Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ignatius and Unity

Ignatius's next letter is to the church at Smyrna.  His chief concern in all his letters is for the churches to find unity among each other and to follow the bishop, doing nothing without him.  Churches not united are in danger of judgment.

Ignatius did not live long enough to see serious heresy and apostasy rise in the church and the need for people to defend God's truth even if they were excommunicated.  He would see the people who left and say, well, if they had not left, the church would not have become so liberal.

I see it today in churches I know and love.  Some places I stayed and shined what light I could until I could not any more, and for some places I feel like I see a loved one dying.  There comes a time when I have to be faithful to what God is doing rather than try to help when I can't.  Martin Luther wanted to stay in the Mother Church, but they would not hear him.  He had to switch his loyalty to Jesus, the bishop who trumps all bishops.  The continental reformers still did what they could to heal the church and kept many of the customs they believed were biblical but left so that unbiblical concepts wouldn't be forced on them.

It is wonderful to be united when we all agree on the truth and we follow a bishop or pastor who follows Christ.  That is not always the case.  The tragedy is that churches to split over petty matters, but believers in many denominations who truly follow Christ are still one church, even if they disagree on things.  There is no perfect church, but we still must work to keep our churches on the path that follows the Lord.  We still interact with people in love and be there for their life events, but the bigger goal is the invisible church, not a specific location or preacher.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

John Piper: How to Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit – April 29, 1984

Just when I thought I was done with Ignatius of Antioch, behold, I start reading the pseudonymous letters written under his name.  The spurious letters have very much the same themes of Ig, but the style is completely different.

I will try to review all 8 of those on one post.  Today, I will debate John Piper about his stance on baptism by the Holy Spirit.  Tabletalk  is teaching on the Spirit this week, and they referenced Piper’s sermon series on him in 1984.  It is mostly wonderful as is to be expected of Piper.  This one sermon, however, shows more of the denominational differences between him versus me and R.C. Sproul.

John Piper is a Baptist, and that makes a huge difference in how he defines all baptisms.  He also is apparently a continuationist, meaning he believes the gift of tongues and miraculous signs continue today.  However, I am Presbyterian, paedo-baptist, and mostly take the cessationist view – that the signs have stopped after the apostles died.  I’m not going to say they never happen on some fringe of the planet that still does not know Jesus, but it is certainly not the norm.
For this exercise I will type the different headings in this sermon and then write what believe.

1. What Is Receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit?

Piper quotes from a book written by an Episcopal priest, Dennis Bennet, and his wife, Rita.  “What if I don’t speak in tongues?  Can I receive the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues?”

The good news is that the Bennets believe you can be saved and even baptized by the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues.  Even if the gift still exists, not all people have it.

The bad news is that they see a difference between a regenerated Christian and a Christian who has been baptized by the Holy Spirit.  John Piper mostly agrees with this.

Tongues and Baptism in the Spirit in Acts

Con: Piper thinks the Bennets are wrong to make tongues a part of the package of baptism in the Spirit.  In Acts 1:5, Jesus tells the disciples that John baptized with water, but later they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  In verse 8, our Lord tells them that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them.  This happens on Pentecost in chapter 2.  They all speak in tongues, and Peter boldly proclaims the truth when before he denied Christ.

In chapter 8, apostles preach in Samaria and those people speak in tongues.

In Acts 10, Peter visits Cornelius, preaches the Word, and then the Gentiles speak in tongues.  It’s not just for Jews anymore, but for non-Jews

Acts 19 is the biggest conundrum between credo-baptists and paedo-baptists.  This is where Paul meets disciples of John the Baptist who had not heard of the Holy Spirit.  Paul baptized them in the name of the three members of the Trinity, and then they spoke in tongues.

In the credo view, first, you hear the word, then you are baptized in water to proclaim your faith, and finally the Spirit baptizes you at a later point when someone prays for you to receive him.

My view is that first you are born, then you hear the word, then you make a public profession of faith.  If you have not been water-baptized already, you will be baptized with water.  To be a regenerate Christian is the same thing as having the Spirit.  If you have not been baptized in the Spirit, then you are not yet a Christian.  Later on, you grow and mature in the faith gradually knowing more doctrine and slowly becoming able to boldly proclaim Christ’s name.

Tongues Not Necessary to Being Baptized in the Spirit

Piper and I agree that tongues are not necessary to being baptized in the Spirit.  In 1 Corinthians 12:30, Paul himself says that not all speak in tongues as a gift of the Spirit.  The difference is that from my view, if Pentecostals are right about having to have tongues to be baptized in the Spirit, then you would have to have tongues to be a Christian in general.  Praise God, I believe that is wrong.

Stressing the Experience of Baptism in the Spirit

Con: Piper agrees that it is right for the Bennets to stress the experiential reality of receiving the Holy Spirit.  True Christians will boldly experience change and confidence in Christ that they do not necessarily have when first accepting Christ.  However, in my belief, that does not mean they received the Spirit at a later date.  It just means they started young and then they grew up.  Piper and the Bennets would make as much sense to say that a baby is born, but when he finally learns to talk, then he’s super-born. 

