What? Me, a priest?!

Note: this is the abridged verion of a talk I gave at Seminario ESEPA, on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. To download the entire article with footnotes, go HERE or download the pdf here: Shogren_The Priesthood of All Believers in the Reformation En español: Shogren_El sacerdocio de todos los creyentes

We are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, when believers came to reject certain tenets of the Roman church and attempted to restore biblical doctrine. And everyone remembers that doctrinal superstar, the final authority of the Scriptures; also, the famous justification by faith alone. But according to many experts in the field, the third principle, there would have been no Reformation. This is the doctrine of the universal priesthood of all believers; that because we are united with Christ, and anointed by the Spirit, then each and every Christian is a priest (more…)

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Published in: on October 27, 2017 at 1:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Priesthood of All Believers in the Reformation

To download the entire article with footnotes, click here: Shogren_The Priesthood of All Believers in the Reformation En español: Shogren_El sacerdocio de todos los creyentes

Introduction
1. The Catholic Doctrine
2. The Reformation and Beyond: Luther, Calvin, the Anabaptists, the Wesleyans
3. Modern Abuses of the Doctrine: Anti-Intellectualism, the “Super-Anointed” Leader, Hyper-Individualism
Conclusion

Introduction

Some years back three opera singers formed a trio, and took the name “The Three Tenors.” With their recordings and concerts, they became a megahit and came to be even more famous. Ah yes, the people said: The Three Tenors! The magnificent Luciano Pavarotti! The incomparable Plácido Domingo! And the third guy. Yes, what was his name? (Ah, yes! The unforgettable José Carreras!)

We are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, when believers came to reject certain tenets of the Roman church and attempted to restore biblical doctrine. And everyone remembers that doctrinal superstar, the final authority of the Scriptures; also, the famous justification by faith alone. But according to many experts in the field, without the “third tenor,” the third principle, there would have been no Reformation. This is the doctrine of the universal priesthood of all believers; that is, that Christ is the one and only high priest, and that because we are united with Christ, and anointed by the Spirit, then each and every Christian is a priest.

Its biblical basis, among other texts, is:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (1 Pet 2:9, the NIV here and elsewhere in this paper). This is lifted textually from the promise made to Israel in Exodus 19:6 LXX – “you will be for me a kingdom of priests.”

[Christ] has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father (Rev 1:6).[i]

Theology Puzzle: Circle the priest in this photo. It’s fun!

Interestingly enough, the Protestant and the Catholic both are in agreement with respect to the importance of the doctrine, since priesthood is not a peripheral doctrine or secondary; it is one vital component of how we understand salvation itself.

1. The Catholic Doctrine

The Roman doctrine is that, of course, there is only one high priest, Christ, after the order of Melchizedek. Therefore, the ecclesiastical priesthood cannot be said to be a separate entity, but rather a participation by the ordained in the one true priest in heaven. The technical term is that the Catholic priests act in persona Christi, that is, “in the person of Christ.” (more…)

Published in: on October 22, 2017 at 10:50 am  Comments (5)  
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Lady Apostle Lands in Jail!

If I asked you “Who were the martyrs of the early church?” you would, quite properly, begin with Stephen in Acts 7; James in Acts 12; and then go on to Peter and Paul.

“Brave, godly men were early martyrs” = a right answer

But not a complete answer.

Why not? Because we all, simply by being human, look at history through our own set of lenses. Because of such “cognitive bias,” the data that confirm our expectations stand out in bold print, and the data that don’t fit into our grid fade into the background. To answer our question, may I suggest that:

“Brave, godly men and women were the early martyrs of the church” = a better answer

Christian women were singled out for persecution in a way that their Jewish and Gentile contemporaries were not.

lady-martyr

Let us first honor those Jewish women who were victims of (more…)

Does John 4:22 say that salvation is just for Jews?

[Note – this is a very live topic in Latin America, and I wrote this for the church there. I also offer it for the English-speaking church].

Every time I write that salvation is for all who believe the gospel; that Gentile believers are not obligated to be circumcised or observe the 613 laws of the Torah; or that we can keep our Gentile names (as Paul, Luke, Silvanus, and so many others did in the early church); or any number of other basic truths of the gospel, someone, inevitably, writes in and says:

But wait! Salvation is of the Jews! It says so in John 4:22!

These people rarely specify what they think this verse means, or proves, or whether it indicates that Gentiles cannot be saved. It seems to be used more as a mantra than as a clear statement of intent.

What do my readers think that Juan 4:22 really means, and why don’t they say so openly and clearly? Why speak indirectly, as does this website: [1]

“Salvation is from the Jews”. As you can observe, salvation does not come from Catholicism, nor does it come from evangelical Christian churches, neither through the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and much less does it come through Muslims, Adventists, or Mormons. The Messiah Himself, Yahshua [sic] [2], tells us that Salvation comes through the Jews.

