Category Archives: Theology

Is the “Worship” Centered Church Model Bankrupting Christianity?


Bankrupt. Destitute. Impoverished. Insolvent.  Whichever word you choose, they all carry the same basic idea: They describe the inability to meet one’s obligations.  These  words are used to describe people that have been reduced to a state of financial ruin.  We also use the term to depict an individual or organization that is completely lacking in a particularly desirous quality or attribute.   One might be morally bankrupt or spiritually impoverished.  You get the idea.

While sitting in a church service the other day, I came to a conclusion about the church at large, which has serious ramifications for my life.   It was a long time in coming.   I am not sure why it happened that day, but I can’t ignore that it did.  This conclusion was fueled, in large part, by my own journey through the church world:  I have been a senior pastor, a worship pastor, an associate pastor, a volunteer, and a normal guy in the pew who isn’t doing anything.  Over the last three years I have “worshipped” in close to 30 different congregations with varying denominational or non-denominational affiliations.  I haven’t seen it all, but I think I have seen enough! Read the rest of this entry

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Our Top 11 Most Discussed Posts of 2011


We had a lot of interesting discussions over at Not For Itching Ears in 2011.  We have listed our Top 11 most discussed posts below.  They cover a wide range of topics from the Seeker-Sensitive Church movement, Calvinism, Solo-Scriptura, Worship, The Best Salsa Recipe in the Blogosphere, American Idolatry and more.  It’s never too late to join the discussion.  Jump into any you may have missed.  Happy New Year Everyone.   Thank you to all who follow us! Read the rest of this entry

The Top Ten Most Read Posts of 2011 from Not For Itching Ears


That’s right, my friends.  The following post contains our own version of the Top 10 list:  The most read posts from Not For Itching Ears this year.  You may be very surprised at the#1 post.  It is not only our number one post for the year, it is #1 of ALL TIME.  Far surpassing anything else!  It is clearly out of character with the rest of the blog and reveals a spicy secret about me… I dare you to try it out.  You won’t be disappointed. Read the rest of this entry

Monday Mornings with The Early Church Fathers: What Authentic Christianity Looked Like- Justin Martyr


Do you ever grow weary of all the new fads and techniques the modern church creates? I do! What is important to us, may not have been important to those who were personally discipled by Jesus Christ and those whom they disicpled.

I am continually challenged when I read the history and the writings of the early church. I am drawn to them over and over again because of how close they were in time to the Apostles. Their writings are not scripture, but neither are the writings of Luther, Calvin or John Stott. These writings shed tremendous light on how the Apostles and the early church viewed the Christ event and the implications of it. Anyone who wants to follow Jesus Christ faithfully owes it to themselves to read the writings of these Godly men.

Today, I have posted a quote from Justin Martyr as well as the quote in context.  It deals with identifying real Christians and is from his First Apology, chapter 16.  Justin lived from 100 AD to 165 AD.  He was a philosopher who was converted to Christianity and became a tireless evangelist and apologist.  He was executed for his faith sometime Read the rest of this entry

A Wise Word of Encouragement from the Early Church to Today’s Generation


Saint Cyprian penned the following wise words in AD 256.   Brothers and sister, we would be do well to take them to heart.  They remind us that what God requires of us is not a deeper understanding of his ways, but a life that is lived following them.  It is easy to get the two confused.  Learning facts is one thing.  Living them out on a daily basis is something entirely different.  When we have more facts than fruit in our lives, our lives are out of balance. Of course, theology was important to the early church.  It just took a back seat to living the Christian life. Cyprians words reminded me that Read the rest of this entry

Could the Doctrine of Total Depravity be Totally Depraved?


Over here at Not For Itching Ears we like to discuss issues that challenge our view of Christianity and the Church.   It is healthy to consider what one believes about the Christian faith and how we express that faith in our corporate church life.  If all we ever do is listen to ourselves, we can inadvertently become the kind of people Paul warned Timothy about:  People who surround themselves with “teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear.”  Today’s post is an attempt to counter that tendency among us as we discuss the Doctrine of  Total Depravity.  To do this, we turn to a passage from  “Reconsidering Tulip” by Alexander J. Renault.  It is written from an Orthodox perspective.

Like many of you, I have always assumed that Total Depravity was a doctrine universally accepted by the church of all ages.  But I was wrong.  It is a rather new concept.  In fact the early church fathers, categorically rejected the idea.  That troubles me a lot.  If Paul understood humanity to be totally depraved or to have a total inability, why did his disciples and the disciples after him flat-out deny it?  Calvinism doesn’t work without this idea, so I can see why we would hesitate to even discuss it.  It wasn’t until Calvin that this idea became the unquestionable doctrine it has become.

I don’t think this article settles the question, but the author does bring out some interesting things that most of probably have not considered.

