Speaks for itself
Speaks for itself
Speaks for itself
I am really starting to love Matt Chandler
I have been in the middle of two worlds recently and it has been a very strange experience. While exploring the positive attributes of the house churches and the new less institutional models of Christianity I have found some great authors who have points I agree with even if I am not able to fully reconcile them with my current beliefs. Men like Frank Viola and Alan Knox have helped me to shake off some of the man made traditions that have seeped into my personal ethos that may or may not have had their root in the Scriptures.
I have also been influenced by a group I call the neo-reformed, which I have heard is the second fasting growing sect of Christianity second only to the Emerging church. These men are rooted steadfastly in the historic orthodox faith of the reformed tradition. Men like John Piper, Mark Driscoll and R.C Sproul, have helped me greatly get back to the historic truths of our faith.
My quandary stems from the fact that these two factions that are influencing me are in many ways diametrically opposed and my critical thinking skills are a little rusty. I believe that members of both factions love the Lord and desire to serve him, and for the most part the issues where I struggle are tertiary issues at best so it of great importance but I have been puzzling over it too long.
This is a long way of saying I may begin to do some deeper theological writing where I develop an argument and come to a conclusion, so if you enjoy that type of writing great! If you don’t enjoy it then you have been warned.
One of the first places this becomes an issue is in the area of ecclesiology (study of how the church should be governed). The house and organic groups for the most part seem to be under the impression that there was no leadership structure of any kind in the early church.
We wanted to know if it was possible for Jesus Christ to lead His church in our day just as he did in Century One – without a human head (pastor, minister, priest, etc.) – Frank Viola (Interview with Alan Knox)
Now I have already done some research into this area and it is clear to me, and the historical church that there is some form of human leadership within the church. It began with the apostles who then called for the ordination (election or appointment) of elders for each local congregation. These men were not mere the ones that fulfill the role as some people have asserted, i.e., if you do the job of an elder then you are an elder, but they were officially recognized by the local congregation, and the Bible points out certain responsibilities for these men.
The view that all people are gifted for the works of ministry in the church is one of the founding thoughts of the reformation and is one that most if not all of protestant churches hold to. The organic churches seem to go too far in the view that there are no Christians that are specially positioned in the church, like pastors and elders. Their main cry is that “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” which means that all of us as Christians are to minister to one another but there. And there is no real need for Pastors to do these things.
The priesthood of the believer has been so reduced to ministries like childcare and ushering that many pastors end up doing most of the ministry in the church community all alone. If someone is in the hospital, we call the pastor; is someone is in need of prayer, we call the pastor (After all he is the only one qualified to pray). Each believer has the responsibility to minister to the body in the ways they are gifted and beyond. Ministry isn’t just the Pastor’s job.
On the other end of the spectrum, Paul tell the Ephesians elders (read Pastors) to shepherd over the flock, in fact pastor means shepherd. Pastors are to watch over the flock and guard and guide them. Hebrews 13:17 assumes that Christians have leaders; “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Not only does it assume some form of leadership it assumes authority of those leaders. It would be very difficult of not impossible to have any real authority if that authority was vested in a person simply because they met the qualifications but were not appointed. You could simply decide that a person is not your leader, therefore not worthy of your obedience.
I suppose the idea here is that there is a balance in this conversation that needs to be found by both sides of the discussion. It is far too easy to only see one side of a discussion when the truth if closer to the middle than on either end of the spectrum.
I have said in the past and continue to say to some extent that I don’t trust someone who has never changed their mind on some matter. I have known a few people who are so dogmatic about every single topic that I just tune them out because they obviously are no longer open to the possibility of learning. So I have decided to list a few of my own learns from the past:
I am quite the bibliophile but I have only pre-ordered one other book in my life and the was Deathly Hallows, who can blame me?
This is the second book I have ever pre-ordered.
For almost as long as I have been a Christian I have had trouble with some of the ways the church operates. I assumed that this, in many cases, was simply because I didn’t grow up in the church and therefore was not used to the particulars of church culture. However, I have recently done some studying on Charles G. Finney and have learned a little about some of the ‘why’s of the church.
It is just a coincidence that this follows some of my Friday pirate Videos but this is a little sad. I have never really listened to Ed Young but I have heard him raved about by some friends. This video makes me not really want to hear from him again.
He talks about people who join a church or staff specifically to leave and start another church, he calls these people pirates. His is horrified that some people, the most recent ones he has had to deal with, took 20 years to complete their act of piracy. Seriously? If you can stay in a church let alone on the staff of a single large church for 20 years you deserve an award. If he really believes these people took the heartache, abuse, struggle and time over a 20 year period just to go start their own church he is crazy.
Several issues I have:
Now are there ethical questions that could be involved here sure, and I don’t believe there is one blanket answer. Again from my experience before I arrived at the mega church I attended an incident similar to what he is discussing. A ‘pirate’ planted a church near by and many people float between them but is it accurate to say that that pastor and anyone who attends that church are in sin? Some people would say yes.
