Archives For Evangelicalism

In today’s post, I would like to briefly consider one of the most well-known and often-quoted verses in the New Testament. In fact, it is one of the most popular verses in American evangelical culture today.

It has been printed on posters and inspirational wall art. A quick internet search reveals that you can buy key chains, rings, buttons, t-shirts, stickers, postcards, bracelets, handbags, and other Christianized trinkets with the words of this verse emblazoned, embroidered, or embossed upon them. This verse even gained some notoriety among college football fans a couple years ago when a championship quarterback sported the verse on the glare-reducing strips he wore under his eyes.all_things_football

But the irony is that, by taking this verse out of context, many people have actually turned it on its head—making it mean the opposite of what it actually means. They have turned it into a slogan of personal empowerment—a declaration of self-achievement, ambition, and accomplishment. For many, this verse has been trivialized into some sort of motivating motto for material prosperity, career advancement, or athletic success.

But in reality it is nothing of the sort.

By now, you may have guessed that the verse I am describing is Philippians 4:13. There, the Apostle Paul writes, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Now, if we read Philippians 4:13 in isolation, apart from its context, it’s possible to see why so many take it as a declaration of personal empowerment.

Out of context, the “all things” seems like it could refer to whatever someone might want to accomplish—from winning a football game to losing weight to getting a new job to gaining material wealth. Out of context, it is often treated like a spiritual boost of self-confidence that can be applied to any ambition or aspiration in life.

But in context this verse has a very specific, defined meaning—one that most Americans don’t want to hear about, but one that is very important for us to remember as believers. Continue Reading…

In the shadow of the movie’s release, I thought it apropos to regurgitate this (one of my first) posts…

This annoying little book is not going away. Upon hearing his 4-year-old claim that he had visited heaven and met Samson and a blue-eyed Jesus, Pastor Todd Burpo encountered the same challenge all parents of toddlers frequently face. When my boy claims that he is actually Superman I wrestle with an identical dilemma: Do I just smile and play along til he grows out of it, or do I write a book sharing the claim with the world? What to do, what to do? 

Pastor Burpo didn’t chicken out and opt for the condescending smile-and-nod approach most of us lazy dads do. No, he employed a literary agent who successfully lured Thomas Nelson Publishers into eventually putting 1.5 million copies into print. (If anyone can get me that agent’s number, I’m very interested!) Dad exploited assisted his boy to polish his story, and Nelson presented their newest father-and-son trophy as the very yellow “Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.” It shot to #1 Bestseller for non-fiction.

The NY Times ran an article facetiously titled “Celestial Sales for Boy’s Tale of Heaven.” In it there is a priceless explanation of why reputable literati types would stoop to promoting this project. Patricia Bostelman, the vice president for marketing at Barnes & Noble admitted: “When you buy the religion subject, you are presented with many stories about heaven, personal experiences about …the afterlife,… But what was unusual about this book was that it was the story of a little boy. It deactivated some of the cynicism that can go along with adults capitalizing on their experiences.” In other words, when you rub shoulders with the gullible folk who “buy the religion subject” you are bound to meet shameless kooks who try to profit from fanciful lies. But this one we could promote, because it will sell. And why will it sell? Because the picture of a little boy will “deactivate” some of the normal discernment that might hinder sales.

Continue Reading…

Hello, my name is Clint, and I am a Baptist. [Insert “Hi Clint”].

To our beloved pedobaptist readers, before we plunge into the discussion please understand that I am not making a case for believer’s baptism by immersion—I am assuming it.under water

This article is not an attempt to wade neck-deep into a turbulent,century-spanning controversy, nor to convince R. C. Sproul, Kevin DeYoung, or the Pope that Baptists are right. I am sharing the Anabaptist perspective of three practical scenarios that tend to pop up occasionally in the ministry of Baptist pastors.

1. The sprinkled Baptist

Occasionally a mature believer will sidle up to me and confess in hushed tones that although they are now fully convinced that baptism by immersion is the biblical method, they were—ahem—not immersed but—ahem—sprinkled.

I nod my head gravely, furrow my brow sagaciously, and then pose two diagnostic questions:

Continue Reading…

Last week Jesse wrote about how understanding soccer will make you a better Christian. Today, I want to give some balance to this discussion. I want to lay out why the whole concept of soccer is actually contrary to biblical values.

Soccer should be rejected for these 11 reasons:

Continue Reading…

Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter by clicking here.

 afMoving Forward After Strange Fire

I come to Michael Brown’s final chapter of Authentic Fire. Here is where he wraps up what he has been saying throughout his book, as well as provides his concluding words of exhortation as to what we, his readers, should take away from the Strange Fire conference.

He begins by laying out four reasons why the Strange Fire conference and the published book will be significant.

To summarize those reasons [AF, 309-310]:

1. Strange Fire will be a negative landmark in the increasing minority position of cessationism.

2. More believers will study afresh the Scriptures and see that continuationism is true. In other words, Strange Fire will backfire!

3. Pentecostals and charismatics who previously had no connection to each other will be united, along with non-hostile cessationists connecting with non-crazy charismatics and working together for God’s kingdom.

