Q & A Sunday July 14, 2013
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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.

Eventually the 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.

The unfortunate 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 faith.

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.                                       

 

                  

         Ascension of Jesus Christ (30 AD) – Council of Nicaea (325 AD)   Organic Christianity

         Culturally Romanized Christianity (325 AD) – The Protestant Reformation (1517 AD) Roman Catholicism

         The Protestant Reformation (circa 1517 AD) – Ecumenical Modernity (circa 1960)  Post Modern Christianity

 

 

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.

In 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 moving over 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

creation 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.    

But if 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. 

The 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.    

 

3).  I have been reading II Corinthians 5 - What will happen, and what can we expect to happen to Christians when Jesus returns?

 

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.

Most 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.

There 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.

Hebrews 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 we do.      

A 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.

Since 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.         

Paul 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 lives. 

When 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:

    

1). AmillennialismMillennial reign of Jesus Christ is spiritual and experienced now. It will be established literally at the end of all things. 

 

2). Postmillennialism -  Christianity will assume the political domination of world power so Christ can return to rule and reign

 

3). Premillennialism – Christ cannot reign until He returns to conquer the growing evil of this world and establish His earthly Kingdom.

 

4). NonmillennialismThere is no “end” of the world. Jesus Christ‘s return is experienced personally by you via human death.          

 

Obviously three 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 unanswered

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 seasons) 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 mentioned.

Acts 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 in white 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, He is 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.

Finally, the 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.