theology

The Church, The Believer and Politics

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It is that season again in the United States where our democracy allows for our choices of those that will represent our voice in the government. Irregardless of your political inclinations or views, you are being pitch by candidates that are positioning themselves to attract your votes. This is just the beginning of the process. I would say that there are conversations taking place around the dinner tables of the American families, however, we know that we are living in a time where the views of the individuals are diverse and that the dinner tables could have a representative from various candidates and parties.

These families include believers who slide into our pews every Sunday morning, and although there are arguments for the separation of Church and State, and many thread lightly in expressing their views within the walls of the Church building, it is impossible to separate the opinion of the believer who also represents a voter in this mechanism.

It is not the intent of this post to sway anyone person towards any specific viewpoint or party. The freedom in America to choose for yourself the person who you agree with and submit your vote towards, is one that is considered sacred, if the word fits, in America. However, it is the intent of this post to remind the believer, and in association, the Church, of who they are representative of. What is the role of Christian ethics and morality in your decision making process? Your position is a reflection of what you have considered to be acceptable in what your candidate believes and represents. Your candidate is a representative arm of your beliefs and your desired end in placing someone in office that will stand for those things which you are in agreement with.

We as the Church must take this responsibility seriously, if we are to make a decision to cast our vote in favor of anybody, again, irregardless of political affiliation or party. The Christian does not stop being responsible for their actions or beliefs at the voting booth. We must search our hearts and seek those that align themselves with our own beliefs if we are to be responsible representative of the Kingdom of God. Our final vote must mirror who we are and what we stand for. Politics should never cause a compromise of our standing with God!

You may ask yourself, what does this post have to do with theology? Well, our theology is represented in our beliefs and doctrines. It is not enough to accept the validity of a doctrinal position or discipline of belief and not find yourself responsible for living a life that aligns itself with that position or belief. Your Christian morals are only in question when we take steps that are opposite to our beliefs.

Your vote is your responsibility! Now vote, but do so with a clear conscious and with a spirit of peace!

The Renewing of the Mind

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Biblical Foundation

“And Be renewed in the spirit of your mind” Ephesians 4:23

“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” Colossians 3:10

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 12: 2

“…but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” 2 Corinthians 4:16

 

The Christ follower is currently partaking of a renewing process. This process is continual from the time since we accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In order to understand this process, there are two key words that must be understood. The first word is “the renewing”, and the second word is “the mind”.

Let’s define the first, “the renewing”:

To renew: According to Webster’s Dictionary, to renew is, (1) to make new again, to make young, fresh, or strong again: to bring back into good condition (2) to give new spiritual strength to (3) to cause to exist again; reestablish; revive

The term, renew, gives the indication of something that at one time was new, but has lost its original first condition. It is the making new again of what is old, worn, or exhausted. It is to bring back to an original or unimpaired condition.

In the Greek, the term renewing in Romans 12:2, is anakainosis, which means a renewing or a renovation which makes a person different than in the past. It is to renew qualitatively.

Let’s now look at the second word, “the mind”:

The mind: Again, according to Webster’s Dictionary, the mind is, (1) memory; recollection or remembrance, (2) what one thinks; opinion (3) that which thinks, perceives, feels, wills; a) the seat or subject of consciousness, b) the thinking or perceiving part of consciousness, intellect, or intelligence c) attention; notice d) all of an individual’s conscious unit: psyche (4) the intellect in its normal state; reason

The mind is the central identifier of a person’s life. It is the main hub, from which our thoughts and the decision process takes place. According to the Bible, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). A man’s thoughts are a sum total of his life.

Now the renewing of the mind is the process by which the person is transformed. In other words, we are called to think differently than we did prior to serving the Lord. I would like to pause for a second to touch on a word which correlates with “the mind”, and that is “the heart”. Romans 10:10 says, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness”. The word “heart” here, in the Greek, is kardia, which the Scriptures attribute to it: thoughts, reasonings, understanding, will, judgment, designs, affections, love, hatred, fear, joy, sorrow, and anger. Therefore, the heart is used as a metonymy (a figure of speech in which the name of one thing is used in place of that of another) for the mind in general; the understanding; the will; the memory; the intention, affection, or desire; and the conscience.

