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Christian Truth Seekers, Myth Busters, and Trolls

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was a horrible person. Mother Teresa was a wonderful person. Which statement you believe is important. We should want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible. But it’s also important why you believe something. Christianity puts a premium on truth.

A friend posted a link to Tim Challies’ The Myth of Mother Teresa on Facebook and a mini-debate erupted.

Just what Mother Teresa would have wanted.

Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa © 1986 Túrelio (via Wikimedia-Commons), 1986 / , via Wikimedia Commons

An argument on Facebook? Say it isn’t so!

What surprised me were the reasons people didn’t like the article:

  • The article was based on a suspicious source, notably the late Christopher Hitchens.
  • The results of Mother Teresa’s work was positive not just to those she helped but to those who were inspired by her example to serve others. Therefore, we souldn’t smear her.

What should concern people, especially Christians, is whether or not the article was true. The objections on FB were like shooting at the flags atop a bastion rather than storming the gate.

Bad Sources (Objection #1)

Suspicious sources should always make us… suspicious. But suspicious doesn’t mean untrue. Christopher Hitchens was mistaken about a lot of things. He was philosophically weak as can be seen from his dialogues with Douglas Wilson and William Lane Craig. But boy could Hitch land some real zingers. Zingers can win an audience but not a debate.

Christians should avoid biased thinking that goes something like this:

  • Christian always tell the truth.
  • Non-christians always lie.

What gives a statement is truth value is whether or not it corresponds to reality not the source (except in the case of God).

It’s okay to attack a source but proving that the source was Hitler (to take an extreme example) doesn’t prove the argument that cites that source incorrect. For example, people have argued that Naziism was anti semitic. To prove their point they cite a speech by Hitler in which he rails against Jews. It would be silly to respond by saying, “You can’t cite Hitler because he was a really bad guy.”

Christopher Hitchens may have told hundreds of lies a day and still be a reliable source when it comes to Mother Teresa.

Incidentally, Hitchens was not the only source for Challies’ article.

[Tweet “Christians can use a source in good conscience if they’ve done their due diligence.”]

The Ends Justify the Means (Objection #2)

Some objected to the smearing of MT because of all the good she did. They might say, “Even if we grant that she wasn’t all that great she certainly inspired a lot of others to do  good works.”

There are two problems with this objection:

  1. Whether or not MT did a lot of good is exactly what’s being questioned.
  2. The ends don’t justify the means.

Circular Reasoning: #1 is a problem because it’s an example of circular reasoning. Circular reasoning assumes what the argument is trying to prove. This type of argument isn’t very persuasive because it often sounds like, “Because I said so!” to the listener.

Demonstrably False: #2 is a problem because it’s demonstrably false. For example, suppose a person robbed a bank and gave the money to a children’s hospital. Donating stolen funds doesn’t justify the theft. For something to be moral it should have a good result in mind, but a good result (even if you can accomplish it) does not by itself make something moral.

Temporal vs Eternal Worth: Some say that those arguing that MT did some good may have an escape hatch. by distinguishing between deeds that have temporal worth vs eternal worth. I don’t accept that something can have temporal worth without having eternal worth. I’d rather stick with the idea of good in the eyes of man and good in the eyes of God.

None of these objections or my answers to them answer the question of whether or not MT was a good person, with good motives, who did good things.

The claim “MT did a lot of good” is an ontological claim.

I want to encourage Christians to support their ontological claims with sound epistemology.

If you reject the stories about MT because of bad epistemology or accept them because of bad epistemology you both have room to improve.

Truth Seekers, Myth Busters, and Trolls

I wasn’t trying to convince my Facebook friends that Tim was right and MT was a horrible person. I’m not trying to convince anyone of that now.

The goal is to help Christians focus on their commitment to truth.

Ben Shapiro in a speech at the University of Missouri made it very clear what he cared about:

I want to go through all of these specifics because I think it’s important for people to actually assess whether or not these things are true in the United States at current. Let me put one thing first, I don’t care about your feelings.[1]

Christians may choose to use different language to express the same idea. Truth trumps tone. A lie spoken sweetly is no better than one brutally expressed. Truth is objective. Tone is subjective.

Todd Friel talked about the number one sin in evangelical churches today:

[Tweet “Trolls stir things up. People don’t like trolls. Christians should be good trolls.”]

Trolls stir things up. People don’t like trolls. Christians should be good trolls. They should stir things up. Not just for the sake of it but because the things we need to talk about are out of bounds. Whenever you see a Christian leader’s life exposed those doing the exposing are often despised and attacked. There’s a right and wrong way to deal with sin. I’m not arguing against that. But let’s not vilify those exposing false doctrine, theology, or practice.

I couldn’t tell if I got through to the folks on Facebook. I hope I did.

Christians are followers of Jesus. Jesus called himself “the way, the truth, and the life.” That should matter to us.

You can see seven other reasons why Christians should care about truth and education here.


  1. Shapiro, Benjamin A. “Ben Shapiro Destroys the Concept of White Privilege.” YouTube. November 28, 2015. Accessed December 28, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrxZRuL65wQ.  ↩
  2. I have to give a shoutout to my friend Jon Winsley for his helpful feedback and critique.
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The First 6 Seal Judgments of Revelation

The First 6 Seal Judgments

Dr. Mark Hitchcock taught a series of twenty-seven sessions on the book of Revelation for Credo Courses in the later half of 2014. This post is a transcription (some smoothing has been done) of the tenth session of that series. The graphics in the blog post are just a few of those that appear in the video version.

Transcript for Session 10

There’s a story I really like from Charles Schulz from the Peanuts cartoon. You have Snoopy sitting there on top of his little dog house there writing one of his novels, and he starts out, and he writes the words, “It was a dark and stormy night.” And Lucy comes walking by, and she looks over and sees what he’s writing and she says, ”You stupid dog,“ and just begins to berate him. She says, ”Don’t you know that every good story begins with the words once upon a time?“ So she berates him a little bit more and walks off. And Snoopy sits there, and he thinks about it for a moment, and he starts typing again, and he says, ”Once upon a time it was a dark and stormy night.”

I like that story because the world we live in today, you could say it is a dark and stormy night. We see a lot of things in our world that are uncertain. There’s a lot of difficulty in our world. There’s a lot of instability, and people really do seem to have a lot of fear about the future. People wonder, what’s gonna happen in this world? What’s gonna take place?

