2 Reasons Cessationism has Ceased

Over the years I have tried to interact with those who hold a Cessationist view. Unfortunately, I have never met anyone who was well versed on the arguments and willing to have a concentrated dialogue. I have interacted a few times with people on twitter, but the conversation dissolved quick. Therefore, I have decided to write this brief post in hopes it opens future dialogue. This will be extremely brief and for many, unsatisfying in argumentation. I understand, but in the age of short posts I’m constrained. If you want in depth conversation, lets talk!

What is Cessationism?

Cessationism is the belief that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing ceased with the apostolic age.

To clarify, within cessationism there is a spectrum of ideas. Some hold to the above definition. Others hold to the idea that healing can happen, and the other gifts have ceased. No doubt there are other views I have not listed. What is most often agreed is the gift of Prophecy does not continue and for our exercise I use this example.

Reason #1

The first reason cessationism has ceased is because it never got started. That’s right, the Bible doesn’t say anything about the gifts stopping until we are “face to face” with Jesus (1 Cor 13:8-12). If the texts on spiritual gifts were believed like 1 Tim 2:11-15, hardly anyone would be a cessationist, except perhaps liberal theologians and denominations. For some reason, the plain reading of the text is discarded. This point was made by Andrew Wilson in the 2018 ETS debate. If you are new to this discussion I recommend listening.

I find it fascinating that certain theological circles where “what the text says” is what we should follow, is pushed aside when it comes to spiritual gifts. I don’t really understand how the “man/woman of the book”, discards so easily the text. To be fair, I think many feel this way because they have rarely seen gifts in operation as the Bible instructs. But of course, this does not justify disobedience to the word of God, does it?

Reason # 2

The second reason cessationism has ceased is because logic demands it. I will provide a deductive argument, which means if the premises are true then the conclusions follow necessarily. To defeat my argument one of the premises must be shown to be false.

Here is the syllogism:

1. The gift of Prophecy continues if revelatory dreams occur

2. Revelatory dreams do occur

3. Therefore, the gift of Prophecy continues

The first question we should ask is this: “What is prophecy?”

Owen Strachan, on his City of God Podcast, had as his guest Dr. Tom Schreiner. I want to pause here and say what a gift Dr. Schreiner is to the body of Christ. I appreciate the way he disagrees with people and his love and pursuit of Christ likeness. He is a Godly man and a cessationist. I thought what better definition to use than his. On the podcast titled, “What is Biblical Prophecy? A conversation with Tom Schreiner”, he gave the following definition:

Prophecy: A reception of revelation from God and the communication of the revelation so received.

I think that is a fantastic Biblical definition. The next definition we need in the syllogism is “revelatory”. Here is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of both revelatory and revelation:

Revelatory: of or relating to revelation: serving to reveal something

Revelation:    

a: an act of revealing or communicating divine truth

b: something that is revealed by God to humans

To defend premise one, I need to show that prophetic dreams, as defined by the Bible, can fulfill Dr. Schreiner’s definition of prophecy. I offer these two examples.

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass…Deuteronmy 13:1-2b

And

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17

Here are two verses that show dreams are a means God uses to give prophecy. The Bible is replete showing this. For example, in the story of Joseph, we have multiple prophetic dreams. Joseph has them, the baker has them, the cupbearer has them, and of course Pharaoh. It is biblically clear prophetic dreams, per Tom Schreiner’s definition, is found throughout the Bible.

This takes us to step two of the syllogism. Step two must show at least one prophetic dream has occurred since the era of the apostles ended. As a reminder, the cessationist position is spiritual gifts like prophecy stopped when the last of the apostles died. If true, then not one single prophetic dream has happened in the last 2000 years. Is that true? As an aside, I have heard it said some believe gifts didn’t end when the apostles died, rather over time God “faded them out”. Back to the question, is it true no prophetic dreams have occurred? I have a friend who was in a Muslim country. He said a man came to him saying, “I had a dream telling me to find someone to tell me about Jesus, can you tell me anything about him?” You may dismiss this example—fair enough. This example fulfills Dr. Schreiner definition, but you may remain unconvinced. I will now provide another example, namely my own.

Please pause and watch this short video (runtime 4:30) where I explain what happened to me when I received a reception of revelation from God about moving and the communication of the revelation I gave to my wife and kids, that is revelation so received.

Conclusion

Spiritual gifts are not something we possess. The Holy Spirit bestows gifts to people to build his global church. It is He who decides how, when, and where the gifts are needed. There have been gross misuses of the gifts, but we should not let our feelings override what the word of God says. The Lord uses spiritual gifts to guide his church and we suffer when we deny he no longer does.

Much more can be said, but I will leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul

“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”              1 Thessalonians 5:20-21

Affirming Hatmaker’s Gospel: A Respectful Call to Beth Moore & Max Lucado


Recently Jen Hatmaker had Max Lucado and Beth Moore on her “For the Love podcast”. Both can be found here: “Beth Moore Guides Us Through the Rocky Soil” and Max Lucado: “The Beauty of Disagreeing Agreeably”. For those who may not be familiar, Jen came out in 2016 denouncing the teaching of Jesus. Jen claims marriage is not reserved only between men and women but also available for same-sex relationships. You can find one quote here in this article, “Progressively Pseudo Christianity”. To be clear I appreciate both Beth and Max.  Often when Beth is critiqued many accuse those doing the critique as having it out for her. I assure you; nothing could be further from the truth. I offer these two links. In them I wrote two songs meant to bring humor and highlight the logical inconsistency of those attacking Beth, both can be found here: “Brad Paisley Tune for Beth Moore” and “Beth Moore Go Home”.

What’s the Big Deal?

So, what’s the big deal? After all, it’s just a podcast, right? Not quite. I mean it is a podcast, but the issue isn’t the podcast. The issue is the affirmation by Max and Beth of someone who teaches the opposite of what Jesus taught. If you listen to both conversations, you will see both Moore and Lucado affirm Jen in all kinds of ways. My ask of them is to reconsider affirming those who preach another gospel.

Here are a few of the affirmations offered to Jen.

Max had this to say, “Oh, you don’t know how honored I am. I’m just so thrilled. I think so highly of you. You energize me, to listen to your podcast…And your heart and you know what else I like, Jen? You bring me in touch with a circle of believers that I might not typically have contact with, you know?”

After the podcast Beth offered this, “It was a blast and an honor to be a guest on my beloved friend, Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” podcast… if you don’t want to love her, do not ever ever ever ever ever ever ever get to know her.”

Jen had this to say in promotion of the podcast, “The one and only Queen is on the pod today. Let me tell you something about Beth Moore: she is in possession of every single secret, heartbreak, and raggedy mess of drama I have ever experienced… I have mountains of texts, emails, videos, and notes she has sent me.”

Well what is wrong with affirming Jen like this? Sounds like both Max and Moore are loving a friend, and are we not called to love our friends? The answer is of course yes, we are. The problem comes when Scripture informs how, in certain situations, love is to be shared with those friends. Sometimes the Gospel calls us to true love and that is helping others see their sin and encouraging them to repent.

