Friday, May 31, 2013

“The just shall live by faith”— A Study of the Relationship of Faith to Salvation in its Justifying, Sanctifying, and Glorifying Fulness, part 13

The Apostle Paul also taught that a believer’s continuing faith played a role in his sanctification, both as an instrument to enable specific ministry and as a conduit for receipt of Divine grace and transformation in general.  As in the Old Testament king David, despite trial and affliction (Psalm 116:1-9), spoke for the Lord because he believed (Psalm 116:10), so Paul and other preachers speak and preach the truth and endure persecution (2 Corinthians 4:8-12) because of their continuing faith in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:13) arising out of their conversion.  That is, Christian ministry, specifically bold preaching of the gospel in the face of tremendous hostility and opposition, arises out of the continuing faith and confidence of the believer in the risen Christ, his Redeemer (2 Corinthians 4:14).  Paul also taught that God fills believers with all joy and peace as they believe and by means of their faith (Romans 15:13); faith is the human response through which God makes the believer holy, filling him with the holy attributes of hope, peace, and joy.  The Apostle Paul taught that faith was the necessary foundation for boldness and perseverance in gospel ministry and the means through which God transforms believers into His image.  Thus, as the verb believe illuminates the believer’s greater entrustment of himself to Christ in progressive sanctification, so the noun faith illuminates the role of faith in the spiritual life of the regenerate.[i]  Faith prompts the believer to perform specific spiritual ministries, such as speaking for Christ (2 Corinthians 4:13), for power from the Holy Spirit arises out of the “hearing of faith.”[ii]  Faith prompts generous sharing of physical goods with other believers (Philemon 5-7).  Saving faith will always result in good works (James 2).[iii]  Furthermore, faith is indeed essential for spiritual life and growth, because whatever does not proceed out of, whatever is not sourced in faith is sin (Romans 14:23).[iv]  A strong faith will trust in God and His promises despite human impossibilities, while a weak faith will stagger in such situations (Romans 4:19-20).[v]  The degree of weakness or strength of faith leads the believer to its respective degree of proneness to wander and susceptability to fall or to stedfastness and faithfulness (Romans 14).  Patience is produced by faith that is successfully tried and tested.[vi]  It is not surprising, then, that by “taking[vii] the shield of faith” and the “breastplate of faith and love,” the Christian can “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked,” “stand,”[viii] and “resist . . . the devil . . . steadfast in the faith”[ix]—faith is key to resisting sin and Satan.  Indeed, God continually keeps, preserves, and guards His people through faith, and so brings them to ultimate salvation.[x]  Those with faith are the regenerate, and all such people definitively overcame the world at the moment of their conversion, are overcoming now, and will ultimately and finally overcome the world and enter the eternal kingdom.[xi]  Faith in both its initial bestowal and its increase in sanctification is not an autonomous product of man, but is initially created and subsequently strengthened by the supernatural efficacy of the Holy Spirit,[xii] although not the Spirit alone, but also the Father and the Son, and therefore, the entire Trinity, give believers both initial faith (2 Peter 1:1) and ever greater measures of faith, love, and other spiritual graces (Ephesians 6:23).  Through the efficacious working of God, the believer’s faith is established, strengthened, and confirmed, with the result that it abounds[xiii] and “groweth exceedingly.”[xiv]  God produces this increase of faith through the Scripture, for faith, while ultimately resting on God, proximately rests upon His revelation of Himself in the Word.  While God produces faith, believers are responsible to “add to their faith” virtue, knowledge, and other holy graces, which develop out of the root of faith;  believers are to diligently and industriously pursue the means to obtain what they desire God to bestow upon them,[xv] and in this manner their faith, knowledge, godliness, charity, and other holy graces will be in them all the more, increasing and abounding, with the result that they bear spiritual fruit.[xvi]  Sanctification takes place as one is “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine,” inspired words that both produce faith and sound doctrine and which describe and delimit what such faith and doctrine are.[xvii]  Believers are to “stand fast in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13), for Paul writes, “by faith ye stand” (2 Corinthians 1:24).  Indeed, believers “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7),[xviii] so the spiritual life of the Christian is a walk of faith, specifically, faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20),[xix] through whom believers are strengthened by the Spirit to employ their free, gracious, and confident access by faith to the Father.[xx]  Rather than Jewish ceremonial, faith that works by and is being energized by love is what matters (Galatians 5:6).[xxi]  The believer’s faith can grow in quantity, resulting in his proper exercise of his spiritual giftedness and in holy living (Romans 12:3-21), for the more faith the believer has, the more spiritual joy and other holy graces he has, and the greater progress he makes in holiness (Philippians 1:25).[xxii]  An increase of faith will result in an increase in good works, in the “work of faith.”[xxiii]  Indeed, while all believers already have Christ in them,[xxiv] the Father grants that believers, as they are spiritually strengthened, have Christ dwelling[xxv] in their hearts by faith in an ever greater way, and as His special presence in them increases, they are rooted and grounded in love for their brethren, experientially know the love of Christ, and are filled with ever greater degrees of the fulness of God.[xxvi]

This post is part of the complete study here.


[i] The first part of this paragraph examines uses of pi÷steuw, and the latter half uses of pi÷stiß;  similarity of content justifies bringing the two together.

[ii] Galatians 3:5, cf. 3:2.  Spiritual gifts, such as the first century sign gift of miracle working power mentioned in 3:5, are a product which developed out of the continuing hearing of faith (e˙x aÓkohvß pi÷stewß).  The Spirit Himself was received at the moment of conversion and regeneration by the hearing of faith, e˙x aÓkohvß pi÷stewß, 3:2, and His gifts are bestowed in the same manner, 3:5.

[iii] James 2; pi÷stiß appears in 2:1, 5, 14, 17, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26.

[iv] pa◊n de« o§ oujk e˙k pi÷stewß, aJmarti÷a e˙sti÷n (Romans 14:23b). While the specific issue in context is faith in eating certain foods (Romans 14:22-23a), Christian life is a life e˙k pi÷stewß, for oJ di÷kaioß e˙k pi÷stewß zh/setai, Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38.

