Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Did He Invite?

In Mark 1, Mark encapsulates the work of the Lord Jesus Christ as: "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (vv. 14, 15). Jesus did not invite people to gatherings. Galilee was the most populous of the regions of Palestine. He went there and preached right where the people were. Paul later tells us that "the gospel is the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16). Not much gospel preaching is happening today. Two other activities occur: 1) Inviting people to church, and 2) Taking people through a system of verses and repeating a prayer at the end. There isn't one example in the New Testament of anyone inviting someone to church. We are commanded nowhere to invite the unsaved to gather with believers.

People have a lot of reasons why they don't follow the example of Jesus in His work. "It doesn't work." "People get turned off." "You lose opportunities." "People don't like to have it shoved down their throats." Of course, none of these are Scriptural. These reasons manifest pragmatism. Sometimes "if it works, do it" is called "practical." Obeying Scripture is called "impractical." Many point to results to justify. However, none of us can judge results. God always uses the same means to save people---His Word---but He is glorified when we follow the Scriptural pattern. Not doing so is leaning on our own understanding, not acknowledging Him, and then not having Him direct our paths. Who directs the path when we do it our way? We do, of course. Does it work out better when we do it our way? Never. We know that by faith. Living by faith requires putting aside what we think will work. God sees things in one eternal present. We can't know the damage that using false methodology does. We might see numerical success, encourage others to do the same as us, and now dozens and hundreds of churches are mimicking us because what we do has shown results. In all of this, we are honored and God is ignored.

Preaching the wrong gospel is worse. The ones who invented and then perfected the travesty of corrupt evangelism have made it into a slick business presentation. Some of the same ones talk about having the power of God in evangelism, and they go out and misrepresent Scripture. The power of God is found in the Word of God (Heb. 4:12), the sword of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 6:17). Instead, men have taken out repentance, counting the cost, and the message of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Ninety times in Acts Jesus is called Lord and only twice, Savior. Christ's Lordship was the saving message of the apostles. In 2 Peter 2:1, denying Lordship is said to be what most characterizes the apostate. Is it possible that these non-Lordship "evangelists" have simply spread apostacy throughout the land, explaining why so many professions, and yet so much godlessness.

This issue is really simple. Look at the methods of Jesus and the apostles and follow them. They were not complex. These methods did require studying the Word of God to do real spiritual warfare, to pull down strongholds in men's minds. They required faith and courage. They weren't expensive, except to each individual who was setting himself apart as a Christian in a godless society. The emphasis is no longer going out to where people are and preaching the truth. We know that the preaching of the cross is foolishness to the lost. We can't make true preaching into anything else to them. The new emphasis is making the church into something the world will want to visit or the message into something that the world will want to hear, and in so doing, we are dishonoring God, turning men into darkness, glorifying man, and ruining the soil that could perhaps be much more pliant if professing believers had done otherwise.


Not often do scholarly articles appear on modesty. This essay comes with a disclaimer, but at least approaches the subject in a thoughtful manner---MODESTY

Perhaps you aren’t a fan of satire, but for a good chuckle at the expense of both the outsourcing controversy and Charismatic prayer lines, see this today: OUTSOURCING?

And maybe you didn't know what John Stossel has to tell you about the congressional record among other examples of fraud in the House of Representatives---STOSSEL

My gut feeling (known by some as the burning in the bosom) told me this was it today.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A New Feature on WHAT IS TRUTH

Every day or two you get a fresh, original blog here for your reading edification, challenge, and even entertainment. If you haven't noticed, you get these blogs ABSOLUTELY FREE, which is, by the way, also my cost for using Blogger. Pay no attention to the credo: You get what you pay for. That was long ago proven fallacious. Now, on the no-blog days, this author will scour the world-wide-web (not to be confused with Dr.-Gary-Webb) for hours, even minutes, to provide for you his top posts of the day. And then, after a certain amount of consideration from absolutely no advisory board, this author will unilaterally and subjectively choose what he thinks you might think is interesting or that he may even deem a must read. Recent studies have shown that the same dentists who recommend chewing gum also recommend checking out this editorial opinion when possible.

When you see the following banner,


you know that you will be getting fabulous links such as this:

One of my potential methods is to throw the web addresses of several posts into a tumble dryer for a 40 minute cycle and then choose the first three hot ones as top for the day. So you can see that this is something that you won't want to miss. Already former maximum security prisoners are clamoring for this new on-line feature.

"What was the name of his blog?"
Stew Pidity, Walla Walla Observer

"Does your computer crash when you click on his links?"
U. B. Duped, The Texarkana Star

Baptism: Why So Far?

How far would you be willing to walk somewhere? This might be something you are considering due to the rising gas prices. I know they've changed my attitude about the use of vehicles. You know gas is getting expensive when your legs have become an alternative energy source. OK, I might walk five miles regularly and ten on a special occasion. Unfortunately, I would be tempted mightily to tell everyone afterwards how far I walked and then how much my feet hurt. Where did Jesus begin his trip to John the Baptist in order to be baptized by him? Mark 1:9, "And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan." John was baptizing in the Jordan River in Judea in the wilderness close to Jerusalem. How far was that from Nazareth? Jerusalem is seventy miles from Nazareth.

Why would Jesus walk seventy miles to get baptized by John the Baptist? What was special about the baptism of John that necessitated Jesus to go all that way? Couldn't Jesus just have asked Joseph or some other believer to baptize Him and save that trip? A short while later, Jesus gets into a discussion with the religious leaders about the baptism of John. He answered the scribes, the priests, and the rulers who challenged His authority, saying, "The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me" (Mark 11:30). They reasoned among themselves, and came up with an answer: "We cannot tell." They knew that if they said "from heaven" he would demand to know why they did not believe John. Or, if they should say, "of men" they knew they would be in trouble with the people, for all men counted John to be a prophet. So John's baptism, we know, came from heaven.