The Truth of the Gospel

When leaders like Max and Beth affirm Jen, and others like her, they say Jen is OK. That is, her ministry is Christ honoring and worthy of others to listen to what she has to say. But this is not true. Jen is in need of guidance from people like Beth and Max. She needs to feel their love as they instruct her and plead with her to return to Christ honoring love. Of course, many take a dismissive stance like, “Hey we don’t agree with Jen on everything, but hey, I don’t agree with anyone on everything.” However, the problem is the Scriptures are clear how to interact with those who claim Christ but promote anti-Christ ideas. Though not popular, the clear language needed to explain is this—Jen Hatmaker teaches that which is evil and wicked, that is literally against Christ. That is, people who call that which is evil good and that which is good evil. The loving teaching of Jesus about marriage is found in the beginning of Genesis when there was one man and one woman.

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:4-6

Jen discards this teaching from Jesus and offers a separate plan and rejects the plan offered by the creator of all. Jesus said, let no one separate, not even a great human like Jen Hatmaker.

So, what does the Scriptures have to say?

The Authority of Scripture

In 1 Cor 5 there is a man who is in a sexually immoral relationship and he claims he is a believer. The key to understanding is remembering this is someone who claims the name of Christ, but lives against those claims. Paul says,

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.”

What does Paul say to do?

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—” and

“Expel the wicked person from among you.”

Paul gives those two instructions to deal with someone who claims to be a believer but is involved in the promotion and/or participation of unrepentant sin. Of important note, Paul clarifies he is only speaking of those who claim to be a Christian.

But why does Paul give this instruction?

“hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord—” and

“Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

Paul explains severing the relationship is the most loving thing to do. Further, without the covering of the community, he hopes the person will experience such devastation to their flesh that they turn and are restored to the church and God. Because of the rebellion at work, this drastic measure is the only hope of their soul being saved.

The second reason Paul provides is protection of those who are part of the community. Paul uses the example of leavened bread to describe what sin does. A little sin pollutes the whole community, just like a little leaven, leavens the entire loaf of bread. Paul grounds this command in the death of Christ. You were bought by the sacrifice of Jesus, dying on a cross for sin, so now live as what He purchased on your behalf—a life not infected by sin.

Three Misplaced Responses

As I have interacted on this topic with others, three claims arise. The first one is the most honest and revealing. It is the belief that what Paul said does not apply today. It often takes awhile to get people to admit it, but with some patience I got more than one to do it. I have no further commentary here. If one doesn’t believe all Scriptures are true and apply in context to the church today, then own that argument that the Scriptures are the opposite of what 2 Timothy says:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [17] That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

The second argument is something like, “This is a non-essential matter, so we can agree to disagree.”

The problem with that argument is, yes you guessed it, Scripture. Paul is clear on the matter of those who practice homosexuality and other soul damning sins.

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men” 1 Corinthians 6:9

The third and most bizarre response goes something like this, “Jen only teaches that same-sex marriage is Holy before God, she doesn’t actually participate in that activity.”

Instead of giving counter arguments which are many, I will offer the reality that is true, if that argument is also true. It would be true that Jen could promote, advocate, preach, help arrange, train, encourage, any and all things which lead to “others” practicing homosexuality and they be eternally lost, separated from God and she ushered into the presence of God, forever enjoying Him. I find that an impossible reality, if God is just, and my guess is those who are honest also feel the same.

My Request to Beth and Max

To all leaders in the church, but specifically Beth and Max. Please, for the honoring of Christ and for the love of the souls of those in rebellion and the souls of those watching; love Jen and others like her the way Scripture calls you. Be there for her, pray for her, be her friend. That of course requires a very hard thing, separation so that Jen’s soul may be saved. As Jesus said”

              “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

Why Biology Shapes Juridical Roles in the Church

In recent weeks the discussion around women teaching/preaching in the church has captured many online discussions. Along the way there have been some people who have confused the situation, so let me first set the record straight. The debate has not been about whether or not women can be elders. The Bible is clear that only men can hold the position of elder in the church. The debate has been about whether or not women can teach/preach sometimes in the church worship gathering or even in mixed gender adult Sunday school classes—if what she is teaching has been evaluated by the elders, meaning her speaking is under the authority of men (elders). This debate has ebbed and flowed throughout the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), but most recently, over the past few months, it has been aimed specifically at Beth Moore.

Before we dive in, I want to make four things clear. First, I am addressing “why” Paul says what he says in 1 Timothy. Second, teaching and preaching are not biblically the same. I will not defend that idea here, however, I will use teaching/preaching language throughout this text but let the reader know I do not think they are synonymous. Third, when discussing this subject many make an error. The error is insisting we need to go outside the logical bounds of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 to other texts of Scripture to understand what Paul is saying. It is an error because in Paul’s mind the reader has been provided the specific reasons “why” he gives the mandate. In other words, if you want to understand why Paul gives the prohibition then understand his reasons; Paul’s argument stands on its own. If someone found a ripped-out page of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 on a beach they would have all the logic needed to understand Paul’s thinking. That person wouldn’t even need to know about the large creation story because Paul explains the two reasons from the story that grounds his argument. That point is often missed, and it is critical as we think about the “why” behind this topic. Finally, this isn’t an argument of what woman cannot do as much as it is an argument that men must do. If Godly men who are biblically faithful and biblically wise stand up and fulfill what God has ordained then both sexes will flourish and freedom in Christ will abound in the local church.

The question of whether a woman can sometimes teach/preach on Sunday, as defended by R.C. Sproul some years ago and by Pastor Dwight McKissic in the most recent June 2019 SBC annual meeting, is an important one to answer. But first we must understand what Paul is saying. The passage typically brought up in this discussion is 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Let’s look at what Paul says: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearingif they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

In these verses, Paul gives three mandates:

  1. A woman cannot teach
  2. A woman cannot exercise authority over a man
  3. A woman is to remain quiet (this reinforces the first)
  4.  Plus, he gives two reasons why: Adam was created first, then Eve
  5. Eve was deceived

1 Timothy 2:11-15:

When Paul said that Adam was created first, he was not being trite. Paul was not holding it over Eve’s head that Adam won the “firstborn prize.”. So, then, why did he say this? What about Adam qualifies his firstborn status as a reason for why women cannot teach while having juridical authority over men (more on juridical authority below)? There are a few things in play, but the primary reason is biology. A first-born son had the birth right in Jewish culture, that is, at a minimum, all authority over his siblings. The prominence of the firstborn male in Jewish history isn’t prescribed by God, without some reason. One reason is the biological traits of maleness. Men have different desires than women, and those differences are driven by biological factors. I will mention some of them in a moment, but my warrant for seeing Paul’s argument from a biological standpoint is because of his emphasis on Adam being formed first, Eve being deceived and Eve being “saved through childbearing.” Paul is connecting Adam’s firstborn status to Eve’s biological gift of childbearing. Look at the parallels:

            13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve

              15A Yet she will be saved through childbearing

And

              14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

              15B If they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

What does Adam’s biological makeup have to do with women not having juridical authority over a man? That is a great question and the connection can be found in an example documented in the psychological data.

