Biblical Studies


Faith & Reason (Continued from Part 1)

We have already established that there is an interrelation between faith and reason.  Now the question is: How do they relate to each other?  This, the second post on this subject, will seek to answer that question.  There are three major categories in which faith and reason can relate.  These are (1) faith only; (2) reason only; and (3) faith and reason.

Fideism (Faith Only)
The “faith only” perspective says that reason plays no part in matters of religion.  As Tertullian said, “I believe because it is absurd!”  This view asserts that the only valid way to know anything about God is solely through faith.  Famous faith-only Christians include individuals such as Tertullian (160?-230?), Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Karl Barth (1886-1968), and to a slightly lesser degree, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). 

 The driving force behind Fideism is the separation of man from God.  The finitude of human beings (specifically in regard to the intellect), and the transcendent nature of God keeps us from being able to effectively reason on spiritual matters.  On the one hand there is the fallen state of man which has left his mind and intellect in opposition to God; while on the other, there is the infinite greatness of God’s power and wisdom, which is totally foreign to human reason and can only present paradoxes to mankind.

Soren Kierkegaard
One of the most influential proponents of the “faith only” movement was the Danish philosopher and theologian, Soren Kierkegaard.  Among his many written works, his book, Fear and Trembling, especially sets forth his case.

The theme of Fear and Trembling is the well-known story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Kierkegaard’s literary skill is superb as he captures the poignant emotions that Abraham must have felt as he traveled with his son to the mountain of sacrifice.  According to Kierkegaard, Abraham – unable to ascertain a rational motive explaining God’s command – had to make a “leap of faith” and obey God instead of his own reason.

This “leap of faith” stands at the core of Kierkegaard’s conception of faith and reason.  In essence he taught that the only way to understand God was to let go of reason and venture out on faith alone, that rational proofs of God’s existence were pointless and an affront to his nature, and that (contrary to Romans 1) there was no such thing as natural revelation.  Frederick Copleston, in his History of Philosophy, describes Kierkegaard’s philosophy:

God is not man, and man is not God.  And the gulf between them cannot be bridged by dialectical thinking.  It can be bridged only by a leap of faith, by a voluntary act by which man relates himself to God and freely appropriates, as it were, his relation as creature to the Creator, as a finite individual to the transcendent Absolute.[i]

Evaluation
Although the “faith only” viewpoint does indeed contribute some important teaching concerning God, faith, and reason, it has made a serious error in attempting to disregard reason altogether.  God created man a rational being and expects him to use his reason even in matters of faith.  If reason is denied then we have no basis of certainty for Scripture and faith.

Rationalism (Reason Only)
Whereas Fideism advocates that we should disregard reason for faith; the “reason only” view holds to just the opposite.  According to Rationalism, anything that cannot be apprehended or explained by reason must be rejected.  Famous rationalists include such individuals as Rene Descartes (1596-1650), Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677), and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).

Although there are various degrees within the “reason only” perspective, the basic idea that is held in common is the belief that all truth can be discovered by unaided human reason.  Therefore the reason of man becomes the measure of all things.  Even Scripture must acquiesce to reason as it must pass the test of rational inquiry before it is accepted.

This ideology is the basis for higher criticism and theological liberalism.  Spirituality and religion are measured only by man’s ability to comprehend them.  Immanuel Kant succinctly summed up the “reason only” movement with the title of his book, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone.     

Evaluation
On a positive note, the “reason only” movement has been successful in dampening some of the influence of the more extreme versions of anti-intellectualism, although in the final analysis, this system of thought has consistently demonstrated itself to be bankrupt of any legitimate insight into the nature of God and Scripture.  While it is correct in assuming that God intends for us to use the reasoning powers of our minds, it errs in placing the mind of man above God and denying the role of faith in the Christian experience.

Interrelation (Faith and Reason)
 The final view that will be stated here represents a synthesis of faith and reason.  This view asserts that faith and reason are interrelational, that is to say, that they both play a part in understanding God and Scripture.  This view was set forth in particular by two of Christendom’s greatest thinkers: St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225?-1274).  

