Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
I subscribe to several discussion forums and occasionally a comment made really puts me in a search mode to settle a matter that troubles me. A lot of groups and sects claim the mantle of Christianity while simultaneously rejecting the witness of our faith. Experience becomes the preferred mantle and biblical truths are thrust aside as lacking expediency for the intriguing questions of the day. For that matter, the Bible is often regarded as an obstacle to fellowship and ecumenical emergence. This very thought process spurred my search of what fuels my biblical faith. It had been a long time since I read through the words of William B. Pope and his Compendium of Christian Theology. I have a dusty collection of these volumes sitting somewhere else but fortunately our Nazarene friends have made his works (as well as many others) available on-line. In volume I of the Compendium, Pope offers what I find to be an excellent reflection of how our Bible and it's inspired contents reflect what he refers to as the Divine Rule of Faith. It is a wonderful affirmation of how precious the written and revealed word of God is to us and how it should never be regarded as an accessory to experience as some liberal and emergent groups might prefer.
CHRISTIAN Theology, as the science of Christianity, the one, perfect, and only Religion, is
based upon the documentary records of God's revelation of Himself and of His will in
Christ Jesus. Of necessity, therefore, its first inquiry should be directed to the nature and
authority of its Sacred Writings, which contain at once the historical development and the
finished result of the Divine revelations to mankind. One proposition gives here the
summary of the whole truth. The Holy Scriptures are the Divine Rule of Faith: a
statement which, unfolded, opens three departments of investigation. First, they are the
documents and the depository of the Christian Revelation, or the Christian Faith, which is
the consummation of all religious knowledge. Secondly, they are Divine in their origin:
the product of the Holy Spirit's inspiration. Thirdly, they are the Rule of the Faith, as
forming a body of canonical Scriptures, regulating forever the doctrine and teaching of
the Christian Church. Hence we derive the three great words which are the superscription
of the whole body of dogma concerning the written oracles of God: Revelation,
Inspiration, and Canon.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
1. As in the preceding disputation, we have treated on baptism, the sacrament of initiation, it follows that we now discuss the Lord's supper, which is the sacrament of confirmation.
2. We define it thus: The Lord's supper is a sacrament of the New Testament immediately instituted by Christ for the use of the church to the end of time, in which, by the legitimate external distribution, taking, and enjoyment of bread and wine, the Lord's death is announced, and the inward receiving and enjoyment of the body and blood of Christ are signified; and that most intimate and close union or fellowship, by which we are joined to Christ our Head, is sealed and confirmed on account of the institution of Christ, and the analogical relation of the sign to the thing signified. But by this, believers profess their gratitude and obligation to God, communion among themselves, and a marked difference from all other persons.
3. We constitute Christ the author of this sacrament; for he alone is constituted, by the Father, the Lord and Head of the church, possessing the right of instituting sacraments, and of efficaciously performing this very thing which is signified and sealed by the sacraments.
4. The matter is, bread and wine; which, with regard to their essence, are not changed, but remain what they previously were; neither are they, with regard to place, joined together with the body or blood, so that the body is either in, under, or with the bread, etc.; nor in the use of the Lord's Supper can the bread and wine be separated, that, when the bread is held out to the laity, the cup be not denied to them.
5. We lay down the form in the relation and the most strict union, which exist between the signs and the thing signified, and the reference of both to those believers who communicate, and by which they are made by analogy and similitude something united. From this conjunction of relation, arises a two-fold use of signs in this sacrament of the Lord's supper — the first, that these signs are representative — the second, that, while representing, they seal Christ to us with his benefits.
6. The end is two-fold: The first is, that our faith should be more and more strengthened towards the promise of grace which has been given by God, and concerning the truth and certainty of our being engrafted into Christ.
The second is,
(1.) that believers may, by the remembrance of the death of Christ, testify their gratitude and obligation to God;
(2.) that they may cultivate charity among themselves; and
(3.) that by this mark they may be distinguished from unbelievers.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
With the current state of the United Methodist Church in such disarray and its memberships plummeting, The Confessing Movement Within the Methodist Church has taken several bold stands over the years in various attempts to bring the once truly evangelical church for Jesus Christ back into the fold of a vibrant and orthodox body of Christ. It is a continuing and daunting task that encounters obstacles from several quarters. The liberal activist leadership of many of the UMC bloated and bureaucratic councils and committees have blocked several attempts to bring a reformation to the UMC. There is nothing left of what was once a wonderful youth program, having been destroyed by a social activist and radical swamp of neophytes who had no business or any call of God to take the reins of such endeavors. Over forty years of ruinous liberal and social justice platforms have sucked the life out of the United Methodist Church.