Jordan Peterson and What We Know About Men and Women

Today, we have two millennia of scientific research and discovery that readers in the first century didn’t have. Because of this we can sometimes see truths in Scripture more vividly. To be clear, I am not saying science changes the meaning of Scripture; nor am I suggesting the Holy Spirit did not allow Paul this same robust understanding. It is likely Paul understood the specifics into “why” he gave the mandate. But those of us who are not apostolically enlightened like Paul, which is all of us, can use scientific knowledge to enable us to see the truth of Scripture in a more robust way. Scripture truths are true with or without science however, God’s second book called nature can confirm his explicit word; this is the case here.

I was listening on YouTube to the famed clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson, and he explained that social sciences have discovered two main reasons that men and women differ in temperament:

  1. Environmental reasons
  2. Biological reasons

Some people think biology plays no part; they are called social constructionists. They believe men and women are only different in temperament because of environmental reasons. For instance, they think boys like to fight because dads teach them to fight. They dismiss the idea that there is a battle instinct driving them. The social constructionist hypothesis is this: eliminate environmental variations, and the differences between men and women would disappear or become minimal. But Jordan explained how the biological differences in temperament between men and women are significant, not trivial, and he also touched on how these differences maximize in societies that move toward egalitarian states. This is often through laws which provide more opportunity for women to choose what fields they want to pursue. He went on to explain that the countries that were the most egalitarian (Scandinavian countries)—those that eliminated the environmental variations—saw the biological variations maximize. This has been demonstrated in the psychological scientific literature for over four decades and was devastating to the social constructionist hypothesis. But even with this evidence social constructionists still think biology plays no part. To make my point plain I will say it like this: If you eliminate environmental reasons men and women do what they do, then the biological ones will become more robust. They manifest because they are no longer kept in check by laws. This is because how we are wired as male and female drives our desires toward what we like and do.

For instance, the biggest known difference is that men have an intrest in things over people and women have an intrest in people over things. Another known difference is women tend to be, on average, more agreeable than men. Given this information I will try and put the pieces together regarding how Paul is thinking.

Juridical Authority in the Church

In R.C. Sproul’s teaching called “The Role of Women in the Church,” he uses the 1 Tim. 2 text and argues that Paul is speaking only to juridical authority. He shows where judgements on doctrinal issues within a church context are prohibited by women. He goes on to say that women can teach on a Sunday if she is under the leadership of the elders and is not making juridical pronouncements while teaching. What he says she cannot do is be an elder, because an elder holds juridical authority. Summed up, women are forbidden to rule on final doctrines within the body of Christ (the church). I will not restate the reasons why juridical authority is what Paul is referencing, but I encourage everyone to listen to the audio teaching because I cannot argue it better than Dr. Sproul and it is key to understanding Paul’s logic.[1]

When Paul said the reason women cannot have juridical authority over a man is because Adam was born first, he is saying authority is tied to the biological makeup of Adam. To ground his argument Paul points to the primary (first) biological specimen of humans, Adam. We know that a trait of male biology is a war instinct to protect. In fact, in Jude 1:3 the author says to “contend” for the faith. The word “contend” is the Greek word ἐπαγωνίζομαι which has its root in the word fight. Paul doesn’t explain if the Holy Spirit reveled to him, what we would call scientifically, that men have a war instinct and women are biologically wired on average to be more agreeable than men, but at least in experience he recognized this.

Paul then points out that Adam, the first human biological specimen, who was pre-wired to protect things, wasn’t deceived. Rather, it was Eve, the one who was not biologically wired to war to protect things. Knowing that women are more agreeable than men and that women value relationships over things we can see the key that unlocks Paul’s logic. Paul, in dealing with how to pass down the knowledge of God to generation after generation, explains men are biologically wired to do this. He demonstrates this by showing when Eve tried to exert juridical authority over Adam—by asserting herself trying to war against the temptations of Satan—she failed. She didn’t fail because she was stupid, she failed because the desire to keep the peace (agreeableness), overrode her desire to war with someone. Meaning, underneath the justification of seeing the food was good and could make one wise was this biological drive which justified those conclusions. In order not to slight women Paul then speaks about her God given biological role. Paul cuts the pride of man at its root when he points to Eve’s biological gift. He points out that life itself is biologically wired within Eve. He is showing that even though she isn’t, on average, wired the way necessary to war against false doctrines, which involves juridical pronouncements in the local church, she is wired to produce life and that “saves her.” Meaning, that is a biologically rooted reality that men have no access to. It seems Paul is trying to level the playing field by saying men are biologically wired to protect and war to keep doctrine even at the expense of relationships (think Martin Luther) and women are not less than men, but they are biologically different. Paul demonstrates her ability to birth life is her redeeming quality, and oh what a quality it is.

Failure of Men to Fulfill Their Juridical Role

One test to see if this exegesis is correct, is to look at all the mainline denominations where men have failed to fulfill Paul’s mandate and women have been placed in elder/juridical roles. How is the doctrinal health of that church going? Although I am not a church historian, it seems many churches over time are not doing well contending for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Often, acceptance and “love” supersede the truth of what the Scriptures teach. Women are biologically wired to value people over and above anything else, so we should not be surprised they don’t want to war over doctrine like Adam, they are not biologically built to do that. But how does this biology argument come together using Paul’s logic?

1 Timothy 2:11-15 Explained

Given all we have seen, I will now go through the text to make what I have already said, explicit.

At its core, the church is egalitarian. What I mean by that is there are very little environmental commands from the bible placed on those who have been justified. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Remember what Jordan Peterson said the scientific data has shown, if the environmental factors are eliminated then the biological factors maximize. Emphasizing again, what we see most often where women are pastors and elders are denominations where the biological wiring pushes for more agreeableness and relationships over the wanting to war to protect doctrine, because it would be at the expense of those biological driven goals;

14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor”

This should be no surprise, after all,

13Adam was formed first, then Eve.”

Adam is the one who is biologically driven to protect things like the handing down of the words of God. Women elders are on average more agreeable and would rather not war to protect the “things” within doctrine at the expense of a relationship. Paul then knowing by the Holy Spirit that the church has very little mandates specific to men and women, other than we are all in Christ, invokes an environmental command.

12 Woman cannot teach or have Juridical authority over men.”

Paul must ensure that in the church the God given biological roles are fulfilled. Therefore, he gives the command in the egalitarian church that women cannot have juridical authority over men. We can see the practical nature of this mandate in implementing church discipline. Church discipline requires elders to sometimes sever relationships if there is a lack of repentance and that person claims Christ, in order to save their soul (1Cor.5). This is hard to do when underneath the facts lies a biological driver that pushes subtly toward not removing a person from fellowship.   

Knowing how the pride of men can be puffed up, he points out that women have a different role that is also biologically driven which men share no part and that is the ability to create life;

15A yet she will be saved through childbearing”.

