As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

Old Wine and Old Garments

I once heard of an African sect where everyone wears white clothes, taking the metaphor of white garments literally. We are tempted to place the letter into the things of the spirit. Jesus interpreted the law of Moses in the spirit and not the letter. In Mark 2:21-22 he taught about people attempting to combine the old with the new. We attempt to mingle the old way of the letter with the new, even in our interpretation of the new. Paul's cultural commentary about hair becomes church law, Old Testament letter of the law issues regarding things like Sabbaths and tithing become New Testament letter of the law rules instead of spiritual principles. We forget the example that circumcision of the heart no longer requires circumcision of the flesh. Do we also circumcise Christ's teachings by applying the letter when we should be learning to understand things in the spirit?

Count Your GDP Blessings

Having lived in several countries, I am constantly perplexed as to how little people seem to know about how the rest of the world really lives. Some think that everyone else is poor and bigotry towards foreigners is too common. So, I thought I'd introduce you to your neighbors. If you live any other place except DC, several countries earn more GDP per capita than you. People in Hawaii and Canada make about the same. If you live in Mississippi or West Virginia you probably make about the same as someone living in New Zealand. This chart compares GDP per person for US States and other wealthy countries. GDP per person is a fairer analysis than comparing a large country's income with a small one's. Enjoy! (source: CIA Factbook and
  • $136,714.13 District of Columbia
  • $118,000.00 Liechtenstein
  • $111,000.00 Qatar
  • $81,200.00 Luxembourg
  • $69,900.00 Bermuda
  • $64,609.90 Delaware
  • $59,500.00 Norway
  • $57,500.00 Kuwait
  • $57,000.00 Jersey (the island not the state)
  • $53,296.35 Connecticut
  • $51,600.00 Singapore
  • $51,300.00 Brunei
  • $51,044.13 Alaska
  • $49,647.88 Massachusetts
  • $47,728.82 Wyoming
  • $47,705.27 New Jersey (the state)
  • $47,500.00 United States average
  • $46,724.35 New York (the state not the city)
  • $45,500.00 Ireland
  • $44,600.00 United Arab Emirates
  • $44,600.00 Guernsey
  • $43,957.50 Minnesota
  • $43,800.00 Cayman Islands
  • $43,800.00 Hong Kong
  • $43,162.41 Virginia
  • $42,860.75 Colorado
  • $42,727.46 California
  • $42,500.00 Andorra
  • $42,300.00 Iceland
  • $42,000.00 Switzerland
  • $41,900.00 San Marino
  • $41,439.21 Illinois
  • $41,313.29 Washington (the state not the city)
  • $41,151.11 Nevada
  • $40,500.00 Netherlands
  • $40,445.95 Maryland
  • $40,400.00 Austria
  • $39,770.52 New Hampshire
  • $39,314.80 Hawaii
  • $39,200.00 Canada
  • $38,953.19 Rhode Island
  • $38,625.90 North Carolina
  • $38,601.04 Nebraska
  • $38,536.19 Texas
  • $38,521.96 Iowa
  • $38,500.00 British Virgin Islands
  • $38,244.10 Wisconsin
  • $38,200.00 Australia
  • $38,200.00 Sweden
  • $38,200.00 Gibraltar
  • $37,914.36 South Dakota
  • $37,719.03 Pennsylvania
  • $37,554.82 Georgia
  • $37,500.00 Belgium
  • $37,400.00 Bahrain
  • $37,300.00 Equatorial Guinea
  • $37,200.00 Denmark
  • $37,037.62 North Dakota
  • $37,000.00 Finland
  • $36,830.47 Michigan
  • $36,700.00 United Kingdom
  • $36,484.34 Ohio
  • $36,381.10 Tennessee
  • $36,235.97 Indiana
  • $36,102.48 Kansas
  • $35,500.00 Germany
  • $35,493.14 Vermont
  • $35,400.00 Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)
  • $35,189.24 Oregon
  • $35,033.99 Missouri
  • $35,000.00 Isle of Man
  • $34,600.00 Spain
  • $34,100.00 Japan
  • $33,700.00 European Union average
  • $33,616.80 Arizona
  • $33,599.80 Louisiana
  • $33,419.31 Florida
  • $33,346.90 Utah
  • $33,300.00 France
  • $32,749.78 Maine
  • $32,446.41 Kentucky
  • $32,100.00 Greece
  • $31,786.22 South Carolina
  • $31,601.59 New Mexico
  • $31,400.00 Italy
  • $31,100.00 Taiwan
  • $31,000.00 Faroe Islands
  • $30,700.00 Bahamas
  • $30,394.87 Alabama
  • $30,334.56 Idaho
  • $30,225.34 Oklahoma
  • $30,000.00 Macau
  • $30,000.00 Monaco
  • $29,605.52 Montana
  • $29,600.00 Slovenia
  • $28,805.89 Arkansas
  • $28,600.00 Israel
  • $27,900.00 New Zealand
  • $27,395.68 West Virginia
  • $26,087.88 Mississippi
  • $22,997.39 US Virgin Islands
  • $18,983.89 Guam
  • $18,499.23 Puerto Rico
  • $11,199.32 Northern Mariana Islands
  • $8,638.41 American Samoa

Truth about Agape

We all begin our journeys as novices. Even after years, our knowledge is going to be limited. One area is that of biblical Greek. Even most preachers only have a cursory understanding of it. So, when a preacher stands in the pulpit and claims that this or that Greek word means such and such, please forgive him and take it with a grain of salt. For instance, we often hear that agape refers to a special kind of Godly love. That is not necessarily the case. It depends on how the word is used in context. In some cases agape is used to describe some other kind of love. One example is 2 Timothy 4:10 which mentions that Demas left Paul because he loved this present, evil world. So, what ought we to do? Perhaps we need humility that we could be wrong and a willingness to change our opinions.

A God or Mammon Xmas

What is the reason for the season? That depends on what our priorities are. The name of the Christmas season indicates to some the mass of Christ, however the season and its name were not always focused on Christ, but a variety of other pursuits including certain pagan customs. Today, there are two extremes of Christmas, that observed by non-Christians and the celebration of Christ's birth. The one is a materialistic and commercialized Christmas focusing on spending money, decorations and fictitious stories. The other is a spiritual Christmas which focuses on simplicity, truth and Christ. To be honest, most of us are probably somewhere in both camps. We have a foot in the commercial hype which plays on our emotions, and perhaps we pay a token tribute to the so-called reason for the season. Perhaps the choice voiced by Matthew 6:24 also applies to Christmas. Can we serve two masters?

Jesus in our Hearts?

We often hear evangelists spouting religious-sounding things that do not always come from the Bible. One such commonly found fallacy is the idea of asking Jesus into our hearts. How often have we heard this idea? It is so commonly accepted that it may even sound sacriligious to challenge the idea. In fact there is no Bible command, directive, instruction or even a hint of any kind that we do any such thing as ask Jesus into our hearts. This is one of those saying that has crept into pop culture which has no biblical backing whatsoever. There is, however, someone who does live in our hearts, if we allow him. According to 1 Corinthians 6:19 that person is the Holy Spirit. Let's make sure that we get our faith out of the guide book to Christianity, the Bible, and not from the vain ideas and traditions of mere men.

Peace Prize

Sometimes we criticize the choice of who receives the Nobel Peace prize. Why waste time criticizing any committee for giving something in the manner that this world gives? Are we so naive that we actually expect something that is given by this world could ever meet the highest criterion? Or, are we realistic enough to know that this world gives by this world's standards? Is it not like chasing the wind to expect great standards for peace in a world without peace? Alfred Nobel's legacy is certainly a gesture that measures up to his name, noble, but perhaps it is also naively labeled. There is only one source of peace and it is not found in any of this world's leaders.  Jesus is the source and it is a peace which passes understanding. Let us leave the world to its devices and prize the peace that only he can give (John 14:27)

Cuss Words

Why have Christians banned so-called cuss words? What does the Bible say about this? Paul taught the Ephesians against unwholesome talk (4:29), a much broader term than a mere list of banned words. In fact it doesn't refer to individual words at all, but how we communicate. 1 Samuel 20 records Saul refering to Jonathan as the linguistic equivalent of a son of a b__. Okay, so we don't follow Saul's example. Jesus called Herod a fox and the Pharisees snakes and hypocrites, culturally equivalent to curse words in modern English. Paul called the former things dung, actually more like crap or s__ in the original language. The Bible also refers to men as that gender that p__ against a wall. Don't get me wrong. I usually find vulgarity offensive. However, there is also a fitting occasion at times. The New Testament does not give us lists of banned words.

