Thursday, June 29, 2006

Group Praying

Do you remember Elijah and the priests of Baal? No, not the pop group! This was on Mt. Carmel and they had that contest---the rocks, water, sacrifice---calling down fire from heaven. Well, if you can recall, the priests of Baal danced around, screamed, cut themselves, and then Elijah said, I'm pretty sure sarcastically (UNDERSTATEMENT), 'pray a little louder and your gods might hear you.' Yeah, right. OK, so let's reverse that idea and say that group prayer is the same thing. If we get a whole lot of people together praying, then we will pray louder and God will then hear us. No. God already knows what you're praying, and He is not hard of hearing. Well, it's a kind of strength in numbers kind of thing then? Um. No. God has already said that He will answer your prayer, if you pray alone. That's right. Alright, so what is the thing with group prayer?

First, God likes hearing more people praying. He said that the prayer of the upright is His delight. More people praying equals more delight. Second, we can know what other people are praying, and then pray for what they are. Their desires for answers can become our desires for answers---we can supplicate on their behalf. These are very, very good, but I believe that the bigger deal is that group prayer is supposed to help us pray in the will of God. God works uniquely through the church in a way that He does not work through individuals. He gave the church the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:19). The agreement of the church gets the attention with God in the loosing and bounding of someone to the church (Matthew 18:15-20). God wants the church to judge matters (1 Corinthians 6). The unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4) means that the church is getting Holy Spirit led doctrine. Agreement from the church brings confidence that something is the will of God. And what kind of prayers does God answer? Those in the will of God.

People will say that prayer is a personal thing. Not group prayer. When we pray as a group, that means the whole group is thinking through the prayer, and if the group cannot agree with what you are praying, then one or more should say something. Do we want answers or to impress people with our prayer phrases? Do wish to look spiritual like a Pharisee standing on the street corner or are we interested in seeing God? Helpful in group prayer is opening our prayers to the grid of God's people, to see if our prayers ring true with them. Perhaps they will know that our prayer isn't Scriptural. If we do find unity about what we are praying for, then we are also very likely finding that our prayer has been in the will of God. And then you get answers.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I'm preaching through Isaiah on Sunday mornings. I'm in a section where God prophesies the judgment of nations. He mainly wants Judah to stop relying on alliances with nations and to start trusting Him. In the midst of these prophecies, through Isaiah God brings in the city of Jerusalem (chapter 22). In that context, God wants his people to know that they are just as bad as these other nations, so they should look at themselves first. What God wants for Jerusalem and Judah is to project themselves into the future in order to get a feeling now about how it will be then. Normally we can't get the feeling of how bad things will be until those things actually get here.

I typed up a resume for my dad today. He's retiring from teaching after 30 years. He's looking for something part time that will supplement his social security. I made it look really good. Maybe we could put on our resumes: Projectionist. Why? Because we project ourselves forward to see where our present behavior is taking us. Not where we hope it will go, but where God says it will take us.

Judah needed to understand that her behavior was leading her toward a siege. Isaiah made this prophecy around BC700. The siege of Jerusalem would come from the very nation Judah thought with which she could allign herself for her own protection. Sennacharib and the Assyrian army, with its divisions of Medes and Persians, would park their chariots right outside the city walls, filling the surrounding valleys. Jerusalem's leaders would try to run and they would be killed. Those who died in the city wouldn't get it from arrows, but from starvation, deprivation, and disease. Their armory, the house of the forest, would be of no avail. Her desperate strategies of numbering her men, tearing down houses to patch the deteriorating walls, and inspecting the lower pools for water supply would all come to naught.

Despite this future, Jerusalem was rollicking on its housetops, festivly laughing, slaughtering its best animals and drinking its best fruit of the vine in a celebration feast. The Projectionist would have shaved his head, put on his sackcloth, and cried out in humble penitence for forgiveness and deliverance. Just because Jerusalem wouldn't project herself to this certain future didn't mean that God wouldn't fulfill this very prophecy if she didn't repent.

Where do you think that your present beliefs and lifestyle are leading you? Don't blame it on God if you get there. He has painted us a picture and now graciously given us an opportunity to click on the delete button. You might think you are missing something in the short term, but if you be a Projectionist you will see that your short term gratification, as good as it might seem or even is, will not be worth it in the long run. If you will allow yourself to run this reel to its end, you'll find out that everything wasn't going to end like you thought it was, even if you wish it could. If you can get sick enough about what's going to happen, not just to you, but even perhaps to many, many others around you, all of the tape you're watching could end on the cutting room floor.