This is to let men know there is a redeeming biological (saved) quality for women, in the church and that is creating life. Women are not deficient; in Paul’s mind he is showing men are biologically driven to war and protect, and women are biologically life bearers. In some sense, both men and women in this context are life bearers. Men bearing up the protection of the things of God which brings about newness of life and women also bearing up newness of life in the form of a child. Both biologically driven in how God created both male and female in his image.

So, people are not confused, thinking if a woman has a child she is saved, Paul adds;

15B If they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”

Paul didn’t want them to think having a child got them entrance into the kingdom of God, therefore he makes plain what the evidence of rebirth is, faith, love, holiness with self-control continued till the end.

Conclusion

I have argued that Paul gives this mandate because men are biologically created by God to protect the handing down of the Word of God and perform juridical decisions within the role of elder that are in keeping with how men are biologically constructed. This isn’t a negative against women for they too have a biological role where men have no part and that is having children. I came to this understanding because of the two reasons Paul gives for why he gives the mandate. There is an innate desire in men to protect the ideas of God in the church over and above all else, even risking relationships, thus warring to do it. Intellectual issues between the sexes are not in play here, it is biology 101. 

Now what about women sometimes teaching/preaching on Sunday or in a mixed gendered adult Sunday school class? Could a woman at times teach/preach on a Sunday like R.C. Sproul and Dwight McKissic argue? That is the next question that needs to be addressed. This article wasn’t written to conclude one way or the other. I will say, it is not an easy answer if one is thinking carefully about the text and how we conduct church in America. Therefore, I will reserve my thoughts on that for another post. May I encourage all of us to think and pray carefully about the truth of Scripture and let God’s word be our guide. It is his name we live to glorify and in his ways we strive to live.


[1] R.C. Sproul, “The Role of Women in the Church”, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/role_of_women_in_the_church/role-of-women-in-the-church/

The Pursuit of an Ethnically Diverse Church

The other day I was on Facebook and Twitter having the same conversation. To be clear, I didn’t plan that, it’s just how social media presented itself. It was regarding the topic of intentionally pursuing ethnic diversity in the church, if that church was in an ethnically diverse area. At the end of both conversations the response was the same. It could be boiled down to something akin to,

“We should NEVER pursue ethnic diversity in the church. We should just preach the Gospel”.

One person who argued against me was a prominent black pastor and the other was in a group where white people were the majority. I point out these dynamics to show this was a broad conversation. So why write about it? One reason is because I thought others may find this interaction interesting and another reason is that I think this topic of pursuing ethnically diverse churches is important.

The Situation

What I proposed in both interactions hushed the dissenters. My position was simple. If you are in an ethnically diverse community the churches in that community should pursue ethnic diversity. This was not a popular idea. At first, I thought the push back was due to terms and what I meant, but no, after going through all the details it was clear, this was not considered a Gospel pursuit. Here are some of the comments I received:

“Creating multi-ethnic attendance as an issue is yet another way to undermine the gospel” or

“Last time I checked there are no ethnic groups in Christ”

finally

“Many consider the intention to become a more diverse church, in ethnic terms, to be strange because it is strange. Diversity is a secular and political concept that has no place in church; once again, all are welcome.”

That last comment really makes one wonder what heaven looks like for him, but for now, I will leave that aside.

As you can see the comments were used to enslave the diversity idea. The consensus was clear, this is said to be a sinner’s game, not a God honoring pursuit. Their goal was to beat the idea into submission and then to discard it. They wanted nothing more than to shackle and lock it away into the chilling darkness of worldly rhetoric, never to be seen or heard from again.  

The Demographics Argument

Upon listening I asked a question that no one would answer. Except, there was this one poor fellow that made a comment to undermine the argument, but alas, he failed. (more on that in a bit).

I began with these questions:

  1. Does your church intentionally pursue teenagers?
  2. Does your church intentionally pursue singles?
  3. Does your church intentionally pursue people who can sing?

Knowing most every church has pursued these demographic groups I then asked, “Can anyone explain to me why the demographics of Age, Marital Status and Talent can be pursued but not ethnicity? We have youth events to bring them into the church, right? We have singles nights to bring people in the church, right? How is this demographic of ethnicity different, I asked? One response was to reject the definition of “demographic”, but a quick copy and paste of Webster stopped that in its tracks. The next response said no group should be pursued. That response seemed a little extreme, but if true, it would defeat my argument; however, I have never heard anyone say the youth outreach downtown is a worldly idea that dishonors Christ, have you? Finally, I received this response when I asserted that what we see in Rev 7:9 is that diversity starts now, not somewhere out there in the future.

“Actually, it started the moment Jesus Christ was resurrected. The first example being when God told Peter in a vision that “you shall not make unclean what I have made clean.” Shortly thereafter Peter went to the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius and baptized him and his family. Thanks be to God!”

To which I responded:

“Oh yeah, when Peter sought out on purpose with intention the ethnic Greek? Yes, I remember that 😉”

Evidence of This Pursuit

As I was watching them struggle and squirm trying to find some difference in the ethnic demographic versus the others mentioned I gave them evidence. In my church it was found that the Hispanic community (some argue this is a race some say it’s an ethnicity) was large and growing. Our church made intentional plans to pursue this demographic based on their ethnicity and guess what? It exploded! They have grown into the thousands and it was all because they were sought out because, in part, of their ethnicity. To be clear, ethnicity isn’t the only criterion, but it is one the church can use to glorify Christ.

Make no mistake, if the end of this pursuit is just so we can say we have a multi-ethnic church, then secular and worldly that pursuit would be. But if the pursuit is to provide a picture of the kingdom of God here on earth, now, to the Glory of God, then that is a Holy pursuit. That isn’t a secular or worldly idea, that is a God idea.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.Rev.7:9

Progressively Pseudo “Christianity”

I often hear those in the Progressive “Christianity” crowd say they are Christian. In fact, John Pavlovitz said this: “My new friend, the Reverend Vince Anderson took the mic and said, “Let’s be clear: Progressive Christianity is just Christianity. We are Christians—and we are progressing in our knowledge and understanding.”

That is the stance they champion, but is it true? Are they truly Christian? To find out, I decided to pick a few Christian doctrines and compare answers. We will see what Progressive “Christianity” says versus what true Christianity says.

The Holy Scriptures

What true Christianity says: All Scripture is God breathed, without error in all it proports to be true and used for rebuking, teaching, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). It was God’s word given by the Holy Spirit to men (1 Cor 2:13 and John 14:26).

What Progressive “Christianity” says:

“Tradition, dogma, and doctrine are all fair game, because all pass through the hands of flawed humanity, and as such are all equally vulnerable to the prejudices, fears, and biases of those it touched.” John Pavlovitz- Progressive “Christian” speaker

“The Old Testament is the inspired telling of the story of Israel coming to know their God. Along the way assumptions were made and they didn’t get everything right.”

