Responding to Non-Inerrancy Challenges

settingitstraightI noted in a previous post that when I began blogging back 2005, one of the first blog duels I had was with a Unitarian heretic who was challenging the doctrine of inerrancy.

Come to find out the fellow had some friends who rushed to his side during our debate, I mean, dialog. I took a number of their challenges and responded to them in a couple of follow up posts for my blog.

I thought I would re-edit and remaster the material and combine them into this one post.

If God had so desired the Bible to be inerrant, there would be no flaws in the copies. Why would there be?

My detractor apparently does not understand the nature of the “errors” in question. He is making the assumption copyist errors have a detrimental impact on the message of Scripture. That they either cause God’s revelation to be clouded or lost altogether. That has never been the case. Copying errors happen in all handwritten documents. That includes extra-biblical ones as well. However, the vast amount of textual evidence we have for Scripture testifies to the consistency and continuity of God’s written revelation.

For example, after the Babylonian exile, three independent textual families grew from the Hebrew Scriptures: One in Babylon, another in Egypt (remember, a group of Jews left by the Babylonians migrated to Egypt – Jeremiah 41-43), and still another in Palestine. After the return from exile some 70 years later, all of the available copies of the Hebrew Bible were gathered up and compiled into a standard text. Even between three separate textual streams, after diligent comparison, the OT text was found to be still intact and God’s Word had not been lost.

We see the same thing with the NT documents, too. Textual scholars speak of the tenacity of those copying errors. In other words, once a copying error comes into the text, it never drops out. A copyist will note the discrepancies in the margin of his copy, and it becomes part of the transmission process. But, like I wrote, careful textual criticism can weed out those slight discrepancy to almost pure accuracy. Though we don’t have the original autograph, we have a close enough facsimile of it that we can be confident in God’s preservation.

You cannot prove that the Bible is inerrant by quoting the Bible itself!

My challenger raises the circularity fallacy. That if anyone appeals to the Bible as an authority to demonstrate the Bible’s authority, he is arguing in a circle. But what other source of authority would he recommend I quote? If God’s Word is what it claims to be, a divine revelation from God Himself, and it testifies to God’s nature, which He has established as trustworthy during His dealings with His redeemed people, why then can I not quote the Bible to demonstrate inerrancy?

The charge of circularity is misapplied. I would have been engaged in circularity if I had stated something like: The Bible is God’s Word, because The Bible says it is God’s Word; but, I didn’t do that. I specifically wrote that God’s Word is bound to God’s character and nature which He has personally revealed in space and time to eye witnesses. The Bible contains the testimony of those eye witnesses who saw God reveal Himself. For instance in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.

Furthermore, God has also consistently proven His faithfulness to His people. Psalm 78, for example, is a Psalm calling Israel back to remembering what God had done. God has proven His character by witnessing Himself to His own character – a character He has put on display by the acts He has performed. Thus, I can rightly conclude the Bible is God’s Word, because God has personally stated that it is. That is what 2 Timothy 3:16 means.

But, if my Unitarian challenger still insists I am arguing in a circle, then I would also call upon Jesus Himself who testified to the authenticity of God’s Word in His various sermons and discussions during His teaching ministry, as well as the testimony of God’s prophets and apostles, both of which bore the marks of being God’s messengers, see for example Paul’s own testimony concerning himself in 2 Corinthians 12:12.

I have no doubt that large portions of the Bible were edited by the Catholic Church for obvious reasons. Kings have kingdoms to protect, and only when you begin to view Scripture in the light of the politics of the day do the facts begin to speak for themselves.

Ah yes, the old conspiracy theory angle. How does one even justify such a conspiracy theory? Here in fact is a genuine example of exaggerated circularity. What proof exists to affirm his conviction that the Catholic Church intentionally altered the biblical texts? Who was involved with it? When did it take place? I am only guessing he means the ROMAN Catholic Church and not the little “c” catholic Church. If that is the case, the text of Scripture was affirmed and in circulation among God’s people several hundred years before the ROMAN Catholic Church named their first pope.

Additionally, here is another example where the KJV Only apologists and liberals merge in their philosophy of Scripture: both groups adhere to speculative conspiracy theories about how the Bible came into being. The KJV onlyist believes a cabal of nefarious heretics snuck false doctrine into the text. The liberals believe powerful political figures manipulated the text. But, the tinfoil hat view of textual criticism just does not stand up under the crushing weight of the historical evidence.

The want of original autographs is only one factor that invalidates the inerrantist position. The most damaging factor is the phenomena of the text itself, which is inconsistent with the high claims made on its behalf. (Note the thickness of Haley’s “Alleged Discrepancies.”)

First off, Haley’s work has been reprinted, and the newer edition is not nearly as thick as the commenter would have us believe. Also, Haley deals more with discrepancies between two historical accounts as recorded in the Bible, like harmonizing the four Gospel narratives or the similar accounts between the books of Samuel and Chronicles.

Critics of Scripture insist that differing historical records of the same event must all read the same, even if they are written by – as in the case of the Gospels – four different individuals. Hence, any apparent conflict between the narratives is automatically assumed to represent contradictory information, rather than complementary information. I have never understood that viewpoint. Do those individuals assume, let’s say, four different historians writing about the life of President Truman, must all read the same? It is a ridiculous criticism.

The Unitarian critic is doing what many non-inerrantists do and that is to confuse the inerrancy of the autographic text (the words of the document) with the inerrancy of the autographic codex (the physical document). The loss of the latter does not entail loss of the former. In other words, just because a document wears out, becomes soiled, damaged, and unreadable, does not mean the message of that document has been lost. If it has been faithfully copied, the autographic words still remain with us. There are very few of Geoffery Chaucer’s original, autographic writings available; but is there anyone who does not believe the printed edition I can purchase off Amazon represents what he originally wrote?

Both the OT and NT have been faithfully copied. Textual criticism has restored the original autographic words to near pristine fullness. Scholars may vigorously debate the authenticity of some of the key textual variants, but nothing has been lost because the full text, even with variants, is still in our possession, and the variants do nothing to harm or corrupt the true word of God. Propositional revelation still exists for God’s people to hear the voice of God.

It is possible to quote a source (such as the Bible) as authoritative without requiring that it be infallible. 

Non-inerrantists like to say how we quote from authoritative sources like an encyclopedia or even Wikipedia without them necessarily being “inerrant” or “infallible.”  But an encyclopedia never claims infallibility. Wikipedia even lets people change it in real time.

The Bible, however, is bound to the character of God. The comment suggests God could either be negligent in revealing correctly and truthfully what He wanted revealed, or his spirit-anointed people were mistaken in their reception of revelation, or God intentionally deceived, or God doesn’t care about the accuracy and truthfulness of his revelation. Moreover, if the Bible is like an encyclopedia that can be revised as more information comes to light to correct it, then the implication is the previous revelation was insufficient and God is still in the process of revealing Himself.

The oft-repeated quote from 2 Peter about how “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” really does not have much bearing on this whole process that was supposed to have occurred when the authors penned their documents. The 2 Peter text is talking about speech, not writing.

I am not sure if the person has read the passage carefully. Peter specifically says, knowing this first, no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). The revelation spoken by those holy men of God was written down in Scripture. That is Peter’s main point here. There is something more sure than just spiritual experience: It is the written Word of God.

