Sola Scriptura

Dear hijas,

In keeping with this series on the differences between Protestants and Catholics then, let’s focus on this first sola, sola scriptura, or Scripture Alone. What is meant to be conveyed by this Latin phrase? We have to remember that these five sola’s are a summary of basic theological beliefs and emerged as a reaction to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church at the time. The five sola’s state five fundamental beliefs; strengths which the Reformers through their writings believed to be essentials of Christian life and practice. Implicitly rejecting or countering the teachings of the then-dominant Roman Catholic Church, of which the Reformers claimed had usurped divine attributes or qualities for the Church and its hierarchy ( especially its head, the Pope), all five sola’s need to be considered. We need also remember that these differences remain, and are just as important today as they were when they were first formulated.

So, what are Protestants protesting anyway?

One of the fundamental differences has to do with how we look at Scripture. The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) Chapter 1.2 says concerning all the books of the Old and New Testament:

‘All (of) which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.’

The issue is the sufficiency and authority of Scripture; that Scripture alone is the standard by which all Christian thought and behavior should be measured; that it alone is the sole source of God’s special revelation to mankind.

The WCF further states (Chap. 1.4):

‘The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not on the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God’ (See 1 John 5:9, 1 Thess. 2:13, 2 Tim. 3:16 and 2 Pet. 1: 19-21).

Catholics, on the other hand, reject the doctrine of sola scriptura, and don’t believe that Scripture alone is sufficient. They teach that both Scripture and Roman Catholic tradition are equally binding upon the Christian. Their insistence that both Scripture and sacred tradition are equal in authority undermine the sufficiency, authority, and completeness of Scripture. Their belief, for example, that the Pope as the Vicar of Christ (a vicar is an ‘earthly representative of God or Christ’), can speak ex cathedra (literally, ‘from the chair’) means that in matters of faith and practice when the Pope speaks on these issues, his teachings are infallible and binding upon all Christians. It is called the doctrine of  ‘Papal Infalliblity’ in Roman Catholicism, the “chair” referred to is not a literal chair, but refers metaphorically to the Pope’s position, or office, as the official teacher of Catholic doctrine.

Can you see a problem here? What happens if the Pope is wrong, or if one Pope 500 years ago said one thing, and the current Pope says something completely contrary? Which Pope is one to believe? There is an intrinsic confusion that arises from vesting authority (the authority of interpreting Scripture as infallible and binding upon all Christians) in one person or office. The Protestant Reformers saw this as a huge problem.

In contrast, Protestants believe that spiritual power and authority does not rest in the hands of a mere man or of his office, but in the very Word of God itself, to wit, sola scriptura. While Catholicism teaches that only the Catholic Church can properly, rightly, and correctly interpret Scripture, Protestants believe that Scripture itself teaches that God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all born-again believers, enabling each of us to understand the message of Scripture (see John 16: 13-14, John 14:16-17, 14:26, 1 John 2: 20, 27). Protestants acknowledge the Scriptural doctrine of the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2: 5, 9), enabling all believers to trust the Holy Spirit for guidance in reading, interpreting, and applying Scripture for themselves.

Many, I dare say, have said that the view of Scripture is at the root of many, if not all, of the differences between Protestants and Catholics.

With love, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas

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The Five Sola’s coming out of the Protestant Reformation

Dear hijas,

I am going to do a short series on the differences between Protestants and Catholics within the Christian system of thought. This first post on the five sola’s (sola in Latin means ‘alone’) bears study, for it is within these five sola’s that we see the ‘why’ of the Protestant Reformation and its reaction to the established Roman Catholicism of its time. It is within these sola’s that we see some of the key differences. I’ll list them briefly here and we’ll take a more detailed look in future posts:

1) Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

Q. How do we know what we must believe?

A. Scripture alone

‘For in it (the gospel. And where do we find the gospel? In Scripture) the righteousness of God is revealed…'(Rom. 1:17).

‘All Scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

2) Solo Christo or Solus Christus (Christ Alone)

Q. How do we know God?

A. In Christ alone.

‘For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord…'(2 Cor. 4:5)

3) Sola gratia (Grace Alone)

Q. How are we to be reconciled to God, made righteous?

A. By grace alone.

‘…being justified as a gift by His grace…'(Rom. 3:24)

‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast’ (Eph. 2:8-9).

