Archives For Evangelicalism

what-is-loveOver the past week evangelicalism has witnessed an intriguing exchange surrounding the LGBTQ issue. Briefly, it began when RNS posted an interview with Jen Hatmaker in which she affirmed the holiness of LGBT relationships, to which Rosaria Butterfield responded, to which RNS responded.

In reading these articles, and others like it, there seems to be a common confusion lining the discussion: What is love? What is unloving? What criteria determines if something is loving or not? Often the unloving penalty flag is (unlovingly) thrown into the mix of these conversations. It’s not possible to dissect all the issues. But briefly, it’s worth pushing pause and examining what we often label “loving” and “unloving.”

Individuals are correct when they insist on the priority of love. “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14). All that God commands is summed up in love. But this demands a question: why should the God of the Bible serve as the standard for love, or anything for that matter? After all, while my unregenerate friend agrees that love is priority, he would take issue with the proposition that the God of the Bible is the standard and definer of love. On one hand, the answer involves a study of Bibliology; matters pertaining to the revelation, inspiration, inerrancy, and canonicity of the Bible. This article assumes these things. If needed, one might begin familiarizing themselves on those topics here and here.

With that premise, we can move forward. Consider for a moment what happens if I do not have an objective standard on what is and is not love. Love will be interpreted as whatever feels loving to me or a particular subculture. The problem is that without an objective definition external to myself, I really have no absolute framework for love.bible-06 Love becomes a matter of my perception. Which means love is determined by me, whose feet are planted in mid-air. In using my perceptions as love’s adjudicator, I am, in effect, saying, “I am the standard of love. In my being, I am the standard of love. In my thinking, feeling, and practice, I am absolute, pure love.” Thus, I have placed myself as the determiner and judge of what is and is not loving. In so doing, I assume the place of Absolute, which is to say, I am functionally operating as a self-appointed god. In that moment, I have nominated myself as the universe’s Sovereign and ascended to the throne for absolute adjudication. But, we, who are imperfect in love by nature and deed, dare not place ourselves in such a place.

I need to step off the throne. Practically, that will look like letting go of my perceptions, my feelings, and my opinions as the absolute determiner of what is loving. I need an objective standard. Even more, I need the standard from a source who has shown flawless love in word and deed. The only such source is the God of the Bible. “God is love…In this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sin” (1 John 4:8, 10). The One who created knows more about love than the one created. Further, the One abused by his enemies in order to redeem and reconcile his enemies; that One is love. So, when this God speaks, as he has in the 66 books of Scripture, his definition of love is love. It is objective; absolute; pure. Thus, it alone is the standard against which ideas of love must be compared.

With that, it’s worth taking a look at some common myths pertaining to love and the lack thereof in evangelicalism (errors which I have committed).  Continue Reading…

As I saw her sitting there on her wheelchair sobbing…both our hearts were breaking.

people-holy-stepsHers because she was unable to walk up the Holy Steps to have her sins forgiven. She so desperately wanted to be able to spend less time in purgatory and she couldn’t bear the thought of being so close to the steps where Jesus had walked and unable to go up them like everybody else.

Mine because she had been duped into believing that this ritual of walking up the steps, and saying a few hundred hail Mary’s, would save her from her sin. Her tears were yet another example of the evil that is the Roman Catholic Church.

Of course, a sign not too far from her stated that those who could not crawl up the steps could stay right where they were and still receive pardon for their sin, but she wasn’t buying it.  She knew that she was missing out on something, and it was all because of her inability to perform works.

As I gazed around the room, I was overwhelmed by the dozens of people who were partaking in this practice of walking up these “holy steps”. According to Roman Catholic tradition, these were the steps that Jesus walked on in order to go up to Pilate. They even have spots on them which they claim is where Jesus’ blood dropped. Supposedly, Helena the mother of Constantine had them brought from Jerusalem to Rome in the fourth century.

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reformation-wall-in-genevaHave you ever wondered why people call themselves “Reformed”? The word “reformed” generally means “improved”—as in, desperate parents may send an incorrigible adolescent to a reformatory school to get them back in line; politicians promise economic reforms to undo the damage of their predecessors. In theological circles, the word is written with a capital, and acts as a self-designation for those who consider themselves to be direct doctrinal descendants of the progenitors of the Reformation, namely Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, et al.

