When a group member may not actually be a Christian…

Unbelievers-small group

You’re sitting in your living room after small group, reflecting on the conversation of the evening. While you’re reviewing the night, you remember something a group member said, and it catches you off guard:

“I don’t know why we put so much emphasis on the Bible…it’s just a book.”

As you pray over this, you recall other similar comments—That’s just Paul’s opinion, God and I have an understanding, and so on—and become increasingly concerned that this person may not actually be a Christian.

And, guess what? They may not be.

The grim picture presented by statistics

According to numerous studies in both the United States and Canada, we’ve got good reasons to be concerned. For example, in a recent study commissioned by Ligonier Ministries, 41 percent of Americans somewhat or strongly agree with that the Bible is not literally true, and 46 percent do not believe it is entirely accurate in all it teaches. 71 percent believe they must contribute personal effort to their own salvation, and 44 percent believe there are many paths to heaven. Likewise, only 18 percent of Canadians believe the Bible is the Word of God, and the majority of Canadians (69 percent) and half of Christians believe it contains irreconcilable contradictions.

Clearly, we have some issues here. Given this information, it’s only logical to assume (though cautiously) that there are many men and women within our churches—and even some in our small groups—who believe they are Christians, but aren’t.

I realize this is highly contentious—perhaps bordering on arrogant—statement to make, so it’s important to clarify: In saying this, and in citing statistics like these, I’m not suggesting we have license to self-righteously determine who is and is not a Christian. Only the Lord ultimately knows if someone’s profession of faith is genuine. Similarly, we must also be careful not to confuse someone who is immature in his or her faith with someone who is actually unregenerate.

So how do you know the difference? Here are a few indicators.

The marks of an immature believer

An immature believer is one who is simply confused about what the Bible teaches and what it says. He may be a brand-new Christian in need of guidance or a long-time Christian who simply has not sat under authoritative biblical teaching. He may even be one of those people who constantly fights over secondary issues.

While an immature believer may not understand Scripture well or may have some serious errors in his understanding of God, he is ultimately marked by a teachable spirit. He is open to correction from people who love him. He takes heed to godly counsel. He has a desire to learn and grow into the likeness of Christ.

The Corinthian church is a perfect example of immature believers. They lacked discernment concerning doctrinal issues. They excused gross unrepentant sin. They abused spiritual gifts in worship. Despite all this, they received correction from Paul. Ultimately, they were teachable.

The signs of an unregenerate churchgoer

Here’s where things get complicated. The unregenerate churchgoer is very good at hiding in a crowd. Many of these churchgoers have been going to church for a long time; many more serve in the church as greeters, in children’s ministry, or even leading a small group (I’ve even heard stories of pastors discovering their fellow elders aren’t actually believers).

Like an immature believer, these churchgoers are marked by a lack of biblical knowledge or an errant understanding of God. Others are characterized by a dogmatic legalism that elevates morality to the highest form of authority. Some believe that grace frees us to sin unashamedly (Romans 6:15). Some believe that all things are lawful, despite not being beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12-13). All will turn away from sound doctrine and find teachers who will tell them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

They do not heed godly counsel. They do not submit to authority. They don’t have a desire to grow into the likeness of Christ (even if they say otherwise). They are not teachable. These are the clear marks of an unregenerate churchgoer.

What do I do if I think someone in my small group isn’t saved?

You might be thinking, “Does it even matter if I think someone’s a Christian or not? What do I do with the person who is already in my group?” The answer, again, is both simple and complicated.

Does it matter if we think someone may or may not be a Christian and how do we respond? Yes! Our friends’ salvation and ongoing relationship with Jesus should be of great concern to us. If we love our friends, we need to do what we can to assist them, whether they are mature believers, immature, or secretly unregenerate. Here are a few things you can do that may be helpful:

