Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Denominational Discord: Part 2

[PART 1]

Well I finished my research and it's quite obvious that there is not much variation in the opinion of scripture. It comes down to interpretation and application. I suppose in a world where there are only two groups (literal and non-literal) I should not have expected much else. But it was fun.

DenominationView of the BibleReference
AmishWe believe that the God of creation and redemption has revealed Himself and His will for men of all time in the Holy Scriptures. His supreme and final revelation is in His Incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe in the plenary and verbal inspiration of the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament, as the Word of God: that it authentic in its matter, authoritative in its counsels, inerrant in its original writings, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. We believe holy men of God moved by Holy Spirit recorded and communicated divine truth without any mixture of error.[SRC]
Difficult to find, but they seem literal[SRC]
AnglicanThe Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the authentic record of God's revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and moral demands - a revelation valid for all men and all time[SRC]
The Old and New Testaments are "God's Word written," inspired and authoritative, inerrant (true and trustworthy), coherent, sufficient for salvation, living and powerful as God's guidance for belief and behaviour. The church may not judge the Scriptures, selecting and discarding from among their teachings. Rather,the Scriptures under Christ, judge the church for its faithfulness to His revealed truth.[SRC]
(1.) We confess the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God, containing all things necessary for salvation, and to be the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life. (2.) With regard to the interpretation of Holy Scripture, we affirm the clarity of its plain sense so that it may and can be understood by ordinary readers. We hold to the importance of the scholarly interpretation of Scripture by a faithful use of responsible historical and grammatical scholarship. We affirm that the original meaning of the text is to be given its due primacy. Further we believe in the unity and harmony of its various books and two Testaments so that one place of Scripture may not be expounded so as to be repugnant to another. Also, it is only by referring to the whole Canon of Scripture that Scripture will be allowed to interpret Scripture. We hold to the sufficiency and trustworthiness of Scripture in bringing unbelievers to Christ and nurturing and sustaining believers unto eternal life. By following these principles of interpretation the Church will interpret Scripture in accord with its nature as the Word of God written.[SRC]
BaptistThe Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation.[SRC]
If we truly believe in a sovereign God then we must believe that He not only communicated to men but that He did so by His Spirit in such a way as to preserve the text of Scripture (2 Peter 1:21). God breathed His Word (2 Timothy 3:16) and so we have before us the inerrant Word of God to guide us unto salvation through Jesus (John 20:31; 1 John 5:13). The Bible sanctifies us as we allow it to pierce us within (John 17:17; Hebrews 4:12-13). [SRC]
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation[SRC]
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.[SRC]
We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men supernaturally inspired; that it has truth without any admixture of error for its matter and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the age, the only complete and final revelation of the will of God to man, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.[SRC]
the individual is free to interpret the Bible for himself or herself, using the best tools of scholarship and biblical study available to the individual[SRC]
Eastern OrthodoxThe Bible is always interpreted within the context of Holy Tradition, which gave birth to it and canonized it. Orthodox Christians maintain that belief in a doctrine of sola scriptura would be to take the Bible out of the world in which it arose. Orthodox Christians therefore believe that the only way to understand the Bible correctly is within the Orthodox Church[SRC]
Emergent / EmergingPostmodern literary theory critiques the referential theory of language. For some in the movement, the text takes on a personal meaning as they experience it, but it has no authoritative meaning such as authorial intent to distinguish a right from wrong interpretation. Others consider the reader based insights that arise from the biblical text alongside other considerations like textual content and authorial intent. A plurality of Scriptural interpretations is acknowledged in the movement[SRC]
