Five Reasons why I know Christianity to be True.

I was recently asked, how I know the story of Jesus is true? The questioner added, isn’t it just like the story of Achilles or Krishna? In my reply, I outlined the 5 reasons when Christianity is true.

1 Manuscriptes

Achilles and the the Odyssey  

We have, we have somewhere near nine manuscripts of the Odyssey And the closest we have to the original is nearly 900 years after the originals were written This means there is absolutely no way to know if we have eye-witness accounts. Also, the corroborating evidence is extremely sketchy.

The Hindu Sand Script with the stories of Krishna

The Sand Script has one single line of transmission and vast discrepancies with the text. The single line of transmission prevents any checking of which discrepancies are right and which are not. Again, there is no way of knowing what was written originally. Also, the corroborating evidence is mostly nonexistent.

The Bible with the store of Jesus

5000 Manuscripts with less than 100 years from the original.  Multiple Streams of transmission, so we have something to compare. Vast amounts of corroborating evidence from Jesus’ time from all over the known world at the time. Today, no reputable historian, Christian or Secular, uncertain whether Jesus was real.

2 Certainty

Undoubtedly it is correct that we cannot know in the case of Achilles and Krishna. Therefore, we are correct to dismiss them. Without some evidence, they even existed for sure they are just stories. On the other hand, the fact that Jesus lived within time and space is verifiable beyond any reasonable doubt. Therefore, we must take what he said seriously. Since there are less than 1400 viable textual variants in the New Testament (NT), we are confident within about 90% that we have those eye-witness accounts as they were written. (even the Secular scalars agree with that). In other words, 90% of what you see is certainly the eye-witness account. Also, for the record, I am being very conservative with the 90% number. In reality, it is more like 99%. So, what do we do with these eye-witness accounts? We would need some reasons to dismiss them. Comparing them to Achilles and Krishna does not work because there are no verifiable eye-witness accounts of those events. Jesus existed, so what about these eye-witness accounts is not credible?

3 Credibility

Let’s say there is a murder trial, and we have different witnesses. How would we go about establishing the credibility of those witnesses? The first thing to establish credibility is that they were indeed eye-witness. That has been established. We know that we have eye-witness accounts. Next, we would cross-examine those accounts for contradictions. If we didn’t find contradictions, we would conclude those accounts are true and that the murder did happen.

When we apply these steps to the biblical accounts, we see that all the writers wrote at different times and to diverse audiences. So, there is no chance they collaborated with the store. Their stories cohere to each other and do not contradict, so they meet every standard we need to call them true.

Added to this, the story of Jesus fits directly into the Bible’s story as a whole. Jesus personally fulfilled 300 prophesies about himself. Where he was born, how he died, ETC. See Psalm 22 for an example of a prophecy that he fulfilled which was written nearly 1400 years before his birth.

No other account has this element of fulfilled prophesy. There was no prophesy about Achilles recorded before he was supposedly born. Moreover, prophies about Krishna don’t show up in the Sand Script until many years after the first account of Krishna is written. They were pretty clear written after the story.

4 Coherent Worldview

A worldview is something there everyone has. Your worldview is there to answer five fundamental questions. Everyone has to answer these questions in one way or another.

Why do I exist?

What is my Purpose?

What is wrong with the world?

How does what is wrong with the world get fixed?

Where do I go after I die?

The Christian worldview is the only worldview that coherently answers these questions with how we live our lives. Hinduism does not coherently answer those questions. For example, “Mother Earth took the form of a cow and went to Lord Brahma, the creator God of Hinduism, with her plight. Lord Brahma then summoned Lord Vishnu, who assured Mother Earth that he would take birth as Lord Krishna to end this tyranny.” (https://www.hindustantimes.com/more-lifestyle/krishna-janmashtami-2019-the-story-of-lord-krishna-s-birth/story-4E62vFF3DszD9fwLMR7oPJ.html)1 This is not coherent.

We don’t have room here for a debate on the coherency of Hinduism. The bottom line is that Hinduism does not offer a coherent solution for those five questions, and Christianity does. Check it out for yourself.

5 Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit provides “an immediate and direct witness to the heart of a believer.” (Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones)2 I have God himself witnessing to the truth of his account. He will do this for you if you are humble enough to ask him for it genuinely.

References

1“Krishna Janmashtami 2019: The Story of Lord Krishna’s Birth.” Hindustan Times, August 23, 2019. https://www.hindustantimes.com/more-lifestyle/krishna-janmashtami-2019-the-story-of-lord-krishna-s-birth/story-4E62vFF3DszD9fwLMR7oPJ.html.

2Kendall, R. T. Holy Fire. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2014.

A brief explanation of Calvinism TULIP, AKA the Doctrines of Grace.

This is dedicated to a dear friend. I intend this as a brief explanation, and not all will agree with how I explained each point. It is designed for people who have never heard of these ideas before and need a place to start.

The scripture lists that are given are just a few choice verses. There are many more. I would dare to say that the whole testimony of scripture, points to this truth, that God saves, by himself, for himself, and from himself.

Total Depravity

If you have ever asked the question, why do some believe and some do not believe? Total Depravity is the biblical explanation for why people don’t believe. Total Depravity is the understanding that because every human love sin and is a sinner no one can come to God unless God first changes their heart to be inclined to him. People in their natural sinful state hate God and would rather go to Hell than obey Him. God’s act that brings people to believe is sometimes called Regeneration, New Birth, or Born Again.

Romans 3:10-18
Psalm 14:2–3
Mark 7:21–23
Ephesians 2:1–5
Romans 8:7
John 14:17
Isaiah 65:12
Isaiah 64:6
John 6:44

Unconditional Election

The next question is if only God’s regenerating of the heart brings people to believe, who does God regenerate? The answer is in the word election. The elect are those he chose before the beginning of the world. Throughout the New Testament, the word elect is used of believers. God elected every true believer for salvation from before the world was created. Before God created the world, he knew you, loved you, and chose you to believe in him. This is a hard doctrine because it crushed any pride we have in our salvation. Yet many times in the New Testament, the word predestined is used of those that believe. That leads to the question, why did God choose some and not others. That is where the Unconditional comes in. The Bible is very clear that we are all sinners and that not a single one of us deserves to go to heaven. God’s choice is not based on us in any way. He did not choose people because they are better than other people. God’s selection was based on his reasons for his own glory. No person that is a believer can say, God chose me because I am just better. That Bible denies any merit on our part in God’s choices.

Romans 8:29–30
Acts 13:48
Matthew 22:14
Romans 9:11–12
Romans 9:15–18
Ephesians 1:4–6
Isaiah 43:20–21
John 3:3
Revelation 13:8
2 Peter 1:3–4
1 Corinthians 2:7
John 6:44

Limited Atonement

This part of the TULIP is often the one people do not agree with the most. I wouldn’t say I liked it when I first learned of the Doctrines of Grace. However, I am convinced that it is what the Bible teaches now. Jesus died for his people and only his people. The attornment that Jesus made to God for sin was for the people that God had chosen from the beginning of time. It was not meant to be applied to everyone. We want to be clear here that his blood is so valuable that he can cover every sin ever committed. So, we are not talking about ability here, but rather God’s intent. When Jesus died on the cross, it was not just dying for sin in general. He was dying for your sin. His work was intended for and is only applied to the elect of God. Jesus died for his people.

Matthew 1:21
John 3:16–18
John 10:14–16
John 14:21–24
Titus 2:14
John 10:26–27
Psalm 85:2
John 17:9–10
Hebrews 7:25–26
Romans 11:7
Revelation 5:9
John 6:44

Irresistible Grace

The question comes up if God elected these people, and Jesus died for these people, are people just being forced to go to heaven or Hell? The answer is no. No one that genuinely wants God and his heaven will go to Hell, and no one is forced to love God. People are not robots; some have accused the Doctrines of Grace of teaching that people are robots. Just as Total Depravity outline that everyone hates God, no one wants Him. CS Lewis said it this way, “the Gates of Hell are locked from the inside.” (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity) Irresistible Grace explains that when God regenerates a heart, that person comes to God because they genuinely love him and genuinely want to obey and be with Him. I have often said that for a real Christian, heaven is where their beloved Jesus resides. They do love Jesus because God has pulled the darkness from their eyes and given them a new heart. Irresistible Grace is Irresistible because the person does not have any desire to resist it.

