The Real Reasons Why Youth Are Leaving Church

youthI hadn’t planned writing a follow up to my previous post, but I started thinking about what I wrote and I thought I should offer a more comprehensive reason why I believe people are leaving church.

I say just people, rather than “young people,” because currently, alarmist types want us to believe it is college aged young people freshly set free from the concentration camps of their stifling and non-thinking fundamentalist churches and rigid homeschooled families who are running away from Christianity in vast numbers. But people of all ages leave church on a regular basis. In fact, generations of “young people,” upon leaving home for college or moving away from their parents after getting married stop attending church, so it’s not like this is a recent epidemic or something.

There were a ton of kids in my youth group at the church I attended when I was in high school. They were all actively involved, because simply put, mama and daddy made them go, and I am sure the food and games had an appeal as well. Most of them were phony anyways, because when they weren’t at church participating in puppet shows or singing in the youth choir, they were throwing down at the weekend kegger party and engaging in various forms of teenage debauchery.

If I had to guess, I would say maybe just a handful of my high school youth group peers acted the least bit “Christianly” throughout their high school experience. Of the 20 or 25 friends at my group, I’d imagine just 2 or 3 still attend church today in any serious manner. A few more may have returned once they had kids, but for the most part, while they may live externally clean lives, they are practically irreligious and remain unchurched.

So what are the real reasons the so-called Christian youth are leaving Christianity? Contrary to the polls of self-appointed experts on American youth culture, their departure really has nothing to do with those typical tropes like coming from a sheltered home-schooled family, or not having the right apologetic thinking, or the church being “anti-science,” or Christians rejecting gay teens.

Let me lay out 7 thoughts to show you what I mean:

1. The kids aren’t saved. It’s too simple, I know; but that’s reality. They are not regenerated, and thus do no possess saving faith. Hence, when they are confronted by the culturally brutal and harsh world, their non-existent faith is exposed as just that, non-existent.

No amount of feeding them the right apologetic answers to skeptical critics of Christianity will help that at all. If the kid isn’t saved, it doesn’t matter if he knows all the proofs of God’s existence, or can defend the historical Gospels, or shoot down the Zeitgeist youtube movie. He has no love for Christ; and when sin confronts him, he may resist at first, but will eventually give in and it’s all down hill from there.

But is it more than just saying the kid isn’t saved? Certainly. There could be a number of factors that have converged to have driven the kid away from church.

2. The kid comes from a moralistic family. In other words, the family may indeed attend church, perhaps be involved to a degree, but the faith of the parents and the kids is no more than a set of conservative morals untethered from Scripture and the worship of God. Morals alone are not enough to keep a young person faithful to Christ. Only a regenerated heart can do that.

3. The parents are self-righteous hypocrites. By that I mean they pretend to be spirit-filled, serious-minded Christians at church, but at home, it’s an entirely different matter. Mom and dad bicker and snip at each other, they complain about everything, maybe are dishonest with their dealings with others, gossip about people and situations at church. They basically instill an attitude of disrespect in the hearts of their children toward not only church, but even themselves.

4. Church leadership intentionally avoids difficult subjects. They won’t talk about those subjects that supposedly clothesline the young person when he gets out in the real world. They mistakenly believe young people would be bored with their discussion, or perhaps the subjects are way over their heads and raise too many hard questions their little minds can’t handle right now.

Instead, they focus on teaching simplistic things like keeping your virginity before marriage, figuring out God’s will for your life, and what spiritual gifts you may have. Any difficult topics they leave for the occasional expert to handle. That expert who usually comes in the form of a prepackaged DVD message on Wednesday nights. Many times those experts are really unlearned and inexperienced, and hardly know what they are talking about.

5. Church leadership is lazy. If they don’t intentionally avoid difficult subjects, they won’t even take the time to educate themselves on those topics that will challenge their young people. Paul told Timothy that godly men must prove themselves workman (2 Tim. 2:15). The important word in workman is work. Studying the Scriptures, exegeting the Scriptures, applying the Scriptures, teaching the Scriptures takes hard work.

Today’s youth need leaders who will do the hard work of shepherding them, confronting them, teaching them the Word of God, especially when it comes to those difficult subjects they encounter or will encounter. They don’t need leaders who will only put forth minimal effort feeding them pablum, while providing them soft beds to cozy up in. They need to come face to face with the holy God of Scripture who will rock their world, but will also save them through the blood of Christ. That experience only comes when leaders shake off the stupor of laziness and do the hard work of lifting high the God of Scripture by taking the time to handle it rightly.

6. The youth pastor is basically a young, inexperienced and spiritually immature guy. All my life as a churched kid, practically every youth director has been an early 20s something post-graduate. He’s probably no more than 5 or 6 years older than the oldest kid in the youth group. Not to disparage a person’s youth, or even youth groups for that matter, because I happen to know a number of mature thinking young guys in their early 20s, and there are churches with great youth groups teaching their kids to think biblically. Regrettably those are the rare exception and sadly not the rule.

The vast majority of youth pastors are placed in the positions because the church, as well as parents, mistakenly believe only a young guy can “relate” with their kids; plus they are expecting nothing more than sanctified baby-sitting. The youth pastor is merely required to create an atmosphere of wholesomeness that includes directing fun activities, so they are not necessarily known for being theological giants. In fact, the youth pastors are notorious for being the gateway for introducing wack-a-doodle heresy into the church, along with immature behavior on the part of the kids, and that is due primarily because he is a spiritually immature and unlearned novice.

preciousAdditionally, if the youth director happens to be a mature young man who wants to bring substance to the youth group, when the teenage goats begin leaving because they hate the teaching of God’s Word, the parents freak out and accuse the young man of quenching the Spirit. He’s then kicked out and replaced by a more pliable hireling.

I remember once at my college church when our youth pastor had a guest speaker come in to preach at the high school group. That evening, they were particularly rambunctious and rowdy, and the guest speaker told them that he believed most of them were lost because they had no respect for the teaching of God’s Word. He was absolutely correct with his assessment. Now guess what happened? Did the kids become gripped with conviction upon hearing those words, repent of their sins, and beg to be saved? Do you think their moms and dads were mortified as to what happened and dealt firmly with their teens? Of course not! Don’t be silly! The next week, the poor youth pastor was deluged with mobs of angry parents demanding a reason why he let such a horrible man tell their precious hellions that they were lost, because they know their little devils asked Jesus into their hearts after they walked the aisle when they were four.

7. The Church leadership and youth pastor doesn’t evangelize the kids. Oh, don’t get me wrong. They “evangelize” them in the sense that they preach to them an anemic, “God has a wonderful plan for your life, Jesus wants to be your buddy and make school great for you” false gospel, or a gut-wrenching “Red Asphalt, kids die in car wreck after a drinking party and get dragged straight to hell” presentation that is designed to emotionally manipulate an aisle full of sobbing teenage girls to pray a prayer to accept Jesus into their hearts. Decisions are certainly made after those evangelistic presentations, but they are theologically vapid, empty of any serious biblical content, and not empowered by the Holy Spirit to save souls.

Now.

Having said all of that, can a kid come from a household of hypocrites, attend a church with lazy leadership who coddle the youth group with a 20-something rock climber guy as the pastor who preaches a lame Gospel message? Yes. God is great and transcends all of those problems. However, if we consider those reasons, I think a case can be made that what college age kids are leaving isn’t necessarily biblical Christianity, but some syrupy sentimental version of the Christian faith. That would only mean that the vast numbers of college age kids never really left Christianity and church to begin with.

Those Dastardly Young People Leaving Church

hipsterThe last few years have seen a crush of hand-wringing, panicked stricken articles and books bemoaning how today’s youth are abandoning traditional churches and Christianity altogether once they reach college age.

The authors of these garment rending laments are often self-appointed pop cultural analysts who believe they are on the front lines of the modern culture war assailing Christians everywhere. They are anyone from parachurch apologists to popular youth personalities, and they are sounding the alarm about the exodus of young people from Christianity who were raised in loving Christian homes whose parents took them to church regularly, taught them the Bible, and in many cases enrolled them in Christian schools or homeschooled them.

Once they leave home for the first time, those fresh young people are genuinely exposed to the “real world” and their naivete is dashed up against the rocks of secularism. They come to recognize the folly of religious faith and rapidly become embarrassed by their parents devotion to their sad traditional Christianity.

As our cultural crusaders rightly point out, the phenomena of Christian kids leaving the faith is certainly something to notice; and I would add, the church needs to consider why that is happening. A number of explanations have been offered, but the reasons suggested, I believe, are wildly off target.