[v] That the faith of the Christian life is an outflow of the initial entrustment to Christ of the people of God is evident in Romans 4:19-20’s placement within a context of many instances of pi÷stiß that refer to the moment of justification.

[vi] James 1:3; cf. 1 Peter 1:7.

[vii] The command of Ephesians 6:13, aÓnala¿bete th\n panopli÷an, is to take up the armor to use it in battle, here in spiritual battle. 

[viii] Ephesians 6:13-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:8.  The shield of faith can by no means be neglected; “above all,” e˙pi« pa◊sin, (cf. Colossians 3:14; Luke 3:20; not the tiny minority text reading e˙n pa◊sin), “taking the shield of faith.”

[ix] 1 Peter 5:8-9. oJ . . . dia¿boloß . . . wˆ— aÓnti÷sthte stereoi« thØv pi÷stei.

[x] God has a certain inheritance reserved in heaven (klhronomi÷an . . . tethrhme÷nhn e˙n oujranoi√ß) for those whom He keeps by His power through faith unto eschatological salvation, tou\ß e˙n duna¿mei Qeouv frouroume÷nouß dia» pi÷stewß ei˙ß swthri÷an e˚toi÷mhn aÓpokalufqhvnai e˙n kairwˆ◊ e˙sca¿twˆ, 1 Peter 1:5-6, so that they will certainly receive the end of their faith (to\ te÷loß thvß pi÷stewß), the salvation of their souls (1 Peter 1:9), even if God tries their precious faith (1 Peter 1:7). Sanctifying faith, which is the continuation of initial justifying faith, reaches its ultimate issue in glorification.

[xi] 1 John 5:4-5, o¢ti pa◊n to\ gegennhme÷non e˙k touv Qeouv nikaˆ◊ to\n ko/smon: kai« au¢th e˙sti«n hJ ni÷kh hJ nikh/sasa to\n ko/smon, hJ pi÷stiß hJmw◊n. ti÷ß e˙stin oJ nikw◊n to\n ko/smon, ei˙ mh\ oJ pisteu/wn o¢ti ∆Ihsouvß e˙sti«n oJ ui˚o\ß touv Qeouv;  Those who have been and consequently are born of God (to\ gegennhme÷non e˙k touv Qeouv) are having victories, are overcoming (nikaˆ◊) the world, because the root of that victory, through which the world was at its fundamental level overcome, hJ ni÷kh hJ nikh/sasa to\n ko/smon, (cf. 1 John 2:13; 4:4 with nika¿w in the perfect) took place at the moment of faith, pi÷stiß, and regeneration, through which they were brought into union with that Christ who has overcome (neni÷khka) the world (John 16:33), and gives them His Spirit to destroy their sinfulness and sinning, so that those who believe are those who are overcoming now (oJ nikw◊n to\n ko/smon . . . . e˙stin . . . oJ pisteu/wn), the root of faith in Jesus Christ continuing to powerfully produce results, so that these will ultimately, finally, and completely overcome the world.  Faith “is the victory” as a metonomy for the means through which victory was obtained;  because faith unites believers with Christ, faith is the means through which victory is achieved.

It is noteworthy that 1 John 5:4 is the only instance of the noun pi÷stiß in either John’s Gospel or his three Epistles, although he uses the word several times in Revelation.

[xii] That is, faith is a fruit of the Spirit, something that originates in Him, in contrast to the works of the flesh, which are indeed products originating with the fallen human person, rather than with God (Galatians 5:19-23).

[xiii] bebaiou/menoi e˙n thØv pi÷stei . . . perisseu/onteß e˙n aujthØv, Colossians 2:7.  Compare the other bebaio/w texts in the New Testament: Mark 16:20; Romans 15:8; 1 Corinthians 1:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 1:21; Colossians 2:7; Hebrews 2:3; 13:9.

[xiv] 2 Thessalonians 1:3, uJperauxa¿nei hJ pi÷stiß;  a continuing action, resulting in strength to endure persecutions and tribulations, 1:4, and set in contrast to a faith that is “lacking” or deficient (uJste÷rhma, 1 Thessalonians 3:10).

[xv] 2 Peter 1:5-7.  Believers are to add or supply (e˙picorhge÷w) such virtues to their faith, but God gives (corhge÷w, 1 Peter 4:11; cf. 2 Peter 1:1, 3) the faith in the first place.  Compare the e˙picorhge÷w/ corhge÷w in 2 Corinthians 9:10.  By adding or ministering additionally (e˙picorhge÷w) to their faith, an entrance into God’s eternal kingdom will be given or ministered additionally (e˙picorhge÷w) to them, 2 Peter 1:11.

[xvi] 2 Peter 1:8, “these things” (tauvta) the holy graces of the previous verses, can be in them and be increasing or abounding (uJpa¿rconta kai« pleona¿zonta), and they will make them (kaqi÷sthsin) not to be unfruitful (oujk aÓrgou\ß oujde« aÓka¿rpouß).

[xvii] In 1 Timothy 4:6, rather than giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, through his faithful warning ministry Timothy will “be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine,” kalo\ß e¶shØ dia¿konoß ∆Ihsouv Cristouv, e˙ntrefo/menoß toi√ß lo/goiß thvß pi÷stewß, kai« thvß kalhvß didaskali÷aß.  The articular thvß pi÷stewß is not limited to a body of teaching or truth rather than personally possessed and exercised faith because:  1.) Elsewhere in the pastoral epistles a distinction between articular and nonarticular pi÷stiß as, respectively, a body of truth and personally exercised faith, cannot be maintained;  see, e. g., 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:10.   2.) thvß pi÷stewß is in the second attributive position, and “[e]specially when the article is used to denote the second attributive position would we say that it has almost no semantic meaning” (pg. 239, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Wallace).  3.) The personal exercise of faith is intimately associated with the body of doctrine in which faith is exercised.  4.) Being “nourished up” in the realm and by the instrumentality of “the words of faith” supports the idea that personal faith is in view.  5.) Other portions of Scripture indicate that faith is produced by the Word (Romans 10:17, cf. v. 8).  Compare also “faith in Him,” to\n lo/gon thvß ei˙ß aujto\n pi÷stewß, Dialogue with Trypho 40.

