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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fun Time with Atheists

The current atheist fanboy to come along in recent days is Sam Harris. He has written a well received book entitled Letters to a Christian Nation. Many atheists have deluded themselves into believing Mr. Harris is a formidable foe of theism, Christian theism specifically. I am not sure why that think this. Perhaps it is his attractive good looks, or that fact he speaks with a confident and articulate sass that makes him come across as to knowing what he is talking about.

In reality, there is nothing really new with anything Mr. Harris has presented against Christian theism that hasn't been soundly refuted 200 years ago. Honestly. He picked up an old dusty, tattered and torn 1820 edition of the Arguments for Atheists Against Christian Theism that was previously owned by Betrand Russell, stripped off the cover, had it rebound with his name written on it and is running it play by play. If I didn't know better, I would say that Mr. Harris plagiarized Chaz Bufe's, 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. Really, there is nothing new here and I am surprised any Christian is working himself up into a lather over this guy.

None the less, Doug Wilson has written a series of critiques of Mr. Harris's book that are well worth the time it takes to print them off and the hour or so it will take to read them in one evening. I used to read Wilson with more regularity, but that is when Credenda Agenda was free and delivered to your house. I forgot how witty and insightful he can be. For example, the first article has one of his best comments against Harris:

At the conclusion of your Note to the Reader, you make an opening move in what I suppose is your part of your larger strategy of demolishing the "intellectual pretensions of Christianity." You begin by noting that the intellectual pretensions of the Christian faith are certainly widespread. "If our worldview were put to a vote, notions of 'intelligent design' would defeat the science of biology by nearly three to one" (p. x). I do not share the same faith you apparently do in the abilities of pollsters to measure this sort of thing, but let us grant this as a distinct possibility. You believe that the pervasiveness of certain Christian doctrines (on the end of the world) constitutes "a moral and intellectual emergency" (p. xii). You speak in terms of "us and them," so allow me to do the same thing for a moment. You all have had nearly complete control of the education establishment for over a century and a half. You have the accrediting agencies, you have the government schools, you have the vast majority of colleges and universities; you are the educational establishment. And yet your complaint here reminds me of the indignant father, who said, "I taught him everything I know and he's still stupid!" At what point should a committed secularist take responsibility for the state of education in America? Perhaps the problem is not in the students?

Aggravatingly, the last article in the series is posted at the top of the page, so you'll have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the list to find the first one. Don't let that deter you, though. I am curious to know if Harris has even bothered to read any of this. It would certainly make for a terrific debate if Wilson could take him on.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

HOW SEMI-PELAGIAN LEGALISM TOOK OVER A BAPTIST CHURCH*


In September 1998, God was pleased to save my wife and me out of the Pentecostal movement.

With the outbreak of the Toronto Blessing in the early 1990s and the flooding into the Pentecostal churches of outlandish and ungodly behavior and beliefs, we were caused to flee to the scriptures and spend many hours in study and prayer. We also began listening to solid Bible teaching on our local Christian radio. Such men as John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul. During this time the Lord led us more and more into a Reformed evangelical understanding of the Christian faith and we eventually came to see that neither one of us had been truly saved. The Holy Spirit did a glorious work of awakening in our hearts and we cried out to Jesus to save us from our error.

We then began a process of daily renewal of our minds. The years of Pentecostal thinking had taken its toll upon our understanding of God and true, Christian spirituality. With this new beginning, we began to visit a number of churches in our area, but none of them truly satisfied us. They were either tainted with Pentecostal/Charismatic teachings, seeker-sensitive philosophies, or they were seriously compromised in some other way. None of the pastors of these churches preached expositionally through the scriptures, the type of preaching my wife and I desired to hear.

Thankfully, the Lord led us to a small Baptist church. The pastor and his wife were both graduates from Bob Jones University and the pastor had attended The Master's Seminary. This news pleased us because we both loved John MacArthur for his radio ministry was so instrumental in bringing us to the Lord. Additionally, this pastor was an expositional preaching pastor who taught the entire Word of God and not sermons taken from cherry picked passages. My wife and I were filled with joy for we had discovered the last remaining refuge in an area of severe drought.

We quickly became involved with our new church home. We attended the pastor's new Christian class and learned so much from him. Additionally, his preaching was deep and warm and provided us with a sense of awe for God's Word. He held strongly to the doctrines of election, what was nick-named Calvinism, and though my wife and I were first shaken by these doctrines when we learned them, as we study the scriptures, the illuminating work of the Spirit showed us that this is what the Bible clearly taught. We eventually rejoiced with humble gratitude that God would choose to save two sinners like ourselves.

The worship at our church was also sweet. The music leader, though a young man, led us in worship that was a sound balance between classic, traditional hymns and contemporary praise songs. The music he used provided us a profound vision of a sovereign God worthy of our praise. Most importantly, our pastor loved missions. Our church sent out summertime, short-term missions teams to Africa, Asia and even the former Soviet Union. In 2002, my wife and I had the opportunity to use our vacation time for two weeks in a remote South African village building a church and encouraging the saints.

In December 2003, our beloved pastor resigned to become a full-time missionary in Albania. We were all saddened by him and his family leaving, but were also joyful at the wonderful ministry opportunities that awaited him. That was a difficult time for my wife and I because we loved our pastor so much, but we remained faithful to our local Baptist congregation where we had grown in the knowledge of the Lord.

Shortly after he left, a couple of deacons in our church began the candidating process to find a new pastor. These two men were fairly new to our church and were known for having strong personalities. They had quickly risen to prominence even while our previous pastor was here, even challenging him as to some of the things he taught like the doctrine of election and his use of a modern Bible version when he preached. Now these men were facilitating the process of finding a new pastor.

Eventually, these men announced to the congregation that they had found "God's man" to lead our little flock. They told us he was a man who had graduated from Pensacola Christian College and held firmly to the fundamentals of the faith. One of the deacons even jokingly suggested that those who didn't like him when they heard him preach "were not walking in the spirit." The man did come to preach for us, but I was troubled by his bombastic preaching. He had the tendency to yell a lot when he preached and he seemed to wander all over the place in the Bible, not staying with in the selected text like our previous pastor. I was also concerned by his admission during the public interview time after the morning service that he had "pastored" three different churches with in the last 7 years. None the less, and despite these red flags, my wife and I reluctantly voted for him to be the new pastor because we didn't want to be viewed as "not walking in the spirit." We also wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and hoped his preaching would improve when he came.

After he arrived to take up the position of pastor, it quickly became clear that his preaching was consistently the style of sermon he gave when he was candidating: he read a verse or two from a selected passage and then spent the remainder of his time jumping from context to context throughout the Bible. On Sunday mornings his sermon was always "evangelistic" ending with an extended invitation which many of us thought was manipulative of people's emotions. Sunday and Wednesdays evenings were devoted to messages addressing what the pastor believed were "serious compromises" in the Christian church. He spoke against ecumenicalism, the seeker-sensitive movement, the Prayer of Jabez and Purpose-Driven Life philosophies, and charismatic theology. I agreed with much of what he said against these "compromises," but he began to address a variety of subjects that really concerned my wife and I, as well as several others in the church.

At one Wednesday evening service, he took the time to speak out against the so-called "evils" of contemporary Christian music and announced from the pulpit that our church would no longer tolerate the man-centered lies permeating the lyrics of CCM anymore. This news alarmed many of us in the church because we were personally blessed by some of the CCM, especially the contemporary songs our worship leader utilized during the worship time. After our pastor condemned the singing of CCM, the deacons told our worship leader he could no longer use any contemporary songs and in fact had to submit any worship music to the pastor the week before the service for his approval. The worship leader did his best to satisfy the deacon's wishes, but he resigned the position a couple of months later, and he and his family eventually left our church by the end of the year.

Also, the pastor was strongly opinionated about the use of the King James Version of the Bible in our church. He gave a series of messages on Sunday evenings telling of the superiority of the KJV over all other English translations. He denounced all modern versions as being "modern per-versions" and told the congregation we needed a revival of God's Word in our life - God's Word meaning the exclusive use of the KJV. Many of us in the church were deeply disturbed by the messages, because we used some of the modern versions he denounced. On the last Sunday evening of his KJV series, I spoke with the pastor and told him I really liked the English Standard Version. He dismissively replied, "Well brother, I know I won't drink from broken cisterns and poisoned wells. I want to drink from the pure Word of God and that can only be found in the KJV." He told me to read a book called "Final Authority" by a guy named William Grady.

