Tuesday, December 28, 2010
So, I went and looked at a copy of the New World Translation and found the reference for Titus 2:13; one of the greatest examples of the Deity of Christ. Sure enough, it says almost identical to the true Word of God. Which is very suprising, seeing as how Charles Russell did not know Greek and could not even quote you the Greek Alphabet (which a couple of my sons can do). But another question was raised in my mind, "Well the JW would just say that the verse was referring to two different people". Thus we are introduced to the Granville Sharp Rule, a rule introduced to me my second year in Greek.
Basically, Granville Sharp's rule states that when you have two nouns, which are not proper names (such as Cephas, or Paul, or Timothy), which are describing a person, and the two nouns are connected by the word "and," and the first noun has the article ("the") while the second does not, *both nouns are referring to the same person*. In our texts, this is demonstrated by the words "God" and "Savior" at Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. "God" has the article, it is followed by the word for "and," and the word "Savior" does not have the article. Hence, both nouns are being applied to the same person, Jesus Christ. This rule is exceptionless. One must argue solely on theological grounds against these passages. There is truly no real grammatical objection that can be raised. Not that many have not attempted to do so, and are still trying. However, the evidence is overwhelming in favor of the above interpretation. Lets look at some of the evidence from the text itself.
In Titus 2:13, we first see that Paul is referring to the "epiphaneia" of the Lord, His "appearing." Every other instance of this word is reserved for Christ and Him alone. It is immediately followed by verse 14, which says, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good works. The obvious reference here is to Christ who "gave Himself for us" on the cross of Calvary. There is no hint here of a plural antecedent for the "who" of verse 14 either. It might also be mentioned that verse 14, while directly referring to Christ, is a paraphrase of some Old Testament passages that refer to Yahweh God. (Psalm 130:8, Deuteronomy 7:6, etc). One can hardly object to the identification of Christ as God when the Apostle goes on to describe His works as the works of God!
The passage found at 2 Peter 1:1 is even more compelling. Some have simply by-passed grammatical rules and considerations, and have decided for an inferior translation on the basis of verse 2, which, they say, "clearly distinguishes" between God and Christ. Such translation on the basis of theological prejudices is hardly commendable. The little book of 2 Peter contains a total of five "Granville Sharp" constructions. They are 1:1, 1:11, 2:20, 3:2, and 3:18. No one would argue that the other four instances are exceptions to the rule. For example, in 2:20, it is obvious that both "Lord" and "Savior" are in reference to Christ. Such is the case in 3:2, as well as 3:18. No problem there, for the proper translation does not step on anyone's theological toes. 1:11 is even more striking. The construction here is *identical* to the construction found in 1:1, with only one word being different. Here are the passages as they are transliterated into English:
1:1: tou theou hemon kai sotaros Iesou Christou
1:11: tou kuriou hemon kai sotaros Iesou Christou
Notice the exact one-to-one correspondence between these passages! The only difference is the substitution of "kuriou" for "theou". No one would question the translation of "our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" at 1:11; why question the translation of "our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" at 1:1? Consistency in translation demands that we not allow our personal prejudices to interfere with our rendering of God's Word.
Dr. A. T. Robertson examined this very subject, and in conclusion said,
Sharp stands vindicated after all the dust has settled. We must let these passages mean what they want to mean regardless of our theories about the theology of the writers.
There is no solid grammatical reason for one to hesitate to translate 2 Pet. 1:1, "our God and Saviour Jesus Christ," and Tit. 2:13, "our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus."... Scholarship, real scholarship, seeks to find the truth. That is its reward. The Christian scholar finds the same joy in truth and he is not uneasy that the foundations will be destroyed.
Hopefully all involved can echo Dr. Robertson's words. We need not think that God's Word is our enemy, or that we must twist it around to suit our needs. God's truth will stand firm, despite all of mankind's attempts to hide it, or twist it. Christians are looking for that blessed hope; the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. In the meantime, let us do good deeds to others, living in the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Kristof is absolutely aghast that so many Americans believe in the Virgin Birth. “The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time,” he explains, and the percentage of Americans who believe in the Virgin Birth “actually rose five points in the latest poll.” Yikes! Is this evidence of secular backsliding?
“The Virgin Mary is an interesting prism through which to examine America’s emphasis on faith,” Kristof argues, “because most Biblical scholars regard the evidence for the Virgin Birth … as so shaky that it pretty much has to be a leap of faith.” Here’s a little hint: Anytime you hear a claim about what “most Biblical scholars” believe, check on just who these illustrious scholars really are. In Kristof’s case, he is only concerned about liberal scholars like Hans Kung, whose credentials as a Catholic theologian were revoked by the Vatican.
The list of what Hans Kung does not believe would fill a book [just look at his books!], and citing him as an authority in this area betrays Kristof’s determination to stack the evidence, or his utter ignorance that many theologians and biblical scholars vehemently disagree with Kung. Kung is the anti-Catholic’s favorite Catholic, and that is the real reason he is so loved by the liberal media.
Kristof also cites “the great Yale historian and theologian” Jaroslav Pelikan as an authority against the Virgin Birth, but this is both unfair and untenable. In Mary Through the Centuries, Pelikan does not reject the Virgin Birth, but does trace the development of the doctrine.
What are we to do with the Virgin Birth? The doctrine was among the first to be questioned and then rejected after the rise of historical criticism and the undermining of biblical authority that inevitably followed. Critics claimed that since the doctrine is taught in “only” two of the four Gospels, it must be elective. The Apostle Paul, they argued, did not mention it in his sermons in Acts, so he must not have believed it. Besides, the liberal critics argued, the doctrine is just so supernatural. Modern heretics like retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong argue that the doctrine was just evidence of the early church’s over-claiming of Christ’s deity. It is, Spong tells us, the “entrance myth” to go with the resurrection, the “exit myth.” If only Spong were a myth.
Now, even some revisionist evangelicals claim that belief in the Virgin Birth is unnecessary. The meaning of the miracle is enduring, they argue, but the historical truth of the doctrine is not really important.
Must one believe in the Virgin Birth to be a Christian? This is not a hard question to answer. It is conceivable that someone might come to Christ and trust Christ as Savior without yet learning that the Bible teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin. A new believer is not yet aware of the full structure of Christian truth. The real question is this: Can a Christian, once aware of the Bible’s teaching, reject the Virgin Birth? The answer must be no.
Nicholas Kristof pointed to his grandfather as a “devout” Presbyterian elder who believed that the Virgin Birth is a “pious legend.” Follow his example, Kristof encourages, and join the modern age. But we must face the hard fact that Kristof’s grandfather denied the faith. This is a very strange and perverse definition of “devout.”
Matthew tells us that before Mary and Joseph “came together,” Mary “was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” [Matthew 1:18] This, Matthew explains, fulfilled what Isaiah promised: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name ‘Immanuel,’ which translated means ‘God with Us’.” [Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14]
Luke provides even greater detail, revealing that Mary was visited by an angel who explained that she, though a virgin, would bear the divine child: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child shall be called the Son of God.” [Luke 1:35]
Even if the Virgin Birth was taught by only one biblical passage, that would be sufficient to obligate all Christians to the belief. We have no right to weigh the relative truthfulness of biblical teachings by their repetition in Scripture. We cannot claim to believe that the Bible is the Word of God and then turn around and cast suspicion on its teaching.
Millard Erickson states this well: “If we do not hold to the virgin birth despite the fact that the Bible asserts it, then we have compromised the authority of the Bible and there is in principle no reason why we should hold to its other teachings. Thus, rejecting the virgin birth has implications reaching far beyond the doctrine itself.”
Implications, indeed. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, who was His father? There is no answer that will leave the Gospel intact. The Virgin Birth explains how Christ could be both God and man, how He was without sin, and that the entire work of salvation is God’s gracious act. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, He had a human father. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, the Bible teaches a lie.
Carl F. H. Henry, the dean of evangelical theologians, argues that the Virgin Birth is the “essential, historical indication of the Incarnation, bearing not only an analogy to the divine and human natures of the Incarnate, but also bringing out the nature, purpose, and bearing of this work of God to salvation.” Well said, and well believed.
Nicholas Kristof and his secularist friends may find belief in the Virgin Birth to be evidence of intellectual backwardness among American Christians. But this is the faith of the Church, established in God’s perfect Word, and cherished by the true Church throughout the ages. Kristof’s grandfather, we are told, believed that the Virgin Birth is a “pious legend.” The fact that he could hold such beliefs and serve as an elder in his church is evidence of that church’s doctrinal and spiritual laxity — or worse. Those who deny the Virgin Birth affirm other doctrines only by force of whim, for they have already surrendered the authority of Scripture. They have undermined Christ’s nature and nullified the incarnation.
This much we know: All those who find salvation will be saved by the atoning work of Jesus the Christ — the virgin-born Savior. Anything less than this is just not Christianity, whatever it may call itself. A true Christian will not deny the Virgin Birth.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Christians are usually the first to condemn idol worshippers (and we should, condemn the practice, not the sinner; pray for the sinner that God would give them the heart for repentance), but do not hold themselves to the same standards as they hold the "heathen". What do I mean? Just this, many Christians are guilty of worshipping "an unknown god". Many create a god in their mind that they are comfortable with and then worship that god. The problem is that many times that is not the God of the Bible and so they are guilty of worshipping "an unknown god", certainly unknown to the pages of Scripture.
So many times many Christians are not comfortable with the God that the Scriptiures represents. For example;
They do not want a God who is almighty. Oh, they do for selfish reason. They want the almighty God to get them out of a jam. But so many times they do not want an almighty God that makes claims on their lives, that requires things of them, that demands worship, that demands faithfulness, that demands a singularity of devotion. Because so many do not want the authority that the almighty God requires. They want, as Jane Russell used to say, "My sweet Daddy in the sky". That kind of view of God is blasphemy and an unknown god".
People are comfortable with a god that meets their needs, gives them their greeds and makes no demands on their lives. Now, I will tell you that if you have been convinced that that is the proper view of God, then you have been watching too much TBN. Their channel line-up is filled with people who will tell you that the god of the Bible wants you healthy and wealthy. That, as Joel Osteen put it, make your order for God to fill. Listen, this is paganism and not the God of the Scriptures.
The God of the Scriptures is absolutely Sovereign, absolutely holy, absolutely almighty, absolute in power, absolute in knowledge, absolute in grace, absolute in justice, absolute in omnscience, absolute in righteousness, absolute in authority, absolute in rule, absolute in lordship, absolute in creative design.
The God of the Bible is not the unknown god that many people try to worship. He is Lord, He is sovereign; worship Him, not the god of our minds.
Friday, December 3, 2010
But more and more this doctrinally-diluted brew of music, drama, life-tips, and marketing seems out of touch with real life in this world—not to mention the next. It tastes like watered-down gruel, not a nourishing meal. It simply isn’t serious enough. It’s too playful and chatty and casual. Its joy just doesn’t feel deep enough or heartbroken or well-rooted. The injustice and persecution and suffering and hellish realities in the world today are so many and so large and so close that I can’t help but think that, deep inside, people are longing for something weighty and massive and rooted and stable and eternal. So it seems to me that the trifling with silly little sketches and breezy welcome-to-the-den styles on Sunday morning are just out of touch with what matters in life.
Of course, it works. Sort of. Because, in the name of felt needs, it resonates with people’s impulse to run from what is most serious and weighty and what makes them most human and what might open the depths of God to their souls. The design is noble. Silliness is a stepping-stone to substance. But it’s an odd path. And evidence is not ample that many are willing to move beyond fun and simplicity. So the price of minimizing truth-based joy and maximizing atmosphere-based comfort is high. More and more, it seems to me, the end might be in view. I doubt that a religious ethos with such a feel of entertainment can really survive as Christian for too many more decades. Crises reveal the cracks.
Friday, November 19, 2010
From time to time, the dust has settled in one arena, only for the battle to erupt in another. In the 1970s, the most visible battles were fought over Fuller Theological Seminary and within the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. By the 1980s, the most heated controversies centered in the Southern Baptist Convention and its seminaries. Throughout this period, the evangelical movement sought to regain its footing on the doctrine. In 1978, a large number of leading evangelicals met and adopted a definitive statement that became known as “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.”
Many thought the battles were over, or at least subsiding. Sadly, the debate over the inerrancy of the Bible continues. As a matter of fact, there seems to be a renewed effort to forge an evangelical identity apart from the claim that the Bible is totally truthful and without error.
Recently, Professor Peter Enns, formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, has argued that the biblical authors clearly erred. He has argued that Paul, for example, was clearly wrong in assuming the historicity of Adam. In Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, published in 2005, he presented an argument for an “incarnational” model of biblical inspiration and authority. But in this rendering, incarnation — affirming the human dimension of Scripture — means accepting some necessary degree of error.
This argument is taken to the next step by Kenton L. Sparks in his 2008 book, God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship. Sparks, who teaches at Eastern University, argues that it is nothing less than intellectually disastrous for evangelicals to claim that the Bible is without error.
His arguments, also serialized and summarized in a series of articles, are amazingly candid. He asserts that Evangelicalism has “painted itself into an intellectual corner” by claiming the inerrancy of Scripture. The movement is now in an “intellectual cul-de-sac,” he laments, because we have “crossed an evidential threshold that makes it intellectually unsuitable to defend some of the standard dogmas of the conservative evangelical tradition.” And, make no mistake, inerrancy is the central dogma he would have us let go.
God’s Word in Human Words is an erudite book with a comprehensive argument. Kenton Sparks does not misunderstand the evangelical doctrine of biblical inerrancy — he understands it and sees it as intellectually disastrous. “So like any other book,” he asserts, “the Bible appears to be a historically and culturally contingent text and, because of that, it reflects the diverse viewpoints of different people who lived in different times and places.” But a contingent text bears all the errors of its contingent authors, and Sparks fully realizes this.
The serialized articles by Sparks appear at the BioLogos Web site, a site with one clear agenda — to move evangelicals toward a full embrace of evolutionary theory. In this context, Sparks understands that the affirmation of biblical inerrancy presents a huge obstacle to the embrace of evolution. The “evidential threshold” has been crossed, he insists, and the Bible has come up short. The biblical writers were simply trapped within the limits of their own ancient cosmology and observations.
But Sparks presses far beyond this argument, accusing the Bible of presenting immoral teachings, citing “biblical texts that strike us as down-right sinister or evil.” The Bible, he suggests, “exhibits all the telltale signs of having been written by finite, fallen human beings who erred in the ways that human beings usually err.”
