Friday, March 30, 2018

Archaeological Evidence for the New Testament

I am working on a book dealing with archaeological, historical, and prophetic evidence for the Old Testament and the New Testament. The book is intended to be a helpful overview and introduction that can help both skeptics of Scripture see the intellectual evidence for Christianity and help normal Christians without much background in the subject understand the great evidence for God's Word.

A while ago I published on my website a version of the Old Testament evidence:  Archaeological Evidence for the Old Testament as the Word of God.  I have now added a New Testament section: Archaeological Evidence for the New Testament as the Word of God.  The book is not yet completed, but I believe there is enough useful information there to help both skeptics and the people of God.  (Much of the information in it was used in my recent debate with Shabir Ally, which is not yet live, and which went very well by the grace of and blessing of Jehovah, and in answer to the prayers and fasting of the saints.)  I have included a number of helpful and interesting pictures also, and intend to add some more of these.

If you are not sure of answers to questions such as the following, I would recommend the book to you:

1.) What evidence exists that Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew?

2.) What evidence exists that Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark?

3.) What evidence exists that Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts?

4.) What evidence exists that John wrote the Gospel of John?

5.) Did one or more of the synoptic Gospel writers copy from the others, as in the modern liberal idea that Mark and "Q" were the sources for Matthew and Luke, or were the synoptic Gospels independent accounts?

6.) Is there any evidence that "Q" ever existed?

7.) When were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John written?

8.) Was there legendary, evolutionary development in the Gospels?

9.) What is the earliest manuscript evidence for the Gospels?

10.) Is there unmistakable evidence for predictive prophecy in the New Testament?

11.) What are the earliest testimonies to Christ's death and resurrection?

12.) How strong is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?

13.) Are the New Testament books accurate history?

14.) How does the New Testament compare to other works, such as the Quran or Buddhist writings, that claim to be Divine revelation?

Important features of the book include its Bible-believing Baptist perspective; its acceptance of the testimony of early Christianity on the dates of the Gospels (which, sadly, one can even graduate from a supposedly evangelical or fundamentalist Bible college and be entirely ignorant of); and its acceptance of the testimony of early Christianity on synoptic independence and rejection of liberal theories that many in evangelicalism and now even in fundamentalism are willing to adopt. May it be a blessing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Meaning of Fideism, the Preservation of Scripture, and King James Only

When people don't believe in hell, why don't they believe in hell?  Scientific studies don't show hell exists.  There is no empirical evidence for hell.  You can't tunnel somewhere or take a ship somewhere to find it.  I don't know of any expeditions in the works or future digs to find hell.

Hell is eternal torment.  Even annihilation, the belief of some, is preferable.  I think most would say far preferable.  It's so horrible, hell, that the invention of a kind of holding tank for hell, purgatory, was invented as an alternative.  Except scripture doesn't teach annihilation or purgatory.  They might make sense to someone, but they aren't in the Bible.  We believe in hell, what it actually is, because of what the Bible says.  That's all we've got for it.  It's fideistic -- no empirical evidence, against human reasoning, just based on scripture alone.

The hardest things to believe require faith.  You can believe some easy things that don't seem like they are faith.  I believe sin is destructive.  That's not hard.  I can see it.  The Bible teaches it, but it's not hard to believe.  Some you just believe, even though it's hard, and that's how you know you're operating by faith.  I agree that scripture has to teach it, but you believe it anyway.  Someone can be weak in faith and believe all the easiest things to believe.  The hard things to believe are also usually where the faith is attacked the most.

God told Noah to build an ark.  He had never seen it rain.  Everyone in the world was against him.  He just built it and kept building it.  Evangelism is like that for me.  I just keep preaching the gospel.  People are not believing it.  I still talk about it like it's the greatest thing ever.  It's pretty great, maybe the greatest thing ever.  I'm basing it totally on the Bible, not my reasoning and not based upon empirical evidence.

Instead of preaching the gospel today, I see marketing, which is more empirical and makes more sense as a strategy.  It's what happens when someone moves outside of faith, fideism.  Offering small toys or a gift for coming takes almost no faith, but it's where evangelicalism and fundamentalism are at.  I can go to a local evangelical church, bring the ad, and get a free gift (not salvation)!  That's instead of evangelism.  This is what you get when people are not living by faith.  There's evidence that it works.

