Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Times they are a changing

With regard to orthodoxy or various issues of orthopraxy, is it right to change teachings which are centuries, or even two millenia old just because they do not fit the current cultural milieu of today? How much of Scripture do we take within the cultural setting of the context it was written in versus our cultural context of today?
When Paul forbids an action, does that mean only for first century AD?
When Paul encourages an action, does that mean only for first century AD?

What do we do?

One issue comes to my mind which have been brought to my attention of late. Women pastors. I fall in the line of believing which is the more historical, orthodox view of a male only clergy. Not that I think women are less desirable than men, and certainly not that I think women "can't handle it", but I believe that Scripture sets patterns for leadership within the Church and that is that the leadership is male. I do not fall in line with historical critics who teach that the early church was a patriarchial organization which suppressed women and that we need to reinterpret texts in Scripture in light of that and allow for women pastors.
I just don't see it in the text, even when I take the cultural setting the New Testament was written in. Yes, I understand the setting Paul and the other Apostles wrote in, but if you take one issue as cultural, you have to take more.
I do not mean that to make a direct coorelation of ordaining women= X, then Y, then Z, but if you take the so-called major denominations which do allow ordination of women, PCUSA, UCC and UMC, there are other cans of worms which have arisen within those organizations, which are leading to the the shrinking of membership (the PCUSA has lost over 300,000 in the last ten years), and the basic cultural irrelevance of their message.

What is the answer though?
What should we do about issues which are now being deemed as "cultural" for the time it was written in?
I think there is a good answer in this: we need to examine our beliefs according to Scripture and learn to defend them well. We must know why we believe what we believe and be able to support it with Scripture and not according to our cultural milieu or philosophy. We cannot change the meaning because we don't like it, the meaning is supposed to change us.

Book of the day New Dictionary of Theology by InterVarsity Press. Sinclair Ferguson, David Wright and J.I. Packer, editors.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Connecting with our roots

Many people spend so much time tracing their family tree. It's so exciting to find out some cool tidbit about a long dead family member from the past. One interesting fact I recently discovered was that a distant cousin of mine was the wife of General Douglas MacArthur. That's a great little fact to tuck in the back of one's mind and think, "well, I have a great family heritage!"

When it comes to our Christian heritage, what do we think about those who blazed the trail of our faith so long ago?
In discussing with people who are Christians I have found that many are ignorant of the heritage we all share from so long ago. It seems that people know the information in the New Testament, a tidbit about the Reformation, and then a lot of stuff that happened only in the United States with the exception of that Spurgeon guy in England. Most American Christians probably think Billy Graham is the most important saint since Bible times, and I do not say that with any disrespect toward Rev. Graham, but from what I have read of him, I would think that he would agree with that assestment.

Anyway, that brings me to the thrust of the matter. What about those people who succeeded the Apostles? What were those guys like?
Well, one interesting figure is Papius who lived sometime around the late first century into the second century. The only thing we know about him are a few fragments which were in a book by Eusebius a few centuries later. But what is in those fragments is daunting. He knew people who knew some of the Apostles. Wow! Think of that?

But Papius is only one of hundreds of people who's writings we still have and now because of cheaper printing techniques, as well as electronic media, we have means by which to reconnect with our roots. I heartily reccomend looking at and read the writings of these amazing people who blazed the trail of our Christian faith and gave their lives for doctrines which we take for granted.

Book of the day, Confessions by Saint Augustine.

Monday, December 20, 2004

This is the end

Of fall semester that is. What an interesting semester it has been. I truly believe that I am one person in this world who has been blessed more than deserved.

Some of the highlights of this semester have been:
The Connect Conference at Covenant Theological Seminary.
Learning Ancient Hebrew. Well, make that "beginning to learn Ancient Hebrew".
Learning about the formation of the Canon in Biblical Introduction
Being told, "when you preach this sermon in the future, because this one is good enough to file away" after preaching a sermon in homiletics.
Talking to my wife about the class she was auditing at CTS.
Spending time with Dr. Robert A. Peterson in a small group, once a week, just fellowshipping, praying and talking with other students.
There's so much more....oh man. What a life I have!

p.s. Look for better blogs during Christmas break!

Book of the day Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

They just don't get it....

It surprises me that the amount of press that evangelical Chrisitans are getting these days. One whould have thought that there were not very many Christians in the United States over the past ten to twenty years and suddenly there has been this renewed interest in the Christian faith and that people are joining churches en masse and new churches are springing up on every corner.
It's a shame that this is not the case. I would love to see another awakening in this country and believe it could happen, but I am quite skeptical of the notion that is being put forth by the culture that Christianity is getting more popular.
After, or maybe it was before, the 2004 election, I was watching a program on CNN which was discussing the rise in power of Christians in this election season. To hear some of the secularists reactions you would think that if Christians had their way, we would all be wearing chasity belts and there would be daily crucifixions for anything deemed non-Christian.
And yesterday, there was a story of bewilderment on Good Morning America concerning so-called mega-Churches. People are actually worried about these things popping up because it represents a message that there is an exclusive way to eternal life, that is, only through Christ.

