Monday, February 27, 2012

Meyers Park Baptist Church – Exemplar of Apostasy

I do not use apostasy casually. The word is a sober one, demanding only the most serious treatment. One should only use the word with the greatest care and always in an atmosphere of humility. After all, we are all sinners saved by grace. We all have a sinful bend and a heart unworthy of even our own trust. Apostasy comes about in a variety of ways. Sometimes people defect from the faith quickly. In first century Christianity, we find that some men in Galatia quickly defected from the true gospel. The apostle Paul was thaumazo, amazed at these men’s behavior. This word amazed means that Paul was exceptionally disturbed by the fact that these Galatian men had actually adopted a works-based system after having received the gospel of grace. Paul was marveled, or beside himself over this behavior. Hence, it follows that apostasy indeed occurs and that our response to it should be amazement. It equally follows that we do not have the luxury of sitting back on our backside and do nothing about it. This blog is not intended to be mean or nasty toward Meyers Park Baptist Church. On the contrary it is to provide you with one more example of why gay marriage will eventually be a reality and how to respond to those who take up the initiative’s cause.

Reverend H. Stephen Shoemaker serves as Senior Minister at Meyers Park Baptist. On Feb. 25th Meyers Park Baptist, under the leadership of Rev. Shoemaker held a rally opposing the NC initiative to outline the legal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. I should mention that there was a huge crowd of 100 people. Since this number was reported by the media, we can probably assume that it is inflated. Rev. Shoemaker, in an attempt to warn every one that passing this law is equivalent of America becoming a theocracy, said that we should be disturbed by the religious majority forcing their interpretation of Scripture upon others by inserting their views into the civil codes. That being said, here is the premise that must obtain in order for Rev. Shoemaker’s argument to be sound. When the civil codes use interpretations of Scripture to shape and form their laws, this translates into theocratic rule. How do we answer Rev. Shoemaker’s argument?

In order to help you understand how liberals operate, I will state it two ways, both of which are accurate representations of the very same assertion. “We should be disturbed when the religious majority imposes their interpretations of Scripture on society by inserting them into the civil code.” That sounds oppressive, doesn’t it? It is probably intended to sound that way. Now, let frame it a bit differently. No one has ever accused liberals of playing fair. Try this construction on for size: “In order to avoid becoming a theocracy, law codes should not have any basis in the interpretation of Scripture.” Now that we have boiled this down to the sine qua non, we can respond to Rev. Shoemaker’s argument.

My response: Rev. Shoemaker, aren’t you relying on your own interpretation of Scripture in order to contend that it is unfair and unjust to forbid gay marriage? In addition, aren’t you trying to change the civil law code based on your own religious group’s interpretation of Scripture or God? Doesn’t this mean that you are just as guilty of creating a theocratic state as those you are warning others about? At this point Rev. Shoemaker should realize that his view is self-referentially defeating. He is guilty of the very thing he told the news media he worries about in others. Namely, he is imposing his own understanding and interpretation of Scripture and of God on the rest of the culture. The truth is that Rev. Shoemaker does not have a problem with a theocracy. He has a problem with a certain type of theocracy. He doesn’t want the conservative theocracy.

The fact is that all law code involves one’s interpretation of Scripture or God in one way or another. That is to say, there is no such thing as neutrality. Rev. Shoemaker should know better. Where does the law prohibiting polygamy find its basis? The whole idea of law finds it basis in God. God comes to us via revelation. Someone must interpret that revelation. In essence, what Rev. Shoemaker advocates is literally impossible. Without God’s revelation, there is no basis for civil law.

Rev. Shoemaker’s idea that outlawing gay marriage is religious oppression fails entirely as mentioned above. We could say that at best, Rev. Shoemaker merely wishes to exchange one type of oppression for another given his argument. Second, I have shown that it is literally impossible to achieve neutrality when forming civil codes because at their foundation, they betray some view of God and Scripture unavoidably. Why this view versus that view? Neutrality is a myth. Finally, every law code actually has their basis in God’s law. Without God’s law there is no basis for justice. The idea of justice is unsupportable unless God truly exists and unless He has revealed something of His nature to humanity.

This brings us to the question of God’s view of gay marriage. Scripture expressly condemns the homosexual choice along with all homosexual behavior beginning with the history of Sodom and Gomorrah. Romans 1 refers to homosexual behavior is impure and dishonorable and categorizes it as punishment from God upon those who refuse to honor God rightly. Again in 1 Cor. 6:9 Paul tells us that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God and places them in the same category as deceivers, fornicators, idolatry, drunks, and swindlers. Clearly one must have a totally unorthodox view of Scripture not to mention a radically postmodern approach to hermeneutics in order to arrive at any view other than the Bible’s outright condemnation of homosexuality. However, that is another subject for another time.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Relationship between Gay Marriage and Divorce:

How the Shaping of Young Attitudes concerning Divorce Ensures the Inevitable Success of Gay Marriage

The irony is nearly impossible to miss for those who have exercised their spiritual senses. I have observed what I believe is the schizophrenic behavior of Church leaders in modern times with amazement and utter bewilderment. Schizophrenic behavior manifests itself in hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking and speech. It seems to me that modern Church leaders are manifesting, to one degree or another, every one of these symptoms. The Church is in the middle of a heated battle for the institution of marriage. Just as she lost the battle over abortion, she will eventually lose this battle as well. Any field general will tell you that a million M-16 riffles are very intimidating on the battlefield. However, once the enemy determines there are no bullets in them or that the weapons were disabled for the parade, a man with a pocketknife would not be warned from the object.

