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

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Let Us Emulate Paul's Teaching

So many of our modern “pastors” in the seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven, Word-of-Faith, and even Emergent churches do a lot of preaching from various psychological theories instead of Scripture. They want to entertain or soft-soap the message so as not to offend. Then there are those like Mark Driscoll who seem to be trying to shock people with crude, offensive and even blasphemous language. Of course many of these are very arrogant in their whole approach, especially if you dare question their teaching; “touch not the Lord’s anointed!”

This week I began reading 1 Corinthians for my morning studies, and I came across this passage, which I think EVERY pastor should review:

“When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and power, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power." 1 Cor. 2:1-5, HCSB.

In the course of my Bible reading, I have been using William MacDonald’s “Believer’s Bible Commentary.” MacDonald has some good stuff to say about this passage:

2:1 The apostle now reminds the saints of his ministry among them and how he sought to glorify God and not himself. He came to them proclaiming the testimony of God, not with excellence of speech or of wisdom. He was not at all interested in showing himself off as an orator or philosopher. This shows that the Apostle Paul recognized the difference between ministry that is soulish and that which is spiritual. By soulish ministry, we mean that which amuses, entertains, or generally appeals to man’s emotions. Spiritual ministry, on the other hand, presents the truth of God’s word in such a way as to glorify Christ and to reach the heart and conscience of the hearers.

2:2 The content of Paul’s message was Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Jesus Christ refers to His Person, while Him crucified refers to His work. The Person and work of the Lord Jesus form the substance of the Christian evangel.

2:3 Paul further emphasizes that his personal demeanor was neither impressive nor attractive. He was with the Corinthians in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. The treasure of the gospel was contained in an earthen vessel that the excellence of the power might be of God and not of Paul. He himself was an example of how God uses weak things to confound the mighty.

2:4 Neither Paul’s speech nor his preaching were in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Some suggest that his speech refers to the material he presented and his preaching to the manner of its presentation. Others define his speech as his witness to individuals and his preaching as his messages to groups. According to the standards of this world, the apostle might never have won an oratorical contest. In spite of this, the Spirit of God used the message to produce conviction of sin and conversion to God.

2:5 Paul knew that there was the utmost danger that his hearers might be interested in himself or in his own personality rather than in the living Lord. Conscious of his own inability to bless or to save, he determined that he would lead men to trust in God alone rather than in the wisdom of men. All who proclaim the gospel message or teach the word of God should make this their constant aim.

Can you imagine the church today if all of our pastors emulated Paul in their preaching? What a difference it would make!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

King James Version Only?

I have studied the whole issue of the “King James Only” controversy for several years now, as well as studying the issue of biblical translational philosophy (formal vs. dynamic). I have a whole shelf of books on the subjects in my personal library.

Now, I am not going to entertain debates or arguments of any sort in relation to the merits of which Bible version is better, etc. I want only to make a few points about the “KJV Only” issue because of the cultish nature of some KJV only believers.

1. The KJV is NOT the inspired Word of God. It is man’s translation, and quite a fallible one at that, with many errors. And if you want to argue for KJV only, then which version are you claiming?

2. Most other English versions are quite acceptable for teaching the Christian faith. People do indeed come to Christ through their usage. (Yes, there are abominable so-called “translations,” such as the New World Translation, the Joseph Smith Translation, the Clear Word Bible, The Message, et al)

3. Christians who use other versions are not of the devil and are not new age conspiracists.

4. Since the KJV itself is not inspired, it is redundant to call any other version a “Non Inspired Version” (as I have heard the NIV referred to).

5. There is no conspiracy to bring in “new age” versions of the Bible. (Unless you want to say the conspiracy is one of Satan, who wants to distort the Word of God.) This includes other conspiracies which supposedly involve the Catholic Church, the Illuminati and other organizations that probably don’t exist either.

6. Having a Christian assembly based on everyone accepting only the KJV as the Word of God is cultish. Period.

7. 1611 English makes the KJV an excellent tool for false teachers, and all sorts of cults and aberrational teachings are based on misunderstanding 400 year-old English!

With the abysmally poor reading skills of the average person on the street, it is very difficult to reach people using Elizabethan English. As problematic as the NIV is, I have found it to be a much better version for reaching non-believers, although my Bible of preference for passing out tends to be the NKJV or ESV. However, I do not neglect to explain that the NIV is often interpretive more than translative (if that’s a word!) We can use any English translation if we understand its limitations, and not be propagating “new age” versions.

