How Should We Then Live?

In 1976 Francis Schaeffer, an American evangelical theologian, released his book How Should We Then Live. The book focused on what our lives as followers of Christ should look like given the intellectual and moral decline of Western culture throughout the preceding centuries.

That question is as relevant today as it was in 1976. One contemporary pastor and teacher, John MacArthur, addressed the question in a sermon called, “How to Live in a Crooked and Perverse Generation” offering some keen insight into today’s moral and cultural decline, as well as sound biblical advice for how we, as Christians, ought live in the midst of the turmoil.

The remainder of this article summarizes the highlights of Dr. MacArthur’s sermon, with portions of Philippians, Chapter 2 as the main source.

Paul’s letter to the church of Philippi presents three basic realities to navigate the times in which we live; 1) Where we are; 2) Who we are; and 3) How we are to live.

Where are we?

In verse 15, the Apostle Paul said to the small church in Philippi: “…we are in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” Dr. MacArthur descried Philippi as “The only church in Europe in the midst of paganism – poor, persecuted, attacked by false teachers, marked by internal discord and disunity.”

Jesus himself used the phrase “crooked and perverse generation”. In Matthew 17, and again in Luke 9 Jesus said to the Jews of His day, “You are an unbelieving and perverted generation.” There are also other biblical references to consider.

Proverbs 2 tells us:

“Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.” (Prov 2:11)

The prophet Isaiah described rebellious and disobedient people pf his day:

“Their feet run to evil, they hasten to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, devastation and destruction are in their highways. They do not know the way of peace, there’s no justice in their tracks; they have made their paths crooked, whoever treads on them does not know peace.” (Isa 59:7-8)

We also have examples in Apostolic preaching. When he preached at Pentecost, Peter told his audience “Be saved from this crooked and perverse generation!” (Acts 2:4)

Fast forward to now. Our own country, our nation, and today’s world seems to be bent on systematically eliminating morality and religion while promoting and even celebrating that which God calls “abomination”. Evil is called good and good evil.

Where are we? We are right where God wants us to be; living in a world that’s exactly what it has always been.

Who are we?

Our Philippians text answers that, as well, in verse 15:

”. . .you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear lights in the world”,

First, we are children of God.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. “ (John 1:12-13)

We are not only His children, we are also “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17).

The world has no idea what that means, but we have an inner certainty that our status as God’s children is true, The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God.” (Rom 8:16).

So here we are, children of God living in a corrupt and perverse generation, exactly where we are supposed to be!

Secondly, we are lights in the world. The Greek word for ‘lights’ in the text is used to describe the sun, moon and stars. Just as the sun, moon, and stars the luminaries that light the darkness in creation, we shine as luminaries in the darkness of Satan’s kingdom.

How are we to live?

Consider the fact that, as children of God and citizens of His kingdom, we live in a parallel universe. John 18 explains it. When before Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate asked him “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

The kingdom is God; the kingdom of Christ is a spiritual reality separate from every earthly kingdom. So how do we live in this parallel universe? Let’s turn back to our passage in Philippian’s, Chapter 2 and look at the imperatives we are given.

The first imperative for our lives is given in verses 5 and 8 . ”Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus”. . . “Humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross.” Our lives should be marked by an attitude of humility in every aspect.

A humble attitude enables us to fulfill our calling to:

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil 2:3-4)

So, the first imperative is to have the same attitude of humility that Christ had. The second imperative is found in verses 12 & 13:

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence ,work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.”

We are to “work out” our salvation, not work “for” our salvation, but we are to get out of God’s way and let HIM work, with an attitude of worship, an attitude of “fear and trembling”. How do we do that – work out our salvation? We are called to live lives of obedience to God and pursue blameless, innocent, and virtuous lives.

God Bless Your Journey!

With a Soul Blood Bought

With a soul blood-bought and a heart aglow,
Redeemed of the Lord and free;
I ask as I pass down the busy street,
“Is it only a crowd I see?
Do I lift my eyes with a careless gaze
That perceives no deep-down woe?
Have I naught to give to the teeming throng
Of the wealth of the love I know?”

Chorus
Let me look at the crowd as my Saviour did,
Till my eyes with tears grow dim;
Let me look till I pity the wandering sheep
And love them for love of Him.

As I read in the gospel story oft
Of the Christ who this earth once trod,
I fancy I see His look on the crowd,
That look of the Son of God.
He saw not a number in might and strength,
But a shepherdless flock distressed;
And the sight of those weary fainting sheep,
Brought grief to His loving breast.

Dear Lord, I ask for the eyes that see
Deep down to the world’s sore need;
I ask for the love that holds not back,
But pours out itself indeed.
I want that passionate power of prayer,
That yearns for the great crowd’s soul;
I want to go ‘mong the fainting sheep,
And tell them my Lord makes whole.
-Mrs. R.A. Jarvie-
Online Source:  Today’s Hymn: With a Soul Blood-bought and a Heart Aglow | Salem Chapel, Martin Top

The REST of the Story

“– in a minute, you’re going to hear the rest of the story.” – Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey was an American radio broadcaster from 1951 – 2008. Beginning in 1951, he broadcast News and Comment for ABC Radio News. In 1976 his famous The Rest of the Story program premiered, in which he provided backstories behind famous people and events.  The program was broadcast for 33 years, until his death in 2009. The programs would conclude with another famous quote:

“And now you know — the REST of the story.”

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The month of December marks, for many, the end of their favorite time of the year – the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. There are Christmas lights everywhere, Christmas music all the time on radio and stations and Christmas movies on every channel. People flock to stores and shopping malls to find gifts for friends and loved ones. And of course, there is all of the wonderful family time!

Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, which honors the incarnation of the Son of God. Setting aside any discussions/arguments about Jesus’ actual date of birth, as well as all the other ways we engage in debating the virtues of celebrating Christmas as a special day, let us honor the birth of our Savior and Messiah!

LET US REJOICE WITH THE PROPHET!

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” Isaiah 9:6-7

LET US MARVEL WITH THE SHEPHERDS!

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”” Luke 2:8-14

LET US BOW DOWN IN HUMILITY WITH JOSEPH!

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). – Matthew 1:18-23

It’s in the words of the angel of the Lord that we find the central purpose for which Jesus came to earth.

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”- Mattthew 1:21

While we would all agree that Jesus was the greatest gift given to men in the history of the universe, let us remember and reflect upon

the fact that it’s Christ’s death for OUR sin that made it the greatest gift ever given to us by an all-loving God. As the Apostle John so simply and eloquently tells us:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Should we not daily carry in our hearts the sentiment of the Apostle Paul, as he counseled a young preacher?

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”  – 1 Timothy 1:15

While we celebrate Christ’s birth, let us remember that His incarnation was but the beginning of a journey – a journey that lead to the Cross at Calvary where Jesus paid the price for OUR sin, and that by God’s design. Listen to the Apostle Peter preaching in Jerusalem at Pentecost:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” – Acts 2:22-23

But there’s MORE! The journey didn’t end at Calvary!

