Posts Tagged ‘ faith ’

N. T. Wright: After you believe

Just watching a sermon N. T. Wright gave at the Redeemer Faith & Work Forum. I love this quote:

„Love is not our duty, it is our destiny. Love is the language they speak in the new creation. And we get to learn it here.“

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The Wesleys and Ecumenical Spirit

Quote about the ecumenical spirit of the Wesleys:

„The Wesleys were able to hold together a „Protestant“ understanding of salvation (justification by grace through faith) and a „Roman Catholic“ vision of the Christian life that is oriented more toward holy living or perfection in love (sanctification). While the Protestant traditions have always tended to emphasize faith as the means to salvation, the Catholic heritage has stressed love as the goal of life in Christ. The Wesleys wanted to hold this means and this end together. To become a loving person, you must put your trust in Christ (faith is the means to love’s end). But faith in Christ is not the goal; to become loving, as Christ is loving, is the purpose of your discipleship (love is the end toward which you move from faith’s foundation). Some have claimed that this vision of the Christian life is what makes the Wesleyan tradition unique in the history of the church.

Along these same lines, Albert Outler, one of the greatest students of John Wesley, once described him as an „evangelical-chatholic“. While pessimistic about humanity in its brokenness (Protestant evangelicalism), Wesley was supremely optimistic about the potency of God’s grace (Roman Catholicism). What holds these two perspectives together is the Wesleyan conception of God’s grace as relationship. Always initiated from God’s side, the process of salvation is reconceived as a relational process, the purpose of which is healing and the restoration of wholeness in our lives. Not only did Wesley bridge the gap between evangelical and Catholic; he also opened up the possibility of dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox tradition, which views salvation essentially as the restoration of God’s image in our lives and communities.“ (Paul Wesley Chilcote; Recapturing the vision of the Wesleys)

Criticism

Man….the first one I have to criticize is MYSELF. It has been so long since I wrote the last thing. Sorry for anyone (if you exist) who checked regularly.

Actually I can just blame it on Brian McLaren. Normally I wanted to read his book „Everything must change“ and then write my comments on it. A task which was a little bit too much work for me. First I was surprised by alot of what I read – positively so. To make it short: there was alot I really had to think through in order to be able to remain honest with myself.

Of course I was a little bit afraid. After all I am a Calvary Chapel youth leader – and I like some of the stuff Brian McLaren writes? Am I in trouble? Will I be excommunicated? Aaaahhh! So I decided to ask one of the people I am blessed to know personally: David Guzik (www.enduringword.com). I asked him to read the book and to tell me what he thinks. And he actually did. Not only that: he wrote a little critique on it while he was reading!

So I will ask for his permission and then put it up here on my blog.

Before I go to bed, I will bless you, dearest reader, with a quote from Forsyth’s book „The person and the place of Jesus Christ“, a book which, I think, is a very timely answer to the Emergent approach, even though it was partly a reaction to the early liberal movement in Germany. The book first was published in 1909.

„Criticism is our friend and not our enemy in its place. It is a good servant but a deadly master. It becomes our enemy only when it aspires from being an organ of Evangelical faith to be its controller.“ That is exactly where liberalism went off-track…

Question: Is everything spiritual?

Last night I watched ‚everything is spiritual‘ from Rob Bell together with my wife. In this DVD-message, Rob Bell talks about the creation account and what part we as human beings play in that account. Besides sharing some mysteries from the world of physics in order to cause us to marvel at the Maker, he comes to this conclusion:

a) Man is the only part of creation that was created 100 % spiritual (as God and the angels) and 100 % physical (as animals, plants and all matter).

b) Thus, since every human is both spiritual and physical, it all comes down to having your eyes opened to who you are and which realms/realities/dimensions you should think/believe/think in.

To make it short: while a) is true, b) is not a correct conclusion. The simple fact he overlooked was the fall of man! The Bible makes it clear that, while we were created originally as Rob Bell describes it, we fell from this kind of life, which is the reason people do not experience the spiritual dimension of life. If it was just as Rob Bell put it, the death of Christ wouldn’t be necessary.

Paul teaches pretty clearly, that we are born (spiritually) dead, and Jesus points to the necessity of being born from above, or, again. He said that we have to be born again, by the Spirit, in order to SEE the kingdom of God, that is, the spiritual reality/dimension. So my conclusion: this teaching gives a very good introduction…to Genesis 1 and 2. But to stop there is to not cross the line between Judaism and Christianity.

Question: Is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit a concept or a practical reality?

Now this is another question which I’ve been thinking about lately. I am meeting with some young guys from our Youth Group every week. It is a leadership training, where I want not only to teach them things, but I want to think stuff through with them. (That is because I feel that the statement is true: The first generation believes it, the second generation assumes it, and the third generation denies it. Whoever said that…it’s true.) They need to develop their own views and convictions to be a real benefit to the body of Christ.

