Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Two handed Doctrine

Posted: April 10, 2011 in Church, Theology
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Christians need to know what's worth fighting for...

Mark Driscoll once preached a sermon in which he described a “two-handed” approach to Doctrine. As a young guy with training wheels on his theology, I’m exceedingly thankful for having heard that sermon about a year and a half ago. God continues to use it to this day as I try to sort through what His Word says and how I can be faithful to that in current and future service to Him.

Although this is probably true for all men, I’ve noticed us young guys in particular tend to go one of two directions regarding theological conviction…we either come across as an arrogant, critical, self-righteous jerk who is defined more by what we’re against than what we’re for, or we come across as passive, cowardly, sweet little church boys who won’t fight for anything and who everyone loves but no one respects. Neither approach is fitting for a Kingdom servant.

And I think Driscoll’s insights have proven time and again to be very clarifying and well balanced in truth and humility. His basic view is that there are certain doctrines that we hold in the closed hand (essential, non-negotiable) and there are those that we hold in the open hand (we can lovingly agree to disagree). In other words, there are doctrines that need to divide us and those that need not divide us. The key is to know what to hold in which hand.

For the Christian, there are core, foundational beliefs that simply can’t be compromised. The Bible is God’s Word, God is one God in three persons, we’re sinners, Jesus died on the cross in our place for our sins, Jesus rose from death on the 3rd day, apart from Jesus you will go to Hell, etc. These are close handed, non-negotiable beliefs that should be defended and held dear as points of unity amongst Christians no matter what their tribe.

Other issues concerning God’s foreknowledge, eschatology, spiritual gifts, etc, are things that should be held in humility in the open hand. That doesn’t mean we don’t have convictions on such secondary issues, but to me there’s no reason that Christians need to divide over these kind of issues. Too many Christians make their theology a prison and not a home…a place they can’t escape to serve alongside other brothers and sisters in Christ. Somewhere in between the fundamentalist who wants to fight over everything and the liberal who won’t fight for anything is a loyal, humble, Kingdom servant that seeks to proclaim the Gospel and make the invisible God visible through His Church. My prayer is that God will continue to move us all in that direction.

The bottom line is that Christians are in a war. This isn’t a game. And to make war on the powers of darkness, we need soldiers who care less about themselves and more about Jesus and those who don’t yet know Him. And Doctrine is mission critical to the advancement of the Gospel, especially for the young men who will serve our local churches. As Paul told young Timothy:

“16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Tim 4:16

Men of character and men of sound doctrine lead Christ’s church. And in doing so, we need to be very careful to know what goes in the closed hand and what goes in the open hand. Cowards have no place in Kingdom service. Neither do arrogant jerks. Jesus was neither. And if we’re truly to be His body, shouldn’t we follow Him?  



Disturbing Theology

Posted: February 2, 2011 in Theology
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Dave Draiman

Recently I heard a song I hadn’t heard in a while by metal giants “Disturbed”. In addition to various social and political themes, Disturbed’s music often contains spiritual overtones which seem to stem largely from lead singer Dave Draiman’s upbringing as an orthodox Jew. Draiman has since essentially walked away from Judaism and embraced what appears to be some sort of universalistic worldview (Disturbed’s 2002 album entitled “Believe” featured a cover with every major religious symbol rolled into one…) Listening to the laments offered up in Disturbed’s 2005 track “Overburdened”, I’m reminded how Draiman, like all of us, have wrestled with questions surrounding eternal security and what it is that ultimately sets us right with God.

The first few verses of “Overburdened” read as such:

 Hell is still overburdened
I must stand and wait in line
I may never know for certain
When will be my time
How was I considered evil?
Pleasures taken in this life
Someone granted me reprieval
Decades spent in strife

Led to nothing
Repeated in my mind
Led to nothing
If only I was born another time

Hell is still overburdened
I must stand and wait in line
Hell is still overburdened
How have I been so determined malign?

Draiman goes on to say:

Seems I have committed treason
All I’ve sacrificed

Led to nothing

All I hear in listening to this track is summed up in one word: justification. John Calvin once said that justification is the “foundation of all religion”. Every world religion or philosophy seems to have its own take on justification; that is, what puts us into right relationship with God. The doctrine that ultimately split Christianity and served as the catalyst for the Protestant reformation is still as central an issue today as its ever been (truth is timeless isn’t it?). As Martin Luther rightly said, the issue of justification is the issue on which the church “stands or falls.”

Essentially, every man-made religion seems to have designed justification the same way…it’s all about me and what I do. So if I live the right way, make the right sacrifices, do the right things, then God will be pleased with me. I will be set right with God. I will have earned my salvation by my performance.

It’s all about what I do. The Gospel on the other hand, the good news, is the brilliant diamond in the rough of works based theology. It’s the news that changes everything.

The Gospel says it’s not about me. The Gospel says it’s not about what I do. The Gospel says it’s not about my life, my obedience, my sacrifice, or my performance (thank God…). The Gospel says it’s about Jesus’ life, Jesus’ obedience, and Jesus’ sacrifice. The Gospel says I haven’t earned anything but hell; that everything else is by God’s grace. That all who come to trust in the finished work of Christ will be made clean, reconciled to God, and will inherit eternal life.

Christianity is a complete inversion of man-made religion. Every man-made religion involves, not coincidentally, man at its center trying to manipulate himself back to God through white knuckle effort, feats of morality, a spiritual experience, etc. All are a self-salvation project marked by pride and good works.

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Eph 2:8-9

Grace really levels the playing field. There isn’t a human being alive that is going to stand before God and be justified by his or her resume (Rom 3:20).

And praise God that we don’t have to. That the triune, Holy God came into human history and did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

Decades spent in strife

Led to nothing

All I’ve sacrificed

Led to nothing

I have good news for Dave Draiman. There’s an answer for all who are overburdened by religion…

 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

 Freedom awaits…

“A perpetual factory of idols”

Posted: January 2, 2011 in Theology

…is how John Calvin describes the depraved human mind. In American culture in particular, it’s interesting how unabashadly we fall in line with this (“American Idol”, “So and so was my idol growing up”, etc.) For me though, idols have often come in much more veiled forms (health and fitness, career advancement, relationships, etc.)

Some of the best advice I ever recieved from a pastor was to never place my identity in anything that changes. His encouragement was to place it where we were designed to…the immutable God.

“8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Heb 13:8

Mark Driscoll on idolatry: