Exegesis, Heresies

In Which He Gets Fed Up With Paul Washer

Over on Facebook, a friend of a friend posted this video, to which my actual friend commented:

I read this quote online and believe it’s applicable to what’s being discussed here. “No Christian can lose Christ or salvation, but those who think they are Christians and have no sanctified life were never saved to begin with and thus will be surprised when Jesus rejects them in the afterlife.”

Okay, no. No. This focus on holiness and the confusion of sanctification and justification has got to stop. Why? Because it’s not Scriptural.

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Exegesis, Heresies

Against Heresies: Scripture, Creeds And Received Truth

A systematic theology must not leave anything out of its system, but in scope take everything captive to Christ (2 Cor 10:5). Thus when it is said in these last days God has revealed Himself by His Son (Heb 1:2), this also accepts with it that in Jesus the fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col 2:9), not some accident or partial, but full revelation, while remaining a divine mystery, eternity being set up in our hearts yet we remain unable to fathom what God has done (Eccl 3:11). There is no further revelation, there is no new promise, no prophet, nothing except the all-surpassing knowledge of Christ and Him crucified (Phil 3:8, 1 Cor 2:2). Christ was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (Matt 5:17), the last days indeed of God’s direct revelation, against the many modes of ancient times by the prophets and dreams (Heb 1:1).

This is Christianity, the faith received once for all (Jude 1:3), knowing from whom you have learned it, familiar with Scripture from a young age – that these Scriptures, being God-breathed, are sufficient to make you wise for salvation (2 Tim 3:14-17). That not every still small voice, not every angel of light, not every divine visitation, but in fact Scripture itself is the fullness of the revelation. If there is a new Christ preached, it is not the Christ of Paul and the Apostles (2 Cor 11:4). Everything thereafter is nonsense. For by the fruits will you identify false teachers (Matt 7:16), and fruits are words – not practices, not works, not attitudes, not family life, but words, for this is the mode of teaching, and we are told fruits are how we identify false teachers, as one who looks like the Lamb, indeed taking on the appearance of Christ, but speaking like the Dragon (Rev 13:11). There is pure doctrine, there is truth, and this truth is normed not by the tradition, but by Scripture rightly understood.

There are traditions of men, yes, there are theologies, but if they do not line up with Scripture, you are doing it wrong. If they add or take away from Scripture, they are in fact dangerous to the eternal soul. Rightly understood is that sola scriptura agrees with the church ancient, the unbroken teaching of the catholic faith received from the Apostles, what it has taught from the beginning is this. Tradition has its place in that it provides us framework for interpreting Scripture. Indeed, these old traditions are what Paul encourages us to follow (2 Thess 2:15) – not new ones made by men – so new traditions and teachings are still taken back to that which we have received from the apostles, which is holy Scripture, which is received even in the New Testament, and is twisted by men (2 Pet 3:14-16).

Those who would contend the Church ancient is without understanding are numerous, and those that would say the true faith is lost as well – from Joseph Smith to Herbert Armstrong to others – would strip the promise of Christ of its power, stating that the Word which created the world indeed could not accomplish by His own true Spirit the full understanding (Jn 16:13). This claim undermines the very power of God, let alone the power of Christ Who is God and speaks with all authority (Matt 28:18). He preserves the true church, which is a mix of believers and unbelievers (2 Tim 2:20) with necessary divisions for the sake of the truth (1 Cor 11:19), and is not as it were perfected theologians (as, indeed, there is not one who understands, none who seek God c.f. Rom 3:11) nor men and women of peculiar morality, as all have sinned (Rom 3:23) and even the regenerate continue to sin against the will of their spirit (Rom 7:22), being bound in weak flesh prone to temptation (Matt 26:41).

And indeed this flesh should be prone to temptation! It is a fallen body, the body of death (Rom 7:23), being inherited from Adam, who begets humanity in his image rather than the image of God (Gen 5:2), and so death entered the world through one man (Rom 5:12), not through woman nor the work of the devil, though indeed the devil tempted the woman, but she was deceived (Gen 3:4,13; 2 Cor 11:3), while Adam the man was with her (Gen 3:6), being undeceived (1 Tim 2:14), tried to conceal his transgression (Job 31:33), hiding and denying his own sin. Adam was made from the dust (Gen 2:7), and through him the whole of creation was cursed and death entered (Gen 3:17-19).