Alphabet Soup Salvation

The god of education is often touted as the way to salvation for our planet and its many troubles. Yet, just a generation ago, one of the world's most educated nations, Germany was engaged in some of history's worst atrocities. And so today, our beautiful world is run by highly intelligent people with alphabet soup after their names: PhD, MD, MBA and so on. Have these wonderfully talented and incredibly bright people solved the problems of war, starvation and atrocity? No. They can't. Education is wonderful, and extremely profitable, but it is not the way to salvation for our weary planet and its insurmountable problems. There is someone who has exclusive franchise rights on that commodity. As the Bible says, "there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12 NASB)

Christmas on Credit

She received notice that her credit card limit was reduced as Christmas drew near. She called her bank screaming how they had just ruined her holiday season. She was deeply in credit card debt and now she wanted to place herself under an even deeper burden fooled into believing that Christmas was all about things. Quietly, when he was given a chance to respond, the credit manager reassured her he was going to give her the best Christmas present that he had available at his discretion. He was not going to restore her former credit line, because it would ruin her life and make her Christmas worse. In gentle and reassuring tones, he told her that Christmas is not about what we can buy, but about family. More importantly, it's about a Savior and we can celebrate him for free. What about us? What kind of Christmas are we planning?

Servant or Master of Money

Slavery is alive and well today. An example is credit card debt. It is bad for us, the economy and the bank. The insanity is that banks charge disgustingly usurious interest rates to discourage this debt, but the credit drug is just too powerful. The worst kind of credit card slavery is the habit of carrying a very high balance from month to month. People who carry high credit card balances are a risk to themselves, their country and their lender. On the other hand, there are those who are masters of money and use credit cards wisely. They pay the balance in full every month, on time, every time. These people help themselves, their country and even their bank benefits because it carries low outstanding debt and still manages to make some income from interbank charges. Matthew 6:24 reminds us not to be slaves of money, but instead serve God.

Merry Christmas vs Happy Holidays

Some Christians abhor terms like Happy Holidays, insisting that we use the word Christmas. Is this a Christian version of political correctness that neglects what's really important? Has Christmas become elevated to the status of a mandate by traditional and commercial interests? It was neither commanded nor celebrated by Christ or the Apostles, but came into the Church about 300 years later. Contrary to some twisted theological thinking, it is also not banned in the Bible. It is not a core Christian requirement. Our traditions have made it appear so, but neither Jesus nor the Apostles demand it. So, if we criticize those who simply prefer a term like Happy Holidays, we also need to ask ourselves, why are we upset? Ought we not be more concerned about focusing on the commands that Jesus, the head of the Church made, than political correctness about church traditions invented by mere men?

Faith vs Truth

How do we separate having faith in truth from having faith in a half truth, or worse a lie? Perhaps humility is a key. We have all kinds of opinions about a great many topics. Few of us are really qualified to have an expert opinion in such matters as global warming, politics, paleontology or the economy. We tend to make hasty and uneducated opinions based upon partial facts or prejudice, and yet as Christians we are supposed to be dealing in truth, as best we can. To be fair, outside of mathematics, we human beings are limited in our ability to formulate absolutely certain conclusions. Perhaps what is missing is a degree of humility, which leaves the possibility open that we might be wrong on a few things. I exaggerate! More accurately said, we are probably more wrong than right, and I believe that may possibly be the truth.

A Generation Willing to Suffer

Our forefathers were willing to suffer. Many suffered through wars or financial hardships. Today, from the boardroom to the street, we don't seem to be willing to suffer. We are impatient and sell our children and grandchildren into debtor's slavery so that we can have it all now. We are angry at the credit card company or the store sales person when we can't have what we want. We push and shove others out of the way on the freeway and during retail sales. What happened to that patient generation that willingly endured suffering? In Romans 8:17 the writer of a letter to ancient Rome reminded them that we are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Are we willing to be a generation ready to suffer for the good of others?

Finding the Genuine

The free world is not -- free, but captive to graft and corruption. Gay is not -- gay. French Fries are not -- French, but Belgian. The World Series is not -- the world, but regional. is not -- free, but contains fees. The Secret is not -- a secret, but new age philosophy. Victoria's Secret is not -- secret, but exposed. Political saviors are not -- saviors, but fallible human beings. The world is full of empty and misleading promises. So what is genuine? God alone has the ability to keep his promises. God's benefits are real and permanent. He forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases. He redeems us from death and crowns us with love and tender mercies. He fills life with good things. Our youth is renewed like the eagle's. God gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly.

Negative Christianity

As Christians we have a choice to wallow in the negative or dwell on the positive. It is easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in all the bad news around us as if our hope is in this world. As I listen to Christian radio shows like Point of View, which ought to be labeled Negative Point of View, I am reminded of my grandmother's positive point of view. She was a grace-filled Christian lady who tended to find the good in things. My father carried that legacy and I believe that it was his positive mental attitude that enabled him great success in business. Perhaps negative Christianity was also a phenomenon in ancient times and that's why Paul reminded the Philippians to focus on positive things. How often do we dwell on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise?

Christmas Tree Lessons

There is a movement of negative Christians who tend to overly focus on what is bad in the world. Many also focus on negative things associated with Christmas, such as pagan origins and modern debt. That is okay. Paul encouraged the Philippians to focus on the positive. God created trees and as such they declare his glory. The many baubles on a Christmas tree are reminiscent of the tree of life and remind me of Christ, the way to life. The Psalms declare that a righteous person is like a tree planted by the waterside, bearing its fruit in its season. The Christmas tree and every tree reminds me to stay close by the water of God to bear spiritual fruit. The bright lights often found on a Christmas tree remind me that God's word is a light to my path and that Christ is the light of the world.

Absolutely Secure

Maybe I'm hard-nosed, but I don't trust liars, gigolos, seductive women, adulterers, thieves, most televangelists, political promises, lobbyists, the tax-man, popes, gurus, Hollywood actors, big charities, rock musicians, time payments, skunks, television advertisers, motivational speakers, doctors, slot machines, dentists, medical insurers, cigarette manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, discounts, Teflon, cell phone companies, manipulative people, infomercials about making money, bears, repackaged retail items, preachers of empty-headed fluff, multi-level marketing, pyramid schemes, food additives, biased news reporting, tailgaters, state lotteries, fast-talking salesmen, closing down furniture sales, freeware, the legal system, links to strange web sites, anything free that includes a hidden monthly fee, know-it-alls and spam. I do trust my wife, parents, wife's parents, siblings, many close friends, firemen, ambulance officers, rescue workers, nurses, farmers, my employer to pay me at least something each payday, other cars to stay on their side of the road and my dog mostly, and the Lord in everything.

Bitter Christians

In Acts 8 Peter accused Simon of being full of bitterness. In Romans 3 we see the world around described as full of cursing and bitterness. Bitterness is very toxic and it can even create whole societies that are negative, cynical and skeptical. Bitterness poisons us and twists our thinking into an illogical, emotional ruin. When we are bitter we only see evil motives in political leaders, we cause division between churches and destroy families. The nightly news feeds on bitter political, business and criminal strife. Church fights are almost always messy. Sometimes the bitterness is so deep that people just go to another church, or even start a new one. Forgiveness and reconciliation are antidotes to bitterness. Reconciliation is a very beautiful thing, but hard and it is sometimes easier after a little time and distance. Perhaps that's why the author of Hebrews 12:15 warns us to diligently avoid bitterness.

Ancient Bible Thanksgiving

A variety of Thanksgiving is celebrated in countries like the USA, Canada and Germany today. However, the idea of a harvest festival of thanks is a very ancient one. One of the most celebrated feasts of ingathering of the harvest that Christians may be familiar with is the Jewish feast of tabernacles or Sukkoth. Some Christians observe this biblical autumn festival even today. Paul gave us the right to celebrate various days according to our conscience and the freedom of worship that we enjoy in Christ. Apart from thanks for a successful harvest, what other meanings could there be in such a celebration for Christians? The feast of booths, as it is also called, pictures the same thing as Christmas, when the word became flesh and put on this earthly tabernacle. In prophecy, it also pictures that wonderful celebration at Christ's return when all nations will feast in thanksgiving style.

Fables we Christians love to Believe

1. If Christians were in power the world would be better. Actually, Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan were neither better nor worse than other Presidents of the USA. Protestant and Catholic rulers made Europe a more oppressive place than modern, secular, democratic Europe.

2. If we don't do something, Antichrist will rise and persecute Christians. Actually, prophecies do not indicate that Christians can stop it but only that Christ's return will save us out of it.

3. Christians behave better and are wealthier than their non-Christian neighbors. Actually, Paul described Christians as the weak of the world, not worldly wise. The difference is that they are saved.

4. Modern Christianity is an exact copy of the ancient way. Modern Christianity is very different than that described by Christ and experienced by the ancient Church, with a major exception: Faith in Christ is still saving faith and that is the most important thing.

Ashamed to be a Christian

If being a Christian means to condemn instead of pray for political leaders, then I am ashamed. If I must constantly focus on what is wrong with our world, then I am ashamed. If I must constantly criticize and repulse unbelievers instead of love them and be a light, then I am ashamed. If it means that I must be in constant anxiety about what men say may happen if I don't waste money lobbying for one-sided, poorly researched, bigoted religious politics, instead of giving it for the Gospel, then I am ashamed. But, I am not ashamed to be a Christian, because Christ demands that I pray for our leaders, be humble and set my hope on his kingdom not this world. Paul encourages me to focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Now that is real Christianity and therefore I am not ashamed.

