Archive | October, 2011

Reformation in a Nutshell

There used to be a time when your loyalty to the Protestant cause was judged by how much you hated Catholics. But today, with all the ecumenical dialogue, the Manhattan Declaration, the ECT council, and the postmodern virtue of tolerance, people are much more willing to ignore the water under the bridge. “Maybe we overreacted” is the thought of many.

To Catholics, since Vatican II, Protestants are no longer anathema (which is a pretty bad thing to be), but are “separated brethren” (which is not so bad).

Attitudes are changing. One could could argue that attitudes are changing for the better. But have the issues changed? As we are on the eve of Reformation Day, let us remind ourselves what was at stake nearly 500 years ago, on October 31, 1517, when a young Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed a bold list of ninety-five complaints against the institutionalized church of the day that started what we know as the Great Reformation.

Here is the scoop: Five hundred years ago we had a “situation” in the church. We now call it the “Great Reformation,” but who knew at the time it would be a reformation of any kind, much less a “great” one? Catholics see it as yet another rebellious schism. The first major division in the Christian church happened in 1054, when the Eastern church got fed up with the Pope and thumbed its nose at him (or something like that). The Great Reformation was the second. For Protestants, this was not only a reforming of the church, but a reclaiming of the Gospel which had been obscured and overshadowed by the institutionalized church of the day.

While there were and are a lot of issues that divide Roman Catholics and Protestants, there are two which overshadow the rest and define the essence of the Great Refomation: authority and justification. The issue of authority has been called the “formal” cause of the Reformation while the issue of justification was the “material” cause. In this brief post I would like to focus on these two issues.

1. Authority: Where do we go for truth?

To the institutionalized church of the day (now known as the Roman Catholic Church), both Scripture and Tradition (notice the capital “T”) represented the one “deposit of faith” that was handed down from the Apostles (i.e. written and unwritten tradition). The church, as represented by the Pope and the congregation of bishops, could interpret both infallibly, being protected by the Holy Spirit. Think of a three-legged stool. All three (Scripture, Tradition, and the Church) serve as “legs” supporting the “stool” – the church’s ultimate authority. Continue Reading →

Theology Unplugged: Why I Am/Not Charismatic, Part 15

Join C. Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley, Sam Storms and J.J. Seid as they discuss issues surrounding spiritual gifts.

Avoid Every Appearance of Evil!

When Christian leaders talk about how to live a godly life, they eventually turn to the gray areas those things that are right for some but wrong for others. You know the list: drinking, smoking, watching R rated movies, playing cards, dancing, using colorful language, listening to Country-Western music (OK that last one is not a gray area; it should be taboo for everyone), etc. That’s the short list. And the way the instruction on such matters goes is all too often along these lines: First, our freedoms in Christ are articulated, clearly stated, appreciated. Next come the qualifiers: but don’t exercise your freedom in Christ if it will make someone uncomfortable, cause someone to judge you, is not entirely loving, etc. This would be bad enough if it just ended there. By the time all the qualifications are stated, the freedoms that we allegedly have are almost all stripped away. Paralysis begins to set in. But the coup de grace comes with a single verse from 1 Thessalonians, utilized as a weapon against all those who enjoy their lives in Christ: But even if what you do is loving, makes no one uncomfortable, doesn’t cause anyone to judge you, remember that you are responsible to avoid every appearance of evil. So, if in doubt, don’t do it.

That’s how the verse reads in the KJV: Avoid every appearance of evil. It’s 1 Thess 5.22 and it puts a damper on everything. But does it really mean this? Does it really mean that even if something looks like it’s evil to some, we can’t enjoy it? Hardly.

The Greek text really should be translated, abstain from every form of evil. There is a genuine correspondence between form and evil: that is, stay away from evil things. But the reason that form (or, in the KJV, appearance) was used is because Paul is speaking about false doctrine. This verse, in fact, was more often attributed to Jesus than to Paul in the early church, suggesting that Paul got this line from his Lord and that it was one of the sayings that for some reason didn’t make it into the gospels but was nevertheless an authentic saying of Jesus. It was used with literal reference to coins; to abstain from every form of evil was to avoid counterfeit teaching. Further, in the context, it seems clear that Paul is speaking about false teaching. Verses 19-22 read as follows:

Do not quench the Spirit;
Do not despise prophecies;
But examine all things: cling to the good, abstain from every form of evil. Continue Reading →

Does Sola Fide Means You Can Do Whatever You Please?

The other day, my daughter did the dishes without me asking. Wait…there’s more. Get this: it is not even her job to do the dishes anymore! It is my other daughter’s job. Those of you who are parents know what I am talking about. You know, the frustrations of trying to get your kids to fulfill their responsibilities. And it is not just that you want them to do what they are supposed to. Whether it is washing the dishes, taking a bath or shower, brushing their teeth, watching their little brother (or sister), or any number of things parents wish their kids would do, you want them to do these things without being told (over and over again). I walked in the kitchen and said to my daughter, “What are you doing?” She said, with a confused look on her face, “The dishes.” “I know that, but why?” I asked. “Because they needed to be done” she answered. This is the first time I can think of in my trek through parenting when one of my kids graduated from doing something because of fear of punishment to doing it because it was simply the right thing to do. It was a proud moment for me. And, as is the case with ninety percent of the things that happen to me on a daily basis, the blog lobe in my brain started running in the background. It said: “Pssst, Michael. This is not only a monumental occasion in your life as a parent, it is also a potential blog about how people misunderstand sola fide.”

