Monday, December 28, 2009

"Negotiable Matters of Indifference"

I read this in a sampling of a new book, Risking the Truth, edited by Martin Downes. In this chapter, Martin Downes interviews Carl Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Downes: Why have evangelicals reduced the great Protestant confessions down to minimal statements?

Trueman: Because evangelicalism, as a transdenominational, parachurch movement, needs to sideline great swathes of the faith in order to hold the alliance together.

That is a blatantly honest statement. It's true. I've been saying it for awhile, but it hasn't been asked or answered anywhere else that I have read. Can you imagine sidelining great swathes of the faith to hold an alliance together? Does this please God? Is this about God? Is this what God had in mind about unity? Evangelicalism and much of fundamentalism thinks so. Later Trueman continues:

Popular front evangelicalism only becomes a problem when, with its minimal doctrinal basis, it comes to be normative for how we actually understand Christianity and thus to impact how we understand the church. Then we find ourselves in a situation where tail wags dog, so to speak, where the identity of the church is shaped not by her own confession but by the exigencies of the evangelical world, where key theological issues such as divine sovereignty, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper are marginalized. Wherever we come down on these issues, Scripture does teach about them; and we have no right to make them merely negotiable matters of indifference in the church.

Unfortunately, this minimal doctrinal basis is becoming how men actually understand Christianity today. The church is being shaped by the exigencies of the evangelical world. Certain doctrines are being made negotiable matters of indifference.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Important Thoughts for Human Beings part one

Here's an important thought for all human beings. You can judge God. But it's not going to matter. He's God. What's important for you is, listen up, how God judges you. And because of that, the vital ingredient in all of this is the truth. Human beings, get this: be concerned about what the truth is. For instance, you may push the eject button on God because the American Indians got treated bad, but that is only going to hurt you, and it will. You also may be really upset that in this world in which we live, children suffer. It could also be that you don't think that God should have allowed your dad to be a drunk or for you to be abused as a child. He's still God though. And as God, He makes all the rules. You can protest that. But it won't change anything.

You also may, like plenty of atheists, think that in a world created by God no religious wars should have ever been fought. And if they have, well, that religion is the cause of it, and so God is the cause of it, and so you're making some kind of a big statement about God because you reject Him. News for you too---He's still God. You also may not like God's plan of salvation. You may feel that you are on some kind of moral high ground because you reject crucifixion as a means of cleansing or removing sin. That stand you take won't get you anywhere. You may not like it, but, again, you don't make the rules. He does. And so He's always right.

You're only alternative is that this is all an accident. And if that's the case, you really don't have any basis for judging anyone or anything as wrong. Accidents are accidents. And chemicals and electronic charges and such shouldn't be held responsible for firing or charging or spilling or burping at a time that you didn't want it to. In your view that's exactly how you got here, so you can't be upset when the spillage or voltage or fizzing isn't like you like it to be. And you can't very well say that it is wrong. It just happened. Nothing controlled it.

You may try to embarrass people who believe in God that they are believing something that isn't very intelligent. If you believe a lie, that's what's really stupid. It may be a smart sounding lie, but it is still a lie. You might be able to make it sound really, really smart, but it isn't smart if it isn't the truth. I will only be embarrassed if I get sucked into your lie. I understand why it sounds intelligent. It isn't very smart. It just sounds like it. A lot of lies do. In the end, you've waited a long time in a line for a ride that is closed. You're ride is closed. You may think it is a better ride, but it isn't open. Worse than that, the truth is that you will get on your ride and it will end in a crash.

You can try to block out God in your mind or through your lame explanations, but it won't make God disappear. It is very much like the ostrich with its head in the sand. You, me fellow human being, are just putting your head in the sand. You can ignore God, but it really is at your own peril.

So I get back to the truth. What's the truth? If the truth is that there is a God, then you would do better to accept that. And that is the truth. That's where I'm going to stop with this particular lesson, but it is one that will be eternally worth it to you. I'll give you a hint on the next lesson, but it is that God reveals Himself to us in a Book, the Bible, Old and New Testaments. However, just to start, the truth is that there is one God, He did create everyone and He sustains everything. Not only is that the truth, but you can know it to be true. That may not be what you want to be the truth, but it is the truth nevertheless.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas in the Apocalypse

At the end of Revelation 11, we see the seventh trumpet of judgment blown. Heaven rejoices. Earth rages. God judges. But we don't get the actual content of the trumpet until Revelation 15. Revelation 12 to 14 relate the Satanic view of the tribulation period on earth. The rest of the book shifts back and forth from one perspective to another---earth, heaven, Satan, God, earth again, heaven again---all the way to the end. The first few verses of Revelation 12 take a step back to elaborate on the conflict of the ages, the long war between God and Satan culminating with the events recorded by John in the Apocalypse. We get a big picture of what is occurring through the introduction of the main characters in this drama. John identifies his manner of communication as symbolism, and then he reveals the players in cryptic fashion---one of them is a woman (vv. 1-2), another a dragon (vv. 3-4), and a third, a child (vv. 5-6).

Here's what we learn. The dragon, who is Satan, has it out for the woman and her child. He wants to destroy her and her baby. The woman is Israel and the child is Jesus. The Devil was ready to devour the Christ child as soon as he was born. Ever since Satan was cast from heaven, dragging one third of all the angels with him, he has worked at foiling God's plan of redemption. History tells the story.

Cain kills Abel, the godly line (cf. 1 John 3:12). Pharoah massacres Hebrew baby boys. Enemies surround Israel, hoping to exterminate the Jews. Only the infant son Joash survived the genocidal rampage of Athaliah (2 Chronicles 21-22). The ten northern tribes mingle with the two southern to save the nation whole when Assyria obliterates Israel. Haman threatens the existence of the Jewish race, defeated by God with Mordecai and Esther. Herod kills all the infant sons in Bethlehem. Satan tempts Jesus to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple. Residents of the Lord's hometown march him to a cliff to push him over, but He passes through their midst. The Roman Catholic inquisition murders Jews by the tens of thousands. Russian pogroms. Hitlers' holocaust. The Antichrist sends the woman into the wilderness, the time of Jacob's trouble.

Jesus has already struck the death blow to Satan, bruising the head of the serpent (cf. Gen 3:15). Guaranteed the ultimate loser, the devil persists his opposition to the plan of God, orchestrating his multi-millions of demons in his lying and murderous ways against Jesus, Israel, and the church. Only the protection of God thwarts his success.

When you see distractions from the Incarnation message at Christmas, know that Satan, the prince of this world, commanderes his demonic fiends to conceal the saving gospel. Jesus will rule all nations with a rod of iron (Rev 12:5). The dragon would relegate the Lord to whimsy and decoration, blended with Santa, elves, Scrooge, Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch, snowflakes, and sleigh rides. With gladness Satan obstructs most of the good news a lost world needs in the festive and bright packaging of holiday cheer. Even churches cooperate with the garish productions they use to lure a crowd year after year in the month of December. In his own way and for all intents and purposes, to most men the prince of darkness does devour the Christ Child. As it relates to Satan's strategy, it is very merry Christmas indeed.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Not Given to Much Wine" and Abstaining from Alcohol

More controversy seems to exist than ever in churches over the drinking of alcoholic beverages. If I say it isn't a difficult subject, I'll be castigated, but I'm going to say it: "I don't think it is a difficult subject"---at least not until recently. We've got more permissible drinkers than ever in evangelical churches. I did a five part series on it not that long ago here at WIT, so what has me thinking about it again? I check in at the blogroll of a popular evangelical website, one of the 5 or 10 websites I check every day, mainly to look at the front page posting. I also look at the topics of the blogroll postings to see if anything interests me. I like to read. With that being said, I listened to most of this sermon by one of the preachers on that blogroll. At one point in his sermon, he referred to 1 Timothy 3 and this particular qualification of deacons: "not given to much wine." He didn't say much about the text, except that it was "ridiculous" that anyone would think that it wasn't permissible to drink "wine" in moderation, and all through this sermon he is referring to wine as alcoholic, essentially the one wine view, that "wine" is only alcoholic in Scripture.