LutheranLutherans believe that the Bible, as a divinely inspired book, is the source of all revealed divine knowledge. Scripture alone (Sola scriptura) is the formal principle of the faith, the final authority for all matters of faith and doctrine. The Book of Concord, published in 1580, contains ten documents which Lutherans believe are faithful and authoritative explanations of Holy Scripture.[SRC]
This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life. This church accepts the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds as true declarations of the faith of this church. This church accepts the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as a true witness to the Gospel, acknowledging as one with it In faith and doctrine all churches that likewise accept the teachings of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession. This church accepts the other confessional writings in the Book of Concord, namely, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles and the Treatise, the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism, and the Formula of Concord, as further valid interpretations of the faith of the Church. This church confesses the Gospel, recorded in the Holy Scriptures and confessed in the ecumenical creeds and Lutheran confessional writings, as the power of God to create and sustain the Church for God's mission in the world. [SRC]
MethodistBy reason, it is said, one reads and interprets Scripture. By reason one determines whether one's Christian witness is clear. By reason one asks questions of faith and seeks to understand God's action and will.[SRC]
[Methodists] have learned that the Bible's writers are as contradictory, fallible, rooted in their own cultures, and individual as any other human authors.[SRC]
PentecostalTheologically, most Pentecostal denominations are aligned with Evangelicalism in that they emphasize the reliability of the Bible and the need for the transformation of an individual's life with faith in Jesus. Pentecostals also adhere to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. Pentecostals differ from fundamentalists by placing less emphasis on personal spiritual experience and more emphasis on the Holy Spirit's work within a person than other Protestants.[SRC]
In the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments.[SRC]
Presbyterian (Calvinist Methodist)The church confesses the Scriptures to be the Word of God written, witnessing to God's self-revelation. Where that Word is read and proclaimed, Jesus Christ the Living Word is present by the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. For this reason the reading, hearing, preaching, and confessing of the Word are central to Christian worship. The session shall ensure that in public worship the Scripture is read and proclaimed regularly in the common language(s) of the particular church.[SRC]
The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.[SRC]
ProtestantMost mainline denominations do not require strict acceptance of everything written about or spoken by Jesus in the New Testament.[SRC]
Protestants believe that the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church obscure the teachings of the Bible by convoluting it with church history and doctrine.[SRC]
Roman CatholicThe books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching firmly, faithfully, and without error, that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation.[SRC]
I believe that God will safeguard the infallible Sacred Magisterium from the errors in this poorly-written, poorly researched, heretical document [referring sarcastically to the bible]. And I know that the faithful will continue to believe in the infallibility and inerrancy of the Sacred Bible, despite the errors of some Bishops and the erroneous teachings of the document called 'The Gift of Scripture.'[SRC]
We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision[SRC1][SRC2]
Seventh Day AdventistsThe Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of [God's] will... They believe instead that God inspired the thoughts of the biblical authors, and that the authors then expressed these thoughts in their own words[SRC]
WesleyanWe believe the Bible to be the inspired, only infallible and authoritative Word of God, fully inerrant in the original manuscript.[SRC]
The priority of Scripture as the inerrant and authoritative written Word of God that guides us in all matters of faith, learning, and living.[SRC]

