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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Former Grade School Misfits Develop Misfit Curriculum

Michelle Malkin alerts us to the implementation of new school curriculum in New York City designed to affirm the nerdiness of the nerdy dorkwads of which I was once a proud, card carrying member. She also has an on-line article about it here.

The curriculum is sponsored by Operation Respect and is called the "Don't Laugh at Me Project," whose founder is - I kid you not - Peter Yarrow of the 60s-70s hippy folk rock group, Peter, Paul and Mary. In addition to strengthening the affirmation of chubby, asthmatic kids, the curriculum is also designed to provide principles that resolve conflicts with bullies. In other words, a dorky kid might as well put a "mock my fat" sign around his neck.

This is typical of our psycho-analytical society and the leftist mythos of believing mean and nasty kids are that way because of either their environment, misunderstanding on the part of the bullied, lack of self respect, or victimization by Republican, conservative agendas. Never is the blame placed upon terrible parenting, the kids self-centered attitude, and the need to address his or her internal, sinful heart problem. The reason kids are mean and bullying is because 1) they already have way too much self respect (2 Timothy 3:2), and 2) their parents let them get away with being thugs.

Leftist socialist types (like Yarrow) exacerbate the problem by inventing moronic school curriculum that only serves as an external band-aid, offering such insipid solutions as reasoning with the bully and turning the "bullied" into a pacifist doormat. Malkin points out the underlying anti-war, peace protesting worldview driving the project. Many of the comments she posted are fun to read, too.

I could only wish these folks had been around when I was in grade school. When James Bedwell attempted to steal my new bike from me with the threat of physical, bodily harm, I could have had some conflict resolving comments to engage him with as he pounded me in the head. Instead, I rode for my life after I laid him on the ground with a knee buckling kick to the crotch. I had to avoid going down his street and look for alternate routes to my friend's house for the entire summer until he moved away to live with his grandma.

I am sure Operation Respect would also have helped me to accept my obesity and to think positive of the many ridiculing slurs I received, like "Freddy fat-fat" and "Freddy Big Butt." Sure, I would had been a 180 pound fifth grader, but a 180 pound fifth grader with a good body image. That approach would had prevented me from enduring the 7 month long starvation diet and military style fitness program I undertook. And to think, by embracing my fat as being who I am, I could have continued eating two breakfasts on Saturday morning and never had to deal with the countless asthma attacks.

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Osteen Apologizes for Squishy Remarks

I meant to blog about Joel Osteen's comments on Larry King Live last week when it was still a hot controversy. Honestly, I never heard of Joel Osteen until recently. A few months ago, my mother asked me if I knew anything about "Joel Osteen," to which I replied, "never heard of him." I did a google search and scanned over his Church's website. I confess I didn't find any indicator right off the top that would implicate pastor Joel as anything more than a mega church celebrity pastor of an arena size congregation with a seeker sensitive/ charismatic philosophy. In other words, the typical, big church, squishy, conservative evangelical.

However, a week or so ago, pastor Joel went on Larry King Live for an interview of sorts, and when Larry switched from floating his typical whiffle ball questions to hurling fast pitch, Joel apparently flinched and took a step back from the plate. On at least two occasions, Larry attempted to pin pastor Joel down as to the exclusivity of the gospel message and pastor Joel started flip-flopping answers faster than pancakes at a Methodist Men's fundraiser breakfast. "I can't judge people's hearts" was his basic, concluding response.

The Bible believing Christians I know, and whose sites I often visit (see side links), have reacted to pastor Joel's compromising waffle act with annoyed dismay. Steve Camp provided the best rebuke of pastor Joel out of all the ones I read. I truly appreciate his comments, because he, along with other like-minded bloggers, provide an anchor of truth to prevent Christ's Church from drifting into the world of easy compromise. However, with all due respect to my fellow Bible believing friends who take a hard line on no-compromise: Should we honestly think someone like Joel Osteen, Mr. Mega church pastor-celebrity, is going to be a stalwart of theological virtue and provide a solid, detailed description of the gospel message? There is a better chance of getting John Kerry to give a straightforward and clear opinion on the Iraq war.

I agree with the complaint being raised from my fellow, non-compromising brethren; I, too, am disappointed with pastor Joel's answers to Larry King on what is truly a fundamental issue for Bible believing, gospel loving Christians. But, I must admit that I have reached a point where I just expect this type of jellyfish responses from big time radio and TV evangelical ministers. Other than pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in LA, I don't think I have heard one big time media celebrity minister give a Bible based presentation of the gospel ever on LKL or any other similar program. Perhaps there are some I missed, but I am not aware of any. A benevolent, "God is Love," semi-universalist gospel is the response Christian media types give nowadays when interviewed. Simply put: it is difficult to be a hard-line exclusivist when a media pastor runs the risk of alienating many of his non-Christian, Republican moral majority supporters.

Moreover, rarely is the real issue of the exclusivity of the gospel ever touched in these venues. That being, the holiness of God, the inability of sinners to earn salvation and the need to have sin atoned for and God's wrath placated. I can still remember back a few years ago when the SBC's annual, self-imposed criticism target of the year was a push to evangelize Jews and other non-Christian religious faiths. The MSM screamed the SBC was being anti-Semitic and Jewish political activists demanded an apology from the SBC leadership. Dennis Prager, one of my favorite all-time talk show hosts, interviewed three SBC representatives, two of which were Jerry Falwell and Al Mohler, along with a couple of Jewish leaders, one who was OK with the SBC's views on evangelizing non-Christian faiths, and a second who thought such action was akin to Nazi propaganda. Throughout the entire hour and half discussion, the SBC evangelicals attempted to play down the anti-Semitic slurs and spoke of how they loved Jews and that is the reason why Southern Baptists want to evangelize them. Not once did any of the Christians raise the necessity of atonement, the inability of men and the need for God's wrath to be appeased, at least in any depth. Those are the reasons we must preach exclusivity: those three elements of the gospel message demand it.

