Category Archives: theology
C.S. Lewis wrote:
“In both [England and America] an essential part of the ordination exam ought to be a passage from some recognized theological work set for translation into vulgar English—just like doing Latin prose. Failure on this exam should mean failure on the whole exam. It is absolutely disgraceful that we expect missionaries to the Bantus to learn Bantu but never ask whether our missionaries to the Americans or English can speak American or English. Any fool can write learned language. The vernacular is the real test. If you can’t turn your faith into it, then either you don’t understand it or you don’t believe it.” (Published in The Christian Century, 31 December 1958, pp. 1006-1007.)
“To conclude — you must translate every bit of your Theology into the vernacular. This is very troublesome and it means you can say very little in half an hour, but it is essential. It is also of the greatest service to your own thought. I have come to the conviction that if you cannot translate your thoughts into uneducated language, then your thoughts were confused. Power to translate is the test of having really understood one’s own meaning.” (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock)
In this series we will be examining the BELIEFS of the Lord Jesus. By “beliefs” we do not mean His opinions, His perspectives, or His thoughts about this or that. The term “belief” can mean those concepts, but the word can also refer to one’s firm conviction based on evidence. The beliefs of Jesus, the Son of God, were declarations of reality, incontrovertible, not open to debate (although many challenged His beliefs at every point).
The first critical issue we must discuss is His BELIEF about Himself. How did He view Himself? If He were to take a “selfie,” what would He see?
Several Scriptures give us strong clues as to His perception, belief, declaration of His own identity! The text that immediately comes to my mind is Mark 10:45 which says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
This incredible declaration by the Lord Jesus indicates that He knew the purpose for which He came. As the Second Person of the Trinity He “came” into the world He created. Why does He say He did not come to be served? The immediate context of this statement shows the request of James and John to sit at Christ’s right hand in His glory (v. 37). Jesus questions whether they realize the cost they will incur in being His fully committed followers (v. 38), then tells them that those places of honor aren’t His to give out. The other disciples become indignant with James and John (probably because they were going to ask Jesus the same favor), and Jesus tells them that the one who would be great must be the servant of all. Then the Lord Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The key to greatness in the Kingdom of God is servanthood. But Jesus goes on to say, “. . . and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus’ self-identity involved coming to “give His life as a ransom for many.” He came to die. He came to be the ransom price to buy us out of our sins.
1. How might you show your servanthood today as you live for Jesus?
2. Don’t you imagine that a kidnapped person for whom the ransom has just been paid would be overjoyed, relieved, elated that he or she was now free? Do you feel any of those emotions with your salvation?
First of all, “believe” in the Bible is much more than a personal opinion. One can have a personal viewpoint that is of the nature of an opinion (“I believe the Cubbies will get to the World Series next year!”). But when we ask the question, “What did JESUS believe?”, we are not asking about personal opinions or educated guesses, but how did He affirm reality as only He knows it to be? In a sense, Jesus never expressed a mere personal opinion. When He spoke — if He indeed was the Son of God — the words were absolute truth as only GOD would know it. His “beliefs,” therefore, are not a matter of conjecture or open to debate. And His beliefs must be mine — and yours.
Second, liberal theologians have long accused the early Christians and the First Century church of interpolation. Interpolation is defined as “introducing (something additional or extraneous) between other things or parts; interject; interpose; to insert; to alter a text by the insertion of new matter, especially deceptively or without authorization.” Whew! The charge is that the Early Church invented the doctrines of the Virgin Birth, the deity of Jesus, the idea that He wanted to start a new religion, etc. The first or second century Christians are accused of reading back those ideas into the teaching of Jesus.
Third, we are not saying that the only authority for the Jesus -follower are the words in red in the gospels. Some red-letter-edition Bibles have led some Christians to emphasize the words of Jesus over the black-lettered words of the Apostle Peter, the Apostle John, the Apostle Paul, etc. We believe, as Jesus promised, that much truth was going to be given to the Apostles by God the Holy Spirit after Jesus ascended back to the Father.
1. When we apply the word “beliefs” to Jesus, what mistakes are we making (if we are not careful)?
2. How do we keep ourselves from becoming so familiar with the “beliefs” of Jesus that they no longer surprise or upset us?
The one professional conference I try to attend each year is The Evangelical Theological Society. This year it is in the beautiful city of San Diego (where our son and his family lived for a bunch of years).
About 1500-2000 Bible College and seminary profs (along with various other pastoral riff-raff) attend and we sit in conference rooms and listen to each other read “papers.” “Papers” are scholarly presentations on the theme (which this year is the Church), ask a few questions, meet with old friends, occasionally fall asleep in someone else’s presentation, and visit Christian publishers’ book tables.
Actually many of the papers are quite helpful, inspiring, and provocative. Some papers I’ll probably attend are:
“Lavishly Forgive Sins in order to Be Forgiven: Jesus’ Parable of the Unmerciful Servant”
“The Ecclesiology of Jesus”
“A Critique of Young Earth Presuppositionalism”
“Society and Culture: Aspects of the First-Century World for a More Contextually Driven Exegesis”
“Does Compatibilism Entail Determinism? – A Pragmatic Argument From Purpose in Evil”
“Who’s Afraid of Theosis?”
“Spiritual Skepticism Over Art in the Local Church”
“Assessing Christian Hedonism”
“Challenge or Invitation? The Church’s Dilemma and Why Sexuality Discussions Are So Hard for the Church”
“Descendit: Delete or Declare? A Defense Against the Neo-Deletionists”
Don’t those papers sound interesting? Or are you eyes getting heavy . . . ? (to be continued)
I’ve been studying the little epistle of Titus recently. Have you noticed how often Paul uses the term “sound” in this three-chapter instruction manual to his young son in the faith? That word “sound” is used in:
1:9, 13; 2:1, 2, 8
ὑγιαινούσῃ (1:9)- encourage others by sound doctrine & refute . . .
ὑγιαίνωσιν (1:13)- Cretans need to be rebuked so they will be sound in the faith and . . .
ὑγιαινούσῃ (2:1)- you must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine!
ὑγιαίνοντας (2:2)- Teach the older men to be . . . sound in faith, in love and in endurance!
ὑγιῆ (2:8)- In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that can’t be condemned!
1. How do we attain “sound doctrine”?
2. As you spiritually diagnose yourself, what aspect of your life would you say is lacking in soundness?