Idolatry: The Lord’s Name

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 29, 2021 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” -Exodus 20:7

This is a commandment not many people have explored in depth. We know it on the basic level: Don’t use the Lord’s name as a curse word. Some take it a little too far and say it means don’t swear at all (there are other commands about that issue). In many of Ray Comfort’s evangelism videos, he goes through the Ten Commandments, namely lying, stealing, lusting, and taking the Lord’s name in vain to showcase how we’ve all broken the Ten Commandments and we are guilty before God. On a basic level, that’s perfect. It gets the idea across, but there is a deeper level to this commandment that I realized a few years ago and it keeps getting me.

We are called Christians. We who believe the Bible, who claim the name of Christ, who are born again with a new nature and have new life, are called “little Christ-followers.” Our job as Christians is to be ambassadors to this fallen world. We are to represent Christ to this fallen world. We bear the name of Christ. If you aren’t hearing me yet, let me say it again. We bear the name of Christ. When the world sees us, they think: “This is what Jesus is like.” That’s what we are supposed to be. Again, by calling ourselves “Christian,” we associate ourselves with the name of Jesus.

How are we treating that name now? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bungled this one. Paul understood, though. Romans 7 has a lot to say about not being able to do what he wants to do and doing what he doesn’t want to do. But his hope was found in Jesus who would one day deliver him from the flesh that so held him down. The same is true for me. If not for the grace of God continually working in my life, I’d be a real mess even more than I am now. And I know what my sinful tendencies aim towards. If God were to release His restraints on my flesh, I would not be in a good place at all. Yet, God has chosen to take broken, abused, very inconstant clay vessels like Paul, like me, like Jason DeZurik, like Katie Erickson, like many of us, and asked us: “Will you represent me?” While the truth of what this commandment entails hit me a few years ago, the weight of this question had not. The weight of “Charlie Wolcott, will you bear and carry My name to this world?” has not really hit me yet. He wants me, someone still struggling against sin, to carry the name of the thrice-holy God, the Ultimate and Perfect Being, the Almighty Creator, the Everlasting Eternal God, the Righteous Judge? Who am I do so such a thing?

I dwell on this because Israel was asked to do the same thing: “You will be My people; and I will be your God.” They were asked to be the bearers of God’s name. They boasted about it. They were so arrogant about being called “God’s people” that they refused to take God’s message to the world, and they kept it to themselves and thought they were above reproach. They were so serious about taking God’s name accurately that they wouldn’t even say His proper name lest they inadvertently prophane it. But how did they treat it? How did Israel treat the name of God? They boasted it. They claimed it. But at every turn, they went to the idols. They sought the help and relief and comfort that all the pagans boasted they had from their gods, and they didn’t trust in the Lord. They did not live up to carrying the name of the Lord. So many of the prophets told Israel they had forgotten God; they had despised Him, committed adultery against Him, and the list goes on. They took the name of God, waved it proudly as a banner or flag, and then trampled it in the mud.

Those of us who are American citizens and love our country: what is your reaction to people in this country burning and stepping on the flag and disrespecting it, all the while, living off the benefits that the flag represents? My reaction is such people are ungrateful, traitors, hypocrites, etc. If that is our reaction to people living off American lifestyles but desecrating the flag is like that, how much more so should we respond to those who claim the name of Christ and treat Him accordingly? There are so many false teachings going on today that the very term “Christian” is almost meaningless. What denomination are you? Are you an evangelical? What does that even mean anymore? There is so much corruption within the organized church that when the real thing shows up and actually speaks about it, the knee-jerk reaction is: “Oh, you are one of THOSE Christians?”

I have written several times about the dangers of being a “Christian In Name Only.” If we claim the name of Christ and there’s little to no evidence of it, we are violating the 3rd Commandment. But where this issue really comes into play is idolatry with the name of Christ, specifically the creating a “Jesus” of our own making and liking. God’s anger against Israel burned the brightest not merely when they turned to other idols, but created a false idol, a false god, and declared that was “Jehovah.” The heathen were lost, and God will judge them based on the truth they had access to. However, Israel knew the true God and worshipped an idol, all while claiming to be of God and claiming that their idol was God. How much more so do many Christians today practice idolatry every Sunday morning in their “worship services,” singing praise to a god they’ve made up in their own minds, all the while claiming the name of the God who is Holy, Holy, Holy? Do we know who God really is? One of my goals in my writing and such is to portray God accurately, as He is and as the Bible describes Him. When I was a regular attendee of a Christian Writer’s conference and came on faculty a few times, I offered to do a session on “Writing God’s Answer Correctly.” The main theme was to write what God was saying about the given situation, not what we think the answer to be. I never got the chance to teach it but maybe I will sometime soon.

We are to carry the Lord’s Name wherever we go as believers. That means we must present it correctly, and we must also live a life that describes it correctly. I’m not talking about legalism or moralism. The end goal of evangelism should not be that person thinking of Charlie Wolcott but of Jesus Christ. That’s when I’ve done my job correctly. I need a lot more practice in that regard. But how can I evangelize, how I can share the name of Christ, if I am serving an image of my own making and my own liking and calling it “Christ”? In that scenario, I am not presenting Jesus to someone else; I am presenting myself to someone else. We need to learn the difference. Let us take the name of God seriously. Let us represent it accurately in word and in deed. But to do that, we must first discard any false ideas or images we have about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, so we can give a clear message. Next week, I’ll examine the Sabbath.

