Friday, June 29, 2012

A Confession of Faith on the Inspiration and Preservation of Scripture


If you agree with the doctrine taught in the confession below, please subscribe to it in the comment section, and encourage like-minded believers to subscribe also.  Please reserve the comment section here for subscriptions;  one can discuss the content of the confession here and here.  The confession is also on this website.


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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Local Only Ecclesiology, Baptist History, and Landmarkism, pt. 2

Part One

In a recent article in the new Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal, Fred Moritz attempts to accomplish a few goals.  One, he wants to debunk local only ecclesiology as unscriptural and of recent origin (19th century) merely as a reaction to Campbellism and an invention by three Southern Baptists, primarily James R. Graves.  Two, he tries to have his readers think that Landmarkism is a theory that churches can and should be able to trace a physical lineage back to the first church in Jerusalem.  Three, he attempts to get his audience to believe that landmarkism, local-only ecclesiology, and the Graves group are heretical, that is divisive to the cause of true churches, essentially cultic.  Four, he doesn't say, but I believe his number one and really only goal is to do away with local only ecclesiology and thinking once and for all at Maranatha.  Moritz is a long time universal church advocate and promoter, spending a great deal of time leading a parachurch organization (BWM), and he doesn't want a whiff of local only ecclesiology and association left at Maranatha.  Does he succeed at his goal?  Let's look.

Wanting to Debunk Local Only Ecclesiology and Show of Recent Origin

I'm accustomed to reading history, judging and evaluating what I read, as to whether it's true, whether the point has been proven or not.  Moritz doesn't come close.  I'm assuming he thinks he has a sympathetic audience who doesn't need proof, i.e., he thinks he's preaching to the choir.  By the way, I find this typical of fundamentalism, which commonly writes articles for itself, for its own crowd, where it won't receive criticism. His article is an insult to hundreds of Maranatha graduates, but that doesn't seem to matter to modern Maranatha, which wants to separate itself from its past.  Its present and future have dimmed because of this.

If local only ecclesiology is only of recent origin, as Moritz is asserting, then it is no better than the Campbellite baptismal regeneration that Moritz also targets in his article.  In other words, an ecclesiology other than Moritz's own is cultic in this analysis.  I'll deal with that, but, first, I find that ironic in that the problem of Campbell's baptismal regeneration teaching, and the proceeding Church of Christ (COC) denomination, is a hermeneutical one.

Campbell and the COC style themselves as "speaking where Scripture speaks and being silent where Scripture is silent."  This is patently untrue, because Scripture is silent when it comes to any condemnation for the non-baptized, and yet Campbell and the COC condemn those who go unbaptized.  What Campbell does is take a few pet baptism references and then attempt to conform all of the doctrine of baptism to fit those few.  Right hermeneutics fit all the verses into the whole.  If we were to compare this to mathematics, Campbell uses addition instead of division.  He adds all the verses up into one baptism doctrine.  That's not how right hermeneutics operate.  It's similar to the way Mormons get to their proxy baptism doctrine from 1 Corinthians 15:29.  Campbell, and others, need to use division, akin to fractions.  A few baptism passages, like Acts 2:38 and 1 Peter 3:20-21 are a fraction, just a division, of the overall baptism passages to which they fit.

The irony for Moritz is that the Campbellite false hermeneutic is the same error that he uses to get his universal church doctrine, except for Moritz it's worse.  You've got way more usages of the "church" than you do "baptism," a much larger sample size.  When you read the 120 or so uses of ekklesia in the New Testament, you don't have, based upon Greek grammar, one unambiguous reference of a universal church in all the New Testament.   It's local church only all over the place.  Universal church teaching doesn't come from the Bible.

Baptistmal regeneration didn't start with Campbell and the COC.  Baptismal regeneration came from a Roman Catholic hermeneutic, so can be traced back to a few centuries after the church in Jerusalem.  Guess what?  So can the universal church doctrine.  Both baptismal regeneration and the Catholic (universal) church  are Roman Catholic.  And then they are also Protestant.  The reformers hung on to Catholic baptism and Catholic church.   Moritz ditches the Catholic baptism, and in so doing, says he's a Baptist (I'll deal with this a little later), but he keeps the Catholic church teaching with the same Campbellite-like hermeneutic.

When you read through Moritz's article, if you are open-minded (like I like to be), then you will see that he doesn't actually prove anything historically.  A major point to his whole thesis is that Graves was in fact a reaction to Campbell.  In other words, all of Graves's local only ecclesiology came out of a reaction to Campbell's doctrine, that is, Graves was using local only ecclesiology and some kind of chain-link authority pattern to alleviate the baptismal regeneration arguments of Campbell.  That would be a necessary historical link to make in order to prove his point.  Moritz doesn't do that, at all.  Not one bit.  And like I said, he probably doesn't think he needs to do that, because his one job with this article is merely to smear people before an uncritical audience.

Here's how good Moritz does at making that link.  He takes one historical event that was occurring around the time of Graves, the Campbell event, and assumes that because they were happening in the same era of history, they must have been related.  Sometimes these kinds of ties might be true.  However, many times they're just fools' gold, as it happens to be in this case.

In order to make the above assertion, Moritz relies on an Alan Lafever, director of the Texas Baptist historical collection.  Lafever opines that Landmarkism would never have occurred without Campbellism.  He doesn't prove it, just states it.  So Moritz uses one guy with an opinion, who does not prove that connection.  That is such a typical fundamentalist manner of operation.  If you quote someone else, you've proven it.  He's done nothing but quote someone who doesn't prove anything, which means he's still not proven anything.

What is really tell-tale about Moritz's assertion is what we see Moritz ultimately do in defining Landmarkism. He says that it is something that it actually is not.  He misdefines Landmarkism.  That alone should send his article to the trash can.  And I'll talk about that in the next part of my response to Moritz's essay.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Travesty and Contradiction of Theologically Conservative But Culturally Liberal

This last week I talked to a man involved in the new, hottest, local, hopeful mega-church, and he described its new meeting space at a vacant Circuit City.   39,000 square feet of space.   They didn't have to set-up, take down their stage.  They have room in the old warehouse for their "kidzone," with its own stage and game space.  Folks stuck in line at IHOP decided to come to church and afterwards probably didn't have to go back because of the free donuts, coffee, and then ice cream afterwards.  As we conversed, I asked if his pastor was Calvinist---thought he might be because he graduated from Trinity and D. A. Carson's there.  He said he didn't know.  I told him I'd asked because I knew of "new Calvinists" like Mark Driscoll, who utilized new measures (slipping in Finneyism for my own enjoyment, because he wouldn't catch it), including the kegger party for the church social and the grunge band, hoping to attract adolescent males.  He said that went too far from him.  He knew about Driscoll.  I mentioned Driscoll's statement of "theologically conservative and culturally liberal." He laughed.

How can anything be "too far," when you've already decided that your boundary line, your only prohibitions, may be set only by express and clear wording of Scripture?  And then anything else adds or takes away from the Word of God.  If it's "too far for you," and it's not mentioned at all in the Bible, then you're joining those applying some sort of scriptural principle.  You too are drawing a line, just further to the left.  Based on your own standard, you are "exceeding that which is written" and elevating man-made tradition to the level of God's Word.  It reminded me of another longtime mega-church in our area, where a man participating in the band took it past a point of the comfort of the audience, so he was asked to stop.  They do draw lines, just ones of pragmatism.  Their methods already "exceed what is written" in Scripture, crafted to lure and keep an unsaved audience.  "Exceeding what is written," to them, ironically applies only against actual application of the Bible, not to their own pragmatism.

Two thoughts bounced around in my mind after our talk.  First, this is Jack Hyles on steroids.  All the people who would have mocked Hyles now walk in his Barnum and Bailey path, except worse.  Second, was the contradiction of theological conservatism and cultural liberalism.  I brought that up because I didn't think it would sound acceptable to him, even though it's how his church actually practiced.  And his laughter indicated to me that I was right.  It's not going to stop them because it works, people like it, and since it works, it must be that "God is working."  It's a form of continuationism.

