Thursday, 26 February 2009

You blog slower then a slug moves in treacle!

Please check my Doctrinal Basis post as it is under constant edit at the moment.
Please continue to comment on it also.
In Christ,

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

A Christian's understanding of fear!


(Please click for source and author.)

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

My doctrinal basis....Ed. 4

After looking at a few peoples 'Doctrinal Basis' recently I've decided to have a look more closely at what should be in them and what shouldnt. For example one church (see here) decided that the first key point on thier doctrinal basis was "We believe that the King James Bible is the word of God without error."Obviously something important has been missed here. What is to follow then is what I believe should be in a doctrinal basis and why.

The First question to ask is "What is a doctrinal Basis and why bother?". A doctrinal basis [for our purpose] is a list of understood principles (doctrines)which sums up what a Christian believes. My aim here then to test what I believe is neccessary for one to be a christian with your keen eyes of course.

1) There is one God in three equal, eternal persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Deut 6:4; Matt 28:19)

I believe that the Trinity is a vital Christian doctrine. The bible is clear on this one and much of the Christian's understanding of God's nature and redemption of man rest upon this understanding of God.

2) God is sovereign: He is the creator and sustainer of all things and as such the rightful ruler. He created mankind in his image and as such have free will. (Isa 46: 8-11; Gen 1)

This tends to go too far one way or another. Either that God controls every single fasset of life (determinism) and therefore we are not accountable for our actions (supralapsarianism) or God gives up all his soverignty all together as the Gospel depnds wholly on mankind (pelagianism). Both of these are wrong. The Bible is clear that God is the rightful ruler of everything and that he has the power to do as he wishes. However, the Bible also states that we are responsible for our actions and therefore God must lay aside some of his severign power for the sake of our free will. Although this term gets used by different groups the principle is similar. God is Ruler had has the right to do as he wished with his creation.

3)Since the fall, the whole of humankind is sinful and guilty, so that everyone is subject to and deserves death. God's wrath and condemnation is rightly on us becuase of sin. We are spiritually blind because of this sin and refuse to seek God of our own accord. (Gen 3; Rom 3:23; 2 Cor 4:4)

As if often said "The Gospel is bad news before it is good news". Unless we state that God is just in condemning us what is the Good news? We need to know what state we are in before we can know why we need saving.

4)God chose a special people, the Israelites, to whom he made a covenants with Abraham and his descendants to Bless the world through them. It is by them that the Law was recieved and the relationship with God and Man was founded. It was through them the the final means of redemption would come: Jesus Christ.
(Rom 9:4-5; Gen 26:4-5)

5) The Lord Jesus Christ,born of a virgin, is God's incarnate Son: fully God and fully man, yet without sin. He lived the perfect life, proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom, died on the cross as a once-for-all sacrifice to save the world of its sins, was raised bodily from death to defeat death once and for all, and is now sat at the right hand of God the Father and is the only mediator between God and man. (John 1:1-2,14; 1 Pet 2:22; Mk 1:14-15; Heb 10:10; Luke 24:46; Acts 2:32-33; 1 Tim 2:5)

Jesus as the God-man is vital as unless he is both then we cannot be fully redeemed and interceeded for. His perfection is also vital as it was necessary that the atoning sacrifice was unblemished if it was to the worthy. Is death is the propitiation of our sins and his physical resurrection the proof of defeat of sin and the Grave. It also proves that he has the power to remove ur sins and to raise us up on the last day. Due to this Jesus is the only way to God and thus explaining why all other means are futile.

6) The Holy Spirit alone makes the work of Christ available to individual sinners, enabling them to turn to God from their sin and to trust in Jesus Christ. (John 16:7-11)

As stated before man is spiritually blind and cannot seek God of his own accord. The spirit then opens our eyes to the Gospel so that we may respond.