[xviii] Note that there is nothing in the context of 2 Corinthians 5:7 that suggests that only a subcategory of Christians who have discovered the secret of the Higher Life walk by faith, while the rest of God’s people do not do so, nor that believers enter into a walk of faith at some point subsequent to their conversion, from which they can fall by not walking by faith but then re-enter by starting to walk by faith again.  It is certain that the faith of believers can vary in its strength, and believers can certainly fail to exercise faith in specific situations, but nothing like the distinctive Higher Life theology is supported by 2 Corinthians 5:7 in its context.

[xix] e˙n pi÷stei zw◊ thØv touv ui˚ouv touv Qeouv is clearly an objective genitive construction.

[xx] Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18; 3:12.  Access (prosagwgh/) was obtained at the moment of faith and regeneration, and continues always to be available to the believer (note the perfect tense e˙sch/kamen in Romans 5:2).

[xxi] e˙n ga»r Cristwˆ◊ ∆Ihsouv ou¡te peritomh/ ti i˙scu/ei, ou¡te aÓkrobusti÷a, aÓlla» pi÷stiß di∆ aÓga¿phß e˙nergoume÷nh.  Note the rather frequent association of faith and love: 1 Corinthians 13:2, 13; 2 Corinthians 8:7; Galatians 5:6, 22; Ephesians 1:15; 3:17; 6:23; Colossians1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3:6; 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:5, 14; 2:15; 4:12; 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2:22; 3:10; Titus 2:2; Philemon 5; Revelation 2:19.

[xxii] In Philippians 1:25’s th\n uJmw◊n prokoph\n kai« cara»n thvß pi÷stewß, pi÷stewß and uJmw◊n modify both prokoph\n and cara»n; compare 1:20.  The connection between joy and faith is also affirmed in Romans 15:13.

[xxiii] 1 Thessalonians 1:3.  In the “work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope” (touv e¶rgou thvß pi÷stewß, kai« touv ko/pou thvß aÓga¿phß, kai« thvß uJpomonhvß thvß e˙lpi÷doß) the genitives all produce what is signified by the head noun.  God works to fulfill in believers “the work of faith with power,” 2 Thessalonians 1:11; oJ Qeo\ß . . . plhrw¿shØ pa◊san eujdoki÷an aÓgaqwsu/nhß kai« e¶rgon pi÷stewß e˙n duna¿mei.

[xxiv] Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 13:5.

[xxv] Ephesians 3:17, katoike÷w.  Paul teaches that all believers have the Holy Spirit (and consequently the undivided Trinity) dwelling (oi˙ke÷w, Romans 8:9, 11; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16) in them, but Christ’s presence dwelling (katoike÷w) in them can increase, so that their personal possession of the Divine presence can grow towards that of Christ the Mediator, in whom dwells (katoike÷w) all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 1:19; 2:9), and who dispenses of that fulness to them (John 1:16).  (The truth here stated does not, and should not be employed to by any means deny the absoute uniqueness of the hypostatic union as properly confessed at Chalcedon, nor should any attempt being made to reduce the union of natures in the undivided Person of Christ to a mere Nestorianizing indwelling of God in the human Christ.)  Compare the greater strength of katoike÷w as compared with oi˙ke÷w in the LXX in Genesis 19:30; Jeremiah 31:28 (Eng. 48:28); Ezekiel 38:11; Judith 5:5; cf. also Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho 78; Theophilus to Autolycus 2:3, and Philo, Flaccus 55.

[xxvi] Ephesians 3:14-19.  A greater degree of the presence of the Son in the believer necessitates a greater presence of the Trinitarian God, for the Divine essence is undivided.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Strategy of Doubt

In 1908 G. K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy wrote (p. 55):

A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.  Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert -- himself.

That was a hundred years ago, when doubt was amoeba-like compared to the fully grown creature it has become today.  Doubt is not a positive trait in the New Testament.

Romans 14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

The middle voice of diakrino most expresses what we would understand now as doubt, reflexive action, someone arguing with himself.  It is translated "wavering" in James 1:6.  It is expressed in Romans 14 as the opposite of faith.

On the other hand, certainty is positive.  Nowhere does the Bible says it's bad to be sure.

Hebrews 3:6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

Hebrews 6:19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

2 Peter 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

I'm not talking about the strategy that doubt possesses.  I am talking about doubt as a strategy.   We know Satan wanted Eve to doubt.  But today doubt is being portrayed as a positive trait, the skepticism that authors scientific empiricism.  Doubt leads to investigation leads to discovery leads to benefit.  That's all fine as it applies to mankind.  We're all free to be skeptics of opinion.  When we see a deal too good to be true, it's probably too good to be true.  It's important that the White House press corp have a healthy dose of skepticism in what they presently hear from Jay Carney on a daily basis.

There are things that are doubtful, but they are not scriptural things that are doubtful.  We can dispute in non-scriptural matters, paper or plastic, Heat or Pacers, Jim Harbaugh or John Harbaugh, okra:  fried or boiled.   Doubt doesn't relate to God.  We may doubt, but it isn't what God wants from us.  He wants surety, certainty, as it relates to Him.  It doesn't mean that we can't question ourselves, but we shouldn't expect doubt with reference to God.  After Job's friends got through with him, he had doubts, but God came along with the certainty, the assurance that God gives.

You've heard it said that the only two certain things are death and taxes, but we know that not to be true.  And I say "know."  We're certain that death and taxes are not all that is sure.  But that's what many say and would want others to think.   People use doubt to fulfill their purposes.  To sell soap, you might want people unsure about cleanliness.   If you're not sure about the lock on your front door,  that might sell you a security system.  Uncertainty is being brought into the equation by those who need it to buttress a point.  It's curious to see doubt buttress anything, but certain highly valued outlooks require doubt.   Here are three:  

A Strategy as Opportunity for Lust

People want what they want, but authority gets in the way of what they want.  To diminish authority, they cast doubt.  They attack the spokesman.  They attack clarity.  They attack dogmatism.  In the world, the attack is all-out.  Question authority.  The infamous modernist Gertrude Stein wrote:

There ain't no answer. There ain't gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer.

Ironically, the merchants of doubt, and they are con men, have marshaled the evidence of science to further their agendas.

