Oceans (Where Feet May Fail): Hillsong

 

In today’s song review I’m going to be digging into one of the sacred cows of modern evangelical culture.  It’s not going to be pretty either.  Also, be advised that this will be just as painful for me as it is for you, I’m ashamed to confess that this song used to be one of my favorites.

 

Verse 1

You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail

And there I find You in the mystery, in oceans deep, my faith will stand

 

Who exactly is “you” in this verse?  Are we supposed to assume it’s about Jesus?  Why?  Shouldn’t it be up to the author to make it clear who we are worshiping in a worship song?  If I assume this is addressing Jesus, are you saying that you’re Peter walking out on the water?  That’s the best construction I can think of, and that would mean that you’re teaching people to read themselves into the Biblical narrative.

 

Best case scenario is this verse is teaching you to eisegete your life into the Biblical narrative.  Worst case they are singing to Satan.

 

 

Chorus 1

And I will call upon Your Name, and keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace, for I am Yours and You are mine

Verse 2

Your grace abounds in deepest waters, Your sov’reign hand will be my guide

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

 

I’m going to be fair and assume that the section above is generally being sung in a Christian context.  There is hopefully a Cross in the background, and the pastor has hopefully preached the gospel at least the christmas or easter prior.  So, best case scenario when the song says “your grace” the singer means it in a sense of the grace of the Triune God.

So, that granted, the problem is that the focus is you not Jesus.  This passage centers around the human struggling with fear, and how a therapeutic deity is comforting them.  We are not really getting a concept of a sinner who deserves the wrath of God being saved by Jesus, who died for them.

The focus isn’t Christ in this song, it’s the sinner.  But  the “sin” part isn’t really addressed either.  To me it just looks like a ballad of  therapeutic deism.  The only passage that this song is bringing to my mind is the following:

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,” 1 Timothy 4:1-2 NASB

 

I’m not saying that this song is quoting that verse or anything.  I’m just saying it comes to mind when I read the lyrics.

 

Bridge 1

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters, where ever You would call me

take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior

Bridge 2

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters, where ever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior

Bridge 3

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters, where ever You would call me

take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior

Tag

I will call upon Your Name, keep my eyes above the waves

My soul will rest in Your embrace, I am Yours and You are mine

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT ME!!

 

 

THUMBS DOWN

 

What you’re left here with is a song that’s really about yourself.  You are essentially praising yourself in how you got through your struggles in life with a little help from your friend, whoever that might be.  If sung in a Trinitarian context it is fair to assume the singer is addressing it to Jesus.  That doesn’t help though as it can be fairly argued that the writer likely kept it ambiguous to appeal to a wider audience and increase sales.  Which shouldn’t be the goal of Christian doxology and hymnody.

 

Even if we assume it’s about Jesus, we have no concept of sin or his atonement for it.  There is no law, no Gospel, and no Christ.  The song is very pretty but that’s it.

 

Theology Scorecard

Yes No
Is this song confessing Biblical theology? X
Is this song centered on God instead of yourself? X
Would this song make an Arian heretic uncomfortable? X
Is there Biblical Gospel in this song? X
Is there Biblical Law in this song? X
Is this song clearly addressing God in any capacity at all? X

 

 

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Posted in Armchair Lounge, Christian Music Reviews | Tagged | 5 Comments

What is The Lord’s Day?

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The following is a brief presentation on the Lord’s Day written by Dave Melton.  With his permission I am publishing it to Armchair Theologian.  I have formatted the text to make it easy on the eyes but all commentary is his.  I’ll offer my own thoughts at the end separately.

 

What is the Lord’s Day?

 

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet,” Revelation 1:10 NASB

The problem in answering this question is that the expression “the Lord’s day” (“τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ”) is a hapax logomenon (a word that occurs only once in an author’s writings or a text). When a word is only used once it is difficult, if not impossible, to infer the writer’s meaning, since there are no other examples of word usage to compare. Doctrine should not be built on a hapax legomenon .
As such, you cannot use Scripture to interpret Scripture when this occurs. It is one of the rare instances where you must look outside of Scriptures to find the answer. The short answer is that “the Lord’s day” is the first day of the week when early Christians celebrated Jesus’ resurrection. This is attested to by Ignatius of Antioch and Justin Marytr.  Ignatius of Antioch also known as Ignatius Theophorus was a student of the Apostle John.

