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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Three Simple Questions on the State of Israel

Jamin Hubner tells us again how uber-Reformed he truly is. With his latest series of posts, he attempts to uncover the political machinations Dispensationalism has had upon American foreign policy in the Middle East.

I don’t wish to try and untangle the facts from the leftist propaganda Jamin has put forth for his argument. I do wish, however, to address his challenge he has offered in the form of three questions.

1. Is it even possible for the modern-day nation of Israel to do anything worthy of condemnation?

2. And have they done anything that is worthy of condemnation in the past?

3. If they have, would it not be helpful to acknowledge and understand those events before blindly conceding to every effort to “support Israel”? (Because, if my neighbor commits sin, I don’t want to be responsible for having helped that sin to occur. Wouldn’t you agree? Or is present-day Israel incapable of doing something wrong as a national entity?)

Before I will respond, I will say this: I believe Jamin did himself a disservice when he chose to cut off commenting on his blog, thus isolating himself from any thoughtful criticism from well-meaning bloggers. These challengers could hardly be labeled "trolls" and "hacks."

As an aspiring internet apologist, I believe this was a bad mistake on Jamin's part. I have benefited greatly from the various critics who have wandered onto my blog and challenged my arguments. Not only have they sharpened my thinking, the smarter critics have helped me evaluate my arguments and caused me to refine them. Atheist trolls, for example, may be annoying, and take a bit of time to answer, but they can be helpful in a number of ways in these regards.

At any rate, on a previous occasion, Jamin had a lot of the interaction with Steve Hays on the question of Israel and the Palestinians and their responses to one another were played out on the front pages of their individual blogs. (See TF's review of the exchange).

I think it is important to note that Jamin has an ax to grind with Dispensationalism. His current posts attacking Zionists and uncritically retelling the leftist narrative on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and implicating Dispensational conspiracy influencing American political policy regarding Israel is a shining example of Jamin's ax.

Regrettably, this blind spot prevents him from interacting with meaningful Dispensational positions on the modern state of Israel, Israel and the NT Church, and Israel’s future restoration, veering him off into a ditch of sloppy strawman argumentation and misrepresentation. Moreover, uncritically citing left leaning “evangelical” NT scholars, like Gary Burge, as one of your sources, also doesn’t help your credibility.

Now with that being stated, I'll offer my own "Dispensational" answers to his three questions.

1. Is it even possible for the modern-day nation of Israel to do anything worthy of condemnation?

Yes, certainly it is possible. Jamin, I guess, thinks all Dispensationalists believe the current State of Israel is above any condemnation for actions the government may take against their enemies. Does he really believe John Hagee speaks for all Dispensationalists who support Israel? This is just fallacious reasoning.

I recognize, as the Scripture teaches, that Israel, the people of God, will experience a future restoration in a promised kingdom; however, they are currently in a state of apostasy. Paul says as much in Romans 11:7-10. I believe an initial fulfillment of Ezekiel's dry bone prophecy has taken place with the Jews returning to their promised land. Even Reformed guys who see no “future” kingdom for Israel in a millennial kingdom, cannot just dismiss the unquestionable and unique circumstances that has taken place in the land of Israel the last century or so.

Yet, in spite of that unique history, this does not mean they are in a right relationship with God at this point. They won't be, at least I believe they won't, until Christ their true Messiah returns (Zechariah 12:10ff.).

2. And have they done anything that is worthy of condemnation in the past?

I am sure they have, though no immediate examples come to mind. Just like there have been things Americans have done that we could perhaps be condemned for. Say for example our country’s involvement with slavery and the deplorable way our government has treated the Indian nations, essentially “enslaving” them to total government dependency on reservations.

But the fact that America has done things in history past that is worthy of condemnation does not mean we need to halt the American experiment and adopt dull-minded, European socialism as our political worldview.

In the same way, the Israeli government has done things worthy of condemnation, but does that mean we dismiss the threat Palestinian Muslims are against the Jews in Israel? In spite of those things Israel could be condemned for, they pale in comparison to those things the PLO-Hamas and the leaders of the Palestinian movement can be condemned for. For instance, the last I saw, no Jews were teaching their three year-olds to be suicide bombers against Arabs.

3. If they have, would it not be helpful to acknowledge and understand those events before blindly conceding to every effort to “support Israel”? (Because, if my neighbor commits sin, I don’t want to be responsible for having helped that sin to occur. Wouldn’t you agree? Or is present-day Israel incapable of doing something wrong as a national entity?)

I am not really sure how to answer this last question. It's almost superfluous. The idea of "condemnation" begs a question: How is Jamin defining it? What does it mean "to be condemned?" Is Jamin saying that if Israelis have done some terrible things against civilian Palestinians, their overall defense of their country and people in a sea of rabid, Islamic Jew haters who want to wipe them off the face of the earth is some how questionable? Then we can no longer support them as a nation? Or perhaps he thinks this is some big theodicy for Dispensationalism?

I am all for acting neighborly, but if acting neighborly mean I have to become a martyr, to paraphrase what the Israeli prime minister recently said in a speech to the UN: “I would rather have the bad press today, than an eulogy tomorrow.”


Okay. I have answered his questions. Are my replies sufficient? I don’t expect him to like my answers, but he has been answered.

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Denominational Satire

Here's a handy guide

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Most Lifelike Dead Animals

Ojai Valley is about a 50 minute drive from me. There's a great Italian place right on the outskirts coming over the ridge from the Santa Paula side. It may be worth a day trip.



By the way, Chuck Testa has a Youtube page. Official Ojai Valley Taxidermy.

