Thursday, September 29, 2011

Koine Parallels to Ephesians 5:23 Show That NT Only Provides Invisible Support to the Invisible, Universal Church

(By the way, I tried to get the Greek translated each time below; if you see garble on your screen, and you want to read the Greek, download a free demo model of Accordance Bible Software, and you should, in that way, get the fonts on your computer.)

Eph. 5:23 reads:

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

This, and the other texts in Ephesians 5, are good illustrations of the generic use of nouns. “The husband,” “the wife,” and “the church” are generic nouns. There is no universal husband or universal, invisible wife, and there is no universal, invisible church here either. Each husband is the head of his own wife, and Christ is the head of each church.

Similarly, in Colossians 1:18, in the phrase ("the head of the church," hJ kefalh\ touv sw¿matoß), thvß ekklhsi÷aß both sw¿matoß and ekklhsi÷aß are generic nouns, just as in Ephesians 5:23 aÓnh/r, kefalh\, gunaikoß, ekklhsi÷aß, and sw¿matoß are generic in reference (cf. Wallace, Greek Grammar, pgs. 253-254, for a variety of other examples). Colossians 1:18 and Ephesians 5:23 do not teach the doctrine of a universal, invisible church—such a concept is not either approved or rejected in either passage. They simply state that Christ is the head of the church generically, that is, of every particular local, visible church. Each particular church is identified as the body of Christ in this text (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:27, where the particular church at Corinth is called the body of Christ—the body metaphor emphasizes that each member of the assembly, as a different and important body part, needs to minister to the other members of his particular congregation in accordance with his God-given gifting), and each church has Christ as her head. “The husband is the head of the wife” hardly means that all the husbands in the world are one universal, invisible husband who is the head of one universal, invisible wife. “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20, pouv sofo/ß; pouv grammateu/ß; pouv suzhthth\ß touv ai˙w◊noß tou/tou;) hardly means that all the wise men in the world are one universal, invisible wise man, nor that there is one universal, invisible scribe or disputer. No more does “Christ is the head of the church” affirm that Christ is the head of a universal, invisible church; the text teaches that Christ is the head of each particular church, just as the particular husband is the head of his particular wife.

Advocates of the universal, invisible church must find one or more undisputably clear references where ekklesia does not mean either a particular congregation or is employed as a generic noun, or they cannot affirm that their doctrine is Biblical. Since they are the ones who are affirming that ekklesia assumes a sense it does not have in any pre-Christian literature, they bear the burden of proof in demonstrating that their doctrine is clearly in the NT. The attempt fails in Ephesians 5:23, and in every other text in the NT—consequently the NT does not teach the existence of a universal, invisible church.

Examining Ephesians 5:23 somewhat more deeply, the phrase “Christ is the head of the church” is one of the very few passages that advocates of a universal church employ support their doctrine. Apart from the fact that the verse uses the noun church in a generic sense, one should compare the following New Testament texts:

Ephesians 5:23: o¢ti oJ aÓnh/r e˙sti kefalh\ thvß gunaiko/ß, wJß kai« oJ Cristo\ß kefalh\ thvß ekklhsi÷aß, kai« aujto/ß e˙sti swth\r touv sw¿matoß. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body,

1Corinthians 11:3: qe÷lw de« uJma◊ß ei˙de÷nai, o¢ti panto\ß aÓndro\ß hJ kefalh\ oJ Cristo/ß e˙sti: kefalh\ de« gunaiko/ß, oJ aÓnh/r: kefalh\ de« Cristouv, oJ Qeo/ß. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

The singular nouns “the husband” “the wife” “the woman” “the man” imply zero about a universal, invisible husband, wife, woman, or man. Absolutely nothing affirms the existence of a universal church in the phrase “Christ is the head of the church.” The Lord Jesus is the head of every particular local, visible congregation.

Note also 2 Kings 10:6, LXX:

kai« e¶grayen pro\ß aujtou\ß bibli÷on deu/teron le÷gwn ei˙ e˙moi« uJmei√ß kai« thvß fwnhvß mou uJmei√ß ei˙sakou/ete la¿bete th\n kefalh\n aÓndrw◊n tw◊n ui˚w◊ntouv kuri÷ou uJmw◊n kai« e˙ne÷gkate pro/ß me wJß hJ w‚ra au¡rion ei˙ß Iezrael kai« oi˚ ui˚oi« touv basile÷wß h™san e˚bdomh/konta a‡ndreß ou∞toi aJdroi« thvß po/lewß e˙xe÷trefon aujtou/ß And Ju wrote them a second letter, saying, If ye are for me, and hearken to my voice, take the heads [Gk. singular, “head”] of the men your master’s sons, and bring them to me at this time to-morrow in Jezrael. Now the sons of the king were seventy men; these great men of the city brought them up. (Brenton’s LXX translation—also below).

Nothing at all is implied about anything universal or invisible with the singular. Each son had his own particular head (until he lost it!). “the head of the sons” is teaches nothing other than that each son had his own head. So “Christ is the head of the church” teaches that Christ is the head of each particular church. Compare 2 Kings 10: 8, where the plural is used:

kai« h™lqen oJ a‡ggeloß kai« aÓph/ggeilen le÷gwn h¡negkan ta»ß kefala»ß tw◊n ui˚w◊n touv basile÷wß kai« ei•pen qe÷te aujta»ß bounou\ß du/o para» th\n qu/ran thvß pu/lhß ei˙ß prwi÷. And a messenger came and told him, saying, They have brought the heads of the king’s sons. And he said, Lay them in two heaps by the door of the gate until the morning.

Psalm 139:10, LXX (Eng. 140:9):

hJ kefalh\ touv kuklw¿matoß aujtw◊n ko/poß tw◊n ceile÷wn aujtw◊n kalu/yei aujtou/ß. As for the head of them that compass me, the mischief of their lips shall cover them.

Note that both the Greek translated “them that compass” and “the head” are both singular nouns, just as in “Christ is the head of the church.” Each particular head of each particular enemy surrounding David would be judged.

Lamentations 2:15, LXX:

e˙kro/thsan e˙pi« se« cei√raß pa¿nteß oi˚ paraporeuo/menoi oJdo/n e˙su/risan kai« e˙ki÷nhsan th\n kefalh\n aujtw◊n e˙pi« th\n qugate÷ra Ierousalhm h™ au¢th hJ po/liß h§n e˙rouvsin ste÷fanoß do/xhß eujfrosu/nh pa¿shß thvß ghvß. All that go by the way have clapped their hands at thee; they have hissed and shaken their head at the daughter of Jerusalem. Is this the city, they say, the crown of joy of all the earth?

Note that the plurality, the “all” shake the singular “head.” There was no universal, invisible head or universal, invisible person opposing Jerusalem. Each person shook his own particular head at Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 1:22, LXX:

kai« oJmoi÷wma uJpe«r kefalhvß aujtoi√ß tw◊n zw¿ˆwn wJsei« stere÷wma wJß o¢rasiß krusta¿llou ektetame÷non e˙pi« tw◊n pteru/gwn aujtw◊n epa¿nwqen. Andthe likeness over the heads [Gk. singular] of the living creatures was as a firmament, as the appearance of crystal, spread out over their wings above.

“The head of the living creatures” meant that each particular living creature had its own particular head.

Ezekiel 10:1, LXX:

kai« ei•don kai« idou\ e˙pa¿nw touv sterew¿matoß touv uJpe«r kefalhvß tw◊n ceroubin wJß li÷qoß sapfei÷rou oJmoi÷wma qro/nou ep∆ aujtw◊n. And the likeness over the heads [Gk. singular] of the living creatures was as a firmament, as the appearance of crystal, spread out over their wings above.

“The head of the living creatures,” again, means each living creature had its own particular head.

