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Semper Reformanda

by Michael Horton

If you’ve been in Protestant circles for very long, whether conservative or liberal, you may have heard the phrase “reformed and always reforming” or sometimes just “always reforming.” I hear it a lot these days, especially from friends who want our Reformed churches to be more open to moving beyond the faith and practice that is confessed in our doctrinal standards. Even in Reformed circles of late, various movements have arisen that challenge these standards. How can confessions and catechisms written in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries guide our doctrine, life, and worship in the twenty-first? Liberal Protestants frequently invoked this phrase to justify their captivity to the spirit of the age, but some conservative Protestants also use it to encourage a broader definition of what it means to be Reformed.

But where did this phrase come from? Its first appearance was in a 1674 devotional by Jodocus van Lodenstein, who was an important figure in Dutch Reformed pietism — a movement known as the Dutch Second Reformation. According to these writers, the Reformation reformed the doctrine of the church, but the lives and practices of God’s people always need further reformation.

Van Lodenstein and his colleagues were committed to the teaching of the Reformed confession and catechism; they simply wanted to see that teaching become more thoroughly applied as well as understood. However, here is his whole phrase: “The church is reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the Word of God.” The verb is passive: the church is not “always reforming,” but is “always being reformed” by the Spirit of God through the Word. Although the Reformers themselves did not use this slogan, it certainly reflects what they were up to; that is, if one quotes the whole phrase!

Each clause is crucial. First, the church is Reformed, and this should be written with a capitalized “R.” If it is true that Jesus rose from the dead two millennia ago in Palestine, then it is just as true in our time and place. The ecumenical creeds confess the faith that we all share across a multitude of cultures and eras. Similarly, the Reformed standards (such as the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Confession and Catechisms) summarize what Reformed Christians believe to be the clear teaching of God’s Word. Churches will always be changing in significant ways depending on their time and place, but these communal ways of confessing Christ remain faithful summaries of “the faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Our forebears who invoked this phrase had in mind the consolidation of catholic and evangelical Christianity embodied in the Reformed confessions and catechisms. There is a reason that this wing of the Reformation called itself “Reformed.” Unlike the Anabaptists, Reformed churches understood themselves as a continuing branch of the catholic church. At the same time, the Reformed wanted to reform everything “according to the Word of God.” Not only our doctrine but our worship and life must be determined by Scripture and not by human whim or creativity.

Interestingly, it is a mainline Presbyterian theologian, Anna Case-Winters, who brings attention to what she calls “our misused motto.” Winters points out that “in the 16th-century context the impulse it reflected was neither liberal nor conservative, but radical, in the sense of returning to the ‘root.’” This was reflected in the rallying cry, sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone). The Reformation had no interest in “change” as an end in itself. As Calvin argued in his treatise “The Necessity of Reforming the Church,” the Reformers were charged with innovation when in fact it was the medieval church’s innovative distortions of Christian faith and worship that required a recovery of apostolic Christianity. Rome pretended to be “always the same,” but it had accumulated a host of doctrines and practices that were unknown to the ancient church, much less to the New Testament.

Some people today leave out the “Reformed” part or at least interpret it as “reformed” (little “r”): the church is “always being reformed according to the Word of God.” This means that to be Reformed is simply to be reformed and to be reformed is simply to be biblical. All who base their beliefs on the Bible are therefore “reformed,” regardless of whether their interpretations are consistent with the common confessions of the Reformed churches. However, this runs counter to the original intention of the phrase. Doubtless there are many beliefs and practices that Reformed believers share in common with non-Reformed believers committed to God’s Word. We must always remain open to correction from our brothers and sisters in other churches who have interpreted the Bible differently. Nevertheless, Reformed churches belong to a particular Christian tradition with its own definitions of its faith and practice. We believe that our confessions and catechisms faithfully represent the system of doctrine found in Holy Scripture. We believe that to be Reformed is not only to be biblical; to be biblical is to be Reformed. As important as it is to keep “Reformed” in the phrase, an even more dangerous omission is often found among more liberal Protestants who also leave out the “according to the Word of God” clause. And usually it is “always reforming,” instead of “always being reformed.” In this view, the church is the active party, determining its own doctrine, worship, and discipline in the light of ever-changing cultural contexts. Progressivism becomes an end in itself and the church becomes a mirror of the world.

Yet those of us in confessional Reformed churches must also beware of forgetting that our doctrinal standards are subordinate to the Word of God. Christ’s church was reformed by God’s Word in the Reformation and post-Reformation era. It was brought back to God’s Word and the fruit of that great work of the Spirit continues to guide us through our confessions and catechisms. And yet the church is not only Reformed; it is always in need of being reformed. Like our personal sanctification, our corporate faithfulness is always flawed. We don’t need to move beyond the gains of the Reformation, but we do need further reformation. But here is where the last clause kicks in: “always being reformed according to the Word of God.”

It is not because the culture is always changing and we need to be up with the times, but because we are always in need of being re-oriented to the Word that stands over us, individually and collectively, that the church can never stand still. It must always be a listening church. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Personally and corporately, the church comes into being and is kept alive by hearing the gospel. The church is always on the receiving end of God’s good gifts as well as His correction. The Spirit does not lead us apart from the Word but directs us back to Christ as He is revealed in Scripture. We always need to return to the voice of our Shepherd. The same gospel that creates the church sustains and renews it. Our personal conformity to the Word that Paul commands in Romans 12 is never completed in this life, and the same is true of the church in this present age.

This perspective keeps us from making tradition infallible but equally from imbibing the radical Protestant obsession with starting from scratch in every generation. When God’s Word is the source of our life, our ultimate loyalty is not to the past as such or to the present and the future, but to “that Word above all earthly pow’rs,” to borrow from Luther’s famous hymn. Neither behind us nor ahead of us, but above us, reigns our sovereign Lord over His body in all times and places. When we invoke the whole phrase — “the church Reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God” — we confess that we belong to the church and not simply to ourselves and that this church is always created and renewed by the Word of God rather than by the spirit of the age.

 

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: http://www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

 Original article can be linked from Ligonier Ministries.

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 By Paul Proctor – January 13, 2010 – NewsWithViews.com

I have addressed, on numerous occasions, the Church’s ongoing efforts to reinvent Christianity into a global religion of Results & Relationships by using the powers of pragmatism and consensus to artificially grow itself into something more widely accepted by the world instead of faithfully proclaiming the Word of God “in season and out” as we are commanded to do in 2nd Timothy 4:2. The leaders of the new spirituality and its church growth movement have always had a hard time avoiding the “wide gate” and “broad way” choosing clever methods of “evangelism” that are not only incompatible with God’s Word, but also prove them unwilling to trust Him with the increase – ever looking for something more clever, spectacular and impressive to glory in and boast about to a watching world.

