Christianity 201

October 21, 2016

A Personal Statement of Faith

Instead, regard Christ as holy in your hearts. Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it.  (I Peter 3:15 CEB)

Yesterday on the other blog I posted a link to a book review at The Little Friar, the blog of Julius McCarter. Further down the page I noted this statement of faith which I found so very refreshing. The link is in the title below — think about that title for a minute — which I hope you’ll click and read this at source. (If you know Latin, you’ll like the blog tabs.)

for now

Every now and then, I’m asked to produce a personal statement of faith.  I always find statements like that difficult to write, though I’ve written on that before.

But, in an effort to say what I believe, here’s what I’ve put down this morning.  I’m sure it’s incomplete, as all statements of faith must necessarily be.  And I’m sure that, given the varieties of life that will be tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, I’ll say it much differently.  Any way …

I believe in one God who created the universe for good, who sustains it in wondrous order, and who calls it to fulfill its purpose in God.

I believe that God created human beings, male and female, in God’s own image, for communion with God and with one another. I believe, therefore, that God, whom we experience as personal, intends authentic personhood and relationship as the highest purpose for human beings.

I believe that the manifestations of God’s active benevolence toward creation are manifold, including:

  • God’s character revealed in the beauty, order, and majesty of the universe;
  • God’s revelation of a moral order, mysteriously the common heritage of all humanity;
  • God’s special relationship with Israel, later to include the Church;
  • God’s unique revelation in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ;
  • God’s steadfast and continual involvement in human affairs to this day.

I believe that, since human beings fail to respond fully to God’s call to live out the purpose for which we were created, and since God is ever faithful to God’s purpose, God has always eagerly forgiven and restored all of his creation. I believe, further, that as the clearest statement of God’s love for creation, God in Christ reconciles the world to God’s self.

I believe that sacred scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, bear trustworthy witness to God’s character, God’s intention for creation, and God’s unshakable determination to effect God’s good purpose, especially as scripture bears testimony to God’s relationship with Israel, with the church, and quintessentially with all creation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

I believe that God calls those who trust God and seek to fulfill God’s will to relate to individuals and to society in ways which reflect God-likeness as taught in the Torah, exhorted in the Prophets, and modeled in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ: namely, to demonstrate authentic personhood, to act toward others with steadfast benevolence, and to work for rightness in all spheres of life.

I believe that God, who created for good purpose, who patiently and unwaveringly loves even the most errant with love surpassing that of human mothers and fathers.

I believe that God – who has not left any age or any individual without evidence of that good purpose and faithfulness nor without the testimony of the Word who comes to all as light, life, and truth – will not cease working out that purpose for which God created and to which God calls all.

I believe that my hope for the world, for our lives in it, and for eternity rests on God’s faithfulness shown to all humanity throughout all ages, in particular to Israel and the church, and most especially as evidence in the faithfulness of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

 

 

September 22, 2016

What’s Up With the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

[Editor’s Note: This week’s contribution from Pastor Clarke was a little different from what we normally present here…I would love to have been at his church for this sermon!]

You may be wondering “what’s up with a sermon called ‘What’s Up With the Flying Spaghetti Monster?’” You can blame this one on one of my sons who over the summer said “hey Dad, you should preach a sermon on the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” If you have never heard of such a thing, be assured many others have, including, of course, my sons.

So what even is it? The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the god of a new religion called “Pastafarianism.” Now to be clear, most “Pastafarians” do not actually believe this religion per se, rather it is practiced as a parody of religion. When you hear that some Pastafarians get their ID pictures taken with colanders on their heads, you may think that it is a big joke. It kind of is, but at the heart of it are some important issues that the atheist community want people to think about. “Belief” in the Flying Spaghetti Monster all began in the United States with one man challenging a school board to reconsider whether Creationism should be taught alongside Evolution. He was reasoning that if time was given to the story of God creating the universe as found in Genesis, then equal time should be given to his god, “The Flying Spaghetti Monster.” His letter was put on the Internet and it has since become “a thing.”

There are two questions that the The Flying Spaghetti Monster should cause a Christian to grapple with:

  1. Should Creationism be taught alongside Evolution in schools?
  2. Is Christianity just a made-up fable like the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

1. Should Creationism be taught alongside Evolution in schools?

My answer to this may be tainted by the fact that I am Canadian. If a school system is publicly funded, and is made available to all the public, then one particular religious viewpoint should not be privileged over the rest. Many a good Christian will be very disappointed with me right now, but if we Christians were in the minority, and Muslims in the majority, would we want Islamic precepts being taught in our public schools?

However, are we too quick to roll over and play dead? I fear we Canadian Christians often are. There is a field of study that looks at the origins of the universe from no particular religious viewpoint. It is commonly referred to as Intelligent Design (ID for short) and begins not with a religious text, like “In the beginning, God . . . ,” but with the study of our world and the universe. It looks at the apparent elements of design in the universe and infers that behind the design is a Designer. The illustration is sometimes used of flying an airplane over an island and finding the letters “SOS” written in sand. You know someone is, or has been, there based on three letters. Then go on to consider the amazing amount of information stored in DNA. Or how amazing it is that so many things have to be “just so” for life to be possible. Such evidence of design begs for a Designer.

Some think that the more we learn about the universe from science, the less we need any notion of a god to explain things. God has been moved to the margins it has been said. However, this would be like someone taking apart an iPhone and in figuring out how the parts and software work together, saying “there is and never has been a Steve Jobs or Johnny Ive. We don’t see them present with us making this thing work.” You see the misstep. As John Lennox has pointed out, God is not a “God-of-the-gaps” God, that is, the explanation of the things we cannot understand, but rather is the “God of the whole show.” If an iPhone is an incredible achievement in design and engineering, the universe is infinitely more so. As the Psalmist writes:

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)

Should ID be taught in schools alongside Evolution? After all, some would point out, perhaps correctly, that it is not science strictly speaking. It wanders into the realm of philosophy. Whatever it is, it is good, clear thinking. Schools should be places of good, clear thinking.

But does ID get you to Jesus? Or to the Flying Spaghetti Monster for that matter? This brings us to our second question.

fsm2. Is Christianity just a made-up fable like the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

This is an insinuation of those who practice Pastafarianism, namely that belief in Jesus, or in any god for that matter, is as ridiculous as believing in something like the Flying Spaghetti Monster. So is it?

Here we look to the where the evidence leads, particularly with respect to the origins of each religion. For example, if you were to investigate the origins of “belief” in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the evidence would lead to knowing exactly when, where, and even why the whole thing started. You can easily account for the birth and development of Pastafarianism without needing the actual existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to account for it. It is clearly a people made religion. You can go on to apply this same inquiry of all religions, asking “how did they begin and develop, and can you account for such things without the existence of the god they point to?” This all works very well until you come to Christianity. I am only scratching the surface here, but birth and development of Christianity falls nicely into place if Jesus rose from the dead. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then it is hard to account for why the first Christians believed what they believed, did what they did, and wrote what they wrote. N.T. Wright is one of the best scholars to look up to learn more about this.

If you are looking for a more accessible read you could look up the writings of an expert in evidence by the name of J. Warner Wallace. He was a cold-case detective and an atheist, who upon reading the Gospels came to realize that what he was reading bore the marks of genuine eyewitness testimony. I am only scratching the surface, but he gives us pointers on handling the evidence, some of which are paraphrased poorly by me below, but told in better detail himself. Consider:

  • The variations between the Gospels are evidence of genuine witnesses being behind them. Detectives get suspicious of collusion when witnesses all end up saying the exact same things in the exact same way.
  • The case for the reality of Jesus and the truth for Christianity is a cumulative case, built upon many bits of evidence.
  • While there is no direct evidence for Jesus available to us today, circumstantial evidence is enough to establish truth. All convictions of cold cases are built on circumstantial evidence.
  • Evidence does not need to get you beyond every possible doubt for a conviction, but beyond every reasonable doubt. Some people hold the bar far too high when it comes to Jesus so that no amount of evidence would ever be enough.
  • Not every question that is raised in a case needs to be answered. Belief in Jesus as Lord is reasonable, even when questions linger.
  • Unbiased jurors make the best jurors. That is why there is a process of jury selection, to weed out those who would begin with prejudice and bias. Some people will never believe Jesus rose from the dead because they start with a bias against the possibility of any miracle.

