“The heretics did not just offer a different worldview. They were using Scriptures to uphold their ideas…”
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.
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.
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.
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I think you are going to want to read this upcoming post, based on a recent study. It is now up! Brace yourselves though, because this stuff is going to be hard for you to handle. After you read through it, make sure you answer the poll questions at the end.
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
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
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?
Play nice, please.
It is a little bit late but Happy New Year! Read the rest of this entry
The following New Years prayer was first offered back in the 1700’s. It is from the largely forgotten deposit of the Puritan Movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These people knew God and they certainly knew how to pray. We can learn a lot from them. They are written in old english. I have updated a few outdated words and changed the Thee’s and Thou’s to make it more 2015. However, they still have the feel of that era. This prayer, along with many others, can be found in a book titled “The Valley of Vision”, by Arthur Bennet… Read the rest of this entry
That’s right, my friends. The following post contains our own version of the Top 10 list: The top 10 posts written at Not For Itching Ears this year. We want to thank all of you for taking time to visit our site, read the articles, like them and comment on them. It means a lot to us and it makes blogging fun!
We work hard on all our posts and are glad when they get attention. Starting it off, we have. We wrote it in December and it is this year’s winner in two categories. The most read and the most commented on. In fact, it received more comments than any post ever. All time! Surprisingly, the debate was friendly.
We didn’t expect the page to get a lot of activity and boy were we wrong! Who knew? It is the 10th entry this year. There are some thought provoking articles in between those two. You may or may not agree with our conclusions, and that is perfectly fine. We want Not For Itching Ears to be a place to discuss the issues without the name calling that is sadly typical in the blogosphere. We might not agree on anything, but it is enriching to discuss the issues, get clarity on other peoples positions and agree to disagree if need be.
So without further commentary, here are our Top 10 Posts of 2014!
Our Top 10 Post of 2014
What is that event? Most Americans can’t answer that question so we share the answer here:
The World Cup!
That time is upon us, it starts on Thursday.
Not many people know this, but over here at Not For Itching Ears, we are hard core futbol, or soccer fans. We watch every single game. No matter what time the game is on, we watch it. What’s not to like about it? 204 teams compete over a three year period to win an invitation to the World Cup, which happens every 4 years. The host country team gets in free. So there is some great competition.
To make room in our schedule, Not For Itching Ears will be on vacation until the World Cup ends. We have priorities, so we will also be foregoing all yard work. All items on the “Honey Do” List have been temporarily removed. We were supposed to be in Brasil for the games, but alas, we are not!
Soccer is God’s greatest gift for world evangelism. It is an instant conversation starter. Just ask ANY non-American, male or female, who they are rooting for or what they think or their countries chances and you’ll have a 5 – 10 minute conversation about soccer. After that, the rest is up to you.
Our staff is rooting for in this order:
1. The USA and Ecuador (it’s a tie actually) Neither will win, but Ecuador has the best chance of advancing out of their group. Sadly, the USA is in the “Group of Death”
2. Any South American Country
The teams we most want to lose: Ghana, (sorry friends, you have beaten us one to many times) and Mexico. You can’t throw beer bottles at the USA team on their home field in the USA and expect us NOT to despise your team (we love you though!)
Take my advice: Stop blogging for a month and enjoy the World Cup. See you Mid-July! If you don’t know much about it check out this article on the Ten things Non-Soccer Fans Need To Know About the World Cup.
Your challenge is that most people are going to believe EVERYTHING you teach. When you stand in the pulpit and teach God’s word, you better make sure you know what you are talking about!”
I have never forgotten how my Greek professor started that Intro to Greek class. He laid out a challenge to the entire class that has shaped me all these years. When I was preaching every week, it guided my preparation time. It is why I spent 30-40 hours every week as a pastor studying the texts I was teaching on. I took it THAT seriously.
A lot of us out here in the blogosphere know how to study the scriptures for ourselves. We read books and articles all the time that help shape our faith and practice. Still, vast majorities of people rely on the church corporately and pastors specifically to teach them the faith. How are we doing?
According to a report by George Barna, the church is failing miserably in this area. “Believers” know less and less about God and understand the Bible less and less. Yet it is the Church’s job to make disciples and to “Teach them to Obey everything I (Jesus) commanded you.”
Why is this happening? If you read this blog, you know that I don’t lack an opinion on this!
Could one of those reasons be the failure of our younger pastors to grasp the significance of their preaching task? I have been to over 30 40 different churches in the last 8 years. One of the things I have noticed is the casual manner that a majority of pastors have towards their preaching. I can tell when someone has prepared. It is obvious to a wordsmith when a fellow wordsmith has put in the study and preparation time. It is just as obvious when they are winging it.
From what I have seen, many pastors are winging it!
