Author Archives: SRQTom

Journey to Anglicanism: The Church

Since the Trinity does indeed interweave our world, and through that interweaving incorporates those who believe into himself by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then the organizing of such people into a community is a logical consequence. This is the basic doctrine of the Church [note the spelling], and was the doctrine that was taught to me growing up.

However, similar to the Trinity, it seemed to be a doctrine that was believed because it was taught in Scripture. Thus, again, Scripture was the basis. In Anglicanism however the Church is the result of the redeeming work of the Trinity.

He can no longer have God for his father, who has not the Church for his mother.
– Cyprian of Carthage, “On the Unity of the Church,” 6.

This statement from Cyprian is, in my opinion, one of the best and most succinct articulations of the nature of the Church, but also one that seems to be greatly misunderstood. I don’t personally know of anyone who has an issue with the first part of the statement which equates the Trinity with fathers. However it seems a great deal of people have an issue with the second part of the statement which equates the Church with mothers and further ties the rejection of the Church to rejection of the Trinity.

To a certain extent I can understand why some would take issue with the second part of the statement. There are some individual churches [note the change in my spelling] whose environments are toxic and kill any chance for the spiritual growth of its members. This could take any number of forms. It could perhaps be a minister who preaches to his congregation to not commit adultery while he himself is having an affair. There could perhaps be a lot of gossiping and spreading of false rumors. Or perhaps when some sin is committed forgiveness and grace are not found, but instead only guilt and shame. Whatever the reasons for the toxicity might be it is not surprising to me that those who are in such church environments end up leaving.

The Church [again, note the spelling] however is not an individual congregation, or even a group of congregations. The Church is the community of the redeemed people of the Trinity, all the redeemed people, from the beginning of time, both in heaven and on earth. So because it is the Trinity who is redeeming this community, rejecting and leaving this community is thus choosing not to be redeemed and amounts to a rejection of the Trinity.

But what is redemption? Essentially it is being removed from the kingdom of evil and freed from being a slave of evil and placed into the kingdom of the Trinity and being made a slave of Christ. The result is that the soul now desires to serve Christ and become like him, instead of desiring to serve and become evil. The soul however does not know how to serve Christ because it has only served evil. Thus it must be guided in how to serve Christ. It is this instructional process that Cyprian is using to describe the relationship between the Trinity, the Church, and the believer. Spiritual birth and growth requires different components. First, the Holy Spirit must indwell a person [this is where the desire to serve Christ comes from], and second that person must be in the Church [this is where the soul is instructed in how to serve Christ]. If either of these components are missing that person will not grow spiritually into Christ-likeness. Neither attending church services without being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, nor being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and not attending church services will result in spiritual growth. Both components must be in place.

In my view then the Church is the community in which spiritual growth can take place. It has always been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and he has given wisdom and insight to everyone who is a member of the Church. It is in the Church where this wisdom is found, both of those who are in heaven as well as those on Earth. In Anglicanism it is found in the hymns, the prayers, the preaching, the daily readings, and the liturgy. All of which exhort, direct, and guide us in our spiritual growth and pursuit of Christ-likeness. They remind us that Christ accomplished forgiveness for all our sins and exhort us to obey his teachings so that we will be like him. It is this community that I found in Anglicanism. Their hymns are sung. Their prayers are read. Their liturgy is performed. Their daily readings are followed. Their wisdom is sought out and found.

Such wisdom and insights were unavailable to me growing up. They weren’t outlawed or forbidden or anything; they were simply not used. The only essential element it seemed was to read and study the Bible. I didn’t need anything more than that, and so I shouldn’t use anything more than that so it seemed the reasoning went. The writings of ancient Christians were just ignored for some reason, as if past generations had no counsel or wisdom relevant to our present age. I don’t know for sure the reasoning behind it, but whatever it was the writings of old dead men and women were rarely, if ever, consulted it seemed.

In the end I suppose you could say that me and these old dead people kind of hit it off from the beginning.

There’s much more I could  say about this topic, but it’s not relevant. The Church certainly exists outside of Anglicanism and there are a number of traditions in which a Christian can grow in Christ-likeness; no Christian tradition has a monopoly on the Trinity.

My semester is currently in progress, so this blog may be going silent for a while. Next up in this series will be the Scriptures. When it will be published however I don’t know.

 

A Satire of Modern “Scholarship”

A major, and perhaps fully unrealized, consequence of the Internet is that information is proliferating faster than at any previous time in human history. The supporting narrative heralds this proliferation as a good thing that will further the ‘progress’ of humanity and make life better, but there is a dark underside to this proliferation that seems to often go unnoticed, or is at least not discussed.

It is certainly true that the Internet has improved life in many ways. For example, it has enabled businesses to communicate essential information to other businesses very quickly and easily, such as your insurance company setting up a car rental for you when yours is in the shop. Or as another example, it has enabled instant communication with people who might be across the world through instant messaging technologies such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, etc.

