ropeSpiritual warfare is real. It might not make the news; but it ought to. Paul acknowledges this in Ephesians 6: 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

But the weapons of this warfare are often somewhat misunderstood. In some church circles, for example, it is commonplace to hear pastors and their people talk of “binding Satan” or “renouncing the devil’s presence” or some such display of confidence.

Here are three reasons I believe this is misguided.

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.

Before I get into things, I’d like to alert all the Cripplegate readers to a serious problem I’m currently facing and I’d like to ask for your prayer:  Please read this and this and this and definitely this and take a moment to praise the Lord with me before continuing.

Chapter 9 Summary

Michael Brown

1. A God to Be Experienced – Dr. Brown opens the chapter by talking about how God is a god who is not just known, but experienced.  He comments on how he encounters God through his written Word and gives the disclaimer “At the same time, God has not called us into a relationship with a Book but into a relationship with Himself, and, as a former cessationist once remarked, the Trinity is not composed of the Father, Son, and Holy Bible but of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Kindle Locations 4106-4108).  Dr. Brown  then asks the question “are you enjoying real fellowship with God?”

In order to illustrate the dangers of an exclusively intellectual encounter of God, Dr. Brown gives a few quotes from Dan Wallace who says things like “although charismatics have sometimes given a higher priority to experience than to relationship, rationalistic evangelicals have just as frequently given a higher priority to knowledge than to relationship. … This emphasis on knowledge over relationship can produce in us a bibliolatry.” (Kindle Locations 4122-4123). Continue Reading…

ImageThe Protestant Reformation threw the Christian world into chaos. At the beginning of the 1400’s the Pope’s authority was absolute and the only means of salvation were the sacraments given under his auspices. There was a secular/sacred distinction that was ironclad, meaning that the priests and laity lived in practically two separate worlds. There was no concept of church membership, corporate worship, preaching, or Bible reading in the churches. And as far as doctrine was concerned, there was no debate—the creeds and declarations from Rome (and soon to be Avignon) were the law.

Things had been this way for six hundred years. In a world where life expectancy was in the 30’s, that is essentially the same as saying that the church had been in the dark forever.

But if you fast-forward to the end of the 1500’s, all of that had been turned on its head. The absolute nature of the Pope’s rule and vanished—in large part owing to the Babylonian Captivity of the church (the 40 year period were two rival popes both ruled, and both excommunicated each other—finally to both be deposed by a church council). Church councils themselves had contradicted themselves so many times that their own authority was openly ridiculed. The Holy Roman Empire was no longer relevant, and the political world had simply passed the Pope by.  Continue Reading…

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…

The pop icon with the most remarkable lip-to-face ratio, Mick Jagger, encapsulated the sine qua non of Ecclesiastes with the characteristic pithiness of enduring poetry: “I can’t get no [obligatory guitar lead interlude] satisfaction.” And in one of the most elastically generous half-rhymes in the Presley corpus, “A little less conversation, a little more action / All this aggravation ain’t satisfaction in me.”  I am half way through preaching Solomon’s pensive, apparently cynical magnum opus, and I’m resolute in my determination to not slit my wrists. Last night’s sermon was the mid-term review—chapter 6 of 12. Basically our emo author is waxing glumly about life, the universe, and everything and how nothing in this sunburned existence brings happiness or fulfillment.

Continue Reading…

The Lord is NearOver the last two weeks, we’ve been considering Paul’s command to “let your gentle spirit be known to all men” (Philippians 4:5). We considered five characteristics of that gentleness, and then took some time to consider the scope of that command, noting that we are not only to be gentle with fellow Christians, but also with those who are enemies of the Gospel.

And we ended last time asking how could possibly do that? let our gentle and forbearing spirit be evident to all people—even those that would take advantage of us?

And we can be so thankful that Paul seems to never lay upon the shoulders of the people of God a divine imperative without also laying under our feet a divine indicative upon which we can stand. In Philippians 4:4 he didn’t merely command us to “Rejoice always,” but to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” The Lord Himself is to be the source, sphere, object, and ground of our rejoicing. Well here also in verse 5, he doesn’t merely command us, “Let your gentle spirit be made known to all men,” but also adds, “the Lord is near.”

So, how is it that we can patiently endure the ill-treatment of a hostile and perverse generation, and consistently repay evil with good? How can we subject ourselves to the attacks of the enemies of Christ and His Gospel without becoming defensive and asserting our rights? Paul says, “The Lord is near.”  This is the ground of our gentleness.

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…

If you are new to watching televised soccer, you might not know what exactly it is you are supposed to be looking for. You understand that the goal is goals… but certainly there is more nuance than that, right? If the average game is 2-1, then you are spending a lot of time watching something other than scoring. What exactly is it, and how do you enjoy it?

Here is the simplest explanation I can come up with, and if you understand this, then not only will you enjoy soccer, but you will be a better Christian as well—and yes, I meant to type that.   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…

I doSince becoming a pastor I have had the privilege of conducting countless weddings. The first few were easy decisions: I checked my schedule and if I was available, I agreed to perform the ceremony. That’s because the first weddings I was asked to do were young, chaste, Christian couples in our church whom I knew well and I was delighted to be part of their joyful day. But then I began to receive requests from complete strangers whose situations required some more discernment than a simple, “Yup, I’m free that Saturday.”

Although we covered the theory in seminary, it wasn’t until I was in the trenches, with no professor to grade my answer, that I was faced with deciding which weddings I would consent to do and which I would not. When there were families and friendships involved, I began to realize this wasn’t theoretical, or target practice anymore; we’re playing with live ammo. And taking a stand can set off some explosive emotions.

Here’s seven scenarios I’ve encountered in ten years of doing weddings, and where I stand on saying “I do…”

Continue Reading…