Monthly Archives: July 2011

An Invaluable Resource for Learning

I wanted to call attention to an invaluable resource that I’ve been using for a few years now, but lately has become precious to me and I want to share. It’s called iTunesU, and its essentially a podcast that you can download that features thousands of colleges and universities across the world. There are tens of thousands of classes you can listen in on, whether its anthropology, economics, political sciences, philosophy, etc, and it’s all free.

What I’ve been using it for however, is the seminaries. Specifically, Reformed Theological Seminary. I’ve been “taking” their classes for two years now, listening in on hundreds of lectures primarily involving Church History, Doctrine and Philosophy, Old Testament History and Reformed Epistemology. This year though my interests have shifted, and what I’ve become passionate about is pastoral ministry.

In this RTS doesn’t disappoint. I’ve lined up some 700 hours of classes, all surrounding various aspects of pastoral ministry and ecclesiology. I wanted to share some of the specific classes with you

1. Disabilities and the Church

21 hours of classes on how the reality of physical and emotional disabilities plays out in the church, from how to outfit a church to make it disability accessible, how to work with professionals and caregivers, how to have a theology of suffering, the medical contexts, how to prepare for death, the role the deacons and elders play, family dynamics, the role of church order in a disability context, outreach to those with disabilities, and about 25 other lecture sessions in the same vein.

Other classes, each of which  has 20-40 lectures in them, are:

2 Educational Ministry of the Church

3. Introduction to Pastoral and Theological Studies.

3. Pastoral and Social Ethics

4. Roles and Relationships in Pastoral Ministry

5. Theology of Pastoral Ministry

6. Pastoral Counselling

That is just from one seminary and those are just some of the classes. There are others. After I finish I have my eye on Westminster Theological Seminary, and then perhaps Concordia University. Oh, and they also have hundreds of chapel sessions, which is a fantastic bonus.

Great Francis Chan Quote

“I confess to the church, I know I have backed away from certain things because of my arrogance I thought I could attract more people to Jesus by hiding certain things about him.” Francis Chan

Ecclesial Sermon Roundup

Weekend of Sunday July 17, 2011

Fort McMurray Alliance Church. Bonnie Hodge

Family Christian Centre. Pastor Brian Bursey

Fellowship Baptist Church. Pastor Brent Carter

Emmanuel Baptist Church. Pastor D.A Glenon

Morning service. Evening service

MGA is a bit behind and have not posted their sermon yet, but I will update this page as soon as they do so.

No Creed but Christ? In support of Creedalism

I’ve been having a bit of back and forth with a reader in one of the Seventh Day Adventist posts, when he made these comments. I found them intriguing enough to feature a response, and perhaps keep the discussion going in this thread.

Quick question though. Do you think that when all the orthodox creeds and confessions were drawn up, i.e. Westminster COF, do you believe those men back then had discovered the WHOLE truth?

There is a difference between a creed and a confession, and so that distinction pushes back  right away. Given that distinction, for example, the Old Roman Form, Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian and Chalcedon creeds would be in a different category than the 1689 London Baptist Confession, the Augsburg confession, or the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

I think it would be beneficial to note the definition of the word “creed” in order to clear up some of the concern as expressed by anti-creedalists. [I am not suggesting you are one, just speaking to the wider audience]  The English word “creed” is derived from the Latin credo, which simply means, “I believe.” A creed, then, is a statement of faith. And as such it no more diminishes the authority of God’s Word than do statements such as, “I believe in God,” or “I believe in the resurrection of Christ.”

When we understand this, we see there are ancient embryonic creeds and confessions preserved in the biblical record of apostolic Christianity itself. The very seeds of full-blown creedalism are sown in the fertile soil of the apostolic era via terse statements of faith which were widely employed.  The most familiar of these rudimentary creeds is the recurring one embedded in such texts as Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; and Philippians 2:11 which is: “Jesus is Lord.” This massively profound and important statement embodied—”encreeded,” if you will—a particular way of viewing Jesus Christ. It was fundamentally necessary to hold as one’s own credo: “I believe Jesus is Lord.”

A passage that certainly contains all the aspects commonly found in lengthier creeds and confessions, such as dogma, liturgy, confession, polemic and doxology, is the Christological scheme presented in Philippians 2:6-11. It speaks of Christ’s pre-existence, humiliation and exaltation.  The verses in this passage which represent the descent and ascent of Jesus Christ are arranged in couplets and they feature the poetic device known as a chiasm.  The climax of the chiasm is in verse 9.

6Who, being in the form of God, did not regard it robbery to be equal with God

7But he emptied himself taking the form of a slave, being in the  likeness of human beings

          8And being found in appearance as a human, he humbled himself,

         Being obedient unto death, even death on a cross

                    9Therefore also God highly exalted him in the highest place

                    And granted to him a Name that is above every Name

          10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow

         In heaven and on earth and under the earth

11And every tongue confess that the Lord Jesus is the Christ

To the glory and praise of God the Father.

