Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal

Friday, July 31, 2015

Refuse To Draw A Line And Light The Fuze For Your Own Destruction

"Transgender clergy now serve openly in several mainline and progressive Christian denominations. Churches that espouse traditional Christian theology have not allowed transgender persons to be clergy as they do not accept transgender identity as a Biblical expression of personhood. Several of the transgender clergy below caused disorder in their churches and denominations when they insisted on recognition. Several of them have left diminished or destroyed churches in their paths." (emphasis is mine)

Read about it here.


Some churches refuse to draw a line with respect to immoral behavior that will not be tolerated within the local Body. While all unbelievers should certainly be welcome into the church to hear the gospel, Scripture is clear that moral standards exist to become a part of the local Body. But some churches refuse to recognize unrepentant, immoral behavior (no matter how extreme) as grounds for expulsion. Blatant immoral behavior is welcome and celebrated in the church, sometimes even astonishingly within the leadership. This theological position cannot be reconciled with such explicit passages as 1 Cor 5, which are either conveniently glossed over or ignored altogether.

Usually an outgrowth of "Free Grace" theology (for an overview of Free Grace theology, see here), church discipline is virtually nonexistent and everyone is welcome into the Body no matter how immoral. Part of the problem is that since repentance is not viewed as necessary within Free Grace theology, there is never any incentive for those that have grievously sinned within the Body to repent.

Sadly, such churches sow the seeds for their demise; they are lighting the fuze for their own ultimate destruction.

Some Churches Surrender Their Most Powerful Weapon

Drive by an abortion clinic and note how it's always either windowless or has opaque windows and doors. It's impossible to see inside it from the outside. No sunlight penetrates from the outside. There's a theological reason for this; evil deeds avoid the light and hide in darkness (John 3:19-20).

Shining the spotlight of theological truth into the culture exposes the true nature of what's really happening - for good or bad. (I believe that if all pro-abortion advocates were forced to personally witness an abortion and help dispose of the "remains", there would be very, very few advocates left.)

Suppose a dangerous new drug that induces extreme euphoria comes onto the black market in your neighborhood. It's so dangerous that it kills more than 50% of first-time users. Drug addicts are flooding to it and the mounting casualties are astronomical. You lead an effort to combat it with multiple countermeasures, i.e., counseling, free withdrawal-treatment clinics, alternatives to "getting high" such as sports, etc. But your alternatives as good as they may be, are not enough. You must also warn the populace of the dangers of the new drug, what it can do them and how it will destroy them. You must publicly expose the true nature of the dangerous new drug.

The same is true for combating evil in the culture. Providing alternatives is only one side of the coin to ultimately defeat evil. We must also educate on the ethics and theology of the different manifestations of evil, exposing them for what they really are. Churches that only provide alternatives (as good as they may be) but never publicly address the ethics and theology of an issue from the pulpit are doing a grave injustice. Many recipients of the alternative works will likely conclude all options are morally-neutral and a matter of personal choice. Numerous churches admirably support ministries that actively provide alternatives to abortion (i.e., adoption, material support for pregnant women, counseling, etc.) But as valuable and necessary as such services are, they are not enough.

Light is "something" (light is actually energy) and darkness is "nothing" (but the absence of light.) This is why light always overcomes darkness without exception.  Jesus calls the church to be the light of the world (Matt 5:14), and said whomever follows Him has the light of life (John 8:12). Ultimately, it is the shining of the light of theological truth that sets men free (John 8:32). Some churches out of a misguided intent to avoid "culture wars", refrain from publicly addressing cultural issues.

Lighthouses serve two functions: (1) to serve as a navigation beacon to help ships safely navigate their way at night, and (2) to serve as a warning of dangerous obstacles that can potentially destroy the ship. Churches that refrain from addressing the ethics and theology of cultural issues become like a lighthouse that shields its' brilliant light out of erroneous fear of causing confusion and distress onboard the ships navigating by it. The true lighthouse shines its light to safely guide and warn away from danger. Similarly, the true church is supposed to shine theological truth into the culture to help safely guide it and expose the works of darkness. In shielding the light of theological truth and focusing only on charitable works, some churches actually help precipitate cultural shipwreck.

Such churches surrender their most powerful weapon.

The Idiot's Guide To Planned Parenthood Terminology

For the uninitiated and uneducated, here is the Idiot's Guide to Planned Parenthood terminology.

"Doctor"- The executioner performing the abortion. Usually graduated at the bottom of his/her medical class and was unable to secure employment anywhere else as a practicing physician.

"Nurse" - Assists in the murder. Usually graduated at the bottom of her nursing class and was unable to secure employment anywhere else as a practicing nurse.

"Counselor" - The individual marketed as an unbiased third party, but who receives financial compensation for every abortion decision secured.

"Clinic" - Death Row for unborn babies.

"We Care" - We need your unborn baby to harvest for parts to make money.

"Pro Choice" - We want you to choose to murder your unborn baby. (PP dropped the use of this term in 2013 as apparently too many people were cognizant of the real meaning.)

"Every Child Is Wanted and Loved" - We want your unborn baby and would love for you to let us murder him/her.

"Abortion is a personal decision between a woman and her doctor" - We don't want anyone to talk sense into you.

"Family Planning Efforts" - Let us help you plan your abortion.

"Consent Form" - Your baby's Death Warrant.

"Arrived Intact" - Oops. Your baby was born alive. But the good news is that we get to legally murder him/her and harvest all the parts to make more money.

"Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA)" - We literally tear your unborn baby limb-from-limb with powerful suction.

"Aspiration; can also referred to as suction curettage, dilation and curettage (D & C) or vacuum aspiration" - We chop your unborn baby into pieces in the womb and hopefully suck out all the parts. But don't worry as the "doctor" will reassemble the remains upon extraction to ensure we didn't leave part of him/her in you.

"Induction Abortion" - We painfully poison your unborn baby and induce him/her to be stillborn.

"Intrauterine Cranial Decompression" - We crush the skull of your unborn baby.

"Partial Birth Abortion" - Your baby is born alive and we legally murder him/her.

"Mifepristone" - An easy way for you to murder your unborn baby on your own without the hassle of coming down to PP.

"Ultrasound/Sonogram" - Imaging that helps us harvest more intact organs from your baby. But it's vital you don't see the image yourself as you will then realize with absolute horror, what is actually transpiring.

"Kermit Gosnell" - A marvel of efficiency.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The American Reincarnation of Nazi Medical Experiments

The fourth undercover video of Planned Parenthood atrocities.

What is more disturbing than the appalling videos is the apparent apathy of much (most?) of the American public which shrugs their shoulders and is no longer repelled by naked evil. Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil (Isa 5:20).

A Perfect Storm Is Coming

Larry Tomczak offers analysis here in an opinion piece entitled "Something Catastrophic Is Coming: Should We Tune Out?"


While the biblical principle of balance and moderation is always in order, are there not seasons where desperate times require desperate measures? Just as birth pangs increase in intensity and frequency until delivery, are there not unique times in history when more is required of us because the pace is quickening and it's imperative as "watchmen on the wall" to remain vigilant? Could we be in just such a time?

