Archives For Evangelicalism

Have you ever wondered why religious bookstores, Christian schools, and other religious organizations are allowed to discriminate based on religion in their hiring? Why is it legal for a radio station, or a charity, or a halal butcher to only employ those of like faith? The answer goes back to a legal right enshrined by World Vision, and a right that World Vision last week considered leveraging to advance the same-sex agenda in the United States.

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It was dark in the wee morning hours of Feb 4, 1999. Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, was standing outside his low-income apartment building on Wheeler Avenue in the South Bronx. The neighborhood was ear-marked for surveillance by a special police unit in an effort to curb drug related crime.

smoking gunDiallo was not typically considered to have a threatening presence. He was a short, light-weight man with an unassuming demeanor, and a shyness stemming from a severe stutter. But on that fateful night, his loitering attracted the suspicion of four police officers in an unmarked car. Spotting the halted car, Diallo’s curiosity was piqued enough to look around for what might be holding their attention. When he realized he was the object of their scrutiny, he became nervous and quickly retreated into the shadows. The cops interpreted this as the skittishness of a lookout abetting a crime.

Two of them, wearing civilian clothes, concealed bullet-proof vests, and not-so-concealed sidearms, ominously approached him. They asked if they could have a word. Apparently the fearful guy’s stutter prevented him from answering. Diallo freaked out and instinctively darted to his apartment door. He grabbed the doorknob with his left hand and started digging frantically in his pocket with his right. One policeman shouted “Show me your hands!” but Diallo turned his body and crouched low in what appeared to be a classic close-combat tactical stance—one the police were familiar with from their own training. Suddenly he presented a black, rectangular object and proffered it to his presumed assailants.

“Gun!” shouted one officer and drew his weapon. A shot rang out.

Startled, the other cop retreated, clumsily falling backward and in panic also discharged his weapon. Instantaneously the other two policemen appeared in the mêlée of crackling gunfire. Seeing one colleague on the floor and the other shooting, they joined the fray.

The whole incident was over in a few seconds. In that time 41 shots were fired. When the smoke cleared they found bullet-ridden Amadou Diallo’s body, with an outstretched hand, clutching a black wallet.

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If Wendy Davis and Planned Parenthood are the face of the pro-abortion movement, then there may yet be hope that this is the last generation for legal abortion in the United States.

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First some background: Yesterday the 5th-Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling and allowed Texas’ new restrictions on abortions to remain in effect. This case will certainly be heard by the US Supreme Court, and is probably the most significant case in the struggle to end legal abortion.   Continue Reading…

Spurgeon2I recently received an email asking a question that I have been asked from time to time. It pertains to the topic of spiritual gifts and cessationism. In today’s article, I’ve summarized the question and provided my response.

Question: You mention Charles Spurgeon as an advocate of cessationism. But Spurgeon confessed that on several occasions, while he was preaching, he received impressions from the Holy Spirit that gave him extraordinary insights to expose specific sins in people’s lives with incredible accuracy. From my perspective, those impressions seem to align with the gift of prophecy. How do you reconcile Spurgeon’s impressions with your claim that he was a cessationist?

Response:

It is important, at the outset, to note that Scripture – and not Spurgeon – is our final authority in these matters. I’m confident that Charles Spurgeon would agree with us on that point. Whatever we conclude about Spurgeon’s experiences, we need to remember that our convictions must ultimately be drawn from the Word of God.

Having said that, I do think it is helpful to think carefully about the issues you raise in your question. With that in mind, I’ve summarized my response under the following three headings.

A) Was Spurgeon a Cessationist?

Yes. The nineteenth-century ‘Prince of Preachers’ taught that the miraculous gifts of the apostolic age (including the gifts of tongues, prophecy, and healing) had passed away shortly after the first century.

In a sermon entitled, “Final Perseverance” (March 23, 1856), Spurgeon spoke of the spiritual power that was available to his congregation with this qualification: “Not miraculous gifts, which are denied us in these days, but all those powers with which the Holy Ghost endows a Christian.” Continue Reading…

MacArthur and PiperSeveral months ago, shortly after the Strange Fire Conference, notable continuationist pastor, John Piper, responded to some of the claims of the conference via his question-and-answer program, Ask Pastor John. Over the last couple of weeks, John MacArthur has begun responding to Piper’s remarks over at the Grace To You blog. These posts represent valuable, rubber-meets-the-road exegetical discussion as it relates to the cessation of the miraculous gifts, and it’s happening between two lifelong students of Scripture who many in our generation consider to be fathers in the faith. It’s surely an exchange you don’t want to miss.

I want to devote today’s post to recapping what’s been said there so far.

#1 Biblical Prophecy and Modern Confusion

In the first post, MacArthur begins with some comments of appreciation for John Piper and his ministry, speaking of his gratitude for Piper’s friendship and partnership in the Gospel. He also takes some time to briefly clarify an apparent misunderstanding of what and wasn’t being said about Piper at the Strange Fire Conference.

He then moves quickly into addressing the issues that Piper brought up in his first podcast. First, he comments on Piper’s definition of prophecy, and notes how he “illustrates one of the central concerns of . . . Strange Fire: the charismatic movement, even down to the most conservative continuationists, has entirely redefined the New Testament miraculous gifts.” He goes on to engage with that redefinition.

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driscollMark Driscoll’s recent apology has provided for some thoughtful and edifying discussion.

And as we discuss, it’s best for us to remember a few things: We need to love and pray for him. We need to remember that we’re not omniscient. And we need to hope for the best and pray accordingly.

And in doing so, the church as the opportunity to grow from this. Questions are being raised. Ideas are being circulated. But there have been too many erroneous assertions and objections in the mix.