The evidence points to the unreality of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the reality of Jesus. Evidence is spoken of in the Bible:

This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
6 who gave himself a ransom for all
this was attested at the right time. 1 Timothy 2:3-6 (emphasis mine)

The word for “attested” is a word meaning “evidence, proof, testimony.” That there is one God, and that Jesus is how we can know God has been “attested to,” or “evidenced.” Jesus is the greatest proof of Who the Designer is, and the greatest evidence of His love for us. Which brings us to our conclusion.

The evidence points to what seems too good to be true. If the evidence pointed to atheism being true, that would be a depressing thing. If the evidence pointed to Islam being true, that could be a scary thing. If the evidence pointed to Eastern religions being true with their focus on karma, that would be an unfortunate thing. But the evidence points to the resurrection of Jesus, the reality of God, and the reality of God’s grace and love for the sinner. That is the best possible place for the evidence to lead. It seems too good to be true! Yet that is where the evidence points. So instead of asking “what’s up with the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” we should instead be asking “what’s up with God loving us so much?”

All scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Read more of Clarke’s writing at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

May 13, 2016

There is No Such Thing as “Blind Faith” in Scripture

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Luke 7:20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ ”

21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.

Recently at the apologetics blog The 3rd Choice (The3rdChoice.org) a reader asked about the idea of accepting Christianity on “blind faith.”  Part of the question reads, ” Why make something that needs to be discovered, found or believed in when you can just be there?”

Jim Walton replies,

Jesus never said faith is blind, and the Bible doesn’t imply that faith is blind. In the Bible, faith is evidentiary. I define Biblical faith as “making an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make that assumption reasonable.” In my opinion, belief is always a choice, and is always based on evidence. When you sit down in a chair, you didn’t think twice about sitting down. You believe that the chair will hold you. Faith? Yes. You’ve sat in chairs hundreds of times, but you can’t be absolutely sure it will hold you this time. Things do break on occasion. But you make an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make it reasonable for you to make that assumption, and you sit down. That’s faith, and it was a conscious choice.

Almost all of life works this way because we can never know what lies ahead. Every time you turn a door knob you are expressing faith. Because 10,000 times you’ve turned a door knob, and it opened the door. So you turn the knob and move forward. Does it always work that way? No. Sometimes you turn the knob and the door doesn’t open. But you make an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make it reasonable for you to make that assumption.

We know chairs hold people. That’s past experience and learning. We know turning door knobs open doors. We know that when we turn a key a car starts. But every time we turn a car key, we do it because we believe it will start. The evidence is compelling, and it was a conscious choice. We don’t know for sure that the car will start, and unfortunately sometimes it doesn’t. Then we use our knowledge to try to figure out what to do about it. We dial our phone (as an act of faith, assuming it will work and help us reach another person), and try to get help.

You’ll notice in the Bible that evidence precedes faith. There is no “dumping on a random doorstep” and good luck to ya! God appears to Moses in a burning bush before he expect him to believe. He gave signs to take back to Pharaoh and the Israelite people, so they could see the signs before they were expected to believe. So also through the whole OT. In the NT, Jesus started off with turning water into wine, healing some people, casting out demons, and then he taught them about faith. And they couldn’t possibly understand the resurrection until there was some evidence to go on. The whole Bible is God revealing himself to us all—and I mean *actually*, not through some exercise of faith.

My faith in God is a conscious choice because I find the evidence compelling. It’s an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make it reasonable for me to make that assumption. When you read the Bible, people came to Jesus to be healed because they had heard about other people who had been healed. They had seen other people whom Jesus had healed. People had heard him teach. Their faith was based on evidence. Jesus kept giving them new information, and they gained new knowledge from it. Based on that knowledge, they acted with more faith. People came to him to make requests. See how it works? My belief in God is based on my knowledge of the credibility of those writings, the logic of the teaching, and the historical evidence behind it all. The resurrection, for instance, has evidences that give it credibility that motivate me to believe in it. My faith in the resurrection is an assumption of truth based on enough evidence that makes it reasonable to hold that assumption. The same is true for my belief in the existence of God, my belief that the Bible is God’s word, and my understanding of how life works.

I would contend that faith is never blind.

 

August 26, 2015

Why Choose Christianity?

 Acts 26:1 ESV So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently…

Why Choose Christianity and Not Something Else? Or Nothing Else?

2295355354_e65354babd_nby Clarke Dixon

Why would we choose to be a Christian and not something else? Why follow Jesus when there are so many other options including an attempt at following no one? With so many religions, how can we settle on one, or should we even settle on one? One answer appeals to the tension that exists between naturalistic explanations and supernatural explanations.

There are perfectly good explanations for how the vast majority of religions arose, explanations which make no appeal to the supernatural. For example, it is not hard to see how ancient myths involving a pantheon of gods arose out of need to understand things beyond understanding. Bad things happen because the gods are angry, sometimes at humans, sometimes at each other. As understanding increased, the gods were pushed out as being not a very good explanation of the facts. The naturalistic explanation, saying “men came up with myths about Zeus and others” fits all the data we have available much better than an appeal to a supernatural explanation; “men spoke about Zeus and the rest because those gods were real.” Similarly, to say “Islam arose because Muhammad was impressed with neither the people nor theology of Jews and Christians and so founded his own religion” fits all the data available better than “Islam exists because Allah revealed himself to Muhammad.”  We can follow similar lines of reasoning for 99% of all the world’s religions. In this sense, atheism is a powerful ally to Christianity for the atheists help us make the case for why we reject the vast majority of religions. We should note that in fact the early Christians were accused of spreading atheism! They were going around saying that all idols and myths were human invention.

However, for Christianity, the supernatural explanation provides a better explanation of all the available facts than the naturalist explanation. To give some examples:

  • The supernatural explanation accounts for the amazing consistency of the Biblical message despite the many authors writing over many, many years, from different contexts, writing for different purposes. There is a simple explanation of this: the scriptures are “God breathed.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for why people in the days following the death of Jesus were going around saying “Jesus is risen, I have seen him” and were willing to die for that claim. Appeals to hallucinations and/or fabrications do not account for the facts very well.
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for sudden birth and rise of an unexpected Christianity theology. The theology of Christianity is not what you would expect from Jewish scriptures and expectations, but it is what you would expect from Jewish scriptures and expectations plus the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for the staying power of Christianity and why so many people over so many years have some claim of a personal relationship with God through Jesus. The Christian message was not popular to either Jews or non-Jews from the get go. And yet it caught fire and continues to do so today despite still being unpopular to the point of persecution throughout the world. Yes, other religions have had staying power also, but you can come up with naturalistic explanations for this. Christianity would have died out ages ago if God were not in it.
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for the big questions like “Why is there something rather than nothing? Why is there life when the odds are against there being such? How did the universe get started? Why is there something startlingly different about humans compared with other animals? Why is there such a strong yearning for purpose among humans? Why do humans reflect on morality so much? Why is there evil and what can be done about it?” Naturalism struggles to explain what Christianity simply and  profoundly answers.

Within the Bible itself we find an example of this tension between a natural and supernatural explanation. In Acts 26 Paul shares with King Agrippa, the local governor Festus, and many others how he came to be a Christ follower including his experience of the risen Jesus. But at some point Festus has had enough: “And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.’” (Acts 26:24) With that Paul says “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” (Acts 26:25) Here we have a tension between a naturalistic explanation given by Festus; ”Paul, you are mad, no gods here,” and a supernatural explanation from Paul: ”Jesus appeared to and spoke with me.” Paul could have gone for a naturalistic explanation himself “perhaps the stress is getting to me and so I had some sort of hallucination.” However any naturalistic explanation could not fit all the facts, including the fact that his companions experienced something also, “we had all fallen to the ground,” (Acts 26:14) not to mention Paul’s further experience of regaining sight through the ministry of a Christian (Acts 9:10-19). No naturalistic view could account for these things.

