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.

27 June, 2013

The Semi-Pelagian Narrower Catechism

This has been floating about on the 'net for quite some time (I have it in printed form from 2003...), but in reading it once again after not seeing it for so long (thanks, momma!), I am in tears--partly because it is so close to the truth it is sad, and partly because it's just darn funny--so I had to share.  While clearly written by a Calvinist, the vast majority of it is excellent satire.

The Semi-Pelagian Narrower Catechism

1. Q: What is the chief end of each individual Christian?
A: Each individual Christian's chief end is to get saved. This is the first and great commandment.  
2. Q: And what is the second great commandment?
A: The second, which is like unto it, is to get as many others saved as he can.

3. Q: What one work is required of thee for thy salvation?
A: It is required of me for my salvation that I make a Decision for Christ, which meaneth to accept Him into my heart to be my personal lord and saviour

4. Q: At what time must thou perform this work?
A: I must perform this work at such time as I have reached the Age of Accountability.

5. Q: At what time wilt thou have reached this Age?
A: That is a trick question. In order to determine this time, my mind must needs be sharper than any two-edged sword, able to pierce even to the division of bone and marrow; for, alas, the Age of Accountability is different for each individual, and is thus unknowable.

6. Q: By what means is a Decision for Christ made?
A: A Decision for Christ is made, not according to His own purpose and grace which was given to me in Christ Jesus before the world began, but according to the exercise of my own Free Will in saying the Sinner's Prayer in my own words.

7. Q: If it be true then that man is responsible for this Decision, how then can God be sovereign?
A: He cannot be. God sovereignly chose not to be sovereign, and is therefore dependent upon me to come to Him for salvation. He standeth outside the door of my heart, forlornly knocking, until such time as I Decide to let Him in.

8. Q: How then can we make such a Decision, seeing that the Scripture saith, we are dead in our trespasses and sins?
A: By this the Scripture meaneth, not that we are dead, but only that we are sick or injured in them.

9. Q: What is the assurance of thy salvation?
A: The assurance of thy salvation is, that I know the date on which I prayed the Sinner's Prayer, and have duly written this date on an official Decision card.

10. Q: What is thy story? What is thy song?
A: Praising my Savior all the day long.

11. Q: You ask me how I know he lives?
A: He lives within my heart.

12. Q: And what else hast thou got in thine heart?
A: I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.

13. Q: Where??
A: Down in my heart!

14. Q: Where???
A: Down in my heart!!

15. Q: What witness aid hath been given us as a technique by which we may win souls?
A: The tract known commonly as the Four Spiritual Laws, is the chief aid whereby we may win souls.

16. Q: What doth this tract principally teach?
A: The Four Spiritual Laws principally teach, that God's entire plan for history and the universe centereth on me, and that I am powerful enough to thwart His divine purpose if I refuse to let Him pursue His Wonderful Plan for my life.

17. Q: What supplementary technique is given by which we may win souls?
A: The technique of giving our own Personal Testimony, in the which we must always be ready to give an answer concerning the years we spent in vanity and pride, and the wretched vices in which we wallowed all our lives until the day we got saved.

18. Q: I'm so happy, what's the reason why?
A: Jesus took my burden all away!

19. Q: What are the means given whereby we may large crowds of souls in a spectacular manner?
A: Such a spectacle is accomplished by means of well-publicized Crusades and Revivals which (in order that none may be loath to attend) are best conducted anywhere else but in a Church.

20. Q: Am I a soldier of the Cross?
A: I am a soldier of the Cross if I join Campus Crusade, Boys' Brigade, the Salvation Army, or the Wheaton Crusaders; of if I put on the helmet of Dispensationalism, the breastplate of Pietism, the shield of Tribulationism, and the sword of Zionism, having my feet shod with the gospel of Arminianism.

21. Q: Who is your boss?
A: My boss is a Jewish carpenter.

22. Q: Hath God predestined vessels of wrath to Hell?
A: God hath never performed such an omnipotent act, for any such thing would not reflect His primary attribute, which is Niceness.

23. Q: What is sanctification?
A: Sanctification is the work of my free Will, whereby I am renewed by having my Daily Quiet Time.

24. Q: What rule hath God for our direction in prayer?
A: The rule that we must bow our hands, close our heads, and fold our eyes.

25. Q: What doth the Lord's Prayer teach us?
A: The Lord's Prayer teacheth us that we must never memorize a prayer, or use one that hath been written down.

26. Q: What's the book for thee?
A: The B-I-B-L-E.

27. Q: Which are among the first books which a Christian should read to his soul's health?
A: Among the first books which a Christian should read are the books of Daniel and Revelation, and The Late Great Planet Earth.

28. Q: Who is on the Lord's side?
A: He who doth support whatsoever is done by the nation of Israel, and who doth renounce the world, the flesh, and the Catholic Church.

29. Q: What are the seven deadly sins?
A: The seven deadly sins are smoking, drinking, dancing, card-playing, movie-going, baptizing babies, and having any creed but Christ.

