Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Don't try to convince yourself that door-to-door means "shoving it down people's throats," a sales pitch, or the enemy of evangelizing your circles of influence. It doesn't. Door-to-door is sowing the seed on every single plot of ground, searching every square inch for the lost coin, sheep, and son, and making sure everyone has the opportunity to hear. It isn't up to you at all to make it more interesting to people or to show them how cool it is. The Bible says people already know how great it is or you wouldn't have a hope of any success ever. No extra-scriptural strategy will make it any better for you if you want genuine conversions. You can make it a ton better if you want mere professions.
Also don't try to convince yourself that door-to-door was the invention either of the Watchtower Society or of the 1-2-3-pray-with-me of Jack Hyles. They did it or do it, so it's wrong, is a very bad argument. You know that. So is, other stuff works better. Leaving your house and visiting other people is how everyone else besides you will hear the gospel. My life is full of testimonies of preaching a true gospel door-to-door and people being saved. I gave mini testimonies of two people in Monday's post.
Jesus did not command His disciples to go out and build relationships with lost people. He didn't send out the seventy to go and make friends with the world. Almost every person Jesus preached to was a stranger. He didn't know Nicodemus. He didn't know the woman at the well. I'm sure He preached to people He knew, but in the best example of that, they planned to throw Him over a cliff in Nazareth. This isn't some recent revelation. It's easy to see that Jesus preached everywhere and to everyone and then the apostles followed that example. When Paul went to a synagogue, he wasn't going there to become buddy-buddy with those people. When he finally did arrive in Damascus, he had to leave over the wall in a basket. We know this. And we do have it better here in the United States than what they had it.
People want an easier way to preach, where when you're done, you go your merry way and everyone still likes each other. I've found that I retain popularity where I don't preach. If I deal with a person's soul, it most often ends with somebody wishing I wasn't there, and that is with me being as non-offensive as possible.
Other Christians talk like we don't know that people don't want to have someone visit their home. People don't want you to preach to them, period. You can sit right next to someone at a fast food restaurant. I mean almost on the person's lap. You can smell his breath, he's so close. You turn and offer only a gospel tract -- he rejects it. I. know. that.
God told Isaiah to preach to people who didn't want to hear. In Matthew 13, Jesus said He had a similar task. We live in an age in America where we are very much closer to that situation. Many call it a post-Christian America. I live in what is the most liberal and unchurched metropolitan area in the United States. In many places here, people are hostile. They can't kill me, yet. They would rather kill me than a tree, a whale, or a bird.
We can see that Jesus does not intend for us to preach to people who don't want us. If I could know that someone had heard the gospel and did not want it, before I got to him, I would leave him alone. I don't want to talk to people who don't want to listen. And yet I still go door-to-door. What do I say when I get there?
I don't use a survey. I'm not there to invite them to church. I often do that in the midst of a conversation, but that's not my purpose. I don't start out with the idea that I'm going to strike up a conversation. The nature of people in this area encourages you to get right to the point. When I read all of the examples of Jesus and the Apostles, I don't read them merely trying to make it the most pleasant experience possible. I say "merely." You aren't going for unpleasant, but as soon as you turn any conversation in the direction of the gospel, you will start feeling a bad vibe 99% of the time.
Despite everything I have said so far, I very often am able to preach the gospel to people. One of my secrets is that I behave like I like doing it. I actually do care about the person, so I talk to the person like he's a person. I'm also very equipped to talk about the Bible. Not being prepared should not be an excuse. You can go with someone else for awhile, and then the best way to learn is to do it yourself. You'll learn far more Bible by talking to people about the Lord from God's Word.
Alright, let me get at least to how I start with someone. For awhile, when someone comes to the door, I say, "I'm Kent (and this is so-and-so), and I'm (we're) here to talk only to someone who is interested in Jesus. I want to talk to people about Jesus and the gospel. Gospel means good news. And the good news is that we are in horrible trouble with God, but because of Jesus we can get right with God. But I'm interested only in people who want to talk about Jesus Christ and about that good news. Do you want to do that?"
That start covers everyone. Buddhist. Hindu. Moslem. Liberal. New Age. Mind science. Religious person. Irreligious person. Baptist. Lutheran. Evangelical. Charismatic.
"Who is Jesus and why did He need to come to earth? There is good reason to believe in Him. Could we talk about that?" Then you can start with sin, because sin is the problem. This is, by the way, communicating the Christian worldview, which most simply is: creation, fall, redemption. It all starts with God.
This start does two great things. One, you find out right away if the person wants to talk. You are not responsible to talk with people who don't want to talk.
You may say, "But no one is going to want to talk to you with that approach or start." Wrong. You don't waste your time with people who don't want to talk, but you also have people who can't resist that. I notice conviction immediately when I start like that. It is difficult to say, I don't want to talk about or hear about Jesus, if you know you need Him. Of the people who do say, "no," many times they look guilty saying it. I even add to it by saying, "So you don't want to talk about Jesus?" I will keep going, "We need Jesus. We're doomed without Him, are you sure? Can I?"
Theologically, I believe we have at least two things going with a person. One, you have previous knowledge of the true God in everyone. God's grace works in God's world. That's very positive.
Two, you have rebellion that is innate to every human being. The solution to rebellion is a supernatural one. It doesn't make sense to us. It's not a strategy. If it were a strategy, strategists would laugh at it. So you immediately go to a supernatural solution. I assume people know they need it. If they won't show interest, it's rebellion. The cure for rebellion is still the truth, which is supernatural. The cure isn't intellectual per se. The whole gospel is partly intellectual, but that is not the component that is the problem for people. They have sufficient knowledge to show interest in the conversation. Rebellion is why they don't. Therefore, you go all truth on them.
So, first, the start finds if someone wants to talk. If the person says, "No," I try to leave a tract, and I know I've done what I can do, and I move on. But, second, I find with that approach, the people are to some degree appreciative that I've been honest. It does say, "He's not ashamed of what he's talking about." If nothing is greater, I'm talking like nothing is greater. Most people don't talk like nothing's greater. They talk like it's something you don't think is so great, so you've got to wrap it in dog food and sneak it in, so the dog will eat it. No, it's filet mignon. It's the best. Treat it like it is the best. It is!
