Friday, February 25, 2005

Where to begin in response...

Well, where to begin? I guess to begin with we need to understand the purpose of the Church. The ultimate goal and end of every created thing is to bring glory to the Creator (Psalm 100:1-3). All of us exist for the glory of God (Colossians 1:16; Romans 11:36; Revelation 5). As one looks at the previous statements it could be stated that the church needs to "magnify the excellency of a great and marvelous God" (Ephesians 3:10,21).

The church has been created to fulfill two major roles or functions, though they can't ultimately be separated. One role is in relation to itself while the other is in relation to the world. What is meant is with respect to itself, the church functions to promote growth in brotherly love and holiness so that it may reach the "measure of the stature that belongs to the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13), to the glory of God. With respect to the world, the church functions as Christ's witnesses in the proclamation of the Gospel (Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:20), to the glory of God. By the church assembling together it provides an environment that is specifically suited for the building up of the body of Christ in true love and holiness. This enables the church to fulfill its role in relation to itself. When the church is dispersed in the world, then this is the ideal and primary context for evangelism. It is God's appointed setting for the fulfillment of the church's role in relation to the world.

There are some key ingredients in gathering together with worship of God at the heart of each assembly.

  1. Prayer (Matthew 21:13; Acts 2:42; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 25; 1 Timothy 2:1, 8).
  2. Fellowship (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Hebrews 10:24-25)
  3. Singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)
  4. Reading, teaching and exhortation from the Word (Acts 2:42; 11:26; 1 Timothy 4:13; 5:17; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27)
  5. The Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:26-30; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:17-33)
  6. Evangelism may happen as the unbeliever observes the reality of God in the midst of the church body (1 Corinthians 14:23-25). God's presence is especially evidenced as the assembly demonstrates a genuine love for God, for one another (John 13:34-35) and for the unbeliever.

The biblical assembling of a group of believers is getting together to do things that only believers can do! An unbeliever cannot worship the Lord in song, he cannot participate in true fellowship with the body of Christ, he cannot engage in prayer, and he cannot understand or appreciate the truths of God's Word (1 Corinthians 2:14). Often times, an unbeliever finds it distasteful or at the very least uninteresting. That doesn't mean that we are to make it our goal to be repulsive to the unbeliever! Just the opposite, we should seek to be as attractive as possible to the unbeliever without sacrificing the biblical nature of the assembly. The assembly is not so much the place to bring an unbeliever to hear the gospel and get saved as it is the place to bring the unbeliever to see and experience the sincere love that Christians have for one another and for God. We must be careful not to sacrifice the biblical doctrines of the assembly in order to be more attractive and/or comfortable for the unsaved.

In the New Testament, evangelism took place in everyday life as believers interacted with the world around them. It was the natural outworking of the believers' life in Christ. So as we mature in Christ, we should desire to "excel still more".

After living here in Utah for over 24 years I am well acquainted with the problems that can arise between Christianity and other religions. I agree that it is important to be able to sit down together and to share and talk respectfully with one another about the differences between one's beliefs. However, as a Christian, your goal is not to just discuss the beliefs but to show another his need for a Savior. All other conversation pales in comparison to this truth. Whereas, it's good to know information about other religions, the real importance of that is not the knowledge, but the facts that are different from the absolute Truth found in the Bible.

Now, returning to the original subject matter, a Christian church has no business bringing on staff, a Muslim cleric, or anyone whose views would be antithetical to that of the church body and Biblical truth.

Thank you to each of you who participated in the discussion. I have to say it was very stimulating!

17 comments:

Bob & Claire said...

Well-written, Aunt Claire! I'm sure you had no idea you would start anything controversial when you posted that little snippet! : )

J Walker said...

With all due respect, your claims of biblical "truth" are weakened by the numerous interpretations and denominations within Christianity itself.

Granted there are many common beliefs that are shared between Catholics, Protestants and any other section of Christianity you wish to name. Let us not forget, though, that even Christians themselves disagree! How can you say that a particular way is the Christian way, when Christians themselves cannot agree?

I bring this up because I find the differences between Christian denominations to be similar to the differences between Christianity as a whole and other monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Islam. (albeit the differences are on a different scale). Additionally, let us not forget that we cannot pidgeon-hole Jews and Muslims too narrowly either, for within these religions are denominational differences similar to those in Christianity.

