Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the Bible – Part 2

The last post here at the Battle Cry was a video clip in which Todd Friel of Wretched Radio named names and shared direct quotations of prominent evangelical leaders. The video clip criticizes a movement while intentionally not criticizing evangelicals who have embraced elements of CRT.

Racism is Real

Let me emphasize right now that racism is real. Racism has been a problem since the fall of man and the entrance of sin into a world God declared “good – very good”. It permeates every society and culture on the planet in one way or another

What is Critical Race Theory?

In short, CRT looks at nearly every facet of our society through a ‘racial’ lens. As one author states:

Critical Race Theory Calls for Permanent, Codified Racial Preferences

At the heart of Critical Race Theory lies the rejection of colorblind meritocracy. “Formal equality overlooks structural disadvantages and requires mere nondiscrimination or “equal treatment.”[1] Instead, Critical Race Theory calls for “aggressive, color conscious efforts to change the way things are.”[2] It contemplates, “race-conscious decision making as a routine, non-deviant mode, a more or less permanent norm”[3] to be used in distributing positions of wealth, prestige, and power.[4]

That’s just one characteristic of CRT, perhaps the main one leading to many other characteristics and eventual outcomes at all levels of our society. This post is not intended to be a discussion of CRT. Rather, it asks a different question.

How should blood washed members of the body of Christ, and the church, behave?

Should the church behave like the society around us, and contemplate “race-conscious decision making as a routine, non-deviant mode, a more or less permanent norm?”. If we believe the words of prominent evangelicals (watch the video clip), it could seem like we are.

What does the Bible say about us?

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Eph 2:19-22)

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:1-6)

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col 3:11)

so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Rom 12:5)

Does racism exist? Yes. It is born in the heart of sinful men. CRT would have us believe that ‘inanimate’ entities and institutions are racist (but just certain ones). As with any evil, racism begins in the hearts of the sinful human beings who make up entities and institutions. They key to lasting change is found in Christ, and only in Christ,  with the radical transformation of the human heart into the likeness of our Savior.

Does racism exist in the hearts and minds of professing believers? Only to the extent that the sin of racism has not been conquered in Christ. When racism raises its ugly head in the life of a believer, it must be confessed and repented of before a Holy God, and when appropriate, before those whom we have wronged.

What we, as individuals and as the church, do NOT need to do is behave like the society and culture around us, when the behavior of our society and culture contradicts what the Bible clearly states and teaches.

We should be shining examples of how things should be, not the way they are.

For further reading, should be interested:

Racism, Justified: A Critical Look at Critical Race Theory (Highly recommended)

What is Critical Race Theory?

Critical Race Theory, RTS, and SBTS

Critical race theory – Wikipedia

Did Jesus make us ‘flawless’ at the Cross?

According to the popular Christian song, “Flawless”, when Jesus went to the cross he made us ‘flawless’. To be fair, the song has a catchy tune, excellent instrumentation, and is really well sung! The song also speaks highly of God’s Amazing Grace:

Well let me introduce you to amazing grace. . .

Could it possibly be
That we simply can’t believe
That this unconditional
Kind of love would be enough
To take a filthy wretch like this
And wrap him up in righteousness
But that’s exactly what He did

That believers are sinful human beings clothed in the righteous of Jesus Christ is one of the greatest truths in all of scripture!

At the same time there is the often-repeated chorus that says. . .

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless

So here’s the question for which I have been accused of ‘theological nit-picking: Is being ‘wrapped up in righteousness’ the same as being ‘flawless’?

To that question I must answer with a resounding ‘NO!’ ? I submit to you that although in Christ we are ‘wrapped up in His righteousness’, but we are far from ‘flawless’.

The term ‘flawless’ literally means perfect, without a blemish, without any mistakes or shortcomings. Folks, that’s not me, you, or anyone else. I’m sure you would agree with me.

We might be wrapped up in the flawlessness of Christ as we stand before God, but in no way are we ‘flawless’. We still sin daily in countless ways.

So what’s the big deal? Just a couple of things:

1. Even if the song’s author didn’t intend the literal meaning of ‘flawless’ in the song, but was talking about the believer’s flawlessness IN Christ, most listeners either cannot or will not pick up on that distinction. They will listen to and love the song because it tells them (over and over again) that the Cross has made THEM flawless. Regardless of what the song’s author might have intended, the words say otherwise.