Josephus, Antiquities 4:112 (

Kai« oJ me«n tauvta touv qeouv keleu/santoß h¢kei pro\ß Ba¿lakon dexame÷nou de« aujto\n touv basile÷wß e˙kprepw◊ß hjxi÷ou proacqei«ß e˙pi÷ ti tw◊n ojrw◊n ske÷yasqai pw◊ß to\ tw◊n ÔEbrai÷wn e¶coi strato/pedon Ba¿lakoß d∆ aujto\ß aÓfiknei√tai to\n ma¿ntin su\n basilikhØv qerapei÷aˆ filoti÷mwß aÓgo/menoß ei˙ß o¡roß o¢per uJpe«r kefalhvß aujtw◊n e¶keito touv stratope÷dou stadi÷ouß aÓpe÷con e˚xh/konta. When God had given him this charge, he came to Balak; and when the king had entertained him in a magnificent manner, he desired him to go to one of the mountains to take a view of the state of the camp of the Hebrews. Balak himself also came to the mountain, and brought the prophet along with him, with a royal attendance. This mountain lay over their heads [Gk. singular], and was distant sixty furlongs from the camp.

The singular mountain was over each person, each of whom had his own particular head.

Gospel of Peter 10:40:

kai« tw◊n me«n du/o th\n kefalh\n cwrouvsan me÷cri touv oujranouv, touv de« ceiragwgoume÷nou uJp∆ aujtw◊n uJperbai÷nousan tou\ß oujranou/ß. [A]nd the heads [Gk. singular] of the two reaching to heaven, but that of him who was led by them by the hand overpassing the heavens.

Each particular individual here had his own particular head.

Philo, Allegorical Interpretation 1:71:

w‚sper ou™n kefalh\ me«n prw◊ton touv zwˆ¿ou kai« aÓnwta¿tw me÷roß e˙sti÷, For as the head is the principle and uppermost part of the animal,

Each singular animal had its own singular head. There was no universal head of a universal, invisible animal.

Philo, On The Life of Moses 2:290:

qauma¿sia me«n ou™n tauvta: qaumasiw¿taton de« kai« to\ te÷loß tw◊n i˚erw◊n gramma¿twn, o§ kaqa¿per e˙n twˆ◊ zwˆ¿wˆ kefalh\ thvß o¢lhß nomoqesi÷aß e˙sti÷n. These things, therefore, are wonderful; and most wonderful of all is the end of his sacred writings, which is to the whole book of the law whatthe head is to an animal.

Likewise here, each animal had its own head.

Philo, On Rewards and Punishments 125:

tauvta d∆ aÓllhgorei√tai tropikw◊ß e˙xenecqe÷nta: kaqa¿per ga»r e˙n zwˆ¿wˆ kefalh\ me«n prw◊ton kai« a‡riston, oujra» d∆ u¢staton kai« faulo/taton, ouj me÷roß sunekplhrouvn to\n tw◊n melw◊n aÓriqmo/n, aÓlla» so/bhsiß tw◊n e˙pipotwme÷nwn, to\n aujto\n tro/pon kefalh\n me«n touv aÓnqrwpei÷ou ge÷nouß e¶sesqai÷ fhsi to\n spoudai√on ei¶te a‡ndra ei¶te lao/n, tou\ß de« a‡llouß a‚pantaß oi–on me÷rh sw¿matoß yucou/mena tai√ß e˙n kefalhØv kai« uJpera¿nw duna¿mesin. But all these statements are uttered in a metaphorical form, and contain an allegorical meaning. For as in an animal the head is the first and best part, and the tail the last and worst part, or rather no part at all, inasmuch as it does not complete the number of the limbs, being only a broom to sweep away what flies against it; so in the same manner what is said here is that the virtuous man shall be the head of the human race whether he be a single man or a whole people. And that all others, being as it were parts of the body, are only vivified by the powers existing in the head and superior portions of the body.

This very interesting reference by Philo shows that, as in a single animal there is a single head, so “the virtuous man,” a generic noun, not one particular man named X, is “the head of the human race,” and this is whether he “be a single man or the whole people.” The others are as “parts of the body,” are only “vivified” because of “the head” that is “the virtuous man.” The parallel to Christ as the head of the church is very clear. Nobody would think of saying that there is literally one universal, invisible virtuous man, nor that there is one universal, invisible body of people, since Philo’s point is that whether one speaks of a single man, or a group of any size, in both situations the [generic] virtuous man is the [generic] head.

Ephesians 5:23 is the capstone of the very small number of New Testmant texts that advocates of a universal church position believe provide support for their doctrine. However, the passage teaches nothing of the kind. It simply affirms that Christ is the head of every particular church, just as each particular husband is the head of his particular wife. There are no verses in the Bible where the noun ekklesia, church/assembly/congregation, refers to all believers as an already existing group.



Thomas Ross is somewhat over his hand and wrist problems, so will be contributing here at What Is Truth more in the future. Friday is his day, unless he informs me otherwise. You will be able to read his delightful, informative pieces on the weekends, until I come back with my coarse, illogical concoctions usually Monday and Wednesday. So when he posts here tomorrow, he will not be stomping on my post. I'm writing here as a companion to my two other pieces this week, before at some point soon, I go back to other series I have started. Alright. On to the above titled thoughts.
When I was a child, my parents abused me by allowing me to watch Fred Flintstone. I'm tongue-in-cheek on the abuse, although I mean it a little because it's interesting what people are willing to call abuse today. And what they want to call a cult as well. Cult and abuse really do diminish in their meaning when people use them as weapons for their own rhetorical battles. They want to shock to the actual worst degree, and they are limited in their vocabularies, so they borrow the easy words that will cause the most pain for their targets. Who cares on what their usage does to the meaning of a real cult or genuine abuse.

Of course, it isn't abuse to allow our children to vegetate in front of a television, only if parents make the children work really hard and punish them when they don't. The former might qualify you as a vegetable, not abuse, but the latter will make you a hard working, successful, and productive person, so abuse. You are angry about the latter. You really wanted to be vegetative. You may have even made it difficult on your parents, so you succeeded and now have plenty of time to cause havoc on the internet.

On one episode of Fred Flintstone, Fred made a personal recording of himself singing a popular song. The stone tablet record with beak of actual living bird as needle for the player landed in the hands of a radio station and Fred became an instant hit, that is, until Wilma, out of a desire to get back her old Fred, started a rumor that Fred was "square." Once everyone knew he was "square," well, Fred's singing career was dead. A gigantic group of cro magnons, who once thought Fred was the greatest thing since sliced brontosaurus, now instantly recognized he was mere piltdown. Instantly swung into an opposite position. I swear his new critics were very smart and independent thinkers. Why? They say so.

You have a church where the pastor may not follow a biblical model of church government. Authority leans a little too heavily in the pastor's direction, not out of some desire to dictate to everyone his thinking, but because the heavy top-down model seems to him to succeed better at creating his visage of a Christian group. He sees his product looks better than yours every time in the short term, so it must be right too. Some of what is biblical as to how this gets done has already been chucked, so his few and powerful bureaucrats are given too much latitude for implementation. Without proper accountability, momentum shifts and opposition increases to a tipping point. Mutiny occurs.

The mutineers, independent thinkers that they are, form their own new group. No criticism is allowed. Everyone walks in lockstep. If you are not with them 100%, you are against them. They really are getting their own way. If you offer a different idea, you are humiliated, cajoled, badgered, and put down. Everyone must think independently. This is required.

It does remind me of the 1960s when young people rebelled against the government and their parents and other institutions. They would not conform. They would not dress like they were told. They were going to be different!! And so they all looked and talked the same. They shifted to a different brand of GroupThink with all new leaders.

Gangs operate in the same fashion. They aren't going to conform, but everybody still conforms. Of course, they would protest this, but all the evidence reveals it to be true. And they circle the wagons just like the ones they attack. They are running away from humiliation. So they humiliate. It's not a biblical group. It isn't a God loving group. It's just a different group with a different way of thinking as the first group.

Let's say you had a question for the first group, because you thought you might want to join it. So you ask your question. Nope. You don't get to ask questions of the group. The group alone asks questions. And you answer. The group doesn't answer. They don't have to answer. They won't answer. You just say, "You're right." They are all independent thinkers. Maybe the second group seems to be inconsistent with their founding principles. Maybe you think their methods seem wrong. Sorry. No questioning, even between themselves. Everybody must be on the same page. That's the way it goes with such independence and individualism.

Without offering unqualified support to the second group, you are at risk of abusive treatment. You'll be said to be a number of things. These are lies, but they are permissible lies, ones for which no one requires an apology. The second group can't apologize and especially in public. They expect apologies. They expect groveling. Really groveling may not be enough. But they do not apologize. They can't be wrong. But they are not like what they criticize of the first group.

