Tag Archives: Scripture

What Is True Saving Faith?

Simply believing in the gospel message doesn’t amount to saving faith. There’s something more.

When the Apostles proclaimed the gospel in the first century, it had a certain content.

People could reject that content. But they could also accept it as true.

They could even believe in it.

Yet, that still left them with out true saving faith.

Listen: Accurate content and sincere belief in that content doesn’t amount to saving faith…

Those are necessary elements–but not sufficient elements.

There’s one more element.

Let’s address the first two elements before we get to that last one.

Notitia–the First Element of True Saving Faith

One, we must make sure that content is accurate. No use believing in something that isn’t true or heretical.

As you probably know, there’s something dreadfully wrong with this statement: “It doesn’t matter what they believe–as long as they are sincere.”

 was sincere in his belief that he was called by God to abduct children, murder entire families and displace over a million Sudanese so he could establish a theocratic kingdom.

Sincerity can go awfully wrong.

The same is true for Christians: It’s meaningless to be sincere in our belief but not know whether our belief is accurate or not.

We risk heresy if we do otherwise. Thus, the first element of saving faith is accurate content–notitia. Let’s look at the second.

Assensus–the Second Element of True Saving Faith

Second, we must believe that content is true. We must assent to it. This is assensus.

But it’s still not enough to redeem us.

I believe that Augustine wrote the City of God. However, that doesn’t redeem me. There has to be something more.

Fiducia–the Third Element to Saving Faith

The third element to saving faith is fiducia–personal trust and commitment in the accurate content we believe.

This is when a Christian accepts, receives and RELIES on Christ alone.

Granted, the message of that content is important. I could put my trust and commitment in Augustine–but it wouldn’t do me any good.

He’s not offering salvation. Only Jesus Christ is.

What Saving Faith Does to Our Lives

We look to Jesus [not Augustine nor any man] for justification, sanctification and eternal life.

With saving faith, we tremble at the commands of God…yield in obedience to the mandates of Christ…and put our trust in the promises of God for now and for the future.

In essence, it radically rearranges our lives. Christ becomes our object of delight. Our obsession.

And we long to do nothing more than please him. [We don’t always succeed, but that’s another story.]

Here’s the core content we we confess as true, deserving of our belief and worthy of our submission:

That Christ was born, willingly and perfectly lived under the law of God and died as an atoning act. We believe he was dead, buried and rose again.

Only when we believe that information is accurate and trust it holds the power to save us can we safely say we are born again.

Anything less and Jesus is not saving us.

The Right-Brain Thinker’s Guide to Bible Study: 10 Creative Steps

Ten creative steps to help sequential, reductive, computational-challenged types understand the Bible to the fullest.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t get into .

What is Bible arcing? It’s the graphical tool used to determine and document the flow of thought in biblical texts.

It’s a hot item in Reformed circles. But I just can’t do it.

Even after  explain why it’s so important…even after walking through  on Bible arcing…

I just can’t do it.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m down with Bible arcers when it comes to dissecting text into propositions and drawing out connections between it all.

That’s cool. I love it.

But when they launch into 18 distinct relationships based on classification, definitions, comparisons and positive-negative statements…

My minimalist, right-leaning brain just aborts.

Revenge of the Right Brain

So, does that mean my future as an armchair Bible scholar is dead? Does that mean I’ll never be prepared for tough theological questions? I won’t see relationships between texts? Can’t wrestle with the original meaning of the author?

Not at all. There are more ways than one to skin a cat, my friend.

So, in case other sequential, reductive, computational-challenged types are having trouble studying their Bible to the fullest, these ten little steps will help.

1. Read the same 5-8 chapters a day for 30 days.

For instance, I’m reading Mark 1-8 everyday this month. Next month I’ll read Mark 9-16.

2. Start to highlight keywords in texts.

About day 3 or 4, I start to see words repeated. I draw circles, squares, triangles or mangled rectangles around those words.

3. Color code important words.

Around day 10, I break out the colored pencils–colors like Espresso Binge and Washout–and color in the shapes. This way I can start picking up patterns.

4. Create symbols.

There are about 2 miracles per chapter in Mark 1-8. So, out in the margins, I draw a little cluster of grapes to mean miracle. Any mention of the Spirit, a little flame. Get it?

5. Identify key verses for each chapter.

 Midway through the month I start thinking about the key verse for each chapter. I put a * in the margin to mark possible candidates.

6. Identify keywords for each chapter.

Any time after day 20, I pencil in the keywords for each chapter out in the margins.

7. Write paragraph summaries.

At the end of the month, I work through each chapter paragraph and write a one sentence summary. I use , so it’s broken up into meaningful paragraphs. Hard work, I know. But summarizing helps me think through each paragraph and prepare for the next step.

8. Write a chapter theme.

This is not a summary. This is a description of what the chapter is about. Big difference. For instance, in  Jesus tells a parable about vines and branches. The theme, however, is about the relationship of believers to Christ and the world.

9. Create an At-a-Glance sheet.

It’s always good to collect all your notes you’ve written in the margin and document in one place. Here’s the  I use.

10. Read 10-20 chapters from the Old Testament every Sunday.

Right now I’m working through the OT…backwards. On January 4, 2009, I read Malachi. On January 11, I read Zechariah. You get the picture. Bottom line: Don’t neglect the Old Testament.

