As I’ve gone along in my faith, I find that I read the Bible more, but I quote from it less, especially when I’m in a heated discussion with others. Others may find this odd and some may find it shameful.
There is, however, method to my madness. Or, if not a method, there is at least a reason.
My doctoral research involved the great fourth century theologian, Athanasius of Alexandria. He was known in his day, and indeed, in our own, as the defender of Nicene orthodoxy. He was also known as a polemicist, who used his towering intellect and considerable writing skills in opposing the Arians – those who denied the deity of Christ and opposed, in varying degrees, the settlement and creed that was affirmed at Niceae. I was surprised, therefore, that in reading Athanasius’ many works that although he made extensive use of Scripture, he very seldom used individual references out of context as “proof texts” in his argumentation. Moreover, he actually considered the citing of isolated texts and passages to be the ground of argument for his opponents. You see, Athanasius remained committed to a different sort of exegesis that began and ended with the total context of the revelation of Scripture. Writing to a fellow bishop, Serapion, Athanasius complained that the Arians had ignored or missed “the scope of the Divine Scripture”.
Now, when we speak of the “scope” of Scripture, we are not talking about its “general drift”. Instead, we are speaking precisely of the creedal core of the Bible which is condensed in “rules of faith” (such as the creeds) which have been maintained in the Church and transmitted from generation to generation. For Athanasius, the most basic root of Christian spirituality was divine revelation. This divine revelation of creation, fall and redemption, was communicated by the Scripture and was given to all of the faithful, equally and at once. Moreover, that divine revelation communicated in Scripture was mediated and made real in the context of the Church itself, by our confessions of faith, our common prayers, our vigils, our sharing of the Eucharist and by our real and authentic openness to the message of the Gospel.
In other words, the Church was to act as a living interpretation of the divine revelation contained in Scripture. I have found it interesting that although an archbishop, Athanasius never made a special case for an exclusive hierarchical ministry. Instead he saw the Church, the whole Church from the lowest to the highest, as being the instrument for believers to have access to the complete truth of Scripture – and that truth was to be found most completely in the community of faith. It is where, in Word and Sacrament and Community, we live out the experience of our faith and where we actualize the very reality of salvation fulfilled in Christ. This actualization, however, is both a “given” (when we come to faith) and a “process” (as we together grow in faith). It pervades, or should pervade, the entire social and spiritual growth of the Church. It also provides answers, within the scope of that divine revelation and its creedal core, to the questions of individual Christians expressed on the level of their common Christian experience. You see, the basic message is that the Bible makes sense within a context – the context of the Church, a community, an individual Christian life, a rule of faith. Moreover, the truth of Scripture was to be verified in and by the lives of believers as a community.
On the other hand, during the time in which Athanasius lived, his Arian opponents were renowned for pressing the meaning of a text without regard either to its immediate context or the wider frame of reference in the teaching of the Bible as a whole, not to mention a rule of faith or community of believers. (As an old professor of mine once said, “A text without a context is a pretext.”) They were particularly good at piling up a whole collection of unconnected passages around their one central point of argument.
Now, without branding them heretics, I think that this is a problem today for those who have a high view of Scripture, but who also tend to extract individual verses, snatched almost at random, to bolster an argument or to prove a point. This, I may say, is somewhat of a common occurrence among certain evangelicals. (Perhaps the lingering influence of the Scofield Reference and the Thompson Chain Reference bibles are to blame.) It is possible in the heat of a disagreement for such a person to quote a verse, (or a whole series of verses) while remaining blind as to its place in the wider sweep of Biblical theology or even failing to take into sufficient account the immediate context in which their proof-text is set. This, of course, does not even take into account the numerous other variables such as, the original language(s), the textual tradition, the literary genre, its exegetical history, etc.
We are not, however, all exegetical scholars. Not all of us have the opportunity for advanced study. Most of us simply love the Scripture and wish to understand it more deeply and to apply it to our lives more consistently. This is not something new. This has been the common experience of Christians from the first century to the present day. I believe it is why, God in his wisdom, has provided us with some guideposts – rules of faith, a community of faith, and, most importantly, that every individual Christian – including you and me – is a part of the great sweep of salvation history, of creation, fall and redemption.
