Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Third Rail of Fundamentalist Politics

You've heard of the third rail of politics. Social Security. Anyone who deals with the Social Security issue touches the third rail and dies. The third rail, in transportation terminology, is the one that carries the deadly electricity. All around the third rail are warnings not to touch. People don't touch if they know what's good for them. Now and then you read about the guy who touches the third rail and dies, and you just wag your head. If you want to dig your own political grave, touch the third rail, Social Security, and they'll be writing your epitaph.

Fundamentalism is full of politics. Today it is more politics than it is anything else. Everyone has to figure out what to talk about and what not to talk about. Certain subjects are taboo. Some you can't even claim to believe. If you do, you are destroyed. Your opinion won't count. You won't get invited. They won't even talk to you. They won't tell you why, but you know. You get the fundamentalist cold shoulder, the fundamentalists' way of letting you know that you don't belong. It isn't a Biblical manner of separation---no Matthew 18 followed, no nothing followed. After all, this particular third rail issue isn't even an issue. It is, but it isn't, wink, wink.

The third rail of fundamentalist politics is the King James Version. You can't be a textus receptus guy or a Hebrew Masoretic guy. You say, "Well, only if you separate over the issue." Wrong. Look at Ambassador. They get a pat on the top of the head because they don't separate over the issue. They're used against guys who don't separate. People say they respect them more, but they have touched the third rail, so they're useless.

There are certain exceptions. Recently, it seems that Clarence Sexton is a minor exception, but that is only because he seems to be moving their (fundamentalism's) direction. He could be lured over to their side, as seen in the fact that he has in Ian Paisley and he associates himself with C. H. Spurgeon so much. Ian Paisley is another one. He's a star in fundamentalism, and tolerating him looks like Presbyterians are OK still to belong, and fundamentalism looks, well, broad, inclusive, tolerant, even though his KJV position is totally laughed off as hayseed. In the smoke filled back rooms, cross-that, I withdraw that last statement your honor, Clarence Sexton looks like he might be an asset. He has a huge organization and a huge church and a huge following---not that numbers matter. They don't. That's what fundamentalism has always told us. "Numbers don't matter." Numbers matter. Numbers translate to power, political power.

The King James Version is the third rail of fundamentalist politics. You can't destroy yourself faster than using the King James. Look how much space Calvary in Lansdale gets with all the shennanigans they pull. Mixed swimming (nudity). OK. Ipsissima vox. OK. Better than OK. Lots of the OT was a lot of editorial work. OK. Cultural diversity now in worship. OK. Militant fundamentalist pastor Mike Harding says, "I'm not comfortable with that position." Not comfortable?

Al Mohler, John MacArthur, John Piper, David Wells, and D. A. Carson---fundamentalists are more comfortable with them than they are the KJV crowd. Why? They haven't touched the third rail. They get really the pillow treatment about issues. The older fundamentalists know that younger fundamentalists like these. They're all in the fundamentalist libraries. They say something decent and they are salivated over, fawned over, and patted on the back. They are beloved among most fundamentalists for their contributions. "We can't quite fellowship with them, but they have done good work in so many ways."

You could write a good book on music. It might be one of the best ones out there. I know about this. I wrote a book on music and my alma mater, Maranatha, has used it in the classroom to subsidize syllabi on the subject, but you won't find it in the book store or the library. You will find all the works of R. Kent Hughes from Wheaton, but none from one of the few graduates that have even written a book. Why? Because I believe the King James, interestingly enough, like I was taught at Maranatha by Dr. Cedarholm. It could be on the gospel or a helpful commentary. It will NOT be recommended anywhere if you are King James Version. No one will bring it up. How many books do fundamentalists write? Not many. When they do, they promote their books big time, that is, unless the person takes a King James position. He'll need to promote his book on his own. Look at Dave Sorenson. He's written one on the whole Bible, uses languages, and it is even the favored universal church position, but you won't hear a fundamentalist push that commentary. It won't happen. Why? He's King James, ladies and gentlemen.

