Sunday, August 23, 2009

What About the "Office" of "Pastor", Part II

For the most part, this blog is for the purpose of providing Christians with the tools to defend the faith when speaking to non-Christians. In this particular case, however, I am going to deviate a little in order to feed you some information you need to defend the faith from within Christianity, as there are some rather "unusual" ideas out there about how to "do church".

I recently read a claim that the word "pastor" only occurs in the Bible once, in Ephesians 4:11. This is a rather ingenious misapplication of research and language. This statement is true in that, in the English Bible, "pastor" only occurs once. However, the Bible wasn't written in English. The Bible was written primarily in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament), with some bits of Aramaic thrown in here and there.

The Greek word "poimēn", translated into English as "shepherd" (16 times) or "pastor" (once), is scattered throughout the New Testament. It is found in all four Gospels, the letter to the Ephesians, the letter to the Hebrews, and Peter's first letter. (You can see for yourself. Go to Search "Eph 4:11". Click on the "C" to get the Greek lexicon. Click on the Strong's number G4166. [Yes, I could have just given you the direct link, but I want you to see how to do it for yourself - God's Word is for all, not just the elect])

Now, the argument being made is that the "office of pastor" is unbiblical because the word "pastor" only occurs the one time in a context explaining a calling (as if God has to repeat Himself over and over for us to take it as His Word). This is also rather presumptuous. Jesus Himself created the first "pastor" when he directed Peter to feed His lambs and take care of His sheep (John 21:15-19). Later, in Acts 20:28, Paul tells the elders in Ephesus to "shepherd" (verb poimainō) the church. Peter also exhorts the elders of churches at large to shepherd (poimainō again) the flock of God.

I pray this helps explain this troublesome situation. I found all of this information using a hardcopy "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible", a "Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words", and Blue Letter Bible. These tools are available to the public at large, and are not written at the Ph.D. level for scholars alone. I encourage you all to "test the spirits" (I John 4:1) by going straight to the Word of God. Use whatever reference material available to get there, but don't simply trust a commentary. Reading books about the Bible is great, as is reading books about Christian living, but it is no substitute for standing on the Word.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Everybody Get in the Truck, We're Going Up to the Big House

There is a movement afoot called Universalism. Merriam-Webster tells us this word means "a theological doctrine that all human beings will eventually be saved". We see it applied at one level or another by many people who call themselves "Christian".

A common combination of Universalism and works-salvation philosophy goes something like this: "Well, he doesn't go to church, but he's a good person, so I'm sure he will go to Heaven." Another pseudo-theology that you might hear is "Ultimately, all religions are praying to the same god, so it doesn't matter if you're Christian or Buddhist or Hindu, just as long as you are faithful and are good to other people."

(Yes, I realize these are not strict Universalist doctrines, but they are individual philosophies that are influenced by the concepts that were injected into society by Universalism.)

Since these philosophies hold all points of view to be equally valid (see my older post on relativism), they hold Christianity to be just as valid as any other worldview. There is a logical fallacy in this, however. If we hold Jesus' words to be true, and He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6, NASB), then we have a conflict. To put it in modern parlance, "What part of 'The Way' don't you understand?"

"The" is a definite article. This means "designating an identified or immediately identifiable person or thing" (Merriam-Webster). In plain language, "the" indicates "the one and only". When "the" is used, there is only one. In this case, "the way" means there is only one way, and Jesus says that He is this "way". (Side note: prior to adopting the term "Christianity", the Jesus' disciples said they followed The Way. See Acts 9:2)

While some might argue ancient Greek semantics about definite articles and conjugations, Jesus does not only claim to be "the way, and the truth, and the life"(as if this were a small thing), but He follows the statement, in a case of classic Jewish parallel speech, "no one comes to the Father but through Me". There are no arguments about the meaning of "no one" (Greek: oudeis).

The only logical way to dismiss the unique, singular nature of "the way" is to claim the Bible is not accurate. Since this post is about Universalism, I think I'll leave the proofs of the veracity of our Scriptures for another day.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Are You Intolerant?

One things Christians are often accused of is intolerance. Though there are some intolerant people who claim to be Christians, most Christians are not intolerant. The basic problem lies in what the world has begun teaching as the definition of tolerance.

"Intolerant" means "unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters" or "unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights" (Merriam-Webster). So when you see somebody proposing legislation that restricts what pastors can say from the pulpit (e.g., ENDA), or regulations that prohibit students bringing Bibles to school or wearing faith-based T-shirts, you are seeing intolerant behavior.

Why, then, do we keep hearing that saying "homosexual behavior is sinful" or "promiscuity is a sin" is a form of intolerance? It is because they are trying to convince us to become indulgent. "Indulge" means "to treat with excessive leniency, generosity, or consideration" (Merriam-Webster), with the key word here being "excessive". Another word that describes how the world wants us to walk is "licentious" ("lacking legal or moral restraints ; especially: disregarding sexual restraints" or "marked by disregard for strict rules of correctness", Merriam-Webster).

Without delving into Scripture, we know that sexually promiscuous behavior leads to depression, diseases, and unplanned pregnancies. Paul warns us in his epistle to the church in Galatia against "sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these" (Galatians 5:19b-21a, ESV). I will not take up too much space here by giving a laundry list of how each of these things is bad in a strictly secular sense, but I'm sure you can imagine on your own. Do you think it is "intolerant" to warn other people that these types of behaviors are dangerous?

Remember, intolerance tries to keep you from expressing your faith and warning others about the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). Just be nice about it and let them know about the free gift, too.