Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Free Grace or Lordship Salvation? (Part 2)
A. The Free Grace View

The difference between the two positions is fundamentally one over the understanding of faith. Charles C. Ryrie defines faith as "being convinced or giving credence to something or someone, especially to the truth of the Gospel" (Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation, 156). So, faith is believing that the gospel message is true and trusting in it for salvation. Therefore, repentance is not a part of faith, faith does not necessarily involve discipleship, and works play no role in one's salvation. Each one of these relationships will be examined.

1. The relationship between faith and repentance. Since faith is essentially a mental assent to the truth of the gospel, it in no way includes a turning from sin in repentance. As Zane Hodges says, "Faith alone (not repentance and faith) is the sole condition for justification and eternal life" (Zane C. Hodges, Absolutely Free!, 144). Repentance is viewed as a work, and if repentance is required for salvation, then salvation is no longer through faith alone. Since the Reformers argued strongly that justification is through faith alone, Hodges goes on to assert, "To make repentance a condition for eternal salvation is nothing less than a regression toward Roman Catholic dogma" (Ibid., 145). Hodges concludes that if a person believes there is a relationship between faith and repentance, then the individual is rejecting the Reformer's view of the gospel and he or she does not hold the Protestant view of salvation.

On the other hand, Charles Ryrie does believe that repentance can save. However, one must have a correct understanding of this kind of repentance. "The only kind of repentance that saves anyone, anywhere, anytime is a change of mind about Jesus Christ" (Ryrie, 95). In other words, if repentance is defined the same as faith, then it can lead to salvation. Therefore, according to Ryrie, when seeing repentance as saving a person, repentance and faith are simply synonymous terms. Either way, the idea of turning from sin being required for faith is denied by the free grace view.
 
posted at 2:30 PM  



Intelligent Design and CSI
I must admit, the more I come to know Mark Coppenger, the more I like him. Actually, he is the instructor of a class I begin today ("Faith, Reason, and Authority," essentially an introduction to epistemology). Why do I bring all of this up? Because Baptist Press released an editorial by Coppenger yesterday, "An Awesome Cover-Up". His writing always winds up as entertaining reading. Here is an excerpt where Coppenger compares Intelligent Design with CSI:

I’m reminded of the popular TV show, "CSI" (Crime Scene Investigation), where forensic scientists track down criminals who do their best to cover their tracks. Try as these felons might to swab up the blood, burn the documents, or bury the weapons, the sleuths (I’ve always wanted to use that word since reading the "Hardy Boys" mysteries in my childhood) track them down, whether with black light, DNA analysis of a single hair, carpet-fiber provenance or microscopic scrutiny of scratches on a thigh bone.

Imagine a CSI cop announcing, without so much as a glance, that the corpse in the park “just died” and then shushing anyone who suggested it wasn’t simply from natural causes. When a rookie suggests that someone else might have been involved, he’s quickly told that good CSI men don’t talk that way, that the only proper explanation involves something like a blood clot in the brain, a falling branch, or potassium imbalance. To suggest otherwise is simply unscientific. Of course, that would be ridiculous, yet biologists get away with this sort of imperious behavior all the time.
 
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Biblical Reconciliation Over End of the Spear?
Randy Alcorn (of Eternal Perspective Ministries) has written a long report covering his efforts at seeing biblical reconciliation between those involved in the End of the Spear controversy. "Perspectives on End of the Spear and the Chad Allen Controversy" shows some very promising results after much of the storm. Alcorn says,

My main reason for writing this relates to the issue of slander and false witness, and the Christian community's participation in these matters, which I consider to be wrong, dishonoring to Christ and nonnegotiable. However, before I address that, I need to make clear that I sympathize with some of the concerns about the effect of Chad Allen's part in the movie, even though I understand and believe my brothers with ETE [Every Tribe Entertainment] as to what happened and why.

His article is beneficial and must-reading for all those involved with or concerned about this controversy.
 
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Monday, January 30, 2006
Conversion as a Process
Yesterday's Chicago Tribune included an interesting article: "Has the race to faith passed you by?" With the subtitle, "Forget speedy 'born again' lightning. There are small steps that move you toward inner peace," I didn't know what to expect. Nevertheless, I actually found it somewhat informative. The story reports:

...Richardson typifies an emerging trend called "spiritual formation," a fancy way of saying that people grow in their faith through stages. That lines up with a new study by the University of Chicago, which says that more than 50 percent of Americans have undergone a spiritual transformation or been born again. But most people, it adds, found their faith unfolding in small steps. That surprised lead researcher Tom Smith, who has been studying U.S. behavior for decades.

Of course, I find problems with this study as well as with some of the resulting analysis. At the same time, I do believe that this article is reporting about something many Baptists are uncomfortable with--conversion as a process. Because of our historical background in revivalism, we stress the importance of knowing the time of our commitment to Christ. When did we walk the aisle? When did we say the sinner's prayer? When did we allow Jesus to come into our hearts?

However, this is not a full biblical picture of conversion. We as Baptists would do well to reassess our emphasis on "decisions for Christ." Another blogger, Joe Thorn, posted an excellent series on this topic: "Reforming Evangelism." Here are his posts:
 
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Free Grace or Lordship Salvation? (Part 1)
Today, we witness an ongoing debate amongst evangelicals over the nature of saving faith. According to some, for God's gift of grace and salvation to be completely free, it can make no demands upon a person. If anything is necessary besides simple faith in Christ, then salvation is no longer free. This standpoint is often called the "free grace" view. Those opposing this position are said to hold to "lordship salvation." In other words, individuals holding the lordship salvation view argue that Christ will not be your Savior without also being your Lord. Salvation does not exist without submission to Christ. Both of these positions argue that the other side is in serious error.