So for all you KJV Onlyers, lighten up! There are a lot more serious issues to be addressed, such as cultic and other false teachings. It isn’t usually the particular English version which leads to false teachings, it is the misuse of the Bible in general.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Episcopals Can't Understand Scripture! Follow Up

On June 10th I noted that the Episcopal Church was preparing "a paper on same-sex relationships in the life of the church." Well, the deal is now done.

The following is from TimesOnLine today
(http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article6716407.ece) [1/6/12- link is gone]

Bishops in the US dealt a death blow to hopes for unity in the worldwide Anglican Church when they approved in principle services for same-sex partnerships. The decision will finally split the Communion between Bible-based conservative evangelicals and liberal modernisers.

The bishops at the Episcopal General Convention voted by 104 to 30 to “collect and develop theological resources and liturgies” for blessing same-sex relationships, to be considered at the next convention in 2012.

The resolution notes the growing number of states that allow gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships, and gives bishops in those regions discretion to provide a “generous pastoral response” to couples in local parishes. It was passed on Wednesday, hours after the Episcopal Church voted on Tuesday to allow the consecration of gay bishops. The motion passed by 99 to 45 among the bishops and by 72 per cent to 28 per cent among church deputies, made up of clergy and laity.

As I have stated previously, the Episcopal Church is nothing short of apostate and should be abandoned by all true Christians in that denomination.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Don't Have Enough Faith to be a Humanist

I read a book about 15 years ago, titled, “The Philosophy of Humanism,” by Corliss Lamont. It is considered “the standard text on the subject.” I got to thinking about this book recently and pulled it down to look over some things I had highlighted in it.

Let me share some things I came across, and you’ll notice these guys need a lot more faith in their religion than do Christians.

“There are, as I see it, ten central propositions in the Humanist philosophy: First, Humanism believes in a naturalistic metaphysics or attitude toward the universe that considers all forms of the supernatural as myth; and that regards Nature as the totality of being and as constantly changing system of matter and energy which exists independently of any mind or consciousness. Second, Humanism, drawing especially upon the laws and facts of science, believes man is an evolutionary product of the Nature of which he is part; that his mind is indivisibly conjoined with the functioning of his brain; and that as an inseparable unity of body and personality he can have no conscious survival after death.”

Notice “Nature” is capitalized! Nature is their god, and evolution is the power of their god. Sort of reminds me of Romans 1:25. Nevertheless, it never ceases to amaze me how these guys make assertions about the mind - something that is immaterial and spiritual - when no one has ever observed it!

Further in the book Lamont makes this bold assertion: “I believe that the facts of science offer overwhelming evidence in support of the Humanist thesis of the inseparable coexistence of body and personality. To begin with, biology has conclusively shown that man and all other forms of life were the result, not of a supernatural act of creation by God, but of an infinitely long process of evolution probably stretching over at least three billions years….” I would really like to see these scientific “facts” that Lamont speaks of!

Lamont makes a lot of these sorts of assertions throughout the book, never once providing evidence for his beliefs, rather it is just because he says so that you are supposed to accept his ideas. Especially in his chapter titled, “This Life is All and Enough.” Well, he also does a lot of that in chapter IV, “Humanism’s Theory of the Universe,” which you can well imagine is 100% evolutionist silliness. Here’s his first bold assertion in this chapter:

“Humanism believes that Nature itself constitutes the sum total of reality…and that supernatural entities simply do not exist. This nonreality of the supernatural means, on the human level, that men do not possess supernatural and immortal souls; and, on the level of the universe as a whole, that our cosmos does not possess a supernatural and eternal God.”

Later Lamont says, “the scientific concept of evolution…effectively negates the old religious idea of a divine creation of the whole universe.” The interesting thing about this is that all the atheistic evolutionists see the incompatibility of evolution with Christianity, but too many Christians think they can merge the two together.

“Matter is self-existent, self-active, self-developing, self-enduring. It is auto-dynamic.” Wow, this sounds like attributes of God, doesn‘t it? So where does matter get all this power and thought process?

Oh, and is there such thing as “Truth” to the humanist? “A careful analysis of both the natural and the social sciences shows, in the first place, that we do not attain something that is to be called ‘absolute’ truth, but rather what John Dewey cautiously describes as ‘warranted assertibility’” So, I wonder, is THAT absolutely true? Does that mean nothing Lamont wrote can be true?

