Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Sun Shines Even in the Cold

There’s a weather phenomenon that I’ve become familiar with since moving to Texas: sunny and cold. To a native Floridian like myself it seems quite strange that it could be sunny and yet the surrounding air feel cold at the same time. These two things should not go together. The sun is warm. It produces heat and makes things warm. How could the sun be brightly shining and yet the air around me be cold? Is the sun somehow defective?

There’s a spiritual phenomenon that I’ve become familiar with during my life: sunny and cold. To a life-long Christian like myself it seems quite strange to have fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and yet for them to feel distant at the same time. These two things should not go together. God indwells me. God is near me. How can God indwell me and yet feel distant? Is God somehow defective?

In reality I know that the sun is not defective; it is producing as much heat as it always has. Yet this does not make me feel any warmer.

In reality I know that God is not distant from me; He is as close as He always has been. Yet this does not make Him feel any closer.

If I put on a coat I will feel warmer, but this will not change the fact that the air around me feels cold.

If I spend time praying, reading Scripture, worshiping with others, and fellowshiping with others I will feel encouraged and persevere in my faith, but this will not change the fact that God feels distant.

I know that it is only a matter of time before winter ceases and the air around me feels warm once again. I must persevere through the winter if I want to feel it again.

I know that it is only a matter of time before winter ceases and God feels near to me once again. I must persevere through the winter if I want to feel it again.

When winter comes around again, and you are huddled around the dying fire of your faith, clinging desperately to every scrap of warmth, wondering why things are not the way they seem like they should be, take note of those around you because they have passed the test. The spiritual winters in our lives, those times when God feels distant and we struggle with our faith, are tests not only for those of us who are in the midst them, but also for our Christian brethren who see us in the midst of them.

The sun does not cease to shine during winter.

God does not cease to be near us during our winters.

We should not cease to be near our Christian brethren in their winters. They are not expecting us to bring about spring. They just don’t want to be alone during the winter. Do not merely pray for them, but huddle with them around their dying fire, however low it may be. God has not abandoned either of you and will see both of you through. Spring will come, and it will be evident then that God is in you because you have loved as God loves.

The Useless(?) Doctrine of Inerrancy

Disclaimer: This is still an issue that I am thinking through, so I reserve the right to flip-flop on my position laid out in this post as I study it more since I may indeed discover that some of my reasoning is based on faulty information and/or assumptions.

There has been a question floating around in my head for the past few weeks that I have been pondering and trying to answer: “Why is Inerrancy even a doctrine in the first place? It just seems a bit redundant if we believe that all scripture is “God-breathed” to say that it is also Inerrant since we believe that God does not make errors. Over the course of thinking about this I discovered a few things and would like to share them with you. Some of these I knew before and they became clearer to me as I was thinking about this, others I had not realized prior to this.

Initially my thoughts centered on trying to figure out why in the world there even exists what seems to be a redundant doctrine with Inspiration (Scripture is “God-breathed”). Isn’t it enough to say that Scripture was “breathed” out by God so that the words He intended to be part of Scripture came to be Scripture, and since God is perfect that it would therefore be without error? Why add this doctrine of Inerrancy to specify that Scripture is without errors in all areas upon which it touches? Isn’t that implied with it being “God-breathed?”

The first thing I realized is that Inerrancy seems to be in place because of a deficiency in understanding of the doctrine of Inspiration. In our times it seems quite likely for someone to take the inspiration of the Bible to be the same as the inspiration that an artist has before creating something. There may indeed be something “divine” behind the inspiration, but it is also combined with the thoughts of the artists and thus is subject to error.

In this case the solution to the problem is not Inerrancy, but to make sure people have a proper understanding of Inspiration (which may also include making sure people have a proper understanding of God). A deficient understanding of the doctrine of Inspiration is not going to be corrected by adding the doctrine of Inerrancy.

The second thing I realized was that Inerrancy seems to be used by people to support their own viewpoints, and if you disagree with them then you are accused of violating Inerrancy. As I thought about this second point I realized that this behavior likely stems from a misunderstanding of where theological authority comes from. As Protestants when asked about this we are quick to respond with “the Bible!” and nothing else, which displays an insufficient understanding of authority. In Family Biblereality many (if not all) Evangelical Protestants actually accept two sources of authority in spiritual matters: the Bible and Tradition. Or at least you do if you accept the doctrines of the Trinity, the full humanity and deity of Christ, and the New Testament canon, among others because these things are not spelled out in the Bible, but were determined by the church (in response to heresies that were also based on the Scriptures) after the documents that would eventually become the New Testament were written.