Most often arguments about baptism center on the recipients and the mode of baptism. Is it for infants or adults or for believers? Is sprinkling or pouring acceptable or should we immerse alone? Those are worthy topics, but does the administrator of the baptism make any difference? Does it matter who we are baptized by? Well, Jesus said John's baptism was from heaven. John's baptism wasn't just some Old Testament ritual. It was a brand new ceremony ordained by the Almighty, John the Baptist the miracle child who grew to be the man the Lord designated the proper agent of this baptism. In John 1:33 we read John say: ". . . he that sent me to baptize with water." John didn't invent this thing of baptism. He got it from above.

The only baptism that God approves of and has authorized is John's baptism. All the members of the first church had the baptism of John including the Head and founder of the church, Jesus Christ, who walked seventy miles in order to be baptized by the proper authority. Jesus believed so strongly in this baptism, He declared that those who rejected it were in reality rejecting the counsel of God in Luke 7:29-30, which states: "And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him." Not being baptized of proper authority was rejecting the counsel of God.

Where is this authority to baptize today? The authority passed from heaven to John to Jesus to the church. Jesus ordained the group, not just individuals, to baptize in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, 20. That group was the church. Someone may ask, "Isn't Scriptural authority enough." This reasoning would go like this: the Bible commands us to be baptized, so that if folks read the Bible and see that they need to be baptized, they could just baptize one another based upon the authority of the Word of God. Couldn't Jesus have done the same thing? He especially had authority that He could have passed on to anyone He wished. But Jesus walked seventy miles to get baptized of John, an example about the importance of a proper administrator of baptism.

The proper administrator of baptism has become the means by which God's authority is passed from one church to the next. Someone gets baptized with church authority and then sent by that church to evangelize and baptize. Those baptized have a proper administrator of baptism if they are baptized by someone with a legitimate baptism. Not just any administrator will do. It must be someone sent by a true church, a church in the heritage of churches mothered by that original Jerusalem church that originated around John the Baptist and lead by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Roman Catholics, Protestants, Campbellites, and Charismatics have rejected the counsel of God concerning Scriptural baptism; therefore, all true Baptists must consider their administration of baptism null and void.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Power: Use or Abuse

Someone recently complained on their blog: "The large emphasis fundamentalism puts on authority does much to enforce the list and to squelch any independent questioning/research into the validity of the list." Interpreted: "Waaaah, I want my own way. Give me my binky!" Over at Sharper Iron, someone wrote this: "We (Type B types) tend to believe and organize ministries around a de-centralized approach - sharing power and decision-making authority to a variety of Godly men. I don't know that I've ever met a Type-A guy who shares authority with anyone - So your decision-making style would be centralized - on steroids!" Interpreted: "I'd like to keep my job as long as I can, and I don't think I can do that with this group if I act like I'm the boss." Those both sound very popular in the world in which we live. The typical person loves hearing them. I remember talking to a woman about our church and she asked me if "there were any women in our power triangle."

We know Satan wants to eradicate Scriptural authority. All authority is of God (Romans 13:1, 2). Apostates "walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities" (2 Peter 2:10). Jude says they "despise dominion" (1:8). Without authority in Israel during the Judges, "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6; 21:25). As we get closer to the end 2 Timothy 3 says (v. 2) "men shall be lovers of their own selves." People don't want to be told what to do, which is why you will see the bumper sticker: "Question authority." Today in many instances coaches can't coach, teachers can't teach, and parents can't parent. Even in the military, some would like to make the drill sergeant their personal therapist. Punky kids on the street vandalize and steal without retribution because they know their rights. Adults helplessly look on with a fear of lawsuit. Children throw public temper tantrums and parents allow it, afraid what people might think if they were to use some discipline.

Some might excuse their disrespect of authority with examples of Nazi Germany, Stalin Russia, Richard Nixon, Jim and Tammy Baker, and Jack Hyles. They explain that through years of abusive leadership, their trust in authority has eroded to an all time low. Often Bill Clinton doesn't get thrown into that list. Instead, they skip straight from Iran-Contra to "no weapons of mass destruction." Often these attacks on offices of power serve as plays from others seeking to take them. As long as authoritative institutions have existed, corruption has occurred. None of this erases God's design. He still wants to use men to rule.

Even greater influence toward headlessness has come through institutionalized child care. Without the security of a Scriptural home arrangement, in the first few formative years, the child develops a lack of trust. The break up of home authority through state education and a two-income economy, propaganda-like bombardment of the modern mind with poor examples on television and in movies, and popular music pounds its message of rebellion against the restraint of marriage and acquiescence to rightful leaders. Divorce often undermines beliefs in Scriptural and traditional roles. Women struggle to trust again in male headship. Of course, since God originated the chain of command, Satan wants to do everything possible to cut its links, eliminating the ultimate submission to God. Every day he orchestrates compounding consent to the enticement of sinners, making insubordination a new ethic in society.

Satan ruins worship with the wrong object of worship and corrupt methods. He alleviates authority with spotty submission until finally we have no real authority at all. When every man was doing what he wanted in Judges, there was no king in Israel. The people who do rule have often abdicated the God-designed purpose. Very little is left of their leadership except a figure-head.

Several years ago we had a young lady leave our church because, she said, disagreement over pastoral authority. She professed to believe that pastors had authority only in issues of Biblical command. In other words, if the Bible didn't command it, the pastor had no say in it. If a pastor wanted to start a new prayer meeting, he would need a church vote. Another church hired her on staff; I told them of her clearly stated view, but they took her anyway. This lack of accountability diminishes the strength of authority in churches. Finally, few to none pay attention to much of what he says should get done, leaving the man of God toothless. A good way to hurt his ability to influence others toward Godliness is to help others have the impression that he is a dictator, an authoritarian.

With churches hunkered down in the middle of all this, the world prods and provokes them to become like the world. Even though Paul told Titus, "These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority" (Titus 2:15), the new way is to share that authority with those to whom God has not given it. No one should be surprised that many like it better, and as a church becomes more worldly, this becomes the new leadershp paradigm. You've seen what has happened to parenting in the last 30 years--unrestrained children abound. Even authoritative dads and moms are parenting dinosaurs. Shift this to the church and the pastor who tells people what to do is a remnant of an earlier, paleozoic era, long ago dismissed for its insensitivity and chauvenism.

I've got one bit of counsel in all this: Rule the church exactly how God has shown in His Word. After having done so, defend your leadership style with the verses from which you developed your conviction. Don't apologize because you choose to rule, to make strong decisions. You'll hear from the weak and whiny who want things their way. Be sure you have on your spiritual armor and be strong. Stand firm. God expects it and your people need it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Power Blogging

I don't know if you know it, but Machiavelli was never able to use the strategies he wrote in his book, The Prince, to get back into office. After the people read his book, there was no way they wanted someone like him in power. He should have written a later addendum entitled: Don't Publish a Book Revealing Your Strategy. His power trip was short lived and mainly in his mind, like a whole lot of other people. They do power lunches wearing power ties to discuss power plays and forget all about gravity. Yes, gravity. Gravity is where the real power is, and it isn't even noticed during most power meals. Gravity was what kept their power corned beef on rye with bean sprouts fastened to their power plates. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18 that He personally possesses all power in heaven and in earth. Then He transferred all of that power to His institution, the church. He authenticated that power just a short time later on the Day of Pentecost. The church still has that authority and will until He raptures the saints.

When I was in college, I travelled with a choir through New York City and we stopped in to look at the United Nations building. A friend of mine and I proceeded to act like ambassadors from a foreign nation. We had as much authority in that building as most bloggers on the world wide web. I think most people already know this, but does it matter? Having a keyboard and an above average vocabulary doesn't equal Divine approval. The blog becomes a shortcut for them. With their new blog, they've landed on 'skip eleven spaces.' They missed the faithful study and obedience in the local church, the spiritual mentoring from the Godly man of God, and at least some kind of concurrence that they are ready to go. They've gotten their theological decoder ring and official blog certificate from Texarkana and now they are ready to tell people who is wrong, what everyone should believe, and how people should live the Christian life. They develop a hugely inflated sense of who they are from comments from people who don't know them. They get the attention of quasi-legitimate authorities with whom they agree, and think that this stands for authentication. They have had cyber-hands laid on them. They have opinion, will travel. On top of this, on the internet you would not know if your latest blog guru was a genuine church-sent believer, a legitimate pastor, a warlock in the Church of Solar Subconsciousness, or a teenager typing during a break from playstation.

No doubt a certain amount of fellowship and sharpening can occur between believers isolated from substantive theological conversation. However, it shouldn't circumvent a very important institution, which just happens to be the pillar and ground of the truth. The comments and ideas and streams of consciousness often avoid the important grid of local church agreement. In many cases this proceeds from an extrapolation of Christian liberty. 'No verse says: Thou Shalt Not Blog; the absence of this command equals permission.' No, it doesn't. A person speaking without authority, speaks without God's approval. No approval might equal disobedience. It certainly equals danger. False teaching bouncing around the universe at the speed of light. "And how shall they preach unless they be sent?"

But how can all of this matter when I've got a decoder ring and a laser printed certificate that says Brussels, Belgium? "I'm ready to change the world from behind this keyboard. I'm Microsoft called and Blogger sent."

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Confused Stand

I'm sure that I think that I mean this. I do. Am. Sure that is. About thinking. Meaning it. Well, I feel sorry for confused young fundamentalists. To start, they don't know who they are. What is a fundamentalist? Most of them can't figure it out. I have a hard time helping them. The early fundamentalists had a solid thing to stand against. They had to stop liberalism. But what about those who fellowshipped with liberals? But maybe the five fundamentals weren't enough. But we don't want it to be too much. And how exactly should we define these terms? What is inerrancy? What is Scripture?

What's the problem? They know they believe in unity. They also know they believe in separation. But they believe that the church is all believers. If it is all believers, then they have to unify with all believers. They have to be kind, and yet not put up with everything. They can't get along with everyone. So where do they take their stand?

I'm finding that it works sort of like this. And I mean sort of. They can't fellowship with Billy Graham---denial of literal hell, too much. They like Al Mohler, the Calvinistic voice of intelligence in the Southern Baptist Convention. He likes John MacArthur who is cool about exposition, which they like. They don't like Hyles. Oh no. And anyone like him. But Al Mohler fellowships with Billy Graham, and he is in the same convention as Rick Warren. But he isn't a Hyles guy, and that's good. Because the gospel is important. They want to be considered intelligent, intellectuals. That means new versions. All of them are done by people they don't fellowship with, but that's OK, because they found out that there are mistakes, not too many, in the text. But that's good, because it's reasonable. Anyone who says there isn't just doesn't get it. And they do. Multitude of the manuscripts. Perfect preservation. But not any Bible that anyone uses. But no one should worry. And they love evangelism and new converts can't read Elizabethan English. And Piper preaches with passion and wants unity and uses the ESV, easy to understand, but his music is the pits. They like his passion about worship, but not his worship, but they'll defend him until you say they really like him. You can't fellowship with David Cloud. Or anyone who wants to put culottes on every girl they can see. Because that's what those people want, and they hate legalism except with the ones who are legalistic, and for them they are legalistically unlegalistic. So they will fight against the KJVO and the 1-2-3s, and against anyone who says they fight too much, and their women don't wear pants, but they love Together for the Gospel, but not really. And Phil Johnson is the man. They love those guys, not enough for fellowship, but enough to show that they aren't like the old fundamentalists, even though they want to respect them. And they post. They blog. They sharpen. But don't like fighting. Like discussion. Agree to disagree. Except with certain ones. They don't drink but are fine with drinking, but not really, and even though you drink that's fine, but they don't like it. A fine cigar and a movie. Let's talk about it. They'll talk. Not going to commit. Not the theater, but the DVD, so since DVDs are the same, movies are OK. And are very cool with women. Speak up. But all for male authority. They are against the inclusive language version but for including women in the discussion because they're strong but sensitive or the other way around. Moused up hair good, pants hanging down bad, but daycare is good even though its bad. And they don't like the tone of the old fundamentalists, except for slacks, versions, and people who disagree with them.

