Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's Time To Meet Your Stalker

My good friend Josh Williamson is a thundering open air preacher in Australia. One of his more prominent sermons concerned the recent statistical fact that everyone has a stalker. Now Paul Washer has revealed who he is . . .

Paul Washer tells us that he is very acquainted with death. The fact of the matter is that we will all become more and more familiar with it as every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every month of every year rolls on - and you might not even have that long.

It is helpful to understand the major benefit of funerals. They can't do much for the guy in the box but they do remind us that our day is coming. Oh the futility of worldly carnal pursuits - they flee like dust through our fingers. Let us flee instead to the Lord Jesus Christ Who can never lie and is on record saying:

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11:25b-26a)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kirk Cameron Lands Some Punches

Stephen Hawking - the world-renowned theoretical physicist - finds no room for heaven in his vision of the cosmos. In a recent interview, the 69 year old said that the human brain is like a computer that will stop working when its components fail.

There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," Hawking told the paper. It's not the first time the world-renowned thinker has made controversial statements about religion and the existence of God. In "Grand Design," a book Hawking published last year, the physicist declared that it was "not necessary to invoke God ... to get the universe going."

For Hawking, the concept of religion is in constant conflict with his life's work - science, and understanding the most basic ways in which the universe works - and it's almost impossible to reconcile the two. In an interview with Diane Sawyer last June, Hawking noted that "there is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win, because it works."

He has maintained this position since very early in his career, telling German newsmagazine Der Speigel in 1988 that "what I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began."

Kirk Cameron, in an interview, took exception to Hawking's comments which, in turn, invoked the wrath of cyberspace. Criticizing a man with a physical disability is akin to touching a sacred cow in the eyes of many, hence the barrage of criticism and mockery pointed in the direction of Kirk Cameron. All of this commotion prompted Kirk to post this comment on his Facebook page:

To say anything negative about Stephen Hawking is like bullying a blind man. He has an unfair disadvantage, and that gives him a free pass on some of his absurd ideas. Professor Hawking is heralded as “the genius of Britain,” yet he believes in the scientific impossibility that nothing created everything (Sir Isaac Newton called atheism “senseless and odious”) and that life sprang from non-life. To speak on issues of science and violate it’s essential laws is like playing checkers with a someone who changes the rules when he’s losing. Why should anyone believe Mr. Hawking’s writings if he cannot provide evidence for his unscientific belief that out of nothing, everything came? He says he knows there is no Heaven. John Lennon wasn’t sure. He said to pretend there’s no Heaven. That’s easy if you try. Then he said he hoped that someday we would join him. Such wishful thinking reveals John and Stephen’s religious beliefs, not good science. They may imagine all they want, but I lost my faith in atheism long ago and prefer to stay within the realm of reality.

That was an outstanding response - certainly landed a few punches there! But more importantly, kudos to Kirk for having the courage to weigh into a debate like this at risk of looking mean and, furthermore, exposing himself to the giant intellect of Stephen Hawking. At risk of sounding unloving by actually giving the most loving response. At the heart of all this I think Kirk, like many of us, realizes that atheism has no arguments for the non-existence of God. Rather they have a lot of rhetoric for why they hate God . . .

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools . . . (Romans 1:18-22)

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (John 3:19-20)

Here is a great interview from Way Of the Master's web based program On The Box where Tony Miano questions Kirk Cameron about the whole controversy surrounding his comments about Stephen Hawking:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Just Added - Luther's Large Catechism

Luther's Large Catechism has now been added to the resource directory.

Martin Luther

Category: Heroes, Puritans, And Reformers
Click Here To Order
Luther's Large Catechism consisted of works written by Martin Luther and compiled Christian canonical texts, published in April of 1529. This book was addressed particularly to clergymen to aid them in teaching their congregations. Luther's Large Catechism is divided into five parts: The Ten Commandments, The Apostles' Creed, The Lord's Prayer, Holy Baptism, and The Sacrament of the Eucharist. It and related documents was published in The Book of Concord in 1580. The Large Catechism typifies the emphasis which the churches of the Augsburg Confession placed on the importance of knowledge and understanding of the articles of the Christian faith. Primarily intended as instruction to teachers, especially to parents, the Catechism consists of a series of exhortations on the importance of each topic of the Catechism. It is meant for those who have the capacity to understand, and is not meant to be memorized but to be repeatedly reviewed so that the Small Catechism could be taught with understanding.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Exposing And Expelling Heretics (Part 1)

Today we start a series on the book of Jude. A small book of 25 verses that often hides in the shadow of Revelation. Though it is small, it still packs a huge punch and it is a punch that needs to be delivered in the 21st century.

Those who know me know that I am passionate about the truth. Truth matters because it is the truth that sets us free. Jesus Christ is the way the TRUTH and the life. Satan, on the other hand is the father of lies. He has been telling lies and twisting God's truth since he first appeared in Genesis 3. What do forgery experts spend most of their time studying? Real money. Why – because when you know what is true it is easy to tell what is false.

