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
Monday, October 31, 2016
In 2012, Margaret Heffernan wrote here,
[the definition of willful blindness:] “If there is knowledge that you could have had, should have had but chose not to have, you are still responsible.”
Leaders inhabit a bubble of power, and they are both mentally and physically cut off from the reality most people would recognize. Reality is the obligation to tell the truth, “the reality most people would recognize” is the imperative, if they witness improper or unlawful behaviour, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
... The legal concept of willful blindness originated in the nineteenth century. The judge in Regina v Sleep ruled that an accused could not be convicted for possession of government property unless the jury found that he either knew the goods came from government stores or had “willfully shut his eyes to the fact.” Nowadays, the law is most commonly applied in money laundering and drug trafficking cases – but the behaviour it describes is all around us ...
... Cases of willful blindness aren’t about hindsight. They feature contemporaneous information that was available but ignored. While it’s tempting to pillory individual villains, the causes are more often systemic and cultural ...
... Chief among culprits is power. When Richard Fuld was CEO of Lehman Brothers, he perfected the seamless commute: a limo drove him to a helicopter flying him to Manhattan where another limo whisked him to the bank’s offices. Front and lift doors were timed so that Fuld could ascend to his office without encountering a single employee.
Leaders of organizations inhabit a bubble of power, of which Fuld’s commute is a magnificent physical representation. They’re either isolated or surrounded by those desperate to please. The powerful also communicate differently. Academic analysis of their language shows that, confronted by risky situations, the powerful think in more abstract terms, are more optimistic and more certain that they are right. They’re both mentally and physically cut off from the reality most people would recognize.
Power is a problem, not a perk and it is exacerbated by money.
While not writing from the theological perspective, she makes several valid points from a purely secular view, and there is scriptural confirmation of her observations - i.e., the Biblical warnings about greed, power and willful blindness (especially on the part of leaders and rulers. Jesus cautioned His followers not to seek power like the Gentile rulers (Luke 22:25). In Matthew 23, Jesus unloads both barrels against the religious leaders of the day, calling out their arrogance and hypocrisy. They are blind guides (v. 16 & v. 24), blind fools (v. 17), blind men (v. 18), and blind Pharisees (v. 26).
Scripture pictures the fallen world in darkness, blinded to truth (Rom 2:19). But Jesus came into the world as a light to bring those who believe out of darkness (John 12:46). Peter cautions us that it's possible for a Christian to become blind again, forgetting he has been cleansed from his former sins (2 Pet 1:9).
Willful blindness ignores the painfully obvious and necessarily results in the loss of ability to differentiate between right and wrong. Symptomatic of many ruling elite today, it is a devastating loss of moral clarity.
Sunday, October 30, 2016
... only a small percentage of late-term abortions are done with the sole intent of saving the mother from a dying from complications with pregnancy.
But even that small number of “lifesaving” abortions is questionable, because the best medical evidence reveals that of the few women who die of disease while pregnant it appears there’s not even one cause of death abortion can prevent (see “Therapeutic Abortion: The Medical Argument,” in the Irish Medical Journal).
Here’s a quick example. Abortion is often recommended for pregnant women who are diagnosed with cancer. But there is zero evidence that those who have abortions are more likely to beat cancer or survive compared to those who refuse abortion. Similarly, the researchers found, there was not a single death among the women who died that an induced abortion could have predicted or prevented.
Now, skeptics may rightly wonder if they should trust my reliance on a single study. In response, I’ll note this study has been around for more than 20 years and no one advocating an abortion has published a study to dispute these findings—despite the abortion industry’s access to hundreds of millions of abortion records worldwide. If they had data to support the myth that abortion saves lives, they would have published it. Absent any evidence, they simply ignore contrary evidence and continue to appeal to the “common sense” myth that abortion is necessary, at least in some hard cases, to save women’s lives.
The lack of medical evidence for any benefit from abortion (in saving women’s lives) is further magnified by the fact that record linkage studies have proven that abortion is associated with a decline in overall health and increase in short- and longer-term mortality rates among women exposed to abortion. There is even a dose effect, with the negative effects on longevity multiplied with each exposure to abortion.
So not only does abortion fail to reduce mortality rates among women, it actually contributes to higher mortality rates (most notably in a three-fold increased risk of suicide compared to women not pregnant and a six-fold increased risk compared to those who carry to term), but also due to other negative impacts on women’s health.
Saturday, October 29, 2016
"School district officials and doctors told my parents that, best case, I would make it through sixth grade,” she said. “My parents sat me down and told me I had a choice--I could be what I wanted to be or I could let the doctors decide what I was going to be."
Yet she graduated from high school, and earned an undergraduate degree in engineering and a master’s degree in business and technology. She began working for Raytheon in 2003 and is now a top aerospace engineer and manager at the company’s Space and Airborne Systems business, working on the Next Generation Jammer, an innovative airborne electronic attack and jamming technology. The mother of two young boys, Mandigo is also an advocate for others with disabilities.
Kristy is testimony to the fact that all human life is created in the image of God, and is sacred. No matter what verbal gymnastics one uses to "justify" abortion, to deprive one of life before birth is child sacrifice and simple cold-blooded murder ... an act that will echo through eternity until final justice sets it right.
Friday, October 28, 2016
Aug 24, 79 A.D. (ironically, the date of the Vulcanalia, a festival honoring Vulcan, the Roman god of fire) dawned like any other day for the residents of Pompeii, an ancient Roman city near modern Naples, in the Campania region of Italy, in the territory of the comune of Pompei. By dawn the next day, it was a smoldering lifeless mound of steaming volcanic ash.
If you have visited the ruins of Pompeii, you probably saw the body cavities that were perfectly preserved by the deadly pyroclastic flow that flowed from Mount Vesuvius when it erupted that day. The body cavities were formed when hot ash enveloped people trying to escape the destruction. They huddled together, mostly in fetal positions and often with loved ones and children, as the ash covered them. The heat of the ash killed them and eventually decomposed their bodies, leaving behind an empty cavity in the ash. When the cavities were discovered, they were filled with plaster so that we could see what they looked like after everything was excavated. They are striking, terrifying and sobering reminder of what can happen in an instant.
In a Roman world filled with promiscuity, divorce, homosexual acts with minors, orgies, beastiality and every other imaginable debauchery, Pompeii was typical. And it was destroyed in a single day.
For most, life was good in Pompeii; for many, it was quite luxurious. The great Roman orator Cicero had a villa in Pompeii; Julius Caesar's father-in-law owned one in nearby Herculaneum. Some villas were so large they took up an entire city block.
Most villas were built surrounding an open central courtyard, often highlighted by a pool and sometimes a fountain. There wealthy Pompeians could relax on hot summer days surrounded by opulent colonnaded gardens featuring elegant statuary and beautiful mosaic floors. Inside, many villas were equally richly decorated with colorful frescoes depicting various aspects of daily life, history and the mythology and religious beliefs of Pompeii's citizens.
The city's wealth and favorable position drew visitors from all over the empire. Pompeii was quite cosmopolitan, showing influences from many regions and religions. Its people could worship at its many temples dedicated to the Roman pantheon—Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Venus, Isis, Minerva and others.
For those whose worship ran to the more mundane level, graffiti inscribed on Pompeii's walls testified that successful gladiators were among the major celebrities of the day: “Celadus is the heartthrob of all the girls.” “Severus—55 fights—has just won again.” “The unbeaten Hermiscus was here.” “Crescens, the net fighter, holds the hearts of all the girls.” Other graffiti urged citizens to vote for this or that candidate.