I was preparing to write on it again, because of his "ridiculous" argument, argument by calling any other position but his own as "ridiculous." You've got to have a very sympathetic crowd to believe that level of argumentation. I wrote about it already, so I'm just going to link to my answer here. I don't think "ridiculous" should be tolerated by anyone as a suitable argument. Someone may say that he didn't have enough time to deal with all the passages sufficiency, and so "ridiculous" needed to suffice since it was such a no-brainer. I don't think so. Read my post on the subject. And you would do well to read all of them (number 1, number 2, number 3, number 4 too).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Flock Teaching

God uses metaphors in Scripture as a figure of speech to communicate His truth. In some prominent passages, New Testament authors use the "flock" analogy as one of these pictures to portray a particular theological concept. "Flock," of course, starts with an agrarian reality with actual sheep, as seen in the nativity text in Luke 2:8, "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." To convey doctrine using a metaphor, we start with the reality, the actual flock led by a real shepherd in a tangible field.

We determine what "flock" means by its usage. In a metaphorical way, the word "flock" (poimnion) is used six times (Mt 26:31; Lk 12:32; Acts 20:28-29; 1 Pet 5:2-3). In each case, like a real flock of sheep, "flock" is a visible group in one locale under a shepherd. It does not illustrate anything universal at all. If someone wanted to communicate a universal concept, he would not use "flock" to do so.

In Matthew 26:31, Jesus speaks to His disciples about the night of His betrayal and quotes Zechariah 13:7 to connect this event as a fulfillment of prophecy. The Shepherd, Jesus, would be smitten, and the sheep, the disciples gathered there, would be scattered. They were an assembled group that would become unassembled. Even if we were to look at this Matthew reference as somewhat ambiguous, which it does not seem to be, we have other references to help us understand how the New Testament uses and how we should understand "flock."

Next, in the gospels one more time, Luke 10:32, Jesus again addresses His disciples as "little flock." Again we see gathered, visible, and local. We have the Shepherd, Jesus, and His flock with Him there in one place. It has all the aspects fitting of the metaphor.

In Acts 20:28-29 we are beginning to become as clear as ever. There Paul is speaking to individual pastors leading an individual church. These were not men in charge of all believers in the world. They were men who were shepherding in one location the believers that assembled there. The wolves would enter into their individual flock, and hurt the sheep that were gathered with them. They did not pastor all the sheep in the world, just the ones in their flock. A flock is again a separate church.

Acts 20:28-29, unambiguous, plain, matches up with 1 Peter 5:2-3, the final usage of "flock" in the New Testament. Peter commands pastors to "feed the flock which is among you." This is to say that there are several flocks. Each pastor is responsible for his own particular flock, not all believers in some universal, invisible, mystical flock. Flocks are separate gatherings of believers that are led by their individual pastors.

In every context of the word "flock," the metaphor speaks of an individual church, a gathering of believers. The concept of the "flock" does not back up the concept of a universal, unassembled entity at all. A flock is a church.

Taking that understanding of flock and then looking at a parallel passage, John 10, will help us to understand what Jesus talks about there. In John 10:27-29, when Jesus mentions "His sheep," who hear "His voice and follow Him," we would assume that His sheep would be a part of His flock. The term "flock" is not used in John 10, but from the other usages of "flock" in the New Testament, we would know that the way His sheep follow Him is through one of His flocks. Those outside of a church are not following Christ. They would not be His sheep. This is not to say that we are saved through church membership. It is to say that saved people will identify with Christ through baptism and by joining a "flock." There may be those who claim to be His sheep, but 1 John 2:19 says that we should not consider those not with an assembly to be "of" that assembly, that is, they would not be regarded as saved people. There is no category of unchurched saint or unflocked sheep in the New Testament.

Jesus' sheep would have a shepherd as seen in Acts 20:28-29 and 1 Peter 5:2-3. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), so it is the place of Jesus' voice. Those following Christ would be hearing His voice in the flock that He started, which is local and visible.

We can understand the unity of the flock from John 10. It comes from the voice of the Shepherd, that is, unity comes from the all the Words of the Lord Jesus Christ. We live by all the Words that proceed from the Lord's mouth (Mt 4:4). His followers as a whole, even as seen in the plural pronoun "ye" in Matthew 28:18-20, observe all the things that Jesus said. Just like Jesus came to keep all the things that the Father told Him, so do His followers. We are sanctified like Jesus was (John 17:17-19), which is by all that was commanded. Jesus said the same in John 14, when He said that those who love Him are those who keep everything that He said. The unifying factor of a church is the teaching and then practice of that church. This teaching and practice is also what separates that church from the world and from other entities or organizations with a different belief and conduct.

Those who attempt to read into the concept of "flock" a universal entity are doing just that—reading into Scripture. Instead of taking the plain meaning, they start with an ecclesiology concocted by state churchism and then try to find it in the Bible. To do so, they must pervert the doctrine of "the flock," one based upon its actual usage in God's Word. You will not find a universal church in the usage of flock in the New Testament. In one sense, if there were a universal flock, it is perpetually scattered, not at all within the Biblical understanding of a church.

In John 10:16 we read a related word, "fold." In the context, the fold is Israel. Jesus will lead His sheep out of that fold. Of course, His sheep will join His flock, but what is His flock? His flock is local and visible. That flock is made up of His sheep for sure. The New Testament teaches a regenerate membership. Churches are made up of sheep. We try to keep the wolves out (Acts 20:28-29) even though that takes the skill and labor of the pastor to do so. Gentiles would come into that flock, His church. Each of His churches is His church. Gentiles would be included in the same churches as Jews, therefore, would too be a part of His fold. That whole idea doesn't change the understanding of His flock and how it is used in the New Testament. It fits into the concept that we see also in Ephesians 2 when Paul says that the barrier had been erased between Jews and Gentiles in the church. Both would follow the Lord through His flock.

Unity is found in the flock of Christ. That flock is local and visible. It has a shepherd appointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). The flock is unified by the Word of Christ.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Since Jesus Sang In the Church, Well....

I don't think that Jay Adams believes that the church started until Pentecost, like most Protestants as himself, so how did Jesus sing in the church, as seen in Hebrews 2:12? Jay Adams uses an example of Jesus singing. OK. He sang in the church. If Jesus sang in the church, then the church was existent when He gathered with His disciples during His lifetime. If we are looking to get our doctrine only from Scripture, sole Scriptura, then the church must have begun during Jesus' lifetime before Pentecost. Let's not make this more difficult than it is.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Expecting Pastors to Pastor

Evangelicals and fundamentalists still judge success by size of congregation, even most young fundamentalists who grew up with and are critical of the Hyles movement. Their favorites pastor large churches and/or publish books. They are not evaluated mainly by whether or not they obey Scripture. Specifically, they are not judged based upon the pastoral epistles, where we learn what a pastor should do.

Do the popular evangelicals and fundamentalists submit to the teaching of the pastoral epistles in their pastoring? One would think this might be a good basis for success as a pastor. If not, then what is missing?

What do the pastor epistles instruct a pastor to do that is not the practice of many popular evangelical and fundamentalists pastors? They are often rewarded in their lack of obedience to the pastoral epistles with popularity. Others want to be like them. They got big, so they must be a success.

Have you noticed that Jesus didn't get big? He got more unpopular, despite His ability to perform jaw-dropping miracles. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:20-21:

For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.

And what about these words in 2 Timothy 1:15:

This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me.

From what we read, Paul wasn't getting bigger either. We know that many conversions could occur. We see that in Acts. However, Paul made clear that it didn't come from human ability (1 Cor 3). More ability doesn't equal more conversions.

Is it possible that the popularity and size of the most well-known evangelicals and fundamentalists happened and continued because they have not followed the pattern of pastoring that Paul has written in his pastoral epistles? They are often men with either great intellect or speaking ability or both. People like to listen to them. They're interesting. The size of their audience could parallel the size of the audience of a popular television show or sporting franchise. People join their audience because of the entertainment value. It's fun to be a part of a winning team. And then this type of "success" breeds more audience and popularity---a bandwagon effect.

