Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Is Bishop Jim Swilley Orthodox in His Theology? (repost)

Q. Do you think that your theology is “orthodox”?

A. Yes, I do!

The word orthodoxy was a word that I rarely, if ever, heard while growing up in churches within the classical Pentecostal denominations. In that tradition, the emphasis was always placed upon the power and manifestation of the Holy Spirit over and above the correctness of theology or Biblical doctrine. Orthodoxy and all that it entails became a big part of my consciousness during my Bible College years because of the theological courses that I had to take, but it didn’t really become so personally important to me until recently.

The dictionary defines orthodoxy as the quality of being orthodox (especially in religion) a belief or orientation agreeing with conventional standards. The word is from the Greek ortho ('right', 'correct') and doxa('thought', 'teaching', 'glorification'), and is typically used to refer to the correct theological or doctrinal observance of religion, as determined by some overseeing body; those beliefs which reflect the faith of the whole Church since the time of the apostles; a term used in a number of senses, of which the following are the most important: (1) Orthodoxy in the literal sense of 'right belief,' as opposed to heresy; (2) Orthodoxy in the sense of the forms of Christianity which are dominant in the East.

At the time of this writing I am currently authoring another book under the working title THE CREED: Finding a “Now” Word Within Ancient Christian Orthodoxy, and in it I will be examining the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and other historical and foundational Christian statements of faith, and their relevance to our ministry. The more research that I do, the more confirmation I receive that the message that we preach at CITN is organic, original and orthodox Christianity…the Gospel of the Kingdom. The actual, original Gospel is preached so rarely these days in the mainstream churches, that when it is presented in a simple, straightforward manner, many people who think that they are orthodox in their beliefs, actually believe that what we preach is unorthodox!

In recent years I have particularly developed a greater appreciation for the Apostles’ Creed, which is accepted by both the Roman Catholic and Protestant Church (the Greek Orthodox Church favors the nearly identical Nicene Creed) as an official confession of Christianity. In both creeds (and this is true for all the other ancient Christian creeds) there is nothing mentioned about the devil, or a “rapture”, or a “tribulation period”, or about Israel becoming a nation in 1948, or anything about hell and eternal damnation. The older Roman Catholic version of the Apostles’ Creed used to contain the phrase “He descended to hell”, but the Modern English Version uses the more Biblically accurate phrase “He descended to the dead”, because true Hebrew and Greek scholars cannot deny anymore that the Hebrew “sheol”, and the Greek “hades” should never have been interpreted as “hell”, because they simply mean the grave, or more specifically, “the unseen”.

(Modern English Version)

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
He descended to the dead.
On the third day He rose again;
He ascended to heaven,
He is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

This creed is what I believe and preach. The only revision that I would make to it would be to replace the phrase “God’s only Son” with “God’s firstborn Son” because of Romans 8:29: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the FIRSTBORN among many brothers and sisters.(TNIV)

And I would also point out that the word catholic (lower case), simply means the Church Universal, the Body of Christ. This term is not to be confused with Roman Catholicism, but is accepted by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike. Webster defines “catholic” as “broad-minded, as in belief or tastes; liberal; comprehensive; large; universal in reach; general.”

I love the Church of Jesus Christ with my whole heart, and I respect its ancient traditions. Jesus said that He would build His church, and that the gates of hades, or the unseen, could not prevail against it. In other words, death or anything from the unseen realm (including the mysterious force of religion) can not ever overpower the life-giving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, Who was crucified, buried and resurrected, and is the Head of the Church, the Lord of the Universe, and the Savior of all people, especially those who believe. So, to answer…yes, I do…and that is why I embrace true, Christian orthodoxy!


Anonymous said...

Say AMEN, somebody!!!

Anonymous said...

I remember many years ago in the earliest days of my beginning to study the scriptures which lead me to these early creeds. I ran across the word “catholic” and upon looking it up and discovering its true meaning; my heart leaped for joy! I now know that deep down inside of me even then, Gods Spirit was bearing witness with my spirit of the truth of universal reconciliation; even though I didn’t have any idea how to explain what I was feeling and thinking. I just knew something in my heart bore witness to a truth bound up in that word that was so strong and powerful that I would not forget the day I discovered it; and I haven’t. As I think back; deep down inside of me I thought in my heart – in the very first beginning of the germination of the seed of the true gospel in my heart (before the tares were planted) - that our wonderful awesome loving God would somehow bring us all home to Him. I did not; at that time know anything of the gospel of universal reconciliation. I just knew what I felt in my heart when I read the meaning of that word. And this one word was hope that the early church believed it too. Whatever this mysterious, wonderful feeling of complete trust in the “universal” ability of our awesome, loving God was; it was good and it was for all. But I kept these things to myself and to my quiet times with the Lord.

Am I saying that I believed in universal reconciliation back then? No, but almost. I didn’t even know that such a doctrine existed. But I couldn’t help but believe there was more, much more than I or anyone I knew was seeing yet. And I was determined to find out what it was; and so here I am.

It is amazing to look back and see how the Lord was gently leading me through season after season; from the beginning of my walk with Him until now leading me to this ultimate overwhelming truth and the authentication of His omniscient sovereignty in His plan of the ages for the good work of perfecting salvation in the whole of mankind. Through the complete and universal triumph and victory of the Lord Jesus Christ through His suffering, death, and glorious resurrection working in us and through us all - the perfecting of His creation – in which God will ultimately and finally be all in all.

“there is nothing mentioned about the devil, or a “rapture”, or a “tribulation period”, or about Israel becoming a nation in 1948, or anything about hell and eternal damnation.” . Isn’t it odd that now these are the very things that have overtaken the minds and hearts of the very ones that claim to follow Christ as the early churches did. Then making these subjects foundational in there doctrinal statements. While these topics are mysteriously missing from the early churches foundational beliefs and creeds. What’s wrong with that picture?

What I believe is “Orthodox” or the “right belief” is that God is big enough, powerful enough, and knowledgeable enough to finish what He started in Genesis and completed by/in/with revelation; without anything ever getting out of His control, or losing a single soul.

God is all powerful, all knowing, all present, sovereign over all, and all loving;
for God is Love. God is altogether righteous and He is not a respecter of
persons. His judgments are always for our good. He is the Giver of all Grace,
His mercy never will end. God will have All come to a knowledge of the
truth and be saved; 1Tim.2:4 when every knee will bow and every
tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; to the Glory of God the Father
Isa. 45:23, Rom. 14:11, Phip. 2:10-11 . All good things come from Him and
even the bad are not out of His control. God does not keep His anger forever,
loves even His enemies, and will overcome all evil with good. Even His
correction is in His red-hot love and passion for our perfection in becoming like
Jesus; who is the perfect representation of His nature and ways. God is always
good to all, He never changes or makes a mistake, or is out-witted or
overpowered by anyone or anything. God never loses. God knows the
beginning to the end and He works ALL things out in accordance with his will,
desire, pleasure, plan and purpose. And in this working out of His plan; God is
good to all; all the time. We can just trust Him for all of each day's needs and
concerns, and put them in His great, awesome loving hands, His "Power
through grace" is sufficient for our weakness, sickness, sin and needs which
are all turned into blessings. Jesus took all that on himself and overcame it all
for us All, and now is working in us and through us All, this way that we shall all
overcome; through sharing in His victory over sin, the flesh, the devil, and
death. Jesus Christ is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the
world Jhn.1:29. As He works out his salvation in each of us; everyone in their
own order. Praise God The Father in Christ Jesus The Son by The Holy Spirit,
it is so, Amen!"

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Thanks for clearing up some things for me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clearing up some things for me.