Can you be a theological conservative and a cultural liberal?  Driscoll says he is.   Grace Community Church and John MacArthur won't stop rock or pop music there because they say to do so would "exceed what is written."  Know this, cultural liberalism is nothing more than "fleshly lust," "worldly lust," "making provision for the flesh," "loving the world," and "conforming to the world."  It is conduct unbecoming sound doctrine.  None of those phrases exceed what is written---they are what is written.     We've got to apply Scripture, and this is what cultural liberalism fails to do.  Cultural liberalism is an attack on the application of the Bible for pragmatic purposes.  It is what God's Word calls "licentiousness" and "using grace as an occasion of the flesh" and "turning the grace of God into lasciviousness."

You can't be a theological conservative and a cultural liberal.  The two cannot coexist.  In essence, being a theological conservative is the "saying you know God" and the cultural liberal is the "not doing what He says."  You are not a friend of God, which is the theological part of it, and you are friend of the world, which is the cultural part of it.

If you say that you are a cultural liberal, then you are borrowing a Christian worldview for theological conservatism.  Theological conservatism says that there is one God and one doctrine, God cannot deny Himself.  Cultural liberalism says that God can deny His own goodness and beauty.  There is one Jesus and He isn't a goodymeister.  He isn't a genie in a bottle, who will pop out to give you all your wishes.  You can't believe in Jesus and separate Him from culture.  Your culture will conform to that Jesus, to that one and only true God.  And if your culture doesn't conform to the one and true Jesus, then it conforms to another Jesus, and then you're not a theological conservative anymore.  You have a different Jesus.

When the culture isn't changed by the theology, people will not see the one and only true God in the culture.  Whatever theology one says He believes, others will not see it in a culture that denies that very God.  The travesty is that a conservative theology has already changed with a liberal culture.  It just isn't admitting it.  In the end, a liberal culture will change a conservative theology into a liberal one, in deed and in faith.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

New Book on Separation in Pre-Publication, Online Audio, and European Tour



Pillar and Ground Publishing, out of our church, Bethel Baptist Church, in El Sobrante, CA has a new book in publication.  It is in pre-publication, that is, the book is about to go to printer.  Here's the cover.  After publication, the price will be $15 per book and $12 for multiple copies.  Pre-publication price will be $12 for a single copy and $10 for multiple copies.  You can purchase the book pre-publication right now at Paypal by clicking on the Buy Now Button.

Multiple copies can be ordered by clicking on this next BUY NOW button.

Most of you readers know that we have sermons on audio from our church.  There are several ongoing series.  If you click on each of the following, it will take you to the place where you can listen or download.
1 Corinthians (Sunday Morning series by Kent Brandenburg)
1 Kings (Sunday School series by Kent Brandenburg)
Luke (Wednesday Evening series by Kent Brandenburg)
Exodus (Sunday Evening series by David Sutton)

I haven't written about this, but two of our daughters are presently in Europe with Young People's Symphony Orchestra (of which I'm on the board of directors), the second oldest youth symphony in the United States and the oldest in California.  They play violin, and have already had one concert (tonight, June 23).

Here's the itinerary:

Concert No. 1 in conjunction with the Benda Chamber Orchestra in Dvorak Hall at the Rudolfinum
Prague, Czech Republic 
Saturday, June 23 
Program: 
Karel Stamic - Sinfonia in F "Loveck√°" (La caccia) (some YPSO string members joining BKO) 
Jan Krtitel Vanhal - Concerto in F for Bassoon Jaroslav Kubita, soloist, and solo bassoonist of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra 
Smetana - Vltava (the Moldau) 
Rimsky-Korsakov - Capriccio Espagnol
Dvorak - Slavonic Dance in C Major, Opus 43 No. 1 (some members of BKO joining YPSO for the Dvorak Slavonic dance) 

Concert No. 2 at the Slovak Radio Concert Hall 
Bratislava, Slovakia
Tuesday, June 26
Program: 
Dvorak - Scherzo Capriccioso
Bruch - Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Marian Svetlik, Soloist
Smetana - Vltava (the Moldau) 
Rimsky-Korsakov - Capriccio Espagnol 

Concert No. 3 at the Musikverein
Vienna, Austria
Thursday, June 28
Joint Performance with New Jersey Youth Symphony and Camerata Medici 
YPSO's Part of Program: 
Dvorak - Scherzo Capriccioso
Debussy - La Mer

The latter venue is considered to be one of the greatest concert halls in the world and is home to the Vienna Philharmonic.  It is called the Great Hall and the Golden Hall.  The building was inaugurated on January 6, 1870.  Brahms conducted there.  The Rudolfinum is home to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.  It opened in 1885 and is one of the oldest concert halls in Europe and of the finest acoustics.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Confession of Faith on the Inspiration and Preservation of Scripture, part 2


The material below is the second and final part of this confession on the inspiration and preservation of Scripture.  Part 1 is here.  Lord willing, next Friday I will post the two parts together and ask you if you are willing to subscribe to this confession.  At this point, any discussion of this part should take place in the comment section of this post.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Attacks or Denials of God's Creation

Scripture emphasizes God as Creator.  God Himself elevates His work of creation.  He desires recognition and glory for what He did and then continues to do in sustaining the creation.   Believing in Him as Creator is one vital aspect of believing in Him.  In other words, you don't believe in Him if you deny His creation.

The Bible opens (Genesis 1:1) and closes with God creating (Revelation 21:1).  We see this all over the psalms.  Psalm 33:6-8:

6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

Psalm 93:3-6:

3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. 5 The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. 6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.

Psalm 104:1-24:

vv. 1-3.  Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, thou art very great! Thou art clothed with honour and majesty. . . . Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: He maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind. . . . Thou best set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth. v. 10. He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. . . . vv. 13–14. He watereth the hills from his chambers: The earth is satisfied with fruit of thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; . . . vv. 19–20. He appointed the moon for seasons: The sun knoweth his going down. Thou makest darkness, and it is night; . . . v. 24. O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom host thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.

 We don't worship the Lord without acknowledgement of His creation, and God is seeking for true worshipers.  It's easy to see that denying creation is part of apostasy (2 Peter 3:13).  Paul said that the unbeliever under God's wrath worships and serves the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:20).  Creation on a root level declares that God is in fact God (Isaiah 45:18).   Heaven's population declares Him worthy because He created all things (Revelation 4:11).  We should concern ourselves with the faith of those who attack or deny God's creation.

I want us to consider several ways that men today attack or deny God's creation, and, therefore, God as Creator.

1.  Evolution

More evangelicals and even some professing fundamentalists believe in evolution.  One of the leadership of The Gospel Coalition, Tim Keller, is one.  The Bible doesn't read evolution.   Now prominent evangelicals are working at making evolution acceptable to evangelicals.  They are looking at the Genesis account in unique ways that I have never seen before.

2.  Homosexuality

An argument for homosexuality is one against God's creation, as clearly seen in Romans 1.  Maybe not ironically, Keller goes soft on homosexuality in his preaching:

Well, it’s much, much, much easier to to have private conversations about it. I think . . . uh . . . can make this short. I . . . I believe in general that if you preach on why homosexuality is a sin . . . uhhh . . . there are . . . at least in my . . . in my . . . in my . . . in my church I know there’s lots and lots of folks who have same sex attraction who know that that’s not . . . as a Christian, I can’t do that. I’m not gonna go there. There’s a good number of them.  I’ve got a lot of non-Christians who are present who are friends of gay people but are not gay. Uhhh . . . and then uhh, there’d be a number of people with same sex attraction who . . . are there. And generally speaking, it’s almost impossible to preach a sermon and hit all 3 or 4 of those constituencies equally well.  Ummmm . . . it’s just . . . it’s just think about . . . you know . . . you know . . . you’re a communicator.  You know you need to . . . well, what’s my goal?  Who are my audience and . . . wow! it’s like a conundrum you can’t solve.  So, the best thing has always been for me. . . . to not do the public teaching as much as segment my audience through . . . ummm.

