July 30, 2015

We’re Still Not Bowing

by Lyndon Unger

Though I’m currently on a reduced blogging schedule, I got tagged in for something special.

On July 19th, John MacArthur preached a sermon entitled We Will Not Bow.

John-MacArthur

It got no small notice online and has been posted all around the internet (and ‘the internet’ means ‘Facebook, Twitter, and WeChat’).  I listened to the sermon a few days ago and, like many, found it to be a biblical breath of fresh air in what is quickly becoming an unsettling age.

MacArthur placed the recent supreme court decision in the light of spiritual reality.  He commented on how Satan is behind the attack against the family in all its fronts (feminism, the sexual revolution, abortion, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, etc.).  He reminded Christians that what they’re seeing is neither new nor abnormal.  He went through several sections of the Old Testament and commented on how all the issues that we see today were all issues in Israel: homosexuality, transvestism, etc.  He talked at length about various sexual issues as they were addressed in both the Old and New Testaments, and then commented on how those same issues have arisen to the forefront of public affairs in the last few decades.  He quickly walked through Romans 1 and then, when he got to Romans 1:32, he stated that the reprobate mind is taking over our culture and will demand compliance.  Before moving on to preach from 2 Thessalonians 1, MacArthur gave examples of Romans 1:32 that are already occurring or coming soon: churches losing their tax exempt status, Christian colleges losing their accreditation for not accepting the new morality, etc.

His sermon shocked everyone who listened. 

Okay.  I tell a lie.

It didn’t shock anyone.  It agitated everyone.

Okay.  I tell a lie.

It agitated one person. Shockingly, it was Joel McDurmon over at American Vision.

Okay.  I tell a lie.

I’m not shocked at all.  Someone at American Vision tends to get upset every time John MacArthur says anything.  MacArthur breathes too premillennially.

McDurmon recorded his thoughts in an article over at American Vision.  I’ll summarize the article for you:

1.  McDurmon opened by summarizing the sermon as being “about social decline in general over the past decades” and went after MacArthur’s “worldview of premillennial defeat and pessimism in history”.

2.  McDurmon suggested that MacArthur’s defeatism and pessimism comes as “a consequent belief of the premillennial worldview” where Satan reigns on earth and Jesus doesn’t reign, at least “in any significant way”, until the Millennium.

3.  McDurmon corrected MacArthur’s theological puerility, saying “First, Satan does not hold this world in his hands, and he does not rule the world.”  McDurmon’s reason was that Jesus said he had all power in Matthew 28:18 and also because Jesus said that Satan was going to be cast out in John 12:31.  In other words, MacArthur has some basic facts about Satan dead wrong.

Pianist

4.  McDurmon further proved that Satan doesn’t rule the world by pointing to an article he wrote on ISIS (where his main refutation of conspiracy theorists is quoting Calvin’s Institutes 1.14.17–18). He then quoted Calvin’s Institutes 1.14.17–18 and quoted his own writing about the Calvin quote (from the ISIS article) for good measure.

5.  McDurmon then pronounced this judgment:

For this reason, and I will say this only in passing, I do not believe that premillennial dispensationalists can truly bear the labels of Calvinist or Reformed. Aside from other issues of baptism or ecclesiology which could be debated, the assumption of Satan’s current sovereignty in this world alone conflicts with the basic presupposition of Christ’s current sovereignty with [sic] underlies Calvinism or Reformed theology. Thus, this position is not Reformed.

6.  Following that, McDurmon jumped on MacArthur for not having “a clear understanding of the mandate for us to construct our society according to God’s Law in light of the great antithesis between God’s people and the waning kingdom of darkness.”  He agreed with MacArthur on the role of the family, but he suggested that MacArthur is inconsistent because he “leaves open public schools as an option for the Christian.”

7.  McDurmon closed off by implying that MacArthur doesn’t preach the whole great commission.  He urged Christians to “not rest in our duty to shape law, government, and social ethics to conform to His word, let alone retreat from that duty.”

