27 February 2012

Separating From Unbelievers

Thanks to an anonymous reader for alerting me to this fine message.

"Historic Interfaith Document" was "One Year in the Making"

From the December 2011 archives of the blog of the Islamic Center of Southern California:
Last Sunday, a historic event took place at Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. Saddleback is known for its famous pastor, Rick Warren, who delivered the prayer at President Obama’s inauguration ceremony. The Church hosted a number of Muslim communities in based in Southern California for its second annual celebration of Jesus (pbuh). This event is significant because Saddleback is a large evangelical church with over 22 thousand members. Although only a select number of individuals were invited to this dinner, it demonstrates the new theological position of Saddleback. At the celebration, a document one year in the making was presented which encourages Christians and Muslims to appreciate the similarities of our faiths.
The document encouraged that our communities work together towards the common good and to combat bigotry in a 1-2-3 plan. The first step in the plan identifies the belief in one God. The second step acknowledges God’s commandment to love God and your neighbor. Finally, step three is for our communities to commit to three things: making friends, building peace, and serving the world at large together.
This relationship with Saddleback Church was initiated over a year ago with a friendship between one of the pastors, Abraham Meulenberg, and the ICSC’s Jihad Turk. Pastor Meulenberg reached out having heard about the Center and our interfaith work. From this friendship developed an institutional link between their respective organizations. (Online Source, emphasis added. To view pictures of this event, visit here.)
As stated in yesterday's post, Rick Warren Builds Bridge to Muslims, while Islam may bow to one god, and Christianity serves one God, these two are not the same God. As was also mentioned yesterday on this blog, the idea of "love God, love your neighbor" is not the Gospel, it is the Law. Indeed, as emphasized above, this recent step taken by Saddleback Church does reveal "the new theological position of Saddleback." Yet, can it really be said that this is a new position? After all, did not Rick Warren stand before a room of Muslims in 2009 and declare:
You know that obviously as an evangelical pastor, my deepest faith is in Jesus Christ. But you also need to know that I am committed not just what I call the “Good News,” but I am committed to the common good. And as the Scripture says “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I am commanded to love and I am commanded to respect everybody. Everybody. Now I was asked to speak to you about how Muslims and Christians can work closer together for the greater good, in our world. And I will tell you that I am not interested in interfaith dialogue, I am interested in interfaith projects. There is a big difference. Talk is very cheap. And you can talk and talk and talk and not get anything done. Love is something you do. It is something that we do together. Love is a verb. Now as the two largest faiths on this planet, Muslims and Christians, we must lead in this. We must lead. With over one billion Muslims, and over 2 billion Christians, together, as half the world, we have to do something, about modeling what it means to live in peace, to live in harmony. (Online Source)
Sadly, Rick Warren is not only deceiving millions, but he appears to be deceiving himself as well. For all of the talk of "loving neighbor," if he truly did care for his Muslim neighbors, he would reach out to them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even if it meant that his beloved P.E.A.C.E. plan would cease to flourish. If, as a Christian saved by Jesus Christ, Rick Warren truly felt love and compassion for those trapped in the false religion of Islam, then even the mere thought of affirming belief in a shared god would cause him to tremble. Rick Warren's actions display both a misunderstanding and a lack of true Christian love.

Instead, what Rick Warren is propagating is the dangerous practice of ecumenism. Performed in the name of "peace" and "unity," ecumenism is perhaps one of the greatest dangers to the church today. We are not called to join hands with false religions in any spiritual enterprise. Rather, Scripture commands against this, for it is an abomination to the one and only true and living God.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
There's a Lion On the Ground (by Tony Miano)
Does Rick Warren Still Get John Piper's "Stamp of Approval?" (Sola Sisters)

26 February 2012

Rick Warren Builds Bridge to Muslims

The Orange County Register reports:

The Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and one of America's most influential Christian leaders, has embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
The effort, informally dubbed King's Way, caps years of outreach between Warren and Muslims. Warren has broken Ramadan fasts at a Mission Viejo mosque, met Muslim leaders abroad and addressed 8,000 Muslims at a national convention in Washington D.C.

Saddleback worshippers have invited Muslims to Christmas dinner and played interfaith soccer at a picnic in Irvine attended by more than 300 people. (The game pitted pastors and imams against teens from both faiths. The teens won.)
The effort by a prominent Christian leader to bridge what polls show is a deep rift between Muslims and evangelical Christians culminated in December at a dinner at Saddleback attended by 300 Muslims and members of Saddleback's congregation.
At the dinner, Abraham Meulenberg, a Saddleback pastor in charge of interfaith outreach, and Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs at a mosque in Los Angeles, introduced King's Way as "a path to end the 1,400 years of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians."
The men presented a document they co-authored outlining points of agreement between Islam and Christianity. The document affirms that Christians and Muslims believe in "one God" and share two central commandments: "love of God" and "love of neighbor." The document also commits both faiths to three goals: Making friends with one another, building peace and working on shared social service projects. The document quotes side-by-side verses from the Bible and the Koran to illustrate its claims.
"We agreed we wouldn't try to evangelize each other," said Turk. "We'd witness to each other but it would be out of 'Love Thy Neighbor,' not focused on conversion."
Continue reading...
The reader will notice that this news report, though recent, is covering an event that happened back in December of 2011. Nevertheless, we would do well to sit up and take note of the continuous creeping leprosy of ecumenism that is plaguing the church today. According to this article, Abraham Meulenberg, a pastor at Warren's Saddleback church, has co-authored a document that "affirms that Christians and Muslims believe in 'one God' and share two central commandments: 'love of God' and 'love of neighbor.'"

