I made this chart that gives an overview of the Biblical prophets years ago and have found it to be quite useful over the years. It is designed to help memorize where each prophet fits in historically. Once you break it down this way, it is not as hard to commit them to memory. If anything, it gives you a visual to help sort out the flow of biblical history and the role of each prophet.
I've been listening to this series of sermons by Dr. Curt Daniel on Philosophy and Christianity as part of my research for my worldview class. Of particular interest is this lecture on Existentialism and Nihilism (embedded below). I like the Existentialists because they are the most consistent atheists/naturalists.
If life has no God, life has no meaning.
If life has no meaning, then life is absurd.
If life is absurd, then why live.
Daniel puts it well when he says that existentialism and nihilism are "the sewer into which all philosophical systems run."
In the teaching Daniel does an excellent job of showing the different variations of existential thought have express themselves in art, theater, anarchism, and everyday life. What's best is that through the entire series he points to first sources, using names and quotes/examples of people who embody the philosophies.
For the last couple of weeks we have been talking about why we confess our faith. We have mentioned two reasons so far: because it is a form of oath taking and because it is a form of instruction.
This week we want to note one last reason why we confess our faith. Today I want us to understand that our confession of faith is a means of mutual edification.
In the book of 1st Thessalonians the Apostle Paul has a lengthy discussion of the end times. The Thessalonians were worried about some of their brethren who had passed away. They were wondering “what happens to them?” Paul essentially tells them that they go to be with Jesus and they will come back with him at the resurrection when Jesus comes again.
But at the end of that section Paul says, “Encourage one another with these words.” The Thessalonians were to speak of these things to each other so that they might strengthen one another and console one another in the faith.
That is what we want to happen when we confess our faith together. We want there to be that mutual edification.
Think about it, after a long week of being in the world—perhaps rubbing shoulders with a lot of unbelieving people, maybe even people who are hostile to the faith, what could be better than standing in a room full of people who are confessing the same thing that you believe? That should be a means of encouragement to you to help you face another week.
I will tell you of the most meaningful the Creed has ever been to me. It was on the occasion when a dear saint had passed away. We were standing at the graveside, ready to lay our sister to rest. It was a somber moment as this lady had meant so much to the congregation. She had given an incredible testimony through her battle with cancer and we all had grown to admire her. So, you can imagine that bidding our last farewell was a solemn moment.
We concluded the committal service with all of us reciting the Apostle’s Creed. The sad gray that seemed to overshadow the whole of the proceedings were whisked away as we came to the end of the creed. All together we recited the words, “I believe…in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.” I don’t know if I can speak for everyone there. But I know that, for me, those words were like bright rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds. I walked away from that moment with a renewed feeling that my God was the God of the resurrection. And one day, I would see this dear sister again.
All of this, of course, was because the brethren around me recited the creed together. Even though I was in seminary at the time, and even though I was thoroughly trained the truth of the afterlife—all that was nothing, compared to the encouragement I received through the corporate witness of the believers.
Last week we began a sort of mini-series on why we confess our faith. We said that we do it each week because it is a form of oath taking. It is, so to speak, our pledge of allegiance.
This week I want to highlight another significant reason why we confess our faith from week to week. Part of the reason we do it is for pedagogical reasons. That is to say, we recite the creeds and confessions for the purpose of instruction.
In his first letter Paul told Timothy to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” And on the basis of this we recognize that one of the main purposes of worship is to edify the believers through education in sound doctrine. That is exactly what happens with our confession of faith. We are taking time to highlight the essential truths of our faith so that we all might know what we believe.
We can think of it this way too: The Bible instructs us to “instruct and admonish one another” by “singing songs, hymns and spiritual songs.” When we recite the creed—or as we sing it, as we do from time to time—we are allowing the Holy Spirit to use us in instructing and admonishing one another.
Let me give you one example of how this was once driven home to me. A few years back my niece came and spent a few weeks with us over the summer. Up to that point she had had very little, if any, exposure to Christian teaching. But that summer she attended church with us each week. And each week as a part of our service, we recited the Apostle’s Creed. We didn’t think much of it. It was simply something we did week to week. We only came to see the significance of it later when we happened to have a conversation with her about Christmas.
