Are Evangelical Continuationists The Same As Mormon Continuationists?

The leadership of the Mormon church recently changed their policy regarding parents of gay children.

Children of parents who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender may now be blessed as infants and baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without First Presidency approval, President Dallin H. Oaks announced Thursday morning, April 4.

In addition, the Church will no longer characterize same-gender marriage by a Church member as “apostasy” for purposes of Church discipline, although it is still considered “a serious transgression.”

The policy was changed by a divine revelation as God supposedly guided the leadership,

the changes reflect the continuing revelation that has been a part of the modern Church since the Restoration.

“These policy changes come after an extended period of counseling with our brethren in the Quorum the Twelve Apostles after fervent, united prayer to understand the will of the Lord,” wrote President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring, in the statement.

Note the words, continuing revelation. Al Mohler then discussed that policy change on his Briefing podcast and stated in a tweet,

Mohler is dead wrong about that difference. While certainly the polytheistic pseudo-Christianity of the Mormon church is radically different from historic, orthodox Christianity, when it comes to continuationism, the leadership of the Mormon church receiving direct, divine revelation is really no different than evangelicals claiming they receive direct, personal revelations. In response to Mohler’s tweet, I stated,

Unsurprisingly, there were a number of naysayers who sternly disagreed with my comment. One individual wrote in response that it is absolutely untrue that any continuationist would equate his or her gift of prophecy with Scripture. Another opined that every SBC pastor he has known insists God spoke to them by “calling” them to the ministry. Still another person echoed that every pastor received a divine revelation from God to pastor the church where he currently serves. One guy was upset that I would slander the good name and reputation of Beth Moore who regularly shares in her sermons how God tells her stuff.

The common misconception among average Christians is that the gift of prophesy is very much active in today’s church. The gift is meant to be a divinely encouraging word to other believers, rather than some new divinely given revelation. Usually it is equated with preaching by a pastor or a teacher. Additionally, any stirring or prompting of believers to some spiritual duty is God “speaking” to them, but that speaking is never equated to new revelation.

But that misconception demonstrates a profound ignorance of theological categories and a sloppy application of biblical terminology. It really stems from a deficient understanding of what prophesy was in the Old and New Testaments and the role prophets and apostles played when exercising the use of the gift of prophesy.

New Testament professor, F. David Farnell, provides a basic working understanding of the gift of prophesying. He writes,

In general terms, prophesying in the Old and New Testament may be defined as
the supernatural, Spirit-given communication of God’s will and word to God’s people. The prophetic gift is always a supernatural gift. It is not merely heightened human insight, nor can it be equated with today’s preaching in the pulpit. TMS Journal, Fall 2014.

There are a couple of important highlights from that citation. First, the gift of prophesy must be distinguished from preaching. One of my more persistent Twitter detractors was vehement that prophesy is the same as preaching from a pulpit. But throughout Scripture, preaching is proclaiming the Word of God already revealed through prophets and apostles who wrote it down and is now available for all to read.

A second highlight is that prophesy is a divine, supernatural, Spirit-given communication of God’s will and word to His people. Again, throughout Scripture, both the OT and NT, those individuals anointed with the prophetic utterance were granted a divine revelation. That revelation was either inscripturated into the 66 books of our Bible or spoken to God’s redeemed people as a word of exhortation or direction. Never was prophesy meant to convey vague, whimsical musing that grant some person the ability to ascertain God’s otherwise secretive will his or her personal life.

As much as Christians will swear that their Spirit induced declarations are not direct, authoritative revelation from God, certainly not the kind that the Mormon leadership would receive, they most definitely speak as if they are. Regardless of what Al Mohler may think, the “God told me” or the “Spirit led me” rhetoric is found in practically every corner of evangelicalism. From ultra-fundamentalist Chick tracts (see for example his Reverend Wonderful tract in which the bold Christian receives divine direction to evangelize a celebrity ecumenist preacher) to the daily nonsensical superstitious soothsaying peddled at the Charisma Mag and Elijah List websites as spirit-filled Christianity. An even more recent illustration comes from Mike Lindell, the My Pillow salesman, who spoke at CPAC 2019 about how he knew God had miraculously appointed Donald Trump to be president. In fact, the first words out of his mouth was him telling the audience that God had given him the speech he was about to deliver at three in the morning. 

This continuationist view of prophecy is not contained merely among fringe internet ministries or charismatic denominations like the Assemblies of God or the New Apostolic Reformation, but also among traditionally non-charismatic groups like the Southern Baptists. The members of the SBC have been indoctrinated to think in the way of the Mormon prophets by such teachers like Henry Blackaby and his Experience God books. Blackaby teaches that Christians should expect the same divine direction that the Old and New Testament people experienced. The only way Christians can have a genuine relationship (experience) with God is if He is allowed to direct our everyday lives with specific details that are not particularly revealed in Scripture. In other words, by divine, personal revelations. An excellent review of Blackaby’s experiencing God view was written up by Dan Phillips and can be found here, Part 1 and here, Part 2.

Lifeway-made celebrity, Beth Moore, is probably the most prominent public example of an SBC personality who claims to have a direct conduit to God who channels divine revelation to her on a frequent basis. She is notorious for her infamous “hair brush” story, in which she claims God told her to brush the hair of a disheveled stranger as she waited for a plane at an airport. In the preface of her book, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, Moore writes the following,

Moore is clearing saying that the book was a message given to her directly by God, for if she had not obeyed and written it down, the rocks in her yard would have cried out. Now, she does give herself an out in the following paragraph when she writes that she is not saying her book is divine revelation. But if the message was assigned to her by God, even delivering it to her while she sat bug-eyed at what she read, and if she is had not written it down the rocks would have cried out, how can this book be anything else BUT a divinely given revelation?

