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An Ancient Theologian explains Tradition


“The heretics did not just offer a different worldview. They were using Scriptures to uphold their ideas…”

Interesting!

We don’t often re-blog other posts, but this was such a thought provoking and stimulating article that we just had to! Mike discusses the framework we should use to interpret opposing views of what Scripture says and how we should use the early church Fathers to aid us in that. Be challenged!

We also wanted to introduce you to Mikes blog, so take a few minutes to check it out. You will probably hit the “Follow” button like we did.

Dead Heroes Don't Save

Irenaeus, a 2nd century theologian, defended Christianity from the Gnostic philosophies that were popular at the time. His 5 volume work, Against Heresies, dedicates the first two volumes to describing the Gnostic views and then precedes to dismantle them in the remaining volumes.

saint_irenaeus_oflyonsThroughout the work we are invited to explore the fundamental beliefs of the early church as they are contrasted with the opposing system.

Underlying Irenaeus’ defense lies the questions: how do we know what the truth is? and how do we decide between different interpretations of Scripture?

The heretics did not just offer a different worldview. They were using Scriptures to uphold their ideas – which centered on two gods – a good one and an evil one. It was the evil god who created the physical world that we must rid ourselves of.

View original post 1,019 more words

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Are We REALLY Totally Depraved?


total-depravity2Grab the kindling wood and bring your lighters! If you continue reading this post, you may feel the urge to use them!

At least that is what I anticipate with this post on Total Depravity.

Before you light the fire, you should know up front that this post is simply me letting you in on the discussions that take place inside my head!  I’m asking you to consider some of the questions I ask myself while I think out loud about what Total Depravity means.

To start off, let’s define terms:

The Western Protestant church views T.D. this way:   Total depravity is the fallen state of human beings as a result of Adam original sin. The doctrine of total depravity asserts that people are, as a result of the fall, not inclined or even able to love God wholly with heart, mind, and strength, but rather are inclined by nature to serve their own will and desires and to reject the rule of God.

“The immediate concomitant of the first sin was the total depravity of human nature. The contagion of his sin at once spread through the entire man, leaving no part of his nature untouched, but vitiating every power and faculty of body and soul.” Louis Berkhof

This means that the fundamental nature of mankind was changed on that day. Whatever Adam’s human nature was before his sin, it became something different after the fall.  As a result, Read the rest of this entry

The Total Inability of Calvin To Explain Man’s Ability to Respond to God?


Man's Inability and CalvinTotal: Completely, Absolutely

Inability: lack of sufficient power, resources, or capacity

It is true that humanity can not come to Christ unaided. The Scriptures and the early church agree on this. Both sides of the Monergism vs Synergism civil war agree on it. Without God’s grace no one is able to come to Christ. Period!

But what does that actually look like and how does it work? The truth of the matter is that no one really knows and those who say they do don’t understand what they are saying. How God works this out in humanity lies within the mystery of God himself.

Calvin and the “ists’ his teaching has inspired believe this means that humanity can not even respond to God unaided. They teach that man must first be born again and then exercise faith in Christ. One can not say “yes” to God until after the new birth takes place.  Which leads them to teach things like this:

“This doctrine of total inability which declares that men are dead in sin does not mean that all men are equally bad, nor that any man is as bad as he could be, nor that anyone is entirely destitute of virtue, nor that human nature is equal in itself, nor that man’s spirit in inactive, and much less does it mean that the body is dead… The inability under which he labors is not an inability to exercise volition, but an inability to be willing to exercise holy volitions.” (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination)

“The inability under which he labors is not an inability to exercise volition, but an inability to be willing to exercise holy volitions.”

Essentially, reformed theology teaches that Read the rest of this entry

Contending for THE Faith?


calvinism2Things are slow around here so when I saw this and I just couldn’t resist.

That sound you are hearing?  That is me stirring the pot!

Calvin’s faith is certainly different from the faith of the early church, but is it going to far to say he reinvented or re–delivered a new faith?

You decide.

Play nice, please.