 

Epistle to the Magnesians, Chapter 9:

If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death—whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and therefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master—how shall we be able to live apart from Him, whose disciples the prophets themselves in the Spirit did wait for Him as their Teacher? And therefore He whom they rightly waited for, being come, raised them from the dead.
If, then, those who were conversant with the ancient Scriptures came to newness of hope, expecting the coming of Christ, as the Lord teaches us when He says, “If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me;” and again, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad; for before Abraham was, I am;” how shall we be able to live without Him? The prophets were His servants, and foresaw Him by the Spirit, and waited for Him as their Teacher, and expected Him as their Lord and Saviour, saying, “He will come and save us.” Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for “he that does not work, let him not eat.” For say the [holy] oracles, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread.” But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]. Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, “To the end, for the eighth day,” on which our life both sprang up again, and the victory over death was obtained in Christ, whom the children of perdition, the enemies of the Saviour, deny, “whose god is their belly, who mind earthly things,” who are “lovers of pleasure, and not lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” These make merchandise of Christ, corrupting His word, and giving up Jesus to sale: they are corrupters of women, and covetous of other men’s possessions, swallowing up wealth insatiably; from whom may ye be delivered by the mercy of God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Ignatius also had a student, Justin Martyr. Justin Martyr wrote in his First Apology,

Weekly worship of the Christians, Chapter 67:
And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.

 

Final Thoughts

 

The idea is that we don’t know from scripture what the Lord’s Day is, it’s not defined by scripture.  We can see though that the early church believed the Lord’s Day was Sunday.  It was a matter of tradition.  It would be reasonable to conclude that John likely did mean Sunday when he referenced the Lord’s Day in revelation.  He would have been aware of the teachings above and if there had been any controversy it’s logical to assume he would have clarified.  But there wasn’t and he didn’t.

Does this mean Sunday is the new Sabbath?  No not really, but it is fair to assert based on history that the Lord’s Day is Sunday.  This is an ancient Christian tradition, and the day itself is certainly made holy by the preaching of the Word on that day, as it would on any other.

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Salvation Unto Us Has Come: Paulus Speratus 1484 – 1554

 

Today’s song review comes out of the Lutheran Service Book on pg 555.  It’s a classic from what I have been told, but I never heard the song until I started attending a Lutheran Church.  So it must be one of ours.  I’m going to approach it the same way I do a contemporary song though.  Is it clear who we are worshiping?  Does the song proclaim the gospel?  Is the law also given?  Let’s see!

Before getting started, I am going to be referencing some theological concepts that I won’t be able to stop and prove for the critical reader in this post.  If that is a description of yourself then I recommend that you read some of the older armchair posts on these topics.

  1. Justification
  2. Faith
  3. Grace
  4. Three uses of the Law
  5. Penal Substitutionary Atonement
  6. Original Sin

 

1

Salvation unto us has come
By God’s free grace and favor;
Good works cannot avert our doom,
They help and save us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,
Who did for all the world atone;
He is our one Redeemer.

So right off the bat we have an exposition on salvation by faith along in Christ alone.    Some very common reformation proof-texts come to mind.

 

“”Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” Romans 4:4-5 NASB

 

“because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20 NASB

 

“and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,” Philippians 3:9 NASB

 

2

What God did in His Law demand
And none to Him could render
Caused wrath and woe on ev’ry hand
For man, the vile offender.
Our flesh has not those pure desires
The spirit of the Law requires,
And lost is our condition.

 

What is very clear in this verse is the very high nature of God’s standards.  We can’t meet it.  Because of this we rightly deserve his wrath.  Our very nature is lost.

 

“Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” Ephesians 2:3 NASB

 

We are getting a very clear confession of original sin and mans need for a savior due to that guilt.  I count myself lucky if I hear a modern song that maybe mentions sin a little bit, or at the very least alludes to it.  It’s just not talked about enough, and the gospel isn’t clear without a foundation of law to show you why it’s necessary.

 

3

It was a false, misleading dream
That God His Law had given
That sinners could themselves redeem
And by their works gain heaven.
The Law is but a mirror bright
To bring the inbred sin to light
That lurks within our nature.

 

So I was happy that the last verse preached original sin, this one is telling me that there is nothing I can do about it.  It is a deception to believe you can earn heaven as you end up setting the bar of God’s demands too low and end up earning his wrath all the more.  Also, if you’re redeeming yourself by keeping the law then why did you need Jesus to die for you anyways?

I am not saying that “This is Amazing Grace” was wrong or something.  But the song being reviewed today is more clear.  Also, it corrects much of the heresy that persists in our culture today.

 

4

From sin our flesh could not abstain,
Sin held its sway unceasing;
The task was useless and in vain,
Our guilt was e’er increasing.
None can remove sin’s poisoned dart
Or purify our guileful heart–
So deep is our corruption.

5

Yet as the law must be fulfilled
Or we must die despairing,
Christ came and has God’s anger stilled,
Our human nature sharing.
has for us the Law obeyed
And thus His Father’s vengeance stayed
Which over us impended.