We have no reason to oppose great ability, someone who can speak well or communicate difficult concepts in an interesting way. However, there is more to pastoring than that. Even if you are a talented speaker, you could become unpopular if you did what Paul did. Paul protected the church---not just by writing. He did write about it. He wrote a big chunk of the New Testament. But what he wrote about, he did. He wanted all pastors to do the same.

A pastor might be able to explain the pastoral epistles very well. But does he do them? In other words, does he pastor? Pastoring is what we see in the pastoral epistles.

I believe that many popular pastors are popular because they don't pastor. If they pastored, their popularity would diminish. Men known this. They know what obedience to the pastoral epistles would mean to their popularity. Their popularity doesn't diminish because it is more important to them than obedience to the pastoral epistles.

The popularity of the non-pastoring of the popular evangelicals and fundamentalists perpetuates the lack of pastoring of churches. Many churches have removed the idea of pastoring from the office of the pastor by calling the pastor the "teaching pastor." You might be a teacher, but you aren't a pastor if you don't obey the pastoral epistles. The desire for the office of the bishop (1 Tim 3:1) is a desire for what the pastoral epistles instruct. You aren't fulfilling the office that your title of pastor suggests if you do not follow the teaching of the pastoral epistles.

Size of the church is absent as a concern in the pastoral epistles. The priority of the pastorals is the purity of the church. We know that Jesus loves the church and wants to present it pure and spotless in the day of redemption. He wants quality in his church. Scripture is sufficient to accomplish purity, but the pastoral epistles must be obeyed.

You might think, "Well, these popular evangelical preachers and teachers do write books to help the church with its purity." The pastoral epistles do not call for book writing for church purity. I talked about this in the previous post with John MacArthur, who many across the country wish to emulate as the way to accomplish pastoring. MacArthur writes books about wrong positions on doctrine and how that belief and practice are being corrupted. Meanwhile, his own church takes up the very trendy, "purpose-driven," church-growth techniques. He needs to pastor his own church. That isn't just preparing sermons, teaching them, and having them played all over the world on radio and now television.

Paul started out his teaching to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1,

I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.

What did Paul begin with? Clean up the church you're pastoring. Charge some in your own church that they teach no other doctrine. He didn't say a thing to Timothy about making sure everyone else in the world did it a certain way.

MacArthur writes a lengthy essay against the Manhattan Doctrine. Meanwhile, that doesn't change his fellowship with those who signed the document. Paul said in Galatians, "Let them be accursed." Actually doing something about it results in unpopularity. Everybody is impressed with the civility, but how important is protecting the gospel? If you don't separate, then you aren't doing what the passages actually teach. The same goes with John Piper and his continued relations with the open theists. A well-known conservative Baptist like Mark Dever won't separate over infant sprinkling. These men write against false doctrine, but they don't do what the pastoral epistles require a pastor to do.

With everything that was important for the church to believe and do, it was to be enforced with pastoral authority. Paul writes Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:3-5:

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness. . . . from such withdraw thyself.

Then in verses 11 and 14:

But thou, O man of God, flee these things. . . . keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We see much more in 2 Timothy about the purity of the church.

2:5: If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

2:21: If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

And then in Titus:

1:5: For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting.

1:10, 11, 13: For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, . . . whose mouths must be stopped, . . . . Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.

2:15: These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.

3:10: A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject.

These three epistles direct a pastor to protect the purity of the church. Would that yield an evangelistic outcome? Yes, a genuine one, one that keeps in focus a true gospel and conduct becoming it.

The grace that brings salvation, Paul writes Titus, teaches "us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world" (Titus 2:12). Paul wants genuine conversion, not the cheap grace that manifests the worldliness rampant in the popular, even conservative, evangelical churches.

I believe we have men who would be as popular and big as MacArthur and Piper if they compromised like these men and if they weren't separatists, like these popular evangelical figures. Those faithful men have endeavored to pastor their churches, that is, maintain the purity of those churches by confronting the worldliness and corruption of them. Some of those men have intellect, talent, and ability matching or surpassing that of the popular evangelicals and fundamentalists. However, they believed early on that they would be pastors, men who would take responsibility for the purity of their churches by obeying the pastoral epistles for the greater glory of Jesus Christ. We should be judging the success of pastoring based on the criteria that God's Word provides in the three New Testament books especially for that purpose.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Church Growth Hypocrisy

John MacArthur has written several volumes exposing and refuting unscriptural church growth methodologies (Ashamed of the Gospel, Hard to Believe, Truth War, Our Sufficiency in Christ, etc.). Much of what he has written is excellent. In the last twenty years, when an unbiblical trend or fad has become popular, MacArthur has dealt with it by writing a book. Despite his professed opposition to the false doctrines and practices propagated by destructive methods, however, MacArthur sends confusing messages with the double standard set by his own church and his own lack of separation from those violating God's Word.

I thought MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos sent a heat-seeking missile into the Charismatic movement. MacArthur himself, though, does not separate from well-known Charismatic, C. J. Mahaney. He has had Mahaney preach at his own church a few times and also speaks with Mahaney in many places all over the country, cooperating with him in ministry and worship. The Bible doesn't teach anywhere to write a book about false doctrine and practice, but God's Word does tell us to separate from it. You might not sell as many books if you practice separation. This is the kind of self-denial that Jesus called for in His presentation of the gospel.

Over at Hip and Thigh, Fred Butler, a member of MacArthur's church and staff member at Grace to You, MacArthur's radio program, has written about some men who have attempted to point out apparent inconsistencies in the practices of Grace Community Church. I don't know these men and I couldn't say whether what they write about MacArthur is true or not. I don't give them any endorsement. However, Butler's blog post made me curious. These men are claiming that Grace Community is involved in Purpose Driven Church Growth ministry philosophy of Rick Warren. In summing up this methodology, Butler writes:

I can clearly see what a purpose driven ministry looks like: The watered down preaching, trendy music replacing good worship music, the emphasis on getting people to feel comfortable rather than on sound doctrinal teaching, marginalizing older saints as not having an important role to play in the life of the church, attempting to be relevant toward current cultural issues.

I want to focus on the second, third, and last of the characteristics expounded by Butler: trendy music replacing good worship music, the emphasis on getting people to feel comfortable rather than on sound doctrinal teaching, and attempting to be relevant toward current cultural issues.

The men who Butler referenced have criticized a part of Grace Community Church called "The Guild," a singles group operating within MacArthur's church. It has its own website and it is right now promoting a Christmas Concert with a group called "The Narrow Gate" with the Christian/country/pop singer, Christian Ebner. Butler defends his church by arguing that these groups by definition have a different tone than the whole church. In the advertising for this concert as a part of the marketing of the church that "The Guild" uses, they have invited the "mainstream" church to be with them for this Christmas concert.

Where in Scripture do we see the church segmented like this? Where does God's Word say that one part of the church will have a different emphasis than others or will accomplish what it does in a different way than the rest of the church? Where in the Bible does this philosophy come from? And what is tone?

Christian Ebner is trendy and anything but narrow---very much the broad road in sound and style. You can hear some of their selections at their myspace site. The music is fashioned after worldly lust. You can also see that "The Guild" is relevant in current cultural issues. And this music gets people to feel comfortable, especially unsaved people. The whole rock concert philosophy is part of the modern day church growth movement. In Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren says that choice of music is the most important trait for church growth. He advocates finding what people want to hear and giving it to them. This philosophy contradicts what the Bible teaches about worship, which is that we give God what He wants. Getting what we want and offering it to God runs mutually exclusive to scriptural worship and confuses people about this most important activity for men. This is also the direction that Grace Community takes, especially in "The Guild." Peter Masters in his own criticism of Grace Community Church describes it this way:

Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment.

If it isn't "The Guild," then it is the youth department, holding its yearly Resolved conference, which Peter Masters again explains:

Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr John MacArthur’s pastoral staff, gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. At the same time they reflect on predestination and election. . . . (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers.)

