Jack Chick Goes to the Giant Drive-In Movie Screen In the Sky

lifeJack Chick has died.

The Independent Baptist cartoonist who created hundreds of amusingly bizarre Fundamentalist witnessing tracts and comic books. Such classics as The Death Cookie, Reverend Wonderful, Doom Town, and the Crusaders and Alberto comics.

As strangely entertaining as his tracts and comics were, they were written primarily to attack the bugbears shaping the hysterical, psycho-Fundamentalist worldview. They attacked contemporary Christian music, modern Bible versions, Dungeons and Dragons, Halloween, and of course the largest subject of his attention, Roman Catholicism. Chick blamed Roman Catholicism for every major ill the world has ever known, from the emergence of Islam, all the major historical wars, both secular and religious, and even the Holocaust.

vaticanOddly, some of his tracts were a bit prescient when it came to addressing issues within the church and culture. For instance, Reverend Wonderful, published in 1982, tells the story of a big Christian celebrity, conference speaking minister with the multiple degrees and the fawning fans going to judgment for his ecumenism. And Doom Town, published in 1991, with the raging flamboyant, S&M clad sodomites demanding their rights against a debonair Lot who looks a lot like Ricardo Montalban from Sombrero.

I first encountered Jack Chick comics when I was helping my dad do electric work. He had been called out to a trailer park to re-wire a window air conditioner that kept tripping a breaker. While he fiddled with the wiring, in between fetching him tools from the truck, I nosed around the living room. On the coffee table was a pile of Chick Comics. One of them was about the rapture and featured a screaming nurse running out of the nursery at a hospital shouting something like, “Doctor! All the babies are GONE!” As a kid who attended a squishy, compromised Methodist church, it freaked me out. Equally disturbing, looking back now upon that moment, were the collection of Playboy magazines sitting on another table nearby.

It wasn’t until the Lord was pleased to save me during my freshman year in college that I began to warm up to the messages of Chick tracts. A number of my new Christian acquaintances loved handing them out, even leaving them in the restrooms, and other public locations around campus. Still, I remained a bit ambivalent to using Chick’s tracts, primarily because of those folks I knew who used them.

The Chick tract users I encountered had staggeringly awkward interpersonal skills.  A particular Chick aficionado I knew in college was a “non-traditional” student who was in his mid to late 20s and lived down the hall from me in the freshman dorm. He had stacks of Chick tracts and comics in his room he handed out all the time. However, he was notorious for getting into angry shouting matches and the occasional fisticuffs with other students. Another guy I would see around handing out Chick tracts always wore his mall security uniform, even to church on Sunday. He had a fixation with spiritual warfare and fancied himself to be a Bob Larson-style demon hunter.

Even the world had a cultic fascination with Chick tracts given the many knock-off parody versions they produced, and one group of folks even made some live-action movies of their favorite Chick potboilers, for example, this version of Dark Dungeons, Chick’s anti-Dungeons and Dragons tract.

eatenRegrettably, Chick brought much more unnecessary scorn and ridicule upon the Christian faith than he did genuine converts with his tracts. A lot of that had to do with the fact that he was an odd, paranoid recluse who holed himself up at his Boyle Heights residence away from the public. Christianity Today ran their obit of him yesterday after the news broke of his death. They ran this picture from 2007 with the article:

chicktracksAssuming that is him, and the fellow looks similar to other elusive, Bigfoot like photos I’ve seen of the guy, you have to wonder what’s going on with a hyper-fundamentalist KJV onlyist with crazy old hippie hair. A person who willingly cloisters himself away from the world cannot be considered a reputable minister of the Lord.

[UPDATE: An astute reader pointed out that the long haired fellow in the picture is not Jack Chick at all, but author Robert Fowler, who wrote a book entitled, The World of Jack Chick that I need to put on my wish list now. Chick Tract ministries released a statement about Chick’s death and has a more recent picture of him. He was just a paranoid recluse, not a long-haired hippie paranoid recluse].

Conspiracy theories is the one truly disturbing element that shaped Chick’s worldview that was illustrated in his tracts. He was heavily influence by John Todd, a bizarre man who claimed he had been born into a witchcraft family and had risen to the ranks as a satanic priest. According to his wiki page, he was criminally investigated for having sex with under-aged girls in 1976. After his release from prison, he began making the circuit around fundamentalist churches telling his conspiracy stores about the Illuminati and satanic take overs of the world. Chick ate the stuff up and drew a number of tracts around his claims like the Dark Dungeons tract mentioned above and the Angel of Light comic.

Todd disappeared a for few years in 1979 when his stories came under scrutiny. He was later arrested in 1987 for the rape of a college graduate and molesting two girls at a karate school where he worked. He died in a mental institution in 2007.

A lot of Chick’s material arose from the insanity of conspiracy cranks who later were exposed as frauds. Along with Todd was a woman named Rebecca Brown who told elaborate tales of spiritual warfare that she alleged came from a woman named Elaine who had been a satanic high priestess in the same coven where Mike Warnke was said to have been. Warnke was never in a satanic coven. And of course there was also Alberto Rivera, the “ex-Jesuit Priest,” who gave Chick the bulk of his anti-Catholic conspiracies he presented in his tracts.

But in addition to being guided by spiritual con-artists (which should make you wonder about Chick’s discernment), it is the theology advocated in his work that is probably the most disastrous. Chick promoted the typical man-centered, fundamentalist Gospel in his tracts and comics. Salvation was never a work solely done in the hearts of rebellious sinners by the divine act of a gracious God, but it was a product of “decisional” regeneration on the part of the person making the “right choice” about Jesus just in the nick of time before he died. In one theologically terrible tract entitled Set Free, Chick presents the heretical ransom view of the atonement that makes Christ’s death a ransom paid to the devil in order to set hapless, otherwise innocent people, free from diabolical clutches.

While I can admit there is a unique Americana that exists with his tracts and cartoons and the cult following they have produced over the last 40 plus years or more, they represent a troubling corner of evangelicalism where a deformed Christianity has spawned that is energized by conspiracy hokum and historical revisionism. That generation of Christians who have fed upon Chick’s twisted work, if they are even saved to begin with, are biblically anemic and have no genuine discernment to fight off real, soul destroying error.

