Category Archives: My Beliefs

Do the courts define marriage?

Same-sex Marriage is Now the Law of the Land

On June 26, 2014, wlfi.com published an article with this headline:

Same-sex couples wed at Tippecanoe Co. Courthouse

After great amounts of debate earlier this year over the locally infamous HJR-6, a resolution by the two houses of Indiana state government to put a prohibition against same-sex marriage into the state constitution, our legislators decided that one of the phrases in the resolution went too far. In response, they modified the resolution (now called HJR-3) and thereby also delayed its appearance on an Indiana ballot until 2016. Continue reading

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The Father: God’s will and human freedom

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This post is part of a series investigating the most important items of Christian doctrine. View all posts by clicking here or the DOGMA tag above.

At the end of our service last Sunday, I took some live questions from the congregation. An interesting pattern revealed itself. Here are all the questions that came in:

  • How do you mix all knowing, all powerful, and free will? Do we mess up his plan? Or does he choose not to know what we are doing so as not to compromise our free will?
  • Can you expand the reality of God’s power & righteousness as it applies to being in or “outside” of God’s will?
  • If the Bible doesn’t discuss a particular issue, is the answer always “It’s God’s Will”?
  • If God knows the future, why did He create us if He knew we would fall?

Each question came from a different person, but nearly every question addressed the issue of how God’s will relates to human free will. Continue reading

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DOGMA: Understanding the Father

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This post is part of a series investigating the most important items of Christian doctrine. View all posts by clicking here or the DOGMA tag above.

On Sunday, we addressed the third statement from the Lafayette Community Church Statement of Faith, but before we can look at it, we need to consider the relationship between human language and the reality of God.

The Limits of Our Language

What thoughts come to mind when you think of God? What images come to you? Is he some old man sitting on a throne? Do you imagine him in the ways of Greek mythology, like Zeus holding a lightning bolt and standing on a mountain? Do you imagine him as a highly exalted human being?

The problem is that none of those images are valid. None of those images work. None of those images are allowed. They are all idols. In the burning bush, God used no mental images to describe himself. The fire was a portal for his voice, but his self description was simply “I AM.” In the march from Egypt to Israel, God confirmed his presence before the people as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. In the days of wandering, God confirmed his presence by the golden box called the Ark filled with the ten commandments. And near the top of the list at number two was the command against having any idols, any objects of worship that were visible and tangible.

Our mental images are just as idolatrous because they put representations of God in our mind that are not actually God as he is. The most important thing to know about God is that he cannot be contained, he cannot be imagined, he cannot be imaged by humans. Our concepts are too small, our brains are too childish, our language is too limited, our knowledge is too elementary.

Even as we talk about God, we must keep in mind that God is bigger than the words we use. When we say God is love, we mean that he has revealed himself to us with the word “love,” but that his love is more loving than our love.

By way of disclaimer, then, I just want to say that God is the standard for the attributes we describe. It is not the other way around. We can’t use our words, define our words, put our own concepts into our words, and then apply those labels to God. We can’t say, “Well, to me, love means… and therefore, since God is love, he should act like…” You can’t come to know God by learning more about the attribute. You can’t study fathers to learn about your Heavenly Father. You can’t study lovers to learn of God’s love. You can’t study morals to learn about God’s goodness

Instead, we need to let God and his reality fill out the definition for the words we use. If God is love, we must let God’s character and actions define for us what love really is.

Now, we can turn to the statement.

The Father

LCC’s Statement of Faith reads thus:

God the Father is an infinite personal spirit, perfect in holiness, wisdom, power, and love. He concerns Himself mercifully in the affairs of each person, He hears and answers prayer, and He saves from sin and death all who come to Him through Jesus Christ (Deuteronomy 32:4-6, Psalm 139, Matthew 6:6-8, John 3:16-17, John 4:24, Romans 6:23, 1 Corinthians 8:6).

Implications

What I find to be most fascinating about all of this is that the statement starts with a God who is an infinite personal spirit, perfect in holiness, and it ends with a God who pays attention to the prayers of individual people.

