Beowulf – Christ the Roman god

December 24, 2007

There is a new god on the block. We have made offers to Odin, as well as some other gods, should we offer to this new god of the Romans, Christ, as well? This is the question posed by an advisor to the king, early in the movie Beowulf. Set in Denmark, 507 AD, I think this is a very good portrayal of religion, and the perceptions regarding Christianity in this time.

Paul (as well as some others) started spreading Christianity throughout the Roman empire, Luke tell us the story in Acts, how the message of Jesus spread from a few followers in Jerusalem, to Rome, the capital of the Roman empire. It’s really a literary strategy as well, Acts 1:8 show this, first Jerusalem, then Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, meaning Rome. If the message spread to the capitol, then it has spread to all the known world. The book Acts then show how what was said in 1:8 happens.

And Christianity became very successful, and then even the emperor got converted, and then he forced all his people to get converted, and then he started taking the gospel to the nations, to his enemies, by force, by sword and spear. And Christ has become the god of the Romans, and yes, maybe “g”od is the right word. So, should we pray to Christ as well? Asks the advisor. No is the answer he gets, gods won’t help us.

Beowulf gets on the scene, becomes king, and beautifully it is shown how Christianity has gained a foothold later on in the movie, when he is older. Well, since time has passed, and Christianity was spreading in this time, this seems to be quite historical. Whether this new god helped them, the movie do not seem to answer, what exactly the role of Christianity, and also of the symbol of the cross, is, is difficult to know (is it only coincidence that Beowulf boat’s mast fall in the shape of a cross when it is burning at the end? Maybe, but seeing how prominent the cross features in the movie, I wonder.). It seems like Christianity isn’t making any difference though, not in there culture, and not with there daemons.

In this time when Christmas is celebrated, it might be good to ask ourselves what we are celebrating. Is this simply a western festival, to the westerners god? And who will Odin then be in our story? The eastern gods? Maybe that of Islam? It might be a time to ask ourselves whether the war between some western countries and the middle east isn’t becoming to seem like a war between “our god and theirs”, a religious war? And do we pray to God as just another of our gods (which might include many things) to see which one will work?

If you look carefully, Beowulf might be more than fantasy, more than myth, more than great animations. There might be some religious critique in there as well. Maybe I’m seeing things which isn’t there, maybe it’s just random, but maybe it raises some serious questions.

Well, a blessed Christmas to all, to westerners, to those from Eastern countries as well. To all who celebrate the fact that in some way which we still struggle to understand, Jesus was born, the one who was proclaimed King, who was proclaimed God, the human through whom we got to see God, and may we guard against just another “Western god”.

27 Responses to “Beowulf – Christ the Roman god”

  1. Deb Says:

    Hello,

    I read your blog regarding the movie, “Beowulf.” What you may want to keep in mind is that the movie version really is little or nothing like the original poem, “Beowulf.” You can’t even say the Hollywood scriptwriters took poetic license. They simply made up their own ridiculous liberal story and tagged it “Beowulf.”

    In the original, Grendel wasn’t the King’s son, Beowulf killed the demon. He didn’t have sex with her. Neither was the dragon his son. The demon and the dragon were actually unrelated accounts in the poem. The dragon story took place in Beowulf’s own country, in another time in his life. The writers didn’t even get the date right as to when the story first originated. It was around 700 something AD, not 500 something B.C.

    Yes, I noticed the Christian symbols,too, in the movie, but they were all made up by the scriptwriters for the purpose of Christian bashing. Once again, Hollywood was making an “anti-Christ” statement. The writers made Christianity look bad and, culturally of no effect. In doing so, they literally destroyed the original Beowulf saga.

    If Hollywood producers can mutilate a classic literary work like “Beowulf,”and use it to bash Christianity and Western Europeans, what will they do next? All I’ve got to say is that it’s a waste of time and money to see this movie. No wonder Hollywood is going in the tank. This movie stinks to high heaven.

    It’s not surprising that Angelina Jolie starred in this drivel. Some years back, her father, Jon Voight, starred in a made-for-TV movie about the biblical Noah. In it, the scriptwriters had Lot as his nephew! (Lot was Abraham’s nephew and did not exist for generations after Noah!) With movies like these, you have to wonder if one of the prerequisites for being a Hollywood writer is to be illiterate regarding all Western literature, as well as willing to ignore all truth and never worry about presenting the facts.

  2. Cobus Says:

    I’ve been meaning to read the original Beowulf since seeing the movie. My brother actually have the text, he’s much more into literature studies than I am (although being only 16).

    It was during my own experiencing of The Lord of the Rings movie (which I founf disturbing at first, because of the changes made from the book), that I realized that texts and movies shouldn’t always be compared. There is at least two Lord of the Rings stories, one in book form, one as a movie (obviously there is even more if you take all the variations which Christopher Tolkien has shown us into account).

    I think about Beowulf in the same way. There is a movie, and there is a poem, and it’s two different stories. One might be good, ad the other bad.

    My analysis is about the movie, strictly, and I find it to be quite a good portrayel of how Christianity spread around the time of the fall of Rome and theintroduction of the holy Roman empire, where the church became the rulars. The way in which the cross was used as magical object also reflect a certain dark-ages believe which we still find in what the Reformists are reacting against.

    Although Hollywood might have been untrue to the original Beowulf text, I found their historical conciousness regarding the uprising of Christianity enlightning, even though the reality is a bad portrayel of Christianity… but won’t most of us agree that there was times in our history which we wouldn’t like to know what Christianity looked like, because it wasn’t a beautiful picture?

  3. Deb Says:

    Hello Again,

    First, I would like to make a correction to my earlier comment. It was late here last night and I got my BCs and ADs mixed up. Beowulf was written in AD, not BC. Sorry ’bout that. The movie still got the dates wrong, for their setting was around 500 something AD, instead of between 700 and 1000 AD.

    Regarding your comment that the movie Beowulf was a “good portrayal” of how Christianity spread, I would disagree. The original “Beowulf” best portrays the contrasts between Christianity and paganism of that era. After all, it was written during those times and presents the perspective of those times. The Christ symbols are there in the poem and point us toward Christ, not away from Him.

    In contrast, the movie script presents the perspective of an elitist group of liberal propagandists who are pushing their own agenda, which includes Christian bashing. The so-called Christian symbols they placed in the script were actually anti-Christian.

    For me, I prefer a clear perspective of those times rather than a muddied false one. The original Beowulf is great literature, with an underlying truth regarding Christianity and mankind written in the mindset of that era. In contrast, the movie was propagandist drivel that had no underlying truth. Even if one would grade the movie only on Hollywood’s standards, it would still get an “F” for writing content and presentation quality. There was no redeeming value to the film.

    On the other hand, you mentioned “Lord of the Rings.” Now, there is an example of what Hollywood can do visually to a great piece of literature. I’ve seen all three movies in the Trilogy and thoroughly enjoyed each one. To be true to the writing, the director left the Christian symbolism intact for the most part. Yes, there are discrepancies between the film and the book, but they are minimal, relatively speaking, that is. In his film rendition, the director was able to present a visual masterpiece on screen that successfully reflected the books. The same can be said of “Narnia.” Both directors, no matter what their politics and philosophies, were able to lay them aside and thus successfully present the “truth” and essence of the works themselves.

    In the vast majority of great Western literature, there is to be found the underlying thread of the Christ symbol running throughout each masterpiece. All of Shakespeare’s works are fine examples of this. If that thread is removed or if it is changed to reflect antichrist symbolism as the script writers did in the movie Beowulf, then the work is rendered worthless, for it loses the quality that made it great in the first place. Those who have rendered it as such replace the lasting pure gold qualities of classic literature with straw, stubble, and hay, all of which no longer have long-lasting, redeeming value in such a state.

    Two of the greatest examples of being able to successfully translate the monumental Western masterpieces to the screen and keeping the Christian symbolism intact are the Lord of the Rings and Narnia. Yet, there is still one more that stands high above those two great cinematic epics.

    It is Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Yes, he did use poetic license in his presentation (i.e. the opening where he took the prophetic verse of Genesis and incorporated it into the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, the use of Satan and the baby, and some of the family scenes, as well as the use of Church traditions that are not Biblical). Yet, he was careful to do so without losing the veritas, the truth of the Gospels themselves. Mel Gibson took great pains to remain true to the greatest and truest story ever told. The result was a visual masterpiece of such proportions that there probably never will be an equal on the cinematic screen.

    As a retired English teacher with a strong background in History and Biblical studies, I would encourage you to study great Western literature with your theological eyes wide open. The ultimate truth can be found in the Bible – through the study of the Word, and it is reflected in many of the great masterpieces of Western literature. Yes, the Bible itself is the greatest masterpiece of all classical literature, especially the King James Version. Yes, it is an historical record. Yes, it is a book of prophecy. But, more than anything else, the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, is God’s communication with his children and points to the only way to find God.

    Yes, every one of the heroes of the Bible except One has their own faults, foibles, and flaws. But, that is not the emphasis or the measure of God’s word. The underlying theme that runs throughout the Holy Bible points to the Messiah and Savior of all mankind through His perfect birth, sinless life, sacrificial death on the Cross, ultimate resurrection into heaven, and the heralded day when He will return in the full glory of the Godhead. God came to earth as a man to save us, if and only if we accepted Him for Who He is, God, Creator of the Universe and Redeemer of our souls. Throughout his sojourn on this earth, He remained fully God and fully man. Jesus Christ from the beginning was, is and forever will be God. We as Christians worship the One and Only God in the fullness of the Godhead, all One God in Three Personages – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As Christians, it is God alone we will worship. It is God alone we will serve. There is no evolution or changing the pure doctrine of Christ.

    That is the thread and the message that permeates through all the great Western classics and was ultimately spread throughout the world to all peoples who will listen. Without that message – without that one undying, unwavering truth – we would all be lost forever to the great chasm of universal nothingness which we know as eternal separation from God in the place the Bible refers to as “hell.”