Peter said that doubt is important for lust when he described the scoffers walking after their own lusts (2 Pet 3:3).   Solomon said, hear your mother and father, hear your mother and father, hear your mother and father, and then there is a strange woman.  Strange women come along, and we need to listen to our parents to help avoid her.  Lust is held back by someone who will step in, unlike what Eli did with his sons.  He restrained them not.

While people are trying to decide what they believe, because they are not sure, they can use that liberty to do whatever they wish.  At some point in the future, they might get it figured out, but the doubt, in the meantime, has a very liberating effect.  They call this freedom.

We can't be sure what is right and wrong music.  Convenient.  Lust likes wrong music.  Doubt works nicely to protect all sorts of behavior.

What is modest and what is immodest?  I don't know.  So you can't judge me, because this is uncertain.  You're dealing in "doubtful disputations." Meanwhile, I'll be at the beach.  And since we can't be sure where to draw the line, my blue jeans and shorts will be good enough for church.  Again, don't judge me without the certainty that must be required for such matters.

A Strategy for Popular Coalitions

I listened to someone "preach" about unity recently at one of the most conservative church conferences in the United States.  And he said that unity was an internal thing, a spiritual thing.  This was a conservative preaching.  It can all be reduced to salvation, to the gospel, to the entrance requirements for heaven.  So there we go.  You'll hear this described as "core driven."

Doubt about what scripture says is a strategy, first, to keep the wrong view of unity alive, and, second, to make way for popular coalitions. 

There is doubt about eschatology, about ecclesiology, about pneumatology, about divorce and remarriage, about standards of living, even about what scripture is.  So you can't be dogmatic.  Dogmatism causes disunity.  You'll have people separating over baptism, over the Lord's Table, over the nature of the husband-wife relationship, over church polity, and everyone knows we can't have that.  We've got to have unity.  And we've got to have unity, because we'll be isolated, and then we'll be ineffective.

With doubt, we can get along with almost everyone.  We'll be more popular.  Our coalition will be bigger. We'll seem like a greater success.  Doubt is a means to an end.

On the other hand, the more sure you are, the more people you exclude.  Exclusion means smaller.  Smaller means less influence.

Doubt comes in handy here.

If you get too small, you can't meet payroll.  You might lose your job.  You might have to become bi-vocational.  If you're bi-vocational, people won't think you're a success.  If you're big, you can sell books.  More people will buy your books.  People who you exclude don't buy your books.  That's why certain books aren't even published.  They are too narrow.  To be sold, the book needs to be a little more broad, which requires more doubt.  You get the picture.  Doubt is a strategy.

A Strategy for a Bigger Church

This is related to the second one.  I've recently talked about a sweet spot, the sweet spot between the assurance of salvation and pet worldly desires.  People want to go to heaven, so you've got to be sure about how to get there.  Set.  People don't want to look like oddballs, so you can't be sure about worldliness, about application of scripture on cultural issues.  Match.   People want to miss hell, so you've got to maintain certainty about that.  Check.  People want all the convenience and comfort that anyone else in the world has and can still be a Christian.  Checkmate.  This explains the church growth movement.

Unity in essentials.  Essentials are a shrinking list, as short as the menu at the hot dog stand.  Liberty in non-essentials.  Non-essentials are a catalog the size of the dewey decimal system.   These are the biggest churches.  Since they're big, they must be right, right?

Doubt has become a new currency for success.  It's a credit card you can swipe again and again.  Men by nature don't want any bosses.  They want to operate as a free agent with no controlling legal authority, as Al Gore once described the vice presidential residence from which he made campaign phone calls.

I'm finding that folks don't just want space for doubt.  They want you to respect their doubt as a higher form of theological formation.  Their doubt gives room for contradicting positions.  It's an eclectic taste of paisley with greek key thrown in.  They do nuance.  Sometimes they just haven't decided, because it doesn't really matter.  They're not sure when to go at a four way stop.  People in no hurry to get there are so much cooler than punctual, fashionably operating at their own pace.

Certainty be damned in a postmodern society.  Diversity is strength.  Variety is a spice of life.  Surety is burning a question mark in the front lawn.  Doubt is a strategy to be employed.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Family Update

When I look at our nation's flag and I see the red stripes, I recognize the sacrifice paid for freedom.  Generally, soldiers have died for our freedom.  They died in Korea and Vietnam because of the threat of communism.  It had to be stopped somewhere.  The Persian Gulf War was a little more complicated, but we decided it affected freedom.  Afghanistan and Iraq are the war against Islamic jihadism.  When certain allies are attacked, we say it's an extension of our freedoms being threatened.

I remember Muhammad Ali, around the time he refused the draft in the late 60s, said, "I ain't got no quarrel with those Viet Cong."  That was typical fare from protesters in those days.  The Cambodians didn't have any quarrel with the Communists either, but after Vietnam fell, one and a half million of them were killed from 1975 to 1979.

Some of you know my son is in the military, just finishing up his academic career last week at the United States Military Academy at West Point.   This summer he will act as a Platoon Leader to around 40 third class cadets as they complete their mandatory class wide summer training event at Camp Buckner.  Because he had yet to complete that requirement because of various circumstances, he will not graduate until August 10 along with 15-20 others from his class of over 900.  There is actually May, June, August, and December graduation at West Point.   That same day he will commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army.  He will report to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma towards the end of October to begin more training specific to his job as an officer in Field Artillery, and stationed at Fort Sill for 4 years.

My oldest daughter is finishing her first year at Cal State University East Bay in Hayward, CA.  She travels by public transportation (BART) there every week as a full time student, living at home.  The year has gone very well for her.  She does fine in class and she has a group of fellow students with a more similar world view with which she has acquaintance and to whom she talks about Jesus and evangelizes.  She has also worked two half days a week as a teacher's aid in our school, as well as tutored a few students.  She plays her violin twice every Sunday at our church and sings in the choir.

The two youngest daughters are in 10th and 7th grade, finishing up this week.  We just had a violin recital and here is the oldest of the two playing Beethoven's Sonata #5 "Spring" in F Major, 1st Movement.