So why Christianity and not another religion, or no religion? Why follow Jesus and not someone else, or no one else? Because Jesus rose from the dead, because Christianity is true. That Jesus rose from the dead and that Christianity is true makes the best sense of the all the facts we have. Yes there are naturalistic explanations offered for the rise and spread of Christianity and they are many, diverse, and complicated. But there is a simple explanation that covers all the facts, the supernatural one; Jesus rose from the dead. How should we respond when people say we are crazy for believing in the supernatural? Just like Paul did with Festus: “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” (Acts 26:25)

There is one more thing we should mention about all this. There is no religious perspective that if found to be true could offer more hope, both for this life and the next, for more people, than Christianity. That Jesus rose from the dead and Christianity is true is not just a rational conclusion, it provides for an amazing hope in God’s amazing grace.

All Bible references are taken from the ESV.
photo credit: Interfaith Banner via photopin (license)

August 30, 2013

Christianity Isn’t Afraid of Questions

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NIV Ecc.  12:9 Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.

Today’s reading comes from The Catch, the blog of author and musician John Fischer, where it appeared originally under the title The improbable Truth.  John ends with a quote from The Message Bible where “the teacher” is translated as “the quester.”  Christianity isn’t afraid of questions.

question-markHas it ever made anyone curious why the Bible questions its own answers? Take the book of Ecclesiastes, for instance — twelve chapters dedicated to the propagation of the meaninglessness of life. And this is not just the author having a bad hair day. This is an investment of a wise king’s entire life seeking the meaning of his existence. Every attempt to answer the big question is meticulously pursued, and with all the resources to make it legitimate. If Solomon wanted to pursue wealth, he had wealth to exceed the richest kings at the time. If he wanted to pursue pleasure, he had thousands of concubines at his bidding. And in his pursuit of wisdom, his wisdom was unparalleled in human history.

King Solomon was no armchair philosopher. He had the opportunity to try out each one of his solutions, and every time he came up with the same conclusion: “Meaningless, meaningless… Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). And even when he does concede, in the end, that the only reasonable thing to do is to fear God and keep His commandments, it’s not like he’s ready to celebrate this final discovery (Ecclesiastes 12:13). In fact, it reads like a resignation. You finish this book and you want to go, “When’s the next Tony Robbins seminar? I need some cheering up!”

Actually, the fact that Ecclesiastes is in the Bible does two things for me. First, it gives me confidence that the rest of the Bible is true. If Christianity were a construct of the human mind, you wouldn’t find this stuff in its portfolio, that’s for sure. What propaganda features differing views? Who includes the opposing arguments in their literature, and even makes them look good? And yet the Bible declares life meaningless, it shows bad people having a good time and good people having a miserable time. The hero of the whole book dies a brutal death in the end, for heaven’s sake, and then He calls His followers to come and die with Him! Well, whoopee! Where do I sign up? I’m sorry, but to all those who say someone made up Christianity, I have to say, based on what? Certainly nothing I know of in human nature.

Secondly, it makes me look more deeply into things. Maybe the reason following Christ doesn’t magically make this life a party is because there is something more than this life to consider. And maybe Solomon was so old and spent by the time he finally got to it that he couldn’t really enjoy what was enjoyable about what he found. And maybe, just maybe, the reason God put his story there was for us to benefit from his life’s search, take his word for it, and start living where he left off.
_______________________

Besides being wise himself, the Quester also taught others knowledge. He weighed, examined, and arranged many proverbs. The Quester did his best to find the right words and write the plain truth.

The words of the wise prod us to live well. They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd.

But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this:

Fear God.
Do what he tells you.

Ecclesiastes 12:9-13 (The Message)

November 5, 2012

Peace… Be Still

If I’m really honest — and I’m going to be today —  I would have to admit that I approached last Monday night’s storm with a great deal of apprehension. Part of it was due to the media buildup and part of it was due to general anxieties being brought on by a variety of circumstances.

As it turned out, the media’s anticipation of the storm was not hype, and people in New York City who failed to heed the warnings to evacuate ended up needing rescue.  If September 11th, 2001 represented the day that war came to America, then October 29th, 2012 was the day catastrophe came to New York City.

Stephen and Brooksyne Weber have had storm-themed devotions at Daily Encouragement all last week, though it’s interesting that the Friday before (26th) they chose this verse:

 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

The day after (30th) they chose this passage,

“And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’” (Mark 4:37,38).

The passage continues,

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

We sleep at night with a fan on in the room (for the white noise background), but even with that the winds were howling. I’m sure that we’ve had worse winds in several Canadian winters, but this time around I entertained the possibility of the top half of the house blowing away.

So I laid there and in my heart prayed “Peace, be still.” My lips didn’t move and my vocal cords didn’t engage, but inside, the prayer was a scream. I wasn’t expecting the storm to stop so much as I was praying for a stillness of the winds of anxiety and the rains of adversity.

I was praying for a stillness, a calm to inhabit my heart and mind.

And while that was going on, I thought of a song that’s based on the same passage in Mark, Master the Tempest is Raging. There are a few versions of it online, but nothing that matches the passion and intensity that I remember when, in my teen years, I heard it performed by the 120-voice choir at my home church in Toronto.

These are the lyrics, though I had no memory of the 2nd or 3rd verses until I looked them up today:

Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness,
No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?
How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threat’ning
A grave in the angry deep?

The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,
Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, peace, be still!

Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today;
The depths of my sad heart are troubled—
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul;
And I perish! I perish! dear Master—
Oh, hasten, and take control.

Master, the terror is over,
The elements sweetly rest;
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven’s within my breast;
Linger, O blessed Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more;
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor,
And rest on the blissful shore.

I think it is significant that in 1874, the writer, Mary A. Baker, chose to take the direction in the second verse that most likely applies to us today, and most certainly applies to me. The winds of fear and the rains of troubles and trials really never stop, but “no water can swallow the ship.”

As I did Monday night, and several times in the days since, reach out your hand toward your circumstances and whisper, ‘Peace … be still.’

~Paul Wilkinson


A more contemporary song that came to me this week was posted here previously, check out Psalm 91 by SonicFlood.

Hurricane Sandy devastated Cuba, Haiti, The Dominican Republic; but all we tend to hear about is New York City. Here’s an examination of the inequities of media reporting.

September 2, 2012

Ending On Affirmation

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. ~Matthew 26:30 (NIV)

Some of the most important words in a church service are spoken at the very beginning and at the very end. Like bookends, they frame everything that takes place in the middle. Michael F. Bird wrote the following at the blog Euangelion under the title After the Sermon.

What do you do in church straight after the sermon?

A. Sing the final hymn.
B. Listen to announcements.
C. Receive the benediction.
D. Run out the door for the nearest restaurant

I’m starting to think that the moment after the sermon is a great time to confess our faith by reciting either the creed or rehearsing the regula fidei.

There is a reason for this. After hearing about particular passage from scripture or listening to specific piece of God’s story, it is appropriate that we relate it to the wider story of scripture narrated in the regula fidei, or else situate the sermon in the context of the holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. In other words, the creed and regula fidei provide the prime context to accept and understand the sermon.