Christians believe in one God and Muslims also believe in one god, but, they do not believe in the same God. Nor do the two groups affirm the same gospel. "Love God, love neighbor" is not the Gospel, it is the Law. As such, two groups uniting in this fashion will only do great harm to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Note: Pastor Rick Warren has stated in the comments section of the above referenced article that the article contained many inaccuracies. Unfortunately, he did not elaborate any further. Should Saddleback Church or Rick Warren offer any additional statements that deal with the "multiple errors" that he claims are contained within the OC Register article, I will be sure to update this post accordingly.

**UPDATE** February 26, 8:30 pm:
The following was posted three hours ago in the comments section of the above mentioned article from the Orange County Register:
(Online Source)

Ken Ham Misrepresented by Tim Keller

From Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis blog:
Tim Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York. He attended Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. 
He is known as a good Bible teacher and has a heart for evangelizing New York City. Redeemer Presbyterian’s Hope for New York outreach program seeks to satisfy the spiritual and material needs of those in the community. Hope for New York does sets a high standard for Christian participation in the larger community. 
But … In a new article posted this past week, he has grossly misrepresented what I believe and teach. 
Continue reading... 
Some Concerns About Keller

Sunday Morning Praise

And Can It Be

It is said that this was the first hymn that Charles Wesley wrote following his conversion. Indeed, the love of Christ is amazing beyond comprehension.

25 February 2012

The Justice Conference Seek's God's Heart for Justice, but Which God?

If an Emergent, a liberal theologian and an evangelical are all speaking at the same conference, addressing the same issue, seeking to arrive at a unified conclusion, can they be successful? What if "the heart of the conference, and the driving force behind the plenary sessions, is to speak to the broad idea of God’s heart for justice (Online Source)?"

What if the Emergent is Shane Claiborne, the liberal theologian is Miroslav Volf, the evangelical is Francis Chan, and the conference is the Justice Conference, occurring now in Portland, Oregon? And what if the evidence indicates that these men, as well as many of the other speakers, do not actually share the same God?

In an article entitled "On Evangelicals and Interfaith Cooperation," Shane Claiborne notes:
When a devout Muslim brother asked Tony and I to have this cross-generational dialogue about interreligious cooperation for an interfaith publication, we jumped on it. (Online source, emphasis added.)
As Ken Silva rightly questions in his article, "Is Shane Claiborne a Christian-Muslim?"
If Shane Claiborne has a devout Muslim “brother,” does this now make Claiborne himself a Christian-Muslim? I mean, apparently he’s in the process of approaching this in the opposite direction from those alleged hybrid Muslim-Christians, who’re practicing Muslims that supposedly “love  Jesus.” So could it be that, in Shane Claiborne, we’re witnessing a new breed hybrid of Christian-Muslims practicing Christianity but who also love Muhmmad? (Online Source)
This seems to be a fair question. In the aforementioned article, "On Evangelicals and Interfaith Cooperation," Claiborne (SC) interviewed Tony Campolo (TC) regarding this topic. About midway through the article, an interesting exchange occurs:
SC: Both Muslims and Christians are very evangelical in the sense of desiring others to come to faith in their God. When we talk about inter-religious cooperation, does that mean that we need to stop trying to convert each other?
TC: We don't have to give up trying to convert each other. What we have to do is show respect to one another. And to speak to each other with a sense that even if people don't convert, they are God's people, God loves them, and we do not make the judgment of who is going to heaven and who is going to hell.
I think that what we all have to do is leave judgment up to God. The Muslim community is very evangelistic, however what Muslims will not do is condemn Jews and Christians to Hell if in fact they do not accept Islam. 
SC: That seems like a healthy distinction—between converting and condemning. One of the barriers seems to be the assumption that we have the truth and folks who experience things differently will all go to Hell. (Online Source)
Well, if "the assumption that we [Christians] have the truth and folks who experience things differently will all go to Hell" is a barrier, then men like Jesus, Paul and the other apostles must have had their message all wrong. See, it isn't an issue of "experiencing" things differently. No, it is an issue of truth. This truth is found in Scripture, the very Word of God. Yet, from the conversation above, it doesn't seem as though Shane Claiborne accepts this truth as final. This, then, would easily explain his embracing of a Muslim as a "brother" and does indeed leave one asking, "is Shane Claiborne a Christian-Muslim?"

Also embracing this Chrislamic movement is theologian Miroslav Volf, who has stated that, "Christians and Muslims, notwithstanding their important and ineradible differences, have a common and similarly understood God" (Miroslav Volf, Allah: A Christian Response [New York: HarperOne, 2011] , 262). 

