Category Archives: Theology

The Bible Doesn’t Call us to Apologize, It Calls Us To Repent

Have you ever noticed that the Hebrew and Greek equivalent of our notion of ‘I’m sorry, I apologize’ is nowhere to be found in Scripture?  Or that you’ve never noticed any story in the Bible that features some character or other going to someone and saying ‘I’m sorry I did that’?  That’s because ‘apologizing’ is meaningless.  It changes nothing, it effects nothing, and it restores nothing.

Instead, Scripture calls us to repentance, which isn’t a mere feeling of sadness for some wrong done but an actual change of behavior.

If people change their behavior after they’ve done a wrong, then they’ve done the right thing.  But if they merely utter a few words and then continue to behave the same way as before, they’ve not done a single meaningful thing.

Any sorrow that doesn’t lead to real repentance is false.  No matter how much the wrongdoer may sound off with words like ‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to, I apologize’.  If you are really sad that you’ve hurt someone, change your behavior and don’t do it again.  Otherwise, you haven’t repented at all and you aren’t even really sorry.

On Theology: An Observation

The best theologians aren’t innovators, they are renovators.

Divine Permission: Or, Why Do We Do Things God Doesn’t Wish Us To Do?

“Permission is an act of governing Providence, by which God does not employ hinderances which no finite agent can overcome, or knows how to overcome, to restrain rational creatures, inclining themselves of their own accord to sin, from an evil forbidden by the law, but, for just reasons, permits them to rush into sins, Ps. 81:12; Acts 14:16; Rom. 1:24, 28.” – Quenstedt.

Zwingli Was Right About What Must Be Done With Heretics

When he wrote, in a disputation-

So far am I from yielding to you that unless you leave me and mine—that is, the sheep of Christ—in peace and quiet, I shall proceed to deal with you far more roughly, without fear of your words or your frowns. You must deal with me by means of the Holy Scriptures bestowed upon us by God (and do not forget that point), and they must not be twisted. You must not use things devised by the vanity of man, and you must come to close quarters and not fight by laying mines. As soon as I perceive any tricks, I shall expose them.

There it is.

If You’re a Christian You’re Supposed to Be In Church. Period. It’s Time To End The Excuses

From an essay in the Raleigh News and Observer:

Here are the reasons why, all things being equal, Christians must go to church:

Christianity is a team sport. Permit me a humble analogy. You might see yourself as a terrific baseball pitcher. But if you only throw baseballs in your backyard at a plywood cutout, you won’t progress. You’re not even really playing baseball.

To discover the full extent of your abilities, to understand the true game, you need a catcher, a coach, infielders and outfielders — and even someone standing in the batter’s box ready to swat your best fastball right back at you.

Same with being a Christian. You can’t do it well by yourself.

Communion is among our faith’s central sacraments, a ritual that celebrates Christians as members of a spiritual, God-ordained community. We’re many individuals who, joined together with Jesus and each other, form one great cosmic body. It’s in our spiritual DNA that we rely on one another; no one stands alone.

Attendance is commanded. The writer of Hebrews, for instance, warns us never to forsake assembling together with our brothers and sisters.

It’s not all about you. We’re sent to church to serve others as much as we’re sent there to be served. Believe it or not, you possess gifts and talents your brothers and sisters need. If you’re not present, you’re denying them benefits God intended them to enjoy.

Your fellow parishioners, including your pastor, will make you mad, hurt your feelings and get on your last nerve. This is exactly what’s supposed to happen. Finding ourselves offended and disappointed lets us see just how shallow and petty we are. It sands down our rough edges. We discover that, by gosh, we’re no better than all those other hymn-warbling yahoos!

Also, watching God work miracles through the smelly, imperfect, hypocritical men and women who make up a congregation reveals to us the unfathomable depths of God’s grace and love. It renews our faith. We realize he can use anybody — even us.

Your fellow Christians will reveal aspects of the Lord you’ve never seen. As we get to know our fellow pilgrims, as we hear them tell and retell their sordid stories while they’re bumbling along, we find they’ve experienced God in ways we haven’t. They’ve seen revelations we’ve never imagined. Over time, all these very different visions merge into a greater portrait of him than we’d ever otherwise behold.

Your fellow churchgoers will inspire and comfort you. Sure, some Christians will let you down, because they’re human and that’s what humans do. But you’ll also find disciples who’ll sit beside you in court when your kid’s up on drug charges, and who’ll hold your hand when your spouse is lying in a coffin, and who’ll bring you soup when you’re sick with the flu. When everything’s going wrong, they’ll assure you it’s going to be OK in the end, because they — and God — have your back.

To the extent you honor your church, you honor Christ. “In as much as you’ve done it to the least of these my brothers and sisters,” Jesus said, “you’ve done it unto me.” When you dishonor or ignore his church, you’re dishonoring or ignoring him.

You’ll get plenty of laughs. You’ll sing and pray, sure. You’ll snore. You’ll grow fidgety. But as much as anything, you’ll experience joy — and mirth. Each church is a microcosm of the human comedy. When you’re not cussing about it, the sheer surreal madness of it just leaves you clutching your rib cage, shaking with laughter, tears of gratitude streaming down your cheeks.

It’s Time To Remember St. Patrick

And no one does it better than the Lutherans (ironically).

Quote of the Day

“The punishments of hell differ in degree, according to the quality and measure of sins.” — Hollazius

Why Are Some Christians More Comfortable With Warfare than Welfare?

It’s amazing when Christians complain about their tax dollars being used to help provide health care for the poor, but these same Christians never utter a word of complaint when their tax dollars are used for warfare. For them, welfare is bad but warfare is good. So I am forced to ask- where is Christ in that?