The singular event, without which our faith in the Christ Child would be in vain, was yet to come! Peter continued:

“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”  – Acts 2:24

Let us envision, with the Apostle John, that great scene in heaven:

“Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” – Revelation 5:1-9

Enjoy this wonderful Season with friends, family, schoolmates, co-workers, and maybe even the strangers you meet standing in line at your local pharmacy, or waiting for the downtown bus, or your flight home for the holidays

Above all, Dear friends, as we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus this year, let us also hold close to our hearts His journey to the Cross and beyond, and while doing so, let us pray for and look for opportunities to share, with great love and compassion, the REST of the story!

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5 Common Misconceptions of Reformation Day

by David Qaoud | Filed under: Theology Church History, Martin Luther,

For many people the date October 31 is significant not only for being the Eve of All Saints (All Hallows Eve, Halloween) but as the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. These theses were a list of arguments against the abuses of the papacy as it was in the early 16th century, largely centering on the sale of indulgences by the Roman Church. The 95 theses were quickly copied and distributed with the emerging printing press, and soon became a manifesto of sorts for the reform of the church in Europe.

Reformation Day

The 500th anniversary of this event is quickly approaching.

Because of this many people are talking about the Reformation and interest in Reformation events and theologies is swelling. Along with this interest and discussion comes several of the myths or misconceptions about the Reformation that have been perpetuated over the years.

As a historical theologian I am not only interested in these misconceptions for accuracy’s sake (though I do care about accuracy) but also because I believe that holding to faulty conceptions about the Reformation does harm to the actual intentions and aims of the Protestant Reformers.

For this reason, I am going to briefly address 5 of these misconceptions and discuss why correcting them is important.

1. Nailing the 95 Theses to the Church Door Was an Act of Protest

We have likely seen the images.

Reformation Day

The defiant young Luther in his billowing monastic robes, brandishing his hammer, brazenly nailing his protest to the door of the institution that he was fed up with. But this isn’t what happened.

By late 1517 Luther certainly had issues with the Church, and especially with the sale of indulgences that was being preached in German lands by Tetzel, but his theology of justification was not yet fully formed and he had no intention yet of starting off a firestorm of reformation. What he did want to do was start a local theological reform emanating from the university he taught at along the lines of what he was reading in the writings of Augustine.

So when he nailed his theses to the door, he was instigating a formal academic theological discussion, or disputatio (disputation). He nailed it to the door of the church because that’s where you put notices. It was like a bulletin board. He was calling for an academic exercise, not necessarily trying to kick off a widespread church reform, even if God eventually used it for that end.

Why does this matter?

For one it helps us to see just how hungry the entire continent was for reform. Luther’s theses happened to hit a nerve. They went viral. But often, just like today, things go viral that we wouldn’t expect or could foresee. Who would think that a syllabus posted on an academic bulletin board would be what God would use to start the reform?

But that’s what happened. It wasn’t the first university that God used to reform the church, and it wouldn’t be the last.

2. That the Reformation Commenced Immediately After the Nailing

First of all, the Reformation was already underway!

Zwingli had already been preaching the gospel and reforming the church for several years before he heard of Luther. And for Luther, it would take 3 or 4 years before his ideas were fully formed and he started calling for widespread reform in his writings and subsequently began receiving condemnation for them by papal opponents. No one woke up on All Saints Day in 1517 thinking that the Reformation had started. One could argue that a more significant date for the beginning of the Reformation would be the Diet of Worms in 1521 and Luther’s subsequent exile. Before that, things were largely academic. After the Diet, things got real. But whatever moment we choose, the nailing of the theses has been invested with meaning well beyond warrant.

Why does this matter?

It matters for a number of reasons.

First of all, it leads us to discount the reforming movements that were started by earlier leaders like John Wycliffe (14th c.) and Jan Hus (15th c.). It also leads us to neglect the fact that the Reformation was a widespread grassroots movement that would have likely happened independent of Luther.

Furthermore, Luther’s ideas were not even fully formed in 1517, as you can see for yourself by reading his early treatises on the sacraments. The real call for reform by Luther begins in 1520 and takes off in 1521 after his exile.

Before this, not much reform had really taken place. Liturgical reforms didn’t take place until 1523. Luther was still living as a monk in 1524, and didn’t marry until 1525. Zwingli had already beaten him to that by a year.

3. That Luther Was the First Reformer

I’ve kind of already busted this myth. Luther was not the first or only reformer of the church.

“Luther was not the first or only reformer of the church.”

Reform has always been a key element of church life going well back to the first millennium. Ambrose (4th c.) and Augustine (5th c.) were reformers. Benedict (6th c.) and Gregory the Great (7th c.) were reformers. The Carolingians (8th-9th c.) were reformers. Bernard of Clairvaux (12th c.) was a reformer. Gregory VII (11th c.) , Innocent III (13th c.) and St. Francis of Assisi (13th c.) were all reformers. They all faced significant issues in the Church that need to change and they addressed them through a combination of moral, missional, theological, and ecclesiological reforms.

But even closer to the time of Luther, he wasn’t the first or only. John Wycliffe had been writing about similar issues in England from the 14th century. Jan Huss had a very similiar program of reform in Prague in the 15th century. Ulrich Zwingli was already at work in the Swiss Churches and Martin Bucer in the Western German churches.

Luther stands in as one of these great reformers, and while the most influential and important, he was by no means the first or the only.

Why does this matter?

Again, we do ourselves a disservice in our appreciation and study of the Reformation if we do not also heed the events and theologies of the other reformers. Luther was building on Augustine. Hus was building on Wycliffe. Bucer had heard Luther speak, but was already well on his way. Zwingli was spurred on through study of Augustine and of the Bible. We need to both give credit to all these reformers and study their ways and means. It will help us in our modern day need to continue reforming the church and to address the issues of our day.

4. That Luther Did it All on His Own

Luther was a towering personality. And he was a great theologian and leader. But he needed lots of help along the way.

We might tend to think that it was the merit of his message that caused his success and the success of the Reformation, but that would again be a misconception.

There’s little separating the teachings and reforming actions of Hus and Luther. Yet the reason why Luther succeeded when Hus didn’t was that Luther had strong military and political support from his local rulers. Frederick of Saxony was interested in humanism and church reform from the 1480s. He founded the University of Wittenberg to that end and invited Luther and Melancthon to come teach there. When Luther was under threat from his excommunication, Frederick hid Luther and protected his life during his exile. He funded Luther’s translation of the New Testament into German. He and other German princes continued to support his reforms and caused them to be able to take place. The German Reformation probably doesn’t take place, at least as we know it, without Frederick of Saxony.

The same can be said of Zwingli in Zurich, Cranmer in England, Knox in Scotland, and Calvin in Geneva. Without the support of their local rulers, none of it ever happens.

