Sunday, June 29, 2014
Over the past twenty to thirty years there has been a phenomenal shift in how the term Christian has come to be defined in American culture. Like it or not, leaders, pastors, professors, teachers, and mature believers are being forced to defend and define the basic teachings of Jesus Christ and His apostles that have been preserved in Sacred Scripture. The lack of rigor that is in our processes around those we bring into the community as members, and those we baptize, and those we send off to seminary and ordain has had grave consequences for the body of Christ at large. We are now left with the hard work or repairing the damage that is has been done and of instituting processes and practices that ensure we do not repeat this mistake again.
There is a very large movement in American Christianity to dispense with any hint of internal holiness within the Christian community. As far as American Christianity is concerned, there are no rules, no lists, and no laws by which Christians are to conduct their lives. In theological terms, we call this view antinomianism. While it has been around a very long time, it has never been the dominant view and has always been soundly rejected by the Church. However, in recent times there has been an astonishing explosion of antinomianism in American Christianity. There is a prevailing idea that one can be a genuine Christian possessing genuine faith without any reference at all to their ethical behavior. Young professing American Christians have entered the Church and the pulpit and the seminaries with a preconceived idea of what they want Christianity to be and they are on a mission to reshape it top to bottom at all costs. Indeed, their efforts heretofore have been relentless. And because their doctrines are so attractive to the naturally rebellious mind and to immoral vice, they have been received with vigor by the world. Their churches are exploding everywhere. Indeed, there is an antinomian revival of mammoth proportions sweeping across America today unlike anything we have ever witnessed in modern times.
The God of Scripture, who is sovereign over all the affairs of men is now referred to by these young Christians as a moral monster simply because they detest the idea of His sovereignty. He has been replaced with a fluffy, permissive, weak American daddy or grandpa projection of their own making. The God of historic, biblical Christianity is summarily rejected. The Church has had it wrong.
In American Christianity, Jesus Christ was not the Prophet, Priest, and King proclaimed by the Church but the friend of the perverse kind of sinners, having come to party with them and accept them just as they are without any demand for repentance or change in their lifestyles. In this version of Christianity, Jesus never told the woman taken in adultery NOT to sin again. He merely did not condemn her and that is where the story ends. American Christianity has a very bad habit of not telling the whole story. It picks and chooses only those components that are convenient in order to support its utopian idea of what Christianity simply has to be in their opinion.
American Christianity has a range of views it finds tolerable concerning the Bible. It is a good book with some good things to teach us. However, the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy and infallibility are mocked in nearly every camp. Scripture itself is not our final authority for faith and practice. And where inspiration is not mocked, a hermeneutic is adopted that basically nullifies that sacred doctrine reducing it to meaningless nonsense. Authors of Scripture are brazenly viewed as biased, ignorant, and primitive men that were not as sophisticated as we are and therefore not qualified to write about some of the issues they wrote about, at least not where modern man is concerned. Science and reason is the bar by which their writings must be judged. A six-day creation is incredibly naïve. A woman’s right to abortion is a matter of modern freedom and medical science. Marriage is an outdated idea whose day has come and gone. Sex outside of marriage is perfectly moral so long as you love the other person or feel love toward the other person. Gay sex and gay marriage are perfectly natural, healthy, and acceptable. Illicit divorce is not even a term that makes sense in American Christianity. The very concept of Church discipline is repugnant to these groups. And if there were any that believe in discipline, the only person likely to be subjected to it would be a person of genuine faith. The supernatural components of Scripture are up for grabs; believe them if you want or reject them if you want. It has no bearing on your faith.
The soteriology of American Christianity is purely rationalistic and natural. There simply is no supernatural component to salvation in that system. The idea of regeneration and the concept of being reborn are mere conventions in American Christianity. According to this new version of Christianity, you can be a Christian simply by saying you are a Christian. Nothing else has to change. There is no “proving your faith” within American Christianity. Such a notion is critical and judgmental and unloving. Love just accepts everyone the way they are without any conditions.