Chick is someone who should be warned against. I put him in the same category as Beth Moore, Benny Hinn, and Bart Ehrman.

Probably the best overview of his life and work is found at LA Magazine who did a big story on him in 2003 but have reworked it and republished it this week after his death.

Check it out HERE

David Daniels, his assistant, gives a eulogy for Chick in this video.

A Real Quick Book Review

rapture“17” REASONS Why The Rapture Will Be on September 22nd 2017
by No Man Knoweth
105 pgs., paper

One of the more fun perks I have with working for Grace to You is seeing the myriad of books people will send our ministry. A lot of the books come in manuscript form sent by the author or publisher asking if John would be willing to review the material and write an endorsement for the book. Others have already been published and either the author or publisher want to send a complimentary copy to John or Phil for some reason or another. Sometimes we get multiple copies and I get to snag them for myself.

The really fun ones are those books that clearly emanate from the outer fringes of the so-called Christian world. Generally, those books are sent to us by some well-meaning, but clearly undiscerning listener who believes the book in question just has to be read by John MacArthur because the truths contained therein are so profound and important, reading it will open his eyes to what is really going on in the church or the world or whatever.

For years after it was published, for instance, GTY received at least one to two copies of Gail Riplinger’s, New Age Bible Versions, almost on a monthly basis, with an attached note written by the sender begging John to, “read this book to see the truth of what was happening to our Bibles!” We had a small shelf filled with them until we had to dump them. Those kind of books provide a unique glimpse into the deep, dark bowels of American evangelicalism. Most of the folks here at GTY flip through them, get a laugh, and then toss them out. I however, because I am a fan of unusual and obscure curiosities and conspiracy theories, eat those books up like they are candy cigarettes.

thingSo last week, Phil received a little paperback in the mail entitled, “17” Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be On September 22nd, 2017. He tweeted out a picture of the book; I immediately had to go see it for myself. Thankfully, I was able get it away from Phil long enough so I could skim over the pages to see what those 17 reasons would be. I mean, who is to say the book could be wrong? After hundreds of prophetic date setting books being printed over the years, surely there has to be one that gets all the details right. I’d hate to be that guy who misses out on having all that inside info before the Antichrist and the spawns of hell are unleashed upon the earth.

The book is written by No Man Knoweth, or for my review purposes, Nomak. (I’m only assuming Nomak is a man’s name, so please forgive me if it’s Miss Nomak). The book is in a plain, glossy white cover, (or maybe it is egg shell white, I get my color swatches mixed up), with merely the title in candy apple red printed on the front. I appreciate the humble approach by the author. No fancy designs and pictures that distract from the importance of the information contained within.

Nomak lays out his case in a brief 105 pages as to why he thinks the rapture will happen on September 22, of 2017. With books like this, I believe brevity is the better way to go; get right to the point. Additionally, Nomak avoids all the screaming hysteria typical of the prophetic-date setting genre. That means there is no gratuitous over use of ALL CAPS and exclamation points. It is hard reading a book where I feel as though the author is yelling at me. Instead, Nomak has opted for a more conversational style, using the candy apple red lettering, along with bold italics, to emphasize significant information one should ponder. I appreciated that. He wants to persuade with his arguments, not shout down at people for being idiots.

According to Nomak, he was inspired to write his short book from one Edger Whisenant wrote called, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988. [17 Reasons, i]. The problem with Whisenant’s failed date-setting book was the fact that technology was not at the place in 1988 for the Antichrist to pull off what he needs to do technologically so to deceive the world in a short 3 and a half years of the tribulation. Whisenant did not realize this important point in the 1980s. [ibid].

After that brief introduction, Nomak outlines his 17 reasons and expounds a little bit on each one. I’ll review them in turn here,

#1 – The signs Jesus presents during His Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24, Mark 13. The phrase, know man knows the day and the hour, is really a Hebrew idiom speaking to when Rosh Hashanah will take place on the Hebrew festival calendar.

#2 – The astrological star chart that speaks to the Gospel in the Stars when interpreted correctly will give us the exact date of September 22-23 as the starting of the Jubilee of Jubilee’s fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27.

#3 – The 6 Day war in 1967 restarted the prophetic time clock for Israel. 2017 will be the 50th year of the 6 Day war.

#4 – God’s Feasts point to the rapture in September 22, 2017.

#5 – Rosh Hashanah, 2017, will fall in year 5777 of the Jewish calendar. 777 is the number of completion.

#6 – The last ten historical years of Jubilee are all tied to significant events in Jewish history.

#7 – The blowing of the shofar trumpet will take place on September 22, 2017.

#8 – The fulfillment of Revelation 17:10-11, with the seven kings who are fallen being the last seven popes before the 8th, who is pope Francis.

#9 – The four blood moons point to a significant sign in the constellation of Leo the lion (a symbol for Christ), that will have exactly 12 stars in the year 2017.

#10 – The four horsemen of the apocalypse represent the totality of Islam which will rise in power before the rapture. The white, red, black, and green on the pan-Islamic flag.

#11 – Allah is a false god, who is called “the deity.” (he doesn’t really explain how this is a reason, sadly).

#12 – The Ottoman empire represented the feet of clay in the statue of Daniel’s vision, Daniel 2.

#13 – The Ottoman empire will rise again during the end-times before the rapture.

#14 – The rise of Islam’s influence throughout the world. (I think he could have combined #13 and #14 into one point, but I figure that would have wrecked his working title and he would had to have gone back and done a big re-edit).

