Monday, May 31, 2010

A Tale Of Two Kings (Part 3)

In today's third installment we will look at Saul's response to the exposure of his sin. In this and the next two posts we are going to really see what made Saul and David so different and perhaps where the dividing line lay between the king rejected by God and the king that was known as a man after God's own heart . . . read on . . .

Saul’s Response (1 Samuel 15 continued)

And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, "Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD."(1 Samuel 15:13)

1. Lying - here Saul blatantly lies to the prophet Samuel.

And Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?" Saul said, "They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction." (1 Samuel 15:14-15)

2. Blaming - in verse 15 Saul blames everybody else.

3. Justifying - after blaming everyone in verse 15 Saul goes on to justify his actions by saying that they planned to sacrifice all the animals (they should have destroyed) to the LORD.

Lying, blaming, and justifying - do these responses resemble things we see on the news and in our everyday lives . . . perhaps in our own lives? Let's continue onto verse 16:

Then Samuel said to Saul, "Stop! I will tell you what the LORD said to me this night." And he said to him, "Speak." And Samuel said, "Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, 'Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.' Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD? (1 Samuel 15:16-19)

In these verses Samuel clearly points out what Saul’s sin is.

And Saul said to Samuel, "I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal." (1 Samuel 15:20-21).

In the face of all this clear exposure of his sin, Saul still perseveres in trying to deny any guilt on his part. As you read verses 20 and 21 you can see the mental drunkenness that continual lying produces in Saul's bizarre self refuting statement where he both emphatically states that he has "obeyed the voice of the Lord" and spared the life of Agag.

(Interesting footnote concerning Agag - In the book of Esther, over five centuries later, a descendant of Agag called Haman very nearly succeeded in a Hitler like plan to exterminate the entire Jewish race. Something interesting to ponder in the light of people's questioning about how God could send Saul to wipe out an entire people group.)

And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams". (1 Samuel 15:22)

Here we hear the well known verse that was behind Steve Camp's great song "Consider the Cost". God is so much more interested in our day-to-day obedience to Him than in the sacrifices we try to appease Him with (Isaiah 58:1-7). Think about that next time you are exerting yourself during a worship service.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king." (1 Samuel 15:23)

Verse 23 is interesting in that it is the verse that precedes Saul’s “repentance”. Do you think there is something said here that finally prompts Saul to confess his sin? Is there insight here to what Saul values most?

Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. (1 Samuel 15:24)

Here we see that Saul knew his sin all along as he readily verbalizes what it is. Saul is more concerned about protecting his own kingdom than building God’s. Are you sorry because you sinned against God or sorry that you got caught?

Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may worship the LORD." And Samuel said to Saul, "I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel." As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. And Samuel said to him, "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret." Then he said, "I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the LORD your God." (1 Samuel 15:25-30)

Tragically, after all this, Saul’s greatest concern is to maintain his public profile by concealing his personal problems. After all that transpired he still didn’t get it! Saul's repentance was not built upon godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10) but upon worldly sorrow. That is a big clue as to where this series is heading as we continue on Wednesday . . .

Go On To Part 4
Go Back To Part 2
Go Back To Part 1

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Tale Of Two Kings (Part 2)

Continuing on from Wednesday, today we will take a look at the sins of Israel's first two kings - Saul and David - to see if we can start to understand why God rejected Saul but regarded David as a man after God's own heart. On my first journey through the Scriptures I was perplexed by the stories of these two men because I expected God's assessment to be based upon their faithfulness to His commands. But that just didn't seem to be the case . . .

Saul’s Sin

And Samuel said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'" So Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand men on foot, and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to the city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. Then Saul said to the Kenites, "Go, depart; go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt." So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction. (1 Samuel 15:1-9).

Saul was sent on a mission to totally obliterate a tribe of people known as the Amalekites. This meant people, livestock, and all material goods. Saul only partially destroyed the Amalekites, keeping much of their livestock and valuables as well as sparing the life of Agag their king. Saul was rejected as king for this transgression.

David’s Sin

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged(C) Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
2It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on(D) the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, "Is not this(E) Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of(F) Uriah the Hittite?" 4So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. ((G) Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. 5And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, "I am pregnant."

So David sent word to Joab, "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house and wash your feet." And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, "Uriah did not go down to his house," David said to Uriah, "Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?" Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and(J) the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing." Then David said to Uriah, "Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back." So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die." (2 Samuel 11:1-15)

In summary:
1.David stays home when he should be leading his army in an important war.
2.He sees a beautiful woman bathing from the roof of his house. She is the wife of one of David’s soldiers who is off fighting in that war.
3.David commits adultery with Bathsheba and she gets pregnant.
4.David calls her husband, Uriah, back from combat duty to “see how the war is going.”
5.He sends Uriah back to Bathsheba hoping he’ll have sex with her thereby covering David’s tracks.
6.Oh no, Uriah won’t do it while his fellow soldiers are risking their lives on the battlefront.
7.David gets Uriah drunk but he still won’t sleep with Bathsheba.
8.David then instructs his generals to send Uriah on an assignment that was so dangerous he would certainly be killed.

Saul was rejected but David is remembered as a man after God’s heart.
Question: whose sin was the worst?
Why then, did God rate them differently?

Continued on Monday . . .

Go On To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Tale Of Two Kings (Part 1)

Saul was Israel’s first king. He was called by God to be king and then rejected as king by God. Then there is David, the second king. God always accepted David no matter what he did. David is always remembered in the Scriptures as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) while Saul is remembered as the king rejected by God. They were both great leaders with flawed character – yet one found favor with God, while the other was rejected. This presented a huge mystery on my first journey through the Scriptures - but it was a mystery that held the crucial answer to knowing what God values and who God receives.

Saul and David: Similar Backgrounds
(Note: these are not necessarily traits exhibited through their whole lives)

They were both handsome (1 Samuel 9:2, 16:12).
They were both humble (1 Samuel 9:22, 18:18).
They were both bold (1 Samuel 11:7, 17:32).
They were both called by God (1 Samuel 9:17, 16:12).
They were both anointed king by the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 10:1, 16:13).
They were both empowered by the Holy Spirit (1 Samuel 11:6, 16:13).
They were both leaders (1 Samuel 11:11, 18:5).
They were both warriors (1 Samuel 11:11, 17:49).
They both sinned against God (1 Samuel 15, 2 Samuel 11).
They were both confronted by a prophet (1 Samuel 15, 2 Samuel 12).

As we analyze the sins of these men, and their responses to God in relation to their sin, we are faced with powerful and surprising truths as to how God measures a man. Is there more to godliness than being righteous? Find out on Friday when we continue with part 2 of this series and examine the major sins in the lives of Saul and David.

Go On To Part 2

Monday, May 24, 2010

Does Paul Washer Preach The Gospel?

