Sunday, November 28, 2021

Yes and Then No, the Bible with Mark Ward (part one)

My last post of last week, the shell game with Bible words, if you followed the links, referred to a session Mark Ward did at Bob Jones Seminary, where he did refer to Thomas Ross and myself.  Someone sent that to me, and in my path to watching it, I became curious in another of his videos.  I'll deal with both here.  One I essentially agreed with, and the other, no.

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Chronologically, Mark Ward first made a podcast from his greenhouse about attending an IFB meeting close to where he lived.  An IFB pastor invited him because R. B. Ouellette was going to preach on the King James issue.  He didn't say which church this was.  It was surely revivalist in the Hyles/Sword realm.  Ward started out ready to deal with KJVOnlyism, but it turned into something else.  Here's the podcast.

Ward traveled to a special meeting at a revivalist IFB church to interact with KJVO.  Based upon a heads-up from its pastor, he expected something promoting KJVO.  Ward reported much he liked about the service all the way up to the Ouellette sermon.  Ouellette opened to Job 31:35-36 to defend KJVO.  A plain reading of Job 31 does not appear to do that.

Ward and Ouellette both graduated from Bob Jones University.  In his criticism, Ward distinguished between using the Bible for what a man wants to say and preaching what the Bible does say.  By his account, Ouellette did the former.  He was not a herald, who delivers the Word of the King.  Ward titled his podcast, "The Biggest Step the IFB Needs to Take."  He treats IFB with generosity, more than what I would.   Instead of the KJVO issue, he found a "preaching" one instead.

YES

Bad Preaching

I wrote, "Yes," in this title.  I agree with the criticism of this typical, popular IFB preaching.  If IFB apparently cares for the perfection of its Bible, then preach the Bible.  Its leaders very often preach like Ward described.  He reported loud "Amens" shouted all around, which supported a message that twisted the Word of God.  Ward exposed a reason for someone to separate from IFB churches and men.  I say "Yes" to Ward.  I agree with him.

What causes a man to preach like Ouellette?  It's not that he is unable to preach the Bible.  Why would he settle for something entirely not what the passage says?  Underlying doctrinal problems exist especially regarding the Holy Spirit.  Keswick theology, second blessing theology, or revivalism, all similar error but with a nuance of difference, affect preaching.

Many IFB believe the preacher becomes a vessel for a message from the Holy Spirit.  They believe that through the Holy Spirit God gives the preacher something others can't even see in a text.  This is called "preaching."  God uses "preaching," but by that they don't mean the Bible.  The Bible is used, but the preaching is something unique.  They trust the man of God has been given something they haven't ever seen and can't see.

However, I dispute preaching as the biggest step for IFB. It isn't the "I" (independent) or the "B" (Baptist) in IFB that's the problem.  "F" for Fundamentalism is at the root of the problem.  Actual preaching of the Bible isn't a fundamental of fundamentalism.  In general, IFB does not confront bad preaching.  It allows it and even encourages it.  If someone spiritualizes or allegorizes a passage and reads something into a text, it doesn't bring condemnation.  However, the biggest step for fundamentalism isn't its preaching.

False Gospel

Fundamentalism is rife with a corrupted gospel.  Ward commended the evangelism of IFB.  What is the evangelism of IFB?  Look all over the internet at the gospel presentations.  Most IFB removes biblical repentance and the Lordship of Christ.  Let's say Ouellette rejected KJVO and started using the ESV, or even just the NKJV.  Would he become acceptable to Ward, reaching his primary goal?  Ouellette argues against repentance as necessary for salvation (I write herehere, and here).  When you read doctrinal statements and the plans of salvation of those churches most associated with Ouellette, they're the same.

A few years ago, James White participated in an interview with Steven Anderson.  In White's many criticisms of Anderson, he never mentions his false gospel.  Anderson hosts an anti-repentance website.  Anderson is worse than Ouellette, but both fall short of a biblical gospel.  As White ignores Anderson's gospel, Ward does Ouellette's.  This diverges from the often stated emphasis of evangelicals, the gospel of first importance.  The version issue stokes greater heat than the gospel does.

Some IFB churches preach a true gospel even as some preach biblical sermons.  Yet, a false gospel subverts IFB unrelated to the version of the Bible it uses.  Years ago IFB allowed and even promoted the introduction and then acceptance of a false doctrine of salvation.  I am happy Ward noticed the bad preaching Ouellette, but his focus harms his ability to see the biggest IFB problem.  Ward doesn't mention the wrong gospel.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Shell Game Played With Words About the Bible

You know right now the concern about the gender of pronouns used to address the sexes.  The controversy revolves around calling a biological male, "him," or a biological female, "her."  People change the meaning of the words and expect us to play along.  You know it's a man, but you call him, a her.  You call he, a she.

