31 May 2012

Professing Christian Obstetrician Explains "Why I Perform Abortions"

This article originally appeared at Christian Research Network:

Recently, the New Jersey Star-Ledger published an interview with Washington, D.C. obstetrician, Willie J. Parker. As the report notes, Parker has gone from one extreme to the other in the abortion debate.
Image: WikiMedia
Willie J. Parker, an obstetrician based in Washington, D.C., didn’t always perform abortions. He’s a Christian from Birmingham, Ala., who initially refused to even consider the procedure. But about halfway into his 20-year career, he changed his mind. Now, he’s one of those rare doctors who is willing to push the limits and provide abortions at 24 weeks of pregnancy. That places him among only about 11 percent of all abortion providers who will do the procedure that late in the second trimester. (Source)
When asked why he changed his outlook on abortion, Parker replied:
...I saw the dilemmas that women found themselves in. And I could no longer weigh the life of a pre-viable or lethally flawed fetus equally with the life of the woman sitting before me. In listening to a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, I came to a deeper understanding of my spirituality, which places a higher value on compassion. King said what made the good Samaritan “good” is that instead of focusing on would happen to him by stopping to help the traveler, he was more concerned about what would happen to the traveler if he didn’t stop to help. I became more concerned about what would happen to these women if I, as an obstetrician, did not help them. (Source)
The controversy surrounding Dr. Willie Parker, then, lies not simply in the fact that he claims to be a Christian and yet openly performs abortions, but also in that he performs and is an advocate of late-term abortions. The Star-Ledger interview continues by referring Parker to the reality that, "The vast majority of states restrict later-term abortions. Six of them do so after 20 weeks, as lawmakers are considering for D.C., on the grounds that a fetus can feel pain at some point." Parker responded:
There is no scientific information to support that. The bulk of the scientifically credible evidence shows that the structures that are necessary to feel pain are not developed in fetuses earlier than the 25th week. (Source)
Yet, regardless of what one believes about when an unborn child feels pain, the simple fact remains that, whether one week in the womb or twenty, this "fetus" is a living human being. In a follow-up article, the Star-Ledger shared some reader reaction to this interview. One commenter noted,
the doctor claims he does these procedures out of compassion for the sufferings of the women aborting their babies. It’s too bad that this compassion doesn’t extend to the suffering of the babies in their wombs. (Source)
This is a valid statement, especially considering Dr. Parker's profession of the Christian faith. Websites such as The Endowment for Human Development show pictures of the development of a human embryo. For those who value human life, these pictures are a wonder and a demonstration of the power and creativity of the Lord God. By 71/2 weeks, the fingers and toes of the embryo can easily be distinguished and even counted.

Dr. Parker justifies aborting babies as old as "24 weeks and 6 days," yet by this time the embryo is a fully developed baby with facial features, expressions and of course, the soul that was given it by God upon its conception.

God is the Creator of all life, and indeed these babies, even those with developmental disorders or handicaps, are each preciously designed by this sovereign God. Amid the tragedy of so many innocent lives being extinguished at the hand of abortion doctors, may Christians at least rest in the knowledge that God knows each of these dear ones who were never given the opportunity at life.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:13-16

30 May 2012

Snake-Handling Pastor Dies from Bite

The Washington Post reports:
Mack Wolford, a flamboyant Pentecostal pastor from West Virginia whose serpent-handling talents were profiled last November in The Washington Post Magazine , hoped the outdoor service he had planned for Sunday at an isolated state park would be a “homecoming like the old days,” full of folks speaking in tongues, handling snakes and having a “great time.” But it was not the sort of homecoming he foresaw. 
Instead, Wolford, who turned 44 the previous day, was bitten by a rattlesnake he owned for years. He died late Sunday.
Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford was known all over Appalachia as a daring man of conviction. He believed that the Bible mandates that Christians handle serpents to test their faith in God — and that, if they are bitten, they trust in God alone to heal them. 
He and other adherents cited Mark 16:17-18 as the reason for their practice: “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
The above story would be an excellent reason to not base your entire faith and ministry on a disputed passage of Scripture that is not part of the original inspired text. About the passage of Mark 16:9–20, John MacArthur writes:
The external evidence strongly suggests these verses were not originally part of Mark's gospel. While the majority of Greek manuscripts contain these verses, the earliest and most reliable do not...Further, some that include the passage note that it was missing from older Greek manuscripts, while others have scribal marks indicating the passage was considered spurious.
-John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible
The Fitting End to Mark's Gospel (sermon by John MacArthur)

29 May 2012

VBS, Cowboy Style

Giddyup! Are you worried that your kids will be bored at vacation Bible school this year? After all, there's only so many ways to teach those same old Bible stories! And programs that turn your kids into pirates and superheroes, well, those are fun but let's face it...even the kids don't believe that Noah's ark was really a pirate ship sailing the seven seas.

Kids want excitement, but they want real excitement. Stories about animals are nice, but real animals are even better! Well, saddle on up and mosey your way down to Risen Ranch Cowboy Church in Joplin where your kids can embark on an adventure of "Horsemanship and Bible Camp." The Christian Post reports:
Risen Ranch Cowboy Church of Joplin will have a Bible camp dubbed the "Horsemanship and Bible Camp" in June. Steve Stafford, pastor of Risen Ranch, told The Christian Post that this was the fourth year that the church had put together this unique Bible camp. 
"We wanted to do Vacation Bible School, but we didn't want to do traditional VBS because we're not a traditional city church," said Stafford. 
"Our ultimate goal is … to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not just for the kids that come, but with the family as well."
Of course, we do sincerely hope that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is presented, and are thankful to see these words spoken by the pastor.