Because of the importance of this ongoing disagreement, I plan on posting a series introducing and evaluating this controversy. We will begin by seeking to understand both sides. After this, their positions need to be examined and analyzed by Scripture and reason. Finally, we need to see the implications of this debate in evangelism and witnessing. This controversy is an important one--it covers the very nature of the gospel itself. Consequently, the discussion and understanding is an important one, and will be beneficial to all who serve Christ and desire to accurately share His truth with others.

I. Understanding Both Sides

One must begin by coming to an understanding of each position. The magnitude of this debate requires a careful consideration of the issues at stake. As one of the primary contemporary proponents of the free grace view asserts, "The 'gospel' that results from such theology [the lordship salvation position] cannot avoid the anathema of Galatians 1:8, 9. This is a serious charge. But it is made thoughtfully and with much grief that it is necessary to make it at all" (Zane C. Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege, 2nd ed., 144). In other words, Hodges argues that the lordship salvation view is a different gospel than that of the Bible and should be forever cursed or damned. On the other side, an advocate of lordship salvation, James Montgomery Boice, states, "This view [the free grace position] bends true biblical faith beyond recognition and offers a false assurance to people who may have given verbal assent to this reductionist type of Christianity but who are not in God's family" (James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?, 141-142.). Boice maintains that the free grace view gives many individuals a false sense of security when they are not truly saved. As a result, it is a deficient gospel that does injustice to the true good news of Jesus Christ. While people from both positions admit the seriousness of their disagreements, they are due to the drastic differences between their views.
 
posted at 3:30 PM  



Saturday, January 28, 2006
Sermon: Church Tumors (Part 5)
Conclusion

We began by talking about this idea of my wife having a tumor, but there is one significant difference: we never really discovered that it was a tumor until the mass was removed. We cannot, as a church, wait until problems come to the surface to deal with them. We cannot figure these things out in hindsight. We must always be on guard and always be prepared to know and defend the truth of God’s Word. To defend the apostles’ teaching, we must hold fast to the apostles’ teaching. We do this when we Realize Our Dependence, when we Recognize the Danger, and when we Respond with Dedication.

There’s a positive example I recently saw of this instruction. The Kentucky Baptist Convention has an annual evangelism conference and they were having their conference last year in Louisville. But there was one major problem that they faced with this conference. One of the main speakers they were going to have there was Brian McLaren. For those of you who haven’t heard of Brian McLaren, he is a well-known leader in what is often termed the "emerging church movement" or the "emerging conversation." And the problem came to the fore because Brian McLaren had just released a book called A Generous Orthodoxy. In this book he questioned such matters as salvation, the gospel, and hell, trying to reformulate some of these things. So the convention had a difficult situation: what should they do about this? Eventually Bill Mackey, the convention’s executive director, and Dan Garland, the church development and evangelism team leader, made the difficult decision of uninviting McLaren from speaking at this conference. This was not a popular move. McLaren was considered by Time magazine to be one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America. He is a big name, a big draw. I am sure that cutting this person off so close to the event had very significant negative ramifications. Yet they stood strong because they understood the importance of being a pure bride of Christ, of standing firm on the apostles’ teaching and on the Word of God.

We must do the same thing. We must continue to do this as the body of Christ. I pray that we will do so, and I pray that as we continue to study and to know and to love what the apostles have left us here that we can mature as a body to the day when Christ returns and we will be presented as a pure virgin to our Savior.
 
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Friday, January 27, 2006
Another End of the Spear Update
No, I have not seen End of the Spear yet (with three children under the age of five, it can be rather difficult to get an evening out!). Nevertheless, a new story has come out that I think is worth posting a brief entry on.

Christianity Today online has released "Christian Studio Explains Hiring of Gay Actor," with the subtitle: "The makers of End of the Spear didn't find out about co-star Chad Allen's homosexuality until after they offered him the job, and then they felt obliged to honor the contract."

This article clears up a lot of the misconceptions and hasty judgements made about the casting of Chad Allen as Nate and Steve Saint. I highly recommend reading the whole report.

(HT: Justin Taylor)
 
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The Bible as a Secular Textbook
Today, Townhall.com has posted an editorial piece by Paul Greenberg on a new Bible curriculum for public schools, "The Bible: a review." In this article, he quotes the important Abington v. Schempp case which sets the precedent Bible instruction: "Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment."

The rest of this article examines what this decision means for teaching the Bible in our schools. His conclusion?

The principal purpose of taking a secular approach to the Bible is to avoid crossing the legal line between church and state. But in the process, that approach also avoids engaging the Book at its deepest and most intimate level: the holy.

That's the great obstacle facing all efforts like this textbook. And why in the end they must fall short, and settle for kissing the bride through the veil. Yet that is better than not kissing her at all.

I appreciate Greenberg admitting the difficulty of treating the Bible as a secular textbook (even though I am concerned about some of his piece which seems to flirt with open theism).

Nevertheless, I believe there is a deeper issue involved here--the secular/sacred dichotomy. Nancy Pearcey notes the problem with this view: "It concedes the 'theories, concepts, and other subject matter' in our field to nonbelievers" (Total Truth, 37). Ultimately, this dichotomy or separation is a false one. How do we correct this error? "Through a new understanding of the cosmic scope of Creation, Fall, and Redemption" (83). In other words, by understanding and living in light of redemptive history.

