Megachurch Pastor John MacArthur: Denominations That Allow Gay ‘Marriage’ Are ‘Satan’s Church’

In the wake of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s recent decision to celebrate same-sex “marriages,” celebrity pastor John MacArthur of “Grace to You” has come out with some strong statements condemning “false churches” that abandon Biblical teachings against homosexual behavior.

“They have no allegiance to the Bible,” MacArthur told The Blaze online news service. “You go back to every one of those seminaries … for a century [they] have been deniers of biblical authority, they have no relationship to scripture, they are the apostate church, they are Satan’s church.”

While it seems clear MacArthur was implying that self-professed Christians who accept gay “marriage” are doing Satan’s work, not necessarily worshiping the devil, it is worth noting that the actual Satanic Temple of America has called same-sex “marriage” one of its “sacraments.”

MacArthur, who is Baptist, believes in the teachings of John Calvin regarding the inerrancy and literal truth of Scripture.  The PCUSA also has its roots in Calvinism, but in 1967 the church updated its precepts to distance itself from Calvin and adopted a more flexible view of Biblical truth.

During a 2001 debate over whether the denomination would permit the ordination of openly homosexual pastors, PCUSA officials said, “We acknowledge the role of scriptural authority in the Presbyterian Church, but Presbyterians generally do not believe in biblical inerrancy. Presbyterians do not insist that every detail of chronology or sequence or pre-scientific description in scripture be true in literal form. Our confessions do teach biblical infallibility. Infallibility affirms the entire truthfulness of scripture without depending on every exact detail.”

In his interview with The Blaze, MacArthur lamented the cultural decline of mainstream denominations like the PCUSA, and said their watered-down approach to theology is a major factor in the increasing secularization of America, which he argues was founded on “cultural Christianity.”

According to MacArthur, the historical “cultural Christianity” of Americans has long been a stabilizing force for society.  It didn’t mean that everyone belonged to the same church or worshiped exactly the same way, but it did mean that the culture as a whole had a shared set of values and generally believed they would have to answer to a higher power in the afterlife.

The founding fathers, MacArthur told The Blaze, “knew you couldn’t compel people to goodness” unless the majority of people believed in God.  But in our increasingly agnostic society, the very idea of “goodness” is open to debate.

“Cultural Christianity … is dying at a warp speed,” MacArthur said. “In the last election … the Democratic platform was pro-killing children and pro-homosexuality.  The young generation has bought into the corruption and lack of ethics morals by media entertainment [and] educators.”

MacArthur cited the unwillingness of mainstream pastors to speak out on controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion as the reason society has begun to embrace immorality as goodness.  He challenged church leaders to meditate on Romans 1, which reads in part:

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

“Romans 1 describes exactly what is happening in America,” MacArthur told The Blaze. “It defines the wrath as God giving them over, giving them over, giving them over.”

To read the rest of The Blaze’s interview with John MacArthur, click here.

Online Source: LifeSite News

Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke

By Nury Vittachi | July 6th 2014

Metaphysical thought processes are more deeply wired than hitherto suspected

WHILE MILITANT ATHEISTS like Richard Dawkins may be convinced God doesn’t exist, God, if he is around, may be amused to find that atheists might not exist.

Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.

While this idea may seem outlandish—after all, it seems easy to decide not to believe in God—evidence from several disciplines indicates that what you actually believe is not a decision you make for yourself. Your fundamental beliefs are decided by much deeper levels of consciousness, and some may well be more or less set in stone.

This line of thought has led to some scientists claiming that “atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,” says Graham Lawton, an avowed atheist himself, writing in the New Scientist. “They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since we are born believers, not atheists, scientists say. Humans are pattern-seekers from birth, with a belief in karma, or cosmic justice, as our default setting. “A slew of cognitive traits predisposes us to faith,” writes Pascal Boyer in Nature, the science journal, adding that people “are only aware of some of their religious ideas”.

INTERNAL MONOLOGUES

Scientists have discovered that “invisible friends” are not something reserved for children. We all have them, and encounter them often in the form of interior monologues. As we experience events, we mentally tell a non-present listener about it.

The imagined listener may be a spouse, it may be Jesus or Buddha or it may be no one in particular. It’s just how the way the human mind processes facts. The identity, tangibility or existence of the listener is irrelevant.

“From childhood, people form enduring, stable and important relationships with fictional characters, imaginary friends, deceased relatives, unseen heroes and fantasized mates,” says Boyer of Washington University, himself an atheist. This feeling of having an awareness of another consciousness might simply be the way our natural operating system works.

PUZZLING RESPONSES

These findings may go a long way to explaining a series of puzzles in recent social science studies. In the United States, 38% of people who identified themselves as atheist or agnostic went on to claim to believe in a God or a Higher Power (Pew Forum, “Religion and the Unaffiliated”, 2012).

While the UK is often defined as an irreligious place, a recent survey by Theos, a think tank, found that very few people—only 13 per cent of adults—agreed with the statement “humans are purely material beings with no spiritual element”. For the vast majority of us, unseen realities are very present.

When researchers asked people whether they had taken part in esoteric spiritual practices such as having a Reiki session or having their aura read, the results were almost identical (between 38 and 40%) for people who defined themselves as religious, non-religious or atheist.

The implication is that we all believe in a not dissimilar range of tangible and intangible realities. Whether a particular brand of higher consciousness is included in that list (“I believe in God”, “I believe in some sort of higher force”, “I believe in no higher consciousness”) is little more than a detail.

EVOLUTIONARY PURPOSES

If a tendency to believe in the reality of an intangible network is so deeply wired into humanity, the implication is that it must have an evolutionary purpose. Social scientists have long believed that the emotional depth and complexity of the human mind means that mindful, self-aware people necessarily suffer from deep existential dread. Spiritual beliefs evolved over thousands of years as nature’s way to help us balance this out and go on functioning.

If a loved one dies, even many anti-religious people usually feel a need for a farewell ritual, complete with readings from old books and intoned declarations that are not unlike prayers. In war situations, commanders frequently comment that atheist soldiers pray far more than they think they do.

Statistics show that the majority of people who stop being part of organized religious groups don’t become committed atheists, but retain a mental model in which “The Universe” somehow has a purpose for humanity.

