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    "You are really cool you are married to an European!! How cooler can you be??"
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    "Smarty Pants"
    Mad Matt

    "Oh, you did not ask for Bonhoeffer's opinion did you? You wanted mine..."
    the SOFYST

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    Kind Kristi

    "I enjoy your comments, but they are always delightfully enigmatic"
    Dyspraxic Fundamentalist

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fear and Trembling

I have been blessed to be able to study the scripture with believers from many different denominations who claimed to hold to various systems of theology. One thing I have found from this is that there are as many systems of theology as there are believers. I have yet to find two people whose beliefs are identical concerning God, eternal life and the scripture. I have also failed to find anyone who believed they were in error. I count it a great blessing to have been able to study with some of the same people over time, some even from the time of their conversion. I am always amazed at how God is growing us (Php. 2:13). I am often equally discouraged by how we all tend to stifle one another’s growth. How is it that we start out with such great love for one another and wind up with so much doubt and suspicion?

It seems to me that historically a denomination only identified a group of believers geographically, not theologically. Corinthians were Corinthians because of their location and not because their beliefs varied from the Philippians. Theological differences were addressed within the Church and only served to promote unity and strengthen the body. These differences were resolved by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers and not by denominational conference or committee through coercion and persecution. I would venture to say that, more often than not, Systematic Theology was employed as the means for resolving these differences but it was never used as a litmus test to determine the eternal standing of others nor did it supplant the scripture as the rule for faith and practice until the first council at Nicaea. It was at this council that roughly three hundred men issued a creed that determined an agreement in Systematic Theology become the rule for faith and practice and the state empowered them with the means and authority to insure a division in the body of Christ that remains to this day. Prior to this council it was unthinkable that one believer would persecute another. After this council it became the order of the day. This division is nothing less than Denominationalism, as we know it today.

Today, as a result of the efforts of these men and others like them, we are no longer required to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Php. 2:12). We no longer need be transformed by the renewing of our mind that we might prove what is His will nor that which is good and perfect (Rom. 12:2). We need only consult our creeds and our catechisms and hold fast to the systems of theology by which we judge the world and are assured within ourselves and, if we’re so inclined, we too can appeal to the state to enforce our righteous determinations. At the very least we no longer need trifle with those whose invalid beliefs have been clearly exposed by our full and perfect system of theology.

May God have mercy on us all and grant us the grace to have an unfeigned love without hypocrisy.



Anonymous bobby grow said...


what about the "formation of the canon of scripture", isn't this a result of the churches'consensual affirmation and recognition of its authority via the Holy Spirit's work?

7/22/2007 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Bobby I am fully persuaded by scripture that Christ alone should govern His Church but I do not define the Church as the Episcopate. It would be one thing to submit to Christ through the leadership of the Holy Spirit and quite another to give up His authority to a handful of theologians.

I think to illustrate my point I should ask, “which canon?” The books contained in the Bible that you and I use today were included and others were excluded in spite of the efforts of those councils such as Trent and theologians such as Martin Luther, not because of them, and still there are great divisions over the scripture among believers. These divisions are not a work of God anymore than Trent was a spiritual conference or that Luther’s canon was by inspiration but they are of men who have either a lust for power or have canonized their own theology. These differences are no longer addressed or resolved in assembly, as they should be, but in private meetings whose determinations are then broadcast in public forum where any who dare dissent are condemned. It is much easier to turn our back on our brother and condemn him an heretic or a fool than it is to work out our differences through discussions grounded in prayer and study with humility.

7/23/2007 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

Wow, Kc, good stuff.

"...quite another to give up His authority to a handful of theologians."

You say tomato, I say tomahto, you say theologian, I say politician... (hehe)

One of the many things with which I struggle is the idea of the spiritual purity of the various councils wherein a number of good (I hope, but...), Godly (I hope, but...) men got together and supernaturally (um, ok...) followed the Holy Spirit to the letter (mmm...) within the PERFECT (I wish, but...) will of God. It reads like a Children's story. I mean, if Moses, and all the others, who heard from God DIRECTLY, couldn't keep their flesh from interfering with God's instruction, then you're going to have a hard time convincing me that a few hundred guys, given the opportunity to secure power for their positions, didn't try to have their own way, at least a little.

I'm not willing to go all the way to the opposite assumption and say that it was all just a power grab, but I've been to the conventions and business meetings of the Assemblies of God, and I've heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the political whoredom of the SBC and others at their respective gatherings. I have witnessed the flesh operating in full force at the "councils" of religious men. I do not believe that people of that time were any different.