All this is merely to say that the next time you have a heated discussion about politics, faith, doctrine, etc., and you bring forward your devastating “proof text” to make your point… the proof of the text, is probably not the verse you quote, it’s the life you live.
Duane W.H. Arnold
1. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19–20 ESV)
This is the verse I chose this morning as one of the verses most likely to be ignored for the next four years.
The failure of half the electorate to be “quick to hear” the concerns of the other half resulted in the election of the current President. It will result in it’s reversal at some point as well. As representatives of Christ, how can we facilitate both sides being willing to listen and slow to anger so we can live in a civil society? Do we will have a will to live in obedience to the Scripture?
2. Finding the worst representatives of both sides of the current divide to caricature the entire side on social media is dishonest and contributes nothing to mutual understanding.
3. Some of you post on Facebook like you’re getting paid by the word…
4. If you can’t be “right” righteously, you’re still wrong…
5. Abortion is to this divide as slavery was to the 1860’s… it’s very difficult to reverse something that has already been accepted by the culture…
6. I salute the consistent excellence of the New England Patriots…
7. Mocking those who we differ with is not an effective means of persuasion…but I wonder how many are even interested in persuading when memes are more fun…
9. I am torn between the temptation to adopt a “monastic” life and the temptation to participate in the online free for alls. Both are much easier than living out an authentic faith in front of a fallen world…
10. The amount of “Jesus is coming back tomorrow” posts has fallen precipitously after the election…some seem to think their Messiah has already come…
You are great, Lord, and greatly to be praised.
Great is your power, and of your wisdom there is no end.
Men and women, who are part of what you have created, desire to praise you.
For you have stirred up our hearts so that we take pleasure in praising you.
You have created us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
AUGUSTINE, Bishop of Hippo (354–430)
Bjorklund, Kurt (2011-09-27). Prayers for Today (Kindle Locations 593-597). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Jesus Heals Many
29 Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there.
30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them,
31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.
Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand
32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?”
34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”
35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground,
36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.
39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
(Romans 13:1–7 ESV)
While much of the Christian community celebrates the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, a significant number of people have adopted this slogan as well.
“He’s not my President”.
While I mostly agree with their sentiments regarding the new President, I also have to remind myself that biblically, he is my President.
Because his authority has been instituted by God I now owe respect and honor to the ruler God appointed.
I also owe the President prayer…for the sake of his soul and for the sake of the Gospel.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
(1 Timothy 2:1–4 ESV)
On a larger scale, because I am part of something bigger than myself, I also must acknowledge that he is now our President.
While I swiftly run out of negative adjectives to describe my feelings about the new administration, the use of them cannot reflect my feelings toward those who support it.
In truth, the use of hostile verbiage simply creates more division, more anger, and less hope among the family of God and my fellow citizens.
We need to soberly address issues, not personalities.
We must acknowledge our common faith and Lord as the family of God.
Biblically, I must seek every peaceful, respectful, way to engage with anything I disagree with that this new administration does.
I must also acknowledge that there may be a day when the policies and actions of this administration conflict with my faith at the deepest levels and may require me to engage in civil disobedience…and if I do so, I must expect the state to “wield the sword” against me.
Finally, I must remember this singular truth…I am one of God’s people in exile.
This is just a temporary stop for me…our kingdom was inaugurated 2000 years ago.
““Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
(Jeremiah 29:4–7 ESV)
Let us all prayerfully seek the welfare of the places we dwell and honor God by obedience to His precepts.
Make your own application…
“And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.’ And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:42-51)
Historians suggest that the number of residents living in Jerusalem at the time of Christ may have been in the range of 70,000 to 80,000 residents. However, during Passover that number typically swelled to as many as 250,000 people. Thus our story took place within the context of massive crowds, including a large number of foreign speaking diaspora Jews. Somewhere along the way out of Jerusalem, at some intersection, Mary and Joseph turned one way, and Jesus turned the other. In a split second, He was gone! But His parents did not realize Jesus was missing until they had gone a day’s journey back to Nazareth.
