My Spiritual Autobiography, part 1

This will be the first of a series where I explain the journey of religion that I have followed thus far, and where I am ending up. To many, this may be a waste of time, but to those who appreciate an intimate look through the window into another’s soul, I aim to please. No promises on how long between posts. I pray this benefits many.

I Write Because I’m Working out the Kinks

It seems fairly egotistical to set out to write of one’s own spiritual journey, expecting others to read it. In this case, I had thought to write for the benefit of my wife, daughter, parents, and other family and near friends who would be impacted by where I am headed, but in the interest of the Church catholic, that ancient and enduring body to which I forever belong, I thought to offer this to anyone who would read.

I am slowly moving toward embracing the Reformed faith in totality. Having been a credobaptist my whole Christian life, I know how this seems to us when someone else “goes paedobaptist.” I’ve watched other men move from credo to paedo and often wondered “how could they do that? Haven’t they read the Bible?” And yet, here I stand on the threshold. Follow along, don’t tune me out, dear friends. Your readership will be a blessing to both of us.

Seeking the Church

This is a story of seeking for the rock which does not move in the storms. I am not referring to Jesus, exactly, for He has already found and sealed me in His name. I speak of the Church catholic,[1] that ancient, enduring, and elusive body, for which our need is great. We need the Church, and in one sense, I am searching for Jesus, for He is found wherever one finds His Church. In another sense, I am seeking to follow Him, to lose my ego-centered American individuality in Him, and to somehow land among His people while walking with Him. Continue reading

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Atheism: Confident Evangelism

Even though I talk about how atheism is one of my favorites to confront in evangelism, for some reason I felt completely off kilter in this lesson until about 3/4 the way through. Maybe you won’t notice it.

Evangelism to the atheist is unique in certain ways, so there is a different flavor to this approach from other religions.

When we talk to the atheist, we must do the heavy and difficult work of showing them, from 10,000 different angles, how impossible and illogical it is to posit a lack of the eternal Being of God. This isn’t easy, not because it takes a huge brain to do it, but rather because the atheist has fallen into a pit of deep, dark snares within his or her own mind. A total logical failure cannot be embraced without an awesome mental ability to enforce it upon one’s own mind and heart. In other words, self delusion through moral suppression of the light of reality.

Sin. That enemy and closest companion of every mortal human. Sin can corrupt and twist our minds until we cannot see the sun shining at noon day in a cloudless sky. Watch the video, and see if you follow. Comments are open. Workbook is here.

Thanks,

Adam

Jehovah’s Witnesses: Confident Evangelism

They’re the wily sect that everyone loves to avoid. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are an apocalyptic religion hunkered down awaiting the violent end to history, hoping their obedience to the Watchtower organization will earn them Jehovah’s favor and protection during Armageddon – but who has time to learn all about their mass of unique perspectives? Can we share the truth with a JW without a PhD in their doctrines?

This lesson is my best attempt to equip you with a confident course of action, without bogging you down in historical details. Give it a shot!

An added bonus in this episode is that we had a special guest in class – an ex-JW named Natalie, who kindly bore witness (punny of me to say) to my information, and added her perspective at certain points.

The workbook is here. Other episodes are available on this blog here.

Grace to you,

Adam

Who’s to Say? Answering the Roman Catholic on Matters of Authority and Truth

Recently I’ve been enjoying an amiable debate with a Roman Catholic from Lebanon (via Twitter). We keep coming back to the question of the early church – I insist that we Reformation Christians are the recovered, ancient church, and of course he insists that Rome has always been the chief authority over all other churches. Here’s a snippet from our exchange: Continue reading

I Think 1 Corinthians is the Hardest Book in the Bible

Over the past half decade, my study focus in the Bible has been in the field of biblical theology, as opposed to systematic theology. In the latter, we ask a specific question about doctrine, like “What is the trinity?” or “What is baptism?” and then search all 66 books of the Bible for relevant passages. The goal of systematic theology is to say “this is what the Bible says about X.”

Biblical theology, on the other hand, asks “How do all the different, little parts of the Bible fit together into a whole?” This question (like with systematic) presupposes the divine, inerrant nature of Scripture, and as such you won’t be taught biblical theology outside of a Bible-believing church or seminary. When we do biblical theology, we are seeking to trace the common theme and unifying principal of Scripture from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22.

Well, I love biblical theology, but as I run my fingers along the whole vessel of unified Scripture, I always get splinters in 1 Corinthians. Other books and chapters of Scripture are very difficult to reconcile with the whole, but in my opinion, 1 Corinthians is in a class of its own. It seems Paul comes out with insights unique to this letter – and hard to reconcile with the whole of Scripture. This is a fearful thing for an inerrantist. (We can be honest with each other, right?)

I recently took a poll on Twitter to see if anyone else agreed with me – and although some did, the majority fell into my Revelation trap:

Of course many Christians see Revelation as the tough one – a book of riddles and puzzles. I pitted these two against one another because my theory was that most Christians do not know their Old Testament very well – and that translates into confusion about Revelation. If we know our Old Testament, and if we read Revelation keeping in mind the second-century church would have gotten direct application and comfort from Revelation, then it unravels into semi-easy, understandable interpretation.

