Friday, December 28, 2007

I hate seeing football season end...

I don't generally talk about sports here, but with football season drawing to a close, my mind is going back to the year that was. All in all, I've enjoyed this season of football (both NFL and NCAA) more than any other I can think of off the top of my head (although the Packers last Super Bowl season was fairly memorable...). First off, let's look at the college game this year.

It seemed like there was a different number 1 or number 2 team every single week, which made for the most exciting and dynamic season there has ever been. Being a Kansas Jayhawks fan, I generally don't have much to cheer about until basketball season, but this year saw the very surprising KU squad get within 9 points of the number 1 ranking going into the last week of the regular season, and they get to play in a BCS Bowl in January. Nobody predicted it - not even close - but it was a lot of fun to watch in this most unusual year. Equally exciting was to see another Big XII team get a BCS Bowl. I'm certainly not a Mizzou fan, but I always enjoy seeing the Big XII on top.

As if the NCAA season wasn't exciting enough, this NFL season has been a great a deal of fun to watch as well. First of all, the Bears returned to their pathetic form and played well only three times this season (their recent loss to the Vikings was probably their best game of the year). While some Bears fans are talking trash about their sweep of the mighty Pack this year, it should be noted that the first game was an absolute gift (anybody who isn't a brain-damaged Bears fan will agree ;) ) and the second game was all about the Packers absolutely pathetic special teams play and Favre's horrendous 3rd quarter. Orton looked OK, but the dude had nothing to lose. Chicago still doesn't have a QB that's capable of winning more than 2 consecutive games, so expect the next two seasons to look a lot like this one for duh bears.

More impressive than the Bears return to form this season was the resurgence of the Pack as one of the premier teams in the league. They went to Dallas with four key starters watching from the sidelines and still managed to stay in the ballgame against a team that was touted as being head-and-shoulders above the rest of the NFC. Look for this young, talented team to be one of the top-tier teams in the NFL for the next 4 or 5 years.

Speaking of top-tier teams, the New England Patriots have been nothing short of amazing this season. Forget about "spygate"...these guys are absolutely incredible and seem to be about three steps of everybody else in the NFL. They will go down in history as one of the best single season teams ever and will break nearly every single-season team and individual record there is to break this season. If they manage to continue this impressive run and win the Super Bowl they will no doubt be ranked as the best single-season team in history knocking off both the '72 Dolphins and the '85 Bears claim to that title. I've never been a Pat's fan, and I'm still not, but watching them play this year has been a real treat.

The other great streak that's been fun to watch in the NFL this year was the hapless Miami Dolphins. I think their better than at least 3 other teams out there (Jets, Falcons, and Chiefs - although the Lions, Bears, Cards and Niners also come to mind), but they just couldn't win games this year. I was really hoping to see them go winless just for the opportunity to see both perfection and the exact opposite happen during the same season!

Now, all that being said, I'm going to make a bold prediction regarding the playoffs and Super Bowl. I think the Redskins will beat Dallas this week and make the playoffs as the hottest team playing in the NFC right now. They will win their first playoff game and then pull off an upset in Dallas (the Cowboys are getting a little worse each week it seems) to get into the NFC Championship game against Green Bay. If the weather is lousy, I think we'll see the Redskins in the Super Bowl against......Indianapolis. Yep, Indi. As much as I want to see New England finish off the perfect season (unless they play the Pack in the Super Bowl), I think that Indi is going to pull off the upset and repeat as Super Bowl champs over the winner of the Green Bay/Washington game.

Either that, or New England will stomp Dallas in the big game (how's that for waffling?).

By the way, another great memory from this year was the fact that my wife and I were able to go to our first NFL game this season. We went to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and watched the Packers win one of their 13 games. It was a great time and the Chiefs fans we were sitting near were a lot of fun. The picture to the right was taken right after the Chiefs fans began to exit en masse and the one to the left was taken as the Pack began their last key defensive stand that resulted in a interception return for a TD.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Is Theology really all that important?

I've been asked that very question more than once and in more than one way. A lot of Christians get a bit "put off" at the thought of studying theology or doctrine. Those two words, theology and doctrine, tend to be met with moans and groans when mentioned in any setting of Christians outside of academia. One of the best answers I've ever heard or read to the question, "why should I study theology?", was put forth by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. He said, "{If} you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones - bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas.

I was once asked to give a brief overview of systematic theology to an adult Sunday School class. That overview was to be followed by a 4-week study on the subject of Christology. I began the first class by asking the question, "what's the first thought that enters your mind when you hear the term systematic theology?" That question was met by audible groans, some laughter, and one man shouting out, "TROUBLE!" The responses caught me a bit off guard, but I guess I wasn't really all that surprised...people tend to view the study of theology as something that should be left to "professional theologians" - pastors, professors, and the piously argumentative intellectuals who like to hear themselves talk and are visibly shaken when a conversation takes to using too many monosyllabic words!

The fact is that all Christians are theologians...some are just bad ones. We should be constantly striving to learn all that we can about our Heavenly Father. Too many Christians allow their pastor or their church's doctrinal statement to tell them what they believe without ever having bothered to study for themselves. I think it's an understatement to say that this is tragic....why would a Christian operate under the notion that that sort of laziness and apathy is acceptable?

Obviously, study isn't the end all. Increasingly deeper study should lead one to correct doctrine and a correct view of God. A solid grasp on correct doctrine, coupled with a correct view of God, ought to lead one to a more holy way of living as he strives more and more to please God.

Too often I've seen blissfully ignorant Christians take some sort of ridiculous pride in their ignorance of even the most rudimentary portions of theology. I once heard a pastor proudly proclaim, "I ain't no theologian" (that's a word-for-word quote). The sad part was that this proclamation was made during his ordination (a sham if I've ever seen one). The purpose of the ordination was so that he could be sent out to pastor a church elsewhere. He went and within 2 years the church had all but vanished from the face of the earth. That pastor went back to his sending church with tales of how the people were against him the whole time and he was just glad to be back amongst "God's people". (By the way, even though this guy should have known that he was in no way prepared for the pastorate, I hold the pastor of the sending church even more responsible.....another reason I'm so thrilled to be away from the psychotic fringes of IFB-dom). While this is purely anecdotal, there are a million stories just like this one. While these same people can quote Matthew 22:37 by heart, very few of them have ever bothered to consider what the phrase "with all your mind" might encompass.

Is the study of theology really all that important? Absolutely! Let's strive to engage our hearts and minds in diligent study of the things of God. I began a new study on the Doctrine of Scripture this week and came across this great statement from R.C. Sproul, "The Word of God can be in the mind without being in the heart; but it cannot be in the heart without first being in the mind."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Finally back!

We've been without internet access since my last post on 12/12. We've had cable the entire time, but we were waiting for the cable company to get out here to replace our fried modem - they finally showed up today and all seems right with the world once again!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No lights, no heat, but a lot of fun....

