Epistles of Thomas

March 15, 2010

John Armstrong’s passionate call for oneness in Christ

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 19:38
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John H. Armstrong, Your Church is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission is Vital to the Future of the Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. 9780310321149. BV601.5.A76.

Check out other reviews as John Armstrong tours the blogosphere.

As the subtitle suggests John Armstrong’s book focuses on the unity of the Church. The book is comprised of three sections: past, present, and future with a total of nineteen chapters which are quite manageable. Each chapter is further broken down into clear sections which could be read meditatively. Each chapter concludes with three or four questions for discussion and reflection. J. I. Packer wrote a very strong forward for this book which is readable online.

Armstrong’s thesis is that Jesus intended his body to be one as indicated by his prayer in John 17. He has created a ministry that works toward that end; desiring cooperation between Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox. He writes firmly planted within the United States context and would include Evangelicals among Protestants, including all mainline Protestants. I began this book desiring to see Armstrong succeed in his quest to explain why all Christians need to think about being one and to provide us with practical impetus towards that goal. That is why this book has been very hard for me to review. I want to see Armstrong’s goal but I don’t think that this book will convince those who are sitting on the fence with regards to this issue. It raises more questions than it answers when it comes to dealing with actual churches and actual people within actual confessional groups. I found the third section to be powerful and would recommend that all pastors read it but the first two sections left me in confusion as to method and the foundational basis that we can work from. Let me interact with the book as I encountered it.

First let me say that I was surprised that Armstrong did not say more about his own church background at the beginning of the book. We soon learn that his childhood was spent in an all-white southern church and that they were anti-Roman Catholic, something that he explains coming to grips with. It is also helpful to watch the short video on his website. It becomes clear that the impetus for his ministry stems from his early years of being a zealous defender of “the faith” and an antagonist of Roman Catholicism. Nothing is said about his current church affiliation until page 141 that we learn his denomination is the Reformed Church in America. It is important that we do not prejudge him based on his church but in such a book I do not think we can ignore it.

The first section of this book deals with the past: the biblical and historical basis for Christian unity. Not surprisingly he sees Jesus’ prayer in John 17 as vital to the realisation of this unity. At the heart of this prayer is Jesus’ desire that, “The church will be a visible example of the relational and spiritual unity of the triune God” (44). Armstrong states that in times past he stressed Truth over Unity at the expense of relationship. This statement gets to the heart of his desire to unite the church: “Jesus’ prayer for unity teaches us that even when we disagree on matters of doctrine or practice, we should avoid building barriers between ourselves and other Christians. We must be willing to accept those who are accepted by God and belong to him” (49).

He believes that Christians must have a “core orthodoxy” and “when we have clarity on the essentials, we are free to confidently move forward into a deeper understanding of the church, one that can be lived out in our congregations without fear or the need to condemn or avoid others” (51). The foundational doctrine for unity is love. He distinguishes between three kinds of unity: unanimity, uniformity, and union. He takes the last view which “emphasizes the goal of Jesus’ prayer—to bring all of us into one visible, united church” (56). This is a very admirable goal and one that I think most Christians would agree with.

In the following chapter he makes it clear that union involves two commitments. The first is “to work in every conceivable way to demonstrate and express the God-given spiritual oneness I share with other believers through our union with Christ” (60). The outworking of this is that “I begin by recognizing I am one with them in Christ if they call him Lord (1 Cor 12:3). Armstrong’s second commitment is to not just have union with other individual Christians but have union with other churches –Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. I agree that this is ideal but there is no one Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox church to be in union with. We may view the Roman Catholic church as a single entity but it has at least as many divisions as there are mainline Protestant denominations.

Armstrong states that “for the first thousand years of its history, the church universally maintained an interest in unity. However, in 1054, this unity was radically and tragically altered by the East/West split” (62). I appreciate that he wants to ground his call to unity in the early church but this ignores the many divisions in the early church beginning within the New Testament period. The letters of Paul and others directly address these conflicts and unity was only maintained through subservience to apostolic authority and the subsequent appointment of bishops. The fact that in the early centuries many heretics were thrown out of the church, with even bishops being banished, speaks loudly against his contention that division is only a recent phenomenon. He explains in further detail in chapter nine what he means by unity in the early centuries (86ff) but fails to address such events as the expulsion of the Nestorians who were condemned in 431 at the First Council of Ephesus and again in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon.