“[The devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
When something horrible happens to Christians, Satan looks for an opportunity to attack the conscience with lies and accusations. Satan’s objective is to arouse a bad conscience in us by accusing us of sin and condemning us as sinners. Satan’s objective is to estrange us from Christ by destroying our faith in Him at its foundation, the forgiveness of sins and our acceptance by God the Father.
“but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple” (Luke 2:44-46)
There are few things more terrifying to a parent than the fear of losing a young child. It could happen at a mall, theme park, campground, or almost any large, crowded venue. If a young child goes missing, even if only for an hour, a parent’s thoughts can quickly grow dark in fear. The parent may imagine worst case scenarios, become guilt-stricken, and/or imagine that the whole affair is some kind of punishment for past deeds.
In our reading, Mary and Joseph were separated from Jesus for three days. That would seem like an eternity to parents of a missing child. We know that Mary and Joseph suffered intensely during their search for Jesus. Mary described their pain to Jesus when she found him in the temple: “Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress [ὀδυνώμενοι].” (Luke 2:48c) The Greek word ὀδυνώμενοι “describes deep mental pain or trauma” (Darrell L. Bock). Mary and Joseph feared the loss of Jesus. Mary in particular may have despaired that she failed Jesus and God, who entrusted her with the unique honor and blessing of bearing His Son.
“And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
This issue here is not whether or not horrible things happen to or are done by Christians, because in a fallen world they surely will. The issue is how to hold fast to Christ in the midst of pain and suffering so that Satan cannot gain a toehold in our conscience to undermine our faith in our Lord and Savior.
Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus first among friends and relatives, next in Jerusalem, and finely in the temple, where after three days “they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:46) But when Mary attempted to scold Jesus, He responded with a gentle rebuke of His own: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
“I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20)
Jesus asked Mary: “Why were you looking for me?” The answer is: Mary never lost Jesus in the way she feared. Did she not remember the promises the Lord gave her through the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-35)? Did she not remember Simeon’s prophesy (Luke 2:29-35)? When our conscience begins to accuse us, we need to rebuke Satan’s lies and accusations and trust the Word of God, who will never fail us. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:33)
When our conscience is troubled, for whatever reason (but especially in the worst situations, whether or not from sin), we must seek Christ in His Father’s house. He is not among relatives and acquaintances or in Jerusalem. Of course they can comfort us with our bodily and social needs, but they cannot cleanse a troubled conscience. Relatives and acquaintances cannot forgive our sins, or give us the grace of our heavenly Father. Only Christ can provide such consolation, and He is found only in His Father’s house.
But what does Jesus mean by “my Father’s house”? Surely Jesus conducted most of His ministry outside the temple. Moreover, is not the whole world God’s? Yes, both points are true. What Jesus means is that He must be about His Father’s business. His Father’s house is wherever Jesus is doing His Father’s business.
Jesus does His Father’s business through His Word. In the Gospel Christ offers us grace, forgiveness and God as Father. In Christ there is no condemnation (Rom 8:1). Therefore, when we are stricken by suffering or a bad conscience, we must seek Christ in His Father’s house alone (i.e., in His Word and Gospel). If we cling to the Word and receive His gifts freely proffered in the Gospel, Christ will rule our hearts and give us a clear conscience before God and men. Although we are no match for Satan, Satan is no match for Christ: “One little word shall fell him.” (M. Luther, A Mighty Fortress…) Amen.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28) Amen.
Sources tell us that Damian Kyle, Wayne Taylor, and David Guzik have all left the groups leadership.
This implosion is in addition to those who have already left the organization competing for the mantle of being the one,true, Calvary Chapel.
The corporation itself is still in suspended status according the California corporations website.
We will have more commentary coming in later articles…but these losses may spell the end of the CCA as a viable organization representing more than one mans quest to take the place of Chuck Smith…
Correction: Wayne Taylor has not resigned, though he has been asked to do so by some of his peers on the council.
So far, all the parties accused have employed the well worn but effective tactic of remaining silent about the matter, thus having the matter lost in the continually changing news cycle.
What this means is that there will be a discovery phase now…and former board members Gayle Erwin, Skip Heitzig, and Damien Kyle will be deposed.
Look for all three to get lawyered up…and keep your eyes open for the depositions they will be forced under law to make…