Posts from the ‘Christianity’ Category

Authority and the Catholic Church – part 1

As part one of a 3-part series on Authority and the Catholic Church, I am starting with an essay on the role of Scripture, sacred tradition, and the Magisterium in forming Church teaching. This is written from a Catholic perspective in an attempt to be fair. What will follow, Lord willing, is a rebuttal and perhaps an essay on Sola Scriptura.


The Catholic Church has always relied on various sources in the development of its teachings. Scripture, sacred tradition, and the Magisterium form a triad that has played a central role in shaping the Church’s doctrine. This essay will explore the significance of each source and how they work together to develop Church teaching.


The Bible has always been an important source of inspiration for Catholicism, and it remains a primary means of expressing the faith. The Old and New Testaments are the foundational texts of Christianity, and the Catholic Church considers them to be the inspired Word of God, which canonizes them as the genuine books of the canon.

Scripture offers lessons on how to live a Christian life, answers the eternal questions regarding creation, nature, and purpose, and provides guidance on how to remain faithful to God’s plan. It is also the primary source the Church turns to when responding to ethical dilemmas such as the ethical issues surrounding abortion, euthanasia or stem cell research.

However, the interpretation of Scripture remains a challenge that required guidance. In this regard, Catholics rely on the Magisterium to provide them with the necessary interpretation. The Magisterium’s authority to interpret Scripture stems from Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit to the apostles, assuring they would receive knowledge, wisdom and guidance to teach the truth correctly.

Sacred Tradition

Sacred tradition refers to the unwritten teachings that have been passed down from generation to generation. Often referred to as the “deposit of faith,” the tradition embodies the teachings of Jesus Christ, handed down through the apostles, and the early Church. As Catholics, they believe that Christ entrusted the deposit of faith to the apostles and that it has been faithfully preserved through the Church’s teachings, established under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Sacred tradition fills in those gaps left by Scripture alone, such as the liturgy or the sacraments, and clarifies the teachings’ full implications. It is through the Tradition that Catholics know to confess their faith through the Nicene Creed, believe in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Since 1965, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has been the official compendium of Catholic doctrine and a reliable reference for Catholics worldwide.


The Magisterium is the authoritative teaching body of the Catholic Church, composed of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him. It serves to safeguard and transmit the faith throughout the ages. The Magisterium has the task of clarifying and interpreting the divine deposit of faith, specifically that which is found in Scripture and Tradition.

From Apostolic times, bishops speak and teach with authority. This official Magisterium continues to this day, with the pope and the Church’s bishops serving as the Church’s teachers. These teachers are supported by theologians, who work to take the teachings of the Church and make them relevant to the world today.

The Magisterium carries out its duty through a variety of means, including encyclicals, apostolic letters, catechisms, and Church councils. It also helps bishops worldwide to clarify and provide guidance to the faithful in the face of changing times and social challenges to the faith.

The Magisterium’s role is to ensure that the Church’s teachings are handed down in their purest and most authentic form according to the deposit of faith, constantly adapting to the changing times without compromising its fundamental truths. The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes that the Magisterium is not above the word of God; instead, it serves to clarify and confirm God’s Word.

Interplay between Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium

The Scriptures, sacred tradition, and the Magisterium do not stand alone, but rather they complement one another. Each source contributes to the development of Catholic doctrine in its unique way, ultimately leading to a more comprehensive understanding of the truth.

The sacred tradition carefully preserves the truths revealed in Scripture and guards their essential meaning, which illuminates the Church’s interpretation of the divine deposit over time. For example, the Catholic Church’s view on the Blessed Trinity became more explicit and developed in the early Church notable from the teachings of the Church Fathers, such as St. Augustine and St. Athanasius.

The Magisterium uses the sources of faith to provide guidance for Catholics to clarify Church teaching. The Church looks upon its teaching documents, such as Encyclicals and Catechisms as expressions of the Magisterium acting within the deposit of faith to enrich the truth of the faith to the faithful. The Magisterium’s primary function is to ensure that the Church maintains its doctrinal integrity over time.

The Magisterium also helps to clarify what the Bible says precisely by considering the way Catholics have interpreted it over the centuries. Thus, it is essential to note that Catholic doctrine develops from the combined interpretation of Scripture, sacred tradition, and Magisterium.

