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“Belief is No Good Without Practice” . . . and Other Stupid Statements (Part I'm Done)

Belief is no good without practice is a stupid statement. Yes, I have read James (once or twice).

My argument has been pretty simple so far. God is glorified when he is known truly. God is glorified by our trust in what he says. It is God’s great pleasure to reveal himself to his children. God is glorified when he is known and understood. God desires orthodoxy and right belief.

But some of my comments have made some people very uncomfortable, especially this one (emphasized in italics):

I was in a small group venting about my expository preaching class ten years ago. I said, “They are trying to get me to pull out direct immediate application—something for the people to do—out of every sermon.” I complained about this. My group of young seminarians were divided. I told them that not only were some passages of Scripture not able to produce direct immediate application without sinful manipulation, but sometimes, I told them, “God simply wants us to believe what he said. This is application enough!

In our Evangelical/emerging climate, we have those who seem to have come to some sort of personal epiphany about the problem with the church. “Doctrine divides and causes problems.” Fair enough. “Christians have the tendency to have an arrogant attitude about doctrine, systematically condemning those who don’t agree with them on everything and, in doing so, fail to express love. They elevate correct doctrine above love.” Agreed. “Therefore, we should quit talking about doctrine and just love each other.” Time out! Love without truth is not Christian.

“But what does being doctrinally correct actually do? How can it help the world today? How does it alleviate oppression? How does it feed the hungry? How does it promote equality? And what about the environment?”

You see? There you go again. You think that this life is about you. You think it is about man. You think that if it does not effect the world within the next hour or day or week, according to your standards, it is a bad stewardship of your time.

“Belief is no good without practice.” Translation in our generation: “Since right belief (doctrine, systematic theology, understanding, etc) does not evidence itself in practical matters immediately and causes people to be arrogant, we should not even worry about belief at all and just get out there and “do” what we know is right. Orthodoxy is bad. Orthopraxy is good.”

This fails to understand that right belief itself is the application—the ultimate application. How so? Because belief will always produce of itself. This belief will sometimes evidence itself in ways that are immediate and sometimes in ways that become an integral part of a person’s life and personality. (Hang with me).

Let me give some examples of beliefs that are easy to apply immediately:

We should do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

We should forgive one another.

We should carry each others burdens.

We should seek justice for the weak.

But what about the beliefs that don’t seem to be tagged with this type of immediate application? What about God’s sovereignty? God’s nature? Human sinfulness? The second coming? What about the genealogies of the Bible? What about the doctrine of creation ex-nihilo? What about the canon of Scripture, the definition of predestination, the flight to Egypt (all of them), the historicity of the Bible, the arguments for God’s existence, the doctrine of sola Scriptura, sola fide, the Reformation, or hell and the wrath of God?

“Sorry Michael. Our generation, through a series of epiphanies, has made those teachings and beliefs off-limits because of their counter-productive tendency to divide. Plus, they don’t have any direct application to our lives. If someone is to have an opinion about them, lets just keep it at that—an opinion.”

The problem with this line of thinking is that it puts God in the practical application box of our own design. We get out easy by calling foul with regard to doctrine. But, in the end, we end up with a load of rubbish that exiles God to the unknowable. The acceptable “application” of our generation could be applied to any religion. There is nothing distinctly Christian about them. When we do this, we tell God that since his revelation only has limited application we are going to wear selective earplugs while listening.

I believe that all good is defined by the degree which we listen to, understand, and believe the whole council of God, both in his world and in his Word. I also believe that when we say that what you believe about doctrine does not matter as much as what you do, we have fundamentally misunderstood, misdefined, and mishandled what belief means. In doing so we are creating an artificial preservative that we are trying to dress up like the real thing, but whose substance has limited shelf-life.

When we listen to God, when we prioritize truth, doctrine, understanding, and belief, when the time is right, you will see that we have changed, not from the outside in, but from the inside out. We are what we believe, not what we do. This is Christianity 101. It is about belief first. Belief must have content.

For example, take the Theology Proper (the doctrine of God). God has revealed himself as one who is the creator of all things, who transcends all of creation, being holy, unchangeable, without any need whatsoever (aseity), who loves man but will not let the unrighteous go unpunished. It is only when we have intellectually wrestled with and reflected upon it that we can recognize his majesty. It is only when we recognize his majesty that we can recognize our sinfulness, hopelessness, and helplessness without him. It is only by doctrine—right doctrine—that we can come to a state of brokenness. It is only in this brokenness that we can worship him truly. This belief—when truly understood and believed—will produce a fragrance of a character which is in conformity to Christ. Call the fragrance “application” if you will, but it is only present because of an understanding and belief.

