Category Archives: Personal

Martin Luther and the Ninety-Five Theses, part 2/3

Tension rises between Martin and his father. Luther takes his monastic vows, and is loyal to the Augustinian order until his excommunication from the church of Rome. Ordained after a couple of years, and faced with conducting his first Mass, he expresses inordinate fear at the thought of the presence of God as he performs what he believed would be the miracle of transubstantiation.He rises through the ranks due to exemplary dedication. He is rewarded by being appointed to take a pilgrimage to Rome. This trip proves seriously disillusioning for Luther, as he witnesses many corruptions among the clergy there. He also sees the faithful coming to Rome and being taken advantage of by the hierarchy. Other accounts corroborate Luther’s claims of the rampant corruption in Rome, so although his account is written after his excommunication, his account is not entirely to be discounted. Among Luther’s concerns was that when the laity seek to do penance, their spiritual concerns should not be met with a sort of spiritual-monetary transaction. Sin is serious, Luther believed, and the Church ought to treat it as such.

A few years later he earns his doctorate, and is invited to be a professor of theology at a new university in Wittenberg, a small town in northeast Germany, quite out of the way of the more influential centers across the German provinces. Luther becomes quite a popular figure, and some time into this new phase of Luther’s life, the scandalous abuse of indulgences reaches Wittenberg. While they were not allowed to be sold in Wittenberg by the local prince, Wittenbergers crossed the river to purchase indulgences from the charismatic indulgence preacher, Johann Tetzel, who marketed them in an excessively crass way which even Catholic authorities today admit were not based in any teaching or practice commended by the Church of the day.

Luther’s response was to post ninety-five theses to organize a formal debate among scholars on the power and efficacy of indulgences. Written in Latin, Luther posted his theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on the eve of All Saints’ Day, October 31, 1517. Luther’s theology has not at this point changed, and his theses were no revolutionary stance, although he does make some valuable statements that reflect the teaching of Scripture and are rooted in sound logic.

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Martin Luther and the Ninety-Five Theses, part 1/3

It may be January 2018 now, but I am finally taking time to post the videos I made of our 2017 DFW Reformation Conference at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Bedford, TX the weekend prior to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The camera we used was borrowed from a generous member who did not attend the conference, and we were unable to prevent the camera from shutting off after about 15 or so minutes, so each lecture is uploaded in parts, with only a minute or so of material lost. Today, I am sharing part one of three of Dr. Jonathan Master’s opening lecture, “Martin Luther and the Ninety-Five Theses” along with my own summary which follows.

Background summary of church history.

Rise of Islam (7th-8th centuries) is the most significant event that changed the landscape of the church in history. All the most significant, influential churches, councils and debates, took place in the eastern half of the Roman Empire, centered in Constantinople in Asia Minor (modern day Istanbul, Turkey).

Rise of the Papacy With the fall of Constantinople to Islam, Rome in western Europe arises as the more prominent city among the five Patriarchates across the empire. It is only after this that the Roman Popes begin to assume and claim primacy over other bishops.

Rise of Purgatory Vague references in the ancient era of church history to an intermediate state develop in the Middle Ages to become the penitential system that deals with sins after death. Medieval papal pronouncements establish the teaching of a “treasury of merits” and offer “indulgences” by which the Papacy holds out the hope of a shortened time in Purgatory in exchange for acts of charity. By the time of Luther, this had degenerated to a crass exchange of spiritual benefits for oneself and his loved ones for money.

Background of Martin Luther

Luther’s Father a Successful Entrepreneur who intends to educate his son for a profitable law practice which will not only give Martin a comfortable life, but also benefit the family business. Luther wavers about this life plan before he reaches a crisis point during a lightning storm in a field as he walks one night, pledging to Saint Anne that if he survives, he’ll become a monk.

Our Reformation Party

It’s been a busy October for our little church in the Mid-Cities area of the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas Metroplex. A few months prior, I spoke with a fellow church member in theory about showing the kids of our church the old 1953 film, Martin Luther, starring Niall MacGinnis. Then, a couple of weeks out, the friend with whom I’d previously spoken asked if we were going to do it. Naturally, I was inclined to do so, but I recalled that in addition to this black and white classic, I also have the brand new Torchlighters cartoon, The Martin Luther Story, produced by the partnership of the Christian History Institute and Voice of the Martyrs. I suggested this video would likely be a little more enjoyable than the older film, and my friend, my wife and our pastor’s wife got to work planning a Reformation party for the weekend prior to our annual Reformation Conference, the DFW Reformation Conference.

