While I'm not sure how much stock I put in them, there is no question there is escalating conflict between conservatives and progressive leftists. While their predictions focus on the nation of Israel, there is now a similar conflict in most of western civilization.
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
Thursday, May 31, 2018
While I'm not sure how much stock I put in them, there is no question there is escalating conflict between conservatives and progressive leftists. While their predictions focus on the nation of Israel, there is now a similar conflict in most of western civilization.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Our society thinks that we can dance to the rhythm of our own drum, but the lessons of childhood remind us that gracefulness comes by cooperating with the external world and learning from experts how best to sail across the stage.
One of the hallmarks of becoming a mature, respectable human being is realizing your limitations. It’s not a crass matter of resigning yourself to your fate, but there is an element to becoming a “grown up” in accepting that wanting isn’t getting. We recognize this in raising our children, that part of our job as parents is to help them to learn the importance of patience and self-discipline, of not eating what we want but eating what we need, of respecting that our bodies can’t always do what we want them to do. To grow we must learn that our perceptions and desires do not always align with reality ...
.... Following God’s law isn’t like obeying the diktats of a tyrant. It’s following the lead of an all-knowing teacher granting us insight or a coach showing how to play the game of life with skill. When we listen to His voice, we aren’t hearing the words of someone who craves only our obedience but the guidance of someone who longs for us to thrive. He knows that without Him, we cannot thrive, but with Him, with His Fatherly instruction, we can move from childish crawling and stumbling onto the stage of His world and soar. When God calls us in His word to follow His ways, He’s not leading us to a life of drudgery but of dance.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Jesse Duplantis, 68, a Christian minister based in Destrehan, about 25 miles east of New Orleans, says his ministry has paid cash for three private jets.
“You know I’ve owned three different jets in my life and used them and used them and just burning them up for the Lord,” Duplantis says in a video posted to his ministries’ website.
Duplantis is now reportedly seeking the funds for a Dassault Falcon 7X, worth $54 million.
The problem with the previous jets, he says, is that they require multiple stops to refuel. But flying the Falcon 7X, Duplantis says, will allow him to save money and not pay “those exorbitant prices with jet fuel all over the world.”
“I really believe that if Jesus was physically on the earth today, he wouldn’t be riding a donkey,” Duplantis says in the video, “He’d be in an airplane preaching the gospel all over the world.”
Duplantis’ video comes after another televangelist, Kenneth Copeland in Texas, purchased the Gulfstream V jet for $36 million.
Both televangelists defended their use of private jets during a joint appearance on Copeland’s program [video is below], saying that commercial airlines filled with “a bunch of demons” that get in the way of their busy schedules.
Duplantis reportedly lives in a 35,000-square-foot plantation home built in the late ’00s at a cost of $3 million. His net worth has been estimated at $50 million. Duplantis is the modern-day-equivalent-scourge of indulgence hawkers that preyed on the gullible during the Middle Ages. It was the antics of the king of them all - one Johannes Tetzel - that outraged Martin Luther and sparked the reformation. Eric Metaxas relates the following account in his outstanding biography of Luther:
According to Luther, after Tetzel had received a substantial amount of money at Leipzig, a nobleman asked him if it were possible to receive a letter of indulgence for a future sin. Tetzel quickly answered in the affirmative, insisting that the payment had to be made at once. The nobleman did so and received thereupon letter and seal from Tetzel.
When Tetzel left Leipzig the nobleman attacked him along the way, gave him a thorough beating, and sent him back empty-handed to Leipzig with the comment that it was the future sin which he had in mind. Duke George at first was quite furious about the incident, but when he heard the whole story, he let it go without punishing the nobleman.
We can only hope that televangelists like Copeland and Duplantis who prey on the weak-of-faith and gullible will spark another much badly-needed reformation.
Saturday, May 26, 2018
These are the last words of Westley Allan Dodd before his execution by hanging at 12:05 a.m. on January 5, 1993 at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Dodd was an American serial killer and child molester. His execution (which was performed at his own request) on January 5, 1993, was the first legal hanging in the United States since 1965.
Last words can be very powerful as the prospect of imminent death almost always causes what's deep in the heart to surface.
Friday, May 25, 2018
We thought this was a Roman Catholic problem. The unbiblical requirement of priestly celibacy and the organized conspiracy of silence within the hierarchy helped to explain the cesspool of child sex abuse that has robbed the Roman Catholic Church of so much of its moral authority. When people said that Evangelicals had a similar crisis coming, it didn’t seem plausible — even to me. I have been president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twenty-five years. I did not see this coming.
I was wrong. The judgment of God has come.
Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention. The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance. There can be no doubt that this story is not over .....
This is yet another consequence of the moral relativism infecting the culture. People feel the "right" to create their own version of "truth", no matter how divorced it is from reality. The tendency to refuse to conform one's intellect and will to reality (truth) and instead try and reshape reality to one's will, is the seed for mental illness. Thus, the cascading explosion of mental illness (with often deadly consequences like the recent school shootings) now enveloping our culture like a plague.
On a related note, a woman arrested for DUI in Texas claimed the arresting officer sexually violated and threatened her. She obviously didn't know he was wearing a body cam. Subsequent to her public allegations, the District Attorney released a video of the incident almost 2 hours long ... that clearly shows nothing inappropriate happened. Read about it and watch the video here. So convincing is the video that the woman's lawyer immediately apologized and distanced himself from her. Dixon-Cole has since hidden or deleted her Facebook account. Filing a false police report is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, according to Section 37.08 of the Texas Penal Code.
I have no doubt that some will refuse to believe the truth and will continue to side with the woman's obviously false story. I'm sure there will be firmly delusional conspiracy theorists who will figuratively pull rabbits out of hats.
Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips (Jer 7:28, ESV)
Thursday, May 24, 2018
-- May 3, 2017, Arlington, Texas: James Jones went to the Zona Caliente sports bar and began yelling incoherently. When the manager, Cesar Perez, went to talk to him and calm him down, Jones pulled out a gun and shot Perez dead, then started shooting wildly at patrons. Luckily, a concealed carry holder happened to be having dinner at Zona Caliente with his wife that night. He shot Jones dead before anyone else was hurt.