John Macarthur says:

My whole life is devoted to the truth. My whole ministry is devoted to the truth. It's driven by the truth revealed in the Scripture. Really I live and breathe for the truth. I realize that God has exalted His truth as high as His name. I know that He is the God of truth, that's how He identifies Himself. I know that Jesus Christ, the glory of God in human flesh, according to John, is full of truth. He is the way, the truth and the life. I know that Jesus said that the truth would set the sinner free from sin and death. The Bible is called the Word of Truth. Jesus said to His Father, "Your Word is truth." And in the Scriptures we are commanded to worship God in truth. We're commanded to obey the truth, to love the truth, to judge by the truth, to speak the truth, to walk in the truth and to love in the truth. Literally, we are engulfed in the truth. That's why the Apostle Paul calls the church "the pillar and support of the truth." We are responsible to hold up the truth, to wield the truth against all the speculations raised up against the knowledge of God. The church is to proclaim the truth, to bring deceived souls to the knowledge of the truth that saves and frees.

Have you ever heard the term ”it was an inside job”? When the company I worked for went bankrupt they were bothered by how other companies knew secret information about them which hurt their business. Who was this enemy that was working to bring them down? After careful investigation it was found to be an inside job. One of their own employees was actually working for another company and destroying them from the inside. There is no bigger danger to an army than an imposter. The enemy within is far greater than the enemy without and the book of Jude is a letter written to help the church expose imposters who are poisoning God's people with false teaching.

It would seem in many modern evangelical churches today that the eleventh commandment, which is clearly the most important commandment, is that thou shalt never criticize. I cannot tell you how many pastors and leaders have so strongly told me that we should never criticize anything anyone else teaches. These people are not only ignorant of the book of Jude, they are ignorant of the rest of Scripture. Much of the New Testament is about dealing with false teaching. John's letters, Peter's letters, Paul's letters to the Corinthians and Timothy, and Jesus Himself had much to say about ”wolves in sheeps clothing”.

Paul told the church in Rome:

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Romans 16:17)

In the King James it tells us to ”mark” those false teachers or point them out and avoid them. Paul goes so far as to pronounce damnation on anyone who preaches any other gospel:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)

Scripture has so much to say about false teachers and how we should treat them. But Jude is special in that it is the only book in the Bible 100% devoted to dealing with these false teachers. In contrast with the Acts of the Apostles, John Macarthur calls this little book the Acts of the Apostates. And Jude calls us to engage as Christians in a truth war against these apostates who are as prevalent today as they were in Judes time . . . perhaps even more so!

Who are these apostates or false teachers, how can we identify them, and why should we expose them. All will be revealed - to be continued . . .

Go On To Part 2

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Piper Warren Interview (Part 4)

It is my deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart. That key to each person’s heart is unique so it is sometimes difficult to discover. It may take some time to identify it. But the most likely place to start is with the person’s felt needs - Rick Warren (p219 The Purpose Driven Church)

Because of the Fall, humans are incapable of any saving good apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. We are helpless and dead in sin. We have a mindset that “cannot submit to God without divine enabling" - John Piper (Summary Of The Sovereignty Of God In Salvation, online source)

These quotes not only reveal that John Piper and Rick Warren live on different theological planets, they also raise the bizarre question as to why John Piper would make a concerted effort to prove that they live on the same planet. They furthermore reveal the utter pointlessness of interviewing Rick Warren and asking him questions like the one below:

Here is Rick Warren again at his chameleon best. He is clearly not a theological dunce which makes his long history of conflicting statements even more troubling. Rick Warren, who says that "God's not mad at you, He's mad about you", claims that Jonathan "Sinners In The hands Of An Angry God" Edwards is his hero. Piper who has a long track record of excellent biblical exposition is undermining it by doing something that is so far beneath him.

Just five years ago Piper wrote:

The recent lamentations over the drift of evangelicalism into pragmatic, doctrinally vague, audience-driven, culturally uncritical Christianity are, in my judgment, warranted and needed . . . The political spin doctors who specialize in deflecting attention away from truth onto feelings and relationships and styles have their counterpart in the evangelical tendency to avoid doctrinal disputes by casting issues in terms of demeanor and method rather than truth. Serious disagreements are covered over, while vague language and pragmatic concerns preserve hollow unity at the expense of theological substance and Biblical clarity and power . . . a major shift . . . has taken place in western evangelicalism where truth has been replaced by pragmatism as the major influencer of thought and life. This path is suicidal - John Piper (online source)

Many of us who love John Piper are at a loss as to why he thinks a suicidal path is a viable alternative!

Go On To Part 5
Go Back To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Monday, June 20, 2011

You Are A Slave!

Everyone is a slave! The only differentiation is who or what our master is. Don't fall for the great humanistic lie that freedom consists of the ability to do what you want, when you want, with whoever you want. Ultimately, that is a road of slavery to depraved human lust.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For 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. 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. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 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 filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32)

Solomon concluded his philosophical pondering in the book of Ecclesiastes with these sobering words:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

But there is a slavery worth pursuing . . .

So what is your slavery? The Lord Jesus Christ is so worthy to be our Master! If you still find this a bitter and difficult pill to swallow then allow Paris Reidhead to illuminate your mind:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Just Added - The Pursuit Of God

This classic work by AW Tozer has just been added to the resource directory.

A W Tozer

Category: Heroes, Puritans, And Reformers
Click Here To Order
A. W. Tozer wrote The Pursuit of God almost overnight on a train trip from Chicago to Texas in the 1940s. Little did he know that this manuscript would be translated into 15 different languages with over 1.7 million copies in print. The Pursuit of God is a classic resource authored by one of the best-known and loved Christian writers of all time. The Pursuit of God is written in a humble yet convicting tone. It strikes right into the heart of its readers, making them see themselves clearly in the light of the Word of God and ushers them into a sense of contemplation on where they have been in their walk with God, where they are, and where they desire to be. The Pursuit of God is replete with Scriptures and Tozer’s insights on those Scriptures. Every person, young and old, ought to read this Christian classic considered as a spiritual treasure.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Reverse Your Thinking

Watch this all the way through. Creative with a twist that I've never seen before!

