Month: February 2013

Why I Have Freedom from Lent

If you are like me, trying to lead your family well, then on occasion questions arise about certain “religious practices.” Every year about this time I wonder why so many Protestants begin to practice Lent. Lent clutters the pages of Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. At first, I get frustrated…am I the only Protestant left in the room? Then, I feel guilty thinking they are more spiritual than I. If you have ever had these feeling, then this post is for you.

iStock_000015976881_ExtraSmallI am trying to write this in a positive manner because no one likes the guy who is against everything. So instead of being against Lent, I write on why I have freedom from Lent. You could call it a “guilt free Lent trap.”

First things first…what is Lent? Lent is a 40 day time of penitence and prayer from Ash Wednesday until Easter. It became forty days in the seventh century to coincide with Christ fasting 40 days in the desert. For devout Catholics, it involves penitential works like abstinence, fasting, prayer and charitable works.[1]

So why would I want to avoid it then? Well here is why.

1.  I am protestant and not Catholic. Okay, I know this sounds snarky, but it’s true. There are differences–big ones. Protestants believe in the Bible as the only authoritative source. I have no obligation to obey the Pope or Roman Catholic Church tradition. No need to re-open the door that Luther nailed the 95 theses to. I do not believe that tradition equals Scripture, and I have freedom from following the sacraments to earn my own salvation because salvation comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. My hope rests not in works but in justification through the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. Continue reading

We Should Study Systematic Theology for Ourselves (cont.)

Theological Formulation

In order to test our theory that studying Systematic Theology will help us know God better, let’s take a look at the doctrine of the Trinity.

The word “Trinity” cannot be found in the Bible but is a concept that many other religions critique, debate, and deny. Should we simply take it out as a stumbling block to others or is the Trinity essential to the faith? Most people have only heard an occasional sermon that mentions the Trinity at any length and rarely has the average church attender studied the Trinity at great depth. But a thorough systematic study of the entire Bible reveals that the doctrine of the Trinity rests on a rock-solid foundation. The doctrine of the Trinity emerges from a plain reading of the Bible and forms an essential element of the Christian faith. Systematic Theology helps us look at what the whole of Scripture says about the Trinity.

You would start in the Old Testament with hints like the plural pronouns:

Gen. 1:26, “Let Us make man in Our image after Our likeness” or Isaiah 6:8, “”Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Both of these verses use the first person plural (Our and Us). [See also Gen 3:22, 11:7 and many other verses] Continue reading

Is Feminism Helping Families or Creating Orphans?

Gender battle.A New York Times opinion piece says we need family friendly work laws for true gender equality. But equality in essence doesn’t necessitate equality in function.

Stephanie Coontz in her opinion editorial, “Why Gender Equality Stalled,” contends that long hours hinder dual income households resulting in role distinction. These laws have stalled the feminist movement as pragmatism forces more women to adopt historic roles.

She cited a 2010 Pew Poll which showed that “72 percent of both women and men between 18 and 29 agreed that the best marriage is one in which husband and wife both work and both take care of the house.”

If true, then both parents want to work in over 70% of all households. Does this show a shift toward true “equality” of function among the genders? Perhaps, but perhaps it just shows that we find our worth more in what we do than who we are.

A quote from psychologists Philip and Carolyn Cowan certainly gives that implication as they contend that traditional roles create tension in marriages. Look at why though…

The woman resents that she is not getting the shared child care she expected and envies her husband’s social networks outside the home. The husband feels hurt that his wife isn’t more grateful for the sacrifices he is making by working more hours so she can stay home.[1]

Society determines worth in what you do rather than who you are. True lasting worth comes from being created in the image of God. It doesn’t matter whether we hold high power jobs or stay at home equality of worth comes from our Creator. Continue reading

Extramarital Sex has Consequences Beyond ‘The Morning After’

It’s plain and simple human nature–if it hurts us then we stop doing it.

I remember as a little boy placing my hand firmly on top of a hot stove. I quickly removed it. You didn’t have to tell me twice. It hurt.

The problem comes when an action has long-term negative consequences but short-term pleasure. We no longer act rationally. No one starts drinking with the intention of becoming an alcoholic. No one starts gambling thinking I will become addicted, lose all my money and not be able to pay my bills.

Think about extramarital sex. In the olden days, it came with the consequences of pregnancy. Through technology and the sexual revolution of feminism we have removed the consequences or at least we think we have. Clinics provide abortions all across the nation while public schools distribute the morning after pill. (For more on the increasing use of the morning after pill check out Evan Lenow’s blog.)[1]

Morning-After-pillBut we haven’t told our kids about all the consequences–emotion and physical. Abortions leave one dead and one wounded. Extramarital sex (and pornography) leaves emotional scars that affect intimacy in marriage for years to come. Men begin to view women as an object for pleasure rather than a partner for life, and once the pleasure ceases, then those men throw them away like an old pair of tennis shoes.