So, let’s respond to his response.  I’ll ignore the theonomy hobby horse since I don’t want to plunge the Cripplegate into that battle.  I’ll also ignore his whole “I do not believe that premillennial dispensationalists can truly bear the labels of Calvinist or Reformed.”

Okay. I tell a lie.

I’ll simply let the Bard express my thoughts:

Minion

I will address his two main objections: Satan’s rule and Public Schooling.

First I’ll look at his ideas about Satan:

1.Matt. 28:18 and MacArthur’s quote.

MacArthur said, “The Bible says Satan holds the whole world in his hands; the whole world lies in the lap of the evil one.

McDurmon said, “Satan does not hold this world in his hands, and he does not rule the world.”

MacArthur was quoting 1 John 5:19, which says “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

Generally speaking as a rule of exegetical practice, the clear text interprets the unclear text.  The passage that directly addresses the question at hand is the “clear text” and the passage that indirectly addresses the question at hand is the “unclear text.”   Matthew 28:18 says nothing directly about Satan’s sphere of influence whereas 1 John 5:19 does.  This doesn’t mean that 1 John 5:19 ‘trumps’ Matt. 28:18, but rather that 1 John 5:19 answers the issue at hand whereas Matt. 28:18 doesn’t.

2. John 12:31 and Satan’s casting out.

John 12:31 is a far better text, and one that is harder to deal with, but not impossible.

In a direct statement that appears to be in contradiction to a latter statement by the same author (1 John 5:19), one needs to ask some questions of the text to see whether the contradiction is apparent or actual (and here’s a hint: with the Bible the contradictions are always apparent).

2a. To what is the phrase “judgment of this world” referring?

Was the final judgment of the world what happened in John 12:31?  Of course not.

So, what sort of judgment is implied?

I’d suggest that if it wasn’t the final judgment, then it was either some form of the final judgment or a precursor to the final judgment.

I’d also suggest that the second clause explains the first clause.  The judgment of the world is in the casting out of “the ruler of this world.”

2b.  So was the Satan, the ruler of the world, cast out of the world in John 12:31?

Not according to the apostle John.

John talks about Satan two other times in the book of John.

In John 14:30-31, Jesus says to his disciples “…the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father…

Then, in John 16, Jesus speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit.  He attempts to comfort the sorrowful hearts of his disciples and makes an interesting statement about what the Holy Spirit will do when he arrives.  In John 16:8-11, Jesus says,

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:  concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

That seems to suggest that Satan would still be “the ruler of this world” after the ascension, but he would also be judged (1 John 5:19 also applies to this point).

2c.  So when did the judgment of Satan occur?

Colossians 2:13-15 suggests an answer to that question:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

I’d suggest that the “rulers and authorities” includes all the rulers and authorities, both human and otherwise.

That would also make sense with regards to the idea of what was being addressed John 12:31 and John 14:30-31 (namely Christ’s coming crucifixion).

2d.  Is that judgment finished?

Well, Revelation 20:10-15 suggests that the final judgment is still a future event.

2e.  So how was Satan “cast out” then in John 12:31?

I’d suggest that Satan was still active and powerful long after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.  Years after the event of the ascension, he was still active on earth, deceiving the unregenerate and causing trouble for believers (i.e. Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2-3, 6:10, 1 Pet. 5:8, Rev. 12:9-12 etc.).  Satan was, and is, still running the “world of men.”  That being said, he also stands as already judged and his sentence is simply waiting to be carried out.

2f.  How in the world does that makes sense?  Does Satan have a kingdom on earth as well as Jesus or what?

Matt. 13:36-43 gives a little indication as to how the idea of Satan’s rule can be reconciled with what Christ says in Matt. 28:18.  There are two forces at play on the same planet; two kingdoms represented.  One kingdom is primarily manifest right now where as the other is far less so, but in the Millennium the tables will completely turn and Satan will be bound (his kingdom will still be somewhat present in the residual presence of sin, albeit in an almost undetectable way, until the end when he is released).