Just as sinful men, though not born of the devil but in fact born of the flesh, this flesh being sinful by nature, not by choice (Ps 51:5) are the spiritual children of the devil (Jn 8:44), they are made children of God by Him who is righteous (Gal 3:26), not by sex or birth of women (Jn 3:5-6), but by the atoning sacrifice of Christ. This righteousness is imputed by the Holy Spirit, through baptism (Acts 2:38, Eph 5:26, Titus 5:26), which is the Word giving us the Spirit (Acts 2:39). And this Word of course is the Spirit! For the Spirit is the breath of God – this is what the Greek word pneuma means – and is sent out of Christ’s own mouth (Jn 20:22). Just then as Eve was formed from the rib of Adam (Gen 2:21-22), by the cup of the eucharist which is Christ’s blood (Lk 22:20) and the waters of baptism does God make His bride, by His own side, where blood and water flowed out (Jn 19:34). The Word made flesh (Jn 1:14) is the root of all salvation.

Those who would demand works of the flesh should be condemned (Phil 3:2-9, Rev 3:9), but also should those who think we have full freedom to keep sinning (Rom 7:7, Rev 2:6). Instead, we recognize as above that the Law has been fulfilled in Christ, that we could not keep the Law perfectly on our own (Gal 2:21), and instead are now empowered to live and be justified by faith (Gal 2:20, Heb 11:2). For though some may say faith without works is dead (Jas 2:17), it is also true that the tax collector is justified, even as the Pharisee lives righteously (Lk 18:14), for our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees (Matt 5:20). And indeed it does, for Christ is our righteousness (Jer 33:16, 1 Cor 1:30)!

Do not then rely on the works of men, for many will have done mighty works in the Lord’s name but be not justified (Matt 7:21-23), nor on the revelation of angels, for even the devil appears as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), but instead on the sufficiency of Scripture. Do not be blown about by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14), the words of men who learn – indeed, keep teaching new revelation – but do not arrive at the truth (2 Tim 3:7).

Be comfortable with the paradox of revelation, this God we cannot fully understand though He has laid it in our hearts, the Christ who is the fullness of deity yet is also emptied of his deity to become man (Phil 2:6-8), and being one with the Father (Jn 10:30) is yet distinct from the Father (Jn 14:28). Indeed the Father sends Him, even as Himself God who takes on flesh (Rom 8:3) is not the Son, being that God could forsake Him upon the cross (Matt 27:46, Mk 15:34), yet also distinct from the Spirit who is His breath, the Helper being “another” (Jn 14:16, 15:26) but inseparable from the Word, for the Word by breath is made (have you not vocal cords?), and yet the breath also proceeds from the Word being spoken. Also, then, that the Spirit testifies by the Word, not by works, as the author says to the Hebrews that the Holy Spirit testifies by the words of the prophet Jeremiah (these words being written, not heard, by the Jews of the day) (Heb 10:15-16). Indeed, this same Spirit fulfilled the promise of prophecy at Pentecost (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:14-21), which is not mere prediction of the future, but right declaration of the truth of God.

Why then do we understand the ancient confession?

I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth and of all things visible and invisible

Because we receive the truths of one God by the testimony of the Scripture (Mk 12:29, 12:32, Eph 4:6, Deut 6:4), and that He is indeed Father (Mal 2:10, Matt 23:9, Ps 28:6) and the creator of all things (Gen 1:1, Rev 4:11), both visible and invisible (Col 1:16, Heb 11:3).

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all worlds – God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made

Because once more Scripture illuminates Christ as Lord (1 Cor 8:6, Eph 4:5), who was begotten of the Father (Jn 3:16)*, being eternal from the Father before all creation (Col 1:15-17, Jn 8:58), being in very nature and form God (Phil 2:6, Jn 1:1-2), the very light to illuminate all mankind (Jn 1:4,9; 2 Cor 4:6; Heb 1:3), being the true God who has come (1 Jn 5:20) – His glory being not made in man, but in the Father (Jn 1:14), and this light is the light of God, the substance coming from the Father (1 Jn 1:5, Jn 8:12) and thus God with us (Is 7:14, Matt 1:23), being the method by which God created the world (Jn 1:3, 10; Gen 1:1; Col 1:16; Rom 11:36).

[Jesus] for us man and our salvation came down from Heaven was incarnate of the Holy Spirit by the virgin Mary, and became man. He was crucified also for us under under Pontius Pilate, suffering death and buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures. He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead. And His kingdom will have no end.