Titles for Revelation 4–19

We get to chapter 6 of Revelation where we’re gonna begin in this session, we’ve moved now into a future period of time—a period of time that is given a lot of different titles in Scripture. We often refer to it as “the tribulation period.” It’s called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” back in the book of Jeremiah. It’s called (in the Old Testament) “the indignation.” It’s called… (from Daniel 9:27) we get the words “the seventieth week of Daniel.

But whatever terms we give to it, it’s gonna be a dark and a stormy night for this world because, as we’ve said, the purpose of the book of Revelation is to give the advanced history of how Jesus Christ, by means of judgment, becomes King.

Purpose Statement: To give believers the advanced history of how Jesus Christ by means of judgment, becomes King, with a view towards calling them to faithfulness and to godliness.
The Purpose Statement of Revelation

And in chapter 5 in this heavenly scene, we’ve seen that Jesus received this seven-sealed scroll, and that scroll is the inheritance. It’s the kingdoms of this world. And Jesus now is going to begin to open those seals to take the throne, to take the kingdom, to set up his kingdom on this earth. And we’re going to see that these seals contain judgments. So it’s through judgment that Jesus Christ will become King.

[Tweet “So it’s through judgment that Jesus Christ will become King.”]

Three Waves of Judgment

Now it’s important, I think, when we start talking about these seal judgments—because there’s three waves of judgments in Revelation: seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls—to look at the relationship between these. There are two main views of the timing of these.

Relationship of the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls

Parallel or Recapitulation View

And the first view is what’s called the recapitulation or parallel view or the contemporaneous view. And that is that you have the seal judgments; and then you kinda go back and the trumpets kinda go over the same ground; and then the bowls kinda go over the same ground again. So there’s a recapitulation or parallel between these judgments that are are listed in the book of Revelation. That’s a simplistic definition of it, but that’s basically what they would see. And the reason is—you’ll see as we get into the text—the sixth seal really portrays kinda the end. It’s kinda like you’re at the end when you get to the sixth seal there, and the seventh trumpet kinda portrays like you’re at the end. So I mean, it kinda is looking at several points along the way that you’re at the end: the sixth seal portrays final judgment, and when you get to the seventh seal again, it’s kinda like you’re at the end again with these lightning and thunder flashing. So lot of people see these as contemporaneous or parallel.

Chronological or Sequential View

The other view—the one I hold—is that these seals, trumpets, and bowls are successive, or they’re sequential or chronological. They’re moving the action forward. And there’s a few reasons I hold the succession view.

Five Reasons to Favor the Sequential View

One is, the content in these judgments is not parallel. If you read the seals then the trumpets then the bowls, they’re not the same. There’re some parallels between them, but they’re not exactly parallel. Also, the seventh seal introduces the seven trumpets. The seventh seal contains the seven trumpets which, to me, gives the idea that they come out of that and, so they are sequential or after the first six seals. Also we’ll see, I think, the seventh trumpet contains the seven bowls. Another thing is, there’s an interlude between the sixth and the seventh seal and between the sixth and the seventh trumpet. Between the sixth and seventh seal (the opening of those) you have an interlude which is chapter 7.

And again, if you remember, a few lessons ago we said that one of the keys to understanding the book is the alternating pattern between heaven and earth and then the fact that there’s these interludes (or pauses or intermissions) between the action of the moving of these seals, trumpets, and bowls. So the fact there’s an interlude between the sixth and seventh seal and the sixth and seventh trumpet and the information in those interludes is different, to me, indicates also that these aren’t parallel with one another. The interlude should be the same if they’re covering the same territory. Also, a fourth reason is the seven bowls are called the seven last plagues. So you’ve had the seals. You’ve had the trumpets. These are now called the last plagues. If they’re just recapitulating (or going over the same ground the others have been over), the idea of last seems to be in a sequence again, to me, in chronological. And also, the seventh bowl is introduced with the words, “It is done.” So it’s kinda like when you get to the last bowl, it’s all finished at that time. Everything is done. So those are some of the reasons why I favor the succession view.

Clarification of Judgments and Interludes

Now here’s a chart that will show you really clearly how this is pictured. You have the first six seals, and then you have an interlude between the sixth and the seventh. And then you have the seventh seal, but that contains then the seven trumpets. And then you have the first six trumpets; you have another interlude; and then you have the seventh trumpet (over in chapter 11); and then they have this long interlude there; and then you have the seventh trumpet containing the seven bowls. One of the things that we see here is then that the other chapters give fill-in material that’s vital to the overall picture.

Timeline of Judgments and Interludes
Timeline of Judgments and Interludes

So here’s the way I’m seeing Revelation 6 and following. The seals —the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls—those move the action forward. And what you have then between there are these interludes that fill-in some details while these things are happening. So in other words, between the sixth seal and the seventh seal you have chapter 7. Chapter 7 is describing some details for you of something that’s happening while those seals were being opened in chapter 6. And you go to chapter 8 and 9, you have the trumpets. Then in chapters 10 through 14 you have some things there that are happening (some details that were happening) while the trumpets were being blown. So that’s the fill-in or the details. If we didn’t have the fill-in, all we would know is there’s gonna be these three series of judgments and then Jesus comes back. So the fill-in gives persons and events and other things that are taking place.

[Tweet “If we didn’t have the fill-in, all we would know is there’s gonna be these three series of judgments and then Jesus comes back.”]

The Rapture

Now when we come to the seal judgments here, my view would be that the rapture of the church has taken place. This is the beginning here of the tribulation period. These seals are being opened (in chapter 6) during the first three and a half years.

Order of Major Events in Revelation
Order of Major Events in Revelation

And we have in the seals and the trumpets what’s called the four plus three pattern. With the seals the first four of them are riders on horses. They’re called “the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.” I like to call them “the riders on the storm.” And then you have the last three. The same thing when you get to the trumpets in chapter 8. You have the first four trumpets, and then the last three trumpets are called “the three woes.” They’re separated. So there’s a four plus three pattern.

A 4+3 and 6+1 Pattern

Also in the seals and the trumpets theres a six plus one pattern. Where you have the first six, then and interlude, then the last one. With the bowls there is no interlude. There is no four plus three pattern. It’s just all one right after another because those are right at the very end of the coming time of tribulation.

The 4+1 and 6+1 Patterns in the Judgments of Revelation
The 4+1 and 6+1 Patterns in the Seal, Trumpet, and Bowl Judgments of Revelation

So I put these seal judgments at the beginning of the tribulation—that first half of the tribulation. This is the opening of this scroll as Jesus begins to take the kingdom.

