Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Evil Junction of False Gospel, Distorted Sanctification, Success, Church Growth, Second Blessing, Keswick, and Man-Centered Methods

To start, I want to apologize to everyone for whom I have not been clear enough in the past about what I will write here today.  For many reasons, some legitimate and some not, I have not expressed how much I hate and how dangerous and defiled I think it is.  Some of you are going to read the title and get it immediately, some will sort of get it, and others will be clueless.  I want to help.

It is difficult to know where to start, mainly because it is difficult to know the primary source of the problem I'm addressing.  The worst of it is a false gospel, but I don't know if it starts with that.  That's the most foundational, unless I included a fundamental distortion of the identity of Jesus Christ as a part of the false gospel.  However, a false gospel is in part what comes out of it and then one notices is a necessity for the distorted sanctification and methods.  The gospel, sanctification, and then methods always interrelate.

Everyone needs to change, including me, and to do that, people need patience.  Sometimes patience becomes an excuse.  We just don't want to take the hard step of confrontation, exposure, and separation.  I still don't want to do that.  I want to be liked too.  We don't want to be alone.  It seems horrible and stupid that we enable bad stuff by accommodating.  I have done that though.  Stick with me here.  I'm not going to give my history, but I did put up with some associations that were wrong, because I thought it was appropriate.  I don't think so any more.

I want to give as succinct a summary of what I'm talking about first.  As I summarize, I am not fully certain on the order of how the elements of this appear, but I'm going to give my opinion in as positive manner as possible.   That is the only aspect that is opinion, the order.  The elements are actual -- they are occurring.  Here goes.

Churches use gimmicks to lure lost attenders in order to have more people.  The attenders come for the attraction and when they get there, a message is preached, called a gospel.  This is not a crowd coming mainly because it wants the gospel, but because of a gimmick.  A service and a message is geared to that kind of person.  Over time, people make professions and don't stay, what is sometimes called a turn-over.  A low percentage stay.

The professions are still explained as salvations.  The message may have been believe, pray this prayer, or even repent, with repent being solely a "change of mind" or a "mere willingness to change." When the attendees stop coming to church, they are still considered to be saved people, but they're "backslidden," because they never were "dedicated."  The people who come back are those who were "saved," but now are dedicated.  Some (very few) do, if they "get right."  This dedication is the view of sanctification.   The idea is people who are saved need some experience after salvation that will cause the salvation to flourish and be fruitful. Some have it and others don't, but even those who don't have it -- they're still saved.

The last two paragraphs are the essence of what I'm talking about -- a lot more could be said.  The false gospel is the corrupt response to the message they proclaim.  The message must be wrong too, because you can't have an actual saving Jesus in the heart of the one with something less than a right response to Him. So, yes, Jesus is distorted too.  Was this caused by the  method?  Maybe.  I think the method was led by the desire for success, which is church growth and it will authenticate the church as being powerful or having revival.  It's a man-centered method.  The later dedication that brings someone back to church is the second blessing.  That experience is the keswick one.  I also believe many have convinced themselves that this is a true version of Christianity, like other false views have.

I don't want to have anything to do with what I'm describing above.  I want to stay as far away from it as I can.  I don't even see it, as a whole, as Christianity.  I think you have some Christians in these churches and organizations, but overall it isn't Christian.  I don't want anyone to think I support the above with my association and my proximity to it.  Some might think I believe it is permissible, with some justification.  I don't at all.

What I have described above also comes with a lot of other distortions.  It isn't unusual that these churches have revivalistic music that is part of their church growth philosophy, that isn't worship. The music is merely a method.  These associate a certain type of music with the Holy Spirit because of the feeling it produces.  They think the feeling is the Holy Spirit working or moving.  This fits with its false view of spirituality that is the distortion in its sanctification.

Often these churches also have to have a certain style of "preaching."  They think of it as "alive."  The preaching isn't dead, but "alive."  What they consider "living" is actually just emotional.  They often can't handle biblical teaching or at least much of it, because they don't think that it is endued with the Holy Spirit.  The preaching and the music go hand in hand.  The feeling all tends toward emotional decisions that might also produce "dedication."  All of it amounts to manipulation and it fools people, and yet the advocates say "God is blessing" or "God worked."  It mostly isn't God.  I say mostly only because there is some Bible there, and if and when there is, God does bless that, but only when it occurs.

I want to park a moment on the false gospel.  The worst reduce the "gospel" to repeating words or "praying a prayer."  Others, not the ones doing it, have called this "1-2-3 pray-with-me."  Some say that repentance is not a prerequisite to justification and salvation, but a post-justification work.  Some say that repentance is repenting of unbelief.  Some say that repentance is a mere change of mind that accompanies faith.  Some say that repentance is a willingness to change, but will not necessarily result in changing.  They say you've got to want to change, but you may not for awhile.  None of what I've described is a biblical response to gospel truth, but these are the versions of the gospel that fall short, that accompany the wrong methodology and the distorted sanctification.

Also what I am explaining fits with a certain view of church government.  The church needs an operator, who can keep it all going, to keep it all in alignment.  I've often called him the circus-meister. He must hold tight reigns on everything, since the grace of God will not.  There must be a means to produce the look of true sanctification.  Some of the behavior is right, but it is caused by a system that isn't.