Hus was burned at the stake and his reform was quashed because of a lack of political support. By God’s providence Luther got what Hus didn’t. But we shouldn’t think that Luther was a better man because he succeeded. He got by with a lot of help from his friends.

Why does this matter?

This helps us see the grassroots nature of the Reformation. It was a groundswell, bottom up movement. The papacy was incapable at the time of reforming even though there had been calls to reform for over 100 years. The leadership was corrupt. Luther in many ways served as a mascot and leader for the Reform, but it would not have happened without the enthusiastic support of so many.

When the leadership is against you and threatening you with death, it shifts the movement underground. But underground movements can be the most powerful. As soon as you forbid something, everyone wants to have it. That’s what happened during the Reformation.

This is also why Calvin addressed King Francis of France with his prefatory address in his Institutes. It may not make much sense to us now because of our strict separation between church and state, but Calvin knew if he could gain the King of France as a convert, the church in France could be reformed.

In fact, the only places where the Reformation flourished were places where local rulers supported it in some way. Governments can have a major effect on the flourishing or suppressing of the faith.

5. That the Reformers Intended to Split From the Catholic Church

This is the most important and often most misunderstood aspect of the Reformation.

The Protestant Reformers, Luther included, wanted to reform the Church, not split from the church.

That means that they wanted to remain Catholic and reform the Catholic Church. This was their goal at the outset and remained the goal well into the 16th century. Even Calvin holds out hope for a general council that would meet to reform and reunify the church. There were many who hoped that Trent would be that council, but alas, it was not able to be that. Its hardline approach drove a wedge between them and the Protesting churches, and still functions as a dividing wall to this day.

Furthermore, we should not see it as the Protestants splitting from the Catholic Church and forming a new church, with the old church remaining being the Catholic Church.

Rather, we should see both the Protestant and the Roman Catholic traditions as heirs of the Western Catholic church, both having formerly been a part of it and split from it by dividing from each other. The Reformers argued this extensively, and they did not shy away from calling themselves “Catholic.”

The Reformation was very local. In local areas (cities, regions, countries) it wasn’t as if the local churches split and some of them were now protestant. No, in local areas, all the churches continued on as they had for 1,000 years. Some were reformed according to the tenets of the Protestant Reformation. Others were reformed according to the program that Trent laid down. Regardless, both church traditions, Protestant and Roman Catholic, are properly heirs of the Catholic Church.

Why does this matter?

It matters because Protestant churches need to see themselves as the heirs of the Ancient and Medieval Church.

When we look back in history, we need to understand that it is “us” that we are reading about, not somebody else. Augustine belongs to “us” as much as he belongs to Roman Catholics. Francis belongs to “us”. Anselm, Bonaventure, and Thomas belong to us. That’s our family and our tradition. We need to realize that and reacquaint ourselves with the riches of the theological tradition that is ours. The Protestant Reformers did not reject the past. Luther engaged to reform the German church according to the Bible and the teachings of Augustine. Calvin loved Augustine and greatly appreciated Bernard, Anselm, and Chrysostom. The Reformation was not a rejection of the past, but actually a return to the truth of the early traditions of the Church. Ad fontes (to the sources), meant not only to go back to the Bible, but to return to the Church Fathers.

As Protestants, we need to hear this. We need to embrace our rich family story. We need to sit at the feet of our Fathers and Mothers.

We are the Catholic Church.


About David Qaoud

David Qaoud (MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary) is associate pastor of Bethesda Evangelical Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and founder of gospelrelevance.com. His work has appeared on The Gospel Coalition, For the Church, and Banner of Truth. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and two children. Learn more.

Th article was a guest contribution for Gospel Relevance  byTim LeCroy who blogs at   https://pastortimlecroy.com/

Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS)?

A friend of mine wrote a rather long post on Facebook all about OSAS doctrine. A particular paragraph in his post really grabbed my attention. This post contains the text of his post and my response, for what it’s worth. Although the Bible contains much (to say the least) that teaches the eternal security of the true believer, my response revolves around a small portion of my friend’s post and the text of John 10:28 – 29, which I believe is more than adequate to refute my friends position on the matter. I also included a couple of good commentaries. I was not trying to win an argument, but I did want to encourage searching scripture, which he also recommended.

Without any further banter on my part, here is the text of my friend’s FB post and my response. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

My friend’s FB post:

The passages below all deal with the doctrine of once saved always saved. Every teacher needs to be questioned and checked. If we just accept what we are told by someone then we are doing that person and our brothers and sisters a huge disservice. Please pray over and go through the word with anything that is fed to you. If it is from God then the Spirit will make that clear and will bring you to an even deeper understanding of the teaching. If it is not from God then the Spirit will make that clear as well and you will learn still more about God. Checking what a teacher feeds us can only bring us closer to Jesus. That said………

It is a deliberate choice for us to repent and follow Jesus. Salvation is not something that we stumble into one day by doing good, being good enough, or somehow balancing the scales between good and evil toward good.

Neither does one lose or reject the salvation given to us by Jesus by stumbling out of our walk with Him. It is a deliberate choice. It is not the result of simply sinning, committing a certain amount of sin, or somehow balancing the scales between good and evil toward evil.

Jesus died once for our sin. He did not die twice or more. Those who choose to repent and follow Jesus die with Him. Those who choose to deny Him will be denied by Him. There is no separation shown between Christians and Non-Christians in this. At no point is the ability to choose or the will of a Christian removed. Having the desire taken from us is not the same as having the choice taken from us. Being a new creation does not mean that the creation cannot be warped or contaminated. Adam was a new creation that walked physically with God and he turned from God.

Romans chapter six dwells specifically on choice. Telling us that our master is the one we choose (current action) to serve. It does not say that our master is the one that we chose (past action) to serve.

Over and over throughout Scripture we are told to endure (current action) and when Jesus told us that anyone who takes their hand off of the plow is not worthy, He did not limit or specify a point in the work at which that applied.

In the parable of the seeds/soils we are given a powerful message. In all four cases it was the same seed that was sown. In three of the four examples the seeds grew and had life. Apple seeds do not grow into pecan trees. The same type of seed grows the same plant. Only the soil is different.

In the case of scripture saying that we cannot be taken, separated, or snatched from the hand of God it is often stated that this would apply to us as well. In the passages where such terminology is used it refers to something outside of the person that would be taking them from God and not the person themselves. Nowhere does it say that we cannot walk away.

At the end of the Revelation there is a penalty listed for taking away from the prophecy. Suffice it to say that one cannot lose something they do not have. We are told in Hebrews that those who were partakers of the Holy Spirit and turn away from Christ cannot repent again. It is in effect crucifying (a cursed death) Jesus a second time and it is cursing the Holy Spirit (which Jesus said is unforgivable).