Revelation 6 and Matthew 24

Now, there’s several things about this whole passage that are obviously fascinating. You’ve got these four horsemen at the beginning: the white horse, the red horse, the black horse, this ashen colored horse—these four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

[Tweet “There’s an incredible parallel between Revelation 6 and Matthew chapter 24.”]

But one of the things that we need to see here as we get into this chapter—just as an introductory matter—is there’s an incredible parallel between Revelation 6 and Matthew chapter 24. And I’ve got this chart here for you to look at that you can see.

Parallels Between Matthew 24 and Revelation 6
Parallels Between Matthew 24 and Revelation 6

If you go back to Matthew chapter 24, you’ll see that Jesus was asked—you remember, by his disciples—“When will these things be?” that is, when will Jerusalem be destroyed? And then they said, “And what will be the sign of your coming in the end of the age?”

Now think about this. To the disciples whenever Jerusalem was destroyed, that was gonna be the end. So to them, it’s all one big complex of events of, Jerusalem’s gonna be destroyed. It’s gonna be the end of the age. But what they really wanna know is, What are gonna be the signs that are gonna portend your coming to the earth.

And Jesus… you’ll notice Jesus didn’t say to them [when they asked], “What is going to be the sign of your coming in the end of the age?” Jesus didn’t say to them, “Don’t worry about it.” You know, “Don’t worry about signs. Just live for me until I come.” Jesus gives a long litany of signs that will portend his second coming.

[Tweet “Jesus didn’t say to them, “Don’t worry about it.””]

But remember, what is the first thing Jesus says there? Let me turn back there to Matthew chapter 24. Remember, this is just a couple of days before Jesus dies on the cross there on the Mount of Olives where Jesus will return at his second coming according to Zachariah 14. And he gives this last great eschatological discourse. They ask him the question and in verse 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in my name saying ‘I am the Christ’ and will mislead many.’”So the first thing that’s gonna happen, Jesus says, is a wave of false messiahs (false christs).

The White Horse

Well, look back in Revelation 6—if you just wanna turn back there—he says in 6:1, I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice of thunder saying, “Come.” And I looked and behold a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

Three Views of the White Horse

Now some will say, “Well, this is a picture of Jesus because in Revelation 19, Jesus is the one who rides out on white horse. So this is a picture of Jesus.” Or some will say, “This is the preaching of the gospel,” or things like that.

The problem is, remember, these are judgments. And it would be odd for Jesus here to be the contents of one of these seals and to be the one who’s opening the seals. Right? So making this Jesus is odd, especially when you compare it with Matthew 24 where Jesus said the first sign is there will be false messiahs.

So the one riding on a white horse here is a counterfeit of the one who comes in Revelation 19. He is the ultimate false messiah. This coming world ruler—the Antichrist or the beast—will be described further in Revelation chapter 13.

And notice here, he has a bow and a crown, but it’s been often pointed out, he has a bow but no arrows. So it may be, when it says, “He goes forth conquering and to conquer,” this is the conquest—we might say—of cold war. It’s not hot war. He comes and conquers the world by diplomacy because the next rider is the rider on the red horse. And it says he comes and takes peace from the earth. Well, you can only take peace from the earth if there was peace on the earth. So I take it, this first rider being some kind of peace. But again, notice the parallel: false messiahs, rider on a white horse.

The Red Horse

Then notice the next thing Jesus says in Matthew 24:6. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See to it that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, various places famines and earthquakes. Notice, the rider on the red horse is warfare. Jesus said, “Look, the next things that’s gonna happen is there’s gonna be war: nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom. You have this one coming riding a red horse—the Greek word there is ”pyrros“ (fiery red, the color of blood). And literally it’s, ”He comes and takes the peace from the earth. So there’s gonna be an outbreak of warfare.

The Black Horse

Then notice, the next thing that’s mentioned here by Jesus in Matthew 24 verse 7: “and in various places there will be famines.” What’s the next rider on the next horse—the black horse. When he broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come!” I looked, and behold a black horse, and he who sat upon it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard as it were a voice in the center of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius.” Now a quart of wheat is about what it took a person to live for one day—food for a day for a person. And wheat was the more expensive food. So a denarius was what an average worker made working for a day. So you could buy enough of good kind of food for one person to eat for a day. But it says you could get three quarts of barley for a denarius. So you could get enough cheap food—barley was the food that was given to animals. You could get—I guess we’d put it today, maybe beans and macaroni or something like that—enough for three people. But what this pictures, I think, is hyperinflation, where it’s gonna take all that a person has just to be able to buy enough food to eat for a day.

Man with a Wheelbarrow of Money Shows Hyperinflation in Germany
Man with a Wheelbarrow of Money Shows Hyperinflation in Germany

It’s like in Weimar Germany back in the 20s that paved the way for Adolf Hitler. It was stated back then that someone would take a wheelbarrow of money, you know, to buy some food; and they’d have to go get another wheelbarrow full of money to bring with them. When they got back the money was there, but somebody stole the wheelbarrow. The wheelbarrow was worth more than the money was.

[Tweet “Hyperinflation – The wheelbarrow was worth more than the money was.”]

And I think that it’s this kind of future economic collapse in the tribulation of runaway hyperinflation that—just like in Weimar Germany prepared the way for the rise of Hitler, a mad man—that’s gonna prepare the way for the coming of the Antichrist. People are gonna be looking for somebody to solve the problems of the world.

Man Between Stacks of Money Demonstrates Hyperinflation
Man Between Stacks of Money Demonstrates Hyperinflation

And then notice, the fourth seal is death. There’s famines and there’s gonna be earthquakes and all these various things happening. It says, “These are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” And so there’s gonna be death that’s gonna come. And notice in verse 9: “they’ll deliver you to tribulation and kill you and you’ll be hated by all nations on account of me.” When you go over to Revelation chapter 6 and the fourth seal is opened. And he says, “He broke the fourth seal. I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come.’ And I looked and beheld an ashen horse. The word there in Greek is ”chloros.” It’s kind of a pale green color. It’s basically the color of a decomposing corpse. I mean, it’s a gross color: the pale rider. And notice, he who sat on it had the name Death, and Hades was following after him. It was like this ashen colored horse. Death is riding on the horse. And it’s like Death is going out and killing people, and Hades is walking right behind him, just taking them right down into Hades as they die. It’s a graphic picture here.  And authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth to kill with sword, famine and with pestilence, and by the wild beasts of the earth. So this pale horse…

Now it’s interesting here, he says, “Authority was given to them.” Did you notice as we read through here how many times it says that. It says back up in chapter 6 in verse 2, “The one who sat on it had a bow and a crown was given to him.” And down in verse 4, “And it was given to him to take peace from the earth.” All through this section we see that God is the initiator of these things. God is the one who is having to give them the right to do these things. Because the Lamb is opening these seals. These judgments are coming from God. Now, human beings may be involved in them—certainly in the warfare. Human beings are involved in the warfare, and the killing and the famine will be a result of the warfare. But we don’t wanna loose sight of the fact that God is the initiator in these things.

