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Category: Theology (Page 1 of 2)

Theology Matters – Psalm 78

Just the other day, I preached at Lighthouse Baptist Church where my father-in-law is the pastor. My family and I were planning a visit there, and he asked if I would like to preach. It’s not the best sermon I have ever preached, however, it is one that I am very passionate about, that theology matters and it begins in the home!

I hope you enjoy this and are edified by the Word of God!

Teaching Our Children

The Bible tells us that we need to constantly teach our children the Word of God, and thus by extension, we are teaching theology, about God and His character. 
“Hear, O Israel: The Lordour God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, ESV)
However, something we also do as parents is to teach our children how to live. Basic skills. When I child is born, we do everything for them, from feeding to changing diapers to getting them dressed. And, as they get older, they learn to do things on their own. A lot of that learning is done through mimicking what they see their parents and other adults in their lives do. They also learn a lot from being prompted what to do, from being taught. Not just observing on their own, but it being a teaching moment, taking them to teach them something. For example, we have a 15 year old staying with us, a freshman in high school (from another country), and this child has not learned a lot of basic things, like doing the dishes. She was never shown, nor did she really ever observe them being done. I don’t know why, but, that’s the way it is. While she is in our home, she is learning a lot (I hope and pray), things that will help her be more successful in life.
In the same way, we need to not only teach our children the Bible and about God (Theology), but we need to also teach them how to apply it to their lives. In his letter to Titus, Paul writes the following:
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:1–8, ESV)
And, just like teaching someone to do the dishes or their laundry, the best way to do this is to model it for them. We need to model our lives as Christ-Centered on His Good News, the Gospel. Living a life focused on Christ in all aspects, showing that He is Lord of your life, your marriage, your everything will have such a major impact on your children.
Another area in which we need to teach is not just to our children, but also to new Christians. New Christians are quite possibly the most easily influence group of Christians that exist. We need to teach, we need to model, and we need to teach them to be wise, discerning, and shrewd. Why do I use those three things? Because there are so many things people teach that are in the Bible that are NOT in the Bible. For instance, no where in the Bible does it say God will never give you more than you can handle. No matter what someone might say, it’s not there. It does say, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV). There is a big difference, and someone who doesn’t know to search and check what people say against the Word of God (Acts 17:11) won’t necessarily know or figure out what is false and what is true. They will fall prey to wolves in sheep’s clothing, and we don’t want and cannot let that happen to new Christians, just as we wouldn’t let that happen to our own children or family. New Christians are our family, our brothers and sister in Christ.
And in all of this, there is one thing that I have moved away from in this wonderful age of technology: my iPad. My iPad is a wonderful thing and I still use it for Bible study quite often, however, when it comes to my personal devotions, nothing beats a physical print Bible. Why? Because when my children see me reading my iPad, they have no idea what I may be doing. When they see me holding the Word of God, they see me reading the Word of God. And all too often my oldest asks if I can read her a Bible story.
Now, this post really didn’t have much structure to it, it was really just a flow of my thoughts that I have been having today. And it’s been a long day. I haven’t slept for more than 45 minutes in a sitting since the day before yesterday. However, no matter what, I do it all, even lose sleep, for the Glory of God.
-Soli Deo Gloria

Christian Doctrine and Church Fellowship, Romans Style

One of my favorite Christian musicians is a man named Shai Linne. On his latest album, “Lyrical Theology, Pt. 2: Doxology”(Lamp Mode Recordings, 2014), he wrote in “Doxology Intro,” “So if you have theology without doxology, you just have dead, cold orthodoxy;” and later “But, if we have doxology without theology, we have idolatry! Because it’s just a random expression of praise; but it’s not actually informed by the Truth of who God is; So, God is concerned with both!”

