What is Christian Doctrine?

As I talked about last week,  I think that we have done ourselves a disservice by not connecting with the Christians of the past to understand why we believe what we do today. I believe that this is a malformation because of our culture today. Far too often we are looking at the next, newest, best thing to help improve our lives. We have a progressive idea that tells us the past does not hold any relevance for us today, the future is where it is at. The truth is, the only way we have ever been able to learn is by looking to the past to understand the world around us. Math works because of the work of the mathematicians of the past to make discoveries so we can understand Algebra. All the fields of science look to the past experiments of scientists to understand the field and how to move forward. Why is it that we do not do this when it comes to our theology? We like to look to people who are our contemporaries and trust that they have all the answers. We need to be able to have an understanding of the beliefs of our predecessors in order for us fully understand what we believe today.

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What Do You Think?

Yesterday I had two seperate things happen that lead to the same conclusion. First, I read this article from the New Yorker. The author points out that the Evangelical church has moved away from people thinking and considering issues of faith in favor of charasmatic leaders that emphasize “saving souls” over living with a worldview that makes sense. Of course that’s painting with a wide brush, but it makes sense. The second event was someone speaking to me about how they have never heard from a Christian to consider whether or not something was true. The combination of these two events have lead me to consider how I feel about the Church, especially the popular Evangelical and/or Non-denominational Church. I just want to get these ideas out before they fade away.

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Chrysostom’s Devil: Demons, the Will, and Virtue in Patristic Soteriology

Ok. Of all the books that I’ve gotten and all the books I’ve read, I don’t think I’ve ever been quite as excited as I was to get this book. When I went back to school to finish my undergraduate education, on a whim I took Introduction to Spiritual Formation. The professor of that class was Dr Samantha L Miller. Over time I took more classes with her and she introduced me to “new” ways of thinking about my faith as I learned Church history and Patristic theology. Once I learned that she had a book coming out I knew I needed to get it for review. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good time to read it. So it sat on my shelf for a year until now, as it is the book I am reviewing this month. Chrysostom’s Devil was published by InterVarsity Press on March 17, 2020, and is part of the New Explorations in Theology series. Miller seeks to teach John Chrysostom’s theology, especially reguarding his demonology and soteriology and finishes by showing just how relevant this late 4th century theologian is to us today. I did my best to approach this book as I do others, but I quickly found myself feeling like I was back in the classroom.

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Confessions

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Just like this month, this book review is short and sweet. I am a firm believer that ready old books (especially theology) lends us to a better understanding of our world today. This month’s book is Confessions by Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hyppo translated by Henry Chadwick. Deep within the Donatist controversy, which fought for a “pure” Church, Augustine writes this prayer. He walks through his entire life, stopping on particular sins that have grieved his spirit. He reminisces on his thoughts at the time, and how terrible these sins are to him now. In my opinion, this book does two things very well: gives us an autobiography of one of the most influential Church leaders and shows us that no one is perfect, not even the clergy.

This book has been on my list for quite some time, but it was not until a class I recently took that I read it. I regret that I have not read it sooner. Please do not make the same mistake I did, and give this book a good read with a pen!

Repent and Believe (Mark 1)

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So we finished a study over the life of David last week. King David was the original “Heart Man” since he was described by God as a man after His own heart. I took the weekend to think about where to go from there. I landed on the gospel of Mark. I figured the only logical place to go and learn about the heart of God is to go and learn the heart of Jesus Christ, who is God on earth. So I am going to start a series where I look at a teaching of Jesus’. I’m going to do my best to pick out one sentence from each chapter of Mark, and really try to hone in as best as I can. So here we go……………..

I love the way our Bible is set up. Within it we have 4 different tellings of the life of the most important man to have ever lived, his name is Jesus of Nazareth. I like to think of them this way: Mark is the abridged version, Matthew teaches us about Jesus in his Jewish world, Luke speaks to the whole world, and John is telling about the divinity of Christ. All four gospels are important to our understanding of Jesus.

Mark’s gospel begins at the most logical place, the beginning of Christ’s ministry. The first words we hear from Jesus in this gospel are “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (1:15 NASB). What exactly does this mean? In order to understand we must look at Jesus’ command in two parts.

First, repent. What does it mean to repent? The definition I found in the dictionary I like says “to turn from sin out of penitence for past wrongdoings, abandon sinful or unworthy purposes and values, and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life”. The way I understand this means that repentance requires acknowledgment and change. First you must realize that you have done wrong and sinned, then turn away from it and vow not to return.

Secondly, believe. Believe what? We find in the gospel of Luke that Jesus began his public ministry by reading a passage from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord…,” (Isaiah 61:1-2 NASB), then proclaimed the prophecy to be fulfilled. So the belief that we must have, is that Jesus is hear to heal and free those who have been trapped by sin.

So how does this help us to know the heart of God? The answer, to me, is quite simple. God wants us to acknowledge and repent from our sin. Then He wants us to help others to do the same. So shine God’s light to the world today, and help others see it. We are called to make disciples, and the first step is to repent and believe!