Friday, December 30, 2011

Spirit Baptism—the Historic Baptist View, part 11; Alleged Reference in 1 Corinthians 12:13, part 2

An advocate of the UCD view might allege that the use of “we” in 1 Corinthians 12:13 demonstrates that Paul was claiming to be part of the same body as the Corinthians, thus validating the UCD asseveration that the body of Christ is all believers worldwide.  However, there is no reason to conclude that Paul’s “we” means that the apostle was part of the same body as the Corinthian church.  Paul had been water baptized into one local body, just as the Corinthians had been immersed into one local body.  A Baptist pastor who holds to local-only ecclesiology can easily say to Baptist brethren from other assemblies, “we have all been baptized into one body,” because all those he addressed had indeed been immersed into the membership of the several churches in view.  No implication that the various Baptist churches were truly one big church made up of all of the churches put together would follow from such a statement.  Why then would Paul’s “we [are] all baptized into one body” do so?  Cannot Paul identify himself with his readers in such a manner in 1 Corinthians 12:13?  Does he not identify with his audience in this way with some frequency in his epistles?

Even if one did not accept the explanation above for Paul’s we in 1 Corinthians 12:13, a speaker or writer may at times employ we without including himself.  A teacher in a classroom might say to his students, “If we break the rules, we will be in big trouble,” but he clearly addressed the students alone in such a situation.  A fundamentalist preacher may say, “If we do not get saved, we will go to hell,” but one certainly hopes that he does not make such a statement because he is himself yet unconverted.  Such a sense of we has New Testament support.  The use of the first person plural pronoun in 1 Corinthians 12:13 does not prove that the verse refers to a universal, invisible church.

Paul’s use of both “we” and “body” in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 refer back to the usage of 1 Corinthians 10:16-17: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”  The thematic connection between 1 Corinthians 12:13, a verse (as explicated below) about unity around the church ordinances, including the Supper, as expressed by “drink into one Spirit,” and 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, the previous passage about unity around the Supper that begins Paul’s discussion of this topic (as elaborated in more depth in chapter 11), is confirmed by the linguistic connection through the use of “cup” and “made drink,” the repeated “one,” “body,” “we all,” and the phrases referring to the unity of the many (ho polloi) into one.  1 Corinthians 10:16-17 provides a strong precontext for the use of “we” in 1 Corinthians 12:13.  However, in 10:16-17 the singular “the cup” and “the bread” do not establish that every member of the Corinthian assembly, along with the apostle Paul, together broke only a single piece of bread into tiny pieces, and all drank out of only a single cup, when they took the Lord’s supper together (so that Paul, although not present with them, still drank from the same cup as the Corinthians and ate the same piece of bread).  Rather, the words emphasize the generic category of “bread” and “cup” in connection with the generic Greek article.  One who wished to deny the categorical or generic use of the articular words “bread” and “cup” would also, for consistency, also need to affirm that the assembly used the same loaf of bread every time they celebrated communion, in light of the customary present tense verbs employed in 10:16-17 to indicate the repeated, continuing action of the celebration of the Supper.  It would be a wonder indeed, on this view, that the one piece of bread eaten by every member of the congregation every time the Supper was celebrated never was used up—it must have been exceedingly large to start out with and required a very large oven to bake.  As “the bread” did not indicate that there was only one piece of bread—and certainly not a universal, invisible piece of bread—no more does “the body” of 1 Corinthians 12:13 indicate a solitary body, much less a universal, invisible body for Christ—the nouns “bread,” “cup,” and “body” are all generic nouns.  Likewise the uses of “we” in both 10:16-17 and 12:13 are generic references indicating what typically happened in the congregation at Corinth.  The “we” of 10:16 did not require that every member of the Corinthian church was present and participated every time the Supper was celebrated—some were doubtless not in the assembly on any given occasion because of sickness, travel, or other such reasons, some who were holding on to sin had no right to partake, and Paul, who wrote the “we,” was not in Corinth at all.  If the “we” in 10:16-17 (and in the very closely related reference to the Supper in 12:13 in “we . . . have been made to drink”) does not even require the inclusion of every member of the Corinthian assembly, how much less does it require the inclusion of the apostle Paul?  Was Paul present with the church at Corinth, and thus included in the “we . . . break . . . bread” of 10:16-17, every time that assembly celebrated communion?  If not, how can the “we [are] . . . one body” of 10:17 or the “we” and “body” of 12:13 establish that Paul and the Corinthian church members were part of the same church body, a supposed universal, invisible church which cannot be exegetically established from the meaning of the word ekklesia, the clear use of the body metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12:13-27 for the particular, local assembly, and any reasonable understanding of the necessarily localized nature of a body?  The we in both 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 and 12:13 simply establishes that the respective actions indicated in the respective passages were going on among the Corinthians and with the apostle Paul.  The word emphasizes the fellowship around the church ordinances among the members of the church at Corinth in both passages.

One cannot affirm that Christ has both a universal, invisible body and a local, visible one, and that 1 Corinthians 12:13 speaks of the universal body but 12:27 of the local one, since the metaphor of the body of Christ is not bifurcated—Christ has but one body (Ephesians 4:4), the congregation, not two radically different types of bodies, a local, visible one and a universal, invisible one.  Additionally, even if Scripture taught—which it does not—the existence of a universal body of Christ, it would be impossible to contextually support a universal reference in 1 Corinthians 12:13.  Where in the flow of v. 13-27 would Paul change from speech about the allegedly universal body of Christ to the local body clearly in view in v. 27?  What part of the body metaphor in v. 14-26 is local, and which universal?  No acceptable answer exists. The fact that there is but one type of body of Christ, and the unity of 1 Corinthians 12:13-27, obliterates the UCD view of 1 Corinthians 12:13.

1 Corinthians 12:27 defines the body of Christ as an ecclesiological metaphor, but the UCD makes the body of Christ soteriological.  The UCD view thus confuses ecclesiology and soteriology.  This fits in with the historical development of the universal church doctrine;  post-apostolic, proto-Popish apostasy from the faith developed the ideas of a universal or catholic church and the related idea encapsulated in the Cyprianic formulation Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, “Outside the church there is no salvation.”  The Protestant movement transferred the notion of the essentiality of church membership to salvation from the visible universal (catholic) church concept of Rome to the allegedly invisible universal church, a view adopted by UCDs in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Historic Baptists, following Scripture, reject entirely the notion that there is no salvation outside of the church, maintaining rather that one must be saved before he can properly join the local, visible congregation, the only church that exists, and that salvation is not conjoined to membership in either a universal visible or invisible church since such concepts are not taught in the Bible.  The confusion of ecclesiology and soteriology involved in the UCD view of 1 Corinthians 12:13, but avoided in the historic Baptist view of the text, demonstrates the superiority of the latter.

The first commentary we have on the Corinthian epistles, 1 Clement, written by the pastor of the church at Rome to the Corinthian church around the turn of the 1st century, understands the metaphor of the church as “body” in a local sense, not a universal one (37:5; 38:1; 46:7).  Contrary to later patristic baptismal regeneration, universal ecclesiology, hierarchicalism, works salvation, and other grievous heresies, Clement’s epistle evidences local-only ecclesiology, congregational church government, the unity of the office of presbyter/bishop, justification by faith, and other Baptist doctrines.  Thus, the earliest known historical commentary on the body metaphor, composed only decades after Paul wrote his epistle, supports the historic Baptist view of the body metaphor against the UCD position.