    For the most part, Hollywood would like to erase that truth with their own false doctrines, i.e. the idea of self-redemption and good works, the notion of mankind as little gods, the multicultural nonsense that there are “many paths to the top of the mountain” syndrome and that one can find salvation through any and all religions, the ridiculous relativistic belief that God can be anything we want him to be, and the preposterous delusion that there is no hell. Anyone who believes any of the above simply has not read the Bible and does not really know God or has ever found God, regardless of whether or not they attend church or whether or not they call themselves Christian.

    The truth, the veritas of the Holy Scriptures is this: There is only one path, one way, and one door to heaven. It is through Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He is the Doorkeeper to Heaven and the only way into heaven’s realm. Without belief, knowledge and acceptance of Christ in all His glory as the Second Personage of the Godhead and as your own personal Savior, you cannot and will not enter Heaven’s Gate. No one can. The Lord only gives us two choices during this lifetime, and it will determine where you spend eternity. You can either accept Him or reject Him. You can either choose Good or Evil, Life or Death, Heaven or Hell.

    And don’t worry. Jesus has a Master Plan that includes all those people who never heard the Gospel, as well as those babies and children who died before the age of accountability. You can be sure the God Who created the Universe will ensure everyone has a chance to get into Heaven.

    Be wary of the Emerging Christian doctrine that you mentioned in your post. It’s as false as the liberal propaganda that comes out of Hollywood. I would advise always, always to measure what you read or view in this world against the pure doctrine of God’s holy word. If it doesn’t measure up, throw it out.

    The Lord gives everyone a free choice in this life to believe what we want to believe. To be a Christian is to follow the doctrines of Christ. But, when one claims to be a Christian and then comes preaching a different doctrine other than that of Christ, there is a high price to be paid, and it is outlined for everyone to read in the last chapter of Revelation. As Christians, we need to take care when preaching the Gospel.

    There is an old saying: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Standing on the Word of God is the safest place you will find, for both this world and the world to come.

    That’s my contemplation for the day.

    Take care.

  4. Cobus Says:

    Wow, quite a long comment. I’ll keep myself to the theme of the post, the relationship between film and theology.

    Is the idea that history which was written closest to the time at which is happen is the most correct generally accepted? Not as far as I know. Every epoch reflects the biases of it’s time. Thus, history written close to the time in which something happened, would generally be less critical about the events than history written later, or from a different perspective.

    If Beowulf was written with it’s own time in mind, from a Christian perspective, it would portray Christianity generally positive. Looking back from our own context, the time after about 330AD (shortly after Nicea, not 313, at the conversion of Constantine as is popularly accepted) introduces Christendom. The way in which Christianity spread in this time, correlates with what was portrayed Beowulf. In this time, for example, we find a number of cases where Christianity intermixes with the local religions.

    Obviously, our own biases are quite obvious in this case as well. Let me guess, you are from an Evangelical background? Most probably Fundamentalist? Since it was mostly Evangelicals and Catholics which reacted in such a positive fashion towards The Passion of the Christ, and Roman Catholics generally don’t have positive thoughts about the King James.

    On the other hand, I am drenched in historical critical thoughts. Thus I’m always asking questions regarding what was the biases when something was written.

    This said: I don’t compare Beowulf with Narnia as a movie which should spread the Christian message. I agree that Beowulf don’t do this. I agree that Beowulf give a negative picture of Christianity, but I also think that the picture of Christianity which we would have found in 6th century Denmark is quite a negative one.

    Now, whether Narnia and Lord of the Rings compare well with the original texts I’ll leave for the moment, since the comment is getting very long. But on the topic of The Passion… yes, it did get all the words correct from the Bible, but simply repeating the words of a 2000 year old document does not necessarily mean that good historical research was done. This would become apparent in the visual images, in an understanding of the underlying social values of a time etc. And in these categories… The Passion does not come out that strong.

  5. Deb Says:

    Hello,

    I’ll try to keep this shorter. Regarding your comments on the time that the Beowulf poem was written, you stated that the original Beowulf reflected the bias of its time. In that the word bias is synonymous with prejudice and a preconceived notion, I would question your conclusion for the very reason you stated in an earlier post: You haven’t read Beowulf. I would then assume you haven’t done an intensive study of the work. Thus, how could you know whether it was biased one way or another? I would therefore assume you are speaking of the movie and not the work itself.

    The original Beowulf is a powerful fictional story of a Swedish hero set in the period when Christianity was first being introduced into Western Europe. The first half takes place in Denmark. The second half takes place in Sweden. Beowulf is a Geat, a Swede. It is the earliest form of a written literary manuscript of our Western Civilization. The writing reflects the mindset of the era and culture in which it was written. It has nothing to do with actual events of history, at least not for the purposes of its merits as a piece of literary work. It is, however, a window into the mindset of the people living in that period.

    Calling the writer’s perspective “biased” without any facts to back this up is not fair, logical, or accurate. The writer of Beowulf was giving us an honest view into the minds and culture of the time. The truth of the original piece is in the realistic depiction of characters of that day, instead of made-up notions of what the characters would or should have been like. Matter of fact, when you read Beowulf, it is quite obvious that the writer had a really good understanding of both the Christian and pagan cultures of the day. You might say he was well balanced and objective in his viewpoint.

    In contrast, the scriptwriters of the movie Beowulf rewrote the entire story to fit our modern times, with a mindset that shows excessive bias (i.e. prejudice, preconceived notions) against Christians. Thus, they took a Christian story and molded it into something almost unrecognizable to fit their own bias. They did not keep to the theme, motifs, or underlying symbolism found in Beowulf. They purposefully reflected their own slanted interpretations and perceptions of what they think Christianity was in that day, without any basis in truth or fact. Even worse, they mutilated a perfectly good classical story to do so.

    You tend to paint broad strokes regarding literature when you say: “Every epoch reflects the biases of it’s time. Thus, history written close to the time in which something happened, would generally be less critical about the events than history written later, or from a different perspective.”

    That is not a fair, logical, or reasonable conclusion. You seem to be basing this notion on the idea that there was no writers in history that were objective and/or truthful or that would or could present anything but their own viewpoints. This is relativistic thinking at its worst.

    Each individual work should be graded on its own merits. There are quite a few variables that need to be considered in determining whether or not a work is biased or not. For instance, who is the writer and what is his or her point of view? What is the motivation in the writing? What was the writer trying to achieve? These and so many more factors are needed to be investigated in order to do an analysis on a literary work. You cannot simply lump all writings together as being biased. To make such assumptions would be showing you yourself to be so.

    Like all classics, Beowulf has stood the test of time, showing it to have a universal appeal. For it to remain as a part of great literature, the work itself had to rise above the trivial and relativistic thinking of the era to present a universal truth that has been grasped by millions in a variety of cultures and over centuries of time. To be sure, there are many positive aspects of Christianity especially when you compare it to other religions and/or forms of paganism. There is a truth in Christianity you cannot find in any other philosophy or religion. It is what Socrates called the Perfect Truth.

    You said: “The way in which Christianity spread in this time, correlates with what was portrayed Beowulf. In this time, for example, we find a number of cases where Christianity intermixes with the local religions.”

    Again, I’ll have to refer back to another post in which you said you haven’t read the original Beowulf poem. You’ve only seen the movie. In that case, it would be safe to say that you’re basing your conclusion on the contents of the Beowulf movie and not on the poem itself.

    Yes, there are instances in history where other religions intermix with Christianity, but what results is false doctrine and false religion. Like I stated in my last post, unlike all other religions, Christianity is not evolving or changing. It does not adopt or adapt to other religions. Beowulf shows us that to be the case even as far back as 700 AD. The Christian ideal was the same then as it remains to this day. Our hero learned to adapt the ways of Christianity to his culture and not visa versa.

    The pure doctrine of Christ remains the bulwark of the religion. This doctrine can be found in The Nicene Creed and/or the Apostles Creed. Any variation from that doctrine has sorely cost the Church in all its seven major denominations, and the true denominations of today stand firm on the foundation of that same pure doctrine. For those that don’t, they have already or will surely fail.

    You asked: “Is the idea that history which was written closest to the time at which is happen is the most correct generally accepted?”

    I would say, “Yes.” Here is why. In an American court of law, eyewitnesses are brought before the court to deliver an honest account to the judge and jury of the events that take place in the course of an incident. Hearsay in the court is not allowed except under certain conditions for the reason it is not usually reliable and is susceptible to the perception of the hearer. In a court of law, credible eyewitness accounts are considered to be the best evidence that can be presented in a courtroom. Unless the eyewitness has been proven not credible for any reason, the eyewitness account is deemed to be the most accurate. This same principle applies to historical writings. The proven, credible works written closest to the actual event are generally found to be the most accurate and factual. A good example of this are the Four Gospels found in the New Testament.

    Keep in mind, Beowulf is not an historical account, but a fictional one. Still, the principle applies here, too. A person writing in that era would most likely have a better perception of the culture and mindset of the people than someone who was writing about that era in our modern day.

    Now, let’s get to the bias you think me to have. Am I evangelical? No. Am I a fundamentalist? No. Now, again, that could depend upon your definitions, but according to my definitions, the answer is “No.” As far as being a fundamentalist, I think of Islamic terrorists as fundamentalists. So, no, I’m not a fundamentalist. Evangelical? In what sense? Do I go out and evangelize? No. Do I believe in preaching the Gospel? Yes, for that was Christ’s Great Commission (Mar 15:16). But that makes me doctrinal, not evangelical. I believe in living as Christ commands and presenting the Gospel when it is appropriate. In a forum such as yours that discusses theology, I thought that to be appropriate. I do not believe in being judgmental or forcing my beliefs on others.

    Interestingly, you did not ask me about my background regarding literature. I am a professional writer with a B.A. in English with an intensive study in literature. I also only need two more courses to have a double major in History, with emphasis in the History of Western Civilization. I have also studied the Bible for well over 30 years and have written one theological book. I have 20+ years as a writer/editor and had my own writing and commercial art firm for over 17 years. I am now retired.

    I am an old-fashioned Southern Baptist and an independent thinker. I believe in freedom of thought and practice when it comes to religion and my life. I do not follow individuals or organizations. Most importantly, I believe we cannot stereotype people and expect to understand their point of view. We learn from one another when we discuss issues. That said, the biggest influence in my life is the Word of God. If a preacher in a pulpit or a politician in a forum says something that I question, I go directly to the Bible for reference and find the truth for myself. Matter of fact, I go to the Bible to make all my life decisions. At age 62, I’ve found this method to have served me well. When an individual hears the Gospel, that person can either accept or reject it. The choice is entirely up to the individual. The Bible tells us that as Christians we are accountable for telling others of Christ, but we are not to coerce or force our opinions on others.