 

The last song I reviewed did allude to penal substitutionary atonement.  However, this one is flat out teaching it in detail.  My standard for a thumbs up on a song is that it basically just not be heretical.  But if these reviews were focused on discerning between better and best how would you rate this song as compared to the last?

 

6

Since Christ has full atonement made
And brought to us salvation,
Each Christian therefore may be glad
And build on this foundation.
Your grace alone, dear Lord, I plead,
Your death is now my life indeed,
For You have paid my ransom.

7

Let me not doubt, but truly see
Your Word cannot be broken:
Your call rings out, “Come unto Me!”
No falsehood have You spoken.
Baptized into Your precious name,
My faith cannot be put to shame,
And I shall never perish.

8

The Law reveals the guilt of sin
And makes us conscience-stricken;
But then the Gospel enters in
The sinful soul to quicken.
Come to the cross, trust Christ, and live;
The Law no peace can ever give,
No comfort and no blessing.

 

Notice we are talking about a full atonement, not a partial one.  He doesn’t cover just some of your sins, he died for all of them.  Also notice that the singer isn’t just giving us a booster shot in the arm to help us through the day.  In this song we are depending upon God to save us and praising him for it.

 

9

Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
And rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify;
Works serve our neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.

10

All blessing, honor, thanks, and praise
To Father, Son, and Spirit,
The God who saved us by His grace,
All glory to His merit.
O triune God in heav’n above,
You have revealed Your saving love;
Your blessed name we hallow.

 

What stands out to me in these last verses is that we are given a short exposition on the third use of the law.  We strive to keep God’s law for the sake of our neighbor, not to earn salvation.  That doesn’t make it any less important though.  Also, notice again that the author defines faith as being in Christ.  The word isn’t left the undefined, leaving the singer to read it as a burning in their bosom or something.

And he even throws in the Trinity there too.  I know your songs may sell better if you leave them vague enough so that antitrinitarians will buy your album too.  But why would that be a goal anyways?  I thought we were supposed to praise God?

THUMBS UP

What I love about this song is that in addition to praising God and proclaiming law and gospel it also teaches the faith.  I remember the first time it ever came up to be sung in church I felt like I was about to pass out as I read the words.  I had never sung something so wonderful before in Church.  I didn’t know Christians had music this wonderful, I don’t know how we get away singing it without this secular world we live in locking us up.

 

 

Theology Scorecard

Yes

No

Is this song confessing Biblical theology?

X

Is this song centered on God instead of yourself?

X

Would this song make an Arian heretic uncomfortable?

X

Is there Biblical Gospel in this song?

X

Is there Biblical Law in this song?

X

Is this song clearly addressing God in any capacity at all?

X

 

 

 

 

 

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This is Amazing Grace: Phil Wickham

 

 

The first song I am going to review is by Phil Wickham and can be found HERE on CCLI.  As of the time I am writing this his song is currently listed at #1 on the CCLI charts.  I am going to take it one verse at a time.

 

Verse 1

Who breaks the power of sin and darkness

who’s love is mighty and so much stronger

The King of Glory, the King above all Kings

 

When I read the first verse these are the passages that come to my mind, your mileage may vary:

 

“When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” Colossians 2:15 NASB

 

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” Ephesians 2:4-5 NASB

 

“which He will bring about at the proper time-He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,” 1 Timothy 6:15 NASB

 

What I see the author trying to do in the first verse is ask and answer a question.  Who has overcome our sin because of his love for us?  And then it identifies this as God.  I also like that he points out sin as a bad thing.  That’s important to do, we can say on some level there is law in this song.  That’s good.

 

Verse 2

Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder

and leaves us breathless in awe and wonder

The King of Glory, the King above all kings

 

This verse has a similar format to the first one.  What I like about verse 2 though is that the writer identifies God as being in control of the weather.  A lot of liberals today are not comfortable with that, many will outright deny it altogether.  So it’s nice to see that the #1 song on CCLI has some conservative teaching in it.

 

Chorus

This is amazing grace, this is unfailing love

That you would take my place, that You would bear my cross

You laid down Your life, that I would be set free

Whoa, Jesus I sing for all that You’ve done for me

 

The Chorus is by far my favorite part of the song.  The writer is preaching the gospel at this point.  Love it.  Here are the passages it brings to my mind.

 

“and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 NASB

 

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NASB

 

What I like is that Chorus also conveys the concept of penal substitutionary atonement.  Notice that Jesus is said to “bear my cross”.  Also I would like to point out that the song actually identifies “Jesus” by name as the one who does this.  That’s really good.

