The New Apostolic Reformation An Examination of the Five-Fold Ministries Part 1

(Volume 23, Issue 4, July/August 2017) The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is one of the largest, broadest and most powerful movements within Christianity today, yet it flies largely under the radar.  Even those involved often do not understand the movement to the extent that they may even deny they are part of it. This confusion is due to the fact that NAR does not have official membership or even leadership.  Rather, NAR is a loose coalition of mostly Pentecostal and charismatic Christians, organizations and churches that are united over a particular understanding and interpretation of certain portions of Scripture.  The interpretation of these New Testament texts are widely held by those connected with NAR and focus mainly on the miraculous sign gifts. Some have equated NAR with the so-called Third Wave of Pentecostalism (the first wave started with the birth of the Pentecostal movement in 1901, the second wave is…

Why Definitions Matter

(Volume 23, Issue 3, May/June 2017) It was Mark Twain who famously said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” Used by Twain, the distinction between being a mediocre author and great one, such as himself, was the choice of words.  If this is important to a novelist, how much more important it is to the Christian attempting to communicate timeless truths given to us by our Creator God. Words and their meanings matter.  Unfortunately, in our Christian lingo, we tend to use sloppily thrown out words and terms which can mislead others and, in time, some of these terms take on lives of their own.   While often harmless in their intent, I would contend that when we do so we unknowingly miscommunicate important truths that our Lord has revealed to us, and/or mislead ourselves and others as…

Biblical Literacy

(Volume 23, Issue 2, March/April 2017) I concluded my article titled “Biblical Illiteracy” with these words: “Biblical illiteracy is well recognized today.  There are many reasons why not only the general population but also the evangelical church has little understanding and knowledge of Scripture, and I have tried to identify some of these in the body of this article. With all of the attacks on the trustworthiness of Scripture, coupled with general lack of biblical knowledge and apathy toward what it proclaims, it would be easy to despair for the future of the Scriptures.  But God’s Word always accomplishes that which it is sent forth by the Lord to accomplish (Isa 55:1) which is to teach, reprove, correct and train His people in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).  We have the promise of Jesus that His Word will never pass away (Matt 24:35).  Rather than despair we should make every effort…

Biblical Illiteracy: Its Tragedy and Remedy

(Volume 23, Issue 1, January/February 2017) Both statistical research and anecdotal observation come to the same conclusion – America, a nation once steeped in Scripture if not always living in obedience to God, has joined the ranks of the biblically illiterate from around the globe.  Theologians and sociologists both speak of our “post-Christian” culture, while to some extent is still being fueled by the capital of Christianity, which is now all but coasting on empty. Albert Mohler, in a short article entitled “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem,” quotes pollsters George Gallup and Jim Castelli as saying, “Americans revere the Bible—but, by and large, they don’t read it.  And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”[1] As a result Mohler documents that fewer than half of all adults can name the four Gospels, identify more than 3 disciples or name even five of…

Muslim Dreams and Visions

(Volume 22, Issue 5, September/October 2016) In recent years the stories of Muslims responding to the gospel, either directly or indirectly, as a result of dreams and visions have been abundant.  In these dreams it is reported that Jesus (or Isa as the Muslims call Him) appears and then directs the individual to someone who will share the gospel with them or, on some occasions Isa will preach the good news directly. Rick Kronk’s opening story in his book Dreams and Visions, Muslim’s Miraculous Journey to Jesus, is representative.  I will quote it in part: While I napped, I began to dream, and then suddenly that dream was interrupted and I found myself surrounded by bright light and white clouds.  Everything seemed so inviting and tranquil.   Then I saw beams of light streaming past me from behind.  I felt welcoming warmth upon my back from the light.  I turned, and…

Does Doctrine Matter Anymore – To Pastors?

(Volume 22, Issue 4, July/August 2016) What comes to your mind when you think of pastors and, especially, pastoral responsibilities?  The range of response could be from that of shepherds, administrators, CEOs, promoters, organizers, evangelists, and Bible teachers, among other options. Without discussing any of these roles at this point, I would suggest that few would see pastors as theologians.  Theologians reside at seminaries and other academic settings, not at churches.  While some pastors might be known as adequate, even excellent, expositors of the Scriptures, they most likely are not seen as theologians today.  This has not always been the case. Some History Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson, in their fine little book The Pastor Theologian, Resurrecting an Ancient Vision, document that until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries it was pastors who were on the cutting edge theologically within Christianity.  Resisting the temptation to critique much of the theology prior…

Does Doctrine Matter Anymore?

(Volume 22, Issue 3, May/June 2016) A recent front page article featured in our local (Springfield, Illinois) newspaper was entitled “Mega-Growth.” The article described the phenomenal numerical increase of three of the largest churches in our area. What is it about these churches that have sparked their growth? Why are people flocking to these churches rather than to others? In response one of the pastors said, “Understanding budgets and balance sheets is as important as understanding church doctrine.” Another pastor said, “Church members are more interested in relational issues than doctrine. People care less about questions pertaining to what a church doctrine is and more about the question, ‘Does this church care for me?’”[i] We should not minimize the importance of fiscal responsibility, organizational needs and loving community, but not too many years ago Christians sought out churches that reflected what they believed the Bible taught. No longer. As is evident by what these pastors said,…

Biblical Fundamentalism*

(Volume 22, Issue 2, Mar/Apr 2016) I am a Fundamentalist. There I said it. And yet, although I inherited a few guns I don’t know where the bullets are. I don’t hate anyone, not even my neighbor whose cat keeps my songbird population thinned out. Knowing my own weaknesses and sinfulness I refrain from being particularly judgmental of others. Some might call me a “Bible-thumper” but I have not actually thumped anyone with a Bible since junior high when I was trying to impress the girls (I learned many years later that punching girls did not impress them nearly as much as I originally thought). I have some strong preferences and opinions about everything from politics to entertainment (just ask me), but I recognize that not everyone shares all my views and I am at peace with that. I believe in separation from sinful practices and compromising associations, but I…

Twelve Steps in the Wrong Direction

(Volume 22, Issue 1, Jan/Feb 2016) A Biblical View of Codependency and Alcoholics Anonymous by Gary E. Gilley and M. Kurt Goedelman A number of years ago I wrote a TOTT article dealing with twelve-step programs as well as codependency.  Recently that article was revised by myself and Kurt Goedelman, the director of Personal Freedom Outreach, and published in the PFO’s Quarterly Journal (January-March 2016). – Gary E. Gilley Those who consume a steady diet of syndicated television talk shows or digest the writings of Christian psychologists such as Frank Minirth, [1] Paul Meier, and Henry Cloud will be surprised to learn that there is neither scientific nor biblical evidence to support the theories of codependency. Codependency is a hot topic within current psychology. Before the late 20th century the word — and even the concept — was virtually unknown. Now, nearly everyone in one fashion or another seems to…

Homosexuality, The Most Pressing Issue of Our Times

(Volume 21, Issue 6, Nov/Dec 2015) In 1979, Francis Schaeffer wrote, The thinkables of the eighties and nineties will certainly include things which most people today find unthinkable and immoral, even unimaginable and too extreme to suggest. Yet—since they do not have some overriding principle that takes them beyond relativistic thinking—when these become thinkable and acceptable in the eighties and nineties, most people will not even remember that they were unthinkable in the seventies. They will slide into each new thinkable without a jolt.[1] Schaeffer was referencing issues such as abortion, in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Abortion, which previously had been recognized as evil, was at the time rapidly finding acceptance in American culture. In light of shifting values concerning abortions, Schaeffer predicted similar devolution in other moral areas. Would he be surprised by today’s approval and promotion of all things homosexual? What was…

Praying Circles

(Volume 21, Issue 5 Sep/Oct 2015) Prayer is surely one of the most blessed of all privileges afforded the child of God. Just to think that sinners, even forgiven sinners, are invited to approach the throne of grace where we will receive mercy and grace in our time of need (Heb 4:14-16) is nothing short of astounding. In prayer we worship and praise our Lord (Psalm 34:1-3); in prayer we call on God to fulfill His great purposes (Matt 6:10), ask for our daily provisions (Matt 6:11), request forgiveness (Matt 6:12), and plea for protection from temptation (Matt 6:13). In prayer we ask for deliverance from the wickedness of others (Psalm 31:1-2), make our requests known (Phil 4:6), cast all our anxiety on the Lord (1 Pet 5:7), and much more. Christians love prayer, even when they foolishly do not take time for it. No believer is against prayer and…

The Holy Spirit’s Witness

(Volume 21, Issue 4 Jul/Aug 2015) I have written a number of articles, even a book or two, [1] challenging “Christian” mysticism which is so prevalent in evangelical circles today. What do I mean by mysticism? John MacArthur’s definition of a mystic is helpful: “The mystic disdains rational understanding and seeks truth instead through the feelings, the imagination, personal visions, inner voices, private illumination, or other purely subjective means.”[2] More than one kind of mysticism falls under the umbrella of this definition. There is classic mysticism as practiced for centuries by some Roman Catholic monks and nuns (as well as numerous Eastern and animistic religions), that has more recently found its way into Protestantism via Richard Foster and the Spiritual Formation Movement. Classical mystics follow a defined path to an inexplicable experience of union with God which begins with purgation (emptying of mind and emotions), followed by enlightenment (extra-biblical insight…

My Favorite Books – Part 4

(Volume 21, Issue 3 May/June 2015) Introduction: This is the fourth time I have attempted to list books that I find are of considerable value. This is an important endeavor for a number of reasons. First, thousands of Christian books are published every year, yet the majority of these are superficial at best and often counterproductive to spiritual maturity, and many others are heretical. With the limited time that each of us has we need to be exposed to materials which enhance growth, draw us to Christ and are biblically sound. This list aims to offer just such books in a variety of areas. Secondly, as I critique and review books on a regular basis I find that many volumes combine some excellent teaching and insights with unbiblical concepts. My reviews attempt to reveal “the good, the bad and the ugly” within these works. And while no book except the…

New Calvinism – Part II

(Volume 21, Issue 2 March/April 2015) In the first paper on the subject of New Calvinism we explored some definitions and examined the essential ingredient of the movement which is the co-mingling of Calvinistic theology with at least openness to charismatic practices. I believe this to be the unique and defining characteristic of New Calvinism. It is the one feature that all involved have in common. However, there are other traits that are shared by many of those immersed in the system. To these we will now turn. It should be remembered that those promoting neo-Calvinism are not monolithic in every aspect, and some of the features mentioned below would be true of any number of evangelicals who are neither Calvinistic nor charismatic. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon to find these identifying marks embraced by adherents of the movement. Serious about theology and Christian living This is the most commendable…

New Calvinism

(January/February – 2015, Volume 21, Issue 1) There is a great deal of interest and confusion about a movement within conservative evangelicalism sometimes called “New Calvinism” or Neo-Calvinism. As with many movements it is not monolithic and therefore describing its teachings is not always easy. Some have labeled virtually everyone who is a member of the Gospel Coalition or speaks at Together for the Gospel conferences as a New-Calvinist but that is surely painting with too broad a brush. Some hail Neo-Calvinism as a breath of fresh air that has united the passionate ministry of the Holy Spirit with the solid doctrines of the Reformation. Others see it as a dangerous departure from the faith which opens the door to aberrant teachings of extreme Pentecostalism. While some fear the movement, others cheer it. Therefore it is important to take a careful look at what New Calvinism is and what it…

The Image of God

(October 2014 – Volume 20, Issue 5) Author: Shaun Lewis The Portland Vase was an exquisite discovery near Rome in the late sixteenth century. An artisan had crafted the vase during the reign of Tiberius Caesar (AD 14-37). After many generations, it eventually passed from memory. Rome fell, and the Dark Ages came with the Renaissance and Reformation periods following. Through it all the vase remained unscathed until February 7, 1845 when an inebriated visitor to the British Museum shattered it. One could still see what the shards once formed, but they were only shards. The Portland Vase was restored, however, but the process required another 144 years to complete. The story of mankind is similar to the Portland Vase. God created man in His own image, and gave him a glory not surpassed by the angels. Yet, with one act, that image shattered and man became a ruin of…

Roots of the Spiritual Formation Movement

Dear Friend of TOTTs, This is the 20th anniversary of our Think on These Things Ministries. I began writing papers on current issues challenging the church at the request of a mission organization for the purpose of keeping its missionaries apprised of current trends and theological concerns taking place in America. By God’s design TOTT quickly expanded and is now received by hundreds of believers and churches around the globe. On our website you can find a couple hundred articles and 500 or more book reviews that have emerged from this ministry. I believe the Lord has blessed these feeble efforts far more than I would have ever imagined. Over the years TOTT has never charged for sending our study papers, nor asked for donations and has been funded by royalties from my books and an occasional gift from some of you. However we began to run a deficit a…

Biblical Discipleship – The Transforming Life

(May/June 2014 – Volume 20, Issue 3) Those knowledgeable with the biblical counseling movement, stemming from the ministry of Jay Adams, will be familiar with the put off/put on/renewal-of-the-mind principles relative to progressive sanctification. Drawn from a number of the epistles, especially Ephesians and Colossians, the teaching is that if people desire to change and grow spiritually they need to put off sinful behavior, replace that behavior with godly practices and foster new, biblical ways of thinking. This method, which is rooted in Scripture, seeks to aggressively and directly deal with sin, develop new habits that foster spiritual growth, and acquire a biblical mindset. In contrast, the approach taught within spiritual formation and contemplative spirituality looks to ancient, man-made disciplines and extra biblical experiences rather than the Word of God. In this paper I want to explore the put off/put on/renewal-of-the-mind strategy common within the biblical counseling movement and recommend…

Biblical Discipleship – Fellowship

(March/April 2014 – Volume 20, Issue 2) As we continue to pursue the specific means found in Scripture that the Lord has given us to aid in spiritual growth, we now turn to the subject of fellowship. We are reminded at this point that some within the Spiritual Formation Movement claim that virtually anything can become a means of spiritual formation. But without specific biblical support it is presumptuous on our part to infuse some activity, no matter how spiritual or pious it may seem, with qualities which aid our progressive sanctification. If we are to be true to the inspired text of Scripture we must search for instruments which the Holy Spirit has explicitly proclaimed to be means of promoting discipleship. So far we have found that both biblical prayer and the Scriptures are two such activities. Now we will examine another, that of fellowship with other believers, and…

Biblical Discipleship – the Scriptures

(January/February 2014 – Volume 20 Issue 1) When we speak of discipleship or Christian maturity, it must be understood from the beginning that all spiritual transformation is a supernatural work of God. Just as the natural man cannot will himself to be born again, so the Christian is dependent upon the Lord for inward change and growth. In Ephesians 3:16-17 Paul prays for the Ephesian believers “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” But before He strengthens us with power the Lord must give us new life. This new life is the result of a spiritual birth, being born again (or from above) (John 3:3), or regeneration. Titus 3:5 reads, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in…

Biblical Discipleship – Prayer

(November/December 2013 – Volume 19, Issue 5) The Spiritual Formation Movement has rocked the church. Ancient disciplines, most often practiced within the monastic movement in the early centuries of Christianity, have been dusted off, repacked, and resubmitted to believers as the means for obtaining spiritual growth. There is increasing discussion about fasting, journaling, pilgrimage, simplicity, solitude, silence, contemplative prayer, and spiritual direction in Christian literature. What can be learned from this renewed interest in spiritual formation and what are the dangers? The last eight editions of “Think on These Things” have been written to interact with the history, teachings and dangers of the Spiritual Formation Movement. I want to now turn from the disciplines practiced in modern spiritual formation to the biblical alternative to spiritual formation, as described in the earlier articles. We will examine the means, or disciplines if you choose, which the Word of God clearly identifies as…

An Evaluation of Muslim Dreams & Visions of Isa (Jesus) Part 2 by Dennis McBride

  August/September 2013, Volume 19, Issue 4  This is part two of the article by Pastor Dennis McBride on Muslim dreams and visions of Isa (Jesus).  In the June/July publication of TOTT, Pastor McBride discussed the four representative descriptions of the Muslim dreams phenomenon and examined the first 10 primary considerations of this subject.  In this publication he will finish discussing the primary considerations and conclude his thoughts. Gary E. Gilley Beginning of Part 2 of the article by Pastor Dennis McBride 11. Are New Testament visions a pattern for Muslim dreams? Descriptive or Prescriptive? One task of an interpreter of Scripture is to determine if a passage is descriptive or prescriptive. In other words, does the passage describe what occurred in the past, or does it prescribe what will or should occur in the future, or both? For example, determining if the Acts chapter two account of the Day of…

An Evaluation of Muslim Dreams & Visions of Isa (Jesus) Part 1 by Dennis McBride

June/July 2013, Volume 19, Issue 3  Much confusion surrounds the numerous stories coming from Islamic people concerning their dreams and visions leading to conversions. “Think on These Things” published an article by Richard Fisher in 2008 entitled “Don’t You Believe It.” The next two issues will be composed of an article written by Pastor Dennis McBride. I believe Pastor McBride has done an excellent and thorough job of analyzing these experiences in the light of Scripture. Gary E. Gilley Beginning of article by Pastor Dennis McBride My Goal: The goal of this paper is to evaluate the reported phenomenon of Jesus (Isa) appearing to some Muslims in dreams and visions [1], and to discern if such reports fit the pattern of Scripture as determined through conservative grammatical/historical principles of interpretation (hermeneutics). My Concerns: I first became aware of the Muslin dreams phenomenon through a Christian brother who spoke with great…

Fasting and Spiritual Direction

April/May 2013,Volume 19, Issue 2 The list of spiritual disciplines that has been adopted within the Spiritual Formation Movement is almost endless. We could analyze the divine office, Benedict’s Rule, use of the Rosary and prayer ropes, monasticism, journaling, the Eucharist, and pilgrimage, among many others. But we will conclude our study of the disciplines with fasting and spiritual direction. Fasting Of course fasting is not a practice unique to spiritual formation. Christians of all theological stripes have fasted since the inception of the church, and the Old Testament saints, not to mention those of pagan religions, made fasting part of their religious life. In order to get a handle on fasting it would be good to break our study into three parts: what spiritual formation leaders teach about fasting, how fasting is understood within more evangelical circles, and what the Bible says on the subject. Spiritual Formation and Fasting Dallas…