At the blog, My Sheep Hear My Voice, it is noted that Volf,
is one of the key architects of the “Loving God And Neighbor Together: A Christian Response To A Common Word Between Us And You”document (an ecumenical document that claims that Muslims and Christians have the same God) – from “A Common Word”
“Indeed, together with you we believe that we need to move beyond “a polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders” and work diligently together to reshape relations between our communities and our nations so that they genuinely reflect our common love for God and for one another.”
So, is there now a “common love” for the God of the Bible and the god of Muslims or other religions? Do we all serve the same God? According to Mr. Volf Muslims and Christians do serve a “Common God”
“The Jews worship God without acknowledging God’s Trinitarian nature; Christians worship God while acknowledging God’s Trinitarian nature. Both cannot be right about God’s Trinitarian nature, but both can worship the same God. The same holds true of Muslims.”
It is indeed a bit befuddling to wonder how one could even begin to equate the God of the Bible with Allah of the Koran. But here again is another example of the subtle and silent compromise that is happening within Christianity.

Here we have looked briefly at just two of these speakers for the Justice Conference. Two men who claim some type of Christianity, yet it is a Christianity that is foreign to the historic faith. This leads to the obvious question: what would Francis Chan, a supposedly conservative evangelical, be doing at this same conference?

To be fair, the Justice Conference does seek to answer any questions regarding its religious foundation:
Is the conference a Christian Conference? 
While the organizing organizations and many of the conference team are Christians, the conference seeks to be a blend of about 70% faith based and 30% non-faith based in speakers and organizations represented. (Online Source).
Based upon this, one cannot necessarily decry the presence of one individual over another. Yet, do not forget the stated intent and purpose of this gathering:
The heart of the conference, and the driving force behind the plenary sessions, is to speak to the broad idea of God’s heart for justice. (Online Source)
And ponder for a moment the following promotional video for the Justice Conference:
“The vision is revealed by the light, there like a gift God speaks our calling to create. The same Voice that calls us to make calls us to come.” “We stand as one and give thanks because we believe the same God that called us to create and come together is the one (emphasis added) who raises justice from the ground.”
If only 70% of the speakers are "faith based," and even those individuals differ widely in their profession of the Christian faith, then how can this event ever hope to speak to the "broad idea of God's heart for justice?" How can this conference ever hope to address "God's heart for justice" if those engaging in the conversations are ultimately not seeking after the same God?

Like all ecumenical events and movements, one question looms large over whatever purpose hopes to be achieved: which god?

The Justice Conference: Another Ecumenical Emergent Event?

Richard Dawkins Is Not Entirely Sure God Doesn't Exist

The Huffington Post reports:
LONDON (RNS) A controversial Oxford University professor billed by many as the world's "most famous atheist" now says he is not 100 percent sure that God doesn't exist -- but just barely.
In a 100-minute debate with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Richard Dawkins surprised his online and theater audiences by conceding a personal chink of doubt about his conviction that there is no such thing as a creator.
But, to the amusement of the archbishop and others, the evolutionary biologist swiftly added that he was "6.9 out of seven" certain of his long-standing atheist beliefs.
Replying to moderator Anthony Kenny, a noted English philosopher, Dawkins said, "I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing (is) very, very low." 
It must be difficult to be an atheist when you aren't 100% sure that God doesn't exist. Perhaps Dawkins' small sliver of doubt is due to something Paul teaches about in Romans 1:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21)
No man is without excuse. Not even the world's most famous atheist.

24 February 2012

This 'n' That

Surely you have heard by now that Ed Young, Jr. has started his own fashion website. Yes, PastorFashion.com is every attractional pastor's dream. After all, ever since they did away with those bulky, dominating pulpits, the pastor's ensemble is so visible. And let's face it, no one wants a frumpy pastor. So Ed Young, Jr., in all of his creativity, has launched this new website in order to help remedy this growing problem. In his first video entry, Young shares one of his trade secrets: Spanx for men. No, I'm not joking. Naturally, then, it is easy to see that Young has identified a large and urgent problem in the church today.
Pastors aren’t typically known for their fashion. Most people don’t think of the runway leading up to the pulpit. But why not?! Why can’t the men and women of God set the standard for the rest of the world in fashion as well as faith? That’s why we’re launching PastorFashion.com. We want to set the trends. 
Check back with us regularly, as we’ll be posting things like what not to wear, fashion tips, the latest trends and so much more! 
We’re not trying to be like the world…we just want to be fashionable while we try to change [...] (Online Source).
Well, I hate to be a copy-cat, but I am greatly intrigued by Young's ingenuity. That is why I am pondering the idea of starting a similar website. BloggerFashion.com would offer tips and tricks for all of you fashion-challenged basement-dwelling opinion givers. Let's be honest, it's not easy to truly "rock" a pair of shabby sweatpants and fuzzy bunny slippers, but BloggerFashion.com would show you how. If the idea takes off, we may even expand into offering hygiene tips, such as sharing some of the best ways to remove the Cheetos stains from your fingers. Of course, this is all just a great, wonderful idea in my mind. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment string. (And please, please, do not miss the sarcasm that is dripping from this paragraph)!

But enough about the latest trends. It's Friday and we all know what that means. Pour your coffee and enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • The Telegraph in the UK reports that their government will now be maintaining a database of every phone call and email. Now there's a comforting thought.
  • Speaking of the religion of peace, Youcef Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 for converting to "Christianity" and has in that time refused to recant and claim Islam. We are now hearing that Iran has finally ordered that he be hanged. And so we pray. But we pray not just for this man's earthly life, but also for his eternal one. It seems that Nadarkhani is actually a pastor of a non-Trinitarian cult. If this is true, then Nadarkhani does not know the true Jesus of the Bible. So as we cry out to the government to spare his life, let us also cry out to God for the salvation of this man.
  • "A small but growing number of teens and even younger children who think they were born the wrong sex are getting support from parents and from doctors who give them sex-changing treatments..." My Way News has more on this disheartening story.
  • A zeal without knowledge:

23 February 2012

Are We Christians? Or Are We Worldlings?