Then, about 7 months or so after the pastor arrived, one of the deacons who was instrumental in having him candidate, started a series of messages in our men's Sunday School class based upon the book "What Love Is This?" by Dave Hunt. In the very first message he announced that he believed "Calvinism" was a serious anti-evangelistic heresy that taught Jesus didn't die for the world. He further said that a person is not born-again, or regenerated, until AFTER he believed in faith. I was quite surprised at his lesson, because I knew from my former studies with my old pastor that the Bible clearly taught that a sinner never desires salvation and cannot exercise saving faith until God regenerates him first. I also knew Calvinism was extremely evangelistic oriented because our former pastor promoted world missions and local outreach on a regular basis.

Over the following weeks this deacon, with the use of emotional anecdotes and cliched rhetoric, skilfully and eloquently presented his lessons based upon Dave Hunt's teachings against Calvinism. I could see that they were an attempt to condition the men in the congregation, because each week the messages reinforced anti-Calvinistic, semi-Pelagian legalism. Through my earlier studies into Calvinism, I learned that Hunt's book is one of the main vehicles in our day through which anti-Calvinistic, semi-Pelagian theology is being propagated in the churches, particularly the fundamental independent churches like ours. His own supporters brag that he is the best author and teacher to use if you are wanting to indoctrinate your people against Calvinism and have it removed from your church.

I engaged in a number of discussions with our new pastor to express to him how I was concerned that this deacon was using Dave Hunt's book. I tried to show him that Dave Hunt was not a credible researcher and critic of Calvinism. I explained to him that Hunt misquotes authors, mis-characterizes the historic theology of Calvinism, and sinfully slanders those men he labels as "Calvinists." The pastor told me that people should just let the Bible speak for itself and not try to force someone's system upon it like Calvinism, so obviously he wasn't an enthusiastic supporter of Calvinism, what our church believed for so long under our old pastor.

Then, it was announced from the pulpit one Sunday morning that our church would no longer be involved with an annual evangelistic crusade with another like-minded church about an hour away from us, because it became known that some of the members of that church had attended a Bible conference where Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary in Kentucky, and popular pastor, John Piper, had spoken. Our pastor told us that Al Mohler is an apostate Calvinist, as well as Dr. Piper, and our church could no longer have fellowship with this other church because of the doctrine of separation.

With the blatant semi-Pelagianism and legalistic teachings becoming more pronounced, and seeing the way in which this pastor and the two deacons were taking the church, my wife and I decided we would need to speak with them. We did not believe the things that were being taught and we were concerned that our views would eventually cause conflict, so we arranged a meeting with them in our home.

When the men arrived, I expressed to them that I would not be getting into debates over Calvinism. I was convinced that the belief system was as true as they were that it was false. I did tell them though, that through my studies on the subject, I had come to the conclusions that Calvinism was solid, biblical doctrine, and that the semi-Pelagianism they promoted was a philosophy of man built around human traditions and that their legalistic principles against the various "compromises" they believe are in the church were unscriptural.

In the meeting, we asked the pastor if he intended to take the church further down the path against Calvinism. He professed he was indeed against Calvinism and assured us he would continue to promote anti-Reformed teachings in the pulpit. We then told them we could no longer attend the church in good conscience, even though the only like-minded church is a hour's drive away. We ceased attending this church after nearly 6 years of faithful service. The pastor explained our departure during a special Wednesday evening service and disappointingly, defamatory comments were made about me. I was painted in the worse possible light as a man who was filled with intellectual pride and had believed Calvinism unwittingly from our previous pastor.

Sadly, we were not the only people affected by this new pastor's legalistic, anti-Calvinistic rhetoric. We learned later that many other members either left the church because they did not like where it was headed, or were "forced" to leave because they were marked as compromising the faith in some way or another, particularly for embracing Calvinism. The church we loved has since dwindled from almost 300 people down to about 120. Though our church didn't officially "split," this pastor has reduced its membership nearly in half with his legalistic, semi-Pelagianism.

We currently drive a hour each way to attend this one like-minded church from which our old church had separated. We are happy to be there to worship with the people, even many members from our old church, but we are praying God will raise up a man of God to start a Bible teaching, grace centered church in our area. We have some possible prospects, and although it is months away, we are excited at having such a fellowhip for people who want to stand for the old paths.


*This story is meant as a response to Hughie Seaborn's "testimony" about Calvinists taking over his former Baptist church. Though the story itself is fictitious, I pieced it together from true testimonies from friends and family who did encounter similar scenarios in their own churches. In reality, legalistic, semi-Pelagian theology has damaged the psyche of more Christians and split more congregations than ever a resurgence of Calvinism among faithful Christians.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Calvinistic Conspiracies

Hughie Seaborn of Cairns, Queensland, Australia is concerned about a new conspiracy afoot among Independent Fundamental Baptists. Apparently, there is a clandestine group of young and restless "Calvinists," primarily trained at Bob Jones University, who are infiltrating IFB churches and introducing the doctrines of Calvinism to the people.

Of course, these young men are not convinced of their Calvinistic beliefs by the hard study of scripture and dealing with the grammatical details of the biblical text. No, Hughie implies that they are enamored by intellectual, university level training and the desire to "fit" in with the new Calvinistic trends set by such men as John Piper. In fact, if you want everyone in your church to believe in Calvinism, just introduce Piper's books to the congregation and they will quickly succumb to his teachings on the subject.

Hughie has written a garment rending lamentation that is posted at David Cloud's, Way of Strife,.. er, Life, website telling of how a BJU trained associate pastor managed to take over Hughie's former Baptist church with the doctrines of Calvinism. Go and read it, then come back tomorrow to read my version of similar circumstances, but from a different perspective.

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My Birthday Calculator

Following up on my post about my Thanksgiving birthday trip to Archives, I came in to work on Monday morning and one of my volunteers had sent me a link to a birthday calculator.

Among other things astrological, if you put in your date of birth, the calculator will tell you how old you are in seconds, when you were conceived, and what phase the moon was in the day you were born.

I was born on November 25th, 1968.

Some of the factoids the calculator tells me are:

You are 38 years old.
You are 456 months old.
You are 1,983 weeks old.
You are 13,881 days old.
You are 333,155 hours old.
You are 19,989,304 minutes old.
You are 1,199,358,270 seconds old.

Wow, 1.1 billion seconds old. I can really feel my mortality now.

Also, I share my birthday, November 25th, with a couple of cool celebrities:

Paul Desmond, sax player and jazz musician, and Ricardo Montalbon.

I love saying his name, Montalbon.

Most folks remember him as the white suit wearing Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island. I of course remember him as Khan Noonien Singh from the original Star Trek series and the second movie, The Wrath of Khan. The long, white hair, citing Shakespeare, putting the eels in the ears of Chekov. Man, he was awesome in that movie.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving Birthday to Me!

My birthday is the 25th of November (I turned 38). That means it is celebrated during the week of Thanksgiving and occasionally, sometimes on Thanksgiving day itself. Because of this occurrence, my grandmother (my father's mother), used to bake me my own personal mini-pumpkin pie instead of a cake. I always thrilled at having my own miniature pie.

My dad's birthday was the day following mine on the 26th. I always thought that was kind of cool, too. Last year, my third boy was born on the 24th (Thanksgiving day). I was hoping he would stay put because I wanted to share my birthday date with him. My wife thought that was strange, because she likes having her birthday date all to herself shared with no one else in the family. At least my third son will be the day before mine like my father and me.

This year my birthday was on a Saturday. My wife had asked me a month or so before what I wanted for my birthday. I looked at her square in the eye and replied, "I want to go to Archives by myself and browse the book shelves."

Now, what the heck is Archives? If you live in the So Cal area and are theologically astute or a seminary student, you know about Archives bookshop in Pasadena. It is one of the largest used Christian books stores in America. I mean good Christian books, like commentaries and Puritan theology. Not Beth Moore and Joel Olsteen style books you find in the popular retail type stores, though they may sell Beth Moore's books in the discounted area.

