02 Aug Why We Believe What We Believe: Christian Doctrine (Ep 1)
How do we live in today’s cultural climate with a Biblical worldview? Does the Bible apply to our lives? How are we allowing the world to form our theology? As Christians, it is vital that we are able to understand and articulate why we believe what we believe. Join Michael Easley as he explores and explains Christian doctrine and theology in the first episode of this 14-episode series.
Click to read Transcript
EASLEY: One of the things I’ll say over and over and I’ve said if for twenty years, “Don’t let the world teach you theology.”Do not build a doctrine of diversity or inclusion or equality the way the world thinks. You will be in error.
Welcome to the first broadcast of Michael Easley inContext. It’s great to be back on broadcast on radio, on the internet and I hope you will join us at this time everyday. As we begin the broadcast of this program, one of the unique features I hope to bring to you is how we look at Scripture in the context of life, in the context of our world. We’ll do this from a number of angles. We’ll do it with interviews, we’ll do it from Bible teaching. We will try and take topics, that are not just abstract theological topics, but topics that are helpful for all of us as we journey this life with Christ.
Today’s broadcast was originally given to the faculty and staff at the Moody Bible Institute. Talking to these students and faculty was a challenging and privileging opportunity every week and there were some of the sharpest brightest young minds gathered at Moody. We began a series on theology and theology is one of those big words that automatically sounds dry and dusty. Who wants to talk about theological truth? Yet theology is critical. Theology is why we believe, what we believe about God. Unfortunately, we live in a culture, a generation that tells us a lot of noise. We’ve heard it from childhood when we’ve said things like, “ They said, or the teacher’s said, or all my friends have.” And that becomes a reductionistic pattern, meaning just because we hear something, we believe it’s true or if we have an opinion, we believe it’s true. I remember when my kids came home from school one time and they were arguing a point and said, “Well Dad, people are made that way.” When you hear phrases like that, the undercurrent of those phrases, what that is telling us is, we’re taking information we’ve heard or read on the internet, or saw on a Facebook post, or a tweet and we’re drawing a conclusion. Allen Bloom wrote a book in 1987 called The Closing of the American Mind. It stirred up a lot of dust at the time it was published and he took on the American University and how they had moved in his vernacular to liberalism away from a more socratic teaching method, reading, writing, arithmetic, we might say the fundamentals of education. If I could sum up one of Blooms more important conclusions. It’s that liberalism and I don’t mean that from a political right or left standpoint, but the liberal thinking, when that transplanted fundamental theology, doctrine, truth, evidence we might say and it became a opinion, how you view something, what’s true for you would be the most common way we would hear it. When we started flattening the concept of truth we get into trouble or we might just say, “What’s true for you?” So Television writers, novel, fiction writers, people that write history, we call them revisionists, they rewrite history. It comes down to what’s true for you, what’s true for me? Well that can’t be right. Not all things can be the same value and the same truth. Truth by it’s nature must be a thing that is insoluble. A truth must be truth. It’s not true for you and therefore not true for someone else. That’s an opinion, that’s not truth.
Well today on the broadcast, we’re going to be thinking about why we believe, what we believe.
I hope you’ll be engaged and put your thinking cap on. Come with us and see some of your assumptions and why you believe what you believe.
EASLEY: A sailor once told me theory without practice is dangerous, but practice without theory is deadly. If you’re going to handle a weapon, an aircraft. something that can harm someone, if you have theory, but no practice you’re dangerous. But if you practice without theory, you can be deadly.