The fundamentalists love the baby-baptizing patristics. They'll quote them and quote them. They love Dallas, Trinity, and Masters. They'll quote and quote these guys. Non-separatists all. Not separating, I repeat, not separating is not a third-rail issue. You don't have to separate anymore, to see separation in Scripture, to practice it. You are still genius if you miss separation. You can be a dufus of the first degree, but know a couple of clever ways to mock the KJV and you will shoot up the charts. Look over at Sharper Iron if you want to see a couple cromagnums who have made it to the top of the food chain. What you can't miss is the superiority of the Critical Text. In the club, that's knowing how to order in French and how to tie your ascot. Daniel Wallace is a particular favorite. But they will never, ever consider a KJV guy in anything he's written, no matter how scholarly. He, my friend, has touched the third rail.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Observations about Men and the Power of Women

This isn't the way it should be, but according to sheer pragmatism, I know that if I want to get something from some man, my best opportunity is to have my wife make the phone call. At this juncture, typically a man would write, "this is going to get me in trouble." Of course, he writes that to get in less trouble than he already thinks he is getting himself into. And if I were writing about a uniquely male problem, I wouldn't be getting in trouble? Why would that be? Is female trouble worse than male trouble for men? The answer "yes" can only bounce collectively around in men's heads because it wouldn't be manly to say it.

We started getting pushed around in the Garden. Eve was going to eat. Adam in his metaphorical little Lord Fauntleroy suit silently joins. "Be a good little boy and eat this." He hearkened unto the voice of his wife. I can't say I for sure know why. It was wrong, but I think any man, who is a human being just like Adam was, understands why he folded up like a wall bed. He didn't want to have to deal with it. Deal with what? I can't say, because......"it would get me in trouble." No, I will say, because I'm not going to get in trouble for saying; I'm a man. He wanted her approval. He was afraid of how it might turn out with her if he said no. The pressure is on the man to abdicate his headship, but he isn't supposed to. God wants Him to fulfill the plan that He gave him.

If you're getting in trouble men, you are already in trouble in a worse way than the trouble you think you might be avoiding. Every man needs accountability. We need other men. We know that we're leading our wives, so we need to be good examples. The wife can help the man to do better. A major factor for English supremacy in the colonization of America was the arrival of women. Without the ladies, the men would have wasted a lot of time playing around in the woods. The French. That's what they did without women, and so they were left with only New Orleans.

Today men are to treat women as equals and yet also treat them in a gentle way. Now when women boss men around, they're strong, but when men do that to women, they're brutes. They want in, but often when they get in, if they get talked to in the same way men talk to men, they're "hurt." Then the conversation could very likely turn into this:

"You probably only talked to me that way because I'm a woman."
"No, that's how I talk to men."
"Well, you're only talking to me that way because I'm a strong woman and you don't like strong women."
"No, I'm talking to you like I do men, because that's what you said you wanted."
"So I guess you don't want me in your conversation, huh?"
"I didn't say that, and it's not that I can't handle what you've got to say, but, yes, I do wish you would leave the conversation."
"I knew it. You don't like women!"
"I do like women."
"Yeah, you like women you can push around, but you don't like it when you get a woman who will stand up to you."
"You mean, like you are standing up to me?"
"Yeah, you can't handle it."
"I'm handling it, but I'd like to enjoy it. Conversations I keep having normally are ones that I don't just put up with, but actually like."
"So you don't like talking to women?"
"I LIKE!!....talking to women. I like it. I'M JUST SAYING....that, and I think you can understand, that when I talk to men, it doesn't usually go like this."
"And so that's why you don't like talking to women."
"I think I'm going to just end this conversation. I shouldn't have gotten into it in the first place."
"I figured you would give up. You just can't take it."

Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. By this time, two men may have punched, or at least been close to physical contact. And a few minutes later been shaking hands and laughing.

