May 23, 2004

What is Worship?

Christian Counterculture this month is devoted to worship. What is it? How do we do it? How don't we do it?

I like their definition of worship. ". . . living a life that betrays a deep, inward belief in God and His promises". They take this from Romans 12:1 "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."Romans 12:1 ESV

Worship is a lot more than singing catchy songs with your hands in the air. Worship is more than an hour every Sunday morning, an hour Sunday night, and then an hour Wednesday night. The very definition of the word worship in the New Testament is tied to the word service. The word latreuo is translated variously as worship and service throughout the New Testament by the KJV, but almost always as worship by the ESV. The implication in Greek isn't just service, but service that is not compelled or forced. We worship God in what we do for others, not how we act in church!

Worship leaders: Are you showing your church how to serve God? Are you showing them how to live their lives as living sacrifices? Or are you leading a few catchy choruses and calling that worship?

In his Notes on the Bible, Albert Barnes has this to say:


This is the offering which the apostle entreats the Romans to make: to devote themselves to God, as if they had no longer any claim on themselves; to be disposed of by him; to suffer and bear all that he might appoint; and to promote his honor in any way which he might command. This is the nature of true religion.


So our 'reasonable service' (KJV and NKJV), our 'spiritual worship' (ESV) is total, 100% devotion to God. We have no claim to our lives -- we belong to God. But do we live that way? When we do, we can truly say that we are worshipping God. Otherwise, we're just singing trite songs.

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May 16, 2004

Just What the Heck is a Fundamentalist, Realy, Anyway

I could have subtitled this "Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism part 100", and I promise that I'll get off this soapbox very soon. I found this over at the Fundamentalist Forums, and thought I'd share. Be sure to read the whole thread -- and I'm going out looking for Jerry Sutton's book tomorrow.

i'm going off to bed now -- I'll have some more commentary on this later on Sunday.

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May 11, 2004

The Fundamentals and Inerrancy


This link has a copy of chapter 21 of The Fundamentals, which discusses the idea of inspiration, and defends the idea of verbal inspiration. A lot has been said on this subject already throughout the blogosphere, so I decided it was time to add my two cents.

Does inspiration automatically lead to inerrancy? If we hold to the doctrine of inspiration, that is, that the Scriptures are inspired (literally theopneustos, or God-breathed) by God, can we believe that these Scriptures contain mistakes? Many people point to apparent contradictions in Scripture as evidence that it is not inherently. Many more people have researched the contradictions and found that there are reasonable, logical explanations for them, and that inerrancy is not affected one bit by any of them.

I like the word theopneustos -- 2 Timothy 3:16 is the only place it occurs in the Bible. The idea of something being breathed out by God is fascinating to me. How did it happen? Did God come down like He did on Sinai, and carve the words into stone? Did He prompt the writer, telling him what to include and what to leave out? Did He simply monitor what the author was writing, and nudge the writer in the correct direction? Or was it something different -- something that is so totally different from anything we can experience that we cannot really know how it was done until we see Jesus in Heaven?

Inerrancy, to me, is very important. If the Bible is not inerrant -- if it isn't free from error, trustworthy in all it's claims -- how can we use it as the final authority for our faith? To me, sola scriptura relies on a Bible that is dependable, reliable, and free from error. If an error is possible, how can we be sure that e are following the part that is error-free? When we say that All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God -- how do we know that that part is one of the correct parts?

One of the things I am learning in reading on this subject (and I'm just getting started on it) is that when we interpret Biblical passages, we have to understand the genre that they are written in. When quoting a Psalm, for example, we must remember that we are quoting poetry, and treat it accordingly. We must also remember that Hebrew poetry is different from American poetry, and we must take that into account, too. If God inspired the writers, didn't He also inspire the method, the genre, of writing? Otherwise, why do we have poetry, apocalyptic writing, history, prophecy, biography, and epistles? Why not just one long narrative? There is a reason for each style of writing in the Bible, and we need to learn that reason. When we do that, we can understand why some numbers are different in different accounts of events, and why some figures of speech are used, etc.

I believe that the Bible is inspired by God, and that it is free from errors -- unless that error is an error of interpretation. The fault is then ours, not God's.