Everything I believe doesn't have to make sense to me.  I figure it will make more sense at some future date.  For instance, the Trinity doesn't make sense to Jehovah's Witnesses, so they reject it.  As a result, they're lost.  Sad, huh?  How hard is it to believe the Trinity?  It's something that you've got to believe with nothing to see.  Is that fideistic?  In other words, you believe it just because of God's revelation.  There isn't anything historical or archaeological to that.

I claim that the perfect preservation position is fideism.  Mike Harding said, "Fideism is not Faith."  Why not?  Fide is Latin for "faith."  In a way, I don't care if something is fideistic.  I care that it is biblical, because the Bible is the basis of faith, but I do think that reason messes people up on this one.  I'm saying that faith bypasses our lying eyes.  With God there is no shadow of turning.  It's something just dependent on scripture, and you just believe it without something in the nature of total back-up in history and observation.  I'm not saying there's nothing, because I believe there is something always in history, but it's a real test of faith.  Everyone.  Everyone who is truly a Christian practices this sort of faith to hold to a lot of what he believes.  A lot.

Here's what the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says about "fideism."  I'm not trying to make anything up.
“What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” (246) This question of the relation between reason—here represented by Athens—and faith—represented by Jerusalem—was posed by the church father Tertullian (c.160–230 CE), and it remains a central preoccupation among contemporary philosophers of religion. 
“Fideism” is the name given to that school of thought—to which Tertullian himself is frequently said to have subscribed—which answers that faith is in some sense independent of, if not outright adversarial toward, reason. In contrast to the more rationalistic tradition of natural theology, with its arguments for the existence of God, fideism holds—or at any rate appears to hold (more on this caveat shortly)—that reason is unnecessary and inappropriate for the exercise and justification of religious belief. The term itself derives from fides, the Latin word for faith, and can be rendered literally as faith-ism. “Fideism” is thus to be understood not as a synonym for “religious belief,” but as denoting a particular philosophical account of faith’s appropriate jurisdiction vis-a-vis that of reason.
If you look at a definition of rationalism.  It seems the opposite of fideism.  Is the right view actually some combination of rationalism and fideism?  I think of a couple of verses that make the point of this post relating to faith.  Romans 4:19-21 and John 20:29. 
19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. 
Douglas Groothuis in Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith contends (p. 72),
I will neither presuppose Christianity is true apart from the need for positive evidence (fideism, presuppositionalism or Reformed epistemology) or suppose that by amassing legions of historical facts we can convince someone of Christian truth (evidentialism). Rather, I will offer a variety of arguments that verify or confirm the Christian worldview as superior to its rivals, thus showing that Christianity alone makes the most sense of the things that matter most.
Groothius says fideism is presuppositionalism and Reformed epistemology versus evididentialism.

C. Stephen Evans in Faith Beyond Reason (pp. 17-19) classifies famed presuppositionalist Cornelius Van Til as an irrational fideist.  Then Evans also classifies Alvin Plantinga as a responsible fideist (pp. 41-47).  In a Dictionary of Christian Theology (p. 129), Alan Richardson defined it as “a pejorative term."  Even though I think people should claim fideism in a legitimate way, and it shouldn't be considered poisonous as a label, it is very often weaponized to deligitimize a biblical belief and teaching.

Fideism rests on the self-authentication of scripture.  The Bible bears evidence within itself of its own divine origins.  I've talked a lot about this on this blog (here and here and here).

I'm not saying reason is not involved.  You believe the Bible.  The Bible itself is true.  What God says is true, so you just believe it.  This is the tripping point of the rationalist and those who mock fideism.

In order to discredit fideism, I've read people who have misdefined it or given it their definition for their own purpose, to make it seem like a bad thing.  They do this at great destructive detriment to faith and to the faith.  I read an example that said that the fideism of perfect preservationism is believing that the ark is still frozen on Mount Ararat.  One can believe that, but that doesn't mean it is biblical faith.  I agree with that example, but it isn't what fideism is.  Fideism is the simple idea that we get our faith from God's revelation.  He said it, so we believe it.  That leaves the Bible as final authority for what we believe, which is unlike the critical text crowd.  They do not start with scripture.  They don't even rely on scripture for their position at all.

In a comment at SharperIron, Tyler Robbins told the world that I believe that the very words of God are found in 1598 Beza.  You will not find my having said that in any place in the world.  I've never said that.  It's close to what I believe, but what I do believe is that God's words have been preserved and available for every generation of believers.  1598 Beza, I believe, is very close.  I say that it is essentially Beza, and that should be easy to understand if you look at Scrivener's  annotated Greek New Testament.  He has all the words of all the textus receptus there.