Just a short aside here. The most rude people often are "Christians," especially evangelicals. Your mere presence reminds them of the facade they're a part of.
Talk about Jesus like He's worth talking about. Most people don't know Who He is. They know the name. They have a conception, but it's usually wrong. They also don't know how much trouble they are in.
You ask, "Does this work?" I preach the gospel all the time. I give a lot of people an opportunity. Jesus sent out the 70 to do that. He wants the gospel to spread out. There are churches that are getting bigger, but they are missing the point. Their church is hear to preach the message of the kingdom. People need to hear about the King, and what He's done. So while their church is growing, all people will hear is that they can come and play volleyball or watch a movie or hear a concert. The number of people in about 100 yards of commute traffic go to the biggest churches and the rest of the people they just leave damned for Hell. I've never run into one of them out preaching in 27 years. I know, they're so smart.
Many today, it's true, won't want to talk to you. They'll feel proud that they turned you away, like that was an important task for them to fulfill. They hate you, because they see you as the religious right, pro-death penalty, the moral majority, anti-homosexual. They already think you're that way. You keep it to talking about Jesus and maybe you'll get to that.
Another little secret, when people are uber-rude with me, the conversation just got longer. I turn into his best friend, Gomer Pyle to his Sergeant Carter. I'll ask, "Why are you so angry?" Etc.
If you have more questions, I'm open to answering as many as I think I should here. Fire away.
Monday, December 29, 2014
Proponents of Jesus asked why so few were saved? He said they would not strive (agonizomai) to enter the narrow gate. People have to want it. They've got to "find" it. The Apostle Paul said that the truth is suppressed by people in their unrighteousness. 2 Peter says they don't want a boss. This question is also answered by the parable of the sower. The seed is the same, but the problem isn't the technique for how it is flung, but the condition of the soil. People who are ready to receive are, well, ready to receive, and if not, they're not. So who are these people who want to receive it? We don't know, but we will know when we try to give it to them.
In the mid 19th century, Charles Finney proposed "new measures" to allure the lost to salvation. His notion arose from his distorted notion of man's nature. Finney's techniques changed the essence of the gospel, and exponential more perversions have proceeded from them. That tradition continued on December 16, when Christianity Today (CT), what might be better titled "Christianity" Today, published an article, entitled, "The Dangers of Door-to-Door Evangelism," a review of a new book, The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing.
The online forum, ShaperIron, started a discussion on the article, and there was overall agreement from readers there who commented. Both the article and the comments on the forum reminded me of the growing femininity of American Christianity. Here is a person of masculine gender, who rejects biblical obedience out of fear, but writes to excuse himself, suave his guilt, and emolliate others like him. He should just say it: he lacks courage, hates rejection, and doesn't want to feel bad about any of it.
All the reasons given in the article and on the forum were actually the same reasons for not evangelizing period. Many would like to evangelize without evangelizing. Both the book and the online forum missed the most important criteria for judging door-to-door: is it a scriptural method? Or, did Jesus and the Apostles practice it?
The gospel, of course, is worth believing, even though the lost think it is foolishness. It's also believable, because it is the truth. It really is a matter of faith. Preaching the gospel won't usually look "effective." But the better question is, do American Christians believe the gospel is the power of God unto salvation? If it is (and it is), then they should be and actually would be preaching it door-to-door.
In Isaiah 6, God sent Isaiah to preach to a nation, who didn't want to hear the message. King Manasseh of Judah killed the prophets, who came to him. In the end, those prophets had sowed the seed for his conversion (2 Chronicles 33). John the Baptist was killed by Herod. Every apostle but John the disciple died the martyr's death.
The Father sent Jesus and then Jesus sent believers to preach the gospel to every person. We have been left with the task of delivering a message, much like Hezekiah sent out postmen to call on those remaining in the Northern Kingdom to repent. They mocked and ridiculed him, so was his message unbelievable?
We don't need a book to tell us not to evangelize. We don't need so-called preachers discouraging us from preaching the gospel. These preachers want to be relevant. They seek a method, not found in the Bible, that will "work." The gospel works, when you preach it. An unbelievable gospel is one that isn't preached. No one can believe that one, because no one has heard it.
Door-to-door evangelism is in one sense not a method, unless it is a sales pitch or is offering something other than a true gospel. If it is a true gospel preached, it is evangelism. It is loving the world like God so loved the world. It is caring about everyone.
Does door-to-door work? It works at preaching the gospel. It works at giving the opportunity for everyone to hear. It works at obeying the Bible. It works at loving God, loving the world, and loving your neighbor. It works at going. It works at faithfulness with the mysteries of God. It works at being an ambassador of Christ. It works at not having the spirit of fear. It works at a lot of stuff that's good and right.
When the Hebrew spies came back with a bad report, they discouraged the hearts of the people, who then died in the wilderness. Forty years later, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and a half tribe of Manasseh said they didn't want to go in the second time. Moses scorched them (Numbers 32). When they would not participate, he said, "Be sure your sin will find you out." I say the same thing to those discouraging men from evangelizing the world. Be sure your sin fill find you out. Do you believe the gospel or not?
Reviewing the Reasons against Door to Door
From the Author of the Article
In reading the article, there is some overlap here, but I'm going to use direct quotes to provide separate reasons.
One, "the door-to-door method follows a sales model"; "I did not want it to sound like a sales pitch."
Two, "the friendship model attempts first to cultivate a relationship with a non-believer (who might live in your dorm or attend classes with you) and then introduce the gospel in a more casual and natural way."
Three, "(friendship model) better suited my personality and because, well, it 'felt' right."
Four, "I’ve always hated the 'hard sell' and have quickly (if politely) closed the door or hung up the phone whenever a solicitor has tried to sell me something."
Five, "I wanted it to rise up organically from our friendship, or at least from a sense of shared interests and passions."
Six, "our current social-cultural moment has made the door-to-door model not only less effective, but potentially counter-productive."
Seven, "People do not respond well to gospel presentations because they don’t recognize our good news as good news."
Eight, "Our job is not to increase guilt but to relieve it through the message of grace."