In summary, your life should be reflecting continual change. It does not matter how much change, since this is a process that you must submit to individually, but certainly you should be reflecting some level of change since you accepted Christ into your life. This is our process of transformation, according to the Apostle Paul. To be transformed is “to change into another form”, in the Greek, metaorphoo.

We must continue to push forward to see that continual change by submitting our lives in obedience to what God is doing in us. We must defeat the old person in us which battles to take control of areas in our lives which we have already submitted. We must transform our thinking to live a life of faith of not only of the God we serve, but also a faith in the God we serve. That is to say a faith in all that He has established in His Word with regards to the life we should be living and the promises He has established for us.

As we read the Word of God, our minds enter into that place where change happens. Our thoughts begin to align themselves with the Scriptures in order to cause in us a Biblical reaction to circumstances. Our minds are transformed and old thoughts and habits are replaced by new thoughts and principles.

Only by renewing our minds can we put off the old man in us and his way of thinking, and put on the new man who continually grows into having the mind of Christ.

Morality and Christianity

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Morality is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “conformity to ideals of right human conduct”. It is behavior that is regarded as correct and subjected to a series of codes of conduct by a human being. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy established that the term “morality” can be used either (1) descriptively to refer to some codes of conducts put forward by a society, or some other group, such as a religion, or accepted by an individual for her own behavior or (2) normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

Given the above established definitions of morality, its basis is established upon the act of human beings to provide the foundation by which to define and implement the codes of conduct that establishes the moral acts themselves. in other words, whether a society or religion, the laws that govern morality are based upon the interpretation of human beings. Here is where I differ.

I would begin my difference by first establishing my approach to Christianity. Christianity may be regarded as another religion among certain circles of society, however, in reality Christianity is founded upon a relationship between the person and the Lord Jesus Christ. You may argue that all religions have a representative, but in this sense, the Christian accepts Jesus Christ to not only be the Son of God, but also God Himself. The Word of God is what we believe to have been given to us by God Himself, in order to come to the knowledge of Him. Now, within the wisdom of this Word, not only do we get to know God, but it also provides us with a mirror in which to see ourselves. The true you is found in Its reflection. Whether for the good or the bad.

True morality then is found, not in the codes established by a society or religion, but that which is established by the Word of God. Although societies and religions may change, the Word of God stands forever. This tells us that true morality is unchanging, because the Word of God is unchanging. Truth, according the Word of God, is the measure. Any moral code of conduct established by a society or religion that differs from the truth established in the Word of God is not, in its true definition, a moral conduct. Whether any act or behavior can be regarded as moral, it will have to stand to the scrutiny of what God had to say about it.

So in reality, true morality and true Christianity are joined by the very same foundation, which is the Word of God. You cannot separate them without affecting its true nature. Morality is not found in what is right or justified in the eyes of society (this we have allowed to be established), but more on the revelation of God’s view of right and wrong, as given in His Word. When we talk about the true moral character of a person, it is to be found in the reflection of that person’s life and how it coincides with the instructions given to us in the Word of God. Although there may be some codes of conduct in society that may relate to God’s view, it is evident that true morality in society today suffers from a lack of a full inclination to what God has to say about morality. However, true morality was not meant to be carried out by a society as a whole, but by the individual persons of that society. We all hold the individual responsibility to adhere to the Word of God and modify our conducts accordingly in order to be the instruments of change in our society. We must stand against any code of conduct that is contrary to the Word of God, in order to establish the true moral compass, if society is to find its way back to God. Only then can we be a true Christian nation, living within the measure of true morality within our society.

