Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009: Open My Mouth Boldly

December 31, 2008. I have a goal this year to evangelize one person every single day. I can pass out a gospel tract to get that done, but I prefer to talk to someone. The latter is what I want and the former what I'll settle with to reach the goal. To add some accountability, I will write about my evangelism experience every day. It will be found at a new blog called Open Boldly. You may ask: "Another blog? Come on!" Well, I won't be able to reach this goal in front of a computer. This is just very public accountability like Weight-watchers is for weight loss.

My theme verses are Ephesians 6:19-20:
And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
That's where the blog name comes from, the phrase, "open my mouth boldly." We are sanctified by the truth (John 17:17). What God wants is bold proclamation of the gospel. "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" (Romans 1:16).

If you want to join me in that goal, let me know there in the comment section. Every day you can comment after my post and let me know how your evangelistic opportunity went!

Friday, December 26, 2008

We're Getting our Comeuppance for the Church's Compromise in the Culture Wars pt. 3

With irony as it relates to the United States, Edward Gibbon published in 1776 the first volume of his classic The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, finishing his sixth and final volume in 1789, the year the U. S. Constitution was ratified. In this massive work, Gibbon offers an explanation for why Rome fell---the loss of civic virtue among its citizens, weakening the empire on the inside for defeat by a siege of barbarians. The chief virtue he believed lost was manliness, as effeminacy had become rampant among the men.

Nikita Khrushchev, the former Premier of the Soviet Union, said at the U.N. in 1957 in reference to the free world, "We will bury you without firing a shot." Someone could have made that statement and had the fall of the Roman empire in mind. The United States doesn't have to exist for God's will to be done. It is not God Who needs us, but we who need God. We show all the tell-tale signs of a nation that is deteriorating on the inside to the point of destruction.

These signs of American collapse warn of a comeuppance resulting from the church's compromise in the culture war. So far in this series I have contended that we have seen the demise of meaning and the undoing of understanding. I have offered reasons. What are other symptoms of a dying culture?

The Erosion of Discernment

Sometimes when I'm sitting in the dentist chair, the pop song, "Fillings," comes to mind. And then I think "feelings," because the song is actually "Feelings," written by Brazilian singer and songwriter Albert Morris in 1975, and probably represents best the degeneration of decision making in the last quarter century.(1) The world has long depended on feelings as means of discernment and now we call this dependence moral relativism, situational ethics, or existentialism, all of which have been rejected by orthodox Christians.

Protagoras (c. 481 – 420 BC) asserted that "man is the measure of all things." The Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484 – 420 BC) concluded that each society has regarded its own beliefs and practices as better than all others. Moral relativism says that truth or error are relative to each culture or even individual. Situational ethics determines whether an act is right or wrong based on its probable outcome. And then we have existentialism, which says that an individual's meaning of life comes from his own existence. In an existential reading of Scripture, the reader views the words as concepts that begin inside him and guide him so that the Bible is an authority only in a way that makes sense to the person. Solomon in Proverbs 14:12 recognized this as "a way that seems right unto man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

Certain subjects considered science in academic settings---sociology and psychology---analyze existence. When theology gets its meaning from experience, now it receives the same academic acceptance as these other "sciences." Beliefs are separated from history and external objectivity and brought into the realm of man's feelings. Theology becomes how each individual or culture finds reality from external, spiritual experiences, each as legitimate as another. God is whatever or whoever discloses itself or himself to men through their own experiences. The meaning of Scripture is not rooted in historic statements of belief and practice, but from within each individual. The Bible becomes what it means to "me."

No one today should think that such subjective theology isn't dogmatic. Instead of the truths of Scripture themselves, toleration of all views has become the new conviction. Acceptance of what everyone else believes protects the church from criticism by the world. Many profess Christianity without living biblical values and with few being bothered that they aren't. What's important is comfort with the experience that one has in his religious community.

The bad man in this system is the one that stands up to say someone or something is wrong. He has violated the one indispensable---unity. Unity stands at the theological center of the new world of religious pluralism. And it really isn't unity. Unity comes from agreement. Unity gets along in particular beliefs. The new agreement, however, conforms in uncertainty. Whatever someone does believe he keeps personal and extraneous. Everyone is allowed to have their own ideas about God, the world, and themselves. As a result, there exists more diversity of theological positions than ever but with a deliberate decision that not one of them alone should be embraced. Adopted beliefs can only be preferences.

Discernment is the ability to decide between what is truth and error or right and wrong. The goal is simple, but it has changed. People still use discernment, and they use it to the same degree that someone chooses paper or plastic at the supermarket checkout. However, what matters is not whether something is right or wrong, but whether it is itself useful or not. Judging between right and wrong has become about discerning what is the most helpful to yourself and the criteria for judging is separated from any kind of objective standard. If you think it's good, it is, and if you think it'll help, it will. There isn't room for criticism, because there's no way it could be wrong, since it is dependent only on you and your opinion.

A few years back I was evangelizing door-to-door and talked to a charismatic man. I asked him about salvation and he gave me a testimony. I gave him a friendly, neutral response and proceeded to ask other questions. I asked him about eternal security. I asked him about sign gifts. He didn't like how the conversation was going, so he told me that he didn't sense the Holy Spirit coming from me. I asked why and he replied with something about unity and love. To him, for me to be loving and unifying, I needed to be tolerant and accepting of what he said. Upon his declaration of his experience, the conversation should have ended right there with my enthusiastic support. It didn't, so he discerned something to be wrong. The Bible wasn't his criteria; his feelings were.

To understand the erosion of discernment, we must also apprehend what is the cause of this deterioration. First, culture has redefined openness. Being open by definition means being ready to consider a new suggestion, idea, or opinion, while willingly exposing your own thoughts or work to some criticism or challenge. Openness has turned into a kind of indifference toward any one idea or opinion except for toleration. The chief virtue in the new openness is not thinking that our way is better than any other. In the new paradigm of openness, the less important the issue, the more dogmatic the opinion.

Second, society has required a new way of thinking about diversity. People are diverse. That's not hard to figure out. We're all different. The new thinking about diversity, however, needs more than acceptance that people are different. It requires toleration of those differences. A class to teach men to treat every kind of difference exactly the same is called diversity training. The only unacceptable difference is the one that doesn't accept every difference. For instance, I'm different than some people in that I reject homosexuality. That rejection would flunk the course in diversity training.

One obvious diversity is race. Look around. We have people with different colored skin. Not a new revelation to us. Of course diversity says we must not reject people just because of skin color. I accept that. That's not new. Many people never stopped accepting people despite different color skin and various textured hair. However, that's not all there is to it. This "diversity" also says that we must accept the preferences of other skin colors as well. However, skin pigmentation has nothing to do with personal preferences.

What makes the opinion of someone with a particular skin color an exalted opinion? I'll answer. Nothing. Why would being yellow or black or white make any difference as to the value of a preference? I'll answer again. It doesn't. But in the new world of diversity, certain opinions are often given greater value because the skin color of the one or ones who take those opinions. How could this kind of decision-making system be respected? It shouldn't but it sometimes is for very complicated reasons.

True openness should consider whether the values of another culture are acceptable or legitimate, based upon authoritative criteria. The United States has been a nation willing to consider the potential goodness or superiority of another way of living. They have accepted people from other continents often without prejudice. They have also allowed them to celebrate and practice their unique cultural heritage. Real openness does not require acceptance of the diverse manners in which various people behave. It does allow for fair judgment based on objective standards.

If I see an American Indian do a native dance with pom-poms and a loin cloth, I should be allowed to reject his activity based upon what I believe. That should not be interpreted as hatred of him or of American Indian people. It is to say that we can judge a culture and decide that some parts of it are lesser than others. We can recognize diversity without having to judge the differences as equal in value.

This new diversity has degraded the ability to discern. It has already trained many not to judge at all. Others who have never viewed the world like this have become afraid to say what they think. The tragic irony is that our society at large is not open to someone who rejects another culture based on objective criteria. They now deduce that you must hate the person if you reject what he does and how he lives. It is no wonder that in such an environment, people will feel the freedom to live according to whatever moral standard they feel like.

