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  • Summary of "40 Questions About Roman Catholicism" by Greg Alison

    In 40 Questions About Roman Catholicism, Greg Alison provides summaries of the formal teachings of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). Misrepresentation and confusion abound by both Catholics and Protestants alike as to what the RCC actually teaches. Because Alison writes with such a charitable spirit, I was glad to see that he had written this book. I have benefitted from his wisdom and have been personally challenged by his advice in chapter 40. I would recommend this book to both Catholic's and Protestant's alike. In the following summary, I (1) summarize Alison’s responses to each of the forty questions, (2) quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) that corresponds to that question/chapter where applicable, and (3) give common Protestant objections to the position of the RCC. My hope is that this summary of Alison's work provides a brief, objective, and accurate depiction of the formal teachings of the RCC so that misrepresentations and confusion can be alleviated, and more beneficial conversations can be had. PART 1: HISTORICAL AND FOUNDATIONAL QUESTIONS SECTION A: HISTORICAL QUESTIONS 1. ​WHY IS IT CALLED THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH? The descriptors one, holy, catholic, and apostolic had defined the church since the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed written in 381. In 1208, the descriptor ‘Roman’ was added to this description. The word Roman refers to the centralized authority and pyramid leadership structure which begins with Christ’s representative on earth, the Pope. The word Catholic refers to the universality of the church and the great commission to make disciples of all nations. 2. ​WHAT ARE SOME SIGNIFICANT EVENTS PRIOR TO THE REFORMATION? ~80s-90s – Ignatius’s bishop-led churches. Ignatius’s letters to the church lead the early church to become bishop-led. Mid-200s - Bishop of Rome. There is a dispute between the bishop of Rome, Stephen, and the bishop of Carthage, Cyprian, as to the meaning of Matthew 16. Stephen argued that Jesus referred to Peter and his successors as the supreme authority on earth. Cyprian argued that Jesus gave this authority to all of the apostles. Stephen’s view won the day, and the bishop of Rome became the supreme authority in the church. He would be called the pope by the seventh century. Though neither Peter nor any other apostle founded the church in Rome, much was made of the tradition of Peter’s—as well as Paul’s—burial in Rome. 300s-400s – The bishop of Rome protects a proper Christology amidst the increase of heretical teachings. 300s-400s – Infant baptism begins. Largely influenced by Augustine, the practice of infant baptism begins. The motive behind this shift was the removal of original sin. 600s - Use of the word “pope”. The leader of Rome begins to be referred to as the pope. 754 – Forgery of the “Donation of Constantine”. Pope Stephen presented king Pepin with a forged document supposedly written by the emperor Constantine in the early 300s where Constantine had given “the city of Rome and all the provinces, districts, and cities of Italy” to the bishop of Rome. With this forged document, Stephen as the bishop of Rome acquired massive amounts of land (the Papal States), became the most important leader in the west, and took authority over churches throughout the world. 1215 - Transubstantiation. Transubstantiation becomes the official position of the RCC. The doctrine of transubstantiation contends that at the consecration of the elements, the bread and the wine change into the substance of Christ while maintaining all of their natural, physical attributes (i.e., smell, look, feel, taste, etc.). 1300-1400s - multiple popes. While the pope is the final authority in the RCC, during the 1300-1400s, different European countries lined up behind two different popes and, sometimes three. 1300s – ‘Tradition’ with a capital T is adopted. In the fourteenth century, the RCC adopted the concept of Tradition as part of its understanding of revelation. 1400s – The Magisterium gain power over Scripture and Tradition. The magisterium (the pope and bishops) gain authority over Scripture. During these power struggles, “the notion of church tradition—the unwritten teaching of Christ that was communicated orally from Him to His disciples, and from them to their successors, the bishops—gained ascendancy in the Roman Catholic Church” (27). 1542 – Roman Inquisition. In an attempt to counter the reformation, Pope Paul III begins the Roman Inquisition to stamp out the Reformation. 1546 – Apocryphal books officially added. The apocryphal books of the Old Testament are officially adopted by the Magisterium. [KP note - The following have been added to give a better picture of the history of the Roman Catholic Church today.] 1854 – Immaculate conception. Pope Pius IX pronounces Mary’s immaculate conception (that she was free from original sin from her conception) as dogma. 1870 – Papal infallibility becomes dogma. Vatican Council I pronounces the doctrine of papal infallibility as “divinely revealed dogma”. 1950 – Mary’s bodily assumption. Pope Pius XII pronounces Mary’s bodily assumption as dogma. The bodily assumption of Mary states that Mary was taken up body and soul at the end of her earthly life. 1962-1965 – Vatican Council II. The RCC changes its view on salvation to include non-Christians. Vatican Council II changed the position of the RCC from an exclusivist position (salvation is found in Christ alone) to an inclusivist position (adherents of other religions who are sincere can be saved unknowingly through Jesus’s work; see question 4 for further explanation). 3. ​WHAT LED TO THE DIVISION BETWEEN CATHOLICISM AND PROTESTANTISM? In the 1300s, Reformers John Wycliffe and John Hus began to openly criticize the worldliness of the papacy, the spiritual bankruptcy of the Church, the sale of indulgences, and the idea of transubstantiation (31). Martin Luther and John Calvin, along with other reformers, articulated a variety of ways that Roman Catholic teaching stood in contrast with Scripture. Their goal was to reform the church from within. Issues such as the church’s source of authority, justification by faith alone, the number of sacraments, and the idea of papal authority were a few of the issues that the reformers sought to reform to biblical standards and that of the early church. The RCC rejected their ideas and excommunicated the reformers as well as anyone who did not embrace the teachings of the RCC. 4. ​HOW DID VATICAN COUNCIL II [1962 - 1965] INFLUENCE ROMAN CATHOLICISM? During this council, the RCC updated its doctrines, practices, liturgy, structures, and relationships. Most notably, the RCC changed its position on salvation from an exclusivist position (one can be saved through Christ alone) to an inclusivist position (those from other religions can be saved). This council also reiterated the threefold authority structure of the church: Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium. CCC 841 - The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day. CCC 843 - The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.” CCC 847 - This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation. SECTION B: FOUNDATIONAL QUESTIONS 5. ​HOW DO CATHOLICS UNDERSTAND THE INTERDEPENDENCE BETWEEN NATURE AND GRACE? There are two foundational axioms that permeate the heart of the RCC: (1) the interdependence of nature and grace and (2) the interconnection between Christ and the church. While the nature-grace interdependence is dealt with in this chapter specifically, this axiom permeates the book as it forms the foundation for many of the practices of the RCC. Nature is whatever God has created, and grace refers to God’s unmerited favor (CCC 1996). When the elements of nature—water, oil, bread, and wine—are consecrated by the church (specifically, by the priest, bishop, or pope) they are capable of transmitting God’s grace. Grace is transmitted (1) through water in baptism which cleanses an infant of original sin, saving them from condemnation and corruption; (2) through oil used in confirmation, which binds the young adult to Christ and strengthens him or her with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit; (3) through the bread and wine of communion, which infuses Christ’s presence into a person on a weekly basis, which enables them to engage in love and good deeds and thus merit eternal life. "Helped by grace, they are able to do their part in the process of obtaining salvation by their meritorious good works” (51). Human beings, though fallen and corrupted by sin, are not so fallen that they are “incapable of cooperating with God’s grace infused through the sacraments so as to do their part to merit eternal life” (51). 6. ​HOW DOES PROTESTANTISM ASSESS THIS NATURE-GRACE INTERDEPENDENCE? Protestants reject this axiom of a nature-grace interdependence. Because the scriptural basis for this idea is lacking, they find it to be philosophical rather than biblical. They also find that the “mystery” of the transformational powers of the natural elements overshadow the profound symbolism that the natural elements are meant to convey. While Protestants believe that the elements of nature symbolize God’s grace (Romans 6 for example, where immersion into and emersion from water in baptism is a sign of being dead to sin and alive in Christ), they disagree with the RCC's notion of nature transmitting (or infusing) God’s grace for the transformations of one's character. Because they regard this idea of nature transmitting God’s grace to effect character transformation as unbiblical and deeply troubling as one of the two axioms for everything else that the Roman Catholic Church does. 7. ​HOW DO CATHOLICS UNDERSTAND THE INTERCONNECTION OF CHRIST AND THE CHURCH? The incarnate Christ connected God’s grace to nature as the God-man. The second axiom of the RCC is that the incarnate Church is a continuation of the life of the incarnate Christ. This axiom is based on Ephesians 1:20-23 and Ephesians 5:32 where Christ is the head of His body, the Roman Catholic Church. This is often referred to as the Christ-Church interconnection. Practically, ministers within the RCC act as another person of Christ to mediate between the realms of nature and grace. For example, a priest administers consecrated water (in the realm of nature) for the sacrament of baptism. Once consecrated, the water cleanses an infant from her original sin, regenerates her, and unites her to Christ and the Church (all in the realm of grace; 61). RCC theology, practice, liturgy, sacraments, and mission are grounded within this framework. As the continuation of incarnate Christ, the RCC is the incarnate Church that now “mediates grace to nature and connects nature to grace” (62-63). 8. ​HOW DOES PROTESTANTISM ASSESS THIS CHRIST-CHURCH INTERCONNECTION? Protestants disagree with this RCC axiom. First, while Protestants and Catholics agree on Christ’s incarnation, they disagree that the RCC is the continued incarnation of Christ’s body on earth. Second, Protestants contend that the RCC’s interpretation of Paul’s imagery in Ephesians 5 is too literal. Third, Protestants find that the RCC as the incarnation of Christ’s body and the mediator between grace and nature leaves little room for the outpouring work of the Holy Spirit to bind the church together as the church. Protestants argue that Jesus’s ascension emphasizes four critical points that contradict the RCC view. First, Jesus is not here. Second, Jesus will return one day. Third, because Jesus is not here, He cannot be present in the Lord’s Supper. Fourth, against the concept of the incarnation of the church, the Father and the Son poured out the Holy Spirit as the binding and defining characteristic of the new covenant church. On this point, Alison writes: “Certainly, the Catholic Church appeals to, even focuses on, the work of the Holy Spirit throughout its hierarchy, liturgy, ministries, and mission. But this emphasis has a certain hollow ring to it, appearing as almost an afterthought or add on to the Christ-Church prominence” (68). Alison concludes, “Given that these principles are not unrelated but intimately connected, the weaknesses of both [the two foundations for RCC faith and practice] present problems for the two combined as the foundation of Catholic doctrine, practice, liturgy, mission, and more” (69). 9. ​WHAT BELIEFS DO CATHOLICISM AND PROTESTANTISM SHARE IN COMMON? The RCC and Protestants share the following ten areas in common: (1) The doctrine of the Trinity; (2) The nature of God; (3) The revelation of God; (4) The person of Christ; (5) The saving work of Christ; (6) The person and work of the Holy Spirit; (7) The glory and depravity of human beings; (8) the divine initiative in salvation; (9) The community of faith; (10) and the living hope of eternity (76). While these are commonalities, caution must be exercised as words such as grace, mercy, justification, evangelization, the gospel, and the sacraments take on very different meanings. 10. ​WHERE DO CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT BELIEFS DIFFER? There are six general areas where Protestants and RCC disagree. PART 2: THEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS SECTION A: QUESTIONS ABOUT REVELATION AND AUTHORITY There are two modes of divine revelation: divine acts and divine speech. The RCC insists that the oral communication of divine acts through Tradition and divine speech as set forth in Scripture are intrinsically woven together (86). The RCC derives this view through two primary examples. First, the communication of the ten commandments from God to Moses was shared orally before being recorded as Scripture. Second, the apostles shared the gospel orally before recording the message in writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The RCC adds the office of the Magisterium, which is the teaching and interpretation office of the church. This office consists of the pope and the bishops to preserve this twofold pattern of transmission. Because Tradition is the broader of the two, Scripture is encompassed under the authority of Tradition. Thus, the RCC uses the following three elements to derive and transmit God’s revelation: (1) Oral Tradition; (2) The sacred writings of Scripture; (3) The office of the Magisterium. 11. ​HOW DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH VIEW BIBLICAL AUTHORITY? AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE RCC AND PROTESTANTS. Inspiration. Scripture is dually authored by God and human authors. Scripture is the inspired Word of God written in human words (90). Truthfulness (Inerrancy). “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures” (Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum, 11). Importance. The importance of Scripture is affirmed in both the RCC and Protestant church. DISAGREEMENTS BETWEEN THE RCC AND PROTESTANTS. Canon. The Hebrew Bible was completed around 435 B.C. with thirty-nine books. The Scripture that Jesus and the apostles used was this Hebrew Bible that did not contain the apocryphal writings. The Apocrypha—used by Greek-speaking Jews who lived away from Palestine—was not considered inspired, authoritative revelation by the early church. Not until the later part of the fourth century were the apocryphal writings included in a new, Latin version of the Bible. Early church leaders such as John of Damascus, Hugh of St. Victor, John of Salisbury, and the Venerable Bede, as well as leaders of the reformation such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, insisted that the Old Testament canon should not include the apocryphal writings that at times contradicted the rest of Scripture (doctrine of purgatory, earning merits before God, the practice of almsgiving, etc.). Following the reformation, the RCC officially adopted the apocryphal writings and responded to the reformers by stating that anyone who did not embrace these writings as sacred Scripture was to be an “anathema” (excommunicated from the Church). Necessity/Sufficiency. While Protestants hold that the church would lose its way without Scripture (94), the RCC maintains that the Church, while it would indeed suffer without Scripture—could exist without Scripture because it would still possess the Tradition that had been handed down. Authority. Protestants hold that, while other authorities exist and derive from Scripture and tradition is indeed important, Scripture alone is the ultimate and supreme authority when it comes to faith and practice. The RCC believes that Scripture is one authority among others, and that Scripture and Tradition are to be held with equal devotion and reverence. 12. ​WHAT IS TRADITION [CAPITAL T] IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH? Tradition in the RCC refers to the teachings of Jesus that He communicated orally to his apostles who then transmitted those teachings orally to their successors, the bishops, and the pope, who make up the magisterium of the RCC. Tradition also includes the Holy Spirit’s communication to and through the Pope and the bishops of the RCC. CCC 81 - “And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by their preaching.” PROTESTANTS. Protestants argue against the RCC’s notion of Tradition primarily on the word “expound” in CCC 81 (above). Second, they reject the RCC doctrine of Tradition because of its very late development in the fourteenth century. It’s adoption during a period marked by tremendous turmoil is viewed as a struggle to regain control. Third, the notion of Tradition that appeared in the fourteenth century was vastly different than the concept of tradition up to that point in time. Fourth, great instability exists between the threefold authority as posited by the RCC. When instability and conflict occur within the RCC framework, it is neither Scripture nor Tradition that make the final judgment, but the Magisterium’s interpretation of both Tradition and Scripture that ultimately decides. 13. ​WHAT IS THE CATHOLIC MAGISTERIUM, AND HOW DOES IT EXERCISE AUTHORITY? As the continuation of the ministry of the apostles, the RCC Magisterium—consisting of the college of bishops and the pope––bears the ultimate responsibility for interpretation and instruction. The Pope stands as the continuation of the ministry of the first Pope, Peter, upon whom Christ built His church (Matt 16:13-20). Thus, the Pope is the primary pastor of the RCC. The RCC holds that the Magisterium has the right to (1) determine the Canon of Scripture (as it did in 1546 with the apocryphal writings), (2) the content of Tradition (like Mary’s immaculate conception (1854) and bodily assumption (1950)), and (3) to give the only authoritative interpretation of both modes of divine revelation—Scripture and Tradition. CCC 857 - The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways: - she was and remains built on "the foundation of the Apostles," the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself; - with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, the "good deposit," the salutary words she has heard from the apostles; - she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, "assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor": PROTESTANTS. Protestants affirm with Catholics the foundational role of the apostles. They disagree, however, with the RCC interpretation of Matthew 16 of the ministry of the apostles continuing through the Magisterium. They reject the Magisterium because (1) of its late development, (2) its hierarchical approach that developed over centuries that lacks biblical support, (3) the adoption of the apocryphal books as canonical in April, 1546 as a response to the reformation ((Catholic Encyclopedia (1908). Canon of the Old Testament. New York: Robert Appleton Company), (4) a denial of the clarity of Scripture, and (5) the number of instances where the Magisterium have demonstrated their inability or unwillingness to follow the most basic rules of interpretation (hermeneutics) of Scripture. For example, the Magisterium interprets Jesus’s response to Mary in John 2:2-3 ‘O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come’” (John 2:3–4 RSV) as an example of the “deep understanding [that] existed between Jesus and his mother” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater). From this interpretation, the Magisterium argues Mary’s unique mediatorial role between Jesus and humanity. Alison contends that “It is a mistake to pivot from a rebuke from Jesus to an escalation of Mary’s importance and cooperation with him. Poor expositions such as this example undercut the Magisterium’s claim to determine the authoritative interpretation of Scripture” (112-113). 14. ​WHAT DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BELIEVE ABOUT THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE POPE? In 1870, Vatican Council I pronounced as dogma the doctrine of papal infallibility. This dogma stipulates that when certain conditions are met, the Pope, seated in the chair of Peter, speaks infallibly. Since 1870, the Pope spoken with papal infallibility once. If anyone rejects papal infallibility, Vatican Council I stated, “let him be anathema” (Vatican Council I, First Dogmatic Constitution of the Church of Christ, 4.9, Vatican Council II extended infallibility to the college of bishops when they exercise authoritative teaching through an ecumenical council. Alison clarifies, "When the pope makes a spontaneous, informal remark about atheists being saved if they do good, such a comment is his private judgment and does not constitute an authoritative, infallible doctrine about salvation" (119). WARNING. Contrary to the opinion of many Protestants, the pope does not speak with papal infallibility every time that he speaks. At the same time, while the Pope has spoken only one time with “papal infallibility,” what he said regarding the bodily assumption of Mary is biblically unfounded. Protestants hold that believer’s will go to an “intermediate state” where their souls wait for the resurrection of their bodies when they die (for more on the disembodied or “unclothed” state, see Phil 1:20-24; 2 Cor 12:2-3; 1 Cor 15:50-53). SECTION B: QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CHURCH 15. ​WHY DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BELIEVE IT IS THE ONLY CHURCH OF CHRIST? Exclusivism. The traditional position of the RCC is that the RCC is the only Church of Christ which is governed by the successor of Peter and the apostles. For centuries the RCC had contended for an exclusivist position, whereby no one outside of the RCC could be saved (Fourth Lateran Counsel, 1215; Council of Florence, 1441). During the Reformation, many of the one-hundred and fifty threats of excommunication implicitly condemned Protestants for their refusal to abide by the teachings of the RCC in which salvation alone could be found. Change to Inclusivism. With Vatican Council II (1962-1965), the historical position of the RCC on salvation changed. During this council, the RCC stated that (1) other Christian traditions such as Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism, (2) non-Christian religions such as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, and (3) animists, agnostics, and atheists, could be saved (CCC 841, CCC 843, CCC 847). PROTESTANTS. Protestants argue that both Scripture and the historical position of the Roman Catholic Church itself stand in stark contrast to the RCC’s formal, current position (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim 2:5). Alison states that the concept of inclusivism as Catholic theology (the salvation of non-Christians) is a novel belief and a betrayal of the Church’s lengthy tradition (130). [Additional note - This RCC doctrine falls far outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. It presents a direct affront to Christ's work on the cross. It directly contradicts Scripture. It kills any sense of emphasis on God's mission of redemption on earth. If, as the RCC contends, other religions are included in God’s plan of salvation, what motivation does anyone have to share the good news about Christ?] 16. ​WHAT HAPPENS DURING A ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH MASS? There are two primary aspects of a RC mass: the first is the liturgy of the Word; the second is the liturgy of the eucharistic. Prior to Vatican Council II, the RCC had emphasized the Eucharist to such a degree that attention to Scripture was almost entirely lacking. 17. ​HOW DOES A PERSON BECOME A MEMBER OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH? There are three sacraments of initiation to become a member of the RCC: (1) the sacrament of baptism, (2) the sacrament of the Eucharist, and (3) the sacrament of confirmation. Infants are incorporated into the RCC through (1) the sacrament of baptism. They become full members through (2) the sacrament of the Eucharist and (3) the sacrament of confirmation. These three sacraments of initiation also apply to becoming a member of the RCC for anyone who is over seven years old. CCC 1275 - Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ’s Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ. SECTION C: QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS 18. ​WHAT IS A SACRAMENT, AND WHY ARE THE SACRAMENTS CENTRAL TO CATHOLICISM? A sacrament involves the use of a physical element (water, bread and wine, oil, etc.) to physically transmit God’s divine grace. God infuses his grace through these physical elements in order to transform the character of the faithful and prepare them to love and engage in good works so that they can merit salvation (149). The Christ-Church axiom dictates that it must be a representative of the RCC (the Pope, a bishop, cardinal, or a priest) that administers the sacraments for their effectiveness and validity. Alison clarifies, “Christ’s work of salvation is represented every time and in every place that the Church administers the sacrament of the Eucharist. Christ is not recrucified for the 3,483,092,195th time today at one particular Mass. Rather, Christ’s Paschal mystery is made present when the priest consecrates the elements of nature—bread and wine—so that they become sacramentally the body and blood of Christ” (150). PROTESTANTS. Protestants assert that the ministerial acts of Jesus are unique to Jesus as God Incarnate. Rather than the church dispensing Jesus’s benefits through nature, Jesus dispenses His benefits to those that are His through His Holy Spirit. 