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Posts Tagged ‘Doctrine’

Some pointers for would-be point-ers.

So you just heard some say “Put your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin.” without invoking the Five Points of Calvinism. Just heard someone else say that you are “lucky”? Maybe you heard someone announce their weekend plans without uttering the words “God willing.” What to do? Here are a few pointers:

1.) Don’t be hasty. Get to know a person before you make broad assumptions about their theology.

2.) Don’t over-analyze. True, their language may betray a lack of understanding of the sovereignty of God in their theology, but don’t correct them simply for NOT saying something.

3.) Be gracious. Understand that you do not have perfect theology. Every day we, ourselves, may be holding beliefs that don’t fit together but we just don’t see it yet. We may never see our own errors until we get to heaven. The same goes for others.

4.) Seek to teach, not just correct.

5.) Give a little. Does the sun rise? Or does the Earth rotate in it’s orbit? What I call “the language of appearance” is acceptable when we speak of Biblical matters to. Jesus did not qualify every invitation to salvation with a statements about the sovereignty of God. Sometimes He sure DID, but not always. Don’t demand that everyone always show both sides of a coin.

6.) Be loving. Ask yourself “How would I want to be approached if I was in error?” In most cases just asking this question will lead you away from embarrassing, angering, or alienating someone else.

Make no bones about it, doctrine is the glue that holds the church together, and the saints should always want to contend for the faith. Sometimes we just need to cool our jets a little. Honestly, I find that those people that are most overbearing about correcting others are those who don’t really know what they, themselves, believe. They just know what’s wrong and they are quick to point it out. Unfortunately, there are those who Do know there stuff and will divide over the smallest difference. This is the product of arrogance and a complete lack of humility. It is a spirit that seeks to exalt itself by using knowledge rather than using that knowledge to advance the kingdom.

In the meantime, contend for the faith, but do it in love: quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). (Why didn’t I just wite that in the first place?)

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Cantankerous Calvinists have a conniption.

A few thoughts on the recent debate on a Francis Chan video over at Pyromaniacs:

Seems that a number of people had a problem with an evangelistic short film produced by Pastor Chan’s church. Not enough Scripture, too many unguarded statements, not enough Calvinism spelled out in capital letters. Whatever. people seriously had themselves a major freakout, essentially accusing him of Arminiansim and heresy.

The situation reminds me of a similar, self-inflicted dilemma I used to have when I was just getting started in teaching. I was so afraid of sounding Arminian that I added so much explicit Calvinism to my preaching such that my messages were getting confusing. I couldn’t make a basic appeal to salvation without invoking the sovereign call of God in election and referencing the first two chapters of Ephesians and the first eleven chapters of Romans.

The result was sentences with way too many commas and not enough periods if you know what I mean. I got pretty preoccupied with making sure nobody would challenge anything that I said. Being thorough got in the way of being clear.

This can be the case in many churches. By my observation, churches that are rigorous in their scholarship are usually Calvinist, and the sinful extension of scholarship is usually a hypercritical spirit. In these cases, Christians lose sight of the importance of pure doctrine and get caught up with not being wrong. It’s a recipe for home-brewed Pharisaism. Nit-picks replace compassionate contention for the faith. Humility is replaced by the arrogance of knowledge.

I’m not advocating a de-emphasis on doctrine-anything but that! Wisdom is essentially the proper use of knowledge. Without knowledge there is no wisdom. However, that knowledge is a double-edged sword that must be used with care.

Next up: some pointers on how to wield the sword, especially in the context of cantankerous Calvinists.

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Signs, signs, everywhere signs.

Read on a billboard in Omaha:

“If you must curse, use your own name. -God”

Heard from a passerby:

“Huh?”

I’ve seen this same series of billboards all over the city. Another one says “That ‘Love thy neighbor’ thing, I meant that. -God” Another says “Let’s meet at my house Sunday befre the game. -God.” Still another says “Keep using my name in vain. I’ll make rush hour longer. -God” White text on a black background. That’s it.

I find myself responding again and again in the same way: “What even is that supposed to mean?” and further “What is anyone supposed to make of that?”

The basic problem is context. Without any context people can and will take it to mean any number of different things. Who did this? What are they getting at? What God are they talking about? Without context, any message these people are trying to convey is lost. In a way it is like Scripture. Take a verse out of its place in the Bible and its interpretation becomes impossible. The verse becomes useless as it has no sure meaning.

This billboard campaign is worse that useless, though. It is careless, dangerous, irresponsible and fruitless. Suppose someone reads one of these billboards and is intrigued by its vague statement. What now do they do? Walk through the doors of a Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, 7th Day Adventist or Catholic Church?

More troubling is that the lack of definition probably indicates that whoever put these things up doesn’t care. A simple “by-line” would provide the critical direction, but it deliberately absent. It reflects the prevailing mood that doctrine is not important, and that anything that announces itself as Christian is good enough. So strong is the trend to emphasize common ground, that crucial distinctions are swept under the rug.

Problem is that those crucial distinctives are life and death issues. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was only a man, and that his death was a good example, nothing more. They believe that their good works will counterbalance their sin. As I told a pair of JW’s that came to my home once, they are dead in their sin because God requires a perfect sacrifice which only Christ the God-man could provide:

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; Their efforts would be fruitless. ” (1 pet 3:18)

With no context, the patrons of these billboards invite this generation to make God in their own image. Just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who imagine Jesus to be a man just like them(Ps 50:21), these deliberately vague messages direct their readers to “seek” God, when in reality it allows readers to select a God who will serve them. This is the essence of idolatry.

Let it be said that there are no innocents in this game. Those who are vague refuse definition. Those who are passive refuse to take a stand. Those who are ignorant refuse to be informed. Consider these things carefully.

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Dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s.

Walk with me a moment while I reflect on a lesson from church history. Around the 4th century, two men squared off about the nature of Christ. One argued that Christ was not human, and the other argued that that’s all He was. Two Greek words captured the difference: homousion and homoiousion. The difference is as follows, and in order “same” versus “similar.”

Both sides were wrong. One side denied the Trinity by saying that God essentially shape-shifted between the Father, Son and Spirit. They claimed that Christ was the same as the Father.

The other side led by Arius, founder of the Arian heresy, said that Jesus was a created being and was only “similar” to God.

Two letters were enough to plunge the entire Christian world into controversy. Graciously, God directed those at the Council of Nicea to affirm that Christ was both totally God and totally human. Both aspects are completely vital to our faith. Hebrews 2:16-18 says:
For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”
Again, both sides were wrong and the church convened to affirm the doctrine taught in Scripture, but be warned that what often looks like theological nitpicking is actually the tip of an iceberg.

No point of theology deserves to be glossed over. Every phrase deserves examination. Heresy often comes disguised as a distraction only to mount an attack on the gospel itself.

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