The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Friday, January 4, 2013

Braveheart and the Cross

By: Andrew M. Gilhooley

At least once a year, I make an effort to take three hours out of my day to watch Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. Every time I view this film, it is as if I am brought from within the walls of my house to the very highlands of Scotland and behold the country’s serene beauty; or to the gory battlefield at Stirling and learn the art of courage; or even to the castle at Edinburgh and sit in the midst of the Scottish nobles. While it is certain that there are many ahistorical scenes in Braveheart (e.g. William Wallace’s affair with Princess Isabella, Robert Bruce’s betrayal at Falkirk, etc.), the movie is still nonetheless superb.

While the film in its entirety is stirring, the battle scenes continue to impact me the most. Whether it is the uprising of the villagers in Lanark or the battles at Stirling and Falkirk, Mel Gibson phenomenally portrays the horrors of medieval warfare by means of close graphic shots of hand-to-hand combat. These scenes can often be emotional, as viewers receive a taste of such ancient forms of horrific combat. If one dwells upon these scenes in length, it is near impossible for them to walk away from the movie unscathed.

Sometimes such wars are a necessity, and let it be known that Scotland had a just cause to rise up against the English who had unjustly invaded and occupied their lands. Such a right, however, does not change the horrors and brutality of war, which in part is pictured in Braveheart. Men made in the image of God are still killing and mutilating other men made in the image of God in horrific ways, even though it may be for a just cause. Every time I watch this film, I cheer on the Scots as they fight justly for the sovereignty of their occupied lands, but my heart is also broken as it is a token of the reality of the history of humanity. Not only is the history of Scotland and England defined by wars, but the history of the world as well, both past and present, is defined by the wars waged by the nations.

This warring of nations is a result of the Fall, but more so it is a consequence of God’s judgment at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). It was there that God confused man’s common language and dispersed them throughout the world into ethnical pockets. As a corollary of God’s judgment at Babel, distinct nations were formed; and from that time onward nations have been in conflict with other nations and have been waging war on one another, for just and unjust causes alike. The centuries of conflict and wars between Scotland and England is one example of such enmity which exists universally among the nations.

While God’s judgment at the Tower of Babel divided nations resulting in wars, the Cross of Christ unites the nations resulting in peace. Through the vicarious death of Jesus Christ and by the power of Holy Spirit, the enmity which exists between nations and ethnicities is destroyed. The Apostle Paul writes concerning this to the Galatians,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. – Galatians 3:28-29

While in this world we are physically identified with our ethnic ancestors, if we belong to Christ then we are spiritually identified as Abraham’s descendants (Gal 3). Whether you are Scottish, English, African, or Asian, if you believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ then you are sons of Abraham and true-latter day Israelites. For the elect Scotsmen there is now no longer enmity between his neighboring elect Englishmen, for in Christ they are brothers. Through Christ the warring nations are able to be reconciled.

As I cheer for the Scots while watching Braveheart, I also continuously look forward eschatologically to that day when the nations shall wage war no more. I look forward to that day when Christ returns and renders judgment and consummates His eternal kingdom and annihilates his enemies and puts an end to the warring of nations. I look forward to that day when nations will no longer rise up against nations, but live in peace in the unbridled presence of our triune God. I look forward to the new heavens and earth, where instead of death, pain, enmity, and war, there will be life, healing, unity, and peace. Babel brought forth enmity and war but the Cross brings forth unity and peace.

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. – Revelation 22:1-2

--Andrew M. Gilhooley is currently a sophomore at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida. Among his hobbies are fishing, archery, playing piano, writing, and reading classic literature. Upon graduation, Andrew plans to attend graduate school and possibly enter into Bible translation ministry.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Unity in Doctrine and Love

By: Nathan Fox

Introduction to the Book and the City

As promised in my previous blog post, I have begun a personal study series into the book of Colossians and have thus decided to write for the next few weeks on little lessons that God is teaching me from the book. Before I dive into today’s blog content, I feel it very important that we have a somewhat firm knowledge of the background behind this Pauline epistle. Naturally, we would assume that this book was written to the people of Colosse, and we would be correct. Knowing this, there are several interesting characteristics to note about the city of Colosse.

First of all, Colosse was a very influential city, and likewise was influenced by other cities. We know this because of some of the content from Paul in this letter. Several times Paul warns the people of Colosse to hold firm to true doctrine, and to not be swayed by false teachings such as Gnosticism (of which we will cover in greater detail in future blogs). Secondly, this city was an important city for wealth and commerce in its prime days. Many people came through the city using an established trade route, allowing us to believe that it indeed was a very influential city during the time that Paul wrote this epistle. Lastly, and perhaps most pertinent to this blog, Paul seems to have never visited the city, and so did not found the church there in Colosse. Looking at chapter 2 and verse 1 we will see that Paul’s face was foreign to the people at Colosse, and that he had not had any previous face-to-face engagements with them. This to me is a very telling attribute of Paul that he would write with such love and Christian unity to a people he had never met. It is also the teaching point that I wish to focus on today.