This perspective can best be described by the phrase, “faith seeking understanding”.  In Augustine’s opinion, faith was necessary to reason correctly about God.  We all have to place our faith in some authority as the basis for how we think; Augustine said that the authority of the Christian faith is Scripture.  However we should not be satisfied with simply resting on an authority, but we should seek to understand the authority in which we have placed our faith.  In other words, we should not just believe, but we should seek to understand why and what we believe

Aquinas’ position was very similar.  He believed that man could come to a basic knowledge of God based on reason but that Scripture was necessary for understanding many things within the realm of the Divine.  As he said in Theology, Faith, and Reason:

There are some intelligible truths to which the efficacy of [reason] extends, such as the principles which a man naturally knows and the things which are deduced from them, and for knowledge of these no new intelligible light is required, but the naturally inborn light suffices.  But there are things to which these principles do not extend, such as what pertains to faith and exceeds the capacity of reason…The human mind cannot know these unless it is illumined by a new light superadded to the natural.[ii]

Thomas was basically saying that there are things about God that the human mind can deduce from creation itself, but there are other things which can only be understood through the revelation of Scripture.  Based on this premise, Thomas believed that it was possible to prove the existence of God from reasoning about creation, which he set forth in his famous “Five Ways” in the Summa Theologica.

Evaluation
It has been said before that Satan does not care whether you or going Upstream or Downstream just so long as you are Extreme.  The “faith only” and “reason only” viewpoints represent the extremes of our subject.  The Christian life is one of perpetual balance and this extends to the realm of faith and reason.  It is important that we see that there is an interrelationship between faith and reason, and that we do jump to the fringe on either side.  Blind faith and cold reason are both dangerous guides.  The balanced Christian seeks to have the body of reason animated by the fire of faith.


[i] Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy: Vol. II. (New York: Image Books, 1994), p. 336[ii] Aquinas, Thomas. Theology, Faith, and Reason: On Boethius’ “On the Trinity”.

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Many people associate Christian faith with a “blind leap into the dark”.  In their opinion, Christians are required to throw away reason in order to embrace a fantastic story that helps them worry less and sleep more soundly.  Modern culture often ignores the voice of Christianity, because it is assumed that faith has no bearing upon reason.

But is this true?  Are faith and reason mutually exclusive?  Can there be reconciliation between the two?  The answer to that question is a resounding yes.  One does not have to check his brain at the door when entering the realm of faith.  On the contrary, we have an injunction from the Almighty not only to love Him with all of our heart and soul, but with our mind as well.

What is Faith?
Many of the misunderstandings concerning faith and reason stem from a misconception of what faith really is.  Many consider faith to be some mystical feeling in the pit of their stomach; a magical intuition that guides them to deeper truth.  To others, faith is a thoughtless adherence to creeds and dogma without any concern or attention to the facts that under gird them.  Neither of these is the Biblical definition of faith, nor are they the traditional concept of faith that the church has held for centuries.

Faith According to Scripture
Nearly every time the word “faith” is used in the New Testament, it is translated from a form of the Greek word pistis.   The primary definition of pistis is a “a conviction of the truth of something that leads to belief“. We see, therefore, that the New Testament conception of faith is not a belief in an irrational fantasy, but rather a confidence in what one knows to be true.  As one theologian has said, “The heart cannot delight in what the mind rejects as false.”[ii]

The most comprehensive treatment on the subject of faith found in Scripture is found in Hebrews 11.  Often regarded as the “faith hall of fame”, this chapter sets forth a concise definition of faith in its first verse:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

A closer look at the attributes given to faith found in this verse will greatly increase our understanding of what faith really is.  The word “substance” is translated from the Greek word hupostatis.  This word, which is translated as “confidence” in 3:14, means “the strongest possible form of confidence that something is true“.  The word “evidence”, found within this verse and translated from elegchos, literally means “a strong conviction“.  The verse, literally translated, would read, “Now faith is the confidence of things hoped for and the conviction (or assurance) of things not seen.”

By looking carefully at this and other portions of Scripture, we can ascertain that the Biblical concept of faith is not an irrational leap into the dark, but a reasonable step into the light.  Although our faith rests in things which cannot be seen, it does so after being previously convinced that those things, though unseen, are real nonetheless.

Faith According to Theology
When we examine much of the traditional theology of the church, we find no conception of an irrational or blind faith.  The theology of saving faith was carefully systemized by the theologians of the past.  These men divided true, saving faith into three components: Notitia, Assensus, and Fiducia.

Notitia
This word means “the idea” and deals with the recognition of facts and data.  Faith cannot exist without some form of knowledge of what one is to believe.  In regard to saving faith, there must be an exposure to the data or facts of the gospel before one will ever be able to have faith in what it says.  Romans 10:14-17 states:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 

Thus we see that faith must begin with a conscious recognition of fact, and cannot exist within a mental vacuum.

