Saturday, August 5, 2017

Are you thinking correctly about your statement of faith?

It's that time of year when not only is school starting but also all the extra-curriculars. Some of them will be purely secular, like city leagues and music lessons. Some of them will be explicitly Christian, either for community outreach or for the equipping of young saints. More specifically, those that are intended to equip the saints will generally require a statement of faith for the purpose of demonstrating a unity among its members and for holding them generally accountable to the same standard.

And this is where things, in recent years, have gone very wrong. I've been involved in enough activities through the years to notice a disturbing trend which has abandoned a traditional statement of faith in favor of a creed. And other parents are starting to get concerned, as well.

Now let's talk about creeds. Let's talk about the Nicene Creed. The Council of Nicea met in 325 to combat the Arian heresy that erroneously taught that Jesus was a created being, rather than an eternal, co-equal member of the Trinity. And the Nicene Creed is good; it is very, very good.

But what it is not is a statement of faith.

Elevating the Nicene Creed to a statement of faith, which it was never intended to be, dilutes and reduces the gospel that unifies all true Christians. An organization which unifies only on the Nicene Creed tells its member families, "Welcome. We have all agreed here that we are not Arians."

Well, yippee.

Standing on a creed as the sum unifying total of our faith is like standing on air. We are not to unify on nothing; we are to unify on the Truth.

What about the nature of God? What about the nature of man? salvation? the authority of the Bible? These are the non-negotiables of the gospel. These define which gospel we believe. The gospel is simple. But the gospel is precise. And if you and I can't agree on these non-negotiables, it's safe to say that at least one of us is not a true believer.

Leaders, you need to decide what kind of group you are leading.
If you are leading a group whose goal is to equip young saints, be that with sports skills, speaking skills, artistic skills, etc...or...
If you are leading a group that has "Christian" in its title or subtitle...
you better have a statement of faith which reflects the Christian gospel and all of its non-negotiables. Gospel parents will expect that of you.

Parents, you need to decide what kind of group you want to join. If your expectation is that you will be with like-minded parents who are also raising gospel kids, you need to spend more than a nanosecond reading that group's statement of faith. It will help you avoid unpleasant discoveries among the membership after you've already invested money and time--and your children.

And if the group you lead or join can't come up with anything better than the Nicene Creed, don't be surprised when your membership isn't anything more than non-Arians.

Hold the line, saints. Hold the line.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


He (the ungodly) does not despise evil. Psalm 36:4

It finally hit me about a year ago. We are a 'better late than early' family. When I compare what we set before our children when, whether that be facts or books or entertainment, we expose our children much later than most of our peers. We're rather cautious about foundations.

It's why we don't talk about mythology until we've first hammered Old-Testament-as-history (not allegory).
Because in the beginning, God.
In the beginning, Greece.

It's why Brett intervened when someone tried to hand our twelve year old a Michael Crichton book.
'But Mr. A, it's a good book.'
'No, Eddie.'
'But Mr. A...'
'No, Eddie.'
It's why we don't let them read (insert blockbuster youth fiction of your choice here) until we see a certain level of spiritual maturity.
It's why certain shows we only watch the two of us, some with the older kids, and some shows we don't watch at all.

In short, there are topics/books/entertainment they aren't equipped to handle until we see them cultivate a distaste, an enmity, for things that set themselves up in opposition to God.

About a week ago, I was enjoying a quiet time in my back yard. But I did a vertical jump when a snake slithered onto the scene. Admittedly, I had a momentary, 'Oh maybe I should just let it pass.' But it was quickly countered. 'Hey, this is my yard. I am lord and master of this plot of land; you are a usurper. And at over five feet long, you are taller than two of the imago dei's who play out here.'  Add to that the fact that one of my children was actually bitten by a snake in my own yard, and I have an unapologetic malice toward snakes. Ciao, baby.

That's what a good, old fashioned Garden of Eden enmity does: You've brought harm here before. There will be no second chances.

And that's what I was thinking about when a conversation arose about entertainment. We don't seem to be cultivating enough enmity in our homes. We seem to do pretty well at seeking to love what God loves. But I don't think we are doing quite as well at hating what God hates.

I was a huge fan of 24. But I remember the episode in which hero Jack Bauer is instructed to kill one of his superiors to prevent the bad guy from doing much greater harm. I remember watching in amazement as Jack hauled this guy to an abandoned rail yard and shot him point blank in the back of the head. And I remember sitting there thinking, "This better not be what it appears. This hero better not have just taken life in cold blood for the greater good. There better be a twist in this story." There wasn't. But here's the greater issue. God hates utilitarianism. God hates murder. Do I hate it with the same hatred? The bad news: I didn't stop watching immediately. The good news: I stopped seeing Jack as good, and I eventually stopped watching.

Let's face it. We can get pretty good at waxing intellectual about our entertainment choices. Dr. Michael Wittmer, writing for last month's edition of Table Talk, scoffs at the notion that Christians
may view movies filled with violence, profanity, and sexual immorality as long as they watch 'with discernment'--which is often code for 'watch whatever you want as long as you spot the Christ figure or the tortured soul yearning for redemption.'
I laughed out loud. Wittmer nailed it! File it under 'literary criticism,' and anything goes.

I know I'm in dangerous territory here, talking about Christians and entertainment. I have an acquaintance whose default, when two Christians disagree, is:
Hey, they're both Christians. Therefore, this must be an issue of liberty.
Contrast that with my own default when two Christians disagree:
Hey, they disagree. Therefore, this must be an issue of sin.

I'm not writing a new law. I happily acknowledge that our rules are house rules, and that other houses have other rules. Both my acquaintance and I need to rely less on our own defaults and more on our daily, hourly need for wisdom. Sometimes entertainment is an issue of liberty. But if there's a Snake in your home, you need to cut off its head.

The ungodly does not despise evil. He has not cultivated any enmity for evil. He does not hate what God hates. Unfortunately, similar statements can too often be made of the godly. The godly often treats entertainment the way I was momentarily tempted to treat the snake. 'Oh, maybe I'll just let it be.' So I will leave us all with a question to ponder.

Should I, who have been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus, I, the slave of righteousness, have an appetite for entertainment that is substantially different from the appetite of the reprobate?
Yes or no?