Short answer - yes!

One of the great priveledges of my life is knowing Paul Washer. I would struggle to think of anyone I have met who cares more about glorifying God, seeing sinners saved, and being faithful to the Gospel than Paul Washer.

"Newtaste" has been firing off some criticisms on my blog recently and some of it has been specifically aimed at Paul Washer. In view of this criticism and other similar recent accusations I thought it might be profitable to respond to this and other recent accusations brought against brother Washer. Many modern preachers seem to be persuaded that "thou shalt not criticize" is the eleventh commandment and also a good way to immunize oneself against biblical scrutiny. But the truth is that no man should be above biblical critique. However, when the charges levelled are just plain false or reflect a failure to understand good theology then it should be swiftly responded to. Today I want to address the two major complaints levelled against Paul Washer by his critics (there are also others in the "reformed camp" who are also subject to these charges).

False Accusation 1 - Paul Washer teaches that Christians have to stop sinning to be saved.

I would suggest you listen carefully again to his teaching on the atonement, conversion, regeneration, and sanctification. Washer does not, and has never taught that you have to stop sinning to be a Christian. He teaches what the Bible and the Reformers taught - that conversion is supernatural and produces a change in us. Genuine conversion causes us to hate the sin we once loved. It doesn't mean that you stop sinning, but it does mean that you no longer live in wilful habitual sin as taught in 1 John.

Here is an excerpt from Paul Washer's sermon "Ten Indictments Against The Modern Church" preached in 2008:

The doctrine of the carnal Christian has destroyed more lives and sent more people to hell.

Do Christians struggle with sin? Yes. Can a Christian fall into sin? Absolutely. Can a Christian live in a continuous state of carnality all the days of his life not bearing fruit and truly be Christian? Absolutely not or every promise in the Old Testament regarding the New Testament covenant has failed and everything God said about discipline in Hebrews is a lie.

A tree is known by its fruit.

Apples don't make a tree an apple tree. The apples merely reveal the true nature of the tree. Repentance is a fruit of conversion and often reveals that it is genuine. It is not that you have to stop sinning. It is that when God saves you, you turn away from the sin you once loved.

False Accusation 2 - Paul Washer does not teach salvation by faith alone because he insists upon repentance as well.

Jesus death for sins was an act of salvation. To receive God's gracious gift Scripture explicitly teaches that:

Truly, then, God overlooking the times of ignorance, now He strictly commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day in which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He appointed, having given proof to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).

Repentance is necessary in order to receive salvation - therefore it is a necessary component of the Gospel we proclaim. This repentance from sin and turning away from it is also a turning to Christ in saving faith in order to receive salvation:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).

And how I kept back nothing that was profitable, but have shown you and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21).

Some people claim that "faith alone" in Ephesians 2:8 negates the need to repent. But we must remember this hermeneutical rule: Scripture cannot contradict itself - therefore in understanding it rightly, it must harmonize with the rest of Scripture. As we harmonize all of Scripture we can clearly see that sometimes only faith or belief is mentioned, sometimes only repentance is mentioned, and sometimes both are mentioned (see the verses quoted in this post).

By harmonizing all of these (rather than focussing on a single verse) we can see that the salvation call is a call to turn away from sin in repentance and a turning to Christ in faith – trusting Him alone to save us. The turning to Christ (faith) necessitates a turning away from our carnal affections (repentance). Man cannot serve two masters. As Todd Friel says; "Repentance and faith are two wings of the same bird that fly us to the Savior".

This salvation is ultimately a work of God. Both repentance (Acts 11:18) and faith (Ephesians 2:8) are works of God. We cannot come to God unless the Spirit draws us (John 6:44). We are not saved by praying a prayer or walking down to the front of a church. It is God who saves. It is God who gives us a love for His law and a desire to live in holiness. It does not mean we stop sinning but it does mean we have a new relationship with sin manifest in a love for God's law and a desire to obey it:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Paul Washer clears up any confusion his critics may have with regard to his views on repentance and faith in this interview:

Paul Washer is only a fallible man who will be the first to admit that he does get things wrong. But as a friend of his, I have personally talked to him at length on the two subjects discussed in this post and can certainly say that the criticism has no warrant on these subjects. His presentation of the Gospel is biblical and faithful. I thank God for the faithful Gospel preaching of Paul Washer.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hillsong Revisited

One of my old evangelism buddies from Australia recently posted my series on Hillsong church based in Australia. I encouraged him to do so because I had uncovered facts concerning several of Hillsong's practices (pertaining directly to the Gospel) that were extremely disturbing and few seemed to be taking up the cause. It also became obvious that the Hillsong publicity machine tends to deal with people who ask these questions by ignoring them, denying the problem, or questioning the person's motives and character.

Two of the disturbing facts that emerged were:
1. That the gospel presentation in Hillsong CDs that are sold by the millions seriously contradicts the Hillsong doctrine statement. To put it another way, the Hillsong doctrine statement pronounces heresy on the gospel presentation you will find in most of Hillsong's current "worship CDs" (at least all the ones I have seen).
2. That Hillsong is willing to deliberately edit Bible verses to suit their own theology as was revealed on the back cover of the "Hillsong Live Mighty to Save" CD (pictured right) which deleted the phrase "turn from their wicked ways" out of 2 Chronicles 7:14.

The publishing of these findings in Australia on my friend's facebook account has erupted in furore. He has touched the sacred cow and has totally polarized many of his facebook "friends". Which serves to confirm the necessity of bringing these truths concerning Hillsong and their practices to light. Another of my evangelism team from my Australian days then posted the following article which I thought gives a great overview of the situation for Christians in Australia with regards to the large scale influence Hillsong is exerting on the broader denominational landscape. Take it away Andrew . . .

Is Hillsong Herectical?

No, they are much worse than that.

Since the Australian premiere of Channel 7’s Sunday Night feature on Hillsong. In my neck of the cyberwoods debates on Hillsong is yet again ablaze. My dear friend Pastor Josh posted several good and in-depth articles about the mega-music-ministry and as expected the opinions, judged by the comments, were passionately polarized. Of course Josh had to steal my original invention of the term “Hell$ong” (That’s okay brother, I forgive you) and that does not help things. The video of the Chaser's tribute to Hillsong didn’t serve to foster a calm conversation either.

It was brutal, and I would imagine other groups getting into similar discussion on the matter as well with just as much vigour and passion from both sides of the fence. The discussions going back and forth is not something I particularly enjoy reading, assuming the best intentions from both sides and considering all involved as brothers and sisters in Christ, Hillsong provokes heated debate amongst Australian Christians like no other ministries I am aware of.

