The Road Back To You, an Enneagram Journey to Self Discovery, by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile

The Road Back to You is a primer concerning the latest fad in personality type-casting known as the Enneagram.  According to the authors, the Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system that “helps people understand who they are and what makes them tick” (p. 10). The purpose of the Enneagram is “to develop self-knowledge and learn how to recognize and dis-identify with the parts of our personalities that limit us so we can be reunited with our truest and best selves, that ‘pure diamond, blazing with invisible light of heaven,’ as Thomas Merton said” (p. 24).  The authors continue, “The true purpose of the Enneagram is to reveal to you your shadow side and offer spiritual counsel on how to open it to the transformative light of grace” (p. 31).  In Christian-speak, it is a means of progressive sanctification, a rival to Scripture’s message and method concerning spiritual maturity. The…

How to Bring Your Children to Christ…& Keep Them There by Ray Comfort

Ray Comfort admits that the title of this book is not the best.  No parent is capable of bringing their children to Christ, nor to keep them there, both being a work of God.  Still he chose to stick with the title (p. 13).  Nor does the author turn Proverbs 22:6 into a promise that all children raised in a godly home will turn out great (pp. 7-8), yet he strongly implies that his children did because he and his wife “adhered to certain guidelines and principles from God’s Word” (p. 18), and because they prayed for their children’s salvation (p. 22).  Taken too far these all but guarantee a crisis of faith for parents if their children do not come to Christ, and live for Him. In fairness Comfort is rightly concerned about the danger of false conversions (pp. 14, 23-26, 81-92, 130).  False conversions happen often because children…

Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling: Changing Lives with God’s Changeless Truth, gen. ed., James Macdonald; managing eds., Bob Kellemen & Steve Viars. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2013, 445 pp., $29.99, hardback.

When I first heard about Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling I was not too excited. The list of contributing authors was vast, most of them I had never heard of, and most importantly, some of the contributing authors are associated with groups that are of concern to many in the area of the sufficiency of Scripture. Even so, I tried to approach the book objectively. There are godly men whom I have a great deal of love and respect for who have joined the BCC, and who are included in the long list of authors. Though I still have some concerns with the BCC, I trust the discernment of my friends who support the BCC and have contributed to this work. The BCC has created a sound doctrinal statement and a wonderful confessional statement that all members must sign in agreement to. While it is true in today’s world that people sign…

What Is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom and the Great Commission by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), pp. 283, paper $10.00

The authors contend that determining the mission of the church “is the most confusing, most discussed, most energizing, and most potentially divisive issue in the evangelical church today” (p. 25).  Scot McKnight claims that recent interest in social justice, or what he calls missional “represents the biggest shift in evangelicalism in the last century” (p. 142).  I believe these men are correct.  Much ink has been spilled of late promoting the social agenda and a good book challenging missional thinking—drawing us back to Scripture to carefully analyze such thinking—was needed.  This is that book.  It is well done, carefully researched, scripturally based and extremely practical.  It is also written by the right men.  Both DeYoung and Gilbert are highly respected by the young, Reformed, and restless crowd that is most likely to swallow the missional agenda without much reflection.  If nothing else, What Is the Mission of the Church? should…

The Shack by William P. Young

One of the most popular and controversial Christian books of recent years is the fictional work by first time author William Young. Evangelical recording artist Michael W. Smith states, “The Shack will leave you craving for the presence of God.” Author Eugene Peterson believes “this book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!” On the other hand, seminary president Al Mohler says the book “includes undiluted heresy” and many concur. Given its popularity (number one on the New York Times bestseller list for paperback fiction), influence and mixed reviews, we need to take a careful look. Good Christian fiction has the ability to get across a message in an indirect, non-threatening yet powerful, way. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is the most successful in the genre and has been mightily used of the Lord to teach spiritual truth. What determines…

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…

The Enneagram Goes to Church, Wisdom for Leadership, Worship, and Congregational Life by Todd Wilson

Todd Wilson, former senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church and currently president of the Center for Pastor Theologians, is perhaps best known for his book The Pastor Theologian, which he coauthored with Gerald Hiestand.  In that volume, (see my review here – https://tottministries.org/?s=the+pastor+theologian) Wilson emphasized the need for pastors to be serious theologians. The Center for Pastor Theologians was established to promote this emphasis and, while my review of the book reveals some differences, overall I applauded (and still do) the importance he places on the role of pastors as theologians. Therefore it was with considerable consternation that I discovered that a man who had placed so much stress on doctrine had written a book celebrating the trendy, pseudo-psychological, personality typing system – the Enneagram. I have written at length about the Enneagram exposing its cultic, even occultic, origin, lack of any scientific validity, its hopeless complexity, and its overall…