As a consequence of these technologies information now spreads faster than ever before, but without any checks as to the quality or accuracy of that information. Some sites in fact just want written content because it’s how they make money, whether or not it’s accurate information or not seems to be irrelevant [example: content mills]. This business model seems to have infiltrated some previously trusted industries, such as journalism, which results in more news sites publishing articles that will drive traffic to their site, regardless of accuracy or neutrality.

For me I notice this tendency for sensationalism in the area of theology [probably inevitable]. A fairly recent example of this is the Newsweek article published several months ago about how the Church hates gay people. My response to that article is here. The basic goal of such articles it seems is heap condemnation on the Church in response to the Church [allegedly, though perhaps accurate in some individual situations] heaping condemnation on some other group. In short they’re propaganda pieces, and in propaganda the only thing that matters is rallying people behind your cause, truth is irrelevant.

So all that to say that today I came across a piece that satirizes such articles and provides a good example of how they work and go about their argument: Miguel Ruiz: New light on the oldest profession. Usually these article involve sexual ethics, which is what this article uses in its satire. Let me break it down for you:

First, they usually start with saying that Christians, or the Church, has unjustly oppressed a certain group of people unjustly: “The history of Christianity is a twisted tale of conflict over sexuality and the suppression of those who dissent the party line on bedroom ethics.”

Then they will state that the view of the opposition is based upon a single interpretation of Scripture; “These days, it is commonly argued that there is only one correct approach, from sound exegesis of Scripture, to human sexuality and appropriate boundaries.” And then assert that whatever this teaching is it is on shaky ground and has changed throughout history: “However, we still must concede that what is commonly accepted as “right” today is not exactly how we have always taught.”

Then they will attempt, but usually fail, to substantiate their claim that the Church has changed its teaching in this area [usually sexual ethics], perhaps claiming that the interpretation of Scripture has changed as the culture changed and ultimately concluding that the teaching of Scripture is not clear: “Throughout the centuries, various sexual practices have gone in and out of favor with the church catholic at various times and in various cultures, as external influences have doubtlessly impacted how the relevant Scripture passages were read and understood. We’ve run the gamut from repressing to libertine, and everything in between.  It is nothing short of confounding how difficult it is to get the Bible to speak directly and consistently on these matters.” 

Then they will make their appeal to your emotions: “If we truly value and respect the Word of God, we would be wise to continue listening and respectfully consider alternate interpretations, especially those coming from fellow believers as a matter of conscience. We’ve all made mistakes in Biblical interpretation before, probably not for the last time.  So I challenge you to listen with an open mind as I explain how we’ve been largely wrong about a particular issue for a number of years:  Prostitution.” This statement here is the giveaway as to what is coming next in the article. They believe to have already demonstrated that the Church has changed its view regarding the issue [though they probably haven’t] and on this basis then appeal to your emotions by basically saying, “If you want to be a true Christian you need to recognize that in your own history teachings and interpretations have changed, and so you then have an obligation to listen to my own alternative interpretation which differs from the current accepted interpretation, and even more so because I am also a ‘Christian.'” Essentially, they’re guilt tripping you into listening to them.

This guilt trip will probably then continue by saying that Christians are unjustly persecuting this certain group, prostitutes in this case: “Prostitution gets a bad rap in our culture today, and as a result, women in this profession are grossly mistreated.  When we think of sex workers, the stereotype that comes to mind is a scantily clad woman, working a corner, wearing too much makeup.  She renders her plunder to a psychologically manipulative and physically abusive pimp who doesn’t take very good care of her.  It has truly become a dangerous profession in our day, largely because a judgmental spirit against it fosters a suppression of its legitimacy, resulting in occupational trauma.  Unfortunately, this is often done in the name of Christianity.  It doesn’t have to be so.”

From here then they proceed to make their point from Scripture: “The exegetical scholarship on this issue is no longer as conclusive as we once thought.  Let’s take a look at what the Bible really has to say about prostitution, from the beginning.” This is where things get really bad. Making claims and not even attempting to substantiate them, as they’ve done previously, is already bad enough. But revealing that you don’t have basic reading comprehension skills, nor that you have very little skill in the actual Biblical languages is really bad, especially when you’re making that claim.

This part of the article generally involves taking verses out of context, leaving important key elements out of the story, and just generally misunderstanding Scripture in order to support the author’s point. In this satire one of the stories used is the story of Judah and Tamar. It summarizes the story as follows: “The first recorded prostitute is Tamar.  She slept with Judah after his three sons died without knocking her up.  Oddly enough, Judah did not realize it was his three-time daughter in law.  When it was discovered that she was pregnant and she gave proof that it was at his doing, his response was (and I quote the ESV), “She is more righteous than I.”” There are several features of this summary that are useful to point out. First, the reference to where the story can be found in Scripture is missing [hint: it’s Genesis 38, or you could just Google ‘Judah and Tamar’], a reference that would be helpful if, you know, you actually wanted to read the story yourself and check the accuracy of the author’s summary. Second, Tamar was not even a prostitute. She was the wife of Judah’s eldest son Er [Gen. 38.6] and after Er died was given to Onan [Gen 38.8]. Judah merely thought she was a prostitute because she had a veil over her face, which is also why Judah didn’t recognize her [Gen 38.14-15, 21-22].

