A Howse Divided Against Itself

I want to offer up some comments on a long, ranting screed Brannon Howse recently wrote against Phil Johnson. The one ironic aspect of it is that many of Brannon’s fans will not necessarily see it because it is posted at an obscure Facebook page. I think this is intentional deceit, as I will explain in a moment.

Now. Before I begin, it may be helpful to provide a little background for those readers not up to speed on the latest evangelical kerfuffle. Earlier in June, Brannon Howse, who hosts Worldview Weekend, a daily radio show heard on the VCY America network, launched a “discernment” crusade against James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. Brannon had two self-proclaimed Islamic experts on his program to critically discuss a dialog James had with Yasir Qadhi in Memphis this past January.

The dialog itself was two nights of informal discussion between James and Yasir as to the distinctions between Islam and Christianity. One was held at a church in the Memphis area, the second at a mosque also in the Memphis area. Both hour and a half discussions can be watched HERE and HERE.

Brannon and his two experts, however, smeared the discussions as an “interfaith dialog” of the compromising sort. They suggested that James was compromising the Christian faith in the same way one of those gummy bear evangelicals like Rick Warren embraces Roman Catholics, or any other false religion, in a Coexist fashion. Additionally, they questioned James’s motives in doing the dialog, giving the impression he was soft-peddling the Islamic agenda. They falsely labelled him a “dupe” and a “useful idiot” who was lied to by Yasir, because according to the two experts, he is really a terrorist sympathizing ISIS supporter who was playing James like a fiddle in order to make Islam more accepting among American evangelicals.

Brannon devoted three programs assailing James’s character and ministry. When he encountered strong push back from folks on social media, he spent another week of follow up episodes in which he dug in against his detractors. I’ll point readers to Phil Johnson’s public remarks summarizing the entire affair because they reflect what I think it about it as well. See HERE.

With that background in mind, let me lay down a second layer before addressing Brannon’s rant. The following week after his three programs attacking James White, Phil Johnson from Grace to You, the radio ministry of John MacArthur (and my big boss), tweeted out the following comment, “Is there any respectable Christian leader Brannon Howse HASN’T found fault with?”

Phil then followed that tweet up with another, recalling a program from 2008 on which Brannon went after John MacArthur for his views that said the Revolutionary War was biblically unjustified. On that program, Brannon had on Tim Wildmon from the AFA, and Marshall Foster from the American History Institute, to publicly scold John MacArthur and his so-called woefully ignorant position on the American Revolution.

It is at this point, after Phil’s second tweet, that Brannon’s campaign against James White becomes an even hotter dumpster fire than it was already.

The day before Phil tweeted about the radio program pillorying John MacArthur, Brannon had posted John’s opening general session from the 2010 Shepherd’s Conference on his Facebook page. The message John preached is called Separating from Unbelievers. Brannon links to the message and then adds this description, “Separating from Unbelievers by John MacArthur. Should we talk with a Muslim Imam in a church & find common ground?”

At first glance, his description gives the impression that John is going to address the idea of Christians talking with Muslim imams and finding common religious ground with them. However, the words “Muslim” or “imam” are no where mentioned in the talk. In fact, nothing John states in his message would condemn what James White did with that imam. John’s message was aimed at genuine theological compromise with unbelievers, something James never did when he spent two days interacting with Yasir.

In response to Phil’s tweet comments, Brannon left this obfuscating statement on Facebook. (He also read it on his Worldview Weekend program).

The reader will note a glaring omission. The one name he conspicuously left out of his statement: Phil Johnson. That raises an intriguing question, why?

I’ll venture an educated guess and say it is because he intentionally clouded who it was he was responding to. A lot of the folks who hear Grace to You also hear Brannon’s Worldview Weekend. It is uncomfortably awkward if the director at the ministry of the very pastor he cites in support of his position took him to task regarding his hamfisted accusations against James White.

But folks may pause here and say, “Fred, aren’t you being just a tad unfair? Maybe he wanted to protect his identity.” That brings me to Brannon’s long rant.

The weekend after Phil posted his final thoughts on Brannon’s ridiculous “James White’s Islamic Peril” (see my link above), he posted three audio files in which he interviewed Phil back in 2011 on the topic of dealing with false teachers in the church. He also wrote up his fuming tirade against Phil. He even brought up the stupid controversy he manufactured in February 2015 when he went after Todd Friel about how many people died during the Catholic Inquisitions. Without rehearsing that entire drama, I can just say that what Brannon presents is lopsided and only half-way accurate. In other words, he is intentionally misremembering what happened. I ought to know, because I was at the center of that entire storm.

So what does that all have to do with my accusation that Brannon is purposefully hiding his comments from his readers? Well, his withering screed is posted on Sam Shamoun’s Facebook page. See HERE. (Just in case it is removed, HERE’s the PDF)

Unless a person knows who Sam is, more than likely he isn’t gonna see it. Brannon’s fans are certainly not gonna see it. As of this writing, there are just 11 shares. I personally left a comment refuting Brannon’s claims, but of course Sam, probably out of ignorance of who I am, dismissed me as a buffoon. I left a second comment, but that got removed and now I am blocked from leaving any responses whatsoever. If Brannon was genuinely serious about responding to Phil, he’d do it on his website and his own personal Facebook page for all to see. He would not run to an obscure yes man who is simply using Brannon as a stick to beat James White.

Brannon’s clumsy, half-baked crusade to uncover imaginary collusion between a well-respected, rock solid Christian apologist with a 25 year track record of Gospel ministry and an accused Islamic terrorist sympathizer is bad enough. Compounding the problem is him mass blocking an entire online community of believers pleading with  him to step back and reevaluate the foolishness he has presented. Worse still is him hiding his dispute with a ministry that on the one hand he uses for his credibility, but on the other hand, disparages the men associated with that ministry. Such vacillating behavior reveals some troubling character issues that need to be addressed.

Gleanings from Judges [17]

The Downfall of Samson – Judges 16

It has been awhile since I last took up my devotional study of Judges. I come this time to the final chapter detailing the life of Samson. He was one of the last Judges of Israel, preceding Samuel, but slightly overlapping his life.

In a way, Samson represents what the Bible teaches us about the weakness of man’s heart. Proverbs 4:23 states, Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.