Assensus
Assensus means “to give intellectual agreement to the validity or truth of a statement”.  This means that one not only knows (notitia) the message of the Gospel, but that they have agreed that its message is true (assensus).

Although notitia and assensus are necessary to saving faith they are not sufficient in and of themselves.  This insufficient type of faith is known as fides historica, or mere historical faith, as opposed to fides salvifica (saving faith).

It is important to note, however, that assensus is necessary to salvation.  There must be an agreement with the facts before someone can exercise faith.  This, in itself, demonstrates Christianity to be reasonable faith; because there is no disregard of fact or evidence. It does not mean that the person coming to faith understands all of the facts presented, but that he has agreed that they are true in light of the evidence.  To quote Charles Hodge,

“God requires nothing irrational of his creatures. He does not require faith without evidence. Christianity is equally opposed to superstition and Rationalism. The one is faith without appropriate evidence, the other refuses to believe what it does not understand, in spite of evidence which should command belief.”[iv] 

Fiducia
This term literally means “trust”.  It is the third and final necessary component of faith.  It involves an appropriation and reliance on what one knows to be true.  In the case of the gospel, it is a complete surrender to, and total trust in the promises made by God through Christ. 

It is also important to note that fiducia involves trust in a person and not just agreement with fact (assensus).  Our faith is not is not based on evidence or facts about Christ (though it may be supported by it), but in Christ Himself.    

We exercise these three aspects of faith every day.  Here is a simple but cogent illustration.  Our first reaction upon walking into a dark room is to search for the light switch.  Upon locating the switch we use it to turn on the light.   All of the three components that have been previously mentioned are involved in this simple act of faith. 

switch.jpg

  • 1. Notitia– We realize that the room is dark and we discover the location of the light switch.
  • 2. Assensus– We intellectually assent that the switch will turn on the lights based upon on the evidence (i.e. switches found in similar locations have always turned on the lights before).
  • 3. Fiducia– By actually flipping the switch we have placed our trust in the fact that it will perform the task we have already mentally agreed that it would do.

Although these three divisions of faith may occur almost simultaneously, each one is necessary for true faith to occur.  Therefore a study of the very nature of faith demonstrates that the idea that it is “blind” or somehow separate from reason is absurd.  While reason is not faith, it is necessary for faith.


[ii] Pinnock, Clark, Set Forth Your Case (The Craig Press, 1967), p. 3
.[iv] Hodge, Charles, Systematic Theology,  Taken from Introduction to Chapter 3, “Rationalism”

 (Continued from Part 1)

She felt acceptance and freedom for the first time. The joy was beyond her ability to contain as the tears rushed forth.

It really seemed too good to be true. Gomer began her knew life with a mixture of emotions. The stern glances from her in-laws, the piercing gaze of the priests and the cursory glances from men in the market couldn’t divert her new-found joy. Hosea was the man she had always longed for and he truly loved her. He brought her out of the desperation and despair she had always known. She was his choice and he was hers. She followed him into this new life of godliness and purity. She learned to carry herself differently and to talk differently. She listened to his prayers and followed his leading. She went to synagogue with him whenever it was appropriate. But the scars and memories of her past followed her, reminding her of where she had been and, frightfully, who she had been. Not many months passed and Gomer bore Hosea a son – God was blessing them even with her past, and they seemed to be so happy.

But as the sands of time shifted, something in Gomer’s soul began to change. She was different somehow. The love she had for her savior cooled and other attractions stole her mind. She began to speak of her old life differently than she had before. She remembered the pleasures she had enjoyed and the gain she had been afforded as her affection for her husband subdued. The pleasures that her old life use to afford her became forefront in her mind, fleeting though they were, as struggles of life in the ministry seemed to lack the luster she once knew. This daughter of Diblaim began to grow weary of living the life of a budding, young preacher’s wife. Hosea was absent from the home more than she thought appropriate as he sought to fulfill Jehovah’s mission of preaching to the nation of Israel. Gomer began to resent his ministry. How could he love his God more than he loved her?

Then, a baby girl was born. But, Hosea was suspicious. He had noticed a coolness in Gomer’s gaze. She didn’t talk with him the way she once had. Hosea named this new little girl Loru-hammah: “no mercy.” The strain he felt with his wife depicted the strain Jehovah was feeling with His people, and Hosea used this opportunity to express this burden from the Lord.