The Young Generation’s Attitude toward Gay Marriage

According to Pew Research people in their forties and fifties oppose gay marriage by a two to one margin. If you look at people in their sixties and seventies, that number moves to four to one. You have to move to people in their early thirties before the numbers turn positive and the younger one is, the more likely they are to favor the idea down through the teenage years. When you pass through the teenage years, the numbers turn negative again. This is likely due to parental influence.

I have a friend who works as a nurse and is strongly in favor of the autonomous homosexual lifestyle. When confronted with the numerous health risks related to the homosexual lifestyle she concludes that the reports are the result of mere biased Christian propaganda without even the slightest bit of investigation. She is in her thirties. She has never bothered to research the issue for herself. She simply believes what she wants to believe and no amount of objective evidence is going to change her mind. The younger generation, both in and out of the church, in western culture has severed nearly all authority. They believe they know better simply because they want to believe they know better. They have no compunction to engage in critical thinking or to present a reasoned debate for why they are right. This is a generation raised to do whatever it wanted to do. They were taught unbridled tolerance, that self-esteem is god, that you can be or do whatever you want, and that you have a right to have it your way, and that unbridled hedonism is part of the American dream which they are free to pursue without restraint. They have taken these ideologies very seriously and quite literally, and we are beginning to see the fruit of this labor. The most important thing to the younger generation is the same as it was when they were children: what they want. They are determined to have what they want when they want it, and now that they are adults, no one or nothing will stand in their way.

Contributors to the Younger Generation’s Attitude toward Marriage

In Matthew chapter five, Jesus informed us that we, the true church, are a light on a hill, a city that cannot be hid. One of the natural functions of the true church is to serve as a restrainer of sorts in all things ethical and moral within its respective culture. We help preserve that moral fingerprint God has impressed on the individual conscience within the framework of the culture. While the individual will never entirely lose this fingerprint, they do tend to wander from it. In fact, they will wander as far as the culture wanders. The culture is that outward, visible limiting force that helps keep society morally ordered. As more individuals slowly push those limits and the culture moves its boundaries, morality slowly erodes under the pressure. Enter the Church! But all is not well with the church. Several years ago, how the church viewed the reliability, authority, and credibility of Scripture slowly began to change. What were once small elements of radical beliefs and praxis in the church began to gain prominence and respectability. Soon these radical beliefs were just as respectable as the norm. Then, before we realized it, they became the norm. The view of Scripture was reduced considerably, in practice if not in confession. Along with this, people’s behavior, unrestrained by the sacred text, which was not so sacred any longer, also changed. One of the most devastating changes was the church’s refusal to hold members to the confession. Church membership was reduced to signing a card and pledging along the broadest of lines. In some cases, an atheist could qualify for church membership. Doctrine fell into disrepute as cultural relevance and relationship along with hedonistic entertainment became the goal. Pastors abandoned the old-time gospel and began to see themselves as spiritual professionals. They would spend more time studying church management, marketing, and growth than they would Greek and Hebrew. This trend continues to this very day. Church became a place for relationships, entertainment, and self-help. Jesus became my personal self-help guru. Those who wanted simple bible-study were and are accused of bibliolatry.

What has contributed the most to the young generations view on gay marriage?

Given the pathetic and miserable conditions in the church where there is no discipline, no discipleship, no genuinely biblical relationships, no accountability, no sound preaching, very little bible study, it only follows that conditions in the home would only worsen. And worsen they did. Kids would observe mom and dad attend church and put on a fake smile and fake piety and then witness no effort whatever to live as godly examples in the home. If a young teenager read the bible, they would quickly realize that almost no one really believes this, because no one really lives it. And then, the divorce rates inside and outside the church began to rocket upward. Dad would get caught cheating. Mom would demonstrate no regard for her husband, the father of her children. There is abuse and all sorts of evil and almost no display of godly love. Marriage, along with nearly every other Christian distinctive became a joke in the home and kids stopped taking it so seriously. In essence, for this younger generation, Christianity looked good on paper, but no one really believed it because no one really did it. Why should the younger generation believe in the institution of marriage if they can’t even believe in the institution of the church? Without a credible church, there can be no credible institution of marriage! When the church abandoned Scripture in pursuit of self-help, hedonism, entertainment, popularity, relationships, and everything except Christ, then whatever institution required Scripture as its foundation inevitably was doomed to collapse. Marriage, in no small degree, rests squarely on the revelation of God. This is God’s design for humanity. Make no mistake about it: gay marriage will not lead to the dismissal of divine revelation. Rather, it is precisely this dismissal of divine revelation that has led to the collapse of the institution of marriage and the subsequent success of the gay agenda to legalize same sex marriage.

Contributors to the Contributors to the Younger Generation’s Attitude toward Marriage

Outside of the dismissal of Scriptural authority in all things pertaining to life, the single greatest contributor to the younger generation’s attitude toward marriage is the attitude of the Church itself toward the institution of marriage. When the church refuses to get involved in the divorce crises that confronts western culture, she injects fuel into the tank of the gay marriage initiative so that the engine can continue to operate. The church argues that gay marriage is wrong because it compromises the institution of marriage, which God Himself has established. Yet the world will answer, “You do not take this institution of marriage any more serious than the rest of us.” What can the church answer to this charge? The world is right. Every church that sits by idly and does nothing to confront the sin of divorce can be placed on the list of “largest contributors” to the gay marriage agenda. You are a hypocrite of the first rank if you condemn gay marriage and engage in unbiblical divorce. You have no more respect for the divine institution of marriage than the homosexual. The church that sits on the sideline in the face of divorce and is passive when couples head to court to end their marriage is hypocritical when she attempts to stand up and condemn gay marriage. When the church allows members to divorce without publically dealing with it, she sends all sorts of unacceptable signals to the young men and women in her community. Marriage is not really that important! Divorce really isn’t that bad. And if this is the case, why then is gay marriage such a bad idea? Such churches are powerless to provide any truly rational and meaningful response to such objections.