I agree with his statement that “I find it helpful to think of the worldwide church as a large circle. At the centre of this circle is Christ. As people on the outer edge of the circle move inward toward Christ at the center, they grow closer to one another” (64). Notice that this takes an individual approach, not a corporate approach. It also fails to mention that some people are moving away from Christ not towards him.

Thankfully in the second section on the present: restoring unity in the church today, Armstrong begins to answer some of the questions he has created in the first section. He begins the section with a chapter asking how we can restore unity. He opens with quotes from Cyprian and N. T. Wright, the latter of whom said “the doctrine of justification is in fact the great ecumenical doctrine” (76). I find this ironic given how much debate Wright’s book Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision has engendered, particularly between Calvinists and Wright’s Evangelical/Anglican supporters. Armstrong turns to the Apostle’s Creed as his basis for unity, saying “there is plenty in it that offends the sensibilities of modern culture, making it the perfect ancient-future way of establishing fidelity and unity” (78). I have a soft spot for the Apostle’s Creed as I had to memorise it for my first theology class during my undergrad. I have to agree that it is often ignored by churches/denominations to their detriment.

As Armstrong clearly points out in chapter ten the enemy of a united church is sectarianism. By this he means “mutual exclusivity, an exclusivity that thrives where people and groups believe they have a superior claim to truth. Sectarians believe their church/denomination can best ‘represent the body of Christ, to the exclusion or minimization of other genuinely Christian groups’” (92) with a quote from Rex Koivisto, One Lord, One Faith, 14f. Of course this begs us to ask the question of who determines whether a group is genuinely Christians or not. So far we have seen two qualifications: they call Jesus Lord and adhere to the Apostles’ Creed. I unstated presumption is that they also read and understand the Bible in the same way as Armstrong to be confirmed by their adherence to the Apostles’ Creed.

He says that problems arise when we have intellectual certitude that we are right and others are wrong. Essentially he is saying that problems arise when we unnecessarily create dichotomies such as God wills infant baptism or believer’s baptism. E.g. If I practice infant baptism I am right and any other forms of baptism are wrong. This doesn’t even get into other possibilities such as baptism in the name of Jesus is right and Trinitarian baptism is wrong. Armstrong advocates that we resist intellectual certitude and engage with others who are different but not in a postmodern relativistic manner. I hoped that he would expand on his basis for this because it is not enough to “believe,” even the demons do that and tremble with fear; it has to be worked out.

Armstrong has stated two foundations for unity; his certitude that Jesus is Lord and that the Apostles’ Creed conveys Truth but not everyone will understand even these things in the same way. Some would consider Jesus lord but not Lord in an exclusive sense. Others accept the Apostle’s Creed but reject the literality of statements such as “he descended into hell.” Our sectarianism originates in our tendency to maximise non-essentials and minimise essentials but at the end of the day there are lines to be drawn and the question is not whether you will draw them but where. Armstrong admits that “my sectarianism is not entirely gone” but I think he errs when he states that “I daily seem to find new ways of expressing religious pride” (93f). Must we equate exclusivity to Christ with sectarianism and see it as religious pride. Christianity has beliefs that exclude others and Christians can therefore be seen by outsiders as religiously prideful. It is not clear how Armstrong differentiates between those who are eligible and those who are ineligible. Sectarianism is not be helpful when it excludes those whom God includes but it demonstrates clarity of belief. I think of the great religious “sectarians” (fundamentalists, Nestorians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christadelphians, Christian Science, etc.) and it is clear who is included and who is not. Armstrong’s stance seems to include anyone who is not a “sectarian.” What about those individuals and churches who want to be included in the Church but must be excluded because they approve and engage in sinful practices?

