In the previous post, I mentioned a book by George Grant that radically changed how I think, minister, etc. It’s called The Micah Mandate. Once again, I highly recommend it! I would now like to share how God used an audio-taped message (also by George Grant) about an obscure man from the pages of history whom most folks have never heard of, to bless my life and ministry in ways I could not even have imagined as I put the tape into the tape-player of my car. Here’s what I wrote over a decade ago…
Earlier this year God poured his grace upon me as he placed in my hands an audiotaped lecture entitled, “Gerard Groote and the Brethren of the Common Life.” Providentially, this also was by George Grant. I can’t express how moved I was by what I heard in this message. In this lecture Grant basically revealed what a biblical worldview should look like in the “everydayness” of a Christian’s life and ministry. He accomplished this by sharing God’s work and power in and through the life of a man named Gerard Groote. Groote lived in the 14th century, and, as Grant says at the beginning of his address,
“It would be difficult to find a single page of modern history written about him. But it would be even more difficult to find a single page of modern history not affected by him.”
Below are the notes I took from Grant’s message on Groote. I’m sure much won’t translate to this format. But I believe the ideas taught and lived out by Groote and expounded by Grant are more than worth passing on and meditating upon.
Notes on Gerard Groote: Brethren of the Common Life
Based on a lecture by George Grant
1.) The Devotio Moderna , first of all, emphasized holiness for every Christian – not just for a few. Groote wanted common piety for common folk – this was the heart of his message.
Together, these distinctives: Holiness, Humility, Covenantal Community, Antithesis, and Catechizing – comprised what Groote called “Classical Christianity” or what we might call, “Biblical Orthodoxy.”
“Lay foundations that will endure in the hearts of your children. For there are only two things that are eternal in all of the created order: the children under your care, and the Word of God.”
Grant’s Prayer at the end of the message…
O Father; Almighty Father, I confess to you that I am often diverted by pleasant alternatives. I am often tantalized by that which will bring success, effectiveness, suasion in the here and now. I pray that you would give me eyes to look beyond the horizon of just this moment. Enable me to invest for all eternity. Enable us to have a distinctive vision of discipleship – like that of Gerard Groote before us. Enable us to quest for holiness, humility, covenantal community, antithesis, catechizing – classical Christianity – in the hearts of our children – first and foremost.
Lord God, I pray that we will produce not just successful businessmen, or men and women effective in their vocations. We yearn for REFORMATION. Change the world, O God! And use us in the process.
We pray this in Jesus name. Amen and amen.
Here’s a short little introduction I just found on Groote that’s worth reading.
The United Methodist Church, via our denominational standard, addresses the issue of the sufficiency of Scripture. Our 2008 Book of Discipline reminds us that Scripture is “necessary for salvation” and is “the true rule and guide for faith and practice.”
I’m assuming that the "practice" referenced is the practice of our faith (the practice of living in this world and preparing for the next… as Christians)… which we believe should be in accordance with Scripture’s direction, rules, laws, commands, examples, teachings, principles, etc. That covers a great deal of ground.
United Methodists believe that what John Wesley called scriptural holiness relates to both our inward walk with Christ but also our outward relationships, life, and witness in this world. Our Doctrinal statements, General Rules and Social Principles cover a lot of ground... an enormous variety of topics such as economics, environment, bioethics, justice, marriage, parenting, politics, poverty… and yes, our precious Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation that comes through him. In all these spheres and more, Scripture is our “true rule and guide for faith and practice.”
Our 2008 Disciplines says this about scriptural holiness…
We insist that personal salvation always involves Christian mission and service to the world. By joining heart and hand, we assert that personal religion, evangelical witness, and Christian social action are reciprocal and mutually reinforcing.
Scriptural holiness entails more than personal piety; love of God is always linked with love of neighbor, a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world.
This is what I mean by the sufficiency of Scripture for every sphere of life. This is what I take our Discipline to mean when it reminds us that Scripture is “necessary for salvation” and is “the true rule and guide for faith and practice.”
So, while the Bible doesn’t, for example, teach me how to change the oil in my car, it still directs and guides me to do even something as mundane (and as important) as that to God’s glory. It teaches me to be a good steward of what God has provided.
The Apostle Paul teaches us…
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
That’s profitable for a bunch of stuff. Am I only using a rhetorical device to suggest that Paul might be referring to Scripture’s sufficiency for every sphere of life? Bishop Mack Stokes addressed this by writing…
Immediately following the “General Rules,” Wesley wrote, ‘These are the General Rules of our society; all which are taught of God to observe, even in his written Word, which is the only rule, and the sufficient rule, both of our faith and practice.’ (The Bible in the Wesleyan Heritage, p. 21)
That’s all I mean by Scripture being sufficient for every sphere of life.