Therefore, when someone asks, "Can the Bible be used as a secular textbook?" The correct response is to show them the faultiness of dividing secular and sacred in their thinking.
 
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Thursday, January 26, 2006
Growing "Chrislam" in Africa
Today's Christian Science Monitor includes the news story "In Africa, Islam and Christianity are growing - and blending." This is an important report that deserves our attention. Syncretism between the two religions is on the rise:

Amid intense sectarian violence in this half-Muslim, half-Christian country, these groups serve as tolerant peacemakers. Also, with widespread poverty and health concerns here, people are seeking practical, profitable religion more than rigid doctrine.

. . . .

Clearly, the religious revolution is still shaking out. "People are converting rapidly, but they don't necessarily have instruction" in the details of their faiths, says Boston University's Professor Robert. Nor have they had "time for their belief system to solidify." It is, she says, "still shifting." She argues that eventually the faithful will choose one religion or another, and the hybrids will fade away.

I am not sure that I buy into Robert's prediction. Regardless, we need to respond properly. We must begin by standing firm on the truth of God's Word. It cannot be mixed or distorted with other religious beliefs. At the same time, we must be sensitive to the issues, difficulties, and cultural realities which these peoples face. We cannot simply ramrod biblical truth down their throats; we need to lovingly convert and disciple believers in Christ. Additionally, we must show them how Christianity involves all of life. It should never be minimized to regular gatherings or programs. We are submitting to and living under our Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray that God will powerfully work among the peoples of Africa, drawing them to Himself through Jesus Christ.
 
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New Critique of New Covenant Theology
Sam Waldron's new web site includes the papers from a four-part lecture series (in PDF format) on New Covenant Theology (NCT).

They are both informative and persuasive. He explains NCT's history and basic beliefs. Then he examines the Word of God on their ground--the post-resurrection portions of the New Testament. He also handles the "problem passages": Romans 14:1-6; Galatians 4:8-11; and Colossians 2:16, 17. Waldron's critical interaction provides us with a helpful and proper response to proponents of NCT. This series is definitely worth reading.
 
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Kauflin on Worship Leaders
Bob Kauflin, director of worship development for Sovereign Grace Ministries, has begun a new series on his blog, "What Does a Worship Leader Do?" Here's Part 1. In this post, he gives his definition of a corporate worship leader:

An effective corporate worship leader,
aided and led by the Holy Spirit,
skillfully combines biblical truth with music
to magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ,
thereby motivating the gathered church
to join him in proclaiming and cherishing the truth about God
and seeking to live all of life for the glory of God.

I look forward to the rest of the series. Kauflin is also a regular speaker at the school I attend. The Institute for Christian Worship web site includes many of his lectures. While I do not always agree with him, I appreciate his desire to promote biblical worship.
 
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Wednesday, January 25, 2006
The Wisdom of Saving
The web site for Money magazine includes an article on the saving habits of Americans, "Americans: world's worst savers." It begins:

Americans are among the world's most cash-strapped people, according to the latest semi-annual survey from ACNielsen released Tuesday.

Nearly a quarter (22 percent) of Americans have no money left once they've paid for their essential living expenses and spent their discretionary dollars. That puts the United States at the top of a list of 42 countries for saving futility. The United States is neck and neck with Portugal.


As an American and a Christian, this survey has caused me to stop and think about my saving habits as well as the witness I leave as a result of my use of money. Here are a few things that the Bible says about saving and money:

"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest" (Proverbs 6:6-8).

"But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8).

"Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf" (Proverbs 11:28).

"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life" (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

I've heard all of these verses before (and will need to hear them again), but it reminds me how all of my life, including my use of money, should glorify God. "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).

This is one of the reasons I enjoy listening to the "Dave Ramsey Show." While he may not be a theologian, he does strive to give listeners biblical wisdom regarding our finances. I commend him for his work.

I also pray that many believers will devote themselves to the proper use of the money which God has given us. Let us glorify our Savior in all that we do.
 
posted at 2:00 PM  
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Enormous Reformed MP3 Source
I don't know how many of you have heard of Mount Olive Tape Library, but they are a wonderful ministry striving to make Reformed preaching and teaching available inexpensively.

Their latest effort is to convert their large library into MP3s. So far, they have posted hundreds of free MP3s online. Check out these speakers and series. They should keep one busy for a while.

I plan on starting with Cornelius Van Til's "Philosophy and Apologetics" series as well as a debate over baptism between Robert Strimple and Fred Malone. Great stuff! If only these files had better sound quality. Regardless, there is a ton of worthwhile material here. I suggest checking it out.
 
posted at 10:45 AM  
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Sermon: Church Tumors (Part 4)
Third Step: We Must Respond with Dedication, vv. 5-6.

In verse 5 we see the Superiority of the Apostles. "For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles." Paul contrasts himself as an apostle with those who claim to be apostles, the super apostles, and says he’s superior. They aren’t true apostles. They aren’t genuine believers in Christ and he continues through this chapter to expose them for who they are.

