Monday, November 26, 2012

The Dangers of Scientism

Liberals and Ecclesiastical Authority

I'm not going to go on and on today about this, but I did just want to point out one small thing, and that is this: Liberals are ecclesiastical atheists because their self-ascribed, interpretive grid can't allow for the Church to have authority when it conflicts with their experience. So if the Church has concluded the right interpretation of Scripture concerning what is orthodox and orthoprax, that Church must be seen as a bully that wants to inflict upon others its own interpretation of Scripture as opposed to allowing the liberal to have his way. Shame on it. Liberals are just trying to interpret the Bible with their own self-exalting interpretive experience and attack what the Church has concluded to be biblically true. Why in the world would the Church counter-attack the poor little liberal victim? What a mean, bad bully it must be.

Those of us who believe the Scripture, however, believe also that apostles and prophets were given by God for the purpose of giving revelation to the Church AND that teachers were given to the Church to rightly interpret the Scripture and bring us all into the unity of the truth (per Ephesians 4). This is a lifelong goal, where unity is something that is not immediate, but happens as the right teaching of the Church moves us more and more into orthodoxy and orthopraxis. Liberal heretics don't get this. They're trajectory moves away from unity in the truth because it moves away from ecclesiastical conclusions on biblical issues. It does not believe the Spirit of truth has guided His Church's biblical interpretation into the direction of the truth. To the liberal, we're on our own. There is no God guiding the Church. Hence, it must have concluded wrongly in its theology and ethics when interpreting the Bible.

One might think that this is a Protestant belief, but it isn't. The Magisterial Reformers believed that the Spirit guided the Church. They just believed that the Church had authority to interpret the Bible, not add traditions and contemporary folk religion to the Bible. But half of Calvin's Institutes are quotes from Church Fathers. He is in dialogue with them. Luther's conclusions about Romans came from his Augustinian assumptions and background.

So Immanuel. God is with us. We are not yet perfected, but we do not negate the theology and ethics of the ancient Church because they were without God guiding their teachers as we are without God guiding ours. Instead, it precisely because God is guiding our teachers into the truth in which He guided them that we know He is now guiding us. Those who are not guided into the same truth are not being guided by the same Spirit. Our big problem is that we want God to have guided them in areas that He hasn't. We want them to conclude on one eschatological time-frame, or the specifics of scientific or historical events that don't have anything to do with the theology and ethics with which the Holy Spirit's guidance has to do.

The problem with liberals is that they can't divorce the two. If the Church has concluded wrongly on a true, empirically verifiably, scientific matter (e.g., geocentricism), then that means it must have concluded wrongly on a theological or ethical interpretation of the text as well. But the problem with theological and ethical aberrations in Church History is that the latter departs from the former. It's never that the latter got something theologically or ethically  right that the former was wrong about. The Reformation, then, was a going back, not a departure from what came before. It was a rejection of the innovation within the visible church, not a rejection of Church authority and the idea that the Spirit has guided the Church into the sphere of truth.

Liberalism, therefore, is nothing but the same old Satanic heresy, where the truth and good is rejected by what comes later, a supposedly more enlightened path provided by a contemporary luminary. It is a ploy to steal the spotlight from Christ's Church and give it to oneself. The Church, then, is just a community of individuals who are only unified in so far as they get along with one another, but not in mind and speech. Their lives do not accord with one another beyond doing as they see fit. There is no submission to the external in one's thinking. There is only the Self. And Christ and His Church must bow down to it, or be taunted as a bully that seeks to oppress the self-imagined victim of the Self.

But the true bullies are those who come along and want to violently destroy what has been set in place and then falsely accuse their victims to be the oppressors. The truth is that the Church is just trying to faithfully preserve God's Word in an extremely hostile environment, and liberals have joined the side of that environment and have added to the hostility. They are the whore that rides the beast. The beast is more accepting of them, even though it still has less respect for them as a religious entity, but it tolerates them because they join hands to persecute the Church. They together falsely accuse it, as does their father the devil; but Christ's Church will be vindicated in the end because they did not love their lives even to death and they kept firm to the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. And they can do this, precisely, because they know what the testimony is. The Church has preserved the biblical message and it exists so that it may always find its way back from the false churches that are created by the innovators.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Great Spurgeon Quote

Someone posted this as a comment and I had to share it. It is so, so true.

“There is no attribute of God more comforting to his children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all.

"There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation—the kingship of God over all the works of his own hands—the throne of God, and his right to sit upon that throne.

On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on his throne.
They will allow him to be in his workshop to fashion worlds and to make stars. They will allow him to be in his almonry to dispense his alms and bestow his bounties. They will allow him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends his throne, his creatures then gnash their teeth; and when we proclaim an enthroned God, and his right to do as he wills with his own, to dispose of his creatures as he thinks well, without consulting them in the matter, then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on his throne is not the God they love.
They love him anywhere better than they do when he sits with his sceptre in his hand and his crown upon his head.”   ---Charles Spurgeon

Friday, November 23, 2012

What Does It Really Mean to Be a Christian?

