Daily Archives: February 7, 2014

Sources say Israel prepared to give up 90% of West Bank. Here’s the latest in the drip, drip, drip of leaks from the peace process.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

netanyahu-map(Washington, D.C.) — A drip, drip, drip of leaks this week may be giving us a clearer picture of the Mideast peace plan that President Obama and Secretary Kerry are cooking up.

Here’s the latest:

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Questions about Theology: What Is Historical Theology?

 

Historical theology is the study of the development and history of Christian doctrine. As its name implies, historical theology is a study of the development and formation of essential Christian doctrine throughout the history of the New Testament church period. Historical theology can also be defined as the study of how Christians during different historical periods have understood different theological subjects or topics such as the nature of God, the nature of Jesus Christ, the nature and work of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of salvation, etc.

The study of historical theology covers subjects such as the development of creeds and confessions, church councils, and heresies that have arisen and been dealt with throughout church history. A historical theologian studies the development of the essential doctrines that separate Christianity from heresies and cults.

Theologians often break down the study of historical theology into four main periods of time: 1) The Patristic Period from 100–400 AD; 2) The Middle Ages and Renaissance from 500–1500 AD; 3) The Reformation and Post-Reformation Periods from 1500–1750 AD; and 4) The Modern Period from 1750 AD to present day.

The purpose of historical theology is to understand and describe the historical origin of the key doctrines of Christianity and to trace the development of these doctrines over time. It examines how people have understood different doctrines throughout history and attempts to understand the development of the doctrines recognizing how changes within the church have affected different doctrines either for better or worse.

Historical theology and church history are two different yet closely related and important subjects. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to understand church history without also understanding the history of doctrine that often led to different divisions and movements within church history. Understanding the history of theology and doctrine helps us to understand the history of Christianity since the first century and why there are so many different denominations.

The basis for studying historical theology is found in the book of Acts. Luke records the beginning of the Christian Church as he continues in his goal of giving an account of “all that Jesus began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1). The work of Christ did not end with the final chapter of Acts. Indeed Christ is at work today in His church, and that can be seen through the study of historical theology and church history, both of which help us to understand how the biblical doctrines essential to the Christian faith have been recognized and proclaimed throughout church history. Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29–30 to expect “savage wolves” who would teach false doctrine. It is through the study of historical theology that we see just how true Paul’s warning turned out to be as we come to understand how the essential doctrines of the Christian faith have been attacked and defended throughout the more than 2000 years of church history.

Like any area of theology, historical theology is also sometimes used by liberal scholars and non-Christians to cast doubt upon or attack the essential doctrines of the Christian faith as simply being the concoctions of men instead of the divinely revealed biblical truth that they really are. One example of this is in the triune nature of God. The historical theologian will study and trace the development of this doctrine throughout church history knowing that this truth is clearly revealed in Scripture, yet throughout church history there have been times where the doctrine came under attack and thus it was necessary for the church to define and defend the doctrine. The truth of the doctrine comes directly from Scripture; however, the church’s understanding and proclamation of the doctrine has been clarified over the years, often in times when the nature of God had come under attack by those “savage wolves” that Paul warned would come.

Some well-meaning but misguided Christians want to dismiss the importance of historical theology citing the promise that Holy Spirit who indwells all born-again Christians will “guide us to all truth” (John 16:13). What these Christians fail to recognize is that Holy Spirit has indwelt Christians throughout church history, and it is Jesus Christ himself who has given “some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–12). This includes not only those given in this generation but also those whom Christ ordained throughout church history. It is foolish to believe we have no need to learn from many gifted men that preceded us. A correct study and application of historical theology helps us recognize and learn from Christian teachers and leaders from centuries past.

Through the study of church history and historical theology, the born-again Christian is encouraged to see how God has been at work throughout history. In it we see God’s sovereignty over all things displayed and the truth that God’s Word endures forever (Psalm 119:160). Studying historical theology is really nothing more than studying God at work. It also helps remind us of the ever present spiritual battle between Satan and the truth of God’s Word. It shows us from history the many ways and forms that Satan uses to spread false doctrine in the church, just as Paul warned the Ephesian elders.

