Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The Association of People For Breathing. I don't have many arguments against inhaling or exhaling. Even when President Clinton said he didn't inhale, I was still for it; just in a different way than how he didn't inhale. I could find common ground and really sympathize with this one issue group. Not breathing is a bummer. But I still wouldn't join. You've probably noticed that big groups like associations or conventions exist all over the place. I think the thing is: power in numbers. "My group is for it or against it" might get further than "I'm for it or against it."

Is it ever wrong to associate? I'm a member of a homeowner's association. If I thought it was wrong, I would leave it. Now that would mean I'd have to find somewhere else to live, but I would leave if I thought this association was wrong. If there was one thing in the rules and regulations that violated Scripture, I would disassociate myself. The Bible says a lot on this matter of associations. For the most part, God did not allow Israel to affiliate with anyone. When she did, she got in big trouble. The bad consequences of association could be the theme of the entire Old Testament. The New Testament regularly communicates this same theme, except with the church. Large chunks of New Testament text prohibit wrong associations.

Consider just one of many places in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." You might ask, where should churches draw the line on associating? How about where Scripture draws it? Just like He did in the Old Testament (Psalm 1:1; 101; Lev. 10:10; etc.), God filled the New Testament with teaching on separation (Matthew 18:15-17; Romans 16:17,18; 1 Corinthians 5; Galatians 1:6-9; Ephesians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; 1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Timothy 2:21; Titus 3:10, 11; Hebrews 13:13; 2 John 1:7-11).

1 Corinthians 15:33 teaches us that evil companions ("communications") corrupt good behavior ("manners"). Bad associations rub off on us. When we associate with the wrong people, we encourage their wrong activities. 2 Thessalonians 3 reminds us that people can be shamed when we exclude them, for the loving purpose of changing them. God wants distinctions kept between His people and the world (Lev. 10:10; Rom. 12:2).

Would you associate with a group involved with physical abuse of people? Would you associate with those who would stain the reputation of your children? Would you send either of these groups money? If we have good reason not to join those groups, then why would we join other associations that are doing the same thing, except spiritually. They spiritually abuse people and they stain the reputation of God. Should a church join and then send support to a group with individual organizations or other churches that disobey the teachings of Scripture? If you are a Southern Baptist, some of your offerings are sent to a cooperative program that supports seminaries where teachers deny fundamental doctrines of Scripture. Is that the right thing to do? That's why many churches have stayed separate from the Southern Baptist and American Baptist Conventions. But what about a group like the American Association of Christian Schools? These types of groups bring you or your church into associations with churches that violate Scriptural doctrine and practice. Does God approve of that association? Member schools send money to the Association. In principle, how is this any different than being a part of the Southern Baptist Convention?

Why do any of these groups exist in the first place? Do churches need these associations? If they were necessary, why aren't they in the Bible? If they are so good, why not form more of them and then join more as well?

Monday, February 27, 2006

That Which Is Perfect

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:10, "But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." What is "that which is perfect?" Personally, this seems very easy. Many people have said that it is the Bible. Their thought, I guess, is that once God had given all 27 books of the NT, the gifts of knowledge, prophecy, and tongues wouldn't be necessary any longer. I think that they would argue that once Scripture was canonized, we wouldn't need these particular gifts, explaining their having been done away, and more recently, revealing why the Charismatic movement can't be real. I commiserate with some of those thoughts. The problem is that "that which is perfect" can't be the Bible, and for many reasons. Listen carefully.

V. 8 tells us that prophecy and knowledge will be done away with. You ask, "What about tongues?" It says tongues "shall cease." The verb (katargeo) used with prophecy and knowledge is the same verb. With both nouns, the verb is future passive, meaning that something else will do away with prophecy and knowledge. "Shall cease" is an entirely different verb (pauo), and it is future middle, meaning that "tongues" would stop on their own. Tongues have their own built in stopping point. You can't say that anything does away with tongues. Even if the Bible is "that which is perfect," it doesn't do away with tongues. Tongues stop on their own, as if their battery has run out. Actually, once tongues had finished their purpose, that is, the authentication of the Word of God, they would disappear, even as they would no longer be necessary.

Now look at v. 9. It says that we presently know in part and also currently prophesy in part. It says nothing about speaking in tongues in part. Tongues have already dropped out of the picture in this chapter, indicative of their extreme temporality. This chapter shows the superiority of love to gifts, with this section of this chapter showing the permanence of love with relations to the gifts. The coming of that which is perfect signals the completion of knowledge and prophecy. Are knowledge and prophecy still operating today? Yes. We still need knowledge and prophecy. Our knowledge is incomplete and keeps growing, but will always just be in part. We are limited in our capacity to know and prophesy by the curse of sin and the human fallenness that resides in our flesh.

Later in v. 12, Paul compares our situation to looking at a mirror ("glass") and not being able to see everything because of a lack of light. You can't see everything you want to see when you are hampered by darkness. Our knowledge and prophecy are still limited in our present state on earth. In v. 11, Paul contrasts his present knowing ("understanding," "thought") and prophesying ("spake") with future knowing and prophesying with the illustration of the limitations of a child in these areas compared to that of an adult. We know and prophesy like a child at this time compared to knowing and prophesying like an adult in some future time.

"That which is perfect" is actually two Greek words, literally, "the perfect." "Perfect" is an adjective in the neuter gender. Neuter. God's Word is in the masculine gender. "Perfect" as an adjective does not agree in gender with "Word," so it could not be describing God's Word. "Bible," what we often call God's Word, is not the primary title for it in Scripture. If you look at every time the Greek word for "book" (biblion, which is neuter) is used in the NT, it isn't referring to the Bible as a whole; only a book of the Bible essentially. So what is it describing? The text itself tells us. "The perfect" is when we see the Lord face to face (v. 12). That is when we will no longer need knowledge or prophecy. We won't need it because our knowledge will then be complete. 1 John 3:2 says that "when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." When we see the Lord face to face, our knowledge will be perfect. The perfect describes our condition in the eternal state---the time of our perfection will do away with knowledge and prophecy. Our glorified state will not be hampered by sin or its consequences any more. This fits with the context, because even in heaven love will exist---not faith and hope---but love will. Since faith and hope aren't sight, seeing him will eradicate both. We already don't need tongues. They have stopped on their own. In heaven, we won't need hope, faith, knowledge, or prophecy. Those gifts will no longer be necessary. This is an important reason why love is superior. Love is eternal.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Reconstruction or Liberation

Several years ago I was watching Jesse Jackson speak about one of his protesting experiences, and he transitioned into a patented poetic preaching rhythm, and quoted some version of Romans 12:1, saying that his trip to jail was offering himself a living sacrifice. By doing so, he could deliver people from oppression like Moses did the children of Israel out of Egypt. For how crazy that was, many people not knowing the Bible could be drawn in by such serious perversion of Scripture. Many years ago someone signed me up for a subscription to The New American, the magazine associated with the John Birch society. I was 25 and I had truly never heard of either John Birch or The New American. I agreed with some of what the magazine had to say, but for the most part, it just made me angry. I never renewed my subscription when it came time to pay for it. It's easy enough to get angry on my own without getting something sent that could get me mad all the time. Like many of you, I've found both a far right and a far left in this country. I can identify with both those groups more easily than I do with the middle. However, I don't agree with either of them.

The furthest right politically has a reconstructionist world view and the furthest left has a liberation one. Reconstruction says that we can bring in the kingdom of God on this earth through enacting something as close as possible to the Old Testament law. Liberation says that we can bring in the kingdom through progressive social policies that would liberate the poor and oppressed. Both focus on injustice. The first says we bring in the kingdom with enforced morality. The second says that we set up God's throne by giving the poor a fair shake. Both of them involve an allegorial intepretation of the Bible. Both of them allegorize the literal, thousand year reign of Christ on earth, a position called amillennialism. With both views, Jesus brings in the kingdom, but He does it spiritually through his agents on this earth. Reconstructionism has very conservative ambassadors and liberation theology has extremely liberal representatives.

