Tag Archives: contradiction

A Protestant Debate: Luther & Zwingli

As the Protestant Reformation grew it quickly splintered creating many different subdivisions and groups.  Martin Luther was one of the key figures of the Protestant Reformation. Most would even attribute its origins to his 95 Thesis of protest against the Catholic Church. However, Luther never intended to divide or create his own branch of Christendom. Luther only intended to reform the abuses he witnessed with in the church. Luther even criticized others who he labeled revolutionaries, and radicals; people who were making unnecessary revisions to church policies and dogma.

It seemed that what he began as reform quickly unraveled into revolution. Today the protestant branch of Christianity is still divided among the issues that arose during his lifetime.

One of these debates that polarizes Christianity began between Luther and another man, Ulrich Zwingli (a contemporary of Luther’s and fellow reformer). The two parted way over the issue Christ presence in communion (a.k.a. Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist).

Luther in defense of classical Christina tradition defended the real presence of Christ in Communion. Zwingli, on the other hand, argued for the symbolic remembrance of Christ at communion. For Luther the Sacraments Christ instituted (namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) were a means of grace, a means for the believer to receive by faith the promises of God. Zwingli rejected this Scriptural interpretation. Instead he adopted an ornamental view of the sacraments. The sacraments were not a means of grace but an act of obedience and love expressed by the believer. God’s grace did not come through the elements; they were merely symbols of God’s unseen direct activity with believers.

*Other examples of signs/means of grace may include the word of God, profession/confession, conformation, penance, orders, and matrimony. The two listed above are the common sacraments instituted by Christ.
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A Protestant Debate: Calvin & Arminius

It may be hard to determine whether one’s worldview shapes ones faith, or if ones faith shapes one’s worldview. The spiritualist might hope that faith is the force that develops ones worldview, leading and guiding the adherent to view the world through the lens their faith tradition. The secularist, on the other hand, hopes that it is tolerant worldview that will guide and interpret ones faith, fearing man’s long history of religious violence.

To this question I have no answer. It is but the springboard for the topic I wish to discuss.

Within the Protestant branch of Christendom there is a debate. It is a debate everyone is engaged in. It is both a public and personal struggle. It is a campaign that attracts the attention of the academic, the pulpit, and the coffeehouse thinker.  It is both pragmatic, and dogmatic.

It forms around several simple questions about God.

“Did I chose God or did he choose me?”

“Can I resist God if he chooses me?”

“Once I receive God’s salvation can I loose it?”

Now matter where you go, you will find Protestants engaged in this debate. Many have chosen a side and raised their flag. Many others are still wading through the murky waters dogging shots that the two polarized sides are taking at each other.

Many don’t realize but this is a unique debate to the protestant branch of the Christendom. The reason why it has such a polarizing effect of denominations and Church’s is because this debate represents a rift tracing back almost to the beginning of the protestant reformation.

A key figure that rose to prominence after the wake of the Protestant Reformation was a Pastor named John Calvin. John Calvin was a gifted preacher and theologian, who detailed his theological views in a work called Calvin’s Institutes. This became theological framework many adopted and taught. One of these students was Joseph Arminius. Arminius in a strange turn of events abandoned the views of Calvin, and began teaching an opposing theological view. The pupils of both men would eventually label each other heretics and part ways.

Calvin’s influence can be traced through the Presbyterian, Reform, and some Baptist traditions. Arminius influence can be traced most predominantly through the Methodist, Holiness, Pentecostal, and Charismatic traditions.

Many Protestants assume that this issue consumes all of Christendom, however it does not. Lutheranism, a protestant denomination that solidified early into the Protestant Reformation, accepts what they like to label the balance of the truth represented in the Scripture.

Below is an outline of the issues that divided Calvin and Arminius, and how Luther balances the harmony of Scriptural witness.

T: “total depravity”

Calvinism: Man after the Fall has no ability to cooperate with God’s grace in conversion

Arminianism: Man after the Fall can cooperate with God’s grace in conversion

Lutheranism: Agrees with Calvinism on total depravity

Relevant Bible passages: Romans 3:9-20; Gal. 3:22

U: “unconditional election”

Calvinism: Before the world was created, God unconditionally elected some (the elect) for salvation and the others (reprobates) for damnation.

Arminianism: Before the world was created, God foresaw those who would choose Him of their own free will and elected them to salvation

Lutheranism: Before the world was created, God unconditionally elected some (the elect) for salvation but did not reprobate (chose for damnation) any.

Relevant Bible passages: Romans 9:11-13; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Mat. 25:34, 41.

L: “limited atonement”

Calvinism: Jesus only died for the elect, objectively atoning for their sin, but he did not die for the sins of the reprobates.

Arminianism: Christ died to give all the possibility to be saved.