The study of historical theology and church history also shows that the truth of God’s Word remains triumphant. As we understand the theological battles of the past we can be better prepared to resist the errors that Satan will try to entice us with in the future. If pastors, churches and Christians are not aware of church history and historical theology, then they will be more open to falling prey to the same type of false teachings that Satan has used in the past.

Historical theology, when correctly understood and applied, does not diminish the authority or sufficiency of Scripture. Scripture alone is the standard or all matters of faith and practice. It alone is inspired and efficient. Scripture alone is our authority and guide, but historical theology can help us understand the many dangers of some “new teaching” or novel interpretation of Scripture. With over 2000 years of church history and thousands if not millions of Christians preceding us, shouldn’t we be automatically wary of someone who claims to have a “new explanation” or interpretation of Scripture?

Finally, historical theology can remind us of the ever-present danger of interpreting Scripture in light of the cultural and philosophical assumptions of our times. We see this danger so much today as sin is being redefined as a sickness to be cured by drugs instead of a spiritual condition. We also see it as many denominations leave the clear teaching of Scripture and embrace the cultural acceptance of homosexuality as a lifestyle.

Historical theology is an important aspect of studying theology, but like any other method of studying theology, it is not without its dangers and pitfalls. The challenge for all Christians and for all students of theology is to not force our theological system on the Bible but to always make sure that our theology comes from the Scripture and not some system that might be popular.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Miscellaneous Bible Questions: What Are the Christian Themes in “The Lord of the Rings”?

 

“The Lord of the Rings” series is extremely popular, well-written, and fascinating to millions of readers. With the creation of the movies, the series has reached millions more worldwide. Because the author, J.R.R. Tolkien, professed to be a Christian, many assume “The Lord of the Rings” is Christian-themed or is in some way an allegorical presentation of Christianity.

Typically, when a book or movie is said to contain Christian themes, it centers on a hero who imitates Christ in some behavior or decision. For example, Christ’s death provided atonement for sin, and in this way He redeemed men to Himself. Therefore, a hero in a book or movie who provides atonement for others through self-sacrifice is said to be a “Christ-type” hero. A good example of this would be in the book “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. One character goes to death in the place of another and delivers the famous line “Tis a far, far better thing I do than ever I have done before.” In this hero, Dickens is pointing out a Christian theme—that to be like Christ is the best thing a human can achieve.

Many stories contain Christian ideals or morals, but because many morality tales can be compared to other “moral” religions, a story that is said to be specifically “Christian-themed” must center on a Christ-type hero. Christianity is the only religion that proclaims man to be entirely lost without God’s intervention, and no other religion contains a god who sacrifices his own life for men to redeem them from their lost state. These truths are specific to Christianity.

Now, back to Lord of the Rings. Is there a Christ-type hero in Lord of the Rings? If there is a hero who comes close, it is Samwise. He is indeed a very inspiring character. His selflessness, his devotion to his master, and his strength in resisting evil are all qualities that are seen in true, mature believers in Christ. So, Sam portrays a true Christian. But he is not a Christ-type hero. In the end, he cannot save Frodo from himself. There is a vague sense of Providence that seems to guide Frodo, and an “evil power” that is present. The elves present an atmosphere of spirituality, and Tolkien creates a sort of religion or religious system with the “gods” of Middle Earth, such as Elbereth, Gilthoniel, etc., whom the characters pray to and draw on for strength. All of these things are simply a literary device Tolkien uses to draw the reader in and make Middle Earth seem a real and believable place.