Armstrong goes on to define church as a place where the Word of God is preached, the sacraments are administered, mission is engaged, and there is a deep commitment to justice and the poor (106). He explains the nature of the church and then distinguishes the church from the Kingdom of God. In the last chapter concerning the present he deals with the question of the role of tradition. He explains that everyone stands within a tradition, even those who claim to have no tradition but the Bible. He identifies four components of Christian tradition: biblical tradition, tradition in classical Christianity, the role of scripture, and the wisdom of the church fathers. Under his discussion of the role of scripture he explains that he always starts a discussion with a group of minister or priests by asking if they agree with the truths confessed in the Apostles’ Creed. In doing so he discovers those who engage in “destructive theological liberalism and ethical and moral compromise” (125f). I am not sure how adherence to the Apostles’ Creed reveals ethical and moral compromise but it is clear that for Armstrong adherence to the Apostles’ Creed = adherence to biblical mandates.

The third section concerns the future: searching for the true church. As I mentioned in my introduction this section is the strongest of the book and he answers some of the questions we have been left with in the first sections. In the first chapter Armstrong calls for a balance between Truth and unity. “Unity in Christ and the truth must be our pattern. Uniformity is not healthy. But some forms of diversity must be understood as illegitimate too or the church’s mission is adversely harmed” (138f). He finally directly addresses the problem that “one Christian’s ‘nonessential’ is another’s ‘essential’” but has no further answer than that “this is why I have made such a concerted effort to push us back to the Scriptures and the earliest ecumenical creeds. These will not solve everything, but these standards provide a historical context” (139). The difficulty with this is that I do not know of any current divisive issue where both sides do not appeal to their standing in the Bible and the early creeds. We’ve already “weeded out” everyone else by consigning them to “cult” status and even they claim to adhere to the Bible or they would not be “Christian” cults.

As I reflect on this I am reminded of our local Anglican diocese. The bishop supports the marriage and ordination of homosexuals but many local churches have rejected this in the name of Truth and have placed themselves under the authority of another bishop. In response the local diocese took them to court and attempted to take away their church buildings. What a witness and a direct violation of Paul’s command not to take fellow believers to court. A confirmation of Armstrong’s statement that “A disunited church is a direct and public contradiction of the gospel of the kingdom” (154).

As a Christian which Anglican group should I seek to be in union with? Both claim to be under the lordship of Christ and to be expressing love for God and people through the inclusion or exclusion of those who practice homosexuality. I was frustrated that Armstrong never got down to brass tacks and used a case study to show how to discern which beliefs and actions (praxis) remove a church from the sphere of Christ. The fact is we cannot have inclusion with exclusion. That said, both Anglican groups participated in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics More Than Gold campaign. Obviously Christians can work together even if they disagree on certain issues. I think this demonstrates the possibility of what Armstrong is doing. Although doctrinal and practical issues may divide us we can still work together on projects. This seems very pragmatic but it is a beginning.

In this section Armstrong finally made some statements that I think should have come much earlier, perhaps in an introduction. First he states clearly how he defines a Christian: “In defining a Christian, a simple answer works best: A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and follows his teachings” (146). Secondly, he affirms the use of scripture to teach and rebuke: “I believe the Scriptures reveal that godly leaders should expose false teachers, especially if their teaching denies core orthodoxy. (The category of heresy still matters when properly used)” (150f). There is still the weakness of how to discern what it means to “follow his teachings” as per the Anglican story above but conservatives will be heartened to know his beliefs on this. As far as I can see his inclusion boils down to a couple of questions which really need to be flushed out.

Do you agree with the Apostles’ Creed?
Do you understand it the same way I do?
Do you agree that the Bible is God’s only revelation to humanity?
Do you understand the Bible the same way I do?

