Archive for the 'Theology' Category

20
Aug
09

Theological Problems (If Any) With “Come Thou Fount”

Not too long ago I was discussing hymns with some friends and how we miss them sometimes and we were discussing our favorites. During the conversation someone brought up “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and the person said something to the effect of “I can’t stand that one” and acted quite disgusted at the thought of the song. But I responded “Oh, that’s my favorite hymn!” And that’s true, it is.

What rubbed my friend the wrong way about this great worship song of old is a stanza which comes in the latter half of the song:

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

More specifically it is the line “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love” that was the major point of contention. My friend declared that she had never felt that way as a Christian. Furthermore she believed that such a sentiment would indicate that a person may not be saved. How could you be securely and soundly saved through Jesus’ shed blood yet be prone to leave the God you love? A just question, I think.

So how about it? If you are ever or have ever sensed an inner wont to wander from the fold of God, does that mean there is something wrong with your spiritual life? I would say no.

Who among us is prepared to testify that “from the moment of my conversion right up until the present time I have never faltered or departed from the ways of God in thought, word or deed, nor have I ever been tempted to do so?” I have never gossiped, I have never criticized unjustly, I have never entertained an impure thought.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

We who are saved have been converted into the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. We have been reckoned sinless and without blame for He has washed our garments white as snow with His own blood (it is because of Jesus blood and righteousness and NOTHING that we have done or could have ever done). We have been declared righteous, sinless, blameless by grace through faith. But to say we never sin? I believe that we who are Christians are being conformed to the image of God’s Son and so as we proceed and grow in our Christian life we are to become less and less prone to sinfulness. We will indeed become more like Jesus. But this occurs by dying to ourselves, by taking up our cross daily and following Him. Everyday we must cry out “Lord! The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Take my heart, seal it up for yourself in your courts above; bind my heart to thee this day so that in thought, word and deed I might live a Christ-like life!”

I see nothing wrong with such a prayer, therefore I see nothing wrong with this great hymn’s third stanza. What say you?

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10
Apr
09

Good Friday

“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

For David speaketh concerning him, ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.’

Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.”

Acts 2:22-30 (King James Version)

04
Mar
09

Considering the Rapture and Millennium Through Catholic Eyes

I am always on the look out for materials that express how the early church (the first 3 centuries particularly) viewed certain doctrines that are the topic of debate in the modern church.  I found an article on the doctrines of the Rapture and the Millennium recently that I enjoyed.

Now this article is from a Catholic website.  I am not Catholic nor do I necessarily agree with all Catholic doctrines. I found the site when I performed a Google search to learn more about St. Augustine’s view of the Millennium The reason this site caught my attention is I think it is profitable at times to view some of our teachings (e.g. the Millennium and the Rapture) through non-Protestant Evangelical eyes.

I know that the attitude of many of my Protestant brethren toward Catholicism is a negative one and there may be a tendency to dismiss this article out-of-hand but, let’s face it, some of the greatest men of the faith have been Catholic. I have already mentioned St. Augustine. Surely you recognize the names of Thomas Aquinas, St. Athanasius, Brother Lawrence, Eusebius the Catholic historian, Jerome, and Justin Martyr, to name a few. So we can not reject wholesale any and all doctrines of the Catholic simply because they are held by Catholics. Catholics agree with Protestants on the nature of sin, original sin, salvation through Christ alone, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the sacrificial death of Christ, the Resurrection, the Second Coming, Heaven, and Hell among others. They are not wrong about everything any more than Baptists are wrong about everything—though both are wrong about some things, in my humble opinion. 🙂

I respect the Catholic church’s view on various topics because of the age of the Catholic church and studying the teachings of ancient Catholics like Augustine can teach us the views of some of the earliest saints.  Of course I admit that just because a doctrine is old does not make it right, for gnosticism is old but is most assuredly false and unscriptural.  However I do look with suspicion upon movements and doctrines that are very recent and I believe this is prudent. Enjoy.

01
Mar
09

Are You Emerging, Emergent or Neither?

In the comments for my recent post “Who Influences You?”, Steve and I had a brief exchange about the meaning of the “emerging” or “emergent” church.  At the time I used the terms synonomously however I have come to learn differently. Furthermore I have found that I myself may be emerging…a little anyway. I am still very, very evangelical in every other area.