Pick Up Your Mat and Go Home

Have you wasted years of your life fretting over the consequences of bad decisions? Have you spent too much time lying on a mat of troubles, laid low by foolish mistakes? Have sin and corruption made you sick in body, mind and soul? Have good friends carried you to Jesus in prayer and laid your soul before him asking for healing? Know that Jesus has seen the faith of you and your friends. Others may question in their hearts if Jesus has the authority to forgive you. Know that Jesus heals and forgives. He said in regard to a paralyzed man in Mark 2:10 that he would prove that he had the authority to forgive sins. Know that Jesus tells you also to stand up, pick up your mat upon which you have laid in troubles and sickness for too long, and go home. You are forgiven! You are healed!

I Thought You were a Good Guy

I once overheard a man blurt out, "I thought you were a good guy!" after he found out that his friend enjoyed an occasional alcoholic drink. In Mark 2:15-17 we read that Jesus ate with such inferior "sinners" as defined by the Pharisees and their rules. Are we sometimes guilty of looking down our noses at others who believe differently to us. The scribes used the word sinners in a sense of outcasts, narrowly defined by their human standards, which they mistakenly thought were God's. The Scribes and Pharisees had a history of faithfulness to the law and were proud descendants of martyrs under Antiochus Ephiphanes. They viewed others as second-rate sinners by comparison. Do we ostracize people who don't have our proud church history or meet our fabricated standards? Next time we are tempted to do so, let's remember that Jesus ate with those that religious people had cast aside.

Free from Man-Made Religion

When others tell me that Christmas is wrong, I will turn on my Christmas lights even brighter. When others tell me that dancing is a sin, I will dance all the more exuberantly. When others tell me that I should wear a suit and tie to church, I will show up in blue jeans. When others tell me that I should avoid alcohol, I will buy a bottle of wine or a six pack of beer and enjoy it for a week. When others tell me to say an Amen to their long and tedious prayers or loud but meaningless preaching, I will be silent. When others tell me to drive a black car, I will buy one that is bright red.

When others tell me to follow them, I will follow Jesus and Jesus alone. When others teach empty-headed fluff and claim that their doctrine is infallible, I will do research in a critical commentary and search the Scriptures like the Bereans. I am free from the religions of men and their silly rules. I will allow nobody to take my freedom in Jesus away. I will enjoy the company of fellow Christians in almost any denomination, but I will not be put in a prison of man-made religion.

Liberal or Conservative?

Why I am a Liberal

I am a liberal because I do not believe that the Bible says anywhere that it is the word of God, that is, always a quote from God. I am a liberal because I do not believe that Christianity is limited to one exclusive church or human authority. I am a liberal because I do not believe that most doctrines that divide us come from God. I am a liberal because I do not believe that "religious" experiences are reliable. I am a liberal because I do not believe that everything taught in Church is inspired by God.

Why I am a conservative

I am a conservative because I believe that the Bible is the word of God, that is, the word about God and the word inspired by God. I am a conservative because I believe that God's true Church is one, united in Christ. I am a conservative because I believe that most doctrines that unite us come from God. I am a conservative because I believe that we must experience Christ. I am a conservative because I believe God.


Chapter from Christianity without the Crap by Ian Grant Spong available at

Sense and Nonsense about Infallibility

Infallibility is an issue with extremes on both sides. Catholics and even Protestants think that Protestants do not believe in infallibility at all. They do. Protestants think that the Catholic Church teaches that the pope doesn't make mistakes. It does not.

The Catholic Church teaches three sources of infallibility of the Church: the Bible, Tradition and the Magisterium (the teaching office of the Church which includes official decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and the ex-cathedra pronouncements of the Pope). Commonly infallibility is understood over a broader spectrum with two extremes. Let's examine the spectrum of beliefs on this subject and get to the real issues.

Infallibility of Doctrine

On the one extreme is the liberal idea that no doctrine of the Church is infallible. Among liberal Catholics and in many liberal Protestant churches today, the whole basis of the Christian faith is being brought into question. A statement like no teaching is infallible is often said as if it were infallible itself, making at least one doctrine infallible. So this is a self-contradictory statement. If it is not infallible, then there arises the possibility that some doctrines are infallible.

Infallibility of the Bible

Most Protestants believe that only the Bible is infallible. Yet by default then, they believe that the decision to canonize the books of the Bible beginning with the paschal letter of Athanasius in 367 AD and final acceptance by the entire Church at the Council of Carthage in 397 AD was also infallible. So, not only is the Bible infallible, but at least one council decision made by leaders of the Church.

One infallible decision leads to more. If the Protestant churches by and large believe that there was at least one infallible decision made by early church leaders, then there is the possibility of other infallible decisions. Most mainstream Protestant churches believe that the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds are infallible, or at least pretty near infallible. The quibble over filioque as mentioned in a separate chapter, ought to be a relatively minor issue and not do away with the essential infallibility of the creeds.

Most mainstream Christians also believe that the Trinity doctrine is infallible. It is discussed in greater detail in the chapters on God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Infallibility of the Councils

If one ecumenical council made an infallible decision, it is not too hard to admit that possibly others did too. However, does that mean that every council therefore makes infallible decisions? This is probably the point where Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christians would begin to disagree with Rome.

However, we must be fair. Catholics do not believe that everything that the councils wrote is infallible, just the official statements. By and large, the Orthodox Church also believes that the official proclamation of either the first seven or nine Ecumenical Councils was infallible, but not the vast majority of those later councils which were made by the western Catholic Church in isolation.

Protestants would not find it difficult to believe that the legacy of history has proven the canonization of the Bible and the Trinity doctrine to be infallible decisions. However, those decisions were made with a general consent of the Christian community which has not existed since the first seven councils. As a result, Eastern Orthodox Christians do not recognize most Catholic decisions since that time, and Protestants are not unified at all on which decisions they recognize. Generally, Protestants recognize the first two or three councils.

The Orthodox Church believes that official decisions of all truly Ecumenical (i.e. east-west) Councils were infallible, because those were decisions based upon broad consensus across the whole Christian Church. The major decisions made during the first thousand years are generally adhered to by both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.

Since the Great Schism, there has been no consensus between eastern and western Christians and the Orthodox Church has been reluctant to recognize any major decisions made by the western (Catholic) Church since then.

Protestants ask and rightly so, that if the councils were infallible, why did some reverse the decisions of earlier ones? For instance, why did the Second Council of Nicaea (787 AD) restore the veneration of icons, after the Council of Constantinople (754) had condemned the same?

However, Protestants have their own problem: division between themselves. Protestants are miserably divided over the issue of which doctrines from the first 1500 years of Church history to keep and which to do away with.

The Ecumenical Councils

Let's take a short break in our discussion to list the seven truly Ecumenical Councils and some of the major decisions made.
  • Council of Nicaea (325 AD) began the Creed of Nicaea, set the date of Easter.
  • First Council of Constantinople (381 AD) finalized the Nicene Creed.
  • Council of Ephesus (431 AD) declared Mary the Mother of God (theotokos).
  • Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) defined the two natures of Christ, divine and human.
  • Second Council of Constantinople (553 AD) confirmed the first four general councils.
  • Third Council of Constantinople (680-681 AD) defined two wills in Christ, divine and human as witnessed in his prayers before his crucifixion.
  • Second Council of Nicaea (787 AD) regulated the use of icons.
The Catholic Church continues to hold what it calls Ecumenical Councils, which are not truly ecumenical if we believe that Orthodox and Protestant churches are also Christian. The Orthodox Church continues to hold Local Councils and recognizes important letters or statements of faith by individual bishops. Protestants have factionalism along denominational lines and no general council deciding doctrinal issues.

The Catholic and Orthodox Churches recognize the first seven councils. Mainstream Protestants also recognize the first few councils, but with a few reservations on their teachings. Catholics and Orthodox Christians count different councils 8 and 9. Catholics count councils 10-21 also as Ecumenical. Vatican I and Vatican II were the last two in the series of 21 councils recognized by Catholics.

Arguments against Infallibility

Catholic reformer, Hans Küng pointed out that the Catholic Church had overturned decisions in the past. For instance, Vatican II was at odds with Gregory XVI and Pius IX on religious liberty. It went against Leo XIII, Pius X, and Benedict XV on the inerrancy of scripture. Vatican II also disagreed with Pius XI on the relationship of the Catholic Church to other Christian churches. Küng pointed out that the Church seems to have an infallible Magisterium (teaching office) that is sometimes fallible, an oxymoron. He redefined infallibility not to mean doctrines without error, but teachings without intentional deception. However, Küng is more liberal than even many Protestants. He claims that the Church does not have an infallible pope, infallible councils, nor an infallible Bible, but only a Church that will not fail.