This leads me to the point you offered. Which canon? Was the list of books to which we adhere ENTIRELY the work of the Holy Spirit, or is it possible that some writings were added or omitted because of some ecclesiastical alliance or political maneuver (however well-meaning)? The answer is, I don't know, and neither does anyone else. Jesus, the Christ is the Word of God. It's an interesting irony that scripture is the primary means of attaining whatever head-knowledge we have of Him.

I don't know how to wrap up this thought, so I'm going to stop here.

7/23/2007 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

It burdens my heart every time I see a post like this one. The men at Nicea were contending for the truth, just as Luther was, etc. You have used one portion of Scripture, at the expense of the rest of Scripture. 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus, say that the elders are to contend for the faith, for sound doctrine, etc., to preach the truth, and that which is true. That is what the men of Nicea were doing. They were fighting for that which is true.

You seem to think this was a bad thing. It's not. What did Christ say, but that He came to bring division, separating mother from daughter, father from son, etc. The point is that this is done through the proclamation of truth. Yes, we have denominations. But that is not the evil that you have indicated it to be. We are to contend for the faith and what Scripture presents as true.

Those at Nicea were answering a very important question: What was the nature of Jesus Christ? If He is just a man, we have no Savior. If He is merely God, we have no representative on the Cross. He must be both God and Man to represent us, man to take our place, God to bear up under the infinite wrath of the Father, to pay an infinite debt that we owe... b/c we have offended an infinite being.

He must be both God and Man, and in that case, how does He relate to the Father? Is He completely separate as an individual, or the same? Their conclusion was that He is of the same essence as the Father, but another person of the God head.

As for the books of the Bible, yes that needed to be determined as well by the church itself. Yes, God used the councils of men, fallen in their nature, but still guided by the Holy Spirit. And yes, He chose to use men to pass on system of doctrine to us, with the Scripture as our guide for those doctrines. Does is lead to division in some cases, yes, sadly so. But that is more of a result of fallen man and our arrogant pride than anything found in Scripture or in God.

Again, what I see in all the divisions is a lack of submission on the part of believers to other believers. Because we see some flaw in our modern church, we think it is OK to cast off all that has gone on before us. But to do so, is to cast off Christ, to say that He is wrong in working through the body of Christ.

I wish that I were more capable in understanding why it is that so many refuse the creeds of the church, refuse the work of those who have gone on before us, refuse to submit to one another in brotherly love, thinking that some how, we can come along and reinvent the wheel of the church. But the task is too big for me.

7/24/2007 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Pastor to be honest I am surprised you do not find the Roman error grievous. Perhaps it may help if I offer more of the scripture that frames my understanding. The verse I offered was only used to illustrate one of the consequences of failing to submit the teaching of Christ and the Apostles on this matter. Please see Mark 20:25,28; Romans 14:1,13; 1st Corinthians 3 and 11:3;Galatians 6:4,5.

I fail to understand how contending for the faith or preaching the truth in love or the teaching of sound doctrine would require an agreement in theology, any authority outside that from God to do so or any material other than the teachings of Christ and the Apostles.

Pastor please examine Mark 10:32,37 (the verse you referenced concerning division) and see if the division is between believers and unbelievers (those who confess Him and those who do not) within the same household.

Those at Nicaea were answering a call from the Roman ruler of that day. I hope to give a very clear perspective on that with my next article.

I am fully persuaded concerning the Trinity but that is in spite of the lack of theology in the Church, not because of it. As I stated in my article theology was once discussed and debated within the assembly but no more. It has been relegated to the Vatican and the other bastions of Denominationalism.

Do you really believe that Christ intended that His Church be divided? How can you contend with someone you cast aside? Do we really need a Pope? Does the authority of the Church really belong to the Episcopate as empowered by the state?

Why do I always wind up preaching reformation to the reformed???? ;-)

7/24/2007 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Hi KC,
Not sure why you do that? But you don't sound Reformed when you bash what seems to me denominations. Not that I like denominations, but what is the alternative? Do we just sing kumbaya and forget theology? By the way, theology and sound doctrine are the same thing in my book.

I guess a better way to discuss this, is at what point would you draw a line in the sand and espouse something as non-Christian, or heretical, or unorthodox?

If for example, someone said they believed in Jesus Christ as their savior, and invited you to their church, and then you found out that Jesus Christ to them, was a rooster. Ok, a bit on the exaggerated side, but you get the idea. At what point would you deem something orthodox, or unorthodox? And if it is unorthodox, what point would you say: "We should no longer fellowship with these people, because what they are teaching is unorthodox according to Scripture, and is damning to the souls who listen."

After all, those who worship JC the Rooster, have all the proof texts they need... the rooster crowed three times before the first pope fell into sin, signifying the Trinity was to be foudn in the rooster... Again, silly, but to make a point.

