Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Mystery of God

The other day a Christian acquaintance stated: “To claim that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are all the same being is modalism which is false teaching.”

He’s exactly half right. Modalism is false but believing in only one being who is God is not Modalism. To further cloud his foggy mind, a well-meaning friend offered this unhelpful, albeit popular, analogy:

God is one, three persons in one…like water (liquid ), ice (solid), gas (moisture ) all three are [the] same, water

The problem with this analogy is that it more closely resembles Modalism—the very error my friends are trying to refute—than Trinitarianism.

You see, Modalism is the idea that there is only one Person who is God. That is, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not persons; but are manifestations or modes of one person. The Modalist will say things like, “God is the Father in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Spirit in emanation.” (This is catchy but wrong.)

So you can see how the various modes of water (solid, liquid, or gas) correlate more to Modalism rather than to Trinitarianism.

However, in effort to avoid Modalism one mustn’t overcorrect into Tritheism by stating that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not the same Being.

Polytheism is no weapon against Modalism. Christian orthodoxy is.

The Christian faith acknowledges one God in three Persons. In other words, there is only one Being who is God and this one Being is eternally and immutably three coequal and coessential Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Being has reference to WHAT God is and Persons has to do with WHO God is. Thus, when we speak of the “One God who is Three,” we are not guilty of spouting logical absurdities. Rather, we are talking about God as being One in one sense and Three in another. ("The Forgotten Trinity," by James White is an excellent resource which makes this distinction clear.)

A better conception of One and Three comes to us from St. Augustine. He likens the Trinity to the unity/diversity of the mind: intellect, memory, and will. Another way to think on these things is the analogy of the space around us: light, heat, and air.

Is it any wonder C.S. Lewis said if we were making this up we would have made it simpler? To be sure there is mystery. But religion without mystery is religion without God.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

WWJD—Who Would Jesus Defriend?

Last week I posted the following from John Stott on my Facebook page: “Christ is the center of Christianity; everything else is peripheral.” A wonderful, beautiful sentiment!

Still, it didn’t stop a zealous heretic hunter from assaulting me.

He began by attacking John Stott for being “pro Roman Catholic.” I simply deleted his comment. Later, he proceeded to accuse Stott of lying—of not really believing “Christ is the center” (the evidence being—I suppose—that Stott wasn’t nearly as hostile as he should’ve been).

This time I deleted his comment and sent him the following private message.

The purpose of my status is the contemplation Christ—not John Stott. Therefore I have deleted your comments which focus on Stott, not Jesus.

Most of the time my daily status updates are scriptures...just something to meditate on. However, I also enjoy quoting extra-biblical sources; again, for the purpose of contemplation—not for the purpose of debating the source of the quote.

I believe truth is truth, no matter who speaks it. (And the converse is true as well!)
Thanks and have a wonderful weekend.

Here is his response.

This is absurd. You just don't want to be accountable for promotion of false prophets.

And many people on FB are not familiar with the antics of John Stott and J.I. Packer and would take this quote as an endorsement of him. It's called deceit in my book, leading people to believe that Stott was a great Christian guy and he was not. He was instrumental in compromising the gospel to thousands of people just like Billy Graham.

So, in this guy’s mind, I’m no better than the likes of John Stott, J.I. Packer, or Billy Graham?

Uh…wow…that…that really stings.

And I awoke this morning to discover that the Grand Inquisitor defriended me. (If you’re Facebook savvy you saw this coming at “zealous heretic hunter.”)

*For those of you who don’t know, being defriended is the on-line equivalent of excommunication. Thankfully, as of this writing, I’ve yet to be blocked (think “Jon Huss” or “Michael Servetus”). *

Now, did you notice, dear reader, that my fundamentalist former friend took “Christ is the center” as an opportunity to completely ignore Jesus and focus instead on John, Jim, Billy, and me? (That’s what I call them now. We’re tight like that.)

Our cross crusader focused on several people and things. Jesus wasn’t among them.

Does the world see Christians centered upon Jesus: His person, His work, and His teaching? When it looks at you and me let’s pray that that’s what it sees.

By this all will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Truth and Truthiness

I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. ~Jesus

In 2006, editors of the Oxford American Dictionary chose truthiness to be their “Word of the Year.” James Emery White says of the term (made popular by comedian, Stephen Colbert):

The idea behind truthiness is that actual facts don’t matter. What matters is how we feel, for we as individuals are the final arbiters of truth. Truthiness is the bald assertion that we not only discern truth for ourselves from the facts at hand, but also create truth for ourselves despite the facts at hand (“Christ Among The Dragons,” p. 24).

The novelty of the word is gone but truthiness remains.

“Hands up, don’t shoot”? Truthiness.

American men wage war on American women? Truthiness.

Jobless Muslims hijacked a religion of peace? Truthiness.

Tax & spend Democrats vs. Big-government Republicans? Truthiness.

You get the picture.

What Francis Schaeffer called “true truth” is harder to get at nowadays than government employee e-mails. But truthiness is nothing new. Nearly 2,000 years ago Pontius Pilate asked Jesus Christ, “What is truth?”

What he meant by this we may never know. But we do know this: Jesus is absolutely trustworthy. He tells us the truth. Truthiness has no part in Him. Jesus says as a matter of fact—not opinion: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Christ offers truth; the world truthiness. Which do you prefer?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Wal-Mart Epiphany

Sometimes unexpected blessings come in the most unlikely of places.

Earlier this week, I found myself in unfamiliar territory—Wal-Mart.  I was in search of a “universal remote” which operates both the TV and the DVR. (I don’t always shop. But when I do…it’s for something important.)

I quickly found and purchased the object of my desire and as I turned from the checkout lane I overheard the gentlelady behind me say to the cashier: “I almost made it to my car without paying for this!” Now, I’m not certain what this was, but I couldn’t help but be impressed with her honesty. It was actually refreshing.

Then this morning I conducted a worship service in a local nursing home.

As we sang “Amazing Grace” I watched a devoted husband, with indescribable tenderness, put his arm around his beloved wife—who scarcely knows him. But not even Alzheimer’s could beguile them of this holy moment. She mouthed the words as they gazed into each other’s eyes…when we’ve been there ten thousand years…

One doesn’t see acts like these every week. In fact, we are altogether accustomed to witnessing the dishonest and the unlovely to the point of desensitization. I see the same news you see. It’s mostly negative, isn’t it?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the news. I want to be informed. Ignorance is no virtue. However, if one focuses only on what one sees or reads in the media, one could become entirely pessimistic and cynical. But we are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ! Cynicism and pessimism are not part of our creed.

And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. ~1Corinthians 13:13

It’s really a matter of perspective. Yes, there is much evil in the world but there is much good too. God sees small acts of kindness and courage each and every day. Perhaps we should pray that we would see more of what God sees. Even better—pray that God sees acts of kindness and courage when He sees us.