When I first visited Archives it was back in 1992. At this time, the shop occupied two store fronts on the street opposite their current day location. They had books crammed on shelves in essentially two stores with a large door frame cut in the wall between the two. It was almost near impossible to go to a shelf and locate anything alphabetically. Though they had all the "Ps" and Ms" together, they weren't in any order, but shelved randomly. One of my class mates at seminary upon hearing of us planning our first trip to Archives told us with bitterness in his voice, "I hate going to that place; I can't find nothing." Undeterred, my friends and I made the 25 minute drive down the 134 east, onto the 210 east, exited Hill drive and turned north to Washington ave. where Archives was located (at that time) on the north side of the street.

The place was just like my friends had described it: Ceiling high bookcases stuffed with dusty old theology books and tight fitting, narrow aisles in between them. Oddly, the folks running the place were a bunch of hippie moonbeams. They looked like they had just come from a protest rally in San Francisco. They played mellow, classic rock over the sound system in the store. It was a bit odd browsing the Romans commentaries while listening to Starship Trooper performed by Yes playing in the background.

It took me nearly two hours to comb all the shelves, but I walked away with a couple of A.W. Pink books I didn't have. They were all I could afford at the time, and even then, just like today, Archives was a bit pricey for a used book store. I tried to make it over there at least once, if not twice a year, and each time I was as excited on going there as a kid would be for Disney Land.

Sometimes in the late 90s, they bought a large store across the street and moved the entire collection there. It was a much needed improvement. Lots of room to spread out, wide spacious aisle between shelves, and the books were alphabetized! Even more glorious was a bathroom, the sound system played classical music now, and they even provided little plastic shopping baskets to carry your books in.

So, the past Saturday, after the kids gave me my presents consisting of a large bag of dark chocolate M&Ms and a two disc set of Resphigi's Pines of Rome, my wife made me an omelet breakfast with homemade biscuits and I headed off to Pasadena.

Now most folks in this world would think spending all morning in a used theology bookstore for your birthday is weird. But there is something moving about walking through those doors and breathing in that "book" smell. Every person has to have a plan of attack when browsing a book store, especially one like Archives. I begin on the far wall to the right which is old and new Bibles, lexicons and biblical language books. I then move to the shelves opposite those which begins the OT studies and commentaries. Around the corner begins the NT studies and commentaries, then the large sets and Church History. Then moving around those shelves begins the theology section, probably the largest section in the place. They have a section devoted to Luther, Calvin and of course, Barth. (The management thinks Barth is tops).

There is also a large collection of what I call low end theology books that is significantly discounted. You know, the liberal stuff written by Methodist women pastors and the effeminate Jesus Seminar guys. I saw several copies of The Book of J, books by Spong, Borg and plenty of Paul Tillich's works. However, mixed in with all the junky liberal books are some good ones, perhaps too slightly damaged to sell on the regular shelves. I found all my Lloyd-Jones Ephesians commentaries in that section, along with a copy of Iain Murray's Revival and Revivalism. It takes me a good 45 minutes or so to look through that section because the books are randomly placed on the shelves. Usually I have a crick in my neck when I finish, but I always find something to pick up.

With this visit, I went away with four books: Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism by George Marsden, God's Hammer by Gordon Clark, and two books by Ronald Nash, Faith and Reason and Worldviews in Conflict. It was terrific.

Maybe I am a geek, but I had a awesome, thanksgiving filled birthday.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Twenty Ways to Answer a Fool (pts 9 & 10)









Does Christianity have a morbid, unhealthy preoccupation with sex and produce sexual misery?


I come again to my review of Chaz Bufe, the Christ-hating anarchist and blues guitar playing atheist, and his 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. He devotes two entire points to the subject of Christians and sexuality and in doing so demonstrates a triumphal ignorance in what he criticizes. This is seen within the second sentence of point 9 when he writes about the numerous "thou shalt nots" relating to sex in the Bible, particular the 10th commandment which forbids coveting your neighbor's wife. I had no idea that Chaz was a wife-swapping swinger as well.

In order to save time, I thought I would cover his two points into one post.

Under point 9,

Today, judging from the pronouncements of many Christian leaders, one would think that "morality" consists solely of what one does in one’s bedroom. The Catholic Church is the prime example here, with its moral pronouncements rarely going beyond the matters of birth control and abortion (and with its moral emphasis seemingly entirely on those matters). Also note that the official Catholic view of sex—that it’s for the purpose of procreation only—reduces human sexual relations to those of brood animals. For more than a century the Catholic Church has also been the driving force behind efforts to prohibit access to birth control devices and information—to everyone, not just Catholics.

As I have noted in previous articles, Chaz has the annoying habit of equating historic, Bible-believing Christianity with the Roman Catholic Church. This misnomer permeates his entire tract. In fact, I would say his overall pamphlet would be more aptly titled 20 Reasons to Abandon Roman Catholicism. At any rate, Chaz can't be faulted too much, because it is typical of many critics of religious faith to make this mistake either out of ignorance or intellectual laziness. I would expect more from Chaz, however, because he is making the Christian faith the object of his scorn.

That being said, I would agree with Chaz to an extent that Roman Catholicism has taught a warped view of human sexuality. Yet this is not derived from scripture as Chaz would have his readers believe, but from a mingling of Gnostic ascetic beliefs with early Christian mysticism. This philosophical combination produced an entirely unbiblical view of Christian sexuality; one that is no where taught in the whole the Bible.

Many early Church fathers, including those who followed into the Medieval times, held to a false dichotomy between the spirit and flesh, with the spirit understood as being pure and the flesh evil. They would then impose this view upon the Bible and force the text to teach something totally different than what it was meant to convey. This false understanding of God ordained sexuality has sadly produced two millennia of misguided Christians. Many of them taught that marriage should not be for anything but procreation and virginity was the highest of spiritual virtues. The systems of the monastery and convent were developed as a place where single, chaste men and women could live out their spiritual lives away from the temptations of the world.

However, thanks be to the spiritual revival that took place under the Reformation, Christians broke away from this false teaching and returned to the teaching of scripture. Another common myth among religious critics is the notion that Puritans were dour, sexually repressive individuals. But this is utterly untrue. It was the Puritans who recaptured a biblical vision of God ordain human sexuality as the Lord had intended sex to be. As Leland Ryken shows in his wonderful book, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as the Really Were, the Puritans celebrated sexuality through out their literature and sermons. Think about it: Puritans had massive families. Obviously they had to have liked sex.

God loves sex, simply because He created it for men to enjoy. The only stipulation is that sex is to be enjoyed with in the boundary God has set, that being a marriage between one man and one woman. The Lord declares in Hebrews 13:4 that marriage is honorable among all, and the bed is undefiled... Proverbs 5:18,19 frankly states, Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. And the Song of Solomon is a long, semi-erotic love poem expressing the blessedness of martial sexual relations between a man and woman. So this idea Chaz is attempting to set forth to his readers that Christianity is sexually repressive is non-sense.

What Chaz doesn't like is the stipulation God has placed on sex; i.e., only being between a man and a woman who are married. Chaz boasts of being a "free thinker" and historically, free thinkers are notorious womanizing sex perverts. As we will see in more detail when we come to Chaz's complaint that Christianity is misogynistic, one of his intellectual heroes from times past, the poet, Lord George Byron, toured the European continent sleeping with countless women and impregnating a good deal of them, leaving a wake of illegitimate children. I would imagine Chaz dreams of a life like that.

Moving on to point 10,

In addition to the misery produced by authoritarian Christian intrusions into the sex lives of non-Christians, Christianity produces great misery among its own adherents through its insistence that sex (except the very narrow variety it sanctions) is evil, against God’s law. Christianity proscribes sex between unmarried people, sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, bestiality, and even “impure” sexual thoughts. Indulging in such things can and will, in the conventional Christian view, lead straight to hell.

Given that human beings are by nature highly sexual beings, and that their urges very often do not fit into the only officially sanctioned Christian form of sexuality (monogamous, heterosexual marriage), it’s inevitable that those who attempt to follow Christian “morality” in this area are often miserable, as their strongest urges run smack dab into the wall of religious belief...