Now, before I proceed to close this article by advancing my belief that Christians are actually different and the Bible tells us they are, I need to say a thing or two about the neo-fundamentalist version of Christianity, which is at the other end of the pendulum. The old-fashioned fundamentalists had more lists than you could count that Christians had to follow to the letter in order to be considered “Christian.” You could not go to movies. You could not go to the beach. You can only listen to gospel music. You must tithe. You better have a good reason for not being in Church on Sunday and in case you are not aware of it, there is no good reason. The list of the fundamentalist seems unending. Neo-fundamentalists are different but operate on the same sort of principle. They set up standards that they claim are based on biblical principles and if you do not follow them, you are viewed as sinning, falling short, not committed to serving, selfish, and more. The neo-fundamentalist may not question your salvation or classify you as a less committed Christian, but they sure know how to create an atmosphere of guilt. As far as the neo-fundamentalist is concerned, it does not matter what you do or how busy you are, it is never enough. Thank God for liberty, for freedom, and for the grace of God that is in Christ Jesus.
Now, back to the issue at hand. According to the Bible, genuine faith makes a real difference in the life of the Christian. James asks the question, “what good is it if someone has faith but has no works?” The answer is it is useless. Yet, American Christianity contends that there is no relationship between being a Christian and having a radically changed heart and life. James explicitly disagrees. He goes on to say that faith without works is a dead faith. Someone may boast that they faith but James says they have no way to prove their faith. In other words, faith is not a phantom. Faith makes its presence known. We show our faith or lack of faith in our works. James says that a person who believes that faith existence where works do not is a foolish person. This is how a NT person would say, “you are a stupid man.” Just as Abraham’s faith was a justifying faith seen in his response to God by offering Isaac, so too Christian faith is a justifying faith seen in our response to the gospel of Christ. This involves the turning away from a wicked life to a life defined by righteous thought and good deeds. While these good deeds are not the cause of our justification, it also holds that the kind of faith that does not produce then also does not justify. James says that genuine faith produces works.
John tells us that the sons of righteous and the sons of the devil are obvious, plain for anyone to see. Those who live a life defined by righteousness are sons of God and those who life a life defined by lawlessness are sons of the devil. It is not difficult to see the difference. The point here is that the Bible most certainly teaches that there is a difference, a remarkable difference between how a Christian carries on their life and how the world carries on their life. While we must do all we can to avoid turning Christianity into a dirge of righteous demands and requirements too heavy for anyone to bear, we must also acknowledge that the work of God in the human heart truly produces a real change that is visible for all to see. And for that we should give God the praise and glory for He is the one who works in us to do His good pleasure according to His kind intentions which He has in Christ Jesus.
Saturday, June 28, 2014
In my last post I wrote about Ben Corey’s issue with John MacArthur’s perspective on how Christians should deal with the professing Christians that also claim to be gay. I wanted to return to this issue briefly to point out a couple of things that I did not mention in my most recent post.
Returning to 1 Corinthians 5 where we have the case of what I think is a man that has married his former stepmother. The Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures prohibit such an act in the strongest of language. Paul uses a word that I think is vital to this discussion. It is translated immoral in the English translations of our Bible but in the Greek the word is pronounced PORNEIA. This is very broad Greek word that means any kind of illicit sex whatsoever. In other words, in sex outside of the context of marriage as defined by God would be classified as PORNEIA. Adultery, fornication, pedophilia, bestiality, homosexuality, and so forth would all be included in this definition.
Now, the interesting thing is that this word is used to describe an illegitimate marriage. It was immoral in Jewish culture as well as Greco-Roman culture for this sort of arrangement to occur. The sin was no less serious than if the two were carrying on an affair. However, an affair is highly unlikely because of the public nature of this incident. What man would allow his son to humiliate him by having sexual relations with his wife? It is much more plausible to think that these two were in a relationship and that the father had either died or was no longer in the picture. Paul called the arrangement immoral and ordered that the man be removed from the community immediately and without hesitation.
