from The White Horse Inn radio show
The following questions are offered to demonstrate the deeply practical and relevant nature of theological study. Salvation is not conditioned on perfect coherence on every question, but hopefully these questions and answers will spur us to dig deeper to gain a fuller understanding of our Christian faith.
True or False
God and Christ
1. Jesus was God but only appeared to be human.
2. Jesus was the first of all God’s created beings.
3. Jesus had a human body and a divine soul.
4. In the Old Testament, God was known as the Father, in the New Testament, as the Son and after Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit.
5. Mary is the Mother of God.
6. God chooses people because he knows in advance that they will choose him.
7. The only way we can be saved is by perfect conformity to the Law of God.
8. We are saved by grace after all that we can do.
9. I am saved because of my decision to accept Christ.
10. God is so sovereign he can change his mind.
11. The Bible teaches that there is an age of accountability, and children who die before they reach this age go to heaven because they are innocent.
12. If I die with unconfessed sin, I will not go to heaven.
13. The main motivation for holiness is fear of punishment and hope of reward.
14. God cannot hold someone guilty for the sins of another.
15. Justification is the process by which a person through faith in Christ and sorrow for his sins receives the gift of the Holy Spirit and so becomes a child of God.
16. God cannot require anything of us which cannot be performed.
17. True Christians believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.
18. “God helps those who help themselves” is a sound biblical principle.
19. Though no one is perfect, God looks on the heart to see who really loves him.
Basic Doctrine Quiz Key
I suppose “basic” is misleading, but this quiz is geared to motivate us to deepen our understanding of theology. The spirit of this age cries for the “practical” which usually leads us to neglect the finer points of theology due to the apparent lack of immediate practical value. However, doctrine may be considered the most practical thing about Christianity for it is what we believe about God, Christ and his salvation that provides the starting point in our sanctification into the image of Christ. Merely learning good practical tips for successful living may help us have a more pleasant existence for now, but it doesn’t necessarily accomplish that inward moral transformation which God intends to work in us through the knowledge of God which is learned in his Word and illuminated by his Spirit. This idea is reflected in Rich Mullins’ tribute to the Apostle’s Creed called, “I Believe,” in which he sings, “I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am—I did not make it, no, it is making me—it is the very truth of God, not the invention of any man.” Indeed, the truth of God which we confess as his church is what makes us. As Moses gazed on God’s visible glory on the mountain and came away reflecting God’s glory himself, as we study, learn, meditate and apply God’s revelation of himself in Scripture, so will we come away reflecting a little more of the light of God’s glory in our thoughts, words and deeds.
You may notice that much of the material in the following explanations deal with historical facts rather than solely Scriptural citations. The reason for this is that the task of growing in the knowledge of God (“theology”) is not performed in a vacuum. The vital truths that define the Christian Faith were built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, with Christ as the Cornerstone in the first century. As time has worn on, however, some of the hard questions raised by the faith once delivered to the saints have had to be wrestled with and the answers our forefathers in the Faith formulated provide valuable building materials on Scripture’s apostolic foundation. They likewise provide a means of the Holy Spirit’s work of illuminating the truth of Scripture to us through God’s gift to the church in the teaching ministry of our Pastors and teachers throughout history.
When Joseph finally saw his brothers bow before him in fulfillment of the dreams given him by God, and as the brothers were expressing their remorse for their past sins toward him, Joseph readily forgave them, explaining, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good.” This well describes the net effect of the theological controversies of the past. As false teachers rise and mislead the sheep, the true shepherds have to go back to the Scriptures and utilize the sharp minds they developed for the task in order to combat these heresies. Consequentially, the church as a whole gains a sharper understanding of the essential truths of the Faith. What the devil in the persons of the false teachers meant for evil, God meant for good, in causing his people to cling closer to his Word and grow more mature in the Faith. This is a never ending process which God continues to use to this day.
C.S. Lewis once wrote something to the effect that “the value of reading old books is not that they don’t make mistakes, they just don’t make the same mistakes we make.” Looking to the wisdom of those who’ve gone before us and examining it in the light of Scripture broadens our understanding. If we know where we’ve come from, we can better see where we are, and we can tell where we are going. Sometimes we find that we’ve strayed from the right path and thus we can learn how to correct our course. All for the glory of God and the good of his people.
1. Jesus was God but only appeared to be human. False! To answer true is to affirm Docetism. Scripture teaches that Jesus took on a true human nature in every respect but sin.
2. Jesus was the first of all God’s created beings. False! To answer true is to affirm Arianism. Scripture teaches that Christ existed eternally as God with the Father (John 1:1-2) and the Holy Spirit — the Arian heresy today exists in the Jehovah’s Witness doctrine of Christ.
3. Jesus had a human body and a divine soul. False! To answer true is to affirm Apollonarianism, which taught matter is associated with humanness, and spirit is associated with deity. Scripture teaches that Christ took on a true human nature, body and soul, in every respect but sin.)
4. In the Old Testament, God was known as the Father, in the New Testament, God was known as the Son, and after Pentecost, God is known as the Holy Spirit. False! To answer true is to affirm Modalism. This heresy taught that God was One Person operating in three modes of being; much like Clark Kent was never around when Superman was on the job. The God of Scripture is immutable; he never changes. God is eternally three Persons,not parts or modes of being, and one God. Today, Oneness Pentecostals perpetuate this heresy (even T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen).