The local church probably had a key role in many of our lives in helping us come to a basic knowledge of Jesus Christ. Many of us either directly through a local church or through someone in a local fellowship, probably heard the gospel. Jesus Christ loved you that you’re a sinner, you’re separated from God because of your sinfulness, and that because Christ so loved and was so compelled and so obedient to the Father, that He left heaven and came to this earth. He lived died, was buried, and resurrected from the dead, on account of your sins and mine. He calls us to Himself, and some point in your journey in your life, you came to a knowledge, where you trusted Christ and Christ alone for your Salvation. I make no assumptions. I imagine there are men and women in this room who thought they have done all that but maybe they haven’t quite figured it out yet. That’s great, fine, well and good. But you need to settle it once and for all. You need to benchmark somewhere at the top of your mountain of your life that you’ve tapped into the ground that cannot be moved, that you put your trust in Christ and Christ alone for your Salvation, that you have assurance of Salvation, meaning you cannot lose this gift He gave you. You need to understand eternal security and the assurance of your Salvation and these are bedrock doctrines that you have to hammer into the ground of your life at some point. Don’t be embarrassed if you’re here and you’ve never come to that place, that you know, that you know, that you know, that you know what you believe. Because there will be a great celebration even here, if we were to help one of us come to a clearer knowledge,a better knowledge, a crisp comprehension of what it means to trust in Christ, and Christ alone.
Now let’s just for a moment say, “That the church had some role in that process.” Many of us could probably stand and give story and testimony to the fact that, “Ok, we got saved, but what next?” Perhaps you were blessed to be, discipled, to be mentored, to be coached, to be encouraged in your Christian faith. Perhaps someone came along side you and helped you grow in knowledge and grace, and taught you spiritual disciplines, and how to study the Bible, and how to pray, and how to do some of the disciplines of the Bible and to grow. Maybe you had a brother or a sister that confronted you when you sinned and put your nose in a book and maybe, just maybe, you got exposed to some theology. But my fear is that most believers in Jesus Christ have no Biblical world Theology. They have no clue what it means to live in a world with a Biblical grid. They have no concept of what it means to follow Jesus Christ in a culture that has gone completely insane. We need a Biblical worldview and that is part of your program here at Moody and hopefully part of all our programs as we grow and mature in faith in Jesus Christ.
Now what I want to do for the next two weeks is do a series on doctrine and that sounds as dry as dirt to some of you. Years ago I started a set of personal developmental goals. Each year I would write these goals and trade them with friends and we would held each other accountable . I saw a lot of personal discipline improve. I saw a lot of goals accomplished. One year I read a huge number of books because of that. Another year, I studied subjects I had not studied before. But one of the things I seasoned in there over time was to take on one threatening goal each year. Something had stretched my thinking. Maybe it was studying an area of theology that I was loathed to, or just didn’t’ want to get into. Maybe it was going into the Book of Bible that I had reservations about the length or complexity of it, but each year, I tried to tackle some new thing that threatened me. Well Im here being transparent today. It threatens me to teach doctrine from this place. We have a bunch of doctrinaire experts, over to my right, your left I might add. Sorry, only a few understood that. But I value them. They are far better trained in many of these areas, than I will ever be. And I know that. But I also know not to oversimplify. It helps all of us to think Biblically, not just from a exegetical and expositional grid which is my bread and butter, and what I prefer.
This summer,I’ve been studying this whole issue of doctrine and why we believe and what we believe. And if you know anything of your history in this country, if you’re an American, every Ivy league school, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Andover began as a Theological institution that taught Greek and Hebrew and German and French and the Bible was the Word of God. Every one of them. They moved along a different path, perhaps not the end of the world, perhaps a terrible thing that universities became liberal and if you track it as an Andover, the best case I’ve ever researched, Andover Theological Seminary’s demise, it was linked to presidents and faculty who pushed against the doctrine. It’s that simple, and if that’s the lesson of history, there’s no insitute. No institution that is above losing it’s more into the Bible that calls itself a Bible college, a christian university, a christian college. There’s no guarantees.
Each and every year, the trustees sit in the boardroom on croll nine and we pass around a statement. One of us reads it, we sign it, we date it and put it in a folder saying, “We are committed to the doctrines of this institute.”The first time I did this, I was asked to read it aloud by the chairman. I literally wept as I read these words. I had a hard time reading them. Why you believe, what you believe must govern all that you do. Why you believe, what you believe must govern all that you do. “No fact of contemporary western life is more evident than it’s growing distrust of final truth and it’s implacable that is an unyielding or a resistant. It’s implacable questioning of any sure word. Listen again, a cumbersome quote. No fact of contemporary western life is more evident than it’s growing distrust of a final truth and it’s implacable questioning of any sure word. “So begins Carl Henry in His God revelation and authority in the section called The Crisis of Truth and the Word. “We fight fact, we fight truth” is what he’s saying, “and the western mind bows it’s back in rebellion and says, “No you can’t tell me something truthful.”
