Categories
Emergence Godfidence Theology

Rob Bell’s Trampoline

Rob Bells Trampoline

In Velvet Elvis Rob Bell discusses Doctrine as the spring on a trampoline. The springs are not the main point; they merely facilitate the greater goal of “us finding our lives in God.” He compares it to looking at doctrine as a brick wall that when bricks are removed simply falls apart. However a trampoline missing a few springs can still be useful.

This analogy falls apart in itself in that when you remove enough springs you no longer have a trampoline but a tarp. However it betrays an understanding of Christianity that is becoming more invasive as this “emergent” line of thinking expands. Christianity, unlike other religions, isn’t based on a system of living; if you do more good than bad you will be accepted by God. It is based on the premise that our very nature is abhorrent to a perfect God and we can by no means please him. In fact we don’t even know enough to pursue him or look for him save for his provision of grace. Christianity isn’t simply a better way to live, which has lead non believers to the idea of “That may work for you but not for me or others.” Christianity isn’t subjective in its claims, the first century church was called to testify and bear witness of Christ’s resurrection, as historical fact.Rob Bell

There are certain dogma’s of the faith (the proper definition of dogma is to mean those things which can not be compromised not the negative connotation it has taken on) which we can not allow to be compromised for to do so would bring a halt to our Lords work.

Things like the resurrection must stand lest all of Christianity be destroyed, for even the apostle Paul said “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men….If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,
‘Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.'”

If Christ is not raised we are left with nothing but a human invention of morality by which to live.

Christianity is different because the LORD not only requires perfection which we can not obtain but then provides the mean by which it is imputed to us by his grace and not by our own means, otherwise we would still be lost. Not other religion is one of grace and destroying the solid brick foundation of those dogmas destroys the Christian faith. I don’t think I am looking to bounce so much as I am looking for a ROCK upon which to build my house.

To be clear I am not opposed to examining other aspects of how we do things as Christians, I believe methodology is always up to examination and change as we adjust to the culture. However we can not compromise out doctrine in the process.

Photograph: Virgil Vaduva

Categories
Christianity Godfidence Theology

First Among Equals

I have to add more to my look at Biblical church Leadership by examining the concept of primus inter pares or “First among equals,” a phrase which indicates that a person is the most senior of a group of people sharing the same rank or office[i].

There are many men whom I greatly respect that believe the Bible sets forth the method of leadership to be a plurality of elders with a “first among equals” among them. To put this in practical terms if the apostle Paul, Charles Spurgeon and I were the elders of a church, Paul would be our first among equals, although we would all hold the same rank we would defer to Paul in many cases as he an Apostle. Although we would each be accountable to and submitted to one another it would be obvious that Paul would in many ways be in charge.

Now that example breaks down in the fact that Paul was an apostle appointed by Christ and would there for not fit the normal Elder model, but I hope you understand my point. Also, as a point of practicality in a new church plant this first among equals is normally the planter of the church as they are acting as the apostle and brining the message of Christ to the body.

“Where does this appear in the Bible?” you ask? While not being expressly stated the idea comes from Peter in many ways. In Luke 22:32 “but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus places him in a position to be the one who strengthen the rest of the disciples.

Additionally each time the Apostles are listed Peter is named first. (Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13) Paul lists Peter, James and John as ‘pillars’ in the Jerusalem church. James and Peter seem to take a leading role in the Jerusalem council of Acts 15.

Eric Rung over at Authentic Truth has this to add:

The concept of the “first among equals” can be discerned by the way a congregation is to honor their elders. 1 Timothy 5:17 says “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” It is imperative in Scripture that all elders must be able to teach. But not all elders desire to work primarily at preaching and teaching. There are those who are particularly gifted in this area and have a strong desire to do so. These men should be recognized by the congregation and should receive double honor for their work.[ii]


Of course this first among equals view is not without its detractors and I believe it will take humility on the part of the man who would be the first to humble himself to his fellow elders however I also believe it is some thing of a natural tendency of man. There are certain types of men who seem to rise to leadership when it is available and these are the type of men who must be most cautious when it comes to working with their fellows.



 

[i] “Primus inter pares.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 19 Apr 2008, 16:18 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 23 Apr 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Primus_inter_pares&oldid=206712145>.

 

[ii] http://authentictruth.blogspot.com/2007/03/biblical-church-leadership-pt-5.html

Categories
Christianity Godfidence Theology

Arrogance on My Part

I had something of an interesting revelation the other day about my pride.  I am sure we are all familiar with the shame we feel after a particular sin or ‘spritiual bad day’ where we just don’t want to face our father.  It is just like report card day when I was in school. 

Categories
Christianity Godfidence Theology

Good News V. Good Advice

Good News V. Good Advice

Jesus answered:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.”