Scripture tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. He loved us so much that Jesus suffered a cursed and painful death to shed His blood for our sin. That sacrifice was for the entire world. That love is so great that Jesus gave Himself up even for those that He knew would deny Him. His love is not limited to Christians.

Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23

Matthew 18: 21-35

John 5:24-25, 10:28-29

Romans 6

Hebrews 6:4-6, 9:20-28

2 Timothy 2:11-13

Revelation 22:19

My response:

You said:

“In the case of scripture saying that we cannot be taken, separated, or snatched from the hand of God it is often stated that this would apply to us as well. In the passages where such terminology is used it refers to something outside of the person that would be taking them from God and not the person themselves. Nowhere does it say that we cannot walk away.”

There was a time when I agree with you concerning being able to snatch oneself out of the double fisted hand of God, however I had to change my opinion after careful study. Here are the relevant passages.

Joh 10:28 “and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

Joh 10:29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

The key words are “no one-(NASB), or “no man” (KJV)

“no on/no man” in the Greek (Strong’s):

From G3761 and G1520; not even one (man, woman or thing), that is, none, nobody, nothing: – any (man), aught, man, neither any (thing), never (man), no (man), none (+ of these things), not (any, at all, -thing), nought.

Total KJV occurrences: 233

“No man” means exactly what it says – no man, woman, or thing (NOTHING)

One has to read into the passages (eisegesis) the notion that “no one” refers to that which is outside of the believer.

COMMENTARIES

ALBERT BARNES

None is able – None has power to do it. In these two verses we are taught the following important truths:

1. That Christians are given by God the Father to Christ.

2. That Jesus gives to them eternal life, or procures by his death and intercession, and imparts to them by his Spirit, that religion which shall result in eternal life.

3. That both the Father and the Son are pledged to keep them so that they shall never fall away and perish. It would be impossible for any language to teach more explicitly that the saints will persevere.

4. That there is no power in man or devils to defeat the purpose of the Redeemer to save his people. We also see our safety, if we truly, humbly, cordially, and daily commit ourselves to God the Saviour. In no other way can we have evidence that we are his people than by such a persevering resignation of ourselves to him, to obey his law, and to follow him through evil report or good report. If we do that we are safe. If we do not that we have no evidence of piety, and are not, cannot be safe.

BIBLE KNOWLEDGE COMMENTARY

My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. That is, no one is strong enough to snatch any of Jesus’ flock from the Father’s hand (or from Jesus’ hand, Joh_10:28). As the NIV margin states, Joh_10:29 in many early Greek manuscripts reads, “What My Father has given Me is greater than all.” The thought of the verse in either case is that the Father who is omnipotent secures the flock by His power and protection. God’s plan of salvation for Jesus’ flock cannot be aborted.

Also, I must ask, what does “never perish” mean in verse 28? If it means wake up in hell (and it does), I then have to ask another question. “If you walk away from / ‘take yourself away from God’ (your expression), would you eventually wake up in Hell?

There is much more to say from scripture concerning the eternal security of the believer that makes it abundantly clear that He who began a good work will bring it to completion. I sometimes use the phrase “Those whom God saves, God keeps.”

I’ll leave it right there.

What Do We Make of Radical Islamicism?

October 1, 2012, Summit Ministries

This is a good article from Summit Ministries. I found it informative and accurate.

What Do We Make of Radical Islamicism?

Each year, September 11 brings up visceral memories for millions of Americans. Feelings of fear and uncertainty. Mental images of dust settling around Manhattan, buildings collapsing, and first responders working endlessly. And so many questions. How could this happen? Who would commit such a violent act?

And now, the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya have brought up many of the same questions. Though many legitimate questions about the attack remain, the perpetrators are, in fact, known: Islamic terrorists with ties to al Qaeda. Once again, Americans are drawn to the turmoil in the Middle East and the tension of two different narratives: one of violent, jihad-driven Islamists and one of Muslim neighbors simply trying to make a good life for themselves. So how do we make sense of the images we see on network news each night and the snapshots many of us observe in our neighborhoods, towns, and communities? What are the worldwide implications of these competing narratives, and how do we engage Muslims in light of that?

A Story of Two Islams: Traditional and Reformed

Although similarities do exist between Christianity and Islam, there are myriad differences. One similarity is that there are “denominational differences” in Islam just as there are in Christianity. Varying interpretations of the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sunnah — the three authoritative texts of Islam — have produced different forms of Islam, according to Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, a Summit lecturer and former Muslim. Broadly speaking, some Muslims adhere to a traditionalist Islam, which takes all the material in the three sources literally. Others, meanwhile, adhere to a reformed Islam, which dismisses the abusive aspects of Islam by claiming they are no longer culturally relevant, especially when they are violent and mistreat women. Qureshi’s theory is that the worldwide rise in violence among Muslims in recent years is due to the spread of information. More Muslims are now able to see the original texts for themselves, including calls to violence. This rising awareness, though, has also fueled the growth of reformed Islam. “All [of reformed Islam’s] teachings don’t jive with original sources,” Qureshi said. As far as Islam’s ability to assimilate into other cultures, Muslim rejection of Islam’s violent teachings is a good thing.

Abdu Murray, also a former Muslim and another Summit lecturer, agreed that many Muslims — particularly those in the West — simply don’t adhere to many of the commands of Islamic scripture. “I can’t tell you how many Muslims are nominal at best,” he said. “They are [only] cultural Muslims. If it were a crime to be an orthodox Muslim, they couldn’t be convicted of it.” That’s why he says it’s important for non-Muslims to note well the difference between Islam — the actual religion left by Muhammad, which calls for violence toward nonbelievers and a full political ideology — and Muslims — those who say they follow Islam. “We have to understand there’s a spectrum of Muslims,” he said. “They hold their worldview with a varying degree of tightness.”

Even the Islamic scriptures themselves are conflicting. At various places within the Qur’an (the Islamic holy book, written by Muhammad), the Hadith (sayings of Muhammad), and the Sunnah (doctrines of practice lived out or advocated by Muhammad) violence is in fact a flagstone (see surah 9 of the Qur’an, for example). Other passages advocate for peace. Alan Shlemon, another Summit lecturer, said the explanation for the texts’ discrepancies is pretty simple. Muhammad wrote different parts of the Qur’an during two different times of his life: his time in Mecca and the last half of his life after fleeing to Medina. Muhammad’s time in Mecca was peaceful, while his time in Medina, as his popularity grew, was much more violent. Thus, the discrepancies in the Qur’an, his sayings, and the practices he advocated.

Islam Plays a Strong Part on the World Stage

As David Noebel and Jeff Myers outlined in Understanding the Times, all worldviews speak into ten specific disciplines, one of them being politics, and Islam is no different. Islamic governments, like Muslims themselves, vary in scope in their adherence to Islamic scriptures. Many enforce Islamic law — sharia — on their citizens. According to Abdu Murray, an example of that end of the spectrum is what we’re seeing in Egypt as the Muslim Brotherhood, adherents of traditional Islam, wrest control from what had been a mostly secular Islamic regime.