To his credit, pastor Joel has issued an apology for his comments on LKL, confessing that the language he used did not reflect his true convictions. He further promises to be alert to presenting a clear gospel message if any future media interviews come about in which he is asked about the exclusivity of Christ alone to save. That sounds all good and well, but I still would like to see it. In the meantime, I will be glad to forgive Pastor Joel for his shortcomings and I for one hope he will learn from his mistake on LKL. The world has too many squishy evangelicals. The Church needs some firm rocks.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Critiquing a Critique of My Critique

My Webmaster over at Fred's Bible Talk alerted me to my second official blogspotting. My first was a nice mention on the blogroll over at the Sharper Iron blog of an article I had linked. This time, I am mentioned on the Free Thinking Faith blog by curator, Steve Jones. I was surprised when I was alerted to the blogspot, because I haven't heard the name "Steve Jones" for some time.

Let me fill in a little history...

About seven or eight years ago I made my foray onto the Internet and began frequenting theological discussion groups and web boards. On one particular discussion group that I no longer visit, I encountered a self-proclaimed street preacher who made it quite clear with nearly every one of his posts that he despised the theology of Calvinism. He would post venomous diatribes against any teaching about God's sovereignty in man's salvation with special emphasis against the doctrine of eternal security. As a Christian who believes the 5 points of Calvinism reflect an accurate exegesis of the biblical text, and being the only Calvinist who frequented this discussion group, I was compelled to provide an answer to his nonsense.

We exchanged a handful of posts and it quickly became apparent that my street preaching opponent was embarrassingly misinformed about the theology of Calvinism and demonstrated a profound biblical illiteracy. Rather than answering my posts directly, he took to linking me to articles written by others who also had a disdain for all things Calvinistic. One of the articles he linked was a testimonial written by a fellow named Steve Jones, now the blogger of Free Thinking Faith. My street preaching acquaintance boasted that he had never met a Calvinist who could answer the arguments put forth by Mr. Jones. He further bragged that I too would be unable to answer this article and dared me to try. I normally do not back down from arrogant challenges, so I picked up his gauntlet, printed out Mr. Jones's article, and spent an entire weekend reviewing it and writing up a response. Heeding the challenge of my rival, I was anticipating a withering critique that would put me through a theological wringer. However, I was underwhelmed by the arguments presented in the paper. In fact, much of the presentation was typical, anti-Calvinist strawmen routinely set ablaze by those who revile any notion of God's absolute sovereignty in salvation. Moreover, I began to observe that Mr. Jones didn't necessarily care for orthodox Christianity in general, let alone, Calvinism, and that he had a severe, unorthodox, liberal bent with his reading of scripture.

After I posted my response to the street preacher, he left the group believing we were unwashed heathens, unworthy to be recipients of the truth. Later, I edited my response and formatted it to Fred's Bible Talk where it is today. That was a 3 years or so ago.

Then I saw that Steve Jones had blogged about my critique. It is short, just noting some points I raised in my review; but it is apparent that my article got under the skin of Mr. Jones. He states that I gave him a "pretty sound thrashing," which wasn't my overall intention. Hopefully, he understands I never wanted to just beat him with out mercy, but that my critique was meant to be a corrective whipping. I am sorry Mr. Jones sees it as just a thrashing, but he sort of brought it upon himself as soon as he went to print with an article claiming Calvinism is biblically deficient, yet not providing any support for what is really a baseless charge.

Furthermore, he makes the passing comment that I engaged in ad hominem argumentation when I pointed out his dependence upon heretical men. Rarely do folks properly apply the charge "ad hominem" against those who are critiquing their work, and the same goes for Mr. Jones. An ad hominem argument is one made against a person directly, rather than dealing with his or her overall argument. In other words, a personal slur against an author. So, I would had been engaging in ad hominem if I had written something like, "Mr. Jones doesn't know what he is talking about because he combs his hair wrong" or "Mr. Jones doesn't understand Calvinism because he only wears pirate clothing." Nowadays, however, a person is charge with using ad hominem arguments if he challenges the beliefs of someone else as being in error. What I did by pointing out the positive reference Mr. Jones gave to heretical works was not ad hominem. He made passing comments appealing to such individuals as Clark Pinnock, Socinus, and other Unitarian writers, without alerting his readers to the fact these individuals are gross heretics. Most Christians reading his testimonial (especially the fundamentalist Pentecostal street preacher I argued with) would be ignorant of the heresy Socinus taught in the 16th century and Clark Pinnock teaches in our present day. Mr. Jones is inadvertently engaging in a Michael Moore way of presenting the "truth" by selecting only the "facts" you want your viewers to see. I would think an honest critiquer of Calvinism owes it to his readers to let them know he no longer likes Calvinism because he prefers the open theist views of Pinnock or the anti-Trinitarian views of Socinus. I thought his friendly remarks of these individuals were troubling and I saw a need to point out who these folks were and why Christians should not trust them.