I would consider the Philippians creed to be the unadulterated  truth and all other biblical  mini- creeds to be  confessions of the truth. There are different nuances within creedalism itself, so that is one facet of it. I think the Old Roman Symbol has its roots in the near- apostolic era with second generation saints who served under the apostles, lending it much credence and credibility. I consider it true in all that it says. I would also argue that the Apostles creed and Nicene Creed of 325 are true.

More precisely said, because of the very nature of what a creed it, its function is not to encompass the “WHOLE TRUTH” of anything, but rather a summary of true statements. I believe only the Bible contains the whole truth but that these early documents are correct in their summary of clear, robust, exact, unambiguous, overarching themes and doctrines of the bible. That’s why when we read fragments of the Old Roman Symbol, which simply reads, I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord. And in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, the resurrection of the flesh.“, there does not seem to be any arguing about these facts. There is a perspicuity there.  The Church unitedely confessed them for thousands of years, despite radical differences in all other areas, and I believe in that creed as much and as strongly as I believe “Jesus is Lord.” We don’t have to pit these two things against each other and ask which is more true. Believing in a creed in no way diminishes the word of God so long that it reflects the word of God.

That is different in my mind than the Westminster confession or the Belgic confession. Confessions are not creeds, and they do not serve the same purpose or function.  These are more about laying out doctrinal interpretations than encreeding clear doctrine. They do not contain in all their parts what I would consider “clear, robust, exact, unambiguous, overarching themes and doctrines of the bible”, and for that reason confessions stand in contradistinction to  creeds. The Westminster confession has a different form and purpose than the Apostles Creed, and for that reason there is  room in the latter to disagree. For that reason, I would not say that the men who wrote the confessions had the correct interpretation in everything they wrote, even though I myself hold to some of them.

I say that because, for example, most Christians before the likes of George McCready Price, followed by Henry Morris of the ICR, were Old Earth Creationists. Now Young Earth Creationism is the mainstream thought.

I would dispute that thought, actually. It seems instead that the old-earth tradition had its origin among late-18th and early-19th century geologists,  many of whom were Christians, believed the bible, and were trying to reconcile what they studied with what the bible taught. Much of this was before Darwin and certainly prior to the Scopes trial. When we read the early church fathers and later on the reformers [my apologies, I am not familiar with much of the prevailing attitudes between 700-1350 Ad] it seems the issue of the age of the earth was not in dispute because it wasn’t particularily calculated . YEC theology was unknown and was separate from the theology of the seven day creation of Genesis which it seems the church fathers and reformers held to. Specifically regarding two of the big ones, both Luther and Calvin believed in a literal interpretation of Genesis, even as Calvin in particular suggested some of the language was phenomenological.

My belief is that God, since the dark ages and via the Reformation, has slowly revealed new understanding that renders some old creeds obsolete.

I don’t know why you would believe this. Even though not all creeds are the same, none of the later creeds contradict the earlier creeds, especially not when they are founded upon the Biblical revelation. As well, none of the reformational confessions contradict the creeds. In their expansion of theology they differentiate themselves in purpose and effectiveness. The vast majority of Christians won’t agree in the veracity of the Westminster, but they will in the Apostles creed. Again, we have a category problem because creeds are different than confessions.

In light of all this, what reasons do you have for believing the creeds should be rendered obsolete? Furthermore, who was this new understanding revealed to? Which church group or persons got the memo? What creeds do you believe have been rendered obsolete, to what purpose, and what beliefs have replaced them?

It seems the reformers never understood themselves as receiving a new understanding which contradicted the creeds, but rather were recapturing old truths that were lost and perverted by the Roman Catholic Church.  We were told to  “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” “Once for all” would suggest that the scriptures are sufficient and that certain matters have been settled. I believe the creeds accurately reflect those settled, major points of doctrine. I don’t know what indications you would have that would suggest otherwise, unless you are trying to pit someone like Ellen White and her prophetic beliefs against the creeds.

Enlighten me as to why these creeds, are still much more relevant today, than what the Bible actually teaches. Wasn’t the reformation all about Sola Scriptura? Then why rely on archaic creeds? I just want to know why one would hold on to such beliefs as you’re were brought to Christ in a different path as mine.

The reformation wasn’t all about Sola Scripture, though that was one of the five Solas that they were confessing what and undergirded much of their beliefs. If anything, it had to do with dissatisfaction with the Roman Catholic Church on all levels, as they protested the doctrines, rituals, public practices and ecclesiastical structure of said Church.

