We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Friday, October 24, 2014

Some Good Quotes Coming

I have been quite busy lately, not only with normal yard work, house maintenance, etc, but also with travels for a conference, for visiting a family member out of state in hospice, and performances.  On top of that, I'm trying to get more work done on my New Age Bible Versions review, setting up my new blog on Mormonism, dealing with church issues, and doing all sorts of research for others.  All this is leaving me with little time to do much in the way of writing articles for this blog!  

One of the things I'm trying to accomplish this fall/winter is cleaning out my files and library of references and books no longer needed for research.  By doing so, I am coming across many citations which I highlighted when I read the material the first time.  Some of these citations are thought-provoking and some just speak to the problems in the church at large.  Since it doesn't take but five minutes or so to type up a citation, I'm going to be doing that as I work in my files, etc, so as to share them with my readers.  I hope you will find such citations to be edifying.

The Anvil — God’s Word

Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
Then, looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.

“How many anvils have you had,” said I,
“To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
“Just one,” said he, and then, with twinkling eye,

“The anvil wears the hammers our, you know.”

And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed — the hammers gone.

Unknown, from "The Best Loved Poems of the American People"

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Christian Sentimentalism

...[A] work of art may be solidly biblical in content, yet have little or no artistic merit.  Christians should not allow themselves to develop sloppy aesthetic judgment by accepting low-quality religious kitsch just because they agree with the message.  When I was growing up, the typical religious art exhibited a saccharine Victorian sentimentalism.
What makes this sentimentalized art and music so insipid? It equates Christianity with sugar and spice and everything nice.  The poet Paul Claudel pilloried the sweet-and-light style by asking, "If the salt hath lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?  With sugar!"

When generations of children are nourished on these sugary images, they lose a sense of Jesus' true character.  In the words of Dorothy Sayers, "We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah," turning Jesus "into a household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies."  Yet in the first century, this so-called "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" was so adamant and inflammatory "that He was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and public danger."  How will the church portray that Jesus in its art?

Today's parallel to Victorianism would include praise music that mirrors the vapid emotionalism and egocentrism of pop culture.  I once visited a church where I was startled to hear the congregation sing lines like "You are my all desire," and "I want to feel the warmth of your embrace."  The lyrics made no mention of God or Jesus.  No reference to salvation or justification or any other theological theme.  Nothing to suggest that the song was anything but a love song to someone's girlfriend.  The lyrics were such an extreme example of the Jesus-is-my-girlfriend genre that I wondered how any man could sing it with a straight face -- though as I looked around the room, I saw several men with their eyes closed, arms raised.

Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning, p.270-271.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Random Aberrations, Apostasies, and Heresies

I’m a wee bit behind the times again; I had to take an unexpected trip for a couple days.  So let’s see what I have caught up on!

I thought I’d start out with this excellent article about discernment.  We all need to learn this.

Along the same thought, know the difference between the wolves and the sheep!

What you don’t want to do is listen to Rick Warren teaching about how to hear God’s voice!

Rachel Held Evans — why she is someone to fear.

Is Your Church Worship More Pagan than Christian?”  I think more and more churches are certainly getting this way.

Well, it looks like Bill Gothard has no intention of ever truly repenting.  The man is a real wolf!

Mark Driscoll has resigned from Mars Hill, and yet he thinks he’s qualified for future ministry.  Sola Sisters comment on Driscoll’s idea of being qualified.  Lighthouse Trails gives a good overview of the whole problem with Driscoll.

I’ve been reading several articles about the new “Christmas” movie by Kirk Cameron.  This article demonstrates grave problems with the reconstructionist history and theology of this movie.

Well, that’s all for now; not a big collection, but what I felt was the most important recent news.  Meanwhile, I’m busy transferring all my article about Mormonism to my new blog.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

New Blog

Today I am starting a new blog about the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).  I decided that it would be a better to have all my articles about Mormons in one place, so I will be slowly moving all my article about the LDS to my new blog, "The Anti-Mormon Blog."

This new blog will by a one-stop reference if you are interested in understanding and/or meeting with Mormons and need as much information as possible.  As I get the chance, I will also include links to good apologetics sites who deal specifically with Mormonism, and I will even have a listing of some of the best books I can recommend on the subject.

You may link directly to my new blog via the link in the box on the right of this blog, which gives the links to my wife's blog and my "The Thought Provoker" blog, as well as my e-mail contact.

Total Apostasy? Joseph Smith’s First Vision

The following is transcribed from a tract I acquired about a decade ago, and I have no idea where it came from.  The Internet contact points no longer exist.  The name on the tract with the contact points is Marshall Almarode, who I assume is the author.  The tract approaches the LDS faith from an angle I’ve never thought of, and actually haven’t seen any where else!  But I really like it, and would like any Mormon reading this to explain to me a solution to the problem.