#15 – Planet X will come to destroy the world. (Google it).

collide#16 – God will give humanity over to a strong delusion to accept an alien messiah. Alien, in the sense of little grey men like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

#17 – Myles, Nomak’s guardian messenger, gave him the 17th reason, which has to do with how Satan is deceiving everyone about the true nature of grey aliens, who are really human/demon hybrids like in Noah’s day before the flood.

mylesNomak ends his book with an exhortation to stand fast in these final days. The end of the world is knocking on our doors, he passionately explains, and we need to go to Jesus to be saved before these events happen or you risk being left behind. He further recommends watching a video posted on the AV Biblebeliever’s youtube channel describing how Roman Catholicism and Islam are connected. In fact, he is so convinced that you will be blown away by the contents of that video, he highlights it several times throughout his book.

He closes his book with a model prayer you can pray, in sky blue font to offset it from the candy apple red font in other parts of his book, in order to be saved. He then signs off telling the reader how he loves us all.

The book is a quick read, and you can obtain a copy for $6.95 at the lulu.com, self-publishing website.

Peter Ruckman: The Crank as Artist

lifePeter Ruckman died. In a Chick tract-style nightmare, he was stripped naked and hauled by a gigantic angel to stand before a glowing outline of Jesus as the universe watched his entire life play out on a enormous drive-in movie screen.

Ruckman was the grandfather of 20th-century wild-eyed, kooksville KJV Onlyism. He was to KJVOlyism what Rousas Rushdoony was to modern theonomy and L.Ron Hubbard to Scientology. A despicable character who was both unfit for the pulpit and unqualified to be called a minister of God, Ruckman’s brawling rhetoric spawned at least two generations of worthless, pugnacious, “bad attitude” fighting Baptists whose doctrines have become a malignancy upon Christ’s Church.

He had an overheated type-writer from which his fevered mind birthed a number of his false doctrines he published in rambling, often times incoherent commentaries, so-called “Bible studies,” and of course his monthly Bible Believer’s Bulletin screeds.

I was first bewitched by Ruckman’s written materials when I was a stupid, untaught new Christian in college. As a recent convert to KJVOnlyism, I secured his book, Problem Texts, that attempts to provide an explanation for every apparent contradiction in the King James Bible. I thought it would help me answer skeptics on my school campus. It only helped to keep me mired in error and made Christianity a laughing stock. Probably the most bizarre of his books is called Black is Beautiful in which he writes about UFOs, government conspiracies, and other paranormal activity. A full review can be read here, Refuse Profane and Old Wives’ Fables.

A commenter on another blog reminded us how Ruckman illustrated all of his book covers. In fact, his crude chalk drawing style is copied for a lot of the lame, seizure-inducing KJVO websites that look like they were created using Windows ME “Paint,” we see on the internet today.

Here are some of his better gems,

liarslibraryhypercalvinismI think he is confusing garden variety, biblical Calvinism with hyper-Calvinism.
The donkey ears are a nice touch, though.

mythologicalmarkrapturesclownsvilleI think this is his take on the Brownsville Revival, which took place in Pensacola

masterpieceHere’s another version,

satanA number of years ago, one of his sons contacted me out of the blue to fill me in on a particularly aggressive KJVO opponent I had been tussling with on my blog. His son was an amiable fellow, and though he was not in agreement with a lot of his father’s ministry, he said that his dad was the real deal, believing everything that he taught and producing the volumes of printed material all on his own.

As “real” and sincere as he might have been, his stuff will only lead a person to spiritual disaster. I can only pray his wretched teachings will fade from the collective memory of the faithful in the Christian church.

Religion in Star Wars

Star WarsSo. The latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, was finally released and it, shall we say, awakened the millions of fans who were enthralled with the original series back some 35 years ago. (I’m not counting the terrifically bad episodes 1-3 when I say “enthralled).

Latched onto all of the pop culture excitement for the new movie like mynocks sucking on power cables are Christian fundamentalist types wagging their fingers and earnestly lecturing us how Star Wars is nothing more than New Agey propaganda that is a Jim Bakker CERN particle accelerating portal to unleashing devil worshiping all over the world. If kids go watch Star Wars, by golly, the next step is Ouija boards, consuming Monster Energy drinks, and a spiraling descent into a hellish, Chick tract witch coven nightmare!

Over the weekend of the movie’s release, I got into a tussle with one of those finger-wagging religious moralists at a FaceBook group. He had posted a link to a lecture railing against Star Wars as New Age/Devil unleashing propaganda. The speaker is the pastor of a KJV Only church in MN (Of course!) who also has an audio catalog of sermons and podcasts crying out against the hidden evils of Christmas and CCM. The guy reminds me of a watered-down version of barefoot runner, Steven Anderson.

At any rate, my FB antagonist insisted that George Lucas had filled his movies with thematic elements pulled from a number of eastern, mystery religions and ignorant Christians gleefully lap up those hidden demonic messages all for the sake of entertainment. They are being duped by the devil into a life worldly compromise and devil worship.

Well of course I agree that “spiritual” themes exist in the Star Wars movies. I certainly don’t deny that. Obviously an universally transcendent “force” that a person can tap into and manipulate for either good or bad purposes is new agey. I mean, the whole idea of a Jedi order that demands a loveless commitment to a life of singleness and celibacy reeks of the monastic lifestyle promoted in many religious sects.

But do those religious themes mean that Lucas intended to make a series of movies filled with hidden spiritual undertones for the purpose of promoting a religion that the devil will use to bankrupt the Christian faith?

Good grief! Of course not. Do you seriously think that neck-bearded, flannel-wearing toy salesman created his cinematic universe for the purpose of introducing generations of children and then their children to religion? No! He wants to sell toys. Lots and lots of toys.

Sure, Lucas pulled from Joseph Campbell’s works regarding how hero journey myths weave themselves through various cultures, but to conclude it was for the purpose of creating a new religion in order to fool people into becoming New Agers is patently absurd. There was good reason Lucas insisted on maintaining the merchandising rights to his movies. It’s the reason why you can get a set of Dengar and Bossk plush toys,

dengarbosskBut let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Lucas has intended to make disciples for his oddball Jedi religion with his movies. Does it really matter? Seriously?

I asked my FB debater to tell me how many folks he knew who watched the movies and then left the theater thinking, “I really want to know more about that dark side of the force thing,” and before you know it the person has created the church of the Sith that is rapidly growing in popularity.

