The Church

The Use and Abuse of Church History

Church history is descriptive,  not prescriptive. One of the main points of fissure between sacramental or hierarchical church traditions and those that are less so is the place of church history. Should history—tradition—play a definitive role in shaping the faith and practice for believers today? Or, should Scripture have the decisive function in our faith? If we decide that tradition and history must be set alongside Scripture as an equal authority, we are faced with…

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The Church

You Don’t Need Office to Minister to the Body

Our view of ministry in the local church has been influenced by a lot of things. Scripture is among these, but the corporate world is often too influential. Listening to the “organizational effectiveness” mandarins makes one think that we need to place a premium on leadership. We should develop leaders, mentor them, give them opportunities to succeed and advance. But that mindset can be at odds with what we find in the New Testament. There,…

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Catholicism The Church

Protestants, It’s OK to say Jesus called Peter “this rock.”

From the biblical record one can see that Peter was an impulsive man. He said things at the wrong time (“Lord, it is good for us to be here, let us build three booths.”)  He did what he shouldn’t do (cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant.) And of course, he denied the Lord Jesus in the hours after his betrayal. None of this surprised the Lord. For all this, Peter was also…

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Culture The Church

Ecclesiology and the Start-Up Culture

Christian growth cannot be commoditized to scale up.   The doctrine of the church—ecclesiology—has been among the most malleable and flexible for believers today. How a church is organized, what it’s polity may be, many Christians see as of secondary importance. Instead, expediency is what is more important. Is what we’re doing working? And the measure of what works often mirrors the culture of business start-ups. Although this isn’t new, we’re seeing the full flowering…

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The Church

Your View of Baptism is Your View of the Church

If you want to risk coming to theological fisticuffs with other believers, one way is through a discussion about the meaning of baptism, what it is, what it accomplishes (or does not). Anyone who has read the literature on this knows that there are vociferous arguments on the topic. I have a position on the ordinance of baptism and what I think Scripture teaches about it, but my intent is not to expound that here.…

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The Church Theology

The Great Tradition and Interpretive Diversity

Among the many fault lines within evangelicalism is the question of certainty. In David Bebbington’s “quadrilateral,” Biblicism is a shorthand for the Scriptures as the final authority. But it’s too facile to point to a passage of Scripture and say “There, you see?” When two equally sincere and honest believers have a disagreement about what those Scriptures mean, then the problem just moves elsewhere. In a prior post, I discussed the rule of faith, which for…

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The Church

Is Your Church Fun?

A mailer arrived at our house the other day asking this question in so many words: “What if church was fun and relevant?” As I looked more closely at the material and went to the website of this new church, what struck me was the completely different view of the church and its purpose. At the outset let me say that I don’t doubt the sincere desire of the folks behind this effort to reach…

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Reformation The Church

Nominal Christianity and the Reformation Legacy

Reconciliation comes not when we accept ourselves as we are, but when we accept the sacrifice of Christ in our place. On this 500th Reformation Day, and leading up to it, there has been a plethora of commentary on the divisions that remain in the Church. These have typically focused on the Rome-Protestant divide, but there is another divide, just as tragic, perhaps even more so. That is those churches and believers who trace their…

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Bible The Church

Bible Answer Man: Wrong Number

The recent conversion of Hank Hanegraaf to Orthodoxy has caused a stir in evangelical circles, but only because of Hanegraaf’s prior ministry. As the so-called “Bible Answer Man” one would think he of all people would base his views and teaching on the Scriptures. Perhaps not. The reasons for such conversions still fall into the same sort of categories that Scot McKnight wrote about in From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals Become Roman Catholic.  The…

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Reformation The Church

When Reform Brings Schism

 In this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I think it’s important to revisit certain truths, not only doctrinal, but historical as well. I’ve written previously about the idea of the Reformation being over. That is, in the view of some, the level of agreement between former ecclesiastical foes is now so small that we can put the Reformation behind us and join together. That is a non-starter, in my view, not because I have anything…

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