Friday, May 27, 2011

New Location

I have several friends from church and school using WordPress and quite frankly, I think it looks better. Therefore, I am moving my blog to, easy enough! I will be updating the look and feel of the blog probably as I become more familiar with the blog, so don't be surprised by changes.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Few Reflections on 1 Timothy 1:3

It is easy to see that I have not been blogging lately. I just recently finished my spring semester which took up the bulk of my time. Moreover, I have one more class for one week starting next week that I have been preparing for. After I am finished with that class, I will be able to resume blogging a little more and will pick up Rob Bell's Love Wins again. In the meantime, I have been reading Evangelicals Engaging Emergent: A Discussion of the Emergent Church Movement. I have to review this book for class so I will eventually post my review. The review will be in the format required by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as it is for a class, so I will be limited to what I can say in it, but hopefully it will be worth posting.

Reading this book, however, along with Love Wins and other material from Emergents, I have been thinking more about the issues which divide Emergents and Evangelicals (recognize here that I am aware that some Emergents desire to retain the label, 'evangelical', while others shun labels altogether). I shall not here delve into the issues, but as I have also been reading 1 Timothy in preparation for an exegesis class on the Pastoral Epistles towards the end of the summer, I do want to make some comments concerning verse three which came about through my reflections on the text and thinking about the Emergent Church, postmodernism, relativism, pluralism, and other -isms which may or may not be linked to one another.

In 1 Timothy 1:3, Paul writes, "As I commanded you when I was entering Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you might command certain people not to teach false doctrine (translation mine)." I want to note three things regarding this passage. First, what the apostle Paul's instruction was to Timothy, especially with reference to the manner which the instruction was given. Second, the purpose of the instruction and the manner in which it was to be carried out. Finally, the implication concerning the word, "eÔterodidaskaleiæn", meaning, to teach a different doctrine.

To begin, it is obvious from the text that Paul's instruction for Timothy was for him to "remain in Ephesus." Paul was going into Macedonia, likely, as was his custom, to preach the gospel and strengthen the churches. It will be seen v. 3c that false teachers had infiltrated the church at Ephesus. This came as no surprise to Paul, for he had warned the Ephesians that 'fierce wolves' would come in among them, not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29). Moreover, men from within would rise up and begin to teach "twisted things" in order to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:30). Though this was no surprise, Paul did not take this lightly. He "commanded" or "charged" Timothy to remain in Ephesus. Timothy was a "man of God" (1 Tim 6:11) who had known the Scriptures from his youth (2 Tim 3:15). He was fully competent to handle the Scriptures correctly and obey his beloved apostle's command. What is clear from Paul's language is that this was not optional. Paul was not suggesting a route which might be best for the church. He was not giving counsel to Timothy and allowing him to judge based upon Paul's suggestion and what he saw occurring in Ephesus. No, Paul, with the seriousness of a shepherd concerned for the safety of his flock, charges Timothy, "Timothy, there is a problem, and you are able to handle it. Remain in Ephesus."

Why was Timothy told to remain in Ephesus? Indeed, for a specific purpose. Timothy was ordered to remain for this purpose: "Command certain people not to teach false doctrine." A poison had infiltrated, its name: heterodoxy. There was a standard of teaching which was to be upheld, an apostolic standard. There was a gospel to be proclaimed and a gospel to be defended. This teaching had boundaries. There were things that were another teaching (heterodoxy), and things that were "ojrqotomi√a", (orthodoxy). Indeed, that which was a "different doctrine" was no trivial thing. Paul commanded Timothy to "command" these false teachers to stop teaching their doctrines. There is no hint of "dialogue" or "conversation" here. Timothy knows what apostolic teaching is. He knows what the Scriptures teach. Paul knows that Timothy knows these things, and based upon the certainty of the Scriptures, and their doctrines concerning the gospel, Timothy is ordered in all seriousness to fulfill the mandate: "Command these people to stop." What is interesting, and perhaps a lesson that needs to be learned by the modern church that is so afraid of being labeled as "fundamentalists" or "backwards anti-intellectuals," is that the apostles did not tolerate false doctrine in the least. They did not want to hear it themselves, nor did they want the church to hear it. Indeed, not only do we see Paul, with all solemnity, commanding that this heterodoxy be silenced, but the apostle John, speaking about those who were teaching false doctrines, commanded "the elect lady and her children" (2 Jn 1) not to receive these teachers into their homes or even to give them a greeting (2 Jn 10). There is, like it or not, a certain "intolerance" for false doctrine that the church is to exercise, and this intolerance will inevitably lead to false accusations, slander, and reviling from the world. But the churches mandate is to serve her King, remaining faithful to him, preserving the standard of teaching "once for all delivered". He is the one for whom she is to persevere. The churches service to the world is to be grounded upon the truth which is in Jesus. Her love for neighbor is always in response to her love for God, and true love "rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor 13:6).

This leads me into my final, and brief, reflection. What indeed is implied by there being "eÔterodidaskaloV" (another/different/false doctrine)? Is it not that there is true doctrine? If indeed there is teaching which is contrary to the standard, then there is indeed a right standard. There is a teaching which is clear. Clear certainly does not mean easy, but it is nevertheless clear. This argument that I have been seeing a lot lately, "Well, that is your interpretation," or, "That is just what your tradition believes," do the Christians arguing like this not realize that this is how the unbelieving world objects to Christianity? Is the gospel really so subject to personal biases? Does the fact that there are indeed many "traditions" and "different doctrines" or "interpretations" thereby negate ones ability to be able to interpret and understand truth with a certainty which allows them to proclaim the gospel with a proper dogmatism? I can only imagine how the apostle John or one of his disciples hearing such absurdity would respond. I am sure that if a person came to the apostle John and said, "You do realize that there are many forms of Judaism that read the Law differently than you," that John probably would have responded, "Yes, indeed, and they are wrong." Or perhaps one might have approached Irenaeus and said, "You do realize that there are many Gnostics out there who have very plausible arguments for their interpretations." I am sure, knowing Irenaeus' fondness for the Gnostics, that he might have responded, "Yes, indeed, and they are heretics."

What is clear from 1 Timothy 1:3 is that Paul believes that there are two sides of the coin, and that is it. There is truth and there is falsehood. There are children of God and children of wrath. There are dead men and living men. There are faithful teachers and false teachers. Our duty is not necessarily to go heretic hunting, but at the least, we are to recognize that there is poison and living water, doctrine clearly set forth in Scripture, and doctrine clearly derived from men's own imaginations. May we be discerning Christians, always prepared to speak with clarity to a confused world, watching that we may not enter into temptation and forsake the Lord, praying that we might glorify Christ through being ambassadors who are competent in his word, and doing these things all with the multifaceted love of Christ, uniting truth with compassion, and patience with all seriousness.