Monday, June 30, 2008

The Most Important Thing About Us

from Tim Challies blog today:

Tozer premises “The Knowledge of the Holy,” probably his best-loved book, on the now-famous statement that “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” While he does not provide a Scripture reference to back this claim (I don’t recall a verse that states, “God spake thus: what thou believest about me is the most important thing about thee…”) I believe he is correct in this assertion. After all,

“the history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.”

If no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God, the same is true of individuals. We can never rise above our idea of God. Why is this important? As Tozer says,

“We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God…Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God.”

And he is right, for once we have decided who God is, we chase after that image of God. It is, then, critically important that we learn about who God is through the Scripture, for this is His Self-disclosure. Otherwise, we move towards a fabricated and false image of God. We put aside the real thing and chase after a mere shadow. And here are words that gripped me and have long given me food for thought:

“Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ‘What comes into your mind when you think about God?’ we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the church will stand tomorrow.”

This is a sobering thought, for when we survey the leaders of the church today we will find a vast variety of views on God, many of which are clearly unbiblical. We have “Christian” leaders who deny the Trinity and others who deny the atonement. We have leaders who, it seems, must never have stopped to seriously consider just what they think of God.

There are many followers who have likewise never stopped to consider who God is, what He has done, and what He demands of us. And as we can see where the church will be led in the future, we can look at the leaders of families, men like myself, and understand where we will take our families. When I survey my heart and ask what comes to mind when I think about God, I will know where my family will stand tomorrow.

“It is my opinion,” writes Tozer, “that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.”

If this was true of the middle of the last century, how much more true is it in the early years of the current century? And yet,

“All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him.”

But still many Christians do not think deeply about God, about what He is like, or about what we must do about Him.

“I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.”

This is a serious matter.

“Before the Christian church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.”

And here is Tozer’s charge:

“The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.”

Having read these words and having pondered them, I see, more clearly than ever, the importance of placing myself and my family under the leadership of spiritual leaders who have a high and biblical view of God. If nothing is more telling and more important than what comes into my mind when I think about God, it must also be critically important that I learn from men who think deeply about God and who humble themselves under His word. And I see the importance of being the kind of spiritual leader who has a conception of God that is worthy of God. This task of learning who God is through his self-revelation in Scripture, and honoring Him as He really is, is the greatest service I can do to my family and to its future generations.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Or How About "Scripture Police"?

With the soon coming return of Issues Etc. Todd Wilken has placed this entry on the Show's New Journal site....what a wonderful post it is too!!!


I have been called a Pharisee more times than I can remember. It goes with the territory. I host a conservative Christian radio talk show. I publicly defend the teachings and practices of the historic Church. I also publicly point out false teaching and practices in the Church today. For these reasons alone, some believe that I deserve to be called a Pharisee.

But I‘m not alone. Today, the label “Pharisee” is applied to many Christians just like me; perhaps you’re one of them. We are Christians who cherish God‘s Word, the Church‘s historic Creeds, confessions and practices. When we see the Church abandoning these things to follow the latest fads and entertainments, we lament. When we see the Gospel itself being left behind in the Church‘s rush to mimic popular culture, we are grieved. And when we question the Church‘s infatuation with the spirit of the age, we are labeled Pharisees.

“The Race Card” is a political term of art made famous during the 1988 presidential race between George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. In today’s presidential politics, we also have “The Gender Card.” The Race and Gender Cards aren’t designed to raise the legitimate issues surrounding race or gender. Instead, both the Race and Gender Cards are political tactics that exploit racial and gender divisions among voters, and appeal to the worst racial and gender stereotypes. In American politics the Race and Gender Cards are played to discredit someone by implying that he is racist or sexist. Just as politicians and pundits play the Race Card or the Gender Card, many in the Church are playing “the Pharisee Card.” Just like the Race or Gender Cards, the Pharisee Card is NOT designed to raise a legitimate issue of doctrine or practice. Rather, the Pharisee Card is used to discredit someone by implying that he is narrow, rigid and unloving —a Pharisee.

Most often these days, the Pharisee Card is played to portray a fellow Christian as a “doctrinal purist,” resistant to change, and therefore, unconcerned for the lost.

The Pharisee Card is a powerful weapon. Most of its punch comes from the fact that, during His earthly ministry, Jesus did often condemn the Pharisees. The Pharisee Card is intended to be tantamount to the condemnation of Jesus Himself.

Why did Jesus so often condemn the Pharisees? Was it because (as those who play the Pharisee Card assume) the Pharisees were ultra-conservative doctrinal purists, with no love for the lost? No.

Were the Pharisees Concerned with Doctrinal Purity?
The Pharisee Card is played against Christians who are concerned with doctrinal purity. When used this way, the Pharisee Card is intended to discredit the doctrinal purist and silence any further questions about false teaching. It works beautifully. Those dealing the Pharisee Card know that many Christians would rather suffer silently under false teaching rather than speak up and risk being labeled a Pharisee.

The only problem is, Jesus never faulted the Pharisees for being doctrinal purists. He faulted them for being false teachers who abandoned the truth of God’s Word in favor of the erroneous word of man (Matthew 16:11-12; 15:1-9; Mark 7:6-13).

Jesus called Christians who demanded doctrinal purity “disciples,” not “Pharisees.” “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”(John 8:31-32) In fact, Christians who demand doctrinal purity are really following the example of Jesus, of Paul and of the other Apostles (Matthew 7:15; see also 24:10-11; Mark 9:42; 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Timothy 4:16; 6:3-4; Titus 1:7-9; 2:1, 7-8; 1 John 4:1; 2 Peter 3:17).

Were the Pharisees Resistant to Change?
The Pharisee Card is also played in order to discredit Christians who refuse to abandon the historic practices of the Church in favor of the latest innovations. This too works beautifully. Those dealing the Pharisee Card know that, to avoid being labeled a Pharisee, many Christians will tolerate an endless succession of fads in worship, music and ministry. But Jesus never faulted the Pharisees for resisting change. On the contrary, He faulted them for introducing their own innovations and methods in the place of God‘s Word. Dealers of the Pharisee Card will cite Luke 5:36-39 in favor of their own innovations:

And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

Was Jesus calling for wholesale change, or warning against it? The new patch ruins the garment. The new wine bursts the wineskins. The context of the parable is a discussion of fasting. Rather than advocating the abandonment of this ancient practice, Jesus instead taught that ancient practices must now be understood and practiced in light of Him and His redemptive work. Jesus didn‘t condemn the Pharisees for retaining ancient practices, or for resisting change; rather, Jesus concluded the parable by saying, “And no one, after drinking old wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good.’”

Were the Pharisees Unconcerned for the Lost?
Christians who demand doctrinal purity and resist compromising change are often accused of being Pharisees with no love for the lost. This is probably the most common use of the Pharisee Card today. Those who like to play the Pharisee Card know that Christians will put up with almost anything in the name of missions and evangelism, in order to avoid being called Pharisees.

But Jesus never faulted the Pharisees for being unconcerned for the lost. On the contrary, He said:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15)

Jesus had no problem with the missionary zeal of the Pharisees –they were zealous enough; Jesus had a problem with the Pharisee‘s soul-damning message. Paul was of the same opinion:

For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:2-3)

And Paul spoke from experience. As a former Pharisee, his missionary zeal took him far and wide as a persecutor of the first Christians (Acts 9:1-2; Philippians 3:6).

The Pharisees’ error was not a lack of missionary zeal; it was that their false teaching (however zealously preached) damned rather than saved. Moreover, contrary to everything the Pharisee Card is meant to imply, just because someone is concerned for doctrinal purity and resistant to theological innovation does not mean that he is unconcerned for the lost. On the contrary, departure from the pure Word, in doctrine and practice, does not help, but hinders the preaching of the Gospel, therefore impedes the mission of the Church. False teaching does not save sinners. Purity in doctrine and practice makes the preaching of the Gospel possible. Purity in doctrine and practice makes the preaching of the Gospel imperative.