2. It is Christ who is flawless, not us. We will all die as flawed sinful human beings. But for the righteousness of Christ with which we are clothed, we would spend eternity separated from God in a very dark and painful place.

3. The song ends up being man-centered and not God-glorifying at its core. The hearer is encouraged to focus more on his/her ‘flawlessness’ than God’s righteousness and the great sacrifice of His Son on the cross.

Theological nit-picking? Maybe, but I don’t think so. The man-centeredness of this song typifies much, if not most of contemporary Christian music. Some if it is really good, but most of it is about ‘us’ in one way or another.

So here’s my final question. Is man-centered Christian worship music, or man-centered Christianity, really ‘Christian’?

I’ll leave it there.

Five tulips in one field: Revelation 13:8-10

by Jesse Johnson

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The “five points of Calvinism” are a mnemonic approach to understanding the complexity of our salvation. The doctrine of salvation can seem complicated because it incorporates hamartiology (the effects of sin on a person’s nature), Christology (the nature of Christ), theology proper (the sovereignty of God), and pneumatology (the work of the Holy Spirit). To put it another way, our salvation intersects with just about every major area of theology, and the five-points help us understand what exactly is going on when God saves us.

The five-points are often presented in an acronym form (T-U-L-I-P), and that is fitting because the whole point of extracting these five particular points of emphasis is to help us think memorably about salvation. While they are called the five points of Calvinism, they were not designed by John Calvin—although they do reflect some of the emphasis of his ministry, it is unfair to his legacy to confine it to the five points.

While the five points themselves were identified in the 1600’s, the acronym T-U-L-I-P didn’t come into use until the 1900’s in the United States (say what you will about Americans, but we are good at acronyms).

A common push back against the five points is to claim that they are an invention of man, and are not found in the Bible. In a limited sense I grant that is true: the phrase “total depravity’ is not in the Bible (nor is I suppose is “theology”), but the concepts themselves are obviously biblical, and there is no shortage of resources that make strong cases for them (like this long-form article on Desiring God, or an 8-part Grace To You series, or a 30-minute John MacArthur video).

But this year, I stumbled across a new (to me) approach to the five points. In studying for a sermon on Revelation 13:8-10, I realized that all five points are represented in this single concise passage:

All who dwell on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear.  If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.

T—Total Depravity

“All who dwell on the earth will worship the beast.” John declares that during the tribulation, every human will worship the beast, and by extension, the antichrist. Revelation 13:7 expressly says that it will include people from every ethnic group, language group, and nation. Verse 16 says that “all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave” will worship the antichrist. In other words, every human has the capacity to worship the devil and believe his lies.

It’s not just that humans are sinners. Total depravity means that we worship that which is evil. Nor is this confined to some future eschatological judgment on earth. Back before the flood God had already said that “every inclination of people’s hearts is only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Total Depravity doesn’t mean that people are as evil as they could be, but it does mean that every one of their actions, inclinations, and desires are all corrupted by sin; so much so that they will worship the antichrist, were he on earth. You could say it this way: there is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who seeks for God; all have turned their own way.

This depravity is exactly what makes our salvation necessary.

U-Unconditional Election

“Everyone whose name has not been written from before the foundation of the world in the book of life.” While everyone is born depraved, and with the inclination toward worshiping the devil’s lies, that is not the end of the story. There is a sub-group of people that will be rescued from this, and they all have one thing in common: their names were written by God before the world was even created.

If you are a Christian, marvel that before your parents even met, God already knew you by name. Before our country was formed, before God spoke light into darkness, he knew you, and he knew you by name.

He didn’t know you because he saw that would do something good in your life. Rather, before you were “even born, or had done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose in election might stand,” God wrote the names down of the people whom he would save.

He didn’t write everyone’s name down. Also, he didn’t write family names, or church names, or nation’s names. That’s because he doesn’t save nations, churches or families—he saves people, people whom he has known before they were even alive.

