Saturday, July 30, 2016

Get With It Preachers!

To ministers let me say this as strongly as I can. Preach Christ, preach Christ, preach Christ. Get out of your offices and get into your studies. Quit playing office manager and program director, quit staffing committees, and even right now recommit yourselves to what you were ordained to do, namely the ministry of the Word and sacraments. Pick up good theology books again: hard books, classical texts, great theologians. Claim the energy and time to study for days and days at a time. Disappear for long hours because you are reading Athanasius on the person of Jesus Christ or Augustine on the Trinity or Calvin on the Christian life or Andrew Murray on the priesthood of Christ. Then you will have something to say that’s worth hearing. Remember that exegesis is for preaching and teaching; it has no other use. So get out those tough commentaries and struggle in depth with the texts. Let most of what you do be dominated by the demands of the sermon as if your whole life and reason for being is to preach Christ, because it is. Claim a new authority for the pulpit, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, over you and your people. Commit yourself again to ever more deeply becoming a careful preacher of Christ. Don’t preach to grow your congregation; preach to bear witness to what the Lord is doing, and let him grow your church. Dwell in him, abide in him, come to know him ever more deeply and convertedly. Tell the people what he has to say to them, what he is doing among them and within them, and what it is he wants them to share in. He is up to something in your neighborhood, if you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Develop a Christological hermeneutic for all you do and say. Why? Because there is no other name, that’s why. --Andrew Pervis

Friday, July 8, 2016

Lesser of Two Evils?

I feel a strong desire to tell you–and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me–which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.-- C.S. Lewis, Source: Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 6

Monday, July 4, 2016

Jul4th 2016

There can be no true religion, till there be a discovery of your lost state by nature and practice, and an unfeigned acceptance of Christ Jesus, as he is offered in the gospel. Unhappy they who either despise his mercy, or are ashamed of his cross! Believe it, “there is no salvation in any other. There is no other name under heaven given amongst men by which we must be saved.”   --John Witherspoon, signer Declaration of Independence

Friday, July 1, 2016

Who Needs Creeds When I’ve Got a Bible?

I used to provide regular supply preaching for a warm and intimate fellowship of Christians in the Free Church tradition. I cheekily smiled to myself whenever I read their bulletin because it always had on it the words, “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible.” The irony, of course, is that those words are not found in the Bible. This delightful group of saints had in fact turned their pious motto into a type of extrabiblical creed. Their genuine concern not to court controversy over creeds led to the formation of their own anticreedal creed as it were.

Hesitation about the value of the ancient creeds for modern Christians is quite understandable. If your only experience of creeds is mindless repetition, if you’ve been exposed to seemingly esoteric debates about technical theological jargon that does not appear relevant to anything, if you’ve ever been confused about how the creeds relate to what the Bible actually says, or if you think that the whole process of writing creeds and confessions just becomes divisive, then you may certainly be excused for some misgivings about creeds.

The problem is that it is no good just to say, “We believe the Bible!” Noble as that might sound, it runs into several problems. The fact is that many groups claim to believe the Bible, including Baptists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, and many more. Yet you cannot help but notice that these groups do not always agree on what the Bible teaches. Most of the time these differences are fairly inconsequential, but other times the differences are absolutely gigantic. Whether we should baptize babies or only believing adults is significant, but is hardly going to shake the foundations of the cosmos. Whether Jesus was an archangel who briefly visited earth or the coequal and coeternal Son of God who was incarnated as a man makes an immense difference, with a whole constellation of things riding on it.

If you do believe the Bible, then sooner or later you have to set out what you think the Bible says. What does the Bible—the entire Bible for that matter—say about God, Jesus, salvation, and the life of the age to come? When you set out the biblical teaching in some formal sense, like in a church doctrinal statement, then you are creating a creed. You are saying: this is what we believe the Bible teaches about X, Y, and Z. You are saying: this is the stuff that really matters. You are declaring: this is where the boundaries of the faith need to be drawn. You are suggesting: this is what brings us together in one faith.

Creeds Are Biblical!
Something we need to remember is that creeds are in fact found in the Bible! There are a number of passages in the Old and New Testaments that have a creedal function. In Deuteronomy, we find the Shema, Israel’s most concise confession of its faith in one God. Hence the words: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut 6:4–5). These are the words that faithful Jews across the centuries have confessed daily. It was this belief in one God that distinguished the Israelites from pagan polytheists and even to this day marks out Judaism as a monotheistic religion in contrast to many other world religions. The Shema described the essential elements of Israel’s faith in a short and simple summary. The Shema stipulated that Israel’s God was the one and only God, the God of creation and covenant, the God of the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—who had rescued the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.

Furthermore, the Israelites were to respond to their God principally in love, as love would determine the nature of their faith and obedience to him. As God had loved them, so they in return must love God. No surprise, then, that the Shema was affirmed by both Jesus and Paul and held in tandem with their distinctive beliefs about kingdom, Messiah, and salvation (see Mark 12:29; 1 Cor 8:6). What that means is that Jesus, Paul, and the first Christians were creedal believers simply by virtue of the fact that they were Jewish and lived within the orbit of Jewish beliefs about God, the covenant, and the future.

Given that context, it is perfectly understandable that the early church developed their own creeds to summarize what they believed the God of Israel had done and would yet do in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’s tomb was not long vacated when persons in the early church began to set out summaries of their faith in early creedal statements. Among the first believers were those who composed a short summary of the basic beliefs that were shared by Christians all over the Greco-Roman world.

excerpt from What Christians Ought to Believe, by Michael F. Bird explaining that creeds are not only biblical, but also critical for identifying what scripture says about God, Jesus, salvation, and the life of the age to come.