The biggest problem that Protestant and Catholic critics have with the infallibility of the Church's teachings is when it means they are irreformable. Yet even Vatican II admits in defining infallibility that the assent of the Church cannot be wanting. Protestants and Orthodox would say that it certainly is wanting. The Church in general does not agree. The Church of Jesus Christ (Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox) has only given its assent to most of the decisions of the first few Ecumenical Councils, with some reservations on the part of Protestants. This is generally the level of infallibility which Protestant and Orthodox Christians are comfortable with.

While Küng brought the debate to wide attention, he is not accepted as the ultimate reformer of infallibility, merely the one who writes in language Protestants can understand. Other Catholic reformers and fellow founders of the Catholic reformist magazine Concilium, such as Edward Schillebeeckx and Karl Rahner write in a manner less offensive to Catholics. Protestants may be shocked to know that among Catholic theologians, there is a wide diversity of opinion and not all accept the doctrine of infallibility at face value.

Arguments for Infallibility

Why do many Catholics believe in infallibility? It is necessary to be generous towards our Catholic friends by assuming that they are reasonable and not victims of blind faith; otherwise, we end up being just blind bigots ourselves. Catholics teach that Christ founded his Church and intended it to be universal and unified. In order to preserve this unity, Christ bestowed upon the apostles and their legitimate successors full ability to teach, govern and follow the lead of the Holy Spirit into all truth.

This infallibility means exemption from the possibility of error in the important decisions of the Church. It has nothing to do with fallible human intellect, but God's infallible leading of the Church. The principle texts used to prove this point are Matthew 28:18-20; 16:18; John 14, 15, and 16; I Timothy 3:14-15; and Acts 15:28.

Infallibility of Papal Ex-Cathedra Teaching

Difficult for Orthodox and Protestants are the many doctrines of the later Catholic Ecumenical Councils and especially the doctrine of infallibility to the pope's rare ex-cathedra statements. Neither the Orthodox Church nor Protestantism accept this doctrine. However, we must be fair to our Catholic friends. Nearly all Catholics agree that there have only ever been two ex-cathedra pronouncements made by the pope: the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Assumption of Mary. The entire documents surrounding these two ex-cathedra statements are not considered to be infallible, only the official statements, a few sentences or so.

The infallibility of the pope in making ex-cathedra statements was only defined as a dogma in the First Vatican Council of 1870. It is not agreed to by Protestant and Orthodox Christians who believe that popes make mistakes in ex-cathedra pronouncements. Orthodox Christians believe that any such official decisions made in isolation, to which the whole Church was not part, is dubious and cannot be infallible. Both of the pope's ex-cathedra pronouncements, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary have caused great offense and revulsion among Protestants, serving to repel them even further from Rome than before. Protestants believe that these teachings have not fostered Christian unity by reinforcing essentials of the faith, but rather emphasized divisive dogmas over scripturally dubious matters.

Infallibility of the Pope

And now we finish near the other extreme regarding infallibility. Many people suppose that Catholics believe the pope is generally infallible, i.e., impeccable, or without personal error. Perhaps some Catholics do believe this, but that is not official teaching. The phrase papal infallibility can sound misleading. It means that when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex-cathedra (i.e., when in the discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, he defines that a doctrine concerning faith or morals must be held by the whole Church) that teaching is infallible, irreformable. There have only ever been two such ex-cathedra pronouncements in all history as discussed above.

Catholic reform theologian Hans Küng objected that everyone had to pay a high price "for this infallibility, which allowed for no genuine corrections and revisions...which profoundly shook the credibility of the Catholic Church...created a gap between the Church and modern science...exodus of countless intellectuals, the inner alienation of many believers...the loss of touch with reality, the mighty religious machine whose operations very often conceal the absence of inner life...Was all that necessary?" (How the Pope Became Infallible, by A. B. Hasler, Doubleday, 1981 p. 195)

Infallible Televangelists

As a postscript to this discussion, let's consider a modern phenomenon: the televangelist who discourages criticism of his teachings. Protestants may be shocked to know that some of their own claim defacto infallibility. For instance, some in the word-faith movement claim that they are above doctrine, that doctrine does not matter, yet that statement itself is a doctrine.

The claim that doctrine doesn't matter is often made by poorly educated preachers who don't understand correct doctrine and themselves teach defective, wacky ideas. It seems like a device to protect them from close scrutiny. Some are also known to make threats such as, if you dare criticize them you are bound for hell.

This too is a defacto claim of infallibility and ought to be a warning signal that something fishy is going on. Many televangelists are poorly educated and have a very deficient understanding of even basic Christianity. In a perfect world, television preaching would be the domain of those who know what they are talking about and there would be no spiritual snake oil salesmen.


What does Jesus say about papal infallibility? Nothing! Division caused by non-essentials is crap. Infallibity has created unnecessary division. Dividing the Christian church over a matter that Jesus did not think was important enough to command his disciples is crap. The Christianity of Christ did not include infallibility for his apostles, nor does such a doctrine leave room for humility and later repentance of errors. He who covers errors will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will have mercy (Proverbs 28:13).

Infallibility is a broader topic than most Protestants initially think, covering some beliefs that Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics have in common, and some areas of major disagreement. Infallibility can be seen as either faith or arrogance, as either creating unity or causing disunity. One thing is certain: the Catholic Church has painted itself into a corner over this issue, making unity with Protestants and Orthodox that much more distant. Would a future Pope be willing to confess that this doctrine is flawed (1 John 1:9)? He would be a very brave man, but he would have the instant respect of Protestants, Orthodox and many Catholics.

The Day the Church Repented

The Day the Church Repented

Parables of Repentance

By Ian Grant Spong

This book is a series of parables. They are parables of hope, hope for a day that many of us would love to see in our lifetimes. It is not an impossible hope, but it may be improbable - the day the Church repented.

Available now at CreateSpace and

Meditations on the Bread of Life

  • How many ways was bread used in the Bible? (e.g. shew bread, manna, unleavened bread, Jesus born in Bethlehem = house of bread)
  • Is Jesus exhorting us to cannibalism when he encourages us to eat his body?
  • What does it mean to eat Christ's body at communion?
  • Why do Catholics kneel during the Eucharist?
  • Why do they believe that the bread and wine become literally the body and blood of Christ?
  • Why do Catholics take the Bible literally when it says "this is my body...this is my blood" even when Protestant literalists do not?
  • It is recent vocabulary, first approved in 1215 by the 4th Lateran Council. So why do they not also believe Christ is literally a door or a vine or that the leaven of the Pharisees is literal too?
  • Does taking this literally make Christians cannibals?
  • Is the cup then also literally the new covenant? Let's be consistent.
  • Is the bread only symbolic, literally Christ's body, or something in between?
  • What does it mean to only eat Jesus once and thereby gain eternal life?
  • How can true bread, Jesus be consumed yet also be eternal?
  • How does eating Christ's flesh grant us eternal life?
  • Does partaking of communion in some way give us eternal life?
  • Is this magic, or superstition?
  • Is the bread of communion, food of immortality?
  • Is there something deeper such as faith and a relationship that is hinted at here?
  • How are we related to Jesus as a person is related to bread?
  • How does living bread live in us?
  • As we consume immortality, do we become immortal too?
  • Were people offended only at the thought of cannibalism, or also that Jesus' said his origin was heaven?
  • If this was scandalous, would that same body ascending to heaven offend them more?
  • Is substituting the word believing for the word eating just too simplistic, or is there something more here?
  • In a consumer society, we consume the world and remain empty. How does internalizing Christ combat our poverty in wealth?
  • What does grain go thru to become bread? Could that picture what Jesus went thru to become our bread?
  • Why did Jesus not say, I am the candy or the honey of life?
  • Why did Jesus reveal this bread in 3 steps -- there is bread from heaven, he is the bread, his body given for the world is that bread?

Listening to Topics or Christ?

A lot of popular preaching is topical - right living, Obama-bashing, homespun philosophy and man-made rules. The weakness of topical preaching is that it is overdone and Christ is underdone. We are more fond our ideologies than Christ. The result is more law and less grace. Listening to a half hour of Christian radio, we often learn things like 10 rules to be a better parent, 7 ways to be a better husband and 12 ways to keep our teenagers pure. All those things may be useful, but they leave us exhausted and weary. When are we ever going to be able to measure up to such standards, such expectations, such do's and don'ts? What we need is more of Christ, not another list of unnattainable rules. The best preaching is teaching what Christ taught. What we need is salvation and peace, and we can only find that in Christ.

Christianity without the Crap

Christianity without the Crap is now available at Amazon and Create Space. Thank you to all those who contributed ideas, critiques and more importantly, encouragement.