He had to say he knew of none, which is true. There aren’t any. Oh, I know somebody can maybe find a few anecdotal examples from around the world somewhere. But I bet genuine examples will prove as difficult at conjuring up than the stolen data plans of the Death Star.

Most normal people are like me. They grew up loving the movies. Perhaps collected the toys and action figures and replayed the various movie scenes with them. My kids currently do the same thing. They build the Lego ships and swing their plastic light sabers around at each other.

bibBut eventually they will grow out of the toys, and maybe they’ll be like me, a fan that maintains a nostalgia for the original movies so that I have a talking wampa on my desk sitting next to a Admiral Ackbar action figure caught in a mousetrap as part of my “geekosphere.”

Apart from the middle-aged weirdos who dress up like Bib Fortuna for Comic Con, I don’t know of anyone who even cares about alleged religious themes in Star Wars.

Honestly, the real hidden agenda of the devil, if we even want to call it that seeing that his agenda is clearly discernible, is to get conspiracy mongering Christians to obsess on silly things like demonic mysticism in the Star Wars movies, rather than focus upon those elements that do enslave the souls of men.

The biggest example being the shallow, spiritless preaching and fleshly entertainment that comes from the pulpits of the vast majority of Churches in the US that has only led to millions of false converts. 

Or what about the horrendous theology being taught, like the influence of the stealth atheism of Biologos in churches, or the man-centered apologetics that has created apostates to Catholicism. Worst of all is charismaticism that has been a devastating, negative force on Christians throughout the Church worldwide for the last 40-plus years.

That is where our attention should be focused regarding biblical purity, doctrine, and spiritual compromise. Not upon some misguided conspiratorial alarmism about a series of popular movies.

The KJV-only He-man Woman Hater’s Club

A Hip and Thigh Classic
Fundamentalist wonderkid sensation and barefoot jogger, Steve Anderson, founding pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, AZ, popped back on to folk’s radar this week.  He posted a trailer for a soon-to-be released homemade documentary on King James Onlyism. It shows him allegedly trapping James White in some kind of “gottcha” question.  Stevie’s antics drew my attention back to a post I did on one of his other infamous You Tube videos. It was an awesome spectacle to behold. A transcript is available in the comments. I figure that new readers might have overlooked it, so I thought I would give it a repost in light of his recent goings on in the viral video world.

WARNING: The following post contains language, even though many would call “biblical,” others with weaker constitutions, like home school mothers and spiritualized, finger wagging goody-goods, would consider low-brow and inappropriate. Some may even say bathroom talk. Just so that every one understands I am not going emergent with my blog, I present to you this warning as a caution. Thank you.

There is an unique You Tube video floating around the community of former hardcore, fundamental KJV-onlyists, where I visit on occasion, and it has stirred up conflicting feelings of both overwhelming laughter and despairing sadness.


Basically, the video is a section from a message delivered by a KJV-only preacher/pastor in Tempe, Arizona by the name of Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church.

In the section, preacher Steven seizes upon a Hebrew idiom translated in the KJV as “He who pisseth against a wall” and proceeds to argue that the KJV is a more manly translation because many of the modern versions, rather than giving the literal rendering of the phrase, simply translate the meaning of the idiom something like, cut off every male. One of my favorite lines in the entire rant is when preacher Steven, with index finger firmly tapping the top of his podium for emphasis says, “They may be males, but they’re not men.”

Preacher Steven then goes on a 4 or 5 minute tirade against the emasculation of today’s man by the feminization of our modern culture. The highlight is when he recounts his demoralizing time in Germany where in every public restroom, as well as in private homes, there are signs prohibiting men from standing when relieving themselves. Poor Steven had to sit to pee. Such is the way of our feminized societies in which men have not only forgotten about God, but they have forgotten to stand up for themselves.

Amazing, huh? How should we stand against this astonishing buffoonery that masquerades as biblical preaching? A couple of thoughts.

First, the phrase, He who pisseth against the wall, is a Hebrew idiom that is meant to describe male descendants or heirs in a generation. It is not at all describing masculinity, especially as this guy is defending it. The phrase is used 6 times in the KJV, 1 Samuel 25:22, 24; 1 Kings 14:10, 16:11, 21:21; and 2 Kings 9:8. In each of these instances, the phrase is employed as a curse describing how the heir to a family line will be cut off so that the family generation will cease to have an inheritance in the land of Israel. Looking at each one of these verses in their context clearly demonstrates this. It has nothing at all to do with men being men.

Thus, not only has Steve mis-interpreted this idiom, he is mis-applying it in his application defending masculinity and crying against a feminized culture. But I guess such should be expected.

Second, preacher Steven definitely represents a fringe element within fundamental KJV-onlyism. However, anyone who is familiar with the apologetic literature of KJV-onlyists knows one of their foundational talking points is that the KJV, as a translation, has been translated by the greatest Christian scholars who were expert in the original languages. No modern version can match the KJV in scholarship. This is certainly the argument made by D.A. Waite, David Cloud, and other “mainstream” KJV-only Fundamentalists. D.A. Waite even makes the scholarship argument one of the 4 points to his “four-fold superiority” of the King James Bible.

Third, how exactly is the word “piss” more masculine than the word “urinate” or “pee?” Or the translation, “cut off every male?” How is the meaning changed in modern texts? I personally like the idiom to be translated as it stands in the KJV, however, how exactly is the meaning of the text changed if the translators intentionally translate just the meaning of the idiom and not the literal wording of the idiom?

Fourth, Steve’s claim exposes classic KJV-only double-standards. Let me explain what I mean:

Everyone knows that language will change over a period of time. A word or phrase that has a primary meaning in one generation can take on an entirely new meaning in the next. For example, no one in our modern society thinks of the word “gay” as meaning “happy.” In fact, when we hear those old time songs from 80 or 90 years ago sing about being “gay” we snicker, because what they understood as being “gay” in the 1920s and 30s does not mean what we understand “gay” to be in the early years of the 21st century.