The evil junction of all these things has turned into a kind of religion and it is how false religion starts and builds.  The people involved now think it is the truth.  If they see something different, they think they are seeing an impostor, which they reject.  In so doing, they think they've shown good judgment. They've actually walked away from the light.  It creates a people who lack in discernment.  And the lack of discernment is sometimes what is necessary to keep the show going.

When these churches perform these acts, they call it love.  They see themselves as being loving, since they also see their goals as good.  This "love" isn't love, but sentimentalism.  Love is according to the truth, and this is not the truth.  So love is twisted as well.

What is very sad is that a lot of what I have described is called Baptist and independent.  It is not Bible, however.  It is not obedient to the Lord.  It is its own way.

If you represent what I'm writing about, do not go into a defense mode.  Be willing to change. Consider what I am writing and whether it is you.  Examine yourself.  Evaluate what you are doing. Believe the Bible.  Do just what it says.  Trust in God.  Wait on Him.  Find your satisfaction in Who He is and what He said. Rely on God's Word to convince others of the same.

Learn a true gospel. Preach only a true gospel.  Expect those who make professions to live for Christ. When they don't, don't consider them to be saved.  Stop relying on extrascriptural and unscriptural means.  Stop manipulating people.  Plant and water.  Let God give the increase.  Worship God.  Enjoy the results God gives.  Live by faith.

If you are supporting what I've warned about.  Stop doing that.  Help those people to change.  Don't accommodate them any longer.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Case Study in the Practical Consequences of Evangelical Bibliology

The story I'm going to tell is quite ordinary.  Many in the world think they are experts now at textual criticism, because the word is out -- the Bible has errors in it.  Not everything in it can be counted upon.  Maybe you're thinking, "It does not have errors in it."  But that is what evangelicals and many fundamentalists say.

I was out evangelizing last Wednesday before our Bible study and prayer.  I talked to a youngish single mother at her door.  Of course, I was preaching the gospel.  I asked her if she knew she was saved, sure she had eternal life.  She said, "Yes."  I asked how she knew, and she paraded her accomplishments.   In the midst of the give and take, I communicated to her that as I listened, I based my judgment of what she said on the Bible.   Scripture taught something different about salvation than what she said.  At that juncture, she said that she didn't trust everything the Bible said because parts of it had been changed.  So I then asked her how she knew that, that the Bible had errors in it. She just did.

"She just did" isn't a good answer for me, but it was where she was.  She didn't have total confidence in the Word of God.  She believed parts of it were true, but that she couldn't rely on all of it.

As I listened to her, I recognized this as a new norm in the psyche of those who might care enough even to listen and then answer a question about the Bible.  She had a very subjective type of faith that's fine with a feeling she trusts more than the Bible.  I explained to her that the Bible doesn't have errors, because God inspired it.  You see, a lot of people don't have trouble with the idea that God gave His Word, but they're not convinced He's kept it intact.  I told that God also promised to preserve it and that we can count on God for its preservation.

Anyway, I spent some time pumping up the Bible with all sorts of scriptural arguments in addition to giving her a brief gospel presentation.  But most professing Christians have relinquished the idea that we have a perfectly preserved edition of the Word of God.  She's got plenty on which to lean on that front.

It was easy for me to think about evangelical arguments for trusting the Bible, despite its errors.  It's a supernatural book, the Bible, and part of that is that God expects us to believe the doctrine of it despite no hope that we are reading exactly what He inspired.  And we can overcome our doubt by thinking about textual evidence.  Sure, corruption has occurred, but not enough to destroy doctrines. No doctrine has been changed, and then if we compare all the copies, there is a lot, a lot of agreement.  We basically know what it is, good enough that we can trust all of its teachings.  No teachings have been lost.  We can't count on the Words, but that's the beauty of it.  God has chosen to use a slightly broken thing to do something wonderful.

I didn't give her the contents of that last paragraph, because I don't believe it.  I told her what God's people believed before the 19th century, that is, God promises perfect preservation, and we can count on that promise.  But evangelicals and fundamentalists have provided reasons to doubt.

I also imagine evangelicals reading this post.  God has worked in amazing ways to give us what we have.  We should be thankful for the overwhelming wealth of manuscripts.   All the Words are most surely in there -- not actually surely (wink, wink) -- in the preponderance of the hand written copies (do you have a manuscript with the original of 1 Samuel 13:1?  No, but we're still not lying.).

What I'm writing about here is directly related to reassessing and redefining inerrancy.  Evangelicals adapt to save the faith of some, to protect from creating more Bart Ehrmans after they've dug a little deeper.  And if you're going to fudge there, then it's also permissible to accept some latitude on the meaning of faith and more.  So it's no wonder, if someone is looking for faith, he can skip the scriptural type and embrace something more subjective, based upon a personal experience with the Holy Spirit.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Questions on Repentance from a Prominent Preacher

A prominent preacher asked me the following questions concerning the Biblical doctrine of repentance some time ago in connection with my study on the subject here.  I thought that his questions and the response he received might be of benefit to the readers of What is Truth, so I have posted them.

