When discussing theology, I've come to realize that not only is personal study of doctrine a necessary component to faith, but it is something that shouldn't be kept to oneself. I want to share my journey, both past and ongoing, into the realm of theology. Through this, I hope that you will gain insight into the Christian faith as a whole. Before reading anything else, I suggest you read the introduction and definitions (found in the pages tabs above) so you may better understand where I am coming from in everything I write. Because many of my posts are on heresies, there is also a page above with a family tree of heresies and links to all the posts I have so far on the topic.

26 March, 2013

Passion Week

Passion Week (also called Holy Week) is my favorite time of the church year.  It is the culmination of Lent (a season of penitence) in the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, institution of the Lord's Supper, betrayal, suffering, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  Out of habit mostly, I prefer "Resurrection Day" to "Easter", but that's more of a personal preference than anything else.

Around the Word Journal, edited by my own Pastor, Bryan Wolfmueller, assembled an excellent resource for the chronology of Passion Week and Easter with readings for all the events.

Our celebration of Passion Week looks something like this:
  • Palm Sunday (triumphal entry into Jerusalem)
  • Annunciation of Our Lord (not normally a part of Passion Week, but because of when it falls this year, yesterday--25 March--is the Annunciation of Our Lord)
  • Maundy Thursday (institution of the Lord's Supper and betrayal of Jesus--"maundy" comes from the Latin word "mandatum", from where we get our word "mandate", indicating a new mandate or command given by Christ; in the Vulgate, the first word in John 13:34 is "mandatum")
  • Good Friday (suffering, death and burial--often celebrated with a Tenebrae service, and probably my favorite of the church year)
  • Holy Saturday
  • Resurrection Day (or Easter Sunday, the resurrection of Jesus)

A thought that I've had lately... one of the ways that non-Christians like to try and play "gotcha" with this is that we say Jesus died and was buried, then rose on the third day.  They say that the math just doesn't work there if He died on Friday and rose on Sunday.  The way the Jewish day works is from sundown to sundown.  Sundown Thursday-sundown Friday is day 1 (Jesus is crucified), sundown Friday-sundown Saturday is day 2, and sundown Saturday-sundown Sunday is day 3 (Jesus is risen).  Easy math.

25 March, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Quartodecimanism

Blessed Passion Week and Annunciation of our Lord!  In light of this time of the church year, it seemed appropriate that this week's heresy be Easter-themed.
Quartodecimanism is a 2nd century heresy that says Easter should only be celebrated during the Passover, on 14 Nisan in the Jewish calendar. It was condemned at the 325 Council of Nicaea. Followers of Audianism practiced Quartodecimanism, even after the Council condemned it, and it enjoyed a brief revitalization in 10th century Italy.

18 March, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Docetism

This week's heresy takes parts from Adoptionism and Gnosticism.  I suppose they get props for creativity.

Docetism is a heresy of the Monophysitism family that purports Jesus only seemed to be human, but that His human body was only a phantasm—that His body was either absent or illusory. Docetists deny Jesus’ humanity, and were condemned as heretical at the 451 Council of Chalcedon. There are essentially two kinds of Docetists: one believes that Christ was so divine, He could not have had a body since God lacks a material body, and therefore He cannot have physically suffered; the other says that Jesus was a man, but Christ a separate entity who entered Jesus at the Baptism and left Him upon His death on the cross (quasi-Adoptionism). The dualistic, and therefore Gnosticism, side of Docetism was that matter is evil and God would not stoop to be clothed in something evil (more in line with the first kind of Docetism), and that God, being perfect and infinite, could not suffer and therefore, even if He had a human body, He could not have been made to suffer and die for our sins (more in line with the second kind of Docetism).

14 March, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Carpocratianism

Sorry for the delay this week--it's been crazy!  This week's heresy combines Greek philosophy, antinomianism and maybe even magic... gotta love the Gnostics.
Carpocratianism is an early 2nd century Gnosticism sect heavily influenced by Plato. They believed that Jesus was not divine, but because His soul was “steadfast and pure” He remembered things witnessed in the sphere of the unbegotten God. Because of that “secret knowledge”, He was able to free Himself from material powers. Carpocratians believed that they, too, could transcend the material world and were not bound by Mosaic law (see Antinomianism). They believed in reincarnation and that, before their soul could return to God, they must experience every possible condition on earth (many tried to do that in a single lifetime). They were licentious, obscene and debaucherous, and many believe they practiced magic. They were very communal, holding that women and property should all be shared.

05 March, 2013

Okay, if You say so...

I was listening to the latest Table Talk Radio episode last night, and my Pastor said something that struck me as brilliant in its simplicity.  I've been told many things by fellow Christians about being a Lutheran, from "You're all the intellectual Christians, and I couldn't understand theology the way you do because I'm not smart enough," to "You're just lazy and you don't try to solve every equation for 'x'."  Yes, gotta love the variety there.  Both are right and wrong in their own way, I suppose (although it doesn't take an astrophysicist to figure out Lutheranism or Christianity in general), but neither really hit where I'm going with this.

The beauty and comfort of Lutheranism is that we don't feel like we have to know or understand everything.  We kind of take God at His Word.  I know, crazy isn't it?

The Bible is an incredibly clear book if you read it in context (and context is absolutely key), and you know what?  The parts that I can't always understand I don't worry about.  I kind of figure that God, being all powerful and knowing way more than I do, might actually know what He's doing and if I don't always follow along, I'm okay with that.  I don't need to spend my time worrying about things my finite human mind can't understand.

The problem with Christendom today is two-fold (kind of like the comments I get about Lutherans): on the one hand, many don't care to actually know what Scripture says, they just take whatever their poorly trained, heretical Pastor gives them and accept it as Gospel (pun somewhat intentional); and on the other hand, some want to write themselves and their own meanings into God's Word (narsegete, as Chris Roseborough likes to call is).  Both miss the point: you have to read what is there, IN CONTEXT, before you can do anything else.  Yes, we all come into things with biases--we are, after all, human.  But the more you can remove yourself and your biases from your reading, the more likely it is that you will understand what you are reading, and that applies to all things... not just Scripture.

So, join me as a Lutheran, as a Christian, in reading the Word in context and simply saying, "Okay, God, if You say so," when we don't understand something.  Hate to bust your ego bubble, but you don't know everything.  Trust me.  You might figure it out later, you might never figure it out--both of which are just fine.  But don't worry about it.  It's refreshing.

04 March, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Christian Zionism

My day job is politics, and because of that, I often run into dispensational and premillenialist heresies on a frequent basis, particularly when it comes to advocating for certain policy positions.  This is a very common one that often rears its ugly head in the political world.  The problem isn't the nation of Israel, the problem is claiming any sort of theological significance to it (or using that claim to justify political positions).
Christian Zionism (also known as Restorationism) is a 19th-21st century (although the idea has been around since the time of the reformation) Dispensationalism eschatology heresy that believes there must be an “ingathering” of Jews in the nation Israel before Christ may return to earth. It likely grew out of the “Restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land” 19th century movement. The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was seen, by this group, as occurring according to Biblical prophecy. They are major proponents of Dual-Covenant theology (that Israelites are still God’s chosen people, along with an “ingrafting” of Gentile Christians). They strongly support Jewish Zionism.