Every word of God was available to every generation of believers before the English King James translation.  They translated from something and all five Beza editions existed before that (1556, 1565, 1582, 1589, and 1598).  Robert Stephanus had four editions before the King James Version (1546, 1549, 1550, and 1551).  My position, like the Westminster divines of the 17th century, is that the original manuscripts of the Bible are not distinct from the copies in possession.  What is an error in one copy is corrected in another.  The words are available.  You don't believe in preservation if you believe there is no settled text and that the text is in ongoing need of restoration.  You don't believe what scripture says about preservation if you believe that.  Scripture is evidence.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Not Believing God Is and Should Be A Problem in Denying Perfect Preservation of Scripture

Among interviews for his book, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible, Mark Ward said that the arguments from textual criticism were going nowhere in persuading people to stop using the King James Version.  He wanted to make progress, and that wasn't doing it.  So, if the Greek texts that someone used were different, that was totally fine, according to Ward, not really a big deal at all to him.  To him, you would be fine to use a contemporary translation of whichever text you think is best.  He doesn't want to fight about that, because he doesn't think the differences are very great.

I would join Ward in his unhappiness with people mangling the meaning of the Bible with whatever translation they use and if it is because they don't understand the words of the King James Version.  If you have the right words of the Bible, but you don't understand them and teach a different meaning than what they actually mean, that is really, really bad.  I hate it when it is someone reading it and messed up in his understanding and especially when someone preaches something wrong because of his misunderstanding.  I also join Ward in saying that the power of the very words of God are found in their actual meaning.  If you have the right words and the wrong meaning, it is like having the wrong words.  He's right on that.

I would not join a church that used something other than the Hebrew and Greek text behind the King James Version.  However, if I had a choice to attend a church where someone preached something wrong from the King James Version or preached something right from the English Standard Version, I would choose the latter.  Getting it right is more important.  I agree with that, enough that I would be far more chagrined -- by far -- with someone who was massacring the meaning of the King James than someone who was getting the meaning of the English Standard Version exactly right.  I believe the power is in the meaning and in the substance.

Mark Ward is a critical text proponent, which has different words in the text underlying the modern translations than that of the King James Version, up to 7% total difference in the underlying original language words of the New Testament.  He says he doesn't care about those differences and that there isn't enough that matters, because what does matter is the meaning of the words.

I want to focus on Mark Ward's problem as it applies to the doctrine of the preservation of scripture.  I don't care what accurate translation of the Bible one uses, he will find that it teaches the same exact doctrine on the preservation of scripture.  You can find the historical and biblical teaching on the preservation of scripture in whatever Bible you happen to use.  Let's say you were using the English Standard Version to come to your position.  What you would learn from the English Standard Version would stop you from using the English Standard Version.  You would have to believe in the perfect preservation of scripture, knowing that it is an actual doctrine of scripture.  The meaning is so important, just like Mark says.

As a church and an individual believer, I get all of my doctrine from the Bible, not from experience or feelings.  I know I'm depraved because scripture says I'm depraved. In the same way, I know I'm justified because the Bible says I'm justified.  I trust the Bible, which God says pleases Him.   This is called living by faith.

Scripture is inspired, and I know that and believe that because scripture says it's inspired.  God says His Word is inspired.  If I deny inspiration of scripture, I'm denying what God says about His Word.

Then we come to the preservation of scripture.  The historic doctrine of scripture has reflected what scripture says about itself, what it says about its own preservation.  The doctrine of preservation of scripture, like justification in the doctrine of salvation, comes from God's Word, not from experience or feelings.

So God says He preserved every Word and every Word is available to every generation.  If you are saying that God didn't do that, when He said He would, then you are, first, calling Him a liar, and, second, saying that not everything we're reading is inspired by God.  Inspiration applies to words.  If a word isn't inspired, it isn't inspired.  Third, you don't have a Bible without error if the words are changed from what God gave originally.

A lot of what the Bible says, one believes without any proof except the Bible itself is true.  I can't tell if my sins are gone.  I didn't see creation.  I didn't see the flood.  I haven't seen anything the Bible prophesies and it prophesies a lot.  It hasn't happened yet.  You believe the Bible because it is true and it has already been validated as true.  Whatever it says about anything is true.