Nine, "if it is to touch the hearts of individuals, [it] must be personalized."
Ten, "his central spiritual struggle is to find acceptance."
Eleven, "the good news needs to speak to people where they are."
There may have been more, but there were at least these eleven.
From the Comments
One, "The only time I see door to door anymore is when JW's come around."
Two, " I think that door to door is promoted because it is traditional, visible, and 'easy' to do in terms of scheduling."
Three, "I don't like callers at my door."
Four, "Please respect my right to not be bothered and never visit my house again."
Five, "I abandoned door to door several years ago. I did this because I sensed it was failing in our church."
Six, "Let's face it, when was the last time you were visited by a door-to-door salesman? The technique was abandoned for a reason."
These represent the arguments against door-to-door.
What's Wrong with These "Reasons"
None of them are scriptural. They don't speak as the oracles of God; they don't glorify God (1 Pet 4:11). What are the biblical reasons against door-to-door? None. There are many arguments for, but none against.
The stated reasons above are disgusting. They're repugnant. And sad. They're built upon lies.
What about the so-called "friendship model"? It's not what we see Jesus or the apostles do. We don't have a model in scripture for "making friends" with the lost. The Bible goes the other direction. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Psalm 1:1. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.
Christians live in the world with unbelievers, among them. We work with them. We're their neighbors. We're part of this system on this side of eternity. We have relationships. We treat unbelievers as men made in the image of God. We represent God before them, so they will understand Who God is. When we don't, we're a bad testimony. But that is not evangelism. That is how we live.
The world thinks coming to its door is this or that. Maybe so. But if someone is striving to enter in, if someone is trying to find it, the evangelist is there for him with door to door. It's not supposed to make sense, to seem reasonable. It's a supernatural work of God.
If a JW visits you on Christmas morning, preach him the gospel. He's at your door; he's a captive audience.
This year I got a Christmas card photo of a family with grandparents, parents, and grandchildren, 20 to 30 people. Twenty-seven years ago, I visited the grandparents, then just parents of small children, door-to-door. The man and then his wife were converted. I looked at that picture and thought of the parable of the sower again. Some thirty, some sixty, some one hundred. Just one couple, and what a difference it made. If the Lord tarries another 100 years, you have their great grand children and more.
I visited a house, door to door, and a teenaged girl made a profession of faith. The boy she was dating was saved. We discipled them. Since then, they were married and moved away, but he had taken 50 or more through the discipleship I had written in another state. 30, 60, 100.
Just two examples. Let's say that it was only those two and one million others rejected it. If one more was you, would you want me to stop at one million?
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Preach the gospel to every creature.
Here is a thorough scriptural argument for door-to-door evangelism by Thomas Ross, who writes here on Fridays.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Hannah W. Smith, Sign Gifts and Pentecostal Roots: part 4 of 21 in Hannah W. Smith: Keswick Founder, Higher Life Preacher, Quaker Quietist and Universalist Heretic
This entire 21-part study appears on the FaithSaves.net website in a study entitled “Hannah Whitall Smith: Higher Life Writer, Speaker on Sanctification, Developer of the Keswick Theology, Quaker Quietist and Universalist Heretic.” Click here to read the entire study.
“In line with the Quaker background she shared with her husband, both Mrs. and Mr. Smith were believers in the continuation of miraculous gifts for the present day as opposed to being cessationists, advocates of the Biblical truth that the sign gifts ceased with the completion of the canon of the Scripture and the death of the Apostles in the first century.”
to read the section that was in the blog post below.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Any element of worship not taught in scripture is forbidden. Our worship should be regulated by what God said. God has told us what He wants and we should give that to Him. Silence is not permission.
Does Christmas violate the regulative principle? I can't see it. Let me take you through my mental checklist. The incarnation of Christ, His virgin birth, is the truth. Singing is an element of worship in the Bible. Our church believes instrumental music is authorized by God's Word too. We see congregational, choir, and small group singing in scripture. If one preaches the Word of God, he will at some point preach about the incarnation, the Lord's first coming, His becoming a man. It's a teaching all over the Bible, so it is appropriate to preach those passages as an element of worship. That really does cover what we do in our church for Christmas. None of this is forbidden, because it's all in the Bible.
So what else matters in this, as it relates to the worship of a church meeting? Just really trying to be thorough here, but I think of practicing the above paragraph every year and using the term, "Christmas." Are those two actions violations of God's Word?
For the first one, I believe that the incarnation is worth singing and preaching about every year. The fact that we do this at the same time every December, since scripture doesn't tell us what time of the year Jesus' birth is, does not violate the regulative principle. I can preach about motherhood every mother's day and that doesn't conflict with the Bible. I have had Decembers where I just kept preaching whatever book I was covering, but not because it was wrong to stop and preach about Christ's birth. All the winter solstice stuff just seems like a red herring to me.
To me, using the term Christmas could be the most possible wrong practice, and I'm not convinced it is. Why? The big problem, it seems, is the "mas" part at the end of "Christmas." Is using the term "Christmas" supporting the Roman Catholic mass? Is using the term Easter supporting the worship of Ishtar? I don't believe it is.
I have read some about the history of the word "Christmas," like I'm sure some of you readers have. There is material all over the internet on this issue, so you can find it. It's hard to figure out what is true. English itself is a new language relative to the history of the world. It comes primarily from the Latin, a romantic language.
"Mass" comes from the Latin missa, which connects to the English words "dismissal" and "mission." At the institution of the Lord's Table, you might remember that Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn and went out. We do that at our church, that is, end with a hymn, then prayer, and go out. The original idea was that after prayer, singing, preaching, and other elements of worship, including the Lord's Table, another biblical element of worship, the saints were ready to be sent out on their mission, properly prepared for dismissal.
Churches assemble for edification and then disassemble for evangelism. The Father sent Jesus on His mission and the Lord Jesus sent us on the same mission. Are we dismissed or sent out every assembly to serve the Lord in the gospel?
Over a period of time, missa became "the eucharist," transubstantiation, and the whole Catholic liturgy. What was once a part of the order was now the whole thing. The word developed in its meaning, really perverted. The word for dismissal became the word for the entire order of Catholic worship.