Psalm 65:4
John 6:37–39
Romans 11:5–6
2 Timothy 1:9–10
John 1:12–13
Philippians 2:13

Perseverance of the Saints

If you are saved, you will not lose your salvation. If you seem to have lost it, you never had it. Notice, that I used the word will, and not the word cannot. I did not say you cannot lose your salvation, but rather you will not lose it. If it were up to you, you would lose it right now. However, God is not only the one that saves people; he is the one that keeps them. God’s people are not only saved for God; they are kept for God. God chooses them, saves them, and keeps them while they are in the world, then brings them to Him and cloths them in his glory. Salvation is all a work of God, and we call it Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification.

John 5:24
John 6:35–37
Romans 8:35–39
Romans 5:9
Romans 11:29
Ephesians 2:4–6
1 John 3:9
1 John 5:4
Romans 9:6–8
Psalm 37:28
Jeremiah 32:39–40
Hebrews 13:20–21
Philippians 1:6

If you want to see this thread of all these points running through scripture, these passages are an excellent place to start.

Ezekiel 36:16-35
John 3
John 6
John 10
John 17
Romans 3,8-9
Ephesians 1-2:10

Ezekiel 36:16-35 and Ephesians 1-2:10 are my favorites.

Fidelity to Christ in the Life of the Leader: A Brief Essay on Christian Leadership.

Introduction

           Biblical leadership is the step above in the Christian life. Paul highlights the necessity of outstanding personal character for pastoral leadership in his first letter to Timothy. If a person thoughtfully examines themselves in the light of Paul’s comments, they can very quickly become discouraged at their adequacy for the task of leadership. There are many leadership images in scripture. In the Old Testament (OT), two images of leadership would be shepherd and conflict mitigator. In the New Testament (NT), servant and overseer are two good examples. These images can leave a person feeling inadequate. Reassurance comes from viewing the examples of leadership in scripture. There are negative examples of leadership in scripture, like Solomon, a man gifted with the best of everything by God, yet he still worshiped idols. A positive example would be Peter, who, though a man with faults, God used to powerful purpose in the early church. Examining the images and examples helps the leader understand God’s principles for leadership. When all the leadership principles are examined, they show Christ to be the perfect example of leadership. When followed, these biblical principles make a successful leader; more than making a successful leader, the principles define what success looks like for a Christian leader: leadership in Christianity is not glamor, not notoriety; instead, it is always fidelity to Christ and his character.

Leadership Images

           All images of leadership point to Christ because he is the perfect leader. In order to draw out correct biblical principles for leadership from the images, they must be viewed through the life of Christ.

Shepherd (OT)

            Shepherd is probably the most well-known image of leadership in all the Bible. Psalm 23 salutes the good shepherd as he tenderly and sternly cares for the sheep. The idea of the rod that the shepherd caries is for the defense and the correction of the sheep. God often took shepherds, like Moses and David, and made them leaders of his people. A shepherd is one that will care for and defend the sheep.

Conflict Mitigator (OT)

            Solomon started his leadership with gusto as he resolved a conflict between two mothers over a baby (1 Kings 3:16-28). Indeed, one of the great images of leadership is the conflict resolver. Moses appointed leaders to help him in this role (Numbers 11:16-30). Every leader in the Bible had to resolve conflict at one time or another. This job of conflict resolution tests the leader’s fidelity to justice and fairness.

Servant (NT)

          The dominant image of leadership throughout scripture, and certainly in the NT, is servant leadership. Jesus exemplified this kind of leadership by washing the disciple’s feet (John 13:1-17). The servant-leader finds joy in serving and using the service to point people to Christ. John wrote, “we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete (1 John 1:4, ESV). John’s joy was to serve his readers by pointing them to Christ.

Overseer (NT)

The word overseer shows up six times in the ESV translation. It is the Greek word ἐπισκόπους[1] which means, according to Louw and Nida, “one who serves as a leader in a church … it is important to try to combine the concepts of both service and leadership.”[2] The overseer is someone that embodies all the good traits of leadership. Where the overseer fails, it often leads to ruin for many.

Leadership Examples

Solomon Negative

Solomon is not the most negative example of leadership in the OT. For instance, Ahaz murdered his sons by burning them alive to a false god (2 Chronicles 28:3). Nevertheless, though Solomon did many outstanding things as a leader, he failed to transfer that leadership because he took his eyes of God. Dockery published a story by Tommy Thomas about Steve Hayner transferring leadership at the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. In short, it took ten months for Hayner to transfer leadership to the new leader.[3] Solomon did not leave a legacy of leadership. He is an example of the ruin that can happen when the overseer fails. Solomon had run afoul of the problem, “his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God” (1 Kings 11:4, ESV). A leader today can learn from Solomon and understand the centrality of true worship in leadership.

Peter

Peter is a leader that gives other leaders hope. Peter was not perfect; he denied Christ (Mark 14:68), he was rebuked by Paul for being hypocritical (Galatians 2:11), and yet the Lord used him decisively leadership in the early church and as an author in the NT. Why is Peter a success story and Solomon a negative one? One single thing, Peter, even in his failings, never turned his heart away from God. When Peter failed, he admitted it and kept moving forward. Peter lead by trusting God with the outcome. Where Solomon got distracted with women (1 Kings 11:1–8), Peter turned to deeper study, prayer, and exposition of the word of God (Acts 6:4). Today, leaders can be led away by TV, sports, food, ETC.  Comparing Solomon and Peter clarifies the need for a heart of true worship for God and God alone.

Leadership Principles

           The images and examples already briefly discussed point to the necessity of fidelity to Christ and his character in the leader’s life. Gangel sheds light on the idea of fidelity to Christ, saying, “[l]eadership requires deep conviction in God’s will for both leaders and followers”[4] John Calvin sums up Paul’s leadership instructions to Timothy with these words, “only those are to be chosen who are of sound doctrine and of holy life, not notorious in any fault which might both deprive them of authority and disgrace the ministry.”[5] Indeed these three can be said to sum up all the principles for leadership. Sound doctrine means a pure pursuit of the word of God to know the truth. A holy life is a life informed by the word of God. Avoiding being “notorious,” as Calvin put it, is a natural outpouring of a leader who desires to live a life of example and avoid allowing the enemy to hurt the sheep. Again, the difference between Solomon and Peter highlights the need for these elements in a leader’s life. Through his faults, Peter pursued sound doctrine, lived a life desiccated to God, and was not “notorious.” While on the other hand, Solomon started right, but wealth, women, and celebrity lead him from a holy life to evil things.

Conclusion

          The leader is a shepherd; he makes it his business to know God’s will and guild people to that end. The leader is a conflict resolver, like Christ, who ended the conflict between the elect and God. The leader is a servant; they lead by caring for others, like Christ, who died for those that are his. The leader is an overseer; they take responsibility for moving forward within the will of God. Solomon and Peter are good examples of leaders that lead for better and for worse. The critical difference between them was their fidelity to Christ/God and his character. Solomon can warn leaders that having a heart that steers away from God will only lead to disaster. At the same time, by seeing Peter’s life, leaders can be encouraged that God can and does use imperfect people to lead. The measure is a leader is not perfection but rather his heart of worship for the true God that overflows into the pursuit of sound doctrine, holy living, and keeping his character clean.

 

Foot Notes:

[1]. Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), Ac 20:28.

[2]. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 541.

[3]. David S. Dockery, ed. Christian Leadership Essentials: A Handbook for Managing Christian Organizations. (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2011), 321

[4]. Kenneth O. Gangel, 1991. “Biblical Theology of Leadership.” Christian Education Journal 12 (1). 20.

[5]. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 1063.

 

Bibliography

Aland, Kurt, Barbara Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger. Novum Testamentum Graece. 28th Edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. Edited by John T. McNeill. Translated by Ford Lewis Battles. Vol. 1. The Library of Christian Classics. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.

Dockery, David S., ed. Christian Leadership Essentials: A Handbook for Managing Christian Organizations. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2011.

Gangel, Kenneth O. 1991. “Biblical Theology of Leadership.” Christian Education Journal 12 (1): 13–31. https://search-ebscohost-com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000842419&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

 

 

God Heal Amputees? Real and Challenging Questions? A Response.

Introduction

             WhyWon’tGodHealAmputees.com provides a list of ten questions that they say Christians cannot answer.[1] Here there will be a response to the first of these questions. The question is, “why won’t God heal amputees.”[2] The reason the first question was chosen is twofold. First, all the following questions have the same theme and all of them are built on the same logical fallacies. This means that the first question is a good measure of the ten. Second, this question has what can be termed as reasonable appeal. On the surface, someone might consider the question reasonable based on personal experience. First in reply, there will be an examination of crucial elements of Christianity challenged by the question. Next there will be an examination and explanation of the various background information that goes into this challenge of the Christian faith. After that, the crucial elements of Christianity challenged will be addressed and answered. Finally, the consultation will address the theses that, not only does this question not possess any real difficulty for Christianity, it demonstrates a worldview that is incoherent and cannot consistently answer the questions that are fundamental to this state of existence.