Even after Christian young people receive a license from church and state to have sex, they often discover that the sexual release promised by marriage is not all that it’s cracked up to be. One gathers that in marriages between those who have followed Christian rules up until marriage—that is, no sex at all—sexual ineptitude and lack of fulfillment are all too common. Even when Christian married people do have good sexual relations, the problems do not end. Sexual attractions ebb and flow, and new attractions inevitably arise. In conventional Christian relationships, one is not allowed to act on these new attractions. One is often not even permitted to admit that such attractions exist.

I don't have much to add here except to draw out a couple of observations.

In the first paragraph above, Chaz laments how Christianity produces great misery in that it labels sex as evil and against God's law. He then goes on to list all the "sexual sins" that could get a person condemned to hell like fornication, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and even an impure thought life. In Chaz's mind, rather than being condemned as sinful, people should be allowed to indulge their sexual appetites. Oddly, pedophilia is not listed. In fact, Chaz has a book recommended on his website addressing how a person can recover from sexual child abuse. Apparently, that restrictive age of consent is the only area where Chaz agrees with Christianity. But why is that? If we should abandon Christianity because it stifles sexual freedoms, why stop with an adult-child sexual relationship? After all, why should we be restricted by age and maturity? Why doesn't Chaz mention this? Because free thinking atheists have their limits and even hypocritically try to explain it away as a child not being able to consent to such a relationship. But I have met some rather sophisticated 11 year old in my life. So why won't Chaz advocate for NAMBLA?

Second, Chaz's rant about Christians being so sexually repressed because they follow Christian morality that when they get married they have dysfunctional sex lives is bunk. This is the great lie of the a-religious: in order to have a fulfilling sex life in marriage people need to have numerous sexual relationships before hand. Sort of like test driving a car before you buy one or doing a ten day free trial with a vacuum cleaner. If you don't try it out first, you could get stuck with a lemon.

Let me assure any single readers out there as a happily married man of 6 years, to put it bluntly, Chaz is an idiot. I lived 31 years as a chaste, single man and there were absolutely zero problems transitioning into married life. That is not to say Christians don't have sexual problems after and during marriage, but statistically, they are the least problems a couple struggles with in marriage and they are easily fixable with minimal advice. The issue boils down to whether a couple wishes to love each other unconditionally, in a spirit-filled, committed relationship.

Chaz's view of Christian sex is lopsided, and like the established habit in this long diatribe against the faith, he forgets to self-critique. The secular world tells us to be sexually free, to enjoy sex without marriage, experiment, indulge in pornography, if you pickup a disease, get a shot, and if you get pregnant abortion is the quick and easy way out. The reality, however, is a sea of broken and used people who have a jaded, bitter attitude to any meaningful sex life with a real person. There is a reason why God told us to not covet our neighbor's wife, because it hurts people and destroys families. Lives are ruined. The real sexual misery is the secularism Chaz is suggesting we live.

Next Up: Christianity has an exceedingly narrow and legalistic view of morality.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Celebration of Strange Videos from India

OK, the remainder of this week is going to be slow with the blogging. Especially this being the Thanksgiving holiday and my birthday this Saturday. I have some good stuff in the works, but I have other obligations preventing me from blogging at full capacity.

In the meantime, for our extended holiday weekend, may I direct your attention to the site of my friend Officer Pecadillo and some video treasures from India he came across on Youtube. Prepare yourself to be stunned with jaw dropping amazement.

Also, as a bonus, enjoy this strange gem a co-worker recently drew my attention to.

Happy Thanksgiving




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Monday, November 20, 2006

About Kramer's Racist Comments

OK, this is absolutely trivial and non-theological, but hey it's a slow blogging holiday week.

I have been thinking about this alleged racial tirade by Michael Richards. Here in LA this is all the buzz. Those readers outside of So Cal, say Daniel in Winnipeg, maybe heard a 30 second sound bite thing on the radio about Kramer calling a bunch of people the "N" word.

Any ways, I say alleged racial tirade because I believe we may be witnessing something of a comedic conspiracy.

Hear me out...

I think it was a big set up. Those "hecklers" were not hecklers, but plants. Similar to the way Andy Kaufman would set up ringers in the audience and fake having a fight with them. The reason I say this is because back when Michael Richards was a nothing comedian, he worked a lot with Kaufman. In fact, he was often involved with some of his fake gags.

One case in point. There was a early 80s TV show that came on Friday nights after Nightline called, of all things, Fridays. It was ABCs version of Saturday Night Live, but on Fridays. It was filmed lived with guest hosts and sketch comedy. In one particular episode, Kaufman was the guest host and was participating in a skit with Richards. Richards supposedly did something to Kaufman and Kaufman breaks character on live TV and begins shoving Richards back and forth. A huge fist-to-cuffs fight breaks out with props being turned over, cameras getting knocked about and stage hands trying their best to break up the fight. The audience is whooping and hollering.

Later, it was revealed to be a big gag set-up with only Kaufman, Richards, and one of the producers knowing what would happen. Everyone else involved with the show was entirely caught off guard.

Fast forward 20 plus years. An out of work comedian who was given one big TV show that made him a name, only he follows this success with a string of failed movies and other projects. He's looking to re-establish his career and remembers what made Andy Kaufman such a legend.

Thus, racial tirade with a bunch of fake hecklers in a comedy club audience.

Its genius,

or Richards really has totally lost his mind.

Wondering Who the Models Were for the Talking Bible Dolls?

The Talking Bible dolls were recently a subject of controversy because the Toys for Tots folks refused to take them as gifts.

The dolls are marketed by the The Beverly Hills Teddy Bear company. These are just three of the special celebrities they were able to secure as the models.


Jesus: Collin Farrell










Mary: Sela Ward







David: Carman


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Friday, November 17, 2006

Apologetic Evangelism methodology 101 (pt 3)

The Myth of the Neutral Playing Field

I am making a brief excurses in my apologetics 101 series to address the myth of neutrality when engaging a non-Christian.

An anonymous blogger took issue with my strategy in apologetics and evangelism, particularly the notion of my claiming there is no neutral ground between the Christian and the non-Christian. He attempts to make the case for arguing TOWARD divine revelation, rather than arguing FROM divine revelation. In other words, the apologist must appeal to evidence in order to affirm the validity of the Christian worldview. To approach the non-Christian in the fashion I am suggesting, by de-stabilizing the underlying presuppositions in the worldview he has constructed for himself, is begging the question. That is, I am bringing to bear upon this non-Christian my biblical perspective without establishing its validity first.

I can understand his complaint, because our anonymous blogger claims to be a theistic evolutionist. That means he must walk the dangerous thin line between biblical authority and so-called scientific authority and more times than not, the scientific authority wins out over biblical authority in re-explaining scripture, especially the view of origins. His theistic evolutionary persuasion is relevant information, because it reveals some presuppositions of his own.

Namely, his high view of general revelation, or God's revelation of Himself in nature and the created world, as self-defining in terms of its scope and authority apart from the special revelation of scripture. I would venture a guess and say our blogger believes general revelation has sufficient authority to inform and correct the special revelation of scripture. Moreover, he has confidence in the mind of sinful man to reason and rationalize together with the Christian over the truth claims of Christianity, or the "truth" claims laid out by the non-Christian in defense of his own beliefs.

Also, I was somewhat bothered that our anonymous blogger didn't really interact with my main points about how the Bible describes the condition of man. I specifically pointed out that the scripture clearly tells us sin has seriously impacted the mind of man, as well as turned his heart away from God in rebellion. This condition is played out in how men excuse away or rationalize any so-called evidence presented to them as proof of God's existence or the validity of the Christian world view.

Hence, this idea of a neutral playing field where a believer and an unbeliever can meet to discuss terms of engagement really is non-existent, because the unbeliever, regardless of his personal background, always has presuppositions he brings to that field in any discussion.

I thought in order to expand my study on apologetic methodology it would be helpful to provide some extended quotations from a line of Christian thinkers over the myth of neutral ground.

