Monday, June 29, 2015

REBLOG: Robert Gagnon on Russell Moore's "Here We Stand"

Fourth, I have concerns about the exhortation that Christians "affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect." A first problem is adopting the "LGBT" nomenclature, as though doing so were part of this deserving "dignity and respect." Another is the failure to add that homosexual practice itself dishonors the dignity of the person engaging in it and threatens to mar the image of God stamped on the person (hence the close proximity of being made "in God's image" and being made "male and female" in Gen 1:27).

Click Here to Read Gagnon's blog post

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Holy People in an Unrighteous Nation

For some time now, American culture has been deliberately steered in a very specific direction for the past several decades. You see, Americans are very emotional people. For the past several years, there has been a move to use this tendency toward emotion, to escalate it, and then to advance certain causes by manipulating these emotions of the American people. Critical thinking, intellectual contemplation has been all but lost in American society. People are moved by their emotions without nearly an ounce of cerebral activity. And this is by design. For instance, Dan Trabue an adversary of mine continues to insist that there cannot be one authoritative interpretation of Scripture. What he fails to realize is that his basic statement puts itself out there as a final authority on how Scripture can be interpreted. His “anything goes” is just as authoritative as my “only the authors intent goes.” Dan cannot see the utter destruction of Scripture that results from his view nor can he understand that Christianity is reduced to ruins as we push his view to its logical conclusion. This is the kind of irrational thinking that I am afraid best describes most people in American culture and that includes many of those in our own Churches, real Churches even. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I think that light is religious persecution. Persecution will benefit the Church in America a great deal. Persecution has always benefited the Church through her history. I suspect this new era will be no different. Congratulations, Christians in America, you are about to join your fellow Christians in the rest of the world. Christian Americans have benefited from a very unusual prolonged period that has been free from persecution. And I am afraid we have wasted it on liberal Protestantism, the seeker movement, and the emergent church. As of Friday, the fat lady has started to warm up because we are ending an era. The show is just about over.
The good news for the Church anyways, as it relates to the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, is that it should provide some clarity around what the Church is and is not and who is actually in the Church and who is not. Churches will now be forced to take a stand or not. They will, at a minimum, be forced to make a decision: gay Christianity or the gospel. It cannot be both. John tells us that the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious. Christians in America, thanks to some who have abused dispensational theology, have bought the lie that we are not judge one another, and that only God knows the heart. When that thinking is incorporated into the radical dispensational dichotomy so that the God of the OT and the Jesus of the NT are view as different or behaving radically differently, it can only be a recipe for disaster. When respected men can teach and preach that we can make Jesus our Savior without making Him our Lord, the consequences are predictable. And here we are. The problem with this thinking is that it blatantly contradicts the Bible. Scripture says we can know them by the fruit they bear. Those in the world are obviously children of the devil and they are easy to recognize so long as the church wears the correct lens: God’s word.
Given the current state of affairs, what should the church do? We should learn from our past mistakes. We convinced ourselves that we were really treating homosexuals differently than others. With few rare exceptions, that is simply not true. We have treated them like we treat any unbeliever. We also bought the lie, without a shred of evidence, that we were obsessed with homosexuality and nearly preached against it every weekend. I have been in the Christian community for 36 years and I have never heard a single sermon devoted to homosexual sin. Not one, ever! We convinced ourselves that that homosexual community just wanted to be treated like everyone else and that they were honest nice people, willing to respect our differences. That is a lie. Homosexuals demand that everyone, including those with deeply held religious convictions to the contrary, celebrate their lifestyle. They have proven that they are not willing to respect different perspectives on their lifestyle. If you disagree with their lifestyle, you are a hater, a bigot, and a religious fanatic. Christians, over the last 5-10 years have been incredibly naïve in how they have handled this issue. This is just as true for prominent pastors, less prominent pastors, and other leaders. We need to learn from this and make sure we do not repeat those mistakes.
How do we respond? We continue to preach the gospel and trust God to perform His work according to His sovereign plan. We educate ourselves on opposing arguments against Scripture, against Christianity, against our God. This includes the arguments advocating gay Christianity. We change the way we live our lives. We turn of the cable programs and reject the godless messages that are embedded in these brainwashing, mind-numbing, hypnotic devices. The godless message of autonomous man and the narcissism that follows are laced throughout the programming. I am not suggesting that it is a sin to watch TV. I am suggesting that you keep your defenses up and begin to resist the desensitization intended by most of the programs. We become less American and more Christian. We stop worshipping the American dream, and romanticizing American history as if America was founded by the Apostles of Christ themselves. Poppycock! Stop that nonsense.
The homosexual, according to Paul in Romans one, along with every other god-hater engages in behavior that is worthy of death. That does not mean Paul was endorsing violence. It means their behavior is wicked. But Paul also included in that lot, those who give hearty approval to people that engage in wicked behavior to include homosexuality. They equally are worthy of death. Again, their endorsements of sinful behavior is extremely wicked. This means that the US Supreme Court is indeed a wicked body. The Court did not consult God in rendering its decision. It left God out. The Court has pretended to be the final authority on the matter even to the neglect of the Constitution. It has followed its decision to allow children to be murdered with this decision to allow America to call what is perverse, right.