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Hamartiology: What Is Sin?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 25, 2021 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Sin affects everything. We discussed last week that all people are sinful because of the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. But what exactly is sin and how does God address it?

The theological word for the study of sin is hamartiology. It comes from the Greek word hamartia, which means sin, and of course the “-ology” means the study of. As we look at sin today, we’re engaging in hamartiology.

Where did sin come from? Early church scholar Tertullian (who lived in the 2nd-3rd centuries AD) believed that the origin of sin is in the devil. He believed Satan was discontent that God had created the whole world in God’s image, and then Satan passed that discontent to Eve who passed it to Adam, and that’s why sin and death entered into the world. The devil didn’t cause Adam and Eve to sin, but they each made that choice out of their free will.

For a more modern take on the matter, theologian Karl Rahner (who lived in the 20th century) believes that all sin is a rejection of God in every choice that we make. Each choice we make is either a “yes” or a “no” to God. Saying “yes” to God results in obedience, whereas saying “no” results in sin, rejecting God’s attempt to communicate Himself to us and for us to live that out.

The 18th-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard believed that sin is not necessarily an essential characteristic of being human, even though it is inevitable that everyone will sin. This implies that sin is not “original” to us but rather something we will all do. Personally, I believe that the Bible supports the concept of original sin, so I don’t agree with Kierkegaard on this matter.

However you believe that sin came into the world, there are three types of sin that we can commit: personal, social, individual, and corporate. Personal sin is what separates us from God as individuals and from His image we were created in, while social sin separates us from others around us. Corporate sin separates an entire community from God, based on the sins of the individuals and how the community as a whole views their relationship with God.

The Old Testament prophets primarily explain corporate sin for the nation of Israel. Many examples of this exist throughout the books of the prophets, and basically the entire book of Judges, but you can find a few examples in Jeremiah 18:7-8 and Ezekiel 18:30. Any group of people is made up of individuals who make individual choices, so the individuals in that group must repent of their sins in order for the group to repent.

Jesus tells us that sin is both personal and social, separating us both from God and in our relationships with one another. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus gives us instructions on how to deal with sin with our fellow believers in the Church. In Mark 9:43-48, Jesus warns about how serious the consequences of sin are: the consequence for sin is eternal separation from God in hell.

The Apostle Paul builds on Jesus’ teachings on sin, and he emphasizes that death is the consequence of sinning against God. Paul’s viewpoint is that sin is primarily individual (see Romans 7:14-20), but there is still a corporate aspect to it (Romans 5:12). Throughout Romans, Paul writes on the struggle that we as humans have with sin, and the constant battle we have between choosing God and choosing what our sinful flesh wants to do.

All this sounds pretty depressing, right? We’re all going to sin. The consequence of that sin is eternal death and punishment. But God is good, so there must be hope for us miserable humans! That’s where God’s grace comes in; that’s the other aspect of hamartiology so that we’re not left in total despair.

According to early church theologian Augustine, the nature of grace is “God’s generous and quite unmerited attention to humanity, by which this healing process may begin.” Grace is God’s presence through Christ that transforms us. It’s God’s act of rescue for humanity. We were created as good in God’s image, but we as humans made the choice to disobey God and needed His rescue and redemption. Grace is freely given to us by God, and there’s nothing we can do to earn it (see Ephesians 2:1-10).

Reformation theologian Martin Luther reflects on the nature of sin, grace, and God’s goodness: “God is so good that He would not allow evil to happen if He did not intend to make something better of it. He allowed Adam to fall, but thence arose a redemption so great that God became man and our Savior.” Our sin is an opportunity for God to show us His goodness by providing a way for us to be redeemed and still experience eternal life with Him.

Romans 6:23 sums up hamartiology very well: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We all sin and deserve death for it, but God loves us so much that through Jesus, He gives us the opportunity for eternal life if we have faith in Him.

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Idolatry: No Idols

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 22, 2021 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” -Exodus 20:4-5

As with last week’s post, I really don’t have to go very far to showcase how idolatry violates the above commandment. But not many may understand the nuances or what it entails. Idolatry is the practice of serving, seeking, worshiping, etc. anything instead of God. When you take that which should only be attributed to God and give it to something or someone else, that is idolatry. An idol is the physical object or mental image that you serve instead of God. As last week, I’ll examine what Israel did and then compare what our society is doing today.

The first idol with a description in Scripture is the Golden Calf of Exodus 32. There were idols around prior to that (such as Rachel’s idols when she married Jacob) but they were just described as images. The golden calf is significant for two reasons. It was done twice: by Aaron at Mt Sinai and then again by Jeroboam after the kingdom split due to Solomon’s idolatry. While I won’t get into what each of these idols mean here, in both cases, these golden calves were proclaimed to represent Jehovah. At the inaugural ceremony in both cases, these golden calves were proclaimed as: “These are your gods who brought you out of Egypt.” They literally replaced the immaterial God with a physical image in the shape of a bull. How insulting to the true God! He purposed not to give Israel any physical image of Himself for this very reason (Deuteronomy 4:15-17).