So, let the Discussion begin…

Read the rest of this entry

A Strong Argument Against Calvinisim? Part 3 You Decide….


Over here at Not For Itching Ears we like to discuss issues that challenge our view of Christianity and the Church.   It is healthy to consider what one believes about the Christian faith and how we express that faith in our corporate church life.  If all we ever do is listen to ourselves, we can inadvertently become the kind of people Paul warned Timothy about:  People who surround themselves with “teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear.”  Today’s post is an attempt to counter that tendency among us as we discuss Free-Will and Determinism.  To do this, we turn to an extremely interesting email exchange between Father John Whiteford (an Eastern Orthodox priest) and  some proponents of Calvinism.

This isn’t your typical argument!  Father Whiteford brings another line of argumentation to his view that is almost entirely absent from the typical back and forth between Calvinists and Arminians:  What did the early church fathers teach about this?

I recognize that there are three groups of people who will read a post like this:  1) Strong Calvinists who will want to defend their view.  2)Strong Arminians who will want to find ammo for their view and 3) those who don’t have their minds made up but may lean to one understanding of things.  My hope, is that all three groups of people will be challenged and encouraged.   It’s a long discussion so I will be breaking it up into three posts.  Read Part 1 Here, and part two here.  The third and final post …… Read the rest of this entry

A Strong Argument Against Calvinisim? Part 2 You Decide….


Over here at Not For Itching Ears we like to discuss issues that challenge our view of Christianity and the Church.   It is healthy to consider what one believes about the Christian faith and how we express that faith in our corporate church life.  If all we ever do is listen to ourselves, we can inadvertently become the kind of people Paul warned Timothy about:  People who surround themselves with “teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear.”  Today’s post is an attempt to counter that tendency among us as we discuss Free-Will and Determinism.  To do this, we turn to an extremely interesting email exchange between Father John Whiteford (an Eastern Orthodox priest) and  some proponents of Calvinism.

This isn’t your typical argument!  Father Whiteford brings another line of argumentation to his view that is almost entirely absent from the typical back and forth between Calvinists and Arminians:  What did the early church fathers teach about this?

I recognize that there are three groups of people who will read a post like this:  1) Strong Calvinists who will want to defend their view.  2)Strong Arminians who will want to find ammo for their view and 3) those who don’t have their minds made up but may lean to one understanding of things.  My hope, is that all three groups of people will be challenged and encouraged.   It’s a long discussion so I will be breaking it up into three posts.  Read Part 1 Here;  here’s part 2: Read the rest of this entry

A Strong Argument Against Calvinisim? Part 1 You Decide….


Over here at Not For Itching Ears we like to discuss issues that challenge our view of Christianity and the Church.   It is healthy to consider what one believes about the Christian faith and how we express that faith in our corporate church life.  If all we ever do is listen to ourselves, we can inadvertently become the kind of people Paul warned Timothy about:  People who surround themselves with “teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear.”  Today’s post is an attempt to counter that tendency among us as we discuss Free-Will and Determinism.  To do this, we turn to an extremely interesting email exchange between Father John Whiteford (an Eastern Orthodox priest) and  some proponents of Calvinism.

This isn’t your typical argument!  Father Whiteford brings another line of argumentation to his view that is almost entirely absent from the typical back and forth between Calvinists and Arminians:  What did the early church fathers teach about this?

I recognize that there are three groups of people who will read a post like this:  1) Strong Calvinists who will want to defend their view.  2)Strong Arminians who will want to find ammo for their view and 3) those who don’t have their minds made up but may lean to one understanding of things.  My hope, is that all three groups of people will be challenged and encouraged.   It’s a long discussion so I will be breaking it up into three posts.  Now, let the Discussion begin… Read the rest of this entry

A Compelling Argument AGAINST Sola Scriptura? (The Scriptures Alone) Part 4


I just couldn’t resist reposting this article by Father John Whiteford, who happens to be an Eastern Orthodox priest.  If you are a Protestant like me, then you may have never even heard of the Orthodox church, I know I had not.  I am very grateful that I have discovered them.  The following is a very well thought out rejection of one of the cornerstones of the Protestant Reformation:  Scripture Alone.   Read it with an open mind and then share your thoughts with the rest of us.   I think he makes some good points.  It is a very long article, so I  broke it up into 4 parts.  Here’s the fourth and final part:

Read part 1 HERE,
Read Part 2 here,
Read part 3 here:

 THE ORTHODOX APPROACH TO TRUTH

“When, by God’s mercy, I found the Orthodox Faith, I had no desire to give Protestantism and its “methods” of Bible study a second look. Unfortunately, I have found that Protestant methods and assumptions have managed to infect even some circles within the Orthodox Church. The reason for this is, as stated above, that the Protestant approach to Scripture has been portrayed as “science.” Some in the Orthodox Church feel they do the Church a great favor by introducing this error into our seminaries and parishes. But this is nothing new; this is how heresy has always sought to deceive the faithful. As Saint Irenaeus said, as he began his attack on the heresies current in his day:

By means of specious and plausible words, they cunningly allure the simple-minded to inquire into their system; but they nevertheless clumsily destroy them, while they initiate them into their blasphemous opinions….

Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than truth itself.18

Lest any be mistaken or confused, let me be clear: the Orthodox approach to the Scriptures is not based upon “scientific” research into the Holy Scriptures. Its claim to understand the Scriptures does not reside in its claiming superior archaeological data, but rather in its unique relationship with the Author of the Scriptures. The Orthodox Church is the body of Christ, the pillar and ground of the Truth, and it is both the means by which God wrote the Scriptures (through its members) and the means by which God has preserved the Scriptures. The Orthodox Church understands the Bible because it is the inheritor of one living tradition that begins with Adam and stretches through time to all its members today. That this is true cannot be “proven” in a lab. One must be convinced by the Holy Spirit and experience the life of God in the Church.

The question Protestants will ask at this point is who is to say that the Orthodox Tradition is the correct tradition, or that there even Read the rest of this entry

A Compelling Argument AGAINST Sola Scriptura? (The Scriptures Alone) Part 3


I just couldn’t resist reposting this article by Father John Whiteford, who happens to be an Eastern Orthodox priest.  If you are a Protestant like me, then you may have never even heard of the Orthodox church, I know I had not.  I am very grateful that I have discovered them.  The following is a very well thought out rejection of one of the cornerstones of the Protestant Reformation:  Scripture Alone.   Read it with an open mind and then share your thoughts with the rest of us.   I think he makes some good points.  It is a very long article, so I will break it up into 4 parts.  Here’s Part 3:  Read part 1 HERE  Read part 2 here

C. PROTESTANT INTERPRETIVE APPROACHES THAT DONT WORK

Even from the very earliest days of the Reformation, Protestants have been forced to deal with the fact that, given the Bible and the reason of the individual alone, people could not agree upon the meaning of many of the most basic questions of doctrine. Within Martin Luthers own life dozens of competing groups had arisen, all claiming to “just believe the Bible,” but none agreeing on what Read the rest of this entry

A Compelling Argument AGAINST Sola Scriptura? (The Scriptures Alone) Part 2


I just couldn’t resist reposting this article by Father John Whiteford, who happens to be an Eastern Orthodox priest.  If you are a Protestant like me, then you may have never even heard of the Orthodox church, I know I had not.  I am very grateful that I have discovered them.  The following is a very well thought out rejection of one of the cornerstones of the Protestant Reformation:  Scripture Alone.   Read it with an open mind and then share your thoughts with the rest of us.   I think he makes some good points.  It is a very long article, so I will break it up into 3 parts.  Here’s Part 2:  Read part 1 HERE

FALSE ASSUMPTION # 2:

The Scriptures were the basis of the early Church, whereas Tradition is simply a “human corruption” that came much later.

“Especially among Evangelicals and so-called Charismatics you will find that the word “tradition” is a derogatory term, and to label something as a “tradition” is roughly equivalent to saying that it is Read the rest of this entry

A Compelling Argument AGAINST Sola Scriptura? (Scripture Alone) Part 1


I just couldn’t resist reposting this article by Father John Whiteford, who happens to be an Eastern Orthodox priest.  If you are a Protestant like me, then you may have never even heard of the Orthodox church, I know I had not.  I am very grateful that I have discovered them.  The following is a very well thought out rejection of one of the cornerstones of the Protestant Reformation:  Scripture Alone.   Read it with an open mind and then share your thoughts with the rest of us.   I think he makes some good points.  It is a very long article, so I will break it up into 4 parts.  Here’s Part 1:

If we are to understand what Protestants think, we will have to first know why they believe what they believe. In fact if we try to put ourselves in the place of those early reformers, such as Martin Luther, we must certainly have some appreciation for their reasons for championing the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura (or “Scripture alone”). When one considers the corruption in the Roman Church at that time, the degenerate teachings that it promoted, and the distorted understanding of tradition that it used to defend itself -along with the fact that the West was several centuries removed from Read the rest of this entry

Monday Mornings with The Early Church Fathers: How to “do” Church, How to choose pastors, and What the last Days will be like


Do you ever  grow weary of all the new fads and techniques the modern church creates?  I  do!  What is important to us, may not have been important to those who were personally discipled by Jesus Christ and those whom they disicpled.

I am continually challenged when I read the history and the writings of the early church.   I am drawn to them over and over again because of how close they were in time to the Apostles.  Their writings are not scripture, but neither are the writings of Luther, Calvin or John Stott.  These writings shed tremendous light on how the Apostles and the early church viewed the Christ event and the implications of it.   Anyone who wants to follow Jesus Christ faithfully owes it to themselves to read the writings of these Godly men.