Churches will need to deliberately begin to disciple and educate their people. Christians will have to stop this foolishness of being an intellectual sloth. We tend to busy ourselves with everything but Christian doctrine. The Scripture commands us to be prepared to defend the gospel, to defend Christian dogma. That takes time and energy.  We spend 40-50 hours a week working. We spend another 10-20 hours a week running around with kids, baseball, basketball, etc. We watch an obscene about of television programming. We play tons of golf, fish, hike, and go boating. And then we go to Church on Sunday morning, listen to a fluffy 30 minute Sunday school lesson and a 45 minute sermon, read 5 minutes in a devotional each day and think we have done our part. It seems pretty obvious, given our schedules and where we spend most of our time, where our priorities are. It is the pastor that has to drive this message home week in and week out. Those of us who invest time and energy in Scripture, equipping ourselves will never grow weary of hearing that encouragement. Those who don’t bother will either change their behavior or leave the community. And that is a win-win situation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Man’s Pursuit of Utopia

In “The New Atlantis,” Francis Bacon gives us a picture of the ideal state of humanity. In this ideal state, men possess the highest of moral qualities. The people of this Baconian community are devout, virtuous, and upright. In this utopia, science is the cause and ground for why man has been able to attain such happiness. Here, science is practiced perfectly and because the right method of science is employed, sound science is the result. And the product of sound science is the natural elevation of man to his proper place of absolute autonomous rule and reign over the physical world. In such a utopia, man acquires unimaginable cooperation, unsurpassed peace, and unceasing harmony.

Since men have existed, they have been in pursuit of the summum bonum. Bacon is clearly no exception. The problem with such lofty goals is that the manner in which each man defines the highest good differs almost to the man. What is humanity’s highest good? Philosophers have offered a number of alternatives for the highest good over the years and that is just the beginning of the problem. The answers have ranged from hedonism to rational eudemonism to ethical pluralism and many others. Bacon believes, as do many of his ardent students, that science has or is the solution to man’s problems. Not only can science define the highest good, it can carve out the path to this wonderful utopia.

In his book, “That Hideous Strength,” C.S. Lewis uses a fictional novel to expose the naïve belief that scientific materialism can actually deliver the utopia it promises. For modern readers, we cannot help but envision the same experiment guided by communism. One of the main characters of the novel, Mark Studdock, from the very beginning, is moved about like a pawn without any regard for what he might hold as the highest good. The arrangement at the N.I.C.E. is deliberately vague, slippery, and impossible for Mark to quantify or understand. The leaders of the N.I.C.E. clearly place little value on Mark as an individual. They only see him as a means to an end. In time, Lewis reveals that this is how the N.I.C.E. operates. This is their core philosophy. What matters is the ideal, not the person. Individuals are depersonalized and valued only for their ability to achieve the ideal. If they are deemed unhelpful, they are quickly disposed of in short order. Additionally, the N.I.C.E. seems to operate upon a purely pragmatic ethic. What is moral and just is that which promotes the ideal. If murder promotes the ideal, then murder is moral. If lying promotes the ideal, then lying is moral. If torture and false arrest and imprisonment promote the ideal, then these things are moral. One does not have to read about the N.I.C.E. for long before they realize that this utopia is indeed the strangest utopia one could ever imagine.