DCD0693A-739D-4CE9-859D-E1F015661655The ladies put together a plan to host a VBS-style party, opening with my own original children’s song about the Five Solas of the Reformation, set to the tune of “Father Abraham.”

Martin Luther nailed, his Ninety-Five!
Ninety-Five Theses, did Luther nail!
I am justified, through FAITH ALONE!
So let’s reform the church!

I’m a sinner and, a saint am I!
A saint and a sinner, at the same time!
I am justified, by GRACE ALONE!
So let’s reform the church!

A believer-priest, that’s what I am!
I can boldly go before the throne!
My only Great High Priest, is CHRIST ALONE!
So let’s reform the church!

Only 66, books in the Word!
39 Old, 27 New!
The Good News is in, SCRIPTURE ALONE!
So let’s reform the church!

I’m unable to, keep God’s commands!
What he wants, he gives me in his Son!
GLORY goes to God, and GOD ALONE!
So let’s reform the church!

Martin Luther nailed, his Ninety-Five!
Ninety-Five Theses, did Luther nail!
I am justified, through FAITH ALONE!
“The just shall live by faith!”

B25CABEF-997F-49ED-AC5D-F5CD4A719EB8After the kids got the “wiggle worms” worked out of them, we sat them down and fired up the video projector (and yes, we laid down the $80 for a CVLI license to show my DVD publicly). Then the kids moved on to the stations! One station featured a simple game of shooting a nerf gun to knock down five cups representing the Five Solas, another game was a version of pin the nail on the Theses, for my station, my wife decided that I should teach the kids about the Gutenberg press, and how the printing press was so instrumental in popularizing Luther’s reforms. We tried to locate a good model of the Gutenberg press, but on such short notice, the complex wooden and metal model would arrive with only 24 to prepare it. Of course, I bought it anyway, I just wasn’t able to demonstrate it for the kids. I’ll probably build it during my Christmas break . 4A0709D5-7785-4CAF-BFB2-BF82F605181BMy wife did, however, locate a much simpler model of DaVinci’s modification of the Gutenberg press, and she also found a small, die-cast metal pencil sharpener in the form of the Gutenberg press. These I combined with my Playmobil Martin Luther figure to at least give them a nice arrangement for the children’s young eyes. I also laid out a few books with pictures of sixteenth-century print shops and summarized the process the original generations of printers went through to produce books and pamphlets. In a thrilling turn of providence, when shopping one day at Barnes & Noble, I encountered the Penguin publication, Brand Luther, by St. Andrews University scholar Andrew Pettegree. The first few chapters of this gave me a good grasp of the subject which I was able to boil down to a few salient points without going over the kids’ heads more than the subject matter otherwise would make it so easy to do.

AF110242-555D-4E7B-BCFD-B65BA29C75BCFinally, our pastor’s wife “voluntold” her husband to lead the final station, during which he donned a Geneva gown and spoke on the subject of the Diet of Worms, while the kids ate the ever-popular Diet of Worms cake—a dirt cake with gummy worms added. This they washed down with root beer, because, you know what a big advocate of the barley brew Dr. Luther was. Pastor Troutman summarized this council, read his famous “Here I Stand” speech, and also the Emperor Charles’ idle threat, the Edict of Worms, 2613CAFC-19E8-480B-A079-3F63D71FF820which called Luther “a notorious heretic.” According to some podcast which slips my mind at the moment, Charles hoped this edict alone would discourage Luther’s followers and end the spread of Luther’s teachings.

“Luther, the Cross & the Word” | DFW Reformation Conference 2017

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Martin Luther

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

On October 31, 1517, a German monk and professor of theology by the name of Martin Luther posted a notice proposing a public debate to discuss abuses on the part of his Church by which she was taking advantage of the poor, distorting her teachings, and potentially endangering the souls of the faithful. Little did he know that this simple act would spark one of the great historic movements in world history which played a role in bringing the Western world into the modern era, and plant the roots of what would come to be known as the Protestant branch of the Christian Church.

Your neighbors at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church, along with Protestant churches around the world, are commemorating this event which happened exactly 500 years ago as of this October 31st, by hosting a conference presenting the life of Martin Luther, his posting of the famous “Ninety-Five Theses,” his teachings on the Cross of Christ, and the power of the Holy Scriptures in shaping the Christian life of the believer. We cordially invite you to join us at this special observance of our annual DFW Reformation Conference Friday through Sunday, October 20-22, 2017.