Third, only two of Judah’s sons died without ‘knocking her up,’ Er and Onan. The third, Shelah, is never recorded as having slept with her. In fact that she was not given to Shelah, as Judah promised to do [Gen. 38.11], is a crucial element in the story that is left out because it is Judah’s refusal to give Tamar to him that motivates Tamar’s actions. Furthermore the summary of ‘died without knocking her up’ overlooks the reason as to why they died: they were both wicked. We are not told the specifics of Er’s wickedness, just that he was wicked [Gen 38.7]. Onan was wicked because he refused to impregnate Tamar and thus give his brother descendants [Gen 38.8-10].

Even the concluding statement of the summary is misleading. Tamar was accused of being pregnant by immorality and in response to this Judah was going execute her [Gen. 38.24]. In order to defend herself she says that she is pregnant by the man to whom the signet, cord, and staff she has belongs to [Gen 38.25]. Then after Judah identifies them as belonging to him he says that Tamar is more righteous than he is because her actions were a result of his refusal to give her to Shelah [Gen 38.26]. It is a statement on the unrighteousness and wickedness of Judah, which was great considering that in the previous chapter he was jealous of his brother Joseph and sold him into slavery, and the fact that both Er and Onan were wicked as well also testifies to his own wickedness in my opinion. But all this is missed because usually the author apparently didn’t even bother to read the story and understand it.

However the madness will continue since it is apparently not sufficient to demonstrate lack of understanding regarding the Old Testament, it must also be shown with the New as well. In the satire the author proceeds to then interpret a saying of Jesus in light of an obviously faulty and wrong understanding of the story of Judah and Tamar: “Consider the significance of this.  Judah is not just one of the patriarchs of Israel.  Neither is he the firstborn, from whom the Messiah was expected to come.  Rather, the first three sons were passed up in favor of Judah!  The very father of the tribe of Jesus, an essential link in the genealogy of salvation, has declared a prostitute to be more righteous than him!  What does that say about how he viewed them?  It reminds me of something Jesus used to say;  “The tax collectors and prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”  From the popular Christian sexual ethic of today, you would expect a much more sever evisceration of this demographic, but these words seem rather flattering.” Here, again, Scripture is taken out of context and interpreted to mean something that would seem absurd if read within its context. No reference is given for the saying of Jesus either, so I’ll assume it’s Matthew 21.31.

Here’s the context of the saying: the chief priests and elders of the people challenge Jesus and ask him by what authority he is doing and teaching the things he is [Matt 21.23]. In response Jesus asks them whether the baptism of John came from heaven or man [Matt 21.24]. They discussed it and realized that either way they answered came with consequences they did not want to accept, so they simply said they didn’t know [Matt. 21.25-26], to which response Jesus refuses to answer their question [Matt 21.27]. He does however tell them a parable:

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.

At the end of the parable Jesus asks them:

31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”

To which they respond:

They said, “The first.”

Then Jesus responds:

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

The article takes the saying of Jesus out of its context and interprets it to mean that Jesus said prostitution was an acceptable profession. However in its context it means that the prostitutes believed the repentance that John was preaching [Matt 3.1-12] and were baptized. Even though at first they refused to follow what John was preaching they later changed their minds and obeyed, and their obedience is why they are in the kingdom of God. The chief priests and elders however said they would do what John was preaching, but they never actually did it. Thus they were disobedient and their disobedience is what keeps them out of the kingdom of God. Much as what the case with Judah’s statement that Tamar was more righteous than he was, the saying “tax collectors and prostitutes go into the kingdom before you” is not a statement concerning the acceptability of the profession of prostitution, but rather points to the unrighteousness someone, in this case the unrighteousness of the chief priests and elders.

The article continues through several more equally bad and absurd uses of Scripture to make its point, but I won’t go into those.

Satire is wonderful art form and when executed well can bring absurdity to light. This article does a great job in highlighting how many articles written and published on various online news sites concerning Christianity are written. They start with the presumption that Christians are wrong because they do not affirm that a certain lifestyle is acceptable and in their effort to convince us that we are wrong to do so they try to use our own Scriptures. In the process they end up demonstrating that they in fact have absolutely no clue as to what our faith is about.