The irony is that those most often called Pharisees in the Church today are those most concerned about the lost, and therefore preaching the pure Gospel to them.

The power of the Pharisee card is based on the mistaken idea that those unwilling to compromise in doctrine and practice are the modern-day counterparts of the ancient Pharisees. This idea has no basis in fact.

Why did Jesus Really Condemn the Pharisees?
So if Jesus never condemned the Pharisee for being ultra-conservative doctrinal purists with no love for the lost, why did He condemn them?

Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their apostasy. The Pharisees had abandoned the Old Testament faith and therefore they rejected Jesus Himself (Matthew 8:11-12; 21:42-46; 22:41-46; Luke 7:29-30; 13:28-30; John 5:39, 43-47; Acts 4:10-12; Romans 9:1-11:36; 1 Peter 2:7-8).

The Pharisees taught that salvation was the result of God‘s mercy plus man’s obedience. They reduced the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to a system of “dos and don’ts.” In this sense, the Pharisees’ were the inventors of what we call today “rules for living,” and the first preachers of “how-to” sermons. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for softening the demands of the Law.

Because they taught that human works contributed to salvation, the Pharisees had to make the Law more —user friendly.” The Pharisees diluted the Law‘s requirement of perfect obedience with manageable human rules that could be kept (Matthew 5:17-48).

A compromised Law meant a compromised Gospel. Jesus condemned the Pharisees because they abandoned God‘s Word for the word of man. In this sense, the Pharisees were really the Liberals of their day.

Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and self-righteousness. This hypocrisy and self-righteousness was most often the subject of Jesus condemnations. But it was merely a symptom of the Pharisees’ false faith in their own obedience:

He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling t o lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

The Pharisees trusted their own obedience and moral progress. In this sense, the Pharisees were the original proponents of the victorious life.

Jesus condemnation of the Pharisees had nothing to do with doctrinal purity, resistance to change or lack of missionary zeal. It had everything to do with the false hope in human obedience.

The Real Pharisees?
Who are the real Pharisees today? You are. I am. You, me and every sinner – but not in the way that the players of The Pharisee Card say we are. All of us are more willing to trust our own obedience than trust the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ. All of us soften the Law’s perfect demands so that we can say we’ve kept them. All of us are therefore inclined to hypocrisy and self-righteousness. All of us are natural-born Pharisees.

Now, if someone wants to call me a Pharisee for that reason, I will gladly and repentantly be called a Pharisee.

But I will not be called a Pharisee for loving and defending pure doctrine. I will not be called a Pharisee for resisting ill-conceived innovation and compromising change in the Church. I will not be called a Pharisee for demanding that the Gospel we preach to the lost be pure.

Some say that the pure Gospel is an impossible dream. I disagree. I hear it preached every week –more often than not by those Christians who are wrongly labeled Pharisees.

Those who play the Pharisee Card hope to dismiss Christians like you and me as ultra-conservative doctrinal purists with no love for the lost. But like a fifth Ace up the sleeve, the Pharisee Card is a cheat. Those who play it ignore the real errors of the real Pharisees. They wrongly apply the name to those who stand in the way of false teaching, compromising change and a watered-down gospel. In the end, The Pharisee Card amounts to nothing more than name-calling. And, like the Race or Gender Cards are in politics, in the Church, the Pharisee Card is always the sign of a losing hand.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The REAL Presence of Christ

Christ's Presence at the Table---by Jeff Meyers

The way “spiritual” and “spiritually” are understood by most in conservative Presbyterian circles is not Calvinian. Heck, it’s close to sub-Christian. It's certainly not biblical. It always amazes and angers me that people pit “spiritual” against “physical,” “material,” and/or “body” in popular Reformed theology. The adjective "spiritual" in the Bible is a reference to the work of the Holy Spirit. Something that is "spiritual" is "of the Holy Spirit," and not necessarily anti- or supra-material or physical. It’s the Holy SPIRIT, people! We should all agree to capitalize the word "Spiritual" from now on in order to get this straight.

"How is your Spiritual life this week?"
"Fine, I have been striving to not grieve the Spirit in my behavior at work"
"That's great. I've been praying for you."

What is worse, I’ve found that even most ministers think that the “spiritual presence of Jesus” in the Supper is a shorthand way of saying that he is omnipresent as God the Son. Press them about what they mean by "spiritual presence" and they will say that Jesus is present invisibly and “spiritually” in his divine nature at the Table. But that doesn't get us anywhere. God the Son is omnipresent as God always and everywhere. So is the "spiritual presence of Jesus" at the Lord's Supper nothing more than the reality of his divine presence at Home Depot or Greenbriar Golf Club? No. The miracle of the Lord's Supper is that the Holy Spirit makes the glorified, life-giving body and blood of Jesus present to his people.

Perhaps we are so sloppy in our thinking about the Supper because we practice it so infrequently and we are so frightened to say that Baptism and the Lord's Supper actually do something. Talking about Baptism and the Lord's Supper in our circles is pretty frustrating.

I love it.

someone once said,

"If unbelievers don't go away from your service thinking, 'Those people are cannibals,' we probably haven't done it right."

Religion & Politics

I really appreciate Doug Wilson's commentary on social issues. The latest:

"Part of the difficulty is that we are so confused anymore that we don't understand the differences between sectarian groups (Presbyterian and Baptist) and religions (Islam and Hinduism). In the founding of America, no sect was permitted to become the establishment, but the truth of the Christian faith was everywhere presupposed.

But unlike the founders, we no longer understand that a unified culture and society are impossible apart from a shared religious consensus. In America, that consensus was once Christian and it is now Cash -- and no, not Johnny. Our new secular consensus insists that all the other religions be treated as mere sects in the great city governed by the sky god Mammon and his many-breasted consort, Compound Interest."

Read the rest here:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Meaning of Life

---by Chris Ortiz

The meaning of most things elude us. We do not understand the meaning of mosquitos, for example, or the hairs that fall from our head, nor of the often unhappy events in our lives, because we tend to look for their meaning in terms of ourselves. The meaning of all things is theocentric -- God-centered, not man-centered -- which means that of necessity things are meaningless if we try to read them in terms of man, in terms of ourselves.[1]

What is the meaning of life? We only ask this question, as Rushdoony suggests, because life is filled with millions of supposedly meaningless events. The sheer diversity of creaturely existence is enough to rattle the assurance of anyone. Why need we the cockroach? What of microscopic organisms, strange fish in the deepest portions of the sea, or the insane life cycle of the Penguin? What do they have to do with my choice of a career, spouse, or political party?

For ease of thought, we ignore these diverse realities; keeping things simple for the sake of getting through life. But the Bible highlights these random, obscure realities as revealing of the omniscience of God Almighty and His benevolence toward man:

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Mt. 10:29-31

The many sparrows and strands of hair are meant to reveal God's detailed control and concern for all things in the universe; nothing being more important than the dominion man He placed to rule over it. This is the message to us about creation's mysterious diversity. However, our tendency is to see events in terms of ourselves. We wonder if we did something to cause the death of the sparrow or the strand of hair to fall from our head.

