Theology Thursday - The Story of Nicaea

Emperor Constantine and the Bishops

On “Theology Thursday,” we feature short excerpts on various areas of systematic theology, from a wide variety of colorful (and drab) characters and institutions. We hope these short readings are a stimulus for personal reflection, a challenge to theological complacency, and an impetus for apologetic zeal “to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints,” (Jude 3).

Constantine Summons the Council of Nicaea1

That here is nothing more honorable in my sight than the fear of God is, I believe, manifest to every man. Now because it was agreed formerly that the synod of bishops should meet at Ancyra of Galatia, it hath seemed to us on many accounts that it would be well for a synod to assemble at Nicaea, a city of Bithynia, both because the bishops from Italy and the rest of the countries of Europe are coming, and because of thee excellent temperature of the air, and in order that I may be present as a spectator and participator in those things which will be done.

Wherefore I signify to you, my beloved brethren, that all of you promptly assemble at the said city, that is at Nicaea. Let every one of you therefore, regarding that which is best, as I before said, be diligent, without delay in anything, speedily to come, that he may be in his own person present as a spectator of those things which will be done by the same. Read more about Theology Thursday - The Story of Nicaea

Review - Visual Outline Charts of the New Testament

Gaining understanding of something often requires that we take apart what we usually experience as a unit. We have to analyze. But we often fail to truly understand until we also do the reverse—until we take bits and pieces we usually experience separately and fit them together into a whole. We have to synthesize.

The combination of analysis and synthesis is nowhere more vital than in the study of Scripture. Sadly, synthesis is sorely neglected. What keeps sound preachers and teachers of the Bible out of the interpretive ditches is often not how well they do word studies and grammatical analysis, but how well they relate the passage at hand to the flow of the chapter, section, book, testament, and Bible as a whole.

Given the general neglect of synthetical Bible study, I was delighted to hear of Scott Bashoor’s recent publication of Visual Outline Charts of the New Testament (VOCNT). This study tool makes an important contribution to correcting the analysis-synthesis imbalance. Read more about Review - Visual Outline Charts of the New Testament

Bearing One Another's Burdens

Why is it that the most difficult thing to do at times is ask for help?

I think we know why. When we ask for help, it means we are vulnerable, admitting our weaknesses, and probably owning up to a mistake or two. 

It doesn’t matter that we know everyone has weaknesses and makes mistakes. We don’t want to be the one in the passenger seat. Although pride is self-destructive, we want to maintain control and handle problems on our own. It’s OK if other people ask for help—as a matter of fact, we encourage people to reach out. But this is one area where we don’t practice what we preach. Read more about Bearing One Another's Burdens

Review - The Church of the Fundamentalists

Larry Oats prefaces his new book, The Church of the Fundamentalists, by noting “While much has been written on the histories of the fundamentalist and evangelical movement, the theological basis of that division has frequently been overlooked. The purpose of this book is to examine how the ecclesiologies of mid-twentieth century fundamentalists and evangelicals affected their views of ecclesiastical separation and how those views led individuals to establish, abandon, or modify their views of ecclesiastical separation.” In other words, the controversies swirling around the fundamentalist issue center on the question, “What is the church supposed to be?”

The book contains four chapters with an introduction and conclusion in its 176 pages. The first chapter surveys “Varieties of Ecclesiologies,” really a survey of the “primary historical views of the nature of the church.” (25) This background is necessary in order to understand the theology driving the fundamentalist-vs.-evangelical answers to this central question. Read more about Review - The Church of the Fundamentalists

Discipleship in the Wilderness: Helping Our Fellow Believers Live Out the Pursuits of Psalm 63 (Part 3)

From Faith Pulpit. Read Part 1: Seek God Earnestly, and Part 2: Reflect on God Continually.