Do you get the picture?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

What Do You Think?

Something keeps bugging me. Do you ever have that? There is more than this, but here it is. A few years ago, our church published a book entitled Thou Shalt Keep Them, which is a Biblical theology of the perfect preservation of Scripture. I graduated from Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wisconsin. I wanted to let all of the graduates know about the book.

I was in Watertown from 1973 to 1987. Maranatha started in 1968, so I lived there through a good chunk of its history. I want to ensure you that I wasn’t in college that entire time. My family moved from Indiana the summer after my sixth grade year for my dad to attend college. By the time I left, I was one of the few, if not only, graduates who graduated from Calvary Baptist Christian School, Maranatha Baptist Academy (2nd in my class), the college (3rd in my class), then with an M.A. and M. Div. from the graduate school. Not only that, but I was president of my senior class in high school, president of my freshman and sophomore class in college, vice president then president of the student body my jr. and sr. years, and finally president of the graduate school student body. My junior year the faculty awarded me Mr. Maranatha. I lettered four years in football, basketball, and track. I won the preaching contest and the award for top Greek student my senior year. I was on the adminstrative cabinet my last year of graduate school as the student activity director. Anyone who was there at that time will remember that year of student activities. My dad, sister, and brother also graduated from Maranatha. My mother for several years was in charge of the employees in the dining hall. I could give much more, and I’m not attempting to pump myself up, but to say that I have quite a Maranatha heritage. It would be no wonder that I would want to let the Maranatha alumni know that I had written a book. As far as I knew, no other Maranatha graduate had written a book.

On the Maranatha (MBBC) website was a free alumni email list so that the graduates could write the graduates. I guess I could have sent everyone a personal letter, but I decided to send them all the same notice of the book. I learned my position on preservation at Maranatha. When I was a senior in high school, Maranatha had the very first Dean Burgon Society meeting with Dr. Donald Waite and Dr. David Otis Fuller. Two of the faculty, Dr. Strouse and Dr. Hollowood, were on the board of the society. Maranatha herself published two books in its history, the first a two volume set of Armitage’s History of Baptists, and the second a little green and yellow paperback that was a comparison of the King James Version with the modern versions, Evaluating of NT Versions, by Everett Fowler, of which Dr. Cedarholm wrote a strong TR/MT introduction. So on the top of my email notice, I wrote something like: "Takes the Same Position as the Founder."

My only purpose was to let graduates know. Did I want to sell books? Yes. Our church had put quite a bit of money into the printing costs, and I wanted us to be able to get it back. I felt responsible to do so, since I had led in this project. Personally, I have not made a cent from either of the two books that I have written. Our church has received every cent of profit, which hasn’t been that much. We also don’t have a marketing machine to let people know about the books. However, when I sent this news to our graduates, it created a huge firestorm that I truly was not expecting. That little phrase at the top sent them ballistic.

So is this what still bugs me? No. What bugs me is that I am being accused of doing something at the least unethical and at the most illegal because I used that email list to send report of the book. Everyone on the other side calls it an "advertisement." The email list was voluntary. The list was for graduates. The common refrain was that I SPAMMED the alumni with an advertisement. Know this. For years, I got regular unsolicited mail requesting money as well as persistent unsolicited emails from MBBC also asking for funds. I never complained about these. Maranatha had a public and private email list. Everyone on the public list was allowing his name and address. Would you see that as inviting email from a fellow graduate? I would. I wanted my name on the list so that other graduates could send me things. I sent one heads-up about my book, and I am attacked for this.