Not only in verse 5 do we see the Superiority of the Apostles, but in verse 6 we see the Reliability of the Apostles, "But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things." So in what way is Paul superior? He admits it's not in speech. These super apostles may have been able to wow the Corinthian church, they may have been very eloquent and very easy to listen to, but Paul knew that wasn’t what was important. He didn’t want to be equal to his rivals in speech. It would rob the cross of Jesus Christ of its power by making his brilliance the center of attention rather than Christ. The last thing Paul wanted to do was to go after preaching a sermon at First Southern Baptist Church of Corinth, go to the back of the church door, and have somebody shake his hand saying "Paul, you are just a wonderful preacher of God. I love hearing you preach. That was a great sermon!" That’s the last thing Paul wanted. What he would want is for somebody to shake his hand and say, "Paul, the Christ you preach is so wonderful. He is such a tremendous Savior!" That was the goal Paul wanted. He may not have been superior in speech, but that’s the wrong standard. So Paul says, "I am not so in knowledge." Paul was an apostle and as an apostle he was entrusted with the very words of God. He was the one with knowledge.

At the end of verse 6 we see that the Corinthian church knew this was true. He appeals to their experience and knowledge of him and his work among them. He’s worked among them for years. He’d written letters to them, he’d prayed over them, he’d wept over them, he’d sent them help, he’d done multiple different things. They had more than enough in front of them to realize who he was. It wasn’t hidden from them. He was an apostle.

In light of this, how do we respond to the ever-present danger of deception? It is by committing ourselves to the apostles’ teaching. We don’t have apostles anymore. The apostles ceased in the first century. But they laid the foundation necessary for us to stand on by giving us the Word of God. Everything they needed to communicate to the body of Christ, to the church, has been given to us in these pages of Scripture. It is by devoting ourselves to the study of Scripture that we hold fast to the apostles’ teaching. They have laid the foundation. Now we must stand on it. We must build our church upon it.

How do we do this practically? As individuals, as I’ve already hinted at, we must read our Bibles. We must study our Bibles. We must memorize our Bibles. You cannot detect truth from error just from hearing what your Sunday School teacher says, or even hearing what your preacher says, or listening to different people on the radio. You know what is true by reading and knowing what the Word of God says.

What could this mean for us as a church? How could the church hold fast to the apostles’ teaching? One way I believe is very important is for a church to be confessional, where the church in its covenant has a confession of faith, one that says this is what the apostles taught, where it summarizes biblical truth about things such as Jesus or the spirit or the gospel. Southern Baptists have the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Many of you know I like the thorough 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith. When we have a confession of faith, there is no attempt to infiltrate because we have all covenanted or agreed together as a body of Christ that this is what we believe, this is what the apostles teach. We don’t allow into membership those who disagree.

And there is a second part to this. We must be willing to practice church discipline. If somebody, somehow, did come in or start believing these things, we must be willing to cast them out. If they’re unrepentant, we must remove them from the church and say they are no longer one of us. It’s not popular today and it’s not practiced much today. Nevertheless, it would help to stop a lot of the problems we’re having, if we just started to practice church discipline.
 
posted at 10:15 AM  



Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Amazing Brian McLaren Interview
Today, I have been listening to an interview between Leif Hansen and Brian McLaren on the Bleeding Purple Podcast. All I can say is: "Wow!" If you want to know more about McLaren and where he is going theologically, then you simply must listen to this interview. (Warning: There is some foul language used. Those Emergent-types sure do like to be hip!) Here it is in two parts:

He does not like the traditional doctrine of hell and is flirting with transmillennialism and hyper-preterism. He also minimizes sin and questions the penal substitutionary view of the atonement. Ultimately, he has refashioned God into his own image. There is one word for what McLaren and his interviewer speak: heresy.

Anyone who does not see a problem with what McLaren (and Hansen) is saying here should stop spending all of their time reading blogs and listening to podcasts. They also need to stop reading all of those new Emergent books. Instead, they should actually spend their time in the Word of God. After all, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

(HT:
Stand to Reason Blog)
 
posted at 11:00 AM  
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New Movie on Controversial Mormon Event

The New York Times has reported the making of a new movie on one of the most controversial events in Mormon history--the Mountain Meadows massacre. "With Only God Left as a Witness" (free subscription required) gives us quite a bit of detail about this upcoming film. Here is an excerpt:

In public relations terms, this is not the easiest time to have the words "Latter," "Day" and "Saints" anywhere close together in your name. And the going may get rougher after the filmmaker Christopher Cain finishes his new movie about one of the darkest moments in Mormon history, the Mountain Meadows massacre of 1857, in which 137 pioneers from Arkansas were killed in Utah by a raiding party whose ties to the Mormon church are still in dispute.

The film, "September Dawn," stars Jon Voight, Lolita Davidovich and Terence Stamp (Dean Cain, the director's son, makes a cameo appearance). Two newcomers, Trent Ford and Tamara Hope, play a frontier Romeo and Juliet in a romance played out against a drama of a mass murder that continues to engender controversy almost 150 years after the fact. Financed independently by September Dawn and Voice Pictures, it is currently being screened for distributors.

This movie and the inevitable debate which will result upon its release will lead to some interesting dialog with Mormons and others interested in their history. I look forward to it!
 
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Judas the Redeemed Betrayer? Apparently Not
A couple of weeks ago, I posted "Judas the Redeemed Betrayer?" The Times Online had reported that the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science of the Roman Catholic Church wanted to "re-read" the Judas story.

The problem? Apparently, it was all a ruse. At least I wasn't the only one who was hoodwinked. Dr. Mohler provides an update to the post he originally made, "
No Rehabilitation for Judas After All?" He reports:

Now, Vatican sources -- including some of the very same sources cited in The Times -- say the whole idea is nonsense. "This news has no foundation," said Walter Brandmueller, head of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences. "I can't imagine where this idea came from."

