Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Finney Files - The Gospel According to the Heretic Pelagius

This begins a series of posts examining Charles Grandison Finney and his influence on modern American Evangelicalism. We start with the theology of the fifth century monk Pelagius because Finney is a vivid (relatively) modern example of a Pelagian. In this video, the gentlemen on the talk show White Horse Inn discuss Pelagius and his theology.

Thanks to WHI, and to Lane Chaplin for his work in making the video for the mp3.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Scripture Cookie O' the Week - Joshua 24:15

Joshua 24:15 (ESV)
15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

We often hear people in the quest for Biblical evidence of autonomous human free will quote Joshua 24:15, although they usually just quote a single clause of it:  “Choose this day whom you will serve…” However, when this passage is quoted in this way, the entire context is missed. Even a cursory glance at the whole verse (above) points this out. The choice given is between two evils: the gods that Terah (and presumably Abram, before he was called) worshiped in Ur and the gods of the Amorites. Let’s look at the whole of Chapter 24.

Joshua 24 is a typical covenant renewal passage. Yahweh, through Joshua, recounts to the judges, elders, and other leaders what He has done for the people of Israel, His deliverance of them from bondage and what He is providing for them in the Promised Land. He begins noting that Abraham worshipped other gods prior to his call. Note the language used here “Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River…” Interestingly God didn’t say “I offered to Abraham”, or “I negotiated with Abraham”, no, “I took Abraham…”

Joshua then, in Verse 14, issues a command “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” This is a command; not the first volley in a debate or an offer of negotiation, but a command. In Verse 15, Joshua provides a choice, but it is a choice between two evils: “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD ,choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.”

It’s worth noting here that those who follow Reformed Theology (or Calvinism) don’t deny that men have wills; the issue is how free the will is. Since the Fall, Biblical history and our own experience confirm that fallen (that is, unbelieving or natural) men have always had a choice of the evil they prefer. Here, Joshua is giving them a choice between two evils, if they don’t follow the command to serve the LORD.

The leaders of Israel respond by affirming that they will serve the LORD. Joshua then says something curious in Verse 19: “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” Commentators have various explanations for this statement. Some take it as a warning; others say Joshua is pointing out that Israel is not able to faithfully follow Yahweh under their own power; others assume it is a prophecy from Joshua of the ultimate outcome of all but a remnant of Israel. I tend to think it is a combination of the latter two ideas:  Israel is unable to be faithful without faith granted by God and most of them will not be granted this faith.

In any case, this passage does not confer an autonomous free will to anyone.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quotes 'O the Week

"¿Por qué no te callas?"
("Why don't you just shut-up?")

King Juan Carlos of Spain to the Odious Hugo Chávez during the 2007 Ibero-American Summit.

KJC is probably untrustworthy like all the other socialists, but these words are immortal.


"This is in more senses than one a remarkable book. It is to a degree very unusual an original work; it is the product of the author's own mind. The principles which he holds, have indeed been held by others; and the conclusions at which he arrives had been reached before; but still it is abundantly evident that all the principles here advanced are adopted by the writer, not on authority, but on conviction, and that the conclusions presented have all been wrought out by himself and for himself. The work is therefore in a high degree logical. It is as hard to read as Euclid. Nothing can be omitted; nothing passed over slightly. The unhappy reader once committed to a perusal is obliged to go on, sentence by sentence, through the long concatenation. There is not one resting-place; not one lapse into amplification, or declamation, from beginning to the close. It is like one of those spiral staircases, which lead to the top of some high tower, without a landing from the base to the summit; which if a man has once ascended, he resolves never to do the like again."

Charles Hodge in a review of Charles Finney's Lectures on Systematic Theology.

"Free will I have often heard of, but I have never seen it. I have always met with will, and plenty of it, but it has either been led captive by sin or held in the blessed bonds of grace."