Lutheranism: Christ’s death objectively atoned for all the sin of the world; by believing we receive this objective atonement and its benefits.

Relevant Bible passages: John 1:29; 1 John 2:2; 2 Cor. 5:14-15, 19.

I: “irresistible grace”

Calvinism: In all of God’s outward actions (preaching, baptism, etc.) there is an outward call which all receive, yet there is also a secret effectual calling which God gives to the elect alone. This effectual calling alone saves and is irresistable.

Arminianism: God gives in His outward actions the same grace to all; this grace can be resisted by all.

Lutheranism: The question is not answerable; for the elect, grace will irresistably triumph, yet those who reject Christ have rejected that Grace; yet the grace is the same.

Relevant Bible passages: Eph. 2:1-10; Acts 13:48; James 1:13-15

P: “perseverance of the saints” (sort of like “once saved, always saved.”)

Calvinism: Salvation cannot be lost. Those who have truly put their faith in Christ may temporarily lose the evidence of their faith and even live for a time in grave and unrepentant sin, without losing their salvation.

Arminianism: Salvation can be lost through unrepentant sin and unbelief.

Lutheranism: Salvation can be lost through mortal sin and unbelief, but this legal warning does not cancel the Gospel promise of election

Relevant Bible passages: 1 Cor. 10:12. 2 Peter 2:1, 20-22.
*Comparisons taken from Three Hierarchies.

For many people, what they believe is more of a reflection the conflict between worldview and faith, then theology.


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Speaking of the Trinity

trinty

The trinity is something unique to Christian thought. It is one of the great mysteries of God. In this doctrine alone, one can see how truly transcendent God is from our way of thinking. Roger E. Olson and Christopher A. Hall write in their book, The Trinity, “According to the Church Father Augustine anyone who denies the Trinity is in danger of losing their salvation, but anyone who tries to understand the Trinity is in danger of losing their mind (pg 1).”

The assertion that the doctrine of the Trinity is core to receiving Salvation seems hard to swallow. However, as one begins to look at the development of the Doctrine of the Trinity, it becomes clear why the Church placed such a strong emphasis on clarifying this divine mystery represented in Scripture.

The doctrine of the Trinity was developed as an polemic against the many forms of heresy arising in the Church. The basic problem the doctrine addresses was the tension between monotheistic worship of the Father (God), with the New Testament precedent that Jesus was worthy of worship as well. The doctrine of the Trinity really tried to answer how it was that Jesus was “one with the Father?” Was he one in essence or substance, or was Jesus some kind of divine “offspring” which leached a part of the Fathers being when he was created, or was he a separate deity?

The church Fathers concluded that Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were all of the same substance as the Father; that they were in fact all one, in will though and action. To affirm that Jesus was an offspring or offshoot of God, would not only contradict the monotheism of the Old Testament but it would also corrupt the nature of God because some of his divine would have been given to Jesus making the Father “less god.”

Tertullian was the first to formulate this “one substance three persons,” and use the Latin word trinitas when referring to God (O’Collins. The Tripersonal God. Pg 105.) From his influence the doctrine of the Trinity really moved forward. What was the relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit? This had been one of the greater issues that the church sought to resolve since its conception, and here somewhere between 300-400 AD the answer was finally found in the doctrine of the Trinity. However, for as much as this doctrine explains it still leaves so many questions… and this is ok. However, to deny it is really to deny the Christian faith, because without you are left with a Christ-less Christianity.

Heresies Concerning the Trinity:

Arianism/Strict Monotheists: The affirmation of God the Father, but denial of the deity of Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit.

Modalism/Sabellians: The belief that God is one but revealed himself in three distinct ways throughout history; the Father in the Old Testament, The Son in the Gospels, and the Holy Spirit in the present age.

Multiple gods: The worship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but as separate individual gods, divided in will, mind, and authority.

Hierarchy within the Trinity
One other major concern when speaking of the Trinity is the apparent hierarchy within its three persons. Specifically from the Gospels Jesus is submitted to the Father. The question then becomes why? If Jesus is God, the same substance as the Father, why is he submitting to the Father?

“Although God’s being is characterized by the hypostatic distinctions of Father, Son, and Spirit, all three persons are one in their will and Activity. They are not autonomous persons in the modern nuance of “individual,” each with its own separate “ego” and “center” of consciousness. Rather, they have always and will always purpose and operate with one will and action. They are one God, not three.

…Jesus’ human will is distinct from his divine will in the economy of the incarnation. In Gethsemane Jesus in obedience submits his will to the Father, while his divine will remains one with the Father’s.
In the same manner, when Jesus speaks of the Father as being “grater than I,” the reference is to the economy of the incarnation. The Father is indeed grater than the Son with reference to the Son’s humanity. ‘Without this [key] distinction between theologia and oikonomia we would have to interpret the obedience of Christ to the Father as an indication that even in his divine being he was subordinate to the Father—and this would be the end of Nicene trinitarianism.’ Again, in the Trinity we have one God, not three. (Roger E. Olson and Christopher A. Hall. The Trinity. Pgs 36-37.”