4) Sola fide (Faith Alone)

Q. What must I do to be saved?

A. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ by faith alone.

‘For what does the Scripture say? ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness’ (Rom 4:3-5).

5) soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone)

Q. What is the grand outcome of God’s plan?

A. To bring glory to God, and to Him alone.

‘…yet, with respect to the promise of God, he (Abraham) did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God’ (Rom. 4:20).

‘…and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil. 2:11).

(Credit for the questions and answers concerning the five sola’s is taken from Pastor Dan Phillips, sermon preached at Copperfield Bible Church, Houston, TX, Oct. 27, 2012).

With love, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas

The Water that Springs Up to Eternal Life

From the Days of Praise booklet of daily bible readings and devotional commentaries by the Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX, 2012:

A Spring of Water

“Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14)

Water is necessary for life, and no one can live for long without it. Jesus, when talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, used this simple and well-known fact to teach timeless truth, both to her and to us.  The two occurrences of the word “drinketh” in today’s verse are actually in two different forms. The construction used in Greek implies a continual, habitual drinking in the first case, but a one-time action in the second.

Likewise, while the woman referred to a “well” (v. 12) (literally “a hole in the ground”), Christ referred to a “flowing well,” or “spring,” using a different word.
Furthermore, when He said one who drinks from His spring shall “never thirst,” He said so in a very emphatic way. Not only is “thirst” emphasized by the sentence structure, but it is compiled of two negatives preceding the verb “thirst,” which is further strengthened by the word “forever,” i.e., “shall not, shall not thirst, forever.”

One who drinks from the wells of the world will thirst again, for sinful pleasures never satisfy. But just a single drink from the springs of “living water” (4:10; 7:38) of which Christ spoke eliminates spiritual thirst forever.

That one drink is a drink of eternal life, and it becomes in the believer a veritable spring, inexhaustible in its quantity and unsurpassed in its quality. The water is, of course, a reference to the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus to minister to His followers in His absence. One day we’ll be with Him, and then, as well as now, He completely satisfies. JDM [Dr. John D. Morris of the Institute for Creation Research (www.icr.org),  and the ‘Days of Praise‘ booklet of daily bible readings and devotional commentaries for Dec. 21, 2012.]

Dear hijas,

This is a beautiful picture of the love that Christ shows to each of us, and in particular to this woman, of His offering of eternal life, by using an analogy of right where they were standing. Jesus was actually sitting at the well around noon (John 4:6), tired from his journey from Judea on the way to Galilee (having to pass through Samaria), when the woman came up to draw water, and Jesus asked her for a drink. He uses the analogy of ‘water’, and ‘drinking it’, and ‘thirst’, and of a ‘well’, to speak of the reason He came to earth and what He intends to offer to all. His water, is a one-time thing, from which once taken, one never has to drink again. 

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

Why the World Won’t End Today

Dear hijas,

You’ve probably read that according to the Mayan calendar, the world is supposed to end today, Dec. 21, 2012. It’s all over the news, a doomsday panic if you will, fearful ‘end of the world’ callers flooding NASA, and some people around the world, believing this to be true, are preparing for the worst. So as a caveat, let me preface the title of this post by clarifying ‘Why the World Won’t End Today’, by adding,  ‘According to the Mayan Prediction’.  Christ ‘could’ return at any minute, and we are to be ready for it, but it won’t be because the Mayans predicted it. So let’s take a look at this Mayan prediction through the lens of our Christian system of thought. Does Scripture have anything to say about this, and what as Christians are we to think about it?