In times of disobedience the Jews of old syncretised by going to the Temple or the synagogue on the sabbath, and to idol temples on weekdays, but the new Calvinism has found a way of uniting spiritually incompatible things at the same time, in the same meeting.

God designed nothing but the same Christianity for singles as He did for everyone else in the church. This idea of customizing the church program to the unique fleshly desires of a particular age group fits the Purpose Driven profile. Grace Community Church caters to youthful lusts, exalting the wisdom of men. If church members happened to desire carnal amusement on their own, it would be one thing, but to offer it to lure them to the church property to satiate themselves is another. The flesh surely can be trusted to lust for its own delights on its own without the help of the church, couldn't it?

Is there somewhere in Scripture that says that a church should organize people's entertainment? What does mixing worldly amusement with worship do to the discernment of professing saints? It all gives the wrong view of God no matter how many passages a church exegetes. You can teach the Holy Bible, but what about holy conduct and offering up holy worship to God?

John MacArthur writes a book, Ashamed of the Gospel, and his church shows shame for biblical methods that depend on God for growth. He writes Hard to Believe, but his church wants to make it easier for the singles and youth to believe by giving them the fleshly lusts of the world. He authors Our Sufficiency in Christ, but his church puts confidence in the worldly methods to draw in new people.

Why write books that admonish everyone else about it when you are going to do it yourself? Why? People like it and it works. It doesn't glorify the Lord, but people get what they want. Why follow anything John MacArthur has written if it isn't good enough for him? It's a blatant double standard.

I can already hear the defenses. I've read them over at Pyromaniacs among other Grace Community and MacArthur apologists. The defenses are very similar to those offered in revivalist fundamentalism. The one criticizing us "has a small group of supporters." "He's a hyper fundamentalist." He's one of those "King James Only types." In other words, no substantial defense, just name-calling and blatant arrogance. There ought to be soul searching, but there is circle-the-wagons, close ranks, and often say whatever is necessary to deflect from what this is really about. These groups and their methods disobey Biblical methods, corrupt Scriptural worship, and diminish the true means of change in people's lives. They are a worldly attraction that sends the wrong message about the purpose of the church.

Know what? God is our Judge. What I've written is lightweight compared to what the Lord already knows. When there is no Scriptural defense, there should be confession and repentance. May God then have mercy on their souls.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Epistemology and the History of the Church

Epistemology is the branch of science concerned with "how we know what we know?" What can we trust as an accurate source of knowledge? Scripture is the final arbiter of all truth claims. The first verse that comes to mind is James 1:17:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

You might wonder how James 1:17 has anything to do with epistemology. From God comes what is pure and unaffected. Every other "source" has some affect of sin on it and at least the affect of something on it. You can't fully trust any other source but God, so whatever He says about anything you can trust as being the truth.

I've taught history now for 21 years. I teach history a majority of days of every year. I've also done a lot of historical reading. History is what actually happened. I want to repeat that so that you don't miss it. History is what actually happened. In the past, of course. What is written down in what are called "history books" is not always what happened. I've noticed certain trends in what men write that they call history. Men often write a history that backs their desired views of the world. The men who write the accounts of what happened are often the most powerful men at the time or those who have won the battle or the war. Often the men writing the history have an axe to grind. They many times want to make their favorite guys look better than what they were. We see the same kind of varied outlooks in those writing contemporary history. We're not far removed from Abraham Lincoln, but there are wildly different opinions about who the man was. You'll read Christians who treat him as if he were an evangelical and other types of men who revile him. We have a hard enough time getting an accurate assessment of someone still breathing, let alone someone who has been dead for a century or more.

The so-called "history of the church" was written almost completely by Roman Catholicism. How can we know that what Roman Catholic "historians" wrote was true? I go to the Bible and I find that Roman Catholicism corrupted it. They diced up Scripture and spit it back out in an unrecognizable form. I have a hard time trusting their representatives to give me an accurate account of what happened regarding the church or even Christian doctrine. I don't believe that I "know" the history of the church when I "know" what Roman Catholic historians have written.

For some, whatever was published and accepted by the authority represents the academic and scholarly position. To them, if you read what the Catholics wrote on history and doctrine, you know what Christians believed. I don't believe that. About this time, you might be beginning to see me as a bit of a conspiracy theorist. In my opinion, I'm not a theorist on this. I believe it is a fact that Satan would want men to have the wrong view of the church and doctrine, so he would like them to believe the state religion and its historians.

I have a fideistic or presuppositional epistemology (I see them as the same). I believe Scripture. God's Word speaks of the church. It talks about the perpetuity of the church. It explains the nature of the church. The church is an assembly and it has no possibility of total apostasy. We should assume that there have always been New Testament churches since the time of Christ. I don't have to have a written history to believe this. I accept it without the addition of any historic "evidence." I'm a historian who is skeptical of history. I believe that God has made me a skeptic like He does all believers. He says to them to "prove all things." I have to have real evidence, that is, the Bible.

The church should look like, well, the church. Roman Catholicism doesn't walk or talk or quack like a church. I don't see a state church in Scripture. I don't see works salvation there either. I don't see the church persecuting believers anywhere in the Bible. And then I don't see all the other fallacies propagated through the centuries by Roman Catholicism either. What is the Roman Catholic denomination today looks nothing like what I read in the truth, that is, God's Word. It is no wonder that we can read in "history" that Roman Catholicism at the Council of Toulouse (1229) told everyone they could not read the vernacular translations of the Bible. They didn't want anyone checking up on them to see the error. If they did that, some kind of reformation might take place.

Because I know what the Bible says about perpetuity of the church, I look for the record of true churches in history, those that would be independent of the corrupt state organization, Roman Catholicism. I see churches like these in history in every century. I don't know everything there is about them, because these were churches often persecuted by the government and the state religion. They didn't have the convenience of stopping to write their histories. I understand that. What you'll find is that these independent, New Testament churches were Baptist. When they came out the other side after the invention of the printing press, we see that they were Baptist churches. They were called by different names during those preceding centuries, but in the end, they were Baptist.

I feel a little sick to my stomach when I hear men say that Baptists came out of the Reformation, that is, the English separatists theory. They trace their lineage to Luther and Calvin and then to Augustine. They often have many of the same doctrines as well. And they have a more common view of the church as Roman Catholicism than those who believe either a spiritual kinship or chain-link view of church history. They often take an Augustinian view of the church and they are not so hard against infant sprinkling. They many times also believe that the truth was preserved by means of Roman Catholicism. They are often more excited about being fundamentalists than they are about being Baptist. They also might not mind getting together for the gospel and tolerate corrupt teaching and practice to do so. I don't accept this view of history because it clashes with the truth, the Bible.

I'm a Baptist because Baptists are the true churches. They are the churches which remained independent of Roman Catholicism. I'm not Protestant. I was never in Roman Catholicism in order to come out. My legacy stands in the persecuted churches, those who would not bow the knee to Rome. This truth also separates me from most of evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Fundamentalism has been a movement of interdenominational Protestants. Why be a fundamentalist when one is already a Baptist? Baptist is good enough for me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Our friend Jack Lamb is uploading the audio from the WORD OF TRUTH CONFERENCE (Nov 11-15, 2009) on to the conference website. This might take a little while, but the first teaching session is up. It is actually the third session of the four teaching sessions, the one on Romans 16:17-18 with Pastor David Sutton from our church. By tomorrow morning we will have the evening panel discussion uploaded for you to listen to.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Women Dressing Like Men?

Even the world understands that trousers are male dress.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Spirit Band at West Point

Notice the trombone right in the middle (with the music).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some Common Sense about the Fort Hood Murders

I just returned from the East Coast and we're starting the Word of Truth Conference this Wednesday evening, but I wanted to comment on the Fort Hood murders now that I'm back. I really have two major points that I want to make right now and I might make more later, but I want to penetrate through the clutter to get to what this is all about. My wife and I sat awhile in Atlanta, waiting for our plane to San Francisco. We had already flown from Portland, ME to Baltimore and then from Baltimore to Atlanta. We sat down and I plugged in my computer to recharge it before the long trip to the West Coast.

