Posts Tagged With: the cost of discipleship

The Discovery and Preservation of the Canon Part II

Last week, we discussed how one of the criteria for discovering the canon was use by the early church. Did the early church read and use the letter? If those who were eye witnesses and had personal relationships with Jesus reread these letters, that is significant.

While early Christians may have been content to keep much of their doctrine undefined, heresy required that both doctrine and the canon become more developed. Marcion (144 C.E.) is credited more than any other for pressuring the Church to formalize its canon. While this was not his intention, by creating his own   (heretical) canon consisting of ¾ of Luke, and edited versions of Galatians, Corinthians, Romans, Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon, he forced the Church to respond. The Edict of Diocletian in 303 C.E. declared the destruction of the sacred books of Christianity and declared penalties for owning them.[1] This put further pressure on the Church to define what those books were so that people were not risking death for a book that was merely devotional.

The Church Fathers (bishops) as well as laity (Tertullian, Muratorian Fragment, Justin Martyr, Scillitan martyrs) made lists of recognized books. We have their lists. These lists show what the whole Church and not just the person accepted these books.  This is derived from the fact that they are passing down tradition and not coming up with their own innovations.[1]

Although the churches were dispersed across the Roman Empire, they agreed easily and universally on twenty of the twenty-seven New Testament books.[2] We begin to see their thought processes and what was important to them in identifying the canon.   They appear to have asked five questions when debating the canonicity of books.   1) Was the book written by an apostle or a close companion of an apostle?[3] (Did it have apostolic authority?) 2) Was it authentic? Is there evidence showing that the person it is attributed to actually wrote it? Was it true? Origin rejected the book the Preaching of Peter because it was not written by Peter. The Apocrypha was rejected by Church Fathers because of their historical inaccuracies and moral incongruities. In short, they were not true as Scripture must be. 3) Did it follow the rule of faith? Did it agree with already recognized Scripture? 4) Was it dynamic? Heretical and non-canonical literature was rejected because it did not have the power to transform lives. Finally, was it received, collected, read and used by the people of God?[4]

In the Eastern Roman Empire, Clement of Alexandria quotes all the New Testament books as authoritative except Philemon, James, 2 Peter, and 2nd and 3rd John.[5] We do not know why he did not quote these. It may be simply because they are short and he had no reason to quote them.   Origin (185-250 C.E.) was the first to use the name “New Testament.” He recognized the Gospels and the works of the Apostles as divine Scripture.[7] He did not recognize James or Jude, but he did accept the Shepherd of Hermas.

In the Western Roman Empire, Tertullian (195 C.E.) cites every current New Testament book except 2 Peter, James, and 2nd and 3rd John. Esebius’ list shows that 22 New Testament books were universally accepted. Five books were “disputed but familiar to the people of the Church.”  Revelations was rejected with the phrase, “if it seems proper,” following it.  Athanasius of Alexandria (367 C.E.) mad e list that includes all the current books of the New Testament.[12] The Councils at Hippo (393 C.E.) and Carthage (397 C.E.) confirmed this list.[13] Clearly they were confirming an already established list rather than establishing it for the first time. In sum, the accretion of the books forming the canon occurred through a slow deliberate and spiritually grounded process. It was not an arbitrary or dictatorial process, but rather a reflection of the identity of the Church in Christ.

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Audiobook Nook

The New Year is here! Why not start it right by learning the Names of God? Author Chris Adkins explores the many ways by which God identifies Himself through the Old and New Testaments in the Names of God. Over 50 copies of the audio book have already been purchased through Audible.com and you can even obtain this audio book (slightly over five hours in length) entirely for free with a new membership to Audible.

Are you a “radical Christian”? No? Thank goodness! Who even knows what that phrase even means anymore? The way that it is bandied about by amateur theologians, Christ followers rejecting the institutional church, and anyone else who’d like to toss their hat in to sound like they are “radical” or “sold out” for Jesus (there’s another loaded term) is simply out-of-control. The phrase has lost all meaning except that some Christian author will come along to try to sound more “radical” than the last person who used the term in his book on discipleship. Years ago, Bonhoeffer wrote The Cost of Discipleship and Christians have been trying to figure out ever since if he got it right. One thing is indisputable. Regardless of how he interpreted the Sermon on the Mount, Bonhoeffer lived out his faith in obedience to King Jesus. Our audio book entitled Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Inspirational Life Story (Peace Activist, Preacher, and WWII War Hero) is available on Audible and, while it does not cover the disputes over Bonhoeffer’s interpretation of discipleship, it does cover some important basics of his life- and faith-journey. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. was a committed Christian, whether or not he was “radical” by some people’s standards. Leaving compromise behind, he knew that cooperation with Nazis and their “state-approved” churches was not even an option.

