Sunday, March 30, 2008
It is difficult for me to fathom.
But as I read the opening pages on Amazon of Francis Schaeffer's "True Spirituality" he explains it perfectly. The idea of being Born Again and being saved is the beginning of our journeys. We have then crossed over from death to life. And that is where we start, as Christians. There is no line we can trip back over. It's the idea of gaining citizenship to a country. It's the essential of my most opposed doctrine of 'once saved, always saved' ... maybe I will have to rethink that one.
I know in my own life that I will never be perfect, I am SUCH a Sinner, with a capital S. There is so much that I do which is awful, and many times I will commit horrendous sins only to pick up a Christian book or respond to someone's email with bible verses 10 minutes later. It reminds me of a story Frank Schaeffer, the son of Francis Schaeffer tells of his father who argued violently with his wife. He said one day Francis was screaming at his wife and picked up a potted plant and threw it across the room at her and just missed. Then he took a deep breath, walked down the stairs, and gave a gospel message to the students at L'Abri. It makes me realize that the typical Theological timeline does not work: Sin > Grace > Faith > Salvation/Justification > Good Works/ Sanctification > Perfection and Glorification. Maybe it's more like this:
Sin > God's Grace > Human Faith > Salvation/Justification > life long struggle between the Holy Spirit and 'old self'/human nature & God's grace > Theosis/Glorification.
So we are left once again with this strange dicotemy in what I like to call Protestant Realism - where oneself is constantly at war between the old and new selves. As opposed to Catholic/Methodist Idealism - where after conversion it is just an uphill walk to perfection. We are left with the fact that all of our sins are atoned for if we are born again. Every sin I will commit in the future is atoned for, covered by Christ's blood, a complete gift of Grace. But on the other hand we have the very real presence of sin, and God's holiness and hatred towards it. So we are constantly screwing up our relationship with God, and blocking his work in us with sin. And I don't want to take sin too lightly, as Dr. Schaeffer says: "I have come to the conclusion that none of us in our generation feels as guilty about sin as we should or as our forefathers did." This is very true. But at the same time we have this weird idea in 20th/21st Century Christendom, that time=atonement. That if we sin on wednesday, by saturday God has forgotten - because he's pretty busy after all - and that because it's been a while he's over it. This idea we get I think because of the way we anthropomorphize (make human) God. This is how humans work, they move on and forgive eventually. We even have the phrase 'time heals all'. But this doesn't seem to be true with God. But instead of this leading us to despair, maybe it would lead us to hope, because we once again realize the triumph of Easter, the fact that past, present, and future the sins of humanity -or the elect for the Reformed - were borne by Christ and he conquered them all. So while we are ashamed at our mess, it's purpose is not inherently guilt or self-loathing but rather that it works as a magnifying glass to Jesus, and we see more and more each time we repent, how great his sacrifice was.
Friday, March 28, 2008
"He who has encountered the mystery of life has reached the source of wisdom. In encountering it with awe and longing, he experiences the infinite distance of his being from that which is the ground of his being. He experiences the limits of his being, his finitude in face of the infinite. He learns that acceptance of one's limits is the decisive step towards wisdom. The fool rebels against the limits set by his finitude. He wants to be unlimited in power and knowledge. He who is wise accepts his finitude. He knows that he is not God."
Right now I'm sure Jared and Augustine are getting pretty pissed off. Remember though that it was the Good Samaritan - a socially and religiously different character (they had a different torah - samaritan pentatuech, and disagreed with the Jews on where God told them to sacrifice and worship). I guess you could make the Augustinian argument that anytime someone does good who is not a Christian it is still by God's grace, but I don't see the world as that corrupted. St. Jerome said "God has bestowed us with free will. We are not necessarily drawn either to virtue or vice". It seems to me that this leaves the possibility that non-Christians can be good. Clement of Alexandria said "We…have believed and are saved by voluntary choice" as well as "Each one of us who sins with his own free will, chooses punishment. So the blame lies with him who chooses. God is without blame.".
This seems like a viable option of a free will ... just ignore modern psychology and you're good. Also it seems that once again Church 'tradition' is in utter contradiction with itself. I'd like to see how the Catholics use theological gymnastics to get out of this, when it is clear doctrinally both in their church and in Reformed and Lutheran circles that every good deed comes from God's grace, and that man in no way is responsible for saving himself.
So once again the philosophical ramifications make no sense. On the one hand Augustine claiming God is good, he has a complete plan, and all who are saved, are saved because of his good plan. And then Pelagius who says everyone can choose good if they want.