This satirical article does just that in what it says, but also in what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t finish the story of Judah! Remember when I mentioned that he sold his brother Joseph into slavery? Well guess what, neither Judah’s nor Joseph’s story ends there [the whole story is Genesis 37-50]. Joseph encountered several adverse and hostile situations in his life, but through them all he remained faithful and obedient to God and God preserved him through all of them and eventually made him a person of great authority in Egypt. Eventually the land where Judah and his brothers were living had a severe famine, but there was plenty of food in Egypt because God had warned Pharaoh through a dream, which Joseph interpreted and revealed the meaning of, that a famine was coming. So when they came down to Egypt to get food Joseph recognized them and decided to test them [remember his last interaction with them was their selling of him into slavery] by keeping Simeon in Egypt until they brought their youngest brother Benjamin down to Egypt with them. Well Jacob [Judah’s father] doesn’t want to lose another one of his sons [Simeon is now in Egypt and he assumes Joseph is dead] and is reluctant to let them go back.

However they eventually do have to go back and it is Judah who ultimately convinces his father to let them go and buy food by offering to take the all the blame should they fail to return with Benjamin. When they are preparing to leave Egypt Joseph orders his servants to put his cup in Benjamin’s sack and then to catch to his brothers before they leave and confront them about the “theft.” When they are then brought before Joseph and are being questioned about the incident it is Judah who speaks up and defends himself and his brothers [Gen. 44.13-44]! You should really go read that. I won’t quote it because it’s obnoxiously long. But seriously read it!

This is the full realization of the repentance that Judah began when he recognized his own wickedness after the incident with Tamar, and, I think, it is why the Messiah, Jesus, came from the lineage of Judah. It is the repentance that John preached in the wilderness and the repentance that the tax collectors and prostitutes practiced, but that the chief priests and elders refused to do. And it is this repentance that is the basis of the Christian life. We recognize and admit we are wicked people and confess our failings daily, and daily ask God to help us overcome them so that we may be like Christ. As Athanasius said, “God became man so that men might become gods.”

And I would further venture to say this failure to understand the Christian life also leads to a failure to understand the Christian God. It was God who chose Jacob’s descendants to be His people, but they were wicked and needed to recognize this and it took a famine in their land and nearly losing some of their brothers for them to realize how wicked they were. This was why God brought the famine on the land and Joseph to Egypt, so that his chosen people would repent and be preserved and be a blessing for all the world by giving birth to the Messiah, Jesus.

There are two things that are true about every single person on this planet: we are all loved by God because we are His creation, and we are all sinful, wicked, and evil. God calls us to recognize our own wickedness because it draws us away from Him and how we are made to live. We are made to live in harmony with God and our sin and wickedness gets in the way of this harmony, and so we must daily repent and daily ask God to help us overcome it.

May God grant us all the grace to live a life of repentance.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Picks 7/28/15

Technology

I’m a gamer. In fact games were one of the main things that got me interested in computers in the first place. The games ran on computers, and the better and faster my computer ran the better my gaming experience was. So I learned about computers and how they work so that I could make my system run better. And while I’ve departed from this career path [long story] I’m still a gamer at heart and think I always will be. So I was excited when I came across this ‘Gamer Motivation Survey’ somewhat based on the MBTI. Below are my results.

chart

The two biggest are Action and Social. Action means a tendency to enjoy games that are fast paced and let me blow things up and just cause general mayhem and destruction. Social means games that let you play either against or with other players. I usually don’t pay much attention to story lines or character back stories. My full profile is here.

This seems to be quite accurate to me based on my experience with games. The two games I have enjoyed the most are World of Warcraft [WoW] and Halo. Halo is a shooter and the action is fast paced and the later titles in the series allowed for online play either with or against other players. WoW is slower paced when compared with Halo, but when playing against other players the pace is quite fast and requires quick reaction times to succeed. Perhaps not surprisingly I greatly enjoyed playing a scorch mage during my trek to High Warlord in vanilla WoW, a spec which allowed me to blow people up very quickly and required quick reactions to play well.

You can take the survey here.

Music

The idea in this song I think is pretty obvious so I won’t elaborate on it much. Basically it’s the idea that as a society we have become slaves to whatever corporations and various media outlets tell us is right. We have bought into their ideas as to what constitutes a fulfilled and do what they tell us to do in order to be happy. Lyrics are below the video.

Free drugs, Cheap sex
Fake tans, Big breasts
High times, Pimped rides
Lost days to blackout nights

I need this, I need that
I’m not complete with what I have
If I do this, If I buy that
I’ll get mine, I’ll get mine

I want, I want, I want…

Empty me, empty nation
Emptied us of inspiration
Bastard sons and broken daughters
All bow down to our corporate father

In my iLife, In my iWorld
On my iPhone, With my iGirl
Just one bite to understand
Even Eve couldn’t live without the iPlan

I NEED IT

Do this, Buy that
Get my drugs and sex
More drugs, Want sex, Need sex

MTV, MTnation
MTus of inspiration
Bastard sons and broken daughters
All bow down to our corporate father

Theology is taking a break this week, so that it’s for now.