Mike Sproul in his book, without ever checking with me about the veracity of the story, reports this in a footnote on page 149: "Ironically, the e-mail that advertised this book (sent uninvited to multiple members of this author’s church) to promote it among the Maranatha Baptist Bible College alumni purports this book as representing the theology of a man, Dr. B. Myron Cedarholm, the late founder of the college. According to this citation, Brandenburg does not believe what any one else ever taught is important, but then in the "press release" attempts to attach himself to Cedarholm." I don’t have to attempt to attach myself to Dr. Cedarholm. I am attached to him. I have several personal notes from him in my collection. I sat next to him on administrative cabinet and with another cabinet member voted together with him on most issues in opposition to things that were being voted at that time. I had several one-on-one personal conversations with him. My friend and colleague, Dr. Thomas Strouse, also testifies that he got his TR position from Dr. Cedarholm. Many others tell me the same thing.
Sproul and others try to smear me with certain words like "advertised," "uninvited," and "press release." Interestingly enough, Mike Sproul himself has sent me at least a dozen uninvited emails through the years. I didn’t care if he did, but he did. He skews my motive by saying that I sent it to his church members uninvited as if I was targeting his church members. I sent it to MBBC graduates, wherever they may be. He also twists me into attempting to look to Dr. Cedarholm’s name in order to elevate the credibility of the book. My motive was to identify the position of the book with a particular era in Maranatha history. Graduates of the Cedarholm era would be piqued in curiosity. That was the entire point.

As a result of the firestorm and then this quote in his book, one young graduate of Maranatha who is heavily promoted on Sharper Iron will not allow me to comment on his blog. He says that I need to apologize for spamming the Maranatha alumni before he gives me permission. I won’t miss commenting on his blog, but the issue hangs out there even though I believe I am innocent of any wrongdoing. However, I want to know what you think. Do you think that I have sinned and need to repent of something here? Or is Sproul guilty of something here? What do you think is actually happening in this situation? My conscience is clear, but this keeps being mentioned. People aren’t forgetting it. Should I be concerned about this?

What do you think?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Not a Big Disappearing Act

In a discussion during discipleship with a man, part of the lesson on eschatology (study of last things), we got onto the topic of "how people will be fooled by the Antichrist during the tribulation period." Here's the thing. A huge best-selling series has been written about it, The Left Behind series. Even many unbelievers in the U. S. know about this view of Christ's return. So if people really do disappear in large numbers, won't people just automatically know that they were Christians, and that this was the rapture? Especially if all of these people really are Christians, a lot of folks would have recognized that, it would seem, and this would be the explanation: they were raptured. So how is it the general population will be fooled enough to give in to the Antichrist, the False Prophet, the Beast?

We do know that people will be fooled. Matthew 24:24, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, "9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." These texts alone tell us a little how people will be fooled.

People will believe a lie. The lie will be backed up by incredible signs and wonders that will validate the Antichrist. He will look uniquely prepared to take the world through a very difficult time. The Antichrist will talk about what people want to hear: "I'll help you survive," "I'm going to make sure you have food and water," "I'm going to protect you from evil terrorists," "I want to make sure your family is secure." The people that make it into this world-wide tribulation period will by a large majority be those who have prioritized physical things, how they feel being really important. They are bound to get sucked into his way. I believe the road for several of the lies about the disappearance of people is already being paved nicely for the Antichrist---X-Files, Roswell, Taken, Abductions, UFOs, People from the Future, Government Cover-ups and Conspiracies. These won't necessarily fool people by themselves, but in conjunction with other more pragmatic reasons, they will serve as an excuse to hold on to. The theory of evolution has been taught in public schools for 75-100 years now, allowing people to entertain the existence of a more advanced species somewhere else in the galaxy.

Alright. All that is fascinating. I'm sure you and I both could add to it. I believe that one of the reasons the disappearance of Christians will be easy to explain away is that far less people will disappear than most people think. Only a small percentage of professing Christians are actually saved. Satan will have a lot easier time convincing people concerning a smaller group missing. What would be my basis for saying that not many Christians will actually be raptured, meet Christ in the clouds when He returns before the tribulation period?