What Lewis is getting at is that thing which Bacon never seemed to consider. One man’s utopia is another man’s nightmare. One man may consider unrestricted access to another man’s wife whenever he pleases as utopia while for couple; such a scenario is much closer to hell. The modern ISIS group is a perfect example. Recently, ISIS terrorists that do well on the battlefield are rewarded with female slaves to do with them as they please. For these godless terrorists, such an arrangement may very well represent utopia. For the female slaves, it is sheer hell.

When man is the measure of all things the most natural question in the world is, “which man?” Utopian thinking requires criticism of the current state of affairs. One has to ask what the basis is for such criticism. How does one man look at the world and see deficiencies? Where does this idea that things ought to be better, originate? It is the myth and folly of rational thinkers to suppose that science can answer that question. It is not a scientific question. Moreover, it seems equally implausible for one to consider that a rationalist could provide a cogent answer. In that question, the question of the highest good, the summum bonum, is bound up a mystery, a puzzle that neither science nor pure rationalism can solve. Indeed, the solution rests someplace else.

The motives and values of the N.I.C.E. are clearly a very different set of values held by those of St. Anne. Who is to say, if man is the measure, which set of values ought to be preferred. How can we appeal to science to settle such a dispute? How could we appeal to logic to settle the matter? Indeed, an appeal must be made and that appeal must be made to that which stands over humanity, that which transcends humanity. There is no other way to address the riddle that is utopia.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Possibility and Implications of Distorting Divine Scripture