For example, plain vanilla Baptists get upgraded to “Reformed Baptists” if they embrace not only the tenets of Baptists, but also the doctrines for which the Reformers risked life and limb.

Exactly 499 years to the day (October 31, 1517) the Catholic priest, Martin Luther, nailed, to the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church, his list of 95 things the Catholic Church needed to reform/improve in order to be faithful to what the Bible teaches.

Reformed folk today come in various subspecies: some don’t hold to all five tenets of the Calvinist TULIP* scheme, others have shed the Reformers’ eschatology and ecclesiology, such as infant baptism. But all who brandish the prefix “Reformed” will share a profound commitment to the five slogans of the Reformation that functioned as the five-fold battle cry of essentials around which all Reformers united.

Ironically, these five mottos are commonly referred to by their Latin monikers. I say it’s ironic because the Reformers were committed to translating the Scriptures and theological writings out of the elitist Latin language and into any and every vernacular tongue imaginable. But the description of this commitment has come to us in Latin: Post tenebras lux,(after darkness light).

post-tenebras-lux

Any visitor to South Africa’s Kruger National Park wants to see the Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo. Though there are countless species to keep career game wardens busy for a lifetime, nothing trumps the satisfaction of spotting the Big Five.

Here is a quick primer on the doctrinal biggies of the Reformation, the so-called “Five Solas.”

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the-atheist-delusion-dvd_3d-1Ray Comfort recently released a new movie, “The Atheist Delusion” which is free on YouTube. The movie is an hour long and is a response to Richard Dawkins’ famous book The God Delusion.”

The movie’s description states:

Having to prove the existence of God to an atheist is like having to prove the existence of the sun, at noon on a clear day. Yet millions are embracing the foolishness of atheism. “The Atheist Delusion” pulls back the curtain and reveals what is going on in the mind of those who deny the obvious. It introduces you to a number of atheists who you will follow as they go where the evidence leads, find a roadblock, and enter into a place of honesty that is rarely seen on film.

The Atheist Delusion is a mix of interviews on college campuses, television clips, beautiful sceneries and more.  There is a great structure to the movie and it progresses nicely to a final goal. It is tremendously interesting and it really does a good job of keeping interest throughout. It would be a fantastic movie to watch with the family, the youth group, Bible study or even the entire church. There are several reasons why watching movies like these are great for believers, here are some that come to mind.

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trumphillaryThis election season has been one of the most excruciating experiences for Evangelicals. So many Christians are exasperated by all the different things to think about before they walk into the voting booth. Smarter men than me have attempted to convince you to vote for, not vote for and to keep your opinions to yourself about which candidate to support this election cycle. Christians who hate abortion and want to see it end in their lifetime are rightfully distraught over the direction the supreme court seems to be going and we all see our religious freedoms departing as well.

My mind and heart are exhausted but there is enough in Scripture for our souls to be refreshed and reinvigorated.

Any time this world disappoints us our eyes should turn away from our situation and be fixed on the Lord. But more specifically, when our kingdom seems to be in shambles we must fix our eyes on a coming kingdom that is unsusceptible to human evil and error.

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Welcome back for the final installment of Addressing the Dressing!

So far in this series, we’ve discussed what modesty means in the Scripture, what elaborate hairstyles were associated with in Roman culture, and discussed the key biblical texts associated with “modesty” in the Bible.  In the previous post we set up the theological framework for, and briefly discussed, a general principle that covers a wide gamut of clothing/fashion related questions:

Avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.

That’s definitely not the thorough discussion many may have been expecting or wanting, but it does work in giving a general orientation to this discussion.  If clothing bears skin or appears as skin, avoid it and move in a contrary direction.  Flee from the kinds of revealing, sensual or sexually-charged clothing that has become “normal” in contemporary culture.

Having dealt broadly with the issue of clothes, we now turn to the second (and final) issue.

