Monday, July 31, 2006

Is The Bible a Ouija Board in Disguise - Part 3

This post is a continuation from my series Is The Bible a Ouija Board in Disguise. To catch up, I would encourage you to read the first two posts.

Is The Bible a Ouija Board in Disguise - Part 1

Is The Bible a Ouija Board in Disguise - Part 2

Insufficiently Analogous Situations

The most subtle of all misapplications of Scripture occurs when readers correctly interpret passages in their literary and historical contexts but then bring them to bear on situations where they simply do not apply. The temptation of Christ well illustrates the subtlety and sinister nature of this misapplication. Using a cunning ploy, Satan quoted Psa 91:11–12 and challenged Jesus saying, “If you are the Son of God … throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’ ” (Mt 4:5). Here Satan asks Jesus to display God’s miraculous ability to preserve his life. Certainly Jesus himself had such power. What is more, the psalmist states that God promises safety and protection to anyone who “dwells in the shelter of the Most High” (Psa 91:1). The problem here is that the devil’s challenge confuses the psalmist’s reference to “unintentional stumbling” with taking a deliberate jump off the Temple pinnacle. The psalmist’s intent here is not that we test God’s faithfulness to his Word by manufacturing situations in which we try to force him to act in certain ways. Rather, it points out his providential care for his children. Jesus thus refutes the devil with another text of Scripture that strictly forbids presuming on the grace of God (Deut 6:16).17 No passage of Scripture can be casually or carelessly applied to any and/or every situation.

Neo-orthodox Theology


Another distinctive trait is Neo-orthodox Theology. A person encounters many problems when their theology is based around feelings and not upon the Bible. That is a major problem that I see in this theology. Notice how many claims this theology makes that are outside of Scripture. Once again our study comes from the booklet Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House.

Neo-orthodox Theology

Theology-Neo-orthodoxy is more a hermeneutic than it is a complete systematic theology. It reacted against late-nineteenth-century liberalism and strove to retain essence of Reformation theology while still adapting to contemporary issues. It is a theology of encounter between God and men.

God-God is wholly transcendent except when he chooses to reveal himself to man. God is totally sovereign over and free from creation. God cannot be known through proofs (Kierkegaard). God cannot be known through objective doctrine but through an experience of revelation.

Christ-Christ as manifested Scripture is the Christ of faith, not necessarily the historical Jesus. Christ is the revelation of God. The important Christ is the one experienced by the individual. Christ was not virgin-born (Brunner). Christ is the symbol of the new being in which all that estranges people from God is dissolved (Tillich).

Revelation-God’s revelation to man through his Word is threefold. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Scripture points to the Word. Preaching proclaims the Word made flesh.

The Bible contains the Word of God. The Word is revealed by the Spirit as the Bible and Christ are proclaimed. The Bible is human and fallible and is reliable only to the extent that God reveals himself through encounters with Scripture. Historicity of Scripture is unimportant. Creation account is a myth (Niebuhr) or a saga (Barth).

Salvation-Man is completely sinful and can be saved only by God’s grace. The Word produces a crisis decision between the rebellion of sin and the grace of God. Only by faith can a person choose God’s grace in this crisis and receive salvation. All mankind is elect in Christ (Barth). There is no such thing as inherited sin from Adam (Brunner). Man sins by choice, not because of nature. (Brunner). Sin is self-centeredness (Brunner). Sin is social injustice and fear (Niebuhr). Salvation is commitment to God in a blind “leap of faith” while in despair (Kierkegaard).

Eschatology
-Eternal punishment and hell are not realities (Brunner).

Existential Theology


Another distinctive trait is Existential Theology. Would it surprise you if I said this theology and Sigmund Freud have something in common? With that in mind, it is really sad to me that some people suggest that the Bible cannot stand alone on issues. There has to be a psychology or counseling book placed along side it. As I typed about this wacko theology; I thought how the Bible might as well be thrown out the window according to it. It obviously is not based on the Word of God. It falls way short of the truth! Our study comes from the booklet Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House.

Existential Theology

Theology-Existential theologians claim that we have to “demythologize” Scripture. “To demythologize Scripture is to reject not Scripture of the Christian message, but the world-view of a past epoch.” That means to explain everything supernatural as myth. The important part of Christian faith consequently becomes a subjective experience, rather than an objective truth (see Salvation). The Bible, when demythologized, does not talk about God, but about man.

God-Objective knowledge of God’s existence is not possible. The concept of God was a help for the early Christians to understand themselves, but in our time, with a different world-view, we can see behind the myth. Thus, God is our statement about human life. “It is therefore clear that if a man will speak about God, he must evidently speak of himself” (Bultmann). If God exists, he works in the world as if he does not exist. And we cannot know about him in any objective way.

Trinity-The Trinity is a myth relating to the supernatural content of the Bible (see God).

Christ
-Jesus is just a common man. As the New Testament is called a myth, we do not have much, if any, knowledge of the “historical Jesus.” That leaves us a picture of Jesus without any “divine” intervention. The Cross has no significance regarding the vicarious bearing of sins, and the Resurrection is utterly inconceivable as an historical event. This is also true of the Virgin Birth and other miracles.

Holy Spirit-All we know about the Holy Spirit belongs to the untrustworthy supernatural parts of the Bible, which are really only mythical.

Revelation-The Bible is not a source of objective information about God. To understand themselves better people in the first centuries created a myth around Jesus. He did not perform miracles, nor rise from the dead. If we can “strip the myths” from the Gospel, we discover the original purpose behind the myth and can find guidance for our lives today. This is called “demythologization.” The Bible becomes a book that has as its aim to transform persons through encounter.

Salvation
-“Salvation” is to find ones “true self.” This is done by a choice to put our faith in God, and this choice will change our view of ourselves. Salvation, then, is a change of our whole outlook and conduct in life, built on an experience of “God”; it is not a change of man’s nature. As we do not know anything about God objectively, it is a matter of “faith in faith.”

Myth-Bultmann understood myth as a way to speak of the Transcendent in terms of the world: “Mythology is that form of imagery in which that which is not of this world, that which is divine, is represented as though it were of this world and human; ‘the beyond’ is represented as ‘the here and now.’”

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Liberal Theology


Another distinctive trait that we will see is Liberal Theology. Let’s remember that the Word of God is an ancient book, but it very much alive for today. It has all the answers that a person needs for life. The problem with Liberal Theology is that the Bible is really not that important for the modern culture. It is an out-of-date textbook. As you will see as you read about this theology it sounds good at times, but it suggestions are contrary to what the Bible teaches. I guess that is why they call it liberal! Our study comes from the booklet Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House.

Liberal Theology

Theology-Liberal theologians seek to articulate Christianity in terms of contemporary culture and thinking. They attempt to maintain the essence of Christianity in modern terms and images.

God-God is immanent. He dwells within the world and is not above it or apart from it. Thus there stands no distinction between the natural and the supernatural.

Trinity-The Father works not supernaturally but through culture, philosophy, education, and society. Liberal theology is usually Unitarian rather than Trinitarian, recognizing only the deity of the Father. Jesus was “full of God” but was not God incarnate. The Spirit is not a person within the Godhead but is simply God’s activity in the world.

Christ-Christ gave a moral example for humanity. He also expressed God to us. Christ did not die to pay the penalty of our sins or impute his righteousness to man. He was neither God nor savior but merely God’s representative.

Holy Spirit-The Spirit is the activity of God in the world, not a third person of the Godhead who is equal in essence to the Father and the Son.

Revelation-The Bible is a fallible human record of religious experiences and thought. The historical validity of the biblical record is doubted. Scientific assessments prove the miraculous in the Bible to be religious expression only.

Salvation-Man is not innately sinful but possesses a universal religious sentiment. The goal of salvation is not personal conversion but societal improvement. Christ set the ultimate example of what mankind is striving for and will ultimately become. Liberal theology has characteristically uniformly denied the Fall, original sin, and the substitutionary nature of the Atonement.

Future-Christ will not personally return. The kingdom will come to earth as a result of a universal moral development.

Natural Theology

These studies come from the booklet Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House. This is defiantly an interesting theological system. Is the inerrant Word of God really that important to a person of this theological persuasion? It doesn’t appear to be that way. A person has a BIG problem when he or she tries to wiggle free from the truths and claims in the Bible.

Natural Theology

Definition- Natural theology is the attempt to attain an understanding of God and his relationship to the universe by means of rational reflection, without appealing to special revelation such as the self-revelation of God in Christ and in Scripture.

Epistemological Foundation-God is the eternal, unchanging, sovereign, holy, personal God, creator of the universe. He has everything in his control and through his eternal decrees from eternity has planned the future. It is done in such a way that he is not morally responsible for evil.

Relation to Revealed Theology-Natural theology deals with God’s existence and attributes from sources common to all men (creation, logical reasoning, etc.) whereas revealed theology deals with specific truth discerned from the Scripture. Natural theology requires reason alone whereas revealed theology requires also faith and the illumination of the Spirit.

Purpose of Natural Theology-Natural Theology can be used apologetically to prove the existence of God. It also supports revealed theology. If the conclusions of natural theology are accepted, then it would be “reasonable” also to accept revealed theological truth. Thus natural theology has an evangelistic purpose.

