Saturday, June 30, 2012

Heartless Judging

The title of this article might imply that this blog offers a correction to those who judge others without the slightest degree of empathy. That interpretation of the title would be far from target. Actually, I want to talk about the dangers that emerge when we allow our emotions to influence our judgment or critical thinking. I realize there are a large number of Christians who think that any kind of judging is wrong. In answer to this objection, I defer to Scripture. Paul informs the Corinthians, “Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”[1] Paul is referring to a man practicing sexual immorality all the while professing Christ as Lord. There is no place in the Christian group for individuals who profess Christ with their lips and deny Him with their actions. Judging is an essential component of the Christian life. Again Paul says, “But he who is spiritual appraises all things…”[2] The Greek word translated “appraises” is anakrinw and it is the Greek word for judge. This is why many English translates use the word “judge” in their translation of this verse rather than appraise. In other words, the spiritual person judges everything. To the uncritical, this looks like a hypercritical person because they examine things carefully in light of biblical principles. This does not mean that there is no such thing as a hypercritical attitude. Of course there is. It does mean that in our culture, one should be very careful before labeling someone as hypercritical because that could be falsely judging a brother or sister who is actually obeying Scripture in its imperative to exercise discernment.

By heart, I actually mean emotion. Our feelings often cloud our judgment on any number of issues. Should I allow my kid to hang out with this other kid who may be a bad influence? Should I permit my daughter to date that boy? What would it do to her if I forbad it? Should I place an employee on warning even though I really like her as a person? Our emotions tend to get in the way of our judgment and tend to displace the priority of our convictions. This happens in the Christian community when we really don’t want to identify someone as a false brother because they spoke softly or were really kind or seemed very sincere in how they talked about Christ. Our reaction is to place some sort of priority on that kind of behavior as if it matters that someone is soft-spoken, or speak kind to us about theology that we know is false. It is even more difficult to keep emotions out when the other person shows emotion, such as tearing up when they speak of Jesus. Make no mistake about it, emotion is no substitute for a regenerated heart. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, but he is actually a roaring lion walking around seeking to tear us to shreds. Think about how a lion hunts. The Gazelle sees the open plain, wind blowing the tall grass, with the heat of the sun on its back. All is quiet and tranquil. Everything feels so incredibly peaceful. The animal relaxes as it lowers its guard. What it does not realize is there is a killer just 30 feet away, hiding beneath the tall grass, just out of site. The environment feels one way, but it is actually quite the opposite. False brethren do not wear labels announcing they are false. They come in secretly, looking like the real thing. In fact, often times, they look better than the real thing. These are pawns of Satan, and most of the time, they are completely unaware that they themselves are playing the devil’s fiddle.

The apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit penned authoritative and therefore, binding instructions to the Galatian believers. In telling the Galatians the story of his trip up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus, he writes that “Titus was not even compelled to be circumcised.” This indicates there are details that Paul does not have time to provide. He gives us a clue in the next sentence when he says in Gal. 2:4, “But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.” That Paul would say this immediately after saying that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised is a clue that these men were placing great pressure on Titus to conform to abhorrent teaching. I am in a discussion with a Church of God minister at this very time who thinks that it is more important to be effective evangelists than it is to be theologically sound. He refuses to acknowledge that it is impossible to be an effective witness of something you don’t really understand. Sound doctrine is not negotiable. Note that these brethren were categorized as false brethren according to Paul. The Greek word is ψευδαδέλφους which simply means false brethren. These are pretenders because their convictions and lives do not line up with those of the community to which they claim to belong. They come in all stripes and flavors. Some of them are very sweet and soft-spoken. They don’t mind serving, cleaning, cutting the grass and even are involved in ministry. They can be some of the nicest people in the church. This makes it very difficult for one to confront them and it especially makes it difficult for us to label them as false believers.

Labeling false brethren as false brethren, while extremely serious, is a necessary practice within the Christian group. There is something far greater than the nice lady or man who is attempting to persuade us of their teachings while claiming to love Christ. That something is the revelation of God in Christ as disclosed in Scripture. The truth of God in Scripture is what is at stake. It is easy to identify men who are fleecing the flock, like T.D. Jakes a heretic. His wealth gospel and modalism stand condemned without ambiguity. However, it becomes more difficult when those we have confront are closer to home, standing in front of us attempting to convince that the venom they spew is God’s truth. It is especially difficult when these people are very likeable. Nevertheless, confront them we must, that is, if we love them.