    Regarding your last paragraph, most of that was regarding your own opinion and needs no comment. The point I was making regarding Lord of the Rings and Narnia is that the director kept the essence and Christian symbolism in the creation of the movies. As a writer, I understand the challenges of making a script from a book. There are certain things in a book that don’t translate well to the screen. Those looking for exactness in these two forms will never find it. Regarding The Passion of the Christ, it was sad that you weren’t moved by the movie. The movie itself is a proven work of art. The cinematography was brilliant, the scenes captivating, the acting exceptional, and I haven’t even gotten to the story yet. The movie was without a doubt a masterpiece and Mel Gibson was shown to be not only a genius, but also a strong Christian. He is a modern hero of epic proportions and characteristics, yet still proven to have all the faults, foibles, and flaws that make him human.

    I promised to keep this shorter, not short. You made good points and I wanted to make sure to address them.

  6. Cobus Says:

    Let me start out by saying that I’m sorry for guessing your biases, it was not done to be judgmental, but to point that it seems like we are coming from different philosophical points of view, both biased, therefore I attempted to make my own explicit.

    My comment on the “original Beowulf” was a generalization, and reflected more my own biases than anything else, again, this was what I made explicit later on as well. All other references to Beowulf was to the movie.

    Where to start…
    Maybe my views on Beowulf are being overstated. It comes from a certain understanding of Christendom in post-Nicaean Western society which I was thought Beowulf portrayed. As I look over this old post, I think it’s obvious that I also saw the negative portrayal of Christianity which you speak of, and didn’t consider Beowulf to be of any evangelistic value, except… except to point out the problems of Christendom inherent in our own society as well.

    Let’s talk about a few other biases:
    “Like I stated in my last post, unlike all other religions, Christianity is not evolving or changing” – I struggle with this one. How do I react to this? I could say that it is obvious that Christianity is changing, but that would kind of be a fruitless argument.

    Well, listening to my friends at Ancient Near Eastern studies have thought me that much of what Israel said was borrowed from the religions around them, was said in reaction to the religions around them, of influenced by the fact that they were places between these religions. Does that make the Old Testament wrong? I don’t think so, only give us a reminder that it is set within a specific historical context.

    What does Paul and Aquinas have in common? Well, both used the language of Greek philosophy to state their theology. Paul also used Jewish theology. Some would say that was his great achievement, to be able to take the message of Jesus, and write it in such a way that it would also make sense from Jewish theology.

    And now, the four gospels… well, studies in the Synoptic question and the different branches of historical criticism have, I think, pointed out that we find development already within the gospels, we see the biases of the writers already in the gospels. Does this make them wrong? NO! Only serves as a reminder that theology has it’s origin within a specific history, and should be read against that background.

    So why should I attempt a defense of the one perfect form of Christianity? Where would I find it? Was 6th century Christianity other than a state religion, with forced evangelism which caused the intermingling of Christianity and tribal religions, and which brought about a belief in ritual and symbol more than faith in God? Yes, it was more, but there was a lot of the former as well, which I think Beowulf (the movie obviously!) portrayed. It’s sad, but this is who we are, this is the story of Christianity.

    Am I relativistic in my thoughts? No, if I were, there would be no conversation. Why would I then differ from you on certain points? Why would I write a post such as I did, looking for God which is more than just a cultural given? I’d rather think of my thoughts as being relative, same as that of everyone else… relative to my own life experiences, relative to my geographical location, relative to the influences on my life, relative to my generational setting. Therefore I’m biased, and it’s actually quite difficult to have a conversation with someone who isn’t biased, or who’s only bias is the Bible, because then I shouldn’t talk back, but only listen.

    Thank you for the conversation, for forcing me to articulate more clearly where I’m very general (I’m an ENTP on a Meyer Briggs profile, does this tell you something about me?:-))

    Oh yeah, and just for interest sake, I always thought Socrates lived long before Christianity. Historically seen, wouldn’t the “Perfect Truth” he talked about then refer to something older than Christianity? Something from his time?

  7. Deb Says:

    Hi Cobus,

    I accept your apology. From my point of view, you were trying to pigeonhole me into something I am not. The point I make here is that from your own idea of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, I am neither. If you want to categorize me, you might see be more as a doctrinal purist who loves the Lord with all my heart and who wants to follow Him – not man’s idea of Him. I would agree it seems we are coming from different points of view.

    Intellectualizing Christianity

    Now, it does appear we have gone far afield from discussing Beowulf. I’ve been around many people who try to intellectualize Christianity and found most to be agnostic, atheistic, or cultist. That’s why I laid out my Christian beliefs to you up front, in a very explicit manner, so you know where I’m coming from. I do not tend to tiptoe around the fact I am a Christian and what my beliefs are. I’ve found through personal life experience that intellectualizing Christian doctrine is dangerous territory, in that it leads you on a detour and off the narrow path of the real truth.

    Centuries ago, one of the most intellectual men in all the world, King Solomon, determined this after many years of philosophical and religious study that took him away from a personal relationship with God. Yet, after studying it all, he came to this conclusion:

    “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc 12:12-13).

    In the New Testament, Jesus tells us: “…Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 18:3). In other words, in order to find Christ, we have to set aside all our biases, foregone conclusions, and preconceived notions and come to Him as little children – ready, willing, and able to learn from his words. Children tend to love unconditionally, openly and without bias, explicitly if you like. That’s how we are to love Christ. We are not to put Him in a box and reserve Him just for ourselves, thinking we have knowledge no one else has, and we’re not to hide Him under a rock, only to bring Him out when we feel comfortable to do so.

    For sure, we can’t find salvation by intellectualizing Christ, for salvation is a spiritual thing. For lack of a better term, salvation is a heart thing. It’s not a mindset. You won’t find Christ through your mind. That said, once Christ’s doctrine is set in your heart, it will definitely change your mind forever!

    True Christianity Does Not Change

    I don’t know why you struggle with this concept. For sure, it’s not a fruitless argument. All people the world over are continually in a state of flux. As a biological being, ever since you were conceived, you have been continually metamorphosing from one stage to another. At times, the changes were dramatic, but mostly, it was gradual and you didn’t even notice until your were fully grown. Now, as an adult, you will continue to metamorphose, but in a much different way. It’s downhill all the way now as you grow older by the minute. Yet, every morning, you look up at the sky and see the sun. It’s not aging. It’s not changing with you. It remains the same, day in and day out. From our ever-changing perspective here on earth, the sun is unchangeable. Every morning it will rise. Every evening it will set. We can depend on that all our livelong days.

    Perhaps I should have said, “true Christianity is unchanging.” To borrow an old cliché: “Christianity is not a destination; it’s a journey.” That doesn’t mean Christianity is evolving or changing. It means you – me – all Christians are the ones doing the changing as we move closer to Christ, and we will throughout our lifetimes until the final change from mortal into immortality (See Cor 15:53-54). The Rock that we know as the Trinity remains the same, forever and always.

    That’s what I meant when I said Christianity is unchanging. If one makes the mistake of thinking true Christian doctrine changes with the whims of so-called social progress and/or cultural traditions, then there is no stability in that person’s belief system. The Bible tells us God remains the same: yesterday, today and forever. In the very same way, the doctrine of Christ remains the same. Every generation tries to change it and mold it to suit their own social schemes or traditions. They squeeze it, mash it, and sometimes try to tear it all down, but miraculously, the true doctrine of Christ pops right back up again, exactly the same. That’s because the doctrine of Christ is not a mindset. It’s not man’s view of God. The doctrine of Christ comes directly from God and is His gift to you when you become a Christian. It is the truth of all the Universe. Does that mean you’ll attain all knowledge if you become a Christian? No. It means that you’re pointed in the right direction and the Lord will give you the information on an “as needed” basis.

    The biggest mistake one can make is to try to intellectualize Christ’s doctrine. Instead you should study it, embrace it, cherish it, and do all you can to share it. You don’t have to coddle it, nourish it, and you should never try to change it to fit preconceived notions of what you think it should be. Instead, simply recognize it as an awesome gift from the Lord Jesus that is given to anyone that asks. It is knowledge and wisdom that is not of this world, for it flows directly from God. And, the more you read it, the more you will learn of God’s mysteries – if and only if you have an open mind for the Gospel that is Christ.

    Perhaps you were thinking of the Church rather than Christianity when you say it’s ever-changing. Yes, the Church which includes all the seven major denominations and their thousands of offshoots does change, for it’s a man-made institution. But, the Kingdom of God does not. The Kingdom of God is pure spirit and remains constant throughout history and will until the End. The bible tells us that Christians are children in the Kingdom of God. Where we are able to comprehend that constant is in the Word of God, the Holy Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

    Regarding Socrates

    You made me smile when I read your comments on this. Yes, I know the time period when Socrates lived, somewhere between 469 – 399 BC, four hundred to five hundred years before Christ walked this earth. But, do you think the doctrine of Christ began when Jesus first started teaching it? Remember, Jesus said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mat 5:17).

    There are some history books that tell us Socrates was most likely influenced to some degree in his day by some then little known philosophy and religion of a Middle Eastern people called the Hebrews. And, if you study the works of Socrates, you will find that indeed there may well have been an influence in his philosophy that came from them. For instance, they also had the idea of Perfect Truth, Perfect Beauty, etc., but they understood it to be in the form of the One True God. Socrates on some level understood this same concept of Absoluteness. He may not have seen it as being the One True God that we know, but he did have the concept.