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the LDS Church) claims the Christ’s authority vanished from the earth some time after His apostles died.  The LDS Church calls this a total apostasy because they claim that there was not one person left who could act with the authority of God.  According to the accepted version of Joseph Smith’s first vision, Jesus came back to earth to tell Joseph Smith to “restore” the true gospel again to the earth.  We will explore this topic by studying what the official LDS scriptures say.  Joseph’s first vision is found in The Pearl of Great Price.

1)  The Pearl of Great Price - Joseph Smith History 1:19
“I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness but they deny the power thereof.’”

Establishing a Total Apostasy
We are to establish all things (including teachings) on the testimony of two or more witnesses.  According to Joseph Smith’s testimony, recorded in The Pearl of Great Price, he went out in the woods alone to pray. (Verse 15)  According to Joseph Smith, the second voice he heard was the voice of the Lord of Mormonism (Verse 17).  This Lord said (verse 19) that all the existing churches were wrongAll their creeds and professors (professors of their faith - evangelists/preachers) were also wrong.  So, we have this total apostasy on the authority of the Jesus of Mormonism by the testimony of only one witness, Joseph Smith!  Today the LDS Church claims it has the right to exist because Joseph Smith claimed he was called by this Jesus to restore the true church on the earth.

2)  The Book of Mormon - III Nephi 28
The Book of Mormon tells of Jesus visiting the American continent.  He picks out twelve more disciples to spread the LDS gospel.

The heading for Chapter 28 says: “…Three Nephites are given power over death so as to remain on Earth until Jesus comes again…and they are now ministering among men.”   Verses 6-9: “…ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me.  Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.  And ye  shall never endure the pains of death; …for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of man unto me, while the world shall stand.”

Fountain of Youth - Three Nephite Apostles
The Jesus of The Book of Mormon has stated that He will not allow these three Nephite Apostles to suffer death, but they will continue living until Jesus’ second coming.  Jesus gave these Nephites full apostleship with all the authority to act in His name, the same as the apostles of the Old World (Moroni 2:2).  They are presently ministering among men to bring their souls unto the Jesus of The Book of Mormon.  This means that three apostles, who are nearly two thousand years old, are still today doing evangelism for Jesus’ true Church.

3)  Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) Section 7
The heading for D&C section 7 says, “John the beloved shall live until the Lord comes.”  Verses 1-7:  “John my beloved, what desirest thou? …And I said unto him; Lord, give unto me power over death, that I many live and bring souls unto thee.  And the Lord said unto me; verily, verily, I say unto thee, because thou desirest this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory, and shalt prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people.  And for this cause the Lord said unto Peter: …my beloved has desired that he might do more, or a greater work yet among men than what he has before done. …therefore I will make him as a flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth.  And I will make thee to minister for him and for thy brother James; and unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry until I come.” 

John the Beloved Apostle Still Lives!
We find here that John the Beloved, one of the original apostles, was allowed to stay alive on the Earth winning souls to Christ until Jesus’ second coming.  Thus according to The Book of Mormon and the D&C, we have three Nephite apostles and one original apostle who will never die.  Two LDS scriptures agree, making a total of four full-fledged apostles staying alive evangelizing until Jesus’ second coming.  If these apostles could not bring souls to Christ, the Jesus would have done a vain work by allowing them to stay alive all this time only attempting to win souls without having any real success.

Total Apostasy?
On that very day in 1820 when Joseph Smith went out in the woods to pray, these four were hard at the Lord’s work bringing souls to Christ.  If Jesus was successful at starting his true church on two continents, one in the Old World and one in the New World, these four apostles could be successful at keeping them going with all their converts.  After being personally trained by Jesus himself, they should be pretty effective.  Can you imagine how many new members these four experts would have made if they only converted one person each month in their extended lifetime of full time service (even if none of their converts converted anybody else)? (How does this compare to a two year mission?).  Starting with only these four men, in one hundred years, there would be forty-eight hundred new believers (and at least some of their children and their children’s children)!  Of course Christ’s apostles would make sure their converts joined Christ’s true, established church to learn to be obedient to the ordinances and commandments of God and for fellowship.  As these churches grew they would have to build other buildings to house the new members.  As the apostles went on missionary journeys, they would establish Christ’s true church in other countries.  Thus there would be many local churches in many places.

Which Church Should Joseph Join?
But even if there were only these four apostles in existence on that very day that Joseph went out alone to pray, Jesus would have known about them.  The Jesus of Joseph’s first vision doesn’t seem to know anything about these men.  How could he forget his promise to his apostles?  He should have answered that Joseph should join none of them except the church led by John the Beloved (in Jerusalem?), or Nephite #1 (now in Australia?), or Nephite #2 (in Mexico?), or Nephite #3 (in New York?).  The Jesus of the First Vision has a memory problem!

