Monday, November 19, 2007

True Conversion

Many Christians began their walk with experience. The vast majority of conversions do not happen because someone begins to investigate the systematic theology of Hodge or Aquinas. Now it is indeed possible that God could use any means, any tool, to regenerate someone,(even the systematic works of Turretin in latin) but this is not the normative method he seems to use. In fact conversions do not even usually happen through reading scripture for oneself (although this was my experience). Conversions normally happen because someone shares a simple gospel message and the Holy Spirit uses this to regenerate them. The day after conversion, however,is a different story. Most of us when we first convert begin to devour scripture. Many of us will continue to read scripture and will also begin to read what other people (current and ancient) thought about scripture. Before long we have a systematic theology, a favorite camp, a specific version of the bible (how many of you have ESV's?) and a host of arguments and thoughts for the ideas we have. This is when the problem can set in.

At this point in their Christian walk many believers now begin to reinsert where they currently are theologiclaly back on top of where they were originally. They believe that their current stances on doctrine are the beginning of faith, not part of the journey of it. They begin to think that conversion begins with good doctrine and then one moves toward experience; instead of faith beginning with an experience and moving towards good doctrine.

Scripture tells us that; "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.(1 Corinthians 2:14). We cannot have understanding of theology without first having the Spirit. Furthermore, once we have the Spirit we do not have instantly correct doctrine. Doctrinal formulation is a growing process for each of us, and continues over our lifetimes.

The point of this is that we must be careful to automatically assume someone is reprobate because they mess something up systematically. It could be they were like a certain young lay leader in his church who once led a devotional in which (after carefully exegeting john 1:1-3 in the back of strongs concordance) proclaimed that the bible was a manifestation of God...(in the beginning was the word, the word was with God and the word was God) - and we all know the bible is the word. So this CERTAIN young man basically taught heresy, and later realized how foolish he had been. Don't worry, he recanted and is currently a youth minster in some church in Philadelphia, PA.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Theological Truth with a Sprinkling of Anathemas

Because I am a strange creature, I enjoy getting online and having theological debates. I log on to a program called Paltalk and have discussions ranging from Roman Catholic baptism to reformed epistemology (study of knowledge) and Gilligan's island. (Did you know that the skippers show name was Jonas Grumby?)Anyway, many of these discussions concern theological truths and after several years of having them I have come to a conclusion. Biology is the study of living things within a finite system (the earth), and no biologist would assume they knew all there was to know about biology. No one who studied, say microbiology, would be so bold as to presume to be an expert on ferns. Yet some theologians consistently assume they have every answer to every theological problem. Strange isn't it considering their subject matter, God, unlike the subject matter of biologist's, is infinite.

For the biologist hubris makes more sense. They study a finite subject. There is a limited amount of life on the earth and eventually they might figure everything out. It is conceivable that a fully finished systematic biology could be made. But when we do theology we study an infinite God. No matter how much we study we can never "figure him all out." Nor can our systematic theology be complete, but will always be at best a working and changing model.

Truth in theology should be understood as expansive not reductive. In biology truth is reductive. The biologist narrows out falsehoods to find the "truths" of biology, which exist in a limited and countable set. There is only so much truth in biology, and no more. But in theology truth is expansive, we don’t so much define it as hug it, because our intellectual arms can only get around so much of who God is. The truth of God is such that the more we know, the less we realize we know, and the more study is needed. God is infinite, so the truth about him is likewise infinite.

If only we approached our relationships with others in this manner! If we truly considered the vastness of God our candor towards other Christians who disagree on certain points would be quite different.

Within the Reformed world some people speak about Arminians as being saved, but not truly equal to us. We (because of our theological commitments) are full Christians, and the Arminians are saved in spite of their ignorance (psst...but just barely). As if some spiritual Jim Crow law could be set up, making me a full Christian and those who hold to a different theology as being a 2/3 Christian.

This is the entirely wrong approach. There is nothing in the defense of a reformed worldview that necessitates seeing an opponent as an intellectual or spiritual inferior. In fact, if we were truly interested in convincing someone of our theology (instead of cushioning ourselves by dismissing their opinions ad-hoc) we would see their theological opinion as being something constructed after careful thought, like our own, and their beliefs as being honest attempts to answer hard questions. In turn perhaps we might have some theological humility, believing what we believe to be scriptural, but recognizing that we can only embrace a part of the nature of God, and hence the truth might be beyond either us or our opponent.

Moreover, when dealing with non-believers, we ought not to see their objections to faith as being “irritating” but as being (for the most part) honest intellectual barriers to faith. Apologetics done rightly is gentle and wooing, not forceful. If you want to be gentle in apologetics, without being condescending, then it is imperative you see people’s objections not a hurdles to be jumped, but real problems to be worked through with them.

