If you want to know what sin is, and does, then there’s no better analogy than hoarding. The hoarder is the sinner and the hoard are sins. And just as the hoard destroys the hoarder and the lives in the hoarder’s circle so too sin destroys the sinner and the lives in the sinner’s circle. The hoard grows and becomes impossible to manage as does sin. And without outside help (the cleaning crew for the hoarder, and the cleansing from sin of the sinner by Christ) the end result is death.
Category Archives: Theology
In my letter, I wrote to you that you should have nothing to do with people living immoral lives. I was not including everybody in this present world who is sexually immoral, or everybody who is greedy, or dishonest or worships false gods — that would mean you would have to cut yourselves off completely from the world. In fact what I meant was that you were not to have anything to do with anyone going by the name of brother who is sexually immoral, or is greedy, or worships false gods, or is a slanderer or a drunkard or dishonest; never even have a meal with anybody of that kind. It is no concern of mine to judge outsiders. It is for you to judge those who are inside, is it not? But outsiders are for God to judge. You must banish this evil-doer from among you (1 Cor. 5:9-13). — St Paul
You got it, brother. You got it…
They are so ignorant as to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in their essence, substance, divinity, power, that they do not know what you mean when you speak of one and understand all three; and their lack of knowledge is accompanied by such recklessness that what they are extremely ignorant of they all the more violently drag under suspicion.
Or they are so willingly and knowingly impious that they assail with the depravity of a perverted heart what they see is done rightly and piously, and since they despair of accomplishing anything in open warfare, they make an underground attack, alleging a fear that we are too much inclined sometimes towards the Father, sometimes towards the Son. To all such I say, κλαίειν, “fare ill.”
Everything in our society aims to create anxiety in us. Politicians want us anxious so we become xenophobes and turn to them for protection and the media wants us anxious so we will tune in and watch their shows and our workplaces want us anxious about losing our jobs so we’ll show up and Madison avenue wants us anxious about how we look so we’ll buy stuff. But Jesus says ‘be anxious for nothing…’
I choose Jesus’s way.
Anyone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. We have recognised for ourselves, and put our faith in, the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. Love comes to its perfection in us when we can face the Day of Judgement fearlessly, because even in this world we have become as he is. In love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear implies punishment and no one who is afraid has come to perfection in love. Let us love, then, because he first loved us. Anyone who says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, is a liar, since whoever does not love the brother whom he can see cannot love God whom he has not seen. Indeed this is the commandment we have received from him, that whoever loves God, must also love his brother. — (1 Jn. 4:15-21)
In short, if you weren’t so terrified of facing punishment for the wrongs you have done, you would treat other people better. A sense of doom, however, gives birth to anger, and anger gives birth to hatred.
“You may more easily find a man born without brains like Marcion, than without a body like Marcion’s Christ.” (Tertullian)
Someone recently complained to me that I shouldn’t talk about Trump’s Christian faith. So I responded
What christian faith? His church attendance? His witnessing? His moral purity? His bible reading? His lived example? His ethics? His language? His mockery of the disabled? His contempt for women? His vulgarity? What, seriously, is it that marks him out as a Christian? Because, frankly, I know what Chrisitianity is and I have yet to see in him a single identifier of the faith I know.
The bible says ‘By their fruits you will know them. A good tree does not produce evil fruit, and an evil tree does not produce good fruit’. I have to ask- what good fruit is the President producing? I’m honestly very curious about it. What am I missing in his behavior?
I don’t care about Trump’s politics. I don’t care about anyone’s politics. I care about Christianity. I care about Christians living according to the teaching of scripture. When someone who calls themselves a Christian acts in a way that denies the truth of Christianity, it is my job, as a Christian pastor and theologian, to alert the flock at large to the falsehood of that claim lest they fall victim to the same heretical behavior and destroy the witness of the Christian faith hither and yon.
So don’t get mad at me for calling into question the actions of a person who says they’re Christian. If Trump had never claimed to be a Christian I would never complain about anything he said or did- because the world at large is not my problem. Christian faith is my field of work. And I won’t let Satan spread weeds among the wheat without pointing it out. Whoever likes it or doesn’t.
“Pastor, I make my kid go to school, the dentist, his job, and football practice, but I don’t feel comfortable making him go to church if he doesn’t want to go…” (The Wrestling Pastor)
Why, you ask? Because they don’t know a thing about it. Not a thing. About it. Or God.
One-quarter (25%) of Americans believe God plays a role in determining the outcome of sporting events. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of the public disagree. There are significant disagreements among Americans about the role that God plays in sports by religious background.
White evangelical Protestants and non-white Protestants are more likely to see the hand of God in the outcome of sporting events than any other religious group. Approximately four in ten (41%) non-white Protestants and more than one-third (36%) of white evangelical Protestants believe God plays a role in determining which team wins. Fewer white mainline Protestants (25%), Catholics (25%), and religiously unaffiliated Americans (9%) believe God plays a role in determining outcomes on the field.
