. While only one local youth was at the market, I paid fair price for what I bought. I will not be starved of light this next season.
10:50 (LT) – Have finally obtained transport. Had to jury-rig multiple sets of keys, but finally I can leave the Facilities continent.
11:08 (LT) – Have finally arrived at the designated work outpost, Hope. Hopefully, I will be busy the rest of the day. Thank goodness I brought food.
13:10 (LT) – Have discovered transport 25 sitting in its parking spot, plugged in. Meanwhile a youth working at the Horton prefecture has possession of transport 24. An icy wrath envelops me.
17:45 (LT) – Mission planet side terminated early. I shall be back again on the next day.

Earth Date 2013.06.14: Captain’s Log: Here follows the adventures of Jonathan Wheeler and the automobile Buick LeSabre.

9:33 (LT) – Upon arrival planet side, was able to swiftly obtain the keys of a prefect and the rights to transport 24. Still no one here, but the day has started better than yesterday.
9:38 (LT) – Thou hast got to be sh*tting me. Transport 24 is broken; its front right propulsion device devoid of its usual gaseous substance rendering it useless. I shall have to obtain other transportation.
9:43 (LT) – It appears that all of the local prefects keep the keys to their transportation vehicles with them instead of returning them to security box. With no transport, it appears I will have to leg it across the planet.
9:55 (LT) – After arriving at the Alpha prefecture, I discovered I did not take my communicator with me. So there is no hope of communication with the outside world. Unfortunately I did not brign food with me today.
10:11 (LT) – Found a penny and picked it up. Still no luck.
10:14 (LT) – Found a bag of Hawaiian Hurricane Popcorn. No listed expiration date. Do I trust the penny?
10:58 (LT) – Transportation? Heh! Access to buildings? Heh! A student work craves not these things.
11:02 (LT) – For over a thousand months, student workers were the guardians of lighting and wall repair. Until the dark times. Until Obamacare.
11:06 (LT) – Here is your father’s T8 light bulb. Not as clumsy or as random as a candle. An elegant light, for a more civilized age.
11:25 (LT) – With administrators and prefects gone, I have done my best to stimulate the economy these past two days, to the tune of over a thousand local credits worth of goods. I wonder: will I be counted a hero, or will I have worked long enough to see myself become the villain?
12:20 (LT) – An old light bulb decided it didn’t want to live anymore and so jumped from a high place onto a hard place. Did it right in front of me too. Still in shock. Its going to take a while to clean the place up. I have cordoned off the area, probably for the whole weekend. It looks like I still have bits of him on me.
12:45 (LT) – Yep. Had a bit of him in my hair.
13:35 (LT) – At last work is over and I can go home. I weep tears of joy.

13:42 (LT) – Wished the last female on the planet to “Have a good weekend.” She responded with a variation of the same. Smooth. O.o Also, found another penny outside my shop; picked it up. It’s the weekend. Must have worked.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Here is a paper I wrote for fun after some students in my Exegesis in Philippians class liked an idea I had and told me to write it up and present it to the professor. The endnotes were originally footnotes, but were converted to endnotes when I copied the word document to here. Enjoy.

τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως AS “RESURRECTION CALL”


Philippians 3:14 contains the semi ambiguous phrase τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως. This phrase has been argued from a few different directions: 1) it refers to a judge’s call at a race for the runner to come up and receive a prize,[1] 2) it refers to a generalized call toward heaven and is used by Paul to combat overly realized eschatology,[2] and the most widely accepted position: 3) it refers to the effectual call of believers.[3] This essay will argue a different position than those listed above: considering the context of Philippians 3 and drawing comparisons from Acts 9, τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως refers to the resurrection call of believers on the Day of the Lord.[4]