Thus, the three sources of Catholic teaching interact with each other in a complementary and interdependent way. The Magisterium is that which conveys and safeguards the biblical, and traditional sources of faith, and helps the Church make explicit their applications to contemporary societies.

Importance of Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium in Catholic teaching

The Scriptures, sacred tradition, and the Magisterium depth to each other and Catholic teachings, and hence the importance of the three sources in the formation of Church teaching. These three sources offer a comprehensive insight into Catholic doctrine, and each source reinforces the other.

Scripture provides the foundation for the Church’s teaching, which has been enduring for over two millennia. Sacred tradition guides the interpretation of the words within Scripture through the values and beliefs passed down from the apostles. Magisterium provides clarity and guidance within the context of contemporaneous growth and interpretation.

As affirmed in Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, Scripture is the foundation of the Church’s teaching and its understanding. If Catholicism is to continue to thrive and incarnate Scripture, its doctrines, and its insights into the living of Christian life, then each source’s integrity must be kept verbatim to the living Tradition of the Church.


In conclusion, the role of Scripture, sacred tradition, and the Magisterium in forming Church teaching is profound, emphasizing the complementary nature of these sources in Catholic teachings. Catholics understand Scripture through sacred tradition and rely on the Magisterium to guide and interpret the faith. The interrelation of these sources forms an integral part of Catholicism, ensuring that the faith has remained steadfast and enduring since its foundation by Christ and the apostles. We pray that as Catholics, we continue to respect these three sources of teaching and ensure that their treasures will be handed down, generation after generation.

A Call To Be “Catholic” Christians

It’s click bait in a sense, but it’s also designed to get your attention. What the word “Catholic” means is universal. What I’m espousing here is a call to look at the entire body of Christ as a legitimate part of the Church. This is not a call to universalism, where all religions lead to God. That philosophy is true in the sense that we are all going to stand before God at the judgment. No, I am calling for the recognition amongst those who are trinitarian Christians to unite as the body of Christ as king as our Christology is the same and we are worshiping the same Triune God. This teaching is reflected in the Nicene, Apostles, and Athanasian Creeds.

What has been holding this back? I believe the enemy has given us a self righteous tunnel vision regarding who the “real Christians” are. We are like one part of the body saying that only our part, or possibly our system, is really attached to the Head. Others are either lost or only saved in spite of their church. We need to increase our altitude and see the whole Body of Christ and then focus on doing what our body part or system was designed to do to contribute to the well being of the whole.

To do this we need to practice a radical obedience to scriptures like 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and Romans 14:1-12.

1 Corinthians 12:27 (CSB)

Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it.

Romans 14:10 (CSB)

But you, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

There are spiritual barriers to this that we must repent of and actively battle against. These are arrogant assumptions rooted in the need for doctrinal perfection and perceived superiority.

Arrogant Assumption #1 – we are the ones who finally figured out the Bible and if people would just study harder and shed their man made teachings, we would all agree on what the Bible says.

Arrogant Assumption #2 – we are the only ones being truly led by the Spirit, because if they were led this way, they would do things like we do. This is usually manifested in the attitude that more formal or liturgical worship styles are spiritually dead. We mistake reverence for sleep instead of depth.

Arrogant Assumption #3 – others are saved, but they have not arrived at our level of higher knowledge or truly spiritual worship style. This is rooted in comparing ourselves with others instead of following the direction of the Lord about where He wants to place us within His Body. Gnostics promoted such a teaching where they thought they had the higher knowledge. None of us want to end up in Gnosticism!

Arrogant Assumption #4 – we are the real thing and they are the counterfeit. Similar to the others, it is based in spiritual pride and the assumption that we get it and others must be wrong. Spiritual pride is what made Lucifer into Satan. You don’t want to go there!

So what I am calling us to is a truly “catholic” Christianity, where we all not only tolerate and recognize the other parts of the Body of Christ, but actually value and celebrate them! Every baptism is a win. Every sinner rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His Dear Son is a cause for celebration! In short, if someone meets the criteria of Romans 10:9-10, they are a brother or sister in Christ! We don’t have to be exactly alike in belief or practice. A body doesn’t work that way. We are all learning and growing. Rejoice in that and have joy in the journey. There are plenty of sinners to go around. Start focusing on reaching the truly lost instead of wasting energy fighting one another. We need to avoid being an autoimmune disease where parts of the body attack each other.