Crucial Elements to Defend the Christian Faith

             The primary claim is that God does not exist. The question is clearly addressed to Christians and therefore, it is reasonable to reword the question to say, the God of the Bible does not exist. This is not to say that the video’s author would or would not endorse any deity, rather it is a recognition that the question is targeted at the Christian God. The next claim made is that needs if that God of the Bible existed, he would necessarily be obligated to heal everyone equally. Finally, the video gives the Christian’s answer as “God must have some kind of special plan for amputees.”[3] Finally, and this will be addressed first in the response section, there are logical fallacies at play in the question itself. This issue is not a direct attack on Christianity; however, logical issues prevent correct conclusions and therefore they are the enemy of every conversation.

A Worldview That Challenges the Christian Faith

            The worldview that asks this question is usually entirely materialistic. Meaning that the idea of anything metaphysical is usually considered to not exist. It presupposes this nonexistence of anything metaphysical in the formulation of the question. Hodges explains that “[t]he extreme of materialistic atheism”[4] got its start in France between 1745 and 1749 with names like Locke, Condillac, Diderot, and D’Alembert. The point is that Hodges is correct, materialistic atheism is an extreme position. For much of history the idea that God, or some kind of god, did not exist would have been unthinkable. Berkhof explains that, “there is strong evidence for the universal presence of the idea of God in the human mind, even among tribes which are uncivilized …”[5] This leads to the impact of modernity. The justification for the extreme of materialistic atheism is that, with modern understanding, humanity is freed from ancient superstitions. However, it presupposes that modern man is better, at what McGrath calls, “abduction,”[6] than his ancient counterpart. Yet, some of these ancient superstitions bound people, such as Aristotle, are still read formatively today.

 

Effective Apologetics Approach

              Finally, time to get to the question itself. The three main points as listed before are, logical issues with the question itself, God’s obligation to heal everyone the same way, and the essence of God. Just for reference the question asked is, “why won’t God heal amputees.”[7] The video presents a different question as a direct statement “God completely ignores amputees.”[8] The statements that “God won’t heal amputees” and “God completely ignores amputees” are not seminomas. Not must time in the response will be spent on this error but it is worth noting because it highlights the rhetorical method of the question, emotional appeal. This question is a trick of the emotions rather than any logical proof of God’s non-existence.

Logical Issue

            The question is in invalid because both the statement and the question uses analogical language,[9] language that can neither be proven nor disproven. Arguments that can neither be proven or disproven are in the end rhetoric and do not provide basis for judgment. If God does not heal amputees, does that prove his non-existence? No, it does not. If a person travels to Alaska and does not see any gold, does that prove there is no gold in Alaska? No, again, that is analogical language, it is a statement that cannot prove or disprove anything.

God’s Obligation to Heal Everyone

            The insinuation is that if God chooses not to do something, and that means he does not exist. Obviously, this is a poor argument because every person decides not to do things every day, and they do not not exist because of that choice. Here, however, is the power of a rhetorical rather any logical argument. How many people have seen an amputee’s appendage grow back? It is safe to warrant not many. Natural experience helps cover the issues of analogical language. Rather, if God chooses to do anything, that is proof of his existence. Existence is a prerequisite to choice.

Notice there is a presupposition about the nature of this non-existent God in the question. That is, if God exist, he would then necessarily heal paraplegics as proof of his existence. This presupposition begs the question, by what standard are you saying that if God exist, he would then necessarily heal paraplegics as proof of his existence?

The Claim to God’s Existence

Upon examination, however, it is not unreasonable to assume that God would choose not to heal or to heal. The God of the Bible never hangs the proof of his existence on the healing of anyone. This means the questioner becomes the questioned yet again. If God does not hang the proof of his existence on the healing of paraplegics, by what authority does the author of this question make healing necessary contingent for proof of God’s existence? The is no rational answer to the question. The only rational answer is to admit that the questioner has no right to make that presumption.

The purpose of God’s healings

Jesus raised the dead and healed several paraplegics, this healing was for the purpose of being signs as to who he was. It is not reasonable to say God does not exist simply because he chooses. It is entirely consistent with the God of scripture to withhold from some and give to others. Jesus directly states that it is within God nature to choose and withhold when he spoke of the widow of “Zarephath.”[10] The purpose of miracles are not to show that God exists, anyone that would entertain the idea that God does not exists is rightfully called a fool[11] even if not a single healing every took place. Miracles, as started before, are signs of God’s action in a situation.

Conclusion

This question does not pose any real difficulty for Christianity. No question does, because this universe corresponds to the maker, and He is the God of Christianity. God has always revealed himself as the one who works all things, “according to the purpose of his will.”[12] If God chooses not to do something, this does not constitute ground for the claim he does not exist.  Everyone one of the 10 questions posted in this video relies on presuppositions within the naturalistic worldview that have no bases in reality, and cannot produces a standard of authority that would warrant them to be take seriously. Secondly, the extreme nature of the naturalistic worldview that must find evidence for God’s nonexistence in every question is revealed. This naturalistic worldview does not correlate with the world around the viewer. One only need open their eyes to see that the world has a designer, and that He is good.

References

[1]. Questions can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djprAf7V20Q&t

[2]. Elmo Parsley. “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” Aug 1, 2014. Video, 10:44. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djprAf7V20Q&. 1:23.

[3]. Elmo Parsley. “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” Aug 1, 2014. Video, 10:44. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djprAf7V20Q&. 1:23.

[4]. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 254.

[5]. L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1938), 22.

[6]. Alister McGrath. 2012. Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 82.

[7]. Elmo Parsley. “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” Aug 1, 2014. Video, 10:44. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djprAf7V20Q&. 1:23.

[8] Ibid, 1:50.

[9] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, accessed May 20, 2020, https://www.iep.utm.edu/rel-lang/#SSH2b.iii)

[10]. Lk 4:26, All Scripture citations are ESV unless otherwise noted.

[11]. Psalm 14:1.

[12]. Eph 1:5.

 

Bibliography

Berkhof, L. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1938.

Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

McGrath, Alister. 2012. Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed May 20, 2020. https://www.iep.utm.edu/rel-lang/#SSH2b.iii.

Apologetic Methods in Diverse Historical and Contemporary Contexts

          Introduction

            There will not be a detailed definition given here for Neoplatonist, Aristotelian, Modernity, and Post-Modern for the purpose of brevity. The two methods of Apologetics that will be discussed here are best labeled Classical and Evidential. They are born in response to the issues faced by the generations that practiced them. Both are built around the purpose of demonstrating that the Christian faith is reasonable. This, demonstrating that the Christian faith is reasonable, is the primary purpose of apologetics as McGrath explains, “our task is not to be nostalgic about the past, but to deal with the challenges of the present.”[1] It is, as McGrath says, the Christian Apologetic task to be ready to respond to the issues of the culture and bring to bear the truth that God has planted in the world; by applying McGrath’s six step[2] approach, the apologist can faithfully fulfill the scriptural mandate to give an answer for the hope within them.

            Classical Apologetics

           Classically, Classical Apologetics is a philosophical approach to demonstrating the necessity of God for rational thought. The classical apologist will either show that the philosophical musing of their day finds the best explanation in the God of scripture or they will use philosophy to create arguments for the existence of God, such as the teleological argument for God.

Diverse Historical-Cultural Settings

            An argument can be made that the classical approach goes all the way back to Paul in Acts 17. Paul appeals to the altar of “the unknown god”[3] and cites from contemporary philosophers and poets in verse 28 to begin his case for the God of scripture. There are two people in 400 AD. and 1200 AD. that can certainly be called titans of the classical approach.

Influence of the Historical-Cultural Setting

The first is Augustine. Augustine’s day brought challenges from Neoplatonist views of reality that made distinctions between the value of material and immaterial things. William, Edgar, and Scott stated that “Augustine situated the Christian faith within a larger metaphysical [philosophical] system.”[4] Augustine addressed the philosophical issues by appealing to the love of God shown in creation which would “terminates all the controversies of those who inquire into the origin of the world.”[5] This would be called the teleological argument for God. The next person is the angelic doctor Thomas Aquinas. The Prologue to The Summa Theologica states that Aquinas used the works “Aristotle has proved”[6] because “philosophical science treats of all being, even God Himself.”[7]

Primary Themes and Emphases        

As stated previously, Classical Apologetics focuses on the philosophical argumentation for the existence of God. Aquinas is a great example of this because it is rightly stated that Aquinas was able to show that Aristotle’s prime mover was none other than the God of scripture.