Another point that needs clarification is when Armstrong refers to the practice of interpreting the Bible allegorically. Of course some parts of the Bible are allegory, for example Paul states in Galatians 4:24 that he is using Abraham’s two wives figuratively/allegorically but to go beyond the authorial intent as many early church fathers did is not acceptable. A cardinal rule of biblical interpretation is that a text cannot mean to us what it could not have meant to its original author. I recently read a chapter from Klaus Bockmuehl regarding how Luther and the other Reformers dealt with Scripture and their relationship to the Roman Catholic church. It is must reading for anyone who wants a brief introduction to how they read the Bible and ended up sectarian. The chapter is “The ‘Great Warning’ of the Protestant Reformers” in the book, Listening to the God Who Speaks (Helmers & Howard,1990), 119-137.

In conclusion, finally, aren’t you glad, Armstrong has written an admirable book that tackles a divisive subject – the lack of oneness in the body of Christ. I wish that all Christians were as concerned about loving their Christian neighbours as they are about proving their fidelity to the Word of God. If this book motivates you to meet with your local Reformed, Roman Catholic, and Armenian Church brethren then his job will have been accomplished. I would love to see a sequel in which he deals with some of the hard ground that needs to be hoed and provides a hermeneutical method by which pastors can know they are being faithful to the Bible whilst embracing Christians with whom they have not been in fellowship with for centuries. This would assuage the fears of “sectarians” such as Armstrong was to be confident that they are in God’s will. Let us walk in the Spirit and make him known by our love! Amen?

Full disclosure: Zondervan provided me with a free Advance Reading Copy for the purpose of writing this blog review and participating in their blog tour and have promised my a final copy of this book and also Ethnic Blends by Mark DeYmaz which I am really looking forward to as it looks at building a healthy multi-ethnic church and is co-written with Harry Li.

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20 Comments »

  1. “A cardinal rule of biblical interpretation is that a text cannot mean to us what it could not have meant to its original author.”

    I have questions about this… I will ask you in person though 🙂

    Comment by Andrew — March 15, 2010 @ 22:25 | Reply

    • We can talk about it at the conference tomorrow :). Are they supplying coffee, muffins and lunch?
      As to my statement it’s written in the context of How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth 2nd ed. by Fee and Stuart. The actual statement is “A text cannot mean what it never meant. Or to put that in a positive way, the true meaning of the biblical text for us is what God originally intended it to mean when it was first spoken” (26; emphasis in original).

      Comment by Thomas — March 15, 2010 @ 23:28 | Reply

  2. Unity. Hmmm?

    Sometimes good and some times, er, not so good?

    Just wondering…

    What if God is the author of our disagreements and separations?
    “And all things are of God…” 2 Cor 5:18, Rom 11:36, Col 1:16-17, etc.
    Are we working for “Unity?” And NOW working against God?

    Didn’t God confuse man’s language once before?
    Aren’t those things that happened to others,
    written for us to learn from?

    Now all these things happened unto them for examples:
    and they are written for our admonition,
    upon whom the ends of the world are come.
    1 Cor 10:11

    For whatsoever things were written aforetime
    were written for our learning,
    that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures have hope.
    Rom 15:4

    Didn’t God intervene when “man was in unity”
    with their own devices, their own plans,
    trying to build something themselves,
    to reach heaven and “make a name for themselves?”

    Could that be the ekklesia’s problem today also?
    Doing their own thing – NOT God’s thing?

    **Man trying to build something?
    (Movements? Denominations? Church Planting?)
    **And make a name for themselves?
    (“Titles” on buildings, schools, websites, books, diplomas, etc.)
    **Being in unity they could accomplish anything?

    wikipedia lists many, Nay – 1,000’s, of Denominations.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

    …let us build us a city and a tower,
    whose top may reach unto heaven;
    and let us make us a name…
    Gen 11:4

    Gen 11:6-8
    And the LORD said, Behold,
    the people is one, (unity?)(this doesn’t sound good?)
    and they have all one language; (unity-sound alike?)
    and this they begin to do: (work together?)
    and now nothing will be restrained from them,
    (we can do anything, working together?)
    which they have imagined to do.
    (“the imagination of man’s heart is evil.”(
    ( Gen 6:5, Gen 8:21, Jer 3:17, Jer 11:8.)
    Go to, let us go down,
    and there **confound their language,** that they may
    **not understand one another’s speech…**
    (Hmmm? Sound familiar?)
    (Baptist, Pentecostal, Reformed, Calvinist, Egalitarian, Mercy Lord… )

    God often gives us what we ask for, and, “A Little Bit Extra.”