Fight the good fight of faith and contend for the Gospel by accurately teaching who Jesus is and what He has done. Where Jesus places people in His Body, including those He moves around within the Body, is His business. Focus on doing what you were called to do and the body will grow to the full stature of Christ!

A Light Matter: The dangers of enforced darkness

A Light Matter (or The Dangers of Enforced Darkness)


John 3:19-20

“And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

It was the late 1920’s and the most powerful man in Chicago was arguably Alphonse Capone. His underworld crime cartel ruled he streets and paid off the political structures. Where did he get this kind of power? The illegal distribution of liquor. Prohibition was on its heyday and the manufacture and distribution of alcohol was driven into the darkness. But instead of dying in darkness, it thrived and metastasized, infecting the very foundations of the civic order.

Ironically, when Capone was released from Alcatraz 11 years later, Prohibition had been repealed. Rather than returning to head up a crime syndicate running alcohol, he retired to Miami as a powerless old man to die of syphilis. Why? Because the way to disinfect society of his mafia gangs and wars was simply to make it legal and bring it into the light.

There are a few applications of this proven principle, and I won’t go over them all here. What I believe to be one of the greatest evils in our current civilization is human trafficking. More specifically, sex trafficking. How do we effectively purge out this scourge from our society? By learning the lesson of Prohibition and Al Capone.

Here is what I mean. Much of modern day sex trafficking is used to supply the demand for illicit sexual activity, as well as the creation and marketing of pornography. How do we bring this into the light? Eliminate demand? No, prohibition fuels demand. By bringing it into the light of legalization. For example, if massages with the so-called “happy ending” were legalized and treated as a consensual business transaction, it would eliminate the need to operate as a criminal enterprise. It would also mean it would be possible to know who their customers were. Again, the light drives out the darkness.

But what about the multi-billion dollar porn industry? Some of it is legal, while some is not. Bring it into the light of legalization (for adults). This is not just an online thing, either. It may seem radical, but what about rescinding public nudity laws. I doubt everyone would suddenly cast off their clothing. But if body parts were thought of as body parts, all bearing (Baring?) the image of God, why would someone want to go online to see them? That’s like sneaking around with a laptop and looking at elbows or ankles.

Does that mean we think everything goes and anything you want to do is moral? Of course not! Prohibition was been gone for nearly 90 years, but as a society we still look down on drunkenness. And with studies showing that it doesn’t actually harm anyone, including children, to see it in a non-sexual context, what we have to gain in the destruction of the porn industry and the trafficked illicit sex worker industry more than makes up for the losses of the illusion that no one participates in such things.

I realize this sounds radical or even sinful, but it’s a matter of public policy that will actually yield a better society, free from the stain of sex trafficking.

But that is just my opinion.

Jesus the Ambush Predator

In the natural realm, there are different types of predators. Pursuit predators stalk and chase their pray in hopes of wearing them down. They strike with a combination of endurance and speed in the chase. There are also ambush predators. These are those who chase to capture prey using sheer speed or endurance, ambush predators avoid fatigue by staying in concealment, waiting patiently for the prey to get near, before launching a sudden overwhelming attack that quickly incapacitates and captures the prey.

In a significant way, Jesus was an ambush predator.

1 Corinthians 2:8

Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Jesus knew that because of the consuming hatred and pride of the devil, he would jump at the chance to have the Son of God tortured and killed. His eyes were blinded and Satan hurled headlong into the murder of Jesus. This is much the same as when an ambush predator uses an irresistible bait to lure their pray in for the kill. The victim’s instinct and its nature cause it to bypass reason and take the bait.

But what Satan failed to realize was that the One he thought was the victim was in fact also the victor! The very moment when Christ gave up His spirit, the adversary went form celebration to terror as his head was crushed by Christ on the cross. At the moment of what he thought was his greatest victory, he stepped into the trap the Father had laid before him and was defeated!

Colossians 2:15

And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Rather than being defeated in death, Christ took the keys of death and the grave and will bring the souls of the redeemed home to His Father in Heaven!

Praise God for sending His Son, the ambush predator who rescued our souls from bondage to sin and Satan!

You Don’t Have A Preselected Soulmate!

I’m about to say something that may shock some of you. If it does, though, it may mean you have assimilated a worldy idea rooted more in Greek philosophy and Plato than the Bible. So at the risk of offending you, I will tell you the truth — God does not have one special soulmate picked out for you to marry!