Paul goes on to tell the Galatians that his team did not yield to these teachers even for an hour. In other words, Paul and his team did not give these men the time of day. He dismissed them immediately. Why? Paul says he responded this way toward these false teachers so that the truth of the gospel would remain with the Galatian believers. That is my entire point. Paul took anything and everything, including emotion, out of his decision to label these men for what they were. He did so, he says, for the sake of the truth of the gospel. Paul knew that these men had made progress introducing the Galatians and even getting them to adopt a false gospel. These teachers were of high repute. They were men of great influence in the community. They were using this influence to distort and pervert the gospel. Paul made no bones about it. He matter-of-factly labeled these men as false brethren who were essentially enemies of the faith and he dismissed them from the Christian conversation. They were not to be given honor nor were their views to be respected. The honor and truth of God were being compromised and the souls of men were at stake. I would to God that we would see truth this way today. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we have lost our passion and conviction for the truth of Scripture that Christ said would make us free indeed.

When it comes to standing up for the truth, you must guard your emotions. There are times when it will be difficult to inform the person in front of you that their beliefs do not reflect genuine faith. You don’t want to tell them that. You don’t want to “hurt” their feelings. I think of the time that Stephen confronted the Jewish leaders of his day and how they become so angry with him that they killed him. Truth often hurts. It cuts deeper than anything else can. Sometimes, God uses that to rescue believers from serious doctrinal error and even the rim of heresy. Other times He uses it to inform true believers of who the wolves are among them. The point is that we must find a way to become comfortable with standing up for the truth. This is not to say that you are not emotionally moved by the results. That is not my point. My point is that you cannot allow positive or negative emotions to interfere with sharing the raw truth of Scripture with people. Plant, water, and God will do the rest according to His will.







[1] 1 Cor. 5:12-13 NAS


[2] 1 Cor. 2:15 NAS

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ed Young Jr. and the “God in the Box” Fallacy


If I had a nickel every time I heard the response; “you can’t put God in a box,” well, I would have a LOT of nickels. Recently, I heard Ed Young Jr. accuse subscribers to reformed theology of capturing God and putting Him in a box. What does Mr. Young mean when he uses the phrase “put God in a box?” What do most people mean when they parade out this particular objection? This is one of the easiest fallacies to refute. Lean forward, turn off your music, sit up straight, close your door, and pay attention. I promise this will not take very long.

Ed Young says that reformed theology “people” sit around and talk about theology and doctrine and sometimes, complicated matters. By doing this, they arrive at certain beliefs about God and Scripture that they think are true, such as election. Paul command Titus to instruct young men (a particular target of Mr. Young’s rant) to be σωφρονεῖν. This Greek word is translated sensible. Young men are to be sensible. What does the word mean? It means to have an understanding about practical matters and be able to act accordingly. Knight comments, “He is urging younger men to live godly Christian lives, and he is addressing Titus about his particular responsibilities as a minister and as an example to these men.”[1] The phrase I find to be quite intriguing is διδασκαλίᾳ ἀφθορίαν, translated “purity in doctrine.” In other words, part of being sensible and living a Christian life is maintaining “purity in doctrine.” So often we forget that loving God with our entire being includes loving God in how we think! This means our theology should reflect a love for God that results in progressive sanctification even in our thoughts about His revealed truth. We are not free to think about God in any way we please. We must bring every thought into the obedience of Christ! Mr. Young seems to think this is placing God in some sort of a box. Paul didn’t seem to think so.

It is true that we cannot put God in a box. God encompasses all that was, is, or every will be. He is everywhere all the time and there is no place where God is not always present. Reformed theology affirms this truth without hesitation or apology. That being said, do we attempt to put God in a box when we study the truth He revealed to us about Himself in Sacred Scripture? Is that really what Ed Young thinks? Based on what he says, one would be hard-pressed to understand his charges differently.

What do we know about God and how do we know it? If I take the “God in a box” fallacy to its logical conclusion, every description of God and every understanding of who God is and what God is like is guilty of putting God in a box, isn’t it? Based on sound logic, this is unavoidable. In other words, Ed Young makes certain claims about who God is and what God is like and what He is not like. Why then is he not guilty of his own charge of putting “God in a box,” or “having God all figured out?” The only real way I can tell you if something is counterfeit is if I am familiar with the genuine. In Ed Young’s reasoning, not only does the counterfeiter put God in a box, but so does the genuine. This is unavoidable. The “God in a box” fallacy asserts that any claim to understanding God is “putting God in a box.” However, in order for the accusation to be leveled, the accuser must also claim some understanding of God. Therefore, everyone who charges anyone of putting God in a box has put God in a box of their own. The only difference is the box.

