Category Archives: Doctrine

The American Church and Biblical Christianity

I am reading Thaddeus Barnum’s “Never Silent” now that deals with the apostasy of the Episcopal Church USA and its correction by Third World Bishops and Arch Bishops, which set up the Anglican Mission in the Americas. It seems that Pentecostals are now running in the same direction that began the heresy in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The younger generations and many of the educated are beginning to really push “open dialogue” with the homosexual issue. For the Episcopal Church USA it was called “come and see” as they promoted open dialogue with the homosexual agenda. They began to use the Bible out of context to promote the validity of the homosexual lifestyle while claiming that the church needed to be more open and willing to change in light of culture, science, philosophy, etc. I see the same exact thing happening among many Pentecostals now. There are already professors at Evangel University that teach homosexuality as a …genetic trait and not a behavior. There are already Pentecostal scholars that I have spoken to personally that believe that homosexual relationships are fine and not sinful as long as they are monogamous, just like a real marriage between a man and woman. There are already Pentecostal scholars writing books and doing lectures that challenge the uniqueness of Jesus as the only way to the Father. What is amazing to me is that very few seem to see it coming and many seem to be ok that Pentecostals are running in that direction. In 2010, a Pentecostal academic organization tried to have a pro-homosexual scholar come on to the campus of an A/G university. When Dr. Wood personally got involved they developed a committee to investigate breaking their confessional ties so that they could be more broad focused and open to dialogue outside of certain confessional links. In 2012, they had a special session just for homosexual dialogue/theology on the campus of a charismatic university. This last year they tried to drop portions of their original statements that claim confessional ties and restrict membership. In fact, many pointed out that the newly drawn up parameters in the statements cast such a large tent that even a non-Christian could potentially hold office in their organization. The answer that they got was essentially that it will never happen, you are blowing things out of proportion. I think that recent church history proves that to be naïve thinking at best! There is a war taking place for the soul of the American church and it has reached the shores of the Pentecostal world; I pray that, like the Anglican Mission, there may be more leaders in the Spirit-filled church in America that are willing to hold to the faith once delivered to the saints.
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Words of Life by Timothy Ward

In Word’s of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God Timothy Ward attempts to “articulate , explain and defend what we are really saying when we proclaim, as we must, that the Bible is God’s word” (11). Ward says that he has attempted to “offer a faithful reworking , in the light of scripture, of the orthodox doctrine of scripture…, while casting it in terms that may help to make that doctrine more obviously essential to healthy Christian thought and life in the present” (179).  His methodology is to first draft a biblical outline by connecting the words and actions of God together so that for God to speak either audibly or through written text is to say that he has acted (22). Second, Ward builds upon a theological outline while expounding upon the relationship of the Trinity to scripture. It is in this section that he illustrates the role which each member of the Trinity plays in scripture. Third, Ward offers a doctrinal outline of scripture which revolves around its necessity, sufficiency, clarity and authority. Finally, he elucidates the application of scripture upon the Christian life.

Ward provides a unique perspective on scripture by building upon what he alludes to as the “speech-acts” of God (36). The action of God through his words has been evident from the point of creation in which he spoke everything into existence (21), right up until the present day as he makes himself knowable to us through the scriptures as the words of his covenant (30). According to Ward, God is present in his words (28–30). God the Father uses words to build a covenant relationship with humanity. In turn, Jesus as the living word presented God to humanity in both word and deed (38). Furthermore, through God’s action by the Holy Spirit in the disciples of Jesus to write what he had spoken, he has identified himself directly with the words which they wrote (42). Ward’s unique “speech-act” premise allows for a vigorous defense of his high view of scripture. The Bible is divine not because every word was dictated by God, but because it is the action by which he has chosen to reveal himself and his ongoing covenant with his people, climaxed in Christ (56). In short, he “has so identified himself with his words that whatever someone does to God’s words they do directly to God himself” (27). Therefore, it is not the words themselves that are divine but God who chooses to act in them to make himself known through them.

In the Old Testament, God the Father chose to use words in order to create. He also chose to reveal his covenant and salvific plan through his words that were written by human authors (52–54). Of course, this included the promise of one who would come to redeem humanity from its fallen state. In the New Testament, Jesus came as the living word of God in both speech and action (38). Jesus literally came to the earth as the divine “speech-act” sent from the Father; he is simultaneously God in word and action (68). In addition, he indicated to his disciples that he spoke the words of God the Father. In turn, the disciples were charged through the power of the Holy Spirit to write down the words of God. Therefore, the words of scripture were written by human authors who were acted upon (theopneustos) by the Holy Spirit as an agent of the words of Christ which originated in the Father (80). Therefore, the origin of the content of scripture is God. The means by which we apply God’s word to our lives is through both individual and corporate meditation.

I found Ward’s book to be an exciting and thought provoking message to the Church and individual believers. He has made a very strong argument for the importance of the doctrine of holy scripture. I believe that his “speech-act” proposal provides a way forward while avoiding the criticism which has plagued high views of scripture in the past. I would personally like to see a Pentecostal scholar take this paradigm that he has laid out and expand it while being careful to acknowledge both the dynamic between the modern move of the Spirit in the Church and issues related to a high view of scripture in the Pentecostal academy. However, I must say that Ward’s book gave me inspiration and hope for academia in that he boldly upheld the holiness of scripture in the face of an onslaught of critics who would tear it apart. For such a small work, Ward gave an apt treatise on most of the major issues regarding the doctrine of scripture. He also rightly anticipated and answered criticism which has been leveled against this vital Christian doctrine. In addition, the flow and development of the book was masterful. I enjoyed the reading and study immensely.

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