It is my contention, as I draw this post to a close, that the non-inerrantist arguments with inerrantists like myself, is not so much over the certainty of whether the autograph’s are truly represented in the texts we use today. Rather, his disagreement is with the authority the inerrantist draws from the text itself. Inerrantists (read Bible-believing Christian, here) believe God’s Word is authoritative. With it, we have a standard of truth claims by which we can make judgments and evaluate our world. Most free thinkers, whether they have “faith” or not, don’t like truth claims meddling in their personal affairs.

Liberals, KJV Onlyists, and Inerrancy

kjvoBack in 2005, when I was a brand new blogger, I had occasion to interact with a Unitarian heretic on the nature of the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. My Unitarian antagonist was drinking the postmodernist Kool-aid that truth is uncertain and not entirely, if at all, knowable, and for any Christian to say with strident confidence that the Bible is God’s infallible and inerrant Word, is childishly naive.

He posted a few articles that gave the standard arguments against the doctrines of infallibility and inerrancy that have been soundly answered over the years, but he pretended did no exist, or were not worth his investment of time to engage.

At the time I was looking for post fodder for my fledgling blog. I was also interacting with a number of King James Onlyists on various internet forums. I began to notice several similarities between what the Unitarian heretic argued against the inerrancy of Scripture and what KJV onlyists argue for the exclusivity of the KJV as the only reliable English translation. One of the primary talking points was that we do not have the original autographs of Scripture, merely copies, and they have been corrupted over time. Even though the reason why the Unitarian heretic believed they were corrupted is different than why the KJVO believes they are corrupted, their arguments for their position share many common facets.  With that strange union in mind, I compiled a post about it.

The 2015 Shepherd’s Conference has been called a summit on the doctrine of inerrancy. This being the week leading up that summit, I want to repost my article I wrote on the subject some 10 years ago now, slightly updated and edited.

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My Unitarian challenger alleges that the doctrine of inerrancy is erroneous. The reason being, he argues, is the fact the Christian church does not possess any of the original autographs written by the prophets and apostles. We don’t have Paul’s original epistle to the Colossians or John’s original Gospel, etc. All we have in our possession today are copies upon copies; and those copies are several hundred years removed from the first century.

In other words, no one can be absolutely sure what the Bible originally said, because unless God safeguarded the manuscript copyists from error, He never really intended to give the church an inerrant Bible. Thus, evangelical fundamentalists are mistaken to be so dogmatic about any of their convictions and the postmodern leanings of free thinking Unitarians are vindicated.

Now, in an odd twist, our Unitarian finds himself in agreement with some extremely strange bedfellows from the King James Version Only camp. That is because KJVO advocates hold to the same belief about the autographs as the liberals do. They claim we no longer have the autographs either and the copies have been corrupted.

However, rather than believing the Bible is errant and unreliable with its content, the KJVO advocate believes God’s Word is perfectly contained in one, infallible, purely preserved translation: the King James Version original published in 1611. Here we have two entirely different conclusions about the Bible, but the exact same starting point regarding the original writings.

How does a biblically thinking Christian approach the doctrine of inerrancy? Can we trust the Bible is inerrant even if we don’t have the original autographs? Or, must we appeal to a special translation that is supposedly marked with God’s hand of providence?

The doctrine of inerrancy is built upon three important pillars. Let’s consider them in order.

First, inerrancy is bound to the character of God. The Scriptures declare God’s desire to reveal Himself to men. Because we know God is holy, righteous, and incapable of lying, we are certain we can trust any revelation from Him as being truthful and accurate in all areas.

Some non-inerrantists may suggest the truthfulness of God’s revelation only pertains to spiritual truths, or even perhaps one central focus of Scripture that can be separated from the unbelievable portions. God, they will argue, is not concerned with the precision of historical information and other non-spiritual details. So that, when the Bible comes into conflict with man’s knowledge about science, archaeology, and other similar disciplines, it is concluded the Bible is probably in error. God didn’t care to preserve the accuracy of such facts anyway, so we are at liberty to change them if need be.

But, in response, we also know God is the sovereign Lord of all things, and that most definitely includes His revelation. If He has the absolute authority to create everything that exists, govern nations, raise up and put down kings and their societies, then God can certainly govern the accuracy of the details recorded by the writers of Scripture. Peter confirms God’s sovereign hand in recording Scripture when he writes, for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

It is presumptuous to automatically conclude man’s speculative theories and ever-changing views of the world take precedent over the codified revelation given by the sovereign God of the universe.

This leads to a second pillar,

God 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. The body of textual evidence for the Bible is compiled from hundreds upon thousands of entire manuscripts, portions of books, fragments of books, translations into various languages, historical citations and so forth, making it the most attested piece of ancient literature ever written.

It is correct to point out how every single biblical manuscript is copied from a previous copy, and each copy will contain discrepancies to some degree or another. However, those “discrepancies” are easily explainable, and the presence of copying errors have a proper historical, literary context within the biblical canon.

Before the invention of the Gutenberg press in the 1400s, all books and other important documents were handwritten. The one common occurrence with all handwritten documentation, especially documents transmitted by copying many times over several generations, like the Bible, is the duplication of copying mistakes. All human beings are prone to marginal error with anything they do, regardless of how talented a person may be. When it comes to copying a document, even one as valued as the Bible, people will still misspell words, miss a word here or there, repeat the same sentence and so on. Additionally, the text being copied may be damaged physically or maybe missing sections and it will contain copying errors made from the previous copier.

On the outset, numerous copies with many copying errors appear to be a serious dilemma for the Christian believing in a pure biblical text. It is at this point, once again, where the philosophies of liberal, non-inerrantists and KJV onlyists merge.

The non-inerrantist believes those copying errors demonstrate a hopeless corruption of the biblical text. Because the original autographs were lost, no one can be absolutely sure what those documents said. That means there is no real authoritative Bible today with any specific meaning to the text.

adulteryThe KJV onlyists, on the other hand, also believe copyist errors demonstrate corruption, but corruption by heretical men who wanted to distort God’s Word. Just like the Unitarian inerrancy denier, however, they too believe no one can rightly appeal to the original autographs because they have been lost. Only the original language texts from which the KJV was translated represent the true, original autographs.

Yet, contrary to both of those erroneous viewpoints, the sheer number of copies, and their “errors,” affirms the certainty of textual preservation. God protected His revelation by allowing the biblical documents to literally “explode” across the ancient world at different times and in different locations through its many copies. In this way, His revelation was safeguarded from any one group gathering up the Scriptures and altering the content.

Within the first 300 years of the Christian church, those copies of the Scriptures were so far flung there could be no organized effort to genuinely corrupt the Bible. The one side effect, however, is the presence of minor copying errors that could always be corrected.

That leads to a third pillar.

God uses the human discipline of textual criticism to recover the originality of His Word. People have a negative misconception about textual criticism. They falsely believe it implies criticizing the supernatural aspects of God’s Word, or that it undermines the authority of the Bible in general. That is not the case at all.

Genuine, thoughtful textual criticism involves experts examining all the available textual evidence for the Bible, carefully analyzing all the various copying errors and other similar discrepancies, and then recovering and restoring, to the best of their ability, what the original documents actually said. Some believe we can know within about 98% certainty what the originals actually contained with the remaining 2% being discernable by the reader.