 

Verse 3

Who brings our chaos back into order

who makes the orphan a son and daughter

The King of Glory, the King of Glory

 

I’m not a fan of verse 3, mostly because it’s not specific enough.  Due to a lack of context and clarity it would be too easy to interpret as a promise that God will work out all the chaos and loneliness in our present lives.  I’m not saying it’s heresy or something I’m just saying it’s not very clear.  If one chooses to read it in a eschatological sense, particularly with us being sons and daughters of God and sin being removed from the earth that’s great.

 

Verse 4

Who rules the nations with truth and justice

shines like the sun in all of it’s brilliance

The King of Glory, the King above all Kings

Bridge

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain

worthy is the King who conquered the grave

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain

worthy is the King who conquered the grave

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain

worthy is the King who conquered the grave

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, worthy, worthy, worthy

 

The concepts in the final verse and bridge lend themselves to popular proof-texts quite well.

 

“God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne. For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with a skillful psalm.” Psalms 47:7-8 NASB

 

“All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” Revelation 13:8 NASB

 

I am not a fan of the repetition at the end.  How it’s presented in the lyrics is not too bad, but in practice this tends to get about 50 repeats.  I think that is an example of vain repetition (Matt 6:7), but I won’t press the reader on that one too much as it might just be how I am reading it.  At the very least I do feel that repeating the same two lines 50 times in a row is boring.  I’ll leave it at that.

 

Thumbs Up

 

On the whole I am going to give this song a solid thumbs up on it’s theology.  It’s not perfect, it could use some more clarity in the third verse.  That said, the author includes both law and gospel and I’m not going to be too hard on any song that does that.

 

Theology Scorecard

Yes

No

Is this song confessing Biblical theology?

X

Is this song centered on God instead of yourself?

X

Would this song make an Arian heretic uncomfortable?

X

Is there Biblical Gospel in this song?

X

Is there Biblical Law in this song?

X

Is this song clearly addressing God in any capacity at all?

X

 

 

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Meme Theology: Religion vs Relationship?

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Just a disclaimer for the reader, I will be leaning heavily on Lutheran theology in this post.  If you have never heard the word “sacrament” before you may want to read my series on Soteriology before proceeding.

This is my second post in an on-going series on Meme Theology.  This meme stuck out to me because the concept is actually pervasive in american pop-christian culture and it’s worth talking about.  The author seems to be drawing a dichotomy between religion and relationship.  His point as I understand is that relationship has more substance to it and that we should avoid religion.

Before I interact with the meme I would like to take a look at the word religion.  With or without the meme, how should we define it?  It’s not a Biblically defined term anyways.  We would expect the meaning to change over time.  To do that I would like to compare the definitions of an older dictionary to a newer one.

I have selected the number #1 definition from the 1828 Websters and set it alongside that found in Dictionary.com.

Websters 1828 Dictionary.com
“Religion in its most comprehensive sense, includes a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of his will to man, in man’s obligation to obey his commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man’s accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties. It therefore comprehends theology, as a system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to his will or commands, is not religion” “A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”

 

One thing that stands out to me is that in 1828 Websters monotheism seems to be assumed as a premise.  In the modern dictionary we are not seeing this.  I just find that interesting, at the very least we can say the meaning of the word has flattened over the past 200 years.  That said, both renderings essentially break the word down into practice and theology,  something you do and something you believe.

This isn’t how the meme author uses the word though.  He pits the two against each other.  In the authors mind religion is something you only believe or think about and relationship is something you do.  At the very least it’s fair to assume he is using unique definitions of these terms.  Because I am familiar with evangelical cliches I am going to assume that he means something close to:

“Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship”

I don’t know who originally coined it but it can’t have been that long ago.  As I understand, the sentiment that is intended is that the ‘smells and bells’ of a liturgical service are supposed to be dead and lifeless, and that in it’s place one should seek a more spontaneous personal relationship with Jesus.

This relationship can vary in definition and is generally conveyed in a way that can be interpreted however you personally prefer it to be.  It could be simply a life marked by charity and good will, daily devotional readings, a warm gooey feeling in your heart that you refer to as God,  adding an acoustic guitar to your music service, or all of the above.

To be honest I completely understand the sentiment.  Something about my generation in particular is that we long for substance.  Old symbols and traditions can feel lifeless and intangible, particularly amongst American evangelicals under-girded by a Zwinglian theology that denies the sacraments.  There is no actual substance, it has long been rejected centuries before any of us were born, so we cling to other things and call it a relationship.  That is my observation anyways, your mileage may vary.

Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?  Well sure, but I would call it a one-sided relationship.  He has died for us, and delivers his body and blood to our mouth.  He has poured his death burial and resurrection over us and into us in the waters of our baptism.  It is a relationship of him coming to us and saving us even though we constantly sin against him.  So in that sense, I would say that Christian religion is also relationship.

