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

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May I Exhort You, Dear Christian, to Invest in a Well Made Bible?

bibleI remember, after the Lord saved me, receiving my first official Bible as a brand new Christian. Sure, I had a stubby, little gift KJV Bible my mom bought me when I was in 6th grade after I completed my confirmation classes at my old United Methodist Church, but receiving a new Bible after I came to know the Lord was extra special.

It was a Ryrie Study Bible (I still have it), black, genuine leather in the King James. It is filled with my hand written notes and yellow marker hi-lights I made on verses as I began to fully understand biblical truth for the first time. I am sure readers may be familiar with what I am talking about because you probably have the same kind of Bible somewhere in your house.

A couple of years later, my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I requested a KJV super wide margin Bible.  At the time, those Bibles were packaged in cheap, bonded leather, (the new versions come in Moroccan leather), but it was thin and carried nicely in my hand. The interior was awesome with the massive wide margins where I wrote copious study notes (and lots of KJVO apologetic stuff). That Bible looked sweet at first. It even had Authorized Version 1611 on the spine (though it was a 1769 text). However, within a few years of use, the edges began rubbing off and the backing starting coming loose. The bonded leather was slowly deteriorating and it started to look ugly. I still have that Bible as well.

By 1997, I was in California attending seminary and working at Grace to You. That was the year the John MacArthur study Bible, in the NKJV, was published. I secured a copy of it in a nice leather version, but within a few years, it too began to look worn. Later, I was able to get the ESV MacArthur study Bible, as well as find a slightly damaged NASB edition I rescued from a give-away bin. The Crossway ESV edition of the MSB is fantastic, by the way. Excellent craftsmanship for a mass produced Bible.

I have pretty much used those two Mac Study Bibles as my primary reading/studying/carrying to church Bibles for the last 5 years or so. Recently, I began taking up only the NASB edition and reading it. I like the translation of the NASB, even though the ESV is the go-to translation these days. Yet once again, that Bible is showing the signs of wearing out with use. It is only a matter of maybe a year before it begins to fall apart, too.

My first thought was to mail it into a place that specialized in rebinding old books and Bibles, like ACE Book Binding, to put on a new cover. They did my wife’s first edition MacArthur Study Bible, and they did a tremendous job. They even have a large selection of colored leathers and orange appeals to me.

Then, in the last year or so, I heard Mike Abendroth mention on his podcast about him getting a really good Bible from Evangelical Bibles. He said it was a handcrafted NASB Schuyler Quentel edition. I texted him for the details and he sent me the links. I was immediately overcome with awe of those Bibles. The 220 buck asking price, however, was steep. I fluctuated between weighing spending the money to do the rebinding on the old Bible, which would had been a bit cheaper, against adding an extra 50 dollars or so and getting a new Schulyer.  I finally landed on the Schuyler.  I began to save my money by selling off commentaries and books in my library that I now had on Logos. It took me a number of months, but I was finally able to secure one, and it is absolutely gorgeous.

As one can tell by the picture at the top, I picked up the firebrick red version. Everybody I know carries a black, tan, or burgundy leather Bible, so I wanted one that stood out. As soon as I unpacked it and breathed in that new Bible smell that came wafting up from the box, I knew I had a thing of elegance in my possession. Picking it up, I can just feel the quality in my hands: supple, natural grain goat leather, the stitching around the edges and the spine, the way it lays open on the table, it is a piece of art in Bible making.

While the exterior of the Bible is breath-taking, it is the interior that is truly amazing.

When I was weighing my options between getting my old MSB rebound and spending a bit more to purchase a Schuyler, I was telling an acquaintance of my choices. He told me that most folks only consider the exterior of a Bible, what it looks like and whether or not it is covered in a good leather. Rarely do folks think about the interior of the Bible, what kind of paper its printed on and the way the text looks and is laid out on the page.

We just so happened to be standing in the church’s book store when we were discussing Bibles and the guy grabs a cheap edition off the shelf and opened it up. He held a single page against the light of the store. “A Bible printed on cheap paper will have what are like little pin pricks all over the page, like this one here.” Sure enough, I saw the little pin pricks on the page. He went on to explain that the bulk of mass produced Bibles that folks pick up in their local bookstores are printed on that low quality paper. A really good Bible paper will not have any of those pricks or maybe just a few here and there on a page.

The first thing I did when I unpacked my new Bible was to hold a page up to the light. There wasn’t a prick one anywhere to be found.

But even more wonderful is the way the page actually looks.

biblepageThe font is 11 point, and the letters crisp and bold and easily read without my reading glasses. Also, each chapter is a red number matching the exterior color of the Bible itself. And it is not a “Words of Christ” red letter edition, another feature I insisted upon.

And the one fun perk is the edge of the Bible. If you close the Bible and look at the paper edge, there is the standard gold tinting. Once you open it and fan the pages, the edges turn firebrick red.

edgeI cannot be more thrilled with this Bible. I actually get excited anticipating studying the Scripture. That is why I would encourage all believers to consider making a worthy investment in a good, well-made Bible. Evangelical Bibles have more than just this version, though I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Check out their page and look over their ESVs, KJVs, and the NKJVs. There are a number of excellent choices.

Men and women have bled and died to preserve God’s Word for us. We hear it preached every Sunday, and we are supposed to do our daily reading from one. While I am grateful for the mass production of relatively inexpensive Bibles of all shapes and sizes and editions because God’s Word is spread far and wide, if we really maintain a high view of Scripture, why not get a really good one that is worthy of the God who gave us His Word? It may take saving a little every couple of weeks from a year’s worth of paychecks, but I think it would only serve to elevate your love for God and Scripture.

Jesus and Taxes

jesusconstitutionTime Traveling Kenny Loggins wants you to read this oversized document

I wanted to offer up a comment or two regarding a couple of articles from the Christian Libertarian Institute blog that an acquaintance passed along to me.

Taxation is Theft. Yes, Really

and

Taxation is Theft. (The Rest of the Story)

The articles are Jamin Hubner’s clumsy, hamfisted presentation for the notion that government taxation is theft and Jesus would never, ever approve of it.

Long time readers of my blog may recognize the name, Jamin Hubner. I tangled with Jamin a few years ago when he was flirting with Biologos-like ideas regarding the book of Genesis and what it tells us about creation. Those articles can be found HERE for those interested. He used to swirl about in my orbit of theological associates, blogging occasionally for James White and Alpha and Omega Ministries, as well as maintaining his own personal blog and doing a bit of podcasting.

His growing notoriety at the time, coupled with a sloppy handling of theological subjects, brought him under the scrutiny of additional critics other than myself and he eventually retreated from the internet blogging world. Since then, he started teaching at John Witherspoon College, received a doctorate from South Africa University (where, ironically, Ergun Caner received his), has become a shill for so-called feminist evangelicals, even being scheduled to speak at one of their navel gazing mugs and muffins conferences next year, and now quotes N.T. Wright liberally.

Somewhere along the line with all of that, he also started dabbling in economic theory and libertarian political philosophy and here we are with these two articles.

His first article quotes a bunch of academics on economics and dismisses any evangelical who cites Romans 13 as teaching that Paul taught taxation was entirely legit and Christians are required to pay taxes. Rather than even addressing what Paul argued in Romans 13, Jamin says he is gonna take it back to what Jesus actually said on the matter from the Gospels. That approach makes me wonder what he thinks about Paul. Seeing that Jesus inspired Paul to write Romans, what he wrote in chapter 13 about Christians and government and taxes would be Jesus’s thoughts on the matter, but oh well.

