Theology 101

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  1. London says:


    Labeled by whom??

    “By contrast, individuals labeled liberal, radical, modernist, or subjectivist find God’s truth in the thoughts, impressions, judgments, theories and speculations that Scripture triggers in their own minds. While dismissing the New Testament concept of the inspiration of Scripture, and not treating their Bible as totally trustworthy or as embodying absolute and authoritative transcripts of the mind of God, they are confident that the Spirit leads them to pick and choose in such a way that wisdom from God results.”

  2. Michael says:

    The labels have mainly been self chosen as an attempt to distinguish the groups from fundamentalism or evangelicalism.

    Standard theological terms.

  3. London says:

    hmmmm….I wonder how many of them would define their beliefs in the same terms Piper did though. dunno

  4. Believe says:


  5. Xenia says:

    >>>The first two positions treat human judgments on the Bible as decisive for truth <<<<

    This is erroneous. The Orthodox believe that the Holy Spirit guids the Church.

    Which sounds like human judgments to you?

    1. In the early centuries of the Christianity, the leaders of the Church gather in councils and, by means of searching the scriptures and beseeching the Holy Spirit for guidance, formulated the doctrines of the Trinity, the nature of Christ and the canon of Scripture and many other standard Christian doctrines.

    2. I go sit under a tree with my Bible and decide what it means for myself, coming up with novel ideas that come from my own imagination.

    Packer believes in Tradition just as much as I do. He has just chosen a newer Tradition to follow.

  6. Em says:

    wonder why Packer(?) chose to replace the word ‘profitable’ with the word ‘useful?’ …

  7. Em says:

    #4 stated his case in great detail and with great clarity, too – not much there, i guess…

  8. Michael says:

    “wonder why Packer(?) chose to replace the word ‘profitable’ with the word ‘useful?’ …”

    I think Packer used the NIV for this book…

  9. BrianD says:

    Foreword to Michael Spencer’s new book

  10. Lutheran says:

    ‘The Orthodox believe that the Holy Spirit guids the Church.’


    Wouldn’t it be more complete/accurate to say you believe the HS guides the Church through its leadership? Just as the RC Church believes it’s through their leaders?

    Surely there has to be a belief there’s some type of ‘mechanism’ or means at work, ordained by God or however one would say it. Otherwise, the guy sitting under the Bible could assert an equal clsim.

  11. Xenia says:

    Wouldn’t it be more complete/accurate to say you believe the HS guides the Church through its leadership?<<<

    Yes, that's more accurate.

  12. Lutheran says:

    Lutherans are very, very respectful of the Church Fathers, both East and West, and of church history. Luther was intimately familiar with them and quotes them extensively in his writings.

    But we do not subscribe to apostolic succession or the belief that the Truth has been passed on in a line only to certain individuals. We believe the true Church is present where Word (not just written word, either) and Sacrament are present.

    What I find sad is the splitting of Christ’s Church as time goes on. First in the fifth century, the Chalcedonian Schism about the person and nature of Christ. Then the second, the East-West Schism, in the 11th Century when the Orthodox split from the Roman Church. Then the third, the Protestant Reformation.

    I guess I’m an ecumenical guy at heart.

  13. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Lutheran said “I guess I’m an ecumenical guy at heart.”

    I would just like to say, so am I – as long as everyone sees things my way! 😉

  14. Lutheran says:


    You’d be the perfect authoritarian pope or whatever.


  15. james tiberius kirk says:

    “Historic Protestantism, however, finds God’s truth in the teaching of the canonical Scriptures as such. It receives these Scriptures as..sufficient (i.e., telling us all that God wills to tell us and all that we need to know for salvation and eternal life), and clear (i.e., straightforward and self-interpreting on all matters of importance).”

    So how exactly shall we understand and reconcile the above with John 10:27-29:
    27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”?

    How can we know SPECIFIC info about what Jesus wants us to do either day-to-day or in our bigger calling?

  16. Lutheran says:

    How can we know SPECIFIC info about what Jesus wants us to do either day-to-day or in our bigger calling?


    It’s called sanctified common sense — prayer, thinking it through, asking others for their take, and then taking action.

