Thursday, September 30, 2010

Divisions and Heresies

Why does God allow false teachers, false prophets and other deceivers to remain? Why doesn’t he deal with the problem of false teaching and remove its effect from the church and the world?

I think an answer is indicated in both Deuteronomy 13 and 1 Corinthians 11.

In the latter reference Paul writes:

“… when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”(ESV)

While the term “divisions” or its synonyms seem to be most commonly used across various translations, the KJV uses the term “heresies” which has much stronger implications in the Christian mind.
But while the ideas of “divisions” and “heresies” are seen mostly in negative terms, Paul highlights a positive outcome resulting from their presence – that is to bring to recognition those who are genuine.

Other translations state this positive outcome in different terms. The NIV puts it this way:
“…there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval”.

It seems there is something about the existence of divisions/heresies/factions that brings to light those who are genuine, those who have God’s approval and distinguishes them from others who are clearly not genuine and lack God’s approval.

I see a link here with a warning God gives in Deuteronomy 13.

“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Here it is clearly stated that false prophets are used as a test of a person’s love for God. There is a choice to be made whenever we come across a teacher, a prophet, a teaching, a sign or a miracle. Are they from God or are they leading us astray?
No matter how genuine they may seem, the ultimate test is whether we are being directed towards GOD or towards something else. The One True God or an imitation.
When there are divisions that call for a choice of path to be taken, how do we determine which (if any) direction leads to God?

Would it be wrong to suggest that God given us the needed direction in His word? That we should test everything and everyone according to His revelation given in scripture?

I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
(Psalm 119: 104-105)

Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
(2 Timothy 2:14-16 NIV)

I can see that “divisions” help determine those who have God’s approval and bring to light those who are genuine in two ways. Firstly those who put aside God’s word to follow man’s ideas (either their own or those of favoured teachers) are separated from those who give priority to God and His revelation.

The second relates to the way division is handled. Do we allow the differences to lead us into quarrelling and ungodly chatter?

It is in the second that I see myself needing the most help.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Why I am no longer a Calvinist" by Dr Tim Pierce

Here is a recommended article by Dr Tim Pierce.
It is part 4 in a series he has been writing. Parts 1 to 3 can also be found on his blog.

With this article he intends to: "begin addressing the primary elements of Calvinism, commonly identified as the 5 points of Calvinism".

Why I am no longer a Calvinist


Thursday, September 09, 2010

"A Simple Method of Study"

On a Christian forum I was recently asked if I could recommend “a simple method of study. Here is the answer I gave. Some of this is a repetition of what I’ve written elsewhere on this blog:

A simple method of study I would recommend is to read scripture with prayer for understanding.

Avoid grabbing bits of scripture from here and there and trying to make sense of it. Scripture is not an unrelated collection of doctrinal facts that can be applied in isolation. It is an unfolding revelation of God’s relationship with His creation – mankind in particular.

Get a basic knowledge of how scripture fits together and how this revelation flows from Genesis to Revelation. My own understanding increased significantly when I finally understood how the different parts of scripture related to each other.
And a very important point is to not neglect the “Old Testament”. So often the impression is given that it isn’t as important as the “New” – but without the “Old” our understanding of God and His new covenant will be seriously lacking.

This obviously takes time and there’s no quick and easy way. It is often our impatience that leads us to turn to others for answers and makes us susceptible to accepting their word in place of scripture.

I don’t dismiss the importance of teaching from Spirit-led teachers but it’s not always easy to find teachers who ARE led by the Spirit. The majority of teachers we come across are merely passing on what they have learned from their church or seminary and they teach church doctrine instead of God’s word.

A Spirit led teacher does not merely pass on what he has learned from others. A Spirit led teacher is one who has received revelation himself through a personal encounter with the word and the Holy Spirit.

A Spirit led teacher will also GENUINELY encourage us to search the scriptures for ourselves. This is not only a safeguard for us – it also holds the teacher to account and provides a safeguard for him, reducing the chance of him leading us astray.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Moral Problem of Determinism and Free Will.

If God allows man to sin and lets sinful man go unpunished, there is a problem.
If God ordained man’s sin and then punished man for what God Himself had ordained – THAT is a far bigger problem.

However, if God gave man the freedom of moral choice, making man responsible for his own sin – and if God then provided a way for man to be free of the penalty of his sin by taking that sin and its punishment upon Himself. That is not a problem – that is GRACE.