Theology for the Long Haul

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Church Unity Part 2: I’m Just Your Typical Third-Wave Charismatic, Moderately Reformed, Post-Modern Conservative, Evangelical Christian!

You too? …Probably not. Why? Because even though we all acknowledge Christ as the ultimate source of our unity (2 Cor. 5:14-17), we are not all exactly the same; and as I proposed in my last post, maybe God is OK with that for now. A few days ago I began a series of posts that address the issue of church unity. I proposed that with some limitations, denominations and movements play a positive and maybe necessary role in the greater body of Christ. In this post I want to address the reality that sometimes you just aren’t going to naturally fit into an existing church movement. I, for one, sometimes find this difficult. So what do you do? I propose two suggestions;

Recognize the purpose of the church (Ephesians 4:1-3)

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Do we as Christians come together to be encouraged in our mutual agreement on all topics theological, or do we come together to learn how to love one another with the love of Christ? If you have faithfully attended church at any point in your life, than you understand why this is difficult. People are not always easy to love especially when we think they are wrong about something we value. Never-the-less we must learn to love with humility. One way to maintain peace with those with whom we disagree is by relating to one another with humility, gentleness, patience, and love. If we can learn to dialogue while bearing the fruit of the Spirit, than we may find that people are less offended by us. Often offenses within the body of Christ have more to do with the spirit in which one was related to, rather than the content of a conversation.

Recognize the purpose of spiritual authority (Hebrews 13:17)

“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.”

We like to think that we don’t need anyone “caring for our soul.” We would rather believe that our relationship with God is the only authority we need (as if we could never misinterpret God’s voice in our lives). In my experience, the Christian life requires the humility to acknowledge the need for leadership in life. If you have earnestly sought God’s direction, and/or approached the Bible with due humility, than your opinion on theological issues has developed and changed over time (this is called sanctification, see John 15). We all need to learn that there is a certain balance to living confidently with our convictions, while maintaining enough humility to say that we could be wrong on debatable issues. We must also learn to walk out this tension within a church context and under the care of God appointed spiritual leaders. One of God’s tools for shaping us and for bringing about unity in His body is the provision of strong, Christ-like leadership. As Christians we are better served by submitting our lives to one another and to those whom God has given the responsibility to disciple us.

In conclusion, it is possible to be spiritually honest, while being faithful to a local church. It is my conviction that God created church for just this purpose. So when you are choosing a church, choose carefully and prayerfully, but always remember the calling to which you have been called (see above).

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Conspiracy Theory Of The Gospels

Some have claimed that the Gnostic gospels deserve a place alongside the Gospel's of the New Testament. Check out this article published in the Huffington Post by Dr. Charles Hill on the reliability of this claim. Below is the link

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Gospel Everyday

"I once assumed the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters. But I’ve come to realize that ” the gospel isn’t the first step in a stairway of truths, but more like the hub in a wheel of truth.”
In other words, once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. All good theology, in fact, is an exposition of the gospel...."

I highly recommend this post from Tullian Tchividjian

The Gospel Everyday

4 Lessons from Luther on Married Life

Here is the final post from Justin Taylor's Luther and Marriage series

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Switching Christianities: Personal Reflections on Christian Diversity and Confessional Identity

For many Christians of various confessional traditions, the principle holds true that what unites us is much greater than what divides us. The diversity of our unique cultures, languages, and traditions does not obscure our fundamental unity in Christ…a unity described by C. S. Lewis as “mere Christianity.” Such a vision has inspired numerous participants in the ecumenical movement. It is also a vision that has been contested by many, especially, apologists of particular Christian traditions. Such a unity, they claim, can only lead to a watering down of the truth preserved by the authentic custodians of the apostolic faith. They see the claims of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant forms of Christianity as mutually exclusive and fundamentally different.

Most of us have encountered both of these views. Assessing the merits of either approach can be complicated at best and discouraging at worst. How does one account for the diversity in Christian belief and practice? Some choose to look to the past, drawing on the history of the early Church and the patristic literature. Others like to focus on the present realities of our post-modern culture in which a plurality of perspectives is not questioned but rather assumed to be the status quo. Others still look to the future with the eschatological reign of God in mind, a time of perfect unity between all of God’s people.

For the rest of this post visit Jacob's blog at Inter Christianos.