The author implies that you cannot be saved in the Roman Church, nor in the evangelical churches, but only through…what? Converting to Judaism? In another place they urge Gentiles to return to their “Jewish roots”. It’s all very vague. By the way, I don’t believe that anyone is saved by going to meetings of the Catholics, evangelicals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Adventists, Mormons, nor of Messianic groups.

And note that he switches the terms around: Jesus said that salvation comes from the Jews, but it gets changed somehow to “through” the Jews.

I will suggest that those who say that “salvation is only for the Jews” or “only for those who submit to the messianic rabbis of today” misinterpret the meaning of John 4:22; neglect its historical and theological background in Second Temple Judaism; and also are not informed with regard to the actual teachings of rabbinic Judaism for the past 2000 years.

   1. Many Messianic teachers of today misunderstand John 4:22

The flow of John 4:22

Readers of my blog will know me, but I will also add that I serve as a consultant for an organization that translates the Bible into the world’s languages, and that the gospel of John is one of our current projects; that I have taught the gospel of John for many years, based on my own research; that I teach among other topics Second Temple Judaism on the graduate level. Therefore I provide my own translation of the passage in question. I also wish to point out that I am looking at John 4 in the original language – not in some faked “Hebrew” original that everyone talks about – but which no-one seems able to show us – but the real Bible text as represented in the earliest available manuscripts. [3]

Aerial view - the ruins of the Gerizim temple

Aerial view – the ruins of the Gerizim temple, the “mountain” where the Samaritans worshiped

Why don’t we begin at the beginning, and study precisely what the Messiah told the Samaritan woman? (more…)

The Subnormal Christian Life

So: two kinds of Christian.

The normal – “normal” according to God’s definition, that is – walks in the Spirit, and through His transforming power enjoys a life of miraculous love, joy, peace, and all the rest.

The subnormal – the person who lives by his or her own strength (or as Paul would say it, “in the flesh”). These people might quote Scripture, urge us to holiness, look faithful. They might know some theology terms and Greek words and be highly-educated. They might even be in Christian service. But they cannot attain the normal Christian walk: some live in “traditional” carnality; others in frustration and defeat; or perhaps legalism; or following “principles of success” offered by the world; or devouring self-help manuals; that is, they stumble along in any life pattern that is natural, not supernatural.

So: the Christian life without the miraculous transformation by the Spirit is…what?

Is it driving a car that’s low on gas? No.

A car running on fumes? Nope, keep reading!

A car out of gas, then? Uh-uh, keep going!

It’s a car, better a thing, without gas. Also without motor, drivetrain, radiator, brakes, headlights, mirrors, dashboard, wheels; really devoid of anything that might get you where you need to go.

This sort of person, who doesn’t know the all-consuming permeation and transfiguration of the promised Holy Spirit, is just sitting in a cardboard box of his own choosing and going, “Vroom, Vroom!”

He doesn’t draw an inch closer to God; in fact, he drifts or even accelerates in the opposite direction.

"Lookit me! Vroom, vroom!"

“Lookit me go! Vroom, vroom!”

Gal 5:17 says – “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” – or really, any version of religious do-it-yourself-ism.

Let’s do the Christian life, in Christ’s way.

[The reader might also enjoy a short book of mine in pdf form – How to Live the Christian Life – in the right-hand column look under “Several of my books, free and without obligation”.]

“The Subnormal Christian Life,” by Gary S. Shogren, PhD, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

FREE BOOK FOR CHRISTMAS!

As a Christmas gift this year, I have bundled together some of my blog posts that have to deal with “How to Life the Christian Life: throw out the old rules and play by the New Covenant.” Over a hundred of you have downloaded it already – enjoy!

Simply click here: How to live the Christian Life_Shogren

I ask only that you consider signing up for my blog on the right-hand column. Either way, the gift is without obligation, and I will not use your email or name in any way.

Gary Shogren, Christmas 2014

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New Year’s Resolutions or New Covenant Miracles? [Studies in the New Covenant]

"Okay, this time for sure!"

“Okay, this time for sure!”

For many years, I made no New Year’s resolutions. My reasoning:

  • Why make a big deal just because the planet has revolved around the sun to an arbitrary point in space?
  • Why try to be a better persons on this one day when I should be doing it all the time?
  • Are resolutions relevant to me, since I don’t need to quit smoking, drinking or gambling?

I’ve come to think differently, having taken another look at the Bible and paid closer attention to human behavior. For the past 5 years or so, I have made a single New Year’s Resolution on December 31.

The Word reveals to us that there are two methods for making resolutions (more…)

My four decades in the Bible – Part II

Please read Part I before starting Part II; click HERE

Chapter Three – My Sojourn in Pentecostalism

Until I turned 14, the only charismatic person I knew anything about was JFK. Since then I have been charismatic (one year, give or take); then post-charismatic; anti-charismatic; teacher of charismatics; bridge-builder with charismatics; regular spokesman against neo-Pentecostals and Word of Faith teaching; author who promotes the Spirit’s work, sometimes against anti-Pentecostals – see my essays in the collection Strangers to Fire: When Traditional Trumps Scripture (2014).

