Jan 112017
 

Last week we got into a discussion about the doctrine of the Trinity on one of the threads here.  As the issue was parsed, we were able to see just how careful we sometimes need to be in our descriptions and definitions, as even just one unclear word can lead to significant doubt or confusion.  Especially on something as sublime as the Trinity where it is very hard for our human minds to comprehend three distinct Persons in one eternal God.  Truthfully, our minds can’t really comprehend it, but we do our best to try to faithfully describe and understand who God has revealed Himself to be.  Dr. Arnold then gave us an articulate expression of the Trinity just a couple days ago, correlating it to how we show love, and sin when we don’t. 

Unsaid in these discussions, but likely presumed by most, is that the doctrine of the Trinity is a pillar of the Christian faith.  An essential or fundamental or primary or cardinal doctrine, if you will.  That if a church is going to call itself a church, or a Christian to call themselves a Christian, then they should have a handle on this one.  As difficult as it may be to fully comprehend, if they have a faulty understanding of the Trinity, and especially if they reject it, one wonders if they truly are of the faith.  (The caveat here, of course, is that we wouldn’t be as concerned with young children or those new to the faith as they may not have yet had an opportunity to come to a sufficient understanding.)

All of this got me to thinking about the essentials of the faith.  We often refer to those things that are essential or primary, and subsequently those that are non-essential or secondary.  So what are they?  Now, I’m sure each and every one of us would have a list that’s a bit different, at least in some respects.  Some might have a list of a few core essentials, others might have a list of a hundred.  And I certainly imagine we would see some differences from the Evangelical list to the Lutheran list to the Catholic list to the Orthodox list.

The way I think about it, those items or doctrines that are the core or the essentials of the Christian faith would pertain to salvation and who God is.  Even these two categories can be very broad in what we could all include, but which items or beliefs within them do we see as primary importance for the faith?

The aforementioned doctrine of the Trinity would be included in the primary list for me.  Belief in God the Father, God the Son – Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit, all distinct Persons of the eternal God and Creator of heaven and earth and man.  While already admitting that this is a difficult concept for us to wrap our minds around, nonetheless if we don’t know who the Christian God is, as revealed and described in the Bible, then really in whom is our faith?

Certainly the person and work of Jesus Christ would be or primary importance.  A Christian would need to recognize the deity of Christ and His death on the cross for our sins and His subsequent bodily resurrection. Following from that, a Christian would need to recognize their own sin and have a belief or faith in Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross and in resurrection in order to be saved from those sins.

I also think a belief in the Second Coming of Christ where there will be final judgment and the resurrection of our bodies and when He will make all things new and set all things right is an essential of our faith.

These are the things I think of as being the most essential or fundamental to the Christian faith.  Much of what I have mentioned here can be found in one manner or another in the historic Christian creeds, which are obviously quite good baselines to the historic faith.

Matters involving baptism and communion and the authority of Scripture and God’s sovereignty are also of great importance, but I wouldn’t include them quite in the same category as the previously mentioned core.  Others may very well include them.

Beyond these things, there are also plenty of other doctrines which are certainly substantial but I would think as being more secondary or as a rung below the essentials.  Issues like the particulars of soteriology and sovereignty, such as are classically debated in the Calvinist/Arminian divide.  Issues like the particulars of eschatology or ecclesiology or the continuation of spiritual gifts or the existence and nature of Hell.

 Then we have all kinds of manner of topics, that while not denying their significance, I would see almost as being tertiary in importance.  Things like worship music and Bible translations and alcohol and how to spend money.

Now my listings here are far from complete and full.  This article was not meant to be an exhaustive study and I’m certainly not making the claim of being the final judge of the exact classification of importance for every doctrine.  These are just my introductory thoughts.  With the diversity in the faith we have here, it would be interesting to see what others would add or where they would see things differently than I do as a layman Evangelical.  So have at it, if you like.  We’re bound to have some differences, but I would hope we can also find some unifying agreements in our Christian faith.       

  110 Responses to “Kevin’s Conversations: What Are The Essentials?”

  1. Some people would say that one must believe in The Five Solas to be a genuine Christian. And a belief in the penal substitution view of the Atonement.

  2. There was a day when I had a very long list of essentials…all of them doctrinal.
    Then came the recognition that God had chosen me, a Reformed person, and Xenia, the Eastern Orthodox adherent.