It has recently become fashionable for Christians to say quote this scripture as though the Gospel or good news is that we no longer have to obey the law but simply love God. That takes this verse out of its context and neglects the fact that Jesus followed this with “All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments.” So, it seems, in the place of the Law we are preaching Law-lite. We neglect to include all the details of the law that “Love the Lord” summarizes we are left to find those rules on our own and if we do so we will be fine. That makes the Gospel good advice and not good news.

Luther when told by his Cardinal to simply “love God” his response was “Love God? Sometimes I hate him.” We are not capable of loving God or our neighbor in the way the Law commands by our very nature. If it were possible for us to fulfill the Law then we would have no need of a savior, only a helper.

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

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, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. – I Cor. 15:2-6

The Good News is an event that occurred outside of our influence that we not reap the rewards of, not advice to be followed. We are sent to be his witnesses not his advice givers, witnesses implies a fact and not merely an opinion. The problem that arises when we reduce the Gospel, or Christianity, to a set of morals or a ‘better way to live’ is that it then becomes a subjective matter of opinion. The response “Well that is good for you but not for me” becomes perfectly valid, however when we are no longer discussing opinions, plans, advice or ideas, but historical facts then we are no longer dealing with the subjective. When we focus no longer on our ability, or lack there of to follow the gospel but on the grace of God and the sacrifice of his Son then we are truly talking about good news and not simply good advice.

Categories
Godfidence Theology

Studies in Words

CS LewisI recently read CS Lewis’ ‘Studies in Words‘ which was a fantastic challenge to my mind. I promised myself I would look up any words I was unfamiliar with because I am always challenged by Lewis’ precision with the English language, I was forced to look up a dozen words in the introduction alone. One particular section that challenged my was a lesson on authorial intent.

Categories
Christianity Godfidence Theology

Biblical Church Leadership VI

This is the final installment of the Biblical Leadership series. If you haven’t read the previous installments please start with the original: Biblical Church Leadership I

Objections Considered

The initial objection that I have heard from several people with whom I have shared these thoughts is the idea that Timothy and Titus were the pastors of their respective churches, meaning that they were the head of these congregations. I believe this interpretation is in keeping with our modern understanding of what a pastor is however I do not believe it keeps with the biblical use of the word. Timothy and Titus were Paul’s protégés and in many cases were operating under his apostolic authority, of which I have already discussed the uniqueness. The concept of a pastor as it is used today is simply not found in scripture. The plurality of elders are commended to pastor the flock, (Acts 20) and the pastor or shepherding gift is discussed with the Ephesian elders, but the idea of a single individual being in charge of the entire congregation is one that is simply not found in scripture.

Additionally, the idea of a Sr. pastor is equally absent from Biblical record. Although it could be linked to the Old Covenant idea of a high priest, Jesus is now our high priest and we have no need an additional earthly one.

Another objection that I hear on the few occasions I have shared this concept is that “anything with two heads is a monster” and while this cliché is readily accepted and is applicable in many instances we must turn to the Bible for our instruction and this concept is not derived from the scripture.

Conclusion

After looking into this issue I can see how not being obedient to God’s instruction can cause many problems in the modern church. It could be dangerous to have a single man with ultimate authority in an organization, even in a corporate environment the CEO answers to a board and to shareholders, but in many cases Pastors are held accountable to no one.

The view of Pastors as the ultimate earthly authority for the church has done several things to the congregations as well. The clergy/laity divide has become greater that it appears to be in the scriptures, the purpose of the “five-fold ministry” given in Ephesians 4:11 was to build up the church for the work of the ministry,[1] but with the creation of a professional ministry team most congregants only feel compelled to pay for the staff to do the work of the ministry. It may also be, due to this idea of the Pastor as ultimate authority, that we no longer verify what our Pastors are teaching, I have heard utter heresy from a pulpit and the church just nodded along, because the speaker used biblical language to give his point more authority. I have already shown that it is the responsibility of every believer to verify what they are hearing is the Gospel or to not listen, but many Christians wouldn’t know the difference. This explains why so certain popular speakers can get away with Christless messages.

With a plurality of Elders, you have a collective of Godly men to fulfill the roles given to the church, interestingly enough although I have been taught that a Pastor should have all of the “five fold gifts” it appears obvious from a simple reading of scripture that these gifts are manifest in multiple men, as “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers[2]” but the scriptures never indicates he gave one to be all of those gifts. Therefore a plurality of elders would have a number if not all of these gifts to edify and build up the congregation. Many Pastors have been buried under the weight of being alone and feeling responsible for every aspect of the ministry. I don’t believe this is what the Lord intended.

We live in a fallen world, with and among fallen people so no form of Church government that involves people will be perfect, but I believe God has given us a plan in his word and it should be obeyed. I believe the plan God gives us is one of a plurality of Elders, with varied authority and responsibility resting in different levels of the church.