-- Aug. 7, 2016, Linndale, Ohio: Two men getting into their car in a Dollar Store parking lot were held up by a masked armed robber. As the gunman, Varshaun Stephen Dukes, was rifling through one of the men's pockets, the other pulled out his concealed handgun and told him to stop. The robber fired at the man but missed. The concealed carry permit holder shot back, putting a .45 bullet in the robber's brain. (Naturally, he survived.) All of this was captured on the Dollar Store's surveillance camera, so no charges were brought against the armed citizen.
-- June 26, 2016, Lyman, South Carolina: Jody Ray Thompson opened fire in the crowded Playoffz nightclub, injuring three. But before he could kill anyone, he was shot in the leg by a club patron with a concealed carry license. Police arrested Thompson without further incident and no one died.
-- May 31, 2015, Conyers, Georgia: After arguing with a liquor store clerk, Jeffrey Scott Pitts returned with a gun and began shooting at everyone in the store, killing two. Todd Scott, who was there to buy a six-pack, returned fire. The crazed gunman fled, went home and shot his parents. "He was very surprised that he was not the only one in the store with a gun," Scott said. Apart from the two people killed in Pitts' opening barrage, no one died. Scott saved the lives of everyone else in that store.
-- July 24, 2014, Darby, Pennsylvania: Felon and psychiatric patient Richard Plotts pulled out a gun at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, murdered his caseworker and wounded his psychiatrist, Dr. Lee Silverman. He would have kept shooting -- Plotts had 39 more bullets -- but the doctor pulled out his own gun and fired back, in violation of the hospital's no-guns rule. No one else died.
-- Jan. 11, 2014, Portland, Oregon: After being turned away from a strip club in Portland, repeat felon Thomas Elliott Hjelmeland came back, wearing a clown mask, guns blazing. He hit a waitress, a security guard and a patron before a bouncer, concealed carry permit holder Jonathan Baer, returned fire and ended the attack. No one died.
-- Dec. 16, 2012, San Antonio, Texas: Jesus Manuel Garcia began shooting at the Santikos Mayan Palace movie theater from a nearby restaurant and continued shooting as he walked toward the theater. An armed off-duty cop shot Garcia four times, stopping the attack. No one died.
-- March 25, 2018, Boiling Springs, South Carolina: Jesse Gates kicked in a side door of the Southside Freewill Baptist Church during services, raised his gun to shoot -- but was grabbed and held at gunpoint by the reverend's grandson, a concealed carry permit holder. No one was hurt. Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said, "I like the fact that a concealed weapons permit holder was prepared to protect the worshipers."
-- In 2001, 15-year-old Charles Williams tried to shoot up his high school in Santee, California, but luckily, an off-duty cop happened to be bringing his daughter to school that day. He ended Williams' rampage with his own gun, holding him until more police arrived. Two fatalities.
-- In 1998, a 14-year-old student began shooting up a school dance being held at a restaurant in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. The restaurant owner pulled out a shotgun, keeping the death toll to one.
-- In 1997, a student shot several people at his high school in Pearl, Mississippi, killing two, and was headed to the junior high, until assistant principal Joel Myrick retrieved a .45 pistol from his car and pointed it at the gunman's head. Another massacre averted.
-- In 1993, student Mark Duong pulled out a gun during his disciplinary hearing at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, wounding three people, including the police officer, who, luckily, had been asked to attend the hearing. The officer immediately shot the psychotic student dead, saving the lives of everyone in the room.
Islam from its inception is a religion of power, and in the Muslim world view it is right and proper that power should be wielded by Muslims and Muslims alone. Others may receive the tolerance, even the benevolence, of the Muslim state, provided that they clearly recognize Muslim supremacy. That Muslims should rule over non-Muslims is right and normal ....... Here again, it must be recalled that Islam is not conceived as a religion in the limited Western sense but as a community, a loyalty, and a way of life—and that the Islamic community is still recovering from the traumatic era when Muslim governments and empires were overthrown and Muslim peoples forcibly subjected to alien, infidel rule.
An article here noting his passing observed,
Lewis was the English-speaking world’s most eminent modern scholar of the Middle East. His prose, while it didn’t exactly leap off the page, drew on decades of archival research and a deep grounding in historical method. His analysis was measured, and his conclusions were thoughtful. He said that the Arabs were the authors of their own misery, and that the ‘return of Islam’ meant that unhappy Islamists were going to share their misery with the rest of the world. No doubt his death is being quietly celebrated in departments of Middle Eastern Studies the world over.
Current events have proven Lewis correct in his analysis of Islam. Unfortunately, very few of the West's ruling elite grasp the true nature of Islam and the serious threat it poses to western civilization. Throughout the Scriptures, God urges people to accept the truth. But when people reject Him and spurn His message, then—and not until then—God hardens them and turns them over to a deluded mind to wallow in their sin ... and suffer the consequences. This is precisely what is collectively happening now to our culture.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
OCTOPUSES are weird. This is not just because they look odd. It’s not because they’re disturbingly smart. It’s because they have a strange power. The ability to edit their own bodies. This has biologists scratching their heads. Evolution doesn’t work that way. It’s supposed to be spurred by genetic mutations — a change in DNA — that proves to be beneficial to the host.
So how could a creature evolve in such a way as to allow them to rebuild themselves?
Now a new train of thought has emerged. They didn’t. At least, not here. Instead — it’s an advanced biological ability that came from outer space ....
There is no disharmony between true science and Scripture. However false science is forced to frantically cast about for increasingly bizarre theories that support their foundational worldview of evolution - theories that are usually subsequently presented as established truth. As the foundation for evolution crumbles with every new discovery, its proponents reach further and further into fantasyland in a desperate attempt to avoid the truth that is staring them in the face.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Monday, May 21, 2018
We are living in a time of unprecedented erosion of marital fidelity and family stability—while the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page inveighs against even the most modest policy proposals to counter these trends, labeling them “conservative social engineering.” A libertarian sentiment underwrites a broad retreat from the defense of moral decency.