More importantly, scholars have discovered over the last few hundred years as they have poured over all of the available textual evidence, that those copyist errors have a minimal impact upon the Bible as a whole. Both non-inerrantist and KJV advocates exaggerate the significance of those discrepancies. The non-inerrantists insist the details of the Bible have been lost so there is no true absolute authority to be found in Scripture, and the KJVO apologists insist God’s true Word is only to be found in one 17th century translation. In reality, both positions are horribly mistaken.

Yes, it is true the Scriptures we hold in our hands today are translations from copies removed several generations from the original autographs. However, God in His marvelous sovereignty has worked His providence to preserve His Word in those copies in spite of all the variety of discrepancies. Sure, we don’t have 100% pristine accuracy with the original autographs, but God’s people can be confident they hold God’s infallible and inerrant revelation in their hands.

There are many great resources for further study on this important doctrine of inerrancy.

A good place to start is with the online edition of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.

There are also many fine books on the subject.

Two classic works worth the read are:

The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture by Princeton great, B.B. Warfield. Cornelius Van Til wrote a lengthy introduction to this work that is also a fine treatment on inspiration and inerrancy.

And, Inerrancy, edited by Norman Geisler. This is a large collection of essays by various theologians highlighting different areas pertaining to the doctrine of inerrancy. The work was out of print for some time, but I believe it has recently be made available again.

There are also some simple introductions to the doctrine of Scripture in general.

From God to Us by Norman Geisler and William Nix

Scripture Alone by James White

From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man, edited by Willams and Shaylor.
God’s Word in Our Hands – The Bible Preserved For Us, also edited by Williams and Shaylor. Both of these books compliment each other and I cannot recommend them highly enough. They both are a collection of essays on the doctrine of Scripture, preservation, translation and the transmission of the Bible. The book on preservation is probably one of the better modern treatments of that subject.

Some more advanced works include,

Canon Revisited by Michael Kruger

Inspiration and Canonicity of Scripture by R. Laird Harris

Holy Scripture – The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Vol. 1 by David King. The entire three volumes by Webster and King is worth the purchase, but the first volume deals specifically with Scripture’s infallibility and authority.

The Text of the New Testament – Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration by Bruce Metzger.

And the first section in the late Robert Reymond’s New Systematic Theology entitled, A Word from Another World is a fine review of the doctrine of Scripture.

Two books that specifically address KJV onlyism, but are good overviews on the doctrine of Scripture are,

One Bible Only? edited by Beacham and Bauder and The King James Only Controversy by James White.

 

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [12]

bigbroDoes Christianity model authoritarian organizations?

I continue once again considering the list of 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity compiled by blues guitar playing, Christ-hating anarchist, Chaz Bufe.

Thankfully, he provides us another short point that will require a short response:

14. Christianity models hierarchical, authoritarian organization. Christianity is perhaps the ultimate top-down enterprise. In its simplest form, it consists of God on top, its “servants,” the clergy, next down, and the great unwashed masses at the bottom, with those above issuing, in turn, thou-shalts and thou-shalt-nots backed by the threat of eternal damnation. But a great many Christian sects go far beyond this, having several layers of management and bureaucracy. Catholicism is perhaps the most extreme example of this with its laity, monks, nuns, priests, monsignors, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and popes, all giving and taking orders in an almost military manner. This type of organization cannot but accustom those in its sway—especially those who have been indoctrinated and attending its ceremonies since birth—into accepting hierarchical, authoritarian organization as the natural, if not the only, form of organization. Those who find such organization natural will see nothing wrong with hierarchical, authoritarian organization in other forms, be they corporations, with their multiple layers of brown-nosing management, or governments, with their judges, legislators, presidents, and politburos. The indoctrination by example that Christianity provides in the area of organization is almost surely a powerful influence against social change toward freer, more egalitarian forms of organization.

If ever there was a more amazing example of the kettle-painting-pot cliche’! Chaz is a self-professed anarchist, so I can understand why he would have problems with any authority, let alone Christianity. Yet once again Chaz’s main illustration of Christian authority gone wild is Roman Catholicism and Catholicism does not represent the whole of biblical Christianity by any stretch of the imagination.

To a degree, Chaz raises a reasonable complaint about organized religion, Christianity specifically. It certainly is true that various sects of Christianity have had their problems with authoritarian abuse. Many independent fundamental style churches whether Baptist or Pentecostal, can be governed like a local HOA board of directors who implement some of the most odious zero tolerance policies imaginable. Ridiculously strict pastors and deacons will wield an iron rod of preference issues in the guise of “godliness” over a congregation of cowering members. They unlawfully lord over the people they are meant to shepherd.

However, in spite of those problems, biblical Christianity affirms the importance of authority structures within a church and soundly condemns the abuse of authority by leaders over a congregation. Human error does not negate the truthfulness of Christianity.

When Scripture is followed as the Lord intends it to be followed, abusive authority figures will stay checked. Of course, that is not to say members may need to be firmly disciplined, but firm discipline submitted to biblically led leadership is ordained of the Lord (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5).

As an anarchist, Chaz doesn’t care a bit for any boss, or president, or leader telling him what to do with his life. But, what sort of society does Chaz the anarchist have to offer in the place of bosses and leaders? I suggest Chaz’s anarchism would be just as authoritarian and abusive as the Christianity he decries.

True anarchy desires a world where everyone is living in tribal style communities with no centralized government, working and sharing together in free thinking cooperation, friendship, and absolutely no religion. Perhaps that is the kind of anarchist utopia Chaz has in mind. People gardening, weaving baskets, gathering fruit, sewing clothes, treating each other with self-respect, living eco-friendly lives, no one being made to attend church, and of course, engaging in all the free sex a person can humanly imagine with reckless abandon and impunity. You know, the type of society that in a Star Trek universe is effortlessly assimilated by the Borg without a fight.

If only historical anarchist movements could be that benign.

The historic reality, contrary to Chaz’s visions of what anarchy should be, has been horrific and blood filled. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so does human government. For when one government is overthrown, another one most certainly will fill its place. In many cases, much worse than the first, and even if the rebel rousers express good intentions to refrain from being cruel authoritarians to each other. Orwell’s Animal Farm comes to mind, here.

A present day example of real anarchy is the country of Somalia where it was the only known world state without a centralized government between 1991 and 2006. The country was a disaster in which the poor and helpless were brutalized by those individuals who were able to gain power by means of force and violence.

Though Chaz has Pollyannish visions of living in a hobbiton style community where everyone shares equally in the collective good with no one bossing anyone else around, hierarchical authority structures have a necessary function in society. For one, authority structures make sure everything operates correctly. Such things as ease of commerce, basic emergency care, and defense. It also enforces the rules upon the members of society. Authority is designed to protect the citizenry. Does incompetence and abuse often arise within the authority structure? Certainly. But a society is much better off to find a corrective for the authority structure rather than live completely without it as Chaz envisions.

Remembering Ken Sarles, My First Theology Prof.

sarlesI stepped off an airplane in Burbank back in 92 as a wide-eyed, naive, hayseed graduate of Arkansas State University and a newly accepted Master’s Seminary student. I was so excited to be in LA preparing to study under sound preaching and teaching. I thought I knew a lot of things about the Christian faith, but suffice it to say, I was still really ignorant.