Yet 1 Cor is a belly flop of a letter. Paul is not addressing any one issue (like in Galatians or Colossians), and he isn’t writing a splendid overview of biblical theology and gospel (like Romans and Ephesians), and he isn’t giving apostolic guidance to a stable brother in Christ (like 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon), but rather he’s attempting to corral a group of borderline wackos who had asked him a basket of difficult questions.

1 Cor begins well enough – in fact, I understand and enjoy everything pretty well up to chapter 7. From there on, Paul loses me, no matter how many commentaries I consult for guidance. Check out some of these gems of biblical enigma:

Because of the angels, Paul? Really? That’s all you’ve got for me? And what do you mean about the believing spouse “sanctifying” the unbelieving spouse? And please, Paul, tell us why you had to say all that stuff about speaking in tongues – I wish you could have seen all the fallout we’re suffering because of it. Couldn’t you have clarified that all that stuff expired with the closing of the canon?

And why, brother Paul, oh why did you have to say “I, not the Lord, say…”? That one is an apologetics nightmare, my dear father and apostle.

But are these questions just mine? How about you all – does anyone out there find 1 Cor equally confusing? In case you’re still feeling strong, looking down on this poor Adam as a confused, well-meaning saint, I deliver my final blow in 1 Cor 15:29

Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?”

If you know what on earth he was talking about, I’m all yours, teacher. What’s my point in all this? I’ll be straight with you: I’m a teacher of God’s Word, I play a strong supporting role in my local church, and I teach multiple Bible studies in home meetings. When I write a post like this, it’s because I want to be vulnerable and open with my family in Christ. I want to have the credibility of admitting that this is not an easy book (the Bible as a whole), and there are some questions I cannot answer. I struggle in my faith just like anyone else, and even have days of heavy doubts at times.

I’m confessing publicly that I’m made of flesh and blood, and no matter how much confidence I have in teaching the Bible, it is still my master, and God is still its final interpreter.st-augustine No man or church can be the master of this divine library, we are forever its pupils and in submission to its wisdom.

And maybe, just maybe, I’m writing this blog post to celebrate a book like 1 Corinthians. Maybe it gives me a bit of comfort to know that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25 ESV). You see that? He put it right in the hardest book in the Bible – “Not everything here will appeal to your human wisdom and understanding. Not everything in My book will be fully comprehensible. That’s OK – you know the center and foundation of Scripture (Jesus and His gospel) – you can let some of it be over your head.” (No, God did not say that to me. I’m imagining that would be something like what He would say to me about 1 Cor.).

I will always try to understand 1 Cor better, but I will be content in my personal faith and in my apologetic endeavors if these things remain an enigma to me.

What about you?

Thanks for reading,

Adam

 

The Law was a Candle, Christ is the Sun – John Chrysostom

Pastor John Chrysostom (b. 347 – d. 407) is one of Christianity’s greatest ancient preachers. He lived during a time of great turmoil in Church history, as the Arians had taken control of Christendom for decades around when he was born and raised. His “golden mouth” (Greek “Chrysostom”)

Johnchrysostom

gave forth glorious exposition of the Scriptures as He lifted up Jesus for all to see and love.

I’ve recently been creating posts to reflect the newness of the New Covenant of Christ Jesus, not to disparage the Law of God, but to show its true role for the people of God. The New Testament could hardly be clearer in expressing the place of Law for Christians: we are not under Law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14-15).

We are to exult in the Law of God as the revelation of His holy and good nature, but regarding the ethic of the Christian, we are to look to Christ Jesus Himself as the standard. He is the sun in comparison to a candle – He is God’s highest revelation of His moral nature, and of how we ought to live. All that Christ said and did fulfilled the Law, but also surpassed the strict letter of it.

Jesus gave us the new obedience, the new law-keeping in Him, by faith in Him and love of Him (e.g. Gal. 6:2). Here John Chrysostom lifts our eyes to a higher standard and norm than the law, as he makes exposition of Galatians 3:25-26 Continue reading

Justin Martyr on Israel, Jews, Christians, and the Old and New Covenants

The second-century saw a young Christianity getting her legs, and forming a more catholic, firm identity as the new covenant people. I recently researched early second-century father Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, a Jewish philosopher. The debate is representative of the friction between Jews of Judaism and the Christian Church. Fascinating in its depth, the dispute between them is revealing for Christians today who are seeking to learn more of their roots… in other words, the early fathers have a value that we must mine out and share with one another if we are to survive the vapid, materialistic Western culture pervading the American version of Christianity.

The following is my recent seminary paper reviewing the Dialogue. I encourage you to read it all, and to look up the references. If you’re like me, you need some depth and history behind your Christian life. Grace to all of you who love the Lord Jesus, our new Lawgiver.

Introduction: The Relationship between Israel and the Early Church

The early Church believed itself to have inherited the Old Testament promises given throughout the Old Testament narrative to ethnic Israel. Extant apologetic works from the first few centuries prominently feature Christians arguing that the new covenant was the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, both for Jew and Gentile. The Church after the ascension “regarded itself as a continuation and development of Judaism,” and so the second-century Apologists like Justin Martyr examined the relationship between the old and new covenants.[1] In Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, his contention was that Christianity was the natural continuation of Judaism as branch is to root (c.f. Rom. 11:17-18).[2]

Continue reading