Your good works will never be good enough to bring you closer to God.  That warm gooey feeling in your heart has more to do with the jalapenos in your breakfast than it does the presence of God the Holy Spirit.

The fact is, God has promised to work in physical tangible things in space and time that we can see touch and feel, he has promised to work in with and under the preaching of his word to give us faith.  These are the places we should look for him because that is where he has promised to be.  He comes to you no matter what your mood or feelings are.  There is substance to it, it’s objective rather than subjective, and it’s both relationship and religion.

 

“He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” John 6:56 KJV

 

The meme is incoherent to me because I don’t understand how I could get any closer to Jesus than eating his flesh and drinking his blood, and at the moment the only place my church offers that is under the steeple.  I want to be where that is offered.

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Christianity 101 Series: Rev Ernie Lassman

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Below are links to a full series on Lutheran Catechisms made available online through a Podcast called Fighting for the Faith.  The preacher is Rev. Ernie Lassman, the pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle Washington.  These lessons were a blessing to me and to my family and I’d like to share them here too.  If you take the time to listen to them you will get a well rounded Christian education online, for free.

 

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Meme Theology: a response to Chelsey T. Hall on Roman Catholicism

I stumbled across a meme the other day with a list of things Roman Catholics do not believe.  I checked the link at the bottom to see if I could find greater context and the missing 17th point that seems to be implied.  My efforts were in vain though, it must be an old domain as the link is broken.

Never the less I am going to address all 16 points one at a time.  I believe the reader will agree that this meme is the straw man to end all straw men.  And for the internet that’s saying something.

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Point #1: That the Pope is God and can do no wrong

I am not aware of any mainline protestant denomination that formally accuses Rome of believing the Pope to be God.  If I am incorrect and there is one please drop a link in my comments and I’ll take a look at it.

As for the Lutheran Confessions, we do believe that the office of the papacy is antichrist.  We do confess that Rome has a lot of false teaching about the Pope and his authority, and that some of his titles are certainly blasphemous.  Also, many Popes in history have committed grave public sins that are undeniable.  Some so horrible that I couldn’t imagine how a Roman Catholic could claim the Pope can “do no wrong”.  This argument is simply a straw man.

 

Point #2: That anybody or anything may be worshiped or adored besides the True God.

I would like to see proof that Lutherans, for example, formally make the claim that Roman Catholics worship other things/gods.  There is a difference between worship and veneration that is plainly confessed by Rome.  I’m not going to try to hide that they have this distinction as that would be dishonest.  However it is fair to point out that in practice (orthopraxy) Rome allows things that appear to be more worship than veneration.

Point #3: That the blessed Virgin is equal to God

This is another straw man.  Again, show me anywhere in a mainline protestant confession where Rome is accused of claiming Mary to be equal to God.  We don’t word it like that.

We will say that the passage you use from the Bible to claim Mary is “full of grace” in and of herself doesn’t substantiate your dogma.  The verse in question simply has a greeting that was common at the time and only says she was favored by God.  This error in doctrine stems from a mistranslation in the Latin Vulgate and developed many centuries after Christ.

 

English Standard Version Douay-Rheims
“And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!””

Luke 1:28 ESV

“And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. ”

Luke 1:28 DCR1752

The ESV is based on Greek manuscripts and the Douay-Rheims on the Latin Vulgate, which means to the English reader its a translation of a mistranslated verse.  Notice in the Roman version Mary can be fairly read as being “full of grace” in and of herself.  The source of this grace could be seen as Mary.  But the way the original text actually reads the source of Grace is God and he is favoring Mary.

We don’t claim that Rome sees Mary as equal to God.  Maybe some wacko fundamentalists on YouTube do I’ll give you that.  But if we are going to include them in this discussion then it would be fair for me to include every wacky statement any individual bishop, priest, monk, or nun has ever claimed as well.  But that wouldn’t be fair would it?  See my point?

Point #4: That a man can by his own good works, independently of the Merits and Passion of Jesus Christ and of His grace, obtain salvation, or make any satisfaction for the guilt of his sins, or acquire any merit.

Just to make it clear, that’s not what we Lutherans in particular or protestants as a whole accuse you of believing.  Instead we accuse you of believing the following:

“If any one shall say, that by faith alone the impious is justified;

so as to mean that nothing else is required to co-operate in order unto the obtaining the grace of justification, and that it is not in any respect necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.” – Canon IX, Council of Trent

Notice that in the above canon being “prepared and disposed” precedes faith.  This is a Pelagian heresy as it denies original sin, and thus contradicts the council of orange.

