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Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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The Buzz

Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
- C-Train

This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Saturday, December 25, 2010
Merry Jesus-was-born day.
Here is wishing that every reader of this post is blessed today on the day that we celebrate the coming of the Savior into this world.
posted by Daniel @ 1:39 PM   1 comment(s)
Monday, December 06, 2010
Thoughts on James 2:14-17

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. - James 2:14-17 [ESV]

If one regards the teachings of Christ (as recorded by the authors of the New Testament) to be accurate and truthful (and I count myself in this group), then one is forced to conclude that whenever anyone is saved they are necessarily saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and that no other way of salvation exists.

It is not only possible, but all too common for people who call themselves Christians to agree entirely with the words I have used to summarize my own understanding - yet when you compare what they believe to what I believe concerning the gospel, you will find that we are far from one another in our understanding of what it meant.

Starting with the word faith. Do you remember the old School House Rocks cartoon vignettes that used to be played on Saturday mornings? I liked the Grammar ones the best, though I have a soft spot in my heart for the one where the bill becomes a law. In the vignette on conjunctions ("Conjunction Junction") - the conductor who is singing the song introduces the conjunction "or" with the words, "And then there's or: Oh or!" If you know the tune, and the part, I want you to inject that exact inflection into these words as you read them: And then there's faith. Ohhhhh faith. If you aren't familiar with School House Rocks, well, that's your loss. The one on pronouns is quite a hoot.

I have heard some whom I would regard as doctrinally astray, describe faith in terms of intellectual assent. They would define faith as having sufficient conviction that a thing is true. Thus faith, for the "easy believer" or "free gracer" is nothing more than an intellectual conviction.

Now, while I won't go so far as to defend someone who is so confused about what faith is that they reduce it to an intellectual conviction, I will say that I can understand why some of them (at least) want to define faith in such superficial terms - they think they are guarding the gospel of grace from a gospel of works.

Scripture everywhere teaches that the way to draw near to God is through contrition, ie., through surrender to God's rule. We cannot draw near to God except through our own humility. Unfortunately when we think of humiliation we don't tend to think of someone surrendering their will to another, rather we think of someone feeling grossly embarrassed about something. So also when we say "humble" we tend to think of being humble as simply having a very low opinion of our selves. But when the bible says humble it means willing to obey, and not that we have a low self image.

The word scripture uses most often to describe contrition and humility is couched in the context of man's rebellion against God. Until a person accepts God's authority to rule over their life, they are in a state of rebellion against God. When a person changes their disposition towards God, and moves from rebellion to contrition - the bible refers to this change of heart as repentance.

Thus the way of salvation that is given again an again in the scriptures is that sinners should repent (of their rebellion against God) and believe the good news concerning Jesus Christ.

Martin Luther entered the history books because by his day, the Catholic church had so corrupted both the way of salvation and again the way of sanctification, that grace became something not only could earn through meritorious conduct, but indeed something you needed to earn in order to offset various sins by which you were condemning yourself all over again.

Without delving too deeply into the Catholic system, it is enough to say that evangelicals reject entirely the notion of meritorious works. Yet some have fallen off the horse on the other side, in that they not only reject meritorious works, but reject the teaching that contrition (giving up your rebellion against God, recognizing His authority over you, and surrendering your will to God) is a necessary component of saving faith. They would argue that this contrition (or repentance) is a "work of merit" - and so reject the teachings of Christ and the Apostles that we are to repent and believe the gospel, and supplant that with a thinner, easier version, whereby we need not repent at all, we need only to believe.

This is an old error. A very old error, for we find James the brother of our Lord correcting it in the passage that makes the header of this post. There we have, by way of an example, the gist of what James is saying on the matter.

When James speaks of "works" he is speaking of those works of contrition that necessarily testify to the validity of our surrender to God. We could call them "works of repentance" - meaning works that flow from our having turned away from rebelling against God's rule.

Thus James is saying that there is a difference between the faith of someone who has surrendered control of their life to God, and someone who hasn't. He likens it to one who sees another in need but rather than supply their need gives them empty words ("Go in peace, be warmed and filled,"). Faith without surrender is just lip service - that's what James is saying.

His argument is that the faith that saves flows from contrition, and not rebellion. The man who refuses to surrender to God's rule, and at the same time imagines that God is going to save him because he has managed to convince himself that the gospel is true - is not only mistaken, he is worse off than the man who has never heard the gospel in the first place - for who, after having become convinced that the way is broad, wants to embark on the narrow? The broad way is better they say, and so having set their foot on the road of ruin, are happy to boldly stomp their way into every increasing ignorance and folly.

Instructing a person out of such an error is a work and a half - because the person has rejected the notion of repentance, and believes themselves to be able to hold onto Christ without every letting go of the world.

Faith that never gives evidence of contrition is not saving faith. I say this with only one caution - and that is the caution that Christ gave with regards to the angels being unable to discern by looking between immature faith and false faith (ie. between the tares and the wheat). The purpose of such instruction is not to make you a "fruit inspector" who goes around judging the validity of anyone's profession of faith. Rather the purpose of this post is to make a distinction between easy believism and genuine saving faith - and thereafter to apply that teaching to ourselves, comparing it to what we believe.

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posted by Daniel @ 12:25 PM   2 comment(s)
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