Discernment and Revelation

February/March 2013 – Volume 19, Issue 1 Discernment, one would think, is an extremely positive quality. In a world in which there are incalculable numbers of voices calling us to travel many different directions, discernment is invaluable. However, when used by those involved in spiritual formation, discernment is defined as the discipline that enables one to know when a person has supposedly heard the voice of God. Spiritual formation leaders do not question that God speaks to us today apart from Scripture, but they do believe that since God is speaking there has to be a means whereby we can discern the voice of God from our own thoughts. Adele Ahlberg Calhoun writes in her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, “Discernment opens us up to listen to and recognize the voice and patterns of God’s direction in our lives.” [1] Ruth Barton further explains, Discernment is a quality of attentiveness to God…

Ignatius

December/January 2012/2013 – Volume 18, Issue 6 One of the most popular and strongly promoted activities within spiritual formation is known as “The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola.” As the name implies, these are exercises or activities invented by the Roman Catholic monk Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century to enhance spiritual life, first his own and then that of the monks within his monasteries. The exercises are complicated and difficult, and were practiced almost exclusively by Catholic monks for over 400 years until the birth of the modern Spiritual Formation Movement in the latter part of the 20th century. Today there is no doubt more interest in the exercises than at any other point in history. To grasp Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, we will begin with a short history of Ignatius, including the society of monks he founded, move to the original 16th century exercises as found in Ignatius’s…

Spiritual Formation at Worship

October/November 2012 – Volume 18, Issue 5 Within spiritual formation and similar circles, there has been much criticism of worship as found in evangelical Protestantism. Much of this criticism is aimed at the seeker-sensitive churches with their push for polished performances, entertainment, and the desire to keep the seeker (i.e. unsaved people who are attending the services) as comfortable as possible by offering them an environment and experience similar to what they would encounter at a secular gathering or concert. The idea is that people unfamiliar with church life feel more at home and will be more likely to return if they do not encounter something foreign or “weird” in the form of worship. This approach is obviously working, if one evaluates a church on the basis of nickels and noses, as the largest churches in the world have adopted this philosophy. But there has been a considerable push back…

Solitude and Silence

(August/September 2012 – Volume 18, Issue 4) In a world filled with noise, many of us long to “unplug” and find a quiet spot far from the hum of technology, the demands of work, the cries of children, the ubiquitous call of advertisement, the hype of politicians and the bombardment of world news.  To escape, even for a few minutes, and find rest for our souls is an almost universal longing in modern times, especially in the West. When this rest is accompanied with time alone with God, it provides the refreshment and strength that we need to face the pressures of everyday living in a fast paced age. For these reasons, when spiritual leaders start talking about silence and solitude, our ears perk up and we yearn to adopt the teachings and techniques they recommend.  For most of my lifetime I have heard people refer to their habit of…

Sacred Reading (Lectio Divina)

(June/July 2012 – Volume 18, Issue 3) As we have seen in the last two Think on These Things articles, “Spiritual formation is viewed by a growing number of evangelicals as an ancient ministry of the church, concerned with the ‘forming’ or ‘shaping’ of a believer’s character and actions into the likeness of Christ.” [1]   Spiritual formation is distinguished from biblical discipleship primarily by its source of authority and its methodology.  On the one hand, discipleship as defined by the Bible turns to the Word of God as the final and ultimate authority over all matters of life and godliness.  This means that if one truly desires to be a follower of Jesus Christ, he will turn to the inspired Scriptures to determine both truth and how to “observe all that I [Christ] commanded you” (Matt 28:20).  Spiritual formation pays lip-service to Scripture but the true source behind the…

Contemplative Prayer

(April/May 2012 – Volume 18, Issue 2) Of all the spiritual disciplines the Spiritual Formation Movement promotes, none is more important than prayer and the intake of God’s Word. On the surface we would expect little resistance to these two disciplines since they have been recognized as essential to spiritual growth by virtually all Christians from all traditions. Sadly, upon closer examination we discover that what is meant by most evangelical Christians when they reference prayer and Bible intake is not always what the leaders within spiritual formation mean. We begin with Donald Whitney, Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary, who agrees with Carl Lundquist, The New Testament church built two other disciplines upon prayer and Bible study, the Lord’s Supper and small cell groups. John Wesley emphasized five works of piety by adding fasting. The medieval mystics wrote about nine disciplines clustered around three experiences: purgation of…

Spiritual Formation

(February/March 2012 – Volume 18, Issue 1) Almost everyone on the cutting edge of Christianity is talking about spiritual formation.  From books to magazine articles to sermons to seminary courses, spiritual formation is a hot topic.  What is spiritual formation?  What does it teach?  Is it something to embrace, ignore or fight?  With this edition of Think on These Things I want to begin an examination of these questions and more.  Lord willing, all of the TOTTs articles in 2012 will be devoted to detailing and evaluating some aspect of what some have called the “Spiritual Formation Movement.”  In this lead article I intend to offer a definition of spiritual formation, trace its origins, mention a few of its practices, illustrate its recent popularity, and briefly identify its strengths and dangers. In Search of a Definition When the average person speaks of spiritual formation they assume that it is a…

The Social Gospel, Yesterday and Today – Part 2

(December 2011/January 2012 – Volume 17, Issue 6) In the first part of this study, we examined together the history of the social gospel as it presented itself in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and then documented a resurgence of the social gospel agenda as found at the present time.  The original social gospel movement began as an appendage to the emerging liberalism that started in Germany and ultimately swept through the Western church.  As the growing liberal movement matured, it left behind most doctrinal distinctives held by earlier Protestants and eventually came to be defined by social action.  Today a new wave of social involvement, as a major tenant of church ministry, is flowing through evangelical churches, changing the very nature of church dynamics and outreach.  The issue at hand is not whether Christians should be involved with their culture, but to what extent attempting to solve…

The Tragedy of Self-deception

(August/September 2011 – Volume 17, Issue 4) “The power of the human mind to deceive itself seems infinite”[1] The Greek philosopher Demosthenes said, “Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be truth.”[2] In his confessions Augustine wrote, “Man’s love of truth is such that when he loves something which is not the truth, he pretends to himself that what he loves is the truth, and because he hates to be proved wrong, he will not allow himself to be convinced that he is deceiving himself. So he hates the real truth for the sake of what he takes to his heart in its place.”[3] The fact that we are easily self-deceived should surprise no Christian for, as the inspired prophet Jeremiah wrote centuries ago, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it” (Jere 17:9)?…

The Social Gospel, Yesterday and Today – Part 1

(October/November 2011 – Volume 17, Issue 5) One of the important issues which the church has always had to address is that of its role in society. In the Old Testament, the Lord chose Abraham to be the father of a called-out race of people. Years later, the Lord would establish the nation of Israel under the Mosaic Covenant. Detailed laws and regulations were given to Israel at the time including how that nation was to be governed, how poverty was to be dealt with, how widows and orphans were to be helped and how injustices were to be corrected. All of these matters were addressed almost exclusively within the context of the nation of Israel, with relatively minor concern for the surrounding nations. The Old Covenant would continue to be in force throughout Old Testament history until finally superseded at the dawning of the church age in Acts 2…

Love Wins – Universalism’s New Champion

(June/July 2011 – Volume 17, Issue 3) There was so much hype surrounding the publication of Rob Bells new book Love Wins that even before it was released emotional critiques were flooding the Internet and the bloggers were in full swing. When John Piper, who had not yet read the book, tweeted three little words, “Farewell Rob Bell,” the blogosphere exploded and the war was on. Bell, who claims credentials within the evangelical camp, was purported to be teaching universalism. When the book was finally on the market it immediately rose to the top of everybody’s bestsellers list. Bell was featured on the cover of Time magazine, interviewed on both secular and Christian television and radio programs and perhaps became the “rock star” that Time claimed he was some years ago. When I reluctantly determined I needed to read what everybody was talking about I was speaking at a conference…

The Crossless Gospel – Part 2

(April/May 2011 – Volume 17, Issue 2) In the first paper on the “Crossless Gospel” I identified four distinct positions taken by evangelicals in regard to the gospel.  These four schools of thought have much in common but disagree on important points.  The “Gospel is the Kingdom” view is the idea that the gospel is essentially the proclamation that Jesus is Lord over all things and it is the mandate of the church to work toward social/political/economic justice throughout the world.  Some, such as N. T. Wright, would add a spiritual dimension to the agenda and call men to reconciliation with Christ while others, e.g. Brian McLaren, would see this invitation as unnecessary.  Those who proclaim the gospel of “Lordship Salvation” are concerned with a right relationship with Christ.  They believe such a relationship is possible only on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ who now offers…

The Crossless Gospel – Part 1

(February/March 2011 – Volume 17, Issue 1) It is a bit unsettling to realize two millennia after the coming of our Savior to earth that His followers are still debating the content of the gospel, the good news, which He came to bring.  This is not to say that there is not a degree of unanimity among those claiming to be evangelicals.  It is hard to disagree with Paul’s clear statement in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 which informs us that the gospel that saves us concerns the death of Christ for our sins (i.e., as our substitute), His burial and resurrection.  In these few words we learn that the good news centers around the cross on which the incarnate Son of God died in order that He might save us from our sins and give us eternal life.  This shorthand version of the gospel is expanded through other Scriptures.  When we…

Atonement Wars – Part 2

(December 2010/January 2011 – Volume 16, Issue 6) In Part one of “The Atonement Wars” a number of atonement theories having found favor at various points in church history were explained.  These included the moral influence theory, Christus Victor and the Ransom to Satan theory.  While I reject the last of these theories, the other two have biblical backing and thus fill out our understanding of why Christ went to the cross.  However, I believe the central teaching of Scripture in regard to Christ’s cross-work is best defined as the Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA).  It is PSA that is facing resistance from many who would be happy to embrace the cross as a moral example of love or a victory over the forces of evil.  Yet the Bible teaches that while Christ’s death was a great example and resulted in the defeat of evil forces, more importantly His death was…

Atonement Wars – Part 1

(October/November 2010 – Volume 16, Issue 5) When Steve Chalk and Brian McLaren accused evangelicals who believed in the substitutionary death of Christ of embracing a form of Divine child abuse,[1] Christians everywhere did a double-take.  Having sung with gusto for years that great line penned by Charles Wesley, “Amazing love, how can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me” Christians could not believe that they were being accused of promoting child abuse by men who claimed to be at least on the fringes of the evangelical community.   What McLaren and Chalk had done was bring to the surface for all to see the long-standing debate by theologians about the meaning of the cross.   Almost no one in Christian circles doubts the historicity of the crucifixion, but why Christ died has long been contested.  Of late, due to the rising popularity of everything from the Emergent Church…

Inside the Insider Movement and More

(August/September 2010 – Volume 16, Issue 4) In the 1970s, as I was being trained at Moody Bible Institute for future ministry, there was a consensus among evangelicals that Roman Catholicism taught a false gospel and therefore those within the Church of Rome (at least those believing Catholic doctrine) were in need of evangelism.  Some mission organizations focused much, if not all, of their efforts on Roman Catholic countries throughout the world.  The idea that Catholics were not truly Christians began to erode as various evangelical leaders stepped up to challenge this view and as others actually defected from their Protestant roots to Roman or Eastern Orthodoxy. This was followed by a major shift, at least in the minds of many, in 1994 when Charles Colson and Father John Neuhaus united leaders from both traditions around their now famous “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document which, in essence, stated that while…

Important Books

(June/July 2010 – Volume 16, Issue 3) The evangelical press is pouring out hundreds of new books every year, most are forgettable but a few leave a valuable imprint upon the Christian community.  Given the limited amount of time that even a serious student has to read it is important that attention is given to books that make a difference.  I would like to devote this edition of Think on These Things to a few recent volumes that have caught the attention of many today.  These are books that I am being asked about via e-mail or as I travel to conferences.  Some are most helpful, others are of a serious concern, and others are mixed bag. Crazy Love by Francis Chan The basic thesis of Crazy Love is sound.  Since God loves us with a crazy, inexplicable love, our love for Him should be just as crazy and our…

Edinburgh 2010

(April/May 2010 – Volume 16, Issue 2) Those knowledgeable of current church history and missiology in particular are probably familiar with Edinburgh 1910.  It was considered to be the greatest missionary conference to that date and subsequently has proven to be the most influential.  In honor of its centennial, four major conferences are planned for 2010, having been in development since 2005[1] (along with many smaller venues), all connected with and under the umbrella of Edinburgh 2010.  The first will be in Tokyo, May 11-15.  Edinburgh is next up on June 2-6, followed by Cape Town, October 16-25 and finally Boston, November 4-7.  Each conference is somewhat independent, with different rosters of speakers, papers and agendas; however they are working in cooperation and will be sharing their research and attempting to set directives and initiatives for future world outreach. Edinburgh 1910 It is significant for our analysis of these conferences…

The Manhattan Declaration

(February/March 2010 – Volume 16, Issue 1) The Christian village is all abuzz these days about The Manhattan Declaration, yet another brainchild of Charles Colson (along with Timothy George and Robert George) in his ever vigilant attempts at societal improvement and ecumenical unity.   In his earlier efforts, in particular the Evangelicals and Catholics Together documents, Colson and Roman Catholic priest John Neuhaus attempted, with some apparent success, to convince Christendom that their two separate traditions held far more in common than it realized and it was time for both sides to lay down their arms and unite against liberal Christianity and secular ideology for the good of society.  While admitting that strong differences still remained, Colson, Neuhaus and their supporters tried to maintain that the two communities were preaching essentially the same gospel message and therefore it was time to join forces against their greater enemies. The Manhattan Declaration addresses…

My Favorite Books – Part 3

(December 2009/January 2010 – Volume 15, Issue 7) A little over five years ago I wrote two papers identifying my favorite books in various categories.  At this time I want to supplement that list for a couple of reasons.  First, as readers of my articles and book reviews know, Think on These Things is largely a discernment ministry and, as such, many of our reviews are of a warning nature.  Some have even asked if I am in agreement with any book.  My standard answer is that I certainly am, as long as, and to the extent that, the book is faithful to Scripture.  Realizing that all human efforts fall short at some point, it is important that we endeavor to be Bereans and examine books, not for the purpose of criticism, but for their compliance to the revealed Word of God.  With that in mind, listed below are numerous…

Discernment Ministry – A Biblical Defense

(October/November 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 6) We live in an environment in which it is most difficult to stand for the faith.  Not only will those who attempt to be on the front lines of discernment face the guns of those in opposition, but they may be hit by “friendly fire” as well.  For example:  I recently wrote what I thought was a rather innocuous article expressing a high view of Scripture including a belief in its sufficiency.  I was nevertheless surprised to receive a quick e-mail rebuke by a pastor who also claimed to believe in the inerrancy, authority and sufficiency of the Bible and who ultimately accused me of taking what he called a “biblical charismatic” view.  When I inquired as to how that could be since I believe God speaks to us today only through Scripture and charismatics believe God speaks through means beyond the written…

A Renewed Confidence in the Word of God

(August/September 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 5) Emergent spokesman Brian McLaren calls for the evangelical community to get over its love affair with certainty.  He writes, “Drop any affair you may have with certainty, proof, argument – and replace it with dialogue, conversation, intrigue, and search.”[1]  Are we to take McLaren seriously?  If so, then the best way to get over our love affair with certainty, according to McLaren, would be to replace it with uncertainty, or more commonly, mystery.  It is definitely in vogue at this point in church history to make the rather “certain” claim that we cannot be certain about anything.  Of course, the irony of such certainty about uncertainty is obvious.  But much like impossible political promises, when statements are left unanalyzed and unchallenged they tend to be uncritically absorbed by the minds of some people, often resulting in great harm.  It is important then that…

Joel Osteen and The Prosperity Gospel

(June/July 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 4) The New Age book and video by Rhonda Byrne, The Secret, which gained popularity recently due to Oprah Winfrey’s strong promotion, teaches that we can “create [our] own happiness through the law of attraction.”  Whether it is cash, health, prosperity or happiness, all can be ours if we will just learn to use “the secret.”  Byrne tells us, “Disease cannot live in a body that is in a healthy emotional state.” But be warned: “If you have a disease and you are focusing on it and talking to people about it, you are going to create more disease cells.”[1] Such rhetoric should sound familiar to anyone even faintly aware of the Word of Faith Movement, often termed “the prosperity gospel.”  This group has been infiltrating evangelicalism for decades and is now the fastest growing segment of Christianity in the world.  Some have estimated…

The Challenge of Pragmatism – Part 2

(May 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 3) A Blast from the Past Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and others from the Emergent camp write and speak winsomely about what they are offering, but history, not to mention Scripture, suggests great caution must be exercised at this point.  Church historian Iain Murray reminds us that 19th century “liberal theology very rarely presented itself as being in opposition to Scripture.  On the contrary, its exponents claimed the authority of the New Testament for the view that Christianity is life, not doctrine.”[1]  Some using this line of reasoning, like the eventual Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple, could say, “An atheist who lives by love is saved by his faith in the God whose existence (under that Name) he denies.”[2]  It was living by love that mattered, not what one believed about God. Nineteenth century liberal theologian Schleiermacher went so far as to bar doctrinal…

The Challenge of Pragmatism – Part 1

(April 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 3)  If there is a common religion to be found within the Western world it surely is pragmatism – the religion of “what works?”  Pragmatism has no cathedrals; it follows no liturgy, hires no pastors and cannot be found in any listing of denominations, yet it is woven into the very fabric of the Western church.  Whether we are talking about mainline, Pentecostal, Fundamentalist, Emergent or Orthodox, it does not take much observation to realize that pragmatism is interlaced throughout each tradition.  To attempt to remove pragmatism is to pull a thread which could very well unravel the whole structure of Christianity and church life as we know it today, yet to pull on that thread we must.  The problem is that far too many of us are willing to use any approach available to accomplish our goals, even if those approaches and/or goals…

