Sunday, July 30, 2006

Are you a theologian?

I have been pretty busy lately and have not been able to do as much reading as I would like in my new book by Kevin Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine. Yesterday, though, I came across a quote that I would like to share concerning the role of a theologian.

The primary role of the theologian is to bear witness, in word and deed, to the meaning and significance of God’s communicative action in Jesus Christ, in order to enable others to understand and participate in it too. (Vanhoozer, p. 58)

I like this definition because it turns everyone into a theologian. We are not all called to write systematic theologies, but we are all called to “bare witness in word and deed” to what God has revealed to us through the person, work, and words of Christ. And if that is the case, what Vanhoozer says on the very next page becomes very relevant:

This gives rise to yet another dimension to the drama of doctrine: Will we speak and act according to the Scriptures and contribute to the development of the theo-dramatic plot, or will we follow some other, more culturally fashionable story lines?(Vanhoozer, p. 59)

Don’t worry if you don’t know what he means by “theo-dramatic.” The force of what he is saying is clear enough. We are either going to follow the way of Scripture or some other way that ruffles less feathers. There is a choice here but there is also an issue of know-how. Vanhoozer puts it this way, “Theological competence is ultimately a matter of being able to make judgments that display the mind of Christ (p. 2).” Such ability, according to Hebrews 5:13-14, is only for those skilled in the word of righteousness, for those who have had their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

We should not settle for what amounts to immaturity in the Christian life (Heb. 5:13). Instead, we should strive to be the best theologians possible, not so that we can write a book but so that we can live a life that is to the praise of His glory.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Does Hebrews 6 teach that you can lose your salvation?

I got an e-mail from someone recently asking me about eternal securty and Hebrews 6:6. The timing of the e-mail was interesting since I had just taught on Hebrews 6 in our adult Sunday School class the previous Sunday. It was helpful for me to put my thoughts about the passage in writing. Here is what I said:

First, the apostasy spoken of in Hebrews 6 does appear to be irrevocable. They have treated the blessings of salvation with contempt and turned their back on Christ who is their only means of salvation. The illustration in verses 7-8 confirms this view – the thorns and bristles are burned, not given a second chance. The fact of the matter is that these people are described as making a final decision to forever reject Christ with their eyes wide open – they have been enlightened, experienced the good things of God that accompany salvation, and even shared in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They have soaked up the rain but that rain did not produce the blessing of salvation in their lives. So, it is impossible, as the text says, to be renewed to repentance if one falls way in this manner.

That said, it is possible to deny Christ without committing apostasy. Both Judas and Peter denied Christ, but only Judas apostatized. A righteous man will fall and get up again (Prov 24:16). So, if you repent then obviously you have not apostatized.

Eternal security is part of an overall subject that includes the concepts of perseverance and assurance. I believe the Bible clearly teaches that eternal security is true for all those to whom it applies (Rom 8:30 among others). I don’t think you can have assurance of eternal security, though, unless you are preserving in the faith. The point of Hebrews 6 is to encourage the Hebrews to persevere so that they can have assurance.

Hebrews 6:11-12
11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

So, does Hebrews 6 teach that one can lose their salvation? Obviously not, since the Bible teaches otherwise in numerous places. It is possible, though, for people to “lose” the salvation they thought they had. For example, Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” The “works of power” in verse 22 correspond to the “powers of the age to come” that the apostates experienced in Hebrews 6:5. Clearly there is a connection between these people.

Having said that, though, I believe that this passage in Hebrews was written to believers. True believers who are currently neglecting God’s word (cf., Heb 2:1-4, 3:12; 5:11-6:3) will heed this warning and see this as a motivation to not be sluggish in their faith and to earnestly endure in their Christian life. I think it is a mistake to think, "I trusted in Christ many years ago and it doesn't matter how I live my life now as I am eternally secure."

Friday, July 07, 2006

How many ballparks have you been to?

Congratulations to my brother, Scott, for finishing his tour of major league ballparks. This past week he visited Dolphins Stadium and Tropicana Field -- the last two parks on his list. To commemorate the event, all three of us brothers went to his last park to watch the Devil Rays game against the Boston Red Sox (7/3). The D-Rays won, much to the chagrin of most of the fans, who, ironically, were wearing Red Sox paraphernalia.

I have been to only 13 stadiums, many of which have now been torn down:

1. Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium
2. Atlanta’s Turner Field
3. Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium
4. Baltimore’s Camden Yards
5. LA’s Dodger Stadium
6. Oakland Coliseum (now McAfee Coliseum, I think)
7. Detroit’s Tiger Stadium
8. Philadelphia’s Veteran’s Stadium
9. Seattle’s Kingdom
10. Washington’s RFK Stadium (for an exhibition game before the Expos’s moved to DC)
11. San Fransisco’s AT&T Park (or whatever it is named these days)
12. Anaheim’s Angel’s Stadium (I refuse to call them the LA Angels)
13. Tropicana Field