Now you and I live in this cultural context. Let me give you some seasoning. I’m not a philosopher. I know a little bit about time periods, like Enlightenment and this type of thing, but these are the experts in that category. They can correct all that I’m going to tell you and I’m sure they will.
Lets’ begin with theism. Theism was the belief that there was a vertical sovereign, that the European churches pointed up, that we revere the Bible as the very Word of God and there was even, at the worst a deistic view of theism. There is a sovereign. There is a God. There is a creator. We may differ on the particulars, but there was a theistic view, a vertical view that yes there was a God. Replaced, hard to track it to a time and date, but replaced by humanism.
Before God was the vertical measure, now humanism, man is the horizontal measure. Man really makes himself to be God. Man does not acknowledge a theistic or deistic concept. Man says, “We can figure this out.” If you’re old enough, or astute enough to have read one of the most difficult books to swallow, Allan Bloom’s, The Closing of the American Mind, a very tedious piece, crucial for the academics of the world to understand. You may not agree with all he says, but one thing Bloom tracks is the shift in the university from what he calls classics to liberal arts, and how when you walk away from the classic concept of education, and he talks about studies and isms and you introduced departments to take on a whole life, and they because the nature of coursework take away from other required classes. It’s an illustration of moving away from doctrine. When other things crowd out the main thing, we’re starting to shift away. A more modern book, some of you perhaps have read, Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth. I know you have nothing to read and plenty of time, so just put it down for later, but it’s a book you should become familiar with at some course in your life. Nancy pulls a “erase the marker board” and start over about what truth is and how our culture, and media, and our thinking has been impacted, that there is no such thing as truth. Humanism we might season in evolution, teaching, these type of things, the dismantle of vertical view, then perhaps at some time followed by modernity.
Modernity best defined as subjective, as individual, the secular word starts to take traction in the vocabulary of the times. It’s a rational time. It’s a time to prove things by science, and reason and logic, and observation. So we might look at it this way, as you are discontinuous from the past, you say, “Oh well they thought the world was flat. We know better, it’s round.” So the modernist says, “We can ignore the past, because they lived in a flat world thinking. “They actually thought that there was a God. They actually prayed. We know better now. So it’s secular. It’s rational. Of course today, I have to smile at the nine planets we’ve had. Poor Pluto. So modernity ignores the past, it’s discontinuous and it says, “No,we know better.” Now there’s certain value in that, no question, but the loss is tragic. The loss of modernity, forgetting the past, breeds all sorts of potential disasters in the near future.
Post modernity would be the next level. We’ve talked about post modernity until we’re tired about post modernity. It’s become so much a part of the language, lingua franca. It really is quite frightening. Terms like skepticism, culture, experience, individuality, yet pluralistic exist in the same literature vein as post modernity. Words like tolerance, relativism, inclusion, diversity, and equality have spawned from a post modern mind set. Listen to me very carefully. Diversity, relativism, inclusion,and equality are not Biblical constructs, they are world constructs. Now there’s value in having these discussions. Don’t hear me wrong. One of the things I’ll say over and over, and over and I’ve said it for twenty years, “Don’t let the world teach you theology.” Do not build a doctrine of diversity, or inclusion, or equality the way the world thinks. You will be in error. You must look at a Biblical Theology to talk about the injustice of not accepting other racial differences. You must look at what the Bible says about equality, not what the world sells about equality. You must look at tolerance entirely differently than the world defines it. Listen to me very carefully, when you use those words as a believer in Jesus Christ, the world is not hearing what you’re hearing. Let me say it again, when you use equality, and relativism, and tolerance, and inclusiveness, and diversity, the world is not hearing what you may be meaning. I’m not saying you don’t use the words. I’m not saying we’re not sensitive and very aware of these terms, men and women. This is where Biblical Theology must be the center of your thinking and your processing, and your emotions and your training, or you will be lead astray. You will find yourself subtly believing something that you never intended to believe. The way the world uses these terms is very different. Now many of us here who are Godly love Starbucks and Joes. Think about