Charles Spurgeon

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Scripture Cookie ‘O the Week – Jesus Wept; But He Didn’t in Matthew 23:37

Matthew 23:37 (ESV)

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (emphasis added)

How many times have you heard this verse repeated thus:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”

I’ve heard it a zillion times; frequently from people who have a specific theological ax to grind and sometimes, from men whose theology doesn’t lead them to it, but human tradition has so engrained itself that they don’t realize they’re misquoting Jesus.

The immediate issue, of course, is the omission of the phrase “your children” and substituting “you.” What’s the difference, you might ask? It’s a big difference. In the first place, every single word in the Bible is important, or it wouldn’t be there. That doesn’t mean it is necessarily bad to paraphrase Scripture in casual conversation, but when the paraphrase presents a different meaning, it is. Secondly, the exclamation “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” is what is known as a metonymy, which is figure of speech that references a thing or things by using the name of something closely associated with it. You might be familiar with its modern use when newscasters use “Washington” as a metonym for the Federal government or “Moscow” for the Russian government.

Now, the big question here is, “What is Jerusalem a metonym for?” The answer to that depends on the context of the larger passage. Matthew 23:37 comes at the end of an entire chapter where Jesus severely chastises the Scribes and Pharisees, who were the de facto leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem. He points out their pomposity, their love of adoration and attention, calls their mothers vipers, and calls them “sons of hell.” Take a few minutes and read the entire chapter. Note particularly Verse 13:

Matthew 23:13 (ESV)
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”

This verse is important to see as a bookend to Verse 37.

Here’s where the theological axes begin to grind. Critics of Reformed Theology (or Calvinism) believe Verse 37 refutes the Calvinist doctrine of Irresistible Grace and proves that people have an inviolate free will. Irresistible Grace means that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when He wills, particularly in the regeneration of a sinner. (See the link above for a more complete definition.) They would quote the verse with the “you” substituted for “your children” and say “See, God’s will can be resisted because Jesus is lamenting that He wanted to save all of the Jews in Jerusalem, but all of the Jews would not allow it.”

But, when Jesus says “your children”, He is speaking specifically to the Scribes and Pharisees and saying that they would not allow the people under their spiritual authority to be gathered. Remember Verse 13? It’s saying essentially the same thing. Now, this doesn’t mean that Jesus is saying they have power to prevent Him from His saving work; He is holding them responsible for trying. Keep in mind that this is a passage of severe chastisement and judgment, probably the most severe in all of Scripture.

But wait…there’s more. Those misquoting Jesus typically also add that He is weeping. However, the text nowhere mentions that. The somewhat parallel passage at Luke 13:34 also does not mention any weeping, as it also is a passage of judgment. There is a passage in Luke where Jesus does weep; it’s in Luke 19:41, which occurs just after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (which is paralleled in Matthew 21, but with no weeping), and He prophesies the destruction of the city in 70 A.D.

So, why the reference to weeping? It is an attempt to use emotion to gain a theological point, pure and simple. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve heard Reformed pastors and teachers make the same misquoting, but not in the context of refuting Calvinism. Why do they do it? I can only guess that they’ve heard it misquoted so many times in their lives that it is ingrained in their tradition.

What are our lessons here?
  1.           Read the Bible carefully
  2.           Quote passages in context
  3.           Recognize and challenge your traditions when reading the Bible
  4.           As James White says:  “A man who does not recognize his tradition is a slave to that tradition.”
  5.           Emontions aren't the best bases for Bible interpretation.
  6.          The text says what it says what is says.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different...

The book of Ecclesiastes has always been a bit of a mystery to me. No, it has always been a big mystery to me.

I once heard Hank Hanegraaff use Ecclesiastes 9:5 to refute prayers to and other communication with the dead. I found that application satisfying and used it myself. I later came to understand that the Wisdom Books, particularly Job and Ecclesiastes, don't always mean what they seem to mean at first glance. In the case of Ecclesiastes 9:5, here is the passage in context:

But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. 2 It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4 But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun. 

