Saturday, May 19, 2007

Secondary, Tertiary, or Essential? (part five)

Why Do We Love God First and Our Neighbor Second

Much of religion talks about loving one’s neighbor, meanwhile ignoring the love of God. Of course, if everyone loves his neighbor, then obviously some of that love is going to be coming our way. On top of that, loving God is controversial. If we are to love God, then we have to agree on Who He is and there is a lot of argument today about that. People tend to like religion that enhances the value of their own lives. As a result, God doesn’t just not get loved, but He generally gets disregarded or even mistreated.

For instance, in churches today, often people choose their worship based on what makes the people feel good. Again, they are "loving" people without loving God. And that’s fine with them, and they figure that God will understand. After all, "does anyone think that God wants us to feel bad?" Or that "He doesn’t want us to enjoy ourselves?" However, even though people might like the worship, is it actually benefitting them? Are they better off in the long run making themselves feel good in the short term? In other words, can we really love people when we don’t love God?

Jesus said in Matthew 22:38 concerning loving God, "This is the first and great commandment." Loving your neighbor is the second commandment. I think that we should assume, based upon the word "great," that loving God is first in importance. The term "first" (protos) is also used to indicate something first in sequence. Actually, first, or earlier, is the by a huge margin the primary way that this word is used. It mainly has the understanding of being first in order. On just a handful of occasions does it carry with it the extra idea of importance. I believe that primarily the word relates to the time element. Before we can love our neighbor, we must love God. Loving God comes earlier than loving our neighbor.

The ten commandments have two halves. The first half of the ten commandments (1-4) deal with God and the second half (5-10) deal with man. Before we can obey the second half of the commandments, we need to obey the first half of the commandments. Loving God comes before loving man. When we rank importance, God is more important than man. This simple division in God’s law does not mean that now we should rank all of the laws in matter of importance. God is more important than man is. God is greater than man is. No one can love man without God. God created us. We can’t even live without God. Everything is dependent on God. Therefore, the first and great commandment is to love God. Love of neighbor comes second.

Generally, Satan wants to rid the world of the love of God, even if it occurs by means of placing love of man ahead love of God. When people start making love of man more important than loving God, God will not be worshiped and man will not be saved. Satan opposed the plan of God and God’s plan includes putting Him first. In the end, men will worship another man, the Antichrist. Man’s interests will come before God’s. God will destroy all of those people in that entire system.

Part of the Satanic deception that I see today is turning the love of God into the love of man. Men say that they love God, but they do not obey everything that He says. Some of what God says does not fit into what man wants to do. Instead of doing what God said, men do what they want to do. Then they say, "What’s important is that I love God. And I do love God. And I really don’t like your judging whether I love God or not." Men don’t want to be judged by others for their love of man (themselves). They want you to assume that they love God based upon their profession, instead of judging them based upon what God said. Many passages of Scripture expose this faux love of God for what it is, love of self. Among these, 1 John 2:3-5 reads: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him."

The secondary/primary doctrine advocates turn this "first" and "second" commandment reading into permission to rank all of the commandments of God into essentials and non-essentials. Ironically, by ranking them, they are undermining the first of God’s commandments—love God. We can’t love God if we don’t keep His commandments. He that loves God will keep all of His Words, Sayings, and Commands (John 14:15, 21, 24). Who are we to tell God what is important and what isn’t important? God said that He was more important than man, but that was it. Of course, if we don’t receive Him or believe in Him, we will be eternally punished. Those who receive the greatest punishment will be those who had the greatest opportunity to receive Him, but didn’t. For those who do receive Him, they will be judged based on their faithfulness to what He said—everything that He said.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

THE EJECT BUTTON---Zichterman and Beckwith Learned Their Lessons a Little Too Well

Zichterman went to BJU and taught at Northland. He’s the brother-in-law of Sharper Iron owner, Jason Janz. He got a doctorate at PCC. He says he is now reconciling to the body. That means he's part of Bill Hybels church and thinking and in dialogue with the emerging church.

Beckwith was the president of the Evangelical Theological Society. He taught at Baylor University. He says that pre-Reformation history is Roman Catholic and the Bible was canonized by Roman Catholicism, so he is just reconciling to the body. That means he's "returned" to the Roman Catholic Church.