    Christian Theology Comes From God

    What we conceive as Christian thought goes back a lot further than when Christ walked the earth. The Lord has been teaching His people since the Garden of Eden. In Isaiah, we learn the Lord Jesus of the New Testament was identified way back in the Old Testament. Here is just one of the many passages from the Old Testament that verify this:

    “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them. Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.” (Isa 44:6-8)

    Have we heard something similar to this? If we’ve studied the New Testament in depth, we surely have. Let’s turn the pages to the Book of Revelation in the New Testament where it is repeated four times that Jesus is the “Alpha and Omega,” the First and the Last, the “beginning and the end.” In the very first chapter of Revelation, we read:

    “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

    Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:5-8, See also Joh 1:1-10,14; Rev 1:11, 21:6, 22:13)

    With the Hebrews, the Lord set into place the basic foundation of His laws, principles, and life-learning skills, for all His people that were and were yet to come. This foundation, this cornerstone is never-changing and hasn’t been since the foundation of the world. When Jesus came to earth, He didn’t change anything in the Old Testament. What has changed is how much we His children can understand of it, as it applies to His teachings as set out in the New Testament. The Old Testament was a set of building blocks for the New Testament, pointing the way to Christ’s coming.

    Until Christ came to earth, the keys to the New Covenant of Grace were locked to us. What we have regarding the doctrine of Christ is hindsight, not foresight. We can see what’s gone before. We can’t see what will happen in the future, except the Lord deems us to know. What most don’t realize is that Biblical prophecy, for the most part, is for our hindsight, not for our foresight. It’s so we can look at Scripture and see that the prophets sent by God foretold events long before they occurred. It’s one way the Lord has of assuring us He indeed is in control.

    Each covenant the Lord made with His people throughout history was with His foreknowledge of what was to come. Remember how the Lord took Abraham up on the mountain and revealed to him that he would be “the father of nations.” What a promise and look how it’s come true! Everything done in the Old Testament was in light of God’s Master Plan for all His people and thus in light of what would follow. All of the above is why I stated that the true doctrine of Christ which we know as Christianity is unchangeable. Perhaps I should have stated “true Christianity is unchangeable.”

    Your Other Comments

    Regarding your views on the “Christendom in post-Nicaean Western society,” (Wow! What a mouthful!), I have no idea what they are, so I can’t really comment. As I’ve already stated, what the movie Beowulf portrayed was a skewed anti-Christian view on the whole of Christianity. So, if you agree with that viewpoint, you probably need to re-examine Christian history from a different perspective.

    If you get all your information from liberal professors, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, movies like Beowulf, and your friends at “Ancient Near Eastern studies,” you are apparently getting a whole bunch of inaccurate information that is far from the truth and that is presented to make Christians look bad. I guarantee the information you get from these types of sources will be far from the real truth of Judeo-Christian history. As my son likes to say: “The biggest lie is always sandwiched between two truths.” Look to your sources. Do they match up with the Word of God? It doesn’t sound like it.

    Regarding your comment: “Therefore I’m biased, and it’s actually quite difficult to have a conversation with someone who isn’t biased, or who’s only bias is the Bible, because then I shouldn’t talk back, but only listen.”

    You stated that very well, and it’s very true. If you’re having that much trouble with your own biases, perhaps you shouldn’t “talk back.” You should be more introspective and find out why you have so many. Take it to the Lord in prayer. Also, studying the word of God from the right perspective helps us develop the fruits of the spirit and thus helps us with our own character faults. The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (See Gal 5:22-23). Perhaps you should concentrate more on the fruits of the spirit rather than on your biases and/or others biases as well.

    Regarding the rest of the comments, it sounds like you need to gather your thoughts more for me to respond to them. I don’t know how to answer them within the context of your post. It sounds you got a little far afield on those. If you believe Christian theology only has its origins in an historical context, then you don’t really have an idea of what Christianity is all about. And, last, regarding whether you’re relativistic in your thinking, you’ll have to answer that one for yourself.

    Regarding our conversation, you’re welcome. I’ll leave you with a passage from Paul:

    “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

    Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Phi 4:8-9)

    Sincerely, Deborah

  8. Cobus Says:

    Deborah

    wow, again quite a long comment. I guess retirement helps with time? But sadly, it seems like your long comment has brought this conversation to a dead end.

    How can we have a conversation is you are doctrinally pure, and I am impure?
    How can we have a conversation if all your sources are absolutely right, and mine wrong?
    How can we have a conversation if I am totally biased, and you are not, but look at everything, from God tot Bible to history, with absolute clear vision?
    I guess most problematic, how can we have a conversation you are a true Christian, but by implication (or maybe more than just implication?) I am an atheist, agnostic or cultist (well, the last one really made me smile, I’ll have to share this with some friends in sociology, since this is primarily a sociological concept)?

    From this I hear that you are right and I am wrong. In a situation like this, dialog is not required, but preaching is. Thus you should be the preacher, writing all you can, and after reading it, I should just nod in recognition.

    I’ve shared some thoughts on the problems of this kind of conversation here.

    You have given me some interesting things to discuss though, and you can expect a link to this conversation on Friday when I participate in a synchroblog on the movement to bash the emerging church conversation as heresy.

    In the meantime… preach away sister (from your name I now assume you are a sister and not a brother), and expect my nods as you point out my unbelieve…

    In Christ
    Cobus

  9. Deb Says:

    Cobus,

    I was saddened when I received your last post, but not surprised.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a fight in a ring, but, sometimes, when one fellow is losing, he starts taking unfair punches, like hitting below the belt. Likewise, when two people are debating an issue and one doesn’t have a good response, sometimes that person will start attacking the other individual on a personal basis, instead of sticking to the issues. This is what you’ve done in these last two posts.

    The entire subject matter of your last post was to attack me instead of addressing the issues. What? Now you attack me because I’m an old woman who is retired? I speak of the purity of Christian doctrine, and you twist it into something entirely different from what I presented? Are you so unsure of your belief system that you revert to such underhanded tactics when confronted with someone who has a different viewpoint?

    You’ve bandied about the three words, “tacit, explicit, and bias,” quite a bit in these “discussions.” I was never “tacit” in any of my posts. Matter of fact, I was quite up front on all my positions. I never implied anything as to whether you were agnostic, atheist, or cultist. I apologize if you took offense over something that was never intended. If I had thought it, you can be assured I would have stated it “explicitly.” I was simply discussing the dangers of intellectualizing Christianity on a general basis. And, by the way, those words are not necessarily “sociological concepts.” They are theological adjectives that define specific stances people take on religion.

    You are the one who keeps bringing up your biases, not me. In my last post, I already addressed what I thought of what you yourself call bias. Again, I was very direct in addressing it. Really, all I intended to do here was discuss the movie Beowulf and somehow it became more of a philosophical debate, and now it’s turned into a personal attack on me.

    I don’t suppose if you met Jesus face to face you would like Him very much either, for He preached often and prolifically on the pure doctrine of an absolute God. The Lord loves absolutely, He forgives absolutely, and He judges absolutely. For that we should all be very grateful. If it weren’t for His merciful grace, no one would enter through Heaven’s door. The Lord loves all His children, no matter our flaws, foibles, and faults and no matter how old or young we are.

    He loves us when we are misguided, when we are angry, when we are childish, and when we are obstinate and stubborn. He loves us no matter how right or wrong we are. He also calls us to put aside our differences and come together in worship, praise, and love of His magnificent glory. That is the common ground for all Christians, regardless of our denomination or viewpoints. What would Jesus say to your personal attacks on me? I think it is this:

    “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mar 12:29-31)

    This is what I’ve tried to do in my lifetime. But, where I’ve failed, I have the blessed assurance of a loving and merciful God Who forgives me and loves me regardless of my faults. This is the message that is the pure doctrine of Christ, and it’s never changing. God loves you, and in Christ, so do I.

    Deborah

  10. Cobus Says:

    My comment on retirement was not an attack. I have great respect for older people and retired people, and appreciate the wisdom I receive from so many of them.

    You might wanna run a search on the discussion, cause the first time the word “tacit” appears is in your list of three words about which I bandied. I never used the word. I used explicit only twice, to refer to where I attempted to put my biases on the table. Bias is the only one I’ve used many times.

    You say: “all I intended to do here was discuss the movie Beowulf and somehow it became more of a philosophical debate” – yet it was in your comment number three that the discussion first turned away from Beowulf, Hollywood and history (where is started) and went into theology. At this point you brought in the idea that (true) Christianity never change, that the emerging church is false, and a number of theological positions (one with which I identity, but I’ll leave it to the reader to guess which) was mentioned ended with the phrase: “Anyone who believes any of the above simply has not read the Bible and does not really know God or has ever found God, regardless of whether or not they attend church or whether or not they call themselves Christian. I think I might not have been the one who brought the philosophical stuff in?

    My attempt at guessing biases (which, incidently, was not an attack, but an attempt at finding a way forward, by acknowledging that we simply come with different approaches, which might help us understand each other) might not have been appropriate. Your response which said that your view are exactly that of Jesus kind of made me think I should stop responding, cause how can I debate Jesus?

    Luckily you’ve never hit me under the belt, never gotten personal… no wait, I can think of an instance or two, how about the sentence: “I don’t suppose if you met Jesus face to face you would like Him very much either, for He preached often and prolifically on the pure doctrine of an absolute God. Ouch!!! Not a nice thing for someone searching for Christ to hear! But I guess it was said in love?

    Was this sarcastic?
    Yes it was.

    Because sarcasm is the lowest form of wit?
    Probably.

    Did I think what I was writing?
    Yes… No, … I don’t know.

    So what happens now?
    You’ll probably reply.

    Is that what I want to happen?
    mmm… yes, I think so.

    But why?
    Maybe because I hope that one more person can believe that I, and many others like me, are seriously searching for God, attempting to live in the way of Jesus, although I (we?), don’t buy the whole infallibility of Scripture idea, don’t buy the idea that anyone know pure doctrine, and don’t buy the idea that anyone can interpret the words of Jesus without looking into their own biases.

    I think this might have been my longest comment yet. I hope I don’t comment this long again…

  11. Deb Says:

    Cobus:

    Your last post was rude and not becoming of any preacher I know. Everything I said in all my posts to you were true, fair, and right on target, especially the one that caused you to say “Ouch!” For sure, it wasn’t below the belt, for I made sure you saw it coming.

    Just now, I was about ready to let you have it verbally, much like Jesus did with the Pharisees when He called them a bunch of vipers, but then I re-read your last paragraph where you state you are “seriously searching for God.”