Nevertheless, one cannot help but laugh a little upon viewing the list of things to bring:

28 May 2012

Heretical Shane Hipps Leaving Mars Hill Bible Church

As reported yesterday by pastor-teacher Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries:
Apprising Ministries had long covered the false teaching of former icon of the Emerging Church, and now TV producer, Rob Bell. You might recall a little over a year ago he openly revealed his Love Wins mythology. 
Not long after that Bell would depart from Mars Hill Bible Church. He would be replaced by his good friend, and fellow heretic, Shane Hipps. Today in Dear Mars Hill Hipps announces he will be leaving as well:
I’ve wrestled mightily with God over my identity. The fuel for my fight was my love for the Mars Hill community. Of course, fighting against God is ultimately a losing proposition. In the end, God gave me a new name, a new calling,… 
I’ve been at Mars Hill a little over two years now and I love this church… First some context about how the church makes decisions. The Elders are a body of fifteen volunteers who have been elected by the congregation to be the ordained decision makers on the most important issues in the church…
Not long after Rob left, the Elders determined it was in the best interest of the church to restructure the role of the Teaching Pastor to be a full time teacher, which means approximately 40 Sundays a year. In addition, that teacher would report to the Executive Director who would be responsible for the overall leadership of the church. 
The original calling I accepted was to teach 25 Sundays a year, continue serving the broader church through speaking and writing, report directly to the Elders, and play a major role in casting vision. They acknowledged that the new role was significantly different than the one I originally accepted, but expressed a hope that I would consider applying for it. I respected their decision and was grateful for their invitation to apply…
If I accepted the new role, I would have to dramatically reduce my service to the broader church which is an integral part of my sense of call… I felt the maximum number of Sundays I could do was 30 and still serve to my optimum capacity. However, the Elders felt strongly that was not sufficient for the needs of the community… 
Shane, what are you being called to? 
Well, I’ve just finished my next book which releases in October called Selling Water by the River: A book about the Life Jesus Promised and the Religion that Gets in the Way (Jericho). I’m very excited about it, and I wrote it with the Mars Hill Community in mind. So I’m looking forward to getting the word out about that. A year after that, a second book called Cats Don’t Bark: How to Find Your Purpose will launch.
In addition to those books and my speaking, I am also in the very early stages of creating a leadership development company. I’ve spent time over the years working to unlock the inner life of leaders, artists, entrepreneurs, and activists by helping catalyze their creativity, align people with their deep purpose, and enact their highest potential in the world. I’m deeply energized by the work I’ve been doing here already and feel a strong sense that I need to pursue it more intentionally. (source)

Shane Hipps Teaches a "Spirit of Reality" at Willow Creek
John MacArthur on "Bell's Inferno"
Rob Bell and Shane Hipps Teaching Mysticism (Apprising Ministries)

27 May 2012

Sunday Morning Praise

With Memorial Day weekend, some churches may be tempted, if even unintentionally, to elevate country and national pride above our great God and King. While we are thankful for those who serve, let us not forget that our only hope lies in Jesus Christ, our only Protector, a mighty fortress.

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

26 May 2012

Louie Giglio to Preach at Osteen's Lakewood Church

America's largest and fastest growing "church," Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, often finds itself with guest speakers in the pulpit. With pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen traveling often for their own "Night of Hope" events, or for other special speaking engagements, it must be helpful to know so many prominent pastors and speakers who would willingly substitute on any given weekend.

On the weekend of 26–27 May, Lakewood Church will welcome Louie Giglio to the stage. In fact, Victoria Osteen excitedly invited all of her Houston-based Twitter followers to visit the Lakewood venue for the occasion:
A quick visit to the website of Lakewood Church confirms this speaking schedule:
Louie Giglio is the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta. He is also the founder of the Passion Conference. Back in January, a strange thing occurred at Session 5 of the 2012 Passion Conference event. As was reported on this blog at that time, speakers Louie Giglio, Beth Moore, John Piper and others engaged in a Scripture reading exercise followed by a time of silence and meditation while the audience of young people was instructed to "be still" as they waited to "hear" from Jesus.

Here is Beth Moore leading her portion:

And John Piper: 

Finally, to close the session, Passion founder Louie Giglio stood and declared the following:
How many of you heard the voice of God speak specifically, clearly, directly, and personally, to you? Can you just put a hand up? I’d like you to share it. Can you put a hand up for a minute? 
Just want you to look around; that’s people saying, “God Almighty (pause) the Maker of heaven (pause) the one Who’s sitting on the only throne (pause) that’s not under threat (long pause, audience cheers)—He spoke to me. He spoke to me.” 
“God spoke to me.” (long pause) Don’t let the voice of the darkness, tell you that you are not (pause) worth (pause) that God would not speak to you. (pause) Don’t let him tell you, you don’t matter. (pause) God spoke to you.

This exercise can perhaps best be described as "Lectio Divina lite." When did Protestant leaders begin to teach that we have the Bible "plus" anything? God has spoken perfectly in His Word. We have no need to be still and wait for His voice.

It is curious, then, that Giglio, the founder and leader of the Passion event, would also be preaching at the one of the largest Word Faith churches in the country. But then, mysticism and the false, heretical prosperity gospel are both fruits plucked from the same bad tree.