"Christmas" is a word with an etymology. Maybe Catholics think "Christmas" is mass in its apostate form. Of course, Roman Catholics twist a lot of things, like a lot of other religions do too. You can't take every word and break it down into its etymology. People will say, "words mean things." They do, and in this case, Christmas doesn't mean "Catholic mass." "Christmas" means the celebration of Christ's birth.
I see using "Christmas" like using Wednesday, Thursday, or Saturday, except the latter has no connection to anything true at all, while missa actually does. I'm saying the latter are worse, so if someone shouldn't say "Christmas," then he shouldn't say "Wednesday" either. Wednesday is the "god" Woden, Thursday the god "Thor," and Saturday the "god" Saturn. But that's not what they mean to us. Are we really celebrating "Woden day" when we use "Wednesday"? Those three days just do not associate with false worship. They don't mean that to the people using them. I don't believe there is inherent meaning related to those false gods in the use of those terms. Get the following, because it's a scriptural argument. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn't stand against getting names that referred to pagan gods. That wasn't how they stood upon the Word of God. They kept those names, but they wouldn't violate dietary restrictions or bow before an idol, because those were taught in scripture.
I believe we have liberty to use the word "Christmas." That doesn't violate the regulative principle of worship.
What about the history of antagonism to Christmas? It's there. My interpretation of it is that it centers on Cromwellian England. Cromwell had some good points and a lot of bad ones too. The history of England revolves around religious conflicts, Protestantism versus Catholicism and the divine right of kings and its relationship to the English parliament.
OK, that seems like enough, but then we come to tinsel and trees and bulbs and presents. The regulative principle applies to corporate worship. That's how we argue that principle. Every life should be regulated by scripture. You should do what scripture says, but scripture is also silent on a lot. It does not tell you to listen to radios or not to listen to them. We've got to rely on principles to make these decisions. This is where Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 6-10 come into play on this.
If the tree really is an act of worship like the Asherah pole or Gideon's ephod, then we should be rid of it. If you think it is, then don't have one. I don't think you should be picky on others who do have a tree. I believe you are violating Romans 14 when you are. Be picky on yourself.
I have never seen a Christmas tree used in a ceremony of worship. So how is it wrong? The tree itself isn't, any more than meat is wrong. It's a tree. I think the meat was worse in Corinth and Paul said it wasn't wrong to eat, unless it caused someone to stumble. There were ways that eating the meat was wrong, but it wasn't the meat. If I was convinced of a tree worship religion, I would get rid of my tree.
For a couple of years, my wife and I didn't set up a tree. Why? We were just starting as a church, had just a handful of people, two of which were a couple that had been taught that the tree was a sin. We did not want to hurt those two people's consciences. That was a 1 Corinthians 8-10 argument against the tree, but it was because of scruples these people had, which were not even legitimate. I don't know that I would do it again, but we did for a couple of Christmases. Now I'd probably just teach them what I'm writing here.
Here's another whole different issue -- Santa Claus. We don't have Santa in our home. Why? I think he's a replacement for Christ at Christmas. However, if you think that Christmas itself is pagan, then Santa Claus isn't any different than Christmas itself, or maybe better, because he's just a fictional character or the historical one, Nicholas, all depending on how you choose to see him. Because I think Santa is a replacement, we generally opt out on him. But that's not something I expect from or judge for everybody else. If a Christian got caught up in the Santa figure and talked like he was real, that would cross the line for me. I don't think parents should lie about who brought the presents.
I remember hearing a country western lyric as played by a roommate I had in college, and this is just out of my brain, because it stuck, "I don't believe in Santa Clause, but I believe what I believe in, and I believe in Santa's cause." Some people think that giving gifts is the cause of Christmas, and Santa represents Santa's cause. I'll let you judge that for yourself.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Everything that is an idol is something that God created. Men worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. And God created the family. The family might not be an idol, but it isn't God and God created it, so it can be one. Very often, the family supplants God.
In Numbers 21 God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole for men to look at. Jesus talked about it in John 3. However, in 2 Kings 18, Hezekiah destroyed that very image, because the people had made it an idol, burning incense unto it. Something of God's design became an idol.
The great commandment is to love God. The second is to love your neighbor. Love is most replaced by mere sentimentalism when it comes to family, when people don't love their family, but use their family as an excuse for not loving God or their neighbor. It isn't love for family, but sentimentalism for family. The "love" for family is the enemy of actual love for family. The family rather than a means to an end, becomes the end itself. As an end, it is an idol.
America is itself gullible on the family. Sentimentalism is bred into American life. You can see the Norman Rockwell painting with family at the kitchen table. Stories are written and films are produced with this idyllic portrait of American life with the family at the center. You read the credo or motto, "God, Family, Country," as if it is biblical. Even though it isn't scriptural, the motto itself is sentimental. In so many cases, both family and country take the place of God. Any time family and country unseat God, they themselves will suffer.
Christmas is as sentimental a family time as ever with all of the trappings on full -- the tree, the presents, the food, the entertainment, the laughter. All of this creates these images and moments that people cling to. Sometimes those circumstances are sabotaged by people and behavior, that ruin the moment, turning it into controversy and bitterness, sour times that were supposed to be sweet. If they could get a "not like" on a facebook page, they would.
Family counseling and and therapy abounds. We read about the dysfunctional family. People strive for that perfect family about which the Mormon denomination has thrived with its promotion of the family. Married men and women seek to be the "cute couple," which looks like a successful Christian one. Everyone gets along and plays games and spends loads of family time on trips and vacations. You've got unbelieving cute couples, believing cute couples, that really do like each other. A child may come along and they've got just the perfect little family with the white picket fence and the warm fireplace and and one wonderful family photo, everyone smiling in their casual matching clothes. The adorable little one has the cute outfit with all the cute gear and latest toys that might guarantee a future. It's a dream.
A recent book, Homespun Gospel: The Triumph of Sentimentality in Contemporary American Evangelicalism, by Todd M. Brenneman, reads:
The issues that primarily motivate evangelicals---abortion, school choice, homosexuality---conceptually revolve around attacks against the family or home. The sentimentalized home (conceptualized as a nuclear, heterosexual family unity) is sacred, and evangelicals should do whatever they can do to protect it.