So it would be best to divide them into two groups: literal (Amish, Anglican, Baptist, Pentacostal, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventists, Wesleyan) and non-literal (Eastern Orthodox, Emergent, Lutheran, Methodist, Protestant).

UPDATE 21 January 2009: [HERE] is a nice in-depth comparison.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The news is starting to kill me

I just finish the evolution in the news, and what do I find?

Numerous studies have shown that humans are not especially self-restrained when it comes to gratification. We prefer to indulge in pleasure when opportunity arises.[SOURCE] (Emphasis mine)

It's called radical depravity people!

It turns out, when people think about their partner, they are less inclined towards temptation. I'm glad to see this kind of thing in the news, but surely this kind of thing is obvious?

Evolution brings me down

Hey! BREAKING NEWS!!! This one is going to BLOW CREATIONISTS(like me) OUT OF THE WATER!

I really don't know how we are going to come back from this one!

Scientists have made found the first evolutionary rule. And I'm sure there is NO going back on this one!

Apparently, according to the latest research in evolutionary biology, [gulps in despair], ANIMALS GET MORE COMPLEX!


Just in case, I am being extremely sarcastic. Surely evolutionists must be a little insulted by this research making headlines? This is what evolution has been teaching and "proving" since Darwin.

Surely this is what the WHOLE debate is about. This is, at best, OLD news. I believe that complexity cannot be inherited, just like genetics dictates. If I inherit my genes from my parents, how can I expect to get more complex genes that they don't have? The ONLY option is loss. But hey, that's genetics, not me.

And on the topic of old news: I'm still a God fearing, bible believing six day creationist.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Denominational Discord: Part 1

One thing my pastor says is:

"I would challenge you to know both what you believe and why you believe it." [Doug Van Meter on Revelation 1:1]

This principle is echoed in scripture, requiring us to search and study the scriptures to make sure we are not taught false doctrines:

"Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." [Acts 17:11]

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." [2 Timothy 2:15]

So I was thinking of looking at broader Christianity - what views do each of the major denominations believe with regard to the bible. I believe it is important to be able to state what we believe about the only book that actually binds us. I think it would be only right, before I look at what most people believe, that I state my opinion of scripture:

Intention and authorship. I believe, that the 66 books of the bible are the inspired works of God, working through His servants to:

  1. Reveal Himself as the one and only God eternal
  2. tell His people of His son Jesus Christ and the salvation that He provided
  3. instruct ALL people on the manner in which they ought to live, the judgment for disobedience belonging to God alone
Since these books have come primarily from God, they are inerrant and infallible, meaning there are no errors regarding the individual words and verses, as well as no errors in continuity. Any error perceived only reveals the readers response to the text in a manner that is unwilling to submit to the authority of the God who inspired it. In other words, the problem with 'errors' in biblical texts lies solely with the interpreter and not the author.

Regarding interpretation. While many interpretations exist, there can be only one proper interpretation of a biblical text. That is, a grammatical historical interpretation. The text must be read as it is written, in manner consistent with the interpretation of the original recipients. To understand a text beyond the audience to whom it was written is incorrect, unless another passage of scripture allows for such an interpretation. Scripture must be used to interpret other scriptures, using the scriptures which convey meaning the most fluently to interpret the scriptures which are difficult to understand. The bible must be read with the very principles it promotes: humility on the part of the believer. The more one reads biblical texts the more one's understanding will increase. It is the believers duty to seek God in prayer in order to understand a text.

Regarding textual portions in which inclusion is questionable. Grace and understanding need to be applied in the contention of these portions of scripture. They should be dealt with like any other segment in scripture in the sense that they are not to be considered in isolation. The context of the passage must be considered as well as other doctrines of scripture. These texts should not be used as the primary texts for new doctrine, or be the sole foundation of new doctrine.

Well, that is my opinion of the bible. I did not always hold to this view, it has been a process. I find that unless I take the bible this seriously, I cannot call it the word of God. I still have to look at the apocryphal books, but I do believe the testimony of my leaders at this point. I still need to research the canonization process and the exclusion of the apocrypha.

Now, as the title suggests, I have laid down my framework of belief in the bible. I will be looking for different denominations' statements of faith. So far I will be looking at:
  1. Amish
  2. Anglican
  3. Baptists
  4. Eastern Orthodox
  5. Emergent / Emerging
  6. Lutheran
  7. Methodist
  8. Pentecostal
  9. Presbyterian (Calvinist Methodist)
  10. Protestant
  11. Roman Catholic
  12. Seventh Day Adventists
  13. Wesleyan

Now I cannot tell if these even HAVE a statement of faith. Also it needs to be mentioned that there are sects inside each denomination. If you are not correctly represented (or not represented at all) - I would love to hear from you. I am sure a research project like this will be a benefit to many. If you are insulted by what you read, please check out the reference before you comment. I will not publish my own bias, but if you do notice a biased comment, please let me know. I will try to use only the wording of the statements of faith. The two faiths I am most interested in are, of course, the ones in which I was involved: Baptist and Methodist.

Part 2, hopefully will be the conclusion of my discussion, but I may go in further.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Futurama: Bender's "big" score

Futurama has made a comeback as a straight to T.V. movie. It portrays every character of the series in a one and a half hour feature film. Now, I don't like television, but I did watch this movie, and while I have my reasons, the movie remains 'watched.'