First, let us examine the context. Philippians 3:14 is set near the end of a fairly large inclusio stretching from 2:5 to 3:15, being bookended by the phrase “Have this attitude” (τοῦτο φρονεῖτε and τοῦτο φρονῶμεν). The attitude listed is that of the commands in 2:2-4[5] and is the attitude which Jesus had (v. 5) throughout his life, death, and resurrection (vv. 5-11).[6] Following this (vv. 12-18) Paul gives additional commands to the Philippians. He then, in discussing what is happening with Timothy (vv. 19-24) and Epaphroditus (2:25-30), presents them as examples of those who imitate the attitude which Jesus had.[7] Paul then[8] presents himself as an example of one who imitates Christ (3:1-14).[9] He then gives an exhortation to follow the examples of the previously listed people (vv. 15-16). Next he contrasts them with those who are enemies of the cross of Christ (vv. 17-19) finally ending with a statement about the heavenly citizenship of believers and their guaranteed future glorious transformation (vv. 20-21).
            Now, the immediate context of v. 14 is the example of Paul’s imitation of Christ (3:1-14). Paul, at the end of reflection on his former life (vv. 4-7), turns to look to the future (vv. 8-14): he no longer counts on his former achievements (vv. 5-6) but instead counts them as loss, as dung. Instead he looks to the surpassing value of knowing Christ. He seeks to gain Christ. This gaining of Christ is accomplished by two ways: 1) being found in him and 2) knowing him. Paul seeks to know two specific things about Christ, though: 1) the power of his resurrection and 2) the fellowship of his sufferings. These two things are accomplished by Paul through being conformed to the death of Jesus. Finally, he desires these things so that he might attain to the resurrection from the dead. Paul thus desires the resurrection not because it means continued existence but because it is the final aspect by which he will know Christ.


            Acts 9 is a hotly examined passage, but for different reasons than those concerning this essay.[10] The passage, however, does offer are some clear parallels with Philippians 3. Saul is on the road to Damascus carrying letters from Jerusalem giving him permission to hunt followers of the Way (vv. 1-2) when
suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do” (vv. 3b-6).
There are four aspects of this account that stand out as parallel with the context of Philippians 3:1-14: 1) the use of διώκω, 2) the use of the preposition ἀν, 3) the speakers, and 4) the movement imagery.
            In Acts 9:4-5, the word διώκω is used twice by Jesus in his address of Saul. First, upon appearing to Saul, he asks, “τί με διώκεις” (“why are you persecuting me?”). Second, in response to Paul’s question of Jesus’ identity, he replies, “Ἐγώ εἰμι Ἰησοῦς ὃν σὺ διώκεις” (“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”). There seems to be a clear parallel between this and Philippians 3:6. In the midst of chronicling his achievements and glories (his own Hebraic cursus honorum[11]), one of those achievements he lists is that he persecuted the church (κατὰ ζῆλος διώκων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν). Paul then turns διώκω on its head[12] in vv. 12 and 14. There it means “I pursue”[13] or “I press on.”[14] With Acts 9 in mind, one gets the sense that Paul is answering for himself the question which Jesus posed to him, τί με διώκεις? Paul’s answer is thus that he pursues Christ for the same reason that Christ laid hold of him: εἰς τὸ βραβεῖον τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως[15] τοῦ θεοῦ[16] ἐν[17] Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (“to the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”).
            The second parallel between these two passages is the presence of ἄν. In Acts 9:6, Jesus speaks to Saul, commanding him, “ἀλλὰ ἀνάστηθι” (“but get up”). In Philippians the noun form is used in verses 10 (τὴν δύναμιν τῆς ἀναστάσεως αὐτοῦ) and 11 (καταντήσω εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν). “The power of his resurrection” is something that Paul desires to experience and has not yet fully experienced. While Paul could experience part of that power while he was alive, he knew that the last and final aspect of that power was “the resurrection from the dead.” Finally, for the phrase in question, τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως, Paul is looking forwards to the goal to which he is running and has not yet arrived at.
            The third and fourth parallels are admitted weaker, but presented for the sake of completeness. In Acts 9, the source of the call to Saul was an initially unidentified voice from heaven[18] who later declared himself to be Jesus. In Philippians the source of the call is God, in Christ Jesus. The last (possible) parallel is the attendant travel imagery located in both Acts (traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus) and Philippians (running a race).


            There are some clear parallels between Acts 9 and Philippians 3 in both themes and repeated words and events. διώκω is used in Acts in a negative sense (persecute) and again in Phil 3:6 in has the same meaning. However, when vv. 12 and 14 come along Paul has taken this persecution and changed its meaning to pursue or “press on” to reflect the positive light he now has toward Christ. Additionally, there are some striking parallels between Jesus’ vocal command to Saul to get up (“ἀνάστηθι”) and Paul’s use of the same word group (τῆς ἀναστάσεως and εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν) and the adverb (τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως) in Philippians. Along with the speakers being identified as from heaven/God in Jesus/Christ Jesus and the attendant travel imagery, there is compelling evidence to see that Paul is considering his future in light of his past. However, the question remains: what do these observations point to?

