1). I was raised around Roman Catholicism, and
I see some things you do and some things you say that remind me of that. Can
you explain why that is?
I was raised in
a neighborhood in east Dayton, Ohio that was about a
50/50 Protestant and Roman Catholic split. In the 1960s and 1970s there were
stronger divisions and attitudinal differences between Protestants and
Catholics than there are in today’s society. I was taught as a young boy from a
very fundamentalist Protestant perspective what Roman Catholics believed and
most of all “why” we didn’t believe
like “they” did. I wouldn’t be
surprised to find out the opposite process was going on “next door” in our
Roman Catholic neighbor’s house.
In the development
of post-modernity in our society, those differences
appear to be less important and less divisive than in previous decades.
Protestants and Catholics pay very little attention to their religious
preferences in the workplace, and even cross-denominational marriage is more
common and less refuted by distinctively defined Protestant and Catholic
families than it was even 25 years ago. Needless to say the doctrinal positions
of both foundational Protestantism and Roman Catholicism have not changed. They
still are distinct and definable in their own camps.
There real problem
on both sides lays in the account of Christian Church
(ecclesiastical) history. The Roman-Vatican-Papal Catholic Church will
vehemently claim that its origin is found during the earthly ministry of Jesus
Christ in Matthew 16:16-18 when Christ said . Theological trained Protestants
will say just the opposite claiming that the Roman-Vatican-Papal Catholic
Church was conceived at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD by Roman Emperor
Constantine the Great.
Another issue between
the two major camps is the heretical teachings of
on “Martin Luther” who most Protestants claim as the founder of the Protestant
Reformation. What most Protestants are completely unaware of is that there “protesting”
(Protestant) Churches from
the very beginning of the Roman “culturalization”
of the early Christian movement in 325 AD as previously mentioned. These
anti-Roman movements were typically harassed, persecuted and even destroyed 0by
the Roman Empire’s military forces for not conforming to the Romanization of
the Church as Constantine and his successors were desirous of.
Protestant Reformation, although not referred to as that
at the time of its formal initiation
started in 1517 by a German Catholic monk named Martin Luther. Luther
may not have intended for the church to split but it obviously did in very
definable ways after Luther was excommunicated from Rome in 1524.
God never desires
division in His people. Even though God has used the
Protestant movement over the last five centuries, even as He has used the Roman
Catholic Church likewise to accomplish much good, from a Biblical perspective
we can be certain that the “split was not ordained by God. This does not
condemn or exonerate either division of the Church.
So, where can we
find the most accurate form of Christianity being
practiced in Biblical / spiritual application and in liturgical practice? It is
not found in a style of worship or the doctrine of a particular denomination of
Christianity. It is found in the accurate study of Biblical and ecclesiastical
history. When we go back and look at the first Christian community that was
experienced by the Apostles of Jesus Christ and the next two generations or so
of the Church that followed them we find a very accurate and humble form of Christianity
being lived out and practiced amidst the early Church. This “age” is referred
to by scholars as the “ante-Nicene” era of the Church – the period of church
history before the Nicene Council was convened in 325 AD by Constantine.
However many contemporary theologians of our day are referring to it now as
“organic” Christianity – or a Christianity that was not as strongly tainted by
the society and the culture of its day as were succeeding generations of the
faith, especially after 325 AD.
When the Roman
Emperor / Empire culturalized and socialized the Christian
Church in the early fourth century the Romanized Church continued many of the
liturgical practices that had been established during the organic / ante –
Nicene period. This is why some of the things you might experience in our
worship services may seem somewhat familiar to you if you have been exposed to
a fair amount of Roman Catholicism.
In my studies of
early Christianity I have found Biblical references and
precedents for the way I conduct a worship service and even more specifically
the Eucharist (Holy Communion) which may seem on the surface to be imitating
Roman Catholicism. In reality Roman Catholicism is imitating the early organic
/ ante-Nicene Christian community – which is not wrong.
During the English
and European Reformations of the 16th
century, many Christians involved in those movements chose to eliminate certain
liturgical practices, doctrines and imagery in their intense desire to not be
Roman-Vatican-Papal Catholics in any way, shape or form. Thus, many Protestant
Christian people today still have a tendency to cringe at certain words,
gestures or imagery that remind them of how they were taught about what Roman
Catholics do or believe.
side of Protestantism is that most Protestants have never
been taught or experienced the reality of the early organic / ante-Nicene
Christian community of the Roman Empire. And what most Protestant Christians
have been taught about the early Christian Church in the book of Acts and in
Paul’s epistles in the New Testament has come through very tainted doctrinally
based interpretations of those texts.