Both of these thoughts have seeped into modern thinking in churches. Churches attempt to reform people through their standards or they try to change them by giving them things. The Bible is clear, however, that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, will set up a literal, physical kingdom on this earth. He will end the problems of poverty, injustice, and unrighteousness. Scripture contains lots of great teaching on the kingdom, but a wonderful synopsis of His kingdom comes in Isaiah 11:1-9. Jesus wants to rule and reign in people's lives today spiritually in prospect of a future physical kingdom on this earth. The changes people covet will actually come through the powerful transformation of Jesus Christ, first in the soul and then physically. He will completely change societal structure, reconstruction, and liberate everyone from their former oppressed condition. Until then, let's keep marching to Zion.

Friday, February 24, 2006

It Isn't Digging Ditches

I hear so much talk about externalism and internalism and standards and legalism and authoritarianism and balance and liberty and license and freedom and oppression and strictness, that this makes me think that one of Satan's big attacks is that this is all too complex and definitely too hard. Most of the Christian life doesn't require much effort. I'm not saying that we shouldn't put out a lot of it, but it is not explicitly required for most of what the Lord wants us to do. God does all the heavy lifting. In a lot of ways, we are just along for the ride. And yet more and more professing Christian leaders seem to be looking for ways to make it even easier than it already is, reducing everything down to a very short formula that can fit on a sidebar. I'm waiting for church attendance to get done by clicking on some hyptertext, proxy congregational singing done by cyber replacements. People stress today over having to button their top button. A tie is really a ball and chain. Turning the pages of a hymnbook could send humpty dumpty crashing from his padded pew. Conforming to the world is not just an acceptable technique; it's crucial for ministry success. You just don't get it if you think there's much to get. And all of this because the old way was way too difficult, led by people that thrived on pain.

We live in the era of the three sleepy C's---casual, comfortable, and convenient. It's supposed to be a period of individuality, but everybody's hair is messed up---the toweled off look. How can so many people be stepping out of the shower and right into a pair of jeans that look like they came out of the hamper? Almost everything is automated. Gone are the days of a mustard stained Rand McNally with plenty of greasy finger prints. Now, we just "map it." "Do you need directions?" "No, I'll just map it." "Sweet." My hold is in at the library; I got a call from the computer.

So much of this doesn't fit with what are really the minimal demands of following Christ. New Bibles are organized to make it even easier by divying out little portions that can be read while you finish your coffee. Prayer is a way of getting things, like rubbing a magic lamp. You pray the prayer of Jabez and the genie jumps out and gives you your three wishes. God can't be a cosmic killjoy, so He must be a heavenly bellhop. He's all about you enjoying your stay.

Jesus said that His yoke was easy and His burden was light. He has given all things richly to enjoy, wants to supply our needs, gives us rest and hope, loves, keeps, completes and strengthens us, and has promised to never leave or forsake us. What do we do? Read our Bible and pray. Preach the Gospel. Attend church faithfully. Do what He said, which is not too hard to understand and it's the basic stuff that someone should want to do anyway. We will have to struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil, but what He wants us to do isn't hard to figure out and with Him it's even easy to do. It isn't anything like digging ditches.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bodily Exercise Profiteth Little

Lots of thoughts, folks. Lots of them. Loads of them. Thoughts about unpopularity. Thoughts about sweaty armpits. Thoughts about gravity. I'm going to let the thoughts spew out on this in no particular order. First, Spurgeon. He smoked cigars. He defended them on many different occasions, and didn't ever really quit, despite the urban legend, made-up-story about his seeing an advertisement on a tobacco shop that said, "Smoke the cigars that Spurgeon smokes." Nice story, but no cigar. He had a lot of health problems. Is it possible smoking cigars and his rotund profile could have been cause? I've never thought smoking cigars sent anyone to Hell; however, they might just make you smell like you've been there. That gets me to D. L. Moody. Moody spoke and wrote a lot about the fullness of the Spirit. And R. A. Torrey wrote a book about Moody entitled, Why God Used Moody, that dealt again with the fullness of the Spirit. One of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 is "temperance." That's self-control. You notice that it says, singular, "fruit of the Spirit." You either have all of them or none of them. You are either filled or you're not. If you aren't temperate, then at that moment, you are not filled with the Spirit. Was Mr. Moody temperate? Do you know Proverbs 23:2? "And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite." The Bible speaks specifically about this one, doesn't it? With Spurgeon, we could say that the medicine of that day didn't deal with the health risks of cigars. From what I can gather, cigars are far less unhealthy than cigarettes. Moody was a little more husky than Spurgeon, but these two needed to learn the push-away, both of them. You know, push themselves away from the table.

I recognize that some out there can't quite get laughing at all this. I am speaking about Spurgeon and Moody. Really though, I could start naming more than a few modern preachers who have more chins than a Chinese phone book. For one.....I'm not going to say. You might like this though. A husband let his wife's birthday go by, so he promised that he would get something for her the next day. She said to him: "All I know is that tomorrow morning when I get up, there better be something in the driveway that can go from 0 to 200 in less than four seconds." She got up the next morning and looked out the window. There was a wrapped package in the driveway. She put on her robe and walked out to get it. She unwrapped it. Inside was a bathroom scale. He probably didn't see her for a week after that. And then one eye began to unswell and open just slightly. This can sound like a cruel subject. People are very sensitive. It's much easier to preach against something else that someone else does that's really bad. However, here are five possibilities for the overweight: (1) Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, so you sin against the Holy Spirit. (2) You can't help others because of this gigantic beam sticking out of your eye, or at least a tent at your midsection. (3) You die younger and lose years of service. (4) Your service is less effective because you are literally and metaphorically bogged down. (5) You lose respect with people of which you could be a better leader. By the way, right now I want you to stop using moral equivalence. Stop thinking things like, "Well, you drink pepsi, and pepsi's bad for you." So you think that's an excuse for that inner tube around your waist? Only some more thoughts.

1 Timothy 4:8 says, "Bodily exercise profiteth little." In its context, I don't think it is saying that it profits a little bit. I believe it carries a temporal understanding, as in, bodily exercise profits for a little time. Bodily exercise won't result in you living forever. It isn't as important as godliness. Godliness goes on for all eternity. However, it does profit. Not much can be said to truly profit, but God says this does, and it does at least while you're on this earth. Hmmmmm. What other time while you are on this earth should you be concerned about except when you are on this earth? If it profits while you are still here, it will profit. So, two words: diet and exercise. Just some thoughts. No one is waiting in line up at the track.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


After a good number of years of working with people, I happen to know that "I didn't understand," "I don't get it," "It wasn't clear," or "I don't get what you're saying" do not necessarily mean what they say. Often, they are excuses. They are difficult to judge, however. How do you know if they don't know? Really. Perhaps you know. I can't afford to believe these kinds of statements every time my children use them. I often say, "You should have listened more carefully then, I guess." The "I guess" part is the tough man portion of the statement, ending with a bit of irony, usually lost on them.

It shouldn't surprise if this is the number one excuse people make about the Bible or anything having to do with God---'since its all unclear, I can't be responsible for having to do it.' They treat the Bible like the windshield of a four wheeler after a few hours in the mud. Just today I had someone tell me that there were, quote, "500 Bibles." I have a certain look I give when someone says something off-the-wall, a sort of eye squinty kind of thing combined with a feint smile. I held that look for a moment, and then proceeded to tell him there was only one. I admit that I get fed up with hearing that type of lie repeated. We have more copies of Scripture than any other book from antiquity. When we compare the copies, we find them essentially the same. This same guy goes on, and gives me really an inane illustration. He says, "It's like if one person says something in someone's ear and then it is repeated to ten people, by the time it even gets to ten people, it is changed." That kind of analogy works for someone who doesn't want any kind of trustworthy Divine authority. He can base his decisions on his feelings, thinking that in the end, he'll just tell God that He wasn't clear, and God will say, "Yeah, you're right." Sorry pal.