The heart is understood in Scripture as being the true person. It is the mission-control center that directs and orients man in his worldview, his thinking, his overall course of life. Proverbs goes on to explain for us the need to keep watch over it. Mostly to prevent the perversity found in our hearts from escaping, thus revealing our sinfulness. At the same time, we want to take heed to what we bring into our hearts as well.

Samson is a warning. Though he did great exploits under the power of God, his moral life failed to avoid the pitfalls of personal sin involving women and lust. We this unfold for us in Judges 16.

I. Samson at Gaza – 16:1-3

Judges 16 really opens in 15:20, where it says Samson judged for 20 years. His 20 year judgeship began when God stirred him to action against the Philistines in chapters 14 and 15. For 20 years in between those chapters and chapter 16, he is said to have judged. We are not entirely sure how that played out. Any further exploits against the Philistines is not recorded. The events of chapter 16 are 20 years later, making Samson around 40 years of age.

Chapter 16 begins with Samson at Gaza, the furthest city from where he lived, nearly 40 miles. While he is in the city, he visits a prostitute, a stark reminder of his major character flaw. Becoming cocky, or perhaps feeling invincible, he is forgetting where his abilities truly lie.

Someone in Gaza recognizes him and alerts the Philistines that he is there among them. They set up an ambush, but Samson is able to sneak past them. He lifts the massive city gate from off its foundations and carries it up toward Hebron, reminding the Philistines who he is.

II. Samson and Delilah and the Philistines

Though God was merciful in delivering him from his iniquity, Samson quickly falls into another snare. He loved of a non-Jewish woman of Sorek, essentially another Philistine like the one he attempted to marry in chapter 14. A woman of the very uncircumcised enemies God is stirring up against Samson.

Delilah’s name is uncertain. It means something like, “of the night,” meaning an unnamed woman who is merely another prostitute. Or it is the way the biblical writer is reminding the reader that it was a person of spiritual darkness. Whatever the case, she is different for Samson, because he keeps coming back to her.

The Philistines, however, are crafty. They hear of their affair and the main lords of the Philistines offer her a massive reward 1,100 pieces of silver from each lord, combining to make 5,500 pieces. (3 times what Gideon got in gold, 1,700 shekels). It is clear that the Philistines are desperate to rid themselves of their menace.

What follows is Delilah, over the course of four encounters, slowly uncovering the secret to Samson’s strength. Each time she asks Samson to explain how he could be overcome or bound. First, he says that if he were tied up with seven fresh bowstrings, then if he were tied up with fresh ropes, then if he weaved his hair into seven locks, and then finally, if she were to cut his hair.

Each time, he mockingly tells her a lie, but eventually dancing around the truth (his hair), until he tells her the entire truth of his strength. With each time, she lulls him asleep and does to him what he said would weaken him. Each time, the Philistines would try to capture him only to be beaten by him.

Finally, he “tells him all his heart.” He foolishly told her everything. He didn’t guard his heart. Delilah even knew he had, because she immediately told the Philistines what he had told her. As a result, she exploited his secret by cutting his hair and then calling in the Philistines. They seize him, put out his eyes, and make him grind in their mills.

III. Samson and God

Samson is finally at the end of his life. Helpless, he begins to turn his heart toward the Lord he served. The Philistines begin to make sport of Samson. They bring him to their main temple to have him entertain them. The temple complex was massive because it held nearly 3,000 people, men, women, and children.

While he is mocked Samson calls out to God. There is a hint of genuine repentance on his part. He calls on God to “remember me,” nearly the same words the thief on the cross spoke to Christ as he was dying. He asks to be avenged for his two eyes. He shouts out, “Let me die with the Philistines!” That obviously got every one’s attention, but it was too late. Pushing on the main support pillars, Samson tears down the temple. In that one act, he kills more Philistines in his death than during his lifetime.

Postscript

1 Samuel 7 records when a young Samuel called the children of Israel to repentance after they had been humiliated by the Philistines 20 years prior when they captured the ark. God restored His ark to His people, but there was 20 years of silence when the people lamented for their sin. That 20 years is probably when Samson judged. When Samuel called Israel together to a public time of worship, the Philistines heard about them gathering in one place (7:7). They gathered their army to go out and kill Israel. Their action was stirred in part by Samson pulling down their temple and killing 3,000 people. Israel heard from God that day in a display that was like thunder. When the Philistines were put to flight, the men of Israel rose up, pursued them, and drove them back and out of their land.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [5]

How Far the Fall? Genesis 3 – Chapter 11

After a bit of a break, I’m returning to reviewing Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis. The four previous reviews can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Skipping ahead to chapter 11, I’m addressing how Ross deals with Genesis 3 and the consequences of Adam’s fall, especially death.

Before I work my way through this chapter with a review, we need to acknowledge what the Bible tells us about death. It is clear throughout its pages that death is an intrusion into God’s creation brought here by Adam’s disobedience in the garden. Physical death demonstrates God’s judgment, and death is likened unto an enemy, (1 Corinthians 15:26).

The first death recorded in Scripture was that of an animal from which God made skins to cover Adam and Eve immediately after they had sinned. With that death of an animal, God demonstrated the need for atonement that turns His judgment away from man and restores divine fellowship. All of creation, without exception, has been touched by Adam’s sin. Because of his fall, the entire creation groans, longing to be set free from its bondage to corruption, (Romans 8:20-21). Physical death of all living things is a stark and grim reminder of the creation’s bondage to that corrupting curse.

Ross, on the other hand, rather than teaching that physical death is a curse upon all of God’s creation, teaches that death is beneficial. Death was originally one of the good aspects of God’s creation because it was necessary for God to care for the carnivorous animals by allowing them to eat other animals to survive. Death was never intended for mankind, however, and became a curse for men when Adam disobeyed. That is the position Ross attempts to defend in chapter 11.

Review and Analysis

Ross opens his chapter briefly mentioning the rebellion of Satan. Why that is relevant to his discussion of Adam’s fall and the impact of death is unclear. I take it that he is contrasting Adam’s rebellion with Satan’s, because he states in a previous chapter that Satan rebelled first, [91].  His comments appears as if he is attempting to explain away physical death as a consequence of Adam’s sin. Like he is saying, “Well, Satan rebelled first, so Adam’s fall really has nothing to do with death.”