You see, she had never even heard the Christmas story. For her, Christmas was about Santa Claus and presents. But we had the opportunity to talk about how it was really about the birth of Jesus. She then surprised us by saying, “You mean that whole ‘born of a virgin’ thing?” We were surprised that she made the connection. We were even more surprised that of all things, she got it from the Creed.
That of course, gave rise to a further discussion about the gospel. But right there we had a new perspective of how important the creed was in our services. The Spirit of God was using it to impart a solid understanding of the essential truths of the Christian faith.
This is a great good example of why we confess our faith. It builds greater understanding of the faith. It may be for someone who is un-churched or visiting, or perhaps the constant repetition is helping to ingrain it in our young people who might not get much else out of the service. Or maybe it is you. Maybe it is used to simply remind you of some of the great truths of Scripture.
Whatever the case may be, the Spirit uses it to impart knowledge and understanding regarding our faith and our God.
Each week we have this particular part of the service we call “the confession of faith.” It is not something you find in a lot of churches today. In the main it is found in churches that are Lutheran or Reformed; you might say that you will only find it in churches that are directly linked to the Protestant Reformation.
Being that it is somewhat unfamiliar to so many, I was asked to give a brief synopsis of why we have this as a regular part of our services.
There are a number of reasons why historically this has been a regular practice in the church. The primary reason is because the confession of faith is a form of oath taking; it is a vow that we take before God and man.
The Bible tells us that one of the things that is permitted in worship the taking of oaths and vows. For instance, Deuteronomy 10:20 says, “You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.”
Or, we might think of the third commandment. The third commandment says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” Of course, the opposite of that is that we are to take God’s name. And, as you take that name, you are to do so with love, reverence, and zeal. The essence of the 3rd commandment is that you are to vigorously claim God as your own and assert before the world that He is your God.
Think of it this way, every time you recite the Apostle’s Creed you are not just articulating the church’s basic beliefs about the Triune God; in reciting those words you are publicly testifying that this particular God is your God.
It used to be the practice in schools to say the pledge of allegiance every morning before they dug into their day. When they did that, what they were essentially doing was taking an oath. They were pledging their allegiance to America and to her flag.
In the same way when we recite the creeds and confessions, we are making our pledge of allegiance. When we stand with the congregation of Christ and give voice to these words we take an oath before God and man that we believe these things to be true and we have given our lives to the service of this God.
ELIJAH’s APPEARANCE 1 Kings 17:1
Do we still have fertility gods today? What are the gods of our day? Why do we worship them?
The doctrine of predestination has been discussed variously throughout history. The following will serve as a concise summary of the various views.
Pelagius was a monk who lived in the fourth century. He taught that man was not born with original sin (i.e. a sinful nature inherited from Adam). When it came to salvation Pelagius taught that grace was not needed for salvation. Man, by his own inherent power, could essentially save himself. As a result, one will not typically find a discussion of God’s predestination in regards to Pelagianism.
Semi-Pelagianism, though being a slight improvement over rank Pelagianism, also denies the place of God’s predestinating work in salvation. SP teaches that grace is necessary for salvation, but maintains that man first initiate it. It is only after he, by his own will and inititative, takes the first steps that God provides saving grace.
Arminianism was developed by Jacob Arminius, a Dutch theologian who lived in the latter half of the 16th century. Arminius wanted to preserve the biblical doctrine of predestination. However, he was not comfortable with the Calvinistic understanding of it.
In contrast to semi-pelagianism, Arminianism teaches that the first steps of grace are taken by God. God offers prevenient grace to the unregenerate man. This grace is always resistible. Therefore, when one believes, it is not grace which makes one to differ from another person, but naturally produced faith.
This being said, one can note that there is a fine line between semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism.
In this view the decree of God consists in God’s foreknowledge of events to come (a la Romans
At the most basic level a worldview is one’s belief system. It is that basic set of principles which governs the way one thinks and acts. To put it in a more metaphorical fashion, it is that lens by which you see and understand the world.
