There are no short answers. There are pithy and catchy phrases describing concepts. Then there are explanations of those concepts. Answers explain the concepts. Pithy and catchy phrases support the concepts. To use a sports analogy: answers are the playbook; pithy phrases are the cheer squad.
Why a Doctrine (Beliefs) Section?
It pains me that a Doctrine (Beliefs) section seems needed. And it seems unfortunate that some interpretations of doctrine and beliefs divide rather than engage in productive discussions because of differences in interpretation, yet the reason for this is rather simple.
As I have experienced discussing biblical subjects with many individuals, it usually does not revolve around faith, because, generally speaking my interaction is with others is with those who have already accepted that Jehovah is God; that Jesus is God’s Anointed; and the Holy Spirit works in some capacity. What I have found is that when we “discuss” disagreement comes because we disagree on what is called “doctrine”. Doctrine being the perceived enforceable tenets of the faith found scattered throughout the Bible.
There seems to be no perfect way for me to express this, but these matters of doctrine are almost subjective because “doctrine” seems to vary from Christian to Christian and Church to Church. Now, by using the expression “subjective” please do not interpret that I actually believe that doctrine to be relative and completely subjective, yet doctrine does seem subjective to the amount of knowledge any one particular Christian or Church has, and, if I dare say, the readiness of the Christian and Church to reconsider and verify what they consider doctrine.
So, I am plainly saying that “doctrine” can and will vary from Christian to Christian and from Church to Church. This, in and of itself, is not necessarily wrong, but it does not lend itself to easy cooperation. Proof to this concept is found in Romans 14.1-23. Paul said that one brother would interpret “doctrine” (what to eat, not to eat, etc.) differently from another and that even though they had “different doctrine” they were not to judge each other but to not cause each other to stumble in our walk of faith (Romans 14.13).
What about the Doctrine?
I wrote an eight-part series looking at Theology. One of the most important issues that I discussed was that Theology drives Bible Interpretation and Bible Interpretation drives Doctrine. Knowing this, what each Christian and Church considers “doctrine” can and does vary to some degree. Because of this, I believe that another Christian’s faith in God, Jesus and that the Bible represents God’s truth is a basis for helping each other, knowing that they nor I will agree on all “doctrine” as established by God’s inspiration in Romans 14.1-23.
What about God?
According to Exodus 20.7 and Deuteronomy 5.11, God’s Name should not be taken in vain. Ancient Sage/Rabbinic tradition taught that God’s Name Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey (referred to as the TetragrammatonW) is ineffable (incapable of being pronounced). The Sages/Rabbis also taught the Israelites to avoid pronouncing God’s name in order to never accidentally misuse God’s name. Thus, it is common to hear the TetragrammatonW referred to as HaShem or Adonai, but most English speaking Christians are familiar with the LORD.
The English phrase “The LORD” has roots dating all the way back to the first Bible translation, The Septuagint (LXX). Those Jews, took the Hebrew Bible (The OT) into the Greek language about 200 years before Jesus was born. When doing this Hebrew-to-Greek translation, they translated the Hebrew TetragrammatonW with the Greek word kurios (Strong’s number G2962), which gives the English word LORD.
So, this Name tradition seems to go back, to at least, the time of The Septuagint, circa 200 BC/BCE. However, the purpose of this Naming convention (referring to God as HaShem or kurios or the LORD) is to build a fence of protection so that people do not accidentally use God’s name in vain.
As such, it is no surprise that many English Bible readers think that God’s name is “The LORD”. However, in English God’s Name is either YHWH or YHVH. These two English spellings are the English Transliterated equivalent of the Hebrew TetragrammatonW, the Four Letters Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey.
Intriguingly, in the Hebrew Bible (the OT) Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey (Strong’s number H3068) is found over 6500 times. Understanding this, it seems proper to conclude that God wants us to know that His Name is YHWH. Some pronounce the TetragrammatonW as Yahweh, Yahveh, or Jehovah (evidenced by the King James translation of Exodus 6.3 KJV), but others pronounce God’s Name as Yahovah.
Most modern English translations continue the practice of substituting “The LORD” when referencing God’s Name. The only English translations that I am aware of that do not do this are the American Standard Version 1901, which translates YHWH as Jehovah; and a version of the Bible entitled The Scriptures which does not translate YHWH, but places the four Hebrew letters directly inside the English text, in essence leaving God’s Hebrew name inside an English translation.
Interestingly, some have taken fence building to another level. Because the words God and LORD have become synonymous with Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey, there are some who believe that it is necessary to print God as G-d, and LORD and L-RD. These words simply are not His Name. While using G-d and L-RD bring about an extra measure of safety, one simply cannot use God’s Name in vain when referring to Him as HaShem, Adonai, LORD, L-RD, God, or G-d because none of those words are His Name. HaShem means “The Name”. Adonai, LORD, Lord, lord all mean “master”. Additionally, God is the type of being that YHWH is. Just like every human has a name, every god has a name, the God of all god’s is Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey.