When Peter Enns and Kenton Sparks argue for an incarnational model of inspiration and biblical authority, they are continuing an argument first made long ago — among evangelicals, at least as far back as the opening salvos of the battle over biblical inerrancy. Sparks, however, takes the argument further. He understands that the incarnational model implicates Jesus. He does not resist this. Jesus, he suggests, “was a finite person who grew up in Palestine.” While asserting that he affirms the historic Christian creeds and “traditional Christian orthodoxy,” Sparks proposes that Jesus made routine errors of fact.
His conclusion: “If Jesus as a finite human being erred from time to time, there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, [and/or] John wrote Scripture without error.”
That is a breath-taking assumption, to say the very least. But, even in its shocking audacity, it serves to reveal the clear logic of the new battle-lines over biblical inerrancy. We now confront open calls to accept and affirm that there are indeed errors in the Bible. It is demanded that we accept the fact that the human authors of the Bible often erred because of their limited knowledge and erroneous assumptions about reality. We must, it is argued, abandon the claim that the Bible is a consistent whole. Rather, we are told to accept the claims that the human authors of Scripture were just plain wrong in some texts — even in texts that define God and his ways. We are told that some texts are just “down-right sinister or evil.”
And, note clearly, we are told that we must do this in order to save Evangelicalism from an intellectual disaster.
Of course, accepting this demand amounts to a theological disaster of incalculable magnitude. Rarely has this been more apparent and undeniable. The rejection of the Bible’s inerrancy will please the evangelical revisionists, but it will rob the church of its secure knowledge that the Bible is indeed true, trustworthy and fully authoritative.
Kenton Sparks and the new evangelical revisionists are now making some of the very arguments that earlier opponents of inerrancy attempted to deny. In this sense, they offer great clarity to the current debate. Their logic is clear. They argue that the human authors of the Bible were not protected from error, and their errors are not inconsequential. We are talking about nothing less than whether the Bible truthfully reveals to us the nature, character, acts, and purposes of God.
As Dr. Packer said years ago, “[W]hen you encounter a present-day view of Holy Scripture, you encounter more than a view of Scripture. What you meet is a total view of God and the world, that is, a total theology, which is both an ontology, declaring what there is, and an epistemology, stating how we know what there is. This is necessarily so, for a theology is a seamless robe, a circle within which everything links up with everything else through its common grounding in God. Every view of Scripture, in particular, proves on analysis to be bound up with an overall view of God and man.”
The rejection of biblical inerrancy is bound up with a view of God that is, in the end, fatal for Christian orthodoxy. We are entering a new phase in the battle over the Bible’s truthfulness and authority. We should at least be thankful for undisguised arguments coming from the opponents of biblical inerrancy, even as we are ready, once again, to make clear where their arguments lead.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
On his initial email to Steve Jobs, Tate complained about what he described as a lack of freedom in Apple’s approach to the approval of products for its “App Store” for iPods, the iPhone, and the iPad. “If Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company?,” Tate asked. “Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with ‘revolution?’ Revolutions are about freedom.”
Apparently, Tate was upset about some of the restrictions put in place by Apple. Among those restrictions is a ban on pornography.
Steve Jobs threw Ryan Tate’s definition of freedom right back at him. Is Apple about freedom? “Yep,” said Jobs, “freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’.”
One of the interesting dimensions of Steve Jobs’ leadership at Apple is his habit of answering selected emails personally. It appears that Ryan Tate’s complaint got under Jobs’ skin. It is even more apparent that Jobs’ response irritated Ryan Tate.
“I don’t want freedom from porn,” Tate asserted. “Porn is just fine.” Jobs sent back a remarkably insightful retort, informing Ryan Tate that he “might care more about porn when you have kids.” Tate wasn’t conceding his case, however, acknowledging that he might “sound bitter,” by complaining that Jobs is “imposing his morality about porn.”
There are several startling aspects of this exchange. When was the last time we saw a major American business leader take the lead to point to porn as something from which we should seek to be free?
Steve Jobs is a businessman of unquestioned ability, a technological wizard, and one of the greatest orchestrators of “cool” in world history. Nevertheless, he has not been known as a critic of pornography . . . until now.
Furthermore, Jobs is in the computer business, and that makes his comments on pornography all the more significant. To get a sense of what that means, consider the observation made by Eric Felten in The Wall Street Journal, “Apple impresario Steve Jobs is preparing to overturn one of the most basic assumptions of modern technology–that the computer business is built on pornography.”
While Felten does not expand upon his assertion that “one of the most basic assumptions of modern technology” is the dependence of the computer business on pornography, a look at that business will prove his thesis to be true. Though pornography is not the sole energy behind the quantum expansion of the Internet and digital technologies, its funding and quest for innovation have been major factors driving the digital age. The pornography business quickly recognized the computer and the Internet for what they are — the greatest and most revolutionary means of selling and distributing pornographic materials.
This is what makes Steve Jobs’ statements so interesting and significant. Apple has created an entirely new way of thinking about digital devices and their phenomenally successful iPhone and iPod technologies — now joined by the iPad — have created an enormous market for “apps,” shorthand for custom applications marketed and purchased through the company’s iTunes digital store. While the Internet at large has become a vast supermarket for pornography, Apple’s tight control over its “App Store” has prevented “pornification” of the apps.
Felten argues that Jobs’ posture is based less on morality than on a straightforward assessment that the general public — and parents in particular — will be much friendlier toward the App Store if they know that pornography is excluded.
“Apple seems to realize that it can do far more box office in its App Store if parents are confident they can let their children make purchases there without strict scrutiny,” Felten observed.
There are interesting twists to the exchange between Tate and Jobs. Tate actually accuses Jobs of imposing his own morality on the App Store (as if the contrary decision would not be just a reverse form of imposing morality). Felten also wonders if Jobs’ statements indicate that at least some sectors of the creative classes are turning cold to pornography as such a dominant influence. “Could it be,” he asks, “that the tide has begun to turn against pornography, and not because of any moral awakening, but just as a matter of taste and style?”
That seems more doubtful, but we can hope that it is true. At the very least, a statement like this from Steve Jobs — an iconic figure of the creative class — is hardly insignificant.
The Internet is still the domain of the pornographers, and there is little chance of that changing soon. Furthermore, any device with a Web browser can still download porn. The digital world is rife with sexually explicit material, and this includes many musical and film offerings through Apple’s iTunes store. Still, the “no porn” decision for the App Store is remarkable on its own.
While Wall Street, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley do their best to interpret what all this means, one dimension of this development is clear - parenthood matters.
Steve Jobs made this clear in his retort to Ryan Tate that he “might care more about porn when you have kids.” No kidding. Parenthood changes everything about one’s outlook on life and its challenges. A parent lacks the luxury of believing the world is all about himself or herself as individuals. Parents necessarily and understandably begin to think of the world in terms of how their children, and by extension the children of others as well, engage the world. This concern extends to the digital world, where the generation of young “digital natives” will spend much of their lives.
Ryan Tate got more than he bargained for when he made his protest to Steve Jobs. In a strange way, we are now all in his debt, because the response from Steve Jobs now puts Apple on the line. In the end, the real meaning of this media eruption is less about computers and “apps” and more about parents and kids.
Parenthood matters. Just ask Steve Jobs.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
That same question has lead me in my adulthood and with the raising of my children. What would I tell my children for the reason of my unfaithfullness to the Lord? Is there ever a good reason? I don't think so. Eph. 6:4 is clear to us, as parents, of our responsibility. The Apostle Paul said in His letter to the Corinthians that it is required that a man be found faithful. Faithfullness is not an option for the believer, it is a requirment for the believer.