My first ever class on my first Tuesday morning at 7:30 AM was Theology I, taught by Ken Sarles.

Ken was a brand new teacher at TMS that year as well. He had just moved to LA from the Dallas area, where he had taught as an assistant professor of systematic theology at Dallas Theological Seminary.

A week or so before classes started, I received a list of all the books and syllabi I was to purchase before attending my classes. Ken’s syllabus was a massive, 500+ page monster that scared me to death. Included was his intro that explained the class course work that would involve writing up papers on various theological topics and a number of reading assignments.

We were to be given three or so major tests during the semester. They were to be “open book,” but in a Q&A style format. He likened it to the kind of questions we will receive from church lay people. We were required to write a 500 word response to each one that covered all the material we will learn in class in a cogent and concise fashion that we could draw from in our future ministries.

He also had us purchase Louis Berkhof’s systematic theology. It would be our principle text book for the course and we were to have at least 100 pages or so read before the first day of class.

As overwhelmed as I was with my 100 pages of reading and a 500+ page syllabus, after he introduced himself and worked his way through the standard preliminary remarks all profs give their classes on the first day, I became transfixed as we dove into the opening material on the doctrine of God.  I soaked in his lectures like they were life giving nourishment. I had never heard teaching like that before. Ken was the first “Calvinist” I really had as a teacher. Sure, I had read books on Calvinism and my college pastor back in Arkansas had introduced me to the doctrines, but Ken made them come alive for me in his lectures by rooting my convictions in Scripture and a proper handling of theology.

Ken filled his material with citations from the Puritans. Until then, all I knew about Puritans was that they were religious hypocrites that dressed in black and white clothes and burned innocent women as witches. Instead of dour, grim-faced killjoys, he showed us how the Puritans had a high view of God and a deep, abiding love for His Word. It was around that time that Sola Deo Gloria publishers were reprinting a lot of Puritan works, so when I had any (rare) extra money, my library quickly filled up with books by Thomas Watson (my favorite Puritan), Christopher Love, Jeremiah Burroughs, and host of others.

During our several week study on the doctrine of God, Ken cited heavily from Stephen Charnock’s two volume work on the Existence and Attributes of God. Hearing him utilize Charnock’s material in the context of our theology class stirred in me a love for his deep and profound sermons. If I remember correctly, I was blessed to find a set of those books on sale at CBD, or some other discounted Christian book seller. Charnock’s two books occupied my personal study for a number of years off and on as I plodded my way through them.

Ken was also the first person I can recall who gave a serious critique of the growing seeker-friendly approach to church growth. He called it the purple church syndrome. The church, being red, mixes with the world, which is blue, and thinking it will have a great advantage of reaching the lost by their attempt at “relevance,” only turns purple as the church members really become worldly in their amusements. He foresaw the whole mega church fad and predicted how those big churches will eventually grow more and more worldly as they attempt to maintain the huge number of people they have drawn in with their entertainment.

I tried to take every class Ken taught, but my schedule made that difficult. I missed out on taking his charismatic studies class, which I understand was a riot because he made it so fun recounting the absurd stories that came from charismatic circles. Eventually, family trials took him back to Dallas toward the end of the 90s, and though I didn’t have the opportunity to take his other classes, I cherished the ones I had taken.

Recently, I learned that Ken passed away into the presence of the Lord. He had succumbed to the cancer he had been battling. He was a relatively obscure individual. Apart from the number of men who learned from him at TMS during his years there, as well as, his circle of friends back in Texas, he never wrote any major books, wasn’t a blogger, or a well-known preacher or conference speaker. However, he certainly had a hand in aiming the trajectory of my own personal walk with the Lord, and I thank God for that.  I rejoice that he now fully realizes all of that wonderful doctrine he taught me.

Dead Charismatics Appearing in Dreams and Visions

witchThe Bible records strong words against those who practice necromancy, or what would be defined as communicating with the dead, particularly with the intent on foreseeing the future.  For instance,

Leviticus 20:27 states, A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.

A medium was a necromancer, an individual who was believed to have the ability to communicate with dead people so as to glean “revelation” about the afterlife, or even the future.

Deuteronomy 18:9-12 lists mediums, along with spiritists, soothsayers, and those who “call up the dead,” or those who would also be necromancers, as being abominations unto the Lord. No one in Israel was to have any dealings with them.

The classic biblical account of communicating with the dead comes from 1 Samuel 28. A rebellious and paranoid king Saul secretly visits the witch of Endor and asks her to conjure up the dead prophet Samuel so he can inquire of him what he should do about the imminent battle with the Philistines. He had judgment pronounced upon him, instead.

Yet, in spite of those stern warnings, modern day charismatic leaders will often enthusiastically recount their personal communications with deceased charismatic personalities.

The latest example that stirred my interest to research this topic a bit was Creflo Dollar telling how he was visited in a dream by the late Myles Monroe, who died in a plane crash with his wife and seven other associates while traveling to the Bahamas. According to Dollar, Monroe came to him in a dream three days after his funeral and told him he was leading his own homecoming to glory. After reading of Dollar’s account seeing the dead Monroe in a dream vision, I did a few searches and found an alarming number of testimonies told by various charismatic leaders about how they will visit with dead charismatic leaders who will impart some message to them.

It is important to note that the living charismatics don’t perform some spiritualistic ritual to conjure up a dead saint. In other words, they are not intentionally visiting mediums or witches to communicate with the dead, nor are they preforming a seance. Typically, their testimonies are similar to Dollar’s regarding his visit with Monroe. They involve having the dead charismatic leaders appear in visions or dreams in which they impart some message. Hence, because they see those deceased individuals in dreams or visions without any attempt on their part to communicate with the dead, the living charismatics don’t consider their experience to be occultic.

HinnOne of the more famous stories of visitations with dead charismatics is given by flamboyant televangelist, Benny Hinn. He told an audience in 1997 of how the spirit of the late televangelist, Kathryn Kuhlman, came to him early before his own ministry became well known in the form of a night vision.  She led him through a number of rooms where sick people were being healed. She tells Hinn to “do it!” that is, heal the sick, and then leads him to the Lord Himself who also shows Hinn sick people being healed and calls him to “do it.”

Now folks will say, “I expect Benny Hinn to tell some story like that, he tells that kind of stuff all the time.” Granted, that is true; but there are a number of lesser known charismatic leaders and teachers who tell of their visits from dead charismatics.

Self-proclaimed prophet and founder of Eagle View Ministries, Bobby Conner, claims the late Bob Jones, who was removed from his ministry in the early 90’s due to a sexual misconduct scandal, was revealed in a dream he had by the Holy Spirit.

Conner says of the experience,

bobjones“The Holy Spirit said, “You have a visitor.” Thinking someone was at the door, I am about to open the door. However, the Holy Spirit said, “Your visitor is at the window.” Turning to look at my windows, suddenly with a flash of light appearing just outside my window, striding down what appeared to be translucent, pearl-colored stairs, was Bob Jones. He had the most winsome, warm smile and looked absolutely wonderful. However, in the dream I was completely aware that Bob had passed and gone to Heaven on February 14, 2014.