If the history of Christianity demonstrates anything it demonstrates that the phenomenon of twisting the divine revelation that has historically come to be known as Christian Scripture, is a very real possibility. For the true Christian, nothing is more important than a right understanding of the divine revelation. Yet, over the centuries, the historical evidence is irrefutable. Wrong interpretations of Scripture are possible.
Vern Poythress notes, “In the course of that long history, Christians have committed plenty of horrendous sins and made ghastly mistakes that discredit the faith. Moreover, those antagonistic to the God of the Bible have, over a period of several centuries, produced a whole marketplace of culturally fashionable stratagems for evading God. Some are incredibly sophisticated and awesomely complex. They include ways of immunizing ourselves from the Bible and its message. So we have plenty of ways to hide our spiritual nakedness.” [Poythress, God Centered Biblical Interpretation]
The use of words is intended to do something. The motive that leads to the human behavior of communicating resides within the communicator. E.D. Hirsch Jr. says, “There is no magic land of meaning outside human consciousness. Whenever meaning is connected to words, a person is making the connection, and the particular meanings he lends to them are never the only legitimate ones under the norms and conventions of his language.” [Hirsch, Jr. Validity In Interpretation] In the case of Scripture, which itself has a secondary as well as a primary author, the intended meaning is located in the human author as the secondary author and God, the Holy Spirit, who is the primary author. There is no other literary work that parallels the Christian Scriptures. For this reason, interpreting the text of Scripture is unlike other interpretive enterprises. It demands skills that no other text demands.
In Mark 7:13, Jesus accused the religious of His day of invalidating the word of God by means of their tradition. The Greek word translated invalidated is ἀκυρόω (akuroo). Louw-Nida classifies this word in the semantic domain of power, or force. It is defined as to refuse to recognize the force or power of something—‘to invalidate the authority of, to reject, to disregard.’ Jesus is accusing the religious of his day of handling Scripture in such a way as to challenge its authority, its power, and its force.
Paul writes to a young Timothy and provides explicit instruction regarding the Scriptures, saying, If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing. (1 Tim. 6:3-4a) Paul in numerous places just like this, emphatically points out the possibility of error concerning the Scriptures. Here, he warns against teaching anything that is different from what should be taught. Hence, the possibility of teaching something that should not be taught exists. I realize that to many of you, this much seems obvious. I have a purpose in stating what is plainly obvious and soon enough you will see what it is. I hope that the detractors are following the line of reasoning I am putting forth.
Peter also made this point very clearly, writing, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15-16) The Greek word strebloo means to distort the meaning of something in communicating to others. It belongs to the semantic domain of ‘interpret, mean, explain.’ Clearly, Peter thought that there were some who were misinterpreting Paul and not only this, they were destroying themselves because of they mishandled Paul and the rest of the Scripture.
In conclusion then, we have clear and incontrovertible evidence that it is possible to distort the sacred Scriptures. In so doing, we are not merely distorting the intended meaning of finite men, but rather, of holy men who were moved by the Holy Spirit. In essence, to distort the Scriptures is to take words out of or put words in God’s mouth that he has or has not spoken. Since God’s word has perlocutionary intent, whatever effect God intended by the speech act, we nullify. Indeed, to misinterpret Scripture is to fight against God.
We must now come to the place where we attempt to understand the implications of the possibility of distorting Scripture. Since we are warned time and again by Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jude, and John as well as other NT writers not to distort Scripture, we can infer that it is possible to rightly interpret Scripture. The only logically possible way for one not to distort Scripture is for them to interpret it correctly. Additionally, if it is possible to rightly interpret Scripture, then it is possible to ascertain the intention of the human and divine authors of Scripture. That seems rather obvious at this point. After all, imagine if we applied to our normal every day conversation, some of the standards we apply to interpreting Scripture. Communication would be impossible and so too would any hope of progress in any meaningful sense of the word progress.
What we are seeking when we interpret Scripture is the true meaning intended by the authors of Scripture. After all, only if something has a true meaning can one distort it. If proposition A has no truth-value, then it is impossible to distort proposition A. If distortion is possible, then truth-value must, by definition of distortion, exist. In other words, truth is the logical necessity for distortion. The existence of true meaning then is the necessary condition for distortion. Without truth-value, distortion could not exist. Philosophically speaking, the existence of truth and error says nothing about the possibility of knowledge. However, at this point we must point out what seems obvious to even the casual reader of Scripture and that is that Scripture assumes that knowledge is possible by the very fact that it commands that we must avoid distortion. We would say it like this: if distortion, then truth. Distortion occurs, therefore truth. No truth, therefore, no distortion. If distortion, then truth, and if truth, then knowledge. Therefore, if distortion, then knowledge. To put it in biblical terms, if Scripture can be distorted, then it must be true. And if it is true and it can be distorted, then it must be knowable. If distortion exists, then knowledge is possible. Otherwise, it would be impossible to know distortion exists if knowledge were not possible.  