The second article is an attempt to explain why Jesus believed taxation is theft. According to Jamin, Jesus couldn’t just come out and condemn Roman taxation as theft because He and His disciples would be killed by the authorities. It is similar to how Jesus never came out and condemned slavery, because to do so was counter-cultural and would have the government powers putting a stop to Christianity before it could even get started.

He writes,

Naturally, Jesus’ life and teaching caused listeners to wonder if paying taxes was really necessary (Mt 22:15-22; Lk 20:19-26). Being a good Jew, taxation for him—especially enforced by the secular empire—was theft. But, to go out in the streets and simply decree “taxation is theft, so don’t do it,” would mean immediate death—just as declaring “slavery is wrong” would mean the collapse of the entire ancient economy, with nearly 20% of the populous being slaves. So he never acknowledged the money as being stolen property (i.e., “give unto Caesar what is yours”), as that would have (a) openly legitimized theft and (b) fanned yet more fire for the flames of violent revolution. But he had to fulfill many other conditions in this tight box: (a) don’t leave people thinking Caesar/the state is Lord, since he’s not; (b) diminish the empire and its importance; (b) say this without getting crushed; (c) don’t cause anyone else to get crushed. Good heavens, only God could pull this off!

He then cites and applies a Bible verse out of context, and closes with a friendly reminder that everyone pays taxes because they have no other choice, so don’t stupidly take on the IRS.

Oh boy. Where to begin.

Let me zero in on the key phrase in the title of these two posts: Taxation is theft. The word theft means “to steal.” Stealing is a violation of God’s law; it’s number 8 in the Ten Commandments. If Jesus is God and the Angel of YHWH who brought Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 15:19-20; Judges 2:1-5), I would think that He would be familiar with the 10 Commandments.

So, if He believed taxation is theft, then He believes taxation is a violation of God’s law. If we take Jamin’s view, what he is suggesting is that Jesus basically told the Jews to tolerate, and participate in, the violation of the 10 Commandments by begrudgingly paying taxes to the Roman authorities because they had no choice but to. It would be like Him telling the Jews it is alright to violate the Sabbath, commit adultery, or murder, because you really have no choice and any resistance would bring the Romans in to crush everybody.

reganNothing says lower taxes like Ronald Reagan shooting a gun from the back of a velociraptor

But let’s expand that thinking. If it is true Jesus believes taxation is theft, then any Christian who works for the IRS, or the local county tax offices, or runs a financial business that specializes in helping people with their taxes, like H&R Block, is in violation of the 8th Commandment. The Christians are unlawfully aiding in the stealing from their fellow citizens and the financial folks are helping their fellow citizens prevent the unlawful theft of their money.

Now, let’s move to the Bible and see a couple of significant examples of divinely ordained taxation.

First, during the time of the theocratic kingdom of Israel, the people were required to give a number of tithes from their personal property to the Lord. See for example Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18:21ff., and Deuteronomy 14:18-29. The tithe was a divinely ordained system of taxation. Its primary purpose was to maintain the state government, which was overseen by a Levitical administration. They were in essence the government that ran the religious duties of Israel’s theocratic kingdom. Because they did not have an inheritance of their own, the other tribes supported them financially.

Second, coming to 1 Samuel 8, near the end of the time of the judges, Israel demanded a king like all the other nations. God grants their request, but institutes a number of taxes that would be required of the people to fund the new kingly administration, 1 Samuel 8:10-18.

If taxation is theft as Jamin and his Christian libertarian pals suggest, then God essentially set up a system of tithes that violate the 8th Commandment. Moreover, when Israel demanded a king, God caused them to sin by forcing them to participate in a system of theft that broke His law. Such is patently absurd.

Now, let’s turn our attention back to a NT passage Jamin highlights. He mentions the story of Jesus and Peter paying the temple tax from Matthew 17:24-27. He writes,

Jesus’ trivializing of earthly authorities and embodied ethical life (e.g., free of theft) led again to the question: “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” [Peter] said “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?”  When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”

It goes without saying that this is a lot different than the popular, naïve mantra of “just pay your taxes, it’s the law; Romans 13.” And Jesus’ response is not anything close to contemporary justifications of taxation. The very fact that it was and remained a controversial talking point indicates the complex nature of the situation. What does seem clear is that Jesus was rolling his eyes the whole time; “Yeah, like they’re in a position to demand people’s possessions. Sigh, whatever. Just find a coin and give it to them.”

Maybe I’m mistaken, but Jamin seems to be thinking that Jesus is addressing non-Jewish, secular governmental authorities, such as the Romans. But the question about the temple tax again comes from the OT. Jewish men over the age of 20 were required to pay a sanctuary/temple tax on an annual basis. Exodus 30:13-14 reads,

13 This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD.
 14 Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the LORD.

That same tax is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 24:4-10 when king Joash decided to restore the house of the LORD. Described as a levy that had been fixed by Moses (vs.6), the tax was important to reinstate because the previous wicked queen, Athaliah, had raided the Levitical coffers and they had no funds to maintain the sanctuary.

Jesus’s response to Peter regarding the question of paying the temple tax is a Messianic affirmation, not a repudiation of paying taxes. He is God’s son. As the Son of the King whose temple it is, He is not required to pay the temple tax. But so that there is no offense and the law is upheld, he had Peter pay it. Nothing in Christ’s words to Peter suggests He believes taxation is theft or that he is rolling His eyes at the request of a temple tax.

While there is no where in Scripture when Jesus condemned taxation as theft, I think we could all agree that a case can be made that taxes can be unfair and excessively burdensome.

I live in California. Taxes, fines, and levies are placed on nearly everything the state government can get their greedy little hands on. A lot of that tax money is squandered on paying out golden parachute pensions and other retirement benefits for state employees, not to mention ridiculous programs like the green initiative nonsense.

However, the unfair and incompetent mismanagement of tax funds does not mean taxation is theft. Taxes are just a normal and necessary part of maintaining a functioning society. I know for myself, I do not have the skill set to be a fire fighter or a police officer or even a road construction guy. All of those duties are important to having livable townships. Paying for those goods and services are where taxes come into play. And while I may agree that many of those jobs could be given to the private sector, they still cost money to fund. You can call it taxation ,or paying a fee, but they still need to be paid for. I mean, the fire fighter needs to feed his family and pay off a mortgage just like I do.

Honestly, these articles are a tad worrisome. All I know is that Kent Hovind often argued in the same fashion that Jamin has. The feds wouldn’t let Dr. Dino get away thinking taxation is theft. I can tell you right now they won’t let Jamin, either.

My Neanderthal Article

My article I wrote about a month or so ago interacting with a Reasons to Believe apologist and their weird human-Neanderthal hybrid ideas, was picked up by Creation Ministries International.

Neandertal-human hybrids: Apologetics Gone Real Bad

I appreciate the opportunity that allows my writing exposure to a much broader audience. I was also grateful for the way Jonathan Sarfati and the folks at CMI helped with punching it up with more details and links I hadn’t supplied in the original.

Thomistic Irony

learningtoflyI wanted to offer some comments on this post,

Aquinas or Van Til? Testimony of a campus minister

It was written in response to a talk that Scott Oliphint gave at the ReformedCon 2016 conference called Reformed or Romanist? Dr. Oliphint reviewed and critiqued a book entitled Evangelical Exodus, a collection of testimonies by former students and faculty from Southern Evangelical Seminary who had apostasized to the Roman Catholic Church. As Dr. Oliphint points out in his lecture, according to their testimony, those individuals went to Roman due in part to their exposure to Thomas Aquinas’s philosophy.

Thomism is the backbone philosophy behind Roman Catholicism and classic apologetics, and because it is the philosophical methodology taught at SES, Dr. Oliphint’s talk obviously ruffled some feathers. The author of this article took umbrage with Dr. Oliphint’s lecture, and so he in turn attempts to alleviate his criticisms by explaining why classical Thomism is more robust an apologetic methodology than presuppositionalism. However, in doing so, he offers up some head scratching irony, at least in my opinion.