The political strategy? Wink at social conservatives like me through coded words such as “federalism.” The political principle is sound, but in truth it was used to signal opposition to gay marriage without the inconvenience of taking a stand. Religious freedom can be used in this way, too. Instead of confronting transgender ideology, Republican leaders are likely to pledge to defend our “right to be wrong.”
Recently, former Speaker of the House and Republican John Boehner went into the pay of the marijuana industry, accepting a position on the board of a weed-growing company. In all likelihood, he will use his political connections to promote drug legalization. This epitomizes our circumstances.
... Our failure to affirm transgression becomes an implicit denigration of the choices of others.
Given these circumstances, I welcome the crisis in the Republican party. Republicans caved on gay marriage, at least at the national level. The party leaders ran (and still run) for cover as soon as incoming mortar fire from the Human Rights Campaign hits anywhere in their neighborhoods. Republican bigwigs worked to block protections of religious freedom in Arizona in 2014. They put their tails between their legs in 2015 when corporate America launched its shock and awe campaign against a similar effort in Indiana. By 2016, after another retreat in Georgia, I was convinced that establishment Republicans would not spend political capital to protect our religious liberty. Even the supposed leaders of the conservative movement continue to wring their hands, preaching judicial restraint (another coded way to signal they’re on our side without actually taking the risk of being on our side)—ready to reconcile themselves to the next wave of progressive victories. As I said, multiculturalism lite.
But I worry. Getting rid of the leaders taking us in the wrong direction is no guarantee we’re heading in the right one. Donald Trump is an enema for our political system. He removes the blockage of a failed leadership. But he lacks the credibility, and perhaps the desire, to frame a program of renewal that addresses the profound moral and cultural decay that fuels the crisis of solidarity ..... It’s time for religious and social conservatives like us to lead rather than be led.
.... The institution of marriage stabilizes male-female relations. But the divine power of eros requires “folding” by soul-shaping norms. Attacks on these norms over the last three generations have deformed the intimate lives of our fellow citizens. This has a great deal to do with our political crises, far more than we realize. It’s not just that rich girls face a chaotic sexual culture at expensive universities, or that more and more working-class women have illegitimate children. Grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Thirty-year-old men live like adolescents. Women wonder if they’ll ever get married. These unanticipated responsibilities—and unprecedented possibilities of life without responsibilities—erode the most fundamental and intimate forms of solidarity.
.... We also need creative thinking about how to repair the delicate (and always imperfect) choreography of men and women. Required ballroom dancing in high schools will help. [emphasis is mine :-)] Learning to play complementary roles prepares the imagination of the young for the difficult covenantal project of sharing the most intimate facets of one’s life with another.
... To pray, to savor the Word of God, to venture the solution to a mathematical puzzle, to put your children to bed at night, to do your job with integrity, to offer a kind word to a stranger—these are far more important than our involvement in politics. As the prophet Jeremiah reminds us, however, we have a duty to seek the good of the city where God has placed us in this time of exile, before the return of his Son in glory.
He is absolutely correct that the current generation of political leadership at the national level has lost its way and is now leading us into a morally-barren wilderness. He is also correct that two choices lay before us: (1) be led into moral apostasy and collectively suffer the consequences, or (2) take the reins and lead by example no matter the cost.
One example of the cost of moral apostasy is the "Incel Movement", chronicled here.
On April 23, 2018, a van allegedly driven by Alek Minassian, drove onto a sidewalk in downtown Toronto, killing ten people and wounding eighteen others. Many, I admit myself included, had the initial thought that the motivation for this attack had something to do with ISIS or radical Islam. But the truth turned out different, and in some ways more disturbing.
On his Facebook page, Minassian pledged allegiance, not to ISIS, but to the “Incel Rebellion.” “Incel” stands for “involuntarily celibate.” As Vox.com explains, the “rebellion” is “not an organized militant group but rather an ideal developed by . . . an online community of men united by their inability to convince women to have [intimate relations] with them.”
This sounds like the stuff of a Saturday Night Live skit until you remember the bodies on the ground in Toronto. And not just there: In 2014, Elliot Rodger, before killing six people in Santa Barbara, California, made an “explanatory video” whose principal complaint was that attractive women wouldn’t sleep with him.
In the same post in which Minassian pledged allegiance to the “Incel Rebellion,” he hailed Rodger as the “Supreme Gentleman.” And he wasn’t Rodger’s only fan: Alleged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz is said to have written “Elliot Rodger will not be forgotten” in response to Rodger’s video.
That’s at least thirty-two deaths that can be linked at least in some way to young men’s frustration over “their inability to convince women to have [intimate relations] with them.”
.... This reality, plus the lethal violence in Toronto and Santa Barbara, led George Mason University economist Robin Hanson to muse that “One might plausibly argue that those with much less access to sex suffer to a similar degree as those with low income, and might similarly hope to gain from organizing around this identity, to lobby (and I’m not making this up) for redistribution” of the benefits of the sexual revolution.
What? That’s insane! What on earth would “redistribution” entail?
But it’s no more insane than telling young men that sex is everything, exposing them to countless hours of pornography, and then being shocked when these young men feel “cheated.”
As we say, ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims.
"These are the times that try men's souls." At the time Paine wrote those words in 1776, it looked like we would lose the American Revolution, and some people were walking away because times were getting tough. By saying "These are the times that try [or test] men's souls," he was saying "This is how we'll see what your spirit is really made of." Do you leave when things look bad, or do you have the courage to stand up for what you believe in?
As Reno says, "They wanted us to shut up and stop spoiling things with our moralizing concerns". Now is the time to take a stand for truth. It's the only way out of the moral abyss.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
I teach a Sunday School class of young professionals in one of the largest evangelical churches in the city. This morning I asked if any knew what today is on the church calendar, the liturgical calendar. Nobody knew. I said it was Pentecost Sunday and asked what that meant. Once again, nobody knew. What a tragic indictment of many evangelical churches on the subject of the Holy Spirit.
Earlier I wrote here about the attitude towards the Holy Spirit that many evangelical churches display. Today of all days - when the church was birthed with God's empowering presence (Acts 2) - is when the church should publicly acknowledge the importance of and their crucial dependence upon the indwelling Holy Spirit. Instead, the silence is deafening. One must ask themselves what Christ meant when He said all manner of insult against Him personally would be forgiven, but the one unforgiveable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31-32).