The author says something like this about the family many times in his book.
So how is the family an idol? First, I want to consider what Jesus and the Apostles said about it. In many ways, the scriptural terms have been hijacked to support what Jesus was against. Matthew 10:35 and 37 record the Lord Jesus:
For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. . . . He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Earlier in Matthew 8:21-22, Jesus preaches,
And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
In Matthew 12:50, we read Jesus say,
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Later in Matthew 19:29, we hear the Lord,
And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
Mark and Luke bring these same teachings. And you can also read a few other gems, one in Luke 2, when Jesus is twelve years old in the temple and his family leaves Him there in Jerusalem, where Mary and He have this exchange in verses 48-49:
And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
With Jesus' first miracle at the wedding at Cana, you read another dialogue with his mother in John 2:2-3:
And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
So much could be said to unpack these, but because of space, I'm going to let them speak for themselves. The Apostle Paul said more. Here's the thinking and practice though that I hear or see contrary to what Jesus said, making the family the American idol.
One, people often use family as an excuse for faithlessness to God or not serving Him. This is very common and the assumption is that acceptance is mandatory. You can't say "no" to family. Family isn't often the real reason, but the family card is many times the easiest card to pull.
Two, the popular family member is the one who lets things go. He doesn't say anything about family disobedience. If he does, he is the worst family member. He is causing disunity in the family and he "just doesn't get it." You wish.
Three, parents adjust their interpretation of the Bible to what their family does. This is a common basis for interpretation of scripture. There are numbers and numbers of examples of this. As children misbehave and veer away, new views of passages emerge.
Four, rather than fulfilling the Great Commission, churches sentimentalize the mission of the church around family. I made note of that above from the book on evangelical sentimentalism. Churches are family centers, not kingdom or gospel or discipleship centers.
Five, the church is for the edification of the family, not the members for the edification of the body of Christ. If the family isn't feeling edified, it might find someplace where that will occur. Those places are out there. An irony is that edification of the family isn't what is happening.
Six, marriage success leaves out the husband sanctifying the wife like Christ sanctifies the church. That doesn't always look so cheery or so "cute." Sanctification looks messy, but the goal through the leadership of the husband is the glory of God, not being a cute couple.
Seven, families protect family members from discipline. They shield their family from the convicting work of the Word of God through the church.
There are far more than these, and I would even be interested in hearing from others what they see or have seen. The truth about the family helps the family.
Friday, December 19, 2014
Hannah W. Smith, Quakerism, and Self-Examination rejected; part 3 of 21 in Hannah W. Smith: Keswick Founder, Higher Life Preacher, Quaker Quietist and Universalist Heretic
This entire 21-part study appears on the FaithSaves.net website in a study entitled “Hannah Whitall Smith: Higher Life Writer, Speaker on Sanctification, Developer of the Keswick Theology, Quaker Quietist and Universalist Heretic.” Click here to read the entire study.
“Hannah was able, in part, to continue to preach the Higher Life even after facing the evidence that all her work was unspiritual and devoid of the smiles of heaven because she flatly rejected self-examination.”
to read the section that was in the blog post below.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
I thought I would post these pictures anyway from the photographic shoot done by my oldest daughter on her new camera. They are both funny ones.
The first is just crazy.
The second one. They like their brother.
They do, but not that much.
Monday, December 15, 2014
When I write, "church growth," what am I talking about? I'm talking numerical growth, a church getting bigger. How does that or should that occur? Much recent material has been written about this subject. So much has now been said about how to make your church get bigger, that there isn't anything left to doubt. If you apply the techniques and use the formulas, your church will get bigger. If your church isn't getting numerically bigger, you are either unwilling to do what it takes, lacking in basic human ability, or you are ignorant.
The popularity of church growth relates heavily to a particular view of success. Almost no one today will credit a small church for success. Even if a small church is said to "know what it's doing," people still don't think it, and don't treat it as such. Even those who decry wrong methods and say they oppose the modern church growth movement give notice to those with larger churches. They too think something is wrong with a smaller church.
Success is bred into American thinking especially with capitalism and free market competition. You have your life in your hands, you make something of yourself, and a success story is a story of numeric growth. The American man pulls himself up by his boot straps and causes his own success. If he isn't doing that, he isn't worth emulating.
The bigger church with more people offers more benefits. That church and its leader(s) can tell you how to do it too, can add to your market, have more money, and can do more to promote you too. With more resources, the bigger church can promote itself better. It has more money to spend then on self promotion and perpetuates the growth through its own size. People know that bigger is more attractive because it comes with benefits. To leave big means going to less successful, which means you are less successful.
The nature of the flesh and pride, all at work in this world, side with a bigger church. Bigger is better. You order a meal and you did better with larger portions. You buy a house and you did better with more square feet and a larger yard. The 70 inch flat screen is better than 40 inches. On your finger is a bigger diamond, so it's better. The NBA publishes the number in attendance. The University of Michigan puts over 100,000 in the "big house." You are a better author with more book sales. You are a better leader in politics if you get more votes. America loves a winner! A bigger number of wins means you are a winner. If you don't get big, you're a loser. Do you want that? No!
Where else we're at today on this is that you are a very bad man if you criticize the big churches. You are sour grapes. You are bitter. You're a bad loser. You are against unity. You must rejoice in their growth. They are "blessed," and God is "blessing" them. That is big of you. That is to be a good loser. To not be very happy about their growth is to be envious. They can do it and you can't.
Actually, no, you can do it, but you won't. The bigger churches are playing off of the fact that they are different than your church. They do it all the time. They want the people to know you're a loser and they are a winner. That is a big part of their strategy. This isn't envy. They are wrong! They are the losers actually and then strutting all over the end zone and spiking the ball like they are winners. They are losers! They aren't willing to obey the Bible. They aren't willing to sacrifice. They aren't blessed. They are repugnant. Saying they're blessed is a lie. It alters the meaning blessing like they've altered all sorts of other biblical doctrines to get where they are.
