Doctrines of the Faith
Following is a brief discussion of some of the doctrines of Christianity. These are my personal interpretations of scripture based on my own studies in both the English and the Greek languages, and include some personal observations I've reached through my discussions with, and observations of, Christians of varying doctrinal stands. Scriptural interpretations tend toward a Wesleyan-Arminian interpretation. The following statements are very abbreviated, and not intended to be full or complete doctrinal account. For a complete study of these doctrines, I would suggest a good theological textbook!
TONGUES AND THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT
AND ONENESS THEOLOGY
You ask me if I am charismatic. The answer for both Jan and me is no. We have never spoken in tongues, and have decided that we never will. Personally I wish that I had attended a couple of services in a charismatic church only so that I would know what was going on if I was ever preaching in a service where someone did start speaking in tongues (but I have no plans to do so). But we do not speak in tongues.
Over the past year or so I have spent a considerable amount of time in discussions and debates with those in the charismatic movement. As a result, I have come to some conclusions:
The charismatic movement has to be considered one of the biggest threats to modern day Christianity that we are facing. I would liken it to a virus which moves into a cell and rewrites the DNA into it's own image. There are some serious problems with the tongues movement. Following is a synapses of some of the deviancies of the movement:
1) Charismatics use tongues as the proof that they are living a right relationship with God. They use tongues as proof that their theological interpretation is pleasing to God, that their behavior is pleasing to God, that their lives are pleasing to God. They center everything they are and do around tongues - as long as they speak in tongues they are right before God. An elder in the Church of the Nazarene shared with me the comments one charismatic made to him, that since he was able to speak in tongues while he was having an adulterous affair, his spiritual life was therefore fine and he was still right in the eyes of God. If fact, that he was still able to speak in tongues was proof that this affair was ordained by God. Theological distortions such as this are common within the charismatic movement.
2) The Bible is symbolic. Charismatics have a rather annoying lack of need for the written word. In my discussions with them, scripture rarely is interpreted literally. One of their ministers, whom I have debated with over many issues, has consistently stated that visions aren't real, therefore what they show isn't real. Their stand that the Bible is to be interpreted symbolically allows them to write their own theology. The interpretation of specific passages takes on many meanings, as the Holy Spirit gives a different message as needed to each who reads it (so they state). This approach allows them to deny the reality of the coming tribulation, the rapture, the millennial reign, and the Trinity. Peter would disagree with this approach:
2 Peter 1:19 - 2:2 And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled.
In the above passage we frequently divide the subject matter of the interpretation of prophecy from the discussion of the teachings of false prophets. This is a mistake in exegesis, as they are a part of Peters flow of thought. The false interpretation of scripture based on personal interpretation or "revelation" from God leads to false prophets who distort the Word of God into what they want others to believe. The Word of God says what it means, and means what it says. It isn't subject to man's interpretation.
3) Oneness Theology: The Trinitarian movement, of which the Church of the Nazarene is a part, basically believes that there is one God (qualitative), but there are three separate and distinct persons within the godhead - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The charismatic movement believes that there is only one God (quantitative) and that this one God is playacting all three roles which are described in the Bible as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Their God prays to Himself, seeks leading from Himself, calls Himself His own Father, and His own Son, and says things like, "I can do nothing of my own, but only what I see myself do." (A paraphrased version of John 5:19 based on their theology). Their doctrine is based on Deut 6:4, "Hear O' Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord." They argue that "Lord" and "God" are synonymous, therefore this is a statement that there is only one God. However, this translation of Deut. 6:4 is a poor one, and should read, "Hear O' Israel; Jehovah is our God, Jehovah is one." This is hardly a statement that there is only one member of the godhead. It is a statement that Jehovah is the one and only God of Israel. Not that He is the only member of the Godhead.
Trying to explain to Oneness proponents the errors in their theological interpretation is virtually a waste of time. You can prove to them through scripture that they are wrong, but after you're done dealing with them they go speak in tongues, which proves to them that they are right and you are wrong, so they totally ignore your arguments and rely on the witness of tongues, not the evidence of the Word of God.