The indwelling Holy Spirit is in fact THE defining characteristic of all good and true churches - indeed, it is the defining characteristic of the true church. No false church, no matter how many admirable traits are manifest, has the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Dan Wallace's (Research Professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary) article from 24 years ago is tragically even more valid today. The church does a great disservice when it fails to acknowledge the very source of its power.
And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:2, ESV)
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49, ESV)
To faithful Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad is a role model, and they must follow his Sunnah and learn how to implement its precepts and practices in their lives. So to understand the Prophet Muhammad is to understand Islam.
Fortunately, for both Muslims and non-Muslims, Muhammad is not around so that we can personally observe his conduct and be tempted to emulate him. What is possible, however, is to go to authentic Islamic records and discern what Muhammad did during his life and judge it for ourselves ......
The vast majority of Muslims are willfully ignorant of the true history of Muhammad. Their faith is built on fantasy.
Saturday, May 19, 2018
Lewis’s larger argument in “The Abolition of Man” is that man’s conquest of nature is chimerical; it ends with nature’s conquest of man. Having debunked all tradition and morality through the wonders of applied science, having succeeded in reducing all of human life to mere biological functions that can be precisely manipulated, mankind will “be henceforth free to make our species whatever we wish it to be.”
But therein lies the problem, says Lewis. Without any standards by which to judge what man ought to be, this new species of mankind will be reduced to following the mere whims of pleasure and instinct: “When all that says ‘it is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want’ remains.” In an entirely conditioned society, even those who do the conditioning will be slaves—ruled by nature, not reason.
In the unleashing of our animal desires and irrational impulses, nature will have its final victory over man at the very moment of our supposed triumph. “All Nature’s apparent reverses have been but tactical withdrawals,” writes Lewis. “We thought we were beating her back when she was luring us on. What looked to us like hands held up in surrender was really the opening of arms to enfold us for ever.”
...... But a large part of the reason is that the liberal order itself has robbed us of our ability to articulate what constitutes human happiness. We have freedom, we have immense wealth, but we have nothing to tell us what we should do with it, nothing to tell us what is good.
...... The liberal order has given us much, but it has come at a great cost, and we are just now beginning to see that something is terribly wrong.
CS Lewis recognized long before almost anyone else where we were headed. "The Abolition of Man" was first given as a series of lectures in 1943. The lectures dealt largely with the dangers of moral relativism – a subject that increasingly was to occupy Lewis’ mind as he noted the destructive trends emerging in the modern world-view. Lewis argues that there is a universal moral law (truth) and that the value of education lies in cultivating true and just sentiment towards this transcendent truth. Past generations largely operated within the perimeters of this truth, although they might distort it. Lewis's generation was steadily cutting away at their heritage by beginning to deny elements of the truth altogether. Some 75 years later, the West has accelerated the process to the degree that its' umbilical cord to truth is now virtually severed.
Friday, May 18, 2018
The video above is of highly risky behavior - extreme low-level flight in a high performance turboprop in Croatia. The pilot flies just a few feet above the ground in places, at a calculated 260mph (420kmh, 225knots). In addition to 90-degree-plus bank angles, flying between trees, and buzzing traffic on the roads, he (at the end) flies underneath the Mirna road bridge (in Western Croatia). There is no margin for error. The slightest mistake or unforeseen event (like a bird strike) or an unseen wire will have inevitable tragic consequences.
A lot of people live their life in a similarly reckless manner. They may not be cutting grass with a $5 million high-performance turboprop, but their life choices mirror the foolhardy pilot above. People who would never dare to take risks like the pilot above often live even more dangerously, playing with moral fire so-to-speak. Proverbs has multiple warnings about sexually immoral behavior and the inevitable consequences.
In a hyper-sexualized culture where virtually anything is increasingly acceptable, the outcome is predictable: carnage and devastation, both mental and physical. One of Mark Shea’s memorable quotes is “Sin Makes You Stupid.” He's echoing the wisdom of Romans 1. Sin indeed has a nasty way of blinding us to truth. As a nation we are collectively blind and stupid because the explosion of sin over the past 50 years makes us stupid. Throughout the course of human history, one prevailing truth about man's ability to reason is consistent: Sin makes us stupid.
... and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin ... (Prov 5:11-14, ESV)
Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? (Prov 6:27, NIV)
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Despite the warning signs, most will "play through" even as the horizon is darkened by impending judgment.
Such will be the case at the end of the age. Jesus warned time and again not to be caught off guard by His return which would be prefaced by certains signs to warn us.
For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. (1 Thess 5:2-4, ESV)
Despite the warning signs though, most will "play through" even as the horizon is darkened by impending judgment.
For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matt 24:37-39, ESV)
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells.
Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.”
–John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2003), 45–6
There is a sobering article here about “The Villages” (in the video above), a hugely, popular retirement center in central Florida – and a tragic microcosm of probably most of American culture today. It sadly depicts a truly meaningless way to spend one’s final years in what is termed as "Disneyland for adults." Warning for vulgar language.
“ The question I’m here to try to answer is a scary one: How do we want to finish our lives?
..... I start thinking about my own end. What scares me the most? It’s not the darkness or the ceasing to be while the world moves on. It’s not being forgotten, either — that’s inevitable. What scares me most is the moment, just before it happens, when you know this is it. That your life, all of it, is now behind you.
It seems to me that moment is hurtling toward Ray and he’s resigned himself to waiting for it. I imagine that Mr. Fitzgerald had just watched his wife stare that down, too. I hate myself for going there. I’ve been trying for days to think about what I want the end of my life to be. How do I want to spend those final years?
I pack my bags and walk to a bar. I sit alone and watch these people who are all hurtling toward their ultimate moment. They’ve fought their fights and now all they want is to drink and **** and play pickleball and hang out."
A more explicit article here details that "Life in the Villages is "a merry-go-round of one-night stands and drunken debauchery that would shame most teenagers."