I had work to do, but I watched Lou Dobbs of CNN, which was on the flat-screen hanging from the ceiling. He had several experts of different kinds for the purpose of commenting upon the shootings and deaths at Fort Hood. I have never heard so little said with so many words. No one could say anything. Lou Dobbs didn't say anything. He hinted all around the edges of the truth with what seemed to be attempts at getting his guests to do the heavy lifting. They would not budge. Nobody was saying anything. Words, words, and more words, but nothing said. I looked around me at that gate, C-1, in the Atlanta airport, and we were rather diverse in ethnicity. In the row right in front of me and just to the left were two Arabic looking people with Islamic dress. They seemed to be giving the program their rapt attention. I would throw out questions to my wife after statements were made by folks on Dobb's panel. My voice carries, and nobody dared to look at me, it seemed. My sentences were communicating the obvious. The main theme of my retorts was the lack of truthfulness of the commentators.

I'm going to give you my two major observations, but I do have many more minor ones. One of the minor ones is that we seem to be heading toward every murder having insanity as its cause---with the rare exception of the hate crime. If a homosexual gets killed, we'll know that someone in his right mind performed the murder and he will be penalized greater than the fullest extent of the law. His motive was hate. It had to be. We can judge that a homosexual can't help but be one, and we can judge that someone that kills a homosexual could help from killing him. To some degree I could explain every murder as insanity, so every murderer could just plead insanity. Somehow in this case an insane person was able to effectively pose as a psychiatrist attempting to help soldiers with supposed psychiatric problems. He was clever enough to do that, and he showed many other signs that he thought through this for awhile in great premeditation, but we'll have to settle that he was insane.

The military psychiatrist murderer segues to another minor point---the fraudulence of psychiatry. If this guy fooled his fellow psychiatrists and if this man did not set off any buzzers with these very educated people, then this whole field should be shelved for the rest of time. They are quacks and fakes. Unfortunately, today pastors who go to the Bible to deal with people's souls are considered to be trivial, but these men can rise to the level of a Major in the Army, very high ranking, with such a bogus field of knowledge. I use the word "knowledge" loosely, sort of like I would call the city dump "art."

Alright now to my actual two major points, both to explain why this happened at Fort Hood.

1. Political Correctness Murdered the Men at Fort Hood

Everyone was afraid to point out that this man was a terrorist. Our president said, don't rush to judgment. Nobody until the after murder interviews would do or say anything seriously about a guy that was a murderous, religious fanatic, that was part of a religion that plainly teaches jihad as one of its major tenets. How many brains does it take? Almost everyone knows this. Islam did not spread by love and peace. It doesn't help its adherents. Look at the Islamic countries. I have to be honest. I respect some aspects of Islam. The term Islam means "surrender." I like the concept of surrender. I like people dedicated to their religion. This murderer was a dedicated follower of Islam. He was taking Mohammed at his example and his word. He was real. He really believes in the authority of the Koran and the teachings of his Imam. He followed through with his convictions.

Instead, we've got guys at Harvard and other Ivy League schools who will write ad infinitum, ad nauseum, about fundamentalist Christianity, how that it is dangerous in the same fashion as Islam. They've got just that kind of discernment in the most prestigious educational institutions in this country. These are the type of men that are the big culprits in this. They are also the kind of guys that are getting interviews in papers like the New York Times and MSNBC and other news and opinion outlets. They are attempting to spin this to a people that hopefully have at least a little more common sense than that.

People today are so afraid to be judged for being a racist or a bigot that they will not step up when they see something. The regular American is rendered powerless under the tyranny of political correctness. And television, people's main source of information, is a non-stop pipeline of political correctness. The only ones not tolerated are those with a point of view on the culture, that are dogmatic in judging what is true and good and beautiful, as if we do have a source of absolute truth. Our country is even making it illegal to judge. Our soldiers were conditioned to respond the way they did, to put away a protective kind of skepticism that they should have been confident in having toward a person who is Islamic. People should be wary of those who believe in Islam. They should feel comfortable watching them out of the corner of their eye.

Let's be straight about this. Just because you don't trust Islam and you are cynical about Islamic people does not mean that you are a bigot. You are using your head. You are judging correctly. It is the kind of judgment that keeps you alive. This is not a symptom that you want to kill Islamics. Have you noticed that you don't see that in this country? We don't go after people like that. But at the same time, we should have the right not to be stupid. The mainstream media and the leadership in government is expecting us to be stupid. Part of my right to pursue happiness is my right not to be stupid.

Islam wants a Moslem country. Their teachers want this to be an Islamic country. I want this to be a Christian country. So I understand their thinking. However, I do it by spreading a message. The historic way of Islam has been to spread their religion with the use of the sword. We're stupid not to take this into consideration. Have you noticed that Christianity doesn't have the same tendencies? Could you conceive of Christian or Jewish suicide bombers? I want Muslims to be converted to Christianity, but I don't want Islam to be welcome in this country.

Did you read the last statement of the previous paragraph? The true intoleristas of this country would call that bigotry. I call it good discernment. I don't want the United States to be like the Arab, Islamic countries. I don't want my leadership to coddle them and respect them.

Too many people are too afraid to speak the truth. Men would not speak up about the murderer at Fort Hood. We have created that environment in this country. In many ways, by being silent we are playing right into their hands. As a result, he had access to our soldiers, to murder them at their own base in their own country. We are paying for political correctness. When will we make it stop? When will we stop being stupid? There ought to be outrage and there ought to be outrage now! I'm hearing none. Is this really true? Are we really going to be OK with this and let Islam go scot free again? They bombed our World Trade Centers. They IED our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are planning more violence against innocent civilians all over the world. Let us please stop the stupidity!

2. Those Who Disarmed Our Soldiers on their Base Are the Culprits in these Murders

How many murders would have occurred, do you think, if everyone was packing? Do you think that this murderous Islamic terrorist would have killed 13 and wounded over thirty-five others if everyone had a side arm? Why is it that our soldiers cannot have fire arms on the base? Why did they not have them? This emboldened this terrorist. He knew he was going to get away with it because we have stupid, yes stupid again, gun laws that prohibit the carrying of fire arms.

We have an administration that is hostile to the carrying of fire arms. Our government is working at taking away guns. Do you understand that our freedom is tied into the bearing of arms and that this incident is the perfect example of that? Think of these families who are now suffering the death of their loved ones. It wouldn't have happened with most of them if they were carrying guns. It may not have happened at all.

Some talk all about the crimes committed by gun. The crimes are committed by criminals. Those criminals would be afraid if they knew that everyone else was carrying. Would I be more afraid? I recently had a friend who was threatened with violence by someone because he reported him to the police. We asked him if he was afraid at a confrontation that they had. He said, "No." Why? Because he was carrying a concealed weapon.

Normal, law-abiding citizens are afraid of guns today because of the propaganda they have been fed by the media and the educational institutions. The second amendment protects the citizens of the United States from a tyrannical government. We should be thankful for this right in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution. Most citizens don't carry guns because they are scared of them and frightened from possessing them, fearful of their own government and what the state might do to them because they want to carry a gun.

Even writing this particular blog has me thinking that I might be marked in some way by this government. They may red flag me and cause me some problems. We are to the point where we are not sure at least. I'm still thankful for living in the home of the free, but I understand that political enemies are looking to target people who write against their cause. They have such control over people with their propaganda that most wouldn't even care if an individual citizen suffered at their hands because of his position. In other words, they think they can get away with it. I think our government should be respecting its citizens. We need to let them know that they don't have to have those positions. We can put them out with our vote.

So two points. Political correctness. The right to bear arms. The story of Fort Hood.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

November West Point Visit

I'm at West Point. Last night my wife and I saw our son for the first time since June 29th, when we dropped him off on "R" Day (reception day). The picture to your left is the barracks from the plain. We got up early today, 3am California time, to see the breakfast formation on the plain.