Let's say we're talking about the words of scripture.  Inspiration applies to words.  God inspired words.  And then someone says, I believe in the inerrancy of scripture in the context of words.  We think he means, no errors in the words.  I think he even knows that we think he means words.  However, he doesn't mean words.  He's not saying that there are no errors in the words. 

Someone holds up a Bible and calls it the inerrant Word of God.  He doesn't mean words.  He means something different.  It's hard to say what he means, but it's probably the following.  Inerrancy means that you can trust that the teachings of the Bible are without error.  He doesn't bring up inerrancy in the context of the teachings of the Bible.  He brings it up in the context of words.  He's playing a shell game, moving those shells around very quickly.  You thought he meant words, but he didn't.

You think the bead is under the shell.  That's what someone wants you to think.  The bead is words, but you see a shell.  Words aren't under the shell.  It's teachings, and even that is ambiguous, because even with that, he doesn't mean teachings.

When someone says the teachings of scripture are inerrant, if that's even what he means, because that can become very ambiguous, he doesn't mean that you can't find errors in the Bible.  You can.  However, all things considered, if you take all the combined passages of the Bible to come up with those teachings, all the right teachings are available in the Bible.

Men don't even agree on what the Bible teaches, let alone on what's right that it does teach.  Two different men can say they believe in inerrancy and then disagree on ten different doctrines of scripture.  It's a hypothetical inerrancy.  Let's just say it.  It isn't inerrancy.  I can agree to an ambiguous, hypothetical inerrancy, and then agree that the Bible is inerrant.  I can hold up the Bible and say, this is the inerrant Word of God.

When I say the Bible is without error, I mean that it is without error.  Every Word that God inspired has been preserved in the language in which it is written.  Since inerrancy relates to what God inspired, if there are missing words, then it isn't inerrant any more.  I believe that and not in a hypothetical way.  I'm not going to say that we both agree the Bible is inerrant, fully realizing that when you say "inerrant" you don't even mean "inerrant."  You mean something that allows you to believe the Bible is inerrant without believing that it is inerrant.  This is like calling him, her.

If the Bible is perfect, then it can't be given extra perfection.  There are those who do not believe it is perfect.  They also don't believe that scripture says that scripture is perfect.  They believe that it is inerrant, but it isn't perfect.

I would say, don't call the Bible perfect if you don't believe it.  Also, don't call it inerrant, if you don't believe it is inerrant.  Don't make perfect and inerrant mean something different than what they obviously mean in light of what the Bible says about itself.

I can go through my Bible and show you a doctrine of its inerrancy and perfection.  Then I ask, "Does the Bible teach that it is inerrant and perfect?"  You say, "Yes."  So then I ask, "Okay, so which Bible is the inerrant and perfect one?"  You say, "None are."  So is the teaching of the Bible inerrant and perfect?

I believe the Bible is perfect and inerrant because the Bible says so.  Then you start peppering me with individual words, phrases, verses, and even larger passages.  I explain every one of those texts based on the presupposition that I have.  I can do it.  Now let me get into your presuppositions, how you came to having them, or whether they are reverse engineered.

You say, I can see that there isn't a perfect Bible.  So now when you look at the passages that teach the Bible is perfect, they've got to mean something else.  Where do those presuppositions come from?  How did you get those presuppositions?  How is that conservative?

I'm not playing a shell game when I say the Bible is inerrant and perfect.  Many others are.

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Regular History of Clever New Interpretations, Teachings, or Takes on and from Scripture: Socinianism

One way to get a Nobel prize in something, you've got to break some new ground or discover something no one has ever seen.  In the world, the invention of a printing press or light bulb changes everything.  People are still out there trying to invent a better mousetrap.  It happens.  The phone replaced the telegraph and now our mobile devices.

Everyone can learn something new from scripture.  You might even change or tweak a doctrine you've always believed.   On the whole, you really don't want to teach something from the Bible no one has ever heard before.  The goal is the original intent and understanding of the Author.

From the left comes progressivism.  The U. S. Constitution, just over two hundred years old, means something different than it did when it was written.  Loosely constructed, it has a flexible interpretation into which are read new meanings.  Hegelian dialectics say a new thesis comes from synthesis of antithesis and the old thesis.  Everything can be improved.

Early after the inspiration and then propagation of the Bible, men began finding new things in scripture no one ever saw.  Many of these "finds" started a new movement.  People have their fathers, the father of this or that teaching, contradictory to the other, causing division and new factions and denominations.  Some of these changes become quite significant, a majority supplanting the constituents of the original teaching.