7) Those who have faith in Christ are pardoned all their sins and accepted in God's sight only because of the righteousness of Christ and his vindication of us; this justification is God's act of Grace and undeserved mercy, received solely by trust in him and not by their own efforts. Baptism is the outward mark of this inward committment to Christ. (Eph 2:8-9)

We are justified by grace though faith, as Paul writes, and not of works so that no-one can boast. The preparation, will, practicalities and delivery of salvation is all a work of God and is made effectual to us wholly by faith in Jesus Christ with no addition or subtraction.

8) The Holy Spirit lives in all those he has regenerated. He enables them to increasingly become Christ-like in character and behaviour and gives them power for their witness in the world. A true believer is proved by his actions but not saved. To a believer the promises of full life and eternal life are given. (2 Corinthians 3:18; Gal 5: 16-26; John 10:10; John 3:16)

The spirit is the one who continues to reform us and is the mark of the promised things to come. Without the spirit we have no guarantee of the promise and no hope of living and becomeing Christ-like.

9) The Lord Jesus Christ will return in person. The dead will be bodily raised and He will judge everyone to execute God's just condemnation on those who have not repented and to receive the redeemed to eternal glory in the new creation. (Rev 19:11; Rev 20:12)

God will judge all. The Christian, because of Jesus' worth, to eternal life, and the rest to eternal death as just punishment for thier sins. The exact nature of this punishment is intentionally left vague as there a various 'orthodox' positions.

10) The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired Word of God. It supremely bears God's authority in all matters of belief and behaviour. (2 Tim 3: 16-17)

The Bible being the inspired word of God is a key concept as it is the eternal, solid reference in an ever changing world. It is indeed God breathed and is useful to the believer. Its infallibility is not mentioned here however as the Bible never openly makes such claims and there is more then one possible understanding of God breathed.

11) The one holy universal church is the Body of Christ, to which all true believers belong. This is marked by unity and the taking of the Lord's supper together. (Eph 4:4-6; 1 Cor 11:23-26)

The Church is not a building but the people of God. Therefore all who are saved are part of this body, with Christ at the head. A Christian is never a lone believer. If one serates themselves from the body then thier salvation is rightly opened to questioning

I believe that is all for now but as the title suggests it is open to reforms so I look forward to your CONSTRUCTIVE criticism.

Till next time!

N.B. I have used the UCCF Doctrinal Basis as my template. Please see here for the original.

Something I've been working on

"There can be such great truth expressed in the honest out-pouring of a Christian’s heart that it can strike even the greatest intellects dumb, and convict a person of their folly in a greater way then a thousand Loveless words ever could."

Let me know what you think.

It reminds me of the [true*] story (but paraphrased due to my bad memory) of the Christian girl who was sat on the train reading her Bible. A Muslim man came and sat opposite her and saw that she was a Christian. He then started to debate with her over who was right. Every arguement she gave he tore to shreads. Eventually the girl stops and then bursts in to tears. The man asks her what is wrong. She replies "I know Jesus is true and I want you to know him but I can't convince you, I'm sorry". The man was so moved by her passion that he went to church with her one sunday and became a christian.

*for Sarah

Monday, 23 February 2009

Is context that important?

I'm sure you've all heard these sayings before:

"If you take the text out of the context you just end up with a con"
"The first three rules of exegesis are: Context, context, context."

Is context really that important to reading a text?
Below are a few examples of what you end up with if you pluck verses out of thier context:

1)Psalm 14:1b: "There is no God"
Does the Bible really say that there is no God? No. The context tells us that this is what the fool says in is heart!

2) James 2: 25: "In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?"
Now Rahab the prositute was righteous for what she did! What do prostitues do? Have sex for money. So she was righteous to prosituing and then sending the jewish spies away? No, the context tells us that she stoped the spies getting caught and was therefore considered rightous as she trusted God and served him in his purpose and not for being a prostitute.