And there’s gonna be false messiah. There’s gonna be this war. War is gonna give way to terrible famine. We could call that section, really there, the hunger games, if you want to. I mean, it’s gonna be a time of terrible deprivation.

The Pale Horse

And then this fourth horse, Death, comes forth. A fourth of the earth is killed. Think about that. A fourth of the people in the world living at that time are gonna die just in the fourth seal. They die with the sword, with famine, with pestilence. Now we know what that is. The sword is war. Famine is what happened in the third seal. Pestilence is plagues. But then it says, “And by the wild beasts of the earth.” Now what does that mean?

[Tweet “A fourth of the people in the world living at that time are gonna die just in the fourth seal.”]

Three Views about the Wild Beasts

Well, you know some have said, “Well animals are gonna go crazy. You know in the tribulation period. Going around killing people and going wild.”Obviously that could be.

Others would say that the wild beasts of the earth here refers to all the diseases that comes from animals. Think about that. Ebola comes from animals. The AIDS virus came from animals. Bird flu and all these different things… Some people think that could be what it is. You know, the bubonic plague came from rats.

My view though is the word “beasts” here (wild beats) is the word “therion.” It’s used thirty-eight times in Revelation. All the other times it’s used, it refers to the beast, (that final great world ruler) or his henchman (the second beast). So I take it this refers to the military, political rulers on the earth during this coming time. Anyway, you could take different ideas on that, but that’s the view that I have, or the understanding of this passage.

[Tweet “Matthew 24 has often been called the mini Apocalypse. It’s kinda the Readers Digest version…”]

But you can see how this flows with Matthew chapter 24 with the beginning of birth pangs. So Matthew 24 has often been called the mini Apocalypse. It’s kinda the Readers Digest version of the book of Revelation. And you see how it tracks here with this, which tells us, where ever you put Matthew 24, you have to put Revelation 6. They’re parallel. That’s why preterists believe Matthew 24 is about A.D. 70. And they think that Revelation 6 is about A.D. 70. But you’ll find some people that will interpret Matthew 24 as talking about A.D 70, and then take Revelation 6 as being future. But you gotta put them in the same place because of the similarity, I think, between these two.

The Fifth Seal

You go on to the fifth seal here is martyrs: those who are gonna be slain on the earth because of their testimony. Now this is something that always bothered me: how is believers being slain a judgment upon the world, cause remember, these are judgments on the earth. Two things I’ve thought of in that light. One of them could be, as these believers are slain by the evil people in the world during the tribulation, it’s gonna heap up even more judgment for them. And another possibility is, by killing these believers they’re removing the salt and the light from this world. That is gonna even cause more judgment to be upon the face of the earth. There’s gonna be martyrdom. People killed during this time.

The Sixth Seal

And then the sixth seal is opened. He says, “And I looked and he broke the sixth seal and there was a great earth quake and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood. The stars of the sky fell.” I mean this is global cosmic cataclysm that’s taking place with this seal judgment here that’s coming.

Timing of the Rapture

Now one of the issues I wanna deal with here just briefly—I don’t wanna go into it in too much detail—but this brings up the whole subject of the rapture of the church—because… I wanted to mention this that all people believe, all Christians believe— fundamental Christians, evangelical Christians—that we’re (the church of Jesus Christ) gonna be exempt from wrath (from God’s wrath). The question is, when does the wrath start and how are we gonna be preserved through the wrath?

4 Views on the Timing of the Rapture
4 Views on the Timing of the Rapture

Pre-Trib

The pre-trib view says the whole seven-year tribulation is wrath, and God’s gonna preserve us by taking us out of here.

Mid-Trib

The mid-tribbers say, “No, only the last half is God’s wrath. And so at the mid-point God’s gonna take us out of here.

Pre-Wrath

The pre-wrath view says, “No only the last fourth or so is wrath. So we’re gonna be taken out at that point.

Post-Trib

And the post-tribbers say, “The wrath is only at the very end, and God’s gonna preserve us though the whole period. And we’re gonna go up and meet Jesus as he’s coming down and do a u-turn—I call it the yo-yo view of the rapture. We’re gonna go up and meet Jesus and do a u-turn and come back down.

So everybody agrees: we’re exempt from God’s wrath. The question is, when does the wrath start, and how does God exempt us from it?

Those who hold to what’s called the pre-wrath rapture, they say, “The wrath starts right here in the sixth seal. So the rapture is between the sixth and seventh seal judgment. That’s where they place it.

My view is, as a pre-tribber, I think the whole seven year tribulation’s wrath because again, you go back and look at, who is the one who’s opening these seals? It’s the Lamb. He’s the one it’s given to him to have a crown. It was given to him to take the peace from the earth. He’s the one, I believe, who’s in control of this and the initiator of these things. Certainly people are used as instruments in these judgments. And I would agree, the judgments get worse as you go along. The trumpets are worse than the seals. The bowls are worse than the trumpets. But I believe that all of these seals are judgment. They are all the judgment and the wrath of God. And believing that then, I believe that the church will be taken out before that wrath begins to be poured out. Again, going back to chapter 3 verse 10. He’s gonna keep us from the hour of testing. That hour that’s coming upon the earth to test those who dwell on the earth.

So it’s another issue here kinda about when does the wrath really start. Certainly it’s clear, when you get to the sixth seal, that the wrath has started cause it mentions it clearly here in this passage.

But again the Lamb opening the seals, the repeated phrase “it was given to him,” shows these things are happening as a result, I think, here of the divine initiative.

Conclusion

Notice how this chapter ends. It’s a sobering chapter. Verse 14, “The sky was split apart like a scroll when it’s rolled up. Every mountain and island will move out of their places. Kings of the earth, the great men, the commanders, the rich, the strong, every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’” You don’t think about a lamb having wrath very often. Do you? A nice little, soft little, wonderful lamb… What this shows me is, they know this is from God. And they’re calling out to the rocks to fall on them and to hide them from him who sits on the throne and from the Lamb.