The church loses her credibility to speak out and influence when she refuses to openly demonstrate her commitment to that thing she says she is really committed to. Moreover, the issue becomes reduced to a political one. And when that happens, the whole idea is reduced to a matter of one preference versus another. In the end, the church, the one who fights against gay marriage more openly than any other entity, can largely be said to be the one entity that is mostly responsible for the inevitable legalization of gay marriage or unions. That is a very sad commentary on the undeniable state of affairs that have obtained in the modern, visible church of the west.

However, there is the true church that has not been defeated, is not exhausted, and she does not sleep. She is a adversary to her antagonist unlike anything he has ever encountered. She is tenaciously bound to the truth and will discharge her last ounce of blood to preserve it. She is overflowing with God’s Spirit and incased in His righteousness. This church, the true church takes action when people’s marriages encounter trouble. She is there as an ever present help in time of need. And when leaven move stealthily in and rejects God’s design, this church is not frightened to read the names of the obstinate before the world. God’s commandment is more important to her than conciliation. She is both a gentle loving influence in her communities as well as an immoveable force refusing to compromise and bend to the sinful whims of her culture. There are men of God in these Churches who are humble lovers of Christ and His word, as well as His people. They will bend over backwards to help a sheep regain its footing, but not an ounce to please the sinful sensual desires of ungrateful sinners whose lives remain in darkness. Love, truth, and unity are the hallmarks of these churches. They care for one another enough to maintain truth and unity within a framework of godly accountability. When these churches condemn homosexual marriage, they have a reputation that lends credibility to their argument. God grant us all grace to walk as true believers, worthy of the calling by which we have been called.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Response to Ricky Gervais – Sending Gays to Hell is Child Abuse

In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Hollywood comedian Ricky Gervais says he believes that telling a child that gays will go to hell is “child abuse.”

Notice the quote, “You have the right to be offended and I have the right to offend you." I wonder if Gervais means freedom or if he really means “right.” There is a huge difference between the two. Anyways, I digress. I find it completely outrageous that Gervais, in one breath argues that parents do not have the “right” to impart their religious beliefs to the children without being accused of “child abuse.” Such an indictment is arrogant, obnoxious and extremely hypocritical as one can easily see. On the other hand Gervais seems to think it his “right” to engage in behavior that he knows will offend millions of Christians. Moreover, he also thinks that homosexuals have the “right” to engage in the deviant practice of same-sex intercourse. In addition, he thinks we have a “right” to be offended by his “right” to offend. However, it also seems that Gervais thinks the one thing that no one has the “right” to do is impart their deeply held religious ideas to their children. This is where we end up in Gervais’ world, folks. I would be willing to wager that Gervais thinks he should be able to impart his atheistic beliefs to his children without outside interference.He begins with the “gays are going to hell” doctrine, but what he means is any suggestion of hell in any dogma whatever. Surely if it is child abuse to teach your kids that gays are going to hell, then it is even more abusive to teach them that good people who do lots of relatively good works as far as man is concerned are going to hell also.

Is this really about “gays going to hell?” Is it even about “child abuse?” I do not think so. I think it is about a secularist worldview that is determined to rub anything that resembles biblical Christianity out of the public square. This is the mask of autonomy, folks. We need to see each one of these movements, teachings, philosophies, worldviews for what they really are: διδασκαλίαις δαιμονίων. Teachings of demons. Now I don’t say this so candidly because I desire to get in anyone’s face or fight. I say it because this is what Paul called them in I Tim. 4:2. Have we not reached the end of our ropes around of the smoothing over of teachings and views that are the outright enemies of the faith? Must we sit back and extend “respect” to every vile demonic view this world has to offer? When are we going to realize that such soft, gentle responses are interpreted by those within and without the church to mean that these views are just small differences of opinion. Take a look at evangelicalism and the condition in which she finds herself today. She did not get there by maintaining a firm resolve to call demonic teaching what it is. She did not get here by referring to heresy as heresy. How did she get here? She got here first and foremost by caring too much about how the world would respond or not respond to the truth of the gospel! She pondered for too long on how she could gain an audience from the world. Hence, gaining an audience became more important to her than delivering God's pure message. She wanted to be respected by those who have not the slightest respect for God!

Pastors started resembling politicians more than prophets. Church members were given power and control because they were the highest contributors. Doctrine was placed out on the parameter while relationships took center stage. Academic respectability engulfed our seminaries and we gave up a young earth, inspiration, infallibility, and now sola Scriptura. Worship disappeared behind contemporary music which is now being replaced with dancers, shows, and even secular rock concerts.

The sad truth is that there are Christians who have been in “the way” for 20 years or better who could not even begin to react biblically to Gervais. They stopped thinking years ago and have no interest in connecting with Scripture intellectually. Dogma doesn’t matter. All that matters are social changes and relationships. This is an indictment against leadership everywhere the condition exists. Thank God for those churches who are insisting on serious church membership covenants, discipleship programs, intimate relationships within the community, and a high view of Scripture. They are small in number but mighty in Spirit. These are the churches that will stand firm against the sins of the culture. They will be able to identify ungodly thinking, false doctrine, a false gospel, and respond to attacks by people like Gervais without flinching and with complete confidence.