In his opening chapter Francis Schaeffer says, “What [you] are in your thought world determines how you act.” He goes on to talk about one’s presuppositions (which is another way of talking about a worldview):
In sum, a worldview answers the question, “How do you understand the world and how do you live in it?”
It has been said that “One’s culture is a product of one’s cult.” America is the way it is (culture) because it has shared beliefs (cult). We who live in Ashland differ from the tribal people of the African Sahara because our basic understanding of life (i.e. our worldview) is different.
For example, why is it that an American missionary team can come to a tribal village of Africa and dig a hole 40 feet deep and bring rushing waves of fresh water to a place that was essentially covered by sand? It is because these missionaries have centuries of western culture behind them. Christianity allowed one to investigate creation and develop technology. The African tribes, being bound by their superstitions, had no sense of scientific inquiry. It never occurred to them that water might be trapped under the sand. Their worldview wouldn’t permit them to make this discovery.
This being said, we should recognize that everyone has a worldview. A person may not be able to expressly spell it out, but they have one—as assuredly as paint has color. Life requires a worldview because you have to make sense of the world to live in it. You have to have a basic philosophy to guide how you live and interpret reality. So the question that must be asked is not so much, “Do you have a worldview?”, but rather “Which worldview do you have?” (and more importantly, Is it right?).
The title I dubbed for this class is Thoroughbred Christianity. That is because this class is seeking to cultivate in you an understanding that there is one true faith that must be kept pure and undefiled.
You might have heard of thoroughbred horses or thoroughbred dogs. These are animals which have a pure breeding. They are mutts who are a mix of poodles, Labradors, and/or Chow, etc.
This mixing of belief is what we call syncretism. Syncretism is the combining of different (often seemingly contradictory) beliefs. It is one of the most deadly weapons that Satan uses to destroy true faith.
The ancient Israelites often sinned against God by worshipping other gods. However, they did not wake up one morning and decide to worship different gods. Typically it was a process. They began with slight deviations, but continued to worship “the LORD.” These deviations continued to increase and they continued to move farther away from the true religion.
Two examples serve to illustrate: That of the golden calf incident (they fashioned a calf--likely something they got from Egypt, and called it the LORD). The second is that of the Samaritans.
Many in America today have a smorgasbord approach to religion. At a buffet restaurant, you can choose from a variety of dishes. You can mix and match however you would like. The same is often done with religion. What happens is that the faith that one holds is a completely new religion. It is not Christianity. The Lord commands us to worship in “spirit and truth.” That means we must refrain from worshipping him in “paganism and truth.”
Our purpose in this class is to help us formulate a thoroughgoing Christian worldview. We want Christians to be thoroughbreds, and not a sort of Christian mutt—one who has a little Christianity, a little Eastern religion, a little secularism, etc.
Oftentimes we fall into syncretism unconsciously. We are not making a conscious decision to hold contradictory beliefs. It simply happens because we are immersed in our culture and radically influenced by it without knowing it.
When I was young I worked as a “fry guy” at a local fast food restaurant. I would spend hours standing over the fry vats which were filled with hot grease in order to cook the fries. At the end of my shift I would come home. Oftentimes my mother would tell me that I smelled like a French fry.
Unbeknownst to me, I took on the “smell” of my context. By the time my shift was done I was, in a sense, part human and part French fry.
This serves as a good illustration of what oftentimes happens to us when it comes to our faith. Because we are immersed in a culture that has a certain worldview (secularist, existential), we pick it up without even knowing it. Our faith ends up being part Christian and part secularist (or Eastern mystic, etc.).
Within my heart a fire burns;
My bones do agonize.
I cannot quench or hold it back;
His Name I can’t despise.
Woe unto me if I speak not,
Or fail to mention Him.
The gospel must go forth from me
Announcing this anthem.
Your law will sting, your grace will shake
When You extend your Word.
The sword will strike, men’s hearts will melt,
When this frail soul is stirred.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.