3.  Calvin’s Quote.

I would suspect that MacArthur would fully agree with Calvin.  Satan is under the power of God; he only does what the Lord allows him to do.  It’s not like John MacArthur hasn’t spoken up about the topic over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

This all means that McDurmon’s first objection goes up in smoke, and his statement about premil dispies not being able to “truly bear the labels of Calvinist or Reformed” suffers a similar fate.

FunnyCar

Second, I’ll look at his objection regarding public schooling:

1.  Did MacArthur even mention public schools in the sermon in question?

No.

2.  What is McDurmon mad about then?

McDurmon’s complaint is that MacArthur has said “it’s acceptable for Christians to hand over their children to an unbelieving education system” in other places, like this.  To quote MacArthur:

Is it wrong to put your children in a public school? Not necessarily. Is it right to put your children only in Christian schools—or home-school them? Not necessarily.

Remember that the ultimate responsibility for the proper education of your children rests upon you—the parents—not the school or the church (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Ephesians 6:4). Those two institutions are vital to a child’s overall development, but standards, convictions, and moral strength should be implemented at home.

Not everything is necessarily good or high quality because it is called “Christian,” nor is everything bad just because it is under the umbrella of public education. Parents need to be especially wise and discerning in that important area.

So, McDurmon is seizing the sermon as an opportunity to go after John MacArthur for things he said elsewhere.  MacArthur’s big sin is that “MacArthur is a proponent of public schools”.

Is sending your kid to public school wise?

Probably not.

Is it sin?

Probably not.

Is MacArthur a proponent of Public schools?

No.  Grace Community Church ran a Christian school for decades and supports other local Christian schools.

Is MacArthur’s encouragement for parents to be wise and discerning on all education fronts some sort of capitulation to Caesar?

Give me a break.

McDurmon’s second objection seems no more successful than his first.

Drag

After this all, it seems pretty clear what’s happening here.

John MacArthur had the audacity to say something loosely related to someone’s hobby horse (unknowingly, of course).  This time, the theologically pettifogging party was Joel McDurmon.  His intractable abhorrence for all the issues that MacArthur didn’t talk about (dispensationalism, premillennialism, public schooling) couldn’t be restrained, so he seized the opportunity to take whatever potshots he could under the guise of responding to a sermon.

Was McDurmon wrong in his accusations?

Unquestionably.

Will he admit any error at all or offer up any corrective measures?

I’ll hold my breath.

I’m also going to go eat some nachos. Phil. 4:13.

Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him somewhere...you didn’t.
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  • Dan Freeman

    Interesting. I expected to see some postmillennial push-back to that sermon, but this was even less coherently argued than I expected.

    I didn’t read his entire article, but did he try at all to argue that we as a society are not headed where MacArthur described? From what I saw he mentioned that MacArthur thought the “old Christian [sic] America” was “dead and gone”, but he didn’t seem to try to say anything to the contrary, and I don’t see how he could.

    Maybe he is just trying to avoid that part in order to stave off post millennial stress depression.

    • Krass

      McDurmon argued this about as well as he debated Jordan Hall.
      He’s slipping into irrelevancy.

  • Mr. Mike

    Amen and amen. By the way, the funny car picture was a great illustration. One more point, do you know what Satan calls people who deny his power and authority in this world? Fresh meat. (1Peter 5:8)

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks Mr. Mike! I wasn’t sure how it would communicate or come across. I’m glad it worked for you!

  • Jean Paeth

    Poor HOT cheese over that sermon( Mcdermons)… oops I mean nachos.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks Jean! I’ll take that as a queso(ish) compliment!

  • Wait!? Shouldn’t we be redeeming public education for Christ? In a theonomic worldview – shouldn’t public education be compulsory? Or do you only do that AFTER you take over the world, I mean, local government?

    Is Joel McD trying to say Jesus isn’t ruling and reigning right now in public schools? 🙂

    • David Mora

      I caught that too, Michael! 🙂

      I posted this in a thread on facebook. I’m glad Lyndon Unger had the time to write this up. :

      Even though the public school smoke screen was completely unrelated to
      MacArthur’s original post, I thought it was a glaring head scratching
      inconsistency on the part of McDurmon to go after MacArthur over this
      issue that Lyndon could have developed more if he wanted to.