Surely if Gervais has a “right” to think that homosexuality is morally normal, Christians have a “right” to think that it is not. Surely, Gervais recognizes that we have a “right” to disagree with him on this issue. By accusing biblical Christians of being guilty of child abuse, Ricky Gervais is contending that Christians are unfit parents and do not have the “right” to have children of their own. Gervais is arguing that we must accept his personal morality for how children ought to be raised. Ricky Gervais is an atheist. As such, I wonder what informs Ricky’s morality. Why is it really, really, wrong or bad for a parent to teach their children that homosexual behavior invokes the wrath of God? Would Ricky argue that humans have a “right” to engage in whatever sex they wish? In the atheist worldview, I wonder where Ricky gets his moral knowledge. And if there are normative standards governing human sexuality, where do they come from? How do we know? If the majority said that pedophilia and bestiality are acceptable, would that make it so?

We must begin to respond to these sorts of arguments with sound critical thinking skills. All human predication has its source in God. Therefore, Christians, being restored to His image in regeneration should think better than their counterparts, the unregenerate. λογισμοὺς καθαιροῦντες, we are destroying speculations that ἐπαιρόμενον κατὰ τῆς γνώσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, are raising themselves up against the knowledge of God. For this is the true knowledge.

As Christians we love homosexuals the same as any other unbeliever caught in the deception of sin for we were all once caught in the deception of sin, helpless and without God in the world. But God, by His mercy saved us. At the same time, it seems that the homosexual movement has a core desire to end biblical Christianity and that is one aspect of the movement that seems different from others. For example, the liar and adulterer know they are behaving wickedly. They do not demand that the church simply accept their behavior as normative. We cannot say this for much of the modern homosexual movement. See it for what it actually is. See Gervais' comments for what they actually are: one more secular attack against anything and everything that is biblical Christianity. It is not just another view with which we respectfully disagree. It is a view that we loving and gently, but directly must call demonic, with all due respect to Ricky Gervais. We can show respect to the holder of a view while at the same time relegating it to the ash heap which is where it belongs.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Christianity’s Biggest Threat – The Visible Church

Before I talk about what this blog is, let me first state what it is not: it is not an attack on organized religion. It is not an attack on denominations or denominationalism. Finally, it is not an attack on the idea of structure of organization within the Church, the body of Jesus Christ. Actually, it is not an attack at all. This blog is more of an observation than it is anything else, coupled with a few warnings here and there. It is an observation on what modern, western culture has come to recognize as “Christianity.”

A friend recently sent me an article regarding the Mars Hill Church where Mark Driscoll serves as pastor. The article gave a sense of overall disdain for the process of discipline. It even associated the practice of discipline, albeit loosely, with the concept of a cult. Now I do not know anything about the specific case that provoked yet one more controversy involving Mark Driscoll. That is not my point. My point is the individualistic, autonomous thinking that serves to govern the thinking of most Christians in the current era.

The visible church has become so broad that it is nearly impossible to refer to the church with any real meaning. For example, take a look at this. This is supposed to be a worship service. And again. Is it any wonder that Christianity has become an anti-intellectual, undisciplined, hedonistic religion in some western cultures? Here is a parody of the modern church service that drives the point home. The modern, young, hipster pastor sees himself as far more profound that he actually is. When one examines these worship services what they find is 99.9% entertainment and .1% something else. Couple the young hipster movement with unbelief in modern biblical scholarship and you end up with dogma and praxis that resembles nothing like the Christianity described in Scripture. The young hipsters seem to want to dismiss every effort of exegetical work that has gone before them and start over. Moreover, they are far more interested in God making them feel good about themselves and providing them with a platform to continue to engage in their hedonism. The conscience seems completely seared, closed off to historical orthodoxy in just about every way. Contrast this with this and if you can’t tell any difference, then I recommend you place your faith in Christ immediately and beg God to open the eyes of your heart. Again, compare this with this. Finally, compare this with this.

Persecution, imprisonment, death, beatings, and threats all failed to deter the Church in its pursuit of service to her King. She strengthened her resolve to follow her Master. Atheists and ungodly philosophers have been opposing the Church for centuries with no progress. It seems that all the outside threats the world has ever launched against the Church have all been turned back, and successfully resisted. It is the internal threats that have always posed the greatest threat to the fabric and integrity of the one true Church.

The apostle Paul pointed to this threat very early in the history of the Church. In Acts 20:30, Paul says that “from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things.” The teachings of wicked and deceived men lead to pernicious dogma and wicked behavior. It was a strategic move of Satan to persuade the Church a few years back that doctrine was not important. Of course, Satan did not just convince men of this. He mixed this wicked lie with truth. He convinced the church to focus on relationships, which they should do. But he convinced them that doctrine stood in the way of relationships. Men believed the lie and now, some 30 years of this thinking has brought us to the place where Ozzie Osborn, Journey, and other secular songs have replaced Amazing Grace in our worship service and we have men in the pastorate who are too spiritually dense to recognize why this is wrong.

The Church has a structure that has been put in place by God. In the above passage, Paul refers to the Ephesian elders as bishops over God’s flock. This word bishop involves a kind of guardianship. The episkopos, in Louw-NIda’s words must be viewed in balance between service and leadership. These men possess an extension granted to them so long as they remain within the confines of God’s law. God has charged bishops with the care of the believing community. Both Protestants and Catholics seem to have abandoned the biblical view of the relationship between the bishop and the congregation he is responsible for guarding. On the one hand, Protestants have adopted a radical individualist approach to everything, including their place in the body of Christ. Both pastors and individual believers see themselves as having complete right to formulate their own hermeneutic, exegetical method, and system of theology without any requirement whatever to subject it to the oversight of anyone. This thinking produces the kind of nonsense previously mentioned. On the other hand, the Roman Catholics argue for an authority of the church and a guarantee against error that simply is nowhere to be found in Scripture. In her effort to defend herself, she ends up arguing in a vicious circle, appealing to the authority of the Church in order to establish the authority of the Church. Rather than guard against error, what the Catholic dogma ends up doing is to guard against recovery from error. After all, how can you recover from an error you were guaranteed not to have fallen victim to?