He begins by telling us how he held to presuppositionalism for nearly 15 years after having read Van Til who he says gave him the certainty he longed for; but then he moved to classical apologetics.

Those remarks makes me wonder about his overall theology. Presuppositionalism is derived from a Calvinistic soteriology. In other words, when the presuppositionalist engages the lost person with the Gospel, the revelation of Scripture informs him of specific anthropological descriptions of the person with whom he is speaking. The Bible tells us that all men are separated from God and blinded in their sins. Hence, what is needed in the conversation is a proclamation of the Gospel message that will bring that person to a saving knowledge of Christ.  For the presuppositionalist, answering apologetic objections is a secondary matter in the overall encounter with a lost person.

I can only assume he still maintains a biblical understanding of man’s sin nature and the noetic effects of the fall, but I find that hard to believe given that he writes, “The classical method, however, is rooted in realism and the reliability of sense-perception, and is therefore the better path.” and “Rather, because sense-perception is reliable, I can have common ground with unbelievers, and show them the evidence for Christianity in a robust, yet simple way.”

Like all classicists, he naively places a lot of faith in the “sense-perception” of unbelievers. If he held to presuppositionalism for 15 years, I would think he understood what Van Til taught about unbelievers and the so-called reliability of their “sense-perception.” While it is true that they may perceive things with their senses, that doesn’t mean their perception is reliable. God intends for mankind to perceive reality according to the manner in which He created it. Scripture declares, however, that unbelievers suppress that truth in unrighteousness. Put another way, they intentionally deny or explain away the reliability of their perception, because they hate God and want nothing to do with Him.

I was also curious about his comparison of Van Til’s apologetics to that of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy. He writes,

…presuppositionalism was my meat and potatoes for nearly a decade and a half, ever since reading Cornelius Van Til. Van Til gave me the certainty I longed for. That is, Hume’s radical skepticism was solved by the Kantian notion of transcendentals, but with a different spin: it is the Triune God and Holy Scripture which are the necessary preconditions of knowledge.

He then goes on to conclude why Thomism is a better apologetic method by stating,

I can demonstrate important truths, like the existence of God i.e. Aquinas’ 5 Ways, and the historical reliability of Scripture without resorting to lengthy discussions about Hume’s problem of induction, Kantian transcendentalism and resultant idealism, and the supposed epistemological certainty that presuppositionalism attempts to offer (a form of realism, it seems, based upon presupposing the ontological Trinity and the Bible as the Word of God). 

Now it is important to distinguish what Kant meant by the word “transcendentals,” because it is not the same thing Van Til meant.

I would encourage folks to pick up John Frame’s massive work, A History of Western Philosophy and Theology, so as to get firm overview of the development of general philosophy and all the accompanying terms, as well as how philosophy interacts with biblical theology. Frame has an extended discussion on Kant’s philosophical worldview that is insightful.

Without getting bogged down in a lot of the philosophical gobbledygook, Kant’s predecessors, like David Hume, believed philosophy was essentially an exploration of discovery: a person started at one philosophical landmark and followed a trail to the next.  The starting point was self-evident axioms (rationalism) or sense experience (empiricism). The method was to follow the axioms or the sense data wherever they seemed to lead the person, [See Frame, 254].

Considering what I have learned from the classic apologists I have interacted with for a while now, that is exactly how they describe their apologetic methodology. They affirm what they call “first principles” or “self-evident” truths regarding reality, and then using Aristotelian philosophy and the five proofs of Thomism, build a cumulative case for the existence of God and the reliability of the Christian faith.

Coming back to Immanuel Kant, he believed that our most basic knowledge comes about not by the world’s impressing it on the mind (following the “self-evident” landmarks and building a case), but by the mind’s imposing various concepts on the raw data given to it by the world, [see Frame, 256]. Put simply, for Kant, in order to understand the nature of reality, a person must examine the reasoning process that governs the nature of experience. Philosophical knowledge begins with men who already know because they are men with minds, and how it is they interpret the world with that knowledge.

Van Til, on the other hand, speaks of transcendentals and the need to confront the reasoning process that men employ when interpreting the world, but he is building his apologetic approach from the revelation of Scripture.

The Bible provides us with specific descriptions of fallen man’s nature and reasoning abilities, which, according to the Bible, is hostile to God, Romans 8:7. They want nothing to do with their creator. So what may be considered “self-evident” truths for the classical apologist is not at all “self-evident” for a hostile person in spiritual rebellion against his creator. His reasoning will bring an entirely different set of interpretations to those so-called “self-evident” truths and he will draw entirely different conclusions about them.

Van Til recognized the spiritual dimension to man’s fallen reasoning and his interaction within the world where God, his Creator, has placed him. Because man, according to Scripture, hates God, he will not reason about that world in the way God expects him to do. Van Til zeroes in upon that inconsistent disconnect between the way the fallen man wrongly reasons about the world in which he lives and challenges him with the Gospel. Man’s reasoning problem is his spiritual separation from his Creator. When Christ saves a person, that individual is now clothed, as it were, and in his right mind, Mark 5:15.

Having stated all of that, those points were not the most glaring examples of irony. Keep in mind that this post was written as a brief rebuttal to a talk Scott Oliphint gave in which he suggested that Thomistic philosophy was turning a number of SES graduates into Roman Catholics.

In his effort to respond to Oliphint, the author highlights a book he says is recommended by SES faculty entitled The Last Superstition: A Refutation of New Atheism, by a guy named Edward Feser. The book allegedly demonstrates the intellectual ability Thomism has in trouncing the foggy thinking of new atheism, because Thomism, based upon Aristotle’s four causes, explains reality much better than what Kantian transcendentalism can.

The irony: Feser is a Roman Catholic!

I hope we can appreciate the humor here, because it is as obvious as the pope’s funny hat.

funnyhatIn fact, if you go to Feser’s Wiki page, it tells how he was an atheist for about a decade before his reading of Aristotle — and get this, THOMAS AQUINAS — led him back to the Catholic Church.  A book written by a Roman Catholic, explaining how he read Thomas Aquinas’s apologetic philosophy that led him back to the arms of Rome, is recommend by the faculty of SES for the students to read. Hello?

In a podcast put out by the folks at SES, it was suggested that it may be a good thing to shore up their teaching on the Reformers by exposing the students to them in class. That, I would agree, would be a fabulous idea. The problem, however, is that I can never see that happening as long as Norman Geisler is alive; I don’t believe he would allow it if he has any say in the matter.

However, if that does happen, may I suggest that the administrators at SES secure some solid lecturers on the subject and require all the student body to hear from them, rather than assigning an associate professor to teach a few elective classes on a general overview of the Reformation. There are a number of excellent teachers the students would benefit from immensely, like Stephen Nichols at Ligonier Ministries, or Sinclair Ferguson, or Carl Trueman, or even, *gasp,* James White, who I know would be absolutely elated to come and teach. Pulling together classes like that would go a long way in inoculating the kids from the bitter waters of the Tiber.

Neanderthal-Human Babies: Old Earth Apologetics Gone Real Bad

lawyerSo recently on twitter, I had a back and forth with a Reasons to Believe apologist.

It began this way:

I tweeted out the following,

ross1The next day, an associate of Reasons to Believe, tweeted to me the following response,

Ross2Now in fairness, he is absolutely correct. I had mis-tweeted, as it were. Technically, Ross, and RTB apologists, argue that there were soulless hominids that pre-dated the creation of Adam. Those hominids were a lot like modern man, but they lacked the image of God Adam and all his descendants have. They were animals, much like a higher functioning version of the great apes.