“…for men to search their own glory is not glory.” – Proverbs 25:27b

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” – 1Corinthians 3:7

There’s no better example of this than a recent story from The Baptist Standard where Christians are encouraged by a “veteran missionary” to employ what’s called “The Camel Method” to evangelize, where the Quran is used, instead of the Bible, to share Christ with Muslims – a method that reportedly utilizes “selected verses” and “doesn’t teach or lecture, but asks questions.”

Isn’t this exactly what dialectically trained facilitators have done for years in many seeker-sensitive and purpose driven churches to draw and hold large and diverse crowds of potential converts with a lot of non-offensive opinion sharing and relationship building in order to find common ground and greater tolerance for one another through compromise and group dynamics? That may be the agenda of global socialists at the United Nations, but it’s not the Bible’s agenda for Christians or the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m sure the UN would have no problem with a program like this where sidelining biblical truths for a contrived unity is celebrated and syncretism is the spirituality of choice.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” – Proverbs 14:12

According to the report, missionary Kevin Greeson, who “has served 16 years with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board,” is “working to start Christian movements among Muslims in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal…” adding that “his goal focuses less on individual conversions and more on starting spiritual movements that will result in thousands of Muslims becoming followers of Christ.”

Greeson: “Our generation can’t afford to be satisfied or happy with winning one lost person to Christ. There are so many lost people, we can’t be happy with that.”

“…I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” – Luke 15:10

Certainly most Christians would like to see more than one person they witness to repent and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, but where in God’s Word are we commanded to “take up thy Quran” and “go ye into all the world and start a movement?” Sure it sounds lofty and high-minded in our Big Box culture where consumers like to impress each other and get the most for the least; but isn’t this more of an exercise in ecumenical egomania and spiritual sleight-of-hand than humble obedience to Jesus’ call to “take up thy cross” and “go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature?”

It’s alarming enough that the Bible is set aside with this method of “evangelism,” but it’s outright heresy that Jesus Christ is presented as the son of Allah, since Allah was widely recognized and worshipped as a pagan moon god even before there was a Mohammed.

How then can the truth set you free if it begins with a lie?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

 

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Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be)

 

By Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck

not emergentForeword by David F. Wells

Moody Press, 2008, 256 pp, $14.99

“They just don’t get it.”

I predict that’s what the naysayers of Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck’s new book Why We’re Not Emergent will say.

“They don’t understand me” is one of the slogans of post-moderns, Emergents, and teenagers everywhere. It’s built into their philosophical system. It may be the only solid plank their doctrinal platform has.

In one sense, of course, it’s true. No one but God understands all the way into the depths of every person’s heart (e.g. Prov. 20:24).

And in another sense it’s helpful. For instance, my wife, recognizing that my experience and brain-wiring are quite different than hers, loves and serves obtuse and arrogant me when she says in exasperation, “You’re not understanding me!” When she says this, she’s not referring so much to logical differences as to categorical or perspectival differences, as if a cat were trying to explain its view of the world to a dog. So it is with the Emergents. They are potentially serving and loving non-Emergent evangelicals by insisting, “You’re not getting it,” because it forces us non-Emergents to work harder at getting outside of ourselves and seeking to understand.

CONVERSATION STOPPER

The problem is that this same phrase “You don’t understand me” can be used dismissively, immaturely, impudently. It can be thrown out as a conversation-stopper in order to avoid correction. And it’s my impression that some Emergents, like some teenagers, do just this.

Michigan pastor DeYoung and his church member Kluck, who write alternating chapters in this excellent book, are under no illusions that Why We’re Not Emergent won’t run into these kinds of conversation stoppers. The last page of the penultimate chapter reads, “Those who aren’t inclined to the emergent/emerging thing will probably support most of what we’ve written, and those who call themselves emergent will find a million reasons to find fault with it. The idea that people read much of anything and have their minds changed by it is less and less realistic to me. People, usually, just dig in” (235).

I hope they are wrong. I hope my snarky teenager comparisons are wrong. I hope that those inclined to the “emergent/emerging thing” will themselves at least try to understand what these two men are saying, because it’s the closest thing that I’ve read so far that both “gets” where the Emergents are coming from while at the same time offering a very good critique of the movement’s deficiencies.

PULLING BACK THE CURTAIN

In fact, that’s probably the book’s greatest strength. In addition to describing some of the philosophical and doctrinal deficiencies of the movement, they capture something of its cultural flavor, aroma, texture. DeYoung and Kluck pull the emerging curtain back and point out, “Look, a lot of what you guys are doing is dressing up your cultural preferences with highfalutin language. C’mon.”

Here’s their reaction to pastor and Emergent leader Dan Kimball’s side-by-side comparison charts of the modern church and postmodern church:

Kimball says that preaching in the emerging church “teaches how the ancient wisdom of Scripture applies to kingdom living as a disciple of Christ” while the modern preacher “serves as a dispenser of biblical truths to help solve personal problems in modern life.” Those two sentences would say the same thing if not for Kimball’s choice of language, employing uninspiring words like “dispenser, ” and “solve” for the modern church instead of cool words like “ancient wisdom” and “kingdom living.” Similarly, in the modern church “the Bible is a book to help solve problems and a means to know God,” and “discipleship is based on modern methodology and helps.” Conversely, in the emerging church, “The Bible is a compass for direction and means to experience God,” and “Discipleship is based on ancient disciplines.” Well, who wants problem solving and methodology when you can experience God and use ancient disciplines?

DeYoung and Kluck don’t mean to suggest that the differences between Emergents and non-Emergents is merely terminological. In fact, every other chapter, authored by Pastor DeYoung, is devoted to explaining the significant philosophical and doctrinal differences behind the word groups contrasted in the quote above (to be fair, Dan Kimball describes himself as “Emerging” not “Emergent,” meaning that he doesn’t embrace all those doctrinal differences). Still, non-Emergent readers like me will probably find themselves grateful that these two authors finally return the stereotyping favor that Emergents have used to bless us non-Emergents from the get-go. As they put it, “the emergent critique of the modern church suffers from an over-population of straw men.”