The idea of a “soulmate” is a concept taught by Plato who said that people are made as one body with both genders, but were split apart by the gods. Now their mission in life is to find their “other half” so they can be made complete again. This is where phrases like “my better half” or “my other half” come from. Where it does not come from is biblical Christianity!

“Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,”. Colossians 2:8-9 (ASV)

We only have One who can complete us. We have one Soulmate, and that is Christ! To make someone else your completer makes them an idol by putting them in the place of God. That’s damaging to you and unfair to your spouse!

What we do have, however, is someone we must make the deliberate daily choice to love. The claim that everyone has a preselected spouse they will find someday is not biblical! But once you marry that person, they become the one God determines you will love.

So be complete in Christ. Don’t require a human to complete you. It is only after marriage that you become one together instead of 1 each apart.

It’s not 1/2 + 1/2 = 1. Rather it’s 1 X 1 = 1.

So please, let’s stop perpetuating the Ancient Greek concept of soulmates and the one person you are destined to marry. Rather teach that life is a daily choice and that you freely choose to love your husband or wife. Now THAT is romantic!

The Master Has Need of You!

In Matthew 21:1-5, there is recorded the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem. This was a highly significant event in light of messianic prophecy. To accomplish this fulfillment, Christ had an essential condition to fill.

“When they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them here to me. And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, ‘The master has need of them.’ Then he will send them at once.” This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

“Say to daughter Zion,

‘Behold, your king comes to you,

meek and riding on an ass,

and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

While there are many things to highlight here of significance, I want to take a look at one that can easily be overlooked – the colt of the donkey. Imagine yourself there on that day now known as Palm Sunday. Jesus gives two disciples instructions that at first glance seem odd. They were to retrieve aa ass and it’s colt for Jesus to ride on. This colt was totally unqualified and inexperienced. It had never been ridden, and was not as strong as other donkeys that could have been used. But the Lord singles it out to be used to carry Him!

How many of us at times I felt in adequate for the things that Christ would have us to do? How often have we felt unqualified and untrained and therefore unable to accomplish things for God? Well Jesus has the same thing to say to you as he told the disciples to say to the donkey’s owner. He would say that in spite of your nervousness, lack of expertise and not knowing all the answers to questions that might come up, “the Master has need of you!” By you’re very nature and because of who you are, you do have what it takes to carry Jesus to other people. What you were called to do, indeed what the Master has need of you to do, is to show him to others.

You may lack training or education or speaking skills. While those are things to work on, remember that right here and right now, the Master has need of you! You may have blown it in the past with sins and failed relationships. Remember you are forgiven, your shame has been borne on the cross, and the Master has need of you! No one in the Kingdom of God is on a shelf and unable to carry Jesus to others.

You have a vital role to play, and the Master has need of you!

Mother of God

Many times, when someone hears a Catholic call Mary the mother of god they are scandalized by the expression. And if the expression meant what many people think it meant, they should be scandalized! What does the title “mother of God” mean what you think it means?

First of all, let me say what the phrase does not mean. It does not mean that Mary created God. Any Catholic you talk to who has any education at all will tell you that is a false teaching. In fact the opposite is true. Jesus is the only infant who created his own mother!

Some would say that Mary is only the mother of the human part of Jesus, but that requires believing in a heresy for it to be true. Jesus is one person, and one person only. That person is fully divine and fully human and is not able to be separated into 2 persons. To do so takes us over into Gnosticism and it’s teaching of the spirit and flesh being separate beings. At no time was Jesus only reacting as a human or only reacting as a spirit. He was always reacting as both.

Well then, how can someone become the mother of a baby? Just as in natural conception, the child is both hers and the Holy Spirit’s. She became the “Mother if God” by giving birth to the person. No true Christian would ever dispute that Mary gave birth to Jesus. In doing so, she gave birth to the complete Jesus who was both 100% God and 100% man. So even though her own child created Mary, she is still “The mother of God” because Jesus is fully God and as a person who is both God and man he went through the birthing process.

So in spite of any misunderstandings, Mary truly does have the title mother of God once you know what that phrase means and does not mean. To say otherwise is to risk falling into heresy where Jesus can divide his natures from each other and is 50% God and 50% human instead of 100% both as one being. I hope that clears things up!