Brian Zahnd- Progressive Pastor

To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries” Richard Dawkins- Atheist

Sexual Ethics

What true Christianity says: All sexual relations are to be expressed in love through marriage between a man and a woman. (Gen 1:27-28, 2:24 and Mark 10:6-9).  

What Progressive “Christianity” says:

“I get divorced, like the most amicable divorce you can imagine…It was great, right, it was like actually really lovely. But I get together with my boyfriend and start having sex and it was like ‘********,’ I was like, it felt like an exfoliation of my whole spirit. I’m like ‘This is so good for my brain chemistry, and my body, and my heart…why in the world would the Church say ‘Don’t do this?’ Like I could tell it was what I needed, and it was so good.” Nadia Bolz-Weber- Progressive “Christian” Speaker/Pastor

“If same-sex relationships are really sinful, then why do they so often produce good fruit-loving families, open homes, self-sacrifice, commitment, faithfulness, joy? And if conservative Christians are really right in their response to same-sex relationships, then why does that response often produce bad fruit-secrets, shame, depression, loneliness, broken families, and fear?” Rachel Held Evans- Progressive “Christian” Speaker/Author

 “I do think a LGBT relationship can be holy. And my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting. I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church. Every believer that witnesses that much overwhelming sorrow should be tender enough to do some hard work here.” Jen Hatmaker- Progressive “Christian” Speaker/Author

Substitutionary Atonement

What true Christianity says: God sent Christ to pay the penalty of people’s sin in His flesh through His death on the cross and became our substitute and anyone who trusts in Him will be saved (Rom. 8:3-4, Is. 53, Heb 9, Rom 3:21-26, 1Pet 2:24, 2 Cor 5:21).

What Progressive “Christianity” says:

“I would love to hear more artists who sing to God and fewer who include a Father murdering a son in that endeavor. If you can’t think of anything to sing to God other than gratitude for taking your shame away through bloodshed, stop singing and look around.” Michael Gungor Musical Artist- Progressive “Christian”

“The theological problem with penal substitution is that it presents us with a God who is first and foremost concerned with retribution flowing from his wrath against sinners… In The Lost Message of Jesus I claim that penal substitution is tantamount to ‘child abuse–a vengeful Father punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed.’ Though the sheer bluntness of this imagery (not original to me of course) might shock some, in truth, it is only a stark ‘unmasking’ of the violent, pre-Christian thinking behind such a theology. And the simple truth is that if God does not relate to his only Son as a perfect Father, neither can we relate to him as such.” Steve Chalke- Founder of Oasis Charitable Trust and British champion of Progressive “Christianity”

Hell

What true Christianity says: Hell is a place that was originally created for the eternal confinement of Satan and his angels (Mt. 25:41). As Scripture revels, those who do not trust Jesus for forgiveness of sin and become justified, by grace through faith, will be eternally separated from God. This separation is described as an eternal torment along with the devil and his angels (Rev 14:11)

What Progressive “Christianity” says:

“A loving heavenly father who will go to extraordinary lengths to have a relationship with them would, in the blink of an eye, become a cruel, mean, vicious tormentor who would ensure that they had no escape from an endless future of agony… if your God is loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all eternity for sins committed in a few short years, no amount of clever marketing or compelling language or good music or great coffee will be able to disguise that one, true, glaring, untenable, acceptable, awful reality…” Rob Bell Progressive “Christian” Speaker/Author

“…I’m intrigued now, so religion could be a good thing after all, sometimes, we think, is now the proposition. What would a religion have to do to get that far? Well, I think it would have to give up all supernatural claims. It would have to say no, you are not to do this under the threat of reward, heaven, or the terror of punishment, hell…find me the church that will say, “Forget all that.” Christopher Hitchens Atheist

Differences Exposed

What is now obvious is this movement called Progressive “Christianity” is anything but Christian. For even atheists’ champion many of the same doctrines as the Progressive crowd. It is important to point out this isn’t an interpretation issue, rather it is a heart issue. Some refuse to believe what Christianity says, they lack the courage to own that decision and be brave in their rejection. It is a deadly game Progressives play, one that not only devastates the church but also eviscerates the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

I would like to end by allowing Christopher Hitchens to preach. Yes, you read that right, he is preaching. In an interview with a Progressive pastor Christopher sets the Christian record straight. The famed atheist seemed to have little tolerance for those who entertain the radical ideas of Progressive “Christianity”. In fact, if he were alive today, I think he would replace the Progressive language with another word—Pseudo-Christianity. Not only is it a more fitting description but one I think Christopher would approve.

Interview with Christopher Hitchens:

“The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal [Progressive] Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make a distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?” Marilyn Sewell

“I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.” Christopher Hitchens Atheist/Preacher

Amen Christopher, Amen!


Progressive “Christianity” and it’s Evangelical Influence

It is no secret that progressive “Christianity” has gained a lot of exposure over the past week. When I first heard Rachel Held Evans had died, I fought back tears. A life lost so early is tragic. The deep sadness of knowing two children and a husband will be facing life without their mother and wife consumed me. I prayed and will continue to pray for her family and friends. In the days following some evangelical writers took to Twitter and blogs discussing her impact upon them and within progressive “Christian” thought. What I didn’t expect was the incongruence of taught theology vs applied theology. Some leaders were theologically consistent, but others were vague and confused. More on that in a moment, but for now I want to state explicitly why I write this. I do not write this as a critique of Rachel. I write this as a critique of theology applied in evangelical circles. Although Rachel is involved, she is not my focus. I think Anne Kennedy said it best in her recent article titled, “Answering a Kind Comment.”

“If the election of Mr. Trump was one kind of evangelical crisis, the death of Rachel Held  Evans is another. Both brought into the light the deep-rooted troubles that have been long growing. Both are forcing Christians to show to themselves, and to each other, and to the world, their true theological cards.”

What is Progressive “Christianity”

Progressive “Christianity” encompasses many subjects and invades critical areas of theology. It challenges the authority of Scripture and redefines Christian sexual ethics to name a few. Alisa Childers, a rising authority on the topic, defines progressive “Christianity” this way:

“Progressive Christianity is a theological progression beyond the historic Christian views of the Bible and essential doctrines of the faith. Progressive Christian beliefs tend to be in step with cultural norms, rather than biblical mandates.”  

A trademark of this ideology is the seductive allure of boundless inclusivity for any and all. It sounds enticing to imagine. For instance, a person can focus on social issues by making a change in the world without being forced to change themselves. This isn’t to say a person doesn’t change in the process, make no mistake they do. The issue isn’t at root change, the issue is the change isn’t prescribed. One can be changed by dusty scrolls found in the desert we now call Scripture, but one doesn’t have to be, at least not in the way the Scriptures intended. The only change required is the change you want. It doesn’t have to be anyone’s path it only needs to be your path.

