Monday, November 30, 2009

Church Growth Hypocrisy

John MacArthur has written several volumes exposing and refuting unscriptural church growth methodologies (Ashamed of the Gospel, Hard to Believe, Truth War, Our Sufficiency in Christ, etc.). Much of what he has written is excellent. In the last twenty years, when an unbiblical trend or fad has become popular, MacArthur has dealt with it by writing a book. Despite his professed opposition to the false doctrines and practices propagated by destructive methods, however, MacArthur sends confusing messages with the double standard set by his own church and his own lack of separation from those violating God's Word.

I thought MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos sent a heat-seeking missile into the Charismatic movement. MacArthur himself, though, does not separate from well-known Charismatic, C. J. Mahaney. He has had Mahaney preach at his own church a few times and also speaks with Mahaney in many places all over the country, cooperating with him in ministry and worship. The Bible doesn't teach anywhere to write a book about false doctrine and practice, but God's Word does tell us to separate from it. You might not sell as many books if you practice separation. This is the kind of self-denial that Jesus called for in His presentation of the gospel.

Over at Hip and Thigh, Fred Butler, a member of MacArthur's church and staff member at Grace to You, MacArthur's radio program, has written about some men who have attempted to point out apparent inconsistencies in the practices of Grace Community Church. I don't know these men and I couldn't say whether what they write about MacArthur is true or not. I don't give them any endorsement. However, Butler's blog post made me curious. These men are claiming that Grace Community is involved in Purpose Driven Church Growth ministry philosophy of Rick Warren. In summing up this methodology, Butler writes:

I can clearly see what a purpose driven ministry looks like: The watered down preaching, trendy music replacing good worship music, the emphasis on getting people to feel comfortable rather than on sound doctrinal teaching, marginalizing older saints as not having an important role to play in the life of the church, attempting to be relevant toward current cultural issues.

I want to focus on the second, third, and last of the characteristics expounded by Butler: trendy music replacing good worship music, the emphasis on getting people to feel comfortable rather than on sound doctrinal teaching, and attempting to be relevant toward current cultural issues.

The men who Butler referenced have criticized a part of Grace Community Church called "The Guild," a singles group operating within MacArthur's church. It has its own website and it is right now promoting a Christmas Concert with a group called "The Narrow Gate" with the Christian/country/pop singer, Christian Ebner. Butler defends his church by arguing that these groups by definition have a different tone than the whole church. In the advertising for this concert as a part of the marketing of the church that "The Guild" uses, they have invited the "mainstream" church to be with them for this Christmas concert.

Where in Scripture do we see the church segmented like this? Where does God's Word say that one part of the church will have a different emphasis than others or will accomplish what it does in a different way than the rest of the church? Where in the Bible does this philosophy come from? And what is tone?

Christian Ebner is trendy and anything but narrow---very much the broad road in sound and style. You can hear some of their selections at their myspace site. The music is fashioned after worldly lust. You can also see that "The Guild" is relevant in current cultural issues. And this music gets people to feel comfortable, especially unsaved people. The whole rock concert philosophy is part of the modern day church growth movement. In Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren says that choice of music is the most important trait for church growth. He advocates finding what people want to hear and giving it to them. This philosophy contradicts what the Bible teaches about worship, which is that we give God what He wants. Getting what we want and offering it to God runs mutually exclusive to scriptural worship and confuses people about this most important activity for men. This is also the direction that Grace Community takes, especially in "The Guild." Peter Masters in his own criticism of Grace Community Church describes it this way:

Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment.

If it isn't "The Guild," then it is the youth department, holding its yearly Resolved conference, which Peter Masters again explains:

Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr John MacArthur’s pastoral staff, gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. At the same time they reflect on predestination and election. . . . (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers.)

In times of disobedience the Jews of old syncretised by going to the Temple or the synagogue on the sabbath, and to idol temples on weekdays, but the new Calvinism has found a way of uniting spiritually incompatible things at the same time, in the same meeting.

