Musings from a Reformed (rfrmd) perspective.

While the term itself isn't in the Bible, the idea of the Trinity is present throughout the word. Understanding the Trinity is crucial for grasping the nature of God as revealed in Scripture. We hear the term frequently but knowing what is meant and not getting it wrong is often challenging. There are a couple of descriptions of the trinity, the “ontological Trinity” and “economic Trinity” that can help us understand the complex relationship within the Godhead and prevent common misunderstandings.

The ontological Trinity refers to the nature of God as three in one. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three persons but one being, unified in essence. The economic Trinity, on the other hand, deals with their roles. The Father sends the Son to redeem us, the Son accomplishes this redemption, and the Holy Spirit applies it to our lives. We have one God in three persons, each with different functions.

In orthodox Christianity, we believe that the Son is equal to the Father in power, glory, and being, as stated in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This shows their unity and distinction. The Father sends the Son, who is subordinate in role but equal in essence. Jesus said in John 5:19-20, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing”

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter Two, “Of God, and of the Holy Trinity,” explains the relationship within the Godhead. It states that “in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.” This underscores both the unity and the distinct roles within the Trinity.

Understanding these distinctions helps clarify how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together in salvation while remaining one in essence. It shows their unified nature and their different roles.

However, misunderstandings and heresies have arisen throughout history. Modalism claims that God manifests in three modes or aspects, denying the distinct persons of the Trinity. Arianism says the Son and the Holy Spirit are created beings and not of the same substance as the Father, contradicting the belief that the three persons are co-eternal and co-equal. Tritheism suggests that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate gods, distorting the idea of one God in three persons.

The Westminster Confession of Faith addresses these errors by emphasizing that “in the unity of the Godhead, there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity.” This supports the belief that, while the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have distinct roles (the economic Trinity), they are one in essence and being (the ontological Trinity).

Recognizing these heresies helps us appreciate the balance of unity and distinction within the Trinity, a cornerstone of Christian theology. It ensures we uphold the biblical revelation of one God in three persons, protecting against misunderstandings that have led to significant theological errors.

~ john

As a Christian, my preference for burial over cremation has been influanced by biblical narratives and theological principles that have shaped my faith. The preference is not merely a matter of tradition but is connected to my understanding of Scripture and the hope it offers for the future.

Scripture, while not prescribing a specific method for handling human remains, provides numerous examples and themes that guide the Christian practice of burial. In the book of Genesis, we read about Abraham and his wife Sarah. When Sarah dies, Abraham secures a burial place for her in the field of Machpelah. This act of securing a specific resting place for his beloved wife sets a precedent for respecting the deceased and maintaining a connection to our ancestral heritage. Similarly, the narrative of Jacob shows his sons bringing his body back to Canaan for burial in the cave of Machpelah alongside his forefathers. This emphasizes the importance of being buried in a place connected to one's lineage and spiritual legacy.

The New Testament also highlights the burial of Jesus. After His crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea, a follower of Jesus, obtains permission to lay His body in a new tomb. Jesus' burial fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah, which speaks of His grave being assigned with the wicked and the rich in His death. This event underscores the dignity of His physical body and points towards the hope of resurrection. The burial of Jesus is not just a historical fact but a theological statement about the sanctity of the body and the promise of eternal life.

There are several scriptural examples that inform the Christian understanding of burial. For instance, in Deuteronomy 34:5-6, the death of Moses is recounted, stating, “Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor.” The act of God Himself burying Moses underscores the importance of honoring the body even in death. Ecclesiastes 12:7 reflects on the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death, saying, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” This verse suggests that the body should return to the earth, reinforcing the idea of burial as a natural and reverent way of handling the deceased.

In the early Christian community, the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:5-10 serves as a cautionary tale. After their deceit, the passage mentions, “the young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.” This act of burial is done with solemnity and respect. Similarly, following Stephen's martyrdom, Acts 8:2 notes that “devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.” This shows the early Christian community’s desire to honor and grieve for the deceased through burial.

