Catholicism

CatholicI hope I don’t offend any of my Catholic friends, but I just read about some of their beliefs and it jut seems crazy. It seems like their view of Scripture has just kind of watered down things and confused them over the years. Here are some of the things they believe:

1. Authority comes from the Scriptures (which include some extra Apocryphal books), but tradition is also considered authoritative as well as the popes. The Popes are able to interpret the Scriptures however they’d like and the people are to obey – the difficult thing is that one pope may interpret things one way, and then a few years later, another pope can come and and say that he was wrong. To me it just doesn’t seem like that  represents the unchanging God very well.

2. Salvation can only come to those who are members of the Roman Catholic Church. According to Paul Enns, it is considered the “only ark of salvation and anyone who does not enter it  must sink in the flood.”
So salvation is – to believe in Jesus Christ and join their church? I guess Jesus’ death and resurrection wasn’t enough to save me? His grace isn’t enough according to them.

3. Mary – Jesus’ mother is worshipped by Catholics. She is considered to have “perpetual virginity” and to be “sinless.” (How did she have any other children and still be a “perpetual virgin?) According to Enns, they also believe that no one can come to Jesus unless he/she goes through the Mother. This is why they pray to her. Another interesting point is that they believe her body did not decompose when she died, but that she was resurrected with her same earthly body. I guess that she could keep that body in heaven since it was sinless.

4. Purgatory – When you die, you go to heaven, hell, or purgatory. Purgatory is like a jail for people who have sin which has not been paid for. (Since Jesus’ death wasn’t enough.) You can stay there for varying amounts of time depending on your degree of sinfulness. But the good news is that your living relatives can pray and do good works to shorten your stay. None of this is Scriptural by our standards, but by using their extra books, they find validation.

5. Communion – Catholics believe in a concept called “transubstantiation” in which the bread and wine actually become Jesus’ flesh and blood when the priest blesses them. Yuck!!! I don’t know about you, but I don’t wanna eat anybody’s flesh – even Jesus’. I also don’t think He asked us to do anything but remember His sacrifice symbolically. At the Lord’s supper, Jesus used bread and wine.

Well, these are just a few of the ideas from Catholic Theology. It’s sad to me that so many people could be led astray simply because the Scriptures have not been upheld. By putting man’s (popes) opinions in as high a position as the Scriptures, they have confused their theology. God’s word has been mixed with man’s opinion and it has hurt them tremendously whether they realize it or not.

How does this change my life? With this understanding, I find myself with a bit more compassion for my Catholic friends. I understand what to pray for a bit more now, and if given the opportunity, I know what kinds of questions to ask to lead them into conversations about faith.

(Info from “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns, pg 527-539)

Dispensationalism

Hourglass_2OK – So dispensationalism is the method of theology that I would subscribe to. Here are some the basics for this ideaology:

1. A consistently literal interpretation of the Scriptures.

2. A definite difference between Israel and the church. (Covenant theologians say that the church replaced Israel as God’s chosen people.)

3. The main theme of the Bible is God’s glory. (Covenant theologians say it’s salvation of man.) I don’t understand how anyone could really think the world revolves around man instead of it being about God. I mean, does the watchmaker make the watch for Himself or for the sake of the watch?

Here’s how it works:
From the beginning of history God has been showing off His glory. One way He has done that is by saving man. That salvation has always been by grace through faith, but it has looked a little different throughout the ages. Each of these eras is called a dispensation. This is the most popular way of dividing up the dispensations:

1. Innocence – Before Adam’s fall. (Gen 1:28-3:6)
2. Conscience – Roman’s 2:15 shows that God dealt with man through his conscience after the fall. Man was to respond in faith based upon the convictions of his conscience. (Gen 4:1-8:14)
3. Government – Noahic covenant comes in here. God dealt with man by a government which included animals’ fear of man and capital punishment. (Gen 8:15-11:9)
4. Promise – God dealt with man (the patriarchs) by making promises to them and expecting them to respond in faith (Gen 11:10 – Ex 18:27)
5. Mosaic Law – God dealt with man by instituting the sacrificial system in which man was to respond in faith to God through the sacrifice. (Ex 19:1 – Acts 1:26)
6. Grace – This current dispensation is sometimes called the “church age.” God has dealt with man through a special grace offered to him through Jesus Christ. Man expresses faith by responding appropriately to the substitutionary death of Christ. (Acts 2:1 – Rev 19:21)
7. Millennium – God will deal more directly with man during the Millennial reign of Christ on the earth. (Rev 20:4-6)

Notice that man is asked to express faith in each dispensation. (It just may be a different way of expressing it from one dispensation to the next.) Salvation is always by grace through faith.