The authority of scripture relies on its truth.  What it says is true.  If something outside of the Bible can invalidate it, then it isn't true.  This is serious.  For history, Christians believed God inspired and then preserved every word, based upon scripture.  They got their doctrine of preservation from scripture.  For them, that outdoes or trumps anything that occurs outside of scripture or that people feel or experience.  They knew about textual variations of the copies.  That didn't change what they believed.  They wouldn't allow something outside of scripture, whether it seemed like evidence or not, to stop them from believing what God said.  This is conservative theology, where the beliefs come from scripture.

Doctrine doesn't change.  If the Bible ever taught something, then it will continue to teach that.  It can't suddenly start meaning something different.  There can't be a new teaching.  When what it teaches is changed, people become in authority over the Bible, instead of the Bible over people.

It is a problem not to believe what God said He would do.  If He didn't do what He said He would do, then He is lying, and He doesn't lie.  There's more than that.  I want to illustrate.  I've talked to many Muslims through the years.  I've talked to a lot of other religions far more, but the biggest argument of Muslims against Christianity is that our Bible has errors in it.

If you were Mark Ward, you would need to say to that Muslim, you're right Mr. Muslim, the Bible has errors, but it doesn't matter!  We've got the meaning!  If he was a sharp Muslim, which they are by nature more sharp than your average professing Christian, he would bring up the problem I'm talking about.  He says his book is divine, so it doesn't have any errors.  Mark would say, my book is divine too, but it has errors.  Ooops!

There are many people turning from the faith today because they've lost trust in scripture.  I've talked about the story of the famous, atheist textual critic, Bart Ehrman, and what happened to his faith when he became convinced that God didn't preserve His words, like He said He would.  Ward doesn't want to talk about this.  He says it doesn't matter, because the meaning is all that matters.  God didn't inspire a meaning.  I'm not saying Ward believes that, but in a practical way, he does, and it's a kind of neo-orthodox position on the Bible.  Scripture puts the emphasis on words, and Ward against that emphasis, puts it on meaning, because he doesn't believe in preservation of words.

Scripture promises all the words.  I believe we have all of them.  I have no problem talking to the Muslim man.  I know my position is biblical and historical.  There is a big problem for someone like Ward though and everyone else like him.  This is where the faith itself is under attack, the faith which is actually the meaning of scripture.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Evan Roberts & the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905: His Education & "Preaching": Part 2 of 22

When “Dr. Williams, the phrenologist[,][1] . . . measured [Roberts’s] cranium, deduced certain patterns,” and “told . . . the young miner, ‘You ought to be a preacher,’” an affirmation also confirmed by a minister who had heard Roberts pray publicly one time, Evan was guided no longer to be a miner but a minister.[2]  However, his education for the ministry was extremely limited, as was his education in general, although he was “deeply influenced” by “C. R. Sheldon’s In His Steps.”[3]  Roberts “left school at age twelve, laboured in coal mines for twelve years, undertook part-time study and a brief pre-college course . . . [and] had no pastoral or evangelistic experience”[4] when he became the center of the Welsh holiness revival in 1904, although a novice (1 Timothy 3:6), one whose “schooldays were few and irregular,”[5] and “an unqualified preacher with only six weeks of adult pre-college education.”[6]  Incapable of careful exegesis of the Bible, he taught “experience-based doctrine” and held to “no dogmatic beliefs,” since he was “totally untrained” for “systematic theological instruction” or “expository preaching.”[7]  On the contrary, “visions and voices” were “what really constitute[d] [him a] pioneer in [the] new movement of the Spirit” in Wales.[8]  “Evan Roberts was not intellectual . . . was moved more by his emotions than by his ideas . . . was more intuitive than inductive or deductive . . . had no fundamental doctrine, no system of theology, no distinctive ideal.”[9]  He did not follow the pattern of Christ and the Apostles, as well as of earlier revival preachers such as Jonathan Edwards or Shubal Stearns, or earlier instruments of revival in Wales,[10] by preaching boldly and specifically on sin, clearly explaining the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, calling men to repentance and faith, and strongly warning about hell and judgment to come (Matthew 5:22-30).  Instead, Roberts set forth “no dies irae to terrify, but a dies caritas to win its way[.] . . . Sin—or at least vice—[was] seldom denounced[.]”[11]  Indeed, Roberts stated:  “What need have these people [in the Welsh holiness revival] to be told that they are sinners?”[12]  Some associated with his ministry testified that they never once preached the gospel to the lost during the entire course of their revivalistic work; they saw many make what were supposedly salvation decisions without hearing the gospel.[13]
            Thus, “Roberts does not call his hearers to repentance . . . but speaks of having been called to fulfill the words of the prophet Joel.  ‘Your old men shall dream dreams; your young men shall see visions.’”  Rather than proclaiming the gospel, Roberts “frequently describe[d] visions that had appeared to him.”[14]  Surely, in his view, describing visions would bring more to salvation than gospel preaching.  He also “told his congregations that he had ‘not come to terrify them by preaching about the horrors of eternal damnation’” and “told reporters . . . ‘I preach nothing but Christ’s love,’” after the manner of Hannah W. Smith.[15]  Nevertheless, “his message was not so much Christocentric as pneuma-centric, a result of the influence of the Holiness movement, especially the teaching of Keswick.”[16]  Roberts spoke at the Welsh Keswick Conference at Llandrindod Wells in 1905 at the height of the holiness revival excitement,[17] and the message he proclaimed throughout Wales during his work was that of the “Spiritual Life Conventions such as Keswick and Llandrindod.”[18]  While Keswick proper was key for Roberts, Keswick antecedents, such as the “experience . . . called ‘perfect love’ or Christian perfection’ taught by J. Wesley and J. Fletcher . . . [were also] given attention in this revival.”[19]  Thus, while earlier revivals had believed that the Spirit of God bore testimony to Christ rather than emphasizing His own blessed Person, Evan Roberts stressed (as William Boardman had before him) that there “were thousands of believers in our churches who have received Christ, but had never received the Holy Ghost,” a change of emphasis from “[h]eretofore” when “the work of Christ ha[d] been the all-important truth.”[20]