If you haven’t read Part I of my testimony, it might interest you to read Chapter One – I react against false teaching. While I was working through the life-and-death question of what it takes to be saved, in tandem for some months I was figuring out what it meant to be a charismatic believer. I am the only person I’ve ever met who was a practicing Adventist and a practicing charismatic at the same time; now Wikipedia tells me that there are thousands of people who have managed to combine the two.

After supper on September 15, 1972, it was warm enough to go to the local swimming hole for a dip. When I got back, I saw that someone had lent my mother a copy of Dennis Bennett’s The Holy Spirit and You: a guide to the Spirit filled life. This was the 70s, and the charismatic movement had been moving outward from the Pentecostal churches and the Assemblies of God; people in many denominations began to pursue a more direct experience with the Spirit.

Days later and the news began to circulate around the Baptist church that “Gary got baptized in the Spirit!” My pastor said that I should read 1 Cor 12-14, a passage I devoured as being relevant to my life today. A few people from our church went to a Thursday night prayer meeting in a school across town, and they offered to take me. For about an hour and a half we would have choruses, Bible readings, and at some meetings someone would speak in tongues or give a “message” to the group. I learned later that it was a group of mainline charismatics, and in fact the Rocky Hill School was an Episcopalian prep school (the headmaster attended, as did his wife, who was one of the real-life Von Trapp daughters).  So, no jumping around, no shouting or confusion, just a quiet and orderly time of worship. When someone spoke in tongues, they waited for someone to interpret.

My pocket Testament went where I went

It was there that someone gave me a pocket New Testament, which was a constant companion – I wore out a couple, and still have my last copy. (more…)

Rediscovering God in the Age of Therapy, Part II

II. COUNSELORS AND THE LANGUAGE OF HEALING

We will now turn our attention to the second question: how do our contemporary counselors use healing nomenclature? The answer is not a simple one, but a survey of two influential “disease” models may help us to find the roots of the therapeutic culture. We begin with the classic formulation of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In the 1930’s, Dr. William D. Silkworth (regarded as one of the ideological co-founders of A. A.) contributed the medical model of alcoholism to the emerging movement: certain individuals are physically/psychologically unable to handle even moderate alcohol use. The alcoholic has a disease of the mind and body – a mind obsessed with alcohol and with taking the first drink, and a body that cannot handle any alcohol without a severe reaction that triggers further compulsive drinking. Alcoholics manifest their disease on three levels: spiritually they are estranged from their Creator through self-centeredness, emotionally they are cut off from human society, and physically they suffer brain damage and ill health. In traditional A. A. teaching, the alcoholic may be out of control, but he is accountable before God and responsible to pursue recovery. While never healed of his alcoholism, he is restored to wellness, one day at a time, through surrender to a Higher Power. [8]

Who, then, is sick? A. A. preaches that a substantial minority of the population has the disease of alcoholism, and that it entails defiance against God. The disease is not universal, nor is it coterminous with what theologians call “depravity.” (more…)

Rediscovering God in the Age of Therapy, Part I

This article was originally published as “Recovering God in the Age of Therapy” by Gary Steven Shogren, in Journal of Biblical Counseling 12, No. 1 (Fall 1993): 14-19.

Note: I wrote this as a lecture in 1992, to comment upon Christian literature of the 80s-90s. I have not attempted to update the examples, since they have retained most of their relevance after nearly decades.

To get a quick scan of our civilization, look no further than the nearest mall bookstore. Naturally, it will carry the standards – Bibles, dictionaries, paperback classics, Cliff Notes. But since its manager has stocked it full of the ideas that consumers are buying this season, it serves as a handy display panel for the collective mind. Without doubt you will notice that merchandise is moving briskly from “Psychology/Self-Help”; a glance at the titles will reveal what’s selling:

Peace, Love & Healing – Bodymind communication and the path to self-healing: an exploration

Forgive & Forget: Healing the hurts we don’t deserve

Healing the Shame that Binds You

People of the Lie: the hope for human healing evil

May it also be said that Christian bookstores are the mirrors of our subculture? Run through the titles on whatever shelf corresponds to Self-Help and try to get a feel for what Christians want to hear:

Healing for Damaged Emotions (text and workbook)

Changes that Heal – How to Understand your past to ensure a healthier future

Restoring the Christian Soul through Healing Prayer

Faith that Hurts – Faith that Heals, and so forth; all by evangelical authors, put out by Christian publishers.

Is it a fluke, or do we really yearn for the same higher good – for want of a better term, Inner Healing – as the world at large? We dig deeper, and the likelihood of mere coincidence fades away.

Not only do the covers sound remarkably similar, but the contents read alike. At times the same title (in my case, Forgive & Forget) is found in both stores. And if you are surprised to find “secular” books on a religious bookseller’s Psychology shelf, then you may be even more puzzled to find books from evangelical publishers in the shopping mall. (more…)