The fact that the church of Christ is only a local, visible institution, the fact that the body of Christ metaphor throughout the New Testament is employed for the particular congregation, the immediate context in 1 Corinthians 12, the nullification of the Scriptural doctrine of separation involved in the UCD position, the fact that there is but one type of church body, the confusion of soteriology and ecclesiology involved in the UCD doctrine, and the evidence of 1st century extra-canonical Christian understanding of the body metaphor all tell heavily against the UCD view of 1 Corinthians 12:13.  Certain of these evidences, of themselves, make the UCD view of the verse entirely impossible.  Furthermore, alleged proof of the UCD view from the use of we in the verse falls very short. 1 Corinthians 12:13 cannot teach that the Holy Spirit baptizes people into the universal, invisible body of Christ because there is no universal, invisible body of Christ.  The UCD view does not affirm that the Spirit baptizes people into the membership of local assemblies, but the body of 1 Corinthians 12:13 is the local, visible congregation.  Thus, the UCD view is not taught in 1 Corinthians 12:13. The historic Baptist understanding of the verse avoids all the problems in the UCD position and gives a satisfactory and consistent understanding of 1 Corinthians 12.

Note that this complete study, with all it parts and with additional material not reproduced on this blog in this series,  is available by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Who's Worse?

Being completely objective, I think Maher wiped up O'Reilly. By the way, if I had my choice to watch either, it would be O'Reilly by far. I can't stomach Maher at all.

O'Reilly starts by taking a shot at Maher because no one watches his show. That was his best point and it goes down hill from there. And Maher's answer was perfect for O'Reilly---say nothing, show no emotion, just a blank look on your face, like he said nothing.

I saw this clip in an opinion column about a tweet that Maher made about Tim Tebow. However, the discussion is about peoples' ideas about solving the deficit. Maher, it seems, said that the American people were stupid. At about 1:10, it becomes a religious discussion, when Maher backs his claim that the American people are generally stupid because 60% of them believe the Noah's ark story.

O'Reilly is obviously out of his league here, because he says he knows no one that believes the Noah's ark story. That seems like a lie (or a spin, if you put it like O' Reilly would). And then he said he read that they found Noah's ark on a mountain in Turkey. OK, that sounded like he might want to defend the flood account. But he said it with a teasing smile on his face, like he didn't believe it himself. But Maher didn't answer that one, told him just to go down the hall at Fox news to find people who do believe in Noah's ark (Jesus believed it, of course).

Then Maher makes a good point at about 1:35---"that's in your Bible." Good one. If it is in the Bible, why doesn't O'Reilly believe that if he is a Christian? And then Maher, asked, "if you're a religious person and the Bible is written by God, why isn't -- why is stuff in the Bible untrue?" At 1:45, O'Reilly answers, "Well, because it's allegorical, Bill. I'm sure you know -- I'm sure you know it's allegorical, and these are parables. They're designed to -- to teach you a greater truth that apparently has eluded you. You know, it's not a literalist interpretation, the Bible."  Bill says the Bible is an allegory. And that part, the part about the Noah and the ark and the flood, is conveniently an allegory, despite the fact that Jesus said it wasn't one (Matthew 12:40).

Maher answers, "I thought it was the Word of God. I thought it was literal, and a lot of religious people do." And we believe it is literal too. And then he asks, "OK, what about the part in the Bible that says if you see your neighbor working on a Sunday, you should kill him? Is that a parable or is that literal?" There Maher becomes loony (well, loonier). No verse in the Bible prohibits working on Sunday. That shows the ignorance of Maher (who is half Jewish). But O'Reilly wouldn't have corrected that. No verse says that if you see your neighbor working on a Sabbath, you can kill him. None.

O'Reilly is right to ask for a passage that backs up what Maher says, because none does. O'Reilly though says 'what parable?' not 'what passage?' Maher correctly says that it is "a law." And Maher pulls out "Deuteronomy" at the 2:18 point. He wasn't referring to anything in Deuteronomy, but what is in Exodus 31:14-15 and 35:2, the latter of which says:

Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. 

The seventh day is Saturday, not Sunday, and someone doesn't kill his neighbor for doing it.

Maher continues with, "But if it's your perfect holy book written by God, why is there stuff in there that makes no sense or is immoral?"  No one can judge morality without starting with objective truth or even laws of logic, which one cannot without starting with God.  If everything is an accident, then nothing is either moral  or immoral.  No one can judge God or His Word to be immoral.  Maher feels like it is immoral, but he has no basis for saying anything is immoral, unless he borrows from a Christian world view, which would then say that Maher is actually the one who is immoral, not God or His Word.

O'Reilly has no answer for Maher on killing someone for working on Sunday, so he shucks the Old Testament completely, especially since it also justifies slavery, and says he's a believer of the New Testament.  That's a loser.  Maher rightfully asks, "But they're both written by God. Right?"  O'Reilly says Christians love the "half of the Bible that teaches you to love your neighbor as you love yourself."  To which, Maher answers, "But you can't disavow the Old Testament."  Which is what O'Reilly is doing.

The next part of their conversation goes like the following:

O'REILLY: I'm not disavowing anything. I'm telling you what I believe in, and what I believe in is love your neighbor as yourself and don't call him stupid because they don't agree with you politically.
MAHER: But if you're saying that some things in the Bible are true and other things aren't. It's not like the Constitution, Bill. It was written by God or inspired by God. So how come so much of it is either wacky or immoral?

Devastating to O'Reilly.  If both parts are written by God, you don't get to choose to believe just one part.  What Maher nor O'Reilly understand, because they're actually both stupid, ironically, is that the Old Testament law has a threefold division (nicely discussed in the recent book From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis for the Threefold Division of the Law), consisting of moral, civil or judicial, and ceremonial law.  The Sabbath law was ceremonial.

A last give and take was of interest.

O'REILLY:  I've read the New Testament. There doesn't seem to be a lot of downside to being like Jesus. He seemed to be a pretty good guy to me, Bill.
MAHER:  He was a good guy.

Maher admits that it would be good to be like Jesus.  But how could Maher think it would be good to be like someone who said He was God and said that He agreed with the Old Testament law?   I don't think that Maher knew what he was saying.

So who is worse?  The one who won't believe the Bible because he can't take it literally?  Or, the one who doesn't believe the Bible, but he just allegorizes it instead?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Schemes That Avoid Consequences Scripture Guarantees for True Followers of the Lord

This last several days, among other things, I've been reading In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.  It is the true story of the American ambassador to Germany, William E. Dodd, and his family at both the beginning of the FDR presidency and the start of Hitler's ascent to power.  On August 12, 1933 Dodd sent a letter to Roosevelt in which, approaching the violation of the human and civil rights of the Jews in Germany, he wrote:

Fundamentally, I believe a people has a right to govern itself and that other peoples must exercise patience even when cruelties and injustices are done. Give men a chance to try their schemes.

"Give men a chance to try their schemes."  How does that sound in hindsight?  Not so good, I would hope.

Should men be given a chance to try their schemes?  It was bad enough that a U. S. ambassador would think such things, let alone the schemes men excuse for churches in the name of church growth.

Biblical Christianity is synonymous with being hated and persecuted, revealed in the following verses of Scripture:

Matthew 5:10-12: 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. 

Luke 6:21-23: 21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. 22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

Matthew 10:21-22: 21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. 22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

Luke 21:16-17: 16 And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. 17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.

John 15:18-19: 18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

2 Timothy 3:12: Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 

1 Corinthians 1:18: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness.

You don't need explanation to understand what the above verses mean. Christianity isn't getting along with the world.  It will clash with the world. And yet the flesh wants to avoid that treatment.  As constituted according to the truth, the world doesn't want to be in the church.  A biblical church isn't going to be popular with the world and its members will be hated. That's how Scripture presents the situation.