Weekly Picks 7/20/15

Last week I was on a much needed break, so back to business this week.

Technology

Before enrolling in seminary I worked in a call center doing tech support. I love computers and I love fixing them. However, from my perspective, the call center I worked in did not actually want techs, but rather customer service reps who were capable of doing tech support. It was somewhat of a mismatch. I cared about fixing whatever problem the caller was having, but my managers seemed to care more about how nice and pleasant I was being. The phone rings incessantly, and you do indeed find any and every excuse to get off the phones. I was, and still am, a tech. I am not a customer service rep. I can fix computers. I cannot make people who are angry, frustrated, and irritated feel better over the phone (though fortunately most of the time the callers were not angry when they called in). So all that to link you this article about someone’s experience in a tech support call center: Thank you for calling tech support, now please die.

Music

I’d give you an explanation of the lyrics, but I’m not sure anyone actually knows what this song is about…

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – All Along The Watchtower

Theology

In my opinion this article makes a good point: it is harder to endure prosperity and well being than it is poverty and pain. Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain, but from being weary of pleasure. Pray for me — I’m blest

That’s it for this week.

 

Picks of the Week 7/4/15

I love theology. In fact I love it so much I have a blog where I write about it. It’s really the foundation and framework of my life. Everything either grows from it or gets evaluated by it. I also love computers and technology. In fact I have an associate and a bachelor’s degree in this area. I also like music and find that some songs have good things to say. Unfortunately these last two areas rarely make it into my blog posts. So I’ve decided to start doing a weekly(ish) feature sharing some interesting things from those areas.

Technology

First, a new feature in Windows 10, called WiFi Sense, which is actually not new because it already exists in Windows Phone 8.1, has caused quite a stir the past few days. It seems to be mostly unwarranted though. Here are a couple of articles about it:

https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2015/07/01/windows-10-wi-fi-sense-feature-shares-your-wi-fi-network-with-your-friends/

http://www.eweek.com/security/microsofts-wifi-sense-poses-manageable-security-risks.html

The biggest issues for me are the lack of awareness about the feature, and how they are going to restrict the network access to strictly the Internet.

Second, North America is officially out of IPv4 address. This is one of those behind the scenes issues that network admins, Internet Service Providers, and other IT related organizations have known about for quite some time. So if you’re curious about one of the things that keeps the Internet infrastructure operating here’s a nice article on the topic: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/07/us-exhausts-new-ipv4-addresses-waitlist-begins/

Music

This song brings up some interesting ideas for me. It talks about the dangers of seeking something ‘real’ in a digital world. In such a world nothing ages or dies. It can seem tempting at first, but such a world fails to satisfy us because it isn’t real. In reality we do age and we do die and such a world simply avoids these realities and provides no answer to them. The song calls to start a revolution against such a world. This, in my mind, is a good thing to do, but for me it brings up the question, ‘On what basis will such a revolution be grounded ?’ Christianity provides such a basis, but unfortunately this solution seems to have already been rejected by the larger culture. Here is the song w/ lyrics posted underneath.

We spin the world like a pinball machine
We have thoughts of a life in abundance
Day and night we wish movies were real
And what is behind the screen is our entrance

I’m like a satellite
Transmitting different eras
I am the voice of the next generation
Completely digital
Create synthetic auras
Start a revolution now

You will never have to cry
Cause the future is sold
You can never die
And you’ll never grow old
But everything
Surrounding you is digital
Never break the mold
You do as you’re told
Freedom is for sale
If you give them control
Erase return
In a digital world

I know it feels like you are part of a dream
You can fly and fight wars without judgement
You respawn and mistakes will repeal
But you will always be searching for an answer

I’m like a satellite
Transmitting different eras
I am the voice of the next generation
Completely digital
Create synthetic auras
Start a revolution now

Theology

I appreciate this blog very much. The author spends much of his time countering modernist thought with classical Christian answers. This post deals with the issue of gender and its basic point is that we exist as male and female and we cannot exist any other way. He, of course, goes into much more depth on the issue.

http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2015/07/04/male-and-female-created-he-them/

That’s it for this week.

Journey to Anglicanism: The Trinity

Rublev's icon of the Trinity depicts the three visitors to Abraham in Gen 18

Rublev’s icon of the Trinity depicts the three visitors to Abraham in Genesis 18. See here for more information about the icon: http://www.holy-transfiguration.org/library_en/lord_trinity_rublev.html

Last year I officially converted to Anglicanism from an ‘Evangelical’ background. This post is the first in a series describing my journey.

One thing that has stood out to me over the course of my seminary studies has been the differences in thought between the early Church Fathers and modern theologians. In modern Evangelical seminary education theology is taught systematically, which means that the whole of Christian theology is divided into separate sub-parts and each topic is discussed individually and independently of the others (usually these parts end in –ology). From the standpoint of an educational methodology this systematization is useful because it makes it easy to discuss the various aspects of the faith without confounding the issue. However I believe that shaping and training the thinking of future ministers by using such a systematic methodology is dangerous because life is not systematized, but interwoven. It is impossible to break life down into various independent sub-parts that never interact with the other parts because each part of life interacts with and influences the other parts.