One implication of the growth of traditional Islam is that non-Muslims in countries like Egypt may be treated as second-class citizens. According to the Qur’an, Islamic countries have a right to charge non-Muslims a special tax (called jivya) in order to live under the protection of the state. In other Islamic nations, such as Iran, sharia law is heavily enforced. The violence that we see in the Middle East can be used to point toward Christ, though. Murray says that as with all conflict, violence in and around Islamic countries is usually followed by three reactions:

  1. Sorrow of loss
  2. Demand for justice
  3. Cry for love

The Christian worldview addresses all three of these needs in unique ways, says Murray. “A Gospel-centered answer to these questions is there, as opposed to a political solution,” he said. So even amongst the conflicts we see in headlines, opportunities abound to point out to Muslims the power of the Gospel. “There’s a way to use the conflict,” Murray exhorted.

One of the dangers of the current political landscape is that many Western leaders are so influenced by secularism, they fail to see the far-reaching implications Islam has in the political sphere, potentially putting more people at risk. Secularism posits that all things religious are relegated to private life and shouldn’t affect the public square. “As a matter of definition, secularists will never understand Muslims and never understand the Middle East,” Murray said. “That’s the complete opposite of Islam.” Such misunderstandings can lead to an underestimation of the willingness of Islamists to use state power to coerce others or carry out jihad. It’s a mistake that, as we saw in Benghazi, can end tragically.

How Do We Engage Islam in the Public Square at Home?

Ironically, secularism can also be an unwitting friend to Islamists in non-Islamic countries. The secular belief that religion is innocuous if kept private, combined with an obsession for a political correctness that disallows the critiquing of any religion other than Christianity — can actually give way to a minority religion like Islam having more sway in the public sphere. “Secularism is, in fact, a pushover,” Murray said. “It almost sounds like we’re being thoughtful [to not criticize others’ religion]. And it sounds very nice. But I think, frankly, it’s not truly thoughtful. If America were a more Christian culture, you’d find a more informed, thoughtful response to the things that speak to the Muslim mind.”

After seeing examples of sharia law take hold in pockets of Western Europe, some in the U.S. worry the same thing will happen here. Nabeel Qureshi was actually arrested and jailed in Dearborn, Michigan, just for engaging in Christian evangelism with Muslims at an Islamic festival. Even so, he says we cannot afford to take a merely defensive posture. “We’re far too reactionary,” he said. “We tend to react to things that happen and pull away from the culture.” Damage control in this sense is sometimes necessary, but it is often too little, too late. “Culture is what controls the mindset of the next generation,” he continued. “ We need to [proactively] engage culture from a Christian mindset.”

If there are places where the Muslim/secularist worldview — or other worldviews, for that matter — begin to coerce non-Muslims, fighting to maintain freedom of expression is paramount, Qureshi said. “We definitely need to stand up for our ability to speak freely. But it’s still not enough; it’s like putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage.”

Advice for Day-to-Day Interactions with Muslims

Even in spite of political, cultural, and legal differences, Shlemon encouraged Christians not to fear monger. Most Muslims we encounter day-to-day in the West seek merely to live peacefully and support themselves and their families; they’re not violent jihadists. “Even if they were, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like God’s called us to be ambassadors to only peaceful people.” Qureshi, Murray, and Shlemon all had practical advice for Christians engaging more intentionally with Muslims:

  1. Ask honest questions. Because of the diversity of thought within Islam, Qureshi encourages Christians to ask questions in order to get to know their Muslim friends and their beliefs. Don’t assume you know all the particulars of their beliefs.
  2. Ask about Jesus. Muslims love talking about their faith. “It’s not like secularism, where politics and religion are taboo,” Murray said.
  3. Be sensitive to Muslim sensitivities. Shlemon advises Christians to avoid things that are automatically off-putting to Muslims. Don’t approach a Muslim of the opposite sex alone; don’t bring up controversial claims about Muhammad being a pedophile, for example, while still building a relationship.

If the tide of culture is to be turned, Christians ought to interact with and love Muslims of all stripes. “God is making his appeal through us,” Shlemon said. “Our mandate is to go out and speak to people about Jesus so that they can be reconciled to God. It doesn’t matter whether nominal, reformed, or radical.”

Online Source

People Are Basically Good by Cameron Buettel

Wednesday, September 1, 2021, GTY Blog Post

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“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.” [1] Those are heartbreaking words for a couple of reasons.

They were penned by Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl, while she spent two years hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland. She died tragically in a concentration camp soon after, but her writings would go on posthumously to become a widely celebrated bestseller: The Diary of a Young Girl.

It’s staggering to think that in spite of the unimaginable atrocities she must have witnessed and experienced, she still clung to the belief that people are basically good. She even admitted her beliefs were “in spite of” the evidence, not because of it. For her, the alternative was simply too unthinkable. It would seem her beliefs hinged more on hope than conviction.

The other reason Anne Frank’s words are so heartbreaking is because she believed a widespread and popular lie.

Pelagian Origins

The belief that people are basically good is an ancient falsehood going back to the fourth-century AD. It was first propagated, at least in a theological sense, by a British monk called Pelagius. He fervently and persuasively argued against the biblical doctrine of original sin—the belief that all of mankind has been morally corrupted through Adam’s fall.

The Pelagian heresy was defeated at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. But Pelagius’s beliefs have been readily imbibed by most secular cultures and are alive and well in the present day. Atheism and Darwinism may have toned it down by embracing an anthropology of moral neutrality rather than goodness. But their worldview remains essentially Pelagian because they still deny the inherent sinfulness of man.

In that sense, Pelagius still stalks the hallways of government, higher education, and the mainstream media. Most foreign policy disasters are connected to the naïve assumption that people are basically good. Welfare programs flounder because of beneficiaries who prefer to extort the system rather than behave ethically. Psychologists continue to exclude the possibility of a sinful nature from their study of the human experience. Behavioral experts relentlessly try to solve bad behavior with better education. And society at large is now burdened with a younger generation that identifies as victims rather than perpetrators, refusing to be held accountable for its actions.

The realm of parenting has also been poisoned by the belief that people are basically good. Our children should be the greatest empirical proof of original sin. After all, we don’t have to teach them to lie, throw tantrums, or be selfish—they are all born with ready-made expertise in sinning. But like Anne Frank, many parents prefer to believe in the inherent goodness of their kids despite the massive weight of evidence to the contrary. Consequently, appeasement and medication have usurped the role of discipline in far too many families.   

We get an even harsher dose of reality when we honestly assess our own lives. God has written His morality upon our hearts and consciences (Romans 2:14–15)—we instinctively know right from wrong. But we live with the natural desire to rebel against what we know is right. Those who choose to deny this truth end up affirming it through their denial anyway.

