Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Unbelieving Arguments That Don't Add Up

I'm getting ready to do several home improvement projects and to prepare I've been watching some how-to videos at youtube.   Some kind of system at youtube causes unrelated videos to show up in the sidebar, and one popped up with Christopher Hitchens, the famous atheist, answering a question in one of his debates.  Hitchens, who died this last year of cancer, was well read and very talented rhetorically, yet unconvincing.   Aristotle divided up persuasion into three aspects:  ethos (character), logos (reasoning), and pathos (emotion).  Hitchens utilized pathos very well.  He didn't bring anybody with him, just entertained those already with him and made everyone else mad.

Since I live near Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay Area, I talk to atheists at a more regular clip than most, and if I get any to talk to me (they normally won't), there are a couple of typical lines of thought they take.  One I had a couple of months ago.  He was angry at the truth of one plan of salvation.  He didn't like the idea that Jesus was our only salvation and everyone else was condemned to Hell.  I asked him if would also be angry if there was only one cure for a deadly disease.  Nope.  That froze him.  He couldn't work up the intensity over that.  However, that "argument" is a typical atheist argument.  Salvation through Jesus Christ can't be true, the Bible can't be true, because there is no way that God should condemn people if they won't believe in Him.  They're OK if "nature" condemns someone to death who won't take advantage of the one cure that's available.  They have a bias against the God of the Bible.  They start with rebellion as a default position.

Another popular Hitchen's screed I'd watched him give again and again with memorized talking points polished by multiple usages is one about the God of the Bible or Christianity taking away freedom and giving people only the one point of view.  He likened God to Big Brother, the point being, of course, that if you didn't like Big Brother, then you wouldn't or shouldn't like the God of the Bible or Christianity.  Again, it's not really an argument that Hitchens offers, just a well-worded complaint.  Complaining isn't an argument, except for liberals.  I bring you back to pathos again, which works well in the era in which we live.  Hitchens delivered his complaints with utter disdain of the God of the Bible and believers.

God is Who He is.  He's told us Who He is.  And He is God.  We've got to accept the One, the actual One, the only One we've got.  If you don't accept Him, it's not like you can go find another one you like better, when there's only one.   

Hitchens simply offered the only alternative to the God of the Bible, what you liked better.  Someone asked him what his purpose for life was, and I thought it was ironic, because it was in fact what Jesus said would be the purpose of any unbeliever, that being, eat, drink, and be merry, or in other words, no purpose.  Hitchens wanted to eat, drink, and be merry, and get away with it.  With the God of the Bible, he couldn't, so he just dismissed God.  He couldn't complain and mock God out of existence any more than anyone could Hitchens.

Atheists like Hitchens resign themselves to all sorts of inevitability:  death, pain, the common cold, headaches, gravity, sunburn, insect bites, dripping faucets, and traffic.  In other words, a lot about their lives doesn't go like they want it to go.   They choose to put up with a lot in order to keep living.  But they won't put with God if He's sovereign.  They won't be told what to do, even by their Creator.

Hitchens writes a book.  He's the owner.  Do you think he would put up with people using his creation for whatever or however they wanted?  Of course not.  He created it.  He wrote it.  It's his property.  He's Big Brother over whatever it is he made.  He's a bigger dictator over his own material than God is over what He made.  He wouldn't stand for not doing what he wanted with his own property.

Like I said, the unbelieving arguments don't add up  They aren't true and that's also why they don't work.  It's God's world.  He created us, and that's why even unbelievers act like Him, and then they complain when He acts like Him.  God is justified in how He acts and on most occasions unbelievers aren't justified in how they behave.  But they feel entitled to act as His judge.

We are God's.  That was an argument that Jesus made when He said 'render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.'  Caesar's image was on the Roman coin, so Caesar could require taxation.  God's image is on us, so He can require submission to Him.  We should assume that we're better off doing what He said.  And even if we don't assume that, it's still true.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Worship and the Ark Narrative of 1 Chronicles, pt. 4

The individual psyche of a post-exilic Israelite was wrapped up in national hope (real hopey-changey).  In addition to explaining again how they had gotten there, it provided a basis for confidence for the nation.   The God of the ark narrative (1 Chronicles 13-16) was the LORD (Jehovah), the covenant keeping God of Israel.  His mercy (lovingkindness, Old Testament love) endured forever.  God would deliver out of faithful love for His people.  We will see this point made in the psalm of 1 Chronicles 16.

The central figure of God's plan is David, featured as the main character of the genealogies (1-9), superseding Saul (10), and divinely enthroned via mighty men (11-12).   The Davidic covenant pointed to the eternal king, who would sit on David's throne, a buoy of hope to an Israelite treading water in a diminished new national era.  Recorded as David's first act is bringing the ark to Jerusalem, an attempt met by great failure.  Again in the final chapter (16), that defeat came from a wrong thinking about God, a necessary underpinning for the true and eternal worship God sought from men.