It was long after Loru-hammah was born that Gomer bore another son, but Hosea was convinced – this was not his child! In his jealous rage he called him Lo-ammi, meaning “not my people.” What turmoil must have been in his home, what public disgrace! There was tension every night. Bitterness ate at the prophet’s heart, how could she do this to him, after all he had done for her? How could she return to her old life after he had risked everything to rescue her from her shame? And yet, he found he still loved her. He cared for her and even provided for her though she had betrayed him.

On one particular occasion, Hosea caught Gomer in the very act of her promiscuous crime. Her guilt ravaged her cold heart. She thought, “Surely, he will never accept me back after this! How could I be so unfaithful, so virulent … after he has loved me so?”

Hosea begged his wife, his beloved bride, to forsake her false loves, to turn from her proverbial broken cisterns and embrace the fountain of his love once again. But it was too late. Gomer’s actions had propelled her into slavery and temple prostitution once more. What bondage her treachery had brought upon her and what despair overwhelmed her mind!

She had reached the bottom again. The one place she hated the most, the bondage she feared the most, was upon her once more and she could blame no one but herself. She had come to the end of herself. “How could I have forsaken the only true love I have ever known? If only I could see my sweet Hosea’s face again. If I could be but a doorkeeper outside his door and hear his voice in the cool of the evening. If I could just be in his presence once again, how things would be different!” On her knees, sobbing inconsolably through her desperation, she cried, “If only I could be near him again!” She wept herself to sleep.

The next evening found Gomer abject as she trudged to the temple courtyard once more. Her emaciated figure and jaded countenance wore the pain and disgrace of her transgressions. The crowd hushed eerily as she approached the stage, repulsed by her revolting form. Gomer stared at the ground as the priest once again prepared to offer her to the highest bidder. She shuddered as she braced herself for the surly reaction from the crowd.

“We have real treat for you tonight men of Baal,” the priest snarled. “One has come back to us from the ranks of Jehovah. It seems that even Jehovah’s prophets can’t keep their own from the power and influence of our great Baal. This one you may remember. She was once one of your favorites … tonight, it is my pleasure to offer to you and to our great Baal, Gomer, the wife of Hosea, prophet of Jehovah.” At this the crowd went wild, laughing and jeering hysterically. What a joke this Gomer and her prophet husband were! Surely Baal must love what he is seeing now!

“I will buy her back” the echoing voice came from the back of the assembly interrupting the blasphemous uproar. “15 pieces of silver and an homer and a half of barley… this is all I have. She is my wife and I will purchase her back from you for this price.” Gomer couldn’t believe what she had heard. Could it be? “Hosea, is that you?” she gasped as her eyes surveyed the crowd. Then she saw him … him whom her soul longed for, her husband and only savior! Him whom she had betrayed so many times. She instinctively dropped to her knees. She couldn’t look at him, what is he doing here? Does he want to punish me, to humiliate me more, to stone me for all that I have done to him? The answers came as Hosea approached the stage. “I will buy her for myself, for the Lord God Jehovah says unto you, children of Israel, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’”

The prophet continued, “And Gomer, I say unto you, ‘You must dwell as mine for many days. You must not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” The crowd stood strangely silent. Hardened, calloused men felt tears stinging their eyes. Even the priest loosened his grip at the power of this unfailing love. Could this be real? Could a man love in this way? Can love bear in all this, believe in all this, hope in all this, and endure in all this? Can this be real?

Gomer, still gazing at the ground, afraid to move fearing this might all be a dream, felt a strong hand upon her shoulder and a soft robe across her back. As she looked upward her glance caught the eyes of her husband and friend. “Oh Hosea, I am so, so sorry. I don’t deserve to be called your …” “Gomer, my love, hold your peace. I have loved you from the beginning and I will love you until the end. I want you to be mine and I will be yours. I have bought you back. Come with me. Let’s go home.”

Gomer never did completely understand the love of her husband toward her. She would often wonder at the way he would look at her and why he would always want to be by her side. But one thing is sure, she never doubted that he loved her. She knew that she could always trust in his love … a love that never fails.

Hosea 14:4-9 “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit. Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.” ESV

I originally saw this on the Mabe family’s website.  It is unspeakably infuriating to see God’s Word abused and God Himself blasphemed in this way. To think of all the time my pastor spends, and our youth pastor spends, and I (college pastor) spend trying to correctly handle this precious book and teach our students God’s truth, then to see this heretic treat the Scriptures like a bathroom tissue is almost too much to handle.