19. ​WHY DO CATHOLICS CELEBRATE SEVEN SACRAMENTS AND PROTESTANTS ONLY TWO? The RCC holds to seven sacraments that are effective ex opera operato, that “the sacraments confer the grace that they signify” (CCC 1127). Infusion. Based on the RCC axioms of the “nature-grace interdependence” and the “Christ-Church interconnection,” the RCC states that God’s divine grace is infused through the administration of the sacraments by a minister in the RCC who has consecrated the elements in order to transform one’s character so that they are then able to engage in good deeds and thus merit eternal life. CCC 1127 - Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. The Father always hears the prayer of his Son’s Church which, in the epiclesis of each sacrament, expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit. As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power. PROTESTANTS. Protestants hold to two ordinances—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—because these are the only two ordinances that were ordained by Christ (Matthew 26:26-29; Matthew 28:19). Critical to the difference between Protestants and the RCC is the notion of infusion and imputation. Imputation. In contrast to the view of the elements infusing the believer with grace, Protestants believe in the doctrine of imputation. In the great exchange, the sins of the sinner are imputed to Christ, who through His atoning and sacrificial work on the cross, paid the debt of sin that that the sinner owed, and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the sinner who repents and believes. God makes the once and for all declaration that that person is now “righteous” and “not guilty.” Protestants believe that once a person is declared righteous, their nature has been transformed by the Holy Spirit whereby they begin to delight in the law of Christ out of joy and with a heart of thanksgiving because of their new nature. “Repent.” The interpretation of Matthew 4:17—“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt. 4:17)—is a key element in the debate about infusion and imputation. Alison contends that the RCC interpretation of “do penance” is a poor translation: “The Catholic notion of the sacrament of penance is based on the Latin Vulgate’s poor translation of Jesus’s command. It renders metanoeite (“repent”) as pœnitentiam agite, which in English is ‘do [acts of] penance.’ However, Jesus did not institute a sacramental action involving contrition, confession of sins to a priest, absolution, and rendering of satisfaction to make amends for harm done. Thus, the Catholic sacrament of penance is not supported biblically” (158-159). 20. ​WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM? When a Catholic priest, bishop or deacon who is acting “in the person of Christ” consecrates water, the water becomes capable of transmitting the divine grace of God physically to the recipient. The RCC teaches that baptism is (1) necessary for salvation and (2) cleanses people from their sin and regenerates. CCC 1256 - The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and of the necessity of Baptism for salvation. CCC 1257 - The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. CCC 1213 - Through Baptism we [the Catholic faithful] are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers of her mission. PROTESTANTS. Protestants object to the RCC position on baptism on several grounds. Early Church. The early church practiced credobaptism, whereby it baptized believers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Didache stipulated that (1) candidates for baptism fast before they were baptized (infants don’t fast) and (2) that they should be baptized in moving water (i.e., water deep enough to be immersed; Didache 7). βαπτίζω (baptizō). The meaning of the Greek word “baptizō” means “to plunge” or “to immerse” (165). Believers are not sprinkled into Christ’s death and resurrection. They are immersed into Christ’s death and resurrection. Baptism by immersion signifies one’s union with Christ both in His death (immersion into the water) and in His resurrection (emersion from the water; Acts 22:16; 1 Pet 3:18-22). New Testament. Baptism is administered after someone has heard the gospel and turned and trusted Jesus Christ for his or her salvation (Acts 10:47–48; 11:15–18; Acts 16:31–33; Acts 18:8; Romans 6:1-6). Salvific? While baptism symbolizes the transformation that has taken place in the core of one’s being and is an important first step, Protestant’s do not believe that baptism itself is in any way salvific. Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in paradise. Paul told the Philippian jailer to “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31, emphasis added). Jesus said that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” and that the work of God is “that you believe in him who he has sent” (John 3:36; 6:29). Belief is central. Baptism follows as a sign of belief to the watching world of one’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection. While not required for salvation, it must be reiterated that baptism is necessary in the sense that it is one of the first steps of obedience for those who have been saved. Late development. Infant baptism does not become an official practice of the church until the fifth century. The motive behind this shift was the effort to remove original sin from infants. In making this shift, Protestants contend that irreparable damage was done to the church as the bounds for who was in and who was out of the church became blurry. Other examples. Alison gives other examples: “In the narrative of Peter’s proclamation of the good news on the day of Pentecost, three thousand people were baptized (Acts 2:41). Other baptism stories include the Samaritans (Acts 8:12–17), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:36, 38), Saul/Paul (Acts 9:18–19; 22:16), Cornelius and his family and friends (Acts 10:47–48; 11:15–18), Lydia and her household (Acts 16:15), the Philippian jailor and his family (Acts 16:31–33), many Corinthians (Acts 18:8), and the disciples of John the Baptist” (Acts 19:1–7; (167)). For household baptisms, see: Acts 16:14-15; Acts 16:31-34; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16). 21. ​WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST? Infusion. When the minister (a priest, bishop or deacon who is acting “in the person of Christ”) engages in the epiclesis (the prayer that God the Father will send His Spirit to change the bread and the wine), Christ is “really and mysteriously made present” (CCC, 1357). Four themes. There are four themes present in the RCC of the Eucharist: (1) an objective and present memorial of the sacrifice of Christ; (2) a re-presentation of the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross; (3) a re-presented offering of Christ on the cross that is also offered to release souls from purgatory and go to heaven; and (4) the physical presence of the actual body and blood of Christ is “truly, really, and substantially contained” (CCC 1362-74). The biblical basis for this position is based on Luke 22:19-20; Matthew 26:26, 28; John 6:53. CCC 1325 - The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.” CCC 1331 - Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body. CCC 1353 - In the epiclesis, the Church asks the Father to send his Holy Spirit (or the power of his blessing) on the bread and wine, so that by his power they may become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and so that those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit (some liturgical traditions put the epiclesis after the anamnesis). In the institution narrative, the power of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ’s body and blood, his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all. CCC 1375 - It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. CCC 1384 - The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: “Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53 PROTESTANTS. There are several objections Protestants have to this RCC position. Biblical. Hebrews 10:10-14, 18 stands in contrast to the RCC philosophy of the Eucharist and the infusion of God’s grace over a period of time: “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified … Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Heb 10:10-14, 18, emphasis added). John 6. Protestants reject the literal interpretation of the RCC of John 6:53, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” What the RCC fails to consider is (1) the context of this verse, (2) the illustration that this verse is pointing to, and (3) that nobody including the apostles has ever eaten Jesus’s actual body or drank His actual blood. The context that Jesus is speaking revolves around what it means to “believe in him who he has sent” (John 6:29). The crowds had asked Jesus for a sign like the bread that came down from heaven during Moses’s day. Jesus responds by saying that this was a sign that was pointing to Him, the true bread of life that satisfies those who come to Him spiritually, not those who eat Him physically. Other verses in John 6 clarify what Jesus means when He says “eat the flesh” and “drink His blood”:“I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35); “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40); “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Jesus explains that to feed on Him is to abide in His word. Simon Peter’s answer reflects this truth, “You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69-69). While Jesus emphasizes belief for salvation, the RCC church emphasizes the partaking of sacraments to be saved. Philosophical origins and late development. Protestants reject the concept of transubstantiation because it did not exist as dogma until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. Later that century, Thomas Aquinas, relying on Aristotelian philosophy, offered a philosophical explanation for how the physical presence of the actual body and blood of Christ is “truly, really, and substantially contained” when all of the physical attributes remain exactly the same. While the use of the word “mystery” surrounds the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into Jesus’s actual body and blood, Protestants question what the mystery is if the physical makeup of the elements remain the exact (taste, smell, looks, etc.). Symbolic rather than literal. While the RCC emphasize a literal interpretation of Jesus’s words in Matt. 26:26 and 28, “This is my body…this is my blood,” Protestants emphasize Jesus’s words that follow, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Protestants therefore contend that communion is therefore to be done in remembrance of Christ’s death on the cross, not as a re-presentation of it. Protestants believe that Jesus is speaking in physical terms to describe spiritual realities. 22. ​WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE AND RECONCILIATION? Two conversions. Through faith in Jesus and the sacrament of baptism, believers undergo a first conversion. The second conversion involves the lifelong struggle to be free from sin, which involves penance and reconciliation. Alison writes, “On the human side, the three acts of the penitent are contrition, confession, and satisfaction or penance. The actions on the divine side come through the intervention of the Catholic clergy who administers the sacrament and absolves the penitent of her confessed sins” (190). CCC 1440 - Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. On Indulgences. CCC 1471 - The doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance. What is an indulgence? “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin. The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead. While a mortal sin is a serious sin that (1) violates the Ten Commandments, (2) is done knowing that it is sin, and (3) involves a personal and deliberate choice, venial sins are less serious, such as “thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter” (CCC 1856). Mortal sins require the sacrament of penance and reconciliation whereas venial sins do not. PROTESTANTS. Protestants reject the notion of indulgences and the sacrament of penance on several grounds. μετανοέω (metanoeō). According to the Latin Vulgate (a translation of the original Greek that the RCC has adopted as its’ official Bible even to this day), Jesus commanded, “Do penance, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). This translation is an inaccurate rendition of the Greek New Testament. The Greek word, metanoeō, is defined as “to repent, to change any or all of the elements composing one’s life: attitude, thoughts, and behaviors concerning the demands of God for right living.” Thus, a better translation of the Greek is rendered “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (188). Justification. There are not two conversions, but a single conversion whereby God declares a sinner to be “not guilty” and “righteous” once and for all. It is God’s declaration rather than a person’s actions that bring about the cleansing of all sins—past, present, and future. Sanctification. After someone has been saved, he or she undergoes a process of sanctification which involves further conformity to Christ’s likeness. Penance is impossible. Alison writes, “Penance is impossible because only Christ could render satisfaction to God; no human being can possibly do so. And penance is unnecessary because Christ did indeed render satisfaction to God (Rom. 3:23–26). No human penance—fasting, praying, almsgiving, and the like—can or need render satisfaction to God, as the Catholic Church envisions the sacrament doing” (190). Penance is impossible because only Christ could render satisfaction to God; no human being can possibly do so. And penance is unnecessary because Christ did indeed render satisfaction to God (Rom. 3:23–26; 190). 23. ​WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS? As noted previously, the RCC is grounded upon the succession of the apostles through the sacrament of holy orders. The bishop, priest, or deacon is given sacred powers upon ordination such that, for instance, when they baptize a person, it is Christ Himself who baptizes. (Key text: Matt 16:13-20). CCC 1535 Through these sacraments those already consecrated by Baptism and Confirmation for the common priesthood of all the faithful can receive particular consecrations. Those who receive the sacrament of Holy Orders are consecrated in Christ’s name “to feed the Church by the word and grace of God.” On their part, “Christian spouses are fortified and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and dignity of their state by a special sacrament.” PROTESTANTS. Rejecting the idea of priests mediating God’s grace, Protestants contend for the “priesthood of all believers” (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Rev 1:6). Protestants hold that “All believers pray for one another, hear confession of sin and offer assurance of forgiveness, love one another, evangelize together, and teach and admonish one another with the Word of God (Col. 3:16) …. All people are image-bearers of God, and all Christians are priests to God and for one another” (198). [Additional note - Protestants also question the notion of the “succession of Peter.” As the successor of Peter, the Pope, bishops, and priests are required to be celibate. However, according to Matthew 8:14 and 1 Corinthians 9:5, Peter was married. Scripture also stipulates that those who desire to be overseers are to be the “husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2). See the following for a defense of the RC position that Peter was unmarried)]. 24. ​WHAT ARE THE SACRAMENTS OF CONFIRMATION, ANOINTING THE SICK, AND MATRIMONY? Confirmation CCC 1285 - Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the “sacraments of Christian initiation,” whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For “by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed. Anointing the Sick CCC 1421 - The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health, has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members. This is the purpose of the two sacraments of healing: the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. CCC 1499 - By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ. Matrimony CCC 1534 - Two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God. CCC 1535 - Through these sacraments those already consecrated by Baptism and Confirmation for the common priesthood of all the faithful can receive particular consecrations. Those who receive the sacrament of Holy Orders are consecrated in Christ’s name “to feed the Church by the word and grace of God.” On their part, “Christian spouses are fortified and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and dignity of their state by a special sacrament.” PROTESTANT. Protestants reject these as sacraments. While marriage is a major part of God’s good design, the notion of marriage being a sacrament is foreign to Scripture. In a similar way, the anointing of the sick is found in the Bible but was never ordained by Christ as a sacrament/ordinance (James 5:13-16). Regarding confirmation, Alison notes that many Protestant churches have catechism classes for their new members. However, on the RCC sacrament of confirmation, Alison writes, “Jesus did not ordain confirmation; indeed, it is not treated anywhere in Scripture” (158). SECTION D: QUESTIONS ABOUT SALVATION 25. ​WHAT IS THE PROCESS OF SALVATION ACCORDING TO CATHOLIC THEOLOGY? The process of salvation from the perspective of the RCC has many aspects. Sin. Sin is a “serious disturbance but not a devastating disaster” (213). Redemption. In one sense, redemption is fully accomplished through Christ. In another sense, salvation is accomplished by continuing in the RCC. Law. The law reveals the ways of evil and thus turns man toward God and His love. Grace. Grace is needed to cleanse man from sin and to communicate the righteousness of God through faith and through baptism. Baptism. Baptism (1) cleanses a sinner from original sin (and actual sin in the case of an adult), (2) regenerates that person, and (3) incorporates that person into Christ and His Church. Conversion. Conversion effects justification, whereby, “Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high” (CCC 1989). Conversion results in justification. Justification. Justification is “not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man” (214). From here, the RCC administers the sacraments which infuse the believer with grace so that they can continue the process of justification, engage in good works (almsgiving, prayers and offerings, fasting, and chastity), and thereby merit eternal life. “A merit is the recompense God owes to the Catholic faithful as a reward for their part in this divine-human cooperative process” (215). Purgatory. In purgatory, those who are imperfectly purified are purified in purgatory “so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” CCC 1030 - All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. CCC 1949 - Called to beatitude but wounded by sin, man stands in need of salvation from God. Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law that guides him and the grace that sustains him: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. PROTESTANTS. While Protestants utilize the same words as the RCC, those words have very different definitions. Protestants reject the RCC definition of sin as it denies the devastating consequences of sin, the doctrine of the total depravity in humans, and the inability of humans to save themselves. They also reject the notion that the RCC is the only dispenser of salvation and divine grace. Finally, Protestant’s reject the notion of purgatory and anything else that speaks of meriting or earning God’s salvation. Protestants believe that Christ’s work on the cross satisfied everything necessary for salvation (Eph 2:8-9). WARNING. Contrary to the popular opinion of many Protestants, the RCC holds that “no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification” (214). However, the RCC adds that after the initial application of salvation, the new believer embarks on a cooperative and synergistic venture with God toward ultimate salvation (215). 26. ​WHAT IS THE CATHOLIC VIEW OF JUSTIFICATION? The RCC teaches that God’s grace initiates an inward change of sinful people such that they begin to become truly righteous. It is Christ’s act of redemption that is the ground of justification for both Roman Catholics and Protestants. However, Roman Catholics believe that through their cooperation with divine grace, they can earn merits and gain eternal salvation. A merit is “the recompense God owes to the faithful as a reward for their part in this divine-human cooperative process” (222). “In summary, the Catholic view of justification includes the forgiveness of sins, regeneration, sanctification, a synergy of divine-human cooperation, divine grace infused through the sacraments, and the earning of merits for the attainment of eternal life” (223). CCC 1989 - The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man. CCC 2008 - The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit. “In summary, the Catholic view of justification includes the forgiveness of sins, regeneration, sanctification, a synergy of divine-human cooperation, divine grace infused through the sacraments, and the earning of merits for the attainment of eternal life” (223). PROTESTANTS. The doctrine of justification is the most divisive doctrine between Catholics and Protestants. Where the two traditions differ is in the way that justification is appropriated. Where the RCC appropriates justification through faith and the sacrament of baptism, Protestants believe that justification is through faith alone, not faith plus works or faith plus the sacraments. Protestants believe that it is God alone who justifies whereas Catholics believe that justification is a cooperative effort with God on the part of the believer. In contrast to believing that God justifies good people who are cooperating with God’s grace to one day merit eternal life, Protestants believe that God “justifies the ungodly” (Rom 4:5), “credits righteousness apart from works” (Rom 4:6-8), that there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). Justification for Protestants is the once and for all legal judgment by God, “not guilty.” WARNING. Contrary to the opinion of most Protestants, the RCC emphasizes the initiating role of God’s grace in justification and the fact that “no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification” (see CCC 2010 above). 27. ​DID CATHOLICISM AND PROTESTANTISM COME TO AGREEMENT ABOUT JUSTIFICATION? No. While efforts have been made (The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification), the doctrine of justification remains a—perhaps the—significant divide between Roman Catholic’s and Protestants. 28. ​WHAT IS THE CATHOLIC VIEW OF REGENERATION AND SANCTIFICATION? The RCC closely associates justification, regeneration, and sanctification. Baptism starts the process of regeneration and sanctification. Sanctification is enabled by the infusion of grace through the sacraments. Regeneration. Regeneration comes about by (1) the infusion of grace in the sacrament of baptism, (2) which causes infants to be cleansed of their original sin and adults of both their original and actual sin, (3) give them a new nature, and (4) join them to Christ and His Church. The basis of the RCC’s doctrine on regeneration derives from Jesus’s words in John 3:5, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” The RCC interprets “water” here to be the sacramental waters of baptism. Sanctification. Following baptism, the person is sanctified through new infusions of grace contained within the sacraments. “Through the sacramental economy of the Church, the Catholic faithful continue to receive new infusions of grace for the increase of sanctification” (239). After death, it is necessary for most Catholics to undergo a final purification to achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven. PROTESTANTS. Protestants see clearer distinctions between justification, regeneration, and sanctification. Regeneration. Protestants disagree with baptismal regeneration. In John 3:5, they see Jesus’s reference of being “born of water and the Spirit” as a reference to Ezekiel 36:25-27 that explains what it means to be “born again.” To be born again is to be cleansed of sin and given a new heart that delights to follow God’s ways. Baptism is a sign of this cleansing and new life, but it has no regenerative power in itself. Sanctification. Sanctification, according to Protestants, is “the cooperative work of God and Christians (Phil. 2:12–13) by which ongoing transformation into greater Christ-likeness occurs. Such maturing transpires particularly through the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 5:16–23) and the Word of God (John 17:17)” (240). Protestants argue that sanctification is not a means of achieving salvation but is a result of having been saved. 29. ​WHAT IS THE CATHOLIC VIEW OF PERSEVERANCE AND ASSURANCE OF SALVATION? The RCC teaches that God’s grace can be resisted and faith to be a virtue that can be lost (along with salvation; 1 Cor. 10:12; Phil 2:12; 1 Tim. 1:19). According to the divine-human cooperative process, if the “Catholic faithful do not continue to collaborate and progress in holiness, they will not persevere” (247). CCC 162 - Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.” To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church. CCC 1993 - Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent: When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight. PROTESTANTS. Perseverance of the Saints. Most Protestant churches teach that once someone is truly saved, they cannot lose their salvation. In John 10:27, Jesus states, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Rather than being dependent on one’s faithfulness, the perseverance of the saints is dependent on God’s faithfulness to persevere those whom He has chosen. Thus, Protestants believe that those who do not persevere were never truly saved (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:1-15; 1 John 5:11–13; 1Pet 1:5). Assurance of Salvation. Assurance of salvation is “the subjective confidence that is the privilege of all genuine believers that they will remain Christians throughout their life. This doctrine is dependent on the doctrine of perseverance …. Such assurance is experienced by means of Christ’s sacrificial death (Heb. 10:19–20), through the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:16), and by the confidence that comes through faith in the promises of Scripture (1 John 5:11–13)” (243-244). 