John Piper authored an excellent booklet here entitled "Don't Waste Your Life". In his other book "Rethinking Retirement" here, Piper "challenges fellow Baby Boomers to forgo the American Dream of retirement and live out their golden years with a far greater purpose in mind. They say it’s a person’s reward for all those years of labor. “Turn in your time card and trade in your IRAs. Let travel plans and golf-course leisure lead the way.” But is retirement really the ideal? Or is it a series of poor options that ignore a greater purpose — and will kill a person more quickly than old age?"
John Piper responds: “Lord, spare me this curse!” And his resounding message is for anyone who believes there’s far more to the golden years than accumulating comforts. It’s for readers who long to finish better than they started, persevere for the right reasons (and without fear), experience true security, value what lies beyond their cravings, and live dangerously for the One who gave his life in his prime. With this brief book, Piper is sure to spur fellow Baby Boomers in their resolve to invest themselves in the sacrifices of love — and to grow old with godly zeal.
The obvious question is why so many people would be attracted to a "Villages" kind of end-of-life scenario. The answer is just as obvious. A life build on sand instead of bedrock demands endless distractions and hedonism in a futile attempt to avoid confronting approaching death and eternity. I echo Piper's plea - don't fall for the American fantasy of carefree retirement. As Piper says,
“Finishing life to the glory of Christ means finishing life in a way that makes Christ look glorious. It means living and dying in a way that shows Christ to be the all-satisfying Treasure that he is.”
Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish (Prov 31:6, NIV)
The senior pastor of Atlanta’s North Point Community Church (and one of the 12 on Baylor’s Most Effective Preachers list) stirred up the already tumultuous evangelical waters when he told Christians to “unhitch” their faith from the Old Testament.
... But three explanations that Stanley gave for why Christians need to “unhitch” from the Old Testament are disturbing.
1. There’s not much grace in the Old Testament.
He referred to Acts 15:11 (“We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved.”) and said this:
“When you read the Old Testament, the old covenant – when you read the story of Israel [and] the prophets of Israel, you don’t see much of this.”
As in – you don’t see much grace in Old Testament stories. But God demonstrated grace and love for the nations since the beginning.
2. The Old Testament isn’t about Jesus.
..... Jesus is woven throughout the Law and the Prophets. So much so that Jesus used those Scriptures to explain himself:
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself,” Luke 24:27.
Paul agreed on the value of reading these Scriptures in Romans 15:4: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us...”
3. The Old Testament makes it difficult for people to have faith in God.
The Christian Post reported, “Stanley's sermon was the third part of a series titled "Aftermath," in which the pastor was trying to appeal to individuals who left Christianity over what they were taught the Bible said about certain things.”
After listening to Stanley’s 40-minute sermon, hoping for clarity among the context, it’s still confusing what these “certain things” are.
People abandoning faith in God because of something weird they were taught about the Bible is a reality, and it’s sad. Stanley could have talked about specific stories or values that he sees are commonly being taught incorrectly. Instead, he was vague. And rather than encouraging people to dive into confusing Old Testament stories and seek God’s heart, he advised Christians to chuck over half of the Bible. If we take this advice, we will miss out on stories that reveal God’s holy nature as well as mankind’s sinful nature.
Stanley shared his heart for people who may struggle with their faith because of something in the Old Testament:
“People are losing faith because of something in the Bible. Once they see something as not true in the Old Testament, their whole faith collapses,” he said. “Because they were taught: it’s all true – it’s all God’s Word, and if you find one part that’s not true, the whole thing comes tumbling down.”
A year ago, this article reviewed some of the controversial history of Andy Stanley's statements. The author summarizes,
As a pastor and leader in the evangelical world, Andy Stanley has been gifted with a platform and a voice, but sadly he has consistently pointed people off course. For that reason, we must beware of Andy Stanley and his ministry. He has demonstrated an inappropriate care for God’s Word and God’s sheep.
Wesley Hill, associate professor of biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry. writes here about Andy Stanley's "Modern Marcionism".
Stanley’s motive is straightforwardly evangelistic. He wants to convince those who have lost or are in the process of losing their faith that the difficulties they may have with the perceived violence and legalism of the Old Testament need not prevent them from coming to Jesus. Alas, most of the 39-minute talk can really only be described as an elaborate and educated flirtation with the old Christian heresy of Marcionism—the belief that the Old Testament is not authoritative in matters of Christian doctrine and morals.
The gospel of Jesus, says Stanley near his sermon’s climax, “is completely detached … from everything that came before.” Summarizing that gospel, he says that “God has done something through the Jews for the world.” And then he drops this bombshell: “But the ‘through the Jews’ part of the story is over, and now something new and better and inclusive has come.”
As the biblical scholar Francis Watson has noted, contemporary versions of the error of the early Christian heretic Marcion (c. 85–160) don’t usually take the form of positing two ontologically distinct divine beings, as the historical Marcion did. They instead involve “Christian unease about the status and function of the Old Testament” and a willingness to entertain the view that “the Old Testament is not to be regarded as part of Christian scripture.”
Stanley’s error is more subtle still. The Old Testament is “divinely inspired,” he insists. But—following centuries of anti-Judaic interpretations of early Christian history, in which Jewish parsimoniousness is ranged over against Christian liberality—Stanley reframes the Old Testament as narrow, exclusive, hidebound.
.... It is striking how frequently flirtations with Marcionism are aimed at revising Christian teaching on sexual morality. Though he doesn’t walk through it himself, Stanley’s sermon opens the door to this revisionism.
Tragically, Stanley epitomizes more-than-a-few megachurch pastors today who sacrifice theological accuracy for numbers in the pews. As all-too-often-happens today, his faith was apparently shattered during his collegiate years by the challenges he encountered from the "wisdom of the world" - revealing inadequate instruction during his formative years as a Christian that apparently focused only on "what" to believe instead of also "why" to believe. The feel-good faith that Stanley markets today is a shallow shell however of life-changing faith based on truth.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
This explains the explosion of mental illness today. For example when people deny the reality of fixed gender difference between male and female and live their life accordingly, they are well on the way to mental illness. Unfortunately, when treatment is available, the psychiatric professional often reinforces the slide into mental illness by either ignoring the denial of truth - or worse yet - reinforcing it. Ripperger powerfully argues that modern psychology is doomed to fail because it does not postulate the true authentic view of man (i.e., there is no acknowledgement or understanding of the immaterial, spiritual aspect of man.) He provides extensive treatment in his book of the spiritual aspect of mental health ... something that is almost always ignored in secular professional treatment.