The New Atheism

(February 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 2) There is much buzz lately about the so-called “New Atheism.” This seems to be an odd term given the fact that there are not very many ways that a person can spin atheism – old atheism denied the existence of God and new atheism does the same, so what is the difference? There is a sense in which even old atheism is new; after all, until the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century real atheists were hard to find. It is true that practical atheism can be traced throughout history. Psalm 14:1 speaks of such a man, termed a fool, who says in his heart, “There is no God.” Most see this fool not as a philosophical atheist who mentally denies the existence of God, but as one who lives as if God does not exist, even though intellectually he knows better. Of course the…

Pastoring With Both Eyes Opened – Part 2

(January 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 1)  In our last Think on These Things paper the issue of the two major enemies facing pastors was being discussed. There the enemy of internal conflicts within the body of Christ was the subject. In this paper we will turn our attention to the external enemy of false teaching. False Teaching Perhaps the most ignored promise found in the New Testament is 2 Peter 2:1-3: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. Peter…

Pastoring With Both Eyes Opened – Part 1

(December 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 13)  What attracts men to the pastorate? It is rarely prestige, power or money (especially the latter). In most cases it is love, love for Christ, love for people and love for the Word of God. The typical Bible college or seminary student can hardly wait to leave the academic world and enter the ministry where hungry and thirsty souls are awaiting his exegesis of the Word and his compassionate shepherding of their lives. With great enthusiasm and pure (as far as he can discern) motives he enters his first pastorate with visions of changing hearts, building a powerful and God-honoring church, and having an impact on the world for the cause of Christ. He steps into the arena of the church to be used by the Holy Spirit to help form the people of God into Christlikeness – and so he should. But few…

This Little Church Had None

(November 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 12)  Ever since my college days I have enjoyed the study of philosophy. It is fascinating to delve into the reasoning of thinkers like Plato, Descartes or Kant and study how they piece life together. However, I have always deliberated on these philosophies from a biblical vantage point. That is, I have found their ideas interesting yet largely flawed in light of the teachings of Scripture. But I have often thought, as I examined the writings of such philosophers, about the reaction of unbelievers to the same concepts. For one thing is very noticeable about philosophies – they are constantly changing. As each new philosopher comes along he rejects the previous philosopher. Each generation considers the last generation, with its set of ideas, systems of thought and social structures, as passé, seemingly not recognizing that the next generation will cast the same censorious comments on…

Don’t You Believe It

(October 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 11) I often receive inquiries concerning supposed conversions, especially among Muslim people, as a result of visions, dreams and other direct revelations. Stories are abundant of such events and are quickly passed along by well-meaning Christians. But can these stories be verified? Are they true or just rumors? Where is the documentation? Pastor Richard Fisher has written an excellent article on this subject for the March 2008 issue of Personal Freedom Outreach Journal. With PFO’s and Pastor Fisher’s permission we are reprinting that article in this month’s issue of Think on These Things. – Gary E. Gilley Things keep getting stranger. The “Father of Lies” seems to be operating in high gear and discernment appears to be at an all- time low. It is as if we are in the days of Judges again, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes”…

Use and Misuse of Scripture

(September 2003 – Volume 9, Issue 9)  The truly blessed individual is described in Psalm 1: His delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he meditates day and night. Godly people delight in the Word of God. They love it; they cherish it; they can’t get enough of it. That is why they meditate on it day and night. It is their joy to contemplate God’s truth. Such lovers of truth take seriously Paul’s injunction to be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth (II Timothy 2:15). Those who desire God’s approval must handle accurately, or literally, “cut straight,” the word of truth. They diligently study the Bible in order to interpret it correctly and then apply it properly. Anything less results in workers who are ashamed – not…

The Sufficiency of Scripture – Part 2

(September 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 11) In our last paper, we attempted to demonstrate that through the influence of neo-Gnosticism, in the form of the Charismatic Movement, even many in the conservative/fundamental ranks are subtly adjusting their view of the Scriptures. These individuals would defend to the death their belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Word, but have softened, as we will see, in the area of sufficiency. When we speak of the sufficiency of the Bible, we mean that it alone is adequate to train us in godliness. Only the Word reveals God’s truth for living. On the negative side, this naturally implies that nothing needs to be added to the Scriptures for us to know truth. Therefore, when anything, whether it is man’s wisdom, personal experience, pragmatism, tradition, or direct revelation is touted as a means of knowing God’s truth, then Biblical sufficiency has been…

The Sufficiency of Scripture – Part 1

(August 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 10) Inerrancy is the belief that the Scriptures contain no errors in the original. Infallibility guarantees the accuracy of the recorded messages found in the Word. The Scriptures today are under attack. Of course, this is nothing new; we can trace such attacks to the Garden of Eden. What is new in evangelical circles is the package. Let’s back up for a look at recent church history. In the 1920’s and 30’s differences between conservative and liberal churches came to a head in America. Out of that controversy came new denominations, fellowships, schools, missions, etc., that separated from those who no longer believed in Biblical Christianity. These organizations were founded by believers who desired to hold fast and “Contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3). One of the big problems at that time (as it is today), is developing a consenses concerning the essentials…

The Bible Translation Debate – Part 2

(January 1997 – Volume 2, Issue 15) We now move from the subject of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts to the English translations available today. It must be understood that there is no such thing as a true literal translation. Instead, there is a spectrum, a graduation. Translation is not a pure mechanical process, and is never completely divorced from interpretation. The desired end product is a rendering that means what the original means, but is written in a way that we can understand. The translators of Scripture take three approaches: Literal translations: These are attempts to render the original languages as literal as possible, even at the expense of readability sometimes. The best examples are the KJV, The NKJV and the NASB. Paraphrases: Paraphrases represent the opposite approach, sacrificing accuracy for readability. Works such as the Living Bible, Phillips, and The Message, are all highly readable but represent more the…

The Bible Translation Debate – Part 1

(December 1996 – Volume 2, Issue 14) There are many Christians who are confused over the plethora of Bible translations that are available today, especially to the English reader. A visit to any well-stocked Christian bookstore would result in discovery of translations such as: the King James Version, the New King James Version, the Revised Version, the Revised Standard Version, the Jerusalem Bible, the American Standard Bible, the New American Standard Bible, the Geneva Bible, the New International Version. In addition one would run across several paraphrases such as the Living Bible, the Phillips translation, and recently released, the Message. If all of this is not overwhelming enough, we find that these translations come packaged in wide variety of “reference Bibles.” Reference (or study Bibles) are not translations as such, but rather Bibles that incorporate certain footnotes and study aids along with whatever translations chosen. Some of the more popular…

The Bible Code

(January 1998 – Volume 4, Issue 1) The ad reads, “The Signature of God: Astonishing Biblical Discoveries has swept the minds of Christians and skeptics alike. His explosive teaching documents mysterious Hebrew codes in the Old Testament that reveal Hitler, Rabin, Jesus, and much more. You’ll be startled by archaeological evidence confirming Christ’s death, the fall of Jericho, and the tower of Babel. Ideal for building your faith, and a dynamic evangelism tool!” This book and video, which is directly targeted for the Christian community, is based in part on the work of Michael Drosnin as popularized in The Bible Code. The Bible Code, which was written by an unbeliever and is purely secular in scope, claims that someone (he speculates that it was extraterrestrials) placed a secret code in the Old Testament over three thousand years ago. This code apparently predicts all of the major events in history. In…

The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture

(August 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 8) Perhaps the most important issue facing the church today is the matter of authority. Who or what has the right, the authority, to determine what we believe and how we are to live? The answer to that question, not so very long ago, was quite uncomplicated—at least to evangelical Christians. The Word of God was the final authority over all areas of faith and practice. One of the battle cries of the Reformation was sola Scriptura—Scripture alone. This simply meant that the ultimate basis of authority and truth was Scripture. Scripture had the final say over all we believed and how we lived those beliefs. More than that, the Bible was seen as sufficient. That is, what the Word had to say was adequate to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). No one claimed that Scripture exhausted every subject—or even…

Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutics – Part 2

(November 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 10)  In our last issue we began a study of William Webb’s disturbing new interpretative approach to Scripture, what he calls “Redemptive — Movement Hermeneutics.” We were in the midst of discussing detailed problems with this view as we concluded that article. In this issue we will pick up where we left off and draw our study to a close. An Impossible System Still there remains the problem of how to know what was cultural and what is directly applicable today. In response to this problem Webb offers his eighteen criteria, along with the following warning and admission: Assessing redemptive-movement has its complications. Without going into an elaborate explanation, I will simply suggest a number of guidelines: 1) the ANE/GR [Ancient Near East/Greco-Roman] real world must be examined along with its legal world, (2) the biblical subject on the whole must be examined along…

Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutics – Part 1

(October 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 9)  Since the beginning of the New Testament era students of Scripture have wrestled with the influences of culture on biblical interpretation. William Webb in his book, Slaves, Women and Homosexuals, defines this “cultural component” as “those aspects of the biblical text that ‘we leave behind’ as opposed to ‘take with us’ due to cultural differences between the text’s world and the interpreter’s world as we apply the text to subsequent generations.”[1] Said more simply, which mandates, commands and instructions found in Scripture are to be directly applied today and which are to be seen as cultural and thus of no real consequence to the modern believer, except perhaps in principle? Specifically, issues such as the following have to be addressed by the exegete: Are we still mandated to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28), even though the world is…

Confidence in the Word

(December 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 11) Communication, in this modern age of communication, can be frustrating on many levels. Consider the common cell phone. Many nimbly leap from phone call to text message to taking a picture of a friend, all with the efficiency of a technological Jedi. Others, mortally fearful of missing a call, trot around with a “Bluetooth” attached to their ear (my regular jest to such people, that “you have a little something in your ear,” has so far failed to elicit a chuckle). Such people have mastered the art of modern communication, at least of this variety. Then there are the technologically-challenged. Our one-year-old grandson has a better chance of activating the television through use of the remote than many middle-aged adults have. When it comes to the cell phone it gets worse. Everyone seems to have a cell phone these days but legions are…

Twelve-Step Recovery Groups and the Christian

(April 1996 – Volume 2, Issue 6) Without a doubt, the most widely recommended “therapy” for people struggling with life (including various forms of addictions, many “mental illnesses,” and conditions such as codependency) is a recovery group that employs a Twelve-Step program. The original Twelve-Step recovery group is, of course, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) which was founded in 1935. Today there are thousands of recovery groups modeled after AA. Minirth and Meier specifically place their stamp of approval on the following groups: AA, Al-Anon, Alateen, Debtors Anonymous, Emotions A, Gamblers A, Narcotics A, Codependents A, National Association for Children of Alcoholics, Overcomers Outreach, Overeaters A, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Incest Survivors A, Adult Children A, Al-Atot, Alcoholics Victorious, Bulimics/Anorexics A, Child Abusers A, Codependents of Sex Addicts, Fundamentalists A, Parents A, Pills A, Sex Addicts A, Sexaholics A, Sex and Love A, Shoplifters A, Smokers A, Spenders A, Victims of Incest…

The Biblical View of Self-Image

(September 1996 – Volume 2, Issue 11) The fact is that the self-image movement is neither Biblical nor scientific. It is a fad that will eventually pass away after doing incredible damage in our society and unfortunately in all too many churches. By God’s grace and the truth of His Word, believers need not be taken in by Satan’s lies. We can choose to live by the infallible, never changing Word of God! Few would disagree with the following statement: How people think of themselves will to a large degree determine how they will think of others, how they will think of God, how they will obtain and maintain all their relationships, and how they will make decisions. There is no area of life that will not be directly or indirectly affected by the way we view ourselves. However, there are two vastly different views on the subject of self-image:…

Inner Healing and Visualization

(November 1996 – Volume 2, Issue 13) The true gospel message is that God saves people even though they are yet sinners (Romans 5:1-11). However, He does not simply leave them in their sins, but rather, forgives their sins and imputes to them the righteousness of Christ (Romans 4). By grace He brings them into the family of God and starts the process of transforming them into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28,29). One of the increasingly popular methods of dealing with problems today is Inner Healing (also known as healing of memories, or healing for damaged emotions) through the use of visualization. Some of the better known practitioners of this methodology have been: Agnes Sanford, Ruth Carter, Dennis & Rita Bennett, and among Protestant non-charismatics, David Seamands. Seamands’ books, Healing for Damaged Emotions and Healing of Memories, are perhaps the standard texts on the subject. These books come…

Codependency, A Biblical View

(October 1996 – Volume 2, Issue 12)  There is neither scientific nor Biblical evidence to support the claims of those who teach the theories of codependency, but why should truth get in the way of a good thing? Codependency is one of the “hot topics,” at the moment, in modern-day psychology. Until recent years the word (and even the concept) was virtually unknown; now everyone seems to be a codependent. The goals of this section are to define codependency, look at what psychologists tell us causes it, examine its supposed effects on people and find out how to cure it. Finally, we will examine all of this in the light of Scripture. A Definition of Codependency “Originally, codependency was used to describe a person whose life was affected as a result of being involved with someone who was chemically dependent” (Martin Bobgan, Twelve Steps To Destruction, p15). Today, however, definitions…

Evangelicals and Catholics Together – Part 3

(April 1998 – Volume 4, Issue 4) The Book After the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document was published, Chuck Colson claimed, ‘We were not prepared for the intensity of the discussion – and controversy that greeted the declaration’ (p.ix). Why not? After all Evangelicals and Catholics Together was all but asking the evangelical community to dismiss the Reformation and vital truths such as sola fide (salvation by faith alone) and sola scriptura (truth for life and practice found in Scripture alone) – such requests ought to be greeted with a little turbulence, one would think. Colson sees things a little differently: He claims contention was not caused by great and massive doctrinal concerns, but because Evangelicals and Catholics Together is an invitation to reexamine stereotypes, prejudices, and conventional ideas that have been entrenched, in some cases, for almost five hundred years” (ibid.). So begins this volume of spin and damage…

Evangelicals and Catholics Together – Part 2

(March 1998 – Volume 4, Issue 3) “The Gift of Salvation” A few years ago a coalition of evangelical believers headed by Chuck Colson, and including men such as J. I. Packer, Max Lucado and Bill Bright, shocked the Christian world by composing and signing a document with several well-known Roman Catholics, led by Father John Neuhaus. That document is known as Evangelicals and Catholics Together(ECT). It basically declared that the gospel proclaimed by evangelicals and Catholics is the same gospel, and always has been — we have just been misunderstanding each other since the time of the Reformation. Evangelical Protestants were of course amazed and surprised, since they have claimed for almost five hundred years that the gospel of the Roman Catholic Church is a different gospel than that which is taught in the New Testament. Some applauded the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document, others were outraged. How, this…

Evangelicals and Catholics Together – Part 1

(December 1994 – Volume 1, Issue 2)  Was the Reformation a mistake, or do fundamental points of doctrine still separate the Roman Catholic Church from us? Perhaps no one has been more productive for the cause of ecumenicalism in recent years than Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship. Colson, in particular, has defended the concept of the evangelical Catholic. That the teachings of the Catholic Church is “another gospel,” does not seem to be of concern to Colson. As a matter of fact, Colson is constantly offended by believers who would challenge the salvation of his wife (a practicing Catholic) or Mother Teresa (one of his favorite “heroes of the faith”). In His book, The Body, Catholic leaders throughout the world serve as his examples of truly born again, dedicated Christians. So, anyone familiar with Colson’s work should not be overly shocked by his recent publication of “Evangelical and Catholics…

Turning to God – Part 2

(December 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 12) As I began a long walk, I realized that a small rock was in my shoe. I could either continue to walk without removing the rock, live with the irritation and possibly rub a blister on my foot, or I could remove the rock. Repentance has become that kind of irritation for much of modern Christianity. Some, such as Zane Hodges, believe that repentance has no connection with salvation whatsoever, “Though genuine repentance may precede salvation… it need not do so. And because it is not essential to the saving transaction as such, it has in no sense a condition for the transaction” (Absolutely Free, p. 146). Others, such as Charles Ryrie, see repentance as necessary but redefine it to mean, “Changing one’s mind about his former conception of God and disbelief in God and Christ” (So Great Salvation p. 98). In other…

Turning to God – Part 1

(November 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 11) Confusion! The understanding that salvation is the result of God’s grace alone, received through faith alone in Christ alone, was the cornerstone of the Reformation and is universally recognized by all true Fundamental/evangelical Christians. Nevertheless, all aspects of this trifold pronouncement of solas are under attack today within evangelical circles. For example, the Gospel is the good news that God provides the gift of forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation, by grace alone. Yet, while all Christian branches would champion the idea of grace it is becoming increasingly popular to understand that grace can be dispensed through certain sacraments, or obtained as a result of certain efforts on our part. Correspondingly few would deny that salvation is based on Christ and His shed blood, but some are contending that even those who have never heard of Christ or His cross can find redemption. Fortunately, even…

The Role of Women in Ministry – Part 3

(November 1998 – Volume 4, Issue 10) The Christian community is fighting great battles over the role of women in ministry and the secular community is taking notice. For example, U.S. News and World Report, August 10, 1998, offered a special report entitled “The Bible According to Eve” outlining, with some accuracy, the issues and conflicts: In June, nationwide front-page news was made when the Southern Baptist Convention voted to add a clause to the denomination’s statement of beliefs affirming that a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband (p. 47). Not all Southern Baptists agreed, and the issue of women in ministry was avoided altogether. The latter could of course have been predicted by the fact that there are already many women pastors in the Southern Baptist denomination. A few weeks later the Vatican warned that Catholics who continue to argue in favor…