No, the baby is simply older and knows more.  He is not more born than he was before.  He’s just older.  In the same way, a bold Christian is older and more experienced.  He already had the Spirit when he was reborn in the faith.  He can’t possibly be more reborn.

Four Reasons Why It is Right to Do so

Piper has four reasons why it is right to stress the experience of being baptized in the Spirit.  I give a hearty amen, because true Christians will bear fruit.  If they are not learning theology, the Bible, trusting Christ even in the face of ridicule or persecution, then there is something seriously wrong.  They may not be getting the correct Bible teaching, or they are simply not attending church as they should.

1. Terminology

The very term "baptized in the Holy Spirit" (1:5; 11:16) implies an immersion in the life of the Spirit.”  Agreed, but that also means the person is saved.  He would not be saved if he had not been immersed in the Spirit.

2. Power, Boldness, and Confidence

“This is an experience of boldness and confidence and victory over sin. A Christian without power is a Christian who needs a baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

Again, there are no Christians who have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit.  One implies the other.  There are simply younger Christians, and more mature Christians whose power, boldness, and confidence have grown with time and attention.

3. The Testimony of Acts

“In fact the third reason I think this is that when you take your concordance and look up every text in Acts where the Holy Spirit works in believers, it is never subconscious.”

I could tell you from experience, that I have consistently lived in the Spirit since 1996.  I believe that is when I truly became a Christian, even though there is no time when I did not know or believe in Jesus.  I can’t tell you my conversion date, but I can tell you I started caring exclusively about Christ in 1996, and so if people ask when I became a Christian, I tell them that year.

I could not have sustained my faith through high school with friends who decided other people were more important than following the Lord.  I was a lonely, social outcast.  It improved in college, but I went through depressions and confusions.  After that, I was confused about finding a job and a husband.  I have both on the horizon yet still get discouraged.  I would not be alive or sane today had not the Spirit baptized me in 1996 and sustained me the whole time.  However, I can tell you that I am more bold and confident now in the Lord than I was in 2003 or even 2007.

4. The Consequence of Faith

“The fourth reason we should stress the experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit is that in Acts the apostles teach that it is a consequence of faith not a subconscious cause of faith.”

He uses Acts 11:15-17 as proof.  Peter reported on how the Spirit fell on Cornelius just as on the Jews at Pentecost.  If that is true, then that was the point where he came to proper faith in Christ.  The new Church needed the visible sign of tongues then to show that their words are true.  These days, they do not.  God needed to show them a sign that they were indeed in the true invisible church.  Whether the baptism of the Holy Spirit started with boldness and power, or whether it grew as a seed, that point is when you became a regenerate believer.  There are no Christians who have not been baptized in the Spirit.

Receiving the Spirit Is a Life-Changing Experience

A hearty amen to that.  It is life-changing.  If your life doesn’t change, then you have not experienced receiving the Spirit.  However, it is at different paces for all different people.

Two Things that Characterize this Experience

1. A Heart of Praise

Yes, something all believers have.  It may still be growing, or it could be very obvious.

2. Obedience

You may not follow Christ perfectly, but now you care about offending him and you do what you can to obey out of love for him.  Also, something you do without having to have the mature boldness.

2. How to Receive the Gift of the Spirit

Here is where I agree with Piper.  Peter, in Acts 2, says this is for all believers and their children, which is why the Presbyterians include infants in baptism.

The Word of God Must be Heard
The Sovereign God Must Call Men and Women
We Must Receive the Word

Those three steps all happen at the same time when a person comes to salvation.  He must have all three of those at once.

We Must Express Faith Through Water Baptism

We must be baptized, but in the Holy Spirit.  Water baptism is the outward sign of being a member of the visible church.  We do need to do that if we have not already.  However, you must have the Holy Spirit baptism to be part of the invisible church and to be a child of God.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Last Letter from Antioch

I have reached the end of Ignatius's canon.  His last letter goes to his dear friend Polycarp.  It seems he has a premonition that his friend will also suffer martyrdom in a short time after Ignatius does.  He mostly encourages the man.

"Be sober as an athlete of God: the prize set before thee is immortality and eternal life." I imagine Ignatius of Antioch as a man quite a bit younger than Polycarp.  Actually, they were about the same age, but I still see Ignatius as younger.  It is odd that he gives the bishop of Smyrna advice as he walks to the chopping block, but it is also good encouragement as they are such close friends.

"Weigh carefully the times.  Look to him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes."

He almost says the same thing he has been saying to the churches, but this time to its bishop.  The churches should do nothing without the bishop.  The bishop should not let them do anything without him.  Polycarp himself must not do anything without the approval of God.  Even men and women who wish to marry must do so at the bishop's approval.  Ignatius tells the people to give heed to the bishop so that God will give heed to them.

This ends his letters.  It is good to follow the ordained church pastor as long as he does work under God's approval.  It would be better for him to have an accountability group, like a session of elders, to keep him from too much self-approval.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Medieval Architecture Transition

Before the 13th century, cathedrals held a Romanesque look.  They had round arches and a cruciform shape.

