Let’s Take on Faith, Reason, and Nonsense

These discussions are hard, not because they’re rational but because they’re emotional.  It’s hard not to let hurt, disgust, anger, fear, and a number of other possible emotions get involved in the discussion.  It injures me deep in my soul when people attack what I have found and believe to be true.  They feel the same when I say Jesus is the only way.

Well, let’s go back in time 35 or 40 years.  I grew up in central Indiana, in a conservative environment.   A mostly working class community with about 60,000 people, several GM plants, a steel mill, a Dodge transmission factory and the like.   Two large high schools with 1500-2000 students each and a hand full of county high schools of a few hundred each.

I was born into a family of believers.  My parents were part of a church whose fellowship primarily was with  Restoration Churches (http://www.therestorationmovement.com/ and http://www.gotquestions.org/Restoration-movement.html, should help explain the movement).  We were taught the Bible, not a form of theology and doctrine, just what the Bible presents as a whole, you know, Biblio-theology.

I attended Ozark Bible College (now Ozark Christian College, http://www.occ.edu/) a conservative Bible-believing and teaching college and have read and studied over the years what I first believed beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus is the only way to God, salvation, and heaven.  I learned it from those I respected and they shared it with me from the Bible and through reason.  People like Paul Jordan, PT Butler, Knofel Staten, Harvey Bacus, Don Dewelt, Seth Wilson, Wilbur Fields and more and they referred to many apologists such as CS Lewis in Mere Christianity, Josh McDowell with Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and others documenting facts and truth about Jesus.

So . . . for me, it’s pretty simple, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, my Lord and God (I thank Peter, Mark 8:29 and Thomas, John 20:28 for faithfully confessing these truths for me to learn, believe and confess).  Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me” John 14:6 & 9 (cf., Acts 4:12 & 1 Timothy 2:5).  In doing so, I also believe that there is only one way to God and salvation and that is through Jesus.

The problem now lies not in whether I believe it or not, I do, the problem lies in that many don’t or they don’t like that God chose to be so exclusive about access to him.  And when we begin discussing these things, though reason may be present, often emotions are stronger than reason and people go all bongo about what they feel.

Let us look at the identity of Jesus Christ, of who God is and what they have said taking into consideration the claims of many other religions because as one theologian I recently heard on the video The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel (bought it at Wal-Mart for $7.50 last week), all religions could be wrong, but not all of them can be right.

I had (maybe I still do) a lesson book for teens called Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door, let me borrow from and alter the title for use here.  We will use our brains because Christianity is a thinking religion that is filled with faith, hope, and feeling, but as we find the way to salvation, let’s Check Our Emotions at the Door.

What is right and what is true?  Let’s find that out and then put our heart and soul into it.

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PS: Check Lee Strobel’s books The Case for Faith and the The Case for Christ for detailed information about this.

Where to Draw the Line

Recently I read the book, The Future of Faith by author and Harvard theologian Harvey Cox (http://browseinside.harpercollins.com/index.aspx?isbn13=9780061755521).  I am curious for the sake of the kingdom of God what the future of faith is.  I mean, as a Christian, as I grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ, I am reaching out to the lost souls of this world and I should be as Jesus said, shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.  You know, understanding and working within the mindset of the people I share Jesus with while be holy and undefiled like Jesus.

Mr. Cox makes some very interesting observations and as well as some disturbing interpretations of the future.

Click on this link to read a PBS interview of Mr. Cox about the  book;http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/september-25-2009/harvey-cox-extended-interview/4342/.

I have to admit, what he believes about the Bible and truth was somewhat unexpected.  For instance, he claims more than once that the creation account in Genesis is a creation myth as well as many other accounts in the Bible.

He believes that we are moving away from dogmatism into a time of faith, in an era he is calling the age of the Spirit.  There is a shift away from dogmatism and creeds.  Denominationalism is fairly dead.

It appears that the idea is a move away from the full understanding and teaching of scripture and a complete reliance on faith and the Spirit, regardless of truth and Biblical teaching.

One thing this denies is the connection of the Spirit and the Word.  They work hand-in-hand.  I will have faith.  I will be practical.  I will be Biblical.  But I will not give up the clear teaching that the Holy Spirit has given us, the Bible.

The answer, if this is the trend for the next couple of decades is what has been termed “Biblical-Theology.”  Let the Bible be the doctrine and creed, not this man-made crap such as Calvinism, Catholicism, Arminianism, etc.

Let the Bible be the Bible and the rule and guide of our faith, just like the concepts the Restoration Movement has touted for a couple  of centuries

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What’s Biblio-Theology?

It seems the church has always been in a state of flux.  I’m not saying that it should be, I’m admitting this is true.  Changing to meet the times or to combat the pagan, secular, non-Christian world, or even to protect against heresy and false prophets and false teaching.