If I had a choice between the two, I would choose the first group. At least it looks better, looks closer to what is right. And it is far more productive than the latter group, that exists for the mere purpose of protest. The former group has certain standards of decency that I would like better. The latter, of course, calls the first a cult. There's no way the second group could be a cult. The latter group isn't a cult, because it is a group of independent thinkers who will savage and humiliate you if you offer your opinion. The second group is not like the first group at all, of course. The second one will only allow you to be supportive and follow their way or you will be subject to intellectual and emotional abuse with a subtle threat of violence.

An Addendum

All unbiblical belief and behavior will turn out bad, whatever group believes it and practices it.

Here are two examples of the second group: first and second.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cutting through the Wrong Messenger to Believe the Right Message

One of the most difficult things in life is to believe someone I find odious. Someone said that even a broken clock is right twice a day. It's tough but true. When I was in college and a dormitory supervisor, one of the bad boys of the dorm, who was ultimately expelled, caught me in a rules violation. I had to admit it to his smiling face. He had broken dozens and dozens and he didn't even care about the regulations. But what was the right thing to do? But admit it. I think you get what I mean.

Sometimes we have to cut through the messenger to catch the meaning. Growing up, a lot of sermons were that way. They weren't well communicated, but I was going to be spending the next hour in that room listening to that man, so the right thing to do was to get the most out of it.

There is a right way for you to be told, especially if you are a little older. I'm reaching that deeper end of the pool. I'm 49. I like being talked to with respect by 20 somethings, even 30 somethings. I like it said a certain way, especially when I'm talking to them with respect. But that's not often the way it goes today.

Do you get what I am saying? I don't want to say that someone is right who is communicating it in such an offensive way. They are using a bullhorn. It might be a woman, who has perfected her imitation of a dripping faucet. Women, know this. Men don't like to hear it from you. And especially if you say it in that certain way that every man knows. Think Michelle Bachmann here.

I've had it happen that while someone is telling the truth, he adds to that truth some lies about me. He wants to make his point, so he bold face lies about me. He says something like, "You just want to have all the children of the world suffer and die and that's why you won't believe me," or "You like Adolph Hitler and that's why you won't say 'yes' to what I'm telling you," or "You're involved in the cover-up." I hate that last one the worst, even worse than the Hitler one. Perhaps it's more subtle and insidious and so it strikes me worse, like hitting the edges of the metal around writer's cramp in the table game Operation. My game buzzes loudly. Everything that isn't the lies about me are still true. I don't want to believe those truths because they are sandwiched with lies.

The internet is renowned for this. You have someone who likes to mouth off, but he or she likes to use a pseudonym, to come at you anonymously. And they are bold. They are brutal. They attempt to humiliate. Maybe they are even confronting the subject of humiliation and they are attempting to humiliate you into taking their position against humiliation. Opposing humiliation is still the correct position, but it is difficult to believe out of the mouth of a certain messenger. And when you admit he's right, he gives you no credit. He dances all over you and then belches.

However, a more mature person can cut through the odor, the stench, and believe what someone is saying. Sometimes it is coming from a truly hurting person, someone who has been legitimately harmed, and hasn't been trained well in how to scream. He's been screamed at. He has been cajoled and badgered. He doesn't even know he's doing the very thing that he hated hearing himself. But what he's saying is true.

The truth is still the truth, even if it is coming from a screeching, scratchy broken instrument. I really do wish that people like that would state their point in a respectful way. I wish they would calm down. I wish that even if they do it in a horrible way, that after doing it that way, they would apologize for how disrespectful they were. It would make me feel better. But it is still the truth.

Watergate was still Watergate. I didn't like hearing it from the people who were telling the news. I wanted to reject it because they were the ones saying it. But it was still Watergate. It was still a break in. It was still violation of the law.

I don't like the Miami Hurricanes, strutting out of their locker room, pounding their chest to win anything. But if at the end of the game, you look up at the scoreboard, and they had more points, they still win the game. And really, when you hear the truth, it isn't about losing the game. The truth is still the truth. In the long run, the truth is precious. It may come from a 4 year old girl or a 57 year old homeless man. But it is the truth.

You really do have to take one thing at a time. Start with believing the truth. And then later, the way it was communicated, you might be able to get to that. But you've got to start by deciding truthfulness. You might not like the one who is saying it. But is it the truth? If it's the truth, you can give in to it. You don't have to accept the messenger. You don't have to take their whole world view. You just have to believe what's true.

I might tell Mr. Odious 100 truths and he disbelieves them all. He won't believe any of the truths presented to him. He might be bitter, unforgiving, and even a worse violator than the one he is impeaching. But if he's telling the truth, it is still the truth.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How to Handle Doctrinal and Practical Problems with Other Churches

Some have called our church isolationist, that we isolate ourselves from all other churches. That's not true. We do fellowship with other churches, and that fellowship is with churches of like faith and practice. We have begun and continued fellowship based upon common belief and practice. What happens when we believe or recognize that one of the churches with whom we are in fellowship does not believe and practice the same way as we do?

We handle a church like one of those churches very similarly to how we handle a church member with whom we will break fellowship. We follow a principle or pattern of separation laid out in the Bible. Separation is the action that can be taken with another church, according to the Bible. You can't do anything more harsh ecclesiastically than to separate.

I'm talking about churches with which we're already in fellowship. There are plenty of independent Baptist churches with which we will not fellowship. Most of them. I often will make public statements here on or against churches with which we do not fellowship as a church. In most instances, I don't make those statements until that church knows we are not in fellowship. I start that process privately to see first if there can be any reconciliation. I don't do public statements about churches we are in fellowship with. There is a biblical pattern for dealing with a church with which you are in fellowship. That's how I believe it should be handled.

When we are dealing with a person in our church with church discipline, we don't just cut a person off. We don't kick people out. There is a formal process that is somewhat slow. You have the three steps, one on one, two or three on one, and then it goes before the church. Sometimes there is reconciliation, the process starts all over, reconciliation again, and the process starts all over until someone is removed from the church. 1 Thesslonians 5:14 says, "Be patient with all men." We are guided by that.

When we deal with other churches it is very similar, except often slower. Often very, very much slower. Why? We often don't see those people very much. The other church is not causing a problem for our church. The other church is gradually changing. They are making little changes that are moving in the right direction. We are encouraging them in different ways to keep moving in the right direction.

Our church has moved and grown over the years. Our expectations for fellowship with another church often relates to a movement we see in the right direction. We don't overlook differences. We want to be a help for a person to grow, just like we do with a new convert or young Christian in our church. The main consideration is, is that person or is that church listening? Do they hear? Do they show a willingness to change?

Sometimes we don't know everything that is wrong with a church because we are not around that church very much. The same happens even with church members. Jude 1:4 says that they creep in unawares. So you don't even know about a problem sometimes until quite a few other people already know about it. People are not always getting that message around. And then sometimes the messenger reporting the problem is not highly credible, hard to believe, because of his own problems. This always complicates the matter.

When we see unbiblical doctrine and practice, we believe we should start by dealing with the leadership of the other church, showing them scripture. Then we wait to see what happens. If it looks like they are listening, then we are willing to be patient and wait for changes to occur. Sometimes there are other factors. There may be good people in that church that we'd like to see helped, and so we will wait even longer. We do the same in our own church. There may be a dad who is not doing very well, so we are slower on the final move of church discipline because we might or will lose his wife and family. We want them to be able to stay in the church so we will work longer with that kind of person.

We don't cut someone off in a church, because patience is what it takes to see some grow. Sanctification is a process. What I've seen is that there may be someone else in our church that wants harsher punishment on someone who has offended him, harder punishment than what he would expect for himself. We don't get to the final step of church discipline faster just because one person wants to see it happen faster. There may be people that think that our church should be separating from some other church faster than what we do, because there are doctrinal and practical differences. We may move slower because we think the church can be helped, and so we are willing to wait. We will not be silent on the differentiating doctrines and practices. Those will be obvious. We make them known. But we do not immediately cut the other church off.

When we do deal with that other church, the one we've been in fellowship with, the way to deal with it is to use spiritual weaponry. We must give due process. We must give people some benefit of the doubt. We need more than one credible witness. And we must consider church autonomy, how that church chooses to deal with its problems. We should use scripture to confront the problem. If someone confesses of a doctrinal or practical error, we must be willing to forgive. We don't have to have a pound of flesh in the situation. We are forgiving like Jesus forgave. People will do wrong. That's the way things should be handled.