What exactly do we mean when we say that a particular proposition contains truth-value? When I say that meaning has been or can be distorted, I am referring to something very specific. But is the reference to some correspondence theory or truth? Do I mean the proposition does not correspond to the reality that is there? Or, do I mean that the proposition does not cohere within a particular system? Perhaps I mean that the proposition just doesn’t work. It isn’t practical to hold it as true. This points us up to the need for a Christian theory of truth. With each major theory of truth, there is almost always some element of truth-value. On the other hand, each theory in and of itself falls short of the mark. Saying that something corresponds with reality only begs the question of how reality is being defined. To say that something coheres only creates questions around the system that it coheres within. And to say that it works begs the question of what one means by “works.”
Where then is truth anchored and what is the Christian theory of truth? Truth itself is anchored in the mind of the self-contained ontological Triune God of Scripture. Truth exists in the mind of God. To distort truth is to misrepresent the very thought of God. How can we know God’s thoughts? This is an epistemological question. Hence, the epistemic claim that distortion is possible is supported by my strong modal claim that truth resides in the mind of God. From this we see that God is the necessary precondition for the possibility of distorting the Scriptures. If God were the necessary precondition for the possibility of distorting the Scriptures, then we would follow that claim with the claim that sin is the sufficient condition for distorting the Scriptures.
What does all this mean? For more than a few weeks now, I have been dealing with two men who seem to want to overthrow historic Christian orthodoxy while at the same time employing techniques that would lead one to believe that the interpretive process is so fluid that just about any understanding of the text is acceptable. I should say, for some reason, any understanding of the text that falls outside the historic one is acceptable. The gay Christian issue has been our most contentious subject, as it seems to be the burning issue for the moment.
There are numerous and sophisticated methods open for modern man in order for him to distort the meaning of Scripture. The necessary existence of truth in the mind of God and the presence of sin in the heart of man provide both the necessary and sufficient condition for such distortion. On the other hand, if distortion is possible, and the accurate interpretation of Scripture is possible, then not just any method or any interpretation will do. This means that interpreting Scripture is indeed a serious matter. If Scripture is God speaking, God revealing what is in His mind regarding a particular issue, then misrepresenting God’s communication to us is naturally a serious matter.
Finally, I should say a quick word about figurative language and how it is used in Scripture. For some reason, men like Dan Trabue think the employment of figurative language means that we cannot take those texts literally where it is employed. That understanding is patently false. One example used was the view that Gen. 6:5 is figurative language because here the human heart is described as having intents and thoughts and that these intentions and thoughts were continually evil. To claim that the use of the word heart is figurative here would be anachronistic. The Hebrew use of the word lb is not normally employed to mean the physical organ itself. Instead, the ancient Hebrew thought of the heart as the essential person, mind, will, and emotion. For our purposes, we may classify this use as somewhat figurative but not as cleanly as some would like. And it is not clear that Moses would have actually thought that he was using figurative language when he wrote of the account. Additionally, the literal meaning of the text remains unchanged. The essence of the individuals at this time continually engaged in evil. They had altogether abandoned all moral behavior.
Dan has also attempted to interpret the Scripture’s teaching on original sin as non-literal language, claiming that babies are not born sinners. According to Dan, this is figurative language. What kind of figurative language is it? Dan does not tell us. But if we use Scripture as a whole to interpret Scripture individually, we understand that we are all born into sin, with sin natures, from the very beginning captive to sin. Paul says that we are all by nature children of wrath. (Eph. 2:3) The entire NT employs the use of the term “born again” to describe what every individual must experience in order to enter the Kingdom of God. The reason that we must be born from above is because our birth from below is into sin. Hence, that children are born sinners, that they do not become sinners along the way is clear. Dan’s views on this front are the views of the heresy known as ancient Pelagianism: A heresy that Augustine identified and debunked 1600 years ago.           