30. ​WHAT IS THE CATHOLIC VIEW OF THE ROLE OF GOOD WORKS AND MERIT? The RCC teaches that God prepares people to receive His grace. Once they have received His grace, God continues to strengthen and equip the Catholic faithful through the sacraments so that, through their cooperation, they are able to merit eternal salvation. Alison writes, “Synergism is at the heart of the Catholic view of salvation. God, by his initiative, prepares people through grace and, once they have received it, continues to strengthen and equip his people with grace. The Catholic faithful, then, responding to God’s initiative and transformed by infused grace, cooperate with it, engage in good works, and thus do their part to merit eternal life. God rewards his people’s good works and considers them as meritorious for salvation” (252). CCC 2010 - Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. “The Catholic faithful, then, responding to God’s initiative and transformed by infused grace, cooperate with it, engage in good works, and thus do their part to merit eternal life. God rewards his people’s good works and considers them as meritorious for salvation” (252). PROTESTANTS. The Protestant view of salvation leaves no room for meriting or attaining salvation. Because God “raises the dead to life” (Rom 4:17), Protestants teach that salvation is monergistic: God saves apart from any human effort (Eph 2:8-9). Alison writes, “And what of good works? Out of thankfulness for their standing before God through justification, and as the fruit of their new nature through regeneration and sanctification, Christians engage in good works, which God himself will richly reward—grace upon grace! Such rewards, however, have nothing to do with merit as Catholic theology understands that idea. God alone has accomplished salvation for sinful people through Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. They have been declared completely righteous through the divine act of justification. They cannot contribute to their salvation nor increase their justification. So they engage in good works out of a heart of thankfulness for divine grace” (253). Both Paul and James contend that those whom God justifies will engage in good works. Good works show that someone has been saved but play no part in the act of saving. “Saving faith that justifies results in good works, but it is not contingent on those works” (255; quote from Brian Vickers). Thus, Protestants reject the Catholic view.  (Rom. 3:28; 4:1-5; Eph. 2:8-10; James 2:20-24). [Additional note - As stated in Ephesians 2:9, good works are excluded so that (1) boasting is eliminated on our part and so that (2) God receives all of the glory in salvation.] 31. ​WHAT IS THE ROLE OF PURGATORY IN THE CATHOLIC VIEW OF SALVATION? The RCC believes that all people will go to either heaven or hell. Some of those that go to heaven must first enter a place of purgatory. Here, the Catholic faithful undergo purification in order to “achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC 1030). It is in purgatory that their remaining debt is paid off through prayers, offering Eucharistic sacrifices, indulgences, and the use of other means on their behalf (2 Maccabees 12:38-46; Matthew 12:31-32; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). RCC 1030 - All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. RCC 1031 - The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. PROTESTANTS. Protestant’s find the notion of purgatory to contradict their doctrine of justification. First, they believe that either Christ’s life, death, and resurrection achieved “the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” or it didn’t. There is no middle ground. Second, they find the notion of achieving “the holiness necessary” to stand in contradiction to Scripture (Rom. 3:28; 4:1-5; Eph. 2:8-10). Third, Protestant’s find the use of 2 Maccabees 12 to support the idea of purgatory as (1) suspicious due to its timing of being declared canon by the RCC in 1546 as a response to the reformation and (2) self-conflicting in that the RCC teaches that the sin of idolatry—that which Judas and his soldiers commit in 2 Maccabees 12—is a mortal sin. According to the RCC, a mortal sin leads to hell, not purgatory (see CCC 1033 below). CCC 1033 - To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.” Fourth, Protestants believe that the RCC inserts their own ideas of purgatory into their interpretations of Matthew 12:31-32 and 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. In Matthew 12:32, Jesus says, “Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” The RCC interprets this verse to mean that there are some sins that can be forgiven in the “age to come.” Protestants believe that the RCC miss Jesus’s actual point about the heinousness of blasphemy against the Spirit which will never be forgiven, “either in this life of in the age to come.” Regarding 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, the RCC interprets the idea of testing by fire as relating to the purification process that the Catholic faithful will experience in purgatory. Protestants believe that this interpretation misses the context of the passage, where Paul’s focus is on Christians doing their work with excellence on the foundation of Christ so that when it is tested it will survive. SECTION E: QUESTIONS ABOUT MARY AND THE SAINTS CHAPTER 32. HOW DOES CATHOLICISM UNDERSTAND THE BIBLICAL TEACHING ABOUT MARY? The RCC teaches that: (1) Mary was a second Eve who could reverse the curse that had followed the first Eve’s failure; (2) Mary was protected from original sin from her conception; (3) Mary was sinless throughout her life; (4) the phrase “full of grace” in Luke 1:28 is a new name for Mary; (5) Mary’s response to the angel in Luke 1:38—“Let it be to me according to your word”—was an authoritative decree (a fiat) without which the divine plan of God would not have been accomplished; (6) Mary never had any other children; (7) Mary was a “mediatrix” between Jesus and mankind (based on Mary’s role when Jesus turned water into wine in John 2); (8) Mary was mother of Jesus and mother of the church (Redemptoris Mater, 24); (9) Mary received a type of apostolic mission (based on Mary’s presence with the other apostles in Acts 1:12-14); (10) unlike other believers, Mary’s soul and body was taken to heaven immediately at her death. CC 969 - This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation …. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. “There is mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle,” that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother … Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary “intercedes” for mankind” (271, quote from Redemptoris Mater) “By ‘suffering deeply with her only begotten Son and joining herself with her maternal spirit to his sacrifice,’ Mary lovingly consented ‘to the immolation [sacrifice] of the victim to whom she had given birth.’ … “Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his redeeming death.” (RM, 18, citing Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium, 58). PROTESTANTS. Protestants and Catholics agree on (1) the virginal conception of Jesus, (2) that Mary was blessed as she believed the words of the angel Gabriel, and (3) that Mary is an example of the obedience of faith. However, because biblical support is lacking or stands in contradiction to the 10 items referenced above, Protestants disagree with each doctrine articulated by the RCC. Several of these are articulated below. QUESTION 33 WHAT ARE THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION AND BODILY ASSUMPTION OF MARY? The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) believes that (1) Mary, “full of grace,” was redeemed from the moment of her conception and was thus preserved from the stain of original sin (her immaculate conception); (2) that Mary lived her entire life without sin; (3) that Mary remained a virgin her entire life; (4) that because she was free from sin, Mary was taken to heaven body and soul (her bodily assumption; while the RCC claims that this has been its’ position for centuries, this has been official “tradition” since 1950); (5) prays to Mary “under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix” (CCC 969) and “Queen over all things” (281-282). CCC 493 - By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long. CCC 966 - The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians. CCC 969 - Under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854, Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death. (Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, November 1, 1950, PROTESTANTS. As noted in the previous chapter, because biblical support is lacking or stands in contradiction to the RCC position, Protestants disagree with the RCC for the following reasons (numbers correspond to the RCC position above). (1 and 2) Scripture states that all humans sin. Because Scripture never specifies that Mary did not sin and because Jesus’s family—which seems most often to include Mary—did not understand and even resisted Him (Mark 3:20-21), Protestants disagree with this RCC teaching (1 Kings 8:46; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:10–18, 23; 1 John 1:8–10). (3) Joseph “knew her not until she had given birth to a son” (Matt. 1:25; emphasis added). Mary was a virgin until she had given birth to Jesus. Afterwards, Joseph and Mary had other sons, James, Joseph, Judas and Simon, and at least two daughters (Matt. 12:46; 13:55-56; Mark 3:31-35; 6:3; Luke 8:19; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5; Gal. 1:19). (4) Because most Protestants believe that, following death, Christians enter a time of disembodiment as they wait for the final resurrection of their bodies (2 Cor. 5:1–9), and because there is a lack of biblical warrant for Mary’s immaculate assumption, they reject this notion. (5) Scripture uses the names “helper,” “advocate,” and “mediator” for Jesus and the Holy Spirit, never for Mary (1 Tim. 2:5–6). Protestants also find that the RCC teaching of Mary’s central role in Jesus’s death detracts from His redemptive work. QUESTION 34 WHO ARE THE SAINTS, AND WHAT IS THEIR ROLE? The RCC believes that the saints are: (1) models of holiness and faithful Catholics who “practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace” (holiness of the saints; CCC 828); (2) are interceding for the Catholic faithful on earth and for the souls in purgatory (communion of the saints; 289); (3) can help the Catholic faithful in purgatory get to heaven quicker with their extra acquired merits beyond what they themselves needed (treasury of the saints); (4) the Catholic church on earth can disburse these merits to the Catholic faithful who purchase indulgences in order to open the treasury of merit of Christ and the saints for the remission of sins (CCC 1478). CCC 1478 - An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity. PROTESTANTS. Protestants disagree with most of these teachings because they lack biblical support. When Scripture refers to the saints, it refers to all Christians (1 Cor. 1:2 – “called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”). Alison writes, “Through the gospel, sinful people are saints by divine decree, or they are not saints but lost instead. There is no such thing as sufficient progress toward meriting eternal life” (292). While God the Son and God the Spirit intercede for Christians (Rom. 8:26–27, 34), there is not a single mention of Mary or the saints interceding on behalf of believers in the New Testament. Nor can the notion of praying to Mary or the saints be found. Nor does this idea exist in the first two-hundred years of Church history (292). Because sinful people are declared “not guilty” and “righteous” by God’s divine decree rather than anything that they have done, are doing, or will do, Protestants reject the idea of progress towards meriting eternal life (Eph 2:8-9). PART 3: CONTEMPORARY AND PERSONAL QUESTIONS SECTION A: QUESTIONS ABOUT THE STATE OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH TODAY 35. ​WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CHALLENGES FACING THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TODAY? Allison focuses on 4 major challenges that the Catholic Church faces today: (1) the sexual abuse scandal and the numerous ensuing cover-up attempts; (2) the scandal of clerical homosexuality whereby clergy engage in homosexual activity and a gay lifestyle (estimates range from 30 to 50% of the clergy; Pope Francis also confirmed the presence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican); (3) the ambiguity of Pope Francis toward traditional Catholic doctrines and practices; (4) a lack of priests for the growing number of Catholics (420,000 priests in 1970 to 414,500 in 2017; 303). 36. ​WHAT CONTRIBUTIONS HAVE THE LAST THREE POPES MADE TO THE CHURCH? John Paul II (1978-2005). John Paul II was an advocate for human rights, freedom, and democracy. His devotion on Mary, Mother of the Redeemed in Redemptoris Mater (March 25, 1987), reaffirmed the RCC traditional doctrines of Mary including her immaculate conception, perpetual virginity, sinlessness, suffering at the cross, and bodily assumption, as well as her titles of Advocate, Benefactress, Helper, Co-Mediatrix. It also confirmed her traditional role as Mother of the Church and of all people. Once when recovering from being shot, he attributed his survival to the intervention of Mary. Finally, John Paul II reaffirmed the Church’s traditional rejection of women to the priesthood and opposition to clerical marriage. Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013). Pope Benedict XVI’s tenure was characterized by the “Roman” aspect of Roman Catholicism. He led a commission of twelve cardinals to write a new Roman Catholic Catechism. Notably, the catechism updated many issues such as the two movements of the Mass, an inclusivist view of salvation, and the necessity of ecumenical dialogue (309). He was a champion of the relationship between faith and reason as well as the virtues of faith, hope, and love. Pope Francis (2013-). Pope Francis’s time as pope has been marked by controversy. He affirmed the compatibility of the creation account with evolution. He’s publicly commented on atheists going to heaven because they obeyed “their conscience,” because they were “good,” and because “The Lord has redeemed all of us … Everyone … Even the atheists.” Lastly, Francis made headlines with his declaration that priests have the authority to forgive the sin of “procuring abortion,” which has traditionally been held by the RCC as one of the gravest sins punishable by excommunication. SECTION B: PERSONAL QUESTIONS ABOUT ROMAN CATHOLIC FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS 37. ​WHY ARE SOME LEAVING PROTESTANT CHURCHES AND JOINING CATHOLIC CHURCHES? Some are leaving Protestant churches to join Catholic churches in a search for transcendence in four areas: certainty, history, unity, and authority (316). The Protestant churches they know lack the sense of reverence and robustness that they find attractive in the Roman Catholic Church. “The [Roman Catholic] Church’s historical consciousness contrasts with the temporality of evangelicalism. It provides Protestants who become Catholic with a sense of connectedness to the past” (317). The numerous denominations and divisions that exist within Protestant churches is met with unity and universality in the RCC (united by the Creed, by a common liturgy, structurally organized according to apostolic succession, etc.). Great comfort is found in what they see as the historical certainty and stability, universal unity (catholicity), and strong sense of authority they find present in the RCC. 38. ​WHAT IS THE RATIONALE BEHIND SOME OF THE PRACTICES OF MY CATHOLIC FRIENDS? Alison describes the rationale behind five common Roman Catholic practices. (1) Indulgences. Indulgences are still an essential part of the RCC. A person can obtain an indulgence by following a prescribed course of action. Then, the church pulls from the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to “obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishment due for their sins” (CCC 1478). See CCC 1471 above for the definition of an indulgence. See CCC 1478 for how an indulgence can be attained. (2) Abstaining from meat on Friday’s. Canon Law 1983 stipulates that abstinence from meat is to be practiced on all Fridays except for special feast days when they fall on a Friday. These fasts constitute acts of penance. While the observance of this practice has waned, the abstinence from eating meat on Friday’s is a fast that is intended to unite Catholic’s around the world. (3) The Crucifix. The crucifix (an image of Jesus hanging on the cross) is worn as a reminder of (1) Jesus’s atoning sacrifice for our sins and (2) Jesus’s example of self-denial in carrying one’s cross and suffering in the same way that He did (Matt 16:24; 1 Pet 2:21-25). (4) The Sign of the Cross (see CCC 2157 below). The sign of the cross serves to (1) mark the Catholic faithful, (2) acknowledge the Trinity (“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit …”), reminds them of Christ’s saving work on the cross, and supports them in their daily struggles. There is a strong biblical (Matt 28:19), theological, and historical basis for acknowledging the Trinity in the sign of the cross. Tertullian, Cyril, Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, and Athanasius were some of the early church fathers who mentioned this practice. Martin Luther also approved of the sign of the cross. CCC 2157 - The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father. The sign of the cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties. (5) Praying the Rosary. The rosary is a string of beads that serves as a counting device for the Catholic faithful to use in an exercise of prayer. One pass through the rosary includes 150 “Hail Mary’s” to Mary, the mother of Jesus, which is done three times (450 Hail Mary’s total; here is a link for “How to Pray the Rosary”). 39. ​WHAT ARE SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS THAT CATHOLICS HAVE OF PROTESTANTS? Alison describes three misconceptions that Catholics have of Protestants. (1) The Five Solas. There are several misconceptions that many Catholics have of the Protestant five solas (sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola fidei (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone). Sola Scriptura. Catholics misunderstand the Protestant principle of sola Scriptura to mean that there is no authority outside of Scripture and that tradition is to be outright rejected. This misconception often stems from misinformed Protestant’s saying such things as, “no creed but the Bible.” Contrary to this misconception, however, Protestant’s (1) affirm and embrace the early church creeds (Nicene-Constantinopolitan, Apostles’, Athanasian, Chalcedonian); (2) affirm and embrace the early church councils—Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon; (3) stand with the early church which condemned heresy. Again, the Protestant Reformation was a protest against the abuses of the RCC. The reformers desired a reform to the purity of the early church which derived its ultimate authority from Scripture. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura stands against the Roman Catholic tri-part authority structure of Scripture, Tradition, and the magisterium. While Protestants reject the capital T Tradition of the RCC, they affirm and embrace tradition that is chastened by the authority of Scripture. Sola Fidei and Sola Gratia. Many Catholics misunderstand sola fidei and sola gratia to mean that Protestants have no place for good works. However, what Protestants deny is that good works can contribute anything to salvation (Eph 2:8-9). Salvation is by God’s grace alone through His gift of faith alone for the glory of God alone. When someone is born again, they can begin to do good works because they are now dead to sin and alive in Christ (Eph 2:10). Protestants are free to do works that are indeed good and pleasing to God because they have been saved, not in order that they might be saved. Good works are a fruit of having been saved, not a root that is needed to be saved. Protestants believe that the RCC view of meriting or in any way contributing to one’s salvation stands in direct contradiction to the clear teaching of Scripture and minimizes the glory of God alone in salvation (soli Deo Gloria; Eph 2:1-10). Thus, with sola fidei and sola gratia (and solus Christus), the Protestant Reformation protested the Roman Catholic notion of faith plus works as contributing to or meriting one’s salvation. Protestants are free to do works that are indeed good and pleasing to God because they have been saved, not in order that they might be saved. Good works are a fruit of having been saved, not a root that is needed to be saved. (2) Individualistic Conscience. When Catholics look at the Protestant tradition over the past 500 years, they see an elevated view of the individual conscience that has led to the fracturing of both churches and denominations alike. Indeed, Protestant history has been fraught with division over the last five-hundred years. However, Protestants believe that it is not the individual conscience or Protestantism itself that led to these divisions. The reformers sought to reform the RCC to the teachings of Scripture. Because the RCC rejected this rebuke, divisions ensued. The aim of the reformers whose individual consciences were bound to and driven by the Word of God was to reform the Roman Catholic Church from the inside, not to start a revolution. (3) Interpretative Chaos. Finally, Catholics see an interpretive chaos in the different Protestant traditions that leads to divisions that are easily solved in the Catholic tradition that submits to the single interpretation of the magisterium. Alison colorfully illustrates the horror Catholics experience when visiting small groups and hearing a question such as, “What does this verse mean to you?” While the variety of interpretations are rightfully disconcerting, Protestants reject the idea that the individual reader or an individual group is the final interpreter of Scripture. In contrast, because God is the single divine author of Scripture, Protestants believe that (1) Scripture has one authorial intent, (2) that this intent can be made clear by the Holy Spirit, (3) that the validity of intent can be achieved, and (4) that Scripture itself is its best interpreter (clearer parts explain the parts that are less clear). Also, while some may find the single and final interpretation of the Magisterium as attractive and unifying, Protestants do not. Because Protestants believe that the Magisterium has misinterpreted, distorted, and inserted their own ideas into Scripture, they reject this single “interpretation” as better. 40. ​HOW CAN I TALK WITH MY CATHOLIC LOVED ONES ABOUT THE GOSPEL? Alison concludes his work with three ways to talk to Catholics about the Gospel. (1) Love. First, he emphasizes the need to be (or become) the right kind of people. He encourages those who are former Catholics to resist expressions of resentment. Such expressions have the potential to destroy relationships. Instead, he encourages the cultivation of strong and loving relationships with loved ones who are Catholic. (2) Gospel Reading Groups. Second, Allison suggests reading groups with Catholics. These groups study the Gospels in three steps: (1) they read the gospel text from the mass that day two times; (2) they pray for an understanding of the text; (3) they study the text together. The study time is broken up into three sections: observation, interpretation, and application. (3) The Gospel as the Hope for All. Finally, he reminds the reader that the gospel is the only hope of any person, whether they are Roman Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, Atheist, Hindu, etc. Instead of quick gospel presentations that call for an immediate response, Alison encourages “significant exposure to the person and work of Christ on their behalf” (346). Alison’s concludes his work with an emphasis on the affirmation: “Faith comes from hearing” (Rom. 10:11). He writes, “In conjunction with the Holy Spirit, the gospel ignites faith, convicts of sin, exposes the futility of religious practices, softens hardened hearts, and brings about the new birth. … When sharing the gospel with Catholics, the final question I ask them before encouraging them to turn to Christ is, ‘Have you ceased to rely on all your own efforts to earn God’s love and forgiveness?’ My question highlights that doing good works, going to Mass, trusting in our baptism and participation in the other sacraments, and more, still expresses reliance on our self-righteousness and our good works to prepare us for salvation. … Central to our concern is the simple formula ‘faith + ________’ (fill in the blank: going to Mass, doing good works, depending on our baptism, relying on the infusion of sacramental grace, praying the rosary, and more) cancels faith and renders salvation null and void” (346-347). ‘Have you ceased to rely on all your own efforts to earn God’s love and forgiveness?’ CONCLUSION I hope that this summary of Alison's work has provided you with a brief, objective, and accurate primer on the formal teachings of the RCC. I also hope that you will consider purchasing Alison’s book, 40 Questions About Roman Catholicism to gain a more thorough understanding of the RCC. May the Lord use this work to stimulate conversations that are necessary, honest, and God-honoring.