Just because a dispensation is over, does not mean that everything has changed. Some requirements found in an older dispensation may still be in effect – others may be abandoned or modified.

It’s also interesting to note that history of the dispensations is pretty cyclical. First, God sets up a dispensation and tests man’s obedience to it. Second, man fails. Third, God judges man, and eventually He arranges for a new plan/dispensation. The picture is one of stewardship. God (in His authority) gives man a duty which he is responsible for carrying it out. When and if he fails, the Master has the right to judge man and hold him accountable for his actions.

Anyway, there you have it – Dispensationalism all rolled up into one page.

My life will be lived differently in regards to how I relate to Israel. I can maintain a genuine respect and love for them as God’s chosen people. I will continue to share the gospel with them, but knowing that God has a plan for them beyond this dispensation helps me to be more appreciative of their stance in holding on to the promises of God.

Freewill or Predestination?

FootprintsThis one is a really a tough argument because both sides can be argued with integrity from the Scriptures. My best guess is that this particular issue is much like Brian McLaren describes in “A New Kind of Christian.” (I don’t agree with him all the time, but I like this illustration.) In his book, one of the characters was describing how men pick differing points on a line to argue their stances/viewpoints. He then wondered if God was not on the line at all, but hovering somewhere over the line in another dimension. I think that must be the way it is with this particular argument. The truth (God) is not on our line of predestination or freewill at all, but hovering somewhere over our imaginations – beyond our understanding. As the Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Here are the differences:
Calvinism/Predestination/Sovereignty
1. Total Depravity – Before they are saved, men are completely dead in their sins and unable to even come to God without His intervention.
2. Unconditional Election – God chooses who he will save.
3. Limited Atonement – Jesus died to save the elect.
4. Irresistible Grace – God gives a special saving grace to the elect that they will not be able to reject.
5. Preservation of the Saints – Once saved, always saved.

Arminian/Freewill
1. Depraved – Before they are saved, men are depraved in every area of their lives, but still able to choose good/God.
2. Conditional Election – God chooses who He will save based upon his foreknowledge of their choices.
3. Unlimited Atonement – Jesus died to save everyone/the world.
4. Resistible Grace – God offers a special saving grace to all men, but he can resist.
5. No preservation – Man can lose his salvation.

I would consider myself a 4 point Moderate Calvinist: Here what I mean:
I agree with points 1, 2, 4, and 5 of Calvinism, but completely disagree with 3 (Limited atonement) and number 1 needs an explanation. Let me explain each one for me:

1. Total Depravity – If one is completely dead, he cannot even choose God. This would mean that the work of salvation is completely God’s work. This is called “monergism.” Scripture seems clear that it is a complete work of God, but it’s also pretty clear that man’s decision matters somehow. This view is called a “synergism” of God’s work with man’s decision. This is the difference in a Dutch Calvinist (hardcore) and a Moderate/Princeton Calvinist who believes that man does still have some responsibility in it all. The moderate would say that “God woos men” to Himself, but that man still chooses. Here’s the summary of the depravity issue:

Arminian – Man chooses God.
Moderate Calvinist – God woos man.
Dutch Calvinist – God rapes man. (God chooses man in spite of his decision or opinion.)

I’m a moderate.

2. Unconditional Election – It is completely God’s choice who he will save. There are no conditions or works that man must accomplish.

3. Unlimited Atonement – This is where I completely disagree with the Calvinist view. This is also the most popular point in which people disagree. Scripture seems clear that Jesus died for everyone.

