Other People Determine Your Doctrine More Than Scripture Does

Protestants are people who protested against the Catholic Church. But specifically they are people who used to be Catholic, who then became not quite as much Catholic.

There were other churches around during the height of Catholicism. Baptists have been around forever and various other churches were around as well. Catholics get the most publicity; many think the entire church was Catholic at one point.

That’s mostly because Catholics have always been expert at getting people’s money and also killing opponents and destroying their work. When you have the power and money, you dominate the narrative.

Luther was Catholic and wanted to stay in the Catholic Church, and he would have if they hadn’t booted him. Calvin copied Augustine on 90% of doctrine and Augustine is considered the Father of Catholicism.

Most of the doctrinal differences between denominations today is how much not-Catholic they are. Most denominations and churches will tell you that their sole authority is the Bible, but reading the doctrinal statements of all these churches lets you know someone aint giving authority to the Bible.

If all churches who said the Scripture was their authority actually had Scripture as their authority, there would be lots more unity. There isn’t. Why not? Because a lot of doctrine is formed not on Scripture but on Let’s Not Be Like Those People.

People are great at throwing babies out with bath water. In fact, sometimes we just throw out babies and keep bath water.

Churches throw out the baby (the Scripture) and keep the bath water (whatever drivel they decide to believe instead). Each assumes they are spiritual because spiritual maturity is mostly measured by comparison with other people. Since we’re Not Like Those People, we assume our not-likeness is where we are better, more mature, more right. Simply being better than others is good enough.

This is not growing into Christ though; this is just growing into being Not Like Those People.

We’ve reached a point where true uniqueness is a church that actually has Scripture as their authority. Does this church exist? I think it’s about impossible.

2,000 years of church arguing and factions has created an environment where it is very difficult to agree with any Christian anymore. Human philosophy, church and family tradition, and many other things have clouded our vision.

Is it possible for a church to have biblical doctrine? Maybe, but it’s highly doubtful. Is it possible for a person to? It’s more likely, but also very difficult.

How do you know if your doctrine is based on Scripture? Well, read the Bible a lot. Anytime a verse annoys you, pay attention, that’s probably where your doctrine is based on something else. If you read the Bible over and over, every time you should learn more, and it should slightly inform and change your doctrine.

If that’s not happening, then you aren’t paying attention. You’re simply reading the Bible and your brain is doing confirmation bias—it only notices verses that agree with your doctrine.

If you claim you’ve attentively read the Bible and didn’t change/modify any views, then you have to conclude you have 100% perfect doctrine. That’s quite the claim. I know people who get pretty close to claiming this and well, they don’t agree with each other on doctrine!

Read the Bible. Change your beliefs where necessary. Be part of a body of believers. Don’t isolate yourself. Hopefully you can at least find a church that has a couple humble people in it who truly want to grow and don’t think they’ve already arrived. You can help each other detect bias.

Please read your Bible. Over and over. Pay attention to context. Do the work.

But also know that knowledge puffs up. If you have all knowledge and have not love it profits you nothing. Doctrine is not simply for picking fights. It’s for informing your life and changing you into the person of Jesus Christ. And please try your hardest not to fall into the trap of “Not Being Like Those People.” Just follow Christ. Let Him change you.

I’m Hoping There Are Visitor Centers in the New Earth

I recently returned from traveling 11,500+ miles across the western half of the United States. It’s a big country with lots of cool stuff in it.

On this trip we visited 35 national parks and monuments, each of which is filled with signs explaining various things about the land we were viewing.

Every national park told us that “at one time this land was covered by water.” They explained how the land features were created over billions of years by forces of erosion and whatnot.

Now there’s actually no way to know how these land features were created. The sign maker wasn’t there and neither was I. They have their theories and I have mine. Mine tend to involve world-wide floods and so forth. They admit water was over everything but certainly not world-wide flood waters!

But no one really knows how mountains and canyons actually got there. As Hebrews 11 says, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Faith is the opposite of seeing. I didn’t see the Grand Canyon get made. I and the evolutionist can clearly see it was made, but how it got there is anyone’s guess (some more plausible than others).

So then my brain got thinking: what if, and this is purely speculation, the New Earth looks just like this one and you can travel around it, except at every cool spot there are signs explaining how these formations were actually made?!

There would be visitor centers and they would show movies and the voice of God would explain over video footage showing the formation of the Grand Canyon. We’d get the full scoop on how this stuff was made, get a God’s eye view of flood water draining away and forming stuff or whatever else made it.

I think that would be cool.

Whether the New Earth will have all these things in it is beyond the scope of knowledge. I have no idea. But it would be cool and satisfying if we could know for sure how the Rocky Mountains and Grand Canyons and so forth all got here.

God’s got to be sick of hearing about random chance and erosion doing all this awesome stuff. I’m willing to bet God would like some glory for His handiwork!

7 Ways to Resist Conformity During Cancel Culture

Christians live for the approval of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If we have His approval, we don’t need anyone else’s.

It’s not bad to have people’s approval; it’s a nice thing, depending on who the people are! But ultimately we’re concerned with being approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed.

Cancel Culture is the latest manifestation of the world trying to knock everyone into conformity. Conformity is their big weapon. Their world is a giant junior high lunch room.

But the Bible tells us to not be conformed to the world. Christians should resist all intimidation and Cancel Culture power trips.

Resisting conformity only happens if you don’t need the conformer’s approval. If you can get by just fine in life without being applauded, appreciated, or praised by people who can’t stand you, then Cancel Culture will affect you much less.

Who gives a rip what the world thinks?

Continue reading “7 Ways to Resist Conformity During Cancel Culture”

How to Look Forward to Suffering

There’s stuff going on in our country right now that bodes for an unsettled future. I do think there are things moving in the direction of what Bible prophecy seems to indicate will happen.

Do I think The End is about to drop? I have no idea. No man knows the day or hour. What I do know is that the spirit of antichrist is already at work in the world. I think we are going through some trial runs for an antichrist system.

I personally think things need to get much worse on a global level. America going down is not the world going down, hard to believe for Americans, but it’s true. I also know things tend to swing back and forth. I will not be surprised if younger generations swing the other way and fix some of our mess.

I detailed some things I am doing to prepare for tough times coming. I don’t say these things to freak anyone out. I say these things to realistically look at the signs of the times and prepare. How can I best represent Christ in the coming turmoil?

I think of Joseph and the years of famine coming in Egypt. Before the trouble arrived, Joseph directed Pharaoh to take measures to be ready. Although I have not had any dreams or special revelation from God, I think the Bible and a brain can help a guy see the signs of the times.

I get why people would respond to warnings about preparing for trouble with fear. There will be things happening that will cause you to be afraid. Pain is real.

Continue reading “How to Look Forward to Suffering”

How to Arrange Deck Chairs Before Hitting Icebergs

I’m not an alarmist, nor am I a guy who publicly pontificates about politics and stuff going on in the larger world. In the past 20 years the alleviation or avoidance of problems in my church and family has consumed me more than the fear mongering news.

But it has become very obvious to me that we are about to enter a time of trouble in our world and it’s going to get rough.

There are two sides to the “rough” that’s coming: Great opportunity for pleasure distracting us from faith and persecution.

It seems odd these things would go together, pleasure and persecution, but they will. Materialism and entertainment are overtaking the world. It’s already overtaken the church. The Health and Wealth Gospel is not a side note anymore; it is today’s Christianity.

The materialistic entertainment around us is removing the old standards of sin and morality. Those who will oppose the decadence will be done away with. I don’t know how exactly, it probably won’t be gulags. As government and business join forces (Babylon the Great of Revelation 18), it will be more like ramped up Cancel Culture.