I could not find any retraction in The Times, but someone has some explaining to do.
 
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Monday, January 23, 2006
Sermon: Church Tumors (Part 3)
Second Step: We Must Recognize the Danger, in verse 4.

"For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully." Paul shows us how Satan deceives us here--how believers are led away from Christ. He shows three foundational ways that the church can be led away from being devoted to Christ.

The first way he gives is one that "preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached." Now because we do not know much about these super apostles, we don’t know exactly what they were saying about Jesus or what they were holding up for "Jesus." There is a lot of speculation that goes on out there, but the main thing we see here is that this Jesus is not the one whom they have preached. Somehow, Jesus was being distorted. Whatever they were saying about Him was not what the apostles had taught about him. He was a different Jesus.

He also says they "receive a different spirit which you have not received." Now this spirit could possibly refer to a human attitude, say the spirit of peace. But I think it is more likely that the spirit here refers to the Holy Spirit, and what they are doing here is perverting this idea of the Spirit. They are looking for something other than the Holy Spirit of God.

They also receive "a different gospel which you have not accepted." This is what it all comes down to, isn’t it? Because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, apart from the gospel there is no salvation. There is no church. Yet they are hearing now a different gospel and this so important to Paul that he said in Galatians 1:8, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" Paul is including himself and even the angels in this condemnation! He is saying that they should be damned if we do not preach the true gospel because the gospel must remain pure.

Yet the last part of this verse is the worst, because after hearing about them having one that preaches another Jesus and receiving another spirit and receiving a different gospel we read "you bear this beautifully." The Corinthian church is allowing this deception to go on and they’re beginning to buy into it. This problem is growing and festering within this congregation and Paul can’t allow it.

I stop for a second and I think, "this Corinthian church is just horrible." I’m sure many of us have read through these letters numerous times and we see problem after problem after problem. This is a horrible situation! But what in the world does this have to do with us today? We’re not the Corinthian church. Last I knew, Pastor Todd wasn’t getting up here and preaching another gospel. But I really don’t think we’re that different.

Do we accept those who preach another Jesus? Most of you know I’m a former Mormon. A well-known Mormon scholar at Brigham Young University is named Robert Millet, and he’s recently written a book called A Different Jesus? In this book, he’s comparing the Latter-day Saints' understanding of Jesus with the evangelical (or the historic) Christian view of Jesus. And in this book Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary—an evangelical Christian institution—writes at the end: “I think any open-minded Christian reader of this book will sense that Bob Millet is in fact trusting in the Jesus of the Bible for his salvation. That is certainly my sense” (183). Here’s a president of a Christian school saying the Jesus the Mormons worship is the Jesus of the Bible.

But we don’t have to go out to California for this problem. We can go to our local bookstore. How many of you have heard of Phillips, Craig, and Dean? Phillips, Craig, and Dean are all ordained ministers in a sect that explicitly denies the Trinity. And yet they continue to sell millions of albums because we love their worship music and their rendition of Gal 2:20 moves us. A different Jesus.

Well, what about a different spirit? I had a co-worker at Starbucks who at one point came up to me and wanted to talk to me about a conversation she had with another co-worker who was a young homosexual man. She had engaged this co-worker with some spiritual issues and the co-worker had eventually brought up the thorny issue of homosexuality. Now what she told me was, "Personally John, I can’t support that, I can’t get into that. But I knew of somebody I should suggest he go see." Then she said, "I suggested he go see a lesbian charismatic Catholic." And the reason he should go see a lesbian charismatic Catholic is because she knew this Catholic was filled with the Holy Spirit. I have to admit to you I don’t know very many lesbian charismatic Catholics. But if there is one thing I am pretty certain of, it is that the Holy Spirit of God is not in them. A different spirit.

Well, what about a different gospel? A book came out last year, Is The Reformation Over? In this book, two evangelical scholars, Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, say the following, "...on the substance of what is actually taught about God's saving work in the world, if not always on the exact terminology used to describe that saving work, many evangelicals and Catholics believe something close to the same thing. If it is true, as once was repeated frequently by Protestants conscious of their anchorage in Martin Luther or John Calvin that ... justification is the article on which the church stands or falls, then the Reformation is over" (232). What these scholars are saying is that evangelicals and Roman Catholics believe something so close together that the Reformation is over. We hold to the same gospel. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ, in spite of the fact that since the Council of Trent they have condemned justification by faith alone.

A different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel. Brothers and sisters in Christ: we are the Corinthian church! And we need to hear these words of Paul today more than ever. We need to recognize the danger we are continually in. So this evening we began by Realizing our Dependence and we continue by Recognizing the Danger but there is one more step that Paul gives us.
 
posted at 11:30 AM  



Evolution Sunday
Yesterday's Courier-Journal (Louisville's local paper) published an editorial by David Hawpe titled, "It's possible for Christians to render unto God and unto Darwin." In it, he says the following:

What bothers me most is that the national conversation about intelligent design gets twisted into a conflict between Christians and non-believers -- between "people of faith" (the formulation with which George Bush strokes followers, while neatly slandering opponents) and those who have no faith.

It's nothing of the sort.

Plenty of Christians embrace evolution as a way that God might have created the heavens and the earth. Others just don't know. Most people figure only He knows. You can't tease out a mathematical proof. We're talking about faith, here, not multiple regression analysis.