Possible Objection-1)Natural theology lacks a biblical basis. 2)Natural theology attempts to exempt reason from the effects of the fall and of depravity.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Something Worth Savoring

To know how we obtain our justification, it is expedient to consider, first, how naughty and sinful we are all, that be of Adam's kindred; and contrariwise, what mercifulness is in God, which to all faithful and penitent sinners pardoneth all their offences for Christ's sake. Of these two things no man is lightly ignorant that ever hath heard of the fall of Adam, which was to the infection of all his posterity; and again, of the inexplicable mercy of our heavenly Father, which sent his only begotten Son to suffer his most grievous passion for us, and shed his most precious blood, the price of our redemption. But it is greatly to be wished and desired, that as all Christian men do know the same, so that every man might acknowledge and undoubtedly believe the same to be true and verified, even upon himself; so that both he may humble himself to God and knowledge himself a miserable sinner not worthy to be called his son; and yet surely trust, that to him being repentant God's mercy is ready to forgive. And he that seeth not these two things verified in himself, can take no manner of emolument and profit by acknowledging and believing these things to be verified in others. But we cannot satisfy our minds or settle our conscience that these things are true, saving that we do evidently see that God's word so teacheth us.

The commandments of God lay our faults before our eyes, which putteth us in fear and dread, and maketh us see the wrath of God against our sins, as St. Paul saith, Per legem agnitio peccati, et, Lex iram operatur, and maketh us sorry and repentant, that ever we should come into the displeasure of God, and the captivity of the Devil. The gracious promises of God by the mediation of Christ showeth us, (and that to our great relief and comfort,) whensoever we be repentant...we have forgiveness of our sins, [are] reconciled to God, and accepted, and reputed just and righteous in his sight, only by his grace and mercy, which he doth grant and give unto us for his dearly beloved Son's sake, Jesus Christ; who paid a sufficient ransom for our sins; whose blood doth wash away the same; whose bitter and grievous passion is the only pacifying oblation, that putteth away from us the wrath of God his Father; whose sanctified body offered on the cross is the only sacrifice of sweet and pleasant savour, as St. Paul saith: that is to say, of such sweetness and pleasantness to the Father, that for the same he accepteth and reputeth of like sweetness all them that the same offering doth serve for.

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Dark Guest

The Dark Guest

O Lord,

Bend my hands and cut them off, for I have often struck thee with a wayward will, when these fingers should embrace thee by faith.

I am not yet weaned from all created glory, honour, wisdom, and esteem of others, for I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do.

Let me not only speak the word sin, but see the thing itself.

Give me to view a discovered sinfulness, to know that though my sins are crucified they are never wholly mortified.

Hatred, malice, ill-will, vain-glory that hungers for and hunts after man’s approval and applause, all are crucified, forgiven, but they rise again in my sinful heart.

O my crucified but never wholly mortified sinfulness!

O my life-long damage and daily shame!

O my indwelling and besetting sins!

O the tormenting slavery of a sinful heart!

Destroy, O God, the dark guest within whose hidden presence makes my life a hell.

Yet thou hast not left me here without grace; The cross still stands and meets my needs in the deepest straits of the soul.

I thank thee that my remembrance of it is like David’s sight of Goliath’s sword which preached forth thy deliverance.

The memory of my great sins, my many temptations, my falls, bring afresh into my mind the remembrance of thy great help, of thy support from heaven, of the great grace that saved such a wretch as I am.

There is no treasure so wonderful as that continuous experience of thy grace toward me which alone can subdue the risings of sin within: Give me more of it.

Valley of Vision.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dispensationalism VS Covenant Theology - Part 1

Dispensationalism VS Covenant Theology

The following two posts are the major differences between these two systems of theology. They represent the mainstreams of both systems, though there are variations in each. Representative systematic theologies are those of L.S. Chafer and Charles Hodge. The numbers before each statement match-up and go point for point across the two systems of belief.


COVENANT THEOLOGY
1. Always Calvinist. Usually 5-point.
2. Accepts both literal and figurative interpretation of the Bible.
3. Almost always accepts the idea of The ‘Analogy of Faith.’
4. ‘Israel’ may mean either literal, physical descendants of Jacob or the figurative, spiritual Israel, depending on context.
5. ‘Israel of God’ in Gal. 6:16 means spiritual Israel, parallel to Gal. 3:29; Rom. 2:28029, 9:6; Phil. 3:3.
6. God has always had only 1 people, the Church gradually developed.
7. The Church began in O. T. (Acts 7:38) and reached fulfillment in the N. T.
8. There are many O. T. prophecies of the N. T. Church.
9. Some O. T. prophecies are for literal Israel, others are for spiritual Israel.
10. God’s main purpose in history is Christ and secondarily the Church.
11. The Church is the culmination of God’s saving purpose for the ages.
12. The main heir to Abraham’s covenant and was Christ and spiritual Israel.
13. The eternal Covenant of Redemption was within the Trinity to effect election.
14. God made a conditional Covenant of Works with Adam as representative for all his posterity.
15. God made a Covenant of Grace with Christ and His people, including Adam.
16. Israel was right to accept the Covenant Mt. Sinai.
17. The ‘New Covenant’ of Jer. 31 is the same as in Lk. 22; both are for spiritual Israel according to Heb. 8.
18. God’s program in history is mainly through related covenants.
19. No man has ever been saved by works, but only by grace.
20. All men who have ever been saved have been saved by faith in Christ as their sin-bearer, which has been progressively revealed in every age.
21. O. T. believers believed in the Gospel of Messiah as sin-bearer mainly by the sacrifices as types and prophecies.
22. The Holy Spirit has indwelt believers in all ages, especially in the present N. T. era, and will not be withdrawn.
23. Jesus made only an offer of the spiritual Kingdom, which was rejected by literal Israel but has gradually been accepted by spiritual Israel.
24. Believers in al ages are all ‘in Christ’ and part of the Body and Bride of Christ.
25. The Law has 3 uses: to restrain sin in society, to lead to Christ, and to instruct Christians in godliness. The ceremonial Laws have been abolished; the civil laws have been abolished except for their general equity; the moral laws continue.
26. O. T. laws are still in effect unless abrogated in the N.T.
27. The Church is the Kingdom of God. Covenanters are usually Amillenial, sometimes Pre-Millenial or Post-Millenial, rarely Pre-Tribulational.
28. The O. T. sacrifices were fulfilled and forever abolished in Christ.
29. Christ fulfilled the Covenant to Abraham. Some Covenanters believe in a future forliteral Israel, most don’t.
30. Christ alone sits on the throne. Saints rule under Him.

Dispensationalism VS Covenant Theology - Part 2

This post is connected to Part 1 above - as a number for number point for point comparison.

DISPENSATIONALISM
1. May be Arminian or modified Calvinist. Almost never 5-point Calvinist.
2. Stresses 'literal' interpretation of the Bible.
3. Usually does not accept the idea of the 'Analogy of Faith.'
4. 'Israel' always means only the literal, physical descendants of Jacob.
5. 'Israel of God' in Gal. 6:16 means physical Israel alone.
6. God has 2 peoples with 2 separate destinies: Israel (earthly) and the Church (heavenly).
7. The Church was born at Pentecost.
8. The Church was not prophesied as such in the O.T. but was a hidden mystery until the N.T.
9. All O.T. prophecies for 'Israel' are for literal Israel, not the Church.'
10. God's main purpose in history is literal Israel.
11. The Church is a parenthesis in God's program for the ages.
12. The main heir to Abraham's covenant was Isaac and literal Israel.
13. There was no eternal Covenant of Redemption within the Trinity.
14. There was no Covenant of Works with Adam in the Garden of Eden.
15. There was no Covenant of Grace concerning Adam.
16. Israel was rash to accept the Covenant at Mt. Sinai.
17. The 'New Covenant' of Jer. 31:31- 34 is only for literal Israel and is not the New Covenant of Lk.22:20.
18. God's program in history is mainly through separate dispensations.
19. Some Dispensationalists have said that O. T. sinners were saved by works.
20. Most Dispensationalists teach that men in the O.T. were saved by faith in a revelation peculiar to their dispensation, but this did not include faith in the Messiah as their sin-bearer.
21. The O.T. sacrifices were not recognized as the Gospel or types of the Messiah as sin-bearer, but only seen as such in retrospect.
22. The Holy Spirit indwells only believers in the dispensation of Grace, not O.T. and not after the Rapture.
23. Jesus.made an offer of the literal Kingdom to Israel; since Israel rejected it, it is postponed.
24. O.T. believers were not in Christ, not part of the Body or Bride of Christ.
25. The Law has been abolished.
26. O. T. laws are no longer in effect unless repeated in the N.T.
27. The Millenium is the Kingdom of God. Dispensationalists are always Pre-Millenial and usually Pre-Tribulational.
28. The O.T. animal sacrifices will be restored in the Millenium.
29. The Millenium will fulfill the Covenant to Abraham. Israel has a future.
30. David will sit on the Millenial throne in Jerusalem.

Reformed Theology


This great theological system is the last one that we will look at for this week. In my opinion this is the greatest and most transforming theology. I am saying amen to what I am listing about the history of reformed theology. These studies come from the booklet Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House.

Reformed Theology

Theology
-Reformed theology builds around the central theme of the sovereignty of God. The whole of reality falls under the supreme rule of God.

God-God is sovereign. He is perfect in every respect and holds all righteousness and power. He created all things and sustains them. As the Creator, he is in no way limited by creation.

Revelation-Reformed theology rests on Scripture alone (sola scriptura). The Bible is God’s Word as such remains without error in every aspect. Scripture guides all of church life and teaching. The Bible is authoritative in every area it addresses.