The Medieval era introduced Gothic architecture.  People originally saw it as pagan being mixed in with Christianity.

Just the same, the Gothic cathedral had spires and pointed arches that point toward heaven, and it retained the cruciform layout.  The Gothic art revolution transitioned the Church from simpler art forms to more complex and ornate structures.  This also changed the music from simple unison hymns to elaborate choirs and instruments.  It did bring lovely art to the Christian world.  It did also distract from the true message of Christ and began to leave most of the congregation out of the the interaction.  Instead of lay participation, it was rather spectator.  This caused less involvement in non-clergy and a gradual loss of education in true theology.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Can Ignatius Have Assurance of Salvation?

Ignatius of Antioch has now started a letter to the Philadelphians.  He says the same stuff in that letter.  He has some new interesting insights, but I want to sit down with him and explain to him how he can know he is God's elect in his impending execution.  In times like these, you have many doubts and rethink things.  However, if I was to comfort him, I would read to him from R.C. Sproul's booklet about "How can I know that I am saved?"

People doubt their salvation sometimes because of Jesus's words in Matthew 7:21, "Not all who say 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven."  People go to church, sing on the choir, participate in charities, help people, and even die for the faith.  It does not mean that they really belonged to Jesus.  How can Ignatius know he is not among those people as he faces martyrdom?

Roman Catholics echo Ignatius's concerns: They believe that assurance of salvation is not possible apart from some special act of revelation.

Then there are Protestants who don't follow the Reformed tradition such as Methodists.  They believe we have assurance but for a limited time.  We may mess up tomorrow and have our salvation cancelled, thus we can't know our ultimate state.

Then there is the comforting Reformed tradition which is the one the Bible teaches.  We can have full assurance that we still will be in a state of grace at the time of our deaths.  The Romans almost have it right - it is not possible apart from a special act of revelation.  However, God has given us that revelation in Jesus.  His words still live in the Scriptures and are preached at church.  We have the revelation, so we can know we are saved.

When Jesus preaches the parable about the sower and the seeds in Matthew 13, he does so after his brothers and mother tried to get him to come home because he was at least embarrassing his brothers with his closed-mindedness.  He said, "He who does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother."

Then in the parable, the soil that grows the seeds is the one that produces much fruit that lasts, sometimes to one hundred fold.  Those who are genuinely saved, who have taken the seed of the Word and it grew without interruption, prove themselves to have fruit, to be doers of the Word.

We know Christians by their works.  They are not saved by the works but people such as Martin Luther explain that we are justified by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.

Any Catholic reading this is free to correct me, but traditionally, they believe in faith that leads to justification, but not faith alone.  Faith + works = justification.

Protestants also believe in works.  However, the equation is Faith = Justification + works.  If you have true faith, it won't be because of works, but works will be a natural result of that.  Works are a consequence, a manifestation of the state of grace we are in.  Faith alone saves because of works - not ours but Christ's.  If there are no works on one side of the equation, then there is no faith on the other side.  If there is no faith on one side, then there is no justification on the other side with the works.

Sproul then talks about four kinds of people: 1) those who are saved and know it, 2) those who are saved and don't know it, 3) those who are damned and know it, 4) those who are not saved but think that they are because of bad theology.

The people in the second group can have their comfort from following 2 Peter 1:10-11.  "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

For the fourth group, there are at least three reasons for false assurance of salvation.

1) Universalism - the believe that people will go to heaven just because God is so loving and merciful and because they have died.  This is not what the Bible teaches.  The Bible teaches that Christ gave his life not for all people without exception, but for his elect.  We are not all God's children unless Christ has given his life for us.

2) Legalism - you can be saved by joining the Rotary Club or singing in the choir or giving things to the poor or feeding the hungry.  Those are good things, but they do not save you.  Only faith in Christ saves.

3) Sacerdotalism -- you can be saved because of membership in a church and your interaction with the pastor/priest.  This not only applies to Romans but to even Lutherans and Continental Reformed people who think that they are saved because they have been baptized.  They are saved because they take communion.  You can't base your salvation on that.  Those people cannot see what goes on on the inside.

Paul talks about the true assurance of salvation in Romans 8:29-30: "
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."  Not people he knew would respond with saving faith.  There is nothing in the people that caused God to elect them.  God elected people from his own pleasure and for his own glory.

Sproul: "If the calling Paul mentions...has reference to the operation of the Holy Ghost on the soul that prepares us for faith and justification, and if we know that we have received this call, we know we are elect."

So how can Ig know he is elect just from what Paul said?  He still wonders if he is reprobate.  Ephesians 2 mentions how people were once dead in their sins.  After Christ saved them, they became alive.  Now, their sin is not more important to them than following Jesus and they care if they sin.