These same Christian oppose abortion, as do I, but seem to fail to understand that you can kill folk by withholding health care just as well as you can by perpetrating abortion.  The end result is the same- death.

Zwingli For Today

reformers1.jpgThe promiscuous pairing of animals, even in our judgment, is not base, though such pairing of human beings is most base. But what is it that absolves them but condemns us? The Law. For by the divine law we are confined within the barriers of matrimony.— Huldrych Zwingli

Pardon? What? Come Again? What’s That Ya Say?

There’s only one King of the Universe.  Just one.  That’s it.  Is theology not offered in Seminary anymore?  Has Seminary become a Marketing program?  Anyway, apparently, the Gospel Coalition guys don’t own Bibles.  Or read them.

For my sake and my sake only shall I act, for why should my name be profaned? I will not yield my glory to another. (Isa. 48:11)

Salus extra ecclesiam non est

OUTSIDE THE CHURCH OF GOD THERE IS NO SALVATION.    We esteem fellowship with the true Church of Christ so highly that we deny that those can live before God who do not stand in fellowship with the true Church of God, but separate themselves from it. For as there was no salvation outside Noah’s ark when the world perished in flood; so we believe that there is no certain salvation outside Christ, who offers himself to be enjoyed by the elect in the Church; and hence we teach that those who wish to live ought not to be separated from the true Church of Christ. — Heinrich Bullinger

Quote of the Day

“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.” — Thomas a Kempis

Motivation for Your Tuesday

hope

The Cold Hard Facts

The core problem of modern American Christianity is that too many of its members are satisfied with utter mediocrity and have no intention of excelling at faith.  Aspiration to authentic discipleship is as rare as real commitment.

John Calvin: On The Superstition of Lent

I’ll happily stand with Calvin on the issue of Lent and leave those who wish to lie in the filth of the pigsty of ‘tradition’ simply for the sake of ‘tradition’ to do so.

Institutes 4.12.20 reads thusly (with particularly useful descriptions of lenten observance and observers bold-faced)

Then the superstitious observance of Lent had everywhere prevailed: for both the vulgar imagined that they thereby perform some excellent service to God, and pastors commended it as a holy imitation of Christ; though it is plain that Christ did not fast to set an example to others, but, by thus commencing the preaching of the gospel, meant to prove that his doctrine was not of men, but had come from heaven.

And it is strange how men of acute judgment could fall into this gross delusion, which so many clear reasons refute: for Christ did not fast repeatedly (which he must have done had he meant to lay down a law for an anniversary fast), but once only, when preparing for the promulgation of the gospel. Nor does he fast after the manner of men, as he would have done had he meant to invite men to imitation; he rather gives an example, by which he may raise all to admire rather than study to imitate him.

In short, the nature of his fast is not different from that which Moses observed when he received the law at the hand of the Lord (Exod. 24:18; 34:28). For, seeing that that miracle was performed in Moses to establish the law, it behoved not to be omitted in Christ, lest the gospel should seem inferior to the law. But from that day, it never occurred to any one, under pretence of imitating Moses, to set up a similar form of fast among the Israelites.

Nor did any of the holy prophets and fathers follow it, though they had inclination and zeal enough for all pious exercises; for though it is said of Elijah that he passed forty days without meat and drink (1 Kings 19:8), this was merely in order that the people might recognise that he was raised up to maintain the law, from which almost the whole of Israel had revolted.

It was therefore merely false zeal, replete with superstition, which set up a fast under the title and pretext of imitating Christ; although there was then a strange diversity in the mode of the fast, as is related by Cassiodorus in the ninth book of the History of Socrates: “The Romans,” says he, “had only three weeks, but their fast was continuous, except on the Lord’s day and the Sabbath. The Greeks and Illyrians had, some six, others seven, but the fast was at intervals. Nor did they differ less in the kind of food: some used only bread and water, others added vegetables; others had no objection to fish and fowls; others made no difference in their food.” Augustine also makes mention of this difference in his latter epistle to Januarius.

True words, Calvin.  Truly said.   Let’s see how the rabid lent-ianists like those apples.

Quote of the Day

THE fellowship which we experience with Christ through faith is not an objective permanent fact, but the gift of God which becomes a reality for us solely through the power of the Holy Spirit operative in response to our faith. We are always in danger of misunderstanding this. We are inclined to seek peace and satisfaction within ourselves instead of lifting up our hearts to the source of all life. “Our faith would quickly dissolve if God did not test it by manifold trials.” (Calvin) —  Wilhelm Niesel

Emergent Snowflakes, Take Note

There can be no greater mistake than to suppose that Jesus ever separated theology from ethics. – Machen

And he’s absolutely right. There is no Christian ethic apart from theology. No authentic or meaningful ethic that is.

Punishment of the Greedy

greed

Punishment of the greedy

Compost et calendrier des bergers, [Paris: Guy Marchant, 1493] (Angers, Bibliothèque municipale, SA 3390, fol. 35v)

If You’re in Oxford or Oxfordshire…

alister-mcgrathA talk with discussion on the complex relationship of science and faith given by Prof Alister McGrath, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion (Oxford).

This talk is a part of the termly series ‘Merton Conversations in Faith and Culture’, which seeks to foster dialogue about life’s biggest issues and questions by providing an opportunity for people to engage with leading experts in a relaxed environment.

Come for a glass of wine at 8.15 pm, with the talk beginning at 8.30 pm in the Lecture Theatre at Merton College. All welcome.

McGrath is really excellent.  Always worth hearing.

The Thorn in the Flesh: An Observation

God allows all of us that special ‘thorn in the flesh’ so we learn to trust him more, and even love the thorn more.