We flew Southwest, Oakland to Midway--Chicago to Hartford, rented a car, got here at 9pm (were inspected three times, got out to open the trunk twice), and are staying at military lodging on post. We'll start driving to Maine later tonight to be at the 10th anniversary for Pastor Bobby Mitchell. Our son could visit us here on post, which made this super convenient. We picked him up by the plain. It was nice to see him again.

More later.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

West Point on CNN

CNN visited West Point. At 20 seconds into the video, you'll see someone very familiar in the middle of the class, back row, with glasses. They visited his math class. He did an 18.6 mile ruck march on Saturday in a storm. (Get a load of the Navy professor at 2:20 and what he says about diversity.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When A Classification Slanders

In the summer of 2009 at a Bible faculty summit for fundamentalist Bible college and seminary faculties, Jeff Straub read a paper entitled "The Fundamentalist Challenge for the 21st Century: Do We Have a Future?" in which he attempted to classify segments or branches of fundamentalism by assigning characteristics with certain titles for each branch (you can read it here and here). With his essay came a chart he titled, "The Broad Theological Landscape of the 21st Century --- A Working Taxonomy," with contributions from Kevin Bauder, Dan Brown, and Jon Pratt. His three classifications for fundamentalists were Hyper Fundamentalism, New Image Fundamentalism, and Historic Fundamentalism.

What is the purpose of these three classifications for fundamentalists? What I can surmise is that he wants everyone to know that he and his friends represent historic fundamentalism. The paper really is not to establish who is obedient to God and the Bible, but who are the real fundamentalists. Why is this important? Um. I don't know. I don't think God cares at all, but this is a big deal to fundamentalists, it seems, because they are regularly speaking in these taxonomies and classifications. It reminds me of what I do every year when I'm doing my taxes and I'm working at aligning myself with the sweetest spot tax-wise for my family and me. These fundamentalists place themselves in the sweet spot and the others outside of it.

Another reason someone like Straub, who has put himself in the Historic Fundamentalist category, would be interested in drawing up these classifications would be to combat some of the work that has been done by the New Image Fundamentalists (which would include several that many are calling "the young fundamentalists) to include the Evangelical Right in the column of Historic Fundamentalism. The New Image guys see an "emerging middle," as noted by Straub in his chart, that would include conservative evangelicals as fundamentalists. Not only would this allow the young fundamentalists to be a part of the big and famous boys of conservative evangelicalism (Piper, MacArthur, Carson, Dever, Mohler), but it would give them cover for making this move, some sort of fundamentalist legitimacy.

Of course, from my perspective, I wonder why it matters to be a fundamentalist. I've been asking this for a long time. Why isn't it good enough to be a church? Why isn't Baptist good enough? What about a saint? I don't consider myself a fundamentalist, so I'm attempting to help out men like Straub, which would allow them to have that term all to themselves. However, in Straub's classification system, I likely can't avoid still being a fundamentlist, because I would have to be a Hyper Fundamentalist. This is not a good thing to be on his chart.

So I look at the chart to see who I would be. It is, after all, a Hyper Fundamentalist, that is, what Clarence Sexton, David Cloud, and D. A. Waite are, according to the Straub lay-out. I'm pretty familiar with D. A. Waite and David Cloud and Clarence Sexton. Shouldn't Jack Schaap be in there too? And Paul Chappell? And Pensacola Christian College? Maybe it would have looked too bad for Cloud and Waite to have lumped those men in there too. So we get the strange bed fellows of Cloud, Waite, and Sexton. I think we all know what has those men in common---the King James Version. Why not just have that column have one thing under it---KJVO---and he would have been done?

But according to the chart, that's not all that they have in common. And just as a reminder, I'm sure that Straub would be put me in the Hyper Fundamentalist category too. He says that they are strongly anti-calvinist. I don't know what that is, because I know that historic Baptists, according to John T. Christian's History of Baptists, have been more Calvinist than Arminian. That doesn't sound too strongly anti-Calvinist. And doesn't Clarence Sexton have Ian Paisley there on campus to speak? Doesn't he associate himself with all things Spurgeon in almost everything that he publishes? Does D. A. Waite push anti-Calvinism? Those are the names that he used.

But the anti-Calvinism is a relatively minor one. Next the Hyper Fundamentalists elevate orthopraxy over orthodoxy. Wow! Maybe Sexton, but not Cloud, and especially not Waite. And as for me, well, I would guess that Central and Straub are more revivalistic than I am, placing more emphasis on pragmatics than I would. Then the chart says that Hyper Fundamentalists over emphasize a separation which is unrelated to church discipline. I know quite a few that he would place in this category would not practice church discipline. Cloud and Waite, two of the three names he mentions, believe in it and practice it. The churches I'm in fellowship with practice it. And we all see our separation relating to church discipline.

Next on the chart for the Hypers is that they separate from other fundamentalists. True. But it's not like these separatists choose out fundamentalists as some special group. I would think that Cloud and Waite, and I know it is true for me, would separate based on what Scripture said irregardless of whether the person or church thought himself to be a fundamentalist. My experience has been that historic fundamentalist churches will welcome people that we have disciplined from our church based on the passages on church discipline, and they don't give me so much as a phone call. I've also noticed that it comes back to haunt them, but they still have done it nonetheless. I would not do that to them. When I asked one pastor why he did that, he told me it was because I was KJVO. There we go.

Straub and company next include this as a characteristic of the Hypers, which include Cloud and Waite---they use a "mixture of old Gospel and Southern Gospel music, some CCM." It's pretty easy to find that Cloud rejects Southern Gospel. He has written and spoken about it extensively---you can get the articles and the DVDs where he has. I would think that Waite, a BJU graduate, does not use Southern Gospel either. That leaves Sexton, which does use Southern Gospel, but the other two are against it.

Then the Hyper Fundamentalists expand the central core of fundamentals beyond the "five," as well as "extraneous issues --- e. g. Bible versions" as a basis for separation. You could just call this practicing what the New Testament teaches on separation. This isn't a slander against these men, because it might be the one that is the most accurate of all his 'scholarly' classifying.

Next is topical preaching. Waite rarely does topical preaching. I preach almost exclusively expository, as do pastors I am friends with. Straub says concerning his group, the historic fundamentalists, "Some good expository preaching." It's not only not topical, but it is good expository preaching. I grew up in what Straub calls "historic fundamentalism" and I rarely heard an expository sermon, so it is not entirely historic. Now it is more of an emphasis in churches everywhere. This is not necessarily with thanks to historic fundamentalism, but let us all be glad for this development. However, to across-the-board say that the Hypers do topical preaching isn't true.

In his group, Straub includes Tim Jordan, Matt Olson, Mark Minnick, David Doran, Kevin Bauder, John Hartog 3, and Chuck Phelps. Those were likely the guys represented at the meeting he was making his presentation. You weren't going to get too much of a protest from them. Of course they don't separate too much or too little. They separate just right. Why? Because they are willing to compromise more on the "non-essentials." We're supposed to see that makes them better. They may have allowed Uzzah to live.

But I titled this post, "When a Classification Slanders." To include Cloud and Waite in a presentation that smears them with certain characteristics that they don't have is slander. No explanation is given. It is just put out there with those inaccuracies for people to assume that these qualities characterize these two men. I've tried to give my point of view on Straub's blog at Central, but they wouldn't allow it. He's welcome to come here and tell me how he hasn't slandered anybody. That's called "due process," by the way.(1)

What brings these two together is their support of the KJV---that's it. So again, the KJV position really is the determining factor here, since half of the other characteristics don't even describe them. The chart would have been a little boring and sort of thoughtless if it had one point under Hyper Fundamentalists: KJVO. Cloud and Waite are living men, men who are saved. I don't think Straub is questioning that. But they are men who should not be slandered by him.