John presents this book as the causal effect for why one group of people does not worship the antichrist. There will be lots of differences between them and the rest of humanity (holiness, purity, worship, faith, etc.). But none of those are presented as the causal difference. John instead identifies this book with names as what separates those who will be saved from those that will perish resisting the gospel. And this book was written before anyone was born.

This election is what makes our salvation possible.

L-Limited Atonement

“..the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.” While I prefer the phrase “definite atonement” or “particular redemption,” those would mess up the acronym, so we are stuck with limited atonement, which is probably the most controversial of the five points.

But when you look at the book John sees, you see one of the places this doctrine comes from. The book is titled “The Book of Life,” and the copyright date is “before Day 1.” The content is a list of names. But closer inspection reveals that this book has a subtitle: “The Book of Life: of the Lamb that was slain.”

The book which describes whom God will save was written in light of the means by which God would save them. Jesus did not simply die a generic death for people everywhere, but a specific death to take away the punishment for the sins of specific, named people.

The Lamb indicates that the death was substitutionary and efficacious. Jesus’ death was in our place, and was effective at removing the sins of all for whom he died—even the sin of unbelief. In fact, once the Lamb died, our salvation was so accomplished that Jesus himself could declare, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

The atonement is what accomplishes our salvation.

I- Irresistible Grace

“If anyone has an ear, let him hear.” John inserts a refrain from the seven letters (Revelation 2-3), which serves as an appeal for those who are spiritual to see the spiritual truth which he is describing. And of course this is an adaptation of Jesus’ own explanation of why he taught in parables: “So that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven” (Mark 4:12).

If Jesus accomplished our salvation at the cross, how come people whose names are in the book of life spend much of their lives running from God and rejecting the gospel? Because of their depravity they are unwilling to turn and be saved, and this remains until God gives them spiritual ears to hear. This is called regeneration, and it has the effect of opening a person’s eyes to the truth, so that they can turn and be saved.

This happens in time, through the preaching of the word and the gift of faith. It is a work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8), and it results in a person able to hear spiritual truth through their faith (1 Corinthians 1:182 Corinthians 2:15, 4:3).

This grace is what makes our salvation a reality.

P—Perseverance of the Saints

“If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” John now quotes Jeremiah 15:1-6, which was Yahweh’s response to Jeremiah’s question. Yahweh told Jeremiah to evacuate Jerusalem, and the question was, “where, exactly, should they all go?”

God’s proposed destinations were less than encouraging. He said that some of them could be killed by the beasts, some by birds, some by famine, and some by plagues. In short, if God wants them to go to jail, to jail they will go. If he has chosen some of them for death by the sword, then by the sword they will die.

What is that reference doing in Revelation 13? Well for Christians under the antichrist’s reign of terror, they too might wonder “Where should we go?” The answer is simple: God has already chosen each person’s end. Some the antichrist will throw in jail, and some he will kill with the sword. But despite their martyrdom, the antichrist cannot take their salvation away. They may die a martyr’s death, but their names cannot be removed from the book of life. The cannot take Jesus off the cross, and he cannot take the Spirit out of believer’s hearts. And because their names are in the book, and Jesus did die for their sins, and they do have spiritual ears to hear, then they will overcome. Or, as John says, “this is the perseverance of the saints.”

Such a promise encourages believers to hold onto the grace that is holding onto them. It compels us to trust God even in the midst of horrific persecution.

This perseverance is what makes our salvation a certainty.

Taken together, these verses explain salvation by showing:

The condition that required it (depravity)

The predestination that allows it (election)

The substitution that achieves it (atonement)

The illumination that gives it (regenerative grace)

The sovereignty that keeps it (perseverance).

Source: The Cripplegate

What if there’s a power outage at Hillsong?

. . .or any other ‘church’ where the big attraction is the music?

Think about that for a minute. I know Christians who choose a church based on how much they like the ‘worship’ music, and I’m sure you do also. But what if the power went out and there were no more electric instruments, lights, smoke, etc.? All we would have left are lyrics.

If all we have left are the lyrics, would we ‘feel’ the Spirit come down, or is all that excitement generated from the stage and those great ‘worship’ feelings pretty much the same as a good U2 concert (name your band)? Is today’s ‘worship’ more about us than God?

And if all we have are the lyrics, what are they saying and teaching? Something to think about.