Her name was Gomer. It means “corruption.” And rightfully so; you see, Gomer was a temple prostitute. Her duty was to give the worshipers what they wanted and not to complain about it. She had been a slave to this lifestyle who knows how long. She was most likely sold into the business as a child. This was her life. To many Gomer was nothing more than a pretty face, a commodity to be used up and thrown away. At best she was a religious sacrifice unto various deities of fertility.

Diblaim, Gomer’s father had been born into one of the darkest times in Israel’s history. God’s chosen people, Israel, under the rule of Jeroboam the II, had adopted the sensual worship of Baal. Gomer was one of hundreds of temple prostitutes who may have been captured or sold into temple prostitution. A slave to false religion and debauchery she was calloused beyond her years. The priests were the ones who promoted this wickedness in the name of Jehovah. A mixed worship such as this conveniently promoted their own lusts and quenched their inner guilt as they carefully crafted the God of their fathers into their own image.

Gomer tried her best to please the priests. But no matter how much she tried to obey, it was never enough. The frequent physical and verbal abuse was almost as difficult to endure as the nights were. But, the aching in her soul for love was more than she could bear.

And so she tried to find love. She longed to be accepted for who she was … to be important to someone. Gomer felt she never could do enough. Often, she would pray and cry to Baal, hoping that he would be pleased with her service. She always felt so distant from him. Sometimes anger filled her soul because of the bondage and enslavement he caused her; she wondered if he knew her thoughts. What if he was punishing her for her anger toward him? She was plagued by guilt. No matter what she did, nothing would cause the dreadful shame to go away.

Even her name seemed to punish her. Gomer … corruption … the very sound of it was condemning. She wondered if it angered people when they found out what her name was. She was corruption. She so desperately wanted someone to accept and forgive her, but she felt she would never taste of true acceptance and love. Some of the men seemed to love her at first. They would buy her food and wine, lotions and oils. One man even gave her gold and silver jewelry. But the attention would always come to an end. The love just wouldn’t last.

Until one day … It all started just as any other evening. She was frantic – not by choice. The priests were horrible taskmasters. Men were already gathering outside. She made her way systematically through her preparations. Her hair, her face … everything had to be just perfect or she knew what the priests would do. She had long since learned to be prepared for evenings such as this one.

It was her turn. As she stepped reluctantly before the libidinous gaze of the temple gathering, something was different. There was a strange sense of caution in the crowd. She scanned the rabble as she had done so many times before and recognized most of the faces. One individual she knew was here for her and a shudder went down her spine as she recalled his rough visage.

But a new face was in the crowd. This man was obviously different from the others. He was wearing a long robe and he carried a small purse at his waist. There was a mysterious look in his eyes. His piercing gaze caught Gomer’s attention and she felt as if this stranger could read her thoughts. He had a look on his face like one she’d never seen before, it was as though he were sent there by Someone, as if he were on a mission that was greater than even he could understand.

The bidding began in the usual way. The priest was anxious to be rid of this daughter of Diblaim and to get on to the more profitable merchandise. Just when all the bids had ceased, a figure stood from the back of the courtyard. The mysterious man spoke with a voice that was clear and strong, “100 pieces of silver!” The crowd burst into an uproar. No one had ever offered so much for an harlot, it was unheard of. Someone was heard over the rumbling of the crowd, “Who would pay that for a harlot, especially for Gomer?” The insult stung, but she was accustomed to it and pretended not to hear. Another answered, “You’re not going to believe this, it’s the prophet Hosea! What does he want with a harlot?” The priest handling the auction spoke hastily trying to calm the mob, his cold grip on Gomer’s arm as he motioned to the assembly, “Well, I believe it IS Hosea, the prophet of Jehovah. Tell us, Hosea, what do you want with an harlot? Are you going to stone her as Moses commanded?” The jeering crowd erupted into a muffled cackle. The prophet was calculating in his response recognizing the pitfall. The crowd hushed to hear his answer. “This woman shall be my wife! The Lord hath said, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD. So I will purchase her to me for 100 pieces of silver.”

