Sunday, December 25, 2005

Friday, December 16, 2005

To What Shall We Appeal?


Protestantism has a problem with schism. The denominational fractures that dominate American Protestantism stem in large part from a critical issue: who has authority.

Ever since Martin Luther coined the phrase sola scriptura Protestants have jubilantly touted this ideology as if they truly espouse it. One wonders, if all Protestants base their beliefs on the Bible alone, why there is so many differing viewpoints and opinions on matters of theology and biblical interpretation? The reality is that no one truly uses the principle of sola scriptura. Why? In large part it represents an impossibility. Every person who attempts to interpret Scripture does so through a preconceived interpretive lens. Our cultural categories inevitably find their way into our theology (as evidenced with Hodge's insistence on penal substitutionary atonement as well as Anselm's satisfaction model), as well as various other paradigms from which we interpret Scripture. Never is one able to approach the Bible without additional frameworks influencing the manner in which one interprets the Bible.

The question becomes who or what speaks authoritatively on biblical interpretation? Is it the scholar? Your local pastor? Is it James Dobson and his politically polarized contemporaries? Who determines whether five-point Calvinism or Arminianism is correct? Are they mutually exclusive?

Inquiries such as this become even more daunting when one begins to interpret the trajectory of doctrinal development. Why do we trust the doctrine of the Trinity when it is extremely undeveloped in the biblical witnesses? Can we rely upon the creed of Nicea as true Christian orthodoxy? How can we validate the orthodox statements of Chalcedon when such statements find no exposition in the biblical text? What do we do with doctrines crucial to the Christian faith but are unclear in Scripture?

I have my own suggestions, but what do you think? Where does authority rest for you? Please do not flippantly say, "Well the Bible is my authority." That is to side-step the question. Perhaps the question should be phrased: on what authority do you determine what is an accurate interpretation of Scripture? For many Protestants they have become their own little Popes (although the Roman Catholic Pope is often a much better exegete), declaring their personal interpretation to be authoritative and anything that questions their myopic view is infringing upon their equally valid understanding. But is it equally valid? So, again I ask, who or what determines correct biblical interpretation? The way you answer this question defines what you believe and how you communicate the Gospel narrative. Do not treat it lightly.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Man's Name is "Intelligence"


One of my professors somehow finds the time to blog regularly. He daily produces publishable articles yet he is able to complete various other tasks. The man has enough brain power to cover five people. Anyway, considering finals are over and I am being lazy right now, I decided to post a link to his latest blog. I was reading it yesterday and it's really quite good. Check it out.

Indeed, Romans 9-11 are far more about Israel and the Gentiles than about individuals. More than anything else, the question Paul is asking is why the vast majority of Israel has not accepted Christ as the Messiah. His discussion is not an abstract philosophical discourse on the fate of individuals in the sovereign will of God. The question is why the overwhelming majority of Jews in the world have not accepted the good news.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Jewel from First Semester

Finals are over! Here is my final exegesis paper that I handed in yesterday. I'm not nearly as pleased with this as the last, but do read and leave some comments.

John 18:4-9

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Christmas "War"

While I am heartily encouraging the ongoing discussion of my previous post, I would like to direct your attention to a very relevant blog composed by Nathan Hart. Feel free to leave comments here as I would be interested in hearing what conversation this blog may generate.

And my original thoughts will return soon but considering that finals are almost here I am finding it easier to direct your curiosity to some great thinkers.

Oh, I also am putting a link to a Jon Stewart commentary on this whole issue. It's on Nate's site but in case you missed it check it out.
(Click on "Secular Central")

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Very Good Review of "Revolution"

I know this is long, but it's worth it. This was put together by some of my professors.

December 5, 2005

Students and friends,

Often in our classrooms we recommend book-lists which will enable you to grow on your own, apart from us as professors. This time we would like to take a moment and recommend a “NOT-list.” The first book we will bring to you is the newly released, Revolution, by the skilled-pollster (and amateur theologian) George Barna. Overall, this book is a critique (make that a full-body slam) of the church’s inability to impact the American culture in a positive (i.e., redemptive) manner. Thus, in this book he notes that due to the church’s lack of being an impact player, God must be calling His people outside of the church to utilize their gifts and serve the Lord. Barna now calls these Christians who no longer center their lives around Church “Revolutionaries” and believes they (his count of 20 million of them and growing) are the real future of the manifested body of Christ on earth. Barna also joyously admits that he is now one of them as well.

First, from a biblical standpoint, this text would fail any and all of our exegesis classes. He claims to have studied the scriptures on the subject but there is a glaring lack of any serious reference to what the biblical pattern for the church really involves. It is a wholly invalid process to critique what the church is NOT until he establishes a biblical baseline for what the church IS! This effort, to be of value, must begin with a clear and precise ecclesiology; stating what the Church is, not what Mr. Barna wants it to accomplish.

His practice is to silence the opinions of others with out-of-context proof-texts. Barna (mis)uses God’s Words to Peter, “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” This reference specifically calls Peter to welcome Gentiles into the Church. In no way does it justify one to jettison the church in a wholesale manner or even to re-invent “Church” according to a new paradigm. Moreover, Barna simplifies (trivializes?) the church to be a series of quotes from the Book of Acts. Interestingly, Barna describes his understanding of the church from passages in Acts 2, 4, and 5. But it is worth noting that at that point the Gospel has not even been proclaimed to the Samaritans, God-fearers, or the gentiles. The true nature of servant-hood, forgiveness, and grace has yet to be encountered. Finally, loosely based upon these scriptures, Barna describes the attributes he finds in the early church (what he calls “seven core passions”, pp. 22-25). These are so resoundingly modern in their orientation that they would be unrecognizable to the apostles. Further, Barna writes, “This mission demands single-minded commitment and a disregard for the criticisms of those who lack the same dedication to the cause of Christ. [Can you hear the spiritual arrogance?] You answer to only one Commander-in-Chief, and only you will give an explanation for your choices.” (p. 27). Friends, there is no place in scripture which permits a Christian to function as a lone-ranger apart from the Body. We are called into fellowship not out of it. As I see it, Revolution is essentially autobiographical, not biblical. Barna’s approach is purely phenomenological; the fact that something is happening becomes its own validation. My suggestion to Mr. Barna; this book should have been co-written with a team of scholars who would join together with to utilize Barna’s sociological strength of reporting trends of culture and opinions of society; not interpreting scriptures and evaluating the church’s ability to meet his self-selected criterion for success. But that is the nature of what Barna is calling the future church to look like, not a unified Body but individuals working disconnected from one another and from the “head.”

Second, from a theological perspective, the ecclesiology espoused by Barna is plagued with problems. While Barna declares himself a “revolutionary,” espousing an innovative way of discipleship beyond the local church, he deludes himself. His ecclesiology, with a myopic preoccupation upon individual discipleship and a personal relationship with Christ, simply follows to its logical conclusion a shallow Americanized model of the Church, dominant in contemporary evangelicalism. Ironically, Barna’s stated doctrine of the Church is a product of the evangelical churches he critiques, both of which misunderstand the fundamental nature of the Church, distort the doctrine of grace and the means of grace, and ultimately succumb to Pelegian pragmaticism. As such, his book not only exposes his own inadequate ecclesiology, but highlights the deficiencies of many contemporary evangelical models of the Church.

Fundamentally, Barna sees the Church, the Body of Christ, exclusively as a mystical, spiritual community of “revolutionaries” without any direct relationship to the local church. The Church is a community that Christians spiritually join when they decide to follow Jesus, rather than one into which they are incorporated concretely through baptism and local church discipline. However, membership in the Church, the Body of Christ, is problematic without relationship to the local church. Why? Because as the Reformed, Lutheran, and Wesleyan forms of Protestantism have consistently recognized, along with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, the Church is the primary means of God’s saving grace and the Church is expressed concretely in local churches. Local churches are the means by which God’s saving grace in Christ Jesus given to the Church is made available to humanity. Through the preaching of the Word, the due administration of the sacraments, and the community rightly ordered (the marks of the Church), saving, confirming and sanctifying grace is communicated to people. For people to isolate themselves from hearing the scriptures read and the Word of God proclaimed in community, from participation in the sacraments of the Church, and from submitting themselves to the discipline, order and life of the local church is to cut themselves off from the primary means of God’s grace. As such, while a generation of “revolutionaries” may be able to sustain themselves for a period of time, grace capable of sustaining and nourishing Barna’s “revolutionaries” for the long haul, much less succeeding generations, will prove difficult, if not impossible.

In the end, Barna surrenders the biblically and theologically prudent understanding of the Church for an expedient model that ultimately cannot birth, nourish and sustain believers. Dangerously, Barna’s ecclesiology has more in common with the Donatist movement in the third century and Pelegianism in the fifth century than it does in orthodox Christian theology. While these movements flourished in the moment, having great spiritual zeal and fervor, they could not be sustained, and their followers in subsequent generations were left without access to the means of God’s saving and sustaining grace found in the Church.