Bob simply stepped into my study. I did not need to open the window, he just walked right in. His appearance was incredible: He was firm and fit, and he was dressed in a wonderful, soft, beautiful, elegant, white robe past his waist down below his knees, like a long shirt. His hair was extremely white and glistening. I was amazed at his skin: It was without blemish, white and soft, and his smile was truly radiant and beautiful. His eyes were bigger than normal and extremely clear, sparkling like that of an excited child.”

President of Encounters Network, James Goll, tells of how when he was ministering in Brazil, he was taken in a dream to Southern California to what he describes as the “womb of the Church.” In his vision, he was carried to an auditorium in Pasadena where he saw the deceased John Wimber shouting “Come Again Holy Spirit!” and knocking over terrified people. Goll further claims that looking upon all the commotion Wimber was causing was another dead charismatic leader, prophetess Jill Austin, who laughed and said, “I told you he was coming” and then a great cloud of other dead charismatic leaders, like Aimee Simple McPherson, was seen.

David E. Taylor, founder of Joshua Media Ministries International, who claims he has had many personal visits from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, was once taken to heaven during one of those visits, and was shown around heaven. While he was there walking around with Jesus, he was allowed to talk with a number of charismatic luminaries like Kathryn Kuhlman and Smith Wigglesworth.

Steven Springer, who is the self-appointed leader of the Global Presence Ministries, writes how he once had a dream where he encountered Billy Graham (who must’ve been astral projecting, because he wasn’t dead at the time), sitting at a desk with the portraits of John Wesley, Charles Finney, and Philip the Evangelist from Acts 8 behind him on the wall. Billy got up from his desk to lead Springer out to see five barns, and the portraits of the three men came to life and followed out with them.

Prosperity preacher, Kenneth Hagin allegedly visited two different men. Paul Keith Davis, who founded WhiteDove Ministries, claims Hagin visited him in a vision in which he came and sat down at a table with him to discuss the current state of the church and the need for faithful, truth-telling ministries. Jesse Shamp, tells how in a dream he had, he walks into a house where Hagin sat on a couch in a green suit. He laid hands on Shamp and prayed for him.

Pastor Perry Stone, whose Cleveland church was recently seen in a video performing some bizarro worship ritual around a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, interviewed his late father, Fred Stone. He tells how the ghost of a charismatic friend of his by the name of Al Collins, visited him. Fred’s inner man was taken to the edge of the universe and took a trip to heaven.

ghostThose are just a smattering of charismatic teachers and preachers who testify of extravagant dreams involving, not only dead charismatic leaders imparting to them special prophecies, but also trips to heaven, and visits by angels, and in some cases, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I imagine a number of charismatic/Pentecostal individuals will read my report and complain that I am highlighting relatively unknown, fringe individuals associated with the New Apostolic Reformation. But I believe their “fringiness” can easily be contested.

Just click over to the websites of any of those individuals I listed and read their event calendar. Nearly all of them are scheduled to participate in major charismatic conferences both here in the U.S. and internationally. Additionally, if one were to click over to Charisma Online, the website of Charisma magazine, and do a search for “dreams” or “interpreting dreams” or even “visions,” there a number of articles, a few written by some of the “ministers” I name here, exhorting readers to consider how God is revealing special plans in your own dreams.

Folks may charge me with pointing out fringe elements, but the fact of the matter is, the idea that God can and will speak to Christians through their dreams is believed to be a standard, spiritual experience within charismatic and Pentecostal circles.  While it may be true that level headed continuationists are rightly embarrassed that charismatic leaders will excitedly retell churches about their encounters with departed charismatic personalities, if you promote the belief that the Holy Spirit speaks in dreams to Christians, as outlandish as they may sound, who is to say they are not from God?

I am reminded of the words of the prophet Jeremiah,

 25 “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying,`I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’
26 “How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart,
27 “who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal. (Jeremiah 23:25-27)

 

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [11]

windmillDoes Christianity Depreciate the Natural World?

 Allow me to continue once again examining the anti-theistic claims of Chaz Bufe, the blues guitar playing anarchist.

Remember, Chaz has compiled a list of 20 reasons why Christianity must be abandoned. However, as I have been noting over the course of my series, it really is a list of Chaz’s woefully misinformed and twisted view of Christianity. Let me highlight the salient points he raises,

13. Christianity depreciates the natural world. …The Christian belief in the unimportance of happiness and well-being in this world is well illustrated by a statement by St. Alphonsus:

“It would be a great advantage to suffer during all our lives all the torments of the martyrs in exchange for one moment of heaven. Sufferings in this world are a sign that God loves us and intends to save us.”

This focus on the afterlife often leads to a distinct lack of concern for the natural world, and sometimes to outright anti-ecological attitudes. Ronald Reagan’s fundamentalist Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, went so far as to actively encourage the strip mining and clear cutting of the American West, reasoning that ecological damage didn’t matter because the “rapture” was at hand.

James Watt? Does Chaz realize how antiquated his little booklet is if he is invoking James Watt, former Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Regan? Granted, Chaz’s own list may be old itself. Maybe he wrote his list up back in the late 80s or something; but James Watt would had been relevant to Chaz’s argument about unsympathetic Christian environmental mismanagement IN 1981! And for the record, I disagree with Chaz’s assessment of Watt, but I digress.

At any rate, the charge put forth is that because Christians are taught by their church leaders to value eternal things above all else, they neglect the present world where they currently live.

I will readily admit there is some truth to that accusation. Christianity doesn’t value the physical world in the same way Chaz, or any garden variety atheist probably does. The key reason is because Chaz and his atheist friends have imposed upon themselves a limited perspective of human existence. Atheism is a fundamentally here-and-now worldview because the atheist has chosen to reject and suppress the reality of eternity. Thus, atheistic secularists live only for the moment, indulging in all the pleasures they can heap upon themselves. Oh sure, there are probably some altruistic atheists out there, but they are far and few between. Who has time to waste helping orphans when this life is all you get?

Christians recognize our world is disposable. God designed it to yield its resources to men. Additionally, a spiritual person realizes his life is short. A lifetime, even if a person lives to be 80 years old or more, is temporal in light of eternity. So it is true Christians who have been awakened to spiritual truth and reality value eternity more so than the secular atheist. That doesn’t mean Christians should be careless and wasteful of the resources our God created on the earth, or that they shouldn’t pursue conservation. It is just that our mindset is not only on the here and now.

Yet, I imagine Chaz would insist that we all embrace the non-sense junk science of the modern-day environmental global warming climate change movement. Seeing that he so readily draws our attention to James Watt from the 80s, has Chaz forgotten how the same people who are presently arguing for radical social and economic change that will bankrupt the economies of the nations in order to combat global warming anthropogenic climate change used almost the same argumentation back in the 70s to promote radical social and economic change to combat global freezing? I remember that atmosphere of hysteria when I was a kid in grade school.

In order to build their case for a global ice age, the scientific magisterium argued that man-made particle emissions from vehicles would collect in the atmosphere to block out the sun and significantly cool the earth. The media even appealed to similar “scientific” research as their current day counter parts.  So called “experts” drew the same conclusions that the global ice age would conveniently happen some hundred or so years in the future, far beyond any of their lives, so as not to be held accountable if they were wrong.

