Archive | August, 2008

The Intellectual Crisis of Today's Church

The central motivating factor in my ministry over the last ten years has been the need for Christians to engage the intellectual side of the faith with more confidence, hope, and joy. I began The Theology Program in 2001 which now is in hundreds of churches and has effected tens of thousands of people. I can barely keep up with the demands of this ministry as its need and potential becomes more evident each and every day.

The intellectual side of Christianity.

With all of this success, one inevitably finds those who continue to place much needed anchors in my mission. While I believe what I am doing has been given to me by God, I also understand that the intellect is not all there is. In fact, while I want to produce more confidence, hope, and joy in the lives of believers, I also want to instill a deep sense of humility. Theology done right should always produce a confident humility. Theology done wrong produces an ironically insecure emotional confidence that is made up of what I call “cut-and-paste” theology and apologetics (“just give me the answers, I don’t care how we get them”). Continue Reading →

Zach Nielson Wrestles with the Question, “Why Blog?”

Interesting observations Zach makes in light of some ways blogging can be counterproductive to the Christian community:

1. Practice writing. Writing is a skill just like anything else. The more you do the better you get. The ability to formulate ideas and thoughts in a concise and understandable way is a foundational facet of our civilization that I seek to improve in. The truth is though I don’t have that many great things to say (if ever), so I usually point to great things that others have said. But when I do choose write my own thoughts I find that this a valuable process to hone the skill of writing.

2. A place to document my thoughts. Oftentimes I don’t know how I feel about an issue until I actually articulate it in a way that someone else could read and understand (as I am doing right now). It forces me to think specifically and concretely about something as opposed to just have this amorphous blob of thinking about an issue rolling around in my brain. In terms of documentation, I also have a blog all about my kids that tracks their development. It functions like a baby book but better because I can upload pictures, videos and write out quickly and easily things that they said or did that we’ll want to remember in 20 years. For certain, grandparents who live hundreds of miles away greatly value this blogging.

Read the rest.

(There’s a link for you Zach ;) )

Do Catholics Deny Chalcedon in their View of Mass?

I know that the title is provocative, but please understand that I am serious in this question. At this point, I believe that it is very difficult for Roman Catholics who hold to Transubstantiation (is there any other kind of Roman Catholic!) to find harmony with a basic principle in the Definition of Chalcedon. In other words, I believe that Catholics are at odds with some essential elements of orthodox Christology.

Having said that, it may be that I am misunderstanding things (this would not be a first).  So I write this post with the intention of informing my audience of a very intriguing issue, giving them a better look at Chalcedonian Christology, and giving an opportunity to Catholics to give an answer to this issue (if there are any that happen by—and there usually are).

I am going to explain the issue and I want all of you to hang with me through some deep waters. I will try to navigate you to a point where you understand why I believe (tentatively) that Catholics deny Chalcedon because of their view of Mass.

Component #1:

Orthodoxy has historically claimed that Christ is fully God and fully man. This is not an arbitrary pronouncement or belief, but is one that is central to an understanding of the Gospel.

Short history lesson. Continue Reading →

Christianity in a Nutshell

In the beginning, God created man. When he was created, he was pure and holy. He was created for a purpose. God, the one true sovereign and benevolent being, created man in order to give of His loving nature. But man was deceived by evil and fell into sin. This sin affected man and all of his offspring to the point that he was no longer able to serve God as he was created to. He hated God by nature. . .

But God did not abandon man. Nor did He abandon all the hopes and plans that He had for man. Instead, He made a promise. This promise involved a covenant to redeem man from his fall into sin and restore him to the dignity and hopes that He had originally desired. He told Eve (the first woman) that, despite the fall, He would send One who would crush the head of the serpent, even as the serpent crushed his heel (Gen. 3:15). This promise was to send a Redeemer who would, essentially, clean up the mess by undoing what they had done.

In order to accomplish this, many years later, He made another promise to an idol worshiper named Abraham. He promised Abraham that he was going to bless the world through him. He said that kings and rulers would come from him. Most importantly, He said that the Redeemer would come through his line. Through Abraham, God created a nation and called it Israel. To this nation, God made a covenant to be their God and to spread His Word through them. They were the entrusted vessels of God’s message. Through the nation of Israel, God further confirmed and extended His promise through a young shepherd boy named David. To David, God gave the kingdom of Israel. He also covenanted to send the Redeemer through David’s line.

In spite of the rebellion and constant betrayal of His chosen people, Israel, God covenanted yet again, and, again, further extended the blessing that began in the Garden. This time He said that He was going to change people’s hearts by making them become more like Him. In His words, “I will write my law upon their heart and I will be their God” (Jer. 31:31-33).

Five hundred years later, God sent the One whom He had covenanted to send, and this One, as it turned out, was His own Son. He was both everything that God is and everything that man was, yet without sin. To the dismay of many, He did not set up the Kingdom as they thought He came to do, but He first set up a Kingdom in the hearts of His people by dying on a cross and purchasing their redemption from sin and betrayal. After His death, He rose again, showing that the redemption was accomplished. He undid what Adam had done.

After His resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, who is also everything that God is, to indwell all those who believed and followed the Redeemer, so that they would have power to spread the message of redemption. He entrusted to them the Gospel message, as it came to be known, and called them the Church.