Finally, from a practical effect (especially among younger people) is to encourage them to drop out of church attendance and practice a do-it-yourself religion. Among ministerial students it encourages them to seek other more exciting venues for their ministry instead of the old fashioned local church. To the laity it legitimizes dropping out of church and going golfing—just so long as they go on a mission’s trip with a Para church organization occasionally and have a neighbor Bible study with a few friends on Tuesday evenings so they can skip church and go golfing on Sunday mornings. The practical effect of the book is to elevate lone ranger religion to which the local church (and obviously districts and denominations) are totally irrelevant.
In pondering this book, it seems to only have come from the pen (laptop?) of a frustrated “boomer.” Moreover, his focus is so modern, western, and individualistic in orientation that it has lost all connections with the biblical times or text. Moreover, it s not global in focus, making it an American Christianity issue, not Kingdom. This is a call to selfish, self-centered Christians who want what they want, want it now, and are not willing to submit to one another. It’s a call to men (predominantly, Eldredge “Wild at Heart” types) who need adventure and an instant-spiritual-gratification spirituality. Faith, forgiveness, perseverance, and body-submission are no where to be seen. Life is measured by pure performance rather than biblical faithfulness.

This is a dangerous book scripturally, theologically and practically—which is why it may be a popular book. Encouraging our people to buy it would be like promoting a book that celebrated pre-marital sex and extra-marital affairs as the wave of the future. People do not need encouragement toward such behaviors. What this book promotes if far more serious than pre-marital or extra-marital sex: it is a dangerous book.

Jointly composed and sincerely Church-men,
Chris Bounds
Keith Drury
David Smith

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What do you think?

Anyone interested in discussing this recent post with those of the thinkchristian.com community may do so here. Thanks to Nate Hart for fostering further discussion.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Pastors are People Too

Kevin Wright posted a provocative article on his blog. It discusses the issue of Wesleyan pastors who find no help from the larger Wesleyan polity in the matter of health insurance. This is a serious issue and I would encourage you to lend support and ideas as to how it may be resolved. As it pertains to my prior post, Kevin is the type of theologian who seeks a greater depth of understanding and he uses it in practical ways like this.

Communication is Key


Despite the fact that this is the most hectic time of the semester, I have been doing a lot of thinking and reading that does not necessarily pertain to my classwork. As a result, I have come to the conclusion that American Christianity is largely ineffective due to its inability to communicate the biblical narrative. The reason that we find ourselves unable to communicate the message is because we really don't understand it.

There are many in our local churches who have a vast array of knowledge of biblical topics and biblical passages that "address" certain situations or theological matters. However, even among those who have "good bible knowledge" there is clear sense that they do not understand what it is they know. Any basic Christian can state, "We are saved by faith, through the grace of God, by the work of Jesus Christ." Yet very few (including the clergy) would be able to explain what is meant by this theologically loaded statement.

How many could explain the vast scope of salvation and all that redemption entails? How many could explain what is meant by "faith" and what exactly this "faith" is? How do ascertain "faith" and how does "faith" operate? How many could explain what grace is, and how it is communicated? How many could explain how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus accomplishes the act of redemption and how we are to understand the atonement?

My fear is that not many, whether it be laity or clergy, would be able to explain these vastly important realities. I am not supposing that we require an absolute understanding of all that the Christian narrative purports, but if we do not possess a greater understanding of the meaning behind the truths we proclaim we will continue to be unintelligible to the persons around us.

Salvation has become to us, "Convert the hordes and get as many into heaven as possible!" Many have become disillusioned and confused because after they have been "saved" the reality that they do not understand what they believe becomes a tiresome burden. I have found that our misunderstanding has conceived in us an understanding of the biblical text that is at many times nothing less than a grand distortion. Academics twist my paradigms because the American church has not offered much beyond, "Jesus loves you. Get saved!" We are a community of confusion, confessing the right things but having virtually no understanding of what we actually mean.

The solution is that we respond to the demand of Jesus found often in John's Gospel. In John's Gospel (see previous post) we find Jesus repeatedly calling his people to a deeper understanding about both his identity and his mission. Faith built upon an erroneous foundation is presented as unacceptable in John's Gospel. For us, perhaps it means that we put aside Max Lucado for a volume of systematic theology by Thomas Oden. Or perhaps we need to close the pages of an Erwin McManus book and read the Apologies of Justin Martyr. Perhaps we should lay down Joel Osteen and John Elderidge and pick up the rich writings of Athanasius. For if we do not seek to understand what we believe those who are not part of the Christian community will never seek to become part.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My memo to my readers


This is my official notice that my blogs may be few and far between in the next couple of weeks. There is a mere two weeks remaining in the semester and therefore I have a horrific plethora of tasks to complete. They will be enjoyable but unbelievably time-consuming. Therefore, mainly I will post some of the projects I am working on. Stop in periodically to see if anything catches your fancy. Christmas is in sight!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Books, Books, Books


Okay, I know this is not an academically loaded post, but I thought with my birthday coming up (Nov. 25), and Christmas will no doubt be here soon, that I might post a link to a registry I have created at Christianbook.com. That's right, I have a registry for books. Anyone who wants to increase my library can do so at my registry. I welcome any suggestions for additional books that I should place on my registry. And have I told you lately how much I love you? That's right I do.

(By the way, does anyone know if it's illegal to put that banner on my blog? If it is, please say so.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It's that time of the year...

It's that time of the year where your brain is a pile of mush and cramming anymore information into it is a virtual impossibility. Therefore, I am wasting my time on things like the following. Nonetheless, blogs that actually matter will return soon...I promise.


Numenorean
Numenorean


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

Graceful? Dignified? Tragic? Sure, I can see that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Not as cool as I thought it'd be

I originally saw this on Sniper's blog. I thought it was cool until I got the very same answer as he did...now I'm skeptical. Did they make me waste my time?


The Movie Of Your Life Is A Cult Classic

Quirky, offbeat, and even a little campy - your life appeals to a select few.
But if someone's obsessed with you, look out! Your fans are downright freaky.

Your best movie matches: Office Space, Showgirls, The Big Lebowski

I needed this

This is humorous link that I discovered on a friend's blog. It was a nice comedic relief from my current world. Enjoy.

What a great kid.

After I posted the above link I found another gem from another blog. This one is great. I love the look on the guy's face.

Pitch his tents.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Yes, I'm human too


It's saturday night, and I just got back home from spending some time with the fellas. So of course, I have decided to blog.

I don't usually like posting about my "feelings" or emotional type stuff, but I am going to break normalcy and be perfectly honest: I am an emotional mess.

Tonight I watched Fight Club. If you've never seen the movie you won't understand, but I feel as if I need hours upon which to contemplate. If you have seen the movie you probably 1) thought it was terribly "un-Christian"; 2) wanted to fight people; or 3) actually realized the depth and meaning of the film. I would be in category three, although I'm still trying to sort out what the entire film entails. Mix this deeply philosophical film with my current emotions and you have me being in an unbelievably indescribable state of mind.

So what am I feeling? Confused. Life is unusual, as if we go through it wanting, believing, having more, but still we are restless. What does writing this really even mean to me? Or to you? Why do you read this, why do I write it?

It's amazing how I can be so apathetic yet feel so much. I know the two are mutually exclusive. I don't care, it's what describes me best.

Most people don't know I'm going through many personal struggles right now. I have been intentional about not proclaiming this fact but now that I have put it out where all the public can see I've decided to leave it at that and not describe the struggles. Nonetheless, life is...difficult?...I don't think that's really the best word to describe it. Life is...life is like Fight Club. I am Tyler Durden. In many ways that I don't even understand. And I'm not him in many ways. But tonight, Tyler Durden and I share at least unfulfillment. It's true. I am unfulfilled. And I don't mean situationally unfulfilled. I don't mean a sense of "roller-coaster" unfulfillment. I mean...I feel unfulfilled...yet I feel fulfilled. Which is why I don't trust my feelings right now; they make no sense.

I am Tyler Durden. Tonight. Tomorrow, maybe I'll be someone else. Or maybe I'll just want to be.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Communion: Sacrament or Ordinance?

Here is another delicious product of academia. This is a paper I wrote for my Church Rituals class on the sacramental nature of the eucharist. Essentially the paper illustrates the reasons why I believe in the traditional view of the eucharist which holds it as a high sacrament. Again, post any comments, questions, or thoughts you have regarding the paper. And I guarantee you that "personal opinions" will not sway me from 2000 years of orthodox teaching. If you want me to confess the eucharist as an ordinance you'll have to do better than that. :)

Communion: Sacrament or Ordinance?

Exegesis of John 6:67-71

I am posting an exegesis paper that I recently completed. It was a long and arduous process but I am moderately pleased with the final result. Let's hear your thoughts; at what points do you agree or disagree with my conclusions? How does this passage fit into the larger context of John? How does this affect our Johannine theology? Leave comments questions, answers, whatever you feel appropriate.

Exegesis of John 6:67-71

Brief Chat on Atonement

I'm currently reading a book entitled "Recovering the Scandal of the Cross," by Joel Green and Mark Baker. A central thesis of the book is examining the commonly held view of atonement in modern western Christianity; that is of substitutionary nature. In what manner can we speak of the cross in substitutionary terms and has our culture and legal structure influenced our atonement theology burying a more accurate view of the atonement?

The authors argue that in Pauline thought the salvific event is presented largely in terms of reconciliation. This reconciliation, which is brought about by the death and resurrection of Christ, extends not just to reconciling humanity to God but also humanity to one another and the kosmos to God as well. While Paul presents his arguments in various metaphors depending largely upon the audience to which he writes, this emphasis on reconciliation carries with it a clear theme: humanity needs to be reconciled to God but God need not be reconciled to humanity. It is not that God is estranged from humanity but rather we are estranged from God. The death and resurrection thereby bring about this reconciliation.

