I’m no different from anyone else

2012-10-08 by . 1 comments

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Way back when I was just a little bitty boy living in a box under the stairs in the corner of the basement // of the house half a block down the street from Jerry’s Bait shop // You know the place // well anyway, back then life was going swell and everything was just peachy {ref}

When I was a kid (and even occasionally still), I’d hear the stories of people saved from lives of crime, debauchery, hedonism, sex, drugs, etc – and want to be like them. I wanted to have that really cool story that everybody hears and says, “wow” to.

What I realized as a late teen, though, was that I had that story – I just hadn’t realized it for years. In looking back, I am happy God didn’t let me have that story – because He gave me one of my own.

31 years ago I was born into a Christian family, and cannot recall a time when we did not attend church on a very regular basis (3 times on Sunday and once Wednesday – plus special services, of course). I liken my raising to being born into a seminary – sermons were theologically deep, Sunday School (even for fairly young kids) was dense, and we learned a LOT. But a little too often it was just the theology and not much in the way of practical application – at least…not for non-Christians.

The church I grew up in took the view that since the church is the body of believers, it’s not hyper important to reach the lost – in church; reach the lost in special services, outreaches, personally, etc – but church is not “where you get saved”…normally. Whether or not this is a good outlook, I won’t comment further now – it’s just my observation.

From as far back as I can recall, I knew about God’s plan of salvation through His perfect Son, Jesus Christ. I knew John chapter 14, verse 6 -­ that Jesus was THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life. I knew what He said in Matthew 18:11: “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” I talked with my friends about it sometimes. I knew there were consequences for sin, both in this life and the next. I knew what Paul wrote to the Roman church when he said, “all have fallen short of the glory of God”.

For better than 16 years, I KNEW what God expected, and what He offered. I could “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” about redemption, the salvific efficacy and forensic value of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection, go in depth on justification by faith, etc. I knew the “five points of Calvinism” (total depravity of man, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, perseverance/preservation of the saints).

It was a rare sermon or Bible study that I would hear that I didn’t (at least mentally) yawn through; I’d heard it before, knew what the preacher was going to say, and didn’t care.

All that “redemption”, “conversion”, and “salvation” stuff was great – for somebody else. I’d get around to it eventually – or not; I didn’t care, not really. As long as I was a good kid, didn’t get into trouble, and paid attention at church, who would know other than me that what I “knew” was NOT what I “believed”?

Fortunately, it’s not all up to me – the two best words in all the Bible came true for me: “but God”. “But God” appears in the NASB 44 times. Some of them are good, and some are bad. The first is good, “But God remembered Noah .. and the water subsided.” [Genesis 8:1]. The record in Numbers 22:22 is not so good, “But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him”.

What I realized as I was getting ready to graduate high school was that God was not happy with me. Indeed, He was angry.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy Constitution, and your own Care and Prudence, and best Contrivance, and all your Righteousness, would have no more Influence to uphold you and keep you out of Hell, than a Spider’s Web would have to stop a falling Rock {ref}

There I was, standing at the brink of adulthood, and on the cusp of the precipice of Hell. All at once, I knew I needed to be rescued from His wrath – and that He had provided that rescue in the form of His Son, Jesus.

I heard a pastor use an analogy once that I loved: in the mountains, it is very obvious when dawn breaks – all at once the side of the mountain is no longer in shadow, but is in full light. In the prairie, though, dawn “starts” a long time before it is “daylight” – and finding when the precise moment of daybreak occurring is not easy. However, once it is fully day, it is just as bright in both places.

That was me; almost no one other than myself knew that I was ‘finally’ a Christian – most people who knew me thought I had been for a long time. After all, I was a good kid, didn’t get into too much trouble, and generally behaved. They thought they had seen the light a long time before it was really there. I knew that the Son was finally in my life – but cannot give the time and date for His arrival.

Even now, where I am nearing having spent more time in life as a Christian than not, I only know that God intervened, plucking me from my path leading to His angel of death and an eternity engulfed in His wrath and instead enabled me to enter the narrow gate that will ultimately lead to life eternal.

Praise God: He deigned to intervene and rescue me!

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Crossing the Jordan

2012-10-02 by . 5 comments

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Our sermon this past week was about Joshua and Israel. It’s a triumphant moment, but it had to be one that Joshua met with at least a small amount of trepidation. The scene is an interesting one. All of Israel (The Bible lists 40,000 fighting men, so figure at least 3-4 times that total) is arrayed on one bank of the Jordan, with the promised land on the other side. However, the Jordan is at flood stage; it’s overflowed its banks. A risky crossing or waiting until the river recedes appear to be the only options.

However, God has a different plan. He tells Joshua to have the priests take the Ark of the Covenant into the Jordan. When the priests set foot in the river the rushing waters of the river are held and Israel crosses the river on dry land.

My Jordan wasn’t a river, but I find the metaphor apt. This is the story of being on the banks of the river and having the waters recede as we move forward. This is the story of something hard, that could have drowned us, but did not because of grace and God’s providence.

It started in the spring of 2010. My wife and I had just become pregnant with our second child. Although Mrs. Eagle had a bit of a bad feeling about the pregnancy everything seemed normal and we had begun thinking about what life would be like with our new arrival. We were anticipating but not really buying much in anticipation. We knew that the 20 week anatomy scan would be the time when things really started to get going, we could start working on the nursery etc. Only something happened.

At about 18 weeks we went in for our anatomy scan. It was clear from the beginning that things weren’t quite right. The tech began doing some tests and measurements we hadn’t seen before and the resolution on the scan wasn’t very good. There was not enough fluid in Mrs. Eagle’s uterus. Something had gone wrong.

We came back two weeks later and nothing had changed. The baby still did not have enough fluid. The banks of our Jordan were rising. The doctor mentioned Potter’s Syndrome (bilateral renal agenesis if you like big medical terms) and said that it was still early enough to abort if that was what we wanted to consider.

A specialist confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis. Our baby did not have kidneys and this would lead to low to no lung development. While in the womb our baby was fine, but when she was born she would be unable to breathe.