Biblical Silence vs. Mystical Silence and What Really Went on at Passion 2012?
Beth Moore and John Piper Lead Lectio-Divina Lite at Passion 2012

25 May 2012

Do Not Oppose the Vision

Yesterday at The Resurgence (one of the many ministries associated with the Acts 29 Network), Kevin Larson, Lead Pastor of Karis Community Church in Columbia, Missouri, posted an article entitled, "Don't Empower People Too Quickly in Your Church."

The article is a bit of advice for church planters, and Larson raises three primary points of concern with "doling out leadership responsibilities to people [you] barely know." The first of the three points is perhaps the most unsettling. Larson writes:
Brothers, your primary co-laborers (and certainly your primary leaders) need to comprehend and be able to articulate and even defend your vision. The worst thing you could do is to empower someone who has competing ideas. Draw a line with an arrow pointing upward on a piece of paper that represents your vision. Then draw another one, that starts at the same point, but veers off at a 45-degree angle to the left. That sort of vision that is out of alignment is easy to spot. However, it’s harder to catch the person who veers off only slightly. Yet, if you project that line’s trajectory, it still ends up in a drastically different, potentially devastating, spot. Knowing if someone’s vision fits with that of your church’s, however, takes time. Do you really want to position someone to pull against the vision God has given you?
The tone of this paragraph comes off a bit controlling, whether or not that was the intent. Of note also is the tendency to refer to the pastor's so-called vision as "your," or his, vision throughout...until the final sentence. Then the true meaning is revealed: this vision allegedly is from God. The implication is that, in some way, shape or form, the pastor has received direct, personal revelation from God. To go against that vision, then, is to go against God Himself. This logical conclusion allows for the strong language that is used throughout the paragraph. After all, if someone would dare question the vision of God, then it would only be natural to deal with them sternly.

The reader best not forget that Larson's words above are directed at pastors, at church planters. Yet the implications in his words do not seem to reflect any of the admonitions to pastors in Scripture. Rather, they bring to mind an entirely different leadership model.
The second pillar of the Nazi state is the Führer, the infallible leader, to whom his followers owe absolute obedience. The Führer principle envisages government of the state by a hierarchy of leaders, each of whom owes unconditional allegiance to his immediate superior and at the same time is the absolute leader in his own particular sphere of jurisdiction. 
(Various Readings on Fascism and National Socialism / Selected by members of the department of philosophy, University of Colorado [Kindle Locations 1347-1349].)
In the pastoral epistles, Paul urged Timothy and Titus to stand firm in the Truth in the face of false teaching. One method Paul used to expose the false teachers was a bit of a compare/contrast. He described the characteristics of the false teachers, then contrasted that with the attributes of a godly leader. With this, the young pastors would know what type of characteristics to look for in appointing fellow men to help lead the church in a godly way. Interestingly, Paul did not say, "Look for men who will defend the vision you think God gave you." How did Paul guide these young men?

Most are familiar with Paul's list of qualifications for elders found in 1 Timothy 4 and Titus 1, but Paul offers further admonitions to Timothy, who himself was a young pastor:
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.  
(2 Tim. 1:13–14; 2:1-2)
What are these "sound words"? They are the Scriptures, and the doctrines contained therein. Paul does not advise Timothy to follow after extra-biblical revelation. And what was the "good deposit" that had been entrusted to Timothy? The Gospel of Jesus Christ; the Gospel that is found within the pages of Scripture, not an alleged vision that is only known to God and the pastor. This "good deposit" is the same Gospel that all believers are commissioned to share. So long as the leaders of a church are all in agreement with—and saved by—that Gospel, that "vision," then the "Führer principle" should never be employed.

This seems like an appropriate time to remind the reader to take some time to listen to Christian apologist Chris Rosebrough's recent presentation, "Resistance is Futile: You Will Be Assimilated into the Community." It may shed some light on this discussion.

This 'n' That

Well, I hate to deliver bad news, but I really hate delivering it on a Friday. Nevertheless, this sobering report must be shared before too many people are hurt. Just a warning that this may affect you, your family, your youth pastor and even your pastor: Skinny Jeans May Cause Health Problems.
Experts said skinny jeans with too tight of a pant leg can pinch a sensitive nerve in your upper thigh. 
One study said skinny jeans have been linked to digestive problems, even blood clots in the legs from all the restriction. 
I realize that this may be shocking. This information may even cause a disturbance in the well-planned Sunday morning (or Saturday night) wardrobe of your seeker-driven pastor. But none of us want to see these men harmed by a pinched thigh nerve or an upset tummy, so I think this is important information to share. If this strikes a particularly cutting blow to your own heart, you may want to consider partnering with me in my new charitable organization: Christians Against Unnecessarily Skinny Pants. CAUSP will be holding its first charity event, a fashion show, later this summer.

Now, before you start fumbling through your closet in a hurried effort to rid yourself of your own unnecessarily skinny pants, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • 3D Leadership: John MacArthur once again shares some thoughts on flat screen pastors. How can you shepherd your people if you're only a face on a screen?
  • Looks like Ligonier's $5 Friday has some good stuff.
  • Oh dear! Will the discovery of "The Gospel of Barnabas" dismantle Christianity? Call me crazy, but I think it will take more than one document not even written until the 5th or 6th century (allegedly) to destroy the Truth.
  • It will be interesting to watch how Biola responds to this.
  • A Bridge Too Far:

24 May 2012

Ten Minutes With John MacArthur

If you were granted ten minutes to speak with and interview John MacArthur, what would you ask? Would you inquire about the state of the church, or would you focus on doctrinal questions? Would you seize the opportunity to ask a question pertaining to your own personal situation, or would you ask his opinion on the latest antics of the Seeker-Driven crowd?