And Emergents, well, I hope that the ever-earnest Emergents will receive the stereotyping—accurate, in my opinion—with good humor, with the ability to not take themselves so seriously, and with the gentle correction that, yes, some of their sacred cows like “authenticity,” “sincerity,” “inconsistency,” “spiritual journey,” and “idiosyncracy” are cultural clichés, too. Like all of us, Emergents have their own set of culturally conforming non-conformities.

REAL AUTHENTICITY

By seeking to understand several of Why Were Not Emergent’s critiques, Emergents might even gain some of what they’re after—like authenticity—as illustrated in a story Kluck tells about attending a funeral at his old church. He describes the building as a place with “folding tables, a drop ceiling, bad carpet, and a potluck lunch” which would “give Dan Kimball a heart attack.” Kluck writes,

This church, like many in America, has survived a great deal. Car wrecks, cancer, extramarital affairs, some bad theology, and the like. But, much like the small town that it’s in, it has taken care of its own. It has mourned with those who mourn. It has delivered meals. It has made countless hospital visits. It has, for the most part, spoken truth and preached the gospel of Christ crucified…Those here [for the funeral] today came to honor the life of a man who lived largely because of a proposition—that sometimes outmoded belief that Christ paid the penalty for our sins, and that we are, because of that, compelled to live for Him, and like Him.

Reflecting on this experience, Kluck continues,

I am reminded that there are still churches and places in this country where one doesn’t have to work at being “authentic.” Authentic isn’t a look you put on in the morning, or a new and snappy way to bathe the sanctuary in “mystery’ through the strategic arrangement of candles and projected images. Authentic is bearing one another’s burdens. Authentic is people coming to a funeral in their work clothes—Carhartts, hospital scrubs, etc.—on a Friday morning.

One of the most downright beautiful aspects of this book is its repeated presentations of this kind of authentic church life together (see especially the chapter “Why I Don’t Want a Cool Pastor”).

NO, WE DON’T GET IT

The trouble with teenagers, of course, is that they think they know it all already. And the trouble with reform movements like the Emergent church is that they assume, by their very nature, they “get” whatever they are trying to reform. They have a “been there, done that” attitude that permeates every conversation. Which makes them somewhat impervious to counter-correction. In their very passion to reform, they can become unreformable.

Emergents might be right about some of the things they want to reform; and they might be right about the majority’s inability to understand. No matter how many times my wife explains to me what it’s like to be my wife, there’s a sense in which I just don’t get it. And sometimes I think that I never will. So let me say to the Emergents, “On behalf of all non-Emergent evangelicals everywhere, no, we don’t understand. We don’t get it.”

That’s unofficial, of course. No ETS or SBC or PCA or CT or DG or T4G or TGC or DAC signature at the bottom of that. Take it for what it’s worth.

So one weakness of DeYoung and Kluck’s book is that there’s a sense in which they may not get it. I don’t say that because I do get it. I already told you that I don’t. But I think that I get what I don’t get which, if you get, you’re getting it just enough to say what you’re not getting. Get it? And I think that DeYoung and Kluck just might back me up on this. But I’m not sure. Also, both of my parents are professional musicians and I grew up surrounded by musicians. If you did as well, you’ll know what I mean in a second.

So with these impressive credentials, let me propose that there’s something of a nineteenth century Romantic impulse dwelling in the heart of the Emergent church—a drive to experience mystery, beauty, majesty, and the heroism that can only follow a profound grappling with all that’s dark in the world. This impulse can never be satisfied with just rational formulations.

There’s also a deep-in-the-gut dissatisfaction with the world as it now is, a dissatisfaction so viscerally intense that it can easily overwhelm one’s better theological judgment and yield a kind of utopianism.

Now I think, although I’m not certain, that DeYoung and Kluck understand all this, but I’m not sure they understand it as well as Emergents want to be understood. And that’s understandable. I don’t understand either. Their ability to write well demonstrates that they are creative men, Kluck especially. But the book still reads like two men who think with their heads. Again, me too. Like all Romantics, Emergents think—and I can only put this vaguely—with their guts, or maybe it’s their hearts. And praise God that some people in this world think with their guts or hearts! I’m grateful that some people don’t want to simply work out mathematical physics equations in classrooms but want to escape into the night and feel the grandeur of the stars. I’m grateful that some people aren’t content only with books of theology but want to enjoy and live even the slightest hints of God’s transformative compassion in song and service. I’m grateful that the injustices of this world weigh more heavily on some than they do on the rest of us.

In short, I believe us proposition-loving types could do a better job of listening to the heart passions of the Emergent church (and if you’re response to words like “heart passions” is anything like mine, then you and me are the ones who could do a little more listening).

Of course, right now any Emergents who made it through the last four paragraphs are probably thinking that I don’t get it at all. What can you do.

BUT PLEASE DON’T JUST SAY…

But even if they—or we—don’t understand you entirely, Emergents, please don’t just say, “These guys don’t get it” and chuck the book on the pile. That’s a conversation stopper; and these two authors get a lot. I’m vain enough to wish I had written their book!

DeYoung and Kluck’s arguments, I believe, are compelling, and their cultural characterizations are revealing. Emergents, I plead with you, please read those aspects of the book carefully and with open hearts. Yes, the Phariseeism that can afflict proposition-loving personalities like mine can send people to hell. But wrong propositions will also send people to hell.

Finally, Emergents and non-Emergents alike should be convicted by DeYoung’s remarkable epilogue, which meditates on Jesus’ words to several of the churches in John’s Revelation. Jesus has words for the doctrinally sound but loveless Ephesians. Jesus has words for the faithful but doctrinally undiscerning Pergamums. Jesus has words for the loving but overly tolerant Thyatirans. Jesus has words for each of us, and Why We’re Not Emergent concludes by wonderfully reminding us of that fact.

Jonathan Leeman is the director of communications for 9Marks and is grateful for both of his Romantic and doctrinally discerning parents.March/April 2008, ©9Marks

Permissions©9Marks. Website: http://www.9Marks.org. Email: info@9marks.org. Toll Free: (888) 543-1030.

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By Jay Rogers, from The Apologetics Group

The usual answer to this question is that it was adjusted, like many Church feast days, to coincide with the pagan feast days, this one being the winter solstice. This is a convenient explanation, but the exact date of December 25th is for another reason entirely. It was proposed by several of the church fathers beginning in the second century, far too early for the “pagan copycat” thesis to be valid. To explain how the church fathers arrived at this date, we need to examine first the date of John the Baptist’s conception as told in Luke.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah (Luke 1:5).