3)Isaiah 61:5a: "Aliens will shepherd your flocks".
According to the Bible ET will come down ans herd your sheep for you. Isn't that nice! Of course context tells us that 'Aliens' here means foreigners.

4)Ezekiel 23:20: "There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses."
It is good to emulate what you learn in the Bible and therefore it is good for women to lust after large genitals and potent men! No, this is obviously condemned!

5)1 Kings 11:3a: "He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines."
If The wise king Solomon did this then surely it is good for me to do so!....except the context tells us that God forbade Jews marrying foreign women and that they lead him astray.

6)Revelation 22:18 "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book."
Therefore if anyone writes nots in thier Bible they will have plagues added to them? No, obviously the contexts notes that those who teach the prophecy we know as the book of revelation with additions or refuse to teach bits to others, therefore effecting thier safety, God will curse them.

7)Job 4:7: "Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?".
If therefore you are innocent or upright you will never be destroyed or perish......or so Job was told. We see later that Job's friend was rebuked by God for giving false advice.

I think the idea is across. Obviously there are more serious verses taken out of context but this was just a few silly examples to help you get into the flow of using context in your exegesis.

When you are reading remmeber that there is more then one type of context to be looking at. See here for an introduction.

Happy reading and learning.

Till next time!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Satan = Lucifer?

What would you say if I asked you "Who is Lucifer?" I think the most common response would be 'The Devil' or 'Satan'.

Isaiah 14:12-15, The famous Old Testament passage regarding Lucifer says:

"How you have fallen from heaven,
O [Lucifer] morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!

You said in your heart,
"I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. [c]

I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High."

But you are brought down to the grave,
to the depths of the pit."

English Church tradition has talken hold of this passage to refer to Satan. The question is whether this is legitimate or not.

The Hebrew is literally "Morning Star", often used to denote dawn in the Bible. In the Latin versions it was translated to Light bringer or Lucifer (Lux-Light, Ferre-to bring). There is lots of ancient symbology which was probably borrowed, particulatly from a Caananite Myth. Basically they all run along this line. There is the morning star (venus) who assends from the darkness and brings the dawn (the light) and keeps assending in the Sky until the Sun dawns whose light engulfs the morning Star which then descends again.

This then has been associated with Satans falling from heaven (Luke 10:18). Is this what Jesus was refering to? I think not. The main reasoning being that the context of the passage doesn't allow it. Isaiah 14:3-4 says:

"On the day the LORD gives you relief from suffering and turmoil and cruel bondage, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:
How the oppressor has come to an end!
How his fury has ended!"

and Isaiah 14:16-17 says:

"Those who see you stare at you,
they ponder your fate:
"Is this the man who shook the earth
and made kingdoms tremble,
the man who made the world a desert,
who overthrew its cities
and would not let his captives go home?""

We see from the context therefore that its is actually the King of Bablyon and not Satan! In other words God is greater then the great Kingdom of Bablylon despite it destroying the other Kingdoms and conquering the World! Nothing to do with Satan at all.

In the New testament Jesus is called the Morning Star (Lucifer). In Revelation 22:16 Jesus says:

"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

This is not the only example. Is Jesus the Devil therefore? Perish the thought. Rather they NT writers are using the image to show that Jesus is the one who makes the light Dawn in our hearts. For example 2 Peter 1:19 says:

"And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts"

For this reason I do not believe that Lucifer is a Biblical or suitable name for the Devil.

Let me know your thoughts

Till next time!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Preaching Darwin

I found this on Dr Jim West's blog:

"Today across the nation vapid Pastors will set aside their Bibles in order to preach Darwin. As it’s my aim always to be a blessing, I’ve assembled a list of other materials such ‘preachers’ might consider to use in place of the Bible for their Sunday Sermon:

1- Sports Illustrated. Face it, people love sports more than they love Darwin, so ride the wave!

2- Readers Digest. It has some cool stories and the Unitarians use it all the time. Be ‘chic’!

