A Quick Look at the Nicene Creed

As we have discussed earlier, the Nicene Creed was created at the Council of Nicea in AD 325. In most Protestant churches, we have no concept of what the purpose of the creeds is or the history of them. Confessions have take the place of creeds in modern churches. The confessions are much longer and go into much more detail. They give reasons for what is to be believed instead of simply stating what the Church believes. The Creeds provide the simplest outline of what it means to be a Christian. The Nicene Creed came before the canon of Scripture was established.

Let’s take a quick look at the Nicene Creed and what it means:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

This puts a stop to any polytheism, which was an issue in the Roman world. This also establishes God as the Creator of the world, not just the architect.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

This establishes Jesus Christ as the Son of God, not created but begotten. He was fully God and present in Creation with God.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;

This establishes the humanity of Jesus, and recognizes the means of His humanity, the Virgin birth.

and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

This affirms the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and second-coming of Jesus.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

This proclaims the important role of the Holy Spirit and gives the model of the Trinity.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

 

This speaks of our current life in the Church and its importance. It also ends with on a statement about the future resurrection.

 

Amen.

 

Amen is not just something that we say at the end of prayers because it sounds good to echo the speaker. Amen means, “so be it” or “so it is.” Amen takes the words of the prayer of another and makes them your own.

 

Sooooo…. Why am I telling you all of this? Why is the Nicene Creed such a big deal? Well, in the war between Confessions and Creeds, I am in the Creeds camp. There seems to be a very negative stigma involving “creedalism.” The idea that you HAVE to believe what the Church gives you in the form of a creed is seen as a very terrible thing. I have heard it said, “I believe the creed, but I won’t sign it!” So, basically what they mean is, “I believe everything that the Church believes, but betting my life on it is too far.” “No church can tell me what to believe.” Well, let me tell you why I believe not only what the Creed says but also in the function of the Creed.

You see. In the past, people have asked me to tell them what I believe and why I believe it. I would stumble around trying to give a synopsis of every doctrine I believe. They would soon write me off completely. When I found the Nicene Creed in its beautiful simplicity, I was delighted! Everything that I believe is summed up for me, created and confirmed by the Church in AD 325. Now, I can answer with confidence: I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth…

 

I’m not saying that Confessions are evil or that they are not useful. Confessions expound upon the Creed and explain the intricacies of what is believed. This is necessary, but try to recite it some day. I find that the Creed is the best way of telling someone what it means to be a Christian. It isn’t full of fancy church words; instead, it is precise in saying exactly what is needed to be a Christian and to fight heresy.

 

The Nicene Creed was created in the midst of Arianism and Gnosticism. It affirms the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ and every event in His life and the life of Christians through the ages. This profound piece of Christian history is still used in the Church every Sunday around the world. It is the perfect reminder of exactly what it means to be a Christian.

This is the end of my history of the Bible. Next week, I will sum up with why it is important that we know how the Bible came to be.

Faith as a Noun and a Verb (History of the Bible, part 13)

What do you think of when you hear the word, faith? Does it sound like what crazy people claim to back up their belief in God? Blind faith? A leap of faith? Kind of sounds like jumping off a cliff and hoping someone catches you, right?

Faith is characterized in many different ways in Scripture, but they make a cohesive picture of what our faith should look like.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

This word, substance, or hypostasis, is bursting with philosophical meaning. Substance is probably the most difficult philosophical word that is used and is regularly the point of disagreement between very intelligent people. In short, substance means, “that which stands under” something else, making it what it is. So faith is that which stands under our hope. How awesome is that?

Faith is our foundation.

Hypostasis is used in defending the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It was the violation of the substance of Christ, either that He is not fully God or not fully Man. Both Arius and the Gnostics violated the “substance” of Christ. The Fathers of the Church took great pains to protect the doctrine of the Incarnation. Anyway! Faith is not blind. Think about it like this. You have heard the expression “a leap of faith” right? Well, in the context of Hebrews 11, faith is not our leaping but what we actually land on. Faith is what holds us up after we jump. God asks us to jump on faith and promises to catch us. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen! Abraham is the perfect example of this kind of faith, and the author of Hebrews uses him as a prime example. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Abraham’s faith in God led him to leave his home. He didn’t know where he would end up, but he went willingly. God rewarded him for his faith.

Faith is action.