The Bible teaches the perspecuity of Scripture, its clarity. In more than one place God's Word refers to itself under the figure of a lamp or a light. The power of Scripture is to illuminate or enlighten men. "The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes," Ps. 19:8. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path," Ps. 119:105. "For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light," Prov.6:23. Moses says to the children of Israel in Deut. 30:11, "For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off." II Peter 1:19 describes Scripture as "a light that shineth in a dark place." 2 Timothy 3:15-17 says that from a child Timothy had known the holy scriptures that were able to make him wise unto salvation, and that Scripture thoroughly furnishes the man of God unto every good work. Jesus frequently calls people, including his disciples, "foolish," "slow of heart," "blind" when they don’t understand the Scriptures (Lk 24:25-26; Mt 22:29). The presupposition of clarity is further evident in attempts by Biblical authors to communicate clearly (Deut 6:4–9, Matt 24:15, Rom 6:19a, 2 Cor 1:13), calls to hear and obey which render the readers responsible (Deut 31:9–13, Deut 29:29, John 5:39–40, Col 3:16, 1 Tim 4:13, 1 Pet 1:22–2:3) and affirmations of Scripture’s utility (Ps 19:7–11, 1 Cor 10:1–11, Rom 4:22–25, 2 Tim 3:14–17, Rom 15:4). In James 1:18, God is called the Father of lights, a strange name to give Someone Who is unclear. Unclear greatly offends One Who has an infinite capacity to be understood, even placing ourselves as judges of His clarity. It also reflects on our low view of His justice, when we could infer that He would punish people for something they could not have been required to know.

The Lord's perspecuity is not where the blame lies. Lack of understanding is attributed to rebellion against God, which includes a moral and an intellectual dimension (Isa 44:18). Those who cannot understand are described as unspiritual (1 Cor 2:10–14), outside God’s kingdom and under judgment (Isaiah 6, Mark 4:10–12), perishing and controlled by Satan (2 Cor 4:3–4), ignorant and unstable (2 Pet 3:16). This last verse is important, for it occurs in the context of Peter’s ‘clear’ reading of Paul. Some aspects of Paul, while ‘difficult to understand,' are nevertheless understandable. The fault is not with Scripture, but with the ignorant and unstable readers. Yet, there is a renewed humanity, to whom the clear Scripture speaks. When God’s Spirit renews these rebels (Jer 31:34, 1 John 2:26–27), the veil is removed and Scripture can be understood (e.g. Acts 17:10–12, 2 Cor 3:12–18). It isn't the seed, but the condition of the soil (Mt. 13).

All clear now?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Looking for Help in All the Wrong Places

"Health through Drug-Free Therapy." "Don't Tie Yourself Up in 'Nots.'" "If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules." "Thoughts that Harm, Thoughts that Heal." "The Seven Stages of Power and Healing." "If At First You Don't Succeed, Buy This Book." "Beyond Blame." "Overcoming Low Self-Esteem." "Shyness, A Bold New Approach." "The Culture of Fear, Why Americans Are Afraid of Wrong Things." These really are only a few titles of self-help books on the market. If they were succeeding, we'd need less of them, and the authors would be out of a job. They're not working and they really aren't even designed to succeed. They're really just looking for help, but in all the wrong places.

God wants us to be happy. [T]he living God . . . giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (1 Tim. 6:17). The whole book of 1 John was written so "that your joy may be full" (1:4). The things God has written, He has written for our happiness. Jesus said, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (Jn. 13:17). Since God knows us better than we know ourselves; He created us and sustains us, then He also knows what will make us happy. He wants us to have joy, so much so that this is a basic theme of the entire epistle of Philippians. Every parent wants His child(ren) to have joy. In one sense God is the "Father of all" (Eph. 4:6), and He wants His children to be happy and have joy. Instead, life is full of misery and suffering and depression, among many other negative emotions. It isn't because of Him. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17).

True fulfillment is found in Christ. "In Him . . . all fulness dwells" (Col. 1:19) and "ye are complete in Him" (Col. 2:10). How do we get in Christ? By faith alone in Him. We are "found in Him . . . through faith of Christ" (Philip. 3:9). Being in Christ guarantees fulfillment for the long haul, but we won't experience it every day unless we submit to Him as Head. "Christ is the head of the church" (Eph. 5:23), "head of the body, the church" (Col. 1:18). People want the happiness of the Lord without submitting to the Lord of happiness. Fulfillment in Christ is experienced in the church. God intends each believer to fit into a church as a member, a body part (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12). In the church, a person will receive true counsel from the Lord from the other body parts working together. Ephesians 4:16 says, "From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." Sounds like good therapy, doesn't it?

You will not, I repeat, will not experience the fulfillment and, therefore, happiness of God outside of a church. God designed the church so that we could obey Him and be happy. God didn't make us to be happy doing our own thing. That is why the place for true help is in the church, not in a place of our design, including self-help, whether in books or through professional psychiatry. These aren't even band-aids. Both the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) and the church (Eph. 3:10) are sufficient. God designed the body life of the church to engender psychological, mental, and spiritual well-being. That gets accomplished when the body parts "love" one another, "teach" one another, "admonish" one another, "support" one another, "strengthen" one another, "exhort" one another, "edify" one another, "restore" one another with a spirit of meekness, "confess your faults" one to another, "comfort" one another, "provoke" one another to love and good works, and also "warn" one another. Through this interaction among believers, they experience the fulfillment Christ has already given them in Him. This kind of life however rarely occurs in most churches today when it is not only in the New Testament, but represents the very essence of the New Testament. It's not just being in the church, but being the body part that God intended. That means listening to the Head and doing what He says.

Fitting into a church requires humility. Romans 12:3 calls this thinking less "highly" of himself "than he ought to think." Life is like a race with a finish line, but the goal isn't to get there first. The goal is to get there together with as many people as possible. Galatians 6:2 calls this bearing one another's burdens. God wants us to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6), but we don't walk alone. We walk with all the others in the church, and in so doing, we also get the help that we need and a happiness we must have been missing, all because we were looking for it in all the wrong places. The church is the place and today is the first day of the rest of your life. What are you waiting for?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Revelation Versus Discovery

How would you define "general revelation?" Wouldn't you think that it is revelation that is general in its content? Sounds like that could be correct. Wrong. So what is it general in? General in its audience. That's right. But replacing the word "audience" with "content" has opened up a whole new realm of employment, spawned hundreds of new books of psychology, and also fooled a great many with the perversion of truth. This is a major issue that has, in many ways, flown under the radar. Let me tell you what's the problem.

Revelation by nature is undiscoverable. When I say that to someone, he often says, "Huh?" Think about it. Revelation must be revealed. If it must be revealed, we can't discover it. If we discovered it, it wasn't revelation. Revelation is unveiled by God, uncovered by Him alone. God alone pulls away the covering. That doesn't mean that everyone understands or thinks about what God has revealed. However, everyone can and should. What God wants man to know, man doesn't know, not because God hasn't given the opportunity, but because man has rejected it. This is the essence of Romans 1:18-27. Verses nineteen and twenty synthesize it well: "That which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." The "they" is everyone. Every person is a "thing that is made." Every single person has had revealed to him what God wants him to know. Some grab hold of this knowledge; others don't. When someone doesn't, it's because he exalted his knowledge above God's, becoming vain in his imagination.