[1]              The development of the quack system of phrenology was as follows:

Franz Gall (1758–1828) and Johann Spurzheim (1776–1832) developed an early physiological psychology known as phrenology, which held three fundamental positions: the exterior conformation of the skull corresponds to the interior (brain); mind is analyzable into a number of functions (e.g., combativeness, hope, acquisitiveness, cautiousness, and secretiveness); and the functions of mind are differentially localized in the brain, and an excess in any function is correlated with an enlargement of the corresponding place in the brain. . . . [T]he term phrenology mean[s] literally the science of the mind. The theory asserted that personality and character traits could be judged by the location and size of bumps on the skull. . . . Some 37 localized areas of the brain were specified to contain independent and inherited regions relating to such character traits as self-esteem, conscientiousness, and spirituality. Three general character types—mental, motive, and vital—facilitated grouping of personalities. Phrenology maps were drawn to indicate the locations of particular faculties and were then used to analyze the corresponding bumps on the skull of a client. . . . Phrenology had a certain popular appeal; people thought personality could be determined by feeling an individual’s skull. However, phrenology was never accepted by scientists because its methodology was largely anecdotal. . . . The charlantanlike activities of Gall and Spurzheim and the multiplicity of faculties made phrenology the last faculty psychology. (pgs. 427, 790, 872, Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling (2nd ed.), D. G. Benner & P. C. Hill.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999)

Interestingly, one of Evan Roberts’s “heavily involved” helpers was “Annie May Rees, the daughter of a phrenologist” (pg. 52, see 76ff., Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones).

[2]              Pg. 10, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  Pg. 110 mentions Evan’s interaction with another phrenologist later.

[3]              Pg. 6, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  “Sheldon, a Congregational minister, followed the liberal teaching of his day that Christ was merely an example,” and thus the book “promotes a social gospel rather than the Saving Gospel of Jesus Christ,” one of “[w]alking in the steps of Jesus” rather than “trust[ing] in His saving merits and vicarious satisfaction to get to Heaven” (Calvary Contender, 10/15/1997; elec. acc. Fundamental Baptist CD-ROM Library, ed. David Cloud).

[4]              Pg. xiii, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.

[5]              Pg. 55, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.

[6]              Pg. 96, An Instrument of Revival, Jones; pg. 85, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).

[7]              Pgs. 253, 5, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.

[8]              Pgs. 24-25, Rent Heavens:  The Welsh Revival of 1904, R. B. Jones, 3rd. ed.  Asheville, NC:  Revival Literature, 1950.

[9]              Pg. 55, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.