I would like to report that this has not affected churches, but it has. Church leaders know that people now expect to have their behavior accepted without consequence. Someone may have his own view of a particular passage of Scripture that conforms to the kind of lifestyle that he wants to live, so in fitting with how the world judges differences, he wants the church to tolerate it. A church that doesn't relax their standards may be classified as unloving or bigoted. Many churches give in to the new understanding of diversity.

Third, actual discernment has been labeled a sin. If you judge someone for something he does, you'll be said to be committing the sin of judgmentalism. The dictionary says that "judgmental" means: "Inclined to make judgments, especially moral or personal ones." Being inclined to make judgments, especially moral ones, shouldn't be a sin. So what is wrong with being judgmental? Nothing. People just don't like to be judged, so they have maneuvered this particular activity over to the sin column. A person can actually be sinning and get away with it, but if he judges someone else's sin, he's being judgmental. He might not get away with that.

Fourth, the world is uncertain about a standard to judge. Popular sentiment has been allowed to determine what truth is and so truth has become a nebulous, oft changing commodity. At one time, strong, authoritative preachers would banish any doubt by their very demeanor. It was good to believe in something and stand by it. We've become much more nuanced. Now its better to be uncertain and come to truth by referendum. People are more comfortable cobbling together a consensus from varied viewpoints.

What I just described relates to the attack on meaning that I had referred to earlier. The founding fathers of the country only meant one thing when they wrote the consitution. They argued to come to the language that was written but once it was, they would make decisions based upon what it said. Over the years, the interpretation became less about the founder's intentions, but about what people wanted it to mean. Men have done the same thing with the Bible.

It's obvious that the goal with canonizing uncertainty is to broaden our minds and raise our level of tolerance. And if you do criticize another person's value system, it cannot be on biblical grounds or any authoritative basis period. We are not supposed to be shocked or notice the overtly self-destructive nature of aberrant subcultures. Then men are free to live like they want.

Truth itself by nature is antithetical. Biblical Christianity has been based upon that concept. The Bible is rational; it makes sense. If something contradicts it, it's untrue. The world needs men who embrace an antithetical worldview, a biblical mindset that answers questions of truth and morality in terms of black and white.

(1) Even Morris himself should have thought more about stealing "Feelings" from Louis Gaste, a French composer who wrote the song in 1956 and won the rights to it in a lawsuit in 1988.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Arctic Ice Sheets Melting, So Ocean Level Rising (Snicker)

I'll be coming back with more in my series on culture, but there's something that has my attention. You all love the truth, don't you? You enjoy the scientific method, right? Well, let's think about something together, OK?

Haven't you read that the Arctic ice sheets are melting? The Northern Hemispheric Arctic ice cap is a big piece of floating ice. Global warming scientists tells us that this is melting faster and causing the ocean levels to rise.

So when ice melts, we're saying that the liquid that it turns into takes up more space than it would if it were solid, right? How does water freeze? What happens when water gets really cold? Don't you think that heat causes things to expand and then cold causes them to contract?

Not so with water. Here's what actually happens. When water gets really cold it somehow traps air in it that causes it to expand, which makes it light. This results in it becoming buoyant and floating on top of the water, because it is lighter than the water. If it were heavier, of course, it would sink. This would cause it to kill everything at the bottom. Nice, huh?

So here's an experiment you can do. Simple one. You know, if you want to find out for yourself. Fill a glass half full with warm water. Float a a few ice cubes in it. Draw a line on the glass where the surface of the water in the glass is. Come back and see the glass after the cubes have melted. Is the water surface higher or lower? Whatever it is will be what melting ice in the water causes to the water level. Whatever it is will tell you whether the melting arctic cap will cause the ocean water surface level to rise.

This is a common scare tactic among global warming people. It is also a fourth grade experiment.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We're Getting our Comeuppance for the Church's Compromise in the Culture Wars pt. 2

Evangelical leaders know something is terribly wrong today. They know it relates to the culture. You just have to read them to understand. David Wells has become well known for his four book series that exposes the problem (No Place for Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams, Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision, Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World). Wells manages to take big bites out of the issue without actually sinking his teeth into the culprits of evangelicalism. He describes the damage done in his first book as the disappearance of evangelical theology. The late Francis Schaeffer hit some of the same topics in The Great Evangelical Disaster and D. A. Carson in the more recent The Gagging of God. They all know something's wrong.

You can see a little panic over some of the comeuppance from other evangelical writers. John MacArthur regularly addresses the fruits of evangelical compromise (The Truth War, Ashamed of the Gospel, Hard to Believe, Reckless Faith, Fools Gold: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error, The Vanishing Conscience). I don't think his books about this have worked. I have read four of them and liked them, but I found that in the end they rang hollow in light of what scripture says to do. I'll deal with that later. His counterpart, Phil Johnson, executive director of Grace to You, says something about this almost every week at his blog, Pyromaniacs. MacArthur sees what's happening all over and sounds the alarm as has Schaeffer, Wells, and Carson. Recently he wrote:
[M]any evangelicals now seem to think unstylishness is just about the worst imaginable threat to the expansion of the gospel and the influence of the church. They don’t really care if they are worldly. They just don’t want to be thought uncool.

That way of thinking has been around at least since modernism began its aggressive assault on biblical Christianity in the Victorian era. For half a century or more, most evangelicals resisted the pragmatic thrust of the modernist argument, believing it was a fundamentally worldly philosophy. They had enough biblical understanding to realize that “friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

But the mainstream evangelical movement gave up the battle against worldliness half a century ago, and then completely capitulated to pragmatism just a couple of decades ago. After all, most of the best-known megachurches that rose to prominence after 1985 were built on a pragmatic philosophy of giving “unchurched” people whatever it takes to make them feel comfortable. Why would anyone criticize what “works”?"

The evangelicals see the effects of cultural compromise and write about it. Sometimes, although seldom, they're even specific about what it is. Their timidness about marking the offenders among their own fellowship, however, make them complicit in the comeuppance they're now witnessing and bemoaning.

The church is most responsible for preserving a culture. If we won't stand for a Christian culture, even in our own church, how can we expect the world to do that? Each church must build up the walls and keep a culture separate from the world. Sure, we're in the world, but we're not of the world. The church is different, separate, yes, holy, like God is holy. Of course, Satan is working against this. He knows that the church's compromise will make his job easier and more successful.

The church gave up science to a detrimental impact. But men stood up against that compromise---Henry Morris and others. Today creationism abounds in churches because Christians took back scriptural science. The same is needed for cultural issues, to see what they are and respond in a biblical way.

We've allowed the decline of meaning through several factors. The recipient of text has become sovereign. Without objective meaning, words lose their authority and impact. Truth is lost. Without truth or authority, people choose what is acceptable behavior and often do what's convenient. But that's not all.

The Undoing of Understanding

Many have preceded me in a concern over understanding. When I say "understanding," I'm talking about something different than meaning. "Meaning" relates to the words. "Understanding" relates to the hearers. We're in trouble if words can mean anything we want them to mean, but we're also in trouble if we can't understand a linear thought. Neil Postman warned about this cultural phenomena in his 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Wikipedia sums up his book well:
[H]e argues that media of communication inherently influence the conversations carried out over them. Postman posits that television is the primary means of communication for our culture and it has the property of converting a culture's conversations with itself into entertainment, so much so that public discourse on important issues has disappeared. Since the treatment of serious issues as entertainment inherently prevents them from being treated as serious issues and indeed since serious issues have been treated as entertainment for so many decades now, the public is no longer aware of these issues in their original sense, but only as entertainment.
The Bible is a book. It has words, sentences, and paragraphs. It isn't a video or a show. When we read a book without pictures, we think linear. If men arrive at a point where they can no longer grasp sentences at the level that God gave them in His Word, they'll have moved beyond a grasp of salvation. Faith comes from the Word of God, not from a video about the Bible or a comic that communicates pictorially not linearly.