Pompeii lay secure behind its massive defensive walls, which stood 20 feet thick and more than 30 feet high in some places. The hard stone for the walls, also used to pave the city's streets, was basalt, quarried nearby. Pompeii's builders didn't know it, but the basalt was hardened lava from past volcanic eruptions that had engulfed the area.
Pompeii was so prosperous that, when many of its major buildings suffered considerable damage from an earthquake in A.D. 62, it refused Rome's offers of assistance. Its citizens preferred to go it alone, confident that they could handle this and any other setback. Even when aftershocks rattled the city off and on for several years, Pompeians remained largely unconcerned. They certainly didn't connect them with Mt. Vesuvius, which, to their knowledge, had always been a peaceful mountain.
They failed to recognize the growing danger—that, six miles away, unimaginable pressures were building beneath Vesuvius as it began to awaken from its long sleep.
Warning signs had been building for some time. Streams and wells had suddenly dried up, particularly those near Mt. Vesuvius towering nearby. Some of the farmers attributed the sudden disappearance of water to the hot late-August weather. They didn't realize that not far beneath the earth's surface the water was being vaporized by the steadily rising heat.
Out in the majestic Bay of Naples, the sea had mysteriously begun to boil in some places, the underground heat sending streams of bubbles gurgling to the surface. Fishermen puzzled at the curious sight and murmured among themselves. Here and there even the ground had begun to rumble and quiver. Mt. Vesuvius itself appeared to moan and groan from time to time.
Ominously, many animals—dogs, cats, mice and rats—had begun abandoning the city of Pompeii. Something ominous was about to happen. The world ended for Pompeii in a single day.
Some survivors went back to the large mound of ash and debris that had been their city. Here and there a rooftop or broken wall or column helped guide people to their buried homes. As the ash cooled, a few burrowed tunnels to retrieve valuables. One person, likely a Jew or Christian, couldn't escape the parallel with a biblical story. Tunneling in the ruins, he scribbled “Sodom and Gomorrah” on a wall.
Pompeii is a sobering reminder of the fragility and fleetingness of our existence, of how entire cities and civilizations can vanish in a single day. Perhaps most of all, it's a reminder of the folly of human beings in refusing to face up to unpleasant realities, of ignoring or misunderstanding the danger signs until it's too late. Rich and poor, free citizen and slave, young and old—all met the same fate in Pompeii. The only ones who escaped were those who recognized the growing danger. For those who lingered too long, denying the seriousness of their plight or hoping that conditions would somehow change, the city became their tomb.
One citizen of ancient Pompeii got one lesson right—the unknown individual who scribbled “Sodom and Gomorrah” on one of the city's buried walls. His simple, three-word judgment says more about the city than many books that have been written about it.
A modern visitor to Pompeii doesn't have to look very hard to see evidence of the moral climate of the city. Up to several dozen buildings have been identified as likely houses of prostitution. Some, due to the explicit wall paintings and graffiti found in them, leave no doubt as to their purpose. Even in private homes, wall paintings and mosaics depict all kinds of sexual activity, and many common household objects such as lamps, dishes, vases and fountains have been found with sexual motifs. Recent excavations at one of Pompeii's public baths indicate that one floor of the structure may have been a brothel.
Oversized representations of sex organs can be found built into the walls facing some streets, and in at least one case carved right in the street itself. The Bible tells us that sexual perversion was rampant in the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-13), which God destroyed by fire (verse 24). Their depravity was so great that they have become a byword for sin and God's judgment.
Yet today many of our cities are no different from Sodom and Pompeii. Seldom mentioned in news coverage was the fact that the devastating December 2004 tsunami wiped out the portion of the Thai coast infamous for its child-sex trade, or that New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina five days before 100,000 gays and lesbians were to be welcomed into the city for its appropriately named “Southern Decadence” festival.
Does the catastrophe that befell Pompeii hold lessons for us today?
It certainly should. The story of Pompeii should fill us with a vague sense of unease. After all, if it could happen to them, an entire city … In many ways our era is much like the time of Pompeii. Many of us surround ourselves with luxuries and conveniences. Life is good; we live in the wealthiest and most prosperous time in human history. Technology has given us so much, made life so comfortable.
Could it ever end? The Bible says that it can—and that it will.
We live in a world as awash in sin as it is in material pleasures. “But know this,” said the apostle Paul, “that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
While Paul was describing our day, he could just as well have been describing Pompeii. And like Pompeii, there will be a day of reckoning for us as well.
Scripture repeatedly warns of final judgment falling like a "thief in the night". Rev 18 foretells the destruction of a great city in one hour.
Prophecy after prophecy of the Bible foretells a time of global trouble that will be unlike anything human beings have ever experienced (Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1). Jesus Christ says of this time: “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (Matthew 24:21, New International Version).
Can we even begin to comprehend that? What does it mean to have a time of terror and turmoil, chaos and catastrophe unlike anything witnessed in human history?
Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, wrote a warning that is far more applicable to our day than his own: “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, 'Peace and safety!' then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape."
“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.”
One day Pompeii was a thriving, vibrant city, and the next it was a giant tomb. “Sudden destruction” takes on a whole new meaning as you stroll Pompeii's long-dead streets and consider that you're walking through a 2,000-year-old time capsule.
The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius happened at lunchtime, so life stopped before many Pompeians could finish their meal. Their food lay untouched for almost 2,000 years. Cooking pots still contained the bones of stews. One oven contained the remains of a pig that had been left roasting at the time the disaster struck. Bread, eggs, fish, nuts and dates lay undisturbed on tables until stunned excavators uncovered them.
Most haunting of all the sights in Pompeii are the casts of those who didn't make it out of the doomed city. Their bodies, sealed in the hardening ash, eventually decayed to dust, leaving voids into which Pompeii's excavators poured plaster and concrete almost 2,000 years later. The resulting ghostly images captured the citizens of Pompeii at the moment of their deaths.
We see plenty of warning signs gathering around us. Do we understand them? Or do we willingly choose to misunderstand them, writing them off as passing inconveniences or temporary interruptions in the constantly improving flow of human progress?
Will we, like the doomed citizens of Pompeii, ignore the rumblings and tremors until it's too late? Or will we heed the words of Jesus Christ's warning in Luke 21:36: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
(Coming in Part 2 next week, Nov 1, 1755 - The Wrath of God)
Thursday, October 27, 2016
John Stonestreet highlights here a church in Dallas, TX that practices church discipline - setting it apart from many churches these days.
Recently, Watermark removed a man caught in sexual sin from its membership rolls. Watermark is one of those rare churches these days that practices church discipline. After the man’s Facebook post titled, “Watermark Church Dismissed Me for Being Gay,” was picked up by the Dallas Morning News, the church is, no surprise, being accused of religious intolerance. A Morning News columnist wrote an opinion piece titled “Watermark megachurch banned a gay man that it didn’t deserve to have as a member.”
What most of the media coverage neglects to tell is that the decision to remove the man was neither arbitrary nor sudden. After the man decided to actively pursue a homosexual relationship over a year ago, friends and church leaders began meeting with him to understand how to better love and help him.
But, as Pastor Wagner wrote, “this friend made clear to us that he no longer believed same-sex sexual activity was inappropriate for a follower of Jesus Christ and no longer desired to turn from it. Like any member whose beliefs move away from the core commitments, biblical convictions, and values of Watermark, it became appropriate to formally acknowledge his desire to not pursue faithfulness to Christ with us.”
And so the church did the only logical thing—it removed him from its membership rolls. But now, they are made the villain of the story for holding members accountable to live by Christian teaching on human sexuality.