God designed nothing but the same Christianity for singles as He did for everyone else in the church. This idea of customizing the church program to the unique fleshly desires of a particular age group fits the Purpose Driven profile. Grace Community Church caters to youthful lusts, exalting the wisdom of men. If church members happened to desire carnal amusement on their own, it would be one thing, but to offer it to lure them to the church property to satiate themselves is another. The flesh surely can be trusted to lust for its own delights on its own without the help of the church, couldn't it?

Is there somewhere in Scripture that says that a church should organize people's entertainment? What does mixing worldly amusement with worship do to the discernment of professing saints? It all gives the wrong view of God no matter how many passages a church exegetes. You can teach the Holy Bible, but what about holy conduct and offering up holy worship to God?

John MacArthur writes a book, Ashamed of the Gospel, and his church shows shame for biblical methods that depend on God for growth. He writes Hard to Believe, but his church wants to make it easier for the singles and youth to believe by giving them the fleshly lusts of the world. He authors Our Sufficiency in Christ, but his church puts confidence in the worldly methods to draw in new people.

Why write books that admonish everyone else about it when you are going to do it yourself? Why? People like it and it works. It doesn't glorify the Lord, but people get what they want. Why follow anything John MacArthur has written if it isn't good enough for him? It's a blatant double standard.

I can already hear the defenses. I've read them over at Pyromaniacs among other Grace Community and MacArthur apologists. The defenses are very similar to those offered in revivalist fundamentalism. The one criticizing us "has a small group of supporters." "He's a hyper fundamentalist." He's one of those "King James Only types." In other words, no substantial defense, just name-calling and blatant arrogance. There ought to be soul searching, but there is circle-the-wagons, close ranks, and often say whatever is necessary to deflect from what this is really about. These groups and their methods disobey Biblical methods, corrupt Scriptural worship, and diminish the true means of change in people's lives. They are a worldly attraction that sends the wrong message about the purpose of the church.

Know what? God is our Judge. What I've written is lightweight compared to what the Lord already knows. When there is no Scriptural defense, there should be confession and repentance. May God then have mercy on their souls.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Epistemology and the History of the Church

Epistemology is the branch of science concerned with "how we know what we know?" What can we trust as an accurate source of knowledge? Scripture is the final arbiter of all truth claims. The first verse that comes to mind is James 1:17:

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.

You might wonder how James 1:17 has anything to do with epistemology. From God comes what is pure and unaffected. Every other "source" has some affect of sin on it and at least the affect of something on it. You can't fully trust any other source but God, so whatever He says about anything you can trust as being the truth.

I've taught history now for 21 years. I teach history a majority of days of every year. I've also done a lot of historical reading. History is what actually happened. I want to repeat that so that you don't miss it. History is what actually happened. In the past, of course. What is written down in what are called "history books" is not always what happened. I've noticed certain trends in what men write that they call history. Men often write a history that backs their desired views of the world. The men who write the accounts of what happened are often the most powerful men at the time or those who have won the battle or the war. Often the men writing the history have an axe to grind. They many times want to make their favorite guys look better than what they were. We see the same kind of varied outlooks in those writing contemporary history. We're not far removed from Abraham Lincoln, but there are wildly different opinions about who the man was. You'll read Christians who treat him as if he were an evangelical and other types of men who revile him. We have a hard enough time getting an accurate assessment of someone still breathing, let alone someone who has been dead for a century or more.

The so-called "history of the church" was written almost completely by Roman Catholicism. How can we know that what Roman Catholic "historians" wrote was true? I go to the Bible and I find that Roman Catholicism corrupted it. They diced up Scripture and spit it back out in an unrecognizable form. I have a hard time trusting their representatives to give me an accurate account of what happened regarding the church or even Christian doctrine. I don't believe that I "know" the history of the church when I "know" what Roman Catholic historians have written.