This relates to modernity. The way of modernity has restructured society around man's comforts and conveniences. It hasn't taken into consideration what will be necessary to believe in and obey God. In so many ways, modern society and its technological advances frame man's thinking and not God's Word. The saturation of television, movies, and other forms of visual media has had an adverse effect on the ability to listen, think, and reason, causing an entire society to suffer from attention deficit disorder.

Jonathan Edwards read his sermons in a monotone because he was afraid that someone might respond to his technique rather than to truth. During the Great Awakening, halfway through his messages, people were crying for mercy from God. They lived in a cognitive age, one in which they responded to thought.

During the Lincoln-Douglas debates, two senatorial contenders stood eye-to-eye for seven hours before a huge crowd and debated politics and socio-economics. Men in their professions didn't better themselves by reducing their thoughts to thirty-second sound bytes, but by stringing together whole paragraphs of complex sentences, filled with beliefs and applications. With its shriveled attention span, today's generation couldn't function in that setting.

God's Word is powerful, but not like a divining rod or voodoo doll. The Words take on their authority with their proper meaning. People who can't endure two or three long sentences without losing attention won't be able to catch on. It is not a book meant to amuse, but to cogitate and meditate. It uses figures of speech that connected require careful judgment to deduce. Everything God said can be understood but a person must desire to know and then strive. If a society or even a church will understand God's Word in a saving and life-changing way, it must maintain an ability to apprehend the meaning and application of Scripture.

If any people or institution should concern itself with what will lend itself toward God's will, it is the church. The church shouldn't start with what men want, feel, or even need, but what God says. Churches, however, have, albeit a slower pace, followed the flow of the culture in the means by which they receive their information. Television centers on entertainment and churches have taken this cue by prioritizing showmanship in the communication of God's Word.

Instead of going to Scripture to find out what a church should do, churches have conformed the interpretation of Scripture to the kind of church people will like. By doing so, churches can still grow numerically in a media dominated culture. The serious byproduct, however, is that they have dumbed down the message of God's Word to something less than the meaning that God intended. There is no wonder that when a political candidate wants to sway people, he'll best get that accomplished with a short television commercial. If churches have followed this movement of the world, then the world itself has little to keep it from sliding further.

How is it that we have reached the state where people in the United States are almost incapable of the cognition sufficient to understand the Word of God? More to point, how have churches contributed to this? First, there is little preaching against television and movies. Churches will not be healthy where the preaching centers on issues. However, people need to know what their means of accessing information will do to them. People oriented toward pictographic access to knowledge will struggle with reading anything not meant to entertain.

The ability to understand plummets from television watching, but that's not all that happens. Men also lose perspective and the capacity to nuance information. Neal Postman points out that even the news is a performance. The talking hair-dos coolly present brief segments about war, murder, crime, and natural disaster that are punctuated by commercials trivializing the stories and isolating them from any context. Postman recounts a news broadcast in which a Marine Corps general declared that global nuclear war is inevitable immediately followed by a commercial for McDonalds in which an orange-wigged Ronald came hopping across the screen. People are not expected to respond rationally. In Postman’s words:
The viewers will not be caught contaminating their responses with a sense of reality, any more than an audience at a play would go scurrying to call home because a character on stage has said that a murderer is loose in the neighborhood.
Second, the preaching itself has been altered to fit the pictographic mindset. In fitting with the changing culture, many preachers decided to make major accommodations to the appetites of a generation weaned on media and entertainment by leaving biblical preaching behind. Preaching in most conservative evangelical churches has more amusement than teaching. Most churches feature a half-hour sermon with lots of anecdotes and little doctrine. This type of presentation has served to condition the people for even less understanding of God's Word. Crowds have rewarded the abusive with their attendance.

Third, churches have replaced psalm-type hymn content with short, simple ditties with refrains that have mirrored the popular music style of the day. Hymn writing once reflected the model God gave by inspiration in the book of Psalms. They defined the beauty of God's attributes, work, and creation with a deliberate, didactic purpose. They proclaimed the truth in a way that enhanced the singer's comprehension of doctrines about God. After all, almost all of them were written to give praise to God, centering on Him in His majesty and magnificence.

People have been weaned off of songs modeled after scripture. Church leaders are afraid that they'll lose their crowd out of boredom, knowing people can't wrap their brains around that depth of truth. This started in the early twentieth century with the gospel song that led to today's praise choruses, often with identical stanzas of words liberally repeated. Churches have elevated people's feelings about the music above what God has shown that He wants to hear. A continuation of these worship practices serves further to weaken people's ability to understand and discern.

Fourth, churches have kowtowed to the youth culture with their types of children and teen programs. Young people now for generations have grown up with the wrong image of church, and by extension a fraudulent view of God. Children are sent off to Sunday Schools and junior churches where the little ones are pampered with a presentation configured for short attention spans, guaranteeing that they'll continue down that path. They cannot risk boredom by spending too much time teaching. The children are kept occupied with forms of communication to which they have become accustomed at home with their television and videos.

"Teen evangelist" means lots of stories with a popular vocabulary and little to no exegesis. The youth pastor is a master game man with expertise in filling a calendar with activities. By the time they graduate, they're prepared for a singles group with relevant social events. None of these strategies came about until the world at large grew away from thoughtful contemplation upon spiritual truths or even upon anything. Their further practice has not done anything to break their adherents away from what brings a devastating numbness to their understanding.

Fifth, the churches who do see the debilitating effect caused by the practices that undo understanding and so don't participate in them, however, continue in fellowship with the churches that either do or don't see this same effect, but either way, they keep operating in the same fashion. If we don't separate from those who won't stop, are we taking seriously the effect of these contributing practices?

People are comfortable making words mean whatever they want them to mean. Even if they were willing to accept their meaning, they can't understand them because of a loss of comprehension, deadened by a popular medium of communication. Their minds have been conditioned by the means by which they have attained their information. Now they can't grasp enough spiritual truth to become a Christian. Satan and his world system with a modern church as an accomplice have succeeded at ruining the soil into which God desires the seed of His gospel to take root.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

We're Getting our Comeuppance for the Church's Compromise in the Culture Wars pt. 1

In 1918 Booth Tarkington wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Magnificent Ambersons. In 1942, Orson Welles made the book into a film that was nominated for four Academy Awards. The book begins:
MAJOR AMBERSON had "made a fortune" in 1873, when other people were losing fortunes, and the magnificence of the Ambersons began then.
The tale by Tarkington tells the classic tragic trek from magnificence to comeuppance. A little past the middle of the book we read:
And yet something had happened—a thing which, years ago, had been the eagerest hope of many, many good citizens of the town. They had thought of it, longed for it, hoping acutely that they might live to see the day when it would come to pass. And now it had happened at last: Georgie Minafer had got his come-upance.
That was the first I had heard that word "comeuppance," and it stuck. I liked it. It's a biblical concept, the comeuppance. I'd like to talk about it as it relates to the church's compromise in cultural issues. Like Georgie Amberson Minafer, both the protagonist and the antagonist of The Magnificent Ambersons, the church has reached its comeuppance.

The Church's Responsibility

'Who to blame' reminds me of the stock market crash of 2008---is it government, is it Wall Street, or is it us? There's plenty of blame to go around. We look at the condition of the world today---the overcrowded prisons, the billions in debt, the daily murders, the abortion, the worldly, pagan churches, homosexual marriage, the lack of respect for authority, mounting atheism---and we diagnose how it happens. Who's to blame? When we face God, we'll stand there alone with no one else responsible but ourselves. But the church is uniquely indicted by the status of society in her complicity. I can't help but think of 2 Chronicles 7:14:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
A Plan of Satan

Satan desires to deceive. When we consider the work of Satan as the prince of this world, we see his major damage occurs in people's minds. He blinds men so they cannot know, darkens their thinking, and feeds their minds falsehoods. That's how he opposes the work of God on earth---by causing men to reject or stray from God.

The devil wants men to live sinful and profane lives that don't please God. He does this in part with an attack on the Word of God. Satan works on the minds of men against the truth of Scripture.

A Parallel

Satan won a major coup when he influenced the church to separate the Bible from science. The Bible speaks to scientific matters. I'm not going to say it isn't a science book. It is.

