Holiness 2  

Posted by Ben in , ,

When i started this Blog, I'm not sure if i gave any real indication as to why i chose the name i had. I am sure some know, some do not. The idea comes from a Warren Barfield song called "Mistaken" where the end of the chorus goes "This is all i want to be, I want to be mistaken for Jesus." Wow, what if that were truly the goal of all Christians? Not that I think it isn't of most, but i do in fact believe it's been lost somewhere in American Evangelicalism. I also think quite a few camps have substituted legalism for Christ-likeness, of which I include my own Nazarene Tradition (and many other in the American Holiness movement). The shame in that is this...

What is Holiness if it is not in fact producing Christ-likeness? And is Christ-Likeness understood as a list of rules we are able to keep? Or, may we be so bold as a people to claim that it must be understood as so much more. It is characterized by Grace and Mercy, and above all else Love. To keep a list of rules or doctrines is to rob our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ of the power of His Holy Spirit. So the big question for today is this... What if when people left a conversation or meeting with us, they were convinced that they had just seen Christ? They couldn't even describe you, only Christ? Do we believe that's possible anymore?

Well this artist does...

I shouldn’t have to tell you who I am
Cause who I am should be speaking for itself
Cause if I am who I want to be
Then who you see won’t even be me
Oh the more and more I disappear
The more and more He becomes clear

[CHORUS]:
‘ Til everyone I talk to hears His voice
And everything I touch feels the warmth of His hand
‘ Til everyone I meet
Sees Jesus in me
This is all I wanna be
I wanna be mistaken
For Jesus
Oh I wanna be mistaken

Do they only see who we are
But who we are should be pointing them to Christ
Cause we are who He chose to use
To spread the news
Of the way the truth and the life
Oh I want all I am to die
So all He is can come alive

‘ Til everyone I talk to hears His voice
And everything I touch feels the warmth of His hand
‘ Til everyone I meet
Sees Jesus in me
This is all I wanna be
I wanna be mistaken
For Jesus
Oh I wanna be
Oh I need to be mistaken
For you
Oh I wanna be mistaken

[BRIDGE]:
May He touch with my hands
See through my eyes
May He speak through my lips
Live through my life
I want Him to
I want Him to live
- "Mistaken" -
by Warren Barfield

(all emphasis added by me)

And Can It Be?  

Posted by Ben in , , ,

I will continue to post thoughts on Holiness throughout this semester for sure, as I am taking a class on the Doctrine of Holiness. But also, since it is in fact the Hope of the Gospel as proclaimed throughout the Old and New Testament Scriptures, "without which none will see God," I will probably continue posting thoughts on Holiness as long as I keep a blog on the internet. This is a WONDERFUL Hymn from Charles Wesley. Another blogger posted it and upon reading i could not but post it for my readers!

"And Can It Be That I Should Gain?" UMH #378
Charles Wesley, 1738


And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Holiness  

Posted by Ben in , ,

I spent all last school year studying Wesley's Doctrine of Holiness or "Entire Sanctification" or "Christian Perfection" on top of my own studies. I also studied the Bible for myself as well as what a lot of other people had to say about things. This is where I tend to, AT TIMES, agree with certain people in the Emerging Church conversation. Many of their sentiments are a call to Holiness and a life that is Christ-Honoring by our Works, which the Scripture even tells us God has prepared in advance for us to do.

I have stated before that I believe the Gospel is incomplete without an emphasis on Holiness and the Hope of Entire Sanctification. I believe very strongly in Holiness and the message it holds and pervays. I am saddened by much of today's Church in rejecting it. I see a lot of Reformed Theology rejecting the idea, even though Augustine as well as Calvin would have each agreed with it, as is made evident by a true understanding of Calvin's "Perseverance of the Saints." Luther is the one who really disagreed with it and understood Justification in simply forensic, legal terms. Thus being the case, I have been greatly affirmed and gained great joy from reading the following excerpt from a very prominent Calvinist, Charles H. Spurgeon.

From Charles Spurgeon "the Wedding Garment," preached at Metropolitan Tabernacle 1871:

"Holiness is always present in those who are loyal guests of the great King, for "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Too many professors pacify themselves with the idea that they possess imputed righteousness, while they are indifferent to the sanctifying work of the Spirit. They refuse to put on the garment of obedience, they reject the white linen which is the righteousness of saints. They thus reveal their self-will, their enmity to God, and their nonsubmission to his Son. Such men may talk what they will about justification by faith, and salvation by grace, but they are rebels at heart, they have not on the wedding dress any more than the self-righteous, whom they so eagerly condemn. The fact is, if we wish for the blessings of grace, we must in our hearts submit to the rules of grace without picking and choosing. It is idle to dispute whether the wedding garment is faith or love, as some have done, for all the graces of the Spirit and blessings of the covenant go together. No one ever had the imputed righteousness of Christ without receiving at the same time a measure of the righteousness wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. Justification by faith is not contrary to the production of good works: God forbid. The faith by which we are justified is the faith which produces holiness, and no one is justified by faith which does not also sanctify him and deliver him from the love of sin."

Read the full sermon here.