The Bible warns believers of the consequences of real Christianity, so that they will be prepared for it.  They can buck up and persevere.  It gives Christians a basis for transcending their circumstances and making it through.  Their reward is great in heaven and they know they are joining the ranks of believers who came before them.

Instead of accepting the conditions God has guaranteed, much of modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism simply attempts to change the conditions with its schemes.  Instead of focusing on being obedient to the Bible and regulating church worship and living according to the Word of God, evangelicals and fundamentalists try to tamp down the very reactions that God orders them to prepare to endure.  What are those schemes concocted and choreographed by evangelicals and fundamentalists that avoid consequences Scripture guarantees for true followers of the Lord? What are the schemes perpetrated for missing some or most of the hatred from the world?  There are many today and I want to address them here. They have changed Christianity into something different than the Bible reveals.

  • Invite to Church Instead of Go and Preach
  • Leave out Repentance or the Lordship of Christ when Preaching
  • Attract the Lost to the Church with the Things Unbelievers Like
  • Alter Your Services to Remove Certain Offenses to the Unsaved
  • Attempt to Relate with the World On Its Terms in Marketing the Church
  • Target Demographics with Appropriate Inducements
  • Fashion Special Events that Will Seduce, Captivate, or Lure Unsaved People
  • Use Almost Any Bible Version You Want
  • Craft Sermons with Certain Entertainment Value
  • Start Programs with Which Unbelievers Will Relate
  • Tone Down Certain Biblical Doctrines and Issues at Odds with the World
  • Use the Building as an Attraction
  • Use Holidays as a Solicitation
  • Give the Impression of Comfort and Convenience
  • Employ Prayer as a Means of Appeal
  • Allow Some Disobedience to Scripture
  • Emphasize Unity Over Separation
  • Participate in Community Social Causes
  • Convey a Lack of Dogmatism
Churches and their leaders know that the world hates biblical Christianity. This hatred is also an impediment to church growth.  Schemes are devised to offset the hatred and try to get the world to like them.

Over the next several weeks and months, I will start dealing with these schemes.  When you look at this list, you shouldn't think you're fine just because you practice only a few of them.  All of them should be considered.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Spirit Baptism, the Historic Baptist View, part 10

Spirit baptism: The alleged reference
 in 1 Corinthians 12:13, part 1

1 Corinthians 12:13 is the lynchpin upon which the structure of the universal church dispensational (UCD) doctrine of Spirit baptism is based [i]—deprived of the verse, it is very difficult to even attempt to defend it exegetically.  The verse reads, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”[ii]  UCDs argue that “in this dispensation those who place their faith in Jesus Christ have been baptized into the body of Christ, both Jew and Gentile, and are now seen as one in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12–13). . . . According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, it is the Spirit who baptizes Jew and Gentile into one body.”[iii]  “Every believer is baptized by the Spirit . . . The Spirit forms the church . . . by baptizing all believers into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12, 13).” [iv]  However, 1 Corinthians 12:13 teaches nothing of the kind.  In the verse, Paul teaches that the members of the church at Corinth, led by the Holy Spirit, were all baptized in water to join the membership of that local assembly—the particular congregation, not a non-extant universal church, being the body of Christ—and that all the members of that assembly partook of the common blessing of the Lord’s Supper.  The theological division between UCDs and historic Baptists on the significance of 1 Corinthians 12:13 may be resolved into the following questions:  a.) Is the body of Christ the visible congregation or a universal, invisible church?  b.) Does Christ baptize with the Spirit, or does the Holy Spirit baptize?  c.) Was Spirit baptism a completed historical phenomenon at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, or is it a event that takes place regularly throughout the entire dispensation of grace?  The following few posts will deal with these questions.

a.) Is the body of Christ the visible congregation or a universal, invisible church?

The body of Christ, referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:13, is the particular, local assembly.  It is not a universal and invisible church because no such entity is found in the New Testament.  While a discussion of the many proofs of the unscriptural nature of the universal church dogma would go beyond the boundaries of the present composition,[v] and, besides, this blog has elsewhere carefully refuted the universl church position, it will briefly be noted that the word translated church, ekklesia, never is used for a universal, invisible entity in any of its 115 appearances in the New Testament.[vi]  The LXX, in accord with the significance of the word in classical Greek, likewise employs ekklesia of local, visible assemblies, not of anything unassembled[vii] and invisible.[viii]  While the family of God is a universal, invisible entity that consists of all believers everywhere (Galatians 3:26), a church is a particular, local, visible congregation.  The major metaphors for the church also demonstrate that the idea of a universal, invisible church is false.  The church is Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:27), His temple (1 Timothy 3:15), and His bride (2 Corinthians 11:2).[ix]  Bodies are very local and visible—a bunch of flesh and bones scattered around the globe is not a body. A temple is in one particular location, available for everyone to see;  bricks scattered all over the place are not a building at all.  And certainly every man on his wedding day rejoices that his bride is very local and visible, not invisible or cut into little pieces which are scattered all over the earth!  Christ’s church is not a building, a denomination, or something universal and invisible;  it is a particular assembly of baptized saints.

Furthermore, the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 12:13 demonstrates that the body metaphor refers to the particular congregation.  1 Corinthians 12:27, the only verse in the New Testament that defines the body of Christ, addresses the particular congregation at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2) and states, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”  The Pauline exhortation to unity in 1 Corinthians makes it evident that the apostle employed the body metaphor to emphasize the need for real oneness among the brethren in the city of Corinth.  His purpose was not to teach some sort of theoretical church-unity between believers at Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, and everywhere else.  In 12:14-27, Paul tells the members of the Corinthian congregation that each of them is required for the smooth function of the assembly—one is like an eye, the other like a hand, another like a nose, and their united functionality underneath the direction of Christ the Head (Ephesians 1:22-23) is necessary for their congregational “body” to work effectively, just as united functionality of literal body parts is necessary for a healthy human body.  The local sense of “body” in v. 14-27 is directly tied to the statement of v. 13 by the explanatory word “for” and requires a local sense of the body metaphor in 12:13.  Furthermore, universalizing the Pauline image to make members of the congregation at Corinth into parts of a body cut up into pieces all over the world would not only violate the necessarily localized nature of a living body but do nothing to advance Paul’s purpose of promoting Corinthian unity—rather, a universal body would have further contributed to Corinthian division, as today the Protestant universal church doctrine, when adopted by Baptist churches, contributes to a neglect of, disrespect for, and a failure to adequately strive for genuine, Scriptural unity within particular assemblies.  1 Corinthians 12:13 cannot refer to the Spirit placing someone into the universal, invisible church as the body of Christ, because the body of Christ is the local, visible assembly in the context of 1 Corinthians 12 and in the rest of the New Testament.

Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 12:25 states that there should be no schism in the body (cf. Ephesians 4:3-4).  If all believers are the body of Christ, and unity is commanded in the body, then it would be a sin for a Bible-believing Baptist to separate from any believer whatsoever, whether he is part of the church of Rome, one committing the grossest forms of sexual immorality, or a terribly compromised neo-evangelical, for such separation would be sowing discord in the body of Christ.  Ecclesiastical separation from any believer would be sin.  However, such a conclusion directly contradicts the Biblical imperative to separate from disobedient brethren (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14), and the example within 1 Corinthians itself of separation from an errant believer (5:1-5).  The UCD position cannot consistently apply the Biblical standard of unity to its universal “church” and practice the Biblical doctrine of separation.[x]  Indeed, an examination of the nature of the genuine unity in orthodoxy and orthopraxy commanded within the assembly (Ephesians 4:3-16) demonstrates that the tremendous discord of doctrine and practice within the alleged universal “church” has very little to do with the Bible.  Since the body of Christ is the visible and local assembly, the conflict inherent in the UCD view is removed by the historic Baptist doctrine, for an imperative for unity within an assembly of the Lord’s people is entirely consistent with the removal of a disobedient or doctrinally errant brother from a congregation by church discipline.