  • Summary of "Desiring God" by John Piper

    INTRODUCTION: HOW I BECAME A CHRISTIAN HEDONIST Contrary to his previous belief that true worship required self-denial and a suppression of his own desire for happiness, John Piper recounts the moment he realized that, where God is not treasured and enjoyed, he is not truly worshiped. He reflects on his shift from thinking that pleasure and worship were at odds with one another to seeing the reality that a deep pleasure in God is the only form of worship that truly glorified God. AIM: Piper states that his aim for this book is to show that we cannot think of glorifying God and enjoying him as two separable entities, but that man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him. Joy is essential for true worship. “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” -C. S. Lewis “My old effort to achieve worship with no self-interest in it proved to be a contradiction in terms. God is not worshiped where He is not treasured and enjoyed (22).” CHAPTER 1. THE HAPPINESS OF GOD: FOUNDATION FOR CHRISTIAN HEDONISM The foundation of ultimate happiness is found in the spilling over of the happiness of God. God delights in his own glory spilling over. In creation, God “went public” with the glory that reverberated joyfully between the Father and the Son. There’s something about the fullness of God’s joy that inclines it to overflow. There is an expansive quality to His joy. It wants to share itself ... The climax of his happiness is the delight he takes in the echoes of his excellence in the praises of His saints (44-46) CHAPTER 2. CONVERSION: THE CREATION OF A CHRISTIAN HEDONIST To be converted means that our desires have been converted from seeing anything else — family, fame, fortune, prestige, etc. — could be considered as "rubbish" compared to the infinite treasure of knowing Christ (Matt 13:44; Phil 3:8). All kinds of lukewarm, world loving church attenders say they believe. The world abounds with millions of unconverted people who say they believe in Jesus. … Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, “Believe in the Lord,” but, “Delight yourself in the Lord”? (54-55) The treasure in the field is the fellowship of God in Christ. (70) Saving faith is the heartfelt conviction not only that Christ is reliable, but also that he is desirable. (73) CHAPTER 3. WORSHIP: THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HEDONISM Rather than being simply an action, worship is a state of being, a state of overwhelming delight, wonder, and awe in beholding the majesty of God — the sweetest and most edifying food that is available for our souls. If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (Jesus in John 7:37-39) But true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship … The fuel of worship is the truth of God; the furnace of worship is the spirit of man; and the heat of worship is the vital affections of reverence, contrition, trust, gratitude, and joy. 82 Without the engagement of the heart, we do not really worship. 87 We usually say, [we receive Christ] as Lord and savior. That's right. But something more needs to be said. Saving faith also receives Christ as our treasure. A non-treasured Christ is a non-saving Christ. Faith has in it this element of valuing, embracing, prizing, and relishing Christ. 90 If I take my wife out for the evening on our anniversary and she asks me, “why do you do this?” the answer that honors her most is “because nothing makes me happier tonight than to be with you.” “It's my duty,” is a dishonor to her. “It's my joy,” is an honor. There it is! The feast of Christian hedonism. How shall we honor God in worship? By saying, “it's my duty?” Or by saying, “it's my joy?” 94 CHAPTER 4. LOVE: THE LABOR OF CHRISTIAN HEDONISM “Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.” 119 It is essential to the preacher's success that he should thoroughly enjoy his work... The more thoroughly you enjoy it, the better you'll do it. 128 The joy of experiencing the power of God's grace defeating selfishness is an insatiable addiction … When a person delights in the display of the glorious grace of God, that person will want to see as many displays of it as possible in other people. If I can be God's means of another person's miraculous conversion, I will count it all joy because what would I rather see than another display of the beauty of God's grace in the joy of another person? My joy is doubled in his. 141 CHAPTER 5. SCRIPTURE: KINDLING FOR CHRISTIAN HEDONISM Scripture contains the embers that the Holy Spirit breathes upon to inflame our delight in and desire for the Lord. This has been the secret of God's great spiritual warriors. They have saturated themselves with the Word of God. 151 I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished ... I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God and to meditation on it. Now what is the food for the inner man: not prayer, but the word of God: and here again not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts. (George Müller) 155-157 CHAPTER 6. PRAYER: THE POWER OF CHRISTIAN HEDONISM We pray so that “the Father might be glorified” and so that our “joy may be full.” (Jesus in John 14:13 and 16:24) The most precious truth in the Bible is that God's greatest interest is to glorify the wealth of His grace by making sinners happy in Him—in Him! 159 Here is a compact, a covenant that God enters into with you who pray to him, and whom he helps. He says, “you shall have the deliverance, but I must have the glory.” Here is a delightful partnership: we obtain that which we so greatly need, and all that God giveth is the glory which is due unto his name … God gets the glory; we get the delight. 163 Evidently, there is a way to serve God that would belittle him as needy of our service … God is not looking for people to work for Him, so much as He is looking for people who will let Him work for them. Religious flesh always wants to work for God rather than humbling itself to realize that God must work for them in free grace. 168, 171-172 We have taken a wartime walkie-talkie and tried to turn it into a civilian intercom to call the servants for another cushion in the den ... we see repeatedly in Scripture that prayer is a walkie-talkie for warfare, not a domestic intercom for increasing our conveniences. 177-178 If you don't plan a vacation, you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer, you must plan to see it. 183 CHAPTER 7. MONEY: THE CURRENCY OF CHRISTIAN HEDONISM How we spend our money reflects where we find our greatest joy. Jesus tells us to pursue eternal joy – to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven — by using our money for Christ’s glory. Piper encourages us to adopt a wartime mentality that is content with what we have so that we can focus on accomplishing God’s mission rather than our own. We can be content with simplicity because the deepest, most satisfying delights God gives us through creation are free gifts from nature and from loving relationships with people. After your basic needs are met, accumulated money begins to diminish your capacity for these pleasures rather than increase them. 189 According to the Status of Global Mission 2010, only .1% of the total global church member annual income goes to foreign missions. Of that, only 1% goes towards reaching the unreached. 190 Are you awake and free from the false messages of American merchandising? Or has the omnipresent economic lie so deceived you that the only sin you can imagine in relation to money is stealing? 192 We know our joy in heaven will be greater if the people we treat with mercy are won over to the surpassing worth of Christ and join us in praising him. 195 CHAPTER 8. MARRIAGE: A MATRIX FOR CHRISTIAN HEDONISM Piper argues that love is “the pursuit of our own joy in the joy of the beloved … love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved” (206-207). God intentionally created marriage as a symbol of Christ’s relationship with His Church: the husband emulating Christ by taking initiative and responsibility, nourishing, guiding, and protecting his bride; the wife emulating the church by recognizing, honoring, and yielding to her husband’s leadership. God grants us in marriage the privilege to image forth stupendous divine realities infinitely bigger and greater than ourselves. 213 A word to husbands: You should feel the great responsibility to take the lead in the things of the Spirit; you should lead the family in the life of prayer, in the study of God‘s Word, and worship; you should lead in giving your family a vision of its meaning and mission; you should take the lead in shaping the moral fabric of the home and in governing it’s happy peace. … Where a man belongs is at the bedside of his children, leading in devotion and prayer. Where a man belongs is leading his family to the house of God. Where a man belongs is up early and alone with God seeking vision and direction for his family. 218 The fall twisted man’s loving headship into hostile domination in some men and lazy indifference in others. The fall twisted women’s intelligent, willing submission into manipulative obsequiousness in some women and brazen insubordination in others. The redemption we anticipate at the coming of Christ is not the dismantling of the created order of loving headship and willing submission, but a recovery of it. This is precisely what we find in Ephesians 5:21–33. 220. For us, marriage has been a matrix for Christian hedonism. As each pursues joy in the joy of the other and fulfills a God ordained role, the mystery of marriage as a parable of Christ in the church becomes manifest for his great glory and our great joy. 221. CHAPTER 9. MISSIONS: THE BATTLE CRY OF CHRISTIAN HEDONISM In contrast to being an endeavor of self-pity and self denial, a life on mission with God is the boundless and joyful and spiritually healing work of being an instrument that God uses to do the humanly impossible work of raising the spiritually dead to new life. There is nothing that could bring us more pleasure than living for the glory of God. Most men are not satisfied with the permanent output of their lives. Nothing can always satisfy the life of Christ within his followers, except the adoption of Christ’s purpose toward the world he came to redeem. Fame, pleasure, and riches are but husks and ashes in contrast with the boundless and abiding joy of working with God for the fulfillment of His eternal plans. The men who are putting everything into Christ’s undertaking are getting out of life it’s sweetest and most priceless rewards. (J. Campbell White) 222 My burden in this chapter is to kindle a desire in your heart to be part of the last chapter of the greatest story in the world … I pray that every reader of this book might become what David Bryant calls a “world Christian” – that you would re-order your life around God’s global cause. 231-233 Jesus wants us to think about sacrifice in a way that rules out all self-pity. 241. Missions is the automatic outflow of an overflow of love for Christ. We delight to enlarge our joy in Him by extending it to others. As Lottie Moon said, “Surely there can be no deeper joy than that of saving souls.” 245–246 Missionaries are not heroes who can boast in great sacrifice for God. They are true Christian hedonists. They know that the battle cry of Christian hedonism is missions. They have discovered one-hundred times more joy and satisfaction in a life devoted to Christ and the gospel than in a life devoted to frivolous comforts and pleasures and worldly advancements. And they have taken to heart the rebuke of Jesus: beware of a self-pitying spirit of sacrifice! Missions is gain! Hundredfold gain! 250 I appeal to you to take off your store-bought rags and put on the garments of God’s ambassadors. 251 CHAPTER 10. SUFFERING: THE SACRIFICE OF CHRISTIAN HEDONISM When we see knowing God as our greatest treasure, we can see suffering for Christ as a gift because suffering (1) weans us from self-reliance and increases our reliance upon Christ; (2) it is often the means for another people’s salvation — the means by which we get to see others become “ new prisms for refracting His glory”; (3) seeing others experience what we enjoy in Christ deepens our joy in Christ; (4) it deepens our assurance that we are indeed Christ’s. Matt 5:11-12; Col 1:24; Phil 3; Acts 5:41 The pearl of greatest price is the glory of Christ. 260 “They who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls.” Charles Spurgeon 266 I have heard Tson interpret Colossians 1:24 by saying that Christ’s suffering is for propitiation; our suffering is for propagation. 278. The Calvary Road with Jesus is not a joyless road. It is a painful one, but it is a profoundly happy one. When we choose the fleeting pleasures of comfort and security over the sacrifices and sufferings of missions and evangelism and ministry and love, we choose against joy. We reject the spring whose waters never fail (Isaiah 58:11). The happiest people in the world are the people who experience the mystery of “Christ in them, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) satisfying their deep longings and freeing them to extend the afflictions of Christ through their own sufferings to the world. 286 EPILOGUE: WHY I HAVE WRITTEN THIS BOOK: SEVEN REASONS We glorify what we enjoy. Our reward increases as we share it. “The motive for writing this book is the desire to double my joy and God’s banquet of Grace by sharing it with as many as I can. I wrote this to you that my joy might be full” (reference to 1 John 1:4). 290 The chief end of man is the glorify God by enjoying him forever.

  • 20 Nuggets from Training for the Field

    Below are 20 nuggets from our time at training in Virginia prior to coming to the field. Many of these are direct quotes while some include our reflections after pressing into the different subjects that were presented. Because mission is the gas that the church runs on, we hope that these "lessons learned" will be helpful to you and your church wherever you might be. We were immensely blessed by our seven weeks on campus and are grateful to each of the people that made this such an encouraging time of equipping for our family. GOSPEL 1. GRAND-NARRATIVE. “The greatest tool for mobilizing churches to engage in God’s mission in the world is the meta-narrative of Scripture. When churches see how the entirety of Scripture points to God’s mission in the world and realize that they have an opportunity to be a part of His work among the nations, they’ll be inspired to go. Once they see God’s glory amongst the nations as a part of the meta-narrative, they’ll want to play their part.” -Mark Stevens 2. THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL. There are a plethora of noble humanitarian, social, economic, etc. efforts taking place around the world. According to a long-term statistical study conducted by Robert Woodberry, however, there is one effort that has brought far more lasting change in countries around the world than any other: the proclamation of the Gospel. Woodberry’s research finds that, “where Protestant missionaries had a significant historical presence, those countries on average are now more economically developed … have comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in non-governmental associations” (summary statement taken from The Truth About Missionaries (; original article can be found here, The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy). 3. THE SIMPLE GOSPEL. It is the simple gospel that has the power to transform lives. Keep it simple! Research has shown that the conveyance of the gospel is significantly inhibited when people try to "put the mask on" to develop a relationship for the purpose of sharing the gospel and then later "take the mask off” to actually share the gospel. Don't be so culturally sensitive that you end up living out a gospel that is void of power to transform. Culture must inform us. It can not drive us. 4. HOW CAN WE BE UNITED? "When the Great Commission is not the lead topic of conversation in the SBC, other topics will divide us." -Dr. Chitwood 5. OWN YOUR GEOGRAPHY. God has put you where you are for a reason. Don't be the reason that someone never hears the gospel. Engage your zip code with the good news. You must actively—not passively—pursue those around you. In the next twenty years, we can influence those who will reach the ends of the earth. 6. CALLING. "Go where you are needed most unless God has made it abundantly clear why you should stay where you are needed far less." -Zane Pratt "Go where you are needed most unless God has made it abundantly clear why you should stay where you are needed far less." -Zane Pratt DISCIPLE 7. LACKING. “One of the pitfalls of larger churches is that discipleship and accountability are not happening. Without accountability, discipleship (the transformation of a person into Christ’s likeness) can not occur. We have gotten so comfortable with the veneer that we wear that nobody actually knows us at a level where they can hold us accountable. To truly disciple someone, you have to show up and be a part of their life. Discipleship is not a foray into a Bible study or small group once a week and then you're done. You're sharing not only your words. You're sharing your life (1 Th 2:8). You're not teaching content. You're training people.” "To truly disciple someone, you have to show up and be a part of their life. Discipleship is not a foray into a Bible study or small group once a week and then you're done. You're sharing not only your words. You're sharing your life (1 Th 2:8). You're not teaching content. You're training people.” 8. FOUR ASPECTS. “There were 4 aspects of what it meant to be a disciple in Jesus’s day: (1) student; (2) companion and follower; (3) apprentice; (4) reflector. You could tell who a disciple’s teacher (rabbi) was not simply by what they taught, but how they taught ... their mannerisms and the way that they spoke. You need to be meeting with your disciples at least weekly. You don’t have to use a system or a workbook or a program. You must center your discipleship on the Word.” "You could tell who a disciple’s teacher (rabbi) was not simply by what they taught, but how they taught ... their mannerisms and the way that they spoke." 9. FIVE WAYS THAT JESUS DEFINES HIS DISCIPLES Radical. Luke 14:25-33 - A disciple of Jesus radically treasures Jesus above everything and everyone else. Dependent. John 8:31-32; John 15:1-11 - A disciple of Jesus abides in and depends upon Jesus's Word. Sacrificial. John 13:34-35 - A disciple of Jesus sacrificially loves others like Jesus. Fruitful. John 15:5-8 - A disciple of Jesus bears fruit for Jesus. Missional. Matthew 28:18-20 - A disciple of Jesus longs for God to be glorified in every nation and works toward that end. 10. TRANSFORMATIONAL VERSUS INFORMATIONAL DISCIPLESHIP: HEAD, HEART, HANDS. Problem. Most of what constitutes discipleship in America focuses on a transfer of information to a person rather than the transformation of a person. This imbalance is not simply dangerous, but harmful. While knowledge is a critical aspect of discipleship (John 8:31-32; Rom 12:2), discipleship that is biblical aims at transformation in every facet of life, not just one (mind, heart, will, affections, relationships, and purpose). We must no longer relegate being and doing to matters of secondary importance. We must resist the subconscious idea that obedience is an optional add-on. Solution. Practically speaking, two things need to occur. First, we must figure out ways to get brothers and sisters into relationships with other brothers and sisters where transparency (confession of sin) and accountability (follow-up on that confession) are actually occurring. Second, we must delegate a portion of our time to following-up on how the group or person has applied and shared the old information they received from the previous meeting before sharing new information. Biblical discipleship is transformational. It transforms the head, the heart, and the hands. Know. Be. Do. Most of what constitutes discipleship in America focuses on a transfer of information to the person rather than the transformation of the person. This imbalance is not simply neutral. It's dangerous. We must no longer relegate being and doing to matters of secondary importance. We must resist the subconscious idea that obedience is an optional add-on. CHURCH 11. TOWARDS A METRIC: It is part of the human condition to maximize the value of our strengths and minimize the importance of our weaknesses. The same is true when we think and speak about our church. Because our underlying prejudices and preferences can so easily distort reality, we find that it necessary to (1) identify how God defines a healthy church in His Word so that we can then (2) set a goal for what we are aiming at and (3) establish an objective metric to understand where we actually are on that continuum and (4) identify specific areas for where we need to grow to become a biblically healthy church. We have adapted this metric, How Healthy is My Church?, from one of our files at training as a good starting point towards an objective metric based God's Word. This is a document that we hope to continue to refine in the future. 12. THE PREDICTABILITY OF GROWTH AND DECLINE. Historically, when the members of a church grasp the biblical reality that they are a “priesthood of believers” and are actively engaged in the ministry itself, and the leaders of the church recognize that their biblical function is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry,” the church has grown (1 Pet 2:1-10; Eph 4:12). When the members of the church lose this sense of the "priesthood of all believers" and relegate the work of the ministry “to the paid professionals,” the church inevitably will begin to decline. Therefore, every disciple in the church must embrace their God ordained, biblical role among the “priesthood of believer’s” ... members and leaders alike. 13. DEEP OR WIDE? “We go deep and wide at the same time. When I first started as a missionary, I thought you could only do one or the other. I struggled with this for years (I came from seminary and thought you could only go deep). What we see in Acts and the Epistles is that Paul went deep and wide at the same time. As soon as I realized that you we need to do both, I was so much better off. The sooner you can get this, the better off you’ll be.” -Mark Stevens SPIRITUAL WARFARE 14. A BATTLE … REALLY? Do we live our lives like there is a spiritual battle happening around us? At the end of the day, the belief that we most often functionally live from is the belief that, "if you work hard, you'll be successful." "At the end of the day, the belief that we most often functionally live from is the belief that, "if you work hard, you'll be successful." 15. WHY WE SIN AND HOW WE CAN STOP 16. SATAN’S TACTICS AND OUR VICTORY Satan wants to: Rob us from the best that God wants for us. Make us think we still have personal rights. Make us think that time and possessions our ours. Emphasize the self-life that is controlled by the flesh ... "My rights, my entitlements, what is right for ME, those are the temptations of Satan. The self-life is controlled by Satan and the flesh." 17. VICTORY. The basis for victory is our love for Jesus Christ. The most effective deterrent to the allure of the world is to have a heart that is desperate for God. (These last two nuggets were compiled from sessions taught by Clyde Meador). "The basis for victory is our love for Jesus Christ. The most effective deterrent to the allure of the world is to have a heart that is desperate for God." 18. ON HOLINESS. Don't take your holiness lightly. Set a non-negotiable for your time with the Lord. You have all you need to do and accomplish what He wants to do through you. 19. TWO ELEMENTS. There are two critical elements for success and longevity on the mission field: (1) thinking of others; (2) an attitude of gratitude. 20. DEFINING SUCCESS. Faithfulness is success. Faithfulness is defined as (1) working hard, (2) working smart, and (3) trusting God with the results.

  • Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    “For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account.” -the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 3:9 Thank you. Three-and-a-half years ago, we set out on a journey away from the familiar and into the unknown. We were able to do so because of God’s provision through many of you. We have not missed a meal, nor have we lacked a warm place to lay our head. This past week, we came onto a payroll for the first time in a number of years. We have been overwhelmed several times over this past week as we’ve reflected on God’s goodness to us whose faith still feels so small. Your generosity has allowed us to experience the trustworthiness of God, who has promised to give us “all things” as we “seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33). Because of you, our trust has grown. We render thanks “to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account” (1 Thess 3:9). All glory be to Christ our king! All glory be to Christ! His rule and reign we’ll ever sing, All glory be to Christ! (Spotify: All Glory Be to Christ) __ Resources for the new year. As we begin a new year tomorrow, we want to share some resources to help you pursue “His Kingdom and his righteousness.” They can be found here: Resources | DeclaringthePraises in editable Word files. Prayer journal. The first resource is a prayer journal with a different topic for each day. There are also hymns to lead you into worship as you approach the throne of grace and a place for you to record your specific prayer requests. Family worship guide. The second resource is a guide for leading your family in family worship. A brother once shared that the greatest inheritance that his father had ever given him was in leading his family into worship every day. Scripture is clear that parents are to disciple their children, and that God desires to be worshipped. In the words of Jonathan Edwards, “Every Christian family ought to be, as it were, a little church, consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by his rules.” Family retreat template. The third resource is a template for a family retreat, originally provided by one of our mentors, Will Ferguson (we have adapted it over time.) In the words of another mentor, Bob Hosford, “If you're going to plan your vacations, why don't you plan your life?” This document is aimed at providing a framework for you and your spouse to (1) reflect on the past year, (2) cast a vision for the year to come, (3) establish expectations, and (4) pray over these things as you worship. This tool has been immensely valuable for us over the last eight or nine years. Sanctification project. This last document is aimed at helping you put to death a besetting sin. The aim of this exercise is to bring an area of struggle before the Lord, identify its root, and put it to death by holding it to the light of Scripture. Future Plans. One of our children regularly asks if we’re “getting on the plane today.” Here is a stop motion video that we put together with our kids of our future plans (Lord willing). Prayer requests. (1) Please continue to pray that we would be efficient and effective in taking care of the necessary tasks before moving to Richmond, Virginia on January 23. (2) Please pray that we would have quiet hearts ... and that we would seize opportunities to share the good news about Christ during this season of transition. (3) Please pray that God would give us wisdom and patience to capitalize on the unique learning opportunities that we'll have with our children over the next few months—and that our children would better understand the goodness of the good news of the gospel ... and how deeply God our Father loves each of them. Again, we are so grateful to the Lord for each of you. We pray also for you, that God would strengthen your hearts through the magnificent promises of his word, and that he would give you his power and love to face each new day and each new year in the light of his glory and grace. He is worthy. Pressing on, Recommended Resources A New Year's Hymn: "All Glory Be to Christ" "When on the day the great I Am, The faithful and the true, The Lamb who was for sinners slain, Is making all things new. Behold our God shall live with us, And be our steadfast light, And we shall ere his people be, All glory be to Christ!" Book: Embodied: Living as Whole People in a Fractured World by Gregg Allison. “We have somehow internalized the unbiblical idea that the immaterial aspect of our being (our soul or spirit) is inherently good while the material aspect (our body) is at worst inherently evil and at best neutral--just a vehicle for our souls to get around. With Scripture as his guide, theologian Gregg Allison presents a holistic theology of the human body from conception through eternity to equip us to address pressing contemporary issues related to our bodies …” Children’s Book Series: The Chronicles of Narnia Box Set Our Recommended Resources Page: Recommended Resources | DeclaringthePraises Photos and Previous Newsletter Photos (December) DTP Newsletter (December 2022) | “Do you understand what this means?” ( "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

  • DTP Newsletter (December 2022) | “Do you understand what this means?”