Contrary to what Al Mohler tweeted regarding Mormons and Evangelicals, while they may be divergent religions, both groups are identical when it comes to their acceptance of the gift of prophesy and continuing revelation. Evangelicals may soften the severity of what they are believing by tacking on the disclaimer, “I’m not saying my message is on the level with Scripture,” but if they are saying God is revealing a special message or some aspect of His will to a person, how could it not be of the same authority as Scripture? Either the message is infallibly coming from God or it is not. That there are great swaths of pew sitting Christians who can’t tell the difference is troubling. Even more concerning are those who believe those personal revelations are valid and blast against anyone who would question their legitimacy.

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Worldview Fail

Conspiracy provocateur and vitamin supplement grifter, Brannon Howse, continues his personal campaign of humiliating failure. His latest attempt was a blinding pyre of self-immolation that was wildly entertaining to behold.

In his pursuit to discredit the 50 year ministry of pastor John MacArthur, Howse manufactured a fake scandal that rivals the hacks at Buzzfeed News that involves him misleading Civil Rights icon, Charles Evers, in a phone interview and then dispatching one of his social media toadies to write up a deceptive report about it that was debunked within a matter of hours.

Stay with me, this is gonna be fun!

It went down like this:

Those who are familiar with pastor John MacArthur knows that before he pastored Grace Community Church, he was involved for a few years in the 1960s with revivals and ministry crusades in the segregated south with his friend John Perkins. During the week of Martin Luther King’s assassination, March 31st to April 6th, 1968, John was with Perkins helping with some crusades in Mississippi. While in Jackson, news broke of MLK’s assassination. Listen to John recall the events surrounding that day:

John has recounted that story a number of times over the years. In that particular video, he was with Perkins when he retold it. If there were any details amiss about his version of events, Perkins could have corrected them, because he was on the front row. If not there, at some later point. Moreover, John even asked him to clarify about Evers being the first black mayor in rural Fayette, MS.

Sometime last year, Brannon Howse was able to finagle a phone interview with Charles Evers. In that interview, Howse asked Evers, who is now 96 years old, if John was with him on the night of MLK’s murder. Evers answers that he does not know John, that he was alone when he received the news of MLK, and that whoever John is he needs to stop lying to people. The interview can be heard HERE.

The audio interview was added to a larger fake news report written up by one of Brannon’s social media sycophants and posted on an ad heavy screaming eagle patriot style website. The obvious take away from the entire article is that John MacArthur is a liar who made up his involvement with those men on that night. He is essentially like Ergun Caner, creating a bogus history about his early life.

Once that article went live, all of the woker-than-thou social justice scolds, and other various MacArthur haters from the survivor blogger fever swamps, breathlessly rushed to twitter to link it and grimly shake their heads at how awful John is. The celebrity pastor who was behind that terrible Statement on Social Justice inserted himself into a fraudulent narrative with key Civil Rights era leaders to boost his credibility as to speaking against social justice. This is certainly an explosive story. One that could ruin John’s legacy, that just so happens to have come to light right on the eve of him celebrating his 50th anniversary at Grace Community Church! How convenient! Will he respond?

Now this is where it gets really good

As soon as the web article was circulating and folks were listening to the interview with Evers, a number of people wondered if the interviewer was Howse. Even though the voice didn’t sound like his, the cadence and inflections sure did sound like him. The marvel of the internet is how immediately a story like this can be truly fact checked and then blown up. One resourceful fellow downloaded the audio and then adjusted the pitch to normal.

He discovered this,

Oh boy.

Of course the most obvious question that comes to mind is why did Howse mask his voice? What was the point? Typically when a person is interviewed, it is his or her voice that may be masked for personal protection. But masking the voice of the interviewer? Odd.

A doctored interview should immediately raise suspicions of journalistic fraud, but the website hosting the article believes it represents “well-researched journalism.” Seeing how the mainstream media has so tainted actual journalism by turning lies into truth, I understand why they are naive like that.

I can only guess Howse is a coward and preferred to have his toady thrown under the bus if the story backfired on him. I mean, it could be that his toady masked his voice and he was unaware of the change. Maybe. But seeing that he dropped a now deleted Facebook comment from November 9th, 2018 claiming to have “taped interview with personal friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” who essentially contradicts a “story told over & over by well-known pastor from pulpit,” the likely scenario is that he gave the writer the interview with his voice already masked.

Whatever the case, his explosive bombshell was a spectacular fail.

Now.

Rather than stepping back and acknowledging that this was a blatant hit-piece designed to smear MacArthur’s reputation, many folks were genuinely troubled by Charles Evers’ seemingly contradictory account as to where he was when he received the news of MLK’s assassination compared to where John said he was when he received the news. Evers insists in the interview he was alone, whereas John maintains that he was with Perkins and Evers in Evers’ office in Jackson.

Howse and his fake news friend, however, failed to mention that Evers has given at least three different versions of where he was when he received the news of MLK’s death. Putting aside the fact that the Watchman Wakes blog is maintained by a raging lunatic who believes Perkins, Evers, and MacArthur colluded to kill MLK on behalf of the Freemasons, if you can muscle your way through the rambling madness, he documents that there are at least three separate accounts where Evers said he was:

1) Driving highway 28 to Natchez when he heard the news on the radio,
2) Heading to a meeting in Fayette, and
3) In Indiana with Bobby Kennedy.