There's a video on the proper way to measure a bear's head.
HT: Phil and Kevin

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Jerry Johnston’s Folly

JerryJohnstonI was a tad disappointed to read this article.

Normally, I would dismiss the news as another example of what’s wrong with modern evangelicalism. Just another mega-church pastor who set out to make a name only for himself under the guise of “doing it for Jesus” driving his multi-million dollar ministry into bankruptcy. But I have a connection with Jerry Johnston: He was the guy God used to bring me to Himself.

In May of 1988, I was finishing my freshman year of college at Arkansas State. During the finals week, my church had scheduled a “revival” service and Johnston was the speaker. He was probably 28 at the time. Not only did he have the powerful, soul-winning testimony about being saved from the life of a teenage, suicidal drug head, he had the dynamic personality and the vocal pipes made for preaching. Man, oh man did the guy have the voice for preaching!

Now, while he was in town during the daytime, he was traveling around to local, area high schools giving his presentation on teen suicide and inviting the kids to a Friday night pizza blast at the new basket ball arena on our college campus. (“Pizza blast” being code word for, “we’re gonna hammer you all first with an unexpected Bible message, shame you into walking forward to receive Jesus, AND THEN you’ll get pizza).

These schools were coming to their final days of the year also, so Johnston’s suicide lecture was tailor made for a quickie time sucking general assembly.

After he gave a series of emotional, heart rending stories about teens committing suicide and the meaning of life, he crescendos his talk at the end by playing an audio recording of a teen boy’s final words before killing himself. It was a classic play right out of the fundamentalist “scaring wayward youth straight” horror story handbook. The only thing that could have made it better was if the kid had AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” playing in the background of his final words.

At any rate, Johnston would then give his final farewell and tells everyone to come out for pizza on Friday night and then makes a hasty retreat leaving a stuffy gymnasium full of blubbering wallflower girls and socially awkward, pimply guys. Of course, none of them wanted to return to class; they all wanted someone to share their feelings with.

Our church, who was the primary sponsor of Johnston being there, interpreted this manufactured public display of grievous teenage angst as a move of the Holy Ghost. After he had left a wake of weepy teens at a few more schools on Monday and Tuesday, a few of the youth leaders from our church thought it would be a grand idea to have evangelistic counselors available to speak with traumatized kids still reeling from his talk. Keep in mind this is the late, 1980s when you could still have evangelistic counselors in the public schools of the Bible belt South with out incurring the wrath of P.C. postmodern secularists.

Our college group was recruited to help supply the counselors, and having no class on Wednesday of that week due to finals, I was available for the afternoon session at Westside High School (where, btw, about 10 years later two boys opened fire on their classmates killing 5 people).

At this point in my life, I was a “churched” kid with good, outward morals. I had attended a lot of youth groups and church camps, but I hadn’t giving the Gospel to anyone, let alone counseled teens with thoughts of suicide. That had more to do with me not being saved rather than knowing how.

Thankfully, after the suicide talk this time, not a whole lot of the audience stuck around. Those who did were covered. That evening at the “revival” service, Johnston gave what I consider to be a fine message on personal holiness and Christ’s lordship. When the service ended, I was eager to leave, because I needed to get back to my dorm room so I could study for an algebra examine the next morning. However, the fellow I had rode to church with that evening disappeared, and I was annoyed he had left without coming to find me, so I had to catch a ride with another friend.

About an hour after I had returned to my dorm room, the missing friend came to my door to apologize and tell me the reason he disappeared was because he had gotten saved that night. He realized he was living a fake Christian life and needed to get right with God. I listened to his story, told him I wanted to hear more later, said good-bye, and returned to studying.

But I couldn’t study. This is when the Lord gripped my soul with the conviction of my sin as I pondered Johnston’s message. I began wrestling (spiritually, mind you) with the Lord and all night I couldn’t sleep. It was early in the morning hours that I finally realized my need for Christ and the Lord was pleased to save me.

Now, some 2o plus years later, I learn about the impending demise of Johnston’s mega-church ministry. It’s kind of sad, really. It’s too bad the man had to be led astray by world-wise thinking about how to do ministry. Sad, indeed. But it is example of the power of God’s Gospel to save. A “foolish” message presented by a foolish man.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Recommended Reading Lists

Dr. Robert McCabe, Hebrew and OT prof. at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, links to his seminary's list of recommend resources: Basic Library Book List

There are some good recommend resources listed, though I would offer some additions.

For instance, I was surprised that they left off H.C. Leupold's wonderful two volume work on Genesis. I would imagine this has to do with it being out of print, at least to my knowledge, which truly is a crying shame. And no serious Bible student should be without C.H. Spurgeon's The Treasury of David in his Psalm's library.

Also, they didn't seem to recommend any NT survey works, D. Edmund Hiebert's 3 volume NT introduction and Donald Guthrie's NT introduction being two of the essential go-to works.

Under apologetics, I was deeply appreciative that they list primarily presuppositional works. That warms my heart immensely. However, John Frame was overlooked and his survey of Van Til's apologetics is a worthy contribution, as is his Apologetics to the Glory of God.

And then, Jim Hamilton's God's Indwelling Presence and Larry Pettegrew's, The New Covenant Ministry of the Holy Spirit, are excellent on the subject of the Holy Spirit.

The Master's Seminary also has a similar list: 850 Books for Biblical Expositors
A lot of their resources overlap what is found on the DBTS list, though its primary emphasis is upon commentaries.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Dispensationalism in Translation

Jamin Hubner continues to dabble with internet apologetics. Never missing an opportunity to bash dispensationalism, he writes,

The reason the word "dispensation" doesn't appear in newer translations is for the same reason we don't see alot of the same words: there are better translations. And in the case of οἰκονομίαν there is "stewardship" or "economy." But, I guess it makes sense: if you want to prove Dispensationalism, you had better use a translation that contains the word "dispensation," regardless if that translation is really the "best" or not.