He does make this baffling assertion, though, “Whether it [Satan’s rebellion] occurred before or during God’s creation of Earth the Bible never says, but we do know it predated Eden,” [109]. If the Bible never says when Satan’s rebellion happened, how exactly does Ross know it predated Eden? But I digress.

His chapter is outlined in four main sections. I’ll consider each one in turn.

Adam and Eve’s Expulsion from Eden

This section recounts the scene of Genesis 3. Ross provides a fair summary of the events: God forbidding the first couple from partaking of the Tree of Knowledge, Eve being tempted by the Serpent and eating, and then Adam following his wife in disobedience, and the consequences of their banishment from Eden. He then makes some comments about how Adam’s one, small act of eating a forbidden fruit leads to the avalanche of sin in the world. However, physical death overall was not a part of that consequence as he will go on to explain.

Did the Fall Change Physics?

It is in this section that Ross’s egregious apologetics on death begin to surface. He builds his presentation on strawman arguments against young Earth creationists and illogical category distinctions.

First, he focuses a lot of his discussion on the false notion that YEC teach that the second law of thermodynamics was initiated at the fall. He seems to assume that it is the commonly held view of all creationists. Now, it could be that Ross has engaged a few young earthers in the past who held to that perspective, but the idea that the second law of thermodynamics was initiated at the fall has never been the standard position of the YEC community.

In fact, sloppy, out-of-date research is probably one of the biggest problems with this entire chapter (as well as the book). His objections to his detractors are built upon material he published back in the 90s in his book, Creation and Time, and The Genesis Question, the first edition of Navigating Genesis, published in 2001. If he had bothered to spend time reviewing and updating his work, he would have discovered that creationists have written quite a bit in the intervening 20 years or more answering those sorts of false charges. See HERE for example.

Continuing his case for the second law of thermodynamics, Ross mentions Paul’s words in Romans 8:20-22, but his understanding of those verses are so wildly off target I wonder how he can be taken seriously as a Christian apologist. He believes Paul is describing the affects of the second law of thermodynamics, referring to “the whole of creation” “right up to the present time,” [112]. In other words, the work of the second law of thermodynamics has always been a necessary part of God’s created order from the very beginning. “The thermodynamic laws are good,” he writes, “in spite of the “decay,” “frustration,” and “groaning,” [113]. They are part of God’s plan for preparing people for eternity and the new creation.

Ross, however, over looks the one, crucial point Paul makes in Romans 8:20-22. The apostle writes that the creation was subjected unwillingly to that state of frustration, corruption, and groaning by the very sin of Adam. His sin wasn’t limited to only impacting humanity, but it corrupted the whole of creation. That key, theological element seems to fly entirely over Ross’s head.

He also manufacturers a category error. He writes, “Some people presume that the natural tendency toward decay (the second law of thermodynamics) and carnivorous animal behavior, for example, must be attributable to human sin, not to God’s design,” [111], and then a little bit later he writes, “The universe and its physics have not changed, as some suggest,” [ibid]. He cites Jeremiah 33:25 and Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 as proof-texts for his assertion.

The problem, however, is that the changed nature of men and animals due to Adam’s fall is unrelated to the principles of physics governing our world. That would be such things noted in Jeremiah and Ecclesiastes, like the fixed orbits of the sun and the stars, and the water cycle. We can also include the laws of thermodynamics as well. No creationist is arguing that the laws of physics changed after Adam’s sinned. However, the fundamental nature of men and animals did. Men are called in Scripture, “by nature, children of wrath,” in Ephesians 2:3.

It is impossible to separate man’s sin nature from manifesting in the physical world. Men were changed from a state of innocence to a state of guilt, shame, and hostile rebellion against their Creator when Adam fell. Adam’s fall did bring the creation into the bondage of corruption, physical death being the key element to that corruption.To deny that reality is ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture.

Did the Fall Initiate Death and Predation?

Ross firmly rejects that Adam’s sin had anything to do with physical death. Instead, he understands human death to be connected to man’s separation from God. It is not that physical death is bad, but physical death for humans that is bad. I’ll discuss his position a bit more when I review the next section.

He also rejects that Adam’s fall has anything to do with animal death and carnivorous animals preying on other animals. He cites Psalm 104:21 and Job 38:39 that speak of God providing prey for the lions as proof-texts. But he seems to assume that those two passages are talking about animals in their original, created state. That predator animals were created to be predators. But we have clear revelation that predation was not God’s original intent.

Genesis 1:29-30 states that God gave to man and to animals every seed bearing plant as food. That restriction was not limited to only human beings or plant eating animals in Eden, but was given to every animal on the surface of the earth. The only logical conclusion is that included ALL animals without exception.  Ross makes the absurd passing remark that all animals are dependent upon and eat plants when the carnivorous animals kill and eat the herbivorous animals. But that is just a painfully strained view of what Genesis 1:29-30 clearly states.

Additionally, the prophet Isaiah speaks of a Messianic kingdom when predatory animals like wolves and bears will dwell with non-predatory animals like lambs and oxen (Isaiah 11:6ff. and 65:25ff.), so the prophet’s words seem to indicate that animal nature was impacted by Adam’s fall and that will be reversed in the future. Hence, something had to have changed in the nature of the animals so that they became predatory and began eating meat.

The Death Benefit

Lastly, Ross closes out the chapter by reiterating that death is only a bad thing for mankind to experience. At the same time, physical death is good and beneficial. For instance, Ross writes that, “It limits the amount of harm those who reject God’s offer can do to themselves and to others,” [114]. He then ends with the comment, “The story of Adam and Eve’s sons paints a horrific picture of what it can do — and of physical death as essential for the preservation of life,” [115].

Essential for the preservation of life? I personally find it a stunningly bizarre comment that claims physical death is a benefit to God’s creation. The Bible identifies death as an enemy. It is considered corruption from which men need liberation (Romans 8:22), as well as the wages of sin (Romans 6:22). How can something that is the result of God’s curse ever be thought of as a good thing?

