Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Of course, I couldn't be the only blogger on the Internet that DIDN'T post something about Halloween. I'd feel so left out. Now, as a believer, you might expect me to write something about the evils, the idolatry, the dangers of witchcraft and God's displeasure with our fascination in the whole evil realm... nah. That'd be boring. And for the record, I'm dressed as a cowboy today, which I don't think is representative of Satan in any way.

In class this weekend, we'll be studying 1 Peter 2:13-25 on submission to authorities. Now, I know you're not going to believe this, but this has long been a struggle for me, and Halloween is a prime example of this struggle in my mind. I'll go ahead and say it: I love to prank. I love to toilet paper houses. I love to soap windows. I thoroughly enjoy forking yards. And, as most of you know, all of this is illegal.

The authorities where I come from call this vandalism, trespassing, and creating a public menace.... at least, that's what the officer told me. When I was a teenager, we once "decorated" our teacher's front yard with over 120 rolls of toilet paper in just two tall oaks. His neighbor saw it early in the morning and actually called the newspaper to take pictures before he called the cops. On another occasion, our cross country coach specifically told us not to T.P. his house. So, we creatively honored his request. We found old toilets in a trash dump and (as my dad would put it) "liberated" them from the confines of their present location, only to place them prominently in our coach's front yard. There was no paper to be found.

Maybe this is just my sin nature (which I prefer to call my "rebel" side in reference to topics like this) coming through, but I tend to believe God thought that was pretty funny. Am I wrong?

Getting back to the passage at hand, do you think God had speed limits, no-U-turn signs, and friendly pranking in mind when He commanded us to submit to authorities? For a deep (and much more responsible) exposition on the text, I'll refer to an article from Peter's readers lived under an authority that was growing increasingly intolerant of Christians. There were much more serious matters at hand than just a cop telling a pimple-faced teen to clean up the toilet paper before he drives you home. As I watch our nation slowly turn further and further from God-honoring practices, both in government and in the lives of citizens, I am reminded of these words: "do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you" (1 John 3:13). The day may be coming when Christians in America will begin to relate to these passages on the same level their original readers may have.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why are evangelicals so hair-splitting about doctrine?

This post comes in response to a question posted on where anonymous writes: "Why are evangelicals so hair-splitting about doctrine?"

My first reaction was "oh great, a liberal trying to instigate," but I've been inclined to give our friend Mr. Anonymous the benefit of the doubt, especially in view of the fact that he/she certainly would be right to say that God desires unity, not dissension. As passionate as I can be about certain debates, I myself must make the conscious effort to realize I will always have more in common with the most liberal of my brothers and sisters in Christ than with the most conservative and moral non-believers.

So, to get to the question, then, why are evangelicals (and fundamentalists) so hair-splitting about doctrinal positions in light of the clear commands to "agree with one another so that there may be no divisions" (1 Cor. 1:10)? Have some men simply come under the sin of pride and fascination with quarrels? Perhaps some have. But it is important to understand that the pursuit of agreement must be held in balance with the pursuit of sound doctrine that we see in Paul's pastoral epistles (i.e. 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). A theistic world view teaches us that there is absolute right and absolute wrong. I believe many good-willed Christians are genuinely pursuing God's glory as they adamantly defy those who, in their opinions, do injustice to His revelation.

While it could be called "hair-splitting" for Christians to debate over scriptural inerrancy, God's sovereignty, baptismal traditions or any of the countless debated topics, it could also be crucial. It all depends on your perspective. For an example, let's assume that God told His people through a prophet that He got a 1600 (perfect score) on his SAT's. What if I heard it wrong and told everyone, "He's pretty bright, you know, a 1500 isn't bad." That's not giving God all the glory He deserves. What's worse could be, "Well, He said He did, but the original transcript got lost when He moved out of his dorm, so all we have is a photocopy. But hey, it's not really important. All that matters is He loves you." Obviously that's not all that really matters because He took the time to tell you He got a 1600.

We should all share a common passion for God's glory. For anyone who has come to especially revere God for a particular attribute or who has found great purpose in serving God according to a particular doctrine, the way a hair gets split could be the difference between ultimate glory and lesser glory. If we can all share a mutual desire for the same cause, namely His glory, we can more respectfully approach our differences. Personally, however, I am more dedicated to the glory of God than to my peace with fellow man, although I do not believe the two must be mutually exclusive.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

1 Peter 2:8 - The Double Predestinarian View

To follow up in more detail on my post last week, as well as the discussion yesterday in my class, I just want to expound on the varying views for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the debate. We discussed all of 1 Peter 8-12 in class, and regretfully had very little time to address the truths of the 8th and 12th verses regarding God's appointments and the Day of judgment.

There are primarily two views, although there are undoubtedly innumerable views in reality, we will look at two diverse perspectives. I want to also make clear that these are two views within the reformed tradition, and certainly a great many views exist in the Wesleyan, Arminian, etc. traditions.

First is the "Single Predestinarian" view. According to this teaching, Man is singly responsible for their own damnation. Though created good, Adam and Eve sinned and brought death and eternal separation from God onto all of their progeny. Then, in an act of unmerited grace, God elected some to receive mercy. The fact that others do not, then, is not God actively appointing them to damnation because they had already appointed themselves for damnation. Instead, God performs a single act of predestination, that for His elect to be justified. Thus the title "Single Predestination."

With that description of the single view, you've probably already ascertained the meaning of the double view. Double Predestination believes that in order for God to be ultimately sovereign, He must be the initiator over both appointments—both to justification and to "stumbling," as 1 Peter puts it.

First, my warning: The distinction between these two views is largely a philosophical debate, and not a doctrine that is pivotal in scripture. At the same time, it's not neglected in scripture, and so an exploration of it is not unwarranted. If you are intrigued, by all means, dig into scripture. I would remind you that (1) scripture is the ultimate authority, not your view of fairness; (2) whichever view you decide, you're deciding it for yourself only... not for others around you and certainly not for God. The mission of theology is not to try and define God using scripture, it's to allow God to reveal Himself to us through scripture. There's a big difference.

Second, my instigation: So, you're intrigued to investigate? Where do you start? 1 Peter 2:8 certainly seems a likely verse to help us reach a decision. Without question, Romans 9 is as well. But riddle me this: What is evil? Dig into the Hebrew ( is a decent resource) and see what you find? We read in 1 Peter, God "lay" or "placed" a stumbling stone in Zion. What did he place in the Garden? Why? Is the parallel intentional?

Third: my invitation: Got any thoughts on the issue? Questions? Please feel free to comment here. (Anonymous comments are permitted)


Friday, October 24, 2008

1 Peter 2:8-12 - His Chosen People

Last week, we looked at the identity of Christ in verses 4-7. In verse 8 Peter continues with a description of who we, members of the Church and stones in this figurative temple, are as a result. He begins by stating that those who disobey are recieving just what God had appointed for them. By sharp contrast, Peter goes on to name 4 things, none of which are things we could ever become by our own doing, that describe the Church.

The church is, first of all, chosen from what was once a hopeless and Godless existence (see Eph 2:11-22). Not only chosen to simply escape damnation, but to be a royal priesthood worthy of God's service. He sets the Church apart like a holy nation, similar to Israel. And finally, the church belongs to God.

The end result is praise. Praise for God calling us out of darkness. Praise for God making us into something ("a people") when we were once nothing. Praise for God making us objects of mercy rather than objects of wrath. Then, this overwhelming praise manifests itself in daily living, as we see in verses 11-12.

As I mentioned in last week's post, Scripture is God-centric. We see that theme once again here. This passage begins explaining His plan for Christ, His authority to justify, and His authority to judge, then moves on to reiterate Peter's opening from 1:1-2 regarding His choice, and finally concludes with the intended result: glory and honor to.... drum role please... God Himeself!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

1 Peter 2:4-8 - The Chosen Cornerstone

In this passage, Peter uses a combination of metaphors as well as Old Testament quotations to show us (1) who Jesus was and then (2) who his readers, and all of the Church, is as a result. Let's begin with the identity of Jesus:

• Though rejected by men, Jesus was shown to be chosen with a purpose (verse 4; see also Matt. 21:33-44; Acts 2:22-35)...
• To be our High Priest, consecrating us in order that we too
can make spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (verse 5; see also Hebrews 8:11-14)...
• And to be the cornerstone, providing a pattern and foundation upon which the rest of the Church would be built (verse 6; see also Ephesians 2:19-22)...
• Of which he is the Savior, and the "one who trusts in Him" is saved by faith (verse 6; see also John 3:16)...
• From the wrath of God Himself and no other (see context of quote in verse 6 and 8 - Isaiah 28:14-19; 8:12-15).

I find it very important to realize the God-centric emphasis from beginning to end of this section. As I look through Scripture seeking instruction, truth, etc. I find constant reminders that God wants us to begin by acknowledging His supremacy. Here He begins by reiterating that Christ was His chosen one, and concludes letting us know that He is the one who judges. No one else can be compared to God. No one shares His powers to justify, to sanctify, and to judge.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

1 Peter 1:13-25 - Hey Holy People: Be Holy!

Mull that title over a few times and tell me how much sense it makes. It's kinda like telling a fire to burn, or telling a fish to get wet, right? Well, ironically that's the sort of call we find over and over again in the New Testament. Our passage this week is from 1 Peter 1:13 - 2:3 where Peter moves on from his theological presentation on the believer's salvation to a life application matter: be holy!

As you read this passage on your own in preparation for this Sunday (high hopes, I know, but humor me) if it weren't for what I'm about to tell you, you'd probably skim the words, hearing it the same way you perhaps have since you were a kid in Sunday School. But what if I dared you to know what holiness really meant? What if the same root word of Holy (hagios) appeared elsewhere outside of verses 15 and 16 in a way you might not expect. In our handouts page, there is a new BSL handout for the word "Holy." I encourage you to read it and consider the term anew.

This Sunday we'll take a close look at what it means to be holy. But also come prepared to find an intriguing new motivation to heed God's command for us, His chosen people, to be holy to the praise of His name.

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