Archives For Evangelicalism

5-year-old cancer survivor plays pilot for a dayFive years old. Whether humans or trees, it’s a unique developmental milestone. By the time it’s reached, a degree of discovery combined with struggle has been weathered. In many trees, for example, this delicate, seed-to-sapling stage requires the utmost care and attention to survive. Every variable—soil, sunlight exposure, water, support, etc— has to be dialed in if they will survive the fragile seed-to-sapling stages. And if they do, by five years of age, they are able to stably stand on their own.

Humans are no different. The first five years are critical. Just look at the groggy-eyed, young moms and dads around you. And it’s often said that five years of age is that developmental stage when what kids think they can do and what they actually can do is beginning to line up. They’re figuring out that they can’t fly off the jungle gym. Less attempts are made at riding the trike down the stairs.

Gods graceSo it is in the life of a church plant. If you’ve made it that far, you’ve weathered the uncomfortable and delicate seed-to-sapling stages. Your core team probably still likes each other and has even reproduced itself a few times over. If the church plant is stably standing and bearing some fruit, then you’ve probably weathered a few storms; perhaps almost been toppled by them. You’ve seen a lot of people come. And a lot go. Even had to church discipline a few souls. You have seen that every variable needs to be biblically calibrated by God’s grace.

The church I get to serve is about to turn the green age of five. As such, it’s an opportune time to reflect on lessons learned along the way. Now, though turning 5 is somewhat of a milestone, many more milestones are yet needed. So these are merely some pit-stop lessons as a plant seeks to stand on its own. Hopefully there will be many more. But in the meantime, here are a handful of lessons learned from a 5-year old church plant:

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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.

afSola Scriptura and Therefore Charismatic

Dr. Brown opens Chapter 6 by recounting his testimony as to why he believes healings and tongues are for today. He begins by telling about his coming to faith in Christ when he was 16 at a Pentecostal church. However, expectations of healing and supernatural happenings that never really materialized in his immediate circles caused him disillusionment.

He left the Pentecostal church in 1977 and began pursuing Reformed, cessationist theology, [AF, 164]. Becoming influenced by such books as B.B. Warfield’s Counterfeit Miracles, he swiftly separated himself from his early experience as a Pentecostal.

When his sister-in-law was miraculously healed of an elbow injury, however, even having her injury called out from an audience of thousands by the speaker, Brown began to reevaluate his hard-heartedness toward miracles he had developed from his cessationist leaning ways. He then experienced his own personal revival at his church where people were slain in the Spirit and spoke in tongues. His heart was set ablaze with a passion for God and being so shocked with what he had encountered with God, he determined to do an intense study of divine healing throughout all of Scripture.

The ultimate determiner of whether or not healings and tongues are still active in the church has to be the Word of God. Non-charismatics like John MacArthur and all the speakers at the Strange Fire conference say they believe in Sola Scriptura, or the great Protestant doctrine of “Scriptures alone.” But Brown asks, “Would anyone really become a cessationist based upon reading the ‘Scriptures alone?'” [AF, 169]. If a Christian was to seriously study the “Scriptures alone,” there is no way he could conclude that any of the spiritual gifts, especially tongues and healings, have ceased.

He then turns to an extensive study demonstrating that cessationism cannot possibly be the conclusion a Christian will come to if he was to read the “Scriptures alone.”

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If you are not Superman, whose vascular system is exponentially energized by photosynthesis of a yellow sun, or a Duracell Bunny, who can pummel a drum for ten hours from four AA batteries, you need to put some thought into how to charge your body.

nappingThis may seem as obvious as a gleaming golden arch, but many Christians view sanctification as merely a spiritual pursuit. We err as Plato did, drawing too sharp a distinction between spiritual wellbeing and physical succour. After all, didn’t Paul tut-tut disparagingly at treadmills and jump ropes when he pointed out that, “Bodily training profits little, while godliness profits in every way, for it holds promise for this life and the life to come” (1 Tim 4:8)?