With that stated, I want to respond to this article posted recently at CharismaNews Online. (BTW, CharismaNews is swiftly becoming a gold mine for quality crazy stuff on the internet that makes for excellent blog fodder, but I digress).

6 Reasons Young Christians Abandon Church

The article is a summary of a book written in 2011 by a guy named David Kinnaman called You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church. I’ll let you search it out on Amazon.  According to the article, Kinnaman, who oversees the research arm of the Barna Group, identifies six significant themes that explains why millennial hipsters are dropping traditional churches faster than a cup of Maxwell House instant coffee. The article then proceeds to lay out those themes and offer commentary as to why Kinnaman’s analysis is so revolutionary and cutting-edge, and why we old dinosaurish Christians need to take him seriously.

Because I believe the good bulk of such scaremongering commentary is vapid and needlessly hysterical, along with being misdirected, I thought it would offer my rejoinder.

It is important that we begin by considering who it is who wrote the article. There isn’t one individual person named, but apparently, it’s an anonymous theological hack from the group called Biologos.

The folks at Biologos are in essence evangelical atheists. They exist for no other reason than to push anti-supernaturalism, theistic evolution, and to be a hub for where bitter, cranky anti-creationists gather daily to hurl insults at Answers in Genesis and ICR.

The one truly bizarre thing about this article is it is published on Charisma’s website. The fact that a charismatic driven website, where the claims of God’s miracle power are posted everyday, would publish an article by a freakish religio-secular hybrid like Biologos, only continues to affirm to me the profound lack of spiritual discernment at Charisma’s editing board.

But heaven forbid I be accused of “ad hom.” I certainly wouldn’t want that. I mean, I should just ignore the source of this article. What matters are the arguments put forth, right? Who cares about those pesky presupposition filters?

Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective. It is suggested that churches are “hiding” the truth of the world from their youth. That they are only concerned about rock music, R rated movies, and pre-marital sex. So that when the little simpletons leave home, the secularist eat them for breakfast the first day of community college class.

If by protective, they mean to say churches don’t expose their young people to every whim of doctrine, crackpot theology, and wack-a-doodle idea out there, well, I certainly want a church to protect their young people from foolishness.  They should be taught to be suspicious of seducing spirits and they should be trained with the ability to properly discern, even if the scold writing this article thinks it keeps them out-of-touch.

Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow. I actually agree with the point here. Regrettably, the modern experience of Christianity for not only young people, but nearly everybody across the red state, evangelical spectrum is shallowness that is the proverbial mile wide and foot deep. That includes the lame worship services led by a knock-off of the local coffee shop folk band, pre-fab Sunday school lessons that teach a Scripturaless morality, and the preaching, which amounts to nothing more than a life coach giving his congregation a spiritualized TED talk.

This point captures the primary reason Christians are leaving church: the church has become the equivalent of a Vegas show and that gets boring real quick.

Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science. The idea of “antagonistic to science” is Biologos codeword for, “Christians believing in a literal, historical Genesis, a real, historical Adam and Eve, and a young earth.”

I’ll admit right now that I love science. I love my car, my ipod, my computer, my wifi, my air conditioning, my cough syrup, and the many other uncountable areas where my life is greatly improved by “science.”

But this point is deceptive. Contrary to our dishonest author, I can affirm a historical Genesis, a real, historical Adam and Eve, and an Earth under 10,000 years of age, and still do science. One cannot, however, deny a historical Adam and the historicity of Genesis only for the purpose of accommodating Darwinianism with the Bible and remain an orthodox Christian.

One humorous note about this point is how it is posted on a website that in the side bar there is a link to an article talking about a guy raising people from the dead and trumpet sounds in the sky being indicators of Christ’s soon return.

Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental. In other words, young people don’t like being told they have to be married to have sex, and specifically to a person of the opposite sex, and they have embraced the empty headed histrionics of homosexual advocates defending same sex marriage.

Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity. Under this point, one of the reasons young people struggle with the exclusivity of Christianity is that “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths.” Why would young people wrestle with a concept of exclusivity? Jesus made some rather strong, exclusive statements about Himself, about God, and a number of other issues that are clearly delineated in Scripture. How exactly is that a problem?

Why would young people be troubled that their churches uphold the biblical claims of exclusivity? Are they completely oblivious to the intellectual disconnect they’ve created? On one hand they’re complaining about how shallow church is (see #2), but on the other, if the church just so happens to be deep with their affirmation of biblical Christian orthodoxy, they wrestle with that because it’s supposedly a bad thing? I don’t get it.

It seems like to me they have fallen prey to the folly of postmodern, relativistic thinking. Affirming one’s faith as exclusive is something orthodox Christianity has historically maintained and is hardly something to wrestle over. Even the progressive Christians makes claims of exclusivity when they abandon an exclusive understanding of the Christian faith and then proclaim that it is stupid.

doubtReason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt. Honestly, the reason why a church may feel unfriendly to those who doubt, is because those who doubt are generally insincere about their so-called “doubt.” If a young person begins to express his “doubt,” more than likely he was already at a personal place of hostility with the church leadership. When any effort is giving to offer answers, the kid doesn’t want those answers, and then turns around and claims no one answered his questions. Such a person either becomes a radical skeptic, or a militant gay activist, or some other smug malcontent who complains how the church is unfriendly.

Now. I don’t want to dismiss all of those points entirely. There is some truth lurking behind them. But rather than concluding that local churches have failed in meeting the false expectations of young people that only in turn pushes them out the door and into secular irreligiousity, the primary reason they abandon the faith and leave church is that they didn’t have faith to begin with. They were never regenerated and never believed savingly upon the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. It really has nothing to do with them being overly protected or a church being anti-science. They never had faith, and college only reveals that fact.

That is not to say churches didn’t have a hand in their abandonment. The second point above rings true: If a church manufactures a shallow, atheological, abiblical, moralistic atmosphere, hardly anyone is going to be saved. Any preaching, teaching, and activities geared only towards moralistic entertainment, will only beget entertained moralists who will be exposed as fake Christians when they encounter the world.

Studies in Eschatology [5]

tabernacle1The Israel/Church Distinctive

I began a study looking at eschatology by considering the basic hermeneutics, or those principles of Bible study that are foundational for the various eschatological systems.   With this article, I want to touch briefly on a significant principle of hermenuetics, The Israel – Church Relationship.

The Israel – Church relationship is without a doubt the most significant disagreement between all the adherents of each eschatological system. Moreover, nearly all the other hermeneutical principles are shaped by how one understands the differences and similarities between the national, ethnic group Israel, or the Jews, with the NT Church, which is defined as being comprised of both Jews and gentiles united in one body in Christ.

With all the literature I have read on the subject, those who hold to a Reformed Covenant view of Scripture practically make any dissenting position from their understanding of Israel and the Church a test for orthodoxy. There were a few non-Covenant oriented authors who took a similar, opposite stance against those who would depart from their particular view of Israel and the Church, but I found it was the Reformed Covenant authors who were the most stern in their pronouncements of error.

Keith Mathison, for example, in his book critiquing dispensationalism, paints his dispensational subjects as holding to a view of the Bible that is both unique, in that it is relatively new to Church history, and heretical, in that they promote two entirely different Gospels and views of salvation, [see also Crenshaw and Gunn, pgs. 117ff.]. Sam Waldron shares a similar criticism against John MacArthur when he states rather disingenuously that John’s dispensational convictions, while not heretical, do raise issues with the Gospel and the Christian faith [Waldron, 127]. Other authors provide like-minded critiques in which they dance around calling those believers with non-covenant views of Israel and the Christian Church heretics. They may merely conclude that their theological convictions regarding Israel and the Church are problematic and troubling, and are to be avoided. But there are a few Reformed Covenant writers who do place their convictions outside the pale of Christian orthodox, or brand them as being pseudo-Christian.

With all of that in mind, how one understands Israel’s relationship to the Church is such a vital hermeneutical pillar in a person’s eschatological structure, that it is important we frame a full picture of the main disagreeing points.

The Reformed Covenant position on Israel and the Church is derived from a set of theological presuppositions emerging out of Covenant Theology. God is said to have only one particular, redeemed people who are the same in both testaments. This redeemed people are called “the Church” or the “appointed assembly” or “called out assembly” [Berkhof, 555 ff.] They were present within the nation of Israel during the history of the OT; for instance those 7,000 who did not bow the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18).