As much as Chaz wishes to charge Christians with messing up the environment with their lack of sympathy for earthly things, modern day environmentalist are much more unsympathetic to the plain folk their kooky ideas, supported by governmental regulations and legislation, will harm, especially the poor. The simple-minded, bureaucratic, nanny-state officials willingly pass restrictive laws prohibiting personal freedoms and raising taxes on regular folks. In an ironic twist, a professed “free thinking,” law-hating anarchist like Chaz promotes their socio-political view point that in turn is outright detrimental to his beliefs advocated on his website.

But more importantly, unlike the Christian’s lack of concern about his world, the environmental legislation being promoted by radical, watermelon environmentalists (green on the outside, red on the inside) and willing passed by stupid politicians from state to state, has real world significance and is unwittingly cruel to regular people. For example, where I live in California, the state representatives wish to pass a massive tax (what they redefine as a “fee”) on mini-vans, SUVs, and other large, multi-passenger vehicles. The idea behind this “fee” is that multi-passenger vehicles give off more carbon emissions than smaller vehicles, plus the excessive “fee” is an incentive to invest in hybrid model cars.

Essentially, the “fee” proposed by the California state legislature is a tax upon bigger families, but will also impact disabled persons who need such large vehicles for wheel chair access, construction workers and farmers who use them to carry their tools and equipment they need for their jobs, and ironically, those people who use larger vehicles to carpool (wow, a tax on carpooling!). It is the working class at risk here; the very group Chaz’s communist values are meant to protect.

Oh, but there is more. Environmental laws even impact the mundane areas of life that will in turn increase the cost of living for everyone, especially in the area of health care.

I’ll give you an example from my own personal experience. I am asthmatic. My condition is generally caused by allergies. Thankfully, modern medicine in the form of inhalers help me, along with millions of other asthma suffers, to control the condition so I can function in life. You know, run around, be active out doors, play with the kids. The simple things we all take for granted.

Initially, my asthma medication was relatively inexpensive, maybe around 10-15 bucks, and that is even without health care. But, my asthma inhaler apparently has a negative effect upon the environment. That is because the compressed gas that pushes the medication out of the little bottle into my lungs doesn’t meet environmental standards designed to off set global warming climate change.

Think a moment: A gas I breathe into my body and doesn’t get released into the atmosphere.

Thus, in order to comply with the new regulations being imposed, the companies that make the inhalers had to come up with a new means to release the medication from the bottle. As a result, the cost of the new inhalers tripled. Thus, a poor person will be forced to go without medication because of Chaz’s “sympathetic” view of the natural world.

Now, I am sure Chaz will argue that poor man’s plight is the very reason we need universal, across the board, government paid health coverage. But why should my visit to my doctor have to turn into a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles or any other bloated governmental bureaucratic office? The quantity of health care may be there, but not the quality certainly won’t. I don’t want to wait four months to get a CT scan. And all because to safe guard the environment based upon emotional, highly unscientific, chicken little-style, misinformation about man-made global warming climate change! Who’s being unsympathetic here?

Christians may depreciate the natural world, but at least we are not defending it at the expense of the livelihood of human beings based upon a child-like naivete in unworkable utopian principles based upon sham “science.”

The Pestilence that is Heaven Tourism

The recent publishing scandal involving Tyndale recalling the book, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, raises serious questions about the validity of those people who claim they visited heaven.

Whereas some speculate that the scandal may sink the genre of what has been labeled, “heaven tourism,” it may surprise folks that such fantastical tales are ubiquitous in both secular and Christian circles and have been retold for decades.

While there is a rather large niche among non-Christian, new age mystics who claim they have visited the afterlife or “the other side,” the more agonizing concern in biblical Christianity is what looks to be the never ending testimonies of Christians touring heaven. Many of those stories, as we will see, have been published in best selling books over the years. They have become a pestilence of sorts, especially among Pentecostals and charismatics groups where heaven touring testimonies are renown and have historically been promoted.

The examples are so numerous, it is near impossible to report on all of them in one place. Allow me to highlight just a few:

For instance, self-appointed church historian, Roberts Liardon, who writes hagiographies chronicling the fabricated supernatural tall tales of various Pentecostal luminaries in history past, tells his own incredible story of visiting Jesus in heaven.

Listen to Liardon recount his fantasy of visiting heaven, not once, not twice, BUT THREE TIMES! He splashed around with Jesus in the “River of Life” and tells us how angels are like 6 to 8 feet tall and make music with their wings,

Rolland Buck was an Assemblies of God pastor in Boise, Idaho, who says he went to heaven. In fact, I recall being in a small, Christian bookstore many years ago in my hometown in Arkansas and finding the book, Angels on Assignment, that recounted his heavenly experiences.  I was a fairly new believer, but the stories told in it were unbelievable.

angelsBuck claimed that between 1978 and 1979, he, along with his great Dane, Queenie, was visited by the angel Gabriel 27 times. Mary only got one visit, so go figure. During one of those visits, he was taken into the “Throne Room of God,” whereupon he was shown a massive archive room filled with file folders (computer digitization hadn’t reached heaven at that time yet) that contained all of God’s plans for each and every person on earth. God also told him about black holes, which were confirmed to him many months later by a scientist friend of his who told him of the new discovery of “black holes.” The entire book can be read online, Angels on Assignment

Kenneth Hagin claims that in 1950 at a tent revival in Texas that Jesus called him up to heaven. He retells the story,

Everyone was praying around the front, and I knelt on the platform beside a folding chair near the pulpit. I began to pray in other tongues, and I heard a voice say, “Come up hither.” At first, I didn’t realize that the voice was speaking to me. I thought everybody heard it. “Come up hither,” the voice said again. Then I looked and saw Jesus standing about where the top of the tent would be. As I looked up again, the tent had disappeared, the folding chairs had disappeared, every tent pole had disappeared, the pulpit had disappeared, and God permitted me to see into the spirit realm. … Then Jesus said to me again, “Come up hither.” It seemed as if I went with Him through the air until we came to a beautiful city. We did not actually go into the city, but we beheld it at close range as one might go up on a mountain and look down on a city in the valley. Its beauty was beyond words! [I Believe in Visions, 43-44]

Dr. Richard Eby experienced an accident in which he fell from a balcony that caused his head to split open. Initially, he couldn’t remember anything about the fall, but then later, as he recounts in his book, Caught Up Into Paradise, he was taken up into heaven and experienced many amazing and wonderful sights. He also notes how there are no bodily organs like bones or blood vessels, and for some bizarre reason, no one has any genitals, because as he explains, “there is no need for sex in heaven.” I am guessing everyone turns into a Ken or Barbie doll upon dying and entering the afterlife.

One of the absolute worst culprits to promote heaven tourism stories is Sid Roth.  Simply search “Sid Roth + heaven stories” and you will find an extensive list of various programs of his show, “It’s Supernatural!,” during which he interviews a hodge-podge of individuals  claiming to have visited heaven. Roth even published a book with 10 testimonies of heaven tourists titled, Heaven is Beyond Your Wildest Expectations.

Roth has interviewed many folks about heaven including Norvel Hayes, Dean Braxton, Steven Brooks, and Gary Wood, who claims he saw a big room in heaven with replacement body parts just waiting for people to ask for them.