Of course it’s not just Reformed folk such as us that act in this way. Every theological camp has one thing in common with others. Each is quick to cast an anathema against the other and to pretend that Jesus secretly agrees with them on all points theological. This is a backwards approach to doing theology with others and it violates the principle of charity. If we accept a person as being saved, we must also embrace them as a brother. There is no separate but equal clause in denominationalism. We are either equal, or we are truly separate.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Blasphemy Challenge

The following video is disturbing, so if you decide to watch it, do so with caution. A man named Brian Flemming, who may best be described as an evangelical atheist, is openly encouraging people (more accurately teenagers) to film themsleves denying the Holy Spirit and then post their videos on You Tube. The concept is to show scorn for the reference in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus gives a specific warning about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit being an unpardonable sin. Furthermore Flemming believes that Christianity is oppressive and absuive to children. Here is a short newscast about Brian Flemming and his project. (again, the content is disturbing)

This is not the final word. In response to this video many people have begun posting their own videos, affirming the life giving king Jesus Christ. I would encourage any of you with a video camera to do this. Make a short video reciting the apostles creed and post it on you tube.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Modernity and Theology

To understand modernity, and its affect on modern theology, we have to understand where it came from. In the early 20th century most people believed that the march of scientific advancement would eventually deliver man from all his ills. As we discovered such miracles as labor-saving devices, mass transportation, flight and medical technology people began to believe that death, disease and suffering were things of the unenlightened past. This belief is the very definition of modernism and its affect was felt across disciplines. In government modernism gave birth to Marxism, Fascism and Communism. In psychology it was believed that in a matter of years the secrets of the mind would be unlocked and all people would live free from mental disturbances. In science, the epitome of faith in modernism was the atomic bomb. People believed that discoveries would only further humanity, never destroy it. So when the atom's power was harnessed many thought of it as free energy. Even the potential for the bomb was heralded as a way of promoting peace. Its power would be a deterrent to armed conflict, and would end wars forever. Or so it was thought...

The high hopes of modernity came to a crashing end in the aftermath of two world wars and the development and deployment of the miracle atom in the form of bombs over Japan. The use of modern science to claim lives with unprecedented efficiency showed a vicious and dangerous side to our technology. People saw through the fog of modernism and realized that it would not solve all the problems of humanity, rather it just complicated the playing field.

Fanatical modernity disappeared, but the ideas of modernism remained. Modernity would not offer man ultimate answers but modern methods were still useful tools. These pockets of modernism remained more entrenched within some segments of society than others. In art and poetry modernity was dead, but in biology it still thrived. Infact the most infected part of society after the collapse of modernism was theology.

Theologians have for years attempted to use modernity to prove God. It seems as if they assume God may be harnessed and brought beneath the inquisitive eye of our microscopes. Once poked and prodded for a bit, then the theologian can either declare God not to exist, or prove infallibly that he does. What the theologian who practices modernism fails to remember is that faith not certainty is what pleases God. God is beyond our ability to quantify him.

Theologians prodded on in the 20th century; asking what could "truly be known" about God. They assumed (wrongly) that when a thing is "truly known" it is known by the abilities of mans logic. And so it went. Twisting downwards in two separate streams; a double helix of idolatry. One one side were the liberals, who affirmed the natural, but then had to deny the attributes of God. They contended that there was no resurrection, no miracles, and they denuded the power of God to affect change in his creation. On the other side were the conservatives, who denied the natural in favor of the supernatural. They held to the "fundamentals" but only at the cost of being totally unable to communicate with the world around them. They became sequestered and ineffectual. Both sides have become something which is not profitable; both landing far afield from what God called His Church to be.

As believers, we must begin to address the concerns of this world, without sacrificing the substance of the God we serve. As God's people we must do both because we are called to be both holy people and salt and light to the world around us. It is the middle way and it is the narrow path which Christ spoke about. This is a frightening and difficult way, a dark path across a steep mountain with treachery only footsteps away. While this is the case, we should not fear. We have a sure lamp to guide us which shines from the truths of the scriptures and if we falter we have a good shepherd to lift us up.

Monday, January 15, 2007

How the mind works...

Watch this short video and count the number of times that someone in a white T-shirt throws the basketball to another player. At the end of the video how many times did a white t-shirted player throw the basket ball?

Now, watch it again, this time don't count and see if you missed anything the first time around.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

By Way of Reminder

Our first service will be on January the 7th at 10:00pm. John and I are encouraged at the large turnouts, and hope to see you all back there. The message of the gospel is a life transforming one, both in the lives of those who do not yet know Christ and in the lives of us who have been redeemed. There is no limit to the things which God can do through us in the cresheim valley area.

Hope to see you all soon.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Let My People Think

The military association for atheists and freethinkers writes the following as a guide to other atheists in the service about participating in public prayer...

"you have been forced into an uncomfortable position by having to choose between betraying your beliefs (by bowing your head) and identifying yourself as someone who is 'different' (by not bowing). Consider addressing these events, either before or after the fact, to leaders, EO Representatives, and chaplains as indicated below."

I find the two terms in this odd. First the author of this page calls her atheism a set of "beliefs." This seems utterly inconsistent with the idea of being a "freethinker" in which, presumably, one has not beliefs...but facts. I find this horribly Freudian. The inconsistency belays the double hubris of claiming true "free thought" (with the assumption that non atheists are not freely thinking about their beliefs) and at the same time adhering to a set of doctrines and beliefs..."isms" as it were.