    Want some “Meat” in the wilderness?
    God also sends “leanness to the soul.” Psalm 106:15. Oy Vey!

    Want some “Kings” to rule over us?
    How did that work out? 1 Sam 8:11-19 Ouch!

    “Traditions of men” nullify the word of God.
    Mark 7:13

    Hmmm? Just wondering…
    What if God is the author of our disagreements and separations?

    Then what…???

    Are we working for Unity? And NOW – working against God?

    Comment by A. Amos Love — March 19, 2010 @ 10:32 | Reply

    • Amos, Could you be a little more obtuse? Clearly you are against unity in the church…Unity in general or specific unity? Do you not think that 1000s of denominations are contrary to God’s will and Jesus’ prayer in John 17?

      Comment by Thomas — March 19, 2010 @ 12:35 | Reply

  3. Thomas

    Thanks for the correction .

    You write…
    “Could you be a little more obtuse?”

    I always saw myself as a “Right” Angle kinda guy. 90’ degrees and square.
    But, “Obtuse?” Hmmm? More than 90 degrees but leass then 180 degrees?
    I guess I do tend to lean every now and again. Thanks for the observation.

    Really, I believe, “the Body of Christ” is in “Unity.” It’s “His Body.”

    I don’t believe there is disunity in…

    Jesus – He is the head of the Body, (the ekklesia, the called out one’s,) The Church.
    Col 1:18

    There is “ONE” fold, “ONE” shepherd, “ONE” voice… }}}} Jesus {{{{
    John 10:16

    And when we’re in Christ “we” are “ONE.” No division or separation.

    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free,
    there is neither male nor female: for ye are all “ONE” in Christ Jesus.
    Gal 3:28

    Neither Baptist nor Assemblies of God.
    Neither Evangelical nor Pentecostal.
    Neither Leaders not Followers.
    Neither Clergy nor Laity.
    All “ONE” in Christ Jesus.

    Now, The Church of Man,” “The Church of Baptist,” “The Church of England.”
    That’s a different story. Oy Vey! 😉 That’s what you see with your eyes.
    But, the kingdom of God comes NOT with observation. It is within.
    luke 17:20-21.

    That’s the thousands of denominations started by man. Seen by others.
    “Leaders” who had a better idea.

    And I just think there is a large possibility that “God” has…

    “ **confounded their language,** that they may
    **not understand one another’s speech…**
    Gen 11:4-8

    Be blessed in your search for truth… Jesus.

    Comment by A. Amos Love — March 19, 2010 @ 13:39 | Reply

  4. Hello,

    It is true that to be called God’s people then they must enter to a true church. True church is being discussed in Ephesians 4:5 – one faith, one baptism, one God, one Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus mention also the two roads – the narrow which leads to salvation yet few walks on it and the wide road which leads to destruction and many people finds it – Matthew 7:14 … Revelation 18:4 People are warned to get out from the Great Babylon (the false religions) in order not be part of her plagues. Christian people are required to speak in unison and not in division whether its on acts or sharing words of God – 1 Corinthians 1:10 and people to be real Christian and followers of Jesus Christ need to come to accurate to knowledge of the word of God – 1 Timothy 2:4 ; 2 Timothy 2:25

    Please visit my blog and learn from the truth.
    Learn from the different truths in this site. Kindly share the blogs with others…

    keep seeking for the truth…

    Comment by fromthesunrising — March 20, 2010 @ 11:02 | Reply

    • Hello fromthesunrising,
      Although I agree with what you posted here, in viewing your blog I notice that you are defending the translation of John 1:1 as “the word was a god.” This is why Armstrong stated that it is important for Christian unity to take into account the Apostles’ Creed. There are problems with this, as I noted, but it does provide a shortcut to know who is reading the Bible in an orthodox way and who has placed themselves outside what was “handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. “