  1. Pray a lot. Only God can change the heart, and if you suspect someone in your group may not actually be a believer, then you need to be praying for him to draw this person to himself.
  2. Keep Christ the focus of our studies. Our studies must always be pointing to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Teach the gospel when it’s popular and when it’s not (which is all the time). Only the gospel has the power to transform the hearts of the mature, immature, and unregenerate alike.
  3. Be patient. Paul exhorted Timothy to teach with complete patience. Not everyone learns at the same rate. Everyone stumbles; everyone gives in to temptation and should be treated with gentleness.
  4. Exhort privately. If there’s a person in your group whom you’re concerned may not actually be a believer but thinks he or she is, talk to them privately about some of your concerns. Don’t point fingers or declare them to be non-Christians (since, again, none of us know for certain), but do challenge.
  5. Pursue accountability. We must cultivate an atmosphere where it’s safe to confess our sins, to be open about our struggles, and give and receive appropriate correction. It’s harder to hide when your culture encourages openness.
  6. Humbly hold your ground. Not everyone will endure sound teaching, but hold fast to it, especially when it’s hard. But the key here is to do it humbly, remembering that we all have blind spots in our theology (after all, if perfect theology were the benchmark for salvation, then we’d all be doomed).
  7. Be willing to say goodbye. Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is to ask someone to leave your group if they are disruptive, unrepentant and unteachable.

Are there unregenerate sheep in the fold? Probably. However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. So what do we do? We pray, we keep Christ the focus of all our studies, we show patience and mercy, we pursue accountability and confront sin in love, we hold our ground on key doctrinal issues while also admitting that we have blind spots, and we must be willing to say goodbye to those who will not do the same. Is it easy? Nope. Is it the right thing? Yep. Will it make a difference? Only time will tell.


An earlier edition of this article first appeared at Right Now Media and was republished at ChurchLeaders.com. This edition has been modified from these earlier versions.

 

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The sun: five years in three minutes

This is amazing:

Does Islam Inevitably Lead to Violence?

Caleb Greggsen:

The question at hand presupposes the possibility of determining the true Muslim faith, which is something not even settled within Islam itself. In fact, the recent upsurge in violence perpetrated by Muslim groups is related to the fact that multiple groups are contending for the undisputed title of the “true successors.” Much as Protestants and Catholics argue over the true successors of the apostles, Islam faces the question as to the identity of the true successors to Mohammed. But unlike the Bible, the Qur’an does not really provide enough footing on its own to resolve the question.

How should we think about the book of Enoch being quoted in Jude?

One of the podcasts I love is Albert Mohler’s The Briefing, and his Ask Anything weekend editions are always a favorite. This edition is well worth checking out, particularly for the answer to this question.

How Can Local Churches Help Disciple Women?

Lore Ferguson is interviewed about this topic at Gospel-Centered Discipleship.

To Shill a Mockingbird

This is a good piece over at the Washington Post looking at the background behind the upcoming Harper Lee novel.

Facebook, Moms, and the Last Day

Nikki Daniel:

I admit it. Facebook is often my lifeline to the outside world. I am a homemaker with three small children, including a nursing baby. I spend most of my time within the four walls of my home raising my children, keeping the house in order, and making sure everyone is fed and healthy. It’s a dream job in many ways, but it also requires daily dying to self. Homemakers don’t get to eat when or what they want, shower when they want, or get a moment of silence when they want it. Relationships with other women are a challenge due to nursing schedules and regular demands. Therefore, many women turn to social media as a means to preserve friendships and stay connected.

In every second throbs the heartbeat of eternity

heartbeat-eternity

In a world without God, time doesn’t really make sense. Or rather, at a minimum, the concept of time doesn’t. Time is always moving, always changing; one second is always becoming the next… As a thing that is always becoming, then, can time self-originate?

If time is self-originating, when did it self-originate?

Thus, the question is: can that which is ever changing spontaneously come into being? Herman Bavinck, in Reformed Dogmatics (vol 2), argues no. In fact, he says, for time to exist on its own is entirely inconceivable:

God, the eternal One, is the only absolute cause of time. In and by itself time cannot exist or endure: it is a continuous becoming and must rest in immutable being. It is God who by his eternal power sustains time, both in its entirety and in each separate moment of it. God pervades time and every moment of time with his eternity. In every second throbs the heartbeat of eternity. … He makes time subservient to eternity and thus proves himself to be the King of the ages (1 Tim. 1:17). (164)

When we consider the created world around us, it is not only the beauty of nature and the wonder of human ingenuity that testify to our Creator—time itself bears him witness, and indicts us in our neglect of giving honor and thanks to him. For time does not self-originate; God created it, and he sustains it. “In every second throbs the heartbeat of eternity.” Do you see it?