Since we are talking about fellowship with another church, the fellowship will be affected by doctrinal and practical problems. We have lost some closeness with that church. It could be a major difference in philosophy of ministry. It could be beliefs about church growth. It could be worship. It might be on sanctification or revivalism or preaching or even on parenting philosophy, how children change. That might relate to how they even present the gospel. All of these affect fellowship with another church. They may result in our separating from that church.

Sometimes when there is a major problem in another church, big blow up type of problem, the disgruntled will often want other churches or individual Christians or church leaders to join their side. I observe the ones that are upset about that other church and look to see if they are using spiritual weaponry. If they are not, that isn't going to help that church change. The angered ones are also in need of admonition and warning and confrontation. They too need to change. They have a beam in their eye as they are making their judgment. I can't respect their judgment in the situation, because they don't have spiritual credibility. They are not bearing someone else's burden. They do not have a spirit of meekness. They just want revenge. They are often bitter. I'm not going to get on the side of those people. I don't want there to be any confusion that I am their side either, which will complicate this. The "aggrieved" often want instant public recognition that they are right, when they are wrong, just as or even more wrong than those they believe have violated them. They may even abuse 1 Corinthians 6 by taking the situation outside of the judgment of Christians, tried to get their hearing in the world, and did greater damage to the cause of Christ in the long run. I can't respect that. I can't endorse that. I will not join that. I will repudiate that.

Biblical separation is what we can do. It is what we should do. Biblical separation will be done in a biblical way. People who feel they were offended by their church will often not separate in a biblical way, but in a carnal, unhelpful way. Sometimes they won't even practice biblical separation. They just move and start dropping bombs---bitter, vindictive, malicious. Maybe they think that is what the offending church is doing too. Maybe so. Maybe not. But how does doing the same thing solve the problem? It doesn't. It then becomes two people doing the same wrong thing. There are many examples of this all over the internet of those who have left churches and then used their blog to go after former churches.

There is a right way to handle a doctrinal or practical problem with another church. People who love God's Word can respect that. They can wait on the Lord. They will not carry with them a spirit of vengeance, but of love and forbearance. There goal is change that will honor the Lord, that will give God the credit in the end.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Seventh Day Adventism's Anti-Trinitarianism and its Claim to be the Restored True Church