 

[1] Eph 4:11 KJV

 

[2] Eph 4:11 NIV

 

Thank you all for sticking it out with me I look forward to hearing your comments and working out my thoughts in a greater way. If you are interested here is my entire series in one easy to read PDF: Entire Biblical Church Leadership

Categories
Godfidence Theology Through The Bible

Through the Bible: Deuteronomy

This is a continuing series of my reading through the Bible in 2008. I am reading according to a chronological schedule found here: Chronological Bible Schedule.

This week I noticed a few things in Deuteronomy that I found interesting and since these posts are just as much for me as they are for anyone else I am making note of them and I hope they help you as well.

The first epiphany I had related to the way we read and interpret scripture, since I no longer preach on a regular basis I am under a little less pressure to come up with new sermons on a regular basis. That being said, I did find what could be an interesting message in Numbers 32. (I am still a little behind but caught up today) The tribes of Reuben and Gad (and half of Manasseh) decided to settle east of the Jordan, which was not part of the Promised Land. I though it would make a great message along the lines of “Don’t settle for less than God’s best” and I am sure that given the opportunity I could do it justice and many people would be helped and motivated. The question is: Is this type of hermeneutic acceptable to God? Was that the LORD’s intention when he had Moses pen this passage? I don’t believe it is because there isn’t a place I can find where they were condemned for wanting to settle there, although Moses did demand they the fight along side their brethren to gain the Promised Land, which they agreed to do.

It is very easy to find some sort of personal application in the words of the Bible that the authors never intended or would have even understood. The meaning of the passage should be the point of your message, and by your message I mean what you take away from the Bible or what you preach. With all the pressure on our ministers to come up with a ‘fresh revelation’ on the Word of God I can see how we could easily fall into this trap when the fact of the matter is the Body of Christ is far from following the ‘stale revelation’

Deuteronomy 13 is where I found my next interesting passage:

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.

Firstly, even if someone is able to perform miracles or prophesy correctly doesn’t mean they are not evil, and you should follow them blindly. I often hear a ministry or doctrine supported with the argument of ‘success’: “Well, they have a huge church,” or some such hogwash. This is just a new version of exactly what God is talking about here. Signs and wonders are not enough, we must know that the LORD is the true God and follow no others. Paul says something related to this in Galatians:

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

The method is not to be judged alone, but the message. Paul did not care if he preached or an angel showed up to preach it if it wasn’t the Gospel of Christ. There are a great number of false gospels still floating around in the world and we need to know what the true gospel looks like in order to follow it and not be lead astray.

Picture from http://evangelismaction.wordpress.com/2007/08/26/gift-of-the-gospel-week-1/

Categories
Christianity Godfidence Theology

Biblical Church Leadership V

This article is a continutation of my study on Biblical church leadership, if you haven’t started from the beginning I suggest you start there: Biblical Church Leadership I

Categories
Christianity Godfidence Theology

Biblical Church Leadership IV

The beginning of this series is found here: Biblical Leadership. Please start there if you haven’t read the previous posts in this series.

This post will look into the role of the Deacons.

Categories
Christianity Godfidence Theology

Biblical Church Leadership III

Continuing my posts on Biblical Church Leadership let me again warn the new reader that this is a continuation and it is recommended that you begin with the original post to fully understand the content.

WARNING: Up to this point most people will probably have been in agreement with the major thrust of this series, this is the place where we may part company however I ask you to leave me your comments so that we both may grow.

Plurality of Elders

There are only a few occasions where the term elder is used in the singular, and those include Peter and John (I Pet 5:1 and 2Jn 1:1 and 2Jn 1:1 respectively) referring to themselves as individuals, which would naturally be singular. Outside of those references we only find two other singular references to an elder:

a. An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Titus 1:6

b. Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. I Tim 5:19

While there are many passages that show a plurality of elders, including plural elders in a singular church or location.

  1. Acts 11:30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
  2. Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
  3. Ac 20:17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.
  4. Ac 21:18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
  5. 1Ti 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
  6. Tit 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are , and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you-
  7. Heb 13:7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
  8. Heb 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
  9. Heb 13:24 Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.
  10. Jas 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
  11. 1Pe 5:1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:
  12. 1Pe 5:5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Ordination of Elders

It is simple to see how Christians became elders in the Bible; we see many places where Apostles or their delegates, Titus and Timothy, are sent to ordain elders. What that means may not be completely clear in the NIV notes Acts 14:23 this way:

Paul and Barnabas appointed elders Or Barnabas ordained elders; or Barnabas had elders elected for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

Looking into the term for ordain[i], it is a term related to hand raising or voting. Although no other translation I read included this note or translated it in any way related to voting, a look into early church history reveals commands from the early church fathers to the churches to “Appoint for yourselves therefore bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and not lovers of money, and true and approved”[ii]. This is dated back to the early second century. It is feasible that the Apostles selected the elders for the churches; although it isn’t inconceivable that the churches had input into the decision much like the deacons we see in Acts chapter 6.


[i] Strong’s Concordance GR#5500

[ii] Didache 15:1 http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lightfoot.html