I do not consider
myself to be a “Protestant” Christian in the truest or
most popular interpretation of the word. However I am not a Roman Catholic
either. I have studied intensely with and under several noted Roman Catholic
scholars and very simply, I cannot accept or conform my Biblical understanding
to a couple of the key doctrines that are necessary to be a genuine Roman Catholic
in practice and belief. I do not condemn either Roman Catholicism or
Protestantism, although I have serious concerns with the seemingly apparent
directional movement of many Protestant denominations in the postmodern society
we all live in.
I prefer to think
of myself as more of a developing organic Christian.
Ironically, I do not find myself alone in such a spiritual movement. Every year
I discover more and more Christians and even a few recognized Christian authors
and teachers leaning strongly this way in their presentations of the Christian
About every 500
years the Christian Church seems to experience a major
fracture or separation from itself generally with the intent of renewal or
fundamental reformation. In 954 AD the Church split between east and west
establishing opposing governments in Constantinople and Rome. Then in the early
1500s the Protestant Reformation tore the British and European Christian
communities in two over Biblical interpretation and doctrine.
Now here we are
some 500 years later experiencing a collage of media,
technological advances, cultural and social implications within the Church
trying to build and shape the post modern “Church” into something that is
almost unrecognizable to any previous form of Christian practice. Yet, in the
background there is a voice calling Christians everywhere to lay down centuries
of tradition and layered interpretations and simply follow Jesus Christ and the
writings of the New Testament as did those earliest Christians did.
of Jesus Christ (30 AD) – Council of Nicaea
(325 AD) Organic Christianity
Romanized Christianity (325 AD) – The
Protestant Reformation (1517 AD) Roman
Protestant Reformation (circa 1517 AD) –
Ecumenical Modernity (circa 1960) Post
2). Why doesn’t
God just do away with all evil and
destroy it completely?
This is one of the most common
questions asked of pastors and theologians today. It is a question the enemy of
our souls has caused many people to abandon the Christian faith over. I have to
admit, I struggled with it for years. Why would a holy and righteous God
tolerate all of the sin and degradation we have all
seen and witnessed in this world? You would think
that the final straw of sin would have been placed on the camel’s back by now.
Then one particular teacher
explained it from not only a Biblical perspective, but also from a
philosophical angle. Actually, to begin to understand the reason why God
doesn’t eliminate all evil we must go to the earliest texts of our Scriptures –
the Creation Story of Genesis 1:1-10.
the beginning God
created the heavens
and the earth. The earth
was formless and void, and darkness
was over the surface
of the deep, and the Spirit of God was
the surface of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light
"; and there was light. God
saw that the light was good ; and God
separated the light
from the darkness. God called the light day,
and the darkness He called night. And
there was evening
and there was morning, one
day. Then God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters,
and let it separate the
waters from the waters."
God made the expanse, and separated the waters which
were below the expanse
from the waters which
were above the expanse
; and it was so. God called the expanse
heaven. And there was evening
and there was morning, a second
day. Then God said, "Let the waters
below the heavens be gathered into
one place, and let the dry
land appear "; and
it was so. God called the dry
land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas ; and God saw that it was good.”
This is a very interesting text because within its
parameters God gives us a philosophical framework for why there is evil in the
world and why God allows it to exist. To understand this we must note that God
is working in the creation process to present obvious contrasts, polarities and
opposites within this early account of creation. First there is darkness and
then there is light. Then in the process of chronology daytime and nighttime
are spun into existence. Next God forms the waters into separate regions on the
earth contrasting them with the dry land.
The text is actually setting a stage for a pattern
of cognition and spirituality which work together to show us the very nature of
God as holy and completely righteous in every way. It is in these contrasts,
and many other ones found in both Scripture and
that we can recognize why God does not destroy evil and its many processes that
continually bring death and destruction on the earth and its inhabitants.
Just as each of us can experience the contrast of
wet and dry, light and dark, cold and hot etc. so it is just as important for
us to truly appreciate the righteousness of God by seeing the influence in this
world of the very opposite – evil, sin and debauchery.
If God were to eliminate or destroy all evil He
would no longer be holy and righteous, because there would be nothing to
compare or contrast Him to. Thus, we could not experience a relationship with
Him not only because of who He is, but also because of who we are as Christians
who have been saved by His extended forgiveness and grace. The Apostle Paul
illustrates this in Romans 3:5-8.
our unrighteousness demonstrates
the righteousness of God,
what shall we say ? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is
He? (I am speaking in human
terms.) May it never be!
