Modern Heresies

In the Reformation of the 1500s, both sides believed the Bible to be God’s infallible word, both held to the Holy Trinity (one God in three equal persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and both taught that Christ was fully God, perfect man, one person, and no mixture of the natures of deity and humanity so as to dilute them. Today the crisis is worse as even “Christian” people wonder if the Bible is God’s word, if the Trinity is really all that important, and if Christ was only a good man or something less than God. One student at the seminary where I teach said he was summarily dismissed from his position at a “Bible” church because his position on antichrist was “wrong.” I asked him what they asked him about the Trinity, person of Christ, work of Christ, etc., and he said “Nothing!” We live in an age where what one believes about antichrist is more important than what he believes about the Son of God.

There are two ways to be heretical: formally in belief and practically in one’s practice, and our age is given to both.

In formal heresy, there are many in mainline denominations who take delight in denying the historic faith as expressed in such timeless statements as the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, which all branches of Christianity have held (Protestant, Orthodoxy (with one adjustment to the Nicene Creed), and Roman Catholic). Modern heresies deny that Christ is the only way to God; indeed, they deny that He is God. They deny the Holy Trinity. They pretend that all religions are the same, which means that none of them mean anything, an insult to all religions that they have no truth claims.

But one can also be heretical in one’s practice, in morality, such as the sexual promiscuity that is rampant today in so many circles. One may be right in his beliefs, but if his morality is contrary to God’s holy commandments, then he/she is heretical:

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 Jn. 2:3-4 NKJ)

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals1, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.  (1 Cor. 6:9-10 NKJ)

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21 NKJ)

There is no hope for anyone unless they repent, which means that they confess they are wrong, take God’s view on both belief and practice, and bow to His Lordship. There is not enough room in this universe for two lawgivers: God and man, which is what man wants—his own pretended autonomy.

The serpent’s lie to Adam and Eve was that they could be their own lawgiver, determining for themselves what was right and wrong. We know the consequences when our first parents believed such. Indeed, even in the New Testament many centuries later, God has stated that there is only one lawgiver: the Triune God (James 4:12). He, and He alone, determines what we should believe and what we should practice.

But when our culture dreams up beliefs or ethics out of its mind instead of listening to God, they have created a god after their own image to worship, who, “coincidentally,” will approve their latest fad in unbelief and immoral ethics. The only way one can know anything about God is if He tells us, not when we dream up things that He must allegedly approve. Indeed, the only way we know anyone is by self-revelation.

Was it the great St. Augustine who said that God created man in His own image, and man has been returning the favor ever since? People thousands of years ago made physical idols, and we make mental idols. In both cases, a new god is created after the heart of sinful mankind. Paul the Apostle noted such in his own day in Romans 1:18-25:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

The great crisis today is Who is God, Who is Christ, and What shall we do with our sins? The Modern answer is that God and Christ are whatever we make them to be, and there is no sin except by OUR definition. Thus, our culture makes Jesus to be a benign and irrelevant weird man who lived two thousand years ago. Today we are being taught not to believe in an objective Triune God but in ourselves. AND likewise we are being taught that we can invent any ethic we wish for our private lives. But in the public arena, the “god” who rules there is the government god: “To hell with Jesus, and all hail to Caesar.”

But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:15).

AMEN. Ὡ

Oxford Martyrs’ Day

OxfordMartyrsDayOn this day, October 16, in the year 1555, Bishops Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were tied to a stake in Broad Street in Oxford, and burned to death.  The following spring, on March 21, 1556, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake.

This was at the time of the English Roman Catholic Queen Mary (“Bloody Mary”).  Cranmer was the architect of the Book of Common Prayer.  Ridley was one of his chief advisers and right hand man in the reforms of the Church of England.  Hugh Latimer was a godly, aged bishop who had also helped the cause of reform in England.

Today is called Oxford Martyrs’ Day in Anglican circles, because on this day we remember all three martyrs who died so bravely in that city.