It's been an interesting couple of days out here in the Midwest US. Ice began flying on Monday early evening and didn't stop until sometime Tuesday mid-morning, only to start up again on Tuesday night. We lost power at our house at about 5:00 Tuesday morning and decided to "hole up" for the day. We were grateful to have our power restored at about 3:30 Tuesday afternoon, but that only lasted for a couple of hours....

So, Tuesday night we moved a large mattress into our bedroom and put the kids down on it. We shut everything up and managed to stay pretty warm in the bedroom even though the temperature dropped below 20 degrees overnight. When we woke up this morning our room was still fairly comfortable, but the rest of the house had dropped down below 50 degrees and was steadily dropping. Listening to the radio we discovered that there was no power anywhere in town, so we went to the Red Cross shelter so we could get a warm cup of coffee and try to find out some information from the folks there. As soon as we got there the Red Cross representative asked us if we wanted to get cots reserved for the five of us since power wasn't expected to be restored for at least 2 days! We got the cots, came home and got bedding, and headed back to the shelter to ride the rest of this thing out.

We spent about 3 hours at the shelter mingling with the folks, eating lunch, and watching "Cars" when suddenly, the lights came on! The problem turned out to be a tad less major than the power company had assumed and they were able to get power restored to a large part of the it turned out, our house was part of that section (although, not everyone in our neighborhood has power just yet).

So, we're back home where it's warm and cozy and I'm sitting here drinking coffee out of my favorite coffee cup. Rarely has a shower and shave felt as good as they did this evening! The kids are a tad disappointed that we didn't get to sleep on the cots at the shelter, but when they found out that school was canceled tomorrow (for the 3rd consecutive day), they kind of forgot about missing out on the adventure of sleeping on cots with a couple of hundred other people!

The entire town is a mess right now. Enough ice dropped that a lot of power lines and a few poles broke. There are trees down all over town and several of the trees in our backyard sustained some pretty major damage. Thankfully, we haven't heard about there being any injuries or deaths due to the storm. Some of the clean up began today, but we've all got a heck of a long week ahead of us. Tonight it's supposed to drop down to 18 degrees or so, but it doesn't like there going to be much moisture in the air, so we shouldn't have any problems overnight.

I'll try to post some pictures of the damage to our property later this week...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Criticism, love, and finding the right balance.

I’m not a terribly arrogant individual. I’ve been accused of that from time to time, but that’s part of the price one pays for being so darned good looking … people just assume your arrogant. (Note: the last sentence was complete sarcasm….). For one to be involved in blogging, one has to be equipped with a certain level of confidence as well as a fairly “thick skin”. In blogging I tend to be fairly critical of the extremes within Fundamentalism as well as Evangelicalism. More often than not I find myself critiquing and criticizing the whole of Fundamentalism from an insider’s perspective. That’s earned me some well-deserved criticism which has caused me to take a look at what and why I do what I do here at As For Me and My House I’m not at all uncomfortable being lumped in with the ever increasing group of people who have grown more and more dissatisfied with what they see in this movement. However, I dislike being summarily written off as a “trouble-maker” or as a loud dissenter who is questioning just for the sake of questioning. I certainly do not want to put forth the notion that I’m merely looking for ways to justify my own fleshly desires. So I’m going to take a little time with this article to attempt to explain my heart a bit.

During the time I’ve been blogging, and really even before that when I was more involved in other venues on the internet, I’ve taken quite a bit of criticism for some of my opinions, questions, thoughts, and (at times) attitudes. Sometimes publicly and other times in email exchanges or personal conversations. Now I’m certainly not alone in this and I willingly admit that I’m a relatively “small fish” in the blogosphere by any standard; however, I want to offer up a small defense for why I choose to question, point out faults, and (at times) name names.

I want to say from the outset that I realize that I’m not always right. As a matter of fact I’ve been proven wrong on many occasions. My approach to whole Joe Zichterman issue is a good example of this. I called the man a false teacher several times and even constructed an utterly foolish “open letter” to him (which, thankfully, I only left up for a few hours before obliterating the post altogether). There are many other examples of where I’ve screwed up here, but I’m not here to talk about those. I only mention these “wrong steps” so that I can say that I understand that in my criticisms of “the movement” I may not be spot on all the time. Having said that, I do criticize openly and without remorse because I think it needs to be done.

Not too long ago I was called (in a private conversation) a “novice who has not earned the right to criticize Fundamentalism”. In so many words I was told that I should keep my mouth shut and turn the guns on the enemy (presumably, the Evangelicals). This took me back a few steps because I have a great deal of respect for the individual who spoke these words to me, but, after some careful thought and prayer on the matter, I think the individual in question is dead wrong. I’m glad to be part of a growing number of people within Fundamentalism who are no longer afraid to tip some sacred cows. I’ll discuss in a bit why I think I’m justified in my approach.

I should note that I understand my limitations. I’m a 35 year old Bible college drop-out who has never been in full-time ministry. I’ve never been a leader within Fundamentalism, nor have I rubbed elbows with very many of the “important folks” within the movement. While most of the "big names" I have gotten to know personally are still thriving within the movement, there are a handful of exceptions who have either left the movement or are now being cut off from large portions of the movement. The way some of them have been “cut off” has caused me an increasingly high level of frustration with the Bob Jones and Northland “orbs” of the movement, but that’s an entirely different discussion (no, that last comment has nothing to do with Zichterman).

With my limited qualifications, I understand the frustration that some might have with unknowns like myself attempting to “call Fundamentalism to the carpet”, but I think I’m justified in doing so. The fact is that I’m a Christian who has spent my lifetime in the movement and who has seen just enough lunacy to justify a response. Like it or not, much within the bulk of Fundamentalism has done a great deal of harm to the body of Christ and to the cause of the Kingdom – that should be addressed.

It wasn't until 6 or 7 years ago that I began to understand that the Body of Christ extended beyond the boundaries of Fundamentalism. I had this idea that anything outside of the movement was sub-par Christianity at best. I couldn't understand how anybody could think otherwise....I've gotten past that Pharisaical judgmentalism, but I still find that sort of thing to be a somewhat common factor within the fundy movement. I admire Fundamentalism's dedication to separation, but I think we've often gone too far and that our contribution to the Body has been to make it increasingly fragmented. A Christian has, I think, an obligation to call attention to this and to point out the errors to those within his sphere of influence (however small that may be).

If our goals - my goal - in criticism is purely to spew, spit, and get a reaction, then everyone is better served if we keep our mouths shut. However, if the goal of criticism is to foster a conversation, generate positive change, and to lovingly work together towards a common good, then we should encourage and welcome the criticism. I think the key to all this is held in looking at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. If you haven't read them before, I've got a series of posts on that passage of Scripture here, here, and here - the last two in particular are worth a read.

Imagine if all our actions were governed by Paul's description of love in the passage mentioned above. I don't know that we could correct all the problems or even get on the same page on everything. But I do think that we would go a long ways in ending some of the infighting and "fragmentalism" that has become such a large part of the movement.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I'm still here...