      Why?

      Because if Joel’s contention with MacArthur is that it is not acceptable for
      Christians to hand over their children to an unbelieving education
      system, then Theonomy is inconsistent.

      For Theonomy specifically teaches to *engage* the culture through the
      outworking of the Old Testament Law in every part of our society
      politically, not remove Christians from the culture.

      Did theonomists leave public schools out of their equation?

      Joel should be endorsing *every* christian parent to put
      their children in public schools – I mean, that’s why they should be
      there – to engage and change the culture, right?

      But Lyndon stopped to go and eat nachos…I can’t blame him for that.
      Well…yes, I can. I would’ve went for the Korean Fried Chicken Maangchi
      makes. They are slammin’!

      (Endorsement: see Maangchi’s Korean Fried Recipes on youtube.)

      🙂

      • Lyndon Unger

        Wait. The “K” in “KFC” stands for “Korean”?

        How could I go my WHOLE life and not realize something like that?

        • Ryan James

          Nooooooooooooooooo, ive been decieved, i always thought it was from kuntucky!

    • Jedediah

      To be fair, for the theonomist that is like asking “Jesus isn’t ruling and reigning right now in the [police force] [govt roads], [govt hospitals]?

      None of those things aught to exist in Theonomy. So they are redeemed by being totally abolished.

      Theonomistic laws are given only the teeth of a society who wants to enforce them. Having no meaningful taxation (better), or less than 10%, means the civil magistrate exists in a practically on-call basis. It’s not there to police the people. It wouldn’t be able to if it tried.

      • Krass

        If there are no police then how do they handle the unregenerate who run amuk? Who will it be that will show up at a grocery store to stop an armed robbery? Who will stop the thug who is breaking into a widows house? Theonomists are morons.

        • Your personal insults notwithstanding, there are simple answers to your questions, which presuppose that we absolutely MUST have the State protecting us from the bad guys–something that is never mentioned in Romans 13.

          I suppose we would have to do what we also do when attacked by somebody who wants to do us harm:

          We defend ourselves.

          • Alex

            Doesn’t Romans 13 kinda hit the nail on the head with the state’s stated purpose being to bear the sword against evil doers? Are you parsing out protection from avenging (Rom 13:4)?

          • Jedediah

            Active policing is absolutely different than punishing the evildoer. In fact, policing violates the command against false witness, because it metes out punishment before witnesses can be called, victims can accuse, and judges can decide the case.

            Just punishment of evil can only happen in a restitutionary or retributive manner. That can only happen after a crime.

        • Jedediah

          What’s most worrisome is that you think police actually do any of that.

          As to who would defend property, use your imagination. Private security forces, armed citizenry, etc. Golly, it could even be regenerate software running autonomous drones 😉

          Also, as i said, the society is given exactly that level of justice that its people love. It is a very scary prospect for an unregenerate populace. Hence theonomy tending to hold hands with postmillennialism.

          • Ryan James

            So in the theonimests view, would say an idolator be forgiven … ir stoned to death?

          • Jedediah

            1: please identify how this continues the conversation in a constructive manner. How is the question related to the topic?

            2: it depends. How did God call the Israelites to deal with idolatry in the land?

            3: (now here’s my answer) public, unrepentant idolatry is suppressed. Pagan temples are destroyed or made into Churches. Because the civil magistrate can in no way judge the hearts of men, pagans are generally left alone as long as they leave others alone. Basically, pagan evangelism is illegal, tho the magistrate can do nothing about the activities in the homes of the citizen.

            There is also the role of the witnesses. No police force exists to ensure obedience. If these laws are enforced depends entirely on the general population. If my neighbour preached heresy, i could plead with him to stop, or i could bring him forward for judgment.

            But, again, theonomy tends to go with postmillennialism because they don’t usually think laws like these will have to be enforced often, because most of the society will have the law written on their hearts.

          • Ryan James

            Dude it is a question regarding some if the comments made, and i was just curious, no one out a gun to your head and made tou answere.