For example, acts such as removing Bibles from the schools, was accepted by society to be the correct thing to do. For what relation does God have with education? However, it was the removal of the moral compass in our society that years later has led to the loss of correct behavior among our children and a society lost in its attempt to fight the onslaught of immoral behavior. Nations that are crippled without direction. This has now created a generation that redefines and adjust morality based on popular demands.

Since true morality and Christianity are related, how does this the shifting of moral principles affect the Christian church today?

Breaking Through Christian Relativism

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Webster’s Dictionary defines relativism as “a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them”. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) indicates that, “although there are many different kinds of relativism, they all have two features in common.”

1) They all assert that one thing (e.g. moral values, beauty, knowledge, taste, or meaning) is relative to some particular framework or standpoint (e.g. the individual subject, a culture, an era, a language, or a conceptual scheme).

2) They all deny that any standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states that, “any doctrine which denies, universally or in regard to some restricted sphere of being, the existence of absolute values, may be termed Relativism.”

It is clear that relativism is a counter measure to absoluteness. By absoluteness I mean  unchangeability. Something that cannot be changed (unchangeable). The danger of Christian relativism is that it asserts that doctrinal truths can be relative to the individual groups holding them. We may have relativism when it comes to our worship methods or service structures. However, one thing that does not adhere itself to relativism is the source of our salvation (worship is relative, salvation is not).

It is wise to recognize that as time modifies our social and philosophical viewpoints, these also has the tendencies to influence our theological perspectives and our resolved belief systems. Humanism infiltrates the structured truths used in the foundation of our doctrines and disciplines by the outcry of tolerance in a modern society. All that stand on the side of absolute truth are regarded as arrogant and divisive. The framework established for acceptance of truth is relative to the culture and era in which it was presented. The common good of the society or community is critical and the most important factor in a relative Christianity.

Relativism paint a broad stroke in presenting an interpretation of God’s Word. To the extent, that if need be, an absolute truth can be diminished to a statement to be interpreted upon the era in which it was given and categorized as only relative to the current times, with a call to required modifications in order to better fit the society of today.

In the so called Christian community of today, not all stand on the precept that the road to salvation stand upon an absolute truth. That truth being salvation through Christ Jesus. This irrefutable truth finds itself in a relative debate, due to its demand for exclusivity. Society, and to an extent, elements of the Christian community itself, now entertains the ideas of a broad interpretation of God’s intention in providing salvation to humanity by interjecting a flexible and culture-appropriate means by which salvation is attained.  These relative means are what pose the greatest danger to the Christian church today. Once the cornerstone of Christianity, Christ Jesus, is explained in a relative form, the very foundations of the Christian faith receives a crack it its foundation which weakens the whole building.

In order to break through Christian relativism, a call for a stand on the undeniable truth, as presented in Scripture, must take place. Jesus Christ continues to be in all eternity, the only way of salvation.

The Apostle Paul declares it in this way:

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell: And having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:12-20)

Paul continues on to say:

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: Rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ”. (Colossians 2:6-8)

Relativism is not new to today. It has been around since the foundation of the Christian church. The intent to dilute the truth through philosophy and vain deceit continues to make its mark in the Christian today who falls prey to a lack of knowledge and accepts relative philosophical arguments in the name of religious tolerance.

The Theology of Christmas

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It is ironic to hear the outcry of those who are attempting to fight back against the attack on Christmas. Not that I am in agreement with those that are utilizing the very laws that at one time provided us the freedoms to display our faith, but are Christians truly shocked that the event that represent the birth of our Lord and Savior would actually come under attack? Christianity has always been attacked, since the very beginning. So, why is this any different?

I may share some things on this post that may ruffle some feathers. It is not my intent to categorize all that are speaking out against the attacks on Christmas, but more to pinpoint a truth that is ignored by many because of its inconvenience, and to an extent, the commercialization and traditional aspects of something we hold so dear. So, here we go!