John correctly highlights that the Reformers listed church discipline as one of the three marks of a true church. While those churches that remain faithful to practice it will face increasing scorn from the culture, the contrast between them and the dying culture will be as stark as light versus darkness.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
"The wonderful world they thought they were creating was simply turning to dust, ashes, and pain - enormous pain."
From Radical Leftist to Orthodox Theologian: Thomas Oden's Theological and Spiritual Journey
Thomas C. Oden, now in his mid-eighties, underwent a radical change in his worldview from radical leftist apostate theologian to orthodox theologian. He recounts the events in "A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir" (InterVarsity Press, 2014), Oden recounts the turn from radical left ideology to classic Christianity.
Through his training and studies, Oden was on a left trajectory and eventually came to view Christianity as an instrument by which to effect social change - not to restore mankind to a right relationship with God. Through exposure to leftist thought, he replaced historical-theological doctrine with existential, modernist revisions, most notably the social gospel, and other pyscho-therapeutic hermeneutics. As he later recounts, he had “been in love with heresy.”
The biblical gospel was something simply to be glossed over, and reciting the ecumenical creeds without winking or wincing was an impossible feat. Indeed, words like resurrection and atonement were words he “choked on.” He become obsessed with originality, as is often the case in academic circles. As Oden narrates his training and radical trajectory, we learn that he came under the mentorship of political liberals such as Saul Alinksky and Joe Matthews, who also helped shape the socio-political ideologies of Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.
The change of heart happened in the 1970s and was sparked in part by key interactions with his colleague and mentor Will Herberg, a Jewish theologian and social philosopher. Herberg, who experienced his own conversion, charged Oden with a failure to seriously engage the traditions of the church. “You will remain theologically uneducated until you study carefully Athanasius, Augustine, and Aquinas…If you are ever going to become a credible theologian instead of a know-it-all pundit, you had best restart your life on firmer ground. You are not a theologian except in name only, even if you are paid to be one.”
These words seared Oden’s conscience and prompted him to reconsider ancient sources and to revisit Scripture. Gradually, they began to have fresh meaning. Oden started to recapture the spirit of classic Christianity through sustained study of patristic Christian writers and contemporary theologians like Wolfhart Pannenberg. Pannenberg’s Revelation as History served as the important corrective to Oden’s existential, demythologized reading he inherited from Rudolf Bultmann.
His shift toward classic Christianity propelled him to discover afresh the especially rich heritage of African Christianity, and has since served as General Editor of the "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" and the "Ancient Christian Doctrine" series.
Christopher Hall recounts what happened to Oden in "Reading Scripture With The Church Fathers". As he summarizes,
Oden himself, a theologian once firmly in the classical, liberal tradition for many years, increasingly recognized in the late sixties that his disrespect for and ignorance of the Christian past had severely warped his own theological, philosophical, historical and political perspective ... His interaction with Scripture and other theological texts was less a dialogue than a "filtering process" where he allowed sources to speak to him "only insofar as they could meet" his "conditions", "worldview" and "assumptions as a modern man".
But as often happens, reality has an inconvenient way of rudely interrupting man-made fantasy. As Oden recounts,
By 1968 I could see the tremendous harm cause by sexual experimentation --- even among my friends. I could also see their lives being torn up by family disintegration and mind-altering drugs. The wonderful world they thought they were creating was simply turning to dust, ashes and pain --- enormous pain."
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Daniel Payne drops the hammer here on the liberal position of abortion.
Proving that even he can get something right every now and then, Donald Trump gave a great example of this at the final presidential debate this week, criticizing Hillary Clinton’s position on infanticide: “Well, I think it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”
This is indeed the case: under Clinton’s proposed abortion regime, it would be entirely legal to “rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.” She has personally defended partial-birth abortion in the past.
... pro-abortionists hate the truth. They despise it, they cannot tolerate the thought of it, and they attempt to bury it at every possible opportunity.
... Perhaps the most viciously mendacious quibble came from Dr. Jennifer Gunter, an OB/GYN who, writing at the Huffington Post, claimed late-term abortions are generally undertaken to kill a baby who has birth defects. As she put it, “There are no ninth month abortions. Really. A ninth month abortion is a unicorn and so it’s ridiculous to even discuss it.”
How does Gunter characterize this “unicorn?” Simply put: “[T]erminations for birth defects isn’t ripping ‘the baby out of the womb in the ninth month.’ At 38 or 39 weeks, it’s always an induction and is simply called a delivery.” Got that? Killing an unborn human isn’t an “abortion” if you don’t call it an abortion. Rather, it’s a “delivery.” That makes it better.
Progressive liberals excel at avoiding the truth. Unfortunately, many of them now occupy high positions of authority and influence within the culture, and are taking us down the path to destruction. The American public bears responsibility for not only putting up with them, but gladly following them like children after the Pied Piper. The light at the end of the tunnel is an on-coming train.
But the church militant and triumphant has the weapon to turn things around. As I wrote earlier here,
During the decades that secular humanism began to bear its deadly fruit, much of the church began to disengage from theological truth (deemed too controversial and divisive) and began channeling most of its effort into a social gospel. And while the church does indeed have an obligation to be the hands and feet of Christ to the poor, needy and helpless - it cannot abrogate its God-given mandate to be the beacon of truth (John 1:14-17; John 8:31-32; John 17:8; Ephesians 1:13-14; Ps 86:11; 1 John 3:18; etc.) Cutting loose the anchor of truth necessarily means being at the whim of every manner of false belief. Extinguishing the lighthouse has predictable results - shipwreck. Consequently, it's not just the culture that now finds itself rotting. More and more of the church is crumbling right along with the culture, having abrogated its most powerful deterrent to decay.
Absolute truth is the best disinfectant.
Monday, October 24, 2016
"Obamacare", "Affordable Care Act (ACA)"
"Obamacare" is a good example of how the culture manufactures "truth". The United States used to have arguably the best health-care system in the world. ObamaCare (Affordable Care Act) is rapidly changing that.
Even the names are deceptive. ObamaCare doesn’t actually provide care, it provides insurance — and not very good insurance at that ... for either patients or providers. Doctors, clinics, and hospitals provide the care, but they can't provide it at a loss (at least not for long.) Hospitals increasingly can’t cover the costs at the reimbursement rates offered by ObamaCare plans, and neither can clinics. Hence, all of those previously uninsured are now still going into Emergency Rooms, along with people whose previous insurance didn’t cause those problems. See here.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Premiums will go up sharply next year under President Barack Obama's health care law, and many consumers will be down to just one insurer, the administration confirmed Monday. That will stoke another "Obamacare" controversy days before a presidential election.
Before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. Some states will see much bigger jumps, others less.
Moreover, about 1 in 5 consumers will only have plans from a single insurer to pick from, after major national carriers such as UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna scaled back their roles.
"Consumers will be faced this year with not only big premium increases but also with a declining number of insurers participating, and that will lead to a tumultuous open enrollment period," said Larry Levitt, who tracks the health care law for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
Remember Jonathan Gruber, professor at MIT and an architect of Obamacare? During a panel event last year about how the legislation passed, turning over a sixth of the U.S. economy to the government, Gruber admitted that the Obama administration went through "tortuous" measures to keep the facts about the legislation hidden from the American public. As he said,
"Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical to get for the thing to pass."