Wow!!! Atheism really is good theology in reverse!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lame Attempts At Relevance (Part 6)

During my recent trip down under I met with an old friend who pastors a church in the greater Brisbane area. He is a biblically solid believer but has an all too common desire to break down "barriers" that hinder young people from coming to church and hearing the Gospel. With that in mind he had the organ removed from their church building. I'm not too fussed either way on the whole issue but I have to confess that I encountered another "Lame Attempt At Relevance" when visiting his fellowship. In place of the organ was a modern rock worship band with a . . . . smoke machine! My good friend doesn't seem to realize that replacing an organ with a smoke machine is akin to moving forward from the 1870's to the 1970's.

I guess Gary Numan was cool in the 70's. He certainly wasn't spending much time in the sun. But newsflash - people born in the 70's are no longer what a pastor might class as youth (oh the painful twang of age I feel as I write this). They are people approaching or entrenched in middle age. They have more interest in an affordable mid life crisis than they do in crossing the "smoke machine bridge" to salvation. One of my friends recently showed a video of Paul Washer preaching to a group of non-Christian co-workers. It held their attention from beginning to end. Why? Because there is nothing more relevant than sin, righteousness, and judgment - and preaching that as if your life depends on it!

Go On To Part 7
Go Back To Part 5
Go Back To Part 1

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Piper Warren Interview (Part 3)

An Open Letter To John Piper

(Courtesy of Frank Turk at Pyromaniacs)

Dear Dr. Piper

First of all, I am personally still grateful that you are back in public ministry. I am personally still edified by you, and am grateful for your spirit and your mission to make Christ known. I would in no way retract my original open letter to you as I believe that you have been mightily used by God for his work to make Christ known in the English-speaking world, and I credit you for it.

I am also on-record to say that you were right, back when Rick Warren spoke by video at the DG conference, to point out that we allegedly-reformed people have something to learn from Warren when it comes to being intentional about people and not just about doctrine. I wouldn't retract one word of that post either.

While I can't speak for my fellow bloggers here at PyroManiacs, I can say that I am probably the least-unimpressed with Pastor Warren. Without naming names or trying to line out who would say what about whom, it's enough to say that the consensus here is that Rick Warren harms the church in general. His books have done more of a dis-service for local churches than they have served to improve them, and his own methods and writings are frankly a bad example for others.

Personally, I'm not a fan of Rick Warren. I can't get excited about his approach to Scripture and Ministry because I see all his writing and sermons as glib, simplistic, mediocre, and often muddled in his broad endorsements of people in interfaith settings -- something I know you disagree with. This was the major stunner from last year's conference: you see Pastor Warren as a great communicator -- which I think is startling because you are yourself a great communicator, and I would think you personally would know better than this. From my perspective, Pastor Warren has done what so many Southern Baptist pastors have done: he has created a local civic institution which has come into national prominence because so many people have come to it. And on that platform his shortcomings are simply magnified, so that the kinds of criticisms he receives are at least warranted because they have such a wide-reaching effect.

But at the same time, I also cannot bring myself to brand Rick Warren, as Chris Rosebrough would say, a rank heretic of a pelagian stripe [a view Phil Johnson has a lot of sympathy for]. I can't do it because I know where he comes from denominationally and ecclesiastically, and I simply can't write off the standard vocabulary of the average SBC pastor as inherently-pelagian. It may be populist in intention, and anti-intellectual in spirit, and simply and finally guided by the view that the number of people who agree with you and will follow you defines the success of your work, but I honestly don't see Rick Warren as anti-Christian. He's just mediocre, and popular, and most of his critics cannot evaluate him from that perspective because, frankly, they cannot muster a generous or balanced approach to discernment in general.

That, I think, is what guided your interview of Pastor Warren: a reaction against his most-unfair critics. As you see him as your friend, I credit you for wanting to defend a friend against injustice. But here's the thing: it seems to me that you thereby missed the point of all the fair criticism of Rick Warren and the PDC/PDL approach to local church life. In seeking to overcome the unfair criticism, you brushed over the concerns legitimate people have about your friend.

There were great opportunities to address those problems during this interview. For example, when pastor Warren boasted that he'd put any 500 members of Saddleback up against any 500 members of any other church with regard to doctrinal knowledge (cf. pg 36 of the transcript), this was a great opportunity to consider his consistency. If the members of his church are deeply educated in systematic doctrine, why does he preach without using the language of the Bible for the doctrines of the Bible -- let alone the common language of systematic theology (cf. pg 37)? Isn't this kind of latently anti-intellectual approach to doctrine and the Bible the most serious cause for concern about what Pastor Warren has advocated for 25 years?

To that charge, it's also interesting that he offered the claim that he has read the "complete sets of Jonathan Edwards ... 22 volumes, 800 pages each" (pg 4), and it had a significant influence on PDL. PDL was published in Nov 2002, and written presumably in the previous year -- and through that time, only volume 18 of the Yale "Works" series had been published. Perhaps he forgot how much he had read prior to writing that book; we are all getting older and are not the Grad students we once were. But more to the point, if Edwards was such a profound influence on PDL, why is his name so conspicuously-absent from it? Others are plainly mentioned in the book: Brother Lawrence is mentioned 5 times; Dr. Hugh Moorehead is quoted 3 times; Mother Teresa is cited twice; Hudson Taylor is mentioned once; Billy Graham is mentioned once; George Bernard Shaw was mentioned; Lane Adams [an author with fewer readers than this blog can claim] is quoted; there are others. [Thx, Kindle Edition search, since the book lacks a subject index] Plainly, these influenced Pastor Warren's writing of this book. Why not mention Jonathan Edwards if he had, as Warren said in the video, greatly influenced PDL?