Jonathan Master

Dr. Jonathan Master

Cairn University Professor of Theology, Dr. Jonathan Master will introduce us to the historic life, theology and spirituality of the Father of the Protestant Reformation, Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546).

Dr. Master teaches theology, church history, and New Testament at Cairn. He also oversees Cairn’s honors program, part of Cairn’s Center for University Studies.

Dr. Master also serves as executive editor of the online magazine Place for Truth, as well as host of the podcast Theology on the Go (both sponsored by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals). He has authored the book A Question of Consensus (Fortress Press) and a number of articles, in addition to editing The God We Worship (P&R). Prior to teaching, he served in pastoral ministry for ten years.

Conference Schedule

Friday 10/20 7:00PM “Martin Luther and the 95 Theses”

Saturday 10/21 9:00 AM “Martin Luther’s Theology of the Cross”

Saturday 10/21 10:30 AM “Martin Luther and a Life Shaped by the Word”

Sunday 10/22 10:30 AM Dr. Master preaches “A Mighty Fortress” in morning worship at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church

CLICK HERE FOR FREE REGISTRATION

Reforming–Not Rejecting!–My Love for Christmas

My sister and me enjoying Christmas in the late 1970’s.

I love Christmas! Mostly because I am an overgrown child. But judging by the look of this blog, you may have already picked up on that. No matter how old I get, or how much money we throw away, I still look forward to the big day–the hanging lights part, not so much. One thing my wife dislikes is the shortened period of daylight because it’s depressing to drive home from work after sundown. I love the earlier evenings, though, because it means that Christmas is coming!

My enthusiasm for the holiday is in no way deterred by the debate surrounding the origin of the Christmas holiday. Since my days in the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement, I have seen some leaders advocate for December 25 as the true date of the birth of Jesus, while most I have seen take no position on the date, but certainly promote the celebration of the “official,” if not actual, anniversary of the incarnation and birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Being the revivalists that they are, fundamentalists would never discourage church attendance by downplaying Christmas! In fact, part of my personal love for Christmas is probably rooted in the virtual show-and-tell encouraged by my beloved childhood pastor, who had the children bring their favorite Christmas gift to church to show it off and tell us about it.

Since about the year 2000, however, I have embraced Reformed theology, and since 2010, my wife, youngest daughter, and I have worshipped in a congregation of the Orthodox (as in, not liberal!) Presbyterian Church. The attitude and practice of my new denomination and theological tradition regarding Christmas is much more varied. I find a few who reject it entirely, many like myself who love and celebrate it with enthusiasm, and leaders who walk a very diplomatic public line between the varying opinions. The fact is that the Reformed wing of the Protestant Reformation is the historical source of the rejection of Christmas and Easter, although many sects and factions who reject these holidays often do so for reasons completely foreign to the Protestant Reformation.

So, the question of the true origin of Christmas continues to be an issue of interest for me. In the past I have promoted Touchstone Magazine‘s interesting article,” Calculating Christmas.” This article takes the “Mere Christianity” approach to defending the Christian origin of Christmas against claims of its pagan origin.In other words, it deals primarily with issues agreed on by each major branch of Christendom: Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. Some details of Touchstone’s case remain a matter of debate; however, their full-throated affirmation of the Christian origin of Christmas appeals to a guy like me. Nevertheless, Touchstone’s ecumenical approach leaves a few issues outstanding as the issue of celebrating Christmas relates to a Reformed believer’s observance of the holiday.

Reformed theology subscribes to Scripture’s authority to regulate the worship of the church–a doctrine we call “the regulative principle of worship” (RPW). Nowadays, Reformed churches differ on how this principle applies to the observance of Christmas. Some, while rejecting the Catholic Church Calendar on the grounds of the RPW, retain the observance of Easter and Christmas. This view seems to predominate today among Reformed churches. Others reject even these two holidays in favor of only observing the Lord’s Day, applying the Old Covenant Sabbath principles to New Covenant worship. They say we celebrate 52 holidays on the Reformed “church calendar.” While the former agree with the latter on the primacy of the Lord’s Day, they do see a place for the commemoration of the anniversary of the incarnation and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in the life of the church, even on the Lord’s Day. The goal of the Protestant Reformation was to reform the doctrine and practice of the church according to the Scriptures and the customs of the ancient church (Clary, Glen. The Eucharist in the Didache; Abstract, p. v).