Burial is an integral part of the Christian faith, reflecting the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ burial and resurrection symbolize the hope of eternal life. Paul speaks of the body being sown perishable and raised imperishable, highlighting the significance of burial as a precursor to resurrection glory (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). This belief in the bodily resurrection is central to Christian doctrine. The act of burial aligns with this belief, treating the body with dignity and reverence, as it is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Additionally, burial follows the biblical example set by the patriarchs and Jesus Himself. Throughout the Bible, God’s people have been buried with honor and respect. Abraham’s purchase of the field of Machpelah for Sarah’s burial and Jacob’s burial alongside his forefathers establish a tradition of honoring the deceased by laying them to rest in a specific place. Jesus' burial in a new tomb by Joseph of Arimathea underscores the sanctity of burial within the Christian faith. Christians believe in the resurrection of the dead, as professed in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” Burial is an act of faith in this promise, symbolizing the believer's participation in Christ’s burial and resurrection. It aligns with the biblical narrative, honoring the physical body as God’s creation, and serves as a testament to the hope Christians hold in the resurrection of the dead.

Burial also allows the Christian community to bear witness to their faith. Funeral rites and burial ceremonies publicly affirm belief in the resurrection and eternal life. These ceremonies provide comfort and hope to the bereaved, strengthening communal bonds within the body of Christ (Romans 12:15). Christians are called to emulate Christ in all aspects of life and death. Jesus’ burial, marked by dignity and reverence, signifies the importance of treating the deceased with utmost respect. This act of burial points to the fulfillment of prophecy and God’s redemptive plan.

When talking about what cremation it is helpful to point out how it compares with the practices of other religions, where cremation is more common. In Hinduism, for example, believers in reincarnation view cremation as a way to release the soul from the physical body, allowing it to move on to the next life. The body is typically cremated on a pyre, and the ashes are often scattered in a sacred river, such as the Ganges, to purify the soul and ensure a better rebirth. Similarly, Buddhism sees cremation as a means to detach the soul from the physical body, aiding in the soul’s journey through the cycle of rebirth and karma. Cremation is common, with rituals varying by culture. The ashes may be enshrined in stupas or scattered in natural settings.

Sikhism practices cremation, reflecting the belief in the impermanence of the physical body and the eternal nature of the soul. The cremation ceremony is communal, emphasizing life’s transient nature and the importance of remembering the deceased’s virtues. Jainism, on the other hand, believes in non-attachment to the body and views cremation as a way to sever the soul’s connection to the physical form. Cremation is performed simply, often followed by rituals reflecting on the deceased’s life and contributions. In Japan, Shinto practices often include cremation, influenced by both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs about purity and the soul’s journey. Cremation is followed by rituals to honor ancestral spirits, believed to influence the living.

Choosing between burial and cremation should be influenced by your theological, cultural, and personal beliefs. My preference as a Christian for burial will allow my own expression of my faith in the resurrection, the sanctity of the body, and continuity with biblical practices to be used for discussion. For Christians, being able to articulate the reasons for preferring burial can provide a meaningful perspective that could lead to further discussions about our faith and core beliefs.

Ultimately, we never know when the Holy Spirit will change someone's heart, but we are called to explain why we have hope in the resurrection. What better starting place than why we believe burial is a good option for a Christian?

~ john

Water as a Symbol of Cleansing

Water holds a profound symbolic significance throughout the Scriptures, representing both physical and spiritual purification. From Genesis to Revelation, water epitomizes God’s cleansing work. In the Genesis account, the floodwaters purge the earth of its rampant corruption (Genesis 6-9). In the New Testament, water is employed symbolically in various contexts, such as when Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about being “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5).

Water often illustrates how God purifies and renews His people. The story of Noah's Ark, where God uses a great flood to wash away the wickedness of the earth and initiate a fresh beginning, is a prime example. Likewise, in the New Testament, water symbolizes the Holy Spirit's role in granting new life and cleansing from sin.

Jesus: The Living Water

One of Jesus’ most profound statements about water occurs in His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. He declares, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). Here, Jesus presents Himself as the source of “living water,” offering eternal satisfaction and life.

Jesus uses water as a metaphor to elucidate that just as physical water quenches physical thirst, He, as the Living Water, satisfies our spiritual thirst. Believing in Him and embracing His teachings bestows eternal life and a fulfillment that the world cannot provide.

During the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stands and proclaims, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38). This invitation underscores that true spiritual life and refreshment are found through faith in Christ, the Living Water.

Baptism: A Sign and Seal

Baptism, instituted by Christ, is a sacrament that signifies the believer’s union with Christ, regeneration, remission of sins, and commitment to the Lord. Administered with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, baptism does not confer grace by the mere act itself, but is a means of grace when received by faith. This distinction highlights that while the outward act of baptism involves water, its efficacy lies in the Holy Spirit's work and the recipient's faith.