And then we have reality which says that horrible things happen to good people, natural disasters kill infants, the world is not a fair place by any Aristotelian definition. But at the same time we seem to have free will, and yet the whole genealogy of Christ shows us that history is somehow linear and has a meaning... hmm I think I'll just go with Kierkegaard, Pascal, and Isaiah in saying that God is beyond our comprehension.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
The idea is not that God has blocked the way for people to access him, but rather, all people are in their natural state blocked by their desires to turn to God. My horrible example to explain is this: I am right now able to sell everything I own to go help save the rainforest, but the truth is, I will never do this, to be honest I don't really care about the rainforest and so why would I do something completely against my own thoughts and instincts. It's kind of like that. So as of now I will have to stop baselessly attacking Calvinism and other systems I barely understand. I am still deciding whether I agree with it, but it certainly makes more sense.
And Jared clinched it by quoting St. Augustine, and when you really want to own someone in theology you go to those, because no one can fight with the Fathers. Though I still hold that most reformed thinkers reject many ideas of Augustine, like the inspiration of the Deutero-canon/Apocrypha, but that's another topic.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
"I admit that many different views about free choice have been handed down from the ancients about which I have, as yet, no fixed conviction, except that I think there to be a certain power of free choice"
Calvinist friends keep telling me that they believe in free will, but I have to be honest and risk offending them, that no statement of Edwards or Calvin, have I ever read that it in any way affirms what I would begin to call 'free will'. This is possibly (if not probably) because I have read so little of them. But to me the very idea of Total Depravity illiminates what I would call 'free will'.
Nietzsche calls Free Will the Fourth and final great error of man, and said (rightly so) that the whole of Christianity rests on this idea. He of course concludes that it is a lie made to impute guilt upon the whole world - but I don't quite agree with him there.
I feel that unless free will exists there can be no Christianity - as I have been traditionally taught it. There is either a kind of Fatalistic malevalent God playing "duck, duck, damn" with humanity as Mark Driscoll so eloquently put it. I think that it is strange that so many protestants hold to free will when I believe that almost every single 1st generation of protestants nearly rejected this idea (again someone will get offended and write me a response about how Calvin really did believe in it, but right now I am going on what I know - which I admit is limited).
Roman Catholic & Wesleyan Theology makes sense to me in that Free Will plays such an integral role. If you do not abide with God, he does not abide with you. As St. James said in Chapter 4, verse 8, "draw near to God and he will draw near to you" (ESV). This idea for the most part makes sense when explained to an unbeliever. You willfully sinned and as such need Jesus.
What is a much harder sell is the Monergistic opening premises of 'a long time ago in a galaxy far far away existed adam and eve, who had free will, and they chose wrong, and that was the last day anyone ever had free will." Of course I'm not trying to say that because Original Sin is a hard sell, it's not true. That would be ridiculous. I'm simply saying that while I affirm Original sin, I don't think it is the first thing we should talk about really, and I don't think it entirely negates free will. To me original sin is more like growing up with a crappy family, or living in a bad neighbourhood. It influences you poorly, but you can still choose to rise against it. This sounds like alot of Liberal Theology and modernism at work, so I'll move on.
Another theory I thought was interesting was a more Eastern Orthodox approach. St. Gregory of Nyssa describes Christ's death and redemption as redeeming human freewill, and that it has now freed us to be able to choose him. Again Augustine is probably ripping his hair out to this. But it makes sense in that as the Christian life is described in the 'catholic' epistles, we are brought into God's family and then as 1st John says we stop sinning, or at least progress significantly as we choose to follow him. And just for the sake of clarification, I believe Christian perfection is either a heresy or a pipe dream.
I think it would be easier for theology's sake to claim everyone has free will, because then everyone stands guilty before God in a way which would satisfy most intelligent philosophers (all ten of them). However the way I have been taught my whole life in my Particular Baptist home, clashes with these Mennonite sympathies which I was also raised with. I have always been taught that life is best described by St. Paul in Romans 6 where each man is either a slave to sin, or a slave to righteousness... call me a Free Methodist or a Wilberforce, but I don't like slavery. I like Rousseau's 'Man is born free but everywhere is in chains' - it helps me sleep at night, even though in my heart of hearts I hold the convictions of Hobbes and Luther which say just the opposite. I am a man utterly torn in two. We have free will, it is our responsibility for most of the problems and the reason this world is a terrible place is because of people like me. But am I so awful that I am depraved beyond hope... I don't think so, and I don't think teaching anyone that will help anything. So I have these convictions that I am free, but that I am also corrupted, but not utterly depraved. Calvin once said "we do not affirm that man cannot even do right, but not even think it" - I disagree with that statement, because if it's 'true' then my mind won't want to believe it, and if it's true, Calvin couldn't have formulated it because he can't think right. It is self-refuting, as so many appealing philosophies are. I definately think we can think right, in that we know what is right, but that we also can sin in our minds, but I don't think it is as sharp as Calvin says. I think there is a certain line between what the natural inclinations of man are and what is sin. I don't think it's wrong to think about sex, as men to it some 300 times a day, but to willfully 'try' to lust, I think is sin. But again the line is blurry, only God knows.