To point this out and to ask Pastor Warren how he can substantiate this statement when factually it seems, at best, unsupported by the text, would not have been a hard item to come up with. I had not read PDL in almost 10 years, and this bit of emendation to the text seemed obvious -- an interesting and challenging point to investigate; it's unfortunate you missed the opportunity.

The enduring legacy of PDL, though, is Warren's use of any and every translation of a passage to allegedly make a point. For example, in Chpt 8 of PDL, Pastor Warren cites Ps 147:11 as "The LORD is pleased only with those who worship him and trust his love." This theological point is certainly true enough, but this is the CEV translation of a passage which reads "the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love," (ESV) or "The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy," (KJV) -- a phrase which, in the context of the Psalm in question, as you know, is a contrast of God's will to do good over and against the normal hope of man that one's own strength or accomplishments will carry the day. This example is a rather-mild incident in PDL, but it is by no means the only one. For your reference, Tim Challies shares this concern, as does Mike Oppenheimer of "Let Us Reason" Ministries. points out that PDL is not the only source of data regarding Pastor Warren's misuse of Scripture.

This practice of cherry-picking the loosest and most-imprecise translations of passages to make a point in PDL is probably the most-pervasive criticism of the text, and you never arrive there. Of all the things you are from the pulpit and in your ministry, you are a man of God's word, and the misuse of Scripture is not something you usually lay hands on lightly. From my desk, it seems to me you can't possibly have missed this. Let's admit this: you didn't ignore the issue of hermeneutics. You opened up the question of how one uses Scripture (pp. 5, 14, 34). You simply didn't pursue it. You allowed Pastor Warren to simply say that he doesn't believe in contradictions in the word of God, and let that be enough. It's a casual approach to the man and his philosophy, not a deep consideration.

And in the end, this is why I have written to you. I am your fan, and deeply indebted to you for your lifetime of faithful ministry. I'm not a quack blogger who is now emptying my library of anything you may have written or edited because you are endorsing a dubious partner in ministry. I'm a guy who has grown because of your engagement with the glory of God, and have felt the weight of the divine act of the incarnation and crucifixion because of your meditation on and exhortation of God's Grace. I am a better man, and a better father, and a better husband, because you have put the Gospel to me in serious and sober and joyful terms. I believe completely that the greatest cause in the world is joyfully rescuing people from hell, meeting their earthly needs, making them glad in God, and doing that with a kind and serious pleasure that makes CHRIST look like the treasure He is.

I believe in your faith, and in your good judgment. While I cannot and will not question the former, I ask you to reconsider the latter as you are now campaigning for a broader and deeper acceptance of Rick Warren among those in broader "reformed", "T4G", and "Gospel Coalition" circles. He is, after all, a pastor and not merely a blogger. He's a shepherd and not merely a popular author. He's sending missionaries and not merely encouraging middle-class values. And as you seek to leverage the good name and good faith relationships you have among your partners in the groups listed above, remember that part of fellowship among brothers is honoring the concerns and objections your fellow workmen have expressed throughout the years about Rick Warren. He only has something to gain from their acceptance -- while they clearly would tell you there is something to lose by uncritically allowing him in as a teacher and leader.

In closing, I have a great empathy for your efforts to seek to be inclusive for the sake of Christ toward those who are in Christ but not in our basic theological camp. As I close in on a decade of internet punditry as a blogger and advocate for the Christian faith, I am deeply sensitive to the dark and unrestrained excesses of those who count themselves as defenders of the faith but are unaccountable for their strident pronouncements. As someone who is often lumped in with those sort, I think it's important to say plainly that I don't think it's an easy or uncomplicated thing to write you, a seasoned pastor, a critical open letter. I think you are right that some have treated Rick Warren with injustice -- but he is not hardly the man your interview with him paints him to be. He's not hardly someone deeply concerned with a robust declaration of the Gospel and its consequences. His weekly preaching does not reflect this, and his books do not reflect this. After 40 years of demonstrating pastoral care for real people and careful, weekly expository preaching, you must be able to see the deficiencies in what he has done, is doing, and will continue to do if accepted without asking the serious questions his writing and actions create.

Please: for the sake of your own continued credibility, and for the sake of the partnerships in the Gospel which you have forged with other men of good faith, reconsider the broad and uncritical endorsement you are giving to Rick Warren. Underscore your differences with him clearly and cogently, and ask him to respond seriously for the sake of his commitment to your integrity and his own.

For that reason, I leave you with a blessing. As the apostle charged, it is always our purpose to give a reason for the hope that is in us -- to put to shame those who would revile us for Christ's sake -- with gentleness and reverence. As you have spent your adult life doing this, I ask God our Father, through the Holy Spirit, and in Christ's name, to bless you for it now with these things: love for your friend beyond mere bonhomie; courage to speak prophetically and evangelistically; and humility to see the limits of your own approach to what you believe is addressing injustice.

My thanks for your time.

And my thanks to Frank Turk for some excellent perspective on an issue that has huge damage potential!