God is GREATLY concerned with both Theology, the study of God, and Doxology, the Praise of God. They are intertwined, and to properly have one, you must have the other. And this is something many churches today have lost, some more than others. Something that needs to be remedied.
And this is where we get to Christian Doctrine, Romans Style.
Throughout the book of Romans, there is so much theology and doctrine intertwined throughout this timeless letter of paramount importance to the church as we know it today. We read through the Old Testament to learn about the rich history and traditions of Judaism all the while we see the greats of the OT faith looking forward to something better that was to come, that is, Jesus. We read through the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and see who Jesus was as a person and God the Son, who came to die for our sins, to see who God is. We read through the letters of Paul, and especially Romans, to see God’s purposes not only for individual believers, but for the church as a whole. We are put on a level playing field in Romans 1-3, that we are all sinners, deserving death, needing a savior.
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Romans 3:10–11, ESV)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, ESV).
In Romans 4-5, we see that we are Justified by faith, and are given examples of times past of God’s justification (Chapter 4). And, in Chapter 5:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1–2, ESV)
Paul goes on and on, giving us vivid descriptions of who God is and how He works. It’s like reading one of those Bible tracts that we all have seen and many of us have probably used at one point or another: We are all sinners in need of a Savior. We cannot get to heaven of our own accord, we need Jesus to come into our lives and forgive us of our sins. And the only way we can get to that Justification, is through faith. And that faith comes from God, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you that you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”(Romans 12:3 ESV, emphasis mine).
I could go on and on and on and on about the rich theology and doctrine found throughout the book of Romans, but, I won’t. Why? I don’t want to deprive you of doing that yourself(that is, if you haven’t already!). However, I will tell you this: Paul calls us to unity. In the book of Romans, his letter to the church in Rome, Paul is addressing the Saints in Rome, that is, the Christians (Romans 1:7), those already saved by God. And, he calls the saints, those loved by God, to unity.
The church needs to not be just a place where we listen to our preachers preach. We need to fellowship and build one another up. And, part of that is making sure we are correctly informed of who God is, thus leading to an appropriate expression of praise within the church. Why is this important? Because a god that is praised that is not informed of through the Truth of the Word of God is NOT the God of the Bible.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”(2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). As we fellowship with one another, we also need to make sure we are keeping each other in check. We need to have godly fellowship within the church, and we need to make sure we are all worshipping the same God, that is, the One True God of the Bible.

Church Camp

As I sit here in my room in the Conference Center located at the Word of Life youth camp where some of the kids from our church are having a blast(we are having a blast, too), God has really been working on my heart….

As you may have guessed from either the title of my blog or from previous posts, I hold to a Reformed view of theology and doctrine. Some people call it calvinism, however, I prefer Reformed. The camp we are at, as are most youth camps(I think), hold to a more Arminian view of theology and doctrine. Now, before I get to how God is working on my heart, let me give quick definitions of Reformed Theology and Arminian Theology.

Reformed Theology– Man is responsible to seek after  and obey God, but, is unable to do so without God’s saving Grace, which God gives to man. (John 6:44; John 6:55). 

Arminian Theology– Man is responsible to seek after God so he must be/he is able to do so on his own. 

Ok, now that we have that down, there have been many debates and argument and trials throughout church history over these to camps of theology. And, please, do not take these definitions are law, they are brief, incomplete, basic overviews. There are many more nuances of the two which we will not go over in this post. This post is about how God is working in my heart.

We were at session Sunday night, the first night we were there, and then I was again at session Monday night, last night. And, when the Gospel presentation is given, it is given with Arminian leanings, i.e. an alter call, asking people to “ask Jesus to come into their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior.” And, when I hear these things, I get aggravated to a certain degree because they aren’t Biblical, nowhere can I find it in the Bible. But, beyond that, God is working on my hearth through this experience. God is reminding me, as I have been reading through Romans this week, that He is sovereign. He makes the world turn. He changes the hearts of mankind, including children. He’s reminded me, through His word, that He works for the good of all those whom are called to Him(Romans 8:28) and that I have no right to speak back to God(Romans 9:20). God is in the heavens and he does all that he pleases(Psalm 115:3). And, with all that in mind, through His scripture, I have been reminded that, even though I don’t agree with the presenter or presentation, God’s word will not return to Him void(Isaiah 55:9-11) and that God can and does save people through the Gospel presented in way we don’t agree with.

So, as I was sitting there, mostly on Sunday night, I was being aggravated about the way it was being presented and everything. “OH MY! Can we say ARMINIAN!!!!!” was going through my mind. But, God has laid it on my heart to pray for those hearing the Gospel that it truly is a heart change and that people at this camp are brought by God to Jesus for salvation. I have repented of my angry thoughts and, hopefully, will remember this and be in prayer as the Gospel is being given by the staff here at Word of Life Florida. I will be in prayer that, Lord Willing, God works in the hearts and minds and bodies and souls of those in attendance here and that the Kingdom of Heaven grows out of the fruitful work done by this ministry.

Soli Deo Gloria

Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow by R.C. Sproul…A quick review

Very recently, I read through R.C. Sproul’s “Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow,” and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. All of it.