It is a nightmarish debate, constantly back and forth, so influenced by personal experience that it is hard to grasp. All I know is that I believe in free will, and that if everything is predestined, today I was predestined to believe in it.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
In the midst of all my searching for a denomination God has taught me so much, especially the end of John 15:5 "apart from me you can do nothing" ... I memorized that verse at bible school - I actually wrote a song to remember it, I always 'believed' it, but now I really know that I cannot do Anything without him. I have come to the realization that I am helplessly lost, and nothing I can do - save cling to Christ - will save me. The first part was always strange and abstract to me. How do I abide in Jesus? There is no way for me to describe it, perhaps that is why I didn't understand it until tonight. I always thought that it meant reading your bible and doing good stuff, but really it is alot closer related in my mind to Edwards' description at the end of Sinner's in the Hands of an Angry God, when he calls us to fall before God and cling to him. It is the overwhelming sense in my soul that only in as much as I am In Christ am I elected (at least that's what my Capernwray notes say - Mr. Stamford was an arminian).
A couple of months ago my friend Mark died in our basement from a heart attack, he was 40 something but he had such a passion for God. He believed in me so much and I remember having the most wonderful conversations with him about missions and being a preacher. He had a smile and personality that reminded me of Jesus. At his funeral we sang this song which reminded me of the verse I read, and it was there that I heard it for the first time. One of my bitternesses towards growing up in a willow-creek style / seeker-sensitive church is that I missed hymns like these. But perhaps it is a blessing, and maybe God is using it to teach me something from them, now that I'm old enough to understand. The hymn was called "Abide with Me"
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
-by Henry F. Lyte 1847
Henry F. Lyte was an Anglican Priest who contracted tuberculosis and as his health failed, after his last time preaching, he penned this hymn, not three weeks before he died. It is the official hymn of England... So I guess I have been living in a cave so to speak, because I had never heard it before.
I was listening to it tonight as I was realizing all of this, and after I had read John 13-15 in my Grandpa's King James Bible with all his notes written in it. The first verse I read was:
"having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." John 13:1 KJV
To me that reminded me so much of the hymn and the final lines. My silent prayer this week through all my struggles will be "O Lord Abide with Me"
Saturday, March 22, 2008
"Yet before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad - in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls...Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" What then shall we say? is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion" It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy." - Romans 9:11-16
I have yet to find - as Rob Whittaker says - some tricky expositional gymnastics and greek interpretations that get me out of the bluntness of that message. Even worse than that passage is what Paul says next:
"What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with a great patience the objects of his wrath - prepared for destruction?" What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of mercy" -Romans 9:22-23
... I sit staring at my bible not knowing how to respond. Phillip Yancey's 'helpful' side notes in my Student Bible mention nothing of Calvinism. No explanation at all. Just a small joke about rabbis asking questions.
That's the best you can do Yancey? ... St. Paul just said God made certain people to pour out his wrath upon for his own grand scheme of self-glorification, and all you can say is 'Rabbi's ask alot of questions' ... (hatred for evangelicalism boiling in soul....count to ten....)
I was watching this movie on Jacob on TV called "In the Beginning" -Jacob being the bible character, previously mentioned above as being loved by God - lucky him. Anyways, as I watched the clips of him and was wondering about why God loved him. He didn't do anything good. He was a bastard just like me. But for some strange reason, God revealed himself to Jacob, and for an even crazier reason he decided to hate Esau. ... did Esau ever pray? did he know God hated him? ... I wonder why God decided to hate him. I bet Esau wondered. I have a hard time thinking that Esau was some degenerate his whole life, I mean he didn't kill Jacob when he saw him again.. that has to be worth something.
So this troubles me because yes it's fine to preach about Jacob, and isn't God's grace awesome to him... but what about Esau. His life sucked. He got cheated out of his inheritance, his brother screwed him over, and his mom loved his brother more. I don't think St. Paul and Esau would've been friends, Paul would probably pat him on the back and say: 'tough luck Esau, but you know all this is happening because God hates you. But don't worry, in the end it's all working together for the good of those who love God'. ... I don't think that really helps. I wonder if Jesus felt like that 1971 years ago yesterday when he was crucified. I wonder if while he was in the immense pain on the cross if he was thinking 'at least this is working out for the good of those who love me... although it doesn't seem like it, Mom's crying and I even gave her my best friend John for a new son...Peter abandonned me... maybe I should totally make Bartholomew the new Rock on which I build my church...'
I realize that anyone reading this will probably think "BLASPHEMY" but luckily I know no one reads this. See I am troubled by most Christians because they simply say 'well we're all Jacobs, so fuck Esau' ... but what if I'M not a Jacob. What if my constant sin is actually proof that I have never been a Jacob, but I'm just stuck as an Esau, an unsaved, unregenerate, vessel of wrath. LOL better yet, what if all of our Protestant sacraments are invalid and none of us are saved... It's a really scary thought, because the system of Reformed theology says that you are totally depraved and sinful... but that if you exhibit those characteristics, then it's proof you aren't one of the elect. It's a painful contradiction that I simply do not understand. So I guess my prayer is, as I go off into life, bound to sin agian, bound to live a wrong and ungodly life, only to repent later... I guess my prayer is...
