Friday, August 29, 2008

Am I a Good Person?

There are a few hypotheticals I like to give to people to gain a better understanding of their faith.  One of them is as follows:

Let’s begin by assuming that you’re in a room, a small rectangular room with two very long walls and two short walls, one of which is green and the other is blue, with 99 other people who claim faith in Christ.  You’ve never met them, they are to you complete strangers other than your familiarity with their confession of faith.  They range in age from just a child to the very elderly.  They each speak different languages, in fact not one speaks your language or another’s language.  The style of clothes is varied from rags to the most expensive of designer fashion.

Into this room walks another person who explains what needs to happen by handing out pamphlets, each in their own language, to each person.  The pamphlet simply requests the following:

“Order yourselves from least to greatest in terms of sinfulness, the most decrepit sinner in most need of Grace should be nearest the blue wall, the least sinful sinner needing the least amount of Grace, should be nearest the green wall.  Among your midst are those who have committed murder, rape, theft, adultery, and lies.  There are also those among you who have ministered to the poor, fed the hungry, visited those in prison, led others to Christ, and counted their lives forfeit for another.  The order is important because Christ is in the next room and will know if you get it right or not.  You have 5 minutes to get in line before Christ enters.”

You look up and people are beginning to take their place.  Where do you go stand?

I’m interested in their responses.  Everyone has a sense of his or her own sinfulness.  Some of us are great sinners.  Some of us have lived pretty good lives.  There’s little question that we all need God’s grace.  The question is how much grace we need.

So, how much grace do you need?

What God Requires of You by John Hendryx 06/16/03

Does Christ Ever Desire Women to Lead His Flock?

I imagine that title alone will attract some attention and derision.  I reference the below blog which examines the internal dispute over ordaining women into the office of deaconess in the PCA denomination.  My friends know and understand my position here.  Two things that are immediately noteworthy and applicable to Mennonites are: 1) the battle for women in leadership is everywhere; and, 2) the perception and complaint that men aren’t being the spiritual leaders and home and at church is everywhere as well.

It would be wonderful to hear from women on this issue.  Particularly, do women desire to lead at home or at church?  Secondly, are men failing in their role of leadership (spiritually) at home and at church?  If either answer is affirmative, I would be very interested in a woman’s opinion of “Why?”

Christianity: Doctrine and Ethics: The PCA and Female Deaconesses (I)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Julie Doesn’t Like ‘Authentic’ Church..

This blog entry by a nice young woman in North Dakota reflects one person’s impression of ‘Authentic’ worship.  A good friend and brother once remarked to me that in today’s churches ‘casual’ is equated to ‘authentic’ when in fact, there’s little to support the conclusion.  For example, consider Julie’s experience.  The minister wore casual clothes.  I’m not from Southern California, although I’ve visited many times, and I’m not from North Dakota, (I’ve only visited twice), but I would guess that in each state the minister would probably wear better clothes to a job interview.  My question to that pastor would be “Why?”

Why does he feel as though he should wear nice clothes to a job interview and not to church?

Anyway, Julie’s experience and frustration are interesting.  I wonder what her Christianity looks like?

Julie R. Neidlinger: Lone Prairie Art Works

Monday, August 25, 2008

Is the church today comprised of Pelagians working their way to heaven?

This article by Dr. R.C. Sproul examines Pelagianism, a teaching that denies the necessity of grace and original sin, and its existence in the heart of modern evangelicalism.  Before I read this, I would have described modern evangelicalism as Arminianist, and even semi-Pelagian.  But Dr. Sproul points out some very interesting inconsistencies in the thought of modern evangelicals which indicate more of a bent towards full out Pelagianism than semi-pelagianism.

In short, it is a good read for those wishing to better understand the evolution of the attacks against the Grace of God: those attempts which aim to introduce the work of man into the equation which results in a salvation that is, in the end, effected by man himself.

