Posted in Christian Faith

Have No Caveats

One of the best pieces of advice I can give Christians who evangelize, talk about their faith, or engage in apologetics is this. 

Have no caveats. 

I have many other bits of advice but this is critically important and all Christians need to internalize it. 

Here’s how this works. 

If someone were to ask you, for example, if you believe the Noah’s Ark account as it is written in the Bible, your answer should be an unequivocal yes. 

Do not, even for a second, entertain notions that it is allegorical, metaphorical, not meant to be taken literally, or not practically, logistically, or scientifically possible.  

Same thing goes for theological points. 

If someone were to ask you if homosexuality, for example, is a sin, you answer should be, again, and unequivocal yes. 

Why?  And I hate to sound cliché or trite but, because the Bible tells me so. 

Yes, you will get laughed at, and people will roll their eyes at you, and there are non-believers (most notably the online variety) who will try to eat you alive because you say such a “ludicrous” thing but look how John MacArthur views the Bible.

Reality is what it is because God declared it so and made it so. Therefore God is the author, source, determiner, governor, arbiter, ultimate standard, and final judge of all truth.

The Old Testament refers to the Almighty as the “God of truth” (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 31:5; Is. 65:16). When Jesus said of Himself, “I am…the truth” (John 14:6, emphasis added), He was thereby making a profound claim about His own deity. He was also making it clear that all truth must ultimately be defined in terms of God and His eternal glory. After all, Jesus is “the brightness of [God’s] glory and the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). He is truth incarnate — the perfect expression of God and therefore the absolute embodiment of all that is true.

Jesus also said that the written Word of God is truth. It does not merely contain nuggets of truth; it is pure, unchangeable, and inviolable truth that (according to Jesus) “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Praying to His heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples, He said this: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Moreover, the Word of God is eternal truth “which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

John MacArthur

You see, “the Bible tells me so” or “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” may indeed sound ludicrous but, get this, only to spiritually unregenerate people who want nothing to do with God or His decrees anyway. But we can stand firm on either of those answers because, as MacArthur rightly noted, “the Word of God is eternal truth.”

When caveats are used the intention is always to make what we are saying more appealing to who we are talking to. I understand that the logic in trying to be congenial seems sound and that Christians are supposed be kind and loving but, if you think about it, what caveats do is effectively negate the very point one is trying to make.

For example, people will often say homosexuality is a sin but so is ____________________ and everyone is guilty of that so… 

Sounds nice, and loving, and conciliatory on its face but there are a few significant problems here. 

  1. It diminishes homosexuality which is a gross and flagrant sin that God detests.
  2. It assumes that there is some neutral ground where believer and non-believer can agree, and there is not.

For my money, caveats are as equally damaging to our message as winsomeness and pragmatism and we need to stop because this is how it looks.

Can’t laugh at these young people, they are they way they are because of the churches they attend so it’s a pastor, elder, church leader issue. But, think about what they are saying and ask yourself how any of it is demonstrably different from any Christian using caveats to make the faith more appealing…

Actually, a thought just occurred to me.

People don’t use caveats to make the faith more appealing at all but, instead, to try to make themselves look good. And that’s worse.

Posted in Biblical Counseling, Christian Faith

This Is What Some Truth And No Love Looks Like

It is not my intent to bust this pastor’s chops or rebuke him publically. In all likelihood he loves God, loves people, and is great at his job.

This, to me, is more a case of solid pastors with sound theological educations lacking the wisdom and skill to counsel those who are struggling mentally and/or emotionally.

Is anxiety a sin? Yes, absolutely, that is clear in Scripture. But there is a distiction between living in the sin of unbelief and lacking faith that God is sovereign and that everything that happens in our lives (good and bad) is in accordance with His good and perfect will and having our faith attacked in times of trouble. And that distinction is always lost in short social media posts.

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.”

Notice that the verse does not say that believers will never feel any anxieties at all but, instead, to cast them onto God when we do experience them.

It’s important for pastors to know that all people will struggle with anxiety every now and then and that is OK and it does not fundamentally make us a sinners who have chosen to do doubt God.

Imagine a pastor telling a sexual assault survivor who experiences anxiety around men, “Don’t worry, God’s got this, you’re only anxious because you don’t have enough faith.”