But consequences exist and they go beyond the emotional too. A recent story on NBC titled “’Ongoing, severe epidemic’ of STDs in US” demonstrates the rise of STDs.[2]

20 million new incidents of infection arose in 2008 for a total of 110 million infections in the United States according to the CDC. These STDs costs the US nearly $16 billion in estimated direct medical costs.

So what is the secular solution?  Matthew Golden, the director of Public Health Seattle and King County HIV/STD Program and a professor of medicine at the University of Washington Center for AIDS and STD wants to remove the consequence instead of addressing the root problem.

But, Golden argued, ‘we have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory’ by not pursuing effective strategies, such as school-based universal access to the HPV vaccine. Continue reading

The Grace of God Amidst the Challenges of Life

BaylorI heard a falling sound with a couple of bumps followed by a loud thud. My thoughts raced as to what the sound could be. I jumped off the couch and rushed to the bedroom where my mom and dad were sleeping during their weekend visit. As I went in, I saw my mom, passed out, teeth clinched, arms extended–a sight no son ever wants to see.

We went to the emergency room that Sunday night. My mom had ups and downs as one test after another revealed nothing conclusive. Over the course of the next three days we discovered a problem similar to diverticulitis, which stopped on its own, and she recovered. Many times during the struggles of life, we look at God with a “why us” attitude, but during these few days, I have been thankful to God for his grace which has been clearly evident amidst this trial.

First, I am thankful for God’s grace that it happened at my house in Texas rather than South Carolina. This is partially just plain selfish, but it would have been much harder not knowing and not being around. I had several good, although long, nights with my mom in the hospital. I will cherish that time forever, and I am thankful to God that I could serve her in some small way.

I fear that with such good hospitals, nursing homes, and memory care facilities, we miss opportunities to return a portion of the care that our parents demonstrated for us as children. I also believe that discussing and contemplating our own mortality helps us live with a true eternal perspective. Having the right eternal perspective combats materials, encourages spiritual productivity, and focuses our thoughts towards our own mortality. I am thankful to God for the opportunity to refocus my own priorities even if the environment may have been less than ideal. Continue reading

We Should Study Systematic Theology for Ourselves

In Matthew 22, the Pharisees asked Jesus a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus’ answer is recorded in Matt 22:37-38:

The Great Commandment Matt 22:37-40

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (ESV)

Jesus commands us to love God with all our minds. The study of Systematic Theology helps us understand more about God so that we can love Him with all our minds. So when I say study theology for ourselves, this is not a selfish desire, which merely puffs us up with intellectual pride, but it is an understanding of the greatness of God that affects the way we live.

As we learn more about God and His grace to us, we love Him more with our hearts and our souls. The more we know and the more we love, the more we obey. As others have said, “Love God and do what you please.” If you truly love God, then you will do what pleases God. Becoming mature believers involves learning more about who God is.

I still remember it like it was yesterday. We first met in Church History class. I sat about middle way back toward the left-hand side of the room. She sat toward the front on the far right-hand side of the room. She looked a whole lot better than the other people in our class. Admittedly, a seminary has mostly men, which caused her beauty to stand out even more. Time passed, and I watched her deadly three-pointer on the basketball court as well as her witnessing skills in evangelism.

The next semester came, and I decide that I need to find out more about this girl with the long dark hair. Suddenly, I felt called to attend Faith Baptist Church, which oddly enough just happened to be the church she attended. Somehow (wink, wink) I bumped into her after the Sunday night service. We stood in the parking lot talking for about 30 minutes. That semester we spent a lot of time learning about each other. I found out her favorite color, favorite food, where she went to college, her friends’ names, information about her parents, her favorite dog’s name, what she did in high school and many other things that I never knew.

Joy and Thomas Engagement photoI remember the day I stood watching as she walked in the back of a church adorned with a white dress. I stood before a preacher and many of our friends while I pledged my love and commitment to her until death do us part. I may have thought that I knew everything I needed to know about her at that point, but you know what … I didn’t.

After we married, I learned that when she folds socks, she doesn’t just fold the top down, but she makes a ball out of the socks. I don’t know why I didn’t do that with my love for basketball, but I had never seen such things before. And she folded her t-shirts in a different way than I did. Also, I didn’t know that she stole the covers in the night or that when she got sick, she wanted to be cared for whereas I just want to be left alone. I didn’t know that she eats first thing in the morning or that anyone could take a bath that lasts that long.