So what's the big deal about changing "audience" into "content?" Men have attacked general revelation by altering it into anything that man discovers. If a "behavioral psychologist" watches repeatedly the conditioned responses of humans or animals, he can say that the knowledge he gained through discovery was general revelation. It isn't. It is discovery. It might be valuable information gained through discovery, but it isn't something that God has revealed. Now a whole new branch of psychology, Christian psychology, exists based upon the simple twisting of this one definition. These Christian psychologists or psychiatrists offer their mix of opinion or discovery on par with the Bible, justifying it by calling it general revelation. If people don't know the difference, they might just accept this as true. Many have. People often are looking for help and with a bunch of letters after his name, the Christian psychiatrist looks like he might be the place. Sometimes you'll hear someone say, "All truth is God's truth." That's, well, not true. God's truth is revealed by Him. Something someone observes in a laboratory can't rise to the level of what God said. Since we are sanctified by truth (Jn. 17:17), and sanctification is God's purpose for our being here (Rom. 8:28, 29), you can see what harmful results come from confusion on this definition. At best, all discovery and human observation must be submitted to biblical criteria to test their truthfulness. By doing so we keep all discovery in its proper place, secondary to and subservient to everything that God has revealed.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Powdered Wigs and Wooden Teeth

For some of my dear readers, you have already donned your powdered wigs and wooden teeth to celebrate President's Day. What a day it is for all of us as we remember our presidents. You are remembering your presidents, aren't you? Well, you do know what George Washington said when his dad caught him cutting down the cherry tree. He said, "Father, I cannot tell a lie, maybe I did or maybe I didn't." I say that in the spirit of some presidents, just putting my own spin on the story. We are a little bit lighter today for you dear readers. Hello, ello, ello, ello, lo, lo, o. There are readers in here, aren't there, there, ere, ere, ere? Which reminds me of another famous tree. You know---the one that fell down in the forest, but since no one heard it, it didn't make a noise. It is a new perspective on a time-honored philosophical question. If no one reads a blog, did it make a noise?

Keeping on topic, do you have a favorite president? The favorite president test must pass the first thought test. Which president first entered your mind when you were asked that question?I'm cynical of all Calvin Coolidge fans, even though I won the writing contest in my 8th grade class for Great American's Day. I do have a favorite Calvin Coolidge story, however. Here it is. Calvin Coolidge got home from church one Sunday carrying a big fat Bible. Oooops, excuse me, wrong president, that was Bill Clinton. No, Coolidge got home from church and his wife asked him what the minister preached about. He replied, "Sin." She asked, "What about it?" He answered, "Against it." That will tell you a little bit about quiet Calvin.

You can say that you truly like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln first. That's OK, even though it's not going to earn you any special presidential praise. Some party loyalists will say John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan or Richard Nix. . . . let's not get carried away. My first thought grid feeds me the name "Andrew Jackson." And you know why I think of Andrew Jackson? The Trail of Tears. I have to say the relatively unknown and controversial to produce readership. Not at all. Granted, that was perhaps a low point in the Jackson presidency. Just as an aside. Did you know its hard not to think of Andrew Johnson when I think of Andrew Jackson? Andrew Johnson was the first president impeached. And the second was . . . . Uh-huh. They both stayed in office, the first by only one vote in the Senate. But no, not because of the Trail of Tears. Jackson was a Southerner. That is one strike against him for most United States citizens, especially in the red states. And the two significant thoughts that come to my mind with Jackson are: (1) He wouldn't significantly lower the tariffs to aid southern farming. He knew the importance of tariffs to protect northern manufacturing. As a result, his Vice President, the popular John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, resigned. The tariffs were a burden to the cotton trade of the South. (2) He distrusted the national bank. In one amazing act, Jackson removed all government funds from the national bank to punish its continued unjust practices, despite damage this did to the national economy. People seemed to either love him or hate him, and on many occasions just misunderestimate him, but perhaps that's someone else I was thinking of.

Friday, February 17, 2006

My Precise Agreement with a Prominent Liberal Theologian

This story needs some background. You also might enjoy it more that way. This morning I left home with the normal car pool of kids, my four and one neighbor, using driving skills on the second busiest stretch of highway in America that were not only a great feat of engineering, they were a blatant defiance of all the laws of physics. Shortly thereafter I preached in our 7-12 chapel, taught two history classes, ate a discipleship lunch, went shopping for my son's birthday present, picked up the kids after school, and took the whole family to Barnes and Noble to spend some of a Christmas gift card. Each of us gathered a stack of books and sat around a table looking and reading, and sipping and slurping one cream soda, two chocolate and one strawberry frappaccinos, and two venti cafe mochas. I purchased the new English translation of Elie Wiesel's Night, his account of his family's Holocaust death but his survival, and then Misquoted Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman. I struggled on the latter, because I really did not want to support him financially, but I do need a few of these for reference.

I'm not totally out of the loop of "scholarship" but I had not been in touch with Bart Ehrman until a week ago. One of our school teachers handed me a catalog called "The Great Courses," which contains a selection of "the best university courses recorded on audio and video." I have to admit that I was salivating over some of these lectures. I noticed a majority of the Bible or religion sessions were taught by this Bart D. Ehrman from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I didn't think they would be good and I wouldn't want to hear them, but his name was still stuck in my mind when I walked into Barnes and Noble tonight. I opened the door for my family, and at that moment, so many other families were leaving that by the time I finished holding the door, not only had mine disappeared, but I was wondering if I could receive compensation as an employee. I walked straight ahead to that big display table right in front of the entrance with all the new hardbacks on it. The second one I noticed was the Ehrman volume, and I remembered his name. The subtitle of the book was "The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why." I decided I wanted to find out who had changed the Bible.

Later, as I sat reading at the cafe table, I found out what Ehrman was attempting to accomplish, which is why I bought it. He writes, "That is the kind of book this is---to my knowledge, the first of its kind. It is written for people who know nothing about textual criticism but who might like to learn something about how scribes were changing scripture and about how we can recognize where they did so." Oh goody (sarcasm).

Well, who is Ehrman? He has an interesting story that I'll synthesize. He grew up in Kansas as an episcopalian, but still wanted to know the Bible. He had a campus crusade guy visit his public school and he had a "born again" experience that made him a "fundamentalist," and a few years later in 1973 he went off to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He went there thinking that he had the words of God in his hands. At Moody he found out shortly that no originals actually existed and that the copies had been changed, so that they weren't sure what the original words were any longer, but they still knew the originals were inspired. He writes, "This was a compelling problem. It was the words of scripture themselves that God had inspired. Surely we have to know what those words were if we want to know how he had communicated to us."

He finished the three year institute at Moody, and then went to Wheaton with a warning from students at Moody that he'd have a hard time finding real Christians there. He spent two years at Wheaton and began taking Greek. He says, "I kept reverting to my basic question: how does it help us to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God if in fact we don't have the words that God inerrantly inspired, but only the words copied by scribes---sometimes correctly but sometimes (many times!) incorrectly? What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired? We don't have the originals!" This is my precise agreement with a prominent liberal theologian. Now, at this point in his life, he wasn't a liberal theologian, but it was this very question that led him to become one. But I agreed. What good is inerrantly inspired original manuscripts without inerrantly preserved ones? Ehrman is willing to tell the truth about this, because he doesn't have any reason not to say what he thinks. Unfortunately for him, he went the wrong direction, which is what a lot of people have done and will do when they hear this kind of thing.

Well, what happened next? He decided he needed to dedicate himself to textual criticism and so went to Princeton Seminary to study under Bruce Metzger, whom he calls his "Doctor-Father." A recent book was published by a bunch of Bob Jones University grads in which Keith E. Gephart, a professor at International Baptist College in Tempe, AZ, writes a chapter called: "Are the Copies Reliable?" In more than half that chapter, Gephart takes from Bruce Metzger, the Doctor-Father of Bruce Ehrman. In Ehrman's very first semester at Princeton he was turned away from inerrancy and inspiration when he found out there were "errors" in the book of Mark, becoming convinced that the author himself made mistakes in the originals. Ehrman writes: "Once I made that admission, the floodgates opened." He follows: "This became a problem for my view of inspiration, for I came to realize that it would have been no more difficult for God to preserve the words of scripture than it would have been for him to inspire them in the first place." Exactly!