Hebrews is not the only book that talks about Abraham’s remarkable faith. Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23 say, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” A lot of people, non-Christians and Christians alike, have trouble with faith. In my first paper at college, I decided to write about faith for my New Testament class. Of course, I always choose very personal topics for my paper writing. I wanted to know the definition of faith and how it is to be worked out in the life of a Christian. I found that faith is not only a noun (as we discussed earlier) but also a verb. The noun form of faith is pistis; the verb form is pisteuein. Pisteuein means to believe. What are we to do with this belief? Hang it up on our wall and notice how delightful it is? Occasionally call other people over to notice it?

No. This is not what faith is meant for. Let me paint you a picture.

Imagine that you are in a car on an interstate. What do cars need to be properly functioning vehicles of transportation? They need an engine with all of the necessary parts (sorry, I’m not a mechanic). They need a frame to hold the engine. They need wheels to roll when propelled by the thrust of the engine. They need a driver. They need a surface to drive on. They need fuel to make the engine fire. They need a cooling system so as to not over heat. They need an exhaust pipe to let out the toxic fumes.

Now, I know you are wondering why I just gave a semi-detailed description of a car…Let’s imagine that we are driving that car, but this is not a real car. This car is only propelled forward by our faith. Belief is the fuel that we put in the engine, and the direct product of that belief is action. The car begins to roll forward. Some people have all kinds of beliefs that they never put into action. A lot of Christians are just sitting at the gas station pumping fuel onto the ground. They go to church. They listen, and they believe! Those beliefs just have no impact on their actions. This is what we call “nominal Christianity.” Belief without faith. Having a tank full of gas, but never putting a foot to the petal.

James says, “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. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:14-26

 

Wow. I don’t know about you, but this slaps me in the face every time I read it. How many times do we act this way? I know that I talk about some deep stuff, and I try to point out weaknesses that I see. But, I do not have my life together either. No one does, and that is okay! It is in our imperfection that we see God’s perfection. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

In no respect does God expect us to be perfect or to somehow work enough to earn our salvation. He does, however, expect our faith to produce good works. This is the natural side effect of faith. It cannot be contained! Just like our little car needs fuel to move forward, we must maintain our core beliefs. Everything is interconnected and reliant upon the other parts to function properly.

Abraham displayed his faith by moving to Canaan when God told him and being willing to kill Isaac as a sacrifice. We know that Abraham had faith because it was evident in the way he lived. These “acts of faith” or “good works” were not what saved him or made him righteous. But we know that he had the necessary faith because of his works.

 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

 

Next week, I will take a look at those core beliefs as seen in the Nicene Creed. We are almost done with the History of the Bible! Until next time!

Heresy (History of the Bible, part 12)

You may not know what the word heresy means. I didn’t know it just from growing up in church. Of course, I heard expressions concerning “those heretics” or “blasphemers,” but no clear definition of what a heresy actually is was given to me. A heresy is any belief, teaching, or practice that contradicts orthodox belief. Now you ask, “what does orthodox mean?” Orthodox means following or conforming to the traditional set of beliefs of a religion or philosophy. We should also note the meaning of heterodox, which just means not conforming to the traditional set of beliefs.

Okay, so in the 4th century, the Christianity at the time, which was known as the Way, was absolutely booming! Constantine recently made Christianity legal and began promoting it within the Roman Empire. The empire converted very rapidly. Yeah, this is great right?

Well…. Rapid expansion has its issues. With the sudden safety of being a Christian, there were no martyrdoms. You would think that this would be a good thing for the Church, but it caused some doctrinal issues. Suddenly, the Christians had time to think, to organize their doctrines without the threat of instant death. New ideas began to surface, ideas that weren’t orthodox. In 367, St. Athanasius wrote his (AMAZING!!!) book On the Incarnation of the Word in defense of the Incarnation of Jesus against the heresy that had sprung up under Arius. Arius, in an attempt to safeguard God’s holiness and otherness, claimed that Jesus was not fully God. He affirmed that Jesus was fully man and that he was born of the Virgin Mary, but he taught that Jesus was God’s highest creation not His only begotten Son. This of course is a huge problem. If Jesus is not fully God and fully Man, He cannot save us. I know that I said this last week, but I will say it until I am blue in the face.

“That which is not assumed cannot be saved.” – St. Athanasius.