This is a very well written book with great insight for both new Christians as well as seasoned Christians who have been serving the Lord for many years. For me, it has been a quite refreshing read through which God has helped me see old truths in new light, as well as just lit the proverbial lightbulb above my head about some things that I have heard in the past.

The Five Things are:

1. Bible Study

2. Prayer

3. Worship

4. Service

5. Stewardship

I really want to go in depth about all of these topics, however, it would spoils parts of the book and I want you to read it(Especially because you can get it free from amazon.com for the kindle!).

Sproul gives much insight towards studying the Bible, along with great advice on how to avoid some of the initial pitfalls of the Christian life altogether. This is a book which I could have read years ago when I first came to know the Lord. For prayer, we are reminded that it is a duty, but, not only a duty, a privilege(among other things) to be able to commune with the one true God, the Creator of the Universe. For worship, Sproul opens with why we shouldn’t add to how God wants it done, and then lays out a great case for doing it God’s way(and why fix it if it isn’t broken?). For service, we are reminded that it is truly a means of grace. And for stewardship, which I think is truly obvious, we need to remember to tithe and also be very careful with our money. Not spending when we don’t have, and doing what we can to glorify God with what we have.

Ok, I hope I haven’t spoiled too much of the book, but, I encourage you to go out and read it. It is a quick read. It took me a few days to read it(I have 2 kids and a pregnant wife), however, when all was said and done, it took maybe 90 minutes to read the whole thing. So, I encourage you to get it!

You can purchase it HERE on Amazon.com(This is an great deal if you’re reading it on your Kindle device or app, as it’s free as of this posting) or HERE from the Westminster Theological Seminary bookstore.

I Am A Horrible Husband…

 

….And father, and leader.

 

There are so many things that which I fail at, that, in the eyes of the world, one would think that I am a failure. Sure, I have my successes, like a family that loves me and that I love. But, on that same note, I am a horrible leader of my family. So many decision that I make are irrational and/or illogical. We have been married over six years, and our oldest child is five-and-a-half years old this month, and we are just starting to do family devotions, something I’ve always wanted to do and was reinforced about doing last year when I read a book on family worship.

 

Right now, I am struggling with my failures to of not being able to get a job. Obviously, I am somewhat desirable in the workplace, or my resumé wouldn’t garner the amount of interviews I have gotten. But, I haven’t got a full-time job. I’ve gotten more turn down emails and letters in the past two months than jobs I’ve applied to up to this point in my life. It’s disheartening for me, very stressful. And I feel like I’m constantly doing something wrong, like it’s my fault that I keep messing everything up. This very morning, I had what seems like a very promising interview, however, it may be a couple weeks before I hear anything back about that. All the while, we are living with my parents, and we are ready to have our own place. That is just frustrating as can be(sorry mom and dad, I love you, but, the 4, almost 5, of us need our own space). It’s truly been a struggle for me in so many way.

 

My wife is also very stressed out and struggling with everything. She’s 20-something weeks pregnant with our third child(A girl!), and plans on being a stay-at-home mom and home school teacher to our children, and she’s ready to have our own space. The four of us sleeping in a single 11ft x 11ft room is very difficult, and most of the time quite uncomfortable. And for her, being pregnant, I think she’s getting less and less sleep each night.

 

Oh how I miss the time at the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes when we had a steady income, free housing, no utilities we had to pay, and a vast majority of our food provided for us. It having been a month this coming weekend that we have been living with my parents, and we are still there. Our plan was to move, me get a job and we be out before the month of May began. And here we are, May 14th, still in that tiny room. I suck. I feel like I’m a failure of a father. A failure of a husband. I failure of a man.

 

It was one night, sitting at the dining room table that has been in my family for as long as I remember(at least 26 years, as that’s as far back as I remember having it before my family moved to south Florida), feeling like this, like a failure, that God spoke to me through His Word. I kept remembering “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” That kept going through my head all that night and into the next day, and the day after that. After three or four days, I finally opened up my Bible and looked for that text. I know it was Paul who wrote it, so, then, naturally, I Googled it:

2 Corinthians 12:1–10 (ESV, emphasis added by me)

1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

There is it. All through my life, things have come with relative ease to me, a true blessing from God to me, a depraved, wretched, unworthy servant of God. I had come from a relatively well-to-do family, who lost most everything financially when I was a teenager. Up until a certain point in life(I don’t remember when, but it was after I married Roni) that I had gotten an offer from every job I applied for. I got accepted to all the colleges and universities I applied for out of high school. I was well liked within my youth group, with many expecting me to be a missionary, living overseas by now in some remote village winning souls for Christ(which, I might add, I am not doing..yet). I’ve bee groomed for success in some way or another throughout much of my life. And yet, there is one thing that I keep on forgetting with my endeavors, especially as of late. Well, two things really…