If we don't know Jesus

We got transubstantiation
Or maybe consubstantiation
Believe in an ancient Creation
Give a generous donation
Working on spiritual formation
But if we don't know Jesus
there's no salvation
only empty imagination

In weekly celebration
of eternal renovation
raising hands in adoration
with appropriate gyration
harmony and notation
But if we don't know Jesus
there's no salvation
only empty imagination

Preacher got the right quotation
from his Bible translation
Helping us avoid temptation
and every kind of aberration
So we're free of accusation
But if we don't know Jesus
there's no salvation
only empty imagination

Tithing by our calculation
So he's got some compensation
from this whole congregation
for his steadfast dedication
and his Bible education
But if we don't know Jesus
there's no salvation
only empty imagination

Got the right dispensation
for this modern generation
Got to be in preparation
for the coming revelation
there's no time for relaxation
But if we don't know Jesus
there's no salvation
only empty imagination

This whole world's in termination
ready for annihilation
Looking for glorification
and the coming manifestation
a great victory celebration
But if we don't know Jesus
there's no salvation
only empty imagination

Lessons from John the Baptist

John the Baptist: Prophet And Disciple- He prepared for Jesus
- He confessed freely, "I am not the Christ"
- He said, "I must decrease"
- Jesus said that there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he
- Some who testify about Jesus are weird, but that's not important
- God chose John for a special mission long before he was born
- John's message of preparation for Jesus was repentance
- A change of heart is always the best preparation for Jesus
- John never veered from his role, not even to become a disciple of Jesus himself
- John's imprisonment and execution did not occur because of Jesus, but because he criticized Herod
- unlike his condemnation of the Pharisees' stubbornness, Jesus was merciful towards John's crisis of faith
- Jesus assumed that John actually was part of this reign, so a crisis of faith, doesn't necessarily keep us out of the kingdom of heaven
- Preparing for Jesus ought never prevent us becoming disciples of Jesus
- never spend so much time in spreading the message of Christ, that we fail to come to Christ
- someone can indeed create a very impressive ministry and still not have come to discipleship in Christ

Real Rest

I searched a lifetime to find long needed rest for my soul. I began in liberal churches. I found decent folks eager for good works and peacemaking, but no rest. I went to churches that take a sabbath day's rest. I found decent folks who love the Ten Commandments, but no rest for my soul. I went to fundamentalist churches. I found decent, law abiding folks who love rules to live by, but I found no rest. I went to charismatic churches. I found decent folks who love lively music and enthusiastic preaching, but no rest. I went to ancient churches. I found decent folks with faithful martyrs and praying saints, but no rest. I went to Bible churches. I found decent folks who love quality exegetical preaching, rightly dividing the Word of God, but no rest. Then I went to Jesus and THERE I found rest for my soul.

Should Christians Shut Up?

We're told that in polite company we don't discuss sex, politics or religion. I agree with the first two, but why can't we discuss religion? Jesus did, all the time. Granted, sometimes people didn't want to listen, especially the Pharisees. What about in the church? We can have wonderful discussions among Christians but not always. Perhaps that's why even some Christians don't like to discuss religion among themselves.

Perhaps we need to learn how to discuss respectfully by esteeming each other better than ourselves, give others grace to have different opinions and learn to forgive each other for our prejudices and sometimes hurtful words. What a shame it would be if Christians really did shut up! Sometimes the Gospel will offend, but not always. Could the problem sometimes be ours? Do we need to learn how to discuss our faith in a manner that is more attractive and less offensive?

Spiritual Warfare, Urban Myth vs Bible Truth

What is spiritual warfare? How can we distinguish between fads and facts? We have spiritual enemies, but we must fight them as God instructs, not with superstitious nonsense or ineffective mumbo jumbo. There are many dangers, urban myths and legends surrounding this popular topic. What is the truth?

The Armor of God

Our spiritual arsenal must be God's weaponry not the hocus-pocus invented and practiced by some. Most Christians are familiar with the “armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11-18). We need truth, righteousness, faith, the gospel of peace and the word of God. Paul ends by reminding us that spiritual strength comes from God alone, so we need to pray, ask God for his help. We never know in advance when the enemy will attack, so prayer for God’s protection is vital.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 complements Paul's list: “faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” Here Paul uses the trio of faith, hope and love. We will be spiritually stronger if these qualities are at work in our lives.

Three Battlefronts

We are at war in at least three areas: our own selves (the flesh), the world, and supernatural evils.

War with the Flesh

Sins of the “flesh” include sins of the mind, such as pride. Paul describes the inner struggle we all face in Galatians 5:17: “The sinful nature [flesh] desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” The sins of the flesh also include jealousy, selfishness and hatred, as well as sexual immorality and drunkenness (verses 19-21).

Our spiritual troubles can also come from genetic weaknesses, or child abuse, or bad habits. Paul tells us to put to death the deeds of the flesh and not let sin reign in us (Romans 6:11-12; 8:13; Colossians 3:5). This is spiritual warfare. Greed (for example) is a spiritual problem, even when evil spirits are not involved. Sin is a spiritual power, and the only effective way to fight it is with the Spirit of God in us.

War with the World

Western culture promotes materialism and individualism, which can damage our spiritual health, and influence our attitudes toward sex, money, power, success, other ethnic groups and other religions. Some influences are positive; others are not. The Bible helps us assess cultural customs as good, bad or neutral.

1 John 2:15-17 helps us here: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” Everything this world offers is only temporary. The things of God are permanent.

The world appeals to the flesh. These two spiritual enemies work together. People have fleshly desires, but without God’s help are less likely to resist them. So society often promotes self-indulgence and self-reliance. We need to be aware of it and be suspicious of values that we take for granted. By his death, Jesus destroyed the power that Satan had over us. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.

War with Supernatural Evil

A third enemy is the supernatural world. Some people over emphasize evil spirits and others want to ignore them. Paul clearly says that we struggle against evil powers in the heavenly realms—the spiritual world in general. We were all influenced by the spirit that works among the disobedient (Ephesians 2:2-3).

This evil spiritual realm works with both our culture and our sinful nature. That is our spiritual warfare. But we have been rescued from the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13). By his death, Jesus destroyed the power that Satan had over us (Hebrews 2:14). We can be confident that that the Lord will rescue us from every evil attack (2 Timothy 4:18).

Satan is a defeated enemy, but he is still harassing us with guerrilla warfare, masquerading as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). He stalks us like a prowling lion (1 Peter 5:8). How do you fight a devil like that? It's really rather simple. Resist him and stand firm in the faith (verses 9-10).

The Power of Resistance

The strategy is simple: resist. How? By faith! The Bible does not prescribe any special words or rituals; no unusual anointing or prayers. Neither Jesus nor the apostles went searching for demons to defeat as the key to spiritual growth or effective evangelism. They expelled demons when a problem was unavoidable, but they did not search for clandestine demons or territorial spirits. Jesus defeated Satan not through aggression, but by resisting him with the word of God, and then by dying on a cross.

Resistance is powerful. James teaches that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7) probably looking for an easier target. No one can snatch us out of Jesus’ hand (John 10:28). Christ keeps us safe. When we trust in him, evil spirits cannot harm us (1 John 5:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:3).

So we should stand in faith and resist the temptations of the devil that appeal to our desires, pride, selfishness or ungodly cultural influences. How do we resist? Put on faith and righteousness, truth and the gospel, and pray always.

Wrong Concepts

The devil even tries to deceive us with wrong spiritual warfare. Some unbiblical concepts include compulsory prayers over inanimate objects, such as rocks. This is not a sin, but it is not biblical. Some of these techniques give evil spirits far more attention than they deserve. They treat demons as legitimate powers instead of usurpers. Many of these ideas are superstitious, borrowed from magic, and focus more on techniques than faith in Christ. It is often a case of casting out demons by Beelzebub. We can only win through Christ, and he did not teach us any such strategies. We cannot improve on what he himself did.

Curses and hexes have no real power of their own. If a demon carries out a curse it is by the demon’s choice, not by any inherent power of the words. We have no need to explore the demonic world to find hidden curses or come up with special words to counteract the words of a mere mortal. All we need is Christ.


Some people see a demon behind every bad attitude, or physical abnormality. Many mental illnesses are caused by physiological malfunctions not demons. They can have spiritual repercussions, but are not always caused by evil spirits. So we should be cautious about diagnosing anyone as having a demon. Claims of demon possession are often wrong.

Genuine symptoms of demon possession could include:

· a hostile reaction to the name of Jesus

· the presence of an unnatural, foreboding feeling of evil

· involvement in the occult and witchcraft

· prominent feelings of unforgiveness, bitterness and anger

· supernatural strength, and

· self-abusive behavior.

None of these guarantee demon possession, but a diagnosis should be made very carefully by someone who is more experienced in these things.

When a demon is encountered, a church leader can simply take authority in Christ’s name, and command the demon to leave. No shouting or conversation is needed. There is no need to find out the demon’s name or anything else about the demonic world. Whatever a demon says is likely to be false, anyway. A demon might try to stall for time by causing a distraction, so we need to be firm in commanding the demon to leave, by the authority of Christ.