30. Q: What is a sacrament?
A: A sacrament is an insidious invention devised by the Catholic Church whereby men are drawn into idolatry.

31. Q: What is the Lord's Supper?
A: The Lord's Supper is a dispensing of saltines and grape juice, in the which we remember Christ's command to pretend that they are His body and

32. Q: What is baptism?
A: Baptism is the act whereby, by the performance of something that seems quite silly in front of everyone, I prove that I really, really mean it.

33. Q: What is the Church?
A: The Church is the tiny minority of individuals living at this time who have Jesus in their hearts, and who come together once a week for a sermon, fellowship and donuts.

34. Q: What is the office of the keys?
A: The office of the keys is that office held by the custodian.

35. Q: What meaneth "The Priesthood Of All Believers"?
A: The Priesthood Of All Believers meaneth that there exists no authority in the Church, as that falsely thought to be held by elders, presbyters, deacons, and bishops, but that each individual Christian acts as his own authority in all matters pertaining to the faith.

36. Q: Who is the Holy Spirit?
A: The Holy Spirit is a gentleman Who would never barge in.

37. Q: How long hath the Holy Spirit been at work?
A: The Holy Spirit hath been at work for more than a century: expressly, since the nineteenth-century Revitalization brought about by traveling Evangelists carrying tents across America.

38. Q: When will be the "Last Days" of which the Bible speaketh?
A: The "Last Days" are these days in which we are now living, in which the Antichrist, the Beast, and the Thief in the Night shall most certainly appear.

39. Q: What is the name of the event by which Christians will escape these dreadful entities?
A: The event commonly known as the Rapture, in the which it is our Blessed Hope that all cars driven by Christians will suddenly have no drivers.

40. Q: When is Jesus coming again?
A: Maybe morning, maybe noon, maybe evening, and maybe soon.

41. Q: When the roll, roll, roll, is called up yonder, where will you be?
A: There.

42. Q: Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah!
A: Praise ye the Lord!

43. Q: Praise ye the Lord!
A: Hallelujah!

44. Q: Where will we meet again?
A: Here, there, or in the air.

45. Q: What can a pastor say while all heads are bowed?
A. Yes, I see that hand.

46. Q. How is a person saved?
A. If you walk this aisle…

47. Q. And what requirement is there if you should fall into sin?
A. You just need to rededicate your life to God.

48. Q: Can I hear an Ay-men?
A: Ay-men.

24 June, 2013

Heresies of the Week: Futurism, Historicism, Idealism, and Preterism

Continuing on the theme of the last two weeks, here are four more eschatological views regarding the interpretation of when events in Revelation take place.  When I have time, I'll try and write a post about the Lutheran (and Amillennial) view of when these events occur.
Futurism is a heretical eschatological view that interprets end-time portions of the Bible (specifically, the parable of the Sheep and Goats, Daniel and Revelation) as future literal events. By comparison, Historicism and Preterism say these have already come to pass in a literal, physical sense and Idealism says they are currently occurring in a non-literal, spiritual sense. It, along with Preterism, was conceptualized as a counter to the protestant Historicism heresy by a Roman Catholic Jesuit Priest. 
Historicism is an eschatological protestant heresy which tries to link events that have already happened and people who have already lived with end-times prophesies and beings. The eighteenth century brought about the thought that the Pope (man, not the office) could be the Anti-Christ (a distinction from the Lutheran teaching that the office of the pope is an, not the, Anti-Christ). Catholicism developed Preterism and Futurism as a response to this. Historicists attempt to use timelines and events to predict the end of the world. Millerism is a subset of Historicism that spawned the Seventh-day Adventist church. This is also largely the view of Jehovah’s Witnesses. 
Idealism is a Renaissance-era eschatological heresy that says the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth is subjective for each individual. The establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven is metaphorical, and has not, cannot and will not literally happen. The only literal fulfillment of prophesies they expect is the Second Coming and Final Judgment, although it is not universally accepted in Idealist circles that even those will physically occur, which makes it starkly different from Futurism, Historicism, and Preterism
Preterism is an eschatological heresy that interprets most of the end times prophesies of the Bible has having been fulfilled before or at destruction of Jerusalem in 70 and that ancient Israel finds its continuation and fulfillment in the Christian church. The other thoughts on doctrine this are Futurism (most common with Premillennialism, this teaches that all the end times prophesies will be literally fulfilled at a future time and place), Historicism (closest to Preterism in that it says end times prophesies have already occurred literally on earth, but they identify these events with other people and places long after the destruction of Jerusalem, and have used these ‘timelines’ to attempt to divine the date of Jesus’ return, as in Millerism), and Idealism (the teaching that the prophesies have been, are, and will be fulfilled in a non-literal, spiritual sense and may be fulfilled differently for each person).