We've got a lot going on this year with my son's graduation our in New York and working on remodeling our house.  We continue on the next book in our Word of Truth Conference.  I teach four classes, history and economics at Bethel Christian Academy, one graduate pastoral training course, and a first year Greek class.  I'm preaching through Luke and 2 Corinthians, and teaching through the historical books of the OT.   We evangelize our area.  There are many, many other things, including being on the board of two orchestras, one of which we're right in the middle of hiring a new OM.  And, of course, I write full time here ( ;-D ).

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why You Should Get Rid of Yahoo! E-Mail and Avoid Yahoo! Entirely

I am eliminating my Yahoo! mail accounts, and you should get rid of them also.  Why? 

I'm not getting rid of my Yahoo! e-mail accounts because of Yahoo's leftist political bias, although it is irritating to see it when I go to to log in.  Google may be politically biased also, but I'm not subjected to it when I go to log in.

I'm not getting rid of them because my Yahoo! e-mail accounts have been repeatedly hacked, while my Gmail has never been hacked. 

I'm not getting rid of them because their spam filter is worse than Gmail, so that I get vast amounts of spam--some of it filthy--while I don't have this problem with my Gmail accounts.

While all of the above are problems, and they would justify people leaving Yahoo! Mail, I wouldn't take the time to write a post on them, and I wouldn't say that if you reverence God the Creator-Jehovah, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit-you need to get rid of Yahoo! Mail.

So why am I eliminating Yahoo! Mail?  Why have I told people in my contact list to not e-mail me at Yahoo! in the future, but to use my Gmail address?  Why am I moving electronic notifications from the bank, etc. to Gmail and out of Yahoo?

It is because Yahoo is boldly and unashamedly forcing you to see the holy Name of God taken in vain every time you go to their homepage to check your e-mail.

Let's review the 3rd commandment:

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

Yahoo! now has, on the right side of its homepage, an icon that has the letters "o," then "m," and then "g," the modern acronym for the common way that the wicked seek to profane God's Name today, saying "Oh my" and "God" when they do not have the slightest thought of Him, of praying to Him, of reverence for Him, of fear of Him, of love to Him, or anything else whatever to do with Him.  Such wicked speech is a plain, blatent violation of the third commandment.  This abbreviation is a plain, blatent violation of the third commandment.

I noticed this blasphemy emblazoned on the Yahoo! homepage a few days ago--the very same day that a headline news article on flashed on the screen, with the statement "oh my g--"--and, no, God doesn't even get a capital "G" when Yahoo wishes to blaspheme Him--right in the center of the webpage.  So not only must you rest your eyes on God's holy Name being blasphemed every time you go to to log in to your e-mail, but you should expect to see news stories right in the middle of your screen with blasphemy in the headline.

What does God think of His name being blasphemed?  Consider Leviticus 24:10-16:

And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel: and this son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp; And the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the LORD, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses: (and his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan:) And they put him in ward, that the mind of the LORD might be shewed them. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.

He established in His OT theocracy that violating the third commandment was a capital crime.  God can't stand it when His name is blasphemed.  We aren't in a theocracy today, but God still can't stand it when His name is blasphemed.  No, "the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain."

What was the attitude of the godly in Scripture if they heard someone else blaspheme God?  They would rend or tear their clothes as an expression of great sorrow and horror (2 Kings 18:37; 19:1; cf. 2 Kings 18:28-35; 19:3, 6).  So what should your attitude be about this crass defiance of God on the Yahoo! homepage?  You should be horrified.  You should hate it.  You should be outraged.  You should be unable to stand it.  You should tell your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, that you do not in the least agree with this abominable wickedness displayed boldly on their homepage.  No, your attitude is "HALLOWED BE THY NAME," not "let thy name be blasphemed"!

The third commandment comes before the sixth and the seventh commandment, folks.  Would you keep your Yahoo! Mail if, whenever you went to, you were subjected to a violent video clip where someone was murdered in a grisly way?  Would you keep your Yahoo! Mail if, whenever you went to, you were subjected to graphic pictures of people committing adultery?  No? Then you should get rid of your Yahoo! account because, every time you go to their website to log in, you are subjected to God's holy Name being blasphemed.  Don't try to minimize this sin.  Don't try to explain it away.  Don't rationalize it.  Don't keep using Yahoo, so that you get used to seeing blasphemy and so that you become desensitized to it.  It is wickedness.  It is unholy.  It is vile.  It is Satanic.  God hates blasphemy the way He hates murder and adultery.  So should you.  So, get rid of Yahoo Mail, and get something else.  Encourage your web filter--I use Hedgebuilders--to block out Yahoo the way they block out pornographic, violent, and other immoral sites.  I know that on any secular search engine one can search for evil things and find them--but here you have to see the evil without searching for anything.  Contact Yahoo here and tell them why you're leaving.  (Make sure, when you do let them know, that you write considering the Biblical principles discussed here.) Tell others about this blog post and get them to drop Yahoo! also.  If enough people drop them, perhaps they will change.  Do you think Yahoo! is going to put a picture of Mohammed on its front page?  No, because they would get a big reaction from the Muslims--riots, perhaps a lot of people dead.  Since Christians know they are to love their neighbors as themselves, do good, and act kindly toward the wicked, Yahoo is not afraid of them--and the company does not fear God, so they don't care about blaspheming Him and violating the third commandment.  However, at least we can affect their profit margin--they care about that.

Remember the words of king David in Psalm 101:2-3:

I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

Walk within your house with a perfect heart--including when you check your e-mail.  Set no wicked thing before your eyes--like you do if you go to the Yahoo! homepage.  Rather, hate the work of them that turn aside, and do not let it cleave to you.  Reject and abandon Yahoo! unless it repents and removes the blasphemy from its homepage--and let them know why you are doing it.

Let us say that someone who knows computers well can work with his cookies and saved pages to avoid the Yahoo! homepage to log in to e-mail on his home computer.  Even so, is it realistic to say that you will never visit the Yahoo! homepage?  What about when you check your e-mail from another computer?  The fact is that if you keep Yahoo! mail, you are certain to be confronted with blasphemy, blasphemy you could have avoided if you used a different e-mail program--and thus, blasphemy seen voluntarily.

