He is not God

How effective was Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection? Sure, love covers a multitude of sins but does it cover all sins? Christians say that the blood of Jesus is enough to wipe away even the worst of sins, but I don’t think even they really believe this. For these same Christians will later backtrack and say the only sin that is not forgiven is the rejection of Jesus as your savior. Apparently, Christ’s blood does not cover those who reject him. The situation is similar to that in the Garden of Eden; only, instead of “of all trees in the garden you may freely eat except for THIS one”, the commandment is “of all the commandments laid upon men, thou mayest freely violate, except for THIS one.” God can take a murderer, a rapist, even a genocidal maniac; but he cannot take those who reject him. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; or my Son’s sacrifice is ineffective.” Nothing is impossible for God, except forgiving rejection.

Is this your god, Christians? Is his grace really that impotent? God’s grace crashes through every barrier, breaks every chain, but must bow down as to an idol when it encounters the stubborn human heart. Is not a God who covers even the sin of rejection greater than one who must bow down to it? And if God is less than the greatest, he is not God.

A Blunder of Cosmic Proportions

“God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Universal salvation is God’s plan, his ultimate goal. The question is, does God’s plan ultimately end in failure. The loss of even one person is a failure for God. But, that is what you affirm — God’s ultimate failure — if you say, as I hear many Christians say, that most people in this world and even throughout history will end up in never ending conscious torture in hell. They will be separated from God forever. Christians site the verse, “straight is the gate and narrow is the way and few there be that find it.” Christians affirm not only God’s ultimate failure, but his utter failure in that he loses almost everybody. It is a colossal failure, a blunder of cosmic proportions.

The Reformed Tradition in Christianity is no better. They get around God’s failure by saying that universal salvation wasn’t his plan in the first place. Contrary to the verse cited above, God does not want all people to come to repentance. God determines who will be saved and who will not. And, most of humanity he damns for hell while a few of them he chooses to be with him. So, in the end, God does not fail. He just means to avoid the cosmic blunder by saying that he meant to do that in the first place.

So, we have two choices. Either God bows down to the idol of free will and utterly fails, or there is no free will and God planned from the beginning to damn most of humanity to hell.  Both views of God are awful. Neither one is appealing.

Broken Bodies Beside the Mountain

A certain man had many children. He loved each and every one and had such a hard time raising them up properly. Many of them were unruly but a few of them were sweet and remained close to their father even when they disobeyed him. The father would constantly take his children out onto the mountain side nearby to play and enjoy the day. The only danger was a steep cliff a few hundred feet away. He knew it was possible that his children could fall off the cliff to their deaths. And, all the children were afraid of the horrible danger the cliff presented. However, the unruly and rowdy nature of most of his children took them close to the danger and some of them fell. Their broken bodies lay on the rocks below. The father still permitted his children to play wherever they wanted and kept a chosen few, the ones who stayed close to him, away from the danger while allowing the others to get as close to the cliffs and they desired.

The chosen ones pleaded with their father to prevent his other children from getting too close to danger, but he replied that his love was restricted by his children’s freedom. His children could not understand such a love and ran away from their father shouting, “We don’t want you to love us, if you do not love all your children!”

“Sola Scriptura” would have failed

The early Church’s first heresy it encountered was Gnosticism; a belief that declared the material world evil and the spiritual world good. The body was seen as an obstacle to the earnest strivings of the soul. Also produced by the Gnostics were the “Gnostic Gospels” which were composed of the gospel of Judas, Thomas, Phillip, and Mary Magdalen.

How would the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” (The Bible Alone) have dealt with these Gnostic gospels? The New Testament, as authorized scripture, was not around. A few books of the New Testament were in use by the early Church, but they were not compiled authoritatively or binding to all. In fact, there were some real concerns about the book of Hebrews (Eusebius the Church historian mentioned this).

So, some books were fraudulent, some were in question, and some were accepted. If the early Christians had believed in Sola Scriptura, how would they have dealt with this problem? There was no formalized set of books for Christians to draw the line because the line had yet to be drawn. The Church leaders took upon themselves the authority to carefully determine which books were credible and authoritative and which were not. They had to consult the authorship, interpretation and meaning, and the truthfulness of each book’s substance. And, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the books they chose were established into the New Testament Canon.

How foolish therefore, to look back on such an authority and tradition and reject it in the name of Sola Scriptura; a doctrine which could never have produced the very thing it relies upon. “Sola Scriptura” declares “I accept your New Testament, but in the name of the New Testament I reject you.”

