Monday, December 24, 2007

Emmanuel! God, In Jesus Christ, With Us! Rejoice!

Ya know, when looking at so many of the blogs out there talking about the wonder of Christmas, it's quite easy (or at least I've seen it in myself) to be tempted to come up with my own blog entry that is more insightful, more profound, just as cleaver, or even more "spiritual" than the next guy (and gal). But that is far from being Christ-honoring, and Christmas is all about Christ!

So, may I wish you, your family, church fellowship, and community a blessed and Christ-filled, Christ-honoring, Christ-infused and permeated Merry Christmas! May Christ be the center and focus of your attention, and may Christ be magnified and glorified and lifted high! And may we all glory in Him, and marvel at the wonder and mystery of His love and grace - that He would come to us, mortal man, humbling Himself to take on our mortal flesh, being born in order that He may die - for us!! Just think about it! Wow!

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!

So, Merry CHRISTmas!! And I'll leave you with some of the lyrics of Mark Lowry's song, Mary Did You Know.

Mary, did you know:
That your baby boy will one day walk on water?
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
That the child that you've delivered will soon deliver you?
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
That when you kiss your little baby, you've kissed the face of God?!

Mary, did you know:
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
That your baby boy will one day rules the nations?
That your baby boy is heaven's perfect lamb?
That this sleeping child you're holding is the great I AM?!

I'd venture a guess that little did Mark Lowry know when writing the lyrics to his song, that he was echoing what Augustine of Hippo had said some 1600 year ago:

He so loved us that, for our sake,
He was made man in time, although through him all times were made.
He was made man, who made man.
He was created of a mother whom he created.
He was carried by hands that he formed.
He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, he the Word,
without whom all human eloquence is mute.
--St. Augustine, Sermon 188, 2

(Gloria artwork: Friedrich Peter, Vancouver, BC)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Necessity of Doctrine

"And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching . . ." (Acts 2:42)

No statement more clearly shows the lack of Biblical thinking and discernment in Evangelical Christianity then, "I don’t believe in doctrine, I believe in Jesus." I have heard this silly statement, and others similar to it, too often to believe that it is only the product of a few reckless individuals. Doctrine in Evangelical Christianity has become not only despised by many, but routinely mocked with seeming spiritual sounding cliches. In place of despised doctrine the Bible is shoved into our faces by these seeming pious individuals, who assert with a certain air of spiritual elitism, "We believe in just the Bible, not church dogma."

The word doctrine, however, comes from the Greek word didache and means "teaching." In Theology, that is, the study of who God is and what He is like, doctrine means "that which is taught as a formal truth or belief OF THE FAITH" (The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words, p. 75). Christian doctrines are those doctrines of our Christian faith, which were "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Therefore, to present the bible as something totally antithetical to Christian doctrine is absurd. Christian doctrines are those truths taught in Scripture that are Essential to the Christian faith.

The Apostle Paul viewed doctrine much differently then many Evangelical Christians do today. Paul used the "D" word some 12 times in his Epistles. Paul considered not only the ability to "EXHORT in sound DOCTRINE" a qualification for church leadership, but also the ability "to REFUTE those who contradict. (Titus 1:9). Later in the same letter Paul writes, "But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound DOCTRINE." (Titus 2:1). To his young friend Timothy, Paul writes, "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction [Didache]." To the believers in Rome Paul ends his epistle with these words, "Now I urge you brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching [Didache] which you have learned, and turn away from them." Paul’s exhortation to the believers at Rome, and to us today, presupposes that one understands sound doctrine, therefore, one can discern false doctrine and turn away from those teaching it. How far Evangelical Christianity has moved from Paul’s simple exhortations! Many Evangelical Christians today pride themselves upon the fact that they do not know doctrine, "just Jesus" therefore, are unable to discern false doctrine, let alone false teachers.

If the words of the apostle Paul are not themselves enough to convince of the necessity of doctrinal teaching and understanding, then listen to the words of Jesus Christ: "And He was teaching them many things in parables and was saying to them in His teaching [Didache]." While Jesus severally condemns the pharisees, He does not condemn the teaching of doctrine, only the teaching of FALSE doctrine: "The teaching as doctrine the precepts of men." To discern the difference between doctrine that is from the word of God from those that are merely the precepts of men, one must have a knowledge and understanding of biblical doctrine. To this end, was a large part of our Lord’s earthly ministry; so much so that He often warn that those who did not abide in his teaching would perish.

The so-called Great Commission of Christ presupposes the teaching of doctrine: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit TEACHING them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20). Christ commanded His people to disciple the nations. There is no other way to disciple one in Christianity then by the teaching of Christian doctrine.

To those who pride themselves on the fact that they have "No creed, just Christ," or "I am just a simple Christian, I believe just the Bible" I ask: Who is Jesus? Do you believe that Jesus is God come in the flesh? Then you believe in the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ. Do you believe that Christ paid the price for your sin? Then you believe the doctrine of the atonement. Do you believe that Jesus rose again from the dead? Then you believe the doctrine of the resurrection. Do you believe that we are saved by faith alone? Then you believe in the doctrine of justification by faith.

Considering the emphasis Scripture places on the importance of teaching and understanding Christian doctrine, What should be the response of the Christian? The Christian should not take pride in doctrinal ignorance, but rather study and learn carefully the doctrines of the Christian faith, so that he or she may not be led astray by false doctrine.

Bremmer, Michael. Is Doctrine Necessary? Third Millennium Ministries, Reformed Perspectives Magazine (Vol. 9, No. 45, Nov. 4-10, 2007).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Movie: The Golden Compass

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, addresses the following questions with regard to the movie, The Golden Compass:

- Why is this movie such a challenge?
- So, what's the problem?
- Will viewers of the movie see all this?
- Is Pullman's attack on Christianity exaggerated by his critics?
- Is there more to the larger story?
- What is it about Pullman and C. S. Lewis?
- So, what should Christians do?

Dr. Mohler states, "This is about the battle of ideas and worldviews. While Christians will not celebrate the release of this film, we should recognize the mixture of challenge and opportunity that comes with millions of persons watching this film and talking about the issues it raises. When the movie is mentioned in the workplace, in school, on the playground, or in the college campus, this is a great opportunity to show that Christians are not afraid of the battle of ideas."

He concludes, saying, "The biblical story of the Fall is true, after all, and our only rescue is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The curse of sin was not reversed by adolescents playing at sex in a garden, but by the Son of God shedding His blood on a cross. So let's get our bearings straight as we think and talk about The Golden Compass. This movie does represent a great challenge, but a challenge that Christians should always be ready to meet."

Read Dr. Mohler's entire post here.