The men of Nicea, which eventually did become the Roman Catholic church that Protestants broke away from in the 1600s, would not have been rejected by Calvin or Luther. And if you are Protestant, then this is part of your history as well, it's part of the history of the church.

My point is that you cannot be consistent if you reject the history of the church, for it is in the history of the church that we come to the understanding of Scripture that we have today. We believe in the Trinity because this is sound doctrine handed down to us through time. The reason we hold to it, is because it is biblical and to distance ourselves from it is to distance ourselves from sound doctrine. Yes, sound doctrine must rest fully on Scripture, that is our authority.

7/24/2007 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

And no, we should not dispute over doubtful things. For that, I do agree, but at what point do we decide that someone in the midst of the body is... a heretic and not to be listened to?

This is how Protestantism began, by listening to those in the RCC and coming ot the conclusion that the RCC was not apostate. Therefore, the moved away from the RCC.

That being the case, what do they take with them concerning sound doctrine? That which holds water when compared to Scripture. They did not, however, toss out everything and start over (as I understand the immergent people are doing). That would have been nonsense to them since they did recognize that certain councils, were able to determine sound doctrine.

7/24/2007 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

I've asked a fellow pastor to come by and help me on this one. I feel like we may be talking past one another.

No, I'm not advocating we return to Rome. No, I'm not advocating that we bind another person's conscience. But at what point do we determine truth from error? Do we cast out all that the church has learned throughout the church age, or do we have to reinvent the wheel every time we come to scripture.

No, I don't think the history or tradition has authority. But I do believe that in history, God has used men with greater minds than our own in order to help us understand God and His Gospel. To ignore what God has done in history, seems foolish to me. To ignore what God has done in sovereignly allowing, and foreordaining denominations seems foolish to me. And to throw out systems of doctrine for the sake of it seems the same.

Contend for the faith...

7/24/2007 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Pastor you know I always love our discussions! ;-)

First let me assure you that I’m not advocating that we all leave our respective assemblies to form yet another division, far from it. The only changes I propose are to our hearts and minds and our attitude toward others who are of the household of faith. Let me see where to start to reply to your comments….

Doctrine is teaching and sound doctrine is the truth taught. I think we agree that the truth as revealed to man is contained in the scripture and so to teach the scripture is to teach sound doctrine. It is of God and only related by men. Theology is an attempt to logically or rationally come to an understanding of God, His attributes, His will and His ways. This understanding, though often based on scriptural truth, is totally dependant on the ability of men to perceive God. It is of men as they attempt to relate to God. What then should be accepted as orthodox teaching, the scripture or theology?

YES! Let’s practice theology in our assemblies! Please! Does anyone know of any assembly that would tolerate a scriptural debate on the meaning and practice of baptism? What about communion? Is there any assembly that would allow someone who is uncertain about the Trinitarian Relationship to voice their doubts or oppositions? Mind you I am not Emergent and I have my own questions about that movement but to my knowledge you will get much more theology in one of their assemblies than you will in some of the other “better” established denominations. This shouldn’t be so.

Pastor what is happening here today between you and I should be taking place on a regular basis in our assemblies. We should be examining these things and discussing our differences, and yes, let’s be informed by those who’ve gone before, but not just a select few. Let’s hear what the many have said and prove them all with the scripture, humbly bearing in mind that we only see as through a glass darkly and that walking by faith necessarily means without perfect knowledge.

This is simply not possible where any system of theology is the rule for faith and practice or where the Episcopate usurps the authority of the Church. This is exactly what happened to the RC at Nicaea. The Church was divided into what I call the persecuted Church and the persecuting Church. I happily accept this was in accordance with God’s permissive will. I find far too much scripture to accept it was in accordance with His determinate will. As you say, this was “a result of fallen man and our arrogant pride” and not “anything found in Scripture or in God.”

We don't have to reinvent the wheel. We just have to be willing to examine it over and over and over. ;-)

7/24/2007 04:36:00 PM  
Anonymous grandpaw said...

I'm trying real hard, really I am but it seems that no matter how many comments I read it seems like we are still carrying on the discussions all the way back to the 16th century !
I will say that if us south Ga rednecks wuz to attend a church that called their rooster [ JESUS ] as good as us southern Baptists like fried chicken we would have had him for dinner ?
My point is that God word says that I will have no other GODS before me ?
When I grow up I certainly hope I can say I got a better understanding of GODS WORD than I do now?
Untill then I will remain on "my " own Jerrico Road with Jesus and me ?
I love all these great minds even though I might not agree whole heartaly with Ya'll ?
Grandpaw ?

7/24/2007 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

"But I do believe that in history, God has used men with greater minds than our own in order to help us understand God and His Gospel."