Now, the other major heresy of the early church is Gnosticism. You may recognize the word “gnostic” from the modern usage of agnostic. Gnosis simply means knowledge. Gnostics prescribed to the belief that there were two powers: Light and Dark. They were constantly at war with one another in the world. Sometimes Light won; sometimes Dark won. The world was created by the evil Demiurge, and everything physical was considered evil. They affirmed God as the supreme power and Jesus as His divine Son, but they did not affirm Jesus’ humanity. They claimed that Jesus only appeared to be a human being, but he was really just a spirit. The perfect, spiritual Son of God certainly would not enter into evil matter. St. Irenaeus fought this in AD 370, “He [Jesus] fought and conquered. On the one hand, he was man who struggled for his fathers and through his obedience cancelled their disobedience. On the other hand, he bound the strong one and freed the weak and bestowed salvation on his handiwork by abolishing sin. For he is our compassionate and merciful Lord who loves mankind … Had not man conquered man’s adversary, the enemy would not have been conquered justly. Again, had it not been God who bestowed salvation we would not possess it securely.” This is from his famous book, Against Heresies, which I have only partially read. It talks specifically about Gnosticism.

These heresies did not rise nor die instantly. They had their own churches. The Way was no longer exclusive enough to distinguish right doctrine from heresy. The Church who denied Arianism and Gnosticism called themselves Orthodox, and this name remains today in the Orthodox Church. They have managed to survive and thrive through centuries of attacks from within (heresy) and without (the Turkish Invasion).

You may be wondering why it is even remotely important for you to know anything about ancient heretical beliefs. But if you don’t know the issues of the Church in the past and how they overcame them, then you cannot defend yourself against heretical teaching now. What? Heretical teaching now? Yes! Within the last six months I have come into contact with real, live Arianism. And get this! The person who expressed those opinions was pastoring a local church. Ummmm…. I think this is a major issue. Not that Arianism is running rampant on the streets of our cities, but just the fact that no one in his church has been aware enough to dispute what he is preaching to them. If pastors have the autonomy to interpret Scripture for themselves, they can lead their congregations astray. Gnosticism is harder to pinpoint, but I have had conversations with people who displayed some gnostic thought. The idea that spiritual is good and physical is bad, if pushed to the extreme, is Gnosticism. When someone does as the gnostics did and say that physical is bad, this applies to Jesus Christ, our Lord, who became a Man. This creates major MAJOR theological issues. I see this suppression of all things physical in churches all the time.

Try to be vigilant. If someone tells you something, and it doesn’t have Church history to back it up, check the facts! I know I’m a cynic, and I’m super critical all the time. Experience has made me this way. I don’t trust people just because they can prove something with a few verses from the Bible. I will, however, check what they are saying against the entire context of Scripture and the historical interpretation of that specific Scripture. If it matches up with what the Church throughout history has deemed orthodox, I will happily endorse it!

 

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge.” 1 Timothy 6:20

 

Guard yourself.

 

Jesus, The God Man (History of the Bible, part 11)

 

“And He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

“Jesus loves me. This I know for the Bible tells me so.” This is great, but what else do we know? Let’s talk about some basic, foundational beliefs about Jesus Christ. As Paul suggests above in Colossians, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, holds the world together. Why is this the case? Why is it necessary for our salvation?

It is absolutely crucial that Jesus be 100% man and 100% God. Without this, the world is lost. St. Athanasius says, “That which is not assumed cannot be saved.” Jesus had to sanctify humanity by entering into 100% humanity and living the perfect life that only 100% God could do. God and Man are naturally separated. God is uncreated; we are created. God is perfect. We are imperfect. Even Adam and Eve at their creation had to have been imperfect to have the ability to sin. Jesus, because He is both God and Man, is the only mediator between God and Man. “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’” Jesus received full manhood from his earthly mother, Mary, and He received full godhood from His Father through the Holy Spirit. Both were equally necessary for the Word of God to be Incarnate.

We are only allowed in communion with God through the person of Jesus.

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven…” Colossians1:21-22 Not only by His life, but by His perfect death, did He defeat sin and death. Because Jesus is 100% man, He was born with the human capability to die, but because He is 100% God, He rose from the dead, never to die again. It is through His resurrection that we can have the future hope of our resurrection and salvation. “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”

What else do we know about Jesus?

He was present at creation. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” John 1:1-3

He is the Word of God.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

This Word, Logos, is a word (giggles) that is exploding with philosophical meaning!!! I can’t go into it all today, but in short, one of the earliest Greek philosophers (I’m talking Pre-Plato here) named Heraclitus used this word first. Word is used over and over in the New Testament to refer to Jesus. Heraclitus used it to “designate the divine reason to plan which coordinates a changing universe.” Now, if our Lord Jesus Christ didn’t change our universe, I don’t know who can! John would have known this definition when he applied it to Christ. I will have to do a whole post on the Logos one day in the future.

