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...

My Favorite Books – Part 2

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

My Favorite Books – Part 1

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

Love for an Offensive Gospel

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

Guilt

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

God’s Will, Lost or Found – Part 5

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

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...

God’s Will, Lost or Found – Part 3

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

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. 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...

God’s Will, Lost or Found – Part 1

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