I've heard this statement before, and it strikes me as a little disingenuous. What if Luther had believed this and submitted to the "greater minds" that came before him? We'd still be paying cash for our sins (I'm sure the RC would have easy financing available these days, too.).

Talking about submission sounds nice and biblical and all, but down here, it has to be a two way street. Submission requires a mindset that says "I could be wrong." I'm prepared to say that, but I don't think most traditionalists are.

7/25/2007 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Dorse I'm prepared to say you could be wrong too! (Grin)

Excellent point. There is a much greater sin though..."I'm not sure".

(Any news?)

7/25/2007 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

Thanks for this post. You have given me a lot to think about. I enjoyed the comments too.

7/25/2007 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Rose I saw your comment on systematic theology at UOG and I know you understand my position exactly.

Grandpaw Ron I replied to you in my mind when you posted and forgot to type it out! Old timers disease is awful!

I know what you mean about history. History, like scripture, is interpreted through our own limited perspective and this can often lead to a difference in understanding. I really hope we can all gain a better perspective through these discussions.

I’m really anxious to get over to read Cole’s new site! ;-)

7/25/2007 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Elisa said...

Hi KC,
Dorsey, uhm... Luther agreed with Augustine, for one and Thomas Aquinas for another.

First, some church history has gotten a little off here. I'm not going to go into all of it for the lack of time, but I will do a little.
Luther did not intend to have another whole church started. He wanted to change the RCC as it was at that time. There is a lot of doctrine there that is sound. He did not reject that. He did reject how the church became bastardized, ie: indulgences to pay for St. Peter's, Scripture as the authority, the doctrines of justification, sanctification, Christ as Mediator, etc. These were all doctrines the church had, and the RCC had corrupted.
Second, not all doctrine of the RCC is bad. Have you guys ever gone to a RCC church? Not just once, but often? If so, much of their liturgy in the mass is the same as the protestants. They say the Lord's prayer, and some preach the gospel faithfully.
We can't throw off all doctrine of the RCC as bad. Much of it sound, though good hunk has been bastardized. Throw that out, keep what aligns with Scripture. That's what Luther wanted.

Thirdly, the fact of the matter is that we cannot change what as happened before us and it is quite silly to argue about it. True, we do need to discuss doctrine in organized forums. What a treat that is! (BTW- the PCA did just that on the issues concerning the New Perspectives on Paul. I applaud these brothers and fathers in the Lord.)

I think by arguing the minutia of history (especially when some may be incorrect), and how all the denominations are "vastly" different, we are missing and trampling upon what is important. We should be discussing Biblical truths. When we do, and believe in those, practice those, then our doctrine aligns with Scripture...eventually. The point of the creeds is not the history, the lives of the men writing or their sins (which we all have), but the truth of the statements, and Who that truth is about. Despite what was going on in history, politics, the souls of men, God used them to write down biblical truths that they believed. Those beliefs stated in the creeds unify believers of every denomination, whether they claim to be a denomination or not.
Yes, the men at Nicea were all sinful and fallen. However, they were contending for the truth when it was being trampled upon, no matter what may have been happening politically. They felt called upon by the Lord to come up with a unifying statement of what they believed. This statement has not the weight of Scripture by any means. However, it does have the support of Scripture.
What true Christian can argue Biblically against what they state?
Let us try the creeds, the church fathers, and divines that have gone on before us in the light of Scripture. Don't throw it out because they were sinful and fallen, of one denomination or another. If we follow that logic, God would not have used Peter, Paul, Moses, Isaiah, David, Solomon...
We are blessed that the teaching of godly and Biblically-literate men remains in their writings and can learn from them as did those to whom they directly taught. We focus to much on the grey details of our denominational destinctives that we fail to teach more non-believers the basic and saving knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us of every denomination, every branch, every body that claims the Biblical, Triune Christ unite in the basics of our faith.

The Nicene Creed
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

**The Holy Catholic and Apostolic church is not a reference to the Roman Catholic Church. Catholic, in this context, means universal, and we are professing that there is one true church made up of the elect throughout the ages. There are those who are elect within the RCC, but the elect are not bound by that man-made institution. The Apostolic church is simply the church that was founded upon the teaching and doctrines of the apostles (Ephesians 2:22).

The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

**The holy catholic church is not a reference to the Roman Catholic Church. Catholic, in this context, means universal, and we are professing that there is one true church made up of the elect throughout the ages."