A perfect storm is developing and this is not some surreal conspiracy theory. It is no exaggeration to say America is at a crossroads...in a meltdown... at a tipping point... experiencing unprecedented changes...observing our President act like a one man wrecking crew to bring about his "fundamental transformation of America."

I sense dramatic change coming, judgments and severe economic upheaval. Did you observe the people in Greece in panic because they could not withdraw their money from the banks or ATMs? Returning from Washington, DC where I lived for 24 years, you can pick up the whiff of something immanent in the air.

Prophetic leader Gary Kah warn us: "Never before have so many signs of the times manifested simultaneously. Watching the evening news is like witnessing the prophesies of Scripture unfold before our eyes,
  • An emerging caliphate in the Middle East
  • An energized Russia—thought to be dead
  • The global economy teetering on the brink because of insurmountable debt ..."
"The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1Pet.4:7-8).


Larry is not a fanatic nut-job; he's merely echoing what so many others are saying. Dark storm clouds are on the horizon. As I wrote earlier here, I believe our culture is past the the event horizon for judgement. The impact will be devastating globally. Priorities will dramatically change almost overnight as people suddenly realize so much of what they value is transitory fluff.

I believe monumental change is coming for the church:
  • Churches that fail to repent will have their light extinguished (Rev 2:5; 2:16).
  • Many fence-sitters will abandon the church as the cost skyrockets to faithfully follow Christ.
  • Much of the real church will be forced underground in contrast to the church-in-name-only that is politically correct and sanctioned by what's left of the state.
  • The culture will make the real church a scapegoat, blaming them for what has happened.
  • Scores of large "brick & mortar" churches will disappear, as congregants dry up and the finances no longer exist to support big infrastructure and overhead.
  • House churches will proliferate (Rom 16:5; Phil 1:2; Acts 2:46; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15).
  • Ministry priorities will dramatically change; the church will largely return to a ministry of mercy and care, providing for needs the government can no longer meet.
  • Evil will fully unmask itself, forcing churches to finally openly confront the powers of darkness or be darkened into irrelevance.
  • Technology will become a powerful tool for enemies of the church enabling unparalleled surveillance and enforcement.
  • The almost-universal luxury of support from the gospel will dry up for many pastors. Tent-making leaders of the church will mushroom.

Is it more important to believe that abortion is wrong or to act like abortion is wrong?

Mike Spielman asks 40 appropriate questions to abortion supporters, abortion opponents, Christians,  and pastors/elders ...


  • If there is uncertainty as to when individual life begins, should we error on the side of protecting life or discarding life?
  • Which right is more fundamental, the right to not be killed or the right to not be pregnant?
  • Does it concern you that everyone who supports abortion is no longer threatened by it?
  • Have you considered the fact that the arguments used to justify abortion were once used to justify slavery?
  • Would you rather live in a country that protects the lives of all human beings or one that thinks some human beings are better off dead?
  • Was your support of abortion arrived at by an honest examination of the facts or by a desire to justify the elimination of unwanted pregnancy?
  • Does it bother you that 93% of abortions are performed on healthy mothers, with healthy babies, who chose to engage in sexual intercourse?
  • Which is more noble, to sacrifice a portion of your life for the sake of your child or to sacrifice your entire child for the sake of you?
  • Are poverty, parental immaturity, or unwantedness sufficient rationales for killing children after they’re born?
  • Is it more loving to kill a child you can’t raise or to give that child to someone who can?

  • If your grandkids ask you someday what you did to combat abortion, will you have anything to tell them?
  • If an outside observer were to secretly examine your life, specifically how you invest your time and money, would they conclude that abortion is a grave injustice or no big deal?
  • If all abortion-opponents responded to abortion as you do, would that help or hurt the cause?
  • Do you spend more money on coffee than you do on the defense of abortion-vulnerable children?
  • Would you be doing more to combat abortion if the lives of your own children hung in the balance?
  • Is it more important to believe that abortion is wrong or to act like abortion is wrong?
  • If it was your life that was threatened by fatal violence, would you want advocates who politely held their tongue, or advocates who actually spoke up in your defense?
  • How much time have you spent equipping yourself to be able to competently explain the injustice of abortion?
  • Does your engagement come from a place of arrogance or humility?
  • Does the way you treat people give credibility to your “pro-life” convictions or make them seem rather hypocritical?
  • Is Jesus more likely to criticize someone for doing too much on behalf of abortion-vulnerable children or too little?
  • If you were to be judged according to what you did or didn’t do for the least of these among us, how would you fare?
  • Does Jesus’ warning to not overlook the little children have any application to abortion?
  • Does Jesus assertion that, “Whoever receives a child in my name receives me,” have any bearing on abortion?
  • How much of your prayer life is devoted to the elimination of abortion?
  • What are the chances your teenage daughter would have an abortion before she’d tell you she’s pregnant, for fear of your reaction?
  • Does your service to those threatened by abortion more closely mirror the Good Samaritan or the priest and the Levite–who were too busy to stop and do anything?
  • Does the flavor of your life give those around you a positive or negative view of humanity?
  • Is Jesus more concerned about how you feel or how you act?
  • If faith without works is dead, what is pro-life conviction without action?
  • Are you more concerned about your music and preaching than you are about intervening for the marginalized and vulnerable?
  • What does your church budget say about your commitment to protecting abortion-vulnerable children?
  • How many weeks, months or years could someone go to your church without hearing any public prayer or proclamation regarding abortion?
  • Is there a culture of grace at your church such that a single woman need not fear being condemned or ostracized for showing up pregnant?
  • If all churches were to follow your example, would we be looking at another 40 years of legal abortion?
  • Since 85% of most ministry budgets are dedicated to salaries and facilities, how much of your salaried time are you devoting to abortion-vulnerable children?
  • If John Ensor is correct, and abortion is the defining experience of this generation, are you faithfully equipping your people to be able to minister in a world full of post-abortive men and women?
  • Do your middle school, high school and college students have a clear understanding of what abortion is and why it is an affront to God?
  • In light of the fact that 65% of aborting women are professing Christians, how is your church doing with the Great Commission call to teach disciples to observe everything God has commanded—including the prohibition against shedding innocent blood?
  • If the church in America ever made the elimination of abortion an honest-to-goodness ministry priority, do you think Planned Parenthood would even stand a chance?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

This makes perfect sense from the worldview of secular humanism

According to the Media Research Center, the various mainstream broadcast networks’ news programs gave the death of Cecil the Lion more coverage in just one day than two weeks coverage of videos that show  Planned Parenthood senior officials ghoulishly trafficking illegally in dead baby parts.

Tuesday, the networks spent 5 minutes, 44 seconds during their evening news shows on Cecil — and that’s not even counting the teasers. Wednesday morning, ABC, NBC and CBS lamented over the lion for 8 minutes, 17 seconds.

On July 29, Good Morning America co-anchor Lara Spencer highlighted the “very disturbing story” with “international outrage” before turning to ABC correspondent David Wright for the full story on the lion-shooting by an American, now, according to Wright, “pretty much the most hated man on the internet.”

“There are no words,” Spencer added at the end of the segment. Again, we’re talking about a lion.

For CBS’ This Morning, co-anchor Gayle King commented, “The more you hear about it, the more upsetting it is.”

