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

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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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Leaving Adventism: The Rage Stage

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This post is going to have a lot more in the way of my personal opinion than most of the others.  The conclusions I am going to be expressing here are mostly from a study that I did on the hardening of the heart, which you can find HERE.

The Purpose of Adventism

When I was growing up I had a very insightful Sabbath School teacher.  He was and probably still is a very brilliant man.  What I respected about him is that you could open up to any random book of the Bible and he could give you the historical context, insight into the congregation that the letter was addressed to, and provide perspective on each verse you came across.  He could also handle very well all of those pesky verses that contradicted my beliefs.  I realize the latter isn’t a good thing but at the time I appreciated it a lot.

Some time just before or during my High School years it came out that this Sabbath School teacher had sexually abused the pastors very young female grandchildren.  We all got a letter from the conference in the mail informing us.  This also happened to be occurring around the time that the issues in the Roman Catholic Church were coming to light.  It was a big deal.

My dad was a big advocate of Church discipline in response to this.  He didn’t want the Sabbath school teacher to be ex-communicated or something.  I think the aim was for him to be sent to another congregation and leave it at that.  This isn’t what happened though, instead the Church kicked out the pastor whose grand kids were abused.  That’s how I remember it anyways, maybe they simply graciously asked him to retire and to stop complaining.  I don’t know.

I could give you a few other stories like these, some of them directly impacting my family as I was growing up.  Interestingly enough none of these are the reason that I left.  When someone does leave Adventism though it’s usually assumed that something horrible happened to motivate their departure.

In many cases this is true.  I’ve seen a lot of people leave Adventism out of despair, triggered by some kind of an event.  This is common enough  that when you do tell people you left they will ask “what did they do to you?”.  This is because they too have heard stories like the one above before and have worried about the people that left over  them.

I believe that this is actually the purpose of Adventism.  This is the end game.  The cherry on top.

The goal the devil had in mind when he birthed this monstrosity was to scare Christians out of the Church with false doctrine and a false gospel, bury them in the law, hide the gospel, and then let their wicked flesh play out.  Each generation more and more fall away, wash rinse repeat.  People leaving into full fledged unbelief isn’t an accident it’s the reason the denomination exists.

Why would God allow that?

While I would never claim that God is the author of sin, he certainly does allow it.  He even righteously judges people and nations with impenitence and a hardened heart so that they may believe a lie and go to hell.

“And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab the king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left. Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets. The LORD has declared disaster concerning you.” 2 Chronicles 18:18-22

“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

“But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses.” Exodus 9:12

Keep in mind I am not seeking to systematize the above verses in this post.  I am not going to speculate when and how a heart is hardened into unbelief by God.  I am only asserting that based on the Bible it happens, and then when it does happen it is done in the form of a judgment.

How am I relating this to Adventism though?

Jesus promised that the time would be shortened for the sake of the elect, and it is promised that a delusion would be sent to our earth.  The Bible also speaks of a great falling away.

I don’t know if what we are seeing in this age we live in is that event, it’s impossible to tell as the texts don’t give a lot of details.  But even if we are not living in “THE” great apostasy I do believe it’s perfectly rational to assert that we are living in “A” great apostasy as it can be observed that many delusions have gone out into the world.

Adventism is one of those.  You have a cult teaching heresy, burying people in the law, offering no gospel, and then abusing people as a result.  And when people leave over the inevitable abuse they have nowhere to go because Sunday is the mark of the beast.  Which is why many who leave Adventism end up agnostics and atheists, that’s the only recourse they really have.  It’s no gospel but it’s a lot lighter on the law.

The Devil knows his time is short so he is going to drag all that he is permitted to on his way to hell.  Adventism is simply one of the systems he has used for over a century to deceive myself, my family, generations that came before, and those in the future.   Adventism isn’t the first or only institution to do this either.