There is good reason for that. They are huge, and their influence is much broader than just the music. Hillsong is the Oprah Winfrey of the Australian Christian scene, they are not just a church, the ministry is “THE” power mover of the first order. They have a model of doing church that thousands of churches across a wide spectrum of denominations seek to emulate. They dictate how ministries, from “evangelism” to the youth program are operated in most contemporary churches across the nation. They don’t just have the numbers, they have the money and resources and they dominate the Christian retail market. You are a musician and you want to make it to the top? It is quicker for you to make it if you get a hit with Hillsong than it is if you try to slug it out with the record companies. You are a Christian speaker and want to sell books? Become a guest speaker in the Hillsong conference and you are ENSURED that your book will be on the best seller list across this nation’s Christian bookstores for the months leading to and after the conference. They are the only non-sport organization in Australia that can rally enough people to overflow the Sydney stadium. They are a force to be reckoned with, they are a ministry that enjoys unparalleled success. They are golden. They are diamond. They are… Hillsong.

It makes those of us, who are passionate about the Gospel, very worried about what this mega ministry is doing with the message of the cross.

It is not that we think those who are for or uncritical of the ministry are not passionate about the Gospel. I do question whether when I say the word Gospel does it invoke the same definition from those I contend against.

First and foremost, I do not consider Hillsong heretical. Not in the strict definition of that word. You will find that Hillsong holds to a very conservative view of Christianity. They are not liberals who denounce the authority of Scripture. They hold the Bible in very high esteem. They believe in the Trinity, they believe in the cross. They will not deny the orthodox definition of Justification. You can talk about repentance and they will nod their head along.

Now when I say “they”, I mean the leadership. Those who calls the shots. I don’t mean if you are one of the home group leaders, I mean you have brunch with Brian and you are the custodian of the direction and wellbeing of that Church. They, the one on the very top of the power pyramid.

Now here is my problem with Hillsong, while when you push them enough you will find they have orthodox convictions regarding their faith and the Gospel but THEY do not teach it to their followers.

Hillsong is as big and as influential as it is because of a systematic and strategic effort to hide the offence of the Gospel, and to whittle Christianity down to something that’s more palpable to the world, and a generous amount of prosperity teaching is sprinkled in the process. It is not that they don’t believe in sin, it’s just that they don’t talk about it. It’s not that they don’t believe in justification, it’s just that they don’t talk about it. It’s not that they don’t believe in repentance, it’s just that they don’t talk about. In its place what you get is much boasting about the love of God, but that love is no longer based upon the cross but based upon blessing. You will hear bits and pieces about Jesus dying for you, but the bulk of their time is spent talking about blessing. How you get it, how much is there, if you are not getting it this is why so on and so forth. Are they heretics? No, but they are a lot more dangerous…

Gather all the material you can get your hands on in the past five year or so, all the teachings Brian Houston have made in public, every time, if at all, the word gospel is mentioned; how much of that gospel actually lines up with the Scriptures? Of the thousands upon thousands of people attended Hillsong’s weekly services, how many of them walk away with the clear knowledge what the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is? For all the people who have ever responded to an altar call in that church, how many of them know why they went forward? Is it because they are sinners in need of Christ’s perfect righteousness or is it because they wanted some blessing from Jesus? How many followers of Hillsong can give a reason for the hope they process, how may of them can speak of Jesus other than the vacuous emotional sentimentalism that frames Christ more like a heavenly boy friend instead of a Saviour of sinners?

The vague, superficial, shallow, trite and one-size-fits-all approach Hillsong adopted in their treatment of the Gospel message means that they are now peddlers of a gospel that gives people hope without substance, Christ without the cross, faith without reason and self improvement in place of salvation. It may not be the wacky prosperity Gospel of Benny and Kenny but it is just as self-serving in the end. Whatever glimpses of the real Gospel that may appear on occasion is immediately swallowed up by the Hillsong message of blessing and encouragement. No one is exhorted to examine their own sin with any measure of seriousness, so no one is made to feel bad about themselves, that will not be "encouraging". You know whatelse people think is discouraging: Christ and Him crucified.

Hillsong’s approach makes people “think” that they are Christian because they are doing God things and hanging out in God places. Have we forgotten what Paul says about trying to define salvation by what we do? A whitewashed gospel is much worse than no Gospel at all.

I know many would disagree with me. Fair enough. May I address not all of you, but some of you, who disagree with me on the basis that you think that Hillsong IS preaching the Gospel. I just like to raise the possibility that perhaps your definition of the Gospel is really about the effects of it and not the message itself. You see the tens of thousands raising their hands in “worship”. You see those with tears down their face clearly moved by the”presence of God”. My friend, I will admit that is really impressive and it is something that does move my emotions as a Christian. And I will admit that these maybe genuine responses of grateful hearts saved by grace and I understand how you may be convinced that Hillsong is doing something good. I do not want to sound dismissive but I have seem people moved to that kind of emotional response in a U2 concert. How do we as Christians evaluate the validity of a church or ministry? Is it by what they can produce in people on the outside or is it their fidelity to the message. There is no one more faithful to the Christian ministry than Christ Himself, yet the Scriptures records for us in John's Gospel chapter 6 that in one short theological speech He reduced His followers from thousands to just twelve. Would you call that an abysmal failure because it neither produce the crowed and it definitely didn’t produce the kind of desirable emotional effect Hillsong produces, not even with the twelve who remained. Could it be to God it is more important to get the message right than it is to get the maximum BIP (Bums in Pew)?

I am not writing this ultimately to seek the demise of a ministry, but seek to awaken the love of truth amongst the people of God. After all, we serve the one who calls himself the Truth. The truth, however offensive it maybe is the only thing that can set us free.

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More Correspondance Concerning Rob Bell (Part 2)

My Rob Bell Exposed video on youtube is still causing quite a stir. If only the hordes of Rob Bell groupies were as zealous about defending the Gospel as they are about defending Rob Bell. I regularly get slanderous and hateful mail from emergents who are outraged that I would expose their heretical guru as a fraud to Christianity.

I thought it would be worthwhile to post some more correspondance today. This time it is with a youth pastor who is studying for his Masters in Divinity and Theology. As with my previous post I have inserted my responses in bold.

Dear Cameron

I am a Youth Pastor in XXXXX, Michigan. I am also in school to get my masters of Divinity and Theology. One of the kids in my Youth Group brought to my attention a video that you did on Rob Bell's video called Dust. After watching the video i was disappointed and disturbed for several reasons. First the main reason that i am disturbed is because you as being a fellow believer in the Lord, have stood up in front of the mass and torn down another brother in Christ.

Based on the gospel Rob Bell preaches I don't consider this tearing down a brother. If Rob Bell is born again (because I cannot judge his heart) it certainly doesn't come across based on the content of his message.

You stood before another gathering of believers and used it to preach an agenda. If you wanted to preach the message about Peter having faith in God and God alone to walk on water you could have done that without showing the video of Rob Bell. By using Rob Bell you have pushed your own agenda into a sermon.