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May 06, 2004

Fundamentalists and Evangelicals

A LOT of pixels have given their lives in this discussion. My own post of April 28 (though I doubt too many of the others writing about this have read that one), multiple posts at Back of the Envelope this week, and a post at Doc Rampage as well -- the discussion is getting interesting. All because of the Guardian, and their "fundagelical" article.

As I said before, there are seven things that, if you believe in them, you are a fundamentalist. Pre-tribulational eschatology didn't make the list 100 years ago, and it doesn't make my list now. If it makes yours, you aren't defining fundamentalism in anything close to an historic manner. The way I see it, the people who coined the term fundamentalist should be the authority in defining what it actually is.

Inerrancy of Scripture does make that list. I haven't met very many evangelicals who deny the inerrancy of Scripture, although some confine that to the original autographs. The Second Coming (tm) of Christ does make the list, also, though no specifications exist about when He's coming back. As I mentioned, most of the people who wrote the book had disagreements about eschatlogy, as do many today.

Maybe the problem is my definition of evangelical. I'd define them in the context of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and it's statements of faith. If you prefer, you can look at the National Association of Evangelicals' statement.

There are many areas where evangelicals and fundamentalists differ -- especially if you look at modern, rather than historic, fundamentalists. Modern fundamentalism had become a haven for legalism and anti-intellectualism. Modern fundamentalists typically hold very dogmatically to a rather rigid set of beliefs, and often pride themselves in who they have 'separated from' -- carrying the Biblical injunction to separate from heresey to degrees never envisioned in Scripture.

The differences between evangelicals and historic fundamentalists are slight. The differences between modern fundamentalists and evangelicals are huge, and getting bigger every day. As modern Fundamentalism has slipped into KJVOnlyism, second, third, and fourth degree separation, and other such doctrinal abberations, the gulf will grow even bigger. This is the reason I stopped calling myself a fundamentalist -- I don't like what the name has come to represent. I am, and always will be, an historic fundamentalist.

AND an evangelical, too.

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May 05, 2004

The Will of God

I was going to write something about God's will, what it is, and what it isn't, in response to a LOT of blogging about the subject -- especially of knowing God's will.

THEN I read Rebecca's article, and I figured it would be a lot easier to just tell you go read that -- she's done an outstanding job with the whole issue. Maybe someday, I'll write one, but I think she's got the issue summed up well.

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May 04, 2004

Spirituality and Real Life

One thing that The Jesus Factor has done is prompt a discussion about spirituality, and how much impact it has, and should have, on daily life. Over at The Corpus Callosum, there's been an ongoing discussion of the show -- I linked to one post there before.

Today's post, a response in part to mine, gave me a lot of food for thought, and I think that the main point of the discussion, or what the main point should be, was summed up in this quote:


Let's get back to the main point, that of the question: should spirituality strictly determine any aspect of a person's life? An important variant of this is the question: If the fundamental source of knowledge in a spiritual system is incomplete, or at least cannot be proven to be complete; if the translations are debatable; and if the ethical question at hand did not even exist when the source material was written, is it valid for a person to direct or judge the actions of another person, relying only on those ancient writings?

I'm not sure how debatable the translations of the Bible are -- we have existant texts that extend back into the third century AD, and external references to most of the Bible from patristic writings as well. Textual criticism, however, is an ongoing process (at least until we find those original autographs that everyone is dying to see), so I'm willing to concede part of the point. Most Christians believe that the Bible is reliable, and have really been given little reason to believe otherwise.

I do think, though, that even if the ethical question in particular was not in existance at the time of the text in question (whether the Bible or any other writing), there are guidelines that indicate "ethical behavior" contained in the text. To continue the stem cell illustration -- the Bible teaches that life has value. If someone believes that life begins at conception, they must logically believe that it is wrong to take that life. For them not to take this into account in a debate about harvesting stem cells would be inconsistant to their beliefs. The issue at hand in this case is when, exactly, does life begin. Here is where there is debate begins, and there are good Christians on both sides of the debate.