This video exposes some large issues within the organized church. It seems he is more interested in building his ‘business’ than God’s kingdom.
Hat tip to Letters from Kamp Krusty for the video.
Dogma is a word, like many in the theological sphere, that’s meaning has been all but lost. It has taken on a negative connotation when in reality it is simply the most core beliefs of a given religion. Thefreedictionary.com defines dogma as “an authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true.” For Christianity these are things like the virgin birth, the substitutionary death of Jesus, the trinity and faith in Jesus being the only things held true universally by all believers that are not in question. Unfortunately according to a new Pew research pole this concept has been lost even among those who identify themselves as Evangelical.
According to the pole 57% of evangelicals responding feel that “Many religions can lead to eternal life.” I think they may be linked to the discoveries in Christian Smith’s book Soul Searching. He discovered that most young people’s religious beliefs today can be expressed as therapeutic moralistic deism, even those in evangelical churches. If the gospel of Christ can, and is reduced simply to a list of do’s and don’ts then it would make sense that anyone else following a similar list would indeed be just as ‘saved’ as a Christian. Brian McLaren has expressed in his “New Kind of Christian” series that any good that is done is done as unto Jesus no matter who you believe you are worshiping, and this type of belief is far to typical in my experience.
The big popular ministers in Christianity seem content with messages that seem better suited for Matt Foley than for a minister, I have seen sermons on drinking the correct amount of water, on how to live a better life, getting a long better with co-workers, with just a little shout out to Jesus thrown in at the end almost as if to appease a part of their audience, that need to hear about Jesus.
This relativism has seeped into the Church and into our own beliefs to the extent that we no longer believe Jesus is the only way to salvation. Apart from his own claim, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” in the garden be asked “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” If there was another way Jesus wouldn’t have had to die, but he did. I fear that we have abandoned that which Paul called the first importance, if not deliberately then at least unintentionally by removing it from preeminence and making it a side bar in our preaching and teaching.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (1 Cor. 15)
Since I discovered the Ministry of Mark Driscoll some time ago I have found an entire new world opened to me, the world of the reformed church. I have found myself listening to Spurgeon, Piper, Chandler, The White Horse Inn and a few others. They have shown me a new side of Christianity, actually more accurately an older side since the reformation took place hundreds of years ago.
These men hold to a view I formally opposed, of course in actuality I opposed a caricature of it. That view is Calvinism which I defined as simply the belief that once a person is saved they can not loose that salvation, as opposed to Arminianism which I defined as the belief that one could loose their salvation although unlike some I was never as extreme to believe that any sin for which one did not repent could be cause for eternal damnation.
Recently I have learned more about the history and details about these two systems of belief within Christianity, but I am still caught between both seeing the Bible making points for both sides.
I have spent some time reviewing different tenants of each in an attempt to resolve my internal conflict and of course discover the truth. I have decided to share those in my blog. Now that I am through my introduction I will get started.
Doctrine of Election
This doctrine disturbs many evangelical Christians today if they are even aware of its existence. The major text for this doctrine comes from Ephesians 1:
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Emphasis mine)
If he chose us before the creation of the world, then he chose us not based on anything we are, or have done but simply in accordance with his pleasure and will. The explanation I have heard for this is that God looked down through the ages and saw who would respond to his grace and then elected those people, but this, to me, becomes a gospel of works, as one is saved based on their proper response. Additionally it is slightly out of order; you must respond before God will choose you to be one who responds?
Romans chapter 9 has a great deal to say along these lines as well:
10Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad–in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls–she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
Is Paul preaching against those who would preach salvation by works and not faith? I would say it is possible if not for the reference to Pharaoh in verse 17. It looks more like God has a chosen people from the beginning; He has had a plan for the salvation of man since before the creation of the world and because he is perfect we believe is plan is perfect.
One major problem I have with this doctrine are that if God elects certain people to grant his mercy then by default he is condemning the remainder of the world to eternal hell and this doesn’t seem just. Eternal punishment for finite sins seems to be an unjust punishment. But Paul answers this very question as
Romans chapter 9 continues:
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory– 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
If this is true it doesn’t mean I like it but I know that God’s ways are higher than mine and I trust that he is good. When I truly began to understand, and I say began because I do not pretend to have a solid grip on this doctrine, it was a humbling experience. I have always believed, as a majority of Christians do, that Jesus death granted us the opportunity for salvation if only we would respond so I was still able to maintain a little of my pride by taking that last step on my own, however if Jesus death didn’t merely buy us the opportunity for salvation but completed the work upon the cross, additionally granted me the grace and the faith to believe. Then it is a truly humbling experience because I wasn’t even saved through my decision that I may boast.
Maybe I will come back and address the other side of the coin in the future.