Dagan is another one who was half-man, half-fish. Sounds like Evolution precursors to me. Baal had an image, humanoid but much like a normal man. Asherah was shaped like male genitalia (no joke). Molech and all the others had their own images. But it wasn’t just the gods who had images made. Many kings had statues of themselves made. The most infamous one was the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3. All the people were commanded to bow before the image, but three men would not: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Don’t think this just applies to the pagan. Moses forged the bronze serpent so all those bitten by the fiery serpents would look upon it in faith and they’d be saved. This was an image Jesus used to showcase to Nicodemus how He’d die and save mankind. But Israel turned it into an idol and began to worship it. Hezekiah saw what was happening and he destroyed it. Why? Because the image of salvation became something entirely different. If something, even if it’s a good thing, begins to supplant God, destroy it.

Idols have not gone away. They’ve just changed forms. The largest single religious denomination, Roman Catholicism, is filled with idols. I’ve been to homes in Juarez, Mexico with statues or pictures of Lady Guadalupe, the patron saint of the area, with shrines containing candles and plates for offerings in front of it. It’s no different with Mary or any of the other saints. The people pray to Mary and the Saints, asking for help, when there is only one mediator between God and man, the man, Jesus Christ. Mormons pray to Jesus and Joseph Smith. These are idols; statue, picture, or person, it makes no difference.

The Protestants aren’t getting off the hook either. How many of us have our little trinkets that speak of our faith? What about our movies and shows? I’m not talking about having a depiction of Jesus on film, but rather how He is portrayed. Most depictions of Jesus are this white, fluffy shampoo model, who looks like He’s never done a day’s work in His life. He’s depicted as this ethereal, “out there” being who is love and fluff. This would be considered idolatry, not because of trying to show Jesus as a man, but portraying “another Jesus” that is not as the Bible describes. This is one of the reasons I have liked “The Chosen.” It’s the best description of Jesus I’ve seen on film yet. He was a real man, lived as a man, got hungry, was sleepy, had conversations, and was gentle with the broken yet firm with the self-righteous. But even then, no film will ever get it fully accurate. Unfortunately, too many people in churches today get their ideas of God and Jesus not from Scripture but from the songs they sing and the movies they see. Again, I like “The Chosen,” but I know better than to let that dictate my knowledge of God over Scripture. I still test it against what Scripture says and I dismiss what is off.

Our nation still practices idolatry today. One of the idols of America is the bull. Yes, I mean that. The Golden Calf that Israel made, symbolizing prosperity and fertility and strength, is right here in America. Only it’s not gold, it’s bronze. And it is situated right on Wall Street: the stock market. The stock workers have a ritual where they tap the bull on their way into work as “good luck.” Guess what? That’s idolatry. Nothing’s changed. I may make a bold claim here, but there is another potential idol in New York City as well: the Statue of Liberty. I love what that statue represents, but I do fear that some people have turned it into an idol, seeking what America has to offer instead of seeking God, who has blessed this country (though that seems to be about to end). Yes, even a country can be an idol.

There were only four kings among the split kingdoms who were given full kudos from God: Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah. These were the only four kings who tore down the high places. They were the only ones who destroyed idols, demolished the places of worship of pagan gods, and called for the people to worship where God said to worship and how God said to worship. If there is to be repentance to be found in this country, it will have to include destroying, breaking, and completely removing the idols in our lives. Do we recognize them?

Next week, I’ll look at the 3rd commandment: taking the Lord’s name in vain.

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Anthropology: Who Is Mankind?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 18, 2021 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

As we continue our study of the branches of theology, the next one is anthropology. The word itself comes from the Greek word anthropos, which means “man” or “mankind.” So, anthropology is the overall study of humankind and what makes us human, which we’ll take a look at in this blog post.

As followers of the God of the Bible, the easy answer to the question of what makes us human is God. We know that God created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), but what exactly does that mean?

First of all, being created in God’s image does NOT mean that we are God. God is God, and we are not; we are His creation and He made us (Psalm 100:3). We have some of God’s attributes reflected in us, but not all of them. God’s immanent attributes (love, faithfulness, mercy, justice, wisdom, and goodness) are reflected in us as humans, though imperfectly because of the sin that we brought into this world. God’s transcendent attributes (self-sufficiency, eternality, omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, and impassibility) are not reflected in us at all. (See last week’s post for more on those.)

Being created in God’s image means that we have the capability of becoming more like God as we strive to imitate Jesus Christ and to become more like Him. This is the likeness of God in our lives. We have the ability to reason because of God’s image in us. Because we are God’s image-bearers, we have dominion over Creation (Genesis 1:28-30). Because every human being bears God’s image, all life is considered to be sacred. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbor in Luke 10:25-37, we know that our “neighbor” is every other person, because every person is created in God’s image. Loving our neighbor is seeing God’s image in them; because we love God, we love that person too.

There are two main schools of thought on what makes us up as created beings in God’s image. One is that we are a dichotomy - we are body and soul, or body and spirit. The other is that we are a trichotomy - body, soul, and spirit. Those who believe that we are a dichotomy see everything physical about us as our body, and everything else is our soul or our spirit. Those who believe that we are a trichotomy view the soul as the image of God in us, whereas the spirit is the breath of life that we receive from God.

Reformation theologian Martin Luther held the dichotomy point of view, basing it on Matthew 10:28: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” That verse clearly refers to only the body and soul. 1 Corinthians 5:5 also refers to the dichotomy point of view, whereas 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12 seem to point to the trichotomy idea.