God let me be a Jacob.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
-I believe the bible says more than 'sola fide' on Justification/Salvation, it says faith, works, repentance, love, baptism, the Eucharist/Communion are important, and that the question should never be, 'what is the least I have to do to be saved and not go to Hell'.
-I believe in Free Will, and the Sovereignty of God.
-I believe you can lose your salvation, but not over one unconfessed mortal sin.
-I believe that the One church at the time established the canon of scripture, and that the historical fact is that the Catholic Deutero-canonicals were declared as scripture in 309AD, over 50 years before the New Testament canon was even decided. Though I have never read all of it, and can't say whether it is scripture or not.
-I believe the Roman Catholic Church, The East Orthodox Church, and any other church, holds to doctrine either not outlined in the scripture they profess, or in contradiction to it.
-I believe St. Augustine was a genius, and that we can call people St.'s and not be afraid of people who do.
-I believe that the bible teaches the real presence in the Eucharist, but I believe that the bible also teaches God is everywhere and in everything, and that Eucharistic adoration leads bad places.
-I believe Mary was a sinner, and that she died on earth and her body stayed there.
-I believe in the intercession of the saints.
-I believe that even if the intercession of the saints is true, we should still pray to God more, and that the rosary leads people to think Mary is the trick way of getting around Jesus.
-I believe the Pope is not infallible, and that he is the bishop of Rome and the first among equals, even though I am not under his authority.
-I believe the Church has done horrible things, and contradicted itself.
-I believe the bible is inerrant in all areas of faith and morals. But that it is in some cases subject to the reader's interpretation, and that smart, God-fearing people can come to different interpretations.
-I believe in Amillenialism, but think we should live as though we were post-millenialists
-I believe the social gospel is very important
-I believe that all have fallen short of the glory of God
-I believe that 'all' does not mean 'some'
-I believe Jesus died for everyone.
-I believe that it doesn't matter if God used evolution or a 6-day creation.
-I believe war is always wrong
-I believe all Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox who love God, and whom have faith and new life in him will be saved.
-I believe Peter Kreeft, John Wesley, Karl Barth, John Howard Yoder, Ravi Zacharias, and alot of other theologians have said great things, even if they don't agree on everything.
-I believe the Church should be "One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic" - but that history shows it has never been.
-I believe Rob Bell is NOT a heretic.
-I believe that Christianity is not watered down Platonism
-I believe that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. And that every part of our theology should be centred on Him.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
"When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations... when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy." -Deuteronomy 7
"God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God...You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also...“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. " - Jesus Christ (Matthew 5)
To me it disturbs me as I debate with others who know the bible and that God commands genocide. I know that they were 'sinful', but it still disturbs me greatly. I was watching a debate between Dr. Alister McGrath - a genius Anglican Priest and Scientist, and Christopher Hitchens -all around atheist douchebag (sorry about the ad hominem). Here it is:http://fora.tv/2007/10/11/Christopher_Hitchens_Debates_Alister_McGrath
McGrath keeps quoting St. Paul from Colossians saying that Jesus is the Image of the Invisible God and so he is the final revelation and that he is the final interpretation. He says reading the Old Testament in light of this makes it 'ok'. But how can you read those two statements and reconcile them. Hitchens is smart enough to know alot about Christianity and says that Christianity denounced Marcion who wanted to only leave Luke and Paul's writing in the bible and erase the 'jewishness' and in a way I think he's right that McGrath is a bit guilty of that.
So as I read the commands of God (the Father) in the Old Testament - whom I believe to be of the essence as Jesus (the Son) like any good trinitarian, I am deeply troubled as what appears to be a contradiction in character. Maybe God isn't all good, after all, "from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come" Lam 3:38. This sounds scarily like Calvinism's ideas that God arbitrarily assigns wrath to people and salvation to others... I am not sure if I am capable of worshipping such a God, not because I can disprove this from the bible, so much as it is simply awful.
So my conclusion is that I realize that Alister McGrath, and Karl Barth have taught me alot about Christo-centric theology. It is the idea that Christ is the basis of all scripture and the find their authority in Him. The Bible is only important in that it tells us accurately about Jesus and God's incarnation. This is the Old Protestant ideal: Solus Christus - Christ Alone. Jesus is the centre of everything, he IS the very WORD of God, the Logos, the great icon of Deity, he is the picture of God and his revealed character, it is as St. John of the Cross said "In giving us his Son, his only and definitive Word, God spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word, and he has no more to say".