Photo credit: 9.15 via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also the last day to take advantage of Crossway’s weekly deals:

Google’s Denominational Stereotypes

This is interesting.

Don’t Let Spontaneity Kill Your Creativity

Chris Vacher:

We have a brain that God has wired to be creative. We have a God who is the Creator. We have his spirit living inside of us and we have the invitation to be creative in the way that He also is creative. We have all the time that we need to do the work God has called us to do. We have every resource available to us to lead people in worship the way God has invited us.

So how has the power of spontaneity been allowed to have its way among so many churches, pushing away the strength of planning, critique and editing?

The Gospel in the Dominican Republic

Ivan Mesa interviews Miguel Núñez, senior pastor of the International Baptist Church in Santo Domingo and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition, about what God is doing in the Dominican Republic.

A briefer history of time

HT: Tim

A Crash Course on Influencers of Unbelief

Justin Taylor is starting a new (occasional) series on influencers who’ve shaped the thinking of our culture. First up is Sigmund Freud.

7 Helps for When One You’ve Been Discipling Turns Away

Mike Leake:

The Lord spoke of those who would fall on bad soil. When you experience that first hand it is painful. It’s painful to see the one who shoots up quickly, giving hope to many people, and then just as quickly drifts away. When you’ve baptized this person, started discipling them, and even started dreaming about how the Lord might use them—it is such a blow when they drift away from Christ and the gospel.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier Ministries where you’ll find a number of great resources on sale, including:

  • Names of God teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub + MOBI)
  • Kingdom Feast teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio & video download)
  • Jesus the Evangelist by Richard Phillips (ePub)
  • The Westminster Confession of Faith teaching series by John Gerstner (audio & video download)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

Finally, can get Keep Your Greek free simply by signing up for their mailing list (if you’re already a subscriber, just input your email; you won’t double-up).

A Biblical Theology of the Trees of the Garden

Nick Batzig:

At the outset of the biblical record, two trees stood at the center of the God’s covenantal dealing with man–the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. Far from being mythological concepts, these trees were–in a very real sense–just like any other trees in the Garden. God did not invest these trees with magical power to confer something out of their own resources, ex opere operato,  to our first father; rather He set them apart to represent a reality beyond themselves and to stand in the place of that for which they had become symbols. Like baptism and the Lord’s Supper the two trees were sacramental. They pointed to a reality beyond themselves. Though they had no power within themselves to confer anything, nevertheless, God had so invested them with spiritual meaning so that the covenantal arrangement into which He entered with Adam was signified and sealed with these trees. Their significance cannot be underestimated. They can only now be explained in light of a third tree–the cross on which our Lord Jesus died. The cross is both the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. Jesus restores what Adam lost both with regard to moral uprightness and with regard to life. Consider the following biblical-theological aspects of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life.

7 Millennial Traits That Baby Boomers Need to Learn

Baby boomers took over the workforce when they came of age, and made a huge impact. It comes of no surprise that they raised their children, the next generation of the workforce, to do the same. Now millennials are flooding into corporate America, and many baby boomer managers, entrepreneurs and leaders are re-evaluating what it means to be a millennial–what their needs and passions are.

Below are seven traits that most millennials have that baby boomer employers should keep in mind.

Hatred & Heresy: Why Words Matter

Aaron Earls:

But if I have spent years yelling “Wolf!” and pointing at every sheep that has a spot of dirt on it, no one will listen if I call out an actual theological wolf attempts to devour the flock. I’ve bargained away the trust others have in me for a temporary advantage in online debates.

So how can we fix it? What can be done to change the tone of discussion across social media and blogs?

Church Splits

Tom Ascol:

When an atom is split, its overall mass is reduced and a tremendous amount of energy is released. The results, graphically demonstrated by the two atomic bombs that ended World War II, can be massively destructive, with effects that linger for generations.