Whether you believe that humans are a dichotomy or a trichotomy, it is clear that we have two natures: our fallen (sinful) nature, and the image of God. God’s original intention for humans was perfection, a perfect reflection of His image. But when the first humans sinned (Genesis 3), they gained a fallen nature. The image of God still exists in us; it is evident in our will, our ability to reason, our self-awareness, knowledge of our place in the universe, and our ability to create. Evidence of the sinful nature exists in death, disease, and our innate desire to worship self and anything other than God. Humans were initially created totally in God’s image, but our fall into sinfulness constantly distorts that image in us.

Are humans by nature good, or by nature evil? That is the question. Martin Luther believed that humans are completely corrupt and fallen, and it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can do anything that is good. Philosopher Paul Tillich believed that we are mostly good, but our sinfulness separates us from God. There was a heresy in the early church brought forth by Pelagius that says that humans are pure and fully able to maintain that uncorrupted state; Christ was perfect, so any Christian has the ability to be perfect as well. This teaching of Pelagius was rejected by the early church in 418 AD, because of the doctrine of original sin.

So, what is original sin? It is the teaching that all humans are sinful simply because we are human. Every person after Adam and Eve is born with a sinful nature; it is passed through our DNA. The idea of original sin is supported by Scripture passages such as Psalm 51:5 and Ephesians 2:3. Some believe that we only have the potential for sin in our lives because of our fallen nature, not because we have original sin in our DNA.

Why does all this matter? How we view mankind affects how we relate to our fellow human beings. If we believe that all people are created in God’s image, we will do our best to treat them all with God’s love. If we believe that people are only some kind of animal and God has nothing to do with it, then we will be selfish and not care about others. If we believe that all people are sinful and in need of hearing the good news of the gospel message, we are much more likely to share that message with them, than if we believe that people are good by nature and not in need of God and the salvation that He offers us.

The questions regarding humanity don’t always have easy answers, but through studying who we are as humans, we can learn more about God and who He is. We were created in His image and His likeness, even though we are sinful and far from perfect as God is perfect. Whether we are a dichotomy or a trichotomy, whether we are by nature good or evil, whether we have original sin in our lives or just sin because we have a fallen nature, God is still God. We are His creation, and we were created to worship Him and bring Him glory.

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Idolatry: No Gods

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 15, 2021 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” -Exodus 20:3

It’s pretty easy to see how idolatry violates the first two commandments. Idolatry is the worship of other gods besides the One True God, and the first commandment is to put no other gods before the True God. Note, this is not saying the other gods don’t exist. It’s saying we are not to put anything in front of God for our center of affection, our praise, our attention, or in seeking our needs. Through this series, I’m going to look at what idolatry looked like in ancient times and how it looks today.

Who were the gods of the Ancient Near East? There were many of them. Baal, Astheroth, Dagan, Molech, Chemosh, Rimmon, Mammon, just to name the big ones. The Greeks had all their mythological gods, followed by their Roman counterparts. I’m not going to go into detail about each of these here except when addressing specific ones in regard to the worship and rituals related to them. But each of these gods have several things in common.

They are finite. They were limited to a physical location, and their “realm” was limited. This rang a bell with me when I read 1 Kings 20 and how the Syrians thought the gods of Israel were just gods of the hills, not the valleys. That sparked my post about the gods of the Ancient Near East a few years ago. The ANE gods were finite in location and reach, had physical needs, had to be carried around, and only served a limited area.

Many of the ANE gods were merely deified representations of the things they saw in nature. They had gods for the hills, the valleys, the rivers, the rain, fertility, crops, finances, you name it. Hinduism has some 300 million gods; I wonder how they keep track of them. Whatever you need, they had a god for it. The people wanted to make sure they appeased them all, because the last thing you wanted was to make one of the gods angry. I mentioned last week that Israel thought because they were God’s people that they would be exempt from His wrath, so they sought to appease the other gods in case they lost their crops, couldn’t have kids, or whatnot. They were very wrong about that.

There is a final thing in common all these gods had together. They were powerless to do anything. They gave no message of hope, no truth, did not miracles, never intervened, never gave anything they sought. But the people were clever. That which the True God gave, they attributed to the false gods. That’s why God cut off rain for Ahab, because he trusted in Baal to provide the rain and attributed it to that false god. Yet God silenced Baal by proving he could do nothing.

What was so wrong about this? We’ll get to the rituals later, which are how the other commandments are broken. But Israel put their trust in a physical object, a finite concept, a false idea, or even a person/group of persons to do what only God could do. They followed the rituals of the other gods to the letter, but hardly gave the Law, which they agreed to follow, a second thought. In reality, they didn’t give GOD a second thought. God did all sorts of things for Israel, and over and over again, they forgot Him and ignored His ways. In Deuteronomy 28, the people shouted blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. It wasn’t hard. Choose life or choose death. Yet, sin was so strong in the people that they chose death time and time again. They kept putting the other gods, gods whom they knew nothing about except through their neighbors, before the True God, whom they did know. It wasn’t mere waywardness. It wasn’t a mere one-time failure. It was a repeated rejection of God from being God.

The people believed the gods were powerful, but they also knew they weren’t sovereign. I love how Voddie Baucham describes this. When you have a powerful god but not a sovereign god, you have the ability to manipulate that god to conform to your will. But the True God is both all-powerful and sovereign. And a sovereign God doesn’t let you have “your opinions” on the matter. He’s got His, and His opinions rule. That’s what Israel didn’t like. They couldn’t live however they wanted to live under the True God. That’s why they so frequently wanted to be like the other nations.