According to 1 Chronicles 24:7-19, King David had divided the priests into 24 divisions who took turns serving in the Temple. During their service they lived in the Temple and were separated from their wives and children. Each order served for a period of eight days twice a year. The priests of the course of Abijah served during the 10th and 24th weeks of the Jewish year. Luke goes on to recount how the angel Gabriel appeared to Zecharias while he was serving in the Temple.

So it was that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:8-15).

Note here that “the whole multitude of the people” (i.e., the whole nation of Israel) was present outside the Temple. Some have attempted to reconstruct the weeks of service according to Josephus’ account in Antiquities 7:14:7, which relates that the first division, the division of Jehoiarib, was on duty when Jerusalem was destroyed on August 5, AD 70. Using this date as an anchor, the eighth division of Abijah would serve two times in the year, one of them being in late September. However, it is uncertain if these allotments began on exactly the same day of the year, since there would be four extra weeks to account for at the end of the year. But there were only two times in the year when the “whole multitude of the people” of Israel was required to be in Jerusalem worshiping at the Temple. These were the fall and spring feast days. John’s vision apparently occurred on one of the high feast days, the church fathers thought it was the Day of Atonement, and then John returned to his home immediately after that.

So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived (Luke 1:23, 24).

Since “the hill country of Judea,” where Elizabeth lived according to Luke 1:39;65, is no more than a day’s journey from Jerusalem, the conception of John the Baptist must have occurred soon after that. Several of the Church fathers noticed this correspondence and made the inference that John must have been conceived shortly after the Day of Atonement, which usually falls in September. In fact, the church father John Chrysostom thought that Zecharias was actually the Jewish High Priest because he was in the Holy Place on the Day of Atonement, which in 6 BC fell on September 22nd. So September 24th was calculated as the date of John’s conception. The birth of John occurred exactly nine months later on June 24th. Since Jesus was conceived six months after John, various dates around this time, December 25th, January 2nd and 6th were given by various church fathers and each of these have been celebrated as the Nativity of Jesus. In fact, the Eastern Orthodox Church has always used January 6th as the date of Christmas.

If John was conceived during one of the spring feasts — Passover or Pentecost, which were the other two times in the year when the “whole multitude of the people” of Israel was required to be in Jerusalem — then we would have winter birth for John and a summer birth for Jesus.

Notwithstanding, the Day of Atonement fits well as an anchor date because it points to a winter birthday for Christ. Josephus notes that Herod died shortly before the Passover in 4 BC, which began on April 11th of that year. This gives several months for the events surrounding the Nativity and fits the narrative accounts of both Matthew and Luke.

We should not be dogmatic about the exact day. However, we can use December 25th as the anchor date. This date helps explain several events recorded in the nativity accounts and is important for establishing a timeline that supports the historicity of the Gospels.

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by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (*)

We have seen that the devil is never quite so subtle, and never quite so successful, as when he succeeds in persuading people that he does not exist at all! That, as we have suggested, was his supreme masterpiece, and it is certainly a part of our problem at the present time. The tendency now is to say that we must not talk about ‘the devil’ but only about ‘evil’. We must not tell people to ‘renounce the works of the devil’, we must tell them to ‘resist evil’. In other words, the whole tendency today is to say that our fight is only against a principle of evil that is in ourselves and in others, and perhaps in the very environment into which we are born. But it is not considered to be ‘consistent with modern knowledge’ to believe still in a personal devil. We must not even make that principle of evil positive. What has been called ‘evil’, we are told, is simply the absence of good qualities rather than something positive in and of itself!

But the whole emphasis of the Apostle here is on the devil as a person. A principle cannot be subtle. It is only a person who can be subtle. ‘The wiles of the devil!’ The Apostle’s whole object is to tell us that we are not fighting merely against flesh and blood, merely against some principle, or absence of principle, which is within us as flesh and blood, as men and women. He goes out of his way to say that it is quite otherwise. In other words what he says is the exact opposite of what is being taught commonly at the present time.

But somebody may ask, ‘Does it matter whether you believe in a personal devil or not?’ The answer is that the Apostle most certainly assures us that we are fighting personalities and ‘spirits’ of evil, the world ‘rulers of this darkness’, not the ‘darkness’, but ‘the rulers’ of the darkness. His whole object is to get us to see that we must not be deluded in this respect, but realize that there are these spiritual entities, personalities, headed up by the devil himself, who are warring a terrible, subtle, vicious warfare against God and all His people. This is not a matter of opinion, it is not just a matter of accommodating our teaching to suit the modern mind and modern knowledge and understanding; if you do not believe in the person of the devil you are rejecting not only the teaching of the Apostle Paul but you are rejecting the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!

The problem that arises here primarily is the problem of revelation. Was the Apostle Paul just a creature of his age, or was he given this revelation by the Lord Jesus Christ through the Spirit? Was our Lord Himself but a creature of His age? He obviously believed in a personal devil, and in these powers. He addressed demons as persons, saying ‘Come out’. You cannot say that to a principle! You cannot dismiss the devil, as it were, in that way; you are denying at the same time the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. You are saying that you are in a superior position to Him, that your knowledge is greater, that you have greater understanding. You are involved in the whole question of revelation and of authority.

This digression is important, for the business of preaching is to relate the teaching of the Scriptures to what is happening in our own day; and if this teaching in Ephesians is true there is nothing more dangerous than to substitute for a personal devil a principle of evil! The whole of our faith is ultimately involved in the matter. The trouble with the critics is that they really do not believe in the spiritual realm. Many of them are equally doubtful, as I have shown, of the Person of the Holy Spirit. He is just a principle, a power, an influence. There is, in fact, nowadays, a fundamental lack of belief in the spiritual realm and the reality of these spiritual personalities. Never was there a time when it was more necessary that we should consider carefully what the Apostle has to teach us, and what all parts of the Bible teach us, concerning ‘the wiles of the devil’.

Having looked at the wiles in general we must now become more particular in our approach. Here, again, I would sub-divide our treatment of this matter into two main sections. First, we must consider the devil’s activity in general, and then his activity in detail, for it is quite clear that there are certain general activities of the devil described in the Scriptures, and which are seen very clearly in the history of the Church throughout the centuries, and in the Church today. These in turn can be sub-divided into strategy and tactics. It is the same classification as is used in military warfare.