The sentiment expressed in their public speakers is a thin veneered hope. The call heralded is to break out of the tyranny of the patriarchal shackles of a 2000-year-old religion and help usher in a new form of Christianity. The stories are essential to selling this idea. The picture is painted with the wide brush strokes of pain and hurt. Who hasn’t been hurt? Then they draw correlations to Scripture being followed a particular way that has brought about this suffering. Of course, it is true some people take some Scriptures out of context and hurt others. But progressive “Christianity” often discards nuance for emotional appeal. If someone is hurting, nuance needs a swift kick in the butt and self-healing and acknowledgement of the pain often overrides any logical appeal. As this develops into a system of thought it is concluded there can and will be a new church. Progressive “Christianity” promises a church community where you will not be judged but you will be embraced. After all, Jesus had a message of love and this acceptance of “you be you” is seen as a beautiful expression of love. For what could be more loving than inviting the disenfranchised to the table of Christ? At least that is how it is put on display to the masses. It sounds so freeing and of course loving. But any true freedom isn’t boundless. If something is boundless that is true anarchy. To be fair, it isn’t as though there are no rules within the progressive crowd, rather the rules are different. The perceived broken ideas of the past have healed in the soothing balm of redefinition.

Evangelical Theology Applied

Albert Mohler once spoke of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd order issues within theology. The idea here is there are somethings a person can believe and do (1st order) which exclude them from salvation through Christ. There are other things a person can believe and do (2nd & 3rd order) which isn’t a salvation matter but a freedom in Christ matter. The conversation over the past week has shown some in the evangelical world think there are no issues which separate from Christ. One can be in “error”, say with sexual ethics, yet still be a “Sister or Brother” in Christ. One prominent evangelical wrote this:

“As evangelicals, we can respond better when our brothers and sisters have serious doubts and ultimately end up on the other side of the line as us on certain issues. We must do better. J.R.R. Tolkien, one who believed differently than me on many theological issues, once said, “Not all those who wander are lost.” This I believe”

To be fair, I asked the author to clarify, but he never did. To be more generous in my reading of the author I acknowledged this could extend to a general group of people; however, the article was about Rachel. It is hard to know if his spoken theology is different than his applied theology. But I write to raise the flag of awareness to this kind of response. If people who preach same-sex marriage as a Holy and God glorifying institution are only on “the other side of the line” then I understand very little about Scripture.

Two Tables of Christ

Moments ago, I mentioned that proponents of progressive “Christianity” pride themselves on the idea that it invites the disenfranchised to the table of Christ? However, what I want to leave you with is this question. Is Christ at their table? Scripture is clear, the table where Christ sits calls for the disenfranchised, not only to come, but to deny themselves and follow Him. I will again quote Anne Kennedy from the same article listed above:

“And so we are not sitting at opposite sides of one long table. We are not eating of the one bread and drinking out of the one cup. We are talking about two different faiths, two different kinds of love, two different lords.”

And I conclude we are talking about two different tables.

Suicidal Friend

LISTENING TO MY FRIEND I was stunned in silence. While his eyes leaked, and his soul gasped for breath I was still. He gushed out the emptiness which filled him to the brim. It was overflowing and spilling out. Words crashed one on top of another as he blurted out his depressive state.

“I don’t wanna die but I don’t wanna live either!”

Immense suffering had overtaken him. Apathy was his new home and black darkness the color of his rainbow. He went on to tell me that ending his life was constantly on his mind.
A day earlier his family left the house and he was alone. He was overwhelmed with grief as he thought about his life. His failures capsized the boat of hope. His thoughts turned toward self-harm, that of the most heinous kind—suicide.

He begged God for relief, but in that moment none came. Instead he found a pistol and a pen. Wailing on the floor of his living room his heart pounded. In rhythm he mimicked the drum beat of his heart by punching the couch until he was exhausted. He said it was an, “acting out of the fight inside.” As I listened, I was filling up with throat griping emotion. He continued and said, “the first time I thought about doing this I was between eight to ten years old. It has never been a single moment for me but a way of living.” Having heard that confession I was exhausted. My boys at the time were eight and ten years old. I grabbed a tissue and wiped away the tears which had escaped my grip. That was too much for me to dam up. He went on to explain that he had to choose between a gun or a pen. Of course, he was sitting across from me, so I knew which option he chose. He then handed me a poem. He said, “Here, take it. Read it if you like.”

A Moment
In the pale blue haze of clear non-existent white veils the hideousness of gross meanderings. Calling out of the shadows deep within, shattering all the frozen years of emotion. Waging a war by the reappearance of apathy and waste. From the belt loops of yesteryears balanced needlessly on a foundation of shaky steel, stir deep groans of wounded heel.

Not for all, yet all for not. Climbing and dancing and sheading all that traps and ensnares.
Dreaming awhile of lavish lights and suns and moons and rings of Jupiter stare in a cosmic speck of dust on my soul.

Oh, my soul! This gut-wrenching soul filled with all that I am and all I will ever be.
Ever be because of nothing less than a challis full of bitterness and pain.
Pain like that of a cold titanium tip of a chiseled edge piercing that which is hidden, and then gone.

Gone again, fleeting and drifting back into the long halls of sadness.
Impregnated upon the broken pieces of shattered visage.
Contained in this moment is the elation of euphoria, pure bliss like that of an exhilarating ride.
A ride that lasts but for a moment, yet a ride that cannot and should not ever be forgotten.

Until…Until…Until..

That moment where once again there is a knock on the door.
A tug on the rope wrapped around my neck.
That moment that just left but is back again fighting and wasting away like a bag of rotten potatoes in the missing eyes of a dead corpse.
And I wonder, will it ever be back?
Ya know, that day when all was good?

After reading it I wiped yet another tear away. Now composed he said, “See, God did show up.”
With eyes full of life, he pierced my soul with these words,

“God gave me strength to pick up a pen, not a gun. At the end of the night I spilled ink, not blood. What I wrote was devastating to my case thinking I wanted to die. From the depths of my soul I penned that poem. What stunned me was I wrote the words, this was a moment. This wasn’t my life. Life is moment upon moment. And the next moment might be different than this one, unless I make this moment my permanent future. I realized no one would ever say one moment should define someone’s life, yet if I do this, that is exactly what I would be saying.”

He went on to tell of how hope everlasting is found in Jesus Christ.

My friend and I haven’t spoken since that day. I am confident in Christ he and I will never speak again, after all, it was only a moment.

If you or anyone you know struggles with thoughts of suicide, please give life a chance:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline— 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)— Open 24-hours and its confidential.

A Dying Dream was God’s Grace

Have you had a life-long dream? Aspirations of, you can become anything, fed by the encouragement of family, school and all the rest? Have you relished the day when the world will take notice? The day when history pages will be filled with the advancements made by your efforts? Did you find as time passed your dream seemed a certainty? Then it happened, like a ravenous wolf tracking and taking down its prey, the dream was devoured. It’s rotting carcass lay in a pile of steaming stench, either due to unexpected job loss, a health loss or simply realizing it couldn’t be done. The dream died the death of a thousand deaths. The death of a salary. The death of fame. The death of world change. Gone like a whisper with no recognition, no statesmanship, and no powerful influence. Only the realization of a normal, everyday human existence remains. Now what?