You can read the Apostles’ Creed here, but here is the regula fidei according to Tertullian:

[T]he Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is called His Son, and, under the name of God, was seen “in diverse manners” by the patriarchs, heard at all times in the prophets, at last brought down by the Spirit and Power of the Father into the Virgin Mary, was made flesh in her womb, and, being born of her, went forth as Jesus Christ; thenceforth He preached the new law and the new promise of the kingdom of heaven, worked miracles; having been crucified, He rose again the third day; (then) having ascended into the heavens, He sat at the right hand of the Father; sent instead of Himself the Power of the Holy Ghost to lead such as believe; will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises amongst ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics.[1]

Now obviously Tertullian has certain specific heretics in mind here, so his rendering of the regula fidei is polemical and contextual. But the wonderful thing about the regula fidei is that it had no exact or precise formulation, though it had several common threads and recurring themes, it was variable. Which means, if you ask me, that it is possible to faithfully restate the regula fidei in our own contemporary language. I would suggest something like this:

God the Father, the maker of the universe, who, through Word and Spirit, made all things out of nothing, planned all things for the demonstration of his love and the satisfaction of his glory. He created Adam and Eve in his own image and after their rebellion, He also revealed himself as the Lord in diverse ways to the patriarchs, to Israel, and in the prophets, to call to himself a people worthy of his name, among and for the nations. When the time had fully come, He sent his Son, born of a woman and born under the Law, a Son of David, enfleshed as a man in the womb of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit, and who came forth as Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was baptized and in the power of the Holy Spirit he preached the hope of Israel and the kingdom of God, he proclaimed good news to the poor, did many miraculous deeds, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he was buried and rose again on the third day according to the scriptures. Then, having made purification for sins, he ascended into the heavens, where he sat down at the right hand of the Father, from where he shall come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead, and after the great resurrection, he shall take his people into the paradise of the new creation, and condemn the wicked to everlasting fate. The church now works in the mission of God, in dependence upon the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, bearing testimony to Jesus Christ, to preach good news and to show mercy, until the day when God will be all in all.

Would that be a good thing for the congregation to recite after each and every Sunday sermon?

May 31, 2012

Taking a Screenshot of Faith

You’re 100% sure it was there. You know what you saw. But now the website has changed.

“If only I’d taken a screenshot of the page;” you say.

Websites are constantly being revised. Bloggers change, delete or add sentences. Or entire posts.

Church history is the same. While we usually think of revisionism in terms of the facts of history, with church history, it’s possible to change the actual theology, to suggested that people understood things differently than perhaps they did, or to read the old through the filter of the contemporary.  But often the issue is not a failure of the current generation to grasp the nuances of their faith fathers, but the failure of those who go before to pass on the substance of their beliefs.

At the blog Parchment and Pen, Michael Svigel’s post title really expresses the issue clearly,

Why Study Church History? Reason #3: Studying church history will conserve the faith for the future

The Lord’s brother, Jude, urged Christians “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The Greek verb translated “delivered” refers to a sacred trust or tradition. Paul described this tradition as he handed it down to the Corinthians: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand. . . . For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received” (1 Cor. 15:1, 3). Jude used the same language as Paul for receiving the tradition and sending it forward to the future. In this case the things “received” and “handed down” were the central truths of the Christian faith.

Paul also wrote letters to his younger disciple, Timothy, for the purpose of encouraging the next generation to faithfully convey the core Christian tradition into the future. Paul wrote, “Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it” (2 Tim. 3:14). He also said, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). By observing what our spiritual forefathers fought to preserve and pass on, we come to understand and appreciate the need to continue the pattern established by 2 Timothy 2:2. By looking back, evangelicals today can learn how to conserve and convey the timeless message through time-tested methods.

Today the evangelical church is facing numerous serious crises directly related to their inability to make disciples who are passing the faith on to the next generation. To put it bluntly: evangelicals today are dropping the baton but still running the race! According to a 2006 Barna Group study, 40 to 50 percent of kids who were “equipped” in church youth groups walk away from the faith or the church in their college years. Study after study shows that evangelicalism itself is shrinking in America. Mega church and multi-site ministries mask the problem, as far too many of those big box churches grow in number by weakening smaller churches, not by converting the lost or restoring the un-churched. This kind of model of ministry is simply unsustainable. In many respects, American evangelicals are simply failing to pass the faith on to the next generation. Unless this trend is halted, the disaster will be epic.

The incredible challenges we’re facing today aren’t new. Pluralism, cynicism, paganism, immorality, political corruption, war, persecution, social unrest, atheism, skepticism, and me-theism—the early church thrived in that kind of culture, while we’re doing all we can to simply survive. As we look back at the history of the church, the pre-modern, pre-Christian models and methods of evangelism, catechesis, initiation, and life-long discipleship can help us re-think how we face the current challenges in our increasingly post-modern, post-Christian world. By studying church history we can rediscover and restore wise and effective ways to conserve the faith for the future.

It’s not too late.

Here’s a link to previous articles at P&P by the same author.

April 2, 2012

Madame Guyon Quotations

First, the usual stop at Wikipedia (two separate links as noted):

Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon (commonly known as Madame Guyon) (13 April 1648 – 9 June 1717) was a French mystic and one of the key advocates of Quietism. Quietism was considered heretical by the Roman Catholic Church, and she was imprisoned from 1695 to 1703 after publishing a book on the topic, A Short and Easy Method of Prayer.

Quietism is a Christian philosophy that swept through France, Italy and Spain during the 17th century, but it had much earlier origins. The mystics known as Quietists insist, with more or less emphasis, on intellectual stillness and interior passivity as essential conditions of perfection.

Guyon believed that one should pray all the time, and that in whatever one does, one should be spending time with God. “Prayer is the key of perfection and of sovereign happiness; it is the efficacious means of getting rid of all vices and of acquiring all virtues; for the way to become perfect is to live in the presence of God. He tells us this Himself: “walk before me, and be thou perfect” Genesis 17:1. Prayer alone can bring you into His presence, and keep you there continually.”[1]

As she wrote in one of her poems: “There was a period when I chose, A time and place for prayer … But now I seek that constant prayer, In inward stillness known …”

Here are a few of her writings:


The soul seeks God by faith, not by the reasonings of the mind and labored efforts, but by the drawings of love; to which inclinations God responds, and instructs the soul, which co-operates actively. God then puts the soul in a passive state where He accomplishes all, causing great progress, first by way of enjoyment, then by privation, and finally by pure love.


There are three kinds of silence. Silence from words is good, because inordinate speaking tends to evil. Silence, or rest from desires and passions is still better, because it promotes quietness of spirit. But the best of all is silence from unnecessary and wandering thoughts, because that is essential to internal recollection, and because it lays a foundation for a proper reputation and for silence in other respects.


We must forget ourselves and all self-interest, and listen, and be attentive to God.


If knowing answers to life’s questions is absolutely necessary to you, then forget the journey. You will never make it, for this is a journey of unknowables, – of unanswered questions, enigmas, incomprehensibles, and most of all, things unfair.


Regarding your spiritual life, be open, simple and like a child. In the depths of your spirit be like a drop of water lost in an ocean, and be no longer conscious of yourself. In this enlarged condition see and enjoy everything from within God. Within yourself there is only darkness, but in God there is only light. Let God be everything to you…. God’s love is like a weight within us, causing us to sink deeper and deeper into God.


Holy Solitude

Kind solitude
Away from the world and the noise
Divine quietude,
Silence, like the night!

Happy the one that possesses you,
And tastes your sweetness,
The cure of all ills!
Unfortunate are those who do not love you!

It is blessedness,
To be heart to heart with God:
There no disquietude
Troubles the peace of this place.


Rest assured, it is the same God who causes the scarcity and the abundance, the rain and the fair weather. The high and low states, the peaceful and the state of warfare, are each good in their season. These vicissitudes form and mature the interior, as the different seasons compose the year…God loves you; let this thought equalise all states. Let him do with us as with the waves of the sea, and whether he takes us to his bosom, or casts us upon the sand, that is, leaves us to our own barrenness, all is well.


O my Divine Love, the desire I had to please You,
the tears I shed,
my great labours and the little fruit I reaped from it,
moved Your compassion.
You gave me in a moment,
through Your grace and Your goodness alone,
what I had been unable to give myself through all my efforts

I implore you not to give in to despair. It is a dangerous tempatation, because our Adversary has refined it to the point that it is quite subtle. Hopelessness constricts and withers the heart, rendering it unable to sense God’s blessings and grace. It also causes you to exaggerate the adversities of life and makes your burdens seem too heavy for you to bear. Yet God’s plans for you, and His ways of bringing about His plans, are infinitely wise.

