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Here I write about anything and everything.

Cat and Dog Theology

This new theology, if you can call it that, is described here and here.  It’s also here, a June 22, 2003 sermon, “It’s All About Him,” which sounds very like a sermon we heard in church once.

Cat and Dog Theology is tied in with the above described supremacy of God doctrine.

Yes, we need to focus on God and loving others, not on making ourselves happy and getting all the blessings for ourselves.

Yes, it is true that the Church has been riddled with materialistic error and the concept that God is some sort of cosmic slot machine, giving us wealth, a beloved, a great job, etc. (as long as we remember to tithe that 10%).

Yes, it is dangerous to think that we can expect a life of ease, when our forebears were tortured and martyred for the faith (and many still are in other countries).

Yes, it is dangerous to think that we don’t need to struggle to become more like Christ.  Many down through the ages have deliberately chosen poverty and other difficulties to become closer to Christ.

Yes, it is true that American worship is becoming more and more man-centered all the time, bringing in various forms of music and praise choruses to make us “feel” closer to God, to make us raise our hands, dumbing down the message so it becomes more like a self-help seminar or something to make us feel good, assaulting our senses with multimedia as if we were being entertained by a movie or concert rather than worshipping at church.

On these issues, I wholeheartedly agree with Cat and Dog Theology.

But when I read the “It’s All About Him” sermon, it scared me.

Now I recognize very Calvinist doctrines running throughout this sermon: Some people are born to be killed for God’s glory?  “What if God wants to sell you into slavery so He can position you for His glory, like Joseph?”  What??!!!  (God did not sell Joseph into slavery; Joseph’s brothers did that.)

Other teachings I’ve heard along this line include, we should pray for other people (dog) and not for ourselves (cat).

But Christ specifically tells us to bring our requests to God, and that we do not have because we do not ask!  He is a loving Father who will not give us a stone if we ask for bread.

Sure, we should pray for other people, and more than we pray for ourselves.  But it is not a “cat” thing to ask for our own needs as well.  (Needs, not wants.)

One Sunday, I could swear the pastor told us we shouldn’t grieve or question when a loved one dies, because we don’t know God’s purposes.  I could swear he told us that even praying for that person to be healed was a “cat” thing.

But the Orthodox tradition affirms that death is a tragedy and we should feel free to grieve, not make glib comments like, “God had a purpose in [your loved one’s name]’s death.”  Christ came to conquer death; death is the enemy!

Some passages from this sermon:

In 1 Chronicles 21 Satan prompted King David to count his fighting men.  The Lord wasn’t pleased for He wanted the glory for giving military victories.

But David swelled with pride, in himself, his country, and his men and took the glory of God.  So it was the Lord, not Satan, who sent a plague and killed 70,000 of David’s chosen men, military leaders and believers from the nation Israel.

Let’s listen in on the conversation these men might have had with God.

Men: Lord, why did you bring us all home at once?  We weren’t even fighting a war.

Lord: David sinned.

Men: What?  David sinned and we were all punished for his sin?

Lord: I don’t see bringing you home into my presence as punishment but that’s what I did.

[Note from me: In those days they would have gone to Sheol, or Hades, the land of the dead, of shadows, of nothingness–NOT God’s presence–because Christ had not yet gone down into Hades and defeated death.]

Men: Oh Lord, we’re sorry.  You’re wonderful.  but why didn’t you take him home?

Lord: Because I had a greater plan for his life.

Men: What about our lives?

Lord: I had a plan for your lives as well.

Men: Well, what was it?

Lord: To die when David sinned, and to serve to bring about his repentance.

Men: But Lord, that just doesn’t seem fair.

Lord: Well, I have never run My kingdom based on fairness, I run it for my glory.

[Note from me: What about justice and mercy?  What about people being judged only for their own sins, not someone else’s?  This “theology” sounds more like heresy than Orthodox doctrine!]

God uses all nations, both good and bad, for His purposes.  When God wanted to take the gospel message past Jerusalem He persecuted his people in that city to spread them throughout the Roman Empire.

When He wanted to extend the gospel message past the Empire He sacked Rome with barbaric tribes from the north that scattered Christians from Ireland to China.

What does that say for America?  Can you think for a more historically accurate, God-honoring way to take the gospel to the Muslim world than to scatter the church, perhaps even the American church?  After all, it’s not about America.  It’s All About Him.

…Let’s ask some questions: Did God love the first nine generations [of Israelites living as slaves in Egypt] as well as the tenth one He freed?  (Absolutely)

Did God have a plan for their lives?  (Definitely)

What was God’s plan for their lives?  (To be born a slave, to live as a slave, and to die a slave.)