         Evidential Apologetics

             Evidential Apologetics can also be linked to Pauline thought in Romans 1. Paul said that the evidence for God is “plain … ever since the creation of the world.”[8] Just as Classical Apologetics dealt with the propagation of philosophical ideas in its day, Evidential Apologetics engaged “modernity … as an appeal to rational argument as the basis”[9] for reasonable faith.

Diverse Historical-Cultural Settings

            As the 1700s dawned, the world embraced the ideas of the enlightenment. Alister McGrath explains the “impact of rationalism on Christian apologetics was the downplaying of any aspects of Christian thought that were seen as “irrational” or “illogical.””[10] In ancient Christian history the physical world and the value of it was in question, however, in the age of modernity it was the metaphysical that was challenged as ideas like Darwinism gave rise to a wholly materialistic worldview.  William, Edgar, and Scott explain that this era is summed up in “René Descartes … dictum Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am)”[11]

Primary Themes and Emphases

            The core of apologetic approach is locating the place of reason within how the human knows God.  A major theme is demonstrating that faith in God is not only reasonable but necessary for relational choices. Perhaps this might be summed up by saying, that if “The heavens declare the glory of God”[12] then it is reasonable that they can be the foundation for proof of his existence.

Influence of the Historical-Cultural Setting

William, Edgar, and Scott explain that the core of the issue was faced by a ““relocation” of reason, from its status as a servant to God’s revelation to its supremacy.” The worldviews like Darwinism that lead to a fully materialistic worldview meant that if an apologist was to find common ground, then they would have to show the inadequacy of a fully materialistic worldview to provide meaningful answers to life’s questions.

           Conclusion: Importance of the Christian Apologetic Task

             It was Frances Schaffer that said, “our responsibility is so to communicate that those who hear the gospel will understand it.”[13] That is the work of an apologist. The gospel is what needs to be communicated. The Christian Apologetic Task is to clear the air of false ideas by showing them to be false. Once all other worldviews are shown to be false, the question will arise, what then is truth? That is a gospel moment. McGrath, explains, “[t]he Great Commission gives every Christian the privilege and responsibility of preaching the Good News.”[14] This is the scriptural mandate to share the hope that resides within.

 

References

[1]. Alister McGrath. 2012. Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 30.

[2]. “understand the faith, understand the audience, communicate with clarity, find points of contact, present the whole gospel, and practice.” Ibid, 35-38.

[3]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 17:23.

[4]. William, Edgar, and Scott Oliphint, eds. 2009. Christian Apologetics, Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader (Volume 1, to 1500). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. 205.

[5]. Augustine of Hippo, “The City of God,” in St. Augustin’s City of God and Christian Doctrine, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 217.

[6]. Saint Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica, ed. Mortimer J. Adler, Philip W. Goetz, and Daniel J. Sullivan, trans. Laurence Shapcote, Second Edition., vol. 17, Great Books of the Western World (Chicago; Auckland; Geneva; London; Madrid; Manila; Paris; Rome; Seoul; Sydney; Tokyo; Toronto: Robert P. Gwinn; Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1990), 3.

[7]. Ibid.

[8]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 1:19–20.

[9]. Alister McGrath. 2012. Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 18.

[10]. Ibid, 28.

[11]. William, Edgar, and Scott Oliphint. 2011. Christian Apologetics Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader (Volume 2, From 1500). 2nd ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. 169

[12]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 19:1.

[13]. Francis A. Schaeffer, Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy (IVP, 1990)). 125.

[14]. Alister McGrath. 2012. Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 13.

 

Bibliography

McGrath, Alister. 2012. Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Saint Thomas Aquinas. The Summa Theologica. Edited by Mortimer J. Adler, Philip W. Goetz, and Daniel J. Sullivan. Translated by Laurence Shapcote. Second Edition. Vol. 17. Great Books of the Western World. Chicago; Auckland; Geneva; London; Madrid; Manila; Paris; Rome; Seoul; Sydney; Tokyo; Toronto: Robert P. Gwinn; Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1990.

Schaeffer, Francis A. Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy. IVP, 1990.

Schaff, Philip, ed. St. Augustin’s City of God and Christian Doctrine. Vol. 2. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887.

William, Edgar, and Scott Oliphint, eds. 2009. Christian Apologetics, Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader (Volume 1, to 1500). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books

William, Edgar, and Scott Oliphint. 2011. Christian Apologetics Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader (Volume 2, From 1500). 2nd ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Doctrine of the Church: Authority in History, the Reformation, and Today

Introduction

Authority has been a discussion in church history throughout the years. Early churches were often regional with the bishop of the region having a vast amount of power. Later the church became more centralized until the clergy oversaw and had authority over every aspect of the spiritual and sometimes governmental aspects of the laity’s lives. The reformation at its core was a change in these power structures. The disruption of a centralized power resulted in war and blood in the streets. Out of the chaos, denominationalism grew into the primary expression of Christianity in the world today. Each denomination handles the issue of authority differently; however, they all share, even the Roman Church, marks of the decentralization of power that happened in the reformation: local autonomous churches most of all bear this reformation mark.

Major Theological Components of Authority

The topic of authority is indeed a very early subject in the church. Ignatius, of the earliest writers, says, the “bishop [is] one who beyond all others possesses all power and authority”[1] and to oppose the bishop makes one “utterly without God, an impious man who despises Christ.”[2] In Ignatius’ time, the canon was not fully understood, so the bishop would outline the expected texts for his people, authorize who could administer the ordnances, and be the final authority on membership. Fast forward about 300 years, and Augustine, responding to Faustus, gives a glimpse of how he views the authority of the scripture and the church together. Augustine says, “you forthwith deny that Matthew wrote the narrative, though this is affirmed by the continuous testimony of the whole Church.”[3] Augustine seems to view the church as complementary to the scriptural authority, or perhaps coequal. Near the same time Augustine is writing, the foundations of the Papacy were being laid by a man named Leo. Shelley explains, “Leo [in] his entrance into office he extolled the “glory of the blessed Apostle Peter … in whose chair his power lives on and his authority shines forth.”[4] Patterson agrees with that “Leo I launched the medieval papacy.”[5] Throughout the middle ages “the hierarchical government of the Western church imitated secular imperial structures.”[6] The clergy, overseen by the pope, were the supreme authority in all matters of faith for the laity. Aquinas gives a picture of how doctrine worked in this time, “just as the Pope is said to absolve a man when he gives absolution by means of someone else: [the priest].”[7] At this point the church claims all authority over the laity, even the power to forgive sins, and sole authority to interpret scripture.

Components of Reformation and Modern Denominations

The authority to forgive sins and how that authority was used was a spark in the heart of a German monk, soon to turn reformer, Martin Luther. The 95 Theses that Luther nailed to the church door is dominated by the idea of indulgences. Not a new topic in Luther’s day, but one that the reformer Luther addressed. Luther’s primary issue can be summed up as, who can forgive sins but God, and when did God sell that forgiveness? Just four years after nailing the theses to the door Luther is excommunicated from the church. Geoffrey gets right at the heart of the reformation stating, “it quickly became apparent that the protest involved a drastic rethinking of the way in which Christ’s authority is exercised.”[8] The fact that the reformers like Luther, Calvin, and Tyndale, immediately began translating the Bible into the vernacular shows they believed the authority was on the scripture for each person to see. The visible argument of the reformation might have been justification, but the true separation between Rome and the Reformers was the issue of authority. Luther attacked the church’s power structures themselves, removing the divide between the clergy and the laity, declaring all Christians priests, and removing 5 of the 7 sacraments, keeping two, Baptism and the Eucharist. The only two sacraments instituted in scripture. In some ways, this freedom that came was a disaster. The reformers fought over what and how the scripture prescribed the sacraments and all of Europe ended up in what is called the 30-year war, Christians killing each other in the streets. The war can be attributed to the issue of authority. The reformer’s ideas left a power vacuum. Even as late as the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s, the Christians were still enforcing worship with governmental authority. But it was the sons of the pietists that won in the end. The congressionalist took the pietist’s principles of separation of church and state and founded independent congregations all over Europe and the new colonies. Slowly distilled into the world, the denominations emerged, each with slightly different authority cultures. State churches like the Anglicans, some with presbyteries like the Presbyterians, and some fiercely independent like the Baptists. Even the Roman Church evolved, allowing its members to access scripture and removing its anathematization of the other groups.