My faith, as a consequence of this systematic educational methodology had been systematized as well. All the various parts of theology, The Trinity, Salvation, the Church, Man [that is, humanity], Sin, etc had all become separated from one another. As a consequence of this I found it theoretically possible to change doctrine in one area without that change affecting any of the other areas. If I had continued this thought process its ultimate end would likely have been the renunciation of my faith, or at least a redefinition so radical that it would bear no resemblance to traditional orthodox Christianity.

In contrast to this the NT authors and early Church Fathers did not divide their theology into separate categories; everything is interwoven with everything else. This difference gradually became apparent to me during my explorations of Anglicanism as I began to notice that their theologians were not describing things in quite the same manner as the Evangelical theologians I was used to reading. By the time I finished a course on the theology of the early Church where we had the opportunity to read some of the primary source documents from that period the difference in thought between ancient theologians and their modern Evangelical counterparts was definite.

Most recently the consequences of this systematic thinking have become apparent to me regarding the Trinity. My Evangelical upbringing provided me with very little understanding of this doctrine. Sure it was in the doctrinal statement of the churches I grew up in, and believed by the leadership of those churches, but it was rarely mentioned during the services and I failed to see it as a foundational element of the Faith. The foundation of my faith during this time was Scripture and the teachings of Scripture. Unfortunately the Trinity is not explicitly taught in Scripture, but rather is derived from it, thus I did not regard it as foundational to my faith, but rather a consequence of it.

So when I began attending some Anglican services I was surprised that the Trinity was constantly and consistently mentioned during the services. In fact ‘God’ was rarely, if ever, mentioned apart from ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’ This difference was striking to me, and I began to ask myself the question, ‘Why is the Trinity mentioned so often?’ After nearly two years I realized that the answer to this question was that the Trinity was foundational to the theology of Anglicanism, a foundation which was not to be found in my theology.

This foundational difference is, I believe, important to realize because Christianity is not based on Scripture, but on the redeeming work of the Trinity. It was the Father who created the world through the co-eternal Son. After we rebelled in the Garden and were driven from the presence of God it was the Son who left the Father in heaven and took on our sinful flesh and reconciled us back to the Father in heaven through his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. After His ascension the Son sent the Spirit from the Father to indwell all who believe. It is this redeeming work of the Trinity, which bridged the chasm created between heaven and earth at the Fall, on which Christianity is based; without this work Christianity is invalid.

The Celtic cross. The knots on the cross represent the interweaving of heaven and earth.

The Celtic cross. The knots on the cross represent the interweaving of heaven and earth.

Our world is thus interwoven by the Trinity and is both redeemed and being redeemed by the Trinity and therefore the Trinity should be the foundation of our faith, not Scripture, because Scripture itself only exists because the of the work of the Holy Spirit inspiring the authors. Scripture witnesses to the Trinity and calls us to Him. It calls us to the recognition that it is He who created heaven and Earth and interweaves them both and shows us how we should live as His creatures.

This last part, how we should live, can be found within His body, the Church, which will be the subject of the next post  in this series.

 

 

 

 

Response to Relevant’s “Why Don’t the Guys in my Church Ask Women on Dates?”

Recently Relevant Magazine published an article answering a question from a woman asking why Christian men are not asking Christian women on dates. The response to the question basically, from my POV, seems to place the majority of the blame on bad dating advice given in the 80’s and 90’s which seemed to have equated going on a date with someone with intending to marry them (I personally can’t comment on this issue as I did not grow up in such Christian circles). This is no doubt terrible advice and should certainly be discarded, as the response rightly advises people to do so in my opinion. However there a few other things related to this issue that the article did not touch on that I would like to address.

First, there is an assumption in the question which I believe is wrong. The question states, “Where are all the brave men? … This is why so many women date non-Christians; because Christian guys rarely can just keep it casual and go on a date…” The assumption here seems to be that many Christian women date non-Christian men because Christian men can rarely keep things casual (presumably because of the effects of the aforementioned bad dating advice), however I believe that this assumption is invalid. Assuming of course the assertion that many Christian women date non-Christian men is even true in the first place (and I’m not doubting that it is, though it certainly could be false), I propose instead the reason for this (many Christian women dating non-Christian men) is not primarily because of the inability of Christian men to keep things casual, but rather instead because there are significantly less Christian men than women (see here and here). The more important and significant question is, “Where are all the Christian men?”

Answering this question is a fairly complex endeavor, and I will not attempt to do so completely here, but I think the most likely reason is that generally men respond to challenge moreso than displays of affection. Growing up I consistently heard of how much Jesus loves me. And while I am certainly grateful that this is the case, this reality does not motivate me to live the Christian life. I get far more motivation from the challenge of holding onto my Faith in the midst of attacks from demons, secularism, atheism, scientism, pantheism, etc than I do from Christ’s displays of love.