The subject of Jamin's post this time is KJV-onlyism and hyper-dispensationalism. It is true that hyper-dispensationalists, as a group, are for the most part KJV-only. Most folks, however, are probably not aware of this fact. Hyper-dispensationalists are a fringy bunch of wackos that normal Christians these days have never encountered. Their churches are small and non-influential. It would be like me saying that the New Wine Apostolic Pentecostal Church or the Strict Baptist "Gospel Mission" Churches are KJV-only.

But Jamin's target happens to be much larger. He's aiming at Dispensational theology as a whole. While it is true all Dispensationalists would agree with Jamin that hyper-dispensationalists are fringy and teach theological error, much in the same way all serious minded Calvinists believe hyper-Calvinists are fringy and teach theological error, Jamin, however, thinks ALL dispensationalists are fringy and teach theological error.

I reckon this is a typical perspective from a young man who is still in his "cage stage" as a new Reformed Covenantalist.

But moving back to the citation at hand. Does one need for the Bible to say "dispensation" (in this case, the KJV particularly) in order to believe the Bible teaches dispensationalism? Is a modern Bible translation the "silver" bullet for Dispensational theology?

First, the English word "dispensation" is transliterated from the Latin, "dispensatio" which means exactly what Jamin says it means, "an economy," "stewardship," "management." Though I would agree that a clearer, English translation of the original oikonomos and oikonomia would be "economy" or "stewardship," that still does not explain what Paul meant by the use of those terms. This is something Jamin doesn't explain. In other words, one does not need the English word "dispensation" in his Bible (i.e. the KJV) in order to believe Scripture teaches the theological concepts of "dispensationalism."

A few quotes may help clear up some misconceptions on Jamin's part:

From Craig Blasing's article in Progressive Dispensationalism, 108, 109, 111:

The apostle Paul uses both oikonomos and oikonomia to describe God's relationship with the world. Most of these uses refer to Paul's own office as an apostle of Jesus Christ. God, the Master of the world, entrusted to Paul, along with others, the apostolic responsibility of proclaiming a new revelation. Paul referred to this revelation as the mystery (or mysteries) of God and Christ ...

this use of the word dispensation refers to a new order, a new arrangement in the overall relationship between God and humankind. ...

The relationship between God and human being should be thought of as a dispensation, a management relationship which He has instituted. ...

As Paul discusses this new dispensation in his letters, three things stand out about it: (1) It is structured by certain features of a new covenant which God inaugurated to fulfill and replace the covenant He made with Israel at Sinai; (2) no distinction of race, gender, or class are being drawn in the bestowal of blessings from this new covenant - they are given to all who believe in Jesus Christ; and (3) the new dispensation is being revealed in the community that gathers in the name of Jesus Christ, the church...

... [B]y using the word dispensation (oikonomia), the Bible presents a way of understanding God's relationship with human beings in terms of arrangement (dispensations) which He has instituted in the course of history. He manages the way in which human beings are to relate to Him and to one another through these arrangements which He has set up. The church is the new dispensation which God has organized through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. It differs in important respects from the dispensation that was in place prior to Christ. And yet it is not wholly different. This dispensation is the fulfillment of the previous one, and as we will see, it looks forward to a future arrangement in which all the promises and covenant of God will be completely and eternally fulfilled.

And then from Rolland McCune, who holds a more classic understanding of Dispensationalism, from his, A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity, vol 1, 107:

...dispensations are "distinguishable economies." That is, there are some features in each particular economy that make it sufficiently different from the previous or following economies. The feature creating such distinctions is revelation, specifically progressive revelation. In other words, not all revelation calls forth a new economy. .... these various economies with their progressive revelation are part of "God's purpose." It is God who charts the course for history, dispensing new revelation and inaugurating new economies according to His own will.

So how exactly does re-translating the word "dispensation" dismantle Dispensational theology?

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Interesting Stuff on the Web

It's been a while since I have had the opportunity to do this...

Back in August during my break, I re-edited and re-posted some articles and book reviews at my other site. I even put them in PDF. It's like I am steppin' high and to the right. A couple of articles on apologetic practice and three book reviews:

An Essay on Handling Internet Atheists


Questions from a Skeptic

Grace, Faith, and Free-will: Contrasting Views of Salvation

Refuting Compromise

The Unbound Scriptures

I have more updates, re-edits, and re-posts in the works.

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And speaking of apologetics, SyeTenB of sinner's ministries, went into the lion's den of atheistic philosophy this past July and handled himself well against senior philosophy lecturer, Stephen Law and his cronies. It's worth spending ten minutes scanning through the comment thread just to read Sye's comments and challenges.

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Plus, Sye and pastor Dustin Segers were interviewed for a podcast on the subject of apologetic methodology and it's application in evangelism. Radio Show: The Existence of God

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If you run in home school circles, or even those Christian patriot circles where participants strategize on how to take America back from the Commie Marxists, you may be familiar with David Barton's Wall Builders Ministries. I am only slightly familiar with him and over the years I have appreciated what I have read of his work in anchoring our generation in the authentic history of the United States, which includes a strong Christian emphasis in spite of the ACLU's attempts at historical revisionism.

