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...

Has the Church Replaced Israel? A Theological Evaluation by Michael J. Vlach

Michael Vlach, professor of theology at The Master’s Seminary, addresses thoroughly and with clarity one of the major debates within conservative evangelical theology: Has the church replaced Israel?  “The position that the church is the ‘new’ or ‘true’ Israel that replaces or fulfills national Israel’s place in the plan of God has often been called ‘replacement theology’, or ‘supersessionism’ (p. 1).” More recently, some have argued for the title “fulfilment theology” as well (p. 1).  The main issue the book analyzes is the biblical case for supersessionism.  Vlach identifies three forms of supersessionism (pp. 12-17): Punitive or retributive: due to Israel’s disobedience, God has punished the nation by displacing them as the people of God. Economic: it was God’s eternal plan to transfer Israel’s role as the people of God to the church when it was established. Structural: when Scripture is not read through Jewish eyes, and the NT...

The Checklist Manifesto, How to Get Things Right By Atul Gawande

Despite our vast knowledge in virtually every area of life, Gawande believes we are still deeply prone to failure.  He believes many such failures could be overcome (and, conversely, much success obtained) through a simple but often ignored tool, the checklist.  He writes: That means we need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the inevitable human inadequacies.  And there is such a strategy though it will seem almost ridiculous in its simplicity, maybe even crazy to those of us who have spent years carefully developing ever more advanced skills and technologies.  It is a checklist (p. 13). Gawande supports his conviction through the use of interesting, true accounts drawn from several areas: medicine (chapters 1, 2, 5, 7 and 8), aviation (chapter 6 and pp. 32-34, 173-182), construction (chapter 3), national disasters (chapter 4), factories (chapter 6), and investments (chapter...

Christianity Explored, What’s the Best News You’ve Ever Heard? (Leader’s Handbook 4th Edition)

This handbook accompanies a student manual and is designed to lead a small group of unbelievers on a seven-week study through the Gospel of Mark.  Attention is focused on three threads that are traced throughout the Gospel.  The identity of Jesus is examined during the first two sessions; the mission of Jesus, what He set out to achieve, is the subject of sessions three through five; finally Jesus’ call to us is explored in sessions six and seven. The Leader’s Handbook begins by providing necessary information to prepare the leaders of the study, guiding them through each session with discussion questions, suggested answers to those questions, and biblical insights.  Each of the studies is broken into four sections: Explore – in which the Bible is read together and examined. Listen – via watching a downloadable video and taking notes on the material given. Discuss – where some of the...

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...

Faith Alone, the Doctrine of Justification What the Reformers Taught…and Why It Still Matters by Thomas Schreiner

Thomas Schreiner, professor of New Testament at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, contributes this volume on Sola Fide to the 5 Solas Series, published by Zondervan and edited by Matthew Barrett.  The book is broken down into three parts, the first being a “Historical Tour of Sola Fide.”  This is an excellent overview of how the Church Fathers, the Roman Catholic church, the Reformers and Puritans, as well as Edwards and Wesley, understood justification.  Schreiner defines justification as “being right before God.  Justification, then, refers to how we attain righteousness” (p. 26).  One of the primary distinctions often debated concerning the doctrine of justification is whether it is forensic – that is, a declaration of righteousness (taught by Reformers) or transformative – that is, it actually makes believers righteous (taught by Rome, following the lead of Augustine (pp. 30, 34-35, 38).  Most of the earlier Church Fathers apparently did...

Practicing the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations, So You Can Talk About God with Anyone (Wheaton: Q Place, 2017)

This primer is published by a ministry which calls itself Q Place, which is an organization focused on evangelism and fellowship through “small groups of 2-12 people who meet to discuss questions about life, God and the Bible” (p. 7).  It is a companion to the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversation book written by Mary Schaller and John Crilly (p. 6).  The contents are to be “facilitated, not taught” (p. 6) for, as we discover later, the authors believe our “fast-paced culture of distractions and media overload provides very little time to think and process individually what you believe about God” (p. 87).   A facilitator is more of a guide than an expert or source of information, therefore “the focus is on the learner, not the one teaching” (p. 87, cf. pp. 86, 93). The authors rightly state that most unchurched people are not being pursued by Christians (pp....

Gregory of Nyssa, Sermons on The Beatitudes paraphrased by Michael Glerup

Gregory was considered one of the “big three” church fathers (along with Gregory of Nazianzus and our subject’s older brother Basil) who fought for Trinitarian theology when it was attacked in the fourth-century.  This book is a paraphrase of his fourth-century sermons on the Beatitudes.  Unfortunately, the paraphraser, Michael Glerup, went far beyond attempting to reword Gregory’s thoughts for modern readers, choosing instead to update the sermons as if they were written today.  Therefore, concepts and ideas that would have never entered Gregory’s mind are frequent.  For example, Glerup talks of hedge-funds (p. 22), New Ageism (p. 26), self-esteem (p. 43) and references to characters in The Lord of the Rings (p. 105).  As a result readers of this volume cannot be certain what Gregory actually taught and what Glerup is imposing. While we appreciate Gregory’s defense of Trinitarianism, especially at the Council of Constantinople in 381 (p. 15)...

Apostate, the Men who Destroyed the Christian West by Kevin Swanson

Author Kevin Swanson is attempting to trace the philosophical and literary threads that have shaped our modern Western civilization.  He believes that the ideas created by certain influential thinkers and authors are responsible for the destruction of the Christian West.  These ideas are now being popularized by influencial forms of media and entertainers and absorbed by the majority of people.  The result is a perfect storm that will result in the collapse of the world system as we know it. Swanson focuses his attention on numerous philosophers from Thomas Aquinas to Karl Marx, Charles Darwin and Friedrich Nietzsche, and five literary giants: Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Twain, Hemingway and Steinbeck who he holds responsible for the present apostasy, the rise of humanism and the decline of Western civilization (pp. 3, 19).  He calls these men Nephilm after the corrupt giants who lived before the flood (p. 18).  Surprisingly, Thomas Aquinas is...

God’s Forever Family, The Jesus People Movement in America by Larry Eskridge

God’s Forever Family tells the story of the rise, development and influence of the Jesus People (or Freaks, as they were called at the time).  The actual movement was short lived, being birthed directly after the 1967 “Summer of Love” in Haight-Ashbury.  As the hippies flocked to San Francisco to smoke weed, take LSD, engage in immorality and live on the streets, the Christian community began to seek ways to reach those young people for Christ.  At first a few who were saved out of that culture began to form ministries and they were soon joined by some churches that caught the vision.  As many hippies came to Christ the efforts to reach them snowballed and the methods became more creative.  It was determined early on that hippies would most effectively respond if the conservatism methodology of the church was abandoned and music, messages and programming that mirrored the...