Are you getting all this?

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Plastic silverware. Objective opinion. Artificial intelligence. Educated guess. Microsoft Works. Genuine naughahyde. Government worker. Airline food. Postal service. French resistance. Adult male. Oxymorons.

I thought of another one just as I was writing this. Parachurch ministry. But how about "boring worship"? Can we really be worshiping God and have it be boring? The thing isn't to make it entertaining. The thing is that if it's worship, then it isn't boring. The "need" for entertainment says that people are bored. It reminds me of the kid who asked his mom how far she had counted in her lifetime? She said, "I don't know. What about you?" "25, 657," he answered. She asked, "So why did you stop at that particular number?" He replied, "Church was over." Jesus said to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart" (our affections) and "all thy mind" (our attention). You tell me what gets the most affection and attention, and I will tell you what you worship. A key word with worship is "focus." Does God get your focus? Does He get your attention and your affection? If not, what does?

If God isn't getting your affection and attention, then your worship probably is boring. You probably aren't thinking about the songs you sing in church. You are probably not really exalting God. You are just singing words, probably mostly thoughtlessly. You are probably not extending God to the nations. You are probably not talking about Him to the people around you. Why? He isn't your focus. And when He's not your focus, then you are bored with Him.

What will change that? You need to find out Who He is. He is a "rewarder of them who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). He is a good God. God can't seem like a rip-off to you if you are going to focus on Him, give Him affection and attention. You can't think that He doesn't know what is best for you. You have to recognize Him for Who He really is, that is, the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). All the good things that you enjoy come from God. Why? He wants you to enjoy them. When you blow it by sinning, guess Who can take care of that sin and its results? God alone, of course. If we confess the sin, He's faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9), because the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). He sent His dear Son to you when you were ungodly to die for you, and in so doing, He demonstrated His love for you (Romans 5:8). Only believers can worship God. Only believers can sacrifice for Him. And believers will not find Him to be boring, but new every morning and every day.

Let's stop joyous Christian from being an oxymoron. Let's start today. Start today. That's not an oxymoron. Start tomorrow would be.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Kleenex Argument


I really don't know what the grounds for discussion are any more. Anyone can pull the offense card about any time that they want, and that essentially ends the discussion. The tone of your voice happens to kill my potted plants, and since you are creating too much carbon dioxide, the ozone is enlarging, threatening planet earth. I don't think the class of offended should be given so much credence today. The kleenex argument.

Personally, I thought that SI was a forum to criticize if we wanted. After all, if you're wrong or not, you're probably going to get shot down, and 'walla' we sharpen each other. However, if we are completely (maybe moderately; don't want to offend) discouraged from giving a different point of view, that kind of seems to squelch the whole thing. Interestingly enough, where just a little bit of heat is created, more readership occurs, I haven noticed. When people skip-to-my-lou, almost no one gets interested here. I know SI serves as more than just a forum for debate---ex. the Da Vinci Code articles. Look how many people read those threads though. They get few visits, it seems. Not because they are not good, but because I think most people have made up their minds that the Da Vinci Code is a heap of hog slop. I don't think any of this justifies unscriptural behavior, but usually two people disagreeing on something they think is important will get two passionate presentations out there. People then can decide what they think. So far in my very limited discussions here, I have noticed that there are offendeds looking for a place to happen. They are superior in their feelings to others. They hurt more for others. They bite their bottom lips and bleed for others. How can I compete in this competition of mourning? I'm already on my side in the fetal position.

I thought yours was a legitimate point about PCC, but I noticed myself that the official treatment of resignees was grapes and velvet pillow. I was simply pointing that out, and then wondering. Elijah wanted the priests of Baal to cry louder, but he knew it would avail them nothing. I think if we cry louder, we, the squeaky wheels, will get the oil. Offended crying might be the newest sacrament of religious affection.

By the way, I don't know how to use happy faces, because if I did, I would riddle this letter with them. Smiles galore, so that people would know that I was smiling so that I wouldn't have to hand them a box of puffs.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Offense Card

It's tough to discuss these days. I'm not sure there's any iron left to sharpen. We should call it rubber sharpening rubber or plastic or maybe styrofoam. A tip: Always come with a large supply of kleenex. Here's how it works. You make a good point theologically, academically, politically, historically, whatever. You wait for the answer, and the answer is: I was offended by how you said it. Other supporters chime in and you become the chum for the feeding frenzy. "Yeah, that's offensive." "You act like you're the only right one in the whole world." "That really was insensitive." "How can I trust what you say when you say it that way, with that tone?" Where does the discussion go from there? One has choices. 1) Just quit. It's not worth it. It's akin to answering the time-honored: "When are you going to stop beating your wife?" 2) Ignore the whining and keep fighting. One might be marginalized as the local ayatollah or David Koresh. 3) Make a point of defense on the style, and then get back to the debate. Problem here is that when one defends, he is said to be getting "defensive," which actually means that he is feeling guilty about the truth of his offensiveness.

This whole technique has been perfected by special interest groups. Ambulence chasing lawyers have made a living on it. Everyone from homosexuals to strict Islamics to racial groups have fleeced corporations and political parties by pulling the offense card. Some have made a career out of it, taking offense to an art form. This practice was taken to its extreme in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings by his accuser, Anita Hill. Are they midgets or little people? I better make sure, because someone's going to get offended. Are they black or African American? Are they Latin, Hispanic, or Mexican? I wouldn't want to offend a bank robber by "profiling" his ethnic features. Offensive speech trumps stealing. Now we have the same thing among professing believers.