A thousand thoughts were flooding Gomer’s mind. “The Lord wants a prophet to marry me? This man wants to marry me? Will I never have to be a prostitute again?” As she stood in silence, tears filled her eyes. It was too good to be true! No one had ever paid so much for her before. And certainly, no one had ever wanted her to stay with him. She had always been turned away by every other man as an old garment when it is soiled beyond further use. “Will he love me?” she wondered. “What kind of man would give this fortune to marry a prostitute? What kind of God would send such a man into my life? Could such a dream really come true?”

As Gomer’s mind raced, Hosea was already in action. He reached the platform with that same steady look in his eye. His hand outstretched, there was a question in his eyes, “Will you marry me as God has commanded?” It needed not to be said. Gomer was afraid she would fail as a wife, she was afraid of the unknown, her fear almost paralyzed her. But she knew she had never experienced such love before. With one last glance at the crowd she stepped toward the strange man. Quickly the prophet lifted her trembling body and covered her shame with his own robe. She felt acceptance and freedom for the first time. The joy was beyond her ability to contain as the tears rushed forth.

MoneyI am writing this post to encourage us all to consider what God has to say about money.  A few years ago I found myself in some financial trouble and decided to research each of the Bible references regarding finances.  I discovered the Bible has a lot to say about this subject.  This post is a brief synopsis of some of the Scriptures that have been a help to me as I have sought to honor God with my resources. 

One of the basic principles of Scripture is that God owns everything. (Haggai 2:8; Psalm 50:9-10)  We know as the Creator (Hebrews 11:3) he ultimately has the right to demand our time, talents and resources be spent for His glory.  I Corinthians 6:19-20 teaches that all we are is His.  Should the creation say to the Creator, “I will take what you have made from you and use it only for my pleasure?”   This principle of God’s ownership is basic to understanding how to handle our money God’s way.

Another principle from Scripture that is foundational when it comes to money is that God gives and takes away as He pleases.  (Job 1:21)  God is sovereign in this physical matter just as He is in spiritual matters.   This truth will remind us not to take pride in our monetary successes. (I Corinthians 4:7; Deuteronomy 8:18)  This will also help us not to worry in failure if we’ve done our best. (Matthew 6:26) 

A third Scriptural principle is that God does often entrust wealth to the faithful. (Matthew 25:21, 24-30; I Corinthians 4:2)  A man or woman of God who can have wealth and use it as God would desire, without becoming enslaved by its power, is truly a faithful steward.  We should all strive to be worthy of this honor, not simply to gain God’s material blessing, but so that we might be used to further His kingdom.

A fourth Biblical principle is that God wants us to earn a living.  (I Timothy 5:8)  Proverbs 11:1 teaches that a wise man delights in good business.  Proverbs 28:19 says a wise man delights in hard work and Proverbs 21:20  commends a wise man for delighting in saving his money for the future (Proverbs 30:25).  Also, Proverbs 24:3 says a wise man delights in planning and being prepared. (Proverbs 6:8;22:3)

Here are some guidelines of what to do with God’s money when He gives it to us:

  • Know where you stand by developing a family budget. (Proverbs 27:23)  This will help you know if you are able to save or if you are spending too much.  Also, determine if you have enough of an emergency fund (at least 3 months of aafter-tax income). (Proverbs 6:8)  Christians have often brought reproach on the name of Christ when they are not prepared financially for the unexpected.  Ask yourself, do you have unsecured debt?  Tackle your highest interest rate first and pay down your unsecured debt as soon as possible. (Romans 13:8)  As Christians, we are to be ready to do whatever God commands and be free to follow his lead.  We can’t do this if we have debts that we couldn’t easily pay off.  Finally determine if you are protected against catastrophes?  Do you have adequate health/life insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care insurance?  While these were not available in Bible times, we see principles from Scripture that would lead us to protect our families from these financial “catastrophes”. (Proverbs 22:3)   
  • Realize how much is enough and learn to say “no”. (Philippians 4:12)  You don’tnecessarily need to take that higher paying position or that extra job.  Buying a new car is not always necessary.  But this is not popular in our culture today.  Covetousness is rampant in the 21st century, to deny this is to proverbially hide your head in the sand.  Scripture doesn’t condemn desiring money.  But it does condemn loving money.  Your motives are the key.  (I Timothy 6:10)  
  • Control your spending.  (Galatians 5:22-23) Ask yourself, “Do I really need that thing?” and “Is there something God wants me to do with His money besides buy that thing?” (I Co 10:28)
  • Set up your work before you establish your home. (Proverbs 24:27)  It is better to go on to college and establish your career before you marry and have children.
  • Never cosign a loan you’re not ready to pay! The Bible strictly warns against this.  (Proverbs 17:18)
  • Give generously, freely and sacrificially to those in need (I John 3:17) and give a tithe (tenth) of your income to God’s work at your local church.  The tithe was actually a form of taxation among the Jews during Old Testament times.  (Leviticus 27:30, Deuteronomy 12:6, Deuteronomy 14:28)  While the tithe was not specifically commanded to the church by the apostles, the principle of giving to God’s work still applies. And 10% is only a starting point.  The early church gave all they had! (I Corinthians 16:1-2; II Corinthians 9:5-7)  They gave until it caused them personal suffering, they gave sacrificially.  (II Corinthians 8:2-3)