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51kfcacw9kl-_sy344_bo1204203200_For as long as anyone knows, humanity has had a fascination with the supernatural. It’s an allure that transcends culture and time. So it has been in many contemporary Christian movements.

It was in 1987, after a John Wimber conference on miracles, that Bill Johnson claims to have experienced his ministry breakthrough. Then in 1996, after an experience at the Toronto Revivals, he began serving at Bethel Church in Redding, California, the original home of the Jesus Culture movement and Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Johnson, who is considered to have the “apostolic gift,” teaches many doctrines which fall in line with the NOLR (New Order of the Latter Rain Movement) and the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation). A proponent of the Toronto Blessing, Johnson supports individuals such as John G. Lake, Rodney Howard-Browne, and Smith Wigglesworth (the notorious, early 20th century faith-healer known for punching and slapping people with sicknesses as a means of miraculously healing them).

In 2003, Johnson published one of his more popular works, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles (WHIE). Since its publication, tenth anniversary and teen editions have also been released. WHIE, which is claimed to be “a death-blow to cessationism” (21), has received endorsements by individuals such as Randy Clark, Heidi Baker, John Arnott, Ché Ahn, and Todd Bentley.

WHIE features many stories of people attempting to reach out to the lost (e.g. 25-26, 172-173). For that, the book is commendable. As Christians, it’s far too easy to shy away from bringing the love of Christ in word and deed to those in need.

Despite the popularity, however, when compared to Scripture, WHIE’s problems are enormous. The book will be examined in several theological categories to demonstrate this.

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wouldyourather“Would You Rather…?” has become a very popular game in the past few years. One of my favorite “would you rathers” of all time is: would you rather have fingers the size of your legs, or legs the size of your fingers?

The Bible seems to present many different “would you rathers”, such as: would you rather live on the corner of a roof or with a contentious wife?

But mostly the Bible isn’t very good at the game. It asks questions like: would you rather spend eternity in hell or in heaven? With Jesus or the Devil?

When I was 18 I found one of the Bible’s most devastating “would you rathers”.

As I was reading through the Bible I came across a passage in Ezekiel 3:17-21 that completely changed my life. Here God is speaking to the prophet Ezekiel. He has just picked him to be his prophet, and has already told him that he is going to be a messenger to Israel; and now he is going to make him his ambassador.

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342491561_640It’s been said that we are either entering a conflict, in a conflict, or just coming out of a conflict. Often, it’s some combination of the three. And, when it comes to church leadership teams, the same can be true.

Church leadership teams experience conflict for many reasons. Those teams are made up of imperfect, sinful men. The pressures are great. Misunderstandings abound. Wisdom is lacking. And the work of the ministry is just difficult.

For these reasons and more, Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, Florida held the first “Ekklesia Pre-Conference” this past week. The event dealt head-on with the complexities of church leadership conflict in the local church.

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sorrycoffeeIt happens often that there is a disagreement and two members of a family blow up at each other.  One storms into their room in anger, slams the door, and spends a couple of hours sulking and thinking terrible thoughts of the other person. After a while they will emerge from the room, either acting like nothing happened or mumbling a “I apologize if I offended you”, or even worse an “I’m sorry” that can only be answered with “that’s okay”.  The problem is that it’s not okay.  We should never justify sin in our lives and it simply doesn’t cut it to say we’re sorry.

We apologize or say we are sorry when we step on someone’s toes by mistake. What is needed when we commit an offense against someone is a transaction. When I sin against someone I must ask for forgiveness. I have sinned against them and caused pain in their life. It wasn’t by mistake. It wasn’t accidental, it was on purpose and just because it wasn’t premeditated or I hadn’t had my coffee yet does not mean that it was not sinful.

Unbelievers minimize sin. Go up to any random stranger and ask them if they are going to heaven and you will hear some form of minimization of sin. In just the last week we talked to a few dozen people about the Gospel, and all except for the one Christian we ran into believed that they were a good person. We are born thinking that sin is not that serious and that we are ultimately good people. Psychiatrists have become experts of minimizing your sin and blame shifting. The danger is that many believers, even though they believe differently theologically, in practice follow the course of the world.

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