Compounding the problem is the cascade of powerful psychotropic drugs that are increasingly prescribed, a point driven home in the video above. The use of potent drugs combined with the willful denial of truth often opens the door to the demonic, explaining the rising demand for exorcism. As the culture descends into paganism, mental illness will become epidemic. In fact, a study by health insurance provider Blue Cross Blue Shield found that the number of Americans being diagnosed with severe depression jumped by a staggering 33 percent in recent years (see here).
The church alone, has the key and power to defeat this pandemic. However, a significant majority of the church often buys the snake oil marketed by secular professionals and is subsequently unwilling to engage the enemy. Fearful, they figuratively raise the white flag of surrender.
Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. (Luke 8:35, ESV)
Saturday, May 12, 2018
“That has happened for a long time now,” he said. “Some of the worst damage done within Christian churches has come from innocent, trusting Christians ignorant and unaware of those non-Christians seek to prey upon them.”
Friday, May 11, 2018
He's at it yet again.
As noted here, Stanley recently spoke on John 17 and said that unity in the faith is “more important than being theologically correct.” Owen Strachan appropriately responds here properly emphasizing that unity occurs only when we are “theologically correct.” As Owen says,
Unity is not the enemy of doctrine, truth, or theological correctness. Unity and truth are one. They go together. Take away the truth, and we have no unity; take away unity, and we are compromising the truth.
It is astonishing how popular Stanley (a theological loose cannon) remains in many quarters of the Body of Christ. James 3:1 warns that those who occupy a teaching position in the church incur stricter judgment. Playing footlose and fancy-free with theological doctrine (truth) is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. We see that unfortunately now being played out time and again with the recent resignation of several popular megachurch pastors ... all of whom excelled at modifying their message to suit contemporary itching ears instead of letting the truth (which is often difficult for fallen men to hear) speak for itself. Examine the gospels and see how often Jesus offended many people with the truth, sometimes including his own disciples. In stark contrast are teachers like Andy Stanley who pastors one of the largest congregations in the U.S. - and who apparently only offends those dedicated to truth.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1, ESV)
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him [Jesus]. (John 6:66, ESV)
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Time, according to Augustine, is the process by which our soul is "stretched out" within the temporal so that we experience life events successively. Augustine finds, within time, the key to understanding our relationship with God who exists solely outside of time. Our presence with God during the temporal is as unchangeable as God himself is unchangeable and is made up of the moments that our eyes are focused solely on him. It is all that is temporal and material that passes away and as we meditate on God and abandon our lives to him we find that the influence of time lessens and we are moving progressively upward toward eternity. So, horizontally we experience the duration of time, while vertically we experience the justification, purification and sanctification of our soul moving ever away from sin and toward righteousness in God in moments that are to us an "eternal present."
.... This ongoing search for truth is the vertical constant within the temporal. It is his relationship with and focus on God that will prove to bind him with the eternal and draw him upwards, away from the temporal and into God's eternal present.
... This is where the temporal intersects with the eternal. The way by which we traverse the moments of time and approach the eternity of God, drawn out of darkness and into light ...
.... Time is understood as the horizontal movement of human existence that is constantly in flux between the past, present and future. Augustine's analysis of time leads him to the conclusion that since the past never truly exists and the future has not yet come into existence, all that remains is the present, which is constantly flowing toward non-existence. Because time, as a separate existence of past, present and future, is inexpressible, Augustine proposes that one refer to time as, "three times, a present of things past, a present of things present, a present of things to come." These three exist concurrently in the soul, which dilates to incorporate memories of the past, immediate awareness of the present, and expectation for the future .
Eternity, on the other hand, is defined as the "eternal present" or "eternal day" understood as the Abidingness and unchangeableness of God which "embraces and transcends time." For Augustine, the purpose of time is to be caught up into this "eternal present" to the extent to which we can experience it while still bound by the temporal.
..... Augustine saw that eternity operated within time as an eternal present and, rather than being found through outward searching, it is when one turns the attention of their soul, their "inner eyes," toward God, that they are brought into contact with the Light and the Truth. "It is eternity which hides behind the temporal flow, revealed, if at all, within the instant which we cannot capture." Augustine found himself to be present within eternity when he experienced what he refers to as "light." Often understood in today's context as "enlightenment," the revelatory light, for Augustine, was a source of power from outside of himself that brought wisdom and understanding to his heart. ..... Augustine directly related this illumination as Godly intervention within his temporal time and space and thus understood it to be a small "slice" of eternity. It was in these moments that Augustine understood truth and was imparted wisdom.
..... Memory plays a key role, then, in that the past present of those in darkness is redeemed by the activity of the Lord within each moment. While that person is in darkness, they are blind to it, but once enlightened by God, they become aware of the light that was present all along. Again, here, we witness the presence and activity of God in the lives of all people. ..... So, while on the one hand, the past tends to dissolve into nothingness; it serves, at the same time, to establish salvation. The future, then, promises eschatological redemption, but this redemption is simultaneously defined as the eternally existing present.
For Augustine, eternity is the foundation upon which time is built and sustained. Time is the means by which redemptive history is fulfilled.
...... movement for man within eternity is constant vertical progression toward God who is immovable. It is by this unchanging nature that eternity with God consists of an eternal day. While God has no need to change, man is constantly tossed by the temporal waves of change. When grounded in the immutable truth and light of God and living for nothing but God, however, man can participate in that eternal present. Righteousness is the substance of the eternal present.
Augustine's understanding of eternity is based on the idea that there is nothing lacking in God and nothing that should pass away. God is perfect and remains the same. The temporal serves the eternal in that it is the process by which all that is held in opposition to God's nature is drawn either toward him or flees from him.
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jer 29:13, ESV)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, ESV)
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
We both feel a deep peace from the Lord about this. King David said to the Lord, “My times are in your hand” (Ps. 31:15), and I truly feel that way. Parkinson’s usually does not shorten a person’s life expectancy very much, but in any case, I’m happy to live as long as the Lord wills that I live, and to keep on being productive for as long as he enables me to do so. “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps. 139:16).