[10]            Thus, Vyrnwy Morgan noted “an unmistakable change of character . . . [in] the general record of revivals” in the years that led up to and included the Welsh holiness revival; “the notion of a material hell is gone, never to return[.] . . . There has been a change of emphasis.  It used to be on hell; it is now on character; it used to be on wrath; it is now on conduct” (xiv-xvi, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan).

[11]            Pg. 154, The Great Revival in Wales:  Also an Account of the Great Revival in Ireland in 1859, S. B. Shaw.  Chicago, IL:  S. B. Shaw, 1905.  For example, Roberts said, “There’s no need to preach against the drink [alcohol]”—rather, a solely positive message was sufficient (pg. 54, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead).

[12]            Pg. 49, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead.

[13]            Pg. 55, Rent Heavens:  The Welsh Revival of 1904, R. B. Jones, 3rd. ed.  (Asheville, NC:  Revival Publications, 1950).

[14]            Pg. 47, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead.  Stead quotes the South Wales Daily News of November 14, 1904.

[15]            E. g., “Mrs. Smith went herself to a man in prison, who was condemned to death for murder. . . . She only told him how God loved him, and grieved over him, stayed with him, and told him again and again, till he was conquered” (pg. 163, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).

[16]            Pgs. 520-521, “Demythologizing the Evan Roberts Revival,” Pope.

[17]            Pg. 171, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall.

[18]            Pg. 54, Rent Heavens:  The Welsh Revival of 1904, R. B. Jones, 3rd. ed.  Asheville, NC:  Revival Publications, 1950.

[19]            Pg. 137, Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.

[20]            Pg. 7, The Awakening in Wales, Jessie Penn-Lewis.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Destructive Instinct of Evangelicalism and Now Fundamentalism for and with Celebrity

This is an unrelated post related to the one below, but I wanted to draw attention to it here by Victor David Hansen, titled, Camouflaged Elites.  I wish evangelicals would take into consideration, and now fiundamentalists, as they mime the culture.  They should be leading, but they conform.  Sad.


When I attended a Bible college and seminary in the 1980s, the founder and president incessantly talked about its grads going into "full time service" and touted full time service, full time service, and more full time service.  He may have been wrong on his statistics, but I heard him all the time talking about 90 plus percent going into full time service.  The words "full time service" are not in the Bible.  I would contend that every Christian is in full time service for and to the Lord, but I also get what Dr. Cedarholm, as we called him, B. Myron Cedarholm, was talking about.  He wanted the students in full time Christian service, meaning pastors, missionaries, "evangelists," Christian school teachers, and any other positions like that.

At that time in fundamentalism, at least at Maranatha Baptist Bible College, full time service was normal talk.  I don't remember any celebrity syndrome, at least in the circles I was in.  At Maranatha, we did have a gold medal wrestling coach, Ben Peterson, who was also a Maranatha seminary graduate, married to a Maranatha graduate.  While I was there, Mike Houk, one of our wrestlers, became the first world champion in United States history for Greco-Roman wrestling.  Even though we had celebrities in that sense, these men were not lauded much for those accomplishments.  You might say they were just regular dudes on campus, no different than anyone else for those accomplishments.

At Maranatha at the time, there was no push at all for people to go out into the world and work a "secular job."  That's not what Maranatha was for.  It was to produce full time Christian workers, church workers, and Dr. Cedarholm emphasized that in no uncertain terms.  It was pushed and pushed and pushed.  It wasn't whether you would go into full time service, but where and how you were going to serve.  I don't think that whole idea was proven scripturally ever to me, but it had an influence on all of us who there in that era.  I don't remember, let's call it, "celebrity-ism" being a problem in fundamentalism at that time, unless I was missing something.

Yes, there were celebrity Christians, in the sense of big-named preachers.  You could become a big fish in a small pond, but there were no "worldly" celebrities that anyone pointed up.  In my consideration, as I remember it, I would have been ashamed of myself if I didn't go into full time service.

The reasoning for going Christian and not secular, which is how it hashed itself out, was in no given order: time is short, the laborers are few, eternity is long, God is worth it, people are going to hell, nothing is more important, you only have one life, nothing is better, everything else is temporal, the church is the most important and greatest institution, Christians are different, believers judge importance differently, among many other related reasons.  All of these still apply when you start to decide what you will do with your life.