My understanding of Scripture’s sufficiency is not the same as saying that the Bible is a science textbook, a political constitution, or a manual for how to change my car’s oil. But it does have something (and something important) to say about those areas and far more.
Wayne Grudem, (who is not United Methodist) shares this definition for the sufficiency of Scripture which I believe is helpful. He writes,
The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly. (Systematic Theology, p. 127)
We want to submit to our Lord in every sphere of life and are guided in that pursuit in and through God’s Word. It is sufficient for such a pursuit.
Once again, I appreciate the opportunity to clarify what I meant in my two posts on Scripture’s authority.
Grace and Truth,
The following was written just a little over five years ago.
My Great Aunt Lucy died last week. She was my paternal grandfather’s sister. I didn’t know her very well, but like so many others, knew lots about her. Utterly indefatigable and incredibly focused was she in serving others, especially the least, last, and lost.
After a lifetime of working in various fields of education, and making innumerable contributions to civic life, she responded to God’s call in her life to ministry in the local church. (I believe she was in her 70s when she began Duke Divinity’s course of study.)
Her obituary lists accomplishment after accomplishment. The Florence newspaper even had a tribute on the front page of the morning paper to honor her. My father told me one of the pastors who spoke at her funeral related to the congregation that Aunt Lucy wasn’t concerned about impressing folks but rather, impacting them. She did that and then some.
What a blessing that I’m able to point to my Aunt Lucy as a beautiful example of God pouring out his grace in and through the life of an individual. Much like the woman working the yeast in the dough, she pursued her task until the yeast permeated all of it. This is how the Kingdom of God works in our world. What an incredible illustration Aunt Lucy was of Kingdom Discipleship.
Grace and Truth,
Intensive Discipleship. That’s how I once heard counseling… at least “biblical or Christian counseling”… described. The idea is that every now and then folks in the church have particular struggles they wrestle with… or various temptations, sin, forms of brokenness, etc. These are pastoral care issues that require more focused attention than what can usually be received in a typical “group Bible study.” Sometimes the person may need to be referred to someone in the medical or mental health world. However, often these folks can receive much blessing and help from other Christians, including their pastors. That’s where the following websites and ministries come in.
Such counseling is for those times in which there's a need for one-on-one biblical guidance, or, intensive discipleship. The thinking behind this is that very often these issues are spiritual in nature. God’s Word is sufficient to diagnose what’s going on in that person’s life as well as to offer the solution to the problem at hand. Hey, it worked for 1,800 years or so before Freud came on the scene. Believe it or not, the Church actually cared for such needs. That’s why pastors were quite often referred to as physicians or shepherds of souls (and that title wasn’t reserved for only salvation issues). (I refer you to Richard Baxter’s Christian Directory.)
The list below is made up of ministries that are doing a great job, not only of actually “doing” such counseling ministry, but also equipping, encouraging, and educating folks in the Church to do the same.
My rule of thumb regarding why I choose the websites I do is this: “Online usefulness.” In other words, there are many ministries that are doing great things for Christ, but their websites may not be that helpful. With my Top Ten lists I’m trying to share the websites that will be the most useful to you – via articles, newsletters, blogs, video, audio and podcasting, training events, curricula, books, etc.
Here’s my list. As usual, these are in no particular order (except for the first two… which I visit all the time)
Grace and Truth,
1.) CCEF – Christian Counseling & Education Foundation – These guys have been around a long time and are getting better with age. They are keeping their website fresh and relevant and the content is second to none. Great stuff here.
2.) Rick Thomas.net – Rick Thomas is one of the most prolific guys I know. And, full disclosure, he got me up and running with my wordpress blogging a number of years ago. However, I sought him out only because of the great job he was doing with his counseling ministry online. More resources here than you’ll even know what to do with. Rick has also shifted to developing leaders so that they can better serve those under their care. Great site! Great ministry!
3.) American Association of Christian Counselors – Their strength is in their training programs, conferences, and their magazine, “Christian Counseling Today.” They are working on becoming more user-friendly, but for now, you may have to “work” a little to find what you’re looking for. But your effort will be well worth it.
4.) Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (formerly NANC) – They are primarily an equipping ministry, though their online usefulness is growing. I have been a part of their training programs and they are excellent.
5.) Faith Biblical Counseling – These folks have an incredible church counseling ministry. And their website is getting exponentially better and better. They have an awesome webstore where you can get great books and audio/video resources to help you learn more about how to counsel or particular issues Christians face. Great stuff.
6.) Association of Biblical Counselors – Great website with a growing list of resources – blogging, articles, audio, video, etc. You can also become a member and get access to some resources that are very helpful in counseling or teaching.
7.) Brad Hambrick is very helpful on subjects related to counseling. Brad does a great job of keeping it up to date.
8.) Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (IBCD) – This is another example of a ministry that has been around for years doing great things for the Kingdom. But now their website is improving quickly and become a great resource center. Love it.