Are we Christians? Or are we worldlings? Where is the self-denial of the New Testament days? Where is the separation from a self-pleasing luxurious world? Where is the cross, the true badge of discipleship, to be seen--except in useless religious ornaments for the body, or worse than useless decorations for the sanctuary?
"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!" Is not this the description of multitudes who name the name of Christ? They may not always be "living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry." But even where these are absent, there is 'high living'--luxury of the table or the wardrobe-- in conformity to 'this present evil world.' 'At ease in Zion!' Yes! there is the shrinking . . .   from hard service;   from 'spending and being spent;'   from toil and burden-bearing and conflict;   from self-sacrifice and noble adventure, for the Master's sake. There is conformity to the world, instead of conformity to Christ! There is a laying down, instead of a taking up of the cross. Or there is a lining of the cross with velvet, lest it should gall our shoulders as we carry it! Or there is an adorning of the cross, that it may suite the taste and the manners of our refined and intellectual age. Anything but the bare, rugged and simple cross! We think that we can make the strait gate wider, and the narrow way broader, so as to be able to walk more comfortably to the heavenly kingdom. We try to prove that 'modern enlightenment' has so elevated the race, that there is no longer the battle or the burden or the discipline; or has so refined 'the world and its pleasures', that we may safely drink the poisoned cup, and give ourselves up to the inebriation of the Siren song.
'At ease in Zion!' Even when the walls of our city are besieged, and the citadel is being stormed! Instead of grasping our weapons, we lie down upon our couches! Instead of the armor, we put on the silken robe! We are cowards, when we should be brave! We are faint-hearted, when we should be bold! We are lukewarm, when we should be fervent! We are cold, when we should be full of zeal! We compromise and shuffle and apologize, when we should lift up our voice like a trumpet! We pare down truth, or palliate error, or extenuate sin--in order to placate the world, or suit the spirit of the age, or 'unify' the Church.
Learn self-denying Christianity. Not the form or name, but the living thing. Let us renounce the lazy, luxurious, self-pleasing, fashionable religion of the present day! A self-indulgent religion has nothing in common with the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ; or with that cross of ours which He has commanded us to take up and carry after Him--renouncing ease and denying self.
- Horatius Bonar, "Self-Denial Christianity"

22 February 2012

Word of the Day: Evangelephant


EVANGELEPHANT [[ih-van-jel’-uh-fuhnt]
[evangel: 1300–50; Middle English  < 1585–95;  < Late Latin evangelus  < Greek eu├íngelos  (adj.) bringing good news. (see eu-angel); replacing Middle English evangile  < Middle French.] [c.1300, olyfaunt, from O.Fr. oliphant, from L. elephantus, from Gk. elephas (gen. elephantos) "elephant, ivory," probably from a non-I.E. language, likely via Phoenician (cf. Hamitic elu "elephant," source of the word for it in many Sem. languages, or possibly from Skt. ibhah "elephant")] [Literal: evangelical elephant]
    1. A self-professing evangelical who, above all others, feels called of God to be among the very few Christians who are to demonstrate for the Body of Christ how the Christian faith is really supposed to be lived out, but independent of solid biblical Truth.
    2. A self-professing evangelical who does everything to avoid open and forthright acknowledgement, proclamation, profession or promulgation of the Gospel of Salvation.
    3. An evangelical person who, when faced with the very obvious Gospel Truth of Scripture, does not discuss nor address this topic, but rather ignores, camouflages, rearranges, sidetracks, beats around the bush, diverts, or otherwise avoids the evidence, in an attempt to change the agenda to one that is self-seeking or self-serving.
    4. An emerging evangelical who is intent on ignoring the biblical Gospel through inventive plans of deconstruction that bypass, obstruct, redefine, reformulate and reconstruct the message, especially in order to make it more culturally relevant.
    5. An evangelical person, leader, organization or group that engages in the any of the above, especially including the systemic denial of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by either their actions or stated beliefs, especially in order to promulgate and profit from a new gospel.
    6. An evangelical who seeks to avoid any controversy that can be associated with acknowledging factual and/or Gospel Truth. (See: Evangostrich)
Adapted from www.dictionary.com
Combination of the concept of  The Elephant in the Room and The Elephant Room 
See also:
HT: Apprising Ministries

21 February 2012

"What a Joy to be a Slave of Christ"

The SBC Name Change Distraction

The Baptist Press reports:
The task force appointed to study a possible name change of the Southern Baptist Convention is recommending the convention maintain its legal name but adopt an informal, non-legal name for those who want to use it: Great Commission Baptists. (Online Source).
If you follow "church news" at all, then you know that the issue of the SBC name change has been brewing for awhile. This suggestion by the task force is not final, but will be proposed again at the SBC annual meeting this June. This was not a story that I intended to cover on this blog. While I have no qualms with my SBC brethren, I myself am not a member and, even if I was, this story appears to be little more than a distraction.