Sources: GiGA Quotes, Quotation Park, Wikiquote, Daily Christian Quotes, Madame Guyon Blogspot, Relevant Blog Blogspot, Rachel Jane Rickert

March 11, 2012

The Fall Retold

I spent a few hours on the weekend reading a book which looks at Christian belief from the background of someone whose background includes time spent as a Zen Buddhist Monk and is now a Christian pastor in Europe. The book is 3 Theories of Everything by Ellis Potter; as a print-on-demand title through bookstores worldwide. A full review is available at Thinking Out Loud, but I wanted to include here his fresh retelling and commentary on the fall of man.

In the book of Genesis, we’re told that God put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden with Adam and Eve.  And God said:  Do not eat the fruit of this tree.  You must not know good and evil for yourselves.  You must trust Me to tell you.

You might wonder why God gave them the option of eating the fruit.  Why not prevent them from doing it?  Why not put a barbed wire fence around the tree?  The reason, as I mentioned earlier, is that God is not automatic, and so His creation cannot be automatic either.  Just as God is free to choose, and he chooses always to be faithful to Himself, we as the image of God are given the same choice — the choice to be trusting and dependent upon Him.  So the possibility exists that we can choose wrongly.

I ought to point out that if God is non-automatic, then the possibility also exists that He can choose wrongly.  There is nobody behind God forcing Him to fulfill His promises.  God Himself must choose to do so.  As I suggested earlier, you see the possibility for choosing wrongly in the Garden of Gethsemane.  If there was no possibility that Jesus would fail to fulfill His promise, then He would not have sweat blood.  He would not have prayed, Please, if it can be any other way, let it be.  You see the same possibility a few years earlier in Jesus’ life, when He is tempted by the devil while in the desert.  The temptation would have been completely meaningless if there was no possibility for Jesus to have fallen for it.  Thankfully, that God has never broken His promises and even died in order to keep them is clear assurance that He will always be faithful.

So, the origin of the possibility of evil is in God, but there is no evil in God.  The creatures that God made in His image also have this possibility, and their choices have often resulted in tragedy.  The best known example is the devil.  He was, at one time, the most beautiful of all angels but chose to turn away from God.  Did you ever notice that the devil is just one person, whereas God is three?  The devil is one because he is exclusively self-centered.  It is his absolute self-centeredness that makes him absolutely evil.

According Genesis, the devil came to Eve in the Garden and said, Did God say you couldn’t eat anything?  Eve replied, Oh no, we can eat anything we want, we just can’t eat of that tree.  And the devil said, If you eat of that tree, you will become like God, because God knows good and evil and you will also know good and evil.  You won’t have to bother God about telling you about good and evil, you’ll know for yourself.  You can be independent.  You can be a liberated woman.  That was appealing to Eve.  She was intelligent, she had an adventurous spirit.  She took another look at the tree and saw that the fruit was very attractive, and she knew that she really would have the knowledge of good and evil if she ate it, and would be self-sufficient.  She wouldn’t need God to tell her.

After eating it, Eve gave some to Adam, and then he ate it.  At that moment they both died.  I don’t mean they had heart attacks and fell over.  I mean their relationship and their identity died.  They knew that they were naked.  They knew they were a threat to each other.  There was no longer trust.  They didn’t trust God and they couldn’t trust each other.  When their relationship died, they were dead.  Their true identity had not been in themselves but in their relationship.

Adam and Eve realized there was a problem, and sometimes I think they could have held hands and gone to God and said, ‘Father we have a problem, can you help us?’  But they didn’t do that because they had become insane.  Their thinking was now fundamentally distorted and unhealthy.  Instead of going to the Creator for a solution, they reached into creation.  They found fig leaves and sewed them together to hide their sexuality, probably because that was what they now found most disturbing and threatening.  In reaching into the creation for a solution, we also see the birth of naturalism, a belief that we should turn to the physical world in order to solve our problems.

God came into the Garden and called for Adam.  Why did He want to talk to Adam if Eve was the one who took the first bite?  Here you see the function of hierarchy.  Adam was with Eve when she did it, and he was responsible for her.  For this reason, God wants to know from Adam what has happened.  That’s not politically correct, but that’s the way God does it.

In confronting Adam, God asks a wonderful question:  Where are you?  Remember that God knows everything.  The question is not for God to get information.  The question is for Adam, so that he can ask himself where he is.  Adam gives a good answer when he replies, I’m in fear, and nakedness and hiding.  That was all true.  That was his situation.

Then God asks a second question:  Who told you that you were naked?  In other words ‘What are your sources and why have you believed them?’  He also asks: Have you eaten of the fruit that I told you not to eat?  Did you bring this fear and nakedness and hiding on yourself?  Adam’s answer, in this case, could not be worse.  He says, The woman, who you gave to me, offered me the fruit.  It’s your fault and her fault.  In other words, ‘I am a victim.’  It was here that victimization and denial began.  ‘I’m not responsible, I’m a victim.  I don’t need to be forgiven, I’m entitled.  I don’t need to confess and repent.’  This attitude has remained popular in the human race.

God made coats from the skins of animals and clothed them.  He killed the innocent and He covered Adam and Eve with the blood of the innocent.  It was a visual and applied prophecy of the Crucifixion.  Here, and in many other episodes described in the Bible, you can also see how the God of the third circle is not a passive and silent God.  He is not a New Age elephant.  He is active and communicative.  From the beginning, He is deeply engaged with His creation and working faithfully toward its salvation.

Salvation is necessary because ever since the unfaithfulness of Adam and Eve we have been living in a condition of self-centeredness.  The human condition has imploded like a supernova – like a huge star that has exploded outward and then reversed direction and collapsed into a black hole, whose gravity is so strong that not even light can escape from it.  Everything gets sucked into it.  Self-centeredness is what it means to be dead.  It’s what it means to be a sinner.  It’s a disastrous situation, and, according to the third circle, it’s the cause of suffering in the world.

Ellis Potter

January 5, 2012

What’s Wrong with our Modern Gospel

This is actually the second half of the first part of a two-part article by the late Keith Green.  Since many of you might want to start at the beginning, here are the links to the articles at Last Days Ministries:

Part One – The Missing Parts (complete text of which what is below is only the final 1/3rd)

Part Two – The Added Parts

What’s Specifically Wrong With Our Modern Gospel?

It’s Me-Centered Instead of Christ-Centered. First and foremost, it is the gospel that appeals to the selfish. Instead of honoring God, it places the sinner at the center of God’s love and plan. But the Bible places Jesus at the center of God’s plan, not the sinner.

One of the most well-known phrases of modern evangelism is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” But the sober, biblical truth that needs to be presented to the sinner’s mind is “You have made yourself an enemy of God, and in your present state of rebellion there is absolutely no hope for you.” In fact, God’s “plan” for the sinner at this point in his life is to separate him from His presence forever, in hell. However unpopular or unlovely that may sound, it is the only truth and reality about anyone who is an enemy of God through sin.

The whole line of reasoning in our modern gospel continues on and on in this mistaken way. “Sin has separated you from God, ‘and His wonderful plan for your life.’ Jesus came and died on the cross, so that you may experience ‘His wonderful plan for your life.’ You must accept Jesus now, so that you will not miss out on ‘His wonderful plan for your life!'” You, you, you, you!!! It’s all for YOU! I’m not sorry to say this, but Jesus did it all in obedience, for His Father’s glory. (Phil. 2:8-12) Of course, it infinitely benefits those who love, serve, and honor Him, but that was a secondary consideration, not the primary one. (Please read Ezek. 36:22-32.) If people come to Jesus mainly to get a blessing, or only to get forgiveness, they will ultimately be disappointed. But if they come to give Him their lives in honor and worship, then they will truly have forgiveness and joy – more than they could ever imagine! (I Cor. 2:9)

It’s Shallow, Cheap, and Offered as a “Bargain.” Our gospel reduces the good news to a “come and get it while you can” sale. We make every effort to take all the bones out – everything that might offend someone, might make them hesitate or put off their decision. Jesus didn’t do this. He never lowered the requirements for anyone. One had to be completely sincere, totally humbled, having counted the cost, willing to leave everything, family and property, “count all things loss” so that they might “gain Christ.” (Phil 3:7-8) When that same rich young ruler “went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Matt. 19:22), Jesus didn’t go running after him shouting, “Hey, wait a minute! Let’s talk this thing over, it isn’t as bad as it might sound. Maybe I was a little too harsh!”