I believe an amazing statement is made by David in his fruit of repentance (15:2):  "None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath the Lord chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him for ever."  Last part.  The Lord chose the Levites "to minister unto him for ever."  Forever.  You read that right.  If God chose the Levites to minister unto forever, that meant that (1) God wasn't through with Israel and (2) He wanted to be and would be worshiped for ever.  This worship in this period of Israel's national history was a cross section or microcosm (whichever way you might choose to look at it) of eternal worship.  The Levitical worship was a shadow of the eternal reality.  And, of course, Jesus makes us both kings and priests.  Perhaps we see here that worship in the eternal state might be an eternal reality reflected in the Levitical worship.  We know that a similar worship will occur in the millennial kingdom.  Whatever worship we're doing now even in our churches operates within a larger context of perpetual worship of God.  We're in a line of worshipers with God's purpose fulfilled in worship.

David went back to God's Word to remember what God had said.  Remembering, functioning based on inspired written record, is a primary message of the ark narrative.  The priests bore the ark on the staves "as Moses commanded according to the word of the Lord" (15:15).  The LORD had chosen them to carry the ark of God.  David was God's choice as king.  Others were God's choice for other tasks.  Worship required different offices of men (the male gender) who met specific qualifications.

From 15:3 to 15:26, the Levites are listed who led this worship.   You cannot miss music here.   They carried the ark.  They played music.  Singers.  Instruments of music.  Psalteries.  Harps.  Cymbals of brass.  Trumpets.  Chenaniah "instructed about the song, because he was skilful" (15:22).   Someone could judge whether people were good or not.  For there to be skill, there must also be a lack of skill in some.  The unskilled were excluded.  I read that once or twice a year, W. A. Criswell, at First Baptist Church in Dallas, had a night where an hour or two of special music was sung by people who wanted a chance to sing a solo. That's how he dealt with that unique problem.  Churches have strayed widely from the point of music in worship.

The Levites had a process of sanctification they went through.  They had a means God ordained to set themselves apart for this task for God.  These worship tasks should not be seen as ordinary or mundane.  They are holy to God.  The worship of churches becomes more and more casual, more worldly, and purposefully so.  It's called contextualization.  Man has become the center of church worship instead of God.  We don't know who God is killing because of it, like Uzzah, but He isn't happy with it.

Sanctification related to proximity to God.  The ark not only represented God's presence, but His special presence was in fact there, like God's presence was in the burning bush with Moses. Moses had to take off his shoes, not because there were different elements in that ground, but because he was nearer the special presence to God.  The approach to God must be different, special, sacred.  To have something be sacred, something must be able to be sacred.  There must be something sacred.  We can know what the sacred is.  We've known it in the past, because we cared about the sacred.  Today churches are rushing to the common.

The worship of fundamentalism and evangelicalism has in large become common and profane, driven by man-centeredness.  Much of this relates to what is convenient to and comfortable for men.  Another idea is that it is evangelistic, and a perversion of the incarnation is placed upon it with a term, incarnational.  The church is becoming like the world like Jesus became man by taking on a human body.  This is a deep, dark, twisted deviation from God.  It's bad enough that they are doing it, but even worse that they think of a theological justification that attacks the incarnation of Christ.

The profanities of fundamentalism and evangelicalism are different.  Fundamentalism has often taken to the kitsch, the carnival and merry-go-round, Western bumpkin every man.  The idea has perhaps been accessibility to a certain segment of people, who are entertained by a toe-tappin' hoe-down, and somehow equivocate that with some spiritual happening or revivalist tradition.  Evangelicalism just sent the worship form and method to the non-essential and almost anything goes.  They will use the most vile and profane with almost nothing barred from acceptability.  These are violations of sanctity.  The sacred is lost and God is not worshiped, despite what the intentions might be.

(more to come)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Were the Reformers Heretics? part 5

Please note that the entire series entitled "Were the Reformers Heretics"? can now be viewed by clicking here as one complete essay.

The post below originally went from the sentence "Reformed confessional statements continued to link the sacrament of baptism and the forgiveness of sin in the manner of John Calvin" to the sentence: "Those who grow up in Reformed families ... salvation was sealed to them in baptism."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Worship and the Ark Narrative in 1 Chronicles, pt. 3

Despite wonderful intentions and likely a very good heart, David had been wrong on the outward appearance, the actual doing of the worship with the ark in 1 Chronicles 13 (part one).  He could have concluded that God was done with him, but God communicated that He wasn't finished through various means in 1 Chronicles 14 (part two).  These are the first two chapters of the ark narrative in 1 Chronicles, which sits at a pivotal place in the book, so as to emphasize worship of God.  And what is the emphasis in this emphasis on worship?