In talking about this with our congregation, I walked through the statement point by point, showing supporting verses and providing brief explanation where helpful. Then, at the end I addressed some live questions from the congregation. Those questions were fascinating because they all seemed to revolve around the one big issue of God’s will versus human freedom.

Answering those questions adequately requires us to fully grasp the meaning of the first sentence of our statement above. Here are a couple bullet points to flesh out the statement:

  • As the only infinite personal spirit, God is boundless with regard to time and space, without physical properties, but able to mentally relate to other intelligent beings.
  • Perfect holiness means that God is completely distinct—other than—everything in Creation. He is above and beyond his creatures. His essence, attributes, and behaviors cannot be fully comprehended by any created being.
  • Perfect wisdom means that God always fully understands all possible courses of action. He perfectly understands the past. He can perfectly predict the future. Therefore, he can perfectly select the best course of action in any circumstance.
  • Perfect power means that God is always able to accomplish what he intends to do. It doesn’t mean that he is able to create logically impossible realities like a circle with four right angles. It does mean that he always gets what he wants. His power extends so great that he is even able to create a world where the independent actions of free beings bring about the end result he desires.
  • Perfect love means that God is first of all in a perfect love relationship with the other members of the Trinity. His very nature allows for and demands a loving mutuality of deference, equality, respect, and affirmation. Love is intrinsic to the nature of God. Therefore, because the Trinity is at work cooperatively to bring about God’s desired plans, the Father deeply loves his plans and the execution of those plans by the Son. Finally, the Father loves the individuals of the world because they are his prime agents working out his plan on planet Earth.

In the posts to follow, we will be addressing questions regarding the will of God, but to conclude this post, I want to affirm the most personally compelling reality of the nature of God.

God, the one who is unbounded by time and space, who knows the best thing to do at all times, who is fully capable to bring about his will regardless of circumstances, made you to be who you are at this moment in history. God, who always knows what’s best and always gets his way, made you.

Take pride that God has chosen you to be part of his plan. Take warning that God expects you to play by his rules. Take comfort that God has done everything possible to empower you to do just that.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. — John 3:16-17

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The Bible: What about the apocrypha?

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This post is part of a series investigating the most important items of Christian doctrine. View all posts by clicking here or the DOGMA tag above.

On Sunday, I was asked about the apocrypha, but I later found out that the answer I gave was partially wrong.

What I said was that back in the days before Jesus, there were a number of books that were circulated among Jewish people. However, back then, no one considered them to be on the same level as Scripture. In fact, after the prophet Malachi wrote his prophecy it was widely understood that there were no more prophets, and that was 400 years before Jesus. Nevertheless, history still happened during those 400 years and Jewish teachers still speculated on spiritual realities. That’s where the extra books came from. Nevertheless, as I said, the Jews of the time did not consider them to be authoritative or on the same level as the other Scriptures. Continue reading

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The Bible: Have we found all the original manuscripts?

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This post is part of a series investigating the most important items of Christian doctrine. View all posts by clicking here or the DOGMA tag above.

How do we know that all of the original manuscripts have already been found?

I didn’t get to answer this one on Sunday, but the answer is simple. None of the original manuscripts have been found. Sadly, the oldest shred of any manuscript we have is a fragment from the gospel of John that dates to about 100-120 AD. It’s theoretically possible that John himself wrote that fragment since he died around 90 AD, but it’s highly unlikely. What we have are so many thousands of copies, versions, translations, and commentaries that we can reconstruct the originals with a high degree of certainty. Continue reading

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The Bible: Is one translation of the Bible more accurate?

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This post is part of a series investigating the most important items of Christian doctrine. View all posts by clicking here or the DOGMA tag above.

Is one translation of the Bible more accurate? Why the need for so many English translations?

I addressed this one on Sunday, and the basic answer is that because inerrancy depends on understanding the original intent of the original manuscripts, we employ as much scholarship and study as it takes to get back to both. Some scholarship helps us reconstruct the original manuscripts with greater accuracy. Some scholarship helps us translate the original intent with greater accuracy. Continue reading

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The Bible: Do NT verses on Scripture apply to both Testaments?

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This post is part of a series investigating the most important items of Christian doctrine. View all posts by clicking here or the DOGMA tag above.