Recently, I was graciously afforded ten minutes with John MacArthur, and I found myself asking questions about a little bit of everything. View article →

22 May 2012

Ed Young, Jr. – Helping God Avoid "Fashion Victim Status"

We've spoken here and here about Ed Young, Jr's website, PastorFashion.com. And while the comments have been in jest, the sad fact remains that this latest endeavor of Young's appears to be absolutely serious.

Some weren't so sure, and speculated that perhaps this was just another of Young's goofy stunts. Well, it is goofy, but it isn't a stunt. If it is, then it has become quite elaborate, with blog entries covering everything from Spanx for men to the right dress shirt collar to skinny jeans. Young even found himself making headlines at ABC News.

The prominent news network published an interview with Young, wherein he is quoted as saying:
"I think people that are followers of the word should be the most creative people on (sic) the world." "We should be at the forefront of fashion," he continued. "I think we have the ultimate message and should dress up with the times." (Source)
The report continues:
The pastor says he has advised hundreds of people about the latest in fashion. And, people throughout the country ask the pastor if they can send text messages for help on what to buy such as coats, ties and suits. (Source)
One cannot help but wonder, amid all of these fashion questions, how many theological and spiritual questions does Ed Young receive? When a person thinks about Pastor Ed Young, Jr., what is the first thing that comes to mind: Brooks Brothers, or the Word of God?

The ABC News report continues:
Young's blog, which was launched earlier this year, advises pastors and members of the clergy on what to wear -- and what not to wear -- and offers fashion tips about the latest trends. The idea is to help keep God current by avoiding fashion-victim status. And, while you can't judge a book by its cover, Young states, "You need to make the cover as good as possible so people will read the book." (Source)
Interestingly, the Bible expresses no concerns over the dreaded possibility that God might become less relevant due to the wardrobe of His pastors. Young's efforts to "keep God current," then, are completely unnecessary. God is not worried about becoming a "fashion victim." No, that seems to be a concern that lies solely within the mind of Ed Young, Jr.

Young further declared,
Being a follower of Christ should be cool because God is cool, God is hip. We should live that out. (Source)
It is difficult to believe that John the Baptist, with his wardrobe of camel's hair and diet of locusts and honey (Matt. 3:4) was seen by the people as the first century equivalent of "cool" and "hip." Yet people flocked to him. What was the attraction? Could it be that the Word of God, the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins, is what attracted so many to this wilderness dwelling preacher?
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. (Mark 1:4-5)
Young states that the pastor must "make the cover as good as possible so people will read the book." This statement is abominable. Is Ed Young, Jr. implying that his appearance and his wardrobe, will be the deciding factor in whether a person expresses interest in hearing the truths of God's Word? Does Ed Young, Jr. really think that a person's salvation may depend upon whether he wears a striped shirt or not?

It seems as though Young has forgotten that it is the job of the pastor to proclaim the Word of God and to teach sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 2:1). If His truths are proclaimed, then God will have no difficulty demonstrating His authority. If the pastor gets out of the way and simply allows God's Word to speak, then the Holy Spirit will perform His work of drawing people to Himself without any fashion aid. That is what will get people to "read the book," not the color of Ed Young's tie.
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5b)

21 May 2012

Only One Truth

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind— so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. (Isaiah 52:13-15)
This speaks of Jesus Christ, seven hundred years before He was born. And so does chapter 53 and so does this entire section of Isaiah with many chapters directed at the person of the Messiah who was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. For us as Christians, we go back to the Old Testament and we see Christ everywhere throughout the Old Testament because the Old Testament promises, prophesies, predicts His coming.

He is the Savior, the only Savior, the only Savior the world will ever know, the only way to heaven, the only Redeemer. I understand there are twenty or so major religions in the world. There are about 300 separate segments of those 20 religions. There are, in addition, countless tribal, traditional and cultic forms of religion, and then there are millions upon millions of personal belief systems. One would have a hard time counting up all the imaginary deities that exist in the minds of people. However, all except Christianity are false religions. All except Christianity are deceptive. There is only one God. There is only one Savior. The only God is the Creator and Redeemer who is introduced to us on the pages of holy Scripture who came into the world in the form of the Lord Jesus Christ who was the only Savior. And, by the way, the only God in all of religion to die and rise again to give forgiveness and salvation to His people is the Lord Jesus Christ, the true God. Only Christianity, only Christianity presents a Savior. And there is only one truth and it is the truth of Christianity, and there’s only one Savior, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Only Christianity faces the reality that no person can earn his way to God. No person can earn forgiveness. No person can earn salvation. No person can earn heaven by goodness, morality, religious activity, ceremony, ritual.