Now, I want to draw your attention to this word PORNEIA as another biblical author uses it. Jude 7 uses a form of PORNEIA, specifically, EKPORNEUW, which means debauchery. THE NAS translates it “gross immorality.” What does Jude mean by gross immorality? How can we get a glimpse into some of the behavior that is classed as gross immorality? It is really quite simple; Jude references Sodom and Gomorrah as his example. Our next step then is to understand the sin of these two cities so that we can understand Jude’s characterization of this behavior he is referencing.
We get a glimpse of God’s attitude toward Sodom and Gomorrah in Gen. 18:20, And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.” For those who wish to take a casual approach to this issue, I suggest you read the story in Genesis 18-19 very carefully. So far we have recognized that Jude was inspired by God to classify the behavior of Sodom and Gomorrah as immoral. Second, God has said to Abraham that their sin is exceedingly grave.
As the messengers of the Lord arrive in the city, Lot recognizes their uniqueness and compels them to spend the night in his home with his family. The men of Sodom, all of them, surround Lot’s home and demand that Lot send the men out to them so that they may have sexual intercourse with them. Now, some modern scholars have attempted to recast this story in an attempt to defend homosexual behavior. Perhaps the most developed is Morschauser’s contention that when the men say they want to “know” the visitors, they are expressing distrust in Lot’s ability to protect the city from spies and they want to “interrogate” the men. The problem with this view is that the Hebrew word “to know” always connotes sexual relations when used with a personal direct object. In fact, when Lot offers his daughters, Morchauser argues that he offered them as hostages just in case the men were spying out the city. The problem again is that Lot uses the same word “to know” in the context of his virgin daughters. They have never known a man! Hence, such an interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah, while creative, has nothing to commend it and should be dismissed as modern liberal bias.
Lot referred to the act of homosexual sex as he pleaded with the men of Sodom not to do this “wicked thing.” But the men would have none of Lot’s pleading and began to force their way into his house. It was at this time that the angels smote these men with blindness and rescued Lot and his family from the wrath of God that was to be poured out on those cities.
Jude refers to the men of Sodom and Gomorrah as behaving immorally when they went after strange flesh. This is a reference to homosexual behavior. Jude actually uses the idiom ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας, which means to engage in unnatural sexual intercourse (BDAG). There can be little doubt about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah when it is read without bias in its historical context and allowed to stand on its own two feet. Paul spoke about homosexual sex and stated plained that it was unnatural. In Rom. 1:27 Paul refers to same sex relations as indecent and shameful acts that are disgraceful and a violation of the natural function of the human body.
Wolves have existed from the very inception of the Church. In fact, wolves were here long before the Church was born. We have always had to contend with them. They have had a history of being more sneaky, more stealthy than what we are witnessing today. Today, they show up with their new ideas of what Christianity is supposed to be about, plant seeds of doubt about established doctrine, play on the dissapointments of thousands, and use their counter-Christian thinking to gain acceptance. They begin with the end in mind. Ben Corey, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren and several others have twisted, bent, rehaped, and contorted nearly every ounce of histroric Christian orthodoxy in an attempt to hi-jack Jesus and His gospel. They are not the only problem in my opinion. What is just as much a problem are the silent pastors, teachers, professors, and Christians who refuse, for whatever reason, to call these false teachers and heretics out publicly. We have a duty to honor God by standing for truth, defending the truth, proclaiming the truth living the truth, and teachers others the truth. Its about time we got on with it and stop worrying so much about how unpopular and marginalized we will become. Persecution is a way of Christian life. We need to let that settle in and get used to it.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Recently, John MacArthur was asked a question about how a Christian parent should respond to learning that their child is gay. John gave two basic courses of action based on two very different scenarios. First of all, if your child is a not a professing Christian, you essentially do nothing other than love and continue to give them the gospel. However, it is the second scenario that has Ben Corey over a Patheos seeing red these days. According to MacArthur, if a Christian parent has a child that is professing to know Christ while at the same time embracing the gay lifestyle, that is a very different animal.