What are we called to be faithful too? Well, a number of things and this blog is far to short to speak on all of them, so I will just mention a couple and leave the rest up to the Spirit of God.
We are commanded to pray without ceasing (2 Thess 5:18). A prayerless life is a powerless life. As a husband, you will never be able to fully and completely lead your family without a vibrate pray life. Getting alone with the Lord and asking for guidance, strength, courage and power. Begging God for blessing, begging God to be glorified in your life this day, begging God for the salvation of your children, begging God to help you be the best spiritual leader you can be by His grace. This is where you meet with the Lord. Question, if you are not faithful to this and you lack the power to lead in your home, if you have not spoken to God in while (I am not talking about a quick 10 minute prayer, I am talking about getting hold of the heart of God), what are you going to tell your children? Can you tell them how important prayer is? No! Because your life does not reflect that.
As a wife, you will never be the care giver to your children that you should be. You will never be the helpmeet to your husband that you should be; because your prayerless life is a powerless life. What will you tell your children? Can you tell them the importance of prayer? No! Because neither does your life reflect this.
We are commanded in Scripture to be faithful to Church (Heb. 10:25). Some would say, "Well, I fulfill my obligation when I go Sunday Morning, I am not forsaking the assembling". Well, take a look at the passage. The passage says to be faithful to the house of the Lord when it is assembling. It does not give leverage if you just attend part of the services. These are the words of the Scripture. Question, what will you tell your kids if you are not faithful? We must remember that our children, even if they are grown, are watching us. Even if they don't ask why, they are wondering. I would hate to be the one that gives my children a reason for not being faithful to God in all things.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Garry Wills is at it again — this time in the pages of The Los Angeles Times. A liberal Roman Catholic, Wills is a prolific historian who also writes works on contemporary religion. His new book, Head and Heart: American Christianities presents his pluralistic model of American Christianity and his effort to counter the influence of conservative Christians in the public square.
In his November 4, 2007 opinion column in The Los Angeles Times, Wills argues that abortion should be seen as a purely secular and scientific issue. Abortion “is not a theological matter at all,” he insists — making a brazen argument that is likely to shock parties on both sides of this issue.
“There is no theological basis for defending or condemning abortion,” he claims. Further, “The subject of abortion is not scriptural. For those who make it so central to religion, this seems an odd omission. Abortion is not treated in the Ten Commandments — or anywhere in Jewish Scripture. It is not treated in the Sermon on the Mount — or anywhere in the New Testament. It is not treated in the early creeds. It is not treated in the early ecumenical councils.”
This is intellectual sophistry on display. Abortion is not “treated in the early ecumenical councils” because abortion was not an issue in those debates. Neither was homosexuality . . . or any number of other issues. How exactly does Wills interpret “Thou shall not murder?” If abortion is not included here, what else is left out? Abortion is a theological issue because it deals with the questions of human life, personhood, the image of God, and the sanctity of the gift of life. There is no way that is can be anything less than theological at its core, which is why so many Christians take the issue with such seriousness.
Wills wants to secularize the abortion debate and leave it to science. So, when does he believe that a fetus becomes a person? He suggests that this is marked by the development of a “functioning brain” at about the end of the sixth month of gestation. He celebrates that this also marks where he considers the fetus viable.
But Wills also makes this argument:
The question is not whether the fetus is human life but whether it is a human person, and when it becomes one. Is it when it is capable of thought, of speech, of recognizing itself as a person, or of assuming the responsibilities of a person? Is it when it has a functioning brain?
Does Garry Wills believe that a fetus at six months is capable of “recognizing itself as a person, or of assuming the responsibilities of a person?” This sounds like the logic of philosopher Peter Singer, who argues that an individual is not to be considered fully human until he or she develops such understandings of self as a person and is able to communicate, establish relationships, and envision the future. Needless to say, these capacities are not present at birth — which is why Singer would not consider infanticide murder.
Would Wills go this far? Probably not. But his argument that the issue must be settled on purely secular terms leaves the door wide open.
Wills is certainly right that abortion is not specifically mentioned in the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, or the early Christian creeds. He fails to mention, however, that it is specifically mentioned in the Didache — a compendium of early Christian teaching that claims an origin tied to the twelve disciples. The Didache states that a Christian “shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born.”
Consider these two paragraphs from Wills’ article. The first is his opening salvo:
What makes opposition to abortion the issue it is for each of the GOP presidential candidates is the fact that it is the ultimate “wedge issue” — it is nonnegotiable. The right-to-life people hold that it is as strong a point of religion as any can be. It is religious because the Sixth Commandment (or the Fifth by Catholic count) says, “Thou shalt not kill.” For evangelical Christians, in general, abortion is murder. That is why what others think, what polls say, what looks practical does not matter for them. One must oppose murder, however much rancor or controversy may ensue.
Then, a later paragraph:
If we are to decide the matter of abortion by natural law, that means we must turn to reason and science, the realm of Enlightened religion. But that is just what evangelicals want to avoid. Who are the relevant experts here? They are philosophers, neurobiologists, embryologists. Evangelicals want to exclude them because most give answers they do not want to hear. The experts have only secular expertise, not religious conviction. They, admittedly, do not give one answer — they differ among themselves, they are tentative, they qualify. They do not have the certitude that the religious right accepts as the sign of truth.
Wills is a Roman Catholic, and Catholicism has a much longer tradition of dealing explicitly with abortion than does Evangelicalism (to our shame). Nevertheless, he aims his sights on evangelicals, accusing evangelicals of opposing abortion “however much rancor or controversy may ensue.”
But later, in pressing his own preferred agenda, he admits that his designated secular experts — the scientists and philosophers — “do not give one answer” and “differ among themselves.” Is he seriously arguing that if evangelicals went away, the abortion controversy would disappear?
There is more to Wills’ article (and book) on this subject, and it is clear that this Catholic author and intellectual has huge problems with his own church. But his suggestion that abortion is a merely secular issue will get nowhere. Theology is inevitably involved whenever human life and human dignity are defined or debated. A world in which these issues are considered merely secular is the stuff of nightmares.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Our Lord’s words about eternal life were invariably accompanied by warnings to those who might be tempted to take salvation lightly. He taught that the cost of following him is high, that the way is narrow and few find it. He said many who call him Lord will be forbidden from entering the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt. 7:13-23).
Present-day evangelicalism, by and large, ignores these warnings. The prevailing view of what constitutes saving faith continues to grow broader and more shallow, while the portrayal of Christ in preaching and witnessing becomes fuzzy. Anyone who claims to be a Christian can find evangelicals willing to accept a profession of faith, whether or not the person’s behavior shows any evidence of commitment to Christ. In this way, faith has become merely an intellectual exercise. Instead of calling men and women to surrender to Christ, modern evangelism asks them only to accept some basic facts about Him.
This shallow understanding of salvation and the gospel, known as “easy-believism,” stands in stark contrast to what the Bible teaches. To put it simply, the gospel call to faith presupposes that sinners must repent of their sin and yield to Christ’s authority. This, in a nutshell, is what is commonly referred to as lordship salvation.