Go On To Part 4
Go Back To Part 2
Go Back To Part 1

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Just Added - God Has A Wonderful Plan For Your Life

Ray Comfort's free book on evangelism has just been added to the resource directory.

Ray Comfort

Category: Evangelism
Click Here To Get A Free Copy
Why do 9 out of 10 children raised in Christian homes leave the Church? Why do many professing Christians show little or no evidence for their faith? Why do 80-90% of those making decisions for Christ fall away from the faith? For decades, the world's most popular gospel message has been drawing the lost by promising God's wonderful plan for their life. But behind the facade of the "wonderful plan" message is the reality of the trials, temptation, and persecution that Jesus promised. How can we reconcile the two? In this life-changing book, best-selling author Ray Comfort explores whether this common gospel approach aligns with real life - and with Scripture. The vital biblical principles he reveals will force you to reexamine your ideas about the gospel - and will teach you how to reach unbelievers the way God intended. A must-read for all who care about the lost.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Piper Warren Interview (Part 2)

I promised in Mondays post to share some thoughts on therecent interview between John Piper and Rick Warren. However, I decided to post something even better today because I think it is such an excellent get to the point article on this bewildering interview. Tim Challies has an exceptionally popular blog and with good reason. It is insightful, theologically tight, and full of discernment. Challies has also written extensively on Warren's material in previous years and has even met him in person. What Tim wrote I can say an absolutely hearty amen and amen (and I never thought I'd say that about someone from Canadia). I've said enough - let's listen to Tim Challies on this subject.

Desiring God Ministries has posted John Piper’s long-awaited interview with Rick Warren. This has brought to completion the invitation Piper extended to Warren to speak at the 2010 Desiring God National Conference. The interview was supposed to happen at that event, but in the end Warren was unable to travel to Minneapolis and the interview was postponed. The men got together on May 1, 2011 and this video is the result.

Today I want to offer up some thoughts on it. I do so because over the years I have come out as a bit of a critic of Rick Warren and his ministry. This is not something I am entirely comfortable with, but it was no surprise to me that when the interview was posted I began to receive questions; people wanted to know what I thought of it. And, frankly, I wanted to know what I thought of it. So what I intend to do in this article is simply let you into my mind as I wrestle through the interview and its implications.

Before I begin, let me say a word about critiquing Warren. Many people seem to imagine that there is some kind of a Calvinist conspiracy against Rick Warren. I will grant that there are many outrageous critics out there who seem to put Warren in the same league as Jezebel and Judas. Despite such people there are many others who have good, legitimate critiques of the man and his ministry. I think we need to be careful that we do not combine these 2 groups—that we do not ignore legitimate critiques because of the outrageous ones.

Having said that, let me tell you where my mind went as I watched and read the interview. I am very glad to hear from you whether my thinking has gone off-track or if I am just plain wrong. The comments are open and I will be reading them as I am able.

1. Awareness
I find myself aware of my youth. As I begin to think through this issue I immediately realize that both of these men are old enough to be my father and I want to be very careful that I do not play the role of the impulsive, self-assured, prideful young(er) man. The Bible commends age and maturity and this leaves me inclined to doubt my own interpretation when it conflicts with those who are older than I am. Both of these men have far more knowledge of Scripture than I do and both have much greater ministry experience. Both have obviously been used by the Lord in unique ways.

And yet their greater age and ministry experience does not mean that I cannot have legitimate concerns. I know that what was true of Rick Warren before I saw this interview is true of him still. And this means that the concerns I had before remain concerns. While I am aware of the age difference between myself and these men, I am also aware of what I am convinced are legitimate concerns.

2. Uncertainty
From awareness I went to uncertainty. I found myself grappling with this question: What does John Piper wish for people to take away from this interview? Piper knows that he is a leader within the church, one who is much admired; he knows of the concerns people have for Warren; he knows that this interview will be widely watched, dissected and interpreted. All of this means that he must want people who watch this interview to come to a certain conclusion. As far as I can tell, that conclusion is this: Rick Warren has been misinterpreted and misunderstood. The implication is that he is an orthodox brother in Christ, and that Piper is leading us to see that many of Warren’s critics are being unjust toward him.

This is one of the takeaways I am seeing in the blogosphere and in comments left right here at my web site. My friend Timmy Brister seemed to say this in an article he posted at his blog where he marvelled at the theological agreement between the 2 men. A commenter at my blog wrote “Hope you will have the integrity to comment on the interview Tim, as it shows some of your previous critiques might have been off and misplaced. Very good interview, and helpful in showing just what a sharp, Bible-loving pastor Rick Warren is.”

3. Confusion
I find myself confused with this. Now hear me say that I love John Piper. I admire him a great deal, I’ve benefitted immensely from his ministry and on the few occasions I have spent time with him, have enjoyed him on a personal level. My disappointment in no way means I am turning on him or negating all that his ministry has meant to me. I feel like I need to repeat this so it does not get lost in the noise. I love and admire John Piper.

And yet I find that I disagree with his conclusion. And here is why: I do not think he has given us an accurate understanding of Rick Warren or his ministry. It has given us a very partial understanding, one based on a very limited scope of conversation. I do not think there is any malice here or any intent to deceive. It’s just reality as I understand it.