Idioms are also a good example of this. In the 17th century, the word “piss” didn’t carry the crassness that it now carries in our culture, so the translators didn’t have a problem translating the phrase as literal as possible. Modern readers tend to cringe at such word usage, and modern translators, recognizing this change in culture, chose instead to translate the meaning of the phrase, rather than a word-for-word translation. It means the same thing. Nothing is “taken away” as KJV-onlyists attempt to argue.

Now, what most folks don’t know is that the KJV does the same thing with idioms as modern translators do. A relevant example is Matthew 1:18, which in the KJV reads, “to be found with child.” This is not, however, what the original states. The word “child” isn’t in the verse. Literally, it reads something like, “found to have put it in her.” Now why didn’t the KJV translators translate that literally as it is found in the text? Is it not, as KJV onlyists insist,  what God wrote? His inspired word? Yet here, we have an instance of the translators considering the sensibilities of the readers of their translation who would think such description of child-bearing was crude and certainly non-poetic, providing the meaning of the idiom rather than a literal word-for-word translation. The only difference, though, is when the KJV translators do it, they’re considered the greatest scholars the world has ever known, but if modern translators of the ESV do it, they are corrupting God’s Word.

With all of that aside, however, I believe there is much more at stake here.

I said the video produced conflicting emotions of both laughter and sadness. I laughed at such nonsensical reasoning of this passage. But, I am saddened that this man is allegedly shepherding the souls of men and women who look to him as a spiritual leader. It is grossest spiritual negligence and incompetence at its worst.

At the website of this church, there is a page with photos of new members being baptized. I am grieved that all these smiling faces, excited for their new found faith in Christ, have identified themselves with a church that will only ensnare their souls with the most absurd legalistic ideology, while calling such behavior “being holy” and “separated.” Those poor folks are going to have a warped understanding of the Bible and God Himself, and will more than likely be spiritually traumatized for sometime to come because of this man’s deplorable teaching. I can only hope that because God is sovereign that I can confidently trust He will deliver His people in due time.

Exploring KJVO Exegesis

doraI wanted to offer some thoughts in response to this post from the fever swamps of IFB KJV only/anti-Calvinism,

The Decrees of God

It is for the most part a collection of verses in which the English word “decree” is found in the King James Bible. It’s compiled by a King James Only apologist who wants to take some swipes at Calvinism.

After he parades his list of verses before his readers, he draws this breath-taking conclusion,

There are 7 decrees from God. Job 28:26 (about rain); Job 38:10 and Proverbs 8:29 (about the sea); Psalm 2:7 (about Jesus Christ); Psalm 148:6 (about the heavens); Isaiah 10:22 (about consumption surround a remnant of Israel) Jeremiahs 5:22 (about the sand) and Daniel 4:24 (about Nebuchadnezzar.

None of these decrees mention anything about election or predestination, none of them show that God has ONE decree, and none of them are made in eternity, but made IN TIME. Furthermore, in Psalm 148:6, God makes a decree that is TEMPORARY because in 2 Peter 3:12 these things will be burned up.

Of such decrees when the Calvinist is forced to explain that which is not explicit in their view of “decrees”, Laurence Vance writes, “Unconditional Election is pawned off as the secret counsel of God that can’t be understood. Yet untold volumes have been written by Calvinists on the subject. So if the decree of predestination is a secret doctrine, how do the Calvinists know so much about it?…In the Bible however, the misappropriation of the decrees of God by the Calvinists is no laughing matter: “Woe unto them the decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed”. The Other Side of Calvinism, page 256.

Let that sink in.

Here we have an incubator for heresy in which a theological obsession that is handicapped by a slavish devotion to a 17th century English translation produces a spiritually lethal atmosphere for one’s soul.

Of course, anyone who is a serious student of God’s Word knows that the doctrine of God’s eternal decrees, especially as they pertain to the salvation of His elect people, does not hang upon the English word “decree” or “decrees” as translated in the KJV. I personally would expect more from someone who puts “Dr.” in front of his name, but we are dealing with an individual who takes Larry Vance seriously as a researcher.

Rolland McCune, in his first volume on systematic theology (pp., 308-309), looks at the Hebrew text and identifies 6 key words that pertain to God’s decrees: yatsar, ya’ats, ‘etsah, chashab, machshebeth, nathan. Depending upon the context they can be translated as decide, purpose, plan, device, ordain or other similar words describing God’s actions that He decided to do in eternity. They are used in such passages as Psalm 139:16, Isaiah 19:12, Jeremiah 32:19, Genesis 50:20, Jeremiah 1:5.

Coming to the NT, McCune notes 10 key words that pertain to God’s decrees and purposes: horidzo, prooridzo, protithemai, proetoimadzo, tasso, proginosko, prognois, procheiridzomai, procheriotoneo.  Likewise, depending upon the context, those words can mean to determine, appoint, fix, foreordain, elect, set beforehand. They are found in such passages as Acts 2:23, Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:9 and 2:10, Acts 17:26, and 1 Peter 1:1:2.

While none of those words are necessarily translated as “decree” and “decrees” in the KJV, the doctrine of God’s eternal decrees is clearly confirmed by any honest evaluation of the relevant passages. But that shouldn’t concern a KJV onlyist who believes God’s Word is frozen in only one translation that is 400 years old.

With that in mind, let me zero in on these specific comments,

None of these decrees mention anything about election or predestination, none of them show that God has ONE decree, and none of them are made in eternity, but made IN TIME.

It’s those sort of unhinged proclamations that make rabid, anti-Calvinistic, KJVO apologetics a blight upon the Christian church.

Let’s break it down.

I’ll go out on a limb and assume that our KJVO apologist at least affirms the eternality of God. To my knowledge, I don’t think I am dealing with an open theist Socinian heretic.

An eternal God knows all things, because He is, say it with me, ETERNAL. There is no knowledge He has to gather to Himself. Add to that the fact that He is the creator. An eternal creator creates all that there is, and because He is the creator, He not only knows all that will transpire in history future, He has planned it so, all the good, bad, and ugly. The fact of detailed biblical prophecy affirms that point.