    It was then the Lord made me step back and take a deep breath. From my perspective, you are not searching for God, you are tearing Him apart. You want to accept that part of Scripture that doesn’t disturb your biases and reject everything else, especially the spiritual aspects of Christ’s God nature.

    I have a question – maybe two. If you are still searching for God, for the Lord, what are you doing in a leadership role in your church? Perhaps I was mistaken, but from your posts, it sounds like you work as a leader in a church. How can you lead others to Christ, if you don’t really know Him?

    The pure doctrine of Christ is presented to you in the Word of God, in the Holy Scriptures. To reject any part of the Word is to reject Christ – to reject God. If you are truly searching for God, then my suggestion to you is to get rid of all those sources that have snared you and enslave you. Stop reading all religious materials and books, at least for a little while. Clear your mind of these preconceived notions you have of Christianity, religiosity, and all the rest. Then, sit down and study the Bible for yourself, setting aside all bias you have toward Christianity. Contemplate on the truth that is in the Word of God instead of trying to find reasons for not believing it. You will never find God if you don’t believe what the Holy Scriptures tell you.

    If you really want to be successful in your search, then study the Scriptures without any preconceived notions, and I would most definitely recommend the King James Version. Don’t rely on man’s interpretation of what God wants you to know. For sure, you won’t find the Lord if you continue your search with only an historical perspective of Jesus in mind. God is pure spirit. He came to earth in the form of a man so that we could comprehend His love for us. My advice to you is to stop searching so hard and turn around. The Lord is right there, standing next to you. But, He will never coerce you to reach out to Him. That’s entirely up to you. That’s your free choice.

    And that’s my word on it.

    May you find the grace of Jesus Christ in your life,

    Deborah

  12. Cobus Says:

    Did you forget to say whether you agree with paragraph 2 and 3 of my previous comment? (one change, it was in the third comment of the discussion, your second comment, when the discussion made the turn)

    Looks like my comment for today can rest with three question:
    1 – Are you 100% sure that everything you said (and with that everything you believe) are true, fair, and right on target?
    2 – Why the King James Version?
    3 – Which paragraphs of my previous post was rude, and why?

    Your questions as to my leadership role I will answer in a post within a week. I hope you will find that acceptable. In this post I will quote what I’ve said about my search for God, and your response. I have two reasons for this:
    1 – It brought a post into my head, and bloggers love to write posts
    2 – (this one I think you will appreciate more) No-one will ever read what I’ve written here. If I write a post, then my church, denomination and friends would know about all this.

  13. Deb Says:

    Cobus,

    How old are you?

    Deborah

  14. Deb Says:

    Cobus,

    From your last post, I would have guessed 12.

    Why the King James Version? Because I’m a writer, and it is one of the most beautiful all-time classics in Literature. But, even more, it has stood the test of time as being the greatest English translation of the Bible.

    “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity [love].” (1Co 13:11-13 KJV)

    Deborah

  15. Cobus Says:

    Does my age provide reason why no response to my questions is found? Or was the question about my age the answer to my questions?

    Would the KJV be the best for those who are not native English speakers? English is my second language. Would Die Nuwe Afrikaans work? Or how about Nestlé-Aland 27?

  16. Deb Says:

    Cobus:

    Regarding your first question in this last post: No, my question was rhetorical and pertained to the appropriateness and maturity level of your questions.

    Regarding the KJV: I’m sure any authorized version of the Bible you choose would be appropriate for your intents and purposes.

    Thought for the Day: If my one small comment out of all these posts made you yell “Ouch,” perhaps you should read Matthew 23: 23-38. There we learn the Lord Jesus was really good at providing the “Ouch” factor to those who were relentless in wanting to eradicate the truth of His gospel. It’s about the “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel” syndrome.

    Bible verse for the day:

    “…Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (Jam 4:10 KJV)

    Deborah

  17. cobus Says:

    Thus, if I understand you correctly, the maturity level of my questions is the reason why they don’t deserve response? Is this the same Deborah which said:
    I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a fight in a ring, but, sometimes, when one fellow is losing, he starts taking unfair punches, like hitting below the belt. Likewise, when two people are debating an issue and one doesn’t have a good response, sometimes that person will start attacking the other individual on a personal basis, instead of sticking to the issues. This is what you’ve done in these last two posts.

    The entire subject matter of your last post was to attack me instead of addressing the issues. What? Now you attack me because I’m an old woman who is retired?

    If a question like: “Where was I rude?” is immature, what remain to be asked? Especially since questions of philosophical nature is not acceptable either?

    Maybe I should ask: What is the pure doctrine of Christ? But then again, would I not recieve only your opinion? What if the Catholic church differ from you? I mean, they are more than half the Christians in the world! And which of the church fathers’ interpretation would you follow? Augustine? Tertulian? Chrysostom? I mean, they differed among each other? Or maybe we should skip the church fathers altogether? Maybe the answers you find should be the only ones I consider valueble? Maybe your interpretation of the Biblical texts is the only correct one?

    Let’s see if we can find some common ground. You’ve studied the Bible for over 30 years, and have written a theological book. Which version of the Hebrew and Greek texts would you say should one use?

  18. cobus Says:

    Oh, and I’m sorry for taking so long to reply, had some computer problems


  19. […] about “Emerging heresy” came out, I was having a conversation with Deborah on my Beowulf post. Early on in the conversation Deborah said: Be wary of the Emerging Christian doctrine that you […]

  20. Deb Says:

    Cobus:

    Here’s another one of those looong posts.

    You’ve made some mighty big leaps of assumption here in your “take” on what I’m saying. So, the answer is no, you don’t understand me correctly. If you truly want to continue our conversations, may I suggest you settle down and take assessment of what we have already discussed instead of fidgeting and fuming. It’s very difficult to understand where you’re coming from on issues or even follow your train of thought if you don’t relate them in a clear and comprehensive manner. And, personally attacking me and nit-picking is unproductive.

    In this last post, you are still on the attack. You are neither discussing nor debating issues. My analogy of the fighter in the ring still holds. It was a strong illustration of what is going on here and very apropos. You’re still in the fighter’s ring, and it would appear you are throwing a series of wild punches, hoping one will hit its mark. That is not indicative of a good fighter or one who is thinking clearly. The analogy is a valid one.

    Now, I will try to answer your questions in this last post as best I can, but not necessarily in order.

    On the question of rudeness: You had already said you were being “sarcastic” (i.e. derisive, mocking, sardonic) in your posts, so you know you were being rude. What did you call it? The “lowest form of wit”? Call it what you like – ill-mannered, inappropriate, impolite, indecorous. Hopefully, that’s enough said on that one question. You can either apologize or not.

    I never said “questions of a philosophical nature” were “not allowed.” You just keeping throwing out a bunch of subjects that seem to have no context (like the Hebrew/Greek text question), and it’s very difficult to comment when you’re not clear or when there is no context to what you’re bringing to the discussion.

    Regarding Hebrew and Greek texts: I could not follow your train of thought here. I don’t see the pertinent aspect of the question in the context of our discussion. Are you well-versed in these languages and want to discuss specific passages of translation? And, what about Latin? If you could expound more on your thinking as to how this fits into this discussion and give me more specifics, perhaps I could then comment.

    Regarding the church fathers: Have we discussed any church fathers? You certainly are good at making assumptions on my opinions – especially when no reference has been made and I’ve never opined on the subject. This is a very broad topic, for it could pertain to centuries of church history. Unless you can bring something specific on this subject into context, perhaps it would be best to skip it. (It appears my word for the day is “context.”)

    Regarding the Catholic Church: Again, I don’t know how this fits in our discussion, but I will try to answer it from my perspective. There are well over 2 billion Christians in this world and something like one billion are Catholic. Keep in mind I am not Catholic, so I do not have an intimate knowledge of the Catholic belief system. In my circle of friends and acquaintances, however, I know many Catholics who have received grace, for it is evident in their lives [fruits of the spirit, you know (Gal 5:22-23)].

    There are probably many things I personally would disagree on regarding Catholic traditions and rituals (i.e. the emphasis they put on the Pope, Mother Mary, and saints, as well as the requirement that priests and nuns not marry, confession, their overuse of rituals, their notion that they are the only true faith, infant baptism, their use of statues, etc.).

    All that said, those are traditions, rituals, and requirements of the Catholic Church. Even with all that (what I call stuff and nonsense), underneath it all, they still hold to the tenets that are the pure doctrine of Christ, as outlined in the Nicene Creed. To me, the Catholic Church is simply too authoritarian in nature, which I believe is the root cause for many of the major Church problems that we see.

    Now, there are some who would argue that, i.e. they put the Pope and Mother Mary ahead of Christ, they worship the saints to a certain degree, there is outlandish sexual abuse within the priesthood, etc.). Yes, they have their problems and major ones at that. But, the Lord will sort it all out in His time. I’m not the judge and don’t even pretend to be. Meanwhile, like I say, I’ve met many wonderful Catholics full of grace and love who have done great works in the name of Christ.

    I watched the Pope’s visit to America on TV and thoroughly enjoyed it. He seems to be a fine Christian gentleman who is gracious and well-spoken. If I were ever to have an audience with him (a most unlikely possibility), I don’t think I would choose to kiss his ring, but I most definitely respect him, particularly for his pro-life position.

    Yes, the Catholic Church has a dark history, but it also has produced a lot of good in this world, and some of that darkness has spilled over into today’s Church. And, if you study that same dark history, you can see where they were punished severely by God for their misdeeds and misuse of power. For centuries, they were the one Universal Church. In the early 1800s, however, they lost this status, along with a great majority of their lands, wealth, and power.

    At one time, the Pope was ruler over numerous kings and vast monarchies that made up the Holy Roman Empire, an empire that made its predecessor, the Roman Empire, pale in comparison. For centuries, the many and varying popes made decisions that could raise up or destroy great kingdoms, for they held sway over those kingdoms. Not so today. The one who holds that office is merely an advisor to world leaders and a very distant one at that and a spiritual figurehead to the Church. The office of the papacy has been put in its place, so to speak, and the one who holds that position is only one leader of one Christian denomination among seven major denominations and thousands of their offshoots.