Notice verse 17. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand? The point there is, nobody! Apart from God’s grace and God’s power, nobody is gonna be able to stand.

I like what one man I read one time said. He made this beautiful statement. He says, the men here, the rulers, the kings of the earth, they cry out upon rocks and upon nature to come and to save them. But he says, There’s no deliverance. But he said, there is a rock that can save us that we can call out to. And of course that’s the Lord Jesus Christ, that lamb, the Rock of Ages. So there’s a Rock that we can cry out to in our time of distress or trouble. He’ll come to us and deliver us.

[Tweet “There is a rock that can save us that we can call out to. And of course that’s the Lord Jesus Christ.”]

Chapter 6 ends with these words, “The great day of their wrath is come. Who is able to stand?” Well, chapter 7 is gonna answer that question. You don’t have to go long to find the answer. There’s a group of people who are gonna stand during this time of wrath that comes on the earth: chapter 7’s a hundred and forty-four thousand and there’s a great multitude that are given to us there.

Chapter 7 is gonna be the first of these interludes because we’ve gotten to sixth seal. Now we haven’t gotten to the seventh one yet. The seventh seal’s not gonna be till chapter 8. So we’re gonna have the first one of our little fill-ins or intermissions or interludes in chapter 7. So we’ll pick up there next time and we’ll see who it is that is able to stand whenever this time of judgment is gonna be unleashed upon the world.

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3 Things I Learned at the 2015 OKC Homeschool Convention

Volunteering at the OKC Homeschool Convention

The OKC Homeschool Convention taught me a lot about who homeschoolers are and why they do what they do. I meet people who were religiously motivated, educationally motivated, motivated by the need for a more significant family life, and more. I meet people who were every color, denomination (or none at all), ethnicity, sex, age, and race.

Volunteering at the OKC Homeschool Convention
Volunteering at the OKC Homeschool Convention

Volunteering at the OKC Homeschool Convention

My wife and I volunteered at the ministry booth for overseas missions at the 2015 OKC Homeschool Convention this past weekend. Both of us had been homeschooled to one degree or another, but I’m way past my high-school years and this new generation of students taught me a few things.

Homeschoolers Are Not “One Size Fits All”

In the space of three hours (between 9:00 am – 12:00 pm on Friday morning), I saw more variety in personality, character, dress, passion, and interest than I’d seen in a long time.

It isn’t accurate to relegate homeschoolers to a religious backwater and call it a day. Not only wouldn’t that be an accurate picture of homeschoolers today, but it’s historically unsupportable. After all, before the establishment of a government funded/directed educational system, how were children educated? Learning at home or through private schools was how almost everyone was educated.

Homeschoolers Care Deeply about Education

Homeschooling doesn’t just happen. The decision to homeschool is a decision to make two very big commitments:

  • Pay More Money
  • Give Up More Time

Money

How so? Well, homeschoolers essentially have to pay twice for their children’s education. They pay once through taxation and again to homeschool (books, supplies, food, opportunity cost, etc.). It’s simple to determine what someone’s passionate about by examining how the invest their money. By this measure, homeschoolers are passionate about education.

Time

Homeschooling take time. It takes a lot of time. Most parents can drop their kids off at school in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon. Not so for homeschoolers. Homeschooling can be a lifestyle. It can be an all-consuming passion.

Homeschoolers Will Change the World

Those who go against the grain are the one’s who will change the status quo. Those educated en masse are less likely to be the same ones who will revolutionize the world. Oh sure, it will happen, if for no other reason than due to sheer numbers, but my money is on the homeschoolers.

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.

— Unknown

If you get the chance to attend or volunteer at a homeschool convention, you should take it. If you were homeschooled, you’ll get to reconnect with your past. If you weren’t, you’ll get to meet a group of people who are passionate about education and are willing to make sacrifices in order to achieve it. Either way, you’ll have a good time and expand your horizons.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this blog should be construed as a criticism of non-homeschoolers.

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Introduction to Revelation with Review Questions and Quiz

A Timeline of Judgements and Interludes in Revelation

This blog post is a duplication (as much as possible) of the workbook materials for the first session in Dr. Mark Hitchcock’s course on Revelation. Each Credo Course has a workbook to accompany it. The workbook we’ve created for Revelation is our most exhaustive and thorough ever. Each session (as you’ll see in the blog post below) also has a series of questions at the end. These are especially helpful for use in small groups and classroom type settings.

This blog post is the contents of the workbook for the first session of the Credo Course on Revelation. You can purchase the entire course as a digital download, on DVD, etc.

Two Caveats

  • Dimensions: The workbook (both print and pdf) has been designed for a 6×9 page spread. This means that the content in this blog post is more spread out than it is in the workbook.
  • Use Cases: The workbook is designed to be used in conjunction with the lecture for each respective session. But it is not a transcript. Therefore, you’ll be more benefited by using the two of them together.

Introduction to Revelation

Broad Course Outline

  • Introduction
  • Main issues
  • Problem passages

Test: Are You Obsessed with Bible Prophecy?

  1. You always leave the top down in your convertible in case the rapture happens.
  2. You never buy green bananas.
  3. You talked your church into adopting the 60’s pop song “Up, Up, and Away” as a Christian hymn.
  4. Barcode scanners make you nervous.
  5. You refuse a tax refund check because the total comes to $666.
  6. You can name more signs of the times than you can commandments.
  7. You believe there’s an original Greek and Hebrew text with Scofield’s notes.
  8. You believe the term “church fathers” refers to Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye.
  9. You get goosebumps when you hear a trumpet.
  10. You use the Left Behind books as devotional reading.

Importance of Studying Revelation

We study prophecy because we love the Bible and want to understand it. Almost 30% of the Bible was prophetic at the time it was written, so if we love the Bible, we love prophecy.

The book of Revelation, as the capstone of God’s message to us, really helps us to put the Bible together.

Title

Revelation 1:1a

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants

The proper title for this book is The Revelation of Jesus Christ. This could mean one of two things:

Is Revelation "From" or "About" Jesus Christ?
Is Revelation “From” or “About” Jesus Christ?

 

Revelation is certainly about Jesus; there are at least thirty-five names and titles of Jesus in Revelation. However, the rest of the verse would seem to indicate that the correct meaning is “The Revelation from Jesus Christ.” The emphasis is on Jesus as the Revealer more than on Jesus the Revealed One.