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ec 9:1–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Even given the fact that this is from the Old Testament when they did not have a full view of redemption and salvation, this did not really fit with any doctrine elsewhere, either in the OT or NT. You could use the phrase "under the sun" to say that this applies temporally and not eternally, and that is probably true even in the context here. But that one phrase doesn't really explain the whole attitude of Ecclesiastes. Going back to Hank's use of this, this passage really isn't speaking against prayer to the dead or communication with the dead, even though we know the whole counsel of Scripture speaks against it. It's really saying, in a pessimistic way, that we're all toast no matter what.

And when someone quotes the parts in Job where his friends say something that seems correct at first glance, are they considering what God says in Job 38:2, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?" Is the quote of Job's friend really valid in context? God seems to discount the wisdom of the friends, so we really can't be confident that what they say can be quoted at face value.

This all leads to the subject of this post. R. W. Glenn is the pastor at Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka Minnesota. He's a relative youngster, but his theological knowledge and his grasp of the Gospel are admirable. He recently finished a series on Ecclesiastes, which can be found on the media site of Redeemer, Solid Food Media. The series begins with Introduction to Ecclesiastes (on 9/12/2010), where Glenn provides a exegetical foundation for the series.

The essence of Glenn's interpretative foundation is that Ecclesiastes is really what is known as a Fictional Autobiography. That is, most of the book is about a fictional king of Israel. According to Glenn (and his sources, presumably), this type of literature was very popular in the Ancient Near East. Moreover, this particular king is very pessimistic and does a lot of musing aloud about why God does what He does. Glenn holds that the original readers would have immediately recognized it as this form of literature after they read the first few lines.

The fictional king's name is Qohelet. Qohelet is translated by most English Bible versions as Preacher. The Hebrew meaning of the word is "one who assembles." But, as Glenn points out, Qohelet is also a proper name in Hebrew and this is likely the intent: that we see the subject as a person named Qohelet. This goes against the common proposition that Ecclesiastes was written by, and is about, Solomon, since a quick surface reading seems to indicate that. (This would be the old, grouchy Solomon, not the frisky, young Solomon in Song of Solomon.) But there are grammatical reasons why this might not be true. For example, in Ecclesiastes 1:12 he says "I...have been king over Israel" (emphasis added). Since Solomon died as King (he didn't have a co-regency or abdication), there was not a time in his life where is kingship was past tense. Also, in Ecclesiastes 2:7, he speaks of his predecessors as "any who had been before me...", which would only have been David in the case of the historic Solomon, not a long line of kings.

I'm not declaring this to be the definitive interpretation of Ecclesiastes, but it does seem to make sense of some of the apparent contradictions in the book. My wife and I have listened to all but about four of the sermons and I recommend the series highly. But it is very important to hear the Introduction first.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Danger Signs

When pastors veer off the straight-and-narrow, it is usually in one of two directions:

  1. He’s gone seeker-sensitive off the deep-end, or
  2. He’s gone emergent. 

Number 2 used to be “He’s gone liberal”, but there really isn’t any difference between emergent and liberal.

Below are the danger signs:

  1. Your pastor uses the “turn to the person next to you and say…” time-filler. You know this one. The pastor will quote a passage of scripture, like 1 Chronicles 26:18 At Parbar westward, four at the causeway, and two at Parbar. (KJV) “Turn to the person next to you and say Parbar.” I’m not sure why these guys do this; it has no didactic value. Maybe it fills in a little time and a few of these can stretch a fifteen-minute sermon into twenty minutes. Or maybe it’s a control thing and they get a buzz by making a large group of people say something in unison. 
  2. Your pastor changes his official title to Lead Pastor. C’mon, George Harrison was the Lead Guitarist. Your pastor is the Pastor. (Maybe Senior Pastor, if there are Assistant Pastors.) This is part the rock-star mystique that some of these guys aspire to. 
  3. Your pastor refers to Genesis 1-2 as the Creation Poem. ‘Nuff said. 
  4. Your pastor refers to the Patriarchs as the Abraham Movement. It makes Abraham sound like Timothy Leary. 
  5. Your pastor refers to denominations, streams of theology, or even entirely different religions as tribes. This is an attempt at theological equivalence, like “none of us is really wrong, we just all look at it differently.” You know, we’re all essentially Indians, just from different tribes. 
  6. Your pastor dresses differently for different sermon themes
  7. The congregation cheers and applauds the pastor as he approaches the pulpit (lectern?) and he doesn't correct them. 
  8. Your pastor tacks an invitation onto the end of some meaningless message on a worldly topic (e.g. More Fulfilling Sex Life, Creation Care) that has nothing to do with conviction of sin. 
  9. Your pastor complements the praise-band by saying they rock better than Led Zeppelin. 
  10. Your pastor frequently compliments his wife (a good thing) by remarking about how hot she is (not a good thing).
Now, if your pastor spends all week in the Word, preaches the Word in season and out of season, looks after his flock, and you hear the Gospel every week, please take the advice of James White in a short excerpt (below) from a Dividing Line program a couple of years ago:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Quotes O' The Week

"Nowhere in Scripture do we see real gifts of the Spirit operating when someone is out of control or under some sort of supernatural seizure. Nowhere does the New Testament teach that the Spirit of God causes Christians to fall into a trance, faint, or lapse into frenzied behavior. On the contrary, 'The fruit of the Spirit is... self-control'."
John MacArthur - Charismatic Chaos

"God is dead"

"Nietzsche is dead"

I don’t believe God does want this to happen. I don’t think it was ever God’s intention.
Franklin Graham on the Japan earthquake.

[Let’s hope he was quoted out-of-context or misquoted. Otherwise, we would conclude that he believes God didn’t want this to happen, but was unable to prevent it.]

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My Understanding of the Gospel

When I was about twelve years old, a young couple from an evangelism ministry visited a friend and me at my home. We had a conversation for an hour or so and they led me in a prayer to ask Jesus to come into my life. They recited a pre-written prayer and I repeated it and was pronounced saved. For a few weeks after, I played around with the idea, but eventually I grew up practicing the usual unrepentant sinfulness (not loving God as I should, disrespect of other races, selfishness, looking at things I shouldn’t look at, foul language, etc.). In other words, I was indistinguishable from an unbeliever. Sure, I went to church most weeks; I had done that all my life anyway; and I had a basic understanding of Christianity and Redemption. But I had no thirst for the things of God (prayer, Bible reading/study, hearing the Word of God preached, fellowship with believers, and an increasing sensitivity to sin); I went to church out of a sense of obligation (punching God’s time-clock?) and usually daydreamed through the sermons. In short, I was not bearing the fruit that comes from true Salvation:
Luke 6:43-45 - "For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Matthew 7:17-20 - So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

The young people who led me certainly meant well and were doing what they understood the Great Commission to be (“Go and make disciples…”). But if I truly understood the Gospel back then as I do now, I would have had no assurance of my salvation. This is not to say that true believers are perfect, they are far from it (and they know that for certain). It is certainly not to say that “good works” and attempts at righteousness will save you; they won’t. But they should flow out from true Salvation:

Romans 3:20 - For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 
Ephesians 2:8-10 - For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
But the truth of Scripture is far more important than my personal experiences. My point here is that the Bible does not speak of many of the methods used in modern evangelism, such as reciting the “sinner’s prayer” or “walking the aisle”. Certainly, people can be saved using these methods, since the Holy Spirit is the One who causes true salvation, and He works using whatever means He sees fit (John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes…”), but the risk is high that people will be falsely converted, self-deluded, and have a false assurance of salvation. (They might even be inoculated against the true Gospel.) These methods are part of a fairly recent phenomenon. The emotion of the moment, “Just as I Am” sang a dozen times, reciting a pre-programmed prayer, and walking an aisle, and some folks can be talked into believing they are saved when they have not been confronted with the seriousness of their sin and don’t even know what they are “saved” from.