One of the best ways to conceive the Trinity goes like this:
· The FATHER is God, but the Father is NOT the Son or the Spirit;
· The SON is God, but the Son is NOT the Father or the Spirit;
· The SPIRIT is God, but the Spirit is NOT the Father or the Son.
5. Mary is the Mother of God. True! This title was originally coined in defense of the Deity of Christ against Nestorianism, not to promote the deity of Mary or presuming a role for her in mediating with her Son between sinners and the Father. Over the centuries all of the Roman Catholic “Mariolatry” (combination of “Mary” and “idolatry”) became associated with it, which explains why it fell out of favor during the Reformation.
Nestorianism taught the doctrine affirmed in the question: Christ only appeared to be human, because spirit is good, and flesh is bad. They thought a good God couldn’t truly become an evil physical person.
6. God chooses people because he knew in advance that they would choose him. False! To answer true is to affirm Arminianism, which denied faith was God’s gift, but which merits God’s election of the believer, having foreseen his choice to believe before time began, and ordaining accordingly. Most evangelicals believe this today. Scripture defines foreknowledge not as foreseeing a choice, but as his choosing to know a people in an intimate sense before time began, thus electing them according to his own purpose.)
7. The only way we can be saved is by perfect conformity to the Law of God. True! God judges according to works. By whose works will you be judged? Your own? If so, you will be condemned. God saves by grace when he imputes the works of Jesus Christ to whoever believes. Eternal life is obtained not by lessening the severity of God’s Law, but by perfectly fulfilling the Law’s demands. God’s Law not only demanded obedient works, but the satisfaction of God’s justice for broken Laws by the death of a substitute, which, of course, Christ also provided.
8. We are saved by grace after all that we can do. False! The source of this statement is the Book of Mormon, Second Nephi 25:23.
9. I am saved because of my decision to accept Christ. False! Based on the Dispensationalist error called by its critics, “Decisional Regeneration,” in which man’s nature is a trichotomy of body, soul, and spirit; the soul being unaffected by the Fall into sin, thus has the capacity to will to receive Christ and thus please God by faith although the body and spirit are bound as slaves to sin. Scripture teaches that man is a dichotomy of the material and immaterial which entirely fell into the bondage of sin and spiritual death, only resurrected by the grace of God, simultaneously bestowing regeneration and the gift of faith which may only then receive Christ freely offered in the Gospel.
10. God is so sovereign he can change his mind. False! God is so sovereign that he can will and do anything that is consistent with his nature which happens to be immutable (unchangeable).
11. The Bible teaches that there is an age of accountability, and children who die before they reach this age go to heaven because they are innocent, or “safe.” False! All people are sinful from their conception. Scripture nowhere explicitly nor implicitly teaches that accountability for sin is conditioned on one’s comprehension of his accountability for sin. Adam’s sin was imputed to all his descendants, thus all are accountable from conception. Infants get to heaven based on the free grace of God which bestows the faith to receive the benefits of redemption in Christ even before they can comprehend it. This fact does not imply whether all dying infants are elect, or only some. We must trust in God whose wisdom and sovereignty are always to be accounted just.
12. If I die with unconfessed sin I will not go to heaven. False! If this were true, no one would ever make it to heaven. Christ died for all of your sins. In Christ the believer has died to the condemnation of the Law and there is therefore no condemnation for those whoare in Christ.
13. The main motivation for punishment is fear of punishment and hope of reward. False! This idea is based on a quote from John Wesley. The motivation for holiness is grateful love for the grace freely given by God.
14. God cannot hold someone guilty for the sins of another. False! If God cannot hold Adam’s children as guilty for Adam’s sin, then God cannot hold believers in Christ as justified by his death.
15. Justification is the process by which a person by faith in Christ and sorrow for sin receives the gift of the Holy Spirit and so becomes a child of God. False! This is a direct quote of Kenneth Baker in his book, Fundamentals of Catholicism. Justification is an act of God’s free grace wherein God pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
16. God cannot require anything of us which cannot be performed. False! First, Pelagius (4th century) and later by Arminius and John Wesley. John Wesley became convinced of this false notion by reasoning from Matthew 5:48 (“be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”) that if God commands us to be perfect, then we can be. There is a difference between natural ability (the functional capacity to do that which we choose to do, which all have, saved and lost), and moral ability (the capacity to do that which is consistent with our nature– outside of Christ and dead in sin, man doesn’t have the ability to obey God’s righteous commands, but he is held accountable for his sin all the same).
17. True Christians believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. False! Scripture is interpreted according to the rules governing each particular type of literature contained in Scripture. Poetry and symbolic (apocalyptic) literature are not to be taken at the same kind of face value which historical narrative and didactic (teaching) literature is to be taken. This was originally called, “sensus literalis,” the sense of the words. Thanks to modern Dispensationalism, “literal” interpretation means that apocalyptic literature is to be interpreted on the same literalistic sense in which historical narrative is, as if “literal” means “anti-figurative.”
18. “God helps those who help themselves” is a sound biblical principle. False! This is a proverb of Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac. In a recent poll 66% of American Evangelicals thought this was a biblical quotation.
19. Though no one is perfect, God looks on the heart to see who really loves him. False! When God looks on our hearts he sees only sin. God doesn’t grade on a curve; sin must be punished. God saves those who believe based on the sinlessness in Christ’s heart alone! Jesus said our love is shown by our obedience to his commands (John 14:15; cf. Exodus 20:4); by this standard we all are exposed as sinners who don’t love God (or Jesus) nearly enough to do us any spiritual good toward our salvation.