Why rely on and hold to these creeds? Because the early creeds are complimentary to the bible. They display the essentials of the faith which are the common ground for all believers spanning across the centuries. These are not Scripture but a synthesis of the most important truths of the Bible. As the church historian Philip Shcaff said, “creeds are NOT the Word of God–nobody ever said that they were–but are responses to that Word.” The creeds do not replace the Bible but underscore and highlight  its important doctrines- where we all agree.

Because here’s the thing- not all Bible verses are of equal weight. For example, there are more verses on tongues than the virgin birth but that does not mean speaking in tongues is more important than the virgin birth. The creeds are sparse and thus provide the minimum beliefs for a Christian. They leave out many doctrines that are specialties of the various denominations. [Unlike confessions]  That is their genius. Creeds also define heresy. They provide both the inner core of doctrine and the outer limits of beliefs, defining what is doctrinally in or out of bounds. This builds up our unity, as we find ourselves agreeing on the vital doctrines in the creeds. Studying the creeds helps us emphasize our common beliefs to the world, and to ourselves.

We need to recognize that creedal standards are not independent assertions of truth. They are derivative from and subordinate to the only source and standard of Christian truth: the Bible, the God-breathed, infallible, and inerrant Word of the Living God.

As such, anyone who thinks of God in a particular way has “encreeded” a view of God whether or not this “creed” is put in writing. Surely it cannot be suggested that this diminishes the primacy or the centrality of the Bible. Furthermore, if someone argues that a creed reduces the authority of Scripture by implying its inadequacy, then you can just as easily argue that for a pastor to give a sermon where he exposits the words of Christ, he likewise carries with it the implication that Christ’s words are inadequate as they stand.

Creeds are simply expository distillations of Scripture. They summarily state the most basic themes of Scripture in order to facilitate education in them. If we can agree that a brief expository summation of the teachings of the Bible can be given, then creeds are legitimized in that they fulfill that precise function. In this respect, creeds differ from doctrinal sermons only in being more exact and being carefully compiled by several minds. Once a church encourages public teaching of the Word or publishes literature explaining it, it has in fact made a creedal statement.

Although the special, direct revelation of God ceased and the corpus of Scripture was finalized in the first century,  it was still necessary for the continuing Church to interpret and apply the completed revelation. The interpretation and application of Scripture is a process, not a mere act. It has required the involvement of hundreds and thousands of devout men working through many centuries to systematize, compile, and disseminate the fundamental truths of Scripture. The fact that the truth of Scripture is of no “private interpretation” is a foundational principle of creedal theology.

I don’t think that someone interpreting scripture should necessarily do so alone, but that people ought to build on the past labors of godly predecessors.  It’s not the interpreters or groups of exegetes who agree with the historic, orthodox interpretations of the past and who find themselves in the mainstream of Christian thought who are suspect, but rather it’s those who present novel deviations from historic Christendom who deserve careful scrutiny. For this reason, creeds help to preserve the essential core of true Christian faith from generation to generation which I believe is eminently important.

Hope that helps, friend! I look forward to your response.

Paperthin Hymn; Sanctus

Sanctus [Holy Lord God]

Holy, holy, holy Lord. God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna in the highest.



The Sanctus is the last part of the preface in the Mass. It is designed to be sung by the celebrant and the people and in my estimation is an exquisitely joyful time. When we attended St. Thomas Anglican for a time, they had a slightly quirky version of this which always put a smile on my face.

It is thousands of years old. Clement of Rome d. about 104) mentions the sanctus. He quotes the text in Isaiah 6:3 and goes on to say that it is also sung in church “for the Scripture says . . . Holy, holy, holy Lord of hosts; full is every creature of his glory. And we, led by conscience,  gathered together in one place in concord, cry to him continuously as from one mouth, that we may become sharers in his great and glorious promises.” The second part of the text beginning with the word “Blessed”), is taken from Matthew 21:9, which dexscribes Jesus’ Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem.

The Sanctus, apart from merely being mentioned by Clement, is later spoken of by Origen, St Cyril, Athanasius, John Chrystosom, and other Church fathers. I think much of the beauty of it is because the nature of it seems to be  a never ending hymn sung by angels, archangels, saints and all creation in worship of God. It is pure unbridled adoration.

This particualr version is sung by Tara Ward from the CD “Hope for a tree cut down” As always I don’t endorse this church or all the songs on their CD, but this truly is a phenomenal rendering.



Worship from the Alliance Church

I was listening to the July 3rd sermon at the Fort McMurray Alliance Church, and right at the end they included the song “Beautiful Savior”.  It is a simple and beautiful song with phenomenal lyrics. I believe it is sung by Lucas Welsh, and I was deeply and personally blessed by listening to it and worshiping with it.

Your nail-scarred hands are beautiful.
Your nail-scarred feet are beautiful.
And by Your wounds, my wounds are healed.
Your crown of thorns is beautiful.
Your cross of scorn is beautiful.
For by Your wounds, our wounds are healed.