Well, yes, if you have to choose between being eternally godly, or fighting fit, then remember that your body will one day fuel the secret subterranean lives of creatures that you now temporarily outweigh.

But most of us do not have to choose between the two. We could benefit from mastering our memory verses, while working a Stairmaster.

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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.

afThe Genetic Fallacy and the Error of Guilt by Association

In his fourth chapter of Authentic Fire, Dr. Michael Brown interacts with what he calls the “genetic fallacy” argument and errors of “guilt by association.”

First, the “genetic fallacy” is the bogus claim made by John MacArthur and the Strange Fire conference that the charismatic and Pentecostal movements have been corrupt from the beginning. One primary example is MacArthur’s overview of Charles Parham, the scandal-ridden evangelist from Kansas who introduced the tongues phenomenon to 20th century American evangelicals.

While it is true that Parham was beset with personal problems and promoted bad teaching, he was not the originator of tongues.  Brown notes how there was a revival in India at least forty years before Parham and his congregations sought to speak in tongues.  That revival, led by one John Christian Arulappan, was reported to have had people praising God and speaking in tongues with interpretation [AF, 84-85].

Additionally, if one takes the time to read the history behind the Azusa Street revival, even though William Seymour had been discipled by Parham, the focus of the revival was the pursuit of holiness and salvation in Christ. Thus the picture painted by MacArthur focusing on Parham is misleading and inaccurate since tongues preceded his ministry and the fruits of the revival at Azusa Street was godly evangelism and holy living [AF, 89].

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How Stuff Works - GearsOver the past few days, we have been examining some fundamental biblical truths about the doctrine of sanctification. On Tuesday, we considered three of those truths. First, we saw that sanctification is a fundamentally internal and supernatural work. Second, as a result of that, we considered how sanctification is a sovereign work of the Spirit of God. But then we quickly observed how the Spirit’s sovereign work doesn’t cancel our work, because the Spirit employs means in sanctifying the believer. And yesterday, we looked into five of those means which we are to avail ourselves of in order to grow in Christlikeness.

Today I want to focus on how it is that those means actually work. In other words, I want to look at the actual dynamics of sanctification. Why is it that the Word of God, and prayer, and fellowship with the saints, etc., sanctify us?

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Watering Sweatpea SeedlingsYesterday, we looked into some baseline biblical facts about the nature of sanctification. We saw, first, that sanctification is a fundamentally internal and supernatural work. And so true holiness of heart is not something that we can accomplish directly in ourselves. Instead we learned, secondly, that sanctification is a sovereign work of the Spirit of God. The Scriptures everywhere attribute that work to Him.

But while it’s unmistakable that the Spirit is the sovereign agent of sanctification, that fact in no way contradicts the reality that He effects this transformation through the use of means which the believer must appropriate. God has ordained that the Spirit accomplish this glorious work through means. So when Scripture commands us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, it is commanding us to make diligent use of the means the Spirit employs in effecting our holiness.

Today, I want to look into what Scripture has to say about five of those means of sanctification—five means which we can appropriate, and, by doing so, put ourselves in the way of the Spirit’s sovereign, sanctifying work.

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SanctificationAs you are likely familiar with, there has been a fairly large-scale discussion taking place recently within evangelicalism surrounding the doctrine of sanctification. And that’s demonstrated that there is widespread confusion about what the doctrine of sanctification is, how it relates to our justification, and how God’s role and man’s role work alongside one another.

But if there’s a doctrine that we can’t afford to be confused about, it’s the doctrine of sanctification. And I say that because it’s where we all live. We all live in between the time of our past justification and our future glorification—in the present pursuit of Christlikeness. And so we need to get this right. If we are concerned to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Phil 1:27), if we desire to please the Lord in all respects (Col 1:10), if it’s our ambition to put the sanctifying power of Christ on display, then we need to be clear on how we go about growing in holiness.