A Dreams Death is God’s Grace
In the darkness of that reality is where I found myself. As I began to recover from the tyranny of what seemed like life’s cruel decree, God showed up. He used the death of a dream to birth the life of another. What seemed to me a horror, played out in a night terror, turned out to be a new script. The author and finisher of my faith brought forth a sanctification revelation. He exposed my sinister heart’s desire. It longed for significance, not in Christ, but in my dream. My longing for living the dream was to be noticed; to be thought of as a life well spent. Blurred reality became clear, realizing the power of God’s grace superintended the entire process. My loss wasn’t lucks deficiency, it was God’s supremacy. As hope in self-significance took its final breath I mourned in self-pity. I threw a childish fit. “I could have been something… I could have made a difference… I could have had what I always wanted, significance.”

Strong pride says I am better than you. Weak pride sulks because it didn’t get its way. Weak pride becomes strong when the pity for oneself is made into an identity—its idolatry. Paul tells us God did not create our work to identify who we are. God created who we are to identify his work (Ephesians 2:10).

Many times, I have wallowed in the prideful pig sties of the prodigal, scavenging for my idol of significance. Feeding on the slop of what will never be always starves the present moment and hinders future grace. But grace wouldn’t be grace if it could be so easily thwarted. By grace in him, Jesus offers us an everlasting significance. Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

My hunger and thirst for significance is always satisfied when in Christ. Knowing he gave me eyes to see this truth reveals he is doing what he promised—making me into his likeness; conforming me to his image (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Glory of God in the Simple
I am reminded of so many in Scripture who, by worldly standards, failed the significance test. Ruth, a Moabite widow. David, a simple shepherd. Peter a feisty fisherman. And one I often identify with, Balaam’s donkey.

Paul’s words echo here:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Corinthians 1:26).

In summary, not many were significant.
God uses the worlds standard of insignificance, in significant ways (1 Corinthians 1:27). God has made clear his power is perfect in [our] weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Because we are in him and his Spirit is in us we can rejoice! We are heirs of the world and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 4:13) (Romans 8:17). That is the good news of the Gospel. Not the here and now significance, but the imperishable, undefiled and unfading inheritance of him (1 Peter 1:4).

Hope-Filled Joy
Often, we are cut when we pick up the splintered pieces of broken dreams. The tiny slivers are painful. The effort required to remove the soul piercing fragments, seems at times, hopeless. But hopelessness is dead. We serve a God who hung death on a cross and birthed hope. And this hope found in the risen Christ calls out to all who hear his voice. So those who have ears, let them hear. Arise! Let us awake from sedated apathy (Isaiah 60:1). We cannot afford to sleep in the place God has called us. It may seem our current occupation is of little regard, but this too is a lie. We must meditate on the blood bought promises of God (Joshua 1:8). To work as unto the Lord and not unto men (Colossians 3:23). Serve people with the love of God in the strength he supplies (1 Peter 4:11). Realizing when we do something for one of the least of these, we did it for the Lord (Matthew 25:40). Giving all glory to him, even in the simple, like eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is what significance looks like for the redeemed. Serving the Lord with gladness and loving others as yourself. What could be more hope-filled than that?

Fuel for the Battle
Remember, we are in war. We make war against our sin by putting it to death, by the Spirit. Our fuel for the battle is the sword of the Spirit. Therefore, never forget, it isn’t the number of pages written about you or me which bring significance, it’s the words found in the pages written about him. Our life long significance can only be real, if Christ’s real significance is in us. Run the race. Press toward the mark. It’s reality, it isn’t a dream, and its significance rests in him.

The Will of God and the Subtle Seduction of Divination

After months of looking, pondering, evaluating, and praying you find yourself staring at your computer screen looking at two different cars. Narrowed down from twenty, it now comes down to a choice. Which car to buy? Have you ever been faced with a big decision like this—a new car, home, job or perhaps a cross country move? All believers strive to do what God wants, but what does God want? That is often not so clear, so how do we know God’s will for our future?

WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT SAY?
The way we know God’s will is by our interacting with the Spirit with our mind.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Knowing the will of God involves mind transformation. That transformation, only occurs by the Holy Spirit, which lives in us and makes us new (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Through the new birth the Holy Spirit dwells in us. This interaction of mind and Spirit involves prayer. The Spirit therefore prays on our behalf the will of God (Romans 8:27-28).
Since we have the mind of Christ, because the Spirt of God dwells in us, as indicated in 1 Corinthians 2:16, and since faith comes from hearing through the word of Christ, as stated in Romans 10:17, we conclude this with confidence: The way we come to know the will of God is by his Word transforming our thinking by building our faith through the Spirit’s leading in prayer.

WHY THE CONFUSION?
Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
In episode 807 of Ask Pastor John, titled “Should We Flip a Coin to Find God’s Will,” Dr. Vern Poythress says this: “Every flip of the coin is under God’s control. There are many passages, I think, that indicate God’s control over all is comprehensive — even the hairs of your head are numbered. If a sparrow falls to the ground, it is not apart from the will of God… (Matthew 10:26–33) moral approval is quite distinct from saying God sovereignly planned it. And when the coin flips, what we know from Scripture teaching is that God sovereignly planned how it would come to. But that gives us no information about his moral will. It is quite different.” Dr. Poythress highlights the difference between God superintending the outcome of a coin flip and God’s desire of his moral will for you and me. They are not the same.

WHAT IS CASTING LOTS?
Today casting lots takes the form of choosing random numbers, flipping a coin, bibliomancy, and other tattered mediums of divining God’s will. When asked, “Does anyone know what casting lots looked like? Was this a two-sided stone?” Dr. Poythress replies, “We don’t know all the details, but it is something like rolling dice. Our modern dice have six sides. And it may have been, as you say, two-sided. We don’t know the details.” Did you catch that? We don’t know what casting lots is. Why would anyone consider major life decisions, like buying a car, purchasing a home, moving, or perhaps taking a new job, based on something that is not clearly defined or understood? Isn’t that guessing?

HOW DO WE DO WHAT WE DON’T KNOW?
Part of the issue is muddled thinking. Because chance is involved and Proverbs 16:33 is true, there is a fail-safe way to always know God’s will, says those in favor of casting lots. But as Dr. Poythress points out this is immature thinking: “And people make a mistake. I know there are immature people out there who think, “I’m not sure what God’s moral will for me is. I will find out by flipping a coin.” That is a misunderstanding of how God reveals his moral will.” It is akin to saying because a Go-Kart and a Ferrari both have engines, transmissions, and wheels they are the same. Obviously, because two things share certain qualities doesn’t mean they are equivalent. Furthermore, if one was to flip a coin or roll two dice, on what authority does one decide the odds? After all, we do not know what casting lots is so how does one begin to set it up? There is no basis to know what odds God desires us to use. It then goes without saying that when you choose the odds arbitrarily, it poisons the well before lots are cast. But it gets worse as we think this through.