Three Ways the Title Is Misunderstood

  • Revelations (the plural form of Revelation)
  • The Revelation of St. John
  • The Revelation of St. John the Divine

Revelation’s Place in History

  • It looks ahead.
  • It looks behind.

First of all, I believe that the Book of Revelation is a “Grand Central Station” into which all future Bible Prophecy flows.[1]

–Dr. Thomas Ice

Highlights

  • There are 278 allusions to the OT in the 404 verses of Revelation.
  • There are no direct quotes from the OT in Revelation.
  • Revelation is the only prophetic book in the NT.
  • It gives the proper view, God’s view, of history.
  • It has the highest Christology in the NT.
  • It has an elaborate doctrine of Satan, demons, and the Antichrist.
  • It predicts a final, totalitarian, global, one-world, urban empire.

Definition

Revelation ἀποκάλυψις [ap·ok·al·oop·sis]

To cause something to be fully known—‘to reveal, to disclose, to make fully known, revelation.’[2]

Form

The book of Revelation is a prophecy in the form of an epistle that contains apocalyptic imagery.

  • An apocalypse (1:1)
  • A prophecy (1:3, 22:10)
  • A letter or epistle (2, 3)

Keywords

The word “and” takes us breathlessly through the book.

  • And = 1,200
  • Great = 82
  • Seven = 54
  • Throne = 46
High-Level Outline of Revelation
High-Level Outline of Revelation

 

Key Verse

Revelation 1:7

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

Theme

The ultimate triumph of Jesus Christ

Historical Background of Revelation

Revelation is written to seven literal churches in Asia Minor (the western part of modern day Turkey).

Map of the Seven Churches from Revelation
Map of the Seven Churches from Revelation

 

External

Domitian (51–96 A.D.) was the Roman ruler (or Caesar) when John wrote Revelation. He wanted to be worshiped as God.

Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus was Roman emperor from 81 to 96 A.D.

Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.

There was local, intermittent persecution of believers.

Domitian Colossus
Domitian Colossus

 

Internal

Apathy was developing inside the churches; some of them had left their first love or were lukewarm.

Apostasy had also begun to creep in, as was the case with the church at Pergamum and Thyatira.

The Historical Background Inside and Outside the Churches in Revelation
The Historical Background Inside and Outside the Churches in Revelation

 

Argument of Revelation

We should develop the argument, flow, or purpose of a book, then trace that throughout the entire book. We can then trace the other elements within the book, and relate them back to the purpose.

If we don’t have a purpose in mind when studying the Bible, we can easily get lost.

Purpose Statement

To give believers the advanced history of how Jesus Christ, through judgment, becomes King, with a view towards calling them to faithfulness and to godliness.

Judgment Whereby Jesus Becomes King

  • Seal judgments (6)
  • Trumpet judgments (8–9)
  • Bowl judgments (16)

Two Patterns to Aid Understanding

  1. Alternating perspectives: between heaven and earth
  2. Alternating pacing: between action and interludes (The chronology of Revelation flows in the seals, trumpets, and bowls with interludes that fill in additional details.)
Two Patterns that Aid Understanding Revelation
Two Patterns that Aid Understanding Revelation

 

This could be likened to a telephone conversation. Revelation chapter 6 starts telling the story, but there is an interruption to fill in some details in chapter 7. The order then resumes in chapters 8–9, followed by more fill in, in chapters 10–15. The progression returns in chapter 16 with more fill in, in chapter 17–18, followed by the second coming in chapter 19.

Sometimes the interludes run ahead (chapter 14) and give information about what is to come, but most of the time they back up and emphasize what has been happening while the judgments are being poured out.

A Timeline of Judgments and Interludes in Revelation
A Timeline of Judgments and Interludes in Revelation

 

My Beliefs

As you begin your journey through this course, take some time to record your current beliefs/questions about eschatology. This is a helpful way to track your growth.

  1. My beliefs about the millennium (Amillennial, Postmillennial, Premillennial, Other)
  2. My beliefs about timing of overall fulfillment (Preterist, Historicist, Idealist, Futurist, Eclectic, Other)
  3. My beliefs about the rapture (Pre-trib, Post-trib, Mid-trib, Other)
  4. My additional thoughts about Revelation

My Questions

Throughout this course, we encourage you to make full use of the mar- gins and blank pages to ask yourself questions, and make notes of things that are meaningful to you.

  1. My questions about the millennium (Amillennial, Postmillennial, Premillennial, Other)
  2. My questions about timing of overall fulfillment (Preterist, Historicist, Idealist, Futurist, Eclectic, Other)
  3. My questions about the rapture (Pre-trib, Post-trib, Mid-trib, Other)
  4. My additional questions about Revelation

Questions

  1. What is your goal in this study?
  2. How should we approach any study of God’s Word?
  3. Why should we study Revelation?
  4. Why do you believe Revelation was written? Write your own purpose statement for Revelation.
  5. Who was the Roman emperor when John wrote Revelation?
  6. What is the correct title of Revelation?
    1. Revelations
    2. The Revelation of St. John
    3. The Revelation of Jesus Christ
  7. What is the form of Revelation?
  8. What is the theme of Revelation?
  9. Copy and memorize the key verse of Revelation.
  10. Number these judgments in the order in which they occur.
    1. _____ Trumpets
    2. _____ Bowls
    3. _____ Seals
  11. Which chapter(s) fit into which categories?
    1. _____ Past
    2. _____ Present
    3. _____ Prophetic

  1. Thomas Ice. “Babylon In Bible Prophecy” Pre-Trib Research Center. http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-BabylonInBibleProphec.pdf Web 27 September, 2014  ↩
  2. Johannes P. Louw, and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains 1996 : 338. Print.  ↩
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Is Religious Education an Oxymoron? 10 Quick Reasons Why Not

Is Religious Education an Oxymoron?

Do you have a favorite oxymoron? Many of us do. Some oxymorons are at the expense of someone else. Some are just plain funny (e.g. jumbo shrimp). Some oxymorons reveal cultural biases or trends in thinking we unconsciously adopt.

Religious Education and Military Intelligence

Using “Christian education” as an oxymoron is like using “military intelligence” as an oxymoron. In both cases they’re done at the expense of their respective groups. What society considers to be an oxymoron reveals cultural bias.