    Regarding the pure doctrine of Christ: I’ve already covered that question rather thoroughly. If you would like to re-read my post on that and ask questions regarding what I’ve already stated, perhaps that would be a starting point to get us back on track of a congenial discussion. Perhaps you can also tell me what part you agree with and what part you disagree with. That way, I will know where you’re coming from. Does that sound agreeable to you?

    And no, you didn’t receive “my opinion” on it. I don’t see where I have stated my opinion regarding the pure doctrine of Christ anywhere in these posts. I’ve attempted to define for you what the true doctrine is in the best way I know how. For sure, Christ’s doctrine is not subjective nor is it open for anyone’s interpretation – mine, yours, or the Pope himself. It is what it is, whether one is Catholic, Protestant, agnostic, atheistic, cultist, or pagan. The pure doctrine of Christ does not change, and it certainly does not depend upon my interpretation or yours. It is the absolute standard of the Perfect Truth with a form, substance, and structure all its own, independent of anyone’s conception, perception, or belief system. It comes directly from God and is not man’s perception of God.

    Just because some people’s perceptions are skewed regarding the pure doctrine of Christ and of Who the One True God of the Universe is, doesn’t mean that there aren’t people in this world who can actually comprehend this spiritual reality.

    Which brings to mind another subject. Among His children, the Lord does allow for differences. All the seven major Christian denominations are places where we can find Christ and will be able to until the “falling away.” The fact is, none were ever perfect and never will ever be here on this earth, for they are institutions made up of man. All we have to do is read about the seven churches in Revelation to know that. (See Chapters One through Three). The Lord had issues with the churches even back then.

    Revelation also tells us what happens to those who would take away or add to the Holy Scriptures, which, most definitely, refers to keeping the tenets of the pure doctrine that is Christ. Regardless of our varying traditions and rituals, the churches must hold to that doctrine, never varying. The consequences according to Scripture are dire and very specific if they do not, for both the individual and the church (See Rev 22:18-19). This passage leaves no room for interpretation. Thus, it is up to each Christian individual in their own way to ensure the pure doctrine of Christ remains as the centerpiece of their own personal faith, never veering off the straight and narrow path that leads to the Lord.

    When I gave you Paul’s passage on “through a glass darkly,” I made an assumption (Heaven forbid) that with your background, you understood the meaning of the passage and what he was talking about. For sure, quite a bit has been written on that passage throughout time. It’s one of my favorites. Perhaps that’s because it reminds me that we are all little children in God’s eyes, even in our old age. As we go through life, we are the ones who are ever-changing and ever-learning, not the All Mighty, for He never changes.

    While we’re here on this earth, Paul tells us, we can only know “in part.” It takes faith, not our minds or intellect, to continue in the doctrine of Christ, with the sustaining hope that at the end, we will meet Christ face to face and spend eternity with Him. Meanwhile, along the way, we are to share the gospel of Christ with others when we can, as well as to treat others with kindness, caring, and love.

    “Care and share” – that is the underlying theme of Christianity, but with one qualification and that is to do it all in the name of Christ and for Christ and as ordained by Christ. For sure, we should not attempt it for our own puffed up, selfish purposes and not in the name of activism or socialism or any other “ism.” If you think the One True God of the Universe can be anything you want Him to be, then you miss the mark entirely. The pure doctrine of Christ as laid out in the Holy Scriptures defines exactly Who He is and How He has manifested Himself in All Three Personages so that there can be no doubt in Whom the true Christian worships.

    Jesus says in Revelation:

    “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. . .He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Rev 3:20,22)

    That’s my common ground. What’s yours?

    Sincerely in the Love of Christ,

    Deborah

  21. Cobus Says:

    Again, a lot of questions. You mentioned The Revelation to John; 7 is such an important number in that book. I have 7 questions (or groups of questions).

    1) i must say, i had a much more positive experience when reading the last comment, there was a lot about which I think we could agree, especially when you talked about those from other churches also being “in” rather than “out” (if I can use those terms). For interest sake though, which are the 7 denominations that you divide the church into? I’ve seen many divisions, but can’t seem to figure out what the 7 would be (I’ve wondered about this the first time you mentioned this, but forgot to ask).

    2) Why all the mention of different texts, church fathers, translations etc etc? They all ask one question: Which pure doctrine? OK, I don’t really expect an answer to this one, but I believe it needs to be asked again and again in order to attempt finding a way forward (if you read my post on heresy, and the posts to which I linked, you should notice that I find is very important to find a way forward in this conversation).

    3) You work on literature; in literature, is it not so that every summary is an interpretation? That every translation is also an interpretation? Do I not summarize a book in a certain way because I interpreted it in a certain way?

    4) If context was the word of the previous comment, the question might be, did the context in which the Nicene creed, the Apostles creed (and don’t forget the Creed of Athanasius, which was accepted by the church as being on the same level as the two previously mentioned creeds) play any role in what was chosen to be emphasized? Did the context of the different writers in the Bible play any role in what they chose to emphasize?

    5) I reread everything you said on the pure doctrine. A few things seem to be clear (correct me if I’m wrong):
    – It can be found in the Nicene and Apostles Creed (4/15; 1:17 AM)
    – It’s about an absolute God (4/16; 7:05 PM)
    – It has something to do with love (4/16 p:05 PM) – although reading and re-reading it, I’m not exactly sure is you said that it’s about the two commandments about love, or about the fact that “God loves you”. Maybe it’s both
    – It is presented in the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures (4/17; 12:27 AM)
    – It has a lot to do with God being three persons (4/21; 9:31 PM)
    Did I get it right?

    I generally agree with this (although I cannot find the place where Jesus preach about an absolute God, but I’m using a new concordance, so maybe I just don’t know how to use it).

    6) But this do open up some questions in me:
    Are the creeds on the same level as the Bible?
    If the Nicene creed is the pure doctrine, why the need for the Apostles creed? Did God forget something when whispering the pure doctrine of the Nicene Creed?
    I know many people who dedicated their lives to studying the “Word of God”, the “Holy Scriptures”, or as I prefer to call it, the Bible; if they were to differ from you, would that mean that they are missing the “pure doctrine”?
    The idea of “One God three persons” is not found in the New Testament, although it can be interpreted in such a way, but cannot an interpretation like: “One God revealing God-self in three different ways”, also be interpreted from the Bible?

    I think Philippians 2:11 (which is quite possibly the oldest part of the New Testament, since this seem to be a pre-Pauline hymn) give a good common ground from which to work from: “Jesus Christ is God”.

    If the following two points can be avoided I think a conversation might be possible:
    1. The idea that I have the pure doctrine and you don’t
    2. The idea that you have the pure doctrine and I don’t
    7) Is that possible?

  22. Deb Says:

    Cobus,

    I’m glad you feel more positive about my last post. In your last post were some good questions. I will be more than happy to answer them as best I can. But, you’re making me do all the work here. Please tell me about your beliefs. What is the doctrines you follow? What is your denomination?

    I won’t be able to post right away. My nephew had some complications in surgery and I am occupied with family matters at the moment.

    I almost have my reply completed, but will have to post later this evening or tomorrow.

    Deborah

  23. Cobus Says:

    Deborah

    OK, here goes…

    I’m Dutch Reformed. I’m part of the church that condoned Apartheid in the 50’s-80’s (or actually, since about 1850 till 1986, and with many individuals even later). My dad is a minister in the Swaziland Reformed Church, a small Reformed church among the Swazi people. I was trained at the theological faculty at Pretoria, let’s say that we have a lot of respect for a place like Princeton Theological Seminary.
    Asking a tree what kind of car it is, is similar to asking a postmodern what doctrines he follow:-) Does Philippians 2:11 provide a sufficient answer?
    Officially our church use the Nicene creed, Apostles creed and the creed of Athanasius, as well as the three Reformed creeds (can’t think of the English names now, but it’s Dordt and those stuff). I wouldn’t mind also signing Belhar. Actually, I wouldn’t mind signing Barmen, 39 Articles, or any of those. Creeds tell me more about the tradition within which I stand than about doctrines I should slavishly believe. I won’t mind differing from the creeds if I find them differing from the Bible. I consider them very important summaries of theology, written within specific contexts.

    OK, let’s try:
    I believe that Jesus was the best revelation of God.
    I believe that we should turn primarily to the Bible when searching for how we are to think about God.
    I believe that we will forever be formed in our thinking about God, and this happen primarily in community.

    Although I’ve already stressed the importance of the Bible, I also know that there is a wide variety of interpretations available, and people don’t seem to agree. Sadly this mean that the fact that I’m very very serious about exegesis doesn’t mean a thing anymore. Therefore I’ll open myself up for critique by saying which contemporary theologians I like. I like reading Brueggemann on the Old Testament. I like the work of the Biblical Social Values school (Pilch and Malina), I like reading NT Wright and Crossan. I like what I’ve read from Moltmann and Bonhoeffer. I absolutely love the work of the South African theologian (who died an untimely death in 1992) David Bosch, and will be doing my current post-graduate research on his work. And yes, I also like the emerging church conversation, more in how it gets expressed in blogs than books I think.

    This is a lot about me actually…

    Know that you and your family are in my prayers in this time.

    Cobus

  24. Deb Says:

    Cobus,

    Thank you so much for your prayers. My nephew is still in intensive care, but doing much better now. He went in for a minor procedure for his sleep apnea and had major life-threatening complications. The doctors are still trying to sort it all out. He stopped breathing for 3-5 minutes. Thank the Lord, all tests so far indicate no permanent damage was done during this time.

    I enjoyed your last post. I had written most of my last post before I read this one from you. I won’t post it at this time, for I’m not quite finished with it, but I tried to answer the questions you asked to the best of my ability, and I will post it. Meanwhile, here are some thoughts on what you wrote last.

    Regarding your last paragraph of this post: Don’t worry, I would never attempt to critique you on any of that. It sounds like you are very well read. You are interested in things that are way beyond me, and I applaud you for your interests and for your search. I’ll have to read up on some of those fellows, especially your favorite David Bosch. Are you planning on becoming a minister? Your father should be very proud to know you want to follow in his footsteps. Do you two agree on your theology?

