3 very short thoughts on the Church of Scotland and Scripture

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Plenty will be said in the upcoming days about the decision taken by the Church of Scotland General Assembly, the decision which allows an individual in a same-sex civil partnership (and undoubtedly after Thursday, also those in same-sex ‘marriages’) to become an ordained minister.

I would like to start by saying that I know there are many brothers and sisters in the COS who are upset and sad about the decision, please continue to pray for your Church, as we all will.                   For any in the COS, a group called Covenant Fellowship Scotland  has been established to seek the “reformation and renewal of the Church of Scotland.”

So what 3 points can be drawn from this decision:

1. The real problem is not ministers in same-sex relationships
The vote is a blatant disregard for scripture’s definition of marriage and also for it’s definition of what it means to be a minister, though these two points alone are terribly sad and very revealing, they are only the symptoms of the real underlying problem.

2. The real problem is a blatant disregard for Scripture
The COS’s (current) deviation from scripture did not start after yesterday’s vote. No, it started the very moment that it was proposed a clear Biblical principle could be argued in the courts of the Church, and the clear words of the creator debated by his created beings. Not for a second would I discourage the discussion of God’s word, we are instructed to  do it:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
To be living as Christians we must study and discuss the scriptures, and in our study we might well disagree on some points.
But in saying that, some points of scripture are so piercingly precise and obvious that when read in context with the rest of the book and with rest of the bible, the message cannot be mistaken.
Yesterday’s vote is one of these points, and  the bible is clear on the topic.
The fact  that the COS believes that the clear points of Scripture can be argued in a General Assembly, and be decided by a vote, show’s it’s opinion on God’s revealed word.
An opinion which seems to be that God’ word is completely infallible and perfect, that is, apart from the parts we don’t like and that make us feel uncomfortable, those bits aren’t so important.

3. Emotion over Scripture?
This is more of a point 2.5 rather than a point 3, but just to piggy-back on the previous point, we can ask the question:
“Is the COS following the Scripture or following the will of man?”
Take a look at any of the social media posts about this decision, about half the posts are from Church members who are “proud of the bravery shown today”, and the other half are from people apparently out-with the Church who are also congratulating the Church on the decision that was made.
In watching the debate today, and after following it for a few years, the same issue has appeared time and time again, that is the emphasis is on emotion and feelings rather than on scripture.
The arguments in favour of the change almost exclusively drew on stories and personal anecdotes, all very genuine and sincere, but also all lacking in any scriptural backing.
The arguments against the change were all clearly and logically argued from our  “only infallible rule of faith and practice”, not on the changing and sinful bases of our own emotions and thoughts.
The two cannot be compared, one side arguing from sinful human reason and emotion, the other arguing from the very word direct from God.

Again these are just my initial thoughts on what went on yesterday, although blatantly against God’s revealed word there is still hope for renewal and reformation for the Church of Scotland, there still remains plenty of faithful members and congregations who also long for such a day.

As always, comments and thoughts are very welcome

Context, Context, Context

This is a guest post from Sara Cole, bchearts.net See below for her Biography

Looking at the context of passages in the Bible is critical to understanding them. I felt compelled to write on the importance of context because it is amazing how many arguments come from incorrectly quoting anything, let alone Scripture.

Out of Context No. 1
Many of you may have heard this little example:
The Bible says in Psalm 14 that there is no God.
Wait, what? Why would the Bible say that?

When you look at the entire sentence, it says: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”

This small example shows that you can make the Bible say anything you want to by taking stuff
out of context.

Out of Context No. 2
Another example I found was in a book arguing against the validity of the Bible. (For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the book). The author argued that Christians believe in a God who forbids birth control based Genesis 38:9-10. In this passage, God kills a man named Onan for refusing to impregnate his wife. When you look into the context of this Scripture, you find that this was not the reason at all as to why God killed him. In understanding the culture of the time, we see that Onan was deliberately disobeying a law given in Deuteronomy 25:5 and selfishly refusing to raise up kids in his brother’s name. He was only concerned about himself and not about the Lord or poor Tamar.