You could always go a step further and simply memorize a chapter. Or book. Check out these 18 memory tricks if you need help.

It’ll take you about 3 years to get through the entire New Testament. Just depends on your pace.

But no bones about it: Whether you arc or follow these ten high-concept steps…you still have to work.

And don’t get frustrated if you fall behind. [Take it from me: I’m about 10 books behind in my OT reading.] Either pick up where you left off or pick up where you should be. Just read.

What Do You Think?

What creative ways do you use to absorb more of the Bible and build your biblical muscles? Do you arc? Has it improved your understanding of the Bible? Let me know what you think.

Look forward to hearing from you.

My Wickedly Late Guide to William P. Young’s Heretical Book The Shack

An open letter to anyone who thinks  is a good book.

You’re not going to like me for this. For 4 good reasons:

1. It’s been over a year and a half since The Shack has been published. . [I’m a terribly slow reader.]

2. I only read two-thirds of the book.

3. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

4. I think you’re not using your brain when you say it’s a good book.

Now, before you hit the Back button, let me explain.

What your over-zealous response to this book indicates to me is an obvious lack of critical thinking,  or spiritual discernment.

How Can I Say That?

Well, any careful reader will see Young’s got a theological ax to grind. And he wants to create God in his own image. Which is bad.

How you missed this, I don’t know.

So, let me spell out to you what Young did right with this book before I go onto explain where he went really, really wrong.

Orthodox Storytelling

Young’s use of suspense, dialog and conflict are spot on. All three orthodox ways to . Which he does masterfully. But that’s where his orthodoxy stops.

What follows in the 240 odd pages is a bizarre, corny, heretical fantasy.

The Problem with the Eugene Peterson Endorsement

Eugene Peterson of The Message Bible fame compares The Shack to John Bunyan’s classic .

A horribly uneducated comparison.

Any casual read of Bunyan will see its steeped in Scripture. You can’t go two or three sentences without a direct quote from the Bible. Or at least an echo of the Bible.

Young, on the other hand, takes an undeniable and fatal departure from the Bible.

Downplays Revelation

Throughout The Shack Young consistently disparages Scripture at the expense of personal experience. He ignores the beauty, power, transmission and –and substitutes his own speculations.

However, without Scripture as our unwavering rule we are subject to every whim. Including fantasies like The Shack.

Perverts the Trinity

Throughout The Shack Young fails to make a distinction between God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. , and I agree, he entertains the heresy .

Modalism says God is one person who works in three different modes. Young goes as far as to say that God was even on the cross with Jesus.

Wrong. Dead wrong.

It was Jesus who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born to a virgin, crucified by Pilate, buried in a tomb and raised from the dead. Not God the Father.

Muddies Salvation

Young obscures what the Gospel makes crystal clear– Jesus Christ is the one and the only way to be reconciled to the Father.

In fact, on page 120 Papa says:

“I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”

While sin is a punishment, how can you reconcile that statement with Jesus’ death on the cross? The Bible makes it very clear that on the cross Jesus paid the penalty for our sin.

Distorts the Identity of God

No where in the Bible are we given permission to view God as a woman. However, Young portrays God as a big, black woman named “Papa.”

Wait. 3 things dreadfully wrong here.

1.  God is a spirit. That means God doesn’t have a body.

2.  says not to make idols out of wood, stone or flesh.

3. And  says we’ve “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”

I don’t know about you, but a big, black woman named “Papa” sounds a lot like a creature to me.

Ignores Obvious Hierarchy

Young again departs from Scripture with his idea of the Trinity–and the .

On numerous occasions Jesus of the Bible said, the Father sent me, I only say what the Father tells me and I only do what the Father tells me to do. An obvious submission of one person to the other.

Furthermore, out of the  we get the reason why children should obey their parents, wives respect their husbands, Christians submit to their pastors and citizens honor government officials.

Drop the Trinitarian teaching and you get disobedience, chaos and anarchy. Dangerous stuff.

Downplays the Presence of the Glory of God

This is where I think Young gets really stupid.

In Mack, the main character, we find a man who can use foul language with God, and even snap in anger at God.

What’s obvious is that Mack is not in the presence of a being who is far superior to him. We have no sense of awe for Papa. Gone is the majesty and supremacy clearly defined in Scripture by such passages as .

The One Question You Must Ask Yourself

Now, the one question you should be asking yourself instead of charging roughshod with praise for Young is this: Where does Young get his information?

I have an idea.

His ideas are informed by men like ,  and –men he quoted at the start of three of his chapters–all unorthodox .

To boot, Ellul was a , which probably explains where Young adopted the subversive quality of The Shack.

Speculations of a Rogue Christian

What the book amounts to is a bizarre, corny fantasy–equivalent to speculative science fiction.

In fact, Young joins a group of notable authors who’ve carved out Christianity, God, spirituality and Jesus in their own image: James Redfield’s , Richard Bach’s , Rhonda Byrne’s  and Eckhart Tolle’s .

And like these authors, Young expects us to take his subjective speculations as absolute truth–over and above the objective truth found in the Bible.

If Young is involved in personal ideas of God that undermine Scripture, promotes new revelation and leads believers astray…who are you going to listen to?

I’ll be happy when this book goes away.