In the US, only 20 per cent of people have no religious affiliation, but of these, only one in ten say they are atheists. The majority are “nothing in particular” according to figures published in New Scientist.

FEELING OF CONNECTEDNESS

There are other, more socially-oriented evolutionary purposes, too. Religious communities grow faster, since people behave better (referring to the general majority over the millennia, as opposed to minority extremists highlighted by the media on any given day).

Why is this so? Religious folk attend weekly lectures on morality, read portions of respected books about the subject on a daily basis and regularly discuss the subject in groups, so it would be inevitable that some of this guidance sinks in.

There is also the notion that the presence of an invisible moralistic presence makes misdemeanors harder to commit. “People who think they are being watched tend to behave themselves and cooperate more,” says the New Scientist’s Lawton. “Societies that chanced on the idea of supernatural surveillance were likely to have been more successful than those that didn’t, further spreading religious ideas.”

This is not simply a matter of religious folk having a metaphorical angel on their shoulder, dispensing advice. It is far deeper than that—a sense of interconnectivity between all things. If I commit a sin, it is not an isolated event but will have appropriate repercussions. This idea is common to all large scale faith groups, whether it is called karma or simply God ensuring that you “reap what you sow”. 

NARRATIVE PRESENCE

These theories find confirmation from a very different academic discipline—the literature department. The present writer, based at the Creativity Lab at Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Design, has been looking at the manifestation of cosmic justice in fictional narratives—books, movies and games. It is clear that in almost all fictional worlds, God exists, whether the stories are written by people of a religious, atheist or indeterminate beliefs.

It’s not that a deity appears directly in tales. It is that the fundamental basis of stories appears to be the link between the moral decisions made by the protagonists and the same characters’ ultimate destiny. The payback is always appropriate to the choices made. An unnamed, unidentified mechanism ensures that this is so, and is a fundamental element of stories—perhaps the fundamental element of narratives.

In children’s stories, this can be very simple: the good guys win, the bad guys lose. In narratives for older readers, the ending is more complex, with some lose ends left dangling, and others ambiguous. Yet the ultimate appropriateness of the ending is rarely in doubt. If a tale ended with Harry Potter being tortured to death and the Dursley family dancing on his grave, the audience would be horrified, of course, but also puzzled: that’s not what happens in stories. Similarly, in a tragedy, we would be surprised if King Lear’s cruelty to Cordelia did not lead to his demise.

Indeed, it appears that stories exist to establish that there exists a mechanism or a person—cosmic destiny, karma, God, fate, Mother Nature—to make sure the right thing happens to the right person. Without this overarching moral mechanism, narratives become records of unrelated arbitrary events, and lose much of their entertainment value. In contrast, the stories which become universally popular appear to be carefully composed records of cosmic justice at work.

WELL-DEFINED PROCESS

In manuals for writers (see “Screenplay” by Syd Field, for example) this process is often defined in some detail. Would-be screenwriters are taught that during the build-up of the story, the villain can sin (take unfair advantages) to his or her heart’s content without punishment, but the heroic protagonist must be karmically punished for even the slightest deviation from the path of moral rectitude. The hero does eventually win the fight, not by being bigger or stronger, but because of the choices he makes.

This process is so well-established in narrative creation that the literati have even created a specific category for the minority of tales which fail to follow this pattern. They are known as “bleak” narratives. An example is A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry, in which the likable central characters suffer terrible fates while the horrible faceless villains triumph entirely unmolested.

While some bleak stories are well-received by critics, they rarely win mass popularity among readers or moviegoers. Stories without the appropriate outcome mechanism feel incomplete. The purveyor of cosmic justice is not just a cast member, but appears to be the hidden heart of the show.

ROOTS OF ATHEISM

But if a belief in cosmic justice is natural and deeply rooted, the question arises: where does atheism fit in? Albert Einstein, who had a life-long fascination with metaphysics, believed atheism came from a mistaken belief that harmful superstition and a general belief in religious or mystical experience were the same thing, missing the fact that evolution would discard unhelpful beliefs and foster the growth of helpful ones. He declared himself “not a ‘Freethinker’ in the usual sense of the word because I find that this is in the main an attitude nourished exclusively by an opposition against naive superstition” (“Einstein on Peace”, page 510).

Similarly, Charles Darwin, in a meeting with a campaigner for atheism in September 1881, distanced himself from the views of his guest, finding them too “aggressive”. In the latter years of his life, he offered his premises for the use of the local church minister and changed his family schedule to enable his children to attend services.

SMALL DIFFERENCES

Of course these findings do not prove that it is impossible to stop believing in God. What they do indicate, quite powerfully, is that we may be fooling ourselves if we think that we are making the key decisions about what we believe, and if we think we know how deeply our views pervade our consciousnesses. It further suggests that the difference between the atheist and the non-atheist viewpoint is much smaller than probably either side perceives. Both groups have consciousnesses which create for themselves realities which include very similar tangible and intangible elements. It may simply be that their awareness levels and interpretations of certain surface details differ.

THE FUTURE

But as higher levels of education spread, will starry-eyed spirituality die out and cooler, drier atheism sweep the field, as some atheism campaigners suggest? Some specialists feel this is unlikely. “If godlessness flourishes where there is stability and prosperity, then climate change and environmental degradation could seriously slow the spread of atheism,” says Lawton in New Scientist.

On a more personal level, we all have loved ones who will die, and we all have a tendency to puzzle about what consciousness is, whether it is separate from the brain, and whether it can survive.  We will always have existential dread with us—at a personal or societal level. So the need for periods of contemplative calm in churches or temples or other places devoted to the ineffable and inexplicable will remain. They appear to be part of who we are as humans.

Furthermore, every time we read a book or watch a movie, we are reinforcing our default belief in the eventual triumph of karma. While there is certainly growth in the number of bleak narratives being produced, it is difficult to imagine them becoming the majority form of cultural entertainment. Most of us will skip Cormac McCarthy’s crushingly depressing “The Road” in favor of the newest Pixar movie.

POPULATION IMPLICATIONS

When looking at trends, there’s also population growth to consider. Western countries are moving away from the standard family model, and tend to obsess over topics such as same-sex marriage and abortion on demand. Whatever the rights and wrongs of these issues, in practice they are associated with shrinking populations.  Europeans (and the Japanese) are not having enough children to replace the adult generation, and are seeing their communities shrink on a daily basis.