We start with these generalities, these matters of broad strategy. There have been certain movements initiated by the devil which have affected the life of the whole Church, and which in turn have affected the lives of individual believers in the Church. We are, indeed, involved in these very things at the present time. ‘To be forewarned is to be forearmed.’ Let us use again the analogy of international problems. The last War came upon this country suddenly and unexpectedly because people would not face the facts, because we were nearly all believers in, and supporters of appeasement, surrendering this and that, saying that war could not happen again, and that two World Wars do not occur within a quarter of a century! This country kept on refusing to face the plain facts of the international situation. Men wanted to be happy and to enjoy themselves, and dismissed the man who kept on warning us as a ‘warmonger’, a ‘difficult person’ with whom nobody could work, an ‘individualist’. Precisely the same, it seems to me, is happening in the realm of the spiritual today. People say, ‘Do not be negative; let us be positive; let us just preach the simple gospel’. But the Bible is full of negatives, full of warnings, ever showing us these terrible possibilities. If you find in yourself a dislike of the warnings of the Scripture and of this negative teaching, it is obvious that you have been duped by the wiles of the devil. You have not realized the situation in which you are placed.

The movements to which I am referring can be best classified and considered along the following lines. We start with Heresies within the Church, which have been caused and produced by the devil and his powers. I am not concerned to go into the detail of heresies; I am simply concerned to emphasize the fact of heresies, the fact of movements within the life of the Church that have so often led to terrible trouble and produced a state of chaos.

A heresy is ‘a denial of or a doubt concerning any defined, established Christian doctrine’. There is a difference between heresy and apostasy. Apostasy means ‘a departure from the Christian truth’. It may be a total renunciation or denial of it, or it may be a misrepresentation of it to such an extent that it becomes a denial of the whole truth. But a heresy is more limited in its scope. To be guilty of heresy, and to be a heretic, means that in the main you hold to the doctrines of the Christian faith, but that you tend to go wrong on some particular doctrine or aspect of the faith. The New Testament itself shows us clearly that this tendency to heresy had already begun even in the days of the early Church. Have you not noticed in the New Testament Epistles the frequent references to these things? There is scarcely one of them that does not include mention of some particular heresy that was creeping in, and tending to threaten the life of some particular church. It is seen in this Epistle to the Ephesians; it is still more plain, perhaps, in the Epistle to the Colossians where heretical tendencies were entering through philosophy and other agencies. It is found likewise in the Epistles to Timothy.

Incipient heresy can be detected from the very earliest days. There is an enemy who comes and sows tares. I am not applying that parable in detail, I am using it as an illustration to show the kind of thing we are considering. The enemy’s object, of course, is to disturb the life of the Church, to shake the confidence of Christian people, to spoil God’s work in Christ. The Epistles were in a sense written to counteract these evils. The threat was already there in many different forms, for before the New Testament closes, all the major heresies were beginning to show their heads in the Early Church.

But from the second century of the Christian era the evil becomes still more evident and obvious. The simple fact is that for several centuries the Christian Church was literally fighting for her very life. With the conversion, and the coming in, of those who were trained in Greek philosophy and teaching, all kinds of dangers immediately arose, and the danger became so great as to threaten the whole life of the Church. People who called themselves Christians, and moved in the realm of the Church, began to propagate teachings that were denials of Christian truth. The threat became so great that the leaders of the Churches held certain great Councils in order to define the Christian faith. Their object was to pinpoint heresies, and to protect the people from believing them. Such confusion had come in that people did not know what was right and what was wrong. So the leaders met together in these great Councils, and promulgated their famous Creeds, such as The Athanasian Creed, The Nicene Creed, and The Apostles’ Creed.

These Creeds were attempts on the part of the Church to define, and to lay down, what is true and what is not true. And in this way they were able to brand certain teachers as heretics, and to exclude them from the life of the Christian Church. The confusion that led to the drawing up of the Creeds was a great manifestation of the wiles of the devil. And today there are many people who recite these Creeds in their churches every Sunday, and then in conversation tell you that what you believe does not matter at all — ‘believe anything you like!’ But the Creeds are a permanent reminder to us of the wiles of the devil in this respect.

During the great period of the Protestant Reformation likewise the different sections of the Reformed Church drew up their Confessions of Faith, such as the Belgic Confession, the Augsburg Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and in this country the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. In the next century Protestant theologians meeting in Westminster Abbey in London in and after 1643, eventually produced ‘The Westminster Confession of Faith’. What was their purpose? I ask the question because we are living in an age when many say, ‘Of course, these things do not matter at all, they have no relevance to us’. I am trying to show their vast importance, their extreme relevance at this present time. Confessions were drawn up for the same reason as held good during the earlier centuries. Church leaders, led by the Holy Spirit, and enlightened by Him, saw very clearly that they must, as their first duty, lay down clearly and on paper what is true and what is not true. In part they had to define their faith over against Roman Catholicism. And not only so, but also over against certain heresies that were tending to rise even amongst themselves. So they drew up their great ‘Confessions’ — which in a sense are nothing but the Creeds once more — in order to give the people light and guidance and instruction with respect to what they should believe.

Is there someone who feels at this point, ‘Well, really, what has all this to do with me? I am an ordinary person, I am a member of the Church and life is very difficult. What has all this to say to me?’ Or there may be someone who is recovering after illness and who says ‘Well, I was hoping to have a word of comfort, something to strengthen me along the way, something to make me feel a little happier; what has all this about Creeds and Confessions and the wiles of the devil to do with me?’ If you feel like that, the truth is that the devil has defeated you. The Apostle Paul says, ‘Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners’ (I Corinthians 15:33). He means that wrong teaching is desperately dangerous. He is there dealing with the great question of the resurrection, he is concerned with that one doctrine, and he says, Make no mistake about this; it is not a matter of indifference as to whether you believe in the literal physical resurrection or not. ‘Ah but,’ you say, ‘I am a practical man of affairs, I am not interested in doctrine, I am not a theologian, I have no time for these things. All I want is something to help me to live my daily life.’ But according to the Apostle you cannot divorce these things, ‘Evil communications’ —wrong teaching, wrong thinking, wrong belief — ‘corrupt good manners’. It will affect the whole of your life.

One of the first things you are to learn in this Christian life and warfare is that, if you go wrong in your doctrine, you will go wrong in all aspects of your life. You will probably go wrong in your practice and behaviour; and you will certainly go wrong in your experience. Why is it that people are defeated by the things that happen to them? Why is it that some people are completely cast down if they are taken ill, or if someone who is dear to them is taken ill? They were wonderful Christians when all was going well; the sun was shining, the family was well, everything was perfect, and you would have thought that they were the best Christians in the country. But suddenly there is an illness and they seem to be shattered, they do not know what to do or where to turn, and they begin to doubt God. They say, ‘We were living the Christian life, and we were praying to God, and our lives had been committed to God; but look at what is happening. Why should this happen to us?’ They begin to doubt God and all His gracious dealings with them. Do such people need ‘a bit of comfort’? Do they need the church simply as a kind of soporific or tranquillizer? Do they only need something which will make them feel a little happier, and lift the burden a little while they are in the church?