Conclusion

We are being systematically lied to and deceived over the millennia.  This doesn’t stop with Adventism.  I would toss Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses in that category as well.  Doesn’t stop with them either; the Gnostics, Judaizes, Muslims, Hebrew Roots, New Apostolic Reformation, Prosperity Gospel, you name it.  The fact that we farm out cults like nobody else is actually one of the things about being an American that I’m not proud of.

Adventism just happens to be the one that effected me the most.  When you leave a cult or a cultic way of thinking and get saved by Jesus among other things you kind of go through this “rage stage” for a while.  The realization that you and those you care for have been systematically lied to by people that knew they were wrong when they did it is a hard pill to swallow.  The only solution for this is gospel and lots of it.  You, your sins, and all this world dies at the foot of the cross.

Some more good news is that this rage stage passes in time.  If you kinda feel like the guy in the picture below for a while though, know that you’re not the only one who has gone through that.

thewolverine_poster01a

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Augsburg Confession Article VI: About New Obedience

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This is my sixth post in a series on the unaltered Augsburg Confession.  A full copy of which you can find HERE.  Three older blog posts which I would recommend reading if you have not are The Three Uses of the Law and Repentance.  Though I have not blogged much on defining good works those would be helpful for this topic.

 

“We teach that this faith must bring forth good fruits and that one must do the good works commanded  by God, in accord with God’s will. However, one must never rely on such works to earn justification in God’s eyes.  For we receive forgiveness of sins and justification only by faith. Christ himself says, “When you have done everything … say, ‘We are unworthy servants”‘ (Luke 17:10). The church fathers teach this same thing.  Ambrose says, “God has established that whoever believes in Christ freely receives the forgiveness of sins. He is saved without works, by faith alone.”– The Unaltered Augsburg Confession

 

We should expect that when we become Christians we will have the desire to do good works and for sin to be pruned from our lives.  We should also expect not to notice this personally.  You’re only going to become more convicted of your sin in the Christian life and actually feel a great deal of guilt.  This is why it is so important for us to hear the gospel as often as possible.

I don’t believe that we should “fruit check” people’s good works.  It’s my observation that such an outlook is a reflection on poor theology.  Specifically, I think that many protestants today treat good works as if they were sacraments.  Instead of looking to our works for assurance we should look to Christ.

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Can a Christian Lose Their Salvation: Dr. James White vs Trent Horn

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I have linked a two part YouTube debate below between Dr. James White (Alpha and Omega Ministries) and Trent Horn (Catholic Answers) on whether or not a believer can lose salvation.  This was an exceptionally good debate and I highly recommend watching it.  I have blogged on the topic in the past, you can find that post HERE.  Before getting started, I just want to point out that Dr White clearly won in the category of awesome bow-tie.

Below I am going to present some of the passages and arguments that both of the debaters used along with my own analysis.  I am not going to attempt to represent the entire arguments of any of these debaters.  If you want their whole presentation you will have to watch it yourself.

 

White’s Prooftexts

“39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” John 6:39 KJV 

“5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Rom 4:5-8 KJV 

 

There are some other passages that I either didn’t notice him reference or that he simply chose not to bring up.  For example I didn’t hear Dr. James White mention Romans 8:38-39 KJV as that is frequently cited as support for Perseverance of the Saints.  That being the case, the ones he brought up instead make his case better in my opinion.  Specifically John 6:39 as it is very compelling.

Dr. White emphasized many times that Jesus loses nothing, nada, zilch.  He also emphasized that Jesus doesn’t fail in what he has been given to do.  Finally, he ties this in to Romans 4 with the Blessed Man who is not imputed sin.

I actually don’t disagree with Dr. White on this at all, he is absolutely right in that the elect are predestined and that none go to hell in the end.  My understanding is that Trent even agrees with this as well.  I found that Dr. White’s arguments missed their mark here as nobody is arguing that anyone of the elect go to hell. Maybe an open theist would but none were represented in this debate.  It’s possible I simply misunderstood him and am open to correction but that’s how his argumentation came across to me.