In Galatians Paul's atonement theology is more focused on the inclusion of all peoples considering the death of Christ. Restoration of relationship to God is not due to biological descendance but rather is achieved by Jesus' death. In this way Paul attacks the idea that the Gentile converts need to conform to the regulations of the Judaizers.

The authors see in Paul a focus on the restoration of relationships. In Israel's Scriptures a formidable medium for restoration was sacrifice. In other words, there is not a sense of the need for the appeasement of God. God is not estranged from us therefore he need not be appeased. This is distinctly foreign from our common elaboration of atonement as Jesus dying to appease the wrath of God.

I have a fair amount of reading left to do in the book but thus far the book has been helpful in articulating just what I believe theologically concerning the atonement. So what do you think? Do you agree with the author's understanding? What questions do you have? How does this affect your atonement paradigm? Why is this important (or why not)?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Eschatology Awry


Bono said in a recent interview that the way to dismantle an atomic bomb is with love. Upon hearing this comment my mind did a marathon through various topics until it landed upon the issue of eschatology.

If I understand the New Testament correctly, love seems to be the overarching principle. Love is the fulfillment of the law and the two greatest commandments are to "love the Lord your God...and to love your neighbor as your self." The first century messianic expectation of many of the Jews was that the messiah would be militaristic and would overthrow the rule of Rome, reestablishing Israel as the ruling kingdom. Amidst this setting Jesus arrives and creates a new paradigm for understanding the messianic mission. It is with Jesus that the principle of love is categorically viewed as the highest ethic. Love encompasses Jesus' mission.

The Jews expected militaristic conquest; Jesus did not provide that. What seems ironic to me is the popular eschatological view of Tim LaHaye which is characterized by militaristic action. Am I the only one who sees this as anti-thetical to the ethics of Jesus? I am not pressuming that Jesus was a die-hard pacifist (that would serve for an entirely different study in itself), rather I wonder if a LaHaye eschatology is shaped more by secular influences than biblical ones. It is no mystery that I view this type of eschatology with some contempt (although more on the grounds of faulty biblical interpretation). But the question still remains; upon what basis do we derive our eschatological views?

While there is no firm Tradition from whence to defend a certain view of the eschaton, there certainly are better interpretations based in the principles of biblical exegesis. I tend to see the Church as having a more central role in history. The Church is not merely a safehouse for those who will be "raptured" before the tribulation, rather the Church is infused with the mission of simultaneously spreading the Gospel and building disciples (I am one who does not even believe in the rapture of the Church based upon the biblical evidence). Perhaps Christ will not return until the Church has completed her mission. If that is the case we may want to spend less time preparing for the "rapture" and more time actively participating in the mission of the Church.

Jesus did not conquer the way we think of conquest. And if the book of Revelation is already primarily fulfilled maybe we should eliminate this obsession with the misleading eschatology of the Left Behind authors. The Church does not need any more Montanus', Joachim d' Fiore's, or Hal Lindsey's.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday cometh...

It is Friday and I need it. I was up at six this morning to get ready for the President's Prayer breakfast. It was early, but man did I look good in my suit and tie. Sometimes you just have to praise God for even things as simple as Friday. Praise Him.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hated or Loved by the State?

This is a brief paper I wrote for my Church History I class. The assignment was to evaluate whether it would be better for Christianity to be persecuted by the state and opposed by prevailing culture OR to be accepted by the prevailing culture and given special priveleges by the government. We were forced to "fall off the log" and take a position, so I took one which I thought the majority of my class would disagree with. I don't truly know my concrete position on this issue but enjoyed the rhetoric I employed nonetheless. Enjoy.



Tertullian is quoted as saying that, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Tertullian is no doubt correct, for the persecution that the Early Church endured allowed it to flourish at an alarming pace. Yet Tertullian is also correct when he states that this type of persecution is the "seed of the church." What is brought forth from persecution is an environment which is less physically hostile to Christianity and even has the ability to aid the Christian effort. If the Church continued to endure a state of persecution it would remain merely a seed and never reach the full glory which God has destined for His people. The Church cannot exist in a perpetual state of persecution and therefore the Church is more effectual when the prevailing culture accepts it.

Clearly a persecuted Church has its advantages. The reality is that intense persecution often develops deeply entrenched faith. There is no room for indecision when one is faced with either denying his Lord or being torn apart by wild animals. The lines become clearly drawn: either you are on the side of light or the side of darkness. Due to the faithfulness of thousands of Christians facing death throughout the centuries many have beheld the power of God and been converted by such testimony. Where the Church is persecuted, it also flourishes.
Yet certainly a Church which is consistently persecuted runs the risk of extinction. Perhaps the reason this has never been a threat is because as the Church increases under persecution it eventually becomes quantitatively powerful. Cultural tolerance therefore appears to be the inevitable outcome following intense persecution. Eventually the Church becomes just too numerous to be violently opposed!

If cultural acceptance is the natural outflow of persecution then this result must have its benefits. The people no longer have to fear physical threats. A Church accepted can use its influence to transform a secular culture. Yet unfortunately there is a greater possibility for corruption and abuse. A person not faced with the pressure of denying Christ or accepting death is able to be less concerned about ethical matters and faithfulness because there is no immediate risk of martyrdom.

Ultimately, persecution is only able to remain temporary and therefore we must look to an accepted Church as the preferable option of the two. While the venality of the Church is therefore magnified this is by no means a sovereign decree that corruption will eventually seep into the Church. God has chosen to use the Church as His primary method for both the proclamation of the Gospel and the maturation of believers. Is it not reasonable to conclude that God is not going to allow His Church to be extinguished? If the Church falls to the deception of power God will remedy the situation. The Reformation is a clear historical event which points us to this reality. While the finer points of the Reformation are debatable, it is evident that God used Martin Luther to begin a cleansing of corruption from the Lord’s Bride.

Rather than focusing on the plausibility of extortion becoming a reality within the Church, it would do well to note that when the Church is related to the governing powers it has the ability to spread its influence through a wider variety of mediums. The Church Father Cyril used his position to politik in favor of orthodox theology and influenced the christological direction that the Church underwent. Persecution aids in weeding out the lukewarm but ultimately gives way to an ecclesiological formation that is accepted by the prevailing culture. The goal should not be to bring persecution in order to inspire devotion but rather to properly use the authority and relations which the Church maintains in a culture which is, at the very least, tolerating.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

So sorry!

For all of you who faithfully read my blog (yes, all...three, four?) I will not be posting until September the 15th. Currently Jen and I are in the process of moving into our apartment and our internet service will not be activated until the 15th. But don't worry, I will return soon! I miss blogging already...

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Christianeze

I don't think I want to mimic the way many pastors speak. This past Sunday as I sat in the service I began to think about the language which pastors are expected to use. "God is working in this church." "This series is going to be life-transforming (whatever that means)." "I believe God is going to transform our society."

I suppose there is nothing inherently wrong with this type of language (although perhaps there are some theological misgivings). Most of it is probably true. But as I have been exposed to different parts of ministry I am beginning to realize that I do not want to speak like the typical pastor. It is as if there is a certain role which the pastor must fit in most churches. There is a theological role, a terminology role, an appearance role. Again, it is not that the demands on these roles are necessarily awry, but sometimes I feel as if pastors know what it is people want them to be and they become it.

To be quite honest as I listened to the introductory comments by the pastor this past Sunday and I began to think about these things I could not determine exactly what it was that I disliked. I also found no substitute terminology. I suppose one thing I realized is that I could have put this pastor in a number of churches across the nation and heard the very same sort of statements. Is that good or bad? Universality is a good thing but would it be more appropriate to label this sort of thing uniformity? Conformity?

Many pastors I have met speak differently when they are in front of a congregation than when they are speaking one-on-one with a person. Obviously there is a differentiation that will occur between an individual and a body of believers but sometimes pastoral communication via Sunday morning services seems so generic.

I do not intend this to be a broad generalization of all pastors. In fact, there are probably more who do not fit this description. Pastors have a difficult calling, no doubt, as I have experienced and will continue to experience. It will take more analyzation to determine what exactly it is that spurned these cognitive wheels regarding pastoral language. As for now, I want to be a pastor who speaks strangely. And by strangely I do mean something different than what I just described. And by something different than what I just described I mean...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Quote of the day

"as far as john wesley goes, i have no need to read the works of a man that is
theologically lacking. i would much rather read guys like john owen, johnathan
edwards, and thomas a' kempis"


I thought my Wesleyan friends would find this, at the very least, quite insulting. It comes from a person on a message board. Irritating? Yes.

Friday, August 26, 2005

What say ye?

It is simply one of those days. You know the type I mean. Thoughts are swirling in your head, emotions you didn't know you have dancing through you and intersecting in a massize eight lane highway pile up. One of those days where you read John Wesley and wonder, "It sounds nice. I just don't see it ever happening in me." One of those days where you have three different options to choose and indecision becomes the deciding factor (that and the lack of a reliable vehicle). One of those days where you wish you could be more than one person yet you are unable to even understand one of you much less multiple. One of those days where confusion reigns supreme.

