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.

25 August, 2014

Heresy of the Week: Ophitism

This week's heresy is the "parent" heresy to last week's heresy.

Ophitism (also known as Ophianism) was a 2nd century Gnosticism sect. From what little survives about their sect today, they regarded the serpent from the Garden of Eden as heroic, superior and preferable to Christ, and that the God of the Old Testament is the enemy. They also believed in the Monophysitism teaching that Christ did not exist in the flesh. They believed that Christ was an imitator of Moses’ serpent’s power. Like other Gnosticism-family sects, they believed in multiple heavens and that the Creator God was to be despised. They believed the ultimate Father was Bythos (meaning “Depth”) and from him came the Father of All (or First Man), Ennoia, the Son of Man (or Second Man) and the Holy Spirit (or First Woman). From the Spirit came water, darkness, the abyss and chaos. Both the First and Second Men became so enamored with the beauty of the Holy Spirit, the three generated a third man, Christ, the Incorruptible Light. The myth goes on to tell of the creation of the evil material world. More than any other Gnostic sect, it appears that Ophitism most closely follows the Bible in their story of creation, the fall and redemption.

18 August, 2014

Heresy of the Week: Peratism

This week's heresy is one of the Gnostic heresies about which we know a good deal.

Peratism, meaning “to pass through” is a 2nd century Ophitism Gnosticism sect related to Borboritism, Mandaeism, Naassenism, and Sethianism. Little has survived about this sect other than in the writings of one early church father. They were largely focused on astrology and the influence of stars and planets on man, with many myths about the planets. It appears that they believed in a Trinitarian-like God with three divisions or “principles”: Pater (the Father, who was perfect goodness and unbegotten), Uios (the Son, considered to be the Word and the Serpent) and Hyle (the Spirit, who was fashioned by the Father but is without form). They seem to largely follow the redemption story of the Bible. The Serpent (meaning the Son) attracts to himself the “likeminded” (like iron is attracted to a magnet), who are called “Paratae”. The Paratae are those who have learned through gnosis how “to pass through” the corruption to which every created being is subjected. The ignorant were known by Peratians as “Egyptians”.

11 August, 2014

Heresy of the Week: Restorationism

This week's heresy, while perhaps noble in intent, is terrible in execution.

Restorationism (also known as Christian Primitivism or the Primitive Christian Movement) is a protestant (predominantly Hussite and Anabaptism) heretical belief that the woes of the church can be fixed by returning to the “primitive” or apostolic early church. In their attempt to “purify” the church, Restorationists are willing to throw out many orthodox beliefs to achieve a more  “ancient” form of religion. It is also connected with the Dispensationalism Christian Zionism movement, and Restorationism is often the name used for the Christian Zionism movement during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

04 August, 2014

Heresy of the Week: Subordinationism

This week's heresy sounds like the description to a syllogism.

Subordinationism is a heretical doctrine that says the Son and Holy Ghost are subordinate (or less than) the Father in both nature and being. While sometimes confused with Arianism, they are not the same. All Arianists subscribe to Subordinationism, but not all Subordinationalists believe in Arianism. Some see this as the middle ground between Sabellianism and Socinianism/Unitarianism.

28 July, 2014

Heresy of the Week: Waldensianism

This weeks heresy started as a reformation movement before partnering with Calvinism after several centuries.
Waldensianism (also called Vaudoisism and Waldensism) is a 13th century heresy that initially was only concerned with reforming the Church by condemning money and power as leading to spiritual corruption and that the Church and Church officials should have nothing to do with money or power.  They were declared heretical in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council, and in 1487, Pope Innocent VIII issued an order for the group’s extermination.  After the protestant Reformation, the Waldensians joined with the Calvinists, adopting most of their tenants, and became the Italian arm of Calvinism, making it also a protestant heresy.

23 July, 2014

Sarah's 12th Commandment: Two Kingdoms Theology and American Politics

Facebook is a good place to throw bombs or post rants (and cute baby pictures!!), but is a poor format for serious discussion.  What started out as a mini political rant turned into a saying, then a meme, then full-blown misunderstood comments.  Therefore, I felt it necessary to take it outside... or to this blog.  You know what I mean.

Frankly, I don't know whether this belongs on my theology blog or my political blog.  I try to keep the two as distinct as the Two Kingdoms, but then folks have to go make it all messy.  Since the root issue is theology, I think this is perhaps the most appropriate place.  There is a brief, much more political, post with a link to this on my political blog, though.

Here's the comment I made that started it all (after days of annoyance at the incredible amount of dispensational premillennialist heresy thrown about on my newsfeed regarding the current political situation in Israel/Gaza--read my two posts on eschatological heresies for a definition of dispensational premillennialism, and/or read this excellent article on it by my Pastor).  I'll probably comment more on the political aspect of this on my other blog, but suffice it to say, the past week has just caused rampant heresy to appear on my feed.  To be fair, I think many don't know differently because this is what and how they were taught.  But I digress.  Back to the initial offending comment:
Please stop using religion to make arguments for or against a government policy. That isn't at all to say religion doesn't or shouldn't shape your views, but rather, to say that you can find a better way to make political arguments than simply referring to whatever your religion is. There are ways to make that exact same argument without invoking your religion... and if you can't do that without making a religious plea... maybe you should rethink your position.
This got condensed by a friend to:
Sarah's 12th Commandment: "There should be ways to make an argument for your [political] position without invoking religion. If you can't, then rethink your position."
My friend is much pithier than I (probably why he's the candidate-type and I'm the advisor-type...).  Briefly on background for those not familiar with why this would be number 12: in Republican circles, there is an oft-cited quote from Reagan (his "11th Commandment") about not going after fellow Republicans with vicious public attacks.