Then we need to teach the person to resist becoming contaminated again, giving them the truth of salvation, the gospel of hope, faith in Christ, encouraging them in a life of righteousness, prayer and Bible study, surrounded by people who will help them.

We do not need to fear the demonic world. Its power is limited. Satan’s main strategy is not outright possession, but deception. Demons work through the society around us, appealing to our own sinful nature, trying to deceive us into wrong ways of thinking and wrong ways of behavior. They use fear, guilt and ignorance. The antidote is faith, forgiveness and the truth of the gospel.

Asking Questions

Some people have claimed that long-time church members can be possessed by demons and need to be delivered. Could a demon really be in a Christian heart? Some preachers teach that part of the plan for world evangelism must include defeating Satan and tearing down spiritual strongholds. Demons are in charge of nations, cities, even local communities they say. It is claimed that these demons have to be sought out and expelled before effective evangelism can take place. Must Satan be defeated in this manner before evangelism can take place or is that only possible after Christ returns?

Deliverance, bondage breaking, the binding of curses and the tearing down of satanic strongholds are fads pre-occupying many Christians today. Some popular and sincere church leaders are teaching and encouraging these and similar ideas. But is it safe? Are there pitfalls? Some of the best sellers in a Christian bookshop are on the subject of spiritual warfare. What is a balanced and biblically defensible view?

The Bible is clear that there is such a thing as spiritual warfare. 1 Peter 5:8 and Ephesians 6:12 indicate that Satan is warring against the efforts of Christians in order to prevent the spread of the gospel. The Bible also explains that through Christ this battle is already won. We have the victory! (Colossians 1:13; Acts 26:18; 1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37-38). There is a clear foundation of biblical teaching that we already have the victory in Christ.

Spiritual Warfare Hogwash

A few important principles will help us sort out the hogwash that is sold in the Christian market place from the biblical truths regarding spiritual warfare. How can you tell if a particular teaching is real or rubbish?

Does the teaching support a dualistic world view, the idea that God and Satan are equal? The Bible teaches that Christ has already overcome the world (John 16:33) and that Satan is already defeated (Luke 4:1-13; Hebrews 2:14; Colossians 2:15). Dualism diminishes God, putting him on an equal status with Satan. This teaching is the basis of much deliverance ministry and is fundamentally wrong. We have the victory. God is greater than Satan.

Does the teaching lead to animism or superstition, that humans must manipulate or control the energy of evil spirits? This idea comes from ancient religions, New Age thinking, witchcraft and sorcery. It places trust in magic rituals rather than Christ. Sometimes phrases like “in Jesus’ name” are used like a magical incantation. Some people try to manipulate the spirit world. The apostles did not go on a “search and destroy” mission for demons. When confronted, they acted, but did not go around picking fights with demons and looking for trouble. The “deliverance” approach is pre-occupied with Satan, naively attributing any problem to Satan, which is superstition. We should be concentrating on our relationship with Jesus Christ, not wondering regularly about our relationship with Satan.

Does the teaching promote fear? Some claim that up to 85 percent of Christians are demonized! Ridiculous! God and Satan do not live side by side in the Christian. God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Christians are not touched by the evil one (1 John 5:18). Jesus keeps us from evil (2 Thessalonians 3:3). We pray deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13) and believe that we are safe in Jesus' hands. We do not need to rely on semi-magical Christian-sounding phrases and a dramatic waving of hands and commands shouted at real or imagined demons.

Does the teaching promote a false view of the Holy Spirit? Some people involved in spiritual warfare treat the Holy Spirit as if He were a powerful angel or even a demon. Jesus abides with us (John 15) by the Holy Spirit (1 John 3:24) and that anointing remains with us (1 John 2:27). We don't have to continually ask the Holy Spirit to come or come back. The Holy Spirit does not take over and control our minds against our will. God did not give us free will in order to take it away from us. Satan wants to remove our free will. We submit to God’s will voluntarily, not by force. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 14:23). Satanic possession causes lack of self-control (Acts 19:16). The Holy Spirit never acts like a demon, and any teaching that suggests that he does is a heresy.

Does the teaching place experience above the Scriptures? Some people place their own spiritual experiences above the teachings of Scripture and defend their position vigorously. Is experience always reality and therefore truth? For the Christian, faith is the evidence of things not seen. Heresies and cults have been built on the visions and spiritual experiences of founders. Be careful when someone claims that his or her experience is more important than the Scriptures.

Does the teaching have validation in scripture? Check the Scriptures, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). Many of the teachings and practices on the subject of spiritual warfare are not in Scripture. Some clearly ignore biblical precedent, some go against the spirit of grace, and some are outright pagan. But there is spiritual warfare. We have the victory from God already, but Satan and his legions remain determined in their attack on us. We can relate to the comforting words of Jahaziel to Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah telling him not to be afraid, nor dismayed, because the battle is not ours but God's (2 Chronicles 20:15). James tells us to submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7).


What did Jesus say about spiritual warfare? He said that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. He also said that we shall not tempt God, and that we ought to worship only God. When we are tempted to put other things ahead of God, we are certainly losing a battle. Jesus did not go hunting for demons, but rebuked them whenever he ran across them.

Borrowing special ceremonies and fetishes from witchcraft or voodoo and calling it spiritual warfare is crap. Paul explains in Ephesians 6:12-18 that we fight against spiritual wickedness and against principalities and powers. Using the same Greek terms, Paul also states in Colossians 2:15 that through his crucifixion and resurrection, our Savior has disarmed principalities and powers, triumphing over them. He rejoices that we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:37-39).

There is nothing to fear. We have the victory. God is on the side of the Christians. If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

Is the Kingdom of God Like a Weed?

Some call the mustard plant a weed. What some call a weed, others call a herb. It grows from a tiny seed to a three meter household shrub and is still common in Israel. Why did Jesus choose a common plant for his riddle about the mustard seed, rather than a majestic cedar of Lebanon? Perhaps Jesus did not want us looking too far for God's rule, but in or own back yards.

Some Christians travel a long way following famous evangelists. Could it be more profitable to stay at home and grow close to God where we live? To say that God's rule is like a common shrub challenges prejudices and paradigms. When others are looking for an electrifying outward show, does the kingdom of God start like something very small, and eventually become just like a large common plant growing in our back yards? That's what Jesus said.

Criticizing Jesus' Words

Do we hastily misjudge others' words? Some criticize the parable in Mark 4:30-32. Jesus called a mustard seed the smallest of all seeds, which is scientifically inaccurate. There are smaller seeds. But, that's not the point. Jesus was not speaking precisely, but conversationally and symbolically. Many discussions use a great deal of poetic license and are not meant to be rigid, scientific descriptions. We say a similar thing today. "He is the tiniest baby," means conversationally very small. It is not meant to be information from statistical research.

In ancient times a mustard seed symbolized something small. This parable begins with a very small seed which becomes one of the larger common garden shrubs in the Middle East, the mustard plant. The emphasis is on the incredible growth experienced by the kingdom of God. God's rule is like a very small seed becoming a very large plant. That's what Jesus said.

Trinitarian, Binitarian or Unitarian?

Familiar lectures, on the doctrine of the Trinity and other subjects ; delivered at the Unitarian chapel, St. Nicholas street, Ipswich
of the Trinity
Binitarians and unitarians do not believe the Holy Spirit is a Person. Trinitarians believe that the Holy Spirit is a Person. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit has personality:

• He makes determinations or decisions by his will (1 Corinthians 12:11)
• He teaches (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:11-13)
• He guides us into all truth (John 16:13)
• He makes the things of Jesus known to us (John 16:14)
• He convicts the world of sin (John 16:8)
• He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30)
• He can be blasphemed (Matthew 12:31)
• He possesses a rational mind (Romans 8:26-27)
• He can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4)
• He can be resisted (Acts 7:51)
• He is distinguished from the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19-20)
• We can have fellowship with him (2 Corinthians 13:14)

    A Harvest Will Come

    Seed to Harvest
    Seed to Harvest
    In the parable of the Growing Seed the farmer is involved in the work at the beginning and at the end. We notice in Mark 4:29 that the patient farmer puts the sickle in. We do have a small part to play, but the bulk of the enterprise is God's doing. Human manipulation does not cause kingdom growth. Obedience to law, works of social justice, apocalyptic predictions and other human efforts are not the main cause of kingdom growth.

    Can we patiently wait for God to cause the seeds to sprout, the sprouts to grow into a stalk, the stalk to become a head, and the head to ripen into a full kernel? If this riddle pictures God's rule in our lives, then is it picturing a long period of apparent inaction? Yet, despite appearances the kingdom of God is growing, and a harvest will come. That's what Jesus said.

    Automatic Seed

    Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners
    Seed to Seed
    In the Parable of the Growing Seed in Mark 4:28 notice that there is a human partnership in this enterprise. But, that is not the riddle. This parable focuses on the actual growth process which is independent of human effort.