In a time when we are seeing the Trinity under attack, and when we are witnessing the subtle acceptance by the evangelical mainstream of such abhorrent teachings as the prosperity gospel, one of the leading "movements" in American Christianity is worried about changing their name. Really? It is just one writer's opinion, but it seems as though there is a rather large point being missed here.
The name "Southern," Draper said, is a barrier to the Gospel in some regions of the country.
The goal from the beginning, Draper said, "was to consider the removal of any barrier to the effective proclamation of the Gospel and reaching people for Christ." (Online Source)
These quotes by task force chairman Jimmy Draper are reminiscent of  another large organization's recent name change. In the Summer of 2011, Campus Crusade for Christ underwent scrutiny for announcing that they were going to change their name to simply Cru. The reasons offered were as follows:
Our name presented obstacles to our mission. The word “campus” does not adequately represent all our ministries in the United States and confuses our constituency as well as potential partners. The word “crusade”-while common and acceptable in 1951 when we were founded-now carries negative associations. It acts as a barrier to the very people that we want to connect with. It’s also a hindrance to many Christians who would like to partner with us but find the word Crusade offensive. (Online Source).
Now, to be fair, the situation is not exactly the same. Campus Crusade for Christ actually ended up removing "Christ" from their title, to which they replied:
Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) is unswervingly committed to proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ.
We are committed to the centrality of the cross, the truth of the Word, the power of the Holy Spirit and the global scope of the Great Commission. We care more about effectively proclaiming the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ than we do about having the word “Christ” in our name. (Online Source).
But the reason for "Cru's" name change was:
Our surveys show that, in the U.S., twenty percent of the people willing to consider the gospel are less interested in talking with us after they hear the name. We are changing the name for the sake of more effective ministry. (Online Source).
To the above statement I would propose to "Cru" that people were turned away not by "campus" nor by "crusade" but by Christ. The name of Jesus Christ is not one that most unsaved people welcome with a smile. You may be able to engage an individual in a conversation about God or about some nebulous "higher being," but when Jesus Christ is declared by name, unbelievers, who are living as enemies of Christ, will almost always inevitably shut down and shut you out. Jesus Christ is a stumbling block.

This is where it seems, in this writer's opinion, that the SBC is missing the point. Let us look again at what has been declared by task force chairman Jimmy Draper:
The name "Southern," Draper said, is a barrier to the Gospel in some regions of the country.
The goal from the beginning, Draper said, "was to consider the removal of any barrier to the effective proclamation of the Gospel and reaching people for Christ." (Online Source).
Perhaps this is a bit simplistic, but it seems to this writer that if Jesus Christ had similar concerns as to what may hinder the proclamation of the Gospel, then He went about His ministry and earthly life all wrong. After all, in the first century, why would anyone want to submit in repentance and faith to the Lordship of a Jewish man who was tried, condemned and killed as a common criminal? If that was not perceived as an earthly "barrier to the effective proclamation of the Gospel" then it seems that the SBC may have their concerns and their priorities a bit confused.

Are we really so faithless, are we really so superficial as to believe that this is what would prevent people from receiving the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? If the SBC retains its title, and more importantly, retains its reputation for uncompromisingly (in some cases) proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, then they need not worry that the word "southern" may hinder that cause. God will draw whom He will draw. The only hindrance to the Gospel is the sin and depravity of man.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)
But even a man dead in trespasses and sin can be regenerated to new life in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
It does not matter if the SBC continues to call themselves Southern Baptists, or Great Commission Baptists, or Bible Baptists or plain, boring "Christians." The "effective proclamation of the Gospel" will only be hindered if we, the Church, stop proclaiming it. And even if that were to happen, I suspect that we may begin to hear the rocks cry out. While we quibble over names and acronyms, the Gospel is being attacked and it is being compromised and it is being twisted and it is being perverted. The SBC has pastors like Ed Young, Jr. pulling publicity stunts such as spending a weekend on the roof of his church in a bed with his wife. And with SBC leaders like Rick Warren and Beth Moore declaring that the Roman Catholic Church is part of the true universal Church, it thus seems that they may have more important issues to address. Yet, we do not see a "task force" being formed as means of speaking out against these aberrant goings-on within the SBC.

The enemy loves to distract us and, it ought not surprise us that he may love to watch the irony of us being distracted "in the name of Christ." But we are to have one focus and that is Jesus Christ Himself. If our eyes are ever on Him, and if our desire is to loudly and boldly proclaim His Gospel, then the silliness of these types of conversations becomes overwhelming.
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. (Philippians 3:13-15)

20 February 2012

An Unsanctified Knowledge of Christianity is a Dangerous Possession

And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21-29)
Let us beware of an unsanctified knowledge of Christianity. It is a dangerous possession, but a fearfully common one in these latter days. We may know the Bible intellectually and have no doubt about the truth of its contents. We may have our memories well stored with its leading texts, and be able to talk glibly about its leading doctrines. And all this time the Bible may have no influence over our hearts, wills and consciences. We may, in reality, be nothing better than devils.
Let us take heed that our faith is a faith of the heart, as well as the head. We may go on all our lives saying, "I know that and I know that" and sink at last into hell with the words upon our lips. Let us see that our knowledge bears fruit in our lives.
It is one thing to say, "Christ is a Saviour." It is quite another to say, "Christ is my Saviour and my Lord." The devil can say the first. The true Christian alone can say the second.
-J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark 

19 February 2012

Sunday Morning Praise

Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty

"Joachim Neander, called the greatest of all German-Calvinist Reformed hymn writers, was born in Bremen, Germany on May 31, 1650. He wrote approximately sixty hymns and composed many tunes. Nearly all of his hymns are triumphant expressions of praise. Neander, though only thirty years of age when he died, was a noted scholar in theology, literature and mustic, as well as pastor of the Reformed Church in Dusseldorf, Germany. The Julian Dictionary of Hymnology calls this hymn 'a magnificent hymn of praise, perhaps the finest production of its author and of the first rank in its class.'" (Kenneth Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories, 209).