Regenerate people genuinely love the Scriptural Jesus.  Not Jesus the activist, the great teacher, the kind Teddy bear in heaven who loves all people, or even the great spiritual leader.  They love the Jesus of Scripture who speaks with a two-edged sword, whose blood cleanses the elect and who will judge all people one day.  Do you love him?  Then you are saved.  I can't tell if you really love him or not, but you know if you genuinely love him.  If you do, then you are saved.

Regenerate people respond to the Holy Spirit.  He causes people to be able to obey him and to reach the world for Jesus.

Regenerate people have the earnest of the Holy Spirit.  Philippians 1:6, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion."  You must believe in assurance of salvation, that you cannot lose it, simply because you need to believe God's promise.  He won't say yes and then say no.  He gave you the Holy Spirit who know helps you love and obey Jesus.  He won't go back on his promise.  You are secure because God is secure.

And that, Ignatius, is why you can know you are saved.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ignatius Writes another Letter

Ig finishes his letter to the Trallians by warning them against the teachings of the Docetists.  These people believe that Jesus did not have a real body, and Ignatius pleads with the churches to keep soul and body together.  There is not one without the other.

He then starts a letter to the Roman church.  They must want to try to help him escape martyrdom.  "It is difficult to attain to God if ye spare me."  Ignatius is condemned and feels called to carry through with his execution so he can see God.  He wants the animals to completely destroy his body so that the churches do not have to deal with it.  "Let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me; only let me attain to Jesus Christ."  If only people were so willing to suffer for the Lord today.

Ignatius also worries that he might be reprobate.  I just downloaded R.C. Sproul's eBook on how to know one is saved.  I believe Ignatius will be with the elect in heaven and has nothing to worry about.  He would not care otherwise.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ig: Warning against Vain Doctrine

He finishes his letter to the Magnesians by his constant appeal to beware of false doctrine.  It creeps into the church and compromises with non-believers who may be wise but who do not have Christ's hope.  Without Christ's hope, they have no hope.  He gives a few creeds to remind them of the true doctrine.

Ignatius did have this hope because it was no problem to face wild beasts in an arena.  He ends his letter saying, "I am not worthy to be called bishop."  As much as he calls the churches in his addresses to follow their bishop, he does not demand people treat him as a bishop. 

Then, he starts his letter to the Trallians.  Tralles is now the city of Aydin in Turkey.  It was in the region of Lydia and was controlled by the Greeks until it was captured by Persia and later the Turks.

In the letter to the Trallians, Ignatius continues his usual chorus of being subject to the bishop and do nothing without him.  Be subject to the presbyters, too, as they rule the church.  Christ does nothing without the Father, and so we should do nothing without the bishop.  The person who does is not pure of conscience.

Mostly he focuses on his impending execution.  He struggles to not perish through boasting and remembering he is not worthy to die as a martyr to the Lord.  He reminds the people of the reason for his death: because Christ truly died and truly came back to life.  "If he only seemed to suffer then why am I in bonds?"  Because Christ conquered death and hell, so can Ignatius and all other people who stand up for Christ's exclusive right to be worshiped and revered.

Monday, June 17, 2013

1200: the Rise of Universities

Anselm, Aquinas, William of Ockham, and many other people with A names revolutionized the Medieval world.  From the teaching a research sprang the university.

Martianus Capella adapted the Roman quadrivium and the trivium to the use of religion.  The trivium included grammar, rhetoric, and logic.  The quadrivium involved geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music.  People learned speaking to fulfill the pastoral duties with the trivium.  They established dates of sacred festivals with the quadrivium.

Also at this time, popular teachers arose, and people came from everywhere to see them teach.  Notre Dame cathedral had started the University of Paris which included Abelard.  English students who felt like Paris mistreated them moved and started Oxford University.  Cambridge came from that one. 

Originally, the university was a guild for students and teachers to study without interference.  Academics were arranged according to monastic study.  The trivium would lead to a bachelor's degree, and the quadrivium would lead to a master's degree.  The latter became teachers.  All people studied art, and advanced people studied theology, law, and medicine.  This is an exciting time for learning, and perhaps schools today should simplify because Medieval thinkers accomplished more than people today.

Ignatius to the Magnesians

This is the start of Ignatius's letter to the Magnesians.

Magnesia has a vast disambiguation on Wikipedia.  It is mainly the region of Thessaly in Greece.  There is also Magnesia on the Maeander in Anatolia/Asia Minor/Modern Turkey.  This could be a plausible address for this letter as the previous letter was to the Ephesians and the disciples did great work in Asia Minor.

Also in Modern Turkey is Magnesia ad Sipylum in the region of Lydia, another Anatolian candidate for Ignatius's address.  Apparently, Magnesia covers the boot of Greece and the edge of Turkey.

Ignatius tells them that he is determined to commune with the church there.  He prays for a union of both the flesh and spirit of Jesus.  I think this is odd language, but maybe he means that Christ's body on earth should observe a union with itself as it joins to Jesus in heaven.  Or, since Jesus's body sits on the throne in heaven and his Spirit is here with us, perhaps Ig prays that Jesus will draw his earthly church to himself as it comes to worship him.  It would also be good for different church units to behave as one and not as divided.