Paul informs Timothy that some will fall away from the faith in the last times. They will give their time and attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. The word prosecho means to consider carefully with the possible implication of agreement. Acts 8:6 says, “The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing.” The modern church is repelled by the very notion that any teaching could be deceptive. In fact, I listened to a debate today on the subject of textual criticism and the moderator told the audience they did not want to even call it a debate or an argument. They preferred to refer to it as a dialogue. We have lost our stomach for confrontation. We have lost our nerve in modern culture. The self-esteem movement has resulted in the neutering of truth. However, Paul had strong words for false teaching and false teachers. The second thing these people will pay attention to is demonic teachings. Now, this must mean there are demonic teachings that exist. Paul said as much. Yet, in our culture, no one calls a teaching a demonic teaching. Moreover, I can’t think of a faster way to marginalize yourself than to accuse someone of propagating doctrines of demons. This culture has removed the essential presuppositions necessary to accept the exclusive claims of Scripture. This is no less true in the visible church than it is the world.

The rejection of authority and the widespread ignorance in the modern church of the doctrine of sola scriptura has opened the floodgates to deviant behavior and doctrines of all kinds. The true church of Jesus Christ must find the intestinal fortitude to stand up and defend the apostolic tradition, the faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ more than ever if she is to please her Master. True believers truly want to serve the one true God with all their being. The rest see community as one more way to fulfill their hedonistic way of life. True Christians know they have lost their lives and found them only in Christ. The degree by which the church has put off Christ and authority varies. In the above links, some of this is rebellion and hedonistic behavior is obvious. However, religious masks come in all forms. In the end, Christ is the head of the church. He has revealed God to us in the incarnation and given us the authoritative Scripture to serve as our standard. But to one degree or another, the visible church has replaced that standard with popes, bishops, cardinals, pastors, elders, deacons, boards, and presbyteries.

Clearly, the greatest threat to the Christian community is the visible church with all her heresies, her power hungry pastors, elders, bishops, cardinals and popes. These leaders create a rich soil and fertile ground in which all sorts of ungodly teachings, pernicious behavior, and blatant rebellion can flourish all in the name of Christian freedom and liberty of conscience. The modern hipster pastors seem to me to be rock-star wannabes. And even in the more traditional churches we see leaders far more interested in avoiding conflict and pacifying wicked hearts in order to keep the giving and attendance up. There seems to be no length to which the visible church will go in order to sustain itself. Given these links demonstrating the condition of contemporary worship serves today, one is left to wonder what she will look like 10, 20, or 30 years from now.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Modern Christianity’s Biggest Problem: It is too Easy!

The biggest problem facing Christianity in the present age is its lack of definiteness. What do I mean? I mean that saying you are a Christian has about as much meaning as saying you are political. When a person says they are a sports fan, the first question that comes to mind is, “What kind of sports fan?” Are you a football fan? Are you a professional or college football fan? You get the point. To say one is a sports fan tells you something, but not much more than that. Today, Christianity has become so broad in its definition that saying you are a Christian, in modern culture, here in the West at least, is nearly meaningless. Now, for those in other parts of the world, that may seem shocking. In many places on this little dot we call earth, calling yourself a Christian could get you killed. You see, in those places, when you say you are a Christian; that means something very specific. And in the Greco-Roman culture, and especially in Palestine, around the first and second century, it meant something very specific then as well.

What do I mean when I say that Christianity’s biggest problem is that it is too easy? Well, apart from a little hyperbole to arrest your attention, I mean that Christianity has become, for the most part, one of the world’s most undefined religions. There was a time that becoming part of the Christian group was the most radical thing a person could do. I can remember when I was a young teenager; even then, becoming a Christian was an extremely serious step. It meant that your life was going to be significantly different. It was a very big deal. Today, being a Christian is not really a big deal. Everyone is a Christian. Even people in other religions are Christians in the mind of some. When you think about it, it really is stupid, but that is the way things are in modern, American, western culture. What is the cure? Some say that we don’t need a cure. Some say we are making progress. You see, I work out in the real world. I am not hid in some seminary teaching future pastors how to exegete the text. I am not a full time pastor living a life predominately surrounded by the white walls of the church. Every day, I am down in the pits with people who unashamedly hate Christianity and are not shy about it, as well as with people who say they are Christian without having the first clue what a Christian is. I am with folks who are simply unregenerate men and women living their lives the best they know how – according to the lusts of their own heart. I have conversations with people all the time who say Christianity is a joke. Other people have the “to each his own” attitude. Some are downright hostile. However, most think they are Christian because they give Jesus a wink and a nod.

Christian Leaders – Pastors and Scholars

As with any other problem with followers, the blame can be assigned, to a large degree to the leaders. We have seminary professors teaching future pastors how to be pastors when they themselves do not believe the gospel. You can send a young man filled with enthusiasm about the rewarding work of the ministry off to seminary where he will be taught by lettered men who deny the virgin birth, a literal bodily resurrection, the miracle of the six-day creation, the exclusivity of Christianity, and the truthfulness of Scripture. These wolves work at seminaries who claim to be conservative. Moreover, the church does next to nothing about them. We treat these differences as small ancillary matters that we must navigate with kindness and respect. It is no wonder they produce the kind of pastors we see filling the pulpits today. The truth is we should them from the community once we discover their faith is false.

