Great Name in Church History: Mesrop Mashtots

I am reading a book about the history of Bible translation and came across one of the greatest names in all of Church History: Mesrop Mashtots.

I conclude that it is impossible to improve upon this name.

It also reminds me of Napolean Dynamite.

Not only does Mashtots have a great name, he actually was an incredible person, one worthy of emulation, and also one most have never heard of.

Mashtots had a dream to translate the Bible into the Armenian language. Only one problem: the Armenian language had no alphabet.

But this didn’t stop Mashtots. He got on his donkey and rode around Armenia paying attention to the common sounds of their language. He teamed up with a calligrapher who associated Greek letters to these sounds and developed the 36-letter Armenian alphabet.

Alphabetizing the language didn’t solve the problem, because no one knew how to read it! So, get this, Mashtots persuaded the government to establish a nationwide school system!

Finally, after years of effort, Mesrop Mashtots created a literate Armenian nation able to read the Bible. Mashtots also invented the Caucasian and Georgian alphabets! Busy guy.

That my friends, is a life well spent. Makes my life look pretty pathetic.

Let Mashtots inspire you today: Find something helpful to do and go do it.

God’s Determinate Counsel and Other Things People Can Mess Up

A particular branch of Calvinism believes that everything is a result of God’s determinate counsel. Everything that happens, even sin, is a result of God’s ordination.

God said it should happen, therefore it happens.

In this elaborate structure, God, who makes people sin, is also released of blame. I have never been able to figure out why, nor has the Calvinist. “It’s a mystery” is the closest they will come to explaining it.

Which is fine, probably their safest answer, but it may also signify that the initial doctrine is illogical.

“Determinate counsel” appears one time in the Bible in Acts 2:23:

Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain

The “Him” is obviously Christ. “Determinate,” according to Thayer’s Greek Definitions, means, “to mark out the boundaries or limits, to ordain, determine, or appoint.” Counsel means purpose or will.

Therefore, Acts 2:23 says that Christ’s crucifixion, rather than being a massive mistake in an otherwise pretty fantastic Messianic life, was part of God’s plan.

The Calvinist concludes that the people who killed Christ had no choice. God made them do it because His determinate counsel (His marked out boundary of His will) forced them to kill Jesus.

Continue reading “God’s Determinate Counsel and Other Things People Can Mess Up”

What does the “Goodness of God” Mean?

Romans 2:4 says that people repent because of the goodness of God. To not repent, to continue on your own way, is to despise the riches of God’s goodness.

Goodness means, according to Thayer’s Definitions, “moral goodness, integrity, benignity, kindness.” According to Strong’s Dictionary it means, “usefulness, that is, moral excellence (in character or demeanor): – gentleness, good (-ness), kindness.”

God’s goodness is what brings people to Him. If God were bad, if He did morally questionable things where His kindness was fickle and couldn’t be counted on, who in their right mind would take a chance of approaching Him?

Some of you had bad fathers. You never knew what dad you were going to get. You never knew what would set him off next. Living in that situation made you tentative to approach your dad. You probably stayed as far away from him as possible.

We would do that with God too, if He were not good. But He is good. Paul also assumes that we know He’s good, because this is what brings us to repentance. We didn’t see He was good sometime after we repented, but beforehand, which led us to repent. In other words, even a non-believer can see that God is good.

Knowing that God responds to us out of His goodness is what gives us the confidence to approach Him.

In order for people to know that God is good, God must do things that we recognize as being good.

Continue reading “What does the “Goodness of God” Mean?”

Doctrinal Convictions and Spiritual Growth

In my years of listening to Christians, I have become aware of a fascinating phenomena: One person’s heresy was another person’s life-giving doctrine.

Let me illustrate.

Not long ago I saw a couple of Christians rejoicing in their Calvinism. They both claimed that they did not see the power of the Gospel until they were taught Calvinist doctrine. Since that day their faith blossomed.