The emphasis isn't the spirit of the worship, although that is likely why David's good intentions did matter in that certain way.  If he didn't care, he could have been a replay of Nadab and Abihu.  David put a lot of oomph into his worship effort with the musicians and the rest of the display of ceremonial grandeur.  He's not going to stop that.  However, the emphasis is on what is that people are doing, what they are actually giving God.

We live in an era in which people deny objective beauty.  This smacks in the face of Christian history.  It also defies logic and natural law.  If there is no beauty, then there is no ugliness, and then it doesn't really matter what we serve up to God, except that we like it.  In the modern and postmodern anthropocentric world view, beauty is a matter of personal taste.  It was never thought that way by Christians until those of this age.  It wasn't even how people thought in Western Civilization until the Enlightenment.  What this does for church growth is attract unbelievers, because they are totally into personal taste.  The church relates with the world more than ever.  Much more to say here, but let us move on within the ark narrative itself.

One sort of odd point in chapter 15 is the first verse, and only the first half, which takes a brief detour to David making him houses.  Houses, plural.  Whaaat?  Likely this emphasizes the polygamy of David and the distraction that way.  I believe it is a mini shot at David and a small reminder of something that threw him off his game.  There is a contradistinction with David's "houses" and God's tent.  David would lose out on opportunity to please God with his self-gratification.  Narcissism does that kind of thing.  Let that be a lesson.  Our own agenda can be a distraction from the necessary time required not to skip things like priests carrying the ark on poles.  Putting that aside then, we move on to the subject at hand, the ark moving to Jerusalem.

We see David adjusting his initial approach, this time paying attention to what God had said about worship.  He prepared a place to put the ark, a tent.  Later would come the Solomonic temple, but for now, it was the same house as had served during the trek through the wilderness.  That had worked because it was Scriptural.  David wanted something more extravagant, but he would never have that opportunity.

In v. 2, we see David get back on the right track by taking care of some of the detail he had missed the first time as non-essential.  The Lord chose only certain people to do certain things.  For instance, He hasn't chosen certain people to pastor churches, as seen in 1 Timothy 3.  People are disqualified, including all women.  Protesting that doesn't help men or women.

And then we see that part of the worship was gathering.  A lot is put into that in chapter 15, listing various peoples and groups that were part of the assembly.  Corporate worship requires getting together.  People have to deem God worth it.  Today we're seeing less gatherings, more emphasis on convenience.  Some will say that they don't think they need to assemble to worship God.  When worship is actually gathering, not gathering eliminates the worship, no matter what the intentions might be while someone sits at home maybe watching Charles Stanley or listening to Chuck Swindoll.

(to be continued)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Worship and the Ark Narrative in 1 Chronicles, pt. 2

As we read Scripture, we not only look to find out what the words say, but what the balance of them says.  You really do want to emphasize what you see the Bible emphasize, because God is emphasizing it.  As I mentioned in part one, you get the genealogy of David, the fall of Saul, the enthronement of David, the explanation of David's rise, and the action of David in his kingship is a worship act, as represented by the ark narrative.   Based on the flow of 1 Chronicles, you can see that the ark and worship is the emphasis.  It is given the position and space, as if everything up to that point was leading to the ark story.  The reign in Israel is about worship.  God is seeking for true worshipers.

We left off with chapter 13.  The vuvuzelas take a melancholy aimless slide to a few helpless bursts of exhalation and then silence.  The long, quiet march home, vacant stares, incredulous head wags, looking like refugees seeking asylum.  Chins dragging on the ground.  The approach is rejected.  God is distant.  And there is no plan B.

David is now at a very productive square one.  Introspection.  Sent back to the sacred writings he should have pored over in the first place.  This wasn't for him.  It was for God, and no amount of sincerity can replace truth.  God desires what He does, and He is God, not us.  Worship recognizes who He is and gives Him what He wants.

How bad are we?  How horrible have we been?  Will we not hear the voice of God again?  Is God through with us?  Do we never again enter His presence?  Are we destined to never ending emptiness?  We deserve punishment.  We shouldn't just assume God's fellowship.  He is righteous.  He is holy.  There is none like Him.  And who are we?

The scent of cedars accompanies God's make-up message.  From a delivery of lumber and the arrival of masons and carpenters, David perceives the confirmation of the Lord.  Sweet confirmation from God.

The Philistines align themselves for invasion, David inquires of the Lord, and God answers.  He did as God commanded, Israel smites the enemy, and fear falls upon all the nations.  By the grace of God, he's ready to move the ark again.  God seeks for true worshipers.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Were the Reformers Heretics? part 4

Please note that the entire series entitled "Were the Reformers Heretics"? can now be viewed by clicking here as one complete essay.