Let's say that success really is obeying the Bible, the Joshua 1:8 idea of success. You sort out what the Bible says and leave success to God. You do no more than what the Bible says in order to grow, knowing that is God's way. Let's compare church growth in the Bible to modern church growth. This post will deal with only the first.
One, church growth in the Bible proceeded from a true gospel and modern church growth most often does not.
According to my observation or in my estimation, most modern church growth proceeds from something less than a true gospel, when all the church growth in the Bible came from a true gospel. Church growth from an altered or watered down gospel is a development in church history, and especially recent history. The gospel has been changed in three primary ways.
First, as the church growth movement has expanded, its gospel has become traditional. It sounds like the gospel to many, because it is what they've heard, so it must be right. People use the long-time corruption as if it were orthodox. Second, churches have just adapted the gospel to the church growth strategy, estimating that their alterations have kept it suitably intact to remain the gospel and still save people. Third, churches have kept a historic, biblical, and orthodox gospel, but the methods for church growth themselves alter the meaning in a more subtle way. People are not being saved because they are receiving it within a false context. Meaning can be denotative (dictionary) and connotative (emotional and cultural baggage).
Jesus and the Apostles didn't try to trick people. The point of receiving Jesus was to understand receiving Jesus. The person receiving needed to know what it was to believe or receive and needed to know who Jesus was. There wasn't an attempt to get to a decision, but to be clear about who He was. All the expectations were included. Anything that could offend was presented too.
Churches today are full of "saved people," who are not saved. They have made professions based upon false information. The churches operate in a way that a person like that can remain comfortable. That is part of the strategy. The way the "gospel" has been packaged has had much to do with their being fooled. This can happen even when everything is being done right and a true gospel is being presented. People can still be making a false profession and be unsaved. Scripture is replete with warnings about a mixed multitude and how to know if it is real.
In the Bible, we see the preachers wanting people to understand what the gospel meant. They were going to allow the gospel to be the basis for the conversion. Today the terms have been changed and the decision is most often more centered on self.
Nothing has characterized the placebo gospel than bifurcating Savior from Lord. This is cause for exponentially more professions and false ones, and then explaining why someone doesn't exhibit fruit of salvation. It brings people in on a false premise and then keeps them on a similar one. The door is wider at the entrance and then it's just easier to stay in, once in.
I find that people don't even want to hear the true gospel. Today's "evangelists" know that, and so they preach something modified to what people do want to hear. And now the modified message is what people are willing to accept. They compare it with the truth and like it better, so accept it as the truth.
The modern church growth movement doesn't grow based on the gospel. They might say that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, it isn't the power of God in their case. It is the power of their claim of power. You think you got something and you didn't, but it's still called getting something.
Churches know what people want and expect. They tweak the gospel to get there, through a type of negotiation. It's a deal to be made with people. It can be done in man's power. He's being offered a product, very likable, and there's the haggling about the cost. Now the church, like a modern company, keeps track of the acceptable threshold for people.
Even with churches that include lordship, the ones "buying in" can see that not much will change. Jesus is King and He's calling for subjugation, but it's like signing on for a timeshare. You go through the presentation and there will be some sacrifice, but you know that you get all the comforts. Life isn't going to change that much. Egalitarian marriages are welcome. All the worldly desires can stay the same. You can see that by looking at the other people in the church with the rock music called a service.
It isn't hard to understand the concept of preaching the gospel to everyone. We can just do that. So why isn't it done yet? People don't like it. They don't want it. Therefore, other methods have replaced that, which work better. Meanwhile, not everyone hears. This is because the biblical way doesn't work. People know that.
The gospel itself is great to a true believer. He gets the alternative. Hell. He knows sin offends God and pleasing God is what life is about. He loves the gospel. He wants to present even knowing that the world doesn't want to hear it. He keeps doing it because of the value of the gospel itself. That's what makes it great, not whether the world likes it or not. When someone changes the gospel, the good thing has been spoiled and the spoiled thing isn't worth talking about. Whether the world likes it or not, the gospel is great. The world doesn't know it because it is rebellious and deceived, but lovers of the gospel still tell it, because they do know it's great. Nothing is greater than God's plan.
(to be continued)
Friday, December 12, 2014
Hannah W. Smith and The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, part 2 of 21 in Hannah W. Smith: Keswick Founder, Higher Life Preacher, Quaker Quietist and Universalist Heretic
This entire 21-part study appears on the FaithSaves.net website in a study entitled “Hannah Whitall Smith: Higher Life Writer, Speaker on Sanctification, Developer of the Keswick Theology, Quaker Quietist and Universalist Heretic.” Click here to read the entire study.
“Hannah wrote her book out of a conviction that Higher Life or Keswick doctrine was solid Quaker teaching..”
to read the section that was in the blog post below.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The accusation of circular reasoning proceeds from a false claim of neutrality from the accuser. He assumes laws. That isn't neutral. That starts with assumptions. Everyone begins with assumptions. All reasoning arises from presuppositions. The allegation of circular reason refutes itself, because it begins with laws no matter what the presupposition.
Everyone reasons from the uncaused cause, the prime mover, which is one. Some reason from the only One, the actual Cause, the one and true God, and the others get the placebo. Some regress to the Cause and others stop short not because of ignorance, but rebellion. Every unbelieving person knows God and suppresses the truth in unrighteousness. Like Jesus said, he hates the light because his deeds are evil.
Only God argues from neutrality, because only God is unaffected. Everybody knows this. They know it, but they don't like to retain God in their knowledge, because they thanklessly reject the goodness of God and walk after their own lust. God alone, with Whom is no variableness or shadow of turning, provides objective truth. All the truth is His truth. Because there is a God, truth is absolute.
The rebel sees truth as relative. If truth is relative, then it isn't one, and everyone can do what he wants. At least in his deluded mind, he operates as a free agent outside of judgment. In the real world, the only one, he's going to pay the price for his sin. This is something else everyone knows. It's why when you break the window of an unbeliever, he wants a new window and not rehabilitation. It's also why suicide and widespread manic entertainment everywhere that can desensitize the pain of conscience.