    Without visible cause the soil produces a crop. The seed grows automatically. Martin Luther commented about this text, that after he preached his sermon, he would go home, drink a beer and "just let the gospel run its course." The power of Dr. Luther's sermon was not his education, or his eloquence, but the seed sown in a person's heart.

    There is something powerful about the Word of God that changes us. It grows in us, mysteriously and miraculously. The Gospel is powerful. It grows in us. This then is a parable of hope. God's rule is growing night and day whether we sleep or get up. That's what Jesus said.

    Seed Growing Secretly

    The Sower and the Seeds (The Parables)
    Sower & the Seeds
    In Mark 4:27 Jesus continued his riddle about a man scattering seed. Having cast it, the man goes about his daily routine, dissociating himself from the seed, but it grows. Bad teachings in the church often have one thing in common. They focus on human effort and human theories. This parable shows that the real agent of kingdom growth is elsewhere. Yet, we all try to do God's job for him. Our job is to be scatterers of seed. The growth is God's job.

    This has been called appropriately the Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly. We do not know how the seed of the kingdom brings forth results. There is power in a seed. When seeds grow, it is a miracle. So is the rule of God in peoples' lives. Like the man we do not know how it works, but it does, night and day. That's what Jesus said.

    Casting Seed Once

    Faith of Abraham and of Christ, His Seed in the Coming Kingdom of God On Earth, with the Restitution of All Things Which God Hath Spoken ...
    His Seed
    A parable found only in Mark 4:26-29 is about a man who scatters seed. He just throws seed on the ground. We often talk about the need to have a target audience for the gospel, yet this man scattered kingdom seed without a care.

    Weekly altar calls are not wrong, but they are not mandated in the Bible and are relatively recent. They can incite emotional decisions rather than true repentance. They also they have a high failure rate perhaps because they seem to focus a church's attention on quick decisions more than long-term discipleship. Is there a better way?

    Notice that this seed is only cast once. Does this parable infer a more care free use of our energies in the scattering of kingdom seed, rather than being overly anxious? Certainly, the kingdom of God is like a man who cast seed on the ground. That's what Jesus said.

    Why Kingdom and not Democracy of God?

    The Practice of the Presence of God: Best Rule of a Holy LifeJesus often spoke in parables explaining the kingdom of God (Mark 4:26,30). How do we understand kingdom in a modern democracy? Since the signing of the Magna Carta, English speakers have not had much experience living under an absolute monarch. The kingdom of God is an absolute monarchy and not a democracy. Human rulership of any kind ultimately fails because human beings cannot solve human problems. The kingdom of God refers to God's reign or rule. Kingdom parables are concerned with God's rule or God's authority in our lives. God is a perfect king. Nobody can vote him out of office. Yet, we do get to vote whether or not we want him in our lives and he respects that choice. The subject matter of many parables is the kingdom of God, meaning God’s rule.

    How to Preach the Bible without becoming a Total Wacko

    That's the subtitle to my book on preaching which has just been published through Amazon book publishing wing called Create Space.

    Preaching Manual is an updated edition to the free online version available at Knol.

    I'm pretty nervous about this because you know how the public likes to devour and criticize. Oh, well, I just gotta do it anyway. Sigh! :)

    PS: That's my father-in-law's hand in the picture, holding his Bible. It's all in the family.

    Theology? Schmeology!

    Have you ever wondered what theology is all about. Is it just for egg-heads? Is it useless and irrelevant to every day Christian life? Believe it or not, you are probably a theologian. I offer a series of Knols on the topic for those interested in learning more about God.

    John 15:16 Fruit that will Last

    Jesus chose his disciples and appointed them to go and bear fruit — fruit that would last. Their task was to bear fruit, but not in their own strength. They were to remain in the vine which would provide for the fruit. They did not first choose him, he chose them to become his friends. He died for them and us while we were still sinners.

    So Jesus has told his disciples to abide in him, let his words abide in them, abide in his love and all this so that his joy may remain in them and that they may produce fruit that abides. Jesus did not specify what he meant by everlasting fruit, but talked about love, which Paul later included at the top of his list of fruit. Christ left his disciples and so us with a concluding command in the next verse, love each other. That's what Jesus said.

    John 15:15 Real Friendship Part 3

    In John 15:15 Jesus called the disciples his friends, because everything that he learned from his Father he had made known to them. Friends communicate openly and frankly with each other, not to criticize or condemn, but to inform and help each other.

    Abraham and Moses were the friends of God. He confided his plans to them. Some people call themselves our friends so they can lead us astray, or get something from us. True friends will put their lives on the line for us.

    Transparency and openness suffer in a harsh, judgmental, legalistic church environment. True friendship can only exist under grace. Only then can we open up and share our lives.

    Would you say that we are group of true friends, because we can openly communicate our deepest feelings, and that everything that we have learned from our heavenly Father we can make known to each other? That's what Jesus said.

    John 15:14 Real Friendship Part 2

    How do we prove that we really are Jesus' friends? The answer is simple, we obey him. We are not his friends if we just study what he said but if we do what he said.

    What kind of friend says, "You're my friend if you do what I say?" In a friendship between equals that would not work, but in a friendship with God, there is nothing relevant besides what he commands. Many people imagine they are obeying Christ if they follow the rules of men. We prove our friendship with Jesus by doing whatever he commanded.

    We often hear that we are called to be in a relationship with God. Those words are not in the Bible. But, friendship is a relationship, and we are called to be friends for eternity. We are called to be a community of friends, friends of Christ. In John 15:14 that's what Jesus said.

    John 15:13 Real Friendship Part 1

    Aristotle and Plato wrote about there being no greater love than to lay down our lives for our friends. What is different about Christ is that when died for us, we were not yet his friends, but his enemies. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We became his friends after he had already died for us. Jesus did not die for his friends, but for his enemies, whom he wanted to make his friends.

    What kind of friends do we have? Do they only love us because we are willing to follow them into bad behavior or so they can get something from us? Would our friends be willing to die for us? What kind of friends are we? Do we entice others to do bad things? Do we just use our friends for selfish reasons? Are we willing to die for our friends? That's what Jesus did.

    Abiding and Complete Joy

    In John 15:11 Jesus spoke about full and permanent joy. What advantage is there in Christ? Humans cause so much misery and grief. Only Christ makes our joy abiding and absolute. The joy of this world is temporary and only partial. The joy of Christ remains and is complete.

    Jesus said, I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, meaning a joy that abides or remains. So what Jesus actually told his disciples was to remain in him, that his words should remain in them, and that they should remain in his love. Why? So that his joy would remain in them.

    What is this utmost joy? It helped Jesus go through the most horrible experience of the cross, so it must be wonderful. As we obey Christ and love each other, we too can experience this kind of full and abiding joy. That's what Jesus said.

    As the Father has Loved

    In John 15:9 Jesus said that as the Father has loved me, so he loved his disciples. He then told them to remain in his love. Christ was born a human. Was his love merely human? We see that his love for us was the same as the Father's love. It is a higher, divine love. That is the love that we are to remain in. Remain means to abide, sojourn, not to depart. It also means to wait.

    What about waiting shows love? Does a person who waits until marriage for sex show love to a future spouse? Does a person who waits for God to promote them rather than play dirty politics show love? Remaining is a key lesson of the parable of the true vine. We are to remain in Jesus, let his words remain in us, and therefore remain in his divine love. That's what Jesus said.

    Remaining in Him

    Why did Jesus say in John 15:7 to his disciples, if they remain in him and his words remain in them, they may ask for anything they want, and it will be granted?

    First, this passage addresses those in Christ. If you are not yet in Christ, then the first step is to be in him. If we are already in him, then let us choose to remain in him and let his words remain in us. How can his words remain in us if we do not hear or read his words? How can we have Jesus without the doctrines that Jesus taught? How can we separate the Word from his word?

    Do Christ's words remain in us or are we bored with him? If so, how can we expect to ask for anything in prayer? Let's remain in him and his words in us. That's what Jesus said.

    House Churches Unlimited

    According to Barna research the number of Christians leaving traditional churches and attending house churches is exploding and will probably only increase over the next decades. This book is free to view online. It addresses the dangers and delights of the house church format. It covers support and accountability, advantages and disadvantages, leadership and mentoring issues, worship and sacramental needs, conflict resolution and preaching, starting and multiplying house churches.

    Click on the title or here to go to the book now.


    Learn how to preach powerful Gospel messages that really mean something instead of empty-headed fluff. Learn how to grab an audience's attention and leave them with something to remember. Learn how to prepare a gourmet spiritual meal that provides not only excitement, but good nourishment for the soul.

    This is a 52 lesson Preaching Manual free to view online. It is designed for lay and professional preachers and theology students. It is arranged for use over an entire year, but is adaptable to various time frames and levels of competence and skill.

    Just click on the title to this blog or here.

    Sense & Nonsense about Heresy


    There are two opposite extreme views of doctrine today. On the naïve extreme are those who teach that doctrine is irrelevant, impractical or divisive, and yet that teaching is itself doctrine. On the other extreme is denominationalism, those who overly emphasize non-essential doctrines or distinctives and brand those who disagree with their narrow views as heretics.