It was a fair conversation, and for once I decided to be open and honest, instead of trying to convert him. That sounds so stereotypical for a Christian to say, but I genuinely mean it, when is the last time you admitted to someone who was 'searching' (as Hybels would say) that you don't understand how God died on the cross but was yet alive and existent.
First I had to talk about Christianity and how it is distinct from Platonic Dualism and Gnosticism (wow we have screwed up in promoting this as Christians). I talked about how God looked at created matter and called it good. I talked about how the New Heaven and Earth would be established ON Earth and would be Material as well as spiritual. He admitted that Nietzsche had misrepresented Christianity and was intrigued. I thank God that I listened to Rob Bell's sermon/lecture on the Judaistic and Truly Christian idea of Heaven as Nature in a perfect remade state.
Then we talked about logic and how I believed it was limited and so I was a bit of a postmodern/existentialist and threw in alot of Kierkegaard and Pascal quotes. It is frustrating because we were trying to label each other, because our whole philosophies are about disproving the other. So while I did a good job disproving Materialism and Evolution he admitted that it might be wrong and that I still had to prove my view. And I admitted that I don't have a theory on how the universe was made and that I didn't believe the earth is 6000 years old.
So it was more than a discussion, it was an honest dialogue, it was a recognition that both of us don't have it all together. Maybe I should've run to my Reformed Theology - I know everything approach, but I decided to tell him that I had faith, and that one of the biggest proofs of my religion was my religious experience - which I admitted people have in religions I consider 'wrong' (he's a psych major, he would've told me this anyway).
I used the Socratic method to get him to admit that there is some logic that is universal and transcendent and then showed him that John 1:1 says that Jesus is the logos - the ancient stoic concept of universal reason/logic which holds all together. He admitted it was pretty smart. I told him that if I was 100% honest with him I would tell him Deism is the most 'logical' or rational approach, but that I believed in Kierkegaard's leap of faith and Pascal's wager and my own personal experience.
It was a strange conversation and in the end I didn't know whether he was angry at me or just confused, but he asked me about my life and I told him of my journey from practical and almost theoretical atheism/deism to Christianity and how God called me into ministry. He actually seemed a bit interested, and I told him that I met good people at bible school and he jumped up - "HA WHAT IS A "Good Person" and so I just calmly told him about John Thomas the man trying to help bring water and education to kids in Darfur, and that in a Darwinian standing he had nothing to gain, and that he was truly acting altruistically. He said something about having a Jesus complex.
In short, I ended it by saying 'well I believe in reason like you, but I also have faith and believe alot of things you don't, but maybe sometime you could tell me what you believe.' He agreed and we parted ways.
I can't stop thinking about it, what I could have said... I explained the atonement and how Jesus died because no one could live perfectly and that God's wrath was satisfied - which he cringed at. He asked me if I believed he is going to Hell. I said 1) Christ tells us we are not to judge anyone else and should worry about our own lives. 2) The Neo-Orthodox/Karl Barth Idea that God is free and can save whoever he wants, so I cannot say. and 3) That when Jesus was on the cross he cried out 'Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing' and that Christ's very character was to forgive. I am not a universalist, but I can hope for it. I know that some people will go to Hell, but I think that I have no place in saying who. He brought up why Jesus said 'God why have you forsaken me' on the cross and claimed it was a sin. I said it was a fact that God had forsaken him in his wrath and that therefore it was not doubt, and that Jesus was quoting Psalm 22:1 referencing prophecy that this would occur. I also explained that Blasphemy is not the unforgivable sin, but refusing (or blaspheming) the Holy Spirit was - a.k.a not accepting Jesus.
I feel like this kind of conversation worked alot better than traditional apologetics, I don't know though. I just was honest about the fact that I believe alot of unreasonable things, but alot of reasonable things as well, and that atheism is alot less reasonable. May God help him, and all of us.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
“Oh what joy - joy unspeakable - joy full and big with glory was my soul filled with when the weight of sin came off, and an abiding sense of the pardoning love of God and a full assurance of faith broke in on my soul."
These are the words of John Wesley an English preacher in the 18th century. He wrote them after having the full experience of being born again and finding new life in Jesus. Wesley was one of the greatest preachers who ever lived and was acknowledged as a Man with an unbelievable passion for God, even by pastors who disagreed with most of his ideas. He is acknowledged as the founder of the Methodist church a group with over 1 million Christians in it today, and Wesley wanted it to be based in the truth of a transformed life in Christ, as he experienced himself.
He grew up the son of a minister in the Anglican church – the established church of the country and at the age of 5 he was in a tragic event where he was rescued from a burning church. He knew for the rest of his life that God had saved him and that he would serve the Lord.