3- Playboy. That way you can urge your congregants to ‘read the articles instead of looking at the pictures’. And the number of young men attending your services will explode.

4- Ebony. I have never read Ebony, not being black myself, but I’m sure there’s interesting stuff in it or it wouldn’t be so popular. Anyway, it will make you seem really cool!

5- Movies. I mean here that instead of preaching you can show a blockbuster movie and then after it’s over, you can make some lame comment about it and so seem ‘connected’.

6- Music. This one works great too. Pick some idiotic Bob Dylan song (with his incomprehensible lyrics) and pretend to know what he’s talking about by applying it to your audience. This also works for the foppish U2 and other cult-like groups worshiped by believers.

Follow these 6 recommendations and you’ll be able to avoid the Bible for years to come! After all, you were called, weren’t you, to preach what people want to hear rather than the Verbum Dei."

Preach it Doctor!

Some interesting websites..........for Theologians that is!

A site which gives an overview of Church history and connected terms. Not in-depth but a helpful starting block/memory jogger:
Christian history time machine
(Part of an unrelated cooking site for some reason!)

Does exactly what is says on the tin! Art from the Bible:

(Thanks to the Baptistbookworm for this one.)

Friday, 13 February 2009

Belief is not enough!

2 Thessalonians 2:13 says:(Emphasis mine)

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

What is belief? The cambrdge dictionary defines belief as:

Belief: The feeling of certainty that something exists or is true

This therefore tells me that as long as i feel certain about the truth (Jesus) then I will be saved no matter what my life looks like. Right? Wrong!

This is not belief in something but rather knowledge about something!

Romans 10:9-10 clarifies for us:

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

So we are to believe in out hearts that Jesus is Lord and at the same time make a public declaration of this belief. Belief is to change our hearts and lives to show the Lord Jesus. That is why the Bible is full of example of "believe and be baptised"(e.g. see here). Not because baptism is a magic ritual but rather it is a outward declaration os an inward disposition.

James is nearly a wole book about this subject. Faith is not enough on its own! Works are needed to accompany them. He states:(Emphasis mine)

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
(James 2:14-26)

Now is this a works based salvation? No, not at all. We are saved by grace, through faith (Eph 2:8-9). It is merely showing that the term 'faith' is not how we, in common English, understand it but rather it necessitates works to show its validity. Even the following verse saysthat we are creatd in Christ Jesus to do good works.(Eph 2:10)

Phil Ryken recently wrote the following over at Reformation 21:

Timothy George has a nice piece in First Things about Rick Warren and his inaugural prayer, especially the fact that he prayed in the name of Jesus. At the close, he asks whether "Christians must hide their faith in the inner reserve of their private consciousness." They must not do so, says George. "For Christians, religious faith is more than what one does with one's solitude. It is a public declaration to all the world that Jesus Christ is Lord. The one who said 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life' was not crucified in private."

Remebmber to show your faith to others that they too may believe and be saved!
Till next time!

(Scripture from the NIV)

Quote of the day

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much." ~ Oscar Wilde

Reminds me of Romans 12:20, and Matthew 5:44.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Happy Birthday Darwin!

Sorry to jump on the band wagon but it is a momentous event!

Whether you be (please excuse the broad terms) an Evolutionist, Creationist, or you're into Intelligent design we can all marvel at the work of God in creation and adaptation(re-creation).

I always feel a little sorry for Erasmus Darwin (Charles' Uncle) as he was the one who was the original proponent of the origin of species theory. Charles simply took his ideas and developed them further on the Beagle, collecting data from various places.

What annoys me particularly is the division that has appeared between Christianity and Science as if they are mutually exclusive terms. Science is was traditionally a Christian enterprise. The theology behind it being that God is ordered and therefore his creation is expected to be. A large number of Darwins followers and helpers were infact Christians, particularly clergymen. Darwin himself was a Christian and re-confirmed his belief on his death bed.