Clearly then, the Pelagian lie is incredibly pervasive in the world. Churches thus carry an enormous responsibility to repudiate it. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening. The belief that people are basically good is now a thriving heresy in some of the most popular churches in America.  

Pelagian Churches

Bethel Church in Redding, California, is a prime example. Pastored by Bill Johnson, Bethel is perhaps the most influential charismatic church in the country. They are most widely known for their Jesus Culture music, testimonies of trips to heaven, gold dust “miracles” pouring out of their ventilation system, and many other bizarre claims and antics. But undergirding these strange recent phenomena is well-worn ancient heresy.

Eric Johnson (the son of Bill Johnson) is one of the pastors on staff at Bethel. In his sermon “The Joy of Consecration,” [2] he argues:

You’re not born evil. It’s amazing how many teachings and theologies start with that thought. Anytime you start with that you will create a controlling, manipulative environment.

Every government, every structure . . . every system fundamentally and theologically must start with the concept and the idea that people are good and they mean to do good. Even if they are not saved, we have to start from that premise.

Like a pope speaking ex cathedra, Eric Johnson usurps the clear teaching of Scripture and insists on redefining it according to his own theological preferences. And just to make himself clear, Johnson explicitly restates his Pelagian worldview later in the sermon:

We have to adjust our theology. We have to adjust our fundamental stance when we look at people. . . . We have to adjust our perspective of people. We have to realize that people are good and they mean to do good.

Johnson’s error is nothing short of catastrophic. In one fell swoop he has made repentance redundant in the lives of his massive audience and completely obliterated the reason for the gospel. His false gospel will damn those who embrace it.

Man Is Totally Depraved

The undeniable truth is that man is totally depraved. That doesn’t mean unregenerate sinners are incapable of doing anything good or noble. But it does mean that sin has permeated every part of their nature, and even the seemingly good things they do are ultimately done with sinful motives.

Keeping one’s head in the proverbial sand is the only way to ignore the doctrine of total depravity. It is the reason we have arguments, assaults, and wars. It’s the reason we need governments, police, and the military. It’s the reason for locks on our doors, walls around our prisons, and armed guards at our borders.

And the wrong things people do aren’t because of ignorance or a lack of education. Sinners deliberately rebel against what they know to be true about God and His righteousness. As the Lord Jesus Himself said,

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19–20)

As far back as Genesis 6—prior to God’s judgment in the Flood—the depravity of man’s sinful heart was obvious. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

The apostle Paul delivered a powerful reminder to all believers that the primary struggle for unbelievers is never the lack of evidence for God, but their love for every form of defiance against Him.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18–20)

Atheism, Darwinism, hedonism, and victimhood are all excuses for the fact that people love sin, hate God, and refuse to be held accountable for their guilt. And that’s because all people are sinners by nature—a nature passed on to every descendant of Adam after the Fall (Genesis 3). “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). “Through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19).

In his book The Gospel According to Paul, John MacArthur explains the imputation of Adam’s sin to all of his descendants:

All humanity was plunged into this guilty condition because of Adam’s sin. “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). This is the doctrine of original sin, a truth that is expounded by Paul in Romans 5:12–19. . . . We prove our willing complicity in Adam’s rebellion every time we sin. And since no one other than Jesus has ever lived a sinless life, no one is really in a position to doubt the doctrine of original sin, much less deem it unjust. [3]

We need to abandon the lie that people are basically good, and instead embrace the truth that man is totally depraved. Understandably, it is an unsavory subject for most people. And without the gospel, it is only bad news.

But without the bad news, the gospel becomes strange and nonsensical. The cross becomes confusing. And there is no good reason for Christ to die as a sin-bearing substitute. If mankind is basically good, the gospel is an unnecessary farce, and the death of Christ a tragic waste. Choosing to deny the imputation of Adam’s sin demands that you also reject the imputation of our sin to Christ, and the imputation of His righteousness to our account. It cuts you off from the Savior, and any hope of salvation.

Ultimately, the difference between believing the soothing lie of Pelagius or the harsh truth of depravity is the doctrinal divide that separates heaven from hell.

Excellent Book Review Courtesy of The Cripplegate

Injustice to the text: A review of “Reading While Black”

by Dan Crabtree

Last week I wrote a post laying out ground rules for biblical engagement of the racial justice debate. In light of that post, today I want to apply those principles and engage with Esau McCaulley’s Reading While Black, and I want to focus specifically on how his book interacts with Scripture. This is a critical review, but I hope it is done with charity and clarity.

McCaulley, a Wheaton professor and Anglican theologian, has recently risen to ecumenical prominence for his work on race and justice in a variety of formats. McCaulley’s widely read, award-winning book, Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope, deals at length with the text of Scripture, and so provides a valuable opportunity to engage directly with textual arguments about race and justice. Instead of more talking about talking about justice, we can get into the brass Bible tacks of definitions and exegetical conclusions. The goal of this review is to both understand and respond to McCaulley’s interpretation of Bible texts about ethnicity and justice.

But, as a pastor, I have another objective with this review: I want to clarify for the flock of God why the main arguments in Reading While Black are, in fact, unhelpful distortions of the biblical teaching on hermeneutics, ethnicity, and justice. I intend for this review to be read as a warning. Reading While Black is not a useful resource that can help Christians understand God’s Word better. On the contrary, McCaulley frequently plays fast and loose with the intent of the biblical authors and promotes arguments not found in the pages of Holy Scripture. McCaulley teaches a skewed hermeneutic to justify misreading the text in favor of his stated agenda. I say all of this not to be unkind, of course, but to be forthright and clear. As much respect as I have for Esau as a fellow image bearer and a fellow believer, and I truly do, I don’t want others to embrace his unbiblical approach to the Bible. And that approach is where the review needs to start.

Interpreting by Demand

McCaulley names his approach “Black ecclesial interpretation” (5). This hermeneutic, in many ways, is the central argument of the book. To develop his understanding of “Black ecclesial interpretation,” McCaulley takes readers on his journey toward this interpretive method and explains the need for it today. And he starts in Chapter 1 by outlining what this interpretive grid entails.

First, we need to hear how McCaulley himself defines “Black ecclesial interpretation.” McCaulley says that this interpretive paradigm is not his invention, but an old form of “dialogue, rooted in core theological principles, between the Black experience and the Bible…” (20). It depends on McCaulley’s definition of the “Black experience” to generate unique questions to ask of the text, questions like “What about the exploitation of my people?” and “What about our suffering, our struggle?” (12). Then, he asserts, “the Scriptures also pose unique questions to us” (20). Essentially, it’s a way of reading the Bible that intentionally focuses on the cultural and social concerns of African Americans according to Esau, and certainly many others as well.