I discovered this through a wonderful study done by C. Michael Patton over at Parchment and Pen.  He wrote a very helpful five part series entitled “Will the Real Emerger Please Stand Up?”  In it he defines terms (as best as can be done considering the topic at hand–read it and you will see what I mean), busts up stereotypes and helps folks better understand our emergent brothers in Christ.   He explains that a person may be emerging/emergent ecclesiologically, sociologically, theologically, epistemologically, or politically.  You may be emerging in only one area or two.  You may be emergent in four or all of the areas.

I have never received a straight answer on what being emergent means and that is simply because there is not an easy straightforward answer.  It is a movement or a philosophy or a way of viewing the Christian life.  Calvinism is the same way. You may believe in some tenants of Calvinist doctrine but not others.  I have jokingly said I am a “2.5 Point Calvinist.”  There are some who are all the way Calvinist like there are some (like Doug Pagitt) who are all the way emergent and that determines their worldview and the way they view God, the scriptures, evangelism, sin, faith and a host of other issues.

If you are confused about the emergent church or if you want to better understand “the conversation”, then you should really take time to read Patton’s series. The version I have linked to above has all of the parts on one page so you can read right through the whole thing.  You will find that there are some things about emergents that you were right about and probably some things about them you were wrong about. Either way the article will help you better evaluate this movement.

24
Feb
09

Beauty In the Status Quo

Let us not grow weary of living everyday lives.

The book of Acts is replete with what seem like daily miraculous occurrences. But that great book of scripture spans a period of about three decades. Also it took place during a time of upheaval and change as the apostles of Jesus were turning the whole world upside down. The Holy Spirit was being given with signs and wonders at various times and places. The gospel of the New Covenant was being shot into the arm of humanity and civilization. The earth shattering force that would shape future history was being established (“once more I will shake the Heavens and the Earth”). God’s promise of bringing His “other sheep” into true Israel was being fulfilled (John 10:26). Some who had been Jew in name only were being cut out and true Jews (according to the Spirit and circumcision of the heart) were being grafted in (Romans 11:24).

But there between the lines, in the in-between times were the faithful, the unheard-of, the unsung eking out a daily existence. They washed their linens. They made bread and cleaned the kitchen afterward. They fought off colds, worked with too little sleep some days, and started home improvement projects. Some days they were irritable and some days they thought everything was funny. They attended church weekly and sang songs together and heard teaching.

There were days when no miracle happened. Some weeks they simply did what they did everyday. There were weeks when the only spectacular thing that happened was someone got married or someone passed away.

In the in-between time, the only miracles they knew were that they had plenty to eat everyday or that they had brothers in Christ they could call on. Sometimes the only miracle these folks knew was that in that kitchen or in that church they could bow their heads, call on God, and be heard. Perhaps once in a while they noticed the miracle of the created order. The miracle of miracles, which is invisible, was the only one they could experience daily. This is the miracle that God became man, born under the law, that he might redeem man from the law of sin and death freeing them by the law of the Spirit of life. No flashes, no gasps, no shocking surprises–simply men and women being added to the Church daily and they, having been given access to the true Holy of Holies (Hebrews 10:19-22), were able to approach their Father any time, any place, even during the in-between time.

In the midst of the status quo, between the great trumpet blasts, the faithful were steady tunes playing on. And when the next miracle blast had passed they played on still. If they had lived only for the great whirlwinds, the bone-rattling earthquakes, the scorching fires of that first century they would have missed the still small voice that speaks continually to the ones who have ears to hear.

Strive not for what is past for it can not be reached;
Look not always to the horizon, the future can not be seen;
Reflect on what is gone, hope for what is ahead, but look for Him daily
In the times in between

Josh H.

20
Feb
09

Who Influences You?

Most Christians who seek to study the Bible and understand proper Christian living tend to have one or a few teachers that they gravitate toward in helping them along the way. I do not mean just their local pastor or Sunday School teacher. I mean that many Christians have a well-known Bible teacher they read or learn from via electronic media and that Bible teacher has great influence on the theology of that believer. And the believer will usually take on some degree of that Bible teacher’s position on nearly every issue.

I can name some now that people tend to gravitate toward. There is John Piper, John MacArthur, J.I. Packer, David Jeremiah, Alistair Begg, and Ravi Zacharias, to name a few. There are also teachers of the past that folks latch on to such as C.S. Lewis and St. Augustine but I am focusing on contemporary teachers here.

Until recently I would have said that C.S. Lewis is the only person I would name as a teacher that I consistently return to (other than my church pastor) in order to answer my difficult questions and the one from whom I continuously seek out understanding of God. Outside of this I pretty much considered myself a free-thinker. But that is not really true.

Over the last year and a half I have noticed that I have come to greatly respect the insight of another contemporary teacher. I am talking about R.C. Sproul.