Imagine a pastor telling someone who just lost their job and has no idea how they are going to provide for their families not to make their situation worse by adding the sin of unbelief.

I am not saying Justin Bullington would ever say such things but that is, fundamentally, what his tweet is saying and it’s wrong.

While Bullington’s words are indeed true, beating people who are suffering over the head with theological truths is both unwise and unloving.

As pastors, it is our job to teach, correct, and rebuke according to Scripture. But it is also our job to put our arms around people, disciple them, and walk with them through their struggles, not to just dismissively call them sinners.

Posted in Christian Faith

You Are Either With Him or You Are Against Him. There is No Middle Ground

The idea that a person can be neutral in regards to religion in general and Christianity in particular is wrong. Jesus taught you were either for him or against him (Matthew 12:30). It is a lie from the pit of Hell to believe you can be neutral toward Jesus. C.S. Lewis understood this point.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” 

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

There are no shades of meaning there.  As well, there is no common ground the Christian and the secularist can agree on about Jesus without one being fully for Him or fully against him. 

I have friend who officiated at a secular wedding a few years ago and, as he usually does, he worked as much of the Gospel into the ceremony as he could.  At the reception a guest he had never met before came up to him and said that he appreciated what he stood for and even offered to donate money to the ministry he ran. But he could not fully accept the whole Jesus thing, it wasn’t, he said, for him. 

I have heard this “just enough Jesus to be respectable but not so much as to be offensive, intolerant, or exclusive” a lot and it has always given me pause. 

Like the “I’m a Christian but…” video that was making its rounds online a few years ago. 

On the surface it sounds nice to say that you are a Christian but not the objectionable kind that no one likes.  But Jesus did not give us that option. 

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” 

                -Matthew 12:30 

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” 

-Luke 11:23

Either you follow Him, do what He says, and let your life be reordered by his teachings OR you are against him. Period.  Full Stop. 

The wedding guest, who was probably a nice person in most respects, might have sincerely believed he appreciated someone standing for Jesus.  But the reality is that he stood firmly against Jesus even if he was not overtly hostile toward Him. 

This same principal applies to all moral and social/political issues where people take a stand.

Either you are for homosexuality or you are against it. 

Either you are for transgenderism or against it. 

Either you are for abortion or against it. 

You can try to qualify your position to make it seem less rigid and more conciliatory, nuanced, or understanding but, like it or not, you are still taking a stand.  Take the libertarian “I personally don’t agree with homosexuality but I have no issues with gay people in general” position.  Sounds fine, in a worldly sense, but IT IS AN ENDORSEMNT of what God clearly calls sin.  And you cannot be for something God hates and be with God at the same time. Christians need to wake up. 

Same things goes for the all too common a Christian case for (insert anti-biblical teaching here) thing I see all the time.  If you entertain ideas, teachings, or concepts that directly contradict what Scripture declares then you are not making a Christian case for something Christians should rightly consider, you are distorting the Truth of God and you need to pause, examine your heart, and try to figure out if you have a genuine saving faith at all or if you have just enough Jesus for “polite society” not to consider you a hater. 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” 

-Matthew 7:21-23

Posted in Biblical Counseling, Christian Faith

Don’t Let Your Disappointment Turn Into Suffering

Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

-1 Peter 4:19 

There is nothing in Scripture that should lead a Christian to believe that they will not suffer.  Fact is, we will all suffer to varying degrees, that is a certainty. 

But let’s, for a second, talk about something that is often experienced as suffering but really isn’t.

Disappointment 

Like suffering, we all experience disappointment and, if we are honest, far more often than we would like.  But we need to be careful that we deal with it in a godly manner, so it does not morph into the sin of discontentment. 

While it isn’t fun to be disappointed, it is natural and, in a way, good for us. Yes, you may not have got the job you interviewed for, or that promotion you were certain was coming. Or you may have put your heart, body, and soul into practice and training and still not made the team. Or you may have received the dreaded rejection letter from the school of your dreams. I could go on but I’m sure you all get it by now. The point is, these things happen, and they do sting a bit, and that is OK. In fact, they can sharpen us and make us better. Didn’t get the job, for example? Work on your interview skills, try adjusting your focus, or, maybe, enroll in a class or seek out some training that will make you more qualified next time a similar job comes along. In other words, we can use disappointment to refine us and make us better. Or, perhaps, it can motivate us to self-reflect and admit that maybe we are on the wrong path or out of step with God.