Life's meaning is not found in us but in God's eternal decree. This was the message of the Book of Job--at least the message masterfully interpreted for us in Rushdoony's insightful, yet brief, commentary on Job's plight:

God's creative purpose transcends the life of Job and the purposes of Job, that Job cannot expect that God's providence move in terms of himself when not only the creation but the Creator has priority over Job.[2]

Both Job and his three friends were seeking to interpret his personal tribulation in terms of himself. His friends declared that God never condemned a righteous man, and Job persistently claimed that he had been righteous throughout his life. Why was God harming Job, if Job was righteous? The answer came down to an understanding of sovereignty:

Thus what God required of Job was that he recognize His sovereignty in every respect, recognize that the only standard for judging his own personal life and his own problems was not in terms of himself but in terms of the sovereignty of God, in terms of the Triune God in Himself. Job could not declare of any event in the course of his life that this thing was wrong because it impressed and affected him adversely, since all events in the life of Job could only be judged in terms of one standard, the purpose of the sovereign God. When Job acknowledged these things to be true, the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the former.[3]

The apparent meaninglessness to our diverse universe of strange creatures and inexplicable events is a convenient confirmation to man's theory of an evolutionary, impersonal, universe of process. For those who are less existential, they see things developing in relation to their own lives. Both would be incorrect. In the ultimate sense, all things move in terms of God's eternal decree. He has good reason for cockroaches, falling hair, underwater earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc. He may never share that meaning with us, but the intent is to humble us. For all Job's righteousness and love of God, there was still a measure of pride because he saw his plight as God's reaction to himself. Adding even more insult, the Book of Job begins by showing Job's plight originating over a wager between God and the devil. In other words, if God wants to wage a bet with the devil over our lives, who are we to stop it? The will of God be done.

Does that mean we should expect an equal experience? The Book of Job is hyperbolic, so I would anticipate better treatment in a general sense. The point should be obvious: life's meaning is found in God's sovereignty, and that thought is intended to comfort us. We should also embrace the lesson that blessing follows our living in this theological awareness.

1. R. J. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology in Two Volumes (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1994), 19.
2. R. J. Rushdoony, By What Standard? (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1995 reprint), 196.
3. Ibid., 198.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Detergent Church - Part 4

Sola Scriptura or Sola Cultura --- By Doug Giles

Herewith is my last installment on why I believe the church is culpable for our cultural corruption and my top ten raucous remedies to help the church with its mad cow disease. My recommendations are:
1. Get men who dig being rowdy back in the pulpit.
2. Could we have some sound doctrine, por favor?
3. Preach scary sermons (at least every fourth one).
4. Get rid of 99.9% of "Christian" TV.
5. Quit trying to be relevant and instead become prophetic contrarians, I'm talking contra mundus, mama!
6. Put a 10-year moratorium on "God wants you rich" sermons (yeah, that's what we need to hear nowadays, you morons, more sermons about money, money, money!).
7. Embrace apologetics and shun shallow faith.
8. Evangelize like it's 1999.
9. Push lazy Christians to get a life or join a Satanic Church.
10. Demand that if a Christian gets involved in the arts that their "craft" must scream excellence and not excrement.
Having covered points one though five in my previous three columns, here's my final whack at six through ten. Enjoy . . .

6. Put a 10-year moratorium on "God wants you rich" sermons (yeah, that's what we need to hear nowadays, you morons, more sermons about money, money, money!). I've got to confess, I like money, and the more the merrier as far as I'm concerned. Money has been good to me. In addition, I've got to come clean and proudly announce that the Bible is not anti-denari, much to the chagrin of the pro-poverty Christians. Matter of fact, the Bible is chock-full of holy wisdom on how one can righteously make, adroitly juggle and justly bequeath one's hard-earned drachmas.

So, I don't have problems with either having cash or hearing about it from a balanced biblical context. The two things that I think do a massive disservice to God and country and make me want to spit are, one: the obvious hucksters (and the not so obvious hucksters) in the pulpit and on "Christian" TV who blather on about it week after week, and two: The Judases who preach the happy clappy crud that does not righteously offend, all for the sake of keeping the lemmings blissful and the offering baskets stuffed full.

Hey, Pastor Money Freak Boy: how about mixing up your teaching a tad? You're becoming a wee bit obvious. Here's a thought: How about preaching the gospel every now and then, or teaching on apologetics (if you even know what that is) so that your flock can defend their faith, or talk about how the Christian can be a major player in salvaging our nation, or teaching on the armor of God, or going verse by verse through the book of Romans? What do you think about that, Slingblade?

The Detergent Church, on the other hand, will not be imbalanced with a glut of money messages, nor will it hype the crowd with outrageous "you'll get rich if you give now" slop. Rather, it will address the pressing spiritual and social issues locally and nationally, give the biblical remedy to the malady, and not use Sundays to suck the cash out of the crowd ad nauseam. For the Detergent Church, a simple tithe and offering does just fine, thank you. The Detergent Church understands that if they do their job God will float their financial boat without them resorting to obsession or manipulation.

7. Embrace apologetics and shun shallow faith. The church has avoided apologetics for the last couple of decades like Paris Hilton avoids the pickled pig foot platter in the Telemundo green room. So, why has the church run away from both knowing and being able to articulate why they "believe" what they "believe" to the inquisitive unbeliever?

Well, truth be told, American Idol has been on and a lot of Christians are lazy, stupid and, in reality, they do not really care where we're headed as a church or a nation. If they did, they'd get off their McDonald's-enlarged languid laurels and do the difficult work of thinking and fighting for that which is holy, just and good.

The repercussion of the church taking a twenty year anti-intellectual nap is that we have morphed from being the sharp army of God to a dull gaggle of clods. Yep, Christians having embraced feelings over facts has left large chunks of Christendom intellectually naked before the anti-Christian Torquemadas who would love to see the church relegated to a religious ghetto on the sidelines of life.

The Detergent Church doesn't shun the role of the mind in the life of the believer. Like our testicles, we like our brains and believe that we don't have to check either at the door of the church to be a Christian. The Detergent Church thinks it is a sin and a scandal for congregants to stay stupid and not be able to give an answer for that which they believe. Yep, they take Jesus' command to love God with all their minds seriously.

8. Evangelize like it's 1999. You know what I miss? I miss the raw, politically incorrect turn-or-burn messages that used to be part and parcel of the evangelical world before it went limp and moved from sola scriptura to sola cultura.

Evangelism proper used to mean a message of salvation via the sacrifice of God's only son (that would be Jesus Christ for you ignorant secular darlings) from God's temporal and eternal wrath, brought about not by driving an SUV, but by intrinsically rebellious men and women constantly giving God the middle finger by what they both say and do (that's my definition of moral depravity, thank you very much).

Classic Christ-centered evangelism, as you can imagine, used to scare the bejesus out of the contumacious crowd. The good news only left the hell-bound heathen with the warm and fuzzies after it fully woke them up regarding how damned they were and what a great escape Christ's death, burial and resurrection was for their sorry backside. It was a beautiful thing. Oh! And it also changed not only their constituent makeup but also altered the culture around them.

Yep, the internal transformation from being a self-obsessed me monkey to being a Christ focused follower had not only great internal ramifications for the sinner but also positive external cultural effects everywhere the "good news" was preached and received. Need an example? The United States of America was founded by Christian men who were not a part of seeker-friendly, spayed and neutered churches. The gospel they were served was the old school Puritan brew that solidly shook both the sinner and shaped society. This untainted, untamed "good news" that humble men embraced not only caused them to bank heaven via Christ but also spawned the US of flippin' A. Coincidence? I don't think so.

The reason our nation is going to go down the latrine is because evangelism has had its teeth pulled. The message now gently gums the sinner versus fanging their carotid. It's culturally correct and man-focused instead of being Christocentric and Bible-based. How cute.

The Detergent Church, however, does not try to sneak Jesus into people's lives like he's a 16-year-old chick trying to get into Liquid on her sister's ID. No, we preach it raw and real even though we've been told by the church "experts" that our PoMo crowd can't take Jesus straight. The Detergent Church doesn't dial Christ down; we don't de-radicalize Him for postmodern puss-n-boots. We're too afraid we'd turn the good news into bland and false news that has no power either to truly deliver a person or culture from sin's corruption.