Apparently, Magnesia has a very young bishop, but Ig likes him as he has a knowledge of God the Father and the people should have a reverence for their superiors.  The people there should not just be called Christians, but they must be so in reality.  The must also remember that in honoring their young bishop that Christ is still the first Bishop and only High Priest by nature.  Nobody sits in his place on earth.  He only has representatives.

Sadly, Ignatius's language does give them impression that although he worships Christ alone, he does see the bishops as sitting in Christ's seat.  Through the bishop, the congregants are "subject to God in Christ."  He says that Christ does nothing without the Father, and so the church-goers should do nothing without the bishop.  This leads to the blind following of priests and popes that we see today at the expense of what Christ actually said.

But as I will repeat for a while because I must, Ignatius still opposes Pope Francis today when he says of the martyrs, "They were persecuted, being inspired by grace to fully convince the unbelieving that there is one God."  Know what the martyrs died for, Francis's statement is actually quite heinous and insulting to them.  If all good people can come to salvation, even atheists, then clearly, faith in Christ is not necessary and these martyrs were uptight over nothing.  The early Christians died because there is no church or salvation outside of Christ.  They didn't allow the Romans to come in through the back door through Caesar or Jupiter.  Their exclusivity cost them their lives, and Francis should be disciplined for his statement.

"For were he to reward us according to our works, we would cease to be.  And in his seed all those have been blessed who were ordained to eternal life in Christ."

Another neat statement: Ig considers Sunday the 8th day of the week as it is the first day after the Sabbath when Jesus rose from the dead.  More historical reasoning why Christians worship on Sunday and not Saturday.  We are at rest.  Now we truly can do good works.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Jonathan Eating Honey

Tim Challies is doing a "Reading Classics Together" where all his readers read a book by Thomas Brooks about Remedies against devices Satan uses to trap people.  I am definitely reading it.  I will likely not comment much.  Today, I will bring up something that I do not think Brooks treats accurately.

In 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan and his father, King Saul, and their army were fighting the Philistines.  Jonathan and his armor bearer had separated from the rest of the group.  While they were gone, Saul made a foolish oath that nobody any the army would eat any food until they defeated the Philistines.  If they ate, they would die.

Jonathan and his armor bearer did not hear this oath, saw some honey, ate it, and gained enough strength to defeat the Philistines, saving the whole army.  Saul and the army discovered this, but decided that Jonathan would not die because he saved their army.  Saul, however, did make an oath that Jonathan would die.  They were both killed in battle while fighting the Philistines. 

Thomas Brooks sees Jonathan's lapse as a sin.  Jonathan had constructive knowledge of his father's oath, but he had no actual knowledge.  Brooks should not hold him accountable for eating what he did not know was forbidden.  The major perpetrator in this account is Saul himself.  Saul who likes to make vows and sacrifices to display his piety.  Saul who disobeyed Samuel and kept King Agag alive when he was told to kill all the Amalekites.  And to show the power of rash words, Saul is the reason Jonathan died in battle many years later.  Jonathan was a victim.  He did not sin in this regard.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ignatius: Mysteries

So far, Ignatius has told the Ephesians to unite in following their godly bishop, Onesimus.  They should be gentle as they are mistreated for the Lord's name.

It is the end times.  Even in Ignatius's day it was the end times.  From the time of Christ's ascension until he returns are the end times.  As God winds down this present age, we must continue in a reverent spirit.  We must fear God's long-suffering.  These end times are drawn out because of God's mercy.  He is very patient, and yet we must still fear him.  His patience is no obligation.

The Ephesians are objects of God's mercy, and Ignatius is condemned and considers himself the least of the martyrs.  Those that profess Christ are known by what they practice.  Clearly, the Ephesians know Christ judging by their practice.  They are known not just by words but by action.  Ignatius believes it better to be a silent Christian then to talk and not be one.  He's got a point.  How much do I sin by opening my mouth or typing on my keyboard?  1 Corinthians 4:20, "for the Kingdom does not consist in talk, but in power." 

The worthy Ephesians must not use too many words, and they must not knowingly listen to false teachers who are known for their verbosity.  He says to "not be anointed with the bad odor of doctrine of the prince of this world."  I remember having this inspirational calendar and thinking it was bizarre.  I had learned that the chief end of man is to glorify God.  The calendar's chief end was for man to be glorified.  I thought that was odd.  Then I got to April where they declared there is no hell.  That is the sure sign that someone has damning doctrine, no matter how peaceful they are otherwise.  They don't believe God will execute his justice on the world, and they refuse to believe he executed his justice toward those he saved on Jesus.  They still want to glorify themselves when they are nothing.

Ignatius is not a false teacher.  He says "let my spirit by counted as nothing for the sake of the cross."  The cross is a stumbling-block to those who do not believe, but it is salvation and life eternal to Christians.  It either heals or condemns.