In baptism, water symbolizes cleansing from sin and inclusion in God’s covenant family. However, it is not the water itself that accomplishes this cleansing; it is God’s action through the sacrament of baptism that brings about these spiritual realities.

The Covenant of Grace

The covenant of grace is God’s promise to save His people through faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism is seen as a sign of this covenant, marking the individual as a member of the covenant community. Infant baptism, akin to circumcision in the Old Testament, signifies entrance into the covenant community and God’s promise to be a God to us and our children (Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39).

Baptism signifies inclusion in God's promise to save those who have faith in Jesus. When infants are baptized, it reflects their inclusion in God's family and the commitment to raise them in the faith.

The Role of Faith

While water baptism is an outward and visible sign, salvation is by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). The sacrament of baptism must be accompanied by personal faith. For those baptized as infants, this faith is expected to be professed as they mature within the covenant community. Baptism without faith does not confer salvation; it is faith in Christ’s finished work that justifies and saves.

Simply being baptized is not sufficient for salvation. One must have faith in Jesus. For those baptized as infants, they must grow in their understanding and belief, professing their faith in Jesus for their baptism to have its intended spiritual significance.

Assurance and the Means of Grace

Baptism provides believers with assurance of God’s promises. It is a visible word, a tangible sign that reinforces the gospel message. Along with the preaching of the Word and the Lord’s Supper, baptism is a means of grace, strengthening the believer’s faith and encouraging them in their walk with Christ.

The relationship between water and salvation is viewed through the lens of God’s covenant promises and the means of grace. Water, as used in baptism, is a powerful symbol of cleansing, regeneration, and inclusion in the covenant community. Yet, it is not the water itself that saves, but the grace of God received by faith. This understanding maintains the balance between the outward sign and the inward reality, upholding the centrality of Christ’s redemptive work in the believer’s salvation.

Water as an Act of Kindness

An additional significant aspect of the relationship between water and salvation is found in Jesus' teaching about serving others. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus speaks about the final judgment and describes how acts of kindness to others are, in fact, acts of service to Him:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

The Significance of Giving a Cup of Water

Jesus highlights that simple acts of kindness, such as giving a cup of water to someone who is thirsty, are seen by God as significant and meaningful. Serving others in need is, in essence, serving Christ Himself. This teaching emphasizes that our faith should be expressed through love and service to others.

While giving a cup of water may seem like a small gesture, it reflects a heart transformed by God's grace. True faith in Christ leads to loving actions towards others. These acts of kindness are not what save us, but they are evidence of a living faith. James 2:17 states that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Therefore, the genuine faith that saves us also moves us to serve and love others.

This teaching of Jesus calls believers to live out the gospel in practical ways. By meeting the physical needs of others, we demonstrate the love of Christ to a hurting world. Providing water to the thirsty, feeding the hungry, and caring for the sick are ways we can reflect God's love and compassion.

When we engage in these acts of service, we participate in the mission of Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). By serving others, we show that we have understood and embraced the gospel message, witnessing to the transformative power of God's grace in our lives.

Encouragement to Believers for Opportunities to Use Water

Believers are encouraged to look for opportunities to serve others, knowing that these acts are valued by God. Even the smallest act, like giving a cup of water, has eternal significance when done in Christ’s name. This perspective helps us to see every act of kindness as a way to honor and serve our Lord. None of these acts add merit to our standing before God, but our actions visibly reinforce that we are His children and desire to glorify Him.

The next time you have a bottle of water and see a person who may be thirsty, do not hesitate to offer it. This simple act of kindness provides an opportunity to share about the living water that satisfies eternally.

~ john

The Westminster Confession of Faith holds a significant place in Christian history and theology, providing a comprehensive framework for understanding the Christian faith. In this short description, I will touch on several key teachings of the confession, examining its relevance and profound impact on believers today.

At the heart of the Westminster Confession of Faith lies a firm commitment to the authority of Scripture. It affirms the divine inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, regarding it as the ultimate source of truth and guidance for our lives. This emphasis encourages believers to approach the Scriptures with reverence and humility, seeking to align their beliefs and practices with its teachings.

The confession upholds the sovereignty of God, emphasizing His supreme authority over all creation. It acknowledges God as the sovereign ruler, the creator, and sustainer of the universe. This doctrine teaches us that everything exists and operates according to God's wise and loving plan, giving us a sense of purpose and assurance in His divine providence.