Robert Reymond describes the Church as “comprised of all redeemed in every age who are saved by grace through personal faith in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ, ‘the seed of the woman’ (Gen. 3:15) and suffering Messiah (Isa. 53:55-10)” [Reymond, 805]. Citing Mathison again, he writes that the Church is all believers of all ages (meaning both in the OT & NT) have one God, and one Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Additionally, the believers of all ages are one body, one bride, one household, one flock [Mathison, 26].

The Church, then, is understood to transcend both testaments. In the OT, this “redeemed assembly” was within the nation of Israel and can correctly be identified as “Israel,” but in the NT, this “redeemed assembly” takes on a new identity in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Gospel moves redemptive salvation beyond the borders of an exclusive Jewish nation state called “Israel” to include the entire world: people “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).

The relationship between OT Israel and the NT church is considered a typological one; Israel is meant to foreshadow the Church to come [Mathison, 38]. The NT Church fulfills all the OT promises and purposes made to OT Israel [Mathison, 26]. All those original promises of restoration and being made a ruling kingdom over the earth God gave to OT Israel are literally being fulfilled NOW in the NT Church [Long, 361]. So it is accurate to call the Church the new Israel and certain New Testament passages like Ephesians 2:11-20 and 1 Peter 1:10-12 strongly suggest the NT Church has fulfilled, or even replaced, what the OT Church in Israel was meant to be.

That is not to say Reformed Covenant believers do not recognize a distinction between Israel and the Church. There certainly is a recognized distinction between OT Israel and the NT Church, however there isn’t a strong dichotomy between the two as the non-covenantal believers suggest [Crenshaw and Gunn, 118]. In fact, it is the strong dichotomy of the non-covenant believers that is the most concerning for the Reformed covenant folks. Holding a sharp dichotomy between the OT people of God, Israel, and the NT people of God, the Church, leads to some significant theological problems the most notable being a division between the people of God. That strong dichotomy presents two divided groups called “the people of God” and suggests two possible ways to salvation, one for the OT Jews and another for the NT Church. That division is considered artificial, especially when Jesus himself speaks of being a shepherd over one flock (John 10) and there is now one new man made of both Jews and gentiles (Ephesians 2).

It is true some dispensational writers in the past make such a strong distinction between the Israel of the OT and the Church of the NT, they would argue for a different Gospel spoken to the Jews by Peter and James and another proclaimed by Paul to the gentiles. A more recent example is the hyper-Zionist teachings of John Hagee who argues Jesus never offered Himself as a Messiah to Israel [Hagee, 132-145], or that Jesus was not crucified by the Jews [Hagee, 131], in spite of Peter’s words to the contrary (Acts 2:22, 23, 36). But those are extreme examples and do not reflect the whole of the theological thought on Israel and the Church which dissents from Reformed covenantalism.

The modern Reformed Covenant position on Israel and the Church tends to overlook two important historical factors influencing their view.

First is the idea of the Church being the new or spiritual Israel, or what would be the same as the OT “believing remnant.” Historically, this perspective on Israel and the Church has always been that of the Roman Catholic Church. I always found this close connection between the Reformed and the Roman Catholicism to be intriguing. That is especially true seeing how modern day Reformed apologists like Sam Waldron and Robert Reymond who are both highly critical of dispensational, non-covenant believers, have their historical roots with the Protestant Reformation. Yet, Roman Catholic teaching on the subject speaks of the OT Church, Israel, and the NT Church being the true Israel, the true people of God [Bovis, 20, 31, 32]. Elsewhere, the Church is referred to as the new Israel, which advances in this era, the Church of Christ [Flannery, 360].

Second is the antisemitism which has infested the historic Christian Church. The direct result of a view of replacement theology which says the OT Israel has been done away with and all their promises of restoration are fulfilled in the NT Church has been a nasty prejudice against the Jewish people. The Medieval Catholic Church is probably the worst instigator, but antisemitism continued after the Protestant Reformation by various Protestant groups who carried over the Catholic perspective on Israel and the Church, and it continues even until this day, particularly in Europe.

Now, contrasted with the Reformed Covenant perspective on Israel and the Church is the Reformed non-covenant perspective, also known as dispensationalism. Just like the Reformed view, the dispensational view is built upon specific theological presuppositions. For instance the idea the NT does not have total and complete revelational priority over the OT as the covenant perspective argues so that certain prophecies and promises made to the nation of Israel are cancelled and fulfilled entirely by the Church. Also, how one interprets OT eschatological prophecy will play into the conclusions regarding Israel’s relationship with the Church.

Those presuppositions provide a different approach to the biblical teaching on Israel and the Church when we consider the biblical evidence.

First, I believe it is clear in Scripture that Israel and the Church are distinct. The Church is understood to be only a NT entity that is not to be equated with one, specific redeemed people who transcend both testaments. There are similarities in the relationship between the NT Church and Israel, but a concise reading of Scripture tells us the two are never equated as being one and the same. That is especially true in the NT. Of the seventy-three references to Israel in the NT, the vast majority refer to national, ethnic Israel while a few others refer to Jewish believers [Vlach, 25]. Never does the NT writers equate the two as being one and the same. That point is noteworthy because the term Israel is kept distinct from the Church AFTER its establishment in the book of Acts [Vlach, 25]. That would imply the Church has not absorbed all of the OT promises made to Israel pertaining to their fulfillment in a future kingdom.

Building of the last point, a second area of difference between the Reformed Covenant view and the dispensational view of Israel and the Church has to do with defining the people of God. I believe it is completely accurate to say God has a redeemed people He has called to Himself and they are manifested in both testaments. Hence, contrary to covenantal criticism of dispensationalism, salvific unity does exist between Jews and gentiles; that is, they are one, redeemed people called by God by grace through faith in Christ.

However, a distinction between national Israel and the Church still exists. It is a distinction that is similar to the roles of men and women. Men and women share equally in salvation, yet they both have different roles as they serve in the local Church and in marriage [Vlach, 28]. The same could be said about masters and slaves (Ephesians 6:5ff.), as well as parents and their children (Ephesians 6:1-4).

And then a third area which differentiates the views of Reformed Covenant believers and non-covenant, dispensational believers is a belief in the future salvation and restoration of Israel in a physical kingdom upon the earth. Michael Vlach rightly points out the importance of noting there are many who hold to the Reformed perspective on Israel who would firmly teach a future salvation for Israel [Vlach, 29]. In other words, “all Israel will be saved” as Paul affirms in Romans 11:26. Thus, the future salvation of Israel is not strictly a dispensational view.

But, in addition to a future salvation for Israel, dispensationalists believe the Bible teaches a future restoration of Israel in the land with Christ reigning in Jerusalem. As a geo-political kingdom, Israel will have a special role of service to the rest of the nations. The idea of a future restoration, then, is more than just the idea of salvation in Christ and is the main distinguishing difference between the two positions.

So, with this outline of hermeneutics in mind, we have the foundation available to move along and consider the various eschatological systems. I will first give a brief overview of the main systems of amillennialism, postmillennialism, and premillennialism, and then return to defend premillennialism as the system I believe is taught from the biblical text.

*******
Sources

Curtis Crenshaw and Grover E. Gunn III, Dispensationalism: Today, Yesterday, Tomorrow. (Footstool Publications: Memphis TN, 1985)

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th ed. (Eerdman’s Publishing: Grand Rapids MI, 1991)

Andre De Bovis, “What is the Church?,” Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism, Vol. 48. (Hawthorn Books: New York NY, 1961)

Austin Flannery, o.p. ed., Vatican II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. (Scholarly Resources: Wilmington MD, 1975)

John Hagee, In Defense of Israel. (Frontline: Lake Mary FL, 2007)

Gary Long, Context! Evangelical Views of the Millennium Examined. (Great Unpublished: Charleston SC, 2001, 2nd ed. 2002)

Keith A. Mathinson, Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? (P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg NJ, 1995).

Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Thomas Nelson: Nashville TN, 1998)

Robert L. Saucy, A Case for Progressive Dispensationalism: The Interface Between Dispensational & Non-Dispensational Theology. (Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1993)

Samuel E. Waldron, MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response. (Reformed Baptist Academic Press: Owensboro KY, 2008).

Michael J. Vlach, Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths. (Theological Studies Press, Los Angeles CA, 2008).