The good news (allusion intended) is that those who concede no conflict between evolution and their religious faith are speaking up. On Feb. 12, hundreds of congregations around the country -- representing many faith traditions, from Roman Catholic to all manner of Protestant churches -- will celebrate "Evolution Sunday."

If Christian conservatives can wade into the judicial nomination process on their "Justice Sunday," there's no reason others, from elsewhere on the Christian spectrum, shouldn't rally for the compatibility of religion and science.


So, now we have a bunch of moderate and liberal Christians having Evolution Sunday? I fear that we have become far too politicized. I prefer to call Sunday what the Bible refers to this day as: "the Lord's day" (Revelation 1:10).

 
posted at 11:00 AM  
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Keeping Blogs in Perspective
Together for the Gospel has recently launched a blog with such evangelical heavyweights as Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney, and Albert Mohler.

Dever, senior pastor of
Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC and leader of 9 Marks Ministries, has posted a good entry, "The Unbearable Lightness of Blogs." He gives these wise words:

I am concerned that we not neglect reading more important things. Even beyond the Bible, there are 2,000 years of Christian reflections in print before we get to blogs. (Now let's see if Al really reads these blogs!) I was reading recently about an earlier president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, John R. Sampey, and a "lightening" that was happening in theological education a century ago! Sampey recalled, “The course in ‘Special Theology,’ which was the successor of the course in ‘Latin Theology,’ was changed to ‘Biblical Theology.’ Under Dr. Boyce this course was limited to the reading of Latin; under Dr. Kerfoot and Dr. Dargan some reading of Latin was still required; Dr. Mullins gradually reduced the readings from Anselm and Turrettin, until in 1904-1905 only textbooks in English were studied.” (John R. Sampey, Memoirs, p. 109).

So be sure and set aside some time to read more substantial things. Commune with the saints that have gone before. Give some time to reading Anselm and Turretin, Samuel Rutherford's Letters or John Bunyan's Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. And if you still have some time, you can have some other food for your soul--side dishes--snacks--by reading this blog.
 
posted at 10:45 AM  
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Saturday, January 21, 2006
Ravi Zacharias on the Emerging Church
Mark Driscoll (pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle) has posted a blog entry on a recent lunch he had with Ravi Zacharias, "Tzatziki with Ravi." It is a fascinating report. Here's an excerpt:

As we talked I asked him what issues were of the greatest concern to him and what he was preparing to focus on in the coming year. Much to my surprise, he said that the Emerging church was a great concern to him because it held a low view of truth and was gaining momentum as a gathering point for all kinds of aberrant Christian doctrinal agendas.

. . . .

In the midst of the growing debate it will be interesting to see what Ravi has to say and how his comments are received. Indeed, a brilliant man with a global perspective and a deep understanding of both philosophy and world religions who happens to not be yet another white guy should provide penetrating insights that cannot be easily dismissed.

Lastly, do be in prayer for Ravi as he mentioned having some rather severe throat troubles that greatly complicate his busy speaking schedule.

I will certainly pray for Ravi, and I hope others will do the same. I also look forward to his interaction with those in the emerging movement. He continues to be mightily used of God for the advancement of His truth. Press on, Ravi!
 
posted at 11:30 AM  
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Sermon: Church Tumors (Part 2)
First Step: We Must Realize Our Dependence, verses 1-3.

We begin in verse 1 by seeing the Foolishness of Paul: "I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness." Paul was dealing with a difficult situation here. He hated the idea of boasting and the idea that he would have to wow them with who he was and with his amazing abilities had no interest in him. He worried that it would take away from the cross of Christ. Yet this is the exact type of boasting that the super apostles were doing and wowing the people with. If he didn’t resort to their level, if he didn’t defend his apostleship by showing who he was and how God had gifted him, then the super apostles won and this church wouldn’t believe him anymore. But, by boasting, he leaves himself open to the charge of going against his convictions on this and even being called a hypocrite. In his first letter he said that he wouldn’t do this and just preach Christ and him crucified, but then he would now come and boast about himself.

What he does in this first verse is admit he’s going to stoop down to their level, but he’s going to call it what it really is: foolishness. It’s not a good thing to boast. He doesn’t want to do this and yet realizes he must. While he recognizes what matters is not him at all but the Christ whom he serves and who has called him, he must resort to this level of being a fool. He begins to do so later in this chapter, in verse 21. In the second half of this verse, we see how bad it has really gotten in the church of Corinth, "but indeed you are bearing with me". He is saying, "some of you already believe that I am a fool; you are already bearing with me in this." Here we see the dire situation in which Paul is writing: he has to speak like a fool and some already think he is.

But we move from verse 1 and seeing the Foolishness of Paul to seeing in verses 2 and 3 the Concern of Paul. Why does Paul want to defend his ministry? We see in verse 2, "For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy." He loved this church. He had poured himself into establishing this church, and spending time with this church, and serving this church. He was jealous. He cared immensely and deeply for this congregation. And this wasn’t some kind of sinful jealousy as we often think of us having. It’s a godly jealousy, because he loved this church.