Why?

Because God used their captivity to teach future generations to be kind to people from other countries.  Because It’s All About Him….

Would you be willing to be a slave for the glory of God?  What if God wants to sell you into slavery so He can position you for His glory, like Joseph?

…Suppose it is God’s will that you be stoned to death like Stephen?

…As a woman would you be willing to live in southern Sudan, to be raped, mutilated, homeless and hungry if your being on the front lines of spiritual war brought great glory to God?

This website critiques Cat and Dog theology, based on a report given to the author by a reader whose church taught C&D Theology.  The author writes:

Value of mankind:

1-“God is not fair”

We were given examples of three people who served God, yet had different outcomes. Thereby, we conclude that God is not/does not have to be “fair”. “You have no right to ask, ‘Is it fair?'”

Nothing was mentioned about justice. Or just trusting that God sees the bigger plan for our lives.

We should not question when life is taken. We should not grieve when a child is taken.

2-We were told not to seek the glory of the “winner’s circle” by seeking to be like the Bible heroes (of faith). Rather, we were told that we should identify with the lesser characters of the Bible.

The two examples given were of nameless people who died. We were told that they died in order that God might be glorified. (Not true.)

Ex. -1) Job’s children. This story was told as if Job’s children went to heaven and had a conversation with God. (This seemed to be a deliberate but subtle denial of hell.)

Ex. -2) David and the 70,000 who died as a result of his sin and his choice of judgment on his people.

What is missing here is this: If bringing glory to Gods name is so paramount in his theology, then the greatest glory to God that we could possibly affect would be that of seeking to be like none other than Jesus Christ.

This “option” was totally omitted as was the fact that Hebrews 11 sets before us a whole list of “winners” as examples of people to emulate in order to bring the greatest glory to God. He equates these men and women of faith to being “the winner’s circle”.

This is a distortion. They simply walked in faith and obedience to God, enduring hardship and seldom seeing the promise fulfilled.

Now, in our Evangelical-Free church, for possibly two years and in every sermon, we heard that God’s predominant passion is His own glory.  That makes it hard to tell where “Cat and Dog Theology” ended and basic Supremacy of God doctrine began.  So I’m not entirely sure if the following two points came from Cat and Dog Theology.

But our pastor told us 1) Even if God didn’t have all these attributes–love, compassion, caring, blessing us, etc.–we should still glorify Him because He is God.  2) Even if we didn’t sin, Christ still would have died on the Cross because it was for God’s glory.

In answer to 1: If God didn’t have all these attributes, He would become like ancient pagan deities who didn’t care at all about mankind–deities who required sacrifice so we wouldn’t be punished, deities who barely thought about humans and just used them as occasional playthings.  Why would we care to worship and glorify such a deity?

In answer to 2:

According to Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor and other Greek Fathers, the Incarnation would have taken place even if Adam and Eve had never sinned. Isaac the Syrian held the same view, as did later Syriac writers.

The purpose of the Incarnation was to achieve intimate union between God and humanity. This is salvation, the fullest expression of love.

God’s plan was for the two to become one and form a New Humanity (confer Eph 2:15 read in light of Eph 4:13 & I Cor 15:45 53).

In contrast to this is the Latin tradition, at least the part that prevailed. During the Easter Liturgy in the Roman Church, the Exultet is sung. The following is an excerpt: “O Happy Fault, O necessary sin of Adam which gained for us so great a Redeemer.”

According to the Latin mindset, there never would have been an Incarnation unless Adam and Eve had sinned.

The Eastern tradition finds this line of thinking totally offensive and in fact, several Popes had condemned it as well.

Nevertheless, ever since the split between East and West, this section of the Exultet stands as part of the Roman liturgy. There is a Latin saying “lex orandi, lex credendi,” “The rule of prayer is the rule of faith.” The liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church reflects its theology.

From the Eastern perspective, God’s desire and reason for the Incarnation was loving intimacy, not punishment for sin. The Sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, while foreknown by God, was not the primary motivation for the Incarnation.

The East accentuates God’s mercy over God’s justice; the West is vice versa. –Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Theme 8–Soteriology

So on the Latin side, if man had never sinned, there never would have been an Incarnation.  On the Greek side, if man had never sinned, there would still have been an Incarnation because of God’s desire for union with us.  So either way, what the pastor said was just plain incorrect.

Week after week after week, the pastor made God sound more self-centered and less like a loving Father; my husband felt like just a tool being used for God’s purposes, not someone God cared about as a person.

After all, if God wanted to kill you for His own glory, who were you to complain that wasn’t fair?