(1) I received an email from a source I shall not name who informed me that everyone in the group of "Historic Fundamentalists" he lists were not there. I want everyone to know that. So he was not influenced by their presence. What I was saying was that there is acceptance from the people to whom you are making this presentation. I'm not against some judging of motives, as long as I'm careful with the wording---which I was. I have mentioned in the comment section that he leaves out the New Image Fundamentalists, except for a Stephen Davey with a question mark, so he had the ability to leave people out. If he was really looking for men who represented his qualities of Hyper Fundamentalists, he missed them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Word of Truth Conference Site

As many of you know by now, we've got a conference here at our church November 11-15, Wed-Sun, called the Word of Truth Conference. My friend Jack Lamb has created a website to be home base online for the conference here. Feel free to bookmark it along with my blog and the church blog.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

How Much Should Church Leadership Be Involved In Governmental or Political Matters?

Along with most of my friends, I believe that America has reached an all time low in the way of moral decline and spiritual discernment. While we are going about doing ministry in and through the church, it seems that the coverage and the most tangible impact in those areas that distress us the most and stem the flood from a stinking cesspool are those who organize in patriotic meetings and political protests. What should Christians do to help halt the advancement of this world's agenda against God? Many believe that the best solutions rest in political activism, boycotts, and public meetings.

As I look on at this as an American citizen, I understand their rationale. I sympathize with their feelings. Evil is disfiguring our society. All Christians should oppose the policies that drive the destructive trends. I'm on the side of those in opposition to the government that voice out their objections to corrupt government positions. I have strong opinions about how our government should operate, I think I'm right, and I believe I can prove it through scripture and history. From teaching American Government, I know the constitution better than most.

The question I ask is not what position should I take or who do I support. The question is: "Is this how a church and church leadership should be investing its energies?" I've taught history for 20 years. I am able to influence students in a scriptural view of the world about 200 days a year in our school. I want them to know how to vote and what it is that a citizen of this country should do to influence his government. I think every American citizen should know these things. But should a church leadership be using its time to sway American voters and organize conservatives to support conservative issues? I'm asking just so that we would think about it.

I believe that for us it is a matter of first diagnosing the problem. I believe that the biggest problem we have is not with the world. It is with professing Christians. That's why I write very little about government on this blog. I believe that the unscriptural beliefs and practices of churches are what hurts this country the most. I do believe that 2 Chronicles 7:14 does apply here, that is, that it is God's people that need to humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways. God didn't ask how many unrighteous there were in Sodom and Gomorrha, but how many righteous were there.

The religious right in Jesus' day were the Pharisees. They were also His biggest enemies. Don't get me wrong. I believe Jesus would be a conservative today. However, I don't think He or the Apostle Paul would be having anything to do with political rallies and organizing opposition to government policy. And yes, I've read Anita Dunn's Mao's-my-favorite-philosopher-speech. I know who President Obama has in his administration. No, I don't like it. But we don't have to guess what Jesus would do. We know what He did and that's what we're supposed to do. He and Paul had much greater difficulties with their government than we.

There are some temporal, superficial benefits to using the democratic process to oppose immoral practices. I often point to John Leland's heroic organization of Virginia's Baptist pastors for the inclusion of freedom of religion in the bill of rights. I would have had a lot in common with those Baptists. This, however, cannot become the church's main strategy for influencing a nation. And I do believe times have changed. There were enough good churches to affect the Constitution of the United States without having to compromise what those men believed about the Bible. I don't want anything to do with most people in the moral majority.

I'm afraid that the political issue has become a bit of a fake issue with many. It replaces the real issue. It's not hard to talk about what bothers you about the national debt or uncontrolled spending or government control of the healthcare industry or homosexual marriage. What about the issue of our own lack of devotion to God? What about our relative disinterest in spiritual things? What about our seeming indifference about the eternal destiny of our fellow man? You might seem like you care about morality when you're fired up about coddling terrorists, but you really are straining at a gnat in this instance. That's when we might say that we've gone from preachin' to meddlin'.

Our best weapon is still evangelism. Our best work is still preaching. The Bible is a spiritual weapon, powerful to the pulling down of strongholds in people's minds. Moral and legislative efforts that leave people in unbelief cause almost no eternal good. I'm afraid in the process that we could cause others to look to the wisdom of men for a solution at the loss of the glory of God.

I'm certainly open to correction on this.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Complicating Evangelism

I was talking to someone recently about evangelism. He said that he had talked to a pastor who had studied this out and found that door-to-door, the cold call, was the sixth best way of evangelism. The pastor had gone to some sales classes and took what he learned and developed a formula of how to locate the best contacts and then how to keep them warm until they finally are saved. The formula required a certain number of connections with the contact, including a specific number of visits. In the end, more people would be converted if the formula was followed.

As he was talking to me, my mind was wandering to scripture and the whole point of evangelism. Let me give you my formula. Preach it to everyone. Get the gospel to as many people as possible. Go to everyone to bring the gospel, so that no one is missed. That is what I see in Scripture. It is all I see in the Bible. I should love the people I'm preaching to. I should want them to be saved. I should want to live in accordance with the God about Whom I'm preaching, so that my testimony won't hinder the meaning of the Words I'm proclaiming. I can't talk them into it though. I can't warm them into it. The gospel is going to do everything for the salvation to occur. I don't have any special love for door-to-door. I see the example of it in scripture. I don't believe there is any more effective way for people to be saved than just preaching it.

My theology is repulsed by the conversation represented by the first paragraph. I hear the words being said and I can't wrap my brain around them. Why? Salvation is a supernatural work of God. Salvation comes from the gospel. The gospel is a message from the Bible. The salvation doesn't come from human effort. It is not by the will of man. I believe these types of formulas just confuse that issue. They make the salvation of souls about the wisdom of men.

I don't know who will want to hear the gospel and who will not. My responsibility is to preach it. If I preach the gospel to everyone, I have fulfilled my role in the work of salvation. When I don't preach it, I don't complete that responsibility.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Ancient Greece rose out of the earliest cultures of Europe around the shores and islands of the Aegean Sea. Long before Homer, ancestor worship made family ties very strong and after that the families came together to form tribes and then villages. Villages joined to form the polis, city, from which our word "politics" comes. The government of these Greek city states was called ekklesia, assembly, the town meeting. The first known assembly was held as early as the reign of Draco in 621 B.C. At each meeting of the assembly certain topics were discussed and voted on. The assembly would also gather in cases of emergency and in cases of trials of law in which the assembly became a jury. Votes were taken by a tally of hands raised. After being tallied the majority decision ruled and carried.

Throughout the Greek world right down to New Testament times (see Acts 19:39), ekklesia was the designation of the whole body of citizens in a free city-state, "called out of" (ek--out of, klesia--called) their homes by the kerux, the herald, for the discussion and decision of public business. Translators of the Hebrew Old Testament used ekklesia to render the Hebrew qahal, which means "congregation." We see Stephen in Acts 7:38 call the Old Testament congregation of Israel the "ekklesia in the wilderness."

Jesus thought the same about ekklesia. Ekklesia occurs only twice in the gospels. It is clear from the second usage in Matthew 18:15-20 that Jesus had in mind an almost identical meaning to the historic usage of the word. He used ekklesia like the people hearing him in that day would have understood the word. It was a congregation possessing powers of self-government in which questions of discipline were to be decided by the collective judgment of members.

The only other times after Matthew 18 that we see Jesus speak of the ekklesia are the nineteen occasions in Revelation 1-3 in which in each case is a distinctly local, functioning, and organized assembly of people. Those attempting to discern a definition of ekklesia based on His usage of the word would see it as something like the governments of the ancient Greek city states. The major differentiating factor was that these assemblies to which He referred were His assemblies, now sacred not secular. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said that that He would build "my assembly" differentiating it from the then congregation of Israel and the secular Greek town meeting.

If I said that Greek cities operated with the government of the city-state, no one would assume that there was only one. They would assume that each city had its own town meeting. When Jesus said He would build up (oikodomeo, "edify") His ekklesia, we should not assume that He meant that there was or would be only one in number either. His ekklesia would be how the Lord Jesus Christ would operate on earth until He left and after He was gone.

Hebrews 2:12 accounts for the ekklesia of Jesus functioning while He was still on earth and not yet ascended into heaven, when it says: "Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." Jesus sang in the ekklesia. He could not have done that if His ekklesia had not yet started. He was not standing in the midst of every believer on earth.

