All posts by Peter Ditzel

Christianity and Your Self-Esteem

by Peter Ditzel

Two contradictory quotes are presented. Oprah Winfrey: Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher. Apostle Paul: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4, NASB
Who would you believe?

You’ve heard the precepts: “Only make decisions that support your self-image, self-esteem, and self-worth” (Oprah Winfrey), “Of all things God created, what He is most proud of is me. I am His masterpiece, his most prized possession” (Joel Osteen, part of a self-declaration), “Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem” (Robert H. Schuller). Such thinking is becoming so commonplace that it’s influence can be found practically everywhere from popular magazine articles to public school educational objectives to the pulpits of neighborhood churches. As Christians, we need to determine whether elevating our self-esteem is a valuable part of our Christian lives or whether it is harmful. How does God want us to see ourselves?

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Q. Has God reconciled all things to Himself or is He still wrathful? John 3:36 says that the wrath of God remains on the disobedient, but Colossians 1:20 says that God has reconciled all things to Himself by Christ, “having made peace through the blood of his cross.” Can you explain this seeming contradiction?

A photo of a quizzical looking infant captioned, The wrath of God remains on the disobedient...or...through Him to reconcile all things to Himself
How can God reconcile all to Himself while remaining wrathful towards some?

A. This seeming contradiction has caused no end of controversy. How can God be wrathful toward the disobedient if He has reconciled the entire world to Himself through Christ’s atonement? Colossians 1:20 sounds like a universal atonement, but John 3:36 seems to name the disobedient as an exception to it. On top of that, the exception sounds like it is based on works—disobedience or obedience. Does this mean that obedience (works) saves people from God’s wrath and reconciles them?

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The Growing Threat of Anti-Intellectual Emotionalism, part 2

by Peter Ditzel

 

"A picture of a woman sitting praying with her Bible and overlaid with the words, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word.' John 14:23."
If we are to know Jesus, we must know what He has revealed about Himself in His Word. If we love Jesus, we will obey His command to keep His Word.

In part one, we saw that a false belief is taking hold that asserts that we can attain a relationship with Jesus through emotion at the expense of learning about Him through a study of God’s written Word. Now let’s see how such a notion leaves us with no knowledge of God and Christ and deludes us into accepting a god of our own creation as the true Creator.

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The Growing Threat of Anti-Intellectual Emotionalism, part 1

by Peter Ditzel

"Two juxtaposed memes: First meme: Devious-looking woman with pink hair saying, 'Jesus isn't someone to study. Jesus is someone to know.' Second meme: Peter Falk/Columbo holding up a finger and saying, 'Let me get this straight. I'm supposed to know Jesus without studying who He is and what He said?'"
Those who claim to know Jesus without knowing the statements by and about Him in the Bible cannot really know Him. Jesus said, “I am…the truth” (John 14:6) and “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). To know Jesus, we must know and believe what the Bible says about Him. Any assertion contrary to this is mysticism.

From the seminaries, the pulpits, electronic media, and the pages of some of Christendom’s most popular writers, the siren song of an alluring message blares forth. Its simple and seductive philosophy, carried on the air of its confident maxims, deceives much of the public into accepting it as a more palatable Christianity than the faith once delivered to the saints.

This siren song is the sound of anti-theological, anti-intellectual emotionalism. You’ve no doubt heard some of its claims: “the Spirit is what is important,” “Jesus has to be discovered through relationship,” “we must stick with the simplicity that is in Christ,” “knowledge doesn’t save us,” “head knowledge is not enough,” “don’t forget that knowledge puffs up,” and so on. All of these assertions contain some truth, and that is what makes them all the more hazardous. When we go fishing, we hope the fish will swallow what is partially real food and partially deadly hook. As believers, we must insure that we don’t get fooled by the bait. To succeed, we must exercise our senses to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). So, let’s examine some of these ideas.

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Q. If God makes sure we persevere, how can we be shipwrecked (1 Timothy 1:19) and become castaways (1 Corinthians 9:27)?