Then Mr. Jones closed off his post by pointing out some alleged "irony" between the name of my blog and my claim that his article was condescending. The irony is supposedly found in the description of my blog which says, "Smiting Theological Philistines with a Mighty Slaughter." Apparently, I have no room to allege condescension on his part if I have a blog with such a harsh, condescending description. Even one of the commenters picked up on this so-called irony and expressed dismay that I could see things in such black and white terms to the point I know where the black starts and the white ends. Well, I see it this way: I can make such black and white statements because I have an authoritative standard with the Word of God to make such statements. Further comments to this post suggests an affinity for theological heretics, because they are known to be outside the status quo. Heretics are cool because they always think outside the Bible box, so to speak. Even Jesus Himself is outside the status quo and can be considered the ultimate heretic. Sheesh.

Judging by the theological bent I see displayed under the links and in some of the posts of Free Thinking Faith (even the title suggests a spiritual buffet where a person can pick and choose those beliefs from scripture that suits him), Mr. Jones and his Free Thinking pals don't believe the Bible is necessarily authoritative. Hence, no one really has the right, or business, making judgmental statements against anyone else. Thus, a person who makes an authoritative judgment is viewed as closed minded, rude, attacking with ad hominem, or any other number of black and white pejoratives. If that is the case, then I am happy to wear the labels.

Addendum:

I thought it may be good to link to some articles and audio lessons for those uninitiated with the Doctrines of Grace as Calvinists articulate them:

Of course there's my MP3 audio series located at Fred's Bible Talk.
Along with the notes to the series. (Scroll down for the notes).

Lots of articles at the Monergism site.

And I would also recommend probably the most extensive audio lecture series by Curt Daniel. His information about the history of Calvinism is pure gold. The hosting website did not place all of the lectures in proper sequence, so you may have to skip around to listen to them in order.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Burn It All!

Perhaps you are among the many folks who have noticed the billowy cloud of smoke rising over the horizon of blogdom. It is coming from the theological furnace of Phil Johnson's blog, Pyromaniac. Just a short month ago, Phil ignited his site and he has already established himself as the Internet version of Ronald Bartel, Donald Southerland's fire bug character from Backdraft.

On his inaugural week, Phil first set fire to the Boar's Head Tavern with his post, Quick and Dirty Calvinism. Not only did the fire interrupt the tavern's bi-monthly "darts and doughnuts night," but bar tender, Michael Spencer, was forced to break open 4 kegs of his best imported beer in order to dowse the flames. Even one of his two introductions to postmodernism got scorched as the flames lit up the room.

In addition to the jovial wit Phil adds with his pithy insights to our modern culture, his website hosts some of the hottest graphics centered around a pyromania theme (I can only wish to be invited up into the big office to have him show me how how he cooks them up). In fact, I like the clever blog name of Pyromaniac, because it provides Phil with a cornucopia for fire related analogies, metaphors and descriptions. Off the top of my head, Phil could blog on:

- Strange Things I've Barbequed

- Worse Cases of Heartburn

- Hot Places I Want to Visit

- Most Fiery Sermons I Have Heard Preached

- Books I Would Like to See Burned

- People I Wish I Could Burn at the Stake

- People Who Can't Take the Heat

- Will the Chicago Cubs Drag Me Through Hell This Year?

I am sure there are plenty of other fire themed topics of Pyromaniac interest. Until then, check out Pyromaniac; just watch that you don't get scalded.

EYE ON THE WEB

FRIDAY, JUNE 25th EDITION


Hugh Ross to Speak at ET Conference

Am I the only one who thinks it is sort of weird that Christian apologist, Hugh Ross, of Reasons to Believe is a featured speaker at an upcoming conference that lends plausibility to the existence of ETs and UFOs? Granted, when Dr. Hugh is interviewed on Coast to Coast AM he denies alien's exist and is forthright with Art Bell and George Noory's audience that they are being snuckered by demons. He is certainly to be commended for telling the truth in this area. However, the word conference implies 2 or 3 days at a resort hotel somewhere, and hour long lectures by UFO believers allegedly providing pseudo-scientific finds demonstrating ancient civilizations once existed on Mars and aliens meddled with human society in Earth's distant past. I can maybe see a Christian apologist like Dr. Hugh participating one time in such a conference, but this is the second time. He did this once before in the fall of 2003, and now again coming in November, 2005. This time he is bringing along his Reasons to Believe sidekick, Fuzale Rana, and ID promoter and Discovery Institute VP, Jay Richards. I would venture a guess and assume Dr. Hugh and his friends believe they are bringing the gospel message to an arena that otherwise has no evangelistic witness, but there has to be some point where involvement in such off the wall venues casts a strange light upon a person's ability to discern.

My take on all this is that it only shows how an individual's apologetic methodology can potentially harm his or her credibility as an evangelist and embarrass the person. You see, Hugh Ross is an evidentialist. That means that before he shares the gospel with a person, in this case, so-called scientific minded intellectuals, he must first demonstrate the reasonableness of the Christian faith, hence the name of his ministry, "Reasons to Believe." Once the rebel sinner has been convinced that evidence exists in favor of God and the Bible, then the gospel can be brought into play. Maybe Dr. Hugh is still at the convincing folks of the evidence stage. One wonders.


Does Hubble Create Trouble for Creationists?