For some, whatever was published and accepted by the authority represents the academic and scholarly position. To them, if you read what the Catholics wrote on history and doctrine, you know what Christians believed. I don't believe that. About this time, you might be beginning to see me as a bit of a conspiracy theorist. In my opinion, I'm not a theorist on this. I believe it is a fact that Satan would want men to have the wrong view of the church and doctrine, so he would like them to believe the state religion and its historians.

I have a fideistic or presuppositional epistemology (I see them as the same). I believe Scripture. God's Word speaks of the church. It talks about the perpetuity of the church. It explains the nature of the church. The church is an assembly and it has no possibility of total apostasy. We should assume that there have always been New Testament churches since the time of Christ. I don't have to have a written history to believe this. I accept it without the addition of any historic "evidence." I'm a historian who is skeptical of history. I believe that God has made me a skeptic like He does all believers. He says to them to "prove all things." I have to have real evidence, that is, the Bible.

The church should look like, well, the church. Roman Catholicism doesn't walk or talk or quack like a church. I don't see a state church in Scripture. I don't see works salvation there either. I don't see the church persecuting believers anywhere in the Bible. And then I don't see all the other fallacies propagated through the centuries by Roman Catholicism either. What is the Roman Catholic denomination today looks nothing like what I read in the truth, that is, God's Word. It is no wonder that we can read in "history" that Roman Catholicism at the Council of Toulouse (1229) told everyone they could not read the vernacular translations of the Bible. They didn't want anyone checking up on them to see the error. If they did that, some kind of reformation might take place.

Because I know what the Bible says about perpetuity of the church, I look for the record of true churches in history, those that would be independent of the corrupt state organization, Roman Catholicism. I see churches like these in history in every century. I don't know everything there is about them, because these were churches often persecuted by the government and the state religion. They didn't have the convenience of stopping to write their histories. I understand that. What you'll find is that these independent, New Testament churches were Baptist. When they came out the other side after the invention of the printing press, we see that they were Baptist churches. They were called by different names during those preceding centuries, but in the end, they were Baptist.

I feel a little sick to my stomach when I hear men say that Baptists came out of the Reformation, that is, the English separatists theory. They trace their lineage to Luther and Calvin and then to Augustine. They often have many of the same doctrines as well. And they have a more common view of the church as Roman Catholicism than those who believe either a spiritual kinship or chain-link view of church history. They often take an Augustinian view of the church and they are not so hard against infant sprinkling. They many times also believe that the truth was preserved by means of Roman Catholicism. They are often more excited about being fundamentalists than they are about being Baptist. They also might not mind getting together for the gospel and tolerate corrupt teaching and practice to do so. I don't accept this view of history because it clashes with the truth, the Bible.

I'm a Baptist because Baptists are the true churches. They are the churches which remained independent of Roman Catholicism. I'm not Protestant. I was never in Roman Catholicism in order to come out. My legacy stands in the persecuted churches, those who would not bow the knee to Rome. This truth also separates me from most of evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Fundamentalism has been a movement of interdenominational Protestants. Why be a fundamentalist when one is already a Baptist? Baptist is good enough for me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WORD OF TRUTH CONFERENCE AUDIO

Our friend Jack Lamb is uploading the audio from the WORD OF TRUTH CONFERENCE (Nov 11-15, 2009) on to the conference website. This might take a little while, but the first teaching session is up. It is actually the third session of the four teaching sessions, the one on Romans 16:17-18 with Pastor David Sutton from our church. By tomorrow morning we will have the evening panel discussion uploaded for you to listen to.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Women Dressing Like Men?

Even the world understands that trousers are male dress.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Spirit Band at West Point


Notice the trombone right in the middle (with the music).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some Common Sense about the Fort Hood Murders

I just returned from the East Coast and we're starting the Word of Truth Conference this Wednesday evening, but I wanted to comment on the Fort Hood murders now that I'm back. I really have two major points that I want to make right now and I might make more later, but I want to penetrate through the clutter to get to what this is all about. My wife and I sat awhile in Atlanta, waiting for our plane to San Francisco. We had already flown from Portland, ME to Baltimore and then from Baltimore to Atlanta. We sat down and I plugged in my computer to recharge it before the long trip to the West Coast.