9. Push lazy Christians to get a life or join a Satanic Church. The Bible condemns the slacker, Christian or not. Plain and simple, "Christian," if you're a gum smackin' indolent Lurch who moves through life with the vision of Cyclops and the vigor of a Xanaxed slug crawling up a sheared cliff in the intensified gravity of the planet Jupiter, then God's getting ready to axe you. Where do I base my claims, you ask? From the Bible you never read, that's where.

What's weird is that the church is stuffed full of whining babies, welfare brats, and apathetic complainers who simply refuse to get a life. I have friends who are blind, crippled, have brain damage, cerebral palsy, or have been raped or experienced incest who are powerful and productive Christians of which you would never know that they had any kind of serious setbacks. With the odds tremendously stacked against them they have slayed their dragons, conquered their mountains and have been insane examples of faith at work.

Then we have the little wussies who have found within the church an extended womb of enormous proportions where they can live and wallow in the warm amniotic fluid of gooey fellowship that affords them the wherewithal to never, never grow up.

The Detergent Church, on the other hand, expects folks to get a life and to sport the bulldog attitude that Christ had, especially if you're an able-bodied guy between the ages of 18-40. The Detergent Church has no room for poodles trying to milk the church or the government when they have, in Christ, the means to overcome whatever stuff gets shot in their faces.

10. Demand that if a Christian gets involved in the arts that their "craft" must scream excellence and not excrement. Traditionally, when the Church has been at the top of its game, not burning witches or applying thumbscrews to petty thieves, we've had a high view of the pen, the paint brush, the piano and the chisel. Art itself needed no rationalization, and for five hundred years brilliant art emerged from the Church. Orthodox, biblically-based, non-wacky clergy and laity took pleasure in living, the arts, culture, their own talents, and the abilities of those around them. They got the message that beauty and culture come from God and therefore are good, and they didn't need a mediocre column written by a smart mouth to defend it.

The Bible shows off God's love for artistic endeavors and creativity as much as it scares the heck out of the general public with the moral law. Matter of fact, the first people to be "filled with the Spirit" were not apostles or prophets, but artists (see Exodus 35).

And that leads me to ask, where has the brilliant art gone? Where is the mind-blowing stuff, y'know, the paintings, sculptures, architecture and music that make you dribble your Slurpee down your shirt? Where are the books that are weighty and transcendent, books with a shelf life of 500 years, versus the five weeks my last book had? Where in the world is clever and tasteful Christian TV, and why do we have to wait twenty years between solid movies like Chariots of Fire and The Passion of the Christ?

I'll tell you why . . . The Church has embraced a low view of the arts. God hasn't changed His high view of art, we have. And here's the painful reality: If the Church doesn't shed this point of view regarding quality artistic endeavors, if we stay removed from creativity and human expression, then we will forever live on the peripheries of the public square, whining about Michael Moore movies.

The Detergent Church understands the power of the arts and doesn't avoid them or produce shoddy stabs at artistic endeavors but instead tosses up to God our utmost for His highest.

Friday, June 13, 2008 to talk about God's sovereignty over sin.

...this time, from John Frame, "Doctrine of God" :

God Is Sovereign Over Sin
. . . God does harden hearts, and through his prophets he predicts sinful human actions long in advance, indicating that he is in control of human free decisions. Now theologians have found it difficult to formulate in general terms how God acts to bring about those sinful actions. . . . Do we want to say that God is the “cause” of evil? That language is certainly problematic, since we usually associate cause with blame. . . . [I]t seems that if God causes sin and evil, he must be to blame for it.

Words: The Theologian’s Tools
Therefore, there has been much discussion among theologians as to what verb should best describes God’s agency in regard to evil. Some initial possibilities: authors, brings about, causes, controls, creates, decrees, foreordains, incites, includes within his plan, makes happen, ordains, permits, plans, predestines, predetermines, produces, stands behind, wills. Many of these are extra-scriptural terms; none of them are perfectly easy to define in this context. So theologians need to give some careful thought about which of these terms, if any, should be affirmed, and in what sense. Words are the theologian’s tools. In a situation like this, none of the possibilities is fully adequate. There are various advantages and disadvantages among the different terms. Let us consider some of those that are most frequently discussed.

1) Does God Author Sin?
The term authors is almost universally condemned in the theological literature. It is rarely defined, but it seems to mean both that God is the efficient cause of evil and that by causing evil he actually does something wrong.1 So the [Westminster Confession] says that God “neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin” (5:4). Despite this denial in a major Reformed confession, Arminians regularly charge that Reformed theology makes God the author of sin. They assume that if God brings about evil in any sense, he must therefore approve it and deserve the blame. In their view, nothing less than libertarian freedom will serve to absolve God from the charge of authoring sin.

God Does Not Author Sin
But as we saw [in chapter 8] libertarian freedom is incoherent and unbiblical. And as we saw [in chapter 4] God does bring about sinful human actions. To deny this, or to charge God with wickedness on account of it, is not open to a Bible-believing Christian. Somehow, we must confess both that God has a role in bringing evil about, and that in doing so he is holy and blameless. . . . God does bring sins about, but always for his own good purposes. So in bringing sin to pass he does not himself commit sin. If that argument is sound, then a Reformed doctrine of the sovereignty of God does not imply that God is the author of sin.

2) Does God Cause Sin?
Causes is another term which has led to much wrestling by theologians. . . . Reformed writers have . . . denied that God is the cause of sin. Calvin teaches, “For the proper and genuine cause of sin is not God’s hidden counsel but the evident will of man,”2 though in context he also states that Adam’s Fall was “not without God’s knowledge and ordination.”3 Some other examples:

See that you make not God the author of sin, by charging his sacred decree with men’s miscarriages, as if that were the cause or occasion of them; which we are sure that it is not, nor can be, any more than the sun can be the cause of darkness.4

It is [God] who created, preserves, actuates and directs all things. But it by no means follows, from these premises, that God is therefore the cause of sin, for sin is nothing but anomia, illegality, want of conformity to the divine law (1 John iii. 4), a mere privation of rectitude; consequently, being itself a thing purely negative, it can have no positive or efficient cause, but only a negative or deficient one, as several learned men have observed.5

According to the Canons of Dort, “The cause or blame for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is not at all in God, but in man” (1.5).

Cause and Ordain
In these quotations, cause seems to take on the connotations of the term author. For these writers, to say that God “causes” evil is to say, or perhaps imply, that he is to blame for it. Note the phrase “cause or blame” in the Canons of Dort, in which the terms seem to be treated as synonyms. But note above that although Calvin rejects cause he affirms ordination. God is not the “cause” of sin, but it is by his “ordination.” For the modern reader, the distinction is not evident. To ordain is to cause, and vice versa. If causality entails blame, then ordination would seem to entail it as well; if not, then neither entails it. But evidently in the vocabulary of Calvin and his successors there was a difference between the two terms.

We May Say That God Causes Sin
For us, the question arises as to whether God can be the efficient cause of sin, without being to blame for it. The older theologians denied that God was the efficient cause of sin . . . [in part] because they identified cause with authorship. But if . . . the connection between cause and blame in modern language is no stronger than the connection between ordination and blame, then it seems to me that it is not wrong to say that God causes evil and sin. Certainly we should employ such language cautiously, however, in view of the long history of its rejection in the tradition.

Remote and Proximate Causes
It is interesting that Calvin does use cause, referring to God’s agency in bringing evil about, when he distinguishes between God as the “remote cause” and human agency as the “proximate cause.” Arguing that God is not the “author of sin,” he says, “the proximate cause is one thing, the remote cause another.”6 Calvin points out that when wicked men steal Job’s goods, Job recognizes that “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” The thieves, proximate cause of the evil, are guilty; but Job doesn’t question the motives of the Lord, the remote cause. Calvin does not, however, believe that the proximate/ultimate distinction is sufficient to show us why God is guiltless:

But how it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author and approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance.7

He uses the proximate/remote distinction merely to distinguish between the causality of God and that of creatures, and therefore to state that the former is always righteous. But he does not believe the distinction solves the problem of evil. . . .