I think the new persecution will look like removing your ability to make money and buy things. Here’s a quote I recently read:

“The old totalitarianism conquered societies through fear of pain; the new one will conquer primarily through manipulating people’s love of pleasure and fear of discomfort.”

As Revelation tells us, without the mark of the beast you won’t be able to buy or sell. I know many people mock the rapture and tribulation take on eschatology. You are free to do so, but I’m increasingly impressed with how exactly it is  moving in that direction!

Continue reading “How to Arrange Deck Chairs Before Hitting Icebergs”

The Physical and Spiritual Aspects of Communion and Baptism

Baptism and Communion are two physical illustrations God put in place to teach us spiritual truth. We, being physical, tend to obsess over the physical details and bash each other over the head with them and completely miss the spiritual truth being taught.

Church History shows Christians literally killing each other over whether people should be dunked in water or sprinkled, whether the water you’re dunked in should be still or moving, is the bread and cup actually the literal body and blood of Christ, and various other physical details.

While some in the church fixate on the physical details, others see a spiritual point and dismiss the physical aspect entirely.

I know people who refuse to take communion or be baptized because they don’t want to rely on a physical work. Others ignore them because they are spiritually enlightened enough to not need such physical reminders. “We think about Jesus every day without that stuff.” Congrats.

People enjoy extremes. One group fixates on the physical rule-keeping; the other group fixates on the spiritual part and throws out the physical.

God knows our frame. He knows we’re physical. But as true believers in Christ who possess the Holy Spirit and have been born again, we are spiritual creations. We are a blend of physical and spiritual.

True believers should be the one group who can grasp both physical and spiritual aspects of communion and baptism. We don’t have to throw them out, nor do we need to fixate on physical details. We can grasp the physical and the spiritual parts because we are both parts!

Fighting the Same Old Fight

I was listening to a podcast about wilderness survival. The survival expert said that survival is much different from how survival shows on TV portray it.

On TV, it appears as though people are running from the woods, taking risks to get out as soon as possible. You repel down waterfalls. Jump off cliffs onto tree tops. Drink your own urine. Insane stuff. Makes it seem exciting and thrilling.

In reality, survival is pretty mundane. It’s hard. Rarely exciting. You have to stay calm and measured, not flailing around repelling into bear dens to find a secret cave shortcut.

I fear many have the same idea with Christianity.

We like to think it’s exciting and dangerous. Escaping lion’s dens. Spending damp nights inside whales. Calming storms.

In reality, Christianity is rather mundane. It’s day in and day out living, choosing to love others rather than be selfish. This isn’t thrilling. It’s not exciting. It doesn’t make the news.

Hebrews 11 shows us faithful people, most of whose lives are boiled down to one or two key moments. That’s it. He even ends the chapter with an untold multitude that you never know what they did.

You pray. You think on God’s Word. You patiently and lovingly respond to others, or at least attempt to. You restrain your flesh and pursue what is spiritual and good, or try to anyway.

It’s not exciting. Therefore, it hardly seems worth doing. Exciting stuff gets attention. Doing stuff in secret where only your Father in heaven sees is no fun. So we don’t.

We sign up for the big, exciting, x-treme Christian events, thinking these mountain top experiences mark the whole path and prove we’re being Jesusy.

Fight the fight. Run the race with patience. It’s long. It’s hot. It’s hard. It’s not exciting. Put on the armor of God and stand. Not too thrilling, but it is the reality of faith. The sooner you know this the more you will relax and actually grow in Christ.

And you never have to drink your own pee. Ever. It’s not necessary in any situation. Ever.

Why Did God Allow the Serpent in the Garden of Eden?

Also known as:

Why did God put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden?

Or

Why did/does God allow evil/sin?

Let me first begin by saying, “I don’t know.” These questions are not explicitly answered in Scripture. Any answer to these questions will be speculation. The extent to which the answer-er is bound to a theological camp and not Scripture, the more speculative the answer is.

Secondly, let me share my speculative answer.

In the beginning God created. This simple statement is the beginning of all “things.” God, being spiritual, is not a “thing.” He is outside the physical “thing” realm. He is the Creator of things—He made everyTHING out of noTHING.

God’s nature is perfect, holy, righteous, pure, and eternal. There is no lack in any aspect of Him. Anything He creates is not Him. Thus, the nature of that thing cannot be as perfect/complete as His nature.

The reason people can sin, the reason there is a serpent in the Garden, may not be philosophical at all; it might just be of necessity.

God made everTHING perfect. But since the nature of things is not as eternal and unchanging as God’s, there is chance for stupidity. We gladly found that chance and became stupid.

Continue reading “Why Did God Allow the Serpent in the Garden of Eden?”

Why Modern Christianity has so Little Joy and so Much Depression

I was listening to a podcast from a professional therapist where he talked about his patients’ depression.

He said a main source of depression (it’s a complicated issue, there are many causes for it) in our day is that we’ve attempted to take away losing.

In any competitive endeavor (not just athletics but grades, finances, promotions, you know, life), there are winners and losers. Losers feel bad. The idea was: losing feels bad so obviously causes depression.

The answer must be: eliminate losing. So we stopped keeping score, we bailed out losing businesses and people, the safety net has all but erased losing.

The theory said this should lead to people walking around in happiness with all the non-losing going on. What a utopia!

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the result. Suicide, drug use, and general depression appear to be higher than ever.

Continue reading “Why Modern Christianity has so Little Joy and so Much Depression”

Is Joe Biden the Antichrist?

Seemingly every presidential election results in people discussing if the new president is the antichrist. I heard it with Obama, Trump, and now Biden.

The answer is “no.” Here’s why:

First, this implies the antichrist will be an American, which is a typical American thing to think. America isn’t in biblical prophecy in any explicit way. Most prophecy surrounds the Middle East. America isn’t in the Middle East. My guess is that the antichrist will be from the Middle East.

Second, according to dispensational theology (which takes biblical prophecy as literal as possible and believes there will be a person called the antichrist), the antichrist shows up in the Great Tribulation Period. We aren’t in the Great Tribulation Period, so the antichrist is not in power right now. There is a chance he could be before the Tribulation and really get going during it, but I doubt it.

Allow me to make one more point.

If you think the political party that you hate is the one that the antichrist will come from, let me suggest you are already under the sway of the antichrist.

Continue reading “Is Joe Biden the Antichrist?”

No Man Knows the Day or Hour

Anytime people speculate about The End Times’ arrival, someone will say, “But the Bible says no one will know the day or the hour, so shut up, man.”

Which is fine, people shutting up is usually good.

But I think we miss the point when we quote that verse this way.

Here’s the actual verse: (always look up verses when people try to quote them.)

“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
–Mark 13:32

One thing to note about the context is that Jesus is giving a list of signs to watch for as the day approaches. So, you can kind of know!

Continue reading “No Man Knows the Day or Hour”

Coronavirus and The End

Let me begin by saying very clearly I do not think the coronavirus is The End, nor is it fulfilling any prophecies or anything like that. It’s not. Because, like, hardly anything is actually happening.

Let me also say I am not an infectious disease expert so my opinion that this is entirely overblown should carry little weight with you.

All that being said, here are a couple thoughts to consider.

–I believe that the next event in biblical prophecy is the rapture, when the Church will be taken to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). After that is a seven-year Tribulation period where the Antichrist will fool people and take over. He will begin by promising health and wealth to everyone and causing a semblance of peace (2 Thessalonians 2:8-11). You will note in this current crisis the following things:

A. Everyone wants health and wealth.
B. Everyone is looking to the government to give them both, or at least blaming the government for the absence of them.