Now I myself am a creationist, honestly due more to the inconsistency of Macro-evolutionary science, then the Bible. Genesis 1 and 2 have little or nothing to do with how the world was created. It is a theological writing denoting that God created the world and is therefore above it. Furthermore the created things are simply that and not gods to be worshipped. It was a writing most likely given to aid evangelism and right practice and not to shun others.

Lets stop using it as a barrier from loving our Christian family, and more importantly lets stop letting it be a stumbling block to the Gospel.

So I say Happy Birthday Darwin. I'll see you one day.
Till next time!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Then all Gods people say......Amen?

This word which slips so easily off of our tongues means something along the line of "Let it be so" or as it is often used in English, "I agree". It comes from the Hebrew root, or so I'm told is 'aman meaning, "To stand firm" or colloquially, "To have faith".

The reason I'm bothering to mention this is that I have some questions regarding prayer. When you become a Christian you are told that you say Amen at the end of prayers you agree with and don't at the end of those you don't. Sounds simple until you put it into practice:

- What if you agree with, lets say say 90% of the prayer and not with the other 10%? E.G. A wonderful prayer but they mention that they are happy that America has an Indian President.)

- What if you know what was meant but you disagree with what actually came out? E.G. "Lord, We thank you that you think we're worthless" (Priceless)

- What if you agree with what they actually said but not what you know they mean? E.g. "Lord, we thank you that you pre-destined us" said by a Calvinist/Arminian (delete as applicable)

I have no answers, just questions I'm afriad. If you have answers please share them on the comments below. If I've just confused you like most people I've asked so far then sorry.

Till next time!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Quote of the day

From a friend of mine on the Christian life:

"[You] just need to remember that after ploughing through you gotta sow."
James Hall,2009

It reminded me that we can very easily get caught up in the ploughing (Theology, Bible study, and other thoughts) that we forget to Sow (Share Jesus with others). Lets bring others into the Kingdom with us.

If a man chooses to be in Prision is he free?

The Cardiff University Christian Union are giving out cards with the above on for mission week and it reminded me of something Mr.John Wesley wrote in light of why he is an Arminian and why he disagreed with Calvinism:

“Our blessed Lord does indisputably command and invite "all men every where to repent." He calleth all. He sends his ambassadors, in his name, to "preach the gospel to every creature." He himself "preached deliverance to the captives," without any hint of restriction or limitation.

But now, in what manner do you represent him, while he is employed in this work? You suppose him to be standing at the prison-doors, having the keys thereof in his hands, and to be continually inviting the prisoners to come forth, commanding them to accept of that invitation, urging every motive which can possibly induce them to comply with that command; adding the most precious promises, if they obey, the most dreadful threatenings, if they obey not; and all this time you suppose him to be unalterably determined in himself never to open the doors for them! even while he is crying, "Come ye, come ye, from that evil place: For why will ye die, O house of Israel!"

"Why!" might one of them reply, "because we cannot help it. We cannot help ourselves; and thou wilt not help us. It is not in our power to break the gates of brass, and it is not thy pleasure to open them. Why will we die! We must die; because it is not thy will to save us." Alas! my brethren, what kind of sincerity is this, which you ascribe to God our Saviour?”

(John Wesley, "Predestination Calmly Considered," The Works of John Wesley, Volume X (Salem, OH: Schmul Publishers, 1872), 226-227.)

This is an extract from an article that Mr. Wesley wrote trying to convince people of the errors of Calvinism. He believed, as do I, that the Bible teaches what we know as Arminianism and that to logically follow Calvinism makes God into something he is not: a Sinner! Please read the whole thing here, particularly if this angers you, or confused you. We must learn to understand who God really is and yet love each other in the journey. Love and understanding are the first steps.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Quote of the day

"Preaching is not like mathematics: you do not “show your steps.”"

(Ben Myers, Ten virtues for theological students,