The post below originally went from the sentence "Ulrich Zwingli was closer to the Anabaptist position that baptism ..." to the sentence: "Reformed theology after his death continued to feel his influence, but generally was closer to the sacramental baptismal theology of Calvin ..."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Halfway Measures

1662 began the modern church growth movement.  Not exactly, but sort of.  Church attendance was shrinking in the colonies, so Puritan pastor Solomon Stoddard concocted a new measure to increase the numbers, which was called the half-way covenant.  The half-way covenant provided a partial church membership for the children and grandchildren of church members. Puritan preachers hoped that this plan would maintain some of the church's influence in society, and that these 'half-way members' would see the benefits of full membership, be exposed to teachings and piety which would lead to the "born again" experience.

The half-way covenant attempted church growth by the invitation of unsaved people to church.  The idea was that if you got unsaved people into the church, into the assembly, they would get saved and the churches would get bigger.  Just the opposite occurred.  Churches turned worldly and then dead, because it brought the world into the church.  The world turned the church upside down, when the Jerusalem church had accomplished the reverse of that.

The short term effect of the half-way covenant was that the churches had more bodies in the pew and looked more successful.  Families were likely happier too.  It seemed like a good idea, one that today Stoddard could share in a church growth seminar.  It worked, so was "practical," and if you're getting bigger, you could say that "the Lord was working" or "blessing."

We can judge the long term effects of the church growth strategy of the half-way covenant.  Bringing more unsaved people into the church did not bring more true conversions, but deadened the churches.  Churches are not to bring the world into the church, but get it out of the church.  Rather than the saved people impacting the unsaved visitors, the unsaved visitors harmed the saved people.

In one sense, the half-way covenant was missional and contextual, terms you hear today as favorable in evangelicalism, as well as a new measure, to use the term of Charles Finney, for his innovations for church growth.  Scripture is sufficient in debunking modern church growth philosophy, but the half-way covenant provides historical documentation against it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Worship and the Ark Narrative in 1 Chronicles, pt. 1

1 and 2 Kings reminded or explained to captive Israelites how they got into their trouble.  1 and 2 Chronicles gave their post-exilic brethren hope for their future, wrapped around the Davidic covenant.  So the first 9 chapters establish David's credentials.  Chapter 10 erases the reign of Saul, man's choice.  In chapter 11, enter David himself, passing through the intermediate reign in Hebron, moving to the throne in Jerusalem.  How God accomplishes His choice?  Mighty men --- chapter 12.  We get David on the throne and what's the first thing God wants freed captives to think about?  Worship.

Worship is central in God's plan for Israel and what made David a man after God's own heart.  David immediately wanted to move the ark to Jerusalem.  This section between chapters 13 and 16 is the ark narrative.  It speaks of the presence and proximity of God to His people.  The ark represented---was---God's presence.  Nothing excited David more.  God's Scriptural prescriptions for worship surrounded the ark.

David had what most evangelicals and even fundamentalists think is most necessary for a successful worship experience:   good intentions.  He was sincere.  He choreographed a tremendous event with the right stage lighting.  He even built special transport.  A new oxcart was practical.  Sturdy.  Fast.  Nothing in Scripture said it was wrong to use an oxcart.  That would make it a liberty, right?  If it's not wrong, then it's right, right? And all the business about how to carry the ark in other passages had to be non-essential.  It didn't relate to soteriology per se, so God could just agree to disagree, or at least we should, even if God is angry about it, right?  The passage about essentials and non-essentials is in the same book as the one that talks about the use of oxcarts.

Most today don't get a speedy, plain western union about worship like David did.  They just have to accept what they read in the Bible and then find out at the end whether any of what they did counted for anything.  David's oxcart wasn't just neutral.  It was wrong, and Uzzah died because of the novelty.  Autopsy said learning the hard way.  

So David parked the ark right where it was, and went back to square one.  That was good.  Most evangelicals and fundamentalists just attack the critics.  They attempt to belittle them, marginalize and castigate them, like Cain when his offering was disrespected.  They turn the criticism into the fleshly deed and justify their variations from Scripture as helpful innovations.

For the released captives, this first chapter of the ark narrative did remind them about how they got in their mess in the first place, so as not to repeat the mistakes of history.  As they read on, they would see further and more egregious aberrations that left a scorched earth.

David was afraid that day.  Now evangelicals and fundamentalists will share the powerpoint with you.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Were the Reformers Heretics? part 3

Please note that the entire series entitled "Were the Reformers Heretics"? can now be viewed by clicking here as one complete essay.

The post below originally went from the sentence "Calvin also held that all those who received remission of sins as sealed in baptism were secure ..." to the sentences: "The Reformed have constantly opposed the Roman doctrine of infant salvation, but pronounced no denunciation against the Lutheran doctrine of baptismal regeneration.  It is not much different than the Reformed view."

Thursday, October 11, 2012


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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cult-Like Tendency in Modern Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism, part two

The faith was once and for all delivered.  Some will depart from the faith, not all. The gates of Hell will not prevail.  Certain doctrine could be better explained or better defended, but at this point, it shouldn't be new.   Cults are characterized by having the new teaching, you know, like Jesus came to North America, and that's what He meant when He said 'He had other sheep that were not of this fold.'