The Enneagram Part 2

Volume 26, Issue 3, June/July 2020 In the first article on this subject, I began by developing a case for biblical authority and sufficiency, stating that anything that attempts to by-pass Scripture as the source of truth for Christian living is deficient and should be viewed with suspicion at best.  Any system which claims to offer a pathway to either salvation or sanctification, which is not derived directly and completely from the Word of God, is a fallacy.  Not only are such systems to be avoided (2 Tim 2:16; 3:5), they should be exposed (Jude 3-26).  The Enneagram is just such a system. In the first article I also addressed the origins of the Enneagram, its modern face and what it proposes to accomplish, which is self-knowledge and a deeper relationship with both self and God. In this paper we will revisit the origins, identify some popular promoters, briefly explain…

Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret, by Don & Joy Veinot and Marcia Montenegro

One of the rapidly growing fads within evangelicalism is the Enneagram of Personality. The Veinots, who lead the discernment ministry, Midwest Christian Outreach, joined by Marcia Montenegro, former New Ager, who ministers through Christians Answers for the New Age, have decided to address this movement. Their conclusions expose the Enneagram as emerging from occult and mystical sources, lacking biblical foundation, and spreading numerous errant theological views, including a false gospel and defective means of sanctification. This small volume is not a detailed study of the Enneagram. Only in the first chapter is much attention given to the Enneagram as a system, and only on page 40 is an attempt made to detail the meaning behind the nine types that make up the Enneagram. Rather, the contribution made by the authors focuses mainly on the origins, the promoters and the unbiblical claims made by supporters of the Enneagram. Concerning the origins,…

The Enneagram – Part 1

Volume 26, Issue 2, April/May 2020 If you have not heard of the Enneagram yet, you will soon.  According to Wikipedia it “is a model of the human psyche which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. As a typology the Enneagram defines nine personality types (sometimes called “enneatypes”), which are represented by the points of a geometric figure called an enneagram, which indicate connections between the types. The Enneagram of Personality has been widely promoted in both business management and spirituality contexts through seminars, conferences, books, magazines, and DVDs. In business contexts it is generally used as a typology to gain insights into workplace interpersonal-dynamics; in spirituality it is more commonly presented as a path to higher states of being, essence, and enlightenment. Both contexts say it can aid in self-awareness, self-understanding and self-development.” The Enneagram figure or diagram looks like the following. Before I jump into the midst of the fire swirling around the…

Five Things Biblical Scholars Wish Theologians Knew

Scot McKnight’s companion book with Five Things Theologians Wished Biblical Scholars Knew is almost as disturbing as the first. Hans Boersma, the author of the volume mentioned above, comes fully equipped with Anglo-Catholic, mystical, and liberal credentials, but McKnight is a card-carrying evangelical. This renders the work under review even more disappointing than the latter book, if that’s possible. That said, there are features of Five Things Biblical Scholars Wish Theologians Knew that are of value. The “five things” on McKnight’s list are that theology needs a constant return to Scripture, needs to know its impact on biblical studies, needs historically shaped biblical studies, needs more narrative, and needs to be lived. The author set the agenda by writing, “The fundamental starting point is that we Bible folks think systematicians sometimes get a bit too far from Scripture” (p. 13). The rest of the book explores the five items mentioned…

Best Books

Volume 28, Issue 2, February 2022 Much of my life and ministry has been devoted to reading and study. Fortunately, the Lord has instilled in me a great love for such endeavors although, to be honest, I have managed to put undue pressure on myself to meet self-imposed goals which often rob me of some of the joys of reading. For example, no one required me, on the first day of full-time pastoral ministry, to make it my aim to read, on the average, one book per week for the rest of my life. And no one, some twenty years ago, asked me to write reviews of most of these books as I read them. But looking back over the 2,500+ books read and the approximately 800 Christian books reviewed, I am glad that I made such an effort. I trust my reading a wide range of topics, excellent books…