Perhaps what I have written in this post seems extreme--perhaps you really don't care if people say "Oh my" and "God" when they aren't praying or thinking about giving Him reverence.  Perhaps you regularly blaspheme Jehovah's Name yourself.  If so, you ought to examine yourself.  You are either a very backslidden, worldly, carnal, and weak Christian, or you are yet unregenerate and need to be born again.  Find out here how you can receive eternal life and a new and holy nature that loves God and reverences His holy name.

And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. . . . And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever. (Revelation 4:8-11; 5:11-14)

You can also e-mail Yahoo's PR team here:
 (408) 349-3300


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Trail of Blood

I've written a little more on Baptist history here and here and here.  You can read those.


My family moved to Watertown, WI in 1973 for my dad to attend Maranatha Baptist Bible College, when I was entering 7th grade.  My dad, my sister, my brother, and I all graduated there.  He got his Masters.  I got a masters and master of divinity.  I've talked about this before, but Richard Weeks taught all the Baptist related courses -- Baptist history, Baptist polity, Acts, and Revelation -- anything to do with the church.  Dr. Weeks had by all reports, the largest personal Baptist history library in the world.  Maranatha published only two books in its history:  Evaluating Versions of the New Testament by Edward Fowler (for which B. Myron Cedarholm wrote the foreward) and History of the Baptists by Thomas Armitage.  What do you think those two acts communicated about the emphasis of Maranatha, what Maranatha considered itself to be about?  It saddens me that Maranatha is ashamed of this heritage and ashamed of its graduates who continue to believe it.  They're not only ashamed, but it seems obvious that they try to blot out that entire history like it never existed.  By the way, that doesn't make me a scandalized alumnus -- I'm just reporting.

At that time, in Maranatha's bookstore were books you find sold today by the unaffiliated Baptists:  The Myth of the Universal, Invisible Church Exploded by Roy Mason, The First Baptist and The First Church by S. E. Anderson, Ecclesia by B. H. Carroll, and The Trail of Blood by J. M. Carroll.  We read  The History of the Baptists by John T. Christian for Baptist History class.  Those books are not offered by Maranatha any more.  You can't find those books in the bookstore anymore, but now you can get them from Wayne Grudem, Carl Trueman, or Nathan Busenitz.  I was there when things started to change, as Arno Q. Weniger became president and began taking Maranatha a whole new direction with the imprimatur of an almost entirely new faculty.

Recently SharperIron linked to a short article bashing The Trail of Blood.  I say "bashing," because it couldn't stand as any kind of actual critique -- it had zero documentation.  Wait a minute, I take that back, he did have several links you could click on to go to Roman Catholic websites in order to "debunk" the Trail of Blood position.  Did you know that Roman Catholics don't take The Trail of Blood position?  Oh, that's right, they helped create the trail.  They caused much of the bleeding.  Did anyone at SharperIron, Fred Moritz, or any of these criticize this particular aspect of the article?  No.  Crickets from them.

Trail of Blood, on the other hand, the commenters at SharperIron said was "hokum," Landmarkist, and Baptist Brider.  Unfortunately it was the typical analysis of the bandwagon.  Then we read Fred Moritz come on to promote his article on "Landmarkism" at the Maranatha website (which I refuted in a series -- part one, part two, part three, part four -- that will speak for itself).  For people to understand Landmarkism, they should read the writings of J. R. Graves and evaluate as to whether what he taught was found in the New Testament.  I say that, because Moritz quotes critics of Graves, who read critics of Graves after he was in the grave.  Graves hasn't been dead that long.  You can read what he wrote.  And when you read what he wrote, you don't find his saying that his position was a reaction to Campbellism.    Dr. Cedarholm preached a sermon every year at Maranatha against the chain link view of Baptist history and Maranatha held a position called "spiritual kinship," which would not contradict what Carroll wrote in his pamphlet/booklet, Trail of Blood.

I asked the author of the blog post (who has of his few twitter feeds, StuffFundiesLike in mockery of fundamentalists) some questions, several of which he wouldn't answer.  He was claiming to believe an English Separatist view of church history.  It would be helpful to read a critique of that position (here, here, here, here, and here).   One he did answer was the question as to whether there were true churches that existed separate from Roman Catholicism from the time of Jesus until now.  He said, 'Of course, he believed that.'  If he did believe that, then he essentially takes the same point of view as Carroll in Trail of Blood.  At the minimum, it is a spiritual kinship view, which says that there were always churches with New Testament distinctives (Baptist distinctives) throughout history since Christ.  However, neither is it in conflict with Baptist successionism.  Baptist successionism is not in fact the mythical chain link view.  I've never met anyone who takes the chain link position, despite the criticism.  Successionism says that churches should come from churches, and that authority travels from church to church.  Nobody that I know or have read says that you can trace that all the way to Christ.  They say that they believe that there is authority back to Christ, succeeding from one church to the next.  I think it's important with whomever we criticize, that we understand their view, so that we are in fact criticizing their view and not a straw man.  I contended that Moritz's paper was attacking a straw man.

Despite the author of the post against the Trail of Blood admitting to a Trail of Blood position, he says that the Baptist denomination came out of the Reformation, meaning that Baptists are Protestants.  We know Protestants came from Roman Catholicism, so where is the preservation of true New Testament churches?  The belief in the preservation of true New Testament churches, that are today called Baptists, is both a spiritual kinship and Baptist successionist view.  It says that true churches always existed separate from Roman Catholicism and were known by different names.  That is a fulfillment of biblical presuppositions for the preservation of the true church and the absence of a total apostasy in this age.  It's called the Trail of Blood, because it is a church persecuted by Roman Catholicism.  The idea is that you can see the true churches by the trail of blood of the martyrs.  I believe that.

What Carroll does is to give a brief presentation of assemblies of people who look to have those New Testament distinctives.  He isn't attempting to prove the point with a little booklet, multi-volume sets have been written that do that.  In Trail of Blood, Carroll just makes a presentation.  Yes, there are criticisms, because some sources will say that some of these assemblies weren't actually orthodox or didn't really fulfill New Testament distinctives.  History can be used in so many different ways.  Consider the multiple and contradictory opinions of Abraham Lincoln, of FDR, of George W. Bush, and we're talking about something less than 200 years ago and after the invention of the printing press.  True Christians will always be criticized.  No one can usually fully depend on everything said in historical material.  Much of what is written is an interpretation of what is written, considering the viability of the sources.  If you want more on spiritual kinship or Baptist perpetuity, much more has been written.  No one should depend on a little pamphlet or booklet for an in depth presentation.  Carroll himself wasn't attempting to do that.  He wasn't saying that his booklet was the end all.  However, his view is the correct view, as it is the view that fits biblical presuppositions.