In our modern conversation, men want women to know that they are welcome to the dialogue, so that the women will know that they, the men, aren't "sexist." As a result, when a woman enters the conversation, men often trip all over each other voicing how important her opinion is. She could utter three monosyllabic words to a male standing ovation. "Well put." "I liked the way you said that." And all the men around know it, but it's how the game is played. If one man decides not to play the game, and say what he really thinks, well, part of the process is that the rest of the men turn on him. This way, the men not only get to treat the woman like "one of the boys," but also get to protect her as well. Confusing, isn't it?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Lord Jesus Christ Will Catch Up the Saints Before the Tribulation Begins (part two)

Some might argue that the pretribulational, premillennial rapture of the saints doesn't have a historical basis. Some might say that amillennialism is the preferred position because this was the view of Augustine and then the Reformers. Others call for a postmillennial return of the Lord because this was a dominant eschatalogical position in 19th century America and England. Charles Hodge espoused postmillennialism. The premillennial return of Christ is the oldest historic position, because it is what one reads in the patristics (J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California; Harper & Row, 1959], 464-89), including a pretribulational rapture in the writings of Irenaeus and Hermas. J. C. Ryle was a strong premillennialist in the 19th century (Nathaniel West [ed.] Premillennial Essays of the Prophetic Conference held in the Church of the Holy Trinity, New York City [Chicago, Illinois: Fleming H. Revell Publishers, 1879; reprint, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Klock and Klock Christian Publishers, 1981], 332). One will find it difficult to discern historically whether someone was post, mid, or pretribulational rapture. Charles Spurgeon was most clearly post-tribulational, but he was not dogmatic, rarely preached eschatology, and saw it is a difficult issue to discern.

Among all of historic theology, I place the least emphasis on eschatology. Why? Daniel 12:4, "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." I believe that here we see authoritative teaching that as we get closer to the end, knowledge concerning the things Daniel wrote about, that is, prophetic material, would increase. Eschatological knowledge of Scripture increases as we get closer to the end. This position can be seen in the history of eschatological doctrine. For instance, postmillennialism was popular in the 19th century because theologians saw the Victorian age blooming into a golden era capped off by the return of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, before them, the reformers found in the Antichrist a prophecy of the Papacy of Roman Catholicism. The oldest eschatology is Biblical. If we see it in Scripture, then that is the right position.

In the first article in this series, we saw how that the doctrine of imminency supported a pretribulational rapture of the saints. Imminency was apostolic doctrine as seen in the New Testament. This continued as the belief of Christians. Concerning the parousia or coming of Christ, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1901, V, 66) says, 'Primitive Christianity believed the event to be imminent and this belief has been revived from time to time in the history of the Church." Christians historically have looked for the any moment return of Christ. This doctrine necessitates a pretribulational rapture.

Not only does imminence require this, but....


The tribulation is a time for Israel. Not in one place does Scripture, either Old or New Testaments, speak of the church in relation to the tribulation, except as gone to heaven. This silence speaks as loudly as any actual statement in Scipture, especially in light of what God says concerning Israel and the tribulation.
And there are statements that explain why the church is missing from the tribulation.
Romans 5:9, "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."

1 Thessalonians 1:10, "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come."

Revelation 3:10, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."
The tribulation is wrath.
Revelation 6:16, 17, "And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?"
If God spares His children from wrath, then we would expect not to find the church in the passages of Scripture dealing with the tribulation. We don't. You can read Revelation 2 and 3 and find nineteen mentions of church or churches. In Revelation 4 through 19, you will see none. The churches are gone.

On the other hand, Israel is in Revelation 4-19, because the tribulation period is for Israel, for her restoration (Jeremiah 30:3, 10), and for a Christ-rejecting world (Revelation 14:8, 18:8) to judge the Gentiles (Jeremiah 30:11). The tribulation is a time of God's retribution on the nations and defending Israel (Zechariah 12:8, 9), not on those who have placed their faith in Him. The tribulation period is the time of Jacob's trouble--the emphasis is Jewish--and this prophecy goes all the way back to Deuteronomy 30:1-8 in three parts.