Pastors are just as bad and even worse than the professors who taught them. They view the ministry as a career. They see themselves as “in charge” of things. They love the attention people pay them. They love being the “go-to” person. They love their ability to influence people. It is a massive ego trip for them. Such is human nature. It is a nasty temptation with which they have to do. Yet, resist it they must. Many pastors spend their time working on their style, their delivery, their gravitas. They are not unlike previous political administrations that lead by straw poll. They try to figure out which way the political winds are blowing and that is how they make decisions. They are more concerned with fads and fashions than they are with true faith and godly living. They have tied their material possessions to their income which is tied to their ministry. And they are not willing to place those things are risk in order to defend that which is right and true and just. They deny Scripture, pervert dogma, invent programs, and do all they can to retain that which they have come to love: their status.

The Christian Community – The Scourge of the Church

Leaders and pastors who fail in their duty to preserve, promulgate and procure the truth of Scripture inevitably produce communities that do the same thing. They end up with members who reject that idea of an infallible Scripture. They deny the authoritative nature of the Bible. They reject the miracle truth-claims of the text. When Scripture threatens their lifestyle, the come up with numerous ways to contort and bend it just the way they need to in order to retain the comfort level they so enjoy. Today, Christians engage in homosexual relationship, they live together outside the bonds of marriage, they engage in sexual promiscuity without flinching arguing that God knows that no one is perfect. Christians are engaging in and supporting abortion on demand. They deny an eternal hell. They use language that would make many unbelievers blush without hesitation. They lie, cheat, steal, hate, slander, gossip and just about every other deviant behavior you can dream up. You see, these are no longer viewed as intolerable, ungodly acts of pernicious evil, but simply as imperfections that God understands.

Christian leaders and their communities no longer have the stomach to remove reprobates from among them. They no longer have such high regard for Christ and for His one true church that they are willing to keep her pure. Moreover, they do not love those caught in sin enough to actually give them the real medicine that makes a real difference in their life. You see, that is unpopular, risky, and hard. Today’s leaders would rather excuse this behavior and, as a crutch, call on the supposed grace of God who supposedly understands Christians that live a lifestyle of predominant sin without the slightest regard for the Christ they offend with their behavior. He understands must understand.

The Cure – Old Fashioned Persecution more of a blessing than we realize

Some of this behavior can be traced back to what I call the great apostasy. I am not convinced that the apostasy prophesied by Paul has not already taken place. Before you go accusing me of being a Preterist, let me explain. Paul warns the Thessalonians about a coming apostasy that seems to be a quite a large scale. This is an event that must see the visible church moving away from sound teaching and praxis in preference for wanton pleasures. Up until the fourth century, the Christian movement suffered tremendous persecution. This persecution helped to guard the church from developing predominant appetites for worldly behavior. In essence, persecution was a blessing in disguise. While it did not keep all heresy at bay, it certainly helped the church keep her focus on the things that really matter, like the gospel and discipleship. Enter Constantine who, in an attempt to keep the Roman Empire together, converted to Christianity and outlawed persecution with the Edict of Milan. While many rejoice in this move, I think it may have been the first move toward paving the way for the wholesale apostasy of many in the visible church. Not long after this, in fact within 100 years after this event, Theodosius I made Christianity the state religion and actually outlawed paganism. This event served to transform the church from a humble, spiritual religious entity to a political power. The focus shifted from simple preaching and Christian praxis to power and politics. Men began to buy bishoprics and there are cases where children as young as 10 and perhaps younger were appointed as bishops due to the political importance of their family. This imperialist structure soon enveloped the church. The church continues to suffer from this philosophy seated deep in our thinking.

There are pastors who pound their chest from the pulpit saying they would die for Jesus. They would rather die before compromising the gospel. Yet, when given the opportunity to step out from behind the pulpit and actually execute on doing the right thing as opposed to just sounding pious, they wilt. There are men who say they would die for Jesus but won’t even remain sexually pure for Him. There are women who say that Jesus is their Lord and Master, and that they would die for him but somehow can’t even remain married to their husband for Jesus. How does this work?

Maybe if we began to experience real persecution, the visible church would once against begin to move a little closer to the true church. There will always be those in the church who are hypocrites and who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. The point is that when we see them, we must act. We move in love to correct and reprove those who are in doctrinal error or moral failure. We humbly and lovingly confront, seeking to restore. In the end, if those we wish to restore reject our efforts, we must insist on the purity of the Christian community. We do this by removing rebellious and impious individuals from the group so that others might realize that Christianity is not as broad as some think.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


ἀνὴρ δίψυχος, ἀκατάστατος ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτοῦ. In other words, like, in English words, and as your Bible probably reads, “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Double-mindedness is no small behavior according to James. Now, before I engage in the worse kind of anachronism, I need to place James’ comments in their proper context. James’ audience is the scattered tribes. James is writing to Jews who have been scattered abroad. These Jews are those who live outside of Jerusalem, most likely because of Agrippa’s persecution. The letter was likely the very first NT document, written sometime during in the mid to late 40s. Some may wonder about the identity of the author James. Without going into arguments for or against, consensus is that James, the just, the brother of our Lord wrote this letter.

Δίψυχος, or double-minded is used twice in the NT, both occurrences are in James. According to James, double-mindedness and doubt are identical. This man, as one looks at v. 6 is one who doubts. This goes to certainty. The Greek word translated doubt here means, “to think that something may not be true or certain.” Clearly, James is telling us that to engage in διακρινόμενος is sinful. In this context, doubting has to do with one believing that God will respond to a petition for wisdom. But the lecture James delivers seems to extend beyond just this immediate context. The idea being expressed here is one of a soul that is caught between the world and faith. This is seen in Augustine’s famous prayer, “Lord, grant me purity, but not yet.” Double-mindedness does not only lead to despair or lend itself to despair, but it is despair.