The Teachings of the Second Vatican Council, (Newman Press: Westiminster MD, 1966)

History and Doctrine of the Renewal Movement

renewalMy pal, Lyndon Unger, recently had the opportunity to present a series of lectures on the renewal/Pentecostal/charismatic movement. The entire conference, which had speakers addressing a wide range of subjects, is available on line to download,

2015 Last Days Bible Conference

Lyndon’s specific lectures were,

The History of the Charismatic Movement

The Heresies of the Charismatic Movement

A Biblical Understanding of Tongues, Healings, and Prophecies

A Biblical Understanding of Words, Faith and Prosperity

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [16]

Is the Bible a reliable guide to Christ’s teaching’s and is the basic text riddled with contradictions?

I am coming down to my final two posts responding to Chaz Bufe, the Christ-hating, blues guitar picker and his article 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

I put points 18 and 19 together because they have a similar challenge to the integrity and veracity of Scriptures Rather than reproducing the two points in whole, they can be read HERE and HERE.

Haters of Christianity really amuse me at times.  Here you have individuals who insist that the Bible is an error-filled, bigoted, homophobic religious text, that God doesn’t exist, and that Jesus never lived, pretend to be the most “learned” scholars on those very subjects they despise. So much so they want to correct me, the buffoonish religious crank, what it is I should really know about my own faith.

If God is supposed to be a myth and the Bible an old, unreliable guide to anything relevant in our modern world, you would think the skeptic wouldn’t bother wasting time immersing himself in anything related to God and the Bible. I expect blues guitar festivals to be Chaz’s field of expertise. However, when the subjects of textual criticism, what the Bible teaches, and the historicity of the biblical record is raised, our atheist reveals he is also a “well rounded” expert. If you even attempt to defend the Bible as reliable against him, he’ll show how you’re an idiot.

For example, under point 18, Chaz throws out a number of factoids about the NT Gospels not being a reliable guide to Christ’s teaching. He writes, “These texts [meaning the Gospel narratives] have been amended, translated, and re-translated so often that it’s extremely difficult to gauge the accuracy of current editions.” Oh really? Since when did our amateur guitar player learn all there was to know about the ancient Hebrew and Greek languages and the various translations developed from them? I may be going out on a limb here, but I would venture a guess and say that Chaz is about as much of an expert in the accuracy of the Gospels as Dan “Da Vinci Code” Brown.

Of course a guy like Chaz would never allow his claim to be honestly scrutinized. The fact is, the real textual critics of the world, which are many, even if they come from a non-evangelical background, all agree that the vast amounts of textual evidence we have for the NT alone is remarkably consistent in its content. That in spite of the textual variants, translations, and editions produced over the centuries. When the store house of just the NT manuscripts alone are compared together with what we hold now in our hands as Scripture, the message remains unaltered. The record of Christ’s life and teaching has not been lost or tampered with and it is most certainly reliable.

Only psuedo-intellectual crackpots like the Jesus Seminar folks Chaz appeals to as his authority are the ones who deny the factuality of the textual evidence as it testifies to the over all integrity of the NT. That is because they all have as a driving presupposition a deep seated pathology against God and the Christian faith. Those folks are dishonest with the facts and have an agenda to promote.

A more current day example is Bart Ehrman, NT professor at the university of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Atheists often appeal to him as a reliable critic of the NT text because he graduated from Princeton and is considered the “heir” of NT textual scholar, Bruce Metzger.

In nearly all of his popular level publications and lectures, Ehrman retells the story of how he was once a born-again evangelical who affirmed the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. He had an interest to really knowing the Bible and attended Moody Bible Institute in pursuit of that goal. It was not until he began his post-graduate studies in NT textual criticism, however, that he “saw the light.” He realized he had been misled by his evangelical pastors and friends about the veracity of the NT text and thus he was carried kicking and screaming against his will to become a shrieking apostate. He even recounts how during his days at Moody Bible Institute none of his teachers provided any solid defense of the Bible in light of the overwhelming textual evidence against infallibility and inerrancy.

But I happen to know individuals who attended Moody at exactly the same time Ehrman did and they tell me he is lying. One particularly reliable person who attended Moody the same time Ehrman did, told me he had the same questions Ehrman claims he had about the biblical text. Contrary to Ehrman’s assertion, the NT professors did an outstanding job of dealing with the so-called over-whelming evidence against inerrancy and infallibility.

So there is certainly something else at work here other than textual evidence. Textual evidence doesn’t cause a person to lie against his schooling and twist around the historical interpretation of the manuscripts so as to misrepresent what they really tell us about the formation of the NT. That is a moral problem not at all related to evidence.

Then moving on to Chaz’s next point, the claim is that the Bible is riddled with contradictions. Out of all of the criticisms a Christian will hear from skeptics, pretty much all of them start with the assertion that the Bible cannot be believed because it is full of contradictions. Chaz even lists three to prove his point.

debatemeI remember that many of my conversations I had regarding “contradictions” in Scripture took place after dinner during the holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas while watching football. Usually it was with a snooty relative, like a curmudgeonly older cousin you only see once or twice a year. As a young believer I would quickly become discombobulated with the examples of “contradictions,” and my attempt to throw out some simplistic response never really satisfied the person. The encounter would cause me to do some studying, but when I thought I had a better answer, at the next holiday get together the person would have an entirely different set of “contradictions” to rub in my face.

I have since developed a better approach when dealing with those sorts of challenges to the biblical text.

One of the first things I learned is that folks like Chaz place an absurd literary standard of perfection upon the Bible. The standard is so ridiculously outside the realm of reality that no written historical document could comply, let alone the Bible. So when someone tells me the Bible is full of contradictions, I will ask the person to define for me what he means by “contradiction.” The number of times I have asked for a definition, the person is taken aback, because no Christian had before ever thought to ask the person to define his criteria for “contradiction.” The normal, everyday understanding of a contradiction is when two propositions are contrary to one another and produce opposite conclusions. In logical terms, “A” cannot be “A” and “non-A” in the exact same way at the same time.

The critic’s understanding of “contradiction” rarely falls under the everyday working definition. That is clearly demonstrated when he pulls examples from two separate contexts, perhaps even being written by two different biblical authors writing to separate readers during different time periods. Chaz does exactly that when he compares a passage in Genesis with one in Exodus, and then John as well as Genesis and James and declares how they “contradict” each other. The closest he comes to giving an honest comparison is with quoting from Jeremiah, but he compares passages that are 14 chapters apart without any consideration of who the prophet was speaking to and why. He does the same with quotations from Jesus as recorded by John, but again, the examples are three chapters apart and Jesus is addressing two entirely different audiences.

Once I have the critic explain to me what he means by “contradiction,” I then ask the person to show me the one hands down, undeniable contradiction he thinks utterly demonstrates the Bible is is error. The reason I ask for the ultimate contradiction is because in debates with skeptics on the subject, the person will toss out an alleged contradiction, and when you provide an answer to it, the person has already moved on to the next one on his list. Asking for the ultimate example cuts past having to put out a bunch of little fires.

Yet, even with this modified approach I always keep in mind the fact that a hardened biblio-skeptic like Chaz is not looking for answers. He is an unbeliever merely wanting to make a mockery of the Christian and the Bible, as well as continue in his rebellion against God.

With a skeptic like Chaz, it truly is not a matter of whether there are answers to his criticisms. It is a matter of whether or not he will submit himself to God’s authority as revealed in Scripture. He is operating with an unregenerate mind; one that is darkened in sin and has no interest in the truth, and what truth he is given, he will reject, suppressing the truth by explaining it away with some clever argument he devises. Hence, the Bible in the mind of the unregenerate sinner will never be a “reliable” guide to Christ’s teaching and no one will ever satisfactory answer his list of “contradictions.”

Raising Dweebs for Jesus

ship ahoyEarlier this year I revamped and reposted an older article I had written a few years ago in which I laid out the reasons why my wife and I homeschool our children.

I opened by recounting a story of this one time when we were explaining to our neighbors about homeschooling our children. The first question out of the mouth of a fellow dad was, “Whatya gonna do about their social skills?” I replied by saying, “nothin’.”

And to be honest, that is pretty much what we have done for the social skills with all 5 of our children since then.  We learned early on that kids don’t need any special social skill training. They do it naturally by themselves. In fact, we have a more difficult time getting them to NOT utilize their finely tuned social skills than to use them.

At any rate, I had a dear reader leave a comment asking me to elaborate on what I meant by doing nothing for their social skills. The reader writes,

I think your reasoning here is great, and as someone who is considering homeschooling in the future, it is good to hear arguments not from the opinion of “everyone must homeschool, and the people who don’t clearly aren’t very good Christians”. But I didn’t quite get what you meant about equipping your children with social skills – could you elaborate? I have grown up around many homeschooled kids, and many of them were very sheltered; struggling terribly when they realized what the real world was like. Of course I want to love and do what is best for my children, but when they are out of the shelter of home I don’t want them to struggle to make conversation, or have a panic attack when they hear someone use God’s name in vain. This is probably my biggest concern about homeschooling – how do you help your children adjust to the world while in many ways protecting them from it? Thanks for any help you can give!