Why God Might Not Be Concerned About Our Doctrinal Differences


blog-oh-my-god“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”

I asked, as my friend looked on in utter disbelief at what had just been said. We had been discussing the state of the church in its four major divisions: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant. (For the sake of brevity, I have lumped all us Protestants into one category. I don’t have time to list us all!)

“Of course THE Church matters to God”, he replied, “He died to give it birth!

I can’t argue with that!

What perplexes me though, is that there are so many different types of churches. Clearly a lack of unity within THE church has eluded us. Catholics believe in purgatory, the other three divisions of the church, don’t. That is a pretty significant difference. We can’t all agree on how many books are actually in God’s Holy Word! That also seems significant. Some of the churches teach that how one lives has absolutely nothing to do with one’s salvation, while others teach that it has a lot to do with it, still others are somewhere in-between. Maybe it is just how I think about things, but I would have to say this one is a critical difference of doctrine. We have Catholic decrees calling the Reformers heretics, and we have the Reformers labeling the Pope the anti-Christ. Orthodox and Catholics are at odds over one word in the Creed among other substantial issues. We can’t even seem to agree on the purpose of Christianity.

Then we have us Protestants who agree to disagree!

We agree that Jesus Christ died on the cross for “our” sins, but we can’t agree on who is included in “our”. We believe there is such an important and critical thing as the Atonement, but can’t agree on what it actually entails. We believe that people worked miracles, but can’t seem to agree on when or IF that has stopped. We can’t agree on how a church should conduct itself in worship. We can’t agree on something as simple as how a person actually comes to Christ. We can’t agree on what it means to follow Christ. We don’t agree on a host of important issues.

The world looks at us and sees “Christian” sects that argue amongst themselves and who can’t seem to agree on the essentials. We are divided, pure and simple. Stating otherwise is foolish and wishful thinking.

“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”

Of course, Jesus did pray for “those who would believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me…” (John 17:20-21, 23.) Unity was important enough to pray for on the eve of the crucifixion.   It would seem the Father didn’t answer that one in the affirmative. Or am I missing something?

Why would God have allowed that to happen?

Many Protestants believe that around 300AD the real church was infiltrated and perverted by the Catholic Church. As a result, the true Gospel was lost.

If the church is so important to Him, and if the purity of the Gospel and the doctrinal teachings that stem from understanding it correctly matter so much, why didn’t he step in at such a critical moment to stop the hijacking of the Church? Why would God allow the church to embrace a false gospel that would consign its followers to hell? Why didn’t he intervene? Why didn’t he put a quick end to it? I find these questions a bit troubling.

Of Course Catholics believe that the Reformers are the real usurpers. Who can blame them? After all, the church had existed virtually unchanged for 1500 years, until Luther and the young punk come along and want to change the whole thing. It is understandable that they got together at Trent and called the Reformers heretics.

Here’s the compelling issue for me: In both cases, God did not stop the supposed error from taking root. Make no mistake about it; God knew what the result would be of doing nothing to stop these movements. Because of the omniscient nature of God, combined with His foreknowledge, the ensuing doctrinal mess would not have surprised him. He knew it would happen if He did nothing, and he did…. nothing. Think about that!

We do know that if God wanted to step in and crush the rebellions, he could have. He did that very thing during the Exodus when Korah and his crew openly challenged Moses leadership of the young Israel. Read about it in Numbers 16. The gist of it is that God caused the ground to open up and swallow the leaders of the rebellion, their families and everything they owned! Rebellion over. Case closed. God’s leadership of his people settled.

But that is not what he did in 300AD. That is not what he did when the West and East Split. It is not what he did at the beginning of the Reformation. In all three cases, God allowed it to stand. In all three instances, The Father had the opportunity to answer the Son’s prayer for unity, but chose not to. Even when, in the case of the Reformers, God knew that a Pandora’s Box of doctrinal disunity would surely result if He did not act. Still, he refrained.

This brings me back to my conversation with my friend. Most assuredly, the doctrinal differences we have killed others for matter to us. They are a big deal. But do they matter to God?