McCaulley anticipates the obvious objections. He states that “everybody has been reading the Bible from their locations, but we [black people] are honest about it” (20). This approach, he says, is just a transparent accounting for the way “social location” and in particular the “Black experience” necessarily shapes Bible interpretation. McCaulley advocates, then, “asking questions of the text that grow out of the reality of being Black in America” (20). Hence the subtitle “African American Biblical Interpretation.”

The rest of the book shows how McCaulley applies “Black ecclesial interpretation” as a framework to understand specific Bible passages. Chapter 2 looks at Romans 13:1-7 from the perspective of policing. Chapter 3 looks at Jesus’ statement in Luke 13:32 as a justification for political resistance. Chapter 4 sees Luke as “the Gospel writer for Black Christians” because of his concern about hope amidst oppression. And so on. McCaulley asks questions of the Bible that have been asked throughout African American history and arrives at his exegetical conclusions based on those questions, the historical background, and the text.

So far, I’ve attempted to summarize McCaulley’s “Black ecclesial interpretation” in such a way that he himself would agree with the representation. Now, I want to point out the deadly errors of this hermeneutic.

The biggest problem with McCaulley’s interpretive approach is that it’s not, biblically speaking, interpretation. In Luke 24:27, Jesus “interpreted to [the two on the Emmaus Road] in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” The word “interpreted” means either to translate (not the case in Luke 24) or to explain, to make understandable (BDAG, 244). To interpret a written work, then, means to accurately discover and articulate the author’s intent. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia says it this way,

“A person has interpreted the thoughts of another when he has in his own mind a correct reproduction or photograph of the thought as it was conceived in the mind of the original writer or speaker. It is accordingly a purely reproductive process, involving no originality of thought on the part of the interpreter. If the latter adds anything of his own it is eisegesis and not exegesis.”

ISBE, 1489

So, what’s wrong with McCaulley’s “Black ecclesial interpretation?” The problem is that he’s asking the wrong questions. In fact, there’s only one right question in biblical interpretation: What did the author intend? That’s not a 21st century question, that’s a 1st century question. In interpretation, I don’t need the text to enter my world; I need to enter the world of the text. It’s not that we shouldn’t bring our circumstantial concerns to God and His Word. Of course we should! But that’s not part of interpretation. Maybe our honest questions are part of forming our systematic theology, certainly a part of application, or even developing a worldview. But if we let our personally pressing demands leak into the process of interpretation, then they will inevitably contaminate our exegetical conclusions. Put another way, when we come to the Bible requiring it to answer our “socially situated” concerns, we’re not looking for what God has said but what we want God to say.

Now, having heard Esau respond to these concerns in an interview, I’m aware of what he would say to my objection. McCaulley says, “That’s the reason why I talk about truth emerging in community. We need one another to balance out our inadequacies so that together we might discern the mind of Christ.” In the context of that conversation, those “inadequacies” arise from our “social situation.” So, to use McCaulley’s example, slave masters misread the Bible because they were going to it looking for a justification for slavery. Therefore, according to McCaulley, what they needed, as do we, are people who don’t have the same blind spots as us. Or, as McCaulley says it in the book, “I need Ugandan biblical interpretation, because the experiences of Ugandans mean they are able to bring their unique insights to the conversation” (22).

Here we can see the second huge problem with McCaulley’s interpretive approach: it functionally denies the clarity of Scripture. If Scripture is clear, able to be understood on its own merits, then it doesn’t require diverse ethnic perspectives to understand correctly. Biblical interpretation requires that we understand the original language and the original context, that’s it. Note that McCaulley equates “Ugandan biblical interpretation” with the enabling of “experiences” to bring “insights to a conversation.” In so doing, he has added a requirement to biblical interpretation that the Bible never does.

To use a farfetched example, where in the Bible do you see Paul relying on Ephesian questions to better understand Genesis 9 so he can rightly relate to the Roman government? Or for that matter, how could Christians be expected to rightly interpret Scripture for the first 1600 years, long before there were American colonies, European Americans, or African Americans? The Bible never presents interpretation as necessarily a group project because the Bible presents itself as fundamentally clear to every person. Here’s how Moses says it:

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” (Deut 30:11-14)

If the Bible is clear, then we don’t need an international forum to understand it. You can read the Bible for yourself and interpret it rightly. Of course, we want to be humble and teachable, which means that we’ll seek out help from past illumination to arrive at the right exegetical conclusions. But what we’re looking for to aid our study of Scripture is not a cultural perspective but attention to textual details. Differing cultures don’t explain the text better to us, but faithful exegetes from any culture can. And ironically, the slave master eisegesis error that McCaulley cites is McCaulley’s own error: bringing a question from a cultural agenda to the biblical text rather than asking what the biblical authors intended. In interpretation, we don’t need more perspectives but more insights from whatever perspective.

If all this talk about hermeneutics sounds too confusing, let me simplify. The problem with McCaulley’s “Black ecclesial interpretation” is that it leads him to ask questions like this: “Put simply, is the Bible a friend or foe in the Black quest for justice?” Do you see the issue? The question is totally reversed from what is should be. We don’t assert ourselves over the Bible or even put ourselves beside the Bible. The question should be, “Is our quest for justice a friend or foe of the Bible?” Interpretation is not, as McCaulley asserts, a “dialogue” but a monologue. God is the only one speaking, and he’s the only one we want to hear.

Stretching the Text Until It Breaks

My second concern is the way that McCaulley uses his hermeneutical principles as a cover for unwarranted exegesis. Throughout the book, he undermines the meaning of multiple texts by drawing specious connections, by mistranslating words, and by asserting his conclusions without proof. These are the fruits of an arbitrary interpretive root.

Here’s a survey of just a few of the exegetical stretches in Reading While Black:

  • In chapter 2, McCaulley acknowledges that Paul doesn’t address evil rulers in Romans 13:1-7, so he says, “that in the absence of that explanation of Romans 13:1-7, we are free to use Paul’s reference to Egypt and the wider biblical account to fill in the gap.” What does he mean by “fill in the gap?” According to McCaulley, “Paul’s focus on structure” implies that “the Christian’s first responsibility is to make sure that those who direct the sword in our culture direct that sword in ways in keeping with our values” (30-41). That is, the passage that reads, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom 13:1) is about demanding that governing authorities apply Christian ethics. Of course it’s true that Romans 13 tells us what governments are there for, but the application of the text is clearly submission to that government. To redefine submission as protest is to undermine Paul’s exhortation in this text.
  • In chapter 3, McCaulley contends that the church must have a robust “political witness” and cites the Beatitudes as support. He quotes the introduction to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with the following: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled” (Mt 5:4, 6, my translation; p.65). Apparently, McCaulley doesn’t find the usual translation of “righteousness” adequate, so he supplies his own translation, “justice.” You can imagine where this is going. “Hungering and thirsting for justice… is a vision of the just society established by God that does not waver in the face of evidence to the contrary” (66). He follows this up by redefining “Blessed are the peacemakers” to “calling injustice by its name,” including “an honest accounting of what this country has done and continues to do to Black and Brown people” (68). These are simply incorrect definitions for these Greek words, which reference not the desire for political reform in America but the desire for personal righteousness and peace like that of the preacher, Jesus.
  • In chapter 4, McCaulley sees in Mary’s “Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-55) a call to participate in political change. Specifically, he contends that Mary’s phrase “strength with his arm” is a reference to Isaiah 51:9-10, which is about the second exodus (a common theme in Reading While Black). Then connects the second exodus to the end of slavery, which “touches on that historic link between African Americans and the God of the Bible.” He concludes, “The testimony of Mary is that even in the shadow of the empire there is a space for hope and that sometimes in that space, God calls us from the shadows to join him in his great work of salvation and liberation” (88-89). That is a stunning leap in exegetical logic. He assumes that the virgin birth is intended as a paradigm for future salvation, but also assumes that Mary’s part in bringing the Christ to earth is a kind of “joining” in the purposes of God that meaningfully parallels political protests. The Magnificat is not about Mary’s participation but about God’s sovereign salvation.