None the less, I responded by asking the following,

Ross3A bit of background is in order to explain my question.

More and more every year, researchers are inadvertently proving what biblical, young earth creationists have always maintained: that Neanderthals are an extinct group of people that lived shortly after the Tower of Babel incident and eventually died out. In fact, the very day my RTB Twitter protagonist and I were sparring back and forth about Neanderthals, researchers reported uncovering some underground structures in France probably built by Neanderthals. That discovery demonstrates that they were much more than high functioning great apes.

However, while RTB rightly rejects the evolutionary interpretation of the so-called “science,” they still persist in their commitment to the conclusions of the data, insisting that Neanderthals were non-human animals. That commitment to the non-human aspect of Neanderthals has led them to advance a rather strange, a-theological and unbiblical apologetic that touches the doctrine of Adam’s sin.

Along with discovering Neanderthal artifacts, researchers have also identified that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans. Do a search and you will find a number of articles discussing it. Neanderthal DNA is even identifiable in some modern people groups living today in Europe. Evolutionary propagandist claim it is proof that Neanderthals and humans share a common evolutionary ancestor. Creationist have always said it merely proves Neanderthals were humans all along, descended from Adam and Eve.

The fact that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans (according to the secular evolutionary view) is a major problem for the RTB “biblical model” that has been developed by Hugh Ross and Fuz Rana to explain hominid fossils and other early man-like creatures. As far back as 2004, when DNA research was just beginning with Neanderthals and there was no specific proof of so-called Neanderthal-modern human interbreeding, Fuz Rana wrote this for the RTB blog,

Despite compelling evidence, a minority of paleoanthropologists still believe (as do some Christians) that Neanderthals made a genetic contribution to modern humans through interbreeding. If Neanderthals interbred with modern humans, then by definition, they must be human. (Emphasis mine. Full article HERE).

Now, one would think that once it was discovered that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred, RTB would modify, or even better, entirely retool, their model and apologetic talking points. I mean, RTB apologists insist that they want to acknowledge the clear evidence of the 67th book of the Bible, right? Nope. They dug in.

I recall vividly back in 2010 a Stand to Reason podcast (listen HERE) on which Fuz Rana discussed with Greg Koukl the biblical worldview (well, the RTB “biblical” worldview) of how Christians can explain the genetic interbreeding evidence. He appealed to bestiality, and explained that the abomination of Leviticus 18 regarding bestiality may possibly have had in mind the previous interbreeding of humankind with Neanderthals.

I was gobsmacked. Seriously? I couldn’t believe what was coming out of my earbuds. As of last year, their stance has remained pretty much the same. If you go to RTB’s website, search for “Neanderthals,” the top link to pop up is a 30 minute podcast Rana did explaining the RTB position on them. Again, he pushed the interbreeding/bestiality angle.

My twitter opponent responded to my question with the same line of argumentation,

ross5

Ross4He goes on to explain in a later tweet that Neanderthals are similar enough to humans that they could reproduce together, but that the mating itself would be considered sinful.

Yikes!

Here is where I have a serious problem with the RTB apologetic for Neanderthals. That view has major ramifications against the imputation of Adam’s sin, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and what it means to be a person created in God’s image.

First, the Genesis account clearly states that when God created the sea creatures, birds, and land animals, He did so “after their kinds.” See specifically Genesis 1.  In other words, God created abundant and diverse creatures to fill the earth, and it is implied that when they reproduce, they do so “after their kind.” Meaning, animals can only reproduce with other similar animals “after their kind.”

The general point that Genesis records is that like animals reproduce with like animals, i.e., horse+donkey=mule. God has set a genetic boundary, as it were, upon the creatures He made. So sharks for example, will not reproduce with dolphins, or wolves with badgers, or human beings with chimps, or any high functioning great ape. It doesn’t matter if there is similar DNA, we are not the same “kind” as a chimp or orangutan.

Contrary to my twitter opponent, if Neanderthals are similar enough so that they and humans can mate and produce children, they are of the same kind, meaning, human beings, descended from Adam, bearing the image of God. Even Fuz Rana, back in 2004 when he originally wrote on Neanderthal interbreeding with human beings, acknowledged as much when he stated that if proof of interbreeding comes forth, then Neanderthals are people.

Given RTB’s adoption of secular time tables for Neanderthals living on the earth for roughly 5,000 years with modern man some 40,000 years ago, why would it be sinful for human beings at that time to mate with them? Seriously? The prohibition against bestiality is given to Israel as they entered the land of Canaan. God specifically condemned Canaanite false worship practices, the participation of bestiality being one of those practices. Would bestiality with Neanderthals even enter their mind when Moses gave that prohibition?

If the RTB model is true, and that at some point in the past modern human beings bred with Neanderthals, a profound, theological difficulty emerges. Humanity, according to Scripture (Romans 5 specifically), inherit Adam’s sin and guilt from his disobedience in the garden. All of his progeny (you know, the entire human race) has Adam’s sin imputed to them. Where exactly does that leave the first generation Neanderthal/human hybrid offspring? Is that human-Neanderthal baby identified with Adam’s sin? Like that old Puritan grammar book, “A is for Adam in whom we all fall.” Is it part of the fallen human race in need of redemption? Or is it excused because it is half man, half animal?

oinkA half man, half Neanderthal Jerry!

That would also raise the question as to when the offspring actually begin to be identified with Adam’s sin. Meaning, when the half man, half Neanderthal mates with another human, will that Neanderthal offspring with the 1/4 Neanderthal blood now be considered guilty of Adam’s sin? Or does the “Neanderthal” have to be bred out sufficiently before the person is an actual person and has Adam’s sin imputed to him?

The most serious theological consequence with RTB’s view of Neanderthal-human hybrids is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, again Romans 5, as well as 2 Corinthians 5:21. Christ could impute to His people His righteousness because He is our kinsman redeemer. He is a kinsman in that when he took on humanity, He is now considered our “next of kin.” He has the judicial authority to be our substitute in our place before God. The problem is that no Neanderthal-human hybrid could ever have Christ’s righteousness because it would be animal and not human. In short, given RTB’s view of Neanderthals, if they reproduced with human beings descended from Adam, they could not be saved. Of course, that is assuming they are considered “in Adam” to begin with.

The reason I am even addressing the subject is that Reasons to Believe and their old earth apologetic is often times the default, go-to resource for creation/evolution issues among the classical, neo-apologetic ministries and blogger groups I encounter on social media.

Twitter feeds, for example, like the The Poached Egg, Stand to Reason, Ratio Christi, and a host of others, will occasionally link and promote the OEC position of RTB because they have been told they are the reasonable ones when defending Genesis and the creation narrative. They don’t put unnecessary stumbling blocks before unbelievers like telling them they have to believe God created the world miraculously in 6 days.

Yet in their efforts to appear reasonable before the world, as noble as they may be, a central, core doctrine of the Christian faith is adversely effected. Now RTB claims that is not the case at all, and in point of fact, would probably say I am blowing their views of Neanderthal-human hybrids way out of proportion. But given what the Bible clearly states about the imputation of Adam, the work of Christ, and that God has so ordered His creation so that animal kinds cannot reproduce with other animal kinds, the RTB Neanderthal hybrid apologetic is not just a strange view, but comes perilously close to being described as heresy.

Classic Apologists and Their Facepalm Misuse of Scripture

facepalmI wanted to offer some comments on a recent radio/podcast discussion between Sye Ten Bruggencate, who maintains the Proof That God Exists website, and apologist Eric Hernandez of Eric Hernandez Ministries. They were together on the Sin Boldly Podcast discussing apologetic methodology. Sye took the presuppositional position, Eric the classicist approach. Listen to the discussion HERE so as to get up to speed.