Before you get the kindling and light the match to burn me alive at the stake for the heretic that I am, realize that I am not saying that God does not care about the Gospel or the church. That is not what I am saying at all. Actually, I don’t know what to think about all this. This is a conversation I have been having, largely in my own mind, for quite some time. I thought I would put it out there for others to interact with and see how you might approach the topic.

Why do you think God did nothing to stop any of these movements?

Read another thought provoking post on worship:  God Does Not Need Our Worship…We Need It!

Do You Know How The Early Church (Pre-150AD) Spotted a False Prophet?


Not For Itching Ears-false-prophetTest your knowledge of early church history in our latest poll.

There are 5 answers to choose from.  Only one is correct, based on the “Teaching of the Lord to the Gentles by the  Twelve Apostles” or what is more commonly called the “Didache” and other early church writings.  The Didache is a well received document from the early church.  The date of its writing is hard to determine, but most scholars put it somewhere between 50 AD and 150 AD, very close to the time of the Apostles. It is not part of the Bible, but it is a very good document to read if you want to learn how the early church understood the teaching of Christ and the Apostles.

Can you identify the correct answer?  There is only one correct answer in our poll, but that does not mean there were not other indicators.  There is only one correct answer in this poll.

So, how did the church identify a false prophet in the 2nd century?

 

Take the poll and then go here for the answer

It’s Official: People Don’t Want To Sing So Much On Sundays.

The Church…Who Is Closer To The Truth?


PollToday’s poll is at once both easy and difficult. There are only three real answers. That’s the easy part. The hard part? Choosing the right answer. In our opinion, that takes a little thinking. Here’s what we are asking you: Which church tradition, in your opinion, (Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant) is most faithful to the historic Christian faith of the early church (the first 300 years)?

Easy now my fellow Protestants! Don’t jump to what may appear to be an obvious answer. Why, you ask? because we have lumped all protestant groups into one answer. This group included Baptists, Reformed, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Lutherans, non-denominational, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, The Faith movements, Nazarene, COGIC etc. Even though the Anglicans are not really part of the official Protestant movement, we have included them here as well. So, it is not simply whatever protestant group you are a part of, which of course is the MOST faithful, that’s why you are a part of it. It’s the whole thing.

Further, we are not asking which tradition is most faithful to Luther or Calvin or the other Protestant trailblazers. The criterion is which group is more faithful to the version of Christianity that the early church embraced and took all over the world in the first 300 years of church history? Another way of looking at is to ask Which church tradition would the Apostles and the early church Fathers recognize as being most representative of the church they gave their lives to lead and strengthen?

So who has remained most faithful to the Early Church: The Protestants as a group, The Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church?

Take our other polls: What Do You Like MOST about the Church Service and What Do You Like LEAST about The Church Service? and too really make your opinion count for an upcoming post tell us Do You Think We spend Too Much Time Singing in Church?

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

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 Alternative to Calvinism?


“What shall a Christian do who is convinced of certain central tenets of Calvinism but not its corollaries?  Specifically, what if I am convinced that God elects individuals to salvation but I am also compelled by the evidence of Scripture to reject the notion that Christ died only for the elect?  What if I am also convinced that the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace – that God gives saving grace only to the elect while withholding it from others – has little or no biblical foundation?”

“Calvinism has at least three dilemmas:  (1) reconciling God’s sovereign election of individuals with His genuine desire for the salvation of all; (2) adhering to a deterministic view of sovereignty without blaming God for the fall of Adam; and (3) adhering to limited atonement and irresistible grace while also affirming that the gospel is genuinely offered to everyone.  There is an alternative to Calvinism – called Read the rest of this entry

The God of Calvinism and A Calvinists translation of John 3:16-18?


I thought I might stir things up a bit today.  A friend wrote this story and titled it “The God of Calvinism.  He didn’t add the question mark, that was my addition.  Is this the God that true Calvinism depicts?  Read this story by Kurt Dahlin and share your thoughts. Read the rest of this entry