And yet the pastor wondered why we didn’t consider this a wonderful theology that made us more in love with God.

We watched in disbelief as other members of the church embraced it and began teaching it to others.  Even now, members from that church propagate this doctrine, and Cat and Dog Theology has become quite popular in the American Church.

This “theology” is the product of modern American Protestantism mixed with Calvinism, not the theology of the ancient Church.

To summarize, God created us for communion.  He wanted someone to bless.

Christ came not just to die for us, but to reconcile us to God and lead us to communion–not for God’s glory, but for communion!

We are not saved from Hell for service, but saved from our sins so we can commune with God!

We do good works for others because Christ told us to and it’s the sign of true faith and love, not because we’re a “dog” or a “cat.”  (See above, and see page 3 for lots of stuff about sin, salvation, Hell, etc.)

Cat and Dog Theology said we are supposed to hunger for God’s glory; in Orthodoxy, we are to hunger for God Himself.  As we come together as a congregation to worship God, and sing praises and glory to Him (since this is a good and worthy thing to do), our worship culminates in the Eucharist.

Our hunger and thirst for God is satisfied as we take His body and blood into our bodies in an intimate union which has even been compared to a man and his wife becoming one.

Out of this pours our honor, glory and praise to God, and we desire to become more and more like Him and help others to do the same.

So just because we do not focus on glory above everything else, hardly means that we are “cats.”  But so much of what I have heard and read from Reformed sources makes it sound like we are robbing God of His glory if we do not focus on His glory above all else.

Also, Cat and Dog Theology says “everyday life was designed to be one big worship service” and goes on to ask, What does God get when you hug a child, see a sunset, listen to music, eat a chocolate covered strawberry, etc. etc.

However, this is not what worship is all about.  Such experiences can show us God exists, and it is good to remember all of it is possible because of God’s goodness.

But worship “reflects the fullness of Truth,” “strives to make holy,” and all

flows from the one, essential act of worship and thanksgiving, the ‘common union’ with the Trinity and with God’s people into which the ‘community’ enters through the reception of Holy ‘Communion’. …’Enjoyment’ is not a goal in worship. —Orthodox Worship vs. Contemporary Worship

Another deficiency, a common problem, is that I read so much in the Cat and Dog writings and other Protestant writings about God, which makes God sound like one Person who is God-centered.

In Orthodoxy, God is more commonly referred to as the Trinity and “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Yes, Protestants are usually Trinitarian, but in common speech, oftentimes Christ and the Spirit seem more like subordinates, while the Father is God.  One important note–which some proponents of Cat and Dog theology may be fully aware of, but can be missed by those in the pews–is that the Persons are equal to each other and each are God.  Instead of seeking what’s best for Himself, each member of the Trinity loves the other two completely and seeks to glorify them.

This is demonstrated by the Trinity icon, in which the three members of the Trinity sit around a table in perfect love and communion, their heads bent toward each other.  See here.  Looked at in this way, God is not self-seeking or self-loving, but loves and seeks what is best for the other, just as we are to do.

Oddly enough, this Cat and Dog “theology,” first heard of in the Evangelical Free Church, is part of the reason why I began the path toward Orthodoxy.  It was a long and twisted path, full of error, but led me to seek what was for God rather than just for myself.

Still, as I’ve noted above, this theology is flawed.  Cat and Dog Theology says that “dogs” hunger for God’s glory while “cats” hunger for the blessings; Orthodox theology says that we should hunger for GOD–and this hunger is satisfied in the Eucharist, which is Christ’s body and blood.

Cat and Dog Theology focuses our attention on God’s glory (as in, reputation); Orthodox theology focuses our attention on God Himself.

Cat and Dog Theology says that Christ died on the cross for our sins so that we might point to God and glorify Him; Orthodox theology focuses on the love of God in reconciling us to Him, showing us how to live, and bringing the suffering souls out of Hades so they could commune with Him forever.

Cat and Dog Theology focuses on God’s reputation (glory); Orthodox theology longs for the wondrously beautiful manifestation of God’s energies (glory).

Cat and Dog Theology makes life’s unfairness sound deliberately caused directly by God; Orthodox theology realizes that the Devil is our enemy and the source of all evil, that we ourselves cause our own troubles (such as Hell, which we cause ourselves by rejecting the love of God).

Cat and Dog Theology focuses on the lack of praise of God in Hell; Orthodox theology focuses on the suffering people will endure because they have rejected the love of God and cannot get away from it.

Cat and Dog Theology would essentially call Orthodox theology “me-centered cat thinking” because it focuses on our becoming like Christ and acquiring the Holy Spirit.  Yet Orthodox theology is the most ancient, while Calvinism is only about 500 years old!