His questions:

Is the salvation decision two steps or one?  Are repentance and faith two distinct acts of the will or are they two sides of one coin?

Must the word "Repent" be part of every valid Gospel appeal?

Is repentance a decision confined to the matter of salvation, or is it a concept applicable to many issues?

Fundamentally, is repentance of sin a promise to do better, verified by doing better?  Will repentance alone change a life, and how much?  Is the sinner sick and in need of a doctor, or can he get rid of his sin by simply repenting of it?

Doesn't the Greek word for repentance really mean a change of mind, based on its etymology?

Does true repentance include deep sorrow for sin, or does godly sorrow lead to repentance?

My response:

The salvation decision is certainly one step, one of turning from sin to Christ as Lord and Savior.  

The word “repent” is not necessary in every Gospel appeal (Acts 16:31) in the same way that the word “believe” is not necessary in every Gospel appeal (Acts 3:19).  My own practice is that I will essentially always use “believe” or a synonym in giving the gospel, and I will essentially always use “repent” or a synonym also.  

Certainly repentance is applicable to many issues, just as faith has to do with many things in addition to justification.  

Neither repentance or faith will change a life, but coming into union with Jesus Christ will always change a life, and one comes into union with Christ by repentant faith, and one who does not want to be changed will not be brought into union with Christ because he does not really want the Savior.  

The word metanoeo/metanoia sometimes, but not always, meant an “afterthought” that might or might not result in any change many hundreds of years before the NT was written, but that sense does not exist in the NT and, as far as I can tell, in the literature of early Christendom. We recognize that a word can change very dramatically in meaning in, say, 800 years; we do not assume that what a word meant in Beowolf is what it means in modern English.  A detailed English dictionary will trace the history of words back to the times of Beowolf, and then Chaucer, etc., but we see what a word means today by its use in modern times, not by how it was used in Old or Middle English.  When we look at the many uses of metanoeo/metanoia in the NT and in Koine Greek, the word means what all the lexica say—in the first century NT, in contradistinction to what the word meant many hundreds of years earlier, the word means what a standard lexicon such as Louw-Nida says:  “[T]o change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness — ‘to repent, to change one’s way, repentance.’ . . . Though in English a focal component of repent is the sorrow or contrition that a person experiences because of sin, the emphasis in metanoeo and metanoia seems to be more specifically the total change, both in thought and behavior, with respect to how one should both think and act. Whether the focus is upon attitude or behavior varies somewhat in different contexts. . . . Though it would be possible to classify metanoeo and metanoia in [the category of words for] [t]hink[ing], the focal semantic feature of these terms is clearly behavioral rather than intellectual.”  

True repentance includes sorrow for sin if we are speaking about the Hebrew nacham and the Greek metamelomai, and godly sorrow leads to repentance if we are speaking about the Hebrew shub and the Greek metanoia; all four words are translated as “repent” at various points in the KJV.

Readers who want to see an example of how to explain repentance in an evangelistic encounter are encouraged to examine the study here or the video here, as well as the evangelistic Bible study here. The theology of repentance is explained here as well as in many articles at What is Truth, and is stated well in many standard Baptist confessions of faith.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Is Prohibition of Alcohol Demonic?

In less than five minutes, I can finish looking at the websites I view almost daily.  From there, I might read what I find therein.  In today's case, I went to SharperIron, to its blogroll, and saw the headline for Andy Naselli, so I clicked on it.  A colleague where he teaches, Joe Rigney, wrote a book, The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts.  The theme sounded interesting, because I too wonder often about the purpose of various of these good things on earth besides the potential of idolatry.  At what point have we moved from enjoyment to idolatry?  When do we know?  The book is available to the point of exploration according to the supposition of Joe Rigney.

Rigney points to his greatest influences:  Jonathan Edwards, C. S. Lewis, John Piper, and Douglas Wilson.  It's too bad that Edwards is lumped with the other three, but I get it.  Piper has hijacked Edwards some to mean what he says and Wilson takes that thought even further.  And we get to booze. Alcohol consumption takes the stage of the discussion like the clown at a rodeo.  At the bottom of Naselli's post, he links to a two part presentation by Rigney on "Should Christians Drink Alcohol?"  I do hesitate in linking to his talk, because there are vulnerable people out there begging to justify their imbibing.  I go ahead and link for the sake of fairness.  I decided to start listening as I supped and swallowed some soup for lunch.

Joe Rigney offered four possible positions on alcohol from right to left:  prohibition, abstention, moderation, and abuse.  He explained each of those, parking for awhile to offer the reasons why Christians abstain (the second position).  From defining the four, he lopped off the two outside positions as unchristian, saying that prohibition is demonic, taking 1 Timothy 4:1-5 as proof, and that abuse is damning, referring to a few texts that anathematize drunkards.

For sake of consistency and symmetry, I didn't like "abuse" as a position.  I'm going to help Rigney out here with dissipation for a fourth category.  Plus, abuse doesn't sound like a position.  You may as well leave it off completely, because no one takes it as a "position."  And then he lumps prohibition and abuse together like strange bedfellows.