    It sounds like you have had a very interesting life. By the way, do you play golf? I don’t, but my youngest son does, so sometimes I find myself watching golf to keep up. Did you see where one of your countrymen won the Masters in Augusta recently? Ernie Els, another South African, is my favorite golfer. He was there, but he didn’t make the cut.

    But, I digress. Here are my thoughts on your post.

    You sure have read up on a lot of creeds. Now, I think I understand what you meant by “summary” in your other posts. You were most likely talking about creeds, yes? I wasn’t familiar with these other creeds until you mentioned them here. After a cursory re-read of the Athanasius Creed (this one, I’m somewhat familiar with), it would appear to back up both the Nicene and Apostles Creeds, with much emphasis on explaining the concept of the Trinity according to the Holy Scriptures, a brief summary regarding salvation, and a big emphasis on heaven and hell. It is not as complete a summary of the doctrine as either the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed, but it is a good addition or supplement for reading purposes to more clearly define the Trinity. I imagine that’s how the churches incorporate it into their tenets. I’m only aware of Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans that do this, and I guess your reformed church. But, I’m sure you know much more about it than I do.

    This creed, however, as you probably already know, is not in the forefront of all the denominations like the Nicene and Apostles Creeds are. Its source was never authenticated, and the evidence is pretty overwhelming that St. Athanasius didn’t write it. But, all that has to do with its source, not necessarily its content. It explains the concept of the Trinity in great detail as a guard against the idea of polytheism. That’s a good thing.

    Regarding Dordt, Belhar, and Barmen, again, I’m not familiar with them, mainly because they are more central to Germany and South Africa’s political climates. After a cursory read, I would not see them as creeds, but more political viewpoints established from the need to clarify theological doctrine regarding apartheid. But, it was a quick read. Would I be right in thinking that? I can see where it would be most important to you in your part of the world. I empathize with your concerns, for it is a complex subject matter.

    Regarding the Nicene and Apostle Creeds, the whole point is that they are an integral part of the mainstream denominations simply for the reason they are both representative of the pure doctrine of Christ. They summarize the doctrine very well, and their differences are minimal. One is representative of Catholicism and one of Protestantism. These two creeds are much more than “tradition” and most definitely clarify the pure doctrine of Christ that is found in the Holy Bible. They do not expand upon doctrine, adding to or taking away from the Word and are quite definitive of the Christian belief system that is based upon the Holy Bible. By the way, I would not consider it “slavish” to follow them. I think a better word would be “prudent” to follow them.

    These two creeds embody the standards for all Christian faith and outline those things in which we must believe and do in order to be saved. This includes the concept of the Trinity and Jesus as God in the flesh come to earth to save us. I’m not saying worship these Creeds and don’t read the Bible or that one must understand everything that is referred to in the Creeds before one is saved. No. What I’m saying is that the material in these two Creeds uplifts the Word and underlines its precepts. They are the headline of the true story of the one true faith.

    Either of these two creeds can stand alone in summarizing the doctrine of Christ, but it takes studying the Word itself in order to receive the meat that is the pure doctrine. Like the newspaper headline, the Creeds whet your appetite for reading the Word of God. They are also a guide to what we want to look for (and will find) in the Scriptures. Most importantly, the authenticity of the Nicene and Apostles Creeds are backed up by the Bible. Only after a full course of study in the Word can one say whether or not they believe and fully accept the Creeds as representative of the Lord’s pure doctrine. It’s where “you put the petal to the metal” and “where the rubber hits the road” as Smokey the Bandit would say. It’s when the Christian that was drinking milk matures enough to eat the meat is the way Paul described it.

    All that said, even a child can believe in Jesus and “know” him in the Spirit well enough to be saved. Then, as that child grows in the Word, he will eventually be able to verbalize and understand those things he already knows in the Spirit. Most Christians, whether they were saved as a child or an adult, when they think back, they knew the Lord in the Spirit long before they could verbalize and understand through the thinking process or could even begin to understand the doctrinal concepts.

    That’s why I say it’s not a good thing to try to intellectualize Christianity. I can’t say it enough. Christian belief is a heart thing, not a mind thing. Sometimes people confuse it with feelings and emotions. But, it’s not that either. I’ve known people with only 8th grade educations who know and are able to teach more about the pure doctrine of Christ than ministers with PhDs in theology. I once heard a teenager with Down’s syndrome sing hymns with a purity and clarity of the words that was absolutely divine. And, afterwards, she shouted out how much she loved Jesus. I’ve seen a baby jump in a mother’s womb at the sound of Jesus’ name, not once, but numerous times as the mother and I sat talking. There are things of the Spirit that are unexplainable to the ordinary human mind.

    Once we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are given the spiritual understanding we need, no matter what condition of our bodies and minds are in life. The Bible tells us: “The fear [respect] of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Pro 1:7). Perhaps that’s what you are meaning by “searching for God.” A true Christian doesn’t pretend to be the end all of knowledge. We just know where the well is located that will quench one’s thirst, and we send those who ask there to the eternal spring.

    A search for understanding is lifelong, but first the Lord must already be in your life and you must have already turned your life over to Him – if you’re a true Christian. If you’re still looking for God, “searching” for God well. . .how can you teach about something you know nothing about? We all search for knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures, but Jesus is the end of the line in our search for God. He is our everything, for He is God manifested in the flesh for us to know and love. Why make something that is so simple complicated?

    You said: “I believe that Jesus was the best revelation of God.”

    The use of the word “best” infers you might think there are others who are also revelations of God? If that were the case, who would those be? Revelation is an abstract concept. It is not a person. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ was and is a Person, both as man and as God. When He came to earth, He was the manifestation, the form of God in the flesh, the only one ever to come to earth, the only begotten Son of God according to John 3:16. That said, the Lord Jesus has always existed in the Second Person of the Godhead, as Eternal Son. From that perspective of doctrine, I’m not understanding your description, “best revelation.” If someone would call you a chair or a table every time you entered a room and did not acknowledge you, would you not be offended? There is a difference between a person, place, thing or abstract concept. If you will, expand on this revelation thing for me.

    To simplify, perhaps you can answer this question: Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God, the Creator of the Universe, Who came in the flesh? Do you believe in the concept of the Trinity as laid out in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds? Yes or No to both of these questions would suffice. Knowing this will help greatly in this discussion. We have expressions here in America, like “Cut to the chase” and “Don’t go ‘round the mulberry bush.” It’s just that I’m not understanding your terminology at times. That’s probably your “group talk.” I like the simple language. I have never liked jargon per se. That’s the English teacher in me. I like clarity in language. I don’t know what postmodernism or post-Christendom is exactly. It’s “Greek” to me. J

    You said: “I believe that we should turn primarily to the Bible when searching for how we are to think about God.”

    That’s a pretty good statement, I think, except for the “primarily” part and the “thinking” part and the “searching” part. All of this sounds like subjective, relativistic thinking to me. For Christians, the question would be more at: “How does one interact with the Lord?” Do you have an upclose and personal relationship with Him? That would require “knowing” Him, not only through the Word, but also through prayer and through your own personal experiences in life. That would also negate “searching” for Him. Or, perhaps you think of Him only as distant and far off and almost out of reach? One that you pray to and ask requests of, but One Who does not concern Himself with your daily life? Then, you might have to go on a search or maybe a pilgrimage in order to locate Him.

    What is that existential cliché: “I think; therefore I am.” The fact is there is a lot more to human form and human ideas than “thinking” them. So much more went into creating the brain and housing the brain that produces the thought and gives you the ability to convey the thought in the first place. The mind is God’s gift to mankind. It is not the end all and be all of our existence, for there is something that is beyond the physical, and beyond the mind, for God is pure Spirit.

    With that said, here is the reason I believe the word “primarily” kind of negates your “thinking” statement. Relativism says we make God up ourselves by thinking what we want Him to be. But, those who “think” that way don’t take into consideration that thinking is a process that takes place only in your mind. The mind for anyone is a place that is very ego-centered. It processes thoughts, especially abstract thoughts, through the filters of perspective. Sometimes, that perspective can include bias. You notice I said sometimes. That is the natural inclination.

    In contrast, God describes Himself this way: “I AM that I AM.” There is no thinking about it. He didn’t say: “I AM Who or what you think I AM.” Simply put, He is what He is regardless of what you or I think. Accept Him or reject Him for what He is, but don’t try to recreate Him into what your mind can accept. Yes, you can “create” Him in your imagination any way you want, but that doesn’t mean what you have will be the reality or even close to the reality that is God. Again, all this goes back to intellectualizing faith when that is an impossibility.

    You can’t intellectualize God. Thinking Him to be what you want Him to be is unrealistic and not based on fact or reason, but on feelings and perceptions. Today you may think Him to be one way, and tomorrow, it will be cloudy or something will happen and you will think Him to be another way. Or, someone will say: “I think God is a tree” and you like the idea, so you start picturing Him as a giant Oak. But, He is not an oak, for He is pure Spirit. The bottom line is, according to the Scriptures, believing what the Word of God tells you makes you acceptable to Him, and that’s what’s most important when it comes to having a knowledge and a relationship with God. He is real. He exists outside of your mind. He is pure Spirit with form and substance.

    Think about this. Your mind can be trained to accept facts and discount fallacies through what is called “logical reasoning.” The Word of God is the ultimate training ground in logical reasoning. If, however, a person continues along the line of relativism by picking and choosing what they will believe in the Bible, they can become very narrow-minded and not able to see the big picture and sometimes lose the distinction of what’s real and what’s perceived. Then, they will be susceptible to believing whatever comes along.

    I have a feeling you’re going to want to jump on the above thought, but step back and think about it first. I’m not talking about my doctrine versus your doctrine. I’m simply discussing how the thinking process works. If you would, please tell me what part of this you agree with before you tell me what part you disagree with. Analyze my statements and tell me which ones you think are false and why. But, if you find all my statements to be true in the above analysis without nitpicking or rationalizing them away, then my conclusion must be true. That is not according to me, but according to the science of Logic.

    You said: “I believe that we will forever be formed in our thinking about God, and this happen primarily in community.”

