Jun 262017
 

Things I Used To Think

(With Apologies to Michael Newnham)

I used to think that theology could be argued and by such argument, one could convince another person of the truth of a position.  Now I know that whatever is not presented in love to another person will be seen as having little, if any, value.

I used to think that preaching could change people’s lives. Now I know that while a sermon may entertain, educate and/or inspire, it is only the life of the one behind the sermon that can touch another life, for good or for ill.

I used to think that there was value in absolute certainty.  Now I know that uncertainty leads to further questioning, further knowledge and a deeper appreciation of those who think differently than oneself.

I used to think that people in a congregation were there to be spoken to and led.  Now I know that, in the words of Chrysostom, “Sometimes the ears of the people are holier than the mouths of the priests…” and some of them may know more of God than myself.

I used to think the Bible was a single book to be outlined, categorized and interpreted. Now I know that the Bible is a collection of history, poetry, chronicles, laws, memoirs and letters, all of which combine to form a unique and singular narrative of God’s revelation and his love for the world he created.

I used to think that the Church was the creation of the Bible.  Now I know that God used the Church to assemble the canon of writings we know as the Bible.

I used to think that Tradition was restrictive and dead.  Now I know that Tradition can be liberating and alive.

I used to think that no one had struggles and disappointments like myself.  Now I know that everybody has struggles and disappointments like myself, and many have far worse.

I used to think that God would eventually bring all “true believers” into my particular Church tradition – Evangelical, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox, Reformed, Baptist, etc.. Now I know that Our Lord has “other sheep… which are not of this fold…” and he leads each of us to places best suited to who we are as individuals.

I used to think that there were answers to all theological questions, you just had read enough, study enough, pray enough and/or work hard enough to find them. Now I know that we indeed “look through a glass darkly”, and some answers have to wait until we “see face to face”.

I used to think that there was some God given meaning in all tragedies. Know I now that we simply live in a fallen world and tragedies come with the territory and many cannot be explained.

I used to think that with enough theological education and learning, we could arrive at definitive answers.  Now I know how much I don’t know and that, if we are theologically and intellectually honest, any definitive answers will likely lead to yet more questions.

I used to think that The Beatles would get back together….

I was wrong about that one as well…

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

  153 Responses to “Things I Used To Think: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD”

  1. Same here. Same here.

    Especially:

    I used to think that the Church was the creation of the Bible. Now I know that God used the Church to assemble the canon of writings we know as the Bible.<<<

    THAT was a major life-changer.

  2. Duane suggested I write something like this a while back…and if I would have, it would have read just like this.

    Except about the Beatles…I knew they were done… 🙂

  3. The odd thing about all this is that I used to believe that having the freedom to interpret the Scriptures as I wished, to worship and pray as I wished, to be liberated from stuffy old traditions and doctrines equaled God-given Christian liberty and I was so lucky to belong to a group that gave me all this liberty in Christ.

    Yet like a little child who is set loose in a huge field and told he can run as far as he wants without boundaries, I felt very insecure and at times, terrified. My own darkened mind was a terrible thing to put my trust in.

    Now that I am in a Church that has boundaries, I find security. I feel a warm embrace.

  4. Before the emails start flowing in, Anglicanism has boundaries as well.

    We have the creeds, the 39 Articles, and the prayer book to keep us in safe pasture.

    It’s a big pasture…and the greatest, most liberating part of it is that I get to interact with all of God’s sheep without any fear of recrimination.

    The Catholics and the Orthodox, the Charismatics, and the Reformed, and evangelicals can all be part of my world.

    Even Lutherans… 🙂

  5. #2 Michael

    With music, one always has to live in hope…

  6. I used to think all of theology could be systematized…now I know that mystery and the Spirit cannot be contained by ink.

  7. Duane @5…I hear you…in all things we always have to live in hope.

  8. I too used to think that only certain strains of the Christian faith were where only the truly saved resided, and no one else was saved. Not naming strains, but lots of us have an idea based on our histories.

  9. “I am determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

  10. Dan… lots of us have been in that camp…

  11. Michael…yes, I have gathered that over the years here at PP….that is one reason I keep coming back!

  12. #9/10

    My favorite quote from William Saroyan, “There are many places where we’ve all done time…”

  13. “I used to think that the Church was the creation of the Bible. Now I know that God used the Church to assemble the canon of writings we know as the Bible.”

    Duane – If you would be so kind as to elaborate this point?

    If I understand this point thusly: The Church existed prior to the creation of the Bible (churches were using the writings of the NT and recognized general uniformity of which writings were inspired, as well as which were not, and some which were somewhere in the middle – some thought they were inspired and some didn’t)

  14. I agree with most of what you (as if that mattered!). But I differ a little on theological debate. Yes, love and respect are most necessary and I have been guilty of lacking both, but over the last 30 years of online debate, my theology has significantly changed because my views did not hold up. I will admit that I don’t see it as very profitable anymore I guess from the same reason that you cite. And might add that you can’t arrogantly argue someone into the kingdom of God either. But maybe with love and patience you be a guide.