I replied that I would write up a more detailed answer, but alas, life and stuff got in the way; but here we are now so let me offer my thoughts.

I certainly understand what the commenter is saying here. Homeschoolers, especially those of the religious stripe, have a reputation of being awkward weirdos. They appear to be wildly out of touch, often times dressing funny and living life unsynchronized with the rest of society, as well as obsessed with winning sword drill competitions. Sometimes when you see homeschooling families out in public, like out at the mall, they can have these looks of bewilderment on their faces. It’s as if Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family fell into a wormhole that opened up onto the Vegas strip in 2011.

While those stereotypes, and other like them, have a ring of truth, overall, I think they are largely exaggerated. The primary reason is because people have an inaccurate perspective of “sheltered.” When people think about the idea of sheltered, they are thinking smothering over-protection. They have in mind families whose kids aren’t allowed to have any fun or participate in anything falsely believed by our modern, pop culture as contributing to the maturity and well-roundness of children in our society.

I would like to think my wife and I do our best to shelter our children, and yet we don’t think our children are smothered in any way whatsoever and they socialize just fine. In fact, we often get the stink eye from those helicopter parents in our town who see our kids with way too much freedom riding their scooters down to the end of our block without adult supervision, lest a creepy guy snatch them into his molesting van. Adults out in public are stunned our kids are polite and can actually hold a respectable conversation with them. Judging by their reactions, I would say it scares them.

Obviously our take on what it means to “shelter” our kids is radically different than what is commonly held in society.  Maybe we are controlling prudes, but we really don’t think it is necessary for our 7 year old to know about gays or transgenderism, at least in the vivid detail activists insist they should be told at school. We don’t believe our kids have been deprived if they don’t know what the Game of Thrones is, or that we switch the channel during the Super Bowl when a highly inappropriate commercial comes on. Their lives are not stunted because we don’t have them involved with organized sports that cost tons of money and requires us to carry them all over our town for practices and games. They are not ruined because my wife and I refuse to let them surf the internet alone or that we refuse to buy them an ipod like their neighbor friend down the street. And I think they will be Okay if we never have season passes to Disney Land or Six Flags Magic Mountain.

gasmasksWhat helps us with understanding the proper socialization of homeschooling children comes down to how we define the concept of “sheltered.” What exactly does “sheltered” mean; and additionally, what do we have in mind when we talk about the “real world?” I believe those definitions, as well as their practical application, take shape in the matrix of the family’s theology, and that theology plays out best when it is biblically accurate in it’s articulation. That accuracy and articulation will also act as a gauge for evaluating the spiritual health of the family.

Let me provide an example as to what I mean.

I had a friend growing up who came from a Pentecostal family. The first thing I noticed about him was that he had lots of brothers and sisters. I don’t recall the exact number, maybe 3 or 4. But for myself, a kid from a family with one little brother who was nearly 6 years younger, they were like an early version of the Duggars. One brother who was around 18 and right out of high school had just gotten married.

The entire family seemed to wear what I saw as drab, Soviet era style clothes, and the sisters all had long hair that they wore up in beehive hairdos. His mom and dad always looked like they were dressed for church, even on a Tuesday afternoon. His mother wore dresses and his father always had on a suit and tie like he was Ward Cleaver or something.

But the most bizarre thing I remember about my friend and his family: They didn’t have a television. The horror! As a kid who had a colored TV in his bedroom, and who maintained an A and B average throughout school in spite of it, I thought my friend lived the cruelest life imaginable. I remember inquiring about why they didn’t have a TV and he said something like how God didn’t like it. I wondered what God could possibly have against the Brady Bunch, the Munsters, and the Dukes of Hazzard.

At some point the family finally acquired a TV, but viewing it was heavily regulated. I recall there was an evening when I was invited over to watch one of the Charlie Brown specials with my friend, and immediately when the credits began rolling, the dad turns off the set and says, “Okay Freddy, you need to go home, it’s our bed time.” Time for bed!? It’s like 7:30 pm and it’s still light out! How can you people live like this!?

The funny thing about remembering the TV story is that my wife and I do the exact same thing. We own a rather large TV. We just don’t have cable and we only let our kids watch selected programs off Netflix or other pre-approved websites and for limited amounts of time.

Now, even though there are some striking similarities with our convictions regarding TV and those of the parents of my friend, there is a significant distinction. Our convictions about TV is shaped by our theology, whereas considering my friend’s family some 35 odd years ago, their convictions against TV seemed to be self-imposed superstitious legalism. They perceived the achievement of personal holiness as mastering an organized system of “can and can’t dos.” Television may have bad stuff on it. God doesn’t like the bad stuff. The bad stuff will wreck your salvation. Hence, don’t even own a TV to begin with.

My wife and I understand there is bad stuff on TV, but not all of it is bad. We understand a big part of maturing in Christ is learning and exercising discernment. We also may have varying degrees of what we think is “worldly” as opposed to what is “godly.” In other words, we don’t make our kids watch reruns of Davey and Goliath all the time.

Just so I am not misunderstood, let me clarify what I am stating here. I don’t want to disparage Christian families as holding self-imposed, superstitious legalistic standards if they have tighter convictions than I do regarding watching TV. That’s not my point. The parents may have a compelling case as to why they affirm such convictions.

However, if they plan to “shelter” their kids with those strict convictions, that shelter had better be built upon a solid, theological and biblically accurate foundation or it risks being toppled by the real world when the kids leave home. Rather than believing a child’s faith is at risk of being stolen by the “real world” especially when kids go off for college, parents should see the real world as exposing the reality of their faith.

If a Christian homeschooled kid becomes an atheist during the first semester at college and abandons everything his parents believe, that doesn’t mean he or she lacked social skills or was overly sheltered or that homeschooling is a terrible option as some former homeschoolers want people to believe. Their defection only demonstrates the soundness of the material in the so-called “shelter:” It was made of sand.

Studies in Eschatology [4]

Type Casting the Bible

I have taken up the subject of eschatology and my endeavor has been to share what I have learned. My hope is to be fair with dissenting positions; I want to discuss them accurately without the employment of strawmen.

Before I jump into exploring various eschatology systems, it is necessary to spend some time going over a few foundational matters, particularly an examination of the hermeneutical principles brought to the relevant, eschatological texts by the variety of theological systems. I have observed three broad areas of hermeneutics where eschatological systems will disagree with each other: The relationship of the NT with the OT, How to interpret prophetic passages, and the Israel/Church distinction. Those areas will over lap with each other to be sure, but I have found there is enough of a pronounced difference between them that I can present a specific review of each one.

With this post I wish to draw attention to a second area of hermeneutics: The Interpretation of Prophetic Passages.

The word “eschatology” means “those things pertaining to the end-times.” The Bible explicitly tells us there will be an end to the whole of human history – the last day. Our world is being directed to a final day when God will bring our age to an end, Jesus Christ will return and humanity judged. The Bible records many passages of prophetic revelation spoken by a number of godly men who outline the details to those events. All systems of eschatology agree to the certainty of Christ’s return and humanity’s judgment and the end of all things. Where they disagree sharply with one another is with how we are to understand the unfolding of the details.

As I noted in my last post, a good part of how we apply our hermeneutics to the prophetic passages is dependent upon our theological presuppositions. I pointed out how those who hold to the convictions of Reformed covenant theology will utilize what is called an apostolic hermeneutic, in which the original “OT words are not always the ultimate meaning that the divine author had in mind” [Crenshaw and Gunn, 12]. This so-called apostolic hermeneutic, then, is also believed to provide the proper perspective for understanding the true meaning of the OT prophecies. Hence, what the OT prophet seems to mean by his prophetic oracle at first reading may have some greater meaning, or perhaps mean something all together different, in the NT.

Contrasted with how the apostolic hermeneutic handles the interpretation of prophecy, other non-covenant Reformed Christians believe a prophet’s prophecy must be initially understood according to the original meaning it was given. Now, that is not say when we come to the NT, the progress of revelation will reveal extended application of the prophecy to spiritual things pertaining to the coming NT ministry of Christ and the apostles. However, that does not mean the original message of the prophecy is annulled and the NT Church entirely absorbs its fulfillment.