          • Jedediah

            Glad to hear it, and no hard feelings at all. It’s just that usually questions like you gave aren’t sincere or interested in answers.

            I’m not much of a theonomist, btw. I just don’t mind answering legitimate questions. I hope iv represented the theonomist’s position well, but don’t take my word as final authority on the theonomistic POV. .

          • NotForProphet

            Ah yes. The stoning card. Why do so many Bible believing Christians take issue with God’s Law? I think it’s because the commandments of God are an intellectual embarrassment to many.

            Here’s a thought. A man (or woman) can be forgiven, but still face the civil punishment for his (or her) crime. I may commit murder, and then cry out to God while in jail and be saved from my sins. But I should still die for having committed murder.

            So much fuzzy headed thinking.

          • Ryan James

            I assure you sir, i do not suffer from “fuzzy headed thinking”. My comment was more a question in regards to the problems with theonomy… i dont see the old testament dispensation, meshing well with that of the new testament.

          • NotForProphet

            “i dont see the old testament dispensation, meshing well with that of the new testament.”

            Really? I guess you would have been at home with Marcion of Sinope.

            Old Testament…New Testament…same God. The Lord “changes not”. I don’t think His judgments have changed one iota. “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” We may not stone blasphemers today. Our soft headed legal system can’t even dispatch murderers anymore. But I can assure you, God’s judgment has not changed. He will mete out retribution. Our God will not sleep.

            Does theonomy have problems? Yes. Just as all theological systems do. But I find the issues in theonomy much less problematic than the issues in dispensationalism.

          • Ryan James

            Sooooo, are you for stoning unbelievers to death?

          • NotForProphet

            I’ll answer your question with one of my own. Did God command that idolators should be stoned?

    • Bill

      In the Bible, property taxes (where a lot of public school funding comes from) are considered theft. Nowhere does God grant government the right to tax or confiscate people’s property. Also, these taxes must be paid by everyone who owns property, whether they have kids in school or not. It is clear cut socialism and is sinful according to Scripture–not even considering the clear commands of parents to educate their children–not send them to the state.

      Jesus rules and reigns in public schools the same way he rules and reigns at the strip club and at ISIS beheadings–that is to say He absolutely reigns right now, there and everywhere.

      • Krass

        Jesus does reign in His kingdom and Satan is still permitted to rule in his kingdom but only because God has presently allowed it.
        1 John 5:19, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” You cannot get around this passage! John is speaking in the present tense after Jesus ascension.

      • Robert Sakovich

        Have you ever read where God (through Samuel) tells people what a king will do to Israel? It is interesting reading…the people still chose a king in spite of the fact that the king would take from what they own. So basically, when we choose a form of government, we get to live with what they take (render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s). This is in the Bible and I don’t see where God says it is sinful and we get to disobey it.

        • NotForProphet

          And that’s a straw man. He never said “we get to disobey it”. He said it was sinful to take what one man has earned and give it to someone who has not. And it is. It may be perfectly legal. But it’s still theft.

          By the way, do you think God (through Samuel) was saying having a king like the pagan nations around them was a GOOD thing? If so, then perhaps you need to re-read that passage. God was saying “you have rejected Me as your King…these will be the consequences”.

    • Krass

      Excellent point Michael!

    • Beautiful.

    • “Shouldn’t we be redeeming public education for Christ?”

      Uh…no. No more than you should be redeeming your local “gentlemen’s club” for Christ.

      “In a theonomic worldview – shouldn’t public education be compulsory?”

      Of course not.

      “Or do you only do that AFTER you take over the world, I mean, local government?”

      At least pretend to understand the position you’re criticizing, Michael.

      • Excellent point, brother Shane! How about this: I’ll do that when you do it (with dispensationalism).

        😃😃

    • Lyndon Unger

      Ha! I was thinking the same thing Michael!

      I’m confused why the theonomists aren’t just pushing like mad to get onto school-boards, into teaching, etc.