The Battle for God – Part 3

Volume 28, Issue 1, January 2022 While debates concerning the nature of God can be traced throughout church history, often resulting in creeds such as Nicene (381), which established a standard of theological orthodoxy, battle lines in recent years have been drawn over the issue of submission of the Son to the authority of the Father. Those calling themselves classical theists maintain that the Son was subordinate to the Father only during His incarnation.  Others, sometimes termed theistic mutualists, believe that the Son has eternally submitted to the Father; yet in no way is this submission a sign of inferiority.  Their position has been labeled the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS), or the Eternal Functional Submission of the Son (EFS), and more recently Eternal Roles of Authority and Submission (ERAS).  Since much mudslinging between the classicalists and the mutualists has occurred, and since most Christians are unaware of the…

Racism and Critical Race Theory Part 2, Social Unrest

Volume 27, Issue 2, February 2021 In Part One of this series on racism and Critical Race Theory (CRT), we examined the current conversation, including many of the terms now in vogue, to try to get a handle on the worldview of critical theory.  As stated at the close of that article, once a person accepts CRT, it becomes the lens through which he or she views and understands all social justice issues, and in many ways all of life in Western culture.  According to critical theory, only the woke will be able to grasp the meaning of racism, intersectionality, whiteness, and all related concerns, and only by becoming woke is there hope for our society and churches.  We need to shine the light of Scripture on these theories in order to discern whether they are congruent with the Word of God. But before doing so, it would be instructive…

Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, How the Church Needs to Rediscover Her Purpose by Aimee Byrd

Aime Byrd is known as the housewife theologian. She is popular conference speaker, a prolific author with several books to her credit and, until the publication of this book, co-host of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals podcast Mortification of Spin.  Her earlier work, No Little Women, made some valuable contributions concerning women and their ministries, but even there I registered some concerns in my review (http://tottministries.org/?s=little+women). Byrd takes several steps forward, or backward, depending on your perspective, in her understanding of women’s “role” (a word she detested and claims is unbiblical) in the church and within ministry. As a member of an Orthodox Presbyterian church, she still maintains that ordination and preaching within the local church is reserved for males (p. 121), but views virtually all other ministries, both within the church and through parachurch organizations, are accessible to qualified Christian women. As a matter of fact, Byrd’s primary focus…

Biblical Discernment in Christian Literature

Volume 26, Issue 4, August/September 2020 Biblical discernment today, if not at an all-time low, is surely bumping along at the bottom of the pond, and nowhere is that more evident than in Christian literature.  Most people, if a book or blog post is written by a credentialed Christian author, and published by at least a semi-respected Christian publishing house, let down their guard and accept unquestionably whatever is disseminated. This is true not only of the average believer but also of many in leadership. For example, Subversive Sabbath, the Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World by A. J. Swoboda, won Christianity Today’s 2019 Book of the Year award in the spiritual formation category, and thus would presumably represent spirituality as understood by mainstream evangelicalism today. Written by a pastor/seminary professor, the book’s strength lies in its reminder that the believer needs rest as grounded in the Sabbath…

One Foundation, Essays on the Sufficiency of Scripture

One Foundation was published as a tribute to John MacArthur’s verse-by-verse Bible teaching for 50 Years. Thirteen authors each write a chapter, not in praise of MacArthur but in praise and defense of biblical inspiration, infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency. R.C. Sproul writes the lead article providing foundational definitions and necessary background. Voddie Baucham follows with an excellent chapter on why we can believe the Bible. The Grace to You staff inserted a classic study by MacArthur himself, exegeting Psalm 19:7-9. They consider it, “the best discourse on the sufficiency of Scripture we have seen since the Puritan Era” (p. v). That might be a stretch but, nevertheless, it is an excellent exposition of the Psalm and its praise of God’s Word. I deeply appreciated Steven Lawson’s teaching on 2 Timothy 1:13 (pp. 91-104), and Mark Dever’s overview of Psalm 119 is a marvelous example of solid biblical teaching in broad…

The Enneagram, A Christian Perspective, by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert

As I write this review I am in the process of using The Enneagram, A Christian Perspective as a primary sourcebook for a larger article on the Enneagram; reference to that article will reveal further insights into this particular book. Written in 1989 under the title of Discovering the Enneagram: An Ancient Tool for a New Spiritual Journey, and somewhat revised for this printing, Rohr’s and Ebert’s work is foundational for a modern understanding of the Enneagram.  Originally, the authors believed the Enneagram system was derived from medieval Islamic (Sufi) sources, but by this printing, they trace its beginning to the Christian desert fathers and mothers, primarily to Evagrius Ponticus (d. 399) and the Franciscan Blessed Ramon Lull (1236-1315) (p. ix). Its roots may even go back to pre-Christian times (p. xi) and finds common ground in mysticism which resides in many major religions (p. xii). This is because “all…

