Archives For Clint Archer

Parenting provides an ever ready laboratory for experimenting with theology’s application to real life.

Doctrine is designed to seep deeply into the substance of life. If truth isn’t changing your workaday decisions about everything from toothpaste (why do you want whiter teeth?) to diet (for whom are you losing weight?) to what you order on Netflix (do you need a rating to tell you nakedness isn’t entertainment?), then you are in danger of being a subtle type of hypocrite.josh waitzkin

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their attention to gnat-sized detail when it came to the law of Moses, while simultaneously ingesting camel-sized indulgence when it came to caring for the people the law was meant to protect and the God the law was meant to honor. Likewise, some Christians can dot the “I” in TULIP with great dexterity, but they struggle to apply the doctrine of irresistible grace to say, their attitude toward their recalcitrant teenager.

Recently I encountered a parenting conundrum that required the oil of doctrine to help turn the cogs of everyday life.

Think through this with me. A caring, Christian dad comes to you with this question: which sport should my seven year old boy play? Our family only has time and money to permit one sport for each of our children. This particular son is extraordinarily gifted at chess. (for the sake of the illustration let’s concede that chess is a sport). Let’s call the boy Josh (homage to chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin, whose father faced a similar dilemma, which he wrote about in his memoire, Searching for Bobby Fischer).

Our little Josh could possibly become one of the great chess masters of his generation, or at least his school league, if he devoted himself to the pursuit of excellence. He’d need to read a lot of books, have private coaching, and travel all over the country to gain exposure to tournament level competition in his age group. There’s only one problem: he doesn’t want to.

Josh wants to play a team sport at school, like soccer. Oh, there’s another problem: Josh is not that gifted at soccer. His school coach, who is content to have him play the occasional B team game, has made it clear that Josh will not be the next Lionel Messi, though “messy” is an apt adjective for his playing style.

Josh loves watching soccer, knows all the soccer players’ stats, and looks forward all week to his matches, even if simply cheering his teammates from the bench. If he had private coaching and spent hours of extra practice, he might make the A team someday. But he’s ebullient when playing on any team, as long as he’s with his friends, and outside in the sun.

How would you counsel Josh’s dad?

Here are some doctrinal principles to apply to the situation:

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fire rescueI have no doubt that you remember last week’s Part 1 post covering the first two types of doubters. Jude said to have mercy on them (Jude 22) as there are genuine believers who may for one reason or another momentarily think like a unbeliever.

1. Cautious Believer

Doubting Thomas is the poster-boy for this demographic. These are genuine believers who buy into the overall package of what Scripture says about life, the universe, and everything, but find it difficult to swallow a particular point of doctrine. (Granted the resurrection is a crucial point to choke on, but Thomas was only demanding what the other disciples already had).

2. Confused Believer

John the Baptist wasn’t living up to his moniker when he expressed a flickering doubt as to whether Jesus was the Messiah or not. But his confusion is understandable in the absence of dispensationalists’ charts and study Bibles. He didn’t even know of the second coming. But his doubts were easily dispelled by a simple reassurance.

The final three categories venture onto the darker shades of the spectrum of doubt, “shading into unbelief” (as B. B. Warfield explained).

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Hamlet said it eloquently:doubting the truth

Doubt thou the stars are fire,

Doubt that the sun doth move,

Doubt truth to be a liar,

But never doubt I love.”

 

It’s not great theology, but makes a pretty rhyme. And the poem touches on a universal theme: what can we really believe for certain?

Doubt is a haunting reality in the lives of many churchgoers. Perhaps they are uncertain of  their salvation, or they question the veracity of Scripture, or maybe even at times doubt that there is a God. Are these doubters saved? Isn’t the definition of a Christian one who trusts in Jesus? Can a person be a believer while maintaining disbelief or unbelief?

I find it helpful to distinguish between the variegated species of doubt that lurk in our hearts. B. B. Warfield acknowledged that when discussing doubt there are…

…shades of meaning expressed by our words: perplexity, suspense, distractions, hesitation, questioning, skepticism, shading down into unbelief.”

Let’s meet five doubters.

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The news in South Africa last week has read like a macabre sequel to Alan Paton’s haunting novel Cry, the Beloved xenophobia graphicCountry. Paton, in 1948, portrayed a disturbing dystopia of incipient segregation between Whites and Blacks in South Africa that would burgeon into the institutionalised racism of Apartheid.

What is unfolding today is the beating, robbing, and execution of immigrants from other African countries.

The news headlines call it xenophobia. That is a misnomer. Xenopobia, which connotes a benign fear of diversity, is defined as “the dislike of, or prejudice against, foreigners.” It’s a sub-category of racism because it is hatred by some (albeit a minority) of Black South African citizens of Black foreigners.

But what is happening in Johannesburg and Durban should more accurately be called xenocide.