Although most of the modern Seventh Day Adventist cult is is relatively pro-Trinitarian, a “study of Adventist history indicates that from the earliest years of [the] church to the 1890s a whole stream of writers took an Arian or semi-Arian position. The view of Christ presented in those years by Adventist authors was that there was a time when Christ did not exist, that his divinity is a delegated divinity, and that therefore He is inferior to the Father. In regard to the Holy Spirit, their position was that He was not the third member of the Godhead but the power of God. . . . Two of the principal founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Joseph Bates and James White [the husband of the “prophetess” Ellen White] . . . rejected the doctrine of the Trinity . . . [further] prominent Adventists who spoke out against the Trinity were J. N. Loughborough, R. F. Cottrell, J. N. Andrews, and Uriah Smith. . . . [These men made statements such as] ‘the Trinity . . . is contrary to common sense . . . is contrary to scripture . . . its origin is Pagan and fabulous . . . the Son of God . . . did . . . have a beginning of days . . . [as] the first created being.’ . . . During the early decades of the [Seventh Day Adventist] church Ellen White made statements which [were] . . . anti-Trinitarian [but she] received more light which eventually led to her very clear Trinitarian statements in the late 1890s. . . . The first positive reference to the Trinity in Adventist literature appeared . . . in 1892 . . . [but it still] insists on the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father . . . [in] 1897 Ellen White [taught that Christ was] . . . the self-existent One . . . equal to the Father . . . [in] spite of these [new] clear statements from the pen of Ellen White, it took many years before this truth was accepted by the [Seventh Day Adventist] church at large. . . . Uriah Smith believe[d] until his death in 1903 that Christ had a beginning . . . [as did] many [others] . . . [at] the 1919 Bible Conference . . . L. L. Caviness . . . [said] ‘I cannot believe that the two persons of the Godhead are equal, the Father and the Son . . . I cannot believe the so called Trinitarian doctrine of the three persons always existing.’ . . . All [the Seventh Day Adventist] pioneers, including Ellen White[,] were anti-Trinitarians [originally]” (pgs. 1-9, “The Doctrine of the Trinity Among Adventists,” Gerhard Pfandel. Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute, 1999).
“James White remained an avowed anti-Trinitarian to his death and Ellen never sought to correct him or other anti-Trinitarian leaders. Her sons William and James were both anti-Trinitarians. Furthermore, Ellen White publicly supported Uriah Smith’s [anti-Trinitarian] book until her death in 1915” (“Anti-Trinitarian Nature of Early Adventism,” David Cloud, elec. acc. Fundamental Baptist CD-ROM library, Port Huron, WA: Way of Life Literature, 2003). Modern pro-Trinitarian Seventh Day Adventist publications admit, “[M]ost . . . early Seventh-day Adventists . . . believed that He [Christ] did not have eternity in the past . . . most pre 1890s Adventists were both anti-Trinitarian and semi-Arian. That is, they were opposed to the doctrine of the Trinity and the full divinity of Christ. . . . [M]ost early Adventists were not orthodox on the Godhead. James White, Joseph Bates, J. N. Andrews, Uriah Smith, Ellet J. Waggoner, and other leaders were in that number. Their position was widely known in the wider Protestant community. . . . [some explicitly preached that] Christ was a created being . . . such as the early Uriah Smith . . . very few among the earliest Adventist leaders . . . [were] not aggressively anti-Trinitarian” (pgs. 44-46, Seventh-Day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, Annotated ed., Notes with Historical & Theological Introduction,George R. Knight. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2003).Light Bearers to the Remnant, by R. W. Schwarz (Mountain View, CA:Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1979), the “Denominational History Textbook for Seventh-day Adventist College Classes . . . Prepared by the Department of Education[,] General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists” (preface, ibid.), admits: “Joseph Bates and James White . . . reject[ed] Trinitarianism. . . . As early as 1848 James White had referred to the Trinitarian conception as ‘unscriptural.’ Loughborough, Uriah Smith, J. H. Waggoner, and D. M. Canright were only the more prominent Sventh-day Adventist theologians who agreed with White and Bates that Trinitarianism was contrary to common sense and of pagan origin . . . a pervert[ion] [of] the clear teachings of Scripture . . . ‘nauseating.’ . . . As late as 1891 . . . Uriah Smith . . . defined the Holy Spirit as . . . [an] emanation,” (pgs. 168-169,ibid.), yet during this entire period Ellen White stated that the Seventh Day Adventists “have the truth . . . We know it” (pg. 167, ibid, citing E. G. White, Letter 18, 1850, to Bro. nd Sr. Hastings, E. G. White Estate). Professors of church history at Seventh-Day Adventist colleges and seminaries admit that the overwhelming majority of the “founders of Seventh-Day Adventism would not be able to join the church today if they had to subscribe to the denomination’s Fundamental Beliefs [on] . . . the Trinity . . . [that] Jesus is both eternal and truly God . . . [and on] the personhood of the Holy Spirit” (pg. 10, “Adventists and Change,” George R. Knight. Ministry: International Journal for Clergy, October 1993, 10-15. The article indicates that “George R. Knight is professor of church history at the [Seventh-Day Adventist] Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.”).This anti-Trinitarianism was never exposed as abominable heresy or idolatry by Ellen White. Mrs. White, in over 100,000 pages of writing, never once used the word “Trinity” to describe her view of the Godhead, and during some seventy years of her life as a “prophet,” while surrounded by scores of Seventh Day Adventist leaders who publicly spoke and wrote against the Trinity, she never once exposed their heresy as idolatry and blasphemy, but instead publically endorsed their persons, sermons, and writings. Thus, Seventh Day Adventism was anti-Trinitarian for over fifty years, before many Adventists began gradually moving (although there are still Arians within Seventh Day Adventism today) towards a relatively more Trinitarian position in the 1890s and the following decades. One wonders how a typical modern Trinitarian Adventist can believe that his denomination is the one true church, re-established in 1844 and years subsequently, but have his prophetess, her husband, her children, and countless Seventh Day Adventist leaders for decades be idolatrous anti-Trinitarians. Did the “one true church” worship the devil for over fifty years?
The “prophetess” Ellen White and her denomination also held other Trinitarian and Christological heresies. She taught (although, since her writings are not inspired, they are often contradictory and confusing) that the Lord Jesus took a sinful human nature. “Christ . . . took . . . our sinful nature” (pg. 181, Medical Ministry, Ellen. G. White. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing, 1963). “Jesus also told . . . the angels . . . that He would take man’s fallen nature” (pg. 150, Early Writings of Ellen G. White(a writing specifically entitled Spiritual Gifts) Ellen White. Washington, D. C.: Review & Herald Publishing, 1882; repr. 1945;). “[T]he Son of God . . . took upon Him our sinful nature” (The Review and Herald, Dec. 15, 1896, cited pg. 535 of Seventh-Day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine,ibid.). “He [Christ] condescended to connect our fallen human nature with His divinity. . . . Having taken our fallen nature, He showed what it might become” (Special Instruction Relating to the Review and Herald Office, and the Work in Battle Creek, May 26, 1896, pg. 13, cited pg. 541, Seventh-Day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, ibid.). Christ “took upon himself fallen, suffering human nature, degraded and defiled by sin” (Youth’s Instructor, Dec. 20, 1900, pg. 394, cited in Questions on Doctrine, pg. 516).“Christ was not in as favorable a position in the desolate wilderness to endure the temptations of Satan as was Adam when he was tempted in Eden. The Son of God . . . took man’s nature after the race had wandered four thousand years from Eden, and from their original state of purity and uprightness. Sin had been making its terrible marks upon the race for ages[.] . . . [T]he human family had been departing every successive generation, [sic] farther from the original purity, wisdom, and knowledge which Adam possesssed in Eden. Christ bore the sins and infirmities of the race as they existed when He came to the earth . . . [He had] the weaknesses of fallen man upon Him . . . in order to elevate fallen man, Christ must reach him where he was. He took human nature, and bore the infirmities and degeneracy of the race” (The Review and Herald, July 28, 1874, cited pg. 542, Questions on Doctrine). Other Adventists leaders believed the same thing, as did the denomination at large. Unlike the Arian heresy, the Adventist teaching that Christ had a sinful human nature was not rejected in the 1890s but remains common in the movement into modern times. “E. J. Waggoner in 1889 (see Signs of the Times, Jan. 21, 1889, pg. 39) . . . [made the] clear statement that Christ was born with ‘sinful tendencies’ as was every other child. . . that teaching [became] central to the teaching of Waggoner, A. T. Jones, and W. W. Prescott. At [the 1895] General Conference session Jones taught that ‘In [Christ’s] human nature there is not a particle of difference between him and you. . . . All the tendencies to sin that are in human flesh were in his human flesh.’ . . . The teaching that Christ had sinful flesh in the sense of having the same tendencies to sin as every other child of Adam became the belief of the majority of Seventh-Day Adventists in the first half of the twentieth century. That teaching was so widely accepted that it no longer needed to be argued in Adventist literature.It was accepted as a fact. . . . It was upon this teaching that M. L. Andreasen . . . the most influential theologian in Adventism . . . in the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s . . . [taught that] the final generation of [Adventists] would have to . . . live a sinlessly perfect life. . . . Satan would be defeated by the final generation’s demonstration. God was dependent for his own vindication upon that demonstration[.] . . . [this] theology [was] accepted by the large majority of Adventists. And that theology, we need to note once more, was based upon the fact that Christ was just like every other child of Adam. He not only had a sinful human nature in the general sense, but He also possessed sinful tendencies. That is, He was viewed as having a nature just like Adam’s after the Fall. . . . . [The teaching of] Jones, Waggoner, and Precott in the mid 1890s . . . held that Christ was just like other human beings without ‘a particle of difference’; that Christ had the same sinful tendencies as other humans. That interpretation . . . had been widely published and had become the accepted position of most Adventists. . . . [Any other] strand of Adventist thinking on the topic had been largely invisible . . . Andreasen [wrote in] 1959 . . . ‘That God . . . exempted Christ from the passions of corrupt men, is the acme of all heresy. . . . Such a teaching is . . . completely contrary to what Seventh-Day Adventists have always taught and believed. . . . To accept [this teaching . . . necessitates giving up faith in the Gift [Ellen White’s writings] God has given this people.’” (pgs. 516-525, Questions on Doctrine). For further evidence, see pgs. 8ff. of The Word Was Made Flesh: One Hundred Years of Seventh-Day Adventist Christology, 1852-1952, Ralph Larson (Cherry Valley, CA: Cherrystone Press, 1986); Touched With Our Feelings: A Historical Survey of Adventist Thought on the Human Nature of Christ, J. R. Zurcher, trans. Edward E. White (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1999). Zurcher, chairman of the Biblical Research Committee of the Euro-Africa Division of the Seventh Day Adventist denomination and Adventist professor, wrote:“The [t]raditional or [h]istorical [Adventist] Christology . . . [is] called postlapsarian because it teaches that Jesus came in fallen human nature, the nature of Adam after [emphasis in original] the Fall. Consequently Christ’s flesh . . . carried within it inherent tendencies to sin[.] . . . This teaching . . . [is] contrary to the beliefs of mainline Christianity. This is why Adventists have often been considered as heretics[.] . . . [The Adventist] church has taught, for a century—from the origin of the movement until 1950 [without question] the postlapsarian position[.] . . . [After 1950] some Adventist theologians, not understanding how it could be possible for Jesus to live without sin in fallen human nature . . . [and with] a desire on the part of some to be recognized as ‘authentic’ Christians . . . [adopted] a [n]ew Christology, or the [p]relapsarian [p]osition . . . [Nonetheless,] probably the most widespread [Adventist] . . . Christology . . . today . . . teaches . . . [i]n harmony with the traditional Christology of the pioneers . . . that Jesus took Adam’s human nature after [emphasis in original] the Fall” (pgs. 272-273,ibid.).
Ellen White also taught that the Lord Jesus could have sinned (“Christ . . . is the second Adam. The first Adam . . . could fall, and he did fall through transgressing. . . . Jesus Christ . . . took upon Himself human nature, and was tempted in all points as human nature is tempted. He could have sinned; He could have fallen . . . He was assailed with temptations in the wilderness, as Adam was assailed with temptations in Eden” (Letter 8, 1895, cited from “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, ed. Francis D. Nichol, Raymond F. Cottrell, Don Neugeld, & Julia Neuffer. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1956, vol. 5, pg. 1128). “Many claim that it was impossible for Christ to be overcome by temptation. Then He could not . . . have gained the victory that Adam failed to gain. . . . But our Saviour took humanity, with all its liabilities. He took the nature of man, with the possibility of yielding to temptation” (The Desire of Ages, pg. 117, cited pg. 543-4, Questions on Doctrine).
How could the “true church” and its prophetess, Ellen White, deny the Trinity and teach that Christ had a sinful nature and could have sinned? Does the “true church” commit idolatry, worship the devil, and blaspheme the sinless Son of God? Seventh-Day Adventist anti-Trinitarianism explodes the cult’s claim to be the restored true church.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Selective Reformation pt. 5

We would all be better off if all we cared about was whether the Bible actually taught something or not. Instead, we trumped that idea with keeping together coalitions and being popular with the world. I think this is most obvious in the refusal to give serious consideration to what Scripture says about the church.

I've called this series Selective Reformation, because the Protestant Reformation was supposedly about getting everyone back to the Bible, since we now could have a Bible to read and didn't have to accept what Roman Catholicism said it was saying. Of course, Baptists still didn't have the freedom to believe and practice what they wanted, because they held no political/religious power. They didn't believe in a state church like the Protestants still did. So the Baptists were still running around for their lives, barely able to publish what Scripture taught.

The Reformers contradicted, albeit in a still somewhat confusing way, Roman Catholic salvation by works. However, they still held Catholic interpretation in eschatology and ecclesiology. Since the Reformation, many Protestants have left Catholic eschatology, moving from amillennialism to premillenialism. However, the Catholic ecclesiology still maintains its hold over most evangelicals and many fundamentalists.