This interview was meant to be a frank one. Piper asked Warren some of the questions that people have been wondering. He asked about the gospel, about the existence of hell, about preaching philosophy, about God’s sovereignty, about the doctrines of grace. Yet, because Piper’s questions were based almost entirely on the text of The Purpose Driven Life, the interview was narrow in scope. And because it was an “appreciative interview” it steered away from some of the book’s most pronounced concerns. The fact is, though, that there is far more to Rick Warren than this 1 book. He has written several books; he has preached thousands of sermons; he has written other things and spoken other places.

As the interview drew to a close I saw that many of the predominant concerns I have with The Purpose Driven Life as well as Warren’s wider ministry went unaddressed. Let me speak to just 2 of them. And I think this is the crux of what I am saying in all of this—we do not have to change our critiques of Rick Warren based on this interview. What he said in this interview simply does not correlate to the facts of his books and ministry.

A Theological Chameleon
One of the most common critiques of Rick Warren and one of the most important is that he is something of a chameleon. There is a kind of pragmatism to him where he will be A and Not A depending on the context. I have little confidence that in a different context Warren would have answered the questions the same way. I am not saying that he outright lied to Piper, but simply that his track record shows that he adapts to fit the context.

Warren has been lauded in the secular media for speaking for a long time to a large group of Jewish leaders without ever using the name of Jesus. He is now being lauded by Calvinists for affirming the doctrines of grace. He has received praise from Roman Catholics. After all, he recently wrote the introduction to a special edition of TIME magazine that celebrated the life of Mother Teresa. This introduction praises the woman and holds her up as a model of Christian virtue. There Warren tells about a handwritten note by Mother Teresa that adorns the wall of his office. He proclaims that Mother Teresa “offered the same unconditional love our Savior did. By being the hands and feet of Jesus, this petite Albanian nun became one of the great evangelists of the 20th century.” He declared her “exhibit A of a true hero—a saint.” Mother Teresa, though, was a Catholic of Catholics, a devout follower of her church. She was also a universalist and one who saw no reason to seek to convert people to the gospel.

I think I am right to be confused here, right to ask questions. How do the doctrines of grace allow for an ardent Roman Catholic, one who denied those doctrines as anathema, to exemplify the Christian faith, to be a true hero—a saint? Surely I am not the only one who sees a contradiction. Surely I am not wrong to balk at Warren teaching Jewish rabbis how to increase the strength of their congregations.

Warren gave all the right answers in this interview, but I am not at all convinced that they reflect what he truly believes at all times and in all contexts. And certainly his ministry does not appear to bear out the kind of theological underpinnings that would reflect the theology he espouses here. Where is the influence of Edwards? Where is the monergism? Where do we see a belief in total depravity consistently applied in any of his books?

Use of Scripture
Another very common critique of Rick Warren and his books concerns the use of Scripture. Throughout The Purpose Driven Life he consistently and unapologetically tears verses from their context and applies them haphazardly, relying on a long list of translations and paraphrases to do so. Examples abound and would probably number in the hundreds; these are very well documented and very widely known.

Piper spoke to Warren about Scripture but stopped short of asking about his use of Scripture. If I were to preach in my church and Scripture as Warren does, I would be rebuked and I would deserve the rebuke. If a man stood in the pulpit of Bethlehem Baptist Church and used Scripture as Warren does, he would be rebuked as well, I am convinced. We do not want men to learn from Warren how to preach, how to use Scripture! He does not treat the Word of God as the very words of God. He can speak of his indebtedness to Edwards and Spurgeon and others, but his preaching shows very little of their influence.

These are just 2 critiques that remain unaddressed—very important critiques that seem to get to the heart of what he truly believes.

4. Unconvinced
There is still a pronounced gap between what Warren says in this interview and what he says elsewhere. And there is just as large a gap between what Warren says here and what his ministry bears out. Saying all that he said and affirming all that he affirmed is not enough; he also needs to show it. But he has not done that. The reason everyone was so surprised that Warren is Reformed is that he has never given us any reason to imagine such a thing. As Michael Horton wrote in a review of The Purpose Driven Life, “Judging by The Purpose-Driven Life, Pastor Warren’s theology seems to reflect run-of-the-mill evangelical Arminianism, especially with its emphasis on the new birth as the result of human decision and cooperation with grace. There are also heavy traces of Keswick ‘higher life’ teaching throughout the book.” What he says in this interview is not at all consistent with what he has shown through his ministry. So why would we believe that it’s true?

Now hear me say that the fact that his theology is “run-of-the-mill evangelical Arminianism” does not mean that he is not a Christian; it does not mean that he cannot be a godly man or a good pastor. But it does mean that it is not Reformed, because A cannot also be Not A.

I love John Piper (I already said that, right?). I’m glad that he has risen to a position of leadership within the church. But this interview has not at all convinced me to retract what I believe about Rick Warren. I firmly believe that those who have respectfully offered measured critiques of Warren and his ministry—substantial and important critiques—have done so for good reason. And those reasons remain.

Go On To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Franklin Graham On Hell And Bell (Part 2)

Franklin Graham recently appeared on highly popular conservative US talk show, The O'Reilly Factor hosted by Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly wanted to take the opportunity to call on Graham to respond to Rob Bell's latest book (Love Wins) which denies the plain Scriptural teaching of a place of literal conscious eternal punishment widely referred to as hell. Franklin got asked seven hot button questions/assertions on the subject of hell. Before I give my responses let's take a look at the video again:

There has already been some pretty spicy debate in the comments section on the previous post. Hats off to Andrew for some excellent biblical reasoning.