Now to my point.
We read and watch these stories, editorials and pundits and most Christians say, "why don't they understand us????" Well, I have good news. "They" are not supposed to. There is a dichotomy of worldviews here and they are supposed to stand at polar opposites. 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 gives good insight into this. Why? Because it shows that the person who is "in Christ" is a new creation. You see that's the cultural battle. It's not the "old" Christians and the "new" secularists. It's not the old trying to take over the new. It's the new creation of God that is shining through the old system of doing things, that is secularism. It was this way when Paul wrote this passage and it's the same way now. The old way, the fleshly way, is the old way and those who have not experienced the creative work of God upon their lives will never be able to understand Christianity. We shouldn't expect them too. But while this conflict of worldviews continues, we must be vigilant in the ministry of reconciliation.

Book of the day, 2nd Corinthians, NICNT, Revised, New International Commentary on the New Testament by Paul Barnett.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Breaking out...

Social context is such an interesting thing because it is what most people base reality upon. For instance, a 15 year old sees reality quite differently than one who is 25, 35, 45, 55, 65, 75, 85 and so on and so on. But again, it's due to their context.
This past weekend my wife and I were invited to a Christmas party at this family's home who attends our church. Now, there are around 1600 people who attend our church and the age groups vary, so needless to say, we don't know everyone. We did not know this family and that was the point of this kind lady inviting us into their home. They wanted to break out.
Once they found out that I am in seminary, they told my wife that we'd "better get used to hanging out with older folks" because my future line of work calls for our family to fraternize with folks of all different age groups.
This made me think about the way my wife and I approach life. Are we stuck in our own context viewing reality from the vantage point of a 27 year old, married couple in seminary, who don't have kids, etc, etc.
Well, we broke out this past Saturday and spent several hours with 3 couples who graduated high school in the 1930's. Yes, FDR was still President and the men were all WW2 Navy guys who still talked fondly of their times serving their country.
We found out that beyond our Christian faith, and attending the same Church, that we all really have so much in common and what we don't have in common, we have that much more to share in our new found friendships.
It was a wonderful evening and a life lesson really. Sometimes you have to break out and realize that life is so much bigger than your own context.

Book of the day, The Call by Os Guinness.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Keeping the mystery

In the history of the Church, I do not believe there has been a single issue which has been more divisive as the extent of God's control over human events, specifically salvation.
In the scope of evangelical Christianity, some hold to what is called a Calvinistic view, which was originally popularized by Augustine over 1,000 years before him and adopted by the Roman Church.
Others basically hold a view which was popuarized by Arminius and the Remonstrant movement, called Arminianism.

What's at stake in this debate? There is a companion series by InterVarsity Press which tackles both sides of this issue in a very, Christian manner without the hatred and rhetoric characterized by many other works on both sides of this debate.
In the book Why I am not a Calvinist, the authors believe the very character of God is at stake because they believe that God's entire mode of operation is based upon His love.
In the book, Why I am not an Arminian, the authors posit that the integrity of the Biblical story is at stake.

So what is really at stake?
On one hand, there are calvinists who rationalize and systematize their views so they are able to wrap their minds around the mysteries of God's sovereignty.
On the other hand, there are arminians who rationalize and empathize their views so they are able to wrap their minds around the mysteries of God's sovereignty.

Can there be a balance?
I do believe that Calvin himself presented that balance, as well as Augustine.
What did those two really say?
Well, they held to God's choosing and people's choice. I am speaking very generally here.
On one hand, God chooses, on the other hand people come, willingly.
On one hand, God doesn't choose, on the other hand people don't want to come, willingly.

Scripture really presents a mystery when it comes to God's sovereignty in salvation and that is what those who call themselves Calvinists must realize. Not everything can fit in a box. Everyone should take that into account.
The best way to wrap our minds around this is to realize it is a mystery, a quite compatable one. That is the conclusion which seems to arise in Why I Am Not An Arminian by my two wonderful professors, Peterson and Williams.

Books of the day, Why I Am Not An Arminian by Robert Peterson and Michael Williams and Why I Am Not A Calvinist by Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Coming soon....

I will have a new blog up tomorrow. I have been out of town two weekends in a row, my internet connection went down for a while and I have a Hebrew test today.
The good news is, no I didn't save 15% on car insurance by switching to Geico, but I have finals next week, which is fabulous.

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