Lessons in Prayer – Hannah

I don’t know about you, but I really like to learn by example. It is one thing to give me the theory verbally or in writing, but there is nothing as effective as following that up with actually demonstrating how something is done. In many ways, when we have Scripture that teaches a doctrine, it is great when we can see that doctrine lived out in a practical way. Such is the case with Hannah in First Samuel chapter 1. The Old Testament is there for our learning and instruction, so let’s see what we can learn from her.
1 Samuel 1:1-20
1 There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. 2 He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
3 Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. 4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. 6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8 And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
9 After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”

I. When others constantly remind you of your shame or situation, pray. (vs. 6-7)
In that culture, not having children was considered a curse from God and those who were childless were assumed to have done something wrong. This is not so much a case of bullying as it is reminding and reinforcing someone’s shame.
We do this when we remind someone often of things in there life that are their own fault. Whatever we do, we should strive to never be the cause of increased pain for someone who is suffering inside or out. Walking in love means we need to be part of the solution, and we have not business reminding anyone of their problem if we are not prepared to be part of the solution.
Peninah was merely restating what Hannah thought was true and increasing her pain. She probably felt justified in what she was saying, because after all, she was correct. But rather than lashing out or retaliating, Hannah took it before the Lord in prayer.

II. When others mean well but say the wrong thing, pray. (v. 8)
Elkanah truly meant well and probably wanted Hannah to feel better, but some things are better left unsaid. Elkanah was trying to comfort his wife, but totally bungled the attempt. In some cases, perhaps most cases, it is better to just be there praying with someone than to say something well intentioned that increases their pain.
If this happens to you, rather than rebuking the person, pray!

III. When you hurt so much that you cannot find the words to say, pray! (vs. 10-13)
When we pour out our hearts to God and cannot find the words to say, the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf before the Father and communicate in our place.

(Romans 8:26-27)
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
A broken and contrite heart is precious in the eyes of God and He has promised to pay attention to our prayers. (Isaiah 57:15)
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Be confident in this. God is true to His Word, and will comfort you in your affliction as you pour out your heart to Him in prayer.

IV. When others misunderstand or misinterpret your pain, pray! (vs. 14-15)
In the midst of pouring her heart out to God, Eli steps in with his man made wisdom and tells her to quit drinking. Be careful about making assumptions about the cause or severity of someone else’s pain. It is much more helpful to find out the facts than to jump in with something inane to give as advice.
People may misunderstand your pain or offer you the wrong advice. Pray anyway!

V. When you want your pain to somehow bring glory or God, pray! (v. 11)
Hannah was so desperate for a child that she vowed to offer him to God. How often do we pray for things and tell the Lord that we will use it for His purposes? It is fine to pray for a house and promised the Lord that it will be a place of refuge for the hurting or a place where my neighbors can come and learn about the Gospel. Or pray for the Lord to give you a car, and promise that you will use it to go and teach others, give rides to the doctor or to worship for those who need it. You can see what I am getting at here. If we are praying for something that we cannot use to further the “Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (John 6:30), should be be asking for it at all?

VI. When we have finished leaving our situation and are waiting for the answer, get up and worship God. (vs. 18-19)
No matter what our situation, need or circumstance, the Lord is always worthy of our worship. Once we have left our petition in His hands, arise and worship Him in gratitude for the answer, no matter what that answer will be. When we are going through a crisis, we need the encouragement and strength that only our brothers and sisters in Christ can bring. God put us in a family for a reason. Rather than staying away, come and be encouraged by the saints!

Hannah has much to teach us, and her request was granted by God, who caused her to give birth to a mighty man of God named Samuel. Rest in the Lord, and above all else, no matter what life throws at you, remember that the most important thing you can do is this. Pray!

A Thorny Issue

Thorns and thistles are no joke! Armored plants such as these can be a painful surprise when you stumble into their midst, especially if you are wearing shorts or are barefoot. In the curse spoken by God in Genesis 3 because of their sin, thorns and thistles are specifically mentioned.

Genesis 3:18 (NKJV)

“Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.”

Thus, thorns and thistles became symbols of what God had placed a curse on.

In the Middle East, thorns and thistles invade land that is being wasted or neglected. At the edge of grain fields, a painful border of thistles guard the harvest. Roadsides are often thickets of thistles. In fact, thistles and other armed plants are so common in that part of the world that if you sent a first-time visitor on a hike through fields, he/she would quickly get the point.