In summation, in two weeks the networks gave the Planned Parenthood atrocity 11 minutes of coverage. In one single day, the death of an animal earned 14 minutes of coverage. See here.

(Worse yet, many churches spent even less time (i.e., none) condemning the barbarism of Planned Parenthood from the pulpit.)

In retrospect, this makes perfect sense from the worldview of secular humanism. African Lions are endangered; humans are not.

God help us.

Adherence To The Law Was The Only Defense Offered - And Rejected

A friend's mother, Gisela Dyer, grew up in Nazi Germany. While an adolescent, she spoke out against the treatment of the Jews, for which she was sent to a labor camp. She subsequently escaped from the labor camp and made her way back home ... where her mother promptly turned her into the Gestapo. After arrest, she was sent to a concentration camp.

She survived the war and moved to America. In 1973, after the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, she wrote the following editorial. She has the experience to speak with authority and we ignore her warning at our own peril. Read her communication from 1973 by clicking here.

When the government mandates immoral law, Christians clearly have a duty for civil disobedience (Acts 5:29). A church that no longer distinguishes between moral and immoral law is no longer the church.

He was asked “How could the Church in Germany sit back and allow this to happen?”

On April 7, 1933, anti-Semitism officially became German government policy when Jews were banned from civil service. This was known as the “Aryan Clause”. Six days before that, there was a boycott of Jewish merchants. The Aryan Clause directly affected the German church because non-Aryans were not only baptized members of the church, but some also held offices in the church. Thus, the door was wide open for discrimination and rejection even by fellow Christians.

Later that month, Bonhoeffer addressed a group of pastors with an essay entitled: “The Church and the Jewish Question.” In this essay, Bonhoeffer argued that the church had the right to question and rebuke the state. Further, the church must stand up for the rights of victims of injustice regardless of their religious background. Even further, Bonhoeffer advocated the possibility of jamming the spokes of the wheel of the state. In other words, the church in Germany must be open to the possibility of taking action on behalf of the Jewish people.”

By 1939 Hitler completed a long incremental takeover of Germany.  He kept asking for and getting power because the nation was enthralled and the church was apathetic.  “How could the Church in Germany sit back and allow this to happen?” that question was posed to Bonhoeffer by American Pastors at the time.  His answer was: “the teaching of cheap grace.”


I find many Christians who fellowship in a church that adheres to a theological perspective commonly referred to as "Free Grace", are largely in the dark regarding the tenets of that particular worldview. Among the beliefs of what is commonly referred to a "Free Grace" by its adherents (or as "cheap grace", "no-lordship salvation" or "Easy-Believism by its opponents) are the following:

  1. Repentance is never to be included as part of the gospel message.
  2. One may receive Christ as Savior, yet reject Him as Lord. That is, one may receive Christ by faith alone ("intellectual assent" is the definition some of them affirm), yet do so with ongoing rebellion--accepting the gift while shaking a fist at the giver. God does not necessarily change the heart (to grant a love for Christ, or even a receptivity to Him) when He saves someone.
  3. True Christians will not necessarily evidence their faith by works (or "fruit"). In fact, a true Christian may never show any evidence of the new birth.
  4. True Christians will not necessarily persevere in the faith. In fact, a true Christian may receive Jesus as Savior, later become intellectually unconvinced of the gospel, denounce Christ and become an atheist; however, because of that one human decision made at one point in time, he is still considered to be saved. For instance, Joseph Dillow, in The Reign of the Sevant Kings, says, "It is possible for a truly born-again person to fall away from the faith and cease believing." (p.199). True Christians may fall away completely from the faith and still be saved. God in no way grants them perseverance, or sustains them in their faith.
  5. At the Bema seat, Christ will divide believers into two distinct and separate groups: the faithful, "overcoming" Christians will be allowed to reign with Him in the millennial kingdom; they are the "heirs" of the kingdom. Unfaithful, carnal believers, however, will get into the kingdom, but will not be allowed to reign with Christ. They enter the kingdom but do not inherit it. In fact, they will be barred from the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, and will be cast outside of the wedding banquet, where they will weep and gnash their teeth (just as unbelievers will do in hell). The millennium will therefore be a time of sorrow and weeping for these children of God.

The key signpost of Free Grace teaching is the absence of any call for repentance. Sin is relegated to the background as largely irrelevant because repentance is not required for salvation. I suspect most Christians in "Free Grace" churches would be surprised to understand their doctrinal position holds there are two categories of believers in Heaven - i.e., distinction between entering the kingdom and inheriting it, so that someone can enter the kingdom and yet not inherit it, so that they forego privileges and rewards in the eternal state. 

There is a struggle underway in the Body of Christ between adherents of "Free Grace" and what is often referred to as "Costly Grace". Jon Walker who serves on staff at Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven Ministries elaborates on the differences between these two understandings of grace:

Cheap grace is when we attempt to lower the standards of the gospel by ignoring the cost of the cross and downplaying the need for repentance. Cheap grace embraces an easy discipleship that requires little commitment. It assumes you can live in God’s sanctuary, where Jesus fulfills the law, yet remain independent of the commands and desires of Jesus.

Cheap grace justifies our sin. It is the thought that my sins are forgiven, so God will wink at me when I sin.

Costly grace justifies the sinner. It demands that forgiveness be followed by obedience, that grace remain tethered to truth. When Jesus forgives the woman caught in adultery (John 8), He says, “Neither do I condemn you…Go now and leave your life of sin.” His grace, which is freely given, offers forgiveness for her sins, but it includes an expectation that her life will radically change.

Costly grace means we change our habits, thoughts, behaviors, attitudes, and relationships according to the will of Jesus. Nothing can remain the same because we are no longer the same: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Bonhoeffer says grace is “costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

We are uniquely connected to the divine nature through Jesus, and we no longer “live under law but under God’s grace.” (Romans 6:14 TEV; consider also Colossians 2:9-10) Cheap grace, on the other hand, denies the Incarnation and leaves the gospel abstract and impersonal. It allows us to give intellectual assent to the teachings of Jesus. Yet, the bloody death and resurrection of Christ is nothing but real and personal, and it forces us to continually make the intimate choice of following the person, Jesus Christ, or following our own path.

First, Bonhoeffer says the Church has reduced the gospel to a set of burdensome rules, the antithesis of the easy yoke we should find in Jesus. We’ve loaded the gospel down with so many extra-biblical routines and regulations– ‘a real Christian ought to, has to, must do’ — that it is difficult for anyone to find the real Jesus.

We make our legal lists, and that makes us legalists. But that teaches people they have to work their way up to God’s standard of righteousness, which challenges the very Word of God, who is the crucified and resurrected Jesus. When we keep insisting that, through our behaviors and our attitudes, we can match godly standards of righteousness, we dismiss the Incarnation and suggest Jesus is insignificant to our hope for heaven.

Second, Bonhoeffer says the Church uses the doctrine of grace as an excuse for shallow discipleship and for a pervasive acceptance of sin in the Body of Christ. We’ve taken “I am a sinner saved by grace” and turned it into “I can sin because of grace.” This allows us to be satisfied with discipleship as mere Bible study. Jesus appears insignificant because He doesn’t seem to have the power or authority to really change our lives.