The reasons for this can be summed up into to broad categories: Time Management and Skill/training
Pastoring has never been an easy job. Preaching week after week is not for the faint of heart. The demands of today’s ministry on a pastor’s time only make it harder to be faithful in your study. I am no longer pastoring, and I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to get quiet alone time to study in today’s world.
For many pastors, there just isn’t enough time to adequately study AND keep up with the ever increasing demands of today’s ministry. The only solution I know for this is to let other things go. Pastor, if you find that you don’t have time week after week to study the word and show yourself approved, you need cut other less valuable things out of your schedule. You know what those things are.
The other issue that may be causing this “Wing It!” mentality is a lack of skill in studying the Bible. Judging by what I’ve seen, our seminaries may no longer teach Hermeneutics. I doubt they are teaching Homiletics. If you don’t know how to study a text or passage, and you are a preacher, you need to stop reading this and go learn how to do it!
When you stand in that pulpit to teach God’s word, we are listening! We are ready to believe what you teach. Many of us will believe what you teach even when you are off base and wrong, due to a lack of serious thought on the text. For our sake, and for His sake, take some extra time and prepare the way you should.
If your pastor is already doing this, rejoice! Send him a note and thank him! Encourage him to keep doing it! Find out when he studies and never call or email or text him during those times, unless it is a real emergency. Teach others in the congregation to do the same. Help guard your pastors study time, and you, he and the entire congregation will be the better for it!
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!
If you are like me, you might not even know what the Orthodox Church is!
The Orthodox view salvation and the purpose of mankind through a different lens than most Protestants do. In this short video, you will see a very accurate portrayal of mainstream protestant soteriology which you will recognize immediately. You will also be introduced to the Orthodox view.
After you watch it, come back and share your thoughts about the video. Which view best represents the Gospel in your opinion?
Hard to put down.
Effortless introduction into the writings of the early church.
“We Don’t Speak Great Things – We Live Them” is a must read book for every Christian. It contains two early church writings: Justin Martyrs First Apology and Octavius, written by Mark Felix.
If you want an introduction into how the early church thought about Jesus, Salvation, predestination, communion and life after death, and how they lived out the faith, this is the easiest introduction I know. Thanks to the modern translation, the works practically read themselves.
Next to the Bible, the early Christian writings are the most valuable documents of Christianity. They teach us what the church was like immediately after the events recorded in the New Testament. What a rich resource they are. Yet, for many followers of Christ , they remain a mystery. You know all about the history of the United States and how it started. You probably know a lot about how your own denomination began or at least how the Reformation started. Shouldn’t we all be familiar with how Christianity grew in the first and second century?
Don’t stay in the dark. Read this book: “We Don’t Speak Great Things – We Live Them”
When a second-century pagan ridiculed Christians for their lack of education, one Christian replied, “We don’t speak great things we live them!” That was the essence of early Christianity. It was not a Christianity of words, but rather of holy, obedient living.
This book contains two second-century Christian works, translated into readable contemporary English: Mark Felix’s Octavius and Justin Martyr’s First Apology. They describe the dynamic, living church of the second century and discuss what Christians of that age believed.
The First Apology of Justin Martyr is the oldest Christian apology still in existence in its entirety. Justin penned this work at the risk of his own life. Apart from the inspired New Testament writings, this apology is perhaps the single most valuable work of early Christianity. Through it, we can take a peek through time to see what Christianity was like at the close of the apostolic age. For example, Justin takes us on a tour of a Christian baptism and a typical Sunday morning church service. He lets us know what Christians in his age believed about Jesus, salvation, predestination, communion, and life after death.
Octavius, written by a Christian lawyer named Mark Felix, takes a look at Christianity from both the pagan and Christian view points. It’s not only one of the most readable early Christian works, but it’s also a true work of literature. Felix writes in a graceful style that rivals that of Cicero, and his defense of Christianity is truly inspiring. In the end, Octavius is more than a challenge to the pagan Romans it’s a challenge to the twentieth century church as well.
“We Don’t Speak Great Things – We Live Them” Justin Martyr and Mark Felix
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
In your opinion, is God most concerned with character or accomplishments in our lives? In other words, does He care more about the great things we accomplish (or don’t) in his name and for his kingdom OR who we ARE or BECOMING as his followers. In this poll, you can’t say “both” because the question is which one does he car MOST about?
Today’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?
I found it rummaging through a rack of used books. Rather surprised to see it there, I quickly picked it up. I thought to myself, “How often will one run across an obscure book like this?” After perusing through it for a few moments, I turned to The Lord’s Prayer, and the deal was closed.
Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that the dead visit me in my sleep, or that I hear voices in my head. I am talking about the writings of the early church leaders, those great men of God who passed from this earth 1700-1900 years ago. Their writings speak volumes to me about what it means to Read the rest of this entry