That means God has planned for man’s salvation, and specifically from Scripture, a particular people, or what is revealed to us as His redeemed elect.  It is not some nebulous concept of “The Elect” to which God has left people to choose if whether or not they will join the club. It is people, individuals, that God chooses.

But let’s leave the theological ramifications aside for now. Our KJVO advocate insists God’s decrees do not pertain to election or predestination  He also brashly claims God’s decrees are only made in TIME and not eternity. He wants to keep God out of the electing to salvation business and let man choose his own destiny with his freewill. But does the Bible confirm his thesis?

Without this becoming an exercise in the obvious, let’s first consider Ephesian 3:11 (taken from the KJV text so as to be consistent),

 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

Note my emphasis. “Eternal purpose.” God had a purpose that is described as eternal. There are actually two words here translated as “purpose” and “purposed.” Both words, prothesis and poieo have the meaning “to set forth” and “to do,” respectively. Paul is saying that in eternity, because again, they are “eternal” purposes, God set forth to do something. In the case of Ephesians 3, it is to reveal God’s wisdom in regards to the salvation of the gentiles. That is eternal salvation that was “decreed,” because well, if you purpose to do something, that means you decreed it to happen, right?

Let’s look at one more taken from 2 Timothy 1:8,9,

8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began...

Once more, note my emphasis. Paul speaks of being saved and called by a holy calling. Paul did not get called because of his works, but according God’s own purpose and grace. The word “purpose” is again translated from prothesis, which means “to set forth.” What did God set forth to do according to Paul’s words? To save and call him and his friend Timothy to whom he is writing. When did God set forth to save and call Paul and Timothy? BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN. When exactly is that? Oh, I’ll venture a guess here and say ETERNITY PAST!  In fact, the phrase “world began” was translated from pro chronos, which means “Before Time!.”

The very translation this guy claims to be the only sure and reliable Word of God flatly contradicts him. Now he sits upon the horns of a significant dilemma. Will he side with the authority of his beloved translation or his feverish devotion to hating Calvinism? Or perhaps he’ll choose a third option of spinning the Bible in such a way so as to re-interpret it to favor him? What’s a rapid, anti-Calvinist KJV onlyist to do?

Premillennialism, Calvinism, and Romans 9-11

I was alerted to this post yesterday via James White’s twitter feed,

James White, Amillennialism, Ecumenism, and Curious Habits

It’s a bizarro screed written by a “Dr.” Elisha Weismann.  After a web search, I couldn’t find a “Dr.” Elisha Weismann existing anywhere outside the website where this article was posted. More than likely “Dr.” Weismann (if that is a real name) is a fake “Dr.” or one of those phony titles granted by a backslapping, IFB degree mill like Peter Ruckman’s Bible institute in Florida, and the guy (or gal?) is no more a real “Dr.” as Joel Taylor is a real “pastor/teacher.”

My attention was drawn to his opening comment,

Although some Calvinists like John MacArthur maintain a premillennial view, any premillennial view destroys the Calvinist interpretation of Romans chapter 9. If premillennialism is true, then Romans 9 must be viewed as a description of God’s plan for a future restoration of Israel instead of an individual scheme for salvation as most Calvinists maintain.  Just because some Calvinists do not accept this but rather opine that Romans 9-11 DOES cover this subject EXCEPT FOR those proof texts in Romans 9 does not discount the above fact. Romans 9-11 is clear from the very beginning of chapter 9 that Paul is making the distinction between those claiming some type of rite or right as a result of physical birth in Abraham as opposed to those who actually were the target of the blessings-those born of Isaac instead of Hagar.  It is almost imperative that a Calvinist MUST reject dispensationalism in order to maintain their view of Romans 9 as addressing individual salvation instead of what it actually teaches-the corporate restoration of Israel. But, since most Calvinists reject dispensationalism and are either post millennial or amillennial, it is much easier for them to avoid a discussion of prophecy because they find it much harder to defend their views of prophecy than the attempts to defend Calvinism.

I’ll say off the top here that I agree with the thrust of the guy’s overall argument. Romans 9-11 isn’t so much a treatise on individual salvation as it is a theodicy explaining why God has temporarily set aside the nation of Israel and the certainty that God will fulfill ALL the promises He has made to Israel which includes a national restoration.

That stated, however, contrary to what the “Dr.” says, a premilliennialist does not have to abandon Calvinism in order to believe that is what Romans 9-11 teaches. Additionally, a Calvinist doesn’t have to abandon Dispensationalism in order to affirm both Calvinism and premillennialism as implied in those chapters.

While it is true that Calvinists of an amillennial/postmillennial stripe tend to over-emphasize the individual salvation aspect of Romans 9-11, particularly 9:6-24, any honest reading of the text still confirms the Calvinist view of God’s sovereign election in the affairs of His redeemed people. I even hesitate calling such a reading “Calvinism” seeing that the theology is just so clearly taught in the whole of Scripture in spite of this guy’s blanket denial of its existence.

And though it is true Paul has a corporate dimension in mind as he moves along in his argument, he is plainly saying in Romans 9:6-24 that God unconditionally elects to do what He purposes among His individual people. Corporate groups and nations are comprised of individuals, or does the “Dr.” just brush that off? God chose (you know, unconditionally elected) to bless Abraham (and individual) and his seed (more individuals) over all the other people’s in the world (9:6-7).  God also unconditionally elected Isaac over Ishmael (two individuals) and Jacob over Esau (two more individuals) (9:8-12).  Later, God unconditionally chose to harden Pharaoh (yet another individual) for the purpose of destroying him and bring glory to Himself by delivering His elect people (a whole bunch of individuals) from bondage.

There is no way an honest reader of the Bible cannot see God’s sovereign, unconditional election being taught in Romans 9-11.

I would certainly agree that Romans 9 particularly is an important passage affirming the doctrine of unconditional election, however it is not the only place in Scripture where that doctrine is taught. Hence, I don’t derive my “Calvinism” from just one isolated passage in the book of Romans. Again, any honest reader of the Bible will see unconditional election affirmed throughout all the pages of Scripture.