Is it any different today? How many times have we put another god before the True God? Most pastors/youth pastors will talk about sports idols, TV, video games, the gurus of our day, etc. While that is true and those are issues, but there are two primary “gods” that our American culture has adopted: 1) a god of our own making in our minds and 2) “science.”

In first case, there are so many teachings out there describing some god, but it’s not the Biblical God. The Prosperity Gospel teachings treat God as some kind of cosmic genie or divine butler. The Progressive Christianity teachings have a range of ideas about God from being a mystical energy, a supreme being that is the same god over all religions, and in all cases, it’s about love, generosity, and provision but never about righteousness, holiness, or purity. Paul Washer in one sermon addressed how he was approached by a pastor to speak about the Attributes of God. Washer warned him that it was a controversial subject and said when he started teaching on the righteousness of God, the holiness of God, and the purity of God, that pastor’s best members and best tithers will stand up and declare: “That’s not my god!” And this happens across the board. There are so many “other Jesuses” out there. Check out my three-post series on that (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

In the second case, we have “science.” This includes Darwinian Evolution and any Evolutionized position which includes a history of “millions of years.” In this situation, the Word of God can be questioned about its interpretation, but not the science. I confronted an Old Earth Creationist who claimed the geology supports millions of years, but he also declared that Adam was a real being who lived 6000 years ago and through Adam death came to all men. So, I asked him how he handled fossil evidence of humans dating 300,000 years ago. He questioned everything in the book from whether the fossils were human, to the understanding of the timeline of Genesis, everything… except the dating of those fossil remains. Again, what is idolatry? Putting ANYTHING before God. When someone believes “modern science” over the Word of God, they have put “science” in a position it was never meant to have. And it’s idolatry.

The atheists like to say they have replaced God with science. I completely agree, except for one thing. They didn’t replace the True God with science. They replaced the ANE gods with science. Remember how I said these gods represented what they saw in nature? Today’s “naturalists” simply replaced those gods with a “law of science” but still put it in the “God” position. It’s a form of pantheism and it is idolatrous. So I ask Christians who listen to these “scientific models” derived from atheistic/naturalistic philosophies, “Why are you listening to them about how God made everything? What’s wrong with His record?”

Idolatry is just as rampant today as it was 3000 years ago. For every problem, God has a solution. And for every solution God offers, man has a counterfeit solution to match it. Idolatry is putting anything before God, anything as priority over God. And there are many of us who have turned to God, but we still have our old gods tucked away. May God work on our hearts to expose it and deal with it. Next week, we’ll look at the physical objects of the idols themselves.

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Theology Proper: Who Is God?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 11, 2021 1 comments

by Katie Erickson

Last week, I wrote about why studying theology is important for all followers of Christ. As we begin digging deeper into the various areas of theology, the first one will investigate is known as theology proper: the study of God and who He is.

One thing that is very important is to realize that God cannot be fully described or understood by our finite human minds. He is the infinite God, and as His creation, there is no way we can completely comprehend Him in our fallen and sinful state in this world. Our human minds are unable to understand that which is larger than us, and God is much, much larger than even our greatest understanding. We may try to define God, but it’s not us who defines Him but rather He reveals Himself to us.

But, God has revealed a lot about Himself to us through both general and special revelation. General revelation is what we can know about God through nature and the creation He has given us (see Romans 1:20). While general revelation can tell us some about who God is, there are no specific saving truths communicated through it; that’s why we also need special revelation. Special revelation is God’s Word as revealed in the person of Jesus, the written form of the Old and New Testaments, and through preaching, teaching, and study. Special revelation tells us specific truths about God’s character and our relationship with Him.

God’s nature can best be described through His attributes, which are categorized into immanent and transcendent. Immanent attributes are ones that we can know through our reason and reading of God’s Word. Those generally include love, faithfulness, mercy, justice, wisdom, and goodness. Transcendent attributes are ones that can only be accepted on revelation since they are outside the scope of our full understanding. Those generally include self-sufficiency, eternality, omnipresence (all-present), omnipotence (all-powerful), omniscience (all-knowing), immutability (changeability), and impassibility (ability to suffer). You can read about some of those attributes at their links or in this blog series by my fellow author Charlie Wolcott.

We often try to define God in human terms, but God is definitely not a human. He’s not a created being as we are, so He does not have the same attributes as we do. We can only get a dim glimpse, at best, of who God is based on what He has revealed to us. Augustine of Hippo is attributed as saying, “If it is understandable, it’s not God.”

God can also be defined as Trinity - three distinct persons yet one God - though that is also a difficult concept for us humans to fully understand. Each person (the Father, the Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) has its own function, but none of their functions can happen without the other persons and their internal relationship to one another. We see some of this interaction somewhat explained in the following verses, all of which are Jesus speaking:

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father —the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.” (John 15:26)
“No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:27)

There are many analogies for the Trinity, but all of them break down at some point. One is an egg; the yolk, white, and shell are 3 distinct parts, but all make up one egg. Another is juggling with 3 balls; each ball is unique, and the whole of juggling can’t happen without one of them. But both of these analogies break apart in that the pieces of each can be separated, while God cannot be separated. Another analogy, used by Augustine, is a psychological one of mind, emotion, and knowledge; they are 3 distinct aspects of a human personality, and all are present to make up a human.

If all of this sounds confusing, it is. Even the great theologian Martin Luther struggled with describing the Trinity. He once wrote:
“To be sure, a threeness does exist in the Godhead, but this threeness exists in the Persons of the one Godhead. Not three Gods, not three Lords, not three Creators, but one God, one Lord, one Creator, or, as we are wont to say: One divine Essence and yet three distinct Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I call this Being a Threeness, for threefoldness sounds strange. I cannot give this Being a fitting name.”