Public school education has a long tradition in America. But is its very existence now in question? Some are speculating that now that Trump has become president, all hope is lost for the public funding given to the public school system. The short ebook (soon to be audio book), Public School Debate, takes a look at one blogger’s dire warning about the future of American public school funding.

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You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

Have you noticed sometimes that in marriages that have lasted awhile, the couple does not seem to enjoy one another as much as they once did? I remember watching my grandparents who were married for over 50 years. You could see that they loved each other. You could also see their irritation at the others comments or behavior.   Sometimes you could feel the build-up of resentment. Understand, my grandparents were amazing people that I look to for an example in many things. Since my own parents were unable to make their marriage work, I look to my grandparents as an example in that area as well.

 

Of course, I want something better than their marriage. I see their struggle with keeping the “loving feeling” going in their marriage reflected by many other couples today. I wrestle with it in my own marriage. I am blessed with a partner that I can truly say is the love of my life. I always love him. Sometimes I want to kill him, but that is another topic. Sometimes I find myself being irritated by him. I struggle to enjoy his company. Sometimes I resent him. Sometimes I feel that I am the one doing all the work in the relationship with little return. I refuse to settle for these feelings because I do not want my grandparents good marriage. I want a great marriage. I want to wake up everyday thankful for my amazing husband. I want to feel desperately in love with him all of the time. I want the dream.

 

I know the dream is possible because marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Jesus–Christ and the Church. I do wake up everyday thinking that Jesus is wonderful and knowing that He is good.   Sometimes I blame God for the bad experiences in my life. But I have learned to take these feelings to God right away. I have learned to talk to Him and ask what’s going on.   Starting with the premise that God is always good and wants what is best for me in every situation, I ask what am I suppose to be learning here? Why are you doing this to me?

 

Fortunately, God is never offended by this behavior. He is happy that I bring these feelings to Him so that He can address them. He is happy to point out my assumptions and change my viewpoint on a situation.   This allows me to correct my view and gives me clearer vision and a changed attitude. So when talking to the Lord about what I want in my marriage, He reminded me that I could use our relationship as a model for my marriage relationship.

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I realized how important it is to start with a foundation of knowing that my husband loves me and wants the best for me. (I am fortunate that I do actually know this.) I do not always use this as a grounding context in which to understand his comments. Sometimes flippant remarks or observations sound to me like attacks and complaints.   Many times this is not the case.   It is “the story that I am telling myself.” Brene Brown coined that phrase to allow people to discuss the assumptions and misunderstandings that come up in relationships in a non-threatening way. So for instance after I have spent all day cleaning and my husband leaves his socks/books/dishes on the floor, I sometimes take that as a sign of disrespect (especially when I am tired).   Starting a conversation saying, “The story I’m telling myself is that you think I am your personal maid and have nothing better to do than clean up after you all day. I know this is not true. Please help me understand.”

 

This gives him an insight into how I have interpreted his actions and allows him to correct any misinterpretations before I get angry or resentful.   Hearing him say, “No, I don’t think that. I was planning to clean that up.   I know how hard you work,” dissolves all negative feelings immediately. Now obviously, we do not have to bring up every single little thing.   Our spouses, like us, are human.   They have flaws. They do stupid things. Most the time we see this and let it go. But for the things that are bugging us, it is vital.

 

Another important practice in maintaining that “loving feeling” is to ask God to remind you why you like this guy. Sometimes our appreciation of our spouse’s awesomeness is lost in the business of life. We forget or lose track of how great they are. As God brings those things to your mind, you fall in love all over again. What is great about this is that it turns into a mini-worship session because you begin thanking God for giving you such an awesome partner. So then you are blown over by the thoughtfulness and care of the Creator while reconnecting with feelings of amazement for your partner. God is good.   You are sharing life with a stud.   All is right with the world.   I’ve found that “loving feeling.”

 

Audiobook Nook

Faith is not an award for our achievements; it is not a goal to strive for, as though the follower of Christ could simply tick off a checklist of positive ways to attain faith. Instead, faith comes to us supernaturally as a gift; we can take it and live in it or refuse it altogether. How do we as believers share that sort of message and the level of enthusiasm that should accompany such a message with those who do not understand “faith” this way at all? And He [Abraham] Believed in Yahweh looks at how a Christian-Islamic dialogue might begin with certain surahs (sacred sections) of the Qur’an that are based upon or rooted in stories of the Old Testament patriarchs and other biblical figures which Christians, Muslims, and Jews all have in common. These biblical accounts can be a good jumping-off point for explaining how Christian faith is appealing to those who have a very “works-oriented” approach to grace and/or salvation. Faith is not “worked for” but it is “worked out” as faithful pastor and World War II hero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, understood and practiced in his daily walk with Christ. A classic work which shows that the believer’s sanctification is not a passive process is his seminal work, The Cost of Discipleship.

 

 

 

 

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