See for some good old-fashioned deep theology that does not come from 500-year-old Calvinism: Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life

Written between late 2004 and probably late 2006/early 2007

 

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

God’s Purpose (Supremacy of God Doctrine)

One form of theology says that God’s chief end or purpose, his chief priority, the thing that He’s most passionate for, is His own glory, the glory of His name.

Basically, every single thing He does is primarily done to glorify Himself–even the Cross.  The world was made to glorify God (which is partially true); we’re saved to glorify God; the Church exists to glorify God; we evangelize to glorify God; we’re supposed to make this primary.

This doctrine comes from traditional Calvinism/Reformed theology and from dispensationalismThis page describes glory theology.  Also see What the Church Was Meant to Be by Reformed evangelical writer John MacArthur, posted on what appears to be a very Calvinist website.

This theology is also described by Reformed Baptist Pastor John Piper in his books, such as Desiring God (1987) and God’s Passion for His Glory (1998).  I believe it is called the Supremacy of God doctrine.  See the following pages, as linked and quoted below:

And I really mean it this morning: the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever….

God loves himself more than he loves you, and therein lies the only hope that he might love you, unworthy as you are….

He chose you. Why? That his glory and grace might be praised and magnified.

Your salvation is to glorify God. Your election is to glorify God. Your regeneration was to glorify God. Your justification was for the glory of God. Your sanctification is for the glory of God.

And one day your glorification will be an absorbance into the glory of God….

Christ came to earth, clothed himself with flesh, and died so that you would give glory to his Father for mercy. He came for his Father’s sake. That’s the main reason why he came, for his Father’s glory. And his glory reaches its apex in the overflow of mercy….

He is coming [again] to be glorified, magnified in his saints, and to be marveled at. —Passion for the Supremacy of God, Part 1

Yesterday, in an attempt to torch the glacier and to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples, I tried to make the point that God does everything he does for the glory of his name.

God magnifies God. The most passionate heart in all the universe for God is God’s heart. That was the main point.

Passion ’97, as I understand it, is about God’s passion for God. Everything he does, from creation to consummation, he does with a view to displaying and upholding the glory of his name. —Passion for the Supremacy of God, Part 2

John Piper says it exceedingly well when he says that the Good News is not that He loves us but that God loves Himself.  God exists to glorify himself.

Miraculous deliverances, supernatural healings, and even the Good News of the Kingdom of God are means to an end; they exist to bring glory and honor and praise to the eternal supreme king of the galactic universe….

Friends, we too are a means to an end. “The chief end of man,” says the Westminster Confession of Faith, “is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”…

God’s love is a boomerang love, it goes out only for the purpose that it comes back to glorify Him not us. —What is the Supremacy of God? (Formerly at http://supremacyofgod.org/. Website now defunct.)

Apparently Piper’s books have been selling very well lately in Reformed and Evangelical circles.  Piper also seems to be influenced by Jonathan Edwards (even called his successor), who wrote about God’s supposed chief end here.

I first heard about this doctrine/theology when at an Evangelical Free church a few years ago.  Cugan and I both wondered where it came from; it was foreign to anything I (Nazarene) or he (Lutheran) had heard before.

Our pastor once made an analogy between God and a CEO, with God meeting daily with his staff (I forget who they were–the Trinity? angels?) to decide, “How can I glorify myself today?”

It bugged us to no end, as it made God sound like a warrior-king from Beowulf, not our Loving Father.  And we heard it every single week, month after month.  We’re still skittish at the sound of the words “glory” and “glorify,” even though they’re not bad things in themselves.

Apparently, even though we thought the Evangelical-Free Church was Arminian, its churches are allowed to be Calvinist.  And recently I discovered that the theology of the church is considered to be moderately Calvinist.

I do recall a lot of activity and fellowship between our church and local Reformed churches, but in those days I did not know that “Reformed” meant “Calvinist.”

We left for the not-so-Calvinist Presbyterian Church (USA), which had left traditional Calvinism and double predestination far behind and didn’t have this supremacy doctrine, but it would have been best to leave Calvinism completely.

The Orthodox Church does not teach this supremacy doctrine.  Proponents say the Church’s primary purpose is to glorify God; in Orthodoxy, the Church is seen as a hospital for souls, and man’s purpose as becoming like God so that man and God can be in union/communion.

According to Wikipedia,

Prior to dispensationalism’s 19-20th century inception and systemization, Covenant Theology was the prominent Protestant view regarding redemptive history and is still the view of the Reformed churches.