This explains the numerical growth of Keller's church in New York City.  This kind of attitude and action leads to some bad statistics on young evangelicals and homosexuality.  When you see a fast rising acceptance of homosexual marriage in the United States, you think about professing evangelicals.  The "millennials," those whose oldest are approaching thirty, have been polled and 44% of them support homosexual marriage.  That's bad, but 19% of evangelicals overall support it.  Keller's preaching, and others' like him, with homosexuality correlate to these statistics.

God created male and female and He made the woman for man, not a man for the man, just to remind us of the obvious.

3.  Egalitarian Marriages and Relationships and Roles

Closely related to the first two here are marriages that attack or deny the God ordained roles.  We've got feminist theologians now and they have made great headway.  Male headship and female submission are part of God's creation.  He designed man as head over woman.  You've got homosexuals and now you've also got metrosexuals.  Men are more like women today.  You know this.  They have a certain fastidiousness to their clothes and hair, talk with a slight lisp, and have a lot of girlfriends.  This is a new norm.  Mr. Mom at home also reflects this---dad in the apron.  An engineer in our church says that female engineers are outgrowing men.  Without a role, you've probably noticed, boys become aimless, not knowing how to act anymore.  It seems that you either have a fake manhood or little manhood.  Real manhood is disappearing.  You might be amazed at how much metrosexuality is at West Point, when I've been there visiting.

To remind you of Scripture, roles are based on creation order (1 Timothy 2:13; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9).  Attacks or denials of complementarianism, separate roles for men and women, are attacks or denials of God as Creator.

4.  Unisex Dress

Christians are some of the strongest advocates today for unisex dress.  They take no position on Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16.  They have relegated it to something ancient and closed off by history.  Women in churches have butch haircuts and wear blue jeans.  Men support it.  They elevate female happiness over biblical obedience.  These appearance issues are about God's design in His creation again.  I believe #2 and #3 above proceed from #4 here.  Of course, a wrong belief comes first, but in practice, the appearance precedes the egalitarianism.  Men won't fight this now for the same reason Keller won't preach against homosexuality.  They don't want to deal with those consequences.  But what about God?  I believe God sees this abuse as equal to homosexuality.  Equal.  I'm basing that on the use of the word "abomination."  God wants to be supported as Creator.  Not doing so is akin to not believing in Him.

5.  Amoral Music, Art, and Literature

Yes, Christian acceptance of rock and rap and grunge (etc.) music is an attack on God as Creator.  At the root of it is a denial of Divine aesthetics, objective beauty.  There is one God, one truth, one goodness, and one beauty.  To make beauty amoral, to subjectivize beauty, is a rejection of God's creation.  Pre-enlightenment moral imagination saw God's creation as the model for beauty.  It was beautiful if it reflected God's Divine nature and His order.  Not any more.  Ugly is the new lovely.  And it doesn't matter.  All of these are related.

One more things about the music.  This isn't conviction based.  This is feeling based.  God as Creator is also Controller.  One's music is like Fido's bowl of dog chow---you take it away, even if you are owner, and you might get bitten.  People bite over music.  That's why a well-known presuppositionalist, like Douglas Wilson, really a fake one based on this issue alone, and many conservative evangelicals fight to keep their tunes.  He's got lots of rock on his playlist and you've got a disorder if you criticize.  That's part of his serrated edge for you insiders.  Oh, if it's good rock, well done rock.  But love of rock contradicts presuppositionalism.  It's a bow to relative beauty.

I think there are more than these 5, but I don't want to make this more controversial than it already is.  Man worships himself as Creator.  Evangelicalism and a majority of fundamentalism are already there.  And another big chunk of fundamentalism doesn't care.  You wondering how a one world religion will happen?  Wonder no more.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I Don't Like Door-to-Door But I Do Love It

We've discussed whether door-to-door is scriptural.  But I need to tell you that I don't like it.  I dread it at least a little every time I go.  The dislike and the dread don't last long.  How it works fits with what Jesus said in John 13:17, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."  He didn't say, "Ye do them if ye are happy."  You don't start with happy.  You end with happy.  You don't have to be happy to get out and do what God wants you to do.  We're sanctified by the truth, not by our feelings.  Our feelings might say no, but we do it anyway, and I have found that in the midst of the obedience, my feelings come along.  I get happier as I go, and I believe that a major cause of this is the Holy Spirit.  When we are submitting to the Holy Spirit,  we see fruit of the Spirit---love, joy, peace---when the indwelling Spirit is happy, then we will be too.

A big problem in evangelicalism today is its emphasis on feelings.  I believe this relates to the widespread pragmatism and mysticism in evangelicalism.  People mistake feelings for the Holy Spirit.  Evangelicals know people want to feel something, so they choreograph it for the effect.  None of this is true spirituality or Christianity.  Evangelicals want growth, and manipulation of feelings is a way to get there.

The emphasis of the New Testament is the mind.  This is what Jonathan Edwards talked about in his Treatise on the Religious Affections.  Affections begin with the mind where a person avows with his inclination.   What he thinks about affects his will, and he does what God says.  That's how true affections operate.  Jesus said that His friends do what He says and to love Him is to keep His Words.  That's how we love Him.

Out of actual love for God, I combat my feelings.  I know what Jesus said and did.  From that knowledge comes my inclination toward preaching to everyone.  I put it in my schedule.  I make myself do it.  I do the same thing, by the way, with exercise.  I jog 2.4 to 3 miles 4 to 5 days a week.  I never feel like jogging.  I always feel a little sick to my stomach, but then I go anyway.  I don't think about jogging the whole way.  I think about jogging to the top of the first hill, and then my mind moves to the next section, and so on.  Discipleship means discipline, making ourselves do things that our flesh doesn't want.

With door-to-door, you've got to adjust your expectations to biblical ones.  Be faithful to preach.  Be faithful to talk to the next person.  You don't think of two to three hours of evangelism.  You think about getting to where you are going.  You think then about the first person.  Scripture talks about this kind of thinking.  Gird up the loins of your mind.  Be strong.  Be vigilant.  There is a mindset that goes with obedient Christianity.  What I'm describing is it.   It is self-denial.

A lot of good things result from this obedience besides the obedience itself.  The obedience is its own reward.  However, you grow by confronting people all the time with the gospel.  The Bible will become way more alive to you.  The repetition will cement doctrine in your head.  You use Scripture so much that it becomes normal for God's Word to be in your mind and come out of your mouth.  You have to deal with so many different situations, that it gives you more motivation to study, to find the answer that you were lacking at a point in time.  This is how God intends for us to grow---truth breaking over the rocks of experience.

People may think you're some kind of Bible scholar that got what you got from memorizing it from studying it.  Where it really comes from is dealing with so many situations that you have put yourself in from going door to door.  You repeat certain truths that become yours.  You face questions that make you think through what you believe.  You grow from this.  The reason you know so much is because of this challenge that you chose to put yourself in.   Between one-on-one discipleship and door-to-door evangelism, I remember so much that I use all the time in the circumstances I face.  You'll be able to help others so much more because you chose to face them all the time.  Other trials will shrink because you put yourself into the trial of a door to door experience.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Confession of Faith on the Inspiration and Preservation of Scripture, part 1


I relatively recently wrote out the confession of faith in the inspiration and preservation of Scripture of which the following is part 1.  I would like blog readers to read and carefully ponder what is affirmed in this part, and the parts to follow, and engage in any discussion over them in the comment section.  There is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding of what Scripture teaches in these areas and what its implications are on texts and versions, and I believe that the confession below will help clarify what the Biblical position is.  After posting the confession in two parts, and engaging in whatever discussion comes up, I intend to post the entire confession in one post, and ask you if you are willing to subscribe to it, as I have done.  I believe it would assist in clarity among brethren and churches on this matter if the following confession were widely adopted.  So please read it with that in mind, and feel free to forward the post(s) and the entire confession that follows to others who might also be interested in its content or be willing to subscribe to it.  Part two of the confession is posted here. The entire confession is already here.