Last year, I wrote here about our necrophilic culture that tragically warps the attitude towards death that many Christians exhibit today. As I said,
We live in a necrophilic culture. That one claims to prize life, but really, ultimately, worships death. So maybe, the right way to live in a culture that sacrifices life to death is to live a life that recognizes death ...
In "Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians", Chris Armstrong astutely observes,
“This sort of reflection brings us into the important realm of medical ethics, in which Christians should have a distinctive witness. But it also impacts the sort of medical care we provide to individuals, particularly when the story of the medieval Christian origin and operation of the hospital pulls us back toward a balance. It took the British Christian Cecily Saunders (1918–2005) and her hospice movement to back us away from the medical obsession with taking every heroic, technology-assisted measure to keep a person alive, even to the detriment of his or her quality of life. Death happens, as does suffering, and there are kinds of pain to which medical science will never have an answer. What is needed in those cases is a different kind of care—something less like the gleaming machinery, tubes, and beeping screens of the modern palliative care unit and more like the brothers of the monastery lining up on both sides of the dying man’s bed, praying and singing as he suffers and sinks toward death.”
10 years ago, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure when they replaced my failing Mitral heart valve with an artificial valve. Last month I had a Pacemaker implanted when my heart rate was going down to 32 beats/minutes. But like Wayne, I truly have peace. In fact, I pretty much ignore my failing heart and continue to swim a mile every weekday (to stay in shape for the competitive ballroom dancing with my wife.) When my cardiologist told me a couple of years ago that he didn't know anyone with a bad heart who could swim a mile, my upbeat response was "You do now!"
Every day is a precious gift from God to be lived to the fullest. When the Lord calls me home in His Perfect Will and timing, I'm ready to go. For death has already been gloriously defeated.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 13:55-57)
For the Christian, death opens the door to eternal glorious life.
Monday, May 7, 2018
...... if you take a grab sample of other countries around the world you’ll see this could be much worse. Since our 1678 benchmark, Russia has had a two world wars, a civil war, a revolution, and at least half a dozen uprisings, depending on how you want to count them. Depending on when you start the clock, France had a 30-year war, a seven-year war, a particularly nasty revolution, a counter-revolution, that Napoleon thing, and a couple of world wars tacked on the end. China, North Korea, Vietnam, and basically most of the Pacific Rim has had some flavor of violent revolution in the last 100 years, sometimes more than one. With Africa, it’s hard to even conceive where to start and end the data points. Most Central and South American countries have had significant qualifying events in the time span. And honestly, if we were to widen our analysis to not only include nationwide violent civil wars, but also instances of slavery, internment, and taking of native lands, our own numbers go way up.
Or we could look at a modern snapshot. Counting places like the Vatican, we have 195 countries on the planet today. Somalia is basically in perpetual war, Syria is a hot mess with no signs of mitigation any time soon, Iraq is sketchy, Afghanistan has been in some flavor of civil war or occupation my entire life outside the salad days of the Taliban, and Libya is in such deep throes of anarchy that they’ve reinvented the African slave trade. Venezuela. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be a qualifying event depending on how you define it. And again, Africa is … hard to even conceive of where to start. Spitballing, perhaps 3% of the nations in the modern world are in some version of violent revolt against the ruling government, some worse than others. There’s at least some case to be made that our 0.5% annual chance estimate may be low, if we’re looking at comps.
Or we could look at a broader historical brush. Since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, there have been 465 sovereign nations which no longer exist, and that doesn’t even count colonies, secessionist states, or annexed countries. Even if we presume that half of these nation-state transitions were peaceful, which is probably a vast over-estimation, that’s still an average of one violent state transition every 2.43 years.
If we look at raw dialectic alone, we reach dismal conclusions. “Do you think the United States will exist forever and until the end of time?” Clearly any reasonable answer must be “no.” So at that point, we’re not talking “if,” but “when.” If you don’t believe my presumed probability, cook up your own, based on whatever givens and data pool you’d like, and plug it in. The equations are right up there. Steelman my argument in whatever way you like, and the answer will still probably scare you.
..... Nobody notices the signs of impending doom unless they’re looking carefully.
Further, the elites of a nation rarely take it on the chin. They can hop on a plane. The poor, disenfranchised, and defenseless experience the preponderance of the suffering, violence, and death. They’re the ones that should be worried.
Pretend you’re someone with your eyes on the horizon. What would you be looking for, exactly? Increasing partisanship. Civil disorder. Coup rhetoric. A widening wealth gap. A further entrenching oligarchy. Dysfunctional governance. The rise of violent extremist ideologies such as Nazism and Communism. Violent street protests. People marching with masks and dressing like the Italian Blackshirts. Attempts at large scale political assassination. Any one of those might not necessarily be the canary in the coal mine, but all of them in aggregate might be alarming to someone with their eyes on the horizon. Someone with disproportionate faith in the state is naturally inclined to disregard these sorts of events as a cognitive bias, while someone with little faith in the state might take these signs to mean they should buy a few more boxes of ammunition.
“Prepping” is Just Disaster Planning
“But if one of these things happens, you’re screwed anyway!” Well, sure. The point of disaster planning for a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or wildfire, is not to be “not-screwed.” It’s to be notably less screwed.
.... There are certain things in the world you’d rather have and not need, than need and not have. And paramount among those things, given the state of the modern human condition, is a rifle.
So if you ask someone else on the opposite side of a culture war argument, “Why would you want to own one of those things, anyway?” please don’t be surprised if they simply respond, “Why wouldn’t you?”
I remember as a teenager in the late 60s when my father took my brother and I, and a friend and his father to explore an active volcano on an island that had been steadily erupting for 40+ days. The only other people on the island were government volcanologists making their daily observations. When we set out, my friend's father made sarcastic, scoffing remarks about us being "over-prepared" with all the safety equipment that my father mandated we needed to take. He wasn't laughing anymore after we got caught in stinging ashfall that was rendered harmless because of our protective clothing and hard hats, nor when he fell in a lava field and seriously gashed his leg which we used our extensive first-aid kit to bind up.
