Archive for September, 2012

Spirit-Filled Clergy and Laity Need to Get Their “Acts” (doxis and praxis) Together

‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.’

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.’

I take these statements from Jesus in Matthew 12:25 and 23:15 and apply them to the Body of Christ in terms of its fundamental doctrines and practices. When doctrines or opinions (Gk. doxis), what you profess, and practices (Gk. praxis), what you do, do not align and complement one another, you end up with a house divided against itself and/or the hypocrisy of not doing what you say.

That’s not so much a problem with Denominational Mainline Christianity because, by and large, their Western Latin doxis of a remote, transcendent, magisterial God administering Roman justice on a fallen, sinful mankind pretty much complements and supports their praxis of guilt, bondage, control, and sin consciousness of their congregations. It is not a pretty picture of Christianity, but at least their views of right doctrines (orthodoxis) and right practices (orthopraxis) are aligned and complementary.

The problem is in the Spirit-filled, Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. Their praxis is based on operating in the Ministry Gifts (Eph. 4) of an immanent, loving, involved God (the Son, the Logos, the Christ, Jesus) and individual Gifts (1 Cor 12, Rom. 12) and Fruit (Gal. 5) of an indwelling, supporting, comforting, and guiding Holy Spirit.  This praxis is wonderful, empowering, freeing, loving and Bible-based, to be sure.

Unfortunately, the contemporary Spirit-filled, Pentecostal/Charismatic movement does not have a theology, doctrine, or doxis, that supports, complements, or aligns with their empowered praxis. They pretty much brought along, whole cloth, the orthodoxis of whatever Western Latin tradition they came from; be that Evangelical, Reformed, Anglican, or Roman Catholic. At best, this causes the problem of a “house divided” in Matt. 12, above. At worst, it results in the “hypocrisy” described in Matt. 23.

Operating in the Gifts and Fruit of the Holy Spirit was the orthopraxis of the early primitive Christian church. We know that from Acts and Paul’s un-disputed letters. There was also an orthodoxis in the primitive Church that aligned with, complemented, and supported this empowered orthopraxis. It has been suppressed by the Western Latin (i.e., Roman Catholic and Protestant) Church for the last 1,600 years.

Can you imagine what might happen if we got the orthodoxis and orthopraxis of the primitive Christian Church of Signs and Miracles together again for the first time in 1,600 years?!

That is what “First Thoughts” is all about. Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, clergy and laity alike, need to read this booklet so that the remnant church can get its collective “Acts” together and become  the Powerhouse Body of Christ it should, and can be. Satan wants to keep it from happening, keeping us “double-minded”.


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God as a Remote Roman Magistrate Dispensing ‘Iustitia’ to Mankind

The real defect in Anselm’s doctrine of atonement is that he built upon the action or the fears of a diseased and guilty conscience in its sense of alienation from God, instead of the pure and free consciousness of Him who is the type of the normal man…

Alexander V.G. Allen, 1884

By building their theology backwards, with man in relation to God, the Western church also developed, not surprisingly, an anthropomorphized concept of God (i.e., attributed human characteristics to God).  God becomes a distant (read “transcendent”) Imperial Roman Magistrate administering iustitia, the secular Roman idea of jurisprudence, on his subjects (man).  Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 220 AD) was, among other things, a Carthaginian lawyer.  He set in motion this hierarchical, magisterial, forensic, Roman view of religion.  This concept was further refined later by his fellow Carthaginians Cyprian, and St. Augustine, whom we just met.  Ultimately, St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) pushed this idea to its absurd limits in the Middle Ages.  Anselm’s vision of God resembled a kind of remote, magisterial medieval lord (God) whose offended dignity could only be satisfied by the substitutionary death of his own son (Jesus) in atonement for his subjects’ (man’s) disobedience.  This doctrine even has a Latin church name: satisfactio activa vicaria.[1]

Given the above discussion, it is clear that many of our Western Christian doctrines such as “election” and “exclusivism” (‘extra ecclesiam nulla salus’)[2] are Afterthoughts of man and not good theology.