The podcast was an hour or so, and the two sides were able to articulate their positions clearly. I have always appreciated Sye’s work, and while I may have minor, disagreeing quibbles with his overall presentation, he does a fantastic job outlining what I believe to be the biblical way a Christian should defend the faith.

I was not familiar with Eric, but he came across as a nice fellow. He is well spoken and seems to have a growing ministry. His presentation, on the other hand, aggravated me to the point of wanting to pull out my hair. I guess that should’ve been anticipated, because he brought together all the talking points I’ve come to love and expect from classic apologists. The copious appeals to human philosophy, the intentional avoidance of biblical theology, and the grating misuse of Scripture.

It is that grating misuse of Scripture I wish to address with this post.

Now if I may begin with a bit of broad-brushing.

I believe there is reason for this misuse of Scripture. It has been my observation that classic apologists have an extremely low view of the Bible, especially at the front end of the apologetic encounter. Because they insist that the trustworthiness and viability of the Bible must first be established in the mind of the unbeliever with the use of external evidence BEFORE it can appealed to as an authority, they have a bad tendency of intentionally avoiding it.

When philosophical constructs and logic-chopping arguments are the focus with first engaging the unbeliever, Scripture invariably plays a secondary role. That regrettably causes bad exegetical habits to form, and the mishandling of Scripture springs forth from there.

Again, that is a broad-brush accusation. I obviously haven’t talked with every single individual who considers himself a classic apologist. I will readily admit there may be many classical apologists who handle the Scriptures quite well. That, however, has not been my experience; and I have discussed apologetic methodology with a number of them over the years on social media and in other venues.

Listen to the Sye and Eric exchange. Pretty much every passage Eric mentioned that he believes supports his classical approach was taken out of context. Just a cursory reading of the passage reveals that the verse has nothing at all to do with apologetics or how we are to engage unbelief. I wrote down the main ones that were repeated a number of times and I wanted to briefly address four of them.

elijah

1 Kings 18. I have heard classic apologists appeal frequently to the story of Elijah defeating the false prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. They insist that when the unbelievers asked for evidence of God, God certainly gave it in the form of fire falling from heaven and consuming a sacrifice.

However, if we read carefully the account, Elijah confronts Ahab in 1 Kings 18:17. He rebukes him for leading Israel astray into idolatry. Elijah tells Ahab to gather all Israel (the covenant people of Israel who already believe in God) and the 400 prophets of Baal that Jezebel supported. They gather at Mt. Carmel and there God puts His character on display, not to prove Himself to unbelievers, but to show Himself to Israel, especially Ahab. The showdown was meant as a judgment against Jezebel’s false prophets and a call to Israel for covenant faithfulness. It had nothing to do with proving God’s existence with evidence.

Isaiah 1:18. Isaiah’s words, “come now, and let us reason together,” are often quoted as a formula for engaging unbelievers reasonably. The idea being that God wants Christians to use their “reasoning,” and the “us” reasoning together is understood as believers and unbelievers meeting together to discuss the truth claims of Christianity in a reasonable fashion.

That is not at all what Isaiah is saying – well, what God is saying through His prophet. Rather, Isaiah’s opening chapter is a rebuke of the sins that Israel has accumulated, highlighted from 1:1-17. God, speaking through Isaiah, calls His people to repentance. He will wash their scarlet sins as white as snow, 1:18. The point Isaiah is making when he writes, “come let us reason together,” is that if Israel turns from their sins, comes back to covenant obedience, God will bless them. His words have nothing to do with apologetic methodology with unbelievers.

Acts 17. Classic apologists are adamant that Paul’s message to the Athenian intelligentsia on Mar’s Hill models clearly the classical method of doing apologetics. Eric was no exception, citing the incident a few times in his discussion with Sye.

One of the reasons they believe Paul modeled classical apologetics has to do with his citation of two pagan Greek poets, Epimendes and Aratus. While those two men were speaking about pagan deities with their poems, Paul appeals to them as evidence for the true and living God that he proclaimed. In other words, Paul did not appeal to Scripture, nor start with the Bible, when he was talking with the Athenians. He used the poems of pagan poets.

We only have his summary message recorded for us, so we cannot be entirely certain what use of Scripture Paul made. He had already been in the Synagogue a while speaking with the Jews and other worshipers who attended. He obviously had gained attention with his preaching because the philosophers were interested in what he had to say.

Paul, seizing upon the fact that Athens was a city given completely over to the pursuit of false religion, idols, and every philosophical whimsy, took the opportunity to preach on Mar’s Hill what the Athenians already knew to be true: that they know the true and living God, but they have substituted their idols and false religions for worship of Him.

Paul quotes two of their poets, not for the purpose of appealing to external evidence in order to build his case, but rather to expose the folly of their philosophical worldview. He in essence is telling them, “look, you know the true God, even your poets did, but you all worship idols instead.” He goes on to explain to them how they will be judged for their sin and calls them to come to Christ. One will note that he doesn’t attempt to prove to them the Resurrection of Jesus, but just proclaims it to them, 17:31. If anything, Paul’s sermon on Mar’s Hill is exegetical application of Paul’s words out of Romans 1.

1 Corinthians 15. First Corinthians 15 is considered one of the more important chapters of the NT, because Paul makes a case for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every classical apologist appeals to the chapter as proof that Paul utilized external evidences to prove the historical reality of the Resurrection, particularly the use of eye-witness testimony.

But 1 Corinthians 15 is a passage that is misunderstood by many Christians regardless of their apologetic methodological persuasions. It is mistakenly believed that Paul is trying to prove the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ to unbelievers in the Corinthian church. He is not.

Rather, he is correcting the Corinthian’s erroneous idea that Christians do not experience a physical resurrection. Verse 12 states, “Now, if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you (the Corinthian church) say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” The Corinthians believed in Christ’s resurrection; where they struggled was believing that a bodily resurrection happens for Christians.

The entire chapter is Paul’s apologetic for proving that because of Christ’s bodily resurrection, a resurrection the Corinthians accepted as really happening, all Christians will also experience a bodily resurrection. The chapter has to be read with that main focus in view.

There are probably others I may have missed, but those are the key passages I often hear brought up in discussions on the proper methodology for doing apologetics. While I believe it is vitally important that we anchor our methodology in the teaching of Scripture, our goal should be to do so not only exegetically, but also contextually. Misappropriating the Bible only undermines the entire apologetic enterprise.

Continuationism is not a non-essential doctrinal issue [3]

babypreacherI’ve been laying out my case as to how I believe continuationism is not a non-essential, second-tier doctrinal issue.

As I explained in two previous posts on this subject, see HERE and HERE, continuationism is a disastrous doctrine both in the church and with individuals because it has massive influence upon the way people think about God and practice their Christianity. The majority of the time, their faith and practice is sub-biblical, if at all, and out right frightening and pagan.

In the first post, I explained how that if the Holy Spirit is manifesting Himself among the continuationist believers he will not lead continuationist pastors and their people to embrace theological heresy. With the second post, I pointed out how numerous continuatiionist leaders, preachers, and conference speakers are known for telling grandiose, urban legend-like stories about spiritual encounters they allegedly had with God, angels, traveling to heaven, healing people, and other tales of fantastic spiritual adventure. As remarkable as they may be, those tales are never truly verifiable and the only conclusion one can draw is that the person telling it is lying.

I wanted to end my overview with considering a third area that I believe demonstrates that continuationism is not just a harmless and acceptable secondary, non-essential doctrinal issue.

Disturbing manifestations and bizarre worship practices

etterMy mother’s side of my family was raised in rural Arkansas. They had first-hand experience with the classic Pentecostal church.