    “Do you understand what this means?” The gentle words had barely left the pastor's mouth before the young, fourteen-year-old Muslim girl responded, “I'm not putting my faith in Christ because you are here. I'm putting my faith in Christ because I know in my heart that the story you just shared is true.” Aware of the Muslims around us, the pastor quietly asked once more, “Do you understand that trusting Christ means that you will most likely be persecuted?” With her head bowed, the young woman responded, “Yes, I understand.” This is one example of the roughly seventy evangelistic conversations that our teams had on our recent short-term vision trip. Of those seventy, nine professed Jesus as Lord. Praise God. It is a privilege to be instruments in His hands to see the spiritually dead raised to new life. West Africans are hungry for the truth but have little to no access to it. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. During our trip, we got to spent time with our teammates (who are awesome!), did training at a church leadership conference, prayer walked through one area of the city, and shared the gospel. While our trip was overwhelming at times, encounters like the one described above, the hospitality of those who have so little, and the character of the pastors that we met made us eager to return with our children. Meeting our teammates and experiencing unity with them and their children was a great blessing! This trip gave us a sweet affirmation that this is where we are supposed to be. Praise God! You can see photos of our trip here. Appointment. We were appointed as international workers by the Company on November 13 (sending celebration link here). It was an encouraging time of worship and prayer with new friends and fellow laborers. On that same night, our church voted to send us to west Africa as commissioned workers. Our church takes a “depth over breadth” mentality by investing deeply in a few strategic places around the world and by embracing each facet of the mobilization task. [Mobilization task. Here is a brief article that aims to help churches more fully embrace the mobilization task of every local church: The Local Church's Role in Mobilizing Missionaries.] It is an honor to be appointed and sent out from Clifton Baptist. We cannot express how grateful we are for our elders and our church family. There is nothing that excites us about leaving home and family. Yet, we are excited about the potential that God has in our new city and country. Family update. Our three boys played their first season of rec soccer. It was a joy to watch them play and spend time with other families. We continue to enjoy playing Sunday soccer with other families from our church on Sunday evenings. Visits. While we were in West Africa, my (Keith) parents graciously cared for and played with our children. We got to spend a few days with them when we got back. During our appointment conference in November, Shelley's parents were also able to care for and play with our children, and then afterwards, we spent several days with them in Gatlinburg at a cabin, loaned by dear friend loaned. At one point we saw two black bears enjoying seltzer waters inside our van! Thankfully, no damage was done. Thanksgiving. We enjoyed Thanksgiving with Shelley’s family in Morristown before traveling to Virginia to spend a few days with my parents. Future. We have about six weeks here in Louisville before moving to Richmond, Virginia for training on January 23. Our focus there will be on the 6 phases of the missionary task: (1) entry, (2) evangelism, (3) discipleship, (4) healthy church formation, (5) leadership development, and (6) exit to partnership. We will leave for west Africa shortly after our training concludes on March 11. Prayer requests. (1) Please pray that we would be efficient and effective in taking care of the necessary tasks before moving to Richmond, Virginia on January 23. (2) Please pray that we would have quiet hearts ... and that we would seize opportunities to share the good news about Christ during this season of transition. (3) Please pray that God would give us wisdom and patience to capitalize on the unique learning opportunities that we'll have with our children over the next few months—and that our children would better understand the goodness of the good news of the gospel ... and how deeply God our Father loves each of them. Abiding in Him, Security note: Some of this newsletter is left intentionally vague for security purposes. Please be careful with all electronic communication. Resources Book: 40 Questions on Roman Catholicism by Greg Alison In this work, Alison uses the formal teachings of the Roman Catholic Church to provide a thorough, charitable, and succinct summary of Roman Catholicism. Book: Foundations This resource is used broadly by various churches and missions' organizations as a foundational document for biblical missions. Book: Love Came Down at Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson YouTube: “What Should I Tell My Kids About Santa?” by John Piper In this episode of Ask Pastor John, John Piper addresses the underlying issue behind celebrating Santa Claus. Article: 10 Things You Should Know about St. Nicholas — Southern Equip ( Daily Strength for Daily Needs by Mary W. Tileston YouTube: Why Do We Share the Gospel? Sanctification Project. John Owen once stated, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you." Is there a besetting sin that you can't quite seem to put to death (Rom 8:12-14)? This Sanctification Project is meant to help you bring one besetting sin "under the microscope," so that you can identify its underlying causes over the course of several weeks and put that sin to death by holding it to the light of Scripture. The Local Church's Role in Mobilizing Missionaries ( Spotify: Almost Home by Matt Boswell and Matt Papa Embracing this song as we seek to cultivate a posture of "sojourners and exiles" with the short time we have here on earth. Support We are in Louisville by the grace of God and the support of His people. We are overwhelmed and humbled by those who have allowed us to be here. If you would like to consider partnering with us on this journey, simply click on the following link: MEI Support Page. Photos and Previous Newsletter Photos (October - December) DTP Newsletter (September 2022) | Clearance ( "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

  • The Local Church's Role in Mobilizing Missionaries

    This article aims to give a succinct summary of the local church's role in mobilizing missionaries according to the following outline: (1) defining terms; (2) the mobilization task of the local church; (3) the role of mission sending agencies. 1. DEFINING TERMS Gospel. The gospel is the good news that God has made a way for sinners to be restored to Himself and to His good design through the God-man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5-6). Disciple. A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ who, through an abiding relationship with Christ, will experience transformation in every aspect of life (transformed heart, mind, affections, will, relationships, purpose). [1] Because every believer is called to make disciples, every believer is involved in the mission of God (John 15:16). Sharing the gospel doesn't make someone a missionary. Sharing the gospel is the fruit of being a Christian—the inevitable result of a true and abiding relationship with Christ. A high view of God brings "springs of living water" to the most desolate of places (John 4). Thus, the mission of every church (made up of disciples) is most immediately tied to making and training disciples in its' God-given place. Church. A local church is comprised of (1) an assembly of born-again disciples of Jesus Christ who (2) have been baptized by immersion following their conversion who (3) are committed—covenantally and sacrificially—to God, God’s Word, and to one another, who (4) meet together regularly to carry out their biblical purpose (see image below), and who (5) exist to declare the glory of God both locally and globally. “An obsession with God and His glory is the hallmark of true knowledge of God.” [2] Mission. The mission of God is God’s, not ours. God receives glory as people come to delight themselves in Him and His good design (Hab 2:14). In the words of John Piper, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” God’s glory fuels His mission. God did not give His mission to missionaries. He gave His mission to the church. Genesis 1:27-28, 12:1-3; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8, 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 5:9-14, 7:9 Missions. The specific activity of the church is to carry out God's mission. Specifically, this entails the proclamation of the gospel, making disciples, and planting churches. Every local church exists as a result of God’s mission (Matt 28:18-20; Eph 3:10). God’s mission is thus not simply one aspect of what the local church does but is at the core of who the local church is. The identity of the church and its purpose are inextricably woven together (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 2:1-10). It is counterproductive, therefore, to think and speak of the “church” and “mission” as two entities that operate independently of one another. Mission is an identity, not an activity. The church does not have a mission. God’s mission has the church. Missionary. A missionary is a disciple who is sent out by their local church to carry out God’s mission across geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers. Every Christian is a product of God's mission. Every born-again Christian has also been given the purpose of advancing God's mission in the world (1 Pet 2:9). However, because every believer is not carrying out this mission across geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers, every Christian is not a missionary. Missionary task. The missionary task is composed of the following six elements that are derived from the New Testament: (1) entry, (2) evangelism, (3) discipleship, (4) healthy church formation, (5) leadership development, and (6) exit to partnership. [3] The only way to fulfill the missionary task and bear good fruit is through an abiding relationship with Christ (John 15:5). 2. THE MOBILIZATION TASK OF THE LOCAL CHURCH Mission and the church are indistinguishable from one another in the New Testament. As mentioned previously, however, it is common today to hear of God’s mission and God’s church discussed as if they were two separate entities operating largely independent of one another. Mission, however, is not simply one of the many activities of the church. Mission is the gas that the church runs on. The more a church embraces its’ God given mission as its' fundamental identity, the stronger that church will be. Praying. Prayer is the foundation of every other aspect of both the mobilization task and the missionary task (Matt 9:38). Prior to the birth of the church in Acts 2, we see the apostles, the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus’s brothers gathered in the upper room, “devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:13-14). Therefore, the local church must pray for the advancement of God's glory amongst the nations. Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain (Ps 127:1). Mobilizing. Every local church has six specific roles in the mobilization task of missions: (1) engaging in God's mission within one's own zip code through intentional evangelism and discipleship (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 5:42); (2) inspiring disciples to embrace God's mission to take the gospel to places where it has little to no access (Rom 1:5; 15:20, 24); (3) discerning disciples' strengths, weaknesses, and readiness for the field before encouraging and affirming their internal call to missions overseas (1 Pet 5:5; Heb 13:17; Rom 10:13); (4) equipping disciples for the mission (Rom 10:13-15); (5) sending disciples across geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8, 13:1-12; Rom 10:13-15); (6) supporting the mission and the missionaries that are on the field (see below; 3 John 7-8). Supporting. Regarding this sixth role, the local church plays an ongoing supporting function that consists of six parts: (1) praying for missionaries and the advance of God's mission among the nations; (2) giving financially to the mission; (3) communicating regularly with missionaries for accountability, counsel, and encouragement; (4) visiting/sending short-term teams to help with the task and support the missionaries; (5) hosting missionaries when they return home and utilizing these missionaries to help the church with the mobilization task (3 John 8); (6) mobilizing other likeminded disciples to become teammates through the process described above. [4] Key Scripture: Matt 9:38; John 20:21-23; 1 Peter 2:9-10; Eph 3:10; 3 John 1-8 4. THE ROLE OF THE MISSION AGENCY Mission sending agencies play a significant supporting role to churches who desire to send missionaries overseas. Because sending is a function of the local church, mission agencies do not send missionaries. Andy Johnson helpfully illustrates that sending agencies are like schools to which parents send their children. While the school (the mission agency) assists the parents (the local church), it is the parents who are ultimately responsible for their children (those who are sent). Such agencies provide significant expertise on key areas that the church is often not able to address, such as language, unique cultural concerns, overseas taxes, computer security, missionary health, etc. Agencies can also provide day-to-day supervision and field support.[5] They can provide helpful training for churches to send and support their missionaries well. [1] “Foundations: Core Missiological Concepts, Key Mission Terms, The Missionary Task” (International Mission Board, 2018), 12. [2] “Foundations: Core Missiological Concepts, Key Mission Terms, The Missionary Task” (International Mission Board, 2018), 28. [3] “Foundations: Core Missiological Concepts, Key Mission Terms, The Missionary Task” (International Mission Board, 2018), 75 [4] “Foundations: Core Missiological Concepts, Key Mission Terms, The Missionary Task” (International Mission Board, 2018), 34. [5] Johnson, Missions, 51–52.

  • DTP Newsletter (September 2022) | Clearance

    For those of you who have been praying for us, thank you. After months of waiting, it is a great joy to share that we’ve received medical clearance to go to West Africa! Thank you, Lord! We’ll be on a plane(s) to that part of the world in just a couple of weeks for a vision trip (10/13-10/24) where we’ll be doing evangelism and training with former missionaries. We are also stoked about meeting our future teammates who arrived in early August! If you’d like to support us financially on this trip, we would be most grateful. You can do that here (under "Project," select "Vision Trip to W. Africa"). JULY - SEPTEMBER SYNOPSIS. Our summer started with a fun road trip. We saw beloved friends in Knoxville, Shelley’s parents in Morristown, and Keith’s parents in Virginia. It was so fun! In the middle of that trip, we went to the Company’s training center for a three day “interview conference.” It was both encouraging and sobering. The vast amounts of lostness around the world is devastating. To paraphrase John Piper, as Christians, we care about all suffering ... but especially eternal suffering. Following the conference, we were approved to move forward in the process. Kids Camp - We came back to Louisville and jumped into Kid’s Camp at church. Our kids absolutely loved going to church every night for fun and learning with friends. Keith taught and I helped with the music. It was an energy packed week reminding us that no matter what, God Always Wins! Men's Discipleship - Keith was involved in a weekly men's discipleship and accountability group during June and July. The aim of the group was to grow in the likeness of Christ as husbands, fathers, and men after God's own heart. This Accountability Wheel served as a good tool for personal discipleship and accountability each week as it helped us get right to the point. School - Next up we started school with our children. Charlie is in second grade and Zeke started kindergarten. We are learning fascinating stories about American history. We’ve been playing soccer on Sunday nights with friends from church, and the boys started a weekly rec soccer league for the first time! Church - Keith led a sharing the gospel seminar at church last Saturday before going out and putting the information from the seminar into practice. On Wednesday, he preached at our weekly prayer gathering on Isaiah 29. Currently - Currently, our days are spent learning French, studying West African religions, divesting our household, and preparing to move. We've also been working on some video content to encourage believers and share with unbelievers. Check out our first video, What is the Gospel, here. This has been a rich season of sweet fellowship with friends and our church family. We are grateful for God’s provision. Our cup is full. FUTURE PLANS (Lord willing). Here is our temporary schedule over the next few months. October 11. Trustee approval October 13-24. Vision trip to West Africa November 10-14. Appointment week in Georgia Thanksgiving in Morristown, Knoxville, and Virginia January ~15. Move to Richmond, Virginia January 23-March 13. Field personnel orientation (training) Mid-March. Deploy to West Africa Security note: Some of this is intentionally vague for security purposes. Please be careful with all electronic communication. PRAYER Praise. Praise God for health clearance and approval from our agency! Vision trip. We leave to visit our new city in less than two weeks! Please pray for our travel to proceed smoothly and a sense of affirmation while we're there. Please pray for Keith’s parents as they care for our kids while we’re gone. Process. Please pray for our plans to move forward over the next few months as we await a decision from the trustees of our company, our church vote, our appointment, and our training. Wisdom. Please pray for wisdom as we say goodbyes and prepare our children for the changes ahead. Trust. Please pray above all that we would trust God and obey him, no matter what, and that we would keep a quiet heart before the Lord. For His glory, One of our highlights each week: Sunday Soccer with our church family. (above) Recommended Resources We've added a new Recommended Resources tab on our website for a library of our favorite resources: Recommended Resources | DeclaringthePraises Children’s. Little Pilgrim's Big Journey Part II: Christiana & The Celestial City by Tyler Van Halteren (Part II is just as good as part I). A summary of: "A Concise Guide to the Quran" by Ayman Ibrahim ( A summary of: "A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad" by Ayman Ibrahim ( Podcast: Elisabeth Elliot Podcast: Ask Pastor John YouTube: What is the Gospel? Support We are in Louisville by the grace of God and the support of His people. We are overwhelmed and humbled by those who have allowed us to be here. If you would like to consider partnering with us on this journey, simply click on the following link: MEI Support Page Photos and Previous Newsletter Photos (July - September) DTP Newsletter (June 2022) | Freedom "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