We continue in verse two to see that Paul is the church’s spiritual father. "I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin." He uses this imagery of betrothing us to Christ. We don’t have much of this concept of being betrothed anymore. You can date somebody and you can even get married without your parents necessarily knowing. But that’s not the way things happened back then. If one was a father, he essentially arranged for his daughter who her spouse would be and gave his daughter to this person when she was of age. We still have a basic idea of this in wedding ceremonies today. The father walks down with his daughter and gives her to her husband. This is the imagery Paul uses here when he is talking about his relationship to the church. He is giving the bride of Christ to Christ. This is quite a lofty statement. In Hosea 2:18-23, God says that He Himself will betroth His people. So in the Old Testament something that God said He would do is in the New Testament something God’s representatives have done.

Paul as an apostle is acting on behalf of God to God’s people. We see this idea most clearly in Ephesians 2:20, when we see that the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone." You see, the reason the church exists is because of the apostles and prophets. It is through their message, it is through their teaching, that we exist. Apart from the apostles, we wouldn’t know the gospel, we wouldn’t believe in Christ, we wouldn’t have a church. Christ wouldn’t have a bride. The apostles are essential for the church, and we are dependent on them. When I think of this idea of betrothal, as a father with two beautiful daughters, I can think of nothing else than wanting to raise my daughters in such a way to where they will remain pure and prepared to where when they will have a spouse, I will be able to in good conscience hand them over to that husband. So it’s easy for me to think about this image and the Apostle Paul and how deeply and how much he loves the church.

While we have been betrothed, the wedding has not yet happened. This is the danger in verse 3, "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." Paul is worried, because in this time of betrothal we can be led astray from our devotion to Christ. The church can be lead astray by Satan. Paul points here to the very first couple—Adam and Eve. We see how Satan got in the way by tempting Eve and hence changing the relationship between husbands and wives for ever. But this points even more towards the damaged relationship between all of humanity and our Creator. We are now in rebellion against God. This is the kind of thing Satan has been doing ever since the Fall with us and our relationship to God. The Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." We get this idea of a hungry lion walking around looking for some prey to pounce on. And this is what we must recognize as a constant battle for the church. The gates of hell would like nothing more than to prevail against us. Paul is concerned.

We see here that the first step in being faithful to Christ is to realize our dependence on our spiritual fathers, our dependence on the apostles which are our foundation. Paul, here, is one of our main examples. But we must not only Realize our Dependence on the apostles, we must move to the second step.
 
posted at 10:45 AM  



Friday, January 20, 2006
The Albert Mohler Program, End of the Spear, and Me
This evening, the national radio show "The Albert Mohler Program" devoted most of its time to the End of the Spear controversy. You can listen to it here (in MP3 format).

This program topic was important to me, so I actually called in and was able to get on the air. If you wind up listening, just remember that I was very nervous. I do not normally call in to radio shows.

Here were my main points:

1) While I seriously question the decision to cast Chad Allen in the movie, I reserve judgement on their decision because I do not think enough information is available.

2) Christians do not need to boycott the film.

3) To a certain extent, a lot of this discussion is insignificant. The movie has been made. Chad Allen is portraying Nate and Steve Saint. It would be better for us to respond to this reality rather than to second-guess a decision which cannot be changed.

4) This controversy is distracting us from what is important. Is the movie good? Does it remain faithful to the story of Mincayani and Steve Saint? How are redemption and the gospel portrayed? We should be focusing on questions like these.

After saying all of this, I do plan on seeing the movie. I also do not plan on blogging about End of the Spear again. If you see another post on my blog, it will probably just be my review of the film itself.
 
posted at 7:30 PM  
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More News on End of the Spear
There are a couple more updates on the End of the Spear controversy.

First, Justin Taylor has refined his position in his latest blog post, "End of the Spear, Redux."

Second, Agape Press has released a story on the issue, "Saint Defends Casting of Homosexual Actor in Christian Missionary's Story." This report includes the following:

In the midst of the controversy, support for Allen has emerged from what may seem to many to be a surprising source. Steve Saint, who acted as a producer, played a bit part, and served as a stunt pilot for the production that dramatizes his father's Christian life and martyr's death, says he feels it was God's plan for the homosexual actor to be in the film.

Saint admits that he was shocked the first time he learned of Allen's orientation. "I could feel physical pain," he recalls, "thinking [that] somebody that lives a lifestyle like that is going to depict my dad." However, upon further reflection, he began to see the actor's involvement as possibly God-ordained.

Although he realized many Christians might be offended by Allen's role in the film, the Christian co-producer says, "I thought, 'What happens if I stand before God someday and He says to me, "Steve, I went out of my way to orchestrate an opportunity for Chad Allen to see what it would be like to live as your father did.' And then I could picture Him looking at me and saying, 'Steve, why did you mess with my plan?'"

End of the Spear's director suggested a similar belief in the important and transforming power of being a part of the making of this movie. In an interview with the website "Hollywood Jesus", filmmaker Jim Hanon -- who also directed Beyond the Gates of Splendor, the documentary version of the true events on which the theatrical film is based -- said participating in the film was a life-changing experience for all involved, including the gifted actors chosen to convey its message to movie audiences.

Every actor has "a gift of empathy which allows them to truly feel and therefore truly communicate what a character is feeling," Hanon observed. "In this way our actors experienced, and vicariously lived, the reality of this story before any one else."
 
posted at 11:00 AM  
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Mohler Weighs In on End of the Spear Controversy
Dr. Albert Mohler (president of the school I attend) has just weighed in on the growing End of the Spear controversy. In today's commentary, "What Were They Thinking? The Controversy Over The End of the Spear," Mohler provides a very helpful summary. He also gives four wise points on cultural discernment:

First, Christians must have the cultural maturity to know that many of the most famous and influential producers of cultural materials, whether in literature, art, or entertainment, have been homosexuals. This does not mean that we cannot enjoy their music, art, or performances. Christians start from the presupposition that all humans are sinners, and that every artistic endeavor is marred by sin in both its conception and its demonstration.