Everyone functions in circular reasoning, either starting with God or with something of his own choosing, either God or an idol from God's creation -- science, work, pleasure, government, money. Most stop short of a full regression to the first Cause, and choose their own along the way. People either worship and serve the Creator or the creature, but everyone worships. This is why you'll notice religious fervor with agnostics and atheists. God might be ejected from the public square, but religion never will. Man either worships God, himself, or things.
A corollary of valid circular reasoning is arguing for the Bible from the Bible. This is a primary point of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1-3. God doesn't turn to His creation to prove His Word. It is spiritually discerned. God Himself testifies of its truthfulness in men's hearts.
Sure, the Bible can be proven in other ways besides circular reasoning, but circular reasoning is the best argument, because God Himself is its best witness. And since the problem isn't knowledge, but rebellion, a person's nature must be affected by the supernatural to believe it. Someone doesn't believe because he is given a better argument, but because He has been persuaded internally by God Himself, the Holy Spirit. If it was only an intellectual problem, other arguments might be better, but since it is a volitional one, only spiritual weaponry will do. God is glorified in this methodology, something that really irks unbelievers, since their view of the world revolves around themselves.
So, circular reasoning is a valid argument as long as the premises are true. Irony alert. Everyone argues from circular reasoning. Christians argue with validity. Everyone else argues fallaciously. A second irony alert. Unbelievers assume that all circular reasoning is wrong. They use circular reasoning to do so.
Sunday, December 07, 2014
Unattainable: A Certain Very Important Thing that God Promised Is Impossible with God to Evangelicals and Many Fundamentalists
With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
"Impossible" translates the Greek word adunatos, which means, "incapable of happening or being done." It is a compound word -- "a," meaning, "not," and "dunatos," meaning, "able" -- hence, "impossible."
On his blog, canon fodder (excellent blog name for the author and what he does), Michael Kruger (a professor who has dedicated himself almost more than anyone on the subject of the canon of scripture) writes on December 3, 2014:
Although we can acknowledge that absolute certainty about every single variant is unattainable, we can also acknowledge that absolute certainty is not necessary.
Kruger is concluding that man, the church, anyone, everybody, cannot know what God's Words are, that it is impossible for men to know what God's Words are anymore. Has man ever known exactly what God's Words were, all at once? Has anyone had a full Bible in his hand that had every Word of God's Word? I'm interested in the evangelical answers to these types of questions. I know they don't like answering these questions, even being asked them.
No one that I've read is rejecting Kruger's statement. I haven't heard anything. That's what evangelicals believe. It is their go-to position. It is also the position of many fundamentalists, strongly a segment represented by graduates of Bob Jones University, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Maranatha Baptist Bible College, and others. They would consider themselves to be the educated or academic wing of fundamentalism. They also don't believe we can know what God's Words are.
For the sake of being all inclusive, all Ruckmanites, English preservationists, and King James double inspiration folks out there also see the text of scripture to be unattainable. There isn't much difference on the doctrine of preservation between these two groups. The former would hate to be lumped in with the latter, but they just deal with or react to the unattainability of the text of scripture in two different ways.
Many evangelicals, I think including Kruger, believe that we can and do know what the books of the Bible are, that is, we know what the canon of scripture is. That is not impossible. That is attainable. What is different between the canon and the text of scripture that makes one attainable and the other unattainable?
What makes the canon attainable is degree of difficulty. Surmising the exact original text of scripture is unattainable because that is more difficult than deducing the canon of scripture. To them, our knowing the Words of Scripture is impossible with God, but knowing the books of the Bible are possible.
Christianity is a supernatural outfit. To be a Christian you have to be a supernatural. You believe in hell and heaven. You believe in bodily resurrection, virgin birth, forgiveness of all of someone's sins, and thousands of prophecies and their fulfillment. A lot of Christianity is a high degree of difficulty. However, the things that are approved impossible things or unattainable things, that are still to be believed as not impossible and not unattainable, are those things that can't be inspected. Speaking of fodder, this is really great fodder for those who would attack Christianity.
Christians believe there is a God and He intervenes in His creation. You have to believe that to be a Christian. They believe God is sustaining things on the macro and micro level beyond comprehension. The sheer complexity of everything argues for God doing the supernatural. But those things are like what I talked about in the previous paragraph. There is no direct trace, like a fingerprint or DNA, that says that God is in fact doing them. We just believe His Word, and that is what faith is like. Those are acceptable presuppositions, like writing in the sand not being caused by waves -- it's reasonable that God must have done those things.
Enter the perfect preservation of scripture. And that's not all, but at least that. God promised perfect preservation, and there was at least a three or four hundred year period in which most to all Christians believed in perfect preservation. That is what you read in doctrinal statements. This is pre-enlightenment. It is a presuppositional apologetic. It is an apriori approach. This way says that the Bible is truth, what we would call objective truth today. So what it says, goes.
But along came more and more textual variants, more hand copies found, and along came a new epistemology. How do we know what we know? Before, it was faith. Theology was the queen of the sciences. Not anymore. Now we know in different ways than those pre-enlightenment forefathers. Their positions are called today, "less refined." Or, "they didn't have the wealth of textual evidence then that we do now." So now, knowing what the Words of God are, is unattainable. And now scripture doesn't teach the same thing about its preservation that it once did. Everything changed with degree of difficulty and new DNA.
How would men have known scripture in the first place? How would anyone be able to check on whether each one of those Words were scripture? That's another impossible that just happens to be at a time that no one can prove wrong anymore.
The Mormons say their book of Mormon was written in reformed Egyptian on golden tablets. There were a handful of men, long dead, they say, who said the book of Mormon was legit. Why believe that? There's no verification. What verification do we have of scripture being true, of being legitimate? I'm not asking these questions, because I don't believe it -- just considering degree of difficulty for attainability. We can't disprove that scripture was given by inspiration any more. That's very convenient for degree of difficulty. Benjamin Warfield knew that, which is why Richard Muller writes about Warfield (p. 433, Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 2):
The case for Scripture as an infallible rule of faith and practice . . . rests on an examination of apographa and does not seek the infinite regress of the lost autographa as a prop for textual infallibility. . . . Those who claim an errant text, against the orthodox consensus to the contrary, must prove their case. To claim errors in the scribal copies, the apographa, is hardly a proof. The claim must be proven true of the autographa. The point made by Hodge and Warfield is a logical trap, a rhetorical flourish, a conundrum designed to confound the critics --- who can only prove their case for genuine errancy by recourse to a text they do not (and surely cannot) have.