Africans and South Asians, on the other hand, are generally religious and retain the traditional model of multi-child families—which may be old-fashioned from a Western point of view, but it’s a model powerfully sanctioned by the evolutionary urge to extend the gene pool.

“It’s clearly the case that the future will involve an increase in religious populations and a decrease in scepticism,” says Steve Jones, a professor in genetics at University College London, speaking at the Hay Festival in the UK recently.

This may appear as bad news for pro-atheism campaigners. But for the evolutionary life-force which may actually make the decisions, this may augur well for the continued existence of humanity. (An image of Richard Dawkins and his selfish gene having a testy argument over dinner springs to mind.)

In the meantime, it might be wise for religious folks to refrain from teasing atheist friends who accidentally say something about their souls. And it might be equally smart for the more militant of today’s atheists to stop teasing religious people at all.

We might all be a little more spiritual than we think.

Online Source

How many Easter sermons missed the gospel this year?

That’s a serious question, my friends. Sadly, I suspect that there were many. I know of at least two.

One was the sunrise service I attended this last Sunday. In the sermon, Jesus was presented as the answer for a disappointing life. Come to Jesus for a better life. Not exactly on Joel Olsteen’s level (your best life now), but it certainly was on the way. Thankfully there were responsive readings rooted in scripture passages that did deliver the gospel.

The second was Rick Warren. I heard a commentary that played a clip from Pastor Rick’s sermon in which he stated that the death crucifixion and resurrection of Christ took three days, and that we will all face ‘three day experiences’ in our own lives. Jesus, in His suffering, gives us a model for handling ours. Really? Jesus’ suffering, the agony of the cross and bearing the burden of all of the sins of all of God’s people (whom He came to save) somehow compares to things we go through in our lives?

A Christian Post article had this to say:

One year after his son’s suicide, Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life and pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California, said that his sermons during worship services beginning this Thursday evening, will be about how the message of Easter provides the answer to life’s most devastating trials.

"Do you ever find yourself discouraged, or depressed or defeated, or even devastated by the circumstances in your life? If so, let me take a minute to encourage you about the pathway to hope and change and transformation that I’ve found in the Easter story of the resurrection of Jesus," said Warren during a video he released earlier this week .

Yes, folks, according to Pastor Rick, Easter is about finding the answers to three questions:

“Number one, what do I do in my days of pain?

Two, how do I get through my days of doubt and confusion.

Three, how do I get to the days of joy and victory?

Is these important questions? On course they are. Are the answers the central point of Easter? No, they are not. Jesus’ death and resurrection as the atonement/propitiation for OUR sin is the point.  Pastor Rick  did get close, but like many others, he missed it. He missed it speaking to many thousands, if you count Saddleback and all of it’s campuses. And thousands clapped and applauded at Pastor Ricks encouraging words, as did many thousands more who, this last Sunday, heard that Easter is all about them and solving their problems in this life.

What’s the point? Pray for those many thousands, that God will open hearts to hear the real ‘main thing’ about Easter, and that God will send someone with the real message of Easter. Pray for the pastors who, this last Sunday, missed the gospel. They will stand before the one whom  they slighted and be held accountable.

God, the Gospel, and the Gay Challenge — A Response to Matthew Vines

by Al Mohler

Tuesday • April 22, 2014

Vines

Evangelical Christians in the United States now face an inevitable moment of decision. While Christians in other movements and in other nations face similar questions, the question of homosexuality now presents evangelicals in the United States with a decision that cannot be avoided. Within a very short time, we will know where everyone stands on this question. There will be no place to hide, and there will be no way to remain silent. To be silent will answer the question.

The question is whether evangelicals will remain true to the teachings of Scripture and the unbroken teaching of the Christian church for over two thousand years on the morality of same-sex acts and the institution of marriage.

The world is pressing this question upon us, but so are a number of voices from within the larger evangelical circle — voices that are calling for a radical revision of the church’s understanding of the Bible, sexual morality, and the meaning of marriage. We are living in the midst of a massive revolution in morality, and sexual morality is at the center of this revolution. But the question of same-sex relationships and sexuality is at the very center of the debate over sexual morality, and our answer to this question will both determine or reveal what we understand about everything the Bible reveals and everything the church teaches — even the gospel itself.

Others are watching, and they see the moment of decision at hand. Anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann of Stanford University has remarked that “it is clear to an observer like me that evangelical Christianity is at a crossroad.” What is that crossroad? “The question of whether gay Christians should be married within the church.”  Journalist Terry Mattingly sees the same issue looming on the evangelical horizon — “There is no way to avoid the showdown that is coming.”

Into this context now comes God and the Gay Christian, a book by Matthew Vines. Just a couple of years ago Vines made waves with the video of a lecture in which he attempted to argue that being a gay Christian in a committed same-sex relationship (and eventual marriage) is compatible with biblical Christianity. His video went viral. Even though Matthew Vines did not make new arguments, the young Harvard student synthesized arguments made by revisionist Bible scholars and presented a very winsome case for overthrowing the church’s moral teachings on same-sex relationships.

His new book flows from that startling ambition — to overthrow two millennia of Christian moral wisdom and biblical understanding.

Given the audacity of that ambition, why does this book deserve close attention? The most important reason lies outside the book itself. There are a great host of people, considered to be within the larger evangelical movement, who are desperately seeking a way to make peace with the moral revolution and endorse the acceptance of openly-gay individuals and couples within the life of the church. Given the excruciating pressures now exerted on evangelical Christianity, many people — including some high-profile leaders — are desperately seeking an argument they can claim as both persuasive and biblical. The seams in the evangelical fabric are beginning to break and Matthew Vines now comes along with a book that he claims will make the argument so many have been seeking.

In God and the Gay Christian Vines argues that “Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationships.” He announces that, once his argument is accepted: “The fiercest objections to LGBT equality — those based on religious beliefs — can begin to fall away. The tremendous pain endured by LGBT youth in many Christian homes can become a relic of the past. Christianity’s reputation in much of the Western world can begin to rebound. Together we can reclaim our light” (3).