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Did Jesus really say we are all Gods?

Did Jesus really say we are all Gods? Without understanding the context you could falsely interpret the text this way. So lets examine the context…

Jesus defends his claim [against blasphemy] using language they [the Pharisees] should be able to understand, through an appeal to the law. He cites a text that uses the word god of those who are not God: Is it not written in your Law, “I have said you are gods”? (v. 34). It is unclear who is being referred to in Psalm 82:6. Of the several proposals made by scholars (cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:176-77), the most likely takes this as a reference either to Israel’s judges or to the people of Israel as they receive the law. The latter is a common understanding among the rabbis (for example, b. ‘Aboda Zara 5a; Exodus Rabbah 32:7), but the former is also represented in Jewish interpretation (Midrash Psalms; b. Sanhedrin 6b; 7a; b. Sota 47b). Jesus’ explanation that these gods are those to whom the word of God came (v. 35) might point to the Israelites receiving the law. In this case the contrast between these gods and Jesus would be that Jesus is the one who both fulfills the law and is greater than the law. But this expression to whom the word of God came could also refer to the judges (as suggested by the rest of Ps 82) who have received a commission from God to exercise the divine prerogative of judgment on his behalf. The psalm is actually a condemnation of the judges for not exercising their responsibility faithfully, thus corresponding both to the condemnation of these Jewish leaders in John and to Jesus as the true judge.

IVP New Testament Commentaries
The entire article can be viewed at Bible Gateway

Summarizing the above commentary Jesus is quoting from Psalm 82:6 in which the Judges of the Nation of Israel are called “gods.” There are called gods because they received the word of God and are accountable to be God’s judges here on Earth according to that information. They are to be the Gods/rulers according to Gods word given to them. At that time they were in a sense God’s gods/rulers on earth. They were God’s agents of authority here on this Earth because they had the Scripture.  And in this way it is not referring to “Gods” as figure of divinity or Godhood, but as a ruler or an authority. The interesting part is that Jesus almost uses this in a mocking fashion because those who were called “gods” as the commentators writes were being condemned for “not exercising their responsibility faithfully.” So Jesus, who is being accused of blasphemy because of his “good” or “god-like” works, turns the table on the Pharisees who were the keepers of the Law, and asks, “Are you not Gods?” Meaning, are you not also supposed to be keeping and ruling according to the Law? Are you not also not also supposed to be faithful to the Law you who received it from God?

Then Jesus in his following words defends that he is indeed different than those who had merely received the Law. He says that he has been set apart by God and sent into the World by God. He is the fulfillment of the Law, he is God, and that his works display this.

So to use this passage to support this idea that we are all “gods,” is perversion of Scripture. Furthermore, it is an ironic perversion of Scripture because this passage is a condemnation against all who have received the word yet are not living faithfully to its standards.  The law of God which they were to be Judging with was condemning them. So Jesus is saying to the Pharisees  that we are the “gods” or rulers of the Scripture God has given man, and yet you fail to live it out. This is why God has set me apart and sent me into the World.

The conclusion is that it points to man’s great need for a savior, because even though we have the law, man is unable to obtain righteousness.

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The Three points of the Gospel: Manger, Cross, Crown

I debated with my self about posting this video for several reasons. First of all it’s long (about 50 min), and secondly I try to be original in what I post. However, Tim Keller is amazing, everything I’ve heard from this guy continues to amaze me.

In this particular message that was a part of the Dwell Conference from 2008 in New York City, Keller address the question, “What is the Gospel?” His message is titled “Dwelling in the Gospel,” and it really gets into the vastness of the Gospel message.

You can link to the video here…

http://theresurgence.com/Keller_Dwelling-in-the-Gospel-video

Summary of Tim Keller’s Message:
He highlights the tension scholars have discuses for years, in that the Bible presents several different Gospels, yet claims there is only one. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke) present the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. John’s Gospel presents the Gospel of Eternal Life. And the Pauline Epistles present the Gospel of Justification.

Furthermore, Paul would argue that there is only one gospel in Galatians chapter one, but then in Galatians 2 he mentions his gospel is for the Gentiles and Peters in for the Jews… SO THERE IS ONE GOSPEL… BUT THEY ARE MANY?

Tim Keller addresses this question by concluding there is one Gospel, but that it has three main points; the Incarnation, the Cross, and the New Creation.

And if I categorized them correctly from his message it looks something like this table below…

table 2

Keller then goes on to say that how we present the Gospel depends much on our audience. Paul did not always present the gospel the same. In fact as Keller speculates that Paul made great distinction in his presentation between the Gentile and the Jew (the morally cognitive, and the morally relative).