Salvation-God in eternity past chose a number of fallen creatures to be reconciled to himself. In time Christ came to save the chosen. The Holy Spirit enlightens the elect ones so that they can believe the Gospel and receive salvation. The elect can never resist the work of the Spirit nor fall away after receiving salvation. Salvation can be summarized by the Five Points of Calvinism: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints (TULIP)

Church-The church is composed of God’s elect who have received salvation. They are bound by God’s covenant to serve him in the world.

Baptism symbolizes entry into the covenant body for both children and adults though either can renounce their baptism.

When the believers partake in the Lord’s Supper in faith, the Holy Spirit works in them to make them spiritual participants.

Generally, elders, elected by the church, teach and oversee the local church body. The unity of the church must be grounded in doctrinal agreement.

Anabaptist Theology


These studies come from the booklet Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House. I remember very well a gentleman at seminary saying that he felt strongly that the SBC got a lot of deep theological history from the Anabaptists and I agree with that statement. I give a hearty amen to their belief in believers baptism, where many of the early reformers believed in infant baptism.

Anabaptist Theology

Theology
-Anabaptists did not stress systematic theological studies. Rather, doctrine was forged as it applied to life. Anabaptists were characterized by missionary zeal, separation of life, and an emphasis on ecclesiology.

Revelation-The Bible is to be obeyed completely in one’s life. It is the sole authority and guide. The Spirit reveals the message of the Word to the believing community. Interpretation of Scripture is discerned primarily at church gatherings. Anabaptists tend to focus on the teachings of Christ and the New Testament more than on the Old Testament.

Salvation-Sin is not so much a bondage of the free will of men as it is a lost capacity to respond to God. The free will of man allows him to repent and be obedient to the gospel. When one repents and believes, God regenerates him to walk in the new life. The emphasis is more on obedience than on sin, more on regeneration than on justification.

Church-The church is a visible body of believers obedient to Christ. The church exists as a visible fellowship, not an invisible body of a state church.

Only believing adults can participate in baptism. Baptism testifies to the believer’s separation from the world and commitment to obeying Christ.

The sacraments-baptism and the Lord’s Supper-are only symbols of Christ’s work; they impart no grace to the participant. The characteristics of a church member’s life ought to be personal conversion, a holy life, suffering for Christ, separation, love for the brethren, nonresistance, and obedience to the Great Commission. The church is a kingdom of God that is in constant conflict with the evil kingdom in the world system. The church is to evangelize in the world but not to participate in its system. This precludes participation in any governmental office or military service.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Wesleyan Theology


These studies come from the booklet Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House. I wonder if the Wesley brothers would be in total agreement with the way the denomination is run today?

Wesleyan Theology

Theology
-Wesleyan theology is essentially Arminian but has a stronger sense of the reality of sin and of dependence on divine grace.

Revelation-The Bible is divine revelation, the ultimate standard for faith and practice. However, there are four means by which truth is mediated-Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience (the Wesleyan quadrilateral). Scripture has supreme authority. Next to Scripture, experience stands as the best evidence of Christianity.

Salvation-Salvation is a three-step process of grace: prevenient grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace. Prevenient grace is the universal work of the Spirit between one’s birth and salvation. Prevenient grace prevents one from moving too far from God and enables one to respond, positively or negatively, to the gospel. To those who receive the gospel, justifying grace produces salvation and begins the process of sanctification.

The believer has a goal the achievement of entire sanctification, produced by the Holy Spirit in a second work of grace. Entire sanctification means that one has been perfected in love. Perfection is not absolute but relative and dynamic. When one can love without self-interest or impure motive, then he or she has achieved perfection.

Arminian Theology


It is something to me that Jacob Arminius and John Calvin used to agree somewhat in their theology. What happened? I recall studying this in my Baptist History class in seminary. These studies come from the booklet Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House. These are meant to teach historical facts about different theological systems. I am sad to say that I was in this theological camp in my teenage years. It only makes one fearful of the great salvation that God has given to them. It is difficult to declare sweet victory in Jesus and be wrapped up in this theological system.

Arminian Theology

Theology-Arminian theology is concerned to preserve the justice (fairness) of God. How could a just God hold individuals responsible for obedience to commands they are powerless to obey. Emphasizes divine foreknowledge, human responsibility and free will, and universal (common) enabling grace.

God-God is sovereign but has chosen to grant free will to human beings.

Salvation-God predestined to salvation those who foreknew would repent and believe (conditional election). Christ suffered for the sins of all mankind, thus the atonement is unlimited. Salvation can be lost by a believer, and so one must strive not to fall and be lost. Christ did not pay the penalty for our sins, for if he had, then all would be saved. Rather, Christ suffered for our sins so the Father can forgive those who repent and believe. Christ’s death was an example of the penalty of sin and the cost of forgiveness.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lutheran Theology


These studies come from the booklet Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House. These are meant to teach historical facts about different theological systems. I personally am comfortable with some of the theology of Luther, though I would not hold to all if it.

Lutheran Theology


Theology-Theology builds around the three fundamental doctrines of sola scriptura (Scripture alone), sola gratia (Grace Alone), and sola fide (Faith Alone).

Christ-Christ is the center of Scripture. His person and work, especially his substitutionary death, are the basis of Christian faith and the message of salvation.

Revelation-Scripture alone is the authoritative source for theology and for church life and teaching. Scripture is the very Word of God and is a truthful and authoritative as God himself.

At the center of Scripture stands the person and work of Christ. Thus Scripture’s main purpose is soteriological—to proclaim the salvation message in Jesus Christ. The Word through Christ’s work is God’s mode of salvation.

Salvation-Salvation comes only by grace through faith. The source of salvation is God’s grace shown through Christ’s work, the ground of salvation. The means for receiving salvation is faith only.

People contribute nothing toward their salvation. They are totally without a free will in respect to salvation, and thus God is the efficient cause of salvation.

The Spirit works through the word of the Gospel (including baptism and the Eucharist) to bring salvation.

The Spirit uses the baptism of infants to produce faith in them and bring them to salvation.
The Eucharist involves the actual presence of Christ with the bread and the wine though these elements remain bread and wine (consubstantiation).

The theology of the cross is to be the mark of true theology. Instead of centering on the things about God’s invisible nature and works, which Luther calls a theology of glory; Christians are to focus on the humility of God revealed in the death of Christ on the cross. In a theology of the cross, the believers come to have a knowledge of God and also a true knowledge of themselves and their relationship to God.

Traditional Roman Catholic Theology

I’d like to spend the next several posts looking at distinctive traits of theological systems. These studies will be from the booklet Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House. These are meant to teach historical facts about different theological systems.

Traditional Roman Catholic Theology.

Nature of Theology-Theology is constantly evolving in its understanding of the Christian faith. The Ignatian principle of accommodation and J.H. Newman’s principle of development reflect the changing nature of Roman Catholic theology. Catholicism’s trait of change is due mainly to the authoritative position given to church teaching.

Revelation-The Bible, including the Apocrypha, is recognized as the authoritative source of revelation as well as tradition and church teaching. The pope also makes authoritative pronouncements ex cathedra (from the chair) on issues of doctrine and morals; these pronouncements are immune from error. The church is the mother, guardian, and interpreter of the canon.
Many post-Vatican II Roman Catholic scholars have deviated from the traditional teaching of the church in this area, have embraced higher critical perspectives on Scriptures, and have rejected the infallibility of the pope.

Salvation-Saving grace is communicated through the seven sacraments, which are means of grace, Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist deal with initiation into the church. Penance and Anointing are concerned with healing. Marriage and Ordrs are sacraments of commitment and vocation.
The Church administers the sacraments through the ordained hierarchically ordered priesthood. The traditional view was that there was no salvation outside the church but recent teaching has recognized grace may be received outside the church.

Church-The four essential qualities of the true church are unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. Fundamentally the church is the ordained hierarchy, reaching its apex in the pope.
Organization is built around a centralized priestly authority beginning with Peter. The authority of the priesthood is derived through apostolic succession in the church. Bishops in Rome have power to evaluate findings of schools and make pronouncements and conciliar definitions.
The church is the mediator of Christ’s presence in the world. God uses the church as his agent to move the world toward toward his kingdom.

Mary­- At the council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) Mary was declared to be the mother of God as well as the mother of Jesus Christ in the sense that the Son she bore was both God and man.
Four Marian feasts (annunciation, purification, assumption, and nativity of Mary) are observed.
Mary was without original sin or personal sin due to the intervention of God (immaculate conception).
Mary is the merciful mediator between man and Christ the Judge.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

John Calvin an Amillennialist?

This is from a question posed to Kim Riddlbarger by a reader named Christian T.

Since Calvin was amillennial (using different terminology I guess) and since I'm amillennial, and since I learn a lot from Calvin, and since Calvin never wrote a commentary for the Book of Revelation I'm wondering what would come closest to reading Calvin's take on the Book of Revelation?


Kim Riddlebarger's Answer:

I would caution that we not try and put Calvin in any of the modern eschatological categories. As Richard Muller points out, Calvin’s eschatology is essentially pastoral and non-speculative [Richard Muller, The Unaccommodated Calvin: Studies in the Foundation of the Federal Tradition (New York: Oxford University press, 2000), 171]. Calvin is very difficult to pin down on a number of these points because he wrote before many of our modern categories were clearly defined.

Take for example, the millennial question, “A” “Pre” or “Post.” As Berkhof admits, amillennialism may be the historical position of the church since the days of the apostles, but the term itself was not used until early in the twentieth century (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 708). If we were to ask Calvin about his millennial views he would probably say millennarianism in any form is the view of fanatics. Calvin would have known only two options, non-millennarianism or chiliasm. Since amillennarians are technically postmillennial (Christ returns after the thousand years of Revelation 20), Calvin, I think would simply affirm he was a non-millennarian and argue something like an optimistic amillennial view, especially given his confidence in the spread of the gospel.