In summary, I claim that because truth necessarily exists in the mind of God that distortion of Scripture is a real possibility. And because distortion is a real possibility, accurately handling the Word of Truth is also a real possibility. Paul issues this very command. All this to say that how Christians view and interpret Scripture is to a very large degree indicative of the genuineness of their claim to faith in Christ. Because of this, the subject of interpreting Scripture is one in which every Christian will have to become more competent. The level of hermeneutical acumen within Christianity must change if we are to be good soldiers carrying on a good campaign doing our part to proclaim and defend revealed truth.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Rachel Dolezal, Kirsten Powers, and the Issue of Congruency

We have all (the Church) sat back and wondered with amazement at American Culture's fascination with and celebration of Bruce Jenner and his attempt to be a woman even though scientifically speaking, he is in fact a man. But in a narcissistic society such as ours, you can be whatever you want to be. If you are a woman wanting to be a man, we have ways to grant your wish, just like a genie in a bottle. All we have to do is blink our eyes, give it a quick nod, and in an instant what was a man is now a woman and what was a woman is now a man. It is all quite impressive and incredible really. The Bruce Jenner story is one that simply won't go away and most of the "men" and I do mean "man" in the truest sense, laugh at it all when they huddle for the proverbial cold beer after work in those places where big brother and the corporate boss cannot see or hear the conversations. We all know intuitively that there is something bizarre about all but no one will speak up. Just like the N.I.C.E. in Lewis' "That Hideous Strength," we all feel the weight of government and corporate intimidation. The pot has been turned up slowly and she is beginning to boil. Everyone feels the heat of the hot tub and we all know that our destination is not the state of relaxation and mental harmony brought about by the country club. Just like the Jews headed to Auschwitz, we know the ride we are on leads to someplace metaphorically as ominous. My own firm is beginning to ask people to stand up publicly as ally for the LGBT community. It is just a matter of time before they identify and dispense with those who refuse. The irony is that they will do so in the name and under the guise of diversity. The Christian had better be preparing for severe ostracism, termination, vilification, slander, and all sorts of suffering. We had better get ready to feel like an obvious, tiny minority and we had better do it soon. We have had things our way for a very long time in American society despite the ungodliness that has prevailed for centuries. Open secularism has won the day in America. Biblical Christianity is its greatest threat. Anyone who thinks that Christianity is losing the battle is wrong on several accounts. First of all, if there was battle, its over. If there was a battle, popular Christianity if you want to call it that, has lost. She lies in the middle of the street having been slain by secularism, covered in blood, dead on arrival. At the end of this short post, I will return to this analogy with some adjustments.

Now, I have said you can be whatever you want to be in American society. But as it turns out, it looks like I am wrong. If you don't believe me, just as Rachel Dolezal of the NAACP. Rachel has had to resign her post with that organization all because she is actually not a black woman. She is a white woman and apparently she has been lying about her race all along. But Rachel said that she self-identifies as black. Now, if Bruce Jenner can be celebrated for self-identifying as a woman, why can't Rachel Dolezal identify as black? If a person is allowed to change their gender based on nothing scientific, based on their feelings or desires, why can't we also change our race on the very same principle? Isn't it arbitrary to allow Bruce to self-identify as a woman while at the very same time denying Rachel her desire to self-identify as a black woman? The way American society is approaching Bruce and Rachel seems to me to be the epitome of hypocrisy. Perhaps someone like Dan Trabue can message me and help me understand where I am wrong.

Now, on to another more serious situation in my opinion. Everyone was very excited a couple of years ago with Kirsten Powers of Fox News converted from atheism to Christianity. Apparently Kirsten had been attending Tim Keller's Redeemer church in NYC and came to saving faith in the process. I read the story in 2013 although I cannot be sure when the actual conversion took place, if in fact, it has taken place. As many now know, Powers has written articles in support of gay Christianity and has taken up a position, as an infant Christian I might add, that is a serious contradiction of Scripture, of the PCA, and of Redeemer and it's leadership. I have searched for comments from Tim Keller on Kirsten's remarks about the subject and have come up empty. This is more than a little disturbing. While I realize that Keller cannot control the beliefs or the remarks that a regular visitor or member of his church makes, he surely can provide a reaction so as to reassure others that he is not himself slipping on the issue like so many others have done. Where is Keller in all this? Where is the discipleship and accountability for Powers? A claim to faith must be tested and this is an opportunity to test Power's claim. Is she real or has she just shifted from philosophical atheism to practical atheism under the guise of moralistic deism? Redeemer Fellowship, along with the body of elders has a responsibility to the community, not to mention to the greater church at large, and especially to Christ to engage in the same battle the rest of us are in. But the silence is deafening. My advice to Kirsten Powers is to avoid discussions about social issues like gay marriage until such time as you have been trained in what genuine faith produces in terms of such views. God has a perspective on the issue and submission to Christ means that we embrace God's law and revelation on such matters as opposed to modern secularist views on them. Being a young Christian, Powers surely gets it wrong. But the true test of her faith will come when she is confronted by the irresistible truth of Scripture on the subject. True faith submits to Christ in all things.