The Role of Women in Ministry – Part 2

(October 1998 – Volume 4, Issue 9) First Community Church is in turmoil. Michael and Jane Gregory are one of the five founding couples of the church and have believed since the church was started three years ago that they should have an equal part in its ministry. Recently Jane has expressed an interest in becoming a member of the pastoral staff, and is taking every fourth Sunday morning sermon in order to show the community that their church is on the cutting edge of relevant ministry. Michael, who is a co-pastor of the 150-member church, is in favor of the move. Several of the elders, however, are opposed to it on what they call “biblical grounds.” Several women in the church have said they will leave the church if it “promotes sexism” by barring Jane from the pulpit. A few members have presented to the elders a plan for…

The Role of Women in Ministry – Part 1

(September 1998 – Volume 4, Issue 8) Someone has said that there are two views of the creation of women, one held by women, the other by men. Women say that God made man, looked at him, and said, “I can do better than that!” So He made woman. Men hold that after God made beasts and man, He rested, then He created woman, and neither beast, nor man, nor God has rested since. All joking aside, few subjects are more controversial today than the role of women in society, ministry and the home. This is true even, maybe especially, among evangelical Christians. Views that were considered unquestionably true a few decades ago are now disputed. Even the interpretation of pertinent scriptural passages, long considered settled, is now being challenged. It is our intention to develop a careful overview of this important and volatile subject. We will start with a…

The Problem With Leaven

(October 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 10) The author of Underserving, Yet Unconditionally Loved writes: To many people, grace is nothing more than something to be said with heads bowed before dinner. But that idea, simple and beautiful as it may be, is light-years removed from the depth of meaning presented in Scripture regarding grace. This biblical concept of grace is profound, and its tentacles are both far-reaching and life-changing. Were we to study it for a full decade we would not come close to plumbing its depths. I never knew Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of the seminary I attended. He had died a few years before I began my theological studies in 1959. Some of my mentors and professors, however, knew him well. Without exception they still remember him as a man of great grace. He was an articulate defender of the doctrine and an authentic model of…

The New Perspective on Paul – Part 3

(April 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 4)  In the NPP, justification has nothing to do with salvation and everything to do with the church, or community. Declaring that the evangelical church has misread Galatians from ancient times, Wright assures us that he and his comrades have discovered what Paul really meant, The problem he addresses is: should his ex-pagan converts be circumcised or not?… It has to do quite obviously with the question of how you define the people of God: are they to be defined by the badges of Jewish race, or in some other way?… Who belongs to Abraham’s family… Justification, in Galatians, is the doctrine which insists that all who share faith in Christ belong at the same table, no matter what their racial differences, as together they wait for the final new creation… Justification is not how someone becomes a Christian. It is the declaration that…

The New Perspective on Paul – Part 2

(March 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 3) In part one of our series on the New Perspective on Paul, we examined the origins and surveyed its basic teachings. We concluded that introduction by stating that the NPP bases most of its theological views on its understanding of the rabbinical teaching of what is known as “Second Temple Judaism.” Second Temple Judaism This leads us to a brief discussion about what Judaism of the New Testament times actually believed and taught. Foundational to NPP theology and without which the system collapses, is Sanders’ thesis that Judaism of Paul’s day (often referred to as Second Temple Judaism or Palestinian Judaism) was not a self-righteous, merit-based religion. Long before the Reformation, Augustine had defended the faith against Pelagianism which taught that salvation was obtained through works. The Reformers, they claim, had read their struggle with Catholicism back into the New Testament texts and…

The New Perspective on Paul – Part 1

(February 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 2) The lovers of God’s truth can be excused if they seem to be a little “under the weather” lately, for everywhere we turn there are attacks on cardinal doctrines of the faith which most of us have considered secure and untouchable for years. Nathan Busenitz says it well, It seems like just about every major doctrine of historic Christianity is currently under attack. Theology proper faces the Open-Theism debate; bibliology is still reeling from higher criticism; and pneumatology is split over the Charismatic question. For Christology the issue is the lordship of Christ; for anthropology it’s Christian psychology; and for ecclesiology it’s the Church-growth movement.[1] Not even the gospel is safe from attacks by those who claim to be part of the church. As a matter of fact, the foremost battle being waged at this moment is over soteriological issues. Emergent church leaders are…

The Imminent Return of Christ and the Pre-Wrath Rapture

(December 1995 – Volume 2, Issue 2)  Many who have been influenced by the Bible school movement, Dallas Seminary, or the Scofield or Ryrie Study Bibles have unquestionably accepted the doctrine of the Pretribulational Rapture of the church. This is the view that our Savior will gather to Himself all church age saints before He brings great judgment upon the earth during the seven year period commonly called the Tribulation (but better named, Daniel’s 70th week). We have always been aware that there are other theories but for the most part we have given them little thought. For example, there is the Midtribulation Rapture view that teaches that the church must go through the first three and a half years of the 70th week before she is raptured. This would mean that the church would have to endure the first six seal judgments (Rev 6) before she is removed. The Posttribulation…

The Afterlife – Part 4

  Four Views on Hell Within Protestant circles there have been, and are, four primary views on the nature of Hell: 1. Universalism — In its simplest form universalism is the belief that eventually all mankind will be saved. Origen (ca. 185-254) was the first serious Christian theologian to espouse universalism. But he stood almost alone in his day, and for centuries to come, in promoting this view (see Shedd, page 3). Following the death of Origen, universalism received no serious support in the Christian community until the late eighteenth century when the roots of what would later be the Unitarian-Universalist Association were formed. A parade of liberal theologians and churches have since embraced some form of universalism including, Emil Brunner, C. H. Dodd, William Barclay, and to some extent Karl Barth. Some even see Pope John Paul II as making universalism overtures. For the true lover of the Word…

The Afterlife – Part 3

(March 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 3)  My how things change. The Pope recently came out with a series of proclamations about the afterlife. First he took the puffy clouds out of heaven. Then he removed the brimstone from hell. Now he has cleaned up purgatory! The Pope has declared that none of these places are really physical addresses to which souls are dispatched. Rather, heaven is a “spiritual union with God.” Hell is just “the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God.” Officially the Catholic Church has never and can never change its doctrines, so it is not surprising to find the Catholic theologians lining up behind the Pope and declaring that the church has always believed these things. But the average Catholic would certainly be mystified to hear that this is not a change, and medieval Church theologians would be absolutely dumbfounded. In truth the…

The Afterlife – Part 2

(February 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 2) Dante’s classic poem, The Divine Comedy, which has done more to shape our modern view of hell than any other work opens with these words, “Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.” Like Dante, few of us pay much attention to the afterlife until some circumstance forces us into the dark woods of despair and confusion. And like Dante, armed with a little knowledge, mixed with tradition, experience and imagination, we will come up with a strange and distorted concept of eternity. Ask almost anybody on the streets what they think about heaven or hell, and they will have an opinion; an opinion based upon some mixture of what they have read and/or been taught. A recent survey of those who claim to be evangelical Christians reveals that seventy-seven…

The Afterlife – Part 1

(January 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 1)  Introduction A few years ago a virtually unknown author, Betty Eadie, sprang to immediate celebrity status by writing the runaway best seller entitled Embraced by the Light. This was the most recent and popular book detailing the experiences of people who believe that they had died, gone to the next life and then returned to this world. Here are some of the things that Eadie said we have to look forward to after death: A nonjudgmental “savior of light” who will ultimately forgive everyone (universalism). We therefore have no reason to fear death. Returning home: Our human spirit has eternally existed in heaven. Some spirits have chosen to go to earth, either to fulfill some mission or to learn lessons that would help them mature. When we come to earth we often come as friends or family of these spirits that were close to…

Open Theism – Part 4

(August 2002 – Volume 8, Issue 6)  The Unsovereign God If God’s inability to know the future is the core doctrine of open theism, then God’s lack of sovereign power and control over the universe is the foundation of, or better, heart of openism. It is because these theologians want to believe that God is not in authority that they must believe that He lacks knowledge of certain things. Here is the argument: If God reigns supreme in such manner as to always get His own way (as Calvinism teaches), then man’s choices are not truly free. Even if God simply knows perfectly the future actions of His creatures (as Arminianism teaches), they are not free because those actions are frozen in future time and thus unalterable. Free choices under Calvinism are a myth and under Arminianism a mirage. What are we to do if we are to maintain both the…

Open Theism – Part 3

(July 2002 – Volume 8, Issue 5)  The Frustrated God In the mind of the open theist, God not only does not control most events on this planet, He is also blindsided by many of them – not able to foresee the future (as we saw in our last paper). Additionally, the God of openism apparently has no real purpose in most incidents – being almost as clueless and frustrated as we are. We encounter this rather unappetizing view of God in a story Gregory Boyd tells of a dedicated young lady who desired to be a missionary to Taiwan. She prayed earnestly for a likeminded husband and God led her to just the right man. Not only was this young man’s heart set on a lifetime of ministry in Taiwan, but also God confirmed that their marriage was His will by overwhelming her with “a supernatural sense of joy and…

Open Theism – Part 2

 (June 2002 – Volume 8, Issue 4) The God Who Is Pretty Sure The preeminent doctrinal shift required by open theism, the one upon which all the others rest, is the limiting of the omniscience of God. Open theologians hotly deny this, claiming they stand hand-in-hand with classical theists in the belief that God knows all things and is infinitely wise, resourceful, and competent. However, they add a little phrase that totally changes the landscape. God knows all things, they proclaim, that are knowable. That is, there are certain things that are outside the range of knowledge – even to God. God knows the past perfectly; He sees everything going on in the present with complete accuracy; but He cannot know the future for the future has not taken place. Boyd says it as clearly as anyone, In the Christian view God knows all of reality – everything there is to…

Open Theism – Part 1

(April/May 2002 – Volume 8, Issue 3)  Any war is composed of major battles and minor skirmishes. The skirmishes, while often little more than irritants in the big picture, nevertheless cannot be ignored. True casualties are often the result of such conflict and the military ignores them at its own peril. Still, the war is won or lost on the front lines where the primary clash is taking place. So it is on the Christian battlefield. Relatively minor challenges to truth are constant. Overemphasis on this doctrine, ignorance of another, inordinate attention on emotions here, encroachment of the world’s mindset there. Such altercations are disregarded at the high price of casualties among believers and churches alike. While we agree with the Puritan Richard Baxter that “charity should be practiced in all things”, we must also recognize that minor attacks on our flank, left unchallenged and uncorrected, tend to evolve into full-blown…

Mysticism – Part 5

(May 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 5)  Pietism & Subjective Christianity Balance. Is there anything more elusive? Most of us are constantly striving for balance, whether it is with our time, money, diet or relationships. If few of us are ever content that we have found just the right balance in these areas of life, the same can be said for the historical church. God’s people tend to swing from one extreme to another with great regularity, causing considerable tension within the body of Christ. One such tension has been, and still is, between the academic and the experiential, between those who place great emphasis on the theological and those who place the bulk of their emphasis on the subjective. Subjective oriented believers cast the term “dead orthodoxy” at their counterpart. I vividly remember an extremist group marching around the walls of Moody Bible Institute when I was a student there,…

Mysticism – Part 4

(April 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 4)  Mysticism’s Inroads Most evangelical Christians probably would not recognize themselves in the previous discussion of mysticism (as found in our last three papers), but there are subtle influences at work drawing believers in this direction even without their knowledge. While firmly denying any part in classical mysticism many are actually participating in time-honored mystical practices. It must be recognized that many are doing this unintentionally for new opportunities are turning up that seem to defy recognized categories. Some are innocently adopting ancient mystical practices because they are being endorsed by trusted Christian leaders, or even the medical community. The danger is that involvement in some of these things; no matter how pure the motive, may easily lead the participant away from a biblical faith and into the quagmire of subjectivism and mysticism, or at times even into the occult. I will only take time…

Mysticism – Part 3

(March 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 3)  Contemplative Prayer, the Heart of Mysticism The heart and soul of mysticism, any type of mysticism, Christian or otherwise, is the art of meditation or contemplation. Georgia Harkness informs us that “among the church fathers, ‘contemplation’ was the usual term to designate what was later to be called mystical experience.”[1] Contemplative prayer, also known as centering prayer and breath prayer, is rapidly gaining popularity and acceptance in evangelical circles, so it is vital that we understand exactly what is being promoted and why we are concerned. What is Contemplative Prayer? First we must distinguish between normal prayer, which is found, recommended, and demanded throughout Scripture and contemplative prayer, which is not. Prayer is our communication with God. If the Lord speaks to us through His Word, we speak to Him in prayer. Such prayers are rational, intelligent and flow from our minds. Paul said…

Mysticism – Part 2

(February 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 2)  Modern Christian Mysticism Medieval mysticism has managed to survive within small pockets of Roman Catholicism for centuries but has gone largely unnoticed by evangelicals. It is true that a few groups, such as the Quakers, have always kept some aspect of mysticism within range of evangelical awareness, and elements of mystical practices have actually thrived in charismatic circles right down to the ranks of Fundamentalism. But classical mysticism was virtually unknown in Evangelical circles until 1978 when Quaker minister Richard J. Foster published Celebration of Discipline, the Path to Spiritual Growth. Hailed by Christianity Today as one of the ten best books of the twentieth century and voted by the readers of that magazine as the third most influential book after the Bible, Celebration of Discipline has blown the doors off evangelicals’ understanding of spirituality. What Foster has done, in essence, is reintroduce to…

Mysticism – Part 1

(January 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 1)  Mysticism, a Way of the Past, the Wave of the Future I am often asked what I see as the next important challenge facing evangelical Christianity. Such questions are asked in the wake of major movements that have changed the face of evangelicalism in the last two decades, including the market-driven church and the closely related “Purpose Driven Life” (PDL) campaigns that have so greatly impacted God’s people. The legacy of both of these movements will not be that the church discovered new ways of worship, or new methodologies to replace the outdated. Instead, I fear that they will be remembered by future generations for their undermining of the authority of Scripture. To be sure these movements were not the genesis of the lack of confidence in God’s Word – there have been many forerunners. Actually they have capitalized upon this trend and have…

Lordship Salvation

(March 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 5)  No one is espousing a works salvation. …No one is denying that salvation is by grace through faith alone. The question is, “What is saving faith?” Few things have rocked the Bible believing community in recent years like the “Lordship Salvation” controversy. This is true for various reasons. First, the discussion strikes at the very heart of Christianity. Few things are more important than the issue of how one becomes a Christian. Also, all those who are drawing up the battle lines are godly men, who love the Word, and are careful students of it. Each of the major writers involved in this controversy holds a high view of Scripture, and each would support their view from study of the Bible alone. Yet, these men of God have come to different conclusions on this most vital of doctrines. The purpose of this newsletter is…

In Search of Truth

(April 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 4)  A few years ago I wrote a book entitled This Little Church Went to Market: Is the Modern Church Reaching Out or Selling Out. There I explored in detail areas in which I believe the “seeker-sensitive” church model is missing the mark biblically, especially in regard to its gospel and doctrinal messages. That book was followed by This Little Church Stayed Home, a Faithful Church in Deceptive Times. The original intent was to identify the marks of a truly biblical church standing firm in the face of wide scale assaults by the forces of deception. While a portion of that volume was in fact dedicated to this intent, I also felt compelled to specifically address the areas of deception surrounding the rapidly growing emergent church movement. I am in the process of writing a third book in the “Little Church” series. This will be…

C.S. Lewis

(September 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 8)  There is probably no Christian in modern times better known or more influential than Clive Staples Lewis. Born in Belfast in the year 1899, Lewis would write dozens of books on a variety of topics before his death on November 22, 1963 (on the very day of the deaths of John Kennedy and Aldous Huxley). At the time of his death his popularity was starting to wane but shortly thereafter there was a revival of interest in Lewis and, arguably, today he is more deeply admired than ever. He is considered by many to be the greatest apologist for the Christian faith to have ever lived. Whether you agree with this assessment or not, there is no doubt that Lewis was in a league almost by himself in his ability to write great truths in ways that spoke to our hearts and opened our…

Wild at Heart – Part 2

(May 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 5)  Last month we began an evaluation of the extremely popular book Wild at Heart authored by John Eldredge. At that time we identified a number of concerns with Eldredge’s message. We will now conclude this evaluation with some even deeper concerns. UNBIBLICAL VIEWS OF SATAN How deeply Eldredge has indulged himself in the unbiblical spiritual warfare methodology so popular today is hard to tell, but there is no question that he misunderstands the devil. First, he believes the devil fears the courageous Christian man (pp. 87, 166). On the contrary, God warns us of our arrogance in attempting to deal with the devil (Jude 8-10; 2 Peter 2:10-12), and calls for us to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13) and resist, not attack (1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:6). Next, rather than recognizing that our sinful flesh is the primary, if not exclusive, source of our evil…

Wild at Heart – Part 1

(April 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 4) One of the most popular fads at the moment, at least among Christian men, centers around John Eldredge’s extremely popular book, Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul. The book itself has won numerous awards and kudos including the 2002 Gold Medallion Book Award (for the finest in evangelical publishing), the Family Christian Bookstores 2002 book of the year award, and an endorsement from Charles Swindoll, who declares, “I believe it is the best, most insightful book I have read in at least the last five years.” The book itself is only the tip of the iceberg. There is the Wild at Heart field manual, the Wild at Heart journal, video curriculum, facilitator, kits with DVD’s ($100), and an audio book. Then there are the Wild at Heart four-day retreats, or “Boot Camps.” And for those who want the ultimate (and…

War

(April 2003 – Volume 9, Issue 4)  Christians have long struggled with the issue of war. Are there any circumstances that justify a Christian going to war? In the light of the biblical commands to love and forgive our enemies, is war justified? Let’s take a look. Christian Views Radical Pacifism – Radical pacifists believe that all violence is evil, and therefore, not only is war wrong but so is the maintenance of a police force and personal resistance to aggression. After all, they reason, it is rather difficult to love your enemy when you are killing them or punching them in the face. What would be the response of a radical pacifist to the crimes of Osama bin Laden? Love! Alice Walker, writing for the Village Voice, represents this position well: “What would happen to him if he could be brought to understand the preciousness of the lives he has…