When bishops Ridley and Latimer were tied together to the same stake on that day, 460 years ago, Latimer addressed his brother bishop in one the greatest statements in our history:  “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out!”

May God give us a double portion of their courageous spirit to stand for what is right in our culture and in our context.

 

God bless,

Jonathan+

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 A Collect for Oxford Martyrs’ Day

Almighty God and everlasting Lord, in whose sight the death of Thy saints is precious, we beseech Thee to look down upon upon us with favor as we commemorate this day the deaths of Thy servants, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, Bishops of the Church of England, and Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who were burned to death in Broad Street in Oxford, England for their faith; Grant to us the same steadfastness of faith, that we, standing firm in Thy Holy Gospel and belief in the Mighty Resurrection of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, may prevail against all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and at the last, come to Thy eternal joy, through the same, Thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Jonathan O. Trebilco

Saint Francis Anglican Church

(Reformed Episcopal/ACNA)

SaintFrancisREC.org

Christians and the Middle East

© Very Rev. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D. (Feb 2015)

I can recall every major event in my life to the month and year, and often to the day. May 10-12, 1968 is one of those dates. It was when our company and our mortars (mortars were my duty) were flown into dense jungle next to the Laotian border. We were the backup for the Green Berets, though usually they were our backup. When we exited the C-130s, 82 mm mortar rounds from the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) were coming down on us furiously. For three nights and days, we were under heavy attack. Several times I could have been killed, and several times I should have been killed, except the merciful providence of God. The enemy mortar rounds landed all around me; one at my feet with me looking right over it. It should have blown my head off, but only the 81 mm mortar barrel I was holding was dented. Rounds landed just outside my trench, right on the lip; another two inches and it would have landed on a pile of our mortar rounds. I would have been vaporized. I was to leave on the third chinook; the first two loaded with our men, took off, and were shot down. That was not a good precedent! At the last minute, after being hit with small shrapnel, I jumped on. There were no anti-aircraft guns that went off, and in about two minutes, we were clear. Of course, we lost the Vietnamese war, not to mentions that battle. Did you ever wonder why the Lord put you somewhere? There seems to be no rhyme or reason for it. You’re just a cog in an acre of wheels.

We Christians in the West have not heard much about Christians in the East, and one reason may be that we like our isolation. We tend to think that we are the epitome of Christian orthodoxy, and that others do not have much—if anything—to teach us. But that is a arrogant.

What do you think of the 21 Coptic Christians that ISIS beheaded in the last week or so? Do you think they are an offshoot of Christianity, someone we can ignore, that they need us to teach them the basics of the faith? Coptic Christians originated in the great city of Alexandria, south of Jerusalem, during the time of the Apostles. “Coptic” means “Egyptian”; they are Egyptian Christians. Early tradition says that John Mark–the writer of the Gospel of Mark– founded the church there; thus they are apostolic. They hold to the basics of the faith, such as the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of the Son of God, His death on the cross, bodily resurrection, Ascension, forgiveness of sins through Christ, the one Church, and so forth. (By the way, if you hear that no two Christian bodies believe the same, challenge that. We all believe in the Nicene Creed, the basics just given.) My point is that these Christians are historic, in the line of the Apostles, both by ordination and by belief.

Moreover, when I was in seminary (in Dallas, TX, 1972-76), I met a fellow student named Isaac John from India. I asked him how he came to know Christ, was it through missionaries? He said, “No.” Was it by broadcast from a ship? No. Did someone give him some literature to read? Finally, he said, “I was raised in a Christian home, and grew up in sound church.” I was floored? I asked where his church came from, thinking they might need our Western help. He said, “The Apostle Thomas established our church.” With a tone of disbelief, I retorted: “You gotta be kidding me.” He kept affirming it. Finally, I went to the head of the church history department at this large evangelical seminary and asked him about it. To my utter astonishment, he affirmed the same. My church went back to Ryrie, Dr. Pentecost, and John Walvoord, all 20th century, but his church was from the Apostle Thomas! Most don’t know that there is a part of India that is Christian, not Hindu.

In 1992, my wife Ruth and I were invited to setup up a book table in Virginia for Laszlo Tokes (pronounced TÕ-kesh), who was a bishop in the Presbyterian church (Yes, that is not a typo, a bishop in a Presbyterian church!). He had written a book, The Fall of Tyrants, chronicling the fall of the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. Tokes was a pastor under that regime (later became bishop), and had long been persecuted. Everything was coming to a head with Ceausescu’s minions coming to arrest him at his church, most likely never to be seen again. He was waiting for the soldiers when they came to get him, and to his surprise, virtually everyone in his church, and many outside his church, also showed up. They did not have weapons, but stormed the gates of heaven, asking the Lord to intervene. He did, and Ceausescu was overthrown, tried for many murders, and executed.

Somehow, people I knew in VA had invited him over. I had already read his book so I was anxious to meet him. Ruth and I enjoyed his fellowship for about a week, and found him to be humble but strong in faith. He and several others spoke about what they experienced and how the same tyranny could (and probably would) come to America. Here is my point. At the question and answer time, someone asked Bp. Tokes what we (Western Christians) could do for him. With humble spirit and gentleness, he said something like this: “We Christians in Romania are strong in faith; the Christians in the West are weak. Maybe we could do something to help you.”

The person who asked the question did not mean to sound arrogant, and most likely meant how may we financially help, but Bp. Tokes was saying that money is a problem only if it dominates our perspective. I was greatly humbled, and tears ran down my face. What a man of God he was, and what weaklings we are. It is not that money is evil or righteous—we all need it as a tool—but where does our trust really lie? Are we possessed by possessions, or are we possessed by the Creator who made everything and will give us what we need (Matt. 6:33)?

Another matter. I don’t like to suffer, and I bet I can “prophesy” about you: you don’t like to suffer either. We do not know that suffering puts us into hyper-growth mode spiritually. Our faith is built strongly during those times. Do not think that Romans 8:28 is only for “normal” times, and it is not just for individuals, but that “all things work together for good to those (plural) who love God, to those (plural) who are the called according to His purpose.”

Just as the sufferings of Christ have meaning for us, so our sufferings are sanctified to us by His grace. We grow in hyper-mode during those times as the great Lord of the Church makes us grow in grace and knowledge, whether we want to or not! Notice the opposites in these verses:

 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory18 while we do not look at the things that are seen, but at the things are not seen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:15-18)

Now, what about those Christians who are being martyred by ISIS, what happens to them, their families, and to the countries that persecute them? The irony is that we Christians win at every level. Those who are martyred go home to be with Christ. (By the way, those 21 Christians whom ISIS recently martyred said as they were dying: “Jesus, help me.” That sounds like faith to me.) Their families suffer their loss for a little while, but as C. S. Lewis once said, “Christians never say goodbye to Christians but see you later.” We must get over the Hollywood syndrome that death is the end. You can see it in their movies when a hero is killed–all hope is gone. They lament that they will never see their loved one again, which is patently false for Christians. Other actors in the movie will say such nonsense things as, “I know he sees me. I can talk to  him all the time.” Heaven and hell are left out. Why do we not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead? When I go to or preach a funeral, I walk up to the casket and say, “Death, you don’t win. Jesus won at His bodily resurrection, and He won for us. (Call deceased by name) I’ll see you later.” If the person was not a Christian, then I can’t say that. I just don’t say anything, but we Christians must get over the defeatist attitude that death has conquered us. He sanctifies to us our deepest distress because His sufferings were meaningful, both for Him and us. Death is home-going for the Christian, nothing less. Believe the gospel! One of the deepest verses in the Bible and most encouraging to me, is this:

who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Heb. 5:7-8)

May the Holy Spirit burn His words just quoted into our souls. Here are some verses on death and the Christian.

