Ex-Church of Christ (2)

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  1. Only people baptized in the Churches of Christ will be saved.

See here (https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1176-the-truth-on-baptism-should-not-be-watered-down) and here for examples of this teaching.

If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.28A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.” –Romans 2

RT – Pay particular attention to the assertion/accusation. Now go to the web link and see if the author of the article anywhere says what is asserted. In fact, the author of the article simply lays out a case for biblical baptism. There was nothing pejorative in what was written. Moreover, the passage referenced in Romans 2 by the author of this web-article lifted the passage out of the context in which Paul was addressing his words. Paul was talking about the Jew who was a hypocrite; that is, he insisted on obedience to the Law of Moses, but refused to adhere to it himself (note this especially in 2:17-29). Baptism and circumcision are not the same. Baptism applies to both the male and female; circumcision applied only to the male. Baptism applies to the males and females of all nations; circumcision applied only to the Hebrew (a descendant of Abraham). Baptism applies to people who have come to hear and understand the message of God with a penitent heart; circumcision applied only to the male who understood nothing, but experienced pain.

Ex-Church of Christ

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Disgruntled employees always have bad things to say about an employer; the same goes for those who are not biblically informed. The following is a website that speaks as disgruntled members of the Lord’s church. It is my intention to incorporate the remarks (in full) and reply to them. Let me encourage you to do your own study on these matters.

http://ex-churchofchrist.com/unbiblicalCoC.htm

It is asserted that about 20% of the churches (church of Christ) teaching the following.

  1. You cannever be sureyou are saved.

This is never stated out loud from the pulpit. However Bible stories of people being struck dead are told so many times from the pulpit that the message comes across loud and clear. Every time a passage about the security of salvation is read in a Bible class, the teacher is quick to counter it with verses like: “Make every effort to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The statement is made repeatedly that Baptists are so sure they are saved that they use grace as a license to sin.

Consider also the frequent words of warning that Paul gives regarding over confidence toward salvation. 1 Corinthians 10:12 states “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 says “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” Kevin Cauley, Berryville church of Christ, Arkansas

One of us taught at a rural Church of Christ for 18 months. Each sermon Sunday morning and Sunday evening was on the security of our salvation. After 18 months a 70 year old woman was asked, “Do you believe you’re definitely going to heaven?” “No,” she replied, “but I feel a lot more secure than when you first arrived.” A few months later her husband died of cancer. She was worried that he wouldn’t go to heaven because he died smoking cigarettes. He had tried many times to quit, but never did. *

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” –I John 5:13

19We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain” –Hebrews 6

One preacher explained “Not Under Law, But Under Grace” (Romans 6:14) in this way:

“‘`For you are not under law” is an ellipsis (“Gram. Omission of one or more words, obviously understood, but necessary to make the expression grammatically complete,” Webster. …”For you are not under law only, but also under grace”).

This preacher cannot imagine a forgiveness from God that puts us under grace and not under law.

Another example comes from a preacher who wrote an article entitled: Will Those Under Grace Have To Give an Account? His answer is “yes.”

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RT – Can you know you are saved? It seems like a silly question when the Scripture actually speaks to the issue. In 1 John 5:13, the answer is clear. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (ESV). The above remarks are NOT my experience with any congregation my family regularly attended. That is not to say some within the church did not feel secure, but I have NEVER heard a preacher or elder say anything to the contrary of 1 John 5:13. Why would they? If one has doubt, the problem is not Scripture or the Lord, but only the person who identifies himself as a saint working through his (her) personal struggles. To somehow suggest that incorporating 1 Corinthians 10:12 or 2 Corinthians 13:5 into a conversation or sermon whereby one is encouraged to think about the insecurity of their personal salvation is to miss the point of the Scripture, context and personal application. 

What was Paul’s point in the two passages referenced by the web article?

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul’s point was to warn the saints that if they were not mindful of the experience the Israelites had in their wilderness wanderings, then they would fail to hear and heed the Lord’s warnings. This is made abundantly clear via the context of the first 11 verses. Thus, no matter the struggle one has in life, when one trust in the Lord, then the Lord will bring that person through the trials because He has made a way for them. Does this sound like “doubting one’s salvation”? No. It only sounds like an exhortation to saints to trust in the Lord, not in self.