I wanted to play baseball when I was a kid.  Yeah, I played in the neighborhood with the other kids (back when playing ball in the street was a thing) but I really wanted to be on a team and play for real.  But no matter how many times I tried out, I never made the cut, and every single time I was crushed.  Crushed, that is, until I realized that baseball was not my gift and playing on a team was not in the cards for me.  My love of the game didn’t change any, but my hopes, dreams, and aspirations did.  I continued to play street ball and played on several softball teams over the years but my life as a would be Major League star was over, and that was OK. 

I could say the same thing about my plans to conquer the business world when I retired from the military. I worked hard to earn an MBA before I retired, crafted the perfect resume, did endless research on how to search for, find, and land the dream job. And then I searched, applied, interviewed ad nauseum and never got a call. Day after day after day I got up early, put on a suit, printed resumes, and drove all over town knocking on doors, to no avail. I did eventually land a job doing what I did not think I would be doing and am content now but it was a tough several months to be sure. Actually, it was beyond tough and now, through the lens of hindsight, and I like to think a little more wisdom, I clearly understand why.

Granted, a few months of unemployment would be understandably tough for most people but I let my disappointment slip into discontentment and I lived in that sinful state continuously until things started going my (not God’s) way.

My problem was that I did not see that God was ordering my steps and that He was sovereign over everything, including me not getting what I wanted. In a general sense I never completely lost sight of the fact that God is sovereign but, for a season, I elevated my hopes, dreams, arrogance, pride, desires, and plans over His will for me and it caused me to become angry and bitter with Him and almost everyone else in my life. I have no ability to spin it or describe it in any other way other than that I was woefully discontent with my own estate and living in self-righteousness and pride that said I knew better than God did about what was best for me. And, I was acting like I was the victim of a gross injustice.

My point in writing all of this is this. 

You may indeed be disappointed with what God is doing in your life right now and that, although the pain of disappointment is real, is OK. We are, after all, imperfect. What is not OK however, is to lose sight of the fact that you are where you are, doing what you are doing, and experiencing what you are experiencing at this moment because all are perfectly in line with God’s eternal decrees.

As the verse at the beginning of this post (as well as many others) declare, you will suffer. But be careful not to let setbacks that could be ordained to refine you and point you toward God be the cause of you sliding into sinful discontentment and needless self-induced suffering that is not from God and something you were never meant to experience.

Posted in Christian Faith, Reformed Theology

Creeds and Confessions Keep us on the Right Path

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all, (2Pe 3:16): yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them, (Psa 119:105; Psa 119:130).

The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter One

What this means is that the things in Scripture that are necessary to be known for salvation are plain but there are other points that are not so plain.

To be clear, there are people who do not have the capacity to understand any part of Scripture because they do not have the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14) but they are not the concern of this post.

Anyway, I like the picture above because confessions and creeds keep people, especially laypeople who read the Bible on their own, Christians who sit under poor teaching, and those who are not discipled, from inadvertently veering off into heresy.

Granted, they are not inspired therefore not ultimately authoritative but they have significant value.

“Historically speaking, they are the final crystallization of the elements of evangelical religion, after the conflicts of sixteen hundred years; scientifically speaking, they are the richest and most precise and best-guarded statement ever penned of all that enters into evangelical religion and of all that must be safeguarded if evangelical religion is to persist in the world; and religiously speaking, they are a notable monument of spiritual religion”

B. B. Warfield on the Westminster Standards

There are pastors and those who consider themselves theologians however, that don’t have as high a view of the confessions and creeds as I do because, ironically…

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly, (2Pe 1:21-22; Act 15:15-16).

WCF Chapter One

I said their view is ironic because the very standards they claim Christians should not be so reliant on say exactly the same thing they are saying about interpretation almost word for word.

Further, diminishing the confessions and creeds, stating that they are deficient in some respect, or saying a better practice is relying on one’s own exegesis is dangerous. However well meaning they may be I don’t think there are many things in Christendom worse than someone with a “just me and my Bible” teaching or learning philosophy. I, personally, would not even allow such a person to teach a Sunday School class.

OK, a pastor telling every pastor everywhere that they should never use a Greek word in a sermon unless they speak Greek fluently is worse but, I digress.