Now with the addition of Howse’s deceptive interview, Evers says he was in the car and received a phone call from his secretary. Weird seeing that portable phones in 1968 were rare, cost like 4,000 bucks, and would be virtually unusable in rural Mississippi, but I digress.

Fayette is on the way to Natchez so 1) and 2) are pretty much the same scenario and probably closer to what really happened. Evers saying he was in Indiana with Bobby Kennedy when he received the news is virtually impossible, and if one watches the interview in which he says that, he gives the impression that he was misremembering the details.

We do know, however, from an article in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger from April 5th, 1968, that Evers was in Jackson with a group of black leaders trying to restore peace to the black community,

We have at least four inconsistent retellings from Mr. Evers of the details surrounding the same event. I personally don’t believe he is lying. He is more than likely telescoping and conflating details from an event 51 years ago. I’ve known a number of 90 year olds in my life and their memories can be fuzzy about events from 20 years ago, let alone 50. Still, it is pathetic for the woker-than-thou scolds on social media to insist John is the only one required to give a response or clarifying statement. It’s John’s account called into question, not Evers.

This was nothing but a sleaze ball hit piece against the character of a good man. Brannon probably still has the bitters that John and GTY didn’t come to his defense when he was getting push back after his sleaze ball hit piece against James White back in the summer of 2017. The whole affair reeks of those sins Peter says we are to lay aside in 1 Peter 2:1. And shame on all the dopey woker-than-thou scolds who desperately wanted this story to be true and gleefully promoted it on social media. To my knowledge, none of them have issued one retraction for being duped by it.

One can only hope this slimy affair will marginalize Howse and his disreputable joke of a “discernment” ministry.

Celebrity Preachers and Secondary Separation

Cody Libolt, who helps run the Christian Intellectual website, asks some questions of the organizers of three major Reformed conferences, G3, Shepherd’s Conference, and Ligonier.

The questions pertain to the ongoing battle with social justice warriors who are injecting their social justice ideology into the blood stream of the Christian church. A few men who have been labelled supporters for the social justice viewpoint have either been, or will be, speakers at those three conferences.

The main point of contention is between anti-SJW folks who wonder if those men should be uninvited from those conference. Allowing them to speak, even if their message is not related to social justice, devalues any argument against the social justice philosophy, say for example the statement on social justice. They should not be given a platform only for the sake of maintaining unity with celebrity preachers. Cody’s questions are an attempt to flesh out the thinking of those conference organizers in light of the social justice affirmations from those men. I’ll provide my personal answers, so I do not speak for everyone.

Questions for G3, ShepCon, and Ligonier:

1. On the topic of social justice, who are the ones you know are being divisive and should be receiving direct, public correction – by name? Do they exist?

Yes, those individuals do exist. I would add that I believe they are a menace to the Christian church. (This was discussed, by the way, at the G3 pre-conference hosted by Sovereign Nations). The folks coming immediately to mind who are flagrantly promoting social justice (which really amounts to cultural Marxism) are such individuals as Tim Keller, Jamar Tisby, Thabiti Anyabwile, Russell Moore, Matt Chandler, Dwight Mckissic, Eric Mason, David Platt and lesser known personalities like Kyle Howard and Brad Mason who sow discord among the brethren on social media.

2. Do you want to be publicly associated with those divisive people? In what way? Is there a principle here or not?

No. I personally would not want to be publicly associated with those divisive individuals I named above. I would imagine they wouldn’t want to be publicly associated with me, either. However, most of those men, at least to my knowledge, have never been associated with the conferences in question. David Platt is the only person I know who preached at G3. His message was on missions, not social justice; and as far as I know, the issue was not raised with him nor did he mention it when he spoke.

3. If there is someone known for repeatedly promoting those divisive people—someone who speaks as if the divisive ones were right and does not speak as if the truth were the truth (on a matter such as social justice that you say you consider primary), would you endorse them as being a trustworthy teacher?

I believe Cody is looking for someone to say, “Oh yes, but Al Mohler promotes Russell Moore,” or “Ligon Duncan wrote the forward to Eric Mason’s book on wokeness.” The question then turns to whether or not Al Mohler or Ligon Duncan can be trusted because they promote those problematic individuals.

Here we begin crossing the border into the area of secondary separation. This one, otherwise solid guy is associated with a person who has troubling orthopraxy, (not orthodoxy, which is a key distinction). Should Christians break fellowship, or in this case, uninvite the solid guy from the Reformed conference circuit because of his association with the troubling woke person? I would say no, it is not necessary, and only comes across as petty, as I will explain momentarily.

4. Do you believe that inviting them to speak at your conference constitutes a tacit endorsement of their trustworthiness?

Of course. As it pertains to the topic of the conference and the initial reason they were invited. For example, the 2019 G3 conference was focused upon missions and the Shepherd’s Conference will focus upon faithfulness. If those men are staying true to the topic at hand and are faithful to exegete the Scriptures, they are trustworthy. We can maybe discuss their odd association with the woke social justice warriors at some other point.

The Solution:

Cody then moves to providing a solution to our fraternal dilemma. How should we treat solid guys who mess around with troubling guys? His suggestions are a worthy effort, but I disagree on the finer points.

Despite the strawmen being burnt by some, the point of all this is not to excommunicate Mohler, Duncan, Platt, Dever, etc. Who said anything about that?

Excommunicate is a rather strong term. We must exercise care when employing it. Excommunication is an action reserved for those individuals who have abandoned the Christian faith and who teach contrary to Scripture. The men in question, Mohler, Duncan, Dever, even Platt, have done nothing worthy of excommunication.