Some might think or say, "What about dispensationalism, that's new?"  No, it isn't new.  It's just an explanation for premillennialism, which is biblical and has been believed in the past.

In part one, I explained that evangelicalism and fundamentalism (E & F) have a tendency now to change things and create new doctrines to adapt to the new world and its philosophies.  I think I'm being nice in calling it a tendency.   E & F should be called for what they do, but they've got willing accomplices.   In the first edition of this series, I talked about the changes in bibliology that have been accepted.  This post will just accentuate the first one, with hopes of getting to new examples in the future, based on a post that was written recently by Dan Wallace at his blog, entitled, Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation.

King James Version supporters must get under Wallace's skin, because 8 of his "myths" relate to King James Onlyism (numbers 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11).  I should probably write a whole post just answering the myths about the myths, but I'm going to deal with only one of his list here, because it fits this series and what I wrote about in the first offering, and that is his number 11:

11.    Essential doctrines are in jeopardy in modern translations. Actually, no doctrine essential for salvation is affected by translations, modern or ancient—unless done by a particular cult for its own purposes. For example, those Englishmen who signed the Westminster Confession of Faith in the seventeenth century were using the KJV, yet it is still a normative doctrinal statement that millions of Protestants sign today even though they use modern translations.

His first statement is rather loaded, with its "no doctrine essential for salvation," implying and admitting that doctrines do change, just not ones essential to salvation.  This is untrue in major fashion.  Doctrine is affected.  We have a whole chapter on that in our book Thou Shalt Keep Them (See Order Buttons on Right).  Many doctrines, including the doctrine of salvation, are changed by the introduction of the changes in the new versions.  However, I'm not talking about that in this post---I just thought it needed to be pointed out.

Wallace is attempting to make some kind of a historical point in the second sentence in a very subtle way.  If you read the first section of the WCF on Scripture, you'll have a hard time finding exactly that to which Wallace refers.  Where in that statement is a point made about doctrines being what's important to have preserved in a new translation?  I can't find it anywhere.  You've got various concepts in there, that if pieced together just like Wallace wants them, you could read his point into the WCF.  The point he's making though is not in fact in there anywhere.

You would have to piece it together like the following.  In Roman numeral VII. of the section on Scripture, the divines wrote that the Bible will be able to be understood at least as it pertains to salvation.  Since what was a priority for plain meaning and understanding is the doctrine of salvation, then all that matters in word alterations is if you still have the doctrine of salvation.  Other doctrinal changes in a translation do not contradict the WCF.  Therefore, somehow modern translation supporters can sign off on all the doctrine of this section of the WCF, even if they don't believe Scripture has been preserved word-for-word even to the extent that they really think that certain doctrines, exclusive of salvation, have been changed.

Here's another flow of his argument.  The Westminster divines used the KJV.   The Westminster divines taught something in the WCF about the preservation of Scripture.  People who sign the WCF today use modern versions.  Therefore, the Westminster divines and those who sign it today believe the same way on the preservation of Scripture.  They wouldn't have signed off on it if it meant something that would forbid them from accepting a modern version!!

Wallace presents a very weird way to approach historical doctrine.  Your goal in historical theology is to understand what the historical figures were writing.  You don't get an understanding of what they were writing by studying the people who agree with them today.  You understand what they meant by looking at other writings that they wrote in their day.  This is also how we are to interpret the constitution as a historical document. We want to know original intent, not read into it what people today want it to mean.  That is a form of liberalism, that takes a loose constructionist view.

So would the historical bibliology of the Westminster divines result in the acceptance of modern versions, if they were available to them in that day?  No.  Of course not.  They wouldn't want to change Scripture.  They believed that they had received all the Words.  The WCF teaches perfect preservation of Scripture in the language in which it was written.  That doesn't parallel with believing in more than one and varied bibles, which have different words from a different textual source.

Just because men both use modern versions and sign off on the WCF doesn't mean that the use of modern versions is buttressed by the WCF.  Reading into the WCF something that isn't even there is the way that doctrine is altered.  This is the cultic tendency I was talking about.  If the WCF doesn't even mean what Wallace says, that's OK.  If you sign off on it, even though you don't even believe it, he's saying that it now counts as meaning the same thing as you believe.  It's magical.  That's the leap we've got to take to believe Wallace.  It's too big a leap for me.  It really should be too big a leap for anyone with a cerebrum.  There is no ladder that will span the chasm Wallace wants us to cross.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Thoughts on "People of God: The Church" by Kevin Bauder

I am taking a break for one week from my series on the Reformers and whether or not they were heretics to illustrate a point from a previous series I had posted.  Some time ago, I did a series on the historic Baptist doctrine of Spirit baptism.  In that series, I included an extensive exposition of 1 Corinthians 12:13, a verse which indicates that the Holy Spirit leads people to be immersed into the membership of a local congregation. (See, for example, here, and parts 11ff. also.  My entire study of Spirit baptism is in the Pneumatology section of my website here.)   While immersion into the membership of the local congregation is the clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 12:13, the verse is the lynchpin of the unscriptural universal church theory of Spirit baptism, which alleges that Spirit baptism unites one to to the mythical universal, invisible body of Christ.