Praise God Submissively

Our words and actions always give praise to someone or something. As we walk beside our brothers and sisters, we have the wonderful privilege of encouraging them to live in praise to God. As we speak to them about the glory of their God, we will encourage them to speak to Him and to others about His glorious nature and acts. As we help them consider how their words and actions express praise to the persons or objects of their trust and meditation, we will help them to consider their conduct and live for new reasons and in new ways, bringing praise to God. As we help them praise God in the midst of the changes that crisis and suffering call on them to make, we will assist them to reorganize their lives with the goal of bringing praise to God in the midst of the new opportunities and limitations. Read more about Discipleship in the Wilderness: Helping Our Fellow Believers Live Out the Pursuits of Psalm 63 (Part 3)

Theology Thursday - The Council at Antioch Weighs In (325 A.D.)

Bishop Alexander, of Alexandria

On “Theology Thursday,” we feature short excerpts on various areas of systematic theology, from a wide variety of colorful (and drab) characters and institutions. We hope these short readings are a stimulus for personal reflection, a challenge to theological complacency, and an impetus for apologetic zeal “to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints,” (Jude 3).

About the Council at Antioch (325 A.D.)

The Council at Antioch was a regional synod held in, well … Antioch, probably in the early portion of 325 A.D. It was a local affair, in preparation for the great ecumenical Council of Nicaea which took place later that same year. Astonishingly, this council was completely unknown to history until a scholar discovered records of it in a Syriac codex in 1905. It was written from the President of the Synod to Alexander, of Thessalonica.1

The Letter from the Council to Alexander, of Thessalonica

The catholic church throughout the world resembles the parts of a body, in that it is one body even if it has diversely located places of assembly. It follows naturally that our love for you would lead us to inform you of what I and all our holy brothers with me have done, setting events in motion. This way you may be present with us in a united spirit, and speak together with us as you make rulings according to the common decisions and actions which we have taken according to church law. Read more about Theology Thursday - The Council at Antioch Weighs In (325 A.D.)

Discipleship in the Wilderness: Helping Our Fellow Believers Live Out the Pursuits of Psalm 63 (Part 2)

From Faith Pulpit. Read Part 1: Seek God Earnestly.

Reflect on God Continually

In the midst of this life’s wilderness, everyone thinks; in the arid regions of the wilderness, thoughts sometimes scream. In these times, we must learn what captivates the thoughts of our brothers and sisters. We must help them not only to give themselves to learning more about their God, but also to capturing their thoughts with the truth of God that they know and are learning.

Evaluating Meditation

In order to evaluate, once again, we must be loving, compassionate, and wise listeners. Words both reveal and betray our meditations. We speak out of the thoughts of our hearts. As we listen to our brothers and sisters, we must pay close attention to what they say and to what they do not say. We must listen for words that are in harmony with the actions we observe, and we must listen for words that are discordant with behavior. As we listen, we should consider the thinking of our fellow believers in at least three important areas: their views of God, their views of themselves, and their views of others. Read more about Discipleship in the Wilderness: Helping Our Fellow Believers Live Out the Pursuits of Psalm 63 (Part 2)

Discipleship in the Wilderness: Helping Our Fellow Believers Live Out the Pursuits of Psalm 63 (Part 1)

From Faith Pulpit, Winter 2016-2017. Used with permission.

In the July/August issue of The Baptist Bulletin, Dr. Jeff Newman, professor of Biblical Counseling at Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary, wrote an article titled “Dependence in the Wilderness.” In that article, available here, Dr. Newman explored Psalm 63 and its implications for growth during difficult circumstances. This Faith Pulpit article builds upon his previous work by applying the Biblical concepts to discipleship ministries. For a more thorough study of these concepts, you may purchase his most recent book, Dependence in the Wilderness (Regular Baptist Press, 2015).

This side of glory all of us will walk together with brothers and sisters who face arid regions of this life’s wilderness. In the eighth grade, Mary faces constant pressure from her unbelieving friends to turn her back on her faith. Now her friend, Sue, who in the past had encouraged Mary in her walk with the Lord, offers Mary a joint and scorns her when she refuses. Mary sits crying in your office, struggling to believe that God is truly a friend when He allows her other friends to forsake her. Read more about Discipleship in the Wilderness: Helping Our Fellow Believers Live Out the Pursuits of Psalm 63 (Part 1)