I had work to do, but I watched Lou Dobbs of CNN, which was on the flat-screen hanging from the ceiling. He had several experts of different kinds for the purpose of commenting upon the shootings and deaths at Fort Hood. I have never heard so little said with so many words. No one could say anything. Lou Dobbs didn't say anything. He hinted all around the edges of the truth with what seemed to be attempts at getting his guests to do the heavy lifting. They would not budge. Nobody was saying anything. Words, words, and more words, but nothing said. I looked around me at that gate, C-1, in the Atlanta airport, and we were rather diverse in ethnicity. In the row right in front of me and just to the left were two Arabic looking people with Islamic dress. They seemed to be giving the program their rapt attention. I would throw out questions to my wife after statements were made by folks on Dobb's panel. My voice carries, and nobody dared to look at me, it seemed. My sentences were communicating the obvious. The main theme of my retorts was the lack of truthfulness of the commentators.

I'm going to give you my two major observations, but I do have many more minor ones. One of the minor ones is that we seem to be heading toward every murder having insanity as its cause---with the rare exception of the hate crime. If a homosexual gets killed, we'll know that someone in his right mind performed the murder and he will be penalized greater than the fullest extent of the law. His motive was hate. It had to be. We can judge that a homosexual can't help but be one, and we can judge that someone that kills a homosexual could help from killing him. To some degree I could explain every murder as insanity, so every murderer could just plead insanity. Somehow in this case an insane person was able to effectively pose as a psychiatrist attempting to help soldiers with supposed psychiatric problems. He was clever enough to do that, and he showed many other signs that he thought through this for awhile in great premeditation, but we'll have to settle that he was insane.

The military psychiatrist murderer segues to another minor point---the fraudulence of psychiatry. If this guy fooled his fellow psychiatrists and if this man did not set off any buzzers with these very educated people, then this whole field should be shelved for the rest of time. They are quacks and fakes. Unfortunately, today pastors who go to the Bible to deal with people's souls are considered to be trivial, but these men can rise to the level of a Major in the Army, very high ranking, with such a bogus field of knowledge. I use the word "knowledge" loosely, sort of like I would call the city dump "art."

Alright now to my actual two major points, both to explain why this happened at Fort Hood.

1. Political Correctness Murdered the Men at Fort Hood

Everyone was afraid to point out that this man was a terrorist. Our president said, don't rush to judgment. Nobody until the after murder interviews would do or say anything seriously about a guy that was a murderous, religious fanatic, that was part of a religion that plainly teaches jihad as one of its major tenets. How many brains does it take? Almost everyone knows this. Islam did not spread by love and peace. It doesn't help its adherents. Look at the Islamic countries. I have to be honest. I respect some aspects of Islam. The term Islam means "surrender." I like the concept of surrender. I like people dedicated to their religion. This murderer was a dedicated follower of Islam. He was taking Mohammed at his example and his word. He was real. He really believes in the authority of the Koran and the teachings of his Imam. He followed through with his convictions.

Instead, we've got guys at Harvard and other Ivy League schools who will write ad infinitum, ad nauseum, about fundamentalist Christianity, how that it is dangerous in the same fashion as Islam. They've got just that kind of discernment in the most prestigious educational institutions in this country. These are the type of men that are the big culprits in this. They are also the kind of guys that are getting interviews in papers like the New York Times and MSNBC and other news and opinion outlets. They are attempting to spin this to a people that hopefully have at least a little more common sense than that.