    What the Bible Says

    The Bible says that doctrine is important. People were astonished at Christ's doctrine (Matthew 7:8). He taught people to beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:12). Jesus' parables were doctrine (Mark 4:2). He taught people how to discern that his doctrine was right (John 7:17). The early church continued in the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42). Those who taught contrary doctrines were avoided (Romans 16:17).

    Paul warned the Ephesians not be be carried about by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) and told Timothy to warn people not to teach any other doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3). He wrote to Timothy to give attention in his preaching to doctrine (1 Timothy 4:13) and that preachers who labor in doctrine are worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17). The Bible is profitable for doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16). We are warned that some will not endure sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3). Titus was told to teach what is consistent with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). Those who do not abide in the doctrine of Christ do not have God and we ought not receive their teachings into our homes (2 John 1:9-10).


    Some people quote Matthew 7:1-5 to claim that we should not judge, implying that we also ought not judge the doctrines of others. Yet the word judge in English carries both a positive and a negative meaning. These verses in Matthew are about a judgmental, critical spirit, not about righteous judgment, discerning between right and wrong. Verse 15 of the same chapter says to beware of false prophets. How can we beware unless we can judge rightly or distinguish between false and true prophets?


    Is doctrine important for salvation? Not everyone who calls Jesus Lord will be saved (Matthew 7:21). Some call him Lord, but do not do as he says to do (Luke 6:46). Even Christians can be led astray by those who use the name Jesus but actually preach another Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). Zeal without knowledge is dangerous (Romans 10:2), yet it important to know that Jesus will not cast out those who come to him (John 6:37).

    Heresy vs. Orthodoxy

    The word heresy conjures up visions of torture racks and persecution, but heresy is a real problem in the Church and has been for 2,000 years. Every church has a battle with heresy. What are the biggest heresies today? What exactly is heresy is also a matter of dispute. Like ancient heresies, many modern heresies can be summed up by the fact that they distract us from Christ, the central Person of Christianity. Some Christians think that there must be something they need more than Jesus Christ. They seek spiritual gimmicks, gurus and wiz-bang formulas. People are only too happy to make merchandise of them in the Christian market place.

    The word orthodoxy simply means right teaching. Teaching which has been agreed upon since the early Church and which has stood the test of Christian history can generally be thought of as orthodox. This normally includes churches which believe in the teachings of the Bible, the Trinity and the Nicene Creed. However, we need to be cautious, because even some preachers which claim to believe these things have aberrant teachings. How can we discern what is right in individual cases? Several principles will help us in general:

    • Whatever blatantly contradicts the Bible is heresy.
    • Whatever is contrary to the Gospel is heresy.
    • Whatever contradicts the Creeds is heresy.
    • Whatever contradicts what the Church has historically regarded as essential is heresy.

    If we look at the essential teachings of the Church, we can categorize heresies along the same lines. There are heresies about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Angels, human kind, sin, the Bible, salvation, the Church, and the future. A look at the heresy troubling the Colossian church can help us with some further principles.


    A very popular variety of heresy today denies the value of a good education in Scripture, rational thinking and learning to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). It relies overly on dubious ideas that people pull out of thin air and for which they blame the Holy Spirit. This is a variety of existentialism which stresses an individual's unique experiences and is very negligent to check the authenticity of those experiences against the rock solid teachings of Scripture and 2,000 years of Christ's leadership of the Church.

    Filled with Knowledge

    Let's look at Colossians 1:9-12. We hear a lot about being "filled with the Holy Spirit" today, but not much about being filled with love and grace. All of those things are needed, but Paul also prayed that the Colossians would be filled with knowledge. In some modern circles knowledge is despised, yet everything must be in balance. We need proper knowledge to discern between what is good Christian teaching and what is rubbish or heresy. There is also a lot said today about spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12) yet the gift that tops the list is wisdom and that is neglected. Perhaps if we had more wisdom, we might be able to use other spiritual gifts better.

    We are also admonished to live a life worthy of the Lord. Let's ask ourselves if our lives are worthy. Let's not judge others wrongly, just ourselves. Are we living a life worthy of the Lord, or are we just frittering it away on useless pursuits? Paul also encourages us to joyfully give thanks to the Father. Do we? Are our prayers just "gimmee" prayers or do we also remember to give God thanks in everything? I remember a person several years ago started writing a list of all the things they were thankful for and soon they had written a whole book. I believe it was published.

    The Secret is there is no Secret

    Let's look at Colossians 2:2-12. What is the mystery of the universe? Have you watched a science fiction movie lately? Often times they will talk about the secrets of the universe, or the force, or some such thing. Yet we Christians know the mystery of the universe. It is Christ. All, not just some, but all of the hidden treasures of wisdom are hidden in him. Yet Christians get so easily bored with Christ and start to seek after other things, as if those things are going to give us something better. Perhaps it's like a 40 year old man having a mid-life crisis and seeking another woman, somehow thinking he is missing out on something. In reality, instead of adding something to his life, he is destroying something very precious.

    So it is when Christians are deluded into thinking that there must be something better than Jesus Christ, that they are somehow missing out on something. Christians sometimes travel a long distance to hear visiting speakers, thinking that if they don't they will be missing out on something. Amos talks about people who roam from sea to sea, and run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but do not find it (Amos 8:12).

    The answers are not far off in some distant place, but right in our own back yards. Paul warned the Colossians Christians against hollow and deceptive philosophies. He was not saying that all philosophy is wrong. Some people study philosophy in school and many parts of it are worth studying. However, there are philosophies which are hollow and deceptive. The Christian church is not immune to such ideas. Too often Christians fall prey to the trap of depending on human principles and materialistic values of this world rather than on Christ (verse 8). We need to be like the Bereans with our noses in our Bibles checking up whether or not what is preached are mere human principles or biblical ones.

    Faith is Personal

    Let's look at Colossians 2:16-23. Do not let anyone judge you. Your faith is between you and God, yet sometimes Christians are apt to judge one another over non-essentials. We do not have to let anyone pressure us into a particular pattern of belief other than our faith in Christ. If some want to speak in a tongue, that’s certainly not a sin, but let's not let them pressure us if we don't want to. If some want to abstain from alcohol, that's fine, but it is not a biblical requirement, and let's not let people judge us for our moderation. If someone wants to observe a particular day as a Sabbath in honor to God, that is wonderful. However, let's not let them pressure us into something that neither Jesus nor the apostles commanded for the Church.

    There are so many rules and regulations which are of men, which Jesus did not require of the apostles and they did not require of the Church. The Jewish Christians of Colossae were trying to impose Old Testament rules mixed with perhaps Gnostic philosophies upon the other Christians in the church. Paul corrected this as a heresy, because those ideas were based upon a false premise: that Christ was not sufficient. Yet, Christ is sufficient.

    Christianity is Christ

    Paul reminded the Colossians that the reality is found in Christ. We are Christians and that means that what Christ preached is sufficient for us. Paul also warned about those whose unspiritual minds puff themselves up with idle notions. They have lost connection with the Head. If we too lose that connection with Christ, the Head of the Church, what good is our Christianity? It is no longer Christ-ianity, but something else.

    Such human commands and teachings fool many Christians even today. It is heresy. Indeed many ideas seem like wisdom and worship, but are false humility and certainly not the core of Christianity. Christianity is about Christ. Some practices actually have more in common with non-Christian religions of Asia or Africa than biblical Christianity. Many of today's Christian fads are not about Christ, but something else, often about making money from naïve Christians.

    Honesty Check

    In order to claim that new wacky doctrines are authentic, badly educated people twist the Bible, contradict the Gospel, ignore the creeds and take no notice of how Christ has led the Church for 2,000 years. If an idea contradicts the Bible, it is garbage. If an opinion opposes the Gospel it is junk. If an otion contradicts the Creeds it is rubbish. If a vision contradicts the essentials of Christianity it too is heresy.

    Cleaning out the Divisive Crap

    Dividing the Christian church over a matter that Jesus did not think was important enough to command his disciples is crap. What did Jesus say about false teachings? Jesus warned against that form of religion that involved the commandments of men. The religious leaders of that day had fallen into this trap, as has every modern Christian church to one degree or other. We are all so easily tempted to make our church’s interpretations of scripture into dogma and canon law. Instead Jesus instructed his disciples to teach the things that he had commanded, saying that it was not his own doctrine, but his that had sent him.

    Heresy is really any teaching that detracts from Christ and distracts us from what he taught. By that definition, heresy is everywhere and in every church to some degree or other. Are we satisfied with Christ, or do we believe that something else must fill the void in our lives? Are we fooled by some of the hawkers of cheap substitutes, who line their pockets with our money and do not give us what really satisfies? We don't need to travel the world looking for Christ. He is here. He invites us to meet him here in prayer and study of his word. All the fullness we will ever need is in him and in him alone.