    According to my tribe, we couldn’t both be accepted by God because we understand justification differently.

    Thus, because I know the Spirit that dwells in Xenia, I had to leave my tribe.

    I read Nouwen and Bernard…and my “apostasy” grew.

    There are essentials…those confessions that have have been part of the witness of the church from the beginning.

    The rest are ornaments hung on a very large tree…

  3. I actually miss the days when we would fight over the minutia of justification, etc.

    The new boundary markers are political.

    The old doctrinal arguments usually left me dry and desiccated from the work of being right…they could not help but detract from seeing the person and work of Christ clearly.

    The political arguments have done the same…I do not recognize the Jesus of the conservative American evangelical…I have no desire or ability to worship such a god as he seems at odds with the God of the Gospels.

    Any representation of Christ that minimizes His journey of suffering and sacrificial love …and His call to us to follow Him…is the the greatest of theological error,no matter how orthodox the rest of your doctrine may be.

  4. I think you must ‘believe’ very little to be saved – or perhaps nothing at all..
    It is what you deny that makes the difference.

    God saved me with no input from myself. I went to church 3 Sundays in a row. I bought a Bible after Sunday #1 and read parts of the NT beginning with the Gospels. Before I walked in to Sunday #3 I realized that Jesus had made me a Christian. I don’t think I knew a single doctrine – not who Jesus really was, nothing about the Trinity and surely nothing about the atonement.

    What had changed in me was that I stopped denying all the things I knew nothing about.

  5. I feel uncomfortable being too dogmatic here because God is merciful. Faith is our open, empty hands which avail themselves of God’s mercy and grace (which He offers with or without our faith). Saving faith can be in little children and in the elderly. Oddly enough, the NT presents an inverse relationship between worldly wisdom and faith, but a close correlation between spiritual poverty and humility and faith.

    On the other hand, in the interest of good church order, congregations should confess a larger constellation of doctrines in common or things could get very confusing and become stumbling blocks and snares to the flock.

  6. Jean,

    I concur…

  7. MLD,

    Your experience reminded me of what Luther said about the centerion in Matt 8: he had heard a good report about Jesus.

  8. While I agree with all that has been said so far, I actually want to try to define a list.

    I’ll start by confessing that God saves who He wants to save, and I have no say in that matter. God is mysterious and His ways are beyond our understanding. That being said, He has chosen to reveal himself to us, adn thsi is my best take on “the essentials” per that revelation:

    1. That an almighty, higher power , God exists
    2. That Jesus is His Son, sent for our Salvation.
    3. That Jesus died and rose again.

    Hmm, that is tough.

  9. Well, once we get going and as you come in contact with Christian teachings, then you are forced to decide what you will confess and what you will deny. So when Jesus says that he comes to us bodily in the bread and the wine – we need to say yea or nay — and then that may clarify what you believe and / or deny in other areas.

    This is why folks walk away from Christianity – once they get far enough in, they say “wait, I can’t confess that” or “this is foolishness” and they walk away.

  10. As most of you can tell from my writing and commenting here over the years, I’m far from the most dogmatic person. I’m usually not the one to pound my fist and insist that Christians need to believe in this exact manner on this issue or on that issue.

    I do agree with the sentiments here that it takes very little of correct “beliefs” to have a saving faith. But my thoughts go beyond that. As a church forms or as a Christian matures, we would expect them to believe in some level of essentials or fundamentals. If a person claims to have a saving faith in Jesus but denies his deity, or the Trinity, or fill-in-the-blank-of-your-essential-doctrine, then one wonders if they really are of the faith. Especially if they are not new to the faith. Again, I am not the most dogmatic person, so my list would probably be shorter than many others. But I think our lists would include more than faith in a potentially very nebulous Jesus.

  11. My #10 comment was being written before Josh and MLD commented at #8 & #9.

  12. 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 Spirit,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, dead, and buried;*
    the third day he rose from the dead;
    he ascended into heaven,
    and sitteth at 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 Spirit,
    the holy catholic** church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting. Amen.

  13. The Nicene Creed:

    WE BELIEVE in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.

    We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.

    For us and for our salvation
    he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
    he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
    and was made man.

    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
    he suffered death and was buried.
    On the third day he rose again
    in accordance with the Scriptures;
    he ascended into heaven
    and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

    He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
    and his kingdom will have no end.