Beautiful Savior. Jesus, we believe.
Despised and rejected. Jesus, we receive You.

Scourged for our atonement. You endured it all.
For the glory of the Father.
We were among the ones You saw?

I hope to be able to include  more worships songs from different local area churches in the future, and this is a great one to start it off.

You’re More Evil Than You Think.

Having this blog has been a great blessing to me. It is my own little imperfect ministry, and it has born imperfect fruit. One of the expected results of having it, however, is that I have discovered that when you slaughter sacred cows, people tend to respond vehemently. Has some of it hurt? Yeah, it has. It is an occupational hazard not just of the ministry, but of life. Even a cursory examination of your existence will show that you will at some point or another become the target of people’s destructive criticism, misrepresentation, gossip, slander, foolish inferences and ignorant speculations.

So how does one deal with that? How do you keep that from being a root of bitterness that grows and overwhelms you,-that keeps you from becoming resentful and angry in turn towards them?

The answer is to remember this: you are far worse than your enemies make you out to be.  You are more evil than they think you are. If we’re being honest here, they don’t even know the half of it!

They may not be correct or truthful in what they are saying about you at a given moment, but you [and your spouse] could tell them things about yourself that would make their mouths hang open in shock and disbelief. That would make their skin crawl. You could tell them things about yourself that would make their cheap shots and petty criticisms pale in comparison.  After all, what is wrong with you is so wrong, so extensively pervasive, that it took the one perfect person who ever lived to die for you and suffer God’s wrath for you.

Some may not find that encouraging, but I believe it is. Because here’s the thing, what  would be very discouraging is if you stopped with bringing to mind what a mess you are. So don’t stop short. Go farther. Go all the way to the cross and realize that even though you are far worse than your enemies think you are, Jesus went to the cross willingly. He wasn’t squirming at the thought and trying to shirk his role. He wasn’t resentful or dismayed at the thought. He was not reluctant to die for you, not when he says “No one takes my life away from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” Even though you are a million times worse than any of your enemies know, Jesus does know, and the cross proves  thathe loves you anyway.

Great John Owen Quote

Do you mortify;
do you make it your daily work;
be always at it while you live;
cease not a day from this work;
be killing sin or it will be killing you.

John Owen, “On the Mortification of Sin,”

Who is the Church for?

The Church is a place for repentant whores and whoremongers. The Church is a place for repentant idolaters and homosexuals. The Church is a place for repentant thieves and coveters. The Church is a place for repentant drunkards and  murderers. The Church is a place for repentant liars and gossips. The Church is a place for repentant prostitutes and pimps. The Church is a place for repentant pornographers and rapists. The Church is a place for repentant child molesters and pedophiles.

The Church is a place for repentant people, and so we ought to welcome all of these people and love them fiercely as important  members of the body of Christ, remembering that such were some of us, but we were washed, we were justified, and we were sanctified by the blood of Christ

Shouting out “Amen” in Church

I was at Church a few weeks ago, and the pastor said something particularly poignant. It was an unpacking of scripture that resonated deep within me, and my first instinct was to say “Amen!” But I did not, of course, as I would be the only one and would receive curious looks from everyone around me. I wish there were more churches that did this though.  It certainly seems to be a biblical practice that it is used all throughout the New and Old Testament, where the congregations respond in such a manner. I don’t think is done much though in the churches in this community, as far as I know.  There is one pastor in town who when he preaches, will ask rhetorically “Amen?”  several times a sermon after he makes certain statements, but I’m not sure if he expects anyone to answer, as no one ever does.

I think most pastors would like that- where the congregations could verbally encourage him when he’s firing on all cylinders and preaching his heart out. When he’s feeling the holy spirit heavy on him and he’s preaching the word and boldly proclaiming the scriptures and the mysteries of the faith, that some people would shout out “Amen”.

I’ll be getting the opportunity in a few months to visit a Church in the United States that does that very thing, who say things like “Amen.” That’s good pastor.” and “Preach it”. I can’t wait to go, as I’ll get a chance for the first time to join in with them, and amen my little heart away. I think it will be a special experience.

What do you think? Does anyone here miss the Amen? What would your pastor do if you shouted it out?




“And the Levites shall speak with a loud voice and say to all the men of Israel: 15 ‘Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’
“And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen!’
16 ‘Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
17 ‘Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor’s landmark.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
18 ‘Cursed is the one who makes the blind to wander off the road.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
19 ‘Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
20 ‘Cursed is the one who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s bed.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
21 ‘Cursed is the one who lies with any kind of animal.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
22 ‘Cursed is the one who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
23 ‘Cursed is the one who lies with his mother-in-law.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
24 ‘Cursed is the one who attacks his neighbor secretly.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
25 ‘Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
26 ‘Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law by observing them.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’”

Deuteronomy 27:14-26.


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