Major Theological Components in Ministry

Baptists fiercely guard their independence, even within the Baptist community. Each church is usually autonomous and a member of the coalition by its own choice. This means that while there are shared principals each church has its own distinctives. Theologically a church must be ready to define its own theology and, or, accept a historical confession. For example, a Reformed Baptist church might hold primarily to the 1689 London Baptist Confession (LBC), while a more traditional Baptist church might use the Baptist Faith and Message. There are also different leadership models, single pastor, a multiplicity of elders, elders and deacons, ETC. In almost all cases, pastors, elders, deacons require approval by the congregation. Each church will have bylaws that define how the approval process works. In the case of this Reformed Baptist, the leadership model is a plurality of elders. The elders are selected by the congregation. These elders administer the church membership, ordinances, and care for the flock. Theological distinctives are confessed in the LBC.

Conclusion

The LBC says, “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.”[9] Indeed, throughout history, no matter how humans organized their church, the church of God has relied on the scriptures as authoritative matters of faith. The reformations primary impact was freeing the biblical text from the church and giving it to the reader. No place more exemplifies this freeing than the local church, where arguments happen, people see one thing or another, and doctrinal distinctives are rediscovered with every generation. The people of God will always be able to move forward because of the power and authority contained in holy scripture.

 

References:

[1]. Ignatius of Antioch, “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 69.

[2]. Ibid.

[3]. Augustine of Hippo, “Reply to Faustus the Manichæan,” in St. Augustin: The Writings against the Manichaeans and against the Donatists, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Richard Stothert, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 325.

[4]. Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995), 137.

[5]. Kendell H. Easley and Christopher W. Morgan, eds. 2013. The Community of Jesus: A Theology of the Church. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic. 163.

[6]. Ibid.

[7]. Saint Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica, ed. Mortimer J. Adler, Philip W. Goetz, and Daniel J. Sullivan, trans. Laurence Shapcote, Second Edition., vol. 17, Great Books of the Western World (Chicago; Auckland; Geneva; London; Madrid; Manila; Paris; Rome; Seoul; Sydney; Tokyo; Toronto: Robert P. Gwinn; Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1990), 574.

[8]. G. W. Bromiley, “Authority,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 367.

[9]. R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 2478.

 

Bibliography

Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988.

Easley, Kendell H, and Christopher W. Morgan, eds. 2013. The Community of Jesus: A Theology of the Church. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic.

Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Vol. 1. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

Schaff, Philip, ed. St. Augustin: The Writings against the Manichaeans and against the Donatists. Vol. 4. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887.

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Updated 2nd ed. Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995.

Sproul, R. C., ed. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015.

 

The Necessity of Biblical Inspiration and Authority to Resolve the Problem of Evil

Introduction

           This essay will discuss three things related to the problem of evil. First, justwhat is the problem of evil? Second, what preconditions must exist to not only coherently speak of a problem of evil but also the solution to the problem? Third, it will be shown that the Bible meets all of the criteria for explaining the problem of evil and providing a coherent solution. Throughout the essay the worldviews of New Atheism and Christianity will be juxtaposed to show that only Christianity can coherently speak of the problem of evil and provide a solution. It will become clear that Atheism cannot provide an epistemological framework for speaking of a problem of evil much less a solution; this by extent means that the epistemological framework of Atheism cannot coherently speak of human history or culture as valuable. Only the Christian worldview provides a coherent explanation of the problem of evil, the solution thereto, and provides a coherent epistemological framework for understanding the value of human history and culture.

Christian Worldview and Doctrine in Response to New Atheism

What is the Problem of Evil?

            The problem of evil falls in the category of “the values and ideas that shape human culture and define human existence.”[1] There are several kinds of evil in the category, natural external evil like flood and tsunamis, moral or personal evil like oppression, theft, or rape, and natural internal evil like cancer or genetic defects. For this paper all of this will be defined as anything that impinges on human flourishing. A very commonly used example is children dying of cancer. That is the example that will be used going forward from here. A preliminary comment at this point about the difference between how the worldviews of Atheism and Christianity are equipped to handle this issue would be that the Atheist has no ground for calling random chance a problem, while the Christian can call it a problem because they have a standard by which to make the determination.

What Preconditions Must Exist to Call Evil a Problem?

            Very simply, for evil to be a problem, there must be some objective standard to call it evil. Using the example from before, specifically child cancer, why is this a problem? The Atheist will claim that the God of the Bible claims to be a good God who has all power. If God has all power and lets children die of cancer, then they will say, he cannot be good. Cancer is not a moral evil so the Christian cannot point to the evil doer. Nor, can they deny that God is all powerful and good. However, once the preconditions are examined, an unavoidable issue arises for the Atheist’s claim. The question is, by what standard is the Atheist calling child cancer bad? In a wholly materialistic worldview, where all existence is shaped by survival of the fittest, chance acting on matter over time, there is no wrong in the death of anyone at any age for any reason. If there is a death, that means their dice was rolled and they got unlucky; they were not fit enough, so they were culled from the herd. The point is that Atheism does not possess the necessary precondition of an objective standard to even speak of a problem of evil.

Bible Meets the Criteria for Explaining the Problem of Evil

            The Christian worldview is best described as revelational epistemology. There are two sources of revelation, general and special, they are the necessary preconditions for knowledge. Cornelius Van Til’s explanation of revelational epistemology is summed up here, “every belief system is grounded in an ultimate presupposition, Christianity being grounded in the self-attesting revelation of the triune God.”[2] Here is another way of saying it, God is the necessary precondition for reason. The Christian worldview can say that it is a problem that children die of cancer because it has an objective standard by which to judge the value of the child. That standard is the extrinsic value that the creator gave that child when God made them in his image.[3] God has also revealed the reason death happens, all deaths, and that reason is sin.[4]  Moreover, God has confirmed the value of humans by coming to die for them in the person of Jesus: he is the word of God made flesh. This confirmation in Christ, that is perfectly attested to in the Bible, is the necessary precondition for making any claims about the value of humans and the value of history. Calvin explains it like this, “knowledge of ourselves lies first in considering what we were given at creation.”[5]

Conclusion

When the Atheist says that God is not good because children die of cancer, the Atheist has assumed a value for that child that the materialistic worldview cannot substantiate. On the other hand, when the Christian speaks of the value of the child, and the problem of sin that causes the death of that child, they are well within reason because God has in his perfect revelation provided the standard that can coherently explain the situation. One of the most powerful ways the Bible demonstrates its inspiration and authority is that it presents a worldview that is perfectly coherent and can consistently provide an epistemological framework for understanding the value of human history and culture.

 

[1]. Alister McGrath. 2012. Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 75.

[2]. C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 120.

[3]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 1:27.

[4]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:17.

[5]. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 242.

1 Peter 2:4-10 Exegesis

Historical Background and Introductory Issues

The primary historical concerns for exegesis are authorship, date, audience and purpose. An understanding of these four areas is beneficial for a sound exegesis because it allows the exegete to keep the text in its intended context.

Authorship

            The author of the letter is identified as Peter in the letter itself. The letter opens with the words, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles …”[1] For the believer that is assured of God’s perfect revelation in scripture, that would be enough to conclude that Peter wrote the correspondence. However, there are several early citations of the letter as external evidence as well. Polycarp cites from the letter[2], and though he does not mention Peter, it proves that the letter was an early writing. Peter is directly cited as the author of the letter by Irenaeus saying, “Peter says in his Epistle: “Whom, not seeing, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, ye have believed, ye shall rejoice with joy unspeakable.”[3] These attestations and the internal autograph make it more than reasonable to conclude that Peter is the author.

Date

            If Peter is accepted as the author, then the date must be prior to his death. Clement speaks of Peter’s death saying, “Peter, … had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him.”[4] Though the date is argued, the context of what Clement is saying places Peter’s death near 64 AD. This is probably why 64 AD is the date that the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible uses.[5] Given the time of travel between the first and second letter, this first letter is certainly before 64 AD. Grudem places it in 62 or 63 AD[6] based on the lack of mention of Peter in Paul’s prison epistles.