At the time of the Reformation, it was as if the world first found sole fide and sole scriptura.  Justification is often called the Reformation doctrine of justification.  This opened a big proverbial can of worms.  Everyone could read his own Bible, many times in his own language, and now dig into his own copy of the original languages of scripture.  A certain skepticism grew.  "If we didn't know this before, what else have they not been telling us."  It was a time ripe for religious shysters and this practice hasn't stopped since then.

The Italian, Laelius Socinus, was born in 1525 into a distinguished family of jurists and he was trained at Padua.  Early Socinus's attention turned to scripture research instead of law, which led to his doubt in the teachings of Roman Catholicism.  Socinus moved in 1548 to Zurich to study Greek and Hebrew.  His questioning of established doctrine didn't stop.  He also doubted the Reformers and wrote his own confession of faith that introduced different, conflicting beliefs that took hold in his nephew, Faustus Socinus, born in 1539.

Faustus rejected orthodox Roman Catholic doctrines, was denounced by the Inquisition in 1559, and fled to Zurich himself in 1562, where he acquired his uncle's writings that same year his uncle died.  Catholicism was wrong and the doubt turned anti-Trinitarian.  The Reformation did not go far enough for Socinus and in his first published work in 1562 on the prologue of John, he rejected the essential deity of Jesus Christ.

Socinus's journeys ended in Poland, where he became the leader of the Minor Reformed Church, called the Polish Brethren.  His writings in the form of the Racovian Catechism survived in Polish and Latin through the press of the Racovian Academy of Rakow, Poland.  His and his uncle's beliefs took on the name of Socinianism, which also became a catch-all for any type of dissenting beliefs.

Socinianism held that Jesus did not exist until his physical conception.  He was adopted by God as His Son at conception and became the Son of God when he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, a Gnostic view called "adoptionism."  It rejected the doctrine of original sin.  It denies the omniscience of God, introducing the first well developed concept of what is called "open theism," which said that man couldn't have free will under a traditional (and scriptural) understanding of omniscience.  It also taught the moral example theory of atonement, teaching that Jesus sacrificed himself to motivate people to repent and believe.  His death gave men the ability to be saved by their own works, who weren't sinners by nature anyway.

The work of Socinus lived on in the belief of early English Unitarians, Henry Hedworth and John Biddle.  Socinian belief was helped along also by its position of conscientious objection, a practice of refusing to perform military service.  This principle was very popular with many and made Socinianism much more attractive to potential adherents.  The First Unitarian Church, which followed Socianism as passed down through its leaders in England, was started in 1774 on Essex Street in London, where British Unitarian headquarters are still today.

As the Puritans of colonial America apostatized through various means, Unitarianism, a modern iteration of Socinianism took hold in the Congregational Church in America.  After 1820, Congregationalists took Unitarianism as their established doctrine.  The doctrine of Christ diminished to Jesus a good man and perhaps a prophet of God and in a sense the Son of God, but not God Himself.

I write all of this mainly as an example of the diversity in the history of Christian doctrine and why it takes place.  When you read the beliefs of Socinians, you can easily see them in modern liberal Christianity and an influence on religious cults that deny the deity of Jesus Christ.  A limited amount of skepticism wards away the acceptance of false doctrine.  Better is a Berean attitude (Acts 17:11), searching the scripture to see if these things are so, and what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, proving all things, holding fast to that which is good.

As I grew up in fundamentalism and among independent Baptists, I witnessed a strong and regular desire among leaders to find something new in the Bible.  Many sermons I heard espoused interpretations I had never heard and didn't see in the text being preached.  A preacher often would say that "God had given it to him."  You could know that God was using the man because God was giving him insights into scripture never seen before.  He was "inspired."  It continues today in many evangelical churches, the same practice that led Joseph Smith in his founding of Mormonism.  Many cults arose in 19th century America under the same spirit of skepticism of established historical doctrines of scripture.

Anyone could be prey to the temptation of novel teaching, a unique take on the Bible.  Faustus Socinus accepted many orthodox doctrines of his day, but he rejected Christ as fully God and fully human because it was contrary to sound reason (ratio sana).  This steered Socinians toward Enlightenment thinking, where human reason took the highest role as the arbiter of truth.