R.C. Sproul is a Reformed, Five-Point Calvinist, cessationist, Augustinian Amillennialist Bible expositor whose teachings appear in print and audio media. Now if you compare the Sproul-in-a-nutshell list I have just given with my past writings then you will conclude that I do not agree with every jot and tittle of Sproul’s theology and you would be right. However I have come to greatly appreciate his understanding of theology and philosophy and history and the way in which he uses all three to come to a clearer understanding of the context, meaning, and message of the Holy Scripture.

I realized only recently how much I have come to respect Sproul’s interpretations and views when I was wrestling with a particular issue. I do not want to say what the issue was but it is something I have mulled over and over and over. I still have not come to a conclusion but I nevertheless turned to Sproul’s website to seek out his opinion for consideration. That is when I realized how much I respect his viewpoint.

So now I want to hear what contemporary teachers have influenced you in this way. If there are none then tell me someone from the past that you respect and typically refer to when considering the more difficult points of theology. Or if you think Sproul is a total bozo and that I should lean more towards the teaching of ___________, then let me know!

And do not pretend you are not reading. I have seen my stats and I know you are out there so give me some feedback. 😉

Josh H.

19
Feb
09

Jon Foreman and Kierkegaard

Cast of Characters

Søren Kierkegaard: a 19th century Danish philosopher from Copenhagen who decried the state-run church of Denmark.

Jon Foreman: a 21st century musician who is the lead singer, guitarist, and principle songwriter of the band Switchfoot.

Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard was an interesting man. He used everything from satire to pseudonyms to relate to the world his views on life, Christianity, God, people, and faith. He is most well-known for the assault he mounted against Christendom. Now it must be understood that Kierkegaard was no atheist. His beef was not with the theology of Christianity but with the Danish government’s control and regulation of the Danish State Church. He believed that such a state-church relationship ruined individuals and corrupted the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Even a cursory glance over the history of the church will reveal that any time the state controls religion there is corruption whereby political maneuvering replaces ministry and saints are made subject to governmental agendas.

On this week’s episode of the RELEVANT podcast (a weekly show produced and distributed by the editors of RELEVANT magazine) Dylan Peterson interviewed singer/songwriter Jon Foreman backstage before a show. Peterson is a fan of Søren Kierkegaard and was pleased to find that Foreman is as well. Peterson asked Foreman what draws him to Kierkegaard’s work?

In his answer Jon Foreman likens himself and his position to that of Kierkegaard. Foreman believes that the church in modern times “becomes a business” with its CD’s (which is interesting coming from a recording musician) and magazines (which is interesting since he was being interviewed by a Christian magazine editor) and “trinkets” such that the church today has become commercialized and institutionalized to such a degree that it is like the state-run church in Denmark in Kierkegaard’s day.

Now every organization, regardless of its nature, will at times be run like a business. A church administrator who is charge of using his parrish’s funds wisely must employ some economic and financial techniques and I say “what’s wrong with that!?” That is just good common God-given sense.

I believe Foreman is wrong when he makes such a link. Kierkegaard looked at the state-sponsored church and saw meaningless formality and a people void of a relationship with the Creator. Foreman criticized the church for using commercial means of evangelism and proclamation (CD’s, magazines, etc.). I believe that is the duty of Christians to take dominion in the name of Christ such that it is Christians who excel at music, literature, business, and every other endeavor because they are operating with excellence for Christ’s sake. Are we there yet? Oh no. But if we are not to use every means to propagate the gospel then what are we to do? I do not understand the link he is trying to make between the Denmark State Church and modern American Christianity.

Let’s have a show of hands. Who else is tired of “when in doubt, diss the church” Christians? It grates me almost as much as denomination dissing. Almost.

Believe me, I will be the first to admit that modern American Christendom has its problems. I believe too many Christians are irresponsible concerning their own faith (i.e. they do not seek to grow but expect a pastor to push them forward). However my first instinct when I hear church-dissing is “what have you done lately?” Really, when was the last time you heard Jesus or God mentioned in a Switchfoot song? Sure there are some veiled allusions to the Deity (such as the song “Stars”) but certainly no gospel.

I would say that if Jon Foreman thinks something stinks in Denmark (no pun intended) he should check the bottoms of his own shoes first. We all should. Stop complaining and start acting. Me? I know the issues the church has and I want to help eradicate those problems so that the Bride of Christ can look more like Christ’s bride. However 90% of my work to that end will be figuring out the best way to pry out this plank that has wedged itself firmly in my eye socket.

Josh H.




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