    We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
    He has spoken through the Prophets.
    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
    and the life of the world to come.

    Amen.

  14. Interestingly enough, neither creed demands a particular view of the Eucharist…

  15. I agree that if a person of normal intelligence, after being presented with the essentials of basic Christianity, denies doctrines like the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and the Resurrection, this person is not a member of the Christian faith. They may be a sincere Mormon or JW who truly loves God as best as they understand Him…. God will make the determination.

  16. The Eucharist was universally believed to be the Body and Blood of Christ at the time the Creed was composed. It was not something that was under debate. The Creed was written in response to the Arian heresy, which claimed Christ was created. The Creed doesn’t discuss any view of the Atonement, either.

  17. It has been said that if you went to the average evangelical church and asked for a brief statement on the Trinity that you would hear every heresy propagated since the first century…

  18. I think saving faith can be as simple as that of the thief on the cross… Jesus certainly accepted him.

    I believe, however, Kevin was asking about the “essentials of the faith”. For me it is as simple as stating, “I can recite the Nicene Creed and not cross my fingers behind my back”. It may take me a lifetime and more to come to a full understanding of all that I confess in the Creed, but for me, that confession is essence of the faith.

  19. “Interestingly enough, neither creed demands a particular view of the Eucharist…”

    The Eucharist was never in dispute – the person of Christ was, so the creeds were developed.

    Today, with the advent of Pop American Christianity perhaps we need a few more creeds 😉

  20. The creeds define the boundary markers between the Church and the world. Eucharistic theology is within the Church itself…

  21. Duane,

    That’s a helpful distinction.
    In your studies, has the Eucharistic theology of the church always been clear?

  22. The views of the Eucharist have certainly evolved over the centuries.

  23. What you are talking about here is what are the essentials of Christian dogma better known as orthodoxy. Which is believing the right thing. There is another critical side to this and that is orthopraxy which is doing the right thing. I don’t think we can separate the two. You can not separate the head and the heart.

    Unlike orthodoxy, with orthopraxy, you can not just write out a creed on how to love someone. Its a heart issue. Love seems to be individually tailored to the object of its affection. You just can’t write that down on paper and have everyone agree to it and confess it. I know this may not be cerebral enough for some but at least for me it puts some of the doctrine in perspective.

  24. St. Ignatius, First Century in his Letter to the Romans:

    “Bread of God is what I desire; that is, the Flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for my drink I desire His Blood, that is; incorruptible love.”

    —-

    Any evangelical pastor, 2017, presiding over communion:

    “This is NOT the Body and Blood of Christ.”

    —————-

    Yes, the view on the Eucharist have surely evolved over the centuries!

  25. Clement of Alexandria seemed to understand the symbolism:

    ” The flesh figuratively represents to us the Holy Spirit; for the flesh was created by Him. The blood points out to us the Word, for as rich blood the Word has been infused into life; and the union of both is the Lord, the food of the babes”

  26. Clement’s Paedagogus – Book 1 Chapter 6:

    “Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when He said: “Eat ye my flesh, and drink my blood; ” describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith and the promise,”

  27. I will also say, I’m not sure that one can come to a saving faith in Christ without some belief in the Bible as His Word.

    I suppose it is theoretically possible, but practically, it’s hard to imagine.

  28. #21 Michael,

    Yes, I would say that it has been consistent, at least through to Aquinas. From the first century on there is no real argument about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Therefore early writers could deal with its spiritual or symbolic nature/qualities because it was clearly already understood as Christ’s Body and Blood. When Aquinas and others tried to classify it in terms of Aristotelian categories it created issues as the categories related to a whole system of thought. If one part of the system is seen to be illogical or contradictory, the rest of the system becomes suspect or is abandoned.

  29. Duane,

    Let me make sure I’m getting this straight.

    The basic belief in the “real presence of Christ” was so established that quotations such as Josh referenced were additional reflections on the Eucharist, not disputations on it’s nature.

    That would make sense…

  30. #27

    Josh,
    What of the Christians in the first centuries who did not possess a canon of Scripture, apart possibly from one or two gospels (or fragments) and some letters of Paul? Not being contentious, just asking…

  31. Throughout the New Testament, the writers are referring there authors back to the Old Testament. So yes, it was even essential then, along with the gospels and letters that they had available.