This year, I thought to inquire into further reading by a more Reformed source on the subject. Who better to ask than my own presbytery’s scholar on the customs of the ancient church, Dr. Glen Clary, Pastor of Providence OPC in Pflugerville, Texas, and a regular contributor to the Reformed Forum through his Ancient-Reformed Worship blog. Pastor Clary, who studied under the great Hughes Oliphant Old, directed me to his post, “The Origins of the Church Calendar.” This lengthy piece features quotes by many early writers like Chrysostom, Clement and Jerome on the subject of the history of the Church Calendar and the Easter and Christmas traditions. There is much interesting content in this article, to which I would direct your attention. Allow me to whet your appetite for the details by sharing Clary’s nuanced conclusions regarding Christmas, and leave it to you to go back to his article yourself to work through the evidence he presents (emphasis mine):

“Those who argue for the derivation of Christmas from this festival [the Roman festival of the Invincible Sun, dies natalis solis invicti] lay great emphasis on the role of Constantine, who is known to have been a devotee of the Sun prior to his protection of Christianity.

“However, it should be noted that although we find several places in the Church fathers where Christmas is compared and contrasted with Sol Invictus, it does not necessarily follow that Christmas was instituted as its substitute.

“One manifest weakness of this theory is that Constantine did not institute the observance of Christmas on December 25 in Bethlehem after dedicating the Church of the Nativity.

“As we have just seen in Jerome’s sermon, Bethlehem continued to observe January 6 as the Nativity until the end of the fourth century or even the beginning of the fifth.

“Furthermore, Constantine does not institute the observance of Christmas in the new capital of his empire either. Christmas first came to Constantinople in 380 when it was introduced by the newly installed bishop, Gregory of Nazianzus.

“One conclusion that we may draw from this historical data is that the nativity of Christ was not widely observed in the church on December 25 until the late fourth or early fifth century.

That is not to say that Christians did not celebrate the nativity of Christ before that time. They certainly did! But the point is that December 25 was not regarded as a holy day by most Christians until pretty late in church history.

“The church calendar is something that evolved over a very long period of time. Even after the first two or three ecumenical councils, the church calendar was still in a state of flux.

As diligent students of the church fathers, the Reformers were well aware of that fact.

“The Reformers knew that there was an unbroken tradition of Lord’s Day worship handed down from the apostolic age. And they were eager to preserve that apostolic practice.

“But many of them had misgivings about the church calendar. One reason for those misgivings was the lack of evidence from the ancient church to substantiate its apostolic origins.

Engaging Worldviews Video…well, most of it. 

Dr. Bill Dennison speaks at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church (OPC). Click image for AUDIO!

On a lark, as soon as the DFW Reformation Conference kicked off on Friday night, October 28, 2016, I figured I’d see how this new-fangled Facebook Live thing works. It works so well, it killed my phone battery the first night, filled my storage and shut off during the first Saturday morning lecture, but if I recall correctly, I may have gotten all of the second Saturday lecture. I know this is old news, but those of you who were not in attendace will still benefit greatly from Dr. Bill Dennison’s detailed interaction with classical apologetics and philosophers ancient and modern in these three lectures on our most common natural worldviews: Reason, experience, opinion and naturalism.

Lecture 1: My Mind is Absolute; My Experience is Absolute.”

Lecture 2: Nature is Absolute.”

Lecture 3: My Opinion is Absolute.”


RefCon 2016 | “Engaging Worldviews”w/ Bill Dennison

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Engaging Worldviews: DFW Reformation Conference 2016 | Register Today!

 

Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29 at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church (OPC)

Join us this year as we engage the worldviews which compete for the position of absolute authority in our lives. Human reason, personal experience, nature itself and subjective opinion all claim supremacy over what we believe.

  • Human reason has placed the Christian God and his revelation on trial.
  • “Unless I experience something for myself, it cannot be necessarily true for me.”
  • If God is removed from the creation, then where do humans turn? By using their reason and experience often they will turn to Nature as their absolute guide in life.
  • “That’s just your opinion!” Opinion  has become the sign of relativism in our society since everyone’s opinion has equal value.

How do Christians respond to such pervasive subjective authorities surrounding us each day? How do Christians respond to the sovereign status of Nature and its confusing message in our day? In this world of relativism, do Christians have a basis for the truth of their assertions?