 

Trent’s Prooftexts

 

“16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.; 17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;; 18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.; 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.; 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:; 21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Rom 11:16-22 KJV 

“29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” Heb 10:29 KJV 

“19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:; 20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” 1 Tim 1:19-20 KJV 

“4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim 2:4 KJV 

 

By presenting more verses from Trent I’m not implying that his case was stronger, I just heard him cite more specific passages.  I also noticed that he left some out entirely which I think would have been helpful, specifically Hebrews 6:4-6.  He makes the same argument though with Romans 11 so perhaps he felt it would be redundant, I don’t know.

If you deny that a true Christian can lose their faith then you remove all meaning from passages like Rom 11 above.  The text plainly states that those part of and partaking of the tree are cut off.  If they were never truly Christians then that means nobody is and there is no elect because that which they were cut from cannot be Christ.

The same reasoning applies to Hebrews 6:4-6.  How can an unbeliever fall away?  If you assert such things the text loses it’s meaning.

Also look at 1 Tim 1:19 above.  How can you have no faith and make a shipwreck of your faith?  Such a notion is ridiculous.  It is plain as day to me that one who holds to perseverance of the saints has some very uncomfortable passages that they must tap dance around.  A more extreme example of this would be the way Seventh Day Adventists do backflips around Col 2:16-17.

 

Analysis – Methodological Error

I firmly believe that the most honest approach is to accept all teachings from scripture as true.  I will freely admit that I am appealing to the Lutheran tradition here so discern for yourself if you believe it is the best approach or not.

Thus it is most certainly true that Jesus desires to save all, ends up not saving all, but still loses none.  All of these are taught from scripture and we are free to attempt to reconcile but not to abrogate.  If this means you end up believing something paradoxical then so be it.

So, I would say that the elect are foreknown in eternity past and all of them will be in heaven.  But means of grace is still just as efficacious and accessible to all in the present.  Even those who are reprobate in eternity future.  A category of people are truly saved now in Christ but will fall away and damn themselves in Adam.  A sacramental understanding of means of grace is very helpful with this but not required as evidenced by the fact that many Zwinglian based protestant traditions still hold that a believer can fall away.

 

Analysis – Prescriptive vs Descriptive

 

During the debate White called out Trent for using descriptive passages prescriptively.  He then gave some examples of what he meant by that.  Trent then called out White for bending the meaning of prescriptive vs descriptive with his Calvinist tradition.  I have to say, I found White’s application of this distinction arbitrary as it relied too heavily on a subjective analysis of the texts rather than an objective one.

A fair objective definition of descriptive would be a story, like the book of Acts for example.  In a descriptive text we are seeing a narrative play out.  There are themes and principles that can be drawn out but they must be interpreted through prescriptive texts.  Romans would be a good example of that.  Some books have a mixture of the two like the Gospels for example.  But a degree of objectivity can be applied with that.  Dr White is taking verses like Matt 6:15 and saying they are descriptive.

 

“15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matt 6:15 KJV 

 

I’m sorry, but you don’t get more prescriptive than Matt 5, 6,  and 7.  Those are some of the heaviest law passages in all of scripture and to assert otherwise waters down your terms to the point where they have no meaning.  Any tradition that tries to make that descriptive is special pleading at best in my honest opinion.  Because of this I think that Trent was right to point out White’s appeal to tradition here.

In my opinion on this topic White is magisterially bending the text to keep it in line with his tradition.  Because of this I don’t find White’s handling of apostasy passages compelling as I don’t have a Calvinist tradition to defend.

 

Analysis – The word “He”

 

“29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” Heb 10:29 KJV

 

This verse came up during the debate and during the question answer portion.  I agree with Trent that the plainest referent to “He” is the apostate not Jesus.  White brings up a good point with Leviticus 16, in how the priest also receives atonement.  But in my opinion this interprets the new testament with the old rather than the other way around.  Also there are other fair ways of understanding that, not least of which is the fact that the Aaron was a sinner.