Having stated all that information, I firm believes that God does not require additional human fences for His protection.I also believe that every Believer has the liberty to refer, and should refer, to God in the appropriate manner suitable to their conscience; thus, the words HaShem, Adonai, LORD, L-RD, God, or G-d are acceptable and pleasing to Him; however, in this instance, what one’s conscience dictates cannot be bound on other Believers.
YHWH is one (Deuteronomy 6.4, Mark 12.29).
YHWH is the one true living God, without whom nothing exists.
YHWH does not dwell in a temple made with hands (Acts 7.48; Hebrews 9.11-12).
YHWH cannot be represented by images carved by human hands (Exodus 20.4; Acts 17.29).
YHWH is spirit (John 4.24); yet YHWH is described with anthropomorphic terms (e.g. Face-Deuteronomy 31.16-17; Arm-Isaiah 53.1).
What about Jesus?
Jesus, as attested to by the Gospels, is fulfillment of Hebrew Bible’s (The OT) Messianic prophecy.
While there is argument about the phrase “born of a virgin” or “born of a maiden” I believe that both maiden and virgin refer to a woman who has not had a sexual relationship with a man. Some prefer the word virgin because the word virgin indicates not only marriage status, but sexual status, whereas maiden is not always identifying both martial and sexual status. I am not argue the terminology, but I do believe that Mary, Joseph’s betrothed and wife, did not have sexual union with anyone (Luke 1.34 KJV) or with Joseph until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1.24-25). I also believe Mary remained committed and faithful in her relationship with Joseph (Matthew 12.46-47).
Jesus was conceived by Holy Spirit impregnation (Matthew 1.18; Luke 1.35), born of a woman (Matthew 1.25; Luke 2.5-7), lived as a human (Luke 2.52, Romans 1.3; 1 Peter 4.1; 1 John 4.2), manifested the perfectness of God (Colossians 1.19), being both fully human and divine.
Culturally, Jesus was born into a Jewish family, a family who followed the Law of Moses (Luke 2.22-24, 2.39, 2.41) and as such was he given the Hebrew name Yeshua which means “YHWH is Salvation,” the same meaning for the name Joshua (Brown-Driver-Briggs [BDB]; Strong’s Number H3091).
Since he was a Jew, Yeshua was circumcised on his eighth day of life (Luke 2.21), was presented at the Temple (Luke 2.22-24, 2.27), he attended the synagogue (Luke 4.16), and worshiped at the Temple.
Deuteronomy 13.1-5 prohibits anyone, even the Messiah, from teaching against the Law. Yeshua did not fight against the Law of Moses, otherwise he could not be the promised Messiah. As Messiah, Yeshua learned and upheld the Law of Moses. Instead, he fought against the religious traditions (the traditions of men) that bound religious actions and activities on the people as if they were found in the Law of Moses.
Similar in concept to God’s Name I believe that every Believer has the liberty to refer, and should refer, to the Messiah in the appropriate manner suitable to their conscience; thus, the words Yeshua (Hebrew), Iesous (Greek), and/or Jesus (English) are acceptable and pleasing; however, in this instance, what one’s conscience dictates cannot be bound on other Believers.
Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures as Messiah, as the suffering servant (Acts 3.18).
Jesus will return as the conquering Messiah (Revelation 19.11-16).
Jesus knew his roll in God’s plan (Matthew 17.22-23, 20.17-19).
Jesus stated that his only goal was to do God’s will (Matthew 26.39, 26.42, 26.44).
Jesus stated that He was one with God (John 10.30), and prayed for that union for his disciples (John 17.11, 17.21).
Jesus taught us to pray to the Father (Matthew 6.9-13; Luke 11.1-4)
Jesus works in harmonious union with God, doing God’s will (John 4.34, 15.26, 16.13).
Jesus knew he was to be betrayed, executed; he literally died, and three days later literally rose from the dead, resurrected into new life (1 Corinthians 15.3-4).
After his resurrection, Jesus was seen for forty days (Acts 1.3), then ascended to heaven (Luke 24.50-51, Acts 1.1-2).
What about the Holy Spirit?
I recognize that Jesus reasoned that God is living (Matthew 22.31-32). Building up that statement: since Jesus is at the right hand of God (Luke 22.67-69, Acts 2.32-36), and since Jesus promised the Spirit (John 14.17, 15.26, 16.13), and since the Spirit is from God and Jesus (John 15.26), and knowing that Jesus said God is living; then, like God and Jesus, the Spirit must also be living; as such, Believers should not quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5.19).
I believe that since the Holy Spirit is the most mysterious element, each Believer has the liberty to believe in the power and functionality of the Holy Spirit in the manner suitable to their conscience; thus, the way in which they believe the Holy Spirit works is acceptable and pleasing to God and Messiah; however, in this instance, what one’s conscience dictates cannot be bound on other Believers.
The Holy Spirit works in harmonious union with God doing God’s will (John 4.34, 15.26, 16.13).
The Holy Spirit is perhaps the most mystical element from God and part of the New Covenant (John 3.8, 14.17).
The Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus (John 7.39, 15.26) and helped guide the church into all truth (John 16.13), some believe the Spirit still does this.
What about the Bible?