Blogdom goes wild. Zichterman yields his 20 pages of comments and 16,000 views at Sharper Iron in a few days as well as spin-offs on spin-offs at related blog sites. Beckwith provokes multiple posts at mainstream evangelical blogs, shuts off comments at 500 on his explanation page, a series of articles at Pulpit Magazine, a week and counting at Team Pyro, along with hundreds of other pages exploding with comments.

But do these two guys have a point? And is anyone actually dealing with it? Zichterman believes the body of Christ is all believers. He understands believers to be those who place faith in the gospel. He condenses essential theology to fundamental doctrines for the sake of unity, taking the typical essential/non-essential, primary/secondary, doctrine view that characterizes now fundamentalists and run-of-the-mill evangelicals. On the other hand, Beckwith sees no need for any visible perpetuity because the true church is catholic and invisible. He defends his position with the patristics and history. Despite the warts, in his opinion he at least has a church that can be traced back to Christ.

Most fundamentalists and even many evangelicals pound on Zichterman and a large majority of the evangelicals smack around Beckwith both for pushing the eject button on their respective fellowships and associations. However, didn’t these two guys learn their basis for doing so from fundamentalism and evangelicalism? After all, they’re just doing what they were taught. I would be glad for anyone to prove this wrong. But I think they are just honestly applying what they’ve learned from their respective circles. Zichterman may have personal issues that helped fuel his new trajectory, but the new orbit has its bearings in theology that he was taught at both BJU and Northland, and that is standard fare at Sharper Iron every day. I hear what Zichterman and Beckwith are saying all the time from fundamentalists and evangelicals. I am constantly being lectured these very points. I am most often marginalized by fundamentalists and evangelicals because I don’t believe these. Let me list them for you.

  1. The invisible body of Christ, the true church, is all believers.
  2. There is to be no schism in the body.
  3. We are to rank doctrines and practice into essentials and non-essentials for the sake of unity.
  4. The truth was preserved by the invisible church, the true church, within the visible church.
  5. History doesn’t validate a true visible church before the Reformation, except for the catholic church.
  6. Physical and historical evidence shows the catholic church to have canonized Scripture.
Zichterman and especially Beckwith are the true believers in these six points regularly professed by fundamentalists and evangelicals. Their counter-reformation seems to be based on the correct history and evidence of fundamentalism and evangelicalism. If I believed these six points, like I hear most evangelicals and a large number of fundamentalists, I really should follow the paths of these two men. If I believed these six, I should consider Zichterman and Beckwith to be persecuted. They appear, based on these beliefs, to be men of conviction, willing to suffer the castigation and ignominy of their friends and peers. The rest of these fundamentalists and evangelicals look like fainthearted cowards compared to them. I believe it is one reason for the rabid attack against them. It is hard for the fundamentalists and evangelicals to kick against the pricks.

Which of these are not taught at BJU, Detroit, Calvary-Lansdale, Northland, Masters, Faith, or Central? Why should anyone not pick up on these and go the direction of Zichterman and Beckwith? Aren’t they just being consistent? Shouldn’t we admire them for their theological and practical consistency?

Some might say, "Well, we’re taught to separate." Based upon what? What is our basis of separation? We separate based on some theological norm. We choose our battles based on the ground that we think we should fight for, on the truths that are most important. What are those? I don’t think either of them have espoused salvation through the church or through baptism or through tradition. They are together for the gospel.

When you argue for preservation of God’s Words and the church, you hear that you don’t have historic evidence. People argue for the text of Scripture, for the existence of a true church, all founded on extant, sanctioned history. You get the certified history of canonization from the same sources. In the fundamental and evangelical world, if you can’t produce a ‘scholarly’ history, then you’re a "fideist" without legitimate convictions. You are taking a leap in the dark. Fundamentalist and evangelical history must be drawn from the approved sources, sanctioned by the endorsed fraternity of colleges and universities. Without this scholarship, your faith is baseless. If you can’t show a trail of hand-written manuscripts, you can’t be sure about whether all the Words were available. If you can’t show tangible evidence of New Testament churches, you can’t be sure about whether true churches existed. So you are left with what Roman Catholics produced. You can read the Nicean and Ante-Nicean fathers. You can study Augustine. You can produce manuscripts kept in a monastery in a basket to be used as kindling. That has to be your church and that has to be your Bible. That’s what history shows; that’s what the evidence shows. History and evidence are the only source for legitimate faith. The Bible is the source for faith, but it must be backed by history and evidence to be acceptable.

