I have long been annoyed by the “cute” church signs that we see popping up at churches everywhere. Some are funny, some are cute, some are weird, and some are very, very bad theology. I was witness to one of these signs today as I was driving.
The sign read, “How many people will be in Heaven because of you?”
First, let me say I understand what they mean. BUT, this should never be asked, at least not in this way. The truth of the matter is nobody will be in Heaven because of me. Not one single person will be in Heaven because of anything that I have done. People will only be in Heaven because of Christ and what He has done.
Does God use us as tools in his salvation plan? Yes. Are we the cause of salvation? Absolutely not. It is bad and dangerous theology.
Now you may say, but it’s just a cute saying that makes you think. In one sense that is true. But when we are talking about biblical truths we should be precise. We should not look to be cute with our words but accurately present the message of the Scriptures.
Jesus said that no man comes to the Father but through him (John 14:6). Jesus is the way, Jesus is the truth, He is the life. There is nothing that we say or do that causes someone to go to Heaven. It is God and God alone through the work and person of Christ alone.
Many churches today no longer use catechisms to train up their people, particularly children, in great theological truths of doctrine. This is a tragedy. We live in a time where biblical and theological literacy is virtually non-existent in many churches. And I believe, a simple catechism is a good answer to curbing this epedemic of theological softness.
Crossway has produced a beautiful and faithful catechism for this very purpose. The New City Catechism was put together by notable pastor, Timothy Keller.
The catechism has 52 answers and questions of some of the most basic doctrines of the Christian faith. It is generic enough that it can be used by both Baptists and Presbyterians (and others who practice infant baptism) but specific enough to bring out the truths of the Gospel that all true believers necessarily agree and adhere to.
It is a simple format. The question is on one side, and the answer and supporting Scripture is on the other. On the answer, portions are highlighted to give shorter answers that kids can memorize.
Further, Crossway has put together several resources to enhance the use of this catechism. A companion site gives digital flashcards, web resources, and access to mobile apps as well. There is also a full curriculum that can be purchased for use in your church.
I am pleased to recommend this resource to all churches and families wishing to raise their congregations and family members to know the great doctrines of our faith.
Book Review: Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals
Gavin Ortlund’s new book, Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals, seeks to give us instruction on why we need to look to church history for answers in today’s age of advancement and millennial thinking.
Ortland argues that Evangelicals have lost touch with the history of the Christian Church. Much of this is for fear of becoming too close to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. And, as he explains, those are valid fears. But the fears should not keep us from exploring the rich heritage of Christianity and to explore the scenarios and events that have helped shaped the theology of the church between the first century and the church today. After all, was there nothing good that came out of the church in its first 1500 years of existence?
Ortland points out an alarming trend of people leaving Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. He highlights a prominent Christian Celebrity, Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, to illustrate this point explaining that Hanegraaff left Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy a couple of years ago. He demonstrates that this has been happening at an alarming rate. And why is this happening?
So what is causing this trend? Obviously, every person’s story is unique, and we must leave room for a wide array of different kinds of factors in each case. However, one of these recurring themes among these denominational migrations is related to how Dreher interpreted Hanegraff’s conversion: the desire for historical depth.
Gary Ortland – Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals Chapter 2
Historical depth is the problem according to Ortland as well as others. So the solution, according to Ortland, is Theological Retrieval.
Theological Retrieval is the process of studying church history. But not just the history of the church, the writings of the early church. Ortland shows a process of rediscovering the early writings of the Early Church Father’s and filtering how we ended up with the doctrines that we hold so dear today.
The second half of the book shows practical methods for engaging in theological retrieval. He explores topics such as God (Theology Proper), the atonement, and art.
In each of these cases, he takes the theological concept, puts the current thinking on the topic in light, then looks to see what the church has written about the topic historically. He admits that to be a good systematic theologian, you must respect historical theology as a discipline. In this book, he meshes those two disciplines together.
Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals is not an easy read. There were times when reading that I had to force myself to get into the text or just put it down and come back later. However, the truth contained within and the methods examined and displayed are valuable and to be encouraged.
Because of this, I give Theological Retrieval for Evangelical three out of five stars. However, I do recommend it as a read for those who are seeking to know the history of their faith and how their Evangelical Protestantism fits into the elaborate history of the Christian Church.
I was given a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
A lot of focus during the Christmas season gets put on Mary as well as Jesus since she was his mother. There is a lot of incorrect theology about Mary, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church. One of these doctrines is the idea of the Immaculate Conception.
The immaculate conception often is misunderstood to mean the supernatural conception of Christ in Mary’s womb. I also misunderstood this in the past. But that is not what this term refers to at all. In fact, the immaculate conception has nothing to do with the birth of Christ. Instead, the immaculate conception deals with Mary. Specifically, it teaches that Mary was sinless and free from original sin.
There are two primary texts that Catholics use to make this claim. The first is Genesis 3:15.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
Genesis 3:15 English Standard Version
The main problem with using this text to define anything about Mary is that Mary is not found in this verse. The woman here is Eve, not Mary. Yes, Mary is part of Eve’s distant offspring through her descendants, but the only people mentioned in this verse specifically are Eve, Satan, Christ, and God the Father. So we can automatically throw this verse out with having anything to do with supposed sinlessness of Mary.