In 2 Corinthians 13, Paul’s larger point (chapters 10 through 13) was in relation to their being false teachers and the all-too-willingness of the Corinthians saints receiving them. Some were questioning Paul’s authority and credentials; so, when Paul comes again, he was going to present himself with that which some desired. In the course of these remarks, he called upon them to take spiritual inventory of their walk with Christ. Does this sound like Paul is calling into doubt one’s salvation? Only if the one who was given a warning fail to heed that warning, a warning that comes from God.

On the other hand, if one trusts in the Lord, then the inventory taken will make clear where he (or she) stands (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:13).

Are the saints under “law” or under “grace”? Let the New Testament speak for itself.

“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2)

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Back to the question, are the saints under “law” or under “grace”? Only allowing the Scripture to speaks for itself, what would you say? (Be sure to read the context wherein those passages are located.)

Will those under “grace” have to give an account? Again, let the New Testament speak for itself.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

It is clear that while some may teach that one can’t be sure of their salvation, those who teach it or believe it are biblically mistaken. Similar to those who post this without contextual evidence of the assertions and accusations.

Not Up For Debate (Creeds)

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In a previous discussion concerning creeds, I have argued that so-called creeds in the NT do not have their origin in man, but in God. This brief remark to give context needs to be further developed, but I hope you find the words below stimulating for further study.

RON – Herein is the problem: the so-called “proto-creedal statements” did not “originate from God, but from men.” This is, in effect, a veiled way of calling Paul a liar, for he expressly stated that he received that which he taught directly from God and not man (Galatians 1:11-12). “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Either what Paul said was (is) true, or it is not? Ian, effectively said it is not true. Paul did not receive from God that which he wrote, but incorporated what man said “into his inspired writings.”

I thought I would look into this further, that is, look and see if it can be historically demonstrated that “creedal statements” predate the New Testament. There is a caveat to this. Predating the writings of the New Testament is not that same as predating the revelation of God’s message to His chosen who penned the New Testament. It is the latter that I am investigating, not the former.

  • The early church formulated creeds – even before the books of the New Testament were written – and used them to proclaim and share the faith. A creed (from the Latin “credo” which means: “I believe”) is a memorized statement which was declared, shared and passed between believers at early church meetings. Many of the creeds were incorporated into the New Testament books; some as early as the gospels but others in apostolic letters. (http://www.evidencesforchristianity.org/new-testament-creeds.html)
  • The writers of scripture (and the first leaders of the church) valued these statements enough to document them for all time, and they understood their value to the Christian community.

In a comment related to perceived creedal statements in 1 Timothy 3:16 and Philippians 2:5-11, the author writes in regard to their inclusion in the New Testament: “This is because these two passages are perhaps the earliest of creeds (statements of belief). Scholars and historians believe these creeds were either introduced to readers so they could recite them in the context of their group meetings, or were recorded by Paul because they were already being used.” (http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/the-importance-and-early-use-of-creeds/)

Thus far, in both of these websites, there is no evidence that New Testament writers took the words of man and made them “inspired of God.”

There is an analysis of 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 that seems to better attempt to speak of the origin of a creedal statement (https://carm.org/analysis-pre-pauline-creed-1-corinthians-151-11). Yet, in the evidence put forth, there is no addressing of the words of Paul in Galatians 1:11-12. There is something close, but no actual addressing. The author of this web article argues for Pauline authorship of 1 Corinthians, but the “creed” cited is one that he gained via apostolic tradition, and not directly from the Lord, as Paul declares that he did when he preached.

  • Orr agrees, “Here the correlation with delivered in vs. 3 points to a chain of tradition: Paul received the facts that he is relating from Christians who preceded him, and in turn he delivered them to the people of his churches.” (10) 1 Corinthians 11 contains a similar example using the same words “received” and “delivered.”  This indicates that 1 Corinthians 15 is not the only example of Paul using traditional material in his epistles.
  • Not only do scholars suspect that Paul is referring to a creed in these few verses, but they almost unanimously argue it predates Paul.
  • Thus, it seems quite likely that the creed could have its origin in the Palestinian setting, but it was definitely the developed form that Paul received. … Craigs [sic] argues that the creed has its basis in Jerusalem, but it was the developed, Hellenized form that Paul received in Damascus. This argument serves to synthesize the Jerusalem and Hellenistic influence.  Therefore, one should date the creed to approximately 33-38 C.E.