If you separate over signs and wonders, over qualifications of the pastor, over modesty in dress, over true or false worship, over any form of worldliness, or even over mode of baptism, you are an overweening schismatic. You especially can’t believe that God preserved every Word and kept them available. No proof exists for that, and if you see that as a primary, then you will surely get the ecclesiastic cold shoulder—nothing official really, because separation itself is secondary—you’ll just know it. If you separate over a version, then nothing you say has any credibility. This is excommunication from the sacral society of fundamentalism. But then you have the conservative evangelicals talking separation from the worldly emerging movement. They've gone a little too primary with their secondaries.

The fundamentalists know that they should separate. They see that in Scripture. They don’t know how to do it without causing a schism, so they just sort of separate from evangelicals and new-evangelicals, meanwhile admiring them and rarely uttering a harsh word against them. They reserve harshness for those who separate more than they do. They don't feel good about not fitting in the body, knowing they should, but then also knowing they should separate, and it is all so confusing.

So, all in all Zichterman and Beckwith have learned well. Fundamentalism and evangelicalism have taught them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Secondary, Tertiary, or Essential? (part four)

What About the Passages Used to Defend the Ranking of Primary and Secondary Doctrines?

One will not find the "doctrine" of primary and secondary, essential and non-essential, in the history of Christian doctrine. I once heard a preacher say, "If it’s new it’s not true, and if it’s true it’s not new." This doctrine is a new one and it isn’t true. The modern compromiser invented it to allow for a false unity among all those who profess to believe in Christ. Now many espouse it and agree that it is found in Scripture. They take the doctrine primarily from a handful of texts and then a few other principles. At no time in history until relatively recently has this been a doctrine or taught from these texts.

Matthew 23:23, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."
Luke 11:42, "But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."
Matthew 5:19, "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 23:23 does not condemn tithing. What the Lord Jesus Christ does denounce is tithing to the neglect of the weightier matters. The Pharisees were particularly fond of tithing on mint and cummin, two rather small condiments, especially in light of other more significant profit they had gained that required tithing. They were guilty of acting as though they cared about the most intricate details of law-keeping, when they did not actually care to keep the law. They were hypocrites. They chose the laws that were the most showy yet with the least cost to themselves.

Keeping God’s laws was a means by which an Israelite could love God and his neighbor. However, the love of God and his neighbor were the internals that really mattered to God. The Pharisees passed over love for God (Luke 11:42). They wanted just to look good. If someone kept all the law only to be impressive not out of a desire to please God, he was missing the point of the law. His lack of earnestness would very often manifest itself in leaving the laws unkept that most revealed that love for God and others. Jesus mentions those: " judgment, mercy, and faith." He says that these were "weightier" (barus). Barus is found only six times in the New Testament, and its understanding was "heavy, burdensome, grievous, or difficult." Some parts of the law were more difficult than others. Tithing of mint and cummin wasn’t the heavy lifting of the law, the more difficult portion. It was easy to tithe on these tiny herbs. Pharisees were more disposed to do the easier things that they could do in their own strength. It would count as law-keeping without being as difficult as obeying other of the laws.

Of course, this was not a basis for not tithing or disobeying any other law of God. The Lord Jesus Christ taught that it all was important, which was in line with what we have already seen throughout Scripture. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 5:19, "[W]hosoever shall do and teach [the least of my commandments], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." The tertiary doctrine people react to what Jesus said with "Look, look, look! Jesus said that some of the commandments were lesser than others." Then they build a whole system of belief and practice from it. Matthew Henry writes concerning this: "It is a dangerous thing, in doctrine or practice, to disannul the least of God's commands; to break them, that is, to go about either to contract the extent, or weaken the obligation of them; whoever does so, will find it is at his peril." This is exactly what these ‘non-essential’ people do with their attitude and teachings. They "disannul the least of God’s commands."

The laws were not given by God for His people to pick and choose what they wanted to obey and what they didn’t. What is ironic is that this is exactly what the essential/non-essential and primary/secondary proponents want to do. They are involved, just like the Pharisees, in ranking the laws and choosing what is important to keep and what isn’t, what is vital over which to separate and what is not. They are especially fond of obeying those laws of God which are very difficult to measure. They want the strong emphasis on the internal because the internals are impossible to judge by anyone else. Their "sincerity" instead, among other things, is what is most important. Not necessarily that they even do what God says, but that they really do "love Him," despite their disobedience.