The problem with so many of these things is that when they are dealt with, the church will often move away from the clear teaching of scripture.  Then the traditions that may or may not be biblical, become equal to or even greater, in their minds and practice than the Scripture.

I will admit that Wikipedia is a dangerous dictionary because people can add to definitions and meanings.  There is, after some searching and finally getting the search terms correct, a form of theology called Biblical Theology.  Here is a one line definition from Wikipedia for Biblical Theology.   “Biblical theology seeks to understand a certain passage in the Bible in light of all of the biblical history leading up to it and later biblical references to that passage.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_theology

That definition is the essence of Biblio-Theology.  Maybe the term will catch on, probably not.  The matter is what is true and what is right.

Many non-denominational, independent, and inter-dependent churches are doing what the Restoration Movement began doing.  Let the scripture speak for itself and letting God’s word be the only guide and final word on all things in life, including the church.

Instead of reform for Christianity and the church, restoration.  Go back to the Bible and follow the practices of the early church.  That’s why there are so many churches called New Testament churches.  It’s not that they ignore or don’t believe the Old Testament is scripture or doesn’t have value, it’s that since Jesus died and raised, when the church began, the teachings and practices of the church are found in the New Testament.

Over the 2000 year history of the church, man-made concepts and creeds, and scriptural maneuvering (accidental and purposeful) have put barriers between the church and God because they have taken a focus off of God’s Word and on Man’s thoughts.  Let the Bible be our guide, the one and the only guide for understanding and life.

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Exploring Religio-Spiritual Themes

Okay, so technically I am not a theologian.  I mean I do not have a theology degree from a seminary or university, but if we are working through, studying and figuring out theology, aren’t we then in realistic ways, theologians.

I got this definition from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/theology

the·ol·o·gy

[thee-ol-uh-jee]

noun,plural-gies.

1. the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God’s attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity.
2. a particular form, system, branch, or course of this study.

Even by definition #1, I qualify as a theologian, though I don’t get paid for it.

At the moment, I am exploring a handful of things that are related to theology:

  • Biblio-theology and all that means
  • Where the church and religion is headed
  • The need for and way of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ
  • Even how history still plays a part in the future of church and religion

I have a lot of questions.  Maybe they’re not your questions, and maybe you have the answers to the questions I am exploring.  Pass them on if you have them.

It’s a Biblio-Religio-Spiritual-Theology Safari.

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Theology as It Is; Biblio-Theology

I have to be who I am.  Once, a long time ago I called it the “Idiocy of Jeffreyosity.”  Kind of silly, but I meant that no one is like me.  I am who I am and I can’t be anything else.  Aren’t we all that way.  We are who we are.  It’s our DNA and the environment that we grew up in and currently live in.  It’s our beliefs and choices, and a hundred or a thousand things or more.

Theology has a lot of different systems to present belief about God and Christ and the Bible.  I have a book that is several years old that has almost a hundred different creedal statements by groups and churches over the centuries.  Most of those creeds are developed in response to some question or to protect against false teaching as if the Scriptures can’t handle the job.

These doctrinal statements called creeds are mostly based on what is called “Systematic Theology.”  Systems of belief that attempt to

Augustine of Hippo

force the teachings of the Bible in a box.  Usually it is a  means of interpreting things that may or may not interpret scripture accurately.  Calvinism is one of those systems.  John Calvin learned it from Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430), a monk who held a mystical view of things.  He believed and taught what Calvin  later refined and taught, thus Calvinism.  A current trend is “Reformation Theology.”  An explanation of reformed theology is to large for this post.  Check this link for an explanation; http://reformedtheology.org/SiteFiles/WhatIsRT.html.  Arminanism is another one.  It has different views of God’s sovereignty and predestination than does Calvinism.  Check this link for a further explanation; http://www.theopedia.com/Arminianism.  And eschatology is concerned with the end times and there is at least one form of systematic theology within it, the premillennial dispensational view.  It does what systematic theology does, it takes a form of belief and makes everything fit within that form, whether right or wrong.

I am none of the above.  My church tradition involves a concern that the reformation began with Martin Luther and though he was correct his method was mistaken.  What the reformers did was discover un-Biblical and non-Biblical practices and teaching in the church and address them.  As they addressed each issue, a dozen more would appear.  It’s like swimming up-stream against a violently raging river, at flood stage.  Always more!

The tradition I am referring too is often known as the Restoration Movement.  The desire was to restore the church to New Testament Christianity.  Instead of dealing with issue after issue, we should go back to New Testament teachings and practice and the issues will fall away.  We will be dealing with a pure church, a church that has no man made creeds or systematic forms of belief.

