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012 According to the Scripture

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012 According to Scripture
012 According to Scripture

How do we know that we know what we know? Its the great question today. Some say that faith is passé, that believers should become enlightened and move on. Others say that they are right and Christians are wrong.

The Christian faith welcomes these challenges. The Apostle Peter urges all Christians, “always be ready to give a reasoned defence for the hope that is within you” (1 Peter 3:15).

Many today suffer from an easily curable problem. They believe that being faithful to the Scriptures means figuring out the ancient text personally. The challenges of time, culture, and language separate us from Scripture, making this difficult. Christianity, however, teaches we know truth when it is, “evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors” (Anglican Ordinal).

According to the Scriptures

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures

Find out what this means in todays episode from the GoodFaith Podcast series on the Nicene Creed.

The GoodFaith Podcast

The GoodFaith podcast takes the wisdom of collective church history and apply it to the problems and concerns we have today. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or your favourite feed by copying the following into your client (http://chadwgraham.com/feed/podcast), or by clicking on the RSS feed links on the home page of ChadWGraham.com

011 The Crucified and Risen Lord

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011 The Crucified and Rise
011 Hope Through The Crucified and Risen Lord

Gandhi is credited with saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” But what if I cannot change what I want to see in the world?

According to the United Nations, conflict and persecution has forced some 30 million refugees  from their homes. Every nation and every community, and even every family shows forth some level of injustice (try being a middle child!). The longer we live the more we see that all the collective efforts of humanity (although they do some good) have not ended poverty, or restored justice in the world.

We begin to see the unchangeable in ourselves and cannot rid ourselves of every bad habit. Our bodies cannot be stopped from the decay of aging. Though we can delay, we cannot escape the inevitable decline.

And we see a want in society. We do not live in a perfect city, a perfect nation, or a perfect world. We need to change so many things. But we begin to see that what stands in the way is not systems, but people. It has been said, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. We vote in the change candidate, to see them become part of the establishment.

Is real change possible? The Chistian Faith says, unequivicolly, yes! True change is possible. There is hope for Jutice, hope for individuals, and hope for society through the death of death in the death of Christ, and the resurrection of hope, in the resurection of the crucified and risen Lord.

The Crucified and Risen Lord

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;

Find out what this means in todays episode from the GoodFaith Podcast series on the Nicene Creed.

The GoodFaith Podcast

The GoodFaith podcast takes the wisdom of collective church history and apply it to the problems and concerns we have today. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or your favourite feed by copying the following into your client (http://chadwgraham.com/feed/podcast), or by clicking on the RSS feed links on the home page of ChadWGraham.com

 

The Nicene Creed as a Philosophy of Life

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Creed and Philosophy of Life
The Creed and Philosophy of Life

The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed was received by the whole undivided Church as the symbol or summary of the Christian Faith (the “Nicene Creed” – learn more here). The Nicene Creed begins with the words “I Believe” or “we Believe.” The original language of the Nicene Creed was in Greek and employed the plural form of the word, πιστεύω (pistevo). This is the same word that we find in the New Testament to speak of belief or faith. We find it as a participle, for example, in John 3:16: “that whoever believes (same word) should not perish but have eternal life.” It occurs also as a noun translated “faith” in Jude 3, “the faith once for all delivered to the saints”; and as a verb in Mark 9:24, where a man answers Jesus’ question, “I believe.”

The Faith as a Philosophy of Life

For Christianity “faith” is an acknowledgment of facts believed, the trust placed in the object of belief, and personal commitment to living out those beliefs. Faith is not best described as a feeling, but rather as a Philosophy of life, or way of living. This is reflected in the evidence we have from church history.

The first word in the Latin translation of the Nicene Creed is Credo. From this word we derive the English word “Creed”. When the Church affirmed the Creed, it was affirming what the whole Church believed. The Church viewed the Creed as a summary of the Apostle’s Doctrine, “the faith once for all delivered.” The Reformers continued to hold the Creed in high esteem.  One reformed confession, the English Articles of Religion, addresses the authority of the Creeds. Article VIII declares that the three great early Creeds (Nicene, Athanasian, and Apostle’s), “ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.”

The Creed and a Philosophy of Life

I have studied and taught on the Creeds in various contexts. I have recently been studying the Nicene Creed afresh with my children. For any of you familiar with teaching/discussing serious concepts with children, you know that creativity and fun are immensely helpful.

As I have immersed myself in the Creed, I sought ways to make it more understandable (and fun for the kids). This process has led me to fresh discoveries within these familiar documents. Because the kids are studying Latin in school, we used the Latin version for our base text.