    The second is on the nature of preaching. I agree a lot depends on the character of the “preacher,” I believe when the true word is preached, it incarnates the Logos, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in such a way that God will accomplish his purpose through that proclamation no matter how feeble it is. Sometimes preaching does not accomplish what we want. Instead of positive change it brings about judgment and the hardening of hearts-even sermons about love and peace.

    Preaching for many Is performance art. I knew guys who use to stand in front of the mirror and practice dipping down to make emphasis of a point or how to most effectively hold their Bible while they dipped in order to bring about “great effect of their powerful proclamation.” For some reason I doubt much of the Logos is present in such acts.

    And Michael, it is obvious that you can write a systematic theology, hundreds have been written. But we can’t systematize God, after all he is not a tamed lion!

  15. #13 Papias

    Exactly. I’m actually a fan of early dating of most of the NT mss. That being said, the Bible was not delivered to the Church from heaven with a blaze of trumpets! It was the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit that determined the established canon. Even then, however, we have to make some determined judgements even today on matters such as, the Masoretic text of the OT as compared to the LXX. Additionally, even in the NT, issues such as John 8:1-11, remain with us. To me the “miracle” of Scripture has been its transmission and acceptance, even as we, rightly, continue to look at issues such as these.

    Beyond this is the sense that the Bible, in a unique manner, “belongs” to the Church. It was born in our midst through the apostles, it informed our doctrine and creeds as the Church as the Church matured and remains with us a part of the rule of faith today.

  16. I remember sitting in my college graduation and thinking, I’m still stupid. It got worse with every degree thereafter. And aging ha not helped at all.

  17. #14 Randy

    Yes, I agree, the preached Word has a power of its own despite the one who delivers the message (a very Barthian idea). On the practical level, however, for the pastor who preaches week in and week out, I think it is the life behind the sermon that really matters.

  18. Randy,

    Well said all the way through…
    I have a bunch of those systematic theologies…and there is some value to them.
    However, all those suitcases have some socks sticking out…and I’m ok with that.

  19. #16 Randy

    I had an experience yesterday looking through old letters with various folk and determined that while I may have a bit more wisdom these days, I think I have fewer brain cells!

  20. Duane, that is an excellent article….and I’ve come to similar Conclusions over the years.

  21. # 17. M not sure you can call it preaching if there is no life behind it. I think my view on preaching came from Helmut Thielicke, sort of a Lutheran influence.

  22. Dr. Arnold,
    Great article.

    At least we’ve still got The Rolling Stones…

  23. Hey Alex!

  24. Thanks Duane.

    I was listening to Frank James’ History of Christianity Lectures of late so I wanted to make sure I understood your point as well.

    He makes a good point that some historians make a big deal out of Marcions list, as if there was not a list of accepted writings until he came along with his list, or that the Church would not have developed a fixed canon without it.

    He is a supporter of an early dating for the Muratorian Fragment.

    I have heard it said (thinking Josh McDowell) that we have all the NT quoted in the Apostolic Fathers except for 11 verses. I have not been able to confirm that though… unless anyone has any ideas?

  25. #22

    Yes… and if we have a nuclear war, we at least know that Keith Richards will survive…

  26. #24 Papias

    I think that I would take issue with “we have all the NT quoted in the Apostolic Fathers except for 11 verses.” We certainly have allusions to certain of the Gospels and letters, but, for instance, there is very little, if any, of the Gospel of John quoted or alluded to, until Justin Martyr, and even there, he takes a different view of the logos than the writer of the gospel. To be frank, this is a mystery as the ms fragments of John are pretty early and numerous. I actually look more to Athanasius and his “regularizing” of the canon for the benefit of the monastic communities who apparently gave weight to many of the apocryphal gospels, as did much of the wider Christian community.

  27. “My thoughts are higher than your thoughts; my ways higher than your ways”

    Not getting ecumenical or emergent, and can’t intellectually ditch Inerrancy,

    but there are a few babies I have thrown out with a lot of bathwater – hence my inquiry on open blogging.

  28. I’m happily ecumenical, have no clue what “emergent” means…”inerrancy” is a wax nose twisted in whatever direction necessary to make people think I’m more serious about the Scriptures than they are…

  29. I just don’t jive with the notion that a perfect God wrote something imperfectly. Any issues I have lay on my end.

  30. #27 Descended

    If I had to come up with a “crime of the century” among Christians, it would not be inerrancy, or ecumenism, or the emergent movement, or even the support of the alt-right among some… It is a much deeper and more horrendous offense – It is when we presume to place limits on God working among us, when that work is within the rule of faith (for me, that would be the ecumenical creeds). I think we often limit God and our view of God. If we start with the Incarnation and move to the Cross and Resurrection, we should, I think, become convinced that God does not play by our rules. He has his purposes and he accomplishes those purposes in wholly wonderful, and often surprising, ways. Owing to this, I’m a bit hesitant to categorize what God can and cannot do…

  31. #29 Descended

    If one holds to plenary inspiration, we recognize that God worked in and through human instrumentality…

  32. Descended,

    Which of these accounts of the same incident is accurate?