Imonk, Michael Spencer, opines in his June 21st post, The God of the Hubble Universe, that the further we can see into the vastness of space with Hubble, the more creationists loose the ability to defend the Bible as a book of literal science. I use to like Imonk's essays, because he addresses subject I can relate to coming from a Hill Billy fundamentalist background. He has written some fun ones in the past that would take pokes at Bible-belt SBC traditions. I enjoyed a few of them so much I printed out hard copies to put in my files and pass around. But, ole Imonk has recently dog paddled out into the deep, murky waters of postmodernism where an understanding of God's character is obtained by swapping stories around a glowing fireplace with an aged scotch in your hand. One of Imonks big targets of recent date is young earth creationism. He mentions something disparaging about young earthers in nearly every other post or so that he publishes. Biblical creationism is a fat target for someone with postmodernist leanings like Imonk, because YEC believe the book of Genesis is a genuinely truthful and an accurate record describing how God really created our world and when He did it. The first 11 chapters are not meant to be read as a big allegory, or interesting moral stories, or poetry. And, it is not meant to be a literal science text book, either. I don't know one YEC who holds to such a position on the Bible. There may be some muddle headed ones out there, but the ones I know provide an excellent understanding of how we are to read Genesis and the entire Bible for that matter. If Imonk would take the time to bone up on what YEC actually believe about the Bible rather than whacking straw men, perhaps he will have a different take on Hubble.


God's providence over nature displayed

Dave Coppedge, curator of the fine website, Creation Safaris, provides an interesting story linked from his creation-evolution headlines page. According to Netscape News, a 12 year old girl in Ethiopia, who had been kidnapped and raped by a group of men who were going to force her to marry one of them, was rescued by three lions who drove off her assailants. Lion experts are flumxed by such behavior, why?...because lions normally attack and kill people, not rescue them from rapist thugs. While the secular world scratches their heads, I am reminded of Daniel's experience and God's power over His creation. The article doesn't say anything about whether this girl was a Christian or not, but I would like to think she was.

I am Declared an Alexandrian Apostate

And, on a final, narcissistic note, self proclaimed Bible linguist and translation expert and Internet loon, Jeffrey Nachimson of the A.V. Answers Association, has labeled my home website, Fred's Bible Talk, a promoter of Alexandrian apostasy. What exactly is an Alexandrian Apostate, you may ask? That is any person who doesn't believe the King James Bible translation, originally published in 1611, is alone the infallible Word of God. Thus, if you read any other English translation, especially one translated in the last 100 years or so, you are reading a corrupted Bible. My apostasy is made worse because I have actually come out publicly and renounced those defenders of the King James Only position as being dishonest, academic and theological quacks (see the side links). I plan to blog about my former KJV days sometime in the near future, but in the meantime, I find it a great honor to have my website listed along with James White's Alpha and Omega Ministries, the Bible.org site, and the fine men who write for the KJV only site, as fellow Alexandrian Apostates.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Jesus is Just All Right With Me: Examining the Values of the Christian Alliance Pt. 2

This is the second post briefly reviewing the so-called values of the Christian Alliance for Progress. You may recall in Part 1 that I mentioned hearing a spokesman for this group named the "Rev." Tim Simpson interviewed on the Michael Medved radio program. He stated rather clearly that his group's goal is to confront the growing take over of Christianity by radical, right-wing fundamentalists (as opposed to the radical left-wing fundamentalists) who are bent upon twisting politics in America to their dangerous agenda. Interest griped me, so I did a search for his website and there I found listed a statement of faith (of sorts) highlighting seven values embraced and shared by the fine folks at the CAP.

Now, if this group claims to speak for biblical Christianity and is the voice of reason in the wilderness (no matter how shrill) crying against the ruthless right wing take over of biblical Christianity, then it is only wise to subject their seven values outlined in this statement of faith to the only real authority for a Christian: the Holy Bible. The CAP, by their own declaration, names Christianity as their shared faith, so it would seem only logical to appeal to the sole authority for the Christian. When placed under biblical scrutiny, do their complaints line of with a proper reading of scripture, or are they reading their complaints onto scripture?

However, before we even arrive at our first value, we come across a perplexing introductory comment that reads:


People in this movement hold diverse views about religion and the Christian life. We come from many different traditions. We belong to many different denominations, or we may follow Jesus on a non-denominational path ... Our differences are not what define us ... what is fundamental for all of us is this: we find the origin and inspiration for our shared values in the life of Jesus. We believe his life defines our spiritual path, and we choose to follow the path he modeled for us.

The immediate problem is the first sentence advocating an adherence to diversity on the part of many of the members. As A Christian, I am a firm believer in diversity. The Bible is clear that salvation is offered on a world-wide basis to all the people groups on Earth. Jesus did not come to atone for the sins of the folks in one small country, but it was to gather to Himself a people called by His name from all over the world (John 11:49-52 and Revelation 5:9,10).
I would have no problem with these opening remarks if that were their meaning. However, after listening to the right Rev. Simpson interviewed on the radio and looking over the CAP website, the meaning of "diverse views about religion" takes on an entirely foreign definition than what is found is scripture.

Basically, with the word "diverse," the CAP folks mean there is no common authoritative source of truth by which the group defines itself. In other words, we never appeal to the Bible to judge anyone's loopy ideas about Jesus or the Christian religion in general. Only the generic points about Jesus are defended as authoritative: his compassion, humanity, giving, loving, and so forth. This is a typical conviction in today's culture where pretty much everyone practices a Judges 21:25 Christianity and does what is right in his or her own eyes. The "likeable," non-threatening aspects of Christ's person are separated from the entire biblical record and distorted to fit CAP's anti-fundamentalist agenda. As long as the person has some view about Jesus other than right wing fundamentalism he is welcomed aboard.