Their real trouble is that they lack an understanding of the Christian faith. They have an utterly inadequate notion of what Christianity means. Their idea of Christianity was: ‘Believe in Christ and you will never have another trouble or problem; God will bless you, nothing will ever go wrong with you’; whereas the Scripture itself teaches that ‘through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22), or as the Apostle expresses it elsewhere, ‘In nothing be terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake’ (Philippians 1:28-29). Our Lord says, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). There is nothing which is so wrong, and so utterly false, as to fail to see the primary importance of true doctrine. Looking back over my experience as a pastor for some thirty-four years, I can testify without the slightest hesitation that the people I have found most frequently in trouble in their spiritual experience have been those who have lacked understanding. You cannot divorce these things. You will go wrong in the realms of practical living and experience if you have not a true understanding. If you drop off into some heresy, if you go wrong at some point, if you believe, for instance — I give one example in passing — ‘that healing is in the atonement’, that it is never God’s will that any of His children should be ill, that it is always God’s will that all His children should be healthy, and that no Christian should ever die from a disease . . .; if you believe that, and then find yourself, or someone who is dear to you, dying of some incurable disease, you will be miserable and unhappy. Probably you will be told by certain people, ‘There is something wrong with your faith, you are failing somewhere, you are not really trusting as you should be’, and you will be cast into the depth of despair and misery and unhappiness. You will be depressed in your spiritual life, and you will be looking here and there for comfort. Such a person’s condition is due to error or heresy concerning a primary central doctrine. He or she has insinuated something into the Christian faith that does not truly belong to it.

Nothing is more urgently relevant, whether we think of ourselves in particular or the Church in general, than that we should be aware of heresy. Take the New Testament, take the history of the Christian Church, or take individual Christian experience, and you will see that true doctrine is always urgently relevant. It is of supreme importance for the whole life of the Church. The Holy Spirit is the power in the Church, and the Holy Spirit will never honour anything except His own Word. It is the Holy Spirit who has given this Word. He is its Author. It is not of men! Nor is the Bible the product of ‘flesh and blood’. The Apostle Paul was not simply giving expression to contemporary teaching or his own thoughts. He says, ‘I received it by revelation’. It was given to him, given to him by the Lord, the risen Lord, through the Holy Spirit. So I am arguing that the Holy Spirit will honour nothing but His own Word. Therefore if we do not believe and accept His Word, or if in any way we deviate from it, we have no right to expect the blessing of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will honour truth, and will honour nothing else. Whatever else we may do, if we do not honour this truth He will not honour us.

This is surely one of the major problems in the Church at the present moment. Everyone is aware of the fact that the Church is lacking in power. The leaders are trying to seek the cause of this in order that they may discover how to remedy it; and apparently, they are all jumping to one conclusion, namely, that the cause of our lack of power is found in our divisions. So we must all come together. That is the argument. The divided Church is the cause of the trouble, and so the argument follows that if only we all come together we shall be blessed, we shall obtain the missing power, and tremendous things will happen. But how are we to come together? One believes this, another believes that. The main trouble, we are told, is that some put far too much emphasis on what one believes. Surely, they say, we ought to recognize that the one thing that matters is that there are great common enemies against us, for example, Communism, so we must all come together, all who call themselves Christian in any shape or form. We are all one; why divide about these things? We must all come and stand together as Christians, and then we shall have power.

We read about these things constantly in the newspapers. Some are rejoicing because Protestantism and Roman Catholicism are drawing nearer together. ‘What does the past matter?’ they say, ‘Let us have the right spirit, let us come together, all of us, and not be concerned about these particularities.’ I have but one comment to make about this matter, and I regret to have to make it. To me, all such talk is just a denial of the plain teaching of the New Testament, a denial of the Creeds and the Confessions and the Protestant Reformation! It is carnal thinking, in addition to being a denial of the truth. According to the teaching of the Bible, one thing only matters, and that is the truth. The Holy Spirit will honour nothing but the truth, His own truth. But that, He will honour.

To me the most marvellous thing of all is that, the moment you come to such a conclusion, you realize that in a sense nothing else matters. Numbers certainly do not matter. But today the prevailing argument is the one that exalts numbers. If only we all got together and formed a mammoth World Church! Some would even extend that idea further and bring in everyone who believes anyhow in God. They talk about the ‘insights’ of Mohammedanism and Hinduism and Confucianism, and dream of all who believe in God uniting against a godless, atheistic Communism. The present, they say, is no time to be dividing on these small, irrelevant differences of belief, the result of which is that we are dividing our forces and become ineffective. I can only comment: What a tragic fallacy! What a tragic failure to understand the basic elementary teaching we are given here in Ephesians about the wiles of the devil!

To explain this matter further I use an analogy which seems to me to be an apposite one at the present time. I am not concerned about its political aspect; but look at the condition of the Labour Party in this country at the present time. People say, ‘There is no Opposition today, there is no “Her Majesty’s Opposition”.’ This is due, they say, to the fact that the Party’s members are all divided into groups and factions. They argue with one another, and they will carry no weight until they settle their internal differences and all speak with one voice. Now, when you are talking about a political party, that is absolutely right. Political parties can do nothing unless they have a majority. Political parties function in terms of majority rule. However right what they believe may be, if they cannot command the votes they will not be able to form the Government; in fact, governmentally they will be paralysed. Obviously they must get together and try to achieve unity so that they will command votes and increase the possibility of forming a government.

But this argument is not only wrong, it is dangerously wrong, if you relate it to the realm of the Christian faith. The whole Bible testifies against it. The glories of Church history protest loudly against it. The Christian position is entirely different. Here, you do not begin by counting heads, you are not concerned primarily about numbers and masses. You do not think in that way. You are in an entirely different realm. Here, the one thing you think of primarily is your relationship to God! Over against the modern faith in numbers we must say with an American of the last century, William Lloyd Garrison, ‘One with God is a majority’. God has come in, the everlasting, the almighty, the eternal God! It is the power of God that matters. And the moment you realize that, the question of numbers, as regards men, is comparatively irrelevant and unimportant.