You ever have a day like this? I finished reading Blue Like Jazz yesterday and wanted to weep. I wanted to weep because I don't weep when I read the Gospels. I wanted to weep because I don't weep when someone asks me about Jesus. I'm not saying I want to be an overly emotional spring that bubbles with tears at the mention of teddy bears, but there are certainly times when I wonder why my heart seems so cold. Why is it I yearn for knowledge, I yearn for understanding, and yet I neglect to question the emotional apathy that resides within all too often?

I suppose I will be brutally honest. I feel as if I am impersonal with my personal God. I had a turtle once. I loved that turtle. I talked to her and took her on walks down the block. I remember that turtle, but I haven't seen her for a number of years now. Sometimes I feel that way about Jesus. I remember meeting Him. I remember the euphoria, sort of. I know a lot about Him, but it's been a while since He and I had a good one-on-one.

I've struggled with this sort of thing. I feel an unsolvable paradox within the Christian life. I feel that unless I put effort into my relationship with God it will dissolve. While I think this is somewhat accurate I also acknowledge that there is much in my relationship with God that is out of my control. When does God take over? When you sit still and yearn to hear from God and don't, when will you begin to hear? Is it my divine deafness that keeps me from hearing, or is it lack of speech on the part of the Creator? Is it both?

"I'm struggling with God." I've said this often. I've been told often, "You just need to spend more time with Him. You need to spend more time doing devotions. You need to spend more time in prayer." I'm not denying this type-cast answer. But if my life is to be vibrant and filled with the Holy Spirit I wonder if I am really capable of doing the filling? I believe that there is more to life than my current situation. I can feel that there is more. Help me, Lord, with my unbelief.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Shifting Paradigms

It seems lately that my life consists of many interposed paradigm shifts. Throughout this past school year I found myself often immersed within scholarly literature and saw my perspective on biblical interpretation and criticism greatly altered. I have enjoyed the throes of academia and will often say, "one's view of God determines, in part, their relationship with Him." I am beginning to wonder if I have used intellectualism to shield myself against some of the more tangible parts of ministry.

First, let me be clear. I do not see a grand disconnect between intellectualism and practicality. After all, in order for something to be truly intellectually beneficial must it not also be practical? Therefore the cognitive processes seem to be interdependent upon practicality. However, ministry is much more than simply a philosophical belief system being mechanically lived. Ministry, at times, moves outside of our tidy expectations and forces us to again redefine our paradigm for ministry.

This summer has moved me to higher thinking while simultaneously moving me to a deeper level of connection with others. That deeper connection has become emotionally concrete for me with the happenings of last week.

Last week was the last week of the Blacktop Rec. program. It was, therefore, also the last week of ACCESS. The ACCESS group that volunteered for last week was comprised of about 18-20 people. To be completely honest I have never contemplated youth ministry as a pastoral vocation that I would be interested in. God has gifted me in the areas of preaching and teaching and also have given me an astute mind to deal with the more difficult theological issues. I have a passion for moving people deeper in their knowledge of who God is in order to better their relationship with Him. Yet this last week I made an incredible connection with some fantastic youth. I spent about 18 hours a day with these youth and on the last day I spent about 29 straight hours with them. In short, Christ blessed me with the ability to share His love with this group. Christ set in my heart a love for this group and all of us were greatly impacted by the week.

Suddenly I am undergoing another paradigm shift. I gave my entire energy to this group for a week. I prayed with them, taught them, mentored them, sang with them, discipled them, goofed around with them, etc. I exhaustively invested myself into this group. Nonetheless, at the end of the week they returned home to Iowa. I felt as if this group, MY group, had been ruthlessly torn from my life. For a week I held them in my hand and as swiftly as they had arrived they were taken from me. The emotion which resides within me is indescribable. I miss them.

I believe I am at a teachable point in my young life. For years now I have been making plans. Plans to graduate and go to an intellectually respected seminary. Plans to receive my Masters of Divinity and to head into a pastoral role. Now I feel lost, confused, disappointed and yet overjoyed that God has placed His hand into my plans and twisted it.

Dear Lord, what do you really want me to do with my life? Perhaps a comprehensive life-plan is not only unnecessary but also deleterious to myself. For now, I will thank God for the love He has given me for this group from Lone Tree and pray that He shows me how He wants me to remain in their lives. Perhaps having a correlation between my paradigms and plate tectonics is not such a bad thing.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Ambiguity of Homosexual Marriage

Sexual immorality - the epitome of disgusting sin, at least for too many in the Church. What is it about sexual sin that launches it to a hamartiological tower incapable of receiving compassion or forgiveness from God's own, the Church? Of particular political debate has been the polarized issue of legalizing homosexual marriage. What are the ramifications, who will be affected, why should homosexuals be allowed/disallowed to marry? For whatever reason, the flippant Christian response quite simply irritates me.

"Homosexuality is a sin, therefore, homosexuals should not marry."

1) The Bible is clear that homosexuality is sinful. You have to either remove portions of Scripture or do some grand twisting in order to assert the Bible says otherwise. Those who do so often have a predetermined commitment to a position which considers homosexuality natural.

2) Can we truly argue that just because homosexuality is sinful, homosexuals should not be allowed to marry?

The thing which irritates me about the common conservative Christian response is that it is extremely under-thought. If we are to disallow homosexuals from marrying because they are willfully sinning, where do we stop? Why is it that conservative Christians are not out rallying against the adulterer who wishes to marry, or the promiscuous, or the thief, or the habitual liar, or etc.....? Does it not seem a bit selective to only demand that homosexuals should not be allowed to marry when others who are willfully committing different sexual sins are free to do so? Where have we discovered this grand differentiation between sexual sins? While I am not one to assert an egalitarian theology regarding sin, I do find the chasm which separates homosexual sin from other sexual sin befuddling.

Those who assert homosexuals should not marry because it is sinful are, in a sense, allocating marriage only for the Church. In other words, unless you have repented of your sins and have confessed that Jesus is Lord it should be illegal for you to marry. I think the American Church needs to be a bit more honest with herself. In an ideal world marriage would be seen as the sacred bond which it is. But this is not an ideal world. Many marry without even the mention of sanctity which this act carries. There are, to an extent, to institutions which sanction marriage: the Church, and the state. Many omit the Church, but none are allowed to omit the state. Can we enact a law which prevents atheists from marrying? No, nor should we. Marriage improves a society, whether done with the acknowledgement of its transcendent nature or not. Why then do we feel we must enact a law which prevents homosexuals from marrying, some of whom are not even atheists? Which is worse, to reject God or to be a homosexual?

Let me be clear: I do not believe the Church should oversee homosexual marriages, nor do I believe the Church should ordain practicing homosexuals. There must be a distinction made between the Church and the secular in this issue. But I am not convinced that homosexuals should be prevented from marriage according to the tenets of the state. For the Church to ordain a person who is openly practicing something which the Bible clearly considers sinful would be antithetical to the mission of the Church. Why? Because a direct component of the Gospel message is freedom. It infuriates me when members of the Church attempt to use rhetoric which implies homosexuality is a part of God's diverse creation. When this is done the Church robs homosexuals freedom from sin. If Jesus can provide freedom for those struggling with other sexual sins He most certainly can provide it for homosexuals as well. Not that this always happens, and for some it is more of a battle than for others.

But let me be as blunt as I can regarding this issue. Sin becomes habitual. Sin becomes a prison. Sin becomes a small cell in which a person often becomes blind to their own bonds. I completely believe a homosexual when they tell me they do not feel "imprisoned". I have no doubt that my atheist friends actually do feel "free". But I also know from experience that one of most terrifying realities of sin is that it is a prison which often feels like a tropical paradise. And once the imprisonment is realized it can be extremely difficult for the bonds to drop. It is a fundamental duty of the Church to proclaim freedom, not to endorse slavery to sin. Whatever sin it may be, the Church must profess freedom.

The Church also must not ordain person's who are unwilling to repent of their sin. Again, a practicing homosexual should not be ordained and one who is risks clouding that freedom which Christ provides.

But I am quite unconvinced that simply because homosexuality is sinful homosexuals should not be allowed to marry. In a nation such as this, the state can endorse things which the Church simply does not. That's what makes this nation so great and so repugnant all at the same time.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Summer Employment

So I got a call today from Calvary Church. They offered me a position as their Blacktop Recreation Director. What a blessing. Basically I'll be organizing a program which is intended for at-risk kids in the community. Holland Heights has become the "rough" part of town and is home to drug trafficking, stabbings, shootings, and other tragic happenings. I am excited but am well aware that this will be quite the challenge. These kids apparently have no respect for authority and will push me to the limits. But what better place to be doing the work of God than with children whose lives will perhaps be transformed for life by a single summer? Pastor Blaine told me that often the surrounding community is difficult to reach, but when you beginning to touch the lives of their children they become much more open to the Church's influence. The affluence which the majority of the American Church lives with can cause a certain inability to see the reality of the ripe field which our workers are dispersed within. I expect God to stretch me, to strengthen me, to open my selective perspective, but most importantly to change the lives of people. After all, is that not one of the central messages of the Gospel? Hallelujah.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Paradox of Following Christ

I had a short discussion with Jen on the way home about our future and the inevitability of future congregants being upset with my preaching and teaching at points. Why? Quite simply I probably would be considered "liberal" by many American evangelicals. Certainly the ultra-conservative Reformed Holland community would find me "liberal", perhaps even radical regarding some issues. Who will I anger? Who will I upset? These questions, and many more, are unanswerable and unneccesary. The congregants who will gossip about the preacher who is a human being, and (amazingly) makes human mistakes, are those that I am least worried about. People will always talk about other people. Stories will be told and perhaps devastating ones may be circulated. But what are we "liberal" theologians to do? Shall we simply suppress our views, which may happen to be more Orthodox, to appease the masses? Or do we proclaim Truth despite the racuous outcry? The answer seems obvious; the proclamation of Truth seems to supersede the reality of its lack of welcome. Yet what truths do we proclaim? Are there some truths which, while no less true, may be deleterious to the faith of a congregant? Can we in good conscience proclaim those truths?