It Is Time to Kiss the Church Hello

(Volume 25, Issue 5, September/October 2019) By now the details about Josh Harris’s divorce and apostasy is old news and every cheesy pun associated with his best-selling book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, has been trotted out ad nauseam. I thought I would attempt a positive pun instead,–“It is time to kiss the church hello,”–because I think ultimately the focus is on the wrong issue.  Follow my musings for a moment. Harris experienced the world of evangelical celebrity at a very young age.  As a youth he assisted his parents in their leadership in the homeschooling movement, traveling to home school conferences and selling his father’s materials.  Still, in his teens, Josh was speaking at these conferences and produced a magazine for homeschoolers called New Attitude.  At the ripe old age of 21, he published his signature book, which not only sold over a million copies but also launched a movement…

Social Justice: Modern Roots and Promoters

(Volume 25, Issue 1, February 2019/March 2019) As we attempt to evaluate the social justice movement,[1] especially in light of the debates within evangelicalism surrounding the publication of The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel, it would be helpful to trace its roots.  The emphasis on social justice that is now all but omnipresent within Christianity did not appear out of thin air; there are predecessors and forerunners who have paved the way for comingling of the biblical gospel with a social agenda producing a hybrid gospel and mission for the church.  In two earlier TOTT papers, “The Social Gospel” Parts 1&2,[2] the development of the 19th century Social Gospel movement which led to theological liberalism was detailed. In those articles, it was documented that German rationalism, higher criticism, Enlightenment and Romanticist thought were interlaced and embraced by first European and later American Protestantism. When the dust had settled,…

Social Justice

(Volume 24, Issue 6, December 2018/January 2019) Of the hot-button issues circulating right now, in both society and the church, nothing has drawn more interest and debate than social justice. In society at large much unrest and controversy is evident particularly in regards to three areas.  First, there are the interrelation concerns, expressed most clearly in the #MeToo movement, which is an effort directed at the alleviation of sexual harassment and assault, primarily targeting women. Next are the debates involving human sexuality, especially LGBTQ items.  Finally, matters of race and ethnicity have surged afresh in recent years.  As these concerns filter down to the church, to a certain extent the response of God’s people is clear. The Scriptures powerfully condemn all forms of immorality, sexual misconduct, and abuse.  Sadly, the church has not been totally spared the accusations of sexual misconduct, with a number of high profile leaders recently being…

Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutics – Part 2

(Volume 24, Issue 5, October/November 2018) As stated in Part One of this series, redemptive-historical (RH), or Christocentric hermeneutics, is becoming increasingly popular, especially within Reformed and Covenantal theological circles. In short, RH is the idea that all of Scripture speaks of Christ.  This does not mean that Christ is found under every rock but that all Scripture concerns Christ. The Bible should be read through the lens of Jesus and Christ should be preached from every text.  Christ and His redemption plan, therefore, become the rubric through which all Scripture is to be interpreted and preached. In the previous paper I challenged these assertions, pointing out that once we accept this hermeneutical system the exegete no longer uncovers the meaning of the original authors (both human and Divine), but now imposes upon the text a forced meaning that is often not there and not intended.  To be sure, a…

Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutics Part 1

(Volume 24, Issue 4, August/September 2018) Redemptive-historical hermeneutics (RH), sometimes called Christocentric hermeneutics, has gained a lot of traction in recent years, almost exclusively within Reformed circles. It is the interpretive system used by those embracing Liberate Sanctification and is important to understand in light of recent TOTT papers on that subject.  RH is also accepted by a broader spectrum of theologians, many of whom reject Liberate Theology, but to my knowledge virtually all would be adherents of Covenantal Theology.  It seems to have emerged, in its modern form, from Reformed churches in the Netherlands in the 1940s in an attempt to understand how the narrative and historical sections of the Old Testament should be understood and preached. It appears to be a reaction to those who viewed the stories and individuals within Scripture as merely examples to imitate or shun.  Instead the RH founders saw these narratives, and in…