That promise drives Vines’s work from beginning to end. He identifies himself as both gay and Christian and claims to hold to a “high view” of the Bible. “That means,” he says, “I believe all of Scripture is inspired by God and authoritative for my life” (2).

Well, that is exactly what we would hope for a Christian believer to say about the Bible. And who could fault the ambition of any young and thoughtful Christian who seeks to recover the reputation of Christianity in the Western world. If Matthew Vines were to be truly successful in simultaneously making his case and remaining true to the Scriptures, we would indeed have to overturn two thousand years of the church’s teaching on sex and marriage and apologize for the horrible embarrassment of being wrong for so long.

Readers of his book who are looking for an off-ramp from the current cultural predicament will no doubt try to accept his argument. But the real question is whether what Vines claims is true and faithful to the Bible as the Word of God. But his argument is neither true nor faithful to Scripture. It is, nonetheless, a prototype of the kind of argument we can now expect.

What Does the Bible Really Say?

The most important sections of Vines’s book deal with the Bible itself and with what he identifies as the six passages in the Bible that “have stood in the way of countless gay people who long for acceptance from their Christian parents, friends, and churches” (11). Those six passages (Genesis 19:5; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; and 1 Timothy 1:10) are indeed key and crucial passages for understanding God’s expressed and revealed message on the question of same-sex acts, desires, and relationships, but they are hardly the whole story.

The most radical proposal Vines actually makes is to sever each of these passages from the flow of the biblical narrative and the Bible’s most fundamental revelation about what it means to be human, both male and female. He does not do this merely by omission, but by the explicit argument that the church has misunderstood the doctrine of creation as much as the question of human sexuality. He specifically seeks to argue that the basic sexual complementarity of the human male and the female — each made in God’s image — is neither essential to Genesis chapters 1 and 2 or to any biblical text that follows.

In other words, he argues that same-sex sexuality can be part of the goodness of God’s original creation, and that when God declared that it is not good for man to be alone, the answer to man’s isolation could be a sexual relationship with someone of either sex. But that massive misrepresentation of Genesis 1 and 2 — a misinterpretation with virtually unlimited theological consequences — actually becomes Vines’s way of relativizing the meaning of the six passages he primarily considers.

His main argument is that the Bible simply has no category of sexual orientation. Thus, when the Bible condemns same-sex acts, it is actually condemning “sexual excess,” hierarchy, oppression, or abuse — not the possibility of permanent, monogamous, same-sex unions.

In addressing the passages in Genesis and Leviticus, Vines argues that the sin of Sodom was primarily inhospitality, not same-sex love or sexuality. The law of Moses condemns same-sex acts in so far as they violate social status or a holiness code, not in and of themselves, he asserts. His argument with regard to Leviticus is especially contorted, since he has to argue that the text’s explicit condemnation of male-male intercourse as an abomination is neither categorical or related to sinfulness. He allows that “abomination is a negative word,” but insists that “it doesn’t necessarily correspond to Christian views of sin” (85).

Finally, he argues that, even if the Levitical condemnations are categorical, this would not mean that the law remains binding on believers today.

In dealing with the most significant single passage in the Bible on same-sex acts and desire, Romans 1:26-27, Vines actually argues that the passage “is not of central importance to Paul’s message in Romans.” Instead, Vines argues that the passage is used by Paul only as “a brief example to drive home a point he was making about idolatry.” Nevertheless, Paul’s words on same-sex acts are, he admits, “starkly negative” (96).

“There is no question that Romans 1:26-27 is the most significant biblical passage in this debate,” Vines acknowledges (96). In order to relativize it, he makes this case: “Paul’s description of same-sex behavior in this passage is indisputably negative. But he also explicitly described the behavior he condemned as lustful. He made no mention of love, fidelity, monogamy, or commitment. So how should we understand Paul’s words? Do they apply to all same-sex relationships? Or only to lustful, fleeting ones?” (99).

In asking these questions, Vines makes his case that Paul is merely ignorant of the reality of sexual orientation. He had no idea that some people are naturally attracted to people of the same sex. Therefore, Paul misunderstands what today would be considered culturally normative in many highly-developed nations — that some persons are naturally attracted to others of the same sex and it would be therefore “unnatural” for them to be attracted sexually to anyone else.

Astonishingly, Vines then argues that the very notion of “against nature” as used by Paul in Romans 1 is tied to patriarchy, not sexual complementarity. Same-sex relationships, Vines argues, “disrupted a social order that required a strict hierarchy between the sexes” (109).

But to get anywhere near to Vines’s argument one has to sever Romans 1 from any natural reading of the text, from the flow of the Bible’s message from Genesis 1 forward, from the basic structure of sexual complementarity, and from the church’s faithful reading of the Bible for two millennia. Furthermore, his argument provides direct evidence of that Paul warns of in this very chapter, “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

Finally, the actual language of Romans 1, specifically dealing with male same-sex desire, speaks of “men consumed with passion for one another” (Romans 1:27). This directly contradicts Vines’s claim that only oppressive, pederastic, or socially mixed same-sex acts are condemned. Paul describes men consumed with passion for one another — not merely the abuse of the powerless by the powerful. In other words, in Romans 1:26-27 Paul condemns same-sex acts by both men and women, and he condemns the sexual desires described as unnatural passions as well.

In his attempt to relativize 1 Corinthians 6: 9, Vines actually undermines more of his argument. Paul’s careful use of language (perhaps even inventing a term by combining two words from Leviticus 18) is specifically intended to deny what Vines proposes — that the text really does not condemn consensual same-sex acts by individuals with a same-sex sexual orientation. Paul so carefully argues his case that he makes the point that both the active and the passive participants in male intercourse will not inherit the kingdom of God. Desperate to argue his case nonetheless, Vines asserts that, once again, it is exploitative sex that Paul condemns. But this requires that Paul be severed from his Jewish identify and from his own obedience to Scripture. Vines must attempt to marshal evidence that the primary background issue is the Greco-Roman cultural context rather than Paul’s Jewish context — but that would make Paul incomprehensible.

One other aspect of Vines’s consideration of the Bible should be noted. He acknowledges that he is “not a biblical scholar,” but he claims to “have relied on the work of scholars whose expertise is far greater than my own.” But the scholars upon whom he relies do not operate on the assumption that “all of Scripture is inspired by God and authoritative for my life.” To the contrary, most of his cited scholars are from the far left of modern biblical scholarship or on the fringes of the evangelical world. He does not reveal their deeper understandings of Scripture and its authority.