4. Irresistible Grace – This is not to say that God doesn’t give grace to everyone – He clearly does – Rain falls on the crops of the saved and the unsaved. All are given breath, and life, etc. This is speaking only of the saving grace which God chooses to give to the elect. They may reject it for a while, but since God’s plan can not be frustrated, he will eventually respond properly to His offer. If God could be resisted, then he must not be sovereign, because he couldn’t accomplish His own plan.

5. Preservation of the Saints – This is the once saved, always saved idea. You cannot lose your salvation, because that would mean that salvation was not God’s work. Your works/lifestyle can not make you lose your salvation, because they had nothing to do with it in the first place. You were saved because God chose to save you, and He doesn’t change his mind. He knew what He was doing when He chose to save you.

There you go. I’m sure there are all kinds of flaws in my logic and understanding ’cause I just don’t have a really good grasp on it all, but this is just where I find myself at this point in my life.

How is my life different because of this concept? I’m not sure. It certainly affects my view of Christianity and also of the world, but in trying to live out my faith, it doesn’t change much on a daily basis. My wife and I disagree on this issue and have chosen not to speak of it, because it just causes division between us. I hope that sometime we can really work to come to a solution, but the truth is that it really doesn’t come up very often, and it hasn’t affected our relationship too much. I do believe it’s gonna be an issue as we raise Kasen. (He’s due Oct 30th). By the time he starts asking those kinds of question, it’s my prayer that we can have a united common view regarding this issue.

(Info from “Man’s Destiny:Free or Forced” by Norman Geisler, also from “The Potter’s Freedom” by James White, Also from “Arminianism or Calvinism” by Steele and Thomas)

Created in the Image of God

PraiseAll Christians proudly affirm the statement that we are created in the image of God, but what does it mean? What kind of impact does our understanding of this concept have on the way we live? or on our theology?

It’s from Genesis 1:26 – “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

There are about 5 major lines of thinking about what it means to be created in the image of God:

1. Content – We reflect God’s image in our personalities, intellect, emotions, ability to make judgments, etc.

2. Dominion – We reflect God’s image by the simple fact that we have been given dominion over the earth. The idea of stewardship is big with this one – because we are to take care of that which is His. (Notice the “dominion” context within the verse.)

3. Community – We reflect God’s image because we are social beings. This one focuses on the “our” part of the verse. Let “us” make man in “our” image. Since God is a communal God – three in one – a relational God – we are in His image as we relate to one another.

4. Representation – Now this one is a bit different and you’ve gotta understand something about the Bible. In the original language (Hebrew), the word translated “in” is the same preposition which can be also translated “as.” Usually the context of the passage makes it clear which is the proper translation. In this case however, it works both ways. The interpretation could just as well be “Let us make man as our image. . .” So anyway, the idea is that we are supposed to represent God to the world. We are literally the image of God as we reflect what He is like to everyone around us.

5. Holism – This one is a combination of all of the ideas presented here. Representation is the foundational idea and Content, Dominion, and Community are the ways that we represent Him.

Pretty cool stuff huh? I guess I’d be a Holist if I were asked to pick a position.

How will this change my life? Well, first of all I plan on making a video (link below) similar to the Nooma videos for the youth in my church covering this topic. I think it’s a cool way to teach these verses and also relate it to the issue of self-esteem which so many of them are struggling with. I’ll probably post it on here on my website once I get it finished. I also think this understanding will be an encouragement to “represent” Christ more fully.

Here’s the link to the video I put together to explain this idea: Image

Annihilationism

FireThis is the idea that those who die without Christ, will not suffer an eternity in hell, but instead they will be “burned up” and “destroyed” sometime after death. It’s kind of a more humane concept than an eternal torment. Those who ascribe to this view, say things like,”How can a loving God torture someone forever/infinitely when their sin was only temporary/finite?”

Here’s my answer:
God is infinitely holy, and therefore any sin we have (big or small) is infinitely punishable. That’s why He sent Jesus – He is the only infinite payment. He is the only one who could endure an infinite punishment. This is also why His gift is so amazing.

The annihilationists also like to use the image which Jesus Himself used of fire (Matthew 3:10, 12) or Gehenna (Matthew 5:22). This was the dump of Jesus day and there was a constant fire burning up the waste of Jerusalem. They argue that the waste was consumed and destroyed by this fire, but is that really true?