However, it is not entirely inaccurate or burning a strawman to point out that critics of those men wish to excommunicate them. While it is true that those critics are not using the terminology of excommunication as if those men are now apostate because they entertain woke ideas, they are insisting that conference organizers must now uninvite them to speak at G3, Shepherd’s Conference, or Ligoneir, or any other similar conference, or they partake in their sinful deeds of wokeness and expose countless thousands of unwashed laymen to cultural Marxism. I’m sorry, but that is ridiculously absurd.

The point is this: You ought to be thoughtful about whether you will tacitly endorse their teaching.

I am assuming by “endorsing their teaching” you mean their overall personal ministry apart from a conference. Dever’s 9 Marks material or Al Mohler’s podcast, for example. As the person’s teaching pertains to the conference at hand where he is speaking, if he stays on point, I can endorse his teaching. But like with any ministry, regardless as to who that ministry may have endorsed or partnered with in other venues, I would exercise discernment with everything they present. That is not a compromised position.

There is a good solution. You can still bring them on your stage, if that is what you want.

Simply warn viewers at the event that there are major disagreements about social justice in discussion right now, and not all people on the stage agree about the answers or even about the relative importance of the questions.

There are a couple of problems I have with this approach. First, we are underestimating the conference attendees, assuming that they are uninformed as to those men’s woke affiliations. Why tell them something they already know and have laid aside for this unrelated conference? But then secondly, and more importantly, it is petty and unnecessarily humiliating to call out individuals before the entire conference audience that you have invited to speak regarding a disagreement that is unrelated to the conference. That just tosses an awkward wet blanket over the event and not only dishonors your guests, but insults them.

While I understand the need to take a stand against the social justice movement within the church, we still need to carefully distinguish between those individuals we certainly would not associate with from those faithful men that we have called friends, but who have offered encouragement to that other group. Of course separation from compromise is vital, but what we have determined is “compromise” needs to be expertly weighed. The last thing we need to do is become so consumed with the purity of our alliances that we inflict an equal amount of damage to the church as those we are separating from.

 

Look, Over There!

I haven’t been blogging regularly here for nearly a year. The primary reason is that I don’t have the time to write like I like. However, I have been blogging over here,

Bible Thumping Wingnut

Granted, many of those articles are old Hip and Thigh articles I reworked, but I do have a few that are new and fresh. BTWN has a much larger reach than my lowly, Alexa rated blog. One post I did last year pointing out how Francis Chan lied against his old church and threw them under the bus, has like 60,000 hits and over 200 plus comments! That’s like massive bluecheck mark Twitter celebrity numbers!

I also have had the opportunity to participate on a few BTWN podcasts.

So those faithful followers who have been around with me for the last decade or more, if you haven’t checked out my newer gig, swing on over. I do plan to keep this blog active. I often marvel at how often I am linking somebody to an article I wrote in 2008 in response to a question they have. Truth never grows old.

Gleanings from Judges [20]

Civil War in Israel – Judges 20-21

Judges 19 recounts the horrific event that took place in Gibeah. A group of thuggish perverts attacked a Levite, his servant, and his concubine wife. The wife was abused the entire night and died of her injuries the following morning. The Levite, as callus as he was by allowing that outrage to happen, hacks the woman’s body into 12 pieces, and sends them by messengers to the 12 tribes with a description of what happened.

Coming to chapters 20 and 21, the Bible records for us the military response.

1. The Rallying

Chapter 20 begins by noting that all of Israel came together. That was unique, because throughout Judges, generally a handful of tribes gathered together to face an adversary. Here in chapter 20, all the tribes from Dan to Beersheba presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, verse 2 states. The response was overwhelming with 400,000 foot soldiers gathering themselves together.

After the Levite tells what happened to his concubine wife, all the people united as “one man.” Everyone recognized the seriousness of the sin and they wanted the Benjamites to do the right thing by handing over the men who committed the terrible crime of raping the woman.

2. The Battles

What transpires are three major battles against the tribe of Benjamin. The leaders of Benjamin would not honor their request to hand over the criminals. Instead, they prepared for battle against the rest of Israel. There were 26,000 men. Seven hundred of them were proficient left-hand fighters.  That was an advantage, because those men were trained with the use of swords and sling stones with both their hands.

The First Battle: The people of Israel ask the LORD who will go first against Benjamin. God communicates for the first time and says that Judah will go first. When they go out to meet Benjamin, the Benjamites kill 22,000 men.

The Second Battle: After the people regather, they weep before the LORD. The LORD once again says to go up against Benjamin, and this time 18,000 more men were killed.

The Third Battle: Again, the people ask whether they should go up against Benjamin or cease from fighting and this time the LORD said that He would deliver them into their hand. For the third attack, they changed strategy. One group lured Benjamin out, while a second group set up an ambush to take the city. Benjamin, confidently believing they were winning, had no idea that disaster was upon them (vs.34). Once the army moved out of the city, the second group burned it to the ground. The Benjamites panicked and ran for their lives, only to be overtaken in battle and defeated. They were mercilessly slaughtered both men and beasts. Basically, Israel did to Benjamin what they were to do with the wicked Canaanites.

3. The Consequences

The defeat of Benjamin was nearly total. The tribe came close to extinction.The text states that roughly 600 men were left. As the survivors remained in hiding, remorse as to what happened confronts the other tribes. They see that there is no one left of the Benjamites and they have no wives. Additionally, all the 11 tribes had sworn an oath that none of them would give their daughters to the men of Benjamin. As they contemplated the consequences of nearly destroying the tribe of Benjamin, the 11 other tribes devise a bizarre solution.