    Matt 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10

  33. very interesting thread… reading what folks “used to think”… what folk now know … 🙂

    makes me think of what the Bible says about wisdom and understanding – how they affect our outlook, our speech and our hearts… for instance such as are here mentioned: Proverbs 3:11-27
    with rare exceptions, it takes time to gain wisdom and understanding… sadly, some of us never do so, for a variety of reasons, i guess

  34. Michael, I am surprised that you would use that example as an argument against inerrancy.

  35. Josh,

    As there have been reams of paper and gallons of ink used to try to reconcile the two passages, I’m surprised you’re surprised.

    I’m not arguing against inerrancy, I’m arguing against “perfection” in the translations we have today.

    These issues don’t concern me as they don’t detract from the authority of the Scriptures in my opinion…

  36. Thanks Duane. You have written some good observations here. I have just a few comments:

    (1) I think the lived lives of preachers may mean a lot to parishioners, because of a combination of the preacher wanting to be the focus of attention and/or the parishioners focusing too much on the preacher. It is a form of idolatry on either side. In either case it robs Christ of His glory (let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord). I think the only power to change a life emanates from the Spirit working through the Word.

    (2) You wrote [and I would add the bracketed text]::

    “I used to think the Bible was a single book to be outlined, categorized and interpreted. Now I know that the Bible is a collection of history, poetry, chronicles, laws, [promises,] memoirs and letters, all of which combine to form a unique and singular narrative of God’s revelation and his love [and plan of redemption] for the world he created.”

    (3) All the talk about what God can and cannot do is missing the issue, causes uncertainty and can be harmful to the soul. Scripture tells us what God ***will*** do (has promised to do) for us. There is certainty there. Whatever else He can do outside His Word (or outside the box, if you will) is not given to us to know for sure. Therefore, we will inevitably project onto God what ***we would do, if we were God.

    I’m concerned that when people speak of God being able and/or willing to act outside the box or in anyway other than how He has promised to act in Scripture, they are saying implicitly that His Word is incomplete or inadequate. Or worst yet, there is a mediator between God and man which is in addition to Christ.

  37. As you are one who should at least know the nature of inerrancy, yes, I am surprised. It is OK that you no longer feel the need to hold to inerrancy as a doctrine, I do find it odd that you jump straight into the tired arguments against innerancy.

  38. Josh,

    The nature or definition of inerrancy is as debated as inerrancy itself.

  39. ” I’m arguing against “perfection” in the translations we have today.”

    As you know, that is not the claim of the doctrine of innerancy. But you are arguing against a guy’s belief in inerrancy using this path. That’s confusion, and unnecessary in my opinion.

  40. Packer laid it our pretty well.

  41. as a lay person i’ve never had a problem with the two accounts of the healing of the centurion’s servant… what jumped out at me was the declaration of outer darkness… isn’t that where the Jews have been for 2,000 years now?
    not changing the subject, just rabbit trailing again 🙂

  42. Since ’78, what group of knowledgeable Christians has debated the nature of innerancy? Not whether inerrancy is true or not, but what innerancy is? I feel like we’ve settled on a definition that you can accept or reject.

  43. # 32 “Descended,
    Which of these accounts of the same incident is accurate?
    Matt 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10”

    IMHO both, one from the perspective of the Centurian speaking in person with Jesus; the other from the perspective of his speaking to Jesus through messengers. All of them could have been there on this occasion, even staggering their audience with the Lord.

    More than one person can speak to another at the same time or at the same event, even God speaks through the many different authors of the Bible.

    Many times throngs surrounded Him and the excitement could have been fever-pitched.
    That which is perfect will come, but I am not of the opinion that this refers to the canon, but of Christ himself. 🙂

    Just my two cents worth.

  44. #36 Jean

    Many thanks. As to (1) I’m really talking the practicalities of Church life. Can God use less than perfect preachers? Of course. In real pastoral life, however, what one says and does outside of the pulpit (at least in my experience) counts for far more then the sermon. A husband might not remember a single word of what was preached, but he will remember you sitting with him and praying as his wife is dying.

    As to (2) I have no problems with the additions apart from “plan of redemption” as a forgone conclusion. We see that plan in retrospect and, I think we have to say, as a progressive revelation within the body of Scripture itself.

    As to the last paragraph, I understand what you are saying, but, within the rule of faith (again, for me the Creeds) God is God. As a deliberately provocative example… I know that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead, but what if, just to show all us sacramental folk, God decided to actually have a “Rapture”! Is it within his power? Yes. Does it violate anything with Scripture or the rule of faith? Not really! I know that is an extreme example, so let’s take another… If God chooses to raise up a wholly unsuitable evangelist like, Lonnie Frisbee, with all his faults and failures, who are we to say that God cannot do it? You get my point.