John Wesley went into ministry in the Church of England but found that it was stale and dead. Many in the church had never even heard the good news of Forgiveness and new life offered in the gospel and it was then he decided to live a radical life. He began to preach anywhere he could. The Methodists worked with the poor and the outcast in England and constantly preached the good news to anyone they could find. The Church of England and many others criticized them calling them ‘enthusiasts’ as an insult and saying that if they wanted to work in the church they should work in the established Anglican church and calm down.
Wesley and his friends had quite a different view of Christianity. They would preach fiery sermons about the great love of God and his saving work free to all. They would help the homeless and try to motivate Christians out of apathy and show them that they needed to pick up their crosses and follow Jesus. John Wesley described his preaching as ‘lighting himself on fire for God and then seeing the crowds gather to watch him burn’.
These views were at the time persecuted and horrible things were said about Wesley and his following, including malicious baseless rumors. He would be forbidden from speaking in churches and sometimes even mobs would form to drive him out of town.
In fact Wesley is recorded as saying that he was worried if when he had finished preaching the gospel and they didn’t throw him out, if he had got it right. He encouraged people to move forward boldly in love and to give money to the poor and those who needed it, and said that if anyone found him with more than 10 pounds in his wallet when he died that they should call him a hypocrite and a liar. It is said that although he earned at least 20 000 pounds in payment for his publications he died poor and followed his own standard. He preached 2 or 3 times a day and helped out with numerous charities and his giving was limited only by his means. There is also one apocryphal story that while leading a choir practice a person ran in and interrupted the song to tell Wesley his house had been burned to the ground and that all his possessions were gone, and that when the messenger had finished Wesley breathed a sigh of relief and replied ‘I thought you said you had news of something important’ and then continued to direct the hymns.
The movement and revival of the church that Wesley and others partook in, in the United States was described as the great awakening, and in England the change was phenomenal. Today the Methodist church still has strong support, and many famous people such as William Booth the founder of the Salvation Army, came from it.
When asked by a fellow pastor whether he was worried they Methodist church would fail he said: ““I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”
He understood the reality that a church birthed from revival could die quickly and the true singular passion of the story of the life of this man of God is that Christianity is a passionate faith. It is not a story about being a Wesleyan or a Methodist but a story about a man who was tired of seeing dead Christians, tired of seeing a dead church, and longed for the abundant life offered by Jesus to any who would receive him.
As he lay dieing in sickness at the end of his life it is said that his friends gathered around them and that as he looked up to all of them and held their hands he smiled. And his last words were “"The best of all is, God is with us.” … God is with us.
Here is a great article written by an Orthodox Christian just about all of the differences that exist between The Eastern and Western churches. It is interesting to me that after reading it, I realized that the Orthodox church and Roman church are actually more separated in many ways than the Protestant and Catholic churches. I find this really interesting, especially since Catholics forever tell us Protestants that we are the first and only schismatics.
I still have no clue which church I'll end up in it could be any of them, but it is interesting to know how different their views really are, and also astonishing to see how quickly one group will brand another with the title of 'heresy'. I guess it's inherent in Christianity because we believe so much in absolutel truth which is non-negotiable, it only makes sense that none of us can figure out what the absolute truths are.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
However I've been thinking as I go on my perpetual journey for a denomination, what my views on Homosexuality are. I definately believe it is a sin and condemned in Romans, however I want to always remember that Christ is the center of everything. Colossians says he is 'the image of the invisible God'. So what does Jesus say when asked the Greatest Commandment? He replies that it is the Shema Yisrael, and says that it is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and that the second is like it to love your neighbor as yourself. And we all know in the story of the Good Samaritan which follows this shows that your neighbour is someone with a different religion (samaritan judaism and samaritan pentateuch) and someone who is unclean.
So we say as Christians two things. The Second greatest commandment is to love your neighbour. Then we have two other lesser commandments: 'judge not lest ye be judged' and the principle that practicing homosexuality behaviour is wrong.
So here's my question. Who has committed the greater sin? A Christian who hates and slanders homosexuals, or a homosexual who is practicing. In my opinion it is the Christian who hates and slanders homosexuals.
So while it is true that the Anglican Communion is splitting over whether or not to bless gay marriages (not even offer marriages, just blessings of them). It is strange how screwed up our priorities are. The conservatives reel on about the awfulness of homosexuals and how debased and sinful they are to the point that I would say it is hate and judgment to the point of sin.
Rob Whittaker - my hero - has written a genius paper on homosexuality and though he is against it, he writes in a very pastoral way that is amazing and very well done. He also taught me that heresy is not just lies, it can be either: 1) truth out of context, or 2) truth out of proportion. I feel like the over-zealous condemnation and rejection of homosexuals is guilty of the second definition of heresy.
So while I still believe that homosexual behaviour is wrong, I believe hatred for my neighbour is a greater sin.
I can't believe I'm a Quaker according to this, not that I really disagree with them, those protestant mystics, but I guess my inner light was shining today (maybe it had to do with the fact that I just read a bunch of Quaker theology this morning...strange coincidence really). Oh well, as long as my 2 least favourite Religions, Islam and Secular Humanism aren't in my top 10, I'm happy.