But then I read precisely where he (and many others even in fundamental schools) went off track: "The fact that we don't have the words surely must show, I reasoned, (emphasis mine) that he did not preserve them for us. And if he didn't perform that miracle, there seemed to be no reason to think that he performed the earlier miracle of inspiring those words." Again, exactly! The biggest difference between Ehrman and me is that I believe that God did perform that miracle. He did; He did; He did! He said that He would, promised that He would! However, I agree with Ehrman's view of things with that major exception. Most of those who believe in perfect inspiration and imperfect preservation will say that there are very few differences. Ehrman, perhaps the most foremost scholar on textual criticism today, writes: "There are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament." You won't hear that statistic much from the guys at Dallas, Central, Detroit, Maranatha, Bob Jones, Masters, Calvary-Lansdale, among other places.

Do you see the honest result of the destruction of the doctrine of preservation? I don't think that Ehrman was ever born again. He was born again about as much as Presidents Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton were, who also profess this experience in their lives. Ehrman doesn't even believe in the canonicity of the 66 books. He would include others. This is the natural outworking of denying a miracle in preservation. How sad it is!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Preying for Power

How tall was Louis the XVI when he died? I estimate around four feet. He may have been the shortest monarch in history at his death, well, because of how he died. You know, the guillotine. Louis ignored the poor. His dad had; grandfather too. Remember Louix XIV who funded his big buildings and foolish war efforts by taxing only the poor? His nobility buddies played and frolicked. The son, XV, said these last words, "Apres moi le deluge," "After me, the deluge." He was right. When the poor outnumber everyone else, bad news for most places, and especially a France now immersed in secularism. Louis XVI got shortened because, ironically, the Committee of Public Safety preyed on the poor's bloodthirst for revenge, lifting Maximilian Robespierre to power. Without true faith and drenched in the rationalism of Voltaire and Rousseau, nothing could hold them back from what they and Robespierre wanted.

Stepping to power on the desperation of the poor is very old. Roman emporers quelled their poor by giving them lionfests at the Coliseum along with bread and circuses. Mussolini found his totalitarian place in Italy because he could make the trains run on time. Hitler found his niche in bitterness over the Treaty of Versailles. The poor were willing to give the madman power with all the right promises of revenge and domination. The same event could have occurred 400 years earlier in Germany during the peasants revolt, but the Bible prevented the anarchy characterizing the French revolution. The poor expected changes when the Protestants replaced the Catholic state church. Scriptural training stymies mass murder, however.

We jump forward again to post Civil War after Lincoln's assassination resulted in a very strict Southern reconstruction. This greatly harmed the emancipated slaves. They were some kind of revolution waiting for a time to happen, but there was Booker T. Washington. Instead of feeding their discontent, he empowered them by instructing them to build a better brick, and they did. They built the entire Tuskegee Institute with bricks they made in a kiln they constructed. He taught them every Sunday night after a return from church services in the character of hard work, self-discipline, and trust in the Lord. So what happened? It was far easier to listen to the doctrine of W. E. B. Dubois, the founder of the NAACP, who preyed on the poor blacks with his message of bitterness and government intervention. When Booker T. died in his early fifties at the turn of the 19th century, Dubois was there to fill that vacuum of leadership with his philosophies of self-gratification. His words became the new heritage even until after his death in Ghana in the 1950s after publically espousing communism and emigrating there.

The Democratic Party has kept its power by exploiting the black, white, and elderly poor, trading self-sufficiency and real liberty for the stagnation and slavery of government dependence. With any kind of success in actually delivering their constitutents from their poor circumstances, the Democratic Party would lose their primary wedge for maintaining the votes for election victories, guaranteeing policies of continued failure for those of whom they take advantage. Churches have unfortunately realized these same strategies and cobble numerical success from promotion and marketing to those who covet their allure. None of this promotes Scriptural character or fleshes out a Biblical way of life that will advance a culture. It all continues to prey for power.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

History of Doctrine: Historic Ecclesiology

Does the history of doctrine make any difference at all? Yes. It has at least two values. One, like a detective, you can investigate in many cases where and when false doctrines originated. Showing that a doctrine started after the Bible was completed could be helpful in exposing it as a fraud. Seeing that false teaching expanded after a particular religious movement can explain where it came from. Two, since there is no private interpretation of Scripture (2 Peter 1:20, 21), the correct interpretation of the Bible usually will have some basis in history. If it doesn't, then there is likely a historic reason. We can't start with historical interpretation. We start with exegesis of Scripture, pulling out the correct meaning using the grammar and context. After we are sure it is what God is saying, we look at what others have said.

There are several weaknesses or potential pitfalls to the history of doctrine: (1) God didn't promise to preserve history. We can't know for sure what truly is history; (2) Most of the history comes after the invention of the moveable-type printing press in 1440, so we often get a skewed perspective; (3) Much of the history was preserved by doctrinally perverse people who had the power to write the most and yet to destroy what others had written. The history of true believers is a trail of blood. They couldn't write much on the run from the government and state church people. When they did write things, they were often destroyed by the same cast of characters. And (4) Some of the important historic doctrine came as a reaction to some attack on orthodox teaching, motivating a flurry of writing on that subject at only a certain point in time. History must be interpreted with this in mind. For instance, not much was written on creationism until the attack from evolution. That doesn't mean that creationism isn't historic doctrine; just that people who believed in it didn't see the need to write on it extensively. Because of this, most creationist material is relatively new.

Here's the application of this that I wanted to get to. I believe that historic ecclesiology backs a local only position. The church, the body of Christ, is local only. I also believe that history shows the departure from truth to be the universal church position. I'm not going to give you anything too in depth in this small space, but let me give at least two important ones. First, the earliest patristic writings back a local church position. If you read Clement of Rome, you will read only a local ecclesiology. Second, the earliest othodox doctrinal statements support a local church position. Read The Schleitheim Confession of 1527, the Discipline of the Church, 1527, and Ridemann's Rechenschaft, 1540, and you will see no universal ecclesiology, only local. Certainly, later creeds and statements read a universal position, but I believe they were influenced by Roman Catholic theology, essentially Augustinian theology mixed with Platonic philosophy and tradition. To start, of course, the plain reading of Scripture reveals a local only church or body. The Scriptural position in this case is also supported by history.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Fake It Till You Make It

A few years back, an acquaintance of mine who is a developer, and "loves our church" (he has attended only once), wanted to help us out by getting us involved with a man with whom we could invest and get something like 300% profit on our money in a matter of a year. This acquaintance has done pretty well for himself, so I told him I would visit with this man. He brought him over to the church property one early evening. This guy would have been a nightmare for airport security with more gold chains around his neck than a rap diva along with his entire posse. He had a leather top hat with an entire leather suit. Each finger had a gold ring, two of which were large diamond studded, gold encrusted dollar signs. Several of the chains attached to heavy bejeweled crosses. I could go on, but he was a hoot that barely allowed me to keep a straight face. He went through his whole spew like a late night infomercial host and I nodded and smiled appropriately. At the end, I refused and I could tell my developer friend was disappointed. About a year later, I asked him how his business dealings had gone with this man, and he informed me that I had made the right decision. He and his brother had lost tens of thousands of dollars.

That was an easy call for me. It all sounded too good to be true because it was, well, too good to be true. I figured his whole get-up probably worked in certain circles, but to me it was as obvious as a Bozo the clown outfit. I thought it must be fun for him to put on that costume and go out to do 'bidness,' purely as an act. Outward appearance can fool men. People can put on an act that will convince people they're true. Judas Iscariot got that done for at least three years until he ran out of energy, something that often happens when you camp out most nights with no pillow. Most of the Bible talks about externals, what we are to do, how to behave. However, more important than the externals are who we are on the inside. One of the more popular passages in all of Scripture, 1 Samuel 16:7, reminds us that God looks on our heart. He does, which is one reason why Jesus said, "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34), "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh" (Luke 6:45), and "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man" (Matthew 15:18).