The more I learn, the more I desire to know. That is the virus of intellectualism. Once you begin to know more, more must follow. And for many, me at least, the more I know the more I must abandon previous paradigms and methodologies. I also find it difficult to be patient with those whom are unable to see what I consider to be quite clear and obvious realities. Perhaps if there were so obvious I would not have to go to such great lengths to explain them. But the question again arises, as a spiritual leader, a pastor, what truths do you proclaim and what truths are better to be left inconspicuous? The dangers of knowledge mishandled.

Who am I to be given such knowledge, and such authority? The reality is that many Protestants give the same, or even more, spiritual authority to their pastor than many Catholics do the Pope. As a Protestant pastor this of course has vastly important consequences. A flock of God's people will be entrusted to me. What I say and do will have a profound impact on the spiritual life of others. What a blessing, yet what a fragile blessing.

Then, of course, there is my own spiritual life to consider. Does my relationship with God come before sheperding my flock? Can I properly guide a congregation without myself being in a right relationship with God? And what defines a right relationship with God? Discipline? Emotion? Knowledge? Wisdom? What about my family? Can I truly lead God's people without prioritizing my family as first? Family, in my mind, must come before the church at times.

So where do all these questions spring forth? Ironically, from a phone call earlier tonight informing me that I am not needed as a youth pastor for a church where I had gone for an interview. I had not gotten a strong sense from God either way on the matter but was feeling privy to accepting an offer, if one was given. But one was not. The realization that ministry is much more God directed than me directed hit me like a theological hammer. "Where do you want me to minister next year Lord?" But of course the questions being to arise, "why was I not offered a position?" Hence, my questions tonight. None of them probably even crossed the mind of the board of elders, but they have crossed mine.

Life should not be monotonous. Life should be enjoyed. Life should not be seen as a means to an end. Life should be seen as an opportunity to share the light and life of Christ with others. People are important. Money really is not. Love should be sought. Political correctness is not always correct. It is when God's people love that the world is revolutionized. Lord God Almighty, make me a man of love, a man of obedience, a man willing to bow at Your feet every moment of every day and profess that You are Lord. To the Glory of God the Father. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Plight of Sola Scriptura

This is a reply I made to a comment from a person on the Third Day message board. It's somewhat interesting. There are some typos that I don't feel like editing right now because my movie still awaits.

Quote:
thats fine. if closed minded means embracing sola scriptura, then i'll
be closed minded and rightly so

I will embrace sola scriptura only to the extent that Scripture contains all of the essential beliefs for salvation (although one may argue if one feels that Trinitarian belief is essential to salvation). I may also consider embracing sola scriptura to the extent implicit in your statements if you actually embrace it yourself. Which leaves me in the clear because you can never actually embrace it to the extent which you seem to desire.

A common objection is the simple fact that sola scriptura is never purported by the Holy Scriptures themselves (a bit ironic; if we define our beliefs using the principle of sola scriptura then the belief in sola scriptura itself is inevitably self-contradicting).

Equally important is the reality that the Early Church never proclaimed such a thing. In fact, it would have been ridiculous for them to do so considering there was no established New Testament Canon until A.D. 397 at the Council of Carthage. Certainly the Canon with which we possess was circulating and already being held (fairly early) as Scriptural authority, but the Early Church never would have been as pompous to declare that the only means by which doctrine could be understood was through the means of Scripture alone.

But can I truly say that this reality is equally important as the first?

Let me be extremely clear. Scripture is primary and is the final authority on all matters. If we do not hold Scripture up to be the primary source by which we ascertain doctrine and dogma we quickly find ourselves in a heretical situation. Yet until you pick up Scripture and begin to read it (or hear it proclaimed) it really does not do much for you. Once you begin to either read or listen to the Word you begin to interpret what you hear. This is inescapable. We all interpret Scripture when we read it. As Vincent of Lerins said, "for as many interpreters of Scripture there are interpretations."

So what did the Church use to determine what is correct doctrine from its inception? The Church has alwasy understood heresy to be one of the most gravest sins because, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer states, heresy has the potential to steal the Gospel message of its sin cleansing nature. When orthodoxy is distorted the Gospel message is skewed.

So again, what has the Church always used to determine what is correct doctrine? As unfriendly as it sounds to the often myopic Protestant ear, the Church has used Tradition to determine what is orthodoxy (cue the Bibles being thrown my way and shouts of "No! Sola Scriptura!").

Let me be clear. There is a difference between Tradition and traditions. The big "T" Tradition is the tool by which the Church has determined correct Christian teaching. Tradition is determined by three things: 1) antiquity (what has been believed from the very beginning); 2) universality (what has been believed by all Christians everywhere); 3) consensus (what has been agreed to be orthodoxy, especially by the Church Councils and great Church Doctors). The big "T" Tradition is quite different from tradition. Small "t" traditions are what we all have grown up in. These include the Baptist tradition, the Presbyterian tradition, the Roman Catholic tradition, the Lutheran tradition, the Wesleyan tradition, the Methodist tradition, the Quaker tradition, the Eastern Orthodox tradition, etc. Most of these small "t" traditions find themselves comfortable within the big "T" Tradition (often there may be a certain range in which a belief may be considered orthodox). When a person approaches the biblical text they do so with a certain interprative paradigm. Lutherans approach with a Lutheran paradigm. Eastern Orthodox approach with an Eastern Orthodox paradigm. Reformed approach with a Reformed paradigm. Our paradigm determines our interpretation. We always bring some sort of means of interpretation to the text, we never truly use Scripture alone. The question is not who's system of doctrine is more biblical but rather who's doctrinal system is the orthodox interpretation of Scripture.

Unfortunately, the myopic view of Scripture that many Protestants retain, disallows them from testing their interpretation of certain passages against what has been considered (since the inception of the Church) to be the authoritative interpretation of Scripture: big "T" Tradition. Arius made a completely biblical argument as he argued that Jesus was a created being. His argument was not flawed due to lack of Scripture but rather due to an erroneous interpretation of Scripture.

How can Scripture mean something that it never meant? How can we claim that Scripture means something which the apostles and early Church never proclaimed? One of my major qualms with Calvinism is not that it is unbiblical. It is completely biblical! Yet it is based on an interpretation of Scripture which is simply not found as orthodox in Church history. The apostles and the Early Church never interpreted Scripture this way.

Martin Luther himself could not bring himself to embrace sola scriptura. When Luther translated his first Bible into German, he was afraid of putting it into the hands of the uneducated populus. Therefore he created a safety net, a hedge for orthodoxy. Luther included his commentaries in the margins, creating the first ever study Bible. The King James Bible, printed in 1611, was the first afterwards that did not contain marginal notes. It was when the Puritans took hold of the King James (which lacked any sort of damage control) that they began to dabble in heresy.

You can choose to embrace sola scriptura to the extent which you seem to desire to, but if you do, I suggest you abandon your belief in the Trinity (that is assuming you share the belief professed in the early Christian Creeds). While the Trinity is implicit in Scripture, Trinitarian doctrine in Scripture is by no means developed to the point which we now possess it. If you want to debate this point please refrain for now. I suggest reading Christology in the Making by James Dunn.

It should not surprise us that doctrine as we hold it today may be underdeveloped in Scripture. It is clear that there is development of understanding throughout the Scriptures. This is certainly clear in the Old Testament, where God is refining His people and their beliefs. This continues in the New Testament. While the christology in the early New Testament writings is certainly not developed to the extent with which we affirm, there is development even within the New Testament to where by the time we reach the latest Gospel (John), christology has developed and become much more poignant and powerful for the strict monotheism of the Jews. This need not scare us if we believe that God continues to develop His people even after the inspiration of the New Testament Canon. The developments which occured were a result of the leading of the Holy Spirit. If it were not true, they would not exist today.

I fully affirm the Christian Creeds, as do all Christian churches. Yet none of us could affirm them were it not for the development that occured within the first few centuries of Christianity. Sola scriptura sounds nice, but it is both self-contradicting and a denial of the reality that we all bring interprative paradigms to the text. Scripture contains the essentials by which we are saved (yet there are still disagreement on what these essentials are due to differing interpretations). There really are not any questions we ask today that have not already been asked. I suggest perhaps looking into the Patristics and seeing how much they have to offer us. Scripture must be interpreted and the Church, under the guiding of the Holy Spirit, has always used Tradition to do so.