Problems with τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως referring to Paul’s initial call

As was noted previously, one of the options for the understanding of τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως is that it refers to the effectual call of believers. However, there are some significant problems with this theory. While Philippians 3 clearly looks back at the past, it does so such that it may nullify what was observed. It would seem strange then that Paul would be setting his sights on the beginning of his conversion when he specifically says that part of his race is “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” (3:13b). Indeed, Acts 9 marks the start of the race for Paul,[19] not its conclusion. His initial call thus cannot be the goal, the prize toward which Paul is running. His effectual call by Jesus is something he already has, but in the race in Philippians he strains towards a prize that he does not yet possess.[20] Indeed, the ἀν words (ἀναστάσεως, ἐξανάστασιν, and ἄνω) in Philippians 3 all point to something which Paul does not yet have, some in part and some in full. It would be difficult in this consideration to then say that τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως refers to Paul’s past, to his birth as a believer.[21]
An additionally helpful point is to see the uniqueness of the phrase τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως. This is the only occurrence in the NT of a word separating the article from κλήσεως (or its other forms).[22] In arguing that τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως be interpreted uniquely, this is an important point: that τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως is a unique grammatical construction for κλήσεως. It ought to be treated and interpreted as one word, not two separate words as some commentaries seem to do.[23] Thus, τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως is not a calling which has an upward sense or is an effectual call that stretches throughout the life of the believer, but is an “up” calling. Paul, remembering Jesus’ command to him (“ἀνάστηθι”) again hopes to attain to another call to “Get/rise up.”

τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως AS “RESURRECTION CALL”

            Having already examined Acts 9 in depth, this section will turn to look at τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως as “resurrection call” in other significant NT passages. Paul, in reflecting on the past and looking to the future, is attempting to again attain to the heavenly command “ἀνάστηθι.” Paul understands that if his initial pursuit of Christ as his enemy resulted in the command “get up,” the future command cannot help but result in the resurrection from the dead (“εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν”).
Indeed this is the picture that is given by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
For the Lord Himself will descend with a shout (ἐν κελεύσματι), with the voice of the archangel (ἐν φωνῇ ἀρχαγγέλου) and with the trumpet of God (ἐν σάλπιγγι θεοῦ), and the dead in Christ will rise first (ἀναστήσονται). Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
In this passage Paul is comforting believers who have experienced the death of loved ones. He comforts them with the knowledge that when the Lord comes back, he will come with a shout, a voice, a trumpet that will cause the dead to rise up[24] and then all believers will be caught up together (the believers were concerned about their loved ones not being with them) to be with the Lord forever. Of note for Philippians 3 is that a vocalized shout (or “shout of command”) causes the dead to rise up (ἀναστήσονται). This loud noise is described as both from the Lord (ἐν κελεύσματι) and from God[25] (ἐν σάλπιγγι θεοῦ).
The second highly relevant passage is Revelation 11:11-12.[26] Here the two witnesses have been killed and their bodies dishonored by not giving them a burial: “But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood (ἔστησαν) on their feet…And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here’” (Ἀνάβατε ὧδε.). Of note here is the vocalized command with the prefix ἀν, “Ἀνάβατε ὧδε.” This fits well with the sense presented above of τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως as a call to “rise up.” Thus τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως does not merely have the sense of coming back from the dead, but has the addition of traveling to the location of the command, upwards.

A Better Contextual Fit

            τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως as “resurrection call” is the best reading of Philippians 3:14 from a contextual standpoint. Paul’s focus in the race is on the prize at the end of the race. The call to resurrection is that prize. But this leaves the question, isn’t Paul’s focus and desire Christ? How can the call to resurrection be the prize when Christ has always been Paul’s focus and desire? The answer to this question is found in Philippians 1:21. There Paul makes the intriguing statement, “death is gain” (τὸ ἀποθανεῖν κέρδος). From context it is clear to see that it is not death itself that is gain, but what death means for Paul: “to depart and be with Christ” (v. 23). For Paul, this is better than remaining alive. In the same way that Paul can say “death is gain” he is able to say that the prize of his pursuit is τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως, not because the call itself is valuable, but because of what it means: Paul is able to be with Christ. Resurrection, then, is the final aspect of Paul’s knowing Christ (3:10) and being conformed (3:10-11) to his image (2:5-11 [especially 8-9]), whose model he follows in 3:3-14 (in self abandonment and humiliation leading to death and then resurrection and glory). Paul thus eagerly waits for the return of Jesus from heaven (3:20-21)[27] and Paul’s subsequent glorious transformation into conformity with Jesus (3:21). τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως , the “resurrection call,” is thus something that Paul has not yet attained to, but very much wants to.