Even more to the point, if death is beneficial, what is in need for the creation’s liberation from that corruption? Christ’s death accomplishes the redemption of mankind from death, but their redemption directly effects God’s creation according to Paul in Romans 8:20. The apostle John even reiterates that truth in Revelation 22:3 when there is no longer anything that is accursed.

Ross’s apologetic for death is extremely problematic, in my opinion. It comes precariously close to altering the doctrine of Christ’s redemptive work. For if death is a good and necessary benefit to God’s creation, what is the point of Christ defeating something that God has made good?

Book Review – Do Not Hinder Them

I had the opportunity to review Justin Peters new book addressing childhood conversions, Do Not Hinder Them: A Biblical Examination of Childhood Conversion.

The book is brief, only 100 plus pages or so, but it is a concise, withering analysis as to why youth are leaving church and drifting away from the Christian faith.

The so-called youth experts on social media want us to believe it is because Christian kids lack the training in the basic apologetics to answer skeptics they will encounter at college. Or perhaps they don’t feel connected to church. In reality, as Peters’s explains, it is because kids have been led to pray a prayer of confession at an early age, and then rushed through the waters of baptism. Often times, the baptism of kids is for the purpose of bolstering numbers for the local church so they in turn can report those figures to the denominational headquarters.

The result is a kid who never really understood the Gospel message, who then prays a rehearsed prayer of confession given to him by his parents and youth pastor, and him becoming essentially a false convert. When he leaves home, he leaves the Christian faith because he never had genuine faith to begin with.

I would highly recommend parents, youth directors, and pastors to read this book and ponder the study Peters provides within it’s pages. My full review can be found over at the Bible Thumping Wingnut page,

Do Not Hinder Them – A Review

Clashing Theologies over Israel and the Church

I had the opportunity recently to participate in a nearly three hour discussion on the distinctions and similarities between Israel and the Church.

Participants were various individuals from the Bible Thumping Wingnut Network, that included Andrew Rappaport and myself defending more of a Dispensational perspective, Paul Kaiser and Joey Jaco from the Conversations from the Porch podcast defending the NCT perspective, and Vincent Lancon representing the CT perspective.

The discussion was informal, rather than a serious debate. I appreciated that because we weren’t required to remain anchored to a rigid format. A number of listeners may find the informality annoying because it allowed us to hop around on a lot of rabbit trails. Additionally, the NCT and CT perspectives were virtually identical, at least this time.

The one observation I would make reflecting back upon the discussion is that our main disagreement hinges on how we interpret the Bible. (Duh).

The Dispensational detractors, especially the NCT guys, insist that the apostles read the Old Tesatment differently than the prophets because the coming of Jesus supposedly changed the rules of hermeneutics. While I would certainly agree that God was progressively revealing His redemptive purposes over time so that certain aspects of His purposes were veiled for a time, to suggest that the basic rules of interpretation shifted dramatically with the coming of Christ so that the OT is entirely reoriented in the light of the NT opens up major fissures in our basic theology.

For example, that view would create what I would consider competing canons of authority with the OT conveying a revelatory message in one way and the NT conveying an entirely different message. Moreover, proponents of that interpretive view would have us believe God intentionally misled with the revelation He gave. In other words, when the patriarchs heard the reiterated covenant promises of a geopolitical kingdom in their land that lasts forever, they took God at His word. If He really meant something entirely different, that being a typological heavenly land, such would be deception on God’s part. The OT is replete with prophetic promises that clearly state how Israel will be planted in their land forever, never to be removed. The land is further understood as the physical territory known as Israel, Isaiah 11, Isaiah 27, Isaiah 59:20-21, Jeremiah 16:14-16, Jeremiah 32:36-40, Hosea 1:10, Hosea 2:21-23, and Zechariah 12-14, just to mention a smattering of important passages.

Abner Chou has actually offered some excellent critiques of what is called the Christocentric hermeneutic. I would direct readers to these resources,

A Evaluation of the Christocentric Hermeneutic (Word doc)

Inerrancy in Light of the NT Writer’s use of the OT (ShepCon Inerrancy Summit message)

The Dual Status of Israel in Romans 11:28 (TMS journal article from Matt Waymeyer)

Anyhow, the discussion is currently available on YouTube, and will be made available eventually as a podcast on BTWN. Check it out.

Israel and the Church | the Clash of Theologies

Discussing the Benedict Option

I recently had an hour and a half podcast discussion with Len Pettis on the creeping Romanism that is the Benedict option. One of the more baffling things I have watched the last few months is evangelicals rushing to praise Rod Dreher for his alarmist proclamation that American culture is dead and Christians need to retreat into spiritual safe spaces of what really amounts to M. Night Shyamalan’s, The Village.

We discuss pros and cons, examine the main arguments for the thesis, and offer what I believe to be a more biblical way of thinking through the demise of Western society.

Check out the link here, The Benedict Option.

Announcements and Stuff

I thought I would toss up this brief announcement for any long-time blogging readers who still stop by here on occasion.

I am not quitting.

Thought I would start out with declaring that first, knowing how announcements appearing on a blog that has long spaces of inaction between posts typically indicate the blog has reached the death throws of extinction.

No, that isn’t happening. What has happened is that I have been occupied with raising kids and doing family stuff. Yep. Amazing how school, ball games, play practice, and the like sucks the time out of your life.

Additionally, two wonderful privileges have entered my writing life.

First, I help teach third graders at my church. I rotate the teaching with two other fellows; but still, the message prep for a 25 to 30 minute lesson can be grueling. If you aren’t sufficiently prepared to teach 50 third graders, you’ll be killed. That includes learning to master powerpoint so I can illustrate lessons. Powerpoint is the new flannel board.

Secondly, and this is new for me, the fine folks over at the Bible Thumping Wingnut Network, asked me to contribute articles to their blog section. BTWN gets thousands of viewers a week, dwarfing the traffic I get here at my blog which exists at the outer fringes of the internet. I was thrilled for the opportunity and jumped immediately on the invite. Granted, a lot of what I have posted so far are older articles I have written for my blog that I have dusted off and retooled for the BTWN readership, but I hope to produce some original content in the future.

Meanwhile, my personal blog, though slowing down a bit, will still keep on chugging along. I plan to return to my review of Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis, and I have plans for another book review in the future, hopefully sometime later this year.