The list of exegetical gymnastics could go on. These are not responsible hermeneutics, but warped principles of interpretation that undo the intelligibility of the Bible. We simply can’t reshape the text to fit our questions and agendas in this way. Instead, our goal in Bible interpretation must first and always be to know what the author meant by what he said. Any secondary objective smuggled into the interpretive process will eviscerate the text of meaning and make it a canvas for our purposes, not God’s.

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So, what are you supposed to do with this book review? Well, first, be warned that McCaulley’s Reading While Black distorts Scripture at the most fundamental level – the clarity and intelligibility of the Bible. While McCaulley tows the line of theological orthodoxy at points, his hermeneutical approach does serious violence to sound biblical interpretation. If you’re hoping to find help in thinking through interpretative issues, this isn’t your book.

Second, know that Reading While Black does not speak for all African American Christians. McCaulley paints with a broad, monolithic brush about the concerns and perspectives of African Americans and does so without a consensus. For other African American Christian perspectives on hermeneutics, justice, and ethnicity, see here, here, here, and here.

Third, be prepared to defend a biblical hermeneutic. Reading While Black has received almost unanimous acclaim in the evangelical world, and McCaulley is not the only evangelical espousing these views. If you haven’t come across a similar challenge to biblical hermeneutics, my guess is that you soon will. So, be prepared to stand on the clear, authoritative, sufficient Word of God to explain how to rightly read the Word of God.

Finally, a note: My point in this review is not to be unkind towards McCaulley or anyone who agrees with him, but rather to point out the error in interpreting God’s Word according to our demands. This kind of Scripture-twisting does not honor God, it does not unite the church, and it does not give the kind of hope that McCaulley says it gives. Instead, it teaches Christians to use the Bible to confirm their biases and assumptions, rather than to be instructed and corrected by God’s Word. My prayer is that whatever your ethnic and cultural background, your aim would be to honor God by rightly interpreting to his Word and proclaiming his gospel for the sake of his eternal purpose, to glorify his Son, Jesus Christ. That would do justice to the text.

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Online Source

Would Jesus require vaccine passports?

“No, Jesus would not require vaccine passports.”

by Jordan Standridge, The Cripplegate

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Samuel Sey tweeted something recently that came as a shock for many christians. A church in Canada is going to reopen next month (after being closed since covid began) but with a twist, they will be requiring a vaccine passport for people to come in the doors.

The writer of the article, who is the pastor of the church, said that if Jesus been alive today, he would have done the same. 

After appealing to science for his decision, the pastor made a shift into theology. He said Jesus would agree with him.

Theologically, the argument is stronger. To be a Christian is to model one’s life after Christ. Jesus always put others first. He gave up his individual rights for the common good and sacrificed for the sake of the weak. He loved others as he loved himself and would have surely done anything to best protect the unvaccinated children in his neighbourhood. A Christian ethic always puts the vulnerable first.

Not only is this argument not strong it is actually quite foolish.

Jesus consistently exposed himself to sick people. People with Leprosy (Matt. 8:2), fevers (Luke 8:38-40), blood discharges (Luke 8:43), demons (Matt. 5:1), and even dead people (Mark 5:21, Luke 8:40) were constantly approached by Jesus without regard for his own safety.

He could have healed everyone he came in contact with yet he didn’t. There were times where he chose not to heal people who needed it. (Mark 6:5) In fact, Jesus could remove not only Covid from this world in a split second, but all pain and suffering whenever he wants. But doesn’t.

Jesus’s mission was not to eradicate suffering in this world, but it was to suffer himself for the sake of the elect. (Heb. 2:9-10) He was willing to die for the sake of the lost! And He expected his disciples to follow suit! (John 15:20)

The only reason you might require proof of vaccines for entrance to a church service is because you have lost sight of the cost of discipleship and are controlled by the fear of death.

You should be willing to die for people to hear the gospel.

Jesus said very clearly that we should be willing to suffer and even die for His sake. (Matt. 10:38, Matt. 24:9)

Paul said that for the sake of his people, Israel, he would be willing to be accursed in their place, if it meant that they would get to go to Heaven. (Rom. 9:3) And Paul believed in a literal eternal hell.

Every follower of Christ should be willing to suffer and die for the sake of expending our energy and our whole entire lives for the lost. 

It is for this reason that it is shocking that there are churches that are forbidding people from coming to church. I know that this is a hot topic and that many people are sensitive about this. I am not against being careful and using wisdom, after all unlike Jesus, we don’t have the ability to heal people. But under no circumstance are we allowed to turn away people from hearing the Gospel and gathering with the saints.

We should be begging people to come, not banning them!

We truly need to pray for pastors around the world. These situations are not easy to navigate. We need to pray for churches to not be afraid. 

We need to pray that elders who are afraid of dying, would remember their high calling and either repent or resign. 

Sadly too many shepherds right now, instead of fighting away the enemy of their sheep, are dropping their staffs and running away, afraid to die.

If you should be willing to be speared in the chest to bring the Gospel to a tribe in Equador, you should be willing to be exposed to a respiratory disease that you have more than a 99% chance to survive.

This is not to minimize the fact that this virus does harm some people in a significant way, but it is to say that if the fear of death is driving you to make your decisions then you are not being a faithful shepherd.

We need to pray for much wisdom from the Lord. Obviously we don’t want to have a martyr complex where we expose ourselves and those around us to unnecessary risks, but we must, if we desire to follow our Lord’s example, be willing to expend ourselves for the Lord. 

I can’t help but think of Peter who was told by Christ that he would die on a cross, (John 21:19) yet boldly declared Gospel, each and every time he had the opportunity, without compromise or concern for his own body.

By all means get vaccinated if you want, protect yourself as best you can, but never forbid people from hearing the good news. Elders, (and really every member of the church) go and preach boldly the word of God, leaving your life in God’s hands.