Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Historical Faith

One charge against Protestant Christians that is often made by Roman Catholics is that Protestants have no connection to a historic faith. They believe the doctrine of sola scriptura (scripture alone) and the doctrine of soul liberty (every soul is competent before God to worship for him or herself) create conditions that allows every professing believer to invent a Christianity of their own. In a sense, this is true. But that is a topic for another post.

But the way the Roman Catholics argue it, it is not true. They are arguing that Protestants have cut themselves off from history and therefore, they have no connection to the church of the apostles. I spoke to this topic some months back and I wanted to repost that original post. I find that not only do Roman Catholics get it wrong, but many Protestants are confused about the relationship of tradition to the faith of those who hold to sola scriptura.

In light of that, I offer this explanation again...

Why do we quote the writings of other preachers in our sermons? I have noticed a disturbing trend among some groups of Christians recently. It is disturbing because it opens the door to serious error coming into the Church. It is the tendency to cut ourselves off from church history. When we are cut off from church history then we can't learn the lessons of the church and we do not know the traditions of the church throughout it's history.

Yes, I used the "t" word ... tradition. We Protestants have a bad feeling about that word because of the Roman Catholic teaching that "Sacred Tradition" holds an equal authority over the Church as "Sacred Scripture." But we Protestants hold to sola scriptura (scripture alone) which tells us nothing is binding on the Christian for beliefs and life that cannot be proven from scripture. But there is a tradition of the Church, and yes, we test it against the Bible, yet, we let it also help guide us in our interpretations of the Bible.

If I am reading my Bible and I interpret my Bible a certain way, how can I know my interpretation is an orthodox interpretation? I am defining an orthodox interpretation as an interpretation of scripture which has been allowed as being within the true stream of Christian faith throughout the history of the Church. If I develop an interpretation of the Bible that agrees with a position which the church has held to be heretical, then I need to rethink my interpretation. If I develop an interpretation of scripture and I look back on church history and find that the church has allowed it as an orthodox interpretation, even if it is a minority position, it is still within the boundaries of orthodoxy.

So, why do I quote other preachers when I preach? Because it is important to my people to know that I am not teaching new doctrine. Jude, in his letter, speaks of the "faith once and for all delivered to the saints." There is a body of truth that comprises the "apostolic faith." I want my people to know that what I preach is Christian orthodoxy. By connecting my teaching with the teaching of other credible Christians from the past (and present) I can demonstrate that our teaching and our church is part of the faith stream of historic Christian orthodoxy.

Today, we live in a time when people have a "blender Christianity." People take a little Bible, a little Dr. Phil, a little Oprah, a little what sounds good and fair to them, toss it into a blender and mix it all together, and voila! Personalized Christianity. In my personal experience, much of this blender faith is sub-christian. Some of it is outright heresy. How can we oppose it without a way to know what is right and acceptable? Some will say "We have the Bible." It is true that we have the Bible. But both orthodox Christians and non christian cultists claim to base their beliefs on the Bible. How can we tell the difference? What makes the Baptist way of interpreting the Bible better than the Mormon way of interpreting the Bible? Because the Baptist way falls within the historic orthodox faith and Mormonism does not. If two people both read the Bible and come to opposite conclusions about what it teaches, the difference between right and wrong is what is acceptable to the church. Otherwise, you are left with each person doing what is right in his or her own eyes.

This sense of connectedness with church history is critically important to us today. I will tell you the truth... every ancient heresy is today taught in evangelical pulpits in the United States. People who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it ... and we see the truth of that saying in our churches today.

That is why I quote preachers and theologians from the past and present. I connect my teaching with the historic church's teaching. The first church, first of all, devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching. It is not my goal to be teaching new things to my church but rather old things, the faith once and for all time delivered to the saints. Because to be outside of that faith is to be outside the church.

8 Comments:

Blogger mel said...

Great post. I've been working through some of these issues as well. I appreciate your thoughts. God bless you and yours.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous James said...

Very good post.
Dr. Sneed, do you have audio available of any of your sermons? I would like very much to hear you.
Also, congrats on your move. Your ministry is in my prayers.

3:32 PM  
Blogger john said...

James,

I do. IF you contact me by email at pstrjohnsneed@gmail.com I will see that you get a copy of a message.

Thank you for the encouraging words Brother Mel. May God be with you.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Paul W. Foltz DD said...