Now, back to the battle between Christianity and secularism. Popular Christianity is not the same as Biblical Christianity. Popular Christianity has shown that it is impotent. It has been torn to shreds by modern secularism and there is hardly anything left that is recognizable. The destruction is complete. Biblical Christianity on the other hand is another matter altogether. Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against my church. If hades is no match for Biblical Christianity, then American Secularism is a cream-puff by comparison. Biblical Christianity cannot be defeated by Secularism or any other weapon the enemy introduces. John said we are of God and have overcome the world because He that resides in us is greater than he that resides in the world. The Biblical Christian will not wilt, he will not compromise, and he will NEVER stop contending for the truth and against evil. Discouraged, emotionally drained, weak, in desperate need of respite, the Biblical Christian will continue to fight and God will continue to graciously infuse His own with the energy and love for truth and hatred of evil necessary to engage. This is not a war that secularism can win against Biblical Christianity! She cannot be defeated.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Being IN The Christian Community

There is a lot of confusion in modern Churches about what it means to be "in Christ." Over the course of history, many scholars, theologians, and pastors have allowed themselves to either over-emphasize or under-appreciate certain aspects of Christian belief. As can be expected, such behavior has resulted in error and even heresy within the Christian community. One of the major issues confronting the Church today is the logical consequences of an over-emphasis on some forms of dispensational theology. In particular, the common belief that gospel and law are incompatible and that faith and works have no relationship whatever is a belief that has resulted in turning biblical Christianity upside down on its head. And today, the chickens are coming home to roost. In order to understand why this particular concept within dispensational theology cannot be correct, all one needs to do is look at the letter of 1 John. For purposes of this post, I want you to look at 1 John 3:7-10 specifically. 

The first step in the exegetical process is to establish the text. However, for purposes of this post I will only mention that there are a minimal amount of insignificant variants that appear in this pericope or section of Scripture. This will allow us the luxury of jumping into the text and move to the immediate task of attempting to understand the meaning and subsequently, the significance of John's words to his original audience and to us today.

When reading 1 John, one must be always aware that John is dealing with an apostate group that has left the Christian community, went out on its own, and formed a competitor or alternative to the Christian group. Clearly, there are aspects of biblical Christianity that this rogue community chose to reject. Rather than submitting themselves to the authoritative teachings of the apostles, they embraced those elements of Christian doctrine they found gratifying, rejected what they did not like, and came up with an alternative system and subsequently, an alternative community. John is dealing with that community throughout his epistle and it is that context that sets the framework for how we approach our more immediate text.

First, it will benefit us a great deal to pay close attention to the style of John as he makes the main points that are at the forefront of his mind. He begins with the what is called a thematic address "little children." When an author uses this technique, he is seeking to do something very specific with the audience. By using thematic address in this way, John is putting his hands on the face of the audience like a mother would her upset child in order to get her attention just before she says what she desperately wants her child to hear. It would be similar to me saying "no one did anything wrong here" and me saying, "John, John, John, listen to me: you did not do anything wrong here." That is the effect John is seeking when uses the phrase "little children" at the start of this section or pericope.
Second, John employs a meta comment. A meta comment is another device used to grab someone's attention in a more serious, intense or profound manner. It is like a manager, instead of saying "there is to be no overtime" instead says, "listen carefully to what I am about to say on the subject of overtime: there will be no overtime at this time." The meta comment in this example is "listen carefully to what I am  about to say on the subject of overtime." It sets you up for the more important message that is to follow. This is precisely what John is doing. Evidently John has something to say that he wants to make sure reaches its mark even more than some of the other things he had to say. This meta comment John employs is "let no one deceive you." The meta comment juxtaposed with the thematic address from a stylistic perspective strongly indicates that John desires to get the attention of the audience. He is profoundly concerned about a deceptive component that threatens this community. John seeks to protect the community from deception and he does so with the only protection anyone has against deception: truth, sound doctrine.

John then informs the community that the one practicing righteousness is righteous just as Christ is righteous. Stated another way, those who are righteous as Christ is righteous are practitioners of righteousness. If you want to test someone's claim to be righteous, that is, in Christ, examine their practice. If their behavior is predominantly defined by a lifestyle in pursuit righteous living, then they are righteous. That is the measure that John provides this small community of believers. This too, is a tool for us today for what it truly means to be in Christ.

Note, however, John is not finished. Just as behavior is used to identify those who are in Christ, it is also helpful in identifying those who are not in Christ, but who, by the very nature of the fact of not being in Christ, are of the devil. John continues this theme by saying "the one who practices sin is of the devil because the devil has been sinning, practicing sin from the beginning. The mark of true faith is seen in one's behavior. John is adamant about this truth. 

