Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Can't we all just get along?

I appeal to you, brothers,by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment (1 Cor 1:10).  It almost sounds like Paul is saying in this passage to forget all our doctrinal differences for the sake of unity.  What do you think?

Actually just the opposite is true.  A recurrent theme throughout Paul's epistles is stand, stand fast, be steadfast, unmovable.  The apostle admonished the Corinthians again and again about their unsound doctrine and conduct.  In fact, he advised the assembly to separate from one of their own because of immoral behavior (1 Cor 5:1-7).

It seems to me that in 1 Corinthians 1:10 that Paul was counseling those who had departed from sound teaching to have a change of heart, mind, and direction.  They were the ones who were disrupting the Lord's work; therefore, he instructs these troublemakers to straighten up and fly right.  They were to turn from the error of their way so that the assembly could again be of "the same mind and the same judgment."

We are to maintain oneness with fellow believers, but not at the expense of the truth.

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them (Rom 16:17).

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why We're Not Emergent - cont.

I have finished reading Why We're Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck and liked it overall.  Probably the most valuable thing I took away from it was DeYoung saying he appreciates the emergent critique of the church today but that their prescribed cures are frightening. 

Both authors' deference to the creeds, confessions, and councils as the "borders of faith" and "fence[s] between truth and falsehood," elevating them almost to the same level of Scripture itself, really bothered me, though.  I believe Emergents have a legitimate beef here, but their remedy indeed is frightening!  Instead of pointing to Scripture as the only authority, they point to the need to be real and express their feelings, to do good works, and to experience the other personal ways God mysteriously speaks to Christians apart from the Bible.

The emergent church is in fact quite squishy about Scripture.  Brian McLaren, a leading voice in emergent circles argues for a postmodern understanding of the Bible's role in our church: "When we let it [the Bible] go as a modern answer book, we get to rediscover it for what it really is: an ancient book of incredible spiritual value for us, a kind of universal and cosmic history, a book that tells us who we are and what story we find ourselves in so that we know what to do and how to live."  DeYoung explains that it's all well and good to speak of the Bible as a wonderful, rich story, or an amazing collection of deep writings, or an honored conversation partner, or an in-living-color book, but what does all of this actually mean?  Is it the final authority in matters of faith and practice?  Can it be trusted in all that it says?  Is it intelligible and knowable?  Basically, Emergents don't see the Bible as having intrinsic authority based on God having spoken, but rather as a functional authority dependent upon what the community of believers understand it to mean.  And since Donald Miller has been quoted as saying, "who knows anything anyway", where does that leave them?

It leaves them making up their own kind of truth!  In fact, Spencer Burke, also one of the formative voices in the emergent conversation, explains that, "Although the link between grace and sin has driven Christianity for centuries, it just doesn't resonate in our culture anymore. It repulses rather than attracts. People are becoming much less inclined to acknowledge themselves as 'sinners in need of a Savior.' A better approach is to see Jesus as 'the model of sinless living, the ultimate example to which all humanity should aspire."  Burke also basically rejects the cross of Christ as an atoning sacrifice for sin when he approvingly quotes from the Journalist Polly Toynbee: "Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?"

This is the biggest difference between Emergents and traditional Christianity according to DeYoung: "Being a Christian—for Burke, for McLaren, for Bell, for Jones, and for many others in the emerging conversation—is less about faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the only access to God the Father and the only atonement for sins before a wrathful God, and more about living the life that Jesus lived and walking in His way."

Sadly, if people attending emergent churches are hearing that doing good works is the main thing, not that Christ died and rose again on our behalf, then emergent churches are most likely filled with unbelievers — because good works do not save!

Some who have read this book lament that a reconciliation needs to happen between the Emergents and Reformed.  In other words, "Can't we all just get along?"  But really, how can there be a reconciliation if Emergents don't see the Word of God as authoritative — and it clearly states:

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom 10:5-17).

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Gal 2:15-16).

Monday, July 23, 2012


I'm told that a new game show — The American Bible Challenge — is coming soon to the Game Show Network.  So getting into the game show spirit, can you answer the following Bible questions?

1. Why is it, that in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John we have the record of only two individual Gentiles to whom Christ ministered, a Roman man in the land of the Jews (Lk 7:1-11), and a Greek woman outside the land of the Jews (Matt 15:21-27; Mk 7:24-29)?

2. What did Christ mean when He said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt 15:24)?

3. If the twelve apostles were to disciple all nations (Matt 28:16-20), why did they agree to go to the Jews years after they received Christ's orders (Gal 2:7-9)?

4. Why was it unlawful for Peter to associate with or visit Gentiles seven or eight years after Christ gave them “the great commission” (Acts 10:28)?

5. Why don't believers today obey the command of Jesus Christ in Luke 12:33 "sell your possessions, and give to the needy"?

6. Luke 9:6 simply says that the twelve disciples went around "preaching the gospel." Verse 2 of this same chapter explains how the Lord had sent them "to proclaim the kingdom of God." They couldn't have been preaching "the word of the cross," as Paul later did (1 Cor 1:17-18), because it wasn't until at least two years later that the Lord began to tell them how He must suffer and die (Matt 16:21) and Peter "began to rebuke Him" (Matt 16:22) and none of the twelve even knew what He was talking about (Lk 18:31-34).  So what were they preaching?

7. In the beginning chapters of Acts the believers sold their houses and lots and gave the money to the apostles (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35). Is this God's will for us today, too?

8. What did Jesus Christ mean by His command of Matthew 23:1-3: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice."? What does it mean that God's Son was born under the law (Gal 4:4)?