At least, the above discussion does indicate that Calvin is willing in some contexts to refer to God as a cause of sin and evil. Calvin also describes God as the sole cause of the hardening and reprobation of the wicked:

Therefore, if we cannot assign any reason for his bestowing mercy on his people, but just that it so pleases him, neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will. When God is said to visit mercy or harden whom he will, men are reminded that they are not to seek for any cause beyond his will.8

3) Does God Permit Sin?
Consider now the term permits. This is the preferred term in Arminian theology, in which it amounts to a denial that God causes sin. For the Arminian, God does not cause sin; he only permits it. Reformed theologians, however, have also used the term, referring to God’s relation to sin. The Reformed, however, insist contrary to the Arminians that God’s “permission” of sin is no less efficacious than his ordination of good. Calvin denies that there is any “mere permission” in God:

From this it is easy to conclude how foolish and frail is the support of divine justice afforded by the suggestion that evils come to be not by [God’s] will, but merely by his permission. Of course, so far as they are evils, which men perpetrate with their evil mind, as I shall show in greater detail shortly, I admit that they are not pleasing to God. But it is a quite frivolous refuge to say that God otiosely [= idly] permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the author of them.9

God’s “permission” is an efficacious permission. . . .

Yes, God Permits Sin—But Not “Mere Permission”
If God’s permission is efficacious, how does it differ from other exercises of his will? Evidently, the Reformed use permits mainly as a more delicate term than causes, and to indicate that God brings about sin with a kind of reluctance born of his holy hatred of evil.

This usage does reflect a biblical pattern: When Satan acts, he acts, in an obvious sense, by God’s permission.10 God allows him to take Job’s family, wealth, and health. But God will not allow Satan to take Job’s life (Job 2:6). So Satan is on a short leash, acting only within limits assigned by God. And in this respect all sinful acts are similar. The sinner can only go so far, before he meets the judgment of God.

What God Permits to Happen Will Happen
It is right, therefore, to use permission to apply to God’s ordination of sin. But we should not assume, as Arminians do, that divine permission is anything less than sovereign ordination. What God permits or allows to happen will happen. God could easily have prevented Satan’s attack on Job if he had intended to. That he did not prevent that attack implies that he intended it to happen. Permission, then, is a form of ordination, a form of causation.11 That it is sometimes taken otherwise is a good argument against using the term, but perhaps not a decisive argument.

I shall not discuss other terms on my list (except wills, which [is discussed in chapter 23 of The Doctrine of God]). The above should be sufficient to indicate the need of caution in our choice of vocabulary, and also the need to think carefully before condemning the vocabulary of others. It is not easy to find adequate terms to describe God’s ordination of evil. Our language must not compromise either God’s full sovereignty or his holiness and goodness.

None of these formulations solves the problem of evil. It is not a solution to say that God ordains evil, but doesn’t author or cause it (if we choose to say that). This language is not a solution to the problem, but only a way of raising it. For the problem of evil asks how God can ordain evil without authoring it. And, as Calvin pointed out, the distinction between remote and proximate cause is also inadequate to answer the questions before us, however useful it may be in stating who is to blame for evil. Nor is it a solution to say that God permits, rather than ordains, evil. As we have seen, God’s permission is as efficacious as his ordination. The difference between the terms brings nothing to light that will solve the problem.

The Author-Story Model
I should ... say something more about the nature of God’s agency in regard to evil. Recall from [chapter 8 in The Doctrine of God] the model of the author and his story: God’s relationship to free agents is like the relationship of an author to his characters. Let us consider to what extent God’s relationship to human sin is like that of Shakespeare to Macbeth, the murderer of Duncan.

Did Shakespeare Kill Duncan?
I borrowed the Shakespeare/Macbeth illustration from Wayne Grudem’s excellent Systematic Theology.12 But I do disagree with Grudem on one point. He says that we could say that either Macbeth or Shakespeare “killed King Duncan.” I agree, of course, that both Macbeth and Shakespeare are responsible, at different levels of reality, for the death of Duncan. But as I analyze the language we typically use in such contexts, it seems clear to me that we would not normally say that Shakespeare killed Duncan. Shakespeare wrote the murder into his play. But the murder took place in the world of the play, not the real world of the author. Macbeth did it, not Shakespeare. We sense the rightness of the poetic justice brought against Macbeth for his crime. But we would certainly consider it very unjust if Shakespeare were tried and put to death for killing Duncan.13 And no one suggests that there is any problem in reconciling Shakespeare’s benevolence with his omnipotence over the world of the drama. Indeed, there is reason for us to praise Shakespeare for raising up this character, Macbeth, to show us the consequences of sin.14

God Brings About Sin Without Himself Sinning
The difference between levels, then, may have moral significance as well as metaphysical.15 It may illumine why the biblical writers, who do not hesitate to say that God brings about sin and evil, are not tempted to accuse him of wrongdoing. The relation between God and ourselves, of course, is different in some respects from that between an author and his characters. Most significantly: we are real; Macbeth is not. But between God and ourselves there is a vast difference in the kind of reality and in relative status. God is the absolute controller and authority, the most present fact of nature and history. He is the lawgiver, we the law receivers. He is the head of the covenant; we are the servants. He has devised the creation for his own glory; we seek his glory, rather than our own. He makes us as the potter makes pots, for his own purposes. Do these differences not put God in a different moral category as well?

God Is Not Required to Defend Himself
The very transcendence of God plays a significant role in biblical responses to the problem of evil. Because God is who he is, the covenant Lord, he is not required to defend himself against charges of injustice. He is the judge, not we. Very often in Scripture, when something happens that calls God’s goodness in question, God pointedly refrains from explaining. Indeed, he often rebukes those human beings who question him. Job demanded an interview with God, so that he could ask God the reasons for his sufferings (23:1-7, 31:35-37). But when he met God, God asked the questions: “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (38:3). The questions mostly revealed Job’s ignorance about God’s creation: if Job doesn’t understand the ways of the animals, how can he presume to call God’s motives in question? He doesn’t even understand earthly things; how can he presume to debate heavenly things? God is not subject to the ignorant evaluations of his creatures.16

The Potter and the Clay
It is significant that the potter/clay image appears in the one place in Scripture where the problem of evil is explicitly addressed.17 In Rom. 9:19-21, Paul appeals specifically to the difference in metaphysical level and status between the creator and the creature:

One of you will say to me, “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will? But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Rom. 9:19-21)

This answer to the problem of evil turns entirely on God’s sovereignty. It is as far as could be imagined from a free will defense. It brings to our attention the fact that his prerogatives are far greater than ours, as does the author/character model.

A Sense in Which God “Authors” Evil
One might object to this model that it makes God the “author” of evil. But that objection, I think, confuses two senses of “author.” As we have seen, the phrase “author of evil” connotes not only causality of evil, but also blame for it. To “author” evil is to do it. But in saying that God is related to the world as an author to a story, we actually provide a way of seeing that God is not to be blamed for the sin of his creatures.

Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil
This is, of course, not the only biblical response to the problem of evil. Sometimes God does not respond by silencing us, as above, but by showing us in some measure what evil contributes to his plan, what I have called the “greater good defense.” The greater good defense refers particularly to God’s Lordship attribute of control, that he is sovereign over evil and uses it for good. The Rom. 9 response refers particularly to God’s Lordship attribute of authority. And his attribute of covenant presence addresses the emotional problem of evil, comforting us with the promises of God and the love of Jesus from which no evil can separate us (Rom. 8:35-39).