So, my question to you is, how do you, as a Christian, determine what is right when Christian denominations disagree?

And second, how do you find reason among different translations of the bible? While I don't think many of the translations contradict each other, I do think that the differences point to the fallability of human knowledge in understanding what was written thousands of years ago!

Becky said...

Hi Pilot Mom...wow, blessings on you my friend. Isn't blogging amazing?! Its so healthy to be challenged on what and why you believe. It made me think all day and gave me fodor for a number of 'real world' conversations. Thanks for your visit to my blog. As for the clock...do what I did. Steal it! Just click on my clock and it will tell you how to get one of your own. Extremely easy to set up and kind of cool!

Pilot Mom said...

JWalker, when Christian denominations disagree, I return to the Bible for my clarity. There are certain doctrines that are NOT negotiable, such as Who Jesus is, The Trinity, Eternal life. So, if one church wants to celebrate the Lord's Supper every week and another church chooses to do it once a month or another, once a quarter...is that a 'biggie'? No, because it doesn't affect our eternal life or who Christ is etc. Do you see where I am coming from? Now, if a church were to teach that 'works' are needed for salvation, that is a whole other thing. The Bible is very clear on that issue. An inheritance in the Kingdom of God is not given on the basis of our works or righteousness. It is not given only to those who pass a certain goal. An inheritance in the Kingdom of God is the gift of God given to undeserving men simply because it is God's purpose to demonstrate His love and mercy in doing so (Eph. 2:7). Salvation is all of God so that all of the praise might go to God. God has not chosen to save people outside of Jesus Christ.

Now, on to your question about the different translations. First, Paul describes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 the Scriptures as being "God-breathed" or "inspired". This literally means that their origin, their source, is in God Himself. God used men to write His Word, but He did so in such a way as to insure that what was written was word for word what He had intended from eternity past.

Now, let's define some terms. Most people, when they talk about translation are talking from one language into another and then from that language into another, and then into another, and so on. But, in speaking of the history of the Bible, and how it came to us, we are speaking in the TRANSMISSION of the text over time. For the first 1500 years of the 'Christian era.' the text of the Bible was TRANSMITTED by hand copying, from one manuscript to another. We have over 25,000 hand written manuscripts of the NT alone, and over 5,000 of these are written in the original language of the NT Greek. There is still only ONE BIBLE, just different translations. It isn't translated from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to French to German to Spanish to English. Each of the English versions is based directly upon the orignial languages, and there is but one step between the original Hebrew and Greek texts to the English translation thereof.

I hope this helps somewhat and doesn't muddy things up any further. :)

Also, to whoever was commenting on the Allah of Islam...yes, Islam is also monotheistic; followers believe in one god, although it is not the true God. Islam rejects the doctrine of the Trinity and considers Jesus to be one of the great prophets. Allah differs from the Jewish and Christian concept of God because he is morally capricious; he declares what is good and evil, and his declaration makes it true. The Muslim has no assurance of what it takes to please Allah and be welcomed into eternal paradise.

J Walker said...

You keep saying things like "the Bible makes it clear" and "there is no doubt". All that does is prove to me that your argument is based on faith..your belief as to what the Bible means.

I can say this because there are Christians who do not believe in the Trinity. You might not call these people Christians, but they considered themselves Christians. There are Christians that, as you say, believe that works are also necessary for salvation. Is that a biggie? I would think so because it speaks to what i means to be saved. So, that IS a biggie that Christians DO disagree on.

Since you only seem to be able to be reasoned with by the Bible, here are several verses that say works ARE necessary....

Mt.19:17
"If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."

Mt.16:27
"For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."

2 Cor.5:10
"For we must all appear before the jugment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad."

James.2:17
"Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

Jer.17:10
"I the Lord ... give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings."

I know that there are many verses that support your side as well. My point isn't that you're wrong. My point IS that you cannot use the Bible to prove every single one of your beliefs. Some of them are on FAITH.

Essentially you're argument is "they're wrong because we're right", which is nothing short of circular logic and a fallacy.

J Walker said...

As to your comments on translation, I must admit that everything you said is accurate. What you leave out, however, is what is suspect.

What about the ancient Greek and Hebrew words to which scholars give several meanings? Which meanings are used? (Answer...the one the translator wants) What happens when scholars disagree on a translation? (this does happen).