Second, there is no single answer as to why the men in a certain church are not asking out the women in that church. It seems like what Erica (the one who posed the question) is wanting is more casual dates with men in her Church in order to get to know them better, presumably to see if there is enough to build a more serious relationship on, and the article rightly notes that there is nothing wrong with this. Personally I am in favor of more casual dating within the Church (e.g. the kind where you go get coffee) as I think it is a great (and efficient) way to get to know someone and gauge future relationship potential.

Why this lack of casual dating exists however is also a complex problem, and one that I will also not seek to completely address here. However I believe that to put the blame for this lack entirely on men is short sighted. From my POV it seems that the issue is, again generally speaking, that each gender has been so segregated from the other that they are mystified and confused by the other with the result being that they actually don’t know how to be just friends with the other gender.

In the end I am personally in favor of more casual dating, but I think more people need to get on board with it, both men and women (and also parents of youth). Having coffee and chatting with someone for a while is really not a big deal and is nothing to be afraid of, even when it involves teenagers in my opinion. The desire for romance is a natural and healthy one, a desire that we should be honoring and embracing in a healthy and godly way and teaching future generations to do so as well. Treating dating as essentially pre-marriage isn’t the way to do this.

Propaganda Disguised as “Scholarship”

Recently Newsweek ran a rather lengthy article entitled, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” which claims to be an exploration, “of the Bible’s history and meaning” and “is not intended to advance a particular theology…” but this is simply not true. That a particular theology is not being advanced is blatantly obvious in light of the fact that rather lengthy sections are devoted to attempts to counter the claim that the Bible condemns homosexual behavior. Sorry, whether or not something is or isn’t taught in the Bible is a theological claim.

Secondly, the article isn’t really even an exploration, it’s a propaganda piece. There is no mention or discussion or even an attempt at the articulation of the actual beliefs of the “Evangelicals” that are the target of the author’s rant. An actual exploration of the religious text of any community should include an unbiased and fair investigation into the beliefs of that community and an accurate articulation given as to what that community has to say about their own religious text. Once such beliefs are understood and articulated then counter perspectives and arguments can be given.

So since such a perspective never made it into the article, probably because it would have made the article boring and far less controversial, I offer the following Evangelical responses to it, none of whom I know to, “wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals.”

Dr. Dan Wallace (biography and credentials): Predictable Christmas fare: Newsweek’s Tirade against the Bible

Dr. Darrell Bock is responding in parts, thus far two parts have been published:
Responding To Newsweek’s Take on the Bible, Part 1 On the Base Biblical Text- Do We Really Know What We Have?

Responding to Newsweek’s Take on the Bible, Part 2 Translation Issues and Constantine

Responding to Newsweek’s Take on the Bible, Part 3 On Three Kings and Claims about Differences and Contradictions

Responding to Newsweek’s Take on the Bible, Part 4 More Claims of Contradictions and Conclusion

His blog (where future response will show up), along with his biography and credentials is: Bock’s Blog

Dr. Ben Witherington (biography and credentials): News Weak—- The Problems with Mr. Eichenwald’s Article

Father Lawrence Farley is an Eastern Orthodox priest who serves in Canada. While not the recognized scholar that the other authors are, his response is no less valuable because of it. He touches briefly on all the points the article makes. And for clarity’s sake, he probably wouldn’t label himself an Evangelical, but nonetheless he at least is in agreement with Evangelicals on this issue. Newsweek Nonsense: an Expanded Response

Commentaries. One of the articles refers the reader to commentaries, thus I will offer two quality ones that are available for free online so that they may be used by those interested for reference and investigative purposes.

Dr. Constable’s Expository (Bible Study) Notes

Bible Study Resources by David Guzik

I feel at this point these responses are a representative and a fairly complete Evangelical response to the Newsweek article, so I don’t think I will be adding any more at this point. If however I happen to run across one I will be sure to add it to the list.

Christianity is Not a Contract!

Diablo 3 - Tyrael

Tyrael of Diablo fame.

“Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.” — C.S. Lewis

A fairly common question I see asked regarding Christianity is, “Is it okay to do _________?” I recently saw such a question posed again and I thought to myself, “Why is this question even being asked? What theological framework allows for such a question to even be asked in the first place?” As I thought about the answer to these questions I realized that to ask if a certain behavior is “okay” is to approach Christianity with the assumption that it is a contract entered into between a person and God, an assumption I believe is invalid.