Also, I would hate to have to defend the position that the theologians that penned works that have stood up to scrutiny for over 375 years were not guided by the Spirit and did not interpret Scripture as accurately as I can. Where, I would ask a person who throws shade on the confessions and creeds, does your theology differ from, say WCF?

Is exegesis better now? Has theology changed? Why are you right and the WCF wrong?

I am reminded of a conversation I had a while back with a Christian anarchist whose constant refrain was that I need to “let go of my traditions” so I could embrace his conclusions which, I think, is how cults get people to believe then fully embrace the unbelievable.

Whenever I have heard that I need to let go of my traditions over the years it has been from someone who is teaching false doctrine, it never fails. Here is an example from the Christian Left.

Certainly there are religions that claim to be Christian that rely more heavily on tradition than what the Bible clearly teaches, I would never argue against that. But when someone tells a reformed Christian to question, set aside, or disregard their traditions, what they really mean is that they believe they have achieved some higher state of enlightenment than widely respected church fathers and that at least some of their doctrine is bad.

So, are the confessions and creeds divinely inspired and infallible? No, absolutely not. But, here’s the thing, nothing except for the Bible itself is. Not one single sermon, commentary, web page, book, Facebook post, podcast…is.

But knowing the confessions and creeds will serve you well and do exactly what the picture describes.

Posted in Apologetics, Christian Faith

Would you mind not talking about your holy book please?

*For throwback Thursday, I am reposting something that was originally posted back in May…

The other day I ran into an atheist who hated it when Christians reasoned from, referred to, or quoted their “dumb holy book around her” because she believes it’s a work of fictitious nonsense that has no relevance.

My first thought was, well duh, of course atheists don’t like dumb holy books, why would they?

But is it a reasonable to have any expectation that a Christian should be willing to even temporarily set aside his or her dumb holy book?

Further, should a Christian ever consider not reasoning from, referring to, or quoting the Bible even as an act of good will, congeniality, or in the interest of political correctness?

NO! and NO!

First, setting aside the Bible because it offends the sensibilities of someone who is dead in sin is profoundly absurd. Their feelings about the Bible are theirs and not our concern. They hate it? So what.

I was listening to a presuppositional apologetics podcast the other day and the host, Frank Butler, said that setting aside the Word of God was actually mankind’s first mistake. Granted, Adam and Eve did not have the Bible as it exists today but they did have the Word of God and they blatantly disregarded it before they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yes, they were deceived. But would this deception have been possible if they hadn’t set aside God’s Word in order to chat with the deceiver?

Think about that. Had they held fast to God’s Word the outcome might have been completely different.

Second, the Bible is not just a dumb holy book that we should put away when we aren’t at home or at church, it is the rock on which we are supposed to stand. Fact is, the Bible IS TRUTH. This does not mean it simply speaks of truth or it’s “true for you but not for me” but that it IS TRUTH. With it everything makes sense and without it nothing makes sense.

Reality is what it is because God declared it so and made it so. Therefore God is the author, source, determiner, governor, arbiter, ultimate standard, and final judge of all truth.

The Old Testament refers to the Almighty as the “God of truth” (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 31:5; Is. 65:16). When Jesus said of Himself, “I am…the truth” (John 14:6, emphasis added), He was thereby making a profound claim about His own deity. He was also making it clear that all truth must ultimately be defined in terms of God and His eternal glory. After all, Jesus is “the brightness of [God’s] glory and the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). He is truth incarnate — the perfect expression of God and therefore the absolute embodiment of all that is true.

Jesus also said that the written Word of God is truth. It does not merely contain nuggets of truth; it is pure, unchangeable, and inviolable truth that (according to Jesus) “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Praying to His heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples, He said this: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Moreover, the Word of God is eternal truth “which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

John MacArthur
Posted in Christian Faith

Good Teaching on Homosexuality

I am not in the habit of posting videos but this is really good teaching on homosexuality.

It is good throughout but what I really liked is how he answers the common objection that Jesus never talked about homosexuality.

According to Chapter One of The Westminster Confession of Faith…

“The authority of the holy scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God, (who is truth itself,) the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the word of God.i


i 2 Pet. 1:19,21; 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 John 5:9; 1 Thess. 2:13.