With diligent prayer and concerted efforts of a truly dedicated body of believers, the Confessing Movement continues attempting to make a difference in what can only be described as a dying church. The age of the average UMC local church is growing older. There are is nothing to speak of with regard to developing a church body that calls souls to the ministry. Young people are disappearing from the church. Memberships are stagnant and falling. In a word, the UMC is a mess. With these things at the forefront, the Renewal & Reform Coalition of the CM have shared their concerns with the church Bishops in the form of a stirring and passionate plea for repentance, reformation and a renewal of sound doctrine, mission and purpose. The letter should be a must read for Methodists and Arminians everywhere. It demands the fervent and availing prayers of Christians everywhere.
Friday, September 17, 2010
The Methodist Thinker has an excellent column written by Dr. Riley Case, Associate Executive Director of The Confessing Movement Within the Methodist Church. It addresses a recent study and findings submitted to the UMC Call to Action Steering Committee. The findings and Dr. Riley's comments go right to the heart of the very troublesome liberalism that has occupied some of my time recently. The UMC suffers from a horrible case of theological dissonance that has nearly destroyed their evangelical witness. It is an example of liberalism and social justice run amok for the past 40 years.
What is liberal theology other than the current flavor of the day? Yesterday, a liberal theologian imagined that God is not omniscient. The day before, an emergent pastor taught his class that Jesus is likened to a mountain top where many different theological paths and faiths converge into one glorious transmutation, er, transformation. Today, still another stalwart theologian stakes his liberal Christocentric worldview against the "pratfalls" of conservative orthodoxy. Round and around this continues until Methodists no longer affirm the deity of Christ, the Bible is regarded as an interpretive and dynamically changing document and a Baptist is no longer distinguishable from a Unitarian-Universalist. This has nothing to do with Arminianism although if graves could spin, that of Arminius might be a flying top.
I think we are reaching an approaching point where the church world looks upon a believer with a bible in his hand as one who fastens himself upon fables. Liberals would have us think the bible is to be interpreted rather than believed and interpreted through their rather clouded lens. Object to it and be a bigot. Withdraw from their pronouncements and wear the label of a disgusting fundamentalist. Preach orthodoxy and be told to get with the program. Today's church world is taken ill and liberalism seems to me to be the infection taken root at it's very heart.
... OK, that rant is over, time for supper.
You might be a Liberal Theologian?
● If you are prone to arguing there are 65 or 67 books in the Bible but certainly not 66.
● If books on evolution comprise one third of your personal library.
● If the most important Pauline doctrine is "I love you Yeah Yeah Yeah".
● If the world flood only covered your '66 Beetle parked next to the river in 1967.
● If the best sermon you thought you heard recently was preached by a gay Episcopal priest.
● If you can't decide whether to address God as Ms. or Ma'am.
● If you think the Bible is fallible because it left off the qualifier where Jesus said Go and sin no more than what you think you can get away with.
● If you think Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Birmingham police station in 1963.
● If you think William F. Buckley was a Southern Baptist.
● If you swear up and down that the Devil is real and looks exactly like the ghost of Jerry Falwell.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Monday, September 06, 2010
Over the past several years as an Arminian, I cannot begin to number the times I have had to dismiss the Calvinist argument that the new creation in Christ was made such through a secret regeneration that preceded faith, repentance and the baptism into Christ accompanied by that rising as a new creation to walk in newness of life. The scriptures cry out for a rebuttal of the Calvinist error. The Gospel intended for a lost and hurting world demands it. Yet, the insistence on the part of Calvinists continues with its purely aberrant doctrine. There is a convinced segment of Christians who truly believe that they were secretly born again without any evidence of faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I suppose such souls could come to that imperfection through a variety of sources but most seem to arrive there because they have been taught by pastors who have been taught by other pastors, many of whom base much of their beliefs on whatever the latest internet teacher has to say on the matter. The "young, restless reformed" of the Calvinist churches glean much of what they believe specifically from internet resources and few of them have ever cracked the spine of any original source book or document. If there is one in a hundred Calvinists who have ever read much of John Calvin's Institutes I would be surprised. Now to be fair, there are a LOT of Arminians who have not read Arminius, much of Wesley or any of the major non-Calvinist theologians over the years. I have tried to take another approach with my understanding of these matters by reading as much of the "opposition" as possible and that brings me to my selection here. This topic came up again as expected and I thought it might be best to keep a reference to this matter here on this Introspection.
John Calvin wrote a lot of stuff. Seriously, a lot of stuff and it would take a life time or more to digest it all. A lot of it is really good and some of it is, well, pretty confused. However, I think his confusion pales in comparison to the confusion of those who followed in his doctrines. The idea of men being regenerated prior to faith and repentance does not sit well with what Calvin specifically taught regarding the matter. In fact, Calvin's teaching on this matter as shown below is very similar to what a Reformed Arminian or General Baptist might agree with. Of course the young, restless, reformed follower might reply that he doesn't follow Calvin to which I might suggest he stop following James White or any number of internet hatchet sites as well. The following is taken from Calvin's Institutes and demonstrates that he was of the opinion that regeneration does not precede faith and repentance (there might be conflicting statements elsewhere although such would confirm Calvin's own confusion). Instead regeneration is defined by repentance that earlier in this book Calvin states follows faith (III, ch 3,i). … something to keep handy as you never know when the next assertion of the neo-Calvinist error will be made.