The perverse structure of ObamaCare has resulted (predictably) in rationing, both systemic and ad hoc. For example, Minnesota had to agree to ration access to most major health plans when open enrollment begins next week just to keep insurers from shutting down operations in the state, and providers are rationing access to their services on their own to keep from going under. Critics of the ACA repeatedly warned that its incentives would produce exactly these outcomes, and reminded everyone ad infinitum that insurance does not equal care. Unfortunately, too many people insisted on learning that lesson the hard way.
Obamacare is a classic example of how the culture increasingly manufactures "truth". In contrast to the government-paid stooges rolled out in the media to support its' implementation, independent experts uniformly warned from the beginning what the outcome would be. Bob Laszewski is the health insurance industry expert whose generally accurate and prescient criticisms of Obamacare over the span of several years have largely been vindicated by events. He's been watching the steady departure of insurers from the law's failing exchanges with increasing concern, warning that the entire system risks implosion within the next year if the current trajectory isn't significantly altered. Watch here via CNBC.
The government increasingly manufactures "truth" in virtually every area of the culture - i.e.,
- gender identity (The foolish notion that anyone can be any gender at any time.)
- gender equality in combat (The fallacy that women are equal to men in ruthless combat.)
- "Planned Parenthood" (The very name is ironic for the nation's largest abortion provider, subsidized by the U.S. government.)
- "Separation of Church & State" (This infamous phrase is used to club Christians into silence in the public square. It is found nowhere in either the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights. It's manufactured.)
- "theory" of evolution (By definition, this will always be only a theory since it cannot be scientifically proven by observation. Yet it is the de-facto government position now marketed as indisputable, irrefutable fact despite increasing evidence that is it cannot be true.)
For those that fall prey to manufactured truth ... as always happens ... there is ultimately a terrible price to be paid. For their house is tragically built upon sand. (Matt 7:26-27)
Sunday, October 23, 2016
In the mid 1980s, I witnessed a young boy set free instantly from inexplicable seizures and bizarre behavior through the power of prayer. Treated by medical professionals for months who were at a loss to explain the underlying cause, the church stepped in with prayer to specifically combat the demonic.
In the 1990s, I witnessed a young woman exhibiting dramatic and inexplicable destructive changes in her behavior, instantly set free - again through the power of prayer.
As the culture abdicates truth and descends into paganism, we are experiencing an exponential explosion in demonic activity. The gospel (light) suppresses by nature the forces of darkness. When that light is withdrawn from the public square, darkness becomes inevitable. By definition, darkness is the absence of light.
Unfortunately much of the evangelical community is silent on the subject of the demonic. [While I do not agree with much of their theology, to its credit, the Roman Catholic church formally recognizes the reality of supernatural evil and the rite of exorcism, using specially-trained clergy to carry it out. In the past decade, the number of trained Roman Catholic exorcists in the U.S. has quadrupled, but it is still not enough to keep pace with the exploding demand.]
All mental illness is not the result of demonic attack. But if normal medicine, counseling and therapy do not better the condition, then demonic activity should be considered. But since the secular worldview disavows the supernatural, that worldview is fatally unequipped to combat the demonic. By original sin mankind subjugated himself under the power of him who has the power of death (Hebrews 2:15). And even though free from death, Christians (redeemed by Christ) are still subject to temptation and spiritual attack (Ephesians 6:12).
Thomas Acquinas wrote something that is pertinent: He (Satan) may attack man's body from without (obsession), or assume control of it (the body) from within (possession). As we gather from the Fathers and the theologians, the soul itself can never be "possessed" nor deprived of liberty, though its ordinary control over the members of the body may be hindered by the obsessing spirit (cf. St. Aug., "De sp. et an.", 27; St. Thomas, "In II Sent.", d. VIII, Q. i; Ribet, "La mystique divine", Paris, 1883, pp. 190 sqq.).
Among the ancient pagan nations demonic possession was frequent (Maspero, "Hist. anc. des peuples de l'Orient", 41; Lenormant, "La magie chez les Chaldéens"), as it is still among their successors (Ward, "History of the Hindoos", v., I, 2; Roberts, "Oriental Illustrations of the Scriptures"; Doolittle, "Social Life of the Chinese"). In the early 21st century, the ancient evil is now resurrecting itself to heights of power and activity that was previously suppressed by the spread of the gospel in the West. The ruthlessness, barbarism, sadism and savagery of the Islamic State (ISIS) is a contemporary example of powerful demonic activity.
In the New Testament, demonic activity is not uncommon. The victims were sometimes deprived of sight and speech (Matthew 12:22), sometimes of speech alone (Matthew 9:32; Luke 11:14), sometimes afflicted in ways not clearly specified (Luke 8:2), while, in the greater number of cases, there is no mention of any bodily affliction beyond the possession itself (Matthew 4:24; 8:16; 15:22; Mark 1:32, 34, 39; 3:11; 7:25; Luke 4:41; 6:18; 7:21; 8:2). The effects are described in various passages (Mark 9:17, 21). The possessed are sometimes gifted with superhuman powers (Mark 5:2-4). Some of the unfortunate victims were controlled by several demons (Matthew 12:43, 45; Mark 16:9; Luke 11:24-26); in one case by so many that their name was Legion (Mark 5:9; Luke 8:30). Yet, evil as the possessing spirits were, they could not help testifying to Christ's Divine mission (Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24, 34; 3:12; 5:7; Luke 4:34, 41; 8:28).
The history of the early Church is filled with accounts of combatting the demonic. A quotation from Tertullian (155 – c. 240 A.D.) as he addresses the pagans of his time: "Let a person be brought before your tribunals who is plainly under demoniacal possession. The wicked spirit, bidden speak by the followers of Christ will as readily make the truthful confession that he is a demon as elsewhere he has falsely asserted that he is a god" (Apolog., tr. Edinburgh, p. 23). The facts associated with possession prove, he says, beyond question the demonic source of the influence — "What clearer proof than a work like that? What more trustworthy than such a proof? The simplicity of truth is thus set forth: its own worth sustains it; no ground remains for the least suspicion. Do you say that it is done by magic or by some trick of the sort? You will not say anything of the sort if you have been allowed the use of your ears and eyes. For what argument can you bring against a thing that is exhibited to the eye in its naked reality?" And the Christians expel by a word: "All the authority and power we have over them is from our naming of the name of Christ and recalling to their memories the woes with which God threatens them at the hands of Christ as Judge and which they expect one day to overtake them. Fearing Christ in God and God in Christ, they become subject to the servants of God and Christ. So at our touch and breathing, overwhelmed by the thought and realization of those judgment fires, they leave at our command the bodies they have entered."
Contemporary accounts from missionary pioneers in pagan countries today affirm the reality of the demonic. While the worldview of secularists may discount it, the truth of Scripture affirms that supernatural evil forces exist and seek to malevolently influence mankind.
Natural disease/causes versus demonic possession are clearly distinguished in the New Testament: (Matthew 8:16; Mark i, 32, 34). A common assertion of the secularists is that lunacy and paralysis were often mistaken for demonic possession. Matthew did not think so (Matt 4:24). There is a clear distinction between ordinary disease and the demonic in Scripture. In the case of ordinary diseases they were cured quietly in the New Testament and without violence. Not so always with the possessed. The evil spirits passed into animals with dire results (Matthew 8:32), or cast their victim on the ground (Luke 4:35) or left the victim with fearsome attending symptoms (Mark 9:25). The Jews themselves in the gospels made distinction between natural-caused infirmity and demonic activity.
When confronting the demonic, Christ addressed the evil spirits, not their victims. He told His disciples how an evil spirit acted when cast out (Matthew 12:44-45; Luke 11:24-26). He explained why they had failed to exorcize (Matthew 17:19). He warned the seventy-two disciples against glorying in the fact that the demons were subject to them (Luke 10:17-20).