17 February 2012

Are We All We've Got?

Ed Young, Jr.'s annual C3 conference is invading Dallas at this moment. What with? Well, that remains to be seen, but I think most of us could offer a fairly accurate speculation. The event is being streamed live, but thanks to the technology of today, one doesn't always have to watch the entire event in order to "hear" what is being espoused at these Seeker-Driven conferences.

One such alternate means of information, and a presumedly reliable one, would be the official C3 Conference Twitter account. Imagine this writer's surprise, then, when the following tweets were sent out from this account:
(Online Source)

(Online Source)
These "soundbites," if you will, are quoted from the sermon delivered at C3 on February 16, 2012 by Carl Lentz, who pastors Hillsong Church in New York City. Granted, they could be misconstrued and pulled grossly out of context. Yet, I am unsure exactly what kind of context these statements could be placed in that would cause them to be biblically accurate.

Firstly, it would be interesting to know what Scripture Lentz would use to substantiate his claim that "God chose US to change our world." Nowhere in God's Word do we see that the earth will become a better place by the efforts of men. Of course, in our regeneration we do good works when and where we can and as we are led, but this world is drowning in sin. Man cannot stop that or change it or reverse it. However, this world will be changed, but not by men.
But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:7-13)
Yes, according to the promises of God we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth. We are waiting for it because it can and will only be brought about by God.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5)
Only Jesus can make "all things new." Only Jesus can change a sinful, depraved, dead heart, and only Jesus can truly change this sinful, depraved, dead world.

In his sermon, Lentz also apparently declared (according to the official C3 2012 Twitter account) that, "We are all we got to change our world. There's no one else coming." Wow. This man is a pastor? Oh, how I wish I could have heard his entire message! Surely he did not mean what this quote implies! Surely Lentz must be aware that Someone else is coming!
And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11) 
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16)
"Pastor" Lentz, there is someone else coming, and He is far greater and far more powerful than any person currently walking on this earth. He is JESUS CHRIST and His return is certain. Oh, how I pity the person who is lost in the belief that "we are all we got!" No! If we have been saved by the grace of God, then we have so much more! We have Jesus Christ and all of the promises of Him. Oh, how I pity him who does not live with this glorious awareness. If "we are all we got," then we are in a gravely hopeless condition. But if we have Jesus Christ, then we have the hope of heaven.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)

16 February 2012

Ed Young, Jr.'s C3 2012 Conference: Just Another Seeker-Driven Line-up

First, 2012 witnessed the Code Orange Revival, fresh off of the heels of that came the Elephant Room 2 conference, followed by the ONE Conference and who knows how many in between. After all, what would the start of a new year be without a slew of Seeker-Driven conferences back-to-back to inspire all of us ordinary folk to audacious faith? What would we do without the same stale exciting line-up of speakers teaching us how to do more so that God can finally unclasp His hands and bless us?

This week's entertainment comes to us via Ed Young, Jr., Fellowship Church, and the C3 2012 Conference. If you so desire, you can view the evening session and worship online. Past speakers at this event have included such now-household names as "Bishop" T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Brian Houston of Hillsong Church and of course, Steven Furtick. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, I believe it is now considered grounds for public rebuke if one fails to invite young Prophet-Pastor Steven Furtick to speak at one's conference. I hope someone gets the message to Dr. John MacArthur quickly, before next month's Shepherd's Conference, because as of the writing of this post, Furtick is nowhere to be seen in that lineup of faithful, biblically grounded teachers.

Ed Young, Jr.'s 2012 C3 Conference features many of the usual names. Furtick is of course included, along with fellow Seeker-Driven and quasi-Word Faith teachers like Kevin Gerald, Steve Munsey and Stovall Weems. Upon closer examination, it seems as though the C3 Conference lineup solicited many of its speakers from the famed Code Orange Revival and the ONE Conference. Perhaps this is another reason that these conferences always occur in such brief succession; maybe it allows these speakers to save on airfare.

(Online Source)
If seeing this line-up of speakers doesn't get you adequately "pumped," then you may want to trot on over to the C3 2012 website and watch the series of promotional videos that each scheduled speaker recorded specifically for the event. Doing this may help spark your excitement, especially as you listen to each man rave about Ed and Lisa Young. Just to give you a flavor, here's Steve Munsey of Family Christian Center:

For some insight into some of that creativity that Munsey took away from last year's C3 conference, you can read the article A Christmas Carol: The Church Service. Yes sir, nothing says Jesus Christ, God incarnate come to live a perfect life and be crucified for our sins like a rousing rendition of A Christmas Carol...

Stovall Weems, who the reader may remember was one of the prized speakers at January's Code Orange Revival, is also very excited about C3 2012:

So, if you are lucky enough to be attending C3 this week, you'll "have a blast" and learn how to develop a "creative culture in your church." Super.