The question is not whether anyone has an agenda, it is which one of us has the right agenda. Jesus gave us all an agenda otherwise known as the Great commission and it is the reason why I witness and preach. In fact it is what I use most of my spare time doing. If you are interested to see how I witness and preach you will find plenty of other videos on youtube of me doing that.

I know you claim that you are exposing humanism but that is not what you are doing.

How so? I think it's pretty straight forward, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to work it out. Rob Bell is explicitly teaching that God has faith in man which is a blatant contradiction of the doctrine of human depravity.

I found it odd that you talked about knowing the contextual place of the word that you are reading so you give the background to the verse, but you do not show the whole video. So you take a part of the video and only show that section and not the rest.

I only had 10 minutes all up from my senior pastor. I would have loved to show the whole video although even if I did then you'd probably complain about breach of copyright. I have had mail from members of Bell's church, some of which accuse me of breaching copyright and others accusing me for not showing the entire video. By showing a portion of the Dust video I did what was legal to do within copyright law which describes it as "citing a work for commentary". Many people and all of the youth had already seen the video in it's entirity anyway. But I did spend many hours checking my context and I remain convinced it was sound, and I did invite biblical criticism from others which is why I am happy to hear from you (though I'd prefer if you spent more time reasoning from the Scriptures).

From there you twist the words to meet an agenda that you already had planned.

Please explain to me how quoting someone qualifies as twisting their words????

You changed the point that Rob Bell was trying to make.

I was actually totally focussed on Rob Bell's major point. My closing remarks were actually in response to Rob Bell's major point in the video - "that God has faith in us". This idea has no biblical basis. It is also actually a denial of God's omniscience (all knowing), and omnipresence (all seeing) because Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as "the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen". You can only hope in things you don't know about and for things to be unseen would require God to not be omnipresent. It is a very big deal as it is a radical redefining of the character and nature of God. God does not have faith - He is the object of faith. The whole reformation was built upon this truth.

The point he is making is just like when the Bible talks about with we were to have faith the size of a mustard seed we could move a mountain. The point here and that Rob is making is that we know we can do this, if we had the faith, but we do not believe enough in ourselves to believe that God will do this for us.

Find me one verse in the Bible that says we should believe in ourselves. I can assure you that I can find many that say the opposite some of which were quoted in my presentation.

We do not want to look at our selves has holy vessels for God, so we doubt our own capability no matter what God can do. We believe God can do it, but we believe it can't be done through us. We lack faith that it is possible for these things and these works to be done through us.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I do not agree with Rob Bell all the time, but I believe it is wrong for another pastor to tear down the work of another pastor. It is not for you to judge, or call Rob Bell a false preacher, by what you have said in your video makes it look like you feel Rob is a false preacher.

The key problem with your sentence here are the two words "I believe". This is not about what you believe but what the Scripture actually says. Romans 16:17 tells us to "mark" those who teach doctrine contrary to what we learn in Scripture. Ephesians 5:11 tells us to expose the works of darkness. Galatians 1:8-9 pronounces damnation on anyone who preaches any other gospel than the one preached in Scripture. So the question is not whether I should be doing this as a shepherd (and remember that shepherds are supposed to feed sheep and protect them from wolves), but whether I am telling the truth and handling Scripture correctly - both subjects that you never delved into.

Once again, the question is not whether I should call him a false teacher but whether he is a false teacher. I gave a biblical critique of the content of Rob Bell's teaching and it would be nice if you could extend me the same courtesy.

Christianity is divided enough, and no divided team ever works to its full potential.

It is false teachers that cause division - not those who expose them. "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Romans 16:17).

What you preach holds an impact and that impact will be judged, and judged by God alone. It disappointed me greatly that preacher would take a shot at another Christian.

I wouldn't take a shot at another Christian. Rob Bell is a universalist. That's not Christianity last time I checked.

In Christ
(Name withheld)

Go Back To Part 1

Monday, May 17, 2010

More Correspondance Concerning Rob Bell (Part 1)

My Rob Bell Exposed video on youtube is still causing quite a stir. If only the hordes of Rob Bell groupies were as zealous about defending the Gospel as they are about defending Rob Bell. I regularly get slanderous and hateful mail from emergents who are outraged that I would expose their heretical guru as a fraud to Christianity. But sometimes I get polite e-mails from people expressing concern for my "Rob Bell Exposed" video which convey a genuine concern for truth. I am only too happy to respond to these mails. Today I am posting an example as I thought it might be helpful to the many readers who have expressed their frustration at unsuccessfully pleading with their church leaders to stop playing Rob Bell's videos (of which several are heretical). What follows is a recent letter I received. I have inserted my responses in bold type (for the record, my response was very well received).

Hey Cameron,

This is in reference to:

I can understand where you are coming from in this video. But I think you misinterpreted Rob Bell.

I think when Rob talked about how Peter did not have faith in himself as opposed to not enough faith in God, he was really trying to say: It wasn't that Peter did not have faith that Jesus had the power, cause He obviously did since He was still floating. It was that Peter did not have faith that He could do what God wanted Him to do.

Rob Bell explicitly teaches at the end of the video that God has faith in man just like we should have faith in Him. I know why Bell didn't quote a Scripture to support this idea - because there isn't any. Furthermore faith is defined in Heb 11:1 as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Faith requires things both unseen and unknown. God is omniscient (all knowing) and omnipresent (all seeing). Faith cannot be a part of God's character and nature. He is the object of faith. The Gospel is all about faith ALONE in Christ ALONE. Bell redefines God in doing this - which is actually breaking the second commandment.

I think by comparing "faith in God" vs "faith in himself" he really meant to say "faith in the power of God" vs "faith in the power of God to do stuff in Him". He just worded it very poorly.

I actually listened to Bell's sermon "Covered in the Dust of Your Rabbi" which is a much expanded version of Dust. Bell makes himself even more clear in the sermon and I took great care to understand him rightly. Furthermore, when it comes to the Gospel, the Christian minister must take great care to be explicitly clear on fundamental truths. Bell is constantly foggy. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).

I identified with this because I used to struggle really bad with porn and masturbation. I didn't doubt that God was all-powerful, but I did doubt that I would escape my addiction. I thought "I'm human, there's no way I can live purely like God in this way." What I was missing is that, even though I'm human, I can live like God because of His grace, power and Holy Spirit. I'll never be God, but I can be Christ-like.

You are actually agreeing with me here and disagreeing with Bell. We must be born again (John 3). We need the heart of stone removed and replaced with a heart of flesh by the Holy Spirit so that we can walk in obedience by His power (Eze 36:25-27). We need to be a new creature in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). Bell says none of this here. He says that God believed in the disciples because He left the great Commission in their hands. Bell never mentioned the upper room and the necessary indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This was a MAJOR focus of my presentation and Bell said nothing about the role of the Holy Spirit in 10 plus minutes. That is just plain disgraceful distortion of conversion and the Gospel and the depravity of man.