But what you must understand is that this brokenness is application. It is not the place holder for application that will come later.

It pleases God to be known as Trinity. Knowing God is application.

Worship is expressed as the deepest longings of our heart are fulfilled by coming to know our creator and all that he has revealed to us and we rejoice in this knowledge.

We need to recognize that giving people the truth is our first priority. The fragrance produced by this truth will be inevitable. It is the nature of belief to find expression. I can’t always tell you exactly what this expression will look like and in what manner it is identified. But the belief is the foundation. The belief brings great glory to God. Belief is always enough.  So long as it is true belief, the fragrance will permeate from us. If it does not, then the belief is not there.  This is what James meant: “Belief is not true belief when it does not have a fragrance.” But he was not trying to elevate the action above its source.

Will there be people who believe—truly believe—but don’t have this fragrance? No. Never.

What is our mission? To do our part to make God known. Truth, orthodoxy, belief, and understanding are foundational to Christianity as the substance is foundational to the aroma produced.

38 Responses to ““Belief is No Good Without Practice” . . . and Other Stupid Statements (Part I'm Done)”

  1. Although I agree with your conclusion, the tone of this writing seems far too accusatory. The way you state this makes me want to disagree, whether truthful or not.

  2. I don’t think Michael sound accusatory. I think he sounds passionate. He feels deeply about this and wants people to understand what he is saying and why it is important.

    ***

    What about God’s sovereignty? God’s nature? Human sinfulness? The second coming? What about the genealogies of the Bible? What about the doctrine of creation ex-nihilo? What about the canon of Scripture, the definition of predestination, the flight to Egypt (all of them), the historicity of the Bible, the arguments for God’s existence, the doctrine of sola Scriptura, sola fide, the Reformation, or hell and the wrath of God?

    I think these are hugely important. They shape our thinking in enormous ways. How we think about the world affects how we respond to it. Major changes to our perceptions can come from the right answers to these questions. They can drastically change what we think about things and how we action the problems in the world. If our thinking is wrong our concern for the world in the more immediate problems can be actioned in ways that actually exacerbate the problem, or divert our attention away from that which is truly important.

    For example, the issue of genealogies can change what we think about chronology and how we perceive biblical versus secular chronology and thus we will see that monotheism arose from polytheism which antedated it and draw conclusion about why God says such to the Israelites; else we will see that monotheism is primary and polytheism is the response on men who abandon God and draw different conclusions.

    You give the hypothetical question, “And what about the environment?” But that question cannot be answered without addressing these other indirect issues. Many Christians who care about the environment have completely opposite approaches to the problem and devote their energies to the issue in ways that are contradictory. Some subscribe to climate change and encourage people to sign up to Kyoto and similar solutions. Others deny it and see these political machinations as hugely detrimental to the poor.

    I don’t wish to derail the thread into addressing these issues, I just think that foundational beliefs strongly affect how one performs these more direct commands such as justice, helping the poor, carrying burdens.

    So while I may not completely agree with all your post, I certainly think you are right that right belief has benefits. I think they may even be less indirect than you suggest.

  3. “I don’t think Michael sound accusatory. I think he sounds passionate. He feels deeply about this and wants people to understand what he is saying and why it is important.”

    Having read Michael for quite a while now, I believe the above statement is 100% true!

  4. Truth Unites... and Divides March 13, 2009 at 5:05 am

    “Orthodoxy is bad. Orthopraxy is good.”

    This fails to understand that right belief itself is the application—the ultimate application.

    Excellent CMP, excellent. Highest kudos. I have read several cogent refutations of the “Deeds, not Creeds” screeds that are often shouted out by the Evangelical Left, the mainline liberals, and the Emergers, and yours is just as good, if not better, than the others.

    “We need to recognize that giving people the truth is our first priority.”

    Agreed. Thank you.