For many, the celebration of Christmas is the only representation and act that they have used all year in demonstrating their faith. There is nothing like putting up a manger to declare to the world that we are Christians. Why not! It is for the most part an inexpensive and less sacrificial way to declare our belief in Jesus. Am I against the manger display? Of course not. I am just bringing light to a large portion of those believers that choose to declare their Christianity once a year. Where have they been the rest of the year?

The fact is that Christianity and anything that represents our beliefs are under attack every single day around the world. Where is the outcry for the persecutions that are taking place around the world against Christians? Legislation against Christianity occurs all the time in our governments. Yet, the loudest outcry is heard when our ability to celebrate Christmas comes under attack. The true battle should be fought everyday in defense of our faith.

For many others, there is no difference between the manger and Santa Clause. This is the commercialization part of Christmas. The manger is just another decoration used to celebrate the holiday. There is no difference between Santa’s workers in the North Pole and the kings that came to pay tribute to the birth of our Lord. They are just characters in a good story that makes the holiday season merry.

Okay now, you may ask, “What does this have to do with theology? and, Why include it in the Theology Exchange?” I am glad you asked. You see, the birth of Jesus is the very cornerstone of our Christian theology. It was not the launch of a new holiday for the world, but the birth of a Savior who would redeem and justify us through His righteousness. Man has a condition of sin that makes us fall short of the Glory of God. Redemption came when Jesus was born. Reconciliation was achieved between fallen man and his Creator, in the Person of Christ.

In the paragraph above I have touched on areas of theological studies such as Christology (the study of Christ), Hamartiology (the study of sin), and Soteriology (the study of Salvation). Christmas should reflect the reason for the birth of Jesus. Man’s sin separated him from his Creator, and put in action a plan of salvation that would reconcile us to the Father, through His Son Jesus Christ. This required a sacrifice that only One could have paid, this in the person of Jesus Christ.

Christmas should remind us of our Savior, and not of a holiday season celebrated in just the exchange of gifts. No, I am not against Christmas and its celebration and the exchange of gifts. However, let your outrage against the attacks of Christmas be focused upon the most important part, the foundation of our faith. You might find that the attack on the true meaning of Christmas is carried out every day of the year, and the battle must be fought daily.

So, fight the good fight of faith every day, and defend the freedoms that allow us to share the true meaning of Christmas.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

The Future Trend of Theology

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It is obvious today that the current trend of theology and its study has led to a division among the Christian community. However, much worst, the post-modern form has led to a total distortion of the Biblical truths which laid the foundations for the development of Christian beliefs and the doctrines that are presented to the church today. This has not occurred overnight. It has been an incremental ignorance to the twisting of Biblical principles and the lost obligation of demanding an accountable form of interpretation of Scripture. The constant adjustments made to the truth of Scripture in order to accommodate a non-abrasive and non-confrontational  form of theological beliefs in a self-serviced type of Christianity, has brought about distorted views and religion that serves the individual more than God.

In relation of the events that we have been a witnessing, Colossians  2:8 warns us, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ”. Also we see in 2 Peter 2:1 the following, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction”. Look at how Peter speaks about future teachers, “there shall be among you”. Peter is not warning about outsiders who will attack sound beliefs and teachings, but false teachers among the Christian community. The responsibility to avoid falling into false teachings is placed on every Christian, who is required to grow as Ephesians 4:14 also warns us, “That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, {and} cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive”. In these three verses we see the (1) the warning to be aware, (2) the false teachers that will be among us that will bring damnable heresies, and (3) our responsibility to no longer be children (in our knowledge and understanding) so that we be not carried about with every wind of doctrine.

Here lies the future trend of theology. The theology known by most church goers is established by that which is taught from the pulpits. The foundation of that theology in most cases is unknown by the hearer, primarily due to a complacent form of following which does not demand a personal responsibility for the personal study. A false teaching can become foundational to the belief of the hearer due to ignorance.