9.) Peacemaker Ministries – Ken Sande and company are great on the topics of peacemaking, reconciliation, etc., for couples, families, churches, etc. They have a wide ranging ministry that you really ought to check out.
10.) Biblical Counseling Center – I already loved these folks. But even since I last stopped by their site they have “super-improved” their website. Fantastic! Lots of great resources. Easy to get around and find what you’re looking for. You need to check them out.
*** Since I first put together this list several years ago, I have grown in deep appreciation for the Biblical Counseling Coalition – Wonderful resource, great articles, well worth your time.
*** Another great ministry that has come into being since I first put this list together is Jay Adams’ new ministry – The Institute for Nouthetic Studies.
I’m certain there must be new such websites springing up all the time. If you know of any that ought to make it to this list, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m sure this list will grow from a Top Ten to a Top Twenty in no time at all.
Who was Jesus Christ? Was he just a good moral teacher? Was he merely a failed political revolutionary? Perhaps he was a lunatic who just didn’t know what he was doing. Or maybe, he was a con-artist looking to trick people into believing he was more than just a human being. Christians proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ was fully human and fully God. Furthermore, Christians claim that Jesus Christ was the Lord and Savior of the entire universe. What someone believes about the person and work of Jesus Christ, orthodox Christians believe, sets the pace for how one will live in this world and directly impacts issues related to eternity. Even pluralists such as John Hick feel the weight of the question about Jesus Christ’s identity. Hick says:
“There is a direct line of logical entailment from the premise that Jesus Christ was God, in the sense that he was God the Son, the Second Person of the divine Trinity, living in a human life, to the conclusion that Christianity, and Christianity alone, was founded by God in person; and from this to the further conclusion that God must want all his human children to be related to him through his religion which he has himself founded for us.”
Indeed, this is precisely what Christians have believed for 2,000 years. Norman Geisler reiterates this point. He says, “Orthodox Christianity claims that Jesus of Nazareth was God in human flesh. This doctrine is absolutely essential to true Christianity. If it is true, then Christianity is unique and authoritative. If not, then Christianity does not differ in kind from other religions.” Though a thorough investigation of this point is outside the scope of this post, Geisler provides a good outline for what the Christian apologetic is on this point. He writes:
“The basic logic of this apologetic for Christianity is: (1) The New Testament is a historically reliable record of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ… (2) Jesus taught that he was God Incarnate… (3) Jesus proved to be God Incarnate by fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, by a miraculous life, and by rising from the grave… Therefore, Jesus of Nazareth is Deity.”
Therefore, what one believes about who Jesus Christ was and what he accomplished through his life, death and resurrection has profound implications for one’s worldview. One may believe Jesus was not God Incarnate, not the Savior of the world, did not rise from the dead on the third day, and not Lord of all. However, in believing that, one holds contradictory beliefs from what orthodox Christians embrace. Both beliefs may be false, but only one can be true.
Some Concluding Thoughts…
It has been the goal of this series of posts to show the necessary relationship between truth and the Christian worldview. Because Christianity claims to be a revealed religion, it is actually a sign of humility and obedience for believers to embrace, proclaim, and defend their Christian faith. To avoid or reject this responsibility is the real sign of arrogance because it reveals that one presumes to know better than God. John Hick properly understood the implications of confessing that Christianity alone was and is the fullest disclosure of God's self-revelation. What other response could possibly be more appropriate than to confess with one’s mouth and believe in one’s heart that Christianity is true, and not merely preferable? Christians believe that if Christianity is not true, then it is merely one religious preference among many. However, Christians have historically proclaimed, from the beginning, that they are the humble stewards of the one, true, and living God’s self-disclosure.
Soli Deo Gloria,
In the last post we took an introductory look at the worldview elements of theology, metaphysics, and epistemology. This time we’ll learn a little about ethics and anthropology and why they are essential aspects of one’s total world and life view.
Christians readily confess that they do not have a monopoly on ethical living. Everyday there are believers and unbelievers living moral lives. However, Ron Nash shows that in relationship to worldview thinking, the question of how one justifies his or her ethical beliefs and conduct is quite another question. He says:
“ethics as a worldview factor is more concerned with the question of why that action is wrong. Are there moral laws that govern human conduct? What are they? Are these moral laws the same for all human beings? Is morality totally subjective…, or is there an objective dimension to moral laws that means their truth is independent of our preferences and desires?”