But I'm not going to blast it. Just like every other television show, it takes God for granted, so no surprise, right? Wrong! As usual, Matt Groening surprises us with the things that might ordinarily be missed.

The movie involves time travel (which is as easy to prove as the existence as free will) and needless to say Bender takes advantage by stealing relics from the past. Right at the end of the movie a horde of Benders (duplicated by time travel) emerge bearing a massive amount of 'treasure'. One item that can be clearly spotted is a large wooden cross with a small sign attached to the top.

Now my first reaction was "that is so blasphemous!" But that was because I was taken aback. After carefully considering the evidence, I am just confused as to the intention. Clearly the broader perspective is that this is a comedy movie, designed to make people laugh. So is it mocking the cross? Or is it depicting the cross as an actual historic event, since none of items Bender stole were fictional (since they had to be recognizable). I also noted the move went back to a maximum of 1500 b.c. ("b.c." also being very notable - antagonistic secular dating refers to b.c. as "b.c.e.") One could easily support the historicity argument since it is not an "in your face" reference. It is subtle and could be easily missed.

Now I don't know. I can't accuse them of blasphemy in this case. There is blasphemy elsewhere, so the movie is definitely not trying to encourage sinless behaviour. But is this seemingly random insert a glimmer of hope? Or is it dancing on a very dangerous edge? I honestly hang my shoulders and say that I can't tell you.

What is interesting is that there are enough relics in the common pool of knowledge to avoid including the cross. So why put it in there? Clearly it's intent is to create questions. My question is: are there people who deny that Christ ever existed? Or is it safe to say that history itself testifies (at least) to a man whose name was Jesus and was crucified? I suppose the world is full of all sorts of people, including those who will distrust even secular historians like Josephus(37 to after 100 A.D.) who at least made references to Christians, possibly even Christ. We cannot expect Josephus to give us right answers to Christ and His nature, but there is a thread there that is good.
"In short, while there is reason to doubt the validity of any references to Jesus Christ in the works of Josephus, the general consensus is that they are genuine at least in part." [REFERENCE]

It is important that we as Christians do not let symbols be our downfall. However we must respect the importance of them. I think the cross itself was two pieces of wood, but what it represents is a God who paid the debt for us all. Symbols are important, since they remind us of an entire concept. The whole bible is contained inside that symbol. But some take it too far in saying that it is 'holy.'

I would ultimately say that Futurama did Christianity a slight service in this movie. People will see that cross, know what it means and ultimately see it as a real event. But the context is so blurred I wonder what God's purpose was in allowing it. Some may scoff, some may ask questions. Questions are good.

Some might argue that I'm looking too deeply at this, but everything we sense effects us. If this were not so, then why do advertisers advertise? Everything we put into ourselves will affect what comes out of ourselves. We have to be prepared to accept that seeds may fall through the deepest cracks of our hearts and find them germinating in our most fertile grounds.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dangerous statements

"Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time."[Richard Dawkins]

I suppose by 'untested belief' he means religion in general. But the question of origins is a unique question, since, origin was a one-time event. If origin was a one time event, then either it needs to be reproduced to be tested or it needs to be believed in.

I think Dr. Dawkins has clearly stated the evolutionists case. They will use the power of their institutions and the passage of time to get their message out. To accuse religion of being the only one to do so is an unfair argument.

"What has 'theology' ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has 'theology' ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that 'theology' is a subject at all?"[Richard Dawkins]

I would first beg Dr Dawkins to consider Theologies purpose. It is to reveal God, not to give us every scientific answer. God has allowed us to test and experiment, and we should do so. I find it rather ironic that the first scientists allowed their belief in God to determine that there were observable rules in the universe.

"Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done." [Isaac Newton]

We can't expect the bible to give us ALL the answers in science, that was not it's purpose. But we can say that God wrote it and it dictates the manner in which we see the world around us. Just as much as you can reject God's word. That doesn't make theology any less important or true.