Eventually, after being addicted for around 8-9 years, I finally realized that I COULD stop! And I have stopped through the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit!

Exactly - not because God believes in you but because you confessed your need for Him!

Now another thing: My friend saw the Everything is Spiritual movie, and this lead her to believe in God and ultimately become a Christian (believing Jesus is Lord, lived, died and rose in the flesh. She also has repented of her sins). So Rob Bell's message was influential in her life. Even if Rob Bell did give a false message in this video, that does not mean he is not Christian, all his messages are wrong or that he is not your brother.

Rob Bell is actually a universalist so this story surprises me. If your friend repented of her sins - she never heard that from Rob Bell. He never preaches it which makes sense for a universalist. Bell articulates his universalist views in both Velvet Elvis and his third book. If your friend became a Christian all glory to God - it was inspite of Rob Bell's heretical gospel, not because of it. I document many of Bell's heresies on my blog and please also check out this scholarly review of Velvet Elvis which outlines much of Bell's heresies and false teaching:

Now if he is your brother, and you slander his name and all his teaching the way you do, this is bad! It's one thing to watch his
movie, sit down with some friends and discuss something amiss amongst yourselves. It's another to try to discredit his whole reputation based on this one mistake. Did not Paul make mistakes in speaking too harshly?

If he preaches a false gospel then he is not a brother. Paul pronounces damnation on all who preach false gospels (Gal 1:8-9) and instructs us to "Mark them" (Romans 16:17) and expose the works of darkness (Eph 5:11). So you have to decide if I am telling the truth not whether I should be exposing him.

I would say that if you really had a problem with his message, that you sit down with Rob face to face and confront him about it. Maybe you'll show him he is wrong, or maybe he will say "oh! yeah! I think I wasn't clear on what i was trying to say in that sentence" This is how the church should be rebuked and built up. When we publicly oppose one another behind each other's back without confronting one another first, we tear down each other.

How do you know I didn't try to speak with Rob Bell about this? I can show you my correspondence with them if you like and their cut and paste response that most people get who try to approach them about this. Think about it - it is publicly marketed material that warrants a public response. So it wasn't a Matthew 18 situation anyway. Plus this was a biblical critique of the content of Bell's teaching - not slanderous character assassination. Find one personal comment I made against his motivation or personal conduct? I would contend that Bell's Bullhorn Guy video is a damaging caricature of the many faithful open air preachers out there who suffer enough ridicule as it is. Who is taking Bell to task over that. Bell didn't approach any open air preachers before marketing that video - and he still won't talk to the many who have tried to air their grievances.

Say someone becomes a genuine Christian through a message by Rob Bell. Then they hear from you that Rob Bell is a sham. What if they say "oh, so all the stuff I learned about God from Rob is false? He's just a liar?" This could turn them away, when they infact might have had an accurate description of God that came from Rob.

Find me one orthodox Gospel presentation by Rob Bell in audio/video/written form. I have been challenging people from his church to present one for the last two years. Nothing has been forthcoming. Here is Bell's attempt to "tweet" the Gospel:

I would say that history is headed somewhere. The thousands of little ways in which you are tempted to believe that hope might actually be a legitimate response to the insanity of the world actually can be trusted. And the Christian story is that a tomb is empty, and a movement has actually begun that has been present in a sense all along in creation. And all those times when your cynicism was at odds with an impulse within you that said that this little thing might be about something bigger—those tiny little slivers may in fact be connected to something really, really big.

Now please tell me how someone can come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by virtue of that? Please tell me you can recognize that that is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Shepherd's feed the sheep and protect them from wolves. My video was fulfilling a shepherd's duty.

Also, if Rob Bell says Jesus is Lord and Jesus lived, died and rose in the flesh by the power of God, would you say he has the Holy Spirit? Another thing to think about.

Rob Bell says many things that sound orthodox but then redefines their meaning. You would be shocked to read what Bell says about the Trinity in Velvet Elvis. Rob Bell's Jesus is not necessarily the only way! Please read the book review I linked earlier and/or my blog (search for "Rob Bell") to biblically consider my contentions.

Let me know your thoughts on this!

(Name witheld)

Go On To Part 2

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Jesus I Love Thee

The Go Fish guys do great harmonies together with timeless truth. I just wanted to post this glorious song on the Lord's day . . .

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Rugged Cross, An Empty Grave, And A Throne In Heaven (Part 3)

The Resurrection on Trial – Evidence For The Resurrection

There is enormous evidence for the resurrection. I’ll mention just five of them.

1. Jesus was seen by hundreds of witnesses. That is good enough in a court of law.
2. When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost he testified to the resurrection in Jerusalem. Thousands were there and no one questioned him.
3. The Bible has never been proven wrong on anything. We have a document more trustworthy than any other book ever written.
4. That Christianity has survived for 2000 years.
5. The change in the disciples behavior. What else could explain how these cowards who fled when Jesus was crucified had suddenly become bold and fearless witnesses ready to preach endlessly and die willingly in His Name. (Read from Foxes book of Martyr’s)

There is no reason to deny the resurrection other than a desire to keep on sinning in the hope that you will not have to face the resurrected Lord on the day of judgment.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of His church.

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

Adam’s one sin brought death on everyone. The ultimate statistic – one out of one people die. Adam’s sin brought the curse of death. In Christ’s resurrection shall all be made alive. Now – does this verse teach universalism that everyone will be saved? We know the Scripture cannot contradict itself and it clearly teaches that not everyone gets saved – that there are sheep and goats. So what is Paul saying here? It depends upon the link with the man. All who are in Adam – who are the descendants of Adam? We all are. All who are in Christ – who are the descendants of Christ? John 1:12 says "as many as believed in Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God."

The first all includes all who are in Adam by the common factor of . . . sin. The second all includes all who are in Christ by the common factor of . . . faith. All who are in Adam die. All who are in Christ live. Who are you in?

But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:23-26)

Christ was raised bodily, glorified so that His human frame was perfectly suited for both heaven and earth. His body could be seen, and touched (Luke 24:39; John 20:27; 1 John 1:1). He ate food (Luke 24:42-43) and walked and talked as He had before the crucifixion. At this very moment, he sits on the Father's right hand in that same body—making intercession for the saints, including me.

More amazing than all of that, I will one day have a body like His: able to traverse heaven and earth, immortal, yet familiar in its physical form. In fact, it will be this very body, thoroughly healed of all its infirmities and imperfections. That amazes me and thrills me (Phil Johnson, online source).