He finishes this section with three mysteries that the prince of this world cannot understand.  In fact, these are the three mysteries most rejected by "intellectuals."  They are: Mary's virginity when she bore Christ, Christ himself, and Christ's death and resurrection.  The Jesus Seminar spends most of its time denying those three and explaining them "scientifically."  However, without those, we have nothing to hope in.  Jesus was born sinless by having no sinful father, but had to grow from Mary's egg so he could be completely human.  Christ was God the Son in the flesh who lived the only sinless life.  Jesus died, rose from the dead, and will come back.  These are necessary for any hope of salvation.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ignatius, Onesimus, and Church Leaders

Now that we have studied the words and life of Polycarp, Schaff moves on to his dear friend Ignatius.  There is a myth that Ignatius was the little child placed among the disciples in Matthew 18:2.  The truth is, Ignatius probably would be about that age.  He would have been a baby at the time of Jesus's ministry.

Ignatius calls himself "Theophorus."  His writings make people uncomfortable as it seems that he craves martyrdom, but this is not the case.  He was already condemned and honored to be counted worthy to die as a testament to the Lord.  His letters are controversial first because people are not sure he wrote them.  He is credited with 15 letters, and only 7 are still considered his.  Starting with his epistle to the Ephesians, there is a long manuscript and a short manuscript.  Which one is more accurate?  Again, did he actually write it?  From what I can read, Schaff thinks that the letters in this archive are his based on knowledge about Ignatius.

To get to the other controversy, I will simply start by talking about the Ephesian letter.  They have a name greatly-desired: followers of the love of God towards man (or just God in the short version).  They live by the blood of Christ.  Ignatius is friends with there bishop, Onesimus.  He might be the same servant that Paul converted in the letter of Philemon.  He might be another guy.  Evidently, he is a godly man who Ignatius loves and who the Ephesians can trust for godly direction.

Ignatius gives a shout-out to Burrhus, a deacon in the church, to Crocus who apparently served Ignatius on behalf of Ephesus, and other elders and deacons in that town.  Ignatius considers himself only a disciple of Jesus who is not allowed to issue orders.  He is not Paul.  He still gives advice to run in accordance with the will of God because that is what Jesus did.  To do this, we must live according to Jesus himself.

Here is where I both agree and disagree with Ignatius.  He also says to run according to the will of the bishop.  The elders of the presbytery are fitted as exactly to the bishop as strings are to the harp.  The whole town should become one choir in praise of Christ.  I agree because God does place church leaders in charge of Christ's earthly Bride in Christ's absence to minister and rehabilitate God's people.  I disagree because, Onesimus, as godly as he is, is still only a man.  He not Jesus nor Jesus's vicar.  Jesus has no vicar.  The best teachers and preachers out there are wonderful for spiritual encouragement and nourishment, but if they err, you have to stay accountable to Christ. 

In this day there are plenty of false teachers and societal pressure to silence the Church.  It is good to encourage people to follow godly men such as John Piper, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and Ken Ham.  R.C. Sproul keeps me spiritually alive every morning.  We also must remember that sometimes Piper associates with controversial preachers, R.C. is not a young earth creationist (but R.C. Jr. is), John MacArthur despises infant baptism and preaches pre-tribulation dispensationalism, and Ken Ham can be legalistic at times. 

However, I encourage people to listen to them and not people who do not know Jesus such as Rob Bell, Oprah, the Dalai Lama, most mainline denomination leaders,and anyone who thinks that America is the promised land which would include people I love such as Mike Huckabee.  He's godly, but America is not heaven.  Some people are really sweet and great people, but if they preach salvation apart from Jesus or through any other method, then they are wrong and in danger of judgment and leading people there.

And just the same, never doubt your salvation if you trust Christ alone.  Ignatius specifies the Ephesians, but this applies to all Christians: they are all God-bearers, temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, and bearers of holiness.  We are all the new Eve to Christ's new Adam.  Not just Mary.  All true believers carry the death of Christ in their bodies.  And if Christians are unjustly treated, destitute, and condemned, then they can rest assured that they are doing the right thing.  They must continue to be gentle with the world and to care more about following Christ than rebutting human opposition.

Ignatius confirms my theory by saying to avoid false teachers as you would avoid wild beasts.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Aquinas's Medieval Competition

There is realism, represented by Plato and Anselm.  Then there is moderate realism represented by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.  Nominalism opposes both those views.  It is represented by William of Ockham and Roger Bacon.

Plato believed the visual world was just a shadow of the realities they describe in the invisible world.
Aristotle believed that things seen have reality because of its form.  Nominalists believe universalia post rem.  General truths or ideas have no existence outside the mind.  They actually just form as an observation of particular things.

The Franciscans began this movement by criticizing Aquinas.  William of Ockham "insisted that theological dogmas were not rationally demonstrable and that they must be accepted on the authority of the Bible."  Basically, he believed the authority of the Bible could not be reasoned.  It was pure faith.