The Distinctives of Lordship Salvation
There are many articles of faith that are fundamental to all evangelical teaching. For example, there is agreement among all believers on the following truths: (1) Christ’s death purchased eternal salvation; (2) the saved are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone; (3) sinners cannot earn divine favor; (4) God requires no preparatory works or pre-salvation reformation; (5) eternal life is a gift of God; (6) believers are saved before their faith ever produces any righteous works; and (7) Christians can and do sin, sometimes horribly.
What, then, are the distinctives of lordship salvation? What does Scripture teach that is embraced by those who affirm lordship salvation but rejected by proponents of “easybelievism”? The following are nine distinctives of a biblical understanding of salvation and the gospel.
First, Scripture teaches that the gospel calls sinners to faith joined in oneness with repentance (Acts 2:38; 17:30; 20:21; 2 Pet. 3:9). Repentance is a turning from sin (Acts 3:19; Luke 24:47) that consists not of a human work but of a divinely bestowed grace (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). It is a change of heart, but genuine repentance will effect a change of behavior as well (Luke 3:8; Acts 26:18-20). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that repentance is simply a synonym for faith and that no turning from sin is required for salvation.
Second, Scripture teaches that salvation is all God’s work. Those who believe are saved utterly apart from any effort on their own (Titus 3:5). Even faith is a gift of God, not a work of man (Eph. 2:1-5, 8). Real faith therefore cannot be defective or short-lived but endures forever (Phil. 1:6; cf. Heb. 11). In contrast, easybelievism teaches that faith might not last and that a true Christian can completely cease believing.
Third, Scripture teaches that the object of faith is Christ Himself, not a creed or a promise (John 3:16). Faith therefore involves personal commitment to Christ (2 Cor. 5:15). In other words, all true believers follow Jesus (John 10:27-28). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that saving faith is simply being convinced or giving credence to the truth of the gospel and does not include a personal commitment to the person of Christ.
Fourth, Scripture teaches that real faith inevitably produces a changed life (2 Cor. 5:17). Salvation includes a transformation of the inner person (Gal. 2:20). The nature of the Christian is new and different (Rom. 6:6). The unbroken pattern of sin and enmity with God will not continue when a person is born again (1 John 3:9-10). Those with genuine faith follow Christ (John 10:27), love their brothers (1 John 3:14), obey God’s commandments (1 John 2:3; John 15:14), do the will of God (Matt. 12:50), abide in God’s Word (John 8:31), keep God’s Word (John 17:6), do good works (Eph. 2:10), and continue in the faith (Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 3:14). In contrast, easybelievism teaches that although some spiritual fruit is inevitable, that fruit might not be visible to others and Christians can even lapse into a state of permanent spiritual barrenness.
Fifth, Scripture teaches that God’s gift of eternal life includes all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3; Rom. 8:32), not just a ticket to heaven. In contrast, according to easy-believism, only the judicial aspects of salvation (e.g., justification, adoption, and positional sanctification) are guaranteed for believers in this life; practical sanctification and growth in grace require a post-conversion act of dedication.
Sixth, Scripture teaches that Jesus is Lord of all, and the faith He demands involves unconditional surrender (Rom. 6:17-18; 10:9-10). In other words, Christ does not bestow eternal life on those whose hearts remain set against Him (James 4:6). Surrender to Jesus’ lordship is not an addendum to the biblical terms of salvation; the summons to submission is at the heart of the gospel invitation throughout Scripture. In contrast, easy-believism teaches that submission to Christ’s supreme authority is not germane to the saving transaction.
Seventh, Scripture teaches that those who truly believe will love Christ (1 Pet. 1:8-9; Rom. 8:28-30; 1 Cor. 16:22). They will therefore long to obey Him (John 14:15, 23). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that Christians may fall into a state of lifelong carnality.
Eighth, Scripture teaches that behavior is an important test of faith. Obedience is evidence that one’s faith is real (1 John 2:3). On the other hand, the person who remains utterly unwilling to obey Christ does not evidence true faith (1 John 2:4). In contrast, easybelievism teaches that disobedience and prolonged sin are no reason to doubt the reality of one’s faith.
Ninth, Scripture teaches that genuine believers may stumble and fall, but they will persevere in the faith (1 Cor. 1:8). Those who later turn completely away from the Lord show that they were never truly born again (1 John 2:19). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that a true believer may utterly forsake Christ and come to the point of not believing.
Most Christians recognize that these nine distinctives are not new or radical ideas. The preponderance of Bible-believing Christians over the centuries have held these to be basic tenets of orthodoxy. In fact, no major orthodox movement in the history of Christianity has ever taught that sinners can spurn the lordship of Christ yet lay claim to Him as Savior.
This issue is not a trivial one. In fact, how could any issue be more important? The gospel that is presented to unbelievers has eternal ramifications. If it is the true gospel, it can direct men and women into the everlasting kingdom. If it is a corrupted message, it can give unsaved people false hope while consigning them to eternal damnation. This is not merely a matter for theologians to discuss and debate and speculate about. This is an issue that every single pastor and lay person must understand in order that the gospel may be rightly proclaimed to all the nations.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The last few days of Tyler Clementi’s life were a cauldron of confusions. Over the course of three days, he learned that his roommate at Rutgers University, also age 18, had surreptitiously turned a webcam toward his bed, filming him in a romantic encounter with another male student. The roommate employed social media to inform friends of the event, turning what Tyler Clementi assumed was a private moment into a devastating public disclosure.
It is now clear that Tyler was crushed, confused, and angry. He posted thoughts about how he might respond on the Web and finally wrote this on his Facebook page: “Jumping off gw bridge sorry.”
In September, no less than three additional teenagers committed suicide, and these are believed also to be connected to disclosures or struggles with homosexuality. As Geoff Mulvihill and Samantha Henry of the Associated Press report:
Clementi’s death was part of a string of suicides last month involving youngsters who were believed to have been victims of anti-gay bullying. Fifteen-year-old Billy Lucas hanged himself in a barn in Greensburg, Ind. Asher Brown, 13, shot himself in the head in Houston. And 13-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, Calif. hanged himself from a tree in his back yard.
That is four teenagers in just one month. And look at those ages. Two were only 13, one was 15, and Tyler Clementi was 18. That is four dead boys in the space of one horrible month, and all were struggling with sexual identity.
The gay rights movement was fast to claim that Tyler Clementi was a victim of gay bullying. While the motive of his roommate and accomplices is not known, the undeniable result was that Tyler was exposed before the world through the power of social media — in this case a very dangerous power indeed.
He was humiliated, angry, and horribly confused. His confusion is evident in his Internet musings, in which he swings in mood from outright indignation to the reflection that, other than this incident, his roommate was basically decent.
Somewhere in the midst of his heartbreak and confusion, Tyler decided to end his life. He posted his announcement on his Facebook page and headed for the George Washington Bridge. There, he ended his short life with a long plunge into the Hudson River.
Reading the news accounts of Tyler’s final days and final act is truly horrifying. He was betrayed by classmates and exposed to the world. At the age of 18, it was simply too much for him to bear. A young man who probably never considered suicide in the past, and who might never have considered it again in the future, felt himself pushed on that day beyond his emotional limits, so he pushed himself off the bridge.
Tyler joined Billy, Seth, and Asher as tragic evidence of the dangerous intersection of sexual confusion, hateful classmates, and the wide-open world of social media. These boys simply ran out of the emotional ability to face life, crushed by the burden of secrets and the bullying of their peers.