Recently, Kevin Bauder from Central Baptist Seminary posted an article that illustrates the typical sort of interaction local-only, historic Baptist ecclesiology and the historic Baptist doctrine of Spirit baptism receive from advocates of the universal church position.  Dr. Bauder argued that the church is in Christ (which is true, because the congregation has a regenerate membership, but which by no means establishes that "body of Christ" and "in Christ" are synonymous terms Biblically) and that 1 Corinthians 12:13 proves that every saint in the church age is in the universal, invisible body of Christ.  He affirmed that the “we” of the verse provides proof for this position, and provided as proof-texts 1 Corinthians 12:14-27, Ephesians 1:22-23, and Colossians 1:18, without any explanation.

Dr. Bauder did not provide any verses that establish that ekklesia was even once clearly used in the NT, or at any time whatsoever in pre-Christian Greek, to designate something universal or invisible.  Nor did the view that 1 Corinthians 12:13 referred to water baptism receive any mention, although such a position is overwhelmingly dominant among those not influenced by Dallas/Chafer theology and in commentaries that predate the rise of the Chaferian theology.  The argument that “we” in 1 Corinthians 12:13 proves a universal, invisible church is very weak—I have dealt with it here.  Nor does anything in 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 1, or Colossians 1 establish a universal church, as the word study of ekklesia in the ecclesiology section here demonstrates.

Indeed, the fine exegetical job Dr. Bauder does demonstrating that 1 Corinthians 12:13 refers to the Holy Spirit, and that en heni Pneumati, “by one Spirit,” is indeed instrumental, stands in definite contrast to the unproven assumptions employed in actually establishing the Chaferian and universal church view of Spirit baptism.  His article is convincing only if 1.) A person presupposes the existence of a universal church, and 2.) One presupposes that 1 Corinthians 12:13 refers to Spirit baptism.  Of course, with presuppositions of such a character, there is not much of substance left to prove.

I recognize that not everything can be stated at once;  perhaps Dr. Bauder feels he has clearly established the existence of a universal church, and of his Protestant dispensational view of Spirit baptism, elsewhere.  However, I am afraid that the cold shoulder so generally given to historic Baptist ecclesiology and the historic Baptist doctrine of Spirit baptism is not simply due to space limitations, but is evidence of the total absence of any substantive interaction with the Biblical and historic Baptist position at many fundamental-moving-conservative-evangelical sorts of Protestant-Baptist parachurch educational institutions.  At many such a place, one can graduate with an expensive degree, having one’s head filled with all the latest foppery, foolishness, and compromise arising out of the mess of modern evangelicalism, but entirely ignorant of historic positions of Baptist churches.  It would be nice if Biblical, Baptist doctrine were taught—or at least if not taught, at least interacted with and not either caricatured or generally ignored—at such places. But perhaps it is not surprising that ecclesiological truth, and its corollary view of Spirit baptism, is taught at church-run educational institutions that are separated from the wideness of broad fundamentalism, while a massive ignorance of the truth pervades those institutions outside of the particular local, visible congregations that are, individually, and in truth, the congregation, body, temple, and bride of Christ.


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

What's Worse? This Kind of Bad or That Kind of Bad, pt. 2

California might have been foreclosure headquarters in the mortgage crisis, at least the region where the prices dropped the steepest at its most severe.  If you were shopping for a house, you looked at which one wasn't trashed the worst.  Do I like the one with pot smoke damaged carpet or missing a bathroom sink?  The yard like death valley or the termite eaten, water corroded, decaying fascia boards?  How bad do I really want my house to be?

In part one of this two part series, I talked about some multiple bad choices offered by evangelicalism and fundamentalism.  I suggested none-of-the-above.  Today let's look at another example.

Calvinism has some attractive features to me.  Of course, I would say they are the scriptural ones.  I read a God-centered approach to evangelism and church growth in scripture.  I've thought that Calvinism agrees with that, but I'm not so sure.  If Calvinists really do believe that God is sovereign in salvation, so that one needs to step out of the way and depend on God, you would think that's what you'd see from them.  Often you don't.  This is where I say that I'm more Calvinist than Calvinists.  I practice the scriptural part of Calvinism and especially a part of Calvinism one would see as most Calvinist.  It's like these Calvinists are convenient Calvinists, Calvinistic where they like the Calvinism, and then not Calvinist when it comes to actual practice.