I’d say, “No, it was changed into ash and smoke, but still not completely gone.” The matter still exists – it has only been changed. Also, how do they answer the rest of scripture? What about Mark 9:48 and the “fire that is not quenched” or Revelation 20:10 which says, “They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” What about all the “weeping and gnashing teeth” verses (Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51) where there clearly is a conscious torment? or Daniel 12:2 which speaks of “everlasting shame and contempt.”

It seems clear to me that the whole of Scripture affirms the orthodox/normal view that there is a conscious eternal hell rather than this annihilationist view. Therefore, I will live as a man who has a healthy fear of an eternal hell and I will seek to save the lost from it. In light of this argument, I also recognize that seeking the whole counsel of the Word of God is vital in gaining a proper understanding of God and His ways. I’m amazed at how different verses can be used to support the craziest of ideas.

Universalism

Heaven OK – for those of you who don’t know, let me first explain what universalism is. Basically, it’s the idea that everyone will be saved. There are quite a few really smart people who adhere to this position, and it’s gaining popularity in the world today because everyone simply “likes” the idea. I “like” the idea of  the Bluebell (ice cream) weight loss program too – that doesn’t make it true. As a matter of fact, if I were to live my life by this idea, it would be pretty harmful. (I’d be even fatter.) Universalism is similar.

The universalists use Scriptures like:
John 3:16 – “God so loved the world . . .”
and  Romans 5:18 – “. . .one act of righteousness that brings life for all men.”

But they like to skip over the verses like:
John 10:11,15 – “The good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” It doesn’t say “everyone.”
and 2 Thes 1:9 – “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.” If universalism was true, who is this verse talking about?

Anyway, here’s the bottom line for me. If universalism is true, then Jesus death and resurrection was pointless. Why would He have chosen that kind of suffering, if people could be saved any other way? And what kind of Father would allow His Son to endure the cross, for no reason at all? I wouldn’t want to worship the  kind of God that universalism requires.

It’s important to live our lives worshiping the God of the Bible. He clearly loves all people enough to have sent His Son to provide a way for us to be saved, but if we reject Him, He is a gentleman God who allows our rejection. I once heard someone (Scott Crenshaw) say, “Sin is our way of saying to God, ‘I don’t need you.’ and hell is His way of saying,’OK, have it your way.'” If we choose universalism, we also render Jesus’ command to “Go and make disciples. . .” pointless. Therefore, I will live my life telling others about Jesus so that they can come to know Him, follow Him, and be saved.

Prophecy

Prophet The arguments surrounding this particular concept revolve around whether or not there are prophets in the world today or not. It seems to me that the answer to this question is pretty well decided by how you define prophecy. If you look at the bible, you can see a few things: 1.) A prophet spoke in the name of God, 2.) Signs and miracles often authenticated his message, 3.) His message harmonized with Scripture, 4.) He spoke only by revelation from God, and 5.) He had 100% fulfillment of his prophecies. This last one holds the key to my own personal convictions regarding this subject. Let me explain the differing opinions and then we’ll get back to my opinions.

Some say that prophecy still exists today, but that it just doesn’t look the same way it did back then. Their idea is that prophecy happens when God speaks to someone and gives them an instantaneous thought. If that person speaks this thought then he has become a prophet who speaks for God. This happens quite often in charismatic churches today, but I personally don’t see this in the same way. If you define a prophet the way the bible seems to, then this idea falls short. Does this person represent God and speak in His name? Maybe temporarily, but certainly not like the prophets of the bible. Does he enjoy 100% accuracy of the things he says? probably not. Does his message harmonize with Scripture? I guess that depends on what he says, but I’ve witnessed men giving me a “word” that certainly didn’t. Does this man have signs and miracles to authenticate his message? It’s doubtful, but I guess possible. Anyway, in theory, I can’t deny that this view is certainly debatable, but my own personal view follows this next theory.