Probably one of the more creepy heaven stories, in a Jim Jones grape cool-aid sort of way, comes from Deborah Reed, who once was the children’s ministry leader at Bethel Redding. She could clearly become the first recipient of the “Mill Stone” award (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2), as she essentially tells how the cult at Bethel lead little children astray by teaching them all sorts of bizarre and strange new age like practices. The last one she notes is mentioned here in this video, where Reed says how they train kids to take trips to heaven.

Now certainly I will have Pentecostal believers accuse me of being unfair. The examples I cite are in the fringe elements of charismatics and Pentecostals. I got that a lot back when I wrote on the Strange Fire conference. Some may even vehemently insist their churches do not promote such nonsense. Great! I am definitely encouraged by those assertions.

The reality, however, is rather stark. Thousands of people purchase the books and flock to hear the testimonies of heaven tourists, and the main culprits who devour them are charismatic and Pentecostals. Why is that?

Rather than getting all defensive that someone pointed out that obvious problem among charismatics and Pentecostals, I would think a better response would be to consider why they gravitate to heaven tourism stories. I don’t typically see the problem among Presbyterians, Reformed Baptists, or any of the Bible Fellowship style churches. If a Pentecostal or charismatic is seriously opposed to heaven tourism, they’d evaluate the reason why.

I suggest that is because Pentecostal and charismatic believers are doctrinally imbalanced when it comes to so-called supernatural manifestations. They are led to an experience driven theology that in turn causes them to be way more susceptible and undiscerning with these fantasies. It then becomes difficult to distinguish between a flim-flam hustler and a sincere, but confused person who exaggerates odd dreams he had after having a dangerous surgery, as traveling to heaven.

Moreover, it your theology has God regularly performing unusual manifestations and the supernatural is to always to be expected, who is to truly say a person did or didn’t get caught up into heaven?

We can only hope that the recent scandal with the Boy Who Came Back From Heaven will cause Christians to develop their spiritual discernment a bit more, but honestly, until their is a seismic shift in the practical theology of charismatics and Pentecostals, heaven tourism books aren’t going away.

My Top Blogs Christian Leaders Should Be Reading in 2015

So Ed “15 Angry Calvinists” Stetzer plug an article that listed the Top 30 Blogs Christian Leaders Need to Read in 2015. I clicked the link and scanned the suggestions. Nearly all of them I had never heard of, and of the ones I had heard of, like Rick Warren’s Pastors.com, I would never recommend to anyone as a resource being afraid that folks would be led into a spiritual slough of despond if they did so.

The author wrote up a list of criteria he thinks makes the kind of blog a Christian leader needs to read.

He lays out 6 points that identifies a “great” blog.

  • Great blogs provide solutions to the issues Christian leaders face.
  • Great blogs provide inspiration for Christian leaders to keep paying the price to move forward.  A great blog tells you you can and will make it.
  • Great blogs have credibility from being written by proven experts.
  • Great blogs have consistently new content and are worth re-visiting on a regular basis.
  • Great blogs have great content.  It rarely, if ever, disappoints.
  • There are also some bloggers listed below who may be well-known yet but should be on your radar.

Again, none of the blogs listed really match the criteria he lays out here. In fact, he list’s Perry Noble’s blog under those criteria and people would only get stupider if they read it on a regular basis.

With that list in mind, I thought I would offer up my own suggestions of blogs I think would be of greater benefit for Christian leaders to read than any of the ones mentioned. Furthermore, I think my list matches, if not excels over, the stated criteria for a “great” blog. They are all an inspiration, are written by proven experts, and have consistently new content that is worth revisiting. In fact, the content is actually helpful in that it addresses issues and makes a statement of committed, biblical clarity rather than some lame, wishy-washy “let’s build a consensus” conclusion.

Probably the only thing different about my list is the last item in the criteria. None of the bloggers are particularly “well-known.” There are a few, maybe; but even they are marginalized or ignored. If they happen to blog in some prescient fashion on a subject that makes them unpopular, say like the disaster that was Mark Driscoll, and when their warnings come to fruition, their detractors wonder why no one previously ever wrote about those problems. If they raise their hand and say, “we did,” then they are accused of gloating.

My list is in no particular order and may not be entirely comprehensive. Meaning, I may miss a few good ones here and there.

Pyromaniacs Originally started by Phil Johnson who is the executive director of Grace to You radio ministries. Now maintained by Dan Phillips and Frank Turk and the occasional reposts of the best of Phil, who retired from blogging a couple years ago. The writing is engaging, pithy, biblical.

The blog always has great content, never disappoints, should be a must read for any biblical leader.

The Cripplegate A consortium of writers, most of who are students and graduates of the Master’s Seminary. A number of them currently pastor full-time. They cover a full range of subjects of interest to the average pastor, like problematic doctrinal issues, book reviews, and even once an article about shaving.

Alpha and Omega Ministries The blog showcasing the ministry of apologist James White, who has written a number of important books that every leader should read or at least have ready access in their library when they are confronted by apologetic issues like engaging Muslims with the Gospel or interacting with fanatical King James Only advocates.

His twice-weekly Dividing Line podcast ought to be on the rotation play list of all serious-minded believers.

Canon Fodder The blog of Michael J. Kruger who is swiftly becoming one of the leading scholars on early NT textual studies. His books are top notch and must reads for all Christian leaders.

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary The blog where the profs and grads of DBTS provide excellent articles on a variety of topics from a fundamental, evangelical Baptist perspective. Their journal is outstanding, also.

Domain of Truth Ran by Jimmy Lee, a TMS grad and pastor in SoCal. He and the contributors he has assembled provide a number of excellent apologetic resources, including his weekly links highlighting the better blog articles addressing presuppositional apologetics. You will also find insightful reviews of books and links to wonderful, but otherwise unknown theological sermons, lectures, and series.

Shadow to Light I just recently started reading this blog around Christmas time. Not sure who the author is, but the emphasis is upon interacting with and exposing the “new atheism” of such notables as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. There is lots of good stuff here. A tremendous resource for the youth pastor or pastor who may have some youth apostate and become angry church haters after attending their first semester at state college.

Dr. Reluctant The blog of Paul Henebury, who is a masterful writer on various theological subjects. He also runs Telos Ministries, where folks can find lots of excellent resources in print and audio.

MennoKnight The blog where you will find the insightful, witty, and always fun writing of Lyndon Unger. He also blogs at Cripplegate.

Gatestone Institute It is more of a website, but the writers/reporters talk about the state of the world outside of the US. Their particular focus is Europe. A great site for us soft Americans who tend to live in a bubble when it comes to events in the world.

Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International Sister ministries with the focus upon the worldviews of creationism and evolution. Not only do they keep the crucial issue of origins in the forefront, but both ministries consistently address it with clarity, fact, and Scripture. Some of the best apologetic material you can get when confronting skepticism in the church.

Triablogue I have had my tussles over the last year or so with Steve Hays, the principle writer at Triablogue, but in spite of our profound disagreements with each other, he and his team consistently put out good material that is challenging and polemic in defense of biblical Christianity. His atheist take downs are always worth visiting.

Perry Noble’s Apology

perry1

It’s All God’s Fault I’m an Idiot!

So Perry Noble gave what amounted to a disjointed TED talk for the 2014 Christmas Eve services at his church. In that talk, he explains how he was told by some guy in Israel that there is no word in the OT for “commandment,” and he then proceeded to rewrite and reexplain the 10 commandments.  I guess the rule of thumb is that if you are a guy living in Israel with an accent, you’re automatically an OT textual expert.

