Tag Archives: doubts

Is the love of God dwarfed by his ability to communicate?”

There is a question I’ve asked myself in a moment of contemplation that haunts me.


“Is the love of God dwarfed by his ability to communicate?”

As disciples of Jesus we have been set free by the love of God. We experienced this freedom when we heard, understood, and received the message of the Gospel. God sacrificed everything, humbled himself and took on the likeness of a man; he even humbled himself to the point of death on a cross… Why? Because he loved us!

God went through extraordinary lengths; exhibited divine patience and mercy, to ultimately offer grace through self-sacrifice. Yet, this message goes unheard for millions in with each passing generation.

How can we reconcile the grandeur and vastness of the love of God, when it stands in contrast to his impotent ability to communicate this message?

You, and I, we believe we have this innate right to know important things first hand. We see and act as people who are entitled to the things of God. When something fails in our lives we excuse ourselves and shift the fault to God, as if he already owes us something. We are people clouded by our sense of “rights.”

So when it comes to the message of the Gospel we detest the idea that all aren’t given equal knowledge or opportunity. We scream at the injustice of such a God. And no matter how much we inquire and search, the Bible is clear on the scandalous message of practicality.

The scandal of particularity is that God has not chosen all equally. He has equally given his blessing, nor his revelation. He has not called all nations or people to be his witnesses, nor has he ultimately given salvation to all.

As democratic people of the West we cannot understand a God who does not give equal opportunity. Yet, this is the tension we are faced with in the scripture.

God called the nation of Israel among all the nations of the World to be his witnesses. Why? Simply because.

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Deuteronomy 7:6-8

Transition with me to the New Testament and examine the life of Jesus. God chose to become a man, not many men in many generations on many different continents. No, Jesus came in the flesh just once. Then as a man he called 12 disciples, and of the twelve he had only 3 that he did everything with. Furthermore, as a man he began his public ministry at the age of 30 and only lasted approximately 3 years. And in those 3 years he taught, fed, and healed the crowds, but he also singled out individuals like the woman at the well and Zacchaeus, and chose to spend a few hours, or an evening with them alone. He did not allocate his time equality, as some would say “fairly.”

When a celebrity or author comes to town for a book signing we understand we may only stand before them for a moment, possible get to share words for a minuet, then be shuffled past. We also think nothing of the friends they choose or the people they invite over for dinner understanding that they are human.

Yet, if God was came to town, and after standing in line for hours, we saw him invite one man over for dinner, or talk with one woman for an extended period of time, meanwhile shuffling others past him, we would exclaim “How dare he?” We would question his justice, his love, or his power to speak with us all.

However, this is precisely the scandalous message of the Bible.

So let me return to my original question, “Is the love of God dwarfed by his ability to communicate?”

No, we must understand that God’s love is not dwarfed by his ability to communicate, but our ability to receive. In the end, it is our pride that hinders the receptivity of the Gospel. We think God should speak directly to us, not share his message through others, even creation. We cringe at the reality that God has called a few and chosen fewer to make disciples of the nations.

Entertain the idea the maybe God chose to share his Gospel second-hand because the first step in receiving the Gospel is humility; humility to see that we are sinners, humility to see that we are not the center of the universe, humility to surrender everything and worship him.

Don’t be turned off in reading this, nor let your pride get the best of you. Understand that God loves you, and that he just might have called me to share his love with you.

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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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Things I can’t pray for…

I’ve come to a place where there are certain things I just can’t pray for. Maybe it’s just a lack of faith on my part. Or maybe it’s that I’m no longer naïve to the nature of God or His will.

I write today because there are times when I find it so difficult to pray. Sometimes I feel in my personal life and as I observe in others prayer is nothing more than some superstitious recited cantation. Far be it from me to be the judge of anyone’s heart or intentions, but by the things we pray for sometimes it’s hard not to draw conclusions.

I think my own difficultly in prayer has risen out of some very common questions.

  • “Why does God seem to answer prayers for parking spots when entire countries are destroys in earth quakes and famines?”

  • “Why is one healed and another left sick?”

  • “Why are some Christians poor and others are rich, if both work just as hard and love God just as much?”

So maybe I’m just lack faith, but there are things that I can’t pray for anymore.

I can’t pray for finical gain above what my family needs to survive. I understand living in America already places in me top percentages of the world’s rich. Instead I find myself praying for faithfulness and wisdom for the things that God has given me.

I can’t pray for parking spots when owning a car means I’m living in a reality that 90% of others in this world are not. That’s like saying God indoor-pluming is not good enough, I want my toilet to be gold plated.

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Must death preceed recreation and renewal? Is creation lost?

There is this conflict within the christian community as how the recreation of the world will take place.

One side believes that all of creation will be destroyed. Then God will form again from nothing a new created world.

The other side believes that this created world will not be destroyed merely recreated. God created this world “good,” loves this world, and does not and will not ever destroy it.

Side one:

2Peter 3:10-13

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The interpretation:

  • Sin has completely corrupted the world, beyond saving.
  • Both mankind, and all of creations was changed beyond return because of mans sin.
  • Therefore God, must destroy the old to bring forth the new.
  • There must be death before recreation.

*This would seem true, but not all believers will die before receiving their resurrection bodies. Those who are alive at the time of Jesus’ return will just be transformed.

Side two:

Genesis 8:21

“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

Romans 8:20&21

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

The interpretation:

  • Sin has not completely corrupted creation
  • Creation was distorted and pulled down because of man’s fall into sin.
  • God does not need to destroy creation to restore it.
  • He knew man was wicked, yet when man is restored then creation will be freed from the effects on sin.
  • Man’s sin is what is keeping creation from being how God has intended it, paradise.
  • Once sin is removed creation will be restored.
  • Man’s corruption is the issue not creation.
  • Creation is only a tool that God uses to both bless and punish.
    • Blessings: fruit of the land, provision, beauty.
    • Punishment: Toil the land, natural disasters, sickness.

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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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