When you hear Rigney talk, he speaks with severe articulation at prohibition and with sympathy toward abuse.  He gets very stern in his denunciation of prohibition, leaving behind measured tones. I think these types of evangelicals are more angry at prohibition than they are drunkenness.  What does that say for them?  He excoriates prohibition as demonic with a feathery brush stroke of 1 Timothy 4:1-5.  He doesn't establish by any means that what Paul is writing there should apply to alcohol. This is what might be termed, "preaching to the choir."

I'm thinking, "Woe, woe, woe, woe, woe. Wait uh minute. That doesn't prove anything."  And Rigney is done with 1 Timothy 4:1-5 and moving on.  Prohibition is demonic, point said, point proved. You've got to ask, "Did God create alcohol?"  Like one might ask, "Did God create the ebola virus?"  I know God has allowed these things, which is different than creating them.  Even further, did God create distilled beverages?   That makes me start to laugh over Rigney's stunning ease at flicking away prohibition as unchristian.

When you call a position on alcohol, "prohibition," you need to know that you are associating it with the constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States from 1920 to 1933.  It isn't easy to amend the Constitution.  We've done it only seventeen times since 1791.  There was widespread support for prohibition in 1920 in the American population, what Rigney would call "demonic."  More laughter ensues.

I wasn't motivated to write this post until I heard Rigney call prohibition "demonic."  Until then, I could have remained somewhat ambivalent to what he was saying, even curious.  I think believers do need to learn the right approach to God's good creation in relation to Christian service.

This post answers a very specific question prompted by Joe Rigney, "Is prohibition of alcohol demonic?"  He uses 1 Timothy 4:1-5 as a proof text.

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

The demons are in v. 1, "doctrines of devils."  Apostates are seduced by doctrines of devils, prohibition being that doctrine (so says Rigney), so prohibition lies on the road to apostasy.  Apparently, Satan wants to use prohibition of alcohol to damn men's souls.  In contrast, promotion of alcohol ostensibly leads toward eternal life.

The error Paul addresses in the proposed text rejects good things God Himself created for beneficial reasons.  God created marriage and created meat for men to enjoy.  How controversial are marriage and meat in evangelicalism?  Those are at the root of the argument against the false doctrine Paul exposes.  Paul is rejecting the asceticism that was part of the philosophical dualism in Ephesus and other Greek cities.  They thought they could achieve some elevated kind of spiritual existence by denying themselves material things.  You still see this in modern religions, and this can seep into and influence Christians, as in the examples of celibacy and monasticism. The apostasy comes with the denial of true spirituality found through the work of Jesus Christ and in favor of our own work of self-denial.

Is denying alcohol a form of asceticism?  Is this an example Paul would have in mind?  To help yourself understand better, replace prohibition of alcohol with prohibition of crack or crack pipes or heroin or crystal meth. Is denying crystal meth a form of asceticism that could drag someone into a denial of Christ's finished work?  Is meth just another element God created for all men to enjoy? From what I've read, meth is a stress reliever, helps someone get through boring jobs more easily, and boosts creativity, so perhaps Rigney could have kept rolling right into other "created" substances.

Are there physical things on earth that should be denied, based upon bad inherent qualities?  God created everything, but does that mean that sin has had no impact on creation since then?  Is everything innocent since the fall?  I believe that what Naselli calls a 'skillful answer' to the question, "Should Christians drink alcohol?" is actually a horrible answer.  The biblical position is "prohibition," and yet Rigney labels that demonic.  When you call the right answer demonic, you haven't done a very skillful job of answering.  Rigney said he was very serious about "demonic," something that men often say when they're afraid of not being taken seriously -- this time for good reason.

Ephesians 5:18 starts, "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess."  The phrase "wherein is excess" translates four Greek words (en ho estin asotia) that could be translated literally, "in which is dissipation."  Ho ("which," "where") is a relative pronoun that requires an antecedent.  "Wine" (oinos) is masculine and singular and ho, the relative pronoun, is masculine and singular.  The antecedent agrees in gender and number.  "In" the wine itself is the dissipation, the profligacy, the debauchery, the meaning of "excess" (asotia).   How could that be?  Didn't God create everything for man to enjoy?

There are no other possible referents for ho than "wine."  If in contradiction to Greek grammar, ho referred to "drunk," inferred in the infinitive "to be drunk" (not a noun), Paul (and God) would be saying be not drunk with wine, wherein is drunkenness, making Paul (and God) redundant.  In drunkenness is drunkenness. Yes, I see.  Good point, Paul.  Incisive.  In drunkenness is drunkenness. That's not what Paul was writing.

Yes, God created everything for man to enjoy.  But not everything exists for man to enjoy. Everything has been spoiled or corrupted by sin to some degree.  Rigney's view is a simplistic and superficial view of prohibition that deserved more than his condescending brush-off -- actually worse, because he calls it demonic during his brief dismissal.  The Corinthians argument for fornication was meats for the belly and belly for meats (1 Cor 6:13).  This seems to be closer to the Rigney argument against prohibition.