I'm working more often than I'm not these days, so blogging has taken a back seat for a while. I've got more than half a dozen articles that are started, but I just haven't found the time to finish them up. Hopefully I'll be back to blogging sometime this month.

Some of the articles that will be forthcoming will be a series comparing the the basic tenets (thanks for the correction, Don :) ) of Calvinism and Arminianism; an article on the home; a discussion about "rules"; a discussion on worldliness; and a short article concerning discernment. All of these are in the works, and I hope to finish some of them up soon. In the meantime, be sure to check out some of the new blogs I've listed in my blogroll on the left side bar.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Historic Fundamentalism?

I often read of guys attempting to claim that they are "historical fundamentalists", or that they are attempting to reclaim "historical fundamentalism". I've often read and spoken to men who are part of my generation of fundamentalists who attempt to slap that tag on the more conservative like John MacArthur, John Piper, Mark Dever, and Albert Mohler. As a matter of fact, I've used the term "historical fundamentalist" to describe some of these men....but I'm starting to rethink that notion.

Just what is "historical fundamentalism"? As descendants of American Fundamentalism, I suppose that all of us "IFB" types (Independent Fundamental Baptists) trace our lineage back to 1897 and the Niagara Bible Conference. It was during this conference and the 1910 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church that 5 principles which "defined Christianity" (known now as the Fundamentals of the Faith) were hashed out. These are the basic, skeletal tenants by which we tend to define ourselves to this day. They are:
  • The inerrancy of the Bible,
  • The Virgin Birth and the deity of Jesus,
  • The belief that Jesus died to redeem mankind's sin and that salvation resulted through faith in Jesus,
  • The physical resurrection of Jesus, and
  • The imminent Second Coming of Jesus.
These were (and are) "non-negotiables". A series of booklets entitled The Fundamentals; A Testimony to the Truth was written in the early 1900's laying out a clear defense for these principles. There were nearly 100 articles written by more than 60 different authors - men like A.C. Dixon, C.I. Scofield, G. Campbell Morgan, George Pentecost, and R.A. Torrey were among them.

Out of this noble fight against modernism and attacks on the validity of Scripture came an "ultra-conservative strand" of Protestants who began to espouse some ideas that hadn't ever been a part of any mainstream denomination in American Christianity. Most notable among these ideas were exclusivity (the idea that only the fundamentalists are able to authoritatively interpret the "true meaning" of the Bible, and thus are the only legitimate "true Christians"), and separation (the idea that all other Christian interpretations were wrong and that it is the duty of fundamentalists to oppose and overcome them, while remaining apart from their corrupting influence). Today, it's these ideas that tend to define the movement more so than the Fundamentals do.

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I am separatist, - just not to the same degree that the bulk of American Fundamentalism defines that term. I would will also point out that I am not an exclusivist. For that matter, I don't know that I've even heard the notion of exclusivity expressed within Fundamentalism in the last 15's just one of those stigmas that tends to hang on to us. Now, back to the main point of this article.

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that when terms like "historical fundamentalist" are thrown around, it is referring to something other than the movement which ultimately gave birth to today's Fundamentalism. In many respects, I think that men like Jack Hyles were much closer to being "historic fundamentalists" than men like John least as far as American Fundamentalism is concerned. No, I think that this "new fundamentalism" that we are attempting to call historical is something different....and I think we use the term because we don't want the dreaded word "evangelical" tied around our necks like noose!

Many of us like to think that this historical fundamentalism is rooted in the Reformers of like Luther, Calvin, Augustine, Knox, and the Puritans; however, we have taken mere snippets of their theology and adopted it as our own. Some of the beliefs and practices of some of these great heroes of the faith would appear ludicrous and / or heretical to us today. Having said that, I shudder to think of what this world would be like had God not raised up men like them, but that's a subject for another day.

So, back to my original question.....what exactly does this term "Historical Fundamentalism" mean? Is it merely a way to make it clear that we aren't part of the "hysterical" side of the movement? I've described myself as a historical Fundamentalist, but I'm not sure who through the annals of church history would fit that description. I think I've typically used that term as a shortened way of explaining what I am not rather than what I am!

Perhaps I need to just "bone up" on this a bit....Perhaps my ignorance is all mine and is not a fair reflection of others who have used that term. However, if my grasp of history is in any way correct, than my confusion and question is merited....

I'm not going to offer an answer at this time as it is obvious that I've got more studying to do on the subject. But to the few who read this blog, feel free to educate me on the matter!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Just for fun...

This made me laugh out loud when I saw it!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sometimes I realize that I might be wrong...

I was thinking the other day about how things have changed in my life in the last 15 years. 15 years ago I was enjoying my second year at NBBC while eagerly anticipating my first summer on staff at the WILDS. With more than a year of Bible College under my belt, I was fairly certain (at nearly 20 years old) that I had all the right answers to all of the that I'm nearly 35 years old, I've grown increasingly sure that I have very few of the answers! However, I have adopted what I believe to be a more balanced and biblical approach to things. Believe it or not, I'm far less opinionated about things and I'm learning to adopt a more silent stance regarding matters about which the Bible is silent. With all that said, I'm going to post a partial list of some things about which I've changed my mind (or as I like to say, "grown") over the last decade and a half. This will be boring to most of you, but the beauty of this blog is that it's all mine!!!! If you don't like it, go write your own!

This is a conversation I've had in several different posts on this blog, so I won't say too much about it in this entry. Fifteen years ago I made some rather foolish arguments regarding music.....I considered percussion instruments to be somewhat demonic and CCM was the "devil's music". I remember arguing with a friend who's older brother was a bass player in a somewhat successful Christian rock band - I informed him that his brother was likely not saved; that God was not glorified by the music; that the Jesus his brother claimed to serve was not the same Jesus that I served, etc. I made this argument without ever hearing the music, reading the lyrics, or meeting the musicians. If you haven't already, feel free to read some of my thoughts on music here, here, here, here, and here. Enough said on that subject.

Soteriologically, I would classify myself as having been a "4-point Arminian" 15 years ago. I viewed salvation as being more or less my gift to God. I didn't go so far as to say that I could lose my salvation, but it was an idea that occurred to me more than once. As I followed the logic of the system I had embraced, that seemed to be the logical conclusion.....I had no real concept of what grace was all about.

Now I consider myself to be fairly Calvinistic in my soteriology. The Calvinism that I grew up despising as the asinine ramblings of some maniac who was possibly demon-possessed (I'd even heard that John Calvin turned his back on "calvinism" later in his life) is a Calvinism that I've not yet encountered by anybody other than those who hate system and choose to throw out straw-men attacks against the system. That sounds much more antagonistic than I intend....I don't begrudge anybody who would embrace a soteriology that differs from what I've come to embrace. I realize now that there is room for disagreement (as long as said disagreement doesn't deny the sufficiency of the shed blood of Christ and the necessity of repentance).