First, they led an attack against the people of Jabesh Gilead. They were across the Jordan, far removed from the events leading up to the civil war with Benjamin. Israel commanded 12,000 men to attack the town and kill every man and woman except for the unmarried, virgin women. It was a terrible crime; however, from their attack, they retrieved 400 unmarried women for the remaining men of Benjamin.

Second. There still remained 200 men needing wives. They were directed to a yearly festival near Shiloh, north of Bethel during which the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform dances. They were to wait in hiding, and when the women arrived to dance, they were to snatch a wife and head back to the land of Benjamin. When the fathers and brothers complained of what happened, the other tribes would keep them off their back, as it were.

Both events demonstrate the gravity of sin. Within just a few decades, or at least the first hundred years after the conquest, the generations following those who conquered the land under Joshua, had become in practice like the Canaanites they fought. They were like all sinners, susceptible to being led astray.

But the entire book of Judges is a powerful testimony of how faithful God is to deliver. In spite of their sin and often when deliverance is unwanted.

Books I Heard or Read in 2017

My annual book review list for the year 2017.

Books I Heard

In The Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette – Hampton Sides

A wonderfully written narrative detailing the first attempt to cross the Arctic Sea. At the time, it was believed that the Arctic was a vast ocean surrounded by ice. Once a ship punches through the ice, the crew could sail across the North Pole, punch through the ice again, and emerge on the other side of the world. That of course was a wildly disastrous theory that led to the Jeannette and its crew trapped in the Polar Ice Cap for two years. They were eventually forced to abandon ship as it was crushed to pieces.

Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime – Val McDermid

A history of forensic science and how it has helped solve crimes. A bit ghoulish with some details, but this was one of the better books I heard this year.

The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace – H.W. Brands

As a southerner, I was born believing that U.S. Grant was an awful man who took state rights away from the South. Brands’s biography dispelled that myth for me. I finished this book loving the guy and actually thankful for his presidency after the Civil War. The first two-thirds of the book recounting Grant’s early life and military career during the war was riveting. Once he became president, the narrative got a bit boring at spots, but the author moved the story along at a good pace. He exposed me to a lot of forgotten history that was rarely covered in school. We can only wish we had more men like Grant today. I also look forward to exploring more of Brands’s history. He was an excellent writer.

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign – Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

Out of all the books I heard this year, Shattered was the most delightful. Primarily because I knew the ending and it would be an emotionally thrilling one. The two authors interviewed many individuals involved behind the scenes at Hillary’s campaign. They provide a month by month narrative moving us through Hillary’s announcement to run for president in 2015 to her meltdown on election day, 2016. They also border on turning the book into a hagiography as they gloss over Hillary’s corruption and criminal activities, and paint her opponents, particularly Trump, as sinister and conniving men wishing to deny this wonderful woman her rightful place as president. What was really revealing was the flagrant elitism of Hillary and her cronies who believed they deserved to win this election and that Americans were merely tricked by fake news and Russian meddling to vote for Trump. It is symphonic levels of delusions of grandeur.

Christianity and Liberalism – J. Gresham Machen

This is Machen’s classic, undeniable work demonstrating that Liberal Christianity is a false religion that has manufactured a god of their own making and has nothing whatsoever to do with biblical Christianity.

Why The Reformation Still Matters Michael Reeves and Tim Chester

Just finished this a week before Christmas. A well-written overview of the key men who ignited the Reformation. The authors cover what the five solas were all about and why they still very much matter for us some 500 years after the Reformation.

Books I read

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis – JD Vance

The autobiography of a young man raised in Kentucky and Ohio among a white trash, hillbilly culture. Spurred on to accomplish greater things by his crass grandmother who was one of the only stable persons in his life, Vance moved forward by joining the Marines, attending Ohio State, and eventually graduating from Harvard law school. The book hit close to home for me, because every dysfunctional family member and neighbor he describes mirrors pretty much a number of folks I knew in my rural, Arkansas town.

Do not Hinder Them: A Biblical Examination of Childhood Conversion – Justin Peters

Justin’s short book explores why manipulating young children to be baptized at a young age is ultimately disastrous. My longer review of the book can be found HERE.

What About Freewill? Reconciling Our Choices with God’s Sovereignty – Scott Christensen

As I have been telling people for a while now, this is probably the best book on the topic of freewill currently in print. Easy to read, well written, and addressing all of the necessary topics related to the subject. A lengthier review can be found HERE.

Wesley and the People Called Methodists  – Richard Heitzenrater

A friend of mine — who is the only high, supralapsarian Calvinist I know who graduated from a Wesleyan college — recommended this book to me. It is written from a Wesley-friendly perspective. The author is also more honest with his evaluation of Wesley’s troubling personal and theological foibles. It provides a fuller picture of the man than what is usually found among other evangelical historians attempting to make him an admirable counterpart to Whitefield.

The Doctrine of the Word of God – John Frame

Frame’s marvelous doctrinal study on Scripture. All of his works were on sale for 25 bucks at ShepCon this past year. If they are again this year, I’m picking up his Doctrine on the Christian Life to complete my set.

The Life and Times of Cotton Mather – Kenneth Silverman

Phil Johnson and Mike Abendroth recommended this older biography on Mather. I was able to secure a used hardback copy in excellent condition. Silverman, to my knowledge, is not a Christian, but he handles Mather with respect. At the same time, he does not gloss over Mather’s eccentricities. The section detailing the Salem witch trials and Mather’s continuationist sympathies is alone worth the price of the book.

