What is Biblical Faith?

biblical faith

Semper Fidelis: Are you as faithful to your Lord, as these men are to theirs?

Biblical faith often seems at odds with other Christian virtues such as humility. In my last post I shared some of my thoughts on the apparent conflict between intellectual humility and faith. In response Brandi Eissinger shared an excellent link which nicely defined intellectual humility as follows:

Intellectual Humility: Having a consciousness of the limits of one’s knowledge, including a sensitivity to circumstances in which one’s native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively; sensitivity to bias, prejudice and limitations of one’s viewpoint. Intellectual humility depends on recognizing that one should not claim more than one actually knows. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness. It implies the lack of intellectual pretentiousness, boastfulness, or conceit, combined with insight into the logical foundations, or lack of such foundations, of one’s beliefs.

It is my prayer that this attitude be clear in all that I write or speak, and I invite you to please call me down as soon as any other attitude is seen rising up in me. At the same time, I invite you to allow yourself exposure to some of the difficult ideas I offer here, and pray for our Lord to show His truth to you–to help you to accept, or if need be, to refute what I share.

There remains however, our problem with the popular understanding of “faith.” The meanings of words are not pins stuck in a map. They are more like nations whose borders expand and shrink with time and are occasionally prone to migration, bifurcation, or even extinction.

This link shows an animated map of Europe over the past thousand years and makes a good analogy for the way the semantic domains of words can change over time. A problem arises when this “semantic drift” affects our understanding of God’s word. This happens because we attach special significance to words in the Bible, and then fail to change our Bibles when the meaning of those words change, because of the culture we are embedded in. Continue reading

Translating Ekklesia: What is Church–Part 3

Translating ekklesia can be a puzzle.

Translating ekklesia can be a puzzle.

It turns out translating ekklesia is not as easy as it seems. In part 1 of our series we saw that the English meaning of “church” has to do with a building, even though most followers of Jesus recognize this is not what it means in the Bible. We also saw that 1st century Greeks used the word in a political context.

In part 2 we examined how ekklesia was used in the Greek Old Testament or Septuagint, quoted by Jesus and the New Testament authors. We saw that Jewish readers understood ekklesia not as an assembly of Israel upon some particular occasion, but the people of Israel as God’s people distinct from everybody else.

Since the English word “church” does not normally convey either of these ideas, our task here in part 3, is translating ekklesia into an English form that conveys the 1st century understanding. Continue reading

The Old Testament Church: What is Church–Part 2

not the old testament church

This is NOT the Old Testament Church!

We are now ready to look at the Old Testament Church. Well not exactly… We are going to look at how the word ekklesia (ἐκκλησία) was used in the Old Testament in hopes of understanding what it means in the New.

(As an aside I should point out that this is the first week I am using a new plugin which divides the post into pages or allows viewing as a single page. You can choose “next,” or “single page,” at the bottom of this page. Please let me know if it causes any problems.)

Last week we began our series on what is Church by looking at the English dictionary, and the Greek word ekklesia which the New Testament authors used, and is almost always translated as church.

We saw that the English word has little relation to the meaning of the word used in the New Testament. In fact “church” in English is derived from the transliteration of two Greek words meaning “a lord’s building!” Continue reading

What is Church, according to the Bible?–Part 1

What is Church-picture

“Church” can be confusing

What is Church? This is one of those questions to which the answer seems obvious until one starts to think seriously about the answer. Think about it… what is your answer? That building on the corner with the steeple?  The body of Christ? All believers down through the ages? The people you fellowship with? All of the above? While each of these have some measure of truth depending on the context; the English word “church” bears scant resemblance to the Greek word it represents.

My last post was considerably longer than usual and generated several suggestions that I try to keep the length of my posts to a more manageable level. Unfortunately I am trying to cover topics or points of view, which are often misunderstood or poorly represented in today’s world. As a result they deserve in-depth coverage.

A case in point is today’s topic: “What is Church?” In order to do this subject justice, and keep my readers happy, (is that possible?;-)  I am going to cover this as a multi-part series. In today’s post I am going to cover the origin of our English word, and introduce the Greek word which the New Testament uses: the word ekklesia (ἐκκλησία)

Those of you who have read my book know that the meaning of certain New Testament words seem to be obscured by transliteration as opposed to translation. Transliteration is simply rewriting a  word from one language, using the spelling and pronunciation norms of another. Some common examples of transliterated words in the New Testament are baptism, apostle, and Christ. The Greek words baptizo, apostolos, and christos mean dip, immerse or wash; ambassador or emissary; and king, respectively. As you can see, transliteration does nothing to help a reader understand the author’s intent.