  45. as i read some of these threads (full of valuable observations and food for thought IMHO) i often think of those Sadducees and Pharisees… i don’t know if any of the Sadducees ever accepted Jesus’ true identity (?), but i do know that some Pharisees did… it isn’t the debate, the search for the truth or better understanding, that is wrong, rather it seems to me that when/if it stems from the desire to prove scripture and, therefore, God wrong that is a waste of precious time… dunno

  46. Don’t worry about it Michael. I understood that young longer held to the doctrine. I did not know that you were now trying to pull others away from it. Thus, my surprise.

    Y’all have a good day!

  47. #42 Josh

    Exactly! They settled on the “autograph mss.” definition which settles nothing. I can respect Steve Wright saying it is a faith position, but there are other points of view within what we might broadly call “orthodoxy”.

  48. Josh,
    My apologies, I’m driving all over the valley and trying to keep up.
    Descended used the term perfect before and that’s why I used it here.
    Dr. Packer basically wrote the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy… and because he believes that the first chapters of Genesis are prose poetry and believes in a form of theistic evolution he has since been called a enemy of the very doctrine he wrote.
    I’m not trying to pull others away from anything but a lack of grace with those orthodox brethren who differ.

  49. “but there are other points of view within what we might broadly call “orthodoxy”.”

    Of course there are.

    I thought Packer and co. did great work with the Chicago statement. It certainly requires a measure of faith. Is the point to have an understanding of the bible that doesn’t require faith?

  50. I didn’t see Descended showing any lack of grace.

    Packer is the author of the Statement on Inerrancy that I hold to. As you know, it is broad enough to encompass theistic evolution and young earth creationism. Those are not the questions that the Chicago Statement is trying to answer.

    All that being said, I absolutely believe the bible is perfect.

  51. I don’t want to fight about any of that though, so I am sorry. I was just surprised by the rebuff.

  52. I wasn’t accusing Descended of a lack of grace.
    We have more readers than him. 🙂

  53. #48 Josh

    “Is the point to have an understanding of the Bible that doesn’t require faith?”

    That is the crux of the matter. When apologists present a “mechanistic” approach seeking to “prove” inerrancy, in my opinion, they make a mistake. I have a very high view of Scripture and, as such, I admit even in my position that a measure of faith is required. If we could use that as a starting point, we would go much further in our discussions, simply because it assumes good will on both sides of the discussions.

  54. from this layman’s point of view, the miracle of the Book is that a perfect and absolute God has worked in and through man to produce such a compilation… the miracle IS the Book, its contents and its reasoning, their power … only confused or rebellious souls are put off by “inaccuracies” … the near cousin to this are those who chose which parts of the canon they, themselves, will validate… dangerous ground to try to stand on IMNSHO

    this may be old lady humor, but… heard a preacher i like to listen to observe that scripture says no man knows the day nor the hour of our Lord’s return, only God knows and, if by chance some fool guesses correctly? maybe God will change it

    God keep all close and growing

  55. I’m sleepy.

    Imagine a smiley with two thumbs up here, and it is for all of you.

  56. I don’t place much currency in debates about inerrancy. I think the issues raised appeal to rationalism, but don’t really solve exegetical or doctrinal issues.

    For example, some people have used inerrancy to expand the purpose of Scripture beyond what Paul has written: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”

    More seriously though is that the epistemology of rationalism invites humans to stand over or aloof from Scripture.

    Inerrancy doesn’t teach me if Jesus cleansed the Temple at the beginning of His ministry, at the end, or twice. It doesn’t teach me if Genesis II is a deep dive of day 6 of Genesis I, or if it’s an independent creation account. Etc.

    I think a more salutary epistemology is to confess that Scripture is God breathed (I.e., God’s Word), and to read Scripture as Christ speaking to and operating on me for my salvation.

  57. #55 Jean

    Yes, it is a faith issue, not apologetic rationalism…

  58. In LCMS “A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles” they specifically call the bible inerrant. I’m cool with that.

  59. I might be tempted to contest the idea that preaching doesn’t change lives. It may end up being a discussion about semantics. But the word preached and proclaimed is meant to change minds and hearts, isn’t it? I wouldn’t say all preaching changes lives, but I would say that good preaching of God’s Gospel can wholly change a life.

  60. “We reaffirm our acceptance of the Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God,”

    https://www.lcms.org/doctrine/scripturalprinciples#IV

    Love it.

  61. #59 Josh

    Their defining of inerrancy and inspiration does include numerous qualifications…

  62. So does every defining of inerrancy.

  63. The irony of the Chicago Statement and others like it is that such statements probably have contributed to more church splits and heresies than anything else.

  64. #61 Josh

    Indeed. BTW, I just counted… it took them 188 lines of text to try and describe what they meant by the opening statement!

  65. What about LCMS statement claiming inerrancy, though? No problem with that?

  66. LCMS actually go further with their claims of inerrancy than most others do.

  67. And again, I like the LCMS statement. Doesn’t sound like Jean does, but I do.

  68. #62 Jean

    Yes, and knowing a number of the people who were there, took part and signed their names, after the perspective of a few years, many wished that it had not been issued in the form that it took…

  69. #66 Josh

    I’ll say it again, generally we’re better with what we affirm than what we deny…

  70. As far as contributing to church splits…isn’t LCMS one big church split? Some things are worth splitting over, I would guess?