What does the Bible say about Salvation?
  1. God created our original parents, Adam and Eve, to love and worship Him and give Him glory, obey Him, and enjoy Him. They were created in a happy and perfect state (Genesis 2:7, Genesis 2:22, Genesis 1:31). However, they disobeyed Him, died spiritually, and were removed from His fellowship (Genesis 3:6-19).
  2. We are, all of us, born dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3, Psalm 51:5: Romans 3:9-18). We inherited this sin nature from Adam as a result of the Fall (Romans 5:12-15), just as we inherited physical frailties, sickness, and death. The Lord Jesus and Paul call this being “slaves to sin” (John 8:34; Romans 6:17-22). However, each of us is still responsible for his own sin (Ezekiel 18).
  3. Sin is falling short of God’s perfection. It is the breaking of His commandments (Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:1-21). If we break only one of his commandments, we are guilty (James 2:10-11). And we’ve broken all of them, if not in practice, then in our hearts and minds (Matthew 5:21-22; Matthew 5:27-28). Our sin prevents us from having fellowship with God, now and in eternity. God is Holy and will not tolerate the presence of those not holy (Isaiah 6:1-5; 1 Peter 1:15-16).  Those who remain separated from God will spend eternity in hell (John 3:18; Luke 13:2-5; Luke 13:27-28; Matthew 13:41-43).
  4. The natural (that is, unbelieving) man loves his sin and wants nothing to do with a God who will judge him (Romans 8:7-8). This does not mean that he is as totally bad as he can possibly be. He was born with a conscience, but it is not informed by the Holy Spirit. Typically, he has remorse for certain mistakes, but only because of their consequences in this life, not because he has sinned against the eternal God (Psalm 51:3-4; 2 Corinthians 7:10).
  5. The result of sin is death and the payment for sin must be death (Romans 6:23). This is justice: that sin against the eternal God must be paid for eternally.
  6. We can’t work our own way out of this mess because we are incapable of pleasing God in our unbelieving state (Isaiah 64:6-7; Romans 3:20, 28; Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:9).
  7. That’s the bad news; here’s the Good News. God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4-6) and has a saving love for people from all races and nations (John 3:16; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9) and He has provided atonement and forgiveness for sins for those who will repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus (John 3:16; Romans 3:21-25; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10-11).
  8. Jesus (eternally God the Son), born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit, is perfect and without sin, satisfying the necessity of a perfect sacrifice (Exodus 12:3-6). He lived a life without sin; He willingly gave Himself to be crucified on the cross and His blood is atonement (that is, propitiation of the wrath of God) for the sins of those who repent and believe (Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 7:27).
  9. The sacrifice of Jesus to pay for the sins of believers is a “once and for all” sacrifice (Hebrews 7:26-27) and the Holy Spirit is given to believers as a guarantee for Salvation (2 Corinthians 5:5 ; Ephesians 1:13-14). When Jesus declared on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), the underlying Greek word is a financial term that means “paid in full”, indicating that Jesus has paid for the sins of believers, and provides forgiveness for their sins. When God looks upon a believer, He no longer sees the believer’s sin, He sees Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). He has declared them righteous. In this way, God remains just (see Point 5 above) and He is the justifier of believers (Romans 3:23-26).
  10. Jesus conquered death for believers and proved He is the Son of God by rising from the dead and He sits at the right hand of God the Father to intercede for believers (Romans 8:34, 1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 1:3).
  11. So, how does one become a believer? Repent of your sins (that is, be sorrowful for sinning against God and turn away from your sin) and believe (that is, have faith) in the Lord Jesus as the resurrected Son of God and your only hope for salvation. Call out to Him for mercy, in your own words.
Luke 18:10-14 - "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (emphasis added).
Only God can look into your heart and know if you are saved (John 2:24-25). It is through ignorance that many evangelists pronounce people saved after spending only a few minutes with them; they aren’t doing anyone any favors. Born-again Christians shouldn’t live with constant anxiety about their salvation (that is, true salvation can’t be lost; see Point 9 above), but they should periodically examine themselves to make sure they aren’t self-deluded about their spiritual condition:
2 Corinthians 13:5 - Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Remember, outward activities such as baptism and church membership or attendance do not save us, but, when properly understood, can be signs of our salvation