Our Jordan river had hit flood stage. This was devastating (although not unexpected) news. Many around us prayed for a miracle, for our baby to be healed. This was something that we hoped for, prayed for even, but to us the medical evidence was clear. Yes God could do it, but that did not mean he would and the blind confidence of some was not something that we could let ourselves embrace. Instead we asked for the strength to deal with the path that lay ahead of us. If he chose to heal our little one Praise Be To God. If he did not, then Praise Be To God.

The next several months were very difficult. Mrs. Eagle became more and more pregnant as the baby grew, but every few weeks we had a doctor’s visit or specialist visit and each of these just served as a reminder of what was coming.

Finally the due date approached. This was going to be a new and different experience, a different hospital from where we had our first baby, somewhere completely unfamiliar.

Out of the blue Mrs. Eagle gets a phone call, its a coordinator at the local hospital where we are planning to deliver, she sets up meetings for us with the hospital’s grief counselor, a neonatologist and gives us a tour of the maternity wing. She even briefs the medical staff at the hospital to let them know who we are and what our situation is. She apologizes that we had slipped through the cracks but mentions that she had gotten an email from another nurse at the hospital apprising her of our situation (we still don’t know who).

In a lot of ways that phone call was the beginning of our Jordan parting. Mrs. Eagle went into labor just three days later. Her labor was much easier than with our first child. At our meeting with the neonatologist we had discussed and made the decision not to attempt any life saving care for our little one (it would have been futile anyways) so we were able to spend her entire life holding and loving her. She lived for about an hour unable to breathe, but very precious.

The hospital had a photographer from an organization called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep come in and take pictures of our little one with all of us (myself, Mrs. Eagle, and our son). These photos, while hard to look at are very much cherished by both myself and Mrs. Eagle.

The next morning our doctor came in and something he said helped us realize just how gracious God had been to us. Our little girl looked perfect physically; she had all her fingers, all her toes, no exterior deformities. Had she been born before routine sonograms we would have been completely unaware of anything wrong until she was born and would not breathe. Our Jordan had been parted. Little did we know that this parting had taken place before the waters had even begun to rise.

Almost two years later we’ve gained some perspective. The ~20 weeks that we were able to prepare for and mourn for our child made the aftermath of her death significantly easier (although still very hard). The hour that we were able to spend with her alive was and will always be one of the most cherished hours of my life. I will always be most thankful for the person who emailed the hospital coordinator and told her about us.

I was sitting in church this past week, to some degree wondering what I’d say in this post. How I could tell you about one of the most tragic, miraculous, and beautiful things that had ever happened to me and how God worked to show himself in a bad situation, even when he did not choose to heal the afflicted?

Miracles aren’t about healing the sick, giving sight to the blind or hearing to the deaf. They are about showing God’s power. I believe he did that in this situation. He showed himself to my wife and I, not by healing our daughter, but by putting the right people in our path, preventing the devastation of a sudden loss, and by giving us even just an hour with our beautiful baby girl.

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Left Behind and Loving It!

2012-09-17 by . 5 comments

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Not that I’m an especially cool guy, but according to society, I am a little strange. I got married at 21 while still in college, never lived with my wife beforehand, we had a baby while still in college, and now we’ve got two more. Furthermore, if you see me coming down the street, you’ll see my license plate says “Faith Hope and Love” and I’ve got pictures of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Jude dangling from my rear view mirror where most similarly bearded gentlemen keep lusty nudes. So, sometimes, people ask, “Peter, what’s your story?” and they suspect something awful happened to me. If they know me, and know the awful things that have happened, then they’re justified in the suspicion, but the truth is not interesting. The truth is, I started reading the Left Behind books on a recommendation of a bearded man when I was 16 while working at Waldenbooks and I stopped reading them under the recommendation of a girl who said, “aren’t those bad?”

But, in between the pages of what I clearly knew to be an attempt to rekindle a hundred year old money making device, I saw a few people acting out a faith they never knew they had. I read of people starting to make life and death decisions purely on moral, philosophical, and (shaky) theological grounds. I understood more and more how the love of Jesus could help to inflame the love between His people.

That was the start of something, it also happened to start at a time when my brain was going through a reading renaissance. I was devouring Asimov and Heinlein novels and the Christianity of Left Behind made a good counterbalance. It’s funny though, because my mom bought me “The Rapture Trap” in hopes to ensure that I wasn’t going to become some sort of a millennialist. But, what she should have gotten me was the “Pan-hedonistic Solipsism Trap”, because that was where the negative philosophy was coming from in my life.

I never wavered from Catholicism, though I remember for a while thinking that the only reason I was going to Mass was to think of new ideas for scripts I was going to write, but that didn’t last, because soon I would meet a girl who would introduce me to a woman (who is she?) who would set me up with a lady who would become my wife.

The girl was my best friend’s cousin, of whom he had been proclaiming the praises of since time immemorial. She was a Straight-A violinist whose presence was like a black hole for hostility. And, if she had the audacity to bend light, it was was only to magnify the Lord. She told a friend of mine that he had beautiful eyes and from that day forward, I can’t look at him without thinking, “Man, you have beautiful eyes…” No punch.

So, she came around because she was going to be my best friend’s confirmation sponsor. But, she needed to go to Mass like, every day, which was crazy. So, for some reason, she dragged me and my friend along to this other thing you do at Church called adoration where you pray before Jesus who is fully present in the Eucharistic Bread exposed for a time until the Benediction which culminates the celebration.

I had never heard of or seen a monstrance before and when I did I think I found myself praying for the first time. I may have prayed before in some wrestling matches, I may have prayed that at least one of my grandparents linger a tad longer in this life, but I had never just prayed before. Not in a way that connected my mind to Jesus’ in a way I could feel.

Well, I was on guard against “feelings” the Left Behind books said to happen. And rightly so; I can’t expect that everyone who walks in to a room with Jesus standing right there before you is going to be blown away, but sometimes signs are nice to have and especially nice to reflect on. But from that point, I felt like Jesus was there and I felt like I wanted the Holy Spirit to do something to me when I got confirmed.