What can we say about Calvin’s eschatology?

1). He saw the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as the key point in history (cf. Calvin’s commentaries on John 12:31 and Genesis 17:7).

2). Since he believed that God’s decree lies at the foundation of human history, therefore he held to a linear view of history and a final judgment.

3). Based on his comments on John 5:25 and Isaiah 26:19, he would have likely held that the first resurrection (cf. Revelation 20:4-5) was the conversion of the believer.

4). In his comments on Matthew 24:27, Calvin believes Christ’s coming as lightening is a reference to the spread of the gospel, which means that this prophecy is already fulfilled, and which in turn guarantees the second coming. Christ’s coming brings the fulfilled kingdom–and herein lies Calvin’s objection to the chiliasts (millennarians), who do not see this kingdom as come until after an earthly millennium has transpired after Christ’s return.

5). Along with the kingdom of God, comes the kingdom of Antichrist (cf. Calvin’s Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). Calvin sees the continuing spread of the kingdom along with a protracted conflict upon the earth with the kingdom of Antichrist. One clear manifestation is found in the papacy, but can also be seen in antichristian forces such as Islam. In an important passage from the Institutes, Calvin writes,

However, when we categorically deny to the papists the title of the church, we do not for this reason impugn the existence of churches among them. Rather, we are only contending about the true and lawful constitution of the church, required in the communion not only of the sacraments (which are the signs of profession) but also especially of doctrine, Daniel (Daniel 9:27) and Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:4) foretold that Antichrist would sit in the Temple of God. With us, it is the Roman pontiff we make the leader and standard bearer of that wicked and abominable kingdom. The fact that his seat is placed in the Temple of God signifies that his reign was not to be such as to wipe out either the name of Christ or of the church (Institutes IV.ii.12).

This means Calvin was not postmillennial--in the sense of modern postmillennarians who believe that the earth will be effectively Christianized. Calvin’s confidence was in the gospel, not the transformation of culture.

6). Calvin wisely warns us not “to worry more than the Lord over details of time” (Commentary on Matthew 24:29, 36).

Friday, July 21, 2006

Could Jesus Have Sinned?


We are going through the book of James in my church and we came upon 1:13,14-"Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed."

The text clearly says that God does not tempt anyone and that God cannot be tempted with evil. So, I see this as he was not tempted in the wilderness as much as he was tested. I personally feel that he could NOT have sinned. We read of his temptation in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12,13; Luke 4:1-13.

Theologians often like to call this "The Peccability versus Impeccability of Christ." The definition of peccability is that Christ COULD have sinned and impeccability is Christ could NOT have sinned. Keep in mind that a key phrase of peccability is that Christ was able not to sin where the key phrase of impeccability is that Christ was not able to sin.

Hebrews 4:15 also gives light in this area when the writer says "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin."

Praise God that Jesus was sinless. He was able to be tempted (Matt. 4: 1-11), but not able to sin. I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

You Are What You Eat

Deeper Truths of the Bible

As I look at the condition of the church today and the beliefs that seem to be prevalent, it makes me think that my outlook is flawed. I heard a speaker at a conference say that we needed a new reformation and that the present day church was not much different from the church at the time Luther was a monk struggling over his own salvation.

We think that the pastor of the church needs to have a good education and learn theology and doctrine so that he will know how to teach and prepare sermons. This is true, but, by itself is flawed thinking. It seems to let the common churchgoers off the hook. As I observe people in the church and give counsel, I realize that all Christians should be actively laboring in the word to learn “the deep truths” and make them a practical reality.

In that context we have to ask, is there such a thing as “deeper truths”?

After carefully thinking through that, I have to say that there really is not any deeper truths. There are only biblical truths, doctrine and theology, which all Christians should know and live by in faith. Now you might think that I am being harsh or even legalistic but this is not the first time this has been a problem in the church. Paul in Romans and in 1Cor. repeats the phrase “do you not know”. It seems that he expected the Christians of his time to know understand and apply the so-called “deeper truths”.

Theology and doctrine are practical and necessary for day-to-day living. It is important for maintaining biblical relationships, between Christian brethren and tells us how to deal with a perverse and crooked generation, in a lost world. The church as a whole has gotten lazy in our approach to the Bible. The effect of that is a man-centered gospel. After all that we seem to get surprised when the SBC or our churches seem to be adopting an Arminian view. We should be thankful it's not worse. It is time that we all got serious about our doctrine and theology! It is time that the common churchgoers study and Pastors start expecting that from their congregation.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

You Might be a Hyper-Preterist if ...

1. When you hurt your back playing golf and your buddies look at you and say, "you got a bum glorified body, didn't you?," you might be a hyper-preterist.

2. If after lusting after a Playboy Playmate you go and teach that we were definitively sanctified in 70 AD, you might be a hyper-preterist.

3. If you say you take the time texts seriously but you don't hold that 1 John was written at 11:00 p.m. on 69 AD since it says, "we know it is the last hour" (1 John 2:18), you might be a hyper-preterist.

4. If you say that people weren't regenerate until 70 AD but it was already not yet, and then you read passages which speak of the saints loving God and his law (which the unregenerate cannot do), you might be a hyper-preterist.

5. If you think 70 AD was the most important event in history, rather than the cross, you might be a hyper-preterist.

6. If you have Gnostic tendencies, you might be a hyper-preterist.

7. If you've never read Calvin, Hodge, Warfield, Edwards, Turretin, Witsius, Owen, Murray, Van Til, Vos, et al, you might be a hyper-preterist.

8. If you've read them, and the every other Christian position on the resurrection and the second advent, and you say they're all wrong and you're all correct, you might be a hyper-preterist.

9. If you think you're reformed and hold that God has elected a certain number of people to everlasting life, but yet you think the earth will last forever with people entering into the city, for eternity, you might be a hyper-preterist.

10. If you have a blank look on your face, with glassy eyes, you might be a hyper-preterist.

11. If your family members need to hire people to "get you out," you might be a hyper-preterist.
12. If your position leads to the position that Jesus needed regeneration since he was resurrected, you might be a hyper-preterist.

13. If you get kicked out of every church you go to, you might be a hyper-preterist.

14. If your creed is that you have no creed, you might be a hyper-preterist.

15. If you say that "the end of ALL things is at hand" (1 Peter 4:7) means ALL things, but the fulfillment of EVERY vision without delay (Ez. 12:21-28) does not mean EVERY vision, you might be a hyper-preterist.

16. If your teaching is gangrenous, you might be a hyper-preterist.

17. If you still take the lord's supper even though one reason it was to be taken was in order to "proclaim His death until He comes," you might be a hyper-preterist.

18. If you constantly bombard people with e-mails, you might be a hyper-preterist.

19. If your previous theological bents have been other heretical positions (i.e., the Church of Christ's), you might be a hyper-preterist.

20. If you make yourself feel better by saying, at one time people thought the reformers were heretics, you might be a hyper-preterist.

21. If your two favorite sayings are: (1)Reformed and always reforming and (2) sola scriptura, even though you misrepresent what those mean, you might be a hyper-preterist.

22. If you live in Florida, you might be a hyper-preterist.

23. If you're a fan of "New Covenant Theology," you might be a hyper-preterist.

24. If you think Jesus will kick it with Enoch and Elijah for eternity while the rest of us will float around as disembodied spirits after we phsyically die, you might be a hyper-preterist.

25. If you think that we'll still sin after we die since definitive sanctification has already occurred, you might be a hyper-preterist.

26. If you think that God will live in eternity with active sinners, forever, you might be a hyper-preterist.

27. If you have no education, you might be a hyper-preterist.

28. If you only focus on eschatology, you might be a hyper-preterist.

29. If you can't get off the milk and chew some meat, you might be a hyper-preterist.

30. If you deny Christ's full work of redemption (e.g., the phsyical He made good also needs redemption), you might be a hyper-preterist.

31. If you think that Don Preston "is the man" because he rambles off basic two-premiss syllogisms, you might be a hyper-preterist.

32. If this is the new heavens and earth and you have your glorified body, and upon realizing this if you're not depressed and feeling cheated, you might be a hyper-preterist.

33. If you've had to define what a Christian is and this definition lets just about any wacko into the camp, you might be a hyper-preterist.

HT: Paul Manato

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

End of the World - The Director's Cut

With all this talk going on right now about the end times, I thought it would be appropriate to put up a listing of the different beliefs about the Antichrist. I would also encourage you to read Scott Hill's post at Fide-O on his take of how the church is reacting to current events. Also there is a great new book out by Kim Riddlebarger called The Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth about the Antichrist, I will warn you though he is a "Reformed Amillennialist", so you have to keep that in mind when reading.

Different Perspectives on the Doctrine of the Antichrist

Church Fathers
(Irenaeus, Hippolytus)


Time of Antichrist Appearing: Many antichrists (false teachers) will appear, but the Antichrist is yet future.

Distinctive Emphases: Antichrist will be an apostate Jew and false Messiah. He will appear after the fall of the Roman Empire in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.

Dispensationalism
(John Walvoord, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye)

Time of Antichrist Appearing: Many antichrists (false teachers) will appear, but the Antichrist is yet future.

Distinctive Emphases: Antichrist appears during the seventieth week of Daniel after the rapture (see Dan. 9:24-27) and makes a peace treaty with Israel at the beginning of the seven-year tribulation period. He reveals his true identity in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem by betraying Israel.