What did Paul say in 1 Corinthians 15? That which Paul taught the Corinthians was the gospel; it was received by him from a source not indicated in the 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 section. It is assumed that Paul received it from people, but Paul says nothing of the sort. That he did receive it is without dispute, but his source is not indicated. In a footnote to a discussion point relative to the origin of the so-called creedal statement, the author mentions that linguistic studies alone cannot pinpoint origin.

Though Paul mentions nothing concerning the origin of the words he wrote, this does not stop others from speculating.

  • Second, since the creed shows Hellenistic influence, it is likely that Paul received it for kerygmatic (preaching) purposes in a Greek speaking environment.
  • The most likely location where Paul received the creed is Jerusalem.

If the passage under discussion as “creedal” indicators, that will be because the Lord set forth what Paul was to teach, and he taught it. That which he taught did not come from man. thus, those who assert that what Paul said in regard to “creedal” remarks have to contend with Paul’s own words concerning the origin of his words.

 

An assertion that creeds existed before the New Testament was written (http://www.evidencesforchristianity.org/new-testament-creeds.html)

Analysis of pre-Pauline creed in 1 Corinthians 15 (https://carm.org/analysis-pre-pauline-creed-1-corinthians-151-11)

IMPORTANCE OF EARLY CREEDS IN New Testament (http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/the-importance-and-early-use-of-creeds/)

Creedal Conversation (Updated)

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EHans: I think creeds have their value and by us reading and studying them we acknowledge the truth of Romans 12:6-7 where it specifically talks of the gift of teaching, and other verses that more generally speak of gifts. If we say that creeds, books, etc. have no value and we are only to look at scripture, then we actually deny the teaching of scripture!

However, scripture is the final word, and while I respect teachers, I also acknowledge that many with the gift of teaching teach different interpretations. Age of the earth, how God’s foreknowledge works, the nature of the trinity, etc. are just a few examples.

So in this, I’ll quote the great teacher Augustine; “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

RON: Creeds, by their very nature, are restrictive and divisive. The so-called creedal statements by the apostles, Moses (others) are divinely inspired and, thus, have their origin in God. That does not warrant man-made creeds. Though I understand the rational for such things, I am not one to promote or support. I live by 1 Peter 4:11 and 1 John 4:1, 6. It seems to me one can’t go wrong with that approach.

IAN: You can go wrong with that approach- easily. Historically, most heretics espouse biblicist rhetoric, i.e. Arius claiming his Christology is the plain reading of biblical texts. The apostolic testimony is key to understanding Scripture rightly, and the rule of faith is the grid through which we must read the Bible. Your position is anachronistic, because how do you cling to orthodoxy in the first century when there is no 1 Peter or 1 John? You cling to the apostolic testimony and read the OT along the contours of the rule of faith. The creeds preserve the apostolic deposit by answering new biblicist challenges according to the ruled reading of the canon the apostolic testimony demands. Furthermore, you are incorrect in saying the creeds in the Bible all find their origin in God: the “faithful sayings” of the Pastoral Epistles, for instance, were devised by men of the first century church which Paul cites with approval, same with the hymn or creed of Philippians 2. God saw fit to enscripturate man made credal statements in his Word, so we shouldn’t despise formulae devised creatures in an effort to be pious.

RON: this is why oral debates in public are crucial. What one asserts is one thing, but sustaining the assertion is entirely a different matter. No, my position is NOT anachronistic; it is in accordance with Jude 3 (which is either true or false), coupled with 2 Peter 1:3. No, I am not incorrect. Did Paul writing [write] by the authority of God? If he did (and he did), then that which he wrote gave divine authority to his words.