1) We know from Scripture that those entering the narrow gate are few.
Matthew 7:14, "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
2) Jesus told us that many people are just false professors.
Matthew 7:21-23
, "21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
3) The Lord said that some who receive the Word will not allow it to take root.
Some because of thorny ground, a heart that divides between Jesus and the world system.
Matthew 13:22, "He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." Someone who puts Jesus on the shelf with his other gods cannot be saved. Those who love the world do not have the love of the Father in them (1 John 2:15-17). Jesus characteristically is first place in the practice of a truly saved person. This person may understand salvation, but things of the world are really what is important to him by how he uses his time. Some because of rocky ground, a shallow intellectual or emotional reception of Christ. Matthew 13:20, 21, "20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended." Some people just give Jesus a "try," pray a prayer, have a religious experience, or have no more than an acknowledgement that Jesus lived and died and rose again. At one point, someone may just feel sorry for his sin. None of these is enough. This person won't sacrifice for God because he really was never committed to Christ, that is, given up his life for Christ.
4. The Lord Jesus said that anyone who does not repent will perish.
Luke 13:3, "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." 1 Thessalonians 1:9, "Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." If we keep going our own way, we are not and will not be saved. At some point someone must turn from his way to God's way. This is not living a life of sinless perfection. That isn't possible. It is however, not serving God and money, or God and the world, or God and our family.
5. God is not the Father of those who will not separate from false worship and they are not His sons and daughters.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18,
"14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." God saved us to worship Him (John 4:23, 24). Worship is recognizing Who God is and giving Him what He wants. If we won't give Him what He has told us He wants in His Word, then we aren't worshipers of His. His sheep will know Him and His voice, and follow Him (John 10:27). Those who don't are not His sheep. Then true believers will separate from those who will not worship the Lord. As Joshua said, "Choose you this day whom ye shall serve" (Josh. 24:15).

The professing Christianity that I see around doesn't look like the Bible. People like to and will say that they are going to heaven when they die. They like thinking that they have their get-out-of-jail-free card and their fire escape plan, so they can go on to do basically what they want to do now. 1 John 2:3, 4 reads, "3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. " These are present tense verbs, so that someone who does know God will keep His commandments as a lifestyle, will live for Him. A whole lot of professing Christians don't characteristically live for Him.

That will be a sad day when all of them are left behind. And like they're deceived today, they'll go right on being deceived by the Antichrist then. It won't be a big disappearing act after all.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Government, Family, Church: Why More?

Seven days. Spoken word. How God created the earth. Tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. How God lived on earth. We can't flee from Him, fool Him, or fight Him. He understands all mysteries and all knowledge. Nothing occurs to Him. Oh, and then He is love, and He loves us. And He designed and established three institutions for this age in which we live: government, family, and church.

We aren't to complain about any of the three. We are to submit to all three. Break down any of the three and society is sent into something worse than a tail spin. God establishes all three in Scripture. Government. Submit yourselves to the higher powers. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars. Family. A man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. Husbands love your wives. Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands. Fathers bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Church. Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. God's Word is sufficient for every good work.

Sometimes the three will clash. Duties do conflict. Government conflicts with church. Obey God rather than men. Family conflicts with church. Let the dead bury the dead. Love God and hate father and mother. In short, Christ is the head of every man.

They each have their unique responsibilities. Family is responsible for training children, not the government. The church is responsible for the truth, not the government. The government is responsible for punishing evil-doers, not the church or the family. In certain ways each is responsible to the other. In other ways, some of the duties overlap.

It's a great system. After all, God set it up and He knows everything. But then, men try improve on it. Why? Well, um, we know so much? Uh, the Bible's an old book and so it didn't cover everything? Because I want to? Do we really think that any reason will be a good one? I hope not. It is possible that this could be something like adding or taking away from God's Word, isn't it? From what I've read in Scripture, God doesn't like that with sometimes very serious consequences.

So what great embellishments have men contributed to what God instituted? "Let's have the government teach children." That hasn't worked out so well, huh? Neither has day care. "Let's have psychologists tell people what's good or bad about their souls." More books than ever by these folks and more problems also. "Let's have something other than the church teach truth. How about para-church colleges, universities, or seminaries? And we'll have them tell us what the Bible is too." I'm sure they're well intentioned. So we'll just let this one slip by.

Friday, June 16, 2006

What the Evangelicals Have On the Fundamentalists

Sometimes evangelicals are called new-evangelicals. Why? At one time, everyone who believed the gospel (the only Scriptural one) were evangelicals. Then liberalism came, a group split and they were called fundamentalists, hence, fundamentalism. Then fundamentalism split over separation issues. The less separated called themselves evangelicals. The fundamentalists called them new-evangelicals. (Incidentally, because of history, everybody gets to claim Spurgeon---we're Spurgeon, they're Spurgeon; no, we're Spurgeon.)