The reactions that result from atom splits have their counterparts in the spiritual realm with church splits. When a congregation experiences division, the consequences are often devastating, widespread, and long lasting.

The one really good reason I serve in children’s ministry

childrens ministry

Let me tell you about why I serve in children’s ministry.

Correction: let me tell you about the one really good reason I serve in children’s ministry.

I’ve written on children’s ministry in the past, but I don’t recall if I’ve ever shared my feelings on this point:1

  • I don’t serve in children’s ministry because it’s a stepping stone to something else, because it’s not really.
  • I don’t serve there because it’s a ministry that constantly bleeds volunteers, though it does.
  • I don’t serve there because it’s one that lacks a positive male influence, though it is.

I serve in children’s ministry because I get to teach kids the Bible and be a part of making disciples. Children’s ministry is not (or shouldn’t be) the church’s babysitting ministry. It’s not telling nice stories where you’re a David or a Daniel. It is intentional evangelism and discipleship. And it is a slow (with a capital S-L-O-W) burn.

Let’s face it: if you’re looking for immediate results, or Charles Finney is your homeboy, you’re probably in the wrong place. You’re likely not going to have a bunch of kids put their faith in Jesus at the end of the lesson every week. And I know, because almost every time I teach, I’m stuck blessed with texts related to judgment and/or evangelism. Thus, my main application points are usually, “You need to believe in Jesus,” or “You need to tell others about Jesus.”

Nevertheless, when I teach, my goal is to teach clearly and faithfully. I don’t sugarcoat or pretty up anything the Bible says, but I do my best to make it understandable to them. I even have a few kids (like my pal Gabe) who provide feedback on whether or not I hit the “understandable” benchmark.2

I don’t often get a sense of what God is doing in their hearts and minds, because I’m not entirely sure that’s what my role is in what God’s doing. But I do know God’s doing something. Why? Because it’s what he’s promised to do in the Scriptures. Wherever his word goes forward, it will accomplish its purpose. When Jesus tells the parable of the sower, he doesn’t tell us to scatter, but doesn’t promise that we’ll be the ones to reap the harvest.

But sometimes he gives you a glimpse. Not too long ago, one of the girls I teach stopped me in the hall. She handed me a little card she had made. Inside it simply said, “Thank you for teaching God’s Word to us.”

That, friends, is why I serve in children’s ministry.


Photo credit: VBS 2014 via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

Links I like

Links

The brother of two ISIS martyrs responds

HT: JA Medders

Women, stop submitting to men?

This is a great and encouraging word from Russell Moore. Please read the whole thing:

Too often in our culture, women and girls are pressured to submit to men, as a category. This is the reason so many women, even feminist women, are consumed with what men, in general, think of them. This is the reason a woman’s value in our society, too often, is defined in terms of sexual attractiveness and availability. Is it any wonder that so many of our girls and women are destroyed by a predatory patriarchy that demeans the dignity and glory of what it means to be a woman?

Gavin Peacock joins CBMW as Director of International Outreach

Gavin Peacock, a Canadian pastor and former soccer star, is teaming up with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood as Director of International Outreach. The move is part of CBMW’s vision to reach a broader audience with the Bible’s teaching on marriage, manhood, and womanhood.

Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety

Carl Trueman:

The rise of Lent in non-Roman, Orthodox or Anglican circles is a fascinating phenomenon. I remember being on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary a few years ago on Ash Wednesday and being greeted by a young man emerging from Miller Chapel with a black smudged cross on his forehead. That the bastion of nineteenth century Old School Presbyterianism had been reduced to this – an eclectic grab-bag of liturgical practices – struck me as sad. Old School Presbyterianism is a rich enough tradition not to need to plunder the Egyptians or even the Anglicans.

Connecting with Ligonier’s 2015 National Conference

Ligonier’s 2015 National Conference begins tomorrow and Nathan Bingham offers a few ways to connect via social media.

Confessions of a Reluctant Witness

Mark Dance:

Although I have trained hundreds of Christians to share their faith over the years, I was not looking for a God-moment in this conversation initially. This guy all but asked me to share my faith, and he had no idea that I was a minister when he did so. The poor kid never saw it coming. God set him up, just like He did you and me when we first heard the gospel.