As exhibition number one today, I bring to you Tim Keller, very popular Presbyterian evangelical, who recently wrote Center Church, a church growth manual modeled after his church in New York City (I wrote about Center Church in my "Lure Them In" series).  Keller writes on p. 24:

We will show [in this book] that to reach people we must appreciate and adapt to their culture, but we must also challenge and confront it. This is based on the biblical teaching that all cultures have God’s grace and natural revelation in them, yet they are also in rebellious idolatry. If we overadapt to a culture, we have accepted the culture’s idols. If, however, we underadapt to a culture, we may have turned our own culture into an idol, an absolute. If we underadapt to a culture, no one will be changed because no one will listen to us; we will be confusing, offensive, or simply unpersuasive. To the degree a ministry is overadapted or underadapted to a culture, it loses life-changing power.

This paragraph touches on the "centrist" theme that I discussed in my first review---the perfect position being somewhere in a sweet spot between overadapting and underadapting.  Adapting to culture has actually been pretty important in Keller's approach to church growth.  Keller continues in a couple of other quotes first on p. 96:

They don’t see any part of how they express or live the gospel to be “Anglo”—it is just the way things are. They feel that any change in how they preach, worship, or minister is somehow a compromise of the gospel. In this they may be doing what Jesus warns against—elevating the “traditions of men” to the same level as biblical truth (Mark 7:8). This happens when one’s cultural approach to time or emotional expressiveness or way to communicate becomes enshrined as the Christian way to act and live.

And then on p. 97:

If they have been moved by a ministry that has forty-five-minute verse-by-verse expository sermons, a particular kind of singing, or a specific order and length to the services, they reproduce it down to the smallest detail. Without realizing it, they become method driven and program driven rather than theologically driven. They are contextualizing their ministry expression to themselves, not to the people they want to reach.

Keller sees adapting the preaching, the worship, and the ministry to the culture as crucial to church growth.  If you don't "adapt," he says, you'll even lose "life changing power."  Life changing power comes from adapting to the culture, according to Keller.  This, Keller says, is "theologically driven." And the Calvinist fan boys come out of the woodwork with praise for the book.

This adaptation to people's felt needs parallels with the Hybels seeker-sensitive church, the Warren purpose-driven church, and even has parts resembling the Hyles Church Manual.  These are your kinds of bad to choose from, and people are making the Keller choice, shucking the Hybels and Warren model for the Keller one.  None of these are God centered.  If they are theologically driven, it isn't biblical theology.  And it surely isn't Calvinist.  It's more pinning the needle on the far side of Arminianism.  It's pragmatism.  It's "be like'm to win'em."

Keller argues using bad theology and several straw men.  He says his theological basis is that "all cultures have God’s grace and natural revelation in them."  First, all cultures do not have God's grace "in them."  In them?   God's grace appears to all men, but grace is in a culture that has been converted already, not one that you evangelize because it's lost.  Doesn't this too contradict the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity?  I'm sure it does.  It contradicts my view of man's depravity.  Second, he has a false view of natural revelation.  Natural or general revelation is understood by all men, that is, it is general in its audience.  Everyone is without excuse.  There isn't some unique brand of revelation found in a particular culture.  That would not be "general" and, therefore, natural.  His view of natural revelation is the modern psychological view that fits with Christian psychology, that general revelation is general in its content and so it is discoverable  Revelation is by nature non-discoverable.  You can't study a culture to discover natural revelation there.  This false premise buttresses his point.  In my opinion, like with Christian psychology, he starts with what he wants to do and then adapts (ironically) his doctrine to fit his successful method.  He would say this is how to keep from underadapting, adaptation a fundamental of life-changing power.

A change in how we preach, worship, and minister can and does compromise the gospel.  When you are adapting your method as he describes to fit unsaved people, you are compromising the gospel.  When you hand out the candy and small toys and adjust your junior church to a near carnival atmosphere, people get a wrong understanding of Jesus and repentance and faith.  Do we understand that this isn't new, what Keller is proposing?  This has been around from revivalists for over a century.  Finney and generations after him took the carnival style music and a particular preaching style as new measures for the cause of evangelism.  There were theological underpinnings to Finney too, as seen in his systematic theology.  This is sheer pragmatism through and through.

People will say that Keller is conservative, has a conservative approach, because his church uses classical music on Sunday mornings.  I'm in the classical music world.  Well done classical music is a draw to a New York City crowd.  People in Tennessee might not get that, but it's true.  He's not adapting to a Nascar audience.  The urbane, metrosexual community he targets listens to classical music like Rick Warren's crowd in Southern California listens to pop and Mark Driscoll's to grunge.  Keller has a jazz Sunday evening service, so he's not taking a conservative stand.  The intellectuals he kowtows for see this as the hoity-toity that they want.  "You can come on a Sunday night and get some good jazz at Center Church."  The adaptation is not to the grace of God "in them," but to their own view of themselves.  They like the idea of, "I can be a Christian and fit into the world too."  That's also how it changes the gospel.

