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The great political philosopher Machiavelli once reveled in the time he spent during his free evenings as a farmer.  He said that he would stay in his room and surround himself with his books.  While reading it would be as if he was conversing with departed intellectual giants.  The same can be applied to working through the writings of the wise men and women who have gone before us in Church History (I would not just limit this principle to theology, but to all disciplines.  It is absurd to discount the wisdom of thinkers from Socrates to Pope John Paul II).  These brothers and sisters (departed saints, of course) can provide clarifications in the Biblical text.  Of course they should never supersede the Bible, but they can also warn you if your interpretation is approaching dangerous grounds theologically.  If I view Jesus as someone who was made, since He is the Son of God, and had a beginning, then Athanasius’ On The Incarnation will help correct this error.  He will force you to go back to the text and reexamine it.  If he says something that is false though then you will have to analyze it deeper.  CS Lewis believed that old books were important to read because, while they might contain errors, those errors have been vetted through history and can be spotted quicker since they are from a different time.  New books have errors in them that we are still steeped in and are more difficult to spot.

The heritage of the Reformation was that all people could read the Bible for themselves.  Indeed while I entirely endorse this idea, we cannot simply be by ourselves.  We must engage with other people in a time-transcending Bible study.  That is why I endorse the reading of Scripture with other solid Christians, both in present and past (read: books) conversations.  Doing so will correct our errors and potentially dangerous, heretical mistakes while also sharpening our minds and deepening our relationships with God who has revealed Himself in Scripture.

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When people talk about Jesus they often do not correlate the fact that He was not just a man.  The fact that He referred to Himself as the Son of God also lends itself to the confusion.  Jesus must have had a beginning, many people deduce this from the term son. Truly, if Jesus had a beginning and was a son, then He would have been made subordinate to the Father, right?  It was and is asserted by many that Jesus is not equal to the Father, who is eternal, but had a beginning point.

This view above is called Arianism and it is not considered orthodox Christianity.  Jesus was fully God and fully man in one person.  He was two “whats” in one “who.”  Now, why would this be so important to the faith?  It is important because only God could save us and only humanity needed the saving.  He bore our sins and acted as the sacrifice, providing an atonement for our transgressions.  Jesus acted as the bridge between God and humanity.  He became the perfect High Priest as the Book of Hebrews discussed about at great lengths.  I would recommend that you read that book carefully and see what the author argued for in their work.  Jesus was described as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3).  Jesus is the great High Priest who intercedes for us before the throne of God, able to save and redeem His people, those people who are eagerly waiting for Him (Heb 9:28).

As a side note– God is not a Christian.  A Christian is a Christ follower, a little Christ.  God revealed Himself to us through the Bible and definitively in the person of Jesus the Messiah.  Those who follow Christ are to be considered Christians (and certainly God does not do that…).  Jesus referred to Himself in the Gospel according to John that He was “I AM.”  He directly equated Himself to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.   We have to take Jesus at His own word here, for this is a very bold statement.  To echo CS Lewis,  he was either a liar, lunatic or the very person He claimed to be– God.  Quite frankly I see no other option.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the seemingly illiterate masses when it comes to religious and biblical matters.  These people are not just those who do not call Christianity their own or those people who do call themselves Christian but do not actively engage it (an excellent article on this issue can be found here).  These are the evangelicals, the conservative wing of Protestant Christianity.  Many who would want the 10 Commandments posted in the halls of courts cannot cite them .  A recent Pew poll confirmed this and another poll by The White Horse Inn at a Christian bookseller fair demonstrated this.  Interestingly enough, atheists are very literate when it comes to religious matters.

I want to periodically explore what it means to be a Christian and clearly delineate the belief system.  This series will touch on issues from the Trinity to Eschatology and it is not my intentions to make the series exhaustive or definitive.  It is my belief that many Christians want to “save” people so badly that we forget what we believe and why we even believe it.  If we recover biblical literacy, we can then accurately preach the good news of Christ.  The good news (the gospel) that Jesus is Lord and Savior– who lived, was crucified  and three days later raised from the grave in glory.

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