Paul’s Desire for Unity and Love 

I want us to take note of verse 2 in chapter 1. It is an introductory verse to be sure, but it also carries with it the people to whom Paul is writing (and thus gives us an idea of what he is seeking to write about). Paul declares that this epistle is to “the saints and faithful brethren in Christ.” Take a note that Paul is writing to believers who have remained faithful to the teachings on the person and work of Jesus. Once again, we will cover the false teachings that surrounded the Colossian church in a later blog, but we must note that there was enormous outside pressure on the believers to believe false doctrine. But Paul encourages them in this verse by calling them faithful! They are united in doctrine with Paul, and for that he calls them brothers! They not only believed on Jesus, but have not strayed from the foundational Christian teachings, and in turn have expressed unity with Paul. 

But Paul doesn’t stop there with his idea of unity in this church. He goes on verse 3 of the same chapter to say this: “We (Paul and Timothy) give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints.” Can you see the unity expressed in these verses? Paul is not only united in belief with the brethren of Colosse, but is united in prayer for them! Paul takes the time out of his day to pray for these people because he knows 1) they will need it with the outside pressure that they face and 2) because they are his brothers in Christ and to pray for them strengthens the unity in the church. In a few verses, Paul has expressed his love and passion for these people because of their unity in belief (verse 2) and their unity in action (end of verse 4). Upon reading these few verses, it becomes very clear that Paul wrote to encourage these people to stay steadfast in their faith, and to remain united to each other through love and sound doctrine. These first verses in chapter 1 honestly lay a deep foundation for the rest of the book, and subsequently lay a foundation for the rest of this blog study.

What to Take Away from This

There are a few points I wish for each of us to take away from this book, and I believe I have highlighted them by using these first few verses from the epistle to the Colossians.

  1. Be United in Doctrine- It is easy to be swayed by false doctrine that tickles our ears and pleases us to hear. However, if it is not Biblical and strays in theology, then it is to be avoided at all costs! Do not stray from the teachings on the work and person of Jesus Christ! Do not stray on the teachings on the depraved state of man! Do not stray from the teachings that God is sovereign and has created everything according to His plan! Though these are just a few of the foundational teachings of Christianity, these are oh so important and must be adhered to. Do not stray from the Bible!

  1. Be United in Prayer- Take time to pray for churches across this world. Not only have many churches strayed into heretical teaching, but many churches are falling apart because of a lack of love for each other and the outside community. It pains my heart to see Christians lack love for the lost. It pains me to see Christians fight about trivial matters. It pains me to see pastors and elders do all the work of the church as so many sit around and do nothing. Pray for the churches that need revival! Pray for the pastors that are weary! Lift each other up in prayer, and know that in doing so you are establishing unity through your words to God.

  1. Be United in Action- This is a simple request: love each other enough to display it through action. If you take the time to pray for each other, then naturally you will have gained a heart of love for your brother or sister in Christ. Reach out to the brothers who are hurting, and trust me there are plenty who are in pain. Take time to love each other through more than just prayer, but to love through action as well. The church needs to be united through action to both each other and to the lost, and I hope this tidbit of encouragement will inspire us to get off of our hands and to extend our hands to those who need our help. Be the hands of feet of Jesus, and watch as the church becomes united through authentic love in Jesus’ name.

If you need some clarification on the doctrine of the Christian faith, do not hesitate to ask. It is my goal to reach people through this blog (why else would I write it?), and by asking questions about the Christian faith God will grant me the opportunity to extend to you the love that can only be found in Jesus. If you need prayer, shoot me a private message and I will take the time to pray for you as often as you ask for it. I want to lift you up in prayer in whatever way that I can. Lastly, if you would like to become more involved in ministry and want to display love and unity through action, shoot me a message and I will give a list of great organizations that you can become involved in. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Catholic Scandal and Canon Law

In 1997, a group of Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland drafted a study document, outlining ways to deal with the sexual child abuse crisis which was becoming endemic in the Church. Under the new rules these bishops maintained that there would be mandatory reporting of offending priests and instant removal of the positions of those behind the abuse. The Vatican shut these bishops' reforms downThe letter the Vatican sent in response (linked to in orange) read, "In particular, the situation of 'mandatory reporting' gives rise to serious reservations of... a canonical nature."[1] To make it more clear, the letter raised "particular" concern about mandatory reporting because of issues with canon law.