1 John deals with this mindset. "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:2, 3). Interestingly enough, "grievous" (barus) is the same word translated "weightier" in Matthew 23:23. People who love God will not find any of his commandments to be weighty. What makes them weighty is attempting to keep them without loving God. Certain teachings of Scripture are more difficult because the world hates them, and as a result, Christians will become more unpopular when they keep them. Certain truths do not fit into the culture. Some are just hard to do.

One of their points is: "Why should we let certain teachings in Scripture keep us from getting along with one another? It is more important, greater, that we have unity with one another than that we do every single thing that God said." Where is this found? Where is this view of unity found? It isn’t found anywhere in Scripture. It’s another invention. This is how and why these primary/secondary folks turn these passages on their head. They don’t want to be judged in every matter by others. It’s tough being in the minority, knowing that most people don’t get along with you because of what you believe. There is a false sense of security that we feel in numbers. This same kind of feeling was what often lead the king of Israel and Judah to make alliances with pagan nations as a means of protection. It was a chief reason why David numbered the people in 2 Samuel 24; you know, "strength" in numbers. People look for the affirmation of popularity to make them feel good. Of course, it isn’t living by faith, so it doesn’t please God (Heb. 11:6).

We don’t determine the truth by popular vote. We shouldn’t relegate certain truths to lesser status because they won’t be as easy to agree upon. We believe them and practice them because God said them. We should understand that the truths that could most hinder our numbers and affect "unity" will be the ones that are the very ones upon which God wants us to take our stand. It isn’t so much that those truths are more important than other ones. They require a stronger stand because they are the ones being opposed, so we have more at stake in their protection. That probably makes them weightier, that is, more difficult to keep. We should not abandon them because they are difficult.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Case Study in Preparations for the False Prophet and the One World Church

Just across the street from us (we're on top of the hill and they're in the valley) in El Sobrante is the Bay Hills Community Church. I'm not trying to be mean when I say that I hate calling it a church. Until a few years back, they were EV-Free, but their leader became totally immersed in the philosophies of marketing guru, Bill Hybels, and things that were already poor got exponentially worse. A few days ago, I took the local marketplace out of my mail slot, and usually Bay Hills has some slick piece of seduction to prey on the area, but this was the worst thing I had seen. Their pastor, David Fasold, had formulated an ad that was structured as an entertainment article (quite fitting really). The film that he reviews is the upcoming sequel to Bruce Almighty, called Ark Almighty, starring Steve Carell, who appeared in the first movie as a rival to Jim Carey (Bruce) along with a character playing "God" (Morgan Freeman).

When I saw that our neighboring religious organization was pushing this movie, even I was boggled by this one. He writes, "What promises to be a great family film (opens nationwide June 22), has many fun twists and turns...." OK. I didn't see Bruce Almighty. Here's what a Christian organization, less separatist than I, wrote about the first installment of the Almighty series:
To trivialize something is to make it commonplace or ordinary. Bruce Almighty goes about trivializing the person and powers of God by making Him out to be primarily an object for entertainment — just as any other comedic tool is used to elicit laughter. God certainly does not frown upon laughing. But some things are not intended to be laughed at — they are sacred. This was clearly evidenced by the immediate moans in one theater when Bruce, at the beginning of the movie, told God to His face that He “su–––d.” It was obvious among those present — the godly as well as the not-so-godly — that some kind of line had just been crossed. (One passing side note: A quick survey of the Bible reveals that God has killed people for less than what Bruce says.)
I would say that this paragraph by Todd Brady is even an understatement.

Mr. Fasold doesn't examine this film with Scripture at all. He doesn't quote one verse or even make one Scriptural allusion. He doesn't dare to share one thought from God's Word in his review of Ark Almighty. Bay Hills is using Ark Almighty like Burger King or McDonalds might use a Pixar or Disney animated film. The business advertises the movie and the movie advertises the business, and they feed off of each other. So here we have the church marketing the movie so that the movie will market the church, and also use blasphemy to do it. Fasold wouldn't back away from that assessment, when he writes:
Universal Studios is currently teaming up with several organizations around the country to encourage and test this idea. Bay Hills Community Church in El Sobrante is one of those groups selected....
Isn't it great when you can be a church and be selected by the great Universal Studios? I mean, who wouldn't want to jump at that opportunity? They have also just released the very edifying Knocked Up, Smokin Aces, The Hitcher, and more. Right now on pay-per-view at Universal Studios, you can watch Jerry Springer: Hot & Hostile 4: Busted. If you're a church of the thrice-holy God, would you want to "team up" with Universal Studios? I know Universal Studios wants to team up with whoever it can find that will give them free advertising. If you are a pastor, you probably know that since The Passion by Mel Gibson, we pastors have been receiving almost weekly mailers asking us to "team up" with Fox or Paramount or whatever other Hollywood company to market their films in the church. They give all kinds of perks and freebies to the pastors who will cooperate. Mr. Fasold, it seems, sees this as an opportunity for his church. However, the better question is: What does God think? I think we already know, don't we?