Why the “God in a box” fallacious and why is it so dangerous? The answer is simple: it is antithetical to Biblical revelation. God is revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ recorded in Sacred Scripture. The Bible is the inspired and divine revelation of God Himself to human beings. Scripture serves as the basis of our knowledge of who God is, what God is like, and what God is NOT like. There are things about God we do not and cannot know because God chose not to reveal them. Revelation is limited to those truths that God desired to reveal about Himself. While God is not in a box, His revelation is absolutely in a box. Reformed theology did not put it there. God did! God has chosen to disclose something about Himself and creation through divine revelation. At the same time, He left some things undisclosed. We cannot know these things today. While the box analogy fails when it is applied to God, it succeeds when it is applied to revelation. At the risk of sounding harsh, the “God in a box argument” is ignorant, fallacious, unbiblical, and reflects uncritical thinking at its foundation. I hope people stop using it.





[1] Knight III, George W. NIGTC, The Pastorals, 311.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Charlotte NC Government Removes Jesus from Prayers

According to a report in the Christian Post, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chaplains are no longer allowed to pray in Jesus’ name. According to Jim Gronquist, a former Methodist minister and now practicing attorney with the ACLU, it is good for agencies to “it is improper to mix up religion with the function of state agents.” Terry Sartain, senior pastor of Horizon Christian Fellowship and a CMPD chaplain says he understands government’s position. He adds that he disagrees with it and in fact, that he hates it. He also will apparently abide by the new rule without resigning his position. He adds that if he is ever asked to stop praying in Jesus name altogether that he would resign. Barbara Weller, an attorney from the Christian Law Association says the move is intolerant and bigoted and that it is not required by law. So, my question concerns the Christians response. How should Christians respond to new policies in local government that clearly reflect a degree of hostility toward the gospel?

It seems to me that this move violates the individual religious freedom of the Chaplain and sets up the local government in Mecklenburg County for a legal battle. If it is my sincere religious conviction that prayer should be offered in Jesus’ name in order for it to be offered properly within the bounds of my religion, then insisting that I abandon that practice is indeed infringing upon my religious expression. However, I must admit that I am not an attorney in any way and therefore, take what I say with a grain of salt.

Secondly, the government’s objective is to eliminate offense. The thinking seems to be that removal of Jesus’ name will result in fewer people of other religions being offended. I wonder what those other religions might be. Which religions are we offending when we use the name of Jesus? Secondly, why doesn’t Christianity have parity with other religions in the area of offense? If the government wants to avoid offending people with religious beliefs, and that is really their goal, doesn’t that include Christianity? Moreover, I would submit that the government has offended most Christians with this new policy. I can’t help but think that this seems to be a bit disingenuous, a bit uneven, a bit, what is the word, hypocritical. Now consider that not only has CMPD failed to hit their goal of avoiding offense, they have actually increased the number of the offended. Let’s say you have 100 people at an event. 70 of them have a Christian background, while 15 are Muslim, 5 Jewish, and the other 10 a mix. If I pray in Jesus’ name, I might offend 30 people in total. Well, we say, that’s bad. We don’t want to offend anyone. In response to this, let’s pray a religionless prayer. Immediately I offend most of the 70 people who were brought up with Christian backgrounds. Congratulations, I just doubled the number of people I offended.

It is easy to see that “offense” cannot possibly be what is driving this new policy unless CMPD really has people who cannot think at all on their staff, making these decisions. Rather than decrease offense, the decision has had the opposite effect. In addition, CMPD seems to be brewing for a legal fight by violating the constitutional rights of individual chaplains by telling them to check their religious convictions at the door. I think CMPD has much bigger problems to deal with than worry about praying in Jesus’ name at public events in a city that is located in the middle of the Bible belt.

What should Mr. Sartain do? He should continue to pray in Jesus’ name as should every other Christian chaplain. Let the chips fall where they may. I would continue to live my convictions and if that costs me my job as a CMPD chaplain, then so be it. It is ungodly to allow unregenerate government entities to mold your religious practices as a Christian. Christ is Lord over all. He has jurisdiction over how we pray, not CMPD.

That being said, I have to wonder about secular governments having chaplains in the first place. It is hard for me to believe that a secular government would allow you do what Christ requires you to do in that role to begin with. What do I mean? I mean your primary role is to represent Christ to a unit of unbelievers day in and day out. You’re the chaplain. You must give them the exclusive truths of the gospel as part of your duty. You are not a Sargent in charge of a police unit, there to protect the public. You are specifically there to offer spiritual services and the services you offer had better reflect the gospel of Christ. It seems to me the first time a chaplain would have to inform a homosexual that repentance is the true fruit of salvation, the chaplain would likely be terminated. I may be wrong, but it just seems to me that chaplains would be required not hold certain positions that are politically controversial if they wish to be a chaplain.

Finally, prayer is a sacred and serious matter. We pray before sporting events, NASCAR, dinner, etc. And we do it as part of a cultural practice more than a true religious practice. In other words, prayer is mostly a “check-the-box” activity in Americanized Christianity. We do it, but with little sense of what it is we really are doing. The result is that prayer becomes debased by wicked sinners who think they are actually doing something when they petition God, however intense their feelings may or may not be. Yet they have no intention of acknowledging God in any way in their lives.