Do you have a tendency to skip over lists of verses and not read them? You got caught again. Go back and read the verses. Or maybe you could just fake it and make people think that you did. No, go read them. Some, I'm convinced, fully intend to get it real on the inside after awhile of faking on the outside, and then just never get it done. They actually never do fake it 'till they make it. And who are we faking anyway? It isn't God.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Essential Truths, Secondary Issues

Someone recently sent me a paragraph of which every word was spelled incorrectly. Each of the words began and ended with the correct letter, so I could read it easily. Since I could read it, did it really matter if the words were spelled correctly? After all, I got the essential truth. Isn't spelling just a secondary matter? Tell that to your English teacher; see if it works. If I ever get picked up for speeding (not likely, smiles), I can let the police officer know I was obeying the essential truths of state law. I stayed in my lane, didn't bump into other cars, and didn't hurt anybody. Think that will fly with law enforcement?

I recently read this, and it sounded like so many other things I've heard said by others: "They are a great example of standing up for the essential truth of the gospel, and kidding around about secondary issues." We are supposed to applaud that. First, it is essential truth, not just truth. Second, they are secondary matters. If someone tried to cull this from Scripture, they would probably use these: "You . . . have omitted the weightier matters of the law . . . . Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel" (Matthew 23:33, 34). Or, "Which is the first commandment of all?" (Mark 12:28) Those are the only places one could find something to contribute to this doctrine. Nothing in the Bible says "essential truths." Perhaps at best the two references above, which are the only ones of their kind in all of Scripture, back up some kind of doctrine of "secondary issues." In their context, however, they seem to be targeting the internal versus the external, that the internal things take priority over the external things. In other words, if you are going to pay attention to something, you don't look at the external things to the exclusion of the internal things. This does not mean that the external things are unimportant or should not be taught and enforced. The Lord meant to show the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

Professing Christians have taken that point and relegated certain truths of Scripture to secondary status. In most cases, it seems that the basis for doing so is solely subjective. Whatever a close-knit group of buddies thinks is secondary is, well, secondary. Does this please Christ, that huge numbers of His truths have been put in cold storage? No. While certain passages do hint at priorities in Scripture, others tell us that every single thing the Bible says is important; like these: "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19); "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20); "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love" (John 15:10). "Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he" (Genesis 6:22); "And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul" (Deuteronomy 3o:2); "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (Joshua 1:8).

If you didn't read those verses above--just skipped them---go back and read them. Those are really only a sampling, but they say something entirely different than the reduction of truth. God seems to look as everything He said as important, and it isn't for us to relegate some of what He said to a secondary issue or as essential and non-essential truth. Why would anyone do that anyway? It can't be because they love the Lord. It must be to make room for their own form of Christianity or to protect some false view of unity. In the wrong view of unity, doctrine is dumbed down for the sake of getting along. Getting along is the one doctrine that can't be compromised. Anyway much more can be said here, but for now, just reject this essential-truth-secondary-issue kind of view.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Lessons from Tent Making

Paul made tents (Acts 18:3). We know from 1 Thessalonians 2 (2:9) that he worked night and day. We usually say "day and night." In Jewish culture, the day began at 6am. Paul rose while it was still night to do his day job and then kept working into the night fulfilling his purpose on earth. As a tent-maker, probably a trade his dad taught him as something to lean back on if everything else fell through, he supported his real work, making disciples. A tent making term made it into his epistles in 2 Timothy 2:15. There Paul wrote, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." When you look at that verse, which one seems to relate to his day job? "Workman" wouldn't be a bad guess. He probably thought of himself as one when he made tents, fitting very nicely with the words "rightly dividing." When Paul said "rightly dividing," he was using tentmaking terminology with which he was very familiar.

Making a tent required accurate cutting of the various pieces. To get each piece right, the tent maker must have understood the whole tent, so that he could cut out portions that would fit into the whole. A piece could be the right shape and still not fit into the tent because it wasn't rhe right size. Paralleling this with his approach to Scripture, the kind of study Paul had in mind would first get a thorough overview of the Bible at large. Knowledge of the whole Bible is labor intensive, the night and day kind of attitude that Paul had in his day job. After getting the big picture, then Paul could start slicing up the parts to fit the whole. When a piece of Scripture doesn't fit the whole, you know you don't have the right interpretation.

What is the whole? The whole tent would include the internal, immediate before and after, the chapter, the book, and then the entire Bible. Scripture isn't powerful like a divining rod that can be waved like a Buddhist monk attempting to ward off evil spirits. The message of God's Word works powerfully in its context. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. "Word" there is the Greek word rhema. Rhema is not the Greek term for all of the Bible. Rhema speaks of a portion of the Word of God, a piece of God's Word that deals with a particular point of doctrine and practice, seen within an appropriate conception of its context. Our faith doesn't come from some marathon endurance record in chapter reading, the more we read the more faith we have, like filling up a gas tank. Our faith comes from seeing passages in their context and understanding them as the Lord intended. That takes work, sort of like what a tent maker might do.

Friday, February 10, 2006

More Power

You may already know that California has a power problem. The new governor, Arnold Somethingorother, replaced Grey-out Davis in a recall election over this issue. Many trace it back to former governor, now Oakland mayor, Jerry Brown, who said "if we don't build it, they won't come." They came. Brown and gray pretty much explains our problem. We need more yellow and white, but we don't have it. It reminds me of a quotation from the admiral, James T. Kirk, "We need more power!" This need for power seems to have spread to Christians.

If I could, I would like to enlighten you on this point, that being, you don't need any more power. There. Scripture is clear that people who have received Jesus Christ and, therefore, have the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9), already have all the power of the universe inside of them. Ephesians 1:3 informs you have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ, and 2 Peter 1:3 says that you have all things that pertain unto life and godliness. If the Holy Spirit indwells you, Who is God, then you have certainly everything that you need in the way of power. Sort of like Eve in the garden, you have all the trees from which you can freely eat.

So why do people still pray for power? Praying for and looking for power relate to a wrong view of sanctification which popularly began in England in the mid 1800s, called the Keswick Movement, also known as Higher-Life or Second Blessing Theology. One branch of this movement culminated in the Charismatic movement in the United States. Other professing Christians don't look for the Charismatic signs and wonders, but they do look for special manifestations of Holy Spirit power in their life. Jack Hyles, the late pastor of what was the world's largest church while he was alive in Hammond, IN, led a nationwide crusade to pray for power, an activity copied by many men.

The Bible does command "to be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). The Holy Spirit does not come afresh or provide more power, but He is allowed control of the life of a believer. The power comes from our surrender to the Holy Spirit, not receiving more of Him. He is a Person of Whom when you have Him, you have all of Him. It is not a question of having more of the Holy Spirit, but of His having more of you. When Philippians 1:19 mentions the supply of the Spirit, this is not provision of more Holy Spirit, but of the Spirit Himself definitively providing what any person needs to succeed in his life for God.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Where Did the Mess Begin?

One week of camp counseling jr. boys featured the all time record for consecutive drinks spilled. I had a boy in my cabin who tumbled his beverage every meal time. I contemplated nailing his cup to the table and providing a straw. We so anticpated the next flood of kool-aid or milk that at the very moment the cup started its sideways trek, we were already aiming our napkins his direction. Understanding the mess related directly to knowing where it started. I recognize that anyone could say Satan or Adam, but I'm talking about who had the greatest impact on our own modern day mess. My candidate for years has been the French king, Louis XIV. And what would you expect from a king who wore silk stockings and pink satin pants (I couldn't resist that one)? This does not stem from Francophobia or some other psychological predisposition against things French.

Let me explain. Louis had one of the longest reigns of any monarch in history (70 years, 1643-1715). Louis believed in royal absolutism. He controlled everything in France with a well-organized bureaucracy, the word essentially originating with his totalitarian rule. Louis viewed religious freedom as a threat, so he required that all Protestants immediately become Roman Catholic. Since many Huguenots were productive and wealthy, he also demanded that all French Protestants stay in France except for clergy who would not convert. They alone could leave. All children must be baptized and then raised Catholic. The Catholicism of Louis was not compassionate. He erected the palace of Versailles and built the largest military in the world with money raised solely from the average Frenchman. The nobility paid no taxes. His religion made people miserable and without alternatives, in France the pendulum swang toward humanism.