Saturday, April 16, 2011

From the Sermon Hall of Fame – Steve Lawson – Galatians 1:6-10

Dr. Steve Lawson expounded the noted “let him be accursed” passage from the Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 1:6-10) at the 2009 Shepherds’ Conference (Session 8).
Dr. Lawson relates the battle over the Gospel throughout church history to Paul’s opposition to the Judaizers. From Athanasius vs. Arius, to Nettleton vs. Finney, up to the present day. In the passion of his message, Lawson gives us some of the flavor of the Apostle’s emotion (“…amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him…”). In their desertion of the Gospel, they are deserting God Himself.
At about the 24 minute mark, Dr. Lawson makes this quite personal (as the gravity of the Gospel dictates) in a critique of Joel Osteen (without naming him) and one of his appearances on Larry King Live. You might have heard sound clips of “give us some men who know the truth!” This message is where that call to arms comes from.

To add some context, here’s an excerpt from the King interview (by way of Wretched):

Here’s a brief excerpt from Lawson’s message (with some excerpts from King):

The entire sermon can be downloaded here

On a humorous personal note, one evening my wife had asked me a number of questions (on various subjects) for which I had no answers. We had listened to Dr. Lawson’s message and have also heard (many times) a montage of it interspersed with excerpts from the King-Osteen interview that sometimes is the intro to Wretched Radio. After my last "I don't know" of the evening, she turned to me and in a matter-of-fact manner said, “give us some men who know the truth.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Quotes O' The Week

"The only difference between an atheist and an agnostic is the tune they whistle past the graveyard"

"I wear the pants in our family; my wife tells me which pants to wear"
R.C. Sproul

Graphic by Chrishankhahused by (ex post facto) permission.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Jim McClarty on Election

Pastor Jim McClarty gives an effective and practical way to illustrate and define the doctrine of Election:

The easiest way to comprehend the basic premise of election is with a few simple questions and answers. Whenever I am discussing the issue with anyone, I start with this conversation:
Do you believe you are saved?
Okay, then who saved you?
Very good. And did God save you on purpose or by accident?
Well, on purpose!
That’s election. God saves some people and He does it on purpose.
By Grace Alone, Jim McClarty, Page 37. PDF; Book.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Quotes O' The Week

"One of the favorite slogans of our age is, 'Let's just agree to disagree'—and then virtually every point of truth is blithely set aside as trivial and unnecessary. That mentality—a refusal to fight for the truth—has done horrific damage to our churches and to the evangelical movement. It is not loving at all.
'Let's just agree to disagree.'
Well, no. How about we just argue until one of us actually refutes the other and we come to a common understanding of God's Word? How is that 'unloving'?"
Phil Johnson

A man who does not acknowledge or recognize his tradition is a slave to that tradition.
James White (paraphrased)

"When the Arminian has thus, as he thinks, established and defended human responsibility against the Calvinist he turns about to defend the Christian position against the natural man. But then he soon finds himself at the mercy of the natural man. The natural man is mercilessly consistent. He simply tells the Arminian that a little autonomy involves absolute autonomy, and a little reality set free from the plan of God involves all reality set free from the plan of God. After that the reduction process is simply a matter of time." 
Cornelius Van Til

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Scripture Cookie O' the Week - John 12:32

John 12:32 (ESV)
32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

This week’s Scripture Cookie is used by a wide spectrum of Cookiers: from Universalists to Arminians (or other critics of Reformed theology). It has made an appearance in Rob Bell’s Velvet Hell tour in the past month and it is a perennial favorite of those looking for an escape hatch from John 6:44

The verse is from a section of John 12 (John 12:20-36) where a group of Greeks approach Philip (the apostle) and request an audience with Jesus. (This is the source of the saying “Sir, we would see Jesus” [KJV], which is frequently cited by those appealing for a more Gospel-centered preaching ethic.) These were not necessarily ethnic Greeks, but could be some other variety of Gentile (probably what were known as “God-fearers”). Philip went to Andrew with the request, perhaps because Andrew was part of the “inner-four” of the apostles. We aren’t really told if the Greeks were eventually allowed to speak with Jesus.