The Bible is very clear that salvation is a gift for those who know they can’t earn it and cry for mercy, putting their trust for forgiveness and salvation and heaven in the Lord Jesus Christ who died for their sins in their place and rose triumphantly from the dead, divine confirmation that He had fully satisfied the justice and the wrath of God and salvation was available. All people are sinners, all who have ever lived are sinners, all are unable to save themselves, all need a Savior. There’s only one Savior, Jesus Christ, who died and rose to save His people and bring them all to heaven. That’s the message of Holy Scripture and that’s the truth.
–John MacArthur, "The Startling Servant" 

18 May 2012

This 'n' That

Back in February, I shared with my readers about Ed Young, Jr.'s latest endeavor: PastorFashion.com. At that time, I noted:
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.
Well, three months later, The Gospel Coalition has finally discovered Young's website. Joe Carter writes:
The line between worldliness and godliness isn't always apparent, though it becomes clearer when we spend more in the Word than in the pages of GQ. For while it's not a sin for a pastor to arraign himself in Armani, it's infinitely more important that he adorn himself with the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11).
I'm glad that TGC finally caught up. Now, if only they would offer their thoughts on the project I was considering back in February when PastorFashion.com launched:
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, now that summer is rapidly approaching, BloggerFashion.com would have to expand its line beyond sweatpants, to include T-shirts and drawstring shorts. Send your ideas my way! And now, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • "We need to prepare for a serious stage of persecution in this country. The question isn’t whether it’s coming. The question is whether we are ready." Michael Kruger remembers the unpopular Jesus.
  • David Jeremiah appeared on TBN's most recent Praise-a-Thon, extolling Paul Crouch and encouraging people to send their money to perpetuate the work of the aberrant Word-Faith network.
  • Just what we need, a Jesus video game. Really disappointing to see Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary endorsing something like this.
  • Phil Johnson says there's no true unity in Christ without a fight. "We have to be willing to defend the Gospel together."
  • Um...EW.
  • Herescope has started a lengthy series on Chuck Missler's apparent teaching of codes and cryptologies in Scripture. Start here with Part 1.
  • Taking the mystery out of knowing God's will:

16 May 2012

Brian McLaren Warns Against Bible's "Texts of Terror"

From 7–10 May 2012, Washington D.C. was host to the Children, Youth and a New Kind of Christianity (CYNKC) conference. Sponsored in part by the Emergent Village, and hosted by Emergent Church leader Brian McLaren, this event sought to
spark conversations about youth and children within a new kind of Christianity. They will talk about innovative practices, critical issues, and controversial topics like violence, racism, interfaith dialogue, and sexuality. They will embark on a journey together to engage in life-giving ministry with young people. And they will blaze a new trail for the 21st-century church. Source
Indeed, it certainly does sound as though these topics were discussed at length during CYNKC. At the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Barton Gingerich wrote a synopsis of the event. Noting that "the speakers and much of the audience came from the Evangelical Left," he writes:
Carl Stauffer, professor of Development and Justice Studies at Eastern Mennonite University, warned against the Bible’s “seemingly divinely ordained violence.” Emergent Church guru Brian McLaren similarly worried about how church-going parents can give their children “loaded guns” in the form of “texts of terror” condoning war and other violence. He wondered whether unfiltered Bible-reading could “leave them with the idea that God is violent.” And he warned: “Bible-preaching/teaching/reading people are the most dangerous in the world for Muslims.” Source
Gingerich also records that, "After McLaren advised emergent parents to seek out the “texts of healing” in the Bible, he talked about how the Bible’s economic teachings could help stave off violence in society." The concern of these Emergent Christians with the Bible's "violent" texts extends even to the story of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Almeda Wright, professor of Religion and Youth Ministry at Pfeiffer University, confessed a worry about “a Gospel narrative of redemptive suffering…I have a problem with redemptive suffering.” She summarized: “We are saved when we suffer; we are saved when violence is done.” And she asked: “Am I willing to participate in death that is supposed to save us?” ...McLaren tried to clarify the argument. “This is something we need to talk about,” he proclaimed, “Baptism and the Eucharist can be tools for violence or for peace.” He explicitly called out the theory of penal substitutionary atonement, where “the Father inflicts violence [on Christ] for the forgiveness of sins.”...McLaren warned, “If you keep [penal substitutionary atonement], make sure you have a safety on it.” Source
Yet, regardless of whether or not one is agreeable to the idea of penal substitutionary atonement, the fact remains that this is indeed what the Scripture teaches. Heb. 9:22 reminds that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." The subsequent verses (Heb. 9:24–28) go on to teach that it was the blood of Christ that was shed and presented to God by Christ as an acceptable sacrifice. Preaching on these verses in Hebrews, Dr. John MacArthur notes,
God set the rules. "The soul that sins, it shall die." And then God, in grace, moved right back in and provided a death substitute. Jesus' death is the only thing that satisfies God, you see. Because He requires death. And all over the Old Testament He splattered blood in order that they might be constantly made aware of the fact that bloodshed was the only expiation for sin. ...Forgiveness isn't just God looking down and saying, "Oh, it's all right. I like you a lot, and I'll just let it go." It's the costliest thing in the universe. Without bloodshed, there is no forgiveness of sins. If you are forgiven, it is because somebody died. Source
The Word of God is clear on the teaching of the substitutionary nature of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Still, the attack against it is nothing new. Yet when God has spoken, His Word must be the final authority.
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11)
True Christians ought to rest and rejoice in the truth of this atoning work of their Savior.

HT: Christian Research Network

11 May 2012

Resistance is Futile

Does your church refer to itself as a "community of small groups"? Have you ever wondered exactly what that means?

Recently, Chris Rosebrough, Christian apologist and host of the radio show Fighting for the Faith, delivered a lecture entitled, "Resistance is Futile: You Will Be Assimilated Into the Community". If you've ever noticed that your church leadership speaks more about the "community" than about the individual, then you may want to listen to this lecture.

Rosebrough unpacks the worldview of Peter Drucker, a man whose influence on the church was overwhelming, though few Christians are aware of it. The truths presented in this lecture will help to explain the nature of the "seeker driven" movement, and reveal its goals and motivations.

If you take the time to listen to this presentation, then it is suggested that you also access the powerpoint slides and additional resources here.