A relatively recent view, which is seen as a third alternative, especially among Reformed Baptists, is called New Covenant Theology.

Outside of Protestant Christianity, however, the other branches of Christianity (for example, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox) reject both dispensationalism and Covenant Theology.

The Lutheran Church also rejects dispensationalism, by the way.  Pages 44-45 of this paper put out by the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) seems to agree with what I’ve found in Orthodox theology: The End Times: A Study on Eschatology and Millennialism  To quote:

Nevertheless, dispensationalist teaching contradicts the Scriptures at many critical points and therefore seriously endangers the pure teaching of the Gospel….

Dispensational premillenialism tends to regard the glory of God as the center of theology, rather than the mercy of God revealed, and yet hidden, in the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross for the sins of the world.

The visible manifestations of God’s power at the end of history and obedience to the will of God become the primary foci, instead of the grace of God revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 2:2)–

which by faith the Christian regards and accepts as the place of God’s definitive triumph over sin and every evil (in Lutheran theology, the ‘theology of the cross’ as opposed to a ‘theology of glory’).

Also, Luther’s Small Catechism states,

What is the key to the correct understanding of the Bible?  Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is the heart and center of the Scripture and therefore the key to its true meaning….Jesus revealed Himself as the center of Scripture (Luke 24:13-27) (p. 49).

I have recently discovered that this theology is quite common in Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches, that dispensationalism and Calvinism are as well, though I had always thought that Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches are Arminian.

The theology of “God’s glory being His ultimate purpose” seems to be present even in churches which are otherwise not Calvinist.

It seems that people don’t realize the supremacy of God doctrine is being promoted in Evangelical churches by a Calvinist, John Piper, who believes in and promotes the Calvinist understanding of double predestination.

It seems that many people don’t realize that, taken to its obvious conclusion, this theology turns into full-blown Calvinism, with some being predestined for glory and some being predestined for damnation–not from their own choice, but so God can be glorified.  The unchosen ones become vessels displaying God’s wrath.

One former Calvinist, posting on a message board, noted that the statement often quoted from an old Calvinist catechism–“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”–sounds great at first.  But it’s all external; it doesn’t emphasize union with God.

Here, the Orthodox view of why God created, under section III.b., a different take on glory:

The goal and purpose of God’s creation is the participation of this creation in God’s blessedness: St. John of Damascus speaks of “God’s glory and man’s theosis“;

however, God’s glory is man’s theosis, for God creates to communicate Himself, His blessedness and glory to the creatures He creates – the entire creation, and in this creation, man in particular (The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church).

The page then goes on to speak of man’s specific call to become like God in character, and to be the link between creation and God, bringing creation into communion with God.

Lutheran, PCUSA and Orthodox churches do not follow the supremacy of God doctrine.  Traditional Calvinist/Reformed churches do.

The Orthodox say that union with God (not just the glory of God) is the chief end or purpose of man, and that the final end/purpose of the world is man’s union with God.

“The whole purpose of the Incarnation of the Son of God was to restore humanity to fellowship with God”  (Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald, “Spirituality”).

“It is in Christ that the purpose of human existence is realized: communion with God, union with God, deification”  (Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, “An Online Orthodox Catechism: Redemption”).

The Earth shows God’s glory–so that man can see it and commune with God.  The “end purpose of all things” is God.  One of God’s purposes in anything could be glory, but making glory the be-all and end-all of everything makes theology seriously one-sided.  And how can we presume to say we know all of God’s purposes in everything?

Of course, we must not assume that God’s glory has nothing to do with our purpose, Christ’s purpose, creation’s purpose, God’s purpose, etc.

The problem with the focus on glory in Calvinism and dispensationalism, is that it is imbalanced: It takes the focus off God’s love for mankind, His caring for those who suffer, His desire to be in communion with us, and makes us sound selfish for desiring Him to feel this way.

Somehow, our wish to help others find God so they, too, can commune with Him, is made to sound self-serving.

But there is far more to “ultimate purpose” than just making God look good (though it is a big part of it).  Father Thomas Hopko writes (and note how he defines glory):

The Holy God of the Old Testament revealed Himself to His chosen people who were able to behold His glory.

The glory of the Lord was a special divine manifestation of the Person and Presence of God. It consisted in the vision of light, majesty and beauty and was accompanied by the voice of the Lord and His holy angels.

It created in the persons who observed it overwhelming feelings of fear and fascination, as well as profound convictions of peace, well-being, and joy….

The main teaching of the Old Testament and the foundation of all of its life was that God’s people should share in His holiness. This was the purpose of the entire Law of Moses in its commandments of morality and worship….