    ;-)

  5. Good stuff, Michael.

    Thanks

  6. CMP: You say: “God desires orthodoxy and right belief.” I ask whose orthodoxy and whose right belief? And where on your ring chart (of essential beliefs) have we gone far enough to start expecting some evidence of what one believes?
    You say: “Translation in our generation: “Since right belief (doctrine, systematic theology, understanding, etc) does not evidence itself in practical matters immediately and causes people to be arrogant, we should not even worry about belief at all and just get out there and “do” what we know is right. Orthodoxy is bad. Orthopraxy is good.”” I say bad translation and arrogant manipulation of what has actually been said.
    You list a bunch of doctrine, suggest those focused on practice don’t care about any doctrine, and then conclude with: “The problem with this line of thinking is that it puts God in the practical application box of our own design. We get out easy by calling foul with regard to doctrine. But, in the end, we end up with a load of rubbish that exiles God to the unknowable. The acceptable “application” of our generation could be applied to any religion.” I ask since when is modeling Jesus a bunch of rubbish? How is an example of love rendering God unknowable? And how can Christ’s death and ressurection as reason for my behavior be applied to any other religion?
    You state: “For example, take the Theology Proper (the doctrine of God). God has revealed himself as one who is the creator of all things, who transcends all of creation, being holy, unchangeable, without any need whatsoever (aseity), who loves man but will not let the unrighteous go unpunished. It is only when we have intellectually wrestled with and reflected upon it that we can recognize his majesty.” BEEEEEP! Wrong. I can recognize (know, experience, sense) His majesty without intellectually wrestling. I can see, hear, smell, feel, taste and know.
    You continue: “It is only when we recognize his majesty that we can recognize our sinfulness, hopelessness, and helplessness without him.” Perhaps.
    Then you say: “It is only by doctrine—right doctrine—that we can come to a state of brokenness.” Again I disagree. My mind does not have to lead. I am able to be broken through experience that reaches outside of my reasoning mind and that experience can then inform my thinking.
    You say: “It is only in this brokenness that we can worship him truly.” I agree but I do not agree that that brokenness must (or can only) come from intellectual assent, nor do I agree that intellectual assent will automatically result in changed behavior.
    You say: “Will there be people who believe—truly believe—but don’t have this fragrance? No. Never.” I conclude that if by your poetic fragrance you mean application we have a very few true believers.
    CMP: You want to manipulate this argument so that you only have to win against the extreme. In reality most folks live in the middle. Most of us who advocate more practice are not excluding belief and understanding. We are simply saying we want a little evidence that His followers (those who believe) are following.

  7. Doctrinally correct has hurt a lot of people. I have been verbally cursed at by a man from the Church of Christ and a Muslim man…both wanting me to prove Jesus saves. There was really no difference in the men.

    They were both trying to make an understanding of something they did not understand. One asked me to go out and raise the dead out of the cemetery and the other asked me how Jesus is going to “save” someone who jumped off a building.

    We have a religion that is so unique that it actually encourages a relationship with our religious figure, as opposed to Islam that teach a great deal of doctrine, but God can’t waste time in talking to the individual adherents. When your basis is doctrine, you have an educational religion, opposed to what the Bible teaches about relationship. But, doctrine in the church is necessary if one wants to be unified with others of like-mindedness, because it is terrible to have a bunch of people running around doing their own thing in the church.

    The verse that deals with doctrine also includes reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. But like the rich young ruler proclaimed, he kept the commandments from his youth and was still lacking.

  8. Dr. Paul W. Foltz March 13, 2009 at 9:50 am

    True belief always leads to true practice. When a person says he is saved, but never goes to church, never yields his life to the Lord, he has deceived himself. Oh he may have made ”a decision for Christ,” or made ”a profession of faith” but that is all it is.

    One cannot be saved that way. God has to quicken a dead sinner, bring him under Holy Spirit conviction, bring him to an end of himself, before God grants him the faith to trust the Lord, and repentance.

    When one is saved, Good practice will be the natural outflow.

  9. I agree that truth, and knowing and believing truth, has value both as an end in itself and as a means to the end of the production of good practice. However, CMP’s assertion that correct belief has more value than correct belief is wrong. Flat out wrong. Aside from James, the four gospels should be sufficient evidence that CMP is wrong. Moreover, when rewards from God are discussed in His revealed Word, it is with reference to deeds, not beliefs.

    It is, of course, obvious that adults do not function without beliefs and that therefore any relationship with Jesus involves beliefs. However, one can have a significant, productive and vibrant relationship with Jesus with only a modest amount of propositional beliefs about him. Jesus first disciples stopped what they were doing and followed him and were sent out without the extensive set of doctrine that we now possess. The key is being indwelt by the Spirit and obedient to Christ.