Consider, for example, how James utilizes the prophecy of Amos 9:11, 12 during the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.

In response to hearing how gentiles were coming to faith in Christ, James cites Amos 9:11, 12 as foretelling of the time when the gentiles would come to salvation. The typical Reformed covenant position of this passage says James was interpreting the prophecy of Amos, which was originally spoken to the house of Israel, to apply completely to the NT Church. The “raising of the ruins of the Tabernacle of David” and how “they will possess the gentiles,” is fulfilled in the new tabernacle, the Church, comprised of both Jews and gentiles [Robertson, 89-108].

But note that James does not cite the entire oracle, just the words spoken about how the raising of the tabernacle of David will cause the gentiles to be possessed. Nothing in the original prophecy of Amos, nor with the citation by James, suggests the remainder of the prophecy, Amos 9:13-15 has been completely fulfilled by the NT Church.

Those last 3 verses in Amos speak to the people of Israel, who are called “My people” by the Lord, as being “planted in their land” and “no longer shall they be pulled up.” Though Amos originally gave his prophecy to the people of Israel, an additional fulfillment of it is the gentiles coming to faith in Christ. However, that does not mean the rest of the prophecy has been canceled and will no longer be fulfilled as Amos predicted.

If one looks carefully, he will notice there are two contrasting hermeneutical approaches being employed. The covenant Reformed position tends towards a more spiritualized or typological application of OT prophecy (though adherence will insist they are being “literal” when interpreting the text), where as the non-covenant Reformed positions reads the same prophecies in a more literal sense. And herein lies the center of disagreement between eschatological systems.

The covenant Reformed Christian accuses the non-covenant Reformed Christian of “wooden literalism.” Their “literalism” is ridiculed as being absurd: “How can a spiritual being like the devil be bound with a chain?” and “Where’s that bottomless pit to be found?” However, non-covenant Reformed Christians will often ridicule his opponent by saying he is unwittingly employing a play-doh like reading of the Bible, shaping it in any fashion that may fit his preconceived theology. If we spiritualize the prophecies of the OT and turn them into metaphors, types, and analogies, what keeps a person from spiritualizing other portions of the Bible, like the creation week of Genesis or the Resurrection of Jesus?

There is some truth to those accusations. Regarding the wooden-literalist charge, I have in mind Hal Lindsey claiming the locust in Revelation 9 are chemical spraying Apache helicopters, and we can see the abuse of typology in the way certain groups of Reformed preterists mangle the flood narrative in Genesis 7-8. In the end, however, such exchanges are pointless. Both positions acknowledge the authority of God’s Word and are attempting to gain an understanding of the text by the use of exegesis. Yet it is the exegesis being interpreted according to theological presuppositions, especially when exegeting eschatological prophetic passages.

I will be bold enough to say all sides cannot be correct in the application of their hermeneutics on prophetic texts. Obviously, as I have wrestled through the issues and have finally settled on my eschatological convictions, I believe my position is the correct one. I have come to that conviction because I believe there is a consistence between my exegesis and hermeneutics when those principles are applied to eschatological theology. For me, that is the key: is my hermeneutics and exegesis consistent and are both being applied consistently to the biblical passages?

 So how do I pursue consistency? Allow me to consider four important principles:

1) Prophecy can be defined as “the content of the special revelation which specifically called men received and by which they explained the past, elucidated the present, and disclosed the future” [Kaiser, 42]. The best rule of thumb when interpreting prophecy is to believe the language of the prophets in a natural way [Kaiser, 43], and view the referents of the prophecy in the manner in which the prophet originally intended. Again, see the example above with James citing Amos. Later revelation may clarify or add to the previous prophecy, but it should not be re-interpreted in an overreaching way that was never intended by the original prophet.

2) Prophets often spoke in symbolic and figurative language, but such symbolism should not automatically be spiritualized to mean something different than what the original prophet intended to convey, or be a license to interpret all prophecy with a spiritualized or typological hermeneutic. For example, the book of Revelation certainly contains symbolic images, but does the presence of such symbolism automatically discount chapter 20 from speaking of a real, earthly reign of Christ for 1,000 years – 365,000 days? (I will write about Revelation 20 in a later article).

When interpreting symbolic language, an important principle should be considered. That being, the absurdity of language when taken literally and the clarity when taken symbolically. Matt Waymeyer explains the principle this way,

With symbolic language there is something inherent itself that compels the interpreter to seek something other than the literal meaning … when the interpreter has concluded the literal meaning of the language is absurd and ought to be abandoned, the symbolic interpretation will yield some degree of clarity to the meaning of the language of the text [Waymeyer, 51].

For instance, when the prophet Isaiah says “The trees of the field will clap their hands,” he does not mean to say the trees will come alive like the Ents from The Lord of the Rings (the absurdity of language when taken literal), but the prophet does mean to say there will be great rejoicing with the return of Israel from exile (the clarity of the language when understood symbolically).

3) There is also an important need to recognize a three-fold classification of biblical prophecy: unconditionally fulfilled, conditionally fulfilled, and sequentially fulfilled [Kaiser, 35]. Recognizing these classifications will help with how to interpret the meaning of biblical prophecy.

Unconditionally fulfilled prophecy is when God obligates Himself to carry out the terms for the fulfillment. God has bound Himself to see to it that those prophecies are carried out [Kaiser, 35]. Some examples of unconditionally fulfillment are the promises, specifically the land promises, made to Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3, 15:9-21).

Conditionally fulfilled prophecy has an “unless” or “if” condition attached to it. The blessings and cursings outlined in Deuteronomy 28 are a good example of this. If Israel obeys, God will bless. If they do not, God will bring cursing.

Then sequentially fulfilled prophecy are prophecies fulfilled in stages. A good example is the destruction of Tyre as recorded in Ezekiel 26:7-14. When God judged Tyre, it was started by Nebuchadnezzar, but wasn’t finished until Alexander the Great. Elijah’s prophecy against Naboth’s murder is another example (1 Kings 21:19). The full prophecy impacted Ahab and then his later son, Joram [Kaiser, 38, 39].

4) Understanding the proper application of biblical typology is also relevant with interpreting prophecy correctly. “Typological interpretation is specifically the interpretation of the OT based on the fundamental theological unity of the two testaments whereby something in the OT shadows, prefigures, adumbrates something in the NT” [Ramm, 223]. What is interpreted in the Old is not foreign or peculiar or hidden, but rises naturally out of the text due to the relationship of the two testaments.

Benard Ramm lists six important types seen in Scripture:


Persons
– For example Adam = Christ

Institutions – The Levitical sacrifices = the Cross of Christ

Offices – The high priest = The ministry Jesus Christ

Events
– The wilderness wanderings (1 Cor. 10:6, 11). Slavery in Egypt picturing Israel’s enslavement in exile (Deut. 28:68)

Actions
– Lifting up the brazen serpent = Christ being lifted up in crucifixion

Things – Tabernacle = The presence of God with His people [Ramm, 231, 232; Weir, 68]

The danger with types, however, is reading into them much more than what the original author intended to convey. Also, hunting down types when none really exist. As much as I love A.W. Pink as an author, his writings are filled with discussions on types and anti-types when none really existed in the text. Honestly, some of those boards in the tabernacle were only meant to hold up the curtains. Bishop Marsh, in his book Lectures on the Criticism and Interpretation of the Bible wisely stated, “A type is a type only if the NT specifically so designates it to be such” [Ramm, 219].

Now, we will see how those principles work out as I move along through my series, and I hope to demonstrate how they provide a consistent connection between prophetic passages and eschatological theology.

*******
Sources

Curtis Crenshaw and Grover E. Gunn III, Dispensationalism: Today, Yesterday, Tomorrow, (Footstool Publications: Memphis TN, 1985)

Walter Kaiser, Back Toward the Future: Hints for Interpreting Biblical Prophecy, (Baker Books: Grand Rapids MI, 1989)

Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics (3rd rev. ed.), (Baker Books: Grand Rapids MI, 1970)

O. Palmer Robertson, “Hermenuetics of Continuity,” Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments, (Crossway Books: Westchester IL, 1988)

Matthew Waymeyer, Revelation 20 and the Millennium Debate, (Kress Christian Publications: The Woodlands TX, 2004)

Jack Weir, “Analogus Fulfillment: The Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament,” Perspectives in Religious Studies 9 (Spring 1982)

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [15]

Is Christianity Homophobic?