This is setting the stage for an Antichrist figure to waltz right in and take over. He will promise, and apparently for a time, deliver on such expectations. If you are blaming a politician or looking to a politician to save you from disease, you are falling for the trap. The spirit of Antichrist is already at work right now setting this all up (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

–A stunning amount of Christians are falling for this. I am amazed at how many Christians are completely fixated on politicians. Jesus warns about false christs (the Antichrist is obviously the big, finale false christ–“christ” means anointed one and sums up the prophet, priest, and king roles) and the trend for people to fall for human leadership and not God’s leadership as the age goes on. He says the deception will be so great, that if it were possible even the elect would be deceived (Matthew 24:24). It’s happening right in front of you and possibly to you.

–I’m also aware that, thanks to the terrible writing in The Left Behind series, hardly any Christians uphold this view of The End anymore. It’s pretty much a joke and if you believe in a rapture and an antichrist and a tribulation you are an ignorant dork. In other words, the deception is almost complete! Even the Church doesn’t expect any of this anymore. Incidentally, whether you expect it or not changes nothing that God has planned.

–The more of these “crisis” things we go through, the more people will give up their freedoms to the government. We’re even doing it now when there is no discernible crisis. The more we do this, the more the government will take over the economy. Revelation 13:16-17 talks about the Antichrist’s reign on this earth and how he will control buying and selling, limiting it to people with his mark. Again, this 666 thing has been turned into a joke, yet you see the reality of this already at work. Would you follow the Antichrist to buy food, medicine, and more toilet paper?! Careful how you answer, because most will.

–All of these things are steps in that direction, each crisis bumps us closer. I’m not saying the coronavirus is the antichrist or fulfilling prophecy. I’m just saying to watch. All of this stuff is happening before any coronavirus arrived, it’s just pushing the trend along nicely. Notice how smoothly it’s happening, how people are asking for it to happen, practically demanding it. It’s happening in a way that makes complete common sense and I’m the stupid one for questioning it. The Antichrist will step right in to a situation already set up for him. He hardly has to do anything. We’re doing fine work down here for him.

–You don’t have to believe me. I really don’t care if you agree. I’m just sitting back and watching it happen and it’s stunning how it seems to be fulfilling everything the Bible said would happen (if you actually read the words on the page for what they say). I’m not trying to freak anyone out about the coronavirus. I am not freaked out about it. I’m just watching the slow slide of our response that will set up everything. The coronavirus will pass, but human stupidity will remain and continue us down the slope.

I am happy about Jesus returning, but not about the suffering, stupidity, and deception that will ruin souls along the way. Don’t be one of them.

Even so, come quickly.

Inconsistencies in Theological Arguments

The last two posts address what I view as a flippancy towards God’s word. The Bible says stuff that seems to contradict Luther’s points about The Bondage of the Will. So Luther finds other meanings for those words–he says God uses words differently from how man uses words, and then said God’s revealed will differs from His unrevealed will.

There is no way to take these ideas in any other way than to conclude Luther doesn’t think the Bible says what God means.

Luther, however, moves on to Erasmus’ challenges against passages that disprove free-will.

His first example is God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Erasmus says that when it says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart it means that God allowed Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened because God didn’t stop Pharaoh in his sin.

Luther now questions Erasmus’ ability to interpret what God really meant! Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Luther says we should take the literal meanings of words!

Everywhere we should stick to just the simple, natural meaning of the words, as yielded by the rules of grammar and the habits of speech God has created among men; for if anyone may devise ‘implications’ and ‘figures’ in Scripture at his own pleasure what will all Scripture be but a reed shaken with the wind and a sort of chameleon? There would then be no article of faith about which anything could be settled and proved for certain, without your being able to raise objections by means of some ‘figure.’

This is too rich!

Two days ago I put up a quote where Luther said God doesn’t use words the way man does. Today, when it suits his purpose, all of a sudden God uses words according to man’s natural use of grammar!

Listening to people argue theology can be frustrating. Clearly these two guys (Luther and Erasmus) are talking past each other. They each bend the Scripture when they need to in making a point. I don’t think either of them is truly hearing the actual words being spoken and, when convenient, are not taking the simplest meaning of words.

Be careful that your theological doctrine does not become more important than hearing God’s Word. Just hear God’s Words and go with what it says. Both guys would say they are doing that. Sometimes you are the last one to know how inconsistently you are using Scripture.

That’s why, I think, it’s important to share your views with other believers. They may be able to point out your inconsistencies. Unfortunately, when that happens, we immediately get defensive, attack them, and miss an opportunity to learn.

Aint none of us right all the time. It’s important to remember this when “correcting” others as well. I’m not suggesting you listen to trolls, but to people who actually are trying to be edifying and constructively criticizing.

Be humble enough to be corrected. I shall endeavor to do the same.

The Stupidity of Crowds and Strait Gates

Charles Mackay, author of the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, said:

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

He wrote this in the 1800’s summing up his study of human behavior. His basic point is that following people makes you stupid; getting out of the crowd allows you to come to your senses.

This is massively true. Christians, of all people, should know this already.

“Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Following the stream of the world does no good; getting a new brain, a new way of thinking, a mind set on truth not theories, is the remedy.

Jesus said that the broad road leads to destruction and many people are on it; the narrow road, limited by a strait gate that prevents you entering with a crowd, leads to life.

The world around us is fighting and arguing. They need to get theirs, which they think means taking from you. One group is pitted against another group. Hatred and violence are the result.

Want some peace? Want some tranquility? Want some release from this? Follow Christ. Unplug from the world’s madness.

Few are going that way, but the ones who do have way fewer earthly problems that freak them out. There is a trust and a confidence that all things are conforming me to Christ and every day brings me one step closer to my Savior.

If you do this, don’t be shocked if the world despises you. They’ll tell you your head is in the sand, that you’re pie in the sky, and no earthly good.

Little do they know, it’s all their theoretical solutions that came out of heads in the sand. Their hopes that now they’ve discovered the right way clearly shows their heads are in the sand. The enactment of their solutions are typically the things that do no earthly good.

The world needs light and truth. It doesn’t need more darkness. Leave the kingdom of darkness. have no fellowship with the darkness. Be light. Act on the truth. Go the narrow way. You won’t regret it.

How I Know I Have Free Will

1. Experience
My every day experience lets me know I have free will. I reap what I sow. I can decide to do any number of things with my time right now. Even people who don’t think free will exists, betray it in their behavior. They constantly try to convince me I don’t have it! This is a blatant denial of their belief. Even their experience shows we have free will.

2. Philosophy
Most human philosophies postulate no free will. Atheistic, materialistic, evolutionary philosophy says we don’t have free will, we are products of our genes and must act the way we are coded to act. People don’t want free will. We like to think we are completely unaccountable victims. Unless you violate my rights, of course! Then those people should be held accountable. Experiencing thoughts of revenge and justice are a clear revelation that there is free will. It is one thing for a philosopher to say there is no free will; it is yet another to let people steal all the philosopher’s stuff, rape his wife, kidnap his kids, and so on and philosophically conclude, “Oh well, I’ll let it go, he had to do it, he didn’t have free will.”

3. The Bible
The Bible clearly shows we have free will. Whosoever will may come. Jesus would have gathered Jerusalem, but they would not. There is judgment and accountability, a reaping of what we’ve sown. The general theme of Scripture is one of rebellious free will acting out in hostility against God’s will. Yes there are passages like Romans 9 that say God can override our will, but this is not the norm. If it were the norm for God to override our wills, then why does Romans 9 focus in on Pharaoh? What makes Pharaoh an exceptional example?