            For Paul to be able to have joy in the midst of suffering, he knew to look not toward the past but toward the future. [28] His focus was on the coming of Christ and attaining to that coming, whether alive or dead when it happened. He knew that his, and our, citizenship is in heaven (3:20), where our Savior is. Thus when Paul says that, in his pursuit of Christ, he forgets the past and strains toward the future, it must be remembered that he had a lot to forget. When he said that he was the least of all saints (Eph 3:8) he was not being facetious. He had persecuted the church, persecuted Jesus himself. He could not forget by looking at the past, but by gazing toward the future, to the prize of Jesus’ return and call to him. Paul’s great desire was to be with Jesus (1:23; 3:8-9) and to be finally conformed (through death and resurrection [3:10]) to his image (2:5-11; 3:21). Suffering for Paul, then, was merely another means by which he was conformed to the image of Christ. It is for this reason that Paul willingly suffered (as Jesus told Ananias that Paul would [9:15-16]).
            Thus, in every aspect of our lives, our gaze needs to be set on the finish line of our faith, on the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. In order to have joy in the midst of suffering, whether it be outright persecution or the simple aches and pains of living in a fallen world, the only way is to look to the future of fellowship with Christ and conformity to him.


While a good argument might be made that τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως refers to Paul’s initial call, it is even better understood as “resurrection call” on the Day of the Lord. This best fits the argument of the passage (being future focused) and fits well with NT resurrection imagery. The race of the Christian life is thus focused on the finish line, at the coming of Jesus in the clouds who will raise us up from the dead and bring us up to meet him in the air where we will then never leave his side.


Bauer, Walter. “κλῆσις.A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 2nd Edition. Translated by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL, 1979. 435-436.

Collange, Jean-Francois. The Epistle of Saint Paul to the Philippians. Translated by A. W. Heathcote. Reprint. London: Epworth Press, 1979.

Cousar, Charles B. Reading Galatians, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Smyth and Helwys: Macon, GA, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 2nd Edition. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, 1998.

Fee, Gordon D. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. NICNT. Ed. by Gordon D. Fee. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1995.

Fuller, Ruth M. “Rewards.” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Editors Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid. Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1993. 819-820.

Green, Gene L. The Letters to the Philippians. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Edited by D. A. Carson. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2002.

Hellerman, Joe. Philippians Commentary: 3:1-11. Spring 2013.

Hellerman, Joe. Philippians Commentary: 3:12-16. Spring 2013.

Luter Jr., A. Boyd. “Jealousy, Zeal.” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Editors Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid. Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1993. 461-463.

Martin, Ralph P. Philippians. The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Reprint. General Editor Leon Morris. IVP Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1987.

Melick Jr., Richard R. Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. The New American Commentary. Vol. 32. General Editor David S. Dockery. Broadman Press: Nashville, TN, 1991.

O’Brien, Peter T. The Epistle to the Philippians. NIGTC. Eds. I. Howard Marshall and W. Ward Gasque. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1991.              

Packer, J. I. “Call, Calling.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, 2001. 199-200.