If one discards the demonic as merely the superstitious relic of a bygone era, they must then answer this question: If a belief so intimately connected in Christ's own mind with the mission that He came to accomplish was based on a delusion, why did He not correct it? Why rather encourage it?
The answer is obvious. As Paul warns ... we wrestle with supernatural evil (Eph 6:12).
As the light of the gospel penetrated western civilization during the Middle Ages, the darkness of demonic activity receded. Light dispels darkness by nature. However, as the gospel now dims in the West, an ancient and fearsome supernatural enemy is now rearing its dark head, enslaving multitudes in destructive behavior.
Only the Church is empowered to successfully combat this supernatural evil.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
... ethicist David Gushee proclaimed there was no more middle ground on LGBT issues. He’s right. You either approve of so-called sexually progressive ideas or you don’t—and if you don’t, you’ve placed yourself in the bigoted, wrong-side-of-history category.
That’s exactly what happened with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Earlier this month, IV informed employees that they were expected to align with traditional Christian teaching on marriage and human sexuality. If they couldn’t, they were asked to come forward.
TIME magazine reported on the announcement this way. “One of the largest evangelical organizations on college campuses nationwide “has told its 1,300 staff members they will be fired if they personally support gay marriage or otherwise disagree with its newly detailed positions on sexuality starting on November 11.” They called it a “theological purge.”
But they completely misreported the story.
This was no out-of-nowhere, drop-the-bomb announcement. IV conducted a four-year study of human sexuality and the Bible to write a 20 page position paper, that wasn’t limited to beliefs about homosexuality or same-sex marriage. They then initiated an 18-month process of communicating their positions to staff, which was simply a clarified version of what they’d always held on these issues. “The goal,” according to IV, “was to clarify our position while also providing ample time for those whose convictions differed to seek out better-fitting ministry opportunities.”
Staff were given the paper in March 2015, not last week. And they offered to help those who didn’t align with their convictions with their transition to different employment.
In other words, IV affirmed what Christians have always believed about sexuality until culturally yesterday. As expected, some staff—though as I understand it, very few—didn’t align with the new policy. Some were upset, which is to be expected. But I don’t know a single organization, much less a Christian organization, that doesn’t expect employees to align with their values.
And it wasn’t only Time online that erupted. A group of progressive, what I would call “post-evangelical,” leaders wrote IV urging the ministry to reverse the “dangerous precedent” set by its policy “regarding LGBTQ affirming staff.”
But that is obfuscation and spin. IV welcomes LGBTQ students into fellowships. And IV expects its staff to affirm and love everyone, as they’re made in God’s image. Staff must also affirm the full gamut of biblical teaching on human sexuality and marriage as communicated in their position document. This wasn’t just about same-sex marriage.
In other words, there’s nothing out of line here. The outrage stems from a sort of moral evolution on the parts of both Time and these post-evangelicals, that eventually all will reach the enlightened position on these matters. They seem genuinely surprised when some don’t, and then make it out as if non-affirming Christians are somehow the ones who are obsessed with these issues.
Don’t buy it. The current state of the culture forces people to take sides, and increasingly, so do the courts.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned here, but at least know this: InterVarsity did everything right. It upheld Christian teaching in a way that was inclusive, respectful, and gave people opportunity for input . . . they followed a long, thoughtful process, and treated those who dissent with respect. Just know: you can do everything right, but having the so-called “wrong view” on any pelvic issue is going to cost you these days.
(Story is here.)
Christians that try to ride the fence on progressive sexuality (or worse yet, outright approve of it) are opening Pandora's Box. There are times when a line must be drawn in the sand and this is clearly one of them given the Scriptures crystal-clear teaching on sexuality and church teaching for the past 2,000 years. Progressive sexuality is terrible bondage masking itself as "freedom" and marketed to a culture that has abrogated truth for a distorted version of reality.
There is a time when a line must be drawn in the sand. We are well past that time.
Now the Spirit says clearly that in the last times some people will abandon the faith by following deceitful spirits, the teachings of demons (1 Tim 4:1)
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it (Heb 2:1)
Friday, October 21, 2016
There's a fascinating interview here entitled "Is Globalism Demonic?" with Wallace Henley, someone who has studied globalism from the inside out and on many levels. He worked at the highest levels of government in the Nixon White House and later went into the ministry and studied globalism from a Biblical perspective. He now serves as senior associate pastor of 2nd Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and was interviewed by Jamie Glazov of the Glazov Gang about globalism under the title “Is Globalism Demonic?”
Henley sees three levels of globalism.
First Level: The first level is fairly benign. It’s the international linkage of national economies. This is a functional globalism, which is more or less inevitable in the modern business world with today’s technology, he said.
Second Level: But there’s a “philosophical globalism” marked by the push for a shared value system and global governance, which Henley finds more concerning. “This is what really got my attention. In the 1990s the United Nations began a push for global shared values,” he said.
This is seen in the a push by USESCO and other U.N. agencies to embrace global educational standards, global environmental standards of “sustainability,” global police standards, and global standards for migration and the rights of migrants as put forth in the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda signed by President Obama and some 190 other heads of state last fall.
“Nations would be forced into it, into a very secular humanistic set of ethics, and I began to realize there’s a lot of coercion in this,” said Henley, co-author of “God and Churchill: How the Great Leader’s Sense of Divine Destiny Changes his Troubled World and Offers Hope for Ours.”
Third Level: "As I moved deeper in my study of it, into the spiritual dynamics of nations, I became very interested in this and so I realized in studying Genesis that the fundamental temptation in the Garden of Eden was the temptation of power and for humans to take power over themselves,” Henley said. “This is what Saint John calls the antichrist spirit, which he said was at work in the world even in his day.”
It’s this third level of globalism, spiritual globalism, which is manifest in the drive by hardcore globalists to co-opt and corrupt the world’s major religions, making them work for a globalist agenda that glorifies man rather than God.
“So it’s the philosophical and the spiritual giving me special concern,” Henley told Glazov. He said God scattered people from the Tower of Babel for a reason. They were trying to unite around humanistic values. Henley said only God, not man, can truly unite the world.
“It can only occur by a work of God and God bringing people together, when human-beings try to construct that, they wind up ruling over one another,” Henley said.
“The aim of Antichrist is to rule the world as one unit,” he said. “So national boundaries are very, very threatening to him and that agenda.”
“Globalism is actually its own religion,” he added. “It’s a secular religion. There’s the kingdom of Christ that Christians believe in, and then there’s a secular globalism that wants to set up its own kingdom.”
Henley says the fundamental conflict across history is between chaos and cosmos, order and disorder, civilization and anti-civilization. The kingdom of Christ, according to Roman 14:17, is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Therefore the opposite of that, anti-civilization, instead of righteousness and justice, is evil and unfairness, instead of peace it’s conflict, and instead of joy in the Holy Spirit, it’s misery. This is the fundamental conflict in the Middle East today and why borders are so important according to him.
Globalism is today’s Tower of Babel enthusiasts, he said. seeking a humanistic, utopian movement where humans are paying allegiance to the secular kingdom. Henley calls them Babelists and they’re seen weaving their evil plans in the early pages of the Bible. In Genesis, they said, “Come let us build a tower.”
“They said [to God], ‘no, let’s stop from being scattered, let’s build a utopia here and that was the point of the Tower of Babel,” Henley said. “That spirit is still very much alive in the world today.”