The more time we spend together, the better I know her and the better I understand how to live peaceably and how to love my wife. I have learned how to love her better because I know more about her.

Our relationship with God has similar characteristics. The more you know about God, the better you can love God with your mind. The more you know and believe, the better your behavior will be. You don’t change your sin issues by pure willpower, but you change them by changing your thinking. Preaching just to change our actions results in condemnation, legalism and even worse–a moralistic view of salvation. Preaching that changes our thinking focuses our attention and minds on God’s greatness, God’s glory, and God’s grace. Such thinking results in sanctification that changes our behavior.

Loving the Lord with our minds requires knowing Him, and Systematic Theology helps us understand God’s revelation of Himself to mankind.

Editor's Note: This is post 3 in a series of 12. 

God is a God of Order

Can we truly understand God? No…and yes.

As sinful men and women, eveEarth from spacen our logic has suffered the effects of sin. We cannot expect to completely understand a God that lies beyond our comprehension; however, the God who created us also revealed Himself to us. Because of both general revelation in creation and special revelation in God’s written Word, we can learn a great deal about God.

First, we must recognize that God is a God of order and not disorder. Gen 1:1-2 states:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. (ESV)

In the beginning, God created from nothing. From that nothing, God made something and then he gave it order. He set lights in the sky to rule it by day and by night. He set the stars in fixed positions to serve as a guide for seafarers. He constructed the seasons of fall, winter, spring and summer with recurring cycles for planting, watering, and reaping a harvest. God took disorder and gave it order.

We see order in the New Testament through many ways, but especially in the Greek word for world, kosmos. The word kosmos means “to set in order” or “to adorn or decorate.”

Guys, perhaps you have seen your wife get ready or as they say, “put her face on.” She begins with a foundation, adds some lipstick to make her lips pop and some eyeliner to draw attention to the color of her eyes. Perhaps some mascara or eyelash extensions among other things all designed to adorn and give order. While doing this, she uses cosmetics. Notice the resemblance to our word kosmos. Well, we certainly don’t want to stretch the relationship too far, but perhaps next time you see someone wearing cosmetics or put them on yourself (ladies), then you will remember how God has put order into this world and adorned it with beauty.

God communicates to humans through general revelation and special revelation. General revelation includes such things as creation whereas special revelation typically refers to the Scriptures. God, who communicates order through general revelation, also communicates order through special revelation. Throughout the Bible we see orderly communication of truths to the people He created. By systematically studying the Bible (special revelation), we can learn more about God, more about ourselves, and more about the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what exactly is Systematic Theology? It is a discipline that gives a systematic, coherent exposition of the Christian faith, based on the entire Bible, resulting in personal application for the Christian life and ministry.

Over the next several posts, we’ll see that Systematic Theology should be studied for ourselves, for others, and for the Gospel. In the final post, I’ll offer some starting points for studying Systematic Theology as well as helpful resources to guide you.

Editor's note: This is post 2 in a series of 12.

Why You Should Study Systematic Theology

Starting the Journey

How could something so simple be so complex?Mega Bloks power Rangers

For Christmas, my daughter received the Mega Bloks Power Rangers Samurai HQ Battle set. One box, one nice picture but open it up to find 518 small Lego-like pieces with a whole lot of assembly required. The directions contained over seventy steps each with multiple items to put into the right place. I’ve seen online classes with less content. We spent about three hours together building this set, and I loved every minute of it. Every time I picked up one of those little pieces, I tried to envision how that piece fit into the big picture. The little pieces actually built four larger structures, which then fit together seamlessly to make the one whole. And of course along the way, I found the need to customize the way the fighting surface attached to the wall to make it more secure.

Believe it or not, the study of Systematic Theology has much in common with properly constructed Lego sets, or puzzles if you are not a Lego person. Every little piece represents a decision on a particular theological belief. Those decisions impact other surrounding decisions that join together creating an understandable whole. So for example, your belief about the interpretation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit will affect your understanding of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and your understanding of the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross will affect your view of salvation. Not everything in Systematic Theology fits together as cleanly as the Mega Bloks set, but that is to be expected when finite human beings attempt to understand an infinite Divine God.

I hope you will join me on this journey through a series of 12 posts as I seek to show how Systematic Theology or systematic study of the Bible will enrich your understanding of God and your Christian walk. Before I begin, let me give the caveat that preaching should consistently be text-driven through books of the Bible, but I also believe that Systematic Theology has a place for the church and the pastor.

We study Systematic Theology to understand the Bible. The more we know about the Bible the more our actions should please God.

Editor's note: This is post 1 in a series of 12.

© 2017 Thomas White

Based on a theme by Anders NorenUp ↑