The Authority of Scripture and the Question of Sexual Orientation

Again and again, Vines comes back to sexual orientation as the key issue. ‘”The Bible doesn’t directly address the issue of same-sex orientation,” he insists. The concept of sexual orientation “didn’t exist in the ancient world.” Amazingly, he then concedes that the Bible’s “six references to same-sex behavior are negative,” but insists, again, that “the concept of same-sex behavior in the Bible is sexual excess, not sexual orientation.”

Here we face the most tragic aspect of Matthew Vines’s argument. If the modern concept of sexual orientation is to be taken as a brute fact, then the Bible simply cannot be trusted to understand what it means to be human, to reveal what God intends for us sexually, or to define sin in any coherent manner. The modern notion of sexual orientation is, as a matter of fact, exceedingly modern. it is also a concept without any definitive meaning. Effectively, it is used now both culturally and morally to argue about sexual attraction and desire. As a matter of fact, attraction and desire are the only indicators upon which the modern notion of sexual orientation are premised.

When he begins his book, Matthew Vines argues that experience should not drive our interpretation of the Bible. But it is his experience of what he calls a gay sexual orientation that drives every word of this book. It is this experiential issue that drives him to relativize text after text and to argue that the Bible really doesn’t speak directly to his sexual identity at all, since the inspired human authors of Scripture were ignorant of the modern gay experience.

Of what else were they ignorant? Vines claims to hold to a “high view” of the Bible and to believe that “all of Scripture is inspired by God and authoritative for my life,” but the modern concept of sexual orientation functions as a much higher authority in his thinking and in his argument.

This leads to a haunting question. What else does the Bible not know about what it means to be human? If the Bible cannot be trusted to reveal the truth about us in every respect, how can we trust it to reveal our salvation?

This points to the greater issue at stake here — the Gospel. Matthew Vines’s argument does not merely relativize the Bible’s authority, it leaves us without any authoritative revelation of what sin is. And without an authoritative (and clearly understandable) revelation of human sin, we cannot know why we need a Savior, or why Christ died. Furthermore, to tell someone that what the Bible reveals as sin is not sin, we tell them that they do not need Christ for that. Is that not exactly what Paul was determined not to do when he wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11? Could the stakes be any higher than that? This controversy is not merely about sex, it is about salvation.

Matthew Vines’s Wedge Argument — Gender and the Bible

There is another really interesting and revealing aspect of Matthew Vine’s argument yet to come. In terms of how his argument is likely to be received within the evangelical world, Vines clearly has a strategy, and that strategy is to persuade those who have rejected gender complementarity to take the next logical step and deny sexual complementarity as well.

Gender complementarity is the belief that the Bible’s teachings on gender and gender roles is to be understood in terms of the fact that men and women are equally made in God’s image (status) but different in terms of assignment (roles). This has been the belief and conviction of virtually all Christians throughout the centuries, and it is the view held by the vast majority of those identified as Christians in the world even today. But a denial of this conviction, hand in hand with the argument that sameness of role is necessary to affirm equality of status, has led some to argue that difference in gender roles must be rejected. The first impediment to making this argument is the fact that the Bible insists on a difference in roles. In order to overcome this impediment, biblical scholars and theologians committed to egalitarianism have made arguments that are hauntingly similar to those now made by Matthew Vines in favor of relativizing the Bible’s texts on same-sex behaviors.

Matthew Vines knows this. He also knows that, at least until recently, most of those who have rejected gender complementarity have maintained an affirmation of sexual complementarity — the belief that sexual behavior is to be limited to marriage as the union of a man and a woman. He sees this as his opening. At several points in the book, he makes this argument straightforwardly, even as he calls both “gender complementarity” and denies that the Bible requires or reveals it.

But we have to give Matthew Vines credit for seeing this wedge issue better than most egalitarians have seen it. He knows that the denial of gender complementarity is a huge step toward denying sexual complementarity. The evangelicals who have committed themselves to an egalitarian understanding of gender roles as revealed in the Bible are those who are most vulnerable to his argument. In effect, they must resist his argument more by force of will than by force of logic.

Same-Sex Marriage, Celibacy, and the Gospel

Matthew Vines writes with personal passion and he tells us much of his own story. Raised in an evangelical Presbyterian church by Christian parents, he came relatively late to understand his own sexual desires and pattern of attraction. He wants to be acknowledged as a faithful Christian, and he wants to be married … to a man. He argues that the Bible simply has no concept of sexual orientation and that to deny him access to marriage is to deny him justice and happiness. He argues that celibacy cannot be mandated for same-sex individuals within the church, for this would be unjust and wrong. He argues that same-sex unions can fulfill the “one-flesh” promise of Genesis 2:24.

Thus, he argues that the Christian church should accept and celebrate same-sex marriage. He also argues, just like the Protestant liberals of the early twentieth century, that Christianity must revise its beliefs or face the massive loss of reputation before the watching world (meaning, we should note, the watching world of the secular West).

But the believing church is left with no option but to deny the revisionist and relativizing proposals Vines brings to the evangelical argument. The consequences of accepting his argument would include misleading people about their sin and about their need for Christ, about what obedience to Christ requires and what faithfulness to Christ demands.

Matthew Vines demands that we love him enough to give him what he desperately wants, and that would certainly be the path of least cultural resistance. If we accept his argument we can simply remove this controversy from our midst, apologize to the world, and move on. But we cannot do that without counting the cost, and that cost includes the loss of all confidence in the Bible, in the Church’s ability to understand and obey the Scriptures, and in the Gospel as good news to all sinners.

Biblical Christianity cannot endorse same-sex marriage nor accept the claim that a believer can be obedient to Christ and remain or persist in same-sex behaviors. The church is the assembly of the redeemed, saved from our sins and learning obedience in the School of Christ. Every single one of us is a sexual sinner in need of redemption, but we are called to holiness, to obedience, and to honoring marriage as one of God’s most precious gifts and as a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.

