While I am in one sense “Reformed“, in that I believe and subscribe to the doctrines of grace, the great creeds, and reformed theology, I am in a real sense reforming…being re-formed. As I read and study God’s Word, the Bible, I have an urgent desire to know God better, and to understand His Word more completely. I do not want to remain stagnant…stationary.
We sometimes think that if we just read enough books by Christian authors, we will come to know God better and His word more completely. Unfortunately the opposite is usually true. Rather than going to the SOURCE…God’s Word, we are influenced by what someone THINKS God’s Word means. We may even be influenced by some of their heresies or cultural interpretations…
Re: The prefix “re” simply means to “do-again“. We “reuse“…”recycle“…”remodel“…”repaint“, and the list goes on. In every case, we are “doing-again” something that has already been done.
Form: A “form” is a mold in which something is made.
Reform: To “reform” is to make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.
Those who are in the Reformed “tradition” are often proud that they “have it right“…maybe too proud. If they are not willing to “reform” by bringing their theology more closely in line with the SOURCE… the Bible, they are letting “tradition” govern their theology, not God’s Word.
Working our way to the source…
Imagine wanting to know what pure water looks and tastes like…
- The first source is a stagnant pond… How pure is it?
- Next, we come to a mighty river, that just passed a sewage-treatment plant… How pure is it?
- Next, we go upstream past that industrial district… How pure is it?
- Maybe we get tired of the river, because there isn’t much clean, pure water there. Granted…the closer we get to the headwaters, the cleaner it gets…but…it still has feeders…
- Next, we go to a stream that is fed by melting snow. It seems to be pretty clean, and even tastes good, but it has already passed several places where wildlife have drunk from it. How pure is it?
- The closer we get to the snow-pack…the source, the cleaner and purer that water becomes. How pure is it really? How clean was that snow?
- But what if that stream is fed by a spring…water bubbling up from the ground? The closer we get to THAT source, the truly-purer it becomes, and when we get to the spring, we are at the SOURCE!
Thus should be our study of God’s word…going to the SOURCE. As we are looking for the Water of Life, we must go to the source of living-water – God, as revealed in His Word. Secondary sources may get us close, but they are not the true SOURCE.
I have been attending a connect group from our church. Each Wednesday morning, we meet to read the Scripture and discuss the sermon from the previous Sunday’s worship service. It is a conservative (reformed) Presbyterian church, so by and large, they have their theology pretty straight. Unfortunately some Gnostic heresy has crept into the church and its theology. I was raised in that kind of environment, so I have a pretty good feel for what most people believe…and what I have believed also.
A few weeks ago, the topic of God’s image in us came up. Everyone could readily come up with the spiritual parts of God’s image in us, but when I mentioned that our bodies are ALSO created in God’s image, the leader recoiled in horror. Even though, given enough time to do so, I could have shown from the Bible that what I said was true, I let it go at that, since it was really a side-topic in discussion, (1 John 1:1-4). or is it?
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
The leader’s response confirmed what I already suspected, that they had been influenced by the Gnostic heresy. They have been…even in a “Reformed” church culture.
The core Gnostic theology is “spirit/knowledge=GOOD, body/material world = BAD“.
One of the big drivers this book by the Apostle John was to refute that Gnostic heresy, which said that Jesus Christ didn’t REALLY become flesh…become human, that He only APPEARED to be human. John starts by presenting the physical-evidence for the full-humanity of Jesus Christ. He has HEARD Him…he has SEEN Him…he has OBSERVED Him…he has TOUCHED Him, and it doesn’t get any more real than that.
While nobody who calls themselves “Reformed” would even subscribe to THAT heresy, they have still been influenced by it in more subtle ways.
Some of my “reformings”
I want to explain briefly some of the ways in which my theology has, and is being “reformed” by my study of the Bible.
Baptism…I was taught that the Presbyterian (Old Testament) way is by sprinkling. Pastors, including my dad, have pointed to certain passages in the Old Testament where certain ceremonial-cleansings have been done by sprinkling. They have claimed that the Baptists simply pulled a few words from where Jesus was baptized and formed their whole theology around them. I believed that for many years…
The problem is that there is far more Jewish and early-church history that supports immersion, including historical drawings, and very little that supports sprinkling. Oops
Early Christian converts were immersed…NUDE.
Circumcision…Anyone with even a little bit of knowledge of the Old Testament knows that the sign of circumcision was given by God to Abraham, as a visible symbol of inclusion in God’s covenant people. “Why circumcision?“, we may ask. How could it be a “visible” sign, because it was in such a “private” place? What was the “big-deal” after all? What IS circumcision?
Circumcision is the surgical-removal of the foreskin from a boy’s or man’s penis, permanently exposing the head of it. It is permanent, and thus a permanent sign. In our society, the penis is considered to be a “private-part“, but that wasn’t the case in Jewish society. We have indoor, private, restroom facilities. They didn’t, because there were no “one-bathroom” tents. Every time a boy or man had to relieve himself, he had to go to the public latrine area, because God had given specific regulations about where those “facilities” had to be. When a boy or man had to bathe himself, he had to go to the communal bath-facilities. Sorry, but no private showers back then. As if to reinforce the “public-ness” of a boy’s or man’s circumcision, God had also given specific regulation about WHEN those bathes were required. BTW, the ladies weren’t exempt from those bathing requirements. (Leviticus 15)
The “King of the Jews”…
That was what the sign that was place above Jesus on the cross said, however if Jesus had not been a Jew, and had not been circumcised, it would have been immediately obvious. As prophesy had foretold, and as was the Roman custom, Jesus was crucified NAKED, not with that cute little “loin-cloth” artists frequently paint on Him. His penis…His circumcision, was exposed in all its naked glory. That is how He could be proclaimed as “The King of the Jews“.
Yes, it WAS a big-deal, and yes, it WAS a visible sign.
Image of God…
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9)
It is a bit difficult to create something in one’s own image, if there is nothing to base that image on. For someone to recoil at the mention of our bodies being created in God’s image shows just how insidious that Gnostic heresy is, and how deeply it has penetrated our churches.
The late Pope John Paul ll, while he was still an arch-bishop, developed a “Theology of the Body“, which was truly a landmark work in our understanding of God’s image in mankind. Great Bible-scholarship is not limited to certain denominations or schools of thought.
Nakedness in the Bible…
Since I have dealt with this in several other previous posts, I am not going to say much here. Nakedness is NEVER shameful in the Bible, and when there is shame attached, that shame is related to a sinful action or adverse situation. Nakedness or nudity was very common in the Old Testament, and was something nobody even gave a second-thought to. If our Savior was be crucified naked, with no shame of His own, why do our churches and our society make such a big deal of simple-nudity?
I am no longer content with “Thus saith tradition“. I want to know “Thus saith the Lord“. I pray that is your earnest desire as well. On that baptism…if I ever get the opportunity to be baptized in the same way as our Lord Jesus Christ was…naked, and all the way under, it will be my privilege to follow Him in baptism.