From the Pastor

Friends, Family, & Members of Knoxville Pres,

Hope all are doing well as you all are rounding out your week.  We just wanted to drop you a note and remind you of a few things:

  • The preparation for the Stone Soup base will be after church on September 10th.
  • Fall schedule has resumed and Sunday School is at 9:30 and Worship service begins at 11:00. 
  • Gathering canned good and school supplies for the citizens of Houston affected by Harvey!
  • Be praying for those who are in Irma's path along with hurricane trailing her. 

Last week was a little busy with getting the kids back to school, so I didn't send out the summary notes for the Sunday before that.  So, below are two sets of notes: (1) the last sermon on Scripture, which was VERY hands on and practical (2) and last weeks introduction to the Trinity. 

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"What is Scripture" #6: Making it Practical

Book of Order: We started by asking, "what does the PCUSA Book of Order actually tell us about making scripture part of our lives?"

  • W-5.3002 - Calls for families and individuals to read, study, and memorize scripture for spiritual growth out side of the Sunday service. 
  • W-2.2000 - Claims Jesus is actually present among us within and through the scriptures
  • W-2.6001 - Scripture should be read, preached, and memorized and applied to our daily lives. 

Then we chatted together about WHY most people in the church don't read the scriptures on a regular basis even though they are God's word and it is the place Jesus is present with us.  Below is a list of honest responses we received: I'm not a reader.  I don't understand it.  I don't know how to apply it.  Seems outdated.

We responded to each of these and then gave a few suggestions of questions and/or thoughts to have on our minds as we read scripture.   The reason for these is it helps us read scripture with a different light as opposed to our preconceived ideas...here are a few:

How to read scripture and/or what Questions to ask when reading scripture:

  • Is this what the text says or am I interpreting it?  In other words, am I evaluating, interpreting, or categorizing scripture according to my own standards or am I allowing the standards of the culture to evaluate the text, and thus shape me?
  • What are the results and ramifications of the events I'm reading about, and what value does that result and ramification have (remember: outcome often has more to do with the present audience while the events often have more to do with the past - in other words, the audience hearing the story is hearing a story from the past, but that story is being told with an agenda)?
    • For example, when we read books like the Kings or Chronicles or Judges, we can assume the main point isn't the accuracy of events but to get the intended readers to ask themselves, "how did we get here? and what do we do now?
    • Why was this specific story or event passed down (and kept)? 
    • We learned a few weeks ago that there are many other events that were left out, we have seen even within scripture how some events are reshaped?  Why? What is the agenda for keeping some and not others?  If it was solely for the purpose of history then all the events would seem appropriate.
    • What patterns am I picking up on?  Exile/Abimelech/Egypt/Miraculous births/Barren Mothers... Look for patterns.
    • Am I trying to be informed by information (modern way of thinking about it - allows for compartmentalization) or am I allowing my spirit to be illuminated by story (demands we slow down )?
    • A Story Shaped People

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"Who is this God of the Bible?" Trinity #1

This past week was like drinking from a fire hydrant.  I gave you a lot of information both philosophical and historical, and I did so to show you the depth and length and gravity of the formation of this doctrine.  But have no fear, we are going to get practical on this one...FAST!  Because here's the deal: we will never fully grasp the idea of Trinity.  We just won't.  So, I'm much more interested in you grasping the implications for Trinity than I am, you articulating the doctrine.  But that said, I wanted you to have some foundational background:

Our starting statements were the following:

  • Trinity is already a clouded confusing doctrine, now when we think of God in the "form" of a person it even gets harder to thinkn of three in one.  So, in line with Scripture God is called spirit, ruach, breath, fire, wind... These are NO different than calling God energy...it's the same thing. So, when, from a picture perspective start with God as a personal creative energy, I can start getting my head around the three in one a little better - not great, but better.
  • Rather than starting with one and moving to three, start with three and move to one.  This is actually a more biblical way to think of it.  The word for God in the first chapter of Genesis is the plural word for God (which is ironic for a monotheistic religion to use), and the first time God refers to himself in the first two chapters of the bible he uses the word "Us" - plural.  My imagination can more easily picture three as one than I do one as three...just think of a husband/wife - two become one

The doctrine of the trinity was a result of God’s people attempting to hold together the truths that

  1. There is only one God
  2. Jesus is God, worthy of worship.  

There were four major arguments in the early church.  Two of which died out pretty fast, and two which battled each other for the title of Dogmatic Truth.  Those doctrines were: Adoptionism, Modalism, Arianism, and Trinitarianism.

  • Adoptionism
    • Begins with subordinationism - immediately the Son and the Spirit are lesser than the Father. 
    • Based on good works - Jesus is not God, rather Jesus is an ordinary human being who merits God’s adoption
      • Heretical Outcome: Since Jesus is not God, he cannot forgive us for God; he cannot save us, and the doctrine of grace come undone
  • Modalism
    • Was an attempt to protect against idolatry and defend the oneness of God.  
    • Modalism asserts that Father, Son, and Spirit are different modes of the one God.  
    • Therefore, the identities of Father, Son, and Spirit are not the deepest realities about God
      • Heretical Outcome: Modalism denies that the Father, Son, and Spirit are the truth about who God is; and we are therefore worshiping the role of God (which many of us do anyway), rather than seeking the real God, because the real God is unknowable to us
  • Arianism: States the Logos was God-like, in every way without affirming he is eternal and uncreated.  This is the argument that fought trinitarianism for a long haul, and it all came down to two words - like and same: in the way of “substance and/or essence”.  The Arian party allowed that the Logos is the most perfect of creatures but insisted that the Logos could not share the “substance and/or essence” of the Father.  Instead, for the Arians, the Son was “like” God in essence and substance.  The Arians maintained that Jesus’ divinity is a gift he receives from the Father. So the Word/Son is not God in his own right, but is rather semi-divine in that his divinity was bestowed on him.  

The Trinitarian Response to these three were as follows:

  1. If Jesus is not fully divine, then to worship him is to worship a created being which is explicitly denied and rejected in scripture
  2. Since the Arian Jesus is not truly God, he does not have true/full knowledge of the Father. And he cannot truly reveal the father to us
  3. If Jesus is not God then Jesus cannot forgive us for offenses toward God.
  4. If there was a time that the Son/Logos did not exist, then there was a time where the Father did not exist as the Father.  God cannot be the father without the son.

So in 325, bishops and church leaders gather together at the Council of Nicaea and argued over those two words: like and same and to make it even a bit funnier, in the Greek language the difference between the words “like” and “same” is what is called an “iota” - which may be where we get our saying, “not one iota” when meaning something very small, and that one iota is a single letter, the smallest of all Greek letters, and that one letter differentiates the Word or Son as God vs. the Word or Son is like God

The battle between this little “iota” would continue for the next 56 years, and the doctrine of the Trinity would be confirmed at the Council of Constantinople in 381.  This final ruling would be codified in what we now have as the Nicene Creed.

This coming Sunday we will get into attributes of the Trinity!