Maybe we’re so eager to “see the converts,” to publish “how many got saved at our last concert” in the bulletins to our supporters, that we’ll do anything to rush someone into a “decision” before he’s had a chance to really make one. The problem is, if you have to rush him into it, he probably will change his mind later anyway. For as a friend of mine says, “If somebody can talk them into it, somebody can talk them out of it!” (I Cor. 1:17)

Salvation is Shown as a Barter or Trade, Instead of the Result of Obedience by Faith. We offer forgiveness of sin like Monty Hall [that would be Wayne Brady today] on “Let’s Make a Deal.” I’ve even heard, “You give Jesus your sin, and He’ll give you salvation in return!” No one in the Bible ever thought so low of the grace of God to talk about the gift of eternal life like it was for trade. It is a gift! You can’t earn it, or buy it, or give anything in return for it. How it must offend the Holy Spirit to hear people talk of His Jesus so. (Acts 8:18-23)

It Produces Selfish, “Blessed,” and Feelings-Oriented “Converts.” Anyone who is made to believe he becomes a Christian under such preaching will seldom bring forth the true fruits of a real convert. He will remain just as selfish as he always was, only now his selfishness will take on a religious form. If he wants something for himself, he will say he “has a burden” for something, or he will say, “It is the desire of my heart,” or some other religious-sounding phrase like that. He will pray selfishly, desiring blessings for himself, and even if he does pray for others, it usually will be for selfish reasons. After all, when he “accepted the Lord,” he was told how much Jesus wanted to bless him and how much God had stored up for his account, and how the Bible was like “a checkbook full of promises, just waiting to be cashed!”

Such a person always seeks to “feel” good about himself, his own church, his own pastor, etc. His whole world is built on feeling blessed. He was never shown how he was created to bless God… God was not created to bless him. (Psalm 149:4; Phil. 2:13)

As you can see, the “converts” described above are not like those pictured in the book of Acts, when the Church was new and the fire was hot. Take a look at Acts 2:41-47 and 4:31-35, and you will see the tender spirit of love, and the mighty spirit of power that prevailed among the brethren in those early days. I believe that one of the great reasons that “everyone kept feeling a sense of awe” (Acts 2:43), was because “they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to prayer. “(vs. 42) I believe that Peter and the others made every effort to convey the whole message of the Gospel when they preached and taught, and that is why the Spirit of God could anoint and bless the new converts so powerfully- God always anoints the truth! (Isaiah 55:11)

~Keith Green

December 1, 2011

A Strong Argument AGAINST Sola Scriptura

Hold your fire!

Please put down your weapons!

Don’t shoot!

Today Christianity 201 is going more Christianity 401.  I think today’s post will certainly stretch some of you, while for others, it may not be such a big stretch.  First of all here’s how Jim Greer at Not For Itching Ears introduced this article:

I just couldn’t resist reposting this article by Father John Whiteford, who happens to be an Eastern Orthodox priest.  If you are a Protestant like me, then you may have never even heard of the Orthodox church, I know I had not.  I am very grateful that I have discovered them.  The following is a very well thought out rejection of one of the cornerstones of the Protestant Reformation:  Scripture Alone.   Read it with an open mind and then share your thoughts with the rest of us.   I think he makes some good points.  It is a very long article, so I will break it up into 4 parts.  Here’s Part 1:

And here’s the article; there’s a link at the bottom to parts 2, 3 and 4.  (And if you think this is controversial, you don’t even want to know what Jim posted yesterday, November 30th.)  Again, remember, this is an Eastern Orthodox view, but the Orthodox church is part of the broader family of Christian believers.  (If you comment, mention if you are referring to just this part, or if you read the entire article.)

“If we are to understand what Protestants think, we will have to first know why they believe what they believe. In fact if we try to put ourselves in the place of those early reformers, such as Martin Luther, we must certainly have some appreciation for their reasons for championing the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura (or “Scripture alone”). When one considers the corruption in the Roman Church at that time, the degenerate teachings that it promoted, and the distorted understanding of tradition that it used to defend itself -along with the fact that the West was several centuries removed from any significant contact with their former Orthodox heritage — it is difficult to imagine within those limitations how one such as Luther might have responded with significantly better results. How could Luther have appealed to tradition to fight these abuses, when tradition (as all in the Roman West were lead to believe) was personified by the very papacy that was responsible for those abuses. To Luther, it was tradition that had erred, and if he were to reform the Church he would have to do so with the sure undergirding of the Scriptures. However, Luther never really sought to eliminate tradition altogether, and he never used the Scriptures truly “alone,” what he really attempted to do was to use Scripture to get rid of those parts of the Roman tradition that were corrupt. Unfortunately his rhetoric far outstripped his own practice, and more radical reformers took the idea of Sola Scriptura to its logical conclusions.

PROBLEMS WITH THE DOCTRINE OF SOLA SCRIPTURA

A. IT IS A DOCTRINE BASED UPON A NUMBER OF FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS

An assumption is something that we take for granted from the outset, usually quite unconsciously. As long as an assumption is a valid one, all is fine and well; but a false assumption inevitably leads to false conclusions. One would hope that even when one has made an unconscious assumption that when his conclusions are proven faulty he would then ask himself where his underlying error lay. Protestants who are willing to honestly assess the current state of the Protestant world, must ask themselves why, if Protestantism and its foundational teaching of Sola Scriptura are of God, has it resulted in over twenty-thousand differing groups that cant agree on basic aspects of what the Bible says, or what it even means to be a Christian? Why (if the Bible is sufficient apart from Holy Tradition) can a Baptist, a Jehovahs Witness, a Charismatic, and a Methodist all claim to believe what the Bible says and yet no two of them agree what it is that the Bible says? Obviously, here is a situation in which Protestants have found themselves that is wrong by any stretch or measure. Unfortunately, most Protestants are willing to blame this sad state of affairs on almost anything — anything except the root problem. The idea of Sola Scriptura is so foundational to Protestantism that to them it is tantamount to denying God to question it, but as our Lord said, “every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a bad tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Matthew 7:17). If we judge Sola Scriptura by its fruit then we are left with no other conclusion than that this tree needs to be “hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 7:19).

FALSE ASSUMPTION # 1: The Bible was intended to be the last word on faith, piety, and worship.

a). Does the Scripture teach that it is “all sufficient?”

The most obvious assumption that underlies the doctrine of “Scripture alone” is that the Bible has within it all that is needed for everything that concerns the Christians life — all that would be needed for true faith, practice, piety, and worship. The Scripture that is most usually cited to support this notion is:

…from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (II Timothy 3:15-17).

Those who would use this passage to advocate Sola Scriptura argue that this passage teaches the “all sufficiency” of Scripture — because, “If, indeed, the Holy Scriptures are able to make the pious man perfect… then, indeed to attain completeness and perfection, there is no need of tradition.”1 But what can really be said based on this passage?

For starters, we should ask what Paul is talking about when he speaks of the Scriptures that Timothy has known since he was a child. We can be sure that Paul is not referring to the New Testament, because the New Testament had not yet been written when Timothy was a child — in fact it was not nearly finished when Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy, much less collected together into the canon of the New Testament as we now know it. Obviously here, and in most references to “the Scriptures” that we find in the New Testament, Paul is speaking of the Old Testament; so if this passage is going to be used to set the limits on inspired authority, not only will Tradition be excluded but this passage itself and the entire New Testament.

