How do we distinguish truth from falsehood in the Scriptures?
follow [the rule of] universality, antiquity, consent
- Vincent of Lerins—
Mike Barlotta (@g1antfan) July 22, 2014
In the last post we proposed several principles that together were called the agile manifesto for doctrine and theology. The first principle was: focus on the essentials of the faith over the non-essentials.
This of course opens up a number of questions. Is dividing doctrine into essentials and non-essentials a valid pursuit? If it is then which doctrines are essential? How do we go about figuring out what is and what is not essential?
The doctrines that one adds (or does not add) to their list of essentials can be very subjective. I have recently taught a class on discerning doctrine and we wrestled with these ideas. Much of my thinking on essentials has been shaped by reading Scripture, reading the extant writings of the early church, and reading a series of posts over at the Parchment and Pen, particularly the Essentials in a Nutshell (which also was described here and here).
Fundamentals of the Faith
When wrestling with which doctrines are essential the first thing we need to do is define what an essential doctrine is. What I mean when I use the term essential doctrine are those truths that define Christianity. Without holding these doctrines as true a person could not be saved. The essential doctrines should unite all Christians. They should also divide Christians from non-Christians. Continue reading
In the field of professional software there is movement (that is well underway) toward agile development methods that is very popular. This movement was launched with the Agile Software Manifesto that focuses on values and principles that should guide how one develops software. These values and principles focus on delivering customer value through constant feedback and lightweight development methods.
I think that we could benefit from an agile manifesto for doctrine and theology. The ideals proposed here can be traced back to the 5th century and Vincent of Lérins. In the Commonitory he wrote what is now commonly known as the Vincentian Canon that states:
we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.
Based on this idea I offer an agile manifesto for working through doctrine and theology. Continue reading
“The main argument against the existence of God has always been the ‘argument from evil’”, argues Richard Swinburne, a philosopher who has written numerous works defending the existence of God .
For atheists like Sam Harris:
The problem of vindicating an omnipotent and omniscient God in the face of evil … is insurmountable. 
Based on this premise Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy tackle this problem head on in The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw, published by Baker Books (available at Amazon).
Augustine (354-430) is considered one of the most influential Christian theologians and philosophers. In the Parchment and Pen Top 10 theologian series, he was ranked #1.
As a young man, Augustine studied rhetoric. During his studies he began his search for truth. That search led him to a group known as the Manichees, which held to a Gnostic dualism. In this system good and evil were two separate and opposing powers.
In 387, while teaching as a professor of rhetoric in Milan, Augustine became a Christian (largely due to the influence of Ambrose). Eventually he would go on to become the Bishop of Hippo (in North Africa).
As a Christian, Augustine wrote many works against Manichaeism in an attempt to help his friends understand the problems with that view and encourage them to become Christians.
In refuting the dualism of Manichaeism, Augustine explained that God was the Good Creator of all things and all that He created was also good. Evil was not a separate and opposing power (as they taught) but rather the absence of good. Man and the poor use of his free will was responsible for evil when he chose to sin. Continue reading
What if Jonathan Edwards memorable sermon “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” was written in the style of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat? It might go something like this:
We sat there in church.
We listened so well.
The preacher stepped up
to tell us about hell.
With tales of horror,
that sound like Stephen King,
We sat on the seat edge
with sweat that did cling.
The preacher he taught,
about our feet sliding.
Explaining the text,
no truth was he hiding.
To walk in a place
so slippery and wet.
A most foolish idea
you are sure to regret.
You’ll fall down
into a wide gaping pit.
And you will not like it.
Not one little bit. Continue reading
The last chapter in Simply Jesus examines the question – what does it mean to say that Jesus is King – and examines how Christians should seek to live in the 5th Act of human history.
The views presented here are a summary of what Wright presents in his book.
Jesus is King over Heaven & Earth
In dealing with the question what does it mean to say that Jesus is King, Wright explains that Jesus is currently King over heaven and earth. Daniel 7 has been fulfilled at the Ascension and we are not to wait for Jesus to become King, though we are to anticipate His return. I would add that Matthew 28 would add support to this idea.
Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.(Matt 28:18 NET)
But for Wright that does not mean that Jesus rules over two separate worlds or realms. Heaven and earth are two overlapping and interlocking worlds. And Jesus has launched God’s kingdom on earth.
When we look at the world we might wonder how that could possibly be true. After all the world is such a mess. But, according to Wright, we are missing a crucial piece of the puzzle when we talk about the reign of Jesus and His kingdom: Continue reading
This post is part of the series blogging through Simply Jesus.
In the last chapter the question was: Why did the Messiah have to die? In this chapter, Wright wrestles with the meaning of the Resurrection, Ascension, and Second Coming.
Wright sees all of these events as essential to God’s great restoration project in which He is ‘putting the world right‘.
The power that has tyrannized the old creation has been broke, defeated, overthrown. God’s kingdom is now launched, and launched in power and glory, on earth as in heaven.
In this chapter, Wright is challenging those Christians who look forward to going to heaven as a new place without focusing on living fully for Christ now.
To have this kind of view, Wright contends, is to miss out on what God is doing. Continue reading
R.C Sproul, the popular Reformed pastor, author, and founder of Ligonier Ministries, asked the following question in his book: Chosen By God.
The $64,000 question is, “Does the Bible teach such a doctrine of prevenient grace? If so, where?”
And Tom Schreiner in his critique on prevenient grace (chapter 9 in Still Sovereign) summed it up like this:
Prevenient grace is attractive because it solves so many problems, but it should be rejected because it cannot be exegetically vindicated
Before continuing I want to make three important observations:
1. Reformed and Arminian views both hold to the concepts and doctrine of original sin/total depravity. In summary that means that people, because of our fallen nature, cannot initiate a relationship with God or come to faith without God’s help.
2. Reformed and Arminian views both hold to the need for prevenient grace – a grace that precedes faith. This grace is given by God to restore our fallen nature and enable a person to come to faith.
3. The primary difference between Reformed and Arminian theologies is whether prevenient grace is resistible or not. Continue reading
C. Michael Patton (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is the creative founder of Reclaiming the Mind ministries an organization dedicated to building informed disciples of Jesus Christ. Their mission is to train Christians so that they can love God with their whole mind as well as their heart and soul (Matt 22:37).
Through the blog Parchment and Pen, Credo House – a theological coffee house, and excellent theology and discipleship courses, C. Michael Patton (or CMP for short and how he is often referenced in comments on his blog) has worked hard to make theology accessible to everyone.
It was his blog and first theology courses (then offered through NET Bible) that helped me develop a passion for theology and blogging. Needless to say I am a major fan of Reclaiming the Mind and what C. Michael Patton is working to accomplish. I was very excited to be able to receive a copy of his latest book – Now That I’m a Christian – to read and review (available at Amazon).
What is this book aiming to do and why was it written?
Have you ever gotten a new computer, camera, or other complex consumer product. Continue reading