As a present, this wonderful girl gave me my first rosary. She made it herself and had it blessed by the Bishop of her diocese. It’s one of the only things I have never managed to lose and kept with me every day (which was excellent advice from a great priest). If you keep your rosary in your pocket, you’re much more likely to pray it!

But, for a year, I didn’t pray it. And then my first night living on my own after moving out of college came and I prayed it. I didn’t want to make a commitment, but I prayed that night and I have prayed the rosary nearly every day for the last 10 years.

I even prayed it on the night I considered whether to pursue one of two options:

  • A girl I knew who I liked being with and I had a hankering* would eventually want some sort of physical relationship (not you, if you’re reading this).
  • Amber, a genuine woman (she was a bit older than me) whose mother went with my mom on a pilgrimage to see the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and together decided to set us up.

Praying about this sort of thing is important, but the question was simple, who is the narrower gate? Amber. (I’ve never met anyone so small who was so hard to get around, and I was a defensive lineman.) Who will help you store up treasures in heaven? Amber. (We have three of them now plus one already in heaven.) Who would you rather cast your pearls before? Amber. (She’s even beginning to consider what I say as “wise” now, that makes a man very happy.)

I didn’t exactly know that I was praying over a decision to pursue the woman I was going to marry, but I did know that I was praying over a decision to remain a virgin before marriage. I knew that whatever God has planned is inherently difficult. God is more challenging to appease than any coach, teacher or parent. God probably is more critical of the way I make the bed or fold the laundry than my wife is. That may be my personal theology. I’ve never read it in the Catechism; that the true test of whether something is the will of God is whether or not it is hard. But, it seems to jibe with the Theology of the Body. God made us to work hard and become stronger. He certainly did the same thing when it comes to virtue. And Chesterton says something similar**.

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” – Chapter 5, What’s Wrong With The World, 1910

And, that’s where I leave you, to try Christianity! If you do, I doubt you’ll find it lacking. That’s the whole point of “life giving water”. Even if your heroes and inspirations prove wicked, false, or insufficiently human, you can still drink deep the waters flowing from the side of Christ.

*@trig, poor word choice + pun intended

**The story of how I encountered Chesterton is even more mundane, I just randomly saw a big line of black books (his collected works from Ignatius Press) at the UW Memorial Library (home to well over a million volumes) and I started reading things like, “the Supersition of Divorce”, “What’s Wrong With the World” and “Eugenics and other evils” and I was quite understandably impressed, especially that I could find humor in such books along with the most incredible insight and moral clarity.

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Testimonistack! Story time with the Stack

2012-09-10 by . 3 comments

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For the next two months we are going to try something a bit different here on Eschewmenical. To give our regular authors a bit of a break (Y’all have done great, keep up the good work!), we’re going to run two months of testimonials from several of our users (we’re hoping to get 8 full weeks, but may still have spaces available, come by Eschewmenical chat to find out).

A testimony is just a story, in Christian parlance it is usually the story of how you came to the faith. However, a testimony can also go much deeper than that. This month we are going to hear from people who both have always been Christians and also those who have converted later in life. We will hear their stories of how they came to the faith, or how they grew in their faith.

Testimonies serve a very important purpose to me. They remind us that God is real and that he is working in people’s lives, even if we don’t see it right in the thick of things, we can often take a step back and see him orchestrating things for his purposes. Hearing these stories from others can sometimes illuminate things in our lives that we have heretofore thought of as obstacles, problems, or detriments and make it more obvious how God is working in these difficult situations for our betterment.

These two months we are going to take a break from our normal 4 perspective style, but we are still aiming for a post every Monday (or when we remember to post them). However, I’m sure that we will have plenty of different perspectives all the same. We are a fairly diverse community and the types of testimonies that we give should bear out some of that diversity.

Because we have so many authors and I’m not completely clear on the schedule yet (and if you haven’t signed up but want to participate leave an answer here), I won’t be posting a schedule this month. Instead I will add the posts as they go live to this section.

As always, please feel free to comment interact or debate our authors in the comments, or in the Eschewmenical chat room. This is Eschewmenical!

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Smith and James

2012-09-01 by . 2 comments

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Just this week, I had the opportunity to visit the boyhood home of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.  Work had taken me to Rochester, NY, so I drove to Palmyra.  There I saw his farm, the Sacred Grove where God the Father and God the Son appeared to Smith, and Hill Cumorah, where the Angel Moroni eventually deigned to allow Smith to dig up the Golden Plates.


As I visited, I was very open to what the Mormon missionaries there had to say to me.  I was greeted by a Bible open to James 1:5, where Smith himself understood from Scripture that if any man lacks wisdom, he should ask of God, who will grant him understanding.  I had good fellowship with several missionaries, all of whom were just flabbergasted that a Baptist could be respectful and even acknowledge the depth of feeling on which Mormon faith rests.


Mormons really do understand feeling well.


What they miss, I fear, is authority.

Theirs is personal. Mine is far wider than that. Theirs is a man. Mine is bigger than that.  Theirs ultimately rests on a question of whether or not one feels Smith is right. Mine rests on a tradition that is frankly longer, wider, and even more bloody than Smith’s.


While I toured Smith’s own house (the one that was purchased by a friend and rented back to his family after it had spent the rent completing his dead brother’s frame leaving them unable to pay the rent due, only to be later repossessed), I learned of Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses to the Golden Plates. I learned of the “lost 116 pages,” a document which when shared with Harris’ wife, broke a pledge to keep the document secret.  I learned of the faith of the men who continually had to hide the new “Scriptures.”


Then, I learned of the story of Lehi and Nephi, who had been given a divine compass that guided God’s chosen from Israel to the New World.  I learned the story of Helaman, who, after his own people had renounced war led their children to bloodless victory over their enemies. I learned of Moroni who hid the Golden Plates so conveniently near where Smith resided.