Audience

Like Peter’s authorship the letter states who it is written to, “To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”[7] The Christians throughout Asia minor are the readers. The word, διασπορᾶς translated dispersion in the ESV, could indicate that Peter was writing to the Jewish believers. However, the letter is not without application to the whole group of believers considering the letter speaks in broad terms about the whole body of Christ. The passage for examination here, 1 Pe 2:4, states “you come to him, a living stone.”[8] The “you” in the text refers to the body of Christ made up of the both Jews and gentiles. Perhaps Peter knew some of the recipients because of his sermon in Acts 2 as there were people from “Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia”[9] among the hearers. Eusebius indicates that “Peter appears to have preached in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia9 to the Jews of the dispersion.”[10]

Purpose

Grudem sums up the purpose very well by saying “to understand the letter was written by Peter to distant Christians in genuine need of its teaching and encouragement.”[11] Matthew Henry, drawing from the theology of the book, states the purpose as “instructions needful for the encouragement and direction of a Christian in his journey to heaven.”[12] Peter is too early on the scene to be addressing gnostic concerns. However, there is one controversy that raged in the early church that Paul seemed to address endlessly and that is the Judaizers. There is no direct evidence the Peter was addressing the Judaizers, but it would have been an issue in the church at the time of writing.

 

 

Tracing of the Passage 1 Peter 2:4-10

 

Explain the Tracing

            4b infers from 4a that Jesus, “him” is chosen and precious in God’s sight. 5a is a result of the statement from 4a to stay in him means to be chosen and precious in God’s sight. 5c infers from 5b that if they are priests, they offer sacrifices to God and 5b-c is the result of 5a; they are priests because they are chosen in him. 6b is the ground for the statement in 6a that the scriptures call Jesus the chosen one. Verse 6 is the ground for the statements in verse 4 and 5, Peter is reinforcing his point with the authority of scripture. 7a is an inference from 6a-b that believers are the receivers of the blessing. 7c is the ground for Peter assertion that unbelievers will not receive the blessing believers will in 7b. 8b infers from the quote in 8a that they do not believe because they are not obedient to God’s word. Verse 8 is support by restatement for the information in verse 7. 7b-8b are support by negative concessive statement for 6a-6b, what happens the obedient believer is contrasted to the unbelieving disobedient person. 9b infers from 9a that if the chosen believers are a priesthood, it is to proclaim the excellencies of God. 10a-10d are negative positive statements that reinforce the transformation of God’s people. 10a-10d are an inference from 9a-b. And finally, 6a-10d are a restatement and refinement of the idea expressed is 4a-5c.

Word Study in the Passage

            In 1 Peter 2:4 the word ἐκλεκτὸν translated chosen in the ESV, appears. This word is important to study because the readers understating of it and how it is used will impact the outcome of the exegesis. Just what is chosen and how is it chosen? Answering those questions can vastly impact the view of the text. The lemma ἐκλεκτός is used 4 times in 2 Peter and each reference is connected to people, or person.

1 Peter 1:1-2: “To those who are elect (ἐκλεκτοῖς) exiles.”[13] Here Peter addresses his letter to the elect. In the sentence Πέτρος (Peter) in the nominative case, he is the subject of the sentence, the elect is in the dative, they are the indirect object. The word πρόγνωσιν translated foreknowledge in the ESV is in the accusative and is the direct object. The foreknowledge of God is the thing that identifies the elect.

1 Peter 2:4: “you … in the sight of God chosen (ἐκλεκτὸν[14]).”[15] There the relationship is reversed. The ἐκλεκτὸν are the accusative and the θεῷ is the dative. This is stating the same relationship in reverse. The elect is identified as having a relation to God’s seeing them.

1 Peter 2:6: “a cornerstone chosen (ἐκλεκτὸν) … whoever believes in him.”[16] The exact same relation exists in verse six. In this case the “him”, is identified in its relation to being the ἐκλεκτὸν. The reader is supposed to understand that the ἐκλεκτὸν is the one they should believe in.

1 Peter 2:9: “you are a chosen (ἐκλεκτὸν) race.” In verse nine the ἐκλεκτόν are now the subject, nominative case, and the object is the περιποίησιν, translated possession in the ESV. The elect here are again identified by being the possession of God.

            In each of these contexts the elect are/is identified in relationship to God. By God’s foreknowledge, in God’s sight, and as God’s possession. The Oxford Press A Greek-English Lexicon gives the definition of ἐκλεκτός as “picked out [or] select,”[17] This rendering is consistent with the usage in 1 Peter. Grudem helps to give a sense of how the word is used throughout the new testament when he says “The word [ἐκλεκτοῖς] in the New Testament (twenty-two times) always refers to persons chosen by God.”[18] That is certainly the sense in which Peter is using it here. One of the best examples of the words being used as Peter does elsewhere in the New Testament is Romans 8:33a “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? (ἐκλεκτῶν)”[19] This is a very strong statement about the elect relating to God as his. This is perfectly consistent with 1 Peter 2:9 where God is the possessor of the ἐκλεκτὸν.

Theological Exegesis and Theological Synthesis

Exegesis

            R.C. Sproul says of this sections that “the letter’s recipients, as Jewish and Gentile Christians, are viewed as exiled Israel—the true Israel—as it continues in Christ and those who identify with Him.”[20] This is exactly Peter’s point and why he quoted Isaiah 28:16 “I am laying in Zion a stone”[21] and applied it to the New Testament believers. The action from the text is in verse 4 and that is, “As you come to him.” The rest of the periscope is explaining through both positive and negative statements what the result of coming to him is and identifying who they are coming to. The him in the text is clearly Christ and he is the chosen and precious. Peter pictures the ones that come to Christ as looking like him; as he is “a living stone” the ones that come to him are “like living stones.” The imagery is of the temple, the believers in Christ have become living temples to God ready to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God”[22] and “proclaim the excellencies of him who called”[23] them. Grudem explains the connection Peter is making with the history of God’s people saying, “[t]he long history of God’s dwelling place among his people finds New Testament fulfilment in the people of God themselves.”[24] The periscope concludes that many “stumble because they disobey the word.”[25] With Peter’s multiple quotes from scripture and this statement about not obeying the word, it is clear he holds the text in high regard.

Synthesis

            Lea explains that this text fits in to the greater conversation of Peter as “[a] description of the people of God.”[26] A good way to see this is to consider the preceding periscope, 1 Peter 1:13-2:3. Lea entitles this previous periscope “[a] demand for holiness.”[27] Notice the words “obedient children” in 1:14 and how that same theme is pictured in of those that “disobey the word” in 2:10. The periscope in 2:4-10 is a foundational concept for the rest of the letter.  A great example of this is 1 Peter 3:7 where Peter says the male, specifically husbands is to “honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life.”[28] Peter appeals to the woman being “heirs with you of the grace of life” as the reason to act.  Peter is appealing to the shared nature that is described in 1 Peter 2:9: “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.”[29] Throughout the text Peter will encourage the reader to holiness, practical action, and even to be emotionally motivated “for the Lord’s sake.”[30] That is to say, Peter expects that they will act this way, because they are the Lords “own possession.”[31] To sum all this up in Peter’s words, your bride price is “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot,”[32] so act like it.

 

References

[1]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 1:1.

[2]. Polycarp of Smryna, “The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 33.

[3]. Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 472.

[4]. Clement of Rome, “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” in The Gospel of Peter, the Diatessaron of Tatian, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Visio Pauli, the Apocalypses of the Virgil and Sedrach, the Testament of Abraham, the Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena, the Narrative of Zosimus, the Apology of Aristides, the Epistles of Clement (Complete Text), Origen’s Commentary on John, Books I-X, and Commentary on Matthew, Books I, II, and X-XIV, ed. Allan Menzies, trans. John Keith, vol. 9, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1897), 230.

[5]. Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. “Mark, Gospel Of.” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988. 1401.

[6]. Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 38.

[7]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 1:1.

[8]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:4.

[9]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 2:9.

[10]. Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 132.

[11]. Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 43.

[12]. Matthew Henry and Thomas Scott, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 1 Pe 1:1.

[13]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 1:1.

[14]. All Greek word are referenced from, Aland, Kurt, Barbara Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger. Novum Testamentum Graece. 28th Edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012.

[15]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:4.

[16]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:6.

[17]. Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 512.

[18]. Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 52.

[19]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 8:33.

[20]. R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 2238.

[21]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:6.

[22]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:5.

[23]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:9.

[24]. Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 108.

[25]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:8.

[26]. Lea, Thomas D. 1982. “1 Peter: Outline and Exposition.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 25 (1):. 17.

[27]. Ibid.

[28]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 3:7.

[29]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:9.

[30]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:13.

[31]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:9.

[32]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 1:19.

 

Bibliography

Bray, Gerald, ed. James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.

Grudem, Wayne A. 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 17. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

Lea, Thomas D. 1982. “1 Peter: Outline and Exposition.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 25 (1): 17–45. https://search-ebscohost-com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000795026&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Liddell, Henry George, Robert Scott, Henry Stuart Jones, and Roderick McKenzie. A Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.