First off, who were the Mayans? For students of ancient Mesoamerican time-keeping, Dec. 21, 2012 marks the end of a 5,125-year cycle in the Maya Long Calendar, an event one leading U.S. scholar said in the 1960s could be interpreted as a kind of Armageddon for the Maya. Tracing its origins to the end of the 4th millennium BC, the ancient Mesoamerican civilization of the Maya reached its peak between A.D. 250 and 900 when they ruled over large swathes of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. Famed for developing hieroglyphic writing and an advanced astronomical system, the Maya then began a slow decline, but pockets of the civilization continued to flourish until they were finally subjugated by the Spanish in the 17th century. Today, ethnic Maya are believed to number at least 7 million in Mexico, Guatemala and other parts of Central America. Tales of human sacrifice, pioneering architectural feats and an interest in the stars burnished the Maya’s supernatural reputation. So too, say experts, has the misguided notion that the Maya died out with the arrival of the conquistadors. “That idea that they disappeared culturally back in the deep past is one of these things that feeds into this idea that they are mysterious, that they are otherworldly,” said David Stuart, a Maya expert at the University of Texas. There are scores of old Maya ruins, temples and monuments dotting the landscape between southern Mexico and Central America. One of the most popular attractions lies in a leafy grove near the crumbling pyramids of Coba, where a large stone tablet records the Maya creation date of August 13, 3114 BC – quite literally the cornerstone of the 2012 phenomenon.

I’ve cut and pasted the above paragraph from an article that can be found here: (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/19/mexico-maya-idUSL1E8NJ05V20121219).

With that as backdrop, how are we to think about this? It starts with our presupposition that the Word of God, and it alone, is the final authority in all that it speaks. Does Scripture have anything to say about the end of the world? It certainly does. Scripture calls it ‘the Day of the Lord’, there are many references in Scripture to this ‘Day’,  and one can’t read the book of Revelation without coming to the conclusion that things will be terribly different for the people of this earth before Christ’s return. But Jesus Himself said that no one will know that day or hour (Mark 13:32).

So, were the Mayans God-worshippers? It seems not.  They were certainly god(small g) -worshippers, for it seems they sacrificed humans to this god, but like all pagan religions, it was a god of their own making, not the Creatior-God of the universe, nor the God of their ancestors descended through Noah. You see, since the nations of the world today all came through Noah’s three sons and their wives (after the great Flood) as Scripture  so aptly describes in Gen. 6:18, 9:1, 9:18-19, 10:1, and as the apostle Peter proclaims in 1 Peter 3:20, then the Mayans were descendants of one of these three sons of Noah (Shem, Ham, or Japheth). Noah was a righteous man, and found favor in the eyes of the LORD (Gen. 6:8, Heb. 11:7). He knew this Creator-God of the universe, worshipped Him, and rightly taught his sons to obey Him.  They in turn taught it to their children.  But what happened? The Tower of Babel happened. The peoples descended through Noah’s three sons became corrupt again, God confused their language, and ‘from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the earth’ (Gen. 11:9). They forgot the Creator-God, the true God of their ancestor Noah, and started worshipping false gods of their own making.

Which brings us back to the Mayans and their prophetic prediction that the world will end today. We need not fear a pagan prediction from a people group not rooted in the worship of the one true God, nor rooted in Scripture. ‘For we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention’…(1 Pet. 1:19)

‘But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God’ (1 Pet. 1:20-21).

As always, with love,

Dear ol’ Dad

Adios y vaya con Dios mis hijas

The Christmas Story Thru the Eyes of Creation

Dear hijas,

Have you ever wondered why Christ had to come to earth? The Christmas story this time of year usually begins in a manger (no room at the inn), with Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus as Mary’s first-born son, shepherds watching their flocks by night, angels praising God and pronouncing a Savior is born, wise men coming from the East to present gifts, and while this is beautiful and ‘is’ the Christmas story, it’s not ‘all of’ the Christmas story. If we leave out the part for why Christ had to come in the first place, we’re not telling the complete story; we’re not giving the complete picture. What if we looked at Christmas and start at the beginning; at Creation, one of the most foundational doctrines of our Christian system of thought?

For it is the Creation account, and Adam and Eve, and their fall into sin, and God’s solution,  that gives us the reason for why Christ had to come.

It starts with the historical account of God creating everything that is (both heavens and earth, visible and invisible), in the space of six normal 24-hour days. Christ Himself is the agent in Creation (John 1:1-3, Col. 1:16). Adam and Eve, as real, historical people and the progenitors of the whole human race (everyone alive or dead in all of human history were descended from this first couple) were created on Day 6. At the end of Day 6, Christ’s Creation was perfect (no sin, no death, no pain or suffering, no bloodshed or disease, no decay or destruction) in all the created order (Gen. 1:31).’ God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was ‘very good‘. God then rested on the seventh day, blessed it, and sanctified it.