Many today lament the fact that the term “evangelical” has become so overused of anyone having an experience of what they consider “Jesus” that the term is now meaningless. But the truth is that the term “Christian” has been made into a far more nebulous term than that. Everyone and anyone considers himself a Christian in one way or another. But if everyone knew what the term really meant, and was honest, we’d have much fewer self-proclaimed Christians in the world today.

The place to start here is with the apostle John, since, as the last living apostle, he had more to say on the subject than anyone else. Notice what he says below.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (John 13:20)

A similar statement is found in Matthew 13, where Christ chooses the apostles and commissions them with his teaching. He states,
“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

John, now leaving this life, seeks to help the Church that follows to understand something vitally important, namely, that Jesus Christ gave the apostles the authority and ability to remember His teaching (John 14:25), and those who interpret Him differently, or depart from apostolic teaching, are not true Christians. Therefore, one is only a follower of Christ when he is a follower of the Christ of the apostles, and one is only a follower of Christ when he is a follower of Christ’s teachings through the apostles.
Hence, he draws upon Christ’s giving them authority in his Gospel and Epistles to show that Jesus Christ must be defined by apostolic teaching, and cannot be redefined by others according to their religious or philosophical beliefs. 
It is to the apostles, as opposed to the other disciples, that the Holy Spirit is given to remember His words. It is to the apostles that their testimony is considered on an equal plain with the testimony of the Holy Spirit and cannot be seen as different from it (John 15:26-27). It is to the apostles, as opposed to the other disciples, that apostolic representation of Christ is granted. It is to the apostles that continued direction and teaching from Christ through the Holy Spirit is granted (16:12-15). It is to the apostles, as opposed to the other disciples, that Christ gives the keys to the kingdom to bind and to loose in John 20:21-23 (i.e., to judge one who considers himself a Christian and either declare as saved or declare as one who is damned—in other words, to say who is a Christian and who is not). It is to the apostles that direct access to the Father is granted in the authority of the Son to see and understand Jesus Christ.

Hence, it is the apostles who see Christ and His teaching clearly, and they alone have the authority to set the boundaries of what we consider a Christian view of Christ and a Christian teaching; and therefore, they alone have the authority to set the boundaries for who and what is considered Christian. Take the following episode for instance.

Jesus could see  that they wanted to ask him about these things,  so  he said to them, “Are you asking  each other about this – that I said, ‘In a little while you  will not see me; again after a little while, you  will see me?  I tell you the solemn truth,  you will weep and wail,  but the world will rejoice; you will be sad, but your sadness will turn into  joy. When a woman gives birth, she has distress  because her time  has come, but when her child is born, she no longer remembers the suffering because of her joy that a human being   has been born into the world.  So also you have sorrow  now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.  At that time you will ask me nothing. I tell you the solemn truth, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive it,  so that your joy may be complete.
I have told you these things in obscure figures of speech;  a time  is coming when I will no longer speak to you in obscure figures, but will tell you  plainly  about the Father. At that time  you will ask in my name, and I do not say  that I will ask the Father on your behalf. For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (John 16:16-27)

The purpose of this episode is to show that the apostles will be able to interpret Christ’s teaching and who Jesus is, precisely, because they have been with Him from the beginning, are given the Holy Spirit for the express and special purpose of interpreting Christ, and have direct access to the Father if they need clarification on anything. 

In other words, the apostles are not just the average Joe interpreting Christ with some religious experience he has had. He is the only one in the position to interpret Christ and His teaching correctly. And this brings us to another point that John has been making: Christ is His teaching.
Christ is the Word. Christ is known through what He has taught. One cannot know Christ apart from the truth that He spoke, both while he was here on earth and through the teaching He continued to give to the apostles. If one departs from this teaching, therefore, he or she does not merely depart from a particular apostolic teaching but still holds onto Christ, but has departed from Christ Himself. To reject apostolic teaching, according to Christ Himself, is to reject Christ. And to reject Christ is to reject God the Father. 

Hence, all of the teaching we get from the apostles in Scripture is Christ’s teaching. To reject it is to reject Christ; and hence, is to be an unbeliever, regardless of whether one claims to know Jesus. One cannot speak of being in the spirit of the apostles, or continuing the types of things they were doing, and reject the specific theological and ethical teachings they taught, since to be in their spirit is to continue the specifics, not to contradict them. 

One can certainly develop the implications of the whole of their teachings, but in "complementation," not contradiction. If what is “developed” contradicts a specific teaching of the apostles, then it is a teaching that is anathema. And the person who advocates it is likewise anathema if he or she does not repent of it, as only one who is united to the true Christ is blessed with salvation.