Intended Genres
Besides just taking verses out of their immediate context, people will to take passages out of their intended genre as well. For example, Moses wrote Genesis to be an accurate recording of events that actually took place. Some people try to add a poetic meaning to creation to reconcile the biblical account with modern day “science” and the theory of evolution (believe it or not, there is a crazy amount of scientific evidence for creationism).

Sometimes people take the poetic psalms and the guiding proverbs out of the genres. For example, I have seen people use David’s songs of praise to be taken as concrete promises from God to every Christian. And the proverbs were intended to taken as guiding principles for life, not as strict promises of black and white (If that was the case, then all wealthy people would be Christians and all poor people would be “evil doers.” But that simply is not the case).

The Point of It All
Essentially, don’t just take people at their word when they quote Scripture to prove their point. Read the verses around the passage and even look for other Scriptures corresponding with that one.

The Moody Handbook of Theology lists three main steps in interpreting the context:

1. Study the immediate context.
-This meaning the paragraphs before and after the passage
2. Study the more remote context
-This meaning the chapters before and after the passage
3. Consider the context of the entire book
-This meaning to look at the emphasis of the entire book

———-

My name is Sarah Cole (aka sarahbeth). I strive to have my friendship with Jesus be the relationship that defines me first and foremost.  This striving is my lifelong endeavor, because my sin keeps me from fully accomplishing it in this life on earth. Secondly, I am the wife of my amazing husband, Cameron. I also expectant mother coming September, 2015!
I am currently a junior undergraduate student at the College of Biblical Studies going for my Bachelors Degree in Biblical Counseling. I blog over at bchearts.net

My Issues With The Charismatic Movement

The following is a guest post from Lewis Macaulay

I was once well in to the Charismatic Movement, they were more radical than other Christians, I thought. They were more expressive of their faith, more joyful, more evangelical and more unified in my eyes.

It all started when I was at the CLAN (Christians Linked Across the Nation) in St Andrews in my mid teens about 5 years ago, I was a very young Christian (only converted a year) and I got totally caught up in the contemporary worship, the “signs and wonders” teaching, the whole “have faith and it will happen” theology. It was brilliant, exhilarating, everything was happy, there was no worries and I just loved God and all the good things he had done.

There was something totally missing throughout this whole experience, and that was God’s word, the Bible, Scripture. But myself and others did not mind, we were happy and excited we were going to be part of a generation that would change the world we live in, that is what we were told, we were going to change things, heal people, give other Christians extra revelation through prophecy, cast out demons, we were going to do that…….. us!

Then came challenges, daily difficulties, I did not know where to turn. Where to go?

How could I be so low?
I was going to save the world…I was loved by God
Why do I feel so rubbish?
Why am I not happy?

In church I was told I need to experience God…. How do I do this?!
You just need to surrender to him….
You just need to forgive others….
You need to open your heart….
How do I do this?!

I had to do something.
It was my fault.
There is something wrong with me.

This lasted for a good 2-3 years. I once again felt lost, wandering from next “spiritual experience” to the other, the next high. The presence of God, in my mind, became a drug. I was searching for it.
Throughout these years, there was little to no prayer, bible reading or devotion of time to God. I went to church for an experience or miracle.

I wanted experience, not Jesus.

Then out of the blue a friend invited me to a Youth Conference of a more conservative denomination, it was very last minute in fact, only a few days before the weekend, so I booked overly priced flights from Stornoway and managed to make my way down. Part of me, as I went there, dreaded the weekend. I was going to spend my time with what I thought were Pharisaical people that had no grasp of reality and were in a “holy huddle”.