[i] In the words of the UCD John F. Walvoord:  “[T]he Scriptures make it plain that every Christian is baptized by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. Salvation and baptism are therefore coextensive, and it is impossible to be saved without this work of the Holy Spirit. This is expressly stated in the central passage on the doctrine, ‘For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit’” (pg. 423, “The Person of the Holy Spirit Part 7: The Work of the Holy Spirit in Salvation.” Bibliotheca Sacra 98:392 (Oct 41) 421-447.  Indeed, “1 Corinthians 12:13 . . . [is] [t]he major passage, which may be taken as the basis of interpretation of the other passages . . . [namely, the] eleven specific references to spiritual baptism . . . Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; Romans 6:1-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12” (pg. 139, The Holy Spirit:  A Comprehensive Study of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, John F. Walvoord).
While 1 Corinthians 12:13 is important to the PCP advocate as well, it is only so as an allegedly supportive element of the PCP position, not as the central verse for the entire theological construction.

[ii] kai« ga»r e˙n e˚ni« Pneu/mati hJmei√ß pa¿nteß ei˙ß e≠n sw◊ma e˙bapti÷sqhmen, ei¶te ∆Ioudai√oi ei¶te ›Ellhneß, ei¶te douvloi ei¶te e˙leu/qeroi: kai« pa¿nteß ei˙ß e≠n Pneuvma e˙poti÷sqhmen.

[iii] pgs. 193-194, “Does Progressive Dispensationalism Teach A Posttribulational Rapture?—Part I,” John Brumett. Conservative Theological Journal, 2:5 (June 1998).

[iv] Note on Acts 2:4, Scofield Reference Bible, ed. C. I. Scofield. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1945.

[v] Interestingly, UCD John Walvoord wrote, “The principle cause of disagreement . . . on the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit . . . is found in the common failure to apprehend the distinctive nature of the church” (pg. 138, The Holy Spirit:  A Comprehensive Study of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit).  The false doctrine of a universal, invisible church is indeed a tremendous barrier to a recognition of the correct view of Spirit baptism, the historic Baptist position, and an unsound prop of the UCD and PCP positions.  For representative refutations of the universal church dogma, see Ecclesia, B. H. Carroll (Emmaus, PA: Challenge Press, n. d. reprint ed.; also available at, The Myth of the Universal, Invisible Church Theory Exploded, Roy Mason (Emmaus, PA: Challenge Press, 2003), and Landmarks of Baptist Doctrine, Robert Sargent, vol. 4 (Oak Harbor, WA: Bible Baptist Church Publications, 1990), pgs. 481-542.  One notes that even non-evangelical scholars such as “James Dunn[,] [who] needs no introduction, for his prolific scholarship ensures that he is one of the most well known NT scholars in the world . . . [believes that] particular and local assemblies are the church of God in Paul, and any idea of the universal church is absent” (pg. 99, book review of The Theology of Paul the Apostle, James D. G. Dunn. Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1998, by Thomas R. Schreiner.  Trinity Journal 20:1 (Spring 1999)).

[vi] The word appears in Matthew 16:18; 18:17; Acts 2:47; 5:11; 7:38; 8:1,3; 9:31; 11:22, 26; 12:1, 5; 13:1; 14:23, 27; 15:3-4, 22, 41; 16:5; 18:22; 19:32, 39, 41; 20:17, 28; Romans 16:1, 4-5, 16, 23; 1Corinthians 1:2; 4:17; 6:4; 7:17; 10:32; 11:16, 18, 22; 12:28; 14:4-5, 12, 19, 23, 28, 33-35; 15:9; 16:1, 19; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 8:1, 18-19, 23-24; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Galatians 1:2, 13, 22; Ephesians 1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32; Philippians 3:6; 4:15; Colossians 1:18, 24; 4:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:1, 4; 1 Timothy 3:5, 15; 5:16; Philemon 2; Hebrews 2:12; 12:23; James 5:14; 3 John 6, 9-10; Revelation 1:4, 11, 20; 2:1, 7-8, 11-12, 17-18, 23, 29; 3:1, 6-7, 13-14, 22; 22:16.  The small minority of uses where an individual congregation in a particular location is not in view (cf. “Christ is the head of the church,” Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18) do not prove the existence of a universal, invisible church any more than “the husband is the head of the wife” or “the head of the woman is the man” (Ephesians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 11:3; see below) establish that there is a single universal, invisible husband or a universal, invisible man made up of all individual husbands or men scattered all over world.  Rather, these verses employ the word church as a generic noun, as a reference to any or every particular church (or husband, man, etc.) in the class church (husband, man, etc.).  The common category of the “generic noun . . . focuses on the kind. . . . emphasizes class traits . . . [and] has in view . . . the class as a whole” (pg. 244, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Daniel B. Wallace.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996).

[vii] cf. the verb e˙kklhsia¿zw, “to hold an assembly, convene, assemble.” (BDAG); “summon to an assembly” (Liddell, H. G. & Scott, R. Greek-English Lexicon, 9th ed., New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996);  “attend an assembly; attend a church service” (Patristic Greek Lexicon ed. G. W. Lampe (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007, 20th ed).  The verb is always employed in the LXX and related Koiné literature (at least until after the time of the post-NT development of the concept of a catholic church) for a visible and local assembly, not some sort of invisible and unassembled “assembly.” See Leviticus 8:3; Numbers 20:8; Deuteronomy 4:10; 31:12, 28; Esther 4:16, LXX; Josephus, Antiquities 4:302; 6:56; 8:277; 10:93; 12:316; 17:161; 19:158; War 2:490; 7:47; Philo, On the Migration of Abraham 1:69; On Joseph 1:73; On the Decalogue 1:39; Freedom 1:6.