The people were to be holy and to gain the wisdom and righteousness of God through their service and worship of Him.

All of the so-called Wisdom writings of the Old Testament, and all of the teachings of the prophets and psalms are centered around this same fundamental fact:

God’s people should acquire and express the holiness, wisdom, glory, and righteousness of God Himself. This, and nothing else is the meaning and purpose of man’s life as created and guided by God.

The ultimate perfection of God’s purpose for man is fulfilled in Christ. He alone is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. He alone is the “Holy One of God” (Mk 1:24, Lk 1:35, 4:34).

He alone is perfectly righteous and wholly without sin. Thus, St Peter speaks of Jesus to the people after the event of Pentecost.

The glory of God is revealed in the person of Christ. This is the consistent witness of the apostles who beheld the “Kingdom of God come with power” on the mountain of the Transfiguration (see Mt 17:1-6, Mk 9:2-7, Lk 9:28-36).

“And the Word became flesh and dwell among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (Jn 1:14).

“Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness, fading as this was, will not the dispensation of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor?

“For if there was splendor in the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness must far exceed it in splendor. Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all, because of the splendor that surpasses it.

“For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor. Since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 

“For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 3:7, 18, 4:6).

In and through Christ, by means of the Holy Spirit, all men can share in the glory of God and become participants in God’s own holiness….

The participation of men in the “nature of God” already begins in the Church of Christ, the final fruit of the salvation history of the Old Testament.

In the Church, the Kingdom of God is present which is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17).

In the Church of Christ already begins that perpetual praise of the Holy God which exists now in the heavens and will fill all creation when Christ comes in the glory of His Kingdom at the end of the ages (p. 112-115, The Orthodox Faith: Vol. iii, Bible and Church History).

My priest says that our chief purpose in life, our number-one reason to exist, is to worship the almighty Lord and to worship at the Cross (which we do when we participate in the Eucharist).

He says our highest, sacred responsibility is to attend Divine Liturgy (services including Eucharist).

He says this is how we unite and communicate with God, how we commune with him, through worship and the Eucharist.  Christ’s very real presence is there; that is our chief purpose in worship, to unite/commune and communicate with God and with each other, to experience the real presence of Christ.

Isn’t that beautiful?  Doesn’t that transform even the so-called “boring” liturgies into something far more glorious than just sitting in a pew, listening to a sermon which may or may not be inspired, and singing a few songs that may or may not be your favorite music style?

In an article about the teachings of St. Gregory of Nyssa, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos writes,

Man’s basic aim, according to St Gregory of Nyssa, is deification. We must look at man’s salvation only from this perspective. But in order for anyone to succeed in this very high aim, he must be purified, which is essential for man.

In The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective, Theodore G. Stylianopoulos describes the view of the Early Church Fathers:

As the fulfillment of the Old Testament and the fullness of historical revelation, Christ is the chief aim and main subject of Scripture and, therefore, the beginning, center, and end of biblical interpretation.

In both biblical revelation and biblical interpretation the living Christ personally reveals himself as the ultimate interpreter by the power of the Spirit.  In an important way, interpretation is a fruit of the personal revelation of Christ, the Word, to the interpreter.

This is different from what my Evangelical Free pastor taught, that God’s glory is the chief aim and main subject of Scripture.

Piper’s opening salvo is remarkably insightful and immediately pulls the reader into his argument: “People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure.

“There are far more popular prescriptions on the market, but the benefit of any other remedy is brief and shallow” (p. 9).  Regardless of one’s theological perspective, this statement rings true….

No good preacher will argue with Piper’s opening statement. However, many good preachers may choose to argue with Piper’s view of the shape and content of the kind of preaching that meets this human need.

Because of Piper’s strong Reformed leanings, he clearly favors preaching that emphasizes God’s sovereignty in a distinctively Edwardsian package. Sadly, he seems to discount all other preaching as missing the mark in demonstrating God’s majesty….

Piper’s guidelines for carrying out his burden are more indicative of his own theological position than they are of Biblical revelation. Is it really true that the “dominant note of preaching [should] be the freedom of God’s sovereign grace”?

Why this doctrine over others? Why not the incarnation or the Trinity or salvation by grace or any of a number of other significant doctrines?

And must the unifying theme of preaching be “the zeal that God has for his own glory”? Why not the zeal God has to glorify those who respond to His grace?

Obviously God has created the universe with more intention than merely displaying His glory. He has also created it in order to share his glory — to glorify those who are his own.

By overemphasizing one facet of Biblical revelation, Piper seems to leave humankind entirely out of the picture. Would it make any difference if humankind had ever existed at all? If not, why did God choose to create humankind?