The entire civilization of ancient Babylon is expressed today with complete confidence based on extrapolations from a single stone pillar.  There is very little criticism.  I'm happy to believe like Spurgeon the historical sources that tell us that true New Testament churches have existed from the time of Christ until now.  They didn't start with English separatists after the Reformation.

I have no problem with the idea that a church is the bride of Christ, but I don't take the so-called Baptist brider position.  I would be glad to take it if I thought it were true.  When men say that true churches are Baptist churches and that a church is the bride of Christ, so Baptist churches are the bride of Christ, I don't disagree with that.  If that's what it means to be a Baptist brider, then I am one. I don't think that the bride itself, however, is only the church.  The bride is a metaphor that is used to refer to more than local churches in scripture.  It is used by New Testament authors to refer to an assembly (Eph 5), but also to more than that (see Revelation 18-22 and John 14).  I'd rather not discuss that under this post.  I've talked to others about it.  However, I don't see "bride" equal only to "church" and "body" in scripture.  With that in mind, a belief in spiritual kinship or Baptist successionism isn't a Baptist brider position.  It isn't with me and with other men I know who believe like I do.

Whatever we're going to believe about history, we have to believe what someone else wrote.  All of it is difficult to sort out.   I believe the proper view of history is to look at history with the Word of God in view.  That's what God told men to do in Isaiah 40-48.    All the fulfillment of the promises of the church were yet future when Christ made them.  We relate the present to the past, which also connects to the future.  This is why presuppositions are so important when examining history.  We have no promise of the preservation of historical material, but we do have the promise of the preservation of God's Word.  We should assume that what God said would happen would happen.  God makes prophesies and promises and we can count on them because of His power and sovereignty.  I don't take a Roman Catholic and, therefore, English separatist or Protestant view of history, because it doesn't fit what God said He would do.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Everybody Draws Lines (It Really Is All About Why)

One of the area evangelical churches, which has a rock band, had someone spontaneously begin taking his music to a different level with his behavior.  He was jumping up and down and spinning and generally making the people attending feel uncomfortable.  Leadership didn't allow him to continue.  They couldn't agree to disagree.  They wouldn't allow for Christian liberty.  They judged him in what one would have thought was, for them, a doubtful disputation.  According to some's evaluation, the leaders that cut him off must have been weaker brothers with more scruples than he.  They shut down his act with no verses to stop it.  People didn't like it.  It was their preference.  They drew a line.

Everybody draws lines.  Everyone has a dress code.  Everyone has a music standard.  Everybody has an entertainment standard.  The truth is that everybody just draws their lines at different places.  That's why I asked recently what was wrong with VSM? (here and here)  Most of the people who draw lines say that you can't judge, and then they proceed to judge, like the evangelical church above.   It's not that they don't judge, just that they judge according to a different line drawn.   That church knew someone had crossed a line.  The line was mainly about a level of comfort being violated.  If people had to continue putting up with the zany behavior of a worship leader, not what they would judge to be a violation of any written text of scripture, the church would have started shrinking.  Maybe they could have put up with the wild and crazy 'worship,' but they couldn't have endured the complaints that they were receiving about his participation.  At some point everyone thinks that someone is going too far, and it is, again, just a matter of degree.

The above church again would say that they are majoring on the majors, that they are caring about the things that matter the most -- men's souls (I know this to be their justification, because we've talked to them directly).  It's true that they put thousands of dollars into the lights, the staging, the sheet music, the instruments, the lessons, the leaders, the sound equipment, the computers, the training, as well as hours and hours into the practice, but it isn't that important, even though Rick Warren in Purpose Driven Church said 'what kind of music' is the single most important decision in a church plant.  It doesn't matter about like my neighbor isn't crazy who wears two eggs over easy in each of his arm pits.  It matters.  It's a big deal.  It's a big enough deal to stop a Tasmanian Devil impersonation from continuing.

There has to be a law or two concerning line drawing.  I believe the following would be one.

The more people excluded by a line drawn, the less popular that line will be.

This is how line drawing relates to church growth.  That evangelical church drew a line on one man's behavior that made only one person unhappy -- him.  A key in church growth, and I'm talking about numerical growth, size of church, is to find the sweet spot to draw your line:  the perfect mixture of minimal doctrine and worldly lust.  The evangelical church found it.  If it did not draw it to exclude this man, they would have lost other people.  There didn't need to be a biblical reason for that, because 'anyone would know that losing people is wrong.'  They were perfectly willing to sacrifice his small demographic, not receive a man in a doubtful disputation, in order satisfy the preferences of the larger group.  If you're going to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.

Our church draws the music and worship line in a more exclusive place than that evangelical church.  I know that isn't acceptable to that church in a very personal way.  They don't like us judging them.  They think we're wrong.  They warn their church about us and our types.  They call us names.  And they say we can't prove our point scripturally, even if we present a basis from scripture (here's a good essay about that).

Interestingly enough, that church doesn't think our music is wrong.  They don't think our dress is wrong.  What we do isn't wrong, but that church and others think that where we draw our line is the reason why our church is much smaller than theirs.  What's wrong is judging them to be wrong.  That's where we're in trouble.

So where we draw our lines excludes more people.  That line results in us having a smaller crowd on Sunday.  We sacrifice for where we draw that line.  We don't draw it because we think it makes us superior to others.  We draw it based on our belief that it is right.   But we are smaller because of where we draw lines.  And yet, that evangelical church thinks and even says that we shouldn't judge their church for where they draw their lines.  They're bigger because of it, even by their own assessment.  Shouldn't that be enough for them?  But they don't want to be thought to be wrong either.  They don't want us making that judgment.  If we have suffered a smaller congregation, a smaller group of people, because of where we draw the line, why would we judge that whole other church to be acceptable, when it isn't acceptable in our church?  If it was only a preference, we wouldn't draw the line where we do.  They are the ones who drew it on a solely preferential basis in the case of the man they stopped from worshiping as he felt was acceptable.  They're doing something even worse -- it's just a preference with them and they exclude him.  Why can't they understand?