The Creed fundamentally divides under three Great Trinitarian heads. We believe:

  1. in one God;
  2. in one Lord; and
  3. in the Holy Spirit.

The largest section (the second) flows from our belief in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. But recently I have been increasingly attracted to the study of the final head. I believe this section on the Holy Spirit, though more compact, is as full of content as the more obviously larger second heading.

The Creed as a Philosophy of Life

I began viewing the Creed from a new angle, concluding that I could open up and teach the Creed as much more than a historical statement. The Faith can be received as a Way of Life, or Philosophy for Living, organized around the dominant, or head verbs:

 

Credamus in (We believe in )… I.     one God… and,

II.   one Lord… and,

III.  the Holy Spirit.

Here we have a description of what really exists, (Origins, Nature, Reality, and Goal)–the metaphysics of the Christian Way of Life.
[Credamus (We believe)] one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Here we have the testimony that gives us confidence that we know what we know—the Epistemology of the Faith.
Confitetur (We confess) One baptism . . . If what we know to be true (Epistemology) is true (Metaphysics), we should respond to it –the Ethics of the Christian Philosophy of Life.
Expectamus (We look forward to) I.     the resurrection of the dead; and

II.   the life in the age to come.

Here we have the vision of beauty that guides the desires of believers –the Aesthetics of the Christian Way of Life.

 

It is the major (head) verbs that dictate my structure. It was important to reflect them here. I wasn’t sure whether to preserve the Latin verbs I had been working from in my chart. The Latin verbs more closely resemble the Greek structure than do the standard English translations. The Latin alphabet is also easier than Greek for the average English speaker to read and understand. So, I decided to keep them. A Full version of the Nicene Creed in its original Greek, with both English and Latin translations, can be found online (here). Have a look at it under these subject heads.

010 One Lord Jesus Christ

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011 The Crucified and Rise
011 Hope Through The Crucified and Risen Lord

What is the purpose of life? To whom, or to what do we owe loyalty? Do we owe loyalty first and foremost to our nation (patriotism)? Or to our family (Marriage)? To our society (social welfare/environmentalism)? Or to ourselves? Christians profess one ultimate loyalty to one Lord Jesus Christ.

This does not mean that Christians are not patriots (loving country). It does not mean that they are not great parents, spouses or children. It does not preclude participating in the welfare of the society. Christian theology demands that those who follow Christ ought to be the very best citizens and the most loving family members. Christians love their neighbours and do good to all men. But they do all these things, because, not despite their ultimate loyalty to Jesus Christ.

One Lord Jesus Christ

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only-begotten Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one Being with the Father;

through him all things were made.

Find out what this means in todays episode from the GoodFaith Podcast series on the Nicene Creed.

The GoodFaith Podcast

The GoodFaith podcast is intended to take the wisdom of collective church history and apply it to the problems and concerns we have today. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or your favourite feed by copying the following into your client (http://chadwgraham.com/feed/podcast), or by clicking on the RSS feed links on the home page of ChadWGraham.com

009 We Believe in God

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009 We Believe in God
009 We Believe in God

Why is there something, rather than nothing? From where did that something come? For Christians the answer is found in the foundational statement of faith: We Believe in God.

We Believe in God

The Nicene Creed (AD 325/381) records the first, great, global, consensus of what Christian’s believe. For nearly two thousand years it has described what it means to be a Christian. It explains what Christians believe about the most important of all questions.

This Creed is presented in three articles of belief. The first, describes God as follows:

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, visible and invisible.

We Believe God is the Creator

We believe that God created all things, visible, and invisible. What are things invisible? Could the world we live in be more mysterious and more wondrous than we can imagine?

Find out in todays episode from the GoodFaith Podcast series on the Nicene Creed.

The GoodFaith Podcast

The GoodFaith podcast is intended to take the wisdom of collective church history and apply it to the problems and concerns we have today. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or your favourite feed by copying the following into your client (http://chadwgraham.com/feed/podcast), or by clicking on the RSS feed links on the home page of ChadWGraham.com

008 Do Christians Need a Creed?

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009 We Believe in God
009 We Believe in God

The English word Creed derives from a Latin term meaning “to believe”. When the Church quotes a Creed is quoting what “We believe.” Certain statements of Christian belief have come to be known as universal creeds, such as the Apostle’s Creed, or the Nicene Creed. What are these statements, what authority do they have? What is their value? Do we need them?