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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Local Only Ecclesiology, Baptist History, and Landmarkism

Sometimes I get spam email from a character in an African country, who wants to help me out financially.  Maybe you've deleted some of these letters too, knowing they're a fraud.  And then I get these letters from parachurch organizations or representatives who want to help me and my church.  I like the scriptural analogy I first heard from Bobby Mitchell---they're just another oxcart.  The oxcart was there to help Uzzah and his group of workers carry the ark.  A big help that provided, huh?

My alma mater, another parachurch organization, wants to help pastors and churches with a new online theological journal.  I'm not saying you can't find anything good there if you leave the bones and gristle.  However, in Maranatha's second only edition, I've got to call foul on a bit of propaganda in the form of The Landmark Controversy: A Study in Baptist History and Polity by Fred Moritz.   Early Maranatha, the Cedarholm and Weeks years, from the late 60s to the mid 80s, was local only in its ecclesiology.  Dr. Weeks taught every course associated with the church:  Baptist history, Baptist polity, Acts, and Revelation.  He savaged the universal church concept.  There wasn't anything close to acceptance of that belief.  For Baptist history, we used John T. Christian's A History of the Baptists, which is a Baptist successionism text.  I should also inform that Dr. Cedarholm would preach annually an anti-landmarkism sermon.  That sermon (usually ten points) was always curious to me.  Why?  I had never met one of these people he was preaching about.  I knew if I ever did, that I shouldn't be one, but I was still waiting for that.

In hindsight, I think that Dr. Cedarholm's anti-landmark sermon was because of criticism that Maranatha was a landmark school, a typical pejorative used against someone local only in his ecclesiology.  They didn't have actual proof against the ecclesiology, so they did the name calling that was typical of fundamentalism.  The landmark sermon wasn't for the students.  It was for the people out there, giving Maranatha deniability, that it was not "Baptist bride."  I also believe that Dr. Cedarholm's treatment of landmarkism was dealing with a strawman.   What stuck out in his sermon was not to be a "chain-linker."  The chain-link position did seem impossible.  I couldn't fathom that there were those who thought they could trace a tangible, visible lineage of their church all the way back to Christ.  I believe now that the reason it seemed so odd was because that wasn't what "landmarkers" actually believed.  Chain-link, like Baptist brider, and even landmarker, were part of the ad hominem attack on those believing local-only ecclesiology.

Maranatha published two books ever.  One was Evaluating Versions of the New Testament by Edward Fowler, in which Dr. Cedarholm in the preface says he's TR only, a bit of history now denied by Maranatha revisionists.  The other was a hardback two volume set of Armitage's History of the Baptists.  Maranatha considered Armitage to take a different view of Baptist successionism, called the spiritual kinship view.  Maranatha taught spiritual kinship, which is still Baptist successionism.  Maranatha sold the Challenge Press, local only books in its bookstore and we read them for Weeks' classes.  I'm talking about S. E. Anderson's The First Baptist and The First Church, and then Roy Mason's The Myth of the Universal, Invisible Church Exploded.  Baptist successionism is simply saying that there have always been churches with Baptist distinctives, that true churches always existed from today back to Christ, and that today they are Baptist churches.   Spiritual kinship says that we can trace the succession back spiritually.  Chain-link, according to the attacks, would be that you can find the church that came from the church that came from the church all the way back to the Jerusalem church.

I have not met one of these chain linkers, and I'm guessing that neither has Fred Moritz.  Chain linkers are fictional boogeymen.  Here's what landmarkers believe, as I understand them.  They believe that churches come from churches.  They believe that Christ gave the first church His authority and His authority is Scriptural and important.  Churches are given authority not just vertically, but horizontally.   You don't have to trace your church all the way back, but you should be looking to see if your church was started by a church, which was started by a church.  These "chain-linkers" don't believe authority came from Roman Catholicism and, therefore, Protestantism.  That line of churches is not the line of New Testament authority.  If the church was not started by a church, they question what they see as an important aspect of authority.  To act in faith, someone should be baptized by authority.  To act in faith, a church should be started by another true church, one that has authority.  This position is still a faith position.  It trusts Matthew 16:18, the promise of perpetuity.  I don't have a problem with the position I've just explained.  I take it myself.  I also don't have a problem with spiritual kinship.  As it stands, I don't think it is strong enough, but it is trusting Scripture as to the perpetuity of the church.

Fred Moritz is a recent addition to the Maranatha faculty.  I always, always had respect for Fred Moritz.   I liked hearing him preach, when I heard him.  I read both of his books on holiness and separation and liked a lot of what he wrote.  They were worth reading.  They would be especially good if people practiced them, which I would say they never do in fundamentalism.  Fred Moritz himself doesn't practice his own books.  I didn't know that until I was forced to encounter Moritz when he was the executive director of Baptist World Mission.  I was expecting him to do what he wrote, and was surprised when he didn't.  That was part of my "When I Left Fundamentalism" series here at this blog.

I believe Moritz wants to separate Maranatha from its history of local church teaching.   I believe he wants that characteristic of Maranatha to be eradicated.  I would say that it is gone already, but this is to scorch the earth upon which the local only teaching once sat.  What is sad about it is that he uses Dr. Weeks to do it at the end of the article.  Most probably don't care, but I do.  It's sad.  Maranatha deserves what it's getting, but again, it is sad.  Moritz himself has been a long time advocate, proponent of universal church teaching.  At one time, Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary published a journal and in either the first or one of the early editions, Moritz wrote an article promoting the teaching of the universal, invisible body of Christ.  The whole article was about that.  What I'm saying is that he is definitely the wrong man to be writing on this subject.  He's always differed than Maranatha, never been supportive of their historic position, and would have reason to want to rid it of that teaching.  Many will cheer what he's done.  I don't.

In the article itself, Moritz is attempting to portray landmarkism and really local only ecclesiology (because he doesn't really differentiate them) as novel in history, and in that sense, cultic.  That teaching, he is asserting, began with James R. Graves in the mid 19th century and it was merely a reaction to rise of Campbellism among the Baptist churches of America at that time.  He's also saying that it's the influence of covenant theology (which I'll get to later).  Moritz is using history, and I say "using" purposefully, to  make his point.  It is not much of a theological or biblical article.  I would consider myself at least a bit of a historian, because of my reading and my teaching it for over 20 years.  I care about history.  I know that history can be used in many different ways for almost any purpose that someone wants.  We can use information to make what happened to look like something else actually happened.  It's an easy way to discredit.

Moritz says that Graves was a controversialist by nature.  The tenor of the article is that Graves was destroying the Baptist churches in America with his teaching.  That is only an opinion.  Calvinists often believe that non-Calvinists are destroying churches.  Mormons believe that all true churches were lost until they came along.  When Jonathan Edwards' father-in-law, Solomon Stoddard, instituted the half way covenant in the New England, he thought he was helping churches.  That Graves was destroying churches is only an opinion of Moritz.  See, I believe Moritz himself is a controversialist, based on his own standard, and I know that first hand.  Jesus said that broad is the road to destruction and narrow the road to life eternal.  All the broad road people think that the narrow roaders are controversialists who won't fit in.  Outstanding old and historical sources say that Graves was a giant and have a positive view of him.  I'm not saying that Graves invented successionism any more than Darby invented dispensationalism, and I think those two are a good parallel.  You'll hear Calvinists say, "the reformed doctrine of justification," as if the reformation invented justification.  It's not a correct view to say that Baptist successionism was a reaction movement to Campbellism.  Baptist successionism is biblical teaching.  Christians should believe it.