4. Sin
The Bible says our heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. A denial of free will sounds exactly like something a wicked and deceitful heart would come up with. At the root of denying free will is a desire to get out of accountability. This is why atheistic evolutionary philosophy denies free will: now we can do what we want, no sin, I have to act this way, so get off my back. Free will does not sound like something people would come up with, and every time people come up with a theory, it typically denies free will. Sinful people do not like free will. It means we’re accountable and responsible to change and be better. It is much more freeing to pretend I have nothing to do with anything and all my mess is someone else’s fault.

5. Consequences
The best test of a theory is to see what would happen if everyone acted on it. Would you like to live in a society where we actually acted like there was no free will? There could be no law, no crimes or punishments, no judges, no juries, no sin. People would do “whatever they wanted” and no one could stop them. Who are you to stop what someone else cannot stop in themselves since they aren’t the ones in control anyway? What gives you the right to put your will above theirs? The result of actually, literally acting as if we have no free will would be absolutely destructive to life as we know it. Which is why no one acts like they don’t have free will.

6. Blasphemy
If there is no free will then God has to be the author of sin. God has to be responsible for all the evil in our world, all our sin, our genocides, the whole deal. Then for God to judge us for doing what He made us do? This makes God out to be a complete monster. Who needs Satan when God is this monstrous? If there is no free will then any revelation from God is completely irrelevant. There is no point for anything. All purpose, all beauty, all kindness, all joy is complete sham. God is a brutal dictator wishing demise on all those who are doing what they were programmed to do. If there is no free will; then God is not love.

You have free will. Judgment Day will make this painfully obvious. You should go ahead and admit it today and get yourself right with God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and act as though you are someone who will give an account for every deed done in the body, because you will. And the defense, “I just did what you made me do” will be swallowed up in your inability to speak for the weight of your guilt before His glory.

Luther, Erasmus, and Weird Things Done With Grace

The next book on my pile is a book that’s been there a long time: The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther. I haven’t read much of it, I’m still in the Introduction. The Introduction is long. I’m going to be reading this book for a long time!

Luther’s Bondage of the Will is him responding to the ideas of Erasmus, a theologian type who didn’t like stuffy theologians. Erasmus was more of a mystic than an academic. Luther represents academic theology. They liked each other but had disagreements about grace and free will.

The Introduction says:

Erasmus followed Jerome in interpreting the justification by works against which Paul writes as merely justification by outward ceremonial observance. Luther, believing that any kind of effort or any contribution man may attempt to make toward his own salvation is works-righteousness, and therefore under condemnation, preferred the thorough-going exegesis of Augustine, who magnifies the grace of God.

Let me just pause to let you know how much I’d like to puke now.

This is going to be a long book.

I’m no scholar on Erasmus, I imagine I will learn more about what he taught by reading this book. I am not defending him since I don’t know what he said.

I would like to point out the trend I’ve noted in my time in Christianity that is plainly evident in the above quote.

Human effort is the opposite of God’s grace.

That’s the underlying assumption of the quote. Therefore, the more you emphasize grace; the less you’ll emphasize human effort.

This is a handy way to promote sloth and laziness as spiritual virtue.

This has been my experience in the church. I’ve seen Grace-Happy people try to outdo one another in how little they do. Their complete absence of any virtuous effort proves how much they love God and His grace.

In fact, some even go so far as to say that sinning is better than doing good works. Sin requires grace; good works make grace unnecessary and lead to self-sufficient pride.

“Should we sin that grace may abound?” Paul asked. His answer was no. Much of Christianity’s answer has been, “Yeah, actually, that sounds reasonable.”

It is clearly true we are not saved by works. It is also equally clearly true that good works always come out of salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 are always followed by an Ephesians 2:10.

“Faith without works is dead” is how James put it.

Luther wanted to throw the Book of James in the furnace.

Faith without obedience and works is not faith. It just isn’t. By faith people do what God says. If you don’t do what God says, then you’re not exercising faith.

The Bible is clear on this point.

People who like to sin muddy the clearness of the issue. We like to think that what we do doesn’t matter. God tells us what we do matters quite a bit; every judgment in the Bible is based on works. There are no exceptions.

But the popular belief in Christianity is that you doing stuff means you hate grace and are trying to merit your own salvation.

People need to read their Bibles more.

God provided the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means by which we can be saved. It’s the just way to justify the ungodly. We give ourselves to Him, to His grace, to save us, to deliver us from sin. One of the main reasons you come to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to be freed from sin. Upon receiving His grace and the new birth, becoming a partaker of the divine nature, you can now use all that God has given you to pursue Christlikeness and spiritual growth.

If there is no change in character, if righteousness doesn’t show up, then you didn’t get God’s grace. If there’s no new life, you’ve not become a servant of righteousness, there’s no sanctification and progress in faith, then grace didn’t show up.

You don’t prove you have God’s grace by how little you do; you prove you have God’s grace because you are able to do, and desire to do, what God says.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work
–2 Corinthians 9:8

Cain and Abel and Who Can You Listen To?

The point of Cain and Abel is that we don’t like people who make us look bad. Instead of reforming our ways, we’ll eliminate those who look better. People who look better than you, show that it’s possible to be better. How annoying.

Therefore, humanity decides not to listen to people who are better than us.

Here’s the funny thing though: we don’t listen to people who are worse than us either!

Why would I listen to someone beneath me? Humans ignore people who are beneath us.

This leaves humanity in an odd place of only listening to people who we deem to be on our level, which is about four people. Maybe. Depends on what day it is. Probably only two on average.

Humans don’t listen. That’s why faith is hard. Faith comes by hearing. We don’t hear.

God is infinitely better than us. When God became flesh and dwelt among us; we killed Him.

At the same time, people constantly judge God for all His wrath and why He does things the way He does and “if I were God” I would certainly run things differently.

God is simultaneously above us and beneath us, bottom line then is that we don’t listen to Him. Not a chance. We can’t figure out what level He’s on, but we know it aint ours.

Learn to listen. This doesn’t mean you agree with everything, but be careful of dismissing people. If they annoy you with their smarts, chill. You can learn from people who are smarter than you. If they annoy you with their lack of hygiene and mental insight, chill. Knowledge puffs up, there are a lot of dumb smart people out there. Sometimes getting a fresh, uneducated opinion is refreshing and insightful.

Don’t cross people off your list because of how they look, think, or smell.

This is very difficult. I’m not saying I’m the expert at this, but I do think it’s true. As Paul said, “Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good.”

Doing that is hard. It takes study and thought. That’s why your brain makes assumptions about people based on their appearance and intellectual attainments. It’s easier to dismiss someone for who they are than it is to think about what they are saying.

In the end, listening is the backbone of faith. Faith is a big deal in Christianity. Learn to listen, and above all, learn to listen to God. He has the words of eternal life. Everything God says is good, you can let down your guard with Him.

For people, test the spirits. Hold fast to that which is good. Every person says stupid stuff. Be discerning, do the work and be gentle with those you deem are wrong, cuz it might be you.

Converting To What?

Christianity is divided into multiple doctrinal camps. Division reigns supreme. Many people wonder why this is the case. Many conclude it’s because the Bible is too hard to understand.

I agree there is too much division, I do not wonder why though, I think I know. And it’s not the Bible’s fault for being too confusing.

The main cause of division is that few are using the Bible anymore as an authority. Sure, they have verses and favorite passages, but few comprehensively use the Bible and fewer submit to what it says.