When Philip and Andrew went to Jesus, He began a short discourse on the necessity of His death and resurrection, and about what it means to follow Him. Jesus reflects on the gravity of what He must soon do. He prays to God the Father, that He (the Father) be glorified and God affirms audibly. Jesus pronounces the impending judgment on the world and Satan and He makes the remark that when He is lifted-up (that is, on the Cross), He would “draw all people to myself.”

The word “people” (men – NASB, KJV) in this context means “all kinds of people”, not every single person that ever lived (or will live). In the original language, the noun people (or men) is actually assumed and the word all depends on context to determine the noun that it describes. This is quite common. One famous passage with an assumed noun to the adjective where the KJV is not quite as clear in its translation is 1 Timothy 6:10 where it states “…the love of money is the root of all evil…” The modern translations will have “…all kinds of evils”, making the self-evident point that the love of money could not be the root of all evils, as there are many evils not related to the love of money.

The Universalist’s (ab)use of this text is obvious: he (the universalist) would want to have Biblical support for the dangerous doctrine that everyone will be saved.

The opponent of Reformed (or Calvinistic) theology frequently appeals to this passage when trying to explain:

John 6:44 (ESV)
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

The Arminian (or some other flavor of opponent of Calvinism) here would need to drop back deep into the pocket and heave an 85-yard bomb way over to John 12:32 and say “See, He draws all people…and it’s up to the free will of the person to accept or reject the drawing.” But, the context of this verse is clearly related to the appearance of the Greeks (or Gentiles) wanting to see Jesus, not the drawing of every single person who ever lived. The person using John 12:32 in this way would also have to explain how Jesus' original audience in John 6:44 would have been expected to refer to John 12:32 when it did not yet exist.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quotes O' the Week

"If a man speaks in the forest and a woman isn't there to hear him, is he still wrong?"

R. C. Sproul

"Arminianism is the potting soil of Universalism"

"The word 'justice' attached to anything unrelated to crime and punishment — environmental justice, economic justice, jobs with justice — is a red flag: You're being hustled by liberals with an agenda they can't sell on its merits."

Jim Wooten, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Scripture Cookie O’ the Week – Hebrews 6:4-6

Hebrews 6:4–6 (ESV)
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

This Scripture Cookie is frequently used by those who believe that actual, real Christians can “lose” their salvation, and in the process they ignore not only the context of the passage, but the whole counsel of Scripture. Of the five or so warning passages in Hebrews (Hebrews 2:1–4; 3:7–4:13; 5:11–6:12; 10:19–39; 12:1–29), this seems to be that group’s favorite.

Keep in mind that Hebrews (often referred to as a sermonic letter) was written to churches with mainly Jewish Christians. Remember that just as it is now, churches then had both true and false (or deluded) congregants (i.e. wheat and tares). The letter was written to them apparently on the verge of expected persecution and one stated purpose was to exhort and encourage perseverance in the faith. It also encourages with promises of preservation (the complementary concept with perseverance) – Hebrews 7:25; 9:15. This was during the time that Christianity had begun to be recognized by Rome as a separate religion from Judaism, rather than just an offshoot sect. Judaism, at that time, was still a religion that was in many was “protected” by the polytheistic leaders in Rome, as part of their usual practice of allowing the locals to have their own beliefs as long as it was not seen as a threat to Rome. But Christianity did not have that protected status. The author knew the temptation would be great to return to Judaism to avoid persecution. Plus, those among the recipients who weren’t truly born again would also be nostalgic about the atmosphere (sights and sounds) of Temple worship. After all, Christians generally met in unglamorous house-churches.