Since then lots of smaller splits have occurred within fundamentalism, partly because of associations and fellowships---GARBC, BBF, Southwide Baptist Fellowship, Sword of the Lord meetings, FBF, etc. Fairly large cleavages have occurred over a general salvation issue which includes soteriology, sanctification, and methodology. One side is more Calvinistic versus the other more Arminian, or in other terms, the Hyles group (revivalist) versus the Bob Jones group with various nuances in between. One side seems to put more into strong academics and the other side seems to emphasize learning new and newer methods. Even though both sides call themselves fundamentalists, they often ignore each other, hoping no one will associate them with the other. Various segments would not want to be identified with the other even based on things that might look minor, like styles or methods of preaching. The version issue in all its forms has strained relations---one side says the other causes division and the other side says their opposites attack God's Word. Another aspect is cultural, dealing with issues of personal separation---pants on women, "evangelistic" music versus worship music, entertainment, the roles of men and women, and even alcoholic beverages. Fundamentalists are feuding.

Many fundamentalists have apparently wearied over carrying a common name. For this reason among others, a lot of professing fundamentalists are looking for more and more common ground with evangelicals (new-evangelicals). Sometimes they feel like they are more tuned into the evangelicals than they are most fundamentalists. In various forums of communication, I have noticed professing fundamentalists admiring evangelicals. Salivate might not be too strong a word. They are far less harsh about certain Southern Baptists or conservative evangelicals than they are over who they see as counterparts in their own movement. Some have taken the leap and others are considering joining them.

I'm going to tell you exactly where the rub is for the fundamentalists, what is bothering them. It is a root doctrinal issue. They teeter uncomfortably on the edge of fundamentalism because of one important cog in their system.

Let's say that you believe that the true church, the church, is all believers, everyone who has received Jesus Christ into his life. I don't believe that. I believe a church is an assembly of immersed believers and only an assembly of immersed believers. I take my position from the 118 times the term ekklesia is found in the NT. But you believe that at the point of justification, you were baptized spiritually into the invisible body of Christ. If the church is the body of Christ, then the members must be working together. Christ is the Head and the body parts, like a physical body, fit and interact, or in other words, have unity.

The [new-]evangelicals are more consistent with their ecclesiology. It's as simple as that. Many fundamentalists have exactly the same ecclesiology as the evangelicals, but they don't unify. They separate. How can we separate from people we're supposed to be unifying with? John MacArthur gets along with Al Mohler who gets along with Billy Graham. They are all together for the gospel. Yes, the gospel. They are all "saved," so they get along. These fundamentalists want that unity because it is consistent with their ecclesiology, their belief about the body of Christ. They know they aren't consistent in their practice. They essentially make the Bible contradict itself with their stand on separation and on unity. Conversations and arguments and debate regularly spring up on the conflict between separation and unity.

If I believed the body of Christ was all believers, I would fellowship with the evangelicals. My only grounds for separation would have to be the gospel. You are either saved or your not. If you're saved, I'm fellowshiping with you. The fundamentalists don't do that. They break up the body of Christ (their view of it) over issues. Where is the unity? Hard to say. Maybe with other Bob Jones graduates and those who approve of Bob Jones.

Some try to be more consistent with unity and put up with Pensacola, who isn't in the Bob Jones orbit. They get criticized for it mightily. Letis, video tape, and heresy comes up. Some try to travel in everybody's fundamental circle. I don't think anyone has done that successfully. Now among fundamentalists, the worst group to be associated with are those who are King James only. It is open season to shoot at all KJVO'ers. If they're saved, that's not consistent, is it?

Evangelicalism feels so good because it snuggles right in with spirit baptism and the universal church. Most evangelicals look at fundamentalists as sort of goofy because of this inconsistency. Of course, the conservative evangelicals are haunted by their lack of separation, but unity beats separation almost every time. If they don't participate in Promise Keepers, it's a preference. They're still together with them. They have to be. They're just showing discernment. They don't want to get hurt by being with these fellow believers, yet with no formal separation. On the other hand, I don't know how fundamentalists could possibly argue against evangelical unity with their ecclesiology. The evangelicals definitely have this one on them.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Any Fault in Fideism?