In the case of gay children who profess Christ, we must take a very difficult path. Confessing that Christ reigns in your heart is the single most serious and solemn confession any human could ever make. It is not to be done lightly. Those who are aware of the presence of sin must confront any Christian that professes Christ and that has sin in their life. Our children are not excluded from this treatment simply on the ground that they are our children. MacArthur follows the text faithfully even if it is painful. And for that, he should be respected and applauded. Our spiritual family takes precedence over our temporal family. Our love for God trumps our love for our children. These false professions must be dealt with seriously, up to and including excommunication if they refuse to repent of their sin or admit that they do not know Christ. There can be no middle ground.
Well, according to Ben Corey, John MacArthur has it all wrong. On his blog Corey writes,
What troubles me about MacArthur’s advice, and so many who think like him, is the horrible inconsistency that often is used when it comes to shunning. One of the key passages folks use to support shunning comes from 1 Corinthians 5– the unfortunate truth, however, is that Paul lists several sins he thought were shun-worthy. Folks like MacArthur have lifted sexual immorality out of that passage while completely ignoring the rest of what Paul taught.
First of all, at best Corey demonstrates that he does not know John MacArthur or Grace Community Church very well. People are not removed from the community only for sexual immorality and to imply that is ridiculous. I mean, how would Corey know? And if he doesn’t know, is such a statement slanderous of John MacArthur. Surely it is. Second, are we really to believe that Corey believes in the practice of Church discipline for all these sins? I have communicated with Corey personally and I can tell you that he does everything he can to give homosexual sex a pass. I could not even get him to admit that homosexuals should have to abstain from sex until marriage even if such a thing were truly possible. No, there is more to Corey’s objection here than meets the eye and the hypocrisy only comes into more focus as he continues with his objection.
Corey then wonders if MacArthur would excommunicate someone making $200,000 as an annual salary if they did not tithe or give to charity. Clearly, this demonstrates that not only does Corey not know MacArthur’s views on these subjects he doesn’t seem to understand what Scripture teaches about them either. Tithing was a Jewish practice never carried into the Church and it never involved money. In addition, the amount of money Christians contribute to the Church giving is a matter of individual conscience and if between that person and God. The Church is not to police a person’s giving. It is something that each person should do as their own heart directs and as they have ability. This is Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 8-9.
The more pressing issue is twofold: excommunicating family members and Jesus teaching on family relationships within the context of the kingdom. In Matthew 18:15-18 Christians are commanded by Christ to go to any brother they see committing a sin. There is no caveat. Jesus did not give us permission to treat blood relatives differently. In the kingdom, we are all family. If that brother does not repent of his sin, we are to take witnesses. If that brother does not repent after hearing the witnesses, we are to take it to the church. If they do not repent after hearing it from the church, they are to be excommunicated and treated like unbelievers because of their obstinate disposition. Corey attempts to bring in a variant reading in the text to personalize the sin but the variant has little to commend it.
Paul dealt with this in real life but in a more urgent way in 1 Cor. 5. First, Paul acknowledged that there was immorality among the Corinthians and that the immorality was of a very serious nature. Apparently a man had taken his stepmother as his wife. This was forbidden not only in the Jewish religion but in Roman culture as well. The punishment was severe. It does not matter if the son was having an unfair (unlikely) as Corey thinks this might make the situation worse, or that he had married his father’s wife. Moreover, it does not matter even if the man’s father had died. The act was still considered reprehensible. Paul’s action was swift and decisive, “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” 1 Cor. 5:13. Not only this, Paul told the Corinthians that in such cases, “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor. 5:11) Not only were Christians not to allow people in this community that were living immoral lives, but they were not to eat with immoral people if they were also professing to be Christians. According to Paul, we may eat with immoral people so long as they do not profess to be Christian.