Today’s doctrine is largely based on what other guys said. When people argue you into their theological camps, it’s generally not out of a concern for your soul but it is 1) a defense of their doctrinal camp and leaders and 2) an attempt to get you into their camp to make their camp look bigger and better.

As we know (from reading the Bible), there is nothing new under the sun. People have long been more interested in defending and building their group than in the eternal state of your soul. Here are two biblical examples:

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.  For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
–Galatians 6:12-13

The main reason most stayed away from the Gospel is because it would cause them problems. They wanted to appease those who would persecute them for following the Gospel. Best way to do that is to defend the old camp.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
–Matthew 23:15

Pharisees of Jesus’ day are acting the same as those messing with the Galatian church. They would rather count you in their camp than get you right with God. In order to escape hell, you have to first escape the bad teaching and then embrace the good teaching, that’s my interpretation of “twofold child of hell.” You have to be saved from bad teaching and then saved by good teaching, as it were.

People, in general, don’t care about your stand before God; they care about their stats. Better stats means playing a people-pleasing game, winning people to our side so we win. The more we win the more we feel like we are right.

Surround yourself with your camp and you’ll never have to face reality. Unless, of course, you find a camp that deals with reality, by which I mean, the reality God explains in the Bible.

There are no shortcuts and avoid anyone who offers you one. Use zeal, effort, energy, work, toil, labor, and get this right. Beware of theological camps and doctrines named after people. Read the Word so much you know when you’re hearing false teaching.

Having the Spirit teach you the Word through His means (which can be other people with the Spirit; I’m not throwing away all people or churches here) is the only safeguard we have against false teaching and division. Pray for wisdom, then do the work to get it. Be sober, watch and pray.

Ditching Morals

I am reading a book about the history and psychology of technology. Pretty exciting stuff. I actually started the book more than a year ago. Only on page 100. It has some good points, and also a lot of words.

Technology is invented and developed by necessity. We have needs and we find more efficient ways of meeting them.

When technology started there was an art to it, a craftsmanship and a precision that required effort, time, and skill.

As our tools got better, craftsmanship declined. We didn’t need artistry and skill, we just needed the right machine to make the product. People just pushed buttons and finished items came out.

As we progressed, we ditched artistry and craftsmanship for productivity and efficiency. Our products got uglier while becoming more functional.

The same thing is happening with morals. Morality is getting in the way of getting results. We shove aside such inconvenient niceties for better outcomes.

Take a look at our politics for example. Each party is determined to win at any cost. Morality is out the window. Our side must win. If we have to beat people up or call people names or smear character; so be it! We must win!

The way of the world is toward function over form. Toward quick results over time consuming care.

I don’t really care that our can openers are ugly, gotta be honest that I just want the can open, but it is troubling that we’re willing to throw out morals in order to win and get more stuff.

This is yet another example of the Gospel-life being at odds with worldliness. The Gospel says to slow down and love people. Cross the road to the guy beat up in the ditch and care for him.

Yeah, it’ll slow you down and destroy your efficiency, but it’s the right thing to do. Go the extra mile. Turn the other cheek. Give your shirt too when someone asks for a coat.

This makes no sense to the worldly mind, but makes perfect sense in light of the cross of Christ. Grace is beautiful. The world has no time for grace; they just want to win and get stuff.

Grace loses. Grace cares. Grace takes its time, listens, and helps. Come out from among them and be gracious.

Accepting Or Fighting The Gospel

The Gospel is a life-altering force. Seriously. It is.

In our day the Gospel has become a cute story we believe about this thing this guy did 2,000 years ago.

But the Bible speaks of the Gospel as something you enter into by faith. You are identified with Christ, placed in His Body. His body which was born to suffer and be broken.

As a believer in the Gospel, identified with Christ by faith, don’t be surprised if you suffer and are broken. That’s what He did; if you follow Him, that’s what you’ll do.

Your flesh will hate every minute of following Christ. Your flesh will fight against this. The world will mock you and fight against you. Satan will throw things in your way to defeat you.

Fight the fight of faith.

Faith is a fight.

War a good warfare.

People would rather have a happy Gospel with happiness upon happiness followed by an eternity of happiness.

You can find that Gospel out there, but it’s not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When it comes to the Gospel, either way you’ll be fighting something.

You can either accept the Gospel and fight against yourself

or

You can accept yourself and fight against the Gospel.

The lengths people go to in defending their sin and staying away from the Gospel is ridiculous.

You’ll be fighting either way. Just give up the fight against God’s Word. Stop chasing false gospels. Stop twisting Scripture to make you feel better about your sin.

Just give up. Humbly come to the Gospel and receive grace that will strengthen you to fight the real battle.

Christ died to free you from you. Be freed and enter the fight. The victory is assured and the spoils are eternal.

Fight the fight of faith. Lay hold on eternal life.

Calling People Names for Jesus

Everyone and their mother is upset right now over being called names, or being labeled and stereotyped.

Sticks and stones break people’s bones, names didn’t use to. Now, apparently they do.

In response to the hyper-sensitivity, we now come down on anyone who ever says anything the slightest judgmental about what someone else is doing.

As much as I agree we need to guard our mouths and be careful not to do unfair, self-righteous judging of others, I would also like to point out that there is a time and a place for labeling people for what they are.

Allow me to illustrate be quoting our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
–Matthew 12:34

But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
–Matthew 12:39

Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
–Matthew 12:45

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.
–Matthew 16:4

Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?
–Matthew 17:17

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
–Matthew 23:33

And that’s just Matthew!

Jesus is talking about a large group of people, a generation. Certainly He’s stereotyping and labeling with His generalizations.

Now, I’m not for you going out calling people names or stereotyping people.

I am for a call to reasonableness. At least for calling a spade a spade, rather than calling a spade a “garden implement useful for turning soil.”

Words mean things and need to be used carefully, wisely, and righteously.

We still live in the midst of a crooked, perverse, faithless, and wicked generation of vipers.

We should admit that. We should also admit we are part of that generation and are therefore implicated for our own part.

Sin is sin. Evil is evil. Call it what it is. Sinners sin. Speak the truth and call things what they are. This will protect you and also potentially help others.

BUT, proceed with love, grace, and compassion. Love rejoices in the truth. Don’t fear truth.

Blinded By The Fight

The Catholic Church took a big hit last week. The largest child abuse case was detailed in Pennsylvania. The offending priests were shuffled around, no one took action to stop the abuse.

Willow Creek Church is falling apart as board members and clergy resign after founding pastor Bill Hybels was accused by multiple women of adulterous relations. No one took the allegations seriously as they were going on.

Ohio State football is going through a similar ordeal. Which reminds us of the disgusting revelations of the Joe Paterno Penn State program.

The president and other politicians can say and do all manner of ridiculous things and yet their party continues to back them.

There is a pattern here!

Institutions take on a life of their own. Members of the institution feel that their institution is doing great work, they must be preserved so their work can carry on.

If a bad apple gets in the bunch, cover it up! The institution is bigger, and the work is too important for one person to bring it down.

Everyone is guilty of this fault. We are a communal people and we’ll defend our communities to the death.

Of course, if the other side does an equally bad thing, that’s the worstest thing ever! Hitler!

Human institutions appear important, but they are like all earthly things: temporal.

But our eyes get clouded. We start looking to the things of this earth and defending them. We will compromise our values, our morality, and our witness to maintain the important work of our institution.

People get hurt when institutions become too big. The poor kids whose lives will forever be scarred, it boggles the mind how such sickness can take place, let alone be covered up.