I like to bring up the example of the soldier watching and guarding the tomb of the unknowns in Washington, D.C.  Many people are excluded from that opportunity based on lines that are drawn that no one complains about.  I've never heard of one person complaining about the discipline and the dress and the comportment and the training of the soldier guarding that tomb.  After all, that's about dead American soldiers, people who gave their lives.  That deserves such lines being drawn.  People will still visit that tomb, watch his movements for long periods of time -- thousands and thousands visit to see that happen.  What about giving a little slack to the soldiers and allowing them some freedom, some shorts, a tank-top, and flip flops?  Why not letting them carry some small snack foods to eat at different moments?  Or at least not iron and press their clothes to such an extent?  The code for the soldier limits the number of participants in his group.  People don't get too bent out of shape about that -- it's a worthy cause.  Should we say, unlike the church?

Our church draws a line, for instance, on modesty in swimming.  We don't practice the modernistic mixed swimming.  Other churches have their youth activities at a water park.  Which do you think will be more popular?  We don't accept where they draw that line.  They gain people from having those activities.  We lose people by not having those same activities.  And yet those same people will say that they think that we should not allow this to cause disunity between our churches, that it is even some kind of heresy that we don't.  By allowing that line to cause us not to get along, they would say, we're flattening the gospel to the level of other less important doctrines, we're not practicing the body of Christ, and we're making too much out of something that should just be a preference.  They draw a line where they're bigger, so they don't suffer that loss, but they also have to be accepted by those who don't draw the same line as they do.  They want to have it both ways.  They can't have it both ways.

On music, I will tell our people that rock music is wrong.  I tell them rock music is false worship.  I tell them that we will not fellowship with churches that use rock music.  If we're going to exclude rock music, why would it seem odd that we would also exclude those who use rock music?  That above evangelical church excluded someone who went to an extreme further than what they did.

Everyone is practicing line drawing.  I am contending that the line drawing is not mainly about what God wants or what will honor Him, but about numbers, numerical growth, and people's comfort.  I don't know and probably can't know for sure, but my opinion is that they get upset when we talk about where they draw their lines because they know their line is wrong.  It doesn't feel comfortable to be judged. Some are past feeling bad about it, but some still do.  And some get very angry defending their more inclusive line drawn.

When people say they don't want to be judged for where they draw their line, they are really looking to find a certain sweet spot that will allow them to have what they want and what God wants -- both.  They draw lines that allow people things they like from the world and at the same time being able to obey and honor God.  It doesn't actually work that way.  You can't have it both ways, and they are deceiving people by giving them that impression.  

I don't like where others draw their lines, because they're wrong.  I write about it, because I believe it matters.  I want there to be some place still online where people like us can come to read a decent explanation or defense.  Those who are more inclusive won't like it.  I know that.  I wish it wasn't the case, but it must be that way.  There will be divisions like Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 11.  You can't judge without differences.  Two things that are different can't be the same.  When they're not the same, people should know the reason.  The reason matters.

Did you think that church growth comes from preaching the gospel?  It does.  But bigger numbers come from excluding less people by drawing your lines in more comfortable places.  If the churches of the gospel-centered actually grew from the gospel, then where they drew their lines wouldn't matter.  How could more modesty stop a church built on the gospel from growing?  It couldn't.  How could more reverent music stop a church built on the gospel from growing?  It couldn't.  And yet where the lines are drawn affects numbers.  Everyone knows this.  True church growth, biblical church growth, is supernatural.  And yet these churches know that they're bigger, not because they preach the gospel more, but because of where they draw the lines on cultural issues.  They know that their numbers aren't because of the gospel.  It is because they know that people like rock music and casual and immodest dress.  They've drawn their lines in accordance with what it takes to get and stay big.  How do you know?  People who are really saved, that the gospel has saved, wouldn't have a problem with more modesty or more reverent music. They would like it. They would be attracted by it.  But the people of these churches are not.  They react with great anger at those prospects.  And then they don't want to be judged.  That sounds kind of like flattening the gospel or just not depending on the gospel, which might be cratering the gospel, something worse than flattening it.

The gospel-centered churches are not built on the gospel.  They're built on a confluence of worldly lust and the assurance of salvation.  There's a sweet spot there, which is perfect to build and maintain numbers.  They talk about the gospel, because they've figured out that is the best way to justify what they do.   You want to know why we get to dress and play and act and talk this way?  It's grace.  So you're both honoring God and getting what you want.  It's a floor wax and a dessert topping.  People want to be saved.  Yes.  They don't want to go to Hell.  And they don't want to feel guilty.  The gospel takes care of that, but it also allows you to have a certain comfortable degree of worldliness.  That's where the sweet spot is.

The sweet spot, by the way, is moving further to the left.  It's like the Hyles church over the long haul. Kids through the years have needed more to bribe them to get on a church bus.  By the time they get into junior high, a lot of the stuff doesn't work any more and so there is a major turnover at that point.  So the Hyles churches, to keep that method working, have had to get even more innovative.  Some of them moved on from that and went to the full Hybels type of mode or created some Hyles/Hybels hybrid.  These gospel-centered churches on cultural issues will keep moving further and further, since it's all relative anyway, until they'll be explaining why it's OK to have homosexuals in the church. Some of them are there already.

One of the critiques of this type of post is that I write it because I'm jealous, because I think I'm better than other people, or in other words, a whole lot of extra-scriptural judgment (you read these same judgments, identical, of Paul in 2 Corinthians).  They don't draw the line on judging me that way.  They are very tight in their ability to perceive these types of motives, and draw the line very much on total assurance of their mind-reading abilities.  They are very exclusive.  It is one of the ways they protect their inclusiveness -- by attempting to intimidate anyone who might judge them for what they're doing.  It's hypocrisy.  If you can tolerate a wide range of possibilities, then tolerate our possibility, since that's all it is anyway, just another possibility.  They can't judge music or dress, but they can judge people with a more exclusive line than they draw, even though they are drawing lines too.  Hypocrisy.

Everybody draws lines.