IAN: Yes, your position is anachronistic [referring to RT]. You are reaching conclusions about the non-normativity of creeds using biblical texts that chronologically follow the existence of those creeds which were absolutely not inspired by God. God gave his approval to them in the act of inspiring the New Testament documents, but don’t forget that those documents weren’t dictated by God- Paul and the others were composing arguments using the logic and grammar of the faith they and the churches shared and had been baptized into and had been formalized as “the faith that is believed” precisely through creedal statements that systematized that faith as a coherent portrait of the implications of this man, Jesus of Nazareth, bringing YHWH’s promises to Israel to fulfillment, etc. Again, it is decades before all of the NT documents are all collected and available to all of the churches: that is why it’s anachronistic to argue as though your situation, in which you have your complete Bible of 66 books sitting on your end table, is the same scenario the first century church found itself within.  For the first two centuries of its existence the one set of texts the Christian churches were guaranteed to have was the OT, and coupled with it the rule of faith as hermeneutical key to properly understanding the OT as witness to Christ. The faith of the first and second century church was consistent with the apostolic writings because the apostolic writings emerged from the apostolic testimony which was codified in the slogans and creedal statements that contributed to the eventual development of the Apostles Creed and subsequent to that the Nicene Creed, etc. These creeds are essential to defining the faith because the fullness of Christian faith is found not only in the explicit statements of Scripture but just as much in the implications of the Scriptural witness. The creeds investigated those implications and pronounced decisively what was consistent with the faith (the biblical witness and the apostolic testimony) and what was not. Arius, Valentin, etc. all based their heretical views upon exegesis of biblical texts and defied the constraint of these creedal pronouncements by saying, “This is the plain reading of these texts”, hence the warning about biblicist defiance of creeds. You cannot be biblical without being critical. To suppose otherwise is ahistorical misunderstanding that puts too much credence in individual interpretation of Scripture.

RON: This is a lot like arguing for “Q” – you know, that source material that no one seems to know anything about with regard to its actual existence, but that many academics are certain exists! That Paul used the educated style of writing that was prevalent during his day has only limited use in the authority/origin of creedal statements. It appears to me you misread what it was that I said. It is either true or false that which Jude wrote in what we know as “Jude 3.” If it is true, then the faith (spoken orally and/or written) was already revealed to those who lived during the first century. Now, will you argue that it is false what Jude said? If it is true, then either God revealed it, or He did not. Paul wrote, expressly, that what he wrote (said) was directly from God, and that he received it from no man (1 Corinthians 14:37; Galatians 1:11-12). That which Paul wrote is either true or false. For which one will you argue? The interpretation of a biblical text will stand or fall on its own merit. There are some who like the historical theological approach to Scripture; whatever value there might be in that, a historical-grammatical-contextual approach will do justice to the text. For me, the presupposition in place is that God authored the text, giving His inspired writers that which He wanted them to say (in their own individual stylistic ways).

IAN: It’s nothing like arguing for Q: we know these baptismal and creedal formulae exist, we know they were used in conjunction with the OT canon as the church’s Scripture while the NT was being composed/circulated. What you are not recognizing is anachronistic is that yes, Jude 3 is absolutely true. What Jude says there is inspired by God and true. But it in no way means that the doctrine of the Trinity was revealed once for all in that historical moment to the church, or the hypostatic union, or any number of other doctrinal developments that were codified through the church examining the Scriptures and explicitly formulating what was implicit within the canon as concrete historical circumstances necessitated tighter dogmatic definitions.

ALEX GEORGE: I don’t agree with Ron’s point that “Creeds, by their very nature, are restrictive and divisive.” It can indeed be true, but one could just as easily say that every sermon ever preached is restrictive and divisive! Creeds, like teaching in general, can be *used* in a divisive way, but that is the fault of us sinful men, not of the creed or the teaching.

But I don’t understand your question: “how do you cling to orthodoxy in the first century when there is no 1 Peter or 1 John?”

Jesus gave his Apostles absolute authority to rule his church and to convey his Word to it (Eph 3:5; 2 Peter 3:2). Both 1 Peter and 1 John were written while the Apostles were still on this earth, and were accepted by the church as authoritative. The entire scripture was written and complete before the last Apostle left this earth, so where is any gap in authority?

“The apostolic testimony is key to understanding Scripture rightly” Sure, but Scripture IS the apostolic testimony. It is true that no part of Scripture should be interpreted so as to conflict with another part.

“the rule of faith is the grid through which we must read the Bible”

The “rule of faith” actually is the Bible. Tertullian used the expression at the end of the second century, but he means by it the rule which Scripture exercises over our lives: “Let us see what milk the Corinthians drank from Paul; to what rule of faith the Galatians were brought for correction; what the Philippians, the Thessalonians, the Ephesians read by it; ….” [Tert. Contra Marcion, Bk IV, Chap 5] Yet in any case, the thing of primary importance is what the Apostles taught on this – after all, they were the ones commissioned by Christ to deliver His words to the church, not Tertullian. And they do ot suggest any grid through which their scripture must be read.

The creeds are great summaries of Christian doctrine, which are still useful today to remind us how to fight off certain old heresies that still lurk around, waiting their chance to contaminate the Church again. But the Creeds aren’t Scripture; rather. they are useful summaries of doctrinal points found in Scripture.