Of course there is no good or bad either: “For Humanism no human acts are good or bad in or of themselves. Whether an act is good or bad is to be judged by the consequences for the individual and society.” So society determines what actions are good or bad? This lets the Nazis off the hook, since as a society they decided exterminating Jews was good.

Ah, but it gets better: “The Humanist refuses to accept any Ten Commandments or other ethical precepts as immutable and universal laws never to be challenged or questioned. He bows down to no alleged supreme moral authority either past or present. … But we can say…some ends justify some means. In getting at the ethical significance of a means-end situation, it is always necessary to be specific and inquire, ‘Does this particular end or set of ends justify this particular means or group of means?’”

Religious Humanism has Nature for a god and evolution for their god’s power. (Or is Matter their god since it already has the power in and of itself?) It has no truth, no innate good or evil, and no moral standard other than what the individual believes is right or wrong. Do your really want one of these guys as your next-door neighbor or the leader of your country?

I’d suggest a re-reading of Romans 1:18-32. And remember Psalm 14:1: “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’”

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

God's View of Polygamy

The idea for this post came about for two reasons: 1) The Mormons still have D&C 132 in their Scripture and it says every man must have more than one wife for exaltation. 2) When discussing same-sex marriage I often point out that redefining marriage would include legalizing polygamy, and sometimes the response is, "What's wrong with that?"

While the Old Testament tells of many persons who have more than one wife, the Bible gives no evidence that God has ever sanctioned this practice. God’s view of marriage was established at the very beginning when He instituted the relationship (all Scripture is from the Holman Christian Standard Bible):

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the LORD God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. And the man said, "This one, at last, is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called woman, for she was taken from man." This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:21-24

Notice that God gave Adam only one wife, with the intent that two become one, not three or four, etc.

The Bible’s first mention of polygamy is in reference to Cain’s son Lamech in Gen. 4:19. Cain was the sinful man who was marked, and his sons learned his wickedness. From that point on it became cultural for some of fallen man to become polygamous. But notice that when God saved Noah and his wife, and their sons and their wives, they were all monogamous; if God felt the need for plural wives to propagate the earth, He would have given them more before sending them aboard the ark.

As sinful man began to multiply many men of means became polygamous (the average man didn’t, because it took wealth to support more than one wife). However, when Moses led Israel out of Egypt and God’s laws were brought forth, one thing God made a point of was that, when Israel wanted an earthly king he was to be of higher character than the average man. Of him God said, He must not acquire many wives for himself so that his heart won't go astray. Deut. 17:17.

In the Proverbs we have a couple passages to consider. In the first the context is keeping away from women who are not one’s wife.

...take pleasure in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful fawn - let her breasts satisfy you; be lost in her love forever. Prov. 5:18b-19. Notice that the writer did not say “wives of your youth,” the implication being that there is only one. And it is that one wife who is to satisfy the man, that he be “ravished with her love.” (KJV)

The next passage is among many general proverbs:

A man who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD. Prov. 18:22 Again notice that the proverb does not say “who finds wives finds a good thing,” the implication again being that a good thing is one wife.

Ecclesiastes has one passage that can shed some light also. Chapter 9, verse 9 says, Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life.... Again the word is “wife” and not “wives.”

Proverbs and Ecclesiastes both approach the marital relationship from the viewpoint of one wife.

In the New Testament Jesus discussed marriage and how the Jews messed up the original plan. He gave the following teaching:

"Haven't you read," He replied, "that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female, and He also said: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate." Matt. 19:4-6  Notice that Jesus refers right back to Genesis to demonstrate the one man/one woman desire of God.

We can next look at what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:2: But because of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. Notice that Paul did not say “wives” or “husbands”; the meaning is clear that each man is to have but one wife.

When Paul was laying down qualifications for Elders and Deacons, part of the qualification of their character was that they only had one wife (harking back to God’s command for the king to have but one wife):
1 Tim. 3:2 An overseer, therefore must be above reproach, the husband of one wife...
1 Tim. 3:12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife...
Tit. 1:5b-6 ...appoint elders in every town, someone who is blameless, the husband of one wife...

So God’s law has always been one wife per man, but He permitted polygamy as he permits divorce; neither is the original intent for marriage. The depiction of plural marriages in the Bible always show marital troubles, which is expected to happen because women are not wired to share their man!