  • Summary of "A Concise Guide to the Quran" by Ayman Ibrahim

    Purchase this book here: A Concise Guide to the Quran Part 1: The History of the Text of the Quran 1. What Is the Quran? The Quran is Islam’s scripture containing 114 chapters—called suras—which are organized in decreasing length (shorter chapters at the end). The Quran is about two-thirds the size of the New Testament. 2. What Does “Quran” Mean? “Most Muslims believe that the word Quran means “recitation” and is either a proper noun initially emerging with the revelation of their sacred text or, alternatively, a derivative noun from the Arabic verb qara’, meaning ‘to read’” (6). Because the classic Arabic of the Quran is not the same as modern Arabic, the Quran is often difficult to understand. 3. Are there other scriptures in Islam? Muslims believe that the Quran is the only scripture in Islam. The hadith collections are second in importance to the Quran. The hadith collection contains sayings, deeds, and teachings that are attributed to Muhammad. Other important texts include Muhammad’s expeditions, biography, histories of Muhammad, Muslim conquests, and Muslim history, and commentaries on the Quran which include contexts of revelation (9). Because both the hadith collections as well as these other collections were compiled centuries after Muhammad’s death, doubt exists as to the validity of these documents for non-Muslim scholars. 4. What Do Muslims Believe about the Quran? Muslims believe that (1) the Quran records the exact words of Allah, (2) is infallible and inerrant, (3) surpasses and replaces all previous divine revelation, and (4) is the primary source of doctrine and practice (10). Muslims believe that the Quran has existed in heaven forever and was sent down as a verbal and literal revelation from Allah directly to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over the course of twenty-three years. Muslim’s revere the physical Quran and thus often practice cleansing rituals before they read or touch the book itself. They consider the words of the Quran inimitable—that the language, beauty, truth, and reliability of the Quran is unmatched. 5. Who Is Muhammad, the Recipient and Proclaimer of the Quran? Muslims believe that Moses, David, and Jesus were messengers. Muhammad, however, was the final and most perfect messenger/prophet. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the final prophet and the “best example of humankind” (16). Muslims typically believe that Muhammad’s illiteracy both denies the possibility of outside influence and proves the purity of the Quran. However, many classic Muslim narratives depict Muhammad encountering Christians and Jews (16). 6. Did Muhammad Really Exist? While non-Muslim historians establish a case for Muhammad’s existence, the historicity of Muhammad is confusing and often debated. 19 Muslim sources are generally late (some were written centuries after Muhammad’s death) and full of contradictory information about Muhammad’s life. 18 7. When and Where Did Muhammad Receive the Quran? The Quran does not answer this question. Muslims believe that the Quran has existed forever, and that Allah dictated the Quran to Muhammad in 610 (when Muhammad was 40 years old), that the revelation ended 23 years later, and took place in the western Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina. Muhammad shared this revelation with scribes who recorded it. Muhammad never saw a Quran. Sura 96 speaks to the occasion of Gabriel giving the revelation to Muhammad. 8. What Is the Most Important Feature of the Language of the Quran? The Quran itself claims that Allah’s revelation came through the perfect, fine, clear, and understandable Arabic language—a language that was superior, more beautiful, and unrivaled. 9. Why and How Was the Quran Compiled? It was collected and compiled after Muhammad’s death in (570-632 A.D.) in two stages. First, it was recorded by the first caliph, Abu Baku (573-634 A.D.), who collected the scattered revelation to compose the Quran. Second, it was recorded by the third caliph, Uthman (576- 656 A.D.). When Uthman was made aware that the Quran was being recited differently by warriors from Iraq and Syrian, he asked four men to re-compose the Quran. The dialect of the tribe of Muhammad, the Quraysh, was to be used anytime there was a disagreement. Upon completion of this second compilation, all other copies of the Quran were subsequently burned. 10. Did Uthman Burn False and Forged Qurans? Yes, in 650 A.D., Uthman burned all inauthentic copies of the Quran. There are two significant problems that arise here. Muhammad emphasized the learning of the Quran from four men: Ibn Masud (594-653 A.D., who was a supposed eyewitness of many of Muhammad’s revelations and a receiver and authenticator of the Quran from the mouth of Muhammad himself), Salim, Ubayy, and Muadh. Ibn Masud and Ubayy, who were trusted by Muhammad, had Quran’s that differed from Uthman’s version in both the ordering and in the content. Their copies were not consulted during the compilation of Uthman’s Quran. Ibn Masud’s Quran had three suras that Uthman’s did not, was ordered differently, and differed in some of its verses. Uthman sought to burn their copies. If Ibn Masud’s Quran was compiled based on Muhammad’s own verbal recitation, why was Uthman unwilling to use Ibn Masud’s copy? Why did the caliph want to gather a committee and create another Quran when they already possessed a Quran praised by Islam’s prophet (39)? 11. What Do Shiite Muslims Believe about the Collection of the Quran? Shiite Muslims believe that Muhammad dictated the revelation given to him from Gabriel to his scribes meticulously, that each verse was recorded chronologically, and that only Ali had been entrusted by Muhammad to compile the Quran. Shiite’s regret that Ali’s version was rejected because it included “the scandals of the Muslims” (43). The risky question that must be asked here is this: Do Shiites believe that the Quran composed during Abu Bakr’s or Uthman’s rule—which is allegedly the same Quran we have today—was identical to Ali’s Quran? The answer to this question is elusive. If Shiites say it is the same, then why did Abu Bakr and Uthman need to compile their collections? If Shiites say it is a different copy, then today’s Quran is a corrupted and distorted book, as the right copy was presumably with Ali (43). 12. Do Sunnis and Shiites Have the Same Quran Today? Shiite scholars believe that Uthman’s Quran lacks two major chapters and is thus incomplete. Muhammad’s trusted companion Ubayy reported that sura 33 had lost as much as seventy percent of its original text. After ten centuries of debate, Sunni and Shiite Muslims have both adopted the Quran that was standardized in the royal Cairo edition of 1924. Sunni (85%); Shiite (13%). 13. What Do We Know about the 1924 Royal Cairo Edition of the Quran? There are ample differences, scribal errors, and obvious variants when various manuscripts of the Quran prior to 1924 are compared with one another. Although the 1924 Cairo edition is viewed as the inerrant copy of the Quran, this copy was obtained from the selection and study of one particular variant rather than through a critical assessment of the many variable Qurans (48). In other words, the 1924 version was deduced from the study of secondary—rather than primary—sources. 14. Are There Any Other Qurans? There have been many additions of the Quran. Uthman, Ali, Ibn Masud, and Ubayy each had their own version of the Quran (or mushaf—the actual compilation of the Quran). It is important to note that Uthman burned Ubayy’s mushaf in an effort to enforce his own version. The Persian emporer Hajjaj gathered many of Uthman’s mushafs and replaced them with his own around 710 A.D. 15. Are All Arabic Versions of the Quran the Same? No. There are canonical variants and different official readings of the Arabic Quran that are accepted by Muslim scholars (55). Muslims believe that the Quran contains the exact words of Allah that were dictated from Allah himself to Muhammad (55). The Islamic belief of Allah’s verbal dictation (dictated inspiration) of the Quran becomes problematic when there are multiple variants of the Quran. Keith Small concludes, “The history of the transmission of the text of the Qur’ān is at least as much a testament to the destruction of Qur’ān material as it is to its preservation. It is also testimony to the fact that there never was one original text of the Qur’ān” (58). Part 2: Content, Features, and Themes of the Quran 16. How Should I Begin Reading the Quran? Ibrahim gives two recommendations for beginning to study a copy of the Quran in English: The Qur’an: A New Translation, by Muhammad Abdel Haleem and The Qurʼān: A New Annotated Translation by Arthur J. Droge. He also recommends several online copies of the Quran as well. Most versions of Q 3:49—a text depicting Jesus—translate the verb “to create” (أَخْلُقُ) into a different verb, “make,” so as to avoid the appearance of assigning deity to Jesus. In Q 3:47, translators translate the same word(أَخْلُقُ) as “create” when speaking of Allah—“Allah creates” (71). Q 3:49 ‘I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I will make for you a bird from clay, breathe into it, and it will become a ˹real˺ bird—by Allah’s Will. I will heal the blind and the leper and raise the dead to life—by Allah’s Will. 17. What Are the Recurring Features at the Beginning of All Suras? Each sura (chapter) has three recurring features: (1) a title; (2) a phrase (or bismillah)—“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;” and (3) a city name that locates where the sura was revealed (86 suras from Mecca and 28 from Medina; 72). 18. What Is Abrogation in the Quran? The concept of abrogation is the means by which Muslims deal with verses in the Quran that conflict with each other. Revelation that was revealed to Muhammad at Mecca (earlier) tends to be quite a bit more peaceful than that revealed in Medina (later). In Medina, Muhammad is more combative and prone to war (e.g. compare Q 8:61 “But if the enemies incline towards peace, so shall you, and put your trust in Allah” and Q 9:5, “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them” (80). When there is a conflict, the verse revealed later abrogates—or cancels out—the earlier verse. There are no solid rules for abrogation. Abrogation: where conflicting verses occur, the verse that was recorded later erases, suppresses, or cancels verses that were recorded earlier. 19. What Are the Satanic Verses in the Quran? The satanic verses refer to sura 53, whereby Muhammad states that intercession through three pagan goddesses would be heard by Allah. Allah removed this section after the archangel Gabriel came and rebuked Muhammad for proclaiming these verses. The text now reads, “Have you thought upon [the goddesses] al-Lat and al-Uzza and Manat?” (86). While this story has been ever-increasingly dismissed by Muslims over time, Muslim accounts from the first three centuries of Islam speak about this story as fact (87). 20. What Is the Most Important Concept for Muslims in the Quran? The concept of tawhid, the absolute oneness of Allah, is the most important and essential doctrine for Muslims. Shirk, or associating other gods with Allah, is the worst wrong and most hated transgression that a person can commit (93). This is referenced in Q 5:73, where the Quran warns, “They are surely unbelievers who say, ‘Allah is the third of three’” (91). The Quran provides an errant interpretation of the Triune God in stating that Christians believe that Allah, Mary, and Jesus make up the Trinity. Thus, Muslims accuse Christians of shirk. But Christians do actually believe in one—and only one—God (Deut. 6:4–9; Mark 12:29). This God is one being. He exists by his Spirit and speaks through his Word. Christians call God’s Spirit the Holy Spirit, and his Word his Son (93). 21. Are Jews and Christians Infidels? Yes. All those who do not believe in Allah and Muhammad—even if the Quran refers to them peaceably as “people of the book”—are infidels (96). 22. Does the Quran Really Say the Bible Is Corrupt? No. Q 2:59 is often referenced by Muslims to claim that the Bible is corrupt, but this verse refers to the corruption of those who changed the meanings of the Bible when they taught the Bible, not the Bible itself. When Muslims claim that the Jewish Torah or the Christian Bible is corrupted, they bring into question the validity of the Quran. The Quran actually states that the Bible has been preserved: “We have, without doubt, sent down the Reminder (Zikr), and We assuredly preserve it” (Q15:9; p 103). Allah instructs Muhammad and his followers in Q 29:46, “Dispute not with the People of the Book except with what is best as an argument, except for those of them that do wrong; and say to them, ‘We believe in that which has been revealed to us [the Quran] and revealed to you [the Bible]; our God and your God is One, and to Him we have surrendered.’” Additionally, Q 5:46 states the following: “We sent Jesus son of Mary, confirming the Torah before him and We gave to him the Gospel containing guidance and light.” While most Muslims accuse Jews and Christians of falsifying the text of the Bible, no verse in the Quran denigrates or undermines the scriptures of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) (107). Would Allah instruct Muhammad to consult people who use a corrupt Bible? And if Allah promised in the Quran to protect and preserve the pre-Quranic Zikr, how can it be corrupted (103-104)? 23. Who Is Jesus in the Quran? Jesus is named “Isa” in the Quran. Most Muslims claim to love Isa. His name appears twenty-nine times in twenty-eight verses. He is referred to by his title, the Messiah or the Christ—which Muslims dilute to a title or a nickname—eleven times. Isa is the central figure in over ninety verses (109). The stories that do appear about Isa are often linked to the apocryphal gospels that were written after the New Testament (Jesus speaking as an infant and creating a bird from clay; pg 111). Most Muslims believe that Allah replaced Isa’s—or Jesus’s—body with someone else’s before He was crucified. Thus, Isa was rescued by Allah and never died on the cross. Three verses from the Quran substantiate that claim, while a fourth would appear to contradict it: “Jesus said, “Peace be upon me, the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I get resurrected alive” (Q 19:33; pg 114). The Quran states that Jesus is only human, especially because he prays to Allah and glorifies him (Q 5:117; pg 113). 24. Who Are the Prophets in the Quran? The stories of the prophets are significantly different between the Quran and the Bible. A prophet in the Quran is one who proclaims Allah’s message, the oneness of Allah. There are 124,000 prophets that Allah sent—Adam the first and Muhammad the last (117). 25. Did Muhammad Perform Miracles? While most Muslims along with Muslim traditions claim that Muhammad performed miracles, the Quran states that Muhammad did not perform miracles. Muhammad’s only connection to a miracle in the Quran is in the reception of the Quran itself (Q 29:50-51). However, tradition along with many Muslims claim that Muhammad’s night flight from Mecca to Jerusalem on a winged horse-like creature is considered to be his most important miracle (119). The reliability of traditions written centuries after Muhammad’s death regarding his miracles are questionable and clearly contradict the Quranic witness. The problem is that these added miracles are starkly similar to biblical accounts, specifically the miracles of Jesus. It seems that centuries after Muhammad’s death, Muslims were not satisfied with what the Quran said about their prophet. Because they lived among Christians and Jews, Muslims had to establish Islam as a comparable religion. In a sense, Muslims needed a new Muhammad who would appeal to a multireligious era (121). 26. What Does the Quran Say about Jihad and Fighting? Muslims understand the term jihad in many different ways. Jihad refers either to a holy striving and piety or to struggling in battle for the sake of Allah against non-Muslims. While the term jihad is often difficult to define, the term qital, is quite clear. The word qital appears over one-hundred-and-fifty times and is always used to describe Muslims fighting for Allah’s cause for those who stand against him. Qital is Allah’s call for holy war in the Quran against infidels, polytheists, and People of the Book. 126 Muslims are commanded to fight various groups: the infidels (Q 8:38–39; 9:12, 123; 48:22), the polytheists (Q 9:17, 36), and Christians and Jews as People of the Book (Q 9:29; pg 125). 27. How Do Muslims Treat the Quran’s Verses on Violence Today? There are three ways to categorize Muslims today: Q 4:34 - “As for those [wives] whose misconduct you fear, [first] advise them, and [if ineffective] keep away from them in the bed, and [as the last resort] beat them.” 28. Who Are “the People of the Quran”? The People of the Quran, or “Quranists,” are those who see the Quran—and only the Quran—as sufficient for faith and practice amongst Muslims. They oppose those who elevate the hadiths—which they believe to be mostly forged—to the same level as the Quran. Bukhari (810-870 A.D.), the author of what is considered the most authentic collection of hadiths, wrote about Muhammad being suicidal, lusting after a six-year-old girl while she was on a swing, his capacity to satisfy his eleven wives each night, depicts an instance where Moses slaps an angel on the face which caused the angel to go blind, and men having intercourse with cows. Thus, Quranists stand against most mainstream Muslims who believe that the Quran cannot be interpreted without reliance upon the hadiths and traditions of Muhammad. Quranists generally emphasize religious freedom and mutual respect among other faiths (137). 29. What Do Today’s Non-Muslim Scholars Say about the Quran? Non-Muslim scholars and researchers have doubted portions of the Quran for centuries. They argue that the text of the Quran was not fixed until later medieval times, that it took two centuries to reach its canonized form, and that words were inserted into the text itself. While Muslims insist that Allah did not borrow from Christians or Jews but wrote the Quran in a Pagan setting, scholars argue that the Quran was composed in a context full of Christians and Jews rather than a Pagan one (140). Muslims try to deny this because it would mean that Muhammad could have very well been influenced by Christians and Jews. 30. Concluding Question: How Does This All Fit Together? While Muslims claim that the Quran was dictated by Allah to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, these claims stand in opposition to available evidence, cannot stand up to critical questioning, and are sustained only by metaphysical beliefs (142). Sunnis and Shiites disagree on major claims regarding the authenticity of the Quran (142). Islamic tradition itself speaks of competing Qurans (142). Islamic traditions mention the addition, omission, and disappearance of Quranic verses (142). Islamic testimony speaks of Muhammad allowing his followers to seek intercessory prayer from pagan goddesses for a period of time—thus bringing into question the idea that Muhammad was always a monotheist. The number of verses are different in variant Qurans. Definitions Sura: a chapter in the Quran. Sunna: a group of classical writings of thousands of traditions written centuries after Muhammad’s death about Muhammad’s life, teaching, and deeds. Hadiths are part of the Sunna. Mushaf: the compiled Quran that contains the revelations of Allah to Muhammad. “a written book that contains the revelations proclaimed by Muhammad” that “implies the highest level of truthfulness in speech and is a way for Muslims to ensure that hearers believe them.” 51 Doctrine Tawhid: the most important and essential doctrine for Muslims—the absolute oneness of Allah. Shirk: Associating other gods with Allah—the worst wrong and most hated transgression that a person can commit. 93 Mu’min: a Muslim. Kafir: the exclusion of an individual from the believing community of Islam. 95 Shahada: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger.” Hijab: head covering. Zikr: the way that Muslims refer to the Christian Bible. This term is translated as “the reminder.”103 Jihad: can either refer to piety and a holy striving or it can refer to struggling in battle for the sake of Allah against his enemies. Qital: Allah’s call for holy war in the Quran against infidels, polytheists, and People of the Book. Ramadan: the ninth month (typically in March or April) of the Islamic lunar calendar which lasts for twenty-nine or thirty days depending on the visibility of the crescent, which indicates the beginning of a new month. The five pillars of Islam: 1-Shahada, or the profession of faith 2-Ritual prayer that occurs five times a day. 3-Almsgiving. 4-Fasting during Ramadan 5-Pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime. Ka’ba: the black cube in Mecca which is considered Allah’s house. Thus, it is the most sacred place in Islam. Muslisms claim that it was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael (or in other traditions, by Adam). There is a black stone which Muslims believe came from heaven that has miraculous powers. Salafi: a Muslim who follows the letter of the Quran. Wahhabi: encourages militant application of Islam. Caliph: the successors of Muhammad who led the Muslim community. Hadith: a saying, deed, or teaching that is often attributed to Muahmmad (like a proverb). Hijra: the day that Muhammad and about thirty of his followers move from Mecca to Medina.

  • Summary of "A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad" by Ayman Ibrahim