In the wine itself is excess, not just in the abuse of it.  "Abuse" doesn't work as a category if the excess is in the substance itself.  Anyone knows that there are things we shouldn't eat or drink.  They are dangerous or deadly.  If you know what oinos is, you know that Jesus could turn water into an acceptable form of it.  The kind that causes drunkenness is prohibited by scripture.  When wine is alcoholic, it is prohibited (Prov 23:31).  It no longer exists to be enjoyed.

By calling prohibition demonic, Joe Rigney will encourage alcohol and reap drunkenness.  It isn't a skillful argument from scripture, but a perversion.  May everyone see it for what it is.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Conservatives and Free Speech

Whoever first said "be careful what you wish for," it applies to conservatives and the embrace of so-called "freedom of speech" in relationship to Charlie Hebdo  and the terrorist murders in France. Conservatives don't get equal time for their views on campus.  They can't get jobs in Hollywood.   Their books don't make the Pulitzer list.  And calling terrorism Islamic has been hate speech. Creation can't be taught anywhere.  If you deny global warming, you won't be allowed to take that position in any official capacity.  I was at a jam packed town hall meeting here about social security years ago and someone from our church, who linked a shortage of social security tax to abortion, was booed and hissed and mocked into silence.

Is it worth it for conservatives to use Charlie Hebdo for hypocrisy as a tool to shame liberals into allowing them to speak?  Liberals haven't been shouted down at a state university until they opposed Islam, mainly out of their atheism.  They can't be credible in opposition to hate speech against Islam and support for Charlie Hebdo.  I know this is why conservatives link to liberals making anti Islam diatribe.

I heard Salman Rushdie say that he knows you don't believe in free speech if you say, "I believe in free speech, but."  He says there are no "buts" in free speech.  There have been "buts" in free speech, but they've all been conservative.

Free speech has become a political apparatus, like the term "racist."  Liberals say almost any objectionable or outlandish epithet under their notion of free speech, and it continues.  They have opposed speech against Islam, that is, Charlie Hebdo speech.

When I say, be careful what you wish for, I mean, be careful wishing for more Islam bashing, because for every profanity of Mohammed, you'll start hearing ten for Jesus -- no more tamping down blasphemy against God.  Since you can insult the Koran, you can say whatever you want against Christianity and pull the Charlie Hebdo card.

But then, is the liberal free speech position a conservative position?  Even further, should Charlie Hebdo and its profane and puerile cartoons constitute free speech, even in liberal France?  Adopted during the French Revolution in 1789, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in Article 11 state that

The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

Certain speech can be denied in the United States.  The Federal Communications Commission does not allow certain language over the airwaves.  It is illegal based upon obscenity laws.  Some books are prohibited even by the public school.  No one is allowed to say just whatever he wants.   That has always been a conservative position on speech.

With the loss of an absolute standard for right and wrong, the total takeover of moral relativism, you can't judge offensive speech.  In the absence of a final, controlling authority, you allow whatever people want to say.  Everything must be legal, every form of God bashing included.  It reflects a lawless society.  Be careful what you wish for.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Fundamentalist Repulsion of Christian Worldview

Only a righteous man, a regenerated child of God, understands the world, its history, present, and future.  Man's thinking was corrupted by the fall and without salvation, he doesn't grasp God's intended purpose and plan.   After creation, God mandated raising a family and earning a living through the words "be fruitful," "multiply," "replenish the earth," "subdue" and "have dominion."  He never rescinded that mandate after the curse, only that those two responsibilities would occur with sorrow.  Sin would make it harder, but both still had to be done according to God's command.

Since sin made God's cultural mandate impossible without redemption, He built into the curse the promise of redemption.  The seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent.  The image of God in man, common grace, and the providence of God do allow men to accomplish deeds in line with God's directive, but they fail at the root objective of glorifying Him.

Christians are redeemed to fulfill God's mandate.  Only true believers know or even can know what that is.  God alone is the source of the universe, of His created order, the origin of the laws of physical nature, which we study in the natural sciences, the source of the laws of human nature, as well the principles of morality, justice, aesthetics, and logic.  We are the ones who have something to say about and to contribute to life on earth.

The need for redemption brought an evangelistic purpose to the mandate.  God loves the world.  But God continues to fulfill His pre-fall, pre-curse purpose through that redemption.  Redemption is a means to an end.  God is to be glorified.  He will be glorified, because He will redeem a people to Himself who will glorify Him.  The mandate must be fulfilled still.

To fulfill the mandate, Christians cannot divide the sacred from the secular and forsake every institution on earth but the church.  The church is pivotal in this age.  God's will gets accomplished through the church, but in the world, believers are there still fulfilling the mandate God gave them. The lives of believers should revolve around the church, but they are lived out in the world.  Since this is God's world, believers know best what it's all about and should stay engaged in informing of and transforming in God's position.

This post is about fundamentalism, but fundamentalism has been better overall than evangelicalism in fulfilling the mandate.  That's a very big subject that would take too long in this post, but I'll say what is wrong with evangelicalism.  Evangelicalism has morphed to the world system, in so many ways mimicking the world as a strategy.  I was reminded of this today when I saw an online clip of Tim Tebow reading a nasty tweet about him on the Jimmy Kimmel show.  Rather than revealing the mandate to the world as God intended it, the evangelicals adapted it as a plan of infiltration.