The message of Jesus clashes with culture.  It contradicts human nature.  Jesus presented Himself as King.  If you wanted Jesus, you needed to deny self to follow Him.  You had to give up your life.  He presented following Him as hating father and mother, having no where to lay your head, and being a slave.  Jesus didn't come to get to our level.  He came to bring us to His.   What Keller is advocating is another form of bait and switch.  If you read him other places, you see that he has a way of dealing with homosexuality that is non-offensive, since not being offensive is part of his template, his adaptation.  And evangelicals are bragging on this approach as if it is something somebody missed.  A biblical church exploding in  New York City surprises me.  Keller's church and churches exploding doesn't surprise me.  He is mixing the broad road with the narrow one.  They are actually entirely separate.

Keller is acceptable in, even the leader of, the gospel coalition.  This should tell you something about that organization and those in it.  But you don't have to choose between that bad and another bad.  Again, you do have none-of-the-above.

Monday, October 01, 2012

What's Worse? This Kind of Bad or That Kind of Bad

Our book, A Pure Church, which you can order here (no longer pre-publication price) by clicking on either of the BUY NOW buttons, or use the link in the sidebar on the right, arrived and we already sent out the pre-publication copies.  If you ordered and you haven't gotten them already, they are definitely in the mail.  It looks beautiful inside and out.  Order yours now.


When I was growing up (yes, I've grown up), my brother would show me the yearbook and then ask which girl I "liked," offering any one of three bad choices.  I know, everybody is beautiful in their own way.  When you've got whatever number of bad choices, you're best off with none-of-the-above.

It's a good thing to agree that something is bad that is bad.  I like reading articles that do a good job of exposing bad things.   They're helpful.  Dan Phillips has written some of these about a particular kind of continuationism, especially focusing on the continuationist contradiction to the sufficiency of Scripture and preference for ongoing special revelation.

The headline of one of Phillips' articles reads:  "What we confess as our sufficient, complete Bible:  what's missing?"  The addition to Scripture that occurs with the continuationists Phillips targets is bad.  Scripture was complete.  We shouldn't add anything.  We should just trust the completion, the sufficiency.  Right?  If you're given the choice of that alteration of Scripture, you don't take it.  You trust God instead.  The very bad thing that Phillips smacks, I have also pounded as it applies to independent Baptist revivalists---it's always bad---no matter who it is that believes it.

Phillips would argue, as would I, that the canon is closed.  We should keep it closed.  Opening it is bad.  God closed it.  What God has brought together, let no man put asunder, so to speak.

Enter textual criticism and modern versions.  Evangelical cessationists fiddle with Scripture.  They play with the closed canon, rearranging the furniture, repainting a wall, putting in a different oven.  Does the Holy Spirit make these decisions to alter a settled text?  No.  On a given Sunday, a pastor decides for the congregation what Scripture is.  So the Bible becomes gumby in his hands.  Phillips would have no problem with this.  He thinks you're stupid of you don't.  Why?  Well, you just are!!  And don't argue with me, because you're just stupid if you do!  How do I know this is Phillips' kind of reaction.  I've read it, and here is an example:

Anytime I’m tempted to think that professed Bible-believing Christianity in America is in good shape — which, actually, is never — all I have to do is remind myself that there are still snake-handlers, and there are still people who would doggedly argue with the title of this post.

The post was an argument for shucking the King James for a modern version in your church.  Phillips' statement was essentially directed toward me.  By the way, they talk like this, so disrespectfully and mean, because that's the best they got---they don't have anything else than scoffing.  Ironically, the kind of mocking that Phillips would reserve for this, his continuationist targets would aim at him.

Historial bibliology treats the text, the very Words, of Scripture as settled.  It wasn't just the books that were canonized.  The Words were.  You can't add or take away from a text that isn't settled.  And adding and taking away have become the norm of the eclectic text folk.

Phillips is presented with the two bad choices and rather than rejecting both of them, and really for the same reasons, he chooses one (falling in right into my brother's trap).  He does.  Both choices have a lot in common.

1.  They add or take away from Scripture.
2.  They contradict historical biblical bibliology.
3.  They are subjective.
4.  They change doctrine.
5.  They take the Bible into your own hands.
6.  They don't have a biblical basis for them.
7.  They both end with different words of a text received by the churches.
8.  They both ignore centuries of the church.

To be absolutely clear, I'm talking about the original text of Scripture, the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  Phillips is fine with his "scholarly" tweaks of textual criticism, which really amount to at least 7% of the New Testament by itself, but he isn't OK with what he sees as emotional ones of these continuationists God continues "speaking to."  Instead of listening to an Elmer Gantry like figure slabber out something he's heard from above, we get a Mr. Chips like character asservate his best guesses.  Both of them harm the biblical doctrine of the Bible.  Both of them are bad choices.  Neither of them should be taken.

 I mentioned bad choices.  Let's talk about another one soon.