I was very wrong, the whole weekend was incredible. The teaching was great, relative, and had God’s word at the centre. Throughout the weekend God drew me to himself through devotional bible reading, actual learning and even discussion of doctrine and Theology in seminars and small groups. I was previously shunned in charismatic groups previously for wanting to discuss Theology, I was told it caused splits and took attention away from God and was of no use to Christians. Over the weekend I loved to discuss the things of God, talking to each other, challenging each other and still had a great sense of unity a verse in proverbs summed it up:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
-Proverbs 27:17

I came away from that weekend a revived person with a renewed hunger and thirst for God’s word. This was not because of anything I had done but:
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
– Romans 5:8-9

God showed me it was Christ that did it all. I am justified by him, I am adopted by him, he said – It is finished, my sins were atoned for, his Word is vital.

I needed biblical grounding, I realised I had neglected his Word. I had tried to do everything myself, I sought experiences, signs and wonders,  everything else but God. I missed the mark well and truly.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. – John 6:26
That weekend I had ate my fill of loaves. I had been eating from the Bread of Life, His word and I now had a true hunger for Him.

Some now think I am “religious”, missing out on the Holy Spirit. I can tell you now, I have experienced the Spirit, God’s presence too. I have felt an immense peace since that weekend, even through struggles and difficulty, not because I sought it. It was because, through his Word, God drew me to himself. A sense of his presence is secondary, and not the main goal. The hymn I actually sung this weekend sums it up perfectly:
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you, allelu alleluia.

So what is it that bothers me now about the Charismatic movement?

Sola Scriptura?
Scripture is not always used as the compass for discernment within the movement. I saw especially at the CLAN conference I would hear more stories of what was happening now. I would hear more testimony of experiences, visions and dreams that did not match up to scripture than bible teaching. This left no boundaries to peoples ideas and some totally unbiblical and even blasphemous accounts regarding visions of Jesus and “Spiritual” experiences.

I found in discussions with people, there was no room for questioning the experiences from a Biblical perspective. I was told I had no right to judge so encountered brick walls in conversation. Then in bible studies it was OK to have different vastly opposite interpretations of verses, as to avoid discussion or – Iron sharpening iron . I believe the Bible reveals everything we need to know about God, and this biblical revelation is sufficient for ALL believers. I also believe scripture is neglected quite often for guidance in the practical and spiritual, “Spiritual revelation” over Biblical revelation is common place. I see this as a dangerous place to be and can lead to ourselves becoming the centre, not God.

Sola Deo Gloria?
In Charismatic circles, especially Bethel, Word of Faith and New Apostolic Age movements; People such as Peter Wagner, Mike Bickle, Heidi Baker, Todd Bentley, John Bevere, Bill Johnson and many many more, have been raised up within the Charismatic Church as heroes. In many cases, they have been said to have been “anointed” by God to be Apostles that will lead God’s people and conquer the world of sin and death and bring heaven to earth. In very rare cases some leaders have been equated as to being like Paul the Apostle and can even give “new revelation”. I do not believe this glorifies God, and instead magnifies man.

It it wrong to question these things?
I believe we have to ask questions, in 1 Thessalonians we are told to Test the Spirits . In the end of the day, it is a serious matter, an eternal situation for an eternal soul. Christians have every right to discern what is right according the Scripture, that God provided for us.

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders – 2 Thessalonians 2:9
In this passage, it is made clear that Satan himself can use false signs and wonders. This is certainly worth keeping in mind and taking great care when discussing or being in the midst of proclaimed “miracles” in a Charismatic Church or Movement.

For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. – Matthew 24:24
Christ gives us the warning in Matthew, there will be false prophets/teachers. These people will seem really inviting and convincing, perform signs and wonders, do these people seem familiar? Is the Gospel message being preached?

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I plead with you to be careful. In the end of the day, it is a serious matter, an eternal situation for an eternal soul. Christians and Christian leaders have to discern what is correct according the Scripture that God provided for us.

“My sorrow is, that I cannot get Christ lifted off the dust in Scotland, and set on high, above all the skies, and heaven of heavens.”
– Samuel Rutherford