Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Theology!

As part of being a Bible Study leader, I meet with some of the guys in my study one-on-one every week. Usually, we talk about issues of the day, personal problems, and all that. However, one guy is pretty well informed in the Reformed (Calvinist) tradition, and I've basically been playing Devil's Advocate with him. Lately, we've been examining Roman Catholic teaching in the Council of Trent, and what Roman Catholics believe. His initial (and possibly current) position was that the Roman Church is not Christian, though individuals within may be. My position is that the Reformed and Rome see the same thing differently, like looking at the two sides of a coin without realizing it's the same coin. Lately, I've been looking at Anglican, Lutheran, and Roman theology in order to test him (iron sharpens iron). It's been good, and I think we're both learning.

Meanwhile, I've decided a few things on my own. Firstly, until Rome is ready to give up doctrines such as Papal Infallibility (and those dogmas resulting from it, such as the Marian ones) and probably praying to saints and the idea of purgatory, reconciliation between the them and HokiePundit is impossible. Once again, though, I must stress that I do not have the resources to provide for the entire Roman Catholic Church in the event of their theological surrender, so the status quo is, at present, acceptable. I've also been astonished (appalled?) to discover that Article XVII of the Thirty-Nine Articles seems to be in favor of Predestination. Well, the Anglican Church may be Reformed, but I'm not. Lastly, I've been looking at Lutheran doctrines (my dad is Lutheran, so it's okay!), and I have to admit that I've been intrigued. I'll read up some more, and see where things end up. I do have to say that I've never been a huge proponent of Apostolic Succession, and the rules of blessing the sacrament that are contained within. I'm also not yet ready to concede to the Reformed notion of Predestination. Obviously there is some form of it, but I still maintain that Free Will has a major role.

As part of this, I've been going through the Epistles and basically summarizing them line-by-line. Having started yesterday, I've only completed Jude, John's three letters, 2 Peter, and some of 1 Peter, but the pattern that I seem to be seeing supports destiny, but not necessarily Predestination. For example, I mean that if I jump out of an airplane without a parachuchute, I'm destined to die, barring a miracle. However, that doesn't prove that I was always destined to die like that, but merely that after the action of hurling myself from the plane, there was nothing left, short of a miracle, to save me. Basically, I'm seeing something like "actions have consequences, and God knows what's going on." Right now, it's sitting firmly in the "mystery" category. It also seems to me that we can lose our salvation, which flies in the face of Predestination. I suppose an answer might be that those who stray were never truly Saved, but I'm not ready to buy that without more evidence.

And, let me be clear. I believe that the New and Old Testaments are sufficient resources to inform Christians, though even those who merely have Creation to observe have no excuse for their lack of faith. The Nicene and Apostles' creeds, aided by the Athanasian Creed, are sufficient statements of Christian belief, and all who subscribe to them count as Christians. While it may not always seem like it, arguing about doctrines such as Free Will, infant vs. adult baptism, and the number of sacraments is simply "fun," and should be discarded whenever it gets in the way of following the Great Commandment or Great Commission.

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