Fundamentalism was an era of my life from 1974 to about 1995.  I think that I understand it very well, now looking from the outside.  Fundamentalists started their own schools and colleges and separated everyone from the world.  The work in the world became meaningless.  All that had meaning was the church.  They so separated themselves from everyone that they left everything in the world, every institution to the godless.  This was not the story of early American Christianity. Christians had their influence everywhere.  They were the historians and the teachers and the philosophers.

Fundamentalism forsook the public square, when only Christianity understands this world.  The reason nobody gets it is because nobody is there to get it.  As time went on, sadly fundamentalism has begun to take on more of the world and taken on the evangelical strategy.

You can't think of hardly a fundamentalist thinker, writer, author, artist, or composer that matters.  Fundamentalists completely forsook God's mandate through an extreme and unbiblical type of separation.  Even if Christians have lost the impact God desires, they can still have an impact.  I think it's too late for the country, but it doesn't mean that it isn't something that Christians should still be doing, that is, revealing to the world God's truth, goodness, and beauty about everything.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

David Brooks of the New York Times on Fundamentalism and Religion

David Brooks, one of the moderates on the op-ed page of the New York Times, wrote on January 8 within the context of the murders of the French satirists this last week:

Moreover, provocateurs and ridiculers expose the stupidity of the fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are people who take everything literally. They are incapable of multiple viewpoints. They are incapable of seeing that while their religion may be worthy of the deepest reverence, it is also true that most religions are kind of weird. Satirists expose those who are incapable of laughing at themselves and teach the rest of us that we probably should.

So this is fundamentalism:  "fundamentalists are people who take everything literally" and "are incapable of multiple viewpoints."  You can't take Brooks literally to understand what he says, so maybe I'm not a fundamentalist, because he really means, fundamentalists take everything their sacred book says literally.  And yes, folks like me take everything in the Bible literally, that is, grammatically and historically, or in other words, we understand scripture according to its plain sense.

A man like Brooks doesn't understand the Bible or literal interpretation (yet he's a "conservative").  I suspect he's someone who questions parts of the dietary restrictions or the talking snake or the man swallowed by the big fish, which also means he doesn't understand history (as told by God in the Bible).

One, to take the Bible literally, you believe the supernatural parts, which are almost everything in it. If you don't want to believe the supernatural stuff, you have to allegorize it all, that is, make it mean what you want it to mean (otherwise known as rewriting it).  You run into trouble on the first sentence, especially "God created."  Once you've accepted the greatest, all the lesser, everything else in the Bible, is easy. Believing in God is to believe the supernatural.  God is the point of the book.

Brooks though has got to have the Bible be an all natural book with an all natural interpretation.  That takes God out of the equation. Have a good time with that.

Two, if you take God out of the Bible, you're then left with multiple viewpoints.  There's a ratio even to this. The less God there is in the Bible, the more multiple viewpoints, the ones made-up by people rewriting the Bible according to their own imaginations.

Without God, multiple viewpoints are valid, so the Bible doesn't matter much any more.  The Bible already doesn't matter to Brooks, so he shouldn't lecture people, who believe the Bible, to take multiple viewpoints, which includes lecturing God, Who won't be lectured by him.

You've heard people say it takes more faith to believe in evolution than in creation.  I think it is good enough to say that it takes faith to believe in evolution.   With over one hundred twenty necessities to support human life, before he even considers the existence of the human body, he's believing in his own kind of supernaturalism:  perhaps the god of coincidence.

Three, on scripture, Brooks has fallen off the back of the turnip truck -- figuratively -- because we understand that some of scripture uses figures of speech and symbolism.  But that's lost on the shallow and unsubstantial.  Give him a warm beverage and point him toward a beautiful view -- figuratively.

Four, the discontinuity of scripture proceeds from God's sovereign love.  God condescends to man to save him at various times and in diverse, non-contradictory manners.   The annals of a nation Israel arose as a monumental portion of God's historical arch.  Through the seed of Abraham would all the nations of the earth be blessed.

Five, the apex of stupidity is losing your own soul, even for the whole world, let alone a commentary gig on PBS and a slot on the New York Times op ed page.  When Brooks wrote, "stupidity of the fundamentalists," and "most religions are kind of weird,"  he took the role of provocateur and ridiculer for a moment.  Most fundamentalists are stupid, just on average less stupid than most others, and most religions are kind of weird, all of them but one.  Intellectual suicide, which Brooks commits, is both stupid and weird.

When you believe in one God, who is the Author of scripture, you have to believe one interpretation of scripture.  The founding fathers only meant one thing when they wrote the constitution and they were quite fallible human beings.  Since God wrote scripture, you're stupid and weird to take the self-contradicting position of several truths, like Brooks does with his embrace of "multiple viewpoints." He compares to a fifth grader looking for another interpretation for "clean your room."