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. (Prov 22:3, ESV)
Sunday, May 6, 2018
Friday, May 4, 2018
The vast majority of Americans say the final decision should be left with parents. That's because, under our system, the purpose of the state is to protect our inalienable rights to life and liberty. But in Britain, it seems, the state has the power to trample life and liberty and condemn a disabled child to death.
That is precisely what the British High Court of Justice did in the case of Alfie Evans, a little boy who suffered from a rapidly progressive terminal brain disease. Doctors at London's Alder Hey Children's Hospital concluded that further treatment was futile and asked the court -- over his parents' objections -- to order the removal of his ventilator. Alfie's parents pleaded for permission to transfer him to Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital in Rome, where doctors had agreed to take over his treatment at no cost. Pope Francis had arranged free medical transport, and the Italian government had granted Alfie citizenship to facilitate his transfer. A hospital in Munich had also offered to relieve British doctors of the burden of caring for Alfie.
But the court ruled that it was in Alfie's "best interests" to die. Doctors had told the court he might "be able to muster just a handful of breaths and survive just a few minutes if ventilation were completely stopped." In fact, he kept fighting to live for five full days without life support. A phalanx of police officers was posted outside his hospital, holding the child hostage in order to ensure that his mom and dad did not try to take him away while the death sentence was carried out.
Editorial is here. As the author warns, "Unless Americans are vigilant, it is only a matter of time before it happens here." But the culture of death is already in full bloom in the U.S. with the ongoing tragedy of abortion.
Thursday, May 3, 2018
This year, May 20 is Pentecost Sunday, although you would never know it in most non-charismatic evangelical churches from the deafening silence. Unfortunately, very few evangelical churches outside those of charismatic persuasion celebrate (or even mention) Pentecost on this Sunday of the year. No doubt, some are afraid to celebrate Pentecost because of discomfort with charismatic expressions. But they willfully ignore a crucial element of our faith.
Rev. Darryl Mathis recounts,
Growing up in a Southern Baptist church, all I knew of Pentecost was from Sunday school lessons on Acts, chapter 2. I always thought that it was a strange story – a violent wind and tongues of fire that came to rest on each of the believers. I remember thinking at a young age that it must have been frightening to those present when the Holy Spirit came upon them.
I have since grown up and attended Pentecost Sunday services in Baptist churches where this important theological teaching is remembered and celebrated .....
.... Paul, in the book of Romans, reminds us that the Holy Spirit is given by God as a gift of faith to those of us that believe in Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, it is possible for us as humans to experience a unique relationship with God. As believers, we are able to connect with God in such a way that would not be possible if not through the intervening work of the Spirit.
About ten years ago, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit during a difficult time in my life. I remember praying to God that morning on the way to work, asking Him to help me through a difficult situation in my life. As I prayed, I remember wondering how I would ever make it through that particular day. As soon as I reached work, I turned off my car and just sat there unable to get out of my vehicle. And suddenly, I felt a complete sense of peace and comfort go throughout my entire body. I was not sure what had exactly happened but I knew that God, through the Holy Spirit, was with me and would give me what I needed to get through that day, and the next day.
In 1994, Dan Wallace, Dallas Theological Seminary, authored an article here in Christianity Today entitled "Who's Afraid Of The Holy Spirit"? He subtitled it "The uneasy conscience of a noncharismatic evangelical." He explains,
[Through the experience of my son’s cancer, I came to grips with the inadequacy of the Bible alone to handle life’s crises. I needed a existential experience with God. I got in touch with my early years as a charismatic and began reflecting on how the Holy Spirit works today. I saw scripture in a new light and began wrestling with the question, If the Holy Spirit did not die in the first century, what in the world is he doing today? This essay offers eleven theses that begin to explore answers to that question.
This message was originally delivered as the presidential address of the Evangelical Theological Society’s Southwest Regional meeting in the spring of 1994, held at John Brown University in Arkansas. It was modified further for publication in Christianity Today, appearing in the September 12, 1994 issue.]
I am a cessationist. That is to say, I believe that certain gifts of the Holy Spirit -namely, the "sign gifts" of healing, tongues, and miracles—were employed in the early church to authenticate that God was doing something new, but that they ceased with the death of the last apostle. This is what distinguishes me from a charismatic Christian, who believes the Holy Spirit still uses sign gifts today.
While I still consider myself a cessationist, the last few years have shown me that my spiritual life has gotten off track—that somehow I, along with many others in my theological tradition, have learned to do without the third person of the Trinity.
This has not hindered my academic work. Mine has become a cognitive faith—a Christianity from the neck up. As long as I could control the text, I was happy. I lived in the half-reality that theological articulation is valid only if it is based on sound exegesis and nothing else. Like the proverbial frog in the slowly simmering pot of water, I did not sense that I was on the way to self-destruction.
Two-and-a-half years ago, the Almighty suddenly and graciously turned up the heat. He provided me a wake-up call to get me out of the pot. I am sharing my testimony in hopes that many others who are in cauldrons of their own making might realize the danger—and get out.
Dan goes on to offer 11 powerful theses as a result of his experience that he hopes will "help other cessationists avoid the traps [he] fell into". He elaborates on each of them. The church would do well to heed him.
- Although the sign gifts died in the first century, the Holy Spirit did not. Cessationists can affirm that theologically, but pragmatically we act as though the Holy Spirit died with the last apostle.
- Although charismatics have sometimes given a higher priority to experience than to relationship, rationalistic evangelicals have just as frequently given a higher priority to knowledge than to relationship. Both of these miss the mark.
- This emphasis on knowledge over relationship can produce in us a bibliolatry.
- The net effect of such bibliolatry is a depersonalization of God.
- Part of the motivation for depersonalizing God is an increasing craving for control.
- God is still a God of healing and miracles.
- Evangelical rationalism can lead to spiritual defection.
- We are suppressing a part of the image of God, suppressing a part of the witness of the Spirit, and that we are not in line with historic Christianity.
- The Holy Spirit’s guidance is still needed in discerning the will of God.
- In the midst of seeking out the power of the Spirit, we must not avoid the sufferings of Christ.
- To what does the Spirit bear witness? Don’t be too quick to answer. Some of this needs rethinking ......