I continue with my review of Chaz Bufe, blues guitar playing Christian hater, and his 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

With his next point, Chaz charges the Christian faith with promoting and engaging in homophobia. Because Chaz’s descriptions of Christian homophobia are a bit crass, I will not reproduce them in full, but direct readers here if they are interested in viewing them.

Like all of Chaz’s previous complaints against Christianity, he demonstrates an embarrassing lack of understanding of what it is he criticizes.

He begins by launching an attack against the book of Leviticus and the specific laws by which the people of Israel were to be governed. Chaz’s reaction to those laws is to say they were unnecessarily harsh rules against what he describes as trivial offenses. The “trivial” offenses he lists as illustrations from the book of Leviticus include adultery, bestiality, high-handed rebellion against one’s parents, and of course, homosexual behavior. In the real world inhabited by rational people, not some anarchist utopian dreamland envisioned by Chaz, those are not trivial offenses.

Taking a page out of the gaystapo playbook, Chaz appeals to the cliched argument that Christians are selective in which laws from Leviticus they will emphasize. How can they agree with the prohibition against homosexuality when such prohibitions also exist against eating pork and lobster?

Yep. You read that right. A smug Christian hater, who doesn’t give the slightest indication he has even read the Bible, telling me what I am supposed to believe about the Bible. Amazing.

Anyone giving a surface reading to Leviticus will quickly note Chaz draws a ridiculous imbalance from the text. The death penalty was not administered against those who ate Outback Steakhouse’s coconut shrimp or Chili’s baby back pork ribs. The death penalty was only prescribed for those individuals who engaged in behaviors, like homosexual sex and bestiality, that were extremely detrimental to society, and I would add, cut sharply against the holiness of God as revealed to God’s redeemed people.

Additionally, in regards to Leviticus, the laws against eating unclean animals were put away at the coming of Christ. See Peter’s vision in Acts 10, for the key example. Those food laws had the specific purpose of keeping God’s special people, Israel, separated from the pagan nations surrounding them at the time. The food laws were only necessary for the time Israel was a theocratic nation dwelling in the land. The laws which define, regulate, and prohibit human sexual behavior, including homosexuality, are a reflection of God’s moral attributes and thus transcend both Testaments as well as all people groups across the world.

Chaz further accuses Christians as being purveyors of general homophobia. I can certainly understand the aversion a common person, either Christian or non-Christian, would have toward homosexual behavior. People instinctively know homosexuality is against what is natural concerning human sexuality, and generally, those engaged in the lifestyle are involved with such vile perversions of the flesh that the expressions of such shock the senses with a gut churning revulsion. If one should witness the wretched scenes from a typical San Francisco street fair catering to the sexual fetishes frequently occurring in the homosexual community, a person in his right mind would be homophobic.

Chaz has made it clear that he doesn’t like Christians because they stifle sexual expression. He noted under points 9 and 10 of his booklet that, in his anarchist opinion, Christians have an unhealthy preoccupation with sex and produce a lifestyle of sexual misery. Christians are foolish, he argues, thinking they can prohibit sex among people to total monogamy because “human beings are by nature highly sexual beings. Their urges very often do not fit into the only officially sanctioned Christian form of sexuality (monogamous, heterosexual marriage).”

But I will go out on a limb and venture a guess that Chaz would be a “pedophobe,” a person fearful of adults having sex with young teens or even pre-teen children. Would he be willing to grant Jack McClellan (I let the reader Google his name), a notorious self-confessed pedophile (even though he says he never has touched a child), the freedom to indulge his urges even if it was with a consensual young teen?

Jack argued during an interview a number of years ago on local LA talk radio that his desires were really just his orientation. In fact, Jack even made the comparison of his sexual attraction for little girls to that of a man or woman’s homosexual attraction to the same sex. Will Chaz advocate for Jack against stodgy, sexually repressive Christianity? Jack even says he is an atheist with anarchist leanings, so he is a kindred spirit with Chaz.

I personally believe the Christian church can do better with ministering to people caught in the sin of homosexuality. I think Christian’s overall have stumbled in this area of outreach. But an aversion to homosexuality as a lifestyle and a conviction that homosexuals are trapped in a filthy sin from which they need to repent is hardly “homophobia.”

If anything, such a concern on the part of Christians is genuine love toward those enslaved to the sin. Statistics and real life facts show that the young men and women engaged in homosexuality live destructive lifestyles which only shorten their lives. To warn them to flee from that bondage of deceptive foolishness by calling them to repentance and submission to their creator who is the only one who can provide genuine redemption is not a phobia to be criticized, but a compassion which should be commended.

Suicide Solution

I wrote this up several years ago when Earth Day was becoming a social media phenomenon. Still relevant and timely.

molech

A group calling itself the Optimum Population Trust claims humanity is having way too many babies.

All the extra children are badly ruining the carbon offset of our planet and hence having an impact upon global warming.

The math is simple: More babies = higher CO2 levels = higher global temperatures = more displaced polar bears floating around on itty-bitty icebergs.

The solution to this problem offered by the OPT is for people to stop having babies. If you must have a baby, maybe one is okay; possibly two, but certainly not three.

My family, by the way, has already broken the quota.

The fine folks of the Sea Shepherd Society also believe humanity has become a disease of sorts upon mother earth. Like a raging flesh eating staph infection or an Ebola outbreak, the presence of all these people is causing the earth to break out into a fever.

I must say I believe this is a disturbing ideology, but I see such suicidal tendencies as a logical conclusion to radical, secular humanism. When a worldview places the material world in higher value over human life so that one is willing to deprive him or herself of the blessing of children, and their own existence, nihilistic atheism has reached its end game. The final step is to ask for volunteers to sacrifice themselves for the earth by committing mass euthanasia. If none are prepared to come forward, and this environmental death cult were to have governmental power, they could always extinguish any extra children by force.

I didn’t know environmentalists were so down on kids.

Soylent Green is People!

In truth, an environmentally friendly, child-free world is becoming a reality. This suicidal humanism has already taken firm root in the hearts and minds of Europeans and is slowly doing the job suggested by the Optimum Population Trust. In a society totally abandoned to cradle-to-grave welfare, living carefree lives, working no more than 28 hours a week, attending nude beaches during that paid, month long, mandatory vacation, having children around can really cramp your style.

Couples are having no more than one child as it is. If the trend continues, Western Europe will have bred itself out within 40 to 50 years. That mindset is growing here in the good old U.S. of A. as well, particularly in the finger waging from our university elite. So, Americans are slowly coming up from behind and closing in our European kin.

I believe the environmental global warming scare is the secular atheists pagan religion.

The physical earth is the god worshiped. It is a god that can be proven, because it is a tangible object men can physically witness and test.

Evolution is the religion used to explain this god, how it birthed life and takes care of its creatures. Occasionally, the god acts displeased and displays its fury against the sinful creatures by means of storms, floods, and famine.

However, specific, often self-appointed holy men or prophets, say for example Al Gore, claim to have special knowledge about how the god has been sinned against. The only thing that will appease the god is a sacrifice of some sort. In this case, the appeasement is a radical change in our standard and way of living, including the sacrifice of a the third child if necessary.

But this god is capricious and fickle and certainly unpredictable when it comes to issues of morality. Why should I even obey it in the manner the Optimum evangelists preach? If suicide is the only viable solution to appease this god, I think I will enjoy the love and laughter of my extra kids and take my chances.

Inerrancy from the Peanut Gallery

galleryI had a commenter leave a few challenges against the doctrine of inerrancy under a recent post of mine. He asked in such a way that he comes across pious and reverent of God’s Word, but I believe he is insincere.

Knowing that many readers will encounter similar individuals, I thought I would offer my responses here on the front page of the blog. I won’t respond to everything, but here are some selected comments.

It might be helpful for you to define what you mean by “inerrancy”?

I thought I provided a clear enough definition in my posts, but if a formal definition is required, inerrancy would simply be “The Bible is without error.”

Knowing that my detractor will be far from satisfied with such a simplistic and easy definition, I will expand upon it a bit more by citing Wayne Grudem. He writes at great length on the attributes of Scripture in his systematic theology [chapters 2-8, 47-140], and sums up the doctrine of inerrancy by stating,

We will not at this point repeat the arguments concerning the authority of Scripture that were given in chapter 4. There it was argued that all the words in the Bible are God’s words, and that therefore to disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. It was argued further that the Bible clearly teaches that God cannot lie or speak falsely (2 Samuel 7:28; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). Therefore, all words in Scripture are claimed to be completely true and without error in any part (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 12:6; 119:89, 96; Proverbs 30:5; Matthew 24:35). God’s words are, in fact, the ultimate standard of truth (John 17:17) [Grudem, 90].