    Purchase this work here: A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad Part 1: Muhammad’s History 1. Who Was Muhammad? Muhammad was the founder of Islam who was born in Mecca in 570 and died in Medina in 632. It is claimed that Muhammad is a descendant of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, and that he received the revelation of the Quran from the Angel Gabriel when he was in a cave at Mt. Hira. Islam: devotion to and submission to Allah Muslims: the followers of Islam; those subject to Allah. 2. What Are the Major Muslim Sources for Muhammad’s Life? The hadith, maghazi, sira, futuh, and tarikh are the primary works that are used by Muslim's to study and understand Muhammad’s life. There is neither a single source nor any eyewitness testimonies from the time that Muhammad lived to document Muhammad’s life. 8 Sira: Muhammad’s biography. 3. What Do Scholars Say about the Reliability and Accuracy of Early Muslim Sources? The reliability of Muslim sources for the Muhammad’s biography is questionable at best. Most scholars argue that the biographies of Muhammad are forgeries that were written to support political or religious agendas—especially those of caliphal power. 15 While there is virtually zero written material from the first two centuries of Islam, some scholars believe that a kernel of truth does reside within the biographies of Muhammad. 18 4. What Is So Unique about Muhammad’s Birth Year? In 570, a Christian army led by Abraha riding on an elephant came to wage war against Mecca. The elephant, however, refused to move forward against the shrine. Abraha’s army was forced to return home when Allah ordered birds to pour pebbles on Abraha’s army. Muslims claim that other miracles accompanied Muhammad birth and made way for the birth of Islam's prophet. 5. What Is Significant about Muhammad’s Genealogy? Despite the lack of supporting evidence, a connection to significant patriarchs—Abraham being of utmost significance—was needed as a symbol for the Muslim community. Thus, it was significant that Muhammad be connected to Ishmael, a prophet of Allah and the son of one of the most revered prophets, Abraham. While largely disputed, it is also claimed that Allah told Abraham and Ishmael to travel all the way to Mecca to build the Ka’ba. The genealogical connection between Muhammad and Ishmael, however, is tenuous at best—even among many classical Muslim historical authorities—and an outright fabrication at worst. 6. What Do Muslims Believe about Muhammad’s Attributes? Muslims believe that Muhammad is the final and chief among all of the prophets and the greatest example of humanity. He possessed unequaled integrity and fulfilled Allah’s laws perfectly. 33 Muslims believe that Muhammad was kind, patient, just, sought equality, was unmatched in humility, was generous to the poor, friendly, charitable, and cheerful, that he smiled at everyone and was particularly kind to children, freed and then was generous to his slaves, was always considerate, merciful, and courageous. 31 However, there are three different versions of Muhammad that Ibrahim articulates: one based on tradition, one based on Muslim memory, and the modern Muhammad who seeks peace, reconciliation, tolerance. "Even when he took his son’s wife, it was not out of lust but due to a revelation of Allah." 32 7. Was Muhammad a Real Historical Figure? Yes, Muhammad was a real historical figure. However, as noted in the previous chapter, the historical (actual) Muhammad is significantly different from the legendary Muhammad and the traditional portrayal of Muhammad. The Muhammad who is popular in cultural Islam—the legendary Muhammad—is associated with supernatural tales and legends and is thus often venerated to the point of being worshipped. 36 The traditional Muhammad is the Muhammad of the Quran and Muslim traditions who is revered and honored. 36 The historical Muhammad can be understood through contemporary documents that were written about him by non-Muslims in his region. The historical Muhammad is known in these documents as a shepherd, trader, monotheist proclaimer, false prophet, lawgiver, conquest initiator, and king. 39 8. What Do We Know about Mecca, Muhammad’s Birthplace? Because it contains the Ka’ba, Mecca is the most sacred place of Islamic worship. Historians question the significance attributed to Mecca from Muslim traditions for many reasons: Mecca does not appear on 6th and 7th century maps; it would have been out of the way for trade routes; the desert environment would not have been suitable for planting fruit, olives, and trees). Most scholars believe that Muhammad’s career would have taken place closer to the Mediterranean rather than in Mecca. Major world maps from the sixth and seventh centuries do not include it. If the city was as famous as Muslim traditions claim, how was it overlooked on maps while other, less important cities in Arabia often appeared? No map shows Mecca until the late ninth century. 45 What we read about Mecca in the traditions is unsupported by contemporary independent evidence. As for Mecca’s location as given by Muslim traditions, it is at best a mistaken place or, at worst, a doctrinally driven myth. 47 9. What Is the Black Stone in the Ka’ba? While the Quran never mentions it, the stone in the Ka’ba is an object of veneration among Muslims who ascribe to it supernatural powers—some even claiming that it abolishes one sins—and claim that this stone was white but became black because of sin. Five years prior to the revelation from Gabriel, Muhammad took this black stone and put it in its position within the Ka’ba, where it has remained for the past fourteen centuries. 49 Hajj: touching the black stone is central to this religious pilgrimage. 10. What Do We Know about Muhammad’s Wives and Their Roles in Islam? Excluding his concubines, Muslim tradition tells us that Muhammad had eleven wives. He was first married to Khadija, who supported Muhammad during the period of revelation for fifteen years and was also one of his most significant wives. Notably, Muhammad also married Aisha when she was six or seven and consummated the marriage when she was nine, married a Jew, Safiyya, and a Christian, Maria, and his son’s wife, Zaynab, after abolishing her marriage with Zayd and repudiating him as a son. Muslim tradition insists that Muhammad had unmatched sexual abilities to fulfill his obligations to each of his many wives. Because of this, adoption is not permitted in Islam. 56 11. Was Muhammad Always a Monotheist? Many Muslims believe that Muhammad was devoted to Allah at birth and guided by Allah and his angels from a young age to protect him from all evil and error. However, the satanic verses incident in the Quran chapter 53 that was documented by fifty early source Muslim reports would seem to indicate that Muhammad was not infallible. Isma: infallibility and immunity from sin, fault, and error. 12. What Is Muhammad’s Night Journey to Jerusalem and Heaven? Muhammad’s night journey is the story of Muhammad and Gabriel riding on a winged donkey from Mecca to Jerusalem and then to heaven. Despite the Quran’s claim that Muhammad’s only miracle was the Quran itself and any other miracles were a sign of the weaknesses of polytheists and unbelievers who couldn’t believe in Allah without miracles, many Muslims claim that this night journey was Muhammad’s greatest miracle. 70 13. Why Did Muhammad Strike a Peace Treaty with the Jews? If, according to tradition, Muhammad struck a peace treaty, the Sahifa, with the Jews, he did so strategically for political reasons. The treaty was a pact of cooperation between his people and the Jews of Medina. While Muslims esteem this document as a political, social, and economic achievement of Islam, the reliability of this treaty is questionable as the Sahafi is not mentioned in any other surviving document from Muhammad’s time. The Sahifa and its presumed call for mutual coexistence and religious freedom appear to be in dissonance with explicit statements from the Quran and the hadiths. 77 14. Why Did Muhammad Raid the Pagans of Mecca? The vast majority of Muslims today believe that Muhammad raided the pagans of Mecca to gain political dominion and wealth. However, some argue—without corroborating evidence—that these 27 military campaigns against Arab Pagan tribes, Jewish communities, and some Christian groups were waged as proselytism campaigns. 15. Was There Ever a Truce between Muslims and Meccans? The Treaty of Hudaybiyya reduced the hostility that had existed for six years between the Meccans and the Muslims. It also provided time, power, and the resources that were needed for the Muslim community to fortify itself in Medina. While ten years of peace between the two parties was agreed upon, two years following the signing of the treaty, Muhammad accused the Meccans of breaking the treaty and thus launched a victorious conquest of Mecca. This allowed Muhammad to become the sole ruler of West Arabia. 85 Da’wa: the act of calling people to Islam. 16. Did Muhammad Really Fight the Jews? Historical documentation provides several accounts of Muhammad and Muslim armies using different means to justify their attacks on Jewish neighbors. In one instance, a Jew lifted up a woman’s skirt was the excuse needed for Muslim’s to abolish their peace treaty and wage war against the Jews. In another instance, Muhammad instructed his followers to raid the tribe of Nadir after receiving a warning from Allah in heaven that the Jews were untrustworthy. 88 17. Did Muhammad Launch Raids against Christians? Muslim tradition asserts that Muhammad launched raids against Christian lands controlled by the Byzantine Empire between the years AH 8 and AH11. Because the military numbers of both Muslims and the Christian Byzantines seem exaggerated when compared with other historical accounts, there are questions as to the validity of these traditions. 18. Who Killed Muhammad? There are two prevailing yet competing theories that seek to explain Muhammad’s death. Sunni Muslims believe that Zaynab, a wicked Jewess, prepared a poisoned lamb for Muhammad as an act of retaliation for what he had done to her people. Three years after he was poisoned, he died a martyr. On the other hand, Shiites believe that two of Muhammad’s wives, Aisha and Hafsa, along with their fathers who would become Muhammad’s successors as caliphs, killed Muhammad. The Shiite claim is considered more plausible by scholars. 19. Did Muhammad Appoint a Successor? While Shiite Muslims from Medina believed that Ali had been appointed by Muhammad himself as his successor, it was Abu Bakr—the Sunni choice from Mecca—who became Muhammad's first successor on the same day that Muhammad himself died. 20. What Are Some of the Early Non-Muslim Views on Muhammad? Early Greek and Syriac sources refer to “the Arabs’ atrocities, “ and the “God-hating [Arabs] … whose leader is the devil.” The also document the military conquests of Muslims who ravaged regions that were predominately Christian, Jewish, and Samaritan. 110 Other sources describe Muhammad as an armed warlord, while others depict him as a caravan trader. Generally speaking, depictions of Muhammad by non-Muslim sources were not positive. Part 2: Muhammad’s Message 21. What Was Muhammad’s Central Message? Muhammad’s central message was that of tawhid, the calling of people to believe and affirm that Allah is one and only one. Therefore, Muslims reject the Christian view of the Trinity as shirk. However, the Muslim view of the Trinity—as posited by the Quran—claims that the three persons of the Trinity are Allah, Mary, and Jesus. Tawhid: to the belief and affirmation that Allah is one, and only one. 117 Shirk: the association of partners with the deity. 119 22. Who Is Muhammad’s Deity, Allah? Allah is the absolute and purest description of oneness, the creator of the heavens and the earth, and one who has no equals. 122 Among other attributes, Allah is generous, just, merciful, king, creator, almighty, powerful, kind, the forgiver, protector, holy, judge, generous, hearer, watcher, etc. Allah is known by Muslims by his many beautiful names. 23. What Is Muhammad’s Message about Jesus? Muhammad's stated that Jesus was (1) a prophet (messenger) but was not God nor a Savior, (2) highly esteemed but not crucified, and (3), although he performed miracles and knew the future, He was merely human. 128 Muhammad claimed that Jesus did not die but was rescued by Allah according to Muhammad. Muhammad also warned that Jesus would return as the last judge to rebuke Christians who did not accept Muhammad. 24. Where Is Muhammad Mentioned in the Bible? Despite the lack of any explicit reference to Muhammad or plausible evidence that any biblical text generally refers to Muhammad himself, Muslims contend that there are general references to Muhammad in the Bible. The verses that they claim reference Muhammad are Deuteronomy 18:15; 33:2, Genesis 25:13, Isaiah 42:11, 13, 17, and John 14:16-17. When these claims were documented as false, the claim of corruption of the Jewish Torah and the Christian Bible emerged. 136 While many Muslims claim that the Bible was altered and thus had been corrupted, the Quran itself denies the corruption of the Bible on multiple occasions (Q 6:34; 10:94; 5:43-44; 5:46-47). During Muhammad’s time, Christians were commanded to follow Jesus’s words in the gospel (Q 5:47). This indicates that the Bible was trusted at that time. It could not have been corrupted later because not only—according to Muslims—does Allah protect it but also “it is historically attested that the Bible was completely canonized, taught, quoted, documented, and circulated in various known lands (including within the superpowers of the Roman and Persian Empires) long before the advent of Muhammad in the seventh century.” 135 25. Where Are Muhammad’s Sermons? Despite the claim that Muhammad preached on every Friday for over ten years, none of Muhammad’s sermons are documented today. Centuries after his death, Muslims gathered thousands of statements that Muhammad reportedly had made in hadiths. While Muslim scholars claim that many of Muhammad’s sermons are kept in these hadiths, this claim stands in direct contradiction to one hadith that stipulates that anything written down outside of the Quran by Muhammad should be effaced. Contradictions abound in these traditions about Muhammad’s sermons. No one seems to have written down Muhammad’s sermons while he lived, but centuries after his death, in an apparent violation of his instruction, Muslims gathered thousands of statements, attributed them to Muhammad, and claimed them as authentic and sound. 139 Jumu’a: a gathering, assembling, or congregating of Muslims on Friday (whom many consider the holiest day of the week). 137 Khutba: formal public preaching of Islam. 26. What Did Muhammad Say about Loving One’s Neighbors? Muslims claim that Muhammad strengthened Muslim society by establishing kindness and cooperation as foundations for society. 141 It is reported that Muhammad said, “None amongst you believes (truly) until he loves for his brother—or he said ‘for his neighbor’—that which he loves for himself.” 142 Hurting one’s neighbor is thus against Muhammad’s command. 27. How Does Muhammad’s Tradition Treat Apostasy from Islam? Following Muhammad’s death, many Muslims’ abandoned Islam. Many hadiths are attributed to Muhammad that claim that anyone who abandoned Islam was an apostate and was to be killed. Such laws still exist in Muslim majority countries today. There are contradictions between the hadiths and the Quran. While the Quran is preeminent in Muslim and hadiths are secondary, the more precise and explicit commands found within the hadiths are more often followed when contradictions exists with the Quran. Today, Muslims fall in two competing camps regarding these hadiths attributed to Muhammad. The first group, which contains the majority of Muslim, takes the hadiths literally. Groups like ISIS and Boko Haram are derived in many ways from this paradigm. The second group seeks to distance itself from these traditions by reinterpreting them or claiming that they were relevant historically but not today. hadith: a saying, deed, or teaching, especially attributed to Muhammad. 184 28. What Do the Hadiths Say about Jihad? While many Muslims today want to distance the idea of holy war from Islam, the most trusted Muslim hadith traditions offer enormous rewards to those who wage war against non-Muslims. While the term jihad can refer to either devotion or sacrificial fighting, the term qital indisputably refers to the sacrificial fighting of Muslims for Allah’s cause. 29. Who Are the Hadith-Rejecters among Muslims? In 833, a group known as the Mu’tazilites questioned the reliability of hadith traditions and demanded rigorous scrutiny of how, where, and why the hadith traditions were documented. However, the traditionists, who composed the earliest manifestation of Sunnism, put an end to the questioning of the Mu’tazilites. However, many groups today—including those known as Quranists—reject the hadiths. Such groups view many of the hadiths as forgeries that were crafted for religious and political reasons. 159 30. Why Are the Hadith-Rejecters Growing in Number? Because many consider the hadiths to be indefensible and even embarrassing, hadith-rejectors are a growing trend among Muslims. While the number of hadith rejectors is growing, the hadith traditions stand firm among Muslims because most of what can be known about the practices and tenets of Islam comes from the hadiths rather than the Quran. 170 The list below—from the hadith collections that Sunni Muslims trusts most—provide a few examples of the nature of the sayings that are found within the hadiths as well as examples where the hadiths seem to directly contradict the Quran. The hadith commands the killing of those who won’t declare that there is no God but Allah while the Quran states that “there is no compulsion in religion” (Q 2:256). The hadiths claim that Allah created the earth in seven days while the Quran stipulates that Allah did so in six days. The hadiths claim that the Quran is incomplete, corrupt, and has been altered, whereas Muslims claim that the Quran is preserved from error. The hadiths state that the punishment for adultery is death, while the Quran states that the punishment for adultery is a hundred lashes (Q 24:2). Another hadith states that there was a verse in the Quran about stoning the adulterer but that this verse was eaten by a sheep. One hadith states that Muhammed instructed his followers to drink the milk and urine of his camels. Several hadiths contradict the belief of Muslims who claim that Muhammad did not own slaves. One hadith states the Muhammad had intercourse with one of his female slaves. As mentioned previously, the hadiths claim that Muhammad married Aisha when she was six or seven and consummated the marriage when she was nine. Recently, an eight-year-old girl from Yemen died on her wedding night after marrying a man that was five times her age. Timeline of the Life of Muhammad 570: The Year of the Elephant and the defeat of Abraha by Allah’s army at Mecca 570: Muhammad’s birth 581: Muhammad travels with his uncle Abu Talib to Syria and meets Bahira, a Syrian monk who foretells his prophethood 595: Khadija proposes to Muhammad, and they marry 599: Khadija delivers Muhammad’s first child, a daughter, Zaynab 610: Muhammad receives the first revelation from Allah, through Gabriel 610: Waraqa, a Christian, confirms to Muhammad the divine revelation, emphasizing to him that he is the long-awaited prophet 610: Waraqa dies, and Muhammad’s inspiration pauses 610: Early propagation of Islam in secret 610: Ali and Abu Bakr accept Islam, becoming among the earliest converts 613: Public proclamation of Islam begins 613: Meccan persecution of Muslims begins 616: First hijra (emigration) to Ethiopia 619: Muhammad’s uncle Abu Talib dies 619: Khadija dies, and Muhammad calls this year “The Year of Sorrow” 619: Muhammad marries Sawda (she is almost fifty) 619: Muhammad is betrothed to Aisha (she is six or seven) 619: Satanic verses incident 620: Muhammad’s night journey to Jerusalem and his ascension to heaven 622: The hijra, Muhammad’s emigration from Mecca to Medina 622: Starting point of the Islamic Hijri lunar calendar 622: Muhammad consummates his marriage with Aisha (she is nine) 623: Muhammad launches first raid against the Meccans and their caravans 624: Battle of Badr, a major conflict in which Muhammad defeats the Meccans 624: Raid against the Jews of Qaynuqa 624: Muhammad orders the murder of the Jewish poet Ka’b, who insulted him 625: Battle of Uhud; Meccans are revenged and defeat the Muslims 625: Raid against the Jews of Nadir 626: Aisha is accused of adultery but declared innocent by Muhammad and Allah 627: Battle of the Trench, or of the Confederates 627: Raid against the Jews of Qurayza 628: Raid (or Treaty) of Hudaybiyya 628: Raids against the Jewish settlements at Khaybar and Fadak; Muslim victory 629: Conversion of Khalid ibn al-Walid and Amr ibn al-As, two shrewd Meccan commanders 629: Battle of Mu’ta, initiated by Muslims against the Byzantines and their allies from the Arab Christian Ghassanids 630: Conquest of Mecca; Muhammad declared victorious over most of Arabia 630: Battle of Hunayn, initiated by the Muslims against Arab pagans 630: Battle of Tabuk, initiated by Muhammad against the Byzantine Empire 630: Muhammad’s daughter Umm Kulthum dies 631: Muhammad’s son Ibrahim dies 632: Muhammad’s farewell pilgrimage and farewell sermon 632: Ghadir Khumm, the designation of Ali as Muhammad’s successor, according to Shiites 632: Muhammad dies 632: Abu Bakr appointed as Muhammad’s caliph, successor 632: Apostasy Wars begin, lasting for two years

  • DTP Newsletter (June 2022) | Freedom

    For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14 What does it mean to be truly free? As we celebrate the Fourth of July next week, we thank God for the blessings of living in America. Yet at the same time, we are careful not to reduce—or equate—the typical American view of freedom (“I’m free to do what I want”) with the freedom that God offers us in Christ (“I’m free to do what God wants"—to live according to His good design by loving Him and loving others in a way that I was not free to do when I was enslaved to the flesh). To be free in Christ is to be free like Christ was free. Those who are in Christ—"from every tribe, language, people, and nation”—have been freed from the power of sin, are being freed from sin’s presence, and will one day be freed from sin completely (Rom 8:30; Rev 5:9). They have been set free from their former slavery to the flesh to love God and love others in a way that they were not free to do before. The freedom that Paul refers to in Galatians 5 is just as true for the Christian living in America as it is for the Christian living in Afghanistan. Joni Earackson Tada, who is paralyzed from the shoulders down, gives us a beautiful picture of the type of freedom that we as Christians should most long for. Despite her physical struggles with pain, quadriplegia, and cancer, hear what she hopes for in heaven: “Don’t be thinking that when I get to heaven that I am most looking forward to a new body, free of cancer or pain, or quadriplegia … don’t be thinking that when I get to be with Jesus, I’m going to relish in mostly jumping up and kicking and doing aerobics … No(!) … what I am most looking forward to is a new Heart. I want a glorified heart that is free of sin, free of selfishness, free of self-centeredness, free of fear of the future, free, free, free ... a heart that is no longer trapped by circumstances or resists God or looks for an escape or tries to justify itself when it is wronged. When I get to heaven, that will be glory for me.” [1] Where do you need God to set you free? What freedom do you cherish most? Do you want to be free like Jesus was free—free from the tyranny of self, free from the bondage of sin, free to love and forgive even your vilest enemy? As we celebrate our country and those who sacrificed their lives for it, may we remember to worship the Triune God who offered Himself as a sacrifice in our place so that we might be set truly and eternally free. "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 FAMILY UPDATE. We have reached the end of our seminary journey! Wow! Our whole family was heartily involved in our life here at Southern. We still make the bike ride there, wear the shirts, and go to the pool. What a gift this season has been, to be among so many believers running hard after the Lord! We have all learned so much, and our family benefits greatly from all Keith has learned. He is our spiritual example, guide, and nurturer. It is amazing to see him live like Christ, laying down his life for his family, and washing us in the water of the Word (Eph 5:25-28). I (Shelley) took the boys to our last chapel meeting as a seminary family to see Keith receive an award from his peers. He was recognized for God’s work of evangelism through him. It was wonderful to participate in Keith’s graduation … especially with Keith’s parents here. In God’s great wisdom, he gives us ceremonies to mark his work in our hearts and give us occasion to reflect on his work in our lives—a reason for deep praise! We had a great time celebrating together. VISION TRIP. Shelley and I have delayed our vision trip (originally scheduled for August) to October for several reasons. First, we are waiting for medical clearance from the Company to determine if our desired location is an option. Second, we would be able to meet our potential new teammates, who will have just arrived. Third, the cost of the trip goes down considerably in the fall. If you’d like to financially support us for this trip, you can do so here (under "Project," select "Vision Trip to W. Africa"). CHURCH. Give thanks to God for our church families! He has established his love and care and instruction through these dear saints we see every week. We are constantly sharpened, encouraged, challenged, and loved by our church home, Clifton Baptist Church, here in Louisville. We have had three close families move away in the last two months, which has been difficult, but we rejoice in God’s work in their lives. This summer sees the end of the Missions Cohort and the Pastoral Internship. God used both of these groups to grow us immensely, and we are so grateful to Him for all we have learned and enjoyed. The cohort brought many challenging topics and meaningful discussions that will truly equip us for the seasons ahead. The internship brought deeper understanding of the inner workings of a healthy church and how we can all joyfully give of ourselves for the building up of others and the kingdom. Keith enjoyed another opportunity to preach from Revelation on the joy we will experience when, if believers, we will finally get to be in God’s presence and see his face! You can read the sermon here. It takes much prayer, preparation, patience, and love to lead a church. Would you take a few minutes to pass along a sincere, specific sentiment of gratitude to your church elders? FUTURE. Shelley and I will be going to our interview conference with the Company July 6 – 9 in Richmond, Virginia. Our hope is to begin official training in January 2023 and potentially deploy in March. We continue to hold these plans with open hands, trusting God’s sovereignty and goodness. Here is our temporary schedule: Job match - August 18 | Trustee approval - September 13 or October 11 | Appointment - November 10-14 (Augusta, GA) | Training – January 23 – March 13 (Richmond, VA) Between now and then, we’ll be learning language, studying West African religions, divesting our household, and preparing to move. Security note: Some of this is intentionally vague for security purposes. We have been asked to be very careful with all electronic communication. We are not going to a closed-access country. However, we will be connected to people who are. For their protection and to maintain a gospel witness in such countries, please do not share or post a connection between our names and the Company’s. PRAYER Please pray for final clearance and approval from our mission’s agency. Please pray for patience and hearts of gratitude in all circumstances, especially when plans change (1 Thes 5:18). Please pray that our children would turn from their sin and trust Christ as Savior and Lord. Please pray for the people we’ve spoken to who don’t know Christ, that God would draw them to Himself. Praise God for an older gentleman who confessed that he was a sinner and began walking with Christ on Sunday after church. For His glory, Graduation (above). Thanks to my friend, pastor, and former professor, Jeremy Pierre, for this shot! Recommended Resources Must Read. The Trellis and the Vine: Colin Marshall, Tony Payne In the words of Mark Dever, "This is the best book I've read on the nature of church ministry." This is a must-read for anyone in Christian leadership. You can read my summary of this work here: "The Trellis and the Vine" Autobiography. The Autobiography of John Paton You can listen to John Piper’s synopsis of this work and Paton’s life here. Theology of Patriotism. American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea | by John Wilsey What is the relationship between a Christian and their country? In this work, Wilsey contrasts closed exceptionalism with open exceptionalism. Children’s. Little Pilgrim's Big Journey | John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress Fully Illustrated & Adapted for Kids This is one of our favorite children’s books ever. Biography. 12 Faithful Women: Portraits of Steadfast Endurance These synopses of remarkable women in history detail God’s work in their lives and encouraged me to trust Him with every aspect of my life. Theology of Death. Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope | by Matthew McCullough “I want to show from the Bible the illuminating power of death-awareness for the lives we’re living now … When God teaches us to number our days, he protects us from prideful self-deception and enables us to live with genuine, realistic gladness.” 21 Practical. Budgeting for a Healthy Church: Aligning Finances with Biblical Priorities | by Jamie Dunlop “Our budget reflects our priorities” Video. Foolishness: Skate Bible "I watched this video and was stirred by the stories of the transforming power of Christ. It deserves to be widely distributed and viewed." Alistair Begg Photos and Previous Newsletter Previous Newsletter (March 2022) Photo’s (April to June 2022) Support We are in Louisville by the grace of God and the support of His people. We are overwhelmed and humbled by those who have allowed us to be here. If you would like to consider partnering with us on this journey, simply click on the following link: MEI Support Page [1] Revive Our Hearts, True Woman ’14: Joni Eareckson Tada—A Different Kind of Freedom, 2014,

  • Summary of "The Trellis and the Vine"