Barton has recently come out as a strong supporter of Glenn Beck, even to the point of saying his Mormonism shouldn't be an issue and making the troubling claim that Beck preaches the "gospel" when he is allowed a platform at mega-churches. Brannon Howse and Phil Johnson discuss Barton's "jumping the shark" moment as well as Christian political activism: Worldview Radio

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And, Phil provides a touching remembrance of Norm Sper, who was the founder of Grace to You radio. He had left working here when I arrived, but I think I recall meeting him one time a long time ago at some GTY related event. It's worth the read: An Amazing Life

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And in case you are wondering,

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Case of the Winebibbing Church Leader

Over at Here I Blog, Mark lays out the following soul-searching scenario:

It’s Friday evening and your [sic] out to dinner with a few friends from church. Dinner is in an open area where several restaurants have outside eating areas that allow the patrons to see one another. The area was set-up to encourage community interaction where many people and families walk around and socialize both before and after dinner.

While getting ready to eat laughter coming from a table on the patio in the restaurant next door distracts your table. Looking across the patio a well known church leader can be clearly seen drinking a glass of wine. It is definitely wine as confirmed by the bottle on the table. Confirming their suspicions your friends ask and you affirm that you know this church leader. The people next to you also notice the wine and they begin grumbling about the church leader drinking in public with “those kind of people.”

Think about what you may do in this situation. Think about what you might say to the church leader and/or the folks at the table next to you. Are you angry, upset, disappointed, embarrassed, etc.?

Now pause. Move the scenario back in time for a moment.

Let’s say you are in public during Jesus’ ministry and what you are witnessing is the following:

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’… (Matthew 11:19 ESV)

The church leader in question is Jesus and you are a witness to the charges quoted in the above verse.

  • What would you do?
  • Did your reaction change with the scenario? Why or why not?
  • Would you do the same in both scenarios? Why or why not?
  • Or…. ?

As a preliminary remark, I thought it was rather telling that none of the commenters in the combox interacted with the questions raised. All of them pretty much bickered with each other over the alcoholic intensity of the wine Jesus created at the Wedding in Cana.

This makes me wonder how seriously any of these young men have thought through the issue of Christians drinking alcohol in our American culture. Do they even care about the ramifications of their choices? I digress.

Moving back to the questions.

Given the situation as outlined above, witnessing a church leader from my church drinking a glass of wine at a restaurant, my reaction would depend upon what I knew of his reputation. Is this man known to be godly and one who is spiritually sensitive to the needs of the people he helps to shepherd? If I knew him to be a sober-minded, Christ-honoring man, I wouldn't become alarmed if I saw him drinking wine with a group of people.

The situation is contrasted with Christ being accused by the Pharisees of being a winebibber because he ate and drank with sinners. By extension, some would imply that if you saw this church leader in the same situation as Jesus, and if you were scandalized by what you saw, then you are akin to being a judgmental Pharisee.

I think there is something of a disconnect with this comparison. The Pharisees were motivated by political and socio-religious convictions that were ignored by Jesus. His "breaking" of their self-imposed, legalistic values stirred in them a manufactured indignation. Their accusation of him being a winebibber is in essence, phony. Additionally, the Pharisees were growing with their petty jealousy toward Jesus. They were looking for something to pin on him so as to discredit him as a teacher. This is much different than a church member just “by chance” seeing an elder or pastor drinking wine in a restaurant with a group of people.

A more apt comparison would be an individual you happen to know is a self-righteous, finger wagging nosy-body who has it in for the leader in question because that leader passed up the finger-wagger when he was assigning Sunday school teachers, and the finger-wagger pulls you aside before church to tell you he saw that leader drinking wine on Friday night at Black Angus with a bunch of unbelievers. Obviously there is more to the accusation than a concern for the leader's witness in the broader, secular community.

That stated, however, the biblical story of Jesus being falsely accused of winebibbing doesn't give a church leader an automatic pass in such situations. Even though I would not be alarmed at the sight of him drinking wine at a restaurant, I would probably make a point of talking with him, maybe even let him know I saw him by strolling over to the table at that moment to say "hi".

The fact of the matter is that in our American culture, alcoholic drink has a stigma attached to it. Even worldly people recognize this. As much as the YRR pine for the cultural convictions found in Spain or Germany regarding liquor, they live in America where we have severe hang-ups in regards to alcohol. This reality needs to be considered when exercising their liberty. Not that they are forbidden to drink, but that they do so wisely.

That said, let me present two alternative scenarios related to the winebibbing church leader seen in public drinking alcohol.

Scenario #1:

Let's say you are a church leader, and some unbelieving friends of yours invite you and your wife to dinner at one of those restaurants where several of the eating establishments have outside dining areas that allow the patrons to see each other.

As you pour your glass of wine, you happen to glance across to a table where you recognize a couple who recently joined your church. They are watching you with curious amazement.

You happen to know both of them have been Christians for about a year or so, both of them coming from a hard background, because you were the one who interviewed them for membership. You also happen to know the wife had a serious problem with alcoholism.

Now that you see them looking at you, and knowing the principles outlined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:9-11, do you,

  • Raise your glass to them and mouth “How’ya doin’”?
  • Make a mental note that you need to prepare a Bible lesson for them on why you have the liberty to drink openly in public and they need to grow out of being weaker brethren?
  • Set the drink aside?

Scenario #2:

For my YRR friends who equate drunkenness with over-eating and believe that obesity is at epidemic proportions and on the same level as alcoholism, let's say you and a bunch of your hipster pals are all dressed up in your skinny jeans and A&F ribbed tee shirts, and you all are enjoying your pint of beer at a favorite dining spot where several restaurants have outside seating areas that allow the patrons to see each other.