From John Frame's work, Apologetics to the Glory of God:

The apologist must be a believer in Jesus Christ, committed to the lordship of Christ (cf. Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11). Some theologians present apologetics as if it were almost an exception to this commitment. They tell us that when we argue with unbelievers, we should not argue on the basis of criteria or standards derived from the Bible. To argue that way, they say, would be biased. We should rather present to the unbeliever an unbiased argument, one that makes no religious assumptions pro or con, one that is neutral. We should, on this view, use criteria and standards that the unbeliever himself can accept. So logic, facts, experience, reason, and such become the sources of truth. Divine revelation, especially Scripture, is systematically excluded.

This argument may appear to be simple common sense: since God and Scripture are precisely the matters in question, we obviously must not make assumptions about them in our argument. That would be circular thinking. I would also put an end to evangelism, for if we demand that the unbeliever assume God's existence and the authority of Scripture in order to enter the debate, he will never consent. Communication between believer and unbeliever will be impossible. Therefore, we must avoid making any such demands and seek to argue on a neutral basis. We may even boast to the unbeliever that our argument presupposes only the criteria that he himself readily accepts (whether logic, fact, consistency, or whatever). pg. 4

Peter tells us, on the contrary, that the lordship of Jesus (and hence the truth of his word, for how can we call him "Lord" and not do what he says [Luke 6:46]?) is our ultimate presupposition. An ultimate presupposition is a basic heart-commitment, an ultimate trust. We trust Jesus Christ as a matter of eternal life or death. We trust his wisdom beyond all other wisdom. We trust his promises above all others. He calls us to give him all our loyalty and not allow any other loyalty to compete with him...Since we believe him more certainly than we believe anything else, he (an hence his Word) is the very criterion, the ultimate standard of truth. What higher standard could there possibly be? What standard is more authoritative? What standard is more clearly known to us (see Rom. 1:19-21)? What authority ultimately validates all other authorities? ... Our Lord's demand upon us is comprehensive. In all that we do, we must seek to please him. No area of human life is neutral. pg. 5

From Greg Bahnsen's, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith.

Sometimes the demand to assume a neutral stance, a non-committal attitude toward the truthfulness of Scripture, is heard in the area of Christian scholarship (whether it be the field of history, science, literature, philosophy, or whatever). ... They reason that since truth is truth wherever it may be found, one should be able to search for truth under the guidance of the acclaimed thinkers in the field, even if they are secular in their outlook. ... Whatever some people may say with respect to the demand for neutrality in the Christian's thought - the demand that believers not be set apart from other men by their adherence to God's truth - the fact is that Scripture sharply differs with this demand. Contrary to neutrality's demand, God's word demands unreserved allegiance to God and His truth in all our thought and scholarly endeavors. pgs. 3, 4

From Michael Kruger's article The Sufficiency of Scriptures in Apologetics in The Master's Seminary Journal, Vol. 12, No. 1, Spring 2001. Found on line here (PDF)

As culture perpetually pressures Christians toward intellectual agnosticism, it is imperative they understand why they must resist. Does it really matter if they seek to plant their apologetic in the soil of neutrality? Consider three reasons why believer should not be neutral.

Neutrality is Impossible: Jesus has declared neutrality to be impossible: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other" (Matt. 6:24, NIV). Failing to comprehend this truth has lured many Christian apologists into a very common mistake: they ignore the philosophical worldviews that lie behind each system of thought and instead quibble over isolated facts only, not realizing that it is the philosophical worldview (or presuppositions) of people that determines what they see as a "fact." In other words, they forget that every person has a "worldview" through which and by which he interprets the evidence - making neutrality an impossibility. pgs 75, 76

Neutrality is Ineffective: Attempts to be neutral have a bit of irony to them. Believers agree to meet unbelievers on some common ground because they are convinced that it will make them more effective, when in fact that is the very thing that hinders them. ... In a discourse with the unbeliever, he will perpetually demand that Christians be neutral (as he considers himself to be). If they agree with their opponent at this point, they have lost the debate from the outset and minimalized their effectiveness. Why? Because the moment they get out their intellectual flashlights and join the unbeliever in the search for truth from some supposedly neutral starting point - claiming "the facts speak for themselves" - then they have conceded that he is able to correctly interpret the facts. Thus, when the unbeliever turns around and uses the facts to argue against Christianity, Christians no longer have a basis to object to his conclusions. After all, did they not tell him "the facts speak for themselves"? To grant the unbeliever neutrality is like handing him a loaded gun; why should believers be surprised then when he turns around and uses it against them? pgs 77, 78

Neutrality is Inconsistent: The final reason one should not seek neutrality in intellectual debates is because it is inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture that are objects to be proven in the first place. Proverbs 1:7 (NIV) records, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." This verse is not saying that the fear of the Lord is the result of having knowledge or that after a detailed examination of the data a person concludes that he ought to fear the Lord. No, the claim is that unless one fears the Lord from the outset and subjects his mind to God's way of thinking, then he can know nothing at all. ... Such texts make the incredibly bold assertion that a person cannot have knowledge unless he grounds his thinking in the principles of God's word, i.e., unless he thinks like a Christian. How inconsistent it would be then to try to convince the unbeliever of this truth from some neutral starting place without thinking distinctively like a Christian? How can anyone claim the Bible is the ultimate source of authority in the universe, when all the while suggesting that it should only be believed because it conforms to some other "neutral" standard (which itself does not have the Bible as its ultimate source of authority)? pgs 79, 80

Inevitably, the one who objects to this method of apologetic approach will argue that such a method begs the question and is circular reasoning. This approach assumes the Bible to be true without first establishing that it is. This is the complaint of our anonymous blogger when he writes:

Look, Christian apologetics is the argument for a “worldview”. If you start with a Biblical worldview, the battle is already won. I don’t fault anyone for appealing to a Biblical worldview with their interlocutor as a starting point, but in my experience, it is the rare un-believer who is willing to accept the “playing field” Butler advocates as a predicate for the conversation, simply because it begs the question. Badly.

Oddly, he states that he doesn't fault the apologist for appealing to a biblical worldview as his starting point when he engages the non-Christian, but to do so is not good enough, because it forces the non-Christian to play on a field of argument he is unwilling to accept. But this objection fails to take into consideration the fact that the non-Christian also has his "playing field." He too is question begging. He has his own starting points that shape his worldview and how he understands evidence and facts. Hence the reason the idea of neutrality in confronting a non-Christian is a myth. Let's consider some further citations:

From Carl F.H. Henry's work, Toward the Recovery of Christian Belief.

Every theology or philosophy or science has a starting point enabling it to get under way. Euclid's classic work on The Elements, written about 300 B.C., stated the five postulates or unproved principles concerning lines, angles, and figures from which he deduced geometry. ... From his postulates, axioms, and definitions, Euclid deduced the theorems that state the content of plane and solid geometry. ... Just as geometry has basic axioms from which its theorems flow, so theological and philosophical systems also have governing axioms. Axioms are the ruling principles with which any system of though begins. They are never deduced or inferred from other principles, but are simply presupposed. No axiom is arrived at by reasoning; as the starting point, an axiom is therefore in the nature of the case beyond proof. ... From its controlling axioms every system's theorems are subsequently deduced. Even if empiricists may and do deny it, all systems are based on axioms; without initial axioms nothing can be demonstrated. Natural science is impossible unless one assumes that meaningful correspondence exists between the laws of thought and the order of the external world. pgs 63, 64

From John Byl's book, The Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math and Meaning.