God and the Gay Christian demands an answer, but Christ demands our obedience. We can only pray — with fervent urgency — that this moment of decision for evangelical Christianity will be answered with a firm assertion of biblical authority, respect for marriage as the union of a man and a woman, passion for the Gospel of Christ, and prayer for the faithfulness and health of Christ’s church.

I do not write this response as Matthew Vines’s moral superior, but as one who must be obedient to Scripture. And so, I must counter his argument with conviction and urgency. I am concerned for him, and for the thousands who struggle as he does. The church has often failed people with same-sex attractions, and failed them horribly. We must not fail them now by forfeiting the only message that leads to salvation, holiness, and faithfulness. That is the real question before us.

Just Relax, A Little Liquid Drano Won’t Hurt Anyone – Pastor Matt Richard

 

I can recall hearing, as a first year seminarian, one of my professors criticize Pastor Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life.  Upon hearing this critical assessment, I was deeply angered.  I thought that his actions were severely inappropriate and that it was not proper to disparage another fellow Christian who was simply attempting to promote the Christian faith.  From my reasoning, the presence of a Christian voice was better than the absence of a Christian voice and it was certainly better than a voice speaking contrary to Christian truths.  Even though my professor took the time to show me the countless errors in Warren’s book, I still concluded that a faulty Christian voice was better than no Christian voice at all.  Besides, I felt that is was rude, insincere, and un-ecumenical to criticize those within the Christian sphere; we are all on the same team after all trying to do our best for God.

 The problem with my rationalization was that I believed that a Christian voice with small and subtle doctrinal errors was more advantageous and less of a concern than a voice that was obviously unchristian or a message that lacked a Christian message altogether.  To me, subtle and small errors were less of a concern than obvious and blatant errors.  I said to myself, “Why sweat the small stuff; why fuss over small errors that might upset the unity of a Christian community?  Why quibble over every pixel of God’s excellent picture?”

 It was not until several years later that my faulty view was finally exposed and reversed.  I can remember it so vividly.  I had graduated from seminary and had taken several church youth to a conference.  At the conference, the speaker gave a lesson while he baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  In his presentation he had several youth add flour, vanilla, chocolate, and eggs into a mixing bowl. Right before they were going to mix the ingredients together, the speaker subtly announced that he was going to add a teaspoon of drain cleaning Liquid Drano to the ingredients in the bowl.  He said it quietly, did it quickly, and kept talking.  Surprisingly, several of the youth sitting in the pews really did not even catch it.  At the end of his session, he wrapped up his teaching from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and invited all the youth to partake of freshly baked cookies.  Some revolted!  Others were enticed!  The point had been made.  The point being, what is worse than Liquid Drano in a batch of cookies?  Answer, a ‘little’ Liquid Drano in a batch of cookies.  Otherwise stated, it is the trivial comma placed after Jesus that should concern us; it is the small footnote attached to the doctrine of justification that should alarm us.  Yes, there is tremendous subtle corrupting power in small errors. 

 Martin Luther captures this theme in his book, Bondage of the Will.  To summarize his thoughts on this subject, let me phrase his assessment in the form of a question and answer.[1] 

                 Question:  What is worse than Pelagianism?

                Answer:  Semi-Pelagianism.

 In other words, what is worse than a heretic?  Answer, a subtle or crafty heretic.  Indeed this is true.  The reason why?  A Pelagian, one holding to the heresy of Pelagius, generally tends to confess and assert their beliefs candidly.  They call a spade a spade.  They teach openly what they believe.  However, a Semi-Pelagian is a bit trickier.  A Semi-Pelagian is indeed heretical; however, the emphasis of Pelagian theology is less candid, which results in people being more easily conned.  Otherwise stated, Semi-Pelagianism is toned down Pelagianism, which results in the same theological ethos being purported, but it tends to be more palatable because of the de-emphasis of the outright heresy.   

 Is this not the same tactic of the evil one that we see in the scriptures?  Keep in mind that the scriptures say that the devil disguises himself as an angel of light (See: 2 Corinthians 11:14). Furthermore, in Luke chapter 4 and Genesis chapter 3 we clearly see that the devil’s scheme is not to entirely eliminate scripture (i.e., God’s Word), but to twist it ever so slightly.  Did God really say? 

 What we learn from Luther and the scriptures is that it isn’t the blatant lies that are of extreme danger, though they are dangerous, rather, it is the subtle lies that should be of great concern.

 Looking back to my old professor from seminary, I now realize that this professor was not being divisive, insincere, or inappropriate.  Rather, he was demonstrating love and pastoral care by attempting to protect me from elements of false truth.  While I was ignorant to these errors, he was not.  While I was metaphorically eating cookies with Liquid Drano, he was fighting to keep me from ingesting poison.  You see, my old professor knew that these false truths would act like yeast and would spread through the whole batch of dough.  He knew the danger of a small teaspoon of heresy; that a small error can corrupt and erode a Christian’s theological framework. 

 I now regret how I branded this professor as an unloving, divisive, anti-chocolate chip cookie grouch.  This could not be further from the truth.  Metaphorically speaking, my professor did enjoy chocolate chip cookies, but he hated Liquid Drano and he hated the adverse effects of the poison upon the church.  Frankly, he loved me enough to disrupt my enjoyment of Liquid Drano cookies and he was courageous enough to criticize those who baked these corrupted cookies for me, even though these actions would earn him the stigma as being unloving, nitpicky, and an anti-cookie grouch. 

 Honestly, I believe that what we need most in the church today is more anti-chocolate chip cookie grouches, for there are indeed a lot of individuals cooking up and distributing Liquid Drano cookies in our post-modern pluralistic context.  Furthermore, I believe that it is truly dangerous and foolish when we rationalize in our minds that a little poison won’t hurt anyone and when we attempt to preserve tranquility within a community by applying ad hominem stigmas to those who are attempting to expose stealthy poison.   

Rather than naïvely consuming the plethora of ideologies in our world, may we hold steadfast to sound doctrine as Paul instructs Timothy and Titus in the Pastoral Epistles (See 2 Timothy 1:13 and Titus 2:1).  May we also recognize that it is truly good, right, and salutary when false doctrines are refuted, exposed, and laid bare (See Titus 1:9).  Indeed, it is good when poison is exposed; it is good when yeast is prevented from fermenting the whole dough; it is good when the twisted-ness of the evil one is uncovered; it is good when God’s people are not tossed to and fro, blown about by every wind of doctrine; it is good when the church recognizes the trickery and deceitful scheming of man; and it is good for Baptized Saints to know what they believe and why, so that they are not a reed shaken by the wind. 