Henley was recently quoted in the Christian Post saying Christians can protect their values much easier when there are national borders but under global governance Christians are more vulnerable.
“Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it best,” Henley said. “He said there are historical roots that we need to protect and that should be the concern of every nation.”
Glazov noted that the leftist, globalist movement “comes camouflaged as humanitarianism but there’s something evil underlying that.”
“It all goes back to power,” Henley said. “Who is going to have power over the whole of the world? And the only way you can have that kind of power is to make sure it is a unit that can be seized instead of a world where there are value systems that hold out and resist.”
Henley said as the years passed he became more reflective of the things he’d seen while working in the White House and later as a congressional aide on Capitol Hill. He began to see the repeating pattern of history with “destroyers and deliverers.”
“The destroyers seek the destruction of civilization. This force has long been operative in the world,” he said. “At some point that cycle will come to its grand climax in the destroyer and the deliver.”
The spirit of antichrist is clear. “Anti” not only means opposition but also means imposition. So the spirit of antichrist is to oppose the kingdom of God and to seek to impose itself in the place of Christ on the throne of the whole world.
“And this is the spiritual dynamic behind this whole enterprise we’re watching right now of how shall the world be parceled out,” he said. “How shall the world be established, how shall the borders be destroyed? That’s what we see playing out today.”
And the borders and the boundaries being eliminated are not just geopolitical.
“For example gender is a boundary, and we’re seeing all kinds of attacks against borders and genders that establish cosmos as opposed to chaos,” he said. “This extends to everything including gender identity.”
The Greek word “cosmos” means “order,” or to place in an orderly arrangement.
The kingdom of God is ordered by his peace. Those forces which impose external order are often oppressive in nature, although the American experiment with a Constitutional republic offered a different way.
“Now the only way you have order is through an internal order that comes from your heart or an external order that is imposed from outside you by law. So the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart provides that kind of internal restraint and that’s why James Madison said if men were angels we would not need any government.”
Glazov says Islam seems to be playing a real role in all of this and there is an Islamization process that seems to be used by the globalists?
“Islam is also playing a role in this. But I think any belief system is going to be vulnerable to the global elites,” he said. “Whether it’s Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, they will seek to use and manipulate any belief system that they can to implement their objectives.”
Henley is not alone. Other theologians and scholars are also warning of the demonic aspects of globalism.
In a September 4 American Thinker article titled, “Globalism: the Religion of Empire” theologian Fay Voshell noted similarly that “[l]ike the Christian vision of the universal Kingdom of God, the religion of secular globalism claims universality, but is an earthly minded substitute for the Church universal. The Christian vision sees the Church universal as God’s kingdom ruling the earth. The religion of globalism sees an earthly, utopian world order in which all men pay allegiance to elite priests who rule over a World City without national borders.”
In an 18-point essay that went viral on Charisma News in August, Pastor Jim Garlow of Skyline Church in San Diego suggested that perhaps the most important reason for Christians to support Donald Trump, is that he opposes globalism whereas Clinton thrives on it.
“Globalism is far more than ‘geographical’ or ‘eliminating national borders and boundaries,'” Garlow wrote. “It is spiritual and demonic at its core. Few — very few — understand this. This is quite likely one of the main reasons why Trump is hated. Do your homework on this one. Think ‘principalities and powers.'”
I think Henley is spot-on with his analysis. Even the common-man-on-the-street recognizes that something unusual is happening as the world descends into insanity.
Yes, indeed ... powerful spiritual forces are at work. Very powerful spiritual forces.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
(Part 1 is here)
How then can we practically help prepare young people for times of doubt?
1st) Let them know that it is not abnormal to experience doubt. (Ps 13:1-4; Ps 73:2-14; Mark 9:24; Matt 14:25-31; Luke 24:36-38; John 20:24-27)
- This does not mean they will experience significant doubt; it just means that doubt is a common issue they will experience to varying degrees in a fallen world
- Typically, struggles with doubt will not start until they reach adulthood and begin to stand on their own two feet in many ways, including in their own faith walk
- If you help them understand that doubt is something common to all Christians at times, they won’t be reluctant to share struggles when they arise later in life
2nd) Help them formalize a Biblical worldview (Rom 12:2)
- Nancy Pearcy describes her former struggle as an agnostic searching for truth among varying worldviews in her highly-recommended book here entitled "Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity" and how her search led her to Christianity. For those facing a similar struggle in searching for rational, reasonable answers to life's big questions, Nancy offers wisdom-based principles for determining whether a worldview can be trusted. She offers three (easy-to-remember, basic questions for the great themes of Scripture - Creation, Fall and Redemption) that can be used to accurately assess any worldview.
- Every worldview can be evaluated for adherence to truth using these three fundamental questions:
- Where did we come from?
- What has gone wrong?
- How do we fix it?
3rd) Teach them sound doctrine (Titus 2:1; 1 Tim 4:16; 2 Tim 3:16)
- Doctrine is only boring when taught by boring teachers
- Sound doctrine is important because our faith is based on a specific message.
- Sound doctrine is important because what we believe affects what we do. Behavior is an extension of theology, and there is a direct correlation between what we think and how we act. For example, two people stand on top of a bridge; one believes he can fly, and the other believes he cannot fly. Their next actions will be quite dissimilar. In the same way, a man who believes that there is no such thing as right and wrong will naturally behave differently from a man who believes in well-defined moral standards. In one of the Bible’s lists of sins, things like rebellion, murder, lying, and slave trading are mentioned. The list concludes with “whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10). In other words, true teaching promotes righteousness; sin flourishes where “the sound doctrine” is opposed.
- Sound doctrine is important because we must ascertain truth in a world of falsehood. “Many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). There are tares among the wheat and wolves among the flock (Matthew 13:25; Acts 20:29). The best way to distinguish truth from falsehood is to know what the truth is.
- Sound doctrine is important because the end of sound doctrine is life. “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). Conversely, the end of unsound doctrine is destruction.
4th) Expose them to the ancient church fathers (Heb 12:1)
- "Chronological Snobbery" describes our affinity to ignore the published works of previous generations, believing ourselves to be more sophisticated and educated. In a nutshell, chronological snobbery is the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. It foolishly casts off the truth, tradition and wisdom gleaned from the past.
- As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past . . . because we . . . need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods. . . . A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age."
- Polycarp who was martyred for his faith in the 2nd century A.D was a disciple of John the Apostle. Mentored by an eyewitness of the events of the New Testament, his writing bears merit.
- Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp and is primarily noted for his refutation of early Gnosticism. To this end he wrote his major work "Against Heresies", in which he sought to expound and defend the orthodox Christian faith. A shorter later work is his "Proof of the Apostolic Preaching", a brief summary of Christian teaching, largely concerned with Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
- The works of Polycarp, Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine and others all warrant attention as they were much closer in time to the events of the New Testament.
5th) Share with them some of the doubts you struggle with. (Mark 9:24)
- Of course, this assumes you show them the strength of your faith as well.
- However, from time to time you should feel free to let them see you wrestling with God. This lets them know you are real, especially when they are older and more reflective. It can go far in demonstrating that your faith is not shallow, but rather is marked by thoughtfulness.
- Sharing your doubts from time to time legitimizes the faith you do have, so they will be less tempted to think you are just a naive follower when they are older.
6th) Help them prioritize their faith now. (Rom 14)
- Make sure they don’t believe all issues are equal. Help them see the difference between negotiables and non-negotiables, essentials and non-essentials, cardinal and non-cardinal issues.