Religion has dominated history and will continue to. God made man in His image, so that man has an innate knowledge of Him, "because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them" (Rom. 1:19). Satan uses religion to deceive men---"And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:4). The height of that deceit is coming. A one world religion, which worships the Antichrist, will deceive almost everyone on earth. Matthew 24:24 says, "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." Consider this section in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12:

3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 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.
I really did want you to read it, so that if you didn't, I hope you go back to read it again. It's very serious. If you study Revelation 13, you see that the Antichrist will have his cohort, the False Prophet, who is introduced in v. 11, "another beast" who promotes Antichrist's power and convinces the world to worship him as god. This companion beast will be the chief, most persuasive proponent of satanic religion.

I'm certain that today Satan is preparing the world for the Antichrist with a fake version of Christianity. So Satan is very into religion. He sees it as a necessity for fooling people and he is already dumbing down the truth to something much closer to the error that people will swallow up during the tribulation period on earth. Modern churches customize their methods and message to the postmodern narcissist, who is well described in 2 Timothy 3:2-5:

2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."

Paul says it this way to Titus (1:16), "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Secondary, Tertiary, or Essential? (part three)

Who Ranks Into Primary and Secondary Doctrines?

Who asked the following question? "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" Answer: An unbelieving Pharisee asked it in Matthew 22:36.

Why? The religious leaders had added through their traditions numbers of extra-scriptural regulations. They piled their rules so high that it was impossible to keep all of them. Jesus said in Mark 7:7 that they taught " for doctrines the commandments of men." As it was, the law was not possible for someone to keep. Consider what God says about man in Psalm 14:2, 3 without adding the traditions and rituals of the Pharisees, "The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Since they themselves knew they couldn’t keep all of their regulations in addition to God’s laws, the Jews began the practice of ranking the laws in what they perceived the order of importance. This became a common debate among schools of the Pharisees, that is, which was the greatest of God’s commandments. Since Jesus claimed to be a Rabbi and was given that respect by many, they decided to ask Him their question.

Reductionism was the invention of the Pharisees. Adding to the commandments was bad. Attempting to earn salvation through a merit system was bad. Taking away from commandments, statutes, and judgments was also bad. Nobody could keep the law except by the grace of God. No one could do it through sheer human effort. Reducing the list wasn’t the way of salvation. God must circumcise one’s heart, even as Deuteronomy 30:6 says, "And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." Salvation is of the Lord (Psalms 3:8; 18:2; 20:6; 27:1; 37:39; 62:1; 85:9; Isaiah 12:2; 25:9; 45:17; Jonah 2:9).

Shrinking the numbers of commands, judgments, and statutes does not make justification and sanctification humanly possible. Trimming God’s list of requirements is not the way to unity. Nowhere does the Bible instruct in unity by least common denominator. We don’t please God by reducing the commandments to a few that we think we can keep. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philipians 2:13). We are justified by faith and we live by faith in the grace of God. "[L]et us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28). Paul said that he "was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto [him] by the effectual working of his power" (Ephesians 3:7).

This scheme of reduction, I call "left-wing legalism." Left-wing and right-wing legalism are both flesh. They are both strategies of human effort. The grace of God isn't a garbage can in which someone can empty his unyieldedness to what he calls "non-essentials." God's grace is powerful. It enables someone to live everything God said.

We don’t need to shrink the commandments, because we have sufficiency in Christ. 2 Peter 1:3, 4 says, "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." Ephesians 1:3 reads, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Colossian 2:9, 10 tells us, "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power." God enables to keep all of his commandments. We need only yield to Him. Romans 6: 13 says, "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." We yield, not reduce. We yield, not categorize.