With everything I just said, in my entire Christian school class of around 40 more or less, only two of us are pastors.  I know of at least one other pastor's wife, I think, and I'm not trying to miss anybody.  I attended Maranatha Baptist Academy in Watertown, WI.

Maranatha had a sports program:  football, basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball, softball, a little bit of track and field and cross country.  I lettered four years in football and basketball and track and field, the latter at the college wasn't taken seriously.  We didn't have a track or field.  We just ran.  I didn't practice the high jump or long jump.  I just jumped at meets to get more points.  But I remember looking over and seeing Dr. Cedarholm standing on the side of the track alone, watching us run.  No one else was there.  It did make an impression at the time.  Dr. Cedarholm was a bit of a celebrity himself.  He was a giant in the history of fundamentalism, had himself participated in the starting of hundreds of churches, but also graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1940, having lettered in football, track, baseball, tennis, and water polo.  We all knew this about him, but he never ever brought it up.  He would mention sports, but I don't remember him talking about his personal accolades.

Things have changed today, and mostly not for the better, especially related to celebrity.  I think there is evidence for this all over.  I see it with Bob Jones University invitation to Tim Tebow to come to campus there.  In a bigger picture, cultural way, I'm a Tim Tebow fan.  He gets attacked for his faith by the public.  We should defend that aspect of and for him. However, I think it's a blatant, serious error that BJU is inviting him to campus, promoting him in a fundraiser, because of his celebrity.  Sure, they can raise more money, but there are other ways this will cause serious damage, because it sends the wrong message about what is important.  Tebow himself is a compromiser and contrary to the historic values of fundamentalism and by having him, it really doesn't matter if someone compromises like him.

Maranatha now has its celebrities with Nate Oats coaching Buffalo men's basketball and Tom Allen coaching Indiana football.  In and of themselves, there's nothing wrong with having a job in the secular world, and these are high paying jobs, which determines a certain amount of success on their part.  When I was in college, what they've done would have been discouraged for all the reasons I gave above.  Dr. Cedarholm would not have emphasized these accomplishments, because it's not what he wanted.  He wanted full time Christian servants.  You will get more of what you emphasize.  If I was good enough to have "gone on to succeed in the world," Maranatha would have seen that as a sort of failure and would have mourned the loss.  Instead of preaching, he went for the worldly success is how it would have looked and been framed at the time.  I would have agreed.  I still do.

I don't think we should promote worldly success.  I think we should be lifting up mainly those who give up their lives to preach and evangelize.  I don't think we should be pushing our Christian kids in a different direction.   I believe that Jesus had this in mind when He said on various occasions something like, "let the dead bury the dead."  Unbelievers can bury the dead.  Only believers can do the work of the Lord.  We need more Christian workers.  There is more to what I'm saying than just going on to worldly success.  It includes the temptations for these celebrities that are emulated.  How many of them stay pure in their secular roles?

I would assume that Nate Oats or Tom Allen would have benefited from their time at Maranatha.  I'm sure that the biblical teaching still helps them and comes out in what they do.  However, can they really live all of the Bible and remain in those positions?  Should this not be taken into consideration in what they do?

I'm talking about this kind of thing, now probably required to be in this position, but is it true?  As a Christian can you represent the truth as a celebrity?

Scripture doesn't exalt the tentmaking of the Apostle Paul.  When the disciples came back from evangelism in Luke 10 and they talked about the devils being subject to them in Jesus' name, the Lord said, "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven."  Even certain good things He did not want them to promote.  Paul's celebrity he called, "dung."  Whatever he could glorify in a secular sense, he counted as loss.  None of it was important.

If someone is a hardworking breadwinner, of good character, and a faithful husband and father, celebrity will not come from that.  As churches, we don't want to emphasize what the world sees as popular or important.  In certain instances, we want to rebuke it or repudiate it.  Celebrity should not stop us from doing that, just because we feel the glow from the celebrity or the knowledge of the celebrity.  It adds nothing to the value of Christ, His life and truth, and His institution.