Links I Like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Real Faces Behind the Gay Issue

Jasmine Holmes shares a moving story.

How to Think about Persecution When You’re Not Very Persecuted

Erik Raymond:

The first step in this is define what we mean by persecution. At its core we are talking about active opposition to the people of God because of their commitment to Christ. This obviously has varying levels. There is the boldest and most extreme, which involves the torture and murder of someone for their faith. The watching world was horrified to see this take place this weekend with the beheading of 21 Christians in Egypt by Islamic terrorists. There is also the far less intense persecution that comes simply from claiming Christ as Lord. This may include shunning from family, lose of promotion, mocking, ridicule, or other forms of opposition.

Brandon Smith’s new blog

My friend Brandon Smith’s now blogging over at Patheos. Go check it out.

Secondary Sources and Sermon Preparation

Joey Cochran:

From time to time Redeemer Fellowship receives honest questions from pastors curious about how we do things. Sometimes I have the pleasure of responding to those questions, especially when the topic falls within the wheelhouse of my skill set. Recently, a young pastor e-mailed Redeemer and asked about how Joe and the other pastors at the church use commentaries for sermon preparation. After fielding this question for this pastor, I thought that the response might also be beneficial for others to think through how they might use secondary sources and what priority they should have in sermon preparation.

Why the British are better at satire

This is interesting.

When Eternal Life Doesn’t Woo

Lore Ferguson:

The Christian life, I am finding, does not grow easier with time. I somehow thought it would. I envisioned the sage men and women we would become and find only that my flesh is just as prone to wandering today as it was four years ago or four months ago or four minutes ago.

Links I like

Links

A quick head’s up: I’m currently on a work-related trip to Nicaragua, which means that my writing time is going to be a bit spottier than usual. I’ll still be posting at least one thing per day, but it may alternate between original material and curated content. Having said that, here are a few links worth your time today:

R C Sproul’s Favorite Word

David Murray:

Apparently my favorite words in 2014 were “maximize” and “minimize.” How do I know? A member in my congregation playfully told me. Until then I had no idea that I was using these words so much.

As I’ve been reading through a number of R C Sproul books recently, there’s one word that reappears again and again. For example, it appears 58 times in in The Holiness of God, and 78 times in Dr. Sproul’s commentary on 1 & 2 Peter. See why I call it his favorite word? And what is it?

10 things to miss about the 90s Christian bookstore

Maybe.

A Great Teacher Can Simplify without Distortion

R.C. Sproul:

Often times our educational process is a failure with respect to learning. The syndrome goes something like this: A student attends college classes, takes copious notes, memorizes the notes, and makes an A in the course. Then he graduates from college and follows the same procedure in graduate school. Now he becomes a teacher and he has a great store of information about which he has been tested yet has little understanding. Information has been transferred but never processed or digested by the inquiring mind. This teacher now goes in the classroom where he gives lectures from his notes and text books. He allows little time for questions (he fears questions he may not be able to answer). He continues the vicious syndrome of his own education with his students and the game goes on.

The Hopelessness and Hope of the Greatest Commandments

Jon Bloom:

I have never once kept even the first clause of the foremost commandment: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” At the very best moments of my life, when my affections for God have been the highest and my devotion the strongest, my heart has been polluted with the indwelling sin of selfishness. And I am rarely at my highest and strongest.

An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians

Tim Challies:

We attach great significance to great deeds, don’t we? And we attach little significance to little deeds. And yet so few of us ever have the chance to do those exceptional things. But what if we are measuring it all wrong? John Stott says it so well as he comments on Galatians 6:2: “To love one another as Christ loved us may lead us not to some heroic, spectacular deed of self-sacrifice, but to the much more mundane and unspectacular ministry of burden-bearing.”

When Generosity Hurts

JD Payne makes a good point here.

How do we stand firm?

21

What do you say about something like this—how do you begin to process the fact that ISIS has claimed to kill 21 Coptic Christians and released a video to prove it?