Reform your worldview as we commemorate the 499th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Conference Schedule

Friday 7:00 PM–“My Mind is Absolute; my Experience is Absolute”

Saturday 9:30 AM–“Nature is Absolute”

Saturday 11:00 AM–“My Opinion is Absolute”

bill-dennisonSpeaker: Dr. William D. Dennison, Ph.D.

Dr. Bill Dennison is an ordained minister in the OPC’s Presbytery of the Southeast, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies atCovenant College, author of In Defense of the Eschaton: Essays in Reformed Apologetics (Wipf and Stock, 2015), A Christian Approach to Interdisciplinary Studies (Wipf and Stock, 1985) and other books, contributor to still other books, not to mention numerous journal articles.

“The Road to Hell is Paved with Adverbs”

Recommended Reading

 I’ve done a little reading on writing in the past couple of years. The most humorous and memorable advice I received regarded the overuse of adverbs in one’s writing. Stephen King attributes the use of adverbs to the fear that the writer has failed to communicate well enough in the context of his adverb-riddled composition. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” writes King. Elmore Leonard writes that a character in one of his books speaks of writing historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.” These writers don’t place an absolute prohibition on all adverbs, but encourage avoidance of their use as frequently as possible 😉

Some of my friends who have done extensive reading in didactic Christian literature have no doubt encountered the word “Christianly.” For example, Harry Blamires writes in The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?: “…there is no…field of discourse in which writers are reflecting christianly on the modern world and modern man.”

This usage has always annoyed me, but now that I’m more informed on the liability of adverbs, the “little knowledge” I’ve gained threatens to make me dangerous. Would it not be better to say “as a Christian,” or “like a Christian,” “in a Christian way,” or “from a Christian perspective”?

For the record, I found myself rewriting three sentences in order to practice what I preach. Friends don’t let friends use adverbs. My hope is that this advice will help Christian writers practice their vocation–or in my case, avocation–in a more Christian way.

By Grace Through Faith (Galatians 2:15-21)

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

(Galatians 2:15-21 ESV)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

IMG_0686 Pastor Joe Troutman preaching at San Antonio Reformed on June 21, 2015. HT: Billie Moody

On Sunday, November 15, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “By Grace Through Faith” from Galatians 2:15-21.

You are justified in God’s sight not because of what you have done, but only by what Christ has done for you, and imputed to you by God’s free grace.

1. By God’s Free Grace—It doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, all are justified by grace through faith in Christ. Justification is, in God’s Court, your being declared righteous. If our righteousness is filthy rags, then justification by God is a gift.

2. He Pardons All Our Sins—In the case of your standing before the Lord, it is impossible to plead innocence. If you only ever committed the least sin, you stand condemned by the Law, because it is holy, good…

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For God’s Glory, and for Our Good (John 11:1-16)

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

(John 11:1-16 ESV)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

Sermons JohnOn Sunday, November 8, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “For God’s Glory and For Our Good” from John 11:1-16.

Lazarus’s deliverance from death was, and your salvation from eternal damnation is, accomplished by Jesus Christ for the glory of the Triune God.

1. Expression of Love—Because of his love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Jesus stayed two days longer upon reports that Lazarus was ill. They benefited more by his delay than if he had healed Lazarus immediately.

2. Walking in the Day—Jesus knows there’s no safer plae for him to be than right where the Father planned for him to be. The divine nature of Jesus knows his Father’s secret will. There was still time for Jesus to work.

3. For Your Sake, For God’s Glory—Jesus wants his disciples to have true faith in him. His delay in going to Lazarus was for their…

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The Arian Heresy and Nicene Orthodoxy

“Arianism–Arianism was a 4th-century Christian heresy named for Arius (c. 250-c. 336), a priest in Alexandria [Egypt]. Arius denied the full deity of the preexistent Son of God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. He held that the Son, while divine and like God (“of like substance”), was created by God as the agent through whom he created the universe. Arius said of the Son, “there was a time when he was not.” Arianism became so widespread in the Christian church and resulted in such disunity that the emperor Constantine convoked a church council at Nicaea in [A.D.] 325.” (from Class Handout)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

The Council of Nicea ruling on the Arian Heresy. The Council of Nicea ruling on the Arian Heresy.

On Sunday, November 1, 2015, Elder Wayne Wylie taught about the Arian Heresy and Nicene Orthodoxy.