7/25/2007 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Sis Beth I think you may have read into the comments more than was stated but nonetheless it is great to have your thoughts here! ;-)

First let me assure you that I find many errors in all denominational dogma and not just the RC. I highlighted the RC in this article because they were the first to use the state to force a division in the body over theology but they certainly were not the last. Calvin and many others have done the same in an attempt to establish their theology as the rule for faith and practice. The comment on Luther pertained to his desire to remove several books from the Bible and was in regard to Bobby’s question on the canonization of scripture. To be honest I’m not sure if Augustine and Aquinas would have agreed with him on that.

One point that we clearly disagree on concerns what you term as God’s use of creeds and that I consider were clearly political instruments used to authorize the state to persecute dissenters. I do not consider this minutia whatsoever. The council at Nicaea is a clear example of this effort as is the Westminster Confession whether you find them to be true or not. Is the scripture not sufficient? Do you really consider that these creeds and confessions should be the rule for faith and practice among believers? If so then please tell me what the one Baptism is that is for remission of sins. Is it the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, water baptism by sprinkling or by dunking? Which do you believe the men at Nicaea had in mind with their creed?

Sister with all sincerity I do not judge the hearts of these men or others. I cannot know their intent. I am only examining the effect of their efforts on the Church and it is clear that from the day of that council forward believers began to persecute one another over theological disagreements. I cannot call that unity. I can only call it outrageous.

7/25/2007 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

If I may, I fully agree with Kc's comment, and must add that I also have no disagreement with the Apostles' Creed (except I tend not to say "sitteth" hehe.). But I've been told by more than one reformed brother that I would likely not be welcomed at the Lord's supper with them because I interpret the holy catholic church as the universal, global, body of believers and not as the institutional episcopacy.

Elisa said...
"Dorsey, uhm... Luther agreed with Augustine, for one and Thomas Aquinas for another. "

That's it? Let me ask you, how does one go about deciding which of the "greater minds than mine" to follow? Sam Harris, the noted athiest, probably has a greater intellect than I, but I can smell his BS a mile away. The logic of this "history can't be wrong" argument continues to elude me.

7/25/2007 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

You wrote:
This is simply not possible where any system of theology is the rule for faith and practice or where the Episcopate usurps the authority of the Church. This is exactly what happened to the RC at Nicaea. The Church was divided into what I call the persecuted Church and the persecuting Church. I happily accept this was in accordance with God’s permissive will. I find far too much scripture to accept it was in accordance with His determinate will. As you say, this was “a result of fallen man and our arrogant pride” and not “anything found in Scripture or in God.”

Again, I have to disagree with you on this KC. They were not dividing the church, but answering theological controversial questions. Who is Jesus? Some were saying that He was a created being, when the Scriptures indicate otherwise. This is an IMPORTANT question. Again, you still haven't answered my question to you? what do you do with those who think Jesus is a chicken? Or a created being? At what point does KC draw that line with some belief that is not supported by the Bible and say, "no, you are not a true believer, even though you say the words, 'Jesus is Lord.'"

The men at Nicea were doing that, an btw, this is YOUR heritage as well as mine if you are a Protestant. The RCC did not become corrupt until the 1300s.

As for those men there, they understood the need to define who it is that Christ was... Who we say He is, is important to our salvation. Yes, someone can just confess Jesus as Lord and be saved and no nothing more about him at the point of salvation. But he/she cannot remain there. The Bible does not look favorably on those who merely drink milk, when they should be able to feast upon the meat of the word. Proverbs condemns that as well as Paul...

Let's try another approach. What am I to do if someone comes to my church, confesses Jesus as Lord, but truly does mean a chicken? Do I just accept them? You seem to advocate that I just sing kumbaya and continue on as if everything is happy.

Yet, the implications are eternal and are serious. The problem that I have with your position is that you don't seem to understand how serious these issues are. If I'm correct, and the person of Jesus is as important as I'm saying, then a false belief in Christ sends people to eternal hell. If it doesn't matter, then lets hold hands with the liberals who say he is just a man. But it does matter because God has revealed himself to us, and we are to understand who He is. Not who we want Him to be, but who He is.

The men of Nicea were answering those questions and helping us in our theology (i.e. the study of God). Why you would reject this because it excluded those who rejected the person of Christ, is beyond me. Yes, there was division, but you seem to be operating under the principle that any division, is always a sin, and always bad. That is the same position that liberals were taking in the early part of the 20th century and before long, they were admitting men to the ministry who did not believe in the virgin birth or the deity of Christ.

Again, at what point does KC admit that certain men are out of the bounds of what is true Christianity? Do we admit the Mormons? What about the Christian Scientist? Both admit Jesus as Lord. But the Jesus they believe in is far different than the Jesus of Scripture.

At what point? It there a line at all for you?

7/28/2007 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Elisa said...