Historicism
(Reformers, Westminster Confession of Faith)

Time of Antichrist Appearing: Antichrist is identified with the papacy.

Distinctive Emphases: The temple mentioned by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 is a reference to the church, not the Jerusalem temple. The harlot Babylon (Revelation 17) is a reference to the Roman Catholic Church.

Preterism (B.B. Warfield, Ken Gentry)

Time of Antichrist Appearing: Many antichrists (False teachers) present throughout the course of this age. The beast of Revelation 13 was Nero and the book of Revelation depicts events of the first century that are already largely fulfilled.

Distinctive Emphases: Jesus Christ returned in judgment upon Israel in AD 70, closing out the end of the Jewish age. When Paul refers to the temple in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, he is referring to the Jerusalem temple, which was destroyed in AD 70.

Reformed Amillennialism
(Geergardus Vos, Anthony Hoekema)

Time of Antichrist Appearing:Many antichrists (false teachers) appear throughout the course of this age. A final Antichrist is yet to come in the form of state-sponsored heresy and the persecution of the church.

Distinct Emphases: The temple mentioned by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 is a reference to the church, not the Jerusalem temple. Antichrist’s appearance is tied to a time of great apostasy (cf. Rev. 20:1-20)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Another New Church Growth Idea



Just think how big the SBC Convention would grow if we added peoples pet's to the role. Of course, they wouldn't show up for the worship service, but I guess that wouldn't be a whole lot different than the majority of people on the roles right now. It's what we call the elusive "inactive" member, which is also known by the technical name of "memberous disappearous".


Beaks, barks, blessings
By Mary Louise Speer

Dogs barked and thumped tails Sunday morning during the annual Blessing of the Animals liturgy at First Presbyterian Church of Davenport.

The service was held outside under shade provided by trees and the rose-stone church with the Rev. Scott Jansen, the church’s associate pastor, presiding. Animals sprawled out on the concrete parking lot or occupied chairs next to their humans during the service.

“May God’s blessing be upon you, and may you flourish in the care and joy of those whose lives you share,” prayed Jansen and the Revs. Richard Wereley, Scott Minteer and Herbert Johnson as each pet came forward for a blessing.

Rocky, a St. Bernard mix, playfully tugged at his leash as he was prayed over and then sprawled out to sniff noses with Sophie and Suzy, creamy white Shih Tzu-bichon frise puppies.

“We do this every year. Our dogs are always shelter dogs, and this is the first year Rocky’s made it through the whole service,” owner Molly Guard of Davenport said.

The blessing also was a first for Sophie and Suzy who are 4 months old.

“We’re members of the church and we’ve done the blessings for several years. I just wanted to bring the puppies for the first time. They’re just fun,” Kathy Middleton of Davenport said.

The service is held outside for a good reason, said senior pastor Wereley. The original blessing took place inside the sanctuary, but church leaders rethought that idea after a parakeet got loose during a service.

Wereley blessed two laboratory rats who received a new lease on life after being rescued from euthanasia by a college student.

Lucy Hartmann, 11, of Davenport, carried her guinea pig, Spike, in a cardboard box. Jansen bent over to take a look at Spike as he prayed the blessing. Spike is a furry Abyssinian guinea pig that the family adopted from the humane society, she said

“I like bringing my guinea pig because he’s a wonderful pet,” Lucy said.

Continuing the animal theme, Deacon Jo Johnson shared good news about a church program, Go Fish, short for Gather Ourselves in Faith and Intention to Share with the Hungry, that collected money for Heifer Project International.

For full article click here.

Standing In Awe

I stand in awe today that my God would choose and elect me. Glory in that today brothers and sisters. If you have received Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior for the forgivess of your sins you are elect and chosen. You have been chosen before the foundations of the world by God. He could have passed you by and not saved you from hell, but he did not! People need to start being thankful for this wonderful thing that God has done for them; this act of love. It is sad that more in the church do not see the doctrine of election as something glorious and wonderful; it seems that many are missing the true meaning of this great doctrine and do not see it in the 1st person. A person that does not believe in the doctrine of election as seen in Scripture is truly being robbed of a blessing.

I have to share a devotion that I read from C.H. Spurgeon for today. It blessed me and I trust that it will touch your heart as well.

"Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God."1 Thessalonians 1:4

I love Spurgeon's comments about this verse:

Many persons want to know their election before they look to Christ, but they cannot learn it thus, it is only to be discovered by "looking unto Jesus." If you desire to ascertain your own election;--after the following manner, shall you assure your heart before God. Do you feel yourself to be a lost, guilty sinner? go straightway to the cross of Christ, and tell Jesus so, and tell Him that you have read in the Bible, "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." Tell Him that He has said, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Look to Jesus and believe on Him, and you shall make proof of your election directly, for so surely as thou believest, thou art elect. If you will give yourself wholly up to Christ and trust Him, then you are one of God's chosen ones; but if you stop and say, "I want to know first whether I am elect," you ask you know not what. Go to Jesus, be you never so guilty, just as you are. Leave all curious inquiry about election alone. Go straight to Christ and hide in His wounds, and you shall know your election. The assurance of the Holy Spirit shall be given to you, so that you shall be able to say, "I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to Him." Christ was at the everlasting council: He can tell you whether you were chosen or not; but you cannot find it out in any other way. Go and put your trust in Him, and His answer will be--"I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." There will be no doubt about His having chosen you, when you have chosen Him.
"Sons we are through God's election,Who in Jesus Christ believe."

Friday, July 14, 2006

As The World Turns

I thought these timelines were interesting and well done, they are from an excellent series that Russell is doing.

The first listing is a map of the great Awakenings that have occured in Anglo-American history since the Reformation:

The Protestant Reformation
(1517-1542) In addition to the continental effects, the Reformation transformed England from a bastion of Catholic Loyalists to a Protestant stalwart.

The Puritan Awakening (1621-1649) A golden era of reformed theology that led to a renewed emphasis on Christ's lordship over all aspects of life. The postmillenial hope that puritans held fired their imaginations to seek out the New World and build a city shining on a hill.

The Great Awakening (1727-1746) After settled colonists hardened into rigid european class distinctions, this great season of revival shaped the revolutionary generation, stamping them with a passionate individualistic faith.

The Transcendental Awakening (1822-1844) A season of renewed spiritual interest that led to the abolition movement, and to the creation of new sects (many of the heretical -- like the Jehovah's witnesses and the Mormons)

The Third Great Awakening (1886-1908) A season of reform, utopianism and birth of the social gospel.

The Consciousness Revolution (1964-1984) The time in which new age movement, modern charismatic movement, and the New evangelical movement all came into their own as shapers of American culture.

The second listing show's chronologcially the great crises -- the winters of Anglo-American culture (which roughly happen every 80-100 years), which reshaped the foundational ways in which culture worked. After these crises, everything was different:

Wars of the Roses Crisis (1459-1487) -- Medeival feifdom-structured England is torn apart by competing houses for the throne. However England emerges from the crisis as a modern monarchial nation-state with a strong centralized administration ready to direct the course of the nation

Armada Crisis (1569-1594)-- England is a protestant Isle nearly alone in the rising tide of Spanish Catholic Hegemony. England emerges as a global superpower with an expanding world empire.

The Glorious Revolution Crisis (1675-1704) American colonies are backwaters in the empire, suffering terrible defeats by the Indians and the French, and neglected by England who is locked in a life and death struggle with Louis XIV of France for control of the world. America emerges from the crisis as a viable cosmopolitan culture, and England emerged triumphant over their rival superpower.

The American Revolution Crisis (1773-1794) The American colonies establish themselves as an independent state and successfully launch an experiment in self-government that would soon inspire revolution in the old world.

The Civil War Crisis (1860-1865) -- America begins as fractured regionally, economically, and socially. It emerges with a strong Federal government and a true sense of being a union.

The Depression and World War II Crisis (1929-1946) -- transformed the isolationist America, mired into decadence and stagnation of the roaring twenties, into a global superpower whose business and industry created an economy that was the envy of the world.


HT:Russell Smith

Invasion of the Church Snatchers

Quest Community Church, one of the fastest-growing churches in America, looks more like a cinema than a cathedral.

Sunday services, called "worship experiences," are held in a dark, windowless room. Giant screens cover the walls. Stadium seats line the floor. There are no religious symbols on display -- no hymnals, baptismal tanks, old rugged crosses or portraits of Jesus. Instead of tiny communion cup holders, Quest's seats have supersize beverage holders.

Quest is "a unique church with a pretty precise purpose: to transform unconvinced people into whole-hearted followers of Jesus," said Peter Hise, founding pastor.

The Lexington congregation tries to avoid church jargon. It has an "auditorium," not a "sanctuary." Churchgoers share their "stories" -- not their testimonies. The foyer is called an "atrium." The "ushers" are referred to as "the receiving team."

King James Version vocabulary (thee and thou, beseech and begotten) has been updated, but the spiritual values remain the same, Hise said.

"We're just trying to be 21st century," he said. "The ancient truth is spoken in modern language."

It's an approach that works.

In 1999, its first year, Quest had average attendance of 148. It climbed to 382 in 2002, 472 in 2003, 610 in 2004 and 1,024 in 2005. This year, attendance is averaging 1,434.

Easter Sunday, attendance reached 2,264 -- Quest's highest ever.

John Vaughan, founder of Church Growth Today and an expert on megachurches, says Quest probably will be among the 100 fastest-growing congregations nationwide for 2006.

For full article click here.