There is so much more that could be written about who God is, and a lot of theologians have spent many hours and many big words discussing and arguing over nuances of God’s character based on what God has revealed to us. There are a variety of beliefs that exist in the Christian world about specific characteristics of God where the Scriptures are not clear, but the most important aspect to remember is that God is God and we are not. We can never fully understand who He is, but we can be thankful for His general and special revelation to us and the ways He does reveal His character to us.

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Idolatry: Introduction

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 8, 2021 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

For much of the second half of 2020, I spent a lot of time in Old Testament history and the prophets. The #1 charge against Israel was the crime of idolatry. Every king of Israel and Judah was labeled as a good king or a bad king depending on how they handled idolatry. In the Northern Kingdom of Israel, every king (except three, two of which lasted less than a month, Zimri and Shallum, and the last king, Hosea) was judged on their stance regarding Jeroboam’s two golden calf idols (see my post on this for details). Most of these kings merely permitted the worship there, but others actively participated in the worship of other idols. In the Southern Kingdom of Judah, the kings were judged by how the high places were allowed to operate. In both kingdoms, they were judged and sentenced by God to exile because of idolatry.

Why does God take idolatry so seriously? Is He that petty and that desperate for worship? My answer to that is “no.” God takes idolatry seriously because it is ultimately a root for all sorts of evil. Some may say pride is the root, or the love of money is the root, but if you pay attention, the love of self or the love of money are both forms of idolatry. It hit me recently that idolatry and idolatrous practices in some way, shape, or form violate all 10 of the Commandments. Some have said that the Ten Commandments were the “wedding vows” between God and Israel. So, to commit idolatry was a violation of wedding vows, and many of the prophets use marriage to showcase what idolatry was (Hosea 4 is one example). Israel turned herself into a prostitute, sleeping with every man she could find, and only giving lip service to her husband. This was a serious crime.

There are multiple facets to idolatry. I’m going to cover just the basics here, then for the next 10 weeks, I’m going to explore each of the Ten Commandments and how idolatry violates them, then give a conclusion on how to break free of idolatry. First, on the simplest level, idolatry is the worship of something other than the true God, in place of God. Man was created to worship God. That is part of being made in the image of God. Our primary purpose of existence is for the glory of God, which is why all we do should be for that purpose. Idolatry takes that glory that we give and attributes it to another. Man is meant to function as a person with God as his fuel. A human being does not function as he ought to function without God. This is why sin breaks us and we malfunction in it. When we seek a different fuel for our needs that only God can provide, it’s idolatry. What’s more is all these other sources are only temporary. None of them last, so when we worship idols, it’s never enough. There is always a need for more. You need more gods, more sources to fill your needs, or you need harder and “better” worship. And there’s never any way to know if you did enough or not.

Idolatry, especially for the case of Israel, was saying: “God, I don’t trust You. I don’t believe You.” When we don’t believe someone, it’s like we are calling them liars and saying they cannot and should not be trusted. It doesn’t matter who you are; when someone says, “I don’t believe you,” it’s insulting. There are a number of people who should not be believed, but when the person who has a long track record of being trustworthy is not believed, it’s insulting to that person at best. What’s worse is that especially regarding Israel, idolatry doesn’t just call God a liar; it makes YOU a liar. Here’s why. Israel had made a covenant with God. God laid out the terms on Mt. Sinai (the Ten Commandments) and Israel agreed to the terms. It didn’t take them long to break their vows and to break their end of the deal. God kept His, but Israel didn’t keep hers. It’s not different today. Many people claiming to be Christians, “signing on” to the New Covenant Christ gave us are breaking our vows and turning to idols today. Our idols take different forms than Israel’s, but it’s still the same key issue.

Idolatry was not merely a personal affair. It was a family affair. Jeremiah 7:17-19 describes how the whole family would work together for the idolatrous rituals. Now, the kids may only be doing it due to obedience to their parents, however, kids learn most from observing their parents, which is why generational curses persist. It takes a willful decision to break that curse. And some kids weren’t willing participants. Many were killed as a sacrifice to some of these idols.

The rituals in idolatrous practices were full of debauchery and in some cases sadistic. Many rituals involved drinking, drugs, and sex. Many of the shrines had prostitutes who worked for the temples (men, as well as women), and don’t think children weren’t sold to work the temples too. In India in the late 1800s to early 1900s, Amy Carmichael rescued 300 orphans, mainly girls, from such practices still going on in recent times.

Israel had a unique charge against them regarding idolatry that many tend to miss. In all their idolatrous practices, they STILL did the sacrifices and ceremonial laws that God had established. That’s why Elijah asked the people: “How long will you waiver? Either the Baal is God, or the Lord is? Make up your mind.” (my paraphrase). That’s why Hosea said: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Because it was ritual only and they were treating the True God like any other pagan god. They were just trying to cover all their bases, trying to make sure they hit all the religions possible, just in case one was wrong. They always had a Plan B.