- Ensuring they understand the distinction between doctrine and dogma (opinion) prevents the “house of cards” problem so that, even if they come to question one particular issue (i.e., creationism, inerrancy, premillenialism, Calvinism, etc.), they do not find it necessary to reject their faith completely.
- One practical and effective way is to expose them to other orthodox denominations and experience the rich diversity within the Body of Christ. Those that occasionally fellowship with other denominations are likely to have much stronger faith. Letting them worship and fellowship with other Christians in different denominations goes a long way towards eliminating "Denominational Snobbery" and realizing the strength of the diversity of the Church. It also drives home the point that while we must agree on the essentials, we have freedom to exercise our conscience on the non-essentials.
7th) Facilitate a love of Christian heroes and Ancient Fathers of the Faith (Heb 11)
- With all the exposure to cultural heroes (actors, musicians, models, etc.) so typical today, it is important they see the characteristics of godliness exemplified by real-life Christians. These examples should come from inside and outside the Bible.
- Reading about the heroism of Perpetua and her servant in their martyrdom is very difficult (and may be “R” rated), but your children need to know about people who actually lived out their faith.
- Learning about Augustine’s life of sin before he was converted will help them remember the common struggle with sin when they are older and not feel so alone (which is the most fearful thing when one is doubting).
8th) Allow for a great deal of mystery. (Job 38-41; Eph 5:32; 6:19)
- We live in a western world and we love systematic theology. We want all the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed. But often, when we provide answers to all their questions, we don’t allow them to develop a respect for God’s inscrutability.
- God is often beyond figuring out. His nature and his ways are mysteries to us. From “Why did God create life unknown to us until very recently so deep in ocean?” to “Why does God allow Satan to have so much power?” these questions can be left unanswered (at least dogmatically). Allowing for and rejoicing in the mystery of God will give them the freedom to worship in mystery and truth.
9th) Ask the difficult questions. (2 Pet 3:16)
- Many times we attempt to shield young people from hard issues that we think may cause them to doubt their faith. This is not wise. In fact, parents should be the first ones to bring up difficult issues, working through them with their children. i.e., “Why do you think God would let our dog die when he knows how much you loved him?”
- Of course, you are guiding them to talk through things they may not have thought of otherwise. If you help them navigate through these things early, they will be better prepared to hold on to their faith when their professor in college asks them similar questions in a much more hostile environment.
10th) Make sure they know the heritage of their faith through church history. (Acts 7)
- We all need to know that the anchor of our faith goes deeper than mom and dad.
- Times of doubt are intensified when we feel alone.
- By cultivating a knowledge of church history, it will help them trace their faith origins back to the very beginning, making the picture of their faith much clearer when times of confusion arise.
11th) Continually teach an apologetic defense of the faith. (1 Pet 3:15-16)
- Unfortunately, some Christians take a dim view of apologetics. But it is never too early to start training in apologetics.
- The most important doctrines of our faith are the simplest to defend. They should be taught the arguments for the existence of God, the resurrection of Christ, and the reliability of Scripture.
- Often, this can be done by taking the antagonist role, then allowing them to come up with the answers.
12th) Expose them to other cultures. (Acts 13-14; 16-20)
- Young people in the U.S. have a strong sense of entitlement, believing they must have everything their friends have (and more!) or they are suffering abuse.
- The skewed points of reference they normally encounter (friends, neighbors, people they see on TV) create an inability to see the blessings they do have in their lives.
- Exposing them to other cultures reorients their perspective and gives them a good dose of reality.
13th) Give them a chance not to believe. (Josh 24:14-22)
- Billy Graham talks about a conversation he had with his son Franklin when he very young. He said, “Frank, your mother and I have decided to follow Jesus. We hope one day you will do the same thing.” And he left it at that.
- They need to know they are free to not follow your same path so they take ownership of their own beliefs, rather than feel forced or tricked into believing the way you do. This disarming approach is very important for the future reality of their faith.
14th) Prepare them for suffering. (John 16:33; Phil 1:29; 2 Tim 3:12; 1 Pet 4:12-19)
- There is nothing that causes people to lose faith more than unexpected or “meaningless” suffering.
- This is where good theology is of utmost importance.
- Everyone when they get older, will surely suffer a great deal in one way or another.
- If they perceive that their suffering is something that was not supposed to happen, if they believe it is not God’s will for people to suffer, they will be very confused later in life, not knowing how to square what they believe with their life experience.
- Ggiving them a strong biblical theology of suffering (i.e., we live in a fallen world; they should expect pain and difficulty), and disillusionment will not be a source for doubt.
15th) Teach them to take care of their bodies. (1 Cor 6:19-20; 9:27; 1 Tim 4:8)
- Many times doubt is brought about or intensified due to poor physical health – an increasing problem in both the secular culture and the contemporary church.
- Young people need to know how vital the connection is between the spirit and the body. When one suffers, so does the other. A good eating and exercise routine will do much to prevent this type of doubt – which may be the most unnecessary of all sources of doubt (and depression).
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
(Part 1 is here)
There are three things exacerbating the problem:
1st) Growing Biblical illiteracy within the church
Statistic after statistic and survey after survey all affirm the burgeoning problem of biblical illiteracy in the church today. David Nienhuis, associate professor of New Testament Studies at Seattle Pacific University, penned an excellent article at Modern Reformation several years ago entitled "The Problem of Evangelical Biblical Illiteracy". If anything, his observations are more pertinent today as Biblical literacy continues its downward slide in the American evangelical church.
" I often begin my survey of the Christian Scriptures course by asking students to take a short biblical literacy quiz, including questions of the sort mentioned above. The vast majority of my students--around 95 percent of them--are Christians, and half of them typically report that they currently attend nondenominational evangelical churches. Yet the class as a whole consistently averages a score of just over 50 percent, a failing grade. In the most recent survey, only half were able to identify which biblical book begins with the line, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Barely more than half knew where to turn in the Bible to read about the first Passover. Most revealing in my mind is the fact that my students are generally unable to sequence major stories and events from the biblical metanarrative. Only 23 percent were able to order four key events from Israel's history (Israelites enter the promised land; David is made king; Israel is divided in two; and the people of Judah go into exile), and only 32 percent were able to sequence four similarly important events from the New Testament (Jesus was baptized; Peter denies Jesus; the Spirit descends at Pentecost; and John has a vision on the island of Patmos). These students may know isolated Bible trivia (84 percent knew, for instance, that Jesus was born in Bethlehem), but their struggle to locate key stories, and their general inability to place those stories in the Bible's larger plotline, betrays a serious lack of intimacy with the text--even though a full 86 percent of them identified the Bible as their primary source for knowledge about God and faith."
He relates the conversation with one student who told him, "Reading a lot is not a part of my learning style." She went on to inform me that students today learned more by "watching videos, listening to music, and talking to one another." She spoke of the great growth she experienced in youth group (where she no doubt spent a lot of time watching videos, listening to music, and talking with people), but her ignorance of the Bible clearly betrayed the fact that the Christian formation she experienced in her faith community afforded her little to no training in the actual reading of Scripture.
Dr. Woodrow Kroll, President Back to the Bible International recently observed,
"I don't believe Bible illiteracy is a problem in the church; I believe it is the problem in the church. Failure to read God's Word is impacting our view of the world around us. This year saw increases in the proportions of people who believe that cohabitation (60%), adultery (42%), sexual relations between homosexuals (30%), abortion (45%), pornography (38%), the use of profanity (36%) and gambling (61%) are morally acceptable behaviors."
Several years ago professor Gary Burge from Wheaton College reported the results of a Bible literacy test his Christian college gave to incoming freshmen. The results were shocking because most of these students grew up in "strong" evangelical churches.