    I don’t see anything in the passage you cited that presumes Jesus is going to give us each specific day-to-day info. Sounds exhausting.

  17. james tiberius kirk says:


    Sanctified common sense apparently ain’t all that common!

    One problem, is how often do people who do what they think is best and then pray pick the truly self-sacrificial path?

    When people pray “the open door prayer” (Lord, whatever job you want me to take, let them hire me”, etc), it USUALLY takes the “default setting” of what THEY want, or what is convenient, in my experience.

    Even if I “give you” the passing on day-to-day being led by God and/or hearing His voice, are we to make life-long impacting decisions (marriage, career calling, etc) without KNOWING what God’s sovereign will for our life is?

  18. Em says:

    JTK, could he have intended that to refer to all ‘spiritual’ matters of importance?

    finding God’s absolute will for your life was a concept preached to my generation when we were young and just about made basket cases out of a lot of us… we were so focused looking for His perfect will for each individual that we were paralyzed. We weren’t growing spiritually, which IMO was what His perfect will was: **grow** – “grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” then you **are** useful, no matter what you’re doing

  19. Em says:

    blogging apologies for butting in here this am – just sayin … again

  20. Lutheran says:


    You’re way overthinking it, IMHO.

    Everything you and I do as a Christian is tainted with sin. So go forward knowing God is with you!

    Get out there and sin bravely.

  21. Xenia says:

    finding God’s absolute will for your life was a concept preached to my generation when we were young and just about made basket cases out of a lot of us… <<<

    So true.

  22. Xenia says:

    Later on the learned the quote “Love God and do what you want,” which was very liberating.

  23. Bob says:

    Scriptures are a must, not just to have Jesus revealed to us in specific revelation but to provide instruction about how to conduct our lives in a way which benefits us and brings glory to God.

    But like JTK said we also have to be “spiritually aware” and have an ear for the voice of Jesus. Of course how will we know His voice? By reading the recorded words of Jesus from scripture. Then can we learn to distinguish between the Shepherd’s voice and the lust of our life.

    I believe those who rely only on their church traditions to provide the necessary instructions will miss out on a lot of what He has to say. Reminds me of what a good pastor friend of mine used to repeat almost every Sunday, “there are literally thousands of books where people tell you what the scriptures say, to bad people don’t spend time finding out what it actually says!”

    Personally I have enough confidence in the scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit to risk people being “wrong” by letting them read and then decide for themselves what God is speaking to them about.

    PS. One caution note in scripture reading. It is highly dangerous to read the bible, drink beer and eat pizza all at once. The results of which are often known as a “Pizza Dream.” The “pizza dreams” can be confused with “new revelations” from God and should be considered carefully prior to public proclamation. Should one feel such an event has happened to him or her it is strongly advised a conversation with a trusted friend be in order prior to revealing to others the nature of this “dream.”

  24. Another Voice says:

    I’ve eaten lunch at a lot of fastfood places over the years. On a few occasions, I have had a ‘divine appointment’ where a spiritually valuable conversation took place with a stranger. I am always on the ‘lookout’ for such opportunities of witness….

    but most of the time I just get full.

    Now…since I have never prayed about where to eat lunch, but just go where my stomach is calling (no cracks about the Scripture ‘their god is their belly’ please) – is the suggestion that if I sought and discerned God’s will before each lunch that there would be a ‘divine appointment’ every time?

    Sanctified common sense is a term I like (and may steal from you Lutheran).

    I have given myself to the Lord, and have been called to be a witness in whatever I may do. I am (as are all of you) a ‘saint’ a ‘holy one’ a ‘sanctified one’ – and thus God uses me for His purposes.

    I can rest in that.

  25. Lutheran says:

    “Love God and do what you want,”


    You said in one sentence what I was trying to say in a post or two.

    Is it Augustine who first said it? That’s been my understanding…

  26. Xenia says:

    I think it was Augustine, yep.

  27. Xenia says:

    I believe those who rely only on their church traditions to provide the necessary instructions will miss out on a lot of what He has to say.<<<

    Uh, no, not at all. The Holy Spirit still guides us in our lives. What we are not free to do is to come up with new interpretations of the scriptures that result in new doctrines.