In Christ,
~Ben

Unshaven with pale skin and dark rings under my eyes, I emerge from the chrysalis of academia as a beautiful butterfly...well at least I emerge

This post really is nothing terribly significant. I apologize that I have not posted in what appears to be eons. Ahh, I have missed it. I do intend to articulate some of my more meaningful thoughts and give them to the public soon, but as for now I am somewhat occupied with the beginning of summer and all that entails (finding a job, stuffing advertising envelopes for the studios, planning my wedding). Another school year has been completed and it was quite successful. I poured a great deal of energy into the end of the year and it certainly paid off. Praise God for the strength that He gives! I am looking forward to a wonderful summer. As for now, this butterfly is going to rest his mind by watching a movie...mmm, movie.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Sabbatical

I thought I would make a quick post so that anyone wondering about the scarcity of posts may be informed. Currently I am on a self-proclaimed sabbatical; I have an exegesis paper due Tuesday, the 12th and therefore my time is consumed with research, writing, research, writing, research, and then some more writing. The satisfaction of completing a literary piece (and completing it well) will be a sufficient reward for my time. May this work serve to increase my knowledge of the Lord Almighty and in turn allow me to become a more effective minister for His Kingdom.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Death of Pope John Paul II

My father called from the car today to let us know that Pope John Paul II had passed away. This news touched my heart in an unexpected way. I found myself suddenly all the more aware of the great heritage which I have been priveleged to be a part of. Christians around the world mourn the loss of such a holy man. He was exceptionally close to the Lord Jesus and his place will not be easily filled.

Did the death of the Pope touch you? Did the passing of a man incredibly close to God cause a tear to be drawn from your eye? I pray that it did. Whether you are Protestant, Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox, the death of John Paul II should touch us all. I realized today how much I respect the Catholic Church. Perhaps it is something to do with that rich heritage, the legacy of the Catholic Church. I do not really know. All I know is that I was touched today. I will miss Pope John Paul II. The world has lost a great man, yet heaven has received one.
In Christ,
~Ben Robinson

Thursday, March 31, 2005

To think...and to relate

There is a twofold problem that the Christian in a postmodern society finds himself/herself in. Christians do not think and when they do very rarely does it matter.

It is often difficult for a lay Christian to be presented with the idea that Scripture may not be inerrant in a fundamentalist sense (this statement would be more accurate for previous generations as it appears that the emergent Church is more open to various views of inerrancy). The Bible for many Protestants has become the fourth member of the Trinity...err...Quadrinity. Elevated to a status in which one wonders if there is a rogue church somewhere speaking of Scripture as homoousios with the Father, Son, and Spirit. It would appear that many would say that to challenge the beliefs or tenets upon which Christianity stands is negatively received. While this is often true, and to an extent understandable, I think the more common context in which Christianity finds tension is within the challenges made against beliefs or ideologies which are thought to be essentials of the Christian faith. The fundamentalist view of inspiration is an example of this. To hold a fundamentalist view is much more difficult than submitting to the reality that Scripture does not often fit into our man-made categories.

Ultimately what I am saying is this: too many Christians are willing to commit intellectual suicide if it relieves them of the responsibility to think. However, there are of course anomalies to this generalization and these people are typically referred to as scholars. Christian scholars make it their life to think. I respect the work of these people and have found my own beliefs and paradigms challenged by higher thinking. Here is my qualm with the scholar; so what? As I have read through various scholarly journals the question that perpetually bombards my mind is "so what"? What does this mean to the Christian Church?

We had a religion colloquium today in which the subject of debate was apologetics. The thrust of the debate was "what place does apologetics have in Christian belief"? Without going into detail about the colloquium itself I will make a few observations: 1) A central question which needed to be addressed, namely whether we should even be using rational arguments to defend the Christian faith, was not even proposed until two and a half hours into the event. 2) Some students asked well thought-out questions, others just asked questions. 3) Why is this even important?

I left the colloquium with this last question burning in my mind. The debate obviously holds importance to Christendom yet there was very little attempt to portray this in the presentations. There certainly were comments made in regards to how our view of apologetics effects the way we witness and evangelize, yet these comments were anything but conclusive. The problem which scholarship finds itself is how to make its studies relevant. What difference does it make to argue for a certain side of the pistis christou formulation in Pauline literature if there is no connection to how we should believe and live our lives? Could this debate have relevance? Certainly! But that is the chasm which scholarly journals often fail to bridge; the connection between intellectualism and practicality.

My plea to the scholar is this: make it useful, edify the Church, create scholarship for the people not just for colleagues. I believe that God gave us a mind to think, yet I also believe that God desires for those cognitive processes to produce information that is beneficial for both the edification of His Church and the spread of the Gospel. If scholarship fails to leave the intellectual battleground it becomes merely interesting and ultimately useless.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

He has been Raised!

There is no day more monumental to the Christian faith than resurrection Sunday. As the apostle Paul says, if Christ has not been bodily raised from the dead our faith is worthless. It is the reality and the fact of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ that the Christian faith stands firmly upon. There is no event which mirrors it in history; no event which is as significant to humanity as the gift of the Almighty God of His Son. The Second person of the Trinity, the Son, incarnate walked upon this earth and He was crucified to be the propitiation for our sins. This morning I preached a sermon from Luke 23:33-43 in which I asked the question, "What would motivate God to send His One and only Son to die for people who were not even looking for salvation?" John Piper and his ilk would say that Jesus Christ came in order to glorify Himself and to glorify the Father. Instead of being contrary to human nature, which seeks glory for itself, Piper apparently believes that God does exactly what he condemns; seeking glory for oneself.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of realizing that Jesus Christ did not come primarily to glorify Himself. God sent His Son because He loves! The eternal Son died on our behalf because He loves us. The beauty of the Gospel is that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. "For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will receive eternal life." (John 3:16) In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Let me know!

I'm interested in knowing who is reading my blog. If you visit and you like or dislike what I have to say, leave me a comment! I really am quite curious who out there is taking a look. Let me know!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Christianity Stripped to the Ankles

It is fascinating to me how modern Christendom has done a fairly good job of removing some of the most important historical aspects of the faith. An area which has my current attention is that of baptism. I recently became a member at Central Wesleyan Church and am encouraged to be baptized. Yet I have already received baptism as an infant in the Catholic Church. Question: Why should I be baptized again? Should a person receive numerous baptisms? What truly happens at baptism? Considering I have already established my historical hermeneutic for establishing Church doctrine and orthodoxy in my previous posts, I pose the following thoughts.

Why should I be baptized again?

I shouldn't; plain and simple. However, it probably would do well to explain this position because the reality is that some churches would disagree. First, let us examine the reasons put forth for why I should be baptized again.

1) Baptism is a profession of a person's faith in Jesus Christ and should be made before a community of believers. It is a great symbol of our regeneration and new life in Christ. Therefore, if you have not been baptized as a believer it is very important to do so in order to profess your faith in the community.

2) It is Scriptural to baptize a person only after they believe in Christ.

Sounds good to me. I do think it's important for new believers to profess their faith to the community. The main problem with this theology of baptism, though, is that it falls outside of 2,000 years of Christian orthodoxy. "But wait! Is this view not the most Scripturally sound? I mean, there are no exhortations that we are to baptize infants and it appears that people are baptized after they believe." It is true that it appears that people are baptized after they believe in Christ, however 1) this does not mean baptism is simply a profession of faith; 2) the generalization of this claim is based upon a faulty hermeneutic. Perhaps the problem that the biblical interpreter of modernity finds himself/herself in is the simple fact that our cultural dynamics are quite different from that of the first century. For example, while Christianity is easily accessible in America and a church can be found without much trouble, this was not the case in the first century. The first Christian believers were primarily youth or adults. Can we honestly say that just because the New Testament does not specifically outline that baptism can be received by infants that it is not so? The New Testament does not specifically outline that baptism should be received as an adult!

The reality is that if we take strictly the Scriptural text to develop our theology of baptism we have very little to go on. Sometimes in Scripture the Holy Spirit is received before baptism, other times afterwards. It appears that the mode was mainly submersion (the Greek word baptizo also implies submersion) but there is no mandate that baptism is to be done this way. Baptism appears to be received by believing adults, but what are we then to make of such passages as Acts 16:14,15 or Acts 16:33 which do not even attempt to make any sort of conclusive statement about the spiritual condition of the families whom were baptized? Were they even Christians? Of course we could enter into entirely different territory if we continued with this train of thought so for the sake of brevity I will return to the main objective.

If Scripture does not provide us with imperatives on how to conduct and what exactly baptism is, where else can we look? Should we even look anywhere else or should we just conclude that because there is not a theological expose of baptism in the New Testament it must not be very important? To argue that just because a certain point of theology is not explicitly defined in Scripture is to argue against such dogmatic assertions as the Trinity. The Trinity is certainly not well defined in Scripture. The doctrine of the Trinity as we know it is the process of development, led by the Holy Spirit, in the first centuries of Christianity.

So what about baptism? If we allow ourselves to shed this cloak of animosity toward Tradition and toward the declarations of the early Church we can come to a better understanding of what baptism is. In order to do this let us briefly examine four of the most commonly held views of baptism.