4) Because Oneness proponents maintain that scripture must be symbolically interpreted, and because there is some question as to the inerrancy of scripture, the flock is not capable of interpreting scripture for themselves. Therefore it must be interpreted by the clergy. They tell you what to think. In practice, the clergy in the charismatic movement becomes the intermediary between you and God.
Another hotbed of controversy in religious circles today is over the inerrancy of scripture as we have it. From a purely scientific viewpoint, we have to recognize that there are some difficulties with inconsistencies within scripture as we have it in the various original language manuscripts which are available to us. In addition, internal problems within the Bible also lead some to question the inerrancy of the Holy Writ. For example, comparing the following three passages leads one to conclude that scripture can't be factually inerrant:
1Sa 17:12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years.
1 Samuel 16:10-11 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen these." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here."
No problem so far. We can see from these two preceding passages that Jesse had 8 sons, with David being the youngest. Or, maybe not:
1 Chronicles 2:13-15 Jesse was the father of Eliab his first-born, Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, Ozem the sixth, David the seventh;
There is a factual discrepancy here. We could follow the example of some and throw the entire Bible out the door, claiming that it is no longer the inerrant Word of God. But inerrancy can't be measured on factual accuracy. From a practical approach, the Bible is amazingly accurate considering the plethora of authors and the wide ranging span of time it covers. However, inerrancy is based on spiritual truth as measured by the Father, not on factual accuracy as measured by man. As such, the written Word which we know as the Bible is inerrant in that the truths it conveys to us are eternal, accurate, mean what they say, say what they mean, and are completely reliable for instruction and teaching in the ways and methods of the spiritual life we live in through Jesus Christ our Lord. The Bible is inerrant.
Also known as "the Ancient of Days."
The Father is the center of it all. He is above all and over all. The Son and the Holy Spirit both do His bidding voluntarily:
John 5:19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Only the Father knows the full plan for this age we reside in:
Mt 24:36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. Mr 13:32 "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
The Son of God, that is, Jesus Christ, is the One whom we know the most about. He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Lamb of God who voluntarily sacrificed Himself for our sins. He is wholly God:
THE BLESSED HOLY SPIRIT
Philippians 2:5-8 Have in you this mind which was also in Christ Jesus; Who though He existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with the Father something to be forcibly taken; but emptied Himself, taking on the form of a servant, and came into the likeness of man; and in form, having become as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
I believe the wording of the preceding passage in the Greek to be a direct comparison of the attitude of the Son with that of Lucifer, who attempted to overthrow the Father and take over heaven. The word translated, "forcibly taken," in the Greek refers to a violent seizing, such as an army which comes in and pillages a town. Jesus saw who the Father was, saw His position, but had no desire to tear it away from the Father and set Himself up as number one in heaven. In contrast, Lucifer organized an overthrow attempt and tried to set himself up as the ruler of the heavens.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the Father, and the Word was God. He was with the Father in the beginning.
(In the preceding two passages, I translated "God" in three places as "the Father." Some would object to this, but under Semitic thought, reference to God using a syntactically definite form referred to the Father, never to the Son or to God in general. As such, in an attempt to maintain the thought conveyed in the Greek, rather than translate the words literally and lose the sense, I translated the idea being conveyed instead).
And the Son is also wholly man. As such Jesus experienced the fullness of God, and the fullness of man. He is a true mediator for us, because He fully identifies with both worlds:
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us.
Hebrews 12:4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 4:15 For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
We can see from the preceding passage that Jesus was tempted in all manners as we are, yet He never sinned. Because of this He became the sin sacrifice for us, the propitiation which the Father desired. God's wrath against us was turned away for those who abandon the flesh and walk in faith in like manner as the Son.
Some names given to Jesus (this is not an exhaustive list):
Angel of the Lord
Begotten of the Father
Bright Morning Star
Consolation of Israel
Dayspring from on high
Desire of nations
Express image of God
Father of eternity
Glory of God
Holy One of God
Holy One of Israel
King of Kings
Lamb of God
Lion of the Tribe of Judah
Lord of Lords
Only begotten Son
Root of David
Rose of Sharon
The Good Shepherd
Son of David
Son of God
Son of man
Son of the Most High
Sun of Righteousness
The Lord, our Righteousness
The Law of Moses was given to man to teach us of our sinful condition. The law became an amplifier of sorts to force us to see the sin which we were the personification of.