What do you do when someone pulls the offense card? It's been done before. People were offended with Paul and he said something to the effect that his conscience was clear and kept going. This is why in spiritual warfare, you've got to have on the "breastplate of righteousness." You will get attacked emotionally, someone picking on you personally, in this case that you are abrasive in your tone or technique. If you're convinced by the Spirit that you've not violated any boundaries, you can keep going. The breastplate protected the heart, the place of emotions. Practical righteousness protects from personal attack. You can know if you've been doing right, and the Holy Spirit will bear witness to that. People will try to get you to quit pulling out the sword by pulling out the offense card, attacking you emotionally. This is what Sanballat and Tobiah did with Nehemiah---went after him personally to get him to quit. Don't let it work. Keep on the breastplate and keep using the sword. You'll find that the "girly men" really aren't as sensitive as they seem.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Is It Impossible to Be Consistent in the Practice of Separation?

Years ago, I was talking to the president of a parachurch Bible college, and he said (I'll never forget the exact words): "It's impossible to be consistent in matters of separation." In essence, he was telling me that no one could possibly obey Scripture. I didn't believe him, but I know why he thinks the way he does. Most people don't take Scripture seriously enough to be consistent in separation. It isn't possible without a Biblical ecclesiology, either in doctrine or practice. Seeing that he was working out of a Scripturally untenable institution, he chose just to be inconsistent. Calling disobedience inconsistency makes it sound like it's permissible. It isn't. We can see the problems that occur even short-term for us, but even greater, that God isn't pleased with its faithlessness.

I wish this wasn't such a touchy issue. Do you think it might be so sensitive because Satan is fooling a whole lot of people? I think so. He doesn't want them to get this right, because as long as He has them fooled, people won't be able to obey God's Word. I'm going to try to explain it very simply to you, and maybe touch on this in future weeks to be a greater help.

Consistency in separation is based upon the right understanding of the church, because separation itself is rooted in the church. Unity and purity are inextricably connected. We must have unity. True unity is based upon purity. This can be accomplished only in a local church. The local church (the only church) has the same doctrine and practice and the means to keep them pure. A local church can enforce one doctrine through church discipline. A local church can keep that doctrine and practice pure by fellowshipping only with churches of like faith and practice. In so doing, this church is consistent in the practice of separation.

If the church is all believers, then everyone must work together for unity. However, the differences in doctrine and practice among all believers is massive. In trying to get along, believers lose purity. In attempting to have purity, they lose unity. To be able to have both, men reduce doctrine and practice to something that they think that all the saved can agree upon, something like five fundamentals. But then, some men will say it should be more than five fundamentals. Most of these at least narrow the doctrine and practice down to essentials and non-essentials to make unity the most crucial doctrine. Making a said "non-essential" to be an "essential" might be called legalism. For some, the doctrine of unity is labeled "agreeing to disagree." In an attempt to find some kind of unity, churches or pastors will get together based on a common doctrinal statement, and then preach messages somewhat generically and have discussions that are non-controversial. Truth stops becoming the common denominator. Now unity is more important than doctrine. The worst offense is not fitting in. And it really isn't unity either, because all believers have splintered into even dozens of groups---the BBF, FBF, GARBC, SBC, etc. If not fellowships, then colleges or seminaries or very influential men become common ground. All of this, every bit, comes out of the belief that the true church is all believers, rather than the exegetical position that the true church is an assembly of baptized believers, only local.

So you see, with the wrong view of the church, both unity and purity are destroyed. As a result, right doctrine and practice are corrupted, and God isn't honored. On the other hand, with the right view of the church, God's tools of church discipline, the Lord's Table, pastoral authority, and real separation, among other things, work towards the consistent unity and purity that God designed. None of us should settle for anything less.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Operation Suppression

The earth is traveling at 1000 miles per minute. That's fast. I remember pushing kids on the merry-go-round at the playground, pushing, pushing, spinning, spinning. If kids didn't hold on, they went flying off. We're not holding on, but God makes sure we stay on. He also takes care of our distance from the sun, the hydrologic cycle, and then our hearts keep beating. Everyone should be considering the goodness of God and be thankful, but they're not. Increasingly, people don't care about God. Most of them don't even go to church because of Him anymore. They go because of some felt need. They think church will make them feel better. What happens?

Romans 1 explains it. In v. 18, Paul writes, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." The word translated "hold the" means "to hold back or suppress." It isn't as though that someone under the wrath of God is holding the truth. The meaning of this is "suppressing the truth." Instead of believing the truth about God; they suppress it. They don't admit it. They don't acknowledge it. People don't believe the truth, not because they don't get it, but because they themselves suppress it. They hold it back from themselves in favor of their own unrighteousness. Men and women love their own lusts, their own plans and desires, more than they love God. They won't consider the truth, because it would mean that they would have to give up their current lifestyles of sin. Even true believers can feel this suppression. They keep their mouths closed about Christ because they know what so many will think. It really is operation suppression.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Unrestrained Theology

Irony abounds in Scripture. The weak are strong. The rich are poor. The wise are foolish. How about this? The deep are shallow. People who go deeper than Scripture for theology will not leave the shallow end no matter how many times they pass the swim test. Count on the wise of the wading pool to use Latin, or at least impressive, yet confounding terminology. You are either monergistic or synergistic which all depends on your ordo salutis. And I just wanted a small coke.

Men who think they are really, really, really sinful, who have a more exalted view of their own depravity than others, do not think they can believe in Jesus Christ. God commands them to believe in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31), but believing in Him would not be humble enough. They are so, so sinful that they cannot believe in Jesus Christ. For that reason, God must regenerate them before they can believe. How dare they consider themselves able to believe in such a lost condition? Well, actually these really wicked first determined that to believe, a person needed to get baptism as a baby. Dunking babies is kind of mean, and they did sprinkle the blood in the Old Testament, so let's sprinkle the water instead. Now baptizing infants and sprinkling anyone with water are not in the Bible. But remember, we're so, so bad. (Don't get me wrong, I think everyone's a sinner.) So we need to be regenerated before we could ever hope to believe. How about this? Babies get baptized to become regenerate? It's not in the Bible but it could be a way for them to become able to believe in Jesus once they become adults. Their very evil wickedness has them very dead, so dead that they could never believe unless God did something to them to prepare them to believe. The infant sprinkling could do the trick.

