“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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In a recent post, we discussed a study that concluded Christians and non-Christians are both attending church services much less today. If you missed that compelling post, you can read it here: Barna Study: Even Christians Are Leaving Our Churches.
Today we want to give you a chance to chime in on the topic, and we have two polls that allow you to do that. The first one asks if you are attending church more or less these days. There are several answers. Please don’t answer the way you would like to be able to answer or how you think you should answer. Just the way it really is in your life at this moment.
The second poll asks why you are attending church less. You have several option here as well, even an “other” where you can write in your answer. There is also an answer for “I am attending church MORE” and “I am attending about the same”
Thank you for voting and please feel free to share these polls with your readers or re-blog this post. If you look at the results so far, it seems to coincide with the study. The more answers the better, so share away!
We were warned back in 2005 that this was coming, but few paid attention to it then. Many scoffed and pretended it could never happen. But it is happening. That is what a recent poll by the Barna Group has uncovered, and the implications of it are alarming.
In this article, I want to share some of Barna’s findings with you. I warn you: Brace yourself!
I invite you to join the discussion in the comment section, as well as answer the polling questions (there are two polls at the bottom of the post) so we can get a better idea of what is going on from your perspective. In the next post we will offer our analysis about why it is happening.
“What, if anything, helps Americans grow in their faith?”
When the Barna Group asked this question, people offered a variety of answers:
- Family or friends
- Reading the Bible,
- Even having children
But CHURCH did not even crack the top 10 list.
That is staggering in its implication. Christians of all Read the rest of this entry
Total: Completely, Absolutely
Inability: lack of sufficient power, resources, or capacity
It’s true that humanity can’ 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 how does it work? Nobody knows and those who say they do don’t understand what they’re saying. How God works this out in humanity lies within the mystery of God himself.
Calvin, and the the followers he inspired, believe this means humanity can not even respond to God unaided. People must first be born again and then after that, exercise faith in Christ. One can’t 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 human beings do not have the capacity to desire God, to obey Him or answer when He calls. I have wrestled with this pretty much all of my Christian life for several reasons. Three of which I now share here.Read the rest of this entry
It is a little bit late but Happy New Year! Read the rest of this entry
The Catena Aurea (also called The Golden Chain) is a tremendous resource for any pastor or believer who desires to know how the early church understood scripture. It is a verse by verse commentary on the four Gospels by the church fathers that was compiled by Thomas Aquinas.
For each of the four Gospel writers, the Catena Aurea starts by indicating the verses to be analyzed, then phrase-by-phrase, provides the early Fathers’ insights into the passage. It includes the work of over eighty Church Fathers.
The four volume set will cost you about $150, but thanks to Catechetics online, you can read these works for FREE!
Here is a sample of their commentary on John 3:16-19
16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18. He that believes in him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
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
Early Christian Writings is the most complete collection of Christian texts before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The site provides translations and commentary for these sources, including the New Testament, Apocrypha, Gnostics, Church Fathers, and some non-Christian references.
If you want to read ANY work from the first 325 years of church history, you will find it at this site. Free.
I am beginning to think that there is less disagreement between the Protestant view and the Catholic / Orthodox view on salvation than we realize.
The misunderstanding is a result of how each part of the church defines “salvation.”
When a Protestant talks about “being saved”, “getting saved”, “accepting Christ” or any other number of terms we use for this, we are primarily referring to the idea of forgiveness of sins. Our sins are forgiven when we “come to Christ”. We have been ‘saved” from sins eternal penalty. We can not earn this forgiveness of sins, it is a merciful free gift from God and we resist anything that makes it look like it must be earned.
In this sense Salvation IS an event, we have been forgiven of our sins! However, Read the rest of this entry
It doesn’t matter which study you read about the church, because they all say pretty much the same thing: The church is in decline.
The church is in trouble. I don’t need to read a study to know this. I have observed it over the years in countless churches that I have visited. Churches are weak and though they may have exciting services, they are largely failing to develop strong, grounded and mature Christians. The church at large (there are exceptions, of course) is also failing to impact the lost around her.
The statistics on this are over-whelming and should stop every pastor and leader dead in their tracks so that we immediately fall on our knees to cry out to the Lord “What are we doing wrong?” Sooner or later that will have to happen. Let’s pray it is the former!
Is This Decline the Result of a Flawed Church Model?
I have a theory. It goes something like this: The decline we are seeing in the church is directly related to Read the rest of this entry
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.
I often find nourishment for my faith when I read and pray through old prayers. Sure, the church has changed over the years. What it means to follow Christ in a fallen world hasn’t. Those who have faithfully walked the walk before us down through the ages, though gone, can still minister to us. One of the ways this can happen is when we read and prayer the prayers they left behind.
Today, I share with you a 1600 year old prayer from Basil The Great. I have updated it for the modern reader. The Thee’s and Thou’s have been changed.
O God and Lord of the Powers, and Maker of all creation,
Who, because of Your clemency and incomparable mercy,
did send Your Only-Begotten Son and our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind,
and with His venerable Cross did tear asunder the record of our sins,
and thereby did conquer the rulers and powers of darkness;
receive from us sinful people, O merciful Master, these prayers of gratitude and supplication,
and deliver us from every destructive and gloomy transgression,
and from all visible and invisible enemies who seek to injure us.