A worldview, we noted, is a way of looking at the world and making sense of it. It forms the basis by which we explain reality and guide our lives. Our worldview consists of our most basic beliefs, the things that we take for granted concerning God, the world, and ourselves. These basic beliefs have the nature of initial assumptions or presuppositions. They themselves are not supported by other beliefs or arguments. Rather, they form the means by which we asses other beliefs. They are reached when "why?" questions must be stopped with a "that's the way it is." The mark the end of our rational chain of explanations. The network of worldview presuppositions forms the foundation by which other propositions are either proven or disproven. We explain reality in terms of our presuppositions, but the presuppositions themselves must be accepted on faith. pg 15

How are we to judge between two opposing worldviews? Can we ever hope to convince someone with a different worldview that ours is better? At first sight this seems impossible. After all, a clash between worldviews is a clash between two opposing systems of thought, between two rival sets of presuppositions. Each side, in terms of its own presuppositions, will judge the other side's presuppositions (a subsequent conclusions) to be wrong. If one's worldview reflects one's most basic faith commitments, how can we hope to rationally convince an opponent that any particular belief of theirs is false? To put it another way, if worldviews are like spectacles through which we view the world, how are we to convince someone wearing yellow-tinted spectacles that there are blue flowers? He won't be able to see blue until he exchanges his yellow spectacles for a pair that enable him to see a wider range of colours. But that amounts to a radical conversion, a major switch in faith commitment. A first step in that direction is to convince the person that he is wearing spectacles. The next step is to persuade the person that his spectacles are defective. pg 19

From Michael Kruger's journal article,

At this point the most common objection is this, "Are you saying we should assume the Christian worldview as we try to prove the Christian worldview? Isn't that circular reasoning?" The simple answer is yes, that is circular reasoning. Although most circular reasoning is negative, when one argues for an ultimate intellectual criterion, a certain amount of circularity is unavoidable. If I stake the truth of the Bible on anything other than its own self-attesting authority, then the Bible ceases to be the ultimate criterion for truth and is replaced by another ultimate criterion. All other philosophical systems are in the same situation. pg 81

To deny circularity when it comes to an ultimate authority is to subject oneself to an infinite regress of reason. If a person holds to a certain view, A, then when A is challenge he appeals to reasons B and C. But, of course, B and C will certainly be challenged as to why they should be accepted, and then the person would have to offer D, E, F, and G as arguments for B and C. And the process goes on and on. Obviously it has to stop somewhere because as infinite regress of arguments cannot demonstrate the truth of one's conclusions. Thus, every worldview (and every argument) must have an ultimate, unquestioned, self-authenticating starting point. Another example: imagine someone asking you whether the meter stick in your house was actually a meter long. How would you demonstrate such a thing? You could take it to your next-door neighbor and compare it to his meter stick and say, "See, it's a meter." However, the next question is obvious, "How do we know your neighbor's meter stick is really a meter?" This process would go on and on infinitely unless there were an ultimate meter stick (which, if I am not mistaken, actually existed at one time and was measured by two fine lines marked on a bar of platinum-iridium alloy). It is the ultimate meter stick that defines a meter. When asked how one knows whether the ultimate meter stick is a meter, the answer is obviously circular: the ultimate meter stick is a meter because it is a meter. This same thing is true for Scripture. The Bible does not just happen to be true (the meter stick in your house), rather it is the very criterion for truth (the ultimate meter stick) and therefore the final stopping point in intellectual justification. pg 81, n. 31

These are just a smattering of quotations that show us that if a Christian is to engage an non-Christian in an apologetic encounter, he must do so from a position fully committed to Christ as his Lord and without attempting to run out onto a mythical field of neutrality.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Musical Tastes: My Personal Adventures in Music (Pt. 2)

The Evils of Rock and Roll

Back in September I began a little series on my musical journeys and how I have developed my convictions about music both Christian and secular. I wanted to continue my testimony with this post.

I had mentioned in the first post how I was pretty much like every other teenager who loved top 40 radio music, and I was beginning to really enjoy music videos which were then coming on the youth culture scene.

I believe I left off telling how my family moved from Missouri to Arkansas the summer immediately before the start of my sophomore year in high school. When my family moved, we left attending a liberal minded United Methodist church to joining a strictly conservative Free-will Baptist church where my mother's side of the family all attended. It was certainly an obvious night and day experience for me.

For example, "worship" in the Methodist Sunday school class consisted of us kids singing 60s, hippy commune style songs like One Tin Soldier and Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head, followed by a 20 minute lesson on some point of situational ethics. The leadership at this Methodist Church had no desire to cultivate in me a Christian perspective on evaluating secular music. They seemed more concerned with my participation in the "trick-or-treat" for UNICEF fund raiser every October and earning my perfect attendance pins.

The Free-will Baptist Sunday school class, on the other hand, consisted of us singing hymns and followed by an overview of a biblical passage. Even though the teaching was simplistic, the folks did believe the Bible and attempted to seriously live their faith.

It was in this context that I was told all about the damning evils of secular rock music. Unlike the leadership in my old Methodist church who didn't care about what I listened to, the folks in my new church did care. Unfortunately, it was a perspective with a whole lot of light, but no heat; much emotion with little substance. Apparently, all secular music was nothing but Satan breaking wind - from the very pit of hell itself. A yellow cloud of sulfur hovered over all the rock and roll bands and if a person was to ever attend a concert, he would run the risk of coming home with the smell of rotten eggs still clinging to his body.

My church would occasionally host rock and roll seminars for the teenagers in which an ingenuous fellow rigged up a record player to spin in the opposite direction so he could hear all the backward messages the devil put into the music.

Now, anyone raised in the southern Bible-belt, or any fundamentalist church environment, has had to sit through either a lecture or film presentation on the subject of backward, subliminal messages in rock and roll songs. On one hand, you had those rock groups who intentionally placed backward messages in their songs, like the Beatles; but, on the other hand, there were those songs that had darker, more sinister backward messages the rock group never intended to put in their music. They were the demonic kind driven by evil spirits, because, it was argued, no human being could figure out how to sing the right combination of words so as to have a satanic audio message be heard when the music was played backwards.

During the lecture, the speaker would pontificate on the evils of rock music, the devilish messages the songs put forth, and then he would transition into the climax of his talk on backward messages and say something like, "This is what the song sounds like on the radio," and then he would play a clip from a popular rock song. He then would become ominous, lower his voice and say, "Now... this is what it sounds... like.... backwards...." and proceed to play the exact same music clip in reverse on his engineered record player.

The song would sound something like this:

barWArpppSHHHipppRaGGGpurbbbStttAAAYYUNdrMMMnup

The guy would exclaim, "Did you hear that!? Your being told to "worship Satan!"

He then would play it again and maybe a couple of times more and sure enough, after being told WHAT to listen for, I could have sworn the particular group was telling me to worship Satan even though it sounded more like "warship stay young."

Probably the most famous satanically inspired backward masked song was Queen's Another One Bites the Dust that supposedly tells a person to smoke marijuana even though when you listen to the song, it sounds more like "marry your iguana." Was Queen saying to do drugs or engage in bestiality?

I remember coming home from church one Saturday evening after I had sat through one of these rock and roll lectures. I told my dad about how I heard these songs played backwards and they had Satanic messages in them. He asked me, "Oh really? What does the devil say if you play the Star Spangled Banner backwards?" That hadn't occurred to me.

Anyhow, I was also shown how the names of many of the popular rock and roll groups, particularly the metal groups, were really acrostics for what the band members were truly all about. For example:

RUSH stood for Ruling Under Satan's House. (Others inserted Rulers)

AC/DC stood for Anti-Christ/ Devil Child

and of course, who couldn't forget what KISS stood for? Kings In Satan's Service. And to think that KISS was the only Satanic rock group with their own line of G.I. Joe style action figures with all the accessories. The devil likes merchandise.

I also learned that a devil had possessed Jimmy Page when he wrote the Led Zeppelin classic, Stairway to Heaven, that Ozzy Osbourne routinely drank cups of bat's blood, the Eagles song, Hotel California, was an ode to Anton Levey and the Church of Satan, DIO read upside down spelled Devil (though it looks more like DEVE), and any music not performed in 2/4 time with an off beat could possibly open you up for demonic torment.

Even though I would get all weirded out for a few days after attending one of these rock and roll symposiums, I still enjoyed my secular music. Besides, in my mind, I never listened to many of those "satanic" rock groups any how. I was more into Duran Duran, Yes, Prince, and Men at Work, and their names were never mentioned as groups whose songs contained backward, satanic messages. I think at the time the hardest bands I listened to was Van Halen and ZZ Top, and they were about partying, not worshipping the devil, at least that is how I saw it. Only groups like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and AC/DC had satanically energized messages hidden backwards in their music.

