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.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

An Old Discussion Resurrected


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.

Beyond this, there are some who think that if a preacher quotes another preacher that he is not doing his own work. It is believed by some that such a preacher is living off other preachers. But is that true? Is that a reason not to quote from preachers of the past? I think rather, that we must quote from preachers of the past. Hopefully, this blog post will explain why.

In light of all that, I offer this explanation.

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.

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