Jesus was sent to us of the Father to teach us of righteousness and holiness, to be the exact image of the Father. He lived by example the life which the Father desires us to live. It is available to us if we follow in Christ's footsteps.
He died on the cross for our sins, a perfect sacrifice; and He rose from the dead three days later, opening a new door for us to a life in Him and of fellowship with the Father. His death provided for our forgiveness; His resurrection provided for our restoration; we can now reclaim the nature which we forfeited in Eden, and live in newness of life through Him.
Some would be offended at what I'm going to say next, but, if we have a spiritual mother, it's the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit councils us, teaches us, brings back to memory what we have forgotten but need to know, nurtures us, comforts us, protects us, guides us, seals us in God, equips us for life in the Spirit and for the work of the body, and gives us life.
If I were to describe the Holy Spirit, I would say that He functions in the life of the believer just as blood functions in the life of my body of flesh. The Holy Spirit is the life blood which flows through my spiritual being, keeping me alive and nourishing me so that I might become the image of He Who died on the cross for my sins.
Ps 86:5 For thou, O Lord, art good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on thee.
Joel 2:28-32 "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out my spirit. "And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that all who call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.
Ro 10:9 because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
1 John 4: 2-3 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.
Salvation is based solely on trust in the Son of God for our salvation. The foundation of our faith, Jesus Christ, is the sole entry way into salvation. From our perspective, there are a couple of requirements which must be met before we can be saved.
1) We have to recognize the need for salvation - either an intellectual understanding that we can't save ourselves and need to be saved by God, or to be living in a condition where everything is collapsing around us so we go to God in desperation and call on Him in despair.
2) We have to have a reasonable understanding of Who it is we are calling on. This includes:
a) Knowing that we are calling on the person of Jesus Christ to save us, and that we are not just muttering some magical incantation which does the trick.
b) Understanding that Jesus is God, but that He also left His place in heaven to dwell on this earth in a body of flesh, that He lived a sinless life, that He died on the cross for our sins as the sin offering which took our place, and that the Father resurrected Him from the dead unto new life.
c) And that the life we now live we live by faith in the Son of God, Who gave Himself up for us.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of works, lest any man should boast.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Romans 10:17 So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the spoken word from God.
I think that the doctrine of faith is one of the more misunderstood within Christianity today. I recently heard of a religious group which doesn't believe in doctors. They claim that if it's God's will for them to be healed that God Himself will heal them. This isn't faith, but manipulation. They are attempting to make God their slave, trying to force Him to meet their expectations and demands and to fit in with their understanding of scripture. As I recall, one of the families has already lost two children - one died from an ear infection, the other I believe from the mumps (or measles ??). Both could have been saved with proper care from a physician. The parents expressed regret that the children had been lost, but reasserted their stand that God will heal if it's His will.
My experience with healing from God has been more along the line of what Naaman found - we can go to God with a request, and He frequently will provide healing, but it always requires an active ear on our part, and then obedience to His subsequent instructions. I don't recall a single instance in my life where God healed me without an act of obedience required on my part.
Many interpret faith to mean that, if I believe something long enough and hard enough, it will eventually come true. Faith becomes my god, because it is the answer to all my problems - all I have to do is believe and it has to come true.
But if we look at the prophets and saints in the Bible, we see that this isn't true.
God spoke to Abraham, who believed Him. Abraham acted on this belief and God's will was accomplished and a new nation was born.
Lot believed God when he was warned of the coming judgment on Sodom. He left Sodom and was saved. His wife turned back and perished.
Noah heard from God and believed what God said, even though there was no evidence at all that what God had said would come true. It had never rained, and there had never been a flood. Noah acted on what God said, and as a consequence we are here today.
Joseph believed God and the prophecies given to him, and Egypt was spared and became a refuge and home for the fledgling Hebrew nation.
Moses believed God and watched God demonstrate His power in front of all of Egypt.
Daniel believed God and acted on that faith, and God spared him from the mouths of the lions.