Nothing illustrates the faulty ecclesiology of Protestantism more than all the twists and turns and squabbles and contradictions about unity and separation. Since God is One, so He cannot deny Himself, a true position will not be one that is full of contradictions. Neither scriptural unity nor scriptural separation can be obeyed with the Catholic ecclesiology. Both should be able to be obeyed. And the Protestant/Catholic ecclesiology contradicts itself all over the place. Further reformation is necessary. Some Protestants took one more step of reformation in their eschatology, and they need to keep this momentum going and take the next big step, maybe the biggest step, into biblical ecclesiology.

What it takes is looking at the words, seeing how they are used. That's what we are to do with the rest of the Bible, so why not do it with the passages on the church too? In part four of this series, we looked at how Jesus used the word "church." If we are going to understand what the word means, it would be a good place to start to see how the One Who started the church actually used the word. What did Jesus mean by it? And, of course, when Jesus uses "church" (ekklesia), He uses it like the word means, "assembly" or "congregation," not a nebulous, cloudy, universal something-or-other, not assembling thing.

To understand how Jesus used "church," we employ the normal means for conceiving of what words mean. We look at all His usages, and we interpret the less clear in light of the clear. The place where the context does not shed light on the exact nature of the word, we understand according to all of the places where it is clear what the word means. In every usage of the word ekklesia, as used by Jesus, except for one, we know it is an assembly or a congregation, a local only institution. That too is what the word does mean. It is how the people understood it who were hearing it in that day.

So an assembly or a congregation is how people are going to interpret "church" today too, right? Wrong. They are going to see it as a non-assembling thing. They are going to see it as an invisible, universal concept. Can this faulty concept be corrected like the bad eschatology was? I'm afraid in most instances, no. Is it because of Scripture? No, it isn't. I'll let you consider why it is that people will not move to what is obvious from what is made-up and read into the text. It is some other reason than sound hermeneutics. That's not what is being used to come to something the Bible doesn't say. How did people see, and still do, amillennialism in Scripture? Same way they see a universal church there. Same type of thing.

We stopped last time on what Jesus said. I wanted the readers to start by pondering that, wrap their brains about how Jesus used the term. That would be strangely foreign to many readers. I think that many would just stop reading what Jesus said, because it wouldn't interest them. They had a Protestant theologian tell them what they were thinking and they wouldn't want what Jesus said to get in the way of that.

What about all the other over one hundred uses of ekklesia? One of my favorite places that give the typical usage of ekklesia is 1 Corinthians 1:2:

Unto the church of God which is at Corinth

That's the start of the verse. The church of God is at Corinth. If the church was all believers, every single believer would be at Corinth. But then you read this question in the pastoral qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:5:

For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?

Does one pastor take care of every single believer in the whole world? It even says "the church," not "a church," as if "the church," the actual church, was a single congregation led by a pastor. Weird, huh? Probably because that is what it is.

See, this is how the term "church" is mainly used in the New Testament. If you go to those hundred plus usages, this is how it reads. But then you will find some other types of usages of "church" that people have hijacked for their own purposes. They really gravitate to those slightly different ones to find what they want to insert into the text. Those don't mean something different; they are just a little different type of usage. I'm going to explain what I'm writing here, but first one other related point about hermeneutics.

I've talked about this elsewhere, but I want you to think with me again about how we interpret the Bible. To understand the parts of the Bible, we first understand the whole. We take each part within the understanding of the whole, like a tentmaker would do when he began cutting up the individual panels of his tent to fit within the whole tent. Individual usages of words must consider the all the usages of the word. We don't either allow a few different usages to guide the clear understanding of the many, nor do we add all of the usages together to form some kind of cumulative meaning, a hermeneutic that is employed by the Church of Christ denomination to interpret a few baptism passages.

Those few usages of ekklesia about which I'm talking are the singular, generic usages of ekklesia. A noun is either singular or plural in number. A singular noun is either particular or generic. That's how grammar works. In a grammatical-historical interpretation, that is, a literal interpretation, we understand meaning and usage according to grammatical rules. Those are the only two choices for a singular noun. If we are conforming to grammar, we don't get to make up another usage of the singular. We only get two choices: particular or generic. Obviously when ekklesia is in the plural (41 times), it is always speaking of individual churches, no doubt. One would think that this usage alone would settle this dispute. Most of the time, when ekklesia is used in the singular, it is also speaking of a particular church, as in the following samples:

Colossians 4:16, "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea."

1 Thessalonians 1:1, "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ."

2 Thessalonians 1:1, "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

2 Timothy 4:22, "The second epistle unto Timotheus, ordained the first bishop of the church of the Ephesians, was written from Rome, when Paul was brought before Nero the second time."

Acts 8:1, "And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem."

Acts 11:22, "Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch."

Alright, enough samples, but you get what I'm saying. So what are examples of the generic usage of the singular noun? I'm going to give you one right now and then talk more about this in the next installment in the series. It really isn't that difficult and I'll show you why.

Here's one of the few generic, singular usages of ekklesia in the New Testament, Ephesians 5:23. It's also popularly used as a proof text for a universal church. I want you to read it.

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

Here are the typical arguments used by supporters of a universal church, an unassembled assembly. First, Christ is the head of more than one church, more than just the church at Ephesus, so it must be something bigger. Second, Jesus is the Saviour of more than one church, so "body" must be something bigger than one church. Are you saying that Christ is just the head of the Ephesian church and the Savior only of that church? And if Christ is the head of each individual church, wouldn't that make Christ some kind of multi-headed monster?

Answers. If "the church" there is universal and invisible, then "the husband" and "the wife" in the first half of the verse must also be universal and invisible. Is there a universal, invisible husband and wife too? Crickets. "The husband" and "the wife" are classic uses of the generic singular noun. It's like saying, "I answered the phone." Which phone? Not one in particular. It's the generic usage.

Christ can be the head of each church and still not be multi-headed. To start, that is taking the metaphor of "head" and "body" way too far. Christ isn't actually a head. That's not how someone understands that word. It's easy for Jesus to be Head of every church because He is omnipresent. Are you denying the omnipresence of Christ? How can Christ never leave us or forsake us if He weren't omnipresent? He is God. In addition to that, I've got a good grammatical parallel for you over in 1 Timothy 3:12:

Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

Are several deacons to be married to the same wife? Of course not. That's another example of a generic use of the singular noun.

And then as far as Jesus being the Savior of the body, He's also the Savior of single people too, not just a single church. In Galatians 2:20, Paul says that Jesus "gave himself for me." Did Jesus give Himself only for Paul? Of course not.

In addition to those answers, the word "church" means "assembly," so it must be talking about an assembly, not something that doesn't assemble. And then the term "body" would be used because it also conveys something local only. A body is something meeting in one place, which is why that metaphor would be used for the church.

This is just plain meaning of the term "church." The generic singular usages of ekklesia do not pose any unique problem for understanding the term. But we'll talk more about this in the next post in this series.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Was David Cloud Right in His Exposure and Reproof of West Coast Worship?

David Cloud recently produced the following video exposes of the music of West Coast Baptist College and Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster, California. To show how out-of-touch I was on this issue, I didn't even hear about it until about three weeks ago,when the whole shabang actually started in March of this year. Once I did, I found that it had exploded online with other Cloud articles, discussion on fundamentalist forums, blogs, a multitude of emails positive and negative sent to Cloud, and at least one answer from Paul Chappell (which Cloud answers here).

First, here are the presentations by David Cloud. You'll be able to figure out what he's doing.



I hate this stuff by West Coast/Lancaster, even if it weren't written and performed by CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) groups. I hate what they do. I hate the way they do it. I hate the philosophy of ministry that it represents. I hate the way it misrepresents the God of the Bible. I hate the way it deceives the people with whom it is involved. I hate what it does to churches. I hate the way that it harms and even ruins discernment. I hate the way that it perverts a biblical or true understanding of spirituality and love. I will not tolerate it. I will have nothing to do with it. I hate the way that it endorses false worship for churches. It's disgusting.