The motivation of Christ was divine compassion for the salvation of His own people (Matt 1:21, 1 Thess 5:9), being descended from Heaven to the flesh by Mary (Jn 3:13, 6:38), being born God of the virgin by the work of the Holy Spirit who is distinct from Him (Lk 1:34-35, Matt 1:18-25), becoming not just the likeness but indeed man while still God (Heb 2:14). Likewise also at the end of His earthly ministry He was crucified (1 Pet 2:24, Mk 15:15) and indeed died (Lk 23:46, 1 Pet 3:18) but rose according to the Scriptures – not just being received in the New Testament, but also the Old, His life conforming to and fulfilling the Law and Prophets, but these being written so you may believe (1 Cor 15:3-4, Lk 24:45-46), and ascended to Heaven (Acts 1:9) where he rules with the full authority as the Father’s right hand (Mk 16:19, Acts 7:56), whence He will return with full majesty not as his humble incarnation (Mk 13:26, 1 Thess 4:17) to judge the living and the dead (2 Cor 5:10, 1 Peter 4:5), and establish an everlasting Kingdom (Heb 1:8, 2 Pet 1:11).

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.

This God who is Three persons and yet One God, one God yet Three Persons, reigns eternal and sovereign (2 Cor 3:17) giving life to all (Jn 6:63; 2 Cor 3:6), proceeding from the eternal perfect union of the Father (Jn 15:26) and the Son (Jn 16:7), being worshiped with the Father and the Son (2 Cor 3:8), who spoke by those whom He used (1 Pet 1:10-11, Eph 3:5, Heb 1:2).

I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

The Church is set apart for the purposes of God (Eph 1:4, 5:27), being in unity of the body (Eph 4:4, 1 Cor 10:17), being a body of all people, complete and universal (Matt 28:19, Gal 3:27-29), built on the teaching of the apostles (Eph 2:20, Matt 10:1, Acts 1:2, 2:42, etc), receiving the baptism of Christ which indeed cleanses us (Matt 28:20, Acts 2:38-39), and by this power of sin being cleaned death is wiped away (Rom 6:4-5, Col 2:12), which grants resurrection (1 Thess 4:16, 1 Cor 15:12), to live with Christ forever in a new Heaven and Earth (2 Pet 3:13, Rev 21:1).


*In fact, the Greek word monogenes is very fascinating. It is sometimes used to say “only” in reference to children, but in fact has in it mono – as in one, singular – genes, as in genesis, beginning, so Christ has beginning, but it is rooted in one, and that One being the Father must have the nature of the Father, which is eternal, glorious, all-powerful, et cetera, and yet distinct from the Father per the revelation of Scripture.


A Quick Rebuttal

You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.

Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I, in fact, am frequently and joyously surprised that the sun continues to rise daily when, in fact, the only reason I might think it should rise again is my own spurious reason built upon prior observations, when it is only a matter of unilluminated faith that I believe prior experiences predict future events. This is the is-ought problem in a nutshell, and why Robert Pirsig is a moron of a philosopher. Because it is not so that because the sun rises it should rise, but merely that we observe it to do so. It is not a sure thing to the thinking man, and just like the wondrous child we might ask “why” and “what” ongoing forever until we find a formal and final cause, for efficient causation does not begin to solve the mysteries with which we are thus engaged.

If you think past observations and experiences are useful for predicting future events based on the evidence of past observations and experiences being useful for predicting future events, you are a victim of circular reasoning and should really give up on this whole endeavor. Alternatively, you could acknowledge a very real, reasonable, underlying faith in the character of the universe being consistent and rational. Science as a discipline: awesome. Scientism as a philosophy: self-refuting.


In Which He Strikes Down Christianity and Arrives at Atheism

This is not a post about my sudden conversion to atheism. If you read my last post, you may remember that I spoke about the intelligibility of the universe in its explicit and implicit order as part of my reason for belief. In my about section, I write how my atheist girlfriend would ask me questions, and how this blog is my attempt to answer some of those questions. In another post, I mentioned that sometimes I feel like I’m writing Leah Libresco’s Unequally Yoked in reverse. This is one of those posts.

Since I believe that “all truth is God’s truth,” sometimes when I read or learn something new, previously held notions of belief have to be reevaluated. Maybe one of these days I’ll end up an atheist. I don’t find this likely. I’m just saying in the whole process of seeking after what is true, you are sometimes led to unexpected places. Lately what I’ve been reading has me grappling with my existing confession. I would maintain it is entirely intelligible, that it makes sense and describes the operation of the world without obvious flaw. But that doesn’t mean I know it’s without a doubt true. This is agnostic theism, after all. I believe it is true as a theoretical physicist might believe a certain proposed multiverse model of reality is true. I have perceived certain natural phenomena, and this system makes it all intelligible – so the fact that it works give me reason to believe it is true.