The English word church does not seem to bear any resemblance to ekklesia. As a result we might take comfort in the fact that at least it does not seem to be a transliteration, but we would be wrong. As we will see shortly Continue reading

The Problem with Christ

The time has finally come to address The Problem with Christ.

Picture of The Problem with Christ

The Problem with Christ

In recent posts I have detailed a point of view which was clearly the position of the early Church. This position is often expressed in the New Testament, but is strangely absent from the teaching of most churches today. I have even alluded to the fact that modern translations consistently make choices that seem to obscure the very possibility of even seeing the position the early church held, in the Bible.

While many hold that the first followers of Jesus were in error on this point, I have found no church historians who deny that what I have presented was indeed their position. Please let me know if you can show me a source I have missed.

We have heard our third-century brother, Origen explain why the church refused to participate in politics because of its allegiance to its King Jesus. You have read how Paul expected his readers to give up their nationality to be members of Jesus’ new nation. Your have read how Jesus said the “royal power of God” was being taken away from the nation of Israel and being given to another nation. You heard in the last post: “…the rock is Peter’s confession that Jesus is the “christos,” which we now understand means king.

Whoops, I goofed! I failed to realize that while this proposition has been stated several times in the course of this blog—I have never defended the proposition, nor given you any significant reason to believe it. Now is the time to change that. For the past two years I have been working on a book to communicate this idea clearly and convincingly. That book was released as a Kindle edition about two months ago. After several revisions the print edition has just been released.

The book, The Problem with Christ; Why we don’t understand Jesus, His enemies, or the early Church, is an integral part of the ministry of this blog. While it is possible to understand the book without reading the RadicalFish blog; it will be difficult to fully understand the blog without reading the book. Continue reading

Christian Priorities on July 4th

The U.S. Flag flying over the Christian Flag

What’s wrong with this picture?
©2013 Joshua Gorton

I was prepared to kill for my God.

That was almost 40 years ago. I was raising through the ranks of the ROTC, and the Christian Karate Association preparing to fight. As I understood it, Roe Vs Wade had declared open season on the killing of the unborn. If you believed in your right to kill someone trying to rape your daughter, but were not willing to kill an abortionist to save the life of an unborn baby–you were either a hypocrite, or a coward.

That was then. Christian priorities on July 4th meant honoring a country God had blessed for honoring Him. Continue reading

An Early Christian Blogs on Christians in Politics

In my last post I introduced an idea that, no doubt, seemed alarming, and possibly heretical to a number of readers. (If you have not read it, I strongly suggest that you do so now, by clicking this link: The Enemy Within; Why Christian allegiance Matters.) In it I made the claim that being a committed follower of King Jesus in some way makes one unfit to serve in the national governments of this world. Conversely, I claim that participation in this world’s systems, almost always, requires a betrayal of our king, and subsequent loss of spiritual authority.
If you were raised thinking Christians in politics are the norm, and have never heard such things before, I know it is going to take more than a few blog posts to convince you otherwise. If for no other reason than curiosity, I hope you will continue reading cautiously, with your mind (and Bible) open, and your heart sensitive to your Lord’s leading.
I closed the last post by telling you that I would present evidence to support the fact that for the first three centuries of her existence, the view I am presenting was the norm. Even more astounding I will show you that the view commonly held by Christians in the United States today (maybe even your view), is almost identical to that of the enemies of the early church. In order to do so, I am honored to present today’s guest blogger, Origen of Alexandria (c.185 AD-.254 AD). Continue reading

Are You a Radical Fish? Part 2… Why did Rome persecute the primitive Church?

In Are You a Radical Fish? Part 1, I asked the question: why did Rome find it necessary to persecute the primitive Church? I pointed out that the Roman Empire was very diverse and accepting when it came to matters of religion, and made a habit of incorporating the faiths of conquered peoples into their own.

 We should remember that even the Jews, as long as they were not engaged in active rebellion, were granted religious freedom under the Caesars. What made the primitive Church different – what do you think? Why did Rome repeatedly, at different times and places, decide to persecute Christians – or crucify Jesus, for that matter?

 The time has come for me to share my answer…. Continue reading

Are You a Radical Fish? Part 1

For the purposes of this blog, a Radical Fish is simply someone committed to following Jesus of Nazareth, as revealed in the New Testament – no matter what the cost. We use as our model His first followers, and we recognize in them a pattern of thought and behavior that we don’t often see in the world today. Continue reading