ET and the MoonI always thought Halloween was delightful and charming. I guess I always knew deep down that it had scary roots—either something to do with ghouls and witches, or Catholic holidays. But the freckled, buck-teeth kids interrupting my important sitcom watching hardly seemed sinister. I confess that, I actually found it quite charming to be greeted by the Smurfs, glow-worms, princesses, Darth Vaders,  and other beguiling alter-egos salivating on my welcome mat.

Little did I know how dastardly this holiday was. Like a razor blade in a Snickers bar, Satan had impregnated my spiritual life with his malicious influence.  How naïve I was to think I could glorify God and enjoy a cultural holiday at the same time. But I’ve been enlightened.

I’m grateful for the plethora of e-mails and blogs I encountered last week that warned me of the noxious effects of  Halloween. Who knew that what erstwhile druids touted as flagrant demonic wickedness would one day evolve into something so deceptively cute and harmless.

It piqued my curiosity that perhaps there were other apparently harmless days that were laced with esoteric dangers. Since most of the helpful anti-Halloween rhetoric emphasized the poisonous roots from which the holiday sprang, I began my detective work in the same place—the origins of benign days.  To my horror I discovered a day more insidious than Halloween: Mondays!

It turns out that the roots of Monday are as pagan as you can imagine!

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Today marks one of my favorite holidays.

No, I’m not referring to Halloween.

I’m talking about Reformation Day — which is celebrated on October 31, and which commemorates the day on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door in 1517.

Reformation Day is not only celebrated here in the United States by a number of evangelical denominations, it is also an official holiday in parts of Germany and a couple other countries around the world.

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In today’s post, I’d like to focus on a theme that particularly relates to the Protestant Reformation. That theme is captured by the Latin phrase, sola Scriptura. It is expressed in the familiar words of Hebrews 4:12.

Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Because it is empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is a living Book. It actively convicts the human heart, as it pierces to the innermost depths of who we are. It is like a sword—the “sword of the Spirit” as Paul calls it in Ephesians 6:17 — a precise implement in the hands of its divine Author. And when it goes forth it will not return void, for God Himself energizes and empowers it. Continue Reading…

DividedWith Reformation Day this week, it is a good time to remind ourselves of what exactly the differences are between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestants. Certainly on just about every single area of theology there are differences, but here are what I think are the five most glaring and significant issues that separate the Catholic Church from the gospel of grace:   Continue Reading…

Manuscript FragmentWhen reading Scripture, many Christians focus on the question, “What does this verse mean to me?” What the Bible means to a given individual, however, is completely irrelevant, for the true meaning of Scripture is found not in the subjective impression of the contemporary reader but in the objective intention of the original author. For this reason, we often speak of “authorial intent” as the proper goal of Bible interpretation, and rightly so.

But this only raises the question: exactly whose intent are we seeking to ascertain—the intent of the human author or the intent of the divine author? Or is it possible that there is actually no tangible difference between the two? Herein lies one of the key issues in hermeneutics today—the question of whether the human intention and divine intention of Scripture are one and the same.

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Strange_Fire_LogoToday’s post is adapted from my Friday morning breakout session at the Strange Fire Conference. The title of my seminar was: Charismatic Counterfeits: Do the Modern Gifts Meet the Biblical Standard? 

Introduction

The title for our seminar this morning is “Charismatic Counterfeits: Do the Modern Gifts Meet the Biblical Standard?” That subtitle really defines our topic for this session. We want to consider the way in which the contemporary charismatic movement defines key spiritual gifts. And then we will compare the charismatic version with the Word of God to see how they match up.

As a side note, I want to note that much of the material we will cover today parallels what you will find in the Strange Fire book. I mention that at the outset, so that if you are interested in doing further study on this critical topic, you can do so by reading what Dr. MacArthur has published in that important resource.

Definition of Terms

Now, before we begin, it is important that we define several terms. If you were in my seminar yesterday afternoon, this part of the seminar will sound familiar. But I promise this is a different seminar, it is just important that we begin by making sure that we are being clear about the terms we are using:

Charismatic – The term “charismatic” is very broad, encompassing millions of people and thousands of denominations. Charismatics are known for their emphasis on the Holy Spirit and for their belief that the miraculous and revelatory gifts described in the New Testament should be sought by Christians today. According to the International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, there are more than 20,000 distinct Pentecostal and Charismatic groups in the world. Continue Reading…

As the smoke continues to clear from the Strange Fire Conference, the internet has continued to blaze with various responses from digital evangelicalism. There have been many helpful responses, including Clint’s and Eric’s right here at The Cripplegate, as well as exceptional reflections from Tim Challies, Tim Raymond, and Fred Butler, outside the gate. You don’t want to miss Grace To You’s “Where do we go from here?” post over at their place. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point our readers back to the work that has been done on this issue here at The Cripplegate, well in advance of this conference. That’s especially the case because I continue to see objections being made that have long been answered. The post on What Cessationism Is Not is probably the most beneficial for many critics at the moment.

Strange Fire

There have also been numerous responses from the Charismatic side of the aisle. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of their responses has produced way more heat than light (though there have been some notable exceptions, which has been encouraging; it’s nice to know that there are some who have understood the purpose of the conference). Rather than engaging the substance and the merits of the biblical arguments offered in the conference, they’ve sought to isolate what were admittedly strong statements from the conference, literally taking them out of their context, and to sensationalize them by interpreting them in the worst possible way. For all the criticisms of how the conference painted with too broad a brush, they’ve picked up a few broad brushes of their own, as the substance of the biblical argumentation is being ignored while the entire conference is dismissed as unloving and divisive.

This is how they’ve chosen to advance the narrative of the conference. And it’s an ingenious strategy, because it shields people from having to deal honestly with the substance of the theological arguments that were presented. Unfortunately, the result of that less-than-accurate narrative has been that several myths about the Strange Fire Conference have been floating and flourishing around the interwebs. I thought I’d take a post to address just a few of them.

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