Archive | June, 2012

Theology Unplugged: Problem Passages 11 – Who or what were the Sons of God in Gen. 6?

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley and Sam Storms as they discuss who or what exactly the Sons of God were in Genesis 6.

Ten Reasons for Studying Church History: Reason #10 – Studying church history will correct our doctrinal and practical errors.

The history of the church is not only a tale of positive growth and development of doctrinal knowledge and practical wisdom. It’s also a dramatic account of the conflict between orthodoxy and heresy . . . facts and fiction . . . truth and error . . . righteousness and sin. You’ve probably heard it said, “Those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it.” This is true in politics, in war, in economics, and in personal life decisions. It’s also true with regard to doctrinal and practical error.

We don’t have to read too far into church history before we realize that not everything that happened between A.D. 100 and 2000 was praiseworthy. Sadly, the earthly body of Christ has been marked with a number of permanent tattoos—shameful memorials of its not-so-pretty past, self-inflicted blemishes that remind Christians today to never do, say, or believe those stupid or shameful things again. Of course, we need eyes to see the errors of the past and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church today through His chastisement of the church of previous generations. Four categories of errors can be easily identified and eventually corrected by studying church history: doctrinal errors of accretion or deletion and practical errors of omission and commission.

Errors of accretion occur when churches add their own idiosyncratic doctrines to the unchanging core of essential Christian truths as if they, too, must be believed to be saved. Today these might include a particular Protestant theological system (dispensational or covenant), a certain form of church government (episcopal, presbyterian, or congregational), a dogmatic view of the atonement (demanding that people not only believe that Christ’s death and resurrection save us, but being able to explain exactly how it saves us), or a certain hermeneutic (historical-grammatical, theological, canonical, or Christocentric). By looking back, we can be constantly reminded that the core doctrines of the faith that mark us as true Christians—things like the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, salvation by grace, the authority of Scripture—cannot be added to without obscuring the Christian faith. Distinctive doctrines can be held by different denominations within the bounds of orthodoxy, but those distinctions and different emphases should never be held up as marks of orthodoxy. Continue Reading →

Why I Think Pastors Don’t Preach Through Books of the Bible

(Lisa Robinson)

As a follow up to my post here on reasons I think pastors should preach through books of the Bible, I noted these 7 reasons

1) It connects the book to the whole meta-narrative of scripture

2) It anchors the congregation in one theme or thought for an extended period of time

3) It treats the Bible as God’s disclosure instead of a self-help guide

4) It teaches people how to approach scripture on their own

5) It keeps the pastor from focusing on pet agendas

6) It keeps the pastor grounded in their task to connect people to God’s word in ways that are interesting

7) It confronts everyone with hard truths

My conviction remains firm that expository/expositional preaching through books of the Bible is a good preaching task.  Expository preaching need not be focused on whole books of the Bible, but most certainly is needed in order to preach that way. But this can be done very poorly as Jared Moore cites here with Six Suggestions for Preaching a Bad Expositional Sermon.

1) Do no application

2) Use no illustrations or stories

3) Give excessive exegetical detail

4) Fail to set the text in its canonical horizon

5) Fail to connect the text to the gospel

6) Fail to preach the text with appropriate urgency and weight

Jared’s list gives some clues on why pastors might not engage in preaching in this way, and in some cases are opposed to it. It occurs to me that either they don’t understand how expository preaching is done OR have a misconception about it and particularly as it relates to preaching through books of the Bible. Continue Reading →

Where Theology and Humanity Meet is Good for the Soul

(Lisa Robinson)

I think it goes without saying, that if you are reading this blog on this particular site, you know that we think theology is pretty important. Lest we think it is an academic term, it is simply how we think about God and express that. What we think about God will impact how we as Christians live for him.  We want to think rightly about him according to how he has disclosed himself to us through his word and I dare say tradition.  Our Christianity should rest on simple faith but not simple thinking. We should care enough about him to want to learn about him on his terms.

However, the longer I live, the more I become increasingly aware of just how complex is our humanity. We have a range of influences that have impacted us, forming our personalities, our fears, hang-ups and our distortions.  While I still don’t yet have 100% conviction, I lean towards dichotomy, meaning that humans are made up of material and immaterial parts. The immaterial parts all work in concert together.  So when I say soul, I mean the conglomeration of our immaterial parts – our mind, heart and will.  As a dichotomist, I would say it is essentially our spirit.  Distortions in area, set off distortions in others. Places of hiding and deflection can develop to ward off detrimental impacts. Understanding our humanity and being in touch with it is important.