The Pearly Gates have Disappeared

Belief in hell is going to you-know-where. And belief in heaven is in trouble, too.

That's the concern of some Christian thinkers, including Jeffrey Burton Russell, an emeritus professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of the new book Paradise Mislaid: How We Lost Heaven and How We Can Regain It (Oxford).

Russell and other fretters aren't impressed by fads like the sudden popularity of the girl's name Naveah (heaven spelled backward) or polls that show most Americans believe in some sort of heaven.

The growing problem, according to Russell and others, is that the way U.S. Christians conceive of both heaven and hell is so feeble and vague that it's almost meaningless -- vague "superstition."

It's "not that heaven is deteriorating," he says. "But we are."

Gallup reported in 2004 that 81 percent of Americans believed in heaven and 70 percent in hell. An earlier Gallup Poll said 77 percent of ever-optimistic Americans rated their odds of making heaven as "good" or "excellent." Few saw themselves as hellbound.

"The percentage who say they believe in heaven has remained pretty constant the past 50 years, but what people mean by it has changed an awful lot," Russell said in an interview.

Some people say they believe in heaven but not God -- "I suppose a New Age thing," Russell said.

But if today's notion of paradise is off base, and sentimental images of harps and cherubs are the stuff of magazine cartoons, what's the best way to think of heaven?

"For Christians, basically, heaven underneath all of the decorations means living in harmony with God and the cosmos and your neighbors and being grateful," said Russell, who studied hell and Satan for 15 years before turning his attention to heaven in a 1997 book.

To Russell, it's healthiest to see heaven as starting on earth, not an existence that "suddenly happens when you die."

What about hell and its fire and brimstone? "There is a tendency to over-dramatize hell in order to get (it) across to people," he said, but it's simply "the absence of God, the absence of heaven."

"Heaven has gradually been shut away in a closet by the dominant intellectual trends," Russell writes. Likewise with hell: Russell cannot remember the last time he's heard that unhappy subject treated in church or in religious literature.

What happened? Russell's book is largely a heartfelt appeal against "physicalism," the modern claim that knowledge comes only through the physical senses and empirical science.

Such an outlook is arrogant and unprovable, Russell believes, because it ignores humans' moral sense and the supernatural -- including heaven and hell.

Among Protestants who share Russell's angst, perhaps the most outspoken is the Rev. David F. Wells of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. He has spent years bemoaning the erosion of Christian teaching, through books like last fall's Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World.

Wells said in an interview that western Christianity is on the defensive against religious skepticism, secularism, materialism and consumerism.

He said that when Christian truth collides with the dominant cultural belief, promoted by psychology, that individuals should choose whatever they want, then "something has to give. And in our world today, in America and much of the West, what is giving is Christianity." That includes the faith in "ultimate right and wrong" that undergirds heaven and hell.

So, many who say they believe in heaven are "projecting from their very best therapeutic experiences into eternity," not meeting God "on his own terms," he thinks.

A related question is who enters heaven.

On that, Americans are predictably expansive. A Newsweek/beliefnet.com poll last year asked, "Can a good person who isn't of your religious faith go to heaven or attain salvation?" Fully 79 percent said yes, with somewhat lower percentages among evangelicals and among non-Christians.

In Catholicism, the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) declared that people who do not know the Christian gospel but sincerely seek God "can attain to everlasting salvation." The church decided that requiring explicit Christian faith was too pessimistic, said U.S. theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles, writing in First Things magazine. But now, he cautioned, "thoughtless optimism is the more prevalent error."

Hippies for Jesus - 2006 Style

Members of the Merrymakers Caravan bring their message of God by bus to Kennedy Plaza.

PROVIDENCE -- In lots of ways, they looked like veterans of the Jesus and the hippie movement of the 1960s.

What other way was there to view 30 pilgrims, some with babies, who rolled into town yesterday in three buses, one of them bedecked with brightly painted flowers and on the back, a painting of Jesus.

But for these members of a religious sect that calls itself the Twelve Tribes, known also as the Merrymakers Caravan, the visit to Kennedy Plaza was no lark.

With a mixture of showmanship, featuring performances of Irish folk songs and Israeli folk dance, former Vermont dairy farmer Eugene Sage; his wife, Hannah; and and others in the group were on what they see as a mission of God: to let people know that it is possible not only to believe but to live the form of radical Christianity practiced by the Christians, who shared all they had.

For full article click here.

Kent Hovind: Evangelist arrested on federal charges

A Pensacola evangelist who owns the defunct Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola was arrested Thursday on 58 federal charges, including failing to pay $473,818 in employee-related taxes and making threats against investigators.

Of the 58 charges, 44 were filed against Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo, for evading bank reporting requirements as they withdrew $430,500 from AmSouth Bank between July 20, 2001, and Aug. 9, 2002.

At the couple's first court appearance Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis, Kent Hovind professed not to understand why he is being prosecuted. Some 20 supporters were in the courtroom.

"I still don't understand what I'm being charged for and who is charging me," he said.

Kent Hovind, who often calls himself "Dr. Dino," has been sparring with the IRS for at least 17 years on his claims that he is employed by God, receives no income, has no expenses and owns no property.

"The debtor apparently maintains that as a minister of God, everything he owns belongs to God and he is not subject to paying taxes to the United States on money he receives for doing God's work," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Lewis Killian Jr. wrote when he dismissed a claim from Hovind in 1996.

Hovind, an avowed creationist, has widely publicized his "standing offer" to pay $250,000 to anyone who can provide scientific evidence of evolution.

"No one has ever observed a dog produce a non-dog," Hovind once wrote in reply to a New York Times article.

In the indictment unsealed Thursday, a grand jury alleges that Kent Hovind failed to pay $473,818 in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes on employees at his Creation Science Evangelism/Ministry between March 31, 2001, and Jan. 31, 2004.

As part of the ministry, Hovind operated the Dinosaur Adventure Land at 5800 N. Palafox St., which included rides, a museum and a science center. He also sold literature, videos, CDs and other materials and provided lecture services and live debates for a fee.

The indictment alleges Kent Hovind paid his employees in cash and labeled them "missionaries" to avoid payroll tax and FICA requirements.

For full story click here.

Katie Holmes' Parents Will Not RSVP For Wedding

Katie Holmes’ parents are reportedly refusing to attend her wedding to fiancĂ© Tom Cruise. The Top Gun actor plans to marry the Batman Begins actress, the mother of his daughter Suri, in a Scientology ceremony in late July or early August.

However, Katie’s devoutly Catholic parents, Martin and Kathleen, will not attend the nuptials because they do not approve of Tom’s devotion to the bizarre sci-fi cult.

The ceremony will allegedly be conducted by Scientology leader David Miscavige. A family friend revealed to America’s Life and Style magazine that Katie’s mom and dad “are not happy” with their daughter’s choice of where to marry.

It is also claimed that the former Dawson’s Creek star had hoped to have a separate Catholic wedding to appease her angry parents but Tom is not willing to compromise.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Artic Edge



I have to be honest I am not that thrilled with a lot of the literature that LifeWay comes out with these days. I am a fan of people in the church opening up the Bible and studying the Word of God on their own and not from a piece of literature written by a human-being. I am surprised at the amount of money that most churches spend in a year through Lifeway. I think that this money could be used in a much better way for the Kingdom of God. Talk about spending big bucks on literature.

On a positive note, I do like this year's Vacation Bible School, "Artic Edge." Since Lifeway has gone to the DVD's the last couple of years it has really helped and the children really seem to enjoy them. From what I see the kids enjoy seeing and learning the actions to the songs. I really think the guy leading the songs looks like Rick Warren in his younger years. Could it be possible that this was done on purpose or is it just coincidence? We will probably never know the answer to that one!

I would recommend the VBS literature that Lifeway is offering each summer. It seems to be Christ-honoring and a children-friendly approach to learning the Bible with daily theme emphasis. The kids seem to really relate to what they are doing for Vacation Bible School.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Laughs In The Ministry

To be perfectly honest there are some things to be laughed about in the ministry. Pastor Brothers we have to look at the ministry sometimes with a smile. I imagine that there are some hilarious issues that you could share. One in my book is marital counseling. Though rewarding sometimes, I personally dread performing weddings. Right now all of this is fresh in my mind as I am in the midst of counseling a couple that wants to get married very soon. I mean very soon, like a couple of months. Have you noticed that generally the woman is the one who calls the pastor and the one to set up the actual marriage date; which is ridiculous to me to set up a date before the counseling hardly begins? It is such a high priority for the woman, but I wonder sometimes if the young man feels the same way. This is a sad case to me!
The first thing I want to know when I meet with the couple is whether or not both, one or none are saved. I will say this about marital counseling it is a great way to present the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the first question that I want answered and will not continue until I know both are saved and seeking obedience in Christ. Marriage was created by God for Christian people. The next thing I want to know is whether or not the couple is living together. If they are, they need to separate until they are married. This is the big-time maker or breaker. I hope all the ministers reading this will agree that if a couple is living together they are living in sin. They are living in sin because they are doing something the Bible says not to do. I had one man tell me that just because a couple is living together does not mean that they are having sexual relations; to that I say bologna. Living together is wrong because it is not the plan of God. There are other things that I want to know in the first session of marital counseling, but I shared only two of them.
As I close, I hope you have been challenged with me not to let your standards down on marriage. Marriage is a sacred union between a husband and wife. God is glorified when men and women are obedient to Him before marriage. Brothers, the pulpit is a place where sin is preached against every week. Why should it be any different in the marital counseling session? Yet people want the minister to lower his standards and not speak harshly against pre-marital sins. I wish people could understand if sin is preached against in the pulpit it must be preached against behind closed doors in a session. You may not be asked to preside over many marriages if you address pre-marital sins, but that is alright. Who would you rather please man or God? Keep preaching/teaching the full counsel of the Word of God.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Seeking To Please God

I am disturbed about a couple of things and I have to share them. 1) Ministers of the Word of God claiming to have a strong theology and doctrine, but failing miserably in the way they live their life. I ask how important is a persons theology if an exemplary life is not sought daily? What is freewill? Whether or not we choose to sin. Again, I don’t want you to think I’m suggesting that it is not important to have a proper theology or doctrine; because it is. But if a person has a strong theology or a deep knowledge of the Bible and doesn’t repent daily from sin before a holy God; what does it matter? There are ministers all around falling into serious sins. Sins of the flesh that are sick and tell the world that I am like you. Dear brothers in Christ guard your selves against sin today and everyday. When it is all said and done it will destroy a perfect ministry. Satan would love for your life and ministry to be destroyed. Be quick to have a theology that is backed up with a Christ-honoring life.

