Thursday, March 30, 2006

Get in the Game

I'm not saying that a true picture of God is not important. What I am saying is this: that being well-versed in Christian doctrine is valueless; only love for the true God (and for others) is. To the extent that doctrine assists you in loving God and others, it is valuable. But it is not valuable for its own sake.

The question is: which is highest? The system of beliefs which forms Christianity, or the God who placed them in the world to point us to Him? Understanding "justification by faith" is far less important than being justified. Understanding the nature of sanctification is far less important than being sanctified. Understanding predestination is far less important than "assuring yourself of His calling and choosing you."

Here's how I would put it: doctrine is the rules of Baseball. Not knowing the rules would make it impossible to play. Knowing the minutiae of the rules might help you to gain an edge; but God isn't looking for referees. He's looking for players. And if you are a player, studying the history and technicalities of Baseball would only be of value to you as far as it improved your game. Run as if to win.

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Something Resembling a (short) Argument

You cannot disconnect true theology and true love, and, in fact, proper theology must inform proper love and not vice versa.

Look at Deuteronomy 6:4-5: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might."

Love is certainly more than simply correct theology; but it is certainly not less. Correct theology must inform adequate love.

See also 1 John 3:23: "And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us."

John, like Moses in the Shema above, places belief in the true Son of God, Jesus Christ, prior to love of the brothers.

Only love with truth is true love.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

My Problem with Machen

This is important, I think. I read a little bit about Machen, and I think he's saying this: "Doctrine is the message of the New Testament". As the founder of the Orthodox Presbyterian Denomenation, when he says "preaching doctrine", he probably means "Promoting strict adherence to reformed theology".

Now, the principal issues he fought for (for instance, attacking the idea that Paul basically invented a different Christianity than Jesus, based on Greek thought) are not ones I would disagree with him on. But when he says, "Doctrine is the message of the New Testament", I think he's missing the point. Yes, 1 Corinthians 13 is in the middle of a polemic. But what is the polemic saying? "We are all members of one body, and each is important." "Don't say to the foot, 'I don't need you.' " The message of 1 Corinthians 13, while itself perhaps part of a polemic, is clear: doctrine, discipline, and many other areas that feet or hands or eyes will focus on, are a means and not an end. Can speaking in tongues of men and angels aid us in loving others? Certainly. But mistaking it for more than what it is would be a grave error.

Paul answers the question, "What's most important?" right there in the passage: love. You can have all the doctrine you want, and without love you are a clanging gong or a crashing cymbal, it is utterly worthless. Jesus polemicized a great deal as well, but what was his main thrust against the Pharisees? "Come back when you have learned the meaning of this: I desire mercy and not sacrifice".

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What I'm Reading

This is from The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzalez. He quotes John Chrysostom, who says:
"Many who have gone from monastic retreat to the active life of the priest or the bishop are completely unable to face the difficulties of their new situation."

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Quote for thought - J. Gresham Machen

"Men tell us that our preaching should be positive and not negative, that we can preach the truth without attacking error. But if we follow that advice we shall have to close our Bible and desert its teachings. The New Testament is a polemic book almost from beginning to end. Some years ago I was in a company of teachers of the Bible in the colleges and other educational institutions of America. One of the most eminent theological professors in the country made an address. In it he admitted that there are unfortunate controversies about doctrine in the Epistles of Paul; but, said he in effect, the real essence of Paul's teaching is found in the hymn to Christian love in the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians; and we can avoid controversy today, if we will only devote the chief attention to that inspiring hymn. In reply, I am bound to say that the example was singularly ill-chosen. That hymn to Christian love is in the midst of a great polemic passage; it would never have been written if Paul had been opposed to controversy with error in the Church. It was because his soul was stirred within him by a wrong use of the spiritual gifts that he was able to write that glorious hymn. So it is always in the Church. Every really great Christian utterance, it may almost be said, is born in controversy. It is when men have felt compelled to take a stand against error that they have risen to the really great heights in the celebration of truth."

- J. Gresham Machen, "Christian Scholarship and the Defense of the Faith"

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Better Khmer Bibles Blog

Just FYI - I started up a blog for Khmer Bible translation issues.

You kinda need to know Khmer, but you can check it out ;)

Better Khmer Bibles Blog: The Purpose

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Church vs. Para-church

Not exactly what I've been reading, but I've been taking a missions class and this week was all about why we should have a 'para-church'. I'm always a little skeptical of anything so self-serving (the organization that puts on the class is itself a para-church organization, etc.) but I figured I might as well outline what they said.

The premise is that throughout the history of the church, and even prior to that in the context of Judaism, there have been nurturing structures and mobilizing structures. Some examples: synagogue/"khevra" (apparently the Pharisees were a "khevra", an organization that went about promoting their brand of purity to Jews in the diaspora), church of Antioch/Paul and company, Parish/Monastic orders, etc.

One big thing I hadn't really thought about that they brought up had to do with the history of mission in the Protestant church. Now, Luther thought the whole idea of an elective "second tier" of the church was a bad idea. He hated the monastic orders and was probably the origin of the modern idea that "the church ought to do all the work". He believed in reaching peoples outside of Christianity but felt that it was a job for the church. Calvin apparently felt similarly.

The result was that between 1521 and 1792 there were no Protestant missions. The only exception to this was the work of the Moravian group, which was essentially a para-church organization. During this time the Catholic church expanded around the globe, and we can still see the result of their work.

I'm not sure why they don't count the missionary endeavors of John Eliot and David Brainerd, because they talked about them in other sections. Maybe they are speaking primarily of European efforts.

In any case, the official beginning of Protestant Missions was in 1792 ... in which year William Carey started a para-church organization to help him go to India.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

What have you been reading?

I thought it would be nice for each of us to post a quote from a book we are currently reading. And as we change books or come across something that impacted us, we can post it for everyone to read.

I posted one below from John Owen.


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Quote for Thought - John Owen

"The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin...Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world." - John Owen from "Temptation and Sin"

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