Hello, My Name is Phil and I'm Moderately Reformed

Now, I have to confess that I've been hanging out with some guys who identify themselves as Calvinists. For me, the common connection has more to do with shared beliefs in other areas than an adherence to the 5 points of Calvinism (or the 5 points of anybody for that matter). The Western church can be pretty fickle, and more recently it has fallen susceptible to popular emerging heresies and old school liberalism (you may have heard me harp on these issues a time or two before). Conversely, many in the Reformed traditions have maintained a high view of Scripture, an affirmation of gender distinctions, and a meaningful connection with the historic and ancient churches. These convictions among others have come to be increasingly important to Corrie and I over the years.

In recent weeks there's been a hot debate in reformed circles over how Calvinist one needs to be in order to identify themselves as reformed in any sense. Some have argued that you cannot identify yourself with reformed theology unless you swallow the whole camel (White horse Inn Blog); while others have taken a more judicious stance (The Gospel Coalition). As for me, I’m calling myself moderately reformed, Below is a diagram that shows what that might look like, and some passages of Scripture (not a comprehensive list)that might support how one could come to draw such (amazing) conclusions.

In this whole discussion I would encourage persons of the reformed traditions to remember that John Calvin was not Jesus Christ. We need to be cautious how we approach the Bible, knowing that we all will be tempted to read it through the lens of our own traditions and theological commitments. The text must be the master of our doctrine, and not our commitments or/and our desire to fit God into a tidy and rationalistic construction. Issues like this one require a surrendered soul, much prayer, a strong exegetical analysis of the text, and a commitment to Christian unity. That said, what are your thoughts? Feel free to post them here(even if you disagree with me).

In the above diagram the "5 Points" are listed on the left. The color of the points dim with my confidence in that particular point. On the right are my comments with Scripture passages.

The Morning Star of Wittenberg

Here is the link to Justin Taylor's fourth installment of his Luther and Marriage series.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Church Unity Part 1: Maybe God's O.K. with Denominations

I can hear boos and hisses from the anti-denominational (and anti-organized church) proponents, and am prepared to admit that there are problems with this thought. The push in the church has been that Christian unity will be found in the dissolution of denominational walls, or the compromise of denominational distinctives. The thing is: I’m not so sure that this will lead to the kind of unity that Jesus asked for on our behalf as He prayed in the garden before His crucifixion.

In Romans 14:22-23, Paul speaks to the Romans about eating food that has been sacrificed to idols, but also addresses a bigger issue... conscience. He writes, "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God... But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin." Trying to sand off the edges of denominational destinctives might give a superficial appearance of unity, but it leaves no room to believe and worship according to conscience. I’m not saying that everyone is right in their held convictions, because truth is not relative. That being said, it has to be recognized that some churches are walking in a greater degree of truth than others.

So what’s to be done? Each person must search the Scriptures and live according to the conviction given to them by God. To do anything less leads to the kind of personal compromise that Paul referenced in Romans. Our hope and prayer should be for unity, but not forced unity. Jesus prayed for the real deal, not a proposition-less, passionless (but peaceful) compromise from somewhere in the middle. We need to learn how to disagree and still love meaningfully. This, in my opinion, is a step toward a more honest and lasting unity.

In the next couple of posts I’m going to explore this further, in part by including my family’s own quest to identify with the greater, and historic church; while maintaining our own deeply held convictions and beliefs.

Inerrancy and Baggage

Inerrancy and Baggage

Does using terms like "infallible" or "inspired" carry more baggage than "inerrancy?"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Wrong Way To Read The Bible

Two opposite errors exist in approaching the Bible. One is not to read it. The other is to know it so well that you miss Jesus. Jesus pointed out this error: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).

Are you surprised to believe this error exists? We constantly talk about reading and studying the Bible as an unqualified good. But clearly, the way we read the Bible is just as important as reading it.

So how can you know if you might be reading the Bible, looking for life, but missing Jesus completely? Here are a few clues:

1) You read the Bible to reinforce what you believe, not challenge what you believe.
2) You imagine yourself as the type of person who believes the things you read about.
3) You think the things you read are especially applicable for people you know, but not for you.
4) You imagine yourself as the hero of the story, not the person or people who are unbelieving. You frequently ask in your heart, “How could these people be so unbelieving?” For instance, when you read the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert you might say, “How could those Israelites grumble about food and drink when they just saw God part the Red Sea?” But you are completely blind to how you grumble at work or home when you’re afraid of losing something.
5) You love the attention garnered from your knowledge of the Bible, but give little thought to how you have applied what you have read.

