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Shift From Grace to Legalism

Christian Theology

Note: In yesterday’s post I may have given some the impression that Col Thieme taught that we have to feel sorry for our sins in order to be forgiven. He did not. In fact he taught the exact opposite (which was what I was trying to communicate.) I’ve since revised the murky paragraph to reflect this:

Updated paragraph: Col Thieme and others taught that this need to feel sorrow was yet one more means of inserting human effort into the equation… The feeling bad or sorry or broken-hearted becomes the currency by which one tries to earn or buy forgiveness, and is not commensurate with grace.

Now, on to today’s post.

In the process of all the thinking and researching I’ve been doing on the matter of confession of sins, I came across this quote by Roger E. Olsen in his book The Story of Christian Theology:

“Occasionally these fathers of the generation after the apostles gave the gospel their own unique interpretations that began to turn it away from the great themes of grace and faith so strongly emphasized by Paul and  other apostles and more toward the gospel as a “new law” of God-pleasing conduct and behavior… one senses a distance between the Christianity of the New Testament — especially that of Paul — and that of the apostolic fathers (2nd century). References to Paul and the other apostles frequent (in their works); but in spite of this the new faith becomes more and more a new law, and the doctrine of God’s gracious justification becomes a doctrine of grace that helps us act justly.”*

“Of course this shift was subtle and not absolute. It was a barely but definitely perceptible turn in these second-century Christian writings toward legalism, or what may be better termed “Christian moralism.” Although the apostolic fathers such as Ignatius and Polycarp quoted Paul more than James, it was the latter’s spirit that breathed through them. Perhaps due to a perceived moral and spiritual laziness and decline among Christians, they emphasized the need to avoid sinning, obey leaders and work hard to please God more than the need for liberation from bondage to the law.”

*Roger E. Olsen quoting Justo Gonzalez.

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The “Importance of the Issue”

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Last week I commented on an article by Clifford Rapp concerning the meaning of confession of sin as mentioned in 1 John 1:9 (“Confession: Old Testament Insights“). Pastor Rapp’s article focused primarily on what the Old Testament has to say about “confession,” largely because there are too few NT passages on the subject to glean anything.

In my recent post I looked at three of the four NT references he cited, two concerning people still living under the Law, and a third concerning someone who lived and allegedly believed in Christ before the Holy Spirit was universally given.

I didn’t think any of them provided support for the notion that Church age believers must confess their sins to be forgiven; nor do they indicate this is needed for believers to be filled with the Spirit.

Because of this “scarcity of New Testament material” says Pastor Rapp, many “turn to an etymological explanation to define confession of sins.” ( eg, Homologeo = homo (same) + logeo (to speak) = “to speak the same thing” or “agree with God”) Unfortunately this too, can be problematic, he says.  For example, homologeo is never used in conjunction with “sins” except in 1 John 1:9 and while it can mean to speak the same thing,  according to Rapp that’s not usually the way it’s used “in religious contexts, only in contracts or legal contexts.”

So, seeing as “Confession has always been a critical issue for believers because forgiveness is conditioned upon it,” according to Pastor Rapp, and even as he admits there’s little New Testament justification for this belief (only a single verse) he gives up on the New Testament as a source for supporting his ideas and turns to the Old, where there is an “abundance” of material.

Why does it not occur to him that maybe the premise on which all this is based, ie, a single passage in the NT, 1 Jn 1:9, (one contradicted by numerous others NT passages) is incorrect?

If confession is so critical, if our entire execution of the Christian life is dependent upon it, particularly if we receive as a result of it, the filling of the Holy Spirit  which is needed for any spiritual activity or understanding,  why is it not mentioned more often in the New Testament?

Other commands, clearly critical to our execution of the Christian life, are repeated constantly. Eg, love one another, love God, believe, know, renew your minds… even “lay aside” in Ephesians is repeated more than “confess your sins and be forgiven.”

Speaking of Ephesians, that’s the epistle where Paul first tells us to filled with the Spirit:

 “Do not be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”  ~Eph 5:18

If this filling is contingent upon confession of sins, why doesn’t Paul clearly say it there, where he’s telling us to be filled? (For that matter, why doesn’t John say it in 1 Jn 1:9?)

In fact Eph 5:18 is the ONLY place in the epistles where this phrase, “filled with the Spirit” is found. If you do a NT search of “filled with the Spirit,” of the 10 references that show up (3 of them in the Gospel of Luke; 6 in the book of Acts), none say anything about the recipient having confessed their sins beforehand.