The Benedict Arnold Option – J.D. Hall

I understand that J.D. is a polarizing figure; but that aside, he has written a necessary critique of Rod Dreher’s retreatist philosophy that has taken root among the evangelical intellectuals. The Benedict Option philosophy is to academy elitists what they think Trumpism is to blue collar, red state evangelicals.

Navigating Genesis – Hugh Ross

This is Hugh Ross’s classic manifesto presenting old earth, progressive creationism. If one wishes to know the basic apologetic approach of Ross and his supporters, it is the book where one should begin. I wrote a series of critiques that can be found HERE.

Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys: 7 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son Dennis Rainey

Dennis Rainey, host of Family Life Today, has put together a small, helpful book addressing the need for parents to direct teenage boys in assessing the character of young ladies. He draws his material from the book of Proverbs as he answers important questions in discipling young men.

I am currently working my way through Michael Kruger’s newest book on second century Christianity entitled, Christianity at the Crossroads. I plan a fuller review later after I finish it. As always, Kruger has written a needful work. Also, I am thoroughly enjoying Michael Vlach’s book, And He Shall Reign Forever, that is a study on the kingdom of God. It is an excellent entry on the topic of God’s sovereignty and His eternal kingdom.

Gleanings from Judges [19]

The Outrage at Gibeah (Judges 19)

The last five chapters of Judges are better treated as appendices. They set the overall theme of the book that speaks to Israel’s canaanization. The events recorded in them take place early in Israel’s history in the land. Shortly after Joshua had died. They clearly record Israel’s ethical and religious apostasy, demonstrating a direct violation of the Ten Commandments.

Chapters 17 and 18 is the story of Israel’s religious apostasy. Chapter 17 begins by telling of a family making a household idol and dedicating a private shrine of worship. Additionally, a Levitical priest was commissioned to lead the worship of this idol by means of the shrine. Chapter 18 tells how an entire tribe abandoned the task of conquering the land assigned to them by the LORD. They move to where they were not to be and they take the priest as their personal, tribal priest.

Chapter 19 brings us to an episode that displays a severe moral and ethical apostasy of the people. The subject matter is so terrifying, there are not many sermons preached on the text. The story is a horror. A brutal, unimaginable crime against an innocent woman, followed by the callus, heartless response by her husband. It is the kind of happening that we only hear about from far away, lawless lands. Yet God had it recorded and preserved in Scripture to reveal the moral degeneracy of the people of God.

I. The Background

The chapter begins reminding us of the general spirit of the age: There was no king in Israel. People were living outside the law with no fear of punishment or recourse of any kind. Additionally, another Levite is mentioned. Levites were supposed to be spiritual leaders. The one tribe setting the spiritual standard for all the other tribes. They were to lead worship and teach the law and covenant. Yet in both accounts recorded in chapters 17-18 and here in 19, they have allowed extreme apostasy to take over a country.

This particular Levite had taken a concubine, what would essentially be a secondary wife. She was more than likely a young lady in her teens. Her primary duty would be to have babies when the first wife could not. Of course, she could have been a second wife after the death of the first. Whatever the case, she leaves her husband and returns home to Bethlehem.

Four months pass and her husband makes the journey to Bethlehem to retrieve her. He is welcomed by her father, who overdid the hospitality more than likely to make good on his promise on their arrangement of marriage to his daughter. After the fifth day, the husband is ready to get home. He packs up to leave for home and comes to Jebus (Jerusalem), but he did not wish to stay in for foreign territory he believed to be hostile. He presses on to Gibeah, and ironically, the Gibeans treat them worse than he feared the Jebusians would treat them.

When they finally reach Gibeah, no one offers to take them in. Finally, an older man from Ephraim opens his home to them. He even warns them not to sleep in the town square knowing what could possibly happen.

II. The Crime

What transpires next is difficult to recount. It reads almost word for word as the account of Sodom and Gomorrah. First, the men of the city gather at the door and wish to rape the Levite. The older man offers his own daughter, choosing hospitality protocols over the safety of his family. That response makes one wonder what sort of men would do such a terrible sin? The Levite tosses out his concubine to them instead.

The men sexually abuse her all night with unsurpassed cruelty. When they finally let her go, she is able to return to the door of the house, but dies before day break. When morning comes, the husband, ready to depart, tells her to “Get up, let’s go!” How did he even sleep? What sort of spiritual leader/husband allows his wife to be assaulted all night?

III. The Call to Arms

Discovering her dead on the doorstep, does stir some outrage in his heart and in a bizarre moment, he mutilates her corpse by cutting in to 12 pieces. He sends a piece to each of the 12 tribes of Israel along with some message as to what had happened. It was a call to arms for the men of Israel to join together in dealing with what happened at Gibeah of Benjamin.

This story is often mockingly retold by skeptics and atheists as a tale happening within a religious society. The so-called godly people allow their women to be mistreated. Wives and daughters are considered inferior and disposable. But the chapter is not about a religious society at all. It shows how God’s people Israel had plunged headlong into the depths of human depravity. Where God’s law doesn’t hold sway, God’s priests do not teach and warn, and God’s people quickly become like the world.

Tinfoil Hat Twitter

I have absolutely no desire to return to this topic. Current social media circumstances, however, have forced me to revisit it in order to defend my honor and the honor of my friends, as it were.

Just to recap the situation I have in mind:

Since the first week of June 2017 (almost FIVE months as of this writing, mind you), Brannon Howse has been waging his own personal Jihad against James White and Alpha and Omega ministries. Without having to pound the mutilated horse carcass again with all the particulars, Brannon did not like a discussion that James had with a Muslim imam in Memphis back in January 2017.