For otherwise, how will God judge
the world ? But if through my lie the truth of God abounded
to His glory, why am I also still
being judged as a sinner ? And why not say (as we are slanderously
reported and as some claim that we
say ), "Let
us do evil that good may come
"? Their condemnation is just.
fact that we are sinners and do sin even as Christians, calls attention to and
illustrates the perfection, holiness and righteousness of Jesus Christ (God in
the flesh) our Savior. This does not give us a license to sin just so God can
look “good”. But it continually reminds us of our calling to pursue a life of
Christ-likeness and ultimately one of godliness just like Jesus Christ did. We
can only retain the potential to experience the fullness of God’s presence in
all of His glory, holiness and righteousness because evil and sin illustrates
exactly what He is not.
been reading II Corinthians
5 - What will happen, and what can we expect to happen to Christians when Jesus
Allow me to make
an assumption that one of the key verses being considered in this question is 2
Corinthians 5:10 which reads “For we must all appear before the judgment
seat of Christ, so that each one may be
recompensed for his deeds in the body, according
to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
theologians see this text as dealing with how we live our lives as Christians
and how our Christian works in humanity will be seen in God’s eyes – sort of an
ultimate “learning experience” as we step into immortality at the time of our
mortal death. The “we “ Paul
identifies in this verse is in reference
to the Christians at Corinth that he is writing to.
are certain Christians who interpret this text as though God will reward us at
various levels according to what we have done in our human experience and even
more so as to how we were motivated to do what we did.
4:12 says “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. This basically says that God sees
beyond what we actually do and discerns our intentions and motivations for what
few verses later in 2 Corinthians 5:17
Paul proclaims “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” If
becoming a new creature in Christ causes
“the old things” to pass away, or no longer exist, then obviously God cannot
use our sins against is in a situation of ultimate judgment for our eternal
destination. This reinforces that we as Christians will only be held
accountable as to the degree of faithfulness that we lived our Christian lives
in humanity. God will not weigh our good deeds verses our bad deeds on some
heavenly moral scale to see if we can enter heaven or not.
Jesus Christ died on the cross and shed His blood to pay the price for our sins
we cannot be condemned for them if we
have accepted by
faith His atoning act at Calvary. As Christians eternity with God is certain as
long as we continue on in the faith we have placed in Jesus Christ to redeem us
from our sins.
says earlier in his first letter to the Corinthians - 11:31-33 “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would
not be judged. But when we are judged,
we are disciplined by the Lord
so that we will not be condemned
along with the world.” This simply
means that we determine what we do in our Christian walk and we can actually
eliminate judgment by God if we exercise Godly discernment as we live our
looking at the actual return of Jesus Christ to this earth, there have been
primarily four views that we call eschatological positions. Eschatology is the
study of last things and in the Scriptures it deals with the end of the world
as we know it. The four views are as follows:
– Millennial reign of Jesus Christ is
spiritual and experienced now. It will be established literally at the end of
will assume the political domination of world power so Christ can return to
rule and reign
– Christ cannot reign until He returns to conquer the growing evil of this
world and establish His earthly Kingdom.
– There is no “end” of the world. Jesus
Christ‘s return is experienced personally by you via human death.
of these positions are based on a particular passage of scripture in Revelation
20 6 which reads “Blessed and holy is the
one who has a part in the first resurrection ; over these the second death has
no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him
for a thousand years.” If you’re asking which one of the four primary
positions is correct? The answer is none of them. They all have holes and
questions, because the Scriptures in
their entirety are not clear enough to know what exactly will happen.
Jesus said in Acts
1:7 "It is
not for you to know times or epochs (times or
which the Father has fixed by His own authority (God’s
ultimate reign on earth). However, I personally
have based my own eschatological
beliefs in a verse just down the page in Acts 1 from the verse previously
1: 9-11 reads “And
after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing
intently into the sky while He
was going, behold, two men
clothing stood beside them. They also said, "Men of Galilee,
why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus,
who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come
in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."
When it comes to
understanding literally the second coming of Jesus Christ - this text is about
as good as it gets. The two men in white clothing said “This Jesus, who has been taken
up from you into heaven, will come
in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."
Then we must as
“how was He taken up to heaven?” to solve the eschatological mystery. First,
Jesus was in a glorified body. Thus, we can presume that He will return in the
same personal glorified body. Secondly, the Christians gathered there saw the
ascension happen. Thus we can be certain that we as Christians will see the
literal event when Jesus returns.
The Apostle John
tells us in Revelation 1:7 “Behold,
coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced him;
and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him So it is to be. Amen”
This just confirms
exactly what Act 1:11 is saying.
Apostles and the Christians gathered at the Mount of Ascension did not expect
to see Jesus to leave them. Unfortunately, many Christians live their lives as
though Jesus is never coming back. They allow sin in their lives and focus on
the world and not the Word.
This is where we
can and should change the picture by living our lives every day as though it
were the last opportunity to have an impact on the world we live in for the
advancement of God’s Kingdom and the perpetuation of the Gospel of Jesus
Christ. Whether or not Jesus comes for His Church to transform this world or
simply calls you or I home from this mortal life, we must live our lives each
day in a state of preparedness to meet Jesus.