The power of institutions is a scary thing. What institutions carry too much weight for you? Your political party? Your football team? Your denomination? Your theological camp?

We each have at least one institution we defend. Be careful. No matter how big or how important you think your institution is, it’s not bigger than the Gospel and the simple truth that we are to love our neighbor and do righteousness.

Don’t be blinded by the fight for your institution. The only fight to fight is the fight of faith.

When the Bible Interferes With Your Doctrine

Occasionally, when you read the Bible, it will become apparent that what you were taught is not what the Bible says.

What to do when the Bible disagrees with your doctrine?

Usually you start by asking your teacher, “Hey, how comes this here verse don’t say what you done told me?”

Your teacher will more than likely explain the verse away, or list 14 other verses that distract the issue, and let you know that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation. They will tell you that the problem, of course, lies with you and your uneducatedness. Good thing you have such a wise teacher!

You will then go back and read the Bible some more and you will come across the same question. You will remember what your teacher told you. You will look up the 14 verses that were listed, which you are now also more familiar with. Sometimes your understanding really was off and the teacher was right.

But other times you will figure out that the answers you were given don’t quite seem to jive with Scripture. In fact, often times, they conflict with verse after verse.

For many years I, along with just about every evangelical, was taught that we are saved by faith alone. I assumed the Bible said this. There are 14 verses people will list to prove that we are saved by faith alone. None of those 14 verses says we are saved by faith alone.

In fact, the only time the Bible mentions being justified by faith only is in James 2, where it clearly says we ARE NOT justified by faith only.

There are volumes written to explain why we are justified by faith alone and how you just don’t understand James, or you don’t understand why you don’t have to listen to James, or some other explanation you don’t understand.

You can hear the answers and have it explained to you 4,000 times and still not be able to get around James saying we are not justified by faith only.

So, at a certain point you have to decide: will I go with the doctrinal gymnastics of my group, or will I simply take the plain language of the Bible and go with that?

Most go with the group.

Some go with the Bible. I recommend going with the Bible.

Take the simplest explanation of each passage, which can only be seen by the context. Pretend that every verse means exactly what it says, stop trying to cancel out one verse with another one, and you’ll be amazed at how much more easy the Bible is to understand.

Stick with that simple message and act as though it were true.

If the simple message of the verses disagrees with your doctrine, make appropriate adjustments to your doctrine. Do not adjust the verses to your doctrine!

Everyone knew what James was talking about until Martin Luther invented justification by faith alone. Ever since then people have been trying to reconcile man’s ideas with James’ inspired message. And this is one example of about 5,000 where our man-made doctrine disagrees with Scripture.

Everything is simplified if you just drop man’s ideas and stick with the God-breathed words of Scripture.

You will be amazed at how consistent and simple the Bible is once you decide to stop defending your doctrinal camp. It’s truly beautiful and I highly recommend it.

Act as though the Bible is true. Do the work to find out what it means based on the context. Put those words into action. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word. If you are following man’s doctrine and not God’s Word, then faith is not what you are doing.

God’s Word is what has life. Don’t let man’s ideas keep you from the living Word of God.

Two Challenges to Learning Doctrine

Learning doctrine is pretty straightforward:

Learn the doctrine!

That’s it! Pretty easy, eh?!

Doctrine is just a fancy word for teachings. Learning doctrine means to learn what the Bible teaches. Note it does not mean learning what people say the Bible teaches, but what the actual Bible actually teaches.

Learning what the Bible teaches is pretty straightforward:

Learn what the Bible teaches.

That’s it! Pretty easy, eh?!

One would think so. It seems all a person would have to do is read the Bible and learn what it says.

If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. Hardly anyone is. I think there are two hurdles that prevent us from learning what the Bible teaches. Two thing we must clear first in order to be taught from the Scriptures.

1. You can’t be afraid to leave wrong teaching.
All of us have learned poor doctrine. All of us have gone along with a teacher or a group because we didn’t know what else to do. We didn’t fully understand the Bible, how could we? We just started learning what we were taught! While trying to learn it for ourselves, we trust other people who’ve been around longer to steer us in the right direction. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes those who teach you haven’t learned themselves. They are merely teaching what they were taught with little personal examination in between.

You can’t be afraid to leave old, bad teaching. If something is bad, it seems it would be easy to drop it. You would be wrong! There is reputation: I’ve staked things on this teaching; if I leave it now I’ll look like a fool. There is peer-pressure: this is what my group thinks; if I reject it they will turn on me. There is respect: just because your teachers were wrong, doesn’t mean they are bad people, but if you disagree with them they might interpret that disagreement as disrespect. There is safety: it’s easier to stick with what you’ve got than to let go of the safety line and swim out into the deep alone.

Your desire to learn truth needs to get to a place where your desire overcomes your fear. Where regardless of the cost or inconvenience or sheer terror, I must get to the truth. Paul reached a place where he counted all his life as dung for the excellency of gaining Christ. That’s the moment; that’s the feeling; that right there is faith. Faith is scary.

Do you have the guts to let go of those things that are behind in order to grab hold of what lies before you in Christ?

2. You can’t be afraid to adapt to new teaching.
Once you’ve convinced yourself to let go of the old, faulty teaching (and not everything you learned before is faulty necessarily. Don’t throw out the good old baby with the dirty old bathwater!), you now have the challenge of learning and adapting to new teaching.

Learning means getting more information. When you get new information it will change what you do. You now know more and this new knowledge will bring added insights and perspective. You can’t keep doing the old things with the new information.

When you learn biblical doctrine, your new life in Christ will be radically different from your old life in the flesh. Old things are passed away, all things have become new. There is a new training and a new discipline to bring about a new life. Getting yourself to act on that new information is scary. You’ll feel stupid, self-conscious, foolish, and tentative. Does this really work? Is this worth it?

Remember when Israel left Egypt? They hated enslavement in Egypt. They got the guts to leave it and immediately started complaining about their new free life. “Can’t we go back to Egypt where we at least had good food to eat?”

This is the struggle of faith. That’s why the OT was written for our learning! Israel struggled to believe that God knew what He was doing. We laugh at them and mock their wimpiness while we run from new freedom in Christ today!

We’re doing the same thing.

Living with God, learning His ways, is terrifying to your flesh. Your flesh wants no part of it; it still wants to be in bondage where at least decisions were taken care of for you.

Learning aint easy because learning changes things and change is tough. Learning aint easy; but it’s totally worth it. When you become a man, put away childish things. Adulthood is freaky, but totally worth it. Grow in Christ. Learn. Live with confident hope that what Christ calls you for will indeed set you free. The just shall live by faith. Live by faith.

Can People Understand the Bible?

The institutional church–the human structure as opposed to the Spirit indwelt members of the Body of Christ–has long wanted to keep people ignorant of the Bible.

This was done most effectively in these ways:

  1. Lighting people on fire. Consider carefully why there is a church tradition of burning people at the stake for wanting to make the Bible understandable. Why would that be?!
  2. Confusing people. Human philosophy is confusing and makes little sense. Yet human philosophy is the basis of much established doctrine. Add to that tradition and human power and the institutional church becomes more hindrance than a help.

Institutional theology–what the institutional church teaches–eventually tell people that they don’t need the Bible. This is done by literally telling people that, or more subtly, teaching doctrines that get you to doubt the authority of Scripture.

You know you are hearing institutional theology when you hear people bash the Scriptures as too confusing, irrelevant, subservient to new revelation, needs to be taken with our interpretation, or other such tactics.

Bible Bashing always boils down to: You need us to tell you what the Bible really means and what God wants you to do.