The Age of Enlightenment began in France as a reaction to the empty ritualism of Louis's Catholicism, and spawned a movement to apply human philosophy to all areas of man's life in order to establish a new social order. The most influential of the Englightenment philosophers was Voltaire, who elevated the philosophy of rationalism, the idea that man's reason was the sole criterion for truth. He advocated revolutionary overthrow of traditional institutions and the establishment of a new order based on reason, science, and tolerance. Reacting to Voltaire was Rousseau, who developed romanticism, which exalted man's emotions and imaginations as a basis for truth. Voltaire and Rousseau denied Scripture and objective truth. Their philosophies hatched the German rationalism and dialectical materialism, which together formed Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler. The mass murders of tens of millions under either communist or fascist dictatorships come as a direct descendant of French philosophers created out of the false religion of Louis the XIV. His mess continues to haunt our world today.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Permission or Ability...to Speak Freely

Dangerous, mass-murdering terrorists will operate freely on the internet, but the ordinary Chinese citizen cannot do so. So says Google. This does give a new perspective on the freedom of speech issue. The executive branch of the U.S. government, in order to fulfill its obligation to protect the American people, wants to pick out the computer identities of folks who make Google searches suspicious of terrorism. "No way," says Google. The communist government of China tells Google it can't stay in China if it allows Chinese citizens to perform searches of words like "Falun Gong, freedom, or Constitution of the United States." "Right away, Mr. Dictator," so again says Google. So what do you think? Is Google sincere in its support of free speech? This just shows you how tough it is to straddle the fence between the bank account and the good graces of your elitist friends on the West Coast. Here's the thing. If you get blown up by a terrorist, you can't speak at all, can you? Your speech is kind of taken away permanently if I've analyzed this correctly. That I know of, Google could lose only some money if you eliminate them in China, you know, to support the free speech movement. Of course, all of this coincides with the ability of the NSA (called in the business, No Such Agency) to "eavesdrop" on conversations highly suspicious of terrorist activity. Does this hinder the ability of anyone to speak freely? I think, again, if my brain is rightly alligned, that if I am not saying anything on the phone that is of a, you know, terrorist nature, that I'm not going to be, you know, subject to the eavesdropping. So like, this will only really threaten, um, terrorists. Why this new vigor and energy for the "right" to support terrorists?

People say they like their free speech rights. We can't scream "fire!" in a crowded theater. I guess that would exclude most theaters as of late, at least with "features" such as Brokeback Mountain and other mind-shrinking drivel offered as entertainment today. Brokeback represents the new definition of freedom of speech, what we might call the Mapplethorpe definition--freedom of "expression" equals a crucifix in a cup or urine. But then, maybe we could redefine "crowded" too. "Crowded" would surely be a Moslem cartoon protest. This has piqued the attention of Europe. Normally European artists are busy lampooning Jesus or another biblical character, but targeting an Islamic figure has raised awareness for sensitivity training among cartoonists. Eavesdropping might be looking better every day.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Container for Truth

"Here's your radioactive material." You look down and the tupperware is bubbling. "I brought you back your trumpet." You raise your eyes in time to take the paper sack from his hand. With a grimace you pull out the dent-ridden instrument. I'm guessing that you get the picture now. Keeping things intact and undamaged requires the proper container. God has designed a means by which truth can be kept pure and unadulterated. Scripture reveals the means by which God expects truth to be preserved. 1 Timothy 3:15, "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." The Lord gave His Words to the institution of the church to keep. The church of 1 Timothy 3:15 has a pastor and deacons; it could be only local. God designed the congregation of the Lord to keep His truth. This is reinforced in many other texts. John 17:8, "For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them."
1 Thessalonians 2:13, "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." Revelation 3:10, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." We can see from the epistles and Revelation 2 & 3 that the Lord delivered His Words, the Truth, to the churches for safekeeping.

God equipped the church alone with the means to keep true doctrine and practice. He gave the church the Lord's Supper (Table). 1 Corinthians 11:2, "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you." His Table requires the examination, which, in part, keeps the truth being believed and practiced in a church. Church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17) is another tool to keep the truth. The office of the pastor, given to the church (Ephesians 4:11, 12), was designed by God as another way to keep the truth. 1 Timothy 1:3, "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine." 1 Timothy 4:16, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." The congregation itself has the responsibility of making sure that doctrine remains right. 1 Corinthians 14:29, 32, 37, "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. . . . And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. . . . If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." Matthew 18:19, "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." A major instrument of preservation given to the church is separation. The church builds the walls to keep out false doctrine. The church is the determiner of true and false doctrine. Churches use separation to do this (2 Thess. 3:6-15; 1 Cor. 5; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; Eph. 5:11; Titus 3:10, 11; etc.). (We will deal with this in greater detail in future blogs). The church keeps the truth through separation, congregational agreement, pastoral authority, church discipline, and the Lord's Table, among other means.

In my opinion, and I think there is good evidence, by far the way in which truth has been spoiled the most is through the false doctrine of the universal, invisible church. Something greater than local has not been given the means of keeping the truth. Parachurch organizations under no authority have taken right doctrine and torn it to pieces. That container has so many holes in it, that it has allowed almost countless false teachings to corrupt the truth. Anything other than the church (local) does not have a pastor, discipline, the Lord's Table, separation, or the grid of congregational agreement to keep doctrine and practice pure. Moving the truth outside of its container into colleges, boards, associations, publishers, camps, fellowships, councils, and universities has distorted and diluted and skewed it. None of these are in the Bible and that alone undermines the sufficiency of Scripture. These unscriptural organizations have added and taken away from the Word of God. They have created an entirely wrong understanding of unity that has led to the dumbing down of truth for the sake of avoiding conflict among larger groups of believers. The groups themselves have done more to spread the perverted doctrine of the church that allows them to exist and then does the most damage in destroying the very thing that they say is the reason they exist, the truth. The truth would be honored by the disappearance of these groups, all of them, and the extermination of the false doctrine of the universal, invisible church.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Job of Keeping

If something important risks being spoiled, it must be preserved. Satan wants truth corrupted. The means by which he most often accomplishes this is by introducing some error into the truth. The gospel as truth is the power of God into salvation (Rom. 1:16; 1 Tim. 2:4). We are sanctified by the truth (John 17:17). The truth makes us free (John 8:32). Very bad consequences result from altering the truth. Satan's strategy of changing the truth is seen in his temptation of Eve (Gen. 3) and of the Lord Jesus (Mt. 4). Paul identifies "chang[ing] the truth of God into a lie" as foundational to apostacy (Rom. 1:25). God has promised the preservation of the truth (Matthew 5:18; 24:35; etc.). For everything that God is doing, He expects cooperation from us, even so that we will reveal to Him our belief in His plan. A major feature of the God's moral will for mankind is the keeping or guarding of His truth. God wants His people especially to preserve Godly, Scriptural doctrine and practice for the next generation of His people. When that responsibility is not faithfully accomplished by His people, false doctrine and practice will flourish to the destruction of men's souls.

I could spend some time showing you from the Bible how important this task is by looking at every time the words "keep, keepeth, kept" etc. are used in the OT and NT. One could argue that not doing this led to Israel's downfall. One could also contend that this is the theme of the entire epistle of Jude.

Assuming that it is very important, how is it to be done? God has an ordained means by which the truth is preserved intact for the next generation. The most important aspect in this job of keeping is the container for truth. Without keeping truth in the proper container, truth will become contaminated. I am convinced that this is the chief reason for the widespread doctrinal and practical corruption in the U.S. and the world. A part of Satan's plan for destruction of truth has centered on replacing the God-designed container and replacing it with one of his own liking that is purposefully deficient. Men have even sincerely gone about preserving the truth using the inferior repository, so were doomed to failure from the start.