I include in this essay my own son.  He graduated first in his class from a charter school and was accepted at West Point.  He served in the United States embassy in Poland.  He's a Captain in the U. S. Army, who has qualified for special forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  What difference does any of that make if he's not faithful to God?  Is any of that any better than if I reported that he was a local manager at a 7-11 and in his church, evangelizing weekly and living for Jesus Christ?  I don't believe so.  All of his accomplishments should be nothing but a means to an end.  If it gets in the way of his faithfulness to God, it should not be celebrated.  Like I said above, it should be mourned.  If he can't and is not going to use it for God, then it is worthless.  It means nothing.  I see the Army as a potential threat of what is eternal and of true importance.  I tell him that all the time.  He assures me he wants to be used of God.  I will be happy if that is the case.  If I say anything on this blog about what he's doing, it's because I have people read here who know the family and would want to know what's happening.

The instinct in evangelicalism and now fundamentalism toward celebrity is a destructive one.  It won't help.  It could only hurt.  If believers reach celebrity, we should not celebrate the celebrity.  We should rejoice only that their names are written down in heaven.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Masculine Pastors: The Battle They Face and Will Face Even More

The two most common observations I read and hear about manhood today are some kind of (1) tortured masculinity and then (2) decreasing masculinity.  Men are either participating in a type of warped manhood or are more effeminate.  The two are related.

I like writing and talking about tortured or warped manhood, under which is a category I call, "fake manhood," but for now I want to focus on something else I've covered in recent days (herehere, here, and here), effeminacy, and especially as it applies to pastors.  When I was a child, we watched a television series called, The Waltons, which was a church going family in Virginia.  The "Baptist" pastor was soft speaking, appearing, and acting.  Most movie presentations of Jesus make Him the same type of character.  I'm finding that this is now what is expected of a pastor, if he truly is in a modern estimation to manifest the 'virtues of Christ.'  He must take on that pop understanding of Jesus.

I observe and sense myself a major societal push toward a pastor can't be both a real man and a pastor, because many, if not most today, buy into the concept of "toxic masculinity," where real masculinity is seen as unacceptable.  Since I've been a pastor, I've been clued into this for awhile, but I've been reminded of it again and again.  Many times, people pull out an expectation of softness or gentleness, essentially capitulation as a fulfillment of pastoral qualification, to fit my office.

At 55 years of age, I no longer participate in competitive sports.  When I did, if, as a pastor, I competed hard, like a man, some took offense to that kind of intensity, and would suggest this wasn't fitting of the office. Should the activity or manner of a pastor be conformed to others' perception of what they think he should be?

Manly talk manifests characteristics of manhood:  strength, confidence, and tenacity.  My experience with the men of my generation and older is that as a whole they speak in a different way than younger generations of men, the same for pastors.  In general they lack the before ascribed qualities.

In addition, the old way of talking as a man is now not tolerated, especially by the younger generation.  They don't want the kind of talk that comes from older men.  When the younger generation wants to say whatever it wants to say, it expects capitulation from the older.  The younger may term the older, "thinskinned."  What I often hear from the younger generation is what my generation calls a "smart mouth," which has a definition:  "an ability or tendency to make impertinent retorts; impudence."  My generation didn't tolerate a smart mouth.  Today it is expected.

Today many of a softer generation would see the strength of a former to be an instinct to authoritarianism.  Every generation sees some tendency to authoritarian leadership.  Today talking with a command voice and speaking with authority is confused for authoritarianism.  Authoritarians do both, but being a leader necessitates authority, which also requires both command voice and authoritative manner.

I understand that there are verses that taken apart from the rest of scripture might seem to portray a softer view of a church leader.  Two come to mind.
2 Timothy 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 
Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
"Be gentle" and "soft answer" are popular requirements for pastors from people who want gentleness and softness.  I'm not rejecting those two verses.  I'm saying they've got to be taken into the context of much more required of the other kind of speech or style for men.

A lot of places in both the Old and New Testaments remind me of what a younger generation doesn't want to hear.  There are so many of them from the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul.  The latter, writing about the false teachers among the Galatians, said in Galatians 5:12, "I would they were even cut off which trouble you."  Concerning those who said that circumcision should be added to grace, Paul would that they would be mutilated, in essence a botched circumcision to paint the picture.

The Apostle Paul informed Titus (2:15) to "speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee."  As much as Titus might receive opposition for teaching what Paul wrote in Titus 2, today it might be worse.  We need men who will rebuke, like Paul did when he withstood Peter to the face, with all authority.  Then, how does a pastor obey the command, "let no man despise thee"?  People go ahead and despise, so what do you do about that?  You either don't allow it, if possible, and then stand up to it.  That's the kind of strength of manhood that we need from leaders in churches that we are getting so seldom today, in part because of a challenge against manhood in this culture.