Twenty Facts About Israel and the Middle East

(March 2003 – Volume 9, Issue 3)  The world’s attention has been focused on the Middle East. We are confronted daily with scenes of carnage and destruction. Can we understand such violence? Yes, but only if we come to the situation with a solid grounding in the facts of the matter — facts that too often are forgotten, if ever they were learned. Below are twenty facts that we think are useful in understanding the current situation, how we arrived here, and how we might eventually arrive at a solution. Roots of the Conflict When the United Nations proposed the establishment of two states in the region — one Jewish, one Arab — the Jews accepted the proposal and declared their independence in 1948. The Jewish state constituted only 1/6 of one percent of what was known as “the Arab world.” The Arab states, however, rejected the UN plan and since…

The Secret Critiqued – Part 2

(August 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 8)  The Secret’s Links with Christianity New Thought In my research for this paper I was surprised to find that we have been down this road in the past. As a matter of fact, virtually the whole “secret” was revealed in the mid-1800s beginning with Phineas Quimby who taught that “physical diseases are caused by wrong thinking or false beliefs. Disease is merely an ‘error’ created ‘not by God, but by man.’ Eliminate false beliefs, Quimby taught, and the chief culprit for disease is thereby removed, yielding a healthy body.” [1] The New Thought movement developed from Quimbly’s ideas in the late 1860s. “According to New Thought, human beings can experience health, success, and abundant life by using their thoughts to define the conditions of their lives. New Thought proponents subscribed to the ‘law of attraction’ [the same law behind The Secret] which is the…

The Secret Critiqued – Part 1

(July 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 7)  Have you heard The Secret? It is all the rage throughout our society and has even infiltrated the church. From day-time talk shows to the business world, The Secret (detailed in both book and DVD forms) is making an impact. The inspiration behind The Secret came in 2004 when an old book called The Science of Getting Rich was placed in the hands of a woman named Rhonda Byrne. Byrne was going through a difficult period in her life and the message in this book rejuvenated her imagination. Over the course of the next two months Byrne read hundreds of books and studied the lives of great leaders in history. She discovered, she claims, that many greats from the past (e.g. Churchill, Einstein, Emerson), as well as the present (e.g. Jack Canfield, author and co-creator of the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series),…

The Passion of the Christ – Part 2

(March 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 3)  THE ROAD TO ROME? As little as twenty years ago it was the overwhelming consensus of Protestant evangelicals and fundamentalists that those who adhered to the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification were not saved. That did not mean that Catholic Christians did not exist, for it was recognized that within the Church of Rome existed regenerate souls who for various reasons had remained in the Catholic Church. But none who clearly understood and accepted the soteriology of Rome could be viewed as born again. Rome’s salvation is sacramental in nature. Salvation, Catholics teach, is by grace, through faith, based on the cross. But to this they add an elaborate system of works which are also necessary for salvation. Still even this is not enough, for final authority for eternal salvation lies in the hands of the Church. All of this, and more, is proof…

The Passion of the Christ – Part 1

(February 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 2)  Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ is being welcomed in conservative Christian circles with almost universal acclaim. Some Christian leaders have even said that the film will be the greatest opportunity for evangelism since the crucifixion itself. Perhaps they are correct. From almost all accounts The Passion of the Christ is relatively faithful to the biblical record. But such is not the case. The movie goes far beyond the biblical account, adding not only dramatic license, but much that is found in Roman Catholic tradition and mysticism. This may, or may not, diminish from the overall message of the film, but at the very least it will lead to confusion, especially for those not biblically knowledgeable, as to which events actually took place and which events came from the imagination of the writers and others. A few other scenes are taken from…

The Da Vinci Code Deciphered

(March 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 3)  The most celebrated novel of our times is much more than a novel. The Da Vinci Code has sold some forty million copies, just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people who will view the movie starring everybody’s most beloved actor, Tom Hanks, and directed by none other than Opie (aka Ron Howard). As a result, before the close of 2006 the majority of those in the Western world will probably be introduced to the mysterious code popularized by Dan Brown. They will no doubt find this code both intriguing and troubling. It is intriguing because Brown is a fascinating author. The Da Vinci Code is unquestionably a great novel by literary standards and, if it was only a novel, would not be worth our time to examine in this venue. But it is troubling because Brown has a clear…

Spiritual Warfare – Part 3

 (June 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 8) The Bible does not recognize occult sin as a special category that has not been dealt with at the cross. We have spent considerable space in our last two newsletters evaluating and criticizing the Spiritual Warfare Movement. In this final letter on this subject, we would like to devote the bulk of our attention to the Biblical instructions that our Lord gives us concerning our battle with Satan and his demons. But first, we would like to elaborate a little on four of the major unbiblical teachings of the SW leaders. MAJOR UNBIBLICAL TEACHINGS: Christians must learn to bind Satan. This idea is based on the misinterpretation of three passages: Mt 12:29; 16:19; and 18:18. The context reveals that Mt 12:29 was an illustration of Christ’s personal power over Satan — not ours. And Mt 16:19; 18:18 are in the context of fulfilling God’s…

Spiritual Warfare – Part 2

(May 1995 – Volume 1,(May 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 7) Issue 7)  We quickly examined, in our last newsletter, the branch of the Spiritual Warfare Movement known by some as the “power encounter” branch. These are men such as Mark Bubeck and C. Fred Dickason who believe that we must forceably confront, bind, and expel demons from the lives of some people if they are to find spiritual freedom. This time we will turn our attention to the “truth encounter” branch of the SWM. This branch is well represented by Neil Anderson who, while in general agreement with Dickason and Bubeck, believes that power encounters are not necessary, in fact may be dangerous. He teaches instead, a more clinical approach which directs the demonized to take certain steps based on truth. When those steps are taken, the demons will release their victim from bondage. We want to carefully study this aspect…

Spiritual Warfare – Part 1

(April 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 6)  According to Dickason, God neglected to include in His Word instructions for victory over one of the Christian’s most powerful enemies. It seems that Christians never tire of trying to come up with a new way of dealing with life. We are reminded of the Athenians at the Areopagus who, “Used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Within evangelical Christianity today, there is a constant parade of novel approaches for dealing with our sins and problems. One of these is what some call “spiritual warfare.” Spiritual warfare has become quite the rage in many Christian circles, despite the lack of Biblical support. This is due to several factors: the mystical and experience orientation of the modern church, the influence of charismatic elements, pragmatism, the church’s surrender to psychology during the last twenty years, and endorsement…

Robert Schuller – The Humpty Dumpty of Evangelicalism

(March 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 3)  You might recall that, when Alice was conversing with Humpty Dumpty, she rebuked him for misusing words. Humpty replied, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” Alice protested, asking if he could really make words mean different things, to which Humpty answered, “The question is, which is to be the master – that is all.” This approach to words and their meanings has been common among theological liberals and cultists for years. Visit the worship service of any liberal church and most likely you will hear much that seems to define and frame orthodox biblical truth. Listen more carefully and you will soon realize that the words and phrases have been infused with new meaning. They have, if I could make up my own word, been humptified. There is nothing novel or…

Postmodernism – Part 5

(February 2003 – Volume 9, Issue 2)  “Confronting Postmodernists” In previous papers I have discussed postmodernity’s encroachment on Western society and on the church, and identified the dangers and impact of this worldview. What do we do now? I believe we must be willing to go against the grain of a condoning society and display some holy intolerance. Doing so will surely be painful. We will be disliked, misunderstood, even vilified – but of course we will be in good company. Jesus, the prophets and the apostles all suffered a similar fate at the hands of unbelievers and sometimes even fellow believers. But did not Jesus pronounce us blessed when “men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me” (Matthew 5:11)? This is not the time to cave into the pressures that surround us; it is the time to…

Postmodernism – Part 4

(January 2003 – Volume 9, Issue 1)  “Postmodernity and the Church” At certain points in history the church has served as a rebuke to the secular mindset of society. At such times Christians have challenged and exposed the popular fads that ruled the day, revealing those fads for what they were, shallow and empty, mere “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). Sadly, now is not one of those points in history. Rather, the Christian community at the present time appears to be in lock step with the world system. Whatever the world is selling Christians seem to be buying. They may perfume it a bit, hang some religious ornaments on it, and throw some scriptures into the mix, but when stripped to its essence evangelicals frequently find themselves mimicking the world’s philosophy. We find this true with regard to postmodernity. Rather than repel the forces leading this ungodly…

Postmodernism – Part 3

(December 2002 – Volume 8, Issue 9)  “Postmodernity and Society” Having raced far too briefly through an overview of postmodernism, we will now turn our attention to an equally brief account of this worldview’s impact on society. Let’s begin with Western culture. Since absolute truth has been rejected, how does a postmodern society function? There exists a number of identifiable pillars propping up the postmodern vision – each of these pillars depend upon the others to prevent collapse of the system. As we will see, postmodernity is an inconsistent philosophy at best. Truth Is Communal We documented in an earlier paper that while postmodernity rejects absolute, universal truth, it does not reject all standards of truth. Drawing from the well of existentialism, which championed individualized truth, this newer worldview (which by the way claims to reject worldviews) believes in communal truth. That is, each culture creates its own truth, and the…

Postmodernism – Part 2

(November 2002 – Volume 8, Issue 8)  “Whatever Happened to Truth?” The main character in Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous novel, Nausea, examines life carefully and comes to these gloomy conclusions; “I was just thinking, that here we sit, all of us, eating and drinking to preserve our precious existence and really there is nothing, nothing, absolutely no reason for existing…. I exist – the world exists – and I know that the world exists. That’s all. It makes no difference to me…. Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance…. I do not believe in God; His existence is belied by science. But, in the internment camp, I learned to believe in men.” Sartre was a leading proponent of the philosophical system known as existentialism, which was a reaction to the materialistic optimism of modernity with its infinite faith in reason and science. The…

Postmodernism – Part 1

(September/October 2002 – Volume 8, Issue 7)  A Historical Overview A great enemy has died – but few heard about the funeral. As a matter of fact many deny that she is dead at all. She was too tough, too mean; we fought her too long. But the evidence is in: Secular Humanism, which thrived under the shadow of modernity, and whom for decades we blamed for all the ills of society and church, has apparently passed away. Funerals are usually solemn occasions, but in this case we should rather rejoice. The “mean old witch, the wicked witch is dead.” But before we start doing cartwheels, we had better look over our shoulder – her sister has shown up and things have just gone from bad to worse. Humanism’s evil sister flies under the handle of postmodernism, and everywhere one turns these days she shows her ugly face. Both in the…

Islam – Part 2

(February 2002 – Volume 8, Issue 2)  The Modern Mindset of the Islamic People Time magazine tries to calm our nerves with these words, “If the evil carnage we witnessed on September 11 were typical of the faith, and Islam truly inspired and justified such violence, its growth and the increasing presence of Muslims in both Europe and the U.S. would be a terrifying prospect. Fortunately, this is not the case. The very word Islam, which means, “surrender,” is related to the Arabic, salim, or peace…. In the Koran…the only permissible war is one of self-defense…. Islam is not addicted to war, and jihad is not one of its “pillars,” or essential practices…. Islam did not impose itself by the sword.” The author of these words is overly optimistic, at best. First, the word Islam means “submission.” The word for peace in Arabic is “salam”, and while both words come from…

Islam – Part 1

(January 2002 – Volume 8, Issue 1)  Before September 11th, most of us had little understanding of, and/or interest in the Islamic religion, but all of that has changed. What kind of people, we now want to know, purposely destroy so many innocent lives in the name of their God? Evil and wicked people we understand, but the Muslim fanatics claim to be righteous. They seem to actually believe that they are waging a great war between good and evil, and that they are the ones wearing the white hats. What, if anything, does Islam teach that could lead these men to murder people, even at the expense of their own lives, while believing they are pleasing God? Are the terrorists representative of the Islamic faith or a fanatical fringe? These are important questions, especially in light of so much misleading information about Islam pouring from our media. The Islamic religion…

Examination of Life After Death Experiences

(July 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 9) Woody Allen expressed the sentiments of many when he stated, “Who cares about achieving immortality through achievements? I’m interested in achieving immortality through not dying.” Mankind has always feared death (Heb 2:15), and rightly so. Death is one of the great motivators towards the consideration of our need for a relationship with God. However, in recent years new hope has emerged for those desiring heaven without the bother of a commitment to Christ. In the 1970’s a book by Raymond Moody, Life After Life, made a tremendous impact with numerous and believable stories of people coming back from the dead. Those returning to life often reported similar experiences. A composite experience includes moving through a long, dark tunnel (after being pronounced dead), watching resuscitation efforts from “outside” one’s body, being greeted by relatives or friends who had died earlier, encountering a being of light…

Dominion Theology

(January 1996 – Volume 2, Issue 3) There is a movement about that is casting a long shadow for its size. It is known by different handles such as reconstructionism, kingdom theology, theonomy, and dominion theology, and it is a curious blend of Reformed/Calvinist theology and Charismatic influence. While there are relatively few who would call themselves reconstructionists, a number of the movement’s ideas have infiltrated the thinking and actions of many believers, often without them knowing it. The movement is led by such theologians as Rousas J. Rusdoony; Gary North; Ray Sutton; Greg Bahnsen; David Chiltion, and by Charismatic leaders such as Earl Paulk. But their ideas are often reflected by non-reconstructionists such as Pat Robertson, John Whitehead, Franky Schaeffer, and even Jerry Falwell. A DEFINITION Dominion theology (the belief-system behind the reconstructionist movement) teaches that through the coming of Christ the believer has dominion over every area of life.…

Willow Creek’s Big Adventure

(December 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 12)  It has been a tough year for the Willow Creek Community Church, the flagship congregation of the “seeker-sensitive” movement. Most know that Willow Creek has set the pace for 30 years in its redesign of the local church. More recently Rick Warren, and his Saddleback Community Church, have stolen the spotlight from Willow and, to some degree, eclipsed its influence on new paradigm churches. But rest assured, Willow, along with its Willow Creek Association, which boasts 12,000 member churches from 90 denominations, is still charting the way for those who look to felt-needs, surveys, the latest innovations and market strategy, instead of Scripture, for their structuring of the local church. [1] When Willow speaks, church leaders listen. When Willow marches out a new product or method, churches around the globe fall in line. Whatever Willow promotes others emulate. So, as I said, it has…

Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?

(June 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 6)  Tinker Bell was dying. Her little light had all but flickered out and Peter Pan stood helplessly by. What could be done to save Tinker Bell? Peter had no medicine and there was no doctor in the house. But Tinker had an idea: she thought she could get well again if children believed in fairies. Peter immediately cried out to all the dreaming children everywhere, “Do you believe? If you believe, clap your hands; don’t let Tink die.” As the dreaming children all over the world clapped, Tinker Bell revived and was soon as healthy and robust as ever. Apparently sometimes, at least with imaginary fairies, all that is needed for flourishing health is having enough people believe in you. I wonder if this approach could be adopted by the evangelical church community – or perhaps already has been. If enough Christians believed the…

The Market-Driven Church – Part 4

(September 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 9)  Counterfeit money is recognized by those who know how to identify the real thing. Before we examine the gospel message found in the new paradigm churches, it would be best to examine the gospel message found in the Bible. The gospel message in a nutshell is this: Harry (to use Willow Creek’s name for the unsaved) is a sinner, in full-blown rebellion against God (Rom. 3:23; 5:1-12). While some Harrys are outwardly religious and some even desire the gifts and benefits that God can supply, no Harrys truly seek after God or desire Him (Rom. 3:10-18). As a result of Harry’s sinfulness he is under the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18), faces future judgment (Heb. 9:27), will die both physically and spiritually (Rom. 6:23) and will spend eternity in hell (Rev. 20:11-15). It is because of Harry’s hopeless plight, and the fact that he…

The Market-Driven Church – Part 3

(August 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 8)  We Are Driven Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Orange County, California, has written the definitive book promoting the market-driven concept of evangelism and church growth. The Purpose-Driven Church, which admittedly has a considerable amount of practical and helpful advice, nevertheless is laced with a felt-need philosophy that undermines, in my opinion, the value of the whole book. It is Warren’s view that in order to reach the lost we must begin with their felt needs (p. 197ff). He writes, “[For] anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart” (p.219). In order to discover the felt needs of the Saddleback Valley citizens he orchestrated a community survey of the unchurched (p.139). Once those needs were discovered, a program was implemented to reach the community by offering Jesus Christ, the gospel, and the church…

The Market-Driven Church – Part 2

(July 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 7)  David Wells bemoans concerning the new paradigm church, “Much of it…is replete with tricks, gadgets, gimmicks, and marketing ploys as it shamelessly adapts itself to our emptied-out, blinded, postmodern world. … There is too little about it that bespeaks the holiness of God. And without the vision for any reality of this holiness, the gospel becomes trivialized, life loses its depth, God becomes transformed into a product to be sold, faith into a recreational activity to be done, and the Church into a club for the like-minded” (Losing Our Virtue, by David Wells, p. 180). Damaging accusations; are they true? The standard rhetoric coming from new paradigm churches is that they teach the same message, the same gospel, as the more traditional evangelical churches, they differ only in methodology and philosophy of ministry. Lee Strobel (former Teaching Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church) writes,…

The Market-Driven Church – Part 1

(June 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 6)  At the first tee, with great optimism and hope, I take a mighty cut at my Top Flight #2. I eagerly look up, fully expecting to watch that little white ball soar 250 yards straight up the fairway, only to find that I have hooked it into the woods on the left. Determined not to repeat such an “uncharacteristic” performance, I correct my swing a bit at the second tee only to slice the ball into the water on the right. By the third hole, I’m sure, I have all the bugs worked out. Taking a swing that Tiger Woods would envy, and that blows leaves off trees fifty yards away, I am amazed to find that I have topped the ball, causing it to dribble harmlessly almost to the ladies’ tee about twenty-five yards away. Frustrated, fully humbled, and deciding that keeping score…