Multiple viewpoints arise out of necessity from a relativistic society, which don't represent the Bible or even a legitimate God, let alone the one and true God, the God of the Bible.  Brooks, gazing over the side of El Capitan at Yosemite, doesn't take several viewpoints on gravity.  If he sees writing in the sand, he isn't okay with "the wave or the wind caused that."  He's just not that stupid or weird.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Hannah W. Smith, Universalism, and an Unholy and Unhappy Life: part 6 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.


Search for:


“Judging by her unhappy and un-Christian marriage and the fact that none of her children who survived to adulthood were born again or honored the Lord, Mrs. Smith neither had the true “secret” of a happy Christian life nor the spiritual power to affect others for Christ.”


to read the section that was in the blog post below.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Is There Any Spiritual Authority Outside of a Church and Other than the Lord Jesus Christ?

Once upon a time, some people outside of First Baptist of Hammond warned about Jack Hyles. Hyles had worked his situation to insulate against outside interference.  He had established a strong grip of pastoral authority, even when it was obvious to anyone that he was long disqualified from the office.

When some attempted intervention with Hyles, they were dismissed as undermining church authority. Since then, in my lifetime, I have seen this play out again and again in numbers of different places with the same claims of individual church authority being sacrosanct.  Is it true that another church does not have authority over another church?  Does the chain of authority end at a single church?

Here Presbyterians might pipe up.  They offer presbyteries, synods, general assembly, and confessions.  They would claim some biblical basis for this system and tout the quality control it offers.  The church council has authority over individual churches according to this arrangement. Truly, if that is a biblical structure, we should follow it.  I don't think so, but I digress.

A church with which I was very close, at which I was a one time member, began a rot at the head. Then I heard the idea that if someone warned the members, he was stepping someplace without authority.  He was doing the worse thing.  The rotting of the church was bad, but he made the warning worse.  The dilapidation of the church was better than messing with church authority.  You might call this laying down the church authority card.

About every week, I visit other church's members and try to pry them from their churches.  Is this wrong?  Is that messing with church authority?  Is it dividing a church?  At what point, is it permissible to do anything about what's going wrong with another church?  Our church says, my priest says, my pastor says, is a primary basis for not listening.  They don't need scripture; they've got their leader.

Some might say, you can do something.  You can pray.  You can talk to the pastor of that church, try to change his mind, make a difference that way.  I agree with pray.  I also think that faith without works is dead.  While I'm praying, the Bible tells me to do something about someone who disobeys. Prayer in that sense is faithless.  I agree with confront the pastor.  And he shuts it down.  You're done, and when you say one more thing, you're what?  You are messing with the authority of that church. You've got your own church, so, really, mind your own business.

So you've now talked to the pastor and he's doubled down.  He has battened down the hatches and circled the wagons and closed ranks in numbers of ways.  You either don't understand church authority, you disrespect it, or you're arrogant.  You can't tell him, them, what to do.  You are operating outside of your realm of authority.

Enter my local only church doctrine.  I'm local only.  Local only guys really respect the authority of each church.  When someone works around the pastor or operates on another church not his own, he's proven that he's not a local only guy.  That's sort of universal church happening in practice.  Is this right?

Jesus is over all the churches and Jesus wrote the Bible.  The use of the generic noun, "church," says there is only one church, His church.  There are not a variety of churches.  There is only His church, His.  Church.  When another church disobeys the Bible, at what point are you defying church authority?  Again, Jesus is the Head of the church.  He walks in the midst of His churches.  He's a body part -- the Head of the body, of each body.  He's also the body.  The body, over which He is the Head, is His body.

Jesus said, "I will build my church."  He has only one church.  And each of those churches are to have the same mind. What is that mind?  What is the source of that unity?  It is the truth.  The truth is authority outside of every church and other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  How does Jesus Head the church?  Through His Words.  He rules through His Words.  Each church is ultimately under the authority of scripture, so each church doesn't have the authority to disobey scripture.  Disobedience to scripture is the worst abuse of authority.

In a sense, Jesus is the Truth, so the truth is still Jesus.  But you know what I mean.  People outside of a church can judge another church according to the truth.  And they can intervene with the truth.  It's true that they can only say something.  They don't have a vote.

Once a whole church stops listening, you can't do anything anymore, just like you can't do anything with a person you evangelize who won't listen.  You dust your feet of that church, just like you would that individual.  At what point do you let it go?  Can only a church judge church authority?

We have an example of churches intervening in each other's matters in Acts 15.  There were two churches, one in Antioch and one in Jerusalem, on the outs with each other, and the leadership met to stay in fellowship.  The fellowship between two churches was important.  Would each church just say, "It's none of your business," or, "You're just getting your nose in another church's matter?"  Not if they cared about each other, and not if they loved the church and Jesus and the truth.

In the end, is church authority more important than the truth or is church authority a means to an end, which is the Truth?  We are sanctified by the Truth, not church authority.  Church authority is a truth, but not a truth to abuse truth.

The church authority card could be used in an abusive way.  I think it was in the Hyles situation, the one I had several years ago with a church with which we were a member.  That church rallied other churches to its side, saying that its authority was being undermined and attacked.

