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The Challenge and Opportunity of Christian Unity (Part 1)

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The Challenge and Oppotunity of Christian Unity
The Challenge and Oppotunity of Christian Unity

Oh, how good and how pleasant it is, the Psalmist declares, to dwell together in unity. Of course, to be unified, you have to dwell!  Many today are concerned that the church seems to be a spent force in the West. The cultural battle seems to have been all but lost. And yet Jesus said, “I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18).

Could there be a link between survival and unity? Part of the failure of the church to thrive maybe because we have forgotten Jesus’ prayer in John 17, where our Lord asks the Father to protect his people, and to sanctify them, and to unite them as one. But, if that is the case, we must understand what Jesus is really asking for in this prayer, and look at how the church has understood it throughout her history.

A Philosophy of Life and the Big Quesitons in Life

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The Life of Faith is a Philosophy of Life
The Life of Faith is a Philosophy of Life

The big questions in life can have a tremendous impact on the small ones. While we may not even realize consciously that we have asked them, our answers can change our whole outlook. The question of the meaning of life is like that. We might not ask this question philosophically, but we all answer it practically. We ask it when we wonder, what is the point of going to work today? It orients our views of the world and our goals, our education and careers, our relationships and family objectives. Is the meaning of life to make lots of money; To maximize pleasure; To have lots of friends; to make a difference in the world? Choosing one or more of these answers will set us in different directions than if we have picked other ones.

This is just one of the questions that a Philosophy of Life seeks to answer. The Christian philosophy of life is rooted in the Faith (the summary of which is found in the Nicene Creed – see my previous post introducing this subject). For a brief restatement continue below.

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

What do you know about the Nicene Creed?  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.”

Paul reminds Christians that we ought to share one Philosophy of life. We are to have “be eager to preserve the unity of the Spirit.” See how he describes out unity:

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:3-6).

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?