      Comment by Thomas — March 20, 2010 @ 11:44 | Reply

  5. There is only one way of defining the “the Word was God” and it is in quality not in identity for the last phrase must coincides with the second phrase which is “The Word was with God” and the phrase in verse 2 of John 1 which states “This ONE was in [the] beginning WITH God. Therefore there are two separate persons that are together. And that makes the translators of NWT decide to put it as “a god” and not only “God”. The word “a god” means a quality of being divine or having godlike nature and a being a sort of god from among gods which is true to the identity of Jesus. Please read my other blogs.
    Enjoy reading the truth…

    Comment by fromthesunrising — March 20, 2010 @ 12:17 | Reply

    • Do you know what anarthrous means? If not, I suggest you learn some more before making pronouncements as to what the Greek means and why the NWT decided to translate it this way. Either way you need to learn to read the text and then come to understand what it means. You cannot begin with a supposition and then force the text to read what you want. That’s called eisegesis and is not beneficial.

      Comment by Thomas — March 20, 2010 @ 14:40 | Reply

      • Ya I do know anarthrous and that means having no article and that is true in the Greek text of John 1:1c. The predicate “Logos” is anarthrous because it lacks an article on its preceding place unlike in the preceding word of Theos which has article “Ho” and that makes the NWT translators decided that is should be put as “a god”. As you know the statement “the Word was God” cannot mean “God was the word” (The God was the Word) and this was prove along the text of John 1:14 and John 1:18 not to forget John 1:1b and John 1:2. As I have said on my blog entitled “THE UNDERLYING TRUTH IN JOHN 1:1”, I have said some Bible scholars do no accept the statement as “the Word was with the God” because they believe it’s Sabellianism (believing in Triune God) however, they keep insisting Jesus is God (the Almighty) which is part of the Trinity or Sabellianism. I don’t know why they are not accepting “the Word was the God” when in fact they mean it that way. I suggest you go through the blog I mention and read it. I suggest also you visit my other blog entitled “TRINITY: A FALSE DOCTRINE OF A FALSE CHURCH”. This will help you realize that Jesus cannot be God himself but rather a god who is subordinate with the TRUE GOD Jehovah.

        Comment by fromthesunrising — March 20, 2010 @ 20:46

      • It sounds like you are aware of the danger of Sabellianism but not of Arianism. 😉 Have you by chance read Dan Wallace’s discussion on this issue in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics? If not, I suggest that you do so (pp 256ff). He specifically addresses the NWT on pp 266ff. The discussion is involved but at the end of the day only the NWT renders Jn 1:1 as “a god” and does so because of an a priori understanding of Jesus’ relationship to the Father.

        Comment by Thomas — March 20, 2010 @ 23:46

      • I know Jehovah’s witnesses believe that it should be render as “a god” in which I would definitely agree. However, I do not say that the rendering “The Word was god” (lowercase epmhasize) is incorrect. And I believe that they would agree that Jesus is god but not the God Almighty for if not they won’t be using to present some translation such as “The Word was a Divine Being” which clearly states only a quality or nature of the Word. On the other hand in using “a god” it is clearly emphasize that Jesus is a god (lower from Jehovah) and someone who possess the attributes or nature of the Almighty God.This help the reader not to be confused that Jesus is really a god and not God (identity). Actually if you are going to read Proverbs 8:12-32 and Colossians 1:15 you will see that Jesus was really created thus he is not fully God because he has beginning unlike God who existed from eternity – Psalms 90:2 and doesn’t die Habakuk 1:12. In line with these proofs that they are distinct is the account in Genesis 1:26 which definitely address to Jehovah and Jesus when he God said “Let us make…” And this proved strong about Proverbs 8:12-32 and Colossians 1:15 – 17.

        Comment by fromthesunrising — March 21, 2010 @ 0:41

  6. Thomas- Great review. I can see from the comments that you will have a great deal of work to do in promoting the unity and mission John Armstrong is advocating.