“If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).” – Canon IV, Council of Orange

Point #5: That there is any other Mediator of Redemption than or SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST

Are you talking about the Roman Catholic teaching of Mary being a co-redemtrix?  Lutherans in particular and protestants in general reject this heresy too.  I’m concerned for the future though, is Rome going to make it a dogma or are they going to reject it?  Time will tell.

Point #6: That Images may be worshiped

I see this as the same as point #2 so please see my response there.

Point #7: That Mass can be bought

I’m glad to hear you’re not charging for private Mass anymore.

Point #8: That forgiveness of sin can be bought

I’m glad to hear you’re not charging for indulgences anymore.

Point #9: That sin can be forgiven without true sorrow

So you’re saying that when a baby is baptized they are not forgiven for their sin unless they feel sorrow? Think that one through and get back to me.

Point #10: That non-Catholics will be damned

This isn’t actually a fair statement.  Check Catholic Answers yourself, they teach a doctrine called Invincible vs Vincible Ignorance , which comes out of Vatican II.

How I understand it is they believe that your ignorance shields you from the imputation of sin.  But if you read that article I posted even they will admit that the average pagan is still guilty of committing mortal sins in which the law is written on their heart.  And as I understand it, Rome would still teach that you’re only going to find forgiveness of mortal sins at one of their Churches.

Also, you have older councils that decreed salvation only comes from the Roman Catholic Church.  So this would appear to be a contradiction, unless Vatican II is speaking out of both sides of their mouth.  I’m open to either possibility.

The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the “eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” – 11th Session of the Council of Florence, under Pope Eugene IV

 

Point #11: That all Catholics will go to heaven

Can you show me a single confessional document of a mainline protestant denomination that rebukes Rome for believing all Catholics go to heaven?  I’ll concede as I stated above that there might be some wing nut KJVO fundamentalists on YouTube saying things like this.  But there are some wing nut Papists out there as well and I wouldn’t use them to represent all of Rome.  Let’s be fair eh?

Point #12: That the Holy Scripture is not authoritative, when in fact the Scriptures are the Truth and no Catholic Dogma or tradition will contradict it.  (How can it, when The Church is the one that gave us the Holy Scriptures to begin with!)

This starts out with another straw man argument.  Please cite a credible source for the claim.  Any educated protestant is well aware that Rome has a high regard for the authority of scripture.  The issue is Sola Scriptua, which the Church Fathers taught by the way.  You can find proof on that HERE.

The fact is that Church Council, Catholic Dogma, and tradition contradicts not only scripture in some places, but they also contradict themselves.  To assert that they do not on a presuppositional basis (which you seem to employ) ends up forcing the confessor to either be inconsistent in their epistemology or categorically abandon all objective meaning in everything.

For proof check out the contradiction in church councils orange and Trent that I posted above.

Also, the church didn’t give us Holy Scripture.  The church received Holy Scripture.  There is a significant difference between the two.

Point #13: That anybody may interpret the Bible

The Bible actually interprets itself just fine.  The key is to look at how the authors of each book define their terms.  Then you assemble the passages with the clearest use of language where all your key terms are defined by the author and you can start forming a systematic theology.  It’s actually not that complicated really, most people exercise greater thought and attention on the latest hit television show.

The hard part is submitting to scripture that you hate…. even when it contradicts some cherished beliefs you have been holding on to.

Point #14: That Our Lord Jesus Christ established many Churches

Who accused Rome of believing this??? I’ll take your side on that one.  Here is something to think about though.  Rome doesn’t have corporate ownership of the Bride of Christ.

Chew on that

The one (small c) catholic faith that Jesus established was built on a foundation of faith confessed by Peter (Matt 16:18).  Faithful trinitarian believers can be found in many denominations.  At the end of this age, no matter what fold they were in, all sheep are placed on one side and all goats on the other.  A concept you actually implied in point #10 so color me confused.

 

Point #15: That outward piety is profitable without charity of the spirit

 

What do you mean by profitable?  Do you mean Justification?  Who accused Rome of believing this anyways?  I think you accuse yourself.

If you’re saying that you believe that good works are “profitable” for justification when the Grace of God has regenerated someone I can interact with that.

My first problem with it is you’re contradicting Rome, Council of Trent Canon IX in that you’re placing grace before faith and good works.  You left out the part where one must be prepared and disposed of their own will.

My second problem with that statement is that if you mean “profitable” the way I’m understanding it then you’re contradicting Holy Scripture that teaches the sufficiency of Grace.  (2 Corinthians 12:8-9 ESV)

Point #16: That all religions are the same

The only Roman Catholics that teach this are the liberal ones.  And in all fairness we have the same problem in protestant denominations.  I’ve already pointed out the straw man issues well enough in your other points.