Paul gave the very same instructions to the church at Thessalonica: If anyone does not obey our instruction ain this letter, take special note of that person band do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. (2 Thess. 3:14) John said the same thing in 2 John 10-11, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”
I now want to turn your attention to Jesus to see what Jesus actually said about Him impact on families as opposed to what men like Ben Corey claim Jesus said His impact would be on families. Jesus said in Matt. 10:35-37, “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Jesus knew that devotion to Him, to His life, to His teachings would cost even intimate families their intimacy and their loyalty and even their bond.
Jesus also said that brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers would hate their Christian blood relatives so much that in some cases they would have them killed: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. This is a far cry from the one-sided picture that Ben Corey paints of the Jesus we have all heard about but apparently not all of us accept Him for who He is. And He is precisely Who Scripture reveals Him to be.
The problem with Ben Corey, the emergent church, and the young know-it-alls who are out to redefine everything that has already been defined is that they have an idea already in mind. They already know, before reading a single text about Jesus, about God, about Christianity what they want them and it to be. They want a very specific kind of Jesus, God, and Christianity. And nothing is going to get in their way of having it; not even divine truth.
You do not love people by allowing them to remain ignorant and lost in their sin. It used to be that these people thought that we could win them with our love and acceptance. They thought that if we just lived a certain way around unbelievers that unbelievers would be attracted to our Christianity and give up their wicked behavior and join the group. Now they don’t even care if the wicked give up their behavior. In fact, they argue that the wicked should be able to continue in their wicked behavior. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. These people are not fellow believers within the Christian community with minor differences from historic orthodox Christianity. They are wolves seeking to subvert the truth of the gospel top to bottom.
I mentioned hypocrites in my title. While Ben Corey and the emergent like to refer to conservatives like MacArthur and reformed Christianity as modern day Pharisees because of our ethic, what they fail to see is that they are the ones that resemble the Pharisees. You see, the Pharisees ignored God’s word and set up their own standards and then judged everyone, not based on God revealed truth, but based on their own traditions and rules that had gone far beyond anything Scripture taught. When one of these former fundies criticizes a pastor because he drives a car of a certain value or a Christian because they earn a certain income, they are guilty of doing exactly what the Pharisees did. They have established an ethic of their own and imposed it on others. Moreover, that ethic is the result of twisting the Scripture. In fact, I have even had conversations with professing Christians at Patheos who were SHOCKED that heterosexual sex outside of marriage was a sin as well. Now, unless this person was a brand new Christian, they were entirely ignorant of the teachings of Christianity. How can someone claim to love Jesus and be so disinterested in His teachings, His ethics, and His values?
When Ben Corey says the Church must accept homosexuals as they are and challenges the view that homosexual sex is a sin, and demand that we receive them as regenerated believers, he is setting up his own standard and judging everyone else according to it. You see, the Pharisees were not wrong because they were conservative. They were not wrong because they had a particular ethic. They were wrong because their views subverted God’s word. They were not wrong because they were not accepting of others. They were wrong because they rejected what God accepted. It is not ipso facto wrong to reject someone. There is a place for that. It is wrong to reject what God accepts and to accept what God rejects. Ben Corey and the emerging church is guilty of resembling the Pharisees because they are accepting homosexual sex when God rejects it. I am reminded of the prophet that said woe to them that call evil good, and good evil.
Friday, June 20, 2014
There are as many theories concerning human nature, as there are philosophies and religions in the world today. Each one claims to have discovered the real truth concerning the nature of what it means to be human. The purpose of this project is to consider the existentialist’s view of human nature as posited by Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre viewed humanity as an empty bubble on the sea of nothingness. The basic human project is to become God. Indeed, the words of Protagoras spoken over 2,000 years ago live on in the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre. Man is indeed the measure of all things. In the view of Sartre, each human being is responsible for creating his own essence. We are the masters of our own ship, the creators of our own world, the truth makers, rather than truth seekers.
In one sense, Sartre would deny that there is any such thing as “human nature for there to be true or false theories about. The human being must create it’s own nature. Man is the measure of all things. God, or anyone, or anything else does not create us for any purpose. We just are. We must take this existence that confronts us, of which we are conscious, and do something with it. The question is not what should we do with it but rather, what will we do it?