4. Charismatics will look more seriously at some of their more glaring errors both doctrinally and morally.

Brown then concludes the remainder of his chapter with three challenges to those Christians sympathetic to the Strange Fire message. Continue Reading…

Church discipline (Matt 18:15-20) is often messy, costly, and accompanied by damage. The pain experienced is typically unmatched when a professing believer must be publicly put out of the local church.

Even so, when practiced biblically, it is consistent with biblical love, care, and obedience to Christ. Mark Dever rightly says that church discipline is “a loving, provocative, attractive, distinct, respectful, gracious act of obedience and mercy, and that it helps to build a church that brings glory to God.” Along those lines, a friend of mine was biblically disciplined out of a large church and to this day he confesses that it was one of the best things that ever happened to him. But more importantly, it’s a matter of non-negotiable in God’s kind of church.

perilousNow, the existence of church discipline in a church does not mean that church is a biblical church. It’s a process that is sometimes abused. However, a refusal to practice it is a certain red flag. It’s one thing if a church leadership has not been practicing church discipline and is attempting to implement it. But it’s quite another thing if a church refuses to practice it. That refusal is symptomatic of other problems, making it an unsafe church.

Here are 10 perils common among churches that will not practice church discipline on you:

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200wordsBaptists, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. All three claim to believe in Jesus. Yet, only one of these groups can be rightly classified as a denomination rather than a false religion.
With that in mind, the question we are asking today might be stated as follows:

What are the marks of cult groups and apostate forms of Christianity that identify them as false religions—such that we can and should label them as heresies, rather than simply classifying them as different denominations?

Here is my attempt to answer that question in 200 words or less:

The New Testament articulates three fundamental doctrinal criteria by which false teachers (and false religions) can be identified: Continue Reading…

Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter by clicking here.

 afSpirit and Truth, Right Brain and Left Brain

Coming to chapter 8 of Authentic Fire, Dr. Michael Brown explains how charismatics and non-charismatics have something to offer the body of Christ. Rather than fighting, both groups will serve everyone better if they would seek to understand and learn from each other.  That way, both sides will glorify Jesus and touch a dying world [AF, 251]. 

While Brown acknowledges that he believes the Bible clearly affirms his position, charismatics and non-charismatics still have unique contributions to make. What may be one group’s strength, may be another’s weakness, and what may be one’s weakness will be the other’s strength. It is how God established the body of Christ to work together. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:4-5, there are many members, but not all members have the same function. So it is with charismatics and non-charismatics.

Take for instance how non-charismatics are heavily into studying the Word of God. They will know God’s Word inside and out in the original languages and all the theology that goes with that. However, they become so immersed into the “study” aspect of Scripture that they lose the vibrancy of fellowship and lack the empowering of the Holy Spirit. On the flip side, it is all too common for charismatic brethren to pursue the Spirit so heavily that they become sloppy with their Bible study and doctrinal foundations [AF, 257-258].

In order to remedy the differences between charismatics and non-charismatics, Brown suggests what he calls “cross-pollination” with charismatics learning to appreciate expository and doctrinal preaching and reformed congregations learning to include more congregational participation in worship and praise [AF, 260]. There has to be an emphasis upon both spirit and truth together so that all Christians are worshiping God “in Spirit and in truth,” John 4:24.

He then provides some practical examples of what he means. Continue Reading…

200wordsIf someone were to ask me why I’m not Roman Catholic, this would be my answer in 200 words or less:

I believe the Roman Catholic church has seriously erred in three fundamental areas: in its approach to God, the Bible, and salvation.

1) In its approach to God, Roman Catholicism approves the veneration of (i.e. bowing down before) images and relics, encourages praying to the saints, and promotes Mary to a semi-divine status. All of these constitute varying forms of idolatry, which Scripture condemns (cf. Ex. 20:4–5; Lev. 26:1; Acts 10:25–26; Rev. 22:8–9). Continue Reading…

good startI recently discovered that it’s possible to have fruit-bearing citrus trees shipped to your house. When you live far from warmth, as I do, affordable fresh fruit is a coveted commodity. So for example, if you buy a fruit-bearing lemon tree, you will typically be sold one that is four to five years old. That’s because the tree, though not old by any sense of the word, is ready to stand without lemon training wheels and lemon baby-walkers. It’s still small, imperfect, and in need of growth, but it’s alive, standing, and bearing some fruit.

Church planting is similar. Those first five years are critical and determinative. If a church plant makes it to the five-year mark, chances are it’s alive, standing, and bearing some fruit. That said, the goal at the five-year mark is more than a group of people. At five years, the goal is to have been faithful to implement and maintain biblically sound DNA from which disciples are being made for the glory of God. But, like the fruit tree, having weathered the seed-to-sapling phases, its a great time in church planting to pause and reflect on what God has done by his grace in order to prepare for additional days if the Lord wills.

In yesterday’s post, I set out to share a few lessons learned in five short years of church plant life. Here are a few more:

Continue Reading…