Creed and Scripture

The simple answer is, yes. Why? We only need these creeds to the extent that we need to have and understand the New Testament. The universal creeds are summaries of the standard of teaching, the form of doctrine, or the rule of the faith delivered by the Lord Jesus to the Apostles. They, in turn, delivered these traditions to the Churches. By this rule of faith, the Churches knew what was to be received as Scripture, and so the New Testament formed around it. “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

The GoodFaith Podcast

The GoodFaith podcast is intended to take the wisdom of collective church history and apply it to the problems and concerns we have today. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or your favourite feed by copying the following into your client (http://chadwgraham.com/feed/podcast), or by clicking on the RSS feed links on the home page of ChadWGraham.com

007 Are Faith and Science in Conflict?

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009 We Believe in God
009 We Believe in God

Faith is sometimes thought to be in conflict with science, and vice versa. Science is generally understood to be the investigation of the observable world, and of the theories that seek to explain what can be observed. It tells us what is. Faith seeks understanding through revelation, and natural law, by seeking connotations in observations of ourselves and of nature. Faith tells us what that which is means. Naturally, faith then has something to say to Science. It is an equally valid way of understanding the world. But does Science have anything to say to faith?

The modern world puts a lot of faith in science as an undertaking, as we should. Scientists have brought amazing things into the world. But what happens when Scientists move away from observations and theories explaining observations and enter into philosophical explanations of the Universe?

When Science Becomes Religion

Stephen Hawking, however, proclaims that “the eventual goal of science is to provide a single theory that describes the whole Universe” with the goal of “nothing less than a complete description of the Universe we live in (A Brief History of Time, 11, 14).

To do this, scientist actually takes many things on by faith. By faith they assume there is a rational explanation for what they observe. Through theories of physics (cosmology) and theories of biology (naturalistic evolution), they shift subtly through theory into metaphysics and religion.  This is nothing new.

The GoodFaith Podcast

The GoodFaith podcast is intended to take the wisdom of collective church history and apply it to the problems and concerns we have today. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or your favourite feed by copying the following into your client (http://chadwgraham.com/feed/podcast), or by clicking on the RSS feed links on the home page of ChadWGraham.com

It is Necessary to Think of Jesus Christ as God

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Faith and the Message of the Apostles
What was the Message of the Apostles?

The identity of Jesus is not without controversy. It is, however, necessary to think of Jesus Christ as God, if one is a Christian. I was recently reminded of the enduring importance of this. A Facebook post reflecting on the Church’s historic understanding of the relationship between God the Creator as Father and Jesus Christ as God the Son was challenged. A comment argued that Christ’s Sonship did not affirm his divinity, and in fact, had implications denying his deity.

The New Testament Viewed Jesus as God

The Bible, however, is the source of our understanding Jesus, the Son of God as divine. We see it in Jesus own words, “I and the father are one” (John 10:30). We see it in the declaration of Thomas the Apostle after seeing the risen Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

The Book of 1 Thessalonians may be the earliest New Testament document and one historians have a high degree of confidence attributing to the Apostle Paul. It equates “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:1) in a way quit inappropriate for a mere human. Jesus title, “Lord,” is one that a first century Jew would equate to the title of the Old Testament God. “Lord” is the same word the translators of the LXX (the Greek Old Testament) used for God’s personal name. This translation was the primary Bible of the early Church.  The church (the people of God) is to be found “in” both “the Father AND the Lord”. Shortly after the Apostle speaks of the Thessalonians believers’ “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Chapter 4:13-18 speaks to his return in power. Paul notes his inspiration of prophecy, having received this information “by a word from the Lord” (4:15). God will vivify, or bring the saints “the dead in Christ”(4:16) to life “through Jesus” (4:14).

The authorship and date of Titus has been more hotly contested. I follow the internal evidence and scholarship that affirms its Pauline origin. Either way, it is irrefutably an early, authoritative Christian document. In Titus 2:13 Christians are described as those living righteously in this present age, “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Jesus, in the New Testament is “our great God and Saviour”. And so he is worthy of worship (see Revelation chapter 5).

The Early Church Viewed Jesus as God

This New Testament witness to the divinity of Jesus fit with the worship experience of the early church. The Church consisted of those baptized into “the Name” (a singular noun) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) who was then worshipped and glorified along side the Father.

“2 Clement” appears to be a sermon, perhaps addressed to the Church of Corinth. According to Michael Holmes (Apostolic Fathers), the most likely date of the composition is between AD 120-140 (134).