9. Why was it that from the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry until Peter preached to Cornelius, about eleven years later, no man was baptized who had not first been circumcised?

10. Why, on the day of Pentecost, did Peter preach to Jews, "repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38), whereas in his message to Cornelius Peter said, "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have (Acts 10:44-47)? Was water baptism a requirement for Holy Spirit baptism on the day of Pentecost?

11. In Acts 3:19-21 Peter told the Jews if they would repent, God would send Jesus Christ back from heaven. Is this also God's message to us today?

12. In Acts 5:29-32, Peter declared that God had exalted Christ "at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." Why didn't he say "to give repentance to Israel and Gentiles"?

13. In Acts 13:23 Paul was speaking to the Jews concerning King David, and said, "Of this man's offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised." Why didn't Paul say that God had brought to the Gentiles a Savior, too?

14. In Colossians 4:3-4 Paul says, "At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak." What is "the mystery of Christ"?

15. Except for Peter's one message to the household of Cornelius, did any of the twelve apostles preach to Gentiles in the Book of Acts? Why did the eleven apostles condemn Peter for preaching to Cornelius (Acts 11:1-7)?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Interesting tidbit - 17 (Matthew 6:14-15)

Q:  I often hear people quote Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" and then say, "See, God won't forgive us if we don't forget others."  But is this true?  Does His forgiveness really depend on whether or not I forgive others?  I thought we are forgiven through faith alone.

A:  No, it isn't true.  We must remember that Matthew chronicles the time when Christ was on the earth and that He said this to people who were still under the Law (Matt 5:17-20; 19:16-19; 23:2-3, 23-27; Mk 12:28-34; Lk 10:25-28; 18:18-22), which meant faith demonstrated by works was required for salvation at that time.** Today we are forgiven past, present and future, based solely on faith in Christ's death and resurrection on our behalf.

I find it fascinating the way things are flipped around after the cross.  Compare Matthew 6:14-15 with Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt 6:14-15).

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Eph 4:32).

...bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive (Col 3:13).

What a difference!  Paul makes it clear that, under grace, God has already forgiven the believer all sins.  Under the Law God's forgiveness was based upon a like spirit, but today we are forgiven for Christ's sake and told to forgive others as the Lord has forgiven us.

So you see, of course we should still forgive one another, not so that God will forgive us — but because God in Christ has already forgiven us!

Acts 13:38-39 tells us, "Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses."

Praise God that our forgiveness of others is not on the grounds of the Law; but of grace — after God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us all our sins and freed us from all things.

**The Law was meant to show man that it is impossible to earn salvation (Rom 3:19-20; 7:12-13).

Monday, July 9, 2012

"And this, in the final analysis, is all that matters.  The only reason God has left us here—the only good reason for wanting to be here—is to glorify God by proclaiming the blessed message of grace to the multitudes about us.  Every other reason for living—or dying—revolves around this reason."

(CR Stam)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Why We're Not Emergent

I am currently making my way through the book, Why We're Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Cluck.  Since Ted starts out by saying that people will probably blog about this book, I decided to do just that — blog about it.

All I can say is, so far, guys, I couldn't agree with you more!

Having recently read Donald Miller's popular book, Blue Like Jazz (you can read my review of it here), I was interested in reading more books on this post-modern emerging church idea.  True, Donald doesn't consider himself a follower of the "emergent" movement, but much of what he says paints him as such.  Consequently, his writings have become quite popular with many involved in the emerging church conversation.

Below are just a few lines from the beginning of Why We're Not Emergent.  Perhaps they will wet your appetite enough to give this book a try, too.

"... emergent leaders are allowing the immensity of God to swallow up His knowability.  In good postmodern fashion, they are questioning whether we can have any real, accurate knowledge about God in the first place ..."

"As Donald Miller says at one point in his wildly popular Blue Like Jazz, 'I don't believe I will ever walk away from God for intellectual reason.  Who knows anything anyway?'

"The emergent agnosticism about truly knowing and understanding anything about God seems to be pious humility.  It seems to honor God's immensity, but it actually undercuts His sovereign power.  Postmoderns harbor such a distrust for language and disbelieve God's ability to communicate truth to human minds that they effectively engage in what Carson calls 'the gagging of God ...'"

"Because of the emerging church's implied doctrine of God's unknowability, the word mystery, a perfectly good word in its own right, has become downright annoying.  Let me be very clear: I don't understand everything about God or the Bible.  I don't fully understand how God can be three in one.  I don't completely grasp how divine sovereignty works alongside human responsibility.  The Christian faith is mysterious.  But when we talk about Christianity, we don't start with mystery.  It's some combination of pious confusion and intellectual laziness to claim that living in mystery is at the heart of Christianity.

"Yet, time and again, emerging leaders brand Christianity as, above all things it seems, mysterious."

"Certainty, for the emergent church, is the same as pinning down Jesus and summing up God, while uncertainty is a breath of fresh air.  'Drop any affair you may have with certainty, proof, argument—and replace it with dialogue, conversation, intrigue and search,' argues McLaren.  Clarity, after all, is usually boring and wrong 'since reality is seldom clear, but usually fuzzy and mysterious; not black and white, but in living color.'

"But why do intrigue and search have to mean the end of all certainty?  McLaren is guilty of a very modern error, insisting on either-or when a both-and is possible.  There is a place for questions.  There is a time for conversation.  But there is also the possibility of certainty, not because we have dissected God like a freshman biology student dissects a frog, but because God has spoken to us clearly and intelligibly ..."

(to be cont)