[1] So Collange (Jean-Francois Collange, The Epistle of Saint Paul to the Philippians, trans. by A. W. Heathcote, reprint, [London: Epworth Press, 1979], 134.).
[2] Peter T. O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians, NIGTC, edited by I. Howard Marshall and W. Ward Gasque (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1991), 431. O’Brien is here explaining A. T. Lincoln’s position and offering a critique/rejection of it based on Paul’s common usage of κλῆσις.; Hellerman (Joe Hellerman, Philippians Commentary: 3:12-16 [Spring 2013], 9.) also lists this as a possible interpretive option, though he opts for effectual call.
[3] So Fee (Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, NICNT, ed. by Gordon D. Fee [Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1995], 349.); Packer (J. I. Packer, “Call, Calling,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., edited by Walter A. Elwell [Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, 2001], 200.) who focuses on the moral implications of the calling.; Erickson (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. [Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, 1998], 943.); Martin (Ralph P. Martin, Philippians, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, reprint, gen. ed. Leon Morris [IVP Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1987], 157.); Cousar (Charles B. Cousar, Reading Galatians, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians: A Literary and Theological Commentary [Smyth and Helwys: Macon, GA, 2001], 173.); O’Brien (O’Brien, 433.).; Hellerman (Hellerman, Philippians Commentary: 3:12-16, 9.).
[4] Melick (Richard R. Melick Jr., Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, The New American Commentary, vol. 32, gen. ed. David S. Dockery [Broadman Press: Nashville, TN, 1991], 139) makes the same contention (that τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως refers to the call at the resurrection) although he does not offer any proof for it beyond a cursory look at the contextual focus of 3:21 (which looks toward the future).
[5] “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit (or “the Spirit”), intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
[6] The model of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection seems to be an expansion of the initial commands of vv. 2-4. Christ is clearly a model of those commands, but when Paul presents himself as an imitator of Christ (3:4-11), it is more closely tied to Christ’s example of 2:5-11 than to the commands of vv. 2-4
[7] So Fee (Fee, 362. n. 3.). Timothy (2:21-22b “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ. But you know of his proven worth…”) mimics the attitude of 2:4 (“do not merely out for your own interests, but also for the interests of others”), “which was also in Christ Jesus” (v. 5b). Epaphroditus follows in the example of Christ (v. 8b “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”) by serving Paul even though he was sick (v. 27a “For indeed he was sick to the point of death”).
[8] Indication is given in 3:1-2 that Paul is about to restate some previously made points
[9] Both did not seek their own glory (Christ: 2:6 “although He existed in the form of God.” Paul: 3:5-6 as Paul’s cursus honorum), but instead emptied themselves/lost (Christ: 2:6; Paul: 3:5-6) it to then seek obedience unto death (Christ: 2:8; Paul: 3:10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death”) followed up resurrection (Christ: 2:9; Paul: 3:11 “in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead”) and glory (Christ: 2:9-11; Paul: 3:21a “who [Christ] will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory”).
[10] Did Jesus really physically appear to Saul, or was this just a vision? The importance of the answer is for establishing the physical resurrection of Jesus.
[11] So Hellerman (Joe Hellerman, Philippians Commentary: 3:1-11 [Spring 2013], 10.).
[12] So A. Boyd Luter Jr., “Jealousy, Zeal,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1993), 461.
[13] HCSB (2009), ISV (2012).
[14] NIV (2011), NLT (2007), ESV (2001), NASB (1995), KJV, ASV.
[15] Appositional genitive.
[16] Genitive of Source.
[17] Locative preposition (So Fee, 350.).
[18] Could use a study here on the sources of voices from heaven: how often are they from God, angels, or Jesus.
[19] Hellerman (Hellerman, Philippians Commentary: 3:12-16, 9.), in supporting the position that κλῆσις refers to effectual call, notes that it “occurs at the beginning of the race.”
[20] Ruth M. Fuller, “Rewards,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1993), 819. Fuller links 3:14 with 2:21, 23 and Paul’s future gaining of fellowship with Christ. Fellowship with Christ is Paul’s prize.
[21] Contra Fee, (Fee, 349. n. 47.).
[22] Walter Bauer, “κλῆσις,A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd edition, translated by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL, 1979), 435-436.
[23] Hellerman, Philippians Commentary: 12-16, 8-9.; Fee (Fee, 349-350.) gives two paragraphs and a substantial footnote to the significance of “calling” but only gives ἄνω a moderate sized footnote. For these authors, κλήσεως is first determined and then ἄνω is factored in, usually with a smaller note.
[24] Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Philippians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, gen. ed. D. A. Carson (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2002), 225. “The idea of this verse is not simply that the dead will hear the great sound of the trumpet call of God, but that they will respond to the command to rise” (italics his own). Green also notes 1 Cor 15:52 and Matt 24:31 where the trumpet of God is involved in, respectively, raising the dead and gathering the people of God.
[25] Green (Green, 224) attributes both of these to God.
[26] The reader might also consult Luke 7:11-17 where Jesus gives the command “Arise” (ἐγέρθητι) and John 11:43 where Lazarus is called out of the tomb; these passages (as well as Revelation 11:12) present resurrections not occurring on the “Day of the Lord” (Although a case could be made for Rev 11 if “Day of the Lord” is not treated as a 24 hour time period. However, that is a discussion for another day.). This essay is primarily focused on τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως as “resurrection call” on the Day of the Lord.
[27] Fee, 380. Fee notes that Paul has the Parousia in mind here.
[28] Protestants seem to have a love-affair with looking back at how horrible they were before they came to Christ. There seems to be this obsessive contemplation with the past. But will this soul crushing contemplation truly provide the joy that we seek? Personally, focusing on the past does not bring me joy nor does it transform me into the image of Christ. Certainly Paul looked at his past, but it was only as a spring board so that he could run away from it as fast as he could in the other direction, focusing all of his thought and effort on the finish line set in the future. Thinking about the past can be helpful, but only if it leads to focusing on running the race with our eyes on the prize at the end: being with Jesus and being finally fully conformed to his image.