If “he” is read as Jesus this ends up turning the sanctification of the cross into an ordinance, which confuses law and gospel.  Even if I am wrong though, even if “he” is Jesus, the last phrase at the end would negate irresistible grace.  Given the frame of the debate and the focus on this verse I find that interesting.

I do not believe I am wrong, I am convinced that “he” does refer to the apostate.  I think  anyone who says that it does is assuming their theology going into it.  But even with that understanding I wouldn’t use this verse to prove apostasy, it’s just extra evidence.

 

Conclusion

 

Overall I would say that I enjoyed this debate a great deal.  Like most of Dr. James White’s debates we are given a fair representation of both sides and how they interact against each other.  To get this perspective without a good debate one would have to extensively study the works of Catholics and Calvinists for years.

I must say that I agree a great deal more with Trent Horn here.  Particularly in the manner of his presentation.  In this debate we saw a Calvinist use tradition against a Roman Catholic who was using Sola Scriptura.  Heaven help us when the papists are doing that better than the protestants are, but that’s what happened here.

Please don’t take away from this that I disrespect Dr. White,  I actually enjoy his debates and podcasts a great deal.  In the future I’ll try to make up for this by reviewing one of the debates he clearly won.

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Augsburg Confession Article V: About the Ministry

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This is my fifth post in a series on the unaltered Augsburg Confession.  A full copy of which you can find HERE.  I have two older blog posts which I would recommend reading if you have not, which present both the office and means of grace from scripture.

 

“So that we might receive this faith, God established the ministry of teaching  the gospel and administering  the sacraments. For the Holy Spirit is given to people through the Word and sacraments,  the tools through which God works.  Whenever and  wherever it pleases  God, this ministry  creates faith in the hearts of those who hear the gospel.  And the gospel message is this: that not because of our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace because of what Christ did.

We condemn the Anabaptists and all others who believe that the Holy Spirit can come to people  without the external Word, through their own preparations, thoughts, and actions.”– The Unaltered Augsburg Confession

 

The idea is that God saves through means, and that the office God has given is here to provide these means.  It is not the means themselves which save, but God’s work in with and under them.  The most notable of which is the preaching of the Word.

 

“17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” 1 Rom 10:17 KJV 

“2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 2 Tim 4:2 KJV  

” 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:; 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matt 28:19-20 KJV  

 

When the confessions condemn the anabaptists it is because they are condemned by their false teaching in rejecting Monergistic means of Grace.  Just like Rome, they teach quite consistently that man must be prepared and disposed of himself to receive grace, usually in the form of making a decision.

Just like Rome does most protestants will use the false teaching of prevenient grace to get around the obstacle of original sin here.  Some these days won’t even bother to do that.  The great irony in my opinion is that much of Protestantism today teaches the same falsehood of Rome, they just set the bar lower that’s all.

I think this is very sad, and those who don’t have the comfort from scripture that they are fully and wholly saved by Christ without themselves at all are condemned in false teaching.  This doesn’t mean they are going to hell.  But it does create an unnecessary stumbling block at best.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross to lower the bar so that it is easier for you to save yourself.  Jesus took the punishment of sin for us entirely and gives this benefit to us.  We contribute nothing but the sin that made it necessary.  He has even sent others to find you and give it to you through means so that you can physically witness it happen and know that your salvation is a done deal.

 

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Cor 22:24 KJV 

 

You heard the Word of God preached in which God has promised to create faith in you.  You were baptized in which God has saved you.  You received the very body and blood of Christ in your mouth by which God has forgiven you.  There is no reaching within your heart to grope the devil and ponder whether or not you were saved.  You don’t have to try harder to make the decision right next time, it’s a done deal.

There is a great comfort and peace in this.  Many well meaning faithful Christians like the Anabaptists above of course receive this benefit but they miss out on the comfort that goes with it due to false teaching.

 

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