Sanctification Debates Part 3

(Volume 24, Issue 3, June/July 2018) In this concluding article on sanctification debates centered around what is often termed Liberate Theology (LT), and at other times the “grace model” or “monergistic” sanctification, the goal is to evaluate the basic teachings behind this model through the lens of Scripture. That is, are the teachings of LT consistent with NT Scriptures or do they present a view of sanctification that is out of balance?  Have the key leaders of the movement overreacted to perceived views of Christian growth found within evangelicalism leading to legalism and pietism?  Are the common theological views held by most evangelicals throughout the church age, which understand that spiritual maturity is made possible through the energy and power of the Holy Spirit, as the believer cooperates through use of means given by the Lord, application of truth and obedience to the directives found in the Scriptures, in error?…

Sanctification Debates Part 2

(Volume 24, Issue 2, April/May 2018) Liberate Theology (LT), as we saw in Part 1 of this series, is a method of sanctification which focuses on what its teachers call the indicatives of Scripture, rather than the imperatives. Indicatives are statements of fact, in this case facts related to Christ and the gospel. The Christian is to rest in the facts of the gospel, the finished work of Christ. “Done” is the key word. The imperatives are the commands and instructions found in Scripture, in this case, those related to issues of Christian growth and maturity. These are the “shoulds,” the commandments given to the believer found within inspired Revelation. Those who believe that the Scriptures indicate there are certain imperatives given to the saints, imperatives that are to be followed if the child of God is to mature in their faith, are often labeled by the LT crowd as…

Sanctification Debates Part 1

(Volume 24, Issue 1, January-March 2018) Throughout church history the issue of sanctification, how Christians change, grow and mature, has been hotly debated.  Those who cling to the Reformed position on salvation, that is, salvation is a gift of God based completely on His grace (sola gratia), received entirely by faith in Christ alone (sola Christos), totally apart from our merits (sola fide) have not always agreed on how the saved, regenerated individual “work[s] out [their] salvation” (Phil 2:12).  Until recently most have concurred that spiritual growth, or fruitfulness, is an inevitable result of our new nature and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  Certainly, such maturity was uneven and depended on many factors, but regeneration was sure to produce some evidence of spiritual change.  But today this commonly held belief has been challenged on two fronts.  Before we delve into these, a short review of other positions on…

The New Apostolic Reformation An Examination of the Five-Fold Ministries Part 2

( Volume 23, Issue 5, September/October 2017) Having surveyed the foundation of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and some of its theological distinctives in the first part of this article, we will now press on to investigate its infiltration into wider evangelical circles. We will then put the teachings of NAR to the test of Scripture. Infiltration The influence of NAR has become broader, and therefore more dangerous, as many of its ideas are being accepted by traditionally non-charismatic churches and organizations.  This acceptance is due to a number of factors. Bethel, Hillsong and IHOP music has found enthusiastic reception in churches, youth ministries and among young adults throughout the evangelical spectrum. Many have no understanding of the teachings of NAR and no concept of what it is. Influential NAR teachers and books are making in-roads into evangelical circles. Due to rampant biblical illiteracy and general apathy toward Scripture and theology,…

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 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…

He That Is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer

He That Is Spiritual is a classic book on spirituality that has shaped the Christian community’s thinking for almost 100 years. Much solid teaching on the ministry of the Holy Spirit and how it applies to the believer is found on its pages. Chafer devotes a chapter each to the filling of the Spirit, not grieving the Spirit, not quenching the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit. He concludes with a chapter detailing issues surrounding salvation and practical steps to take in applying all that has been taught. However, Chafer’s teachings are not without controversy. The three principle ones are: The existence of a carnal Christian. Drawing principally from I Corinthians 3, Chafer sees three clear classes of humanity: The natural, the spiritual and the carnal. The natural man is the unbeliever, the spiritual person is the one who is filled and walking in the Spirit. The carnal Christian is…

Twelve Steps in the Wrong Direction

(Volume 22, Issue 1, Jan/Feb 2016)A Biblical View of Codependency and Alcoholics Anonymousby Gary E. Gilley and M. Kurt GoedelmanA 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. GilleyThose 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 be codependent.A DEFINITION OF CODEPENDENCYIn…

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…

The King James Only Controversy by James R. White. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1995. 286 pp. $15.00 (paper).