I cannot fault them for outrageous claims. After all, I believe a man was whipped, hung, asphyxiated, pierced, and dead, and then he wasn’t.  (Grant you, I can look at DNA that says there were Jews in Palestine, but not in North America, but I digress.)  Still, I take comfort in understanding that men have travelled the whole world to return to that place where God became man. It is a backwater conveniently like every other, so I cannot say that it lacks authority because of its place of origin.


I heard the witness of Smith’s wife proclaiming that he was incapable of manufacturing any decent sentence on his own, and thus he had to have received this from a higher power.  (This, despite his portrayal as a clean, articulate, handsome man in the Mormon movies, made me glad to know that cheesy religiousity in film is not restricted to Christians.)


And, sad to say, as open as I was to the depth of feeling and ardent belief, I couldn’t bring myself to believe a word of it.  Indeed, I truly believe my Mormon brethren feel far better than I do, but their Scriptures lack authority.


Why can I say that about the Book of Mormon, but not the Bible, you ask?


In fairness, let me cast out my primary defense of the Bible.  I believe in the authority of the Bible mostly because I have seen it change lives.  I have seen men return to their wives because they were convicted of God’s love for them in Corinthians and John.  I have seen drunks give up the bottle because they understood God is a sober minded judge who is bound by a divine logic evident in Romans.


But I say, I cannot fault my Mormon brothers on this – for I have seen lives transformed by their Scriptures as well.  When it comes to depth of feeling and experience, frankly, they have me beat.


But I also know something more about feeling.  It is good, but it must be tempered.


I know that in my own life, Jeremiah speaks truth when he tells me “the heart is deceitful and wicked above all things – who can know it!”  I know that left to my own devices, my heart is too willing to make a God and a world who suits me, rather than an external God in an external world who shapes me. Like a written constitution, it sets the boundaries past which my interpretation may not stray.


But as I say, I cannot fault my Mormon brothers on this, for they too have Scriptures which proscribe their activities.  They do not drink coffee or cola, let alone beer or wine.  They understand that God’s rules give structure to their lives.


So, what differs between my Bible and theirs? Many things, but the chief of which is authority of those who promulgated it to me..


Of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, all spent the majority of their lives disassociated from the Mormon Church.  True, two of the three reconciled, But none played a major part.  In contrast, of the eleven disciples who were with Christ, all endured to the end.  I can too easily explain away disagreements between Chowdry, Harris, Whitemer, with Smith. I also know that Peter and Paul had disagreements.  And, I cannot so easily dismiss that neither Peter nor Paul claimed any special headship within the church.  When Peter and Paul disagreed, they did so within the authority of the Living Word, Jesus Christ.  They acknowledged and agreed with each other in their writings – and even in spite of their disagreements, commended one another in Christ.  They pointed to an authority beyond themselves.


There are three witnesses to the Golden Plates. There are none to the original manuscripts of the Bible – but guess what? Here too, the authority of the Scripture is subordinated to that of Christ.  Where there is unanimity of authorship within the Book of Mormon (and the Qu’ran, and the Buddha), the very disparate nature of the individual revelation of Scripture to men over the course of 1500 years has an authority that rests on more than one man. That there are differences of opinion lead me to suspect a greater strength of purpose.


My pastor is not a perfect man. When I was a pastor, I was not a perfect man. (Trust me, the only prophetic statement I ever really made was “Jesus is Lord, I am not. Everything else is theology.”) But even in our imperfection, we recognized that our faith was not the product of one Man, but of something revealed over a much longer time.


I can’t help but wonder about those 116 pages.  Was it a rejected draft? Did Harris and Smith decide to change their theology?


In contrast, my Bible was assembled over a period far greater than the life of any one man – or even any one kingdom. There could be no revision (and, yes, I hear that gag) because there was too much time for any one draft.  (No, Jesus did not change the law! He fulfilled it.  Can we move on?)


In the end, Smith, and James, were right.  Ask God for wisdom – it will be given.  Wisdom is fundamentally the ability to try and test the authority of given revelation. I believe not in the witness of one or three or eight, but many.  It is not the authority of twelve disciples but of twenty, forty, and sixty generations. It is the authority not of 200 years, but 2000.  (And is it not interesting that Mormonism converges back to the Bible?) The authority that has transformed lives is backed up by not by a man but by a Scripture that transcends them all.


That my friends, is the beauty of the Bible.  It is ugly. It is both short (in length) and long (in time.) It is partial, but it is not exclusionary. It is assembled over time by men who disagreed but recognized the authority of one over them.


In that disagreement and messiness, a certain authenticity of subordination to a common Christ reassures that this thing is real.

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Scripture: Ancient and Modern

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What is Scripture?

Most Christians would consider the Bible and nothing else to be Scripture. (Whether the Deuterocanon and other apocryphal books are included is out of the scope of this post.) Typically, the Bible is separated into the Old Testament, which has ancient Hebrew writings from before the time of Christ, and the New Testament, composed of writings of the Apostles after the time of Christ. In between is called the intertestamental period, which is traditionally taken to be about 400 years. During this intertestamental period, God was silent (though not inactive), as evidenced by the absence of prophets between Malachi and John the Baptist.

Old Testament Authority

Of the Old Testament, the primary law-books are Deuteronomy and Numbers. The question of whether or not we modern Christians should follow these ancient Hebrew laws is an oft-asked question, as demonstrated by these questions on Christianity.SE (mouse-over to see question titles): [1], [2], [3], [4]. As this answer to [2] shows, there are four general ideologies, three of which definitely teach that not all laws of the Old Testament apply to Christians today. In particular, I especially like the division of Old Testament laws into moral, civil, and ceremonial laws as it naturally follows that Christians need only follow the moral laws. In addition, Jesus elaborated on many of these moral laws. What’s for sure though is that we are not under the old covenant anymore, but rather, Jesus established a new covenant with us (Luke 22:20).