These two approaches are as prevalent now as they were in 1937, when Bonhoeffer wrote, The Cost of Discipleship. In either case, a burdensome religion or a presumptive attitude on grace, we end up practicing a religion far removed from the intimate relationship God requires we have with Jesus Christ. The essence of discipleship is to know Jesus at a level of intimacy that can only be sustained by His constant presence in our lives.

In many ways, the word “faith” has lost its meaning. We speak of faith, but often what we mean is something abstract and fanciful. In writing Costly Grace, I wanted the reader to understand the biblical essence of the word. Faith is not only trusting Jesus, it also means we are obedient to Jesus. We line up with the will of God, and that shows we love God. We do what Jesus tells us to do, and that shows we trust Him. It is a loving, obedient trust.

Bonhoeffer says this means our faith must be concrete. We show Jesus we trust Him by being obedient to what He tells us to do. And by being obedient, we learn that we can trust Him more.

When Jesus walked on the water, Peter verbally expressed faith that Jesus could empower him to walk on the water also. But his faith didn’t become real until he stepped out of the boat. That’s when it became a concrete faith, when he climbed out of the boat in obedience to the call of Jesus. When he put his foot on the water and it didn’t sink, he learned he could trust Jesus. That made it easier to be obedient with the next step, where he, again, learned Jesus was good for His promises.

The Apostle John tells us that Jesus is full of grace and truth and, now that we have the life of Christ present in our lives, we are full of grace and truth (John 1:14-16). Jesus holds them together in us just as they are held together in Him.

Legalists try to separate truth from grace, and so they begin to see grace as a license to sin. Grace sounds like heresy to them.

On the other hand, those who are unrestrained by grace (licentious) try to separate grace from truth, and so they begin to see truth as ‘law’. Truth sounds like legalism if we are abusing grace.

In Jesus, grace is always truthful, and truth is forever gracious. There is no way to have the fullness of grace and truth apart from Him. He didn’t come to show us ways of grace and truth or give us definitions of grace and truth. He came to be all the grace and all the truth we will ever need and to freely offer both to us in the gift of Himself.

If I am full of grace, there is no excuse for legalism in my life (Matthew 23:4; Matthew 11:28-30). If I am full of truth, there is no excuse for ‘cheap grace’ (unrestraint, licentiousness) in my life (Matthew 5:17-20; John 8:11).

The only reason to live as a legalist or to abuse grace is unbelief in the adequacy of Jesus. Legalism and ‘cheap grace’ both show a lack of faith. We live faithlessly because we do not trust Jesus.


For more details, the Theopedia entry with their explanation of "Non-lordship salvation" (Free Grace) is here.

"Jihad Has Many Dimensions, Including Biological Jihad"

Doug Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary, offers an excellent comparative analysis here between the growth methods for Christianity versus Islam. Much of what he says parallels my material here in "8 Things The Church Needs To Understand About Islam." 

Some of his points on Islamic growth ...

"Women are not considered, spare the virgins specially created by Allah to make the afterlife a perpetual orgy for those men deserving of it. Earthly women are not specifically mentioned as inhabitants of paradise."

"Jihad has many dimensions, including biological jihad. Muslims are not reticent in admitting this. Because of low birth rates in Europe and the United States, Muslims have reason for their hope in out-populating the infidels."

"Muslims immigrate to the land of the infidels, have many children, and demand their rights as citizens under cloak of multiculturalism. As their numbers increase, they demand special provisions for their dietary code (halal), their financial codes, and their family code. They establish their own Islamic education. When their numbers reach a critical mass, they seek to impose sharia law, not only on their community, but on the nation."

"Stoning, beheading and crucifixion[…]are not the aberrations of Islam; they are of its essence."

"Theocratic Muslims have already infiltrated the military and the civil government of the United States."

"Islamic purity is policed by its penalties for apostasy. No Muslim may freely de-convert."

His article is recommended reading for anyone wishing to understand Islam in today's world.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"If this does not shock the conscience, what will?"

After the first undercover video documenting the demonic practices of Planned Parenthood, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, authored a superb blog here entitled "Planned Parenthood and the Atrocity of Corpse-Selling". As he says, "The church of Jesus Christ should recommit ourselves to speaking out for human dignity."

Facebook classified it "abusive" and banned the article. Subsequent undercover videos reveal the shocking depth of the depravity. The culture refuses to acknowledge what is happening. Compounding the problem, far too many churches remain silent from the pulpit on the pretext of not wishing to engage in a "culture war". Shame on those that remain publicly silent. Their silence aligns them with the majority of the German populace during WW2.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

The University of California now offers six choices for 'gender identity' (only six?) The alterations are being made to admissions forms and University facilities in order to accommodate “gender identity” began when UC President Janet Napolitano (formerly Homeland Security Advisor) formed a council to advise her on LGBT issues in 2014. The gender and sex questions are just one change slated for the UC system. Gender-neutral restrooms and changing rooms are being installed and “the university is initiating a two-year project designed to coordinate and promote interdisciplinary study of genders and sexualities,” according to a UC press release.

Applicants can choose from one of six "genders":

  • male
  • female
  • trans male/trans man
  • trans female/trans woman
  • gender queer/gender non-conforming
  • “different identity”

In contrast, Facebook now offers users more than 51 new gender options. If you want to be enlightened, go here.

3rd video - Planned Parenthood's Black Market in Baby Parts

"We must seek to find the truth, not defend our preconceptions"

In 2007, my friend Michael Patton of Reclaiming The Mind ministries authored a thoughtful piece here entitled "Can a Christian Support Abortion? The Theology of Abortion". He is absolutely correct in affirming abortion is ultimately a theological issue, pointing out that one's position on abortion is the inevitable result of their personal theology.

While you may not have ever consciously thought through your own position on the creation of the soul, your theological understanding (whether conscious or subconscious) determines your position on abortion. I personally believe that Michael is correct in affirming Traducianism  - the view that holds the soul comes into existence at the moment of conception. As Michael point out,

Theologically speaking, it is impossible for there to be a Christian traducianist who supports abortion. Why? Because the traducianist’s theology precludes a necessary belief that a person is complete from the moment of conception. 

Ultimately he says,

Our stance concerning the issue of abortion is not our guide with regards to this theological issue. In other words, we do not choose the position that best fits with our agenda one way or another. We must seek to find the truth, not defend our preconceptions. (emphasis is mine)

As I've said before, if I cannot be 100% sure and have some uncertainty pertaining to the theology of an issue, I will always err on the side of caution because of the potentially devastating consequences if I get it wrong (i.e., see here.)

Michael's article is must-reading.


I suspect if you ask people why they either support or don't support abortion, that most answers will be based on subjective feeling and/or personal experience. Everyone without exception has a personal theology - whether or not they realize it - that forms their worldview. Unfortunately the worldview of most is not consciously formed from a concerted effort to grasp theological truth, but rather from the whims and dictates of a rudderless culture.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Devastating Consequences When The Church Gets It Wrong

"What we do in life echoes in eternity."
Maximus in the 2000 movie "Gladiator"


There is a sobering warning in James 3:1: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness

When teachers and leaders in the church get it wrong as sometimes happens (i.e., when Paul had to confront Peter in the early church, Gal 2:11-14), the consequences can be both long-term and devastating. Hence we find the warning in James about stricter judgement for those that teach in the church. (This is further evidence that all of us will stand accountable before the judgement seat of Christ as unbelievers are judged for punishment of sin and believers are judged for degree of reward.)