1. Orthodox Quaker (100%)
2. Seventh Day Adventist (86%)
3. Mainline - Conservative Christian Protestant (83%)
4. Eastern Orthodox (83%)
5. Roman Catholic (83%)
6. Mainline - Liberal Christian Protestants (71%)
7. Liberal Quakers (55%)
8. Hinduism (46%)
9. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (45%)
10. Unitarian Universalism (42%)
11. Orthodox Judaism (40%)
12. Islam (37%)
13. Jehovah's Witness (35%)
14. Jainism (34%)
15. Bahai (33%)
16. Sikhism (33%)
17. Theravada Buddhism (32%)
18. Mahayana Buddhism (31%)
19. Reform Judaism (27%)
20. Neo-Pagan (23%)
21. Taoism (22%)
22. Secular Humanism (21%)
23. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (20%)
24. New Age (19%)
25. Non-theist (14%)
26. Scientology (12%)
27. New Thought (7%)
My Next Denomination Results were from: http://www.selectsmart.com/FREE/select.php?client=denom
#3 Methodist (United Methodist Church)
#5 Methodist ( Weslyian church)
#6 Presbyterian (USA)
#7 Seventh day adventist
#9 Presbyterian (AUS)
#11 Lutheran (LCMS)
#13 Jehovahs witness
#14 Lutheran (ELCA)
Finally I took the test of my theology from:http://quizfarm.com/test.php?q_id=43870
I got Karl Barth and it said:
You scored as a Neo orthodox
You are neo-orthodox. You reject the human-centredness and scepticism of liberal theology, but neither do you go to the other extreme and make the Bible the central issue for faith. You believe that Christ is God's most important revelation to humanity, and the Trinity is hugely important in your theology. The Bible is also important because it points us to the revelation of Christ. You are influenced by Karl Barth and P T Forsyth.
Neo orthodox 86%
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan 82%
Reformed Evangelical 57%
Roman Catholic 46%
Classical Liberal 29%
Modern Liberal 14%
The final Test on theology was most extensive and my favourite and easiest to answer. I guess from all these varied results I see the commonality that I fit into the Anglican, Baptist, Wesleyan/Methodist churches alright I guess, and I think the quaker/friends/mennonite deal that comes up is that I'm just a pacifist.
But then again, 2 weeks ago I was hardcore Calvinist, so who knows where I'll end up.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Very different from the Protestant idea, but I think Kreeft has a way of making Roman Theology sound appealing whereas many others make it sound repulsive.
"On Grace and Freewill" Ch.18
"Unintelligent persons, however, with regard to the apostle's statement: "We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law," (Rom 3:28) have thought him to mean that faith suffices to a man, even if he lead a bad life, and has no good works. Impossible is it that such a character should be deemed "a vessel of election" by the apostle, who, after declaring that " in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision," (Gal 5:6) adds at once, "but faith which works by love." It is such faith which severs God's faithful from unclean demons,—for even these "believe and tremble," (Jms 2:19) as the Apostle James says; but they do not do well. Therefore they possess not the faith by which the just man lives,—the faith which works by love in such wise, that God recompenses it according to its works with eternal life. But inasmuch as we have even our good works from God, from whom likewise comes our faith and our love, therefore the selfsame great teacher of the Gentiles has designated "eternal life" itself as His gracious "gift." (Rom 6:23) "
This is written in 426-427 AD so it is important to understand that this is a historic position of the church. Just some food for thought.
Monday, March 10, 2008
First of all he keeps saying 'James Arminius' but it's Jacobus Arminius and he talks about Pelagianism and how he says that Augustine is a hero who proved it is wrong. But why do reformed people always quote Augustine and fail to accept all of his theology. For example he believes in Free Will, something all good Calvinists deny. He also believed and advocated at church councils that the Deutero-canonical books (Apocrypha) was the inspired word of God. And arguably (though a good case can be made) he believed in the bible only because the church authorized it and believed in the supremacy of Rome. The famous misquote (but still retaining the intention) of Augustine is after all "Rome has spoken, the case is closed".
I think I'm just tired of the way people prooftext certain thinkers and totally pull cafeteria theology. I do that, but I'm not preaching it to people. If I was a Methodist Pastor, I would preach what John Wesley said. I don't agree with Christian Perfection (I think it's heresy) but Wesley taught it, so I would. I just think that maybe if people have unique opinions they should be based on what the thinker actually said.
Look at this quote and try to guess who wrote it:
"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin."
That is a quote so Roman Catholic it makes me throw up a little in my mouth. And guess who said it. Maybe Brennan Manning? no too intelligent. Pope Benedict XVI? nope no Nazism, but MARTIN (effing) LUTHER. One and the same, founder of Protestantism believed that Mary was sinless. If Martin Luther were alive, he probably wouldn't be able to be ordained as a Lutheran...in his own denomination.