    For sure, “forever” is a long time. Are you saying this is how one finds eternal life through community? Again, are you into the “thinking” mode of existentialism and/or relativism instead of being actively involved in relationship-building with your God? All that sounds good. After all, “Faith without works is dead,” James tells us. But, he never said works would get us into heaven, into “forever,” did he? And, if we study the Book of James, we find he agreed that salvation was by justification of faith alone, just like Paul did. No works are involved in the salvation process. Salvation is a free gift only given to us by Jesus and that is by His grace (Rom 5:18).

    So, how does one’s relationship “happen primarily in the community”? Wait a minute, I think I see where you’re coming from. It’s in the community where we are socially active in working with the poor, fighting injustices, etc. Yes? Thus, it’s through our activism that we will “be formed” regarding “our thinking about God.” Therefore, is it your conclusion that it is through works in the community in how we receive our salvation? This sounds awful akin to the “works” doctrine or the New Age idea of “self-redemption.” Is that what you meant?

    Keep in mind, this is opposite from what we learn from men of God in the Bible. Abraham was commanded by God to leave his country, his community and set out to an unknown land. Moses was taken out of both his Egyptian and Hebrew communities by God and sent to a far land for a goodly number of years while the Lord prepared him to lead his people out of Egypt. Joseph was tossed out of his community and wasn’t reunited with his family for 17 years. John the Baptist went out into the wilderness to prepare for his ministry and lived a solitary life, much like a wild man. And, Jesus Himself spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness preparing for His ministry. And, when He returned, the little community in which He grew up rejected Him and in the final analysis, all of Judah rejected Him. This was the reason He was crucified.

    What was it these men including God the Son all have in common regarding these periods of separation and solitude? They were being prepared for divine purposes, not purposes of men. And, once they returned, they did not waver in the purpose for which they were sent. Why? One reason was that they had been grounded in God’s doctrine without undue influence and interference from the community during this period of solitude. Their preparation time gave them focus, knowledge of purpose, and determination. Qualities they could not attain within the community.

    That’s why sometimes we must put aside all the distractions of this world in order to realize what our true Godly purpose is. We must all spend time in separation and solitude in order to “hear” God. You must first become absorbed and grounded in Biblical doctrine, the pure doctrine of Christ and in what God wills in your life, and then you will know where you will best serve your community. Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Knowledge of the pure doctrine that is Christ or community works, i.e. social activism? Which is more important? Should we lean toward service more than share the doctrine that is Christ? What do you think?

    Let me ask another question. What if you go into an indigent community that has dire needs and help them build hospitals, quality housing, water works, electric plants, and teach them to grow produce to not only eat, but also to buy and sell? All these are wonderful things to do. Very biblical, yes? The more successful you were at helping these people with their physical needs, the more the Lord looked down on you and smiled.

    The community loved you. They came to the church you built to worship on Sunday morning and to sing hymns. You have social activities and teach them what you know, but you don’t want to be too doctrinal, for they still have their own culture. You want to respect their culture so you neglect doctrine. You feel so good about the good you are accomplishing in the physical that you question if teaching doctrine is really that necessary. Thus, you don’t teach them Who God is. Maybe you don’t know yourself for you are still searching. You tell them about Jesus, but only as a good story that has life skill values. You don’t show them the true way, the only way to salvation and eternal life.

    Still, all is going well. But, then, one day, tragedy strikes. A bunch of marauding warriors from another district comes through raping and killing and destroying everything in sight. They wipe out most of the community and pillage the homes. There is great wailing. Those left alive are inconsolable. You have done so much to improve these people’s lives, but you neglected the most important thing of all. You’ve neglected to share with them the true Gospel that is Christ, for you didn’t even know it yourself or you thought it of lesser importance than your social work. Now, almost all the village has died without knowing the true Gospel. This would have given them comfort in these horrific times, knowing that their loved ones were in heaven, knowing that the Lord is with them even in the hardest and most difficult of times. But, there is no hope in these people’s lives without the knowledge of the Saviour. They are even worse off than they were before you came into their lives. After such tragedy, their hearts are hardened. If only you had shared the Gospel with them when their hearts had been made soft and pliable with your good works. If only. . . Sad to say, the consequences of such actions are eternal. There’s a similar story we find in Job. Job knew the Lord. His friends did not, and it was with great difficulty for them to understand his point of view.

    The advice is to secure the vessel first before taking off into the high seas on a rescue mission. On every flight, airline staff tells mothers to secure their own oxygen supply before they attempt to put the mask on their babies and children. Why? Because they may pass out before the can do either and both will perish. Social activism is wonderful, but physical life is temporal. Salvation is eternal life in heaven. Without Christ, there is no salvation. Preaching the Gospel and helping others should go hand in hand one with the other. That’s what Jesus taught. When He made sure the 4000 and the 5000 were fed with the loaves and fishes, what were the people doing there? They had come to hear the Gospel of Christ, the salvation message. Jesus made sure to feed both their spirits and their bodies.

    Remember too, when the woman anointed Him with expensive oil and a couple of the disciples complained that the money should go to the poor. Jesus told them: “. . .Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always (Mat 26:10-11). You know the rest of the story. Jesus prophesied the good thing the woman did would be told wherever the Gospel was taken as a memorial to her. And, it is to this very day because everywhere there is a preacher of the Gospel, the preacher takes a Bible, and the woman’s story is within the pages of that Bible, waiting to be told. I prefer to follow the One Whose word is just as true today as it was lo, those 2000+ years ago. I prefer to follow Jesus and His pure doctrine, not someone else’s version or pick and choose what I like from the Scriptures. Jesus was and is an “all or nothing at all” kind of guy. I like that, for I always know where I stand with Him. I also know He is always standing with me. Just a thought.

    Again, thank you so much for your prayers. I look forward to your reply.

    Deborah

  25. tiaan Says:

    Okay, so hier by ‘n derde van die woordewisseling het ek bored geraak, maar hahaha! Die vrou probeer REGTIG HARD om ‘n BAIE BESLISTE statement te maak, of hoe? Ek sou haar lankal geignore het. Sy is die tipe waarteen Salomo gewaarsku het – daai wie se gekyf is soos ‘n dak wat lek…
    B-)

  26. Cobus Says:

    OK… where to start…
    Since the reply’s to the questions are still coming, I’m not going back to them for now.

    The creeds. You are correct that Belhar has to do with Apartheid. Barmen, however, more with Nazism, Dordt I can’t remember everything about, it’s 17th century Roman Catholic-Protentant debates, or something in that line. There is a lot of politics in the creeds. See also for example the well-known (in Reformed circles) Dutch Confession of Faith. But first, a story…

    In 312 Constantine, so the story goes, had the dream that he must fight under the symbol of the cross. He did this, and won, and became emperor, and also a Christian. A weird Christian he was thought, for example saying that he was not to be baptised until the last moment before he die, so that he can be clean and without sin.
    In 325, at Constantines castle in Nicea, he got together Christian leaders from all over the world to say what they believe in. Some of them still had the marks of persecution on them. It must have been an amazing day. But instead of these leaders speaking with one mouth, a huge argument broke out.
    Suddenly they realised that saying exactly what they believe wasn’t to easy. But the emperor wanted to know, because he wanted to bind his nation into one under one faith, and the leaders of the faith couldn’t speak out of one mouth.
    Some of the leaders was positive about Constantine, some negative, some had ideas that was more popular, some less. In the end they set up the Nicean creed, and only 2 bishops was excommunicated because they didn’t want to sign it.
    But right after the meeting, it became clear that many more than two didn’t completely agree with the creed, but now it was the official way of waying what we believe…

    That scetch a picture of the meeting which brought us the Nicean creed, probably it was even worse. Should I now raise this creed to the “Word of God”, or even the “pure doctrine of Christ”? Rather, I’d say that I am within this tradition which said these things, for good or for bad, searching for God while listening to those who went before me…

    Just question. Which of the two, Apostles and Nicean, are Protestant and which Catholic? The protestants redieved both from the Catholics, and accepted both. In South Africa we have two Dutch Reformed Churches, both very close to each other theologically. In the one the Apostles creed are read almost always, in the other the Nicean creed are very common.

    On my three points of what I believe and how I formulated them.
    Paul made it clear in the beginning of Romans that there also is other revelations of God, for example nature. That’s why I consider Jesus to be the best, not the only.
    There are other places we can turn to rather than the Bible, like the creeds and the tradition, prayer etc. Thus the Bible is not the only place we go, but the primary place.
    Now one change I might have to make. I made thinking overly important in those three statements, this probably go back to my own personality and spirituality in which thiking is very important.
    So in community we not only learn how to think about God, but also how to experience God, to know God intimately, to live in God’s way.

    On social activism I don’t know what to say. I never mentioned social activism, although this is very important, I didn’t consider this to be good works which would bring us into heaven one day after we day. I’ve never said this, not in this post, nor any other place I can think of. I think Bosch did an excelent job in Witness to the World to show how the two streams, evangelical and ecumenical (used in the world council of churches sense this time, not the way I used it previously), should come together. Which is the same concerns I read in your comment.

    I am aware of the philosophical stream called relativism. I’ve never been comfortable with it, I think it is a philosophical mistake, and doesn’t help us to get anywhere. I’ve wrote about this a long time ago here.

    Your analysis of the human process of thinking I am quite comfortable with I think. Rather than nit-picking on it, I’d like to write something else.

    Is there any ideas or concepts which exist outside the human mind? I do believe that God is not confined to our ideas of God. But I’m not comfortable to say that my words exactly describe God.
    What I hear from you is that the human thought process is a problematic factor, and thus something which need to be bypassed when we learn about God? What I say is that the human thought process is a problematic factor but something which cannot be bypassed and thus need to be complemented by the thought processes and experieces of the community and the tradition when we learn about God.
    I am not against the pure doctrine of Christ, but I simply don’t bite the optimistic idea that some people can read it in an objective way. Therefore the need to remain in community with others, to listen to the tradition, to always be searching for God, because my idea of God always need to still be formed a little more.
    I am a little pressed for time, have two VERY VERY difficult meetings coming up right now, so maybe more on the thinking thing, hopefully my thoughts are getting cleared and cleared as you help me to articulate better.

    And on your two very important question:
    yes and yes

    Tiaan, lees klaar, dit word weer beter iewers, hier mag net dalk iets mooi uitkom


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: