What We Believe and Why

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Posted 3/12/13 at 12:11 PM | George Koch

Application

From Matthew Henry’s commentary on Psalm 122:

If all the disciples of Christ were of one mind, and kept the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, their enemies would be deprived of their chief advantages against them. But Satan’s maxim always has been, to divide that he may conquer; and few Christians are sufficiently aware of his designs.

Those who can do nothing else for the peace of Jerusalem may pray for it. Let us consider all who seek the glory of the Redeemer, as our brethren and fellow-travellers, without regarding differences which do not affect our eternal welfare. Blessed Spirit of peace and love, who didst dwell in the soul of the holy Jesus, descend into his church, and fill those who compose it with his heavenly tempers; cause bitter contentions to cease, and make us to be of one mind. Love of the brethren and love to God, ought to stir us up to seek to be like the Lord Jesus in fervent prayer and unwearied labour, for the salvation of men, and the Divine glory. (Mathew’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008, p. 561) FULL POST

Posted 2/21/13 at 12:01 PM | George Koch

Reconciliation-part 2

I believe we are at the beginning of a major reformation of the Christian faith—a Reconciliation of believers across many boundaries that had once separated us and put us at swords with one another. It would be easier for any of us to remain cocooned, but the Lord is afoot and calling us to common cause: His.

Our denominationalism, our religious wars, our vitriolic doctrinal disputes, and the holy isolation we use to keep ourselves separate and untainted by each other’s patterns of worship and belief, belie any claim we make to all be Christ’s own. We each act like He is our private possession, formed according to our image of Him, blessing just our worship, and approving only our doctrine and our orders of ministry. We imagine that at best He tolerates the worship, doctrine, and polity of those who are not like us. What amazing pride we have.

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ FULL POST

Posted 2/12/13 at 12:53 PM | George Koch

Reconciliation - Part One

It is my deep prayer that we all find our hearts broken by the lovelessness we have shown for one another in the Body of Christ. Though we all claim Jesus as Lord and Savior, we defend our religious Concepts, doctrines and practices as if they are our gods and other people as if they are obstacles to our worship of these gods. We act as though such things matter and people don’t.

We would rather be right in our own eyes than loving in God’s eyes. Even when we realize we have spoken evil of others, rather than repent, we justify our words or actions with a “yes, but…” and an explanation. Yet Paul said to:

Speak evil of no one … be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. (Titus 3:2, NKJV)

He also cautioned us to…

Avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. (Titus 3:9, NKJV) FULL POST

Posted 1/29/13 at 12:54 PM | George Koch

Religious Concepts—Part Two

This is part 2 of my discussion on Religious Concepts. The last discussion ended on How It Began: Building Religious Concepts From Scripture. I will move onto Worshiping Doctrine.

Worshiping Doctrine

One important product of Christian religious Concepts is Doctrine, essentially a set of ideas and themes drawn from a Concept, and woven together to assert a specific philosophical tenet that generally was often not explicitly present in the scriptural text, but was imputed from it by linking several verses and ideas found there. Some are fairly straightforward and provoke little controversy, while others continue to be contested.

Some of these Doctrines are labeled heresies, usually because they tended to divide the Church into factions, or because they contained elements that appeared to misrepresent God, or contradicted the dominant Doctrines of the period.

There is an old saying: “History is written by the victors.” This helps in understanding why we believe what we believe today in the Church, at least in terms of Doctrine. FULL POST

Posted 1/2/13 at 11:36 AM | George Koch

Religious Concepts - Part One

Religious Concepts

The Gospel is arguably God’s greatest revelation to us, but if we worship our Concepts about it, rather than live it, we render it worthless—and we can become dangerous.

We all have methods of thinking and feeling about things—analyzing, measuring, judging, accepting, rejecting, praising, weeping—to determine whether something is to us: true, valuable, dangerous, trite, profound, unimportant, beautiful, and so on.

These methods are partly rooted in our common humanity, and partly taught to us by our cultures, our experiences, and our educational training in the social, scientific, religious, psychological, and emotional worlds we all inhabit. These vary considerably across the world and through history.

It is a very difficult thing to try to see and feel something afresh, free of these methods, or even to realize that these methods are limiting us in how we comprehend and emotionally respond. And yet even if that assertion is granted, and the desire is present to realize and then step beyond our ingrained methods of thinking and feeling, it is really hard to do—near to impossible! FULL POST

Posted 12/11/12 at 7:41 PM | George Koch

Bible Authority

In this blog we will be looking at the authority of the Bible. This is not trivial, and parts of it will be a little bit complex, so I ask your indulgence.

Let’s be honest: The Bible is not the most user-friendly book you can read. Here are some great reasons NOT to read the Bible:

• It’s long and intimidating, and it’s not put together like a novel or a “how-to” book or a textbook or most any other kind of book you can buy.

• Different Churches and traditions don’t even agree on which books belong in it and which ones don’t.

• There are many different translations, and advocates for one or the other often fight bitterly and publicly against translations other than their own favorite.

• Starting at the beginning and reading through to the end is often boring and really difficult.

• Really creepy people have used the Bible to (try to) justify everything from segregation to religious persecution to murder. FULL POST

Posted 12/5/12 at 7:40 AM | George Koch

Trinity

In this blog we are going to look at the Trinity. This is a concept that is easily discarded—and only with great foolishness, I believe. Note however that I said “concept.” This will prove important as we seek to understand what Christians believe about that nature and character of God, and how that is applied in their conduct in the church and in the world.

Christians believe Scripture teaches that there is one God in three Persons.

Not three gods in competition with each other.

Not one God operating in three modes.

But rather, Christians believe that there are three Persons who coexist eternally in unending, loving relationship with one another—glorifying each other, edifying each other, working with and through each other.

Yet we need to recognize that what we know about God and what we assert about this “Trinity of Persons in one God” is deduced from what is revealed to us in Scripture. That is, nowhere in either the Old or New Testament do we find an explicit statement that the nature of God is “three Persons in one God,” nor that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are of one substance—also a part of the normative definition of Trinity in Christian theology. FULL POST

Posted 11/28/12 at 10:51 AM | George Koch

A Severe Critique

The very challenge of discussing heresies, ancient and modern, makes my head hurt. The debates that rage are often so rancorous and bitter that I don’t even want to read the stuff—even from people I agree with!

Hence I want to warn you in advance that there will be, here, a quite-severe critique of all of this—not self-important, I hope, but what I believe is a necessary and overdue upbraiding of the Church’s doctrines, and the cost of those doctrines, regardless of whether they are right or wrong. More later.

How to Disagree

I believe we do need to be serious in understanding what the Lord wants us to know about Him, and what isn’t true about Him. Right doctrine is important. But it never trumps love.

There will be points at which any of us will disagree. So long as we abide by the two commandments that Jesus has declared supreme, and on which our doctrine should hang, we can keep on talking to each other and loving each other. Jesus said, FULL POST

Posted 11/20/12 at 4:10 PM | George Koch

Heresy Explained

Most of us don’t have occasion to use the word heresy in our daily conversations. It’s one of those highly charged words that is seldom employed except perhaps by theologians or people hotly engaged in church debate, and occasionally in the press when someone expresses an unpopular position on any topic. It is most commonly used to put down someone—on either side—who disagrees.

Haeresis, the Greek word for “heresy,” actually doesn’t mean something negative or wrong. It means an opinion, or a way, or a choice. In fact, there is an early Christian writer who talks about the “heresy of the Gospel.” As he uses it, the expression refers to the way of the Gospel. It is not a criticism of the Gospel, but simply the use of that word to mean a way or a path. So one of the confusions of this word “heresy” is that in Greek it can refer to something neutral or even positive.

Simply put, heresy refers, in a neutral way, to a choice, a way, or an opinion. When it is used negatively in Scripture, with an adjective such as “destructive,” or when it is clearly negative by context, it means to break into factions, to cause division or schism (another word for division). FULL POST

Posted 11/13/12 at 11:11 AM | George Koch

Peace and Breath

PEACE

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV)

The peace Jesus speaks of is not the absence of war, or absence of conflict with another, but an inner gift from Him of His own peace, in order that our hearts would be calm and fearless.

Consider what His peace looked like: At His most troubled moment, knowing His painful death was near, did He stew silently and alone? Did He drink away His fears (alcohol and drugs were used then as now to numb the pain of living and the fear of dying)? No, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to talk to His heavenly Father. When He stood before Pilate, did He quake in fear? No. He was calm, fearless, resolute. When He was whipped and scourged and a crown of thorns pierced His head, He endured it unafraid. When He was mocked and spat upon, He was at peace. When He was crucified, He calmly spoke to a condemned criminal and promised him paradise that day, gave the disciple John to His mother, and forgave the soldiers and others who were killing Him. FULL POST

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