John then employs a common forward-pointing reference, eis touto, for this reason. There is nothing more central to the Christian faith and message than what John is about to say. This use of eis provides us with the intention of Christ's entering the world. It is used in Jn. 18:37 where Jesus gives His reason for being born and coming into the world. This was the purpose of the Christ! "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil." Notice that John links sin with the works of the devil. Christ came to destroy sin, to destroy the works of the devil. Sin is synonymous with the workings of Satan. If one intentionally or inadvertently defends sinful practice of any kind, he or she is ignorantly or even knowingly aligning themselves with the work of the devil. Hence, any contemplation regarding the Christian's relationship with divine law should be approached with great humility. The Christian liberty movement has more people aligned with the devil on this front than most people realize. Lawlessness has no place in the Christian community and has no part in gospel-preaching that is faithful to Scripture.

John then moves to the consequences of what he is driving toward. And what is the point? The point is that No one who is born of God practices sin because God's seed remains in in him. Sin cannot define the life of the righteous person, the believer, the one who has come to faith in Christ because God's seed, God's nature resides in him through the presence of the Holy Spirit. One must recall that this is being stated within a very specific context. It appears that some of the secessionists contend that they are without sin while others believe that sin is not a significant issue. These beliefs are tied to other philosophical commitments that are too complex to enter at this point. Suffice it to say that it would be in poor judgment to read our modern situation back into John's writings. We must move in precisely the opposite direction beginning with John's original audience moving outward toward our own situation if we are to understand John's concerns. The notion that men can be without sin or that sin is irrelevant is rejected and debunked entirely in John's letter. Any philosophy or theology that would lead us into such beliefs is seriously and thoroughly defective.

Now, there is a very interesting consequence to John's argument and we see that consequence stated plainly enough in v. 10. By "this" the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. I agree with Wallace when he says it makes better sense to take the phrase "By this" as referring to what immediately follows and therefore serving as a summary to the preceding section and a transition to the section that follows. John here is saying, as he has stated and implied as well as inferred in other places, that one's fruit, that is, how one conducts his life is the best proof of his claim to faith. John uses a term that is very interesting when he says it is phoneros who the children of God are and who are the children of the devil. Louw-Nida places it under the semantic domain of light. It means that something is clearly and easily able to be known. In summary, because the nature of sin is what it is and because the nature of the new birth in Christ is what it is, there can be no co-existence between sin and the children of God or between righteousness and the children of the devil. The two entities, sin and righteousness share no common ground, no familial relationship, no similar interests and no mutual character traits. They are as different as night and day, hot and cold, love and hate, peace and war. A child of God cannot happily exist among the children of the devil and a child of the devil will not happily dwell in the city of the righteous. Paul said it this way: what partnership does righteousness have with lawlessness or what fellowship does light have with darkness?

Bringing us back to the beginning of the post regarding some of the issues that an over-emphasis and under-appreciation of particular doctrines may potentially create, I realize that not all dispensationalists are guilty of such behavior. For instance, John MacArthur, who happens to be my favorite preacher, finds certain elements that lead to lawlessness within dispensationalism equally repugnant and works hard to counter those views. Nevertheless, it seems plain to me that a general reading of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, together as well as separate, clearly repudiate the idea that there is nothing to Christian living outside of trying to be a 'nice' person, and that faith and the gospel are nothing more than a shallow lip service where Christians can continue in lawless behavior and still have legitimate claims of love and devotion to God. The Scripture teaches nothing of the sort. The rogue community that John was dealing with clearly had ungodly and unbiblical conceptions of sin and the place of righteous living in the life of the Christian and the place of the law in the gospel message. We face similar misconceptions today when we deal with people who think Jesus was a soft-spoken, politically correct marsh mellow accepting everyone's sin as is and demanding nothing of anyone outside of being 'nice' to one another which is how Americans define love. We can see clearly that John's text is entirely incongruent with such interpretations of the Christian life.