In the meantime, take a look over at the BTWN site. I will try to post something at least once a week when I am able. Posts can be found HERE.

AHA Takes Me On

Just a quick note. I don’t plan to respond to every crackpot missive the proponents of Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) may pass along to me. I have other topics of interest I wish to explore on my blog, as well as a life to maintain. So apart from a Facebook note I wrote answering some questions, this will be a final response to the group for a while. I can tell here at the outset this post may be a bit lengthy, and rather ponderous, so do not feel the need to slog your way through it all. I figured a lot of folks won’t have the interest in the subject except for those who may encounter AHA on an occasional basis. 

——

I want to offer some comments on this post written by an AHA member, Alex Johnson,

An Abolitionist Responds to Grace to You’s Fred Butler 

A couple of thoughts just on the title,

First off, just for clarification sake, though I work for Grace to You, I am not speaking on their behalf. Now, I would imagine everyone I work with at the ministry will agree with the sentiments I expressed in my review of an AHA pamphlet that their members were passing out at our church. However, I was never tasked to speak on GTY’s behalf regarding the group, nor would management necessarily ask me. I just want to make sure no one is confused by the title of the article.

Secondly, the title itself is dishonest. I personally would be for the abolition of abortion. Most Christians would agree abortion is a wickedness our society needs to abolish. Why the title is dishonest is that Johnson is deceptively equating the ideology of abolishing abortion with the group, AHA. They are not one and the same. A person can adhere to abolitionism regarding abortion and have nothing to do with AHA and their church repent project.

Moving along to the introduction.

A fellow named John Reasoner provides a few opening remarks to the post. Let me zero in on the second paragraph,

This radical Dispensational denial of the applicability of over half of God’s Word is quickly becoming the only Theological refuge of the stubborn anti-abolitionist. Furthermore, Fred hides behind all of the typical pietistic arguments of the Evangellyfish American Church culture. When we ask “Do We Love Theology More Than God and Our Neighbor?”, the pietist will answer along with Fred Butler with an emphatic “YES”.

If one were to read my original review, I pointed out that AHA has the bad habit of misappropriating OT prophetic passages that clearly were only applicable to theocratic Israel and claiming they apply to NT churches. The two passages I highlight in my review were Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s pronouncements against Israel immediately before and during the Babylonian exile. Pointing out AHA’s misuse of those passages justifying their habit of standing outside churches to call them to “repentance” is hardly the denial of half of God’s Word. Nor does it have anything at all to do with Dispensationalism or pessimistic eschatology. That’s just reading the Bible correctly.  

It is important to keep in mind that a number of AHA promoters are postmillennial and theonomic in their views of eschatology and church government. Hence the smear about me being Dispensational. For instance, the blog where this response article is posted links as favorite websites, American Vision, Apologia Radio, and Axe to Root, all of which are maintained by postmillennial theonomists. I take it that Johnson falls into that category, like Reasoner.  

On to the main article.

I’ll pull out a few comments and respond,

Already a false accusation. They were out at the local abortion mills and on street corners the rest of the time during that conference. They even met Ray Comfort out there while both groups were preaching. Don’t assume that because they come to visit you that they’ve stopped visiting others.

The false accusation is the fact that a number of AHA members were hassling ShepCon attendees by stopping them as they walked from the parking lots onto the campus. It doesn’t matter if other AHA members were at abortion mills in LA at the same time. There were at least a dozen or more of them, including AHA leader, Toby Harmon, outside of Grace Church confronting attendees about their non-existent apathy toward abortion. That means there could have been at least a dozen other abortion mills covered. Yet the opportunity was missed as AHA members dawdled outside Grace passing out literature that was unnecessary, ignored, or discarded later.

Also a false accusation. Don’t assume church has to be held at a specific hour.

Johnson was upset that I chided AHA for skipping out on worship, and claims churches don’t need a set time of worship. Sure, I guess. Unless you are one of those seeker-sensitive churches that has a Saturday afternoon worship service so as to free up folks to sleep in on Sunday. The reality is that the bulk of solid, Bible-believing congregations in the world, meet early the first day of the week. AHA knows this, thus the reason they were at Grace the Sunday following ShepCon.

We don’t see ourselves as faithful. We too need to do more to stop this slaughter. We see ourselves as guilty as well. Hence, our slogan, Repent With Us. Sanctification is a continual process.

I’ve noticed the recent trend with AHA proponents has moved away from calling churches to repent to calling churches to “repent with us.” We are told that they too need to repent. Some how, that is supposed to make their message confronting our so-called apathy toward abortion more receptive. Problem is: I don’t need to repent of anything. I don’t consider myself apathetic, nor is abortion activism a Gospel issue. It is nowhere commanded in Scripture to pursue.

I understand that when dealing with non-Christians, but you’re dealing with brothers in Christ through Faith alone who are trying to make a case.

Another tactic they employ is to complain that any harsh critics, like myself, who liken them to cultists, are slandering faithful brothers in the Lord. Yet, because the bulk of AHA members do not attend or participate in a visible, local church, and their behavior is, shall I say, cultic, I am under no obligation to believe any of them are “brothers” in the Lord regardless of the so-called orthodoxy of their words.

None of us believe you have to affiliate with “AHA” in order to be “doing it right.” Jesus didn’t wear the AHA symbol. But do get in the fight and do not use compromising tactics

His comment is dishonest. Yes, they do insist Christians must be abolitionists in order to be “doing it right” and they further believe AHA is the gold standard of abolitionism. Ask any AHA member what he thinks of the term “pro-life” or “incrementalism.” In fact, Johnson goes on in this article to disparage the very term. Moreover, Scripture never tells us to “get in the fight” especially social activism. The only warfare that is spoken of in the NT is spiritual warfare, which is a warfare against false worldviews with the the use of God’s weapons of biblical truth.

The point is to show how broken-hearted God is over the oppression happening. Regardless of covenantal views.