Right as the waiter brings you your grilled, skinless chicken breast and sautéed vegetables, a loud chortle distracts your table and a well-known church leader can be seen slathering a big glob of honey butter on a Lambert’s Café sized roll. It is clear from the plates of food, as well as the glossy shine on his lips that can be seen glimmering under the lights from where you are sitting, that he and his party are consuming a large, high caloric meal with lots of breaded fried things.

As one of your friends takes a sip from his pint, he confirms his suspicions and asks if that “portly” fellow is one of your church leaders. Your other friends also notice the plates of high caloric food and they all begin to grumble as they watch the leader slather butter on a second roll. One of the girls with you sneeringly remarks something like, "Is he going to eat ALL of that?” and the rest of your friends begin snickering and talking about those heavy people on "The Biggest Loser."

Are you angry? Upset? Disappointed? Embarrassed? Do you make excuses for him? How do you react to your hipster friends in their skinny jeans?

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Monday, September 12, 2011

A Conversation with the Mother God Guys

Editor's Note: I like to retell my occasional evangelistic and apologetic encounters I have with various folks for the purpose of instructing other Christians who may find themselves in similar situations. Previously, I have recounted my dinner with Mormons and my discussion with a UFO believer.

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Thursday evening last week during our super time, the door bell rang. My wife answered and a nice young lady and an older man introduced themselves and asked her if she would like to know about "mother god." Now, I am not hearing this conversation at all. I just hear my wife say "hold on just a minute, let me talk with my husband." She closes the door, turns around and says, "They want to talk to us about 'mother god'."

My honest, first reaction, is to tell them to take a hike, that we are not interested. I mean, we are eating dinner. But my wife gives me a stern look and says, "This would be an opportunity to share the Gospel." So, she leaves me an out: She tells them they can come back at another time, and we pick 4 pm on Saturday. And of course, they agree to come back. I am sort of hoping they'll forget.

After they left, my wife and I were a tad perplexed by their opening line about "mother god." My initial thought was to think it may be an awkward reference to Mary. The gal told my wife she was with the "Church of God." The only "Church of God" I was familiar with are the variety of Pentecostal denominations that use "Church of God" in their names, for example, Church of God in Christ.

My web search pulled up at least four related Pentecostal groups with "Church of God" in their name. I further couldn't find anything substantive with the phrase, "mother god." If they happened to come back, my strategy would be to allow them to define their beliefs, ask pertinent questions about their doctrine, and steer them to the Gospel proper.

Four O'clock arrived on Saturday and about seven minutes past the hour, two fellows come to the door. Both of them were neatly dressed, Hispanic gentleman, one from El Salvador, and the other from Mexico. The one from Mexico had been the older guy who had come earlier in the week. The young gal wasn't with them. We brought them in, had them sit on the couch, and offered a glass of water.

My wife had to excuse herself to nurse the baby, so I was left alone to begin our discussion. I immediately asked them, "Okay guys, tell me about this "mother god" thing." The fellow from El Salvador (who did pretty much all of the speaking) tells me to turn in my Bible to Revelation 22:17.

Let me pause here a second. One apologetic rule of thumb: if a person begins defending his "beliefs" by starting in the last chapter of Revelation, you can be fairly certain you are about to hear some seriously bad doctrinal error.

My "spamdar" immediately began whistling in my head as he read Revelation 22:17, And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

He says, "See how it says 'the Spirit AND the Bride say come'? Sometimes 'the Bride' can mean the Church, but here this 'Bride' is inviting people to come and drink of the living water of eternal life. The Church doesn't invite people to 'eternal life'."

I asked, "Why not? Evangelism is the invitation to eternal life in Christ, right?" Additionally, I saw no contextual indicators suggesting that "the Bride" here is an individual, divine person of equality with God the Father. He then takes me to Revelation 21:9, 10 which says, Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

"The new Jerusalem," he proclaims, "is God the mother." Again, I drew him to the larger context and pointed out 21:2,3 which tells us this Jerusalem is said to be the holy city where the people of God will dwell. John is not saying this new Jerusalem is a divine, feminine being like God the father. But he retorts, "Well, take a look at Galatians 3:26, which says, 'but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.'"

I sat amazed at such distortion and twisting of Scripture. I explained to them that Paul says in his epistle that he is speaking figuratively about an historical event in Genesis between Sarah and Hagar and drawing a comparison and contrast between the old and new covenants. Paul is not attempting to teach that there exists a divine, feminine goddess of sorts who is equal to God.

Undeterred, he jumps all the way back to Genesis 1:26ff., where it reads, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness..." "The word 'God'," he says, "is Elohim and he has to be speaking to God the mother, because Elohim is plural and he includes himself with another being, the 'us' and 'our' in the verse."

By this time, my wife had rejoined us and she quickly clues in to what the two guys are saying. She stated something like, "Guys, this 'mother god' is something utterly foreign to the Bible and it seems like you are building this flimsy doctrine on some out-of-context verses that do not teach anything close to what you are saying they say." We explained what the Bible means by creating man in God's image, how our image is marred by sin, and our need to be restored to God because of our sin.

Our conversation went on for about 45 minutes or more, but we were able to ascertain the following points they were trying to convince us the Bible teaches:

There is God the Father and God the Mother. Apparently, two deities, one male and one female. I tried to ask them about the persons of the Trinity, but there seemed to be a bit of confusion on their part.

God the Father and God the Mother gave "birth" to all humanity. This is akin to Mormonism and their views regarding spirit babies and the like.