In a contract two parties agree to fulfill certain responsibilities and it remains in effect as long as the terms of the contract are not breached. Such an approach sets up the expectation that as long as we do not breach the “contract” God will still fulfill His side of the deal and give us a place in heaven. And since we are by nature sinful and evil beings we then try to seek out what the bounds of this contract are; we ask ourselves, “How far can I go? What sort of loopholes can I find that will allow me to do what I want and fulfill my desires without breaching this contract?” It is this mindset I believe that leads to the question, “Is it okay for a Christian to do _________?”

Such a mindset is, I believe, taught nowhere in Scripture. We are taught that we were created by God, in His image, and were commanded to multiply and fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1.26-28). In order to sustain us He gave us the plants and the trees and their fruits (Gen. 1.29) and of the trees the only prohibition was from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and if we did so we would die (Gen. 2.17). So we see that one tree leads to death, while all the others (including the tree of life [Gen. 3.22]) lead to life. Thus we had two ways set before us, one of life and another of death, and we had to walk in one or the other, there were no alternatives. For if we ate of the trees that were allowed, we would live and fill the earth and subdue it; and if we ate of the tree of which eating was prohibited, we would die; and if we had tried to be “neutral” and not eaten of any of the trees we also would have died as we require sustenance by our nature.

Even though we chose the way leading to death, the way to life was not thereby made unavailable to us, for we were prevented from eating from the tree of life, which would have resulted in us living forever in our fallen state (Gen. 3.22). Thus God cast us out of the Garden in order to work the ground from which we were taken (Gen. 3.23-24) in order that we might learn that the way of life was now through repentance and trust (Isa. 30.15).

The Commandments given through Moses were given in order that we might know more clearly which way leads to life and which leads to death. For at the beginning of the list of blessings for following the commandments it is written, “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” – Deuteronomy 28.1. Or in other words, they would subdue the earth. But concerning the curses it is written, “So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the LORD your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you.” – Deuteronomy 28.45. Or in other words they would die.

The New Testament also presents two ways, one of death and another of life, and these two ways are opposed to each other. Representative of this are the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians 5.16-26:

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Thus Scripture does not present us with a contract, but with a choice, a choice between two ways, one which leads to life and another which leads to death. In Advent we are called to recognize our sinfulness and repent as we await the coming of our Lord. Let us do this so that when He comes we will be found working as the wise servant and serving others (Matt. 24.45-47) and not as the unwise one and be found exploiting and beating them (Μatt. 24.48-51). Let us continue on the way of life. Let our prayer throughout this Advent season truly be:

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

 

 

What’s At Stake in Creation

There was a debate recently between Bill Nye and Ken Ham regarding creation. I didn’t watch it. I have no plans to. Because frankly I just don’t care what either one has to say. However this debate will probably generate discussion amongst people, so I figured I would at the very least contribute my thoughts on the matter of origins as a Christian.

Everything you need to know regarding the Christian position on origins can be found in the first verse of the first book of the Bible:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
(Genesis 1.1 ESV)

Specifically it’s the words “God created” that are the position. They tell us two important things, 1) the universe was created and had a beginning, and 2) God brought about the beginning. If you put this in the form of a doctrinal statement it would look something like, “We believe that all things were created and God is the creator.”

As far as Christians are concerned there isn’t much dispute over what I’ve said so far. Where things start getting testy are the verses that follow after Genesis 1.1. Some hold the position that the “days” described are literal 24 hour days (this is Ham’s position). Others hold that the “days” described are long periods of time, more like ages than 24 hour days. Still others hold that the rest of chapter 1 is simply praising God for His creative work in creation and that the “days” are simply serving a literary or poetic function.

At first glance it seems as though there could be no real issue here since they all affirm “God created,” even though they have different understandings as to how “God created.” Issues arise though when details are so focused on and disputed that sight is lost of the big picture. This is, I think, what has happened regarding the origins question in Christianity. Certain Christian groups (most of the time it seems to be the literal 24-hour day types based on my experience) have so forced their particular view of creation that they have caused people to believe that their view is the only valid view and unless you agree with them you are deceived or a heretic.

There’s been such a focus on the details of creation that we’ve forgotten how they fit into the big picture and so instead have made the details the big picture. This mindset of making the details the big picture is not only problematic for the creation debate, but also for all of Western Christianity. We need to begin to recognize again the big picture that unites all of us as Christians, not just in regards to origins, but in other areas of doctrine as well.

As Christians we need to clearly recognize that the only thing at stake in the creation debate is whether or not God created. We should only be arguing with those who say God did not create, and even then we should only be arguing for “God created,” not how “God created.”

Additionally, John H. Walton has a rather interesting perspective on interpreting Genesis 1 in The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. The book is written at the popular level and anyone should be able to understand his basic argument. I have not read the second part where he discusses science education in schools, but the first was quite interesting and thought provoking. Anyone interested in what the Bible says about origins would do well to seriously consider his argument, I think. And just to be clear, I am not endorsing Walton’s view, just saying that it was interesting, thought provoking, and bears consideration.

There is certainly much more that could be said regarding origins. However I will stop here for now as I have made my point.