Go Back To Part 2
Go back To Part 1

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Rugged Cross, An Empty Grave, And A Throne In Heaven (Part 2)

The Resurrection on Trial – Refuting False Theories

Most reasonable historians will concede that Jesus Christ was a true historical figure. In recent times there have been people who try to deny this, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. I’ll give just one example of this evidence. In the middle of the first century, a man called Thallus wrote a history of the Mediterranean world from the time of the Trojan War until his own time. What is interesting about this is that Thallus was not a believer and yet tried to explain the darkness that covered the earth during the crucifixion of Christ. He suggested it was an eclipse, which was ridiculous because it happened at the time of the full moon and solar eclipses don’t happen during full moons. Note that Thallus did not try to deny the darkness – why, because everyone knew about it. Most reasonable unbelievers who do their research agree that Jesus Christ was a real historical figure, that He was crucified, and that his body went missing. It is over the reason for the empty tomb that the debate is fought. This is why there are several theories that attempt to give an explanation for the empty tomb rather than denying that there was an empty tomb. And as you will see, it probably takes a lot more faith to believe these theories than what the Bible clearly teaches – that Jesus rose from the dead. I will respond to the two most popular theories as the others aren't even worth using time on. My responses to these two theories are much shorter than they can be. I will only be bringing up some of the reasons they are false or stupid or both false and stupid.

1. The Stolen Body Theory

The first theory is the one the Pharisees gave. That the disciples stole the body. I think we all know that the tomb where they laid Jesus was being guarded by at least 10 Roman soldiers – because Jesus had prophesied his resurrection and the Pharisees thought the best chance of stopping God’s plan involved Roman soldiers and a giant rock. Well it was pretty hard for the soldiers to ignore a severe earthquake caused by an angel rolling the stone away. (As a sidenote – do you think the stone was rolled away to let Jesus out, or to let the disciples come in and take a look?)
Back to the story, the soldiers ran away in fear and headed for the city where the Pharisees were:

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, "Tell people, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. (Matthew 28:11-15)

The Pharisees were not only corrupt liars, they were really dumb corrupt
liars. Can you imagine how this story would go in a court of law?

1. Who can guess what the punishment was for a Roman soldier who slept on duty?
2. If the soldiers were sleeping how did they know who stole the body? If they were awake – why did they let them?
3. Can you imagine the disciples sneaking up on 10 or more Roman soldiers, all sleeping at the same time, and saying shhhhhh roll that giant rock very quietly. It’s doubtful if they could have even moved it.
4. Who has ever seen CSI? What is the first thing they always do when a body is missing? – look for it.
5. Other than John, all the disciples had fled. They thought it was over. Peter had publicly denied Christ three times. Why would these frightened men risk their lives to steal a dead body of a man they had abandoned?

2. The Swoon Theory
The swoon theory says that Christ did not actually die on the cross. He was seriously wounded and the soldiers thought he was dead. But after the beating, the crucifixion, and three days in a cold tomb with no food or water and a giant rock trapping him in there, Jesus regained his strength rolled away the giant rock and beat up all the Roman guards. Here’s just a few points to consider:

1. The Roman soldiers could be executed for failure to complete an execution.
2. The Roman soldiers were experts at killing people – the fact that they didn’t break Jesus’ legs shows that they were certain he was dead.
3. John testified to seeing separated water and blood flow out of Jesus side when the spear was thrust into Him. If Jesus were still alive there would have been blood pumping out with every heartbeat.

There are more theories but I don’t think they are worth talking about. I find all of these theories much harder to believe than what the Scipture says. They only serve to show sinful man’s desire to reject God so he can keep on sinning.

Concludes on Friday - The Resurrection on Trial: Evidence For The Resurrection

Go On To Part 3
Go back To Part 1

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Rugged Cross, An Empty Grave, And A Throne In Heaven (Part 1)

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD." So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live." So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then he said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.' Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD. (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Can these dead bones live? Oh Lord you know. Prophesy over these dead bones and say “Hear the Word of the Lord – so says the Lord, I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live”.

What is that a picture of? That is evangelism. Evangelism always involves three parties. A corpse, a prophet, and the God of the resurrection. Who is the corpse? That valley of dry bones is a good picture of every lost sinner we speak to. Ephesians 2:1-3 tells us:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

A dead body needs a lot more than persuasion to become a Christian. He needs to be resurrected by the God Who raises the dead. And that God Who raises the dead chose the "foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21b).

This prophet God uses are those Christians who are called to preach the
Gospel. Which Christians are they? Which of us?

But do we just hope that God raises the dead or do we know it? I recently did a series called The Exhilaration Of Double Imputation which spoke about Christ’s atoning death and how it secures a double imputation for Christians. The sins of the sinner are credited to Christ and the righteousness of Christ is credited to the sinner. But this good news would remain an empty hope without Christ’s resurrection.

Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

This means that the resurrection would prove that God had accepted the sacrifice of His son and was now able to be both just and the justifier of the sinner who repents and trusts the Savior. Without Christ’s resurrection we have no hope of being justified with God and no hope of our own resurrection body.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:12-17)

To be continued on Wednesday - The Resurrection on Trial: Refuting False Theories

Go On To Part 2

Friday, May 7, 2010

NT Wright v RC Sproul

The latest edition of Tabletalk Magazine features an array of theological heavyweights taking aim at NT Wright and his new perspective on Paul (ok, I know NT Wright is not the originator, but he is the one gaining traction). I discovered this only after writing my recent series on "NT Wright v the Gospel". It serves as strong confirmation that NT Wright's writings and teachings are gaining a substantial corrupting foothold in the wider "church community".

When it comes to reformed theology, the authority of Scripture, and the purity of the Gospel, RC Sproul would be at the top end of the heavyweights. Some of his books, including "The Holiness of God" are classic landmark Christian literature. For decades Sproul has been an ardent contender for the once for all delivered faith. So it was with great interest that I read his response to NT Wright and the "new perspective". Sproul harnesses years of experience and biblical awareness to cut through the fog of Wright's assertion that he can do a better job of explaining the Apostle Paul than the Apostle himself (that's my cheeky paraphrase anyway). What follows is RC Sproul's response:

Tilting at Scarecrows
by R.C. Sproul
“We are not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith. We are justified by faith by believing in the gospel itself—in other words, that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead.”
(N.T. Wright, “New Perspectives on Paul,” p 261)

In the past few years, the British bishop and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has emerged as an icon of biblical theology around the world. His excellent work on the resurrection of Christ has influenced many people including his own country’s most famous philosopher and former atheist Antony Flew, who has converted to deism. Wright is also known, however, for being one of the chief architects of the so-called new perspective on Paul, in which he recasts the doctrine of justification in such a way as to transcend the historic dispute between Roman Catholicism and Reformation Protestantism. In a sense, Wright says, “A pox on both your houses,” claiming that both Rome and the Reformation misunderstood and distorted the biblical view of justification. In his response to John Piper’s critique of his work, Wright drips patronizing disdain for Piper and for those who embrace the traditional Protestant view of justification. He is critical of theological traditions that he thinks miss the biblical point.