The idea, therefore, that one can believe in a Jesus, but not the Jesus of the apostles, and still consider himself a Christian is a delusion. Paul speaks of another Jesus and that such is delivered to men by false apostles who work for the devil, not for God. John, likewise, states that “they went out from us because they were not really of us. If they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they all went out that it might be made plain that they are not of us” (1 John 2:19). The “us” there refers to the apostles. John makes it clear in the epistle that one must have fellowship with the apostles in terms of their teaching in order to have fellowship with the true Jesus and God.

This is what we proclaim to you:  what was from the beginning,  what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched (concerning the word of life and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce  to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us). What we have seen and heard we announce  to you too, so that  you may have fellowship  with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ). (1 John 1:1-7)

Hence, the idea that one can disagree with the apostles in the specifics, while trying to make the argument that he agrees with them in terms of their general reforming spirit is nonsense. The one who departs from their teaching, departs from Christ and God. This is, as John is clear to say, the spirit of antichrist, not the Spirit of God who binds His children to the true Jesus and His teaching revealed through the apostles.

Christ is the gospel of the apostles, not your gospel. Christ is the apostles’ teaching about the Church, not your idea of “church.” Christ is the apostles’ teaching of God, not your view of God. Christ is the apostles’ teaching concerning the nature of truth, sexual ethics, gender roles, etc., not your postmodern views of those things. If you want everyone to follow you, then call your religion what it is, and add an “ism” to your name; but Christians follow Christ through apostolic teaching. If the apostles teach an exclusive gospel, Christians follow what they taught. If the apostles teach one must hear and exercise faith to be saved, Christians believe it. If the apostles condemn homosexuality as a sign of the wrath of God upon a people, Christians accept that as the absolute truth. False Christians don’t. They’re religion is personalized. It is adapted to their cultural and religious preferences and understandings, and hence, they’re Christ has been adapted and personalized. But their Christ is not the One who lived and died and lived again. Only the apostles know that Christ, and we must come to know Him through them.

Christ and the teaching that characterizes Him shouldn't be redefined and misidentified, precisely, because He isn't an idea or made up character like Santa Claus. He's a real Person, and to know Him is to know Him as a Person and all of the truth and good that is consistent with who He is. The only humans who know that real Person were the apostles, and it is through them, therefore, that we have come to know Him.

What this means is that the term “Christian” means “one who is in submission to the apostolic teaching and interpretation of Christ and His teaching.” If one wants a Gnostic Jesus, a solely human Jesus, a modern Jesus, a postmodern Jesus, and all of the teachings his particular Jesus would support or condemn, and that Jesus and his teachings contradict the Jesus and teachings of the apostles, his claim to be a Christian is false. The term is being watered-down to fit a larger group of people under it, but this redefinition makes it meaningless.
In reality, the term has meaning in what John has argued above. A Christian is one who follows Christ through the apostolic teaching. Hence, those who claim to be Christians, but do not submit to apostolic teaching are liars who are deceiving themselves and the truth is not in them. As John said, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test  the spirits to determine  if they are from God, because many false prophets  have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1). Likewise, do not believe everyone who claims to be a Christian, but test their claim to determine if they are from God, because many false Christians have gone out into the world.

Teach them and exhort them about these things. If someone spreads false teachings and does not agree with sound words (that is, those of our Lord Jesus Christ) and with the teaching that accords with godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing, but has an unhealthy interest in controversies and verbal disputes. This gives rise to envy, dissension, slanders, evil suspicions, and constant bickering by people corrupted in their minds and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a way of getting ahead in life. (1 Tim 6:2-5)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Notice that the love of God is displayed and should be praised in His works of creation that include the destruction of chaotic agents. We ought to thank God for His creating life and space for His people and His victory over our enemies. Thank You for all Your good works against chaos/evil on behalf of Your children, Lord God. Your love endures forever.

Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.
13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.
17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—
His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—
His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.
23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Note to My Lay Readers

I wanted to help my lay readers a moment by saying something important to you, and that is this:

Stop using Strong's and Vine's to look up Greek and Hebrew words!

These works are atrocious. They are archaic works that came to their definitions in a more linguistically naive age, and they are going to be flat out wrong and lead you to conclude all sorts of false things about what the text actually says. Words are given their nuances through context, so you need to read the context of the entire book, and the immediate context (and even the author's works as a whole) in order to understand the word better in a particular text. That means that it's going to be a much more laborious task in attempting to interpret Scripture in the original languages on your own. If you don't want to do that then get good current commentaries on the book that will help you look at the words you want to study (get a list from someone who you trust knows what good commentaries are out there).

I hope that helps. God bless you in your study and desire to rightly divide the word of truth.