Menzies, Allan, ed. The Gospel of Peter, the Diatessaron of Tatian, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Visio Pauli, the Apocalypses of the Virgil and Sedrach, the Testament of Abraham, the Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena, the Narrative of Zosimus, the Apology of Aristides, the Epistles of Clement (Complete Text), Origen’s Commentary on John, Books I-X, and Commentary on Matthew, Books I, II, and X-XIV. Vol. 9. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1897.

Sproul, R. C., ed. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015.

Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Vol. 1. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

 

Jesus Christ as the New Covenant is the Foundation, Prize, and Proclamation of the Church

Understanding of the Work of Christ

The relevance of his nature as fully God and fully man

The Hypostatic Union is the knowledge that Jesus exist as two natures. Some, like Athanasius, thought that “the Nicene [creed] is sufficient, as against the Arian heresy, so against the rest.”[1] Yet, over 200 years it was refined and hedged into the understanding that “[t]he union of the divine and human nature in Christ is a permanent state resulting from the incarnation, and is a real, supernatural, personal, and inseparable union.”[2] Athanasius, appealing to the authority of “[the Catholic Faith [that] was published,”[3] cited the Nicene creed that, Jesus “came from the heavens for the abolishment of sin.”[4] Since only God can live perfectly and only humans can have sin Jesus must have both. A human nature to bear the sin and a divine nature to be the perfect law keeper.

His life

            His life is where he, again as Athanasius said citing of the creed, “fulfilled the Economy according to the Father’s will,”[5] This “Economy” is that sinless life that the author of Hebrews references when he said that he was “tempted as we are, yet without sin.”[6] In this he passed the test that the whole human race had failed in Adam. A test that humans were never intended to pass, it was always to be his victory, because the purpose of all creation is Christ as the visible manifestation of the Godhead.[7]

His death, resurrection, ascension

            In death he became the “propitiation by his blood”[8] because God “made him to be sin who knew no sin.”[9] The divine nature in Christ cannot become sin because God cannot sin.[10] This necessitated Christ’s human nature and it is that nature which in the garden cried, “not my will, but yours, be done.”[11] The resurrection then vindicates his sinlessness and declares that he has the right to claim lordship. The inspired Apostle Paul wrote that by the resurrection Christ was, “declared to be the Son of God.”[12] Since death could not hold him all those that are in him are free of deaths sting. Just as the first Adam brought death to God’s people the second brought life to all God’s people.[13] In ascending he took his place as King, Prophet, and High Priest. The most immediate need for the sinner is perhaps his ever-living intercession as High Priest. The ascension was also to make way to send the Spirit.

The sending of the Spirit

            The Spirit is the seal and presence of Christ for the church. Where Jesus said I will build my church, Holy Spirit acts in perfect unity with this decree by empowering, sealing, sanctifying, and teaching believers. This work of the Spirit unifies all believers into one catholic (universal) church.

His return

            The method of Christ’s return is debated however, one thing that cannot be debated is his status as final judge. Paul writes, God “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.”[14] This man is Jesus.

The Kingdom

            Jesus’ first and continuing message was that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”[15] From the very beginning in the protoevangelium,[16] in Moses,[17] by the Psalmist,[18] and in the prophets[19] the Kingdom had been promised to come. In the words of Jesus, it had come, it was now. What then had happened with Jesus that made the transition from future to now? David and Isaiah explain that the Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of Christ when Christ’s enemies are his foot stool[20] and the government rests on his shoulders, [21] then Kingdom is at hand. Jesus proclaimed this reality with his final words, “it is finished.”[22] In a very real sense the kingdom had come and yet there remains a fulfillment to be seen as noted by the Apostle Paul when he points to a coming day when “he will judge the world.”[23]

            The Church and the Kingdom of God

What is the Church?

            Allison excellently sums up the church as “the people of God who have been saved through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and have been incorporated into his body through baptism with the Holy Spirit.”[24] For this exercise, it will work to think about the church as the people of God from all time and in all places. This is the reason Athanasius calls the creed “Catholic Faith [that] was published.”[25] It is that all believers are scripturally beholden to hold to “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”[26] It is a single universal confession that all believers, the people of God, share. The core of that confession as Paul explained, “you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord”[27] and believe that what the scriptures say about his person and works are true. As already stated, the Kingdom of God is all things having come and coming under the feet of the Lordship of Jesus Christ; so, this confession of the church that Jesus is Lord is how the church and Kingdom fit.

How Does the Church fit Into the Kingdom?

            On the night that Jesus died, he made mention of the New Covenant represented in his blood and body.[28] With his own life Jesus inaugurates the New Covenant by his personal work, this covenant is the foundation, prize, and proclamation of the Church. Jesus can provide this royal boon because of his victory and all things being placed under his feet. The author of Hebrews explain that he is the great and final prophet who has “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”[29] and is able in his own blood to be the prophet, priest and king of “the covenant he mediates.”[30]

The foundation is the covenant which creates a body who confesses the Lordship of Christ. The people of God’s prize is the covenant blessings from him. Paul explains God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”[31] This covenant promised is “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”[32] until the eschatological expression of the Kingdom where “we acquire possession of it.”[33] That inheritance is the fully revealed Kingdom as the author of Peter explains, the church is a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”[34]

Indeed, the prize is the Kingdom in its full eschatological glory where nothing limits the relationship between Christ and his chosen church. The proclamation is the work of the Kingdom in the interim. Jesus said of his followers that they were not of the world but in the world,[35] they were to not fear because he had overcome the world,[36] and they were to baptize,[37] that is to give the outward sign of the inward confession that Jesus is Lord, to all those who would be disciples.

Allison quotes a poignant question, “Is the church to be seen as an instrument to accomplish God’s purpose in creation or is the church the expression of God’s ultimate purpose itself?”[38] Of course the resounding answer is yes! The Church is the instrument by which “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world”[39] and, as much as the church displays the Lordship of Christ in the New Covenant, it is the current expression of God’s ultimate purpose. It is always important to make the statement that the kingdom is here, not because the church is here, but because the King is here.

Christian Traditions and Theological Characteristics

Theological Reflection

            Shelley points out that the sacraments and how they are administered in the church history depends greatly on the view held of the church. When “Ambrose refused the emperor Communion”[40] it set the precedent for how much power the church would have. This is to be expected if the church is the expression of God’s Kingdom now. The discussion of the church here had been from a reformed historic premillennial view. Different traditions would place a different level of emphasis on the now and on the future based on their eschatological approach. For instance, a preterist or postmillennial view would place far more emphasis on the now, while a dispensational pretribulation view would place even more emphasis on the final fulfillment of the kingdom. The primary point is that there is room for disagreement and for the different weights that different traditions place on their Ecclesiology. For example, those postmillennial might see the church as the tool that brings the whole world into the kingdom for which they might adopt a high ecclesiological practice. This is often the case among the traditionally reformed. However, even with those circles there are people like “Kuyper [who] attempted to mix different thought worlds.”[41] The point is that even with a specific tradition it is not always possible to nail down an Ecclesiology. Shelley explains that the “[t]he Reformation unintentionally shattered traditional Christendom.”[42] With this shattering came the many ecclesiological systems.

 

 

 

References

 

 [1]. Athanasius of Alexandria, “Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. John Henry Newman and Archibald T. Robertson, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 453.

[2]. Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The History of Creeds, vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1878), 31.

[3]. Athanasius of Alexandria, “Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. John Henry Newman and Archibald T. Robertson, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 454.

[4]. Ibid.

[5]. Ibid.

[6]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 4:15.

[7]. Ibid, Col 1:15.

[8]. Ibid, Ro 3:25.

[9]. Ibid, 2 Co 5:21.

[10]. Ibid, 1 Jn 3:9–10.

[11]. Ibid, Lk 22:42.

[12]. Ibid, Ro 1:4.

[13]. Ibid, Ro 5:12–15.

[14]. Ibid, Ac 17:31.

[15]. Ibid, Mt 4:17.

[16]. Ibid, Gen 3:15.

[17]. Ibid, Deut 18:15

[18]. Ibid, Psa 110:1.

[19]. Ibid, Isa 9:6.

[20]. Ibid, Psa 110:1.

[21]. Ibid, Isa 9:6.

[22]. Ibid, Jn 19:30.

[23]. Ibid, Ac 17:31.

[24]. Gregg R. Allison. 2012. Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 29.

[25]. Athanasius of Alexandria, “Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. John Henry Newman and Archibald T. Robertson, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 454.

[26]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jud 3.