The scriptures tell us that New Testament documents were being circulated as scripture long before the last Apostle left the earth (1 Tim 5:18, 2 Peter 3:16) which meant that the Church was always under the authority of the apostles or their writings.

The testimony of the church fathers tells the same story: the scriptures in their entirety were known to the early Church, and the Church moved seamlessly from being under the authority of the Apostles to being under the authority of the Apostles’ written teaching:

“We have known the method of our salvation by no other means than those by whom the gospel came to us; which gospel they truly preached; but afterward; by the will of God, they delivered to us in the Scriptures, to be for the future the foundation and pillar of our faith” (Irenaeus, Adv. H. 3:1)

“Well, then, Marcion ought to be called to a strict account concerning these (other three Gospels) also, for having omitted them, and insisted in preference on Luke; as if they, too, had not had free course in the churches, as well as Luke’s Gospel, from the beginning. Nay, it is even more credible that they existed from the very beginning; for, being the work of apostles, they were prior, and coeval in origin with the churches themselves.” (Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 4.5)

IAN: [referring to Alex]: “The scriptures tell us that New Testament documents were being circulated as scripture long before the last Apostle left the earth (1 Tim 5:18, 2 Peter 3:16) which meant that the Church was always under the authority of the apostles or their writings.”

No debate, I’m only reminding everyone that the apostles’ teaching authority predate the enscripturation of that teaching authority, and even then I’m no in way trying to denigrate the later arrival of Scripture, only emphasizing how the early creedal formulae and rule of faith represent the apostolic teaching in the same way, such that we can’t interpret Scripture rightly if we say, “These formulae and hermeneutical programs are manmade and therefore to be rejected in favor of Scripture exclusively.” That is the all too prevalent evangelical contention I am denying as forcefully as possible.

“The testimony of the church fathers tells the same story: the scriptures in their entirety were known to the early Church, and the Church moved seamlessly from being under the authority of the Apostles to being under the authority of the Apostles’ written teaching.”

ALEX GEORGE: I agree that we are in agreement on most things.

But I don’t think you can say “the early creedal formulae and rule of faith represent the apostolic teaching in the same way”. It’s the last four words that are the problem. There is no evidence that the Apostles creed or the Nicene Creed are of apostolic authorship, nor that they derive from any oral apostolic tradition. Rather, they are formulae that sum up scriptural teaching on critical points, created by godly church leaders centuries after the passing of the apostles.

Scripture is actual apostolic teaching, whereas the creeds derive from Scripture. As Article 8 reminds us (sorry, I’m Anglican!) the Creeds “ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.”

In relation to the phrase “the rule of faith”, neither the Apostles themselves nor the early church fathers used it to refer to an oral tradition preserved in the churches. The “rule of faith” simply meant “the essential things that we learn from scripture”, as per the passage from Tertullian above. Irenaeus uses a different phrase, “the rule of truth”, in the same way. I’m happy to look at any teaching of the church

I agree that there is teaching which rejects anything but the bible, and I don’t agree with it. But I think we have to be equally vigilant not to fall into another error, of treating instruments that derive from apostolic scripture (such as the creeds) as though they have apostolic authority in themselves. We should follow Sola Scriptura in the original sense taught by Grosseteste and after him by Aquinas, that “only scripture” has that special divine quality which all other documents lack.

“because early heretics made the assertions they did by 1) claiming a formal adherence to the biblical texts but 2) setting aside the parameters of the rule of faith precisely as the apostolic hermeneutical rid for rightly understanding Scripture.”

I am just wondering what your source for this is? It is not what I read in the church fathers, e.g. in Irenaeus. Rather, his point is that the fundamental error of such heretics is to take Scripture out of context with itself, and to use outside means to interpret it. For example:

“They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as them lies, dismember and destroy the truth.” [Adv Haer; Bk 1; Chap 8.1]

Irenaeus speaks at one point of a tradition of the apostles preserved in the churches (although this may be no more than what Tertullian refers to, i.e. that each ruling bishop ensured that the scriptures were handed down accurately to his successor), but at no point does he suggest that there is an oral tradition which acts as a grid through which scripture must be read. He exhorts obedience to elders who are part of the established churches, so long as they are of godly speech and conduct, but again, no indication of a special hermeneutic.