Nearly half (49%) of the public believes God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success; about as many (47%) disagree. Strong differences of opinion are evident between Americans of different religious affiliations.
Non-white Protestants (65%), white evangelical Protestants (62%), and white mainline Protestants (59%) are more likely than Catholics (48%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (29%) to believe God rewards faithful athletes with success and good health.
My theology Prof in College hit the nail on the head when he derisively remarked ‘God doesn’t care who wins a ball game’. And. He. Doesn’t. So, American theological dilettantes, stop pretending to be theologians. You’re really awful at it. Really just awful.
So I respond
Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. (Col. 2:8)
Philosophy understands nought of divine matters. I don’t say that men may not teach and learn philosophy; I approve thereof, so that it be within reason and moderation. Let philosophy remain within her bounds, as God has appointed, and let us make use of her as of a character in a comedy; but to mix her up with divinity may not be endured. – Martin Luther
In my younger days I was as much devoted to worldly knowledge as any of my age, and when seven or eight years ago I gave myself up to the study of the Bible I was completely under the power of the jarring philosophy and theology. But led by the Scriptures and the Word of God I was forced to the conclusion: you must leave them all alone and learn the meaning of the Word out of the Word itself. – Huldrych Zwingli
You can have Aquinas, the Aristotelian. I’ll take the author of Colossians, Luther, and Zwingli (and many other Reformed theologians), Christians.
Sometimes preachers are afraid (or at least hesitant) to reference certain texts of Scripture because they want to avoid appearing to be self-serving. These include, but are not limited to the following:
- Obey your pastoral leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Heb. 13:17)
- The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of ample financial support, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says: You must not muzzle an ox that is threshing grain, and, The laborer is worthy of his wages. (1 Tim. 5:17-18)
- Remember your pastoral leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. (Heb. 13:7)
It’s easy to see why Pastors would be a bit reticent to cite such passages. But Christians should be familiar with them, as they should be with the whole of Scripture, because Scripture is the source of our knowledge of the will and purpose of God.
To put it simply, John 3:16 is no more important than Hebrews 13:17 or 1 Timothy 5:17-18 or Hebrews 13:7. They all communicate the will of God. And all should be known and taken seriously by Christians.*
Preachers, then, should preach the whole of Scripture and not leave parts out simply because someone might look sideways at it. The Church needs to hear what Scripture has to say. The reason our world is in the shape it is, is because too few Christians know, heed, or hear Scripture’s clear teaching. Only proper preaching and teaching can change that.
*Naturally I am not suggesting that Christians should submit to monstrous pseudo-pastors who use, misuse, abuse, or take advantage of others. Those sort are not Pastors, they are monsters. And they should be removed from office. I am, however, suggesting that Pastors worthy of the name are worthy of respect and of a hearing. They are sent by God for the benefit of the Congregation, and the Congregation should recognize that fact
It is God who, for his own generous purpose, gives you the intention and the powers to act. (Phil. 2:13)
Where the intention to act as a Christian is absent, Christ is absent. Where the ability to act as a Christian is absent, Christ is absent.
Why do many who call themselves Christians not act like Christians? Because they lack both the intention and the ability to act like Christians because they are not Christians, because they lack Christ. Because God has not given Christ to them.
Is the amount of sub-Christian behavior it tolerates and still happily calls the practitioners ‘Christians’. Things that are now ‘ok’ with Disciples of the Crucified and Risen Lord are (in no particular order)
- premarital sexual relations
- premarital pregnancy
- marital infidelity
- premarital cohabitation
- failure to participate in worship
- failure to contribute to ministry
- failure to pray
- failure to read the Bible with any regularity
- failure to share the Gospel with neighbors and friends
- failure to show the decency and compassion which Jesus requires (cf. Mt 25)
In short, you don’t have to believe, do, or be anything which is the hallmark of Christian belief. All you need to do is call yourself a ‘Christian’ and, voila, you are one… Or so you would think…
Which is why it’s helpful to remind our contemporaries of a simple pronouncement of Jesus:
‘It is not anyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?” Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, all evil doers! ‘Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!’ (Matt. 7:21-27)
If you aren’t going to obey him, don’t bother to identify with him.
Jesus is more than your last ditch hope. When you reduce him to that, you devalue utterly and absolutely everything he ever taught about what it means to be a disciple.
If the only use you have for God is to get you out of binds that you can’t extricate yourself from, and that you’ve gotten yourself into, he isn’t your God, he’s your tool. Your ‘God of the gaps’ isn’t the God revealed in Scripture. He is a god you’ve created in your own mind, for your own purposes.
The differences among Christians are nothing in comparison of the differences among heathens. The truth is, religion is such an illustrious, noble thing, that dissensions about it, like spots in the moon, are much more noted by the world, than about any lower, common matters. Men may raise controversies in philosophy, physic, astronomy, chronology, and yet it makes no such noise, nor causes much offense or hatred in the world: but the devil and corrupted nature have such an enmity against religion that they are glad to pick any quarrel against it, and blame it for the imperfections of all that learn it and should practice it. — RICHARD BAXTER