Again, as before, my point is not to prove you wrong. Just to show you how silly it is that you are SO SURE, when the people who know the MOST about these things are unable to agree!

Roger R. said...

As a Theology graduate from Oxford University I do find Mr Walker's comments on biblical language scholars pretty naive.

Which scholars does he have in mind? Has he personal experience of their teachings? What passages are in doubt? Has he studied these at first hand?

Or am I detecting a whiff of someone jumping to the conclusion he wants? The very thing of which he accuses Pilot Mum?

For your own sake, ask the Holy Spirit to make things clear to YOU.

Kim said...

Wow, Claire. I think this would definitely count as a very theological blog. I admire your tenacity in responding to the comments.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I have read the blog frenzy that has taken place over the course of the past few days and have decided to throw my two cents worth in. First off, let us keep this discussion on the intellectual level and not start to get into destroying or tearing down people. To say it is “silly that you are SO SURE, when people who know the MOST about these things are unable to agree!” is crossing the line. If one is to have faith, one is in fact saying he is right. So, if one believes in the Bible, as in Pilot’s Mom case, she knows it’s true. If the Bible is proven incorrect, then she would stand corrected. The Bible has stood the test of time and countless attacks on It’s authority, that when someone does trust in the God of the Bible, he not only has faith on his side, but he has historical and scientific evidence to support his faith. Very few religions in the world today can make such a claim. And the religions that do make this claim, fail in comparison to the overwhelming support of the Bible. With that having been said, the Bible is an excellent standard by which everything can and must be measured by.

Secondly. One can prove his faith based on the Bible through the Bible alone. If the Bible says something, then, by faith, it must be true. If it is “proven” true through other means, then great however, that does not change the validity of the Bible. So, just because something cannot be proven other than by the fact the Bible says so, does not mean that it is weak proof. Yes, faith is required, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is correct. Take gravity for instance. If you throw your pencil up in the air, it will fall to the ground. If you take your pencil and throw it up in the air 1000 times, every time, it will fall to the ground. If you take that same pencil and throw it up in the air continually for 10 years, every time it will fall to the ground. How do we know this? Laws of science tell us this. But, if I am not mistaken, gravity is a theory. It is called the Theory of Gravity. So, in essence, we do not know that the pencil will fall to the ground the next time we throw it in the air. We are taking it on faith that it will fall. You cannot prove that it will fall to the ground because you cannot recreate the experiment to prove gravity. This is very much the same as faith with the Bible. The Bible makes certain claims, and one can know they are true (much like you know the pencil will fall to the ground when you throw it up in the air) even though it is based on faith.

J Walker said...

Roger

While I don't claim to be a scholar myself, I have read certain commentaries.

I will see if I can find the instances I am referring to and post back later on it.

To anonymous...you're making my point for me. I'm a philosophy graduate and logic states that you cannot prove your conclusion with your premise. To apply that statement to the present topic: you cannot prove that the Bible is true, by saying that the Bible is true.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1

Even the Bible admits that faith is the evidence of things not seen. It is the justification for the things we hope for, but cannot see. So, let's call a spade a spade. Faith is the evidence for when you have no evidence. It is belief, which is distinguishable from knowledge.

Sorry for my use of the word "silly" earlier. You can replace it with "illogical" and my point still stands.

J Walker said...

I meant to add this to my last post...

I am working on a large paper for law school. Please excuse me if I don't comment again for a day or so.

The Madjai said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Madjai said...

PilotMom,

While a Christian myself, and one who has been exploring apologetics for some time (one of my two majors in college), I find the defense of "when christians disagree, I return to the Bible for my clarity" a little disingenuous. I always thought it was internesting when I would ask my pastors questions, and they would have such widely different answers. If by faith alone are we saved, then why do so many christians believe that works can damn us? If I only need to believe in Christ the Father, then why do we (most christians, anyway) believe that homosexuals are damned?

If the Bible holds all of our truth, and is the ultimate reference guide, why is it that so many educated and divinely led christians can take issue with each other over its interpretation? To the validity of the Bible- I have often heard that it is the most accurate text ever written in terms of its history. This, I am willing to concede. There may be two opposing creation stories in the first ten pages, but let that pass. However, if we are to assume that the Bible is truly as accurate as we wish it to be, mightn't it be dangerous for us to say "If it's so accurate in this area, then it's equally fair to say that it's equally accurate in many others too." ... Many works of pagan rite are very historically accurate, but I don't espouse their dogma.