One final note: Rosebrough begins his teaching with a brief, but necessary overview of some key points and people in history. Even if you are not a "history person," do not allow yourself to tune out for this portion. What is taught in these first few minutes will provide a crucial foundation for what is revealed later in the lecture.

This 'n' That

Well, it's been a rough week. On Sunday, I came to the terrible realization that Perry Noble had blocked me on Twitter. Then, last night, I made the startling discovery that Ed Young, Jr. had also blocked me. For those of you who don't use Twitter, a block means that I can no longer see their "tweets" in my timeline, nor do they automatically see if I mention them. In short, it's the Twitter equivalent of sticking one's head in the sand.

Of course, the greatest tragedy of this whole thing is that I am no longer immediately alerted whenever Perry Noble is "PUMPED" about something. Since this seems to happen about every 5 minutes, I am missing out on quite a bit of excitement. As such, I have spent the last several days feeling very pumped-less. I've decided that the best way out of this predicament is probably to ensure that my tithe is up to date, and possibly also to send an extra-special seed offering to the churches of both Noble and Young. Once I'm proven faithful in that, I'm sure my Twitter luck will turn around.

While I'm writing those checks, then, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • So, basically it seems as though Charles Stanley, in his book Eternal Security, completely denies Lordship Salvation. This should be great news for all you antinomians out there!
  • I was trying to figure out why it was such earth-shattering news that President Obama finally endorsed gay marriage. After all, are we really shocked and surprised by this? If you were, well, apparently you've been living under a rock for the past several years, so welcome back. At least Al Mohler agrees that it was "only a matter of time" before the president made this announcement.
  • In a wicked turn of events, today I am going to share with you one of the most atrocious sermons I've ever heard, even from Joel Osteen. For your education, here is Mr. "Everyone is a Christian in my book" Osteen with his inspirational message, "Power of Your Visions:"

09 May 2012

Audacious Church?

Which came first, audacious faith or audacious church? Well, we'll have to let Steven Furtick hash that out with Glyn and Sophia Barrett, the Senior Pastors of Audacious Church in Manchester. That's right, Audacious Church actually exists, and they "believe that everything we do in church should be fun, enthusiastic and actually have the potential to change your life for the better" (Source). Sounds positively ear-tickling, doesn't it?

Shane Hipps Teaches a "Spirit of Reality" at Willow Creek

Nestled in the suburbs of Chicago rests one of America's most well-known megachurches. Having been at the forefront of the seeker-friendly movement, Willow Creek and its senior pastor, Bill Hybels, continue to possess great influence within evangelicalism. Some regard that influence as favorable and some view it as detrimental.

In spite of the numerous questionable and concerning teachings and resources that have come out of Willow Creek, it nevertheless cannot be argued that it continues to be one of the largest self-proclaimed "Christian" entities today. It is for this reason, then, that professing Christians ought to take note and be wary of one of Willow Creek's most recent guest speakers.

On 2 May 2012, Willow Creek welcomed Shane Hipps, teaching pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church (MHBC), to preach at their Midweek Worship Experience. This invitation ought to raise eyebrows because Shane Hipps has, on more than one occasion, propagated heretical teachings. Why, then, would such a large, professing Christian church welcome him to preach?

Now, the "H" word has been used, and likely many have stopped reading because it simply is not a "nice" term. It may prove helpful to persist in reading, however. As the successor to the famed Rob Bell at MHBC, Hipps, too, is a full blown member of what has come to be known as the Emergent Church. His sermons clearly demonstrate a mystical bent and he has not been shy to display his pluralistic religious beliefs. Nowhere is this more evident than in an incident in September 2011 when Hipps publicly shared that he would welcome a practicing Muslim to take communion in his church.
In Heretical Shane Hipps to Speak at Willow Creek, Ken Silva reminded:
You need to understand that Hipps is not orthodox in his teaching here; he’s a mystic who believes God already dwells within all of mankind. Consider Shane Hipps: Osama Bin Laden Indwelt By Holy Spirit where Hipps dreams:
This Logos affects everybody; including Osama bin Laden. As long as he’s got breath, in him is a spark of the divine. 
As I said before, anyone who thinks the late terrorist Osama bin Laden exhibited any fruit whatsoever consistent with one who has been “born again,” i.e. regenerated (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17), which must happen before one is indwelt by God—the Spirit of Christ—seriously needs to have their spiritual head examined. Not only that, but in his sermon "Wind in the Sail," Hipps likens God the Holy Spirit to the wind which a given religion catches like a sail and then muses his mythology below:
The sail is like religion; the wind is the Spirit. You need a sail to catch the wind; to harness the wind, but ya gotta realize that sail isn’t the wind. The sail is actually dependent on the wind.  
You see, here’s the crazy thing; the Spirit—the wind—doesn’t need sails in order for it to move about the world. The sails need the wind. So the Spirit, in order for it to move and operate in the world, has no need of religion.  
But we—those of us made the way we are—for some reason, need sails in order to catch the wind. We need religious structures, external things…some religions are better equipped to catch the Spirit of God…
(Online source)
Did you catch that; Hipps muses “some religions,” plural, “are better equipped to catch the Spirit of God.” No, God’s Word tells us quite plainly that the worship unbelievers offer is to demons and not to God (1 Corinthians 10:20). In other words, those in other religions are in the sin of idolatry (cf. Exodus 20:3).
It has already been adequately documented, then, that the teachings of Shane Hipps are not just misguided, but are outright heretical, standing in clear opposition to the Word of God. It therefore was intriguing to learn that Shane Hipps intended to speak about John 14:15-31 during his time at Willow Creek.
The message is available online here, and this post will not offer a "play by play," nor will it attempt to address all of the troubling "truths" that were taught. It is important, however, to touch on a few select items. First, though Hipps did not actually succeed in preaching through this entire passage, here, for the reader's reference, is the biblical text around which this "Midweek Experience" was centered:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here. (John 14:15-31)
Shane Hipps began his talk by breaking down some key words in this biblical text. By engaging in this postmodern deconstruction, he brought his audience to a point where they were in awe of his scholarship and were willing to consume whatever Hipps would throw at them next.