[viii] Deuteronomy 4:10; 9:10; 18:16; 23:2-4, 9; 31:30; Joshua 8:35; Judges 20:2; 21:5, 8; 1 Samuel 17:47; 19:20; 1 Kings 8:14, 22, 55, 65; 1 Chronicles 13:2, 4; 28:2, 8; 29:1, 10, 20; 2 Chronicles 1:3, 5; 6:3, 12-13; 7:8; 10:3; 20:5, 14; 23:3; 28:14; 29:23, 28, 31-32; 30:2, 4, 13, 17, 23-25; Ezra 2:64; 10:1, 8, 12, 14; Nehemiah 5:7, 13; 7:66; 8:2, 17; 13:1; Judith 6:16, 21; 7:29; 14:6; 1 Maccabees 2:56; 3:13; 4:59; 5:16; 14:19; Psalms 21:23, 26; 25:5, 12; 34:18; 39:10; 67:27; 88:6; 106:32; 149:1; Proverbs 5:14; Job 30:28; Sirach 15:5; 21:17; 23:24; 24:2; 26:5; 31:11; 33:19; 38:33; 39:10; 44:15; 46:7; 50:13, 20; Solomon 10:6; Micah 2:5; Joel 2:16; Lamentations 1:10.
B. H. Carroll’s book Ecclesia provides a number of helpful instances of the classical use of e˙kklhsi÷a [transliterating the word as ecclesia], documenting that the word, in classical Greek, signified “an organized assembly of citizens, regularly summoned, as opposed to other meetings.”  Note:
Thucydides 2:22: - “Pericles, seeing them angry at the present state of things… did not call them to an assembly (ecclesia) or any other meeting.”
Demosthenes 378, 24: - “When after this the assembly (ecclesia) adjourned, they came together and planned … For the future still being uncertain, meetings and speeches of all sorts took place in the marketplace. They were afraid that an assembly (ecclesia) would be summoned suddenly, etc.” Compare the distinction here between a lawfully assembled business body and a mere gathering together of the people in unofficial capacity, with the town-clerk’s statement in Acts 19:35, 40.
Now some instances of the particular ecclesia of the several Greek states -
Thucydides 1,87: - “Having said such things, he himself, since he was ephor, put the question to vote in the assembly (ecclesia) of the Spartans.”
Thucydides 1,139: - “And the Athenians having made a house (or called an assembly, ecclesia) freely exchanged their sentiments.”
Aristophanes Act 169: - “But I forbid you calling an assembly (ecclesia) for the Thracians about pay.”
Thucydides 6.8: - “And the Athenians having convened an assembly (ecclesia) … voted, etc.”
Thucydides 6,2: - “And the Syracusans having buried their dead, summoned an assembly (ecclesia).”
This historical reading concerning the business assemblies of the several petty but independent, self-governing Greek states, with their lawful conference, their free speech. Their decision by vote, whether of Spartans, Thracians, Syracusans or Athenians, sounds much like the proceedings of particular and independent Baptist churches today (Ecclesia, B. H. Carroll, pgs. 35-36).
Thus, the uses of the word in the LXX and other pre-Christian works supports the evidence from the instances of e˙kklhsi÷a in New Testament itself that the word always signifies a particular, visible assembly.  “[A]n inductive study of all the ecclesia passages [in the LXX demonstrates] that in the Septuagint it never means ‘all Israel whether assembled or unassembled, but that in every instance it means a gathering together, and assembly. . . . [T]he New Testament writers neither coined this word nor employed it in an unusual sense. The apostles and early Christians . . . wrote in Greek to a Greek-speaking world, and used Greek words as a Greek-speaking people would understand them. . . . [I]t is a fiction that ecclesia was used in [the New Testament in] any new, special sense. The object of Christ’s ecclesia, and terms of membership in it, were indeed different from those of the classic or Septuagint ecclesia. But the word itself retains its ordinary meaning. . . . [In contrast to ecclesia], the word panegyros [was employed to designate] a general, festive assembly of all the Greek states.  This general assembly was not for war but peace . . . not for business but pleasure—a time of peace, and joy, and glory. In the happy Greek conceit all the heavenly beings were supposed to be present [at the panegyros]. How felicitiously does [Paul] adapt himself to the Greek use of the word [in Hebrews 12:23], and glorify it by application to the final heavenly state. . . . [Thus, there] is a general assembly . . . [in heaven where] warfare is over and rest has come [designated by panegyros, but never by ecclesia].” (pgs. 34-36, Ecclesia, Carroll).

[ix] It is true that the bride metaphor is employed for the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2-3) as a synecdoche for all the people of God who will inhabit it.  However, at that time they will all be present in the future heavenly festive assembly (Hebrews 12:23).  There will indeed be this coming gathering of all the saints to the eternal heavenly City, but it will still be quite local and visible, it does not yet exist, and it certainly does not prove that saved people on earth in the United States, Colombia, Vietnam, and the Central African Republic are somehow currently members of the same, never-assembling and invisible congregation, assembly, church, or ekklesia.

[x] There are many other practical impossibilities and ecclesiological errors that come from the universal church view.  Dr. Thomas Strouse has well explained a number of them:
The ramifications of the biblical teaching that the local church is the body of Christ, that Spirit Baptism was a temporary phenomenon, and that the mystical body of Christ does not exist are broad and serious. If there is no con-current Spirit Baptism and no mystical body then there is no divine authority for organizations or efforts outside of the local church to practice the Great Commission. Since the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20) requires evangelism, baptism, and instruction in the Word of God, para-church organizations have no divine authority for their existence. If there is no divine authority for para-church organizations then there is no divine authority for para-church Bible colleges/seminaries, mission boards, or structured church fellowships, associations or conventions. These so-called “handmaidens” to the local church have no authority “to help” the Lord’s candlesticks because the latter have His presence (Rev. 1:13) as their respective Head (Eph. 1:22-23) and all power to accomplish His Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20).
The impact of these para-church “handmaidens” on the Lord's candlesticks has been biblically and theologically disastrous. Scholars operating in the realm of the “big” universal church offer unbiblical and therefore confusing theological restatements of the Scriptures. Their weak ecclesiology impacts other doctrines such as bibliology, soteriology, and eschatology. They foster notions such as “God has preserved His Word in all the extant manuscripts through the scholars of the mystical body of Christ,” “all the saved are in the universal Church,” and “Christ will rapture the Church.” To them “true” scholarship occurs in the para-church university or seminary where theologians, trained by other para-church theologians, postulate the “truth” of Scripture. The local church is ill equipped and the pastor is ill prepared to do the real work of the ministry in the realm of scholarship, they maintain. These scholars, whether they have any affiliation with a local church or not, have earned doctorates from accredited para-church academic institutions, and therefore think that they have the last word on theology. Their condescending attitude toward the Lord's assemblies is supposedly justified because they are the “doctors” of theology since they are in “the big church.” 
This disastrous impact undermines the authority of the Bible and usurps the ministry of the Lord’s ekklesia. Scripture states that the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15), that the ekklesia is to “commit [theological training] to faithful men” (II Tim. 2:2), that the church member “is to study to shew [himself] approved unto God” (II Tim. 2:15), and that the assembly has been given Christ’s gift of “pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). The local church as the divinely ordained doctrinal training institution is the Lord’s “college.” College comes from the Latin collegeum that means a group of colleagues who have banded together around a particular guild or trade. The particular “guild” in which the local church is engaged is the scholarly pursuit of studying the Scriptures (cf. Acts 17:11). 
Para-church organizations not only produce disastrous results in theological academia, but also in the area of missions. Para-church mission boards usurp the privilege and responsibility of local church missions. The Great Commission is the divine mandate to plant immersionist assemblies both locally and worldwide. Only the Lord's candlesticks can produce NT churches. Para-church mission boards cannot baptize converts and cannot commission missionary candidates. Nevertheless, these same boards develop a hierarchy of unbiblical offices, such as “missions president/director,” and dictate to “their” missionaries and to the pastors of supporting churches, their policies, practices, and doctrines. The NT teaches, in contradistinction, that the church at Antioch acted as Paul’s “mission board” and sent out Barnabas and the Apostle (Acts 13:1 ff.). To be sure, other churches such as the Philippian church helped support Paul’s missionary endeavors on his second journey (Phil. 4:15-16). 
Much of the same criticism could be leveled toward highly structured Baptist fellowships. The unbiblical mindset of the universal church produces the necessity for organized hierarchy outside of the local church. Fellowships, associations and conventions, which develop organizational structure beyond the local church, end up usurping the autonomy of each of the Lord’s assemblies. The presidents, regional directors, etc., of these non-authorized structures tend to dictate to the churches resolutions which in turn become “suggested” tenets for orthodoxy and fundamentalism. Some pastors feel intimidated and hesitate to reject these suggestions, ultimately embracing the “traditions” of men (Mk. 7:7) and incorporating these tenets in their particular ekklesia. The NT does teach that there is a place for churches to fellowship around “the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). Furthermore, the churches of Galatia were united in biblical doctrine around the Lord Jesus Christ, while retaining their respective autonomy (Gal. 1:2; 3:27-28).
Once the Lord’s churches recognize that the unproved assumptions of Spirit Baptism and the mystical body of Christ have no biblically exegetical defense, then they may realize the authority, importance, and dignity the Lord gives exclusively to His candlesticks. The Scriptures teach that the church at Jerusalem had the divine authority in precept and set the precedent to practice the Great Commission. Christ gave the precept of the Great Commission to the apostles who were representatives of the 120 disciples who made up the Lord's ekklesia on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:20). This ekklesia began to evangelize, baptize and instruct Jews and Gentiles as the Book of Acts gives ample precedent. The Scriptures make some amazing and outstanding claims for the Lord's churches. For instance, Paul taught that Christ, Who is Head over all His creation, completely fills His body, the local church (Eph. 1:23). He revealed that the saints in the local churches teach the angelic realm redemptive truths (Eph. 3:10). He averred that local churches, like the Ephesian church, grow up in Christ to become mature bodies through doctrinal teaching (Eph. 4:11-16). He proclaimed that the Lord Jesus Christ both loved and died for individual church members (Eph. 5:25) and that He will cleanse the church members through the washing of the word to present each ekklesia as glorious (Eph. 5:26-27). Elsewhere, the Apostle taught that the local church, the one with a bishop and deacons, was the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:1-15). The Lord spoke through the Apostle John and gave His apocalyptical revelation to seven local churches (Rev. 1-3). When one realizes that the Scriptures teach the local church is the Lord's sole institution for His presence, worship and service, then one recognizes the glory, dignity, and honor that should be attributed to each and every one of Christ’s assemblies. (“Ye Are The Body of Christ,” Dr. Thomas M. Strouse. Emmanuel Baptist Theological Seminary, Newington, CT. elec. acc.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Orientation: This Side of the Glass