Might I further throw a rock into this weel by suggesting that a church (inasmuch as the building itself, and its employees, ordained or no) is itself not necessary for the redemption of my immortal soul? "Faith, Hope, and Love.. but the greatest of these is Love." and "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Am I loving myself as my neighbor, then if I tell my muslim counterpart that he cannot work for my church in an effort to reach out to muslims in my community... who are also my "neighbors"?

*My apologies for the repost. First draft lacked key words I re-discovered during proofing. :^(

Pilot Mom said...

Madjai:
Works can damn us? I guess if one is trusting solely in their 'works' without putting their faith in Christ alone to get them to heaven, then they are damned.

Homosexuals damned? Homosexuals or any sinner, for that matter, is damned if they have not put their faith in Christ Jesus alone. ALL those who are saved are sanctified by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in the lives of all the redeemed to bring about holiness, obedience, etc. Works of obedience DO NOT bring about salvation. Works of obedience are the work of the Spirit in those who are saved. Yes, there are good works in the Christian life, but every single good work, every single obedient act of the child of God is accomplished through the power and work of the Spirit of God as He is working out our sanctification. If a Christian continues to live a homosexual lifestyle, etc. then he is living in broken fellowship with God. Still going to heaven? Yes. The Lord is faithful, even though we are not.

Regardless if a person, after accepting the Lord, never does a 'good work' before he dies, he will still be in heaven. Christ, himself, assured the thief on the Cross of that.

There are many people in this world who profess to be Christian who are not. They may be very nice people...I am not the one who set down the rules, God is.

Interpretation? I don't know what to say to you. I know that when I hear something that I am unsure about, then I do like the Bereans in Acts 17:11--I search to see how it lines up with God's Word. So many people chase after 'religion' or 'spirituality' which never condemns them but pacifies them that their lifestyles are perfecly justified. Some of that thinking surely carries over into what they think the Bible says because they don't always like what it has to say.

Church building needed? No, you don't need a church building for the redemption of a soul. I have never stated that. It takes God to redeem a soul. And, sometimes, God will use a sinful human to share His love and sacrifice with another human.

Loving thy neighbor? I have nothing against that church setting up an 'Abrahamic Initiative' within the community to bridge their differences, and if they want to put the Muslim Cleric in charge,okay...I am saying, do not put him on the church's STAFF. I think that WITW's example of the DNC is an excellent example to help people see the difference.

For me, it boils down to whether or not I am trusting man and the way he sees as right or God. And, since I am going to stand before God, I'll cling to Him, not man.

And, JWalker, you are absolutely correct, one must have FAITH. I cannot put it any clearer than that. Thank you.

The Madjai said...

PilotMom- TOTALLY agree with you on many counts. But, I think it's safe to say that your thinking is not the same as most extreme right-wing christian conservatives. The general consensus is that certain sins are guaranteed to damn you to everlasting torture, no matter where your heart lies. I applaud you for being active in the choice to be subservient to God, and allowing God to make the decision of who is saved, and who isn't. Bravo.

I think that the DNC metaphor is flawed in the fact that the DNC WOULD hire a Republican if they had a "Reach out to Right-Wing" initiative. Who better to lead it that a Republican?

Pilot Mom said...

Madji, are you saying that the treasury of God's grace is so small that it is insufficient to 'cover the check' of man's forgiveness? May it NEVER be!!

There is no sin that is beyond the atoning blood of Christ, no sin so heinous, so evil, that the blood of Christ is insufficient to bring about forgiveness. See Colossians 1:19-20, Colossians 2:13-14, 1 John 1:7, Romans 3:24-26.

I am clearly and openly asserting that the death of Christ alone is sufficient to bring about FULL salvation for those who believe in Him.

I freely admit, I am a very conservative Christian. But, for someone to say that there is a limit to what God can do is wrong...God cannot, and will not, be confined to a 'box.'

It's sad that there are people who feel that way. That makes me even more thankful that it will be God, who is Just, who will be judging me and not mere man. :)

I've enjoyed our discussions.

Pilot Mom said...

JWalker: Faith always produces good works but good works never produce faith.