The Westminster Confession of Faith addresses the nature and role of the church. It recognizes the importance of the visible church as a community of believers, gathered for worship, fellowship, and the proclamation of God's Word. Additionally, the confession acknowledges the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper as sacred acts of obedience and grace, symbolizing our union with Christ and participation in His redemptive work.

Within the confession, there is an emphasis on the Christian life and the pursuit of holiness. It acknowledges the reality of our ongoing struggle with sin and highlights the need for repentance and faith. The confession encourages believers to cultivate a vibrant spiritual life through prayer, worship, diligent study of Scripture, and reliance on the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

The Westminster Confession of Faith offers believers a rich theological resource that can deepen their understanding of God, His Word, and the Christian life. By studying its teachings, we gain a robust framework for interpreting Scripture and a guide for living out our faith with integrity. While the confession is not a replacement for the Bible, it serves as a valuable summary of essential Christian doctrines. May our study of the confession enrich our faith, strengthen our relationship with God, and inspire us to live lives that bring glory to Him.

For more information Ligonier.org has the Confession as well as the Larger and Shorter catechisms.

~ john

Total Depravity

Total depravity refers to the Christian doctrine that asserts the impact of sin on all aspects of a human being's nature and actions after the Fall. The doctrine posits that every facet of human nature has been corrupted, including the mind, will, and emotions. This corruption affects the ability to fully love God, understand Him correctly, or access Him directly. Despite its name, total depravity does not suggest that individuals are as evil as they could be, but rather that sin has tainted every part of their being. This highlights the absolute necessity for God's grace, as it emphasizes that salvation cannot be achieved through personal efforts but only through God's mercy and the transformative work of the Holy Spirit.

Unconditional Election

Unconditional election is a Christian doctrine that asserts God's choice of certain individuals for salvation before the creation of the world, independent of any foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. It states that God's election is solely based on His sovereign will and grace, not contingent upon human actions or decisions. This concept emphasizes the role of God's mercy and divine prerogative in the salvation process, thereby highlighting the belief that salvation is an unearned gift, not a human achievement. 

Limited Atonement

Limited atonement is a Christian doctrine, specifically within Reformed theology, that asserts Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice on the cross was specifically intended for the elect, those whom God has chosen for salvation. This does not mean the power or value of Christ's sacrifice is limited but rather its purpose and scope were particular. The doctrine maintains that Jesus' death effectively secures salvation and forgiveness for those predetermined individuals, not merely making it possible for all. 

Irresistible Grace

Irresistible grace is a Christian doctrine that posits the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom He has determined to save (the elect) and, in turn, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel. It implies that when God extends a call to salvation to these individuals, their response will inevitably be positive due to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, leading them towards faith and repentance. This grace isn't forced, but rather so changes the heart that the recipient desires God and willingly comes to Him. 

Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the saints is a Christian doctrine stating that those whom God has called into communion with Himself will continue in faith until the end. This belief asserts that real believers will persevere in their faith, not due to their own strength, but because of God's faithfulness and His eternal decree. If they fall into sin or disbelief, God will provide means for their restoration. This concept is a guarantee of the eternal security of the believer, underlining the idea that salvation, once received, cannot be lost.

~ john

Reformed theology is a branch of Protestant Christianity that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians. At its core, it emphasizes God's sovereignty, the authority of the Scriptures, and the necessity of grace through faith for salvation. 

Reformed theology's main tenets are summarized in the TULIP acronym: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. These affirm the doctrine of predestination and the belief that salvation is by God's choice, not by human effort or merit.

The sacraments, particularly baptism and the Lord's Supper, are viewed as means of grace within the community of faith. Reformed theology also affirms a particular form of church governance, often either presbyterian or congregational. 

A defining feature of Reformed theology is its emphasis on the glory and holiness of God, asserting that all aspects of life and thought must be oriented to the praise of His glory. It is a tradition deeply rooted in Scripture and committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, maintaining a robust theology and a rich history of thought and practice.

~ john

There is no real truth? That seems to be the message the world and media are trying to get across with the release of so many “my truth” ideas floating around out there. That somehow there is one truth for an individual and another for someone else. I think we have begun to confuse perspective with reality. If you live in Europe or the middle east or the United States there is still one real truth. How you engage with it may be skewed by your situation or exposure to your local culture. But there are still real truths that exist no matter what an individuals desires are.