God gathers Israel from the wicked nations (Deut. 30:3).
That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
God brings Israel to the land (Deut. 30:5).
And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
God judges the enemies of Israel (Deut. 30:7, 8).
And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.
God raptures the saints because His plan is finished for His churches. However, He isn't done with Israel (Daniel 9:24-27), and this is why the tribulation passages are full of Israel with the church being completely absent. Surely, if God has a plan for His churches, He would have included in the New Testament what they needed to minister during the tribulation period. He didn't and this fits right with the pre-tribulational rapture of the saints.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Carnal Christian

Is there such a thing as a carnal Christian? Consider Romans 7:5:
For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
Notice that Paul writes, "When we were in the flesh." Were. Now look at Romans 8:5-9:
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
So much in these verses plainly says a carnal Christian does not exist. He isn't after the flesh. He doesn't mind the things of the flesh. He isn't carnally minded or in the flesh any longer. Sin does not have dominion over the believer (Rom. 6:12). A Christian no longer lives sin as a lifestyle (1 John 3:6-10). A child of God is a new creature, old things are passed away and all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). The person he once was is crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

The moment someone receives Christ, he has every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3) and all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The Holy Spirit is a Person, not a power of influence. The moment someone believes in Jesus he receives the Person of the Holy Spirit, all of Him. He won't receive any more of Him. He doesn't need anything more than He has in order to live the Christian life.

Justification isn't a two step process. Someone doesn't receive Christ as Savior and sometime later as Lord. He doesn't allow the Lord in but not on the throne of his life. No one can remain in rebellion against the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Confessing Him as Lord is more than Words. It is more than just intellectual, but also volitional. It is relinquishing allegiance to sinful self.

Every single believer has the power to obey everything Scripture tells him. We don't have to wait for salvation to "click," to "sink in," or to "really take hold" in order for the child of God to submit to any and every truth in the Bible. In order to gain eternal life, we have to give up our temporal life. For God to cleanse our soul, our self, we must give it up to God by faith. If we hang on to it, God won't restore it back into the righteous state He intended it.

Those who won't give up their life aren't carnal Christians. They're just carnal. They walk after the flesh and not after the Spirit (Rom. 8:1). They won't have the power to live the Christian life either. And that won't come when they have revival or receive a second blessing or get the baptism of the Spirit. However, when they do receive Jesus for Who He is, He will save them and immediately give them victory for their Christian life. It will be a struggle (Romans 7:21), but they will conform to the image of His Son even as He predestined them (Romans 8:29).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

My Sikh Issue: Pluralism Versus Relativism

I recently had someone send me a note who was concerned about my physical well-being. He saw this article as having possible death threat implications, especially in the last line of the publication, which reads, "As American Sikh Citizens, Let us defend our religious rights and stop ill minded pastors like Kent from bullying Sikhs." How will they "stop ill minded pastors like Kent from bullying Sikhs?" I'll let you decide whether you think that is a physical threat to me or not.

The Backstory

To give some context to what this issue is, let me give you the back story. Many years ago, the U. S. Sikhs built a temple in our town of El Sobrante. Around this area in California, we have a multitude of immigrant Sikhs who have moved here from Punjab, India, the place of origination of the Sikh religion. Twenty years ago when we started the church here in the East Bay of the SF Bay Area right away we began meeting many Sikhs while going door to door. Like with every other person in this area, we became concerned with the salvation of the Sikhs. The Bible teaches that there is salvation only in Jesus Christ, and that outside of Him is destruction (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; John 3:18, 36). This is not a new message. This message has been preached by Bible-believing Christians for two-thousand years, and is even the message of the Old Testament, when one considers the Messianic prophecies, making this a message as old as the earth itself. We believe in shaping our evangelistic approach to a particular false belief system. The Gospel is always the same, but spiritual warfare considers the particular stronghold in the hearer's mind (2 Cor. 10:3-5). For that reason, I wrote a tract designed specifically for Sikhs. I also wrote one for Buddhists, Catholics, and others.

A little more than a year ago, the Sikhs obtained permission from the Contra Costa County and the town of El Sobrante to have a parade right down Appian Way, a major thoroughfare here in West Contra Costa. The parade was held on Sunday and it started before our Sunday services were ended. During our services, while I was still preaching, we heard loud chanting in a foreign language over microphone and loud speakers. I had no idea what was being said. The chanting was accompanied by music that was definitively something Indian in nature that was in fitting with their chant and their religion.