The Kingdom of Emergent Theology – Part 3

(November 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 11)  In our last two papers we have examined the emerging church’s distortion of the kingdom and its impact on the gospel. In this paper we will explore what Scripture teaches about the kingdom of God. A Biblical Understanding of the Kingdom Acts 1:3 informs us that during the 40 days in which Jesus was making appearances following the resurrection He spoke to the apostles concerning the kingdom of God. We are uncertain about exactly what He said but we know the kingdom was at the heart of His discussions with them during that time. In verse six Jesus is preparing to depart the earth and they have one question for Him, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel ?” While we do not know precisely what Jesus had told them about the kingdom we do pick up on…

The Kingdom of Emergent Theology – Part 2

(October 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 10)  Having seen in our last paper the emerging church distortion of the kingdom of God, we move on this time to discuss its effect on the gospel. The Effect on the Gospel It is not surprising with this understanding of the kingdom of God that David Gushee in a recent Christianity Today article asks, “Is it permissible to reopen the question of salvation?” While Gushee follows up his question with some things worth pondering, he states that when “Jesus was asked about the criteria for admission to eternity, he offered a fourfold answer: love God with all that you are, love your neighbor (like the Samaritan loved his neighbor), do God’s will by obeying his moral commands, and be willing, if he asks, to drop everything and leave it behind in order to follow him.”[26] While Gushee is confusing salvation with sanctification – the…

The Kingdom of Emergent Theology – Part 1

(September 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 9)  It has been claimed that Sigmund Freud enjoyed telling his followers a story of a pastor who visited an atheist insurance agent who was on his death bed. The family had asked the pastor to share the gospel with their dying loved one as they waited in another room. As the conversation continued longer than expected there was hope that the pastor was being successful in his mission. When the pastor finally emerged from the bedroom it was discovered that the agent had not converted to Christ but he had been able to sell the pastor an insurance policy. While Freud used the illustration to warn his fellow psychoanalysts to stay true to their beliefs, Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, from whom I obtained this account, has another application to offer. While a most unlikely source (in my opinion) to offer the following…

The Emerging Church – Part 3

(June 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 6)  How those professing to be believers understand the message of the gospel will determine how they view their mission in this life. Since the emergent church sees the gospel not merely as the redemption of lost souls but also as the restoration of the planet and salvation from man’s inhumanity to man, they comprehend their task as Christians differently from that of most evangelicals. They call it “missional”. Emergent Mission: Missional Missional is a term that seems to be drawn from the writings of missiologist Lesslie Newbigin who pops up all over emergent literature. It is difficult to pin down a good definition of missional, but it seems to mean that as Christians we exist to serve. We serve by loving and living in such a way that we bless those around us. But more than that, we are to be engaged in changing…

The Emerging Church – Part 2

(May 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 5)  Our worldview will determine how we process information and in turn what we believe. In theory, at least, Christians should possess a biblical worldview shaped by the study of Scripture. In actuality, too often our philosophy of living (worldview) is formed by other forces around us including our culture. This is an accusation often cast at the evangelical church by the emerging church leaders. They say that evangelicalism has been shaped by modernity – that what we believe is not drawn so much from Scripture as it is from the Enlightenment. This indictment should not be cast aside too quickly; there is some truth to it. We must ever be careful that we trace our beliefs to Scripture and not take detours constructed by men. But having read the specific allegations coming from the emerging camp, I find that most do not hold water…

The Emerging Church – Part 1

(April 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 4)  The emergent church is a rather slippery name for a rather slippery movement. By slippery, I mean that the movement is so new (originated in the late 1990s), so fragmented, so varied, that nailing it down is like nailing the proverbial Jell-O to the wall. There are no official leaders[1] or headquarters;[2] some have said that there are thousands of expressions yet only a few churches have sold out to the concept; and even those claiming the name can’t agree on what is going on.[3] Brian McLaren, the closest thing to a spokesperson for the movement so far states: Right now Emergent is a conversation, not a movement. We don’t have a program. We don’t have a model. I think we must begin as a conversation, then grow as a friendship, and see if a movement comes of it.[4] Having said this, there is…

Revival

(January 2001 – Volume 7, Issue 1)  Revival is hot right now. If you read any Christian literature, especially magazines, listen to Christian radio or watch Christian TV, you know this is a subject that is on the front burner of evangelicalism. In doing research on this topic I turned to the web site of Christian Book Distributors to run down a couple of books on the subject that I had been wanting to purchase. I was a bit surprised to discover that CBD listed 156 books on revival. These are books that are currently in print, and are being sold by this one outlet. This does not include many books that they do not carry nor the many hundreds that are out of print. Revival is hot and it is easy. Who could say a word against fit? It is like putting down motherhood. Go into any Christian circle and…

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 7

(September 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 7) Promise Keepers is one of those organizations that many people seem to believe is above scrutiny. It seems so good, so well intended, so above criticism, that many become angry if one challenges it — even with an open Bible. Therefore, one must expect criticism when examining the movement with any level of discernment, and this is as it should be. Exhortations in sound doctrine and refutations of those who contradict (Titus 1:9) are just as open to biblical critique as Promise Keepers. The issue is this: When our thoughts are examined do we have a solid biblical base on which to take a stand? If we do not, we must repent of our positions, realign them in light of Scripture and teach truth. With these thoughts in mind we need to deal with some of the common criticisms we have faced, and will…

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 6

(August 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 6) Even though its goals are commendable and its efforts to create godly men are herculean, it would appear that many others, besides ourselves, are uncomfortable with Promise Keepers. We are concerned because of the methods used, the ecumenical nature, the Charismatic influence, the constant psychobabble and Promise Keepers’ legalistic nature. These are grave and important issues that cannot and must not be easily dismissed, either by Promise Keepers or by individual believers. We must ever strive to follow the example of the noble Bereans (Acts 17:11). Within this paper on the men’s movement known as Promise Keepers, we desire to discuss some final (if somewhat less important) concerns: The Promise Keepers Small Group System One of the primary ways that Promise Keepers hopes to reinforce their views and to develop godly men is through the use of small group “Bible” studies, known as “task-forces.”…

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 5

(June/July 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 5) The Teachings of Psychobabble Promise Keepers appears to have two primary goals: 1. To develop godly men — “Promise Keepers is a Christ-centered ministry dedicated to uniting men through vital relationships to become godly men who influence their world” (Men of Action, Fall 1993, p4). 2. To unify Christians and churches — “We believe that we have a God-given mission to unite men who are separated by race, geography, culture, denomination and economics” (Ibid). In an earlier study (Promise Keepers an update, Part II) we examined in detail the ecumenical nature of Promise Keepers and found its stance in this area to be unbiblical. It is the subject of developing godly men that we wish to address at this time. We applaud Promise Keepers’ stated desire in this area and we do not wish to question their motives. Our concern is with the “how-to.”…

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 4

(April 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 4)  Charismatic Underpinnings What does an organization, such as Promise Keepers, who has a primary goal of breaking down the walls of denominationalism teach? So far in our studies it would appear that they teach: 1) A core of five or six basic doctrines. While Promise Keepers may adhere to the following doctrines, how much time is really devoted to instruction concerning the inspiration of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the substitutionary atonement or the bodily resurrection of Christ? Since Promise Keepers is not primarily an evangelistic organization, even the doctrine of salvation by faith is probably seldom mentioned. 2) General encouragement toward the keeping of the Seven Promises. If “controversial” doctrines must be avoided and if the core beliefs are seldom taught, what do the Promise Keepers do at their rallies, Wake Up Calls and small group Bible studies? They spend…

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 3

(April 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 3)  Progressive Sanctification In our first paper on the Promise Keepers’ movement, we examined the areas in which we believe that Promise Keepers are doing a good job.Then, in our last paper, we began to point out some areas of concern, the first of which is Promise Keepers’ ecumenical nature. The leaders of Promise Keepers either do not understand, or have purposely chosen to ignore the biblical doctrine of separation.As we have seen, the Scriptures clearly teach that the child of God is to note those who teach error, refute them, reject them, remove them, and stay away from them — depending on the circumstances. We are not to cozy up to false teachers, yet Promise Keepers has chosen to disobey this crystalline teaching of the Word of God and invite those who believe in rank heresy to join them. There would be no complaint…

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 2

(January 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 3)  Within our last paper we pinpointed several areas in which we find agreement with the Promise Keepers’ movement. In our remaining studies on Promise Keepers we will examine our areas of concern. Author Thomas Hardy said that he had a friend who could go into any beautiful meadow and immediately find a manure pile (The Master’s Plan for the Church, p22). We do not want to be like Hardy’s friend. It is not our desire to nit pick, nor do we want to ignore something of great value while concentrating on the few problem areas. We want others to be fair and gracious with us, so we, in turn, strive to do the same — understanding full well that even the best of ministries are imperfect. Having said all of this, we nevertheless, have deep concerns about Promise Keepers. We are not searching for…

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 1

(February 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 1)  Midwest Today magazine opens its coverage of Promise Keepers with these important questions: “How faithful to the Word of God is the Promise Keepers men’s movement? How close of an association do its founders and board members have with the Charismatic fringe? What theology is really being espoused by its guest speakers, and its numerous books, videos and other materials that carry the Promise Keeper imprimatur?” It then adds, “These and other legitimate questions have largely been overlooked as this evangelical men’s group attracts uncritical and enthusiastic press coverage, and its ranks of members swell with every big conference it holds.” It is the intention of this paper, and those that follow, to carefully examine the above questions. That Promise Keepers is successful is beyond question; however, whether it is a movement of God, that honors the Lord and should be supported by His…

Promise Keepers – Part 2

(February 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 4)  Paul warns Timothy that a time would come when people would seek teachers who would tell them what they wanted to hear. PK is just such an organization. Our last newsletter dealt with the fast growing movement known as Promise Keepers. We praise PK for its goal of producing godly men. But we are greatly concerned with its view of sanctification. Scripture clearly teaches that godly people (we find no distinction in the Biblical instructions for men or women — we both grow through the same means) mature as they feed on the Word of God (I Pet 2:2).We become adequate and equipped for every good work as we allow the Word to change us (II Tim 3:15-4:3). In the context of this last passage Paul warns Timothy of the time coming when people will seek teachers that give them what they want to…

Promise Keepers – Part 1

(January 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 3)  While PK’s goal of developing godly men is commendable, the lover of truth will quickly realize that its approach is unbiblical. It is altogether doubtful if modern day Christianity has ever seen anything like the men’s movement known as the Promise Keepers. Started in 1990 by Bill McCartney, head football coach at the University of Colorado, it has had unparalleled growth. The first major PK conference in 1991 drew 4200 men. By the summer of 1994 seven rallies were scattered throughout the country — each drawing as many as 60,000 Christian men. 1995 will see conferences in 12-14 cities with an expected 600,000 in total attendance. The four year old organization already has a staff of 120 and annual budget of $22 million. It has regional offices in 9 states and processes 5000 pieces of mail and 10,000 phone calls per day. In addition,…

Mystical Youth Ministry

(May 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 5)  Ministering to young people has never been an easy task and that is certainly true today. How are we to engage over-stimulated teenagers with the truth of the Word of God without boring them to tears? God’s people have contemplated this question since the invention of the teenager.[1] Many programs and philosophies have come and gone. Some appear successful for a time only to fade away when more carefully analyzed or a new generation becomes immune to currently accepted techniques. The youth rallies sponsored by parachurch organizations such as Youth for Christ have been touted as both the beginning of aggressive and effective ministry and the beginning of the end of the very same. Proponents point to the great turn outs and obvious interest of that generation of young people. Opponents wonder if all that was accomplished was conditioning youth to want entertainment rather…

How to Interpret the Bible for Yourself by Richard Mayhue

This is an excellent little study on basic hermeneutics and Bible study methods. It is filled with good suggestions and ideas, and written on a level that most readers could readily understand and apply. Dr. Mayhue is the Dean of The Master’s Seminary and as such is used to dealing with heavy theological issues. Yet, in this, his love for the simple truths of the Scriptures has in no way been dimmed. The reader of this volume will be encouraged and motivated to be a lover of the Word. I highly recommend it.

Entertainment – Part 3

(April 2001 – Volume 7, Issue 4)  A Backlash Many see this entertainment form of worship, which we have been discussing, as a fad that will pass through our land and ultimately vanish over the horizon. If so, it will leave behind a scorched earth full of discouraged and bewildered believers who will not know where to turn next. But some are already flying the coop. Donald G. Bloesch reported recently in a Christianity Today article outlining the early signs of a backlash to the seeker-sensitive services so popular today. Evangelical Protestantism is in trouble today as an increasing number of business and professional people are searching for a new church. The complaint I hear most often is that people can no longer sense the sacred either in the preaching or the liturgy…. Worship has become performance rather than praise. The praise choruses that have preempted the great hymns of the…

Entertainment – Part 2

(March 2001 – Volume 7, Issue 3) If entertainment has become a way of life, it has permeated all aspects of society and culture. If, in fact, so much that the American people say and do is defined by entertainment (as we argued in our last paper), then we are not surprised to find that entertainment has encroached upon the church as well. After all, even the best of churches are comprised of redeemed sinners who have been shaped all too much by the world in which we live. And although Scripture clearly warns us not to be conformed to the world’s mold (Romans 12:2), that battle unfortunately is not easily won. The reason being, at least in part, is that we often define nonconformity to the world in terms of externals – how we dress, what we eat or drink, where we go – while ignoring the philosophy of the…

Entertainment – Part 1

(February 2001 – Volume 7, Issue 2) One is tempted, when dealing with such a subject as entertainment, to immediately face the current issues as related to the matter at hand. We are anxious to explore the place entertainment plays in our society, its encroachment upon the church, and its impact on the changing face of corporate worship. But to do so would be not only premature but superficial. It is important first to lay a foundation upon which we can build and inspect. We need to travel down the road of the past to understand how we, as a society, got to the present. Having made that journey we would then be wise to take stock, consider precautions, and contemplate some adjustments. All of this before we discuss entertainment in the context of the church. If you will bear with me, this will not be a study of Scripture, but…

Emergent Books

(May 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 5)  A note from Pastor Gilley: I have recently completed reading a number of books related to the emergent conversation. This month’s TOTT paper will be composed of my reviews of these books. Finding Our Way Again, the Return to the Ancient Practicesby Brian McLaren Brian McLaren, the most recognizable name in the emergent church movement, signals a shift, or at least a new emphasis within emergent, toward ancient practices of earlier periods of church history. As usual, McLaren believes the church has lost its way due to its refusal to follow God’s leading. The church has become “proud and unteachable” but fortunately a few “humble and teachable” people (guess who?) are pointing out the right path (pp. 150-151): “When the community of faith realizes it has lost its way, it begins looking forward by looking back…It looks to its ancient practices to help it…

Church Discipline and Church Growth

(October 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 10)  Undoubtedly the most neglected and misunderstood activity that any church can undertake is that of disciplining its members. Our society equates love with tolerance. “Live and let live” is its mantra; “What right do you have to judge me?” is our challenge. These attitudes, of course, have infiltrated the minds of Christians. Couple that with the fact that most Christians have never witnessed biblically-based church discipline and we can readily understand why even solid believers are unnerved at the mere mention of the “D” word. Nor am I aware of any church growth seminars espousing discipline as a means to draw the masses. As a matter of fact, church discipline is antithetical to the seeker-sensitive movement since a goal of church discipline is purity, which is not an attractive feature to most unbelievers and even many Christians. It should, therefore, give us serious reason…

Building Up the Body

(July 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 7) One of the most insightful of recent books concerning the church is actually written by an unbeliever. Alan Wolfe, a social scientist, has been observing the changing American religious scene for years. Last year he shared his research in The Transformation of American Religion. The message of his book is that “religion in the United States is being transformed in radically new directions.” [1] Wolfe claims, “Talk of Hell, damnation, and even sin has been replaced by a nonjudgmental language of understanding and empathy. Gone are the arguments over doctrine and theology…. More Americans than ever proclaim themselves born again in Christ, but the Lord to whom they turn rarely gets angry and frequently strengthens self-esteem. [As a result] the faithful in the United States are remarkably like everyone else.” [2] If Wolfe’s assessments are on target, what would be the catalyst for this…

Biblically Based Youth Ministry

(June 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 6)  Missing Ingredients I was in Raleigh, North Carolina, for Thanksgiving at the Romines when I was offered my first glass of sweet tea – that is, real southern-style sweet tea. I was in love. What an amazing concoction! I proceeded to drink the rest of the pitcher. Before that day I had tried tea a thousand times but I never cared much for it. It did the job of thirst quenching well enough but that’s about where my desire for it ended. Once I tasted this sweet potion (must have been one part tea and one part molasses) I realized that all tea before this time had been missing something: the right flavor of tea and a whole lot of sugar. Something is missing in modern evangelical youth ministry. To tell the truth, it seems many things are missing. What would a group be…

What, Me Worry?