Though I don’t know where (citation needed), it is said that when Martin Luther rediscovered the idea that justification was by faith alone, without the aid of any meritorious good deeds, the leadership within the institutionalized church of the day said, “You can’t teach that. You know what will happen if you do? Everyone will be doing whatever they please.” To which Luther responded, “This is true. Now what pleases you?”

The idea Luther was promoting was not unlike the same idea posited by Augustine before him: when we become believers in Christ, our nature changes; with it, our pleasures. Our greatest pleasure, our greatest satisfaction, our loftiest ambition, and our lifelong goal, after faith is ignited in our soul, becomes to please our Lord. Why? Because we have changed, because we have graduated, because it is the best thing to do. This change will continue from the inside out for the rest of our lives.

I believe in the doctrine of sola fide. Sola fide means “faith alone.” It means you and I are justified, not by any good things we do, but by simply trusting in Christ. My Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Mormon friends do not share this belief. In fact, I don’t know of any religion in the world that does or ever has. All other systems of being made right before God involve some sort of merit system. Ultimately, for them, you have to perform well here on earth. You have to refrain from enough sin and add enough good deeds to your resume, which you will one day present to your creator. What a terrible (and fear-inducing) system. I don’t want God (or anyone else) to see my resume. It would not be pretty. I need a substitute resume. Therefore, I have acquired one which is not my own: Jesus Christ’s. His is the only resume God will accept, because he is the only one who lived a perfect life. And, indeed, I do have his resume. But I did not buy it, lease it, or put it on layaway. Nothing can be done to purchase or deserve his resume. He offers it to us freely. All we have to do is extend our hand (an act of faith) and take it. Hence, our justification (perfect resume) is a gift that comes only by faith.

It is a wonderful message. It is an unbelievable message. However, it is an offensive message. First, it is offensive because we are a prideful people. We think our resume is not too shabby. Many just want to take their chances on their own. Second, it is offensive because people are scared. They are scared of what this might mean. They are scared of abuse. They are scared of grace. Grace means it is free. If it is free then people will do whatever they please. Here are some of the common road blocks I have heard from others:

“So, what if a person becomes a believer, then goes and murders a hundred people?” Continue Reading →

Introducing Credo House Membership

Credo House of TheologyIt’s absolutely amazing how many people are making the Credo House their home away from home!

A movement is under way, in the midst of an intellectually lethargic church age, to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. In order to make the Credo House more accessible than ever before we are excited to announce Credo House Membership.

Membership Includes:

Ten FREE drinks at the Credo House per month. We’re serious about serving the best organic, fair trade, hand-pressed espresso drinks in Edmond. Membership allows you regular enjoyment of our Mochas, Chai Tea Lattes, Chemex-brewed Coffee, etc… – VALUE: $29.50/month

Special invitations to our “Breakfast with a Scholar” or “Lunch with a Scholar” events. On December 13th the Credo House will be hosting Dr. Michael Licona, one of the foremost experts alive today on the Resurrection of Christ. Membership allows you direct access to have your faith strengthened from people like Dr. Licona. – VALUE: Priceless

Two courses in Credo House’s critically acclaimed Theology Program per year. This can be taken live at the Credo House or at your own pace through our Self-Study program. – VALUE: $200

Introduction to Theology DVD and Workbook set – VALUE: $125

Books: “Increase my Faith” by president of Credo House, C. Michael Patton and “Top Ten Discoveries in Biblical Archeology” by Executive Director of Credo House, Tim Kimberley – VALUE: $30

Membership is ONLY $25/month!

Credo House of Theology

That’s right, the coffee alone more than covers the price of the membership! Get yourself a membership today. Also, how great to give a membership to your pastor, co-workers, friends, employees and family. Membership packets containing your membership card will be mailed to you.

 

A Real Halloween Horror: Hell House and Evangelism

(Lisa Robinson)

As Halloween approaches, you can bet the discussions will increase amongst Christians, as they normally do.  One faction promotes participation while the other faction wants all Christians to see the horrors of Halloween and why they should not participate.  But that is neither here nor there because I believe it is a matter of Christian liberty of whether one participates or not.  Each should live according to their own convictions.

But I want to address what I consider a real horror that does involve Christian participation in Halloween.  In various spots in the country, months of organization and activity have gone into the production of a haunted house experience for innocent people looking for a good old fashioned Halloween scare.  The will line up to go to Hell House and they will rightfully face a horror.

Participants will be led through a series of scenes, which sadly go on in every day life.  There is one scene that emulates the Columbine shooting.  There is another one where a Rave ends up in a date rape scenario.  The girl feeling so ashamed of what has happened to her, curses God.  Another ends up hemorrhaging from a morning after pill.  There is one living room scene that confronts the addictions of pornography.  Yes, this is certainly real life.

Unfortunately, the scenarios are used to highlight one thing – all these people are going to hell.  And that is the point of Hell House, to lure people into a haunted house experience and expose scenarios that could be going on with anyone in the audience.  In fact, as I watched the documentary of the original Hell House here in TX, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people were being forced to relive their own private pain and then being scorned for being victims. Continue Reading →

Jesus with His Lights Out on Halloween

Annual Halloween post!

Will is dressing up as a ghost for Halloween. I was shocked. He has an Indiana Jones costume that he wears everywhere. Or, I thought he might choose the Storm Trooper costume. I have given up on him being a superhero (Batman, Vigilante, Green Lantern, or any other DC character). Sigh… but a ghost? Where did that come from?

My Fundamentalist right pinky toe started to speak.

Toe: “You know what is going to happen if he dresses up as a Ghost.”
Continue Reading →

Theology Unplugged: Why I Am/Not Charismatic, Part 14

Join C. Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley, Sam Storms and J.J. Seid as they discuss issues surrounding spiritual gifts.