The Christian Must View Jesus as God

The text of 2 Clement is now more generally labeled as “An Ancient Christian Homily.” (Rick Brannan, “Apostolic Fathers Greek-English Interlinear” Lexham Press, 2011). This title draws out many implications. It is a sample from Ancient Christian Worship, which has stood the test of time form the early 2nd century to the present. The first Generation of Christians after the Apostles understood:

Ἀδελφοί, οὕτως δεῖ ἡμᾶς φρονεῖν περὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὡς περὶ Θεοῦ, ὡς περὶ κριτοῦ ζώντων καὶ νεκρῶν. καὶ οὐ δεῖ ἡμᾶς μικρὰ φρονεῖν περὶ τῆς σωτηρίας ἡμῶν· 2ἐν τῷ γὰρ φρονεῖν ἡμᾶς μικρὰ περὶ αὐτοῦ, μικρὰ καὶ ἐλπίζομεν λαβεῖν.

Here we read an address to Christians, known as “Ἀδελφοί” (“Brothers and sisters”). They are told “οὕτως δεῖ ἡμᾶς φρονεῖν περὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὡς περὶ Θεοῦ” (“It is necessary for us to think with regard to Jesus Christ, just as we think with regard to God”). This necessity is declared by the opening words “οὕτως δεῖ“. They tell us that it is “necessary,” or “binding,” to think of Jesus in “just the same way” as we think of God.

This testimony is compelling. We must think of Jesus “as judge of the living and the dead.” In the second verse, the homily makes a rhetorical point. It argues, “for in as much as we think little of him” (ie less than God) “we also can hope for little from him.” We must think of Jesus, if he is to be our Saviour, “as God.”

Creeds Viewed Jesus as God

The Ancient Homily reflected the New Testament and the universal Christian recognition of the  equality of Jesus with God. The homily speaks of Jesus worthiness to be worshiped and glorified with God. This Christian expectation began with their baptism and continued in their experience of weekly worship. There is much truth to the motto Lex orandi, lex credendi (“The Law of Prayer” states that what we worship is what we believe). People began, however, to speak of this relationship in terms that did not meet believer’s expectations.

Dating couples often run into that awkward stage of not knowing where the relationship stands. Something makes us question what we had assumed to be true of the relationship. The early church hit something similar in the later third century. Was what they had always believed to be true correct? Where they wrong? The Church needed a DTR (“Define the Relationship”) conversation.

And so leaders from all across the world gathered at Nicea in AD 325 to have a DTR conversation. They affirmed (as slightly amended in AD 381) the Church’s ancient belief:

in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.

Today’s Church must View Jesus as God

Jesus is truly God. For a more complete understanding of the Christian view of God, check out a recent edition of The GoodFaith Podcast The Trinity: Is God one, or Three?

For more on the recent controversy regarding the Trinity, which generated the FaceBook conversation I spoke of at the start of this post, see What is the Trinity Debate About?

006 The Trinity: Is God One, or Three?

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009 We Believe in God
009 We Believe in God

Perhaps one of the most difficult beliefs of Christianity to get our minds wrapped around is the Christian understanding of God as a Triune Being. R.C. Sproul writes, “The concept of the Trinity has emerged as a touchstone of truth, a non-negotiable article of Christian orthodoxy. However, it has been a source of controversy throughout church history, and there remains much confusion about it to this day, with many people misunderstanding it in very serious ways.” (What Is the Trinity? at 1).

The GoodFaith Podcast

The GoodFaith podcast is intended to take the wisdom of collective church history and apply it to the problems and concerns we have today. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or your favourite feed by copying the following into your client (http://chadwgraham.com/feed/podcast), or by clicking on the RSS feed links on the home page of ChadWGraham.com

005 The Controversy That is Christianity

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009 We Believe in God
009 We Believe in God

Born in tremendous controversy, Christianity struggled with the weight of an entire Empire, an entire culture, and an entire way of life dead set against it. The Gospel, the central message of Christianity, has always been very controversial. As it was a scandal in the 1st century, it is a scandal today. Why? Because “We Believe. . . ” in what the world sees as “a depraved superstition” (Tacitus, quoted in Robert Louis Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them; Amazon; .ca; .co.uk)

Around the world today Christianity remains controversial.  This has led to the persecution of Christians at “near-genocidal levels” (BBC News).  Is there a way to win the culture over? Can Christianity thrive in a secular, pluralistic, and post-Christian culture?

The GoodFaith Podcast

The GoodFaith podcast is intended to take the wisdom of collective church history and apply it to the problems and concerns we have today. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or your favourite feed by copying the following into your client (http://chadwgraham.com/feed/podcast), or by clicking on the RSS feed links on the home page of ChadWGraham.com