As a side note, I would also wonder if their views about diverse religious opinion applies equally to non-Christians. Do they celebrate their spiritual diversity with Muslims, Hindus, and Wiccans, for example, and believe their spirituality and views on God are as valid as those shared in common among the membership of the CAP? I haven't located any specific comments on their website articulating a position on non-Christian faith, but I would imagine I could wager good money they have a benign tolerance for anything non-Christian and I am sure they would never offer one judgmental peep against a non-Christian. Their accusations against right wingers would drowned out any such comments any ways. However, this " If it works for you, that's great, so it might be true" sounds inter-faith friendly, but mindless pluralism is horribly irrational. That means either this god is schizoid, manifesting a myriad of polar opposite ways to be in a spiritual relationship with him (or her), or this god is maliciously deceptive, hiding the true path of spirituality and watching humanity grope about to find it in some perverse cosmic Easter egg hunt. But, moving along...

All of that leads us to the first shared value, the source of the CAP's spiritual foundation. What could that be, exactly? If one is practicing diversity as a virtue, then it would seem inappropriate - completely intolerant - to suggest a specific and objective spiritual foundation. Rather than appealing to an objective source of revelation (read "the Bible" here) to define their spiritual foundation, the CAP heads down the subjective, mystical, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-individual-breeches, burning in the bosom path.

What shapes their spiritual foundation? Get this, an intense relationship with God.

Hmmmm? An intense relationship with God? What exactly is that suppose to mean? How does one even begin to define the words intense and relationship? With no mention of scripture (except for a verse taken out of context) how exactly do I know I have the correct intensity with my relationship? What exactly is a gage for that intensity? How do I know the intensity is positive and not negative? How do I know I am not mistaking my intensity with feelings of stress? Heartburn? Subjectivity is a disastrous guide for defining our relationship with God.
This "intense relationship" spirituality advocated by the CAP only turns God into our boyfriend/girlfriend. Romanticism is prized as the ultimate virtue in our society and heated passions for someone of the opposite sex is falsely believed to be "true love." When this backward view of emotionalism is married to spirituality, one can be certain he or she will experience endless heartache and/or a bitter divorce. In a way, this view of spirituality could also be termed a Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston spirituality, because at first, the relationship with the self-defined god looks all good and everyone is talking about how wonderful the new relationship appears, but eventually, that god is going to have an affair or the person will become dissatisfied with the god, because the spirituality wanes in intensity. Then your spiritual life gets picked to the bone by every tabloid vulture and everyone scoffs at you. Oh well...

But, coming back to an objective authority on God and my relationship with Him, the Bible is rather clear if I am unanchored, depending upon my own self determination with a spiritual relationship, I am for sure going to be tossed to and fro by every weirdo doctrine and crackpot belief that comes along purporting to be an intense feeling for God (Ephesian 4:14). The Bible is further clear that it - Holy Scripture - is the authority for a Christian to evaluate and judge any experienced spirituality. Paul states in 2 Timothy 3:16 that God's Word is the inspired source, literally, "breathed by God," revealing God's person, redemptive plan, salvation in Christ and how men can have a real, joyful, soul satisfying spiritual relationship with Him. An intense spiritual relationship with God is not found in me alone. As a fallible human being, I can be a bonehead when it comes to making decisions about relationships based upon intense feelings. Intense feelings have a track record for leading me astray. I can't pick and choose the characteristics of God that suits me like some flavor of ice cream. The Bible, and it alone, is the defining authority that sets the parameters and regulations of my relationship with God. Yes, God desires for me to experience an intense spirituality, but according to the Bible, we can only achieve and maintain such intensity with God based upon the terms He has established in revealed scripture. The fine folks at the CAP conveniently ignore this fact.

to be continued....

One footnote: I ventured over to a Michael Medved fan blog that summarizes the topics and interviews discussed on Medved's program. I added my comments to the blog entry discussing Rev Simpson's interview, and they sparked a debate with a couple of detractors. You can read our interchange here. The conversation has slowed to a stop for the moment, but I believe I provided some thoughtful information for my opponents to consider. Some folks often question my involvement with this hostility to the truth. Such debate is seen as a waste of time. To a degree, that can be true; however, I have discovered that many other folks who will never participate in the discussion read the comments and are encouraged, as well as helped, by what I write. I know I have received many private emails from lurkers in the past when I was involved with what appeared to be a repetitive debate on other forums.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

AiG vs. The Skeptics

The fine folks of Answers in Genesis operate one of the best, if not the best, apologetic ministries available to the Christian Church. Their primary focus is bringing the biblical record concerning man's origins, and the origins of life on Earth, to bear upon the irrational philosophy of Darwinian evolutionary thought. Evolutionary thinking permeates our entire culture, so the men and women of AiG have a daunting task. However, they are quite capable as they wield the truth of God against the enemies of the faith. Check out their extensive collection of on-line articles dealing with every conceivable aspect of creationism and objections by detractors.