(February 1998 – Volume 4, Issue 2)  In Jay Adams’ little booklet What to Do About Worry, he begins with this humorous tale: Joe used to worry all the time about everything, in fact, his friends knew him as a worrier. One day Bill was walking down the street when he saw his worrying friend bouncing along as happy as any man could be. Joe was actually whistling, humming and wearing a huge smile; he looked as if he did not have a care in the world. Bill could hardly believe his eyes — it was obvious that a radical transformation had taken place. He stopped Joe and added, “Joe, what’s happened to you? You don’t seem worried anymore; I never saw a happier man.” Joe replied, “It’s wonderful, Bill. I haven’t worried for several weeks now.” Bill continued, “That’s great — how did you manage it? What brought about the…

Trusting God

(February 1996 – Volume 2, Issue 4)  Our suffering has meaning and purpose in God’s eternal plan, and He brings or allows only that which is for His glory and our good to come into our lives. Trusting God can often be a difficult thing even for the child of God. However, the most difficult time for us to trust Him is during times of adversity. During such times the believer needs to understand that the Scriptures teach three essential truths about God: God is completely sovereign; God is infinite in wisdom; God is perfect in love. God in his love always wills what is best for us (Rom 8:28). In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about. GOD IS COMPLETELY SOVEREIGN The question that many ask is if God is both powerful and good, why is there…

The Sovereignty of God – Part 3

(November 2001 – Volume 7, Issue 10)  Few words from Scripture both encourage and challenge us more than James 1:2, Count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials. When God inspired James to pen these immortal words could He possibly have known that a crazed sect of Islamic fanatics would one day slam hijacked airliners into huge buildings crammed full of innocent people? And if He knew, why did He allow such wicked plans to succeed? Could He not have done something to stop the terrorists? At the very least, when God saw where those 767s were headed surely He could have stepped in and stopped this senseless act. Since He did not, we are left with only a few options. Maybe God did not know any more about the hijackings than we did; maybe He watched things unfold as they were happening and was totally caught off…

The Sovereignty of God – Part 2

(October 2001 – Volume 7, Issue 9)  One of the hardest things I have ever done was to walk away for the last time from the house in which I had been raised. My parents had both passed away and it was no longer feasible for my siblings and I to keep the homestead, so we had to sell. It broke my heart because it closed a chapter in my life that I did not want to close. I felt a huge loss, a keen disappointment, as I realized afresh that nothing in this life is permanent and almost everything ultimately comes up short of expectations. Of course such loss is minor compared to the tragedies that many people, even godly people, face every day. Seeing this as wrong and unfair many complain, as we saw last time, “If God is truly loving and all-powerful then how can He stand by…

The Sovereignty of God – Part 1

(September 2001 – Volume 7, Issue 8)  “All of life runs unsettlingly close to the ditch,” Joseph Stowell assures us in The Upside of Down (p. 17). But that does not mean we like such a life, much less, understand it. Even while we consistently and constantly remind our children that life isn’t fair, down deep we somehow believe it should be. This concept is often reinforced by preachers and Christian authors who all but promise that if we honor God then surely God will honor us – and that in the form of tangible reward and blessing. So, it catches many of us by surprise when God doesn’t seem to keep His end of the deal. If instead of my “borders being enlarged” God sees fit to take away my job, or shrink my bank account, or saddle me with a prolonged and painful illness, then our conclusion too often…

The Purpose-Driven Life: An Evaluation – Part 2

In my last paper I evaluated Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life, focusing almost entirely on his use, or rather misuse, of Scripture. Far too often Warren plays fast and loose with the Word of God, and he does so in rather innovative ways that are going undetected by many. Let’s continue to examine some examples of Warren’s creative use of Scripture. I Corinthians 2:7 In chapter one, Warren makes several statements with which I would agree. He writes that the Bible “explains what no self-help or philosophy book could know” (p. 20). He then quotes 1 Corinthians 2:7 from The Message paraphrase as support: God’s wisdom… goes deep into the interior of his purposes…. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest – what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us (emphasis mine throughout). Let’s first compare this to a good translation.…

The Purpose-Driven Life: An Evaluation – Part 1

(October 2003 – Volume 9, Issue 10)  In our last paper I identified three relatively recent areas of concern in relationship to the Scriptures. First, there are the new hermeneutical approaches that either emphasize the subjective over the objective interpretation of Scripture, or allow for preunderstanding to be brought to the Word. The result is that the reader sits in judgment over the meaning of the text rather than allowing the Word to speak for itself. Next, I discussed some modern translations that have moved away from a literal philosophy to a dynamic-equivalent approach. I argued that the freer the translation the more interpretation is taking place by the translators, and this often takes place at the expense of the objective meaning of the passage. These two concerns lead naturally to the third. If the reader is free to alter the meaning of the objective biblical text due to his own…

The Lord Told Me – I Think!

(September 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 9)  In a newsletter published by a conservative Baptist denomination, a story is presented concerning one of its members. Deployed in Iraq , this middle aged soldier revealed that often, as he wrestles with problems of various types, “God just reveals the answer to me.” A leader from his church back home also claims to have heard from the Lord. “The Lord told me,” he says, “That this young man is going to be known as a builder, not a destroyer in Iraq .” So far his prophecy seems to have come true for, although the soldier has been involved in combat, his “day job” is to rebuild schools and water treatment plants. Just this week I received an e-mail from a gentleman who wrote, “Jesus has commanded me through the Holy Spirit to teach people how to pray, teach them the truth about their…

The Law and the Christian – Part 2

(June/July 1998 – Volume 4, Issue 6)  If you are like me, occasionally you are unable to fall asleep. When I lose sleep it is usually because my mind is in gear over some matter of concern. It might be family or financial issues, church problems, burdens for people, or deadlines I am facing. I have seldom lost sleep because I was mulling over theological issues — although that would be a more productive use of my time. I mean, which is more important, my understanding of God and Scripture, or how I am going to save for retirement? We know the right answer to a question like that, but as has been said, the urgent often takes precedent over the important. In this vein, how much time have you given to thinking about the place of the Mosaic Law in the life of the believer. While few Christians are lying…

The Law and the Christian – Part 1

(May 1998 – Volume 4, Issue 5) A Tale From Long Ago Once upon a time, in a remote and strange country, lived a young couple. From all outward appearances theirs was a happy marriage. The husband, whose name was Nomos (or Law), was good and righteous — and even holy (Romans 7:12). While his demands were many (613 of them according to his wife) and strict, he could never be accused of acting selfishly or sinfully. In all of his dealings he was perfect. Nomos’s wife, on the other hand, was a different piece of work. Her sole obligation in life was to be obedient to her husband. Her life was simple and straight forward. If she would follow her husband’s demands, her life would be blessed and happy; if on the other hand she rebelled, she would be cursed and miserable (Deuteronomy 11:26ff). With such a choice, any rational…

The History of Think on These Things

(June 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 6)  This past winter Think on These Things Ministries quietly celebrated its 10-year anniversary. As we take time to reflect back over this past decade, we marvel at the many dear and like-minded friends who have partnered with us to ring loud the timeless and uncompromising truths of the precious Word of God. In this month’s edition of Think on These Things we thought it might be enjoyable to share with you the many exciting ways God has used this humble, yet vital outreach ministry of Southern View Chapel for His glory. Front (L to R): Kris Cole, Linda Kestner, Bev Byerline, Esther Rader(Office Staff); Marsha Gilley, Proof ReaderBack (L to R): Doug Kestner, Multimedia; Dave Cunningham,Director of Operations; Don Rader, Editor; Doug Cantrall, Editor;Gary Gilley, General Editor & AuthorNot Pictured: Angie Hodel, Proof Reader   Many of you are aware that Think on These…

The Gospel According to Warren

(July 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 7)  No one has exemplified the market-driven approach better than Rick Warren, pastor of the huge Saddleback Church in southern California and author of The Purpose-Driven Church and The Purpose-Driven Life. While Warren is open and up-front about his philosophy, strategy and methods, nevertheless things are not always as they appear. For example, “purpose-driven” sounds better than “market-driven” but it is basically the same thing. In his book The Purpose-Driven Life, his opening statement is, “It is not about you,” then turns around and writes a whole book about “you.” He belittles pop-psychology then repeatedly promotes it by simply calling it something else. He publicly cuts ties with Robert Schuller, then regurgitates some of the most odious things that Schuller has been teaching for thirty years. He claims commitment to the Scriptures then undermines them at almost every turn. He will tell his followers that…

The Enjoyment of Life, a Gift from God – Part 2

(February 1999 – Volume 5, Issue 2) Introduction Scripture never implies that life is easy. Living with sinful people in a sin-infested world, the actual domain of the father of sin (the devil), should serve as a clue that our journey through this life was not meant to be smooth. As God’s children we will never be at home on the earth; we will never settle down or become too comfortable. But that does not mean that our journey here has to be miserable. The Scriptures often speak of joy and even happiness in this life. The path, however, from the misery that may be ours, to the joy that should be ours, is littered with obstacles. We examined some of those obstacles in our last paper. They included the busyness of life, a herd-mentality, distorted values, the desire to be entertained, people, sin, and wrong attitudes. In this paper…

The Enjoyment of Life, a Gift from God – Part 1

(January 1999 – Volume 5, Issue 1) A Glimpse into the Book of Ecclesiastes No book in the Bible goes deeper in exploring the meaning and purpose of everyday life than the book of Ecclesiastes. There you will find no pious cliches about the ease and simplicity of living. Nor will those who are struggling with questions and perplexities be told that they are living in sin. Rather, Ecclesiastes, like Psalms, encourages careful and honest evaluation of our existence “under the sun.” That kind of evaluation may very well cause us to feel frustrated and disappointed with many things but will ultimately lead us to the only Source of true life. One of the great questions of all time is, “What is life all about?” Does life really have a purpose, or must we be content to just live out our days the best we know how? Os Guiness, in…

Sports and the Christian

(July 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 7)  It is amazing to think that perhaps the most popular song in America today is “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Think about it. During the seventh-inning stretch at nearly every ballpark in the country, millions and millions of fans sing this silly but addictively catchy little song. We all know it. We can all sing it (“for it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the ol’ ballgame!”). Why would such a silly song about a ballgame be so popular? Why does my six-year old daughter know most of the words to that song? Why do grown men and women fumble around with the words to “The Star Spangled Banner” but know every word to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”? The answer to all of these questions is no less than obvious—it is because we live in a global culture that is…

Selling Faith – Values and Ethics

(February 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 2)  In a recent edition of the Reader’s Digest Melinda Henneberger, in an article entitled “Selling Faith,” writes about a rising trend in the mass marketing of “Christian oriented” products. The term “Christian oriented” is defined as anything associated in any way with the Bible or Christian worldview. Christian oriented products include diet books and plans, nutritional supplements, clothing, consumer electronics, and music, all of which purport to be, at least in some way, associated with the God of the Bible. A quick search of the Internet confirms Mrs. Hennberger’s article. Christians can buy Christian video games, hire Christian private investigators, and purchase Christian skin care products. According to an article by Lynn Harris, writing for Salon.com, Christians can even buy goats from a Christian goat breeder, if they should happen to find themselves in the market (Harris, 2005). The plethora of Christian products and…

My Favorite Books – Part 2

(September 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 9)  Last month’s Think on These Things article listed a number of my favorite books in the categories of biography, fiction and Christian living. In this edition we will pick up where we left off, beginning with theology. THEOLOGY David Wells has written three marvelous books that might be defined as practical theology. No Place for Truth is a call for the evangelical church to return to the serious study of theology. God in the Wasteland is centered on the doctrine of God and Losing Our Virtue is Wells’ examination of anthropology. I hope he writes another dozen books in the series. John MacArthur opened a can of worms when he wrote The Gospel According to Jesus and Faith Works. It is my opinion that he somewhat overreacted to easy believism and occasionally overstates his case. However, his position is fundamentally sound and worth studying…

My Favorite Books – Part 1

(August 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 8)  I entered the ministry 31 years ago at the age of 22 with many dreams and goals, most of which were of a nebulous and general nature (e.g. to remain faithful, teach the Word, be devoted to prayer, build a church). I desired to be a diligent student of Scripture, Christian living and the world in which we live. The one specific, measurable goal that I set for myself was to read on average one book per week for the rest of my life. I have made it my habit to spend the first 2 to 3 hours of every day in serious reading, and I seldom go anywhere without a book tucked under my arm. It is surprising how much a person can read while they wait for doctors and such. As a result, by God’s grace, I have been able to come…

Love for an Offensive Gospel

(November 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 11)  Virtually all students of the Scriptures would agree that the church exists for two basic purposes: evangelism and edification. We are called to share the gospel with lost souls (Romans 10:14) and to disciple those who come to Christ (Matthew 28:19). Edification takes place as the local church gathers together to be taught the Word and to minister to one another (Ephesians 4:11-16; I Corinthians 12). Evangelism is to take place in the community as the church scatters (Matthew 28:19, 20; Romans 10:14).

Guilt

(June 2003 – Volume 9, Issue 6)  In Edgar Allan Poe’s masterpiece The Tell-Tale Heart he writes of a man who had committed the perfect murder. Having hidden the body beneath the floor of his home he felt so confident the police, who were interrogating him, would never discover his secret that he seated himself in a chair directly over the place of the corpse. But as the conversation continued, he began to hear a strange pounding noise in his head – then he realized that the noise was coming from beneath the floor exactly where he had buried the body. This was none other than the beating of the dead man’s heart, he was certain, and wondered why no one else noticed the sound. He began to panic in his efforts to cover the pounding. He talked more loudly, cursed, argued, grated his chair on the floor, but the beating…

God’s Will, Lost or Found – Part 5

(February 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 2)  I was recently handed the Fall 2005 catalog of Quaker Books. The promo found in the catalog for the book Creeds and Quakers reads like this: Quaker spiritual authority lies not in belief systems – in creeds – but in the direct communication between individual Friends and the Divine Spirit. All other forms of authority, “be they written words [including Scripture, I would presume] steeple-house or a clerical hierarchy,” cannot replace this direct communion. This is historic Quaker theology in which the “inner light” emanating from the Divine Spirit carries final authority, even over Scripture. While hotly denied by most, I believe that on a realistic basis much of evangelicalism is not only headed the same direction, but is there now. Few if any evangelicals, or even charismatics for that matter, would be as blatant as the Friends. Almost all would place final authority…

God’s Will, Lost or Found – Part 4

(January 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 1)  Earlier papers explained that the subjective, mystical understanding of the Lord’s leading through inner revelations, rather than through Scripture, is not biblically founded. This paper addresses some of the questions that often arise on the subject. Q. Many in the charismatic movement believe that God is speaking today through prophecies and words of knowledge. They insist that such revelation is not in contradiction to the written Word and that it should not be given equal status or added to Scripture. How does this charismatic view of revelation differ from the noncharismatic view of God speaking and leading through hunches and inner voices? A. Not much if any. In essence, a charismatic theology of revelation has been adopted almost completely by the larger evangelical community. What is missed by both groups is that revelation from God, no matter what format or venue, is still revelation…

God’s Will, Lost or Found – Part 3

(December 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 12)  In our discussion of God’s will, the issue is not whether God has a specific plan for our lives. Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” This verse adds a lot of insight into how God wants us to live. The “things revealed,” the Scriptures, have been given to us in order that we might live according to God’s revealed (sometimes called moral) will. But what about the secret things – the things hidden, the things not made known in the Word? Those things belong to God—they are God’s plan, concealed from us. The point is, rather than attempting to penetrate the heavens to search out the hidden mysteries of God, we should concentrate on what…

God’s Will, Lost or Found – Part 2

(November 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 11)  In Dave Swavely’s helpful book, Decisions Decisions, he writes: Many Christians, who would say that they do not believe in new revelation, are essentially seeking new revelation in their decision making. They may have a theology of “cessationism” in their view of revelation, but in their everyday practice they contradict that theology by trying to hear God say something that is not in the Bible. And I would suggest that their theology is right, so they should let it shape their practical living. God is speaking today, but he is speaking through his Word.[1] But can’t we have it both ways? Can’t we have the completed revelation of God in the Bible and extrabiblical revelations, which do not quite approach inspiration, on the side? O. Palmer Robinson suggests that we can’t: And why not both? Why not the illumination of Scripture coupled with new…

God’s Will, Lost or Found – Part 1

(October 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 10)  A prestigious evangelical graduate school asked Professor X to accept a position as dean. In attempting to determine God’s will on the matter, Professor X writes, “While reading Acts 10 in Peterson’s The Message, I read the words, ‘If God said it is okay, it is okay.’ I felt the Lord applying this Scripture to my situation; I knew then that I had permission to go.” A well respected Christian author writes, “When we feel the Master’s hand and hear His voice in our inner chambers, we should follow Him” (emphasis mine). A writer of devotional classics in one of his books, heaped story upon story of the Lord leading through inner impressions and audible voices. He writes, “It is positively exhilarating, and at the same time very humbling, to be in the company of men so intimately acquainted with God that they expect…

Forgiveness – Part 2

(August 2003 – Volume 9, Issue 8)  WHAT TO DO IF FORGIVENESS IS NOT POSSIBLE Racing through our minds at this point may be all the situations in which forgiveness, in the sense described in our previous paper, is not possible. The first scenario concerns a believer, who, despite all of our efforts in compliance with Scripture, refuses to seek forgiveness. The biblical course of action, according to Matthew 18:15-20, would be church discipline. We cannot forgive this person because to do so is a promise to no longer recognize this sin as a barrier between us and them – when clearly the sin is still on the table. A person who has a heart filled with vengeance, bitterness, or resentment, isn’t ready for forgiveness because he is holding onto his sins refusing to confess and forsake them. For such a person the process of church discipline may be necessary. Remember…

Forgiveness – Part 1

(July 2003 – Volume 9, Issue 7)  There is no greater blessing than forgiveness. First and foremost, we need the forgiveness of God because we are sinners. God sent His Son to die on the cross in order that we might obtain this forgiveness. Secondly, many are in great need of giving and receiving forgiveness on a human level. It is this second subject that will be the object of this study. Many are confused concerning forgiveness largely because secular, humanistic ideas and theories, contrary to Scripture, have been widely accepted as truth. Even Christians often buy whatever the world is selling at the moment, attempt to commingle it with some biblical principles and sanctify it with a few out-of-context passages of Scripture. The result is a strange assortment of ideas and philosophies that fall far short of the truth. Christian literature abounds with such unbiblical concepts as forgiving ourselves (impossible…

Fear

(May 2003 – Volume 9, Issue 5)  A salesman driving on a lonely country road one dark and rainy night had a flat. He opened the trunk – no lug wrench. The light from a farmhouse could be seen dimly up the road. He set out on foot through the driving rain. Surely the farmer would have a lug wrench he could borrow, he thought. Of course, it was late at night – the farmer would be asleep in his warm, dry bed. Maybe he wouldn’t answer the door. And even if he did, he’d be angry at being awakened in the middle of the night. The salesman, picking his way blindly in the dark, stumbled on. By now his shoes and clothing were soaked. Even if the farmer did answer his knock, he would probably shout something like, “What’s the big idea waking me up at this hour!” This thought…