 

The first thing would be my sin of self. Not selfishness, but self. Self-reliance. I can do it on my own. I’ve done it on my own. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians,4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”( Philippians 3:4–6, ESV). Now, I am not of the tribe of Benjamin or a Pharisee, or a Hebrew of Hebrews, but I am, and have been, an overly confident man, confident of my abilities to get things done with little or no effort involved from my part. However, that is not the case. God has provided for me, even when I haven’t had any idea that he has been helping me. And, there have been many a time when I have known it was entirely from God that my good was coming. But, overall, I have been overconfident in myself and haven’t been relying on God as I should.

 

Right now, as we, my family and I, face these times of uncertainty with employment and everything, I strongly believe that God is humbling me and teaching me to be more reliant on Him. And, this leads to the second thing that I keep on forgetting: God’s complete and total sovereignty. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3, ESV). There is nothing that I do or that happens that isn’t part of God’s plan. Our God is sovereign in all that he does, and we need to recognize that. He has a plan and is going to use everything that happens for good(Romans 8:28).

 

So, during this time, I am going to live by the words from James 1: 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4, ESV). And I am going to 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV). And, I am going to let God us me: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–5, ESV). And, while doing all of this, I am going to trust in God’s sovereignty, knowing that His plan for our time of difficulty is perfect and perfect for us. I know that we are going to come out on the other side of this as better people, a stronger family, and with a great testimony to God’s greatness and provision.

 

So, I guess I am not really a horrible husband or father or leader. I guess I am not a total and complete failure, at least, no more than the next Christian man. What I am is a depraves sinner saved by God’s grace, God’s saving grace which He extended to me all those years ago. And, as long as I strive to Glorify God in all that I say and do, I am being the husband and father and man that I am needed to be. While there is always room for improvement, I know that God will be glorified in what I do.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

*EDIT* I didn’t mean to publish this when I did, I meant to save it. One thing that makes me the successful man that I am is Christ, and that I am in Christ. Without Christ, I have nothing. I am nothing. Without Christ, I would be dead in sin. Being that I am in Christ, Christ is my strength. Christ makes it possible for me to be successful, because Christ is my success for me. And that is what I boast in. That is what makes me not a failure. And to that, To God Alone Be The Glory! Soli Deo Gloria!

Are You A Heretic?

Here is another great blog article that my wife found, this one on The Gospel Coalition blog, and can be read HERE.

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Are You a Heretic?

“To know nothing of what happened before you were born,” Cicero observed more than 2,000 years ago, “is to forever remain a child.” The Roman philosopher’s words are no less true today. If you’re a Christian, the history of the church is the history of your family. Studying it doesn’t have to be dull and boring. Properly done, it will instruct, exhilarate, give perspective, illuminate, inspire, humble, convict, and fire worship.

The first installments in Zondervan’s new KNOW series, Justin Holcomb’s Know the Creeds and Councils and Know the Heretics are accessible travel guides to the some of the significant events, doctrines, and heresies throughout Christian history. Each chapter covers a statement of faith (or heresy) and includes a glimpse of the historical context, an overview of key points, discussion questions, and suggested further reading.

In every generation, the Christian church must restate its bedrock beliefs, answering the challenges and concerns of the day. In these books Holcomb leads us through centuries of creeds, councils, catechisms, and confessions—as well as the errors that occasioned them—and reveals their profound relevance for today.

I spoke with Holcomb, Episcopal priest and professor at Reformed Theological Seminary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, about the need for creeds and confessions, today’s most “live” heresies, threats on the horizon, and more.

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Are the creeds and confessions we already have sufficient, or do we need more?

I think we’re just fine with the creeds we currently have, but more confessions would be a good thing. I say this because of what creeds and confessions are, how they differ, and how they are used. While there are differences between creeds and confessions in how they’ve been used, a genuine distinction between creeds and confessions is artificial.

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In contrast to creeds, which are basic statements of belief, confessions represent more detailed inquiry into the things of God. The creeds are the boundaries of the faith that separate orthodoxy from heresy, while the confessions color in the picture, tying theology to everyday life in all sorts of ways. Because creeds are bare-bones structures (the outlines of the sketch), it makes sense that the earliest statements of the church are creeds, while later statements of particular denominations are confessions. Creeds distinguish orthodoxy from heresy (or Christian faith from non-Christian faith). Confessions distinguish denominational distinctives (or one type of Christian faith from another type of Christian faith).