This is why Driscoll and everyone else makes me angry, they quote early Christians to pretend that their views are 'historic' but really if you think Augustine is the shit, be an Augustinian Catholic. Otherwise just be another fool who misquotes famous people.
I just find there are too many "all"'s in the bible if you know what I mean, to believe in limited atonement, and too many commands to obey for me to deny free will. So call me an Arminian - the worst of all slurs, but I'm just tired of the proof-texting and the Calvinist arrogance. And for the love of Wesley - there is a difference between foreknowledge and predestination... wow I really sound Arminian now.
However let it be noted that Driscoll does say you can be an Arminian and that most people believe it and that it's alright.
Finally Driscoll says Thomas Aquinas wrote one of the two most important books in all of Christianity, but Aquinas believes in merited salvation (though it is through God's grace - so really it's not super merited). So really he would disagree with Aquinas as well.
So finally we get to Calvin. Look at some of his quotes Calvin says "You cannot have God as your Father unless you have the Church as your mother". In a congregational (I'm assuming) church like Mars Hill, I doubt he holds to Calvin's authoritative view of the church. As well Calvin would punish by death heresy (anything other than his opinion) and I doubt that Driscoll cares that much about theology.
Furthermore I guess no one agrees with their denominations founder or whatever. And basically I have found that Arminianism and Calvinism both fail at answering these questions and fail at offering a full view of scripture, so in the end maybe everyone is wrong. Though I still haven't read on Molinism but I have a feeling I'll disagree with it too.
"They will put on sackcloth and be clothed with terror. Their faces will be covered with shame and their heads will be shaved."-Ez 7:18
I feel sometimes like I am clothed with terror, so afraid that fear absolutely envelopes me. But look at what Isaiah says in contrast:
"I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness" -Isa 61:10
In 2 Chronicles 6 "May your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, may your saints rejoice in your goodness."
Adam and Even in Genesis 2 were described as being naked but feeling no shame. That I believe was the ideal that has been forever lost. We will always be clothed now somehow. Will God clothe us with shame or terror? Look at Galatians 3 "all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ".
We are clothed with Christ through baptism and faith (mentioned in the preceding verse)
It is amazing to think about the state of humanity after the fall, how we all fashion our own fig leaves and try to hide. Others try to fashion clothes from good works or theological knowledge, but in the end, the dress code is different. It is Christ's righteousness, not our own.
"the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality" -1 Cor 15:54
This is the great idea that I love in the Protestant Religion. In Catholicism God enables you but you still have to work to make yourself righteous by right living. In contrast, Protestants believe that the sinner enters God's presence clothed in Righteousness - Christ's Righteousness, not our own. It is a beautiful image of the ragged beggar being adorned with a rich robe that he does not deserve and cannot afford. It would be ridiculous if the poor man pulled out some pennies of his good works trying to buy the rich robe of Righteousness which he could never afford, it is pure grace.
One famous protestant reformer wrote beautifully on the topic:
"This is the wonderful exchange which, out of His measureless benevolence, He has made with us; that becoming Son of man with us, He has made us sons (and daughters) of God with Him; that by taking on our martality, He has conferred His immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, He has strengthened us by His power, that, receiving our poverty unto Himself, He has transferred His wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon Himself (which oppressed us), He has clothed us with His righteousness" -John Calvin
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
The Image of God as a Shepherd starts with Jacob in Genesis 48:15 when Jacob blesses his grandchildren Ephraim and Manasseh he says "May the God...who has been my shepherd all my life to this day...may he bless these boys". I think it is great how Jacob after his whole life of sinfulness -being the perfect picture of God's grace in election- describes God's goodness as a shepherd, leading him everywhere.
God says in Ezekiel describing himself as a Good Shepherd, "I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice".
Psalm 23 perfectly illustrates this same fact that God is the shepherd, and this is beautifully seen in Francis Thompson's poem "The Hound of Heaven" who describes God's love and mercy as the sheep dogs of Psalm 23 chasing him into the arms of the Father.
Finally Jesus comes and says about himself in Luke 19:10 "The Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost" he describes himself as THE Good Shepherd in John 10:10-11 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." He is the fulfillment of the prophetic visions of God as the good shepherd, and he does all of this for his lost sheep.
I like how Paul says it in Romans 5:7-8, "when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
I was reading something the other day about Jesus, by Ken Gire. He described God's entire nature as giving. He said that in Jesus we see God continually giving and giving. He gave up his place in heaven to become man, he gave up his comfort and power to live homeless and nearly alone in relative obscurity, he gave himself up for those who rejected him, and gave up his clothes his friends everything, until all he had left to give was his life...and then he gave that too. He gave up EVERYTHING for us, everything for me... how dare I even consider not doing the same for him.
Gratias Tibi Domine.