The equilibrium between subjective and objective truths is a cornerstone of not only scientific discourse but also theological understanding. In the context of religious faith, particularly Christianity, certain truths—or biblical truths—are considered absolute and unchanging, transcending personal interpretations or experiences.

The concept that God does not change is an essential, objective truth in many religious faiths, particularly in Christianity. This idea, often referred to as the immutability of God, signifies that God's character, will, and covenant promises remain constant throughout time.

A notable reference to this can be found in the Book of Malachi, 3:6, “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” In the New Testament, we see in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” These passages affirm that God's nature and His promises are unchanging.

When we regard this biblical truth—that God does not change—we can see how it acts as an anchor amid the ebb and flow of subjective experiences and interpretations. Even as our understanding of Him may shift and evolve with our personal journeys, the fundamental nature of God remains unaltered.

The objective truth of God's immutability also offers a standard against which all subjective interpretations can be weighed. If a personal truth contradicts this unchanging nature of God, it may be necessary to re-evaluate that interpretation.

Scripture provides us with other examples of objective truths that are foundational to Christian belief. For instance, John 14:6 declares, “Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” This passage presents an objective truth within the Christian faith—that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone, regardless of individual interpretations or experiences.

Another core biblical truth is the concept of God's love, as expressed in passages such as John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is an objective truth that remains steadfast, irrespective of personal perspectives.

The danger lies in when personal interpretations—”my truth” narratives—begin to encroach upon these objective biblical truths. This can lead to a form of relativism that distorts core doctrines and undermines the unity of the faith community.

Moreover, when biblical truths are conflated with subjective truths, it can result in the propagation of misconceptions or distortions about Christian faith. This is particularly concerning in an era of digital communication, where misinformation can spread rapidly and widely.

Accountability within the faith community is tied to adherence to these biblical truths. If subjective interpretations are allowed to supersede these truths, it can lead to a lack of accountability, where actions or beliefs that deviate from biblical teachings are justified as “my truth.”

While recognizing and validating individual experiences and perspectives is essential for fostering empathy and understanding within the faith community, it's crucial to uphold the primacy of biblical truths. These truths form the bedrock of Christian faith and facilitate unity, guidance, and accountability among believers. Upholding this delicate balance is vital to the integrity and cohesion of the faith community.

Ultimately when you hold an object in your hand anywhere on this planet and release it it will always fall toward the ground. Gravity is acting the same everywhere on this planet. When you take 4 identical objects and place 2 more of them in the same vacinity you now have six objects not five or seven. Math is blessedly the same despite language differences. Culturally we have differnet understandings of what is appropriate attire, and so that would be an example of what I would call an opinion or cultural norm, rather than a “my truth” statement.

In concluding, it's important to circle back to one of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith: the infallibility of Scripture. The belief in Scripture's infallibility, its freedom from error in teaching faith and morals, serves as a core, objective truth for believers.

Scripture's infallibility implies that the teachings of the Bible, as the inspired Word of God, are unerring and constant, despite the passage of time or the changes in human culture and understanding. This understanding is crucial, especially in a time where “my truth” narratives can seem to cloud the waters of understanding.

While it's valuable and indeed essential to explore individual experiences, interpretations, and spiritual journeys – the “my truth” narratives – we must remain clear-eyed about the distinction between these personal insights and the infallibility of Scripture. This objective truth does not bend to subjective interpretation; instead, it provides a steady, unchanging guidepost for faith and conduct.

The Bible, viewed through the lens of infallibility, is not a collection of subjective truths varying with individual or cultural context. Instead, it serves as an anchor of objective truth in a sea of personal experiences and interpretations. It offers consistency and clarity, ensuring believers have a reliable, unwavering guide for their journey.

Upholding the infallibility of Scripture, therefore, is essential in ensuring the clear understanding and transmission of biblical teachings. It safeguards the core doctrines from becoming muddled with subjective perspectives and protects the unity and integrity of the faith community.

In essence, while individual perspectives enrich our understanding of faith, life, and God, they should never supersede the objective truths presented in the infallible Scripture. Recognizing and maintaining this balance is crucial for personal spiritual growth and the overall health of the community. The objective truth of Scripture remains a beacon of clarity and certainty in a world brimming with diverse and ever-changing subjective truths. Like gravity, I believe in the inerrancy of scripture.

~ john

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