Moreover, it would defeat power of the Gospel to address each of these every time, or to assume that “one size fits all.”
This video to me settles much of my uneasiness I’ve had about the gospel of personal conversion verses the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, which I addressed in my earlier posting, “The Presentation of the Gospel: An inspiring look at the news of the Kingdom of God. Part 1 & Part 2

I liked Keller question to the crowd to examine the “tension between people pushing an individual conversion agenda verses a corporate community agenda.”

There needs to balance… I agree. I was raised under the personal conversion classical evangelical 4-point gospel presentation, and I since then I have swung over to the “corporate community justice” gospel. But churches, our people, and our communities are in need of the full gospel if they are to be reached with maximum impact.

One last thing to mention… I enjoyed his comment (which he learned from his professor) that “the essence of the cross is substitution,” because as he said, in every instance and theory Jesus is doing the action on our behalf, whether liberating, or ransoming, or restoring, or reconciling, or saving, or justifying… we cannot do it on our own.

My hope now is that you will, or that you already have, watched this message from Tim Keller.

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The Existence of Demons Revisited

asselerant

This post is a follow up to a post I had written in January, “So what’s is the reality of Satan, demons, and the spiritual world? Truth or Fiction?”

The major dilemma I discussed in the existence of demons is there purpose. Traditionally it has been taught that demons temp mankind to sin. However, this contradicts Scripture. For it’s written, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed (James 1:14).” Therefore if man’s lust and pride is the root of sin, what then is the purpose of demons?

Yet, after spending time reflecting on this issue and talking with others I feel I have come a suitable answer.

To deny the existence of demons would be to deny the reliability of the New Testament and it’s witnesses. Demons were not just an expression of the  “primitive” minds of the 1st century. Luke in his gospel account records both sickness and demon possession. Demon possession was not a misdiagnosis for the unknown illnesses.

Thus, if demons are real, as the New Testament claims, what is their function? It seems that they function like an accelerant to mans sin. Man does sin because he wants to, because he chooses to, because of his own lust and pride. Demons only add fuel to this fire accelerating mankind’s temptation. Present within Adam and Eve was the pride to “be like God.” All Satan did was hasten there fall by feeding them misinformation; misinformation that tickled the ears of Adam and Eve so that they felt comfortable sinning.

The same principle could apply to Jesus at the end of his 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. He was hungry, so the devil took advantage of his accelerate his desires. Likewise when he tempted him in the other areas. And when Jesus has resisted the devil for the third and, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time (Luke 4:13).”

The devil only exploits opportunities. He does not create them. The human heart is wicked. Jeremiah 17:9 declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

So we cannot pass the blame of sin onto demons, nor are they the unseen cause behind our temptation. Mankind is still responsible for their outworking of their pride and lust, which is sin. Demons only exploit the opportunity of our fallen nature.

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The problem of God & the existence of evil.

evil and god

There seems to be a contradiction by the affirming of all four of these propositions:

•    God exists
•    God is all-good
•    God is all-powerful
•    Evil exists

Because is God is real, all good and all-powerful, then evil would not exist.
Or God is real, all good, but not all-powerful and this is why evil exist.
Or God is real but not all good, so in power he created evil.
Or lastly God is not real and evil therefore exists.

Or are they all right!?

The problem with this argument has to do with the arrangement of this argument. “Evil” is spoken of as a being, as a thing. But evil is not a thing or a being.

“Things are not evil in themselves. For instance, a sword is not evil. Even the stroke of the sword that chops off your head is not evil in it’s being—in fact, unless it is a “good” stroke, it will not chop off your head. Where is the evil? It is in the will, the choice, the intent, the movement of the soul, which puts a wrong order into the physical world of things and acts—the order between the sword and a neck… Augustine defines evil as disordered love, disordered will. It is a wrong relationship, a nonconformity between our will and God’s will. God did not make it we did.”
(this quote and the one above were taken from Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics, by Peter Kreeft & Ronald K. Tacelli, Pg 45,46.)

God cannot create evil, because in him there is not evil, there is no disunity in his persons. God is holy, united, perfect love. However, as created beings we are not perfectly united with our creator, we live in relationship with Him. In that relationship there is an ebb and flow. The further our relationship grows apart from God the more “evil” we become in our heart, minds, and actions. Likewise, the closer we draw to God, and unify ourselves with him, the less evil we become in our heart, mind, and actions, or the more holy our heart, mind, and actions become.

Evil will always exists until man becomes perfectly united with God.

This is why Jesus prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23

*So in one sense God did create evil, because he did create something different than himself, which opened Pandoras box for evil. However, looking at it from another direction God did not create evil. He created us and we created evil…  So can we really blame God?

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