He, and two of his Worldview Weekend broadcasting partners, charged James with spiritual compromise of the highest order and they did their best to set fire to Alpha and Omega ministries. When he received a tidal wave of push back from AOMin supporters, it was like napalm was sprayed onto Brannon’s already smoldering wick. His hand turned against anyone and everyone who would defend James White, even to the point of purging from his WVW network Mike Abendroth and Justin Peters. Accelerating his obsession even more, a number of misguided individuals on social media rushed to help Brannon in his crusade, including, most notably, Steve Camp, the former CCM performer from the 80s and 90s.

Along with Brannon’s ceaseless tirades against James on his radio program, many of his network partners have also dedicated their air time to heap condemnation upon him and his defenders. Additionally, a few of Brannon’s acolytes have taken to Twitter and Facebook to defame not only James, but those associates and friends who have spoken up for him. That includes myself and a few of my co-laborers at Grace To You ministries.

I left off any serious interaction with Brannon and his hordes around labor day, after I had a lengthy Twitter row with Steve Camp on what defines the Gospel message, as well as what content is necessary to present during an evangelical encounter. Steve ended our exchange insisting that James White left out crucial components of the Gospel when he dialogued with the imam. I thought he was not only wrong, but I marveled that I could be yelled at on a media platform by a CCM guy whose albums I used to collect all the time as a young college student. He blocked me on Twitter, by the way.

Moving to the purpose of my post,

So, after a number of weeks thinking this ridiculous manufactured controversy had died down and was going away, Brannon posted a screed outlining what he calls internet bullying against him and his ministry. He concocted a fantasy narrative that his primary antagonists with the unending bullying he is receiving are staffers from Grace to You radio ministry using parody accounts on Twitter. He seems to be absolutely convinced that I personally am behind a number of them. In fact, he writes,

Many of the adjectives used on this fake account were also used by either Phil Johnson or GTY employee, Fred Butler on their real social media pages. Some of the graphics used on this fake account were also used on Phil Johnson’s social media pages. In addition, many of these vile and disgusting tweets were tweeted at Phil and Fred’s personal twitter accounts. There is reason to believe, if they were not involved in some way with this fake account, they might know who was involved. Whoever set up this account used a purchased phone number to hide behind and send harassing texts to Brannon from a California area code. The individual mocked Brannon and said he was buddies with Phil.

This is absolutely laughable, embarrassingly so, as I will show in a moment. I will state emphatically right now, in all CAPs and bold letters so I am not misunderstood,

I HAVE NEVER OPERATED A PARODY ACCOUNT IN ALL OF THE FIVE YEARS THAT I HAVE BEEN ON TWITTER.

I realize this is me saying it, so haters will insist I am lying. But hey, my conscience is clear. The one and only Twitter account I have only used has been @Fred_Butler and nothing else. I know this may come as a shock, but there actually may be other individuals annoyed enough with Brannon to ridicule him on Twitter who are utterly unrelated with GTY.

I probably would not have responded at all except to say I have no parody accounts, but then Dee over at the fever swamps of The Wartburg Watch blog posted an even lengthier article. She has completely chugged the entire Twitter parody account kool-aid. Dee is convinced beyond doubt that GTY, myself and Phil Johnson specifically, are behind the concerted efforts to bring down Brannon with parody accounts. Like we are Russians hacking an election, I suppose. The amusing thing is her attempt to defend Brannon. The two of them could not be further apart on the theological and political spectrum. It is like the magenta-haired feminists defending the right of Muslim women being made to wear a hijab.

Searching for parody accounts on Brannon Howse turned up just a handful for me. The one in question, @WVWoffline, the “Brannon House” account, no longer exists and the last tweet I saw was weeks ago before it disappeared. It has remained dormant up until recently when it looks to have been deactivated. Another one called @Brannon_Howse has been suspended by Twitter. I don’t know anything about that one because I was unaware of its existence until I ran a search on Brannon’s parody accounts claim. The last one I remember is a parody of Brannon’s dog, @delta_howse, and that one too no longer exists. Again, all I can do is reiterate that none of them were mine, nor do I have any knowledge of who the owners are.

Additionally, Jeff Dornik, who has become the Worldview Weekend knee-capper on Twitter, posted this tweet over the weekend, October 14th, 2017,

Here is a clearer shot of the graphic,

According to Jeff, those screen captures are supposed to be proof positive that I have been texting Brannon with salacious, attacking comments. The problem is that the phone number allegedly attached to me is a 714 Orange County area code. While it is true that Orange County is in California, it is south of LA county (I live in LA county) and it is at least an hour and twenty minute drive from me in normal LA traffic. Additionally, a search on the number in this text ties it to a transexual escort service. In fact, it is randomly attached to many such services. Is Jeff suggesting that Brannon was texting with a transexual? Also, I have no idea who “Fred E Butler V” is. I have no “V” in my name.

That attempt at unmasking me with inescapable proof that I am behind those parody accounts was so ineptly researched, I am left wondering if there is someone among Brannon’s so-called supporters who is intentionally trolling him to make him look foolish.

Again, I don’t know what more I could do to convince the Worldview Weekend crowd that I am not behind those parody accounts. I also do not know who is behind them. It is possible someone I know is, but everyone I know who is familiar with the James White IFD controversy is just as clueless as me. I have to take them at their word. I know none of them to be expert liars.

Now, I realize it’s me stating all of this, and I’m sure I will be called a liar, so take my word or not. But I have no interest whatsoever to create any parody account, let alone one specifically aimed at Brannon Howse.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis

My short series of articles reviewing Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis: A Scientist’s Journey through Genesis 1-11. Evaluating various areas of his deep-time, old earth creationist apologetic that has become the default view of creation and origins among various ministries and popular, online social media apologists.