Both of these (faith and repentance) we obtain by union with Christ. For if we have true fellowship in his death, our old man is crucified by his power, and the body of sin becomes dead, so that the corruption of our original nature is never again in full vigor. If we are partakers in his resurrection, we are raised up by means of it to newness of life, which conforms us to the righteousness of God. In one word, then, by repentance I understand regeneration (spiritual regeneration) , the only aim of which is to form in us anew the image of God, which was sullied, and all but effaced by the transgression of Adam. So the Apostle teaches when he says, "We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord." Again, "Be renewed in the spirit of your minds" and "put ye on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Again, "Put ye on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him. Accordingly through the blessing of Christ we are renewed by that regeneration into the righteousness of God from which we had fallen through Adam, the Lord being pleased in this manner to restore the integrity of all whom he appoints to the inheritance of life. This renewal, indeed, is not accomplished in a moment, a day, or a year, but by uninterrupted, sometimes even by slow progress God abolishes the remains of carnal corruption in his elect, cleanses them from pollution, and consecrates them as his temples, restoring all their inclinations to real purity, so that during their whole lives they may practice repentance, and know that death is the only termination to this warfare. The greater is the effrontery of an impure raver and apostate, named Staphylus, who pretends that I confound the condition of the present life with the celestial glory, when, after Paul, I make the image of God to consist in righteousness and true holiness; as if in every definition it were not necessary to take the thing defined in its integrity and perfection. It is not denied that there is room for improvement; but what I maintain is, that the nearer any one approaches in resemblance to God, the more does the image of God appear in him. That believers may attain to it, God assigns repentance as the goal towards which they must keep running during the whole course of their lives. – Institututes, Book III, ch 3, ix
Saturday, September 04, 2010
This topic has risen in several discussions over the years and while I have some concerns and unsettled issues with Arminius' comments regarding baptism, his thoughts reflect the general Reformed consensus of his day. Whether one is sprinkled with water or immersed is still open to dispute today as is certainly the issue of baptizing infants and I remain unconvinced of either side in these issues although I tend to lean toward the Baptist denominational practice of baptizing only cognizant adults and children of age who consent to faith.
DISPUTATION 63 ON BAPTISM AND PAEDO-BAPTISM
1. Baptism is the initial sacrament of the New Testament, by which the covenant people of God are sprinkled with water, by a minister of the church, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost — to signify and to testify the spiritual ablution which is effected by the blood and Spirit of Christ. By this sacrament, those who are baptized to God the Father, and are consecrated to his Son by the Holy Spirit as a peculiar treasure, may have communion with both of them, and serve God all the days of their life.
2. The author of the institution is God the Father, in his Son, the mediator of the New Testament, by the eternal Spirit of both. The first administrator of it was John; but Christ was the confirmer, both by receiving it from John, and by afterwards administering it through his disciples.
3. But as baptism is two-fold with respect to the sign and the thing signified — one being of water, the other of blood and of the Spirit — the first external, the second internal; so the matter and form ought also to be two-fold — the external and earthy of the external baptism, the internal and heavenly of that which is internal.
4. The matter of external baptism is elementary water, suitable, according to nature, to purify that which is unclean. Hence, it is also suitable for the service of God to typify and witness the blood and the Spirit of Christ; and this blood and the Spirit of Christ is the thing signified in outward baptism, and the matter of that which is inward. But the application both of the blood and the Spirit of Christ, and the effect of both, are the thing signified by the application of this water, and the effect of the application.
5. The form of external baptism is that ordained administration, according to the institution of God, which consists of these two things:
(1.) That he who is baptized, be sprinkled with this water.
(2.) That this sprinkling be made in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Analogous to this, is the inward sprinkling and communication both of the blood and the Spirit of Christ, which is done by Christ alone, and which may be called "the internal form of inward baptism."
6. The primary end of baptism is, that it may be a confirmation and sealing of the communication of grace in Christ, according to the new covenant, into which God the Father has entered with us in and on account of Christ. The secondary end is, that it may be the symbol of our initiation into the visible church, and an express mark of the obligation by which we have been bound to God the Father, and to Christ our Lord.
7. The object of this baptism is not real, but only personal; that is, all the covenanted people of God, whether they be adults or infants, provided the infants be born of parents who are themselves in the covenant, or if one of their parents be among the covenanted people of God, both because ablution in the blood of Christ has been promised to them; and because by the Spirit of Christ they are engrafted into the body of Christ.
8. Because this baptism is an initiatory sacrament, it must be frequently repeated; because it is a sacrament of the New Testament, it must not be changed, but will continue to the end of the world; and because it is a sign confirming the promise, and sealing it, it is unwisely asserted that, through it, grace is conferred; that is, by some other act of conferring than that which is done through typifying and sealing: For grace cannot be immediately conferred by water.