There is lots and lots of oppression happening right at this moment all over the world. Wickedness that would stagger the mind. Nowhere in Scripture is the church called out to specifically confront that wickedness in the form of any social activism. Like I stated in my initial review, I believe a result of the Gospel will be a changed culture as men and women in those individual cultures are converted and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Then he cites a quote from Johnny Hauser who was commenting at some forum on my correction of AHA’s misuse of 1 John 3:18,

The remainder of his argument [that’d be me, Fred] is founded on the assertion that because the context specifies material and financial needs, no other needs fall within the requirements of love. Therefore, your sister being raped or your brother being massacred essentially require no response from of you as a Christian. That is, the lesser needs like money are specified so you must concern yourself with them, but no other needs, not even the far greater, critical, life-or-death needs, must be a concern for Christian brothers and sisters.

The apostle John is addressing the marks of genuine love which in the context of his epistle is the way Christians treat fellow Christians. It is a misappropriation to extend that passage to encompass social activism including against abortion as “loving your neighbor.”

However, Hauser goes on with the typical argument from AHA members. I’ve encountered it numerous times before on social media, particularly in meme form. That being, if I saw my sister being raped or a brother being murdered, I would most certainly intervene, so why don’t I do it with the slaughter of the unborn? Well, because the slaughter of the unborn, while a wicked sin, is not the same as having the ability to stop a sister from being raped or a brother from being murdered. I would most certainly stop the rapist or murderer from performing their actions even with the means of lethal force if necessary. Would AHA do the same against an abortion doctor? Against the feminist mother treating her child as if it is a colon polyp needing to be removed?

If acting in love is the same as stopping abortion as it is with stopping rapists and murderers, why isn’t AHA doing the necessary duty to stop those abortionists? They would physically stop a rape or a murder from happening if they could, even to the point of lethal force, yet they seem to think holding up graphic signs, passing out literature, and preaching outside abortion clinics is the same thing. It is not.

But loving your neighbor is not applicable only to the Old Testament. Just because the prophets lived under the Old Covenant doesn’t mean we have no reason whatsoever to imitate any of their bold actions.

Their bold actions never engaged in social activism. However, I know AHA apologists will insist the prophets were social activists for rebuking Israel for ignoring widows and orphans and perverting justice. But that was within the borders of a theocratic nation of Israel. They were not rebuked for their apathy against the Babylonians or the Assyrians enslaving other nation states.

After I dealt with AHA’s abuse of Scripture, I moved to addressing the logical fallacies of the pamphlet. My first example was the inaccurate comparison between the message of repentance Jesus gave the scribes and Pharisees and Luther the Catholic Church, with the abolitionists during the early 1800s calling churches to repent of slavery. I pointed out that the first two examples of Jesus and Luther dealt specifically with repentance of a false Gospel message, where as the call to repent of slavery was not a Gospel message issue.

In response, Johnson writes this convoluted comment,

Likewise, so are the souls at the abortion mills, performing the abortions, getting the abortions, supporting the abortions, escorting the women to get abortions, the Roman Catholics who believe works are required to obtain forgiveness, etc.

He seems to miss my entire point. He doesn’t even address the disjointedness between the first two illustration and the third. Oh well.

Okay, you’re an Incrementalist. Thank you for telling us. I was too, for years before I became an Abolitionist. Realize, though, that Wilberforce recanted his incrementalist beliefs that he had held to for years. The Abolitionists of slavery spoke out against incrementalist ideas.

Here we see AHA’s vitriol toward incrementalism begin to surface. Three things, however. First, being familiar with Wilburforces life, he was an abolitionist from the get go. I’d like for Johnson to document when he had an awakening from incrementalism to abolitionism. He always wanted slavery to be abolished. Secondly, how he sought to have slavery abolished was incrementally, toiling to pass laws that eventually ended the slave trade and slavery across the British empire and eventually the United States. Incrementalism, as a legal strategy, is not sinful or even in need of recanting. It is gaining political victory little by little in order to reach the end goal, the abolishing of abortion in society. Third, once again, holding to abolitionist ideas is not akin to being AHA.

Then responding to my rebuttal of the two ridiculous illustrations mentioned in the pamphlet he writes,

Which is worse, people being legally raped or people being legally murdered? Both scenarios are horrible, but the latter is your reality.

Which is more ludicrous, children legally being kidnapped or children legally being murdered? Both scenarios are horrible, but the latter is your reality.

The latter is certainly our reality, but the means that I, or any other non-AHA anti-abortionist, have chosen to deal with that reality, AHA disparages. For instance, raising money for a crisis pregnancy center is an entirely helpful way to combat abortion, but AHA thinks it is apathetic. Voting for pro-life political candidates and pro-life legislation is a legitimate means to combating abortion, but AHA tells me its not enough. Churches and Christians that do confront women at abortion mills, who plead with girls seeking to abort their babies, are still in need of repenting according to AHA propagandists. Why?

The world is the church’s report card. And it looks terrible. The culture itself may look bad, but the culture is made up of millions of souls, most of whom have not heard the Biblical Gospel of repentance and faith alone in Jesus Christ. That also doesn’t look good on our report card. Which is why we call the church to action.

The church has only one mandate from the Lord: to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Engaging in social activism is not on that agenda, and Christians shouldn’t be shamed into thinking they are apathetic because they do not pursue one group’s passion for a particular social issue. Social activism may spring out of a culture where the Gospel takes root and God begins changing lives.

Regrettably, you have missed the vital point we have been trying to make. We’re not claiming to be better than you. For all the criticisms you see Abolitionists make against incrementalism, Romanism, etc., we have a ton more criticisms of each other that you don’t see. We constantly encourage one another to get more active. To reform our doctrine. To make sure not to align with damnable heresy.

His final comment utterly lacks any self-awareness, a recurring characteristic of AHA apologists and propagandists. They most certainly have claimed to be better than everyone else, or their members wouldn’t be standing around outside churches telling the Christians they need to repent for not caring enough like AHA. It is a subtle form of works righteousness, “we care more about abortion than you.”

What AHA has done is to become the self-appointed gatekeepers defining pure and clean abortion activism. Any Christian who does not manifest the same level of passion, zeal, urgency, and mental consumption to combat abortion like AHA, is an apathetic and uncaring person who needs to repent. If my support of crisis pregnancy centers and pro-life causes are apathetic according to AHA, I choose to remain apathetic.