[Tomorrow I will reveal the only genuine safeguard of truth and the hole-ridden, faulty one.]

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Means of Protection

Think about this scenario and a question. Someone drives his car up over the curb into your yard to hit one of your children. Will that affect your relationship with the driver? Will this tend towards closeness with him? Cutting off associations with people is the God-ordained means to protect you, your family, your present associates, and what you believe. If their behavior dishonors God, you will honor God through the separation as well. Honoring God also alligns us with God's protection. When people do not separate, normally this occurs because they don't take the matter too seriously. It's easy to disassociate from someone who runs over children, because that bothers us personally. However, are we willing to trust God enough to separate over something that He said? When we treat someone who continues to disobey God's Word as if he has done nothing wrong, this tells God something about what we think of Him.

Truth by nature is antithetical. You can't love truth and error simultaneously. Loving truth requires rejecting error. Loving health mandates hating disease. Loving right doctrine means hating false doctrine. We can't both love and hate false doctrine at the same time. To get rid of false doctrine and practice, we must treat them like they matter to someone, at least to God, and hopefully us. Consider these words from David in Psalm 139:21, 22, "Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies." David had a loyalty to God that necessitated hating them which hated God. David also wrote in Psalm 101:3, "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me." People today behave as if they are more loving because they tolerate all sorts of behavior. They surely do not love God more, and if they love God less, they surely cannot love people more.

Truth is distorted by error. The only way to protect truth is to keep it separated from falsehood. We must separate over wrong doctrine and practice. If we don't separate, we will not properly represent the truth. We will make the error as if it did not matter. We will be an accessory to the destruction of the truth.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Loophole Theology

"He hit me."
"No, I didn't."
"He did too."
"I did not."
"Alright, that's enough. Did you hit him?"
"Um, no."
"Um, no?"
"Um, no."
"What's um no?"
"He did too hit me."
"I didn't hit him."
"So why is he saying that?"
"Don't ask me what. You know what I'm talking about. Did you hit him?"
"Um, no."
"He did too."
"I didn't hit him."
"Don't say that again. Tell me what you did do."
"I did....um...I slapped him, like this, with my hand open. It actually wasn't a hit, I mean...."

Hit, slap, what's the difference? I guess it's all a matter of what "is" is. Looking for a loophole. We might do it when we're in trouble, to conceal something embarrassing or convicting. Even further, people will find a loophole in advance, before they ever do the deed, as a justification before and an excuse later. What's worse is when people look for a way out and use Scripture to do it. I am calling this, right now, loophole theology. The abbreviation, LT, in your most up to date theological dictionaries. So what is loophole theology?

Loophole Theology is one of the systems of theological study in which the large portions of white in the Bible are utilized in order to come to doctrinal and practical positions. Now, some people think that the dark part, the stuff out of dark ink, you know, words and that kind of thing are really important. I'm not going to devalue those, but the white part, the spaces between letters and lines is way undervalued. Instead of going to the sentences and paragraphs to get doctrine and practice, LT looks in between the lines to figure out what the Bible didn't say. The credo for LT is: Silence is permission. For instance, the Bible doesn't say I can't go fishing 5 days a week 12 hours a day. Scripture never mentions anything against wearing thick eye shadow or how long is long, and never prohibits electric guitars and trap sets. The Bible never tells me how often I need to evangelize. Some people like to take Scripture at its word, but LT likes to take Scripture at its spaces. And hey, no one should have the right to question anyone's LT, and if they do, they're squashing your liberty, raining on your spontaneity, squeezing the sense of freedom you ought to experience, and burdening you with lists of performance the Bible doesn't even mention. I mean, I know the verses about sufficiency and everything, but if the Bible doesn't say it's wrong, then it must be right. And some people may think that God actually has an agenda that will take up most of our time, but I ask how anyone can know that, especially if no one knows what the definition of "is" is.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


You can start laughing right now. I wanted to get you warmed up for my statement: You have a computer because of the Bible. Al Gore wants to take credit for the internet, but I think Moses has more to do with it. Why? Let me give you the clifs notes version.

The state church, Roman Catholicism, held an iron grip over the dispensing of information in Europe for around 1200 years. People who were reading their Bibles were often running for their lives, not leaving them much time to think about much else besides fellowship with God and breathing. The God-derived curiosity in man spurred him to find more. He wasn't satisfied with the Catholic answers and solutions or the feudalistic, oppressive society that Romanism fostered. God preserved separatist churches who continued the legacy left by Christ and the Apostles. Those churches kept alive an alternative to the wholesale and wide ranging deceit of Satan. Social and physical conditions initiated by the crusades and then the Italian and Northern Renaissance, a rise in the middle class, the ability to make a living in some way without land ownership, all led to the moveable type printing press in 1440. The elephant was in the room. Now people could read the Bible in their own language. What they read had an amazing impact on their view of the world. They could get back to the fundamentals of God's will for man such as "subdue and have dominion over the earth" (Gen. 1:28).

From God's direct revelation, men saw foundational truths to enable them to obey God's command to subdue and have dominion. They began looking for the reasonable, orderly laws that represented God's creation and sustaining on the earth and in the universe. One early fundamentalist of science was Isaac Newton. Newton reached with his brilliant mind for an understanding of God's basic laws in the physical universe. In 1666 Newton observed an apple fall from a tree, and by imitating in his mind the divine simplicity by which God governs the universe, Newton reasoned that the force of gravity that brought that apple to the ground extends beyond the tallest apple tree even to the moon and beyond. In 1687 he published the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, in which he announced his knowledge of the universal law of gravitation. He also explained the three laws of motion. In 1704, he published Opticks, a book about the nature of light. For his achievements, he is remembered as the Father of Modern Science. With his mind opened by the Word of God, his studies led to the development of modern physics. We can trace all of our modern technology back to a few words penned by Moses under inspiration of God that were read by men like Isaac Newton, who in turn obeyed God to the betterment of all mankind.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Tomato Truck

California is a big, long state with lots of stuff in it---mountains, ocean, lakes, rivers, hills, snow, desert, forests, cows, sheep, elk, bear, and farmland. If you drive down the middle of the state, you travel through the San Joaquin valley where a tremendous amount of produce is farmed. In that area, you will see gigantic fields of tomatoes. I want you to know that I am amazed by fields of tomatoes. On the crossroads off the interstate, these little two lane state highways, you will see lots of trucks pulling trailers heaping full of tomatoes, bringing the produce to the next stage before paste, sauce, soup, and the grocery store. When you drive behind them, often individual tomatoes will fall out. I love tomatoes. I hate seeing them hop out, going to waste. I want to stop my car, get out, and pick each one of them up. The truck keeps rumbling along as if it doesn't matter. They don't care if they lose even more than a few.

Unfortunately, some treat either the Words or the Truths of Scripture this way. With the Words, they don't care if we lose a few of those as along as the doctrine doesn't change. With the Truths, they don't mind sacrificing a few of the doctrines or practices as long as people can get along or even just enjoy themselves. Churches and professing Christians continue to allow the Words and the Truths to hop out of the truck, and then keep moving their merry way as if it didn't really matter as long as they keep most of them. This is not what the Bible teaches. All Scripture is profitable, man lives by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God, and we will be judged by His Words. No one, including God, told us that we could "prioritize" out certain truths. Scripture shows no examples of anyone doing so, at least without suffering for it. This kind of loosy-goosy treatment of God's Word, no better than tomatoes off a tomato truck, is how we got infant baptism from adult and sprinkling instead of immersion. It is how we went from the elements as a symbol to their becoming the actual body and blood of Christ. Not only shouldn't we, but we can't afford to lose Truths. We shouldn't stand for it. And know this: the Truth is more important than tomatoes. Who would have thought we'd even have to say?