And this is borne out by his own arguments against the heretics – here if anywhere we should expect to find the idea of the grid or special hermeneutic, but it is completely absent. Time and again, chapter after chapter, he uses two methods – citation of scripture, and rational argument. The only outside source that he uses in order to elucidate the meaning of a scriptural verse is another verse of scripture.

A classic case is Book V, Chapter 9.1 where he considers the scripture verse that all heretics misinterpret (according to him) i.e. 1 Cor 15:50. Yet his refutation of their arguments says nothing about a special hermeneutic or authoritative church tradition – rather, he uses other scripture passages to show the meaning of this one, as well as logical argument. It’s the same method that most bible preachers would use today.

RON – Creeds are after the time of God’s revelation of His will to man. It is asserted the apostles adopted creedal statements of man and made them part of God’s revelation, but it is not demonstrated. This has been the asserted argument for “Q” through the years as well. The “creed” that sets forth a doctrinal statement affirming the trinity came after the New Testament. Though the New Testament affirms what is called the “trinity,” it is not stated in a “creed” proposition, such as one might think of in 1 Timothy 3:16, also affirmed as a “creed” statement. Whether it is or not, does it have its origin in man or God? Corresponding to what I previously wrote, if it is a creed (or hymn), it has its origin in God, not in man, then affirmed by God.

If the apostles set forth “creeds,” then what they set forth as doctrine is for us to adhere to (1 John 4:6; 1:1-3). On the other hand, if man sets forth “creeds,” then what he sets forth is not simply a believed affirmation of Scripture, but a doctrinal statement wherein if one did not subscribe to it, the outside the fellowship of those who have is the norm. does this apply to sermons? It can. That depends on, however, the what is said.

 

 

 

 

 

Creedal Conversation

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RON: Creeds, by their very nature, are restrictive and divisive. The so-called creedal statements by the apostles, Moses (others) are divinely inspired and, thus, have their origin in God. That does not warrant man-made creeds. Though I understand the rational for such things, I am not one to promote or support. I live by 1 Peter 4:11 and 1 John 4:1, 6. It seems to me one can’t go wrong with that approach.

IAN: You can go wrong with that approach- easily. Historically, most heretics espouse biblicist rhetoric, i.e. Arius claiming his Christology is the plain reading of biblical texts. The apostolic testimony is key to understanding Scripture rightly, and the rule of faith is the grid through which we must read the Bible. Your position is anachronistic, because how do you cling to orthodoxy in the first century when there is no 1 Peter or 1 John? You cling to the apostolic testimony and read the OT along the contours of the rule of faith. The creeds preserve the apostolic deposit by answering new biblicist challenges according to the ruled reading of the canon the apostolic testimony demands. Furthermore, you are incorrect in saying the creeds in the Bible all find their origin in God: the “faithful sayings” of the Pastoral Epistles, for instance, were devised by men of the first century church which Paul cites with approval, same with the hymn or creed of Philippians 2. God saw fit to enscripturate man made credal statements in his Word, so we shouldn’t despise formulae devised creatures in an effort to be pious.

RON: this is why oral debates in public are crucial. What one asserts is one thing, but sustaining the assertion is entirely a different matter. No, my position is NOT anachronistic; it is in accordance with Jude 3 (which is either true or false), coupled with 2 Peter 1:3. No, I am not incorrect. Did Paul writing [write] by the authority of God? If he did (and he did), then that which he wrote gave divine authority to his words.

IAN: Yes, your position is anachronistic. You are reaching conclusions about the non-normativity of creeds using biblical texts that chronologically follow the existence of those creeds which were absolutely not inspired by God. God gave his approval to them in the act of inspiring the New Testament documents, but don’t forget that those documents weren’t dictated by God- Paul and the others were composing arguments using the logic and grammar of the faith they and the churches shared and had been baptized into and had been formalized as “the faith that is believed” precisely through creedal statements that systematized that faith as a coherent portrait of the implications of this man, Jesus of Nazareth, bringing YHWH’s promises to Israel to fulfillment, etc. Again, it is decades before all of the NT documents are all collected and available to all of the churches: that is why it’s anachronistic to argue as though your situation, in which you have your complete Bible of 66 books sitting on your end table, is the same scenario the first century church found itself within.  For the first two centuries of its existence the one set of texts the Christian churches were guaranteed to have was the OT, and coupled with it the rule of faith as hermeneutical key to properly understanding the OT as witness to Christ. The faith of the first and second century church was consistent with the apostolic writings because the apostolic writings emerged from the apostolic testimony which was codified in the slogans and creedal statements that contributed to the eventual development of the Apostles Creed and subsequent to that the Nicene Creed, etc. These creeds are essential to defining the faith because the fullness of Christian faith is found not only in the explicit statements of Scripture but just as much in the implications of the Scriptural witness. The creeds investigated those implications and pronounced decisively what was consistent with the faith (the biblical witness and the apostolic testimony) and what was not. Arius, Valentin, etc. all based their heretical views upon exegesis of biblical texts and defied the constraint of these creedal pronouncements by saying, “This is the plain reading of these texts”, hence the warning about biblicist defiance of creeds. You cannot be biblical without being critical. To suppose otherwise is ahistorical misunderstanding that puts too much credence in individual interpretation of Scripture.