If we believe that, and we should, then everything in the Bible should be considered the words of Jesus himself.

As Voddie said (paraphrasing a bit), Jesus is a member of the Godhead and His teachings cannot be separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus created man and woman, Jesus defined marriage, Jesus rained fire down on Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jesus wrote Leviticus.

Posted in Christian Faith, Reformed Theology

Arminians Are On a Road to Rome

I read this [emphasis mine] earlier on a faithful brother’s blog and I have a few thoughts.

“Faith was not something that your use of (as an evangelical or gospel obedience) pulled the trigger on God justifying you. Justification in the catechism is defined as a declarative act on God’s part, so not God’s reaction to my use of faith. This was an issue then and now that some believe in “prevenient grace” the concept that God via Christ destroyed the work of Satan, and sin, and as such returned mankind to a type of neutral spiritual estate, whereby in this life, everyone has been granted faith, but now you just have to use it. This is counter to everything the scripture and the confession has and will say, as there is no mention of a middle or neutral grace of God in scripture. This is an Arminian invention and assumption based on the idea that if man is responsible to choose God, then man “must” have the freedom and ability to do so (add that they have a great distaste for election/reprobation, which is in scripture). This concept, as shown in prior posts, is adamantly fought for at the expense of denying much of what scripture plainly says. The Calvinist does not deny man’s responsibility, and greatly affirms the free offer of the Gospel and even man’s freedom of choice. But the Calvinist also understands the full and true nature of sin in the Bible, and so acknowledges that man’s will in sin, does not and will not have the desire to choose salvation on his own (Romans 3:9-12).”

I mentioned in a comment to Dr. Leonard, this not only resonated with me, it reminded me of my early walk with Christ and where I, even though I was well meaning, went wrong. 

I came to faith 25 or so years ago when the internet was not nearly what it is today. What I mean to say is that I did not have commentaries, confessions, catechisms, and sound teaching readily available at my fingertips, to be accessed whenever I needed them. Literally all I had was faith, a desire to learn, a Bible, and a friend and fellow church member who was just as clueless as I was. No mentors or disciples to speak of either but that is a topic for another post.

Long story short, we jumped right in to the deep end of theology and began to grapple with what is commonly known as Calvinism.   

And. It. Didn’t. Make. Sense. 

There is no way, my young friend and I thought, that God could foreordain some and not others unto salvation. 

Faith must be a free gift that is available to all and we must have the free will to decide if we want it or not, we thought.

What I now realize that this was an assumption and an invention based not on what Scripture plainly teaches but on our own internal sense of right, wrong, and fairness.

But if one is to understand Total Depravity properly, then one’s theology must change from what they think fair to what the Bible teaches. 

The total depravity of man is seen throughout the Bible. Man’s heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). The Bible also teaches us that man is born dead in transgression and sin (Psalm 51:5Psalm 58:3Ephesians 2:1-5). The Bible teaches that because unregenerate man is “dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:5), he is held captive by a love for sin (John 3:19John 8:34) so that he will not seek God (Romans 3:10-11) because he loves the darkness (John 3:19) and does not understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Therefore, men suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) and continue to willfully live in sin. Because they are totally depraved, this sinful lifestyle seems right to men (Proverbs 14:12) so they reject the gospel of Christ as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18) and their mind is “hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is unable to do so” (Romans 8:7). 

If that is the proper understanding of total depravity, and I think it is, then how would someone in their natural sate chose salvation when we naturally don’t want anything to do with God? 

Yes, we do decide and some do reject the Gospel of Christ as foolishness, but this choice is not made from neutral ground nor from a fictional state of “prevenient grace” as many, including the younger me, believe. We choose what we want, and that choice is consistent with our character so we have free-will in a sense. But we cannot choose to have faith in Christ unto salvation unless we are justified by God first.

And this justification is in concert with an effectual calling, which is described in John 6:44.

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” 

The Greek word translated “draw” is helkuo which literally means “to drag” which is clearly a one-sided arrangement.   