"The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved out of literally nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice."[Richard Dawkins] (Emphasis added)

You know, I couldn't agree more, you would have to be mad to consider those things fact.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Moral Issues

I've been surfing around the blogsphere and finding some pretty disturbing arguments. It seems the evolutionists are taking to the bible trying to confuse moral issues. One of my very first visitors to my blog, Corey, who either can't read or remember, has posed a question to Christians: Does bible condemn pedophilia?

After researching the blogsphere, I am amazed at the lack of response. Now firstly, the question remains: why go to the bible if you are trying to prove evolution? It's not there! That's why we're arguing, right? Secondly, why are you trying to defraud the bible on a moral issue? Evolutionists are the ones who have no basis for being against pedophilia. If we are simply animals, then things like pedophilia are fine, after all: survival of the fittest, right? All I have to do, as an animal, is make sure I don't get caught.

That's the only moral I can see with evolution: don't get caught. It seems I've landed on a planet where these creatures only care when they find out. As long as my actions are kept under the rug, they won't care. Big bang forbid there is a God out there to whom I'm accountable.

But consider the question: Does the bible condemn pedophilia? Is there a verse? Let me give you the answer: the bible does condemn pedophilia, but not in one verse. Although it is consistent with "evangelical atheist's / evolutionist's" to shake the proverbial eight ball when it comes to the bible. I wonder why they expect one verse to solve all their problems. Genesis 1:1 is an awesome verse, but it isn't the whole story, is it? The bible is a whole, and as a whole, it must be read as a whole. For them to claim the bible does not condemn pedophilia is like me saying Darwin didn't give an evolutionary model because he didn't do it for every creature.

So how does the bible condemn pedophilia? Well, God has always taken sexual activity very seriously:

10"If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 11 If a man lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. 13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 14 If a man takes a woman and her mother also, it is depravity; he and they shall be burned with fire, that there may be no depravity among you. 15 If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

17 "If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, and he shall bear his iniquity. 18 If a man lies with a woman during her menstrual period and uncovers her nakedness, he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from among their people. 19 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister or of your father’s sister, for that is to make naked one’s relative; they shall bear their iniquity. 20 If a man lies with his uncle’s wife, he has uncovered his uncle’s nakedness; they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless. 21 If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.
[LEVITICUS 20:10-17]

These principles are echoed in the new testament. The old covenant was a quid pro quo covenant, whereas the new one is not. But since God's moral standards do not change, we know that we can take the principles out that God laid down here. (There are many methods of coming out to the same laws, by the way.)

Since God is so particular about sexual sin, as well as the role of sex as inside marital vows, we know that a man and a woman ought to only exercise sexual intimacy inside a marriage, it becomes evident as to why God did not explicitly condemn pedophilia: He didn't need to. He began with a man leaving his house to be with his wife in Genesis 2:24, and prohibited anti-marital relations by saying that if you do sleep with a woman you must pay the bride price for her in Exodus 22:16. This This limits the use of sexual intimacy to those who are married, or in the case of infidelity, to those who are able to wed. Now the new testament makes it clear, only have sex with your wife (1 Corinthians 7)

So there you have it: sexual activity is limited to marriage! It is sin to be involved in sexual intimacy before or outside of marriage. The next issue is the "fuzzy" one. This is why I believe God didn't explicitly condemn pedophilia: the question of age. In the OT, when did they get married? They could have been married at 14 for all we know. But what God permitted then, He may not permit now. This is evident since God has placed governors over us that dictate the legal age of marriage, so we follow those. God has given the positive and some of the negative. The positive being that a man must be one with his wife. The negative that He does mention is not exhaustive, the Bible is supposed to be the GOOD news. I would warn people who want to "make up" moral issues:

God gave us the law because our hearts were so hard (Mark 10:5), which is confirmed by the manner by which some use the law. But He has planted the law (to a degree) in the hearts of men, so that by the "moralists" addressing a moral issue they actually prove God's word (Romans 2:15). But be warned that those who make up new evils do themselves no good, they give themselves up to a debased mind:

28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
[ROMANS 1:28-31]

Just because these verses give examples does not mean it is an exhaustive list.