In the very last paragraph, next to last sentence, of our book Thou Shalt Keep Them, I write: "The only Scriptural approach to the doctrine of the preservation of Scripture is the fideistic approach." I like the sound of fideistic versus evidentialistic or rationalistic, don't you? And yet, that seems to be the big problem in the critiques of Thou Shalt Keep Them. Michael Sproul on p. 340 of his book, God's Word Preserved, uses the terminology, "fideistic existentialism" (terms when googled together appeared one time), and on p. 380, Keith Gephart writes, "Strouse's position is based upon pure 'fideism.'" Then recently I read an article on presuppositional apologetics (what I believe) on Sharper Iron, that says, "How do we go about doing apologetics, defending Christianity, without . . . leaping into irrational fideism?" I don't know if the author meant that all fideism is irrational or that this is a particular type of fideism that is irrational. Most say that varying degrees of fideism (and here and here) exist, meaning that fideism is sometimes rational, not a leap in the dark. Our brand of fideism, what we call, well, fideism, is not bereft of rationale or logic.

We have heaps of evidence, historical and tangible, for the preservation of Scripture, including thousands of old manuscripts. Comparably, we have very little evidence for the original canonicity of Scripture, and yet we believe we have sixty-six books of the Bible. We get our position on preservation from Scripture (i.e., presuppositional apologetics), like those who wrote the London Baptist Confession (1677) of faith---"The Old Testament in Hebrew, (which was the Native language of the people of God of old) and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the Nations) being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and Providence kept pure in all Ages, are therefore authentical."

Is fideism bad? American Heritage Dictionary says that fideism is "reliance on faith alone rather than scientific reasoning or philosophy in questions of religion." I like that. On the other hand, here is the definition of "strict rationalism": "a type of reasoning which holds that in order for a belief system to be properly and rationally accepted, it must be possible to prove that the belief system is true (*)." I don't like that. Scott Moore at Baylor, with nothing to gain by bashing fideism, says that "fideism affirms the priority of faith (fides) over reason." That sounds good. Vladmiir Lenin said, "Contemporary fideism does not at all reject science, all it rejects is the 'exaggerated claims' of science, to wit, its claim to objective truth. If objective truth exists (as the materialists think), if natural science, reflecting the outer world in human 'experience,' is alone capable of giving us objecfive truth, then all fideism is absolutely refuted" (Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, Vol. XIII, p. 102). He didn't like it. Norman Geisler writes in Christian Apologetics (p. 56), "Fideism is not limited to nonevangelicals. Cornelius Van Til speaks from a strong Reformed, Biblical perspective theologically and yet in an absolute revelational presuppositionalism apologetically. As we shall see, this position may be viewed as methodological fideism." J. P. Moreland writes, I believe rightly, "Some version of fideism is the correct way to view faith at least in the sense that scientific reason or evidence cannot support or count against properly formed theological propositions" (here).

The Roman Catholics opposed and oppose it. This is one of the peculiarities of the Sproul critique of Thou Shalt Keep Them. He repeatedly attacked the book as Roman Catholic and as fideistic. Pope John Paul II in his Fides Et Ratio warned against "a resurgence of fideism, which fails to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of faith, indeed for the very possibility of belief in God." Our book would be the rare, actually entirely unique, fideistic book that Catholics could approve (if what Sproul says is true). Sproul and John Paul II come together in opposition to fideism. Not good company. And I'm just the reporter, brethren.

From my perspective, fideism is the way to go. Some fellows get frosted over finding fideism. Me personally, I froth. I find fideism fits the formula to fulfill my fancies. Maybe you're fideistic too. Or you could at least foment some for a few before you join the fraternity. I'm finished. Farewell.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Highway Work

If you get to Chicago much, then you know that you can't get many places without stopping for construction. Several thoughts cross my mind while I wait. Shouldn't repairs finally end? If these guys are doing a good job, shouldn't the highway be getting better? I'm convinced that Mayor Daley has a deal with the unions to never stop fixing roads. The men who never get done will also never be out of a job, so the mayor will never be out of their votes come election. You may find this hard to believe, but I recently have taken a position for tearing up highways. I believe that tearing them up is the only way to get anything permanently built. What do I mean?

At the end of the 8th century, the prophet Isaiah warns Judah not to trust in alliances with neighboring nations. Judah should trust God. Isaiah expands on one important reason---God will destroy those nations. Rather than trusting in any nation that God will destroy, Judah should trust in God. When it comes to Judah's powerful Southern neighbor, Egypt, another reason is that Egypt will ultimately turn to God. If Egypt will turn to God, then Judah has no reason to turn to Egypt for help against Assyria. At the end of chapter 19, Isaiah writes (v. 23):

In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.