In future articles, I will break-down Moritz's journal article.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Embarrassing History of the Doctrine of Preservation for the Multiple Versionists

Is the historical doctrine of preservation an embarrassment to multiple versionists (MV)?  I do ask this question in part because one MV recently asked if the preface of the King James Version (KJV) was an embarrassment to King James Onlyists (KJO).  The preface is supposed to be embarrassing to someone like myself because the translators wrote that their translation needed to be improved if it could---that's the gist of it.  Thing is, I know that my present KJV (the 1769 Blayney edition) changes the English words some from the 1611.  So why would I be embarrassed?  I'm still KJO.  I'm supposed to be embarrassed.  So why am I not embarrassed?  Well, because the KJV is the only English translation that comes from its particular original language words.  The New King James Version (NKJV) has different words as a basis for its New Testament text (I've written about this before here).  I've pointed out those words to people, and even though it totally debunks that argument, they remain silent about it (reason:  they don't care).

The KJV translators say nothing in their preface about changes in the underlying text.  They don't say, "If you find the actual text of Scripture, then please change the underlying text of what we translated."  Nope.  I can't be embarrassed about that, because it never happened, so I can think about it only in a hypothetical.  "If they did say that, would I be embarrassed?"  And I still have to admit that I wouldn't be embarrassed.  I'm glad that never happened with the translators, but if it did, I wouldn't be embarrassed, because my position, my faith, my doctrine, doesn't come from the King James translators.  I don't even think they generally represent historical Christian doctrine.  Some of what some of them believed or taught is orthodox, historical Christian doctrine, but not all.

I guess this comes down to what is actually embarrassing, or what makes us embarrassed.  I've been ashamed of myself on various occasions.  What I hope is shameful or embarrassing to me is when I contradict Scripture with my belief and behavior.  For instance, if I stopped believing what God said about the preservation of Scripture and what Christians have believed about it, I would be ashamed of myself.  That keeps me from going that direction, even if it would result in having some new found popularity among evangelicals and fundamentalists, and maybe I wouldn't get made fun of as much as I do.  But actually, when I received Jesus Christ, I gave up me for God.  As I've grown as a Christian, I've noticed that the world tries to put pressure on you by attempting to make you feel silly or weird for what you believe and practice.  The world uses worldly means and arguments to do so.  Strength from the Lord directs and enables me not to be swayed with that kind of technique or manipulation.  Often this works, however, which is why Satan and his system keeps doing it.

But all of the above brings me to the proposition that the biblical and historical Christian doctrine of preservation should embarrass evangelicals and fundamentalists about their views and positions.  MV should be embarrassed in light of what the Bible teaches and what Christians have believed.  MV should be embarrassed that they can't find their positions in history and that they contradict what the Bible teaches.  MV should be embarrassed for their faithlessness, which doesn't please God.  MV should be embarrassed that they have undermined the faith of many, these little children that they have caused to stumble---it would be better that they put a millstone around their neck and throw themselves into deep water, like Christ taught.  I would be ashamed to be them.  Their position doesn't stack up with the Bible or with history.

By the way, try to find a presentation from a MV that teaches the Bible and history on preservation.  You won't get developed teaching, anything systematic out of them.  They are at their best when they are merely criticizing (and usually just ridiculing) what Christians today write and believe on this subject.  They don't have their own written-out positions though. I've tried to get some of them to do it, but as they go to the Bible, they run into some major problems.  The Bible contradicts their positions.  At most, they are reactionary to what other people believe and practice.  Their stuff, however, like the major offerings of old-earth creationists, starts with science, and then attempts to frame Scripture to accommodate their science (so-called).

Now when I bring these things up, like I have with Daniel Wallace, he agrees.  He knows his position isn't historical.  He knows his position isn't what Christians have believed.   Kurt Aland knew he didn't take the biblical and historical position.  When I bring the historical part of this, William Combs at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary is silent.  He chooses instead to deflect with sarcasm or insults and snide remarks.  He is low hanging fruit for all of those himself, but that is not the spiritual weaponry that anyone needs.  His use of carnal weapons, including the embarrassment-over-the-preface-of-the-translators argument, indicates that he desperately has little to nothing going for him. He should operate in faith, but he continues in uncertainty and doubt.  He ignores the faith of the churches on this issue for the popularity of the society of scholarship, science falsely so-called.  It reminds me of the temptation of the church at Corinth to fit in with the various wisdom of the Greek philosophers there, even though it clashed with apostolic doctrine.  They denied the bodily resurrection for the mere immortality of the soul, because the former would have meant clashing with the scholars there.  All of this should be embarrassing.

What is sad to me is that men are not embarrassed about their clash with a historical and biblical doctrine of preservation of Scripture.   My opinion is that they actually are embarrassed, which explains the venom and the anger with which they write.  It is sort of like Peter's anger when he warmed his hands at the fire when he denied Jesus.  He was angry.  He had to make questions go away and did so with his anger and his language.  If you don't have truth to tell, and the Word is truth, not the preface of the translators, you've got to take the strategy that Peter took.  The scoffers that Peter wrote about in 2 Peter 2-3 are similar.  They have scientific arguments against the second coming of Christ, and Peter said, we've got a more sure word of prophecy.  The scoffing was there to protect the lifestyle.  Men like Wallace and Combs have positions to protect too.

It's embarrassing to be contradicting Scripture.  It looks faithless and weak.  I've seen men in these positions, when they are on the side of weakness.  Instead of actually being strong, they put on a show of strength.  That's what the articles on the preface of the KJV look like to me.  They are a giant bluff.  It has nothing to add to historic bibliology.  These men can't go to the Bible for their positions, so they have to lean on authority-by-best-quote, something like what occurred with the religious leaders of Jesus' day.  They speak as ones having no authority.   It's embarrassing.  It should be.  I think it is.  Perhaps in what is even more embarrassing, they'll say, "no, I'm not embarrassed."  Shame on them.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Thoughts on “‘Keswick’ and the Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification” by J. I. Packer


I read, not too long ago, the article mentioned in the title of this post, by J. I. Packer, from The Evangelical Quarterly, vol. 27 (1955) 153-167. Packer is reviewing the book So Great Salvation: The History and Message of the Keswick Convention by Steven Barabas.  Both Packer and Barabas are neo-evangelicals.  Packer’s article was influential when it was written:  “There was thus no response from the Keswick faction which rebuffed the critique offered by Packer. It is widely agreed that Packer’s review marked the end of the dominance of the Keswick approach among younger evangelicals . . . the theological weight of Packer’s critique seemed to many to prove unanswerable.” (pg. 79, J. I. Packer: A Biography, A. McGrath. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1997).  Some of what he said was worth thinking about.  I am not going to comment on everything that he wrote (or that Barabas wrote, for I have read his book also) here.  I want to point out one particular thing.

Packer’s rebuttal has the serious weakness in that he rejects (pgs. 160-161) what he calls “a mystical doctrine of personal communion with the Holy Ghost” and likewise opposes the idea that a “life in which the Holy Spirit plays no conscious part is sub-normal Christianity.”  Packer gives no verses from the Bible for his rejection of personal communion with the Holy Ghost (contra 2 Corinthians 13:14), but simply blows fellowship with Him off as being “magic” by a quote from B. B. Warfield.  Packer’s acceptance of a life in which the Holy Spirit plays no conscious part is a dangerous error in his Anglican and Reformed doctrine of sanctification.  One wonders if his vehement opposition to the doctrine of conscious fellowship with the Holy Ghost stems from the incredible amount of quenching and grief the Spirit receives from the liturgical and lifeless Anglican communion in which Packer ministers, a denomination that is filled to the brim with unregenerate people and apostasy. 