What God wants you to do always, for some reason, ends up serving the people who tell you what God wants you to do. Weird how that happens.

You need the Bible. That’s why God revealed it!

As institutional theology belittles the Scriptures, the Scripture remains firm that you need Scripture!

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

Scripture was written for our learning so we can have hope. If you can’t understand scripture then you can’t have hope!

Institutional churches know that this is true. They don’t want you having hope! They want you to live in dependence upon them, that way they can have hope that at least they’ll get paid!

OK, there goes my cynicism again.

But seriously, the more institutional a church the less hope and the less talk of growth and learning. Churches can’t afford to have their people learn and grow for fear they will leave.

Better to eliminate such ideas and keep everyone happily conformed and obedient.

Faith is risky. It’s scary for the one exercising faith and it’s terrifying for the institutional church to see people walk away from established church doctrine, because then the institutional church won’t be needed anymore.

You can understand the Bible with the Holy Spirit and a true desire to know what the Bible says. The Church, by which I mean people in the Body of Christ, are mutually equipped by the Spirit to help others grow in their understanding of Scripture and growth into Christ.

Church without the Holy Spirit is just a bunch of people waffling around in ignorance, pretending to know stuff to sound spiritual. They will fall into a ditch.

You can know God and you can understand the Scriptures; that’s why the Scriptures were revealed!

Why Is Learning Hard?

Christianity contains a lot of learning. Jesus Christ offers us a new life, one different from our old life. This new way of life must be learned, it is not automatic.

Your old way of life was also learned. We learn to talk and feed ourselves from constant attention and repetition, sprinkled in with complete failures, until we learn what we’re doing. The new way of life is no different.

One of the primary aspects of kids learning is this place called “school.” The word “school” is a fascinating word.

“School” is used one time in the KJV, in Acts 19:9 where Paul disputed in the “school of Tyrannus.”

The word “school” is from a Greek word scholay. Here is the definition of scholay. Are you ready? For real? Here’s the definition from Thayer’s:

1) freedom from labor 2) a place where there is leisure for anything, a school

The word scholay, from which we get “school,” is a word that means leisure!

As I saw it put, “The name for the institution of education and learning means ‘leisure.'”

What in the world do you do with that?!

The idea is that kids go to a place where nothing else is happening, completely freed up for thinking and learning.

One of the reasons why it’s so hard to learn is because people get so busy, wrapped up in doing things, that we don’t take the time to think and ponder and figure things out.

I recently read a neurologist’s findings that our addictions to technology and social media are rewiring our brains and making them infantile in physical structure. We have the attention span of a very small child.

If you have no attention span, you will not be thinking. If you’re not thinking, then you won’t be learning.

You need to take time to learn, time where there isn’t stress and distraction. A time of leisure to think.

I have heard people say their best time for this is while driving, or biking, or running, or while sitting in their favorite chair.

You need time and peace in order to think. This is increasingly difficult in our distraction filled society, and it’s making us dumber.

Don’t be dumb. Find a place of leisure, a place for education and learning. Read. Think. Write. Examine. Question. Relax. Learn.

The Queen of the Sciences and Why Theology is Confusing

Back in the day, Theology was viewed as The Queen of the Sciences. This seems ridiculous in our day as theology is generally bashed on by mainstream science people.

Theology was the Queen of Sciences because Theology studied God, the greatest subject, and God provided a unifying framework all other sciences fit into. One’s knowledge of God informed his view on everything else.

This sounds good and lovely, but it also had a bad aspect to it. Since theology was a science that fit in with all other academic fields of study, theology borrowed the authorities of those other fields.

If you read theology, especially old stuff written before or during the Reformation, you will notice how frequently theologians quote philosophers.

By “philosopher” I mean pagan, heathen scum philosophers! People who were not coming from, nor going to, a God-centered view of life.

It’s somewhat bizarre to come across statements by our revered theologians praising heathen scum philosophers, but most back in the day.

Here’s an example from the fruity, mystic theologian Meister Eckhart:

What the philosophers have written about the natures and properties of things agrees with [the Bible}, especially since everything that is true, whether in being or in knowing, in scripture or in nature, proceeds from one source and one root of truth . . .  Therefore Moses, Christ, and the Philosopher teach the same thing, differing only in the way they teach.

When he refers to “the Philosopher” in this quote, the context shows he is referring to Aristotle! Although I’m sure he’s not saying Aristotle and Christ are equally inspired, I do think he blurs the line.

You may not have heard of Meister Eckhart, and that’s OK, I bring him up because he’s one of many theological authors who follows the trend of his time in praising and using philosophers to prove theological points.

Perhaps you’ll know my next example better, John Calvin. Here’s a quote from his Institutes:

When, therefore, we discover the wonderful light of truth in the works of pagan authors, that should alert us to the fact that man’s nature, though fallen from its integrity and profoundly corrupt, is nevertheless adorned with many of God’s gifts. If we recognize the Spirit of God as the unique source of truth, we will not despise truth wherever it appears, unless we wish to offend God’s Spirit. For we cannot disparage the Spirit’s gifts without attracting his contempt and reproach.

I’d agree that pagans can stumble across truth and even say things that are true. No problem there. But to say that pagans are moved by God’s Spirit, so make sure you listen to pagan philosophers or else you’ll incur God’s wrath, seems a stretch.

This is also the guy who says we are totally depraved, and yet totally depraved people who are totally unable to respond to the Gospel, can still preach Spirit directed truth that you’ll be reproached for not listening to.

John Calvin was the first of many inconsistent Calvinists.

But this is standard classical theology. They like philosophers. They borrow from the academic, scientific culture around them. Calvin is based on Augustine and Augustine is based on Greek Philosophers.

Calvinism is not biblical; it’s philosophy with a handful of verses attached. This quote was taken from a chapter entitled “The Knowledge of Man and Freewill.”

Calvin’s views of freewill are based on pagan philosophy. He’s pretty much admitting that.

Augustine and Calvin are oft quoted, and they oft quoted pagan philosophers. They didn’t view the Bible as their sole source of authority. They thought philosophers could help out. In many cases, they took their philosophy and made the Bible fit it.

Be wary of basing your beliefs on people who base their beliefs on people who based their beliefs on pagan philosophers!

The believer does not need to read or understand pagan philosophy, nor does a believer need to fear the Spirit’s reproach for ignoring pagan philosophers.

Be careful out there. If classical theology confuses you, that’s probably a good thing!

Force-Feeding Doctrine and 10 Signs That You’ve Been Indoctrinated

“Doctrine” in the Greek is simply a word that means “teaching.” When the Bible speaks of sound doctrine, it’s talking about what the Bible teaches. When the Bible speaks of bad doctrine, it’s referring to doctrines that people invented.

We are supposed to maintain and hold to sound doctrine–what God said in His Word–and we are to avoid bad doctrine–stuff that people make up.

The only way you know you are hearing sound doctrine is if it lines up with Scripture.

Doctrine can be good or bad; it depends what it’s based on.

But even if a teacher has good doctrine, that doctrine can be taught in a bad way.

“Doctrine” is the root word of “indoctrinate.”

Indoctrinate has two meanings according to Websters:

to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments: to teach.

This seems like a fine thing. It simply means to teach something, usually foundational, basic stuff. No problem there that I can see. But here’s definition number 2:

to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle

OK, here’s where trouble comes!

To indoctrinate in a bad way means to get people fired up about your particular brand of teaching. It becomes less about what is taught and more about defending what was taught. It gets rabid, hostile, partisan, and fighty.

The attempt is no longer to teach, as much as it is to defeat the other side and win members to your party.