The final thing I’ll point out here in my introduction to this series is the arrogance Israel had in their idolatrous practices. They knew they were God’s people. They knew that the True God had singled them out to be His people. They had the words from God Himself. As a result, they thought they were above reproach. Because God had saved them so many times in the past, despite their sin, they thought they were invincible, and that any trouble they were in was because they weren’t serving the “gods” well enough. They knew of God’s great acts of mercy, and His great acts of judgment upon their enemies, but it never entered their mind that God might turn on them because of their rebellion and treachery. It wasn’t as though they weren’t warned. This reminds me of many modern “Christians” who think because they are saved that they can believe whatever they want about God, doctrine, any secondary issue, or whatever but as long as they confess Jesus Christ, they are getting in. Israel though the same thing too. As long as they confessed Jehovah and did the sacrifices, they were in. I’m not calling for legalism or any work-based salvation here, but our faith in Christ requires more than mere agreement to doctrine. It requires a trust in Him and Him alone. There is no other name under heaven by which man might be saved.

So, over the next couple months, I am going to go into detail about idolatry and how it violates all ten of the Ten Commandments directly or indirectly and why God takes it so seriously.

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Why Study Theology?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 4, 2021 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

What is theology? Isn’t that something the seminary students study? Why should your average Christian even think about studying theology? This blog post will look into these questions and give you a basic understanding of what theology is and why it’s important.

Most briefly, theology is the study of God using various study methods. The word theology itself is made up of the Greek word theos, which means God, and the Greek word logos, which most simply means word but also refers to Jesus (as The Word), and it can mean any sort of rational utterance or study. Most literally, theology is the study of God, but it also refers to the systematic study of the Christian religion as a whole. It is a way for those who follow Christ to attempt to learn more about God, even though He is ultimately unknowable by our finite human minds.

Theology can refer to knowing God through the Scriptures given to us as His Word, the faith traditions of those who have come before us, using our intellect to reason who God is, and our personal experiences of God. If those sound familiar, that’s because I wrote on these sources of authority a couple of months ago. We learn about various attributes or characteristics of God through Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.

There are lots of ways to define theology, as it is a very broad field. Theology is not just an academic exercise but also a formational one. My working definition of theology is that it is studying beliefs about God and the practice of Christianity using particular methods, including academic study and spiritual reflection on God and His Word.

But why is studying theology even important? There are three main reasons: defining our faith, defending our faith, and seeking understanding about God.

Our faith must be defined in some way, or else we do not understand what we believe. I grew up in a Christian home, and for many years I believed certain things about God because my church, my teachers, or my parents told them to me. But to mature in my faith, I had to figure out not only what I believed but why I believed it.

Theology helps us understand the boundaries of our faith, and therefore we can defend the faith better to those who do not believe or who may not believe the same things we believe. One important aspect to remember in defending our faith is the difference between dogma, doctrine, and opinion. Dogmas are truths that are the foundation of the Christian faith, such as the fact that Jesus was fully God and fully man, and that He came to earth, died, and was raised to provide salvation for all of humanity. Denying a dogma is considered heresy. Doctrines are significantly important to the faith, but not as important as dogma. Different churches hold to different doctrines of baptism; they are important, but not as important as the dogma of salvation through Jesus. Finally, opinions are issues that don’t really matter and don’t have a strong basis in Scripture. The Greek word for these matters of opinion is adiaphora, which refers to the stuff that doesn’t really matter for salvation. The particular style of worship used in a congregation is a matter of opinion or adiaphora. Theology is important to help us distinguish what matters are dogma, doctrine, or opinion, and to defend the ones that are important.

Theology is also important for us to seek understanding about God. We don’t study theology for purely academic reasons; we study theology because we want to know the God we believe in. Our God is a relational God; He wants to be in a relationship with us. We desire to know those with whom we are in relationships. This aspect of studying theology deals with the way we practice our faith and experience God in our lives.

Studying theology gives us understanding so that our practice of Christianity is well-grounded and useful for ourselves as individuals and the community around us. When we grow in our knowledge and understanding of God, we are able to grow in our faith and our personal spiritual formation. However, we also need to look at theology from a somewhat neutral perspective; we need to be open to new ideas if that’s where the study takes us. We should not remain stuck in previous beliefs if they are not the Truth of God’s Word. Just because I believed something for many years doesn’t make it the truth; Truth is defined by God Himself and how He has revealed Himself to us.

The first step to studying theology is to believe in God’s Word as absolute truth. Reformation theologian Martin Luther said, “When a person desires to become learned in spiritual and divine matters, the beginning is made by simply believing the Word of God.” Luther’s method of studying theology was to first remember that the Scriptures are of supreme importance over human reason, to meditate on the Word to gain insight from the Holy Spirit, and to prepare to be tempted by the devil as we grow in understanding of who God is.

We need to understand what we are believing in so that we can truly believe it and live it out. If we only pursue studying theology for academic purposes, it will have no meaning in our lives. We need to pursue theology so we can know more about the God who created us.

Theology is studying beliefs about God and the practice of Christianity using particular methods, including academic study and spiritual reflection on God and His Word. This study is important to define our faith, defend the faith, bring knowledge and understanding into the Christian world, and to experience personal formation as a Christian.

Join me on this journey over the next couple of months as we look into each main branch of theology. Join me in learning more about who God is, discovering who we are as His creation, and experiencing growth in our faith.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

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Sola Gloria Deus

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 1, 2021 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Happy New Year! 2020 has ended and many people are hoping the end of the madness of this last year has been is over. There is good news and bad news to each new year. The good news is the bad things from the previous year have passed and there will be good things coming this new year. The bad news is the good things from the previous year have passed and there will be bad things coming this new year. Guess what? No matter how crazy 2020 has been, this is the pattern of every year. There are good years and bad years and there are good parts to bad years and bad parts to good years. But what we as Christians can say throughout it all: God is good and everything that takes place is for His glory.