Christians need to return to calling it like it really is and cease and desist from the indirect, fluffy, politically correct nonsense in which we seem to revel. When we see prayer becoming nothing more than a form of religion used by wicked men to justify their own self as if they are truly behaving righteously when they pray, we must respond with rebuke. We cannot allow the ungodly to think good of themselves for giving the appearance of religious conviction without any depth whatever. Such displays of self-righteousness have always stirred the wrath of God. Let us remember that we have a very sober responsibility to speak and preach the truth.

What does Scripture teach us about the practice of religious law-breakers incorporating prayer into their lives and ceremonies to make themselves look better? He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.  Prov. 28:9 (NAS)

The prayer of a wicked man is an abomination before God. This is a very sobering Proverb but one that we must never forget. It is like slapping God across the face when we ignore His commands and refuse to acknowledge His right as sovereign Creator while at the same time saying with our lips that we love and appreciate Him. Few things are more pernicious than an unrepentant and wicked soul petitioning the God it hates for some sort of favor while refusing to acknowledge Him as Lord. God is not an American and He knows nothing of our political games. The cup of His wrath runs over toward those who continue to exist without acknowledging Him as the source of all that is, including their very existence.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

The American Persecution of Christianity: A Christian Response


American culture has been in a state of rapid transformation for several decades now. What once was a culture that upheld principles that were primarily Judeo-Christian in nature is now a culture that holds most of these very same principles in utter contempt. I think it is safe to say that an argument to this end is unnecessary. Most readers will concede the point that our culture is rapidly moving toward wholesale secularism as quickly as it can get there. It is common for Christians to find themselves the victims of persecution in non-Christian cultures. Perhaps victim is a poor selection of words. After all, Jesus said we are blessed to be the recipients of hostilities in His name, not victims. In addition, Peter and John rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer beatings for the name of Jesus Christ! Persecution is spiritually healthy for genuine believers. History demonstrates that the Church thrives under threat of insult, pain, and even death. No doubt it is during these times that God’s grace becomes more obvious to sinners like us who are prone to take it for granted. The question then is how should modern, western, free Christians respond to persecution? I believe the Americanization of Christianity has resulted in a very unbiblical attitude among Christian Americans at least as it relates to the issue of persecution.

Christian Americans have become used to a culture that no longer is. They miss it. They want it back. American culture has lost all regard for tradition, for truth, for the sacred, not that these things are the same or even equivalents. American culture determines for itself what deserves respect, and appreciation, and Biblical truth is no longer on that list. Science and the individual are at the top of the list. The Bible is just a book and not a very good one at that. Who is to blame for this situation? First of all, unregenerate men are bound to revolt against God’s law over time even in cases where that law served as the basis of their upbringing. Unregenerate hold God is deep contempt. This is what sin does to the sinner. American culture, even in the zenith of its high moral standards, was idolatrous. As we say in the south, the chickens are indeed coming home to roost. It is not shocking that American culture has lost all regard for the high moral teachings of Scripture and no longer take it seriously. The church led the way on this front. When the church began placing science and self in the magistrate’s seat over faith and Scripture, the outcome was easily predictable. When the church began to reinterpret Scripture in unnatural ways simply because in certain places, such as Gen. 1-11, it did not harmonize with the philosophical presuppositions of idolatrous scientists, how could the culture resist the already present urge to loosen its own grip on those traditions? The result of years of this kind of behavior in the Christian community has been devastating. Any hint of moral principle with the Bible as its basis in American culture is all but gone. The evaporation of that condition is now leading to rapidly escalating persecution in a culture that once sang the old children’s hymn “because the Bible told me so.” The Bible has been replaced with me, myself, and I. American’s do not argue issues based on fact any longer. They argue issues based on what they want the truth to be. If facts get in the way of that desire, they are summarily dismissed for the inconvenience they are.

Christians, genuine Christians, are narrow-minded, intolerant bigots, filled with hate. Who do we hate? According to American culture, we hate women because we deny them their reproductive rights by condemning the practice of abortion. We hate gay people because we deny them the right to be gay and to marry in the same sex. We hate people of other religions because we insist that unless you believe in Jesus Christ, you will surely face eternal damnation. I have lost unregenerate friends recently because they have adopted more and more of modern secular thinking. Secularism is advancing rapidly in our culture. My position has always been what it presently is on the homosexual issue. My friend’s position has morphed into a full acceptance of the view that modern culture seems to approve. The degree of intimidation and manipulation by unregenerate people on unregenerate people is progressing to extreme levels. The result is that Christians are more and more subject to insult, disdain, humiliation, and other forms of level one persecution. The second level of persecution will come in the form of lost opportunity economically. There will be job loss and employment screening to prevent Christians from entering certain work cultures. Level three will come in the form of legislation. This will result in fines and misdemeanors. The environment is poised to evolve into one of extreme outward hostility toward the God that is and toward His Son Jesus Christ. Christians must prepare themselves for the coming persecution of a secular culture that detests the God of Scripture.