New Testament Authority

What parts of the New Testament still apply today is actually a bit murkier. Sure, most of it does, but some of it doesn’t or shouldn’t, and figuring out which is which typically requires much careful study. For example, there is 1 Timothy 2:11-12 that says that women should be quiet and submissive in church and that they shouldn’t teach men, but rather just listen. Ideally, study of this passage would include Biblical context as well as historical context. For starters, the Biblical context shows that Timothy was writing from his own desires and customs. Well, there is one place in the New Testament where God explicitly sets out rules that Christians should follow:

Acts 15:28-29 (NLT)
28 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements: 29 You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell.”

Clarifications and elaborations of each of these can be found elsewhere in the New Testament. Yet, even the New Testament isn’t the perfect authority for these days.

The times have changed.

Now, before you accuse me of being Captain Obvious, the main changes I speak of are of new things appearing. New technologies, like movies and the internet, make it possible for widespread distribution of pornography, a subject not directly covered in the Bible. On the flip side, the internet also makes it possible for virtual churches to exist, which prompted these two questions. Another (relatively) recent development is contraception, which was the subject of our first set of posts on Eschewmenical. Yet other topics that have come into play only recently and thus aren’t really covered by the Bible include abortion and extraterrestrial aliens. Finally, homosexuality, once ample reason to be ostracized, is now well on its way to being socially acceptable, even among Christians.

Nonetheless, even proponents of Sola Scriptura can (usually) figure out what the Bible’s stance is on these modern topics, but wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus could just tell us?

God is still speaking.

(The following draws significantly from chapter 6 [The Speaking Voice] of A. W. Tozer’s book The Pursuit of God.)

John 1:1 (NIV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The most straight-forward way to read this verse indicates that it is the nature of God to speak. The whole of the Bible supports this. God created by speaking (“God said…and it was so”), God lead Israel before they had a king, and He spoke through prophets. Then, Jesus was born. Besides miracles, Jesus was most commonly recorded as teaching. That is, speaking. The Holy Spirit also speaks, as evidenced by Mark 13:11, 1 Timothy 4:1, and John 14:26.

Yet some people believe that God stopped speaking after Revelation. They believe that the God who spoke the universe into being, spoke throughout Israel’s history, and spoke to the Apostles suddenly clammed up, leaving us with a book. Plain, simple words on a page whereby much meaning and context is lost, and translation confuses matters. If the Bible is God’s Voice today, it is a pitiful shadow of its true self.

No. This dull Voice of the Bible is not God’s Voice.

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The Word of God is living, and active! It is not dead, it is not silent. No, it is as powerful and vigorous as ever.

Why then, does the Bible have only these 66 books?

Why is the Bible closed?

This question came up while my dad (a recently-licensed minister!) and I were discussing The Speaking Voice (in The Pursuit of God). If God spoke throughout history, including the last 1900 or so years, why then is the Bible’s canon closed? Why take only what was experienced/spoken and recorded in the first century? The answer we settled upon was that the Bible as we have it is the foundation and standard. God is revealed in many ways all throughout the Bible that allow us to get a large-scale sense of God’s character. As God does not change, more revelations should not contradict what has already been revealed, but rather, reinforce it. In this sense, the Bible is a foundation because successive revelations add to it, and it is a standard because God will not contradict Himself, so later revelations can be cross-checked with the Bible for truth. In addition, the spiritual authority of the authors is pretty much undisputed. So…if God continues to give people today revelations that are on-par with the Bible and therefore effectively Scripture, what is Scripture then?

Really, what is Scripture?

A friend once put it this way: Scripture is the Story of what happened, as understood by those who wrote it, listening to God.

Scripture is

the Story of what happened,
The overwhelming majority of Scripture in the Bible is presented in a story. The Genesis account of creation, Exodus, Joshua, Job, the Song of Songs, the Gospels, and Revelation, to name a few, are all stories. The laws given in Deuteronomy and Numbers are part of the story of the establishment of the nation of Israel. The Psalms consist of over a hundred little stories. Jesus typically taught lessons in parables, a.k.a. stories. The Bible as a whole has an over-reaching Story of God’s Creation, Man’s Fall, and God’s Redemption of Man.

as understood by those who wrote it,
This part implies that Scripture is not perfect, since a flawed writer’s understanding will invariably be flawed. Well, yes, that’s correct. The Bible is not textually inerrant, as can be seen by a number of examples, particularly the example of the angels at Jesus’ tomb after He resurrected. Four different accounts, differing in number, position, timing, and a couple other details. However, the important parts of all four are in harmony, such as the empty tomb, the women being the first observers, and the like. Analogously, the Bible may not be completely inerrant in all of its theology, but the crucial parts, like God’s love and mercy, are consistent. This extends to later revelations as well; they may not be (and won’t be) perfect, but that’s fine. Paul once said:

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

God does not use us in spite of our weaknesses…but because of our weaknesses. In our imperfections, He is glorified.

Another aspect of this is that a perfect Bible invites idolization. That is, when we have a perfect Bible that has the answer to every important question, there isn’t a need to turn to God. And so…we rely on the Bible more and more…to the point that we become the Pharisees of this age. The Pharisees and Sadducees were guilty of many things, but the one that Jesus chewed them out the most over was their legalism. So bound were they to following their rules that they would dare to keep Jesus from healing people. A prime example of this today is the veritable war over legalization of homosexual marriages (in the United States). Too many Christians are blinded by their adamant stance that homosexuality is a sin to see that they are driving away the very people Jesus is reaching out to. Ha, most of the unsaved groups of people (the homeless, the drug addicts, etc.) are the very ones that Christians stay away from to remain “clean”. A new culture of legalism has risen up among Christians, and part of this is that every law, every page, every jot of the Bible is perfect.

On the other hand, an imperfect Bible invites one to look to God, the Perfect one. An imperfect Bible also allows one to more closely identify with the authors of Scripture. If even such great, mighty men of God such as David (an adulterer), Paul (a murderer), and Moses (a stutterer) can mess up from time to time, then there’s less pressure on us. Imperfect authors, imperfect (but still Good) writing…from people like you and me. God can use anyone.

listening to God.
Just about every author in the Bible had an intimate connection with God, and they drew on this intimacy while they wrote. Consequently, they weren’t just writing human-inspired words, but rather, God-inspired words. The Holy Spirit guided them, the love of Jesus underlied their words, and the Father spoke to them. This is why so many of their words have the quality of timeless Truth; Truth Himself inspired them. This is why the Bible has the authority it does; Truth and Goodness are its foundation.


