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...

The Unseen Realm, A Critique

(Volume 25, Issue 4, July/August 2019) Michael Heiser’s view of Scripture and the supernatural realm has generated much attention within evangelical circles recently.  His concepts have generated a wave of speculation that some are now riding.  What does he teach and how concerned should the discerning Christian be?  This critique will provide some answers. It all began when Heiser was examining Psalm 82:1, which reads in the NASB “God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. “Michael Heiser, currently Executive Director of the School of Ministry at Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida, came to believe that he had discovered the key to understanding God and Scripture which had long been buried by the western world and the evangelical community. That key was:  “The God of the Old Testament was part of an assembly – a pantheon – of other gods” (p....

The Lord’s Supper Part 2

(Volume 25, Issue 3, May/June 2019) The Supper in Practice If you visited a variety of local churches of various denominational stripes, you will find that the Lord’s Table is practiced in many different ways. In some congregations, believers remain seated while the elements are brought to them. In other assemblies, believers come forward to receive the elements from the pastors or priests, or serve themselves, and then return to their seats.  In a service I attended a few years ago, the congregants stood up during the Lord’s Supper while the elements were rapidly dispensed and consumed.  The service presented the feel that the Breaking of Bread was a necessary ritual that should be celebrated as quickly as possible so that they could get to the “praise music.”  These are just some of the ways in which the Table is practiced by Christians. Also, different traditions observe communion at...

The Lord’s Supper Part 1

(Volume 25, Issue 2, April 2019) During the formative days of the Reformation, when Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli were at the height of their influence, they came together to discuss some of the theological differences that had surfaced between the various leaders of the movement.  As they sat down to hammer out these matters they would check off doctrine after doctrine in which they were in basic accord. The two men were in agreement concerning salvation by God’s grace through faith alone, that the Scriptures were the only authoritative revelation from God, and the issues of eternal life.  As a matter of fact, they could join hands over virtually all the essential beliefs – what have been termed the non-negotiables of the faith.  The discussion came down to one final issue that of the Lord’s Table.   Zwingli went first, laying out a very detailed formation of his understanding...

Social Justice: Modern Roots and Promoters

(Volume 25, Issue 1, February 2019/March 2019) As we attempt to evaluate the social justice movement, 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, 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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...