Nothing matters in the spiritual realm except truth, the truth given by the Holy Spirit, the truth that can be honoured by the Holy Spirit. Is there anything more glorious in the whole of the Old Testament than the way in which this great principle stands out? God often used individual men, or but two or three, against hordes and masses. Is there anything more exhilarating than the doctrine of the remnant? While the majority had gone wrong, the ones and the twos saw the truth. Take a man like Jeremiah. All the false prophets were against him. There is a man who had to stand alone. Poor Jeremiah — how he hated it and disliked it! He did not like being unpopular, he did not like standing on his own, and being ridiculed and laughed at, and spat upon, as it were; but he had the truth of God, and so he endured it all. He decided at times to say nothing, but the word was like fire in his bones, and he had to go on speaking it. Obloquy and abuse were heaped upon him, but it did not matter; he was God’s spokesman and God’s representative. Similarly Moses had to stand alone when he came down from the Mount where he had met God. To stand in isolation from one’s fellows, but with God, is the great doctrine of the Old Testament in many ways. And it is emphasized in the New Testament also.

Is it not amazing that people should forget the Scriptures and past history? Look at the Early Christian Church. From the standpoint of the modern argument the position was ridiculous. The Son of God goes back to heaven and leaves His cause in the hands of twelve men! Who are they? No one had ever heard of them. We are told about the authorities of Jerusalem that they noticed that they were ‘ignorant and unlettered men’. Incidentally, they added that they had been ‘with Jesus’. They did not see the significance of that fellowship. What they saw was ignorant and unlettered men, and only a handful of them at that! A mere handful of men in a great pagan world with all the Jews against them, and all the authorities! Everything on earth was against them.

I do not understand that mentality in the Christian Church today which says that we must all come together and sink our differences; and that what we believe does not matter. It is a denial of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and of the story of the twelve ignorant, untutored and unlettered men who knew whom and what they believed, and who had the power of the Spirit upon them, and who ‘turned the world upside-down’. This is surely one of the central messages of the Bible. The great concern of the New Testament Epistles is not about the size of the Church, it is about the purity of the Church. The Apostles never said to the first Christians, ‘You are antagonizing people by emphasizing doctrine. Say more about the love of God and less about the wrath of God. They do not even like the Cross, and they cannot abide the story of the resurrection! Drop that talk about the wrath of God and Christ’s ethical teaching!’ Not so do the Apostles speak!

There is an exclusiveness in the New Testament that is quite amazing. The Apostle Paul writing to the Galatians says, ‘Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed’ (Galatians 1:8). ‘My Gospel!’, says Paul writing to Timothy. He denounces other teachers. So many of these modern preachers are much nicer people than the Apostle Paul! They never say a word against anyone at all, they praise everybody, and they are praised by everybody. They are never ‘negative’! They never define what they believe and what they do not believe. They are said to be ‘full of love’. I am not misjudging them when I say that that is not the explanation. The explanation is that they do not ‘contend for the truth’, they are innocent concerning the ‘wiles of the devil’. It is not for us to decide what to leave out and what to drop for the sake of unity. My business is to expound this truth, to declare it — come what may! We must not be interested primarily in numbers, we must be interested in the truth of God. Why are many today denying the glory of the Protestant Reformation? Martin Luther — one man, standing against the whole Church — would be dismissed today as ‘just an individualist who never cooperates’. But he stood up and said in effect, ‘I am right, you are all wrong!’

Without realizing it the moderns are dismissing Luther as a fool, and as an arrogant fool, because he stood alone. But why did he stand alone? There is only one answer. He stood alone because he had, seen the truth of God, and had known and experienced the blessed liberation it brings. He had seen the light and had also been awakened to ‘the wiles of the devil’. When a man sees this truth he has no choice. He does not force himself to stand alone. He does not even want to do so; but he can do no other. As Luther said, ‘Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God!’ And God did help him. Of course He did! God will always honour His truth and the man who stands for it. Of course such a man will meet criticism and sarcasm and derision; much mud will be thrown upon him. But that does not matter. The man who continues to stand, and who is ready to die for the truth of God, will have ‘the peace of God that passeth all understanding’ in his heart and mind. He will say with the Apostle Paul, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me’. He will ‘know both how to be abased, and how to abound; how to be full, and how to be empty’. He will be able to hold on his way quietly, steadily, knowing that God will vindicate His own truth sooner or later. As an individual he may be spat upon and trampled upon, or even be put to a cruel death. But God’s truth ‘goes marching on!’ It will be vindicated, it will be honoured by the Spirit; and he knows that ultimately, beyond this temporary, passing world, he will hear the most glorious words a man can ever hear, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’. There is nothing beyond that — to have the Almighty God and our blessed Lord looking down upon us and in effect saying, ‘While you were in the midst of all the confusion, you preached the truth; you stood for it in spite of everything — Well done!’

Heresies always result from the wiles of the devil, the efforts of the principalities and powers. Are your eyes open to it? Do you realize the relevance of all this to you as a member of the Christian Church? Are you being carried away by this loose, general, sentimental talk? God forbid that any of us should ever say that it matters not what you believe as long as you are a Christian. May God open our eyes, and having given us to see the truth, then enable us ‘to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might’. ‘Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.’

 

(*) originally posted The Highway website

 

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For hundreds of years Christians believed that the twelve apostles were the authors of the widely known creed that bears their name. According to an ancient theory, the twelve composed the creed with each apostle adding a clause to form the whole. Today practically all scholars understand this theory of apostolic composition to be legendary. Nevertheless, many continue to think of the creed as apostolic in nature because its basic teachings are agreeable to the theological formulations of the apostolic age.

The full form in which the creed now appears stems from about 700 AD. However, segments of it are found in Christian writings dating as early as the second century. The most important predecessor of the Apostles’ Creed was the Old Roman Creed, which was probably developed during the second half of the second century.

The additions to the Apostles’ Creed are clearly seen when its present form is compared to the Old Roman version: 

I believe in God the Father Almighty. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary; crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit; the holy Church; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the flesh.

Still earlier fragments of creeds have been discovered which declare simply:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord. And in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, the resurrection of the flesh.”

The Apostles’ Creed functioned in many ways in the life of the church. For one thing, it was associated with entrance into the fellowship as a confession of faith for those to be baptized. In addition, catechetical instruction was often based on the major tenets of the creed. In time, a third use developed when the creed became a “rule of faith” to give continuity to Christian teachings from place to place and to clearly separate the true faith from heretical deviations. Indeed, it may well have been that the main factor involved in adding clauses to the Old Roman Creed to develop the Apostles’ Creed was its usefulness in these varied ways in the life of the church. By the sixth or seventh century the creed had come to be accepted as a part of the official liturgy of the Western church. Likewise, it was used by devout individuals along with the Lord’s Prayer as a part of their morning and evening devotions. The churches of the Reformation gladly gave their allegiance to the creed and added it to their doctrinal collections and used it in their worship.