Conclusion
This leads me into what I find to be the reason that Inerrancy exists in the first place: Evangelical Protestants need a way to preserve the orthodox teachings of Scripture (what everyone has always believed about them) without appealing to Tradition as a source of authority (we wouldn’t want to be like those crazy Roman Catholics now would we?).

The problem with doing things this way is that I don’t see how it actually accomplishes preserving the orthodox teachings of Scripture because it sets up a subjective basis for determining whether or not something is “orthodox.” In order to determine whether or not something violates Inerrancy the first thing that has to be determined is what the passage is talking about and touching on (e.g. is it talking about an actual historical event, or is it meant to be taken metaphorically or allegorically), which means that we have to engage in interpretation, which leads to a subjective conclusion that may or may not be in line with what has always been believed. Basically it seems to turn something that is indeed objective (what has always been believed) and turned it into something subjective (an interpretation).

So, to conclude this analysis, my basic question is: “Why are defending something that can be determined objectively with something that has to be determined subjectively?” Why not just simply point to the objective evidence and say that this is what has always been believed about this passage, so this is what we believe about it, nothing more and nothing less? Or in other words, instead of adding a doctrine which doesn’t seem to really accomplish anything, why not simply acknowledge Tradition as a source of authority?

I could say much more about this topic, but I think this captures the essence of my thoughts accurately. I am not trying to deny Inerrancy. I do not think that there are any errors in the Bible. I just think that this doctrine seems to add an unnecessary layer of theological complexity, and I all for avoiding making things more complicated than they need to be.

If you have an opinion on this matter by all means share it. I just ask that you be nice, constructive, and respectful with your comment.

Christianese for Dummies

It has occurred to me that I may use terms on this blog that may not be sufficiently understood by those who are outside the Christian faith. And while my posts are primarily written for Christians I want them to be of benefit to all people, regardless of whether or not they are Christians. So with that goal in mind I have decided to define a few terms that will hopefully assist those who might be confused by, or not understand, some of the terms I may use.

God (The Trinity)
Christians believe in one God who is comprised of three separate and distinct persons, the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. The Son is eternally begotten of the Father and the Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father. Thus since both the Son and the Spirit are from the Father they are of the same substance as the Father, are distinct from the Father, and are worshiped and glorified with the Father there is one God who is comprised of three separate and distinct persons.

If you don’t completely understand this it’s fine; in the end the Trinity is rather hard to explain. Perhaps this will clear some things up a bit though: St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies.

Sin
Sin primarily refers to one of two situations: In the first situation sin is used to describe individual actions or practices that are contrary to God’s standard of righteousness. An example of this is James 4.17, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” In this verse sin is used to refer an individual act, failing to do the right thing despite knowing what the right thing to do was; this is contrary to God’s standard. Thus anyone who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it commits a sin.

The second situation sin is used to describe is the power that produces sins (described in the first situation) and rules over those who are not in Jesus Christ. An example of sin used this way is found in Romans 6.1-14; the “sin” that Paul is referring to in this passage is the power that produces sins and rules over those who have not been baptized into Christ Jesus, not individual acts or practices.

Salvation
Salvation primarily refers to one of four situations. The first is a situation where someone is in physical need of saving, such as Peter in Matthew 14.30.

The second situation is the moment of justification, when we receive Jesus’ righteousness and are thus declared righteous because God sees Jesus’ perfect righteousness rather than our sinful selves. When you hear someone ask someone else, “Are you saved?” this aspect of salvation is what they are asking about; they are asking if the person believes themselves to have been declared righteous by God. Exactly when this moment occurs, and how it occurs, is not agreed upon within Christianity.

The third situation is the process of sanctification. Salvation is more than being declared righteous and going to heaven when you die, it is also the process of being transformed to be more and more like Christ by living everyday in communion with God. This process of transformation has been dubbed sanctification, but in Scripture the word salvation is often (always?) used to refer to this.

The fourth situation is glorification. This occurs when we die and the final removal of sin occurs from the life of those who are in Christ (i.e. the saints) and we commune directly with God throughout eternity. This will also occur when Jesus returns at the second coming, the Earth is restored, and we receive our glorified bodies.

My opinion is that it is best to conceive of salvation as referring collectively to situations 2, 3, and 4. We are justified in order to be sanctified, and sanctified in order to be glorified and restored to what we were originally before sin entered the picture. Salvation is really this entire process, not just a one time event.

So hopefully this clears a few things up for some people. I’ve tried to be real basic here and not go in to great details so as not to overwhelm people. If you think something else should be on this list let me know and I will add it.