If Sola Scriptura would have failed the early church, why do we think it successfully reforms the modern church?

How did we begin?

After the death of Christ but before the New Testament was written, any genuine Christian had to have his faith handed down to him either orally, as in an oral witness of the gospel or historical events, or through the teaching of proper worship, as in communion and baptism, All this we would classify as tradition.

Certainly, the person of genuine faith would only have other believers to look to for questions like, “what does this mean?” He would ask questions and get an oral answer, even an interpretation of that answer. And whether it was James at Jerusalem, Peter at Antioch, or another Apostle, the Apostle’s teachings would have been coveted the most by all Christians when looking for answers, guidance, and interpretations

Having begun in tradition, why at the end of modernity do we reject it?

Athanasius on the reason for the Incarnation

Originally posted on Just Thomism:

Athanasius’s account of the Incarnation is one of those ideas so logical and simple that, once you get it, you always feel like explaining it takes ten times more words than necessary.

1.) Man, created from nothing, is an animal who was given the likeness to the Logos.

2.) Man lost his likeness to the Logos, and so necessarily fell back to nothing – to corruption and death.

3.) Death therefore became necessary, but the Logos could not stand to lose those who were in his likeness.

4.) Death therefore had to somehow re-establish likeness to the Logos: but the only way death could re-establish likeness to the Logos is if the Logos himself died. 

5.) The Logos could not die if he did not have a body.

(Added later)

6.) The Logos therefore unified a body to his person, such that whatever happened to the body could be said to…

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Protestants are Cherry Picking the Bible

The issue of Bible interpretation is a point of contention among atheists as well as Christians. It is claimed that a man and his Bible is all that is needed. After all, the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth (John 16:13). Yet, one won’t spend too long in Christian circles till he discovers that “a man and his Bible” will come up with extremely off-the-wall ideas. He always has a need to be corrected by others in the Church. He’s like a tree which needs stilts to hold it up or it will grow crooked. It is suggested that the way to correct these bad understandings of the Scripture, is to have the Bible reader research what the great men of faith have said about things. He is told to reach back to the early church fathers and use them to get a better interpretation of Scripture. However, this is just a more well read version of “a man and his Bible”, albeit a more humble one. The individual is still the final arbiter of what he reads. The Protestant will accept St Augustine’s ideas on grace and faith, but not on the Eucharist, and certainly not on the Pope. He is, for all intents and purposes, cherry picking, as the atheists are so fond of pointing out. And in this accusation, I think they are right. My dear Protestants, we are cherry picking.

Let me point out, though, that doesn’t mean we are all wrong. An accurate interpretation of Scripture does exist, and our cherry picking is bound to hit the mark at some point. But, it’s bound to miss it as well. So, how do we know when we get it right? It’s a hard question. And one can see that our problem exists because we address the problem at an individual level, i.e. “a man and his Bible.” We have a real need to refer ourselves to an authority. The only relevant authority available to us in these matters is the Church. So what does the Church say about the Scriptures? And therein lies the rub. Which Church is to be the authority? The Independent Fundamental Baptists?… The Southern Baptists?… The Methodists?… The Free Will Baptists?… The Nazarenes?… The Church of Christ?… The Assembly of God?… The Lutherans?… or (oh, the horror) The Catholics?

And do any of them actually have a list of doctrines that define their denomination? For instance, what does it mean to really be a Southern Baptist? In my own experience, I’ve learned that each denomination has disagreements within themselves, and a certain amount of that is OK, even healthy. But do the Southern Baptists have a list of core doctrines on which none disagree and therefore define the denomination? If they do, that is precisely what is meant by the much hated term “Church Tradition.” Each Church, if it is to be legitimate, must have a coherent Church Tradition or they are a denomination without a definition. And that is one thing I cannot stand. Whatever you are, you must know what you are.

Whatever the answer to these questions above, it cannot be that Church Tradition must be avoided. Each of us, as individuals, need Church Tradition to help us understand the Scripture. We need an authoritative arbiter of the truth. We need a Guardian of Orthodoxy. But, if one exists, there are serious implications for the many denominations out there. If there is a church that is right, then all the other churches are wrong. And some are more wrong than others. There would be elements of the true Church in the other denominations, but they would not be the fullness that makes up the Church.

I do not claim to have an answer for this problem, but I know one thing. I no longer abhor and reject Church Tradition. I have a real need for it. I am looking for a Guardian of Orthodoxy. I do have a direction I’m looking and I have real reasons for looking in that direction. But, I don’t feel comfortable sharing that yet. I only write this so that others may see the problem and begin the search themselves.