      If they really believed their own theology, one would think that they’d all be aggressively getting into politics instead of all the other stuff they’re filling their time with.

    • csabygod

      Government run education doesn’t need to be reformed. It needs to be ended.

  • Dan Phillips

    Really, really good, Lyndon.

    Now, MacArthur’s sermon was not in any way addressed to this Joel person or American Vision, and yet am I right that there have been two “responses” so far?

    Yet now here you have seen the tar baby, you have picked up the tar baby, you have embraced the tar baby. How many “response” posts do you think this will generate? One response, and fifteen “Oh, And Another Thing” posts?

    • Well, we DO know that Joel’s post has already generated a response.

      BTW, back when you were churning out blog articles at a rapid pace, how many sermons/books/articles did YOU respond to that weren’t personally addressed to you?

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks Dan! I’ve already secretly embedded my response to whatever response Joel offers up.

  • troy

    Luke 18:8 “I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” In light of what we see today with how the world is going and apostasy in the church, this verse makes the Pre-Mill view make a lot more sense. Unless I have totally taken the second part of Luke 18:8 out of context.

    • Krass

      The Amill view is still in the running 🙂

  • Good – I love the way you write. A little snarky, might I say? 😉 Nah, just humorous!!

    • Lyndon Unger

      Ha! Thanks for the kind words Melissa! I try to take humor and mix it with some sass without crossing the line into ‘snarky’, though I don’t always walk that line well.

  • Chris Bruynzeel

    So good…

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks Chris!

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  • McDurman: “…the assumption of Satan’s current sovereignty…

    Satan’s “soveriegnty”? Really?

    Isn’t there only One who ever was and ever is sovereign over all? The tiny godof this world is not now, nor ever has been “sovereign, he’s always been at God’s disposal, sovereignly so.

    • Krass

      John MacArthur never said that Satan was sovereign.

      • I think you may have mis-read my type, Krass 🙂

      • Wait…so Satan rules this world, but he isn’t “sovereign?”

        Huh?

        • Alex

          Without trying to seem pedantic, I think the answer to your question is yes. Merriam-Webster defines sovereign as “the exercise of supreme authority within a limited sphere.” Even if Satan is calling the shots on earth, he is not exercising supreme authority.

        • PuritanD71

          Please define what you mean by being “sovereign”. It may help in this discussion.

        • Bobby

          No, he isn’t sovereign. satan has been allowed his rule by the sovereign God.

  • Krass

    Thank you! McDurmon needs to be called out for the audacious things he says.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks Krass. I’m sure my rebuttal will be mostly ignored, but it’s always encouraging for people on our side of the fence to see some form of honest and articulate response.

  • tovlogos

    Thanks Lyndon
    I don’t see much confusion in the comparison of John 12:31, and Matthew 28:18. There are future tenses in this context; as well as unfulfilled prophecies yet to come to fruition — notwithstanding God’s patience and forbearance.
    Of course the world is the Lord’s footstool; but God is democratically giving mankind the choice — it is man’s rejection of God which appears to be the source of Satan’s ability to operate.

  • Robert C

    Amen, not that john m. Needs defending it was well worth reading. They got nachos in Canada? Hmmmmmm

    • Lyndon Unger

      Sure Robert. John MacArthur doesn’t NEED defending, but it’s rather that he doesn’t have time to answer most of his numerous critics. Seeing that McDurmon isn’t just some C-list blogger, and also seeing that a bunch of people in my theological camp were upset at McDurmon’s remarks, I wanted to respond.

      And they do have nachos in Canada, yes.

      I DO love my cheese curds and gravy!

      • pearlbaker

        Poutine…yum. I take mine with a side of Lipitor. Life is short.

  • pearlbaker

    Content aside for just a wee second, I am overjoyed to see you here again, Lyndon, you are one of my favorites. Back to the content, you put the arrow straight into the heart of the matter, as usual. Even if JMac needs no defending, there is no shortage of us who would do it, not blindly, but because of our love for our teacher and the truth which he unflinchingly brings us, not unlike yourself. Be well and richly blessed Lyndon!

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