The serious error by Packer of downplaying the communion of the Holy Ghost, while widespread in modern Reformed circles, and recognized as a danger by some modern writers among the Reformed themselves (e. g., Bruce Waltke, professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, wrote:  “Reformed doctrine . . . may lead to spiritual deadness by reducing Christianity to a rational system of thought rather than maximizing and realizing the essential ministry of the Holy Spirit in life” (pg. 22, “Evangelical Spirituality: A Biblical Scholar’s Perspective.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 31:1 (March 1988).) does not represent the uniform position of classical Reformed authors.  When John Owen wrote Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and spent many pages detailing the believer’s personal fellowship with the Holy Spirit, he embraced a theology of the Christian life notably different from that of Packer.  Consider also the warm embrace of communion with the Spirit by the Dutch Second Reformation Calvinist Wilhelmus √° Brakel:
[T]he Holy Spirit . . . transmi[ts] . . . the image of God [and] imprint[s] [it] upon the heart of man, who is re-created in this image. . . . The transmission of this image occurs by the operation of the Spirit of God, who imprints the image of God upon man, causing Christ to be formed in them. . . . This sealing, which confirms believers and assures them that they are partakers of the covenant of grace, occurs in various ways.
First, this occurs when the Spirit reveals to believers that He dwells in them as in a temple. The bride requested, “set me as a seal upon Thine heart” (Song 8:6); that is, let me thus be imprinted upon Thy heart, that Thou wouldest continually think upon me and that my appearance would continually be before Thy eyes. In like manner the Holy Spirit sets Himself as a seal upon the heart of believers, making them conscious of His presence and indwelling, whereby He assures them as clearly and powerfully that they are partakers of the covenant of grace as if they were sealed with a seal. . . . Secondly, the Holy Spirit seals them by imprinting the image of God upon them, as well as by showing and revealing to them that the image of God is in them. He convinces them of the genuineness of their initial change, of their being ingrafted into Christ, of their faith whereby they truly received Christ and still do so daily both unto justification and sanctification. He convinces them of the genuineness of their insatiable desire to continually enjoy communion with God, of their spiritual life which, though feeble, is nevertheless genuine, and of their hatred for sin. He makes them aware how it wounds and grieves them when they perceive internal sin, imperfection in their performance of duty, as well as their failure to perform that which is good. He shows them that it is not only all their desire to be holy, but that their utmost effort is to do everything in faith, to be motivated by the love and fear of God, to live in childlike obedience, etc. The Spirit makes them conscious of all this, so that they perceive it in such a manner that they can neither deny it nor be deprived of its inherent comfort. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).
Having on the one side revealed this to them, He leads them, in the consciousness of this received grace, not only to the Word of God but also to the promises which are made to such persons as they are. He sheds light upon such texts and causes them to acknowledge the infallible truth expressed in them. In this condition He ushers them into the presence of God and by virtue of two propositions—one being deduced from the grace they possess and the other from the Word of God—causes them to come to the conclusion that they are most certainly the children of God and thus will become partakers of eternal salvation. By way of such reasoning, the Holy Spirit not only labors to give clarity and assurance concerning both God’s grace in them and the promises of Scripture for them, but also takes an active part in the formulation of this conclusion. By granting much light, He causes them to be steadfast and assured in this conclusion. By His sealing power He impresses this reality so deeply upon their heart that they believe it with such certainty as if they saw it with their eyes and touched it with their hands—yes, as if they were already in possession of salvation itself. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit also occasionally seals in an immediate manner by means of clear and powerful declarations within the heart, such as: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; Thy sins are forgiven thee; Thou art an heir of eternal life,” and similar passages. Such declarations occasionally occur by means of a Scripture passage which is powerfully applied. At other times this can occur without a specific text, bearing in mind that such a declaration will always be in agreement with Scripture, it being the touchstone for such a declaration. This immediate sealing does not only result in the confirmation of their spiritual state, but the Holy Spirit grants them the immediate enjoyment of the matter itself, which results in peaceful serenity, a pleasant and sweet frame of mind, and an exhilarating joy. This causes such a person to be saturated with love, be in a holy frame of mind, be lifted up in the ways of the Lord, be ready to heroically do battle with the enemy, and walk in the way of God’s commandments. The bride refers to this as being kissed. “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth: for Thy love is better than wine” (Song 1:2). She further testifies, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love,” etc. (Song 2:4-6). Such was David’s desire, “say unto my soul, I am thy salvation” (Psalm 35:3). It is this blessing which Christ promises to believers. “I will love him, and will manifest Myself to Him. We will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:21, 23).
One should know, however, that, although all believers are sealed, [they do not enjoy experiential fellowship with the Spirit] with equal clarity. (pgs. 187-190, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vol 1.)
Enjoyment of the communion of the Holy Ghost (2 Corinthians 13:14), contrary to the affirmations of Packer, is not only characteristic of better Reformed writers, but it indubitably characterizes historic Baptist theology (which is not Reformed) as well, for conscious, experiential communion with the Trinity is not “magic,” but the plain teaching of Scripture (and so it certainly does not depend upon allegorization of the Song of Solomon of the sort made by Brakel above).  When “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5), conscious, experiential fellowship is in view.  “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15)—what is this but experiential fellowship?  The Apostles could say, “truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,” a fellowship as experiential as their fellowship one with another (1 John 1:3).  Christ promises:  “[H]e that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. . . . I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. . . . If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:18-23).  Does Christ manifest Himself to the believer, and come with His Father to abide with the believer, without conscious, experiential fellowship with His beloved redeemed one? To “know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19) cannot be merely intellectual, but also experiential.  When Christ comes in to the believer, to sup with him, experiential fellowship is clearly in view (Revelation 3:20).  J. I. Packer’s affirmation that a life in which the Holy Spirit plays no conscious part is not sub-normal Christianity is extremely dangerous and entirely erroneous.  It should be rejected.  If you feel that it is necessary to read Packer’s writings, do not adopt such terrible theological errors because of a few good things he may have to say on other matters.

-TDR

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

How Door-to-Door Evangelism Works

Do the attitudes of people in general prevent someone from preaching the gospel door-to-door?  No.  Is the major problem with door-to-door preaching that people do not want strangers there uninvited?  Is it "the secluded disposition so prevalent among much of suburbia"?  Is it "the unsolicited presence is so intrusive and overbearing as to prevent the sharing of the gospel"?

I would call my efforts a large enough sample size.  I've been preaching the gospel here in Northern California, just north of Berkeley, door-to-door (among other ways) for twenty-five years.  The door-to-door itself hasn't been what has stopped preaching the gospel.  When someone goes door-to-door and when he does, he preaches the gospel, then he preached the gospel.  If you preached the gospel to someone, then that's what you were wanting to do.  The percentage is so high of the times that I do preach the gospel that one could say assuredly that I always get to preach the gospel when I go door-to-door.  Does that sound like a successful method?  I would say so.

Just as a sample, I can start with what happened this last week up in Sacramento area.  I went out for three hours and I talked to three people for an average of an hour apiece.  In each case, I preached the gospel.  How does three-for-three sound for percentages?  Three houses.  Three at-homes.  Three gospel presentations.  Isn't that what it's all about?

I'm talking to the people in the country least likely to want to listen.  And I always get to preach the gospel.  What kind of statistic do you think, always-get-to-preach-the-gospel, is?  I agree that people don't want to go because they don't want to have strangers visit their house uninvited.  I agree that people don't want to go because they have a "secluded disposition."  I agree that people don't want to go because they don't like "the unsolicited presence...so intrusive and overbearing."  But when I go to a door, that's not actually what occurs.  People talk to me.  I talk to them.  They listen.  And I preach the gospel to them.  This means I preach the gospel to a lot of people.

(I don't like the terminology "share the gospel."  It is weak.  It is non-scriptural, if not unscriptural.  Sharing implies reciprocation---there is none with a lost person.  You aren't really sharing with them.  I like the Bible term "preaching."  You should preach the gospel to people, not share the gospel with them.  It's attempting to make something non-offensive that is by nature offensive.)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about what success was in evangelism.  Success is preaching the gospel.  If you preach it, you've succeeded.  I hope you notice that I didn't talk about results.  That's not your goal.  Yours is to preach it.  God gives the increase. The people who place themselves on God's side are the ones who will be a failure.  They have to produce something in the nature of a profession.  You'll find them talking about people's dispositions, that they won't like your unsolicited presence.  You've got to figure out ways to talk to everyone that does not include an offensive or awkward start to the conversation.  The Bible says nothing about this, and these are usually the same people that harp about extra-scriptural standards and going beyond Scripture in application.  And this is almost their entire program with regards to church growth, that is, the extra-scriptural, humanly cooked-up program or strategy.  Meanwhile, not everybody gets an opportunity to hear, but they're not so concerned about that, obviously.