Can we generalize New Testament verses on the authority of Scripture (eg. 2 Tim 3:15-17) to the NT since in the original context they were referring only to the Old Testament?

I didn’t get to answer this one on Sunday, but it’s a good question and deserves a little time. Basically, the question raises the issue that the New Testament authors use the word Scripture to refer to their Scripture which would have been the Jewish Scriptures or the Old Testament. Therefore, one could argue, the New Testament passages on Scriptural authority apply only to the Old Testament. As a result, how do we get our idea that the New Testament is also authoritative? Continue reading

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DOGMA: The Authority of the Bible

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At Lafayette Community Church, I have just begun a teaching series called DOGMA to discuss the core beliefs of our church and why we should be dogmatic about them.

Even though our world is filled with arguments about tolerance, the Bible is completely intolerant about a few key doctrines. We would say the Bible is dogmatic about them, and though we never berate or belittle those who disagree with us, we can certainly hold that over certain issues, there are clearly defined lines between right and wrong.

This series is all about exploring those lines. Continue reading

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Quick Study on the Rapture

Front Page My Beliefs Tough Questions VIP

This week at my Life Group, we looked at the clearest teaching in the Bible regarding the rapture, and I’ve become even more convicted about one particular position. This post is intended to guide you through the same study we considered this week and to give an inside track on what I’m currently thinking about the matter.

What is the Rapture?

Before I talk about anything else, I should probably define what I mean by the rapture and why I want to talk about it now.

The Rapture refers to the event described in the Bible of Christ returning to earth and his followers being “caught up” to meet him in the air.

The major biblical controversy is twofold:

  1. Do the biblical statements on the rapture event indicate a literal and physical departure from the surface of the earth?
  2. When does the rapture event happen in relation to the rest of prophesied end-time events? Continue reading
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You Can’t be Both Pre-Trib and Calvinist

Front Page My Beliefs Tough Questions

If you are a Calvinist:

  • you believe that God has “elected” or “chosen” those who would be saved from before the foundation of the world.
  • you believe that those whom God has chosen have been predestined to respond to the gospel when God woos them.
  • you believe that salvation comes entirely without regard to human works or merit.
  • you believe that “elect” and “true followers of Jesus” are two ways of describing only one group. Continue reading
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What I believe about Jesus

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CHRISTOLOGY

His Nature

I believe in the preexistence of God the Son, coeternal with, coequal with, and of the same nature as the Father so that he is fully God (Jn 1:1, 8:58, 10:30; Co 2:9).

I believe that the Son in willful, humble obedience to the Father’s will for redemption took upon himself a fully human nature in addition to his own divine nature so that he is fully human as well (Jn 1:14; Php 2:5-11).

I believe that now even as the Trinity is one nature with three persons, God the Son continues to exist as one person with two natures. Neither the humanity nor the divinity overshadows the other such that Jesus is fully God and fully human (Heb 4:15-5:10).

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What I believe about God

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TRINITY

I believe that God exists as a Triune being whose very nature is that of one essence sustaining three persons in perfect relationship—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. His essence admits of no separation among the three but remains always One. Nevertheless, the three persons remain eternally distinct both in person and in role (Dt 6:4; 1Ch 21:15; Isa 63:9f.; Mk 1:10f.; Mt 28:19)

I believe that within the Trinity, there is an eternal hierarchy of function. The Son is sent by the Father and is submissive to the Father’s will for redemption (Jn 8:28f.). The Spirit is sent from both the Son and the Father to continue the work (Jn16:7f.). The Spirit points people to the Son (Jn 15:26), and the Son is the way to the Father (Jn 14:6). I believe this in no way mitigates the full equality of the members of the Trinity (Jn 10:30; cf. 1Co 15:28).

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What I believe about God’s Revelation

Core Values Front Page My Beliefs My Spiritual Life Personal Tough Questions VIP

I know that some people are especially interested in the bigger details of faith, so I decided to post here my full “Doctrinal Statement.” This is the first post in this series, and it reflects the “short form” of my Doctrinal Statement. If you wish to download my entire Doctrinal Statement in either short form or its more detailed version, I will have those links posted soon. The rest of the posts in this series will be filed under the “What I Believe” category. Continue reading

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