What does this mean?

Brothers and sisters, we are writing the Scriptures of this age!


By their fruit ye shall know them.

Of course, now the question is: how can we know that a particular Scripture or revelation has authority? There are three major qualities to look for: consistency, truth/goodness, and whether they lead to God or away from Him.

As I already said earlier, additional Scriptures and revelations will not contradict the Bible. God does not change, but we do. Hence, Scriptures (and revelations) that clarify, simplify, expand, or highlight prior Scriptures are in general, okay. However, if a new “Scripture” clearly and surely contradicts established Scripture, burn it (with fire!). As all Scripture is inspired by God, it will all be self-consistent.

Truth and Goodness
This is certainly a more subjective quality. I know I have often read or written something and known that it was True and/or Good. (By the way, I capitalize those words to show that I mean an intrinsic quality.) Yet, it is hard to explain with words what I mean. Therefore, I will provide a few examples to show instead of tell.

The first is one verse from the “A Wife of Noble Character” section in Proverbs:

Proverbs 31:30 (NLT)
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
        but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.

The second comes from the end of Song of Songs:

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (NLT)
6 Place me like a seal over your heart,
      like a seal on your arm.
   For love is as strong as death,
      its jealousy as enduring as the grave.
   Love flashes like fire,
      the brightest kind of flame.
7 Many waters cannot quench love,
      nor can rivers drown it.
   If a man tried to buy love
      with all his wealth,
      his offer would be utterly scorned.

(Incidentally, these verses are the inspiration for You Won’t Relent, a fantastic song and one of my favorites.)

The third comes from the end of the Armor of God:

Ephesians 6:18-20 (NLT)
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. 20 I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

Of course, there are more examples, like Romans 12:9-21 and Ephesians 4:2.

Finally, what was the fruit? Does it lead others to God, or does it lead them away from Him? Is it revealing, or obscuring? Is it edifying, or confusing? Is it constructive, or destructive? Does it come from love, or sin?

Matthew 7:18 (NIV)
18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

Thus, by its fruit will you evaluate Scripture, ancient or modern.

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How tradition gave us our Bible.

2012-08-20 by . 2 comments

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When I first proposed this topic, I figured I’d take a Bible-thumping, fundamentalist position. But as I thought about it, I realized I can’t do it justice and will probably come off as a caricature. Besides, I really do “accept the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, as the word of God and the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct”. As John Piper put it, “Everybody to my left thinks I am [a fundamentalist]. And there are a lot of people to my left.” Where I diverge from fundamentalism is not in my confidence in the Bible, but rather in my confidence in my interpretations of it. That’s why I spend so much time on Biblical Hermeneutics.

The Evangelical tradition traces it’s roots through the Reformation, which paralleled the Cartesian movement in science. Just as modern science rejects the traditions handed down from our ancestors, Luther and his spiritual children rejected the traditions of the Roman Catholic church. Since Catholics lay claim to apostolic succession, it’s natural to assume Protestants abandoned our connection to Jesus’ followers through the ages. That is not the case.

Ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral

More accurately the Reformation (and the early moderns in general) sought to discover first principles using new techniques. Innovations in literacy, translation, and publication allowed more people to read and understand the historical sources of Christianity. Globalization (round one) put ordinary folks in contact with the huge array of belief systems: Christian and otherwise. Political winds shifted toward rudimentary democracy as ancient Greek and Roman texts were rediscovered. In short, people began examining the world around them with a more critical eye.

When the Reformers looked at the church, they were troubled by what they saw. It did not seem to conform to the picture Paul painted:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.—Ephesians 2:13-22 (ESV)

What they saw wasn’t one church built on the foundation of Christ, but two churches at war with one another. In the earthy glory of the public face of Christianity, it was difficult to see the surpassing glory of its founder. Each branch of the church claimed the Holy Spirit was directing them to build strikingly different dwelling places for God. Something had gone wrong and it was time to peel back the layers and find our firm foundation.

A firm foundation.

At this moment, our master bedroom doesn’t have a door. When we repainted, we decided to replace our boring flat door with a fancier door that’s less beat up. As I drilled the last hole and screwed the last screw to attach the hinges, I discovered that it didn’t close all the way. To fully illustrate my ineptitude, it doesn’t open all the way either. So I had a choice: I could fix my mistake or I could play out an episode of Home Improvement and “fix” the door frame.

At some point in the past, the Catholic Church made a few small mistakes in laying out their floor plan. It happens; we’re human. When you make a mistake, you need to fix it as quickly as possible to avoid problems down the line. But that gets tricky when the Pope speaks ex cathedra. It gets even more complex when other branches of the church claim other sources of authority. You don’t solve this sort of problem by ignoring it and continuing to build.

Reading Paul’s letters to early churches, I’m struck by how often he appeals to the witnesses of Christ’s life, death and resurrection: the apostles. The church must be “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone”. His readers would have known that “the prophets” were the third leg of the Tanakh: the Jewish Scriptures defined by the Pharisees. All that remained of the men, who foretold of a coming King of the Jews who would put things right between God and humanity, was their writings that had been carefully preserved.

Meanwhile, Paul’s first readers had probably heard of Christ via eyewitnesses who were scattered by persecutions in Jerusalem and the surrounding country. (Ironically, Paul himself was one of the reasons the message of Christianity spread to Gentile regions—first because he harassed followers of The Way and later because he was commissioned on the road to Damascus to preach to the Gentiles.) To them, “the apostles” were people, not writings. But within a few years, Mark and Luke saw a need to start recording the memoirs and acts of the apostles so that they would be preserved for future generations. Soon other writers began publishing accounts of Jesus under the Gospel classification. What began as an oral foundation, quickly emerged as a corpus of written material.


