As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Evangelical View of Christian Epistemology

Since we've had some of these discussion before, you probably know what I'm going to say and I probably know how you're going to respond, but for the sake of intellectual integrity, I'll write as if I don't.

I actually wrote a paper in seminary on where my understanding of systematic theology begins. For those who don't know, systematic theology is the discipline of understanding all that the Bible says on any given subject; for instance, on Christ. Most systematic theology books begin with Christology, or the study of Christ, as their basis. However, as I studied, it seemed clear to me that you have to base any theology on the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. Without the Bible, we can know nothing of Christ, the Holy Spirit, or pretty much anything else. In fact, without the Bible, you can only have a very limited understanding of God based on what we see in the world around us.

As a result, my basis for knowledge, for all things Christian, is the Bible and only the Bible. That understanding is informed by church history and the understanding of others, but only insofar as it falls in line with Scripture.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Agreeing? Where to Begin?

The problem is that the statement "Jesus is the only way to get to heaven" means different things to both of us. Also, that is, as I recall, the be all and end all of the Evangelical faith whereas, for the ancient faith, it's not the focus. But I guess I can sign on to that. Note, however, that I didn't say "Belief in Jesus is the only way to get to heaven." That's an entire other kettle of fish.

As for disagreement, I think we should start with epistemology, or our source of knowledge. How do we know what we know about God and Christianity?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Refining Agreement

Surely we can agree that Jesus Christ is the only way to get to heaven.

I would also throw in there Jesus' second coming, although we may disagree on how that might take place.

I can't think of anything else major that we might add to that list.

I'll let you respond before we get into the stuff we disagree on.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Points of Agreement

First of all, Blessed Feast of St. Martin of Tours!!

I think that we can both say we agree in the basic points of the Apostle's, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.

- A Triune God of three persons that are one
- God the Father who created all of nothing
- Jesus Christ, the Word made incarnate of the Virgin Mary, fully divine and earthly, who died on the cross and rose on the third day, ascended to heaven and who will return.
- The Holy Spirit, (we'll leave out the filioque for now) that inspires and leads the Church and God's people through all ages
- The unified (in some way) Church or Body of Christ
- One baptism for the remission of sins
- Forgiveness of sins
- Resurrection of the dead
- Everlasting life

Any other points of agreement of which you can think?

Introduction of "Catholic" Brother

This is Brother II. I grew up in the same environment as my brother, and probably would be identical to him in belief if two things hadn't happened. The first was my marriage to a woman who questioned all my beliefs and made me re-examine them. The second was my discovery that John Michael Talbot, one of my favorite Christian artists, was Roman Catholic. This cause me to start over with my faith and coming to some surprising conclusions.

It is a bit of a misnomer to say I'm a catholic. I cannot commune in a Roman Catholic or Orthodox church and know only a few Roman Catholic priests who would make an exception in my case. I always look first to the ancient Church to form my opinion and belief and probably would submit to the Holy Father or an Orthodox bishop except for two, small things. First, if I joined an Orthodox church I would have to be rebaptized, meaning (to me) that I was not currently a Christian. I know this to be false. Second, because I am not considered part of the Body, my family is not, and I know that to be false as well.

So, I thumb my nose at 2,000 years of tradition and take my chances, depending on the eternal love and mercy of God. (Gulp!) That said, we press onwards and upwards!

As Iron Sharpens Iron

Proverbs 27:17 (CEV)
Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other.

Around 1500 AD, a significant schism occurred in the Christian Church. Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenburg and thus started what is known as the Protestant Reformation. Since then, there has been a steady fragmentation of the Christian church that has resulted in the founding of hundreds of Christian denominations. Many of these denominations differ very little in what they believe, but there are some widely divergent beliefs among Protestant congregations and between Protestant churches and the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

My brother and I embody that difference. I am a Baptist student pastor. I'll let him describe himself in his posting. We were raised in the Presbyterian church and were members of Baptist, Methodist, and non-denoiminational churches. In my own life, this has caused me to not feel any particular loyalty to any one denomination, but to be more concerned about studying Scripture for myself and coming to my own conclusions about what it says. I happen to be Southern Baptist because I agree with most of their doctrines and they do the best job of any denomination in evangelising the world. We may fall short in other areas, but we do that very, very well.

What my brother and I have chosen to do is have an ongoing discussion about the similarities and differences of what we believe. I believe that by discussing these things, we become iron sharpen iron. I am not nearly so arrogant to believe that everything that I believe is correct. I know that when I get to heaven, I will find things that I was wrong about. In fact, that will be true of every Christian and every denomination.

More to come...