This post will conclude my series on the “Five Solas.” This week’s is “Sola Gloria Deus,” that is, “For the Glory of God Alone.” This is likely the least known of the Five Solas and at the same time, it’s likely the least practiced. While it is the least practiced, it is also the most directly taught. All that takes place is for the glory of God. Our very purpose and existence are for the glory of God. The creation is for the glory of God. The fall of man was allowed for the glory of God. The worldwide destruction of the Flood was for the glory of God, as was the preservation of Noah and his family. The separation of Abraham to start a new people who would be called by God’s name is for the glory of God. The enslavement in Egypt, the plagues, and the exodus were all for the glory of God. The conquest of Canaan was for the glory of God. The judges and the kings and the captivity were all for the glory of God. The four empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome were established for the glory of God. Jesus came to this earth to die for our sins for the glory of God. He rose for the glory of God. The persecution of the church for 2000 years has been for the glory of God. The establishment of the nations from Rome to England to the U.S. to China to Iraq to Saudi Arabia and Brazil and Australia etc. has all been for the glory of God. And Jesus will return to bring judgment upon the wicked and to rescue His bride, all for the glory of God.

That’s world history. Let’s make it more personal. Your existence is for the glory of God. Your purpose in being alive is to give God glory. But there is a big question: how? How do we give God glory? The fact remains that God is going to get glory out of our lives no matter what we do. God is sovereign and is in control of every situation. He does not make our choices for us, but He sets up every situation and lays out every consequence for our choices. Let me boil it down to the ultimate outcomes: We will give God glory throughout our lives through our reception of His free gift of salvation and our walking in His paths, or we will glorify God as we burn and suffer in Hell under His wrath because of our sin. We will glorify God one way or the other. There is no choice in that matter. Every knee will bow, it’s just a matter of when. We will glorify God, it’s only a matter of how.

Many Christians will readily agree with this, but let’s make it more personal. Are we giving God ALONE the glory? It’s easy to say, “Give glory to God” but in reality, you aren’t give Him alone the glory. The are MANY people out there who try to share God’s glory. I have done this too, and in some areas I still do. What does this look like? There are many athletes who have a great platform and when they get the mic, they say: “This is all for the glory of God.” But is it really? I know for Tim Tebow it really was, because when he was snuffed unfairly from the NFL, he didn’t make an issue about it. He wasn’t concerned about his own platform. He wasn’t concerned that he wasn’t going to be the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. But how many others choose to share their platform for their own glory while “sharing” it with God?

The popular preacher has much to worry about in this issue. In an interview, Paul Washer stated that his greatest fear is that when his popularity as a solid preacher dims and he’s no longer followed, would he still be as passionate about preaching the truth and saving souls and making sure God’s name is glorified in his life without the fans as he is now? News flash! God is not going to share His glory with your kingdom, your ministry, your writing, your speaking, your teaching, your science, etc. If it is going to be for the glory of God, it had better be ALL for the glory of God. Hear me; I’m preaching to myself here. One of my greatest passions is that the integrity and the authority of Scripture is upheld, and I utterly despise hearing teachings, especially from other Christians, that undermine it. But when I go to defend Scripture, a battle rages within: whether I am doing this for God’s glory or for my own. How often do I pride myself as being a “champion of the faith”? Way too many times. I often tell myself that any and all that I know about Scripture and how it came about and why we can rely on it is a gift from God. Why? Two reasons: 1) If I don’t, it goes to my head too easily, and 2) I know how susceptible I was to false teachings if someone told me that person was trustworthy. What does this mean? It means any defense I can offer about God and His Word is from God and meant to go back to God.

I’m not alone when I say this: if our top priority is to “win souls,” we’ll miss the point. Our top priority is the glory of God. That means any evangelism we do is not to win souls to our faith, but to proclaim the kingdom of God where His flag is denied from flying. We cannot win souls for Christ if Christ is not our end goal. Paris Reidhead learned this the hard way. He went to Africa so the poor, suffering people there could have hope where they had none. He found out they wanted nothing to do with God, and Reidhead thought he had been tricked. God got a hold of his heart and gave him this message which Reidhead paraphrased: “I didn’t send you to heathen for their sake. I send you there for Me. Am I not worthy of the reward of My suffering?” It totally changed his perception. He no longer went to evangelize and seek the lost so that they might go to heaven; he went out so that God might receive that which He is due. That is what it means to give God the glory. I strongly recommend you check out his sermon “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” because he blasts modern day humanism as it’s crept into the church and now all but taken it over in full force to where everything of Christian doctrine is preached for nothing but the happiness of man. And God is just a means to mankind’s end. He blasts such teaching out of the water, and so will I.

2021 is a new year. We are about to install a new president here in the U.S. (though as of the writing of this post, the election wasn’t fully decided yet). We will have a new set of challenges and a new set of blessings. Every one of them, while for our benefit, will be for the glory of God. However this year goes, let us stand out among all that we’ve seen or done in the past and let us use this year to give ALL the glory to God. Not merely lip service, but let us give him the true praise that we can possibly offer, not caring what we get out of it or what any other person gets out of it. As far as we are concerned, let 2021 be the year in which in all we do, we give the glory to God alone.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.