The other major text used by Catholics for the Immaculate Conception is Luke 1:28
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Luke 1:28 (ESV)
In this verse they use the term favored one to claim that Mary was sinless. But how do they come to this conclusion?
First we must look at the underlying Greek for the term favored one and see whether or not it means sinless. The term is κεχαριτωμένη, which is pronounced kecharitomene. It is derived from the lemma χαριτόω (charitoo). But what do these words mean, and if they mean sinless, why are they translated as favored one?
The underlying Greek has a meaning of showing kindness, favor, giving grace, showing favor. So translators have gotten it right with favored one. But Catholics focus on one portion of this definition, giving grace. In fact, they argue that Mary was so full of grace that she did not receive original sin because she was “fully endowed with grace perfectly.”
But there is a problem with this viewpoint. First, being fully endowed with grace does not mean that you are sinless. All Christians are full of grace and favored and blessed. That is part of being the elect of God. Ephesians 1:6 uses the same word, charitoo, to describe all believers. Yet, all believers have original sin, and continuing sin that must be dealt with. Mary is no different.
The point is that there is no Scriptural basis for the Immaculate Conception. This is an invention and false doctrine of the Catholic Church. Mary was favored only in the sense that she was chosen to have the very special honor of giving birth to the Savior. She is not to be worshiped, not to be prayed to, she is a sinner saved by grace just like everyone else who is a part of the kingdom.
One of the great challenges as a Protestant is to know and understand how we came to be. The Reformation is our roots in history, but the Bible is our root in theology. Simply put, to be Protestant means you leave the man-made teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and look towards Scripture as your authority for faith and practice.
Why do I make this point when talking about the Early Church Fathers (ECF)? It is simple. Catholics tend to put an inordinate amount of weight and authority in the ECF. They do this to the point of elevating their writings to the level of Scripture. However, they will tell you that they do not do this. Yet, when shown their interpretation is incorrect Biblically, they will say, “But Origen said…” or “But Iraneus argued….” or “But Clement states…” and so on. When you simply say they are wrong, and point out the error, they will say that are we to know better than those that sat under the Apostles?
This, of course, is a logical fallacy. It is an appeal to authority. However, there is no authority there.
We do not hold that the ECF were infallible. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that the ECF, or the church today, including the Pope, are infallible in any way (though the Catholics will try to argue that there is). So how are we to use the ECF?
The answer to this is not difficult. We should use the ECF as we use any other commentary. It is useful for study and instruction but must always be tested against the Scriptures. The Scriptures and Scriptures alone have the final say in all matters of faith and practice. The ECF did get things wrong, and often, they even contradicted each other. Scripture, on the other hand, has no contradictions. It is the perfect and holy words of God.
So while we should read the Fathers, we should not elevate their work to the level of Scripture.
In today’s politically correct culture we are often told that we should make sure we do not offend people when we are speaking the truth of the Gospel. We are also told that we need to make sure we are speaking the truth in love. But what does that mean? Does that mean to not offend? Does that mean we should do everything to make sure that feelings are not hurt? Are we really supposed to go about our preaching and teaching in such a way that nobody can take offense? The answer is NO!
The idea that we are not to offend people does not come from Scripture. This is the construct of a culture that is obsessed with being politically correct. A culture that believes there are no absolutes and that everyone can believe what they want to believe and that is true for them, except Christianity. The truth is this, the Bible is an offensive book to those who do not follow it. The truth is offensive to those who wish to reject it. And, could it be, that when feelings are hurt by hearing the truth it isn’t really their feelings but their conscience tugging at their soul because they know they are in the wrong?
We are just days away from the Special General Conference for the United Methodist Church on whether the church will follow Scripture or follow culture. Yes, that is the real choice. Is the United Methodist Church going to follow God or man? That is what is at stake.
I read an article yesterday entitled “I Am Not Leaving”. The article is a heartfelt call for unity and to continue to work of Christ despite differences in the Denomination. On the surface, this even sounds biblical. But is it really? Should we stay in a church no matter what they teach, preach, or believe? The answer is no.
I have already written about this previously. We should not have unity simply for the sake of unity. Paul makes this clear:
As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.
Titus 3:10 ESV
Paul is clear, have nothing more to do with them. To get the further context of this passage we need to look in chapter two. The context is important so we know that this is not just having nothing to do with someone causing a disturbance. This has to do with doctrine.
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
Titus 2:1 ESV
Church is about teaching sound doctrine to the saints so that they can carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Doctrine does matter despite what some who call for unity try to claim. The Scripture must be faithfully and accurately proclaimed. Sound doctrine is of utmost importance for the spiritual health of the believer.
If the church adopts LGBTQ culture then believers must leave. They must exit. They must take a stand for the Word of God and not the words of men.
The Danger of False Teachers (And what to do about them)
False teachers abound in the church today. From “Prosperity Doctrine,” to the denial of Christ’s Deity, you do not have to search long or hard for these glaring errors. So how should we handle false teacher? Does Scripture give us any indication as to how we should proceed? The answer is an overwhelming YES! In fact, false teachers were a major problem in the New Testament as well and there is plenty of instruction on what we should do. …
Throughout the course of Church History creeds and confessions have been utilized to express what we believe in the faith and to clarify our understanding of written Scripture. But with creeds and confessions come a real danger of moving from preaching good doctrine to setting up an idol that is counter to everything we are instructed in Scripture.