We have open communion at our church, PCA. In our congregation to partake of the Lord's Supper you have to be a member of an evangelical church in good standing (not removed from the table from some unrepentant sin- gone through church discipline and still unrepentant) and profess Christ as Savior. As for the "holy catholic church," we use it to mean the church universal, not the denomination of the RCC. It seems like we take the term to mean the same thing. So...I don't know why they would say that to you. Very odd.

I wasn't saying that "history can't be wrong." Look at how Santa Anna (a man on par with the likes of Saddam Hussien) wrote about the Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. Both of his accounts were VERY wrong based on other writings of Texan and Mexican witnesses. What I was saying was that to dismiss creeds purely based upon what was happening at that time, or that the men writing the creed were sinners, is wrong. Dismiss a creed because it is unscriptural, heresy. That would be like dismissing 1 and 2 Peter because Paul had to rebuke him for excluding the Gentile brethren, favoring the Jews. Or rejecting all of Luther's work because he wanted to get rid of some books (James) that were canonized. Just to pick at the historical (which people can be wrong about) “facts” surrounding the writing of creeds, like the Nicene, gets us off the important discussions of faith that are in the creeds (AC and NC). By discussing “history” we are not asking each other what it is in the AC and NC that we agree with or disagree with, and what it is in them that we might not understand. Then, we take what is in them and go back to the Bible for authority. That is the more valuable conversation to Christians.

KC, I love you and I’m not writing to pick a fight or am trying to be mean at all. I think you are wrong when you said “It was at this council (at Nicea) that roughly three hundred men issued a creed that determined an agreement in Systematic Theology become the rule for faith and practice and the state empowered them with the means and authority to insure a division in the body of Christ that remains to this day. Prior to this council it was unthinkable that one believer would persecute another. After this council it became the order of the day. This division is nothing less than Denominationalism, as we know it today.” and I would like to correct some things.

Because of political and social circumstances of the time, the council at Nicea felt compelled to write a statement of faith that believers were Biblically unified by. I got this off of www.creeds.net/ancient/Nicene_Intro.htm. The histories that I have read and the people I have spoken with over the years align with the history quoted below.

“NICENE CREED - Historical Note
In the first three centuries, the church found itself in a hostile environment. On the one hand, it grappled with the challenge of relating the language of the gospel, developed in a Hebraic and Jewish-Christian context, to a Graeco-Roman world. On the other hand, it was threatened not only by persecution, but also by ideas that were in conflict with the biblical witness.

In A.D. 312, Constantine won control of the Roman Empire in the battle of Milvian Bridge. Attributing his victory to the intervention of Jesus Christ, he elevated Christianity to favored status in the empire. "One God, one Lord, one faith, one church, one empire, one emperor" became his motto. 
The new emperor soon discovered that "one faith and one church" were fractured by theological disputes, especially conflicting understandings of the nature of Christ, long a point of controversy. Arius, a priest of the church in Alexandria, asserted that the divine Christ, the Word through whom all things have their existence, was created by God before the beginning of time. Therefore, the divinity of Christ was similar to the divinity of God, but not of the same essence. Arius was opposed by the bishop, Alexander, together with his associate and successor, Athanasius. They affirmed that the divinity of Christ, the Son, is of the same substance as the divinity of God, the Father. To hold otherwise, they said, was to open the possibility of polytheism, and to imply that knowledge of God in Christ was not final knowledge of God.

To counter a widening rift within the church, Constantine convened a council in Nicaea in A.D. 325. A creed reflecting the position of Alexander and Athanasius was written and signed by a majority of the bishops. Nevertheless, the two parties continued to battle each other. In A.D. 381, a second council met in Constantinople. It adopted a revised and expanded form of the A.D. 325 creed, now known as the Nicene Creed. 

The Nicene Creed is the most ecumenical of creeds. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joins with Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and most Protestant churches in affirming it. Nevertheless, in contrast to Eastern Orthodox churches, the western churches state that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but from the Father and the Son (Latin, filioque). To the eastern churches, saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both Father and Son threatens the distinctiveness of the person of the Holy Spirit; to the western churches, the filioque guards the unity of the triune God. This issue remains unresolved in the ecumenical dialogue.
Quoted from The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Part I, Book of Confessions; Geneva Press, Louisville, KY. Copyright ©1996 by the Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the publisher, except as noted.”
Another site to visit is www.crcna.org/pages/nicene_creed.cfm.

While there is a contrast between Eastern Orthodox church and Western churches in one point of doctrine in the Nicene Creed, it did not lead to denominationalism. The writing of the NC did more to unify the body on basic Christian doctrine, as stated above, at the conversion of Constantine. The divinity of Christ was being challenged and that heresy needed to be removed. A rule of faith was needed to keep heretics from leading trusting believers astray with false doctrine. It did not “insure a division” rather just the opposite happened. Denominations are unified in these basic statements of belief of the NC and AC.