I also know other believers, myself included, who say that ever since they were shown the errors of Calvinism and were taught non-Calvinist doctrine they saw deeper beauty in the Gospel and their faith blossomed.

I have seen this with churches–one group claims massive spiritual growth due to their church, while other people found growth by leaving that church.

I have seen this with adhering to a pastor or professor or author. I’ve seen this with Charismatic experience and deliverance from Charismatic experience. I could go on and on. Each side worked growth for opposite groups.

So, what gives? Here are some possible answers, solely based on my experience and observation of the phenomena.

Continue reading “Doctrinal Convictions and Spiritual Growth”

Pastor Eaten By Crocodiles While Teaching About Faith

First of all, this isn’t funny.

Secondly, I did laugh.

A pastor in Zimbabwe was killed by a crocodile while trying to walk on water. Here is the quote from a deacon that made me laugh:

“He promised he would demonstrate his faith to us today, but he unfortunately ended up drowning and getting eaten by three large crocodiles in front of us.”

One would think this would lead the church members to re-examine their doctrine and understanding of faith. At the very least, it would lead to a search for a new church. But never underestimate the insanity of people in the church.

“We still don’t understand how this happened because he fasted and prayed the whole week.”

It’s a giant mystery.

Come on, church! We gotta do better than this.

UPDATE:
Apparently this story isn’t true. I should have known. That one paragraph was too humorously-expertly written. Bummer, I’ve been had. My typical ironclad confidence in my own brain has been shattered. I may never recover.

Wait, wait. I feel better. I think I’ll go for a walk now.

“Ye Are Gods” and Pushing the Limits of Heresy

Psalm 82:6 says, “Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High.”

The “gods” and the “ye” here are the children of Israel. Even more directly, they are the leaders of the nation of Israel. He uses the term “gods” in verse 1 of the same chapter, “God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods.”

He goes on to criticize the leaders of Israel because they are not doing anything to correct the injustice going on in the nation. Clearly then, gods here are the leaders of Israel who are responsible for correcting the people.

The Hebrew word in use is elohim, the very same word used for God Himself. Calling people “gods” seems rather problematic for us! But the Bible does it a number of times. Consider the following just from the Book of Exodus:

Exodus 4:12-16—Moses will be as God to Aaron.
Exodus 7:1—I have made you [Moses] god to pharaoh—he will speak God’s words and do God’s miracles, God’s spokesman
Exodus 21:6—elohim is the Hebrew word translated “judges.”
Exodus 22:28—use gods and rulers interchangeably.

Perhaps this can be traced back to Genesis and the creation of humanity. God made them both, male and female, in the image of God. People were put here to rule and subdue creation. People were God’s representative on earth to take care of His creation. It was our stewardship.

This can then be seen in Psalm 82. Israel is God’s chosen people. To know God in that day you had to know Israel. They were supposed to obey God and receive blessings, this would make them a light among the Gentiles. In the nation of Israel there were leaders chosen who spoke for God–prophets, priests, kings, etc. They were to be elohims for the nation of Israel. God spoke to these people and they were in the place of God for others.

We see the same thing elsewhere in Scripture. Parents need to be careful how they parent as we are the first notions of who God is for our kids. Bosses are to remember that they have a Boss in heaven and rule accordingly. Anytime you are the authority over someone you are in a position to show them what God is like.

This is all heightened even more in the New Testament. Jesus quotes Psalm 82 in John 10. Some of the people of Israel are upset with Jesus because He made Himself to be God. Jesus quotes this verse and says basically, “If they were called gods because they had God’s word revealed to them; how much more should I be called God when I am doing these miracles and revealing more of God to you?”

If you look at the implications of the Gospel–Christ will be in us and we will be in Him, we are members of His Body, etc., we can grasp a fuller conception of being God’s representatives on earth. Consider the following:

Matthew 10:39-42, 14, 20—Christ says if they receive you they receive me, and if they receive me they receive the Father.
Romans 8:17–We are joint-heirs with Christ.
Galatians 2:20–No longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.
2 Peter 1:4–Partakers of the divine nature
Hebrews 2:9-11–We are one and Christ is not ashamed to call us brothers.