I heard a sermon on this by R.C. Sproul the other day in which he recalled a debate he had with an Arminian who said that same Greek word was used in a First Century poem to describe drawing water out of a well, so it does not necessarily always mean “drag.” Fair point on the usage of the word but Dr. Sproul rightly noted that we don’t get water out of a well by calling to it or offering it a choice but, instead, we lower a bucket into the well and scoop the water up. And, ironically to the person who made the point, scooping water out of a well is an apt way of describing effectual calling

I know most people consider Calvinism vs. Arminianism to be a secondary point in Christianity and we can, in spite of our differences, enjoy fellowship together and I believe that. I love my Arminian brothers and sisters and I do not, in any way, think they are not saved.

However, it is important to note that The Westminster Confession of Faith, as well as other confessions and creeds are not in agreement with Arminianism and that both sides where once militarized, and one was tried and convicted as heresy.

So, my dear Arminian brothers and sisters. You may indeed be saved but you are no less on a road to Rome, and you need to adjust your course.

I recollect an Arminian brother telling me that he had read the Scriptures through a score or more times and could never find the doctrine of election in them. He added that he was sure he would have done so if it had been there, for he read the Word on his knees. I said to him, “I think you read the Bible in a very uncomfortable posture, and if you had read it in your easy chair, you would have been more likely to understand it. Pray, by all means, and the more, the better, but it is a piece of superstition to think there is anything in the posture in which a man puts himself for reading: and as to reading through the Bible twenty times without having found anything about the doctrine of election, the wonder is that you found anything at all: you must have galloped through it at such a rate that you were not likely to have any intelligible idea of the meaning of the Scriptures.”

Spurgeon’s best sermon on the doctrine’s of grace.

Posted in Christian Faith, Reformed Theology

Q1. What is the chief and highest end of man?

A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God,1 and fully to enjoy him forever.2

Romans 11:36: For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. 1 Corinthians 10:31: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

2 Psalm 73:24-28: You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. John 17:21-23: that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

From The Westminster Larger Catechism

Posted in Apologetics, Christian Faith

The Christian faith doesn’t rise and fall on the accuracy of 66 ancient documents

A while back I saw this in a presuppositional apologetics Facebook group I am a member of.

I am not on Twitter so I did not see the since deleted tweet nor any of the comments or additional context/explanation Stanley may have provided there. One of the things I actually hate about Twitter (other than that it is generally a dumpster fire) is that tweets are often ripped from whatever context there may have been and used to build a case against the tweeter which is, I think, unfair.

That said, this tweet does look bad but, still, it does deserve fair treatment rather than the scorn it seems to be getting.

In full disclosure I make it a habit to give pastors, unless they have proved themselves to be blatantly heretical, the benefit of the doubt as well as what could be considered by some an undue amount of grace.

The work of a pastor is not only deadly serious, it’s hard. And that, combined with the fact that we all have different philosophies about how to run a church, different target audiences, different personalities, and different teaching and preaching styles, makes it that much harder. So knocking a pastor because he is not leading, preaching, and teaching in the exact same manner I would is, and I hate to overuse the term, unfair.

Anyway, I did an assignment a couple months ago where I had to compare and contrast a book written by Andy Stanley with a book written by another pastor. Here is an excerpt from that assignment I think is relevant, emphasis added.

It is an unconventional approach to want people to attend a church knowing full well that they may not buy the theology but Stanley and his team “are committed to creating churches for unchurched people and fighting the pull for their churches to become churches for church people.”[4] Stanley realized that there was a problem with how traditional churches do church and a new way ahead was needed so unconventional was his objective. But if truth suffers because of his objective, then the objective should be questioned. Stanley writes that “People are far more interested in what works than what’s true. I hate to burst your bubble, but virtually nobody in your church is on a truth quest, including your spouse. They are on happiness quests.”[5] Assuming this is true, is biblical truth being sacrificed in order to make the unchurched Stanley is trying to attract to his church happy? Stanley also writes that, “Attractional or seeker friendly churches who strive to be so accepting they extend too much grace truth becomes a casualty.”[6]

The consumerism, desire to make people happy with their church experience, and a disproportionate desire to attract the unchurched rather than feed the churched can have a negative impact on seeker friendly and attractional churches and Stanley obviously understands that. There is no data in Stanley’s book to suggest his church has suffered but that possibility certainly exists and he may need to adjust his church’s laser focus on the unchurched and their happiness quests and make much of the Gospel instead.

James A. Hatt

As I noted in the assignment. Stanley clearly understands that his attractional church model can cause truth to become a casualty yet he is pressing on and I think this is dangerous. Not heretical, per-se, but it is not a good path for someone who has a biblical mandate to stand on biblical truth to be on.