But the Christ-type hero is not present in Lord of the Rings. Even the wizard Gandalf is a guide and teacher, but his character is presented more along the lines of a guru than a Savior. Some might look to Gandalf’s “fall” in the mountains of Moria and consequent glorified return as pointing to Christ’s resurrection, and it is possible that Tolkien had the resurrection in mind while writing that part of the story. The difference between Christ’s resurrection and Gandalf’s is that Gandalf is not in control of what happens to him. The reader gets the impression that Gandalf is almost as surprised to be back in Middle Earth (and not dead) as the other characters are surprised to see him there. Also, his death and return do not affect the salvation of anybody else. In the end, he is always a helper, not a savior. Many religions, especially Eastern Mysticism, contain this sort of “spirit-guide” or guru who “strays out of thought and time.” Therefore, Gandalf is not a specifically Christian character in any sense.

Tolkien’s association with the Catholic Church is most likely the source of his desire to include religion in his fantasy world and to make his good characters exhibit Christian morals and ideals. It is also important to remember that Catholicism tends to lean too heavily on the character and righteousness of men as an important element of their salvation. In that way, Tolkien’s story reflects his beliefs, and it could be said that Lord of the Rings supports Catholic themes rather than Christian themes: man’s responsibility or duty, the importance of resisting temptation (the ring), the presence of a variety of heavenly intercessors between creature and Creator, etc.

But there is one specifically Christian element that does not appear, and that is the redemption of evil men. According to the Bible, evil lives in the heart of man, but God redeems us, through Christ, from certain consumption by our evil nature (Romans 3:9–12, 5:7–9, 7:21–25; Ephesians 1:7). According to these verses, if Tolkien’s intent was to accurately and biblically reflect Christianity in Lord of the Rings, he would have included a Christ-type hero who brings about the salvation (or turning from the evil side to the good side) of some of the evil characters. But this never occurs in Lord of the Rings. Sauron, Saruman, the Orcs, Wormtongue—none are redeemed or changed. None. Good characters remain good; evil characters remain evil. But this is not the case in real life. All humans are evil, according to Romans 3:9–12. All are in need of redemption. The only picture of a kind of redemption occurs in Theoden’s hall, but it is not truly a redemption because Theoden is simply a good king imprisoned by an evil spell cast by Saruman, not an evil king that repents and changes his ways.

Even more ominously un-Christian is the fate of Frodo. He fails in his quest and proves himself stained by evil, yet conspicuously absent is his absolution. No hobbit, man, or elf gives him relief from his obvious suffering in the years after his failure. He declines in health and eventually is taken away with the elves, but is never offered forgiveness or true restoration. If Lord of the Rings was Christian-themed, Frodo would have returned to the Shire, having found peace through forgiveness, and the lifting of his burden from a compassionate Christ-type hero. But instead, he carries his own burden of guilt and sadness and separation from the “good” people, until he is taken over the sea. And even then, we are not assured that he is truly forgiven and forgetful of his sins. This is very different from the Bible’s description of heaven as a place where every tear is wiped away (Revelation 7:17b). Redemption and the changed life it imparts is the essence of Christianity and, as such, it cannot truly be said that Lord of the Rings is a Christian-themed series.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Early Feb 2014 Van Tillian Links

Ken Ham and Bill Nye Debate (3 Reviews)

 

Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye post-debate analysis– The GeoChristian has a brief overview of the debate with a focus on what each got right or wrong.

Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: The Aftermath– Luke Nix over at Faithful Thinkers has another thoughtful review. His post focuses much more on the topic of the debate as opposed to a broad overview. Highly recommended.

Review of the debate, which gives a lengthy overview as well as specific analysis on the debate- Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: Analysis of a lose-lose debate.

Apprising Ministries: Ken Ham of Anwers In Genesis Debate with Bill Nye

 

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It’s really no secret here at Apprising Ministries that I’m a firm believer in the infallibility and inerrancy of God’s Word as contained in the Bible.

As I read Holy Scripture I see it to teach what is generally known as the young earth model of creation and no scientific evidence to the contrary.