  32. Michael, I think you’d find the development of transubstantiation before you’d fine a well-define real presence doctrine.

  33. #31 Michael

    Yes. When you tell a Bible Study group that they have to “feed” on the Bible, you are not expecting them to break out a fork and knife… The importance and nature of the Bible is already established. You are now expanding the meaning, not changing it…

  34. Actually this could be easier – When were the first heretics identified because of their views on the Eucharist?

  35. #31 In the Didache they refer to the “memoirs of the Apostles” (I don’t have my books here so I’m counting on failing memory). There is debate whether this was delivered as oral tradition or in a written form. The written canon developed slowly…

    #32 Transubstantiation is not really defined before the Fourth Lateran Council. I am using “real presence” not as a fully formed doctrine, but as the understanding of the people in the early centuries.

    #35 I think it would have to be the early Gnostics who denied the physical…

  36. Zwingli? Who you would probably not consider to be a heretic?

  37. just skimmed the thread – will read this afternoon – two things with regard to the essentials of the Faith where the acceptance of a triune God – things that have settled in my mind – all the refined points of theological minds aside…

    Scriptures tell us that Satan issued his challenge to The God that sits on the throne in heaven directly; he didn’t aspire to be the top angel under the authority of God. He wanted equal billing with God as it were – given that, doesn’t it follow logically that God would meet the challenge, Himself? Who else could have? For some holy reason, God became a man and carried His integrity through the worst that Satan could deal out – He, Himself, as Jesus Christ (the triunity thing) conquered the sin and death that trail along behind Satan like used kitty litter.
    There is and by virtue of who and what it is, can only be one, One God
    the other thing, although my late and much more intelligent than i, husband says it is flawed, is the fact that so often we find what occupies and emanates from the Throne of God described as “light” – light is a challenge to the scientist to define

  38. written cannon developed slowly – IT was “pretty much” in circulation by 150 ad. I don’t see any evidence that the letters didn’t go into circulation shortly after being written.

    Xenia – You are probably correct about Zwingli. I think that is when a particular eucharistic view became essential. Zwingli was 1500’s? I’m not beliveing all were in agreement for 1500 years before that.

  39. I would think that if Jesus were to speak in symbols or metaphor – he would have reached across the Passover table, grabbed the slain lamb and said “This is my body!!”

  40. #38 I’ll respectfully disagree. By around AD 200 formation was taking place, but only among the literate leaders of the Church. The ms. evidence from the 1st and 2nd century is sparse apart from the Muratorian fragment. Additionally, there were numerous popular Gnostic gospels and Sayings of Jesus in circulation. It was very fluid. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve worked on Egyptian papyri from the 3rd and 4th centuries and I’m a proponent of an early dating of the NT, but I believe the vast majority of churches in the first 300 years may have had a Gospel, some letters and possibly, if they were very well off, an LXX of the OT.

  41. So…here is my question.

    What do we lose if we deny the real presence in the Supper?
    What is at stake in this debate?

  42. “What do we lose if we deny the real presence in the Supper?”

    For a Lutheran, it is an attack the doctrine of Christology..

  43. For a Lutheran, no bread = no Jesus?

  44. “Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve worked on Egyptian papyri from the 3rd and 4th centuries and I’m a proponent of an early dating of the NT,”

    Well, I’ve read a couple of text books…:)

    I’m actually not disagreeing with anything you are saying (perhaps the scope), but yes even those early believers, pre-canon, trusted that the OT was God’s word. It was through that they verified that Jesus was Messiah.

    So, though there was certainly a formulation period, my point still stands. I can’t imagine someone following Jesus apart from some authority from Scriptures.

  45. Josh,
    “For a Lutheran, no bread = no Jesus?” — how did you come up with that?

    The biggest attack on Christology comes from the reformed as they question the real ‘physical’ presence of Jesus because of their Christology won’t allow for it.

    Besides the old “Jesus didn’t serve them his hand” – think about what limitations are wound up in your Christology that will not allow you to believe that Jesus is truely physical in the bread and wine.

    I just pointed out what is at stake for a Lutheran.