The Church, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, is now the bearer of the Good News of God’s covenanted redemption. They are His representatives here on the earth. God the Son told the Church to tell others about Him until He comes back. When He comes back, He will then set up His Kingdom and destroy all evil and death, the final foe. The Church now eagerly awaits His coming, as they fight for the Kingdom.

In Defense of Seeker Churches

A guest post by Daniel Eaton at Theologica. Being from Dallas Seminary, we were breed to loath seeker churches. :) Yet I do have my thoughts as well that I will follow this up with. I look forward to your interaction.

I think there is a growing schism in the American church. The schism isn’t over theology, but methodology. A growing number of “seeker friendly” churches are on one side, and a firmly entrenched group of traditional churches are on the other. The increasing shrillness about the “seeker friendly” format somehow reminds me of church splits over what kind of music or musical instruments in the church. I think a lot of it comes down to a view that if it worked for my Grandad’s generation, then three hymns, a choir number, a sermon about the dangers in our society, and 27-stanzas of Just As I Am should be sufficient today. It’s the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

But the problem is that it *is* broke. That format no longer appeals to the masses. That method is becoming harder and harder to use in order to get the message out. The sad truth is that the average tattooed or pierced unsaved person does not feel welcome or accepted if they attend the traditional church. It is an atmosphere of condemnation of those that don’t dress or look like everyone else there. This unsaved Seeker isn’t going to stick around. Instead, he is going to leave with a sense that the Christian church is full of a bunch of condemning hypocrites. Continue Reading →

The Theology Program Online Classes Start Today

Fall 2008 Semester
please note, this is online students only

to find out more about the online program, go here

Introduction to Theology
Course Description
Instructor: C. Michael Patton, ThM.
Online meeting dates: Tuesday 7pm – 8pm EST, Aug. 26 -�Oct.28
Prerequisites: none
Enroll now
Bibliology and Hermeneutics
Course Description
Instructor: C. Michael Patton, ThM.
Online meeting dates: Tuesday 8pm – 9pm EST, Aug. 26 -�Oct.28
Prerequisites: none
Enroll now
Humanity and Sin
Course Description
Instructor: C. Michael Patton, ThM.
Online meeting dates: Tuesday 9pm – 10pm EST, Aug. 26 -�Oct.28
Prerequisites: IT, BH, TR (exception made for those who have not taken TR)
Enroll now
Ecclesiology and Eschatology

Course Description

Instructor: C. Michael Patton
Online meeting dates: Tuesday 10pm – 11pm EST, Aug. 26 -�Oct.28
Prerequisites: IT, BH, TR, HS, SO (exception made for those who have not taken TR or SO)
Enroll now
Christian Apologetic MethodsCourse Description Instructor: Robert Bowman, Jr.
Online meeting dates: Tuesday 10pm – 11pm EST, Aug. 26 -�Oct.28
Prerequisites: None
Enroll now

Spread the word!

The Future of Theological Education 1

If you are like me, you are concerned about the future of the church and its ability to define and distinguish itself (most particularly, the Evangelical church). While God is in control of all things, we have a responsibility as Christians to see to it that we are doing everything we can to discharge the Gospel in a faithful way. We are to make disciples, not simply converts.

We are suffering from the dumbing down of truth in favor of entertainment, professionalism, and a general apathy toward truth and intellectual discipleship. Being so concerned with what the outside world thinks the moment they enter the church, we have lost site of who they are years later.

We are scared of big words, concepts, and intellectual challenges because we fear that those who hear them will cry “arrogance” or will simply leave our gathering in favor of one that plays the game at a elementary level. We fear our passions believing that they will facilitate a separatist mentality that will not be accepted among our postmodern youth who value a pluralistic approach to truth rather than the previous generation’s exclusivism.

I am not saying that there is not value in entertainment. I like to laugh and have fun. I am not saying that we should not value the excellence of professionalism. We should do all things to the best of our ability to the glory of God. And I am not saying that we should not be sensitive to the culture and its general suspicion of all truth claims. We all have been burnt in the past. But when we live in fear of those whom we are supposed to lead, the leader becomes the follower and the follower becomes the leader.

more to come…

Calling someone a heretic—thoughtfully!

How does one determine if someone is a heretic? Is this a word that should be used today when Christianity seems to be so pluralistic with regards to levels of commitment, beliefs, and practices?

Today’s theological word of the day (which I write :) ) says this about heresy:

“An opinion, belief, or doctrine that is in variance to an established belief of a particular tradition. In Christianity, a heresy can have a historic value (more serious) or traditional value. In other words, a belief can be considered heretical to Baptists (e.g. paedeobaptism), but is not heretical in the historic sense. To be a historic heresy, it would have to be in variance to that which has been believed by the majority of Christians of all time (e.g. the deity of Christ).”

Because many of us use the word heresy in such a cavalier or domineering way, it has begun to lose its value. At least once a day, it seems, I hear someone calling someone else a heretic for something that is not really deserving of the term. These will say someone is a heretic for being too strong of a Calvinist, for believing theistic evolution, for saying that drinking alcohol is not a sin, for denying inerrancy, or for denying their version of free will. Soon, I am sure I will hear that jumping too high on the trampoline will be considered heresy. Continue Reading →