Here is a grievous historical example of the enormous damage that can happen when leaders and teachers in the church get it wrong ...

When the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in Jan, 1973, the Roman Catholic Church (to its credit) immediately voiced strong opposition. They insisted the Supreme Court blundered by making an immoral, anti-religious and unjustified decision, and vowed to continue the fight against relaxed abortion laws.

But most other religious bodies and leaders who expressed themselves, approved the decision, including much of the evangelical Protestant church. When asked for an official position after the decision, the Southern Baptist Convention responded they had no official position on abortion. (see here.)

W.A. Criswell (1909-2002) led First Baptist Church in Dallas during the 1970s and 80s to become the largest Southern Baptist Congregation in the world. The church rolls boasted 26,000 members, and the congregation owned five blocks of downtown Dallas real estate. He would publish the well-known and respected Criswell Study Bible in 1979. Some supporters described him as one of the 20th century's greatest expository preachers. Still regarded as a leading force in the church, his sermons spanning more than 60 years are available online here.

In 1973, after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion, Criswell supported and affirmed the decision. Religious News Service quoted Criswell as saying,

"I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had life separate from the mother that it became an individual person, and it always has, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed." (See here.)

(Note that Criswell's response was not theological in nature, but what seemed right to him. Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25 apply.)

Not until years later would Criswell reverse his position on abortion, becoming a staunch opponent of the procedure. Despite his later retraction, the damage done by Criswell's initial endorsement coupled with the original apathy of his denomination, is incalculable. How many babies were aborted because of his endorsement? How many abortion advocates still point back to his original endorsement for support? For an example that Criswell's original statement lives on, see the May, 2014 blog entitled "The Late First Baptist Dallas Pastor W.A. Criswell Was Pro-Choice" here.

(Criswell College, a Bible school he started and is named after him, recently sued the federal government claiming Obamacare violates the school’s religious beliefs by forcing it to pay for employee health insurance that covers birth-control pills they believe induce abortion.)

While Criswell’s earlier views may have been the most public, he wasn’t alone in holding them. Wayne Dehoney, SBC president for two terms in the 1960s and longtime pastor of Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., described “a basic watershed between Protestant and Catholic theology on two questions -- the morality of birth control, of which abortion is another form, and the question of when life begins.”

Echoing Criswell's original statement that life begins at birth, Dehoney said, “Protestant theology generally takes Genesis 2:7 as a statement that the soul is formed at breath, not conception,” (see here)

Incredibly, Dehoney, commenting on a Louisville Courier-Journal story in 1976 revealing that one tenant in property owned by his church was running an abortion clinic, said that he personally had “no moral or theological problem with the operation of a legal, ethical clinic.”

Paralleling Criswell and Dehoney, W.O. Vaught, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., told his most famous parishioner future-President Bill Clinton that life begins at birth, providing justification for the future President's position on abortion. In his 2004 autobiography, My Life, Clinton remembered Vaught telling him that while abortion was usually wrong, the Bible did not condemn it. Vaught said the Bible teaches that life begins not at conception but when life has been “breathed into” a baby after delivery.

“I asked him about the biblical statement that God knows us even when we are in our mother’s womb,” Clinton wrote. “He replied that the verse simply refers to God being omniscient, and that it might as well have said God knew us even before we were in our mother’s womb, even before anyone in our direct line was born.”

The repercussions for our words and actions (both good and bad) echo through time long after we're dead and buried. This is why God delays final judgement so that everyone's life can bear fruit - for either good or bad - down through time. The church has grave responsibility. If we are unsure of the ethical position of an issue (i.e., Criswell said it "seemed" to him), the church should always seek a thoughtful, researched theological answer, not provide a knee-jerk reaction based on feeling. Ultimately, the church should always err on the side of caution (i.e., if we're unsure when life begins, assume it begins at the earliest opportunity - conception.) Getting it wrong can do enormous damage both short and long term. As Maximus said, "What we do in life echoes in eternity."

(Ironically and sadly, the attorney who filed the initial lawsuit in Roe v. Wade was a Southern Baptist and member of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas (see here) )

Would You Describe Stage 4 Cancer As "Less Than Perfect Health"?

Years ago, I had a friend who was diagnosed with inoperable Stage 4 cancer. The oncologist prescribed chemo and radiation treatment. While I had little hope, I was astonished to see her pronounced cancer-free less than one year later. Now, years later, she is still cancer-free.

I once heard a pastor describe sin as "less than God's best for you".

That is akin to saying stage 4 cancer is less than perfect health. Something like chronic dry skin is less than perfect health ... a nuisance, but easily and quickly treated at minimal cost with no change to your lifestyle. You can easily treat it yourself; no outside help is needed.

On the other hand, Stage 4 cancer is life-threatening and requires immediate, costly medical intervention. It turns your world upside down. And it requires outside intervention; you cannot treat it yourself. Stage 4 cancer is far worse than less-than-perfect-health.

To say that sin is "less than God's best for you" insults the holiness of God. Sin is far, far worse than simply being "less than God's best for you"; it's the opposite of everything God is and represents. How costly is the remedy for sin? Priceless - it cost the Son of God His life.

Describing sin in a seemingly morally-neutral tone reinforces our culture's popular perception that sin is merely a troublesome nuisance (or even non-existent.) The way some churches present sin (if they even ever talk about it), it's easy to conclude sin is of minimal consequence.

In 1973, psychiatrist Karl Menninger warned society was rejecting the concept of sin in his book "Whatever Became Of Sin". (It's available on Amazon here.) He concluded mental and moral health are identical and recognition of the reality of sin is paramount to our well-being. He argued for restoring the concepts of sin and responsibility.

Sadly, our culture largely ignored him. Virtually every time someone commits a heinous act, the culture searches for an external reason. The general (fallacious) assumption is that humans are innately morally good and any moral defects must have an external cause. There is an endless quest to explain evil - i.e., the cause must be their upbringing, their lack of education, their abuse as a child, their poor health care, their exposure to violent video games or television, etc. The cause cannot be internal.

Scripture paints a very dark picture of sin with a warning we ignore at our eternal peril. The gospel offers the only solution - repentant faith in the atoning death of Christ. Unfortunately an often murky call to repentant faith leaves hearers in the dark, believing mere exposure to the gospel is sufficient. Sitting next to the radiation and chemo treatment does nothing for the one afflicted with Stage 4 cancer. Bringing it home with you and setting it on prominent display in your house does nothing for you. Talking about it all day long does nothing for you. Intellectually believing that it will cure the cancer is insufficient. It is only when you actively commit to personally receiving the treatment yourself that the curative effects are operative.