How did Jesus instruct the Church to respond to persecution?

10 μακάριοι οἱ δεδιωγμένοι ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. 11 μακάριοί ἐστε ὅταν ὀνειδίσωσιν ὑμᾶς καὶ διώξωσιν καὶ εἴπωσιν πᾶν πονηρὸν καθʼ ὑμῶν [ψευδόμενοι] ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ. 12 χαίρετε καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, ὅτι ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολὺς ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς· οὕτως γὰρ ἐδίωξαν τοὺς προφήτας τοὺς πρὸ ὑμῶν.

Blessed are the ones being persecuted for righteousness sake, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men insult you and harass and speak all kinds of evil things against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be overjoyed, because your reward is extensive in heaven; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Christian Americans need to change their paradigm and join the rest of the world’s Christians. What do I mean by that? The degree of persecution suffered by the Church at the hands of wicked men has been much worse in other parts of the world where there was no “Christian culture” so to speak. While it has taken some time, the melting pot of American culture has finally purged itself of most of its Christian influence. The question that I am addressing concerns how Christian Americans should think about and respond to this new state of reality in their environment. We love our home. Most of us genuinely love our country. Paul loved his people, the Jews, as well. While he almost could wish he could go to hell for them, he fully acknowledged that they were enemies of the gospel. American culture is clearly an enemy of and hostile to the Christian faith. How should we respond to what we see taking shape?

First, we should recognize that Jesus Himself issued these specific beatitudes for a reason. Moreover, He said that men would hate us and persecute us for His sake. Paul told Timothy that as many as desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. We are blessed, not because of the persecution per se, but because we have an inheritance in heaven and persecution serves as an indication that we are His. It is not the only indication, but it is one. Keep in mind that Jesus is talking about genuine believers here, not CINOs (Christians in Name Only). The genuine believer takes comfort in the words of Christ in the midst of persecution, knowing he/she belongs to the Master.

Second, it is a fact that men are going to insult us, and harass us and speak evil against us because of Christ. There is a textual issue in the text concerning the word ψευδόμενοι . There is considerable doubt about its appearance in the original text. This has little bearing on the meaning of the text. Of course we acknowledge that Jesus would not consider it persecution if we were guilty of the evil of which people claim. The idea is that people will lie about us and twist the truth just as they did with our Lord in order to crucify Him. The Christian position on numerous moral issues in modern American culture is vituperated repeatedly by American media as it shapes the weakened American mind to accept new secular principles and ideas about morality. How should we respond? Should we “take back” American culture? This mindset is not an inch removed from the thinking of the Crusaders even though it may not be carried out with violence. The Church was never given the task to remove sin and the hostile disposition toward God from the world. She was told to preach the gospel, baptize converts, and make disciples. Christian Americans have no biblical warrant to insert themselves into the political process in the name of Christ while they attempt to build a culture or society that meets their preference. Such thinking is far more the product of American philosophy than it is biblical theology. How do Christian Americans respond to persecution in American culture? They rally, organize, and attempt to stamp it out through manipulation, intimidation, boycotts, and legislation. This is not in keeping with the teachings of Christ on how He wants His body to respond to persecution.

Jesus said, rejoice and be overjoyed! He did not say, organize, contact your local political leaders, go down to the capital or city hall, anything like that. He said we should rejoice and be very happy and joyous that we are suffering for Him! Christian Americans are busy trying to turn the clock back. They are busy trying to create a morality of Christianity in a culture that is not Christian. And even if they should succeed, what will they have accomplished in God’s eyes? The Jewish culture of Christ’s day was far removed from atheism. The Jews were highly religious with moral principles based on and going far beyond the Mosaic Law. In one story we learn they were about to stone a woman for adultery. American culture isn’t even close to being this moral, so to speak. Yet, Jesus and His apostles preached about the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of their culture and their answer was not political or social reform. It was repentance.