When I look at the lack of New Testament references both to confession of sins and to the filling of the Spirit, particularly in conjunction with each other, the logical conclusion seems to be that one is not contingent upon the other. In fact, there is next to zero New Testament evidence the church age Believer is supposed to be confessing his sins for the filling of the Spirit or for forgiveness.

In light of that, going to the Old Testament to look for support for a practice that doesn’t show up in the New seems counterproductive at best.

However, Pastor Rapp’s article did bring out one thing for me — he quotes various OT verses where someone says “I have sinned” and calls it “confession.” Seen in this light, I would  say, “Yes. That is what we’re to do,” In the sense of realizing you are sinning.

In order to “Stop being angry” you must first realize you are angry, then recall that for a member of the Body of Christ, that’s not the mind of Christ and STOP it!

Or, to be more specific, set it aside and instead turn your mind to doctrinal thoughts, such as the fact that Christ died for everyone’s sins, I have no right to judge, fuming is not the mind of Christ, nor is arguing, punishing, railing, complaining… I’m supposed to be at peace. Operating in love and kindness and grace.

Seen in this light, yes, we do have to admit to ourselves and God that “Yup, I’m sinning.”

But we don’t elevate that to the position of being a condition for receiving God’s forgiveness, especially not in the face of numerous other New Testament verses that say our sins have been forgiven, taken away, removed, blotted out, atoned for, all the guilt associated with them removed forever, that we have been declared permanently at peace with God, declared permanently righteous before all the angels, placed in permanent Union with Jesus Christ, permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit..

In light of all that, I submit the interpretation of 1 Jn 1:9 as applying to believers is unwarranted.

And please don’t tell me that because Rapp, Thieme, Chafer, Walvoord, Scofield, etc, said it is, that I must believe it; show me where it says that in the Word of God, which tells me to be like the Bereans, “searching the Scriptures to see if these things are true.” (Acts 17:10)

For the first time in my life I have been seriously searching the Scriptures precisely to see if this supposed foundational verse is true (as interpreted) and I’m just not finding it.

The True Mission of the Church

In yesterday’s post I hinted at the notion that “as go the Christians, so goes the nation.” I am not by this saying that the Christians should get on a program to “take back the nation;” not at all. Nowhere in the Bible does it say taking back the nation is the mission of the church.

Our mission is two-fold: to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost and, to those who believe in Him, to teach the unadulterated word of God so as to make disciples of them. (1 Ti 2:5; Mt 28:19,20)*

What is the gospel of Jesus Christ we’re to proclaim? — that He was God come in the flesh, that He died on the cross for the sins of ALL men (believer and unbeliever) that He was buried and resurrected on the third day, and that “whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (1 Co 15:3,4; John 3:16-18)*

The Gospel is good news — the good news that, though we were born sinners and have all sinned in various ways, our sins are no longer a hindrance to us having a relationship with God.  Jesus bore the penalty for those sins on behalf of every one of us in His death on the cross so that we can have a life with the God who is love, justice, and righteousness, who is all-knowing, all-powerful, gracious, generous, wise…

No one’s sins will ever send him to the Lake of Fire; it is only the refusal to believe in and accept the work Christ has done on one’s behalf that sends him to hell. By doing so this person is saying, “No thanks. I don’t really want anything to do with you, God.” And God says, “Okay then. I will remove Myself from your presence and leave you to yourself. You can be with all the others who feel the same way.” (John 3:18)*

The choice is ours. Believe in Jesus Christ and be saved, or reject Him.

The second part of the Church’s biblically mandated mission is to teach the unadulterated Word of God to believers so as to make disciples of them.

Just because one has believed in Christ doesn’t automatically make him a disciple. The Greek word translated “disciple” is mathetes and it means pupil, learner, student, an adherent, a follower. (Vine’s Expository Dictionary) The apostles were instructed to teach believers from every nation “to observe all that the Lord has commanded in His Word,” with emphasis on the New Testament epistles which are directed specifically to the church.

In addition to the apostles, the spiritual gift of Pastor-Teacher was (and still is) given to individual men to  instruct the believers “in the commandments of the Lord.” With the passing of the apostles, this gift is now the primary source of the teaching needed to make disciples of believers in Christ. (Eph 4:12)*

But again, the choice is ours.

Those with the gift of pastor-teacher can choose to actually study the word and teach it, or focus instead on works programs, social activities, social action, entertainment, etc.

The would-be disciple can then choose whether he wants to be a true student of the Word, or would rather pursue the works programs, social activities, social action, and/or entertainment.

The more both parties deviate from God’s instruction in these matters, the more the nation as a whole will suffer.