The Trinitarian nature of the Apostles’ Creed is immediately evident. Belief in “God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” is affirmed first. But the heart of the creed is the confession concerning “Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,” with special attention given to the events surrounding his conception, birth, suffering, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and coming judgment. The third section declares belief in the Holy Spirit. To this Trinitarian confession are added clauses related to the holy catholic church, communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

The polemical nature of the Apostles’ Creed is likewise evident. Emphasizing the unity of God’s fatherhood and sovereignty disputed Marcion’s rejection of the same. The affirmation of the reality of Christ’s humanity and historicity denied the contention of Marcionite and docetic heretics that he was not a fully human person who could be born, suffer, and die. His conception by the Holy Spirit and birth of the Virgin Mary as well as his exaltation after resurrection affirmed Jesus’ deity over against those who denied it. Other clauses may well have been added to deal with particular crises faced by the church. For example, the confession regarding forgiveness of sins may have related to the problem of postbaptismal sins in the third century. Likewise, affirming the holy catholic church may have dealt with the Donatist schism.

The Apostles’ Creed continues to be used today much as it was in the past: as a baptismal confession; as a teaching outline; as a guard and guide against heresy; as a summarization of the faith; as an affirmation in worship. It has maintained in modern times its distinction as the most widely accepted and used creed among Christians.

 

Apostles’ Creed – “The Old Roman Creed”

I BELIEVE in God almighty [the Father almighty—(Rufinus)] And in Christ Jesus, his only Son, our Lord Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried And the third day rose from the dead Who ascended into heaven And sitteth on the right hand of the Father Whence he cometh to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit The holy church The remission of sins The resurrection of the flesh The life everlasting. [Rufinus omits this line.]

 

The Apostles’ Creed (sixth-century Gallican version)

I BELIEVE in God the Father almighty, I also believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead and buried; he descended into hell, rose again the third day, ascended into heaven, sat down at the right hand of the Father, thence he is to come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the flesh and life eternal.

 

Sources:  O G Oliver, Jr. (Elwell Evangelical Dictionary) Bibliography J N D Kelly, Early Christian Creeds; W Barclay, The Apostles’ Creed for Everyman; S Barr, From the Apostles’ Faith to the Apostles’ Creed; P Fuhrmann, The Great Creeds of the Church; W Pannenberg, The Apostles’ Creed in the Light of Today’s Questions; J Smart, The Creed in Christian Teaching; H B Swete, The Apostles’ Creed; H Thielicke, I Believe: The Christian’s Creed; B F Westcott, The Historic Faith.

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Foreword

My cousin, Susan, brought my attention to an article entitled ‘John Calvin: Comeback Kid’ by Timothy George posted in Christianity Today on September 8, 2009.  Although I do not fully agree always with some of the  views of the various contributors published in this magazine, may I direct you to view the full printer-friendly article though this LINK, while an excerpt is pasted below.  Indeed there is a resurgence of Reformed Theology today, thank God! The article is a primer of sorts in answer to the the following questions: Why does Calvin persist as such a controversial—and monumental—figure in the Christian story? Why does he still generate such contrary emotions? What has kept Calvin from fading into the shadows of church history? 

‘John Calvin: Comeback Kid’ contain the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Late Bloomer
  • Ministry ‘On the Boundary’
  • A Churchly Reformer
  • ‘Preforeordestination’
  • Theology for Trekkers
  • Complex, Inconsistent
  • Calvinism Reborn

I pasted an excerpt below which brings a testimony to fore on  the fact that Reformed Christians (or Calvinists) were instrumental to a robust missionary movement in the last few hundred years contrary to what others have said concerning predestination-election theology that purports to make one complacent in the Great Commission.

Timothy George (ThD, Harvard University) is founding dean of Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, and a senior editor of Christianity Today. He is the author or editor of more than twenty books, including Theology of the Reformers and God the Holy Trinity. He also serves as the general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, a 28-volume work of 16th-century biblical comment forthcoming from InterVarsity Press.

 

Excerpt from John Calvin: Comeback Kid

Theology for Trekkers

In Calvin’s day, Geneva became a great center for church planting, evangelism, and even “foreign” missions: a group of Protestants supported by Admiral de Coligny carried the message of Christ to the far shores of Brazil in 1557, more than 60 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. William Carey, the father of modern missions in the 18th century, went to India with a Calvinist vision of a full-sized God—eternal, transcendent, holy, filled with compassion, sovereignly working by his Holy Spirit to call unto himself a people from every nation, tribe, and language group on earth.

In Book Three of the Institutes, Calvin treats predestination and prayer in contiguous chapters (Institutes3.20-21). The universal appeal of Calvin’s thought is expressed clearly in this petition he prepared for his liturgy “The Form of Prayers”:

We pray you now, O most gracious God and merciful father, for all people everywhere. As it is your will to be acknowledged as the Savior of the whole world, through the redemption wrought by your son Jesus Christ, grant that those who are still estranged from the knowledge of him, being in the darkness and captivity of error and ignorance, may be brought by the illumination of your Holy Spirit and the preaching of your Gospel to the right way of salvation, which is to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).

…One of the mysteries of the mystique of Calvinism is how such a high predestinarian theology could motivate so many of its adherents to such intense this-worldly activism. Calvinism was certainly a dynamic force in shaping the contours of the modern world, including features of it that most of us would not want to live without, such as the rule of law, the limitation of state power, and a democratic approach to civil governance. Though Max Weber was off the mark in identifying the “spirit of capitalism” with the Puritan desire to find assurance of election in a joyless acquisitiveness, he was right to point to the importance of Calvinist ideals—thrift, hard work, fair play, personal responsibility—in the development of a robust economic system.

Calvin’s theology was meant for trekkers, not for settlers, as historian Heiko Oberman put it. In the 16th century, Calvinist trekkers fanned out across Europe initiating political change as well as church reform from Holland to Hungary, from the Palatinate to Poland, from Lithuania to Scotland, England, and eventually to New England. In its drive and passion, in its world-transforming vision, Calvinism was an international fraternity comparable only to the Society of Jesus in the era of the Reformation. It is perhaps ironic that Calvin and Ignatius Loyola studied at the same time in the same school in Paris.

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