Don't throw stones at me until you've read this entire entry..... 15 years ago I considered imbibing in any amount for any reason to be sinful. Granted, I was somewhat influenced by the fact that my father was a raging alcoholic (a weakness that killed him before he reached 50 years old), but the idea of "drinking in moderation" seemed to me to be nothing more but an excuse to embrace the world. These days I can't read a "teetotaler" position into Scripture no matter how hard I try. I don't personally imbibe, although I have drank 2 beers over the last 5 or 6 years or so. With all that said, I don't have a problem with an abstinence position regarding alcohol use, nor do I have a problem with a moderation approach.

Personal Devotions and my relationship with God
For years I ran around with a great deal of guilt every time I failed to have my "daily devotions", or didn't get something new and profound out of what I read. It was really a rather miserable existence. My entire spiritual experience was a valley with no peaks. I was an utter failure in my relationship with Christ. I spent so much time energy trying to become "good enough" for God to hear my prayers. It was lonely, dark, and hopeless and ultimately, I gave up trying. You know, I think it was this approach to sanctification and salvation that caused me to struggle so much with "assurance" issues. The frustration came to such a head that I ended up attempting to abandon church and God altogether. I chose drugs, sex, and alcohol instead and found myself living an even more miserable existence with the constant pain of guilt and conviction pricking me at every turn. Wow! I don't miss that life at all...

These days I've come to appreciate that remarkable, unconditional, unmerited love and mercy of the Almighty. I've come to approach my personal worship to God as a response to His love for me rather than some chore that is part of the Christian life. As a result, my love for God has increased, my zeal for the Word is growing, my "walk" is consistent, and I have come to appreciate those quiet times with my Savior. This shouldn't be should be refreshing!

There are many more items I could mention, but this is a sufficient list for now. I've come to realize that, as I grow in Christ, I might have to face the reality that I've been wrong about some things (perhaps even some of the things on this list)...may God give us all the grace to accept that and move on!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why I hate titles...

This article over at SharperIron is worth a read. I've got several problems with the underlying points of the article that the author of the SI article is referencing; however, I don't want to get into that at this time. In the comments portion over there I wrote the following:
"This is the part of the debate that gets under my skin like nothing else: people on both sides of the argument - particularly on what I call the extreme sides of the argument - would mandate that you adhere to something you don't feel is defensible biblically if you are going to claim a particular "title" to help define your beliefs to others. This is why a tend to deplore most titles, although they are generally helpful. I used to rely on the title "biblicist", but that's extremely vague....besides, who wouldn't want to claim that title for themselves in these conversations?

I've embraced Dispensationalism as well as the 5 soteriological points of Calvinism, while rejecting paedobaptism as well as the notion that the Lord's Supper and Baptism are "means of grace". I also reject the idea that the Atonement was not sufficient for the entirety of mankind (I could go on...). I find these things to be completely compatible with one another (as have many much more studied men than myself through the years).

Quite frankly, I'm quite comfortable with those on the fringes of the argument taking issue with what they perceive as inconsistencies in my theology."

Friday, October 19, 2007

One more statement on Bob Jones and Mitt Romney.

A poster over at SharperIron provided a link to an article by Chuck Baldwin regarding Bob Jones, III's endorsement of Mitt Romney. It's a good read and is written much better than my article on the same subject earlier this week.

Here's a small excerpt:
Bob Jones' endorsement of the former Massachusetts governor illustrates just how low the Religious Right will go in compromising bedrock principle for the sake of political expediency. Jones says he is supporting Romney so as to help defeat Rudy Giuliani. I very much want to see what Jones will do if and when Giuliani gets the Republican nomination. I would anticipate that he will continue to follow his current modus operandi and support Giuliani, because he would then say that Giuliani is the "lesser of two evils."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

There's a black sheep in every family.

As long as I'm posting about ridiculous politics....

Perhaps you've already heard, but Lynne Cheney (wife of Vice-President Dick Cheney) has revealed that Dick Cheney and Barack Obama (Democratic Presidential hopeful) are 8th cousins. An Obama spokesman is reported as saying, "Every family has a black sheep."

Really...I'm not making this up. Entire story here.

Bob Jones supports Mitt Romney

You've probably already heard that Bob Jones, III has thrown his support behind Presidential candidate (and Mormon), Mitt Romney. His reasoning is, "This is all about beating Hillary, and I just believe that this man has the credentials both personally and ideologically in terms of his view about what American government should be to best represent the rank and file of conservative Americans."

I've got several problems with this line of reasoning and, for that matter, with anybody with as much pull as Jones supporting Romney. I'm not going to discuss them in great detail right now simply because I'm crunched for time.

First of all, if it's truly "all about beating Hillary" (a fundamentally flawed reason to support anybody, in my opinion), then perhaps it would be good to throw your support behind somebody who actually stands a chance at beating her! Romney versus Hillary isn't exactly a fair fight. I think the only ticket that the GOP can throw out there that will beat Hillary is a Guiliani/Thompson or Guiliani/Huckabee ticket. There are some things about Guiliani that I truly dislike, but I think he can stomp Hillary...nobody else out there has a prayer.

Secondly, and this isn't referenced directly in the article, but why is it that the only issue that conservatives really seem to care about in this country is abortion? If a candidate isn't pro-life, we pull our support without question. Why not a candidate who is loudly supporting things like a fair tax, smaller government, the sovereignty of the individual states.... Abortion is an important (and polarizing) issue; however, I'm not convinced that it's the right issue to serve as the litmus test for who we'll support for President.

Thirdly, it's baffling to me that Jones sees Romney of all people as the best representation of the ideology of rank and file conservatives. What about Brownback or Huckabee? What about anybody who is not a member of the wackiest mainstream cult in America? For Pete's sake, Jones just threw his support behind a guy who believes that someday he'll become the god of an entire solar system (just like God who, according to LDS theology, was once a man). Romney believes that Jesus Christ and Satan are blood brothers. They )Mormons) believe that God actually had intercourse with Mary to conceive Christ. It seems to me that if you've got some pull in this country (and Jones does) that you would throw your support behind a more stable-minded individual....

More later. I won't be back to bloggin until next week.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Those ugly Calvinists.....

Calvinism has gotten a bad rap in Fundamentalism. Growing up in Fundamentalism, I "knew" the following about Calvinists:
  • They didn't believe in witnessing to unbelievers
  • They believed that if babies died, then the babies went to hell
  • They were unhappy
  • They hated pretty much everybody
  • All they cared to do was fight and argue about petty things
  • All they ever talked about was Calvinism
There were other things I "knew" about Calvinists as well, but you get the picture. As I got older I met some folks who were completely different than what my caricature of a Calvinist was. The day I discovered (through reading his sermons for myself) that Charles Spurgeon was a Calvinist, it felt like somebody had hit me in the stomach! I felt like I'd been duped! This guy was supposed to be one of the great heroes on our side, and now I find out that he's a stinkin' Calvinist?!?!? Of course the more I read for myself, the more I began to realize that most of the great theologians throughout history were, in fact, Calvinists. Men like Augustine, Calvin, Beza, Luther, Zwingli, Cromwell, Knox, Bunyan, Edwards, the Puritans...The list could go on. Nearly everybody that I had been brought up to admire as a hero of the faith turned out to be a Calvinist!