With this in mind, I’ll remind you that Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis debated Bill Nye, “the Science Guy,” on February 4 at the Creation Museum:

Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era? Leading creation apologist and bestselling Christian author Ken Ham is joined at the Creation Museum by Emmy Award-winning science educator and CEO of the Planetary Society Bill Nye. (source)

Concerning the aftermath of the event, yesterday Ken Ham wrote:

Since my debate with Bill Nye on February 4, there have been numerous articles and criticisms published about our presentations. Some have tried to declare a winner, others have said that Mr. Nye should never have come to the debate, and even some professing Christians have declared their support for evolutionary ideas. (source)

Ham then continued:

Today’s lead article at answersingenesis.org, written by Steve Golden, a writer and researcher on staff at Answers in Genesis, covers just some of the media reactions to the debate. I’ve included the beginning paragraphs below:

The debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye “the Science Guy” on February 4 has evoked some strong and incredibly mixed reactions from the media, atheist bloggers, and Christians. We estimate that at least five million viewers have watched the evolution/creation debate, held at the Creation Museum…

With 70 media outlets present and so many attendees and viewers, there was no doubt that there would be a myriad of articles and interviews—each declaring a debate winner or offering critiques of Nye’s and Ken’s presentations.

As with any debate, neither Ken nor Mr. Nye expected to change the other’s mind. Both were concerned about communicating their positions clearly and encouraging critical thinking in those who watched the debate…

I urge you to visit AnswersInGenesis.org and read all of Steve’s article. (source)

The article Ken Ham is referring to is Debate Reactions Mixed. And in case you missed it, for your convenience and edification, below is the debate in its entirety:

Further reading

Source

SOUL SURFER BETHANY HAMILTONS DELIVERS SPEECH AT THE NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST: The light that shines in your life when all seems lost.

These Christian Times

SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEOS AND  NEWS LINKS: Bethany Hamilton delivered a speech at The National Prayer Breakfast. In it she speaks about losing her arm to a shark attack and leaning on Jesus for understanding after that incident. The love of Christ is what helps overcome our darkest days. He is our Rock in overwhelming odds. Bethany has gone through pain and tragedy. She had to overcome adversity and, yet she feels there are those who have suffer more than she has. We must always remember that Jesus will always be there for us when the world feels like it us crumbling around us. Trust God with your pain and sorrow, not this world system. PROVERBS 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding

bethany hamilton
CHRISTIAN POST: Professional surfer Bethany Hamilton, known as the “Soul Surfer,” spoke during the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday…

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Fact Check: Did Bill Nye Tell A Huge Lie About The Fossil Layers?

Did you get a chance to see the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye “the Science Guy” the other night? It was definitely entertaining. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much to clarify the issues that millions of Americans tuned in to learn more about. In fact, viewers got a lot of information from Bill Nye that simply is not true. For example, Bill Nye made it sound like science has discovered fossil layers all over the earth that are neatly stacked on top of one another with less evolved creatures in the earlier layers and more advanced creatures in the upper layers. He also made the incredible claim that you cannot find a single fossil which is in the wrong layer. This is such an elementary mistake, and exhibits such a complete ignorance of what the fossil record actually shows, that he should have been laughed off the stage. This is exactly the kind of extreme anti-intellectualism that Nye was supposedly trying to warn people about. Sadly, our society has been so “dumbed down” that there are lots of people out there that will actually believe him.

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US Farmers Conspire With Food Industry To Hide GMO Products

RELATED STORY: Outrage As Obama Signs ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ Into Law

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Washington (AFP) – US farmers joined with the food industry Thursday to launch a united front against labeling genetically modified products, amid mounting consumer pressure and an ongoing trade dispute with China.

The Papacy Robs Christ

In order to please men when it comes to the apostate Roman Catholic Church, charismatic evangelical leaders like Rick Warren continue turning their back on Reformation theology.

Ahead of some important information about Rome’s papacy, in this piece Apprising Ministries offers some background for charismatics who’re compromising doctrine to try and place the Roman Catholic Church into the Body of Christ.

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Praying In The Spirit Alert With All Perseverance

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to…

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