    It is also true that not all beliefs about Jesus are equivalent. The doctrinal terrain is not flat. There are core, key, beliefs and beliefs that are less critical and more peripheral. Does it make a squat of difference whether one is sprinkled or immersed? Hardly.

    Furthermore there are significant points of doctrine that will not be resolved in the near future, such as concepts of predestination.

    Lastly, CMP’s provocative title has, over the course of three posts, been entirely emptied of meaning. First, as has been demonstrated in a number of earlier comments, there are interpretations of his caption that are possible, relevant, correct and not stupid. Second, he has redefined “belief” to mean “true belief that will result in and does produce good works in circumstances where it is possible to do works”. As Michael writes: “Friends, if people believe correctly—and I mean truly believe—they will act correctly when the situation calls for it.” So, in fact, it is not a belief that is possible to hold without also having works. Third, Michael has in view practice that results from correct belief, otherwise he views the actions as either humanitarion or skubula. Thus his statement has no content, except as one that plays on its equivocal potential in order to be provocative and allow him to write about the importance of doctrine.

    Given that his posts over stress the value of doctrine to the point that he not only fails to distinguish between doctrines of greater and lesser value and certainty, but that he goes so far as to say, “Belief, truth, doctrine, theology, and, yes, being correct, is more important than all the good works one can ever practice” (wrong), his posts do not effectively or appropriately advance his concern that many parts of American Christianity denigrate the learning of the meat of God’s truth.

    regards,
    John

  10. As one that came out of a church situation where correct Biblecal doctrine became secondary to “experience”, I know the need for keeping our doctrine strong and Biblical. Otherwise, just about anything can happen and is some circles does.

    Both Jesus and and apostles stressed over and over the need to keep our doctrine correct Biblically, so it is obviously a very important issue.

  11. I’ve yet to comment on this inflammatory and (at times) specious postulation . . . and since I’m about to quote others, I still am not actually commenting. (I’m sure you’ve all been holding your collective breath awaiting my exemplary insight.)

    But I obviously agree with the follow.

    From Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus by Kyle Snodgrass. This is taken from his discussion on the parable of the two builders in Mt 7.24-27 and Lk 6.47-49:

    Does the teaching of this parable fit with Christian salvation theology? It might be better to ask if today’s salvation teaching fits with the teaching of Jesus. As Miroslav Volf complained, “We may believe in Jesus, but we do not believe in his ideas.”

    It is not the parable that is wrong but our understanding of the gospel. Christian salvation teaching often emphasizes faith apart from works, which is translated as ‘belief in certain doctrines without any action.’ This is a distortion of Paul’s theology, does not fit with NT teaching at all (which everywhere stresses behavior), and produces an abysmal result and an awful witness. Jesus stresses doing (as do Paul and every other NT writer), especially in the Sermon. A glance at comments from scholars starts to do justice to Jesus’ intent and sabotages the “no requirement” salvation teaching.

    “Christ opens the way into life for those who do righteousness; he helps those, but only those. Christ gives his grace to the doers of the word. Any ethics of intention which is not willing to be measured by its fruit comes to ruin in view of this conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. Praxis alone is important . . . Standing or falling in the judgment depends on this praxis.”

    “Thus it is not just that the hearing of Jesus’ words is supposed to be followed up with appropriate action; rather, only in action does proper hearing take place.”

    “The enormous frequency of this verb (‘to do,’ poiein) in Luke 6.20-49 reveals the great importance given by Jesus to the practice of his teachings.”

    “Everything depends on action . . . everything depends on obedience.”

    The parable [of the two builders] insists that we change our salvation theology so that it conforms to Jesus’ teaching and focuses rightly on a relation with Jesus that produces action.

  12. I would add to Dr. Mike’s comment the following quote of 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,16 so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.” Hmm, done with the body, not believed with the mind. Hmmm.

    regards,
    John

  13. Dr. Paul W. Foltz March 13, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Dr. Mike;
    The parables of Jesus were given to the Jewish nation, not to the
    Church. He lived labored and died under the Dispensation of Law.

    The Church began at Pentecost, ushering in the Disoensation of grace.

    Failure to rightly divide the word of truth is the source of your problem.

    In His Grace,
    Dr. Paul

  14. Well, it’s one of our problems, isn’t it, Dr Paul?

    If this parable is not descriptive of an eternal principle or is somehow inconsistent them of Jesus’ teaching, then I confess I am “wrongly dividing the word of truth,” as Ironsides used to say.