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
If casting lots is supposed to be normative practice, then should we consider casting lots to see if God desires us to cast lots? Casting lots does not have special privilege excluding itself from the reality of what God wants. After all, God might not want us to cast lots in certain choices, but how to know? Moreover, an infinite regress would seem to ensue. For every time the lot was cast, yet another lot could be cast to see if that lot should have been cast. Stopping this regress would be on your terms, just on a whim.

WHAT WILL YOU DECIDE?
It is clear no one can ever know they are casting lots in the biblical sense. Rather, all that can be said is that they are self-constructing a way to divine the will of God. In other situations, outside the church, those devices mediating between random outcomes are known as gambling; no Christ glorifying believer would willingly gamble on knowing the will of God. Doing so would be a thoughtless endeavor which places mindless stones in between mindful people, created by an all-knowing God. Don’t turn God into a mechanistic magical Genie. Turn yourself over to the glorious all-encompassing king.
There is but one mediator between us and God: Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). One can know that, no betting required, and well, that is saying a lot.

Saved or Not Saved? Article X Nashville Statement

Now that the Nashville Statement has had time to settle I want to address article X (10). I write to help clarify some misunderstandings. The first, as I see it,  is a non-biblical understanding of the way salvation is attained and applied. The second misunderstanding is a lack of biblical knowledge to show article X (10) is correct. But first here are two examples of the misconceptions I saw on Twitter.

This from a well-known progressive author:

“Stating that sexual purity is necessary for salvation is legalism, plain and simple.”

Then this criticism sent to one of the co-signers of the Nashville Statement:

“Unless you misinterpret whether homosexuality is sinful right? Then it’s obviously not a miracle cuz you’re not saved. Right? Am I close?

Article X

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes and essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness
WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

This is how I would restate article X (10). A person may not be truly saved if they are an “approver of homosexual immorality or transgenderism.” The word approve here is more than a simple nod of agreement but rather an endorser, that is a true belief that “approval” isn’t just OK, but rather right. If right then it is True. If True then God ordained because after all, all truth is God’s truth.

False Beliefs About Salvation

Many churches have done a great disservice to people. They have said “Once saved always saved.” Although this is true, the lack of explanation of why it’s true has produced false beliefs. Because nature abhors a vacuum people fill the knowledge gap with experience. Our experience tells us that if I do (A) Then (B) occurs. If I say the sinner’s prayer when I am six I am always saved because I performed (A). When seen like this we turn salvation into something it was never meant to be, a mechanical action. This view of salvation allows for no checks and balances to see if one is truly saved. Yet repeatedly the Bible calls upon all of us to test ourselves.

Test Yourself

The apostle Paul says this: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed you fail to meet the test” (2Cor. 13:5).

One can immediately see this verse makes no sense if a wooden, mechanistic view of salvation is true. Why would we need to test ourselves when we can point to (A)? We would say, “Paul, don’t you know we “performed” the sinner’s prayer at age six so no test needed? We did it!”. One of the reasons Paul says instructs us this way is because, “Our heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Paul knows one can be deceived and not experience true salvation and so does Jesus.

Root Then Fruit

Matthew 7:22-23 explains what happens to those who are not saved but think they are and never tested themselves. Jesus said, “On that day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Notice the people are shocked and surprised. They plead and point to “actions” in the past. Just like pointing to salvation at age six they say Lord, but we performed (A). Yet, Jesus said, “I never knew you.”

This illustrates that Salvation is not an if-then statement intellectually assented to, but a personal ongoing sanctification by the Spirit. This personal, daily and dynamic walk called the Christian life is a constant exchange of oneself for more of Christ, also called taking up your cross. Paul says we need to make sure we are putting to death the deeds of the body because we are not our own and have been bought with a price. The gift of salvation is the only free gift that will cost you everything. I am not sure who wrote that, but it’ true.

Salvation is On Going

I suggest an obstacle in having proper understanding of article X (10) is due to many having this view of salvation. Salvation is a process through death to self on going every day. Many walked a church aisle and said the prayer and filled out the salvation card, concluding salvation was finished and they simply needed to move on. But this isn’t the biblical understanding of how salvation works through sanctification. If one is not progressing to be more like Christ or denies what the Bible explicitly says, Paul says test yourself. Proclaiming salvation is the prerequisite for testing to see if you are in the faith.

If one is saved, truly saved, there is a new root system and from it over time, through sanctification by the Spirit, good fruit will grow. Part of that good fruit is approving of God’s written word. That is believing its rightful place in the life of every true believer is above our thinking. That means God’s Word through logical entailments and explicit examples remains the final authority.

But where in scripture does it show “approving”, like article X(10) suggests, is demonstrating one may not be saved?
That brings me to the second contributing factor to misconceptions about article X(10).

Biblical Warrant for Article X(10)

In Mark 9:38-49 John told Jesus someone was casting out demons in His name. John goes on to explain to Jesus that he tried to stop this man because he was not following them. Jesus responds by telling John, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.” Jesus then gives a warning to John specifically but to all of us. Jesus said,

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

Jesus goes on and says, if your hand, foot or eye causes you to sin cut it off or pluck it out! And it is here where the biblical text provides a foundation on which article X(10) can be built.

Someone who advocates and promotes something that is false causes one to sin. Jesus said those who cause little ones to sin would be better off killed by drowning; compared to what will happen to them in eternity. Notice Jesus equates how the hand makes the body stumble to how John may have made this man, casting out demons, stumble.

We know the mind causes the hand to perform an action. The hand doesn’t make the decisions yet Jesus punishes the hand, why? Jesus says the hand must suffer and be cut off, why? Because it illustrates his point in the responsibility one bares in approving of evil. No man is an island when community is the law of the Kingdom.

The one who causes a little one to sin parallels the hand. Like the hand this person didn’t make the decision for the one who sinned. They were after all just a hand. Much akin to a drug dealer who only sells the drugs. The dealer didn’t make anyone buy the pills, yet Jesus said causing someone to sin will result in judgement.

This applies to those who are advocating and “approving”. The reason I say this is because the hand, foot and eye all performed actions; it was an on-purpose event. That implies knowing full well what they were doing and saying. This shows Jesus is speaking about deliberate attempts to cause an action, which “makes” one who is unsure, or a “little one”, to sin.

Are we Saved or Not?

As Paul says we must test ourselves to see if we are saved, daily. We must do this so we do not become a castaway. In 1 John 2:19 the philosophical idea called the law of identity is used to see one’s faith state.

“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”

Peter says if you are saved you will remain faithful to what has been taught. That entails if one is truly saved they will repent from any false belief, however, how long that takes is unknown. That is why I refrain from telling someone who holds false believes, but proclaim Christ, they are not saved. However, we should call people to repentance who claim to be a Christ follower yet deny what Christ said. We should not say they are not saved but we should also not provide full affirmation as brother or sister. Rather we say what scripture teaches. We love them while following Matthew 18 and perhaps I Cor. 5 all the while calling them to repentance. Eventually they will prove the law of identity, as John says, if they are saved they will come to repentance and remain. If they are not truly saved they will leave and by leaving identify as a non-believer. Pray for repentance for it is by Grace any of us have be saved.

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