Fundamentalism  

Posted by Ben in , ,

One of my biggest pet peeves is Christian Fundamentalism. Why? you ask, simply for this reason.

They make Christianity about what it is NOT, a new law. It is about a bunch of "fundamentals" of doctrine and belief which set the lines for, at the most, salvation and, at the least, orthodoxy. The sad thing is that it has taken over in America's microwave society where the only way an answer can be a good one is if it is clear, concise, and one-sided. People want an answer they can swallow. They prefer a pill. An answer they must chew on, food with substance that is good for nutrition and growth, is frowned upon or even shunned.

Also, the "fundamentals" are not in themselves actually fundamental to the faith of Christ crucified and resurrected. They also treat the Bible as a literal spoken word of God, to be read/heard and therefore understood. This is so unfaithful to the original authors, their inspiration by the Holy Spirit, the historical context in which they arose, the audiences which would have heard them, and the pieces of historical literature which they truly are.

As stated before, they tend to make certain theories of doctrine, at the most the means of salvation in and of themselves, and at the least a litmus test of orthodoxy. One such theory (on top of Verbal-Plennary Inspiration as discussed above) is Penal Substitution, or Substitutionary Atonement. They fail to acknowledge that Substitutionary Atonement is never mentioned in a single historical Creed or Confession of Faith. Also, they seem to treat their angry-father version of Penal Substitution as the only acceptable one. All of this fails to realize that there are multiple views and theories of atonement throughout the history of the Church which inform a robust, Biblical view of Atonement.

They have a view of Sola Scriptura (which in itself is a good doctrine) which is far inferior to the original idea. It basically says that there is no need to research secular historical sources to understand certain things contained in the Bible, because that would have no bearing on what the original audience would have heard. Sadly, the most common thing i see in Fundamentalists attacking others on the grounds of Sola Scriptura is not that the person being accused has actually denied Sola Scriptura, but rather the attacker's understanding of SS and that particular passage. In the words of Rob Bell:

When people say that the authority of Scripture or the centrality of Jesus is in question, actually it's their social, economic and political system that has been built in the name of Jesus that's being threatened," Bell says. "Generally lurking below some of the more venomous, vitriolic criticism is somebody who's created a facade that's not working...

My last critique which I find completely disheartening about the Fundamentalist camp is their particular understanding of "Heaven" and "Eternal Life." Also, even more-so, their understanding of the Gospel and how it is understood in terms of "Heaven" and "Eternal Life." The Gospel writers as well as all other NT authors were very clear on one thing, Heaven is to be understood as God's presence or dwelling, and that Eternal Life was something which began TODAY, at the moment of entering into relationship and life with Christ. The future hope of the Gospel was not Heaven, somewhere in the clouds or "up there," but rather a final realization of God's glory and power manifested in the complete restoration of His Creation, through the final destruction and ousting of Sin (separation of Creation from Creator) and Evil (the destructive results of said separation). In forgetting or, at worst, rejecting this truth they see no social agenda to the Gospel. It is simply a means by which to secure someone's FUTURE destiny, which they believe from that point in the future to be without end, thus being understood as eternal.

In my human weakness I have at many times associated Funadmentalism with Calvinism. Though it can be said truly that where one sees Fundamentalism, it is not unlikely to find Pre-Millenial Dispensationalism as well as Calvinism. However, Fundamentalism and Dispensationalism have also taken strong roots in the Southern Baptist Convention, which is traditionally Arminian.

Based upon these frustrations, i was greatly relieved to find that R.C. Sproul, an amazing man of God whom I happen to disagree with about Justification, is Himself a Partial-Preterist (like myself). I was also excited and relieved to find the following two quotes from J.I. Packer, another prominent Calvinist and wonderful man of God.

"To be sure, fundamentalists within our three traditions are unlikely to join us in this, for it is the way of fundamentalists to follow the path of contentious orthodoxism, as if the mercy of God in Christ automatically rests on the persons who are notionally correct and is just as automatically withheld from those who fall short of notional correctness on any point of substance. But this concept of, in effect, justification, not by works but by words -- words, that is, of notional soundness and precision -- is near to being a cultic heresy in its own right and need not detain us further, however much we may regret the fact that some in all our traditions are bogged down in it."


Lastly, my strongest contention against Fundamentalism. One can be sure that Fundamentalists are sure that Protestantism, if not Protestant Fundamentalism is the only way of true salvation. This follows in line with the need for "notional correctness." In this, they are usually quite sure that Roman Catholics (the Oldest Tradition in modern Christianity) and Eastern Orthodox are not Christian, or part of the Body. Many would even also say that only Evangelical Churches are in fact Christian, denying inclusion to Mainline Churches. To this end I offer yet another quote from J.I. Packer which he gave as an answer to why he would sign a document on the coming together of Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox in mission:

"Hitherto, isolationism everywhere in everything has been the preferred policy of both Catholics and evangelicals, and a good deal of duplication and rivalry, fed by mutual suspicion and inflammatory talk, has resulted. ... So I ought to have anticipated that some Protestants would say bleak, skewed, fearful, and fear-driven things about this document -- for instance, that it betrays the Reformation; that it barters the gospel for a social agenda ... Why, then, should any Protestant, such as myself, want to maximize mission activity in partnership with Roman Catholics? Traditionally, Protestants and Catholics have kept their distance, treating each other as inferiors; each community has seen the other as out to deny precious elements in its own faith and practice, and so has given the other a wide berth. There are sound reasons why this historic stance should be adjusted. First: Do we recognize that good evangelical Protestants and good Roman Catholics -- good, I mean, in terms of their own church's stated ideal of spiritual life -- are Christians together? We ought to recognize this, for it is true. I am a Protestant who thanks God for the wisdom, backbone, maturity of mind and conscience, and above all, love for my Lord Jesus Christ that I often see among Catholics ... Though Protestant and Catholic church systems stand opposed, and bad -- that is, unconverted -- Catholics and Protestants are problems on both sides of the Reformation divide, good Protestants and Catholics are, and know themselves to be, united in the one body of Christ, joint-heirs not only with him but with each other. ... Such a coalition [to combat 'disintegrative theology'] already exists among evangelicals, sustained by parachurch organizations, seminaries, media, mission programs and agencies, and literature of various kinds. It would be stronger in its stand for truth if it were in closer step with the parallel Catholic coalition that has recently begun to grow. ... their domestic differences about salvation and the church should not hinder them from joint action in seeking to re-Christianize the North American milieu. ... Propagating the basic faith, then, remains the crucial task, and it is natural to think it will best be done as a combined operation. ... Billy Graham's cooperative evangelism, in which all the churches in an area, of whatever stripe, are invited to share, is well established on today's Christian scene. And so are charismatic get-togethers, some of them one-off, some of them regular, and some of them huge, where the distinction between Protestant and Catholic vanishes in a Christ-centered unity of experience. ... What brings salvation, after all, is not any theory about faith in Christ, justification, and the church, but faith itself in Christ himself. ... What is ruled out is associating salvation or spiritual health with churchly identity, as if a Roman Catholic cannot be saved without becoming a Protestant or vice versa, and on this basis putting people under pressure to change churches."

For those of you who have ever been curious as to why I have at many times voiced great disdain for Fundamentalism, here lies my reasoning. I believe it alienates brothers in Christ, and makes our Bible as well as our Faith something it was not meant to be. I think it misses the great story of Redemption.

Most Amazing Musical Performance Ever?  

Posted by Ben in

Yes... I submit that it is true.

For those of you who don't know my musical tastes very well, let me inform you. My father raised me on classic rock. About 70% of what my father listened to while I was growing up was The Allman Brothers Band. They are quite an extraordinary band whom I have also fallen in love with. My family makes an annual event out of going to see their Live show. They are among the first Jam Bands and are still one of the best at it. One of their guitarists, Warren Haynes has become by far my favorite guitar player.

Also, Dave Matthews Band became my favorite band about a year ago and are kind of the most legendary modern band. They are well known for following in the Jam Band legacy/ilk and have had Warren Haynes perform with them on many occasions. They do a live version of Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower which I think is one of the most amazing songs ever arranged. I have long wanted to find a live performance of All Along the Watchtower with Warren Haynes joining them on the Electric Guitar.
Well.... I found it the other day.
Tell me if this isn't one of the most amazing musical performances you've ever seen in rock music...

Salvation  

Posted by Ben in

Salvation is the central story to the Bible. It is the hope for which we as Christians live. Many different traditions have had something to say about Salvation and sadly the view of it has become very watered down and is found wanting. Because of this I am beginning an Independent study over the next many years on the work Christ accomplished in the Cross. Hopefully this will all complete in a book about it. *SIGH* yes, Ben Burch has become one of those people. This is not to be something no one has ever attempted. This is going to be my work to give us a whollistic view of the cross, from my perspective and tradition. informed by other perspectives and traditions. In order to understand the work the Cross accomplishes we must understand the result of that finished work: Salvation.

So to start by understanding Salvation, which has also been understood poorly and in a very lacking way throughout the recent century, I start this work by reading a book which is in no way meant to be exhaustive. This book is meant to give a solid foundation to a simple working definition of what Salvation is. This simple working definition will lay the foundation for the study and explanation of how God's work on the cross fulfills and provides for this goal.

This book is Salvation Belongs to Our God by Christopher Wright. Wright is Anglican and is in no way related to my personal favourite New Testament Scholar, who is also Anglican, Bishop N.T. Wright. Both of these men are theologians at the forefront of what God is doing in his church as far as theology goes. Myself being a Wesleyan am affirmed by their Anglican roots since John Wesley himself never saught to break away from the Anglican church, in fact if I am correct he considered himself part of the Church of England until the day he died. His goal was to reform the church, God's people, from within. His goal was to call them to Holiness.

All this being said, understanding Salvation and ultimately the work of the Cross should greatly inform a theology of Holiness, which is in fact the Hope of the Gospel.

If you'd like, join along as I work through this book. It is going to be hard to juggle with my academic work/reading but I am hopeful that I can do it often enough and that it will be fruitful for those of you who read along.