    But if I am not a rigid or hyper-dispensationalist, I understand that the teachings of the gospels and even the Sermon on the Mount do apply to me as a mere Gentile believer.

    So, to reiterate, one of us certainly does have a problem, doesn’t he?

  15. Whatever happened to editing comments?

    This makes me look more grammatically or logically retarded than is necessary or accurate.

  16. I’m amazed and saddened that readers here do not seem to really get what Michael is saying in this series of posts. It seems that the very word ‘doctrine’ has come to have a very negative connotation among many…. to the extent that it evokes a knee-jerk, negative response by it’s mere appearance.

    Jesus is God’s son. Divine.
    Jesus is both fully man, and fully God.
    Jesus died on the cross.
    Jesus rose from the dead.
    Jesus forgives sin.
    Jesus will come again.

    Those are all doctrines. If a person does not understand these doctrines, there will no doubt be deficiencies in his life which reflect this lack of understanding. One can’t even be saved without belief in most of these doctrines.

    Michael has again written a very God-honoring, Christ-centered post here. Personally, I find it very inspiring. It makes me want to devote myself to knowing Jesus all the more completely…..”grow in the grace a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ”. Understanding correct doctrine (the truth about God…. about Jesus), is essential if we are going to have any real discernment. It takes discernment to make wise choices about what we are to DO to serve God and others. Without a growing understanding of God, we will easily waste our time doing deeds which aren’t necessarily the best use of our time and resources. Michael is not saying that what we do doesn’t matter. It’s annoying that some here twist his words to insinuate that. He is saying that good doing….. really meaningful, purposeful good-doing, flows from a heart that really knows and loves God. We grow in that love as we learn more about Him, and make Him the priority focus of our lives. Heb. 12… “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”

    Mike, you mentioned Matt. 7:24-27 It’s interesting that you mention this text, because it was when our pastor preached on this text that the Holy Spirit finally brought conviction to my husband’s heart about his deficiency before God. He finally saw that his life did not evidence that he was in right standing with God, because he was not doing what Christ said to do. He thought he was a believer… for 25 years… but suddenly really understood that he was not.

    Mike, you need also to consider what was said in the preceding text: Matt 7:21-23 That’s the flip side. The one who ‘doing all the right things’, but lacks true understanding and relationship with Jesus. Which do you think is of primary importance? Believing correctly, or doing correctly…. based on these passages?

    Oh, and before you answer, don’t forget Matt. 7:15-20 The production of good fruit, or bad fruit, is evidence of the heart’s condition. If the heart is not right with God, there will be bad fruit…. not true, lasting, good fruit….. even if there are some attempts at good-deed-doing. So, right belief (based on right doctrinal understanding) is essential to life. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” ……. those are the trees (people) who don’t respond correctly to the essential doctrines of Christ, and therefore don’t produce the right kinds of fruit…. the fruit that GOD recognizes as being ‘good’….eternally.

    We do much more that is truly good, and worthwhile, when our hearts overflow with understanding of…… which leads to LOVE, FOR… Jesus.

  17. I don’t recall reading any comment that did not agree that doctrine was important and useful. However, the commenters that disagreed did so for other reasons. It is not twisting Michael’s words to quote him as saying, “Belief, truth, doctrine, theology, and, yes, being correct, is more important than all the good works one can ever practice”. That statement is wrong, and is neither “very God-honoring” nor “Christ-centered”. Though please note that to point out that that statement is wrong, does not mean that I haven’t found other things that Michael wrote to be helpful, edifying, Christ-centered and God-honoring.

    regards,
    John

  18. thanks for the comments all.

    One place that I would point you to to help you understand where I am coming from, think of the difference between Mary and Martha.

    As well, how long were the disciples trained by Christ. How important was their knowledge of Christ to their ministry?

  19. Anyone who knows me understands that I have a very high regard for doctrine and systematic theology (if those two can be differentiated). I would be the last to say that doctrine was not important or that a right understanding of who God is is peripheral to the Christian life.

    What I object to is the (what may only be an academic) bifurcation of knowledge and practice. If one believes that they can have only a cognitive or intellectual belief in Christ that does not ever manifest itself in some Christlike behavior, then they are self-deceived.