That infant sprinkling is kind of embarrassing. It's not in the Bible anywhere, or even better, it isn't sole fide or sole scriptura, so let's just keep the regeneration without having the baptism. Let's just say that someone can't believe unless he is regenerated first. That way we can keep the doctrine that we are so, so bad that we couldn't ever respond. We need regeneration to come first so that we can keep believing that man won't make it without God unconditionally regenerating him first. But the Bible doesn't say that regeneration precedes faith. What does that matter if it fits in with my really, really poor view of man's condition? Well, since regeneration comes before faith, that makes salvation totally up to God; and isn't salvation just completely up to God? Sure it is. If you don't believe that, then you are synergistic, and if you are synergistic then you are Arminian, maybe even Pelagian, possibly even a Los Angeles Laker. No, wait a minute, no one could be as bad as that last designation. I mean, I'm monergistic. It's absolutely no man with me, because man isn't able, you know, which is why regeneration must precede faith. Do you see how this all works? But some of it isn't in Scripture. Sure it is. You just need to study more. You'll see it. Oh, and read Calvin.

100 Posts

Recent studies show that at least one billion Chinese couldn't care less, but "About Mark" (below) was my one-hundredth post. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

About Mark

My friends and I got a kick out of the titles to Walter Kaiser's books, often beginning with the word "Toward..." We would joke like this: "Toward a Passing Grade in this Class" by Kent Brandenburg. A one page essay could be "toward" anything. For that matter, one sentence could travel "toward" any subject. OK, now that you are on the inside of that joke, I call this "About Mark." "About" is another preposition perhaps even more vague than "toward." I would vote Mark as the most underappreciated gospel of the four (I recognize that Bart Ehrman says there are hundreds of gospels, but this is long "after" any respect remains for what he writes). Matthew and John get most of the kudos with Luke as honorable mention. Mark made the very select team, however, so let's talk about his contribution.

Mark's gospel portrays Christ as servant. Like most faithful service is rendered in relative anonymity, the book of Mark itself gets the least bells and whistles. No more faithful servant lived on earth than Jesus Christ, Who perfectly submitted to the Father's will. Ironically, Mark himself is infamous for a lack of faithfulness. Mark is, after all, the John Mark that spontaneously quit on Paul and Barnabas during the second missionary journey (Acts 13). When Barnabas suggested his cousin Mark (Col. 4:10) for the second trip, Paul's refusal caused the break-up of this successful team. So with this as a resume, what's Mark doing writing a gospel? Mark wasn't faithful, but Jesus was and continued to be in Mark's life until Paul said 'bring him along; he's useful to me' (2 Timothy 4:11). Peter himself didn't write a gospel of Christ, but his spiritual son did (1 Peter 5:13), faithfully penning everything that Peter himself would have likely written. Mark's mom's house could have been the upper room and for sure was the place where Peter headed after God saved him from prison. Who knows? Maybe little Rhoda was a younger sister. Peter never made it to Rome, but Mark did and his gospel tells the story of His Savior to a Roman audience with a Gentile perspective. And he wrote this to all of us: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk. 16:15)---a command he himself at one time failed to obey, but not again that we know of. Not Mark. What 'about' you?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Preservation: Does It Seem Like They Care?

Part of arguing the issue of the preservation of Scripture is figuring out as soon as possible whether the person you're talking to really cares or not. In recent conversations on this doctrine, I have found what seems like a lack of intellectual honesty. For instance, when approaching Psalm 12:6, 7, tremendous exegesis has been shown on the gender disagreement issue---between them and Words. Gesenius' Hebrew grammar mentions it. Thomas Strouse and I have shown examples (they are numerous) of specific gender disagreement between the feminine noun and the masculine pronoun, to the extent that one should view this as a tendency in the Old Testament. God is making a point. The MVO (multiple versions only) side (Mike Sproul, Doug Kutilek, Keith Gephart) disregards it. They don't want it to be true, so it can't be true. They (especially Mike Sproul in his recent book) blatantly misrepresent our stated and published positions to the point of slander. I'll give some of them in order.

1. His very first quote of me is wrong. He writes on p. 143 in footnote #1: "Brandenburg claims that the TR is a text type (p. 9)." I say nothing about the TR being a text type on p. 9. Under my definition of the TR on p. 13, I don't call it a text type. On p. 9, I write this in a parenthesis about the Alexandrian Text: "The Egyptian MSS do not form a united text type as the TR MSS do." My point was about the unity of the Alexandrian Text; that A and B disagree in thousands of places unlike the TR Manuscripts. I never used the term "type" in any kind of technical manner. And I say Manuscripts, not just TR, in order to carefully differentiate this. This kind of stretch by Sproul, right at the beginning, shows a huge problem. He is attempting to discredit me, not deal with the issue at hand.
2. He pulls the same kind of tactic on the second statement of mine. Notice that he doesn't actually quote me. If you want to deal with people seriously, you should quote them. My quotes would not back up his assertions. He wants people to think that I am attempting to fool people or to twist the definitions of words. On p. 49, he uses a military slide presentation he saw by Lieutenant Colonel Denise Parker (Denise, not Dennis) that said definitions had this function: "3. They help us start; they allow us to talk to each other about the subject, to investigate and research it, to see it." Well, what he saw Denise make in her slide presentation is what I was doing in TSKT, stating definitions so that readers would know what we believed the terms meant. He says that I am attempting to change the historic definition of inerrancy. I wrote for "inerrancy" in TSKT on p. 11: "The quality of having no errors; usually applied to the original manuscripts of Scripture; however, based on Scriptural promises of preservation, it also characterizes the preserved text of Scripture." Does that seem like a problem to you? Webster's Unabridged says, "Lack of error." But Sproul writes on p. 143: "Brandenburg claims inerrancy means a current text of Scripture (p. 11)." I think if anyone read my whole quote, they would know exactly what I meant. Sproul purposefully misrepresents me for some reason. He knows he is doing it. I don't know why he does it. In several cases, he makes it difficult, because he makes an accusation without putting a page number. He does this on the fourth and fifth points that he makes against me. I guess people are just to assume that Sproul is correct with no quote and no page number.