The Pelagian Captivity of the Church, by R.C. Sproul

Fire Breathing Dragons and Bombardier Beetles

To most Americans I am a simple minded person without the sophistication necessary to understand and grasp the proof and necessity of evolution; who chooses to remain in ignorance in dogmatic adherence (redundant?) to a set of religious beliefs which teaches myths of creation as ridiculous as Ovid’s Metamorphosis.  I am unapologetically a creationist.  I cannot see anything but the evidence of intelligent design everywhere I look.  The Bombardier Beetle is an example of the impossibility of natural selection or evolution.  The complexity of the beetle’s physiology is beyond anything we can duplicate in a lab with years and years of intelligent design (our design).  The only benefit to this beetle is the end product – the ability to shoot out hot gas from its body to deter predators.  Yet, none of the intermediate steps required by natural selection or evolution would provide this benefit, or presumably, any other benefit.  In fact, the intermediate steps would be hazardous to the beetle’s very survival.  The rules of natural selection and evolution would therefore rule out these intermediate steps.  Evolution teaches us that the Bombardier Beetle is impossible.  Yet, it does exist.

I recommend this article to those creationist friends of mine.  If you’re an evolutionist, I recommend you move on.  For I know from scripture that people reject God’s design and account of creation, not for evidences or theories, but because they have a small god and they have rejected the only true God.

Insects :: Incredible and Inspirational

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I found another sinner... God bless him!

I apologize that I just stumbled across this blog entry by Chris Rosebrough originally posted on June 6, 2008 apparently it was lost in the myriad of other things I research daily.  Chris’ thoughts are a challenge to his perceived emptiness of Pastor Rick Warren’s messages for sinners who are primarily interested in getting rid of sin instead of putting patches on it.  I can certainly empathize with Chris’ frustration with sin.  St. Paul once remarked that he was the chief of sinners, but I can assure everyone here (as can my family and friends) that he only got to say that because I had not yet been born.  And I’m not trying to be cute – I really do struggle with sin – a LOT.

The most helpful book I’ve read yet (other than the Bible of course) is a series of writing done by Dr. John Owen on Sin, particularly the work “Of the Mortification of Sin in the Believer’s Life”  After reading this book I am convinced that overcoming sin is possible.  1 John 3:9 is truth.  And the trite, but true, advice to repent is often inadequate without more.  I don’t suggest that the scriptural mandate to repent is incorrect or malaprapos.  But I do suggest that we as Christians live out repentance one to another daily (James 5:16-17; Hebrews 3:12-13).

In any case, the article investigates whether the “Purpose Driven” message offers anything to people interested in becoming Holy or if it is just a gimmick to a better temporal life.

Extreme Theology: Rick Warren Purpose Driven Critique – Does PD Preaching Have Any Good News to Offer Me?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Perfecting and Completing Faith

Earlier I had proposed the question, “If a man’s faith includes his own actions and will, can that faith save him?”

I have given the subject some thought and no little amount of study, although my study is imperfect and in need of much more formal training.  However, God has blessed my small efforts with some understanding.  The Holy Spirit brought to my attention two Scriptures that are encouraging in this examination, specifically Hebrews 12:2 and Philippians 1:6.

Hebrews 12:2 [...] looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

These two verses encourage me to remember that it is God who is at work within me both to will and to do His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13) Because our faith is imbued, endowed, created, sustained and supported by Christ himself, I can have confidence that the faith will grow to perfection.  More importantly, I can recognize with grace that faith can be imperfectly manifested in our corrupt flesh until such time as Christ perfects that faith and completes that work within us.

There is still the problem of confusion.  Faith in self looks a lot like imperfect faith in Christ.  Our Lord has said that we know a tree by its fruit.  The Holy Spirit wrote through James that faith produces works and we can know faith by these works.  Accordingly, I suggest now the answer to my question is most accurately:  “It depends..”

It depends on the source of the faith.  If the source of the faith within a man is Christ, then the impurity and corruption of including our own will is something that will be taken care of by Christ.  That faith will still produce good fruit.  That faith will save because it is from God.

If however, the source of the faith is in man, and the reliance is principally on man’s will and choices, then the impurity and corruption is the inclusion of Christ’s work.  That man’s master, the devil, will work to reduce and cleanse that man’s faith eventually as well.  In the end, that man will rely completely on his own good works, his own will and choices, himself as god to save himself.