We are going through different books together, right now it’s Calvary Distinctives. Now at Calvary Chapel we are big on the three different Greek prepositions which point to the different ways God relates to us/works through us by the person of the Holy Spirit. But this time I really wanted to get down to the knitty gritty: Who is this…Encarnación? No, but seriously, I wanted to find out with them what these things practically mean for us. We made a list that looked like this:

para (beside): conviction of sin, encouragement, comfort; Jesus said to his disciples about the comforter: He will be with you always.

epi (upon): annointing, empowering, equipping, authority (which here refers to a supernatural authority, independent from the question if it’s backed up by the character of the person)

en (in): indwelling, sanctification, personal growth, authority (which here refers to the authority that comes with integrity)

Now there were actually two questions which came up in my mind: First, is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit only a ’spiritual reality‘, or is it ‚practical or nothing‘? Can I say that God lives in a person, or is at home there, even when there is no practical implications such as repentance, personal growth, sanctification? Secondly, and this is a conclusive question: if it not so much meant as a theological concept or spiritual reality, then couldn’t I say that God also indwelt believers under the Old Covenant?

I’ve been taught, that the indwelling is a mark of the New Covenant, made possible only by the blood of Jesus. I always believed it, but never really studied that for myself. Is that true? One of the boys wrote me an eMail some days later, and asked me this same question. He read first Peter 1:11 and was wondering what the deal was. It is talking about the OT prophets there, and it says that they were „trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.“ ‚In‘ is of course the same Greek preposition.

So I thought about it and asked Dave Guzik to find an answer. He pointed me to the OT prophecies for the New Covenant. And it’s true, the Ezekiel and Jeremiah passages do speak about something inward rather than something outward. But did God really mean the indwelling, when he said that he would put his spirit inside them? Now please don’t get me wrong here! Of course I believe in the indwelling! I just wonder about it’s nature (see question 1), and about how unique it is to the New Covenant.

A day later, as I was reading in Ezekiel in the morning, I read this verse in my ‚today’s chapter‘: „Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!“ (18:31-32) Now God here tells them to go and get themselves a new heart and a new spirit. The only way in which this can make sense – and I believe that that’s the way it was meant in this context – is that this simply refers to a new attitude. So my question is this: could it be that the indwelling speaks very practically of ‚God in someones life‘, made possible by that person through a changed attitude (repentance)? If the answer to that question is Yes, than of course this was also possible and available for a believer in the OT.

The point I am struggling with is this: imagine you were a very carnal Christian. There were not really any real outward implications of God dwelling in your life. Imagine you would travel back in time and see a man like Moses. A man deeply committed to God, walking with God and – in the truest sense of the word – a holy man. With the understanding of the indwelling as I have it now (as a doctrine), you could go to Moses as a carnal Christian and tell him, that God lives in your heart, is at home in your life, while in his live that wasn’t the case. I don’t know, but I wonder if God maybe wants us to think about him dwelling in our hearts in a more practical sense. When would you normally say, that someone lives in your heart? When you love him. Can you say: I don’t love him/her, but he/she lives in my heart? Not really…

I have to think now of the Corinthian church, who was very carnal, and to whom Paul wrote: „Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own“ (1 Cor. 6:19) as a reason to not commit sexual sins. So maybe it is possible. But it is still very wrong (for which the Corinthian church is a perfect example) to seperate the spiritual reality from the lived-out practicality. Maybe someone can share his thoughts on this?

Question: Should we question our faith?

As part of the whole emergent conversation, this is one of the hot issues: can or should a Christian question his or her faith? While I believe that the line that can be crossed is very thin, I would generally say „Yes“ to this. As long as we turn to the Bible for answers. Now I am aware that this very thing might cause not only more but bigger questions. What we must be careful to maintain is the attitude of complete trust in the character of God. He is good, loving, just, fair. But isn’t that exactly where our problems start? We know we ought to see God thus, but we stumble over doctrines which seem not to be reconcilable with who we believe God to be – the Father of our Savior Jesus Christ.

I just read again in George Macdonalds book, and I came across this excerpt of The Curate’s Awakening:

„And if any man would still say that because of my lack of absolute assurance I have no right to the sacred post [that is, as a pastor], I answer, let him cast the first stone who has never been assailed by such doubts as mine. And if such doubts have never been yours, if perhaps your belief is but the shallow absence of doubt, then you must ask yourself a question. Do you love your faith so little that you have never battled a single fear lest your faith should not be true? For what are doubts but the strengtheneing building blocks toward summits of yet higher faith in him who always leads us into the high places? Where there are no doubts, no questions, no perplexities, there can be no growth into the regions where he would have us walk. Doubts are the only means through which he can enlarge our spiritual selves.“

I remember reading in Tozer’s „The root of the righteous“ a similar statement. Doubts, questions and perplexities are not the enemy of faith – if they are not used as an end in themselves – as some do because they think that the questioner and doubter is per se superior to the one who can say „I am convinced“. Now that is of course not a Christian mindset. But we hurt ourselves if we are afraid to think and to question. Here is a quote that helps me tremendously, and with this I must end now:

„If the observed and the revealed seem hard to be reconciled, it is because we know too little, not too much.“ (Derek Kidner)

Don’t be afraid.

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