Another idea is that of the cessationist. He believes that prophecy ceased with the closing of the canon of Scripture. Certainly no one who holds to the authority of Scripture could say that prophecy disappeared before that since the writers of the New Testament, were clearly able to speak for God. They lived up to every requirement which we previously listed and could be considered prophets by the biblical standards.  Now, let’s be clear, I don’t believe that prophecy is completely gone. I believe that the office of prophet as it was in the bible is gone, but that the Holy Spirit can certainly give the believer special even prophetic insight into certain situations as He sees fit to do. It could be argued that when this happens one could be considered a prophet, but I personally think we should give the glory and credit to the Holy Spirit in these situations rather than giving a title to a man. He may function temporarily as a prophet, but still doesn’t live up to the Biblical standards for who a prophet is.

To be honest, I’m not completely sold on the cessationist’s view. I could probably read some more and be convinced otherwise. I want to remain a man who is teachable and it’s difficult for me to say that anything has ceased to exist. It scares me to think that I have somehow put God in a box which says that He can’t work in certain ways, because I believe He can do whatever He wants to. At this point in my life, I’d have to lean more heavily toward the cessationist view, but if God wants to raise up a prophet like the ones we read about in the Bible, I certainly believe He could do it.

How will I change my life as a result of this concept? I’m not sure.I will probably be much more critical or cautious about people who bring a “word” to me. I will try to weigh their words against Scripture and be discerning about who they are in regards to whether they are living up to the Biblical standards. I will seek God and ask the Holy Spirit more questions about their message before taking it too seriously. I guess I must also say that for me, God usually shows me things multiple times and multiple ways, so if their message is similar to other things God has been showing me, I might be more apt to just receive it. I will try to be intentional about discernment now that I have this understanding of prophecy though. I think the key in discernment has to do with Scripture. It’s interesting to note that the articles we read with differing opinions all agreed on one thing – that the authority of Scripture should be place higher than that of modern prophecy.

OK – In class, our professor described a couple of other views regarding prophecy. The Pneumatic view is like me – they are basically cessationists who say that in this dispensation, God generally operates as the cessationists describe, but that in special circumstances He might do something different. I’m not real sure how this is any different than the cessationists view – maybe just a bit more liberal in saying that God might do something different. There is also a new idea being put forward by Wayne Grudem called “Cautious Charismaticism” in which he tries to divide right down the middle. Grudem clearly thinks theres something of value in the charismatic practices, but he is also disgusted by their misuse and lack of Scriptural integrity. He encourages a cautious practice of prophecy and the other sign gifts.

New Series of Posts

Alright – so for my next class at school (Theology 3331) I’m supposed to make 20 journal entries covering 20 different theological concepts. I’m also supposed to answer the question “How will I change my life in view of this concept?” (I’m not sure I’m gonna be able to do that part on some of these questions ’cause I don’t believe in some of them. (You’ll understand what I mean later when you see the topics.) I’m guessing that’s what my next 20 posts will be. It amazes me how often this school stuff (which I really love) gets in the way of other things I enjoy. I really don’t read much anymore just for fun ’cause I have to read so much for class and now I’m not even gonna be blogging too much for fun. Oh well, I’ll be done with this class in 5 weeks, so there’s still time.

Breaking The Law

During class tonight, one of the guys sitting at our table (Beto) said something that I thought was pretty insightful. We were discussing our outlines of the book of James and he said something like this:

Heart
“Do we break the law, or does it break us? It’s the standard of the law that breaks us.”

The truth is that for me most of the time it’s me breaking the law. Sometimes I don’t ever even know I did it. But sometimes, the Holy Spirit reveals it to me that I’ve done it, and then I have a choice to either let the law break me or to rebel and refuse to repent. I wonder how many times I’ve been so hardened that I’ve ignored the Spirit. I wonder how many times He knew I wasn’t even ready to admit my sin and decided not to even reveal it to me?

Prayer:
God, I wanna be the kind of guy who is broken by the law. I know it’s not a fun place to be, but I wanna chase after You and that means being broken to my own selfish desires. It means that I wanna have a soft heart which is sensitive to your subtle nudges and prods. Push me God. Let me be broken by your law, and restored by your grace. Renewed and rebuilt into the man you’ve called me to be. I believe You are working on me and trust You to do it – I’m even excited to see how it’s all gonna turn out! Thank You! AMEN!