The homosexual community will argue that these boys were oppressed by the fact that so many believe that homosexuality is sinful. They respond with calls for the acceptance and normalization of homosexuality. Their logic is easy to understand. If the stigma attached to homosexuality were to disappear, persons who are convinced that they are homosexual in sexual orientation, along with those who are confused, would be free from bullying, the threat of exposure, and injury to their parents and loved ones.
Of course, Christians committed to biblical truth will recognize this as a demand to lie to sinners about their sin. The church cannot change its understanding of the sinfulness of homosexual acts unless it willfully disobeys the Scripture and rejects the authority of the Bible to reveal the truth about sin and sinfulness.
In other words, the believing church cannot surrender to the demand that we disobey and reject biblical truth. That much is clear. We cannot lie to persons about the sinfulness of their sin, nor comfort them with falsehood about their moral accountability before God. The rush of the liberal churches and denominations to normalize homosexuality is now a hallmark of their disobedience to the Bible.
But this is not the end of the matter, and we know it. When gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are wrong. Our concern about the sinfulness of homosexuality is not rooted in fear, but in faithfulness to the Bible — and faithfulness means telling the truth.
Yet, when gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are also right. Much of our response to homosexuality is rooted in ignorance and fear. We speak of homosexuals as a particular class of especially depraved sinners and we lie about how homosexuals experience their own struggle. Far too many evangelical pastors talk about sexual orientation with a crude dismissal or with glib assurances that gay persons simply choose to be gay. While most evangelicals know that the Bible condemns homosexuality, far too many find comfort in their own moralism, consigning homosexuals to a theological or moral category all their own.
What if Tyler Clementi had been in your church? Would he have heard biblical truth presented in a context of humble truth-telling and gospel urgency, or would he have heard irresponsible slander, sarcastic jabs, and moralistic self-congratulation? What about Asher and Billy and Seth?
The teenage years are hard enough to navigate. Most boys do not struggle with homosexuality, but there is not a teenage boy alive who does not struggle with sexual confusion. There is no deacon, preacher, or pew-sitter who went through male adolescence unscathed and without sin. There is not a human being who reaches school age who would not be humiliated by a well-placed webcam. And yet these boys — along with girls facing similar struggles — imagine themselves to be alone in their confusion and helpless in their anguish.
Was there no one to step between Tyler Clementi and that bridge? Was there no friend, classmate, or trusted adult who had the courage and compassion to reach into his life and offer hope? Was there no one who could tell him that the anguish of his moment would not last for his lifetime? Was there no one to put into perspective the fact that people who did not love him had taken advantage of him, but that the many who did love him would love him no less?
We can only look at this news account and grieve. As Christians, we just have to wonder. Was there no believer to befriend Tyler and, without loving his homosexuality, love him? The homosexual community insists that to love someone is to love their sexual orientation. We know this to be a lie. But no one who loves me should love nor rationalize my sin. The church must be the people who speak honestly about sin because we have first learned by God’s grace to speak honestly of our own.
Something has gone horribly wrong when four young boys take their lives in the space of one month, and a society just goes on with its business. There are grieving parents and loved ones who will never get over that month, and there were four young men who did not survive it.
There are Tylers and Ashers and Billys and Seths all around us. They are in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our churches . . . and in our homes. They, like us, desperately need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to know the grace of God toward sinners. They, like us, need to know the mercy of God extended to sinners through Christ Jesus. They, like us, need to repent of their sins and learn by grace how to grow into faithfulness. They, like us, need to know that they are loved if they are going to trust Christians to tell them about Jesus.
Even long before they may hear or respond to the gospel, they need to know that they are loved and cherished for who they are. They need to know that we stand between them and those who would harm them. They need to know that we know how to love sinners because we have been loved despite our own sin.
I am haunted by the one question that seems so obvious and clear in the account of Tyler Clementi’s tragic death. In those days of crushing anguish, humiliation, and confusion, was there no one who could have stood between that boy and that bridge?
Monday, September 27, 2010
Many people include this verse in their evangelistics attempts to lost people. Usually saying something like, "Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart waiting for you to open it". Such is not the Biblical doctrine of Salvation, nor the clear context of Revelation 3.
In Revelation 3 Christ is speaking, not to group of unredeemed people, but to the Church; the Church of Ladocia in particular. Jesus was trying to get back into the Church not trying to get into the heart of an individual person or persons in Salvation. These people were already saved. To use this verse in an evangelistic sense is to take the verse from its context and force a meaning on it the Holy Spirit never intended.
This is another example of so many people just taking a verse to mean a certain thing because they have always heard it taught like that. The Scripture must be allowed to speak for itself, not the way we have always heard it spoken for. Let us be faithful to allow the Word to speak for itself.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The last two weeks I have spent preaching on the Church being the body of Christ. Since the Apostle Paul compares the Church with that of a physical body in 1 Corinthians 12, we say that in order for the Church to function properly all the parts must work together, just like that of the physical body.
I emphasized faithfulness both in your attendance and in the use, keeping in context with chapter 12, of your spiritual gift. God has sovereignly given each believer atleast one spiritual gift with the command to use that gift for the glory of God and the edification of the body.
Our spiritual gifts are not to be used for the glory of ourselves and they are not to be used anywhere without the sanction of the local Church. If we doubt that truth we need to reread the books of Acts, 1 Corinthians 12, and much of the New Testament. In those passages you will see that the Church is local, not universal and therefore the gifts are to be used in a local Church.
You can certainly excercise your gift outside the Church but not when the body is assembling. If you are a part of a local body, we are commanded by God to be there when the body assembles, Hebrews 10:25.
It would be a violation of Scripture, not to assemble with the body. Let's put this in Paul's terms, would you get up in the morning and leave your foot in bed? Certainly not! But that is exactly what we do when we are not faithful to the body. We can come up with all sorts of justifications for it I guess. Such as when people "minister" when they should be in their local Church. You minister on times and days when your body isn't assembled. Now, I'm not talking about going to other Churches and ministering as God leads, I'm talking about missing consistently in order to "minister", the New Testament has a probelm with that, you have neglected the local body.
We have a gentleman in our Church, Nathan Panther, who felt like God wanted him to start a Bible Study in his home for some local people that live nearby. He has one condition that he told me, "I will not have it during Church times, that would be wrong, I need to be in my Church when it assembles." Amen, Nathan.
Next post I will talk more about the gifts in the body. Just keep in mind, when Gods people neglect asssembling together as the body, the body suffers.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Two Sundays ago I began a new series on “Marks of a Healthy Church” and the first mark that I went over with the congregation was “Biblical Teaching and Preaching”. I gave, by the power of the Spirit, two very “frank” messages on the fact that the Church needs Biblical Preaching and Teaching.
We live in a day where, as the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 4, people, literally in the Greek, “…will not put up with error free preaching, but will heap to themselves teachers who are telling them what they want to hear”. People today do not want to hear strong Biblical Teaching and Preaching. People today seem to want sermonettes for christianettes, they want enough to ease the conscience that they went to Church, but they cannot tolerate and WILL NOT tolerate strong Biblical preaching.