The idea emerges again in James 4 where James talks the source of divisions within the Christian community. What causes these ugly divisions? What causes sin? What causes immorality? James says it is an antithetical lust against the things of God. He says in 4:4 that anyone who wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Is that what you want? Nevertheless, in our culture, pastors and churches busy themselves day in and day out in their attempts to win the world to their church. They seek out those who could be classed as nothing short of despisers of God and they bring them in, suit them up, baptize them, and pronounce them saved by the blood of the lamb because they made a decision for Jesus. Over the course of time, given enough time, you end up with a 1,000 member church, filled mostly with practical atheists for all intents and purposes. These are double-minded hypocrites who seek to befriend the world, all the while attempting to retain their friendship with God. James said this will simply not do. In v. 5 he says, “or do you think that Scripture speaks in vain?” Regrettably, I do think that practically speaking, many of these churches and pastors act as if the Scripture actually does speak in vain. Steve Furtick’s code-orange revival is a perfect example of this. James MacDonald’s T.D. Jakes controversy is another example of this. Any church that does not take relationship, discipleship, discipline, unity, and Scripture seriously practically treats Scripture is if it does speak in vain.

Scholarship is filled with double-minded men. They want to hold to a high view of Scripture and evolutionary theory at the same time. They have engineered a variety of strategies designed to support their aspirations over the years. They want God and the idols within science so-called as well. There are those who wish to hold to the Christ event while at the same time finding a way to accept the homosexual choice as morally legitimate. They want the world and God at the same time. There are those who have even found a way to justify the murder of innocent babies through abortion, and they call it respect and love and being sensitive to the victim, I mean mother. The baby is the real victim. Modern leaders desire popularity within the culture. They desire to loved, approved and accepted. This is what the sin of self-love does to us. It is a problem for all of us. Modern scholars lust for academic respectability and willfully compromise fundamental truths of Scripture in an effort to attain it.

The opportunity for double-mindedness is everywhere. John commands us to love not the world, nor the things that are in the world. And then he issues this ominous description of those who ignore his words: “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is no in him.” This love of the world that John is talking about is a love for anything that opposes of the law of God. Whatever oppose the law of God, opposes God. One cannot love God and oppose God at the same time. Such a man is guilty of being double-minded. This man is without control. He has no control over anything is the Greek sense. He is unstable, or without any control whatever. He cannot make up his mind if it is God or the world that is the object of his loyalty.

John Calvin, in his writings on the life of the Christian man had this to say:
“For it is a doctrine not of the tongue but of life. It is not apprehended by the understanding and memory alone, as other disciplines are, but it is received only when it possesses the whole soul, and finds a seat and resting place in the inmost affection of the heart.”
He continues,
“With how much better reason, then, shall we detest these trifling Sophists who are content to roll the gospel on the tips of their tongues when its efficacy ought to penetrate the inmost affections of the heart, take its seat in the soul, and affect the whole man a hundred times more deeply than the cold exhortations of the philosophers!”

Friday, February 3, 2012

T.D. Jakes and Tolerance: A Pernicious Evil (2)

Let us suppose that T.D. Jakes has actually repented on his Modalism and actually adopted the biblical teaching on the trinity. Now, I do not think this is actually the case, just so you know. However, let us assume this actually happened or if it makes you happy, suppose it does happen. If, after examination Mr. Jakes passes the test of orthodoxy on the doctrine of the trinity. How is the church to respond to Mr. Jakes? Is she to open her arms, invite him in and all is forgiven? That is the next “elephant” in the room. If Jakes does his part and satisfies the church that his repentance is genuine, then the church has a responsibility and duty to respond positively, does she not? Well, if this were the only issue with Jakes, the answer would be “of course.”

The problem here is that Modalism is not the only heresy T.D. Jakes has embraced, historically. You see, Jakes embraces another vile and pernicious heresy. T.D. Jakes is one of the most outspoken advocates for the prosperity gospel. This gospel actually teaches that Jesus will make accelerate your life to the top of the charts from a material and temporal perspective if only you have faith. Jesus is viewed as the cure for poverty, sickness, broken marriages, career, or whatever else your heart desires. This gospel teaches that all believers have a right to full health and prosperity in God. If you don’t experience a life of luxury and plenty, the devil or sin must be getting in the way. I suppose unbelief could also be one of the reasons for this lack.

The prosperity gospel is one of the most pernicious forms of Christianity ever to emerge in the history of the Christian church. Many unwitting souls have been duped repeatedly by cavalier preachers who are, at bottom, self-proclaimed prophets, bishops, and pastors. They see themselves as “God’s anointed and their congregations are warned not to question God’s servants! They repeated command their followers not to touch God’s anointed. They manipulate and bully people into going along with everything they want. They are God’s leader and they have an open line with the heavenly Father. God talks to them on a regular basis, after all. Extra-biblical revelation is a weekly occurrence with these heretics. They claim to hear God speak, receive dreams, visions and any number of extravagant supernatural experiences that no one else has.

In order for the Christian community to receive T.D. Jakes, he has to do two things. He must stand up openly and confess that his past views on the godhead were heresy, unacceptable, and sinful. It should explain why he thinks this to be the case. Next, Jakes should explain what has led to his change of heart on the issue of the trinity. Finally, Jakes should provide an explicit statement on how he now understands the nature of the triune God. In so doing, it would be wise for Jakes to cite the church creeds and councils that now reflect his convictions on the doctrine of God.

Finally, Jakes must also repent of the heresy known as the prosperity gospel. Mr. Jakes must follow the very same pattern. He should stand up and leave no room for ambiguity regarding how sorry he is for propagating such a false view of the gospel, of Christ, and of Scripture. He should apologize to the millions who have been deceived into thinking this way as a direct result of his influence in their lives. He should outline what led to his change of heart regarding the prosperity gospel. He should the outline what he thinks about such teaching, why it is wrong, and urge fellow ministers in that camp to follow him in his repentance.