The longer Christian Americans take to get back to the basics of preaching the simple and clear gospel of Scripture, the longer they will continue in this egregious error of distraction. Christians should expect persecution because Jesus and the authors of Scripture inform us that we should. It should came as no surprise that men hate us because we love Him! We should rejoice in this persecution and realize that it serves to confirm the truthfulness of Scripture and indicates genuineness of faith. Finally, we should recognize that it is a great privilege to stand in the stead of Christ to be inflicted by the hate of sinners toward their Creator. They are taking out their anger and hostility toward God on us just as Christ stood in our stead and took God’s wrath in our place. When they insult us, they are insulting Christ. It is not our face they see when they slap, but rather, the face of God. It is the God in us that they hate, not us. We do not have enough good of our own worth hating. Make no mistake about it: it is the holiness of God, given to us by grace that men hate. We must respond as Christ commands. That does not include political activism to abolish persecution and ensure our religious freedom. That sounds like a wonderful idea. The problem is that it does not adhere to Scripture’s teachings. Our influence comes through the preaching of the cross and the godliness of our living. These are the two activities that serve to demonstrate the truthfulness and power of the gospel.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Answering and Challenging Non-Christian and Anti-Christian Presuppositions: Homosexuality


Note: What follows is a rough draft of role-play for presenting the gospel within the context of non-Christian challenge. This is my first attempt at this sort of writing, so please excuse any clumsiness you might encounter. I intend to make this genre a regular part of my blog. Over time, my skills should improve, I hope. Here we go!

Question

Why is there so much hate in the church toward homosexuals?

Answer 1

First, I need you to clarify for me what you mean by “the church” and then I need you to tell me what you mean by “hate.” You see, I am not here to answer or defend every action every individual who carries the “Christian” label engages in. What I am here to discuss is the formal position of the kind of Christianity expressed in the Bible. In order to answer your question to the best of my ability, I need to make sure I understand it correctly. Does this make sense?

Commentary

Asking for clarification helps you move closer to the heart-of-the-matter quicker. Secondly, you will uncover assumptions that you can challenge along the way, such as what it means to hate. Finally, it becomes clear that you are not about to defend genuinely ungodly behavior among imposters of the faith, but rather, your goal is to provide an answer for what Scripture teaches. Every attack against God eventually gets to Scripture. You may as well turn it to Scripture sooner rather than later.

Secondary Question

Fair enough. Okay, the church forbids homosexual love and teaches that homosexuals are going to be damned in eternal punishment.

Answer 2

Help me understand your point. Is your question an example of what you mean by “hate?” When you say the church hates homosexuals, do you mean they express hatred by teaching against homosexual behavior and by teaching that homosexuals are without Christ and going to hell? Is that what you mean?

Commentary

Notice that the interviewee is not allowing the questioner to introduce questions outside of a specific context. This is very important. Meaning is indelibly connected to context. Without context, meaning is virtually impossible most of the time. This method can tend to frustrate the questioner if for no other reason than you are not allowing them to manipulate the discussion. You are holding their feet to the fire and making them think. This is a very good thing.

Follow-up Question

Yes. Don’t you think it is hateful to sentence someone to hell and forbid them to marry the person they love? You are forcing homosexuals to withhold the one thing basic to all human beings: love. To say that God will send a person to hell just because they love someone of the same sex is monstrous, isn’t it?

Answer 3

Okay. I think I have it now. You think the church hates people when it teaches the doctrine of Scripture, that all men will face judgment at the end of time and many of them will be condemned to hell for their wicked behavior. Have I captured your position correctly?

Are you saying it is hateful to express one’s religious convictions?

In addition, you seem to be saying it is wrong for God to judge you for your behavior, but in the process, aren’t you judging God for His behavior? In fact, now that I think about it, aren’t you judging the church for its behavior? Why isn’t your judgment hateful as well?

Being God, doesn’t He have certain “rights” that you and I do not have? [Gospel-Point is next]

Commentary

This method moves slowly, forcing the individual to focus on their assumptions. It narrows the topic, which is essential for any good dialogue. Topic control can be quite difficult with opponents who are usually quite emotional about the subject. The reason most opponents are so emotional is that they realize they have skin in the game, so to speak. The problem for Christians is that when it comes to final judgment, everyone has skin in the game. This means emotional encounters will occur more often than not.

The Gospel-Point

Every engagement with an unbeliever is an opportunity to deliver the gospel, not engage in a debate. One of my temptations is to look for the fight, not the opportunity. This is a sinful proclivity, and we must purge it from our behavior. Often, debate is unavoidable. Scripture repeatedly instructs us to be prepared to stop the mouths of the critics. However, every debate is an opportunity to show love and give the gospel. This scenario has reached the point where we can begin giving the gospel.

Answer Continued

Jesus Christ Himself tells us that Scripture is God’s absolute truth, that it is authoritative and reliable. That Scripture informs us that over 6000 years ago, God created man in His image and His likeness so that man would honor and glorify Him in all that He does. However, Scripture tells us that Adam rejected God’s command, preferring to go his own way and indulge in fleshly lust. As a result of breaking God’s law, man fell under God’s curse. Sin, death, and suffering were the result of man’s rejection of God’s law. We all stand under that curse, not just homosexuals. However, God is a merciful God and very patient. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ into the world to pay the penalty for man’s sin. The same Scripture that Jesus said was authoritative, reliable, and holy, also says that Jesus Himself took God’s wrath, paid God’s penalty for the sin of His people. This same Jesus, God raised from the dead after His suffering exalting him to His right hand. If you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and if you will publicly confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, repenting of your current views, you will be saved.