The deconstruction continued with only the first half of verse 17, "even the Spirit of truth," and this is where Hipps would camp for a time. As can be seen in the video below, Hipps proceeded to separate the idea of "truth" from the idea of "reality." Yet, in truth (or in reality, whichever is preferable), aren't these simply two sides of the same coin? If something is true, then it is a reality, and vice versa. Hipps, however, illustrated that a truth is merely an abstract thought or idea, while a reality is something tangible. His conclusion? The Greek text is really calling the Holy Spirit the "Spirit of reality" rather than the "Spirit of truth."

Shane Hipps has now managed to eliminate the Holy Spirit's responsibility to lead and illuminate the believer in all truth, and has instead turned this into something that ought to be more tangible and more emotive. "Jesus is offering us a spirit of reality," says Hipps. This passage, he claims, is Jesus saying, "I will give you access to the things most real."

Of this partial verse, Dr. John MacArthur writes,
He is the Spirit of truth in that He is the source of truth and communicates the truth to His own (v. 26; 16:12–15). Apart from Him, people cannot know God's truth (1 Cor. 2:12–16; 1 John 2:20, 27). (MacArthur Study Bible)
What Hipps has done here is subtle, but destructive. He has pushed the focus away from the Spirit's work in illuminating God's truth. In fact, he conveniently ignores the second half of this verse, wherein Jesus declares that the Spirit is something available only to believers, something that cannot be obtained or understood by the unregenerate soul.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. (John 14:17)
Note what pastor Ken Silva says about this part of the verse:
1) If they have to receive Him, then He is not in them already; 2) the unbeliever cannot receive or know Him, 3) and again, Jesus sets a chasm between those unbelievers and His disciples in whom the Spirit will dwell. (Source)
Yet, Hipps most clearly did not make this distinction. Rather, he declared that "we are somehow containing the divine," and that this is a truth that we seek to suppress and even deny. "We are God carriers," states Hipps, "In Jesus we are allowed to let the divine dance within us."

Now, some may argue that Hipps, in speaking at a supposedly Christian church, assumed that everyone understood that he meant only believers possess the Spirit. Perhaps, but his message offered no indication of this presumption. Instead, the over-arching insinuation throughout Hipps' message is that all men contain this "diamond" of the divine. As such, he claims, men possess more power, love and wisdom than they could possibly ever use.

Scripture does indeed share that the believer possesses great blessings far beyond what he can comprehend or imagine. Ephesians 1 offers a wonderful teaching on this, as the Apostle Paul prays that believers might come to know the power, wisdom and great inheritance that is theirs in Christ Jesus. Yet Hipps subtly announces what he is attempting to teach here as he emphasizes that Jesus has said that, for example, "the Kingdom of Heaven is within you." Jesus is saying, "I'm already in you," and is "constantly trying to show us this reality," says Hipps.

When Hipps notes that "we just assume that we are empty and are waiting for God to fill us," yet Jesus is instead seeking for us to understand that "I'm already in you," it sounds as though Hipps is essentially declaring what he has taught in the past: that all men contain "a spark of the divine."
This Logos affects everybody; including Osama Bin Laden. As long as he’s got breath, [emphasizes] in him is a spark of the divine. (Source)
This idea of a "divine spark" within all men is a distinctly Gnostic one. If the reader is not aware, Gnosticism was one of the earliest heresies to threaten the early church and, through the Emergent Church, it continues to plague Christianity today.
Humankind contains a perishable physical and psychic component, as well as a spiritual component which is a fragment of the divine essence. This latter part is often symbolically referred to as the “divine spark”. The recognition of this dual nature of the world and of the human being has earned the Gnostic tradition the epithet of “dualist”.
Humans are generally ignorant of the divine spark resident within them. [...] Death releases the divine spark from its lowly prison, but if there has not been a substantial work of Gnosis undertaken by the soul prior to death, it becomes likely that the divine spark will be hurled back into, and then re-embodied within, the pangs and slavery of the physical world.
In his message at Willow Creek, Shane Hipps was careful to declare that "this doesn't make us divine." This declaration falls short, however, of clarifying that what Jesus is teaching in this passage is that the Holy Spirit dwells within believers only as a Helper, an Advocate, a Teacher. Instead of teaching this, Hipps concluded his message by explaining that, "when you wake up to this reality [that within you is a "diamond" of the divine], then true peace can be obtained.

This teaching was accompanied by a somewhat disturbing story. Hipps relayed a time in college when he returned home for Easter break, plagued by worry and stressful times. His father, who Hipps described as a man "steeped" in prayer, noted that he sensed Shane had a "knot in his soul" and asked to pray for him. Hipps allowed the silent prayer and says that, as his father was praying, he became "aware of something...bigger." Whatever was in me began to uncoil and unkink and open...and in that moment I had peace..."