Maybe the Bible should come with a warning label: “Beware: reading this book incorrectly will make you twice as fit for hell as when you began.”

Don’t miss Jesus. Go to him and find life.

This post was written by Dave Dorr and was originally published at

Monday, October 11, 2010

What Is the New Perspective on Paul? How Should It Be Assessed?

What Is the New Perspective on Paul? How Should It Be Assessed?

Here is a great synopsis and simple critique of the "New Perspective on Paul" for those who don't have the time to read Sanders, Dunn, and Wright.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

D.A. Carson on "What the Church Needs"

I found this video to be both challenging and thought provoking. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Trade In Your Mud Pies

Here is a great post from Dustin Neeley on exchanging our worldly affections for greater intimacy with Christ. It encouraged me...I hope it encourages you as well.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Luther: The 40 Year Old Virgin?

Check out this post from Justin Taylor. It is the first in a series on Martin Luther and marriage.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Book Reviews From My Summer Reading

An Introduction to the New Testament by Carson and Moo

I found this volume super helpful. Carson and Moo did a great job of handling the arguments and controversies. I walked away feeling that I had been given all of the necessary information. The authors were not only careful to give all sides of the argument, but they were also careful not to make assertions without backing them up. My copy is filled with highlighter marks and comments. I'm certain that I will be referencing this book for years to come.

An Introduction to the New Testament by David deSilva

Another great volume. Dr. desilva's strength is in giving an incredible amount of background and context information. In this regard I would rate deSilva's introduction higher than Carson and Moo's (to be fair to the authors they did state that it wasn't their purpose for the volume).Where I wouldn't rate deSilva's volume as high as Carson and Moo's is in its use of assertions without adequate substantiation. In other words, I heard what he was saying, but I didn't understand why his view was right or wrong, since opposing arguments were not always given. All-in-all I think that deSilva's and Carson and Moo's introductions work will in tandem.

Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns

This volume was disappointing. Dr Enns comes right out in the beginning of his book asserting that it isn't intended to be academic, but rather to aid and encourage students who were looking for direction. This might have been my greatest frustration with his book. Is it responsible teaching to make assertions about such important issues without including any challenging arguments? I don't find this approach helpful since it recruits adherents who don't know all of the information, and attempts to make those who disagree feel ridiculous. Inspiration and Incarnation is entirely one-sided, and demeaning of mainstream evangelical scholarship. For a book that boasted a desire to be helpful to the discouraged, I don't think that Dr. Enns took enough care not to discourage students who might deal with the evidence and come to different conclusions.

A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren

This book is both properly and improperly titled. What McLaren is propagating is not new, but it is different; so different that I wouldn't call it Christian at all. McLaren's view of Scripture is so nebulous that I don't think that he could really assert anything meaningful from the Biblical text (even to support his own world-view). He denies human depravity, the fall, the existence of hell, and even the exclusivity of Christ. In the end of the book he questions whether "Christianity" is even a helpful term. I think for McLaren it isn't. For the most part McLaren's book is old liberalism repackaged for a post-modern audience. I would rename this book "A Generous Unorthodoxy" or maybe as one scholar has, "A New Kind of Apostasy." (I know that this is a harsh review, and it is not my intention to mock Brian McLaren. I do think that this book is unorthodox and harmful, and for that reason I have used as plain of language as I could to call it as I see it)

Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

I found this book to be insightful, though the title can be a little bit deceiving. The volume is indeed about the Emergent church, but it's about more than just that. DeYoung and Kluck did a great job of engaging the issues and controversies of contemporary and post-modern church life. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for clarity about what church should and should not be, and about what Christians should and should not be about. I have to note though that I enjoyed DeYoung's chapters more than Kluck's. As the author's note in the introduction, Kluck's chapters are there to help people who think DeYoung is boring, get through the book. Kluck at times came off as a bit antagonistic to me, and I thought DeYoung's portions were interesting enough. Not to say that Kluck didn't contribute to the book, I think he did, but I related better to DeYoung.