Rejecting the gospel and embracing fruitless alternative treatments for what ails it, the culture is descending deeper and deeper into darkness. Exactly as Menninger warned, the concept of sin has largely disappeared from the culture. Morality has evaporated from a culture gone mad.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Until We Acknowledge The Root Problem, We Are Tilting At Windmills

When heavily armed Mohammad Abdulazeez opened fire and killed 4 Marines and a Navy Sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the mainstream media quickly searched a reason to justify such a heinous act despite it quickly becoming apparent that he did it in the name of Islam and sought to die as a martyr for the cause. It wasn't poverty and lack of education or economic opportunity. Abdulazeez had a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and came from a middle-class family. His father had a government job and could afford to send his son to visit Jordan for seven months.

The refusal to understand the theology behind Islam will ultimately be the downfall for those it seeks to confront and conquer ... which their theology says is the whole world. Islam teaches that Jihad (holy war) is the obligation of every Muslim, as I pointed out 2 years ago here in a post entitled "8 Things The Church Needs To Understand about Islam":

Islam historically was and is a religion spread primarily by the sword.  The "official" Koran published in Saudi Arabia by the “King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, Madinah, K.S.A.” has a footnote on page 39 commenting on Surah 2:190 that every Muslim on earth is mandated to participate in holy war (jihad) and that no one but Allah is to be worshipped.  Muslim theologians, when speaking in their native tongue to their faithful, make it very clear that Jihad means a holy war undertaken by Muslims against non-believers.  When speaking to westerners in English, they deceitfully describe jihad as a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline, the inner struggle of good against evil; refraining oneself from the whispers of Shaitan (Satan).

It's important to understand that Muslims who undertake Islamic jihad are not “radicalized,” they simply become religious Muslims who are carrying out Islam’s fundamental purpose, which is to Islamicize the entire world through imposition of Islamic Shari'a law.  Abdurrahman Wahid, the former president of Indonesia (the world’s most populous Muslim country) in an essay titled “Right Islam, Wrong Islam,” agrees that a literal reading of the Koran leads to what is popularly called Muslim extremism.

In March 2015, the secular magazine "The Atlantic" published an article here entitled "What ISIS Really Wants". They point out the truth that politicians are unwilling to admit:  The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs"

It's important to grasp that it is not only ISIS that is committed to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately bringing about the apocalypse - but much of Islam beyond ISIS as well. Former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali courageously points out here the problem is not most Muslims (who are peace-loving), but the theology of Islam itself. An outspoken critic of Islam, she has been living under a fatwa, a religious ruling or in this case an order to kill, for years.

"That word 'peace,' 'tolerant' is not defined in Islam as you define it in the West," she clarified. "It doesn't mean ceasefire or compromise. That's temporary. In Islam, the way to achieve peace is through settlement, jihad, and the institution of sharia (Islamic law), she explained.

After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, even the liberal and politically-correct web site salon recognized here that "unlike Christianity or Judaism, Islam's religious history is inseparable from its conquests -- which is why the concept of holy war lives on today."

Christianity burst out of its birthplace in Jerusalem into the Middle East, Asia Minor and Europe via peaceful witness, often at the cost of the lives of those who dared to evangelize. In contrast, Islam exploded out of its birthplace in Arabia by conquering the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa via the sword, at the cost of many lives who dared to oppose it.

Until we recognize the root problem is Islamic theology, not lack of jobs or education, poor health care, etc.  ....... we are tilting at windmills.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Distorting The Sovereignty Of God

Here is an example of distorted understanding of the sovereignty of God:

The United States Supreme Court decision mandating same-sex marriage as the law of the land is tragic (true) ... but God is still sovereign (true) ... so everything is OK (false because it abrogates human responsibility)

Another example:

Abortion is morally wrong (true) ... but God is still sovereign (true) ... so everything is OK (false because it abrogates human responsibility)

Here is yet another, more obvious example. Suppose the Allies had said in 1941:

What Nazi Germany is doing is wrong (true) ... but God is still sovereign (true) ... so everything is OK (obviously false; everything was clearly not OK)

To correctly understand the sovereignty of God as revealed in the Bible, it's vital we grasp both the sovereignty of God and human responsibility (choice and action) as revealed in Scripture. Both are affirmed in the Bible.

God is unquestionably absolutely sovereign (Ps 115:3, etc.); nothing happens outside His control for even the smallest things (i.e., the flip of a coin [Prov 16:33], the death of a sparrow [Matt 10:29], the number of hairs on your head [Luke 12:7], etc.

Consider this ...
  • To be truly sovereign with supreme power capable of accomplishing whatever one pleases, one must have all power (must be omnipotent)
  • To be truly sovereign in complete control, one must know all things (must be omniscient)
  • To be truly sovereign, there can be no external influence or dependence (must independent or transcendent)
  • To be truly sovereign in the sense of exercising supreme dominion in all places, one must be simultaneously present everywhere (be omnipresent)
  • To be truly sovereign in the sense of exercising absolute authority at all times, one must be eternal with no beginning or end
And, in fact, the Bible reveals the one true God to have all these attributes. There does not exist in the cosmos a single particle of matter, no matter how small or big, that is not under the sovereign control of God. His sovereign control extends beyond mere physical matter into the unseen spiritual realm to literally encompass all of creation.

But at the same time that God is absolutely sovereign, Scripture repeatedly affirms human responsibility. Our choices and actions are truly our own (i.e., Josh 24:15; James 1:13-16; etc.) This apparent contradiction that God is absolutely sovereign and yet at the same time we are fully responsible cannot be ultimately comprehended by finite human minds. That God is able to use our choices, decisions, and actions (which truly are our own) to perfectly accomplish His will, is mind-boggling evidence of just how great God is. His greatness is beyond our comprehension. It's almost unfathomable that this absolute Sovereign God grants us responsibility to make choices and decisions and then act (all of which are truly ours), and then use those choices, decisions and actions to perfectly accomplish His will.

Two examples where both the sovereignty of God and human responsibility are simultaneously depicted in the Bible:
  • One occurs in Acts 23 after Paul is arrested in Jerusalem and in Roman custody. In Acts 23:11 God reveals to Paul one night that Paul will be a witness for Him in Rome [sovereignty of God; i.e., Paul will not die in Jerusalem]. The very next day, Paul learns of a conspiracy to kill him (Acts 23:16-17) and immediately takes action to reveal the plot to the Roman Commander [human responsibility].
  • The other occurs during the shipwreck recorded in Acts 27. After the violent storm pummels the ship for several days so that all on board lose hope of surviving, God reveals to Paul in Acts 27:23-24 that all will be saved which he communicates to the crew [sovereignty of God; i.e., no one will die]. Yet, just a short time later, Paul urgently tells the Centurion in Acts 27:30-31 that unless he prevents the sailors from abandoning the ship, they cannot be saved [human responsibility; unless the Centurion acts, all will die].
Many Christians have a distorted understanding by not simultaneously maintaining the healthy tension revealed in Scripture between God's sovereignty and human responsibility. They either swing to side of sovereignty and negate/minimize human responsibility ... or ... they emphasize human responsibility at cost to the sovereignty of God. To be true to Biblical revelation, both must simultaneously be upheld.