Second, what about Cloud's point? Is it wrong to do what West Coast does, that is, adapt the CCM songs to fit their view of God? I don't think it matters for West Coast, because they already know what they want, and if a CCM group doesn't write it for them, they will either write it themselves or find it somewhere else. However, it should be tell-tale to anyone that West Coast finds it necessary to dip into or borrow from the CCM world to fulfill their goals. I believe there is understandable reasons for this. These CCM performers know what they are doing with their music. They contrive and choreograph emotions and feelings with their music to produce an fraudulent, imitation experience of spirituality that fools the participants. And then what the CCM people want to get happens to be some of the very same that West Coast wants. The biggest difference is the smoke. West Coast misses some CCM smokiness. Taking away the smoke is like putting lipstick on a pig.

CCM (A) has taken their stuff from the world (B) and now West Coast (C) takes theirs from CCM (A). If A = B and A = C, then B = C. They get deniability about the world. That's it. They didn't get it from the world. And that's supposed to mean something. If it means anything to you, check your IQ.

People are not satisfied with biblical, true manifestations of spirituality. They covet a tangible interaction with God. They want "more" than faith. The CCM claims authenticity and gives a placebo. West Coast rents out the CCM toolbelt.

The CCM is very much akin to the recent phenomena of Conversations with God. A man has written what people want to believe an authentic experience with God must be. Because it is what people want to hear or think, they believe it. The feelings manufactured by CCM of whatever variety, including the West Coast style, easily fit the sensation people would register as genuine. They are ready to believe it. It parallels the power of suggestion of the hypnotist.

The feelings conjured by CCM aid in numerical growth. People seek either signs or wisdom. The music titillates the senses, convincing that something real has occurred. Besides that, it is sheer gratification. People like it, like they want candy instead of vegetables. And the growth itself further fools the adherents. God must be working, the same God who gave the feeling during the music. For some, if they've got to go through church anyway, they would rather enjoy it. And it will be easier to invite the world if the world likes better what it's hearing. In the end, God "gets" to take credit for growth caused by CCM. He gets associated with CCM. Think He likes that?

The music does make provision for the flesh. It does build a bridge to CCM. It does endorse the CCM "artists." But those are the least of the problems with what West Coast does. West Coast drags God's holy name through their muck and mire. It profanes the truth. It uses carnal weaponry. It feeds the flesh. It makes provision for the flesh. It brings the world into the church. It perverts church growth. It presents a false God. It offers false worship.

CCM music works for West Coast. What works for West Coast is what's important. If it works, it's good to do. It's good because it works. If it didn't work, it wouldn't be good. This is the kind of reasoning that justifies it.

I don't think that associations here are the major issue. What is major is the music itself and the stink hole from which West Coast constructs its pipeline. That says a lot about West Coast and what they think of God. I'd be happy to have West Coast listen to what I'm writing here, but I'm afraid they would marginalize it and figure out a way to ascribe psychological problems to me so that they can keep going the way they're going. After all, they probably have more people in their bathrooms at one time than we have in our whole church service.

Remember the NEA funded Andres Serrano exhibit where he sinks a crucifix in a jar of urine and calls it "art"? The CCM music is the urine in which its "artists" float the person and work of Christ. They use a profane element to express a sacred teaching. Am I leaving you in doubt about where I stand on this?

I don't know that David Cloud and I have the same view of worship. From this encounter, I know we're closer than what I am with West Coast. By far. He is right on West Coast though.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Opposing the Monster He Helped Create

For several years now, especially in his published materials, John MacArthur, perhaps the leader of the conservative evangelicals, has exposed and opposed a major element of pragmatism and worldliness in evangelicalism. He's obviously alarmed by it. I have enjoyed what he has written about it and much of what he has said, including what he said in the following recent skype interview about who have been titled the young, restless, and reformed (YRR). I warn you about the jazzy, sensual music incongruous with what MacArthur says, an irony that seems to be most often lost on MacArthur. He participates right along with the very thing that he is bemoaning. It would be like him complaining about gum chewing with several gum chewers chomping and snapping in his background.
Part One

And Part Two.

(It's too bad that this interviewer didn't instruct MacArthur to look up at the camera instead of at the interviewer on his computer screen.)

You heard what John MacArthur said. Maybe you've read some of his books too. I was talking to someone who had seen these videos and was reminded of the later years of the early fundamentalist, W. B. Riley, when people were calling him more conservative and yet he insisted that he hadn't changed, but that some people had called him liberal when he was young. This is probably true of MacArthur. He's looking more and more conservative, when maybe he has actually moved a little to the left from where he once was, but not at the rate that everything else in evangelicalism and fundamentalism is moving left.

The things MacArthur says here now seem like something you would hear from a fundamentalist about cultural issues. And I do appreciate a lot of what he has to say here. If someone looked at the the theology of the entire population of the United States, I would probably be with MacArthur in the far right 5%. I recognize that I'm further right than him, but he is still very conservative compared to the rest of the world. Nevertheless, I believe that from his very influential position, MacArthur has been the cause and still causes the very things that he is criticizing in these videos. Peter Masters, another reformed pastor and theologian, made the same observation in a recent article in his Sword and Trowel (my review). Masters himself already said the things MacArthur is now saying, and the parallel with Arminianism with which he targets MacArthur himself.

The very thing that MacArthur now warns about and decries, he said was a true revival in the Jesus movement that helped fuel the early numerical growth of his church in Southern California. He didn't preach against the problems they had then, which are identical to the ones he sees are a problem now. And now MacArthur is also involved with Arminian, Finney-esque new measures for the church growth of his own church. He produces "events" as well. His church also has pushed the same growth ideas with their church activities for teens and singles, concerts of all kinds. They teach these things in their own school, Master's College. You see the way they promote the school with young people with body and hands touching each other. Young people know that will be available if they go there.

If you are going to oppose the monster you helped to create, you have to come clean. You have to repent of your own pragmatism. You have to reject your own new measures. You have to admit that you were in error. If not, then you're only going to encourage more of the same. MacArthur is really just complaining about a matter of degree. The YRR are worse than his own church. The principles, however, are the same.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Justin Bieber Wears Women's Pants

One of the yahoo news features revealed that Justin Bieber confessed that he wears women's pants. To add some detail, the top article called this "cross dressing." Except, well, no one even knew it. Nobody would have known, if he hadn't said. Can it be cross dressing to do something about which no one would have known had he not said anything? Bieber explained that he dons jeans due to the comfort factor as they look and feel better because they are “more fitted." Justin said: "I've worn women's jeans before because they fit me."

Bieber wears women's jeans because they are "more fitted," that's what distinguishes women's jeans from men's. They are more fitted. Tighter. Snugger. If they weren't tight and so fitting, they would be men's jeans, we surmise.

Evangelicals and fundamentalists argue for women wearing women's pants. They have argued that there are men's pants and women's pants, like, you know, there were two robes in Jesus' and Moses' day. So when a man is able to get into women's pants is this a concern? Of course not. They don't look any different from men's except for how tight they are. Everyone knows this. The shape of the pants is the only difference, which doesn't distinguish them at all. Now this actually contradicts the two robes argument, but then, we already knew that evangelicals and fundamentalists weren't serious about that argument. It was just a smoke cloud, a red herring, to use for ignoring Deuteronomy 22:5. Like Bieber fits into women's pants, these professing Christians have a more snug fit with the world.

And why would women's pants be "more fitted"? What would that idea be all about? But then, if a woman were to wear a man's pair of jeans, would that bother most of evangelicalism and fundamentalism today? No. You wouldn't know it. As a matter of fact, you might think it is better for her to wear men's pants, because they're probably looser fitting.

Let me say sarcastically, husbands and wives, Christian, non-Christian, everyone, go ahead and dig into each other's wardrobes. Sisters, don't just borrow from your sister's closet. Work your brother's closet too and brothers, Justin Bieber has just expanded your wardrobe choices. No need to feel guilty about it, because Christians stopped talking about this a long time ago.

Distinct articles of dress has been relegated to a non-essential.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Scriptural Problem of Kevin Bauder's Definition of "Fellowship"

Coming out this month from Zondervan is one of its "four views" books, this one Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism. The four views of the book are represented by four different men with differing perspectives on what should be true evangelicalism. Collin Hansen, one of the editors, writes in the introduction: "This book’s four contributors offer their take on evangelicalism at its best and critique the movement at its worst." Many are anticipating this book, and especially certain fundamentalists, first mainly because fundamentalists were recognized as even existent by evangelicals other than in mockery, and second because of Kevin Bauder's presentation of fundamentalism. I'm very interested too in the interaction of the four men on this subject. The only place anyone could insert me into the four views would be in fundamentalism. I recognize this, even though I don't believe my view could be represented in the book, even by Kevin Bauder.