On the other hand, the mere working of something is not sufficient reason to believe it is true. The evolution of scientific thought, wherein what once we saw as working and true is refuted or transformed by new evidence, should be evidence enough of that. The evolution of theology, wherein the discoveries of the natural world and also the revelation of the divine leads to redefining our preconceived notions, is supplemental evidence in the case against pragmatism. (Imagine a few Jewish fishermen who believed certain things about their relationship to God and God’s relationship to all the peoples of the Earth and of a political messiah…didn’t they have to reevaluate things with the revelation of Christ? “Oh, we are the chosen people, but God’s salvation is for all people, and there isn’t only the high priest one day a year in the Holy of Holies, but right here right now I’m walking around with God incarnate who is named Jesus and is from Nazareth?” Remember this whenever someone suggests new information or challenging evidence doesn’t spark change in “religion.”)

If you’ve been following this blog in the remotest sense, we’ve always worked toward what I believe, namely a Lutheran confession of Catholic Christianity (as opposed to a Roman/Latin confession of Catholic Christianity or a Byzantine confession of same). Sometimes this meant working away from other notions, such as materialism or moral relativism. What if we didn’t work toward what I believe? What if I started from belief and worked elsewhere? This is what I aim to do with this post. I want to work away from Lutheranism toward atheism as a cogent position. Let’s go on a ride!

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On the Pursuit of Knowledge

In my last post, I talked about three discrete “causes” of homosexual inclinations and behavior. I don’t know if any one of them are true, and I don’t know if all of them are true to varying degrees for different people. Given available evidence, I am inclined to believe that all of them are true to varying degrees for different people. I didn’t believe this to be too controversial. In fact, I found it rather humble to admit that there are certain things I do not know and that I was not going to proceed with the presumption that I was omniscient regarding the topic at hand. It sparked a bit of a conversation over on Facebook that I would link to, but then you’d need to log into Facebook, and, oh man, how inconvenient would that be?

Thankfully it led me to another place, a question that has been asked of me over and over again, and one that I’m sure most theists of any stripe are asked fairly regularly: how do I reconcile faith with science? That is, given the evidence, since I do not need Thor to be causing thunder and lightning, since I do not need Apollo to ride his sun-chariot across the sky, since I do not need Suijin to care for lakes and streams and oceans, then clearly the idea of “god” isn’t necessary anymore. The natural phenomena can be explained, and I’m stuck on an artifact of time gone by.

This becomes a competition between faith and doubt. I’m not even talking here about faith in that “religious” sense, but in an intellectual sense of what I put trust or belief in. Do I put stock in science or do I put stock in an abstract deity? Yes.

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On Homosexuality, or: The Post I’ve Been Avoiding for a Long While

In his memoir Through Painted Deserts, Donald Miller recounts traveling with a "recovered homosexual," so described because he formerly engaged in an active gay sex life and turned away from it. I have not read Through Painted Deserts, nor do I know this man that Donald Miller traveled with; thus I cannot speak to the specificity of his case, but the beloved asked me "Do you believe in that?" when she encountered it on the page. Those were not her exact words; rather she asked "Do you believe homosexuality can be reformed?"

It’s a fair enough question if an unfortunately vague one. For one, what do we mean by "homosexuality?" Do we mean the mere behavior of a gay lifestyle? Do we mean attraction to members of the same physical sex? And especially in the modern day, do we scrap the physical sex characteristic completely and instead work with "gender" definitions – if a transgender woman who chooses to forego genital reassignment surgery, but maintains an active masculine identity, dates a man who maintains an active masculine identity, would they both be straight, bi, gay, undefined? For another, what do we mean by "reformed?" Are we trying to reassign attractions from the same sex to the opposite sex? Are we (much more simply) asking for a person to not participate in a gay lifestyle without demands for the alternative? What to do, what to do….

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One River to Cross – On My Flirtation With Rome, or: Why I Can’t Swim the Tiber

I have joked with people before that I will probably be Catholic by the time I’m thirty. It would break my mother’s heart; it would scandalize a church in which I am respected as a teacher and play an active role in assorted ministries. I doubt it would shock or even anger my pastors, both friends who understand that seeking after truth often means leaving a place full of truth for a place full of still more truth. Because Abram is called out of Ur to Cana. It’s not that God wasn’t in Ur (if He weren’t, how could He speak to Abram?), and it’s not that Abram couldn’t worship God in Ur (if that’s the case, holy cow, American Jews, you are in the wrong place!); it’s that God calls us to Him in the fullness of truth. It is why one goes from agnosticism to theism – because theism is true – and from theism to monotheism – because only models with one god offer cogent descriptions of observed phenomena – and from monotheism to the Abrahamic religions and from there to Christianity, which C.S. Lewis describes as a great hall off which there are many doors, and it is our duty to choose the door wherein this mere Christianity (haha, it’s like he titled his book that!) will be fully realized in a denomination.

One makes a journey from places of truth (it is proper to doubt, for man is fallible, so start at agnosticism) to places of greater truth still, at least if one is seeking what is true. So whither goest I?

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