2) The other thing that rubs me the wrong way is when people say something that the Bible does not. To me, this is dangerous ground; thin ice to walk on. T.V. preachers are doing enough of this we don't need anymore. For instance, saying that Jesus went to hell or there are periods of no sin. There is no evidence in the Bible that even comes close to suggesting that Jesus went to hell or there are periods of no sin. I hope you sense the importance of saying what the Bible says; not saying what you’ve heard from someone else, but what the Bible truly is saying in its entirety. Let’s remember that we exist to bring glory and honor to the Father and point others to Him. Be driven to seek a proper interpretation of the Bible and not to go someplace that the Bible does not go.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Is the Bible a Ouija Board in Disguise? - Part 2

Partial Neglect of the Literary or Historical Context of a Passage

Fortunately, most Bible readers usually avoid the extreme errors of the ouija board approach. Much more common, however, is the proof-texting error that is often unwittingly encouraged by Bible memory systems that focus primarily on individual verses. To their credit, those who use this approach at least read entire sentences as meaningful units of thought, but often they fail to observe the larger contexts that appear to limit the application in important ways. Phil 4:13, for example, suffers regular abuse. Christians often announce, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” to reassure others (or themselves) that they can succeed in undertakings for which they may or may not be qualified. Subsequent failure leaves them distraught with God as if he had broken his promise! But had they read vv. 11 and 12, they would have seen that the application of this passage is limited to contentment regardless of one’s economic circumstances. In other instances, such readers miss important contextual or historical-cultural background insights.

Psa 127:3–5, for example, reads:

Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

This is a popular passage for wedding ceremonies, perhaps because Christian couples think that God is thus commanding them to have large families. If so, they need to look more carefully at the historical context. Contending with their enemies in the gate of an ancient walled city refers either to military battle or to legal action (which took place near the city gate). The language here is exclusive: “sons” does not include “daughters” because in ancient Israel girls could be neither soldiers nor legal witnesses. In an age when infant and child mortality rates were high, large families ensured that sufficient sons would survive to care for aged parents in their declining years. While there is at least one clear principle in this passage that Christians can apply (e.g., about the need to care for one’s elderly parents, cf. 1 Tim 5:8), Christians dare not use this verse to assert that all couples must have large families.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Is the Bible a Ouija Board in Disguise? - Part 1

More and more today there is a total neglect of any context in the preaching and teaching of the bible. We might term this the “ouija board” approach to guidance. Christians who want to base their decisions on the will of God may be tempted to use the Bible as if it were a magical book. For example, often after a prayer for divine help they might open the Bible at random and accept the verse their eyes fall on as God’s guidance for the decision they are making. While God might conceivably accommodate a sincere but misguided Christian through this method, he never promises to do so; consequently, serious mistakes with damaging consequences inevitably occur when people persist in this approach. One of us, for example, knew a young man who had to decide whether to enlist in the armed forces or go to college. Opening his Bible at random, he saw the passage in Ezekiel that speaks of people coming from Tarshish to Tyre in ships (Ezek 27:25). Although this passage contains no command for anyone to go anywhere in a ship and has nothing to do with becoming part of the armed forces, this young man interpreted the text as a call to join the Navy. Chances are good that he deprived himself of a college education by making a decision he thought was God’s will but perhaps was not. More seriously, though, he completely misunderstood what role the Bible should have in the Christian decision-making process.

A more unfortunate incident was recorded a number of years ago on the front page of the sports section of a major Chicago newspaper under the bold headline, “God’s Orders Send Pitcher Packing.” The story explained how the Christian owner of a minor league baseball team decided to release a pitcher who had requested a raise in pay. She opened her Bible at random, again to Ezekiel (no doubt because it comes roughly in the middle!), and read the phrase, “prepare thee stuff for removing” (Ezek 12:3 kjv). This became her guidance “from God” for dismissing the pitcher. Had she read the context, she would have discovered that these instructions from God to Ezekiel concerned an object lesson Ezekiel was to give the Israelites. He was to pack as if going on a long trip, but he was not actually supposed to go anywhere. Had the owner of this team really wanted to imitate Ezekiel (which would still not have been a correct application of the passage!), she would have been the one to make preparations for leaving rather than firing someone else.

For details of this example, along with a discussion of inappropriate uses of a “fleece” to determine God’s will, see K. A. Ecklebarger, “Are We Fleecing Ourselves?” Moody Monthly 85 (Nov. 1984): 26–28.

TAKING THE FRONT DOOR OFF THE CHURCH

It alarms me how many SBC churches and other denominations are jumping on the bandwagon of Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Life" and doing the book study in their church. God's Word clearly gives direction and purpose for a person's life and can stand ALONE. It is the sole authority and all we need in this life. We do not need some book written by a HUMAN-BEING placed beside the Bible; like the Book of Mormon placed beside the Holy Bible. Please take time to read this article about Rick Warren and think again about the use of his books in your church. I hope you will sense the danger in how he is living before others. We at Truth or Consequences appreciate so much the writing of Chris Humphreys; this is an article written by him in December of 2005.

"Satan never did like making frontal attacks when he could squeeze in by the back door. He infiltrates, smuggling in an ounce of poisonous falsehood with a pound of scriptural truth. And what now is to stop him increasing the dose if a percentage of falsehood is permissible?" Victor Budgen