The degree of difficulty is a basis for rejection for Christians. For instance, God answers prayers. So if you pray for a man who lost a limb, to receive a new one, does he get one? If you pray for a blind man to see, does he see? No, you don't pray those prayers. You pray for someone with the flu or someone with bad headaches, something that is attainable. That is, in these instances you can't count on God for the unattainable. Or is it that God hasn't promised to answer those prayers?
Yet, God has promised to keep His Words for every generation of His people. That was always attainable for Christians, because they believed God's promises. And then the discovery of even more textual variants, especially those between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, rendered a perfect text of scripture to be unattainable, impossible with God.
Faith believes the impossible, the unattainable. That's part of what it means to be a Christian. Christians believe what is impossible, as long as God says it.
Friday, December 05, 2014
Hannah W. Smith: Keswick Founder, Higher Life Preacher, Quaker Quietist and Universalist Heretic, part 1 of 21
This post started at the beginning of that longer work.
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
And then number two is that I've got most of the 2014 Word of Truth Conference Audio up now. I've only got about two more things to get up, including the panel discussion, although that is up at the youtube site (and then the panel discussion). Enjoy. And do enjoy, not ignore.
Monday, December 01, 2014
One view of history might discount or even ignore divine intervention in history, assume that cannot happen or that the divine should be excluded from consideration for the sake of a true history. That approach would separate the miraculous from the historical record. Everything in history must be explained with some type of human reasoning. Modern historiography especially disputes the historical reliability of the New Testament with its philosophies of history.
Early contrasting philosophies in history are seen in the methods of Herodotus and Thucydides. Herodotus was a Greek historian, who wrote The Histories, and though he overall emphasized the actions and characters of men, he also attributed an important role to the divine in the determination of historical events. On the other hand, Thucydides, also a Greek historian, who wrote The History of the Peloponnesian War, largely eliminated divine causality in his account of the war between Athens and Sparta, his rationalism setting a precedent for subsequent Western historical writings.
I believe there is a biblical approach to history found in Isaiah 40-48 in which God interconnects the past with the present and the future. The sovereignty and eternality of God relate the present with the past and the future. Since man is made in the image of God and knows God, He should relate everything to God and to God's revelation. God expects mankind to see His hand in history. This is an argument made for the second coming in 2 Peter 1 and 3. The Word of God records direct divine intervention in history and should be trusted. We have an authority for our philosophy of history, for our method of deciding history.
Modern academic study of historiography was pioneered in 19th-century German universities and especially at the University of Berlin with Leopold von Ranke and then Johann Gustav Droysen, the former considered the founder of modern source-based history. In her Essential Historiography Reader (p 68), Caroline Hoefferle says "Ranke was probably the most important historian to shape historical profession as it emerged in Europe and the United States in the late 19th century.” American Historian, H. B. Adams, asserted that Ranke was "determined to hold strictly to the facts of history, to preach no sermon, to point no moral, to adorn no tale, but to tell the simple historic truth."
Droysen followed Ranke at Berlin. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, among other places, ties the two together as such:
Like Ranke, Droysen is interested in the methodology of the historical sciences. Trying to break free from the idealistic tradition to which Ranke still adhered, Droysen makes the case for a theory of history that, like the methodology of the natural sciences, has less to do with the object of study (history or nature) than with the manner in which the study is carried out. The natural sciences uncover universal natural laws.
On behalf of the Schiller Institute, Helga LaRouche wrote The American Roots of Germany's Industrial Revolution, and said:
At German universities, research and learning were unified, and more and more Americans came to Germany to study. At the end of the 19th Century, there was not a single professor in America who had not either studied in Germany or was the student of somebody who had. . . . Americans appreciated the Germans for their aptitude for great, methodical thought, and that they valued the search for truth for its own sake.
William Whitsitt became a historian and then president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He had attended German graduate school. The History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary says:
His study of history in Germany rather predisposed him to view himself as a scientist and to view history as governed by natural laws.
It records Whitsitt as saying, "I was profoundly impressed by the lectures and methods of Johann Gustav Droysen, Professor of History at the University of Berlin. In particular I gave a great amount of study to the work of Droysen, entitled Grundriss Der Historik, and have often taken time to review it while I occupied the chair of ecclesiastical history in the theological seminary."
In The German Roots of Nineteenth-Century American Theology, Annette G. Aubert, writes (p. 28):
In light of the great migration of American students to German universities in the nineteenth century, American scholars in the humanities became indebted to German scholarship in terms of both method and substance. . . . Between nine thousand and ten thousand American students attended German universities from 1815 to 1914. . . . The first American students studying in Germany tended to favor Halle and Gottingen, but the University of Berlin eventually became the preferred institution. Among the students who studied at German theological universities were . . . Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, to name a few.
The University of Berlin was the hotbed of scientific historiography, really a modernistic method of history. This was the influence on both Whitsitt and Warfield. Warfield wrote (Studies in Theology, p. 580, Vol. IX in Works):
I am free to say, for myself, that I do not think that there is any general statement in the Bible or any part of the account of creation, either as given in Genesis 1 and 2 or elsewhere alluded to, that need be opposed to evolution. The sole passage which appears to bar the way is the very detailed account of the creation of Eve. It is possible that this may be held to be a miracle (as Dr. Woodrow holds), or else that the narrative may be held to be partial and taken like the very partial descriptions of the formation of the individual in Job and the Psalms, that is, it teaches only the general fact that Eve came of Adam's flesh and bone.
Scripture says the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Lord's church. Whitsitt says a scientific method of history won't allow that. Based on history, the gates of Hell did prevail. Scripture says God would preserve every Word of Scripture. A scientific approach to the text of scripture says "no" to Warfield. These are just two of many doctrines changed through a modernist historiography hatched out of 19th century Germany. Doctrine should not proceed from a scientific method of history.