The Christian worldview claims that why one “ought” to behave in a certain way and what conduct is permissible or impermissible is grounded in the character of God. Christians claim that it is God’s good, righteous and holy character upon which the Christian ethic is grounded. Furthermore, Christians assert that God has revealed laws, rules and principles by which Christians are to live. There is no dispute, therefore, that unbelievers live ethical lives. The Christian responds, however, that only belief in the Christian God can truly justify ethical behavior. The unbeliever either borrows from the Christian worldview or lives by personal preference. Christians further maintain that because of God’s general revelation to all humanity, there is no reason to believe that the ethical systems of other religions should be totally different from Christianity’s. Arthur Holmes has said that “all truth is God’s truth wherever it be found.” However, Holmes does carefully follow up that statement by reminding his reader that, “We do not affirm that everything men take to be true is God’s truth.” This statement is important to understand. Though all truth is God’s truth, not every credal statement or worldview ethic is a representation of that truth. Christianity claims to properly have the fullest revelation of God’s self-disclosure.
The second area we want to look at is anthropology. Nash suggests that every worldview should include a “number of important beliefs about human beings. Examples include the following: Are human beings free… Are human beings only bodies or material beings? …what is the human soul or mind, and how is it related to the body? Does physical death end the existence of the human person?” Quoting William J. Abraham, Nash considers what the Christian worldview believes about human beings. Abraham states:
“Human beings are made in the image of God, and their fate depends on their relationship with God. They are free to respond to or reject God and they will be judged in accordance with how they respond to him. This judgment begins now but finally takes place beyond death in a life to come. Christians furthermore offer a diagnoses of what is wrong with the world. Fundamentally, they say our problems are spiritual: we need to be made anew by God. Human beings have misused their freedom; they are in a state of rebellion against God; they are sinners. These conclusions lead to a set of solutions to this ill. As one might expect, the fundamental solution is again spiritual… [I]n Jesus of Nazareth God has intervened to save and remake mankind. Each individual needs to respond to this and to become part of Christ’s body, the church, where they are to grow in grace and become more like Christ. This in turn generates a certain vision of the future. In the coming of Jesus, God has inaugurated his kingdom, but it will be consummated at some unspecified time in the future when Christ returns.”
Christianity purports to know where human beings came from, why human beings are here, and what will happen to human beings after death. The questions of origin, purpose and destiny are answered by Christians by pointing once again to the God who has revealed himself. For a worldview to even be taken seriously, it must deal adequately with the human condition. Christianity claims to offer the most realistic analysis of the fallenness of the human condition, and only Christianity knows how this fallen condition has been solved.
Next time we’ll take a look at the person and work of Jesus Christ and conclude this series.
The first area to consider is how a worldview understands God. Christians believe in much more than the “existence” of God. The God that Christians believe in is the God who has revealed himself in the Old and New Testaments. Even though I am a United Methodist and believe we have a rock solid doctrine of God (see here and here), perhaps the most comprehensively and clearly described doctrine of God can be found in the Westminster Confession of Faith. It says:
1.) There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory most loving gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.
2.) God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things and hast most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleaseth. In His sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain. He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands. To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.
3.) In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, not proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.
The Christian God described above in the Westminster Confession of Faith is not only different than, but actually in contradiction to other worldview conceptions of God, if indeed they have one. For example: atheism asserts the non-existence of God. Polytheistic religions believe there is more than one God. Pantheism contends that God is all and all is God. Islam and Judaism deny the Trinitarian understanding of the Christian God. Therefore, the glaring contradictions between these worldviews seem self-evident. They could all conceivably be false, but they can't all be true.
The second area of focus is called metaphysics, which deals with ultimate reality. “These beliefs include answers to such questions as: What is the relationship between God and the universe? Is the existence of the universe a brute fact? Is the universe eternal? Did an eternal, personal, omnipotent God create the world? …[I]s there any purpose to the universe? Are miracles possible?” The Christian response to some of these questions is that God did create the whole universe out of nothing. In fact, Christians believe only God is eternal. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, Christians affirm that God is our personal Creator who is not a remote deity far away. God in his transcendence is not the same as his creation, yet in his immanence he is close at hand, participating in his creation. These are important elements of the Christian worldview to maintain. These metaphysical truths about the Christian worldview also contribute in distinguishing Christianity from its competitors.
The third ingredient in a worldview is perhaps the hardest to understand, although every person implicitly holds beliefs on this subject. This third area has to do with one’s view of knowledge and is called epistemology. The subject of epistemology basically asks the questions: “how do we know what we know?” or “is knowledge possible?” For the Christian, knowledge comes from God’s self-disclosure concerning himself, the world, and humankind. Furthermore, God “is a God who created men and women as creatures capable of knowing his mind and will and who has made information about his mind and will available in revealed truths.” While Christians confess they do not have complete knowledge about God, it is maintained that Christians have true knowledge about him. Therefore, the Christian worldview categorically rejects skepticism. Christians steadfastly affirm that knowledge about God, the world and humankind is possible. The foundation of God’s self-disclosure, once again, reminds the Christian to walk in humility because it is God’s graciousness, and not one’s own autonomous reason, which allows him or her to know anything at all.
Next time we’ll look at ethics and anthropology.
Grace and Truth,