I felt betrayed, but determined to get to the root of all of this. What I soon discovered is that the gross caricature of Calvinism that had been painted for me was not a Calvinism that I could find anywhere. As a matter of fact, I've been unable to locate anyone who subscribes to Calvinism as I used to understand it. That Calvinism seems to only exist in the minds of people who aren't Calvinists, but I digress.

So, just what does a Calvinist believe regarding salvation anyway? I can't answer for all Calvinists, because we are all a tad different, I suppose; however, some of the basic elements are universally accepted, and that's what I intend to write about in this article.

It must first be understood that we believe that a man must repent and believe the Gospel in order to be saved. Peter says this in Acts 2 and Paul in Acts 16. One of the first systematic theologies I went through (in a small SBC church in southern Kansas) was taught by a former, well-known, IFB evangelist. He had left the IFB movement and joined the SBC sometime in the 80's. When he was teaching this class - with a decided Calvinistic bent - it surprised me when he made the following statement; "All who truly desire to be saved will be saved!" I thought to myself, "what a strange statement for a Calvinist to make". Later, I would learn what he meant by that and I would come to believe the same thing - even after embracing Calvinism.

So man must repent and believe the Gospel in order to be saved. My next statement may be startling to those of you reading this who have come to believe the demonized caricature of Calvinism as being the true face of Calvinistic thought.....I believe that these two things are the free acts of man. This is thoroughly Biblical, I think, and is supportable with Scripture. In his tract, "God's Part and Man's Part in Salvation", John G. Reisinger says the following:
Men, with their own mind, heart, and will must renounce sin and receive Christ. God never repented and believed for anyone - and He never will. Turning from sin and reaching out in faith to Christ are the acts of man, and every man who so responds to the gospel call does so because he honestly desires to do so. He wants to be forgiven and he can only be forgiven by repenting and believing. No one, including God, can turn from sin for us, we must do it. No one can trust Christ in our place, but we must personally, knowingly, and willingly trust Him in order to be saved.

Now someone may be thinking, "But isn't that what the Arminian teaches?" My friend, that is what the Bible teaches–and teaches it clearly and dogmatically. "But don't Calvinists deny all three of those points?" I am not talking about or trying to defend Calvinists since they come in a hundred varieties. If you know anyone that denies the above facts, then that person, regardless of what he labels himself, is denying the clear message of the Bible. I can only speak for myself, and I will not deny what God's Word so plainly teaches!

"But haven't you established the doctrine of free-will and disposed of election if you assent man must repent and believe and it is his own act?" No, we have neither proven free-will nor disproved election since it is impossible to do either. We have merely stated exactly what the Bible says a man must do in order to be saved. Let us now look at what the Scripture says a sinner is able to do and what he is not able to do.

At this point in the conversation,we come to a fork in the road so to speak. Thus far, I've not said anything with which my Arminian friends would take issue....but that's about to change!

There are several beautiful pictures of salvation painted in Scripture, but I'm going to use just two in order to illustrate the next point I hope to make. 1 Kings 17 records the account of the death and resurrection of the son of the widow of Zarephath. As you read this account, you find that this boy was unable to do anything. Try as he might, Elijah was unable to do anything for him, as well. It wasn't until God gave life back to that boy that he was able to "do" anything. I'll make my point a tad more clearly in a moment.

A second picture of salvation that we can see in Scripture is in Mark 5:1-20. The story of the Demoniac of Gadara. This man was out of control and completely uncontrollable. Try as they might, there was nothing that people could do to change him. Christ, in Mark 4:35, decides to head over to Gadara. There appears to be only two reasons for this trip. First, to reveal a bit of His Divine nature to the twelve by calming the storm and secondly, to save this man. This demon-possessed man is a beautiful illustration of what we are prior to salvation - wild, hell-bound, and unable to do anything in order to save ourselves.

Now to make my point, let me spell out clearly why I chose these two examples. Firstly, in the story of the dead lad in 1 Kings, we see a person completely unable to do anything for himself, which is a beautiful illustration of the human condition. Secondly, we see a man of God (Elijah) who is unable to do anything for the boy. He stretches himself out on the boy as if he could pass life from himself into the lad. He does this again and again, but it's not until God did something that the boy received life. All the efforts of Elijah were in vain had it not been for God showing mercy to this boy.

Similarly, the demon-possessed man in Mark 5 was not able to do anything but act like a maniac. Well meaning people had attempted to help him conform to some standards of decency by binding him with chains and clothing him, but he would simply break the chains and tear off the clothes and continue acting wildly. It wasn't until Christ chose to reach out to that man that he was truly changed. After his encounter with Christ we find this man sitting, clothed, in his right mind, and desiring to commune more and more with his Savior.

So here's the point: man left to himself is unable to do anything to save himself. At the point that God chooses to show mercy to a man that man is able to respond and, as seen in these illustrations, that man does respond. I'll point you again to the tract by John G. Reisinger regarding man's complete inability to respond without the moving of the Holy Spirit:

To believe and preach points one, two, and three, without also preaching number four is to grossly misrepresent the gospel of God's grace. It is to give a totally false picture of the sinner and his true need. It shows only half of the man's sin. It misses the most crucial point of a lost man's need, namely, his lack of power or ability to overcome his sinful nature and its effects. The gospel which is concocted out of this view is only a half gospel. It is at this point that modern evangelism so miserably fails. It confuses man's responsibility with his ability, and falsely assumes that a sinner has the moral ability to perform all that God has commanded. The cannot texts of scripture are either totally ignored or badly twisted by this perversion of the true gospel of God's saving grace.

Please note a few texts of Scripture that dogmatically state some things that a lost man cannot do:

Man cannot see - until he first be born again. John 3:3.

Man cannot understand - until he first be given a new nature. I Cor. 2:14.

Man cannot come - until he first be effectually called by the Holy Spirit. John 6:44,45.

We do not have space to go into all the cannots, but these three are sufficient to show that a sinner absolutely cannot (notice it is not will not) come to Christ until God first does something in that sinner's nature. That something is what the Bible calls regeneration, or the new birth, and it is the exclusive work of God the Holy Spirit. Man has no part whatever in regeneration.

So let me summarize what I've said thus far:
  1. Man must repent in order to be saved - this is an act of free will
  2. Man must believe the Gospel in order to be saved - this is also an act of free will
  3. Man's free will is under the bondage of sin
  4. Given the truth of point 3, we find that man is unable to repent without a miraculous work
That brings us to my final point - the miraculous work. We call it regeneration and it is not the same as salvation. Here's a great quote on this subject that I've carried around with me for years: "The root error of the Arminian's gospel of freewill is its failure to see that man's part, repentance and faith, are the fruits and effects of God's work and not the essential ingredient's supplied by the sinner as man's part of the deal. Every man who turns to Christ does so willingly, but that willingness is a direct result of the Father's election and the Holy Spirit's effectual calling. To say, "If you will believe, God will answer your faith with the New Birth," is to misunderstand man's true need and misrepresent God's essential work."