[27]. Ibid, Ro 10:9.

[28]. Ibid, Lk 22:20.

[29]. Ibid, Heb 1:3.

[30]. Ibid, Heb 8:6.

[31]. Ibid, Eph 1:3.

[32]. Ibid, Eph 1:13.

[33]. Ibid, Eph 1:14.

[34]. Ibid, 1 Pe 2:9.

[35]. Ibid, John 17:14.

[36]. Ibid, John 16:33.

[37]. Ibid, Matt 28:19.

[38]. Gregg R. Allison. 2012. Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 52.

[39] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 24:14.

[40] Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995), 98.

[41] Daniel Strange, “Rooted and Grounded? The Legitimacy of Abraham Kuyper’s Distinction between Church as Institute and Church as Organism, and Its Usefulness in Constructing an Evangelical Public Theology,” Themelios 40, no. 3 (2015): 432.

[42] Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995), 342.

[43] Gregg R. Allison. 2012. Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 52

 

 

Bibliography

Allison, Gregg R. 2012. Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters. Vol. 4. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892.

Schaff, Philip. The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The History of Creeds. Vol. 1. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1878.

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Updated 2nd ed. Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995.

Strange, Daniel. “Rooted and Grounded? The Legitimacy of Abraham Kuyper’s Distinction between Church as Institute and Church as Organism, and Its Usefulness in Constructing an Evangelical Public Theology.” Themelios 40, no. 3 (2015): 430–445.

 

Why Monasticism?

Introduction

            Every true believer knows the struggle with sin. This means that every believer and even those who are not followers of Jesus can empathize with the early monastics. As the Christian religion became a politicized version of itself, many considered it necessary to protest by retreating from the community. Their protest became the symbol of a new purity, a separation from sin and a life dedicated to God. This symbol went largely unchallenged and grew until it had a dominant place in Christianity. Thanks to people like Augustine of Hippo, Benedict, and Gregory the Great, monastic ideals became a common idea within the Christian empire. The Monastic rules were developed for the purpose of organizing this community and, though they varied in approach, one of the primary reasons for the rules was the same: to create a community were temptation could be mitigated. From Anthony to Benedict, to the greater community, the monastic ideal meant to remove oneself from the world in order to be holy separated to God, overcome sin and win the fight with the devil.

Origins of Monasticism and Their Purpose as a Protest Against Constantine

            As Christianity became the rule of the empire, if a person was to find favor with the emperor, church membership was a must. Shelley put it like this, “[p]rior to Constantine’s conversion, the church consisted of convinced believers. Now many came who were politically ambitious, religiously disinterested, and still half-rooted in paganism.”[1] It was not just the political shift in Christianity that prompted monistic tendencies. The move to monasticism was very theologically a resistance to the melding of Roman philosophy and Christian theology. This conflict is clearly seen in the “Origenist controversy… [where] … the monks, some of whom were the bitterest foes of Origen’s spiritualizing theology.”[2] Mosaicism springs onto the scene, starting especially in the east. This location makes sense because as Constantine moved the capital to Constantinople, those political pressures that Shelley mentioned would have been the most intense there. Meyendorff  makes a poignant observation when he says, “no Christian leader responsibly opposed the monastic movement.”[3] It is rare in Christian history to see movements so unopposed. One explanation for this might be that the Romans saw in monasticism the continuation of Roman stoic thought.  By the mid-first century, Stoicism highlighted the ideas of “ethics, duty, and impassivity.”[4] Ferguson points out that these were the characteristics that Benedict sought to implant in “the monastic life.”[5] Monasticism came to symbolize the great battle with sin, by stoic living the monk battles sin. Most regard Anthony as the first monk. Anthony saw his life as a great battle between sin, Satan, and humanity. Probably as a rejection of the new political Christianity, Anthony’s example became contagious. Shelley recounts Athanasius’s words about the effect of Anthony’s actions; “The sign of solitary ascetics rules from one end of the earth to the other.”[6]

Movement of Monasticism From Protest to Major Feature of Imperial Christianity

            With the wide acceptance of Monasticism as a part of Christianity, there began two parallel developments. First, monasticism was defined from within; people like Benedict and Gregory the Great helped to systematize and bring monastic adherents under the rule of the Papacy. Monasticism was also defined from the outside; Ferguson points out that “The canons of Chalcedon defined the place of monks in the church.”[7] A big influencer on the view of how the monastic life fit into the life of the church was Augustine of Hippo. Long before Augustine had become the Presbyter at Hippo, he had exhausted any love for worldly pursuits. It comes as no surprise that he formed “a monastic community life with his clergy.”[8] Considering Augustine’s outsized influence that came about from his battles with the Donatists and Pelagianism, it is not surprising that his monastic pattern “was later to be imitated by others.”[9] The monasticism of Augustine has a distinct difference from that of Anthony, in that, rather than solitary living, it included a brotherhood. It seems a reasonable conclusion that the influence of Stoic thinking in the west brought about this change. Friedrich points out that one of the necessary elements of stoic philosophy is the “common spirit of brotherhood.”[10]

Characteristics of Monastic Rules

            A monk is someone at battle with sin. All the monastic sects had in common the goal of living separately from temptation. Benedict, who Ferguson called “the father of westering monasticism”[11] certainly had in mind the confrontation with temptation. Ferguson said that when Benedict was “confronted with a temptation, he would throw himself on the bramble bushes.”[12] This extreme attack on temptation is at the core of most monastic systems. Of course, the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is replete with the examples of fleeing temptation. Joseph flees Potiphar’s wife, Elijah flees into the wilderness, Daniel refuses to eat the king’s food and many others. Though the different monastic systems approached the rules differently, one thing that existed throughout was the moral implication of the rules. Ferguson again points out that Basil’s rules and Benedict’s different greatly on the level of application given; but agreed greatly on the moral implications of the rules. For this reason, almost all of the systems required some sort of trial in order to be admitted into the brotherhood. Another key highlight in both Basil’s rules and Benedict’s is that of obedience to one’s superior. The idea of obedience is also scriptural in that Jesus disciples were obedient to him and many other mentor/mentee relationships in scripture, such as Paul and Timothy, come with the example of obedience. In the mind of at least Basil and Benedict, it seems clear that these rules were not about tyrannical governance, but rather about protecting the members of the groups from the temptations that they had within themselves. The last similarity between the systems to be mentioned here is the idea of celibacy. Paul the Apostle did say that it was better not to marry in order to be set apart to the work of God.[13] Paul said that not every man was cut out for that life, indeed the implication is that few are, and that “because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife.”[14] Long before the idea of Monasticism had become mainstream, Christians were already taking vows of celibacy.[15]

Conclusion

            Temptation and the devil were on the mind of any man that wanted to be a monk. The idea of being set apart for God is and always will be an integral part of how the people of God think. Even before there was a political infiltration, Christian leaders like “Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, and other leaders threw their support behind the idea of a higher level of sanctity.”[1] The desire to be morally distant from the rest of the world, even to be distant from this new easy Christianity that happened with Constantine, seems to be the driving force behind the spread of  Monasticism.

 

 

References

[1]. Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995), 96.

[2]. Ferguson, Everett. 2013. Church History, Volume 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 312

[3]. John Meyendorff. 1980. “St Basil, Messalianism and Byzantine Christianity.” St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 24 (4): 219–34. https://search-ebscohost-com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000783083&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[4]. Judith Odor, “Stoicism,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[5]. Ferguson, Everett. 2013. Church History, Volume 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 318

[6]. Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995), 118.

[7]. Ibid, 266.

[8]. Ibid, 271.

[9]. Ibid.

[10]. Friedrich Hauck, “Κοινός, Κοινωνός, Κοινωνέω, Κοινωνία, Συγκοινωνός, Συγκοινωνέω, Κοινωνικός, Κοινόω,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 795.

[11]. Ferguson, Everett. 2013. Church History, Volume 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 315

[12]. Ibid.

[13] 1 Cor 7:1-2, ESV.

[14] 1 Cor 7:2, ESV.

[15] Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995), 118.

 

Bibliography

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995), 96.

Ferguson, Everett. 2013. Church History, Volume 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 312

Friedrich Hauck, “Κοινός, Κοινωνός, Κοινωνέω, Κοινωνία, Συγκοινωνός, Συγκοινωνέω, Κοινωνικός, Κοινόω,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 795.

Odor, Judith. “Stoicism,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

Meyendorff, John. 1980. “St Basil, Messalianism and Byzantine Christianity.” St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 24 (4): 219–34. https://search-ebscohost-com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000783083&site=ehost-live&scope=site.