Roger Bacon laid the foundation for experimental science, improved later by Francis Bacon.  They experimented to find out truth.  I personally cannot understand these people.  I agree that experimenting is good.  Knowing why you believe the Bible is good.  Folks like Anselm and Aquinas show that the Bible can be reasoned and logical, not just accepted by faith.  It has its roots in reality even though that reality is beyond us.  It seems to me like the nominalists want to believe in the supernatural world, but like all errors, do not believe that God is beyond the human being.  It makes as much sense to not believe God at all.  However, God made his special revelation known and the world knows that he exists because there is a world.  To Anselm, people have a concept of a supreme perfect being because of God's reality.  We can use this same reality to understand his word through Jesus Christ.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Polycarp's Martyrdom: chapters 11-20

At this point, Poly stands before trial, and the Romans, who like him, urge him to pay homage to Caesar.  He will not because he loves Jesus and serves him only.  "Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment reserved for the godly."  That was his answer.  He could enjoy relief from fire now only to spend eternity in the endless one, or he could die in a fire now and enjoy eternity in the presence of Christ.

The author describes how he was filled with confidence and joy, his face full of grace.  The Romans sentenced him to be burned.  They built the pile and they were going to nail him to it, but Poly said, "Leave me as I am; for he that giveth me strength to endure the fire will also enable me without your securing me by nails to remain without moving in the pile."  At this point, Polycarp is 86 and does not want to live in this world any longer.  If he has to exit by fire, then he will stay in the fire, thankful that he should have a part in the number of His martyrs.

Allegedly, when they lit the first, the flame formed an arch, encircled his body, and he appeared not like burnt flesh but as baked bread.  He gave a sweet odor like incense.  The fire was not consuming Poly, so an executioner pierced him with a dagger.  From the wound came a dove and lots of blood that extinguished the fire.

In Chapter 17, Polycarp is dead.  Chapter 16 is rather flowery in language and does not give them impression that he died at that point, but at this point he's dead.  Here is the party I find odd, don't quite believe, and even if it was true, I agree with the Romans.  Herod told the government not to give his body to his people lest they should worship it.  The same people that burned Polycarp because he would not pay his respects to Caesar would not really care if his followers worshiped his body.

Either way, the folks of Smyrna insisted that it is impossible for them to worship anyone other than Jesus.  Knowing human nature, they are feeling overly-confident.  The Holy Spirit can prevent them from lapsing, but the flesh still wants this world.  Just the same, the centurion burned Poly's body.  The Christians took his bones -- more precious than exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold (no, those aren't words of worship) -- and buried them and plan to celebrate his death anniversary every year.  They just said they would not worship Polycarp, and then they do this.  I think Polycarp would be appalled. 

Poly is known as the 12th martyred in Smyrna.  He now rejoicingly glorifies God in the presence of Christ.  Christ = the Savior of souls, Governor of our bodies, shepherd of the catholic church throughout the world.  He died on the second day of the month Xanthicus and seven days before the Kalends of May, on a Great Sabbath at the 8th hour. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Polycarp: rigid or right?

The intro to Poly's martyrdom sets for the purpose of the event: it took place that the Lord might show us from above a martyrdom becoming the Gospel.  That we also might become his followers.  It shows how seriously they believed in Jesus and not Caesar.  They gave their lives for a closed-minded belief in Christ.

"Who can fail to admire the nobleness of mind, and their patience with that love towards their Lord which they displayed?"  They let their bodies be laid open without a sigh or a groan escaping, according to this author.  When they became absent from the body, our Lord stood by them and communed with them. 

I doubt these martyrs died without flinching or even screaming, though it is possible.  The certainty is that Jesus did indeed stand by them in their deaths and communed with them.  He transported their souls into his eternal presence.  He did that for Stephen in Acts 7, and his Spirit is always with people who defend the faith with their words.

"The devil invented many things against them, but thanks be to God, he could not prevail over all."  The author mentions Germanicus who made others less timid by his own patience in fighting wild beasts in a Roman stadium.  Others, like Quintus from Phrygia, became afraid and gave themselves up as apostate.  True faith will last even in the face of gladiators, wild beasts, and fire.  False disciples will show their true colors when persecution arises.

Now begins the account of Poly's death.  When he first heard that he was sought for, he was not disturbed but continued ministering in the city of Smyrna.  He prayed day and night for all men.  He saw a vision of his pillow burning and said prophetically, "I must be burnt alive."  I wonder if God lets a lot of people know they will suffer in death before the fact.  There are people who seem to know that they will be killed.  Would that be any comfort or would I rather just go unexpectedly?  I have no clue.

Poly hid from his seekers.  They seized two young men, and under torture, one of them betrayed Polycarp's location.  Is the author right to compare him to Judas?  I don't think so.  He was young and scared.  Can Polycarp never say he was young and scared at some point?  How about this author?  Everybody has a history as John Mark who flees when young and later grows up to write the second Gospel in the New Testament.