This is where the rubber meets the road in this discussion. Do you believe that a man left to himself is able to respond? Do you believe that a man left to himself will even desire God? What does Paul say in Romans 3:10-12? This is the crux of the whole matter, I think. Calvinism stresses the inherent and complete depravity of man, whereas Arminianism stresses something else. Arminianism would paint a picture of a man who can choose if man's nature was only somewhat altered at the fall rather than becoming helplessly and hopelessly depraved.

I've got more to say on this subject of regeneration, but it will have to wait for another time. Perhaps in my next article on the subject I will offer a side-by-side comparison of the two systems of thought.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What is "worldliness" anyway?

Romans 12:2“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

2 Corinthians 6:17 “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,”

2 Corinthians 7:1“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

1 John 2:15-17 - “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Luke 11:39-40And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleans the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?”

I’ve been in Fundamentalism most of my life and, until the last 5 years or so, I’ve always known what “worldly” looked like. It was actually a fairly comfortable position to be in…I could take one look at somebody and tell you if they were “worldly” or not. Perhaps it was their hair style, or a man’s facial hair, or a particular style of clothing. Maybe it was an ear ring or a tattoo. Maybe it was the music I caught them listening to, or the church that they attended…worldly was essentially anything that was different from me.

In Fundamentalism we’ve always had it down pat. As a guy I had to do the following to avoid the tag of “worldliness”:

  • Keep my hair cut short and combed out of my face – nothing on the ears or collar.
  • Keep my shoes tied (80's) and my pants pulled up (today).
  • Wear a belt (even if you don't need one).
  • Tuck in my shirt (even if it was t-shirt).
  • Keep my face clean shaved.
  • Don’t listen to loud music…..
In essence, by simply looking a certain way, I was guaranteed to avoid being accused of wearing that mantle of worldliness. This is the way I got by for most of my life, but then something changed.

I’m not going to go into details of what happened (I’ve touched on those things off and on elsewhere on this blog), but I’ll tell you about a couple of situations that happened some time ago that I never quite got over. When I was 19 or 20 years old, I had dropped out of college due to a lack of money. During the ensuing semester, I worked at a small church – leading the music and youth programs – and worked several other jobs in order to save up some money and…..grew my first goatee. The goatee was really rather pathetic, but I was proud of it. It went pretty well with my new sideburns (they came all the way to the bottom of my ears – prior to that I’d cut them completely off so as to avoid the look of worldliness). I grew the goatee and sideburns, not as an act of rebellion, but simply because I wanted to – I thought it was a nice look. Some time later, while visiting friends, I found out that some folks had been praying for me. “That’s nice”, I thought. When I asked what they were praying about, the answer kind of stopped me in my tracks. Due to my “appearance”, specifically my choices in facial hair, some people had come to the conclusion that I was in rebellion and running from God. There was even a pretty good rumor going that I was singing in a “hard rock” group! Beginning with that insane incident (that has stuck with me for 15 years now) I began to question what this thing called worldliness really is.

In Fundamentalism we have chosen to define worldly almost exclusively by the outward appearance. Five years ago, had I come across a guy that looks like me, I would probably describe him as worldly. Why? I have a “soul patch” (kind of like this guy, but much cooler!) and I comb my hair forward rather than back…sounds silly, doesn’t it? I don’t mean my “look”, but that insane definition of worldliness! I’m coming to realize that the “worldliness” we are called to separate from has less to do with outward appearance than it does with an attitude, associations, and perhaps countenance.

Yesterday while listening to a new CD, the words in the first line of the last song kind of arrested my attention:

Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Then why do you look so much like the world?

I’m not sure what the author is saying here…particularly since he looks a lot like what I used to consider “worldly”. This song is one of my favorite songs period (complete lyrics here), but I’m not certain that I understand that part. What does the world “look like”? I'm not sure that one can biblically answer that question. In Fundamentalism we've always been really good at putting out a list of do's and dont's in regards to this subject, but we are really lousy at backing it up scripturally.

An excellent set of articles on the subject can be found here, here, and here. The comments sections are worth a read as well - folks on both sides of the conversation discuss the question, "What does worldly look like?"

By the way, one more excellent article can be found here. I agree with the author when he says,

"The sin of "worldliness" is the tendency to set one's affections on things of the earth rather than on heavenly things (cf. Colossians 3:2). "Friendship with the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4). It is positively sinful to love this present world and imbibe its values more than we love heaven and order our lives according to heavenly values (cf. Philippians 1:23; Romans 8:5-6; Matthew 6:19-21; 16:23). In other words, worldliness is a sin of the heart."

Friday, October 5, 2007

"A flower quickly fading..."

At 34 years old, it's probable that I still have more life in front of me than behind me.... However, I was recently hit right between the eyes, so to speak, with the realization that this body of mine is dying. A couple of weeks ago I had an annual eye exam and my optometrist was concerned that my left eye seems to be getting worse. I've already got severe enough astigmatism in that eye that seeing out of it is sometimes a bit challenging, but this was something else. He ended up running some more tests and diagnosing me with a degenerative disease that, while common in teenagers, is slightly rare in men of my age. There is a slight chance that it will take care of itself, but most likely I'll have to undergo a corneal transplant in that eye sometime in the near future. Everything I've read on it leads me to believe that this is a relatively simple procedure that successfully restores sight nearly 90% of the time. Nevertheless, the thought of a knife and my eyeball meeting up with one another in a doctor's office is not one I particularly care for!

I'm reminded of 1 Peter 1:24-25 where the Apostle reminds us of our weakness and the very temporal nature of these old bodies. The fact that we began creeping towards death from the very moment of conception is sometimes a bit distasteful to grasp.

To tell you the truth, I tend to hold on to things like this...not out of fear, anxiety, trepidation, or some sort of depression; but rather as motivation. I'm at an age now where the scales are beginning to tip....I said earlier that I likely have more life in front of me than behind me, but (best case scenario) not much. When I see these small flaws creeping up that cause me to cast a glance at my mortality, I tend to evaluate my life a bit closer. What have I done? What am I doing? What do I plan on doing? Am I content with being a decent manufacturing manager, an honest man, a good father, and a faithful husband who sometimes preaches / teaches? Is this really all that God has called me to? If not, why am I still doing it after more than 10 years?

At the risk of exposing myself a bit too much on the internet, I'll admit that these sorts of questions will keep me awake at night on occasion. I can't think of anything more tragic in the life of a child of God than to live that life without ever really approaching what God desires of that life. That's a thought worth thinking on a bit, I think. So I'll close this little article with it just hanging out there.....

Why I Love Church Business Meetings.....

(ht: Josh Gelatt)

Tallahassee, FL - A church calls a special business meeting in order to inform the pastor that he is no longer the pastor. His response? He attempts to choke out one of the deacons! Full story here.