_______________________

[1] Martin Luther.  Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation. ed. E. Gordon Rupp and Philip S. Watson (Philadelphia, PA; The Westminster Press, 1969),  311.

 

 

The Predicament of Fallen Man

"The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17 ESV)

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5 ESV)

Pre-Fall Adam had knowledge of what was good – and a disposition ‘bent’ toward God. Post-Fall Adam had a knowledge of good and evil and became separated from God, and ‘bent’ toward evil. That ‘bent’ has been called different things; original sin, sin nature, human inability, human depravity. Whatever it’s called, its effects are inherent characteristics of all fallen men. What are some of these?

What is the natural disposition of man toward God?

  • John 3:20 – “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
  • Romans 8:7-8 – For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God
  • Colossians 1:21 – And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds

Are men at least seeking God?

  • Psalm 10:4 – In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
  • Psalm 10:2,3 – The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
  • John 3:20 – “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
  • Isaiah 65:1 – “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
  • Isaiah 64:7There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
  • Romans 3:10-12 – “no one seeks for God.”

Can the natural man comprehend the gospel or come to saving knowledge of God on his own?

  • 1 Corinthians 2:14 – The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-4our gospel is veiled… to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18,21-24 – For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles
  • Deuteronomy 29:2-4 – And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.”
  • Matthew 11:27 – “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

What about the human will?

  • John 8:34 – Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
  • 2 Peter 2:19 – They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
  • Titus 3:3 – For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
  • Galatians 4:8-9 – Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
  • Romans 6:6,16,17,19,20 – We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey…? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed… For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
  • Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
  • 2 Timothy 2:25-26 – God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Are people good deep down? What about the mind and heart?

  • Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
  • Titus 1:15-16 – to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.
  • Ecclesiastes 9:3 – Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
  • Romans 1:28-31 – And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were… foolish
  • Ephesians 4:17-18 – you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
  • Jeremiah 10:7-8,14 – among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you. They are both stupid and foolish… Every man is stupid and without knowledge
  • Matthew 15:19 – “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (c.f. Mark 7:21-23)
  • Genesis 6:5 & 8:21 – The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… from his youth.
  • Proverbs 10:20 – the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
  • Proverbs 28:26 – Whoever trusts in his own [heart] is a fool
  • Mark 7:21-23 – “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (c.f. Matthew 15:19)
  • Psalm 5:9 – For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.

Food for thought. . . .

Calvinism is Satanic Pseudo-Christianity

A comment from my friend Ed, on a post concerning ‘original sin’:

Whose truth is more truer? Satan used scripture perfectly when tempting Jesus. But Jesus scripture whipped him. You seem to think that what I believe is an invention of my own mind. Not so. We are non-Calvinists for a reason. We believe that Calvinism is of Satan, not of God. It can be equated to this: Allah is the same God that Christians and Jews believe in. WRONG! Calvinism is a pseudo Christianity. Calvin, a former Catholic is NOT the end all, be all for all generations after him. He was wrong, and all who use his name is wrong. Calvinism is infiltrating the Southern Baptist churches…many of the congregation do not believe in Calvinism, but they believe in what I believe, and they are being forced to buy into it. There is problems in your “movement”. Even amongst Calvinists, you cannot even agree amongst yourselves in certain areas. But, you all seem to have those voices inside your heads, claiming it’s the Holy Spirit. So, lets cut to the chase. Whose truth is more truer? Calvinism, or non Calvinism.

Since the original post had nothing to do with Calvin or Calvinism, I thought I would post it on its own, exactly as written.

Yes, my friends, Calvinism is ‘Satanic pseudo-Christianity’, its infiltrating infiltrating the SBC, and Southern Baptist folks are being forced to buy into it! There you have it.

There are too many levels of wrong headedness in the comment to respond – I wouldn’t know where to start. Perhaps Ed would like to elaborate on one or two of his assertions so that there could be intelligent discourse based on careful exegesis of the Biblical text, church history concerning Calvinism and/or the SBC with its Calvinistic roots.

Until that happens, any attempt to dialogue with friend Ed (and his friends who believe like him) would I fear be rather pointless. Neither do I desire to turn this blog into debate about Calvinism. I would rather get to the bottom line, which I don’t think is about John Calvin, but about the nature of Fallen man. Calvin is just a convenient scapegoat.

So if you are reading this, please pray for Ed and his friends, that their hearts might be sufficiently softened and their minds opened to the truth of sovereign grace. Pray also that they might actually study church history before Calvin, and maybe even the history of the SBC, It would help their blood pressure, I’m sure.

Millennials and Mainlines: When ‘Relevant’ Christianity is Irrelevant

John Stonestreet, BreakPoint

 

Recently, the Presbyterian Church (USA) dropped the hugely popular hymn, “In Christ Alone,” from its hymnal after its authors, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, refused to omit a reference to Jesus satisfying the wrath of God.

In a powerful response over at First Things, which we’ll link to at BreakPoint.org, Colson Center chairman Timothy George quotes Richard Niebuhr who, back in the 1930s, described this kind of revisionist Protestantism as a religion in which “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

The response from the PCUSA, that their problem was not with God’s wrath but with the idea that Christ’s death satisfied God’s wrath, doesn’t change the fundamental problem of what George calls “squishy” theology. Theology is supposed to be true, not palatable.

Along these lines, maybe you’ve seen the recent viral opinion piece on CNN by my friend, Christian blogger and author Rachel Held Evans. In it, Evans offers her answers to the truly important question "Why are millennials leaving the church?"

To counter the exodus of young people from American churches, Evans says it’s time to own up to our shortcomings and give millennials what they really want — not a change in style but a change in substance. The answer to attracting millennials, she writes, is NOT “hipper worship bands” or handing out “lattés,” but actually helping them find Jesus.

Amen. I couldn’t agree more.

Then she goes on: “[The church is] too political, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to [LGBT] people.” Well, okay — anytime political programs co-opt our faith, or we ignore the needy and fail to love those with whom we disagree, we do the Gospel of Christ great harm.