"Highway" is a favorite metaphor in Isaiah for the removal of alienation and separation. God wanted Judah to tear down her highways to Egypt and Assyria, so that some day He could build a highway between Egypt, Judah, and Assyria. The highways that we build, the alliances that we make, that we think will change things for our good, are actually stopping any kind of real unity or peace.

The application to the church is to stop building highways with the world, with disobedient brethren, and with false doctrine. We won't help the world, the brethren, or the doctrine by keeping a highway, an alliance, or fellowship with any of them. We will never have unity or peace with any of them, even if a Miss America contestant earnestly desired it. The Bible is full of paradoxes, and this is another one. The barriers between us and them, good fences, are what will bring about the very thing that we think will result from building a highway. This might seem like foolishness to you, but to God, it's His power. He is glorified and we get to please Him by faith.

In the end, Egypt and Assyria will serve the Lord. You can see that in v. 23 above. The "Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians." They won't serve because of some strategy by Judah to break down the barriers between them and her. They will serve God because Judah has torn up her highways between these neighboring nations. Our ministry to the world is lessened by using its music, its methods, and continuing an alliance with it. Scripture teaches and history has shown that these relationships we build do not result in greater ministry, but in our own corruption and then punishment.

We find churches today utilizing the same worthless and destructive ideas as Judah when powerful Assyria became a threat. They build highways to Egypt to make it easier for a successful association. They think that if we lower our music, dress, recreation, and entertainment standards, we will have better opportunities to impact the world. "People will want to change if they see that we are willing to compromise." In certain cases they think by engaging the Southern Baptists, compromising evangelicals, and worldly churches and Christians that everything will work out better. After all, there is always strength in numbers, maybe some of their scholarship can rub off on us, and then we'll get the respect that we think we deserve, the same kind of respect that Baruch thought he and Jeremiah should be getting when God told him, "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not" (Jer. 45:5).

Highways make sense to us---access, ease of movement, free flow of information, and opportunities to find common ground. This infrastructure is doomed to failure. God wants us to tear up the highways and wait for Him to build one that Mayor Daley or anyone else will never tear down, well, for at least something like 1000 years.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Something You'll All Want to Hear

Mark Twain said he could live for two months with a good compliment. Solomon wrote: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). From my point of view, I think people have a form of amnesia about nice things that are said. They remember one vague criticism much easier than one flowery praise. Not me of course. I love people that get on my case. I especially like someone who will nag me in a condescending manner. OK, get the smirk off your face. All of us need improvement, but encouragement often is a better way to get it. (This is for you, not an article to copy and give to Mr. Sandpaper.)

You might be surprised to hear that the English word "encouragement" isn't found in the King James Version of the New Testament. I hate to break it to you, but the word there is "comfort." I knew you weren't going to like that, especially seeing how much you enjoy discomfort. I thought that comfort might be a hard sell after hearing the word "encouragement." I'm being a bit sarcastic in this little essay, because I do know how much we all like comfort, whether it be a soft pillow, a lazy-boy recliner, or some words spoken by someone at an appropriate time. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 commands: "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do." After Lazarus died, "many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother" (John 11:19).

Reminding one of my children to do something is fine, but I could be more effective in their lives, show them more love, with a verbal compliment. When he takes out the garbage, I can tell him how much I appreciate it. When she finishes cleaning the kitchen, I can mention to her how thankful I am she does that. When that homework assignment gets completed, I can give positive notice with a big smile. Encouragement, this type of comfort, requires empathy, seeing the world from someone else's perspective. They like hearing nice things. I know they do, so even if I struggle to give out compliments, I do it anyway. "Speaking the truth in love" is not always some form of confrontation. Many times it is parading the accomplishments of others, speaking some life words to fill someone's emotional tank with love.

Some say that talk is cheap. Well, I know that gas isn't these days, so why not fill up someone's tank with encouragement. It's an alternative energy source all of us can afford to invest in.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

But I Don't Know HOW to Forgive

In 1970 Mitsuo Fuchida the lead bomber for the Japanese at Pearl Harbor wrote this:
"I would give anything to retract my actions of twenty-nine years ago at Pearl Harbor, but it is impossible. Instead, I now work at striking the death-blow to the basic hatred which infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. And that hatred cannot be uprooted without assistance from Jesus Christ."
What happened? He himself was angry and bitter and lost after the two bombs at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He hated the occupational government of Douglas MacArthur. He got off a train at Tokyo's Shibuya Station and saw an American distributing literature, so he took a pamphlet entitled I Was a Prisoner of Japan.