    Have any of you ever been in a small Bible study group where the leader read a verse and said "what do you think this verse means?" and you go around the circle and everyone tells what they think it means, some even prefacing their remarks with "This is what the Lord is telling me it means." ? Have you ever heard a pastor give a sermon on a passage and give it a totally novel (often bizarre) spin and says "This is what the Lord is telling me this passage really means."? Have you ever wondered about a passage and looked it up in various commentaries and got a different answer from each one?

    Whereas, in a Traditional setting, if a difficult passage is under consideration the speaker will say "This is what the Church has always taught that this passage means" and there will be quotes from other scriptures, a few quotes from the ECFs and maybe a passage from one of the Seven Councils. He is not free to advance his own interpretation and ideas.

    Are there any new doctrines that need interpretation at this late date of 2010? Is it unreasonable to suppose that God, in His mercy, guided the early Church in these things and we no longer need to go around the circle and ask each other "what do you think this means?"

    Nevertheless, when we pray we do ask the Lord to help us and to give us wisdom in managing our daily affairs.

  28. Another Voice says:

    Xenia, I hear you and agree with so much of what you wrote.

    You wrote “Have you ever wondered about a passage and looked it up in various commentaries and got a different answer from each one?”

    This can be said of the earliest church fathers too. They disagreed on interpretation often as well.

    Can we agree that the “right” interpretation of any Scripture is the one God intended when he wrote (inspired) it. Can we also agree that the only way any human can discern the “right” interpretation is by means of the Holy Spirit (the Author) showing him or her?

  29. Xenia says:

    Can we agree that the “right” interpretation of any Scripture is the one God intended when he wrote (inspired) it. <<<


    Can we also agree that the only way any human can discern the “right” interpretation is by means of the Holy Spirit (the Author) showing him or her?

    Yes and no. I think the interpretations were all given long ago and I am not going to come up with any new ones, personally.

    However, there's this: When I read the scriptures the Holy Spirit can and does draw my attention to certain passages that He wants me to pay extra attention to, not to re-interpret but for the purpose of applying it to my life.

    For example, when the Lord says "Care for the poor" I am not free to re-interpret this to mean something completely different (as I have heard people do) but if the Holy Spirit keeps drawing my eye to that verse I believe He has some impoverished people He is wanting me to help. He will keep reminding me of that verse until I do something about it.

  30. Xenia says:

    Regarding the ECFs, they are not infallible. It’s the consensus of their teachings that count.

  31. Michael says:

    As far as life direction is concerned, we Calvinists trust the scriptures and the doctrine of providence.

    “Providence literally means foresight, but is generally used to denote God’s preserving and governing all things by means of second causes (Ps. 18:35; 63:8; Acts 17:28; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3). God’s providence extends to the natural world (Ps. 104:14; 135:5-7; Acts 14:17), the brute creation (Ps. 104:21-29; Matt. 6:26; 10:29), and the affairs of men (1 Chr. 16: 31; Ps. 47:7; Prov. 21:1; Job 12:23; Dan.2:21; 4:25), and of individuals (1 Sam. 2:6; Ps. 18:30; Luke 1:53; James 4: 13-15).

    It extends also to the free actions of men (Ex. 12:36; 1 Sam. 24:9-15; Ps. 33:14, 15; Prov. 16:1; 19:21; 20:24; 21:1), and things sinful (2 Sam. 16:10; 24:1; Rom. 11:32; Acts 4:27, 28), as well as to their good actions (Phil. 2:13; 4:13; 2 Cor. 12:9, 10; Eph. 2:10; Gal. 5: 22-25). As regards sinful actions of men, they are represented as occurring by God’s permission (Gen. 45:5; 50:20. Comp. 1 Sam. 6:6; Ex. 7:13; 14:17; Acts 2:3; 3:18; 4:27, 28), and as controlled (Ps. 76:10) and overruled for good (Gen. 50:20; Acts 3:13).