It was the same way with Israel with her priests in the role of the pastor-teacher. They could either learn the commandments of the Lord (and I’m not talking about the 10 Commandments — there are WAY more than that) and carry them out, or they could go off on their own, following false gods and doctrines. When they did that, the nation inevitably suffered, as much from the immediate results of their bad decisions as from the discipline that God brought in on them to get them to wake up and return to Him.

And so it will be — is, in fact, occurring now —  with us.

**

 * 1 Ti 2:4 “[God, our Savior] who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Mat 28:19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations … teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;

I Co 15:3,4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”

John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Eph 4:12- 15 “[pastor-teachers] for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

     As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,”

The Morning After Election 2012

I am shocked.

Horrified.

Stunned.

Disbelieving.

Grieving the loss of my country,

the downfall of a nation that was once a shining light of truth

in a dark world.

This morning, I’m sick to my stomach.

Dismayed.

Disappointed.

Sobered by the awareness of the disasters to come.

Disasters like…

Obamacare

A nuclear Iran

The fast approaching fiscal cliff of our debt

The Social Security shortfall

Al Qaeda very much NOT on the run, but alive and actively our enemy

Terrorists emboldened by the debacle at Benghazi.

Economic depression

Having to walk everywhere because gas is too expensive

or ride my bike.

Gun Control

Crime Uncontrolled

Streetlights no longer lit because no one can afford to replace burned out lamps

or stolen copper wires

Increasing vandalism and graffiti

Increasing food prices

Higher taxes

China taking over Japan without anyone to stop it

(And thus we have the King of the East)

The gutting of our military through budget cuts

The implosion of our military because of a dishonorable commander-in-chief who who actively disdains and betrays it

Rolling blackouts when caps or excessive taxation are imposed on our electrical energy producers

Mandatory flu shots

People fighting over bread in the streets when there isn’t enough at the free food distribution sites for all the folks who want it

Repression and persecution of true Christianity

Increasing natural disasters

Military defeat

Invasion of enemy forces

(or collusion by the majority with enemy forces they don’t see as enemies)

The fall of the once great United States of America

**

There are some who say we committed suicide as a nation yesterday.

I think we started that quite some time ago,

moving gradually away from Biblical Christianity

and the pure teaching of the Word to become a people

“who would not endure sound doctrine,

but,

wanting to have their ears tickled,

accumulated for themselves teachers  in accordance with their own desires;

and, turning away their ears from the truth,

have been turned aside to myths.”

(my paraphrase of 2 Ti 4:3,4)

**
Repeatedly the Lord says in Scriptures that for the sake of the righteous He will withhold punishment.

If there had been 10 righteous souls (believers) in Sodom, He would have spared it. (Gen 18:32)

 If there had been a single man in Jeremiah’s Jerusalem (aside from Jeremiah himself) who lived rightly and sought truth (ie, God’s word), He would have pardoned the whole. (Jer 5:1)

“O LORD, do not Thine eyes look for truth (and faithfulness to it)?
Thou has smitten them, but they did not weaken;
Thou has consumed them,
But they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
They have refused to repent.
(Jer 5:3)

*

This is us as a nation.

And sadly, it is many of those who call themselves Christian today:

“rebellious children, who execute a plan, but not His,
who make an alliance (with the world), but not of His Spirit;
who proceed down to Egypt without consulting Him…
…Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame,
and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation…”
(Is 30:1-3)

Is Fantasy Only for Kids? No Way!

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure where this idea that fantasy is only for kids came from. I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy since middle school. I started with Madeline L’Engle and Andre Norton, progressed to Heinlein, Asimov, and Herbert. I read C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy as a teen, and unbeliever, and had no idea they were allegorical (I found Perelandra to be boring, and That Hideous Strength incomprehensible – they were better when I reread them ten years later as a believer).

Anyway, I never would have thought any of those were “for children,” not even Lord of the Rings which I devoured in high school. Yes, it has dwarves and hobbits and some funny bits, but the devotion to fantastical histories, the density of the prose and the sheer expanse of the tale was unlike any kids’ books I was familiar with.

From there it was Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Watership Down, Patricia McKillip, Anne McCaffrey, C.J. Cherryh, Katherine Kurtz, Stephen Donaldson, and more recently, Robert Jordan and Robin Hobb.

With the exception of Watership Down, I would never have considered any of these writers or books as being for children. Thus it never even entered my mind when I began writing fantasies of my own, that they should be written for children. As I detail in my article Why I Write Fantasy (see the tab above), my intent in part was to analogize the angelic conflict all Christians have been entered in at the moment of new birth after believing in Christ. And I didn’t wish to do it in a simplistic manner. It was also, particularly with Legends of the Guardian King, to trace the trajectory of a man’s spiritual life from unbelief to salvation and on through the various stages of spiritual growth.