1 Lest there be confusion over language: the “author/story” model of God’s relation to creatures, which I [will advocate later], does not make God the “author of sin” in this sense. Nothing about that model implies that God commits or approves of sin. In fact I shall argue later that it provides us a reason to deny that.
2 Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (London: James Clarke and Co., 1961), 122.
3 Ibid., 121.
4 Elisha Coles, A Practical Discourse on God’s Sovereignty (Marshallton, DE: The National Foundation for Christian Education, 1968), 15. Reprint of a seventeenth-century work.
5 Jerome Zanchius, Observations On the Divine Attributes, in Absolute Predestination (Marshallton, DE: National Foundation for Christian Education, nd), 33. Compare the formulations of post-reformation dogmaticians Polan and Wolleb in RD, 143, and of Mastricht on 277. All of these base their arguments on the premise that evil is a mere privation.
6 Calvin, op. cit., 181.
7 Ibid., 124.
8 Calvin, ICR 3.22.11. Compare 3.23.1.
9 Calvin, Eternal Predestination, 176. The term author raises questions. I take it, in Calvin’s usual line of thinking, to mean that God authors the evil happenings without authoring their evil character. But the use of author here indicates something of the flexibility of language in his formulations, in contrast with its relative rigidity in his successors.
10 In this use, and in the Reformed theological use, “permission” has no connotation of moral approval, as it sometimes has in contemporary use of the term.
11 Traditional Arminians agree that God is omnipotent and can prevent sinful actions. So we wonder how they can object to this argument. If God could prevent sin, but chose not to, must we not say that he has ordained it to happen? Some more recent Arminians claim that God created the world without even knowing that evil would come to pass. But doesn’t this representation make God, in the words of one of my correspondents, like a kind of “mad scientist,” who “throws together a potentially dangerous combination of chemicals, not knowing if it will result in a hazardous and uncontrollable reaction?” Does this view not make God guilty of reckless endangerment?
12 Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994, 321-22.
13 Think how many writers of TV programs would be taken from us if such a legal basis were valid. No further comment.
14 As my friend Steve Hays points out in correspondence, the dark aspects of Shakespeare’s dramas also add to his stature as an artist. Our admiration of Shakespeare is partly based on his understanding of the sin of the human soul and his ability to expose and deal with that sin, not trivially, but in ways that surprise us and deepen our understanding.
15 The metaphysical difference between the creator God and the world of which evil is a part may indicate the true connection between the ethical and metaphysical, as opposed to the false connection of the “chain of being” thinkers mentioned earlier in this chapter. It may also indicate a grain of truth in the privation theory: there is a metaphysical difference between good and evil, but it is not the difference between being and nonbeing, but rather the difference between uncreated being and created being.
16 To say this is not to adopt the view of Gordon H. Clark that God is ex lex, or outside of, not subject to, the moral law. See Clark’s Religion, Reason, and Revelation (Phila.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1961), where he argues that because God is above the moral law he is not subject to it. Certainly God has some prerogatives that he forbids to us, such as the freedom to take human life. But for the most part, the moral laws God imposes upon us are grounded in his own character. See Ex. 20:11, Lev. 11:44-45,Matt. 5:45, 1 Pet. 1:15-16. God will not violate his own character. What Scripture denies is that man has sufficient understanding of God’s character and his eternal plan (not to mention sufficient authority) to bring accusations against him.
17 The problem is raised, of course, in the Book of Job and many other places in Scripture. But to my knowledge, Rom. 9 is the only passage in which a biblical writer gives an explicit answer to it. Job, of course, never learns why he has suffered.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Snippets from Vincent Cheung

from the book, "Author of Sin"

Theological determinists hold that everything we do is caused by antecedent conditions, ultimately traceable to God.
This is true of most theological determinists, but it is also finally incoherent. I would change this to say that all conditions are "immediately traceable to God."

I affirm the meaningfulness of so-called "second causes" only in the sense that these are the means by which God executes his immutable decrees; however, these second causes are not themselves self-existent, self-determined, self-caused, or self-powered. Rather, all so-called "secondary causes" are themselves immediately caused and controlled by God, and the objects on which these secondary causes supposedly act upon react in ways that are also immediately caused and controlled by God.

We must Deny the unjustified premise, "responsibility presupposes freedom." No, responsibility presupposes God's decree that it is so...because He says so.

That is, if God directly causes you to sin, it does make him the "author" of sin (at least in the sense that people usually use the expression), but the "sinner" or "wrongdoer" is still you. Since sin is the transgression of divine law, for God to be a sinner or wrongdoer in this case, he must decree a moral law that forbids himself to be the author of sin, and then when he acts as the author of sin anyway, he becomes a sinner or wrongdoer.

But unless this happens, for God to be the author of sin does not make him a sinner or wrongdoer. The terms author, sinner, wrongdoer, and tempter are relatively precise – at least precise enough to be distinguished from one another, and for God to be the "author" of sin says nothing about whether he is also a "sinner," "wrongdoer," or a "tempter." And for one not to be a wrongdoer by definition means that he has not done wrong. Therefore, even if God is the author of sin, it does not automatically follow that there is anything wrong with it, or that he is a wrongdoer.

However, this is not to distance God from evil, for to "author" the sin implies far more control over the sinner and the sin than to merely tempt. Whereas the devil (or a person's lust) may be the tempter, and the person might be the sinner, it is God who directly and completely controls both the tempter and the sinner, and the relationship between them. And although God is not himself the tempter, he deliberately and sovereignly sends evil spirits to tempt (1 Kings 22:19–23) and to torment (1 Samuel 16:14–23, 18:10, 19:9). But in all of this, God is righteous by definition.

Contrary to the traditional explanation, God does not say, "Oh, no, I am not the author of sin. Although I am the ultimate cause of all things, I distance myself from directly causing evil by establishing secondary causes and free agents. So although I create and sustain all things, men freely sin by thinking and acting according to their own dispositions. The evil dispositions come from Adam. As for how Adam got his evil dispositions…well, it will just have to remain a mystery for you." If this is the answer, why not jump right to the mystery and save us all some time?

The Bible never responds this way to this type of questions and objections. There are many biblical passages saying that God causes all things, and the metaphysics behind it is explained by God's omnipotence – the same omnipotence that created everything. On the other hand, all the passages that people use to deny that God is the author of sin or to prove compatibilism are always just descriptions of events and motives, without dealing with the metaphysical cause of those events and motives.

And contrary to the typical response, Paul does not say, "Oh, no, you don't understand. Although God determines all things, he causes all things only by having you freely make decisions according to your own nature, which came from Adam, whose nature mysteriously turned from holy to evil, so that God is not the author of sin, but so that you are responsible for your own decisions and actions."

The Detergent Church - Part 3

Progress Through Resistance - By Doug Giles

As much as I think a lot of the American "churches" are about as useful to God as a pitch pipe is to Yoko Ono, I'm not completely depressed by this dilemma. Matter of fact, I'm pretty giddy as the emails have started to pour in from readers from around the globe who are sick of bland Nancy churches lead by lame "leaders" who are driven by cash, carnality, convenience and culture rather than Christ. The revolution could be on, ladies and gents, and more than likely, my beloved, it will be televised.

Yes, the natives are getting restless, and it appears that if some pastors, churches and denominations don't cease their dining with el Diablo that the faithful are going to blow out of there and seek greener, more godly and gospel faithful pastures. Be afraid, feckless vicars. Be afraid.

For example, this past week at Brad Stine's "GodMen" event in Nashville I spoke to and met with a couple hundred sharp, solid and smart men who are looking for genuine Christianity that is real, raw and righteous. They are concerned that our culture is headed down the crapper while the church continues to take a nap, eschewing the vital issues that are slaying us while we sleep. This was a nice testosterone shot to my spirit: The warriors are indeed alive and well and asking all the right and wrong questions.

I believe that the adjustments the church must make can no longer be based on what equals temporary crowd growth and cash flow but what equates cultural transformation which could mean, pastor, that you thin your crowd Gideon style.