Mary Carey is a porn star that has created an uproar when she was slated to dine with the President at a GOP fund-raiser recently. Laying all political consideration aside, we have a 24-year-old actress, who, despite her racy occupation, claims she is still a Christian. Speaking to a WorldNetDaily reporter, she said, "I read the Bible and pray every night." She previously ran for California governor when the past governor, Gray Davis, was recalled, resulting in the election instead of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. She is considering another bid, maybe this time around for lieutenant governor. She has aspirations for the Presidency one day.
With a Lutheran grandmother, Carey says she attended church regularly until the age of 12, and that "God reads my heart. I’m a good person. . .I think I have more morals than the politicians in office. I don’t rob, steal, hurt, or lie—a lot of politicians do that." When asked about Bible verses condemning adultery, she responded, "Bill Clinton committed adultery. Doing adult movies is acting, portraying a role. It’s not Mary, the real me." She maintains pornographic movies don’t harm anyone, and are beneficial in a way, providing safe fantasies for the "lonely" public.
Many Christians will probably respond with disgust at a woman like her who makes the claim that she is a Christian. Where Mary Carey went wrong (besides, of course, her lifestyle choices) is her failure to take advantage of a line of reasoning, by the (improper) use of a scriptural passage, which would give her more credibility in the eyes of lot of Christians. All she had to do was to seek cover by reciting 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, the motto of The Church of Almost Anything Goes. If you are not familiar with those verses by memory, here is what she could have said: "Well, you know the Bible says we ought to be all things to all men so that we might save some. The apostle Paul lived by that strategy, and so do I. I can reach fellow porn stars and people who watch these forms of entertainment if I stay in my profession as a Christian. To the Jews, Paul became like a Jew to win the Jews; to the Gentiles, he became like a Gentile to win the Gentiles. I become a porn star to win those in that lifestyle to Christ." Now had Mary Carey said something like that, she might have found a more favorable hearing from Christians.
Why not? Haven’t people used that passage in 1 Corinthians 9 to justify about anything under the sun? So how can we say that she would be wrong in using that passage to excuse her lifestyle, when we have given about everybody else, including high-profile megachurch pastors, the liberty to use that passage in that way? In the Church Growth Movement, we are told to be as innovative and creative as possible in order to "win people to Christ." That is why we have everything from Christian nightclubs to Christian tattoo parlors. I attended the Power Team Crusade (a group of male body-builders who perform enormous feats of strength) at a large Southern Baptist church in the Oklahoma City area over twelve years ago. Afterwards, I wrote a very short letter to the editor of the state Baptist paper, wherein I expressed my grief over what I had witnessed "all done in the name of Christ." After it was printed in the paper, I received many encouraging replies from others that felt the same way, but I did receive one letter that came as a shocker. It was seven pages long, typewritten, single space, from a Southern Baptist evangelist in Texas. It was the most hateful letter I have ever received in my life. In that letter, there was only one scriptural passage cited by this evangelist to justify what the Power Team or other groups do. Can you guess what that passage was? It is the motto of The Church of Almost Anything Goes.
This passage has absolutely nothing to do with the church being given a blank check by God to do anything it so desires to be culturally relevant and to be methodological savvy.
Paul had made it clear from the very start to the Corinthians (by the way, Mary Carey would feel right at home with the residents of Corinth) that such human wisdom was foolishness to God. He was determined to preach Christ and Him crucified which would save those who believe. Then he said in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 that he came in weakness and fear and trembling (not like the flashy personalities with the bells and whistles of today’s hip church), knowing nothing except Christ and Him crucified. He didn’t come with lofty speech and plausible words of wisdom, but in "demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." If we depend upon market-driven, flesh-enticing strategies to draw people to our churches, then what assurance do we have that their supposed "faith" and "conversion" rests in the power of God alone, when instead it more likely rests in the wisdom of men?
So the apostle would not say something in 1 Corinthians 9 that would contradict what he said in chapters one and two. What may be the most butchered passage in all of God’s Word today is not talking about doing whatever it takes to reach a desired end. Reverend Pragmatic of The Church of Almost Anything Goes will say differently, of course, but God’s Word must be interpreted correctly. What Paul is advocating in this entire chapter is his giving up personal rights in order to reach different groups of people, all for the sake of the gospel. In fact, one need only go back to the previous chapter and read how this played out then in one certain burning first-century issue. As he says in chapter eight, we should not eat meat sacrificed to idols if it causes someone to be offended and to stumble by our carelessness and indifference. Let us give up our right to eat meat so that we will not put an unnecessary obstacle in someone else’s way in coming to Christ.
Missionaries give up personal rights all the time when they go to foreign countries and learn their language and begin to adopt some of their cultural ways in order to identify with the people. We don’t try to export Americanism overseas; we try to proclaim Christ, who is the Savior of Jews, Gentiles, free, slave, men, women, Americans, Asians, etc. Paul did that in the book of Acts consistently. He would go to a place of prayer by a riverside where Jews gathered in Philippi. He could go to a Jewish synagogue to preach, and he could go easily go to the Areopagus to preach to a group of pagan philosophers. He would argue passionately that man is saved by grace alone and not by the added circumcision. Yet, to give up personal liberties, and to ensure an easier access to a Jewish audience, he had Timothy circumcised. If a person who lives next door to me is a Muslim, that does not mean I need to become a Muslim to win the Muslim. What it may mean is that I may need to give up some personal liberties and try not to do things that would purposefully offend him culturally. But that does not mean that I give up the Word of God and what I believe to be true. And it doesn’t mean that I forsake the God-ordained means of saving folks—the faithful declaration of the Word of God, the entire counsel of God, the blessed gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.
Paul traveled all throughout the Roman Empire. Greek drama and theater were the big drawing cards for the populace. Never once do we see Paul lay aside the preaching of the gospel in order to draw people with a theatrical production, a stage play, or some other entertaining measures. He did not "become all things to all men" in that way. That is not what is meant in 1 Corinthians 9. The church has not been given a blank check to do whatever we dream up to entice a crowd to come hear what we have to say. God has already told us what to say and the means to say it. We can all improve in how we say it, but we don’t have the license to chunk the preaching and teaching of the gospel for some novel methods that may do a better job in getting a bigger crowd, but do a lousy job in making holy disciples of Christ.
When I was caught up in the Church Growth Movement in the mid 1980s, I came across a paper written by Rick Warren, pastor of the fast-growing Saddleback Valley Community Church in California. Out of this paper germinated many of the ideas that he formally organized in his book, The Purpose-Driven Church, which he wrote in 1995, and which book I am currently reading. This paper was entitled CAMEO, which stood for Contemporary Approaches to Ministry, Evangelism and Organization. I have discovered that Rick Warren has a fondness for the number five—five purposes of the church, five life purposes, five circles of commitment, SHAPE, and now recently PEACE, etc. (Maybe we should refer to each one of these as "the five points of Warrenism".) In this lengthy CAMEO paper, there were two passages cited. The first one was 1 Chronicles 12:32 which talks about the men of Issachar who had understanding of the times and knew what to do (hence, we should understand the shifting cultural trends to adapt the church accordingly, which is another corrupt interpretation of a biblical text). And can you guess by now what was the second passage cited, and for what purpose it was used?
In later articles, we will examine how all the Reverend Pragmatic of The Church of Almost Anything Goes will use both modern-day paraphrases, which greatly abuse the Word of God, and out-of-context verses. These corrupted versions, for example, provide convenient back-up support for what they do, because they can not find any support for their value system in a proper interpretation of the biblical text. Just by examining how they misuse the 1 Corinthians 9 passage shows us how terribly inept church leaders are becoming in interpreting the Word of God, and how equally undiscerning church members or Christians are becoming when they hear or read the Word of God sloppily presented.
Over 30,000 people filled the Angels baseball stadium in Anaheim, California, on April 17, 2005, to hear Pastor Rick Warren on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his church talk about his global PEACE plan to change the world. As reported in all news outlets, the parking lot was filled with tailgate parties, a children’s music concert, a motorcycle jumping exhibition and a jazz band. As Rick Warren got up to speak, he burst into singing Jimi Hendrix’s song, Purple Haze, a song about drug usage. The church band backed him up, and the crowd erupted in approving laughter.
We are led to believe, though, that we should not knock or criticize what Rick Warren did. After all, remember the motto of The Church of Almost Anything Goes. So efficient and adept are Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Joel Osteen, Robert Schuller, etc., at what they do, that they have over the years earned their honorary doctorate degrees. They have advanced way beyond all the Reverends Pragmatic who dream of being as successful as Warren & Co. So when Dr. Free Pass does anything these days, he is given what his earned title suggests.
If someone were to ask Rick Warren twenty-five years ago-- "Do you envision yourself twenty-five years from now singing a song from the drug culture as an opening to a supposed worship service at your church gathering?"-- I’m pretty sure he would have given you the strangest look and strongest denial he could muster up. What happened over the twenty-five years? It’s the same thing that can happen to any of us—the more we cozy up to the world, given enough time, the less we seem to notice how cozy we are, how much like the world we have become. Added to that, we are much less bothered in how far we have drifted from our once simple and pure devotion to Christ.
But it goes way beyond just one song, as bad as that might be.
If someone also would have asked Rick Warren twenty-five years ago the following questions, I wonder what his response would be:
Will you one day talk about a global PEACE plan that has all the earmarks of New Age philosophy and old-fashioned religious liberalism in terms of a social gospel?
Will you speak at a National Pastor’s Conference in San Diego that will feature well-known prominent New Age teachers, and will open up with labyrinth and contemplative morning prayer exercises with yoga?
Will you freely associate with the likes of New Age teachers in the endorsements of books, and even personally writing the forewords to such books?
Will you solicit the services of a New Ager who seeks inspiration from Buddhism and who practices mantra meditation to help train leaders at your church in order to implement your global PEACE plan?
Will you talk glowingly about the benefits of "breath prayers", akin to Hindu yoga and Zen Buddhism, on day eleven in a best-selling book you will write?
Will you enlist known and practicing New Age specialists from a youth organization and a publishing house to help your youth to become familiar with contemplative spirituality?
Will you incorporate into your two best-selling books quotes from mystics, agnostics, heretics, evolutionists, and other anti-Christian, anti-biblical sources to build up support for your ideas in those books?
Will you gladly put on your church’s web site all sorts of endorsements and accolades from numerous secular news organizations and godless celebrities?
Will you look to a leading non-Christian business guru, known for his General Systems Theory, a merger of social Darwinism and eastern mysticism, to help you form your whole organizational model for church life?
Other questions could be asked, but you get the drift.
What would the answers be to those questions twenty-five years ago, if they were posed to Rick Warren? I don’t know myself, but it is food for thought.
One thing I do know for sure. Victor Budgen’s comment at the top of this article is so true. Satan tries to sneak in through the back door. (2 Peter 2:1) We help out matters a lot when we leave the back door unlocked. The church today has a remarkable level of toleration today for everything it seems, except the truth.
But what about the front door? My contention is that all the Reverends Pragmatic of The Church of Almost Anything Goes have encouraged us to leave the front door open to any new method, "so long it does not compromise the message (yea, right)". When I attended the Power Team presentation I had mentioned earlier, I was struck by how many times John Jacobs of the Power Team had to tell all the youth and children present not to come forward during the invitation time just so that they could be close to the Power Team. He must have said that at least a dozen times. Now why did he have to say that? Because he knew that most would probably come for that very reason. Why is it that all the Reverends Pragmatic and Drs. Free Pass talk so much about "how we can grow our church with all these new methods without compromising our message"? Because they know that man-made anything will trump God-made anything anytime, if we leave things to our own fleshly devices. That is the nature of the beast.
We may have opened the front door a tiny bit some years ago. How long ago is anybody’s guess. But it was so innocent and sincere, I am sure. But once you let King Pragmatism in, it sure is hard to close the door for anything else that comes along. And new things always seem to come along. After time, and after some success stories, we throw the door wide open to about anything. Hence, we have The Church of Almost Anything Goes. The entire fault does not reside with the Reverends Pragmatic; with our itching ears, we accumulate the Reverends we want around. We don’t see a huge gathering of concerned church members rushing to the front door to close it. If anything, they are quietly sitting by watching everything happen, or they are right there opening the door to any new strange idea that comes walking down the street.
The final result is that we have so opened the front door to our churches so wide, that there is not enough strength, willpower, and discernment left to close the door to anything. So much so, that maybe there is not a front door left on the church in many places. It has been taken off its hinges.
That is why a celebrated preacher with two best-selling books and with one of the largest churches in America can sing a song honoring an LSD trip in a supposed worship service with lots of audience laughter, instead of lots of mourning. (James 4:9)