Summary

This dialogue is going to quickly get to the credibility of the Bible, its reliability, its authority, its nature as the very word of God. I plan to post a follow up to this little scenario and am considering putting together a variety of “role-plays” like this one to help Christians answer questions and move the conversation to a presentation of the gospel rather than an intellectual debate and one-upmanship.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

“A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of Salvation: Initial Thoughts


Before I get started with my observations around this new manuscript, I want to point out that this document, while using language that leads one to believe it is the SBC’s official position on soteriology, it is not. It is a narrow statement drafted by a few men who seemingly hope to garner support for their particular view of salvation, or rather, their particular view of how the SBC has traditionally defined salvation. Specifically, it is a response to the “New Calvinism” emerging within the SBC. Clearly, the framers of this document consider the NC movement a threat to SBC soteriology so much so, that it merits a formal response. I am at a loss for why these men think they have the “right” to give the appearance of an official statement in the first place. One of my gripes with the SBC is their lack of deliberate narrowness in such areas. It would seem that the timing of the release of this statement is no accident. The framers no doubt intend to make an issue of the subject at the upcoming convention. We will watch and see what the SBC does with this new initiative.

In the preamble, the document contends that there is an aggressive insistence on the doctrines of grace with the goal being to make Calvinism a central SB position in soteriology. Of course, a Calvinist response would contend that this is simply an attempt to return to a biblical definition of the gospel within the SBC and such efforts are to be commended. Nevertheless, the document begins with the use of the term aggressive and this, it appears, is a scare tactic. It seems this small group has a desire to provoke passive onlookers to enter the fray while polarizing the NC movement within its ranks. The tactic is unfortunate, uncharitable, and unnecessarily divisive. One has to wonder if the NC “threat” merits this kind of attention. Do these SBC men have nothing better to do with their time? Maybe they should consider the health and wealth gospel making its way into the convention, or perhaps deal with the new mysticism that seems unchecked in its progress.

The second paragraph of the document details a Calvinism that is indeed not at all Calvinism. It describes it as anti-missionism, hyper-Calvinism, double predestination, and limited atonement. While there is some truth found in the sentence, the mixing of lies within the sentence is disingenuous and borders on malicious slander. The document then employs a specious argument when it insists, “opposing views” is enough to call into the question the validity of Calvinism and at a minimum ensure great humility on the subject. If this is true, then we may call into question every doctrine that Christianity has espoused. There has always existed disagreement on many if not all issues within the visible Christian community. Opposing views and different perspectives are not enough to generate doubt about a position. If that were true, we could have no certainty on any position, not even the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is also worth mentioning the framers of the document seem to display very little doubt about the error that is the New Calvinism as they frame this document. It would seem to me that they should consider taking their own medicine for consistency’s sake if for nothing else.

The document goes on to say the New Calvinists are pushing for a radical alteration of the atmosphere of passive tolerance that has existed for so long in the SBC toward Calvinist doctrines. However, the document furnishes no examples of such radical behavior, nor does it provide footnotes or an appendix where such documentation might have been made readily available.

The document posits that traditional SBC soteriology is anchored in decisionism. In other words, unregenerate men freely decide to place their faith in Christ without God’s divine activity of turning their heart toward him. The first question one must ask is; “is this document an accurate reflection of historic SBC soteriology?” Secondly, is it biblical? Even if we assume it is an accurate representation of SBC soteriology, and that is a major assumption, that alone is not enough to justify continued adoption of that view. What if further study proves this position is untenable with revealed truth? What then? Would the SBC insist on holding the view in preference for their tradition over Scripture? Didn’t this practice lead Jesus to sharply rebuke the Pharisees? Through their tradition, they made the Word of God ineffective. After all, many theologians agree that the SBC’s lack of focus, coupled with its broad theological approach has done more to threaten a true definition of the gospel than it has to spread it. The issues have been debated ad nauseaum at this point and to enter into yet another debate on the specifics is beyond the scope of this blog at this time. I mean, when Steve Furtick and Al Mohler can be in the same denomination, you have a real problem on your hands. Perhaps a more narrow emphasis is indeed in order.