I bring AiG up, because four of the guys from the Australian office are involved with an on-line debate with a group of skeptics. The debate is in written form and is available at the web blog of Australian journalist, Margo Kingston. It looks like it will be a spirited, and the interchange will give an opportunity for AiG to not only defend the faith and challenge the reasoning of evolutionary, anti-theist skeptics, but also present the gospel to the many folks who will probably read the essays. Those interested in apologetic methodology, and a practical, real life application of biblical apologetics, will certainly benefit from them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Examining the Values of the Christian Alliance Pt. 1

I had stated in my last posting that I wanted to give an examination to the seven values of the Christian Alliance for Progress. These seven values are a statement of faith, in a manner of speaking, declaring the beliefs of political liberals who wish to reclaim biblical Christianity (or better, their version of biblical Christianity) from the zealots on the Republican right. The CAP is one of the groups spearheading this grass roots effort.

I heard a spokesman by the name of Tim Simpson interviewed on Michael Medved's talk radio program. The self-proclaimed reverend (I don't recall him saying which denomination ordained him), spoke on the necessity of wrestling Christian faith from radical fundamental conservatives who are bent upon establishing a theocratic society which would result in squelching personal religious freedoms. According to the Rev. Simpson, it was this fundamentalism in America that propelled George Bush to re-election in 2004 and desired to change the congressional filibuster rules and this same fundamentalism does not in any way represent the Christianity taught by Jesus and the Bible. I would probably concur with the right reverend, but not without some specific clarification.

The complaints Rev. Simpson raises against right wing fundamentalists and their alleged stranglehold upon American society, politics and the Christian faith in general, are fraught with at least two major, urban legend like misconceptions. Before proceeding to examining their seven values, it will be helpful to disabuse these wrong-headed accusations.

The first one is a grave misunderstanding about the definition of fundamentalism. The word "fundamental" simply means basics, or elemental, and when the word is attached to a religion or philosophy it means anyone adhering to a system of belief believes and practices the basic elements of that particular religion or philosophy. In short, a practicing fundamentalist is a person who is devout and serious about his beliefs. Hence, a fundamentalist Christian believes the truths proclaimed in the Bible about God, Jesus Christ and the saving gospel are genuinely true and are devoted to living out those truths in his or her everyday life.

The mistaken notion made by most people is that fundamentalism is only attached to religion. But, the non-religious secularist can be fundamental with his beliefs as well. Evolutionists, for example, are atheistic and anti-supernatural, for the most part, and could be called fundamentalists with their Darwinian beliefs. The word "fundamentalism," however, has had a lot of negativity attached to it in recent years due to Islamic terrorism. No one wants to be associated with unyielding extremism, so people shy away from the word. It doesn't matter what a group of people believe fundamentally with their beliefs, any person who practices fundamentalism, especially with any religion, is viewed as a mindless fanatic; someone who blindly follows superstitious dictates with unreasoned and illogical faith.

In addition to a misapplication of the term fundamentalist, Rev. Simpson and his friends also have a misunderstanding of historic, Christian fundamentalism, particularly here in the U.S. Initially, fundamentalism within Christianity was a reaction to modernistic, anti-supernaturalism that had taken hold in the thinking and teaching of many mainstream denominations in the early 20th century. These denominations were beginning to reject the historical, supernatural elements recorded in scripture, like the miracles of Christ, His Resurrection, and the Virgin birth. It amounted to a rejection of the truthfulness and authority of the Bible. Fundamental Christian advocated a repudiation of this modernistic thought and a return to historic, orthodox Christianity. They believed Christians should read the Bible literally - at face value - as the infallible revelation of God. Many folks in our day, like Rev. Simpson, suggest this "literalism" was something novel to 20th century fundamentalism and was never a part of biblical Christianity. Fundamentalists are seen as being outside normal, traditional Christianity and are considered extremists. This is patently false. It was the modernism infiltrating denominations and twisting the plain reading of God's Word that was novel. Fundamentalist were only attempting to free the Church from these intrusive heresies by returning to the authority of God's Word. That involves believing the Bible as an accurate, true, historic and infallible revealed by God; a belief all Christians have maintained throughout the 2000 years of Church history.

Now, that is not to say fundamentalism in the early 20th century is without it's criticisms. I do not wish to minimalize the many foibles of American fundamentalists, especially the involvement they have had in the political arena. In fact, I would encourage anyone to either listen to a lecture given by Phil Johnson at the 2005 Shepherd's Conference addressing the problems within Christian Fundamentalism, or read the transcript. He provides some excellent insights to these problems as a friend of fundamentalism himself. Also, the correspondence and interaction between Phil and David Doran of the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary that was made public at the Sharper Iron web board will also be helpful in shaping a correct perspective of fundamentalism.

Then, a second misconception offered by Rev. Simpson is his equating Right Wing religious leaders like James Dobson and Pat Robertson with fundamentalism. If a person understands the basic truths under girding fundamentalism, he will notice quickly these men are not fundamentalists. One of the clearest proofs of this is the fact Dr. Dobson, Pat Robertson, and other political, religious Right Wingers, tend to be overly inclusive with partnering with other religious Right Wingers who happen to not be fundamentalists. Some, in fact, may not even be Christian. Yet, because all of these religious groups strive for the same Right Wing political principles, their theological differences are overlooked and put aside. A true, fundamentalists Christian would never yoke himself up with a Roman Catholic, Torah observing Jew and a Mormon Republican, just because they share the same political issues. If anything, men like Dobson and Robertson can be called "evangelical," but even the word "evangelical" has become so broad and encompassing that it has lost any clarifying definition.

With those opening clarifications in mind, the next time I will begin by considering the first value listed in the Jacksonville Declaration and attempt to answer the question, "what is a Christian's source of authority?"