Pregnancy and Poetry

Arttorijoy I just thought I’d write about the strangest Bible class I’ve been to so far. It really wasn’t strange because of Dr. Loken, but because of me. About 10 minutes before I entered my class on the Psalms the other night, Miranda called me and said that she was pregnant. WooHoo!!! I’m gonna be a dad! Amazing!!!! I’m gonna be a dad! God is blessing me with a child of my own!!! I will have the opportunity to understand more fully the love that God has for me as I love my child unconditionally. I will learn how it must feel for Him to take care of my needs and I’ll get to learn how to love someone else more like the way He loves each of us. There’s no question – I’m clueless as to how this is gonna impact my life. I know it’s gonna be an amazing blessing, but I also know there are some tough roads to walk ahead of me. Lord, help me.

Anyway, all these thoughts are just racing through my mind as I try to concentrate on how the book of Psalms was put together, how there are 5 main sections, and how some are considered laments, and others are joyous, and others are for specific occasions like when kings were enthroned, and how this one was blah, and this one has a subscript that explains its blah, blah, and it wasn’t long before my mind was hearing blah, blah, "you’re gonna be a father," and blah, blah, blah, and "that’s a huge responsibility", and blah, blah. . . . . . . . . .Oh finally, a break – I’ll go call my mom!!!!

With a little grin on my face. . . ."Hey mom – yep – she’s officially pregnant!" I think her word that night was "Ecstatic!!!" Anyway, she says, "be sure to call your sister." (I found out later, that she had an ulterior motive – she was making sure that I’d be talking to Brenda next, so that she could call and tell my brother.) Anyway, I call my sister, Brenda, and tell her the good news and she’s all excited that she’s gonna be an aunt again. She also tells me that she and Schonn are getting ready to buy a new house. (Gosh, God is good – He’s blessing all of us in so many ways.)  Next I call my brother, Roger, and it takes him a while to answer, but when he does, he says, "Congratulations!!!" That’s when I figured out what mom had done. Roger said, she called and said she just had to tell someone. I’m gonna have to give her a hard time about that one later.

OK – break’s over – Psalms, blah, blah, You’re gonna be a dad, acrostic psalm 119, blah, you were just a crazy sinner, and now you’re gonna be a dad, congratulations, blah, blah, read your favorite psalm to the class,  hmm. . . . favorite psalm? which one is about being a Father? maybe 103? I dunno. . . .

I’m not sure what else we really talked about in class, but I do have good notes that I can look back over. Hopefully it’ll all come back to me when I need to know it.

I looked around at some of the Psalms to find a favorite and Ps 103 captures what I was feeling that night the best, but I also found a poem on-line that pretty well says what I’m feeling about being a Father. I changed almost all of it to fit my circumstances better, but a few of the lines are certainly not mine. Maybe we can call it my "modern Psalm" or something.


COME OUT AND PLAY

My heart seems to beat a little faster these days.

Maybe it’s the thought of my life changing in so many ways.

I’ve heard so many tales of sleepless nights,

And tests of patience taken to new heights.

Yet my excitement grows as we count down each week,

For I know soon we will finally meet.

I have a little fear, I must admit,

The whole fatherhood thing, will I be good at it?

I’ve always been told that I’m a big kid,

But Dad was the same, and I hope to be like him.

Should I imagine playing with footballs and spaceships?

or maybe Barbies, dancing, and painting lips?

I’ll introduce you to family, cousins, and dogs.

Our fridge will be home to the things that you draw.

I’ll raise you in church and pray His Word be Your sword.

Will the way that we live introduce you to the Lord?

I’ll take you to the zoo, and the mountains, and the beach.

What’s your favorite toy? and for what dreams will you reach?

Can I watch on as mom leads you in prayer?

What will it be like to brush your hair?

Will you run to our bed when you have a nightmare?

Will you be tall? Do you like cheese? What will you like to wear?

Can I slay the monster under your bed?

What other things will run around in your head?

How will I explain the birds and the bees?

Oh, I must have a million of these,

Answers to questions, questions to ponder,

Things to see, places to wander.

Together, we’ll be the ultimate team,

Limited only by what we can dream.

So as the weeks are counted down, I anxiously await,

That Oh – so – wonderful date.

When the waiting’s over and we will all smile,

as I hold you in my arms, My beautiful child.