  71. “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation”

    There you have the statement of the Thirty Nine Articles in regard to Scripture.

    Works for me…

  72. I would say without qualification that everyone here holds a high view of Scripture and however they choose to define that is fine with me.

  73. If you look at the differences in doctrine between Reformed and Lutheran, for instance, they are not produced by one tradition affirming and the other denying inerrancy. Human logic and rationalism are far more dangerous.

  74. Jean,

    Good point.
    The differences really are a matter of interpretation, not beliefs about scriptural veracity.
    I still think the Reformed were more right… 🙂

  75. Brodersen should never open a conference or take the slot right after lunch…

  76. One thing to remember about the Seminix split was that it was the liberals and scripture deniers who left – in mass. Forty five of 50 professors said “enough of this taking to bible as God’s word. Any documents produced by the LCMS were not done in a good but in reaction and response to some pretty bad Christian theology.
    Harold Linsell’s book The Battle for the Bible tells it all. The only ally was the SBC.

  77. #70 Church splits seem to be the most enduring, continuing characteristic of the church since 1054…

  78. Me, mld and the LCMS have no problem with inerrancy. Right Mld?

  79. #77 MLD

    Sorry, but that is a cartoon approach to what happened. I happened to be around in the immediate aftermath and knew people on both sides of the issue. It was complex and it was very political. There were good people on both sides, and others with agendas on both sides.

  80. I like the Anglican statement, Lutheran, and SBC statements on scripture. I love the part from the Baptist Faith and Message:

    The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

  81. Duane,
    Sorry, but as much as I enjoy your tales of knowing everyone in the modern day of Christianity (not to mention that you have had tea with all of them) – you don’t know what you are talking about.
    The fact that it became complex and or political does not take away from from the fact that the Seminex people were denying scripture. But with your background, you are in agreement with them – so I expect no other comment from you than what you made.

  82. It must be hot today in Havasu.

  83. #82 MLD

    Prov. 26:5

  84. Duane,

    How about Prov. 26:4?

  85. #85

    I try to avoid that…

  86. #83 Jean

    Obviously…

  87. Duane,

    Oh…is that one not inspired? 🙂

  88. #88 CostcoCal

    We’ll have to look at the LXX and Hebrew text on that one… 🙂

  89. #88

    By the way, according to the “definition” we could say “inspired”, but how about “inerrant”?

  90. Michael

    Your scripture references are splitting hairs. There’s nothing in there damning of inerrancy.
    Stickin’! 🙂

    How is it fallible vapor such as we are can look at an infallible God and his work and critique it as imperfect? It’s perfect, and I mean perfect, because it came from the mouth of God. Whatever form it has taken in whatever culture over several millennia has also been directed by the hand of God. Any Five-point Calvinist must agree to that, right? So unless God speaks imperfectly and has a faltering hand anything but inerrancy is man trying to play God vicariously.

    Writing quickly so forgive the bluntness. Know that I love you Michael and Duane 🙂

    And Jean and Xenia and all you other liberal heathen who don’t think as I do 😉

  91. Duane is right – I went against proverbs when I replied to him.

    For anyone who wants the real story – try this;
    https://www.amazon.com/Seminary-Crisis-Inside-Finding-Committee/dp/0758611021/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1498520290&sr=1-1&keywords=A+seminary+in+crisis

    my pastor was a walkout and came back 2 years later after seeing the direction the Seminex people took.

    But my point was that the decisions of the LCMS were not academic efforts – they were written for serious errors.

  92. #93 MLD

    I will agree with you on one point … It was a mess, and a number of people on both sides were hurt.

  93. #92

    I’ll stand with the “liberal heathen”, especially if it includes Michael, Jean, Xenia and the rest…

  94. MLD

    PS, I don’t drink tea…

  95. All that time in England and no tea? 😉

  96. The strange thing is that while I am referred to here by some as “liberal,” last week I published an article here and someone else here with the highest view of Scripture’s inerrancy said that “born of water and the Spirit” refers to two births, where I assume he meant that the first birth of water refers to amniotic fluid. Now if someone can come up with such an interpretation while also holding to Scriptural inerrancy, then what do platitudes of Scriptural inerrancy actually do for anyone?

  97. #97 MLD

    Only coffee… expresso if possible… hard core.

    #98 Jean

    You’re in good company….

  98. Jean – your question reveals that you do not know what is meant by inerrancy. It does not favor a particular translation over another. Many people who wrote the book on inerrancy would argue that the births, the water is the physical birth.

    However, if you’ll review the conversation, you’ll see that I did not say that. I was asking you questions based on your inconsistent translation of two concurrent verses. According to the Chicago statement on Inerrany (read it sometime. It won’t take long) you and I could translate those verses exactly the way we did, and both hold to inerrancy.