This peace, this knowledge, says Hipps, "was already in me." "This is what Jesus can do for us." Apparently, then, Jesus makes us aware of the divine that is allegedly already within us. What we need to do is alter our orientation to this reality, the reality that "we are containers, carriers of the divine." This, according to Shane Hipps, is the spirit of "reality" of which Jesus speaks in this passage from John 14.

Unfortunately, this uncoiling reality sounds dangerously similar to the mystical kundalini spirit that, according to Hindu teaching, supposedly resides in all men. In fact, it is not difficult to find references that attempt to make the Holy Spirit and the "kundalini shakti" synonymous:
Kundalini Shakti resides within us in either a contained or a released state. In her contained state, she is a tightly coiled static power that maintains the ordinary person’s physical life functions and mental capacities.
Kundalini Shakti is the living spiritual power within every human being. This sacred inner presence is the divine within, the holy light and love and life that illumines each of us and guides us to union with the One, the sacred Ultimate Reality beyond all phenomena. Known by many names and forms, he/she/it is the Holy Spirit who is each individual’s own inner personal spiritual director that empowers our spiritual striving and works to lead us to full spiritual realization. All human beings, regardless of era, religion, or culture, are vessels of this Light of all Lights who strives to take us to constant awareness of our true Source.
Kundalini Shakti: 
Is the divine within, the Holy Spirit, our inner spiritual director. 
Exists within every human being in a released or unreleased state. 
Is revered as the means for spiritual growth in human beings.
It is important to note that Shane Hipps made no explicit mention of kundalini, however his language was oddly particular. The reader is urged to not take this as an accusation, but as a warning that Hipps, who has propagated contemplative and mystical teachings in the past, was here alluding to something that sounds dangerously similar to the experience of the uncoiling of the kundalini spirit that supposedly is contained within every person.

Here, then, we see Willow Creek, one of the largest churches in America, inviting heretical, neo-Gnostic teachings into its midst. Perhaps many, like this writer, will not be surprised by this, and will find it in accord with much of what Willow Creek has done over the years. But for others who have sat in blissful ignorance, may this serve as a warning and a wake up call.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1-6)

Shane Hipps Exposed
Rob Bell and Shane Hipps Teaching Mysticism
Silence Shane Hipps

08 May 2012

When God Talks Back: Elevating Experience Above Scripture

As reported yesterday on Christian Research Network:
A new book has begun to make the rounds of websites, blogs and magazines. That book is entitled When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, and was written by anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann. The author’s website explains the purpose of this book:
I found that knowing God is something people learn to do. It takes a lot of work, and that work changes people. Evangelical prayer practice can really enable those who pray to experience God as a person who interacts with them–and sometimes even speaks audibly. That’s not because they are crazy, but because the learning practice changes the way they learn to use and pay attention to their minds.
This book explains how someone can live a life both fully modern and fully engaged with the supernatural. It also teaches us that the way we use and imagine our minds changes our mental experience.
It may be of interest to note that Luhrmann indicates in her book that she does not consider herself to be a Christian.
Continue reading this article here.

07 May 2012

Andy Stanley's "Microcosm of the Church"

By now, most have heard about the controversy surrounding a recent sermon preached by pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church. The above graphic was used to illustrate a story in Stanley's April 15 sermon entitled "When Gracie Met Truthy." Of this sermon, Dr. Albert Mohler wrote:
The most puzzling and shocking part of the message was the illustration and the account of the homosexual couple, however. The inescapable impression left by the account was that the sin of concern was adultery, but not homosexuality. Stanley clearly and repeatedly stressed the sin of adultery, but then left the reality of the homosexual relationship between the two men unaddressed as sin. To the contrary, he seemed to normalize their relationship. They would be allowed to serve on the host team if both were divorced. The moral status of their relationship seemed to be questioned only in terms of adultery, with no moral judgment on their homosexuality. 
Was this intended as a salvo of sorts? The story was so well told and the message so well constructed that there can be little doubt of its meaning. Does this signal the normalization of homosexuality at North Point Community Church? This hardly seems possible, but it appeared to be the implication of the message. Given the volatility of this issue, ambiguity will be replaced by clarity one way or the other, and likely sooner than later.
If one listens to the sermon in question, the relevant portion begins around the 24 minute mark (an edited video may be viewed here). This graphic, as Stanley explains, represents the "microcosm of the church." In this particular anecdote that "microcosm" includes a woman, her boyfriend, her boyfriend's daughter, her own daughter, her ex-husband, and her ex-husband's homosexual partner. As Mohler noted, in his sermon, Stanley appeared to normalize the unrepentant sin of homosexuality, while simultaneously condemning the adultery that the men were engaging in. It should not surprise, then, that this has caused such a stir.

Last week, Stanley asked that people listen to this sermon series in its entirety, including the final message, which was delivered this past Sunday. While this writer has not yet had opportunity to listen to this latest sermon in full, the Christian Post has offered a brief synopsis:
Referring to one of the last times Jesus spoke to his disciples, as found in John 13:1-17:35, Stanley quoted Jesus as saying, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." He stressed the words, "By this everyone will know…"
Jesus' movement was all about "how you love," but over time it became "what you believe," he said. "If we would simply do what Jesus did … instead of arguing about what he said, the world would change, the reputation of Christ's followers would change, the influence of the church would change. This is easy. This requires nothing … just a brand new worldview."
Of course, an adequate response cannot be generated based on these brief quotes alone, but this writer fears that, at North Point Community Church, the world's idea of "love" has begun to stifle the truth.