    I am not talking about lordship salvation – I believe the lordship gospel to be well-intentioned but wrong – but the inevitability of works following true belief. Even as the New Testament knows nothing of an unbaptized believer, so it knows nothing of saving faith that does not produce some fruit – even if the fruit is all dried up and barely edible.

    The Mt 7.15-20 and 7.21-23 passages do not invalidate what I said about 7.24-27. The first passage is dealing with false prophets and the “fruit” is not their lives but their prophecies or teachings. The second is – or should be – a chilling concept for any of us who name Christ as our Savior. The individuals to whom Jesus is referring truly believed they had done the works necessary for salvation. They were wrong, of course.

    Neither disproves what I am maintaining, i.e., that genuine faith is always accompanied or characterized by corresponding behavior. A faith devoid of works is a dead faith and, Dillow’s at-times specious arguments notwithstanding, it is not a saving faith.

    I am not saying either-or; I think Michael is closer to that than I. I am saying both-and.

    Knowledge without works is not saving faith; works without knowledge is not saving faith. Saving faith possesses both.

  20. Very, very interesting and definitely passionate post and comments.

    So…allow me to first start with a couple of passages
    John 14:6
    Matt 16:15-17
    Matt 15:31-46

    Personally, I think this speaks quite clearly to a balance.
    Sound doctrine ? Absolutely.. but even the devil and his minions have sound doctrine in that they know who Christ is.

    Works ? Absolutely. But I can have works just because I think the historical Jesus was a nice guy who set some good examples. (don’t want to go into the Lunatic, Liar, Lord conversation here).

    Combined ? That’s what sets true Christians apart…

    Or at least.. that’s my humble opinion. Might explain why 1John is my favorite book in the Bible. ;-)

    In Him

  21. CMP–Mary and Martha? Please. Mary fed His spirit and Martha fed His belly. Martha wasn’t told she should sit at His feet only that it wouldn’t be taken away from Mary in order to meet some cultural expectation. The disciples were trained at the most three years. Their relationship with Him was vital. Their knowledge of Him came as much from watching Him in action as from listening to Him teach them doctrine. And, they were sent out prior to Jesus feeding the 5000, prior to Him walking on water, prior to John the Baptist’s death, prior to Peter’s confession of him as Christ, and prior to the transfiguration to do what? Preach that the Kingdom of heaven is near, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, drive out demons and give.
    Susan–I do not see anyone giving a “a knee-jerk, negative response” to the mention of doctrine. Several have asked questions that remain unanswered. Others have defended their position that true faith without evidence is impossible. And others have asserted that relationship is at the core of true faith, where head knowledge may or may not have an impact.

  22. Minnow, you said, “Mary fed His spirit…”
    Mary didn’t feed Jesus anything. It wasn’t about what she gave to Jesus, it was the fact that she wanted Him. She was eager to learn from Him and take in all she could of Him…. while she had the opportunity. Jesus pointed out that she had chosen well, better than Martha– who was preocupied with serving and was thus missing fellowship with Him….. missing knowing Him above all else.
    Mary chose that which was of eternal –lasting value.

  23. I guess we see that story considerably differently. I believe Jesus did not mean, as we so often interpret it, that what Mary chose would be best for Martha as well. Otherwise, I think He would have instructed her to sit, relax, listen. He certainly was willing to tell others what they should do even if they didn’t in the end heed His advice. I also believe it is false humility to say that we are unable (as you imply when you say Mary did not feed Jesus anything) to feed (please, cause God to delight in) Jesus.
    You say: “Mary chose that which was of eternal –lasting value.” Where do you get that interpretation?

  24. I think I agree with most of all that was said in these posts. Doctrine and Truth are of utmost importance. However, I think there needs to be discernment among Christians over which doctrines brothers and sisters in Christ can disagree about and still remain brothers and sisters in Christ, and those which require a break in fellowship. On those which we can disagree about (I think the textbook example of this would be the proper way to read Revelation) I believe that we should each hold to our beliefs and civilly debate them, however on those things which are foundational (Was Jesus God incarnate) there can really be no debate. What concerns me is the whole host of individuals and many online websites that immediately start shouting heretic the moment someone even has the slightest disagreement with them. One example of this I can think of recently is a bunch of writers on different websites throwing John Piper under the bus for inviting Mark Driscoll to speak at conference he was putting on, the reason being that Mark Driscoll occasionally uses swear words on the pulpit. Or throwing JI Packer under the bus for signing a statement expressing a desire for greater dialogue between Catholics and Evangelicals. This just borders on the absurd from my perspective.