This separation of the Bible from science has been called the "two book approach"---the Bible and science are two books that are both sources of truth---those who advocate this view say the Bible is spiritual truth and science is physical truth. In scientific matters, where they contradict, the scientist says the Bible must bow before science since it is only a book of spiritual knowledge. With this, Scripture has been deemed less reliable than science and lower in authority. Science becomes the instrument for interpreting scripture rather than vice versa.

After Darwin's Origin of Species, theologians began revising their explanations of Genesis---there's a gap of millions of years between days one and two of creation or the day isn't actually twenty-four hours but an age of potentially millions of years. The first of these examples was canonized in the Scofield Reference Bible as the explanation for Genesis 1. Instead of believing God in the Genesis record, many in the church have chosen to believe so-called science.

Genesis gives foundational instruction for marriage, for family, about sin and death, and more. The two book approach began an avalanche of distrust and ignorance of God's Word that has contributed to a break down in some of the most fundamental aspects of society. It has also swayed men toward a material reality for which there are only material solutions.

In the last forty years, the church has experienced a revitalization of a one book approach. Christian scientists who believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture have returned many to a biblical view of the world, so that where the Bible and other realms of knowledge intersect, God's Word remains the final authority. These men not only saw the errors in a secular approach to science but observed the horrible damage that this capitulation to humanism caused among believers.

Required: Holiness

The church must be holy, even as 1 Peter1:14-16 reads:
As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
Holiness isn't moral purity. Moral purity is part of holiness, but holiness is a separateness, a distinctiveness. God is holy in that He is unique, majestic, and separate. Since moral purity does distinguish God, it is part of His uniqueness. Anyone who represents Him, therefore, must be morally pure.

Those who are holy as He is holy also will be distinct and separate. When they become common, they are profaned. All Christian culture is distinct from all of the world's culture, if it is holy, and it is even more distinct the more the world strays from God. Sacred culture will take on the characteristics of God distinct from the secular culture, which fits with the attributes aligned with the world.

The Church's Compromise

The world is what it is---a sin-cursed system of lust, wickedness, and deceit ruled by Satan and his underlings. The church should oppose the world system, not conform to it. A community, state, or nation will do best when the church is having the greatest influence upon it. A downward direction of our civilization comes in direct proportion to the church's complicity with that slide. Satan labors to deceive the church in as many ways possible to contribute to a faster ruination of the human population.

The world places non-stop pressure on the church, encouraging a desire for respect and prestige in the world. The people of the world are friendlier to Christians when they are more like the world. The persuasive powers of the world system have continued upon the church and, like the magnetism of secular science, the modern culture of the world has successfully cast its spell on the church.

In the 19th century United States, because of a widespread Christian influence, there was much less difference between the mainstream and Christian culture. The gap between the two has widened as the decades have passed. However, something began to happen to the church. Instead of keeping a clear difference between itself and the world in its culture, it began to mimic the world. Instead of turning the world upside down, the world has turned the church upside down.

The Comeuppance

With the church following the world's lead, even if a few steps behind, little has stood in the way of further cultural disintegration. When the church operates right, it acts as a preservative to society, stemming the tide of corruption that threatens to wash over everyone and everything, infiltrating every institution. Sin doesn't come without a price---it has its own built-in consequences as well as the punishment that comes from direct Divine intervention. In Romans 1 Paul describes the judgment of God as His turning men over to their own lusts. Men's desires lead them to pits of defilement and then destruction. Where the church hasn't taken its stand on cultural issues, in that area especially the culture has degraded in the most perverse way.

The church has clothed its capitulation in theological garb, often offering some biblical explanation for its compromise. Many Christian leaders of evangelicalism and even fundamentalism have routinely mocked churches and godly men who stood strong in cultural areas, many times labeling them legalists or Pharisees. Often they have reduced these issues to tertiary or secondary, not worth battling for and a "source of divisiveness." As a result, the church has become more and more worldly until finally there is often very little different between the church and the world. And even if a church hasn't slipped as far as it could, it hasn't influenced other churches to hold back from the profaning their distinctiveness.

The Demise of Meaning

Even language itself has become a casualty of the culture war with the deconstruction of meaning. In Identity Crisis, Robert Dunn tells what has happened:
The sign of semiotic theory was clearly delineated under modernity into signifier (image, word), signified (meaning, concept), and referent (reality), corresponding to three autonomous spheres of culture (aesthetic, theoretical, moral-practical). With the collapse of these spheres, the structure of the sign itself collapsed, reducing the mode of signification to the signifier, abolishing both signified and referent and leaving a world of freely circulating and self-referential signs and images. Thus, not only has meaning been thrown into question, but representation and reality have been thoroughly problematized.
In The Gagging of God, D. A. Carson describes it this way:
Texts will invariably be interpreted against the backdrop of the interpreter's social "home" and the historical conditioning of the language itself. Granted this interpretive independence from the text, it is entirely appropriate and right for the interpreter to take bits and pieces of the text out of the frameworks in which they are apparently embedded ("deconstruct" the text), and fit them into the framework ("locatedness") of the interpreter, thereby generating fresh insight, not least that which relativizes and criticizes the text itself.
Later he writes:
"Meaning" is less likely to refer to meaning in the text; indeed, some exponents of the new hermeneutic insist that the only "meaning" is what the subject "sees" or "understands." Certainly no tie is admitted between what the text "means" and authorial intent, not only because we have no access to authorial intent except through the text, but even more because different readers will interpret the text differently, i. e., they find different meanings "in the text," none of which can authoritatively be linked with authorial intent, and all of which are first and foremost meanings in the minds of the interpreters.
Let me deconstruct this for you. Meaning is no longer found in the words themselves, that is, in the written text. Meaning is found in the reader. The words mean what the reader or hearer thinks, feels, or wants them to mean. We one time interpreted the words based on their plain reading in the context of how believers have understood them through history. The goal was authorial intent.

What happened? Many factors have contributed to this break-down in the meaning of words. First, meaning has been affected by its frame of reference. Marshal McLuhan in the context of his now famous, "the medium is the message," wrote: "Each medium, independent of the content it mediates, has its own intrinsic effects which are its unique message." In other words, you can't separate the message from the medium by which it is communicated so that the setting of a message, whether it be musical, architectural, technological, emotional, etc., does alter meaning. The place, person, and style of the communication affects its understanding. The church took a sacred meaning and immersed in a worldly or secular frame of reference and, in so doing, changed its meaning.

Second, multiple meanings of the same text have been given equal respect. Carson refers to this activity in the last part of his second quote above. Over a period of time, various interpretations of passages have accumulated. For the sake of a kind of unity, alternative understandings of many texts are tolerated. On passages that especially apply and have historically applied to cultural issues, new meanings have been assigned to accommodate modernity. Even if someone originates a new interpretation, he can refer to the reality of many interpretations as a basis for another one, giving it legitimacy by actuality.

A corollary to the second factor for the demise of meaning is the ranking of importance. If a doctrine or practice has been assigned secondary or tertiary status, a false interpretation will not affect acceptance. The number of primary doctrines and practices has shrunk. More and more multiple meanings of text have been tolerated. They aren't important enough to fuss over. The interpreter becomes preeminent over the text.

Third, it has become unpopular to interpret certain passages literally. The historic meaning of text has become out of vogue. Practicing such verses will put the church in such conflict with the world that separation will occur. The church will shrink and be associated with failure. The church comes up with clever reasons to see them in a different light than it once did.

Fourth, the world itself has welcomed literary deconstructionism and the church has embraced the world. Certain long standing definitions of terms have changed popularly and the church has often failed to restore them to their original meaning.

In my experience, it isn't so much that people don't know what words have meant. They just want them to mean something else, so they make them mean something different, more to their personal liking. The interpreter has become sovereign.

Keep looking for part two of this series for names and details.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Standard Conversation Between Multiple Versionist with Perfect Preservationist

So that I don't reinvent the wheel, here is a very typical argumentation from an eclectic text person or non-preservation person (to whom I'll refer as NP, Non-Preservation Person). I'm Kent.