- One-third of those students didn’t know that Paul’s missionary journeys were recorded in the book of Acts.
- They didn’t know where in Scripture the birth of Christ is found.
- He asked 45 seniors who were in an advanced class to paraphrase, from memory, the Ten Commandments. Only one student could do it.
Young American born-again believers are moving away from a biblically-centered worldview, with only one in three affirming that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, according to Steve Cable, senior vice president of Probe Ministries. "We need to admit that there's a problem," Cable says. "Don't go around with your blinders thinking that everything is fine. We have a lot of people that aren't born again, so there's a lot of work to do. But then you look at the born-agains and see that we have even more work to do."
2nd) Growing isolationism within the church from a culture that is becoming more secular and hostile to Christianity
Much of the church is hunkering down in a fortress mentality, slowly abandoning the culture. Megachurches are tragically sometimes an example, offering all manner of facilities and daily activities that tend to lead to members greatly lessening their contact with the culture. Christians at such churches can easily spend the vast majority of their time safely cocooned in the church away from the culture.
The same can be true for youth groups which sometimes offer numerous activities, all isolated from the culture. A young teen can spend most of his/her time with church activities and rarely interface with outside secular activities.
3rd) The increasingly complex relationship between decreasing parental authority & increasing responsibility on the part of the child, as the child matures
Their is a complex interdependency between parental authority and child responsibility. At infancy, the child has no responsibility and the parent has 100% authority. That should start to change - very gradually at first - as the child begins to slowly assume responsibility and parental authority begins to lessen. The goal by the time the child leaves the nest should be 100% responsibility on their part. But, the interdependency is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate as the culture rapidly changes (i.e., how to handle a cell phone that permits easy “sexting” and unfiltered internet access for a teenager?)
(Part 4 is here ... preparing young people for times of doubt)
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
(Part 1 is here)
In 2011, Barna identified 6 Reasons that young adults leave the church. The comprehensive research project was comprised of eight national studies, including interviews with teenagers, young adults, parents, youth pastors, and senior pastors. The study of young adults focused on those who were regular churchgoers Christian church during their teen years and explored their reasons for disconnection from church life after age 15.
No single reason dominated the break-up between church and young adults. Instead, a variety of reasons emerged. Overall, the research uncovered six significant themes why nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.
Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective.
- A few of the defining characteristics of today's teens and young adults are their unprecedented access to ideas and worldviews as well as their prodigious consumption of popular culture.
- As Christians, they express the desire for their faith in Christ to connect to the world they live in. However, much of their experience of Christianity feels stifling, fear-based and risk-averse.
- One-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” (23% indicated this “completely” or “mostly” describes their experience).
- Other perceptions in this category include “church ignoring the problems of the real world” (22%) and “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful” (18%).
Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
- A second reason that young people depart church as young adults is that something is lacking in their experience of church.
- One-third said “church is boring” (31%).
- One-quarter of these young adults said that “faith is not relevant to my career or interests” (24%) or that “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough” (23%).
- Sadly, one-fifth of these young adults who attended a church as a teenager said that “God seems missing from my experience of church” (20%).
Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
- One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science.
- The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%).
- Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%).
- Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%).
- And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.”
- Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.
Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
- With unfettered access to digital pornography and immersed in a culture that values hyper-sexuality over wholeness, teen and twentysometing Christians are struggling with how to live meaningful lives in terms of sex and sexuality.
- One of the significant tensions for many young believers is how to live up to the church's expectations of chastity and sexual purity in this culture, especially as the age of first marriage is now commonly delayed to the late twenties.
- Research indicates that most young Christians are as sexually active as their non-Christian peers, even though they are more conservative in their attitudes about sexuality.
- One-sixth of young Christians (17%) said they “have made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.”
Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
- Younger Americans have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance. Today’s youth and young adults also are the most eclectic generation in American history in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, technological tools and sources of authority.
- Most young adults want to find areas of common ground with each other, sometimes even if that means glossing over real differences.
- Three out of ten young Christians (29%) said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and an identical proportion felt they are “forced to choose between my faith and my friends.”
- One-fifth of young adults with a Christian background said “church is like a country club, only for insiders” (22%).
Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
- Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense.
- In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial.
- Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%).
- In a related theme of how churches struggle to help young adults who feel marginalized, about one out of every six young adults with a Christian background said their faith “does not help with depression or other emotional problems” they experience (18%).
(Part 3 is here ... the three phenomena that are exacerbating the problem.)
Monday, October 17, 2016
The problem: Several years ago Barna published statistics revealing that 65% of young adults in the U.S. that grew up in the church participating in evangelical youth groups, walk away from their faith when they leave home for the first time. Since then other studies estimate the rate may actually be as high as 70-75%. The SBC Family Life Report issued study findings in 2002 that 88% of children in evangelical homes leave the church by the age of 18.
Some suggestions as to why this might be?
- They succumb to temptations they haven’t faced before
- They didn’t learn to think
- They are often consumed with the demands of making a living
- They see right through the charade of those who profess the faith but don’t “walk the talk”
In a book published in 2005 entitled “Soul Searching”, students were asked why they left the faith. “Why did they fall away from the faith in which they were raised?” This was an open-ended question; there were no multiple-choice answers. 32% said they left faith behind because of intellectual skepticism or doubt. (“It didn’t make any sense anymore.” “Some stuff is too far-fetched for me to believe.” “I think scientifically and there is no real proof.” “Too many questions that can’t be answered.”)
In 2006 a Barna study revealed the majority of young adults in their 20s (61%0 had been churched at one point in their teen years but are now spiritually disengaged.
In the book “The Last Christian Generation” published in 2006, the study findings concluded:
- 63% of teenaged Christians don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of the one true God
- 51% don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead
- 68% don’t believe that the Holy Spirit is a real entity
- Only 33% of churched youth have said that the church will play a part in their lives when they leave home
- 70% will leave the faith in college
- Only 35% eventually return
- 7 in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 – both evangelical and mainline – who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23
- 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30
- That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church
- “The most frequent reason for leaving church is, in fact, a self-imposed change, ‘I simply wanted a break from church’ (27%).”
- “The path toward college and the workforce are also strong reasons for young people to leave church: ‘I moved to college and stopped attending church’ (25%) and ‘work responsibilities prevented me from attending’ (23%).”
A 2007 Study of Student Ministries by Inquest Ministries revealed:
- 63% don’t believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God
- 58% believe all faiths teach equally valid truths
- 51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead
- 65% don’t believe Satan is a real entity
- 68% don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real
A 2011 book entitled “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith” concluded:
- Nearly 25% of the 18- to 29-year-olds interviewed said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” most of the time
- 22% also said the church ignores real-world problems and 18% said that their church was too concerned about the negative impact of movies, music and video games
- 33% of survey participants felt that “church is boring.”
- 20% of those who attended as a teenager said that God appeared to be missing from their experience of church
- Many young adults do not like the way churches appear to be against science
- Over 33% of young adults said that “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” and 25% of them said that “Christianity is anti-science.”
- 17% percent of young Christians say they’ve “made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.”
- 29% of young Christians said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and feel they have to choose between their friends and their faith.
- Over 33% of young adults said they feel like they can’t ask life’s most pressing questions in church.
- 23% said they had “significant intellectual doubts” about their faith.
(Part 2 is here ... Barna identified 6 primary reasons that young adults leave the church. The comprehensive research project was comprised of eight national studies, including interviews with teenagers, young adults, parents, youth pastors, and senior pastors. )