We have all heard of #fakenews. Many people curate their social media (and their lives) to only see posts that affirm what they already believe. This tendency seems to be everywhere. It impacts both individuals and organizations (even the professional news media). And it can easily happen within religious (or cultural) communities. Every now and then, we have our comfortable way of looking at the world challenged. We realize we were caught up in fake news. But what is next? What does faith have to do with it?
Was it necessary for God to become human, in order to accomplish our salvation? The English theologian St. Anselm of Canterbury claimed this was the best way to understand the Church’s faith in arguably his most important work Cur Deo Homo. From the very beginning Christianity has always professed that the eternally begotten Son of God, “came down from heaven . . . for us and for our salvation.”
To deny this belief that God became man has been held to be heretical. It is a teaching in “the spirit of antichrist” (1 John 4:2). The early church faced this danger almost right away: “many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh” (2 John 1:7). This has been soundly settled, forever. Yet it is being questioned once again today by a people who don’t know their history.
Who is Jesus, and why did he come? The Christian Faith expresses a Mystery revealed in the Bible. This mystery centres on Jesus, known as the Christ (or Messiah), our Lord and Saviour.
Who is Jesus: the Nicene Creed
First, consider the Nicene Creed (link). This Creed is the most universal standard of Christian belief. Believers recite this statement of basic christian faith every Sunday in churches all over the world. Reciting the creed reminds Christian that our Lord “came down from heaven, was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”
Who is Jesus: The Incarnation
Second, consider the Mystery. We call this decent from heaven and our Lord’s existence among us–the incarnation. The incarnation is at the heart of the Christian Mystery. That a heavenly being from that unseen realm became one of us. And this was done, “for us men, and for our salvation.”
Who is Jesus: The Lamb of God
Third, consider the Bible’s explanation. When he Saviour appeared, a well known prophet declared, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:29-50). There are four Gospels in the New Testament of the Bible. We know Matthew, Luke and John as the Evangelists. However, the church has labeled the fourth, John, as “the Theologian.” The first three Gospels tell us the story of the Messiah. But John tells us what this story means. Find out what John explains in a recent sermon I preached:
Who is Jesus: Find out More
Find out more about the Lord, and what Christians believe about him in my new GoodFaith podcast (coming soon!). The GoodFaith podcast will have a very specific focus. Today’s Western Christian finds the Church in a difficult place, with cultural, societal and legal hostility seeming to grow stronger every year. The GoodFaith consequently exports ancient solutions to modern concerns. The wisdom of the past provides a pathway to the future.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, visible and invisible (GoodFaith Podcast Episode 009).
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 (GoodFaith Podcast Episode 010).
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;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],*
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
*The phrase “and the Son” (Latin filioque) is not in the original Greek text.
The opening lines of great literature tends to be very memorable and great writers lays out significant themes in these lines. The opening lines of Irenaeus’ Apostolic Preaching express a prayer that the reader may “preserve your faith entire and so be pleasing to God” (1.1a [at 1]). This prayer introduces a world of ideas. In this first commentary on his work, we will begin to explore this world of ideas (summarized in my earlier Outline Post). Here, Irenaeus really calls upon the reader to hold firm to the faith preached by the apostles.
Perhaps the most helpful young reformed theologian in Canada today has put it this way, “everyone should read this book three times before the year’s end.”
Having taken up his challenge, I read the book through twice. Now on my third time I am analysing it a little more deeply.
I have been reading Irenaeus’ great work, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching. This is an amazing and important book. In it, Irenaeus explains how the Christian faith has an organic, natural, or evolving relationship to the message of what we call the Old and New Testaments. he does not do this by giving his own assessment. Irenaeus instead, bears witness to the preaching of the Apostles on this subject (link). Who was this author? How did he know what the Apostle’s preached? What did he include in his book?