Coming back to the first two examples I gave of a distorted understanding of God's sovereignty:

The United States Supreme Court decision mandating same-sex marriage as the law of the land is tragic (true) ... but God is still sovereign (true) ... so everything is OK (false, because it abrogates human responsibility)

Abortion is morally wrong (true) ... but God is still sovereign (true) ... so everything is OK (false because it abrogates human responsibility)

Some Christians who correctly affirm the sovereignty of God, fail to recognize their responsibility to act. Others affirm the absolute sovereignty of God, but also realize their grave responsibility and act.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Barring National Repentance, Why The Homosexual Population Will Now Explode

In the first large-scale government survey measuring Americans’ sexual orientation, the National Health Institute Survey (remember - this is a government survey) reported in July 2014 that only 1.6 percent of Americans identify as gay or lesbian, and another 0.7 percent considered themselves bisexual.  In 2012, The Atlantic (which is not a Christian publication by any stretch of the imagination) published an article here entitled "Americans Have No Idea How Few Gay People There Are". They concluded that while a shockingly high fraction of the general population think an astounding 25% of the country is gay or lesbian, the reality is that before the Supreme Court decision, it was probably less than 2 percent. (There's good reason that most people assume a far higher homosexual population than actually exists - i.e., the entertainment industry and mainstream media incessantly market and affirm it.) Prior to the Supreme Court ruling mandating same-sex marriage as the law of the land, I pointed out here that a reputable secular study established that the number of ex-gays actually outnumbers the number of gays.

But I believe those numbers are about to dramatically change and that barring National Repentance, the homosexual population will now explode.


Seven reasons:
  1. Impressionable children will be exposed to the homosexual lifestyle in an affirming light at very early ages in the education system, and by popular media and the entertainment industry. Just as free access to alcohol and/or drugs at very early ages would obviously produce a far higher percentage of alcoholics and drug addicts, so will this exposure produce more homosexuals. (Mark 9:42 is applicable "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.")
  2. Peer Pressure will force many of the young to acquiesce and experiment with their sexuality.
  3. "Respected" homosexual role models and celebrity endorsements will create an atmosphere of not only acceptance but affirmation. (When I was a young adult, homosexuality was not only immoral, but also a criminal act. As increasing numbers of "respected" role models flaunt the lifestyle and/or endorse it (i.e., no less than the President of the United States), the culture will warmly embrace the lifestyle.)
  4. Capitulating churches will send a clear "green-light" signal to congregants that may struggle with same -sex attraction. (Everyone struggles with at least one area of sin. If I'm prone to alcoholism and my church suddenly affirms alcoholism as perfectly normal and even good, there will be predictable consequences.)
  5. Much of the church's witness to the culture will disappear. While not affirming the lifestyle, silent churches will send the message that the homosexual lifestyle is morally-neutral and a matter of personal preference. Again, those that struggle with same-sex attraction will feel free to indulge. As penalties increase for presenting Biblical truth on the subject (whether in school, work or the public's eye), many churches and individual Christians will fall silent.
  6. Widespread Biblical illiteracy throughout the culture leaves many Christians clueless what Scripture actually says on the subject.
  7. Finally - and most frightening - Romans 1:18-27 presents homosexuality as the end-game in apostasy. When mankind repeatedly rejects the revealed truth of God, He finally reaches the limit of His patience and gives people over to the sinful desires of their hearts. In essence, God gives free reign for sin to bear full fruit with homosexuality being the key signpost.
Advocates for the homosexual lifestyle exercise fantastic hermeneutical gymnastics to try and render any other interpretation for the passage in Romans other than the literal. Or they simply ignore it.

But why is homosexuality depicted in Scripture as the end-game in rebellion against God?

I believe Scripture provides two clues:
  1. Satan, who instigated the original rebellion cannot of course, directly attack God. His next best move then is to attack the only part of creation said to be made in the image of God. Genesis is clear that God created the male and female distinction to manifest His image (Gen 1:27). In marring this male/female distinction, Satan is attacking the very image of God.
  2. Scripture portrays marriage between a man and a woman as gloriously symbolizing the union between Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32). As Bob Deffinbaugh so eloquently says, "Like communion, marriage is a divine institution. Christian marriage has certain commitments, obligations and duties which are symbolic. The roles which God has given to a Christian husband and his wife and not culturally derived, nor are they arbitrarily based. They are intended to symbolize and represent a greater, more fundamental reality. While marriage is temporal, the reality which is symbolizes is eternal. And thus we cannot understand the importance of the duties of the husband or the wife without grasping the reality which Christian marriage is to symbolically communicate. This fundamental reality which underlies and explains the attitudes and conduct of a man and his wife in marriage is the relationship of Jesus Christ to His church." In attacking marriage between a man and woman, Satan is striking symbolically at Christ's union with His redeemed church.
This explains the fearsome judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah. It also is a sobering warning to our culture that we are approaching "game over".

How significant that homosexuals choose the rainbow to symbolize their movement. The rainbow was created by God after catastrophic judgment upon a world in full scale rebellion, and signified God's promise to never again judge the world with a global, devastating flood (Gen 9:12-16). Their use of the rainbow mocks God's promise regarding judgement and flaunts their sin before the Creator.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Much Of The Modern Church Sadly Misunderstands The Doctrine Of Grace

Earlier I addressed here the issue of what some theologians refer to as "cheap grace". For background, I encourage you to read that posting first before this one by John MacArthur. In particular, Wayne Grudem's comments on Free Grace theology in his Nov 2014 address to the Evangelical Theological Society that I reference, and John Piper's comments are important.

As the Reformers said:

We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

But what exactly did they mean when they said "by grace alone"?

In the year 2000, John MacArthur wrote what I consider to be the single best, brief expository on Biblical grace. He warned us back then that "the tendency to cheapen grace has eaten its way into the heart of evangelical Christianity". Now, fifteen years later, when so many have distorted the true meaning of Biblical grace, I've reproduced his original writing below in entirety:

Many years ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer coined a term that has come to characterize much of evangelical Christianity — it's the term "cheap grace." Cheap grace is in reality a self-imparted grace, a pseudo-grace, and in the end the consequences of living by it are very, very costly.
Cheap grace is not at all a reference to God's grace; it's a contemptible counterfeit. It's a grace that is "cheap" in value, not cost. It is a bargain-basement, damaged-goods, washed-out, moth-eaten, second-hand grace. It is a man-made grace reminiscent of the indulgences Rome was peddling in Martin Luther's day. Cheap? The cost is actually far more than the buyer could possibly realize, though the "grace" is absolutely worthless.
Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and Nazi resister. He was hanged in 1945 by SS guards, but not before his writings had left their mark. Bonhoeffer's theological perspective was neo-orthodox, and evangelicalism rightly rejects much of his teaching. But Bonhoeffer spoke powerfully against the secularization of the church. He correctly analyzed the dangers of the church's frivolous attitude toward grace. After we discard the neo-orthodox teachings, we do well to pay heed to Bonhoeffer's diatribe against cheap grace:
Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian "conception" of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure the remission of sins. The Church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part in that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. "All for sin could not atone." The world goes on in the same old way, and we are still sinners "even in the best life" as Luther said. Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world's standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin (The Cost of Discipleship [New York: Collier, 1959], 45-46).