    Did I understand correctly, you are Alliance? Do you recognize any similarities in John’s heart vision and passion and that of A.B.Simpson? I think when Simpson left the Presbyterian church in New York City, he was following the same calling. The Alliance story in the early years is a story of men and women from all church traditions that came together in Christ (to live out that unity that does exist), focusing on Christ alone (Jesus Only) and his mission to the nations.

    John Paul Todd

    Comment by e4unity — March 22, 2010 @ 8:53 | Reply

    • Indeed Simpson and the other early leaders were from a score of denominational backgrounds. They focused on two particular themes around which their unity centred: the deeper life and missions. It comes through clear in Armstrong’s book that unity works best when it has a focus. When a church’s goal is to be different from the guy down the street unity loses out. If we can focus on something such as missions then we will be focused on our unity in Christ rather than our differences

      Comment by Thomas — March 22, 2010 @ 10:24 | Reply

  7. It would be helpful, and I care not to be recognized in some special way, if you would at least get the name of the author right in the comments and the review. You have some very interesting and provocative things to say which I welcome with all my heart so please keep working and keep the critique going.

    I am not sure how you tell a story, as I do, and get all the interesting facts in the first page or two. You tell readers you find out about my background and then what church I am a minister in 140 pages or so into the story. It is clear from the information on the book that I am a Protestant evangelical. It is also clear that non-Protestants find a lot in the book to like thus the endorsements, which are not paid for in any sense. You will find many leaders from many churches find the book engaging and helpful if you read it WHOLE.

    Again, thanks for taking time to write about my work. This is not the first time I have been called Anderson but I am Armstrong for the record. Grace and peace to you and your readers.

    Comment by John H. Armstrong — March 24, 2010 @ 17:14 | Reply

    • Terrible sorry about the name issue. It’s all fixed up now. I will certainly continue to think about unity and I’m glad that you put forth this book. You have definitely hit on an issue that concerns all Christians, and as you mention, those from many backgrounds have endorsed it. Grace and peace to you also.

      Comment by Thomas — March 24, 2010 @ 19:05 | Reply

  8. I would like to commend “fromthesunrising” for speaking the truth of God’s Word.

    If the rest of you would all read and meditate on the following scriptures, then probably, just probably, you MAY see the light of truth. Jesus Christ himself shows us that he is not God:

    1 Cor. 11:3 … “the head of every man is the Christ … the head of the Christ is God.”

    John 5:19 … “The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing.”

    1 Cor. 15:28 … “When all things will have been subjected to the Son, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.”

    Isaiah 9:6 … Refers to Jesus as a Mighty God, but not the Almighty God, Jehovah. (Compare Ex. 6:3)

    Matt. 4:10 … Jesus states that we are not to worship him; we are to worship Jehovah.

    John 20:17 … Jesus, speaking to Mary Magdalene, calls his Father ‘my God and your God.’ So, to the resurrected Jesus, the Father was God, just as the Father was God to Mary Magdalene. Please note: Not once in Scripture do we find the Father addressing the Son as “my God.”

    John 4:23, 24 … Jesus says that the time is coming when true worshipers will worship the Father.

    John 17:3 … Jesus prays to his Father and says, “You alone art truly God.” Notice that Jesus refers not to himself but to his Father in heaven as the only true God.

    [To claim that anyone other than the Father is the God is polytheism. Jesus was a Jew, and Judaism was/and is monotheistic. Note: One of the most important Scriptures of Judaism is Deut. 6:4 – “the Lord our God is one God.”]

    Comment by sandracestothesea — June 4, 2010 @ 16:55 | Reply

    • Thanks for your comment sandracestothesea, however your final statement undermines your argument up to that point. You say that [To claim that anyone other than the Father is the God is polytheism. Jesus was a Jew, and Judaism was/and is monotheistic. Note: One of the most important Scriptures of Judaism is Deut. 6:4 – “the Lord our God is one God.”]. Monotheism is something that all Jews and Christians agree on by definition. The earliest Christians were all faithful Jews who would have recited the shema daily. They saw no contradiction between this statement and accepting the divinity of Jesus. Furthermore, traditional Christianity has always maintained that the Lord our God is one God. The Trinity is one God, not a collection of three gods. The One God Almighty is three persons: Father, Son and Spirit.