Even more importantly, why did God choose to identify so intimately with humankind through the incarnation?

It appears that Piper has merely taken his integrative motif and demanded that all preachers share the same emphasis lest they be guilty of undermining true God-centered preaching….

In reference to Piper’s third guideline: Is it really true that the “grand object of preaching be the infinite and inexhaustible being of God”?

Does the Bible present us with a systematized, categorized series of abstract reflections on God’s infinite and inexhaustible nature?

Or does it present the glorious God in the context and flow of human history, demonstrating his nature and character in light of his interactions with human beings?

Piper’s “grand object” can all too easily boil down to abstract, decontextualized, depersonalized and ahistorical philosophical jargon.

I would argue that the “grand object” of Scripture is God’s saving purpose worked out in human history. Insofar as this demonstrates God’s nature, I agree with Piper.

However, beginning with God’s “infinite and inexhaustible being” and working down to God’s saving acts seems to invert the order Scripture presents and the way in which Scripture presents it. –Richard J. Vincent, God-Centered Preaching: An Analysis and Critique of The Supremacy of God in Preaching

Also see:

Internet Monk: On Being Too God-Centered (catch the comments, too)

I find this frightening–the thought that TULIP Calvinism has become newly popular among evangelicals.  It also explains why my old Evangelical Free church suddenly turned Calvinist after having been Arminian:

“Young, Restless, Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback–and shaking up the church” by Collin Hansen

See for some good old-fashioned deep theology that does not come from 500-year-old Calvinism: Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life

Written between late 2004 and probably late 2006/early 2007

 

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

End Times and Christian Zionism

To find a good interpretation of Revelation and other End-Time prophecies, you must look at the Church’s accepted traditions, not newfangled ideas (such as a Rapture before the Tribulation) which popped up in the last few centuries.  One good source is the Orthodox Study Bible.

Challenging Christian Zionism shows how Christian Zionism hampers the peace process in the Middle East.

A review of Left Behind,Fundamentally Unsound” by Michelle Goldberg, has a similar philosophy.

Glenn Scherer argues that “Christian right-views are swaying politicians and threatening the environment.”

This link from the Presbyterian Church (USA) describes Christian Zionism and includes many links on the subject.

This page from Cornerstone Magazine explains how Christian Zionism demonizes certain nations and disrupts the peace process in Israel.

This Catholic website explains, in the “Interpretation” section near the end, how the prophecies of the Beast have been fulfilled in the first century, in the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire.

Catholics, as well as many other Christian denominations, also believe in amillennialism.  Amillennialism would explain why John the Baptist and Christ kept saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

It was also the traditional interpretation of the Church: Though a few early Church Fathers and writers believed the Millennium was to be a literal thousand years, this was not the dominant belief.  In fact, it was rejected at the Second Ecumenical Council (p. 627-628, The Orthodox Study Bible).

This site describes the various interpretations very well.

Eastern Orthodoxy rejects dispensationalism.  Here is an Orthodox writer’s view of premillennial dispensationalism.

Here is the Orthodox view of Revelations.

Also see Left Behind–What is Rapture? by Dave Elfering.

And The $666 Question: How to Interpret the Omen? by Rev. Dr. Frank Marangos.

And, on page 13 of the June/July 2006 issue of the Orthodox Observer, “Revelation Also Speaks to Contemporary Christians” by Fr. Angelo Artemas.

 

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

On church buildings

I’ve heard of many churches these days that are building far more than just a sanctuary with classrooms and a few other necessities and amenities.

A church here in town will soon have a building with a weight room/gym and coffee house.  Many churches look more like auditoriums or conference halls than churches.

I can see why Willow Creek-type churches are so big physically, since they have so many people in the congregation.  I can also see the need for conference halls.  But should the conference hall and the church be the same thing?

Are we getting so into building bigger churches with all the latest toys, or going to conferences on everything, that we’ve forgotten what we’re supposed to be doing?

We are to become like Christ.  It’s not all about having Power Point or the best Christian conferences or big productions or the latest method of making converts.

[written around 2004/2005]

 

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

 

Tithing

According to the OCA, the Orthodox Church teaches that we do not have to follow the 10% tithe in a legalistic fashion–as in, you must give 10% first to the church out of your gross income no matter how much you have left, etc.  Rather, the principal is to give what we can, not grudgingly (when we can’t afford a tithe and the utility bill) or giving only 10% when we can easily afford more.