According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, canon law is "the body of laws made or adopted by [the Roman Catholic Church] for the government of... its members."[2] Also, "The ultimate source of canon law is God". This law is a codified version of their Tradition, which the official Catechism of the Catholic Church states “must be accepted and honored with equal devotion and reverence" alongside the Bible.[3] In the same way that Persian kings could not go back on their decrees -even bad ones- canon law can only be reinterpreted or added to, but the Roman Church can never repeal its own canonical decrees. This means that in situations such as the known sexual molestation of children by priests, the Church is bound by its own law even if that law protects predators and places thousands of innocent children in real danger.

In Jesus' time, there was a Jewish denomination known as Pharisaism which believed pretty much the same thing about Tradition as the Roman church believes today: besides Scripture, there was also a code of equally authoritative traditions handed down from Moses and his 70 elders through an unbroken chain of leaders up until their own day. (This set of traditions is referred to as the oral law; see The Jewish Encyclopedia for more information.)[4] Jesus thought these laws were ridiculous and offensive. In Mark 7.1-13 HCSB He blasted their great Tradition as mere "commandments of men" (Mark 7.7-8) and said "you revoke God's word by your tradition that you have handed down" (Mark 7.13). In Protestant terms, Jesus was arguing for sola scriptura - the idea that the Bible alone had divine authority over God's people. Any other traditions or laws, no matter how old they were, did not have that kind of authority in Jesus' view.

In The Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus once warned that "whoever causes [children] to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matthew 18.6 NASB). Jesus of Nazareth -God become flesh- was very protective of children. And yet, the Roman Church has gone out of its way not to cast out those who cause children to stumble, and has instead protected priests instead of their victims - for reasons of canon law, by their own admission: "In particular, the situation of 'mandatory reporting' gives rise to serious reservations of... a canonical nature." Whatever the particular law was which stood behind this letter from Rome to the bishops of Ireland, it (1) protected child abusers from being reported to the authorities, despite Jesus' words about causing children harm; (2) it protected priests against removal from their positions, despite the fact that the Bible demands that Christian leaders be "above reproach" and "self-controlled" (1 Timothy 3).[5] On both counts, this letter is proof that canon law sometimes goes against the Bible, and that the Roman Church has been guilty of revoking God's word by their tradition that they have handed down.

As reports of Roman Catholic abuse continue to pour in from all corners of the world, including this instance reported in Canada's The National Post just this past week, we need to continue to pray for the victims of abuse and for those parents who have lost their children's innocence to the cumulative failures of the Church of Rome's tradition, which have all culminated in an undeniably widespread sexual abuse scandal within that denomination. At the same time, let's re-affirm our commitment to sola scriptura, to the authority of Bible alone. Our interpretations of Scripture and our understanding of what's best should never be so inflexible that we find ourselves with our own version of canon law, where we have become unable or unwilling to change when new circumstances or information demand that we do.

To sum up: (1) Jesus taught that God's people should follow the Bible alone, and verbally blasted the oral law/traditions of the Pharisees; (2) the Church of Rome's view of tradition  is similar to that of the Pharisees; (3) The Roman Church's traditions were -by their own admission- the source of their failure to discipline abusive priests and report them to the local authorities; (4) the Church of Rome's tradition does not always work with the Bible; (5) Protestants are different from Roman Catholics partly because they hold to the Bible alone, and do not hold any other tradition to be equal with the Bible.

Viva la reformacion,
-Sean Rice


[1] A follow-up article in The New York Times reported that "Jeffrey S. Lena, a lawyer for the Vatican, said in a statement... 'In stark contrast to news reports, the letter nowhere instructed Irish bishops to disregard civil law reporting requirements'" (The New York Times, "Vatican Letter Warned Bishops on Abuse Policy", published 18/01/2011, accessed 28/12/2012). Since the letter specifically objected to, "in particular, the situation of 'mandatory reporting'", Mr. Lena's objections should probably not be taken at face value. (That said, on the face of it, it still appears that he's either lying or just not a particularly careful reader; though I don't know which is worse: representing a church and lying about covering up child abuse, or being a lawyer and not being able to read.)

[2] There should be an extra ellipsis between "the body of laws" and "made". The words that fill in the gap, as can be seen by clicking on the link provided, are "and regulations".

[3] As explained within the pages of the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, p1/s1/c2/a2/#2, (accessed Dec. 28th, 2012).

[4] This is similar to the Roman Catholic Church, which -showing how history repeats itself by following in the footsteps of the Pharisees- believes that various traditions have been handed down from the original apostles through an unbroken chain of bishops, up to their own day. Some of this Tradition has been written down and formalized as canon law, just as some of the Jewish oral law has been written down and formalized as the Mishnah, etc.

[5] Rome's insistence on celibacy for priests also counts as a tradition which has replaced God's word. 1 Timothy 3 comments that an overseer must be "the husband of one wife", meaning that marriage is at least an option for leaders. By removing the option for priests to have wives, the priesthood has become disproportionately filled with men whose repressed and unacknowledged sexuality eventually boils over suddenly in unhealthy and damaging ways, thus adding fuel to the raging fire of clerical abuse.