• Church,  Hermeneutics,  New Testament

    Is the Book of Acts a Template for the Church?

    Many readers struggle with the book of Acts because they assume that it has to be a model for us to follow. Reading through the book of Acts we might wonder why we don’t speak in tongues, perform miracles, or exercise control over demons. But even on the more practical level, some read the book of Acts as a pattern for church growth. Similarly, I once heard a well-known Christian speaker say that he was in the process of rethinking how his church operated because when he compared his church with the church of Acts, he didn’t see enough similarities. The problem with this view is that the book of Acts was not written to be a template for the church to follow. Rather, the book of Acts is a historical record of how the church developed. The Connection between Acts and Luke One of the ways we can tell…

  • Apologetics,  Christian Living,  Culture,  Ethics

    Early Christian Opposition to Abortion

    Honestly, I am not surprised when some people claim to be Christians yet support abortion. I guess I am used to people claiming to be Christians while denying that claim by supporting all sorts of immoral nonsense. It is easy to claim to be a Christian. However, in contrast to many false believers who claim Jesus, real Christians are marked by commitment to Christ and His commandments. Real Christians are committed to the teachings of Jesus (John 13:35; 1 John 2:3) as well the teachings of Scripture as a whole (2 Tim 3:14-17). So, although I have seen my fair share of self-identifying Christians support abortion, I must admit I was a bit surprised recently when I saw a pastor of a megachurch come out and say abortion and Christianity are completely compatible. Of course a Christian analysis of this situation would affirm that abortion remains incompatible with a Christian…

  • Theology

    Zwingli’s Separation of Faith from Baptism

    Prior to the Reformation, faith was always associated with baptism. This obviously raised issues for infant baptism, since it is difficult to see how infants can exercise faith. To deal with this difficulty, Augustine taught the concept of fides aliena, an alien faith that belonged to others was applied on behalf of the infant. Usually, this was the parent’s faith, but sometimes the church’s. However, many theologians viewed this as an unsatisfactory answer. So, the Catholic church developed the idea of fides infusa baptisme, faith or power which was “infused” to the infant through baptism. It was into the world of fides aliena and fides infusa that Martin Luther was born. Although Luther broke away from the Roman Catholic church in many key areas (one such area being justification by faith alone),[1] he largely embraced Rome’s view of infant baptism. One major difference was that Luther saw no problem with…

  • Church,  Theology

    Faith and Infant Baptism in Augustine and Aquinas

    The historical evidence shows that infant baptism was regularly practiced from at least the 3rd or 4th century until the present day. One of the topics of discussion in the early church was how baptism could be an expression of faith when infants are not capable of expressing their own faith. Of particular importance in this discussion was Augustine, who is well known for being the most influential theological figure of that time. In Augustine’s discussion of baptism, after having explained that baptism belongs to those who repent of their sins, Augustine addresses the obvious problem of what are infants repenting? “Now, inasmuch as infants are not held bound by any sins of their own actual life, it is the guilt of original sin which is healed in them by the grace of Him who saves them by the laver of regeneration.”[1] In other words, although infants do not have…

  • Church

    Why Do the Dates for Easter Change?

    Growing up I was always frustrated that Easter was always on different days of the year. In contrast to Christmas or Thanksgiving, Easter always seemed to change. Sometimes it was in March, sometimes in was in April. How is one to make sense of it all? There is actually a method of behind the madness. And the method goes back a long time into history. If you compare all of the possible dates for Easter, you will observe that Easter can occur on any Sunday March 22 through April 25. Why between those dates? Easter and the Council of Nicaea It can be traced back to 325 AD, when the Council of Nicaea decreed that Easter was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (which falls on March 21). The reason the Council of Nicaea took up the issue, was because…

  • Church

    Justin Martyr on the Early Church Practice

    Justin Martyr is a name unfamiliar to many. However, Justin Martyr would have been very familiar in early Christianity. He was a first class Christian apologist, and in his writings he defended the peacefulness of Christians by describing the practices of the church around 150 A.D. (within 60 years of the Apostle John’s death). To those who question whether the contemporary practice of church is far different than what it would have looked like for early Christians, I find the testimony of Justin Martyr particularly insightful (First Apology, 67, ca. 150 A.D.). Justin Martyr on the Order of Service On the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a given city or rural district. The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits. Then when the reader ceases, the president in…

  • Church

    A Man of Whom the World Was Not Worthy

    In life there are few men and women who exemplify what could be called true greatness. This kind of greatness often defies definition and is instead understood by seeing the character within the narrative which makes them special. Today I want to share with you the story of someone who exemplified this kind of character. His name is Eric Liddell. Liddell’s story may be known to some from the 1981 movie, Chariots of Fire. The movie relates Liddell’s story, how at the age of 22 he climbed the ranks of the world’s best 100m sprinters—one of the favorites to win the 1924 Olympics in Paris. However, Liddell learned that his heat of the 100m was set for a Sunday (Liddell was a Christian who refused to participate in athletics on Sundays). To shorten a story which ought not to be shortened, he switched events, giving himself 6 months to train…