Reviewing an AHA Tract

So Abolish Human Abortion took precious time away from pleading with the women at abortion mills to favor the Ninevite hirelings attending the 2017 Shepherd’s Conference with a pamphleteering campaign.

In addition to the Thursday and Friday of the conference, they also skipped Sunday morning worship at their churches to run the members of Grace through their sidewalk gauntlet.

I was able to secure one of the pamphlets they were passing out and thought I would offer up a review.

To begin, I have to say that I am mightily impressed with the physical pamphlet. If I had to guess, I would say it is 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 booklet. It is printed on sturdy paper stock with a nice, glossy sheen, so we’re not dealing with flimsy, Chick tracts paper quality that is typical of sidewalk activist types. Some good money has been put into the production.

Additionally, the pictures have an artsy look with lots of swirly designs set off with bold colors. Similar to the kind of artwork you find in those popular adult coloring books. And each picture captures a talking point of AHA. Take for example the cover posted above. Here we see a ship being tossed about in a red sea. I’m taking it that the sea represents abortion blood, and the wayward ship is the guilty Christians who love theology more than God and neighbor and do not participate in non-stop abortion activism. A whale’s tail is seen crashing through the waves of gore, which is the faithful abolitionists standing outside the local church handing out pamphlets.

However, in spite of the colorful graphics and professionally done booklet, that probably cost a lot of money to print, when we open it up and review the actual content of what the pamphlet writer is conveying, Scriptural misappropriations and logical fallacies explode off the page. Just a surface level scrutiny reveals how embarrassingly bad the argument for AHA tactics truly is.

Let me begin with the Scriptural misappropriation; what we can call, “taking verses out of context.”

Look again at the cover picture. In the lower left and right hand corners are two OT passages. One is from Ezekiel 6:1-6 and the other from Jeremiah 7:2-7. Obviously, AHA is attempting to build a biblical case for their methods of abortion activism and the need for Churches to repent for their apathy and blood guilt. Alas, neither passage addresses such issues.

I’ll cite the passages in full.

First Ezekiel 6:1-6 states,

 1 And the word of the LORD came to me saying,
 2 “Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them
 3 and say, ‘Mountains of Israel, listen to the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, the hills, the ravines and the valleys: “Behold, I Myself am going to bring a sword on you, and I will destroy your high places.
 4 “So your altars will become desolate and your incense altars will be smashed; and I will make your slain fall in front of your idols.
 5 “I will also lay the dead bodies of the sons of Israel in front of their idols; and I will scatter your bones around your altars.
 6 “In all your dwellings, cities will become waste and the high places will be desolate, that your altars may become waste and desolate, your idols may be broken and brought to an end, your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be blotted out.

Now lets turn to Jeremiah 7:2-7

2 “Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house and proclaim there this word and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the LORD!'”
3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.
4 “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’
5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor,
6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin,
7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

Both passages speak of the promised threat of God’s judgment. But is God promising judgment against the modern church that AHA believes is apathetic with regards to abortion and the Christians who do not engage the culture with the tactics of AHA’s abortion activism? Nope.

Ezekiel and Jeremiah describe God’s judgment against the covenant unfaithfulness of Israel. Both prophets are exilic prophets, meaning their message was heard immediately before and during the Babylonian exile. Their words have meaning exclusively to national Israel during that time, and unless you adhere to CT or NCT views of the church now being the “New Testament Israel,” they are no more relevant to Christians in today’s world as Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise to a college guy that he will marry the pretty girl from his math class that he has a crush on.

One more example. Consider 1 John 3:18, Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. John’s words are quoted as if loving in deed and truth is equivalent to AHA abortion activism. Any Christian who isn’t as urgent with abortion activism as AHA is not loving and are “Christians” in word and tongue only.

The problem, however, is that John clearly explains in the preceding verses what it means to love in deed and truth: it is meeting the tangible needs of fellow Christians when you have the ability to meet those needs. If you see your fellow Christians in need, defined as material and financial according to John, and you ignore those needs when you have the ability to meet them, you are NOT loving your brothers faithfully. Again, this passage has absolutely no application to a cultural engagement with abortion activism in the manner that AHA insists Churches must do.

Those are just three examples. Every verse cited and utilized in the pamphlet to make a biblical case for Christians to repent of their so-called apathy regarding abortion and embrace the AHA model of abortion activism, has been ripped out of context. None of them have anything whatsoever to with Christians repenting, or being guilty of not loving their pre-born neighbors, attacking child sacrifice, or any of the other Orwellian AHA newspeak terms they employ against abortion in the modern United States.

What about logical fallacies? I’ll focus on two illustrations.

First, read this page from the pamphlet:

Three examples are provided of when the religious (you know, Christians who have loved theology over God and neighbor like the Ninevite hirelings attending the Shepherd’s Conference) were called to repent. First is when Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy regarding God’s law that exploited the Jews and enriched themselves. Next, when the Reformers called out the Rome Catholic Church and it’s unbiblical use of indulgences to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. And then, when Abolitionists, servants of Jesus, called churches in the pre-Civil War south to repentance for slavery. The first two examples are related, the third is a non sequitur.

The first two examples pertain directly to biblical theology and truth that distorts the means of salvation. In other words, what the scribes, Pharisees, and Rome Catholics did prevented men from experiencing salvation. Men’s eternal souls were at stake.

While slavery is a terrible sin against humanity, it is not distorting the message of salvation. In fact, a number of slave owners educated their slaves as to the true Gospel and they were subsequently saved as a result. Certainly that doesn’t justify slavery; but to equate those three particular examples as being one and the same regarding the need to call men to repent is illogical.

Ironically, the slave illustration unintentionally contradicts AHA’s big talking regarding immediatism and incrementalism. AHA advocates for immediatism, or the immediate abolishment of human abortion. The idea of incrementalism, or the gradual chipping away at abortion in our culture, is odious to them and represents gross compromise against God.

However, historically, human slavery was stopped by Christians incrementally passing laws to stop the slave trade and eventually slavery throughout the Western world including the United States. William Wilberforce’s efforts in Britain is a prime example of the effectiveness of incremental laws changing a society and the entire world.