I can't do anything with authority in another church except tell its members the truth.  I'm not there to see events like its members can see, but I can judge doctrine, perhaps even better than the church people themselves.  There is some practice I can judge.  If I get on youtube and see false worship, I'm seeing it.  I can read a doctrinal statement.  I can interview, ask questions, and hear it or see it myself.  We can know things about a church from the outside.  The Acts 15 churches were judging those types of beliefs and practices themselves, when they judged each other.  And then they did something about it.

Many of the decisions about what do do with a particular person or pastor or church are each judgment calls.  You act in wisdom, relying on biblical principle.  Any men should be willing to have their teaching and practice exposed to reasonable, biblical criticism.  Every church should be willing to defend their practice.  I know I want to do that.  I want to explain why we believe and practice like we do.  If what I believe and practice is good and the truth, then I should want to and be able to defend it in front of more than just my own church people.

The Bible itself is authority outside of a church.  No church has authority outside of scripture.  When you lay down what God says, that still rules over a church, whether it comes from the outside or from within.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

30, 60, 100: Can We Conclude That More Fruit Was Caused by the One Receiving the Seed?

You might hear something so many times that you think it is the truth, but sometimes it is the truth and sometimes not.  In the classroom teaching for over 25 years, I will ask students a question, and after the first one responds, others will take their answer down the same path, even though it is wrong.  It is human nature.  I'm asking you reader if the same thing is done with one vital aspect of the parable of the soils (sower) in Matthew 13 and Mark 4.  Here is what I'm talking about in Matthew 13:

But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

I'm especially referring to the last part, "some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."

Does the text itself connect the differences in fruit bearing to something done by the person who received the seed?  I've never myself heard a presentation that would imply a "no" answer to that question.  I remember hearing a number of factors that differentiate between the results someone sees in his sowing of seed -- more power with God and more fruit, more dedication to God and more fruit, or more sowing and more fruit -- those types of reasons.  I've never heard someone teach a theological randomness, ambiguity, or dubiousness.

What I'm saying is that Jesus wasn't communicating cause of the greater fruitfulness.  He was only telling us that the amounts might be different.  We can't conclude anything from the greater results.  What we do know is that they'll be varied.  Fruit will be there, but it will be varied.

Men have taught that one could conclude something about the quality of this believer, the one who received the seed, by the nature of his 100, versus the 60 or 30 of the others.  30 is an average Christian, 60 a good one, and 100, par excellence.  This has fueled a desire to be the 100.  And so how do you get 100?  Well, here's how.  And then comes the almost sheer pragmatism.  The bigger church claims superior spirituality based upon its size, and they often uses these verses as a basis for that.  The smaller church must be doing something wrong, and it needs some kind of reeducation to be a 60 or 100 church, if it's only a 30.  Even if someone doesn't teach this as true, it is most often what it seems that churches believe.

The Matthew 13 and Mark 4 passages are used as a proof text.  But do those passages prove this? Look at them.

We can conclude that a believer will be fruitful, but the passage doesn't say that the more fruitful he is, the greater believer he is.   Some bring a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty, but with no stated reason.  Certain Christians will bear more fruit than others.

Matthew 13 itself makes the point that the fruitfulness doesn't result from the seed sowing, but from the condition of the soil.  Many other passages confirm this theological view.  1 Corinthians 3:7 says, "neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."  The ones who plant and water, all Christians, are irrelevant as to reproduction.  God gives the increase.  In the Matthew 13 text, Jesus refers back to Isaiah 6 and God's revelation that Isaiah would not see fruit from his endeavor.  1 Corinthians 15:58 says that if your labor is in the Lord, it is not vain.

The passage isn't about the sower bearing fruit.  It's about the condition of the soil having an impact on the result of the seed sown.  You'll know someone is good ground because he receives the seed and brings forth fruit of whatever amount that might be.  Hundred, sixty, and then thirty are about the soil where the seed is planted, not about the sower.

A lot of wacky strategies, techniques, and deeds have come from seeking the 100, like some sort of lost city of gold.  Seminars explain how to get the greater fruit.  Certain programs offer a guarantee. They will work.

True conversion won't happen just anywhere.  The hearts must be good ground.  The recipients must strive to enter the narrow gate.

Will some churches get bigger because they are more obedient, more faithful to the Great Commission?  I believe so.  If one church sows to one million people and another one to one thousand, the one who sows to more people might see more fruit.  On the other hand, you can sow one million seeds on concrete and one thousand on good ground and the one sowing on better ground will get better results.  You can't judge anything as to the spiritual condition of the sower from the result.

Some churches that are disobedient and unfaithful will get bigger, because they have used worldly means of accomplishing the growth.  When someone does everything right, he can still see very little tangible results, doing more and better than someone with larger visible consequences.  Scripture doesn't emphasize how big your church will become. It teaches faithfulness and purity and love for God and his neighbor.

You could argue that the church with thirty has the smaller production, because it doesn't sow enough seed, but you can't tell that by the number.  You would have to be able to see the faithfulness, the obedience with the gospel, firsthand.  Some churches get much bigger, but their ministry is actually far smaller.  We cannot conclude that more fruit was caused by the one receiving the seed.