In the second place, if Paul meant to exclude tradition as not also being profitable, then we should wonder why Paul uses non-biblical oral tradition in this very same chapter. The names Jannes and Jambres are not found in the Old Testament, yet in II Timothy 3:8 Paul refers to them as opposing Moses. Paul is drawing upon the oral tradition that the names of the two most prominent Egyptian Magicians in the Exodus account (Ch. 7-8) were “Jannes” and “Jambres.”2 And this is by no means the only time that a non-biblical source is used in the New Testament — the best known instance is in the Epistle of St. Jude, which quotes from the Book of Enoch (Jude 14,15 cf. Enoch 1:9).

When the Church officially canonized the books of Scripture, the primary purpose in establishing an authoritative list of books which were to be received as Sacred Scripture was to protect the Church from spurious books which claimed apostolic authorship but were in fact the work of heretics (e.g. the gospel of Thomas). Heretical groups could not base their teachings on Holy Tradition because their teachings originated from outside the Church, so the only way that they could claim any authoritative basis for their heresies was to twist the meaning of the Scriptures and to forge new books in the names of apostles or Old Testament saints. The Church defended itself against heretical teachings by appealing to the apostolic origins of Holy Tradition (proven by Apostolic Succession, i.e. the fact that the bishops and teachers of the Church can historically demonstrate their direct descendence from the Apostles), and by appealing to the universality of the Orthodox Faith (i.e. that the Orthodox faith is that same faith that Orthodox Christians have always accepted throughout its history and throughout the world). The Church defended itself against spurious and heretical books by establishing an authoritative list of sacred books that were received throughout the Church as being divinely inspired and of genuine Old Testament or apostolic origin.

By establishing the canonical list of Sacred Scripture the Church did not intend to imply that all of the Christian Faith and all information necessary for worship and good order in the Church was contained in them.3 One thing that is beyond serious dispute is that by the time the Church settled the Canon of Scripture it was in its faith and worship essentially indistinguishable from the Church of later periods — this is an historical certainty. As far as the structure of Church authority, it was Orthodox bishops together in various councils who settled the question of the Canon — and so it is to this day in the Orthodox Church when any question of doctrine or discipline has to be settled.

b). What was the purpose of the New Testament Writings?

In Protestant biblical studies it is taught (and I think correctly taught in this instance) that when you study the Bible, among many other considerations, you must consider the genre (or literary type) of literature that you are reading in a particular passage, because different genres have different uses. Another consideration is of course the subject and purpose of the book or passage you are dealing with. In the New Testament we have four broad categories of literary genres: gospel, historical narrative (Acts), epistle, and the apocalyptic/prophetic book, Revelation. Gospels were written to testify of Christs life, death, and resurrection. Biblical historical narratives recount the history of God’s people and also the lives of significant figures in that history, and show God’s providence in the midst of it all. Epistles were written primarily to answer specific problems that arose in various Churches; thus, things that were assumed and understood by all, and not considered problems were not generally touched upon in any detail. Doctrinal issues that were addressed were generally disputed or misunderstood doctrines,4 matters of worship were only dealt with when there were related problems (e.g. I Corinthians 11-14). Apocalyptic writings (such as Revelation) were written to show God’s ultimate triumph in history.

Let us first note that none of these literary types present in the New Testament have worship as a primary subject, or were meant to give details about how to worship in Church. In the Old Testament there are detailed (though by no means exhaustive) treatments of the worship of the people of Israel (e.g. Leviticus, Psalms) — in the New Testament there are only meager hints of the worship of the Early Christians. Why is this? Certainly not because they had no order in their services — liturgical historians have established the fact that the early Christians continued to worship in a manner firmly based upon the patterns of Jewish worship which it inherited from the Apostles. 5 However, even the few references in the New Testament that touch upon the worship of the early Church show that, far from being a wild group of free-spirited “Charismatics,” the Christians in the New Testament worshiped liturgically as did their fathers before them: they observed hours of prayer (Acts 3:1); they worshiped in the Temple (Acts 2:46, 3:1, 21:26); and they worshiped in Synagogues (Acts 18:4).

We need also to note that none of the types of literature present in the New Testament have as their purpose comprehensive doctrinal instruction — it does not contain a catechism or a systematic theology. If all that we need as Christians is the Bible by itself, why is there not some sort of a comprehensive doctrinal statement? Imagine how easily all the many controversies could have been settled if the Bible clearly answered every doctrinal question. But as convenient as it might otherwise have been, such things are not found among the books of the Bible.

Let no one misunderstand the point that is being made. None of this is meant to belittle the importance of the Holy Scriptures — God forbid! In the Orthodox Church the Scriptures are believed to be fully inspired, inerrant, and authoritative; but the fact is that the Bible does not contain within it teaching on every subject of importance to the Church. As already stated, the New Testament gives little detail about how to worship — but this is certainly no small matter. Furthermore, the same Church that handed down to us the Holy Scriptures, and preserved them, was the very same Church from which we have received our patterns of worship. If we mistrust this Churchs faithfulness in preserving Apostolic worship, then we must also mistrust her fidelity in preserving the Scriptures. 6

c). Is the Bible, in practice, really “all sufficient” for Protestants?

Protestants frequently claim they “just believe the Bible,” but a number of questions arise when one examines their actual use of the Bible. For instance, why do Protestants write so many books on doctrine and the Christian life in general, if indeed all that is necessary is the Bible? If the Bible by itself were sufficient for one to understand it, then why dont Protestants simply hand out Bibles? And if it is “all sufficient,” why does it not produce consistent results, i.e. why do Protestants not all believe the same? What is the purpose of the many Protestant study Bibles, if all that is needed is the Bible itself? Why do they hand out tracts and other material? Why do they even teach or preach at all —why not just read the Bible to people? The answer is though they usually will not admit it, Protestants instinctively know that the Bible cannot be understood alone. And in fact every Protestant sect has its own body of traditions, though again they generally will not call them what they are. It is not an accident that Jehovahs Witnesses all believe the same things, and Southern Baptists generally believe the same things, but Jehovahs Witnesses and Southern Baptists emphatically do not believe the same things. Jehovahs Witnesses and Southern Baptists do not each individually come up with their own ideas from an independent study of the Bible; rather, those in each group are all taught to believe in a certain way — from a common tradition. So then the question is not really whether we will just believe the Bible or whether we will also use tradition — the real question is which tradition will we use to interpret the Bible? Which tradition can be trusted, the Apostolic Tradition of the Orthodox Church, or the muddled, and modern, traditions of Protestantism that have no roots beyond the advent of the Protestant Reformation?”  

Read  Part 2 of this post.

Read Part 3 of this post.

Read Part 4 of this post.

November 16, 2011

Knowing The Principles Governing Physical Healing

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:40 pm
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I came across a most unusual blog today, New Genesis Resurrection Ministries.  In terms of looking for daily material here, I kept wanting to click away, but I was driven back several times to reconsider what was really being said.  Since most of my C201 readers have their discernment meters plugged in, I thought I would just toss this out there, and let you read and comment.  This piece was titled, And He Healed Them All, and is a subsection to a larger piece, Lies in the Face of Truth. (If you’ve got some time, you might prefer to click the link and read the whole piece, the graphics and images are rather interesting, too.)

Matthew 8:16 …They brought unto him many that were possessed with devils : and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:.

The records show Jesus healing everyone brought to him for healing; that’s what he asks us to do. We’re used to traveling in cars at 60 miles per hour. At the equator the earth rotates at 1040.4 miles per hour. If the force of gravity didn’t hold us down, everything including we would go careening off the earth into outer space. If you want to go off into outer space however, an “escape earth velocity” of 24, 000 miles per hour speed is required. With gravity in place you wont see people go careening off into space anytime soon unless by deliberate effort to do so which requires you to know the facts. The records state that Jesus healed all that came to him for healing; you do not see men doing that today because they neither know the requisite facts, nor have the will to meet those requirements.