I remember the stories my aunts and uncles told me about their visits with Pentecostals. My grandmother, for instance, remembered well Maria Buela Woodworth-Etter, who was a traveling Pentecostal evangelist lady. Maria was a pioneer in shaping a lot of the spiritual chicanery that is passed off as Holy Ghost anointing we see so much of on TBN and in other charismatic venues.

My relatives were spooked by what they had seen with Pentecostals. One aunt told me how she had been invited by a friend to a local “revival” service when she was a teen. After a lengthy singing time and a guy yelling at people for an hour, the service climaxed with the entire group screeching, hollering, rolling on the ground, doing the tongue babbling thing (my aunt’s description), and eventually pouring out into the field where everyone was rolling and barking like animals. The scene, as she described it, “scared her slap to death.” I’d be scared, too.

She was told that the nightmare clown show she witnessed was what really happens when “God’s Spirit moves on the people!”

Outlandish manifestations are ubiquitous among continuationist churches. All a person has to do to see what I mean is search Youtube, and in a matter of a few clicks, you will see videos of continuationists gone wild; or mad, depending upon how you think about it.

What I find to be truly troubling about those scenes is that continuationists will insist it is a genuine move of the Spirit. Moreover, if anyone were to offer criticism or challenge the biblical precedent for such behavior, that person is waved off as quenching the Spirit or some such nonsense. Yet that criticism is well earned. Why should people believe such oddball happenings are God moving? Why would the Holy Spirit lead Christians to behave in such an embarrassing, degrading fashion? How exactly does that behavior testify to God’s anointing or His presence?

For instance, why is a woman violently shaking her head as she allegedly “prophesies” said to be “filled with the Spirit” or have “the anointing?”

Seriously, why is that even Christian? Especially given the fact that genuine works of the Spirit include sobriety and self-control?  Yet such manifestations are witnessed in continuationist services all over the place. You can see further examples of what I mean HERE 

What about worship services themselves? Many times the behavior displayed is indistinguishable from pagan occultism. Consider an example from Perry Stone’s, Omega Center International church in Cleveland (look at the landing page when you hit their website! You tell me: Worship service or Coachella rock concert?) I won’t embed the video, but you can watch HERE.

The video shows a crude mock-up of the Ark of the Covenant that has been constructed and is brought into the worship center where members begin gyrating and bouncing around it as if at a pagan feast. The troubling aspect to that entire spectacle is how the church members carry on as if their participation flitting around a cheap idol is completely acceptable to God. And the leadership encourages it!

Now I’d imagine that they would justify their idol worship by saying the Israelites danced before the ark. But must we point out the obvious that a lame replica is not the same as the real thing? And the folks at OCI are not Israelites in the wilderness.

What about the so-called baptism of the Spirit and speaking in tongues? Throughout church history, “tongue speaking” has accompanied the rising of nearly every fringe, heterodox splinter group and pseudo-Christian cult that has reared its ugly head. The sensible Christians recognized the babblings of “tongues” as an indicator that the folks were wackos, so such groups like the Montanists, Shakers, and Mormons, were always marked out and avoided.

However, con-artist revivalist preacher, Charles Parham, mainstreamed tongues among early, 20th century Pentecostals. Originally, it was believed those speaking in “tongues” were speaking real, genuine human languages, like Japanese, or Spanish, or Canadian. But when folks began to realize there was nothing supernatural whatsoever with their tongues, and that they were speaking nonsensical gibberish, tongue speaking enthusiasts did what the homosexual revisionist do now with the Bible to make it confirm sodomy: they changed the definition of words and verses. So the word “tongues,” which was understood as meaning human languages, was redefined to meaning ecstatic speech, or Holy Spirit anointed repetitive gibberish.

Continuationists insist the gift of tongues must be practiced according to the regulations Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 14, but rarely, if at all, does any practicing tongue speaker abide by those rules as witnessed in this video HERE, and HERE (fast forward to about the 1:30 mark), and HERE.

The most disturbing element to the bizarre behavior found in continuationist circles is what I would bluntly label the spiritual abuse of children. Kids, as young as 2 years old, are regularly encouraged to repeat and mimic the euphoric buffoonery they witness from adults.

One of the more notorious is Kanon Tipton, the original baby preacher. You can see him in his inaugural video here,

Now I don’t know about other parents out there, but if my toddler was to waddle up on the platform during a church service, pick up a live microphone, and start shouting incomprehensible baby talk, I would sheepishly say “sorry” to all present and hurry to seize him before he damaged the sound system. It is only in the halls of a continuationist church that a 2 year old is elevated and enshrined as the “world’s youngest preacher” who has the “anointing of God” all over him. HERE is another video when he is 5 years old. His little cartoon Bible case is just precious, right?

And that Kanon kid isn’t a rare exception. Search Youtube and you can find dozens of little kid preaching videos originating from Assembly of God, Pentecostal, and other continuationist churches.

But child spiritual abuse doesn’t end there. The real bad stuff can be seen in this video HERE as well as in this one HERE. If you really want to see wild continuationist youth, do a search on Bethel Redding, but I digress.

Three things struck me after watching those. First, it is just creepy how the adults are psychologically conditioning those kids to react to any verbal cues or behaviors from the adults leading a crusade. Secondly, that if what those videos show is a common occurrence among continuationist churches, the falling over, seizure fits, and gibberish are all learned. In other words, they are not spontaneous works of the Holy Spirit. And third, it looks as though churches from all over the world train their kids in such a manner. Churches from anywhere like India, to Latin America, and Africa bring their little kids together and teach them how to be a charismatic. It is not strictly an American phenomenon as a commenter suggested under one of my other posts in this series.

Drawing this all to a conclusion, after surveying my examples, I hope folks can see why I don’t believe continuationist ideas is a non-essential issue that we can debate vigorously with each other, but shouldn’t divide over. All of those astonishing examples are not found in a smattering of continuationist churches that remain in relative obscurity off a beaten path. They represent a grotesque spirituality that is endemic to the entire global community of those praciticing continuationist theology.

Holy Fraud

miraclesarerealSo I had a critic link me to some web forum comments he made against my posts I’ve been writing exposing the spiritual shamanism of continuationism. I wanted to offer up some responses to various, selected thoughts.

My challenger writes,

Fraud predominates in continuationism, yet Pentecostalism testifies overall being among most committed to holiness and basic doctrines and evangelicalism…

I am glad that my anonymous reviewer begrudgingly acknowledges my thesis. I can understand how awkward it can be to favor a particular theological tradition, yet have to embarrassingly admit that position is for the most part, whacked.

It’s like that one cousin who is just a “hold my beer,” fireworks and gasoline propelled dirt bike stunt away from receiving a Darwin award. “You mean that guy who almost burned his house down with the lighter fluid and the pumpkins? Yeah, he’s my cousin.” The same is with continuationists. “Oh yeah, I believe God does spectacular signs and wonders all the time. Oh, but I don’t believe Christians take trips to heaven or see gianormous angels. That’s the crazy continuationists!”

flamegunMoving along,

…and are more unified in basic beliefs than basically cessationist denominations, and in which liberalism and “sterility” is more likely to be the reality.

I have to wonder what basic beliefs continuationists – in the case provided, Pentecostals – are all essentially unified around? You have all sorts of stripes and flavors of Pentecostals, Assembly of God’s, and other Holiness style groups. If what is meant is that they all affirm Jesus as savior, sure, they are unified. But they are just as equally unified around the idea of the Holy Spirit manifesting unusual paranormal phenomena. Would my antagonist not agree to that? The very name PENTECOSTAL implies the adherents would believe such things.