Here are a few categorically unhelpful ideas buzzing throughout evangelicalism regarding the Driscoll apology:

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wesleyJohn Wesley (1703–1791) is best known in church history as the founder of Methodism. His commitment to the biblical gospel, passion for evangelistic preaching, and skill at organizing the budding Methodist movement are all notable traits. And God used those qualities to help spark the Evangelical Revival in England in the mid-18th century (a revival that paralleled the Great Awakening in North America). In that respect, there are many helpful things that we can learn from Wesley’s example.

His marriage, however, left a different kind of legacy; one which is also noteworthy, but not for good reasons.

As Methodist author John Singleton explains:

The saga of John Wesley’s marriage is a cautionary tale from the roots of Methodism that ought to resonate today with any couple so involved in church life that they fail to leave enough space for each other.

Wesley and Mary Vazeille, a well-to-do widow and mother of four children, were married in 1751. By 1758 she had left him—unable to cope, it is said, with the competition for his time and devotion presented by the ever-burgeoning Methodist movement. Molly, as she was known, was to return and leave him again on several occasions before their final separation.

Due to her husband’s constant travels, Molly felt increasingly neglected. She grew jealous of her husband’s time since he was often away. And she became suspicious of the many friendly relationships he maintained with various women who were part of the Methodist movement. Wesley for his part did little to assauge her fears. Continue Reading…

Like all people, I have a whole lot of memories.  Some of them are good, some of them are bad, most of them are lost in history, and some I cannot but remember (but won’t mention because they’re often quite incriminating of my own stupidity).  One of the ones that isn’t incriminating of myself (too much) comes from my days in Bible College.

I remember sitting in a class with my professor, studying a subject, and the topic turned to the bible in relation to a specific issue that apparently wasn’t around in Jesus’ day.  I was young, naive, and easily convinced when my professor taught the class that Bible doesn’t mention various subjects at all (i.e. anything that wasn’t around in Jesus day, like cell phones or stem cells or democracy) so we cannot help but go to the people who are the experts in that subject (psychologists, biologists, etc.) for an understanding of it.  At the time, that seemed somewhat reasonable since I knew that the Bible didn’t really talk about things like the internet, right?  I mean, there definitely was no internet in Jesus’ day, so I guess Jesus couldn’t have addressed it, right?

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Today’s post is Part 4 of a series focusing on the gift of tongues. (Click here to view Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3.)

Tongues_Newspaper

In particular, we are considering the continuationist claim that tongues in the New Testament did not always consist of real human foreign languages. Wayne Grudem, in Making Sense of the Church, represents the continuationist position when he writes:

“Are tongues known human languages then? Sometimes this gift may result in speaking in a human language that the speaker has not learned, but ordinarily it seems that it will involve speech in a language that no one understands, whether that be a human language or not” (emphasis added).

In his book, The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, continuationist author Sam Storms echoes that same thesis, insisting that “Acts 2 is the only text in the New Testament where tongues-speech consists of foreign languages not previously known by the speaker.” Storms’ assumption is that, even in the New Testament, the majority of tongues speech consisted of something other than human language.

Storms marshals nine arguments to defend that assumption. We have already considered his first two arguments (in the previous two posts). Today we will consider a third.

Continuationist Argument 3: First Corinthians 12:10 states that there are different kinds of tongues, therefore not all tongues are human languages.

In 1 Corinthians 12:8–10 Paul writes,

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

Because Paul says that there are “various kinds of tongues,” continuationists assert that this means there are at least two categories of tongues speech: human (earthly) languages and non-human (heavenly) languages. Storms articulates the argument like this:

Note also that Paul describes various kinds [or ‘species’] of tongues (gene glosson) in 1 Corinthians 12:10. It is unlikely that he means a variety of different human languages, for who would ever have argued that all tongues were only one human language, such as Greek or Hebrew or German? His words suggest that there are different categories of tongues-speech, perhaps human languages and heavenly languages.

Based on that interpretation, Storms believes 1 Corinthians 12:10 provides exegetical support for the notion that tongues can be something other than human languages.

So what are we to make of the phrase “various kinds of tongues”? Is Paul differentiating between two fundamentally different categories of tongues (as Storms and other continuationists contend)? Does this verse really distinguish between earthly (human) languages on the one hand, and heavenly (non-human) languages on the other? Continue Reading…

In my life I often have a conversations that quickly turn to spiritual things.  I was once talking with someone involved in a sort of “para-church ministry” and as we talked it came up that he was wondering if he was called to actual church ministry.  As I probed his doubts I realized that he didn’t actually know what it meant to be “called”, hence he was terribly confused about the whole situation.  As was the case with many young adults I talk to, there was no real understanding of the concept of “call” outside of an esoteric concept that it involved something you got from God (somehow) and was necessary to go into ministry (or at least that’s what you’re expected to say to people who ask).  He knew he needed to get it, but he wasn’t sure what it was or what it would look like when it arrived.

Nutella

I really feel sorrow for so many people who know that ministry is some form of a “calling”, but when pressed to the wall they’re not able to give provide a concrete understanding of what a “call” is or how in the world to know if they’re called.  Now I’m not exactly going to unpack the whole concept of “call” since Clint has generally done that quite wonderfully and Eric has addressed that in the specific avenue of discerning a calling to church-plant, and there’s no real need to re-invent the wheel.  Instead, I’ll just add a little something to the wheel!

WagonWheels

For anyone who has ever wondered about their calling (and I can think of several of my immediate friends who do, and far more who thought they once had a “call” and now are quite convinced that they never did), here’s the general gist of what I told that young man: Continue Reading…