The deep BS our nation is currently slogging through is no game, folks, and if the church does not wake the heck up and prophetically realign based on holy need, not ecclesiastical greed, then we are screwed and will have no one to blame other than ourselves because, supposedly, we have via the Holy Spirit the power to change things if we get on the same page as God-and yet we twiddle our thumbs. Herein lies the rub: Are we going to continue, for whatever reason, to maintain the business as usual churchy course we're skipping down, or are we going to cowboy up, clear the table and get down to what needs to be done, as Christians, to alter our nation for God?

Well, I for one ain't playing, and herewith is my third installment regarding what I think the church must do in order to be a holy player in our current culture war. Check it out . . .

1. Get men who dig being rowdy back in the pulpit.
2. Could we have some sound doctrine, por favor?
3. Preach scary sermons (at least every fourth one).
4. Get rid of 99.9% of "Christian" TV.
5. Quit trying to be relevant and instead become prophetic contrarians, I'm talking contra mundus, mama!
6. Put a 10-year moratorium on "God wants you rich" sermons (yeah, that's what we need to hear nowadays, you morons, more sermons about money, money, money!).
7. Embrace apologetics and shun shallow faith.
8. Evangelize like it's 1999.
9. Push lazy Christians to get a life or join a Satanic Church.
10. Demand that if a Christian gets involved in the arts that their "craft" must scream excellence and not excrement.

5. Quit trying to be relevant and instead become prophetic contrarians, I'm talking contra mundus, mama!

Y'know, it gets kind of wearying watching choir boys trying to be some holy version of James Dean in a lame attempt to appear cool and thereby sell Christ and Christianity to uninterested postmodern pagans.

Hey Church kid, I appreciate you wanting to look hip and not come off as Urkel, as well as your desire to introduce blasé and/or bellicose unbelievers to Moses and Jesus. To be honest, it's refreshing to see Christians morph in this direction as many Christians look creepy and, truth be told, a lot of them couldn't care less if bad people dropped into hell. Therefore, any stab to wash the unwashed while looking GQ gets major kudos from moi, my brother. Giddy up.

However, the problem I have with these NSYNC Christians is that many of them go too far in trying to be effective and groovy and toss out the very thing that enacts true transformation of both souls and society, namely . . . the truth! In particular, the offensive aspects of the truth. You remember that old stuff don't ‘cha? All the things that rub us the wrong way, slay us at our very core and radically tick us off? Remember that?

Here's my advice to all you "relevant" boys and girls: Make sure when you are overhauling your wardrobe, urbanizing your vocabulary, gelling your hair to new heights, switching from Dunkin Donuts coffee to Starbucks, and praying to Jesus what appendage to pierce next and where to place another tribal tattoo on your white, skinny arm that you don't dispense with the offensive aspects of Christ's credo, for it is here, all you Justin Timberlake believers, that the truth truly sets men free.

A Detergent Church will try to be as timely as possible and look as smart as possible, but you'll never find us sucking up to culture and removing the sting of the truth's tail because the true church and saving truth are forever, contra mundus, and here lies our total commitment, namely not to culture, but to God and Christ. If we want godly changes then we have to realize that righteous realignment comes not through seeking to be relevant, which ironically often leads to irrelevancy, but through righteous prophetic resistance to the ubiquitous bad ideas society is yielding up. Yes, the Detergent Church isn't so much interested in being au courant as it is in being gospel correct.

As far as I'm concerned, the church/Christian that wants to be a profitable asset verses a pain in the arse will not 86 the disturbing truths of the gospel just because our shallow and cheeky culture doesn't dig ‘em. As much as it is a believer's duty to become all things to all people and not be removed freakish monks stuck in an ecclesiastical time warp, it is first and foremost the Christian's duty to stand for God-which means a good chunk of the culture ain't going to like you, more than likely. This isn't a big deal, however, at least to the culture warrior who loves God and this country. Why? Well, for one reason, they're not whiners, and secondly they understand that true progress comes through resistance.

The final installment will be next week …

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Unless Timothy is Very, Very Old

My friend Johnny posted this on his blog...

You have probably heard about this particular "sign" that we are approaching "the end times," from Paul's epistle to Timothy:

"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power."

The Problem? Paul's next sentence to Timothy is:

"Avoid such people."

Paul cannot possibly be talking about the days at the end of history.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Culture & Worship

---by Doug Wilson

The evangelical world is still sitting under modernity's table, eager for any crumbs that may fall our way. The big news down here is when some rock star or other intimates that it is possible that, under certain conditions, he might believe in a divine being other than himself. We snatch it up eagerly and feast for weeks. We have our own cycles of celebrity gossip down below table level, but given the nature of crumbs, our fixings are meager. But we make do, and wherewith are content. "Did you hear that..."

We forget that we are Christians, which means we are to confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ over every aspect of life. For some mysterious reason, we have settled for the Lordship of Christ over some precincts of heaven, but everything else belongs to Time Warner or Ted Turner. We have made our peace with our situation. But at least the prodigal son had the good sense to be revolted when the pig food was starting to look good to him -- we in contrast take our hunger as an indication that we will soon be accepted into the best porcine circles, over there on the other side of the pen. We wait patiently for our place at the, table. We do not cast our pearls before swine; we cast ourselves.

The cultural poverty within the church is considerable. Our idea of the cultural mandate is to ape whatever our disintegrating modern culture comes up with, after a respectable time lag of five to ten years. The only redeeming thing about our worldliness is that we carry it off badly. Anything the world can do, we can do afterwards and, hamstrung by our remaining biblical memories, worse. The faith, to paraphrase Paul Simon, "ain't got no cultcha." When the world comes up with thrasher bands, we want a thrasher band with John 3:16 somewhere in the liner notes.

Vibrant Christianity carries within it the germ of a vibrant culture. If Henry Van Til was correct when he said that culture is religion externalized, then the true religion must necessarily have a profound cultural impact. But this is a situation which we may only apprehend through a study of its previous occurrences in history; we do not see it occurring around us now. Oh we see a religion reflected in our culture alright, but not a scripturally faithful one.

In the meantime, modernity, that once proud heresy, has visibly started to topple. Postmodernists are running around gleefully, just like looters after an earthquake in a great city, but postmodernity's self-confessed parasitic relativism means that it has a cultural staying power which can be measured in weeks. After the looted Ho-Ho's run out, everyone will be hungry again.

The answer, however, is not more highbrow music seminars for Christians, or more visits to the classical sections of our art museums. The answer is to recover a Biblical vision of who Jesus Christ is, and what He requires godly parents to do in the training and equipping of their children. When Paul requires fathers to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), we frequently forget that the word he used for nurture was paideia. This is the word which a first-century Greek would have used to describe what we call education, as well as what we call enculturation. Paul requires Christian fathers to educate their children in the Lord, and to bring them up in a Christian culture. But with our theology being what it is, the resultant "externalization" of our current religion has really only resulted in mountains of cheesy kitsch. The average Christian bookstore, which reflects accurately what we are about, is an abundant cornucopia of nonsense. A moment's reflection should bring us, in humility and tears, to ask what can be done.

The cultural achievements of Christianity were at one time magnificent -- and these accomplishments from centuries past still remain with us. From the cathedral at Chartres to Bach's Mass in B Minor, from Beowulf to the poetry of Donne, from the Dutch realists to Handel's Messiah, the Christian church amply demonstrated that when a lofty view of God occupies the church, a vision for glorifying Him fills and transforms a culture.

To return to our picture, that of Christians sitting under the table eating cultural crumbs, it has begun to dawn on some Christians that the banquet of modernity above us is just about over. We no longer hear the clink of silverware; they have run out of wine, and have very little food left. So why are we content to remain here? The answer is not to put on a cultural affectation, from any century. The point is not to imitate the externals of anything.