That pamphlet was the story of Jake DeShazer, who was at Pearl Harbor the day it was bombed, who afterwards volunteered to join Jimmy Doolittle’s squadron that flew the long distance mission retaliating against Tokyo. DeShazer ran out of fuel, so he parachuted into Japanese held territory in China and was captured by Japanese troops. His next 40 months of confinement were a nightmare of brutal mistreatment that lead him to hate his captors. At the end of that period, he was given a copy of the Bible and read it for the first time. He received Christ and his entire outlook changed about the Japanese and his imprisonment. Surviving the war, he was released, but later went to Japan as a missionary.

Based on DeShazer’s testimony, Fuchida purchased a Bible and himself was gloriously converted on April 14, 1950, having read Luke 23:34, and the words of Jesus Christ on the cross, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." The solution to the bitterness in His heart was the same power of Christ that enabled Him to make that prayer to the Father.

Most of us know that Jesus said to forgive "seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:22). Of course, He wasn’t putting a cap on forgiveness, just saying that we don’t limit the times we forgive. In most cases we know we’re supposed to forgive, but in many of them we don’t know how to. Everybody has their critics, their thorns in the flesh—relatives, family members, co-workers, employers, supervisors, classmates, and church members. These have offended us by something that they have said, not said, or done. Sometimes it’s worse—a mate will physically abuse the other or commit some extreme form of unfaithfulness; it could be a verbally or physically abusive parent; you are gossiped about; someone tells a secret you told in confidence. It hurts. Bad. You try to deal with it, but you become bitter, then even hateful, malicious, or deeply depressed. How can you forgive someone when it seems impossible?

This relates to Mitsuo Fuchido. How do we forgive? How? Like Jesus did. "Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Colossians 3:13). So how did He forgive? Five words will help you understand how He forgave. One is suffering. Jesus forgave us by suffering for our sins. When He suffered, He left us an example to follow (1 Pet. 2:21). Christ laid down His life for us, and so should we lay down our lives for others (1 John 3:16). We should remember that since Jesus experienced pain when He forgave, that we too will hurt and suffer for others in order to forgive them.

Another is supplication. Jesus prayed for His enemies. When he prayed "Father, forgive them" in Luke 23, He appealed to God and focused on their weakness—"they know not what they do"—rather than on their wickedness. As the offended, we should try to see the weakness of the one offending, rather than the sinful act against us.

A third is sympathy. Jesus came to destroy the "work" of the devil, not the "workers" of the devil (1 John 3:8). The Lord Jesus sympathized with us in our iniquities (Heb. 4:15). He was more concerned about the sin getting settled than the sinner getting squashed. If we imitate this sympathy of Jesus, it will be easier for us to forgive.

A fourth one is sovereignty. God sovereignly allows our pain (2 Cor. 1:3,4). He has His purpose for us, and the hurt we experience can shape our lives to something more useable for Him (James 1:3; Rom. 8:28, 29). If we can see the offending person as someone that God has brought into our life for good, that will help us to forgive him.

Last is self. Yes, self. Jesus thought not on His own things, but the things of others, and we are to let His mind set be ours (Philip. 2:3-5). The powerful king in Christ’s parable in Matthew 18:21-35 forgave his servant’s unfathomable debt, while that same servant wouldn’t forgive a microscopic one someone owed him. If we are to forgive like Jesus did, we have to stop thinking how important we are. We aren’t. He is vastly greater than us, and yet He chose to think about others first when He took His trip from a heavenly throne to die for our sins.

You’ll have opportunities to forgive and you won’t feel like you can do it. DeShazer or Fuchida couldn’t do it without the Lord, but they did with Him. So can you. You can remember that we are to forgive how Jesus forgave. To help you do that, remember these five words—suffering, supplication, sympathy, sovereignty, and self—and then you’ll know how.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Nothing Until At Least Thursday

WHAT IS TRUTH will be back at the earliest on Thursday of this week. Thanks for your patience.

Friday, June 02, 2006

This article will give new meaning to Going Dutch. We might rethink the use of that cliche in the future. GOING DUTCH?
The Presbyterians have quite a campaign for church growth this year—perhaps they have an inside scoop on the number of elect. PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH GROWTH