1) Roman Catholic View: "Means of Saving Grace"

a) Meaning: "By either awakening of strengthening of faith, baptism effects regeneration." This occurs with the working of the sacrament itself. Faith does not have to be present. The work is solely God's work in the person.
b) Subject: Infants and Adults


2) Lutheran View: "Means of Saving Grace with the Exercise of Faith"

a) Meaning: In order for baptism to be effectual, saving faith must be exercised by the one baptized. Salvation is imparted potentially to infants, actually to Adults. This position differs from the Catholic view only with respect to faith.
b) Subject: Infants and Adults

3) Reformed View: "Sign and Seal of the Covenant"

a) Meaning: Baptism is an act of faith by which we are brought into the covenant and hence experience its benefits. Grace is imparted, but they type of grace is a mystery.
b) Subject: Infants and Adults

4) Memorial View: "Testimony of Salvation"

a) Meaning: It is simply a testimony - a profession of faith that a believer makes. The rite shows the community that the individual is now identified with Christ. There is no objective effect upon the person.
b) Subject: Believing Adults and Believing Children

With these four views briefly established what does this mean for Christianity today? The Church has always held baptism to be a sacrament. The very definition of a sacrament requires that grace be communicated; God chooses to meet and transform his people at the carrying out of the sacraments. If grace is not communicated then baptism ceases to be a sacrament, a position which denies 2,000 years of Christian orthodoxy. View number four does just that. The memorial view amputates the sacramental nature of baptism. Furthermore, the only view of baptism which falls outside of Church Tradition and orthodoxy is the memorial view, which technically makes this view somewhat heretical. The other three, the Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed views, all find themselves comfortable and consistent with the way the Church has interpreted Scripture for 2,000 years. Obviously there are areas of discrepancy between the three but these disagreements do not fall outside of orthodox teaching. But view four does.

Baptism is so much more than simply a profession of faith that a believer makes. When this view of baptism is held we choose to deconstruct a precious sacrament which God has given to us in large part for our benefit. Why would we "defame" baptism so by making it nothing more than something we do? The memorial view of baptism is completely ego-centric; it is all about me! Yet Christianity is anything but all about the individual! The New Testament emphasizes over and over again that the Church, as the Body of Christ, as a community of believers, is the bride of Christ. The individualistic ideology of Western society (especially American society) is hazardous to our mission as the Church.

Will I condemn someone for believing we are to be baptized only as believers? No, of course not. In fact I recognize the incredible significance believer's baptism can have for a person. I understand the position and I must admit I feel sympathetic to their beliefs at times. Yet I must reiterate; baptism is not all about us, and when it comes down to it I feel much more confident viewing the Scriptural interpretation of baptism through the eyes of 2,000 years of Christian history than I do they eyes of an individualistic society that has existed for only a few centuries. I'll hold onto my pants tight and stick with the orthodox position.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Would you pray?

I am currently dialoguing with an atheist in regards to the existence of God. Would you please pray for God to grant me the wisdom of what to say and would you pray that this person would sense the presence of God in our conversations and in his life. It is not our job to convert, it is our job to lay the salt...

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Spring Break

Well, Spring Break is almost over. It has been a good break; short but good. This has been a very unique break; my fiancee and I have been doing a ton of stuff for the wedding. We spent a good couple of days registering for gifts and only finished today. We still have a lot of tweaking to do. My fiancee's birthday was also this week and it has been great getting together with family to celebrate. Being at school all year it seems we miss out on some of the fun stuff that is going on with the family, so it is always great to get to catch up with the fam. Last night Jen and I played cards for a bit with her parents and then we switched to Trouble. Tonight we went out to dinner with my parents and my brother and then played Texas Hold 'em. It was pretty intense. Unfortunately I ended up having to borrow from the bank. Nonetheless, my confidence in my poker playing skills still remains.

A couple of nights ago Jen and I went to dinner with her grandma deVries. We had some great discussions. We talked a lot about theology and various issues related to Christianity. Grandma deVries is so wise and has some amazing insights. There is so much value to be gained from the wisdom of those who have gone on before us. She has such a passion for Jesus and for seeing people walk with Him. No matter how much education I receive it is amazing to know that there are some things that can only be learned through life. I treasure experiences like this.

Currently I am reading a book entitled Christology in the Making by James Dunn. I will be blogging on it later but basically the book takes a look at the origin and development of the doctrine of the incarnation. It is very academic and forces me to make some paradigm shifts. Dunn's gift is synthesis and he portrays this in his book.

I will be heading back to school the day after tomorrow but Jen and I still have a few things to accomplish before we do. This break has been good and I look forward to finishing up another year at the university and coming home for the summer. There is a lot yet to complete before the wedding and it will be enjoyable to have one more summer at home.

For now, I am going to spend some more time emersed in Dunn's book before I put my head down on my pillow for another night. Mmmm, sleep sounds good about now...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

More questions than answers...(read the previous post first)

Kurt wrote,

Ben,Where then do we have the right to break with tradition? What made it ok for Luther to break from tradition? What makes it ok for the Wesleyan Church to ordain women? How close do we have to stick to Tradition? When is tradition wrong and how do we determine it's error if we must go with consensus? We surely run the risk of duplicating our mistakes like a photocopy of a photocopy.

The reality is that there is no simple answer to these questions. I would love it if God and Scripture fit into a neat little system, but they do not (another reason Calvinism is highly suspect to me). There is perhaps not a purely systematic method of interpreting Scripture. What do we do when we encounter an issue or belief which appears to be in conflict with Tradition? Initially the question should be, "Is it in conflict with Scripture?" If it does not appear so the following question could be, "Why has the Church never acknowledged such an interpretation? Why is this outside of the big 'T' Tradition?" There is usually a very good reason. I think our best bet is to only leave the Tradition of the Church when it is clearly at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit developed Tradition in the first place and most certainly has the right to revise if need be. This is of course quite subjective and perhaps even somewhat precarious. One should not presume, conversely, that the Spirit would lead the Church in "new and improved" dogma. Dogma cannot be compromised. Any leading that appears contrary to what the Spirit has already established as dogmatic Truth is definitely not the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Ordination of women, wearing jewelry, men having long hair, women keeping silent in church, are not dogmatic matters and it is possible that the Spirit may refine Tradition for the benefit of His people.

To me, Martin Luther did not necessarily break from Tradition. The reality is that the Roman Catholic Church of the Reformation era was corrupt. It truly was to the core. That is undeniable (remember, though, this can in no way be a reason for denouncing the RCC of today). The Catholic Church of that era was far outside the bounds of Tradition basing its beliefs upon tradition. The difference is extremely important. I see Luther, rather than break from Tradition, as returning to Tradition. Luther does take some things too far. He swings the grace hammer so far the the other way that he does dabble slightly in unorthodoxy and also finds predestination (as understood by Augustine) to be attractive. Luther, after all, hated the homoousios. That must raise red flags all over the place. Luther was an amazing theologian and reformer, yet not the absolute authority on all matters of faith. Generally, Luther was a return to Tradition rather than a break from it.

The Wesleyan Church certainly does things outside of the Tradition of the Church. Ordination of women is indeed one of these areas. It is not unreasonable to critically evaluate Tradition. The practice of excluding women from ordination is the remains of a patriarchal culture. We will most often find strong arguments for certain practices when they are relative to culture. Jesus claims that divorce was premitted in the Old Testament due to the hardness of the Israelites hearts. Both culturally and spiritually they were not prepared for the ultimate which God desired for them. Yet Jesus makes clear that divorce is not pleasing to God. The Early Church was not primarily concerned with social upheaval. The Church was primarily concerned with spreading the gospel concerning Jesus Christ as Lord. In Paul's epistles he never directly attacks the institution of slavery or the subordination of women. However, if we are careful we may notice that he does make claims which seem to imply that he supports neither. When Paul writes to Philemon concerning Onesimus he exhorts Philemon to treat Onesimus as a brother. Paul reminds Philemon that he is indebted to Paul for the message of salvation and also is a slave himself of Jesus our master.

Ironically, in 1 Corinthians 14:35 Paul says, "If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." Yet in the final greeting of the epistle Paul says, "The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house." Priscilla is a woman and her name is often found to come before the name of her husband Aquila. It has been suggested that she has a more prominent role than Aquila did in the Church. Whatever the case, Priscilla was a leader in the Church. Culturally this is surprising, and it should be of no surprise that the Patriarchal pattern has survived to this very day despite the leading of the Spirit otherwise. Some of the things Paul says in regards to women are simply because the culture required them. There would have been chaos had Paul not put his foot down. The questions we must ask are, "Would the exercise of this produce the same result today?" "What is the totality of what this author says (although it appears Paul is somewhat against women in leadership he also says something quite contrary to this in Galatians 3:28)?" "What does Scripture as a whole say?" "Where was God pointing with what He inspired?"

How close do we stick to Tradition? Well, unless we have a good reason not to I see no reason to stray from it, pending that Tradition truly has proven to be Orthodox. There will always be exceptions and the Church will have to be willing to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Yes, it is possible that if Tradition is in err we will simply photocopy error after error. Yet what other device do we have to interpret Scripture with? The Holy Spirit certainly can inspire readers but the Holy Spirit also developed Tradition. The Trinity is not explicitly stated in Scripture. Our understanding of the Trinity has largely developed as a result of the Holy Spirit forming this belief in the Early Church. Much debate has ensued but Scripture and Tradition certainly testify to its validity; Scripture implicitly, Tradition rather forcefully. If we fail to appeal to Tradition for, at the very least, direction then the chances of an erroneous interpretation being photocopied is much higher. If the transmission of error will occur it will most often do so outside of the walls of Tradition.

As I said at the beginning, there are no simple answers. I certainly do not have all the answers and still have a lot of territory to wander through. The territory may be daunting but worth the effort. Ultimately we all have to determine what we allow to influence our interpretation of Scripture. How do you interpret Scripture?