Experiencing God – Part 3

(August 1998 – Volume 4, Issue 7)  In a previous Think on These Things (Vol. 3, Issue 8, 9), we warned of certain errant views and teachings of Henry Blackaby and his book Experiencing God. We were recently surprised when David Hunt dismissed these concerns and threw his weight behind Blackaby. This greatly concerns us since on most issues we stand hand-in-hand with Hunt. More importantly, to many people Hunt’s word is law. Therefore, it is highly conceivable that many of Hunt’s 30,000 readers will uncritically read Experiencing God material and/or attend a seminar on the subject, whereby finding themselves taken in with Blackaby’s brand of mysticism and subjectivity. With all of this in mind, we have decided to write a response to Hunt. The following quote is the complete statement as found in The Berean Call, May 1998. Immediately following will be our response to what Hunt has written. The…

Experiencing God – Part 2

(November 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 9)  In our last paper we began dealing with the widely popular teachings of Henry Blackaby in his best selling book, Experiencing God. While we are in agreement with many things Blackaby teaches we have grave concerns about his approach and use of Scripture. We challenged him with distortion of Scripture along three fronts. Last time we highlighted his general misuse of the Word of God. In this paper we will examine Blackaby’s neo-orthodoxy and highly mystical view of Scripture. Neo-Orthodoxy The second front along which we want to challenge Blackaby is that of his neo-orthodox leanings. We need to carefully explain what we mean here. We are not saying that Blackaby is neo-orthodox, he would surely deny this handle and he may know very little about the system. However, this does not mean that he has not been influenced by neo-orthodox teachings. I recently…

Experiencing God – Part 1

(October 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 8)  A pastor who had read some of my writings encouraged me to read Henry Blackaby’s best selling book, Experiencing God. This pastor apparently either thought that Blackaby’s work would compliment my own, or correct my thinking. Either way, I am afraid that I have proven to be a disappointment to my friend. If he felt that I would appreciate and enjoy Experiencing God I have sadly mis-communicated to my readers. The thrust of this book is so foreign to my views of Scripture that I find it incredible that I could be so misunderstood. If so, I repent and vow to try harder to communicate plainly. On the other hand, if my pastor friend thinks that I would be persuaded by Blackaby’s brand of “story-theology” he is sadly mistaken. Blackaby’s book and seminars are representative of much that I detest in so-called evangelicalism today.…

Civil Disobedience and the Believer

(March 1996 – Volume 2, Issue 5)  In an increasingly secularized world it should surprise no one that the values, standards, and the very laws of God are regularly violated. Many things that are “legal” are nevertheless unbiblical — even sinful. In an effort to deal with such issues numerous organizations and movements (e.g. Operation Rescue; American Family Association; Eagle Forum; the Christian Coalition; and the now defunct Moral Majority) have been founded — most attempting to change our society into a more moral place to live. The issue that believers must address is our response to the legalized sins of society, and the demands of a secular government which often contradict Scripture. This study will attempt to provide a Biblical base in order for us to make wise and godly choices in this regard. WHEN IS THE CHRISTIAN OBLIGATED TO BREAK MAN’S LAW? We must first deal with the basic…

Biblical Guidance in Practice

(January 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 1)  A few months ago I wrote a series of papers on the will of God dealing with issues such as finding His will and whether or not He speaks to us today apart from the Scriptures. The position I have taken is one that I would call a full sola Scriptura understanding of the Christian life. This means that God speaks today exclusively through the authoritative, inspired Word which needs no supplementation from any other source. This is not to deny “general revelation” from God’s creation which tells us something of the power and glory of the Creator (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:20). But when it comes to “specific revelation” we do not expect our Lord to speak to us apart from the Scriptures. His guidance is not to be sought in visions, dreams, angels or other supernatural manifestations. Nor are we to look inwardly…

Anger

(May 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 5)  In his autobiography, Number One, Billy Martin tells about hunting in Texas with Mickey Mantle. Mickey had a friend who would let them hunt on his ranch. When they reached the ranch, Mickey told Billy to wait in the car while he checked in with his friend. Mantle’s friend quickly gave them permission to hunt, but he asked Mickey a favor. He had a pet mule in the barn who was going blind, and he didn’t have the heart to put him out of his misery. He asked Mickey to shoot the mule for him. When Mickey came back to the car, he pretended to be angry. He scowled and slammed the door. Billy asked him what was wrong, and Mickey said his friend wouldn’t let them hunt. “I’m so mad at that guy,” Mantle said, “I’m going out to his barn and shoot…

The Word of Faith Movement

(April 1999 – Volume 5, Issue 4)  Word of Faith The fastest growing segment of Christianity today is the Word of Faith Movement, also known as the Positive Confession or simply “Faith” movement. It’s growth is at least partially due to the massive amounts of money the leaders are able to extract from the faithful. This influx of cash allows for huge buildings and extensive ministries, and more importantly, wide exposure on television, which translates into numerical growth. Not only do many Word of Faith preachers broadcast their services and campaigns, but the largest Christian-based television network in the world is owned by Faith adherents, Paul and Jan Crouch. The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), founded by the Crouches, with an estimated net worth of one-half a billion dollars, is capable of televising the Faith message (as well as many other errant messages) all over the world. Well-known personalities within the movement…

The Vineyard Movement – Part 2

(November 1995 – Volume 2, Issue 1)  Last time we dealt with the background and leadership of the Vineyard Movement (VM). In this newsletter we would like to detail the VM’s actual teachings. It would appear that the VM is orthodox in much of its theology. The Trinity, deity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith alone, the inspiration of Scripture, and most other essential doctrines are taught. Therefore many within the Vineyard are not our enemies, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. In addition, we are in agreement with them in most of what they espouse. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned about some of their teachings that we believe are leading many astray. VINEYARD THEOLOGY Below we will discuss briefly some of the Vineyard teachings that trouble us in the light of Scripture: 1) The VM is noncessationist. As we saw in our last newsletter, one of the…

The Vineyard Movement – Part 1

(October 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 12)  Almost everyone has heard of the Vineyard Movement (referred to as VM from this point on) by now, but it seems that few know much about it. It is our intent in this newsletter to get a firm handle on the VM by describing its beginnings, identifying its leaders, and examining its teachings. BACKGROUND The VM is a recent development within Christianity, having been founded in 1982 by John Wimber. The movement has experienced rapid growth with a reported 250 churches and 50,000 members by 1990. Two years later Wimber claimed that those numbers had already doubled (Power Evangelism p92). Its leadership has set a goal of 10,000 churches by the year 2000, and it would appear that they are on target. However, the VM’s influence is even wider than that. For example, on the academic level, professors at several evangelical seminaries have joined…

The Toronto Blessing and the Laughing Revival

(October 1999 – Volume 5, Issue 10)  Something happened on January 10, 1994, at a Vineyard Church near the Pearson International Airport in Toronto, that was unique in the history of Christianity. While some point back to somewhat similar phenomena during the Welsh Revivals, Cane Ridge Revivals (1800-1801), Charles Finney (1800s), and even the Great Awakening (1734-47), all of these pale in comparison to the claims of the “Laughing Revival” that received its energy, if not origin, on that cold day in Canada. Supporters say that on this occasion the Holy Spirit was poured out on that small congregation, resulting in spontaneous, uncontrollable laughter. Thus began a “revival” that continues to this day and has impacted churches throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands of visitors, including thousands of pastors, have attended the services at the Toronto Airport Vineyard (now called the Airport Christian Fellowship) in hopes of catching and transporting the…

The Holiness Movement

(December 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 12)  Pentecostalism was born in the cradle of the Holiness Movement of the nineteenth-century. The Holiness Movement actually traces its roots to John Wesley in the eighteenth-century, who taught sort of a two-tiered salvation. The first tier was conversion or justification, in which one is forgiven and freed from past sins. The second tier was “entire sanctification” which liberated one from their fallen nature, or at least the tendency toward sin. Revivalists, in the early 1800s, such as Asa Mahan (president of Oberlin College) and evangelist Charles Finney advanced Wesley’s theology. They taught “that sinners had the natural ability to believe, and that evangelistic methods could overcome their ‘moral’ inability through the persuasive power of the Gospel.” [1] “Finney and Mahan applied this same understanding to the Christian’s growth toward spiritual maturity…. To be sanctified, they insisted, required only the same kind of simple, instantaneous…

The History of the Charismatics

(March 1999 – Volume 5, Issue 3)  What began in a corner at the turn of the twentieth century is now barreling down main street, with flying colors, at the close of that same century. What was once known as the Pentecostal movement has now splintered into numerous diverse, yet overlapping movements: Pentecostal, Charismatics, Vineyard, Word of Faith, Holy Laughter. The goal of our papers on this subject will be to inform, clarify, document and warn concerning some of the teachings and practices of those claiming to be charismatic (the term we will use, rightly or wrongly, as a generic handle for all the above-mentioned splinter groups). The salvation of the charismatics is not at issue here. We believe many to be born again. Indeed over half of all “evangelicals” plant their spiritual feet in some wing of this movement. On the other hand, we do not assume their salvation either.…

Pentecostalism

(December 1999 – Volume 5, Issue 12)  Pentecostalism has become the fastest growing segment of Christianity. “It is growing at a rate of 13 million a year, or 35,000 a day. With nearly a half billion adherents, it is, after Roman Catholicism, the largest Christian tradition” (Christian History, “The Rise of Pentecostalism,” issue no. 58, vol. XVII no. 2, p.3). In addition, the largest church in the world (the Yoi Do Full Gospel Church) is a Pentecostal church in Korea, pastored by David Yongii Cho, with a weekly worship attendance of 240,000. Two Pentecostal Churches in Buenos Aires attract together 150,000 each week (ibid.). Just who are the Pentecostals, how did they originate and what do they believe? The intent of this paper is to answer these questions. Pentecostal History Most consider the father of Pentecostalism to be Charles Parham, a young college student from Kansas with roots in the Methodist…

Doctrinal Distinctives of the Charismatic Movement – Part 2

(September 1999 – Volume 5, Issue 9)  If, as was demonstrated in our last paper, the gift of tongues has fulfilled the purpose for which it was designed, and therefore has ceased, what is going on today? That is, how do we explain the present day phenomenon of speaking in tongues, if the Holy Spirit is no longer bestowing this gift upon people. What is the origin of speaking in tongues in the modern church? Certainly there is more than one origin. Tongues can be demonic, as is demonstrated by documented tongues-speaking in pagan religions. Tongues can be faked for the purpose of peer-approval. After all, if you attend a church which teaches that speaking in tongues is a sign of spiritual maturity, the pressure to conform could be enormous. My personal opinion is that the majority of tongues-speaking in the modern church is a learned response. In other words, people…

Doctrinal Distinctives of the Charismatic Movement – Part 1

(August 1999 – Volume 5, Issue 8)  The focus of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements has always been centered on shared experiences, not theology. This is especially true of those in the charismatic movement which transcends all denominations. Thus, for example, there are Catholic charismatics, who believe in a sacramental form of salvation, and there are Lutheran charismatics who believe that infant baptism is redemptive, and there are Baptist charismatics who believe they are saved through faith alone. While these three types of charismatics might vary widely in their views of the fundamentals of their faith, what they have in common is an experience — the experience of speaking in tongues. While all charismatics do not personally speak in tongues, all would accept the validity of tongues-speaking. This experience does have a doctrinal framework, of course, which could be expressed in the following two statements: The baptism of the Holy Spirit…

Brownsville Revival – A River Runs Through It

(November 1999 – Volume 5, Issue 11) On Father’s Day I am lucky to get a card from my adoring sons, so you can imagine my chagrin when I found out that on Father’s Day 1995 a church in Pensacola, Florida, got the Holy Spirit. Up until that time the Holy Spirit had apparently been camping out up in Canada (see paper on “The Toronto Blessing”), but for some unknown reason He decided to move South. Since He did, the Brownsville Assembly of God has experienced “Revival.” Four nights per week, 48 weeks per year, services are held, usually with long lines of anxious seekers wanting to get in. Of course the stats keep changing (so fast that the church’s marquee actually is a McDonalds’ type sign that reads “Over ___ souls saved”). But according to the church’s web site (www.Brownsville-revival.org), over 2,660,000 have attended the Revival and 141,387 have made…

Ancient-Future Faith, Its Practices

(July 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 7)  In a recent sermon dealing with the emergent/emerging church, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle and self-described emerging church leader, identified four lanes in which the emergent/emerging movement is traveling. In the first lane are emerging evangelicals who believe in basic Christian doctrine, such as the Bible being God’s Word and Jesus dying for our sins. They also tend to form the “hip, cool church,” according to Driscoll. Pastors who may fall in this category include Dan Kimball and Donald Miller. Without taking much time to debate with Driscoll at this point, I would certainly challenge the notion that Donald Miller is a supporter of basic Christian doctrine. Kimball, on the other hand, does hold to certain doctrinal positions such as the three ancient ecumenical creeds, but would not want to drift much beyond them. Traveling down the second lane are the…

Ancient-Future Faith, Its Beliefs

(August 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 8)  In his most recent book Finding Our Way Again, The Return of the Ancient Practices, Brian McLaren, the most recognizable name in the emergent church movement, signals a shift, or at least a new emphasis within emergent, toward ancient practices of earlier periods of church history. As usual, McLaren believes the church has lost its way due to its refusal to follow God’s leading. The church has become “proud and unteachable” but fortunately a few “humble and teachable” people (guess who?) are pointing out the right path:[1] “When the community of faith realizes it has lost its way, it begins looking forward by looking back…It looks to its ancient practices to help it reset its future course.”[2] This means that the church, in order to find its way again, must look to and adopt the early church (not New Testament church) traditions and rituals,…

Ancient-Future Faith Or Do All Roads Lead to Rome

(June 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 6)  Rumors are starting to circulate that the emergent church movement is running out of steam. After making the biggest splash and the most noise of anything in the Christian community for many years it appears to be approaching exhaustion. Some like Rob Bell and Erwin McManus who are clearly in the “emergent conversation” have denied their involvement. And people seem a bit tired of hearing about postmodernism, its rejection of universal truth and its promotion of relativism. After all, how long can people live questioning the obvious and denying reality? These things play out nicely in philosophy class and in college coffee shops, but have serious limitations in the real world. Maybe it is time for the emergent ship to leave the dock and make way for the next fad. But before we begin to make funeral arrangements for the emergent church it might…

A Matter of Purity

(January 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 1)  As the author of Hebrews begins to wrap up his intensely doctrinal epistle, he makes it clear that doctrine has as its goal the changing of lives. It matters little how much theology you know; it matters little if you write doctrinal treatises on the Melchizedekian priesthood of Jesus Christ; it matters little if you can understand and explain everything in this epistle; if this knowledge does not change your life, it is of little value. What does it matter if I know all of these things and more: If I can’t be kind to my wife and kids at home; if I am in constant battle with people at work; if I am hard to get along with, mean spirited, divisive, easily offended, a gossip or lack concern (Hebrews 13:1-3)? If I can’t live in moral purity or I live for the same…

A Look at Depression Through the Lens of Scripture

(December 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 10) The man sitting before me would not respond to my questions. He sat, motionless, staring at the floor. That he had been under a great deal of stress was a fact known to all who loved him, but that he was this close to the “edge” surprised us all. Soon he would find himself on the psych ward of a local hospital, medicated and undergoing both individual and group counseling. Unfortunately his life would never be the same. He had come to this state of deep (what some would call “clinical”) depression because of unbiblical and sinful choices that he had been making in his life. Even though he would overcome his depression, the counseling he received reinforced and validated these choices. He would ultimately leave his wife and child, drop out of the church and pursue his ungodly lifestyle. Marital problems are the…

A Biblical Screening of Jim Cymbala’s Book, ‘Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire’

(December 1998 – Volume 4, Issue 11) The motivation behind reading this book was both a rave review from an IFCA (Independent Fundamental Churches of America) communiqué (written by Steve Johnson, member of the publication committee), which was also published by the IFCA bulletin service; and an equally positive book review in Voice (the IFCA magazine) by Richard McCarrell. I will quote McCarrell’s review in total, for context: Vance Havner loved telling of two Indians watching the construction of a lighthouse. It was finally completed, and the big day arrived for its opening. As dignitaries gathered, the worst fog of the season blew in. One Indian turned to the other and said, “Light shine, bell ring, horn blow, fog come in just the same.” Vance Havner would then say, “We’ve never had more lights shining, bells ringing, and horns blowing than we have today within the church. Yet, we’ve never had…

Fresh Fire or False Flames

(September 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 10)  Are you ready for the third wave – again? You might recall that, in the 1980s, C. Peter Wagner termed John Wimber’s Vineyard Movement the “Third Wave.” Wagner claimed at the time that the first wave of modern stirrings by the Holy Spirit began at the turn of the century with Pentecostalism. This led to establishing various Pentecostal denominations such as the Assembly of God. The second wave, which started in 1960, was the charismatic movement which brought the power of the Holy Spirit to the major denominations. Then Wagner said, “I see the third wave of the eighties as an opening of the straight-line evangelicals and other Christians to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that the Pentecostals and charismatics have experienced, but without becoming either charismatic or Pentecostal. I think we are in a new wave of something that now has…

The Sovereignty of God – Part 4

(December 2001 – Volume 7, Issue 11) The issue that we have been dancing around for the last several papers, and now must seriously address, has to do with the sovereign nature of God. Our context, so far, has been that of pain, suffering and evil in this world. And while this continues to be a good springboard into our discussion, it certainly does not exhaust the pool of topics and questions emerging from the subject. The broader discussion must include the whole gamut of problems that swirl around the “sovereignty of God” vs. the “freewill of man” debate.