Now, as a mature Christian looking backwards (pun intended) upon all of these sensational claims about rock music and subliminal messages, I grimace at the thought that fundamentalist youth leaders wasted their time pouring over songs reading into every garbled sound the voice of a demon corrupting the minds of the youth. I find it particularly appalling seeing that practically every rock and roll band who allegedly had satanic backward messages in their music plainly had them when the songs were listened to normally. Perhaps they weren't singing about teenagers pulling on sheep leggings and dancing around a sacrificial snake altar, but they were certainly promoting an alternative, anti-biblical world view at their concerts and on their albums. Usually it was aimed at free sex, drugs, and adult authorities are idiots.

I believe now that these youth leaders were hunting down chimeras when they could have been teaching their teenagers to think biblically about the lyric content of their favored bands. That includes more than the sinister metal bands who are usually the objects of these witch-hunts. That of course implies a pastorally leadership willing to lay down a solid, biblical foundation in the hearts of these kids, but sadly, they were more into highlighting the fantastic and turning the devil into a superstition rather than teaching solid theology and doctrinal content.

Well, some time after moving to Arkansas, I experienced a radical shift in my musical tastes, because I went from listening to secular music to a steady diet of Contemporary Christian. That is where I will take up my testimony next time.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Socinian Sophistry

Last month I noted an interview I heard on Way of the Master Radio. A Master's College alumnus named Dan Mages was telling about his departure from orthodox, biblical Christianity to the embracing of Unitarian heresy.

One of the more interesting exchanges during this staggering interview was Dan expressing his displeasure with how Ray Comfort and the WOTM ministry staff utilize the 10 commandments during their street witnessing. Dan was particularly annoyed with how Ray or Kirk will get a person to admit he has stolen something or lied to someone and then tell the person, "By your own admission that makes you a thieving liar." Dan was insistent with the host, Todd Friel, that this tactic, which accuses a person of having such a terrible character, is a dishonest abuse of scripture because lying once or twice does not make a person a liar. A liar, exclaimed Dan, is a person who continually practices lying. Of course, my immediate thought was if Dan's reasoning is right and a man sexually fondles a child only once or twice, then I guess that doesn't make him a molester because it is not a continual practice of his life.

At any rate, I posted a lengthier blog article pointing out how the Unitarian god is a weak, wormy, impotent god, because he (or she) is powerless to preserve his (or her) truth in the hearts of the devoted. So any time during the course of Church history when someone like the Gnostic Arius or the pantheist new-ager Servetus preached what is really the correct view of Christ's person and denied the Trinity, that person received a water canon blast to the face by the theo-political elite and his teaching, which again is the correct view according to Unitarians, is renounced as heresy. But what can be said about a deity who can't prevent his (or her) self-revelation from becoming distorted by institutional theocrats? What compels me to worship and serve an impotent god?

Well, Dan discovered my post and he was none too happy with what I wrote, so he left a comment testifying to his spiraling descent into apostasy and rebuking me for calling him what he is, an apostate. The words saddens me and sneering remarks were employed.

I don't plan to answer him point-by-point, but I thought I would offer some of my own observations and general comments in return. His entire comment can be read here.

1) One thing common with apostates is how they feel obliged to tell their detractors how they too once clung to traditional Christian doctrine. But now, after an honest re-evaluation of their traditions, they had to go where the truth led them and their spiritual eyes are opened to wider, theological horizons. The word tradition, however, is a dirty word with apostates because they have redefined it to mean "narrow-minded," "bigoted," and "lacking critical thinking." Hence, anyone who holds to traditional Christian doctrine is a narrow minded bigot who refuses to critically evaluate his beliefs. I do find it amusing how those Christians who are critical thinkers and do re-evaluate their traditions, but only solidify the traditional, historic Christian doctrines in their hearts, are still dismissed as narrow-minded by the apostate. I reckon that is because those Christians didn't renounce those traditions like the apostate?

2) Vocal apostates like Dan believe it is virtuous to question every tradition and always embrace the opposite (though he would probably deny this). I believe questioning one's traditions is healthy for a Christian because it trains a believer to discern. Questioning traditions, however, must be accomplished according to a standard. For the Christian that is the Word of God correctly interpreted. I realize Dan would whole-heartedly agree and claim that is what he is doing even though he holds to the Bart Ehrman view of the Bible and doesn't believe we have an infallible, inerrant Word to use as a standard. I believe he is woefully mistaken, because questioning one's tradition does not equate to abandoning orthodox doctrine. Dan believes such questioning will and that it is alright because it is all a part of his spiritual journey and we who disagree with him should be understanding and gracious because we all are on similar theological journeys but coming to wildly different points of view.

3) That of course makes me wonder if Dan has genuinely thought through the implications of his comments. Does he really believe two people can come to the exact same biblical text, and using the exact same tools of exegesis that I am sure Dan was certainly taught at Master's, come to two entirely different conclusions about what the text is saying about God and the person of Jesus Christ? Why would such a phenomenon happen? Does the problem lie with the text, or the person interpreting the text?

4) Dan appeals to a personal anecdote of listening to gobs of John MacArthur sermons:

I especially enjoyed the Q & A tapes where members of Grace Community would ask John questions from a standing microphone. This allowed John to be more candid. It was during these sessions when he would openly admit that he was something like a 2.5/3 point Calvinist. He would openly share the paradoxical statements in Scripture and talk about how he gladly accepted them both. As you know, he has now evolved in his understanding and interpretation, just as I have.

The use of the word evolution to picture John's present theological convictions as opposed to those he may have held 25-30 years ago is entirely dishonest and self-serving to Dan's position. I too recall listening to gobs of Mac tapes and would wager a Costco ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and rolled in almonds that I have probably listened to more than Dan could ever imagine. I have listened to every one of John's Q&As at least 4 times over including the ones that were not released to general circulation. No where can I remember John ever saying he was a 2.5/3 point Calvinist.

Be that as it may, it is self-serving for Dan to compare his freefall into theological error as the same as John's refinement of his theology being one and the same:

"John has evolved from being a 3.5 Calvinist to being a full five-point Calvinist, just like I have evolved from being a Christian who had the right view of God's nature and Christ's person to becoming a pagan worshipping a finite god."

Does Dan truly believe there is a comparison between a person tightening up his understanding of a particular doctrine with a person who abandons wholesale the entire revelation of God's nature as it has been taught historically by both Judaism and Christianity to become an idol worshipper?

Dan also asserts that Christian disagreement over other biblical subjects like infant baptism, spiritual gifts, and eternal security serves as a similar illustration to his current position. But a person will note once again that those believers who disagree among themselves over these issues all confirm the historic, theological understanding of God's nature and Christ's full deity and humanity. Now, there may be an issue of submitting to the authority of God's Word and the clinging to some traditions or personal biases like those who believe in women pastors or deny eternal security, but the nature of God is not up for debate in these disagreements. Perhaps he thinks it is good evolution, but I think he has inherited some fatal mutations.

5) Apostates who do abandon biblical truth will make concerted efforts to justify their heresy with appeals to scripture. In the case of Dan, the Trinity was just too ambiguous for his tastes:

The general tenor of Scripture led me to think that YWHW, the God of Israel, was the God of Jesus. Texts like, “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” caused me to re-think my Trinitarian instruction. If the Trinity was to be found, it was not clear, for it seemed to rest on ambiguous Jewish poetic wisdom texts like John’s prologue and possible allusions to Isaiah or Exodus in John 8. I noticed that neither of these were Trinitarian in nature, but only Binitarian at best.

Dan, like many of the historical apostates who deny the biblical doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ tend to have a myopic perspective of scripture and the historic apologetics surrounding these doctrine. Does Dan really believe the only passages in scripture where Christians have established the doctrine of the Trinity is only John's prologue and John chapter 8? Surely he is familiar with all of the historic apologetic literature written by Christians over the centuries defending the Trinity against apostates, who like Dan, re-thought their theological convictions? I mean honestly, if a person was preparing to make a radical shift in his understanding of God, at least he would make the effort to read the tons of literature on the subject. Robert Morey, for example, has a 600 page book on the subject. And what do you do with the classic Patristic apologists who wrote before the Council of Nicea defending the doctrines of Christ's deity and the Trinity against such apostates as Praxeas and Noetus? Were they enslaved to their traditions?