Thorns are associated with broken ground that is not used. Proverbs 24:30-31 illustrates it this way:

“I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding;

And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down.”

They are also associated with judgment from God in the form of painful consequences of His people’s disobedience.

Joshua 23:13

“know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the Lord your God has given you.”

So what we have represented by thorns are the judgment due to original sin and fallen-ness, the judgment due to neglect of stewardship, and the judgment due to disobedience in the form of incomplete obedience. The Writer of the letter to the Hebrews sums it up for us in chapter 6 verse 8:

“but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.”

So fast forward to Jesus Christ as He is enduring his Passion and crucifixion. Matthew records the following in his Gospel account:

“When they had [a]twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’”

In the area around Jerusalem, any of the woody plants with thorns would not have been fit for weaving into a crown. What was most likely used was a green annual thorn plant. For the Roman soldiers, this would have resembled a laurel or ivy victory wreath worn in a triumphal procession. Ironically, that is exactly what Jesus was doing! Through His suffering and death, Jesus bore the curse for use and triumphed over sin and death in our place! How appropriate that in doing so He would wear a crown of the thorns that symbolized both of those spiritual realities!

No Loose Canons

According to the Reformation principle of “Sola Scriptura”, the Scriptures alone are the rule of faith and life. But Scripture is not just one book. Scripture is a small library of books! So how do we determine which books are in the canon of Scripture? Do we need a church or a man to tell us what should be included? It is my position, and the historical position of the church, that the Holy Spirit reveals what is God-breathed, not any man or organization. In this way, one can say the canon of Scripture is self-authenticating. Do assume otherwise is to place a man or an organization above the Scriptures in authority. 

The best way to put it is the way the Second London Baptist Confession put it in 1689 (my apologies to those who are confession averse).  Section 1, Paragraph 4. “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, depends not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.” (See 2 Pet. 1:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 John 5:9)

There are two components to the “Canon of Scripture”, which can be referred to as the “Macro-canon” and the “Micro-canon”. The Macro-canon is the list of exactly which writings were to be regarded as Scripture. Basically, your bible’s table of contents. The Micro-canon is the actual verses that are part of the writings in the Macro-canon. The early church fathers of the first few centuries quoted extensively from the canon, and in fact there are quotes from every book in the New Testament within their writings. This is pretty impressive since they didn’t set out to make sure and quote everything so we would know they approved of it!

While most would agree with the Macro-canon, there are issues with the Micro-canon. Apart from minor textual variations, there are those men and women who advocate for the “Critical Text” that regard parts of the Micro-canon that was accepted as authentic by centuries of Christians as spurious. Not only are there several individual verses, there are entire passages such as the longer ending of Mark and the account of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. The traditional Greek text has these passages included, but they date later than the Alexandrian manuscripts and papyri that omit them. The issue with these Alexandrian texts is that they have survived solely through an accident of climate, as drying air is more conducive so document preservation. Unfortunately, this area was also a hotbed of heretical activity among people like Arius and the Gnostics. And since these portions and were found in trash piles, I find them to be untrustworthy.

But of greater importance is the attack, whether intentional or not, on the self-authentication of the canon. If we accept the critical text over the traditional text, we are de facto admitting that 1.) there are men that have veto power of the Holy Spirit when it comes to authenticating Scripture, or 2.) we really do need an ecclesiastical authority to determine the Macro and Micro canons for us. In either instance, they place either a man or an organization in judgment over Scripture. This is not acceptable.

So does that mean we go “King James Only”? Not necessarily.  What it does mean is that we should use translations of the traditional text over those of the critical text. To their credit, many critical text translations include traditional text readings, albeit in brackets or footnotes. But there are also good translations that use the traditional text that the Holy Spirit has authenticated to believers over the centuries. These would include the King James, 21st Century King James, King James-Easy to Read, the New King James, and the Modern English Version.

Bible software has also made access to multiple versions much more convenient, so you can read different translations side by side. 

But my personal conclusion is this:  If the Scriptures are self-authenticating (and they are), then I should study from translations that use the text that the Holy Spirit has witnessed to over the last 20 centuries over a critical text that depends on human wisdom and academic argument. To do otherwise is to subjugate the determination of the Micro-canon to the academic “experts” instead of the Spirit. No Thanks!

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