this illustratively for just a moment. It used to be coffee was hot, strong, and black. If you put cream and sugar in it, you were a wimp, you were a sissy. When I was a kid, we called that baby coffee, that much milk, four or five spoons of sugar, that much coffee. That’s baby coffee where I come from. Now when you go to a store, a Starbucks, or a Caribou or Joes, you can have it short, tall, grande, venti. You can have it hot or cold, You can have it extra hot, or warm. You can have skim milk, 2%, whole milk, or half and half. You can have it sweet with real sugar, raw sugar, splenda, equal, and sweet n’ low. If you can’t handle milk, we have soy. If you really want to change the whole dynamic of coffee, you can put flavor in it, chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, and the seasonal favorite, pumpkin. I can almost say as dogma, God never intended pumpkin and coffee to go together. You can have non coffee drinks that never got near a coffee bean or caffeine in a Starbucks. In other words, you can have any beverage you want, any shape, size, color. I read a little metric on their brochure one time, they’ve calculated fourteen thousand iterations of a beverage. When you order that beverage and pay five dollars for that thing, you have just exhibited tolerance in a non judgemental environment that exemplifies post modernity perfectly, because it doesn’t’ matter what you drink. Your truth is fine. My truth is a french press or espresso or strong coffee. Once in a while a little half and half if the french press is too strong. That’s all the better. But never anything sweet in coffee. That’s like putting ketchup on ice cream for goodness sakes! The point is there are limits. Right? You just identified a limit. We can say there’s tolerance in all ways, shape and form. We can say, “Do your own thing. My truth, your truth.” No, there is a time when the truth has gone over and it’s no longer truth. Starbucks is a great illustration of our culture. It’s success has been linked to this concept. Whatever you want, doesn’t matter. No ones going to judge you. Just pay for it and sit in a very uncomfortable chair as long as you like.
Now, you season these kinds of thoughts with the idea of secularism. Secularism is the notion of removing and in fact if you read secularists, they want to free us from the idea of rational and spiritual. They don’t approach it as a, “No, you have to take it away and get rid of it. We want a free spiritual, religious, faith, language from the culture, ergo (the secular society.) So we talk about secularism.
Now I don’t know what’s going to give us away to post modernity. I have a theory. I also believe that revisionists are the only ones who claim, to have clairvoyance. When men and women, write historically,they always know the truth about everything. God bless them. We lose history when we approach it this way. When we lose a Biblical theological foundation, its not merely dangerous, it’s deadly. So it’s important to know “why we believe, what we believe.”
So what are some of your presuppositions? Your assumptions? How do you know, what you know? Do you know something for sure? On what basis? When you and I open the Bible, how do you and I approach the Scripture? Is it just a bunch of stories that were collected by lots of different authors over a long period of time? Is it true? Is it reliable? How does it line up with science and philosophy? and some competing skills of study? So everytime you and I open a book, and most importantly, the Bible, I want you to know and I hope you do to, Why you believe what you believe. Can you disagree with an author? And can you align it to the Scripture? Can you see when an author or commentator is going too far, or some political pundit is off the mark? Do you have ears and eyes that are discerning when you listen and when you watch? I believe that the Scripture is the very Word of God and I hope to show you over time that you can trust God’s Word at His Word. But that’s part of your journey as well. You have to spend some time thinking and interacting with it to know Why you believe what you believe. So what’s true for you? What are your presuppositions built upon? Why do you know what you know? Do you know for sure? As we continue in this series, Why we believe what we believe, we’re going to think through issues of how to know for sure if you’re going to heaven. What are you basing that on? How do you know the Bible is the very Word of God? Or is just a compilation of sixty six some books that were put together by some questionable means? Who is this person of Jesus Christ? Is He real? Did he really live here? Or is He just a mystical figure? Should we just follow His footsteps? Or is He more than a person to follow? Is He more than an example? So I hope you join us tomorrow on the broadcast. We’ll think about truth and authority, and do they go hand in hand? We’ll think about are we pleasing God or pleasing men? What role does the Word of God play in your life? Do you really believe it and do you apply it or is it just sort of a theory out there? Again, this is Michael Easley inContext.