I thought about some things that people do not want to hear:
1. People do not want to hear about Lordship Salvation- Yes, I am a Lordship Salvation pastor 115%. People do not want to hear about the fact that there must be a surrender of the life to the Lordship of Christ or there is no genuine salvation. This is not works salvation as some have incorrectly accused, this is the heart of the Gospel. Surrender to the Lordship of Christ is a natural outflow of the Spirit of God that lives in the heart of the new believer. Lordship salvation also does not teach that you have every conviction at the moment of your salvation. There is no doubt that people need room and time to grow in their faith, the New Testament is filled with that proof. But what it does teach is that a person recognizes the fact that Jesus is Lord (kurios in the Greek, meaning master), and there is a genuine desire to submit to that lordship. Although we do not also do it, the desire is still present. But people do not want to hear this, because, since these things are true, a lot of people would have to be reclassified whether they are saved or not. People want to make a whole lot of people saved that do not possess biblical faith, because there is no desire to submit to the Lordship of Christ.
2. People do not want to hear about the Sovereignty of God- Sovereignty means that we are out of the picture. Our salvation, our life is not ours; it belongs to Christ. He can do with it what he wants just because He wants and does not have to give us a reason for it. People do not want to hear about this because they want to feel like they have some sort of control, they want to feel like they have had some part in their salvation. But these things are foreign to Scripture. Our lives are all controlled by the Sovereign hand of Almighty God; (cf. Dan. 4:35, Eph 1:11, Psalm 115:3, Psalm 135:6, Isa. 14:24, Isa. 46:10, Acts 4:28, Proverbs 21:1, Rom. 9:18). There are many more verses that could be given, but these will suffice. Sovereignty is a blow to human pride and ego, and many people do not want to hear it.
Thankfully, I have a Church and a group of believers that want to hear these hard things. They sit and listen and hang onto every word. This is not me, but the power of the Spirit of God working in these precious people’s hearts. I close this thread with the following text message I received from a Church member after last Sundays Evenings service:
“I just wanted to say thank you for not changing your style of preaching just because of a few people. We (he and his wife) will always be grateful and faithful to your service…Thanks again…”
That makes the ministry worthy it. To see a hand-full of people get it and love it.
Next Mark of a Healthy Church, #2 Faithful Church Members.
Monday, June 7, 2010
There are several people who automatically receive an email each time that I blog on the website. Please be advised that if you want to comment on the blog post that you cannot click reply on your email, it will be returned to you. This is not a problem with our Churches website, it is just that the server from the Blogger that sends the emails out is a no reply mailbox, that is why they are coming straight back to you. We welcome and appreciate all comments, however, in order to comment you must go to the Churches website at WWW.emmanuelbaptistmineral.com, or if you are on dial up and loading the Churches web page would take to long, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make sure that your comment gets on the blog. If you go to the web site, on the home page scroll down to the lower right corner and click on pastor Michael's blog, locate the article and click on the blue comments link at the bottom of the article. Leave your comment and click submit. I look forward to hearing from you.
Monday, May 31, 2010
I am very excited about a brand new series I will be starting on Sunday, June 13th. This series is going to be a Biblical look at the local church. We are going to be looking at the responsibilities of the Elders as well as the responsibility of the Church members. One of the areas that we are going to be looking is the responsibility of the members to support the ministries of their local Church.
The Apostle Paul is very clear in Hebrews 10:25, that as God’s people, we are to always be consistent in supporting the ministries of our local Church with our attendance. Many Christians believe that because they attend once on Sunday, that they are fulfilling the requirements of the Scriptures. But the Scriptures show a very different picture of faithfulness. I wonder if men were as faithful to their wives as they are to their Church (the Church being a picture of marriage in the Scripture cf. Ephesians 5), how long they would be married. Some may think that I am over-emphasizing this to prove a point, but throughout the Old Testament God accuses Israel of Spiritual adultery because they were unfaithful. Could God accuse those who are unfaithful to their local Church of the same thing. I think so!
But we not only support our Church with our faithful attendance to the services, but we also support our Church by being faithful to the ministries that may not affect us directly. Listen, even if a ministry of your local Church doesn’t affect you directly, it is still a ministry of your Church and therefore, that is your ministry. People incorrectly believe because they personally do not have people involved in a particular ministry in the Church, that when that ministry is on display they do not have to be there. Part of being faithful to your Church is to support the ministries of your Church. There are a number of reasons why, but one of which is to support the people that have worked hard to make that ministry successful. By you not attending because you are not involved directly, is pretty much saying that the hard work that was put into that ministry does not mean anything, because you are not involved directly. Such is incorrect thinking and contrary to the Scriptural meaning of faithfulness. I do not mean to come across hard, but I don’t think that we think about the reactions that our actions cause.
But don’t worry, I am also going to spend a great deal of time reminding myself of my responsibility as Pastor, so it will not be one sided at all.
Remember June 13th.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Many Christians over the years have given rave reviews to the eighteenth century revivalist, Charles G. Finney. Books have been written about his life, preachers quote him from the pulpit and lest we forget the great number of people that “came to the Lord” as a result of his ministry. However, as you begin to review the life and the beliefs of Charles Finney, you will find that he was very much NOT an evangelical, and not at all orthodox in his beliefs.
Charles Finney was born in 1792 in Connecticut but lived most of his life in Oneida County, New York. Raised by unsaved parents, he grew up largely ignorant of Christian doctrine. The religion that Finney remembered as a child was, he said later, “of a type not at all calculated to arrest my attention”. Finney characterized his pastor’s sermon content as “a dry discussion of Theology”.
Finney decided to study law and took an apprenticeship in Adams, New York, where for the first time he became actively involved in Church. The local Presbyterian Pastor, George W. Gale, took a special interest in Finney and made him choir director. Then over the years, Finney made a profession of faith and later felt the call of God to preach. It was, I believe, extremely unfortunate that Finney chose to pursue a preaching ministry immediately after his conversion. Devoid of any solid Christian influence in his life, he was almost completely ignorant of the Scriptures and Theology. He was a brilliant man; however, and his legal training had conditioned him to think logically, but it also saddled him with a world of wrong presumptions. Finney’s notions about justice, guilt, righteousness, transgression, forgiveness, responsibility, sovereignty, and a host of other terms were drawn from his legal studies, not the Scriptures.
Wherever Finney preached, people responded enthusiastically. Finney boldly challenged conventional doctrine and persuasively championed his own rather novel set of doctrines. He interpreted everything from a nineteenth-century American legal standard to every biblical statement. “I had read nothing on the subject of the atonement except in my Bible”, he wrote, “and what I found on the subject, I had interpreted as I would have understood the same or like passages in law books”. He concluded that God’s justice demanded that He extend grace equally to all. He reasoned that God could not righteously hold mankind guilty for Adam’s disobedience. In his opinion, a just God would never condemn people for being sinners. Finney wrote, “The Bible defines sin to be a transgression of the law. What law have we violated inheriting this sin nature? What law requires us to have a different nature from that which we possess? Does reason affirm that we are deserving of the wrath and curse of God forever, for inheriting from Adam a sinful nature”. Thus Finney discarded the clear teaching of Romans 5:16-19 in favor of human reason. Worse yet, Finney denied that a holy God would impute people’s sin to Christ and of Christ’s righteousness to believers. Finney concluded that the doctrines clearly taught in Romans 3-5 were “theological fiction”. In essence he denied the core teachings of evangelical theology.
Unfortunately, Finney’s early success in preaching obscured his serious flaws in Theology. Finney himself admitted that when he was being examined by his Church to be licensed to preach, the presbytery, “avoided asking questions that would naturally brings my views into collision with theirs”. When asked if he agreed with the Westminster Confession of Faith, he said, “I replied that I received it for substance of doctrine, so far as I understood it”. Then later confessed that he had never read it.