  46. #41 Michael

    A friend of mine once said, “Jesus didn’t come to establish a library, he came to found the Church”. The Eucharist, in my opinion, stands at the center of what it means to be the Church – i.e. Christ in our midst. It is the physical presence of Christ among us. It is the physical affirmation of our unity as we partake together of the one bread and one cup. Quite simply, for me, if there is no Eucharist there is no Church. We become Gnostics and have to “spiritualize” everything if we are to make sense of anything. I can’t go down that road…

  47. Duane,

    Thank you for that answer.
    I’m trying to emotionally and spiritually process a terrible tragedy that has happened here in my valley…and I find no comfort in a mere memorial, but great significance in the presence of Christ’s broken body and shed blood…given for us.
    I do not hope to make sense at this time…I’m quite rattled…

  48. Michael

    Know that you are in everyone’s thoughts and prayers.
    Christ strengthen you, my brother…

  49. Interviewer: “So where does that leave people like me? Am I a Christian? A Jesus follower? A secular Christian? Can I be a Christian while doubting the Resurrection?”

    Tim Keller: “I wouldn’t draw any conclusion about an individual without talking to him or her at length. But, in general, if you don’t accept the Resurrection or other foundational beliefs as defined by the Apostles’ Creed, I’d say you are on the outside of the boundary.”

    I thought Kellers answer was clear, concise, and pastoral.

    Apostles Creed:

    I believe in God, the Father almighty,
    creator of heaven and earth.

    I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died, and was buried;
    he descended to the dead.
    On the third day he rose again;
    he ascended into heaven,
    he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
    and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

    I believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy catholic Church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting. Amen

  50. Michael, I just read about what you referenced happened in your area. How tragic.

  51. Duane,

    Thank you.

    Scooter,

    It is so tragic on so many levels…so many people affected.
    Young people…lives destroyed before they even start.
    There is much to it that hits very close to home for me.

  52. I hold fast to the tenets of The Apostle’s Creed and especially their supernatural components. I’ve long been a fan of the Almighty’s supernatural power.
    But the rest of the stuff? This, that, and the other?
    Whether it’s Augustine, the Nicene Fathers, Anselm of Canterbury, the Reformers, or whomever, I’ll give a listen and do my own homework, using critical thought, common sense, and gut instinct. Ultimately, and at day’s end, I keep my own counsel on what I believe, or disbelieve about the Christian religion.

  53. Muff – I love it – 2,000 yrs of Bible scholarship and you will go by ‘gut instinct’

    I think you just quoted the Joseph Smith way to look at the Bible. 😉

  54. I’ve said this here before, but I always dreaded taking communion at a memorialist church. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be thinking or feeling. I was uncomfortable because it seemed to me that people were having some kind of spiritual experience which bypassed me completely. When I saw on the bulletin that communion was being served on a particular evening, I began to feel agitated. Just “remembering Jesus” didn’t make sense because hadn’t we been studying Jesus and singing about Jesus for the previous hour? This was one of several situations that caused me to doubt my salvation.

    Something was lacking in me, I was sure of it. How to get what was lacking- that was my endless quest as an evangelical. The answer, I was told, was to read my Bible more. But as Duane said, I didn’t need a reading assignment, I was sick and needed some Medicine. I needed a Hospital, not a library.

    All of that angst has ended for me now. The Eucharist is the Body and Blood no matter what kind of emotional state I try to muster up. It’s there; it’s real; it’s for me. I take it and I have received Christ. No more doubts. What a great relief. The Body and Blood of Christ: The Medicine of Immortality.

    So oddly, when I belonged to a group that taught Once Saved, Always Saved and Eternal Security, I continually doubted my salvation and felt extremely insecure. Now that I belong to a Church that says you can lose** your salvation, I feel truly saved and secure.

    Despite evangelical theology to the contrary, I felt my salvation depended on my sincerity. I’ve said this here before. Now that I belong to a so-called “works righteousness” church, I feel that my salvation is in God’s hands and all the pressure is off. It’s the opposite of what people expect.

    —————-
    **We don’t generally use the phrase “You can lose your salvation.”

  55. and we do similar in our salvation security – we look back to our baptism to know that something real happened in our life – we can look back and see that physical salvation work of God.

    Because it is so real and such an integral part of salvation life – we do not say “I was baptized” — we say “I am baptized.”