James R. White, an elder at Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church and Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, has written several apologetic books, includingIs the Mormon My Brother, The Roman Catholic Controversy, and What’s With the Dudes at the Door. In The King James Only Controversy, White seeks to “oppose those who would force others to use the KJV or risk God’s wrath for allegedly questioning His Word,” (p. VI). He explains his motivation for writing in the Introduction: It is very important to understand the motivation behind this book. This book is not being written to push one particular translation of the Bible over another. There is no desire to get everyone to read the NASB, or the NIV, or the NKJV, or the RSV, or any other “modern” translation. On the other hand, I am not in any way seeking to stop those who use the KJV from reading…

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…

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, by Hannah Whitall Smith (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1952) 248 pp., paper $5.99

Considered a classic by many, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life was written by Hannah Whitall Smith in 1875. Smith was a Quaker at the time but had imbibed the Holiness Movement and the teachings of the so-called Higher Life Movement often associated with the Keswick Convention. Unknown to many of her admirers, both then and now, was the fact that Smith’s personal life was a mess, with serious marital and parental issues. Doctrinally she ultimately moved into universalism and came later to doubt her own Higher Life teachings (see www.PFO.org/hwsmith). As for the book that made Smith a celebrity, it has sold millions of copies and is still popular today, perhaps because of the implied promise in the title. There is much in The Christian’s Secret that is orthodox and biblically sound, but the controlling theme is not. Smith taught a “let-go and let God” form of Christianity…

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…

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…

The New Calvinism Considered by Jeremy Walker (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2013) 126 pp., paper $7.99

In barely over 100 pages of reading text, Jeremy Walker, a particular (Calvinistic) Baptist pastor from England, has provided an excellent, irenic, but critical, overview of New Calvinism. The author defines New Calvinism as “the resurgence of certain central aspects of Calvinistic doctrine within conservative evangelicalism, though it is usually associated with other convictions and actions that do not immediately derive from the teaching and example of John Calvin and others of similar faith and life” (pp. 8-9). Others have described the New Calvinists as Reformed Charismatics or “Young Restless and Reformed.” It is a highly influential movement, especially among young adults. Walker is trying to demonstrate both the positive and the concerning aspects of this movement, and he does an excellent job at both. While admitting that new Calvinism is not monolithic (p. 17), Walker nevertheless offers five characteristics that are typical: a belief in the sovereignty of God…

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…

Dangerous Calling, Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, by Paul David Tripp (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 227 pp., Hardcover $22.99)

Paul Tripp, who has ministered as a pastor, seminary professor, counselor, conference speaker and author, is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. With this wide range and depth of ministry as a backdrop, Tripp is certainly one who would understand well the dangers of the pastorate. Having talked with thousands of pastors throughout the world, as well as examining his own experience, Tripp knows how easy it is to fall into various traps that can greatly diminish, or even destroy, the servant of God. He has written Dangerous Calling to warn about and evaluate those traps and prescribe a biblical solution. He calls this work a diagnostic book “written to help you take an honest look at yourself in the heart- and life-exposing mirror of the Word of God” (p. 11). More specifically Tripp says…

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

(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…

Dreams and Visions, Muslims’ Miraculous Journey to Jesus by Rick Kronk (Italy: Destiny Image Europe, 2010), pp. 185, paper $11.69.

It is widely reported today that many Muslim people are coming to Christ as a direct result of dreams and visions apparently given to them by the Lord.  Rick Kronk, who has spent 20 years ministering to Islamic people, believes these reports are legitimate and has written this book in an attempt to prove his thesis. Kronk begins his book with a story of one Muslim who was converted through dreams.  This is followed by a brief but helpful chapter on the history of Islam and an overview of its core doctrinal beliefs.  Kronk offers a 2009 report claiming that there are now 1.57 billion Muslims in the world or 23% of the world’s population (p. 31).  Without question Islam has caught the attention of the world and its influence is undeniable.  Yet the author believes many Muslims are also coming to salvation these days and, of the ones who…

How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-five Difficult Steps by Christian Smith (Cascade Books, 2011), 205 pp., paper $24.00

Christian Smith, a self-confessed former evangelical and professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, was accepted into full communion of the Catholic church in 2010 (p. 2).  He writes this book not as a “theological treatise, nor an apologetic argument for Catholicism” but as a “how to book” (p. 3).  He offers 95 steps that will lead evangelicals back to Catholicism. In order to draw evangelicals to Catholicism he must first vilify evangelicalism which he does throughout the book.  He in fact identifies many true flaws in the evangelical sub-culture, but in doing so he grossly over-generalizes, misrepresents, and makes groundless accusations.  He characterizes evangelicals as stupid (see pp. 77-78), mindless followers of the herd, who if they would only come to their senses would all head toward Catholicism immediately. The discerning reader wants to cry out about every third page that what Smith writes is simply not…