The rampant fraud in continuationism is inexcusable, as is the liberalism and overall spiritual deadness among those who claim to be Protestant and deny the perpetuity of personal supernatural gifts…

Ah yes, the old “Protestant worship is nothing but boring, dead orthodoxy” argument. Michael Brown threw out this cliche all throughout his Authentic Fire book. He’d write how he would much rather attend a service with pew jumping, running around the building, chandelier-swinging worshipers, than a stuffy, reading from a hymnal, standing still worship service.

Sober-minded worship is hardly a sign of “dead orthodoxy.” When a church sings out hymns that tell of the glory and power of the awesome God we serve, that is true worship in my mind. The running around the building and swinging from the chandelier service is not spirit-filled, but utter flesh-driven foolishness that mocks Christ.

Moving along,

Missing between the extremes is an objective examination of the issue of whether personal supernatural gifts are available today, which I believe Scripture supports, but not the aberrations.

The word “supernatural” has to be defined. I, as a non-continuationist, believe in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Of course I define the concept of “supernatural” and identify spiritual gifts much differently than continuationists. For instance, I believe teachers, preachers, evangelists would be spiritual gifts to the church (Eph.4:8-12), as well as individuals who are blessed financially and are moved to give generously to God’s people (Rom.12:6-16). And certainly, eternal salvation is God’s ultimate gift (Rom.6:23).

Continuationists dismissively wave off my definition of supernatural. Those examples are the non-spectacular kind of gifts and don’t really count.

But honest question here: How exactly would the aberrations my contender notes be identified from the genuine Holy Spirit given signs and wonders gifts?

What is often the norm witnessed and observed among continuationists would never qualify as the supernatural gifts defined in the New Testament. Tongues are wild, cacophonous free for alls, so-called healings are extremely questionable, even outright lame, and the amazing urban legend like stories that often abound among the congregations are unverifiable hearsay. The same goes for stuff Keener supposedly documents in his two big volumes on miracles.

Moving along,

What is needed is more genuine evidences of the resurrection power of Christ, not only in the profound transformative effects of true regeneration, but in other miracles (which have strong testimonies thanks to be God), including via personal spiritual gifts.

Yes. Those two evidences would certainly help the cause of the continuationist claims of extraordinary supernatural gifts in the church. In fact, seeing that the marks of true regeneration are tragically absent in the personal character of  many of the continuationist preachers that dominate the internet and “Christian” TV, I would think that would be the priority.

But as I have written elsewhere, continuationists also have a signs and wonders problem. I don’t consider neck pain, bad backs, and ankle strengthening to be rather spectacular. Restoring the scarred flesh of an Iraqi war veteran’s severely burned arms or a paraplegic’s severed spine to full functionality like Jesus and the apostles did, however, is a radically different story.

My challenger then provided a series of statistics believed to be positive for continuationists. Allow me to respond to a select few,

Only 10 percent of adults in Pentecostal churches do not identify as born-again or evangelical.http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/may/pew-evangelicals-stay-strong-us-religious-landscape-study.html 

I am not entirely sure why that is important to the case of solid Pentecostals. If a person reads the linked article, he will see that the general thrust was a positive report on evangelicals in general. Evangelicals, unlike mainstream, more liberal denominations, are not hemorrhaging members, and in fact are gaining in numbers. That was an odd mention of a statistic for his argument.

73% (highest) of Pentecostal/Foursquare believers strongly affirm that Christ was sinless on earth, with CatholicsLutherans and Methodists being tied at 33%, and the lowest being among Episcopalians with just 28% 

So… what exactly? I imagine we could poll a whole lot of the same Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists, and they’d affirm the Trinity, or even the Resurrection.

What that statistic doesn’t tell us is that those same 73% of Pentecostals will also more than likely affirm the false doctrines of “sinless perfection” or “entire sanctification,” the idea that Christians can be fully sinless here on earth, and that a newly baptized believer will speak in tongues. Both of those teachings are erroneous and have messed up the lives of countless believers who have appropriated them for their lives.

Bible Reading: the highest was 75%, by those going to a Pentecostal/Foursquare church who reported they had read the Bible during the past week (besides at church), while the lowest was among Catholics at 23% – http://www.science20.com/print/972444

Again: so, what? It is one thing to read the Bible. It is entirely another thing to understand it, believe it, interpret it properly, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, apply the theology and doctrine to one’s life. Pentecostals may read the Bible a lot, but that doesn’t mean anything if what is found in the Bible has no profound or lasting impact on people’s lives. It is my experience that those same Pentecostals, even though they may read the Bible more than those Catholics, have about the same level of depth in understanding the Bible as those same Catholics. Simply put, there is a reason why continuationist/charismatic/Pentecostal churches are scandal plagued.

shallowdiving

16% of the country’s white Protestant congregations are Pentecostal, compared to 65% of the Protestant churches dominated by African-Americans [black churches make up about 6% of evangelicals].

I don’t necessarily see that 65% of African-American churches are Pentecostal as a good thing. The reason I say that, and at risk of being swarmed by BLM sympathizers, is the terrible dysfunction found in the black community. Those same Pentecostal African-Americans swear allegiance to a political party that stands vehemently opposed to the holiness their Pentecostal denomination allegedly teaches. You cannot possibly claim to be a person committed to holiness and reading the Bible and remain beholden to a political party that openly advocates wicked sin like abortion, the most of which take place in African-American communities.

76% say they have experienced or witnessed a divine healing, and 70% of those from the Global South say they have witnessed the devil or evil spirits being driven out.

Okay. Let us say 76% have experienced or witnessed a divine healing and another 70% witnessed exorcisms of some sort. Going back to a few things my antagonist acknowledged, if fraud is rampant among Pentecostals, how exactly do we determine if those are fraudulent accounts or genuine? That 76% is a rather impressively large figure, but if what is being affirmed is that fraud is rampant among Pentecostals, even my challenger would have to say that figure is a bit skewed, maybe even wildly exaggerated.

But that leads me to a larger question. Going back to the opening statement, if rampant fraud predominates continuationism, how can they be committed to holiness? The very fact that continuationist are willing to perpetrate fraud from the pulpits and believe the fraud while sitting in the pews, strikes at the heart of what it means to be holy.

If there truly was a commitment to holiness among Pentecostals, charismatics, and the wide tent of continuationism, self-appointed con artist prophets and preachers would not be prowling the earth promoting their spiritual fraud and devouring men’s souls, and the congregations would not be willingly lapping up the spiritual fraud that is fed to them.

Continuationism is not a non-essential doctrinal issue [2]

bunyan

I have taken up explaining why I believe continuationism is not a non-essential doctrinal issue. My previous post introduced my basic thoughts on the matter, but just a quick recap:

Contrary to what is generally agreed upon among garden variety Evangelicals and Christian denominations, I don’t believe continuationism, or charismaticism, or even Pentecostalism for that matter, is merely a quirky, but otherwise acceptable tradition of Christianity. I believe the otherworldly claims of the paranormal, coupled with the bizarre, aberrant behavior inherent with continuationism, are detrimental to core doctrines of Christianity, most significantly, the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

I think we can all agree that if there are any beliefs, doctrines, or even peculiar worship practices that claim to come directly from God via the Holy Spirit, those things are certainly essential, and can hardly be considered non-essential. They strike, as it were, at the very center of what Christians believe about God, especially the ministry of the Holy Spirit. That is definitely essential.

One clarifying point is in order. As soon as we invoke the idea of “essential” vs. “non-essential” the notion of a person’s salvation comes to mind. Am I saying that if one is a continuationist, he believes false doctrine that is outside the defining bounds of the Christian faith? Put another way, can a person be a Christian and adhere to continuationist views? Why yes, I believe a person can hold to continuationist views and be saved. But that hardly means that continuationism in itself is far from being erroneous or a primary issue.