By the end of the second and start of the third generation of the church, all of the New Testament texts had been written, though nobody called them that yet. Other Christian writings also survive from that time, but they were a trickle compared to the explosion of written output that began in the second century. Meanwhile, various theologies were proposed and propagated at the same time. It shouldn’t be a surprise as the apostles themselves dealt with theological controversies. For the average Christian, who grew up in a polytheist culture, it must have been confusing and overwhelming.

Perhaps more than anyone else, we can thank Irenaeus of Lyons for clearing up the orthodox position. He particularly addressed the Gnostic thinkers and writers who believed that Jesus had passed “secret knowledge” to His closest followers. In response, Irenaeus points to the writings of the apostles, who were Jesus’ companions on earth, and those who learned the gospel at the apostles’ feet. If the disciples of Jesus taught publicly what He Himself taught them, they weren’t keeping His knowledge secret! Analysis of Irenaeus’ Adversus Haereses shows that he considered John’s Revelation and letters, Paul’s letters and Luke’s history of the first generation of the church to be authentic. More importantly, he made an explicit case for the four (and only four) canonical gospels. It would be a few hundred more years before the New Testament was finalized, but it’s shape was clearly outlined by Irenaeus.

Irenaeus also noted that none of the bishops of the major Christian centers espoused the Gnostic heresy. So oddly one man substantially contributed both to the theory of Episcopal polity and Sola Scriptura. But when you get right down to it, why not? At that point in history, the leaders of the church had over and over again come down on the side of the apostolic teaching found in the Gospels. The phenomena is easy to explain: they recognized the authentic Jesus taught to them by their spiritual parents in the biographies of the fourfold Gospel. Other accounts of Jesus’ life, many of which were written to justify Gnostic teaching, did not look like the person they acknowledged as their Lord.

So we can thank our common tradition, the fathers of the church, for recognizing, compiling and preserving the teachings of the apostles. As we read in Luke’s account of the apostles activities, they were filled with the Holy Spirit as they wrote our New Testament just as the prophets were filled with God’s Spirit when they wrote the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit gives us the assurance that the Scripture is reliable, but He doesn’t do His work along. He always uses the Church to perform His good works, which is how tradition gave us our Bible.

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Paine and Providence

2012-08-13 by . 0 comments

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I have now gone through the Bible, as a man would go through a wood with an axe on his shoulder, and fell trees. Here they lie; and the priests, if they can, may replant them. They may, perhaps, stick them in the ground, but the will never make them grow. -Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason
But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. (Isaiah 1:11 NABRE)

It is curious, that Thomas Paine, in challenging the priests to replant the trees he felled by challenging the authority of the Bible, used a metaphor which reminds the reader of the very reason for their hope.

He culminates his argument by saying that since he has completed his entire refutation of scripture using scripture, the reader must come to the conclusion that the Bible is a malicious lie or an accidental lie. That’s an easy premise to buy, if you don’t have anything else to back up the Bible.

Whatever it is Paine thought was behind the authority of scripture he ascribes to St. Athanasius, sneering at the idea that the the books to compromise holy canon could be voted on. He leaves it up to us to complete his chortle, that the Holy Spirit would never act like that.

But how, gentle reader, does the Holy Spirit act?

Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world. St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

He acts through us! Even through our traditions of governance, be they monarchic, patristic or even democratic. Communism, libertarianism and plain old anarchy are certainly opposed to a Spirit working through an individual to better the world, in an ordered way, through compassion.

But there is one thing that I have never from my youth up been able to understand. I have never been able to understand where people got the idea that democracy was in some way opposed to tradition. It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time. It is trusting to a consensus of common human voices rather than to some isolated or arbitrary record. The man who quotes some German historian against the tradition of the Catholic Church, for instance, is strictly appealing to aristocracy. He is appealing to the superiority of one expert against the awful authority of a mob. It is quite easy to see why a legend is treated, and ought to be treated, more respectfully than a book of history. The legend is generally made by the majority of people in the village, who are sane. The book is generally written by the one man in the village who is mad. Those who urge against tradition that men in the past were ignorant may go and urge it at the Carlton Club, along with the statement that voters in the slums are ignorant. It will not do for us. If we attach great importance to the opinion of ordinary men in great unanimity when we are dealing with daily matters, there is no reason why we should disregard it when we are dealing with history or fable. Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father. I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea. We will have the dead at our councils. The ancient Greeks voted by stones; these shall vote by tombstones. It is all quite regular and official, for most tombstones, like most ballot papers, are marked with a cross. G.K. Chesterton – Orthodoxy – Chapter 4

Chesterton wrote that in 1908, 14 years before his reception into the Catholic Church. It is certainly about the small t traditions of man (like thanksgiving turkey) but I think one can as easily apply it to the big T Traditions of the Catholic Church (like the Eucharist). The Bible is like that as well. It’s a collection of promises made between God and those who would be His people.

When Jesus opened the scripture and preached He did so as one having an astonishing amount of authority (Matt 7:29). He bequeaths that authority to Peter (Matt 16:18) and Peter, after a little prompting, spreads the salvation around freely (Acts 11:17) but handed his office, with the keys still in it, to Linus.

The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. – St. Irenaeus Against Heresies

Too bad that wasn’t in the Bible, eh… well, it’s certainly evidence of Sacred Tradition. To which the Catholic duly considers even with Scripture and the Magisterium (the teaching office of the Bishops). Tradition is the example Jesus set which the apostles followed. (CCC 83) The New Testament is evidence for Sacred Tradition, it should not be construed as evidence against it! All Scripture is useful and profitable, but Scripture alone only leaves a tank one third full sending one cruising to Heaven hoping to get there on fumes.

So, when the council of Nicea is mistakenly pointed to by Thomas Paine as the event wherein Early Christian Aristocrats blithely came to an agreement on sacred scripture, you can be sure, that even if this event did occur, that it would be a result of the authority bestowed on the apostles and their successors by Christ Himself. But, since the event didn’t happen, you should probably realize that either Paine’s work to thwart the authority of scripture is either a malicious lie or an accidental one.