In the course of debate, one of the most effective and fallacious arguments often used is called the “straw man” fallacy. The value of a scarecrow is that it is a counterfeit human being designed to scare away a few crows. It is an effective device, but not nearly as effective as a real farmer patrolling his fields with a shotgun. The farmer made of straw is not nearly as formidable as the real one. This is usually the case in the difference between the authentic and the counterfeit. The straw man fallacy occurs when one creates a false view of his opponent’s position in a distorted caricature by which he then easily dismantles that position in total refutation.

One of the statements that N.T. Wright employs, using this same stratagem, is the statement that “we are not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith.” To intimate that Protestant orthodoxy believes that we are justified by believing in the doctrine of justification by faith is the king of all straw men. It is the Goliath of scarecrows, the King Kong of straw man fallacies. In other words, it is a whopper. I am aware of no theologian in the history of the Reformed tradition who believes or argues that a person can be justified by believing in the doctrine of justification by faith. This is a pure and simple distortion of the Reformed tradition.

In Wright’s statement we see a straw man argument that falls by its own weight. It contains more straw than the stick figure can support. The doctrine of justification by faith alone not only does not teach that justification is by believing in the doctrine of justification by faith alone, but in fact, teaches that which is totally antithetical to the idea. The phrase “justification by faith alone” is theological shorthand for saying justification is by Christ alone. Anyone who understands and advocates the doctrine of justification by faith alone knows that the focal point is that which justifies — trust in Christ and not trust in a doctrine.

One of the key terms in the phrase “justification by faith” is the word by, which signals that faith is the means or tool that links us to Christ and His benefits. The concept indicates that faith is the “instrumental” cause of our justification. What is in view in the Protestant formulation is a distinction from the Roman Catholic view of the instrumental cause. Rome declares the sacrament of baptism in the first instance and penance in the second instance to be the instrumental causes of justification. So the dispute of what instrument is the basis by which we are justified was and remains critical to the classical dispute between Rome and Protestantism. The Protestant view, following Paul’s teaching in the New Testament, is that faith is the sole instrument by which we are linked to Christ.

Closely related to this is the hotly disputed issue of the grounds of our justification before God. Here is where the biblical concept of imputation is so important. Those who deny imputation as the grounds of our justification declare it to be a legal fiction, a miscarriage of justice, or even a manifestation of cosmic child abuse. Yet at the same time, it is the biblical explanation for the ground of our redemption. No biblical text more clearly teaches this concept of transfer or imputation than that of Isaiah 53, which the New Testament church singled out as a crucial prophetic explanation of the drama of redemption. The New Testament declares Christ to be our righteousness, and it is precisely our confidence in the righteousness of Christ as the grounds for our justification that is the focus of the doctrine of justification by faith. We understand that believing the doctrine of sola fide will save no one. Faith in a doctrine is not enough to save. However, though we cannot be saved by believing in the doctrine of justification, the denial of that same doctrine can indeed be fatal because to deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone as the apostle Paul indicated in Galatians is to reject the gospel and substitute something else for it, which would result in what Paul declares to be anathema. The gospel is too important to be dismissed by tilting at scarecrows.

Go Back To NT Wright v The Gospel

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NT Wright v The Gospel (Part 3)

As we saw in part 2 of this series, NT Wright says he believes in Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA). But the PSA that Wright believes in is just like the jesus that the Mormons believe in - a phony, a product of their own imaginations and not found in Scripture. But Wright's gross error on PSA and the Gospel continues to manifest itself in his understanding of the doctrine of imputation:

If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatsoever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom . . . If we leave the notion of 'righteousness' as a law-court metaphor only, as so many have done in the past, this gives the impression of a legal transaction, a cold piece of business, almost a trick of thought performed by a God who is logical and correct but hardly one we would want to worship (p98 What St Paul Really Said).

What God’s righteousness never becomes, in the Jewish background which Paul is so richly summing up, is an attribute which is passed on to, reckoned to, or imputed to, his people. Nor does Paul treat it in this way. (


For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin (Romans 4:3-8).

John Macarthur has this to say about the importance of getting imputation right:

The cornerstone of justification is the reckoning of righteousness to the believer's account. This is the truth that sets Christian doctrine apart from every form of false religion. We call it "imputed righteousness". Apart from it salvation is utterly impossible (p197 The Gospel According to Jesus).

But the problems don't end here. Wright confuses justification with sanctification, and salvation with eternal rewards:

Paul, in company with mainstream second-Temple Judaism, affirms that God’s final judgment will be in accordance with the entirety of a life led – in accordance, in other words, with works . . . I am fascinated by the way in which some of those most conscious of their reformation heritage shy away from Paul’s clear statements about future judgment according to works. It is not often enough remarked upon, for instance, that in the Thessalonian letters, and in Philippians, he looks ahead to the coming day of judgment and sees God’s favourable verdict not on the basis of the merits and death of Christ, not because like Lord Hailsham he simply casts himself on the mercy of the judge, but on the basis of his apostolic work. ‘What is our hope and joy and crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus Christ at his royal appearing? Is it not you? For you are our glory and our joy.’ (1 Thess. 3.19f.; cp. Phil. 2.16f.) I suspect that if you or I were to say such a thing, we could expect a swift rebuke of ‘nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling’. The fact that Paul does not feel obliged at every point to say this shows, I think, that he is not as concerned as we are about the danger of speaking of the things he himself has done – though sometimes, to be sure, he adds a rider, which proves my point, that it is not his own energy but that which God gives and inspires within him (1 Cor. 15.10; Col. 1.29). But he is still clear that the things he does in the present, by moral and physical effort, will count to his credit on the last day, precisely because they are the effective signs that the Spirit of the living Christ has been at work in him. We are embarrassed about saying this kind of thing; Paul clearly is not. What on earth can have happened to a sola scriptura theology that it should find itself forced to screen out such emphatic, indeed celebratory, statements? (

The bottom line with all false gospels is works. Justification depends solely on Christ's finished work so that "no man can boast". There are rewards and also varying degrees of punishment dependant on our works. But the Lambs book of Life contains only names with the imputed rightoeusness of Christ. Those who entrust their personal salvation (a subject that Wright has a strong aversion to) solely to Christ's finished work. It is solely by faith as Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches so that "no man can boast". There it is! God wants ALL the glory for His gracious redemptive work in saving sinners fully deserving of eternal condemnation.