In 1744 John Wesley wrote, “When I die if I leave behind me ten pounds… you and all mankind can bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.” When he died in 1791, the only money mentioned in his will was the miscellaneous coins to be found in his pockets and dresser drawers. Most of the 30,000 pounds he had earned in his lifetime he had given away. As Wesley said, “I cannot helping leaving my books behind me whenever God calls me hence; but in every other respect, my own hands will be my executors.”  Wesley believed as one’s income goes up so should his standard of giving, not his standard of living.

I believe if we follow these principles in handling money we will be blessed and bring honor to Christ Jesus.  May we apply these Scriptures to our lives so that we can bring more glory to Him.

The Second ComingThe previous post concerning N. T. Wright’s article got me to thinking about things.  For the past five years or so I have really been trying to come to grips with what the Bible teaches in regards to Eschatology. What is eschatology? Well, it is the branch of Christian theology that deals with the afterlife, the future, the Second Coming of Christ, and what exactly the Bible says about it. I’ll have to confess that I am still trying to decide for the most part. I was raised a Dipensational Premillenialist, but in recent years I have had some misgivings concerning this particular brand of eschatology.
So here’s a painfully simplified rundown of what the big words mean that you will see in our poll when you click the link in the sidebar (or link here):

  1. Dispensational Premillenialism teaches (among other things) that Christ will someday ‘rapture’ all belivers to Heaven while those left behind endure a 7 year period known as the ‘Gread Tribulation”.  After this, Christ will come to the earth to establish a literal, one-thousand year kingdom. After which he will make a final judgment of all humanity.  Dispensationalists really emphasize a difference between the church and and the nation of Israel and how God will deal with each.
  2. Classical Premillenialism teaches that Christ will come to establish a literal, one-thousand year kingdom.  After this he will finally judge all of humanity.  Classical Premillenialists don’t generally hold to the idea of a pre-tribulational rapture, and many of them don’t hold to an actual seven year tribulation in the future.  Classical Premills also don’t really make a great distinction between the Church and Israel (although there are a few exceptions).
  3. Postmillenialism teaches that the ‘millenium’ referred to in the book of Revelation is symbolic for a golden age that will be ushered in by the Church’s faithful ministry and preaching of the Gospel. After this, Christ will come and judge the world.
  4. Amillenialism teaches that the ‘millenium’ spoken of in Revelation symbolic for the church age in which Christ rules with the saints in Heaven. The kingdom of God is present in the church and Christ will come at the end of the church age to judge the world. (i.e. there is no literal Millenial Kingdom)
  5. The Left Behind Novels…well, I won’t even go there.
  6. None of the above: Hmmm. It would be interesting to see what could actually fit in this category.
  7. If you don’t know what this stuff means then talk to your local pastor or local theology professor. Then do some research for yourself, there’s plenty of info on the web and tons of literature on the subject.

I’m really interested in what you guys think, sooooooooo…if you’ll just take a look at our poll

p.s. Due to the fact that WordPress will not allow any really cool java polls in the sidebar, you will have to click on the link to the right under ‘Eschatology Poll’.  This will take you to a really nifty poll where you can vote.

p.p.s. Feel free to comment on your vote and let me know what particular subset of eschatology you adhere to and why

p.p.p.s. I consider a person’s eschatology to be a non-essential in comparison to other teachings of orthodox Christianity.  This does not mean that I don’t believe that it is important, just that I don’t want people slinging terms like ‘heretic’ around just because someone holds a different view than you.  As far as I’m concerned, the only essential tenet of eschatology is that Christ will indeed return someday as he promised.  The details about how that will happen exactly are open for discussion.  Remember the wise words of Augustine (who happened to be Amill):

In essentials unity, in doubtful things liberty, but in all things charity.

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