    I thought you were hardcore LCMS. Is that over? I didn’t say you were liberal, I just said you disagreed with the LCMS statement of faith. If you are no longer LCMS, then there is no inconsistency there.

    Nice try at the dig. Missed again 🙂

  99. I really enjoy conversing with all of you. We all have our bad days, but you are all good brothers. Thanks!

  100. Josh,

    I never said that you said I’m liberal.

    I never disagreed with the LCMS statement of faith.

    I never said I was hardcore LCMS.

    I am a Christian who agrees most closely with the theology of Luther and the Lutheran Confessions, and I am a member of a congregation that is associated with the LCMS.

    I have read the Chicago Statement.

    Your interpretation of the baptism passage in John 3 is ridiculous, as is your view on free will, perseverance and eschatology. But, as a person, I love you.

  101. #101 Josh

    Said sometime ago, you’re a good soul… haven’t changed my mind…

  102. Jean, you don’t understand my interpretation on any o those things, but I love you anyway.

    Thanks Duane. You’re a good guy too. Our current climate sets up too many things to separate us. Usually, if you dig deep enough, you can find better reasons to stick together.

  103. #104 Josh

    I’d have you on a church staff, anytime, any place… you have a heart…
    That’s more important than all the rest.

  104. Thank man. I enjoy learning from you. You should get you one of those churches right on the coast and give me a call 🙂

  105. when the intellectuals here are having a conversation i hate to say ‘amen’ to any observation because that makes the person i am ‘amening’ suspect as to their veracity… LOL
    but someone quoted (i won’t say who, so that their standing among the intellectuals does not diminish 🙂 )
    “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” AMEN
    and i would add (from the Webster Bible):
    2Ti 2:15 Study to show thyself approved to God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

    lots of ‘workmen’ of that sort here, i think

  106. Hey Josh, I’m right on the coast and need some help. When can you come out? 🙂

  107. Duane

    I will assume a smiley emoticon in your response 🙂

  108. Covered, how about Sunday? 🙂

  109. #109 Descended

    Always assume a smiley emoticon!

    To be serious, some people consider theological conversations to be a “blood sport” and way too often resort to personal invective. I think people of good heart and good faith can hold a position different than myself without it diminishing them, in my estimation, in any way. When we reduce others and others’ positions to broad outlines in a cartoonish manner, we not only do them a disservice, we also reduce real theological discourse. I’ve been blessed to have known, and to have learned from, some of the best over the last 45 years. I certainly have not agreed with them all, but I have enormous respect for them – sometimes knowing their very real faults. I think, however, we can only come to that place of mutual respect when we’ve really examined our own presuppositions and prejudices and own them for what they are…

  110. My main goal in the theological discussions here (and I do enjoy them) is clarity. Often, you hear a point that just makes no theological sense. It is usually because I don’t really understand the point that is being made. I try to keep asking questions, offering counterpoints, etc. until I feel that I really understand what is being said. If I then still disagree, that’s cool, at least I know what I am disagreeing with.

  111. #112 Josh

    The Socratic method lives…

  112. Yeah, you either engage in Theological discussion to learn, or to “defeat your opponent”. I’m sure I’m guilty of looking for the “gotcha” at times, too.

    Honestly, all my school discussion right now is about the differences between Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, and the forthcoming BH Quinta. I guess there is part of me that finds that interesting, but not as much as theological discussions.

    At least my other class this summer is a Church History class, Reformation to present. I like learning about some of the lesser known figures, but there is very much to debate. I’ll have another Theology class in the fall. Thank God.

    🙂

  113. ” but there is very much to debate”

    Should have been, “But there is NOT very much to debate”.

    This guy lived in the 1500’s. Died in 1582…

    I disagree!!!

    🙂 No fun.

  114. #115 Josh

    For myself, I could never fall in love with Church History during the Enlightenment. The counter-Reformation is highly interesting, but from there to the First Great Awakening is a bit of a desert. BTW, what is being used as a standard text book in your school?

  115. The main text is Wiliston Walker’s History of the Christian Church.

  116. The bios are written by the professr. Reading today about Roger Williams. There is some really fascinating stuff.

  117. Really!?!

    I didn’t know that it was still in print. If I remember correctly, that was published right at a hundred years ago… Walker was solid in his time, but the text must be really out of date with regard to more current scholarship. Do you know what you’ll be using for American Church History?

  118. Don’t know. We also reference Gonzalez and…one other…can’t think of it. But yeah, Walker is the main text. This professor swears by it. (He was probably there when it was written 🙂

  119. Just looked – This Walker book is the fourth edition, from the jacket:
    “Since publication of the first edition in 1918, A History of the Christian Church by Williston Walker has enjoyed outstanding success and recognition as a classic in the field. Written by an eminent theologian, it combines in its narrative a rare blend of clarity, unity, and balance. In light of significant advances in scholarship in recent years, extensive revisions have been made to this fourth edition. Three scholars from Union Theological Seminary in New York have incorporated new historical discoveries and provided fresh interpretations of various periods in church history from the first century to the twentieth. The result is a thoroughly updated history which preserves the tenor and structure of Walker’s original, unparalleled text.”