Then a Pastor friend of mine turned it into this masterpiece:

The initial post was meant as a political comment, but the discussion on both the initial thread and one where I posted the picture became much more theological in nature.

To avoid repeating myself, now might be a good time to go read up on Two Kingdoms Theology (or Two Kingdoms Doctrine), because that is the focal point of the theological discussion.

Immediate comments ranged from (I'm paraphrasing) "Your faith has to be part of all of your life or it isn't very strong," to "BUT... JESUS!" (although, to be fair, that last one was a sarcastic comment--however, it summarized some of the other discussion pretty well).

Let me try to break down what I am and am not saying for clarification.

I am saying that...

  • Theocracies are bad, and anything that moves towards that, in full or part, is equally bad (and, frankly, unbiblical).
  • An improper understanding of the Two Kingdoms (which is rampant in modern Christendom) far too often leads down the road to theocracy.
  • Frankly, the idea of a Christian theocracy is no better than, for example, an Islamic state.  In point of fact, both are heresies (Islam being a very devolved Arian heresy meshed with some other stuff of non-Christian origin, and theocracies being, at best, a poor reading of Scripture, and at worst, one of the biggest blights on Christendom that I can think of), so while the ends differ, it's a similar root problem.
  • God gave us wisdom, reason, and knowledge.  We should use it.  It is not persuasive to say to a non-Christian, "But Jesus says so!"  It is, however, persuasive to use common sense and natural law to make the same point.
  • My comment was directed towards more than just Christianity, but all religions, including secular religions like humanism, socialism, progressivism, etc.  Even Atheists (whose belief in no God is a religion in itself) are included.
  • Government involvement in any religion in any way is B.A.D!  Once it's codified in law, it can be altered to suit the state--and government rarely makes things better when it changes them.  Separation of church and state isn't to protect the state from Christians or religious influence, but to rather protect Christians from interference by the state.
  • You can and should have a religious argument for policy if it makes sense.  What I am asking is for that to not be your only argument, nor your default argument.
  • Force makes for very poor faith.  Using government as a bludgeon to make people "believe" anything just creates liars, which is far more dangerous to someone's eternal salvation than a corrupt government in my opinion.
  • Government is meant as a curb on sin (Law).  It is about enforcing the law and judgment.  It cannot have the Gospel (grace).  Bluntly put, there is "no room for Jesus in government" because government isn't about the Gospel.  That doesn't mean Christians don't belong in politics, that faith doesn't inform someone's opinion, etc., but rather that (again) a theocracy is BAD.
  • Faith does (and should) inform all aspects of a Christian's life.  However, apparently, if every word coming out of your mouth isn't from Scripture or isn't evangelizing, I guess your faith is weak, right?
  • (Warning--you are about to read what is likely a very unpopular statement, but it's true):
    The Jewish people should not be considered by the Church as any different than any other non-believers.  This is not to say they should be abused, mistreated, etc.  And, before you say it, yes--Luther was wrong in his statements about the Jews, for the record.  They should be shown the same type of compassion and love we would show any of our neighbors of any religion, but to base political policy on the false notion that they're more special to Christians than anyone else is crazy.  The New Covenant in Jesus nullifies the old.  Period.  For more on this, explained much better than I could, I highly recommend this article by my Pastor (also linked about regarding dispensational premillennialism).  Further, dispensational premillennialism doesn't value the Jews at all (despite the rhetoric)!  Read here to learn more (please note that the timeline of the rapture and end times according to dispensational premillennialism isn't accurately represented here, but the end result is).  Don't believe me?  Dispensational premillennialists openly say so themselves
    (also here).

I am not saying that...

  • Christians shouldn't be involved in the public arena.  Quite the contrary.
  • Your faith shouldn't inform your positions or votes.  That's a willful misreading of what I've said.  I am merely saying that, when discussing opinions, policy, candidates, etc. in the public square, it's not good enough to say, "The Bible tells me so."  Sunday School songs make for poor policy discussion.
  • You shouldn't ever mention your faith at all in politics.  This is more about knowing your audience than anything else.  Specific statements to religious groups are ripe for a religious argument.  But, again, that shouldn't be your only argument!
  • American had no Judeo-Christian influences in its founding.  That would be historically ignorant at absolute best.  I am saying that the Founders put in protections so that a theocracy wouldn't be possible.  Of course, they didn't seem to imagine the possibility of a secular, state religion that now seems to be the "theocracy" in which we live, but that's due to their lack of evil imagination (clearly).  We do, however, have a Constitution that guides our government.  I guess the last time I checked, the Bible wasn't an appendix, article, or amendment to that document.

To briefly summarize:

God gave all humans the ability to think critically, use logic, knowledge, and natural law, to explain everything within theology that actually has an effect on Government.  In order to actually implement both politically and morally sound policy, it is vital that we discuss policy from a moral, rather than theological, standpoint.  The only difference is not invoking the name of Jesus or "the Bible says so!" trope in political discourse.  And if it is impossible to make your argument without bringing up religion, you may wish to consider whether or not it is the proper role of government.

Finally, since without a single word in there, this meme makes less sense without context.  Here's a slightly edited version that if you like, you should share!