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Kind and Gentle Hippie, Leftist Jesus

Perhaps I am slow noticing this trend, but it appears to me that liberals are attempting to hijack Jesus from biblical Christianity. I think I was scanning an article over at FOX news and I noticed an advertising link that stated something like, "Jesus was a liberal." Curiosity took a hold and I clicked the link. What I found was a collection of bumper stickers and tee-shirts for sale, oriented toward a liberal, Democrat perspective. I guess the slogans were meant to soothe the distraught minds of our proud American blue staters (though blue counties are more accurate) who suffered a crushing defeat to the Republicans in 2004. The comments were meant to be humorous, but displayed a pathetic lack of inconsistency. For example, one of the bumper stickers sported this ironic comment: "Remember when all the Red states were in the USSR." Hmmm? Is this suppose to suggest the socialistic leftism of the former Soviet Union is equivalent to conservative, Republican values?

At any rate, I was more interested in the "religious" bumper stickers, many of which had slogans that demonstrated an apparent struggle with biblical literacy on the part of the person or persons who designed them. Some of them stated theologically backward comments like, "Christian by Choice - Democrat by the grace of God," "Jesus was a liberal, Now what's your point?" (That one still has me scratching the noggin), "GOP does not spell GOD," and "The Christian Right is Wrong." Others wrestled verses out of their biblical contexts and attempted to apply the words to the current state of differences between Republicans and Democrats. Like for example, the one that quotes Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers." I am guessing the Sermon on the Mount is meant to be taken as a big anti-war slogan? Even more bizarre is how the site sells supposed pro-Christian bumperstickers along with rabid anti-religious ones. Two that stick out in my mind: "I won't think in your church if you don't pray in my school" and "Freedom of Religion means Freedom from Religion." If I recall, I think the Bible does say something about how a fountain cannot produce salt water and fresh water at the same time, but maybe that is one of those more intolerant Bible verses.

Yes, if my observations are correct, the leftist crowd is attempting to turn the wrath appeasing savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, as He is presented in the pages of holy scripture, into some side burns wearing, Volkswagen driving, protest shouting, anti-war demonstrator who hates President Bush and discusses existential philosophy at the local coffeehouse. There is even an organized political group called The Christian Alliance for Progress whose stated mission goal is to "Reclaim Christianity and transform American politics." Honestly, it should read, "To Revise the biblical truth to fit our leftist agenda." The Christian Alliance must attract only the gorgeous, correct thinking Christians to their ranks, because the blue eyed, babe with the full lips quoted on the home page states rather sulleningly, "I feel embarrassed and angry that Christianity has been used to divide our country and to promote bigotry and war." Of course, I am wondering as to which person has used Christianity to promote bigotry and war? Never are any examples provided. Even more curious is the scarcity of biblical passages used for supporting their beliefs. As an alliance of progressive Christians, you would think there would be plenty of passages utilized to silence the bigoted fundamentalists whom they stand opposed, but their site is curiosly devoid of any relevant exegsis of the Bible. The group has a confession of sorts with their Jacksonville Declaration and they outline their worldview in 7 shared values:
  • Spiritual Foundation in Jesus (of course)
  • Social Responsibility (The rich must be taxed)
  • Compassion for the least of these (Give your money away to those who will squander it on drugs and booze)
  • Equal Justice for All (code words for: no death penalty for guilty criminals)
  • Equality and Inclusiveness (what is it to be a progressive if your not inclusive!)
  • The Right Use of Power (No war against some tin horn dictator who routinely brutalizes his people)
  • Faithful Stewardship (Wealth earned by hard, faithful work must be heavily taxed)

Each one of these is attended by leftist propaganda and a Bible verse or two lifted from its context battered beyond any meaning the original author intended.

My hope in the next few posts or so is to examine these so-called seven values and evaluate them according to the Bible rightly interpreted and disabuse these verses from the enslavement of leftist ideologues who turn the Bible into some Bush bashing, Marxist manifesto.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Conservative, Fundamentalist, and Pomos.

Greg Linscott over at the Sharper Iron blog, posts a good reminder article penned by Scott Bennion on the extreme importance of proper biblical interpretation.

I have always thought it amazing that Christians who are conservative and fundamental in their overall convictions and approach to scripture, instantly become post moderns when they attempt to interpret scripture. I can't recall how many times I have attended a Bible study or Sunday school class as a young man where the teacher employed a relativistic "swing and miss" principle of biblical interpretation. Folks are told to open their Bibles to such and such a verse, the passage is read, the teacher gives his thoughts, and then he opens it up to everyone else in the circle to tell us all what each person thinks the passage means to him or her. There could be 12 people in the group, each with his or her own take on the passage and each is considered genuine because, "that's what it means to me." Usually a person's interpretative process disconnects and breaks down when he is attempting to defend some pet conviction or to justify some wacky "sign" the person believes is God giving direction.

Paul was clear with Timothy, "...rightly dividing the word of truth." It is sinful for any man naming Christ to mishandle and abuse God's word. Applying proper interpretation is a necessity.

Greg Koukl has an excellent essay providing further exhortation in this area of discipline:

Never Read A Bible Verse

Monday, June 06, 2005

I Reckon I'm a Sith

My wife and I finally got around to seeing the 6th installment of the Star Wars saga, Episode III. Having to secure and schedule babysitters puts us about 3 ½ weeks behind the rest of the world, but I refuse to be one of those goofball parents who insist on taking a restless 3 year old to the first day opening of a 2 hour movie, even if I tried to get away with it by painting him green and slapping on some Yoda ears.