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…

Sanctuary of the Soul, Journey into Meditative Prayer by Richard J. Foster. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2011, 166 pp. Paper $16.00

Sanctuary of the Soul is published by the formatio arm of InterVarsity Press which is dedicated to producing books promoting spiritual formation and mysticism.  The Sanctuary of the Soul adds virtually nothing to Foster’s previous works all the way back to his Celebration of Discipline written in 1978.  He still draws from the same sources of Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Quaker mystics:  Teresa of Avila (p. 29, 38, 78-79, 152), St John of the Cross (p. 81), Thomas Kelly (p. 33), Agnes Sanford (pp. 121, 141, p. 43), Francis de Sales (p. 38), George Fox (p. 34, 54), Henry Nouwen (pp. 42-43), St. Benedict (p. 46, 90), Thomas Merton (pp. 61, 131, 135), Evelyn Underhill (pp. 62, 105), Mother Teresa (pp. 66, 134), Kierkegaard (pp. 66, 144), Madame Guyon (pp. 73-75) and St. Francis (p. 135).  It is from these “masters of the spiritual life” (p. 36) that Foster draws…

No More Christian Nice Guy, by Paul Coughlin (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2005) 224 pp, paper $13.99

Paul Coughlin has recognized a real problem that exists in the Christian community and indeed throughout Western society.  In the last couple of generations men have lost what it means to be men.  In general, some men err on the side of aggressiveness while others become passive, even doormats in order to avoid conflict and trouble (pp. 83, 139, 217-218).  It is the latter group that Coughlin targets, calling for masculine men who are neither passive nor aggressive but assertive (p. 93).  The catalyst for the author’s concern is his own life as a passive, Christian Nice Guy (CNG) stemming from his abusive home life and his training in the church.    Coughlin believes it is time for a new approach—one that he believes has not been in much use for 2,000 years (p. 27).  The back cover tells us “John Eldredge gave men permission to be ‘Wild at Heart.’  Paul…

Grace Is for Sinners by Serena Woods

Grace Is for Sinners tells the story of Serena Woods.  Woods’ childhood was nothing short of horrific which led to many of her tragic choices.  But by God’s grace she came to Christ as a young woman and according to her testimony was growing rapidly in the Lord.  She married, had an aspiring career as an actress and a sweet life.  Then in three weeks she had an affair with her best friend’s husband, became pregnant and her world fell apart.  But this book is not so much about her failures as about her perceived failure of Christian friends toward her during this period in her life.  The book is poorly written with a huge number of broken sentences, wrong punctuation and incomplete thoughts which are all very distracting.  But I see at least two positives.  First, Woods seems sincere in her efforts to convince God’s people to extend grace…

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…

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…

The King James Only Controversy by James R. White

James R. White, an elder at Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church and Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, has written several apologetic books, including Is the Mormon My Brother, The Roman Catholic Controversy, and What’s With the Dudes at the Door.  In The King James Only Controversy, White seeks to “oppose those who would force others to use the KJV or risk God’s wrath for allegedly questioning His Word,” (p. VI).  He explains his motivation for writing in the Introduction: It is very important to understand the motivation behind this book. This book is not being written to push one particular translation of the Bible over another. There is no desire to get everyone to read the NASB, or the NIV, or the NKJV, or the RSV, or any other “modern” translation. On the other hand, I am not in any way seeking to stop those who use the KJV from…

The Spirit of Disciplines by Dallas Willard

Reviewed by Bob DeWaay Published by Twin City FellowshipCritical Issues CommentaryP.O. Box 26127 St. Louis Park, MN 55426 Practices called “spiritual disciplines” that are deemed necessary for “spiritual formation” have entered evangelicalism. Recent encounters with this teaching narrated to me by friends caused me to investigate these practices. The first experience involved my friend and co-worker Ryan Habbena who went back to seminary to finish his masters degree. Here is his experience in his own words: I recently took a seminary course on the book of Luke. It was a summer intensive and was one of only two classes being offered at the time. About midway through the week, while the class was steeped in trying to discern the intent and significance of the book of Luke, we began to hear the echoes of mystic chanting coming through the walls. As it turned out, the other class being offered was…

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 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…

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…

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 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 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 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…

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 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…

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…

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 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…

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…

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…

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 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 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…

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 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…