    God does not cause or approve of sin, but only limits, restrains, overrules it for good. The mode of God’s providential government is altogether unexplained. We only know that it is a fact that God does govern all his creatures and all their actions; that this government is universal (Ps. 103:17-19), particular (Matt. 10:29-31), efficacious (Ps. 33:11; Job 23:13), embraces events apparently contingent (Prov. 16:9, 33; 19: 21; 21:1), is consistent with his own perfection (2 Tim. 2:13), and to his own glory (Rom. 9:17; 11:36).”

  32. james tiberius kirk says:


    “Basket cases”…
    Houses built on hearing and obeying Jesus’ words…(Matthew 7:27-27)


    There’s gotta be a good way of teaching it, and understanding it, properly and not being functional Deists…..

    Have a good one, y’all

  33. Another Voice says:


    Of course, the ECFs are not infallible. I mention them only to point that this issue is not a new one.

    The troubling word you use there is ‘consensus’

    How do we wrestle with the fact that we have through history many devout men who focused their lives on the proper understanding of Scripture – doing so without our modern distractions I might add.

    All men indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and seeking the Spirit’s understanding of the Bible, and doing so both in a prayerful and scholarly fashion – yet coming up with different interpretations?

    So scholar A is part of the consensus on interpretation X, but is not part of the consensus on interpretation Y. What are the implications in all this?

    Not saying I have the answer by the way – though I do have some strong speculations.

  34. james tiberius kirk says:


    I love providence. I founded a club at the UofA called the “Providence Club” where we studied God’s providence throughout history.

    I just don’t understand how dogmatic the brilliant JI Packer is about “just the word”….how did he know he was to do what he does in the ministry? How do any of us know of our “calling” from just the Bible?

    I’m not promoting anything contrary to the Bible or any “new revelation” or writing a “third testament”, I just want to know HOW we hear and obey our Sovereign Lord in ANY way, small or big or otherwise.

  35. Another Voice says:

    James, if your physical ears are working properly (not damaged, muffled, clogged) then you hear the sounds around you. You don’t TRY to hear them – you just do. There is no on/off switch.

    If our spiritual ears are working properly (not damaged, muffled, clogged by sin, tradition etc.) then we will hear the Sound around us.

    That’s how I see it.

  36. Michael says:


    I don’t sweat it.

    I obey the revealed will to the best of my ability and trust in His providence.

    That’s not deism or fatalism…it’s trusting God and taking Dad at His word.

  37. Xenia says:

    AV, I think the consensus idea was also used to determine what books went into the canon of scripture. There was a lot of writings- lots of “gospels,” epistles, histories and apocalypses in circulation in the early days of the Church. Which ones could be wholly relied on and could be considered the God-breathed, infallible Word of God? Why keep Jame’s epistle but not Clement’s? Why keep Hebrews but not the Didache? The decision was based on the universality of the writings. Where they accepted everywhere by everyone since the beginning? It was a consensus. Same with the writings of the ECFs. If nine of ten ECFs say one thing (which must agree with scripture, of course) but the 10th one says something peculiar, the tenth one can be discounted on that point but appreciated on other points where he is in agreement with everyone else.

  38. Another Voice says:

    Xenia, Not sure I agree with your “Where they accepted everywhere by everyone since the beginning?” test as to canonical books. Some books were accepted by all, some accepted by most, some rejected by all, some rejected by most etc. (With fancy theological terms to each category)

    But that is a totally different issue frankly. I go back to my earlier question about the study and dependence on the Spirirt by the scholars over the ages – yet coming up with differing views?

  39. Em says:

    IMO – when God has to talk to you, He does – mostly He just yearns for us to seriously read The Book (study to show thyself approved – a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth) Feed on it.
    not just sayin – dogmatically stated with God as my witness 🙂

    thank the Lord – i erased most of my posts today 😆

  40. Em says:

    PS – left out an important preposition: “unto” and “God” up there ;- ) but it’s obvious that i seldom craft what i say here

  41. Bob says:

    I think some are too worried about having all in agreement and the “correct ” Scripture interpretation. If one spends in time in scholarship one will find agreement is 100% impossible.

    Even the Jewish sages of Jesus day did not agree. What has been generally agreed by all is is what constitutes Scripture. Now like the Jews of Jesus days some will get it right and others will miss His day.

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