Jesus is the Light of the World.

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….(John the Baptist) came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:4-5,7-9

“He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.” John 5:35

“Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:5

“’While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.” John 12:36

“I have come to the world as a light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” John 12:46

“Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him (Paul).” Acts 9:3

Jesus calling himself the light of the world was also super radical. Another school of thought, Gnosticism, emphasized the power struggle between Light and Dark (Good and Evil). Jesus personifying himself as the Light that cannot be overcome by any darkness sends a major message to the Gnostics. Once again, this is a topic for another day.

When Jesus ascends into heaven, He leaves the Holy Spirit with us, and Christians are depicted as having His light.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

“While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” John 12:36

“For so the Lord commanded us, saying ‘ I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Acts 13:47

“…and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness…” Romans 2:19

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’”

2 Corinthians 4:6

“…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” Ephesians 5:8

In my slightly educated, most likely narrow-minded thought process, I think that Christians have the light of Jesus through the person of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus left as our Comforter until He returns. Please do not think that I am reducing the Holy Spirit to only being a light bulb.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Paul says, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women.” This is what the early church called themselves, “The Way,” which referenced Jesus’ statement in John.

“You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.” John 5:33

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

“Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’” John 18:37

“…assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus…” Ephesians 4:21

Folks, it is very important that we derive our truth from Jesus Christ, not from our own shallow, finite minds. It is perfectly okay to claim that there is absolute truth; everyone does it. Some claim to derive their truth from their own “experiences” or “feelings.” I choose to follow Jesus, not my own ability to discern truth from falsehood.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36

“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33 (a reference to Jesus as God’s manna perhaps? A topic for another day)

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40 (a reference to Jesus as the bronze serpent that was lifted up? Lots of OT going on here…another topic for yet another day)

“I am the bread of life.” John 6:48

“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:3-54 (mmmmm….controversy! J we shall discuss this later for sure)

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” John 6:68

Last but certainly not least, Jesus is the source of life. Not only was He our creator, but He is our Savior! We can have eternal life through His life, death, and ultimate resurrection. He is our resurrection, the Life.

What are the implications of this?

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

We see here that Jesus is the image of God, and so are we.

“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15:49

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

I know that was a lot of Scripture and not much of my own words, but my own opinion is not necessary. Next week I will show you how interpreting Scripture outside of the protection of the Church leads to very dangerous heresies. We will discuss Gnosticism and Arianism in contrast to what we know is true about Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

 

For those of you who are curious about the image I chose for this blog, this icon, or image, of Christ is called Christ Pantocrator. Pantocrator is a translation of Yahweh from Hebrew into Greek for the Septuagint. It refers to Christ as the Lord Almighty. You will notice that Christ is holding a copy of Scripture, which is sometimes open to the verse that says “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” His clothing made of red and blue represent the two natures of Christ, God and Man. His fingers, the sign of the cross, represent both the Trinity (three fingers) and the two natures of Christ (two fingers). The gold represents heaven and Christ as the Light. There are countless other features I could point out, but I don’t know them all. I think it is the most perfect (that a mere human can create) representation of Christ and His attributes.

We are also referred to as “icons” of Christ, made in the image of God. I’ll talk more about this soon.

The Influence of the Early Church in the Formation of the Canon (History of the Bible, part 10)

Growing up,  I was under the impression that history was some far away place that could only be reached through books and grandfathers’ tales, but history is made every day. What we do may not be preserved in fancy books that will be read to children, copied, preserved through generations, and venerated, but it could be. Two thousand years ago twelve ordinary people doing ordinary everyday average things met a man who changed their lives and the life of the world. They were not spectacular. Most of them weren’t educated. They never set out to change history, and yet, we remember them. These ordinary people took the words of this extraordinary man, Jesus Christ, as gospel, The Gospel. They wrote books recounting their experiences with him. They made copies of these books and passed them around the known world! We know their names, these very ordinary people! Mary, Peter, Paul, James, Matthew, John and so so so many more! They formed a church, The Church. They read these books at every opportunity to celebrate the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They prayed, they lived, they died, most of them for their faith, and most importantly they passed on this history to their children and their neighbors. The Church lived on this way for over three hundred years: reading, praying, and breaking bread. (Acts 2:42)