Kent: God preserved all His Words in the language in which they were written and they were generally accessible to every generation of believers. The King James Version comes from those Words that God preserved for every generation of believers.

NP: Did you know that you actually aren't reading the 1611 King James, because it was revised several times after that? And that you are actually reading the 1769 Blayney revision of the King James?

Kent: What does that have to do with what I just said? I said God preserved all His Words in the language in which they were written.

NP: Even the King James translators in their preface said that no translation of Scripture could be said to be perfect. They believed that other translations could be called the Word of God, so you are going way beyond what even the translators intended.

Kent: I've not said anything about the translation except that the King James Version comes from preserved Greek and Hebrew words. The translators said nothing about that in their preface to the King James.

NP: Did you know that the defense of the King James only started with a Seventh Day Adventist, Benjamin Wilkinson? Almost all the arguments used by King James only proponents come from Wilkinson, a Seventh Day Adventist?

Kent: I've never read Wilkinson's book, but the position I take is actually the same one found in the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1646, the London Baptist Confession of 1689, and that which you can read from men in the 17th century. It wasn't invented by Wilkinson in the 20th century. I don't even know what Wilkinson believed. Actually, it is your position, the one that says that God didn't preserve every Word for every generation, that is the new position, dating back only to the mid to late 19th century. You won't find a no-perfect-preservation position, except from liberals, before the 19th century.

NP: So what you're saying is that everyone has always had a perfect copy of Scripture to read?

Kent: No, what I'm saying is that all of the Words of the Old and New Testament have been generally accessible to every generation of believers. I base that, like godly men through history, upon scriptural presuppositions about God's preservation of Scripture.

NP: If God perfectly preserved His Word, then why isn't there one single hand-copy of the New Testament identical to another?

Kent: First, I haven't compared every single one of the manuscripts to see if any are identical to another. I don't think there is anyone who has, but, second, from what I've read, there are a few manuscript fragments, which are mainly what we have---we don't have many old complete hand copies of the New Testament---so, like I was saying, there are a few manuscript fragments that are identical to one another. Third, there are very few differences between the hand copies (manuscripts) that were a basis for the textus receptus. Fourth, of those copies, based on scriptural presuppositions we believe that every one of the Words were available, and then, fifth, that believers agreed on those Words during the period which those hand written words were amalgamated into one printed edition. The Bible teaches a settled text.

NP: But didn't you know that no edition of the textus receptus was identical to the other?

Kent: Yes, I know that, but there were very few differences, and all of the Words were there. And by the end of that period, believers agreed on what the Words were. The Christians of the seventeenth century believed that they had a text identical to the originals in their printed edition. We know that by what they wrote.

NP: But even if there was one word that was wrong or missing, you can't claim that there was a perfect text.

Kent: What I claim is that there was perfect preservation of every Word. All the Words were there and then the churches, guided by the Holy Spirit were led to a perfect text, so I don't believe that there was one wrong or missing word, and that is based upon scriptural presuppositions.

NP: So you too believe in textual criticism, because that's exactly what they were doing in the sixteenth century. That's what Erasmus was doing.

Kent: To read textual criticism into the sixteenth century really is revisionist history. Textual criticism is completely rationalistic and long post-dates the sixteenth century. Actual textual criticism is not based upon any theological or biblical presuppositions. Textual critics, in fact, reject the use of scriptural presuppositions. The basis of textual criticism, as it is explained by the textual critics themselves historically, is ongoing, never settled, and based upon literary criteria that are the same rules applied to secular literature. The sixteenth century men responsible for the various editions of the textus receptus weren't applying these criteria to the copies of the New Testament they possessed. And those manuscripts were very uniform compared to the manuscripts relied upon by textual criticism, which were not generally accessible until the 19th century.

NP: But didn't Erasmus back translate portions of Revelation from the Latin Vulgate? Isn't it true that some parts of the textus receptus have no basis in any copy of the Greek New Testament?

Kent: What I have found to be the case is that advocates of the eclectic or critical text have a strong belief in the preservation of historical data, including what they read about Erasmus, even greater trust in information God didn't promise to preserve than in the Words of God that the Lord did promise to preserve. First, we don't know all that Erasmus had as a basis for that first printed edition of the textus receptus. Second, Erasmus very likely was relying on manuscripts that had the Words he included in his printed edition of the book of Revelation in the Greek. Third, the churches didn't settle on Erasmus' edition of the textus receptus anyway, making this all a moot point.

NP: So then what is the perfect edition of the textus receptus? Which one is it?

Kent: It is the Greek text that is the basis of the King James Version of the Bible.

NP: When was that text printed?

Kent: We can buy a copy of it today from various sources. However, again, the scriptural position is that all the Words of God were generally accessible to every generation of Christian. The Words behind the King James Version come primarily from the textus receptus edition of Bezae in 1598 and those of Stephanus in 1550 and 1551. The number of differences between those three editions are very, very small. Christians settled on the Words behind the King James Version. Those are the ones that a large majority of believers, led and guided by the Holy Spirit, agreed upon. The Greek Words behind the KJV NT were printed in a single edition in 1894 posthumously by F. H. A. Scrivener. However, all of the Words in Scrivener were agreed upon by believers and churches. We can read sermons from preachers and pastors of the 16th and 17th century and see that the textus receptus was the text used by the churches. The men of God of the 17th century believed they had every single Word accessible to them. That is the historic Christian position.

NP: So it's obvious that the text that you believe is perfect wasn't available until the late 19th century, which isn't anything different than the text of Westcott and Hort.

Kent: No, the Words were available and relied upon in the 16th and 17th centuries. Our position, the scriptural one, is that the Words were preserved and generally accessible. Those men that preached the King James in the 17th century were relying on the Greek Words behind the New Testament of the King James Version.

NP: So you believe that there was a second act of inspiration that took place in 1611 when the King James translators did their translation?

Kent: I don't believe at all that it was a second act of inspiration. That idea didn't come about, as far as I know, until Peter Ruckman is credited with espousing it in the mid to late 20th century. I don't believe in double inspiration. What I'm talking about is providential preservation. God providentially worked to ensure that we would have every Word of God generally accessible during every generation.

NP: But what you are claiming is that a miracle took place, which is different than providence. A miracle utilizes primary supernatural causation and providence only secondarily.

Kent: I do believe that preservation has been supernatural. And we haven't differentiated providence in the past as unmiraculous. Historically, providence was considered to be a miracle. James Orr in The Fundamentals in the chapter on "Science and the Christian Faith" writes of what theologians call "'providential' miracles, in which, so far as one can see, natural agencies under divine direction suffice to produce the result." So whether God uses natural agencies or completely transcends those laws, it is a miracle. That is the historic understanding of providence. Inspiration itself is a miracle in which God uses natural agencies. He used men to write down scripture without error. If we can't believe in preservation because of the natural agencies that God used, then we can't believe in inspiration either.

NP: But God nowhere said that He would preserve His Word in a particular text type.

Kent: That isn't the position that I take either. I believe He preserved all His Words and that they were generally accessible to every generation of believers. The Bible also teaches a perfect and a settled text. So do you believe that the Bible teaches the preservation of Scripture?

NP: Yes.

Kent: Where do you believe it teaches it? What is it that Scripture teaches about the preservation of Scripture?

NP: I don't know. I haven't really studied it out. But I believe God has preserved His Word.

Kent: So when you say that God preserved His Word, what do you believe that He preserved?

NP: I believe that we have enough of the Words to give us all the doctrines we need to be obedient to God. I believe He preserved His Word in general and that there are not enough errors to change doctrine.

Kent: And what is your scriptural basis for that?

NP: I guess I can't believe that God did some sort of miracle at some point in time to make sure that all of the Words were in one place at one time.

Kent: But you believe all the books are there, all sixty-six, no more or no less?

NP: Yes, but that's different. We have enough historical evidence to demonstrate that we have sixty-six books. It's way different than believing that we have every single Word, especially since the manuscripts themselves don't agree with each other. I'm sorry, but I can't go that far. I don't think it should be an issue that we should divide over and that is what King James people do. They are divisive about it, and I don't think that's right.

Kent: Do you think that errors in the Bible should be a separating issue?