When the Lord Jesus incorporated the term ekklesia, He took a word with distinctly local and visible connotation. He sanctified it for His own use, but He did not give it a whole different meaning. The word excludes anything broader than a meeting or gathering. The concept of universal or global contradicts the meaning of the word. If Jesus wanted His governing institution on earth to have some larger context than local, he could have used "kingdom" or "family" or "nation" or "empire" or "state." But He didn't. He used ekklesia.

In both 1 Corinthians 1:2 and 2 Corinthians 1:1, Paul writes: "unto the church of God which is at Corinth." To make the ekklesia something more than local only deviates from the meaning of the word. An ekklesia must be at some local context---city, town, village, area. All believers did not reside in the city of Corinth. Paul wrote to the church at Colossae and he told that church to pass that letter along to the church of the Laodiceans, seeing that those were two separate churches (Colossians 4:16). Paul wrote to the church of the Thessalonians (1 & 2 Thessalonians 1:1). He said that the bishop, the pastor, is to "take care of the church of God" (1 Timothy 3:5). One man isn't responsible to take care of all believers on earth. At the end of 2 Timothy, the afterwords say that Timothy, to whom 1 Timothy 3:5 was written, was "ordained the first bishop of the church of the Ephesians."

A church is local only because that is what ekklesia, the word translated "church," means. I'm not trotting out landmarkism or Baptist bride-ism. Those who make ekklesia anything other than local only are reading something into the word that isn't there. It never has been.

Monday, October 12, 2009

King James Version: Elizabethan English?

I wanted to explore the idea about whether the King James Version actually was Elizabethan English. Elizabethan, of course, refers to Queen Elizabeth, who reigned until she died in 1603. To understand what was the language of the day, we should consider the writings of William Shakespeare, who died in 1616. The last of Shakespeare's works to be printed were finished in 1609. So Shakespeare wrote in "Elizabethan English." The translators were done with the KJV in 1611. Shakespeare's works are still being performed all over the English speaking world and hold up in attracting an audience. People still go to watch Shakespeare.

You can see all of Shakespeare's works online here. The first work that you can click on happens to be his comedy, All's Well That Ends Well.
That title sounds like a familiar modern colloquialism, doesn't it? Here's the first substantial line in scene one from that Shakesperean play:

You shall find of the king a husband, madam; you,
sir, a father: he that so generally is at all times
good must of necessity hold his virtue to you; whose
worthiness would stir it up where it wanted rather
than lack it where there is such abundance.

I don't see "thou" or "thee" in that passage. It looks like "you," "you," and "you." Here is the first line from Act I, Scene II, of The Comedy of Errors:

Therefore give out you are of Epidamnum,
Lest that your goods too soon be confiscate.
This very day a Syracusian merchant
Is apprehended for arrival here;
And not being able to buy out his life
According to the statute of the town,
Dies ere the weary sun set in the west.
There is your money that I had to keep.

Again, we see "you," "your," and "your." Where is the "thou" and the "thy" and the "thee"? I see a "give," a "buy," and a "set," instead of a "givest," "buyest," and "settest." Well. I move to the history category and click on The Life of King Henry the Fifth and paste for you a lengthy line by the Canterbuy in Act I, Scene I:

Hear him but reason in divinity,
And all-admiring with an inward wish
You would desire the king were made a prelate:
Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs,
You would say it hath been all in all his study:
List his discourse of war, and you shall hear
A fearful battle render'd you in music:

I read "you," "you," "you," and "you." No thou or thee. Now tragedy and Romeo and Juliet. Here's some text from Act I, Scene I:


No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir.


Do you quarrel, sir?


Quarrel sir! no, sir.


If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.

Again, I see a "you," "you," "you," "you," and "you." For instance, in the line by Gregory, I don't read, "Dost thou quarrel, sir?" Not there.

This is enough of a sample size for me to see that Elizabethans didn't talk and then Shakespeare most often did not write like the English we read in the King James Version. And the works that I chose were written before the King James Version was written. They are more ancient English than the King James.You will read that what you are reading in the King James is Elizabethan English. Someone wrote: "The King James Version was produced in the Elizabethan period of Early Modern English, and so it uses forms of the verbs and pronouns that were characteristic of that period." When you read Shakespeare, you are reading Elizabethan English and you do not read the same language as the King James Version. So the above quote is not true.

This didn't take deep research and study. We can know this kind of information very easily. We have no reason to be ignorant about it. The King James translators didn't write words like "dost" and "thy" and "thou" and "taketh" because that is how people spoke at that time. For the most part, they didn't. So what is the King James Version style all about? What were the King James translators trying to do? I believe that Steven Houck gets it right and says it as well as I would want to say it when he writes these four paragraphs:

They were so concerned about it that they even took over the very phraseology of the Hebrew and Greek. We find in our Bibles, all kinds of Hebrew expressions and concepts that are not natural to the English way of speaking. In fact, it can even be said that the English of the King James Version is not the English of the 17th century, nor of any century. It is an English that is unique, for it is Biblical English-an English formed by the Hebrew and Greek of the Bible. It is Biblical English because the translators were more interested in being faithful to the originals than in making their translation in the street language of the day, as do translators today.

That they sought an accurate translation is further indicated by the fact that they italicized every word that did not have a corresponding word in the original. How many modern Bible versions do that? Moreover, to insure the fact that the reader understands the meaning of certain original words, they added 4,223 marginal notes that gave the literal meaning of the original words, and 2,738 notes with alternate translations. The result is that in the King James Version we have an accurate translation that puts the others to shame.

A Majestic Translation

In the third place we must note the fact that the translators gave the King James Version a majestic quality that raises it high above all other translations. They recognized God to be GOD-a God of glory and majesty. Therefore, they were careful to translate His Word in such a way that it would be filled with His majesty. That is another reason why the English of the King James Version is not the English of the 17th century. The translators deliberately chose words and phases that were no longer used in general conversation even in their day in order that they might set this book apart from all others. All you have to do is compare the language of the dedication to King James in the front of your Bible with the Bible itself and you will see the difference immediately.

Many tell us that the King James Version is no longer useful because its language has become obsolete, but what they do not realize is that its language is not a type of English that was ever spoken anywhere. Oh, it was such that the people could understand it, but it was, nevertheless, a particular language deliberately chosen to make the King James Version a version that reflects the reverence and respect which is due unto its Divine Author. In that respect, they succeeded too, for there is no version that even comes close to the beauty and majesty of the King James Version.

Our culture doesn't think like this today. I believe it is a problem when we start talking about translations that we are so obsessed with the ease for men, rather than translating the Bible in a respectful, elevating fashion out of reverence for God. We don't have that type of formal language today. Anyone interested in what I'm talking about should read John McWhorter's Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music. At the end of the first chapter McWhorter writes:

A society that cherishes the spoken over the written, whatever it gains from the warm viscerality of unadorned talk, is one that marginalizes extended, reflective argument. Spoken language, as I will show in the first chapter, is best suited to harboring easily processible chunks of information, broad lines, and emotion. To the extent that our public discourse leans ever more toward this pole, the implications for the prospect of an informed citizenry are dire. The person who only processes information beyond their immediate purview in nuggets is not educated in any meaningful sense. On the contrary, this person is indistinguishable in mental sophistication from the semiliterate Third World villager who derives all of their information about the world beyond via conversation and gossip. And a culture that marginalizes the didactic potential of written-style language in favor of the personal electricity of spoken language is one whose media becomes ever more a circus of personalities rather than a purveyor of information and guide to analysis.

As I write this, I already hear the Tyndale quote being thrown at us, that we need a Bible that even the plowboy can understand. Plowboys didn't know Latin, the language of scholarship. Tyndale wasn't saying that the Bible should be translated into plowboy rhetoric or tongue. No way. He was saying that the English needed a Bible in their own language---English.

I write this post because of major disinformation on a widespread level about the nature of the King James English. It is not Elizabethan English. When you hear that, understand that it isn't true. It was written in a kind of English especially for the Bible itself that would give us the best possible representation of Holy Scripture in the English language.