People today are so afraid to be judged for being a racist or a bigot that they will not step up when they see something. The regular American is rendered powerless under the tyranny of political correctness. And television, people's main source of information, is a non-stop pipeline of political correctness. The only ones not tolerated are those with a point of view on the culture, that are dogmatic in judging what is true and good and beautiful, as if we do have a source of absolute truth. Our country is even making it illegal to judge. Our soldiers were conditioned to respond the way they did, to put away a protective kind of skepticism that they should have been confident in having toward a person who is Islamic. People should be wary of those who believe in Islam. They should feel comfortable watching them out of the corner of their eye.

Let's be straight about this. Just because you don't trust Islam and you are cynical about Islamic people does not mean that you are a bigot. You are using your head. You are judging correctly. It is the kind of judgment that keeps you alive. This is not a symptom that you want to kill Islamics. Have you noticed that you don't see that in this country? We don't go after people like that. But at the same time, we should have the right not to be stupid. The mainstream media and the leadership in government is expecting us to be stupid. Part of my right to pursue happiness is my right not to be stupid.

Islam wants a Moslem country. Their teachers want this to be an Islamic country. I want this to be a Christian country. So I understand their thinking. However, I do it by spreading a message. The historic way of Islam has been to spread their religion with the use of the sword. We're stupid not to take this into consideration. Have you noticed that Christianity doesn't have the same tendencies? Could you conceive of Christian or Jewish suicide bombers? I want Muslims to be converted to Christianity, but I don't want Islam to be welcome in this country.

Did you read the last statement of the previous paragraph? The true intoleristas of this country would call that bigotry. I call it good discernment. I don't want the United States to be like the Arab, Islamic countries. I don't want my leadership to coddle them and respect them.

Too many people are too afraid to speak the truth. Men would not speak up about the murderer at Fort Hood. We have created that environment in this country. In many ways, by being silent we are playing right into their hands. As a result, he had access to our soldiers, to murder them at their own base in their own country. We are paying for political correctness. When will we make it stop? When will we stop being stupid? There ought to be outrage and there ought to be outrage now! I'm hearing none. Is this really true? Are we really going to be OK with this and let Islam go scot free again? They bombed our World Trade Centers. They IED our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are planning more violence against innocent civilians all over the world. Let us please stop the stupidity!

2. Those Who Disarmed Our Soldiers on their Base Are the Culprits in these Murders

How many murders would have occurred, do you think, if everyone was packing? Do you think that this murderous Islamic terrorist would have killed 13 and wounded over thirty-five others if everyone had a side arm? Why is it that our soldiers cannot have fire arms on the base? Why did they not have them? This emboldened this terrorist. He knew he was going to get away with it because we have stupid, yes stupid again, gun laws that prohibit the carrying of fire arms.

We have an administration that is hostile to the carrying of fire arms. Our government is working at taking away guns. Do you understand that our freedom is tied into the bearing of arms and that this incident is the perfect example of that? Think of these families who are now suffering the death of their loved ones. It wouldn't have happened with most of them if they were carrying guns. It may not have happened at all.

Some talk all about the crimes committed by gun. The crimes are committed by criminals. Those criminals would be afraid if they knew that everyone else was carrying. Would I be more afraid? I recently had a friend who was threatened with violence by someone because he reported him to the police. We asked him if he was afraid at a confrontation that they had. He said, "No." Why? Because he was carrying a concealed weapon.

Normal, law-abiding citizens are afraid of guns today because of the propaganda they have been fed by the media and the educational institutions. The second amendment protects the citizens of the United States from a tyrannical government. We should be thankful for this right in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution. Most citizens don't carry guns because they are scared of them and frightened from possessing them, fearful of their own government and what the state might do to them because they want to carry a gun.

Even writing this particular blog has me thinking that I might be marked in some way by this government. They may red flag me and cause me some problems. We are to the point where we are not sure at least. I'm still thankful for living in the home of the free, but I understand that political enemies are looking to target people who write against their cause. They have such control over people with their propaganda that most wouldn't even care if an individual citizen suffered at their hands because of his position. In other words, they think they can get away with it. I think our government should be respecting its citizens. We need to let them know that they don't have to have those positions. We can put them out with our vote.