Excerpt from the book “First Thoughts“.

[1] See Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man)

[2] Latin: ‘Outside the Church there is no Salvation’

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Augustine’s Mistake: Backward Theology

“Jewish thinkers concur with Pelagius’s position that no human being is tainted by the sins of Adam—but only by his own sinful deeds.”

Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel

Either God is all-goodness, but not all-mighty, or He is all-mighty, but not all-goodness.

Starting with Man and working backward in relation to God is exactly what happened in Western theology in the 3rd to 5th centuries.  In his defensive apologetic zeal to discredit the optimistic British monk Pelagius for claiming that man maintained moral free will after the Fall and for rejection of the doctrine of Original Sin, St. Augustine walked right down the misguided path described in the preceding post. And the Western church, which includes Roman Catholics and Evangelical and Reformed Protestants, has been flailing around with this unsolvable problem, in italics above, for over 1,500 years and are no closer to an answer today than they were when they first made the mistake.  Rather than re-think their theology, the Western church hardened its position into dogma and so it continues to struggle with the problem to this day.  To discuss these Afterthoughts of man with some related additions including sin, heaven and hell, purgatory, faith and sacraments, would be to survey the history of Augustinianism through its various historical phases.

Excerpt from the book “First Thoughts“.

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The Need for a Top-down Theology

The meaning of theology is to know God as He is, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3

“Theology, rightly considered, is the knowledge of God in His relation to us, the cardinal point of which lies in the truth which the old Greek poet had glanced at. “For we are also his offspring” – this is the true keynote; and theology, setting out from this kinship between us and God, we at once soar, as on wings of a spiritual intuition, across the abyss between creature and Creator.”

John Heard

Theology is the study of God in relation to man.  This is a First Thought.  Theology is not, conversely, the doctrine of man in relation to God.  That is an Afterthought born of human arrogance and pride at truly biblical levels.  The adage, “There is a God, and we’re not Him”, comes to mind.  All proper theology starts with God and works from that starting point to His relation to man.  The order is all important.  Getting it backwards has caused huge problems in Christianity that we suffer with to this day.  Take the following historical illustration as an example:

If we make the mistake of making man the starting point, we immediately have to deal with him in a condition of spiritual blindness and consequent self-alienation from God.  How do we explain this condition?  The answer is to come up with a rationale, an Afterthought, like Original SinBecause we have approached it from the wrong direction, this first Afterthought raises yet further questions.  So, we are forced into developing a series of additional related Afterthoughts to rationalize our flawed first assumptions; the Fall, the Atonement, Grace, Predestination, the problem of evil, etc.  This line of reasoning of man in relation to God inevitably leads us to a problem that has no logical solution: Either God is all-goodness, but not all-mighty, or He is all-mighty, but not all-goodness.

Excerpt from the book “First Thoughts“.

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The Difference Between “First Thoughts” and “Afterthoughts”: A New Testament Example

To illustrate the difference between First Thoughts and Afterthoughts further, let’s take an example from Romans 5. Speaking of the sin of Adam at the Fall and the corresponding Grace of God through the redemption by Jesus, Paul states in verse 15:

But the free gift is not like the trespass.  For if many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.

And just to make sure that there was no misunderstanding that the redemption of man is just as extensive as the fall of man, the Apostle repeats himself twice more in verses 18 and 19:

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification for all.  For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Now, contrast this to what later theologians did to Paul’s First thoughts.  St. Augustine and, later, Protestant Reformer John Calvin drew a conclusion from these verses that is very different from Paul’s clear teaching.  Somehow, they inferred that man’s redemption was not co-extensive with the condemnation.  To Augustine and Calvin, there is universal damnation in Adam, and only selective salvation in Christ!

Of the thoughts of the Apostle Paul, St. Augustine, and John Calvin, discussed above, which do you think might be First Thoughts and which are Afterthoughts?

This is not a quiz!  It’s just an example to get you thinking about, and sensitive to, the concept of First Thoughts and Afterthoughts.  The differences between them had a huge impact on the development of Christian theology.

Excerpts from the book “First Thoughts

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