In 313, Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which declared Christianity a legal religion of the state, and the empire converted. Christianity in the Roman Empire went from 15% to 70% of the population in 100 years. This rapid growth was also dangerous for the Church. Heresies began to spring up. In 325, Constantine called the Council of Nicea, the first Ecumenical Council of the Church, to discuss Arianism, the heresy that claimed that Jesus was created by the Father, not begotten. St. Athanasius (one of my personal heroes) combated Arianism in his book, On the Incarnation of the Word. The Council formed the Nicene Creed, which specifically defends against Arianism. “…And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father through Whom all things were made…” The Church was successful. They survived this heresy, but more would come. In 367, St. Athanasius wrote a list of the 27 books of the New Testament as we have them today. This was the first time these books were mentioned all together. There is no clear date for when the canon came together. There were certain requirements for a book to be accepted into the canon: the Vincentian rule for the canon says that they had to be read everywhere always by everyone. Basically, the book in question must be widely circulated among the churches, it had to have been read there for the entire history of the Church, and it had to be accepted by everyone in the Church. Many books did not make the cut, although, they were read kind of like a “devotional book.” There is a common misconception, one that I held for many years, that the Bible was read in completion by the early church, that it came together very quickly after Jesus’ death. This was not the case. The Church did read individual books, but they did not rely on the entirety of the Bible to hold their faith together. They heard from their mothers and fathers and grandparents, who had sat and talked to the apostle John in Ephesus or Peter or Paul in Rome. They had a living memory of the life of Jesus before they had any Scripture. The events in Acts obviously happened before Luke could write them down. Scripture relied on the witness and the tradition of the Church. Dr. Foakes-Jackson says, “The Church assuredly did not make the New Testament; the two grew up together.” You see, the Church did not suddenly sit down and decide to create the Bible one day. It took centuries of passing around Gospel books and Epistles before they had a complete book of Holy Scripture. They did, however, have the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament. This is what Paul quotes in his epistles, because that is what the early church was reading.

So take heart in the news that your Bible comes from a long line of devoted Christians who gave their lives to preserve the word for three hundred years until it was legalized! They still obviously didn’t have a printing press, and making copies was difficult. Eventually, each church had a copy to be read in public worship, but the Church had a long journey ahead of them, none of which was smooth sailing.

Before the end of this series, I will revisit the heresies one by one and discuss modern sightings of each of them.  Also! I will be taking a closer look at the Nicene Creed.  Meanwhile, I will go through some basic theology that everyone needs to know. Welcome to apologetics class!

 

 

The Translation of the Bible into English (History of the Bible, part 9)

Hebrew…Greek…Latin…English! The Jews had Hebrew, the original Church has Greek, the Roman Catholic Church has Latin, and along with the first thoughts of the Protestant Reformation, the English Bible was born. So how did the English Bible come to be?

First, let me give a shout out to Erasmus, who compiled a complete Greek New Testament from six manuscripts in 1516. This Greek New Testament was used by Martin Luther and William Tyndale in their German and English Bibles. But first, John Wycliffe published the first English translation of the Bible in 1380. His translation was from Latin, which of course we know is a step removed from the original Hebrew and Greek. You can still purchase Wycliffe Bibles today; in fact, I grew up reading my dad’s copy of The Wycliffe Bible. Wycliffe pushed for the Bible to be written in the language of the people. Commoners could no longer read Latin, but the Catholic Mass was still in Latin. Wycliffe was a revolutionary. Following his lead, William Tyndale translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English. His was the first English translation to be printed on a printing press. This technology enabled mass production of Bibles for the first time. When common people began to interpret scripture for themselves, the world changed. Along with the Reformation came the formation of the Anglican Church by Henry VIII. His descendants bounced back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism. Finally, King James I ordered the translation of The King James Bible. This was seen as “THE” translation of the Bible, and many still see it this way today. However, the earlier Geneva Bible was more popular for many years.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s came the new English translations of the Bible, revisions of the King James Version. Up until this point, the Bibles still contained the Apocrypha. I’m not going to talk about every English Bible specifically, because there are way too many of them. In the 1970’s, along with other movements, the New International Version was published. The NIV was the first “phrase for phrase” translation. Instead of focusing on translating the Greek and Hebrew “word for word” into English, the translators focused on the overall meaning of each passage. They were willing to compromise the exact wording to retain the original meaning.

Scholars continue to translate the Scriptures in the hopes of doing it perfectly…eventually. Some translations are more academic and are translated word for word, and others are meant for easy understanding. These paraphrase the Scripture. With so many to choose from, how do you know which translation is best?