Moreover, does this “Dr.” even read outside the rarefied bubble of IFB tin-foil hat theology? Back in 2007, John MacArthur, who the “Dr.” names in his article, preached a blistering Shepherd Conference message defending Calvinism and premillennialism against an amillennial perspective. It so agitated non-premillennialists that entire Reformed blogs imploded upon themselves and books were written.

But John isn’t the only Calvinist who teaches premillennialism. S. Lewis Johnson, who was ejected from Dallas Theological Seminary for affirming particular redemption, has also taught on the subject of premillennialism and Romans 9-11. See HERE  andHERE. Moreover, Barry Horner, who is both a Calvinist and a premillennialist, has written extensively on the subject of premillennialism and Israel. His writings can be accessed HERE.

Additionally, is the “Dr.” even aware of such Calvinists as Horatius Bonar, J.C. Ryle, Robert Haldane, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Cotton and Increase Mather, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, John Gill, Thomas Goodwin, Matthew Henry, and even John Calvin?  Though a number were not premillennialists, they were “Calvinists” and yet affirmed the restoration of the Jews as a nation as Romans 9-11 teaches.

But of course, I am assuming that someone who genuinely has the title “Dr.” before his name would be aware of such things, but maybe my expectations are too much. I mean, even Gail Riplinger is called “Dr.”

IFB Dishonesty

A pastor acquaintance I recently met at Shepherd’s Conference this past year exposes a couple of instances of Fundamentalist tale bearing.

Of particular interest is the second one in which my pastor acquaintance uncovers the dishonest exaggerations of Kent Bradenburg.

Kent’s an occasional commenter under any of my posts pertaining to John MacArthur and my church. Most recently are his comments under this post.  As my pastor acquaintance notes in his report, Kent, who didn’t even attend the Shepherd’s Conference and only listened to a little bit of the on-line streaming, didn’t like the music that was used to lead worship at the conference. That’s all well and good, because people have different preferences when it comes to music, but he practically likens it to a rock and roll concert.  That of course is a lie and my pastor acquaintance, who did attend the conference and even video recorded many of the sessions, exposes his falsehood.

Even if one disagrees with what we do, at least be an honorable person that doesn’t lie against detractors.

Easter Link Roundup

alienrabbitThis being Easter weekend, I thought I would point out some links for the newer readers. Two my own, the other from an acquaintance.

First is my two articles on Easter related themes,

For those of you who will be attending an sunrise, early morning passion play this Sunday,

Good Ole Fashion Passion Play.

Next are a couple of posts debunking some KJV-only, Easter related talking points,

The King James Only Easter Bunny Trail

and a second one from Scott McClare on the so-called Wednesday crucifixion of Jesus.

Wednesday Cruci-Fiction

What A Fellowship!

pipermacI wanted to address some comments Kent Brandenburg made a few weeks ago. Writing on the cherished Fundamentalist practice of separation, he states,

Alright, so Charismatic doctrine is unbiblical.  I run into Charismatics all the time going door-to-door (I’ve written a very helpful tract to give them too, that we hand them), and they are not only contradictory to the doctrine of our church, but also the doctrine of the church period.  The young evangelical I referenced chose to call it an “odd ball view.”  Odd ball view?  It’s false doctrine.  It contradicts scripture.  That’s bad enough. We could stop there, but it does far more damage then that, and John MacArthur himself, this young man’s pastor, has written a scathing book against the odd ball views.  It was one of MacArthur’s early books, that went into a second printing, and he makes it look very bad and dangerous and hurtful.  He’s correct on all fronts.  Bravo John MacArthur in your true exposure of these false doctrines!

Writing a book is fine.  But what does Romans 16:17 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6 tell us to do?  It says “mark and avoid” and “withdraw ourselves” from these.  I’m not nitpicking.  I’m talking about applying what God commanded us to do.  Talk to God about it.  He’s the one that said it.  Are we nitpicking if we report what God said?  If so, well, then I guess I’ll be nitpicking.  And then he implies that we lack discernment, and that’s why we can’t have guys like Piper preach for us.  If he came, we’d get all confused and not know what we believe.  Right.  No, it really is wanting to obey passages of Scripture—that black stuff on white paper, those words.  That’s how we’re sanctified, is by the truth.  It’s in those pages we see the face of Jesus, which changes us into His glory.  Are we changed into His glory when we don’t do what He said?  No.

First off, I appreciate being called young. I was actually flattered a bit; especially seeing that I am probably older than Kent. It’s like that time a couple of Christmases ago when I went into the grocery store to get a bottle of wine for some recipe my wife was making and the lady at the register carded me by asking for my driver’s license. I was befuddled. “Really?” I exclaimed, “I’ve never been carded before in my life! You just made my day, mam!”

But moving along to the point at hand.

Kent was troubled by this post I wrote. Even more so with the comments I left to an individual underneath it regarding John MacArthur’s relationship with the Resolved Conferences, John Piper, and I guess by extension, C.J. Mahaney; but mostly Piper.

Kent represents a vocal group of Fundamentalist finger-wagging gatekeepers who have always been critical of John and his “affiliations” with alleged problematic individuals like Piper and Mahaney.  John’s relationship with them is viewed as an insidious form of compromise. As my commenter noted, for John to write a hard-hitting book against charismatics and then embrace a charismatic like Mahaney is confusing to folks.

Let me respond with a number of thoughts. Oh, I should add this one note: I do not speak in any official capacity here. These items reflect my own personal take.

First. Do Kent and his friends genuinely believe John is blissfully unaware of Piper and Mahaney’s “issues”? Or perhaps they think he doesn’t care? Believe me: John knows and he cares. The difference is that he understands the value of what they say on those areas of biblical importance, and when that comes to the Resolved Conferences, those areas are the Gospel message, the glory of God, the life of Christ, etc. Charismatic issues were never at the forefront at those conference. Any “confusing” questions about those issues can be dealt with at other points when they arise.