In an article in Outreach Magazine, Stanley explains his position.

For post-Christians, common sense, science, philosophy and reason are the go-tos for worldviews and decision-making. Post-Christian nones have a low tolerance for faith-based answers to fact-based questions. At the same time, like most of us, they aren’t exactly on a truth quest either. They’re on a happiness quest. Many walked away from faith because faith didn’t make them happy. That’s never a presenting reason. Nobody wants to appear that shallow. But scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find the quest for happiness plays a big role. When faith is viewed as an impediment to happiness, goodbye faith. The seemingly irrational, anti-science version of faith many were brought up on makes it that much easier to simply walk away. Given all of that, this next statistic should not come as any surprise. When asked about their views of Scripture, 72 percent of nones said that it is not the Word of God. This data is corroborated by data compiled in a massive study conducted by the Barna Group.

Outreach

Credit where credit is due, Stanley has his finger directly on the pulse of post-Christians. He gets them and he understands how they think. On them, I think Stanley and I are in complete agreement. Where we part ways is how to reach them.

A few months ago my pastor said that love without truth is meaningless and truth without love is mean and that is something all pastors need to be constantly aware of in our messaging, our teaching, our preaching, and our evangelism. I think Stanley means well but he is dancing on the edge of a razor and he is in real danger of falling off into a space that is all love, acceptance, and happiness and no truth.

Stanley understands the go-tos for post-Christian worldviews and has an admirable desire to reach the unchurched, dechurched, and nones. But this cannot be done by conceding any ground regarding biblical truths to them no matter how congenial we may think it makes us. Ultimately our goal is not to acknowledge that people are on a happiness quest and change the trajectory of our churches and tailor what our churches offer our communities to make people happier. Instead, our singular focus needs to be acknowledging that the unchurched, dechurched, and nones are dead and that the Gospel is the only thing that can make them alive.

In the same Outreach article, Stanley also wrote this which, I think, represents a fundamental misunderstanding of people as the Bible describes them.

There is an important distinction between a non-Christian and a post-Christian. The reason our evangelistic endeavors result in more recycling than actual conversion is that our methods and approaches assume non-Christian rather than post-Christian.

Although I get what he is trying to say there is no distinction between non-Christians and post-Christians at all, they are equally dead. Post-Christians may appear to be hipper and cooler, and have better and more philosophical or scientific reasons to reject faith but, on a fundamental level, they are no different than the proud Greeks of Paul’s day and no less dead without a savior. In other words, Stanley is simply putting a modern veneer on an old problem.

Perhaps the most damming thing Stanley said to defend himself is this.

Appealing to post-Christian people on the basis of the authority of Scripture has essentially the same effect as a Muslim imam appealing to you on the basis of the authority of the Quran. You may or may not already know what it says. But it doesn’t matter. The Quran doesn’t carry any weight with you. You don’t view the Quran as authoritative.

Again, I get it, post-Christians don’t view the Bible as authoritative, unbelievers of all kinds never have and never will, it is nothing new. That should be Christianity 101. But the answer to this is not to diminish the truth of the Bible to appear more reasonable or in touch with a “modern and more discerning” generation of dead people but to stand on the Bible as literally the only truth that exists.

Jesus also said that the written Word of God is truth. It does not merely contain nuggets of truth; it is pure, unchangeable, and inviolable truth that (according to Jesus) “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Praying to His heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples, He said this: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Moreover, the Word of God is eternal truth “which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

John MacArthur

The problem with post-Christians is not that they don’t accept the Bible as authoritative but that pastors concede to them that belief and willingly try to appeal to them in other ways when there are no other ways.

I want to make it clear that I am not trying to knock Andy Stanley. I think he loves God, loves people, and that he sincerely wants to be faithful to his calling as a pastor. I also admire his desire to reach the unchurched, I have the same desire, they need the Gospel desperately.

But he is grossly in error when he puts the inviolable Word of Truth under the authority of the opinion of people who are dead in sin. The Bible doesn’t carry any weight with unbelievers? So what. Stand on it anyway.

While meeting people where they are is a biblical concept there is no scriptural support for anything other than the fact that the Bible is the very Word of Truth from beginning to end.