He might have escaped when they found him on the roof of a house, but he refused saying, "The will of God be done."  He prayed so fervently that his captors were sorry that they had to take such a godly and venerable old man.  Nonetheless, they continued to arrest him.  Irenarch Herod asked Poly, "What harm is there in saying 'Lord Caesar,' and in sacrificing...and so make sure of safety?"  Most of the weaker people in their faith saw no reason to not throw incense into a flame just to keep from dying.  Many today see no problem with potential rituals such as yoga or saying mantras.  What harm is that?  What if it was illegal not to do those things?  Would you give in to save your life, or would you consider fidelity to Christ more important than being cool?

A voice from heaven told Poly, "Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!"  He replied, "Away with the atheists!  Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never dead me any injury.  How then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?"  He declared himself a Christian amid urges to venerate Caesar.  Not worship, just venerate him.  Even if he had not been burned to the stake, people would have shunned him for being so rigid.  However, the Lord calls us to be rigid.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Intro to Polycarp's Martyrdom

Many people think that Eusebius wrote both this account of Polycarp's martyrdom and the one for Ignatius.  Philip Schaff writes, "I am humbled and abashed in comparing what a Christian used to be with what a Christian is, in our times, even at his best estate."

Back then these people claimed that faith in Jesus was the only way to salvation.  People did not like that and put them to very humiliating deaths.  Now people within the church dishonor these men and their brave deaths by proclaiming that Jesus is not necessary for salvation.  Have I even been brave enough to be martyred for proclaiming my closed-mindedness?  I have to be because I have the answer and hope in Christ Jesus.  I can't listen to "gurus" who try to look for other ways to have meaning in life.

I close this post with another quotation attributed to Eusebius, "We love the martyrs, but the Son of God we worship: it is impossible for us to worship any other."  There is a fine line between greatly honoring someone and worshiping that person.  If you really do not worship such people, then you need to worship Christ above all else as God and Savior.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Polycarp on Martyrs and Apostates

When we left Polycarp, he had honored men who were martyred recently such as Ignatius.  Ignatius was a colleague, and his death would greatly shake both Polycarp and the Philippian church.

He moves on to grief over Valens.  Apparently, he was a presbyter/preacher/elder, who left the church because of fear of persecution.  He could not stand the thought of facing wild beasts.  He clearly was excommunicated.  Polycarp gives advice that I believe matches Paul's advice in 1 Corinthians 5 and then later in 2 Corinthians.  Do not count such as enemies, but call them back.  You may perhaps save them and the whole body.  There should be a degree of shunning, but there should also be an open line of communication should he repent and seek rehabilitation.

According to Polycarp, Philippi knew Christ before Smyrna.  It had a church first.  "Ye are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures; nothing is hid from you; but to me this privilege is not yet granted."  Paul wrote Philippi with an authoritative letter.  Smyrna only received a part of a chapter in Revelation via John.  Polycarp gives the constant call to pray for all people: saints, kings, potentates, princes, those that persecute and hate you, and enemies of the cross.  All should receive prayer.

He also confirms that he intends to carry a letter from Philippi to Syria at the request of Ignatius.  He also mentions Crescens and his sister.  Crescens transcribed his letter.  That is the end of his letter to the Philippians.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Aristotle's Medieval Influence

When I wrote the blog post on Plato's school of thought, I mentioned Anselm and his ontological argument, but I forgot to note Peter Lombard's textbook: Four Books of Sentences.  This was the chief theological textbook until the time of Thomas Aquinas.  His support of the seven sacraments led to it being accepted as authoritative at the Council of Florence in 1439.

Plato's reality was completely in an unseen world.  Aristotle insisted that universal have an objective existence but not apart from individuals things.  They are a part of the objects and minds.  He places more reality in the seen world rather than assuming that this life is only shadows.

Abelard was a major fan of Aristotle.  He taught at the University of Paris.  He believed that reality existed first in the mind of God, then in individuals and things.  Plato's camp emphasized that they believe so that they may know.  Abelard reversed that: I know in order that I may believe.  He emphasized reasoning.

Downside: he did not believe that Christ's death satisfied God's wrath against sinners.  He believe it simply compelled people to see Christ's love, their hearts to melt, and for them to come to God through moral influence.  This is Pelagianism again, and it is not the Gospel taught in the Bible.  His work Sic et Non, or Yes and No, was also a major textbook of the day.

Albertus Magnus was a brilliant man known mostly for his pupil who excelled him: Thomas Aquinas.  Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, joined a monastery against his parents' wishes.  Cairns describes him as large, shambling, taciturn, and somewhat absent-minded.  He was the quintessential geek.  His classmates called him a "dumb ox", and Albertus prophecied that the ox's lowing would fill the whole world.

R.C. Sproul loves Aquinas a lot more than I do.  I like him much better thanks to Sproul, but Augustine is a far better theologian.  He also believed reality exists first in the mind of God, then in people.  His Summa Theologiae is the theology textbook to end all textbooks until the Reformation.  He preached that man's will is bent by sin from the fall, but he did not believe it was completely determined to evil.  Augustine taught that the human will was helplessly lost in evil.  Aquinas is still a theologically sound man: he held orthodox views of the atonement, Christ's deity, life, death, and resurrection.  He held sound Mariology.  I look to the day where I can sit down and read his works.