Fighting For The Faith discussed that very thing – lyrics – this last week titled “Heresy Hiding in Plain Sight” .

Enjoy, or not. The segment discusses some of the lyrics to specific worship songs from Hillsong. Protect your toes.

6 Ways Christians Lost Because of the SCOTUS Decision

I recently read an online article called 6 Ways Christians Lost This Week that immediately caught my attention but took a bit longer to process. The article seemed to say that because of some Christian responses to the SCOTUS ruling legalizing gay marriage, Christians ‘lost’ the following:

1) We lost the chance to be loving.

2) We lost the chance to be good neighbors.

3) We lost the chance to be Good Samaritans.

4) We lost the opportunity to show how big God is.

5) We lost the chance to reflect Christ.

6) We lost people.

There were explanations around those points, and even a few passages of scripture (taken out of context) to support the idea of Christians having ‘lost’ things, but what struck me was that the author claimed that Christians ‘lost’ all these things at all!. How could that be? How could we ever just lose ‘chances’ and ‘opportunities’? We can no longer reflect Christ to gay persons? Some Christians have been lost to the faith because of the responses of other Christians? None of it made any sense to me.

To find answers to my questions I took a closer look at the author’s web site and went straight to the ‘What We Believe’ page. Sadly, my questions were answered. The author proudly attends an ‘Emergent’ church in North Carolina. Among all of the core, and thoroughly emergent, beliefs of this church two statements stood out among the typical ‘emergent’ beliefs and practices mentioned at the church’s website:

1. “The scriptures are inspired by God: They are the words of humans.” (Emphasis mine)

2. “At ________, we believe that sin is not that big of a deal.”

The belief that the scriptures are inspired by God but are the words of humans is quite telling. It allows for a casual ‘head nod’ to God’s involvement in the development of scripture, but denies the authority of the Bible by claiming that the words in scripture are the words of humans, not God. .In the case of gay marriage, the humans who penned some really clear ‘words’ concerning homosexuality must have so totally misunderstood God’s ‘inspiration’ that they wrote down the exact opposite of God’s opinion/intent!

As for the thought that “sin is just not that big of a deal”, what can I say but that sin (any and all sin) is a VERY big deal with God. In fact, it’s such a big deal that it deserves eternal punishment in a place called Hell. It’s such a big deal that God sent his Son to live the perfect life that no man could (but must to inherit eternal life) and then poured out his just wrath upon his Son instead of us who deserve it!

So why is it again that Christians ‘lost’ so much? What did we do exactly? Some of us behaved rather poorly and didn’t communicate a lot of love in our responses. However, if the Holy Spirit is in the process of awakening blind eyes to the message of the gospel, even a message delivered poorly will accomplish God’s intent. Then there are those who ‘lovingly’ communicated God’s opinion in the matter at hand (quoted scripture). How did they cause such devastating ‘losses’? They DIDN’T. The Bible I read tells me that those living in sin and darkness love their sin and darkness. Furthermore, I don’t believe for a New York second that any true believer would deny his/her faith because he/she was informed of the truth of scripture. True believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who brings conviction of sin, maybe not right away, but eventually. And after conviction comes healing by the same power of God.

Then there were the comments to the original article, which are probably somewhere north of 1K by now. Many, if not most contain little if any value at all. Diatribes against ‘hateful’ Christians who refuse to affirm gay marriage and homosexuality as being approved of by a ‘loving’ God. Then there are those little verbal tennis matches between commentators on both sides of the debate, with both sides being less than polite in their discourse. I couldn’t keep up with all the scripture twisting or the claiming as scripture things that are nowhere written in the Bible – and by professing Christians!

I have no doubt that those who claimed Christ while affirming gay marriage were sincere. Their comments communicated their limited knowledge of the attributes of God. Their comments reflected that Gods only attribute is ‘love’. While I am equally certain that their ignorance is due to the lack of sound doctrine being taught in some of the churches they attend, they have no excuse for remaining ignorant. There is more access to the Bible today than ever before, in every form imaginable!

Would you pray with me that the Spirit of God would cause a deep desire in the hearts professing Christians who seem to be ‘children of a lesser God’ to really get to know God through his inspired Word. Relevant passages clearly stating what’s what concerning the big issue of the day have been shared numerous times. I am confident that those whose hearts have been opened by God will listen. Others will remain in their hardened state and continue to call us hateful for standing on God’s word and shake their fists at God.