    Purchase this work here: The Trellis and the Vine In their work, The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne seek to reorient churches to their biblical roots of growing people (vine) rather than growing structures (trellis). In the following review, I provide a brief summary of each chapter with accompanying quotes and key takeaways. In the words of Mark Dever, "This is the best book I've read on the nature of church ministry." This is a must read for anyone in Christian leadership. Chapter Summaries CHAPTER 1 - THE TRELLIS AND THE VINE. The primary goal of Christian ministry is to make and nurture disciples of Christ—to grow the vine rather than the trellis. Trellis. All Christian churches, fellowships or ministries have some kind of trellis that gives shape and support to the work. As the ministry grows, the trellis also needs attention. Management, finances, infrastructure, organization, governance—these all become more important and more complex as the vine grows. In this sense, good trellis workers are invaluable, and all growing ministries need them. 8 Vine. The basic work of any Christian ministry is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of God's Spirit, and to see people converted, changed and grow to maturity in that gospel. That’s the work of planting, watering, fertilizing, and tending the vine. 8 Trellis work is easier. Trellis work tends to take over from vine work because “trellis work is easier and less personally threatening. Vine work is personal and requires much prayer. It requires us to depend on God, and to open our mouths and speak God’s word in some way to another person. By nature (by sinful nature, that is) we shy away from this … We can build our trellis till it reaches to the heavens, in the hope of making a name for ourselves, but there may still be very little growth in the vine. 9-10 Mission is not “out there.” The [great] commission is not fundamentally about mission out there somewhere else in another country. It’s a commission that makes disciple-making the normal agenda and priority of every church and every Christian disciple. 13 CHAPTER 2 - MINISTRY MIND-SHIFTS. Churches need to make a conscious shift towards thinking proactively rather than reactively, long term rather than short term, and move toward a focus on disciple-making one person at a time rather than through programs. The focus needs to shift towards “growing people who are disciple-making disciples of Christ.” 17 Training in evangelism. If all the members of your congregation are given the opportunity to be trained in evangelism, more unbelievers will attend our events. 19 Proactive vs. reactive. If you are mostly reacting to people’s problems, you won’t have the energy to put into proactive training and growing new work. If you take a problem approach to ministry, people with the most critical needs will dominate your programs, and these needs will wear you out and exhaust you, and reduce the effectiveness of your other ministries. 22 Principle. Developing mature disciples of Christ will take time but is well worth the upfront cost. 22-23 CHAPTER 3 - WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOD DOING? God is presently seeking to grow His people through His Spirit through the application of His Word. Gospel “flowering.” Throughout the world, the gospel is spreading, propagating, budding, flowering, bearing fruit … Once the gospel is planted in someone’s life and takes root, it keeps growing in them. Their lives bear fruit. They grow in love and godliness and knowledge and spiritual wisdom, so that they walk in a manner worthy of their calling, fully pleasing to the father, bearing fruit in every good work (Col 1:9-10, 2:6-7). 37 Saying goodbye to small. If this is the way the God is growing his church, “then it is time to say goodbye to our small and self-oriented ambitions, and to abandon ourselves to the cause of Christ and his gospel. 38 CHAPTER 4 - IS EVERY CHRISTIAN A VINE-WORKER? Yes. Every Christian does the work of the Lord by speaking the truth about God to other people under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Two fundamental activities. The two fundamental activities of Christian ministry are proclaiming (speaking the word) and praying (calling upon God to pour out his spirit to make the word effective in people’s hearts). 41 Two tiers of disciples? The call to discipleship is the same for all … There are not two sorts of disciples—the inner core who really served Jesus and his gospel, and the rest. To be a disciple is to be a slave of Christ and to confess His name openly before others … to be a disciple is to be a disciple maker. 43 To be a disciple is to be a slave of Christ and to confess His name openly before others … To be a disciple is to be a disciple maker. 43 Missionary heart. All Christians have the privilege, joy and responsibility of being involved in the work God is doing in our world, the ‘work of the Lord.’ 49 … The Christian without a missionary heart is an anomaly. 52 Three spheres. We all exist in three spheres or contexts of life: our family or home life; Our interaction with friends, colleagues, neighbors and the wider community; and fellowship with God’s people in our congregations. 56 CHAPTER 5 - GUILT OR GRACE? Suffering for the gospel alongside other brothers and sisters is a normal part of the Christian life. Two classes of Christians? There aren’t two classes of Christians—the partners and the spectators. We’re all in it together. 66 Church “partnership” rather than “membership. One church we have been involved in tried to express this by not having ‘membership’ of the congregation, but ‘partnership.’ In our society, when you join as a ‘member’ of something, it can have connotations of passivity and consumerism … The ‘partnership’ language, on the other hand, communicates immediately that we are signing up for active involvement—for being partners together in a great enterprise: the gospel mission of Christ. 66-67 CHAPTER 6 - THE HEART OF TRAINING. Training in the New Testament is much more about Christian thinking that results in godly living than it is about developing a particular set of skills. 70 Close relationship—similar to that of a parent to a child—was modeled by both Paul and Jesus. Training is like parenting. The relational nature of training means that the best training will often occur by osmosis rather than formal instruction. 76 Three C’s. Through personal relationship, prayer, teaching, modeling and practical instruction, we want to see people grow in conviction… character … competency. 78 CHAPTER 7 - TRAINING AND GOSPEL GROWTH. Gospel growth happens in the lives of people, not structures; we must be willing to lose people if that is better for the growth of the gospel; gospel growth happens as we disciple individuals at their own stage of development (Outreach, follow up, growth, training). Inefficient ministry. There needs to be inefficient, individual people ministry, as well as the more efficient ministries that take place in larger groups. 89 CHAPTER 8 - WHY SUNDAY SERMONS ARE NECESSARY BUT NOT SUFFICIENT. After laying out two other models of a pastor (service providing clergyman and CEO), Marshall and Payne advocate for the pastor as trainer whereby there is a “radical dissolution” between the clergy-layperson distinction, and the pastor and his people work closely together as ministers of the word. 99 Richard Baxter on the importance of one-on-one Word ministry. I have found that some ignorant persons, who have been so long unprofitable hearers, have got more knowledge and remorse in half an hour’s close discourse, than they did from ten years public preaching. I know that preaching the gospel publicly is the most excellent means, because we speak to many at once. But it is usually far more effectual to preach it privately to a particular sinner. 106 Public and personal Word ministry. The location for word ministry is necessarily public, but it is also inescapably personal and domestic. 107 CHAPTER 9 - MULTIPLYING GOSPEL GROWTH THROUGH TRAINING CO-WORKERS. Using Paul as an example, the authors encourage pastors to find co-laborers among the more mature members of their congregation who they can invest time in so that these members can then do the work of ministering to others. (2 Tim 2:2) Growth as a type of chaos. As more and more Christians are trained to minister to others, the number and variety of ministries will quickly get out of hand. People will be starting things, taking initiative, meeting with people, dreaming up new ideas. Growth is like this. It creates a kind of chaos, like a vine that constantly outgrows the trellis by sending tendrils out in all directions. 126 CHAPTER 10 - PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING. Evangelists, pastors and teachers are the product of pastors carefully finding and recruiting productive gospel ministers within their church and encouraging them to expend their lives for the sake of the gospel within the context of the church. 128 Shepherds proactively calling other shepherds. We shouldn't sit back and wait for people to feel called to gospel work, anymore than we should sit back and wait for people to become disciples of Christ in the first place. We should be proactive in seeking, challenging and testing suitable people to be set apart for gospel work. 134 “Baptizing” secular work as kingdom work and the Christian’s primary identity. We don't make disciples of Jesus by building better bridges, but by prayerfully bringing the word of God to people. And this is the duty, joy and privilege of every disciple, in whatever circumstance of life they find themselves. Secular work is valuable and good and must not be despised or downgraded. But it is not the center or purpose of our lives, nor the means by which God will save the world. My primary identity as a Christian is not that I am an accountant or a carpenter, but that I am a disciple making disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. 139 My primary identity as a Christian is not that I am an accountant or a carpenter, but that I am a disciple making disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. 139 CHAPTER 11 - MINISTRY APPRENTICESHIP. A ministry apprenticeship provides a full immersion experience for future leaders to grow in their convictions, character and competencies under the supervision of a shepherd who is then able to assess them for future ministry. CHAPTER 12 - MAKING A START. Christian ministry is simple: it's disciple-making. 151 The fundamental goal. The goal of all Christian ministry, in all its forms, is disciple-making. 153 More one-on-one. In most of the churches we know and visit, the problem is that there is not nearly enough one to one personal work happening.

  • Revelation 22:1-5 | "The Lamb is All the Glory in Emmanuel's Land"

    It’s amazing how clear things become in the final chapter. Whether it be the final chapter of a book, the end of a season, or life itself, the end often brings clarity to what has been true all along the way. Perhaps nothing brings more gravity to the weightiness of life itself than recognizing that it will soon be over. The final chapter of God’s revelation ends with a similar weightiness that brings clarity to the past, the present, and the future. Themes that began in Genesis that have reverberated throughout the story of Scripture become even clearer in this final chapter. Revelation 22 continues to reveal that (Fallen Condition Focus) we are often far too satisfied with less than all that God intended. As we immerse ourselves in this text, I hope that this final chapter will help you to see your life from an eternal perspective. … because what we actually value will determine how live … “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). (AIM) In our text tonight, God gives us a foretaste of ultimate glory that we might know how to live. Outline. We are going to look at three overlapping themes that rise from this text … (1) Abundant Life; (2) Freedom in Christ; and (3) the Glory of God … Abundant Life, Freedom in Christ, and the Glory of God. 1 - Abundant Life: Revelation 22:1-2 Context. In the book of Revelation, Jesus offers a perspective of history in light of its final outcome through the apostle John. John begins this text by using symbolic illustrations to try and describe the indescribable glories of heaven. This revelation of future realities gives us a hope that we can see, smell, taste, hear, feel, and thus savor and live for. Lifegiving Waters. The angel continues his tour with the apostle John through this celestial city … and in v1, shows him “the river of the water of life.” Woven into creation itself is the illustration of the vivifying effects of water. Most planet earth type documentaries revolve around water returning to a dry and parched land. When the waters return, they produce banks of luscious, vibrant flourishing. Wherever the water goes, life emerges. Entire spectrums of glorious, vibrant color burst forth. God often uses this imagery to portray the vivifying work of His Holy Spirit. In Genesis 1:2, the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters before creation burst forth. The one who delights himself in the law of the LORD in Psalm 1 is “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season.” In Jeremiah 2:13, God says that “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” When Jesus comes, He causes the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and those who were dead back to life! Like living water to parched land, He restores life … yet He promises that something better is coming! John 7:37-39 serves as a key text for understanding the river of the water of life here. Here, Jesus invites anyone who thirsts to “come to me and drink … 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said (quoting Isaiah 44:3), ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive’” And, in this final chapter, we see this beautiful Trinitarian theme repeated … v1 “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city.” Lifegiving Spirit. This crystalline river gives us an image of God’s pure, vivifying presence amongst people who are parched, barren, and spiritually dead! … Amongst those who long for a deep satisfaction but who continue to settle for the fleeting veneer of momentary pleasures. God’s Spirit reveals to us something of the light of the holiness and the glory of God and, in this light, the wretchedness and the unworthiness of our sin. He convicts us of sin and judgment and righteousness … causing us to hate the lie of sin that leads to death and love the truth of God that leads to life. God the Father and God the Son have delighted from all eternity to share their eternal goodness through God the Spirit. Like a river, the Spirit brings life. I love the description that Michael Horton gives of the Spirit… “The Spirit is an extrovert, always going forth on mission with His Word, creating an extroverted community that can at last look up to God in faith and out to the world in love, witness, and service.”[1] Like the river that began in Eden and then flowed throughout the world, the Holy Spirit flows from the throne of God and the Lamb to bring life. Nations at the Tree of Life. Practically speaking, we see this most clearly in the book of Acts, where all of the nations that were dispersed at the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 begin to be brought back together by the Spirit as promised to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12. The Spirit applies Christ’s work by regenerating people from every age and from every nation, tribe, people, and language to create one universal church. Their thirst will be quenched … and they will be eternally satisfied as we read in v2 about … “the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month.” Jew and Gentile, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, slave and free, black and white … will all gather by this river … each having regained access to the tree of life based on the merits of Christ … and will each experience a perpetual spring to enjoy God and one another in the garden of the new Eden. Truth and Application. God the Father and God the Son offer abundant life through God the Spirit. What God offers is not simply a ticket out of hell to paradise one day … but abundant life through His Spirit today. God is the fountain of life to those who turn from their sin and trust Him. Where might you be trying to live out of your own cistern? Where are the world, the flesh, and the devil are stealing, killing, and destroying life that God designed good? Do your spouse and your kids know when you’ve spent time with Jesus … when you’ve been planted by His Word? God offers abundant life through His Spirit. The second theme that we see is freedom in Christ from the curse of sin. 11:17 2 - Freedom In Christ: Revelation 22:3 Genesis. No one who has ever lived has lived without a first-hand experience of the curse of sin—death, judgment, and life separated from God and His good design. Sin is so alluring because it masks itself with a veneer of good … but it never has the substance to deliver what it promises … and it will draw you in over and over again until one day the doors lock behind you … and you’ll find yourself eternally quarantined with nothing but guilt, shame, and a bad memory of the fleeting pleasure of sin. There is a reason that hell is compared to a beautiful prostitute. Sin always looks better through the front windshield than it does in the rear-view mirror … and its’ affects are far broader than you could ever imagine. Constitution. To illustrate, imagine someone spilling a pot of coffee on the Constitution of the United States such that the entire document was soaked. The ink would be blurred. Every fiber of the parchment would be stained and warped and … as it began to dry out, it would begin to crack. In the same way, the curse of sin affected every square inch of the constitution of our being. Though a vestige of what was intended could still be seen, the stain of the curse of sin would blur the truth and warp our thoughts, emotions, our decisions … everything about us. While we were not as bad as we possibly could be, we had severed ourselves from our only lifeline. Our first-hand knowledge of the depths of the curse of sin should cause us to see verse 3 as one of the most glorious verses in all of Scripture … V3 … “No longer will there be anything accursed.” Why? Why will there be no more curse? There will be no more curse because the Lamb on the throne became the curse for us … look at the end of v3 … “but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.” Because in the same way that an animal was sacrificed as a blood offering to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve in the garden, Jesus gave His own blood that we might be clothed in His righteousness! In the same way that the earth was baptized by water in the days of Noah, Jesus was baptized by the curse of death for the sins of the world … that the world would never again have to experience God’s wrath. He was nailed to a tree as the curse for sin so that we might again have access to the tree of life. We like sheep had gone astray—each turning to our own way—yet He became the Lamb who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities … that we might be freed from sin’s curse, healed of sin’s power, and be wholly restored to live at peace with God and one another. Holy. Understood in these terms, to be holy is not something that we have to muster up. To be holy is our greatest joy and our deepest delight … to know Christ and be found in Christ and to be like Christ. Jonathan Edwards helpfully states: “Our hungering’s and thirsting’s after God and Jesus Christ and after holiness can’t be too great for the value of these things, for they are things of infinite value … Therefore, endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by laying yourself in the way of allurement.” To be holy is to be whole … wholly liberated from the tyranny of self … wholly conformed to God’s good design … wholly free to love God and to love others. Joni Earackson Tada. Joni Earackson Tada gives us a beautiful picture of the type of holiness and freedom that we should long for. In July of 1967, Joni was paralyzed from the shoulders down after diving into the shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Despite her physical struggles with pain, quadriplegia, and cancer, hear what she hopes for in heaven … “Don’t be thinking that when I get to heaven that I am most looking forward to a new body, free of cancer or pain, or quadriplegia … don’t be thinking that when I get to be with Jesus, I’m going to relish in mostly jumping up and kicking and doing aerobics … No(!) … what I am most looking forward to is a new Heart. I want a glorified heart that is free of sin, free of selfishness, free of self-centeredness, free of fear of the future, free, free, free...a heart that is no longer trapped by circumstances or resists God or looks for an escape or tries to justify itself when it is wronged. When I get to heaven, that will be glory for me.”[2] Truth and Application. My question to you tonight is what does glory look like for you? And how does that glory affect the way that you are living right now? Where are you choosing to live under the curse rather than the throne of God’s grace? To be free in Christ is to be free from the power of sin and long to be free from its’ presence. Do you want to be free like Jesus was free? … free from the tyranny of self … free from the bondage of sin … free to love and forgive even your vilest enemy? Free to not be consumed by your own self-image and vain glory … but rather to be totally consumed by your love for God … such that there is nothing in this life that is more valuable to you than His glory? Abundant life … freedom in Christ. And finally, the glory of God. 3 - The Glory Of God: Revelation 22:4-5 See His Face. Then, in the twinkling of an eye, we’ll turn … and what we have trusted by faith we will know by sight. V4 … We’ll see His face, and His name will be on our foreheads.” Like the thrill of a son or a daughter turning and seeing their father after an extended deployment … our ecstasy will be multiplied a hundredfold when we turn and see His face … The face of Him who knit us together in our mother’s womb … The face of Him for whom our souls find their deepest delight … The face of Him for whom the prophets longed to see but couldn’t … The face which bled from a crown of thorns that we might receive the crown of life. We will see Him in all of His glory without any hindrance of shame or remnant of the curse. Everything that John has seen in heaven so far—the luscious landscape fed by a lifegiving stream … the endless supply of the sweetest of fruits … the gates made with the finest of pearls … the floors plated with the purest of gold and whose walls sparkled with the rarest of jewels—all of these will pale in comparison to the glory of His presence … such that not only will there be no more night … but that even the light of an oil lamp and the light of the sun are put in the same category when they are compared to the infinite, glorious light of God! V5 … And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. The light of a lamp and that of the sun are like the glory of a short-lived match compared to the infinite radiance of God’s divine glory shown in the face of Jesus. Again, this is not something that we have to wait for … it is given in some measure now … Second Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Glory in Giving. And here again in our text, we see that God’s glory is a glory of giving of Himself. We wrestle with the idea of God seeking His own glory because we are born selfish and sinful … wanting to take rather than to give … but God is not like us. His seeking His own glory is in seeing His goodness multiplied. His glory is our good. Our good is a byproduct of us seeking His glory. And one day, v4 … His name will be on our foreheads. His name—representing His character—will be given to us. Aaron prayer in Numbers 6:25 for the Lord to “make His face to shine upon us” is answered in full. The work that God began God will complete as you and I are made to be wholly restored to His image and likeness. Bass Notes. When I was in college, I took a social dance class. The teacher would often call those of us who were less musically inclined to come put our hands on the speakers so that we could learn to hear and feel the bass notes. The more we learned to keep in step with the bass notes, the more the dance became a joy. The bass notes of God’s Word is His glory. As the fountain of life itself, God delights in seeing His goodness multiplied. When you come to the Lord in the morning, put your hands on His Word and ask Him to help you hear the bass notes. Ask Him to satisfy you in the morning with His steadfast love. Ask Him to continue to conform you to His image … for your good and His glory. Reign. V5 ends by stating that we will reign forever and ever. What does it mean that we are going to reign … and what are we going to reign over if there is no more sin … and all of the nations have been gathered to worship together? Theologians answer this in various ways. When we look at all of the allusions to the earliest parts of Genesis in this text—the river flowing through Eden giving life, the satisfaction of the tree of life, of walking with God in the garden, and the lack of any curse—I tend to think that to “reign forever and ever” is a fulfillment of God’s original commission to multiply and fill every square inch of this new Eden with His glorious image restored in us. Application. How does this future glory impact us today? In a general sense, what we hope for determines what we live for. The way that we spend our time, energy, and money reflect where our hope truly lies. In the chorus of an old hymn, Have the things of earth begun to grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace? More specifically … Is your heart more invested in the fleeting pleasures of Amazon or the eternal treasures of Eden? If your heart more invested in your reputation or the eternal glory of God? Are there people that you know who beam with the glory of God … that you can tell that they have been with Jesus … that every time you’ve been with them its been like a mini-retreat? Conclusion. Brothers and sisters … the final chapter of what lies ahead has already been written … and it’s been written by Him who shed His own blood … proving that He is the One who is faithful and true … that He is who He says He is … and will do what He said He’s going to do. This is the best final chapter in history. If you have never turned from your sin and trusted Christ, turn now, be saved, and begin to experience the restoration of the good life you were made for. If you are in Christ, this is your inheritance. Bask in the glory of this! Live for this. Let the certainty of this future impact the way that you live today. Abundant life through the Spirit, freedom in Christ from the curse of sin, and the glory of God forevermore. Postscript. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Mr. Standfast at the end of his journey to the Celestial City, says that “the thoughts of what I am going to, and of the conduct that waits for me on the other side, doth lie as a glowing Coal at my heart. I see myself now at the end of my Journey … I am going now to see that Head that was Crowned with Thorns, and that Face that was spit upon, for me … I have formerly lived by … faith, but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with Him, in whose company I delight.”[3] [1] Michael Horton, People and Places as found in Gregg R. Allison, Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church, Foundations of Evangelical Theology Series (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2012), 118. [2] Revive Our Hearts, True Woman ’14: Joni Eareckson Tada—A Different Kind of Freedom, 2014, begins at 31:45, [3] John Bunyan and W. R. Owens, The Pilgrim’s Progress, New ed, Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford [England] ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 283.

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