Finally, let Kevin Gerald's endorsement of this event ring in your ears:

Yes, that's right. If you'd like to "walk away inspired to do more, to reach higher, and to extend ... into new territory," then this is the conference for you. If you are seeking Law with no Gospel, then C3 2012 may be just the place to find it!

The reader may recall that we were first introduced to Kevin Gerald in the post Steven Furtick Is Lookin' for the Favor. This article took a brief look at some of the teaching that was propagated by Gerald in his teaching "Favor Forever," and pointed out that,
You’ll hear such biblically ignorant teachings as Christians may “expect preferential treatment” because of our association with God. Hm. Funny, seems to me to be the opposite in today’s world! Gerald teaches in his first message that we can expect favor from both God and man! I guess Paul had it all wrong when he said, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10). In Part 2 of this series, which is loaded with law and works-righteousness, Gerald says that our “thoughts attract and draw like magnetic forces,” which is why we need to be cautious about negative thoughts. After all, he says, God created us to be “very powerful” beings. (Online source).
The idea that our thoughts have power is typical Word-Faith doctrine and Kevin Gerald has proven himself to be little more than a Joel Osteen wannabe. But, he has a large church, and that seems to be one of the primary prerequisites to be a speaker at Young's C3 Conference.

To listen to the promotional videos for this event is to gain the impression that, though it may be marketed toward "church leaders," there is very little church-centered or even *gasp* Jesus-centered teaching that will take place. These promo videos laud Ed and Lisa Young and extol the wonders of the creative ideas one will glean from C3, but they fail to reveal what role Jesus will play, if indeed He will be allowed a cameo appearance at all.

In fact, looking at many of the tweets coming from the official C3 Twitter hashtag, C3 2012 is proving to be another forum for these men to preach about the awesomeness of you:
(Online Source)
One more conference, one more breeding ground for narcissistic eisegesis. One more place where the true Gospel likely will be ignored.

"Code Orange" Speaker Kevin Gerald
The ONE Conference is Set to Invade Miami
Is Steven Furtick Supressing the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

A Reminder to Stand Fast

Failure at a crucial moment may mar the entire outcome of a life. A man who has enjoyed special light is made bold to follow in the way of the Lord, and is anointed to guide others therein. He rises into a place of love and esteem among the godly, and this promotes his advancement among men. What then? The temptation comes to be careful of the position he has gained, and to do nothing to endanger it. The man, so lately a faithful man of God, compromises with worldlings, and to quiet his own conscience invents a theory by which such compromises are justified, and even commended. He receives the praises of "the judicious"; he has, in truth, gone over to the enemy. The whole force of his former life now tells upon the wrong side. If the Lord loves him well enough, he will be scourged back to his place; but if not, he will grow more and more perverse, till he becomes a ring-leader among the opposers of the gospel. To avoid such an end it becomes us ever to stand fast.
-C.H. Spurgeon

13 February 2012

Repentance is the Inseparable Companion of Saving Faith

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:12-17)
The first doctrine that our Lord proclaimed to the world was repentance (v. 17). The necessity of repentance is one of the great foundations which lie at the very bottom of Christianity (Heb. 6:1). It needs to be pressed on all mankind without exception. High or low, rich or poor, all have sinned and are guilty before God; and all must repent and be converted if they are to be saved. And true repentance is no light matter. It is a thorough change of heart about sin, a change showing itself in godly sorrow and humiliation (2 Cor. 7:10), in heartfelt confession before the throne of grace, in a complete breaking off from sinful habits, and an abiding hatred of sin. Such repentance is the inseparable companion of saving faith in Christ. Let us prize the doctrine highly. It is of the highest importance. No Christian teaching can be sound which does not constantly bring forward repentance towards God and faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). - J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew, 28-29. 

12 February 2012

Wycliffe-Gate Continued: Words Mean Things

The following post was written by Christian Research Network correspondent Rob Willmann of Shepherd's Heart Bible Study, and is published here with permission:


Recently I began blogging about the issues with Wycliffe’s translation methodology and what it means for the state of missions today in Arabic parts of the world. I’m gravely concerned that in an effort to ‘contextualize’ the Gospel, God’s Word is being mis-translated.
Specifically, reports are coming out (and indeed have been coming out for quite some time now) detailing how the familial terms used for God the Father and Jesus as the Son of God are being replaced with terms that are more ‘comfortable’ to those from a Muslim background. I plan on doing more posts in the future that bring some of these accounts to light.
Friends, words MEAN things. God’s inerrant, inspired Word, means specific things. Our understanding of God depends on how God reveals Himself to us. And as Francis Schaeffer stated it, “He is there, and He is not silent.”
God HAS spoken – authoritatively and definitively through the prophets of old, through His apostles, and ultimately through the incarnation of the Word in the Person of Jesus Christ. God has definitely spoken to us, to His glory. The Scriptures are very precise in what they say.
On the other hand, Wycliffe has spoken. They’ve translated God’s word into languages for a huge number of people groups. What a lofty, noble and weighty goal!
Yet somehow we’ve arrived at a place where how God chose to reveal Himself (as a Father in God the Father, and as a Son in the Son of God) is somehow different from how Wycliffe has chosen to reveal God to others.
For now let’s start with a look at Wycliffe.org’s Doctrinal statement on the Word of God:
We believe the Bible, the inspired Word of God, is completely trustworthy, speaking with supreme authority in all matters of belief and practice. (Online Source)
Notice in particular that phrase “speaking with supreme authority in all matters of belief and practice.”
That sounds like sufficiency to me.
But I still have a problem.
Wycliffe may STATE that they believe that God’s Holy Word speaks “with supreme authority in all matters of belief and practice”, but apparently God’s word as HE revealed it isn’t sufficient ENOUGH, and must be changed.
Folks, I’m not a linguist or a current missionary to the Arab world. But from where I’m sitting Wycliffe appears to believe that in order for Muslims to be saved, the word that means FATHER when it applies to God must changed in their Arabic and Turkish bible translations to mean something more closely akin to “guardian” or “lord”, because Muslims have a difficult time with the concept of God as a Father.
Wait a minute. Either God’s Word is sufficient, needing NO HELP from man, or it isn’t.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17) All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Which is it, Wycliffe? Is it sufficient as God delivered it to us or not?
From an unnamed source I was pointed to an article in the St. Francis Magazine  (August 2009) which spells out some of the concerns about this contextualization of the Gospel and it’s effect on translating God’s Word. In particular, this portion of the article seems to NAIL it:
One critical key facilitating the so-called C5 concept is the way they view new Bible translations for peoples of other faiths. In 1987, a new alleged harmony of the gospels was produced for Muslim readers. This book is a diglot with opposing pages printed in Arabic and English. It is a very important example of the C5 group’s effort to retheologize the Son of God for the Muslim reader. Some C5 Bible translators have felt the need to shade the meaning of certain Greek terms such as Lord and Son of God so that those of other faiths will be more open to considering the claims of Christ.
Perhaps this unusual and unexpected divide in Bible translation has come about because of the philosophy that spawned what is called dynamic equivalency. Whatever the original intent of this translation model, it has been used as a vehicle that allows the translator to insert much more of his or her interpretation into the translation. The ‘word-for-word’ correspondence model can also be manipulated by the translator but it is more difficult to do. The ‘thought-for-thought’ translation philosophy of dynamic equivalency allows the translator to insert various nuances of present day culture.
While it is customary for evangelists to use the biblical record selectively and to introduce theological truths at various stages in evangelism and Christian nurture, there is no justification for changing God’s Word, the Bible. This removes the foundation upon which a Christian life is built. If God’s record no longer exists, what is the framework of truth for a new believer and how can one be discipled into the truth of who Jesus is?
The Bible, as recorded in the original languages, is the only source we have for a biblical worldview. When we begin to integrate the message of the Bible with that of other religions, we lose the foundation of our worldview and move into syncretism. While we acknowledge that there is some truth in other religions, we also recognize the ways in which that truth has been integrated into a non-biblical worldview. Changing Bible translations to agree with Qur’anic worldview or the worldview of any other faith system will cause us to lose our touchstone.
The Bible is consistent in portraying prophets and apostles as defenders of the biblical worldview. God’s prophets and apostles never authorize or approve of worship or other activities of faith that are based on a non-biblical worldview. They may participate in a variety of cultural traditions but not when they are directed to any other god than the God of the Bible. (Online Source)
Friends, can we not see the damage that is being done in these geographic areas in the name of contextualization?
Watch this video again. It’s so convicting:
For years baptists seemed to have led the charge when it came to fighting for the inerrancy of Scripture. Amen for the men who fought that fight. But now the sufficiency of Scripture is coming under attack from the very people that we have trusted for so long when it comes to properly translating God’s word.
Surely this syncretism occurring on the mission field is due to a lack of proper theology when it comes to God’s nature, attributes, and His Word. Think about it like this:
For the sake of contextualization, and making it ‘easy’ to reach a people group, these translators are changing God’s Word. In essence this is sending a message that God’s Word is not sufficient as He gave it to us, and something more is needed. C5 groups then run with this aberrant translation and syncretize Christianity and Islam.
No. I’m sorry. It’s doesn’t work that way.
Humans don’t have the authority to change God’s words in order to make it more palatable to other cultures. Instead, God’s unadulterated Word, when properly preached transforms human hearts, and His Word is absolutely necessary for revealing who God is, as HE desires to be revealed.
Some questions to consider:
  1. Where in the New Testament do we find examples of the apostles changing the revealed Word of God? (Answer: There aren’t any. Before you respond via email with Paul’s Mars Hill example, go back and reread the Biblical account IN CONTEXT.)
  2. What changed between the time of Christ and today that would allow us to butcher the Word of God? (Answer: Nothing. Human nature is the same. Radically depraved people still need to hear of God, and the sending of God’s SON to save sinners.)
  3. If there already exists bibles in Turkish and Arabic that are of decent quality, (and they do exist) then why does Wycliffe feel the need to reinterpret the bible in a new way?
  4. Where is the definitive evidence that the C5 missiological efforts are bearing TRUE biblical fruit of repentance, turning from worshiping a false god (Allah), and turning from treating Muhammed as a prophet of God?
  5. Why are C5 missionaries referring to the Qur’an when attempting to validate the authority and veracity of the Scriptures? Doesn’t that set up the idea in potential Muslim converts that the Qur’an holds a position higher (or equal to) than Scripture?
  6. How do C5 missionaries expect to teach new Christian converts about the familial relationship that exists between the Father and the Son if their translations are neutered to remove those terms?
Further Reading:
You can read the original article here.