The wreck of the SS American Star (originally named the SS America) on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.
The wreck of the SS American Star (originally named the SS America) on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. Can we make shipwreck of our salvation?

A. In 1 Timothy 1:18-19, Paul wrote to Timothy, “This instruction I commit to you, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to you, that by them you may wage the good warfare; holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust away made a shipwreck concerning the faith.” How can some have thrust away their faith and good conscience to become shipwrecks at the same time that God is making sure that they persevere? Is the perseverance of the saints an unbiblical doctrine that gives us false hope?

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Are We Under the Law of Christ?

by Peter Ditzel

A montage of Lady Justice and Moses facing each other with a Cross between and behind them.
Can Christians be under both law and grace?

In 1 Corinthians 9:21, Paul writes that he is not “outside the law of God but under the law of Christ” (English Standard Version). Yet elsewhere, he writes, “For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14); and, “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). Surely, Paul was under grace and led by the Spirit, so why does he describe himself in 1 Corinthians 9:21 as “under the law?” Is it the fact that Paul is speaking of the law of Christ in 1 Corinthians 9:21 that makes the difference? Does grace take us out from under the law of Moses and put us under the law of Christ? Or, does Paul mean something else entirely?

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Lessons from the Adulteress

by Peter Ditzel

A detail from the painting, Jesus and the woman taken in adultery, 1888, oil on canvas, by Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov (1844-1927)
The scribes and Pharisees brought the adulteress to Jesus to entrap Him, but Jesus used the occasion to teach important lessons. (Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov [1844-1927] Jesus and the woman taken in adultery, 1888, oil on canvas [detail])

In chapter 8 of his Gospel, John tells us about the incident of the woman the scribes and Pharisees caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus. Most people who have read John 8 likely remember that Jesus ended His encounter with the woman by telling her that He didn’t condemn her, and, “Go your way. From now on, sin no more.” We see forgiveness, but we also see a command to stop sinning. This leaves a question: Was Jesus’ forgiveness dependent on the woman’s obedience? The answer to this question teaches us much about the relationship between grace and works.

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Fifty-one Theses for the Twenty-first Century Ekklēsia

by Peter Ditzel

Painting of Luther nailing the 95 theses, by Julius Hübner, 1878.
This 1878 painting by Julius Hübner of Luther nailing the 95 theses is narrative art. It depicts the story, showing Tetzel in the lower left receiving adoration and money from those who have purchased indulgences by enriching the pope. This is contrasted with starving people who could better use the money begging on the church steps. Luther’s disciples are on the left teaching the people and followers on the right receive his message with enthusiasm. Luther’s enemies are seen in the lower right running off to inform the pope. Of course, this is all fanciful. Luther probably hung the theses as a matter of routine to inform other scholars that he would like to discuss these points. It wasn’t until scholars realized that the theses implied a challenge to the authority of the pope that the document caused a stir.

October 31, 2017: Today marks the five-hundredth anniversary of what has come to be considered the formal beginning of the Protestant Reformation. That’s because, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther (1483–1546), then a Roman Catholic Augustinian monk and priest, nailed a notice on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He titled the notice, “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” but it became known as Luther’s 95 Theses.

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The Worship Service and the New Testament Assembly

by Peter Ditzel

A contemporary worship service with green stage lighting, music performers on stage, and people raising their hands.
Is this what meetings of the New Testament assembly are supposed to look like?

Ten to fifteen years ago, I exchanged a couple of letters with one of the elders of a small Baptist congregation in rural America. In one letter to him, I asked him some questions about a matter of their worship service. In his answer, he politely answered my question, but he prefaced his answer by saying, “In what you call a worship service….” He never explained it further, but his saying that was like a small poke that awoke something in me. I already had a question in the back of my mind about what I felt was the common overuse and abuse of the term “praise and worship service” to refer to the lengthy, contemporary Christian, music performances that were beginning to dominate so many churches. Now, I was stimulated to look into the worship service itself. How should it be conducted? What was its goal? What were its biblical origins? What I found startled me.

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