These actions would leave little doubt that T.D. Jakes has been given light and granted repentance. At a minimum, the church would be able to come along side Mr. Jakes and love him and provide him with strength and counseling as he repositions himself in the Christian community. In so doing, the church would be wise to assign mentors to watch over Mr. Jakes and ensure that he continues to progress and grow in the faith, less he find the path too difficult and succumb to pressures from the enemy and old acquaintances. Unless these path is followed, we are left wondering what really happened and where Jakes really stands, and if it is really such a big deal after all. This process highlights the importance of truth and guards against any tendency toward indifference regarding doctrine and praxis in the Christian community.

Now, once we get through the heresies of Modalism and the prosperity gospel, we can begin a conversation around the egregious error of extra-biblical revelation predominant in Pentecostal theology. Mr. Jakes will have to make the necessary adjustments here as well. But that is another conversation for another time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

T.D. Jakes, Thyatira and Tolerance: A Pernicious Evil

In our culture, repeatedly we hear that tolerance is the highest of all virtues, or at least that is the impression one has upon surveying the virtues, so called, that receive the most attention. In fact, folks in our culture are constantly bragging about how tolerant we are. Tolerance is perceived and even portrayed as being kind, loving, and even sophisticated. On the other hand, people who reject societal norms defined for certain behaviors are maligned as intolerant bigots that are full of hate. Oftentimes they are characterized as simpletons or overly naïve with a bend toward religious superstitions. In fact, many atheists enjoy classifying all religious zealots in the same category as Islamic fascists that desire, on their foundation, to destroy everyone else’s freedom. The purpose of this blog is to ask the question, “what is tolerance and should Christians practice it?”

Prior to discussing the practical implications of tolerance, we should begin with a working definition of the word. Since we are thinking about tolerance from a biblical perspective, it is only reasonable to examine the word in the Greek text in order understand its use. Since we are working with a specific text located in Rev. 2:20 ἀλλὰ ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ ὅτι ἀφεῖς τὴν γυναῖκα Ἰεζάβελ. My gloss of this text is simply, But I have against you that (you) tolerate the woman Jezebel. This letter is written to the church in Thyatira. I do not wish to get into the background and setting of Thyatira. What I want to focus on is one word in this personal rebuke issued by Christ. And that is the Greek word apheis. This is a form of the word aphiemi. This word appears some 143 times in the NT. Most of the time it is translated “forgive.” It has the sense of release, or dismiss. Louw-Nida tells us it means to leave it to someone else to do something, with the implication of distancing oneself from the event. BDAG says it has the idea of to cause someone or something to undergo separation. When we think of being forgiven of our sins, we think of having those sins released in the sense that God no longer sees them adhering to us. We are separated from our sin. Think of it this way: as an unbeliever, people are forgiven, released from God. They are separated from God. As believers, we are now separated from sin. We are released from the penalty and power sin in order to be joined to God.

The Church in Thyatira is on the receiving end of a stern rebuke from our Lord. This church has an excellent reputation with one exception: she is tolerant. She has a strong predilection for tolerance and The Lord is moved to issue a strong rebuke. This church tolerates false doctrine and immoral living. Notice that she is not charged with either of these sins. It is not that false doctrine or immorality actually have taken root in her midst. That is not her breach. Rather, her failing is her proclivity not to take a strong stand against the evil existing in the culture at the time. The church is tolerating others, apparently outside her community to engage in false teachings and immorality without taking a stand against it.

For past few weeks, the controversy over T.D. Jakes has waged on. People have come down on all sides of the issue. T.D. Jakes has preached and taught for years against the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. He has never recanted his views or announced publicly that he has repented from this heresy. Mr. Jakes has appeared on James MacDonald’s Elephant Room panel to discuss, well, I am still not sure what they were trying to discuss. From my perspective the only thing that happened was a fist bump and group hug. Many have criticized MacDonald for referring to Jakes as a brother. Many have criticized those who have criticized MacDonald. I am not writing to talk about the heresy modalsim or to defend orthodoxy, per se. I have little regard for the willfully uninformed reformed and the just plain old uninformed as far as that goes. Unlike many, I do not think we need to revisit every single dogma the church has discovered since the beginning, wipe the slate clean and start over. Moreover, any man who would ignore the theologians of decades past is a fool. The wise man gathers to himself many counselors. The fool stands alone.

What should the church do with men like Jakes? It is really quite simple: the church should discipline him and if he refuses to repent after much counsel, she must shun him for the heretic he is. MacDonald and Driscoll have earned just about every ounce of criticism that has been leveled against them. John tells us not to even eat with men who bring such abominable heresy with them. We are not to even bid them God-speed. Yet, just like the church at Thyatira, we tolerate them in the name of grace, in the name of love, in the name of kindness. However, God tells us we must rebuke and shun them, all in the name of grace, love, and kindness. Perhaps God will use this shunning to bring them to repentance. Who are we to say otherwise?

What would it look like for T.D. Jakes to repent? He would stand up in his church and confess publically before everyone and explain in great detail that he was wrong about the doctrine of the trinity, how and why he was wrong, and that he has repented of that view. He would then explain, in great detail how he now understands the doctrine as taught in Scripture. He would respect the truth of Scripture enough to realize the dangerous heresy he has been teaching for years and this would lend itself to a very sobering and official public repentance that would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind. What we saw in the Elephant Room recently is very familiar to all of us. We see in Washington D.C. every day we listen to our spin doctors speak.

I am not making any assertions about the faith of Mark Driscoll or James MacDonald. I am asserting that their judgment is out of bounds from where it should be, from where it needs to be. Association with known heretics who pervert the one true God is no small matter and we are not in a position to make it out to be one. It is what it is: exceedingly serious!

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