The doctrine of inerrancy is brought into focus as we consider what the whole of Scripture teaches about itself. Inerrancy, then, does not exist as a stand alone doctrine, but is supported by the doctrine of inspiration and infallibility, doctrines affirmed throughout the entirety of the Bible. An inspired, or God breathed revelation, will be both infaillible and inerrant, because it reflects the character of the holy, truthful God who breathed out Scripture.

The Bible makes zero claims to inerrancy. Not one. Not for “the Bible,” not even for “scripture.” The claims to “inerrancy” are a human construct, not a biblical one. Not something “from God…” at least not in any direct manner. It is, at best, a belief reached using human reasoning, extrapolating the idea from (very little in) the Bible.

That is a typical claim by biblio-skeptics. Jack Rogers, who once fought against Harold Lindsell over the authority of Scripture, popularized the urban legend that the concept of inerrancy was an invention by Fundamentalists in the late 1800s and early 1900s when they were battling modernistic creep in the church.

But anyone who is just the wee bit familiar with church history knows that Christians have always believed in inerrancy because the Bible affirms it. The claim made by my detractor, that the Bible “makes zero claims to inerrancy,” causes me to wonder how much of the Bible he has actually read, or at least, paid attention to when he read it.

While it is true that the exact word “inerrancy” is not directly used in the Bible, the Bible presupposes the doctrine of inerrancy throughout its pages, and appeals to it as a final, infallible source of authority. Both Jews and Christians have historically affirmed that presupposition.

Time prevents me from fleshing this out in full, but to highlight a handful of significant truth:

The biblical writers, both in the OT and the NT, refer to the Bible as the “Word of God” or the “Word of the LORD,” and when speaking to the authority of Scripture, use such expressions as “it is written,” and “thus saith the Lord” hundreds of times. Also, the Scriptures are called “the law of the LORD,” “the testimony of the LORD,” “the commandments of the LORD,” and “the judgments of the LORD” throughout the Old Testament. In fact, Psalm 119, the longest Psalm that specifically exalts the authority of Scripture, describes the Bible multiple times by repeatedly using those descriptors and variations.

Coming to the NT, Jesus had an extremely high view of Scripture’s authority, infallibility, and inerrancy. He held the OT to be historically true, completely authoritative, and divinely inspired. He believed that the God of the OT was living, and the OT Scriptures were the teachings of the living God. When Jesus taught, it is clear He believed what Scripture said is what God Almighty had said.

Consider that Jesus treated the OT as genuine historical narrative, not allegory or moral tales. The Bible for Jesus recorded history that really happened in time and space. He refers to Abel (Luke 11:51), Noah (Matthew 24:37), Abraham (John 8:56), Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15; 11:23-24), Lot (Luke 17:28-32), Issac and Jacob (Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:28), the giving of manna (John 6:31, 49, 58), The serpent on the pole (John 3:14), David (Mark 2:25; 12:36; Luke 6:3-4; 20:42), Solomon (Matthew 6:29; Luke 11:31), Elijah (Luke 4:25-26), Elisha (Luke 4:27), Jonah (Matthew 12:39-41; Luke 11:29-32) and Zechariah (Luke 11:51).  In fact, in Luke 11:51, Jesus had a clear sense of the scope and unity of biblical history when He says, “From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.”

Moreover, Jesus repeatedly refers to Moses as the law giver, (Matthew 8:4; 19:8; Mark 1:44; 7:10; 10:5; 12:26; Luke 5:14; 20:37; John 5:46; 7:19) and the historicity of the OT events. Jesus even appeals to Genesis 1 and 2 as the authority on what God has said about marriage and divorce. Additionally, he speaks of Noah and the worldwide flood (Matthew 24:37), the divine destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 11:23-24), and notes the demise of Lot’s wife (Luke 17:26-32).

He also held high the infallible authority of the OT to correct the Pharisees and Sadducees when they attempted to challenge Him, appealed to the OT as a guide to ethics, refuted the devil by appealing to the OT, and when Christ appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Luke says that “beginning with Moses and all the prophets,” (Luke 24:25-47), He showed how all the OT Scripture pointed to and were fulfilled in Him. All of those conversations would be questionable, if not entirely in doubt, if Jesus did not believe the Bible was inerrant.

The NT writers also had an equal view of the OT being their supreme authority. Without having to recount the many citations of the OT found in the key epistles of the NT, it is clear that all the apostles recognized the Scriptures were sufficiently inerrant as they recounted history and ethics.  They were considered the “very words of God,” (Romans 3:2).

Take for example Paul’s well-known proclamation about the Scriptures in his second letter to Timothy where he writes, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If the Scriptures are errant, there is no point in appealing to them in the fashion that Paul did. An errant Scripture has no real authority to offer any meaningful correction or training in righteousness because it is constantly in doubt.

The Bible is a human compilation. Humans decided that this Protestant collection of 66 books are “as Scripture” for us and we hold them to be sacred texts.

Regrettably, that comment is typical of many churched individuals in our day, and demonstrates a profound ignorance of church history throughout many so-called evangelical congregations.

The key problem with the objection, and coming from a person who insists he loves the Bible and has read and studied it for decades, is how the divine element involved in the formation of Scripture is absent or intentionally removed out of the discussion. If the Bible is God-breathed, as I just noted above, then God’s fingerprints are on the development, collection, transmission, and even preservation of those documents that are Scripture. God would hardly breathe out Scripture, and then allow it to fall through the cracks of time, becoming corrupted and thus uncertain or lost.

The objection merely fixates upon the fact men were involved with identifying the books that form the canon of both the OT and the NT. Yet it is seen in the very pages of Scripture that while men were the instruments in proclaiming and then documenting the Word of God that became what we know as Scripture, God’s Spirit was always involved in the process of its writing, and then its identification, and eventual transmission.

God wanted to communicate with His redeemed people, and He specifically brought them to be a “people of the book.” That is true both in the OT as well as in the NT. Paul says for example in Romans 3:2, that Israel was entrusted with the oracles of God. An entire scribal class within the tribe of Levi was developed that maintained the writings of the OT. The Levitical priests were to read and teach the Scripture to the people.

While the formation of the NT may had been slightly different, the Christians in the early church were also a people of the book, and they began gathering the writing of men they knew were apostles. Within the first century, Christians were collecting the writings of Paul, the four Gospels, as well as other epistles, and circulating them among the various churches where groups of Christians would also copy those letters. Those collections became identified as the beginnings of what is today our NT.

There has been much written on the subject of the canon, but I am not surprised that my detractor seems oblivious to those studies, because he has such a low view of the doctrine of infallibility. Those who are interested, will benefit greatly from Michael Kruger, who is probably one of the leading authorities on the development of the canon. As an introduction for those wishing to have a better grasp answering objections about the canon of Scripture, Dr. Kruger has written a series of ten articles addressing misconceptions about the NT canon. Those who wish to dig deeper into this topic will greatly benefit from his book, Canon Revisited.

Moving to one final response,

I had written in this post the following statement,

durstGod safeguards the transmission of His written revelation through the thousands of copies handwritten by His people, both during the time of the OT and the time of the NT.

My detractor, writing in rebuttal stated, Can we agree that this is an unsupported human opinion, not a fact, and not in any way at all directly biblical?

It is not entirely clear what he believes is “unsupported human opinion.” Is it my assertion about God safeguarding the transmission of His revelation? Is my detractor now saying God doesn’t, or is perhaps powerless to, safeguard the transmission of His revelation? Or is it that he doesn’t believe God did it through the means of thousands of copies handwritten by His people?

I would firmly maintain that God most definitely has the ability to safeguard the transmission of His revelation. I mean, if we acknowledge that God is our sovereign creator, sustainer, and savior, He most certainly has the power to keep His divine revelation as contained in the pages of Scripture in the hands of His people down through the course of history.

Additionally, I further maintain that God used the means of His people to faithfully copy His revelation during the time of the OT and NT. And, as anyone knows who has the least bit of familiarity with textual criticism, the people of God who made those faithful copies did a remarkable job – dare I even say “miraculous” like there was a divine hand directing the process. The copying was so complete and well-done that even with the numerous, but inconsequential, textual variants, we can know with 100% accuracy what God originally stated.

Now does that mean there are no variants that are problematic and are debated among Christians over the centuries. Of course not. But it does show what I originally asserted: God has safeguarded the transmission of His revelation as it is contained in Scripture, and He has done so faithfully over the course of many years with the use of people copying thousands of manuscripts.