I could go on, but I trust that the point has been made. Faith always involves a two way relationship between us and God. We hear directly from God, believe what He says, and then act on this belief. Faith is always comprised of these three elements; hearing directly from God, believing what God has just said, and acting accordingly. I may or may not initiate the communication with God, but it is not faith until God speaks directly to me, I believe what He says, and then act accordingly.
Grace is another misunderstood doctrine in the church today. Many take it to mean that God understands that we can never be perfect, therefore He winks at our sins and transgressions. This belief is doctrinal heresy.
It is true that God recognizes that we can never be perfect through our own efforts. But as a remedy for that He doesn't wink at our failures. Instead, He has provided for us a way out of our sinful condition - salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and new power to overcome sin through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Grace is the recognition by God of our sinful condition, of the plight we are in with no hope of redemption or salvation on our own, then the action taken by God to remedy the situation through both a change in legal status (the record of our sins has been erased) and in a change in our very nature (through faith in Jesus Christ and a daily walk with Him through the infilling of the Holy Spirit.). Grace is not just the absence of judgment. It is also the provision for a change in nature. Both are required for us to be living in a state of grace.
This is a second work of grace which is subsequent to salvation. We have given it many names, the second blessing, full salvation, the fullness of the Spirit, perfection, and many others. Sanctification is that place in our lives where we realize that we not only need God for salvation against the coming judgment, but we need Him for survival in this life in our day-to-day struggle against sin and the devil and a myriad of other problems which constantly plague us.
"Light bearer," "Shining one," these are just a couple of names which he had before the fall. Lucifer is a literal, real individual. In his glory he was the guardian cherub. He walked in the very midst of God. None other had his position or splendor, or his access to the very depths of God.
Not being content with his place as number 2 in heaven, Lucifer organized a rebellion against God in an attempt to overthrow Him. Consequently, he and one third of the angels in heaven were cast out, some being held in chains in dungeons of darkness. Lucifer is still active, and is called the prince of the power of darkness, and is the prince of the world we live in. He is very real, and I can state personally that he is a very real threat to the church today.
Lucifer's power is manifested primarily in his ability to pursued us to believe to be true that which is a lie. This is how he controls his people, and how he manipulates those within the church.
It has always amazed me that some of the most sincere Christians I have met can at times be the most cruel and destructive of people. The answer is that Lucifer has convinced them to believe a lie, which they then act on taking it as truth. In this manner real damage is done to the kingdom.
Hell also is very real. It was originally created for Lucifer and his angels. It is sometimes referred to as the Lake of Fire, or Gehenna.
Some argue that a true and loving God wouldn't cast anyone into hell. But they don't understand the nature of those whom God is casting into hell. These have tried to overthrow God, organized a rebellion in heaven, deceived Eve, murdered the saints, killed the prophets, hung the Son of God to a tree, tried to completely wipe out His followers and violently destroy any remembrance that God exists. If they had their way, God would be done away with and they would take over heaven and force us into servitude to them. They know no mercy, and there is no limit to the violence and destruction they will sow to acquire what they want. Hell is justified.
The influence of the flesh goes far beyond what we normally realize. Not only are we composed of flesh, but the development of our minds is determined by instructions which are contained within our DNA. As such, what we think, how we think, our personal preferences, our abilities, our attitudes, basically anything that has to do with cognition and personality is determined by the flesh. In a real sense, we are in totality flesh. I am flesh, and in me there is nothing good. It is my nature.
Carnality is dependence on the flesh. Since I am wholly flesh, carnality not only includes the basil behaviors which we normally define as carnality, such as lusts, envies, dissensions, and the like; but it also includes any reliance on the skills or abilities or judgments which I might make based on what I know. Carnality is my dependence on myself, even on those positive talents and skills which I might use to build the church.
Some might take this to mean that anything I do using my skills or talents is carnality. That isn't the case. If I am relying on these skills and talents to accomplish my will, or even what I believe to be God's will, then it is carnality. If I am leaning wholly on the Holy Spirit, and allowing Him to use my skills and talents as He sees fit, this we would define as righteousness.