14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Heb. 2:14-18)

May the Holy Spirit burn His words just quoted into our souls.

Thus, in persecution, we individual Christians win, whether we live or die, we are His and nothing can separate us from His presence and love. Christians never die alone.

32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:32-39)

As for the Coptic Church that was so numerous in Iraq and Syria, they have diminished by about 80% as they are martyred and leave their country for safer places. Is that not a defeat for the Church in that area? Not really. The church is like a gas fire: stomp it, and it spreads; leave it alone, and it burns out. The Coptic Church will be strengthened, in the long run, and their faith will grow greatly.

But does that not mean that ISIS has won? Not really. They are removing the light from their countries, so they will fall ever more into darkness and self-destruction. They are removing the salt, so they will become putrid that much quicker. One cannot prosper by disobedience to God’s law (murdering others) but will self-destruct. They will turn on one another. Moreover, we don’t know what the Ascended Sovereign Lord will do, but He could grant ISIS either a great revival or some kind of devastating judgment. He is only limited by His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. (For the slow of wit, that means He is not limited!)

Do we really think that the King of all the ages and His Holy Spirit are losers in history? How incompetent do we think Christ is? Do we think that He cannot lead His people to personal and corporate victory and destroy our enemies? Is disobedience to the Triune God successful while obedience leads to destruction? Have we forgotten that He said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18)? Remember that gates were a defensive structure around a city to keep the enemy out, which means the Church is on the offensive to conquer Satan and his minions (Rom. 16:20, look it up). The devil is defensive. Under the King’s authority, as we truly worship and serve Him, we are invincible! In life, we win. In death, we win. Individually, we win. Corporately, we win. Our enemies think death is the end for us, but we know better. We switch locales, from earth to heaven, but we still win, and we still pray for victory:

 9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:9-10)

Heads we win; tails they lose.  AMEN. Ὡ

 

 

Balls and Strikes

(by the Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw)

(18 May 2014)

There are three views of truth today, and they may  be observed in the way a plate umpire calls balls and strikes. One says that he calls them as they are. Another one calls them as he sees them. And a final one says they aren’t balls or strikes until he calls them.

The first plate umpire holds a view of truth as objective and real. Balls and strikes present themselves to be identified as they really exist.

The second plate umpire has transferred the standard of truth from the balls and strikes to himself. It is his observation that decides what is truth, his subjective standard, and nothing else will do. If something appears to be a ball, he can call it a strike, and no one can question him, though there is room for disagreement and always room for discussion.

The third umpire is the most subjective. There is no objectivity outside himself, for he is the only one who determines what is true. He does not call them as he sees them for they really don’t exist unless he says so.

The first ump seeks to determine what the truth is outside himself. The second one thinks he is the standard for truth, and finally the third one does not believe in truth at all, only in personal opinions.

We may say the first one is a conservative politician who seeks to bring truth to bear on situations, especially the truth of the Constitution. He cannot understand why the second and third “politicians” refuse to believe his objectively clear truth statements, especially when they are based on  a written standard that has come down to us. Thus abortion is always wrong.

The second “politician” is equally nonplussed over the first one’s refusal to understand that truth has a personal point of view. The Constitution may indeed not give us the right to kill our pre-born babies, but that is not considering the view of the girls who get pregnant. They need help also so what does one do with the Constitution? He compromises it.

The third “politician” really does not believe in truth but only in choices. If one chooses to believe in balls and strikes, then they are such for him, but if one rejects that, there is another reality. They may not be balls or strikes. It does not make any difference if the “fetus” is alive from conception and has a heart beat because “truth” for this person is what he or she chooses. The “fetus” is not a baby unless the person chooses to keep it.

With the first one, the fetus is always a baby, and one never has the right to kill it. With the second one, the person choosing is determinative. The third one has the right to determine whether it is a baby.

Thus, there are three world views: (1) truth is objective and lies outside us; (2) truth is in our choices and lies within us; (3) there is no truth, only points of view.

AMEN.