  25. I think He was just saying “lighten up Martha and relax. She’s ok.”

    They were sisters, and their brother was a very good friend of Jesus. Martha may have been a little on the O/C Disorder side. I mean how many sisters do things differently? It did not diminish either one of them. Look, 2,000 years later we are still talking about them. Their approach was just simply different and perhaps we should give Martha a break also, she was just trying to serve the meal the proper way.

  26. Mr Patton,

    I have been truly edified by these posts, of late. I am truly convinced that Christians have used “postmodernism”, “relationship” and other buzzwords to excuse their ignorance of Biblical matters, and as a young person, (apologies in advance), it ticks me off.

    Yes, God wants us to experience Him. Yes, God wants a warm relationship – not just an intellectual assent to His existence. BUT that doesn’t mean we do not study to show ourselves approved unto the Lord? Does that mean we can have any old beliefs at the excuse of “just loving”. Love without truth isn’t love – it’s ultimately an expression of ignorance. God wants a relationship with us, but “How you gon’ have a relationship with Him you don’t know the faintest thing about…”

    Now I can anticipate those who would say that “not all knowledge can be perceived with the mind” or something similar, however the inverse is also true – “not all knowledge can be perceived through feelings, intuitions, etc” You need BOTH orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

    Great stuff, Mr Patton.

  27. I am going to have to go with another commenter who said most of us live in the middle.

    However, I also am about up to here with (and forgive me Dr. Foltz because I do not think you intended to convey this message):

    “True belief always leads to true practice. When a person
    says he is saved, but never goes to church, never yields his
    life to the Lord, he has deceived himself.”

    The idea that church is the end goal of right practice, instead of being a stopping off place at the beginning of the week to rest and refresh and worship, before heading back to the world and taking care of the least of these, both spiritually and physically.

  28. Let’s ask this question…a person who is saved at 18 and lives their life doing all the things the church required of them, but short of doing the things the Gospel requires. Sometimes wavers in faith, but manages to find his way back. But just never really getting out of his comfort zone to pray for sick neighbors or say anything out of fear of being politically correct. This person dies at 80.

    Now a person who lives a life of sin and debauchery, drunkeness and wickedness. But at 79, gives his heart to the Lord and becomes born again and does not live anymore like he did because he loves the Lord…and he dies a week later at 80.

    Which one was the Lord going allow in heaven?

  29. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word (Luke 10:39)

    Jesus said “but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her (Luke 10:42).

    Seems to me that Jesus is indicating that Mary was doing was good and indicative of the necessary thing. I think it shows a priority of learning from Jesus over engaging in activity. The fact that it shall not be taken away from her means it is her to keep, ie it has eternal value.

    To passage says that Mary was at the feet of Jesus listening to him. To say that Mary is feeding Jesus is reading into the text something that it is not saying. If anything, it was Mary who was being fed because she was at Jesus’ feet listening to Him.

  30. Kara,

    Both. Because salvation is not on the basis of philanthropy, but on the basis of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. Yes, we may suffer loss of rewards for not doing good, BUT if BOTH people truly believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, then yes they are both saved.

  31. I just found your page and hope to learn much from it. I wish I could expound on the subject as intellectually as others on here. But I am just a simple person. So I am sure that I will need correction. Please do so.
    What I believe is that my pursuit is to achieve salvation through a relationship with Christ. To know and accept my sinful nature is in rebellion against God. That Jesus came to redeem me, and rebuild the connection between God and man. By accepting Christ as my savior in faith, I will rebuild that lost relationship. In the rebuilding of that relationship I will be given the Holy Spirit, and in the Spirit I will be shown my sinful nature and in return with the help of the Spirit I will begin to (want) to change that nature. I will not want to identify with my nature (sinfulness) any longer. So my work starts with change within my self and never ends, but then extends outward. But in order for that change to be the righteousness from God I must make sure that I understand the nature and character of God. So not to misrepresent God. If I represent God in His truth, that will
    produce good fruit, and if I misrepresent His true nature I will
    reproduce bad fruit. In relationship, it is my responsability
    and my desire to understand who God really is ( right doctrine, or
    orthodoxy), right doctrine will produce right thinking and right actions, so right doctrine and right works are in right harmony. I must study God’s word in faith with prayer for discernment of true understanding of whom the God I worship. In God’s truth
    there will be (good) works. With orthodoxy, we have guide lines
    to help us from going off track.
    But I also know of stories of Christians that were denied the
    bible and still gave there life to the Lord. Unable to read His
    word. I think that God gave them the help of the Spirit in
    truth to produce good fruit. But I believe my Jesus can do any thing.
    So in humility I ask, if my focus is kept on the need to glorify
    God, won’t He lead me in correction? All my life I have never
    questioned the truth of the bible. Maybe God led me here
    so I can read and learn how to better articulate in truth and in
    love to all these questions. I am not at all sure that I should
    post this. If I have done wrong please forgive and old woman.