The Thirty-nine Articles are the theological standard of the Anglican Communion. Charles I, made it known that he agreed with the “Archbishops and Bishops of both provinces and the whole clergy in Convocation holden at London in the year 1562 for the avoiding of diversities of opinions and for the establishing of consent touching true religion.” He further declared:
That the Articles of the Church of England . . . do contain the true doctrine of the Church of England agreeable to God’s Word: which we do therefore ratify and confirm, requiring all our loving subjects to continue in the uniform profession thereof, and prohibiting the least difference from the said articles. . .
This Declaration is printed in my 2012 Cambridge Standard Edition of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), as it has been in every proper copy of the central liturgical influence in the English speaking world.
Many years ago, as part of my theology and church history courses, I studied the Articles of Religion, as they are properly titled. I have always appreciated the clarity and brevity of this National Creed.
One devotional book that had a huge impact on me was J.C. Ryle’s Holiness (Amazon; .co.uk; .ca). Later, as a teenage camp counsellor, I took Ryle’s 2 volume Commentary on the Gospel of Luke as my daily reading and found him an insightful guide in coming to a greater knowledge of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Amazon; .co.uk; .ca).
Ryle on the Thirty-nine Articles
Recently, I began reading his Knots Untied: Being plain statements on disputed points in Religion from the standpoint of an Evangelical Churchman (Amazon; .co.uk; .ca). Once again, I found him insightful and helpful. But one of the most powerful chapters in this book was Ryle’s chapter on the Thirty-nine Articles.
The Anglican Communion in the West has been a frequently cited source for the secularism thesis. This thesis argues that as a society advances, it inevitably and invariably declines in religious belief and becomes secular. As our societies continue to advance technologically and politically, it is natural to ask if there is a future for the Christian Church in the 21st Century?
I have always loved Church history. Church history begins in the biblical book of Acts, recounting the early adventures of the Apostles. It proceeds through the age of the martyrs and apologists winning over the Roman Empire in a few generations. This church, from a position of strength, then moved into the explosive missionary movement of the 3rd-10th centuries reaching every area of Europe. Then in the new millennium, despite internal fracturing, the church began expansion to every part of the globe leading eventually the modern missionary movement in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, Christianity is the largest religion in the world. And it continues to have an impact on the lives of billions and billions of individuals, and the communities and nations they form.
But for those of us living in northwestern Europe, or in North America, it can seem that Christianity is a spent force. But is this assertion true?
Jesus did not come with a blank slate upon which he introduced all new ideas. He bore witness to the historic faith of the people of Israel, and his followers have forever after linked the old and new testaments as Christian Scripture. I have been reflecting on a book that helps explain this development. But before I get into it, I reflect on a key Scriptural truth.
Two Testaments One People
The Christian faith has an organic, natural, or evolving relationship to the message of what we call the Old and New Testaments. Notice how St Paul describes this connection:
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh [were] separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. . ..
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, . . .. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11,12-13 19-20 & 22).
Paul’s message to the Ephesians in this passage is both Trinitarian and Gospel-centered. He explains our status as Christians by revealing our original separation from God the Father, our historic redemption by Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, and our ongoing reconciliation by the Holy Spirit. He also speaks of the relationship fo the Old and New Testaments.
The People of Two Testaments
Paul’s explanation of the status of Christians expresses itself with references to the old covenant (or Old Testament) promises. It also links to the relationship between God and his Old Testament people Israel. What is the relationship between the Old and New Testaments? Note that as Christians, we are “no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” and so partakers in the covenants of promises, having hope, having a relationship with God and being incorporated into commonwealth of Israel, as Christ “has made us both [into] one new man in the place of two” (Ephesians 2:14).
What does all this mean? How are we to understand this link between the Testaments?
I love my freedom. By that I mean, I love to be able to go to Tim Hortons and buy a coffee on a whim, at any time of day or night. I love to walk outside and smell the fresh air. I love to travel and see the world.
Reasonable Doubt is the Law
What a terrifying thing it is when all the powers of government, exercised through the police and the judiciary are lined up against a private citizen to deprive him or her of their life, or their freedom. Enjoying the Golden Thread of Criminal Law is one of the great privileges of living in a country with a heritage tied to the English legal tradition. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in our legal system. The presumption of innocence is inextricably intertwined with the notion of reasonable doubt.