  56. MLD,
    That’s because St. Peter uses the present tense in his letter:

    “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”
    1 Peter 3:21 ESV

  57. finally read the thread down thru comment 54… some observations make me sad, some give food for thinking on, some i can’t accept … leaving room for personal differences and needs i’d waste Michael’s blog space ponitificating on those, but i gleaned some comments that i can and do amen, heartily:

    “I think you must ‘believe’ very little to be saved – or perhaps nothing at all..
    It is what you deny that makes the difference.”

    ” Faith is our open, empty hands which avail themselves of God’s mercy and grace (which He offers with or without our faith). Saving faith can be in little children and in the elderly. Oddly enough, the NT presents an inverse relationship between worldly wisdom and faith, but a close correlation between spiritual poverty and humility and faith.”

    ” If a person claims to have a saving faith in Jesus but denies his deity, or the Trinity, or fill-in-the-blank-of-your-essential-doctrine, then one wonders if they really are of the faith. Especially if they are not new to the faith.”

    “I think saving faith can be as simple as that of the thief on the cross… Jesus certainly accepted him.” Luke 23:39-43

    “Clement of Alexandria seemed to understand the symbolism:
    ” The flesh figuratively represents to us the Holy Spirit; for the flesh was created by Him. The blood points out to us the Word, for as rich blood the Word has been infused into life; and the union of both is the Lord, the food of the babes”

    may God’s realm as discussed on this thread bring all who come here truth, joy and comfort is all i have to add… today

  58. I read the Nicean creed…and in my mind I kept hearing my old Roman Catholic days when we’d robotically recite almost those exact words each and every mass.

    in a flat an monotone voice…a unison of flat and monotone voices. 😉

  59. In my parish, we sing the Nicene Creed! That’s what you have to do to avoid the monotone, sing it out!

  60. I will take the church that recites the creed “in a flat and monotone voice…a unison of flat and monotone voices.” over the ones who refuse to recite it “because it is to Catholic.”

  61. I am happy that God has a way of reaching those who appreciate the monotone, and those who don’t.

    I appreciate this discussion, everyone.

    Good article, Kevin!

  62. Josh,

    I think you hit on a key point here. We all do have our essentials and then other issues that we may hold close to the essentials but will admit (sometimes grudgingly) that a Christian doesn’t have to see them the same as us.

    With some issues/methodology, I wonder if there is a true right and wrong, or if they are simply different ways that God uses to reach different people.

  63. In 2006, when I first started visiting PP, like many others, I had witnessed abuse in Calvary Chapel Churches. When discussions about various doctrines of the church began to surface, the positions that I believed in and taught for those many years were challenged. I continued to read, and ask questions through email to the likes of Dread and MLD. They suggested books to read, and I bought and read them. Little by little I began to see the shaky ground that I was standing on with many issues of church doctrine such as eschatology. I began to see the sacredness of liturgy. Eleven years ago, I would never have considered listening to something like Xenia posted in #60. Now, I find beauty and worship.

    While I don’t see myself becoming Orthodox or Lutheran, I am a different person with new found appreciate for what this blog has offered. I don’t post much any more unless the topic deals with a particular topic, but I read PP each day.

    Thank you Michael, Dread, and even MLD who bugs me at times with his never ending banter. Thank you Xenia for for allowing me to see see things like you posted above. Thank you Kevin for your weekly challenge that makes us think. And Josh the Baptist, please keep holding MLD accountable!

  64. A question for the real presence people:

    When we call the church the Body of Christ, is that physical or spiritual? Is that a different kind of presence than in the Supper?

  65. “With some issues/methodology, I wonder if there is a true right and wrong, ”

    My take – Since God is Truth, I think there IS a right and wrong way of doing things. Not all of that way has been revealed to us. I think this lack of revelation is intentional, by God, so that we must keep seeking Him for every step of the journey towards Truth. Along the way, God uses all of it, the mistakes and the correct, to reach people. He used Babylon to discipline Israel, and he used persecution in the book of Acts to spread the Gospel. Our insufficiency is no match for God’s ingenuity.

    Bob – I wish you posted here more often.

  66. Thank YOU Bob Sweat!

  67. Amen Bob Sweat!

  68. Josh,

    I stay out of discussions on doctrine because I spent the first part of my life debating church doctrine. I found myself getting nowhere. So, like I mentioned above, I read what others write and see if what they say holds up to what I believe. I know the saying “Iron sharpens iron”, but my iron was over-sharpened years ago to the point of making it dull.