But when she writes that attracting millennials to Jesus involves “an end to the culture wars,” “a truce between science and faith,” being less “exclusive” with less emphasis on sex, without “predetermined answers” to life’s questions, now I want to ask — are we still talking about the Jesus of biblical Christianity?

The attempt to re-make Jesus to be more palatable to modern scientific and especially sexual sensibilities has been tried before. In fact, it’s the reason Niebuhr said that brilliant line that I quoted earlier.

He watched as the redefining “Jesus Project” gave us mainline Protestantism, which promotes virtually everything on Evans’ list for millennials. The acceptance of homosexuality, a passion for the environment, prioritizing so-called “social justice” over transformational truth are all embodied in denominations like the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA).

But religious millennials aren’t flocking to mainline Protestant congregations. Mainline churches as a whole have suffered withering declines in the last few decades — especially among the young. What gives?

Well, in an another essay which appeared in First Things over 20 years ago, a trio of Christian researchers offered their theory on what’s behind the long, slow hemorrhage of mainline Protestant churches:

“In our study,” they wrote, “the single best predictor of church participation turned out to be belief — orthodox Christian belief, and especially the teaching that a person can be saved only through Jesus Christ.” This, said the researchers, was not (and I add, is still not) a teaching of mainline Protestantism. As a dwindling denomination rejects a hymn which proclaims salvation “in Christ alone,” this research sounds prophetic.

Evans is right that evangelical Christianity is responsible in many ways for the exodus of millennials. But ditching the Church’s unpalatable “old-fashioned” beliefs to become more “relevant” to the young won’t bring them back.

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Publication date: August 8, 2013

Presuppositional Apologetics

A couple of definitions:

Apologetics: n., Reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something

Christian apologetics: Christian apologetics is the science of defending the Christian faith against intellectual accusations and objections whether they come from hostile skeptics or sincere seekers.

Presuppose: v., Suppose or believe in advance. adj., presuppositional:

Pesuppositional apologetics for the Christian then would be the science of a reasoned defense of the faith carrying certain beliefs (suppositions) into the debate or dialogue

OR, more simply put:

“Read the Bible, and believe what is says.”

Example:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Rom 1:18-23 ESV)

The above passages says:

Everyone believes that God exists (presupposition), however some suppress the truth they already know. Those who suppress the truth of God’s existence end up with muddled (futile) thinking and claiming to be wise, they become fools.

Application:

Don’t go around calling unbelievers fools with dark hearts, but when you get into a discussion about the existence of God, walk in with the ‘presupposition’ that all men DO know God exists in spite of any protests to the contrary. It’s in the text of Romans 1, therefore it is true.

For example, if someone asks “How do you know that God exists?”, you can enthusiastically answer “The same way you do, my friend!” (See Romans 1)

Or if someone demands that you ‘prove’ the existence of God, you don’t need to go into ‘lawyer’ mode and put God on trial. After all, God’s the judge, not the defendant. However, since you read the Bible and believe what it says, you can ask “Since you already know God exists (Romans 1), why do you want me to prove it?”

Keep in mind that the conversation could then take a number of turns. But no matter where it goes from there, stick to what the Bible has to say, after all you believe what it says on all matters – it’s your standard of truth. And actually, that’s another ‘presupposition’ you carry into the dialogue – The Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and the standard of all truth.

Even if they don’t like what you have to say, they will walk away knowing you believe what you believe and won’t back down. That will always count for something. Share the truth with love and respect and God will do the rest.

Who knows if one day someone you stood your ground with and who walked away in a huff will one day walk up to you and say “Remember what you told me that time about God, and I ran screaming from the room? Well, guess what’s happened since then?” Then you hear how God melted a hard heart and another child of God was ushered into the Kingdom. You’ll rejoice with the angels!

____________________

Food for thought on a Saturday afternoon.

The Berean Principle and/or The Voices in our Heads

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” – Acts 17:11(ESV)

In the above passage, a group of believing Jews in the town of Berea were commended for their practice of listening to the preaching of the Apostle Paul and them examining what he said under the light of the Scriptures they had available to them, to see if what Paul had spoken was true. In other words, for these Berean Jews the written scriptures were the final arbiter of what was true and what was not, when it came to listening to preaching.

What I don’t see anywhere in the New Testament is any instance of, or license to listen to little voices in our heads. We do however, hear some evangelical leaders tell us we can, and even need to recognize God’s still small voice when he speaks to us, because he still communicates to his people with whisperings and through the natural senses in ways unique to them individually.

This phenomena doesn’t come to us just from some of the ‘interesting’ folks on TBN and God TV, it also comes from some notable and popular evangelicals. It is not my intent here to get into ‘names’, but only to ask, "Why?"

I’m not asking however, why the ‘pseudo-prophets’, self proclaimed ‘Apostles’, and even the prominent evangelicals personally justify the practice of listening to little voices in our heads, I know their reasons, including the alleged scriptural support from passages of scripture taken out of the context of the Bible. What I am asking is "Why listen to and trust little voices in our heads, period.

OK, this is where I need to shift into the 1st personal singular so nobody ‘feels’ judged (I’m learning). Here goes.

How can I ever be absolutely, positively, 100% certain that that ‘still small voice’ IS God, even after I’ve followed all of the ‘training manuals’ from the Christian bookstores and/or CD’s and DVD’s I can buy from TBN and God TV? I don’t know about you, but I know I just can’t, and here’s why.

Although I am a blood bought, adopted into the family, child of God, there still remains in me a heart that can be very deceitful, sinful desires and passions, as well as ‘itching ears’. There’s scripture that tells me all of that, but I won’t quote them here, because someone might think I think I know it all or ‘feel’ judged. (1st personal singular – remember?)

So. . .because I can’t ever be absolutely, positively, 100% certain that that ‘still small voice’ IS God, I would still need to apply the Berean Principle and check it out in the Scriptures. And if I still need to do that, why not just forget about little voices in my head and take everything straight to the source?

But that’s just me and somewhat of a DUHHHHHHH moment indeed. If you have somehow reached a state of heart and mind that is somehow completely pure and immune to deception (you have perfect voice recognition software installed in your brain housing group, good on ya!

______________

Food for thought early on a Thursday morning (in Colorado that is). Have a great day and please don’t feel judged.