It’s really tempting to rebuke ourselves, isn’t it? I mean, when we see the reality Christians face in the Middle East, it makes much of our issues seem petty. Our frustrations about the sort of books being bought and sold. Our issues with celebrity pastors. Our ongoing debates over religious liberty and same-sex marriage. Our incredulity at the notion that we should give or serve in our churches and communities…

They all seem so insignificant in comparison, don’t they?

The natural reaction is to tell the Church to wake up—to make disciples who are truly willing to submit themselves to dishonor and even death for their faith.

But… It’s one thing to say that. It’s another thing to live it. And that starts with small steps. Remember, these men were likely not some sort of super-Christians. It is doubtful they were completely fearless in the face of death. They were probably normal men who read their Bibles and prayed to their Lord, just like any of us.

The difference is, they were put in a situation that tested their resolve. And their resolve, it seems, held to the end.

And this is good news, not the least for us. They held fast to the truth, and thus, we will get to meet these fallen brothers in the new creation, those whom John already saw in his vision of the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 20:4). They are those of whom it can be said the world is not worthy. And so, when the day comes, we will be able to rejoice before the throne of Christ with them.

But it also means that, if they were ordinary Christians like us, if we were to face the same circumstances, we may well hold fast to our testimony, too.

Why? Because of the work of the Holy Spirit in us. And it starts with prayer. We pray for our brothers and sisters in the midst of persecution. We pray that the Lord will strengthen them to hold firm to the end. We pray they will not lose hope, for the Lord is in their midst.

But we also must pray for ourselves, too. That we will start to take the small steps necessary for us to stand as well. That we will be willing to speak out against our culture of death, and hold to our convictions on marriage. To oppose teaching that is contrary to sound doctrine. To—gasp!—think more highly of others and do something crazy like serve in the children’s ministry at our local church.

These are the building blocks of discipleship. And it starts with prayer.

To be clear: I am not equating western problems with those in the Middle East. However, if we want to be and make disciples who will hold fast till the end, even in the face of persecution and death, this is where we must start. So will we?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week, Crossway’s put four terrific books on the gospel on sale:

Tyndale’s made Because We Are Called to Counter Culture, a booklet based on David Platt’s latest book free for the next couple days. Also consider The Allegory of Love by CS Lewis ($2.99), the Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life by John Calvin (99¢) and Different by Design by Carrie Sandom ($3.99).

Romance is not stupid

Ray Ortlund nails it (which is no surprise).

Stop hate-watching the Church

Richard Clark:

I just want to be completely clear about this: If you are harmed by Christian culture to the point that you have given up on Christianity altogether, I get that. If you find Christian truth claims to be negative and harmful, that’s fair enough. I wouldn’t want to make any claims about how you deal with your struggles. You may do whatever you want.

But groups like these have engendered a culture that identifies as Christian, yet despises the Church. They have led fellow Christians to hate and despise their brothers and sisters for the sake of “venting.” But Christians are held to a different standard, one that results in edification and unity for the sake of the Church. To struggle with that standard is understandable, but to reject it altogether is giving up, on the Church, on the teachings of Christ, and on your own spiritual sanctification.

Mapping countries by population

This is very interesting. Notice that Canada completely disappears.

The ChristianExaminer deceives readers about Russell Moore

Alan Noble:

On Friday, the ChristianExaminer published an article with the following headline:

“Southern Baptist ethicist says Alabama judges must uphold gay marriage law or resign.”

The Christian ethicist referred to here is Dr. Russell Moore. Despite this deliciously clickbait headline, this implies a position that Dr. Moore does not hold.

Christians Without a Tribe

Tim Brister:

It is my conviction that a gospel-centered Christian cannot function without their own tribe, clan, and family. It is not enough that you belong to the Christian “nation” (the body of Christ universal). Christians grounded in the gospel will have their roots nourished in the life-giving community God intends for them to flourish in grace. If you were to be identified today, could it be said that your existence as a Christian is defined by who you belong to? Who’s your family? Who’s your clan? Who’s your tribe?

Augustine and the undoing of arguments toward ignorance

slight knowledge

If you say you understand God, it’s not God you understand. You’ve probably heard or read something like this in dozens of books, sermons and lectures over the last 1700 years or so (but with a renewed vigor in the last 20). Usually, it’s used as an argument against certainty, especially about our knowledge of God.