One is saved by keeping the ten commandments. We got into a lengthy discussion about the law, the place of the law in a believer's life, and how the law relates to the new covenant. They seemed to have contradictory views of the 10 commandments, claiming at one point Jesus had to "fulfill" them, which they take to mean (at least as I understood what they were saying) Jesus had to finish them out because they weren't perfect. That point was lost on me a bit, because a little later, they both agreed that we needed to keep the 10 commandments perfectly in order to be saved. But that begs the question: if the 10 commandments weren't perfect before, why would we need to keep them now?

They insisted on keeping the Sabbath as Saturday worship. They basically held to the same views as Seventh-Day Adventists in regards to Saturday worship. We got into a bit of a sharp discussion about the absolute necessity to worship on Saturday. I pointed out a few passages to them regarding how Christ did away with the ceremonial regulations concerning the Sabbath, and on account of Christ's Resurrection on the first day of the week, the Christian church recognized Sunday as the time to come together for worship. My take on their reaction was that this was the first time they had heard these arguments.

At any rate, our conversation primarily had these points as a focus, and then I said, "Okay guys, the real issue before us is how you think a sinner is made right before God, correct?" They respond by telling us to keep the 10 commandments. I took them immediately to Romans.

Beginning in Romans 1, I explained the thesis of each chapter, how both gentiles and Jews are equally condemned by the law (the 10Cs), and that no man can keep it perfectly as the end of Romans 2 says. I then explained from Romans 3 how ALL men, no matter who they are, are sinners pursuing rebellion against God and His ways and that the only hope man has to escape God's divine wrath is if something happens to us. That something I explained was God sending Christ to live a perfect life according to the law, taking our sin away on the cross, and and imputing His righteousness to us.

My wife says, "There are only two religions in the world," and the one fellow from El Salvador says, "I know there are hundreds of religions." My wife says, "let me explain: either man attempts to make himself right with God with his own efforts, which in principle is every religion on the planet, or God makes men right before Him with His own effort, which is what God has done through Christ." I got the sense that neither guy had heard that explained to them before.

I then left them with Revelation 20 about the Great White Throne, and explained how all religions lead to God. If you base your hope on your own works to make you right before God, you will be judged by those works, and according to Scripture, your efforts will fail, because no sinner can do any amount of good works to make himself right before Holy God.

With that, we said good-bye and let them go. They were both cordial with us and even asked if they could come back. My wife was very unmissional and said if they chose to return, they needed to understand we believed they were unsaved, ensnared with a soul damning cult, and our efforts would be to evangelize them. The guy from El Salvador took my email contact info, so we will see what happens.

I leave the interaction with these guys in the hands of the Lord. My goal was:

- First, I wanted to let them present their beliefs in their own words, as wack-a-doodle and non-Christian as they may be.

- Second, to ask them questions regarding their doctrine forcing them to defend it. Looking back on our conversation, I believe I could have done better in this area. Perhaps ask a few more probing questions regarding their understanding of God, man's sin, and what they believe Jesus did on the cross.

-Third, was to prevent being side-tracked, and bogged down, in peripheral areas, like haggling over whether a person should go to church on Saturday or Sunday.

- And then fourth, to present the Gospel of salvation that was grounded in the text of Scripture. The results of its efficacy being left to the purposes of God.

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Postscript: So after they left, I returned to the internet and searched again for "Church of God" and "mother god." This time I found a Wiki article on a strange Korean man and his wife who teach many of the same things these guys were presenting, such as the mother god (the wife of this Korean man) and Saturday worship (the founder of this group, Ahn Sahng-Hong- deceased, was once a SDA member). If you look at the wiki article, there were some other odd-ball beliefs as well. A friend on Facebook also thought this may be the source of their beliefs. If this is where these guys are coming from, it's the first time I have ever encountered this group, and I hope my readers recognize that our apologetic interaction with even such an out-of-way fringe cult can be effective.

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Friday, September 09, 2011

Moose and Squirrel Theology

borisFormer Communist and now radical theonomist and contributing blogger for American Vision, Bojidar Marinov, says John MacArthur doesn’t believe in Calvin enough for his liking. Marinov complains that John only hits on Calvinist soteriology in this video and ignores sovereignty and all true Reformers reform all of society, not just salvation.

Marinov asks in combox post,

Please provide links to MacArthur’s views of:

1. Biblical social theory
2. Biblical economics
3. Biblical political theory
4. Biblical view of rights
5. Biblical view of law, justice, and civil rights
6. Biblical view of science
7. Biblical view of history
8. Biblical view of money, banking, inflation, debt
9. Biblical view of family, welfare, inheritance
10. Biblical view of education
11. Biblical view of war and international relations
12. Biblical view of mathematics
13. Biblical view of arts, literature, and aesthetics
14. Biblical view of slavery

The Reformers had them all; they didn’t limit their preaching to the church and salvation only, neither did they believe that you “first transform the individual, and then society is transformed.” MacArthur has nothing in these areas; he doesn’t even believe we should have a comprehensive theology in any of these areas.

Marinov goes on to say everything MacArthur has even tried to write in these areas is like a baby-man. Marinov’s little 14-year old girl writes deeper than MacArthur.

Really?

First, take a look at that video. John is specifically answering a question pertaining to the puerile behavior expressed by the so-called YRR. Boris… I mean, Marinov, is seizing upon one thought John offers and uses it as a spring board to write a nasty screed against the much larger areas he despises about John’s overall theology.

Secondly, John is a pastor and a preacher. He is not a religious academic. His primary focus is preaching from the Bible to a congregation on a weekly basis, so of course many of these subjects are not necessarily found in the material he is presenting to his people. None the less, it is rather ignorant to say John has “nothing” in these areas. John has taught on many of these subjects when preaching through the NT if the context warranted it. Those subjects he has not addressed are taught by teachers either at The Master’s College or Seminary and a lot of their courses would reflect John’s position. I would refer readers to the catalogs of both schools to get a fuller understanding of John’s views.