How dependent are we upon the words of man more than the Word of God itself? This is demonstrated in the amount of time that the layperson is spending in the Word of God, searching out truths for themselves. Ignorance continues to be our worst enemy.

An example of where the trend of theology has led is the Latin American theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez, born in 1928 in Lima, Peru. Gutierrez is the author of the book, A Theology of Liberation, which is highly regarded in liberation studies. Gutierrez view of “anonymous Christian” is based on belief that “persons are saved if they open themselves to God and to others, even if they are not clearly aware that they are doing so.” His definition of saving faith is “an act of trust, a going out of one’s self, a commitment to God and neighbor, a relationship with others.” This form of theology places a view of a salvation that relies upon our service to others through forms of social emphasis. As necessary as it may be for us as Christians to help others, salvation is an act of grace that must not be confused or distorted as something earned through acts of kindness, but received only through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. If the substance of our salvation revolves around our acts in relation to others, then it would open doors for a more expanded form of Christianity based on the goodness of people.

I bring this example mainly due to the amount of influence that this form of theology has on our society today. If you were to ask a person that has not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, if they feel that they would be saved from judgment, a very large percentage would identify themselves a good people who help when they see a need, and even believe in God. However, there is no better answer to this question than that given by Paul to the jailer in Acts 16:30-31, “And brought them out, and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” This is a far cry from the answer given by Gutierrez of the “anonymous Christian” who is saved “even if he/she does not know that they are doing so [in opening themselves to God and others].

We will visit this subject again in the future. However, this example of how theology will trend in the future is one that is connected to our times. It is a theology that depends on human beings to achieve their redemptive goals. The transformation of the individual through faith in Jesus Christ and the atonement is replaced with acts of goodness for a change in society.

Let me emphasize that the Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and now walks in light of that which he/she has received through Grace, does have a concern for the plight and pain felt by the community. As such, our hearts will move us to work and assist in helping others. However, our salvation depends upon one act, as Paul so clearly states in Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Theology and the Role of Interpretation

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Theology is defined as the study of God. When theologians, or those that are involved in this area of study, communicate their findings, they do so from a point of interpretation. The correct place from which to base the interpretation should be the Scriptures. However, in the modern world in which we find ourselves, the practice of establishing areas of Scripture as non-conformist or even obsolete is gaining momentum and a new form of a so-called modern theology has gained ground.

The issue with a form of theology that moves away from Scriptural foundations is that it is free to be presented by the theologian based upon individual interpretation, which can be infected with assumptions and personal bias. In a quest to balance the theology with the modern viewpoints and political correctness, the focus of the study is presented not from a Biblical standpoint, and that which has been revealed through the inspiration of the Spirit (God Himself) to the writers of the Bible, but more of an apologetical theology is used to present a God who is more compatible to the modern day. A tolerable and loving God is the primary focus, while God’s holiness and righteousness, and the execution of the righteousness through justice, is secondary to the individual studies.

The fact is that we, as theologians, are not called to defend God, but to present the truth about His nature and attributes that is in agreement with the Biblical interpretation. In the quest to present a modern God who is a loving friend to all religions, and has chosen to reveal Himself in different forms to different people, the very nature of the God that we serve has been mis-represented and a corrupted form of the Gospel has taken over the message of redemption.

It is our responsibility to present the truth of not only God’s love, but also His righteousness. His does not share His Glory, nor does He tolerate unholiness. The revelation has been given to us in the Scriptures. Our interpretation of that revelation must be true to the Word, regardless of its lack of popularity and modern correctness.

Because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16) Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28,29) The just Lord is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame. Zeph. 3:5

E. G. Robinson in Christian Theology, wrote: “The one all-inclusive aim of Biblical Christianity is holiness, . . . but personal holiness will be the one absorbing and attainable aim of man, only as he recognizes it to be the one preeminent attribute of God”.

In theology and the role of interpretation, we will reflect an understanding of God based in what we see in the mirror, if we move away from what has been written in the Scriptures about God’s true attributes.