My recommendation, what has also been recommended to me, is to read multiple translations of the Bible. No one translation will be a perfect rendering of the original Hebrew and Greek. It is very important to be aware of the differences between the translations (and their commentary). Most Bibles, just like the original English Bibles, push a certain agenda ever so slightly into the mind of the reader. Commentary can be very useful and helpful, but be mindful of what the agenda is while reading it. So in your Bible study, grab an RSV, ESV, NIV, NLT, NASB, and the KJV! They each have unique features to offer their target audience. Make use of them! Remember to always keep Scripture in context. Drawing Scripture out of context leads to HUGE issues. Remember the culture as discussed in the post on the Greek New Testament. I will talk more about this next week when I discuss the early church.

 

The Latin Vulgate (History of the Bible, part 8)

As you now know, the Bible was written in two languages originally: Hebrew and Greek. As the Church spread, new languages became dominant. The church in Rome mainly spoke Latin, with less and less Greek speakers as time went on. They wanted a new translation of the Bible in their own language. It is only natural for people to want to read the Bible in their own language, but we must be careful to preserve the historicity and truth of the original texts.

With various strands of the Greek New Testament circulating in the early church by the 4th century, the Church decided that they needed to compile a complete Old and New Testament. Pope Damascus commissioned his secretary, Jerome, to do the job. Jerome began by revising the New Testament and then the Old Testament. He used a previously written Latin translation of the Gospels and compared them to Greek manuscripts. When this revision was completed, his work was compiled to form the Latin Vulgate in 405. Jerome’s revision was not a word for word translation of the text, but rather it was thought for thought translation. It read very differently from the original Greek text.

Some of the changes were not readily accepted. Jerome used a new order for the books (the order we use today), and followed the psalter of the Septuagint (The Greek Old Testament). Although not everyone loved the Latin Vulgate straight away, it soon became the most widely used translation of the Bible. Very few places in the West did not use the Vulgate. Of course, the church in the East still spoke and read Greek and had no need for the new Latin version. The difference in translation and language contributed to the future Schism. In 1546, The Council of Trent declared the Latin Vulgate to be the only acceptable translation of Scripture, completely disregarding the original Greek and Hebrew texts. This would lead to issues in the future.

With more and more expansion into the West, the Church encountered more needs of translating the Bible. Next would come German and English, and with these translations, the Church completely changed.

I apologize for how long it has taken me to get back to writing. The last few weeks of the trimester had me writing papers and studying for finals. I am working on something big, but it may take a while to complete. Meanwhile, I will finish the History of the Bible and begin my defense of  Jesus Christ. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Just a Quick Thought

Hi, everyone. If you are as busy as I am, you may also be having a hard time remembering to pray.
For the past few weeks that I have been in school, praying has become increasingly difficult. The pursuit of the traditional “quiet time” is over. There is no quiet time on a college campus. None. I can read my Bible every day, but there is constant noise and distraction. I’ve come to realize that prayer is what is more important. In the theology that says God created us to commune with Him, prayer is absolutely necessary. Reading Scripture is great! However, it is the prayer that accompanies the Scripture that actually makes the difference. If Jesus, the Son of God, is the Word, the Scripture, we need to be communicating with Him as we read it.

I’ve been failing miserably. This is my confession. Have a great week y’all.

How I worship

First, I would like to say thank you very much to everyone who read, shared, and voted last week! I really appreciate you guys! Some of the results were just as I expected, but a few of you surprised me with your opinion. Now, I would also like to say that what I am about to say is not set in stone nor is it life altering. I am going to get personal and tell you how I worship best and why. (Disclaimer: This is a pretty long post, and I cover a lot of info in a very short time frame. Stick with me though!)

I understand that different people worship in very different ways. I know some quiet kneelers and some jumping hand wavers that can worship together quite nicely. What I say may have no impact on the way that some of you worship, and that is okay with me. But maybe, just maybe, I can help someone who, like me, is desperate to worship their God but never really figured out the “right way” of doing it. Let me begin by saying that I worship God in many different ways. Sometimes I walk around outside, sniff some daisies, look at the trees, and stand in awe staring at the stars. Our God created the heavens, the earth, and us! Look around at your fellow humans! We are made in the very image of our Creator. Looking at His magnificent creation should inspire us to worship. However, we don’t worship the creation: the sun, the stars, the storms. We worship the One who controls it all. How awesome it is that we don’t have to petition the storm god to send us rain or the fertility goddess to give us children.

 

I know what you are thinking. There aren’t any trees and clouds in my church. How can I worship there?