      The problem for Jesus during his earthly ministry is that many Jews refused to accept him as God because he appeared to them as a mere human being. The Jewish officials of the day repeatedly accused him of blasphemy and finally pleaded with the Romans to have him executed. They did this because they rejected his claims to be their God. Why would they have accused him of blasphemy unless they thought he was claiming to be Jehovah?

      (Mt 26:65-66) Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
      “He is worthy of death,” they answered.

      (Mark 14:64) “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death.

      (Luke 5:21)The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

      (John 10:33) “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

      When Jesus appeared to his disciples after he rose from the dead Thomas was not there. The others told Thomas but he refused to believe unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes and it was proven that he had risen from the dead. Thomas, who was a faithful Jew, recognised that if Father God has raised Jesus from the dead it meant that everything Jesus had taught was true. God had vindicated, put his stamp of approval, on Jesus’ teaching by bringing him back to life. Thomas recognised that the only conclusion he could make was to recognise Jesus as God Almighty.

      (John 20:28) Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

      (John 20:29) Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

      I would call on you and fromthesunrising to consider Jesus’ words in John 20:29. You have not seen Jesus, nor do you believe Jesus, but Jesus desires that you would be blessed as the apostles were by believing even though you have not seen.

      Comment by Thomas — June 21, 2010 @ 11:14 | Reply

      • I must admit that I am a bit confused as to what it is that you believe, Thomas. “The TRInity is ONE God…” and “The ONE God Almighty is THREE persons…” sounds like a bit of wordplay to me. The LORD God makes it perfectly clear that He is ONE. YOU make Him THREE. You claim that Christians are Monotheistic by definition. MONO by definition is ONE, not THREE. You claim to be Monotheistic, yet believe in a Trinity. You can try to make three into one, as dizzying as that must be, but it does not make it so. The Father is the uncreated beginning of all things who by the power of His Holy Spirit, (not a person, but a power), caused a Son to be born. Simple. Nothing complicated, nothing which conflicts with other parts of scripture, as does the belief in a Trinity.

        And even the passages that you choose to prove your theory undermine your argument:

        Mt 26:63 Jesus was asked if he was the Christ (The Messiah), The SON of God. Not if he was GOD. Even :68 shows that they assailed him because he claimed to be The Christ. Not GOD. The Jews do not believe that their Messiah will be GOD himself.

        Mk 14:61 Jesus claims to be the King who sits at the RIGHT HAND of GOD, the High Priest after the order of Melchisedek of Psa 110. They tell him to “Prophesy” in :65 because they believe him to be claiming to be the Prophet of whom Moses wrote in Deut. 18:15 “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from THE MIDST OF THEE, of THY BRETHREN, like unto me.” This reference in no way proves that the Jews thought him to be claiming to BE GOD.

        Luk 5 Just goes to show that the reasoning of the Pharisees was incomplete and flawed at best. THEY even questioned if it were possible that another could forgive sins. Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms who is the judge when it comes to mankind. John 5:22, 27 “22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:””27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” Because he is the Son of MAN and shared our nature (Heb 2) is why he is a perfect High Priest and intercessor for us. Not because HE IS GOD. If he was not taken from the midst of his brethren, he could not be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.

        Oh, and the apostles could remit sins as well, when given the power of the Holy Spirit. Joh 20:22 “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” This does not make them GOD either. They were given a special privilege and power, as was Jesus.

        John 10:36 is Jesus’ reply to the charge of blasphemy from :33. “36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the SON of God?” He made it perfectly clear that he was not claiming to be GOD Himself.

        As far as speaking for Thomas (your namesake, I presume), I cannot claim to know what he was thinking when he called Jesus “my God!”, as I do not claim to know why you do the same. But it is made very clear for us two verses later what WE are to understand from all that the Apostle John has recorded for us :30 “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is THE CHRIST, the SON of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

        Seems pretty clear to me.

        Comment by Mark the Christadelphian — July 22, 2010 @ 20:47


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