Who do yo believe?

Do you believe the Jesus of the First Vision, who says there was a total apostasy?  Or … do you believe the Jesus of The Book of Mormon and The Doctrine & Covenants who says there can never be a total apostasy because he has guaranteed, on his word, that there will always be a minimum of four full-fledged apostles on the earth?  Which Joseph Smith do you believe?  The one who wrote The Book of Mormon and The D&C by inspiration?  Or the one who told us of his “First Vision” encounter with a Jesus who can’t remember what he has done?

My Evening Prayer

If I have wounded any soul today,
If I have caused one foot to go astray,
If I have walked in my own willful way —
Good Lord, forgive!

If I have uttered idle words or vain,
If I have turned aside from want or pain,
Lest I myself should suffer through the strain —
Good Lord, forgive!

If I have craved for joys that are not mine, 
If I have let my wayward heart repine,
Dwelling on things of earth, not things divine —
Good Lord, forgive!

If I have been perverse, or hard, or cold,
If I have longed for shelter in Thy fold,
When Thou has given me some part to hold —
Good Lord, forgive.

Forgive the sins I have confessed to Thee,
Forgive the secret sins I do not see,
That which I know not, Father, teach Thou me —
Help me to live.

Charles H. Gabriel
from “The Best Love Poems of the American People”

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Women's Roles in Society?

Whatever role distinction Scripture my make in the home and in the church, it is unwarranted to extend these to society at large on the basis of biblical authority.  One may see a paradigm of male/female relationships in the biblical model for marriage and apply this to civic or business relationships, but he may not do this on the basis of biblical authority, for the Bible is silent on the issue of female leadership in business, industry, or government.  How much more distant from scriptural teaching is the ridiculous and altogether pernicious idea that every woman must be subordinate to any man with whom she is related.

Robertson McQuilkin, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics, p.183

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Good Question!

If sinlessness is claimed for the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ so she could be pure enough to bear the Savior, should it also be claimed for Mary’s mother so she could be pure enough to bear Mary?  Where does the process stop?  The Bible stops it by claiming sinlessness only for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dr. Harold J. Berry, What They Believe, p.188

Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Catholics — can you answer that?  Where does the process stop?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Appealing to the "Me" Generation

One of the problems I have with "contemporary" Christian music is that sometimes the writer doesn't seem to be able to write something from his personal abilities, so he modifies a well-beloved hymn just enough to sell the "new" song as his own.  I've seen this in the past but can't remember now what some of the others are, however last week in church we sang Chris Tomlin's "My Chains Are Gone," and I've been thinking about it ever since. So this is the one I'm addressing today.

My main problem with this song is that it has totally replaced the traditional version of "Amazing Grace."  Don't get me wrong -- I like the chorus.  However, the chorus was apparently designed to make the old song more appealing to the younger generations.  I think if we are going to use this song, then we should alternate between it and Amazing Grace.

An important, and significant, deletion in My Chains Are Gone is the third verse of Amazing Grace.  However, I think it is interesting that Tomlin elected to include the last verse of John Newton's version, which I've never seen in a hymnbook before -- the books tend to replace it with O.D. Hall's verse, which doesn't seem to go along with the rest of the song!

Here are the full lyrics of John Newton's Amazing Grace:

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev'd;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ'd!

Thro' many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis'd good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call'd me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Now, notice the importance, in the sequence to the thoughts, of the third verse; he's been through all sorts of travails but was kept safe through God's grace.  This leads right into the next verse where he looks to the future safe-keeping by God.

Every hymnbook I remember singing from leaves off the last two verses (I've never sung them - have only read them in other sources), and swaps verses three and four, and then ends with this verse by O.D. Hall:

When we've been there ten thousand years, 
Bright shining as the sun, 
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.

Meh! It just doesn't go with the context of the rest of the song!

For those unfamiliar with Tomlin's version, his chorus comes after the second verse, and it is sung twice through after the third verse (Newton's 4th), and then ends the song after the last verse.  Here are the lyrics:

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

One last observation is that Newton said "I once was lost, but now am found," while Tomlin says "now I'm found."  Not a biggie, but I just don't like people changing an author's words unnecessarily.

So, to sum up, in case you found it difficult to follow me, Chris Tomlin drops off verses 3 and 5 of the original Amazing Grace hymn and replaces them with his chorus.  I think the error here is that he interrupts the flow of the "story" being told and misses out on part of the theology Newton was getting across.

The point I want to make here is not that there is anything wrong with Tomlin's song in and of itself, rather the fact that it is directed at a younger generation is just part of the overall symptom of the church's focussing on that one demographic while ignoring the wealth of wisdom and experience from the older members.  It's part of the "dumbing down" of our theology and worship to make it more appealing to the flesh.