There is much more that I could say about him and if anyone is interested I will share, but for my purposes on this article what I have said will suffice, because you get the message. One of the marks that you always hear about Finney is the great number of people that came to “know the Lord” under his preaching. In closing I want to quote a contemporary of Finney, “During ten years, hundreds, and perhaps thousands, were annually reported to be converted on all hands, but now it is admitted that Finney’s real converts are comparatively few”. It is declared, even by himself, that “the great body of them are a disgrace to religion”; as a consequence of these defections, practical evils, great, terrible, and innumerable, are in various quarters rushing into the Church.
Finney’s logical way of thinking, instead of biblical, and heretical teaching caused the superficial “conversion” of many. He denied the most cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith, and his presentation of the Gospel bore little fruit. Thank God for pastors who are strong on Biblical doctrine.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
"Churches in many ways have actually added to the problem. They promote the idea of the Church as a full-service entertainment and activity center, where you take children away from their parents and put them in a different peer culture. Now it's a Church peer culture. What happens when they grow out of that? What steps can the Church take to do better"
- Focus on expository preaching, and teach how to think biblically. The puplit has to take the responsibility. In far too many Churches there is just no expository preaching (teaching that expounds on a particular text of Scripture). There isn't the robust biblical preaching that sets forth the Word of God and then explains how the people of God must think differently in order to be faithful to that Word.
- Show the seriousness of Church, including personal accountability. The local Church must be a robust gospel people. It must be a warm fellowship of believers...who are really living out holiness and faithfulness to Christ, and being mutually accountable for that.
- Give answers about current issues. We're not giving kids adequate information on some very crucial issues. Look at the questions that the average teenager is facing, "Why aren't you physically intimate with your girlfriend?" "Why don't you believe in evoloution?" "Why don't you accept this worldview?" "Why don't you accept this lifestyle?" If we aren't giving them intellectual material, intellectual knowledge, substance, and confidence, we shouldn't be suprised when they go with the flow.
- Explain how the gospel in unfolding through real history. The Christian faith, the Christian claim, the gospel, is first of all a master narrative-a true story-about life, about God's purpose to bring glory to Himself. It has four major movements: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation. The only was to understand the great story of the gospel is to begin with the fact that God is the Creator and He is the Lord of all. If we don't anchor our children in that story, if they think that Christianity is merely a bunch of stuff to believe, if they don't find their identity in that-in which they say-"Yes, that's my story. This is where I am"-then they are going to fall away.
What are parents doing wrong?
We've got to start treating young people as a mission field, not just assuming that mere nuture will lead them into Christian discipleship and into Christian faith.
Parents need to take the responsibility here. The one thing we know from the entirety of the Scripture is that parents have the non-negotiable responsibility to train, educate, to confront them with the biblical truth, to ground them in Scripture.
We also have, on the part of many Christian parents, a buy-in to a new secualar understanding of parenthood. We are letting our children make big decisions far too early. A teenager making a decision about whether he or she is going to participate in Church activities or be at Church...is making a decision that should be made for him or her".
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
The Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines "Absolute" and being, "outright, unmitigated", (that word probably does not help much, so let me say that unmitigated means to be so definite in what one says that it leaves little chance for change or relief). It also uses the word "fundemental" and "ultimate". Many people will sit in Church and listen to good sermons being preached, but the minute that preacher comes out with one of those absolute statments, you can see their facial expressions change; particularly if that absolute statement is a negative statement and has to do with them or a person that they care a lot about. It is even more damaging when the preacher can show from Scripture that his absolute statements are, in fact, biblical. Then they have no where to go. Their argument then goes from being with the preacher to being with the Lord God of the Scriptures.
I have many things to thank God for in my life. One of the things that I am immensley thankful for is for my home pastor, Jeff Clark. He taught me two fundemental lessons about preaching and teaching. Always, always, always (did I mention "always"), have the Scripture back up what you say; and, people will only learn to the degree of the depth that you take them, (so if people do not like my in-depth approach to the Scriptures, they can thank Jeff Clark for that). That lesson is very important because I realize that there are a lot of preachers out there that spend a lot of time preaching and making absolute statements based on their own opinion. I, too, have to back up sometimes in my study and say "ok, Huffman (I like to think that is the Holy Spirit), where is your Bible for that statement", and sometimes I have to retract. So, I am very aware that the tendency is there for that. Because preachers are humans with real emotions; emotions that sometimes get the better of them.
The Bible is a book of absolutes. There are no grey areas in Scripture, none; it is black and white. But there are some who do not appreciate absolute, black and white statements. And when they hear a preacher make to many of them (especially if it makes them uncomfortable), they will discontinue going to that Church or going when or where that man is preaching. If you hear me make one of those absolute statements, whether live in our Church or over the internet, I, by the Grace of God, will have Scripture that validates the point.
For example, if I where to say, (and I have said from the pulpit), "If there is no consistent Church attendance coupled with your "faith" then your faith is vain". Is there biblical evidence for such an absolute statement? Yes! Hebrews 10:25, James 2:14-26; John 14:15, Matthew 7:21, just to name a few. But you know what, people hate that absolute statment. And I understand from a human perspective. We all have people that we want very desperately to believe are saved, but do not meet the requirement of the above mentioned verses. And the emotion and the flesh hate to hear that. Another example, my dad who, (for those of you reading this that are not a member of our Church), is also a pastor makes this absolute statement, "You cannot be saved without a changed life". Is there biblical evidence for that absolute statement? Yes! 2 Corinthians 5:17 is very clear on that.
Just remember, the Scriptures are a book of absolutes. If you have a problem with biblical absolutes, then your problem is with the God of the Absolute Bible.
Monday, January 4, 2010
I wanted to share with the readers of this blog and folks of my Church some information about the sermon series that we will be enjoying the first part of the new year. Also, for those that cannot be with us because of distance, so that you may listen online (Thanks to the cyber-talents of Mrs. Karen Cersley. Oops! Sorry Karen, I did not ask permission to use your name).
I am very excited about what the Lord is going to teach us through His Word in the Coming year. For those who have been with us we have spent sometime in the Gospel of John; Three years now and we are half way through the eighth chapter. But that is not the record, I know a Pastor who has been in John 5 years and is in chapter 4, so I am not the only nut!! But we will take an extended break from the Gospel of John.
Last Lord's day we began our study on the Lords teaching on the subject of Divorce and Remarriage. I taught this about three years ago, but the Churches in America are so confused on what the Lord actually taught on the subject, that we need to learn exactly what He said. I get tired of hearing preachers add their view and put words in the mouth of the Lord, we are going to let Christ speak for Himself.
Next, we will enjoy and wonderfully enriching study on "Twelve Ordianary Men", We will spend 11 weeks and learn about the first preachers of the NT Church. How they were men of doubt and sin just as we are yet God used them in a mighty way. We will come away from that with the understanding that God can use us no matter our past or our present, as long as we are submitted to God.
Then, we will do a study "Twelve extraordinanry women". I think God for how He uses my Mom in my life. I am thankful for how He uses my wife in my life. We will see the great way that God used women to perform His will.
We have many others planned, but God's grace. It is my prayer that God's people will be faithful to the Service at our Church on Sunday Evening and not sit at home, but come and worship as we learn great things about God's Word.