Christian confessions often define a particular group’s belief on secondary issues such as infant baptism, the end times, predestination, the Lord’s Supper, and the order of salvation. While the creeds aimed to preserve “the faith delivered for all time,” confessions tried to apply the faith to the here and now.

Did the early church accept the councils as authoritative like we do? If not, how should that affect the way we view the creeds?

There are seven ecumenical councils that every branch of the church recognizes today, whether Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant.

The first recorded instance of a church council is found in the New Testament. The Jerusalem Council is the name given to the meeting of church leaders of Antioch (with Paul and Barnabas) and of Jerusalem in which the large growth of Gentile converts in the early church was discussed (Acts 15:2-29).

Like the Jerusalem Council, church councils were called to address not only disagreement over a theological issue but also the practical ramifications of that issue. For instance, in the Council of Nicaea the question being asked was, “How can we worship one God (the Father) and also worship Jesus Christ?” Though this was a practical question about worship, it couldn’t be disconnected from the more abstract theological issue of how Jesus Christ is related to his Father. The council affirmed that both Jesus and the Father are members of a single being, God.

So are the councils’ decisions authoritative? It’s instructive to notice that when Paul is asked whether Christians should eat food offered to idols (1 Cor. 8:1-13), he appeals not to the decision of the Jerusalem Council but instead to the revelation he’d received from Jesus Christ. This shows that Paul saw the Jerusalem Council as authoritative in some sense but not ultimately so. His appeal was to God’s revelation as the arbiter of truth, not to a human decision at a council.

I believe that the creeds produced by the ecumenical councils are authoritative, but just not the final or only authority.

Is the “Great Tradition,” as the collection of early creeds are often called, sufficient for Christian unity?

It is necessary but not sufficient. My understanding of “Christian unity” includes doctrine but also other things that bind us together, such as practice, prayer, and love. Basically, I don’t think it’s enough to define “Christian unity” as saying the Nicene Creed without crossing your fingers.

A unity held together only by orthodoxy (right doctrine) is weak and dangerous. Without orthopraxy (right practice) and orthopathos (right affection), orthodoxy encourages Christians to view faith as a head-trip.

A unity with multiple dimensions is seen in passages like John 13:35Romans 10:3,Proverbs 19:2, and Ephesians 4:1-6.

Which heresy is most “live” today, even if in slightly repackaged form? How about one on the horizon?

Repackaged teachings from Pelagius and Socinus are the most “live” today. My summary of Pelagius’s heresy is “God has already given us the tools we need.” Pelagius developed an ascetic form of Christianity with an overly optimistic theology of human nature. My summary of Socinus’s heresy is “the Trinity is irrelevant, and Jesus’ death is only an example.”

Pelagius correctly saw human nature as something good created by God. But he ignores humanity’s fall (original sin), causing his theology to fall into error. First, Pelagius argued there’s no such thing as original sin. In no way were we implicated in Adam’s first sin. His sin doesn’t make us guilty or corrupt. Instead, as Pelagius claims, “over the years [our own sin] gradually corrupts us, building an addiction and then holding us bound with what seems like the force of nature itself.” Humans by nature have a clean slate—a state of neutrality—according to Pelagius, and it’s only through voluntary sin through the exercise of an unhampered human free will that we are made wicked. Potentially, then, one could live a sinless life and merit heaven, for there’s nothing intrinsically sinful about humans even after Adam and Eve’s sin. Pelagius didn’t consider us to be intrinsically damnable after the fall.

In short, Pelagius rejected the doctrines of original sin, substitutionary atonement (the idea that Christ’s death in our place is a supernatural intervention to save us), and justification by faith (the idea that believing and trusting in Christ is the way to salvation).

Socinus held a unitarian view of God: only God the Father is truly and fully divine. Jesus, “the Son of God,” received a unique divinely appointed office as the Logos, an office that deserves respect and even worship. However, for Jesus, that respect and worship were limited to his office and didn’t extend to his person, which Socinus argued wasn’t divine. Socinus contended that the ecumenically accepted doctrine of the Trinity couldn’t be defended.

Given his understanding of the radical unity of God and, consequently, Jesus’ merely human existence, Socinus’s view of the atonement logically differed from commonly accepted views. He argued that since Jesus wasn’t divine, his death couldn’t have been intended to make satisfaction (as Anselm argued) or to pay a penalty on behalf of other humans (as the Calvinists argued). Instead, Socinus understood Christ’s death to serve as a way for God to model true love and devotion and to demonstrate the way of salvation. Jesus, then, provided the unique and divinely anointed model for humans to imitate.