6) Apostates seem to leave out the illumination of the Holy Spirit in these matters. I guess for anti-Trinitarians like Dan, I can see how that is possible. He writes:

We are not able to pull John, or Paul aside and ask, what did you mean by that? This leaves us to put the pieces together the best we can. Biblical, or any other interpretation is not a perfect science. Therefore, I am only asking for grace as I am doing the best I can. I acknowledge that my interpretation is just that, an interpretation. Should we not all acknowledge this? I am always open to good arguments, that is what changes my mind, not name calling or personal attacks.

First, it is not naming calling to call someone what he is, an apostate. The biblical writers did this regularly. Believe me, when I call Dan an apostate, I do it with the utmost respect.

Second of all, where is the Holy Spirit leading us into truth? The unique thing about the Christian experience is that we are not left to ourselves to flounder about in our flesh. We have been given the Holy Spirit to sanctify us and help us put sin in our flesh under our subjection. Moreover, we are not left to ourselves to figure out the Bible, but we have been given the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds so we can understand the truth. This is why I can trust my fore fathers in Church history. As they studied the Word and presented their teaching in their writings it reveals hearts set on fire with the Holy Spirit. Does that mean I agree with every thing these men wrote? No, but that goes back to what I outlined in point 4.

Dan treats the Bible as if it is just another ancient book that is ambiguous and no one should be certain about it. But that conclusion is the result of a person who denies God preserved His Word in a manner that can convey truth to a generation 2,000 years removed from its publication. It also denies the continual work of the Holy Spirit to illumine the minds of God's people to protect scripture, read scripture, interpret scripture, and apply it in their cultures and personal lives.

7) Dan was not happy with my comment about his Oliver Wendell Holmes quote:

Fred, in other matters, it saddens me that you seem to be unable to separate a quote from a person’s understanding of the world’s origins. I did not quote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes for his evolutionary views, but because he said, “The mark of a civilized man is his willingness to re-examine his most cherished beliefs.” It is possible to agree with him on this point, without accepting everything he believes. You should know this. Furthermore, putting a Supreme Court justice in the class of a “crackpot philosopher” is an ad hominum attack hardly worth commenting on and completely misses the point of his quotation.

It may do Dan well to review the life of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Even though he was a Supreme Court justice, he was a crackpot, because he held to a crackpot world view. The quotation is meant as a challenge to traditional Christian Americans who were resisting the encroaching evolutionary philosophy that was creeping through out our society at the time. Justice Holmes was a champion of Darwinian humanism and favored the eugenics policies being molded by Dr. Harry Laughlin who believed we could purify the human race and improve upon the evolution of man by forcing sterilizations upon those people deemed unfavorable. Holmes helped manufacture a test case with a young lady as the patsy. This gal was chosen to be sterilized for being feeble-minded. Her lawyer, who was also involved with the set up, got her case tried before the Supreme Court where Holmes presided. He declared the eugenics' law constitutional thus initiating one of the darkest moments in American history where thousands of innocent Americans, mostly mentally retarded individuals and blacks with learning disabilities, were forcibly sterilized against their will solely for the purpose of evolving the human race. So Dan may think I am throwing around ad hominems because I am missing the point of Holmes' comment, but I am willing to consider the context of the source of such quotations and this one I find truly disturbing.

8) Dan is also bothered by my resistance to environmentalism:

It never ceases to astonish me that Christians scoff at the idea of preserving and protecting the environment or exploring ways towards a healthier diet. It seems that you are assuming that there is some kind of anti-God agenda behind this, but in reality it is just the opposite. It is the idea that we are to imitate God and be good stewards of the earth and our bodies. Once again, I don’t have to support everything a particular organization is about to support their basic message. This is true for those that attend churches. Many agree on fundamentals and disagree on other matters.

The environmentalism in this case is the radical, new-age pantheistic variety often held up by the likes of Al Gore and other fanatical alarmists who are soundly ignorant of the science behind the environment. Though I am all for the conservation of the environment, I do not have to buy into the pseudo-science of modern day environmentalism and their global warming nonsense. The same goes for eating healthy. Why must I become a vegan, which has roots in eastern mysticism and is a religious practice all to itself, in order to eat right and take care of my body? Dan's sense of the extreme never ceases to amaze me.

9) Apostates never believe anyone has ever offered a meaningful critique of their new found convictions. Dan writes:

I think there are more problems with the classical Calvinistic approach, which I once shared with you, than the Open model. I don’t think God is insecure and therefore feels the need to control every atom. I think God is bigger, wiser, and exhaustively resourceful. Just as history is filled with sovereign kings over kingdoms who did not manipulate every action and reaction in their kingdom, God too can be sovereign without this puppeteer-like control.

Is he kidding? Does he think his position is unassailable? I can name at least 10 books now in print where the authors devastate the openist position. Robert Reymond's chapter 10 in his New Systematic Theology is by itself enough to show the utter failure of open theology to deal with the biblical text and the so-called problems of God's foreknowledge. RK McGregor Wright pointed out in his book critiquing open theism with the difficulty of a god limited in knowing the future and the predictive prophecy of Christ's birth. All of the so-called free-will decisions necessary to get Joseph and Mary into Bethlehem at the designated time is just incomprehensible.

10) A few last remarks from Dan; let me respond bullet style:

Is everyone in church history that disagreed with the majority a “theological crank?”

(Fred) Pretty much. Especially in matters of orthodoxy like those individuals who denied the Deity of Christ and God's exhaustive knowledge.

I continually find it ironic that it is the reformers, should I say it again, the Protestant reformers who bully and push around the significant minorities the most.

(Fred) Protestant Reformers had their foibles then as they do now, but on the issue of Christ's Deity and the nature of God's knowledge they are spot on.

Are you suggesting that Unitarians should not have an honest hearing?

(Fred) Unitarians have had an honest hearing and they have been renounced as heretics. Again, do Unitarians like Dan think no one has answered their anti-Trinitarian objections?

If Unitarianism was the more biblical perspective, how would you know?

(Fred) The Holy Spirit would have confirmed their doctrines in the hearts of the people and protected the truth.

I suppose church history settles it for you.

(Fred) Pretty much. Especially when it comes to affirming the Deity of Christ and God's exhaustive knowledge as taught in scripture.

It’s impossible for the church to be wrong, correct?

(Fred) I'll grant that the Church has been wrong on matters in the past. The historic Protestant Reformation is the classic example. But, however wide the schism between Roman Catholicism and the Protestant Reformation with regards to salvation and the authority of scripture, they all agreed on the Deity of Christ and the exhaustive knowledge of God.

We are safest by just joining whatever group has the largest following, right?

(Fred) No, we are safest by joining that group that upholds God's Word as a final authority in matters of doctrine, faith, and practice. Part of upholding God's Word as a final authority is recognizing its purity and infallibility. By his own admission, Dan denies these things based upon the research of such anti-supernaturalist apostates like Bart Ehrman. That makes his group extremely suspicious.

I understand that you think everything is as God planned, the child molestations, rapes, car accidents, plane crashes, genocides, starving children, holocausts, wars, and murders. Even after God allowed all of these things, you can’t conceive of pastors and people in church being confused about doctrine?

(Fred) Yes, pastors and people in churches can be confused about these things, but that confusion is born from a variety of factors like misunderstanding the Bible, not being taught well by leadership, or out right refusing to submit to what the Bible teaches concerning the problem of evil. That confusion, though, does not mean there is a problem with scripture or that we need to re-read the Bible according to Unitarian-Socinian constructs which have been historically rejected by the true Church of God.

Why are there 34,000 Christian denominations then?

(Fred) There aren't 34,000 denominations. Maybe 34,000 churches affiliated with various denominations. I believe Dan pulled that number out of his belly button. There may be tops a few hundred, and the good portion of them that are orthodox and hold to a high view of scripture as outlined in their doctrinal statements, affirm the Deity of Christ and the exhaustive knowledge of God. Perhaps the leadership may be lacking in explaining those doctrines fully, but they at least affirm them.

Dan seems like a good guy. He appears to be nice and charming; certainly inquisitive, bright and energetic. Those virtues, though, do not make him right when it comes to rejecting the doctrines of Christ's Deity and the nature of God. My hope is that Dan will repent of these heresies, abandon Unitarianism for being the lying, useless religion it is and return to the only savior who can give eternal life, Jesus Christ the Lord; fully God and fully man.

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