Some of the restoration pioneers are Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander.  Barton W. Stone, Walter Rigdon, Walter Scott, Racoon John Smith and more.  They all came to the same conclusions in different parts of the world at about the same time, and eventually through a series of events met and worked together, not to set up a new denomination, but to avoid the man made and let the church be under the authority of Christ and the Scriptures.

Some of the churches that have a history with the Restoration Movement are the Disciples of Christ, the Church of Christ (non-instrumental), the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) and several others such as the more recent Disciples Heritage.

Please know that I am not criticizing or condemning any of these creeds, theology’s or Churches.  Some of what they present are true to Scripture, and some are not or mistaken in interpretation or understanding.

This evening in our Bible discussion at church, one of our elders and I tried to be honest and fair with these other belief’s and groups, but show our people how we differ from them too.  One of the motto’s of the Restoration Movement is that “We are people of the Book,” and “Where the Scriptures speak we speak and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”  We may learn from Calvin, or Augustine, or Luther, or Campbell, or even Bob Russell, or Rick Warren, or Bill Hybels and contemporary preachers and theologians.  But we are bound not by any man’s teaching or interpretation of Scripture.  We don’t have a man made and developed creed, or a systematic theology.  Our creed is Christ and our theology is the Bible.

We are “Biblio-Thologians.”

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Drew Brees’ Testimony

He has a couple of things going for him in my book.  He is a Christian and he was a Purdue Boilermaker, my favorite college of all.  Too bad I’ll be rooting for the Colts in the Super Bowl Sunday.

Tangle.com has a video interview in which Drew Brees tells about his coming to Christ and his faith in action.  Watch and I trust you’ll be encouraged like I was.

You’ll have to click on the following link to watch the video. I am unable to embed anything from Tangle.com here.  I’ll have to check into it.

http://www.tangle.com/view_video?viewkey=bd7ec415527e25ad4731

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Why do I believe in Jesus?

Jesus“You are the Christ, the Son of God” Peter said as Jesus asked the question to his disciples, “who do you say that I am?”  (Matthew 16:13-19).

That is the confession of belief that most of us seek from those who are presenting themselves for baptism.  It’s a good statement, it’s a true statement that comes from understanding that goes deeper than just knowing the answer, it comes from what the Bible calls the heart (which is more than knowing, understanding, and emotion).

We have discussed what to believe.  That Jesus is the Son of God and that God raised him from the dead.  Both difficult to believe and accept for human beings who are short-sighted and small-minded (in terms of eternal things).  Why do we believe?  Why are we to believe in Jesus?

John 3:16 says that God loves you and me so much that he sent Jesus (Emmanuel, God with us, Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14) so that we (you, me, and everyone) who believe in Jesus the Son of God won’t perish ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%203:16&version=NIV )

I don’t hear that word perish much except with this verse of Scripture.  Let me give you a view of what perish describes for me.  It is the final conclusion of a horrible coming to an end of things.  I know this is a rather awkward sentence and probably grammatically incorrect.  The picture I have in my mind is like someone lost at sea without a single hope and distressing over the storm, the possible sinking of the ship, no visible way of escape, and finally drowning, which seems to me to the worst possible way to die.

Jesus came so we don’t have to perish.  Perish from what?  Our sin!

Sin, the failing to please God ( Romans 3:23; http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans%203:23&version=NIV ) by disobedience to His will is a perishable offence.  One sin is enough (c.f., post of September 29, 2009 for an example https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/im-as-good-as-any-christian/ ).  And all of us have sinned and the greatest sin of all is when one does not believe in the Son of God that He has sent and receive God’s salvation through Jesus.

Jesus came to save.  The angel told Joseph in Matthew 1:21 that Jesus will “save his people from their sins” and Jesus said after Zacchaeus repented that he came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Very simply, Jesus came to save us from sin and perishing in our sins which is an eternal thing.  The horrible pain of separation from God.  That place is called hell ( Romans 6:23;http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans%206:23&version=NIV ) Don’t want that.

There’s another reason to believe in Jesus.  God has given only one way to salvation.  It is through Jesus Christ.  In Acts 4:12 we get the picture.  Peter with John is telling the very leaders who should have seen and believed in the first place but whose arrogance and pride kept them from believing these words, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”

220px-Larry_Norman

1947 - 2008

Larry Norman, the Christian music pioneer (he had the very first Christian rock album) popularized the phrase “One Way.”  As you would say “One Way!” you’d point to heaven with your pointing finger.

Jesus is the one and only way.  We will only find the way to God through our faith and belief in Jesus Christ the risen Son of God.  Not through some other means.  Some churches teach other ways as well.  By works, by trusting in some person or thing.  Some will accept whatever form of belief you have.  But, if we are going to please God we are going to need to follow his teaching and way.  As God he has the right to decide how that will be.

Now here is the question I have for you.  Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

If you do, you have the first element of what it takes to be saved and the Lord bless you as you continue to believe in the Savior.

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