Conclusion

That is my response to this meme anyways.  If you liked this post on meme theology let me know and I’ll make a regular thing of it.

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Were the Canaanites Wiped out?

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A few days ago the Telegraph put out an inflammatory article claiming to have disproved the Bible.  They did recently amend it though when they were corrected on their facts, which is good.  So props for that.  In case you missed the drama though I’ll present the relevant Biblical evidence and a bit of my own analysis.

You can find the article here

The original headline was as follows:

“Study disproves Bibles claim ancient Canaanites wiped out”

They have since changed it to read:

“Study shows ancient Canaanites survived divine call in Bible for them to be wiped out”

The verse that they cited as proof is found in Deuteronomy when God orders the destruction of the Canaanites along with a few other civilizations.

 

“But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded”  Deuteronomy 20:16‭-‬17 ESV

 

Some people try to soften or ignore passages like the one above.  They feel that God needs a legal defense or something.  I do not, God ordered their destruction and that is that.  He is judge and he is allowed to do these things.

I understand these commands as an expression of God’s justice.  In the Old Testament the Israelite’s prefigure Christ.  He was promised to come through their lineage.  We see type and shadow of this throughout the old testament.  The antitype always supersedes the type though.

So just as God’s mercy and grace shown in type and shadow with the delivery of a small group of people from bondage in Egypt, it is shown more pronounced on the cross where he delivers us all from sin and death.

In like manner, just as his justice and wrath is shown in type and shadow with the condemnation of people like the Canaanites so to will the antitype of this be even more pronounced on the last day when he judges the nations of the earth and casts the wicked bodily into hell.

Speaking to the article though, the Bible is clear that the Canaanites survived this command.  The Israelite’s were not obedient.  They disobeyed God’s command and left some of them alive.

 

“However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.” Joshua 16:10 ESV

 

I can only guess that perhaps the writers at the Telegraph haven’t spent much time reading the Bible.  I can excuse that one could miss this stray verse in Joshua.  But anyone who has spent much time at all in scripture knows that the Old Covenant Israelite’s were sent into captivity for disobedience, it’s kind of a major theme.  Missing that would be like someone commenting on Romeo and Juliet without understanding the underlying conflict with the Capulets and Montegues.

They make other points in the article about the lack of archaeological evidence for the conquering of Canaan.  This actually isn’t true, there is a lot of evidence for it.  It’s just not in a time period close to when Ramesses is thought to have ruled Egypt.

There are plenty of ways of dealing with this though.  As I understand there exists a great deal of evidence for the exodus and the events following, it just happens many centuries before Ramesses.  Logically, either our assumptions about the timeline of the ancient world are incorrect or perhaps the name Ramesses in the Bible is simply an anachronism added in by a scribe much later.

My point is I find both the Telegraphs biblical assertions and historical ones to be intellectually facile.  They didn’t bother to fact check their article or even consider facts that contradict their premise.  This is incredibly rude and unprofessional.  I don’t think they take these matters seriously at all.

In my opinion they are just writing click bait articles to drive up traffic to their website.  And that opinion can be supported without ancient archaeological evidence or taking scripture out of context.

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The “Not one in Twenty” of Ellen White is too optimistic

ellenwhite-large

As I have demonstrated in older posts, the Sabbath was an old covenant law. Particular to a certain people, living in a specific geographic location, during a specific period of time. The old covenant Sabbaths pointed in type and shadow to the rest we have in Christ today.

 

A common thing debated amongst Adventist laity is whether or not it is permissible to cook meals for your family on the Sabbath.  This stems from the verse in Exodus that reads as follows;

 

“You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.” Exo 35:3 ESV

 

Because of this many SDA cook their meals the day before, and then of course use their oven to heat them up on the Sabbath, that way they don’t have to light a fire in their dwelling.  Obviously this doesn’t actually avoid the problem of lighting a fire in their dwelling, but I digress.  The point is that this verse in Exodus was never meant to be read as speaking to modern kitchens and dining practices of the 21st century.  When you do so you end up with wonky anachronisms and contradictions.

 

Another example along these lines is the VCR. When that became mainstream SDA debated whether or not recording your favorite TV shows on the Sabbath to watch later was permissible. Should a VCR be considered a maidservant or manservant (Exodus 20:11)?  No matter what you do with the VCR issue, you’re gonna have to employ an anachronism and then draw a conclusion off of it foreign to the text of scripture. It’s silly, which is why SDA will quickly move on and try to forget things like VCRs we’re ever a controversy.

 

But here’s the thing. When it comes to Ellen White’s teachings you better get it right on this issue or you won’t be among the one in twenty.

 

“It is a solemn statement that I make to the church, that not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books are prepared to close their earthly history, and would be as verily without God and without hope in the world as the common sinner.”–ChS 41 (1893).