I have loved studying theology and the bible. But I confess that I have loved it much more than the care of my soul.  But the Lord has taken me on quite a journey in the past few years that have involved understanding where our humanity plays a part.  I am discovering just how much events in our lives can impact and even damage the soul.  I am learning that in our broken condition, we will put up walls and grope for relics of significance to compensate for troubled spots.

What I have observed both objectively and personally, is that our Christian convictions can cause us to lean more heavily on one, even to the neglect of the other.   As in any case, extremes can develop. Having right theology takes precedence over what is going on with our humanity or tending to the care of our soul, puts theology on a back burner.  Neither is ultimately good for the soul. Continue Reading →

Theology Unplugged: Problem Passages 10 – Do Works Justify?

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley and Sam Storms as they discuss whether or not one can lose their salvation.

Why Study Church History? – Reason #9: Studying church history will clarify our interpretation of Scripture

Just get two or three believers together for a Bible study and you soon realize that not everybody interprets the Bible exactly the same way. Sometimes they come to completely opposite conclusions. Other times they emphasize certain passages or doctrines more than others. Even when we follow the same rules of methodical Bible study or the principles of exegesis, we sometimes come up with different interpretations.

By looking back over church history, we can gain a perspective that will aid (not replace!) our reading of Scripture in two ways:

First, early testimony can provide added insight into the historical and theological context within which the New Testament itself was written and read. By “early” I mean the writings of the period overlapping with and immediately following the New Testament apostles and prophets themselves, between about AD 50 and 150. Though these accounts can’t be treated as authoritative Scripture, these early authors’ interpretations, doctrines, and practices open a window into the teachings of the apostles themselves.

It’s reasonable to conclude, for example, that Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John, reflects much of John’s theology and practice in his own letter to the church in Philippi, which he wrote around AD 110 . . . just a couple of decades or so after John wrote his Gospel, epistles, and Revelation. In fact, Irenaeus of Lyons, a disciple of Polycarp, wrote around AD 180: “For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary . . . to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those whom they did commit the Churches?” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.4.1). That is, many people were still alive throughout the second century who had the authentic words and theology of the original apostles and prophets still ringing in their ears. Although these earliest testimonies cannot be adopted uncritically, we can’t afford to completely ignore these writings as tools to help us properly interpret the apostles’ writings in their actual historical theological contexts.

Second, enduring tradition refers to those things that continue to be retained, reaffirmed, or restored in every generation of Christian history. Christ promised that he would never leave us, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). He also promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church (Matt. 16:18). We know that he is ever-present with the church by means of the person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16–18). Also, through the Holy Spirit the ascended Christ has gifted the church with not only first-generation apostles and prophets, but also enduring leaders called evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Eph. 4:11). The implication is that the truth-telling and life-giving ministry of the Holy Spirit will prevail in the church against the hellish attacks of Satan. So, if individual leaders, whole churches, or even most of the universal Christian church were to stray from the fundamental saving doctrines of the faith, the Holy Spirit would eventually shepherd the church back to a proclamation of the gospel in its purity. So, by studying church history, we are studying the “further acts of the Holy Spirit since Acts 28.”

Through church history we can discern the core doctrines the Holy Spirit continued to emphasize throughout the ages. When we become aware of these central, unifying core truths of the faith that have endured throughout history, we can be constantly reminded of the boundaries of orthodoxy—the rules within which believers have freedom to responsibly interpret Scripture, but outside of which believers must never stray. As Vincent of Lérins wrote in AD 434, “All possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.” Looking back will help safeguard evangelical interpreters of the Bible from either denying central dogmas of the Christian faith or from centralizing opinions about what the Bible says. In other words, the core teachings of the Christian faith must never change. The faith has been once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). But in order for evangelicals to know the boundaries of their biblical interpretations, they must know which biblical doctrines are central. Looking back at the history of how the Spirit corrected, disciplined, pruned, and grew the church in its doctrinal understanding will help believers clarify their interpretation of Scripture.

Theology Unplugged: Problem Passages 9 – Can You Lose Your Salvation?

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley and Sam Storms as they discuss whether or not one can lose their salvation.