At this point, I draw your attention to the Calvinists, who are thinking about all the different strategies and techniques related to people being converted.  This is where I say I believe more in the sovereignty of God than Calvinists.  They are the ones concerned about the props.  They are the ones that put the pressure on themselves to concoct something unoffensive to lost people.  There are lost people all over the place.  And they act like this is rocket science.  It isn't.  When you walk out the door, the lost are everywhere.  The problem is the not preaching to them.

Meanwhile, I just walk up to people and start talking to them, and then preach the gospel to them.  You may ask, "You mean, you can do that?"  Uh-huh.  You can just start having a spiritual conversation and turn it into a preaching time to a lost person.  I've found that today, normally, people want you to cut right through the small talk.  Get right to the point.  So you should.  I do.  Our church does that.  If you are wondering about the amount of results we see, again, you are missing the point of evangelism.  Evangelism is to preach the gospel.  That's what it means.  Will people be saved?   A very small minority.  But that doesn't mean you are not a success, because that part of the equation is not your responsibility.  God authored Scripture, the gospel, did what it took for people to be saved.  The Holy Spirit uses God's Word.  You unleash it, and understand that it is the power necessary for the result God would want.  And yet, people still won't listen, won't respond right, will rebel.  You have some strongly consider it, but still reject it.  You'll have some make false professions.  You'll have some that will stick.

I never run out of people to preach the gospel to.  And yet, evangelicals and fundamentalists act as though they and we have.  It's too bad.  This is where I see that their churches have become about them, about the people themselves, and not about God.  God wants to be talked about.  He wants to be revealed everywhere by the preaching of His Words.  We should just do that and leave everything else up to Him.  Even when people don't receive, He gets glorified among the heathen.  Does that sound like a success to you?  But that's not good enough for evangelicals and fundamentalists today.  That's not worth their time.  So that shows you what their true love for God is.  It is not very much or none at all.  And anathema, Maranatha to those who don't love the Lord Jesus Christ.

Truly these people don't take the time to preach the gospel to people and wide swaths of population haven't heard in the United States, with all of our Bibles and training institutions and tens of thousands of dollars for church-plant launches, where clever glossy postcards are sent out with bait-and-switch.  I'm not talking about Jack Hyles.  I'm talking about mainstream evangelicals that would put Jack Hyles to shame with their stuff.  I see it all the time.  Some are busy writing their movie reviews and posting their latest favorite rock song.  They'll write all about the gospel.  And they'll correct a Jehovah's Witness if he happens to come to the door, and then do a series on what he said to the JW in his comments.  But actually cover some territory with gospel preaching?  Uh-uh.  Nope.  People don't want that, he says.  I'm telling you, however, that's just not the case.  You will have people willing to hear, if you go.  So what are you waiting for?

Monday, June 04, 2012

Do You Have to Do Door-to-Door Evangelism?

Ignore your teeth, they'll go away.   Ignore door-to-door evangelism and you won't preach the gospel to everyone.  Does it matter if you don't preach to everyone?  If it doesn't, then go ahead and ignore door-to-door.

Churches ignore door-to-door.  They are either defying what God said or they don't believe it matters if you preach the gospel to everyone.

If churches don't believe that God wants them to preach the gospel to everyone, then what is it that He does want with that regard?  Does He want them to preach it to some people?  If some, how many?  And if we're not to preach to everyone where we live, then why go to some foreign field to preach it?

The problem, as I see it, is a lack of boldness.  And that lack of boldness comes because of a lack of the Holy Spirit or at least submission to the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit works toward boldness.  If we don't see boldness, then He isn't there to work or someone is quenching His work.

The no door-to-door people, however, usually never will say it is because of a lack of boldness.  What do they say?  The following is what I've heard recently right here.

1.    Jesus didn't preach to everyone because not everyone wanted to hear.

The full argument here, I guess, is something like this.  If Jesus went to a community and they didn't want to listen, He didn't preach to them, so that means that we don't have to preach to everyone.  Therefore, we won't preach to everyone.

I would think that "preach to everyone" would be obvious.  We preach to everyone that will listen to us.  You're not avoiding anyone when you do it that way.  But your intention, your approach, and your actions are toward preaching to everyone.

2.    Door-to-door isn't the best way to preach the gospel to everyone.

I don't understand this one.  The best way to preach the gospel to everyone is to preach the gospel to everyone.  Someone says that door-to-door isn't the best way.  But if you don't go to everyone, you won't preach it to everyone.  If people didn't have doors, only windows, I would say "window-to-window."  If people lived out of doors, with no doors or windows, I would say, "person-to-person."  The best way to preach to everyone must include preaching to everyone.  If the best way to preach to everyone doesn't include preaching to everyone, then it can't be the best way.

For instance, let's test some of the other ideas that someone might float as better.  "I talk to people who happen to be on their porches."  That is preaching to everyone who is on their porch.  What about those not on their porches?  It doesn't attempt to preach to them.  Or, "we invite everyone in the community to our building to hear."  That is inviting.  That is not "going."  It is staying and inviting.  Going means that you leave your location and go to their location.  Get it?  It's tough, but I think you can understand it.

3.    People have gated communities and you can't get into them.

This would be akin to, "there are people who live on tiny islands that have no airports and so they are tough to get to."  I'm thinking of Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia.  They have lots of little islands.  If they have gates around their communities, you are going to have to find a different way to get to those people.  However, not being able to get to them doesn't mean that you don't go ahead and go to people who don't live behind gates.  Go to the gateless places and then find a way to get the gospel to the gated.  Some people are in maximum security isolation.  They're even tougher to get to.  Since I can't get it to them, do I just not go to everyone else?  Get it?  It's tough, but I think you can understand it.

4.    I've found door-to-door to be off-putting and ineffective.

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  If you preach it to someone, it only seems off-putting and ineffective.  Some people don't receive it.  I know of nowhere in Scripture that says that if you preach the gospel, everyone is always going to like it.  What I read is that the broad road leads to destruction.  I read that people have to want it when they hear it.  The method of going to people and preaching it to them will be unpopular always.

Going to a person to preach to him is effective at having the gospel preached to him.  Not going to him and preaching to him is very ineffective at having it preached to him.   When you do preach it to him, and he doesn't want to listen (he's "off-put"), it might be because he thinks that preaching is foolishness, that he's proud, that he doesn't see his desperate condition---those sorts of things.

When someone says he thinks it's ineffective, what he means, I believe, is:  "my church doesn't get bigger in numbers that way."  There are reasons door-to-door will hurt bigger numbers.  I've written about that here other times.  They will know your church goes door-to-door, and they don't want to be associated with that kind of boldness or fanaticism.  They want a church where you won't be expected to preach.  In other words, they aren't denying themselves.  They aren't taking up their cross.  And they aren't following Jesus.  But they still want to be saved, go to heaven, and have other neat stuff the church has to offer.  To promote the church through non-preaching is to misrepresent Christianity and the New Testament.  It will tend toward false professions.

5.    Door-to-door associates us with the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Let's say Satan had a plan to stop the gospel from being preached to everyone.  What could he do?  I know.  He could have another group do door-to-door that preached a false gospel and make true gospel preaching look bad.  Christians who didn't want to look like the false preachers would stop preaching it to everyone.

Lots of false religions have similar practices to true churches.  They have choirs.  They have the Lord's Table. They baptize.  They preach.  That doesn't mean we should stop obeying the New Testament.

6.    People who go door-to-door are just going through the motions, putting in their time, and thinking they are better than other people because they punch the time-clock every week and do their hour or two of door-to-door---it's legalistic.