[Tweet “Using “Christian education” as an oxymoron is like using “military intelligence” as an oxymoron.”]

Is Religious Education an Oxymoron?
Copyright: Berni

 

1. Religious Schools Educate Millions Annually

Over 4 million students (about 1 in 12) attend religious schools[1]. This number may be a low estimate. According to the U.S. Dept. of Education, 35.9% of elementary and secondary schools in America are religious[2]. Smaller class sizes make it unlikely that 35.9% of schools represents 35.9% of students. Even so, it’s not an insignificant number.

[Tweet “If Christianity were anti-education, we wouldn’t observe schools (at all levels) being established, operated, or funded by Christians.”]

2. Most Nobel Prize Winners Are Christian

65.4% of Nobel Prize Laureates have identified Christianity as their religious preference[3]. In fact, the Nobel Prize itself was established by a Lutheran, Alfred Nobel. Do these laureates simply divorce their religious preferences from their scholarly pursuits? Perhaps, but if religious education is contradictory, wouldn’t we expect to see a low representation within these noble (homophone pun intended) ranks?

3. There Have Always Been Christian Scientists

Galilei, Kepler, and Pascal were Christians[4]. A long list of Christian scientists and philosophers can be found here. A comprehensive list would fill a book, maybe two. It’s commonly held that scientists (past and present) are usually unbelievers. This is demonstrably not the case. Some argue that the religious beliefs of past scientists were coincidental—mere accidents of historical congruence.

Were scientists in the past Christians because everyone back then was Christian. It’s notoriously difficult to determine the true state of one’s beliefs. This is true even when the person in question is right in front of you. So it must be admitted that some who bear the “Christian” label in the past were likely not Christian at all. I asked Dr. Douglas Groothuis what he thought about this. He denied the caricature. He pointed out that the scientific advances they made were precisely because of their Christian worldview, not in spite of it.

[Tweet “The scientific advances they made were precisely because of their Christian worldview, not in spite of it.”]

4. The Bible Is Pro-Education and Pro-Science

Scripture instructs Christians to study[5]. God values wisdom and knowledge[6]. Knowing Christ and having wisdom go together[7]. Some may claim that the education the Bible recommends is religious in nature. It’s certainly true that the Bible encourages its readers to know what they believe. However, this is not in conflict with education about non-religious topics as well. In fact, some of the greatest philosophers in history have been Christians.

What about science? Isn’t the whole idea of miracles anti-science? Daniel 1:11–16 records the story of some “sons of Israel” who asked to be allowed to maintain a diet different from that of the Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel presents the idea (common enough today) of using a control group and an experiment group. Daniel and his friends would eat their own diet while the other young men would eat the King’s diet. After ten days the results were compared to determine which diet was superior. I won’t give away the ending, but suffice to say, Daniel appealed to the testability of a hypothesis, not to miracles.

5. Harvard+Yale+Princeton Were Founded by Christians

Christians founded three of the five wealthiest universities in the United States: Harvard, Yale, and Princeton[8]. It must be granted that in large part these universities have diverged greatly from the vision of their founders. William F. Buckley’s God & Man at Yale published in 1951 gained fame for its criticism of the way Yale undermined the faith of its Christian students. Modern apostasy aside, the question remains, why would religious people establish an institution of higher education if their worldview devalued education?

Are you starting to see a trend here? It would be one thing if there were simply one or two outliers in religion who championed the cause of education but surely not this many? By now, the chinks in the anti-education assumption should be obvious.

6. The Christian Worldview Is Foundational to Education

Christianity provides a firm philosophical foundation for education. The regularity of nature[9], predictability of cause and effect[10], and the belief that humans can understand the world[11] are Christian beliefs that are necessary to justify the value of education. This is not a claim that those who hold to non-christian worldviews don’t value education. They certainly do. Rather, it is the assertion that non-christian worldviews must borrow intellectual capital from the Christian worldview to make their criticisms.

[Tweet “Non-christian worldviews must borrow intellectual capital from the Christian worldview.”]

7. The Bible Is Pro-Philosophy

The Bible warns against godless philosophy, but philosophy itself is not denigrated[12]. In fact, the entire book of Proverbs elevates wisdom and knowledge to an extremely high degree. The history of philosophy is replete with great Christian thinkers. Even the Apostle Paul was not afraid to argue philosophy with the men in Athens.

8. Christianity Holds that Individual Transformation Is Achieved through the Mind

The Bible states that individual transformation comes through a renewing of the mind[13]. This militates against the view that it is mere moral reformation that accompanies salvation. That’s not to minimize the importance of the ethical revitalization that comes with Christianity, but rather to point out that a Christian isn’t fully obeying God if they doesn’t love God with their mind.

[Tweet “A Christian isn’t fully obeying God if they don’t love God with their mind.”]

9. Christians Founded 70% of the World’s Top Ten Universities

Two of the top five and seven of the top ten ranked universities (as ranked by the Academic Ranking of World Universities) were founded in whole or in part by Christians[14]. This statistic makes a falsehood of the stereotype that Christianity is anti-intellectual, ethically medieval, and culturally backward. There are religions that don’t value education. Christianity isn’t one of them.

[Tweet “Two of the top five and seven of the top ten ranked universities (as ranked by the Academic Ranking of World Universities) were founded in whole or in part by Christians”]

10. The Advance of Western Civilization Owes Much to Christianity

Dr. Craig L. Blomberg in Christian Apologetics states that:

Christianity is responsible for a disproportionately large number of the humanitarian advances in the history of civilization—in education, medicine, law, the fine arts, working for human rights and even in the natural sciences (based on the belief that God designed the universe in an orderly fashion and left clues for people to learn about it)[15].

A worldview which not only allows for but encourages the development of civilization cannot be called anti-educational with a straight face.