 

This is where the poll comes in. I asked you each to choose the words that best inspire you to worship. The well-known hymn, “How Great Thou Art” won by a 40% margin, which is somewhat surprising to me. I expected more people to choose the more contemporary songs, but I am very pleased with the results. You left me with many things to say! Tied for second place, we have “The Motions” by Matthew West. I chose this song for very specific reasons (we will discuss that later) and a small excerpt from St. John Chrysostom’s Divine Liturgy. In third place, we have an excerpt from Catholic Mass. In last place, is one of my personal favorites “After All (Holy)” by David Crowder. I also had two of you choose the “OTHER” option. Thank you so much for being bold! One of you said, “Worship isn’t about us, it is about God. Doesn’t matter what song it is.” I agree.

 

Now, I’m going to do something I don’t like. I’m going to be personal. I have been going back and forth, round and round, all over the place with my worship preferences for years. With age comes changing taste. I was raised in a very small, very conservative church. We sang hymns, and Oooh don’t you dare move your feet or you might sin! So as soon as possible, I started listening to “Positive and Encouraging Klove!” Then I moved on to Christian rap and rock and anything but those stodgy hymns. I had a serious chip on my shoulder. I was told that they were “just as accurate as scripture” and “full of theology just like the Bible.” My response was, “if a human wrote this in the 1600’s, what makes it any better than if a human wrote something new right now?” Well, as some of you have probably experienced, Christian music can be pretty darn boring. I’ve written the basic “verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus” contemporary song. They are all the same! So just speaking of this musically, I got bored really fast. I’m a music person. I’m not an awesome musician or songwriter, but I know my way around the field pretty well. Christian music just can’t really compete while keeping it “positive and encouraging.” Now, don’t think that I’m saying that none of it is good. I still have some songs that are very near and dear to my heart. But, the more I try to sincerely worship, the more I care less and less about the aesthetic quality and more and more about what is being said. In the spring, I decided that I was going to change the way I worship. Now, I only sing in “worship” if the words are either 1) addressed directly to God in prayer or 2) straight from scripture. This has made a HUGE difference in the way that I relate to God. I am either praying or speaking scripture, both of which are naturally worship. When a song starts playing that does not meet my requirements, I just pray. I try to make worship more about being in prayer the entire service than singing some pretty words and then listening to some more pretty words. When praying, I have forgotten trying to form long prayers about every single detail of my life while standing in a service. There are a lot of distractions, no matter the church. I have come to love and cherish The Jesus Prayer. (This is the part where the Protestants say, “the what?”)

 

Lord Jesus, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner.

 

This prayer is very very very helpful in focusing on Jesus, His position as God, and His ability to intercede for us to God. Yes, this prayer has been written down. (Gasp!) Has not all of scripture been written down for us to use? In Luke 18:13, the tax collector, who according to scripture we should emulate, says “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This short, concise prayer is very effective and I pray it throughout my day. Now back to worship…. Instead of praying like I used to pray (in the service, I’m not speaking of every time I pray), I pray this short prayer while the songs are playing when I’m not singing. You have to realize that when it comes to these “written prayers” you have to actually pray the words. Mindlessly repeating anything is just that…MINDLESS, and Jesus specifically addresses “vain repetition” right before saying “The Lord’s Prayer,” which we repeat pretty vainly at sporting events and such (oh boy, that’s a topic for another day). Here comes the biggie. I chose “The Motions” because I used to passionately sing “I don’t wanna go though the motions.” Ummm. Am I missing something here? What are you doing right now? GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS. Yeah, there are a few good, meaningful lines in this song. And maybe for some of you, saying that you don’t wanna go through the motions is actually worship, but it just doesn’t cut it for me anymore. I want my worship to be a dialogue between God and me. God (Jesus) says in scripture “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that we may not perish but may have eternal life.” That is God’s message to us. We respond by saying it back to Him in thanks: “You are holy and most holy, You and Your only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. You are holy and most holy, and sublime is Your glory. You so loved Your world that You gave Your only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. He came and fulfilled the divine plan for us.” This is pure scripture, folks. It has changed my life.

I mentioned that I like “After All (Holy).” I like this song because it is addressed to God, and it is simple. “You are holy, holy, holy.” Seeing a pattern here?

“How Great Thou Art” also meets my criteria of being addressed to God. “Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee: 
How great thou art! How great thou art!” This is a beautiful song that I have known and loved since childhood.

The Catholic hymn also meets this requirement. It also involves “we,” which I think is a good image of the unity of the body of Christ that we represent. The idea of corporate worship is very important.