17 June, 2013

Heresies of the Week: Dispensational Premillenialism, Millenialism, Premillenialism, and Postmillenialism

For more on these eschetological heresies, check out this post from last fall.  Next week will cover four more related heresies.
Dispensational Premillennialism: see Premillennialism and Millennialism. The main distinction is that Dispensational Premillennialism teaches that the second coming occurs before the tribulation (following the rapture); whereas Classical Premillennialism teaches it occurs after the tribulation (with the rapture following the tribulation). They also believe that the Church and Israel are distinct entities, with Israel having a special place of prominence.  Like both Millennialism and Premillenialism, this teaching denies that Death and the Devil have already been vanquished in Christ's death and resurrection.
Millennialism is also known as Chiliasm. This is a specific form of Millenarianism, with close ties to Premillennialism (like Classical Premillennialism, Millennialism is a post-tribulation belief where the second coming occurs after the tribulation, whereas Dispensational Premillennialism teaches that the second coming occurs before the tribulation). This belief claims that there will be a Golden Age in which Christ reigns for one thousand years on earth prior to the Final Judgment and the New Heavens and New Earth appear. This is not the end of the world, but rather a penultimate age prior to the end of the world. Some believe that before the Final Judgment there will be a final great battle with Satan and his army of demons. This teaching clearly denies that Christ has already conquered Death and the Devil; that His work is as of yet unfinished with Satan (the orthodox teaching would be that while Satan can still tempt us because of Original Sin, he no longer holds power over us through death because of Christ’s fully atoning work).
Premillennialism is an eschatological heresy predominant in protestantism. It is the belief that Jesus will return and physically reign over a literal one thousand year kingdom just before or just after His Second Coming. Premillennialists also believe in a rapture of believers and seven-year tribulation period (Dispensational Premillennialism believes the rapture and tribulation will happen before the thousand years kingdom in that order, Classical or Historic Premillennialism believes the rapture will happen after the tribulation, which occurs after the thousand year’s kingdom but before the second coming). They hold that the Church and Israel are the same entity (Dual Covenant Theology).
Postmillennialism is an eschatological heresy which teaches that Christ’s second coming will occur after the Millennium (some hold this to be a literal one thousand years, others that it is symbolic of a long period of time), a Golden Age of prosperous Christian ethics. It is in contrast to Premillennialism and the orthodox doctrine of Amillennialism—both of which are well established in various Christian denominations. Postmillennialism is considered rare compared to the other two. They also teach that Satan will gradually be defeated by expansion of the Kingdom of God before the second coming (like Millennialism, this denies that Christ has already completed His work on the Cross and already vanquished Death and the Devil). Many Postmillennialists are also followers of Preterism. Calvin defended both Premillennialism and Postmillennialism in different works.

10 June, 2013

Heresies of the Week: Covenantalism and Dispensationalism

Heresies are generally (willful or unintentional) misunderstanding points of doctrine.  In that sense, Covenantalism isn't a heresy, but because it is a significant building block of other heresies (largely eschatological), I've included it here.
Covenantalism is a protestant (largely Calvinist) heresy also called Covenant Theology, Federal theology or Federalism. Covenant Theology teaches that everything God has done in dealing with mankind is done under three overarching theological (meaning not explicitly expressed in the Bible, but thought to be theologically implicit) covenants: redemption, works and grace. This is considered less a point of doctrine or dogma, and more a structure by which the Bible is organized.
Dispensationalism is a 19th century protestant eschatological heresy that uses Biblical interpretation to foresee a series of “dispensations” (periods in history) which God relates to humans in different ways under different Biblical covenants. All Dispensationalists subscribe to Premillennialism, and most (but not all) hold to a pretribulation rapture. Dispensationalists also believe that the nation of Israel (not the same as the state of Israel) is separate from the Christian Church and God has yet to fulfill His promises to the nation of Israel (Dual Covenant Theology). Dispensationalism has caused some protestants to interpret Revelation as predicting future events (Futurism), some past events (Historicism) and other to associate it with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 (Preterism).

03 June, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Nestorianism

Like many other heresies, this week's heresy attempts to use human reason to understand the divine.  That which seems illogical to us would very likely make more sense if we had a grasp of infinite knowledge, but since we don't, many like to try and understand that which we simply can't--and that need to "know" often leads to the creation of heresies. 

Nestorianism is a 5th century heresy that states there is no union or intermixing or touching of the two natures of Christ. This was declared a heresy at both the 431 First Council of Ephesus and the 451 Council of Chalcedon. Some individual churches broke off after this to form the Church of the East (not the same as the Eastern Orthodox Church, also known as the Assyrian Church). Nestorianism is seen as the antithesis of Monophysitism. Nestorianism teaches that Jesus and the Christ are two separate beings, loosely united in one nature: human. This was a heretical rational attempt to explain and understand the incarnation of the Divine into humanity. He also challenged the title of “Theotokos” (“bringer forth of God”) for the Virgin Mary, saying such a title denies Jesus’ full humanity. His suggested replacement was “Christotokos” (“bringer forth of Christ”). Nestorian opponents viewed this as an Adoptionism-like heresy. Nestorianism survived well into the 14th century.