Ray Comfort emailed me concerning this video and said:

God bless Franklin for not compromising. However, when the Law is left out of the equation, “sin” degenerates into “rejecting Jesus.” This is something any reasonable person sees as being senseless and totally unjust. Millions have never heard of Jesus, and therefore never rejected Him. God rather holds us accountable for violation of His Law (1 John 3:4). The Law makes Hell reasonable.

Ray's point here is the major thread in my answers to all seven questions. I'll number the questions and put my responses in italics. Here goes:

1. There cannot be a hell because God is not a monster and He could never assign any human being to a place of eternal damnation.

This question reflects a wrong view of man's depravity and God's Holiness. If God is good, loving, just, and righteous then he would be corrupt if he were not to pass righteous judgment on the actions of all people. The reality of hell maintains God's just character and serves as the backdrop for mercy - being spared from what we deserve.

2. Isn't it a cruel action for God to throw people into hell?

It can be a dangerous and damning practice to spend more time gazing in the direction of a world full of sinners who far exceed your own "small and petty sins". Pause and consider the outrage you felt when Bin Laden's responsibility for the September 11 atrocities was revealed. Now go and multiply that outrage by infinity and load it into the cannon of God's wrath that is aimed straight at you (John 3:36) . . . unless you are clothed with the imputed righteousness of Christ. It is not just the magnitude and volume of our rebellion against a Holy God, but Who we have sinned against. If I lie to my daughter she can do nothing to me. If I lie to my wife I'll be sleeping on the sofa. If I lie to my boss he can fire me. And if I lie to the government they can throw me in jail. The higher the authority we sin against - the greater the consequences. What if God is an infinite authority??? Then His righteousness would deem our crimes against Him as infinite.

3. What about people who've never even heard of Jesus Christ?

Once again this question is based upon a faulty view of humanity. If you jump out of a plane without a parachute do you die because you weren't using a parachute or because of the law of gravity? It is the law of gravity but a parachute can save them. Likewise, people don't go to hell because they never heard about Jesus but because of the law of sin and death. But Jesus can save them. All of mankind are guilty sinners without excuse as Paul accurately pointed out:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For 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. (Romans 1:18-20 which Franklin Graham also alluded to)

4. Are you saying that if someone believes in the goodness of the Creator then they can be saved?

Not at all. Believing in the goodness of the Creator does not provide payment for your sins. You need a righteous substitute to take God's wrath for your sins and to credit you with his perfect righteousness. There is only one of those and His Name is Jesus Christ.

5. But what about the Jews who suffered and died during the holocaust. They didn't believe in Jesus but they were good people. How could they possibly be sentenced to eternal damnation?

The Bible says that there is none who are good. No matter how much of a victim we are in life, it still pales in comparison with our crimes against God. If some of those Jews were trusting in Jesus Christ to save them then they will not be damned. It should not amaze us that God damns people - we should be amazed that God saves anyone:

"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." "Their throat is(S) an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:10-23)

6. If innocent people were killed without any revelation of Jesus Christ or were never taught this by their parents - how could they possibly be damned?

Same answer as question 3.

7. I believe it's all about free will. We are free to make choices in this life but we will be held accountable for all of them.

Yes we have free will. A will that is sinful and continually freely chooses to rebel against God. We need to be born again, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and to become a new creature in Christ in order to even be able to obey Go:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44a, words of Jesus)

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

So there are my responses. Feel free to respond to this whether you agree or disagree. We need to be ready with an answer to these questions.

Go Back To Part 1

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Piper Warren Interview (Part 1)

Quite a number of people have contacted me recently asking for an opinion on the recent interview between John Piper and Rick Warren that had been promised at last years Desiring God conference but had to be postponed. It was supposed to be where John Piper would ask the deep probing doctrinal questions that swirl around Rick Warren. Is he a Calvinist? Does he hold to all five points? Does he preach penal substitutionary atonement etc etc. I really took no interest in this interview and have not even watched it in its entirety because I believe it has been a tragic exercise in missing the point.

We all know Rick Warren is a smart operator. His MO is always to adapt to his audience and Piper is no exception. It is bizarre that Piper recognizes Warren as a pragmatist, and Warren's pragmatism demands that he gives Piper the answers he wants. Trying to understand Warren doctrinally is like shooting at moving goalposts, and yet Piper just doesn't see the pointlessness of this exercise. Warren tells Piper he believes in the doctrines of Grace and then tells an inter-faith forum (made up of Hindus Muslims etc) that he has no interest in seeing them converted but wants to work together with them. He said on national TV that "God's not mad at you, He's mad about you" and then tells Piper his hero is Jonathan Edwards (who preached Sinners in the Hands of an angry God). And then tells Larry King his hero is Ghandi, tells Barack Obama his hero is Martin Luther King, and tells the Catholics his hero is Mother Theresa. The man is a chameleon. Warren told his church he is opposed to homosexual marriage and then denied it on Larry King. He positively commended the President of Syria (in person) for his treatment of Christians and then told Syrian Christian refugees who live in America that he never did such a thing. He can talk to Muslims for an hour without ever mentioning the Lord Jesus Christ and then tell Piper it's his central focus. Warren can tell Piper that penal substitutionary atonement must always be there in Gospel preaching, but I can't find a single sermon with him talking about it (in fact I can find several where he actually undermines this doctrine).

Even the pagan worldly media can see what a godly and discerning man like Piper seems oblivious to. It is perplexing to say the least. (Disclaimer - the following video is in no way an endorsement of that program. It merely serves to show that even carnal worldly members of the media have picked up on Rick Warren's continual double speak).