Our problem is that we rarely hear our Lord referred to as the Lord Jesus Christ. We gravitate to Jesus, preferably expressed in a sibilant whisper . . . Jeeessusss. This, we think, is intimate worship. Caught up in our subjectivism, we think that we are worshiping Him simply because we feel worshipful. Our inner feelings become the gauge of pure and undefiled religion. Our music in worship is no longer religious; but simply relational. We sing boyfriend/girlfriend music in the Throne Room of God.

But the Lord Jesus Christ is at the right hand of the Father. He is the Lord of all, and He will be recognized as such. When God is pleased to grant doctrinal reformation in the church, the cultural impact will soon follow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Problem of Evil

I have posted on the Origin of Sin previously, but found many incomplete and erroneous ideas to confound the issue. Here is Vincent Cheung's take on the subject, which I found to be quite good. A link to his blog, with many other of his articles, can be found in my list of links to the right.

"Although Christians have agonized over this so-called "problem of evil" for centuries, the argument is extremely easy to refute; it is one of the most stupid objections that I have ever seen, and even as a child I thought it was a foolish argument. Many people have trouble with the existence of evil not because it poses any logical challenge to Christianity, but because they are overwhelmed by the emotions that the topic generates, and these strong emotions effectively disable the minimal level of judgment and intelligence that they normally exhibit."

"...we come to the following conclusion. God controls everything that is and everything that happens. There is not one thing that happens that he has not actively decreed – not even a single thought in the mind of man. Since this is true, it follows that God has decreed the existence of evil, he has not merely permitted it, as if anything can originate and happen apart from his will and power. Since we have shown that no creature can make completely independent decisions, evil could never have started without God's active decree, and it cannot continue for one moment longer apart from God's will. God decreed evil ultimately for his own glory, although it is not necessary to know or to state this reason to defend Christianity from the problem of evil."

Read the rest here:

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Detergent Church - Part 2

The Detergent Church: Salt and Light or Slop and Tripe? ---By Doug Giles

Detergent Church (di-tur-juhnt church) - noun: A church whose sole purpose is to purge the skid marks sin has left on man's soul and our society.

Biblical Christianity (operative word: biblical), lived and worked out in real time, has always been a life-stoking blessing in whatever land it took root (no matter what your long tooth lesbian Marxist professor says).

Historically speaking, when the church was healthy and righteous the nation it was in eventually prospered in muchos ways. However, when the "saints" started getting scripturally cross eyed, converted to the whims of culture and became lax in regard to God's moral maxims, then what used to be a source of salt and light morphed into a font of slop and tripe and officially became a part of God's-and that nation's-problem. In my quasi-humble opinion that's where I think a massive slice of the American church stands (or sits), namely in the way versus leading the way.

In last week's column I tossed out my demented two cents/10 points into the thought fray as to what I think would help the church cease to stink and thus cause our nation to maybe, just maybe, continue to be the great experiment it is. Here's a recap . . .

1. Get men who dig being rowdy back in the pulpit.
2. Could we have some sound doctrine, por favor?
3. Preach scary sermons (at least every fourth one).
4. Get rid of 99.9% of "Christian" TV.
5. Quit trying to be relevant and instead become prophetic contrarians, I'm talking contra mundus, mama!
6. Put a 10-year moratorium on "God wants you rich" sermons (yeah, that's what we need to hear nowadays, you morons, more sermons about money, money, money!).
7. Embrace apologetics and shun shallow faith.
8. Evangelize like it's 1999.
9. Push lazy Christians to get a life or join a Satanic Church.
10. Demand that if a Christian gets involved in the arts that their "craft" must scream excellence and not excrement.

Having covered point one in last week's column, here are three more shots across the shoddy bow of the crippled church:

2. Could we have some sound doctrine, por favor? You won't hear the book of Jude quoted by most postmodern pastors nowadays, but you will hear them discuss the song, "Hey, Jude." Why? Well, because it's cool, baby and the PoMo church is all about being cool! Oh, and of course, feelings. Nothing more than feelings.

So, why is sound doctrine being shunned in "churches" today like Jenna Jameson would be at a Jim Dobson BBQ? Well, it's simple folks: truth divides. Truth will cost a pastor people, possibly his Porsche and . . . and . . . it might leave him . . . (I'm gonna say it) . . . unpopular. Many ministers fear unpopularity more than God.

Yep, for the sake of praise, pacification, and cash a lot of pastors/churches will prostitute their calling and blow off declaring God's whole counsel because on the whole it's costly. Therefore, for the bootlick church, it's bye-bye to the real Christ and his hard sayings, adios muchachos to the acidic aspects of the apostles, and it's "don't let the door hit you in the butt" to the kill joy prophets.

The Detergent Church, however, will preach the truth, side with truth and defend the truth come hell or high water. They understand that their job is to herald what Christ, the apostles and prophets have declared and not take away from it or add to it. They do it with love and humility, when it is convenient and inconvenient, and they do it with unapologetic boldness and simply let the chips fall where they may. The Detergent Church is, in essence, God's UPS men: They just deliver the package.

3. Preach scary sermons (at least every fourth one): Today churches today won't touch any scrap of the Scripture that paints their congregants (clients) as possible recipients of God's wrath. Heck, to the hot tub church, God doesn't even get angry anymore according to these peddlers of pleasantries unless of course one doesn't recycle, or if you drive a SUV, or if you have a high view of Scripture, or if you hunt, or if you're white, or if you're proud to be an American and then, then, Yahweh goes Old Testament.

The biblical doctrines of man's innate depravity, the heinousness of sin in contrast to God's holiness, the commandment for all men everywhere to repent, the justifiable wrath of God upon the impenitent, and subsequent eternal damnation to those who have blown God off will not-I say, will not-get touched with a ten foot pew at Dr. Feelgood's House of Worship. But they will get their due at a Detergent Church.

Yes, a Detergent Church will volley on a regular basis both the kindness and the severity of God. They won't sidestep the fear of the Lord, the reality of hell, or the negative sanctions which come down on people and places because of disobedience. Sure, it's not pleasant to read or declare such things, but the minister who's worth his salt won't run from these truths just because they rub us all the wrong way. The Detergent Church knows that if it sidesteps the stuff that shakes the sinner in their innards they'll end up mothering people God hasn't fathered and spawn a pseudo-saint who thinks God isn't serious when he is.

4. Get rid of 99.9% of "Christian" TV: Very little of what passes for Christian television is either Christian or good TV. What does ecclesia electronica yield up to the general public when they fire up their Sony's? Here's what:

• Weeping pink-haired women with uber large lip implants
• Bizarre TV sets that look like Versace decorated them while tripping on a HGH/LSD combo
• Prophetesses with dragon nails screaming in tongues and prophesying pretty generic, failsafe stuff to poor dupes who just drove six hours to "get a word" from God.
• Rasputin-like healers in white Nehru suits with bad comb-overs and an entourage of yes men that makes Kimora green at the gills.
• Weepy metrosexual and heretical thirtysomething male preachers whose hair is so spikey the TSA won't let them board airplanes.
• 21st century Elmer Gantrys making outrageous claims that if you give them a $100 check (or $1,000, or what the heck $10,000) God will give you a yacht (or its equivalent).

And then . . . then . . . the Wizards of Odd wonder why the "world" rejects them. Are they being persecuted for righteousness' sake? No, Ezekiel, it's because of ridiculousness. It's not that the unwashed cattle aren't into God-they're just not buying most of this smack. Hey Religious Television Nutworks, there's a reason why Carrot Top and Gary Busey don't get much airtime any longer. Do the math and then do us all a favor, por favor, and follow suit.

I believe that the rogue gallery that's regularly propped up by evangelivision, y'know, the ones who make the characters in the Star Wars bar scene look like some of Trump's execs, are part of our cultural problem rather than the solution.

It's sad that the Christian leaders in the Detergent Church who actually have something to say don't get any airtime just because they won't dumb it down, or wear glitter in their hair, or a neckerchief or because they regularly think and blink.

The finale next week . . .