Second. John and John have been friends and acquaintances for sometime. Long before the popularity of “conferences.” Piper has come a few times over the years to speak at TMS and the TMC. The first time I heard him speak was back in the mid-90s for a TMS morning chapel and it was Piper at his best speaking on the glory of God in preaching.  Rather than throwing him under the bus, MacArthur graciously looks past those problem areas and emphasizes those profitable things Piper has to offer Christians as a whole.

Third. That does not mean MacArthur has “no opinion” about Piper or Mahaney. If you would ask him what he thinks of their problematic areas, MacArthur would not hesitate to tell you, all the while doing his best to be gracious toward them. Additionally, I know for a fact MacArthur has spoken with Piper on these things personally, though I am not privy to all that was discussed.

Fourth. Piper has been asked to speak at conferences with MacArthur, not necessarily his church. Though Piper has been in the pulpit at Grace on a few occasions, most of the venues under scrutiny by Kent and his friends are conferences.  There is a different tone, feel, and purpose with conferences than worship at a church. Though I am sure Kent will wrinkle his nose at this, I hold who speaks and what is said at a conference more loosely than who preaches and what is preached in a church pulpit. They are in two separate arenas for my discernment filter.

The reason being is that speakers can show up unexpectedly last-minute at a conference or say something off the wall that may not reflect what the conference is about specifically, or the conviction of the other conference participants particularly.

Additionally, planners for conferences may not, if ever, solicit the opinion of the other conference members about who it is they are inviting and who will speak with them. Hence. Just because MacArthur is on a platform with Piper or Mahaney does not mean he endorses either directly or by the so-called “platform association” the unspoken “problem” areas of their theology.

And yes, I know my detractors will say: “But you are inviting them!” Indeed we are, but again, it’s a conference not church.

Fifth. Because I make that distinction between conferences and church, if Piper was invited frequently to preach at our church, and his odd-ball beliefs – (which by the way go beyond any charismatic tendencies like his inviting Rick Warren to speak at his Desiring God conference and his embracing of Mark Driscoll) –  were to be taught from our pulpit and encouraged by the leadership at our church, then I think Kent could have reason to be concerned and write the criticisms he has. Because that is hardly the case, so I think his critique is petty and misdirected.

Sixth. After reading a series of posts that Kent wrote up, I am often left wondering if those individuals of a Fundamentalist stripe have ever learned any ability to genuinely discern. Do all our “associations” without exception have to fall in line under our stated theological convictions? Or is there any room for disagreement or covering over of those areas where our association may be “off”?

Take for instance a relatively unknown association MacArthur has been involved with for a good number of years. Back in the early 90s, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union and the doors opened to the West, Russian Baptist leadership began to seek out John to get more exposure to his teaching. That led to the planting of seminaries modeled after TMS and led by TMS grads, as well as a number of speaking engagements and Russian pastor conferences like what we have here in the U.S.

Those Baptist leaders who early on sought out John are for the most part Arminian in their theology. Moreover, they have weird traditions, like the notion that women can be literally saved by the number of children she has. Certainly there could have been Reformed folks who would nit-pick about John’s “association” with hardshell Arminians, and I guess one could say there were other issues of concern with those dear Russian saints. But rather than avoiding any involvement with them at all, John cautiously took the initiative and so began a tremendous partnership that has had amazing impact for the Gospel in Russia.

Seventh. The “separation” passages Kent uses to prove his point are woefully taking out of context. I’ll break them down for you:

Romans 16:17 says, Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

Kent writes that no one wants to obey those words and it is not “nitpicking” to demand that we do so. However, in the next post in his series, Kent writes, It’s not plain that Romans 16 is talking about people outside of the church.  It seems like he’s talking about people in the church, people who call themselves brothers, because they cause division.

Is that what those little black words say? In the following verses, Paul writes,

18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.
20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Rom 16:18-20)

There are a few characteristics of those so-called “brothers.” They are distinguished from the “brethren” mentioned in verse 17. They “do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ.” They intentionally deceive. It is implied they are not obedient in contrast to the “obedience” of the “brethren.” The “brethren” are exhorted to be wise in what is good as opposed to that which is “evil.” And Paul seems to imply that those who are to be separated from are identified with Satan in verse 20.

Nothing suggests that they are genuine Christians, because of these characteristics. Additionally, if they were genuine believers, why would Paul NOT offer correctives to their divisiveness? Is that implying that they were doctrinally sound in faith and practice in other areas of their life, but their “divisive behavior” just puts them on a banned list for all the other Christians?  I don’t think so. What Paul is saying here suggests a purging of unbelievers by the means of church discipline.

What about 2 Thessalonians 3:6 which states,  But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.

That is another verse that isn’t a stand alone comment from Paul. It is part of a greater context that extends to nearly the end of the chapter. That being, Paul’s exhortation to separate from individuals who no longer worked and were acting like gossipy busy-bodies as Paul describes them in verse 11.  More than likely, they were individuals who were of a “survivalist” cult-like mentality.  They were no longer “working,” but had given up the real life to sit around in the desert and wait for Jesus to show up. In a manner of speaking, the original Family Radio/Campingites.

The situation Paul recommends is to place them in church discipline in which they are admonished (vs. 18).

Now. As far as I am concerned, Piper is a Christian. Hopefully Kent isn’t saying Piper is a lying, false brother who is deceiving the simple minded.  And, I don’t think Piper has ever set a date about Jesus coming back to the point he created some wacky survivalist cult.

Does he have problem areas in his theology and practice? Certainly. But the Resolved Conferences are no longer and to my knowledge MacArthur isn’t involved with Piper in a conference anytime soon.

So let’s have a bit of perspective. Do you all seriously think John has compromised 40 years of faithful ministry to the point of disrepair because he had John Piper speak at a Resolve Conferences? Are Fundamentalist so feeble-minded when it comes to practical discernment within ministry that they have to twist and turn Scripture in order to concoct artificial “qualifications” so as to identify various lines of demarcation for whom to separate from?  Honestly, that mind-set can be just a serious a problem as Piper and Mahaney’s alleged issues.