RON: This is a lot like arguing for “Q” – you know, that source material that no one seems to know anything about with regard to its actual existence, but that many academics are certain exists! That Paul used the educated style of writing that was prevalent during his day has only limited use in the authority/origin of creedal statements. It appears to me you misread what it was that I said. It is either true or false that which Jude wrote in what we know as “Jude 3.” If it is true, then the faith (spoken orally and/or written) was already revealed to those who lived during the first century. Now, will you argue that it is false what Jude said? If it is true, then either God revealed it, or He did not. Paul wrote, expressly, that what he wrote (said) was directly from God, and that he received it from no man (1 Corinthians 14:37; Galatians 1:11-12). That which Paul wrote is either true or false. For which one will you argue? The interpretation of a biblical text will stand or fall on its own merit. There are some who like the historical theological approach to Scripture; whatever value there might be in that, a historical-grammatical-contextual approach will do justice to the text. For me, the presupposition in place is that God authored the text, giving His inspired writers that which He wanted them to say (in their own individual stylistic ways).

THE IMPACT!

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As each night comes to a close, before I turn out the bedroom lamp, I do a little reading. At the moment, I am reading a book that is a collection of remembrances of those who were living the day Japan attacked the United State at Pearl Harbor. Without exception each letter (remembrance) states clearly the memory impact made and that it will not be forgotten. I am able to relate to a similar experience (as you are no doubt). On September 11, 2001 I was in the office working when over the internet a brother from Canada contacted me via electronic mail, asking if I heard about what just occurred (this was not a standard email contact, but something different). At the time, I was unaware what occurred, but after being made aware, I was “glued” to news.

Impacts like that have a way of never leaving the mind. Remarkably, it not only does not leave the mind, but the details of what one was doing at the time stay remarkably accurate in recall. This is what we have in 1 John 1:1-4, only on this occasion, the memory recall was a matter of years in experience, and not a single day from a distance.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life–the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us–that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full (1 John 1:1-4, NKJV)

When you obeyed the gospel of Jesus, do you remember that grand occasion? I mean, do you really remember exactly how it unfolded, what you did, how you felt about it? If you do, then you have a sense of what the apostle John remembers when he wrote what he did. This, too, should be an impactful memory. It was for me.

John was there when Jesus walked on the water; how could that not impact his memory? John was there when Jesus was transfigured, and he heard Peter speak to the Lord about who was present. John was there when thousands were fed with but just a little food. John was present when the winds and the sea obeyed the will of the Lord. John was there when Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden. John was there when Jesus called to him from the piece of timber He was hanging on to care for His (Jesus’) mother. John was there when he saw the Lord’s tomb empty; he was there when he saw the Lord very much alive after having been killed, buried and resurrected.

Imagine the impact all this had on him.

If you were to see all that, what impact would that have on you? It changed John’s life, and it should change ours also. It will, if we hear what John said. RT

 

Win or Persuade (Word to the Wise)

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The wise in heart will be called prudent, And sweetness of the lips increases learning (Proverbs 16:21, NKJV). The wise is heart knows how to speak to people. He (she) seeks to persuade, reason, and establish a point – not win arguments. If there is a need to win an argument, then the wise in heart knows how to begin and how to bring it to an end. This is one who is very prudent in the choice of words and in the tone reflected in conversation. This kind of approach is well received by others. The Lord gave instruction to all those who love Him when He authored this words that Paul wrote, “Let Christian wisdom rule your behaviour to the outside world; make the very most of your time; let your talk always have a saving salt of grace about it, and learn how to answer any question put to you” (Colossians 4:5-6, Moffatt Translation). RT

 

LIBERTY

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It has been said that “liberty, without wisdom, is license.” A powerful remark when one thinks about it. In what sort of way is the remark powerful? Think about it along these lines. We live in a country where freedom is the norm for each of us; yet, this freedom is not absolute. If it were, then each of us could do what is desired at no risk of arrest or imprisonment. Thus, our freedom has limitations. These limitations, however, are necessary for a civil society, and thoughtful people can easily see the rational and wisdom of this.