How do we determine Orthodoxy?

The Church has been in existance for nearly 2,000 years. Church leaders have come and gone, heretics have come and gone, Orthodoxy has been a constant debate. The question which has existed since the infancy of the Church is "how do we determine Orthodoxy?" There have been several answers to this, but the area which I would like to address is, "what do we do with Tradition?"

First I suppose it would be of benefit to establish a distinction between Tradition and tradition. The big "T" Tradition is basically Orthodoxy passed down from the inception of the Christian Church. As described in the previous post it is determined by antiquity, universality, and consensus. There are also traditions (small t) within the Christian Church. There is the Wesleyan tradition, Baptist tradition, Reformed tradition, Lutheran tradition, Roman Catholic tradition, etc. The big "T" Tradition is actually quite accomodating, as the majority of these small "t" traditions find themselves at home within it (for the most part). There are, of course, certain parts of traditions which find themselves in conflict with Tradition (one should note: if there is a point of conflict do not "throw out the baby with the bathwater" but rather acknowledge that there is probably a little bit of heresy in all our traditions :)).

Moving on; Scripture is of course foundational for determining correct Christian behavior and teaching. Tradition can never supplement Scripture. However, the conundrum which Christians find themselves in is who's interpretation of Scripture is correct? As Vincent of Lerins said in his A Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith, for as many interpretors there are interpretations. In other words, we all interpret the Bible when we read it. How we interpret is in large part a product of our tradition. Martin Luther's idea of Sola Scriptura is certainly a desirable means to interpretation yet inevitably falls up short. For one, Scripture never espouses such an idea but rather expects that the beliefs shall be "passed on" from generation to generation. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:2, "I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you." It is not that Scripture does not in and of itself contain Truth and the fullness of Truth, nor am I presupposing Scripture does not contain all the essentials of the faith. Yet even in regards to essentials there are differences of interpretation. Who's to say that Arius was not right about Jesus being a created being? He did make an incredibly biblical argument by the standards many Christians hold in modernity. Arius argued from Colossians 1, in which Jesus is described as the "firstborn" that Jesus must therefore be a created being and cannot have existed from all eternity. In this case other Scripture can help to denounce such heresy but Church Tradition (taking into account that the Apostles and early Christians exalted Christ and proclaimed His pre-existence) certainly played a large role in the anethama of Arius.

It is interesting that Martin Luther himself did not allow for the uneducated laymen to read the Bible by means of Sola Scriptura. Luther was afraid of simply putting Scripture into the hands of those whom may distort and twist it. Therefore, when he translated his first Bible into German he included a sort of damage control device; marginal study notes. Luther placed study notes in the margins to prevent heresy and misinterpretation. While Luther most likely believed his interpretations were based soley on Scripture the question must arise, "how did Luther interpret Scripture?"

As I have previously alluded, every person who reads the Bible interprets the Bible, and every interpretation is based upon something. Lutherans use a Lutheran paradigm and inevitably interpret in large part according to the Lutheran tradition. Prebyterians interpret within the Presbyterian paradigm. Eastern Orthodox members interpret within the Easter Orthodox paradigm and so on. As we all know there is conflict in interpretation between these traditions. So who is right, or who is the most right, is anybody more right than everyone else? The Roman Catholic Church has struggled with admitting that it may not in fact have the "fullness of the Truth in Christ". Protestantism in America seems to assert that it has the "fullness of the Truth". Does any branch or denomination within Christendom really have this "fullness of Truth"?

Correct interpretation is found most often at home within the Tradition of the Church. Tradition provides the lenses through which Orthodox teaching is most fully recognized. If an idea or doctrine is novel (such as the Rapture and, as I would argue, Calvinism) it is very likely wrong. Novel interpretations 99.9% of the time are heresy. The big "T" helps us determine which beliefs have always been accepted and which have been rejected. Tradition is not without its limitations and problems, though, and finally I will address the questions Kurt posed in his comment on my previous post. Look to the next post to continue this discussion.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Methodological Approaches to New Testament Criticism

This is a paper I wrote for my Honors Research Seminar class. It deals with the modern debates over how to use methodology to approach New Testament criticism. Enjoy! It is a doozy. Also, I apologize for the terseness of this paper; the assignment was I could not go over six pages so the methods are clearly not expounded that well upon.
Methodological Approaches to New Testament Criticism

Monday, February 28, 2005

A Plea to Ignorance

*This is an article which I submitted to my dorms weekly periodical. For some this article may appear abrasive and offensive; that is not the intent. It is simply a wake-up call. I am what you would call a Christian hybrid. I am a member of a the Wesleyan Church and the Catholic Church. The university I attend has the tendency to be ultra-Protestant and therefore I composed this article as a critical evaluation of the attitudes of too many of the students. Enjoy, but read with an open-mind. The article is obviously biased in order to emphasize the point I was trying to make. Were the setting reversed so would be the content of the article.



"The modern evangelical Church struggles with the grotesque scar which bears certain arrogance about the authority of its doctrine. Protestantism is often seen as considering itself to be the only true Christian Church. While this can in no way be a blanket statement about individual Protestants, the ignorant believer would do well to dialogue with those outside of the walls of the Protestant world. It is ironic that while Protestants have long attacked the Catholic Church on the basis of its claims of authority, the tables now have been turned and Protestants appear to have been programmed to believe that they have the monopoly on Christian Orthodoxy.

The problem has largely arisen from a myopic understanding of reformation history as well as the tendency among modern Protestants to read Scripture myopically. It seems that for many Protestants the modern Catholic Church is synonymous with the Catholic Church of the reformation era. The corruption that had invaded the Church can in no way be ignored or denied but neither can the fact that a Catholic reformation shortly followed the Protestant split and any comparisons between the modern Catholic Church and the corrupt Church of the 1500’s is selective at best. A few weeks ago in chapel we heard the story of how a Protestant man was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. How is it that we never hear the stories of the hundreds of Catholic whom were murdered when Protestants had control of England? The animosity which has existed between Protestants and Catholics is a two sided coin; neither side can be seen as being solely at fault.

Of course there is much more to say but for the sake of time I will turn to the myopic reading of Scripture which the modern Protestant is prone to. It is truly an outrage that Protestants have minimized the value of Church Tradition. The big “T” Tradition, as Dr. Bounds refers to it, is what the Church has always considered to be Orthodox teaching. Tradition is determined by antiquity, what has been believed from the very beginning of the Church, universality, what has been believed everywhere by all Christians, and consensus, what has been agreed upon by the great Fathers of the Church. Yet the majority of lay Protestants read the Bible as if “it is just me and the Holy Spirit, I don’t need none of that tradition stuff.” It is absolutely mind boggling to me that anyone would find their own interpretation of Scripture to be the authoritative interpretation and not once turn to the great saints of the centuries who have gone on before us and have much more theologically and logically sound things to say than John Elderidge, or John Piper, or even A.W. Tozer and C.S. Lewis (whom are certainly valuable contributions to modern Christendom). The obvious fact is that all Christians read the Bible through the eyes of tradition. The question is simply which tradition they use.

Ignorance about specific Catholic and Eastern Orthodox doctrine has contributed to the superiority complex of Protestantism. An obvious area of prejudice that Protestants retain is in regards to the Catholic and Easter Orthodox practice of “praying” to the Saints. Cries of “Idolatry!” and “You only need to go directly to Jesus!” are often heard as complaints against such a practice. However, Protestants feel quite comfortable going to fellow believer and asking them to pray for a certain situation. The practice of “praying” to the Saints is analogous to this idea in that Catholic and Eastern Orthodox believers assume that some Christians go immediately to be with Jesus after they die (an idea which is supported by Paul in Phil. 1:22-26). In the same way that we ask other believers to pray for us, Catholics and members of the Eastern Orthodox Church believe the same thing can be done with those whom have passed on. It is not asking the Saints to heal them or perform miracles for them but rather it is asking the Saints to pray for them. While this may be hard for Protestants to accept, it is within the big “T” Tradition of the Church! This of course does not mean that the practice is in and of itself true, but it is obvious that one does not cease to be a Christian by practicing it.

I cannot comprehend how the same Protestants who accept such ideas as Calvinism and eternal security, which are outside of the big “T” Tradition and have been formally rejected in smaller Church councils in the first eras of Church history, can place the title of “heretic” and “idolater” to the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church. The truth is that such theology as Calvinism is much more heretical than the doctrine of either of these two branches of Christianity! Not only that, but many Wesleyans, although the official statements of the church believe otherwise, see baptism as merely an outward symbol of a profession of faith and grace is not communicated. In the same way, many Wesleyans view communion as simply a remembrance of Jesus Christ and do not take seriously what the early Church did that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). The Church has always believed that grace is communicated at communion as well. Both these dominant views of baptism and communion by Wesleyans are outside of Christian Orthodoxy and are technically heresy. The irony is all too clear. Do not forget, either, that while Protestants often view the hierarchy of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church as destructive, these two branches of Christianity have survived much longer than the Protestant Church, which split incredibly early in its infancy.

So let us stop this nonsense about the Catholic and Easter Orthodox Church being in need of evangelism. Rather perhaps we Protestants should turn our attention to educating our congregations on Church history and Church Tradition. The fact is, when Tradition is thrown away so is Orthodoxy."