The DaVinci Deception by Erwin W. Lutzer

Twenty-five years ago I read Elaine Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels in order to understand the inroads made by Gnosticism in early church history. The seeds of Gnosticism can be found in the first century, although the full-blown system would not develop until the second century. At the time I was studying this early enemy of Christianity, little did I know that within a few years Gnosticism would mount a major resurgence. That very few could identify any of the teaching of Gnosticism, or even define it, is irrelevant. Gnosticism has sneaked in the backdoor of our culture’s consciousness and nowhere more effectively than in Dan Brown’s novel, The DaVinci Code. The DaVinci Code is a full-scale attack on the person of Jesus and, in turn, the Christian faith. To diminish the effects of this attack Erwin Lutzer has written a helpful little book giving, as he says, “Credible answers to…

Ancient—Future Faith by Robert E. Webber

The thesis of Webber’s book, well represented by the title, is “you can best think about the future of the faith after you have gone back to the classical tradition” (p. 7). Webber does not want to reinvent the Christian faith, he just wants to “carry forward what the church has affirmed from its beginning” (p. 17). Six stages of church history are identified: ancient (classical) (100-600), medieval (600-1500), Reformation (1500-1750), modern (1750-1980), and postmodern (1980- ). The current postmodern era is, in a sense, a return to an ancient stage, which Webber sees as the most pure form of Christianity. He writes, “It may be said broadly that the story of Christianity moves from a focus on mystery in the classical period, to institution in the medieval era, to individualism in the Reformation era, to reason in the modern era, and now, in the postmodern era, back to mystery”…

Journaling as a Spiritual Practice by Helen Cepero

Helen Cepero, seminary professor and director of spiritual formation at North Park Theological Seminary, has written this book as part of InterVarsity Press’ Formatio Books. Formatio is a division of IVP dedicated to the promotion of the ancient traditions of the church to aid in spiritual formation (Spiritual formation is a channel through which contemplative practices are entering the church). For those acquainted with this language, you will recognize that IVP is introducing and repackaging the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions drawn not from Scripture but from the ideas of people. This type of “spiritual formation” has become immensely popular since Richard Foster wrote The Celebration of Discipline about three decades ago. Since then, and more so recently, the Christian community has been flooded with the call to return to ancient practices and traditions. Journaling as a Spiritual Practice is one such call, this time to the discipline of…

Hearing God’s Voice by Henry and Richard Blackaby

Hearing God’s Voice is virtually a rehash of Henry Blackaby’s earlier work, Experiencing God. The thesis of both books is that “God created us for fellowship with him. He desires an intimate, personal relationship with us, so he will speak to us” (p. 15)! It is the last phrase of the above quotation which has become the trademark of Blackaby’s ministry. He has perhaps done more to promote subjective, mystical (nonclassical) Christian living than any modern noncharismatic leader. He co-authored this book with his son Richard and together they teach, “There is nothing more important in life than understanding when God is speaking to you” (p. 264). They have intimidated people into believing that if they are not hearing from God on a regular basis it is probably because of sin in their lives (p. 264). The Blackabys support their ideas through a combination of out-of-context Scriptures, personal experiences, historical…

Desiring God & The Pleasures of God by John Piper

Desiring God and The Pleasures of God are two quite excellent books that come from the mind and heart of John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. I am somewhat unfamiliar with Piper’s wider ministry and so I am not in a position to comment on that, but regarding these two books there is much commendable to be said. Piper takes a different approach to God, and our relationship with Him, than does anyone that I have ever read. While Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, Packer’s Knowing God, and Pink’s The Attributes of God are must reads, Piper’s works add a new dimension: what he calls “Christian hedonism.” What Piper means by Christian hedonism is that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” He opens Desiring God with a great thesis statement that controls the rest of the volume: “This is…

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

The strange name of this autobiographical tale borrows from Miller’s appreciation of the free-spirit characteristic of jazz music. As jazz music is almost impossible to score, being the language of the soul, so Miller sees the Christian life as the meanderings of the soul with few boundaries, rules or restrictions. Christian spirituality is “music birthed out of freedom. Everybody sings their song the way they feel it, everybody closes their eyes and lifts up their hands” (p. 239). Actually, I think Miller could have more accurately named his book after another analogy he used, “A Guide without a Map.” While traveling with a friend he resented his friend’s constant reference to the roadmap, even as he admitted that the alternative was to get lost. Spiritually, Miller prefers to travel—even proposes to guide others, without a map. We could admit that jazz music may float freely from the soul and still…

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…

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 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 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 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…

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…

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 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…

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…

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…

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 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…

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…

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…

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…