  120. Well, I’m glad there’s been some updating! For American Church History, you should take a look at Sydney Ahlstrom’s ‘A Religious History of the American People’ … it is simply the best. I’d send you my copy but two weeks ago I gave it to someone else… sorry.

  121. Yes I was in seminary in 1977 and we used Williston Walker …

  122. Must be a Baptist thing 🙂

  123. I think Walker was a Congregationalist…

  124. Maybe so, but Bab’s and I are Baptist. 🙂

  125. I was once a free-will pre-tribulation dispensationalist futurist–I am now none of those things. I used to think it really mattered–it comes down now to this: Are you in agreement with the historical creeds? We are one, then. Does what you are saying and doing look like Jesus? It might be true, I will pray for discernment. Does what you are saying and doing not look like Jesus? Then it isn’t, no matter how loudly you yell.

    I am at peace with all those who name His name in truth…

    Great list–it is almost something you could start a movement from, because there are so many I know who would concur–the good news is that those like us are not interested in movements.

    Rick

  126. oops, forgot–I was a pre-tribulation rapturist dispensationalist futurist–left out an important -ist!

  127. #127 Rick

    Many thanks. I think there are a good number of us out there; more than might be imagined! As I said to a friend this morning, I think people are tired of being yelled at or being told that a fundamentalist version of Anglicanism, Reformed, Lutheranism or CCAism is the only way…
    BTW, you might look at #44 on the thread…

  128. Thanks, Duane, your list so resonated with me–I was especially touched by your reference to tragedy. I have come personally to this conclusion: the meaning in tragedy is God’s presence, if that makes sense. In life and death He is with us; life often does not make sense, death rarely makes sense. I do not correct those who try to apply meaning beyond that–how people process death is very individual and I have been around enough to just stay close and keep my mouth shut, for the most part.

    As I read Job, I always am profoundly touched at how God does not answer Job’s questions; but Job is able to rest from them. The last chapters of Job that point to the magnificence of God in creation, I think offer us a place of rest–and humility, from the expectation that God owes us an explanation. I have always wondered what a discussion would be like regarding what questions we should be asking–since it does not appear, at least in Scripture, that a lot of those heartfelt questions are answered in a direct way.

    With Job, our hope is “our Redeemer lives!”

  129. This was written:

    “I used to think it really mattered–it comes down now to this: Are you in agreement with the historical creeds? We are one, then.”

    My very first impression of this statement, buried among others, was this; in the attempt to be free and open a line in the sand is still very clearly written. One must believe and agree in the “historic” creeds to be in fellowship with this writer.

    One problem, which historic creed and which organized church’s version of the creed?

    I might also throw out this question, Why were the “creeds” written and established in the first place?

    Boy it isn’t easy believing after all.

    Back to the chop sticks and teriyaki.

  130. ” I have come personally to this conclusion: the meaning in tragedy is God’s presence, if that makes sense.”
    jumping into the midst here to say, by experience and by [limited] intellect that Pastor Rick’s conclusion absolutely makes sense…

    to loosely quote Mother Angelica this morning along a similar vein, she observed for the unbeliever, peace is the absence of deprivation, pain and suffering – but for the Believer peace is the presence of God… for one peace is in absence and for the other peace is a Presence…

  131. eating with chopsticks is impressive… observing that believing isn’t easy? not so impressive
    (it’s the walk that isn’t easy down here)

  132. #130 Rick

    Your comment went to the center of the issue. Martine Sheen was being interviewed about his faith and was asked, “Then where was God on 9/11?”. He answered, “That’s easy… He was in the towers with those who were suffering and dying.”

    Sort of says it all.

  133. #131

    For myself, it is the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed… Apart from the filioque clause, these two are accepted by the vast majority of the Christian world.

  134. “to loosely quote Mother Angelica this morning along a similar vein, she observed for the unbeliever, peace is the absence of deprivation, pain and suffering – but for the Believer peace is the presence of God… for one peace is in absence and for the other peace is a Presence…”

    I assume you notice this has nothing to do with creeds. Many believe in the presence of God and don’t follow the “creeds.”

    So why did they come up with “creeds?”

  135. #136 – yes, my Mother A comment was tangential to the line quoted from comment #130

    As to creeds they provide definition…
    But an undefined belief in an undefined God?
    hmm… reminds me of an old .( really old) popular song: “I believe for every drop of rain a floater grows…. I believe that someone in the great somewhere heard every word….” 😏

  136. floater? flower, you stupid spell check – f l o w e r

  137. Eating Teriyaki ,

    I would suggest that if you truly know nothing about the formation of the creeds and why they were produced that you grab a good book on church history or take a free church history class online.

    My guess is that you think you know more than you’re letting on.

  138. Michael

    It’s your blog and I occasionally read it.