Continue reading ““Ye Are Gods” and Pushing the Limits of Heresy”

Trying to Humbly Be Right

Yesterday I talked about being humble in our opinions whether we are scientific, religious, or both, or neither. Not everyone knows everything.

At the same time, some people do know some things! We’re not floating around in an incomprehensible void of mush. Some things can be known.

Science can help us know many things, but not all things. The Bible can help us know many things, but not all things. I think both have their place and the person who embraces both will know more than the one who embraces only one or neither.

But humility is key. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Being humble is how learning starts.

Some people are right and some are wrong. There are times when the person who is right needs to correct the person who is wrong, but that correction must be humble too.

Here is a recent conversation I had on the internet, which did not involve me desiring to be in any argument. The question I responded to was asked by a non-Calvinist on his non-Calvinist web site. Here is his question:

What are the potential effects of teaching the Calvinistic claim that if God wants you then He will make you want Him?

Here is my answer:

Then God doesn’t want everyone, eliminates God being good & not a respecter of persons, Christ not a propitiation for sins of the world etc

Not bad for 140 characters! Of course, being the internet, it devolved into an argument. Here is the flow of what ensued.

ANONYMOUS INTERNET ARGUER: Eliminates God being good????? Even if He chose to not save anyone at all He would still be good! He owes us no mercy!!

ME: You are defending the point that being unmerciful would be consistent with being good?

AIA: Yes because He is God and doesn’t HAVE to be merciful. He is good to give justice. Is He not good to give justice to unbelievers? That’s what mercy is!! Exodus 33:19 Titus 3:5
He doesn’t owe anyone mercy. He could damn us all to hell like we deserve. He would still be good. Sorry you have a poor view of Him.

ME: I’m aware of what mercy is. Your point is that God can still be good if He were unmerciful and I disagree.

AIA: God is not unmerciful……He does however withhold His mercy from some….He is still good though.

ME: thank you for making my point. Been a pleasure.

The conversation was dropped here, much to my surprise. I can only assume it’s because the Calvinist at hand was not male.

Now, I have a certain amount of pride in posting this. I think I have a very legitimate point and I think I made it well without going into personal attacks and diversions. I stuck to the original point and I think I made it.

That’s right, so you might want to back off.

AIA’s point is that God is good, therefore, everything He does is inherently good. So, even if God did something that wasn’t good–if He were always unmerciful–He would still be good. Therefore, His hypothetical mercilessness would be good.

This is very bad logic. This rips the word “good” right out of any common-sensical meaning. In order for someone to be good, someone else must be able to recognize the goodness.

God is good, which is why He’s merciful; and God is merciful, which is why God is good. It’s not like one came before the other.

To claim you are good means you do things that are good in and of themselves. Saying you are good, and then doing all manner of bad things, and yet claiming your bad things still define good, is arbitrary and not very orderly. Language falls apart at that point. Words don’t mean anything, so we might as well figglemunch dasser wooblesnouse.

I believe I am right. I believe I am right based on scripture, logic, and word etymology.

I believe I am right based on the arguments against me. The main issue is not addressed, but verse references are given about mercy that don’t touch on the pivotal point at hand, points that are not essential to the debate are brought up, and then there’s this nugget, “Sorry you have a poor view of Him.”

Anytime such responses are used, you know you’re on to something. I ignored it and went back to the original point.

Again, I’m showing this to you so you can see what flawless arguing looks like. I nailed it! Notice my “Been a pleasure!” At the end? That is one sarcastic “!”! I am now an arrogant jerk bragging about my awesomeness to others, thus showing I did not argue out of love, but rather to show intellectual superiority and frustration with non-sensical Calvinist reasoning.

Knowledge puffs up. That’s what it does. I don’t know how to beat it. I just know it when I sees it. I seens it big time. Good luck out there. Stay humble, my friends.