As soon as our service was over, I took a stack of about fifteen of our Sikh tracts down to Appian Way to begin handing them out to the Sikh people. Several of our men followed me there to join me in that activity. We handed them out in a friendly, civil, and peacable way, smiling and complimenting the very modest and distinct dress of these Punjab Americans. When I got down to the road, what I saw was an all Sikh parade with an all Sikh emphasis. They said that it was a kind of "march for peace" between religions. On their flat bed trailers were huge pictures of their gurus and the loud chanting was only in their language.

About a week after the parade, I got a phone call from a newspaper writer, who asked me questions about the whole incident. I didn't remember an incident. What had happened was that a local Sikh leader called the paper to complain about our activities that day. Of course, all we did was hand out our Sikh tract, something we had already been handing out for many years to hundreds of Sikhs. This was old news. The urban newspaper, huge in its circulation, printed the article, which was not unfavorable to what we did. On their website, they also included a scanned edition of the tract which we handed out. What we did, however, that is, passing out tracts quietly during a very loud Sikh parade, was condemned by one local businessman and then by the El Sobrante Municipal Advisory Committee in one of their meetings.

A few weeks ago, while I was out of town, they had their second annual parade, which was even bigger than the first. Men from our church, including Pastor Sutton, walked down again to hand out tracts. This time our men were surrounded by these "peaceful" Sikhs, who hurled angry epithets at our men, ripped tracts from their hands, surrounded them in a threatening manner, and bumped up against them, essentially breaking the law and impeding our right to free speech. On both occasions, the parade blocked the entrance/exit to our church property, making it very difficult for our people to go home after church services. We were extremely inconvenienced by the whole thing as it stopped up the flow of traffic on Appian Way.

Some Questions

Let me ask you a few questions.

1) Do you think our county and town would allow a Baptist or Bible parade in which we shouted Bible verses over a microphone and loud speakers?
2) Do you think we would complain to the newspapers about Sikhs passing out Sikh materials to people along our Baptist parade?
3) Do you think we would consider peacefully and quietly handing out Sikh materials to our people in any context would be considered to be bullying Christians or Baptists?
4) Why do you think that the county and town sympathizes with the Sikhs, but not with us?
5) If we had a Baptist parade and ran it right in front of the Sikh temple, do you think that the ACLU might get involved over "separation of church and state"?

It is easy to see that the Sikhs are being given not only their rights, but even more rights than what we would be given if we tried to do the same thing that they did.

Pluralism and Relativism

So what's the situation here? These immigrant people do not understand the freedom of America, the liberty for which U. S. citizens have fought and died in great numbers. They come here to enjoy these freedoms, and when they arrive they don't see the difference between what we have here and what they had in their native country. I have great compassion for them and I really do forgive their ignorance. I wish they would leave us alone to some degree, but I understand their confusion. They don't understand the difference between pluralism and relativism.

If they read the Wikipedia articles on religious pluralism and relativism, they could understand. What you'll notice in the essay on relativism is that Sikhism itself is relativistic, which is where the rub comes as well. Sikhs have the freedom in this country to believe and practice relativistic, but that doesn't mean that everyone else must. Do you understand that a relativistic by nature and to be consistent with his own belief has no basis for criticizing another religion, especially for being absolute. We believe that truth is absolute, but since they don't, it shouldn't matter to them. They should see our beliefs in their own relative fashion, since that is how they view the world, and we will look at things in black and white, since that is how we view the world.

Pluralism says that religions may coexist peacefully and still contest each other ideaologically, spiritually, and philosophically. Pluralism is strongly defended by the first amendment. We can believe and practice what we want in this country. This is also an honest and consistent approach. Two positions that contradict cannot both be true. They shouldn't be treated like they are both true, just for the sake of the relativist.

For all Sikhs who read this article, I ask you to consider your rhetoric and how that it sharply contradicts religious pluralism. If you are true relativists, you should be happy that we can believe and practice as we wish. You should not encourage our belief and practice to be "stopped." You should understand as well that by calling for us to cease, that you are denying your own relativistic religion, bringing into question whether you actually do believe what you say you do.