Therefore, I believe the thesis sentence for the epistle is

Hebrews 2:3–4 (ESV)
3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (emphasis added)

The word “neglect” is key here. It means to disregard or ignore (NIV). It does not imply “losing” salvation, it is warning against “playing-around” and not taking seriously the Gospel message. Also note that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are spoken of as bearing witness to the great salvation; compare this to Hebrews 6:4 regarding “tasting the heavenly gift” and “sharing in the Holy Spirit”.

One question in regard to this Scripture Cookie is: “What does it mean to ‘have once been enlightened, [to] have tasted the heavenly gift, and [to] have shared in the Holy Spirit, and [to] have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come’?” Many will define that as being converted to Christianity, but I think the wording is way too indefinite for that determination. Plus, see the previous paragraph on how Hebrews 2:4 might inform our understanding of 6:4-6. I think it all means that they have had extensive and repeated instruction in the Gospel and maybe even participation (unworthily) in the Lord’s Table, and have been exposed to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and have ignored all these witnesses to the Gospel – to their peril.

Art Azurdia makes an interesting point: note the change from first- and second-person pronouns (weyou) in the verses immediately preceding, to third-person pronouns (those, them). This could be another clue that the author isn't addressing true Christians.

Next, observe the next three verses (the ones the Scripture Cookiers always leave out):

Hebrews 6:7–9 (ESV)
7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.

Verses 7-8 are about bearing fruit. See Jesus’ doctrine on fruit-bearing: Matthew 7:15-20; Matthew 13:24-30; Luke 6:43-44. True converts bear fruit; false converts don’t.

Finally verse 9 tells the true Christian (“beloved”) that the preceding warning was to those who are neglecting salvation.

So, the lesson here is context, context, context.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

See the Kingdom

When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus (John 2:23-3:22) one of many things that stand out in the passage is the parallel between John 3:3 and John 3:5:

John 3:3 (ESV)
3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:5 (ESV)
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

One verse says “see the kingdom”; the other says “enter”. Both speak of being born again as the thing that must happen before the seeing and entering. There must be a reason why John, under inspiration, made the two separate statements.

The word translated in English as “see”, appears several hundred times in the New Testament, translated in English variously as see, know, perceive, or understand. In Young’s Literal Translation, John 3:3 is: “3Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Verily, verily, I say to thee, If any one may not be born from above, he is not able to see the reign of God” “See the reign of God” reminds one of

Luke 17:20–21 (ESV)

20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

Jesus is telling the Pharisees that they have the kingdom around them in the person of the Son of God. They could see Him, but they really couldn’t see (understand, perceive, etc.) Him. At this point I remind myself and everyone else of the danger of assuming that a Greek word translated differently in different passages can be interchanged among those passages. The people doing the translating are highly educated in the original languages and know what they’re doing; the untrained layperson should take care. However, when there are over 600 examples, one can make some assumptions.

Also, the interpretation of John 3:3 as meaning one has to be born again to understand the kingdom of God does find support in

1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Being “born again” is not something that a person can do for himself, any more than he could have made himself born the first time (hence the metaphor). In every NT passage where “born” is used in describing salvation, it is in the passive voice. That is, “the grammatical voice that signifies that the subject is being acted upon; i.e., the subject is the receiver of the verbal action.” (Heiser, M. S. (2005; 2005). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Logos Bible Software.) In addition to John 3:3, 5-8, examples include: John 1:13, 1 Peter 1:3, 1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:9, and 1 John 4:7.

The Big Question then is: “How is one born again?” When you are convicted of your sin and of Whom the sin is against, and feel the weight of your own fallen-ness and understand your spiritual bankruptcy (Matthew 5:3), and you repent and believe that the risen Son of God is your only hope for reconciliation with God, the Holy Spirit has given you a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25-27 [check the cross reference in your Bible for John 3:5].

Repent and believe; Today is the day (Hebrews 3:15).