But I digress…

Despite all of the positive reviews, and publicity boasting how it could potentially become the biggest grossing film of all time even surpassing E.T. and Titanic, I was let down and underwhelmed. Yes, the visuals were stunning with gobs of special effects to dazzle the eyes, but the film just left me with a “Welp, that was OK” feeling. To tell the truth, this has been my take on all the modern day prequels beginning with Episode I. They have been good to look at, but the films lack the warmth and imagination the first series generated. I can still recall watching the original Star Wars from the truck bed of my cousin’s pickup at the Batesville Drive-In. The monotone speaker produced terrible sound and the mosquitoes were annoying, but I still sat in raptured awe as the story unfolded. I can also remember experiencing similar feelings when I saw the two sequels. When the special edition was released, I stood with a bunch of friends in a block long line in front of the Mann’s Chinese Theater in downtown Hollywood with eager anticipation for a movie I had seen several dozen times.

Sadly, I have never felt the same excitement about any of the three prequels. After the let down of Episode I, they have failed to capture my endearment.

But, like all Star Wars fans who experienced having the first three movies shape his imagination, I wanted to see how Anakin came to be the bad guy, Darth Vader. Little did I realize I was going to have to suffer George Lucas’s Bush bashing cheap shots throughout the process.

Now I realize some may charge me with reading just too much into this film, but Lucas's anti-Bushism are as obvious as Hayden Christensen’s bad acting. There are the comments about the clone troopers hunting down terrorist separatists, Padme’s opining about how the Supreme Chancellor had overstayed his welcome and the senators being misguided to vote away liberties. However, the one that is the icing on the proverbial cake is Anakin’s confrontation with Obi-Wan. He tells Obi-Wan in no uncertain terms (this is a paraphrase): “If you stand against me, you are my enemy.” To which Obi-Wan responds, “Only the Sith think in absolutes.” If a person cannot see the direct connection to President Bush’s post 9/11 speech, he is as clueless as the Jedi were to Palpatine’s machinations.

Yet, I am not so bothered by GL’s anti-Bush propaganda; I expect that from the Hollywood left. I am more troubled by Obi-Wan’s illogical response, “Only the Sith think in absolutes.” A good question to ask is, why would Lucas write such dialog for his character? Honestly?

On top of being a Bush hating, flannel wearing toy salesman, George Lucas is a postmodern, moral relativist. Let us pause to ponder this sage like comeback he put into the mouth of Ewan McGregor. Basically, Obi-Wan is saying only evil, Sith dark lords believe in absolutes. Am I to understand, then, that Jedi are good because they are moral relativists? Even more, Lucas is a boneheaded moral relativist, because his entire series plays to the distinction between good and bad, which, the last time I checked, are absolute ideas. The good guys wear earthy, light toned clothing in these films, the bad guys wear dark, sinister colors of black and blood red. Unless I'm missing something, are we not illustrating absolutes here? Furthermore, Obi-Wan makes this comment right after he is dispatched to kill Anakin. Now, if I am not mistaken, death is pretty much an absolute condition. Surely Lucas can't be blind to so many logical inconsistencies?

If adhering to absolutes means I align myself with the Sith, then I reckon I will be a Sith. At least the Sith aren’t philosophical dunderheads like the Jedi. Besides, I always thought their candy apple read lightsabers looked cool.

Friday, June 03, 2005

On Evidence and Anthony Flew

I am sure many folks remember the stunning announcement toward the end of 2004 made by legendary atheist philosopher, Anthony Flew, of his abandonment of materialistic atheism as a credible means of explaining life on earth. He now professes to be a deist of some sorts who recognizes an higher cause, but still firmly rejects Christianity, because in his mind, the religion cannot adequately account for evil in the world.

I gave a devotional on the subject that has been posted at my main website Fred's Bible Talk.
Those with MP3 capabilities can click the file and listen on line here. My webmaster suggested titling the message as "One Flew over the cuckoo's nest." Now, I have to admit to a fondness for cute, sardonic sermon titles, but I thought it was a tad too creative.

Be that as it may, Dr. Flew's "conversion" to deism, or theism with a little "t," only reveals the inability for alleged evidence for God and creation to genuinely convince a person of his or her need for Jesus Christ. Dr. Flew has said in various interviews, the most candid being a dialog between himself and long time Christian friend, Dr. Gary Habermas, that he was challenged by the arguments Intelligent Design adherence are making in explaining the many complexities of our world, both biological and physical. Atheism fails to give a rational justification for such overwhelming evidence and according to Dr. Flew, he had to go "where the evidence takes him."

Yet, the so-called evidence does not take him far enough, because he still rejects God's sovereign authority. Dr. Flew states he cannot believe in the God of the Bible because all this God does is produce lots of evil. When I read such blasphemy, Paul's words from Romans 9:20 ring in my mind: "But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'why have you made me like this?'"

God's Word is clear that Dr. Flew's problem is not a matter of evidence. To be quite honest, the evidence for God screams in the faces of all men everywhere. No, Dr. Flew's problem is a spiritual/moral problem. He needs a new heart and a new mind to evaluate the clear evidence correctly, and according to scripture (Romans 1:20ff.), men and women like Dr. Flew will only continue to dismiss any and all evidence until he submits to his creator as being the only true God, and our savior, Jesus Christ, as the only means to be made right with his creator. Until that happens, all the arguments made by ID proponents Dr. Flew believes is compelling, will only be suppressed by his rebellious heart and will only serve to condemn him before the very God he rejects.