You might not think that's an actual reason, but it really is a common one.  Of course, anything we do in the Christian life can be merely ritual.  That's a warning for everything in the Christian life.  It doesn't mean we should stop doing what's right out of love for God.

7.    There are other ways to preach to people besides door-to-door.

That's true.  If I say, "eat with a fork," that doesn't mean you can't eat with a spoon or even use your fingers.  Come on, folks.  Of course there are other ways to preach.  But there isn't another way to preach it to everyone that I know of.  And I've never had anyone tell me how you could do it without actually going to everyone.  And since they live behind doors, and they usually come to the door when they want to talk to you, then you'll need to go to the door.  If they're in the front yard, you won't have to go to their door.  Yah!  Hip-hip hooray!  You didn't go door-to-door to the one who was in his yard.

The Greeks like wisdom.  The Jews signs.  Americans like other things.  That doesn't mean that we should use strategies that take advantage of what people like.  We should preach.  They won't like it for the most part.  We already know it.  We should just do it anyway by faith and depend on God for the results.  That's what pleases and glorifies Him.

Friday, June 01, 2012

A Paradigmatic Example of New Age Medicine and How to Expose and Analyze it, part 5



The following is a continuation of part 4.

All methods of testing demonstrate that Chiropractor Jay Fox’s methods are harmful and should be avoided.  1.) His practice fails the Biblical test, for the Word of God commands that occultism should be avoided, and his muscle testing, homeopathy, and chiropractic practice are rooted in the occult and the New Age.  2.) His practice fails the (Biblically based) scientific method test, for his muscle testing, homeopathy, and chiropractic practice all have no physical mechanism that connects their methodology with their alleged results.  Their methods cannot possibly work on the basis they affirm.  Furthermore, science indicates that some of his procedures are actually harmful, and can contribute to death by cancer, strokes, or other physical dangers, as well as causing harm by preventing one from seeking rational methods of treatment.  3.) His practice fails the practical test employed immediately above, since it produced results affirming that toxic mineral spirits, toxic silica gel, toxic rat poison, and other poisons were good for human consumption, and that certain of these substances should be consumed by me daily.

Since Chiropractor Fox’s practice fails sound criteria for the legitimacy of its practice, why has he been recommended by one person to another, commended by word of mouth, and had his practice make thousands of dollars from $55 sessions, plus sales of expensive supplement products from his office, with people whom we know?  I fear that my household has contributed to this situation by not employing Biblical, rational methods, as commanded in many verses cited above, of evaluating allegations of health benefits from particular methods.  Rather than requiring that a method actually works on the basis of its stated principles, and requiring evidence from properly conducted studies, we have accepted personal testimonies of feeling better after engaging in sessions as proof that Chiropractor Fox’s methods work, although many alternative explanations for improvement in feeling exist, from the God-given ability of the body to heal, to answered prayer for physical health, to the placebo effect, to the comforting feelings one gets from being in a pleasant looking office with someone who offers one much sympathy and says what one wishes to hear.  Since there are many reasons, other than cause-effect, that one can feel differently subsequent to the employment of a particular treatment, personal testimony is not accepted as evidence for effectiveness in medical journals—but my household has employed it as a method of determining scientific fact.  While, as saints, we have a justifiable tendency to accept the testimony of others, especially other believers, and those whom we love, trust, and are close to, and this is, in many areas of life, a good thing, it does not make testimonial a valid method of determining medical facts.  Also, simply accepting personal testimony about a particular unconventional method has saved us time in our busy schedules, for we have simply assumed that the testimonies are proof, and we have then spent time on other things that seemed more pressing or things that we were actually more interested in.  Unfortunately, since God’s command for us is to “Prove/test all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), by not spending the time to evaluate methods of improving our health Biblically and logically, Judy and I have allowed ourselves to get involved in things that are impossible on their stated mechanisms, opened ourselves up to occult influences, and participated in things that are actually harmful to our health (like full spinal X-rays), not to mention wasted a lot of money.[1]  Our ability to be healthy and serve the Lord with our lives is very important, and Judy and I have not done well by taking the easy road that does not employ 1 Thessalonians 5:21, and thus allowed ourselves to come to invalid conclusions. In the case of Chiropractor Fox, Judy and I have spent large sums of money going to him, and Judy has received “treatments” that are actually dangerous, because we have accepted testimonials about how great someone is who cannot tell the difference between rat poison and healthful diet products.  I fear that I have been a bad steward by wasting sizable sums of money, contributed to the spread of false information about the cause and nature of disease and therefore had diseases prolonged, unintentionally born false witness about invalid treatments, and even exposed my family to threats from the devil and his angels—and thus grieved the Holy Spirit—through the acceptance and promotion of occult-based practices.  I would not want my brethren in Christ to do the same—thus, this analysis.  Accepting methods that do not work by not thinking Biblically, can, for example, lead someone with cancer to reject God’s gift of surgery (Matthew 5:30; Mark 9:43, 45) to remove tumors to adopt an occult or unproven technique that simply does not cure the disease, and either by delaying adopting treatment that actually works while the cancer spreads, or by not adopting it at all, die for no good reason.  As for me, in light of how my household has been deceived by Chiropractor Fox, it seems like it would be wise to make sure that, from now on, I am evaluating information in the medical realm in valid ways.  May we all consider such topics as prescribed in Scripture: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and “keep sound wisdom and discretion” (Proverbs 3:21), and consider what is “true . . . honest . . .[and] just” (Philippians 4:8), and “reason” (Isaiah 1:18; 1 Samuel 12:7; cf. Acts 17:2; 24:25; etc.), “see, and know, and consider, and understand” (Isaiah 41:20), and “produce [a] cause . . . [and] bring forth . . . strong reasons” (Isaiah 41:21), and “gird up the loins of [our] mind . . . as obedient children” (2 Peter 1:13-14) and have a “sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7), and “be not children in understanding . . . but in understanding be men” (1 Corinthians 14:20), and “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” by “the renewing of [our] mind” (Romans 12:1-2) and based on reasoning from the scientific method (Genesis 1:28) be “persuaded” (Acts 18:4).



Postscriptum to John Doe’s study by TDR:

Based on the information from John Doe, it was noteworthy, in both a positive and negative way, to find out what the reactions were to his study and his evaluation of Mr. Fox by Judy and he.  John found out that Judy was convinced, and her thinking was changed for the better, to conform more closely to that of Scripture in this area.  Unfortunately, when the study was shared with others, some of those who had assisted Judy in following her earlier way of thinking that left her open to New Age and quack influence, had a sadly different reaction.  In one particular group of people who were going to Chiropractor Fox—Baptist fundamentalists, at that—there was not the least expression of gratitude or word of thanks for the study.  The facts about Mr. Fox’s New Age practices were set aside.  There was anger, not at Chiropractor Fox for the lies he promoted and the money he swindled people out of, but at John Doe for conducting the experiment that showed that his muscle testing was poppycock.  John Doe’s experiment was wrong.  He should not have done it.  John Doe had neglected the Conspiracy by the evil drug companies and the government to make people sick, you see.  John was bad, and Fox was good.  Fox had “helped” a lot of people;  they felt better after going to him.  They were going to continue to go to Mr. Fox, and to recommend him to others.  John simply did not understand.

So, dear reader, learn from John Doe’s example.  Evaluate everything Scripturally, including medical claims.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Expose and warn about New Age and quack “medicine.”  Some people will listen—Judy did.  Some people will not, but will get angry with you.  Some of those people will die young, and lead other people to die young.  Many more will be worse stewards of what God has given them than they would have been otherwise because they will waste many thousands or ten thousands of dollars in their lifetimes on New Age therapies. In either case, if they are believers, they will give an account at the judgment seat of Christ for their poor stewardship of their own lives and finances and the lives and finances of others of God’s image-bearers who unnecessarily go to an early grave. But do not have blood on your hands.  Tell the truth.

-TDR