So what happened? Well, you know the history. Adam and Eve transgressed the commandment of God not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17), committing sin. Disobedience to God is sin. Adam and Eve disobeyed. We refer to this as ‘the Fall‘. As stewards and pinnacle of this beautiful Christ-created world, there were consequences to the sin of disobedience. Notice the interaction with God by Adam and Eve in verses 9-13 of Genesis 3. How does God handle this disobedience? He institutes ‘the Curse‘; a curse on both man and woman(Adam and Eve), the ground, the animals, and the Serpent (Gen.3:14-19). We learn from Romans 8:19-22 that this ‘Curse’ affected the entirety of Christ’s created order. There was nothing left untouched and unaffected. We are still under this ‘Curse’ today, thousands of years later.

This leaves us in a very dire predicament, does it not? What was God to do? What ‘did’ God do? Well, He graciously provided a solution out of this morass with a promise. And what was that promise, God’s solution and the basis of the Christmas story we celebrate today? Look at verse 15 of Genesis 3. He promised Eve a Seed that would crush the Serpent’s head. It was the Serpent that deceived Eve in the first place, wasn’t it (Gen. 3:1-5)? God now tells her that a Seed would come from her that would crush the Serpent’s head. She thought it was Cain. Notice the language of Gen. 4:1 where Eve says: ‘I have gotten a man-child; the LORD’. Her theology was correct, but her application was wrong. She realized this, for in naming her second child, she called him Abel, from the Hebrew word habal which means to ‘act emptily’ or ‘become vain’, as a ‘breath’ that whiffs fleetingly away. And so who is  this promised Seed, if not Cain or Abel? Galatians 3:16-19 gives us the answer. The promised Seed is Christ.

It is in Christ that our Christmas story through the eyes of Creation finds fulfillment. He is the promised Seed of Gen. 3:15.  He is the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 that was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, chastened for our well-being. He is the solution to the ‘Fall and Curse’, Himself becoming a curse for us, to redeem us from the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13).  It is in Christ becoming man that first Christmas morn’ which gives joy to our celebration. His name Jesus (God saves) is the hope for all mankind in every corner of the globe to set things right that went terribly wrong at the beginning.

Inspiration for this post and credit due to: http://creation.com/telling-the-christmas-story-from-creation

Adios y vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

The Christian Earth

  circle-chart-size-of-religious-groups Take a look at this chart. (You’ll notice that the data is from 2010; it’s not up-to-the-minute, but, given the challenges of a global survey and the slow rate at which global trends move, it’s still relatively current.) Above, then,  is a chart of the world’s major religions by number of adherents. Now, take a look at this map below as to its distribution. world-map-all-religions

The Great Commission that Jesus charged his disciples in Matt. 28: 18-20 is being fulfilled mis hijas. Continue to be a part of this calling in all that you do.

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'”

The full story can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/18/our-christian-earth-the-astounding-reach-of-the-worlds-largest-religion-in-charts-and-maps/. While I don’t agree with the conclusion of this Washington Post articles’ writer, the maps and charts are fascinating.

At this Christmas season, I’m reminded of that old African-American spiritual:

“Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;  Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born. 1)While shepherds kept their watching O’er silent flocks by night, Behold throughout the heavens There shone a holy light. Go tell it on the mountain… 2)The shepherds feared and trembled When lo’ above the earth, Rang out the angel chorus That hailed our Savior’s birth. Go tell it on the mountain… 3)Down in a lowly manger The humble Christ was born, And God sent us salvation That blessed Christmas morn. Go tell it on the mountain…

‘When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning…this child’ (Luke 2:17)

Adios y vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

Why do I believe in God?

Dear hijas,

Why do I believe in God? Because God has spoken.

He is there and He is not Silent’ is the title of one of my favorite books by Christian philosopher Francis A. Schaeffer. Because God has spoken, he is not silent, and has revealed himself and made himself known in many independent ways. What are those ways? God has revealed Himself in:

1) Creation

The magnitude of the universe. Read Psalms 19: 1-6 and see the ongoing testimony the psalmist (David) describes to the created order.  The universe daily pours forth speech and daily reveals knowledge. This speech is not voiced, there are no words, (how can an inanimate thing speak?, does it have vocal cords?), yet in the mind of man who does speak, who can conceptualize, the universe is a powerful testimony to God’s existence. The heavens are like a tent for the sun, which like a bridegroom at a wedding comes out of his dressing room all decked out ready to meet his new bride. It rejoices like a triathelete, poised at the starting line, confident in his strength to run the course. There is an ongoing testimony to the beauty of the universe’s order that shouts the existence of God.

