Volume 1, Edition 2
The ideology of racism has once again reared its ugly head in our country. The events in Charlottesville Virginia during this past weekend bear witness to the fact that racism, bigotry, segregation, and hate filled ideologies are alive and flourishing. As I watched the media coverage of the venom that was spewed forth both verbally and physically, I was never more reminded of the complete and total depravity of humankind.
If that was not enough, on the heels of these heinous and demon inspired events, I then started to see Christian inspired responses to these acts. (Now I am not against the Christians public response to any form of evil, quite contrary to that, I believe that more Christians, and especially Christian leaders, need to be more vocal.) But what grieves me concerning many of these responses is the subject matter that is being put forth from Christian leaders. In several instances, some writers are just seeking to place blame on a group, or shift blame from one side to the other. Another writer placed the blame squarely on the Presbyterian Church going back to the turn of the 20th Century proclaiming that it was the Presbyterians who failed to properly address slavery and racism when hate groups such as the KKK were brandishing out judgment under the guise of Christian principles. Still other Christian leaders blamed it on the” religion of politics”, setting their sights squarely on the leaders of this country, past and present, to properly address and eliminate racism.
Why is it that as Christians living in a fallen world we are so hesitant to address the root of the problem? How come it is so unusual and rare to hear someone boldly state, “we have a sin problem”?
As a newly called Christian Pastor, I believe that I am not in a position that affords me the opportunity to sit idly by on the sidelines while the nations rage. Matthew 5:13,14 tells us that “you are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?...You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” So, this begs the question then; if we are called to be “the salt of the earth, the light of the world and the city on the hill”, how do we respond to evil that would see the ruination of God’s creation if it could?
As an Evangelical I am not going to present what “I” believe is right, there are certainly enough well intentioned but misinformed people who are doing a fine job in filling that vacancy. Instead I am, (as should all who call Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior), going to let the Word of God lead me into all truths.
The Apostle Paul took the afore mentioned teachings of Jesus Christ and expounded upon them in Ephesians 5:6-9; “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them, for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.” And then to further expand our horizons and to bring us into a full and complete understanding of what it means to be the light of the world, John records these instructions in 1st John 2:9-11; Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
The message could not be any clearer, the lesson given by Jesus Christ in Matthew are a small part of a much bigger sermon, perhaps you have heard of it; The Sermon on the Mount. If you call yourself a Christian, then you are called to love, but more than that, you are called to do so even to your enemy, even unto death.
The evil theology of Nazism, racism, bigotry, superiority because of skin color, education level, financial level or any level that you want to name, is antithetical to the Word of God, and antithetical to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because these issues go against the very Word of God, it is our responsibility as followers of Jesus to denounce this evil agenda. But we need to go one step further as well, we also must denounce any action of evil and malicious intent that any other group would see by way of retaliation.
I cannot be quiet because to do so would be to deny the fact that the saving grace afforded to me, from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, regardless of my own worthlessness, would be for naught. I would, in a sense, be declaring that this very same saving grace, was not life changing.
I cannot be quiet because I cannot (and will not) try to keep one foot securely planted in the secular world and at the same time keep the other foot in a Christian world.
I cannot be quiet because although I may not be able to “change the world” through my Christian witness, if the Holy Spirit is able to change just one person through my witness, then that is okay with me.
I cannot be quiet!
Volume 1, Edition 1
I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, my sins I have placed at the foot of the Cross and my heart has begged for the forgiveness of those same sins. I know recognize what He has done for me, and through my faith in His act of sacrificial lamb, I am now given freely grace and salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ. So now what?
The preceding statement could be your, your spouses, your child’s, and your neighbor. Most likely, this statement has been uttered or thought by every Christian, including the very first ones. But unlike the first Christians, we do not have the prophets or Apostles to teach us and build us up; instead what we have is the Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Word of God. The question of “so now what” is a fair one, and what I would want you to know is why the spiritual formation of every Christian citizen is of paramount importance.
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6). This simple instruction (and warning), conveys a very basic truth, one which demands to be applied in the context of the life of a Christian. Since we are all “children of God” (Rom 8:16), we are all responsible for our spiritual development as well as those around us, so where do we begin? Catechesis needs to be taught by “teachers whose special task is to ground worshipers of every age in the truths Christians live by and in the ways Christians are to live by those truths”. As Parrett explains, the necessity of proper catechesis in these truths is to both establish a “full initial grounding” and a “regular revisiting and deepened exploration of them”.
So the question that needs to be answered is simply; what are these “truths”? A mature Christian recognizes that these truths are realized in the Word of God. But they are not only recognizable, they are also readily accepted. They are not taken for granted nor are they picked apart with only some application being accepted as the Word of God. No, the whole Scripture is presented as the complete Word of God. As 2 Timothy 3:16,17 declares’ “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Now many who would question this passage in Scripture as being composed by man, and therefore subject to criticism, do so because they either do not have, or possess very little faith. Faith is the single most important ingredient to the Christians life. Without faith, there can be no hope. There can be no belief in God, no belief that He sent His Son, no belief that Jesus died on the cross and rose again for our sins, no belief that in His Son is our eternal salvation, and no hope that He will come again for all of us who call Him Lord and Savior.
Many will laugh, mock or ridicule whenever the principle of faith is exercised or promoted by Christians, but even to a non-believer there exists a degree of faith, for example, when a person awakes from the night’s sleep, they have faith that the air to breathe exists, they cannot see it, touch it or taste it, but yet they never doubt that it will be readily available for breathing. I could also argue that everyone believes that the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar existed, yet no one alive today ever saw him or talked to him. Granted, faith in the life of the Christian is much more relevant, in fact, it is a matter of life and death. As John Calvin stated; “faith is the firm conviction of the grace of God, secured by a sense of repose enabled by this conviction, a firm confidence of the heart by which we securely acquiesce in the mercy of God promised to us through the Gospel”. In a similar vein of thought Thomas Oden declares faith to be “the means by which salvation is appropriated through personal trust in the Son as Savior”. And ultimately the Apostle Paul had something to say concerning the matter of faith in Ephesians 2:8, 9; “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
In light of the emphasis that I am placing on the importance of building up the believer’s faith system, it is important to have a proper understanding of how this is relative to the catechetical life of the congregation. I would echo Thomas Groome’s sentiments whereas he declares catechesis to be “the activity of reechoing or retelling the story of Christian faith that has been handed down. Catechesis is thus situated as a specifically instructional activity within the broader enterprise of Christian religious education.” The Apostle Paul tells us that “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of god, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love”(Eph. 4:13-15). As you can see I do not propose that without catechism we cannot have faith, but rather because of catechism we, as a congregation, are able to bring our faith in Christ to maturity.
 Packer & Parrett
 Ibid, pg. 17.
 (Calvin, CR XXXIII.333; SHD II 402; cf. Inst. 3.1.1-7).
 Oden, Thomas, Life in the Spirit, Systematic Theology; Volume 3(Mass. Hendrickson Publishers, 2008) pg. 129.
 Groome, pg. 27.