In some ways I regret delving into this subject because it should be pretty obvious that Wright is a heretic. Also, he is playing the same game as the emergents of using a term and then redefining it's meaning. Many Pastors in Denmark (where I live) read Wright's ideas indirectly through people like Brian McLaren who have latched onto them. This is why I take such strong exception to Wright. The shadow of NT Wright's teaching looms large in my own backyard - which is what provokes my severe response. What Paul really said is laid out for us in the New Testament. And much of it is avoided by Wright. One would think he's never read the first three chapters of Romans. Anyone can read the New Testament and see that all men are very evil sinners, God punishes sin, future judgment is a very real threat, salvation is a VERY major theme, that God wants all the glory for saving us, that the law condemns us because we cannot keep it, that Christ fulfilled the law by not sinning, that Christ took the punishment in the place of sinners . . . this stuff is so obvious I was able to grasp it the first time I delved into the pages of the Bible. Why does Wright continually deny, ignore, or downplay these issues. "that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life", "the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life" etc. Individual salvation, and how it can take place is a HUGE theme in the New testament.

Wright's denial of imputation is flat out heresy. Secondly, good teachers are explicitly clear on the Gospel whereas Wright is obscure, and confusing. Thirdly, how can he write a book on a basic understanding of Christianity and ignore so many major themes such as the Atonement. People like NT Wright survive in a climate of niceness and civility where being vague entitles them to the benefit of the doubt. I think George W Bush was right when he said "If they're not for us, they're against us". Maybe you don't want to label him a heretic, but in an environment of biblical illiteracy and lack of discernment, you should at least tell people to read something more worthwhile and stay away from the fog.

We are not called to be passive or silent in the face of such opposition to the glorious Gospel.

Coming on Friday- NT Wright v RC Sproul

Go On To NT Wright v RC Sproul
Go Back To Part 2
Go Back To Part 1

Monday, May 3, 2010

NT Wright v The Gospel (Part 2)

I realise it is easy to quote Wright in support of Penal Substitution in some of his earlier writings. But there are two things worth noting. One is that Wright himself confesses to having a theology that has changed over the years (ie moving from the old perspective on Paul to the new perspective). Secondly, that like emergents, Wright sometimes holds to a terminology but changes the definition. This is evident in Wright's support of Steve Chalke's book (The Lost Message of Jesus) and his refusal to retract that support and all the while claiming to hold to Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA). Here is how Wright responded to calls for him to retract his endorsement for "The Lost Message of Jesus":

NT Wright And Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Steve Chalke's new book is rooted on good scholarship, but its clear, punchy style makes it accessible to anyone and everyone. Its message is stark and exciting: Jesus of Nazareth was far more challenging in his own day, and remains far more relevant to ours, than the church has dared to believe, let alone preach. Part of that was quoted prominently on the front cover. I stand by every word I wrote. Imagine my puzzlement, then, when I heard that a great storm had broken out because 'Steve Chalke has denied substitutionary atonement' . . .

And what did Steve Chalke say that was so controversial?

"The fact is that the cross isn't a form of cosmic child abuse - a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement that "God is Love". If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus' own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil." (p182 The Lost Message of Jesus)

Wright continues:

Now, to be frank, I cannot tell, from this paragraph alone, which of two things Steve means. You could take the paragraph to mean (a) on the cross, as an expression of God's love, Jesus took into and upon himself the full force of all the evil around him, in the knowledge that if he bore it we would not have to; but this, which amounts to a form of penal substitution, is quite different from other forms of penal substitution, such as the mediaeval model of a vengeful father being placated by an act of gratuitous violence against his innocent son. In other words, there are many models of penal substitution, and the vengeful-father-and-innocent-son story is at best a caricature of the true one. Or you could take the paragraph to mean (b) because the cross is an expression of God's love, there can be no idea of penal substitution at all, because if there were it would necessarily mean the vengeful-father-and-innocent-son story, and that cannot be right.

Clearly, Steve's critics have taken him to mean (b), as I think it is clear Jeffrey John and several others intend. I cannot now remember what I thought when I read the book four years ago and wrote my commendation, but I think, since I had been following the argument through in the light of the arguments I myself have advanced, frequently and at length, about Jesus' death and his own understanding of it, that I must have assumed he meant (a). I have now had a good conversation with Steve about the whole subject and clarified that my initial understanding was correct: he does indeed mean (a). The book, after all, wasn't about atonement as such, so he didn't spell out his view of the cross in detail; and it is his experience that the word 'penal' has put off so many people, with its image of a violent, angry and malevolent God, that he has decided not to use it. But the reality that I and others refer to when we use the phrase 'penal substitution' is not in doubt, for Steve any more than for me. 'There is therefore now no condemnation' in Romans 8.1 is explained by the fact, as in Romans 8.3, that God condemned sin in the flesh of his Son: he bore sin's condemnation in his body, so we don't bear it. That, I take it, is the heart of what the best sort of 'penal substitution' theory is trying to say, and Steve is fully happy with it. And this leads to the key point: there are several forms of the doctrine of penal substitution, and some are more biblical than others. (

The real problem here is that both models, (a) and (b), are not PSA. The caricature (a vengeful father being placated by an act of gratuitous violence against his innocent son) Wright refers to is his own caricature. That is not what the Macarthurs, Pipers, and Sprouls of today are preaching. Wright's vague "forces of evil" never quite get specified. The issues of personal guilt, God's specific wrath aimed against guilty individuals, and Christ's love demonstrated as a substitute, is ignored in Wright's version whereas they are beautifully harmonized in the reformed understanding. This probably explains why Wright, when singing "In Christ Alone", changes the line "the wrath of God was satisfied" to "the love of God was satisfied". So much for authorial intent! There is a constant theme of absence when Wright discusses the Gospel and it makes sense in the light of his understanding of PSA. Wright believes that PSA must submit within the Christus Victor model of the atonement. Wright gets this back to front - and it also confirms that Wright holds to a different/wrong version of PSA if it is not the transcendant theory from which all others flow and find their meaning. This view again reveals Wright's faulty understanding - "it is only in Penal substitution that God must punish evil in order for His defeat of Satan to be consistent with His rightoeusness" (p142 Pierced for Our Transgressions).

What surprises me is that people focus only on the "cosmic child abuse" quote in Chalke's book. Here is a little more revelation of Chalke's view of the Gospel:

People are desperate for a message that they can buy into, that they can see will make a difference to them and to the world in which they live. The truth is that you can't engender a sense of lostness or need into people simply by pointing out that they are sinners. It just doesn't work. (p117-118 The Lost Message of Jesus).

So it would seem that they believe there are good pragmatic grounds for rejecting PSA.

But Wright's gross error on PSA, and the Gospel continue to manifest in his understanding of imputation which I will discuss in Wednesday's post.

Go On To Part 3
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