I haven't read the book. I'm not sure it's even out. I will probably buy a physical copy (rather than kindle) because I want to write in it. I know I can write in Kindle but it isn't a task that works with me as of yet. Maybe I'll get there. I do like reading better on the Kindle, but the marking and note taking works better for me in a hard copy. But I digress. How can I write a little review of Bauder's part when I don't have the book? Well, I'm writing only on something that I did read Bauder write, the pretty large sample text from the book, and it spurred me to write this post. There's a lot that I have trouble with in what Bauder wrote. For instance, he buttresses much for his argument on two texts, John 10 (article 1 and 2) and 1 Corinthians 12:13 (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 of articles by me), and he gets those both wrong. With those wrong, the gist of what he writes is going to be wrong for him. There's still a lot that he writes that I can agree with, but he can't get it right when he gets wrong the two passages upon which he bases his entire presentation. But that isn't what I'm going to write about here.

Bauder doesn't get the concept or idea of fellowship right. In describing fundamentalism, Bauder describes its primary motive as "the unity and fellowship of the church" (p. 21). When he says "church," he means all believers. That, of course, also colors everything that he writes, including what he says about fellowship. He writes on p. 21:

Fellowship (koinônia) means joint ownership . Properly speaking, fellowship involves something that two or more persons hold in common.

That is a too simplistic and minimalist definition of fellowship. In so writing, he reduces fellowship to a soteriological issue, when Scripture presents fellowship as more than soteriological. He continues in this vein on p. 23:

Fellowship always involves something that is held in common . The quality of the thing held in common determines the quality of the fellowship or unity . The thing that is held in common by all Christians— the thing that constitutes the church as one church— is the gospel itself.

Bauder doesn't establish this thought from Scripture. He doesn't prove that the thing held in common in fellowship is the gospel. It is true that the gospel is a boundary for fellowship. We should not fellowship with someone who believes or preaches a false gospel, but fellowship is more than just holding something in common. It is holding something in common, but it is more than that. Bauder himself hints at this in a sentence he writes later that clashes with his earlier statement (p. 24), "How can invisible unity be relevant for questions of visible cooperation and fellowship?" Cooperation extends fellowship to something further than merely holding something in common. The confusion that results from the reduction of the definition of fellowship is seen in this paragraph (p. 31):

Unity is a function of what unites, and fellowship is something that is held in common . The thing that Christians hold in common and that unites them is, minimally, the gospel itself . Those who profess the true gospel are to be accorded fellowship as Christians . Those who deny the gospel are to be excluded from Christian fellowship.

"Fellowship is something." That "something. . . is held in common." What is held in common is the gospel. So fellowship is reduced to all people who are saved. But then they are to be "accorded fellowship" who "profess the true gospel." If they already hold the gospel in common, aren't they already in fellowship? And then he mentions that gospel deniers "are to be excluded from Christian fellowship." Aren't they already excluded, since fellowship is simply holding in common the same gospel? Bauder himself sees fellowship as more than holding something in common, but in cooperation. What is it that someone is being excluded from? It must be more than holding something in common.

Later on p. 31 Bauder writes: "Inasmuch as their message constitutes a denial of the gospel, their adherents are not to be accorded Christian recognition or fellowship." Here he equates fellowship with "recognition." Fellowship is recognizing that someone is a Christian. So what is it? Is it holding something in common, is it cooperation, is it inclusion, or is it recognition? If we were concerned with what "fellowship" was, we would be confused at this point if we had only what Bauder has written to go on. Later (p. 34) he writes: "Where the gospel is denied (either directly or by denial of some fundamental doctrine), unity does not exist and fellowship should not be extended." And here he says that "fellowship" is something extended. Someone is extending something to someone. Perhaps this is the proverbial ten foot pole with which certain ones we would not want to touch. If fellowship is holding something in common, if that definition is true, nothing needs to be extended, because it is already held in common.

Bauder continues on v. 34: "Once minimal unity is realized (i .e ., once the gospel is held in common), other levels of fellowship also become possible." Now we are introduced to "levels of fellowship." Isn't fellowship holding something in common? Is this holding more in common? Or is fellowship more than just holding something in common? Recognizing? Or cooperation?

Then Bauder moves into his discussion on "Levels of Fellowship," and begins on p. 34:

Scripture implies different levels of fellowship. Not all fellowship relationships are equal. Different relationships bring with them different levels of accountability and responsibility. One level is simple personal fellowship: two believers rejoicing together in the gospel that they hold in common. Another level is discipleship . Ministry collaboration is a different level, as are both church membership and church leadership.

Since I don't have enough of his chapter (p. 34 is the last of the sample), I'm hopeful that Bauder can explain this "levels of fellowship" idea, show how that Scripture "implies" it, as opposed to his assuming it without proof. There is no doubt that people hold various beliefs in common. That would show different levels of fellowship, that is, if fellowship is holding something in common. Or is this just too minimal as a definition? I've shown how that is implied in Bauder's chapter. And with good reason, Scripture shows fellowship to be more than "holding something in common." Bauder was on to something when he threw in the word "cooperation." Scriptural fellowship is actually cooperation and that cooperation is based upon doctrine and obedience to that doctrine. What is extended is cooperation. The recognition is cooperation. We recognize that someone does not believe and practice the same, so we don't fellowship. Fellowship isn't holding the same doctrine in common, but cooperating based upon having the same doctrine and practice.

"Fellowship" in the New Testament is cooperation or partaking or working together. It is joint activity. We tell that by the usage. 2 Corinthians 6:14 reveals this.

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

Two oxen are "yoked together" for common labor. They are working together, cooperating. Fellowship is doing ministry or service or worship together. It certainly is not just "being together," or Paul would be contradicting himself. Earlier in 1 Corinthians 10:27 Paul writes:

If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.

It is fine to eat with unbelievers, but in 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul writes not to be "unequally yoked together with unbelievers" and describes this as "fellowship" with "unrighteousness" and "darkness." And of course, Jesus ate with sinners. The only sinners that churches are told not to eat with are Christian ones (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).

Fellowship is more than holding something in common. It is worshiping together, serving together, doing the same Christian labor together. It is coming into union for common Christian endeavor. In 1 Corinthians 10 again, Paul says that the Lord's Table is fellowship and he parallels that with the religious feasts of the pagans in Corinth. They are both religious participation or fellowship. He uses the word koinonos in 10:21, translated "partakers" (KJV). Fellowship is the activity of taking of the bread and the cup in the church. We are fellowshiping with another Christian if we are participating in common labor for God, service for God, or worship to God.

Should fellowship be reduced to just the gospel? Is that how we see it in the New Testament? No. And this is where Bauder's view is all wrong. He minimizes fellowship by reducing it to the gospel. Fellowship is based upon doctrinal and moral purity, called "light" in 1 John. John writes that "if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another." You can see that fellowship is paralleled with an activity, walking, and that it is based upon the light. What does 1 John say that the light is? Is it just the gospel? No. 1 John 2:9 says that "he that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness." Fellowship in the light is dependent on a particular practice. This fits with Ephesians 5:11, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." The standard is higher than just the gospel. And if Bauder is going to say that the gospel encompasses all works consistent with the gospel then he is not making that clear with his chapter so far.

Fellowship is what occurs in a church, as seen in the Jerusalem church in Acts 2:41. 1 John 2:19 describes the break of fellowship with someone who leaves the church. When someone is disciplined from a church (Matthew 18:15-17), he no longer fellowships with that church. The basis of discipline is more than the gospel or else someone could be disciplined, and it would be fine to continue in fellowship with him as long as he keeps professing a true gospel. This is often how it sadly works in fundamentalism. If another church continues in practice that was the basis of discipline for one of our own members, how could we continue in fellowship with that church when it also offends? This is where the Bauder view of "fellowship" breaks down in its inconsistency.

I suspect that the Bauder presentation will be the strongest in the book. However, this only shows the sorry state of evangelicalism and fundamentalism. It has dumbed down fellowship to include those disobedient to Scripture and in conflict with the doctrine and practice of one's own church. This is not walking in the light as the Lord is in the light. It is not fellowship one with another.