NP: Errors in the original maybe.


I'm not going to keep going. There are more arguments, I'm sure, that the eclectic text people think are brilliant, and that they have on their side, such as their "Septuagint argument" and their "Beza's conjectural emendation in Revelation 16:5" argument. What I do want to do is to point out the manner of operation of the eclectic text/no preservation side of this argument.

First, they don't present a position themselves. They question yours only.

Second, they don't listen to your position. They normally start arguing with a Ruckmanite or English preservationist, even if you're not, and then they keep doing that after you have told them several times. On many occasions, I've found they will still come back to their arguments against these other groups long after you've corrected them several times.

Third, when their point is debunked or defeated, they don't admit that you're right in any way. They move on to the next point they want to make. This shows a closed mind and that they're not interested in the truth, only in winning the argument. They like to argue from history ("Look! Hand copies vary!"), but when they find out that they have no historic basis for their position, that doesn't matter to them at all. They don't seem to care at all that their position was not what was believed or taught before the 19th century.

Fourth, they don't rely at all on Scripture. On this one doctrine, they look away from the Bible to find out what they believe.

Fifth, their quest is a gotcha-game. They want to catch you in an error. They want to prove mistakes in Scripture. That will justify their use of the modern versions.

Sixth, even though they say they believe in the preservation of Scripture, they are trying to show how that God didn't preserve it.

Seventh, when they ask questions, they expect answers, acting is if the burden of proof is upon our side. When we ask questions, they don't give answers and they don't think they have to do that. The burden of proof should be on the people who say that what actually happened is something different than what Scripture promised would happen. What's difficult about that, of course, is that they would need to show the original manuscripts to prove that point.

These multiple version, no preservation people provide the foundation for postmodern uncertainty. If we don't even know what the words are, then how can we be expected to know the meaning?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"On Spiritual Worship," Stephen Charnock (1628-1680)

Most of Puritan Stephen Charnock's works were transcribed after his death, the most well-known of these, The Existence and Attributes of God. The fourth chapter (Discourse IV) is entitled "On Spiritual Worship." Seventeenth century Christianity had not had the kind of corruption in worship that we see today. However, Charnock had thought deeply in Scripture on the topic of worship. If this one chapter alone were read and followed, we would cut out a huge amount of the garbage seen today in churches. If you have not read this chapter, you haven't finished your research on the worship. Here are selected excerpts from that fourth chapter.

Just because we delight in it, Charnock says, is not evidence that it is spiritual worship.
A man may invent a worship and delight in it; as Micah in the adoration of his idol, when he was glad he had got both an Ephod and a Levite (Judges xvii). As a man may have a contentment in sin, so he may have a contentment in worship ; not because it is a worship of God, but the worship of his own invention, agreeable to his own humor and design, as (Isa. Iviii. 2) it is said, they "delighted in approaching to God;" but it was for carnal ends. Novelty engenders complacency ; but it must be a worship wherein God will delight; and that must be a worship according to his own rule and infinite wisdom, and not our shallow fancies. (p. 235)
Charnock writes that spiritual worship is performed with spiritual ends for the glory of God.
It is natural for man to worship God for self; self-righteousness is the rooted aim of man in his worship since his revolt from God, and being sensible it is not to be found in his natural actions, he seeks for it in his moral and religious. By the first pride we flung God off from being our sovereign, and from being our end, since a pharisaical spirit struts it in nature, not only to do things to be seen of men, but to be admired by God (Isa. Iviii. 3): "Wherefore have we fasted and thou takest no knowledge?" This is to have God worship them, instead of being worshipped by them. Cain's carriage after his sacrifice testified some base end in his worship ; he came not to God as a subject to a sovereign, but as if he had been the sovereign, and God the subject, and when his design is not answered, and his desire not gratified, he proves more a rebel to God, and a murderer of his brother. Such base scents will rise up in our worship from the body of death which cleaves to us, and mix themselves with our services. (p. 240)
Charnock warns against carnal, fleshly, unholy, profane worship.
And therefore infinite goodness and holiness cannot but hate worship presented to him with deceitful, carnal, and flitting affections; they must be more nauseous to God, than a putrefied carcass can be to man; they are the profanings of that which should be the habitation of the Spirit; they malee the spirit, the sent of duty, a filthy dunghill; and are as loathsome to God, as money-changers in the temple were to our Saviour. (p. 271)
Charnock admonishes a spiritual frame of existence to encourage spiritual worship.
To avoid low affections, we must keep our hearts as much as we can in a settled elevation. If we admit unworthy dispositions at one time, we shall not easily be rid of them in another; as he that would not be bitten with gnats in the night, must keep his windows shut in the day: when they are once entered, it is not easy to expel them; in which respect, one adviseth to be such out of worship as we would be in worship. If we mix spiritual affections with our worldly employments, worldly affections will not mingle themselves so easily with our heavenly engagements. If our hearts be spiritual in our outward calling, they will scarce be carnal in our religious service. (p. 271)
Charnock asserts that spiritual worship, acceptable to God, must reflect His majesty.
Nourish right conceptions of the majesty of God in your minds. Let us consider that we are drawing to God, the most amiable object, the best of beings, worthy of infinite honor, and highly meriting the highest affections we can give; a God that made the world by a word, that upholds the great frame of heaven and earth; a Majesty above the conceptions of angels; who uses not his power to strike us to our deserved punishment, but his love and bounty to allure us; a God that gave all the creatures to serve us, and can, in a trice, make them as much our enemies as he hath now made them our servants. Let us view him in his greatness, and in his goodness, that our heart may have a true value of the worship of so great a majesty, and count it the most worthy employment with all diligence to attend upon him. When we have a fear of God, it will make our worship serious; when we have a joy in God, it will make our worship durable. Our affections will be raised when we represent God in the most reverential, endearing, and obliging circumstances. (pp. 272-273)
Charnocks sets the world and worship as mutually exclusive.
Let us take heed of inordinate desires after the world. As the world steals away a man's heart from the word, so it doth from all other worship; "It chokes the word" (Matt. xiii. 27) ; it stifles all the spiritual breathings after God in every duty; the edge of the soul is blunted by it, and made too dull for such sublime exercises. The apostle's rule in prayer, when he joins" sobriety with watching unto prayer" (1 Pet. iv. 7), is of concern in all worship, sobriety in the pursuit and use of all worldly things. A man drunk with worldly fumes cannot watch, cannot be heavenly, affectionate, spiritual in service. There is a magnetic force in the earth to hinder our flights to heaven. Birds, when they take their first flights from the earth, have more flutterings of their wings, than when they are mounted further in the air, and got more without the sphere of the earth's attractiveness: the motion of their wings is more steady, that you can perceive them stir; they move like a ship with a full gale. The world is a clog upon the soul, and a bar to spiritual frames ; it is as hard to elevate the heart to God in the midst of a hurry of worldly affairs, as it is difficult to meditate when we are near a great noise of waters falling from a precipice, or in the midst of a volley of muskets. Thick clayey affections bemire the heart, and make it unfit for such high flights it is to take in worship; therefore, get your hearts clear from worldly thoughts and desires, if you would be more spiritual in worship. (p. 273)
I encourage you to read and meditate upon the truths of this chapter of Stephen Charnock's book.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Serious Griping

Paul in Philippians 2:14 wrote: "Do all things without murmurings and disputings." In modern vernacular, "Don't gripe." Murmuring and disputing are both types of griping. You murmur when you gripe about what you're doing. You dispute when you gripe about having to do it. In both cases, you don't like what you're doing, so you gripe about it.

OK, so that's bad. But it's really bad. Right before v. 14 in the context, comes this in vv. 12-13:
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
What are we doing? We are obeying, working out our salvation, and doing His good pleasure. That's what your life is about as a Christian. It's big time. While you're going about doing the things that God wants you to do, which is characteristic of a believer, don't gripe about it.

Why? What reason do you have for not griping while you're doing this? Paul gives three reasons in three clauses in vv. 15-16. Each of the clauses focuses on a particular beneficiary of your not griping. Three different recipients will benefit from your thankfulness and contentment. And the benefits to these three are the reasons why not to gripe. What are they?