To say we know anything about God is presumptuous some suggest. Wouldn’t it be better to admit just how little we know? Turning to Augustine, some even seek an ally, for, as he wrote:

We are speaking of God. Is it any wonder if you do not comprehend? For if you comprehend, it is not God you comprehend. Let it be a pious confession of ignorance rather than a rash profession of knowledge. To attain some slight knowledge of God is a great blessing; to comprehend him, however, is totally impossible.1

But is Augustine truly an ally—is he the undoer of their arguments? For to be sure, one who would argue that we can exhaustively know God’s thoughts and intentions, his character and his being… those who suggest such things are speaking too quickly (and foolishly).

But a lack of comprehension—our inability to fully and exhaustively know God—does not mean we cannot know something. Remember that, even as Augustine said it is impossible to comprehend him, “to attain some slight knowledge of God is a great blessing.” Which means: there is something of God that is knowable.

What Augustine reminds us of is our ability to apprehend God. To grasp something of him. And certainly, this is no arrogant thing to say, for God desires for us to know him. Were that not the case, he would not have revealed himself to us, in creation, in his written Word, and most fully in the person of Jesus Christ.

In creation, we see God’s creativity, his love of beauty, his precision and attention to detail, among other things. In the Bible, we are given his character and declared will, his plans and purposes for this world and its inhabitants. And in Jesus, we see all of what has been known of God in the abstract—his justice and mercy, compassion and commandments—most fully and tangibly expressed. Do we understand it all fully? Of course not. It is far too much for us. But to grasp something of God—to begin to understand what he reveals to us—is a great blessing indeed.


Photo credit: 000019 via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

January’s top 10 articles

top-10

Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in January:

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Three tools to help you memorize Scripture (January 2015)
  3. 5 books Christians should read on Church history (January 2015)
  4. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  5. A year of time-tested theology: the Bavinck reading plan (December 2014)
  6. Modesty, #ChristianCleavage and me (January 2015)
  7. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)
  8. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011/rewritten in September 2014)
  9. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  10. The Mingling of Souls (January 2015)

And just for fun, here are five favorites written over the month:

  1. Can we be politically disengaged as Christians?
  2. Two devotionals you’ll actually want to use
  3. Three things I’d like to see in the Christian blogosphere in 2015
  4. 6 books I’m reading on apologetics and outreach
  5. What our bestsellers say about our discipleship

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

#BaptistValentineCard

Because if you can’t laugh at yourself…

Enjoy:

Truth-Telling and the News Media

Lee Webb:

I’ve taken more than a passing interest in the story since I share a couple of things in common with Mr. Williams. First, before coming to Ligonier Ministries, I spent nineteen years in a position similar to his, as the lead news anchor for the Christian Broadcasting Network. Second, during an earlier stint as a news anchor for a local station in Jacksonville, Florida, I was suspended without pay. Station management didn’t take kindly to me telling a group of politically active Christians that I believed the news media had a bias against them. So, I can relate to Brian when he admits, “I am presently too much a part of the news.” Some observations regarding the current controversy.

Lee Strobel’s Crisis of Faith

Dan Darling’s interview with Lee Strobel is really great.

Is It Right For Christians To Call Our Enemies “Savages”?

Derek Rishmawy:

“Savage” is the term that some Christians, or simply Westerners, used to justify their colonial conquest of indigenous peoples who didn’t have the proper sort of cultures, forms of dress, or skin colors. Without sitting on too high of a horse as we look back on our forebears, we have to remember that some considered it part of the White Man’s Burden to conquer the savages, educate them, and give them the Truth of Western culture so that they might not have to dwell in the darkness of their former bestiality. If some had to be killed, enslaved, or tortured in order for that to happen, well, so be it. Cultural heroism required bearing a heavy load and doing what is necessary to ennoble humanity as a whole.

How Hardcore Of A New Calvinist Are You?

A quiz by Stephen Altrogge.

W-ORD Channel 7 News

This is just fun:

10 Questions on Dating with Matt Chandler

Interesting stuff.