Matt Smethurst serves as associate editor for The Gospel Coalition and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter.

A Birthday

So, we recently celebrated the birthday of one of our girls that we minister to. And, while it was a fun day with fun activities and great company, let me tell you, the weeks preceding this event have been annoying to say the least. Every day we were reminded that her birthday was coming up, and, most days, she would tell us how many more days were left until her birthday(the night before, she even wanted to go to bed early so it would come sooner!).

However, in all of this, this particular young lady is a Christian, bearing fruit. She still struggles, as do we all, but, at her age, she does remarkably well and one can see her bear fruit. And, today, I was reminded of Psalm 139:13-14, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” And I remember and am convicted that birth is a wonderful thing, seeing the finality of the process of creation of a person. And to know that this young lady was choses by God in eternity past for a future in eternity with the creator of EVERYTHING makes having to hear about her birthday all the time TOTALLY worth it! Soli Deo Gloria!

Why We Discuss and Teach Certain Things

“13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:13-17

I sat down for lunch the other day with a friend from my church, and one of the many topics we discussed was where to go with our church’s men’s ministry after Yoke Fellows 1 and 2. The two main themes that kept coming up were Family and Theology. Family because the two Yoke Fellows classes take up the better part of a year (12 weeks for One and 22 weeks for Two, not including off weeks for certain holidays/events/etc.). Also, as we are called to do, we want to be able to grow as a family, not just always as men. And, secondly, Theology. Peter wrote that, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”(1 Peter 3:15). Now, from my memory, almost all Christians at some point at church, whether it be in Sunday School class or a more poignant Bible Study at someone’s house, are taught how to share their testimony. And the basic three-minute outline is used: One minute for how our lives were before we were saved. Second minute to tell about our salvation experience. And the third and final minute to talk about how our lives are since God saved us. That’s great and all, and a wonderful thing to know. But, what happens when you’re witnessing and they ask a question, a difficult one. “How do you explain the trinity?” “Is there anything that I specifically have to do to be ‘born again’?” Well, you’re Baptists, so, why don’t you baptize infants like Catholics or some other churches?”

I can recall I time when I was going to Midwestern Baptist College and we went out to do some evangelism in a part of Kansas City near the seminary. We went to one house where a man, probably in his late 40’s or early 50’s, answered the door. And when we introduced ourselves, he asked a question, a difficult one. No, I have no recollection of the question. What I do recall is that I had no clue what the answer was or how to even begin to explain it. I was at a loss. I was embarrassed. I felt like a failure. Now, some seven years later, could I answer that question? Probably(if I could only remember the question!). But, that time out going door-to-door was very embarrassing, but, also helpful. Remembering it makes me strive to know that, even though there are so many secondary doctrines out there, we need to know them. Giving the “Jesus” answer or saying “God’s ways are higher than our ways”(Isaiah 55) and telling them we just have to have faith, just doesn’t cut it in today’s society.

“5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” –1 Timothy 1:5-7

A lot of people don’t like talking about secondary doctrines, such as election and varying eschatological views. They think that we are being too legalistic or serious or straying to far away from the main focus: That Jesus Saves. But, ask yourself this: How does Jesus save? Now you have an answer in your head, where does it say it in the Bible? Here’s another question: Can you explain to me the Trinity? Can you explain the hypostatic union between Christ and man?(Do you even know what the hypostatic union is?). Why do bad things happen to good people(trick question!). Why do bad things happen at all? Consider these questions, and remember, they are all primary doctrines. And, when you learn about them, you’ll see that so many of those “secondary doctrines which don’t really matter because they detract from the focus of Jesus Saves” really do matter and play a vital role into the shaping of not only how we view Primary Doctrines, but how we share and explain them as well when we are evangelizing and discipling. We must always remember and never forget: “16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” –2 Timothy 3:16-17

A Puritan Theology

While at The Gospel Coalition National Conference in Orlando last week, I picked up a copy of A Puritan Theology Doctrine for Life. I am only a few chapters into the book, however, it is a great read. And, something that I never realized before, but I agree and already believe what it talks about. However, this book is putting organization and names behind what it is that I have had in my head and hear from reading God’s Holy Word, the Bible. I cannot wait to finish reading this book, and will give a much more thorough review when I do finish it.

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