My dear Brother,
Baptists are not Protestants-They did not come out of The Roman Church.

JM Carroll in The Trail of blood Available on internet, traces them back,under various names to Antioch of Syria in 96 Ad.
There The Peshitta, on which Our King James Bible is based, was written.

All these held to the Five Doctrines of Grace.
Yours by Divine Grace
Paul W. Foltz DD

7:38 AM  
Blogger mel said...

Actually, I'm a she. I hope that's okay -- mother of five, wife to an American soldier, leader in a worldwide military chapel women's ministry, child of God and student of the Bible and sound theology. Many thanks for your blogging thoughts....and God bless you and yours.

6:38 PM  
Blogger strugglin said...

Hey my friend, I promised to comment... so here goes. My first area of concern is with this statement, "But we Protestants hold to sola scriptura (scripture alone) which tells us nothing is binding on the Christian for beliefs and life that cannot be proven from scripture." Since all manner of moral and sacramental teaching, derived from scripture AND tradition has affected the life of the Church, I am not sure how you would reconcile this statement with a concrete position held by "apostolic faith."

Secondly, I will admit to being confused as to how this next statement differs from the Roman Catholic position? "But there is a tradition of the Church, and yes, we test it against the Bible, yet, we let it also help guide us in our interpretations of the Bible." Clearly our definition of "test it against the Bible" is different but the principle of "guide" is strikingly similar.

As to interpretation I admit to being equally confused by this statement. "I am defining an orthodox interpretation as an interpretation of scripture which has been allowed as being within the true stream of Christian faith throughout the history of the Church." i.e., baptism, eucharist, pennance, etc.

It is at this point that I questioned the nature of "history" as you see it. When does this point of a "true stream of Christian faith" begin?

Again, "Jude, in his letter, speaks of the "faith once and for all delivered to the saints." and "There is a body of truth that comprises the "apostolic faith." Now, if we are to accept (as I do) your premise that (t)radition has validity, then we are forced by historical circumstances to accept that Catholics have ancient and plausible interpretations which align with "the true stream of Christian faith throughout the history of the Church." And this is true on a whole host of sacramental issues with which you would disagree.

I felt this statement was arbitrary and unsupported. "Because the Baptist way falls within the historic orthodox faith". Again, I have to ask, when exactly does this "historic orthodox faith" begin for you?

I agree with the following statements, but obviously with serious caveats. "If two people both read the Bible and come to opposite conclusions about what it teaches, the difference between right and wrong is what is acceptable to the church. Otherwise, you are left with each person doing what is right in his or her own eyes." and “I will tell you the truth... every ancient heresy is today taught in evangelical pulpits in the United States." as well as, "It is not my goal to be teaching new things to my church but rather old things, the faith once and for all time delivered to the saints. Because to be outside of that faith is to be outside the church."

I will close by sharing that unless you can distinguish a “reformation” stream of thought that is evident in the pages of history, then your arguments end up sounding very Catholic. I saw that one of your readers attempted to offer validity to “Trail of Blood”. Clearly, when I say distinguish a reformation history, I mean a credible one.

I think you are on the right track my friend but it appears as though we have come full circle. The concepts of the “catholic” argument are actually surfacing in these later reformation years. I find this both interesting and refreshing.

Peace, dadman

6:17 PM  
Blogger Paul W. Foltz DD said...

Catholics ARE NOT AND NEVER WERE
CHRISTIANS. It is the old worship of the virgin mother and her dead son just given Christian names. TRUE CHRISTIANS WOULDN'T BOW BEFORE AN IMAGE,nor put Jesus' Mother on the same level as He, as an Co-Mediator, NOR EQUATE WORKS AS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION.
Paul W. Foltz DD

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to Paul Wolff
Actually, having briefly scanned the pages of trail of blood, it is little more than an ahistorical attempt to link together a list of unorthodox groups within the church over different centuries in order to show some sort of gnostic underworld which simply doesnt exist. I will be happy for you to give me a connection between these groups which I will refute.
John...
A very good post. I think you have some very solid understandings here. May I propose that controversies within the Church have been addressed by Ecumenical Councils, and so provide certain milestones of the development of the faith throughout the centuries? Afterall, these councils, and the controversies leading to them are well documented, and the presense of the whole church through the Episkopi offer the consensus of the Church?

Peace,
cialovesyou

10:07 PM  

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