A.D. The Degradation Continues – Episode 12

And Season 1 Concludes…….

Where to begin? Apparently, from a Hollywood perspective, the concluding episode for Season 1 was successful because Season 2 is in the works. You can actually get an alert when the release date is announced. I think I will pass on that one.

As TV series’ often do in a season’s final episode, A.D. brought together several story lines. We see that Cornelius, who appeared at the Cross at the beginning of the series, is the Cornelius who becomes a believer in the final episode. Some of us probably saw that coming. We did see the angel’s appearance to Cornelius and Peter’s vision recorded in Acts, chapter 10. We see Peter at the home of Cornelius and a Pentecost type of appearance of the Holy Spirit, complete with some wind, tongues of fire and speaking in tongues. Cornelius is baptized after he confesses some of his sins. In the series he had killed Joanna and whipped Tabitha. In Acts, Chapter 10 however we are told that Cornelius worshipped God and was highly thought of by ‘all the Jewish people’. The series was disconnected from Biblical reality.

The other major plot in the TV episode concerns the statue of Caligula entering Jerusalem to be placed in the temple, opposition from the disciples, the Jewish priests, and zealots waiting on the parapets to ambush the Roman soldiers accompanying the statue. Cornelius, now a believer, is in charge of the Roman soldiers and confronts Peter in front of the temple. The disciples kneel before the roman contingent, the Priests, including Caiaphas kneel and offer their necks to the Romans. The Disciples and Cornelius recite the Lord’s Prayer and at the same time the priests recite a Jewish prayer from Psalm 57.

Everything surrounding the statue of Caligula is 99.999% pure fiction. Yes, Caligula did command that his statues be scattered throughout the Roman controlled world. Historians tell us that Jerusalem might be the only place Caligula’s statue did NOT appear.

A statue was built and dispatched to Jerusalem, but it never arrived. A newly elected leader of Syria, one Petronius, was charged with the delivery, NOT Cornelius. The statue made it as far as Ptolemais, a cosmopolitan port city in Galilee (70+ miles NW of Jerusalem). The Jewish outcry was tremendous, Jewish peasants revolted, and necks were offered to the Roman soldiers (the .001% accuracy?). The peasants also threatened to stop planting crops, which would have hurt the Roman economy. A letter was sent back to Rome to reconsider sending a statue to Jerusalem, and Caligula answered in another letter that Petronius would be executed if he didn’t deliver the statue. That letter never made it to Ptolemais due to really bad weather. Caligula was assassinated, the news of the assassination did reach Petronius (better weather), and the statue never made it to Jerusalem.

There is also a lot of dialogue amongst the disciples concerning being in the end times and the statue of Caligula being the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of in Matthew 24, and fear that the end of time and Christ’s return was imminent. In the episode, James the Just asked the big ‘what if it’s not’ question. None of that dialogue is actually recorded in the book of Acts, but I guess it made for good drama.

At the very end, Cornelius nearly flees Jerusalem with Pilate’s wife, who earlier had an ‘almost’ knock down drag out with her husband. The setup for the beginning of next season is a Roman soldier drawing a sword against Peter, leaving us in suspense.

The Issues, Etc. review, found here, is interesting and informative. Lutheran Pastor Ted Giese is asked to rate the series from a secular perspective and from a Pastor’s theological perspective. I liked his answers but will leave you in suspense, with a desire to listen to the interview.

Having said all that, I am not sure if I will watch and comment on the next season. I watched this season mostly in order to be able to engage in discussion(s) about it with both believers and nonbelievers. I never did overhear a discussion about any of the series that I could join. When I asked other believers if they were watching, most were not. They had no interest in what they knew was mostly conjecture and fiction. I did benefit personally by rereading certain portions of Acts, just to make sure I wasn’t being too critical. Digging into historical sources was also beneficial.

My main beef with the producers is having called it ‘The Bible Continues’. All Scripture is inspired (breathed out) by God…. (2 Timothy 3:16), not Hollywood. They could have just called it ‘Left Behind – The Book of Acts’.