    One more thing, I have some at PP to thank for challenging me to read Henri Nouwen and Brennan Manning. I have most of their books and they both are among my favorite authors.

  69. #65

    Good question. Perhaps both? Again, forgive my failing memory, but you might find this addressed in Bonhoeffer’s ‘Communio Sanctorum’ (which was originally his doctoral thesis) and later in ‘Life Together’ .

  70. My previous post was not condemning the practice…merely saying that I still know it, even some 30 years later…and can even mentally hear it too.

    Including some distinct voices, lol.

  71. stephen,
    That is one of the purposes of the liturgy – the repetition – week after week after boring week- so that it sinks deep in. We see aged saints (those even older than me) who are confined, ravaged with disease and the failing memories of Alzheimer’s – who when the pastor makes a call and serves the communion, they remember and can recite some of the prayers and creeds.

    This type of ‘vain’ repetition really pays off.

  72. Matthew 18:20.

    Is his presence figurative or real? Serious question.

  73. #72
    MLD
    Something to agree on… It was always my argument concerning the Book of Common Prayer. I could go into a hospital room, begin to say the prayers out of the BCP and suddenly I would see the lips moving. It almost never failed. I fear it is something we are losing…

  74. It’s true. It’s something I’ve seen with Hymns too. People with dementia, who can remember nothing else can remember all the hymns they learned from childhood.

  75. Scooter,
    To the Matthew 18 passage – Is Jesus speaking about actually being there, physically or spiritually? or is he saying that the agreement is what joins them all together. Kind of like Jesus saying “if you guys agree on doing what I have told you – I’m all in 100% .”

    This passage is so misunderstood to be used as if 2 people are praying, Jesus promises to be there – which it isn’t. To try in again, “if you do this binding and loosing stuff the right way, I am with you buddy.” He is there in agreement.

    So I don’t think Jesus is speaking of being present in the usual way in that passage.

    How do others handle that passage?

  76. Josh, I’ve run an article about a man lost pretty much to Alzheimers. What the family did was to bring in an I-Pod filled with music he grew up with. He began singing along and was lucid and talking after listening. It was amazing to see.

  77. On the Masters Seminary Facebook page, Carl Truman is teaching live all week on the Reformation with particular emphasis on Martin Luther.

    I wish I could make it a legal obligation for everyone who reads here to watch these classes.

    Failing that…I cannot recommend these classes highly enough and your understanding will be greatly enhanced if you take the time to watch.

  78. MLD – I think the promise of Jesus’s presence is the same there as in the supper and in the Body of Christ.

    And when He promises to never leave or forsake, and that He will be with you always.

    I believe they are all talking about the kind of presence.

  79. The promise of Jesus in the supper is – “this is my body/drink – eat & drink.” – can’t eat / drink a concept.

    The presence in Matt 18 is in agreement of witness as is the requirement in the OT.

    When you asked earlier about the Church as the Body of Christ being the real presence, you move the main actor from Jesus to us — and I see this in much of evangelical interpretive style. Make the passage about the Christian instead of the Christ – which is fine … for you – not me. 😉

  80. Michael – I am watching Trueman’s 1st lecture. Wow, he has 11 so far and he still has Friday and Sat to go 3 or 4 a day.

  81. In these discussions of Christ’s presence, we should agree with Scripture, while acknowledging that there is mystery in the “how”. Scripture is not mysterious, but how God does certain things may be because He hasn’t told us.

    We have to start with the fact that Christ is omnipresent (Eph 4:10). From there, Scripture tells us about how he is present. Here are some examples: He can be present tangibly filling space and being touched. He can be present within a door as when he walks right through the door. He can vanish from sight. He can be present sacramentally in bread and wine. And he can fill the entire universe.

  82. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” i think we go too far in trying to visualize an earthly construct here, just as we go too far trying to wrap our minds around so many mysteries that are not processed by the human mind…
    the disciples watched Jesus ascend into the sky – where’d He go? dunno – to the Father – that is all we know and all we need to know
    so too, the bread and wine… does Jesus’ blood and body infuse them? i doubt it, but that isn’t my call
    reality is simply that Christ is there… He’s present…

  83. #78 – is there a way to take in these lectures without signing on to Facebook?