Clearly the issues on my radar would be issues faced by an adult, not a child. The spiritual precepts would include those wrestled with by adults, not children.

It was not until I entered the field of Christian Fantasy, that I discovered — to my great dismay — the assumption that all fantasy is for children or young adults and should therefore be “clean” and free of sex or “gruesome” or “extreme” violence. I had well-meaning acquaintances tell me how they had given or recommended my books to the eleven-year-old boy next door, or their nine-year-old nephew.

It’s possible an eleven-year-old could follow the main line of the action, but much of the meat of the story I would think would go right over his head. Not that that’s a bad thing. I read my own share of books just that way – following the action, or certain story lines while the bulk of what was going on remained out of my grasp… (Lord of the Rings comes to mind in that regard – my perception of it as a 40+ year old was far different than when I was 16). It’s just… middle school kids were never my primary audience, and here I was facing a mindset that assumed they were not just my primary audience but my only audience!

And since I was writing for kids… how dare I insert into my book the heresy of having my – adult, male, spiritually disillusioned and until-then-celibate – hero commit a sexual sin! I received irate letters from grandmothers who bought the novel for their grandsons, forced to tear the offending two pages from the book before they could pass it on.

Outraged reviews turned up from mothers on Amazon and Christian Book dot com who, having read the book to make sure it was suitable for their young sons, had discovered it wasn’t. How dare I try to trick them like that and put such a thing in a Christian fantasy!

I remain bemused. I know in time past the entire field of speculative fiction was regarded as juvenile and struggled to gain legitimacy as acceptable reading material for American adults. The reason, supposedly was because none of it was “real.”

This objection has been nullified for science fiction for the most part as more and more of what went for science fiction in the old days has become science fact in ours.

So that leaves fantasy, the last bastion of the “make believe” and the “not real” and only children believe in such … well… fantasies.

As if many romances today are not “fantasy”; or many detective and spy novels! And what about Stephen King and Dean Koontz? Most of what they write about is “not real,” but somehow their books are not seen as “only for children.” In fact they are not seen as being for children at all. (Particularly King’s).

So why does fantasy still have the bad rap of being kidstuff?

The only answer I can think of is that it really does provide an excellent vehicle for portraying truths of the Christian life related to the angelic conflict. And since part of the intent of the opposition force in that conflict is to hide the fact that it exists… well then…. The one genre that people should pay the least attention to is the one that can actually reveal the most about what is really going on… and historically has.

Which makes the whole kidstuff thing almost… acceptable.  Almost.

For a more detailed treatise on all the ways fantasy does what it does, see my aforementioned article in the tabs above: “Why I Write Fantasy.” And if you want to know more about the angelic conflict, check out the tab called “The Angelic Conflict.”

A Christian Nation

I was hoping to say a bit about the conference, some of the things that were taught, some of the things that we did, but I have been an zombie all day, some of the things I thought. I did get some housecleaning done and figured out how to use the new dishwasher my hubby put in while I was gone… but writing much of anything was pretty much futile.

I didn’t even remember to vote until hubby got home and reminded me.

Voting put me in mind of politics and so, in honor of the Republican Convention, which, much to the dismay of Samuel L. Jackson and Ellen Barkin, was not washed away/shut down/destroyed and pillaged by Hurricane Isaac, but is proceeding more or less as planned, I decided now might be the time to share this video by Stoplight called “A Walk for the President: A Christian Nation?”

Addendum to the Eric Liddell Story

Last Sunday I blogged about Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner and Scottish missionary featured in the movie Chariots of Fire. I told about how when he learned that the heats of the race that was his strongest were to be held on a Sunday, he made a decision not to enter it. He did enter the 400 meter race, whose heats were not held on Sunday. That was a race he was not expected to win, based on previous times.

I don’t recall if this was shown in Chariots of Fire — it may have been, but if it was, it hit me harder when reading through his story this time than previously. A day or so after the 100 meter had already been run, as he was getting ready to compete in the 400 meter, an American Olympic team masseuse handed him a slip of paper on which had been written,

“In the old book it says, ‘He that honours me I will honour.’ Wishing you the best of success always.” (Source: The Eric Liddell Centre – Quotations )

The phrase mentioned is from 1 Samuel 2:30, “…for those who honor Me, I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed.

The timing was exquisite.

Because shortly thereafter Liddell won the race that he was not expected to win. Everyone thought he had given up his chance at Olympic gold and God gave him one anyway. I love that.

Although, as I said in the previous post, he’s going to get a lot more than a gold medal in eternity!

For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? ~ 1 Th 2:19


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