    My observation was simple, a writer made a contradicting general statement about what is important and I asked about it. Dr. Arnold answered in a very academic way, EM ignored the whole idea but eventually narrowed the response and you threw out a possible insult.

    Over the years I had to sign and reconfirm my belief in the creed of a world wide denomination every year. Since “retiring” from the denomination I have found a huge world of people who follow Jesus with love and compassion that embarrasses mine. Ironically many of these people never heard a thing about creeds or confessions and yet somehow their love never grows cold. But I guess at times ignorance is bliss.

    Quite frankly at this point in my life I almost wish I didn’t know as much as I do about church history. With a few exceptions, these days I find it neither comforting nor inspiring. What I do find comforting is that God has shown His mercy and compassion to all of creation in spite of that history.

    I’m just rambling and I was looking at your site while eating teriyaki chicken for lunch (yes I like to use chopsticks) and enjoying the early afternoon. I’m so sorry you took offense and have the propensity to question posters so quickly and easily.

    I’ll stop posting and my wife thinks I should just stay away from your site completely.

  139. Your wife is probably right.

  140. Must be hot in Medford.

  141. Hi Teriyaki,

    The Nicene Creed was written as a response to a 4th century heresy that was spreading like wildfire that taught that Jesus Christ was created and not co-eternal with the Father. The Nicene Creed is a summary of true statements about the three Persons of the Trinity. It’s the very least one must believe to be a Christian. It’s not a particular denomination’s statement of belief or a set of denominational distinctives, it belongs to all Christians.

    So the question Which Creed and who wrote it? can be answered simply: The Nicene (sometimes called the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed) was written by the Christian Church (there was only one at the time, no denominations). It was composed by a council of bishops who were called to settle the heretical crisis that was threatening to overwhelm Christendom. It defines the Christian religion and distinguishes it from cults, heretical groups, and other religions. It precludes modern groups like the Jehovah’s
    Witnesses, for example, who, like the ancient Arians, also believe Christ is a created being.

    You correctly noted that there are many, many people who are genuine Christians who never heard of the Nicene Creed. Still, I think if you were to question them you would find that they do believe in the Trinity and so forth. They were taught the basics of Christianity in their churches even if they never heard the word “Nicene.”

  142. Teriyaki, I apologize for throwing the thread off by responding to a sentence that caught my attention. It was a profound, beautiful truth, however… I hope it doesn’t get lost in the confusion that my comment has caused.
    If you visit the prayer thread here, you’ll find there are many like yourself that are prayed for faithfully… I don’t usually tell a person to ignore their spouse’s advice, but this is a good place to overcome painfully memories such as you describe
    God keep

  143. Michael, prayer for your health continues… hope there’s a cool breeze where you are tonight and your window is open…

  144. #143 Xenia

    Many thanks for answering that so graciously. I was off for a bit tending to my mother… even theology waits for mother!

  145. Teriyaki, I did not sense a contradiction in my statement about the creeds–but that certainly does not mean others cannot find one there. The creeds I would center on are the Nicene and the Athanasian–but primarily, the Nicene.

    I guess we may be over parsing the term ‘be in fellowship’. I probably relate to more non-Christians than Christians. Our relationships are based in what I have come to understand as Commom Grace; whether they name the name of Jesus in truth, they are made in God’s image and worthy of respect and gracious love. I would relate to others who would claim to know Jesus in truth but would deny the truth expressed in the creeds in much the same way. I have no hostility toward anyone, and no sense of superiority either.

    Em, I am not nor have ever been in pastoral ministry in a formal way; in my previous career I was in an ancillary medical profession that brought me into the presence of the dying and their families on a regular basis. I have always found conversation as the best way to convey value–so I was very intentional about speaking with them. I learned much from them. My present career is with the living–but I try to do the same as an offering to God; conversation extends value–God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself–His reconciling us involved Christ engaging the world in conversation, modeled throughout the gospels by His conversations with the unlikeliest of people.

    Hope this makes sense…

  146. Thank you for the clarification, Rick… hope the mistaken title didn’t insult…😕

  147. Actually, Em, it brought a smile to my face–a bit of irony, I have been in formal church leadership positions (not as a pastor) twice, and have been kicked out both times. I think having been in that position has brought me a liberty from the need to engage in battles with others. I am very much at peace in my membership in the Church Catholic–the one church I cannot be kicked out of…

    Thankful for grace–and that I find kinship here…

    Rick

  148. #147 Rick

    Pure CS Lewis… and that’s a good thing.

  149. Dr. Arnold

    I hope you are doing well. I am doing a thesis on Athanasius and this is only way I could find to contact you. If possible I have some questions I would like to ask you. I have found the “Early Episcopal Career of Athanasius” very helpful. God bless. My email is sdavis1984@yahoo.com

    J. Steven Davis

  150. J Steven Davies,
    If you care to reply – what is your thesis on Athanasius?
    If you need any proofreaders then let me know.
    My email is erikbatsford@gmail.com

  151. #152 Papias

    Are you doing any fourth century patristics work?

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