When I started college, I took an orientation course.  Orientation was not about the course itself, but about college.  Orientation was short compared to college---little bit of time about a much longer period of time.

Life is about eternity.  I am convinced that my life is an orientation for eternity.   Everything in the here and now is about the there and then.

I understood that orientation was about college.  Orientation was a means to an end.  The end was college.  Orientation lost its meaning if it was about orientation.  That was all very clear.  It was even easy.  Orientation would fulfill its purpose by relating to college.

Life is a lot easier to confuse.  It is easy for this life to be the end all.  It would help to think of it as orientation.  Our citizenship is in heaven.  We are strangers to this world.  We are looking through a glass darkly during this period of orientation.   But we are looking through the glass toward what?  Now isn't about loving this side of the glass, but about loving the other side.  That's why now is looking there, because now and here is about there and then.

To help with a correct perspective of this life, we might look at it as an orientation for eternity.  We could become less enthralled with the things of this life.   We could relate all of this life to the next, just like orientation for college relates to college.  Even food isn't about food.  Even food is about eternity.  The most mundane on this side of the glass is about the other side of the glass.

Jesus told us as much as possible to lay up treasures on the other side.   We don't do better to lay up treasures on this side.   We didn't bank all of college in orientation class.  Orientation was an investment into college.  Life is an orientation for eternity.  Let's treat it as such.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Evangelistic website and Bible Software

Before going on, in my series on Spirit baptism, to deal with the lynch-pin of universal church dispensationalism, 1 Corinthians 12:13, which I will, Lord willing, begin to discuss next Friday, I wanted to make blog readers aware of two other matters.

1.) The evangelistic website “What Must I Do To Be Saved?” at
has had, for a while, material dealing with large numbers of specific false religions, from Roman Catholicism, to Lutheranism, to Reformed paedobaptism, to Islam, to the classic cults, etc., as well as pamphlets for charismatics and evangelicals.  The site has now recently been updated with links to material in a significant number of foreign languages.  Material in Spanish, Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Burmese, Tagalog, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, French, Russian, and Polish, has been added.  If you have to call your bank, get a telemarketing call, etc. you can ask the person you are speaking to over the phone the following question:  “If you would like to be 100% sure that you have eternal life and fellowship with God, I can give you a website that can let you know how you can be sure you have these things.  Would you like the web address?”  Some people will want it, others will not, but it is a way to give out a gospel tract, as it were, over the phone.  Furthermore, if you are going door to door or are in some other setting and you don’t have anything with you in one of the languages linked to on the website, you can give the web address so people can get material in their language.  The pamphlets for the various false religions are also very useful.  I have two bumper stickers on my car, one that says “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) and another one with the web address, so that people can find out about salvation simply by being near your vehicle.  These bumper stickers can also be acquired via a link on the website.  Links for conversion testimonies, the way of life literature church directory, and sermons from Bethel Baptist Church in El Sobrante, CA are also present, and a “contact us” link is also present.  You can get the gospel to people in India who call you to telemarket without ever having to buy a plane ticket.  That phone call may be the only time the person who calls you will ever speak to a Christian—you should use every opportunity you have to get out the gospel.

2.) In my opinion, the best Bible software program in the world, in terms of search capabilities for the inspired original language texts, is Accordance link here.  Accordance is designed for a Macintosh, but it can run on a PC.  Bibleworks is also valuable as a PC product link here.  I own both Accordance and Logos, a program that works on both the Mac and the PC.  It is not as easy on Logos link here to do the most complex original language searches, but it has a tremendous search capability and can give you a tremendous Bible study library for a small fraction of the cost—and with far greater ease of use—than physical books.  Let me give you an example of its library capability.  Recently, as I was doing some research into the Welsh revival of 1904, I ran across a reference to the National Eisteddfod.  Not having a clue what a National Eisteddfod was, I typed “Eisteddfod” into my Logos program.  Four books in my library had the word, the most useful link being to the Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals where I found out it was a Welsh poetry festival and also obtained other useful information.  Do you want information on Ignatius of Antioch, the early patristic?  In my library, he is discussed or mentioned in 139 different books, with a total of 486 articles.  Furthermore, one can buy commentary sets for prices far lower than print volumes, and in a format that is far more easily searchable and accessible than print volumes, and far less of a hassle to carry around—you can have the entire commentary with you on your cell phone or other electronic gismo.  On the way to work and back, I have enjoyed having my electronic device read to me a variety of systematic theology books on soteriology I have on Logos (McCune, Hodge, Geisler, Bavinck, Chafer, Strong, Berkouwer, Ryrie, Packer, etc. are on my program), as I am currently teaching a class at Mukwonago Baptist Bible Institute on the topic.  Furthermore, with Logos all one’s commentaries on a particular passage are available to examine with far greater speed than one could employ with physical books.  Finally, Logos has recently made available, free, hundreds of searchable books in classical Greek and Latin, many of them with English translations.  This resource is not available for Accordance or Bibleworks.  How is this useful?  For example, some have affirmed that Ephesians 5:18 should not be translated “be filled with the Spirit,” alleging that the Greek phrase is not used for the idea of content in the Greek of the day, and so the verse does not refer to being filled with the Spirit.  Do you want to see if that syntactical claim is true?  (It isn’t, by the way.)  You can get vast amounts of data from extrabiblical sources with tremendous ease with Logos.  Do you want more information about what the “tittle” of Matthew 5:18 is?  There are only two NT references to the word, no references in the LXX, none in the apostolic patristic writers, and only one reference each in Josephus and Philo—but there are 91 hits for the word in the Logos classics collection (they call it the “Perseus” collection), giving you references from Plutarch to Lucian to Appian.  This classics collection is a tremendous resource.  If you wish to study the Bible in depth, sell your shirt (or keep a sweater on but turn the heat down in your house in the winter) and buy Bible software.  At our church we also recently gave a reasonably sized Accordance package to one of our pastors, and I believe we will be reaping the benefits in the preaching we hear for years to come, unless the Rapture happens first.