I would argue that it is not proper to do so. I would say that people are free to consider those writings, and perhaps even consider them to be the best source of inspiration on the subject at hand. But part of morality involves a careful consideration of all sources of information, prior to making an important decision. Different source of information can be given different relative weights, depending on the authority of the source. Taking only one source, such as one's spiritual belief, is to discard relevant information. That is not what morality is about. No matter what the book says, no matter what your spiritual leader says, if you have an important decision to make, it is up to you to gather the necessary information, process it thoughtfully, consult with others if you can, and make your own decision.


I agree with just about all of this. I always try to take all available resources into consideration when making a decision -- I'm especially careful about this when studying history, since all history is written from a biased perspective. And I wish more Christians were willing to study the issues and make therir own decisions, rather than parrot what is said to them on Sunday mornings. The bottom line has to be, though, that you accept the authority of the most reliable resource. In questions of ethics and morality, Christians will always turn to the Bible for this authority -- sometimes unconsciously.

Many times, I find myself wishing that President Bush would pay more attention to what the Bible actually teaches about some things. I grow tired of him justifying actions that are politically expedient by appealing to his faith. I sometimes wonder how convenient his faith was -- whether he is sincere, or simply using the Religious Right to gain and stay in office. I, and many other Christians, are uncomfortable with some of his expressions of faith -- many times, they seem out of place. As far as the "God wants me to be president" quote, I'd remind my fellow Christians on both sides of the political spectrum that the Bible teaches that all of our leaders are ordained by God. So it's true -- if God didn't want him in office, he wouldn't be there.

Just remember, Bill Clinton was in office for 8 years. God put him there, too.

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May 02, 2004

Frontline and The Jesus Factor

I have to start off by saying that I missed this one. I'm feeding off the reactions I have read elsewhere in the blogosphere, so I'm not really addressing the show -- I'm addressing what others have had to say.

The overwhelming opinion seems to be that the President's religious beliefs shouldn't have anything to do with his political decisions, or anything outside his spiritual life. Personally, I find this rather amusing, and it shows a total lack of understanding about spirituality. True spirituality, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, or what, will effect every part of an adherant's life.

My Christianity is not a suit I put on Sunday morning, then take off when I interact with anyone else. It is more like my body, and the things I do every day are the clothing. You may see more of my bodyy when I wear some clothing than you do when I wear other clothing (a bathing suit vs. a ski outfit, for example), but the way my body looks has an impact on what the clothes look like -- my body would NOT look very good in Speedos, I promise you. In the same way, my faith may not always be the most obvious thing about me (more obvious in church, less obvious at a hockey game, for example), but it still influences what I do, and the way I act when I am doing different activities. It also influences the activities I do, and those I stay away from -- just like my body determines what I will wear or won't wear. I cannot stop being a Christian just because I am at work. If President Bush's faith is sincere, he cannot stop being a Christian simply because he is in public office.

I find the arguements that the President is trying to usher in the End of the World (tm) comical. I'm not sure of the Methodist Church's stand on eschatology, but from what I remember, it's NOT a pre-tribulational one. And a slight majority of evangelical Christians do NOT hold to the theology of the Left Behind books, so to characterize all of us as radical nutcases who are trying to get Jesus to come faster is incredibly naive, and offensive. Anyone who has studied pre-trib eschatology knows that one of the key elements is that nobody knows when it's going to happen. In ther words, we can't make it happen faster. Nothing we do will change the day that Christ returns -- Christians are simply commanded to be ready. Besides, real pre-trib Christians don't believe that we'll be around for Armageddon, anyway, so Bush isn't trying to bring that battle on. That happens when Christ returns physically to earth.

In short, the arguements that the President's policy in Iraq is fueled by his evangelical faith are incredibly misinformed, at best. They show an ignorance of Christian eschatology and the President's beliefs, and are highly offensive to most Christians, evangelical or not. If you disagree with President Bush, fine. There are better reasons to do that than by perpetuating the myth that he is in the pocket of the "Christian Right". Besides, many conservative Christians are pretty upset with him, as well. (note -- I simply provide this link as a resource. I find myself in disagreement with a lot of what they have to say, and am honestly VERY concerned with several of the party's platform planks. I won't be voting Constitutional this election.)

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