If John Piper (who I love dearly but think he is making a massive and damaging error in judgment with this) was going to ask questions about Warren's many conflicting statements through the years, his track record on gospel proclamation, and his handling of Scripture - then I would have wanted a front row seat to the interview. I am reluctant to even discuss the content of the interview as I still feel exhausted by my blow by blow critique of the "sermon" Rick Warren preached at the 2010 Desiring God conference. It was a TERRIBLE sermon which contradicted so much of Piper's core theology and yet Piper commended it. It doesn't fill me with hope for the interview. Nonetheless, for the sake of those who have asked, I will examine some of the content from the interview and post my thoughts. So stay tuned . . .

Go On To Part 2

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Change Of Venue For Reformation Resurrection 2011

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have been forced to shift venue for the upcoming Reformation Resurrection conference in Denmark this year being held between July 26th and 29th. Nothing else has changed (including price) and the new venue is less than 50 kilometers from the original venue. The conference page has now been updated, so for those of you who are attending or thinking of attending please go to this page where you can check out all the details including the updated map and address.

Reformation Resurrection 2011 will be featuring keynote speaker and cultural apologist Dr Voddie Baucham. This is a special conference experience where we have the keynote speaker staying on the conference site with all the other attendees providing ample opportunity for plenty of personal interaction. For those of you who haven't heard Voddie speak before, or want an extra dose here is something to whet your appetite:

Friday, June 3, 2011

What Is Biblical Discipleship And Growth (Part 8)

Mark Dever, in his book "Nine Marks Of A Healthy Church", outlines the key factors in biblical discipleship and growth. Today, we conclude this 8 part series by examining a biblical understanding of church leadership.

8. Biblical Understanding of Church Leadership

A healthy church to grow in is not a fellowship under the control of a pope or one man dictator – this is to guard against the sinful flesh that all people struggle with. The local church is also not a place for anarchy – again because of the sinful nature. Neither is a fellowship meant to be run by democracy – because we all know that popular opinion does not make something right.

The biblical pattern is to appoint elders (or overseers as stated in the ESV) and deacons to care for the sheep and teach them. Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 spell this out clearly. Let's take a quick look at Paul's instructions to Timothy:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

This is not a job for human ambition. It is a fearful responsibility for men who fear God – men who will answer for their own lives and the lives of those they taught! A healthy church led by godly elders is a beautiful place to grow as a disciple.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. (Psalm 92:12-15)

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. (Ephesians 4:1-6)

The following video is lengthy but nonetheless an excellent detailed look at biblical eldership by Charles letter when he visited Denmark in 2009. It is a really excellent sermon for people who live in countries and places where there is an absence of biblical churches and have little or no bearings on sound biblical church government. The lack of understanding and ignorance in this area has wreaked untold havoc on the modern church landscape and this video will serve you well as a tool for much needed reprogramming:

Go Back To Part 7
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Franklin Graham On Hell And Bell (Part 1)

Franklin Graham recently appeared on highly popular conservative US talk show, The O'Reilly Factor hosted by Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly wanted to take the opportunity to call on Graham to respond to Rob Bell's latest book (Love Wins) which denies the plain Scriptural teaching of a place of literal conscious eternal punishment widely referred to as hell. Not only is the subject of hell unpopular in the secular world, there are also legions of professing Christian leaders who would also love to do away with this nasty doctrine. Franklin was refreshingly candid in his assessment of Bell but what took my interest was his apologetic defense of the historic Christian doctrine of damnation. Here it is, and while you watch this imagine that it is you in the hot seat, and consider what response you would make in a widely circulated interview like this.

I love Franklin Graham and I don't think he did a bad job of dealing with these loaded questions from left field in a limited time frame. Some of his comments were excellent and I loved his determination to proclaim the Gospel. I don't think Reverend Graham said anything wrong but I do think we, as Bible believing Christians, can provide a more thorough, Gospel centered response to these questions. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, based on O'Reilly's summation of what Graham said, I believe we actually need to do better at this and drive to the real issue lying at the heart of why unconverted sinners spend eternity in hell. How can we better bring glory to God in a conversation of this nature and help the sinner see why he needs the righteousness of Christ.

False teaching always demands a response from historic Christian orthodoxy and this current hot topic is no different. If you are a Christian, or more particularly a pastor or leader, you can bet your bottom dollar that it is only a short matter of time before a church member or unbeliever accosts you with these questions. So my challenge to you, the reader, is how would you respond to these questions when you find yourself in the hot seat. Have a go at responding to O'Reilly's seven questions/assertions as I have numbered them below. I would love to hear and publish your responses before I give mine next Wednesday. So please, put yourself to the test before you face these in a real one on one encounter!

1. There cannot be a hell because God is not a monster and He could never assign any human being to a place of eternal damnation.

2. Isn't it a cruel action for God to throw people into hell?

3. What about people who've never even heard of Jesus Christ?

4. Are you saying that if someone believes in the goodness of the Creator then they can be saved?

5. But what about the Jews who suffered and died during the holocaust. They didn't believe in Jesus but they were good people. How could they possibly be sentenced to eternal damnation?

6. If innocent people were killed without any revelation of Jesus Christ or were never taught this by their parents - how could they possibly be damned?

7. I believe it's all about free will. We are free to make choices in this life but we will be held accountable for all of them.

I'll make my personal response to all seven of these in next Wednesday's post.

Go On To Part 2