More specifically, one has to ask if it is honest to claim that Calvinism has to be modified in order to engage in healthy missions work. There are no indications within the Calvinist system, properly so-called, that would lead anyone to think such an undertaking would be necessary. After all, Calvinism teaches that the preaching of the gospel is God’s means of regenerating the hearts of sinful men. Hence, this would make preaching indispensable for Christianity’s growth. Every Calvinist I know would defend this truth to the death. Secondly, the very use of the term “hyper-Calvinism” cannot go unnoticed. The term itself has extremely negative connotations and for it to be employed in this document seems a bit underhanded in my opinion. Hyper-Calvinism is as far removed from Calvinism as is Pelagianism and even Arminianism. It is unnecessary and unfair to bring it up in a document that purports to be concerned with Calvinism. The risk is guilt by association. Whatever is true of hyper-Calvinism runs the risk of being thought true of Calvinism as well. As it relates to double-predestination, many Calvinists hold this view. But the issue is far more complex than most Arminians care to acknowledge. In addition, there are a number of Calvinists who deny the doctrine of double-predestination. Therefore, one can hold the view or deny the view and still be a Calvinist. Modifications are not at all necessary. However, it is true that a Calvinist is one who does believe in particular redemption. Denial of this doctrine is the difference between someone being Calvinistic and being a Calvinist. Calvinists hold to a limited atonement, but so too do Arminians. Classic Arminianism teaches that Christ died only for those who place their faith in Him. Indeed, as will be demonstrated in a later post, the framers of this document go far beyond classic Arminianism in their view of the atonement.

The overall thrust of the document is to pave the way for a standard reference point in their soteriology. That reference point, according to the document should not be Calvinism because most Southern Baptists are not Calvinists and they do not desire that Calvinism should become the standard reference point in Baptist soteriology. This may be true, but is that the only question these men should be asking? Perhaps it is true that most Southern Baptists are not Calvinists. Does this mean the leadership should not move the denomination in that direction? Is the Christian community led by majority rule? What if most Southern Baptists did not believe in a literal hell, would that mean that the denomination should abandon it? The same could be said for the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth, the resurrection, the blessed hope, and on I could go.

I applaud the writing of the document along with its timing. I hope it generates a good deal of debate and dialogue at the convention. The egregious errors in several of the articles may force good men who have not really given the subject its due attention to do otherwise. Perhaps this will cause a number of pastors to realize the inconsistency in Arminian theology. I hope it leads to honest and open discussion. I pray the results produce a very large denomination that will finally begin to come to grips with the consequences of serious error in a soteriology that has permitted numerous and egregious errors in teaching, preaching, method, and strategy in its gospel proclamation. Maybe then, the consumer driven, seeker sensitive, emergent movements will all begin to be purged from her ranks. Perhaps? To be continued…

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Biola's Queer Underground Movement

Biola Queer Underground members didn't seem satisfied with the response. On their website, they noted: "Biola claims to want a dialogue...Without inviting Christians speakers who have a different view of homosexuality, fruitful dialogue will not happen. In the past, your monologues on homosexuality have not been good or fair to us."

See Story Below:


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/24/biola-university-queer-underground-gay-group_n_1542741.html


Brief Response

This is a perfect example of the kind of dialogue the gay movement desires. If that dialogue opposes sexual behavior outside the confines of marriage between a husband and a wife, then by their definition, it isn’t fruitful dialogue. In other words, the only fruitful dialogue they seem interested in is the kind of dialogue that endorses and agrees with their position. One has to ask what that kind of dialogue looks like. According to Biola Queer Underground members, only dialogue that recognizes gay men and women as Christians can be fruitful dialogue. But that begs the question of what exactly is meant by fruitful dialogue to begin with. By fruitful, I suspect they mean the progressive acceptance of gay members into the Christian community. If that is not their aim, then one has to wonder what is. Why is it that these BQU members think that they are the only ones who can determine what and when fruitful dialogue occurs. Who gets to say that fruitful dialogue must include open views on same sex behavior? Is it possible that the continued exclusion of practicing homosexuals from the Christian community is fruitful dialogue? Why can’t it be fruitful to continue to uphold the teachings of those Scriptures that denounce the practice of same sex behavior? Who says that kind of dialogue is not fruitful? These are the kind of stories to lead me to suspect that this ruse about the Church not showing the gay community love is more imaginative than it is real. That is not to say that isolated cases exist. I am sure they do. But the general characterizations that have been made recently about the issue is nonsense and baseless. Moreover, it is interesting to me that those who make the claims never stop to provide ample evidence for their indictments. The Biola Queer Underground is indicative of what the gay movement as a whole wants from the Christian community: wholehearted, unequivocal endorsement and acceptance with no strings attached. Anything less than that is unloving, bigoted, and hateful according to the gay community. And if that is what they mean by love, then I suppose that by their definition, the Christian community will never be able to love them the way they demand to be loved. But we can and should and shall love them the way God demands we should.

Debate Review: Hernandez & Zachariades v. Flowers Pritchett

There has been some attention given to the recent debate on the subject of free will between Dr. Sonny Hernandez, Dr. Theodore Zachariade...