1. YOUR OWN REPUTATION (Philippians 2:15a)

"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke

Don't gripe so that you don't lose your Christian reputation. Complaining is so antithetical to Christian living that you would and should be considered not to be a child of God if it characterized your behavior. The unbelieving are the unthankful (Romans 1:21). Griping results in blame, harm, and reproach ("rebuke") being upon your Christian testimony. You don't want discontent and unthankfulness as your reputation.

2. UNSAVED PEOPLE'S REDEMPTION (Philippians 2:15b-16a)

"in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life"

A thankful attitude, disposition, and behavior will shine brightly a saving testimony to the lost. The world gripes and complains. You aren't any different, nor do you have anything unique, if you don't behave differently with this regards. The fact that you don't gripe will match up with the message of the gospel that the world so badly needs. It will seem like it is worth it to be saved when you behave like it is.


"that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain."

This might seem a little odd, but the last reason for not griping is that it will be a cause of rejoicing to your spiritual leadership. Your pastor, whoever has discipled you, and other spiritual leaders most responsible for your life will have cause for rejoicing at the judgment seat of Christ because you weren't a griper. Your behavior will reveal their efforts to have been worthwhile, not a waste. Paul wanted them to live thankful lives. Those would be the kind of lives he'll be able to rejoice in at the judgment of Christ.

So three people benefit from your not griping---yourself, unsaved people, and your spiritual leaders. The benefits each of these could receive for your not griping show how serious griping really is. By not griping, you'll save your reputation, the world around you will get an example of redemption, and your spiritual leadership will have cause for rejoicing.

Yes, you have my permission to use this outline.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Phil Johnson: Tertiary Doctrines Dovetailing with the King James Version Issue

Phil Johnson, executive director of Grace to You, and owner/operator of the popular evangelical blog, Pyromaniacs, appeared on the Way of the Master radio program, hosted by Todd Friel. On the show, Johnson answered questions that were sent in by listeners.

The first question dealt with eschatology, one about the future of Israel. Johnson is premillennial and he defended, although not strongly, premillennialism versus amillennialism. His reason for not being too dogmatic, he said, was that this was, like is typical of Johnson, a tertiary doctrine. He's not going to argue over eschatology, he says, because it's peripheral in its importance. And after all, Peter said that these parts of Paul's epistles were hard to be understood, so we shouldn't be so hyper about last things. Paul himself didn't treat it as unimportant, but Johnson says it is. Doctrines Johnson says are important are the ones that are important. We'll discuss more about that later.

That very first question led Johnson and Friel into a little segue about doctrines that aren't important but are talked about a lot anyway. Friel mentioned the King James Version. Johnson laughed. Then he asked Johnson if the debate over the King James had been a very profitable one. Johnson said yes and no. He didn't tell why it was good, but he did say why the debate was bad. Why? The people doing the most discussion are the least prepared to do so.

They weren't done talking about the King James issue at that point, but before I tell you what they said next, I wonder if you would know what is important to know in order to be one of those swamis who can discuss the issue of the preservation of Scripture. Johnson has bought into this notion that the people who know best about the identification of the true text of the Bible are the modern textual critics, those who spend a great deal of time in manuscript evidence, who use scientific rules they concocted to determine what are most likely God's Words. What verse does Johnson base this upon? None, of course. It's his opinion, and one that says that God did not preserve all His Words nor make them available to every generation of people.

To Johnson, if you think that what you need to know is what Scripture says about its own preservation, then you are one of those who shouldn't be involved in the version debate. Johnson and the Grace to You people (John MacArthur, etc.) always claim to rely on the sufficiency of Scripture for their doctrine and practice. In this case, they don't. Instead, they lean on textual critics, who are most often unbelieving.

Transcript of Friel-Johnson conversation on King James Issue

The discussion about the King James didn't end there. Todd Friel comments:
OK, Well, But there's a lot of people who would say, 'Then explain why God would have the King James Version for centuries as really the only text that was being used. Then all of a sudden a bunch of new manuscripts, and now we've got these other ones. It doesn't seem like God then would have been protecting His Word very well. I think that is a pretty strong argument.'
Phil Johnson replies:
It's a good question. It is a valid question and it's, it's worth an answer. But it's not worth all the energy that a lot of people put into it, because if you take...uh...the two versions, the two set families of manuscripts, and put them side by side and compare the differences, it really doesn't amount to anything that's fundamental or essential. It's not gonna...uh...if you prefer one set of manuscripts over the other, it's not going to create a totally different kind of Christianity.
Friel ends the mini-discussion interrupting Johnson's last statement with:
Right, somebody's not going to be a new denomination over this.
Johnson says this is a "good question" and a "valid question." You heard it here. Johnson would usually ridicule something like this. He says it's worth an answer. But it's not worth putting a lot of time into it. And why? Because the differences between the critical text and the textus receptus (over 5,000 differences) are not going get rid of anything fundamental or essential in Phil Johnson's opinion.

Observations about the Friel-Johnson Exchange on the King James Issue

First, usually Johnson would ridicule something like this, if it was even brought up. He doesn't do it here with Friel, and he even says it is good and valid. To be consistent, he should have just laughed at it and mocked it, because from what I've experienced, that's what he does.

Second, Johnson doesn't answer the actual argument. Friel says it is "a pretty strong argument," and Johnson doesn't answer it. He gives an answer and it is essentially that whoever has that argument shouldn't let it concern him. If I were to make a conclusion just from what I heard, I would say that Johnson doesn't have an answer to the argument Friel presented.

Third, Johnson says that it's not worth our time because the two families of manuscripts are similar enough that nothing fundamental is lost. What is the problem with this answer?
  1. It denies what God said He would do (Isaiah 59:21; Matthew 4:4; 5:17; 24:35). Shouldn't that matter to someone Who says He believes the Bible?
  2. Errors affect authority. If we suggest that there are a few thousand errors in the words, despite the fact that fundamental doctrines aren't affected, that still takes away the authority of what we do have.
  3. There isn't a place in Scripture that says that fundamental doctrines are sufficient to live for God successfully. Jesus says something different in John 12:48.
  4. This clashes with what John MacArthur says about words. In a sermon I recently listened to, he made these statements:
In Matthew 24:35 the Scripture is very clear, “Heaven and earth shall pass away but My words...My words shall not pass away.” When God speaks He speaks with words and the Bible are the representation in writing of the words that came from God...the words that God spoke.

It was Jesus who emphasized the importance of every word...every word and every letter when He said, “Not a jot or tittle will ever fail.” He said in Luke 18:31, “All the things that are written through the prophets shall be accomplished.” He even based His interpretation of the Old Testament on a single word...a single word. The words do matter. Jesus was answering the Sadducees in Matthew 22 and He said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the scriptures, or the power of God, for in the resurrection they neither marry...talking about the angels...nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God saying,’I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob?’” He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And His proof is that God said, “I am...I am the eternal living one.” And furthermore, He is not only the eternal living one but all will live eternally as well. They didn’t believe in a resurrection and He proved His point or certainly to our satisfaction proved His point by talking about the eternality of God in the verb to be in the present tense.
Perhaps Johnson doesn't agree with MacArthur on this teaching on the Bible. I would guess that he does. That's why the argument posed by Friel is actually a strong argument. I don't know if it occurs to these that they contradict their stated view of Scripture with their position on the preservation of the Bible.

Related to the Tertiary-Primary Doctrine Issue

In a matter of minutes in the dialogue between Friel and Johnson, Johnson mentions a few times that certain doctrines aren't that important. A major doctrine of his is that many doctrines are of minor importance. I know that this is how he gets around separating on doctrine. In order to keep the unity among evangelicals, Johnson reduces separating doctrine to a few essentials.

As you read Johnson and others, you find that the gospel is the only doctrine worth separating over. That's the one that means the most to us. We are justified and saved from eternal punishment by the gospel. He says that premillennialism isn't a doctrine that is worth separating over. I believe that the Apostle Paul would say something different. Johnson says he includes all eschatology, so timing of the rapture isn't worth separating over either. Someone can deny imminence and that's not a doctrine to cause a fuss, despite the fact that it is a major influence toward purity in the New Testament. God says it is a major motivator to purity, but it's only a tertiary thing to Johnson.