The limitations that are placed on society have their origin in one of two sources. They are from God or man. Consider the limitations placed on man (society) by God. First, man’s moral makeup is such that there are certain behaviors that are absolutely wrong at any time and in any context. Murder, for instance. Since murder is the taking of innocent life (or unlawful killing with malice as a motivation), there is never a time in which it is morally warranted to take the innocent life of another person. This is why abortion is an inherent evil. Consider another illustration. Adultery. Adultery is willful (voluntary) sexual intercourse of one with another not his/her spouse. When a man and a woman marry, there exist an implied trust between them both. When a man gives himself to his wife, she trusts him to be loyal to her and to no other. When that trust is broken, then the sabotage of the marriage, if not already completed, has a jump start toward completion. Thus, from the vantage point of God, man has placed on him a limitation. The value of this is obvious to any who think on it.

Consider the limitations placed on civil society by man. If God is not the source of liberty, then man determines what it is that can and ought to be done. With regard to the two previous examples (murder, adultery), it cannot be objectively established that either is morally wrong. We have seen this readily in the last half-century. Many in society have jettisoned God and all things righteous and moral from the local community, even including the larger community. Consequently, we have no earthly idea (as a people) what is right and what is wrong. In this there is no liberty, only confusion.

A perfect illustration of this is the current immoral behavior of transgenderism, especially as our current president and those who think as he does have been promoting it. Transgenderism is a choice between two ways of thinking: natural, unnatural – a lot like homosexual marriage. Unnatural behavior is self-defeating, that is, it can’t procreate, but results in extinction. Neither can it defend itself in a moral universe, not only because it is self-defeating, but also because the moral compass of man is the origin of its morality. What this means is this: man’s moral base has no more of a substantive foundation than his “I thinks.” What is moral today will be considered immoral tomorrow—by the same source.

In our freedom loving country we have liberty, but our liberties are eroded with people in political power who are more loyal to partisan parties than to anything originating with the Lord. No Christian should support such a way of thinking. Paul said in Romans, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32, ESV). On a practical level, no Christian can escape their contribution to an immoral society who vote/support such behavior. What about in regards to eternity? RT

 

A Word to the Wise

Proverbs 10:1—A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother (KJV).

The wisdom of a child is directly related to the wisdom that comes from the parents. This relates to financial matters, pragmatic matters and, certainly, spiritual matters. The parents may have given good indications in all three areas, but still the child refuses to take the teachings given. Thus, it is not always the case that the parents have failed (obviously), but it may be an indication of it. On the other hand, if there is no wisdom in a child, whatever the reason, in time, it’s the child’s obligation to take responsibility for self.

The parents who do all they can do to impart love, discipline and wisdom to the children will reap the benefits of that effort. In such cases, how can it be but that the son/daughter will make the parents glad. On the other hand, if the child refuses to take the loving counsel, then in time the heartache that belongs to the parents will soon be the heartache of the child.

Catch Flies (Word to the Wise)

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Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud (Proverbs 16:19, NKJV). Just as pride is a significant contribution to one’s personal destruction, the one with a humble hear that many who are will to stand alongside. With this in mind, why in the world would anything there is wisdom found with the proud in heart? It is likely there are some who think this way because that is what they want – the world, or things that are of this world!

While it is likely we know what it means to be humble, in case there might be a question about it in our own mind, let us consider the best perspective of humility known to man. The Williams New Testament Translations reads, “Stop acting from motives of selfish strife or petty ambition, but in humility practice treating one another as your superiors. Stop looking after your own interests only but practice looking out for the interests of others too. Keep on fostering the same disposition that Christ Jesus had (Philippians 2:3-5).

A word to the wise is for one to be quiet and humble than to be loud, proud and a fool, for the proud fool catches all the flies around and when the mouth sprays its stench.

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