The point is to give the “first portion” before paying our other bills, to give what we can with thanksgiving, without comparing ourselves to others.  If you can afford it, you should tithe ten percent; if you can afford more, give more; if you can’t afford ten percent, give what you can manage.  The Orthodox Church also disagrees with the Prosperity Gospel. —Giving to the Church

The New Testament does not explicitly promote or encourage tithing per se, that is, the offering of one tenth of one’s income to the Church.  Instead, the New Testament promotes the concept of ‘proportionate giving’, which may even exceed the ten percent limitation denoted by the word ‘tithe’.” —Michael Makridis, Christian Stewardship and Tithing

You hear people grumble about giving to the Church, or say, “God doesn’t need my money.”  No, but your church does–to pay the preacher, pay the light bill, pay the insurance premiums, etc. etc.

So while a legalistic form of tithing–i.e., “It is required to pay 10% or else you are sinning and God will not bless you”–is wrong and oppressive, giving to your church is still needed.

Maybe large churches with lots of rich givers will survive if some people give nothing, but a large number of churches are small and can barely afford to keep the lights on.

And keep in mind that many clubs and unions have dues.  Orthodox churches often used to have dues, but in recent years have turned to stewardship (voluntary proportional giving) instead.

It is not wrong to ask for our money to keep the club, union or church going.  It is good to strive for that 10% tithe, or beyond.

It is, however, wrong to frighten people into it with threats of God’s punishment, or to tie them with legalistic bonds that are not part of the Gospel.

There are many reasons–poverty or debt, for example–why many households simply cannot pay that 10%.

You should not force them into it while also telling them to paste a smile on their faces, as they drop their rent money in the collection plate.

The landlord or the credit card company or the bank or the IRS will not be swayed by, “I gave your money to the church.”

The New Testament makes very little reference to tithing and when it does it is in reference to Israel’s paying its taxation to the national government. At no time does the New Testament ever suggest nor even hint that the tithe is exacted upon the Christian.  The New Testament is concerned with free will giving.

The Gospel of Luke (6:38) tells us that giving is an investment. ‘Give and it shall be given unto you.’  What you invest with God you receive in dividends.

Giving is an investment with God and the return is an eternal yield. Be sure your priority of investing is with God. Because wherever you put your treasure, that is where you will put your heart….

Giving is a matter of attitude. Remember what Solomon said? What is new? Nothing! The system of giving is the same. We learn what we choose to learn.

Where is your treasure? What is really important to you? Giving is sacrificial. It is not the amount. It is what it costs you to give. Even when there is little there is much when God is in it.

….Experience has told us that the most fair and equitable guideline to contribute is one hour’s pay per week or five dollars per week for every ten thousand dollars of gross income. It is fair and represents the abilities of individual communicants of all walks of life.

….We become short-sided and narrow-minded when we concern ourselves more with what others give (or for that matter do not give) and concern ourselves about what others will think about our gift (no matter how large or small it may be).

When giving a gift to God, the measure does not show in the ‘how much category’ or the ‘tally’ of the amount given, but God measures what type of true sacrifice was made, (whether the gift was a gift that had meaning to it or not) or one that merely fulfilled a sense of obligation.

….In I Corinthians 16.1-2, St. Paul encourages us to lay aside contributions regularly to meet the needs of God’s work in an amount that is in proportion to the blessings that we have received.

This means that the amount of our commitment is based on each member’s means, conscience and faith; there is no minimum or maximum amount required.

Your Stewardship Commitment is a reflection of your love for God and the Church and will express your commitment to insure and promote the future of our Church.

If, however, you would like a suggested guideline for making a pledge, you may want to consider starting with the ‘one hour’s pay per week’ rule of thumb.

Of course, the scriptural call for which we should strive is found in 2 Chronicles 31-15, in which the Lord asks that we offer a ‘tithe’ (or ten percent) of our first fruits back to the Lord. —GOARCH, A Collection of Sermons on Stewardship Ministry

The Catholic Church also agrees that tithing 10% is an Old Testament obligation, one which Christians are released from.  Adults are to give what they can, cheerfully, to support their churches, but churches are not to force a particular percentage–which is called extortion:

To paraphrase: God doesn’t demand a fixed amount of money from us; he wants us to give from the heart.

If people are forced by their church to give a certain percent of their income, that’s extortion. If they give freely and cheerfully the amount they are able, that’s a gift. —Quick Questions  (fourth question down on the page)

Sometimes people misunderstand, so I will restate: By no means is tithing 10% something we should not do.

Rather, tithing 10% is a good thing we should all strive for, even go beyond if we can, but it is not required if we cannot afford it even while living modestly within our means.

(If you’re living extravagantly and say you can’t afford the tithe, then you need to cut back on your “frills.”)

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

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