My concern with the text issue is the inclusion of verbal errors in Scripture, despite what God said He would do. God's veracity and the perfection of the Bible are at stake. Johnson, his cohorts at Pyromaniacs, and John MacArthur are leaders in the opposition of the emerging church. They decry the uncertainty produced by the emergents. The bedrock of that uncertainty is found in dozens of English translations, multiple texts, and a denial of the doctrine of preservation. The emergents are uncertain about meaning. Johnson is uncertain about the words. He's concerned about their uncertainty, but not so much about his own.

Psychoanalysis Addendum

In advance, I predict the reasons people will give for this post:

One, I'm obsessed with the King James Version issue.
Two, I've got it out for Phil Johnson because he hasn't treated me very well.
Three, I've got a chip on my shoulder.
Four, I've got too much time on my hands (or, I need to get out more).
Five, I'm attempting to try to increase my popularity by zeroing in on someone popular.
Six, I'm not a scholar but I can seem like I am when I target scholars.
Seven, Controversy increases readership.


Perfect preservation is the truth. It's Scriptural. All the doctrines in the Bible are important. So Sigmund Freud Time is over.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shark Versus Octopus: Surprising

I don't want to upstage my canonicity post with this one, but this one might win the interest category. An aquarium decided to put octopus and shark in the same tank. See what happens.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

If You Believe in Canonicity, You Can and Should Believe in Preservation part 2

To get a doctrine of Bibliology, we go to the Bible. Since we get God's instruction from His Word, we look to His Word even about His Word. Part of Bibliology is canonicity. Canonicity is a sub-doctrine to the doctrine of Scripture. We look to the Bible to tell us how we decide on what Books should be part of the Bible. Many might call this circular reasoning or begging the question. No. We're applying tests to what we already know exists. What the Bible says about itself, however, must be consistent with itself. So the Bible is where we learn about canonicity. We know, if it is true and authoritative, that the Bible will reflect what it says about itself.
Nowhere does Scripture say any of these things:
1) When the Bible is complete, there will be sixty-six books.
2) Here is how you will know which books are canonical.
3) Here is how you will know that the Bible is finished and complete.
4) Here is how canonicity will be completed.
5) Scripture will be done in AD90 or some other particular date.
6) There is a standard outside of Scripture that should be used to judge the canon.

The criteria for canonization came from fleshing out principles of Scripture. Scripture is sufficient, so it will also help us arrive at the principles about the Bible that will determine what the Books of the Bible are. The Bible nowhere contains a list of the laws for canonicity. We look at what the Bible says about God's Word to glean what we would consider legitimate Books of the Bible. Not every one of the principles applies to every one of the Books of the Bible, but cumulatively they show us the canon of Scripture.

What does God's Word say that leads us to the canon?
1) The Bible will be complete, will be a settled book. Proverbs 30:5-6. Isaiah 8:16. Revelation 22:18-19. Jude 1:3.

Scripture presents itself as complete, not to be added to or taken away from. For Scripture to be added to or taken away from, it must be something that is settled or complete. If it isn't settled or complete, it can't be added to or taken away from. If God's Word is to be sixty-six books and someone has sixty-seven, he has added to Scripture. If the Bible is to be sixty-six books and someone has sixty-five, he had taken away from Scripture.

2) God's people, Old and New Testaments, are the caretakers of God's Word. Romans 3:2. Deuteronomy 31:24-26. John 17:8. 1 Timothy 3:15.

God gives the Books to Israel and the church. They immediately receive those Books. It is evident which Books they receive.

3) The Holy Spirit will lead His people into all truth. John 16:13. 1 Corinthians 2:4-11.

We know that whatever Books God's people recognize or accept are those that the Holy Spirit has led them to.

4) Those who write God's Word will have authority to do so. Deuteronomy 18:18. 2 Corinthians 12:12. 2 Peter 1:1, 20-21. Galatians 1:1-24. Hebrews 2:3-4.

We see authority to speak or write the very Words of God. Many of them are prophets or apostles. The prophets and apostles we know had authority from God.

5) What is His Word must be consistent with the rest of Scripture. 2 Timothy 2:13.

Scripture will harmonize. It won't contradict itself, so anything that would contradict would be suspect.

6) His Word won't have error; His Word is perfect. Psalm 12:6; 19:7; 119:40.

We would assume that Scripture would not have false doctrine.

7) God's Word seems like it is the Word of God to Believers. Luke 24:32. 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

When something is Scripture, it will read like Scripture. It has that "ring" of inspiration to it.

8) Jesus and apostles give testimony to Books' canonicity. John 5:39; 10:35. Luke 24:44. 2 Peter 3:16.

Books that Jesus and the apostles recognized as Books, we know were Books of the Bible.

9) The Books were quoted as being Scripture. Micah 4:1-4. Daniel 9:2.

Certain Books were quoted in other Books as being Scripture. This tells us that men were recognizing Books as Scripture immediately.

Based on these principles, we recognize sixty-six Books of the Bible. We do not believe that some book like the "The Gospel of Judas," found now after hundreds and thousands of years, could be Scripture, because that would not fit several of the criteria above. Any potential book that would at least contradict any of the above principles could not be considered to be Scripture.

Let's Apply the Principles Faithfully and Consistently

One Dallas Theological Seminary graduate, J. Hampton Keathley, III, wrote on canonicity:
That God would provide and preserve a Canon of Scripture without addition or deletion is not only necessary, but it is logically credible.
He makes that logical conclusion from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21. From those verses, he wrote:
In view of this, the logical question is: “Would it not be unreasonable for God to fail to providentially care for these inspired documents to preserve them from destruction and so guide in their collection and arrangement that they would all be present with none missing and none added that were not inspired?”
So he believes that preservation is an implication of inspiration. If God inspired His Word, it follows that He would preserve it intact. He is teaching the preservation of Books, and yet, in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we have verbal, plenary inspiration. The assumption from inspiration of Words isn't preservation of Books. The same God Who could inspire every Word could keep every Word.

Above I made a list of points about canonicity not found in the Bible, six of them. Look back up at them again. Christians believe that when the Bible was completed, there were sixty-six books. They used principles from the Bible to know what books were canonical, even though those principles weren't designated in Scripture. From those same biblical principles to conclude that Revelation finished God's special revelation in AD90. Denominational councils officially agreed upon a canon, but there wasn't anything in Scripture that says that was how it would be done. Believers copied, passed around and down, and agreed upon the Books they recognized as Scripture. They numbered sixty-six.

And yet, if you look through any of the texts that are basis for the above nine points, they don't mention the Books of the Bible. They talk about the reception of Words. In the principles of Canonicity we have Words, not Books. Faith based upon the evidence, based upon Scripture, says that we would have a settled, perfect Canon of Words---all of them and every one of them. Canonization is far more fideistic than preservation. And yet believers accept perfect canonicity. They too should accept perfect preservation.

A common criticism of the verbal, plenary preservation doctrine is: 1) Scripture doesn't tell us how God would preserve. 2) The Bible doesn't say that the Bible would be preserved in the Hebrew Masoretic and the Textus Receptus. I reject the idea that the Bible doesn't tell how God's Word would be preserved. It does. But the second one, that God doesn't name the text type or the name of the manuscript family, that is a bogus criticism in light of belief in canonicity. Just like canonicity, we look for what God said He would do.

What would God do and what would He not do? We have good Scriptural reasons for rejecting the Shepherd of Hermas and including Esther and James. We have the same reasons for rejecting Codex Sinaiticus and receiving the Textus Receptus.

Is there really a legitimate, Scriptural reason that someone believes canonicity, but does not believe in perfect preservation of Scripture? No. Lack of faith explains it, a lack of faith that displeases God (Hebrews 11:6). Romans 4:20 describes what should be the faith in preservation.
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.
Oh ye of little faith. Will you not trust in the promise of God? He has preserved His Word, Word Perfect, for every generation of believers.