 

Combine that with her teachings on keeping the law perfectly by your own diligent effort in the end times and you have a receipt for disaster.

 

“Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth.”  The Great Controversy, Pg. 425 Ellen White

 

So here’s the issue, you better be on the right side of the VCR debate if you expect to be saved in SDA teaching. It’s impossible to know if you are right or not either, as the Bible doesn’t address VCRs, so there will always be mystery as to whether or not you chose the right side.  The VCR isn’t the only thing like this either, there have been many controversies like these in my lifetime alone.

 

Can the VCR be used on the Sabbath? 

Can you play Nintendo on the Sabbath?

Can you play sports on the Sabbath?

Can you swim on the Sabbath? 

Can you drive far on the Sabbath?

Can you play Pokémon-Go on the Sabbath? 

Can you accept a paycheck for working in a hospital on the Sabbath?

 

 

Those are just seven (7) controversies in Adventism off the top of my head.  Keep in mind, the scripture not only condemns sin, but it also condemns approving of those who do sin (Rom 1: 32).  So to meet Ellen White’s standard you have to stand on the right side of every controversy above, there is no neutral ground.  You can’t just play it safe and forbid all of them either, because if you do and get one wrong then you’re calling something good evil which is also a sin (Isaiah 5:20 ESV).

 

There have been far more controversies than this, but let’s run the math on just seven of them and see what our odds stack up like.  Each controversy is binary, let’s be gracious and assume every SDA has a 50/50 chance of standing on the right side of each issue.

 

1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/128

 

That’s only a snapshot of one generation though, and it’s controversies off the top of my  head.  Let’s try to project a minimum of the number of such controversies that have existed in Adventism as new dilemmas or inventions have presented themselves.  This won’t be scientifically accurate of course, but it could give us a ball park figure.

 

Assuming that the average person lives three (3) generations long, and assuming that at least seven (7) controversies arise each generation, what are the odds of for someone standing on the right side of all of them?

 

1/128 * 1/128 * 1/128  = 1/2,097,152

 

Those are some pretty long odds!  That means with a fair understanding of Ellen Whites teachings each Adventist has less than a one in two million shot of going to heaven.  Maybe that’s what she meant by *not* one in twenty?  Let’s be clear, if keeping the law is how you plan on going to heaven then you will fail.  It’s a one way ticket to hell.  Ellen White is actually wrong, your odds of earning heaven are not one in twenty, or even one in two million.  Your odds are a big fat zero.

 

What???? Zero???

 

Yeah that’s right, no matter if your SDA or otherwise you don’t stand a chance at keeping the law perfectly.  And even if you somehow managed to pull it off you still got original sin against you.  The Bible is clear though, all have sinned.

 

“as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one;” Rom 3:10 ESV

 

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Rom 3:23 ESV

 

This is true even in the end times, you never stop sinning.  Even Paul struggled with sin in his life and during his ministry.  The truth is we are saved by Jesus, even in the end times.

 

“and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—” Phil 3:9 ESV

Conclusion

Ellen White is actually wrong on both law and gospel.  She presents a law that is tough but not tough enough.  It’s actually possible for man to fulfil her law, maybe with a little help from Jesus, or maybe even helping Jesus out a little bit.  But not a Biblical law where total perfection of thought word and deed is required (Matt 5:48).

 

She also presents a Gospel where mans efforts and works are essential, particularly during the end times.  It is also a hopeless ineffectual gospel that only saves “not one in twenty”, or as I calculated, less than one in two million.  The truth is her false gospel (Gal 1:8) doesn’t save anyone.  It only sends people to hell.  As I frequently say, trust in Jesus.  The Sabbath will not save or seal you, not even in the end times.

 

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A Debate: Did Christ Die For All? With Jordan Cooper and Dr. Theodore Zachariades. Sin Boldly Episode 93

Really good debate, take a look if you would like to see some of the differences between Lutheran and Reformed beliefs.

The Sin Boldly Blog

cross_the_passionWell, I have been looking forward to this episode for a while. I was honored to be joined by Dr. Theodore Zachariades of Reforming America Ministries and Jordan Cooper of the Just and Sinner Podcast and Blog to discuss the Limited Atonement. Did Jesus die for the sins of the whole world, or only for his elect people? What is the extent of the work of the cross? Jordan comes from a Reformed background but is now a Lutheran pastor and theologian. Theodore came to the Reformed Baptist tradition after growing up Eastern Orthodox. This debate features conversation around many of the relevant Biblical passages and demonstrates the different ways that these two traditions come to see the way God has worked in the world to save sinners. Thanks again to both of my guests for their time and expertise!

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that…

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