  84. #84… I don’t think so.
    I’m amazed they’re available at all…rich stuff.
    I’ll try to note it if they are put on Youtube…

  85. I watched the first video. I am surprised that anyone at Master’s knew what he was talking about.

  86. MLD @ 80 – When the New Testament calls the church the Body of Christ, is the NT moving the main actor from Jesus to us?

  87. No, the Church is the body of Christ in the way that the term is used there – but you cannot say that the church is the body of Christ that we are commanded to eat at the supper.
    Context might help.

    This is what always kept Calvary Chapel from being a serious Bible study group – they do whay you are attempting, with their definition of first mention. However a word or term was first used in scripture is the way it is to always be used.

    Not so. To say again, if you are trying to interject the Church as the real presence in the supper, then yes, you have made the supper about the Christian and not the Christ.

  88. Does Jesus leave when the Supper is over?

  89. How does Jesus have two different bodies? (The bread and the Church)

  90. Those are the questions unbelievers ask. As I was saying yesterday, because of your Christology you don’t believe Jesus can be here on earth bodily so you deny my take on the supper and start playing the “what ifs” or “isn’t this a possible solution” game.

    Somehow your Christology allows you to separate Jesus’ spirit from his body. I don’t think that is possible.

  91. How does Jesus have two different bodies? (The bread and the Church)

    He doesn’t – the bread is not his body – he places his body in the bread.

  92. ” he places his body in the bread.”

    He places the Church in the bread, or a different body of His?

  93. if that is your view I would say it is heretical – a confusion of the body of Christ.
    But I know you are just playing night time games.

  94. HE calls the Church His body. He calls the bread His body.

    My question deals with the nature of these two statements. Jesus does not have two bodies, but one. In what does He mean that the church is His body, and in what way does He mean that the bread is His body? I do think He is speaking of His presence. He is present in the supper and He is present in the church.

    But I honestly don’t want to dissuade you, or anyone from their view on the Supper. It is not essential in my view, which was the original question of the post.

    Good talking to you MLD, as always.

  95. Josh, the question is and has always been – is Jesus physically in the supper?

    You can say that it is not essential, but then I will ask, is the thinking that gets you there essential? This is why I say it is more about your Christology than it is about the sacrament. I say a proper Christology is essential and a wrong one will lead you to not only being wrong about the nature of Christ but what you think he can do and what he cannot do.

    Let’s look at this. Some say end times are not essential – but if you are a preterist you hold to a heresy – but the heresy needed other heresies to get to the point of being a preterist.

    It’s good talking this over with you – we can hash out differences.

  96. “Josh, the question is and has always been – is Jesus physically in the supper?”

    You say yes, because Jesus said “This is my body”.

    My question to you is , is Jesus physically present in the church? His word says that is His body.

  97. Josh, two questions… Do you believe that Christ dwells in you? If so, what does that mean?

  98. 1. Yes!

    2. You want that in book form 🙂

  99. Duane, maybe you can answer your second question and I can agree or disagree. I can’t answer that in short form, I don’t think.

  100. #99 In that we allow the Christ who dwells in us to manifest himself through us, Christ is physically present in the Church, which is the Body of Christ, with each of us performing our function in that Body. While some may question this in terms of “physicality”, when Paul enjoins against immorality he is explicit: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!”

  101. I affirm.

  102. Josh, one of the reasons (among many) that I have a high view of the Eucharist is the physical nature Christianity. We are not Gnostics, who tended to spiritualize everything! We deal with physical realities – life, death, bodily resurrection. Even in the Creed, “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried” – all physical and real…

    Does this help at all?

  103. Yes. Well said.

  104. Duane,

    I think you’re now cleared for entry into North Carolina. 🙂

  105. Not quite yet. We’ve got a few more issues to pound out. 🙂

  106. Jean,
    Ah, that would be grand…

    Josh,
    Anytime, always enjoyable… you’re a good soul…

  107. Thanks Duane.

  108. i don’t see the problem that is being examined here – our bodies are to be maintained as a temple is maintained – we’d be hard pressed to demonstrate Christ without them, but the body is just flesh and serves us for our time here on earth… makes me think about what our Lord told the twelve disciples at Matt 10:28 …
    it seems to me that the spiritual takes care of the carnal – not vice versa

    just reading and thinking and sayin … again

  109. This isn’t about our bodies but Christ’s. Jesus has a body just like ours and he cannot be present anywhere without it.

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