    In His service

    Ephesians 2

  32. Remember when Congress was appalled by health and wealth teachers with golden toilets and jets?

    You’re right: What we believe affects how we live, whether there is an immediate “application” or not.

  33. Karen,

    I think your post is the best comment here. You’re right, sometimes we just get too smart and your words should humble us all. Thank you for such a beautiful response.

  34. Lisa,

    Thank you in kind for letting me know that my post was not
    out of line, and for your kind words.

    It is my prayer that what touched you is the work of the Holy
    Spirit, for I should not want (my) words to humble any one.
    For it is with great pleasure I read each post so that I might
    learn from brighter minds.
    In His Service

  35. Karen…. an ‘old woman’? Thanks for your wisdom, and welcome to the conversation! You certainly haven’t done wrong!

  36. Very good post…
    The experience that really convinced me of this truth was when I was pondering over whether it really makes any difference to believe that Christ was God – wouldn’t it be just the same if He was a man and stick to old-fashioned, non-trinitarian monetheism?

    At around this time I attended a monotheistic “church”. That is, they started out as a christian church, but when I visited, many years later, they had completely ceased to be Christian in any sense of the word.
    This one error in thinking about Jesus changed their entire outlook and eventually destroyed the faith of the church.

    Sobering lesson for me.

  37. “Faith without works is dead.” Faith doesn’t mean what you believe. Faith means trust. It is completely impossible to live a life pleasing to God without trusting him wholeheartedly. It is possible to live a life pleasing to God without knowing any of the Reformation doctrines of atonement. In fact, Jesus says in regards to several people did things but never once professed any traditional Christian doctrines, that they are saved. (C.f. – Zaccheus)
    Maybe our understanding of what salvation is, is not the same as Jesus’.
    We definitely don’t use the word doctrine with the same meaning it had in NT times. (The Greek word translated doctrine simply means teaching. And if you look at most of the OT uses of teaching, you will find that God is giving teaching (Torah) about what people should be DOING.
    Please, don’t anyone accuse me of saying that we are saved by works, because that is an impossibility. We are saved by God’s work of salvation in and through his Son. (And, by the way, Son of God in the ancient world was a common title for the king. In fact, Caesar Augustus issued a gospel proclamation announcing his coronation as Emperor, in which he called himself, “Caesar Augustus, Son of God, King of kings, Lord of lords.” He later added the title Savior of the World, after a decisive military victory. Obviously he was not using those words in the way in which most Christians use them, and yet, when the early Christians went out to fulfill the Great Commission, they used those same titles to refer to their King. (And were promptly accused of treason.)
    Speaking of the Great Commission, it is to go and proclaim the Kingdom of God, to make students of everyone, and to immerse them in the Name of God. It is not to go teaching Protestant/Orthodox/Catholic doctrines and making seminary students, baptizing then in the name of Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin.
    Whenever Jesus was asked what must be done to inherit life in the age to come (what is often called…

  38. The Pharisees believed in GOD, but their “good works” were dead because they were done to impress people. Satan believes in GOD, but does no “good works”. Jesus said “for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves will hear his voice, (29) And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life.” John 5:28-29.
    And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:19.
    Lip service to GOD is meaningless without the works. If we do the Selfless works required by GOD, I believe this proves our faith, and one may never even profess, verbally, their love for GOD. All selfless “good deeds” are inspired of GOD. These speak volumes of our faith. These prove that we truly abide in Jesus, and abiding in Jesus we abide in GOD. If we abide in GOD, then GOD abides in us. GOD should be made manifest through or everyday/work-a-day lives. Bragging that we know GOD is extremely easy. Loving one another in GOD’s “selfless” will is an entirely different matter.
    The confusion is that Jesus said we must believe on him whom the father sent unto the world. We DO NOT believe on him without “selfless” servitude. This is the will of our Father in heaven.

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