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  1. http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2004/05/09/making_the_case_for_parochial_schools/  ↩
  2. United States. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results From the 2011–12 Private School Universe Survey. By Stephen P. Broughman and Nancy L. Swaim. July 2013. Accessed February 27, 2015. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013316.pdf.  ↩
  3. Baruch A. Shalev 100 Years of Nobel Prizes (2003), Atlantic Publishers & Distributors , p.57: between 1901 and 2000 reveals that 654 Laureates belong to 28 different religions. Most 65.4% have identified Christianity in its various forms as their religious preference.  ↩
  4. Christian Apologetics 101. Directed by Ted Paul. Performed by Dr. Douglas Groothuis. Edmond: Credo Courses, 2015. DVD.  ↩
  5. The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 2 Ti 2:15.  ↩
  6. New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 2 Ch 1:11.  ↩
  7. NASB, Col 3:16.  ↩
  8. CCAP. “22 Richest Schools In America.” Forbes. July 30, 2014. Accessed March 14, 2015. http://www.forbes.com/sites/ccap/2014/07/30/22-richest-schools-in-america/.  ↩
  9. NASB, Ge 8:22.  ↩
  10. The acknowledgment of miracles presumes that cause and effect are normative.  ↩
  11. NASB, Ro 1:21.  ↩
  12. NASB, Col 2:8.  ↩
  13. NASB, Ro 12:2.  ↩
  14. ShanghaiRanking Consultancy. “Academic Ranking of World Universities 2014.” Academic Ranking of World Universities. Accessed March 14, 2015. http://www.shanghairanking.com/ARWU2014.html.  ↩
  15. Craig L. Blomberg, “Chapter 19: Jesus of Nazareth,” in Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2011), 438.  ↩
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Why You’ll Never Outgrow the Study of Theology

The Study of Theology Will Be Perfected When Jesus Appears

What Happens to Our Theology When Jesus Appears

Is it possible to be so old and wise that our theology can’t grow anymore? Is there a point where further study would be useless? Consider these words from the apostle John:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

— I John 3:2[1]

The phrase to note is, “what we will be has not yet appeared.” [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Our theology will be perfected when Jesus appears.[/inlinetweet]  If our physical makeup will be different in the eternal state, why not our mental comprehension of God as well? Here are some specific changes that will occur when we see Jesus:

  • Errors: Mistakes of all kinds will be corrected.
  • Gaps: The gaps in our understanding will be filled in.
  • Fully Renewed Minds: Our capacity to understand truth, free from the effects of sin, will be realized.
  • New Truths: New truths (which agree with and confirm Scripture) will be understood.
  • Complete Sanctification: The disconnect between knowing right and doing right will be gone.

    The Study of Theology Will Be Perfected When Jesus Appears
    Copyright: Cameron Whitman

172 Years in the Study of Theology

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to talk for over three hours with three people who like Credo Courses. Their combined age was 172. What was the biggest lesson I learned? [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]No matter your age, you’ll never outgrown the study of theology.[/inlinetweet] This shouldn’t discourage anyone. It should serve as a testament to the richness of the Christian faith.

Similarities from My Mini-Survey That Surprised Me

In our digital age there are many ways of learning about your audience, but it’s tough to beat sitting down and talking with someone. The tone of voice, body language, and energy of a conversation is hard to replace.

The three individuals I spoke with were Adrian (the youngest of the group), Janet, and Joel. What surprised me wasn’t that they had some things in common, but how many of them they had. Here’s what I learned:

  • 3 out of 3 – Have been or currently are in full-time ministry
  • 3 out of 3 – Expressed a desire to learn more about their faith and use it to help others
  • 3 out of 3 – Went to college
  • 3 out of 3 – Heard about Credo House first and then Credo Courses
  • 2 out of 3 – Have master’s degrees
  • 2 out of 3 – Are men
  • 2 out of 3 – Have more than one child
  • 2 out of 3 – Get much of their information from a network of friends and acquaintances

Three Preconceived Notions Destroyed

None of them fit my preconceived notions. My brain constructs pictures of what certain “kinds” of people are like. I think we all do this. Sometimes my pictures are accurate, but often they aren’t. People who like to study their Bibles are a “kind” of people in my mind. I should have drawn my picture in pencil because it didn’t stand up to reality.

The Study of Theology: Will Keep You from Being Active in Good Works

For some the study of theology is viewed as a danger. Why? Because they believe that knowing rightly and living rightly are opposed to each other. Or, at least, that you can’t do both equally well. So if you have to pick one, you should choose to live rightly.

Maybe you’ve heard someone allude to this yourself. They may say things like, “We should be concerned about living the Christian life. This theology stuff is just head knowledge.” A more spiritual version might be, “I just want to serve Jesus.” It’s hard to argue with a statement like that. As Christians we should all want to serve Jesus. Let’s try to put this in the form of an argument:

Premise 1: Christians should spend their time serving Jesus.

Premise 2: Time spent studying theology is time we don’t have to serve Jesus.

Conclusion: Therefore, we should spend less time studying theology.

It’s hard to argue with the first premise. In fact, I agree with it completely. The second premise has a built-in assumption. An assumption I deny. What is the assumption? It’s that studying theology is not a service we can do to Jesus. This is untrue.

Theology is the study of God. As such, it cannot be contrary to serving God. It may be done (like anything else) in a wrong way. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Properly done, theology is as much an act of worship as feeding the hungry or caring for the sick.[/inlinetweet]

Joel, Janet, and Adrian are good examples of how theology coincides with good works. Adrian runs a full-time Christian ministry. Joel is a deacon at his church and teaches class on Wednesdays. Janet visits the senior center almost daily. She enjoys chatting with her friends (online and off) about theology.

The Study of Theology: Is for Institutions of Higher Education

While Adrian, Janet, and Joel are all well educated, none of them studied theology in college, seminary, or university. However,  they’ve each continued their education through self-study. They’ve gotten study materials from a variety of ministries (including their local church). They then apply it to their lives in practical ways.

There are thousands of religious schools in the United States educating tens-of-thousands of student yearly. For some the amount of time, money, and focus college requires can be too burdensome. The wonderful thing is that folks like Adrian, Janet, and Joel don’t give up. They’re continuing their education on their own.

The Study of Theology: Is for Younger People

Most formal education takes place when a person is younger. This gives them a chance to get a job in their desired field early in life. They will then have the majority of their adult lives to build their careers. When an older person goes to school they are sometimes referred to as “non-traditional.”

I’m happy to report that Adrian, Janet, and Joel all qualify as non-traditional students. Their age hasn’t slowed down their study. Neither has it slaked their desire to deepen their understanding of God.

Just Keep Swimming

In the movie Finding Nemo, Dory tells Marlin[2]:

Dory: When life gets you down, you know watcha gotta do?

Marlin: I don’t wanna know watcha gotta do.

Dory: Just keep swimming.

This is what the lives of Adrian, Janet, and Joel teach us. Despite age, circumstances, and stereotypes, these three just keep swimming.

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Footnotes


  1. “Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”  ↩
  2. Finding Nemo, dir. Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, perf. Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, and Alexander Gould (Walt Disney Video, 2003), DVD.  ↩