So over the next few days, I want to look into what Scripture has to say about these issues, with the hope that I might be able to add something helpful to the discussion, and to help us align our thoughts with the biblical teaching on the matter.

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Robust discussion has resurfaced these past few weeks regarding the law-gospel issue and the relationship of sanctification with justification, being fueled, in part, by Tullian Tchividjian’s removal from TGC’s blogdom. In light of that, the Cripplegate is reposting an article from last year on identifying common legalism misconceptions.

The “L” word. It’s one of the ugliest of all words: legalism. Defined as the idea that we can earn right standing with God, it does violence to the glorious gospel of Christ. It says, “No, sorry, it’s not enough,” to the substitutionary atoning work of Christ. It confuses the way to forgiveness, it tarnishes the gospel of grace, it lays up heavy burdens that no one can carry, it crushes hope, and fuels despair. It declares that man possesses finesse to propitiate the just wrath of God due our sin. For that, legalism is deadly and must be opposed at every level. Paul called it another gospel whose proponents are condemned (Gal 1:8-9).

Consequently, labeling something/one legalistic ought to be done with caution. To bring the charge is to say that this thing or person is in danger of propagating an unsavable system and trampling the cross of Christ. So if we label something legalistic, we better thoroughly understand the gospel, the definition of legalism, and what exactly is happening with what we are labeling as legalistic. Otherwise, we are sinning by erroneously labeling something in opposition to the cross of Jesus Christ.

Even so, the legalism card often gets overplayed. More and more I’ve interacted with Christians humbly and faithfully working out their salvation with fear and trembling, only to have the legalism card slapped on them. As such, they’re being fallaciously warned about legalism boogeymen. There are many I’ve heard of lurking in Christendom.

Looking Under BedHere are 5 all-too-common legalism boogeymen we need to shoo away:

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The company that made Courageous, October Baby, and FireProof released a new movie this month: Mom’s Night Out. I don’t often review movies, but I wanted to write about this one because of how it got slammed by main-stream reviewers as sexist and condescending. The truth is, the movie is anything but and those reviews really serve as a reminder of how disconnected the entertainment culture is from a Christian world view.

MNO_wp1_widescreenEach of Provident Film’s releases is better than the one before, and this movie is no exception. It is the first of their films to use a cast of already familiar secular actors (such as Sean Astin from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Trace Adkins from Lincoln Lawyer, who join a few of the regulars from other Provident movies) as well as a soundtrack filled with popular secular songs. It is well written, well acted, and easily the most produced of Provident’s films so far.   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.

Chapter 3 Summary

Michael Brown

Dr. Brown opens up the chapter juxtaposing the carefulness with which John MacArthur prepares his sermons against the carelessness with which he speaks about the Charismatic Movement, and wonders how one can make sense of the dichotomy and suggests that John MacArthur has a blind spot in his theology.  Dr. Brown makes four statements designed to point out the blind spot:

Statement #1.In recent history, no other movement has done more to damage the cause of the gospel, to distort the truth, and to smother the articulation of sound doctrine. . . . The Charismatic Movement as such has made no contribution to biblical clarity, no contribution to interpretation, no contribution to sound doctrine” (Kindle Locations 888-890).

burning-church

Dr. Brown suggests that charismatic scholars don’t make contributions to theology as charismatics, but rather as Christians (just like cessationists) and suggests that one can no more separate a charismatic from their charismatic beliefs than one can separate someone from their shadow.

Dr. Brown then offers forth examples of charismatic contributions to Christian doctrine/practice in Oswald Chambers, A.W. Tozer, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, Ben Witherington, N.T. Wright, Peter H. Davids, Max Turner, Graham Twelftree, Jeffery Niehaus, J.P. Moreland, Wayne Grudem, R.T. Kendall, J. Rodman Williams, Sam Storms, and himself. Continue Reading…