Additionally, a lot of these listed subjects are redundant, and this list can be shortened a bit. But let me note where John has expressed his views on them.

Biblical economics, money, banking, inflation and debtMastering Your Money, Whose Money is it Anyway?

Biblical political theory, law, justice, and civil rightsWhy Government Can’t Save You, The Christian and Government

Biblical view of scienceBattle for the Beginning

Biblical view of historyWhere in the World is History Headed

Biblical view of family , welfare, inheritanceThe Fulfilled Family, God’s High Calling for Women, What The Bible Says about Parenting

Biblical view of war and international relations – The War in the Gulf: A Biblical Perspective, Pt. 1, 2, 3, 4

Biblical view of education, mathematics, arts, literature, and aesthetics – see catalog for the Master’s College.

Biblical view of slavery (biblical view of slavery? Surely Marinov isn’t into owning slaves?) – Slave

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

I would be up for trying this...

But it's the wife and children that keep me from doing it.
Just sayin'...

Not sure what the balloons were all about.


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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Lame Arguments the YRR Should Avoid When Defending Alcohol Consumption

Whilst I was on my blog break, John MacArthur, stirred the dander of the 30-something pastor set who love to play like they are sophisticated metropolitans. He wrote an article basically telling them to put down their beer steins and wake up to the fact that there is more to Christian liberty than the unshackled, "William Wallace" freedom of drinking imported booze.

I know they were upset with him, because I read a lot of their blog posts and tweets. Not only did the bulk of them entirely miss the point John was making, a number of them would spiral off into left field with some lame arguments they put forth to defend their convictions.

I boiled those arguments down to the four or so lamest ones I encountered repeatedly, and I thought I would highlight them for our educational pleasure.

Before getting to them, however, let me offer some preemptive comments.

I am not a teetotaler. I would never advocate for being a teetotaler. I probably have just as much disdain, if not more, for the legalistic social mores hoisted upon undiscerning Christians by classic American fundamentalists as representing true, Christian virtue as the YRR folks do.

In fact, I like a good wine. I may have a glass if I am on vacation with my wife and we have opportunity to stay at one of those fancy Pacifica hotels dotting the coast of California. We sometimes splurge a little and buy a bottle of Bailey’s around Thanksgiving time that takes us a good couple of months to sip on.

However, I am also aware of the fact that alcohol in any form is viewed by the majority of American Christians as being “sinful.” Yes, I realize they are mistaken about that, but reality is reality, and that attitude is not changing anytime soon, in spite of YRR efforts to the contrary.

As long as beer and wine is perceived as a terrible vice used by party people on spring break, rowdy tailgaters at a football game, and tavern brawlers whose mugshots appear on the “Smoking Gun” website, it is not a wise idea for Christian ministers to promote alcohol consumption among their people.

My life is lived in front of many folks, and it is to those people I am responsible for ministering Christ. Making it a habit to flaunt my liberty with alcohol consumption is not helpful for them, and will only generate more confusion than is necessary.

Now, with that being stated, let’s look at the lame arguments the YRR make to defend their alcohol consumption.

Martin Luther and/or the Reformers and/or the Puritans brewed beer and consumed wine

This is generally the immediate response to my position of cautious moderation. “Well, Martin Luther and/or the Reformers drank beer, so why can’t we?”

Keep in mind that Martin Luther lived 500 YEARS AGO! While we certainly applaud Luther and express our heart-felt Christianly thanks for him defending the timeless truths of the Gospel, that does not mean we are to automatically emulate him, or any other Reformer for that matter, and his various social convictions.

Think about it. What is more important? That we reform ourselves according to biblical standards, or historical standards? Honestly, what was a normal part of society in Germany 500 years ago may had been acceptable, but was it necessarily biblical? Even if it is just American Christians who have weird hang-ups with alcohol because of the old prohibition days still doesn’t mean we need to be like German Christians today. It may not be the best use of liberty for them either just because they live in Europe and have no connection to our prohibition past.

The same can be said about the other Reformers as well. Do we adopt all the social conventions of the Reformers and the Puritans just because they did them? Several Reformers practiced astrology, like Phillip Melanchthon. That’s not to say everything Melanchthon wrote stinks of new age mysticism. He was just as much a complex sinner as the rest of us. But his belief in astrology does reflect a common, historic practice among many Protestants during his time. So, who is ready to reclaim horoscopes from the Fundies and reform them for the glory of God?

The more bizarre use of the "Luther drank beer" argument is the appeal to Puritans, who supposedly were quite the bar flies, or at least one would think so according to many of the YRR. But we’re talking about the Puritans. These were the guys who thought wedding rings were popish and outlawed Christmas during Cromwell’s Protectorate. Will we “reform” according to those convictions?

And just a closing word about Mark Driscoll’s absurd claim that a brewery was the first building the Pilgrims built upon arriving in the new world. This is an urban legend. If you and your people are sick and dying and winter is coming on in a strange land, do you waste time building a brewery? Or will it be basic shelter?

obesityFood is abused by way too many people, but you don't hear Christians crying out about gluttony. Yet there are more people in churches who overeat than there are alcoholics and drunkards, and no one rebukes these brothers and sisters for their reckless overindulgence in food.

The biggest (no pun intended) problem with this argument is that gluttony is not just overeating. It is especially NOT overeating in the sense of a guy eating an entire large pizza in one sitting or scarfing down Chili’s 3,200 calorie “Freakin’ Onion” appetizer all by himself.