Sartre believed that human beings were condemned to be free. In typical the existential view, the only truly admirable, “authentic” way of life is the one freely chosen by each person. Freedom seems to be both a blessing and a curse in Sartre’s existentialism. Even the idea of suicide to escape this freedom requires the freedom to carry out the act.
Sartre believed that to be human is to be continually faced with choices about what to believe and what to do. It is about the freedom to decide for oneself. He starts from a radical distinction between consciousness or “human reality” and inanimate, nonconscious things. The former is being-for-itself while the latter is being-in-itself. “Existentialism”, therefore, may be defined, as the philosophical theory, which holds that a further set of categories, governed by the norm of authenticity, is necessary to grasp human existence. One has to wonder where these norms come from and how we know them.
Of course in Sartre’s view, there can be no such thing as some transcendent ethic to which all humans are bound. This puts human beings in the place of doing what they freely choose to do. There is no external moral law to which existentialism can appeal. The existential view places man at the center of his own existence. Man is the measure of all things. He defines his own essence, and establishes his own morality. He is free in every sense of the word. It makes one wonder why all this quibbling then about what is and is not moral.
One has to wonder how it is possible for humans to create their own essence without creating mass chaos. For example, one human’s essence may consist of pure sexual pleasure by way of domination while another human may oppose such a state. How can these two possibly reach any agreement on the matter? It seems that one will be denied the essence of their being while the other will be fulfilled. Moreover, one cannot help but wonder about the ground for such an idea as essence from the start. It would seem that only from essence could the idea of essence arise in the first place.
In addition, Sartre’s view seems entirely arbitrary. And perhaps that is the point. Nevertheless, the one thing that does not seem to be apparent is Sartre’s basis for the basic concept of essence itself. Why bother? What can’t my essence be that I simply reject the notion of essence? Why can’t I simply do as I please without any regard for anyone else?
Finally, the idea that humans are free to do as they please or choose is a double-edged sword. It feels as though humans are free only to not be free. Freedom indeed seems to take on the nature of bondage. I am free to choose essentially means I am not free to not choose because not choosing is a choice. It seems that I am in bondage to freedom if such a thing is possible.
The Christian response to existentialism is found in Scripture. Genesis 1:26 informs us that God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
In the ancient Near East, the gods created for themselves—the world was their environment for their enjoyment and existence. People were created only as an afterthought, when the gods needed slave labor to help provide the conveniences of life (such as irrigation trenches). In the Bible the cosmos was created and organized to function on behalf of the people that God planned as the centerpiece of his creation.
Contrary to pagan existentialist philosophy, man is created in the image of God.
As a creature of God man is not only dependent on God, he also possesses value from the standpoint that he is God’s reflection in creation. The focus of this chiastic poem in Genesis 1:27 is the divine image of God indelibly stamped on the human person. Because man is created in God’s image He not only possesses value, he also enjoys a dignity that is ineradicable.
Another distinction in the Christian worldview is that man is not nearly as free as Sartre posited. Man’s essence is unavoidably attached to his covenant relationship with his Creator. The essence of man can be seen in his being a covenant creature, made in the image of His God and Creator. The origin of man places man at the mercy of the God who created him. Not only this, it makes man anything but free as Sartre understands freedom. Man is free only to do what is in his nature to do. And that is a far different set of circumstances than the one Sartre tells us has obtained. Jesus says that everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. In Romans 6, Paul tells the Romans that humans are either slaves to righteousness or slaves to sin. Either way, humans are never viewed as free from the standpoint of Scripture. Man is not the measure of all things.
 Norman Geisler, Baker Encylopedia of Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 683.
 Leslie Stevenson and Davild L. Haberman, Ten Theories of Human Nature (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998), 174.
 Leslie Stevenson and David L. Haberman, Ten Theories of Human Nature (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998), 170.
 "Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy," accessed June 18, 2014, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/existentialism/.
 Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Ge 1:31.