I've been a part of one business meeting that came close to this point...I laugh about it now, but it was one of the catalysts that nearly drove me out of church back then. During my time in that church I never attended a positive business meeting. They were nothing more than times to air grievances. The pastor's response at one time (before we began attending there) was to simply not have business meetings. The church (which was a completely pastor-ruled entity) actually went more than 2 years without a business meeting, budget meeting...anything! Yep - nothing can go wrong when the pastor is making all the decisions (financial and otherwise) without counsel or church knowledge! Wow, I'm glad I'm out of that sort of environment now....

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I won!

As I was on my way home from work today I was listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio. When a commercial came on I flipped over to an FM station (a Christian station I listen to regularly), and they were playing the song "My Jesus" by Todd Agnew (I blogged about that song briefly here). After the song finished playing the DJ said he was giving away the CD that contained that song to the first I called, AND WON! This is the first time I've ever tried to win something by calling in to a radio station - perhaps I'll try this more often!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Liberty, Arrogance, and Appealing to the Flesh.

I’ve always heard that anything that “appeals to the flesh” is sin. I suppose that’s true depending on how one is defining one’s terminology. The term “appealing to the flesh” is one I’ve seen defined (used) in a few different ways:
In this brief article I’ll examine these three definitions, define them a tad more clearly, and conclude with my thoughts on the whole matter. The crux of what I want to say is at the end, so if this becomes a tedious, mind-numbing read to you, please feel free to skip down to the last few paragraphs!

Anything that “feels good”.
This is one of most common concepts regarding the lust of the flesh and one that is applied the most inconsistently. I can’t count the number of pastors I’ve heard give this definition in one form or another, while at the same time displaying an incredibly impressive pot belly! They’ll preach on the sins of doing things just because it “feels good”, yet everybody knows to stand clear of the dude whenever there’s a church “pot luck”! Most generally, this definition is applied to all matters of life…with the exception of good food and marital sex. The concept is that if you do something simply because it feels good, then you are obviously pandering to some base instinct that is completely counter to anything that God might have for you. It’s almost as if God’s will for you is to be free from any physical or emotional pleasure. This is foolish of course, and nobody would present it in the same manner that I am here; however, we’ve all seen this presented in convincing arguments (usually with little Scriptural support). A typical presentation would go something like this:

“Love not the world, neither things that are in the world. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are not of the Father but are of the world. The world passes away and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of the Father shall abide forever.” Now we see here that ALL that is of the world appeals to the flesh in some manner or another, and that is displeasing to God….
At this point, the preacher is free to launch into a diatribe regarding the evils of drinking, or smoking, or going to movies, or dancing, or rock music, or pants on women, or any number of other things…..This leads me to the second definition.

Anything whereby you come down on a different side of a matter of liberty than I do.
There is quite a bit of crossover between definitions 1 and 2, but there are some distinctions between the two. In definition 2 there is not time wasted in attempting to prove that some matter of liberty is right or wrong…it is simply a given and anybody who would partake of said thing is pandering to the flesh. This definition is most commonly used when dealing with the “fuzzier” areas – music, movies, dress, drinking, smoking, television, etc. I’ve not met anybody in fundamentalism who would be willing to make an argument that there isn’t potential to sin in each of these areas; but rather than teach solid, proven, biblical principles and discernment, some chose instead to simply draw a line of right and wrong where one may not exist. This sort of methodology has run amuck in fundamentalism and is one of the greatest contributors to some of the increasing dissatisfaction that people like me are experiencing in regards to the movement.

I keep hearing the argument that we need to simply worry about what’s in our own back yard and not worry abouth the rest. I suppose there’s some truth to that; however, if you are part of the fundamentalist movement, you’ve got an awfully big back yard. And regardless of what side of the movement you identify with, you’ve got some of these issues to contend with. I’m not familiar with a single branch of fundamentalism where a line hasn’t been drawn on some matter of liberty. I’m not saying that’s all bad, mind you. I consider drinking in moderation to be a matter of liberty, but I’m much more inclined to identify with teetotalers than I am with groups that encourage social drinking (do such groups even exist within fundamentalism?).

There’s a real danger here, though. Anytime we elevate matters of preference to separation issues, we are in trouble. When a matter of liberty is definitively described in terms of “right and wrong”, a dangerous line has been crossed. When we begin to claim (as an over-the-top example) that anybody who wears silk shirts is doing so simply because it feels good and is stylish and said person is, therefore, acting out of a desire to satisfy the lusts of the flesh, we’ve crossed a line....Let’s move on to the 3rd definition and wrap this thing up.

Anything that seeks to sacrifice giving glory to God in favor of satisfying some base desire.
This is a fairly biblical definition, I think, and it’s also as far as Scripture goes on many things. When it comes down to what we are going to do – or not do – in matters of liberty, there are some questions we must ask:
  • Why am I doing this? Is it simply because I can, or am I seeking to glorify God in this?
  • Am I acting in love? For the sake of illustration, let’s say that I drink one alcoholic beverage with my dinner on a regular basis. This is an activity I can do with a clear conscience and I believe that God is pleased with it. Tonight I am having a friend over to dinner who has extremely strong feelings on the subject. As a matter of fact, he has said that he is convinced and convicted from Scripture that drinking alcoholic beverages is sin. Even though I still have the liberty to drink (it’s my house, my food, my liberty), would I be displaying my love to this brother by drinking in front of him? This isn’t an issue of causing a “weaker brother to stumble”…for all I know, I might be the weaker brother in this scenario. This is an issue of restraining myself because I love Christ and I love my Christian brother. Too often I find in my own life that I want to display my “freedom” in order to just show somebody that they are wrong. This isn’t love, and this isn’t a proper motivation.
  • Will I offend someone in this activity? This is, once again, a struggle for me. Here’s a real life example….I enjoy listening to Todd Agnew and Casting Crowns. Both of these are Christian rock groups, and I am (I assume) part of an extremely tiny minority of people in my church who listen to this sort of music. I don’t feel compelled to hide the fact that I listen to it (that much should be obvious by the number of posts I've made on the subject on this blog); however, I don’t want to flaunt it to someone who will be offended by it. Some might say this is hypocritical, and I suppose that it can become that way if one allows it to. However, I don’t pretend to be what I am not – I just don’t feel the need to offend others who may not feel they have the same liberty as I…or even worse, who may feel that what I consider to be a liberty is in fact, sin.
  • Does this activity bring glory to God? If the answer is no, don’t do it. If you’re not sure what the answer is, then perhaps you should refrain from said activity until you have an answer you can anchor in Scripture.
By no means is this meant to be presented as a comprehensive discussion of the subject of liberty - I’ve barely scratched the surface on that – but what I’d like to do is cause us to take pause and think! It’s not a bad thing to ask whether or not something is right or wrong. As a matter of fact, we should be asking that regularly in light of Scripture and the teaching of the Holy Spirit. This article is nothing else than my simple observations (for what they are worth). Furthermore, I hope this can serve as a gentle reminder to us (or perhaps just to myself) that we should not allow pride and arrogance to become determining factors in how we choose to behave and conduct ourselves.