So two points. Political correctness. The right to bear arms. The story of Fort Hood.

Friday, November 06, 2009

West Point Visit 2

On Wednesday morning we went out to the plain as close as we could get to morning formation. Only the plebes formed there in front of the barracks. They wore sand and green camo with matching cap, light brown boots, and then a dark, warm jacket. A base and snare drum duet kept the beat as they marched orderly into the mess all. We were the only ones out standing at 4am California time. Later our cadet said that he said he saw us.

Before the lunch formation, we stopped by the Protestant chapel, called the Cadet Chapel, dedicated in 1910 and perched above the rest of West Point like a guardian angel. You get a brilliant view of the post, the fall foliage, and the bending Hudson River in the distance. We walked through the heavy double doors at the front entrance into the lobby. We plunked four quarters into a slot and took a calligraphy Cadet Prayer. Read it. You'll be amazed by some of the truths therein. I had become familiar with the prayer when reading the story of a former West Point superintendent, who landed at both Sicily and Normandy. He said that prayer got him through the war.

We walked into the chapel and it was quite a construction. I had seen nothing like it. I'm not for building these for church, but it was impressive that this structure sat where it did and that it was dedicated to God. I was happy. The one other person in the massive room sat at the other side of the two hundred foot aisle. Here's what Wikipedia says about the organ he was playing:

The Cadet Chapel organ, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, is the largest all pipe organ, in a religious structure, in the world. It is some 380 ranks, 874 stops, 293 voices, 23 divisions, playable across 4 manuals and pedal, with some 23,500 pipes. It is estimated to weigh over 124 tons. It is continually being enlarged. This organ is played for over 300 services each year. In the history of the Cadet Chapel there have only been four organists. There are public tours of the post and services are open to the public. The Association of Graduates sponsors a concert series free and open to the public.

The organist wasn't playing loud, but we watched and listened for awhile, peering around at the amazing stained glass windows, the story they told and how they related the Bible to the American soldier in pictures.

We walked out and drove down to the plain again to watch lunch formation. As they milled around forming their lines, the bells were playing hymns. Yes, hymns. The first was "Blessed Assurance," every verse chiming out over the entire, gigantic base. I wondered if these soldiers were thinking about what they were listening to. As we still waited, sitting on a bench next to the statue of Dwight Eisenhower, the next hymn came, and we gladly sat and hummed along with "All through the Night." Right before the drums began again, beating out their march into lunch mess, The Doxology peeled over all of West Point. Did you know that "Jesus Loves Me" was written for West Point cadets? Later we asked Kirk if heard these hymns. He said, "Yes," every day.

The plain where the parades occur is surrounded by statues of West Point legends, giving its name, Trophy Point. Next to the new library is a statue of Patton. George Washington, who first conceived of a national military academy, sits on a majestic horse right before the L-shaped barracks on the plain (see all the monuments in order in this slide presentation).

We saw our son later that night. We toured the West Point museum and Visitors Center. We sat and watched the parachute team float from a helicopter high in the sky and drop down onto targets on the plain. Two company soccer teams played a hotly contested match. We stopped in at the PX and commissary to get him some necessaries and then ate on post at Subway. Dad and mom gave the final hug and watched his figure disappear in the darkness. We headed toward Thayer Gate toward our next destination.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

November West Point Visit

I'm at West Point. Last night my wife and I saw our son for the first time since June 29th, when we dropped him off on "R" Day (reception day). The picture to your left is the barracks from the plain. We got up early today, 3am California time, to see the breakfast formation on the plain.

We flew Southwest, Oakland to Midway--Chicago to Hartford, rented a car, got here at 9pm (were inspected three times, got out to open the trunk twice), and are staying at military lodging on post. We'll start driving to Maine later tonight to be at the 10th anniversary for Pastor Bobby Mitchell. Our son could visit us here on post, which made this super convenient. We picked him up by the plain. It was nice to see him again.

More later.