So there is just the first two. I can keep going and going. Let me give a list of very bad ones before at some point in the future, I get all of them.
1. On p. 144, he says that I refer to the TR as the "inerrant autograph" (sic). Well, in my definitions, I say that the autographa are the original manuscripts. I've never said that the TR is the original autographs. We never said that anywhere in the book. He regularly smears us with double inspiration and this is one way he does that.
2. On p. 149, footnote #14, he writes: "This is an amazing slander. Without one piece of documentation he asserts that men who study this issue and cite other godly heroes willfully distort their citations." He says I am slandering people. If he did not jump to conclusions, he could have understood me to be saying that men do this on both sides. I was thinking about examples of men doing this pro and con. The quote he refers to in the Introduction of TSKT (which he misquotes by the way, making me say something different than what I said it on p. 22 of TSKT---changing "Even as that" to "Even at that") was differentiating TSKT from all of the books that had been written on the subject---ours exegesis and theirs based on historical quotes. On top of that, I never said a thing about men citing "godly heroes." Sproul goes ballistic about this---calling it "amazing slander"---and then he says that this is exactly what "'KJV-only' advocates" do when they "cite Scrivener, Spurgeon, and Burgon" (p. 149). So he says I make an amazing slander and then he goes on to give examples of exactly what I was talking about. He proves for me that I was slandering no one. I said on p. 22 of TSKT that men "craftily pull a quotation from its context." This is done by both sides of the issue. How the CT/Eclectic do it is by giving the impression that the quote has to do with varying the text, when it has to do only with the altering of a translation. The preservation issue does not relate to the exact words of a translation, but the exact words of the text behind it. Most quotes of these "godly heroes" relate to changes in translation, not to changes in the text. One cannot use a quote about translation to present someone's view of the preservation of the text. Sproul is willing to call me "slanderous" (sinning) when I did nothing even remotely close to that.
3. I said in my introduction on p. 22 that the "praise of men" is "worthless," and Sproul twists that on p. 151 into "Brandenburg and Cloud attack Fundamental Fathers by calling any citation of them "worthless" and "man worship." I never ever called citing men as "worthless" or "man worship." I said that "praise of men" is worthless. Sproul puts words in my mouth in order to make me look bad. Do you see what he is doing?
4. That isn't as bad as his next statement on p. 151, "They (Cloud and me) insist that everyone must worship their interpretation of Scripture." So Sproul says that I encourage false worship. Do you see that? Do you see how evil that is?
5. Then later in the paragraph he says, "It seems, according to Brandenburg and Cloud, that if you cite someone who disagrees with them you are 'worthless' and guilty of 'man worship.'" Again, I never said anything remotely like that. That, folks, is slanderous.
6. On p. 149 in footnote #16 Sproul states: "Ironically, the e-mail that advertised this book (sent uninvited to multiple members of this author's church) to promote it among the Maranatha Baptist Bible College alumni purports this book as representing the theology of a man, Dr. B. Myron Cedarholm, the late founder of that college." Fortunately for Dr. Cedarholm, he gets to be a Dr. like Sproul in the book. Perhaps one has to die in order to get conferred with a doctorate. The first lie here is that I sent the e-mail "uninvited." I am an alumnus of Maranatha three times (BA, MA, M.Div) as is my dad, my brother, and my sister. I was on their public email list (there was a private one for people who did not want their email to be known). I am one of the very few Maranatha alumni even to write a book. I sent that to announce to the alumni from their voluntarily provided email list, to let them know that I wrote a book and that it was available. Sproul purposefully and slanderously makes it sound like I targeted members of his church. That is so wrong! I sent it to every MBBC grad on their voluntary, public email list (his church obviously has MBBC grads). Maranatha sends me an uninvited email every month, and I don't complain. I got an email, uninvited, several years back from Mike Sproul and I still get them periodically. So I don't get this total slander. What is the email list for if it isn't for alumni to write other alumni? That is all I did. And I didn't say that the book represented the theology of Dr. Cedarholm. The book was not at all a presentation of the position of Dr. Cedarholm, but a presentation of Scripture. Sproul again purposefully misrepresents me in a slanderous way! I said that the book took the same position as the founder, so that alumni of Maranatha would know where the book was coming from. I could have said, that takes the same position as Bud Weniger (CT/Eclectic position), and really doubt that anyone would have complained. Or if I said, that takes the same position as Dave Jaspers (majority text position), no one would have given me a hard time. So this paranoid delusion on the part of Sproul is incorrect.

I have many more, but I'm going to let you decide. Tell me what you think.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Books and Dealing with People

I got home from preaching in Utah and was welcomed by my copy of God's Word Preserved by Dr. Michael D. Sproul. It is sort of ironic that I was coming from Utah, because in his book, Dr. Sproul compares me to a Mormon. Here's how he does it: "In the last chapter of the Book of Mormon a reader finds the testimony of all true Mormons and their "burning breast" experience. If a Mormon cannot explain his beliefs (sic) he is instructed to tell his opponent that he experienced a "burning in his breast" that transcends all argumentation and this is how he knows Mormonism is correct. This is exactly what Brandenburg does with fideistic faith in his recent 'KJV only' book" (p. 318, he does this Mormon thing first on p. 144, and then goes on to do it 5-10 times in the book). Hmmmm. This is exactly what I do? I (1) instruct people to use a "burning breast" experience, (2) use this sort of experience to tell if what I believe is correct, and (3) can't explain my beliefs from Scripture? When I was evangelizing Mormons, six or seven at once with Pastor Dave Mallinak, we were quoting verse upon verse of Scripture, and they used one passage before they fled to their experience. I never flee to experience for a position. Interestingly enough, fleeing to his own version of history pieced together like a Picasso painting is the manner in which Dr. Sproul operates in his book. That Mormons take up a big chunk of time in Dr. Sproul's book as a means of extrapolating this smear on me and others should tell you about the quality of what he has written. In a footnote (p. 321), Dr. Sproul explains that his big section connecting us with Mormons was very difficult to write, but after praying "much," he went ahead. I wonder if he got a burning in the bosom to tell him that he should publish the blatant slander (Sproul says several slanderous untruths about me personally which I will reveal in this blog in days to come), which he says that he did "from a heart of love." What is very sad is that he totally misrepresents TSKT, doesn't answer its exegesis, and spends pages just smearing us instead.