Gluttony is always tied to drinking in the Scriptures. What we know to be a drunken, debauched lifestyle. One may say overeating is a part of the debauched lifestyle, but it is the idea of out-of-control, riotous living that makes “gluttony” sinful. This is not super-sizing your McDonald's order.

Consider Deuteronomy 21:20:

And they shall say to the elders of his city,`This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.

If you look at the entire context, you have parents – PARENTS; you know, mama and daddy – bringing their son before the elders to be judged because he is basically a thick-headed good for nothing who spends his time and money (family’s money) on riotous living. The word “glutton” has the idea of a vile, worthless person. Notice what happens with this son. He is brought before the elders of the town so they can pass judgment upon him and if they judge against him, he is stoned to death. That’s the death penalty, folks. He is not executed for being 60 pounds overweight and having lunch at Jack in the Box every other day.

scooterThe health consequences associated with eating recklessly is no joke. Just ask anyone with diabetes. Overeating should be treated just as seriously as alcoholism.

Related to the “gluttony” argument is the “obesity is just as bad if not worse than alcoholism” argument. This one is usually put forth in the combox after a teetotaler lists a bunch of statistics telling how many people die from alcohol related deaths, or how many women and children are abused by alcoholic husbands or parents. As a rebuttal, it’s dogmatically proclaimed that obesity is just as bad if not worse of an epidemic and social problem as alcohol.

This is a profoundly ridiculous comparison. The societal impact of alcoholism and obesity is incomparable. That is because alcoholism has the greatest potential to destroy innocent lives.

Many innocent lives.

In fact, alcohol has destroyed those lives unmercifully. There are no Mother’s Against Obese Driving organizations advocating against 350 pound people driving automobiles. There are no laws against driving under the influence of fried chicken. A cop won’t stop a guy and ask him if he has been eating, and then give him a breathalyzer to test his blood-gravy level. And there is a good reason for this: Obesity only hurts one person. No man, after leaving the Macaroni Grill, has ever gotten into his SUV, and under the influence of the chicken Alfredo platter he consumed 30 minutes before, ran a stop light and killed a family.

Now, just so I am clear. I am not saying obesity is a good thing. Being overweight does have considerable health problems for the individual. AND I would say Christians should make eating healthy a part of their spiritual lives. My point here is not to advocate overeating, but to merely show that obesity is no where near being the societal problem associated with the consumption of alcohol. No where in the ball park. Obesity is a result of bad lifestyle choices. Much like smoking, another vice the YRR tend to encourage.

grass

Why do we want to be so legalistic about alcohol when it is such a blessing to mankind? God created wine for us to enjoy the bounty of His earth. The prohibition is against drunkenness, not consumption.

It is believed that because wine is processed from grapes, and alcohol is a natural derivative of fermented grapes, that places alcohol in a special category of blessing. Additionally, YRR argue that passages like Psalm 104:15 which says, And wine that makes glad the heart of man, Oil to make his face shine, And bread which strengthens man's heart proves that God blesses the consumption of alcohol. After all, Psalm 104 is a psalm of praise to God who provides all good things for mankind.

Of course, this line of argumentation ignores the overwhelming multitude of biblical passages that warn against the consumption of alcohol. Certainly the prohibition is against drunkenness, not consumption, but seeing that the Bible speaks so pointedly against the dangers of drinking alcohol, why would God's pastor want to use a tavern as a setting for a men's Bible study?

Moreover, this is the exact same argument I have heard from Christians who seriously think it is God blessed to smoke pot. I kid you not. I once had one fellow, with a stern conviction in his voice and passion in his eyes, explain to me that God gave ALL the grass and green herb of the field for man to use, and that means cannabis. I reckon, by extension it would also include opium and the coca plant. And before anyone tries to "rebut" me by saying "but the grass and herbs were meant to be for FOOD, not SMOKING, duh," keep in mind that pot can be baked in brownies.

And one final thought in response to the "the prohibition against drunkenness, not consumption" reasoning. There is no prohibition against slavery in the Bible either. Really. Go look it up. Paul never condemned slavery as a practice. The only thing condemned was "man stealing." So, as long as your slave isn't "stolen" there is no prohibition against owning him or her. Who is up to the challenge of defending slavery for the glory of God? Anyone?

Lookit

You young, restless and reformed dudes, no one wants to stifle your fun. Yes, I realize a lot of you all were saved in one of those smothering, fundamentalist Baptist churches who regulated every behavior and activity with an iron fist of legalism like a draconian-driven HOA board of directors. I mean, you couldn't even wear short pants in the church building, let alone even dream about drinking a beer. I sympathize with you. I really do. But honestly, is drinking beer really THAT important? Seriously?

I have a niece who, when we went to Sunday brunch at some fancy restaurant, would only eat macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. She had an entire buffet laid out before her, and she obsessed on the mac N' cheese. I remember telling her, "You have this wonderful banquet of food and all you are eating is mac N' cheese? You know, there is much more to life than mac N' cheese." YRR pastor, there is much more to Christian liberty than drinking imported beer.


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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Truth Matters

Grace to You, where I work, will be having its first ever conference this weekend.

The Truth Matters conference is set to start Thursday night 7 pm Pacific time. The theme is centered around the Gospel according to Paul. John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Don Green, and Jeff Williams will all be doing sessions. Live streaming will be available for the entire event.

Thursday day at GTY, we will be having around 1,000 visitors arriving to tour our facility. I'm looking forward to meeting many of the dear folks I minister to via mail on a daily basis. You can watch our conference attendees tour on our web cameras. My room will be really hopping.

And, for any of my blog readers out there, if you are attending, please try to look me up. I would love to meet you.

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