Warren Wiersbe wrote that it was H.A. Ironside, longtime pastor of Chicago's Moody Church, who said, "If it's new, it's not true, and if it's true, it's not new."  Somewhere else I read that it was Spurgeon who first said that.  I don't know.  It's true though that it has been through clever new interpretations, teachings, and takes on and from scripture that actual scriptural, saving doctrines have been corrupted and overturned in the hearts of men, condemning them through all eternity.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Book Offer: "Disciplines for Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ"

After starting a church in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1987, I wrote a thirty week discipleship manual then in 1991, titled, "Disciplines for Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ."  This answered a couple scriptural imperatives.  First, the Great Commission is to make disciples, fulfilling the word "teach," the only imperative in Matthew 28:19-20.  Second, if making disciples is the work of the ministry, a pastor should equip the saints for making disciples in fulfillment of Ephesians 4:11-12.

When I grew up in an independent Baptist church and in fundamentalism, I never heard of discipleship.  I didn't even hear of discipleship in a well-known fundamental Baptist college.  I learned biblical exegesis at that time, so I understood Matthew 28:19-20.  I tied that together with Ephesians 4:11-12.  I read some books on discipleship.  The whole church is responsible for making disciples, but I believed the best is one-on-one.

In 1991, I first took everyone in the church through the thirty weeks.  The goal was for everyone to reproduce themselves in another spiritual generation.  Over the years, hundreds of people went through the discipleship.  Almost all of the ones who finished stuck in our church.  People took the discipleship elsewhere to other churches and more disciples were made there.  When my wife and I went to Oregon, we started every new believer on the discipleship.  The church is continuing with them there.

In the last three months, among other things I have been editing Disciplines for Disciples for printing and publication.  In a little over a week, I'm going to send it in for printing.  We are offering it at a pre-publication price of $8 apiece until I send it in for printing.  It is 162 pages, 8 1/2 x 11, two sided, black and white text, colored front and back cover, and spiral bound.  A teacher's edition, the answer key, will be separate for $25.  The publication price will be $11-12 dollars later.

If you want it pre-publication in the next week and a half, let me know at this email:  betbapt and then a very common ending @gmail.com.  It's a very good tool for fulfilling Matthew 28:18-20 and Ephesians 4:11-12.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Choosing Faith or Religion Like Choosing A Wallpaper Pattern

During graduate school, for a short while I worked at a paint and wall covering store.  Of varied responsibilities, I performed the job of organizing the wallpaper books.  They filled the tops of two large tables and I kept them in some kind of order based upon style.  I could at least direct someone according to the taste of a customer.

Philosopher Ernest Gellner wrote that under relativism choosing a religion is akin to choosing a wallpaper pattern.  In other words, considering faith or religion you can act on personal taste or feelings, like someone picking out a style of wallcovering.  In general, truth then doesn't apply to faith or religion, not like the physics of airplane travel or the engineering of a bridge.

You can live in a house without wallpaper on the walls.  Wallpaper itself is a total convenience.  Are faith or religion or moral laws such a convenience?

Men have become convinced by many various ungodly means that religious knowledge, the truth as a basis for faith, is of a different, lesser quality.  First, you choose what you want to believe.  What you've chosen might be something different than mine.  I like something different, and it doesn't matter that they disagree or even contradict.  People might treat scripture like it is just a vessel to conform to whatever they want, but it isn't. However, they are doing this now.

Second, what's important in many varied religions compare.  It's better just to look for common ground. Everyone has free will and you won't convince anyone by trying to force them.  These similarities, kindness, treating other people like they want to be treated, the golden rule, are what's important.  Those are the common ground, hence the truth.  The Bible says nothing like this either.

Third, the truth is really just what you feel in your heart.  Follow your heart.  That feeling that you feel is something God wants you to know.  Are you going to deny that God doesn't want you to know what you need to know?  God's Word says to try these feelings, this intuition, using God's Word.

Fourth, the very existence of so many religions says that it's near to impossible to be certain on the truth.  So many people couldn't all be wrong.  It's proud to think you do know.

Fifth, two plus two equals four.  That's knowledge.  Faith is categorically different, not something known in the same way as math.  Math is real.  Twelve divided by three equals four.  If religion was the same as math, then you could say that you know it.  Religion, faith, has much more variation, because it isn't so sure.  Whatever someone happens to feel or think about religious matters is as good as what anyone else says.  It's very personal, unlike math.  Two plus two means the same thing to everyone.  Religion and faith are different, more like choosing a wallpaper pattern.

None of the reasons or explanations I've given here are true.  Man walks according to his own lust and his view of faith, religion, knowledge, and the truth conforms to that.  What's real is what's out in the world, the people he knows, his dreams, what he wants to do.  Faith and religion can be modified to fit that.

Not just the world, but churches today in rapidly growing fashion coddle relativism.