I certainly believe that “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3.16 ESV) and is therefore from God, making the Scriptures (both the OT and the NT) the truth that Christians are to live by.
I believe that when God breathed out, spiriting the original words to the original penman (e.g. Moses or Paul), God’s breathing out was one-hundred percent without error. Without error in that the penman received God’s original message with complete understanding, and without error in that when that penman gave God’s message to the original audience, the message was understood.
But, as for Bible translations, it seems that even the most hurried readers have noticed that some Bible translations include full-disclosure footnotes, like: “The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain” (e.g. Job 6.6 ESV as provided by BibleGateway). This helps support the concept that translations are interpretations not inspirations, no matter the translation.
While Bible translations may not be inspired, Bible translations do represent the best efforts of translators to interpret the original languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and/or Greek. Thus, acting in good faith, Bible translators give to English readers a moderate level of original language comprehension. However, this means that Bible translations have their limitations, but translations are still worth having, the more the better. Additionally, Bible software programs like e-Sword help Bible students obtain many translations, and obtain sources for studying the Original Bible Languages.
While I believe God breathed out the original information in perfect form; we, however, based upon translator notes, do not believe that translations rise to this level of “perfect”. Yet, translations are still a magnificent blessing and helpful. Perhaps one of the most helpful translations is the Septuagint (LXX). The LXX is the very first Bible translation. Around 200 BC/BCE, Jewish translators took their Hebrew Bible (the OT) into the Greek language; because of this, no other ancient translation is more helpful for understanding the Hebrew mind behind the Greek NT.
Are You Conservative or Liberal?
I cannot tell this audience how many times I have been asked that question over the course of my ministry. Personally, I do not care for the question. The question is loaded. No matter my answer it seems to go not well. But I will do my best.
First, the question: “Are you Conservative or Liberal?” is pre-loaded by current political definitions and associations. Thus for a proper spiritual answer the political definitions and associations must be, almost completely, set aside. Do not confuse that position as affirming “separation of church and state” because I am not insinuating that, in any capacity. It seems proper to affirm that the best social leaders (servants of the people, in other words-government officials) are lead by the spiritual truth found in the Scriptures.
Second, I am a Scripturalist. Thus, if compassion and mercy is what God expects, then that is what a servant, in God’s kingdom, should be. That is not “liberal” that is righteousness. Additionally, if being a pursuer of justice against wrong-doers is what God expects, then that is what a servant, in God’s kingdom, should be. That is not “conservative” that is righteousness. And please don’t confuse this second part with the current “social justice” movement. God’s mercy is for everyone, everywhere – irrespective; but this does not insinuate that anyone should have special social privileges or advantages over any other. Yet, God’s justice is also for everyone, everywhere – irrespective; again, this does not insinuate that anyone should have special social privileges or advantages over any other.
Third, I am an Originalist. It seems that I can best explain this with a few example questions. What did each book of the Bible mean when it was originally written? What did those spiritual statements originally mean to those who first heard them? How have the oldest sources, in particular the Prophets (Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.), interpret those original words of Moses? What did Jesus originally mean for his original, Jewish audience? How did the Apostles interpret Jesus’ words and message? These things, among a myriad of others, begin to help us find original meaning. It is simply incorrect, and spiritually short-sighted, to read into the Scriptures one’s personal life, and/or our current social conditions and situations.
Fourth, in many situations, the one asking me a question hears my words, but uses their own personal assumptions and definitions to process my answer. Here is what I mean. While I might actually use a word they use, we can and may use that word differently. This is not their fault. This is not my fault. This is the fault of language. Words do not possess singular meaning; language and vocabulary are dynamic. Thus words have various shades and tints of meaning. At our first meeting, we have to assume we understand each other, and thus when conflict arises, if we do not give time to properly understand each others’ words, we have just hoped for the best. But, even if we come to properly understand each other, this does not mean we agree, disagreement then resides in what each of us consider to be theological, ideological and philosophical truths.
Thus, anymore, no matter how I address the question, the answer seems to miss on some level. This is because labels are broad definitions and lack accuracy for specific situations. Consider this problem. If I were to claim I am conservative, someone more conservative than me would think me liberal. If I were to claim that I am liberal, someone more liberal than me would think me conservative. So, herein lies the problem.
I used to answer the question about conservatism verses liberalism this way. If those who call me conservative call me liberal; and if those who are liberal call me conservative, then I am probably where I need be. Well, that answer did not work too well.
So, I adapted my answer by referring to this passage from Joshua: “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1.7 KJV) I answered that “turning right” meant going conservative and “turning left” meant going liberal and that God considered both directions misaligned with his will. And as such, I seek God’s will, irrespective of humanity’s “labeling”. But that answer did not work too well either.
So, I am attempting another update to my answer. Attempting to answer the question using, what I feel, are applications of classical definitions of the terms liberal and conservative. My third attempt at answering this question goes like this: I seek and uphold the veracity of the Scriptures, believe them to be God’s Word, and consider myself conservative in my thinking, but conservative to the extent that I want to conserve the liberties that God provides. If our Father permits what would appear to humans as liberal, we should live so as to let God’s Word modify our thoughts and practices.