During a twitter exchange where I was fleshing out my thoughts on the matter with some detractors, a friend of mine, David Kjos, asked the question, “Must error be immediately damning to be a primary issue? If cessationism is secondary, isn’t Sola Scriptura also?”

A right thinking Christian would immediately recognize the importance of his question. If the opposite of cessationism, that being continuationism, is a secondary, non-essential doctrine that has no direct bearing on one’s saving faith, then Sola Scriptura would fall into the secondary, non-essential category as well.

But the right thinking Christian would also recognize and affirm that what is believed and taught concerning the authority of Scripture in the Church, that being Sola Scriptura, is not just a non-essential doctrine for Christians, but it is one that is primary. While one is saved if they do not believe upon Sola Scriptura, rejecting all that the doctrine entails regarding the authority of Scripture will lead to all sorts of gross error.

So too with continuationism. It is enough of a primary doctrine that the pursuit and practice of it by Christians easily leads to major theological error both in the teaching of Scripture, as well as the life of the Christian.

My attempt here is to document my claim that continuationism strikes at the heart of our doctrine of God. I am particularly concerned that the practice and behavior of continuationists can be blasphemous, attributing works to the Holy Spirit that are certainly contrary to His character as revealed in Scripture, and in some cases making the Holy Spirit out to be a liar. My last post pointed to some doctrinal compromise and I argued that the Holy Spirit will never, ever at any time, direct believers to compromise with unbelievers or those promoting a false Gospel.

With this I want to hit on a second major point,

Lies and Tall Tales. I could make this topic an ongoing series all it’s own, because tall tales of supernatural adventure are ubiquitous throughout all of continuationism.

Ever since I became aware of Pentecostals and charismatics back as a youngin’ in Missouri, I came to recognize that the speakers on the radio would tell some of the most amazingly fantastic stories of supernatural abilities and encounters. Such things as healings, visits to heaven, visits with Jesus in their bathroom, visits with angels, and extraordinary powers, like mind-reading, commanding evil spirits, or seeing into the future.

The way the testimonies were presented, such experiences should be a frequent occurrence for the average, spirit-filled believer. Every Christian should be having visits with Jesus or trips to heaven on a regular basis. I, as a young churched teen was not having such experiences, so I often wondered if God really loved me.

And those kind of stories were not relegated to the fever swamps of your typical continuationist churches like the Assemblies of God or Pentecostal denominations.

When I was in college, my Southern Baptist church had an evangelist named Sam Cathy come to lead a series of “revival meetings” for a week. Every night he would regale us with his supernatural exploits. He apparently had the ability (in Christ, of course) to command evil spirits. He could tell them to levitate furniture and force them to tell him all of their top secret plans for evil doing (in Christ, of course). He was like an evangelistic superhero rescuing wayward, demon-possessed sinners and Christians from lives of disastrous consequence.

For instance, Cathy recounted how he was counseling a young pastor struggling with sexual issues. As he talked with the man, his “devil senses” began tingling, and he immediately recognized the pastor was demon-possessed. He then commanded the demon to tell him who he was. The devil, unable to overcome the controlling powers of the evangelist, was forced to speak.

According to Cathy, an Exorcist moment began taking place as a scary voice started speaking from the man. The devil told Cathy how “they” (meaning he and his devil buddies) set up homosexual encounters for this guy with other men and their plan was to elevate him to the office of president of the SBC and then expose a homosexual scandal around him so the SBC could be brought down. Thankfully, God raised up Cathy, Jedi master evangelist, to use his spirit powers to drive the devil out of the man, thus saving his soul and delivering the SBC from future embarrassment.

This was long before Ergun Caner, but I digress.

devilLooking back now, I believe Cathy was a liar; he made up those stories out of thin air. At best, he seriously embellished, but that is still lying. But he is not a rare exception. Just visit Charisma News Online or the Elijah List  or Sid Roth’s TV program to see what I mean. And again, those are the mainstream of continuationists. They are hardly the fringe.

Let me begin with highlighting a couple we would all acknowledge are crazy ones.

First. Back when I was reviewing Michael Brown’s book, under my review of the fourth chapter, I linked to a video of self-appointed apostolic prophetess, Cindy Jacobs, claiming that she miraculously fed a church of 3,000 people with three loaves of stale bread that were found in the church pantry. She further stated that her and her ministry were given a large sum of donation money for a service she conducted. When they took the money to the bank, what they deposited had miraculously increased in value from the amount they originally took in and counted at the church.

Watch the video below to hear her make those claims from her own mouth.

Now, I do have to point out that the video was uploaded by Rightwing Watch, the barking a the moon, crackpot lefty group. In spite of their overt bias against right wingers, the video does not appear to be altered in any way. Jacobs is telling her audience that she fed a church gathering of 3,000 people in the same way Jesus fed 5,000.

I think she has reached stratospheric levels of lying. The immediate questions I have raised in my mind, where is that church she performed the miracle? and surely, out of 3,000 folks, are there any who would come forward to verify her story?

Second. Bethel Church in Redding, California, is swiftly becoming for crazy charismatic stuff, what Roswell, NM is for UFO believers. I might add, Soul damning crazy charismatic stuff, but that’s for another post. Watch the following video and listen to Kevin Dedmon from Bethel Redding, bobbing in a Kundalini style, tell how his son and his friends walked on water and walked through walls just like Jesus,

What I find even more troubling than him recounting what I believe to be an entirely embellished story of his son and his buddies jumping in the swimming pool, is that he would actually make an entire church full of people believe it.

But Jacobs and Dedmon are the extreme, correct? The fringe. Again, those kind of tall tales and Herculean spiritual feats can be found everywhere among continuationists.

But let’s consider an example from a source closer to the more “sound and balanced” continuationists.

In an article responding to the Strange Fire conference, John Piper, recounts the following story,

“A lawyer one time prophesied over me when my wife was pregnant and said: ‘Your fourth child is going to be a girl, and your wife is going to die in childbirth.’ And that lawyer with tears told me that she was sorry she had to tell me that. So I went home and I got down on my knees and I said, ‘Lord, I am trying to do what you said here in 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21. And frankly, I despise what that woman just said.’ It proved out that my fourth child was a son, and I knew as soon as he came out that that prophecy was not true, and so I stopped having any misgivings about my wife’s life. She is still with me now thirty years later. That’s the sort of thing that makes you despise prophecy.” [Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos]

If I may be so bold, I think that lawyer friend of Piper’s is a liar, too. If she is not a liar, she was woefully deceived by her own flights of fancy to the point she wanted to inject herself into Piper’s life and family in some fashion. It’s kind of creepy in a way. If that is the case, she should be sharply rebuked and told to keep her mouth shut.

But what is truly tragic is that for months, Piper had to bear under the emotional weight of a false prophecy. He genuinely entertained the soothsaying of this woman telling him she had a Word from God that was quietly upending his life. Even still, one has to wonder about why a pastor, considered to be a champion of the Reformed faith, would allow himself to be manipulated by such superstitious whimsy.

The problem I see with all of those tall tales and urban legends of epic spiritual adventure is two-fold.

First, what does this say about continuationism producing a theological matrix that empowers countless teachers, preachers, evangelists, and self-appointed prophets to stand in front of churches with thousands of attendees and brazenly fabricate falsehoods with impunity and no sense of guilt?

Second, what does it reveal about the countless thousands of continuationists who willing drink in their lying tales without the least bit of question? A work of the Holy Spirit is that Christians develop a sense of discernment. That can hardly be said of these individuals.

The Holy Spirit is not involved with anointing and promoting liars, and what spiritual danger is at hand with those who willfully believe the lies calling them from God?

I have one more point for next time.