I tend to struggle with pride when it comes to this issue of personal liberty. My natural reaction when I discover that somebody has an issue with the way I _____ whatever, is to say, "Who cares? It doesn't matter what they think - it's all about giving glory to God!" While there is truth to such statements, no amount of pious statements such as this will be sufficient to counter my fleshly motivations. I Corinthians 13:4-5 hold the key, I think. The love I am supposed to be showing to those around me is a love that is not arrogant, rude, rash, or's completely selfless and should put that other person first. Examining issues of liberty in light of passages like 1 Corinthians 13 should cause us to take pause.

I've got more to say on this later, but this thing is already longer than I intended...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Can God Use Rock Music?"

A friend recently sent me a link to an article by the late Keith Green (pictured to the right). If you aren't familiar with Mr. Green's work, the link provided (or click on the picture) gives a brief synopsis of his life and ministry. The song of his with which you might be most familiar is "O Lord, You're Beautiful".

The article that my friend forwarded to me is not the best-written article I've read on the subject addressed, but it does offer a fairly unique perspective from an "insider". I was a bit a surprised at some of his criticisms of the movement of which he was such a large part, and I found his observations to be as relevant now as they were when he wrote this article (late 70's). Here's the first statement that hopped out at me:

"It isn't the beat that offends me, nor the volume - It's the spirit. It's the "Look at me!" attitude I have seen in concert after concert, and the "Can't you see we're as good as the world?" syndrome I have heard on record after record. Jesus doesn't want us to be as good as the world, He wants us to he better! And that doesn't mean excelling them in sound, style, or talent - it means surpassing them in value - in our motives for being up there on stage, in our reasons for singing our songs, and especially in who we're singing for! If there's anything wrong or worldly at all about so-called "Christian rock," it's the self-exalting spirit and attitude that comes across so loud and clear in many of the records and concerts today."

Read the full article here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Us" versus "them", or fundamentalism and the pursuit of holiness.

Last night after the church service our pastor said something that I greatly appreciated. He said that the face (and possibly the direction) of Fundamentalism is changing….young guys are asking questions and even “pushing the envelope” to a certain point. He went on to say that this “young fundamentalism” is often asking “why?”, and that, according to him, is a good thing that he welcomes. He said that change is good and often necessary, but sometimes we’re moving just a tad fast. Of course, none of what I’m saying is verbatim, but this is the general gist of what he said. Last night I spent some time pondering these words and I came to a rather startling (at least to me) conclusion…..we’re really not that far apart (“we” being the Old Guard versus the Young Fundamentalist). Let me explain.

A Fundamentalist, regardless of which generation you are a part of, is typified by some distinguishing characteristics:

  • We hold the Bible as our final source of truth.
  • We believe the Bible to be God-breathed.
  • We believe in the Deity of Christ
  • We believe in the Virgin Birth of Christ
  • We believe in the Vicarious Atonement
  • We believe in the Resurrection of Christ.
  • We believe in the eminent return of Christ
  • We believe in Separation from Apostasy
  • We believe in Separation from erring brethren
  • We believe that salvation is by grace through faith
  • We believe in baptism by emersion
  • We believe in pursuing after righteousness
  • We believe in striving to live a holy and separated life…..

There are more, but this is a sufficient sampling of the beliefs of Fundamentalists. That being said, what makes “us” (the younger guys) so different from “them” (the guys from the last 40 years or so)? Before I get into what I believe to be the core issue, let me mention a few minor quibbles that distinguish the two generations from one another. NOTE: For the sake of this article, I will be using the terms “us” and “them” as I defined them at the top of this paragraph. This isn’t to indicate that there is conflict, it’s just a label.

  • The older generation held primarily to the KJV of the Bible; we hold to multiple version, landing on the NKJV, NASB, and most generally (now), the ESV.
  • They always give an invitation; we generally don’t.
  • They preach topically as often as they preach expositionally; we preach almost exclusively in an expository manner.
  • They hold to closed communion – sometimes close; we hold to open communion – sometimes close.
  • They have tended to write off entire genres of music as wicked because of some wickedness within the genre; we tend to evaluate each piece of music as independent from a particular genre.
  • They tend to prefer “pastor-ruled” or “congregational-ruled” churches as the government of choice; we tend to prefer “elder rule”
  • They tend to be “tee-totalers” when it comes to alcohol; we tend to hold to a “moderation” point of view.
  • They tend to be Arminians (at least 4-pointers); we tend to be Calvinists (at least 4-pointers).

This is, of course, a partial list, but I think it suffices. The divide between “us” and “them” comes primarily in matters of preference. Things that we view as issues of liberty are often matters of right and wrong to them. Outside of the small items (Bible versions, church polity, communion, the C/A debate, invitations, etc.), our differences really come down to one thing, I think. That one thing is personal holiness.

There is nothing that grates more abrasively against the old nature than the words “Be ye holy, for I am holy”. Every fiber of our being screams out against holiness and strives instead to fight against the will of a Holy God. Paul describes this eloquently when, in Romans 7, he says (paraphrase), “I don’t do what I do want to do, but I do do what I don’t want to do.” Paul strove for holiness, but found that his old nature was warring against it with such fervor that he just couldn’t quite succeed. The pursuit of holiness is never ending and requires a proper view of God, as well as a proper view of the nature of man.

Now, when it comes down to it I think that both groups have a lofty view of God. Both groups are seeking to emulate Christ as much as they can, yet we are left with this extreme diversity in defining personal holiness. One group places a high priority on the minutia, while the other group takes a more “macro” view of things. Let me explain….

We all agree that modesty in dress and appearance is an important attribute in the life of any follower of Christ. “We” tend to stop there, while “they” go on to address specifics… tattoos, piercings, baggy pants, shorts, pants on women, etc. Outward conformity to a particular standard tends to be a mark of spirituality with them, whereas we tend to leave the outward appearance up to the individual as they begin to grow in the Holy Spirit….that sounds much more sanctimonious than I intend, but please bear with me to the end of this article.

I’ve discussed music quite a bit on this blog, and it is certainly another area in which the two groups differ. We tend to view “worldly music” as being defined much more by lyrical content than musical style, but they classify music as worldly based almost exclusively on its sound. None of us would oppose a variety of instruments in a church service, but we are not opposed to electric guitars, drums, etc., whereas the only electric instrument they allow is an organ….percussion is anathema. There’s much more to say about music, but the subject is beginning to tire me….

The summary of the matter – and the whole point of this article – is that I don’t think that either group is necessarily wrong. One group has a tendency of going too far, and the other group runs the risk of not going far enough. We both have a tendency to cry “foul” at the methodologies of the other group while arrogantly holding up ours as more righteous or “biblical”. I think we can stand to learn from one another, though. Will it ever be perfect? Not as long as I’m around!

Sunday, September 23, 2007


The Pack are 3-0 and sit atop the NFC North, Brett Favre has tied Dan Marino for all the all time TD passes record (after setting the all times wins mark for a QB already this season), the Pack just beat a tough squad from the AFC in the San Diego Chargers....and most importantly, Chicago isn't winning the division right now!!!!