The quote I riffed on last week was this:

A rejection of penal substitutionary atonement is a rejection of the gospel. Either you’re saved through the work of Christ on the Cross, or you’re not saved at all.

To me, this sounds remarkably like indoctrination! People who think their doctrine is the Gospel, that their doctrine must be believed in order for you to be saved, are in the indoctrination camp.

Coming to Christ is secondary to adhering to their theories and their group. If you dare veer from their group you will feel the wrath of the group upon your tiny-brained little head!

What is more important to you: bringing people to Christ, or adding adherents to a doctrinal camp?

Preach the word. Do this in season and out. You will preach doctrine if you do this, as doctrine is in the Bible.

But if promoting a particular brand of doctrine overpowers the proclamation of God’s Word, then you are indoctrinating people.

Here are ten signs you’ve been indoctrinated: (perhaps a couple by themselves don’t mean anything, but if a number of them match, watch out!)

–You have no idea how to defend what you believe, so you tell people to read This Guy or talk to This Pastor, you rely upon something someone else said or wrote to defend your stance.

–You see your pet doctrine on every page of Scripture, to the extent you can no longer actually read the Bible without seeing your camp’s fight cry on every page, and that’s not because your doctrine is actually on every page either; you just can’t see the Scriptures anymore because your doctrinal branding has clouded your vision.

–Your doctrine can be immediately labeled because it sounds exactly like all those people in that group.

–You feel pressure to conform to everything everyone in your group is saying and doing. There is no room for questions, doubts, or any freedom to do anything outside of the approved norms.

–You quote people as much as or more than Scripture.

–You frequently, like every time you open your mouth, get corrected by the Gurus of your group until you only say the party line.

–Your faith is not leading to joy but to guilt-ridden pressure to  keep up with The Group and make sure you measure up at all times, along with judgment on those beneath you.

–You begin every attempt to teach God’s Word with a detailed explanation of Your System that people “need to understand first.”

–You believe that only people who agree with your doctrine are saved.

–You honestly think that bringing people to Christ is exactly what bringing people to your doctrinal camp is.

Entrance into heaven is not granted because you agree with a group. You get in because you love, believe, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ.

Don’t let your doctrine overpower the Word of God.

How to Find a Church With Sound Doctrine

It is my contention that there is no magic Right Doctrine Level that Christians can achieve. My opinion, based on Scripture and experience, is that doctrine is teaching, and every day we are taught. Therefore doctrine (teaching) is always in flux, and, if it’s led by the Spirit, will be fluxing (?) (growing) better every day.

Therefore, I believe the longer I live and learn the Bible, the better my doctrine will become. I will know more as the Spirit faithfully and patiently teaches me.

This is why I think it’s quite silly to look for a church with “perfect doctrine.”

Yet I hear many Christians bemoan their inability to find a church with “good doctrine” let alone “perfect doctrine.”

Now, let me assure you, finding a church that even mentions biblical doctrine is getting increasingly difficult. I’m not belittling the challenge.

What I am saying is that most Christians make it more difficult.

When Christians tell me they “can’t find a church with good doctrine,” here’s what they mean: “I can’t find a church that tells me exactly everything that I already believe.”

I mean, seriously, what else could they mean?!

If you don’t already think you have good doctrine, how would you know how to detect good doctrine? If you do have good doctrine, then a church with good doctrine would tell you the exact same stuff, thus no learning nor growth could occur!

The reason most people can’t “find a good church” is because they can’t find a church that preaches every tiny detail of their personalized, particular doctrines.

Instead of looking for a church that has “good doctrine” when you mean “my doctrine,” look for a church that emphasizes the Bible and helps you use it.

My goal as a pastor is to help people learn to handle the Bible correctly. We may diverge on points of doctrinal understanding, but my intent is to help people know how to use the Bible and figure it out for themselves.

Find a church that honors the Scriptures and helps you analyze and think about it. A church that helps you understand context and how to find the meaning of a passage.

I’m frankly disturbed by how many pastors I know who have told me they’ve never read the Bible. As cynical as I am, that still stuns me.

If a guy doesn’t know how to read and study the Bible, how is he going to help you do that?

The job of a church is to grow people into Christ, the Word made flesh. Find a church that studies the Bible and helps you study it, not just a church that makes you conform to a set of beliefs.

Pastors are people too. They grow. They change beliefs (they should do these things anyway). There are no pastors out there with Perfect Doctrine. None. There are no churches out there with Perfect Doctrine.

The best you can hope for is a church and a pastor who will help you grow into Christ and get better doctrine. Sign up for that and you’ll be just fine.

Doctrine and Salvation

All Christians will tell you that salvation is by grace through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

At the same time, start talking to these Christians and you’ll see that many of them will have divergent beliefs as to what salvation is, what faith is, what grace is, and maybe even in who Jesus Christ is.

And pretty much all of them will, at some point, say, “If you don’t believe what I believe about this doctrine then you aren’t saved.”

“This doctrine” can be Calvinism, substitutionary atonement, eternal security, the trinity, creationism, particular brand of End Times views, etc. I’ve heard all of these used at various times as eternity determining Shibboleths.

It appears to me that many believers think there’s this magic moment where all of a sudden, BOOM, I have right doctrine! Now that I’ve achieved right doctrine, I am saved! Yippee!

I can honestly say to you that I do not know when I was saved. There was a prayer said when I was a kid, I remember that. But faith didn’t really grow in me until college. Before that it was just kind of this thing that was there that people around me did.

When I began thinking about my faith, I went with various doctrines that sounded good, because I didn’t know any better. I believed substitutionary atonement and Calvinism, two things I now find problematic.

I believe I was saved at the time, which is why I made progress and why I put work in to figure out what I believed. I was pursuing Christ, which led me to question doctrines I had empty-headedly received simply because I didn’t know any better.

If I were to say “If you’re a Calvinist you can’t be saved” I would be saying that I wasn’t saved! If I said, “Anyone who believes in substitutionary atonement isn’t saved” I would be saying that I myself wasn’t saved when I believed these things.

But I can’t honestly say that. I didn’t know what I believed, it wasn’t personal, but those things were the best explanations at the time.

Sunday School Faith is going along with what you were taught as a kid and just accepting it and hanging on to it because that’s what I was given, that’s what I’ll take.

Sunday School Faith is fine if you’re a kid in Sunday School! If you’re 47 now and haven’t progressed beyond Sunday School Faith, that’s a problem!

You should have begun examining, testing, and thinking about what you believe. Unless you had a perfect Sunday School (you didn’t), you will find things you no longer agree with once you start learning the Bible.

And this is perfectly fine. This is not a rejection of Sunday School. Nor is it saying you weren’t saved until you had achieved Perfect Doctrine.

It’s called growth. It’s called sanctification. I worry more about people who still believe everything they were taught as kids then those who’ve turned on much of what they were taught.

At least they’re finally thinking about it!

Give each other some space to grow. Some freedom to think and question. Those who sit in some ivory tower and proclaim that “only people who believe everything I believe are saved” are stifling growth.

I’d rather have you disagree with me and grow into Christ than agree with me and not grow at all.

There were other elements of my upbringing I examined, rejected, and then later saw that they were actually right! I held a doctrine, rejected the doctrine, and later took that doctrine back. You don’t know everything. You should be learning every day. When you learn new things your beliefs should change.

There is no magic Right Doctrine Level you achieve.

Doctrine means “teachings.” If you’re learning, you’re being taught, and this teaching is what doctrine is! The idea is not to have this magic level of perfect doctrine; the idea is to grow into Christ.

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death
–Philippians 3:10

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