For the next few weeks (and I mean few, like a little over two, after which I won’t be able to do this anymore) I can make available the base packages for Logos, and the large commentary sets (Expositor’s Bible Commentary; New International Critical OT/NT Commentary; Word Biblical Commentary; New International Greek Testament Commentary; Hermeneia; Anchor Bible Commentary, etc.) for 5% off what you will be able to get them for on the Logos website.  That is, if a base package is 15% off on the Logos website, I can get it to you for 20% off.  If you qualify for an academic discount, I can get the product you want for less than what you would pay with the academic discount.  If you are interested in taking advantage of any of these deals, you can contact me by e-mail at:  t r k j v 2 (“at” symbol; @) y a h o o . com (I spread it out this way to avoid, hopefully, becoming a spam target).  Unfortunately, I don’t have any special way of getting discounts on Accordance or Bibleworks.  (I asked them shortly before I began teaching Greek this Fall, so I could let my students know, but they would not give me any special offer.)
If you believe getting a Bible software package is a good use of money, but you don’t want to spend money you don’t have (a very good idea), if you have good credit you may be able to get $1,000 by opening a Chase credit card that will give you $500 for fulfilling a few requirements and $500 for getting a Citibank credit card that will do the same thing. (See link here.) You have to spend $3000 on the cards in three months to get the $500 bonus, but you can make deposits of cash into, say, a Zecco forex (link) investment account using a credit card, and then take the money out later, so you don’t need to actually spend all that money.  You should not open any credit cards accounts if you carry balances and pay the confiscatory credit card interest rates, rather than paying them off in full every month.  If you don’t pay them off in full every month, you should cut up the credit cards you have and use cash or a debit card instead, and get out of debt.  “The borrower is servant to the lender,” Proverbs 22:7.  However, if you are responsible and are able to pay them off in full each month, getting $1000 for opening two accounts is a great deal, in my opinion.  If you are married, both you and your spouse can open the accounts, and you can get $2000.  (You can also get hundreds of dollars by opening a few bank accounts; type “$200 bank bonus” or “$150 bank bonus” on Google and look around.)  By the way, you should not be hasty to spend money.  In my family, we never make a purchase above a certain dollar amount the same day;  if we think something is worth getting above that amount, we wait, pray, and then either decide to get it or not get it at least 24 hours (for bigger purchases, 48 hours) later, minimum.
I don’t have any intention of trying to turn this blog into a house of merchandise, and I am not very likely at all to post anything like the above about credit cards and banks again any time in the near future.  However, I thought that numbers of blog readers would be interested in the Logos deal above, especially since the newly added search capabilities are unique to its Bible software program and are very valuable, and paying for a Bible software package, or a valuable exegetical commentary set, without busting one’s budget, by simply spending 15 minutes opening two credit card accounts, seemed like it was worth mentioning as well, and could be good stewardship.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Convergence of Aliens and the Apocalypse

In case you didn't know, the expositions or sermons of our church are being regularly uploaded to our church website.  We had a period where they were not, because of some technical issues, and then for a week or so because of Word of Truth sessions being uploaded, but now they are again.  We are attempting to catch up with present time, but never uploaded sermons are regularly appearing from 1 Corinthians, Luke, 1 Kings, Exodus, and others.  Enjoy.  Now read the post.


This is our Father's world.  And the world knows it; it just doesn't want to admit it.  That inborn curiosity is communicated by Solomon's statement under inspiration in Ecclesiastes 3:11:

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

God has set the world in their heart.  They have an itch that they can't scratch, even while they are admitting that everything is just fine---shirt tail pulled out, belt loosened, reaching everywhere for that itch.  But everything's fine.

The above is also why the world can't just ignore genuine Christianity.  It must savage it.  Because the world really does know.  The only ignorance is a purposeful kind.  It is all rebellion.

Let me get to the point of my post.  Aliens.  Two parts about them.

Aliens a Good Explanation for the Rapture

Aliens.  There aren't any.   If we evolved, yes.  But we didn't.  Aliens, however, would be a great explanation for the apocalypse.  It is so convenient.  I know you've thought of this, but think about it again.

Why are there so many television shows being made about apocalyptic events by those who don't profess to believe the Bible?   Feature films and television series all over the place looking toward the end of everything with aliens the cause.   It reminds me of the talking points of the religious leaders about Jesus.  They knew He was supernatural and they couldn't say He was God, so He had to be the other side---Beelzebub.  By process of elimination, they went with Satan.  In this case, they foresee some end to everything.  It's instinctive to mankind---he sees the arc of history on the backside toward destruction, and since He can't admit that it will all conclude with God, He chooses door number two.  If not a meteorite, then aliens.

Aliens are a fitting set-up for Satan to keep people zombie-like through the first half of the tribulation period. Where did those people go?  I don't know, but maybe it's just what we suspected---aliens.  Maybe.   It sounds feasible to someone who is accustomed to shutting out what's true.  And we live in a world that sees not choosing any particular explanation as the most scholarly.  If you've got several options, then you are open and nuanced.  Could be aliens?  Sure.  I don't know.  As good an explanation as any, so I'm sticking with it until a better one comes along.

You don't have to believe anything.  You are free to believe what you want.  If you've got options, then you've got an alternative to what's true.  And the options still leave you in charge.  So aliens it is.

The shows and books have trained the imaginations for aliens as an alternative.  People who have already rejected Christ won't find the mental, emotional, and volitional slide over to the alien explanation as too difficult.  Even those with a lesser, non-saving brand of Christianity could hang on to it as a possible reason.  They have already bonded with the world enough not to turn from their way, so they could entertain aliens until further notice.

The aliens might be studying these people they've taken in lieu of future plans.  The aliens may need them for organ harvesting.  Maybe they want them for some celestial zoo, like doing a planetary safari.

Feel free to laugh.  But you know I'm right.  There is just way too much consideration of these plot lines all over simply to dismiss it.  And if you are an amillennial, then your eschatology requires it to be a joke.

Aliens a Good Explanation for the Tribulation

When things are going seriously bad during the Great Tribulation, it will be difficult to stick with ordinary explanations.  Aliens could provide a nice alibi.  It's your story and you're stickin' with it.  If not that, then global warming.  But aliens might suffice.  With the carnage all about you, you might not want to think of the eternal damnation coming up next, so focus on aliens like the last leg of a slow, painful jog.  You wish.

We don't have cable or an antennae, so I don't know all the shows and movies out there, but I looked at the list of television renewed or cancelled for 2012 and these look like they fit the bill:  The Event, Fringe, V, Supernatural, Smallville.  We've already had X-Files, Star Trek (and all the spin-offs), The 4400, Alien Nation, Babylon 5, and more (so many that there are lists under each letter of the alphabet).  Feature Films (you can find at Wikipedia) just the last two years:  Cowboys and Aliens, Skyline, Battle:  Los Angeles, Transformers, Chronicles of Riddick, and many more and many more to come.

That stuff happening from above?  Aliens.  Gotta be.  That thought could be something to grab a hold of.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Why Believe or Why We Should Believe What We Believe

A spectrum of belief exists between our own thinking on the left and what God says on the right.  On the far right is believing what God says---all of it.  On the far left is not believing what God says---none of it---but believing what you think.  In between is a mixture of those two.  Closer to the left is some kind of mysticism that believes there is a God and the Bible is some kind of allegorical or mystical guidebook with a whole lot of decent teaching about which you can have your own opinion.  Closer to the right is a belief in all the things that are important or easy in Scripture mixed with doubt about those things that you deem less important or more difficult.