His major means of arguing against the exegesis of our book, Thou Shalt Keep Them, is by attempting to smear the authors with Ruckman, Augustine, political liberals, Jim Jones (p. 316), Letis, Wilkenson, intellectual morons (p. 322), post-moderns, existentialists, Roman Catholicism, Michael Moore (p. 290), and Mormonism. I haven't seen us compared to Hitler yet, but I will be looking closely. Does this seem like a right way to argue? Some people think this is good stuff. And why do we get this kind of treatment from Dr. Sproul? Because we defend the biblical teaching of the perfect preservation of Scripture. That doesn't sound like a dangerous doctrine, but Dr. Sproul says that we are on track to become a cult if not send people to one. This all comes from a man who in a footnote on p. 187 writes, "A man filled with the Spirit of the living God does not write with acid on his pen, regardless of the situation." In a personal email exchange, Dr. Sproul told me that when he and his people read the review of his book by Thomas Strouse, that they all "laughed." I think Dr. Sproul needs to take a good, hard look at himself when he considers who should be laughing. I just wonder if the Spirit controlled his laughing. Could that be a laughing revival?

I call him Dr. because he calls himself Dr. No one else in the book gets the benefit of a doctorate except him. Smack dab on the front in about 50 point font is Dr. Michael D. Sproul. Look to see if you can find any theological or Christian book on any shelf that puts a Dr. in front of the author's name. In his book, for instance, Benjamin Warfield isn't Dr. Benjamin Warfield. He's just Warfield. Dr. F. H. A. Scrivener is just Scrivener. Sproul, however, is Dr. Sproul. Even in the addenda chapter written by Gephart, his seminary professor consistently calls him Dr. Sproul, while he calls Dr. Strouse just "Strouse." Well, Gephart calls him "Strauss." What does this mean? I don't know. Sproul does say this about me on p. 151, "[He] now insist[s] that everyone must worship [his] interpretation of Scripture." Raise your hand if you think that I insist that people worship my interpretation of Scripture. What I do know is that Dr. Sproul never talked to me personally about any of his conclusions in the book. "Love believeth all things, love hopeth all things." I don't think I was getting much believing or hoping. Sproul could have given me the benefit of the doubt by talking to me first, but he chose not to do that. If he had, he wouldn't have had to involve himself in very silly but also serious misrepresentations of me and our book Thou Shalt Keep Them.

I will bring you more of them in weeks to come.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Unlearned and Ignorant Men

Did I ever tell you that my dad's life verse was Matthew 17:15? OK, it says, "Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water." I'm joking, so stop smirking. And because I'm joking that means that I am not a lunatick, no matter what you've heard from someone else. If I were one, I wouldn't be proud of it.

Sometimes, however, I think that many independent Baptists have taken Acts 4:13 as their life verse: "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." I like the boldness and I like that they had been with Jesus. I'm sure that almost none of you think that pivotal to this evaluation is that they "perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men." Is this the proof text for anti-intellectualism? I agree that we should not "lean on our own understanding" (Prov. 3:5). I also agree that we should avoid "profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called" (1 Timothy 6:20). I also know that "knowledge puffeth up" (1 Corinthians 8:1). I guess all of these combined would tell us never to attend a cemetery, ooops, I mean a seminary; you know, where they teach you Hebrew and Greek so that you can correct the King James. If English was good enough for Paul, then it is good enough for me!

But what about when Paul said this? "The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments" (2 Timothy 4:13). The parchments were Scripture, but what were the books? Was Paul reading more than just the Bible? Was he studying something, even in the day before the printing press, something other than his Bible? Or what about this? "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). If we are sanctified by the truth, we must know the truth. We are not sanctified by truth that we do not know. We are not sanctified by man's opinions, by human techniques, or by the writings or seminars of a "successful" church growth guru. We aren't even sanctified by the pastor. In order to know the truth, we must study it. We must know more than just the words, but their meaning. To know their meaning, we must understand how the people would have understood them in that day. We should know how those words are used in other places in the Bible, comparing Scripture with Scripture, comprehending how words are used in other locations in the Old or New Testaments.

A lot of men in independent Baptist churches like to quote Spurgeon and even would say that they emulate him, but do they study like Spurgeon did? Do they have a devotion to the Word of God like the men in and before his era to the Word of God? About sixteen years ago, I remember attending the ordination questioning of a young man whose church was recognizing God's ordaining of him to the office of the pastor. Someone asked him, "Do you have a Strong's concordance?" He paused, looked upward, connected with the creative side of his brain, strained, and with a very doubtful disposition he answered: "I don't know." The Strong's concordance is a great tool for a beginning Bible student, but for someone ordained to pastoring, not even knowing what one was showed an unacceptable lack of seriousness about the study of the Word of God. That didn't matter to the questioners that day. They were not about to cross the pastor of that church, so they just let it go.

I recommend graduate school training for any pastoral candidate with few exceptions. I think the seminary ought to be under the authority of a local church and should expect the students to preach the gospel every week and make disciples of the converted. I encourage Biblical languages, thorough study in history and theology, apologetics, logic, hermeneutics, and homoletics. So, are you or will you continue to be an unlearned and ignorant man?