You want to go into outer space, you have to know the rules; you want to do the works of Jesus you have to know them too. In play also is a spiritual force much like the natural force of gravity holding things down. The force of Spiritual wickedness in high places in the churches won’t even allow men to even consider this as a possibility with them. So virile is this force, it will not even allow men to even consider this possibility. In fact they become overcome with this irrational petulance and impatience with anyone who would dare suggest this. In point of fact this is impossible for men to do this, and that’s exactly why God so blithely commands that we do all that which Jesus did, and even greater works to show to the world his sons manifested in men by a line of new knowledge renewing their minds, and affecting this transformation. It is not in the interest of spiritual wickedness in high places to allow this, or even discuss this a possibility. Though it is only a theory, if you even question the “reality” of evolution today, you are considered the flaming village idiot; even though God says: nothing shall be impossible with you, if you consider the works of Jesus as possible with you, you suffer the same fate as a village idiot.


You just can’t go flying off the earth into outer space unless you plan to; you can’t do the works of Jesus to which we are called unless you plan to. The force of spiritual wickedness in high places at work against you doing such works is so virile, it will not even allow you to consider the possibility of doing Jesus’ works, never mind the greater works prescribed for us to do.


(Ezekiel 34:8-15) As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd , neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; 9 Therefore, O ye shepherds , hear the word of the LORD; 10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds ; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out . 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered ; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. 13 And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. 15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down , saith the Lord GOD.

Bold face lies cover minister’s dereliction to duty. Either you read it, or let someone tell you what they think Jesus said, but all said and done, you have to make the judgment call as to whether what you read or hear are lies in the face of the truth. To successfully do so you are not without adequate resources. The spirit of truth is promised by God to lead us into all truth. As you evaluate the information, some of these lies are so bold faced that little help is required to point them out. They were clumsily concocted to cover man’s remissive conduct, in the performance of his duties to carry on the ministry of reconciliation left to him by Jesus, in his absence. If the pattern of a building is in error, and you coming lately to the scene go to build on it, or add to it; though you may not be responsible for the error, when you contribute to it the consequence of the error that you now contribute to is something you wont be able to avoid.


In the book of Job God asks: can man benefit God or hurt God by rendering help, or directing violence to his fellow-man? The resounding answer returns as no! We can neither benefit or hurt God by aid or violence directed to our fellow-man. The whole point of rendering aid to our fellow-man, is that the power God which is what Christ is, be revealed in the delivery of such aid in a way that is beyond the scope of what is possible with man, yet at the hand of man. Done this way it points to the works of God in man making him manifestly the sons of God; it is upon this rock that Jesus said he would build his church; but it is no longer, so because the foundations have shifted to man without the evident power of God, within the range of man’s capabilities. The hidden mystery in performing the impossible works of the ministry of reconciliation was ordained for our glory before the foundation of the world, and to reveal the glory of God is what we have chosen to set aside to honor man instead.


Jesus could have visited and healed Lazarus, but he waited till he was dead, buried and was rotting before he came to raise him from the dead. This he did, so that men would see the glory of God’s power. He raised up Pharaoh and the empire of Egypt to show to the world his power in directing the affairs of nations. It is this same power that we seek to conceal when we insist on doing the ministry of reconciliation in the capacity of men, according to the measure of men, which are so many lies in the face of the truth. The many missing signs that should follow the preaching of the gospel bear witness of these many lies that still fly in the face of the truth; each of those missing sign represent a lie tin the face of the truth. It is true that God said we are gods because we are his children, and that truth cannot be altered, but that doesn’t stop us from flying in the face of the truth and deny what God himself says of us. It is for that reason that God says that the foundations of the earth are out of alignment. We may sing ‘the church has one foundation, it’s Jesus Christ our Lord’, but it is no longer on that foundation that we build; what Jesus does are impossible things, but what we do are things that not even men who profess faith can do.

There were other means to secure wine at the wedding, feed the multitude or so many other things that Jesus did, but if we really want the world to see the power of God, and see the glory of God, then we must consider obeying the truth, instead of spreading more lies in the face of the truth.

Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere.  An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives.  The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

September 16, 2011

Standing Up For Your Faith

I Kings 18:21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

Sometimes the process by which an item appears here is amazing, especially when you’re the one composing the daily study/devotional!  Derrick Boyd left a comment at T.O.L. this morning and included a link to his blog, Encouraging Thoughts For Life, where this item appeared a few weeks ago under the title Stand for What Is Right.

In this day and time it seems harder and harder to find people that are truly devoted to God. Now many people will jump on the bandwagon of saying that they believe in God, but there is nothing in their life to give supporting evidence.

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” James 2:26 “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

Some of the people you ask will say that it does not matter if you believe or not. It just matters that you are a good person. Some that we come in to contact with have a hatred for anything to do with God. It seems like they are always willing to pick a fight. Then, you have the many different religions in the world that all teach different things. So, which is right? Are we willing to stand up for what we believe against all odds? How strong is our faith in the fact that God is there and that He will do all that He has promised us? We need to be willing to stand alone on what we believe. No matter what people may say to us, do to us, or think of us.

A perfect example of this is Elijah of the old testament. In 1 Kings chapter 18 we see that Elijah was willing to stand alone on the promises of God against 450 other men who believed in Baal. He offered a test to prove who the real God was. Many of us have heard the story, and I encourage you all to go and read it again. Because the message is so clear. Elijah did not go to prove who he was, but who God was. He was willing to stand alone on what he believed. And God answered his prayer. Are we standing in the face of adversity?

Are we prepared to defend the Gospel, even if no one else is there to support us? Or do we tuck it in and wait for someone to go with us?

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

If we are truly His, we will witness. We will defend the Gospel. We will stand up for what is right, whether we are with others who share our belief, or we are alone.

~Derrick Boyd

September 11, 2011

A Day Set Aside to Remember

September 11, 2011

Seen enough of the TV specials? Tired of hearing of “9/11?” You should know there’s a good reason why we need those programs and magazine features and internet tributes:

People Tend to Forget

Jesus understood this. Scripture tells us that on the night he was betrayed he took bread and broke it and said, “This is my body, broken for you; this do in remembrance of me.”

But you already know that. Those words from I Cor. 11 are often the most-repeated words in most churches during the course of a church calendar year. “For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered unto you;” is somewhat how I think the KJV renders it. The section from verse 23 to approx. verse 30 forms what is called “The Words of Institution” for the communion service aka Lord’s Supper aka the Eucharist. Even if you attend a church where things are decidedly non-liturgical, these verses probably get read each time your church observes “the breaking of bread;” and even if your pastor leans toward the New Living Translation or The Message, it’s possible that he lapses into King James for this one.

Why did Jesus institute this New Covenant, Second Testament version of the Passover meal?

Because people tend to forget.

Want proof?

Let’s look at the section we almost never read when we gather around the communion table, Luke 22. In verse 19 and 20 he tells them to remember. He tells them his life is about to be poured out for them. What a solemn moment. A holy moment. But unfortunately, a very brief moment.

In verse 24, Luke makes it clear that he’s trying to capture an accurate picture of what happened that night. Even if it makes the disciples look bad. It’s the kind of stuff that you would never include in your report to Theophilus if you were merely trying to make Christianity look good. If you were writing propaganda.

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.

I don’t want to be disrespectful here, but Luke might as well have written, “At this point, one of the disciples looked out the window of the upper room and announced, ‘Guys, you gotta come here for a minute; there’s a girl out there that is totally hot.'”

I’m serious. It’s that much out of place with what’s just happened. Jesus is telling them — trying to tell them — all that he is about to suffer in order that a plan laid out from before the foundations of the world will be fulfilled. And they’re arguing about who is Disciple of the Month. How could they go from one extreme to the other so quickly? In a matter of seconds?

Easily. People tend to forget.

Whether it’s what happened in New York City, Washington, and that Pennsylvania field ten years ago; or whether it’s what happened in Roman occupied territory in the middle east two thousand years ago; we need to continually rehearse these stories in our hearts and pass them on to our children.

This is a day that is about remembering and like the upper room disciples, we can get so totally distracted. September 12th comes and everyone moves on to the next topic or news story. We must not let ourselves lose focus so easily. We must not forget.

Deuteronomy 4:9
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

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