Cheap grace has not lost its worldly appeal since Bonhoeffer wrote those words. If anything, the tendency to cheapen grace has eaten its way into the heart of evangelical Christianity. While verbally extolling the wonders of grace, it exchanges the real item for a facsimile. This bait-and-switch tactic has confounded many sincere Christians.
Many professing Christians today utterly ignore the biblical truth that grace "instruct[s] us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:12). Instead, they live as if grace were a supernatural "Get Out of Jail FREE" ticket-a no-strings-attached, open-ended package of amnesty, beneficence, indulgence, forbearance, charity, leniency, immunity, approval, tolerance, and self-awarded privilege divorced from any moral demands.
Sadly, the rank-and-file Christian is further cemented in an unbiblical view of grace by what comes out of some seminaries. There are scholars who actually legitimize the error as a correct understanding of grace. They call their teaching "grace theology" and their movement "The Grace Movement."
They advocate a "grace" that alters a believer's standing without affecting his state. It is a grace that calls sinners to Christ but does not bid them surrender to Him. In fact, no-lordship theologians claim grace is diluted if the believing sinner must surrender to Christ. The more one actually surrenders, the more grace is supposedly watered down. This is clearly not the grace of Titus 2:11-12.
No wonder Christians are confused. Christian churches mirror the world; Christian leaders follow the culture; and Christian theologians provide their stamp of approval. The situation is nothing short of deplorable.
But here's what I propose — let's start by laying down a biblical definition of grace with this simple question: What is grace?
Grace is a terribly misunderstood word. Defining it succinctly is notoriously difficult. Some of the most detailed theology textbooks do not offer any concise definition of the term. Someone has proposed an acronym: GRACE is God's Riches AChrist's Expense. That's not a bad way to characterize grace, but it is not a sufficient theological definition.
One of the best-known definitions of grace is only three words: God's unmerited favor. A. W. Tozer expanded on that: "Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits on the undeserving." Berkhof is more to the point: grace is "the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, effected through the agency of the Holy Spirit."
Grace is not merely unmerited favor; it is favor bestowed on sinners who deserve wrath. Showing kindness to a stranger is "unmerited favor"; doing good to one's enemies is more the spirit of grace (Luke 6:27-36).
Grace is not a dormant or abstract quality, but a dynamic, active, working principle: "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation…and instructing us" (Titus 2:11-12). It is not some kind of ethereal blessing that lies idle until we appropriate it. Grace is God's sovereign initiative to sinners (Ephesians 1:5-6).
Grace is not a one-time event in the Christian experience. We stand in grace (Romans 5:2). The entire Christian life is driven and empowered by grace: "It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods" (Hebrews 13:9). Peter said we should "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).
Thus we could properly define grace as the free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners.
Paul frequently contrasted grace with law (Romans 4:165:206:14-15Galatians 2:215:4). He was careful to state, however, that grace does not nullify the moral demands of God's law. Rather, it fulfills the righteousness of the law (Romans 6:14-15). It does not annul the righteous demands of the law; it confirms and validates them (Romans 3:31).
Grace has its own law, a higher, liberating law: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2; cf. James 1:25). Note that this new law emancipates us from sin as well as death. Paul was explicit about this: "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). Grace reigns through righteousness (Romans 5:21).
That is the good news of the gospel! God has acted to set us free from sin — not just the consequences, but it's very power and presence. One day we will never know the experience of temptation, a stray thought, a misspoken word, a false motive. Guilt will be gone, and with it shame, and "so we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
In the meantime, we enjoy the liberation from sin's cruel power and defiling influence. God has enabled us, through grace, to "deny ungodliness and worldly desires" so that we can enjoy a sensible, righteous, and godly life in the present age (Titus 2:12). "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
Adapted from The Gospel According to the Apostles © 2000 by John MacArthur. All rights reserved.

The State Will Not Tolerate Any God Beside Itself

Most Christians probably believe that secular humanists have no god. They are wrong. In 1974 Erick von Kuehnelft-Leddihn prophetically warned that when humanism begins to dominate a state then,

religion is removed from the market place and the school, later from other domains of public life. The state will not tolerate any gods beside itself.

He further warned the education system in particular would be their special target.

A decade later Francis Schaeffer offered the reason why the state will not tolerate any gods beside itself in his book "A Christian Manifesto":

because humanists, having no god, must put something at the center and it is inevitably society, government or the state

Now, 30 years later, we see how correct they both were in their assessments and warnings. As humanism became the defacto state religion, its adherents enthusiastically and forcefully made government the center of their existence.

A few years ago, I met an inner-city pastor from Philadelphia who ministered to the poor in that city for close to four decades.  He shared the startling change that he witnessed in the people he ministered to over that course of time. At the outset of his ministry, poor people were largely dependent upon the church for their needs and tended to view God as the originator of the received blessings. Church attendance was good and meaningful change-for-the-better was made in the lives of many congregants as needs were met, grace was dispensed and responsibility ingrained. But over time, as government social programs expanded exponentially, the people's attitudes began to change. God faded from their worldview as they began to view the government as the originator of the received blessings. Church attendance dropped dramatically. The impact on the lives of the overwhelming majority of the recipients of social handouts was detrimental as people felt "put-down"and personal responsibility largely disappeared. The pastor sadly concluded, "the government became their god."

When the ancient nation of Israel rejected a theocracy and clamored for a king. God warned them through the prophet Samuel that civil government would be a harsh taskmaster (1 Sam 8:10-18). Now that humanists have successfully implanted the government as "god" in the minds of many in this country, this self-orchesrtrated god is quickly moving beyond merely providing needs to forcefully dictating (sadly, with minimal resistance) social construct and behavior (i.e., same-sex marriage, abortion at literally any stage of pregnancy, legalized mind-altering drugs, overarching and dictatorial surveillance of the individual, more and more burdensome regulations/laws, the militarization of the civilian police, arbitrary rule by government fiat, etc.)

In 2004, John Whitehead authored thoughtful commentary here entitled "We Have No God But Caesaer." What he wrote back then is even more pertinent today. He argued that the religious fervor of the gladiator salute "Hail, Caesar!" finds its modern counterpart in today's political scene with politicians claiming the state will provide all the answers to our woes. He lowers the boom by correctly pointing out "this truth is rarely grasped by those religious citizens who place much of their hopes in politics." He cautions us with a quote from Francis Schaeffer, "It must be taught that patriotic loyalty must not be identified with Christianity. We must not make our country and Christianity to be synonymous."

Highlighting one of the most disturbing examples from recent history, Whitehead quotes the German Catholic Student Union endorsement of the Nazi regime prior to WW2.

The Catholic Students Union hails the National Socialist revolution as the great spiritual breakthrough of our time. It is the destiny and the will of the Catholic Students Union to embody and disseminate the idea of the Third Reich and therefore the Catholic Students Union will be led in the National Socialist spirit. Only the powerful National Socialist state, rising out of the Revolution, can bring about for us the re-Christianization of our culture. Long live the Catholic Students Union! Long live the Greater German Reich! Heil to our Führer, Adolf Hitler.

(Interestingly Führer was the unique name granted by Hitler to himself. Just as God names Himself with a unique name, Hilter named himself with a unique name.)

Many American Christians come dangerously close to an attitude of idolatry with respect to their civil government. They need to remember that the founding fathers, deeply suspicious of civil government, had good reason for carefully dividing government power with a series of checks and balances; they recognized an omnipotent state ultimately will not tolerate any god beside itself.