[1] Introduction to the Series

[2] Ross’s Personal Journey

[3] Evaluating the Reasons People Resist Scripture and the Faith

[4] The Creation Week

[5] How Far the Fall

[6] Noah’s Flood: Global or Local?

 

Gleanings from Judges [18]

The Depths of Israel’s Spiritual Depravity (Judges 17-18)

I return again to my devotional study of the book of Judges.

As I have been noting throughout my study, the book highlights what could be called the “Canaanization” of Israel. It began in the first few chapters of the book where we see the Israelites failing to drive out the Canaanites from the land of Israel. Rather than faithful obedience to the covenant YHWH made with them, the people flagrantly disobeyed.

– They were supposed to drive them from the land, but instead made treatise with them.
– They placed them under tribute for the purposes of getting money from them.
– Eventually, Israel began inter-marrying with their sons and daughters.
– And finally, they adopted the Canaanite religious practices, forsaken their covenant with God.

The book of Judges, which could also be called the book of Deliverers, focuses upon the main individuals God raised up to deliver Israel from their apostasy and judgment.

Coming to the last five chapters of the book, these chapters represent specific examples of apostasy. They contain significant events demonstrating a religious and spiritual degradation of Israel’s families, the tribes, and the Levitical priesthood.

The last five chapters are essentially appendices. They are taken out of historical sequence. The events described within the chapters took place early on during the time of Judges, perhaps within the historical background presented in chapters 1 and 2 when the tribes were to drive out the inhabitants.

The reason it is believed these final chapters record events that took place before the main book of Judges has to do with the tribe of Dan. Judges 1:34 states how Dan was unable to drive out the Amorites, resulting in their mass migration to the north. That tribe plays a prominent role in chapters 17-18, when they moved from the southern portion of Israel’s territory, to the northern boundary, way outside their allotted territory.

Additionally, there is the repetition of the statement, There was not king in Israel, 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25 and twice the phrase, Everyone did what was right in his own eyes, 17:6, 21:25. Those two statements not only provides a time marker when the events took place, in this case, before the monarchy, but it was also a comment on the spiritual conditions among the tribes. They had no unity around a monarch, which in turn means there was no king to lead them into sin. Their spiritual condition that is displayed in the last five chapters is all on the people. They show their religious corruption that resulted in their moral/ethical corruption.

Let’s first address Israel’s religious corruption beginning in chapter 17.

I. Corruption of a House, 17:1-6

Chapter 17 opens describing a man named Micah. His name, by the way, means, “who is like YHWH.”

He confesses his theft of his mother’s silver. Nothing is told as to why he took it; however, she had put a curse upon it and the person who stole from her. Her curse is rather superstitious, thinking that God is obligated to honor her threats. Likewise, Micah is superstitious as well, because when he returns the silver, he wasn’t necessarily repentant of his sin as he was fearful of the curse. His mother blesses him as a way of cancelling it out.

In these opening verses we see the spiritual decline of this household. Micah, the son, violated two of the ten commands, he did not honor his mother, and he was a thief, stealing from her.

His mother also violates the second commandment by making a graven image and by setting up a cultic center in their house. The family had good intentions for doing that, at least in their diluted thinking. The mother had dedicated the silver to God, so it had to be used in some religious fashion. So, they hired a silversmith to fashion an idol. Micah even made some religious artifacts to aid in the worship at their homemade shrine, including an ephod.

II. Corruption of the Priesthood, 17:7-13

We are then introduced to a young priest. The description of him being young suggests he may be new to his duties as a Levite. The Levites were to serve the people, and there were at least 48 cities in which to serve.

He was something of a wandering transient, however, going about looking for the highest bidder to pay for his services. There is no real sense of duty to God’s call on his life as a Levitical priest. His wandering took him to the mountains of Ephraim where he stumbled upon Micah and his make-shift false shrine.

Micah inquires as to who he was and where he is from and learns he is a Levite. Pleased with this news, he hires him to run his cultic center. Micah, with no sense of loyalty and integrity to God’s covenant, agrees to Micah’s offer and becomes his priest. Micah is excited, believing now God will truly bless him because he has a real, genuine priest for the service of his family.

III. Corruption of a Tribe, 18

Chapter 18 records the backstory of Dan’s migration to the north of Israel’s territory. After they could not defeat the Amorites as recorded in Judges 1:34, rather than seeking the LORD for help, the leaders sent spies up to the northern country to check out the availability of the land. While there, the spies happen upon Micah’s home and discover the Levite fake priest. They recognized him, inquired as to why he was there, and he in turn blessed their journey.

The spies learn that the area would be ripe for attack by the tribe of Dan. So they return back to their people with their report. The entire tribe moves, around 600 families.

Once they arrive, the five spies tell the others of Micah, his false shrine, and the priest that served him. They go to Micah’s house and talk the priest into joining them as the priest of the entire tribe. He readily agrees and packs up his shrine, idols, and ephod, and follows the men.

Micah, learning of his priest being kidnapped by the Danites, follows after them to complain about them taking his priest and idols. However, they basically laughed at him. They threaten his life and his entire family.  Way out numbered, there was nothing he could do but return to his home.

In all three of these episodes, we witness the spiritual decline of God’s people. A family foolishly, and against God’s command, set up a shrine to worship idols. A priest, who was supposed to be trained in the services of the covenant people, agrees to oversee this false worship center, and then the tribe of Dan, emboldened by their ability to take matters into their own hands by moving outside their allotted territory, employ the services of Micah’s wayward priest for creating an unlawful worship center for the entire tribe.