In other words, if I rely on my skills and talents to further my goals, even those I feel to be God's will, this is carnality. If I allow the Holy Spirit to use my skills and talents to further His kingdom, but I am trusting totally in Him to accomplish His will, and not myself, and I am constantly harkening to His voice for direction and guidance, this is righteousness.
To make a controversial subject brief, I define sin as, "independence from God." This definition is scripturally sound, and should keep most theologians happy.
Only God is holy. Any holiness we may have is the evidence of the presence of God. God allows us to partake of His holiness, but holiness doesn't exist apart from God anywhere in existence. For us to be holy demands the continuous presence of God within us with Him actively participating in our daily lives.
The outward manifestation of a holy heart. The terms "righteousness" and "unrighteousness" generally refer to outward behavior. Both are the reflection of the state the heart is in - a sinful heart is always reflected in unrighteous behavior, a holy heart is always reflected in righteous behavior.
Ga 3:24 So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith.
SOME SELECTED NOTES
The word in the Greek which is translated, "custodian," (paidagogos) in Greek thought referred to the guardian of a youth of a higher class family. This guardian wasn't the teacher as such, but was responsible for the moral development of the youth. The child wasn't allowed to leave the house without the custodian at his side, and the custodian was responsible for seeing to it that the child was disciplined properly and raised properly until the age of maturity.
This is the way Paul described the law. It wasn't our teacher, per se. This responsibility belonged to the Holy Spirit. The purpose for the law was to teach us of the futility of our condition, and to point us to Christ. You see, we believed that we were gods and could do anything. But under the law we learned that we can't be perfect, and that we were actually slaves to our own flesh, and not the gods we believed we were. The law showed us who we really were, and that we were in desperate need of a Savior.
One of the weaknesses within the Church of the Nazarene today is the inability of some to differentiate between the law and faith. Many still believe that through perfected works and accomplishments we can please God. They preach salvation by faith, but demand perfected behavior. As such, many believe that we are saved by faith, but that we retain our salvation through works. This is doctrinal heresy.
I stated earlier that in all of existence only God is holy. Our nature is one of flesh. But many believe that through perfected works we can become holy. This isn't possible. We can't change our state through perfected behavior any more than my dog can become human through perfected behavior. For us to become holy it requires that God imparts His holiness to us. He has defined what He requires of us for this to happen - by faith in Christ, not through perfected behavior.
Ro 3:20 For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Ro 3:28 For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Ga 2:16 yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified. Ga 3:2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Ga 3:5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Ga 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them."
The Millennium: The thousand year literal reign of Christ on earth.
The Rapture: The stealing away of the saints from the earth by Christ. This will happen in the twinkling of an eye.
The Tribulation: A seven year period when the antichrist rules the earth. This will be a period of great distress on the earth, as the rule of the antichrist is one of terror, and God smites the earth as judgment against it for following the antichrist.
The mark of the beast: A method used by the antichrist to control all the people of the earth. This mark will be a computer readable mark which will allow the government to control who buys and sells and what they buy and sell, and used to track the movements of the people.
Eternal security: Romans 11:19-22 You will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.
We are eternally secure as long as we remain in the faith. But if we abandon the faith, God will cut us off and throw us into the Lake of Fire on judgment day.
Immorality and sexual perversion: These behaviors are clear evidence that the individual is not right with God. Romans 1 even goes so far as to state that part of the judgment of God against those who have hardened their hearts against Him is that He hands them over to the power of sin. As a result, Romans 1 goes on to describe all kinds of deviant behaviors which result:
28-32 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.
Homosexuality is also included in the deviant behavior which those who harden their hearts against God find themselves doing. As such, anyone who is demonstrating these various behaviors does not have a right relationship with God, and should not hold a position of responsibility within the church.
The Christian life we live is in some ways very simple. What we need for salvation is a child-like faith in Jesus - an attitude of complete and unbroken love and trust. Yet the study of the Christian walk can be complex enough that a lifetime of studious attention to it still leaves us with unanswered questions.
With that, I'll close. Please feel free to email me at the address listed below. There are a lot of dictates on my time, so I may or may not be able to respond. But, God willing, we can share our faith in Jesus Christ with each other, and both grow in Him through the experience.
Glen Lee Edwards
A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.
To email Glen, click here!