Perhaps this is why the tares are allowed to grow with the wheat?  At first they both look a lot alike, almost indistinguishable.  To root up the tares risks uprooting the wheat as well.  Perhaps grace should be given to those, especially new in the faith or immature in their understanding, who add the impurity of man’s will to God’s work of salvation.  It is not an unforgivable error – after all, man’s will is set free to serve Christ by being born again.  And man’s will is exercised in obedience to Christ’s will and law.  Confusing a result of faith for the mechanism or means of faith is a childish error, but it is an easy one to make.

These are random thoughts..  please be patience as my understanding grows.  If I have written something imperfect (which I can be assured I have done) or ludicrous (which I suspect I have done at times) I pray the Lord forgives me and grants me opportunity to repent and spread truth.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Short Response to the Arminian Doctrine of Prevenient Grace

The author, John Hendryx, has eloquently discussed the difference in understanding between Grace as perceived by Arminians and Calvinists.  I commend this article to anyone who is interested in better understanding why someone who believe they chose God is worshipping a false god of man.  And I continue to wonder whether such an individual can be said to have accurate faith.

A Short Response to the Arminian Doctrine of Prevenient Grace … « Possessing the Treasure#comment-54107

Friday, August 15, 2008

When Doctrine Matters

I propose the query, is it possible for a person to be a Christian if they do not believe a man is saved by grace alone?  In other words, if they believe that something more than grace is required, whatever it be, however small it be, can they be said to have faith in God?  Is it possible that their faith is in both God and himself?

Faith is essential for salvation.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)  Faith is from Christ.  (Hebrews 12:1-2)  If that faith is corrupted, polluted with an addition by man, does that faith save?

The answer is easy when the ratio of faith in God to faith in man is small.  For example, if I believe that Faith in God is required, but not enough – indeed I am required to join the church, be baptized, take communion, receive confirmation, publicly testify, and live a life of at least 51% good deeds.. the omission of any of these sufficient to deprive me of salvation, then my faith is really in man, plus a small amount of faith in God.  But even that faith in God is a faith that God is going to help me..  fill in the blanks.. give me that final push over the wall.  I’m still saving myself, God is my co-pilot, he’s my best friend, he’s my buddy, he’s my salvation genie.

The question becomes more difficult, however, when the ratio of Faith in God and faith in man is higher.  Suppose for example that I believe that God saves, but that I need to do something small in addition – sort of like sealing the deal.  If I believe Salvation is a combination of effort between God and man, a cooperative venture.. wherein does my faith lie?  True enough, my contribution is small.. negligible.. laughable..  but it is required nonetheless.  In fact, in these belief circles it is a Sine Qua Non to salvation.  It is that which salvation cannot occur without.

In some beliefs, this contribution is baptism.  In others, it is public confession.  In others it is church membership.  In many it is formulaic prayer.  In most it is a decision and commitment.

When I ask people, as I often do, how they came to call themselves a Christian, overwhelmingly the most common response I get begins with the singular word “I”  Can a person be said to have faith in God, and believe that Salvation is by grace alone – not of the will of man, not of commitments, not of memberships, baptisms, confessions, but of faith alone.. if that person begins with “I”

There are those who may read this and be astute enough to argue thusly:  I could begin with “I” but be giving entire credit to God by beginning with my sin, e.g. “I was dead in trespasses, an enemy of God, continually rebelling against His will and His holiness when God, who chose me from my mother’s womb, in His good timing decided to reveal His Son in me…”   To that person, I concede.  But this is not my experience.  When people begin with “I” in my experience, it has always been to point out what they DID.  And their faith relies upon that ACTION of theirs.

Is that faith saving faith?  Is a person born again if they believe they became a Christian through a combination of effort by God and man?  Can a person be said to have faith if that faith resides in a great work of God and a small work of man? has commented on the Granger Community Church findings and the poster concluded that because 47% of the people at Granger believe that salvation isn’t by Grace, they are not Christians.  They are, in that poster’s opinion, false converts.

I used to take comfort in the idea that God saves and what we believe is not important.  A man might be an Arminianist, or a man might believe in the sovereignty of God.  But if a man has faith, what he believes is not important.  However, faith is what we believe.  If we believe Buddha saves, we can hardly be called a born again child of God.  But what if we believe Kevin saves… with a whole lot of help from God?  Is not that what I am saying if I believe I am born again because of a decision I made?