Does the Bible Teach It?

We believe or we at least should believe what we believe, first, because the Bible teaches it.  The Bible is the basis of or authority for what we believe or should believe.  If it's not taught in the Bible, we don't have have basis of or authority for believing whatever it is.  Romans 10:17 comes into play here, that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  Jesus said His Word was truth (John 17:17).  Our faith and practice come from or at least should come from the Bible.  If the Bible teaches it, we believe it; if it doesn't, we don't.

In one sense, what the Bible teaches is all that we need for faith and practice, so it is the only reason why to believe something.  Scripture is completely sufficient for all faith and practice.  So why not stop here?  We don't stop here because the Bible, which is sufficient, gives us some other reasons to believe something.  Why would it do that?

I want to illustrate.  1 Corinthians 11:3 says the man is the head of the woman.  Most people would think that means he is in authority over the woman.  However, certain "theologians" went looking for another meaning and recently have "discovered" that "head" really means "source."  So the Bible isn't teaching that a man is a woman's authority, but her source---entirely different meaning.  So here is the Bible as an authority, now saying that the man is the woman's source, not her authority.   Both are not true.   The Bible means only one thing; it can't be both.  Both sides, however, are saying that the Bible is their basis of and authority for belief in this.  This is when something else besides the Bible comes in.

At this point, someone may say, it is the Bible, rightly divided (2 Tim 2:15).  Nice.  And true.  But both sides say they are rightly dividing it.  They can both argue about why each is right.  At least one is going to be wrong.  We can judge whether the biblical arguments are sound---usage, meaning of words, comparing scripture with scripture, internal and greater context, etc.  I understand that nothing might settle this, because people all over differ on a number of different biblical doctrines or issues.  However, there are other aspects to consider.

Have Christians Believed It?

We also believe or we at least should believe what we believe, second, because other believers have believed through history what we see that the Bible is teaching.  I do believe this is secondary, because history isn't inspired. There are two biblical bases for this.  First, no total apostasy.   We have biblical authority to say that God would preserve right belief in the age in which we live.  Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18).  Paul said that only some would depart from the faith, not all (1 Timothy 4:1).  The total apostasy will start only upon the appearance of the antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2), and he hasn't made his appearance yet.  So we would expect that true doctrine would continue in this age in which the Holy Spirit continues in and working in the hearts of believers.  Second, no private interpretation.  The Bible means what it means.  It doesn't mean what it means "to you."  It means what it means whether you ever existed.  You can count on other people believing it if it is true.

There is something scientific to this in the true sense.  The Holy Spirit indwells believers.  He is the Spirit of truth.  He inspired Scripture.  He knows what the Bible means.   Someone who has the Holy Spirit is going to know what it says.

We don't operate according to this point about the Holy Spirit's illumination and the history of doctrine by saying that the right doctrine will be believed by a majority of people who profess to be Christians.  Instead, we assume that Christians would believe it.  True doctrine will also be historic.  If we can't find other Christians professing a teaching of Scripture through history, we should have a tremendous exegetical basis for that teaching.  And if we don't, we should consider that teaching to be wrong.

Is there Agreement from the Church?

A biblical grid for teaching is the church.  The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), not a single individual.  The priesthood of the believer doesn't mean that you have liberty to hold a teaching in conflict with your entire church.  You should listen to your whole church in your pursuit of understanding the meaning of the Bible.  This is not to say that truth is by majority vote.  It is to say that an individual member should take very seriously the agreement of a whole church.

You can know the truth, despite your own frailty and depravity, just like you can know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).  History and your church provide safeguards against new teaching.   If what you believe is unique, you should question it and especially hold it up to the scrutiny of historic belief and the position of your church.  Some might complain of some type of papistic elevation of church authority in subjecting doctrine to history and the church, but it really is just following scriptural guidelines that protect against apostasy.

Common Unbiblical or Extra-Scriptural Criteria

The relative popularity of a particular biblical teaching in the world does not guide whether you believe it or not.  If people dislike it, that doesn't get to enter in as a basis for not believing.  Feelings do not constitute a legitimate reason to believe or not to believe a doctrine or practice.

Going back to an earlier illustration, women may not like male headship.  Female antipathy toward male authority does not alter genuine faith.  If the Bible teaches a doctrine or practice, one's feelings are irrelevant to belief in the doctrine or practice.

Circumstances are another groundless standard for faith.  Abraham faced all sorts of circumstantial barriers to faith---distance, age, barrenness, weakness, unpopularity.  He instead kept believing God's Word.

We don't go to God's Word and say, "Well, women don't like to submit, so let's look for a different meaning for 'head' in 1 Corinthians 11:3."  We don't go to God's Word and say, "Well, the earth looks really old, so we've got to rethink Genesis 1-3."  We don't go to God's Word and say, "Homosexuals feel like they're born that way, so we've got to go back to the drawing board on Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 5-6."  We don't go to God's Word and say, "Lot's of people, who start out saying they are saved, end up living like the devil, so they must have lost their salvation."  We don't go to God's Word and say, "We see variations in the hand copies (manuscripts) of Scripture, so God must not have made sure every one of His Words remained accessible to His people."

An Application and a Bad Example

Let's take the last one in the previous paragraph.  We examine the Bible and we look at history and we get perfect preservation---original language, verbal plenary preservation of Scripture.  God promised to keep every Word.  And that's the position we see in history.  So we believe it.  We've got the necessary basis for faith and so we believe.  That's how doctrine and practice work, at least how they should work.  A few contradictory manuscripts, textual variants, or errors in copies don't undo the biblical and historical doctrine.  The view of the manuscripts should conform to the doctrine, not vice versa.

In a recent and ongoing discussion or debate on the doctrine of perfect preservation of Scripture, someone who believes the doctrine laid out a relatively short biblical and historical presentation.  His opponent attacked this as argumentum verbosium fallacy and proceeded instead to link to his own boatload of verbosity on the subject, leaving one with the impression of the acceptability of only linked verbosity---argumentum alinkum verbosium fallacy.  He also suggested that everyone read a standard on the subject---and again his opponent claimed argumentum verbosium fallacy.  You can't refer to a book, because that would be fallacious.

The perfect preservationist referred to Francis Turretin, who among the Protestants' is perhaps the greatest work of theology ever written.  His writing represented the Protestant theological thought of his era.  The idea of quoting or referring to Turretin is to report historical theology.  It is not some desperate jump into obscurity.   His opponent's answer:  Turretin is just a man.  That's true.  Turretin is just a man.  Historical theology is the writing of men.  That is a convenient position for someone who has zero historical basis for his position.  And he doesn't care, at least where he has no support, because, on the other hand, he doesn't mind dropping the translators' preface to the KJV even if it has no relations to a textual argument, only a translation one.  He cares about that.

If someone has no history, then one would think that he would supply some great exegesis to overturn the historical position.  That's not going to happen either.  His primary exegetical argument is the depravity of man.  Men are sinners, so they must have corrupted the text.  I'm sure there's a logical fallacy in that argument.  And his sharpest critique of the perfect preservation passages is that they could each have several different meanings, a few of which again conveniently succumb to the speculation that textual variants have ruined the possibility of a perfect text of Scripture.  The circumstances drive the meaning, not the exegesis or history.

We believe what we believe because Scripture says it.  We consider historic belief and practice as an application of the Bible.  We don't allow feelings or circumstances or popularity to change that.