A number of sound individuals, you know, men who actually study the Bible and whose ministries are not marked by dressing like a skater and behaving like a man-child, pointed out that there was indeed an OT word for “commandment” in the Bible. I mean, anyone can break out their Strong’s concordance and see it for themselves.

Most people just rolled their eyes, made a few comments on social media about Noble’s idiocy, and shook their heads to move on. Comments like those routinely spurt out from his brain. And judging from the way he generally mocks and ignores his critics, it’s not like the guy is teachable anyways.

But in this case, the reactions struck a nerve with Noble, enough so that he issued an apology letter.

A Letter to the Church I Love

Folks can go and read the entire letter at his site, but I wanted to highlight a few lines from his opening comments. There are some wonderful life lessons we can all learn that reveals for us how foolish cliched pseudo-Christian spirituality can become when vision casting pastors like Noble who make the Bible a secondary consideration for ministry and constantly invoke the mantra that “God told him” thus and such.

That Bible-diminishing, mystical approach in one’s relationship with God isn’t just limited to cranks like Noble, though. Christians throughout Red State evangelical churches constantly interpret odd tingly impressions, personal moments of quasi-deja vu, and a really weird pepperoni induced dream, as God leading them to act and do in some fashion.

Noble writes,

#1 – I am imperfect.  I make mistakes and fall way short of who I should be each and every day.

As a fellow human being, I can sympathize. I make mistakes all the time, too. I’ve spoken curtly to my wife in a moment of stress. Unnecessarily provoke my children at times. Canceled commitments with others because “I just didn’t feel like” keeping my appointment. You get the picture.

But in this instance, Noble proclaimed that what he was about to tell the audience was given to him by God. That God Almighty “started speaking to his heart” and told him that He had a message He wanted Noble to share. So. Either God wasn’t clear, or God mumbled, so that Noble didn’t quite understand the speaking in his heart, or God was wrong. Which one was it?

#2 – I fully understand and feel the weight of James 3:1 that clearly says that people who teach God’s Word will be judged more strictly.

But again, in this case, Noble declares that his message was what God told him to share. That God Almighty was compelling him to present it. Moreover, Noble even says that he told God that he already had a message to give, but God said no. So was God misleading him to violate that passage of Scripture? That God led him to sin?

#3 – I take teaching the Bible very seriously and desperately want to always put forth my best effort as I really do believe that when God says “don’t” in Scripture it is more like Him saying, “don’t hurt yourself,” because, as a friend of mine often says, “choose to sin, choose to suffer.”

Not entirely sure what the relevance is with those comments. It was God, according to Noble’s own testimony, who spoke to his heart and told him He had a message He wanted him to share. It was never an instance of Noble mistakenly interpreting a passage.

Of course, that makes me wonder about a previous comment Noble made about those who take the teaching of the Bible too seriously. He called them jackasses.

On Christmas Eve I really did feel The Lord pressing into me to do a different message than we had previously done in the days before.  I wrestled with this for several hours before finally saying “yes.”

According to his comments at the opening of the video, Noble claimed God told him to share this message, and he told himself that if the “feeling” was still there in the morning he would share it, and in the morning God was still telling him and that “He wasn’t backing off of this one” so he had to get ready to share it.

Then, just to be sure, Noble claims to have sent out a group text to his leadership team and campus pastors asking them if they thought he should share this message. All of them responded with a unified, resounding “Do it!”

That also makes me wonder. What was it that Noble told them? Did he text to them his key talking point? Did he tell them that what it was God was wanting him to say is there is no Hebrew word for “commandment” in the OT? If he did, am I to believe that not one person among his circle of “advisers” told him he may want to research that out? Not one person in that circle fired up their Bible software and double-checked for him, or even turned on Google?

So either Noble was vague in his text, or his “advisers” didn’t really care and told him “That sounds awesome, man,” or perhaps a few did raise the warning flags, but Noble chose to ignore them. Whatever the case, it doesn’t look good for his “advisers,” either.

This set my heart on fire and I put the message together, believing it was from the Lord, and we saw over 200 people come to Christ as a result.

nobleWhat he is saying is that it doesn’t really matter if he was wrong, or God misled him, or his “advisers” are a bunch of back-slapping, sycophantic “yes!” men. Two hundred people came to Christ in spite of the wild, unbiblical inaccuracies of his message.

Assuming Noble isn’t fudging the numbers, (and I will go out on a limb here and say I don’t believe there was anyone who “came” to Christ that night), wouldn’t those people be false converts?

They “responded” to a talk that not only taught biblical error regarding the Hebrew word “commandment,” but the presenter expanded on that error to rewrite and reinterpret a foundational portion of Scripture: THE 10 COMMANDMENTS! Even more, after a couple of weeks of people telling him about his terrific error, he issued an apology admitting he was wrong (and his advisers are all idiots). Does that not in and of itself cancel out the reality of those 200 conversions? They were converted under the pretense of a false message.

One more thing, if you still cannot wrap your mind around what I taught and disagree with it, I do not consider you to be a “hater.”  There are really godly people on both sides of incredibly difficult theological arguments.

There is nothing difficult about this. Perry Noble claimed God pressed upon his heart to share a message at the last minute the day before their Christmas Eve service and the message was that there is no Hebrew word for commandments in the OT. He then went on to reinterpret Exodus 20 as promises from God rather than commandments.

What’s the take away from all of this?

First of all, I think it is just the gathering of crumbs underneath the charismatic table that has abandoned the authority and sufficiency of Scripture for a Christianity that is nothing more than interpreting omens and horoscopes.

While Noble, to my knowledge, isn’t charismatic, at least according to the classic definition, he sure does speak like a charismatic. And like the charismatic, God tells him all sorts of stuff. If whatever life changing decision you make when the still small voice speaks to you pays off with hearts and roses, it was God. But what happens if you faceplant faster than fat lady on a Segway?

Let me close with these words from Jeremiah,

For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners (read here, vision casting pastors) who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams (you know, impressions, little voices, weird feelings) which you cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the LORD.  (Jer 29:8-9 NKJ)

Sam Harris, The Poser “Neuroscientist”

Probably one of the better, heart warming stories on the internet this week:

Neuroscientist Sam Harris

Sam Harris, militant anti-theist and self-appointed spokesperson for new atheists everywhere, is a hack. And a pothead to boot.

From the conclusion of the article,

1. Since getting his PhD, he has conducted no scientific research.
2. Since getting his PhD, he has taught no university/college courses in neuroscience.
3. Since getting his PhD, he has devoted his efforts to his anti-religious think tank and publishing books, such as the one on using drugs and meditation to discover truths about our reality.
4. He received his PhD through partial funding from his own atheist organization.
5. He didn’t do any of the experiments for his own thesis work.
6. His PhD thesis was about how science can determine what is right and wrong and he turned it into a book for sale.
7. Since publishing his thesis/book, Harris has yet to use science to resolve a single moral dispute.

Thus, Sam Harris is as much of a “neuroscientist” as Gail Riplinger is a textual critic. Keep this link in your apologetics drawer the next time some crank atheist cites Harris as an “expert.”