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VGTH coverThis is a snippet from my book A Visitor’s Guide to Hell. The book is meant to help unbelievers understand (or believers explain) why Christians believe in Hell, and what the Bible teaches about it. Here’a snippet, followed by a link to a video clip promo of the book (comments about my mongrelised accent will be deleted!!)

 

A History of Hell

As far back as recorded history takes us, in any and every culture that bothered to write down their beliefs, Hell has haunted mankind. It is not my intention to give a history of how the doctrine developed in literature, art, and religious belief systems. Others have done a fine job of that.

But frankly, learning about what different religions believed as well as how and when those doctrines evolved is not as fascinating to me as the fact that they all hold certain aspects in common. Here is a brief sample of some recognizable religions conceive as Hell. See if you can spot similarities.

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burried statue of libertyI’m not trying to be relevant. From my disadvantaged vantage point from the nether side of the globe (South Africa), the snookered view I have of the brouhaha over Indiana’s religious liberty legislation seems a bit like a storm in a tea cup.

I thought that freedom was already well established as a cherished virtue in the USA since the days of the Mayflower Pilgrims, Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, We the people, send us your huddled masses, and all that.

Nevertheless, it behooves all Christians to be reminded occasionally that religious freedom is, biblically speaking, a privilege to be prayed for, not a right to whine over.

Here are two biblical principles with which I try to brace my prayers for religious liberty…

1. It’s not the government’s job to be godly.

It is not the government’s job to be godly and spread Christianity; that’s our responsibility as God’s salt and light.

It is the government’s job to pack heat and stop bad guys.

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baby being dabbedAs the pastor of a Baptist church I frequently encounter this recurring couplet of questions posed by prospective members:

“Since I was baptized as an infant, and then later (in my denomination’s confirmation ceremony) confirmed publically that I trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior, why do you believe I should be re-baptized? Is this re-baptism not a renouncing of my previous confirmation ceremony, which to me was a precious and public expression of my personal trust in Jesus?”

Here is the essence of a letter I recently wrote to answer the question. Let’s call the inquirer something that rhymes with dunking.

Dear Duncan,

Your questions are good and show a commendable desire to reconcile what you have been taught with what you are learning now. Here are four handrails for our thoughts to grip as we wade through the issue.

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March 23, 2015

Financing the Lie

by Clint Archer

financeI have come to suspect that there is a disconcerting mercantile imbalance in the spiritual war between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. Our side sometimes seems to be underfunded.

If an economic discrepancy is observed, surely it would be in our favor? Our army of missionaries and evangelists and church planters is fighting for the fame and sovereignty and dominion of the One who owns all the cattle on a thousand hills and to whom all the silver and gold in existence belongs. And yet, the inexplicable reality  apparent to any casual observer is that too many of the skirmishes seem to be more lavishly supported on the enemy’s side.

I’m convinced the reason for this economic discrepancy is due to a subtle sabotage of our supply lines. The problem is not the paucity of recourses to which our people have access. It can’t possibly be that Satan has deeper pockets than God. The issue must be that our supply line is starved by our own tight-fistedness.

To put it bluntly: Satan always finances the lie; but God’s funding of his cause gets mismanaged by his stewards.

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storm trooper grievingIf you were to line up all 15 billion or so people who have ever lived in order of most godly to most vile, whereabouts would you place Jonathan Edwards? I’m not asking for exactitude, just a rough estimate, rounded off to the nearest billion.

Factors you might want to consider include: Edwards (1703-58) repented and embraced the grace of Christ as a young man, worked as a faithful and exemplary pastor for decades, preached arguably the most influential English sermon ever (one credited with starting the Great Awakening), raised a dozen godly children, was a devoted husband, wrote countless helpful theological works, volunteered to be a frontier missionary to a tribe of Native Americans, and all the while recognized his utter dependence on God and modeled humility and purity.

My guess as to where Edwards features in the godliness line-up would be somewhere in the top—I don’t know— two billion, to be safe? I’m certain we would all agree that he should be at least in the upper half of the virtue queue. (The list includes all the Amalakites, Nazis, serial killers, bohemian hippies, and all the lukewarm Christians in history).

The reason I ask is because I was quite taken aback when I read where Edwards ranked himself…

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contortedI once tried to visit Canada without lying. As a South African citizen I needed a visitor’s visa to set foot on their delightful tundra. I was vacationing in Michigan with a friend who suggested it would be very jet-set of me to add Canada to my menagerie of passport stamps since the border was only a few clicks away.

The plan was to pop into the nearest coffee shop that wasn’t a Starbucks, and pose for a picture with a moose or maple leaf or a live Canuck or something equally exotic.

The visa conundrum only occurred to us en route, but my friend assured me that they seldom ask for passports, and if I sat quietly they probably wouldn’t ask me anything at all.

I rehearsed looking unsuspicious and American. As we pulled up to the border the guard cheerfully asked “Are you both Americans?” We paused as we considered any way to answer this truthfully without letting on that we were not both Americans. The pause became the answer.

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