Nail down our flesh with fear of You,
and let not our hearts be inclined to words or thoughts of evil,
but pierce our souls with Your love, that ever contemplating You, being enlightened by You, and discerning You, the unapproachable and everlasting Light,
we may unceasingly render confession and gratitude to You:
The eternal Father,
with Your Only-Begotten Son,
and with Your All-Holy, Gracious, and Life-Giving Spirit,
now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
That’s how much our worship of God adds to God. Our “worship” doesn’t enhance Him and our lack of worship doesn’t take anything away from Him. Put another way, God doesn’t need our worship. In fact God doesn’t need anything from us: our money, our time, our dedication, our service.
Theologians refer to this as God’s Independence:
“God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy.” Grudem, Systematic Theology.
The New Testament states it this way:
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. Acts 17:24-25
Is God An Egomaniac?
Think about this: If God doesn’t need our worship, why does he require it?
Is it because he’s the ultimate egomaniac?
Because he loves to hear the sound of his own name on the lips of his adoring fans?
No. When we look at God’s acts in history that’s NOT the picture we see. It must be something else.
We All Worship Something
Humans are pretty predictable. We are the ultimate evaluators. We evaluate everything in life and prioritize them according to what we think is best. For example, I highly value guitars. But I value my wife and children more. There is really no comparison; I rank family higher in importance. What do I value more than family? Whatever the answer to that questions is, I may value something even more than that. I can keep going up the ladder of importance until I finally reach that one thing I esteem more than anything or anyone else.
Whatever that thing or person is, that is what we worship. We all worship someone or something, even if it is ourselves!
God Doesn’t Need Our Worship…We Need It!
God doesn’t need our worship; we need the worship we offer him. That’s why God demands our devotion. There’s no other thing or being more worthy of our ultimate devotion than Him. We become like the one we worship. God, in his mercy, created us to become like him. If that’s going to happen, then we must actively place him at the top of our “Top Ten List of Things I Value The Most” list.
Looking at worship this way means leads to the understanding that worship, though directed at God, is truly meant to serve humanity.
We are to worship God, not ourselves.
But God demands our worship, NOT for himself but for the good of his people.
At least, that’s the way I see it.
On a side note, that’s one of the reasons I am so passionate and often critical about corporate worship. It has the potential to profoundly shape us. Yet, we squander those opportunities because we don’t understand what worship is and why God demands it of us.
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?
This has been one of our favorite slogans since the 1960’s. It seems that the American church has adopted a similar pragmatic view for church: “If it makes people come to church, we should do it.” Today, church leaders of every persuasion are willing to try anything if it works in drawing more people into their services. If it “works” then it must be fine and stamped with the approval of God Himself.
I can hear you now saying “Of course this is true! Why on earth wouldn’t it be?”
Because it wasn’t!
One of the things that is clear for any to examine is that… Read the rest of this entry
Can I worship God any way I want to?
Does church leadership have biblical authority to design a worship service anyway they think is best?
Judging by the state of worship in the American Evangelical church, the answer is Yes to both questions. And boy do we ever take this permission seriously!
It would appear that Read the rest of this entry
#10 We have the best worship team in town filled with young, uber-talented musicians and singers.
#9 Our worship team recently recorded a cutting edge worship CD (You can buy it for $13).
#8 We have state of the art sound and lighting systems that allow you to hear and feel the worship, as well as experience worship in a way you can’t at other local churches.
#7 Worshipping in song is the best and highest form of corporate worship. We do it with excellence and we do it a lot! If you like music, you are going to love our worship!
#6 Come as you are. You can wear whatever you feel comfortable in. People wear everything from business casual to jeans and T-shirts
#5 We have GREAT coffee drinks (for sale) and you can bring the drinks with you into the auditorium.
#4 We have free wi-fi available throughout our facility and it is available at all times
#3 Our services are short! Each of our 3 services is only 70 minutes long
#2 Our pastor is an incredibly gifted speaker who is VERY funny. Each week you will hear a short inspirational talk based on our pastors life experience or the experience of others that is always relevant to your life. There is usually a Bible verse or two sprinkled throughout the talk to help inspire you to live your life to the fullest.
#1 Our services are FUN! We have eliminated the old school, boring liturgical stuff from our worship which many of the other churches in town still utilize. We won’t ask you to stand or sit or kneel. There are no corporate readings or corporate prayers or communion. Just cutting edge worship and inspirational words.
I have compiled these “reasons” from church websites and church advertising in my area. Before you write to correct me, realize that this post is a joke. The sad part about it is that they are real reasons that actual churches have given. Well, I have added my special touch to the reasons. Nevertheless, the gist of them is spot on.
Some will object to the competitive nature of the post. The “Our Church is Better Than the Rest” idea is abhorrent, I agree. However, that idea is rampant in our church advertising. It is sometimes subtle, sometimes over the top, but often present for anyone to see. At least I see it.
Some will see nothing wrong in the Top 10 Reasons I have listed. Others, will be able to spot what is missing easily. Still others, will have to look harder until they see what is missing. Feel free to throw daggers, share thoughts or comment as you see fit!
Thanks for visiting us here at http://www.NotForItchingEars.com