Christianity faces more controversies and heresies than other religions because it is based on propositional doctrine rather than morality, as other religions are. “Contending for the faith” is a biblical duty intended to preserve the peace and purity of the church (Jude 3). In the ancient era of church history, the Faith needed to be stated more clearly in a formal way, hence the development of Nicene Orthodoxy.

The heresiarch Arius taught that Jesus was the first created being, and denied the “ontological Trinity,” which means he denied that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are of one divine essence. The councils which developed the Nicene Creed demonstrate the fact of the eternal generation of the Son, and the…

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Hear, O Israel (John 10:22-30)

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, hin the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are ithe Christ, jtell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do lin my Father’s name bear witness about me, but myou do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and pthey will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of tthe Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

Sermons JohnOn Sunday, October 18, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “Hear, O Israel,” from John 10:22-30.

Jesus Christ is of one substance with the Father but who became a man; he is the Good Shepherd out of whose hands no one may snatch those who believe in him.

1. Insufficiency of Evidence–The miraculous signs of Jesus reveal him as the Son of God and the Messiah; however, though we point to evidence of his divinity, his miracles and the historical fact of his resurrection, and many will refuse to believe in the face of overwhelming evidence because evidences alone are unable to generate the faith sinners need to be born again.

2. Faith Comes from Hearing–Jesus’ sheep hear his voice because they’ve been enabled to hear by the Holy Spirit. Those who never hear it, neither want to, nor are they able to hear his voice.

3.

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Gnosticism and Docetism

“[T]he idea of the presence in man of a divine “spark”…, which has proceeded from the divine world and has fallen into this world of destiny, birth and death and which must be reawakened through its own divine counterpart in order to be finally restored. This idea…is ontologically based on the conception of a downward development of the divine whose periphery (often called Sophia or Ennoia) has fatally fallen victim to a crisis and must–even if only indirectly–produce this world, in which it then cannot be disinterested, in that it must once again recover the divine “spark” (often designated as pneuma, “spirit”).”

–Congress on the Origins of Gnosticism in Messina, 1966 (cited in Rudolph, Kurt; Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism. Harper & Row, 1987. Page 57)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

The Pleroma in the Valentinian System The Pleroma in the Valentinian System

On Sunday, October 25, 2015, elder Wayne Wylie taught on Gnosticism, and introduced Docetism in his series on Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Elements of the ancient heresy of Gnositicism include the ideas of dualism, the elitist attitude of the “Gnostikoi” who are the chosen few favored with secret knowledge of Gnostic doctrine, and some discussion of how this two-tiered attitude is reflected in various Christian movements to this day. Another prominent custom among modern Christians which bears some parallel to the notion that Christians have direct knowledge of God apart from Scripture is in the notion of receiving individualistic “guidance by the Holy Spirit,” often appealed to in day-to-day decision making. Important varieties of Gnosticism, such as that of the arch-heretic Marcion and the school of Valentinus were also introduced.

In Gnosticism, knowledge of Gnostic doctrine, rather…

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The Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

(John 10:1-21 ESV)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

Podcast Art JohnOn Sunday, October 11, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “The Good Shepherd” from John 10:1-21.

Jesus Christ is the Door of the sheep and the Good Shepherd. He is the only way we may be saved, and he gently leads us through this life and into the next.

1. I Am the Door—The Pharisees are illegitimate shepherds. The true shepherd comes to the flock by means of true doctrine and obedient life. The true shepherd is not passive, but rather, active in guarding the sheep. “Life more abundantly” is often misused by false teachers. Spiritual, rather than material, abundance is meant by and provided by the Good Shepherd.

2. I Am the Good Shepherd—A shepherd seeks his own lost sheep, binds up the wounded, defends them from wolves. Jesus needs nothing from us, but gives us all things.

3. I Lay Down My Life—The Good Shepherd…

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While I AM is Still Near (John 9:1-7)

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:1-7 ESV)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

Podcast Art JohnOn Sunday, September 27, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “While I AM is Still Near” from John 9:1-7.

The Lord may be found only while he is here on earth. First, he was present in person; now he is present in his Body, the Church.

1. Who Sinned?—The fall of Adam brought the world into a state of sin and misery; therefore, we live with the daily consequences of our corporate sin in Adam in a fallen world.

2. God’s Works on Display—The real purpose of the man’s blindness, was to put the work of God on display. Doing the works of Jesus is the duty of followers, too.

3. As Long as I am in the World—The miraculous signs of Jesus reveal him to be the Creator and the Son of God. Jesus was the Light of the world during his earthly ministry. Since…

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