One more example of illogical argumentation. Read this section from the pamphlet,

The section presents a couple of absurd illustrations AHA believes demonstrates the need for Christians to engage in AHA abortion activism. The first ridiculous illustration presents a scenario where there is a society that allows, by law, people to rape wives and children. Sort of a twisted version of the fake prima nocta rituals that never really existed.

The second illustration is even more ludicrous, a park where any predator can kidnap any child at will. Even more, they are allowed not only by law to do the kidnapping, but they are also protected by law enforcement from anyone who would attempt to prevent the kidnapping.

What is truly facepalming about those two farcical situations is that AHA genuinely believes they are powerfully establishing their argument for churches to repent and be as stirred up for abortion activism as they are. Of course, the one thing they are missing with both those illustrations is the fact that women willing go to abortion clinics to murder their children. They are not innocently sitting at a park when a total stranger runs up and rips their baby from their tummy. If the illustrations were to be true to life, it would be a society where women willing allow themselves to be raped and parents intentionally take their children to that park for predators to kidnap them.

On the back of the pamphlet is a picture of a fish, representing the fish that swallowed Jonah and took him back to Nineveh. See the picture below,

Etched on to the fish are various excuses people supposedly give as to why they don’t want to engage in abortion activism like AHA. On the right fluke of the fish’s tail are the words, “The church’s mission is to make disciples, not change the culture.” That is allegedly a terrible excuse, because the church is to change culture, not just make disciples.

But where exactly in the NT is the church told it is to change the culture? Where exactly did Christ convey such a command? While it is true Christians change cultures and societies (think the Western world), the cultural change is a result of making disciples, not just changing the culture.

Regrettably, AHA seems to miss that vital point. Instead, they have made an idol out of their brand of abortion activism. Any Christian who isn’t engaged frequently, or at all, in abortion activism like AHA is condemned as apathetic and needing to repent. Any church that merely gives financially to a crisis pregnancy center or chooses a legislative strategy of incrementalism are labelled compromisers.

The danger for AHA is the more they use such rhetoric against faithful Christians who don’t do activism like them, the more they marginalize themselves as kooks, along with diminishing the important work of ending abortion in our nation.

Gleanings from Judges [16]

samson

Samson and the Retaliation Against the Philistines – Judges  15

In my study of Judges, I have come to the unusual, but extraordinary life of Samson.

First, he had a special calling. He was born to a barren mother, and was told to be a Nazarite before his birth.
Second, he had a spectacular mission. He was stirred to action by the Holy Spirit against the Philistines and empowered with superhuman strength.
Third, he had a separated life. His special calling led him to take on a separated life from specific defilement. He was meant to demonstrate the separation Israel was to have from the Philistines.

Yet, in spite of such an unique work of God in Samson’s life, he was a morally flawed man. We see him as a compromiser, as one pursuing a marriage to a woman who was from the very enemies God had raised him up to conquer. It is as if Samson forgot who he was, why he was born, and it appears that if God had not “rushed” upon him to drive him to action against the Philistines, he would never have done what God wanted him to do.

But God wants His people separate; a holy people set aside to Himself. In spite of his flaws, God uses Samson as the disturber of the peace between Israel and their Philistine overlords.

Initially, Samson had seen a Philistine girl (Judges 14), and acting upon his lust, wanted her as a wife. His parents, alarmed by the request, give into his demands anyways and arrange the marriage. During the wedding feast, Samson states a riddle to the men appointed to watch him. The riddle was based upon his killing of a lion with his bare hands and bees making a hive in the carcass. The loser had to pay with 30 garments.

Only he alone knew about this lion bee hive, so before the allotted time expired, the Philistines force the girl to find out the answer and cheat Samson. Enraged by the deception, the Spirit of the LORD comes upon him and he kills 30 Philistine men in Ashkelon in order to hold up his side of the gamble by paying the wedding guests 30 garments of clothing.

Those events are merely the precursor to the next level of events which escalate Israel’s situation with the Philistines to an all out war.

Samson and his father-in-law (15:1-8). Chapter 15 opens with the words, After a while. We are not sure how much time elapsed. We know it was the wheat harvest, so these events could have started in late May, early summer.

Samson takes a young goat and goes to claim his bride. She, however, has been given to another man. Her father offers her younger sister, but Samson is not satisfied. He vows to do the Philistines harm for this outrage of injustice. The idea of harm is meant to cause strife. Similar to how God sent an ill spirit between Abimelech and men of Shechem so that the men dealt treacherously with Abimelech. Samson begins to rupture the comfortable peace between Israel and the Philistines.

Samson seeks revenge. He captures 300 foxes, or possibly jackals (not an easy feat), ties them together and ties a torch between them. He then sets them loose in the grain fields of the Philistines burning their crops. That would obviously be a serious situation for the Philistines, because they would have no food. Samson was striking against their economy, livelihood, and their fertility gods.

The Philistines knew immediately that Samson was the culprit. The even knew why: because his father-in-law gave away his wife to another man. They in turn kill the man, his family, and burn his house down with fire. Samson avenges their murder by attacking the men who killed them, smiting them hip and thigh with a great slaughter (15:8). He then leaves and dwells in the caves of Etam.

Samson and Judah (15:9-17). While he is hiding in the caves, the Philistines go to elders of Judah and threaten war. They force the men of Judah to arrest Samson and then hand him over to them.

Gathering their army, the men of Judah go down to where Samson was hiding and call him out. He is causing problems with the Philistines, they insist, and they were there to seize him and hand him over. Samson allows himself to be taken and bound with new rope. As soon as the Philistines see him come out bound, they run down to attack him. At that moment, the Spirit of the LORD came upon Samson, the ropes were burned off of him, and Samson takes a fresh jawbone of a donkey and slays 1,000 men with it.

His slaughter of them was so spectacular that Samson renames the place where the battle took place, Ramath Lehi, which can mean, Jawbone Hill.

The reader will note a couple of important truths.

First, Samson does not initiate the move against the Philistines in order to deliver Israel. His actions were purely personal vendettas against those who hurt him.

Secondly, seeing his own actions and renaming the two spots, where he defeated the Philistines with a jawbone and where he called for water and God miraculously supplied it, it is clear he has his own interests in mind.

But all of those events is for an occasion against the Philistines. God will have His people separate and He raises up a severely flawed man to accomplish the freedom of Israel.