There IS a problem with taking creeds to far, as with rejecting them out right. Creeds are simply statements of faith that unify a body of believers, not the Word of God themselves. Some make creeds law, and become Pharisaical. That leads to hypocrisy and sin. Creeds can become idols. Then, there are those who espouse the creeds and not Christ in faith and belief. (I was one once.) Another danger is that some join a certain denomination and agree to support, when they join, the creeds of that denomination without even knowing what it is that church believes. There are some creeds that MUST be rejected because they are contrary to Scripture. The Auburn Affirmation is one that readily comes to mind as well as some (not all) of the tenants in the United Methodist Book of Discipline. However, some reject creeds right out, because of historical circumstances, misinterpretation, they are a part of certain denominations they disagree with. To reject the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed which have stood the test of time and scrutiny, because they are creeds, is dangerous in that rather than shedding of the tangles of denominationalism, it is ultimately saying that one rejects the basics of Christianity that are stated in the creeds (AC and NC). Knowing you guys, I think you do agree with the statements in those two creeds.

I'm simply saying, take a look at the creeds (NC, AC, WCF, whichever) with the Bible right beside you. Find out what certain words and phrases at the time of the writing of the creed meant, like "catholic" and "descended into hell." Read some commentary on them. Then, after studying and finding out what they mean, examine your heart with the help of the Holy Spirit, then accept of reject them. This asking and stating what it is we believe, is working out our “salvation with fear and trembling” and transforming, renewing our minds based upon His Will and His Word. There is discernment of the world there, which we are called to do, because sin and the devil do run rampant. There are times when we must make a stand for righteousness and sound doctrine when the world is wrong. We must say what it is we believe- and we do that- we make and support creeds- every time we share our testimony with someone.

This statement is so unfair and condemning to your brothers and sisters in the Lord who do support creeds: “We need only consult our creeds and our catechisms and hold fast to the systems of theology by which we judge the world and are assured within ourselves and, if we’re so inclined, we too can appeal to the state to enforce our righteous determinations. At the very least we no longer need trifle with those whose invalid beliefs have been clearly exposed by our full and perfect system of theology.” Most who truly hold to the creeds and understand them with all solemnity due the heinousness of our sins against God, do not feel this way. You are condemning us the very same way that you accuse creed-holding Christians/Christian denominations of.

I find it odd to desire that all believers be unified outside denominational boundaries, and creeds like the AC and NC, statements of basic Biblical faith that unites Christians worldwide, are rejected. Are we to unite because we would no longer have denominations as the driving force of unification, or are we to unite as brethren be cause we agree with certain fundamentals of the faith?

7/28/2007 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Pastor I think one of our primary contentions concerns our perception of theological development and both its affect on the Church and the place of the Church in that development. Where I would understand theology to be developed individually it seems you would see it as a corporate activity. I stated previously that theology is man attempting to relate to God. This is done on an individual basis and our success is commensurate to our individual spiritual growth. Each of us must answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” and no man can answer that for us. God reveals Christ in each of us and our knowledge of Him should grow over time. This is not a corporate action but a work of God alone and it cannot effectively be legislated by men. Orthodox beliefs concerning our Lord are numerous and stated clearly in the scripture. Theological beliefs are derived from these. As I stated previously we should never elevate theology to the level of orthodoxy as it is of men and varies, not of God, unchanging. To contrast the creeds of men to the scripture, simply consider how many times the book of Matthew has been revised. This variance is evidenced in the Nicene Creed, which has undergone numerous revisions and stands to be revised again. While scripture remains open only to interpretation, theology should always be open for and subject to debate and should never be considered as orthodox.

With respect to the Arian conflict, it was not and could not be resolved by the council of Nicaea. This was a genuine disagreement in Christology with both sides having a scriptural basis (See 1st Corinthians 8:5,6 for Arianism) and this disagreement continued in spite of the Nicene Creed(s). From a theological perspective this conflict cannot possibly be resolved without understanding some form of the hypostatic union, a concept that I think we would all consider beyond our ability to fully comprehend and that did not begin to flourish until the latter part of the 5th century. To be clear the construct of the Trinity was already being taught in the Church before the council at Nicaea and the council had little, if any, affect on Arianism. It continued to flourish through the 4th and 5th century. What the council did accomplish was to establish an unholy union between the Church and the state that remains prevalent in most nations to this day and allows the state to persecute any believer who would refuse to subordinate the authority of Christ as the head of the man. In addition they altered the practical use of theology in the Church from interpreting and understanding scripture to defining orthodox belief thereby elevating it to the same level of authority as the scripture. These men were answering a call to the state, not the Church and they provided the means to legitimize the Papal persecutions, crusades, inquisitions and witch hunts that so terribly taint the heritage you would have me claim. I cannot. It is extremely difficult for me to comprehend how you can say that the RC did not become corrupt until the 14th century.