 

Anyone catch what I did here? Early Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Contemporary, bla bla bla…. Worship is between God and me. I have a deep appreciation for all four of these styles. I won’t go into which one is my favorite and why. I have been to services where each of these are used, and I have worshipped in all of them. To quote my friend, “it isn’t about us. It’s about God. The songs do not matter.”

 

I am not advocating for Christians never writing worship songs of their own or only using scripture. I am not telling you to pray a certain way. I am, however, telling you how I worship my Savior.

 

Now that I have spilled my guts to you all, let’s talk Greek and Hebrew! Shachah, the Hebrew word for worship, literally means to bow down or prostrate oneself. The Greek New Testament has several words for worship. Sebo, which means to worship or revere, leitourgos, refers to a worshipper of God and also a public servant, Christians and their duty to serve Christ or the priest’s duty to his business in the temple, and one busy with holy things (Hebrews 10:11, Romans 15:16, Philippians 2:25), kampto, to bow or the act of worship (Romans 14:11), threskeia, the religious worship of God in a structured format or a life of religious discipline (James 1:26), are all used to emphasize different aspects of our worship. Sebo is a general term for worship and does not tell us many details. Kampto tells us the method of worship just as we see in shachah: to bow down before God in worship. In bowing, we acknowledge our humble position before the Almighty God. Threskeia shows us a structured worship that involves spiritual discipline. James uses this in his famous statement, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (Forget the videos you have seen that say, “Why I love Jesus, but hate religion.” Yes, religion can be very harmful and meaningless in some cases. The dangerous part of religion is that it is easy to just “go through the motions.” The religion James is speaking of has none of that). Finally, leitourgos has a double meaning. It was first used to refer to a public servant, but when applied to Christianity (remember what Van said about the Greek culture being important?) it has a whole new meaning. This is where the word “liturgy” comes from, which means the work of the people. This view of worship is very different from what we see most of the time. Worship= work? What? Yes! Christians have a responsibility to worship God in everything that we do. Worship is to pervade every inch of our lives, from our food choices, our music choices, our clothing choices, our job, our income…EVERYTHING!!! “One busy with holy things.” This isn’t a once a week hour-long activity. This is every moment of our lives.

Hmmm… let’s look at this word, worship SERVICE. Basically, the meaning of service, which has been lost in the context of the modern church, is to serve, to work, leitourgos! Have you ever thought about your worship SERVICE that way? Are you serving? Or are you listening to pretty music and pretty words?

 

In conclusion I would like to offer a complete definition (hopefully biblical) of worship: To sebo (worship) is to shachah or kampto in threskeia (pertaining not only to a church setting but also to everyday life, “religious discipline”). This “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, which is your spiritual worship, leitourgos (work). (Rom 12:1).

 

Worship isn’t about the music style. It isn’t about the setting or any of that. It is about living every moment in service to God. We are called to come together and have corporate worship. This is why liturgy, the lost word for the “worship service,” means the work of the people. We come together for the sole purpose of worshiping God. Examine the variety of worship styles that I have presented to you and had you to vote for. Choose what you believe God requires of you. Be like David who wrote songs of praise to his God, or Solomon who gained wisdom by his fear of the most holy God, or Daniel who prayed three times a day and almost died for it, or Jesus who earnestly prayed until He was sweating like blood before His death, or Paul who wrote instructions to the churches, or Stephen who died for his bold preaching, or Mary who listened intently at the feet of Jesus, or the boy who gave his lunch to feed 5,000 people, or Peter who preached at Pentecost and made thousands of disciples.

 

Live in a constant state of leitourgos.

 

Life is a continual liturgy.

 

 

 

How do you worship?

Below you will find a poll. I have one question for you. How do you worship? I have listed 5 common texts used in worship. Please choose the one that makes you want to worship God.

Option A:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made, 
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
 How great thou art! How great thou art!
 Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!

Option B:

I can’t comprehend your infinitely beautiful and perfect love

Oh I’ve dreamed dreams of majesty as brilliant as a billion stars

But they’re never bright enough after all

You are Holy

Option C:

This might hurt, it’s not safe

But I know that I’ve gotta make a change

I don’t care if I break

At least I’ll be feeling something

‘Cause just okay is not enough

Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don’t wanna go through the motions

I don’t wanna go one more day

Without Your all consuming passion inside of me

Option D:

We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.

Option E:

I love You, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer.

You are holy and most holy, You and Your only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. You are holy and most holy, and sublime is Your glory. You so loved Your world that You gave Your only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. He came and fulfilled the divine plan for us.

Please choose carefully! I really want your feedback! I will write my next post according to what you choose.