Today, I am posting chapters 9 and 10 of the “Didache”, also known as  “The Teaching of The Twelve Apostles.”  It is one of the most fascinating documents to emerge from the early church.  It was probably in circulation somewhere close to the end of the first century Read the rest of this entry

Mondays with The Early Church Fathers: Their Criteria for Identifying False Teachers and False Prophets


Do you ever  grow weary of all the new fads and techniques the modern church creates?  I  do!  What is important to us, may not have been important to those who were personally discipled by Jesus Christ and those whom they disicpled.

I am continually challenged when I read the history and the writings of the early church.   I am drawn to them over and over again because of how close they were in time to the Apostles.  There writings are not scripture, but neither are the writings of Luther, Calvin or John Stott.  These writings shed tremendous light on how the Apostles and the early church viewed the Christ event and the implications of it.   Anyone who wants to follow Jesus Christ faithfully owes it to themselves to read the writings of these Godly men.

Today, I am posting chapters 11-13 of the “Didache”, also known as  “The Teaching of The Twelve Apostles.”  It is one of the most fascinating documents to emerge from the early church.  It was probably in circulation somewhere close to the end of the first century Read the rest of this entry

Monday Mornings with The Early Church Fathers: Their Thoughts on Baptism, Communion and Prayer


Do you ever  grow weary of all the new fads and techniques the modern church creates?  I  do!  What is important to us, may not have been important to those who were personally discipled by Jesus Christ and those whom they disicpled.

I am continually challenged when I read the history and the writings of the early church.   I am drawn to them over and over again because of how close they were in time to the Apostles.  There writings are not scripture, but neither are the writings of Luther, Calvin or John Stott.  These writings shed tremendous light on how the Apostles and the early church viewed the Christ event and the implications of it.   Anyone who wants to follow Jesus Christ faithfully owes it to themselves to read the writings of these Godly men.

Today, I am posting chapters 7-9 of the “Didache”, also known as  “The Teaching of The Twelve Apostles.”  It is one of the most fascinating documents to emerge from the early church.  It was probably in circulation somewhere close to the end of the first century Read the rest of this entry

What Does God Want From the Human Race?


What Does God Want From the Human Race?

Does He want us to believe the right things or act the right way?  Is His primary concern that we believe the right doctrine or that we behave the right way?  Does He want us to hold to and defend until death the “correct” teaching about Him?    Or is God more concerned with how we choose to live our lives?

Does it please God more when we give ourselves to study every facet of his character, diving into the deep end of the pool to contemplate God in all his glorious ways or when we devote our lives to living according to those ways?  Put another way, do you think that God was more pleased with John Calvin Read the rest of this entry

Are YOU a Heretic? Take the Quiz and find Out!


You may have been labeled a heretic in the past.  Now you can take the quiz and find out if you really are one!     Take the “Are You A Heretic Quiz.”

Monday Mornings with The Early Church Fathers: The Didache


Do you ever  grow weary of all the new fads and techniques the modern church creates?  I  do!  What is important to us, may not have been important to those who were personally discipled by Jesus Christ and those whom they disicpled.

I am continually challenged when I read the history and the writings of the early church.   I am drawn to them over and over again because of how close they were in time to the Apostles.  There writings are not scripture, but neither are the writings of Luther, Calvin or John Stott.  These writings shed tremendous light on how the Apostles and the early church viewed the Christ event and the implications of it.   Anyone who wants to follow Jesus Christ faithfully owes it to themselves to read the writings of these Godly men.

Today, I am posting chapters 5 and 6  of the “Didache”, also known as  “The Teaching of The Twelve Apostles.”  It is one of the most fascinating documents to emerge from the early church.  It was probably in circulation somewhere close to the end of the first century Read the rest of this entry

This is THE ONE Bible Every Christian Should Own…!


“SELL YOUR BED AND BUY BOOKS!”

That’s what my Homiletic’s professor declared to the whole class.    Another student had asked what we should do if we wanted to be good pastors.  “Get books, big books, thick books, good books, lots of books and read them. Sell your bed if you have to, but get books and read!”  Much to the chagrin of my young bride, I bought that one hook, line and sinker.  His admonition helped to forever alter the course of my money.    My freshmen year in college I bought over $700 worth of Biblical reference works (back in the mid 80’s!) that I was not required to have for class!  I didn’t sell the bed (though I would have definitely traded it for Kittel), but I did eat a lot of popcorn for breakfast.  So began my love affair with books.

It would be my Greek teacher who would have the most profound impact on me.  It happened when he uttered this statment on the first day of class:

“Your challenge is not that the people in your congregation WON’T believe what you teach.  Your challenge is that many people in the congregation will Read the rest of this entry