I considered myself to have previously answered your questions regarding the origin and source of orthodox belief but I will be very blunt. The scripture contains the only authoritative source for orthodox belief and its origin is of God. If a person or an assembly need more than the scripture to distinguish between our Lord and a chicken then a thousand creeds and scores of theologians could not even begin to address the problems in that person or assembly. ;-)

In all sincerity let’s allow for theological differences and debates within our assemblies, as it is only though these efforts that that which is truly orthodox can emerge.

Sis Beth I love you both dearly and you both have made your love evident through your willingness to discuss and debate these issues with me. I am truly grateful and I think it is most important that we do so when we find disagreement.

Please know that I have not, nor do I condemn anyone for either holding to or rejecting any creed or catechism. What I do condemn is the political use of creeds and their use as a rule for faith and practice. Dismissing a creed is not like dismissing a book of the Bible unless you consider a creed on par with the scripture and I know too many believers that do. I do not wish to “go back” to the Bible on any subject. I think it wise to start with the Bible instead. The Arian controversy was not over the divinity of Christ but over His nature and beginning. You have stated that the Nicene Creed was consequential to the political and social environment and on this we agree. Where we disagree is in the concept that orthodox doctrine need vary with these circumstances. Please bear in mind that these men at Nicaea were answering a call by the state and not the Church nor Christ.

Consider the implications of Constantine’s motto in the historical note you offered and how it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Constantine, with the help of these men at Nicaea, successfully alienated Christianity as the religion of the Rome in the eyes of the world. They effectively stifled the theological growth of the Church and the then current trend toward an understanding of the hypostatic union. The debate that eventually led to this understanding was not allowed to continue until after his death. He initially banished not only all believers who refused to accept the Nicene Creed, but also those who rejected the persecution of Arius and others who dissented. After the Nicene Creed and council failed to quell the Arian controversy Constantine banished Athanasius because he considered his strict stance against Arianism was preventing reconciliation in the Church. Arius was readmitted to communion by a synod at Jerusalem and Constantine even authorized his return home though he died before he could return. The Nicene Creed(s) never settled the Arian controversy. This was only accomplished by the continued debate within the Church that eventually led to a better understanding of the hypostatic union. If we continue to accept Roman propaganda and fail to critically examine these historical events then we are doomed to repeat the errors made. These examinations are not judgments against these men but on the consequence of their actions.

Again, I have not rejected any creed, only their use as the rule for faith and practice. We can only hope to find unity in our love for God and one another.

7/29/2007 07:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Gordon Cloud said...

Hi, KC, I'm coming into this discussion a little late, but here I am, nonetheless.

I appreciate this article and I believe that you and I are of a kindred spirit in this matter.

I do not consider systematic theology in and of itself to be problematic. As you have stated, it is a means to an end, i.e., understanding and knowing God.

The problems arise when men become more enamored with the means than they do the end. When this happens, we generally start trying to force God to occupy our "little box", instead of coming to know Him on His terms. While none would readily admit to this error, we are all probably guilty of it to some degree. I feel this is one area in which God is working on me and I pray that He will continue to do so.

Again, thanks for the article.

7/29/2007 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

tag - you're it!

7/30/2007 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Preacher it's always great to have your thoghts here regardless of the time. I miss your posting brother but I praise God for the full life and ministry He has blessed you with.

I have to agree that I think we all naturally try to wrap things up in a neat little package. After all it takes all of the effort out our relationships and Bible study becomes an absolute breeze! ;-)

Sis that's a great post and I'm anxious to post my entry, if not this evening then tommorow. Thanks so much for the tag! ;-)

7/30/2007 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

There are just too many areas to cover in all of this... and will leave it to God to sort it out...


7/31/2007 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Pastor I appreciate whatever time you can spare in discussion but I know you've got a full plate. Please know it's always a blessing for me to discuss things with you whenever you find the time. I really appreciate you and Sis. Beth.

7/31/2007 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger Todd said...

You did tremendous justice to this issue.

It's a beautiful and rewarding mandate from scripture to rest in the bond of peace with one another scripturally so that also, as Christ puts it, we the body of believers can show the world that God sent Him. There are any number of good reasons for us to confess the error of our attitude(spirit) of disunity.

Eph 4:3...being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I'm amazed by your diligence in this post and these comments Kc. Thanks for your God-honoring example as not just a hearer but a doer.

Admirable teaching, Todd

8/08/2007 09:23:00 AM  

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