Posts Tagged ‘ question ’

Call me a mad dog.

…from John Wesleys „The Question, „What Is an Arminian?“ Answered by a Lover of Free Grace“:

1. To say, „This man is an Arminian,“ has the same effect on many hearers, as to say, „This is a mad dog.“ It puts them into a fright at once: They run away from him with all speed and diligence; and will hardly stop, unless it be to throw a stone at the dreadful and mischievous animal.

2. The more unintelligible the word is, the better it answers the purpose. Those on whom it is fixed know not what to do: Not understanding what it means, they cannot tell what defence to make, or how to clear themselves from the charge. And it is not easy to remove the prejudice which others have imbibed, who know no more of it, than that it is „something very bad,“ if not „all that is bad!“

3. To clear the meaning, therefore, of this ambiguous term, may be of use to many: To those who so freely pin this name upon others, that they may not say what they do not understand; to those that hear them, that they may be no longer abused by men saying they know not what; and to those upon whom the name is fixed, that they may know how to answer for themselves.

(…)

11. Away, then, with all ambiguity! Away with all expressions which only puzzle the cause! Let honest men speak out, and not play with hard words which they do not understand. And how can any man know what Arminius held, who has never read one page of his writings? Let no man bawl against Arminians, till he knows what the term means; and then he will know that Arminians and Calvinists are just upon a level. And Arminians have as much right to be angry at Calvinists, as Calvinists have to be angry at Arminians. John Calvin was a pious, learned, sensible man; and so was James Harmens. Many Calvinists are pious, learned, sensible men; and so are many Arminians. Only the former hold absolute predestination; the latter, conditional.

12. One word more: Is it not the duty of every Arminian Preacher, First, never, in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach; seeing it is neither better nor worse than calling names? — a practice no more consistent with good sense or good manners, than it is with Christianity. Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly of it? And is it not equally the duty of every Calvinist Preacher, First, never in public or in private, in preaching or in conversation, to use the word Arminian as a term of reproach? Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly thereof; and that the more earnestly and diligently, if they have been accustomed so to do? perhaps encouraged therein by his own example!

See the whole thing here.

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Question: is the Christian religion a failed religion?

I am reading Brian McLarens book „everything must change“ now. To find out his opinion on what needs to change in the church. Also to not be dependent on somebody else’s opinion on this book. As he writes in the first chapter: „…you can Google my name and find websites and blogs from fundamentalist groups who consider me the son of Satan or on the wrong side of both the „culture war“ and „truth war“.

Now I personally wonder, why he doesn’t clearly give his standpoint on the „hot-button issues“ as he calls them (My guess is that this shows his frustration, that there are more important questions that are not being asked.) . In my eyes, there would be more evangelical Christians listening to him, if he would just – at least in a short sentence – put these things straight. Now a friend of mine had the chance to talk to Brian personally recently. So if you might have wondered: he did say that homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle and that salvation comes alone through faith in the propitiary death of Christ on the cross (he said that literally). Maybe that helps some people to listen in on his message to the church.

I think that he got too popular to pass off what he says on the basis of some well-intentioned criticism. Because maybe, after all, he has something to say that we might benefit from…so what is this book about?

To sum it up, the book deals with two questions. One: what are the world’s biggest problems, and two: how would (or does) Jesus adress these problems, or which solution does he give for them. These are good questions to ask, and they haven’t been asked enough among evangelical Christians. Can one be a Christian, and not care about issues as poverty and social injustice? Doesn’t God show – especially in the OT – that he does care about it? Do we (the church) then have a responsibility towards these things? Or is our mission confined to the spiritual realm?  Before anyone judges Brian Mclaren for asking these questions, I would be very interested to hear some of their answers!

In  this category, I want to just quote some of the things from „everything must change“ and comment on it. I don’t want to do deep analysis, but pick some things that might be of interest. After all, my desire is to promote thinking, learning and growing for myself and all who will read it.

In part 1, chapter 5, MacLaren writes: „More and more reflective Christian leaders are beginning to realize that for the millions of young adults who dropped out of their churches in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the Christian religion appears to be a failed religion. And for a reason not unlike the one expressed by the young healthcare worker from Khayelitsha: it has specialized in dealing with „spiritual needs“ to the exlusion of physical and social needs. [comment: That statement would be hard to prove/disprove. Is that really the reason why many young people leave the church? I doubt it – especially here in Germany.] It has specialized in people’s destination in the afterlife but has failed to adress significant social injustices in this life. It has focused on „me“ and „my soul“ and „my spiritual life“ and „my eternal destiny“, but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, systemic poverty, systemic ecological crisis, systemic dysfunctions of many kinds.“

Some statements: First, I agree that it would be wrong to disconnect the spiritual from the physical and social. Biblical Christianity does definitely know nothing of that kind of mindset. Second, the point that it is not only about ’spiritual‘ things, but that it is about ‚me and myself‘ is a very good one. Maybe someone has asked you this question before: if someone desires to be saved from sin, death and hell to a blessed life with God and eternal bliss in heaven – is that not very selfish? So the observation is very good. Someone said that one of the principles that young converts need to be taught is: „nothing that is selfish is Christian“. And it is true – the Jesus of the Bible will bring us salvation from selfishness and set us free to seek the welfare of others more than our own. The constant focus on self – even it is spiritual needs – is wrong and sinful.

As long as a Christian, or a church, just focuses on himself/itself, he is in a state of spiritual immaturity as were the Corinthian Christians, who were in need of Paul’s exhortation to seek the benefit of others, which is the essence of true love.

Thirdly, is he right when he says that the church failed to address the issues mentioned above? I disagree! The Bible emphasizes the spiritual realm (man’s relationship with God) as the basis of the physical realm (man’s relationship with man). So when I adress a spiritual issue in someones life, I am addressing his physical life as well. His spirituality is supposed to touch every area of his life. So all evangelizing and all teaching and disciple-making that equipped people to be faithful spouses, honest politicians, fair employers has been successful in dealing with systematic injustice etc. Because any evil system will be attacked through the Gospel message which will in turn destroy that system as individuals who make up that system and keep it running let the spiritual message penetrage their hearts.

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: Do you have to accept evangelical Christology before you can start following Christ?

…or: does accepting the full biblical revelation of who Christ is equal the beginning of someones ‚journey with Jesus‘? If I think about the disciples, I know that their life with Jesus did not begin with agreeing to a doctrinal statement Christ made about himself. Of course, as they walked with him, he started to reveal himself, but he wanted to reveal himself to their hearts & not only to their minds. Because he knew, that they couldn’t handle certain things yet, his self-revelation was progressive.

So if this conclusion is true, this would mean two things:

a) Wanting to make people Jesus-followers (making disciples) does not primarily mean to convince someone of everything Christ ever said about himself. As Spurgeon said: Christ is known better by what he himself says, than by what his friends say about him. I don’t have to make converts to theology.
b) Rather, I should encourage people to start following Jesus (by listening to him and obeying him), even when they still have questions, doubts and even wrong opinions. When the disciples started following Jesus, they followed him as a travelling rabbi, not as the Son of God. That makes evangelism and discipleship synonymous. It also makes it more a matter of faith, obedience and experience, rather than of knowledge, intellect and arguments.

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