2) Conscience

The universal sense of right and wrong in every individual. This sense of ‘ought’ and ‘ought not’ that each of us has. Guilt. Where does it come from? Paul says in Romans 2:14 that it is instinctual, that each of us instinctively do the things of the Law (the moral law of God) because we have this Law (moral law, right and wrong) written on our hearts (Rom. 2:14-15).  He earlier (Rom. 1:19-20) had said that failure to seek God because of this instinctual knowledge of right and wrong makes us morally culpable before Him. In other words, no one will have an excuse for why they didn’t seek after God because of this moral law written on their hearts.

3) the Canon

God’s communication to His creatures.  See 2 Tim. 3:16-17. The Scriptures. They are self-attesting and self-authenticating. See 2 Pet. 1: 20-21. Over 1500 years of authorship (Genesis to Revelation) with 40 authors all speaking to one theme: God’s reconciliation with man. God’s testimony is there for us to read.  One of the great themes to come out of the Protestant Reformation was the push and right to read the Scriptures for ourselves. No longer were they just to be handled and read by the clergy, but the common man had the right to read them for himself. These Scriptures speak of powerful testimony to who He is and what He has to do with us.

God’s written revelation in Scripture then points to His personal revelation in Jesus Christ.

4) the person of Jesus Christ

God has spoken in human flesh. His incarnation was the promise given to Eve way back in Gen. 3:15. Read John 1:14. Jesus dwelt among us and there were witnesses to his glory. There were witnesses to his death and resurrection. He claimed to be God. He backed up this claim by rising from the dead. God has spoken to us in His Son. Read Heb. 1:1-4. See how some of the people in Jesus’ day missed this very important point in John 5:39.

5) Conversion

Conversion is a turning to God in repentance and faith. It is the work of God in directly securing our salvation, and all through His grace, not something that we did for ourselves. See Eph. 2: 4-5, and 2:8-9. God Himself has worked in our lives, exercising grace in our salvation. It is He who has opened our hearts to believe (2 Cor. 4:6). It then is this conversion in the lives of those converted who give powerful testimony of God’s existence.

Think of these five points as the 5 C’s of belief in God’s existence: creation, conscience, Canon, Christ, conversion. Not exhaustive of explanations of testimony for God’s existence, but very useful starters.

As always, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Adios y vaya con Dios mis hijas

Beginnings

Dear and beloved daughters,

Dear ol’ Dad has started a blog (whooeee!), to you my beloved daughters, of thoughts and reflections on this journey we call our Christian faith. Words of wisdom, if you will, on what’s pingin’ around in my brain on this system of thought called Christianity.  What is it we believe, why do we believe it, and what practical difference does it make in the real world of  ‘life’? Is it pie in the sky ‘faith’, (too much of our heads in the clouds to be of little practical use), or is it grounded in what’s really there, the world outside our minds, the real world of people, places, and things? I hope to show you, discuss with you (for I very much wish to hear your thoughts), why Christianity is the only system of thought capable of answering all the questions.

No other system, whether it be religious or philosophical, can adequately and completely explain the nature of man, the existence of what’s out there, or how man knows what he knows, except the Judeo-Christian system. Not to say that these other religious or philosophical systems haven’t tried, but none, yes, that’s right, none, can answer the most pressing questions of man’s existence the way Christianity answers them. It is the Judeo-Christian system of thought, and only the Judeo-Christian system of thought that has these answers, and that can answer them to what’s there.  My posts might be daily, semiweekly, or weekly, so come back often and read these luv notes from Dad, and if you think they might be helpful to your friends and acquaintances, then pass them along.

If you’ve got some good ideas on how to improve the format of this blog, different themes, pictures, or have topics you wish to see me address, then you know me, and I’m just learning how to do this thing called blogging, so give me some tips and help your dear ol’ Dad 🙂

Adios y vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Love,

Dear ol’ Dad

CEH

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