I like to think it’s an accidental one and he was merely conforming to the spirit of his age.

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Putting the Bible in Its Place

2012-08-08 by . 1 comments

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Sola Scriptura and the Anglican Via Media

One of the hallmarks of the Protestant Reformation is the doctrine of sola scriptura. The Latin term for “by scripture alone”, sola scriptura means that all the truth needed for salvation and holiness can be found in the Bible. It’s a simple concept in theory. In practice, it is far from simple.

Though the Reformers all agreed on the importance of this doctrine, they did not agree on its meaning. As Martin Luther saw it, anything not forbidden by Scripture was permissible. To John Calvin, anything not clearly taught in Scripture was forbidden.

The Anglican Church—the denomination in which John Wesley was ordained, and where he remained a member in good standing his entire life—took a middle-road approach. To the Anglicans, the doctrine of sola scriptura was simply a statement about what is contained in Scripture, and not about things that cannot be found in it.

The Articles of Religion of the Church of England, written in the 1500s, states it this way:

Article V—Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation

The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

To put it in more modern language, Scripture was written to teach us about salvation, and anything that is not taught by Scripture is not necessary for salvation. Teachings not explicitly found in Scripture should not be demanded of all Christians.

Theology and the Quadrilateral

Sola scriptura is one guiding principle, but it does not stand alone. It’s one thing to acknowledge that Scripture can teach us everything we need to know about salvation; it’s quite another to internalize those teachings and apply them to our everyday lives. This process of making it personal is theology.

¶ 104 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline states:

Theology is our effort to reflect upon God’s gracious action in our lives. In response to the love of Christ, we desire to be drawn into a deeper relationship with the “author and perfecter of our faith.” Our theological explorations seek to give expression to the mysterious reality of God’s presence, peace, and power in the world. By so doing, we attempt to articulate more clearly our understanding of the divine-human encounter and are thereby more fully prepared to participate in God’s work in the world.

This theological reflection does not take place in a vacuum. As a faithful Anglican, John Wesley was familiar with the so-called “three-legged stool” of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, three sources by which we can learn truths about God.


The primary source is Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments. Through Scripture, we encounter a God who created the world and everything in it, created humans in his own image, remained faithful even when those humans turned away, and sent his son to redeem us when we couldn’t do it ourselves.


Tradition builds upon Scripture, providing a way for us to connect with others who have encountered the same God throughout history. Tradition attests to the truths we see in Scripture, affirming that previous generations have learned these same truths. In the words of G.K. Chesterton:

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.

Among the traditions John Wesley found most helpful were the Patristic writings, about which he said:

Can any who spend several years in those seats of learning, be excused if they do not add to that reading of the Fathers the most authentic commentators on Scripture, as being both nearest the fountain, eminently endued with that Spirit by whom all Scripture was given. It will be easily perceived, I speak chiefly of those who wrote before the council of Nicea. But who could not likewise desire to have some acquaintance with those that followed them with St. Chrysostom, Basil, Augustine, and above all, the man of a broken heart, Ephraim Syrus.

Wesley was also influenced by his contemporaries, German Moravians, whom he first met on a voyage across the Atlantic:

At seven I went to the Germans. I had long before observed the great seriousness of their behaviour. Of their humility they had given a continual proof, by performing those servile offices for the other passengers, which none of the English would undertake; for which they desired, and would receive no pay, saying, “it was good for their proud hearts,” and “their loving Saviour had done more for them.”…There was now an opportunity of trying whether they were delivered from the Spirit of fear, as well as from that of pride, anger, and revenge. In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the main-sail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards, “Was you not afraid?” He answered, “I thank God, no.”


Reason, properly applied, can help us make sense of what we read in Scripture and what is handed down to us through tradition. It can also help us test those traditions or our understanding of Scripture. Reason enables us to navigate the complex relationship between the book of Scripture and the book of nature, between science and faith.


An experience at a Moravian Bible study led Wesley to acknowledge a fourth source:

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

Wesley realized that what he had previously understood with his head, he now understood also with his heart. His experience confirmed the truth he had been taught.

In the words of the Book of Discipline, ¶ 104:

On the personal level, experience is to the individual as tradition is to the church: It is the personal appropriation of God’s forgiving and empowering grace. Experience authenticates in our own lives the truths revealed in Scripture and illumined in tradition, enabling us to claim the Christian witness as our own.

As we experience life in Christ, our encounters can bring home the truths we have been taught, and can transform head-knowledge into heart-knowledge.

Together, these four sources have become known as the Wesleyan quadrilateral and together they guide us as we build a relationship with God and seek to follow God’s will for our lives.

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Respect My Authoritah! Biblical Authority Discussion.

2012-08-06 by . 0 comments

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It’s a new month and that means a new topic for our authors to debate here on Eschewmenical. This month we will be tackling the question of Biblical Authority.

The question of how we should read the Bible and how much pull it should have on our daily lives is certainly a contentious one. Different Christian groups maintain that the Bible (and even certain passages within the Bible) have varying degrees of authority in the past and now. There are a variety of reasons for these beliefs and our authors will hopefully cover a good portion of this spectrum. If there is something they don’t cover, feel free to chime in about it in the comments, or by asking questions on Christianity.SE

Authority Has been a much discussed topic on Christianity Stack Exchange and I’m sure this month will spark even more discussion on the subject. So let’s get to it. Our Authors for the month are:

  • 8/6 Bruce (United Methodist—Putting the Bible in Its Place)
  • 8/13 Peter (Catholic – Paine and Providence)
  • 8/20 Jon (Evangelical—How tradition gave us our Bible)
  • 8/27 ?

One final housekeeping note. If you are interested in contributing to our Testimony Time series we are doing it in September and October (and possibly November if we have interest). We are looking for at least 2 more authors. Please sign up on Meta. All are welcome to contribute no matter your religious background or perspective. We want people’s stories.

With that, I’ll get out of the way and leave the floor to our authors. This is Eschewmenical!

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