Second, Christians must learn the discipline of cultural discernment based upon Christian truth. We must learn to engage the culture in a way that is both honest and missiological -- and we must work hard to develop a mind that brings all things under subjection to Christ, including our entertainment preferences and choices.

Third, we must avoid hypocrisy. We should not pick and choose recklessly as we condemn or praise without any obvious tie to biblical truth. We must not condemn publicly what we enjoy privately. We must not assert matters of taste as matters of principle.

Fourth, we must understand the nature of the art form and learn how to discriminate on the basis of an informed cultural understanding, not a knee-jerk reaction. Accordingly, we must understand that the very nature of acting, whether on stage or on screen, is based upon the ability of the actor to make the audience see the character portrayed, not the actor, in the performance.

His entire commentary is worth reading. I also appreciate his graciousness in including my blog as a recommended resource for further study. Thank you Dr. Mohler!
 
posted at 10:30 AM  
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Thursday, January 19, 2006
Sermon: Church Tumors (Part 1)
Upon the request of my pastor, last Sunday night I preached a sermon at my church. The following is a revised version of the sermon I preached.

Until recently, I didn’t know much about tumors. I didn’t know much about cancer. But all of that changed a few months ago. Jennifer, my wife, started having some fairly serious pain. As would be expected, we started seeing the doctor. During this time they began running various tests and came up with different theories. Finally, after a couple of months, we consulted with a surgeon. The surgeon confirmed that there was some kind of mass in her intestine, but she couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on. What the surgeon did know was that the mass wasn’t supposed to be there. She told us that we had to get it out. Then we could figure out what it was and decide what to do next. As a result, last month my wife went through surgery and had the mass removed. It turned out to be a tumor, even though we’re still trying to figure out exactly what it was. Through all of this time, the mass continued to cause her pain and problems until it was finally removed.

There was something very similar happening in our passage tonight. Of course, they weren’t dealing with physical tumors in their body. But the body of Christ in this church was experiencing a kind of tumor. It was experiencing something that was hurting and harming this body of believers. The Corinthian church was dealing with a growing problem, one that could threaten its health and even its life. If you will, please turn with me to 2 Corinthians 11:1-6.

While you’re turning here, I want to bring us up to speed on what was going on. Paul had written this letter to the church of Corinth. Corinth was a major city. You could compare it to a New York, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas of its day. It was very well known, very well renowned, very diverse, and very sinful. But Paul, on his second missionary journey, was able through the proclamation of the gospel to set up a church there, to do a church plant. As this church grew over time, he spent a lot of time with it, helping it to develop. This church was tremendously blessed by God, getting many different blessings.

But Paul, after completing some work there, moved on in his ministry and started working in Ephesus. It was here that he started receiving reports of problems in the church in Corinth. In response to these issues and problems, Paul wrote letters to them. We have two of these letters in our Bible, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and there’s probably at least two more letters that we don’t have in the Bible which Paul wrote to this church. Paul's purpose was to address various issues and problems that have arisen since visiting them. And the main problem he is dealing with in our text tonight is those he refers to as the super apostles. We don’t really have a firm grasp of who these super apostles are. He uses this term in a rather negative way. We do know that these super apostles were apparently great speakers and could wow people with their ability to speak. They would actually get people to spend money just to hear them and what they had to say. We also know that they started causing problems for the apostle Paul. They began having this church question the apostle Paul, questioning the one who helped found their church.

In response to them, Paul wound up in the difficult situation of having to defend his ministry, of having to defend his apostleship. He had to uphold that he was called of God in opposition to these people. But they had become so involved in the church that they were considered by some, and even many, to have more truth and more knowledge than Paul. We begin this evening by reading the first six verses of his defense in 2 Corinthians 11:1-6:

I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things. (NASB)

We see that the church in Corinth was in trouble. Paul was writing to them so their course could be corrected and they could get back on the path of growing in the Lord, of staying faithful to Christ. What does he tell them in this passage that they need to do? The church needs to hold fast to the apostles’ teaching. And the same is true for us today. We must hold fast to the apostles’ teaching. Paul gives us three steps here to fulfill this responsibility.
 
posted at 1:30 PM  



More Commenting on Comments
I greatly appreciate comments. Not only do they let me know that my time invested in this blog is worthwhile, they also refine my thoughts and cause me to think more.

At the same time, I can find comments problematic. They often run off on rabbit trails or become a heated online "shouting match" rather than profitable discussion. I have especially seen difficulties when extended (or more complex) thoughts are written in a series of posts. People begin attacking the main point or thesis without even reading all of the support or reasons a blogger makes. It reminds me of reading the conclusion of a research paper and judging the work without even bothering to see how the writer tried to establish his or her case.

As a result, when I post a series on my blog, I have decided to only allow comments on the last post. I realize this decision may not be the perfect answer, but it seems to be the best. Of course, I reserve the right to change my policy at any time (what blogger wouldn't?). Nevertheless, I want to give this idea a try and see how it works.
 
posted at 1:00 PM  
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Emergents and Jews Together (EJT)?
A major event in the revisionist camp of the emerging movement has just finished, a gathering with Synagogue 3000. The Associated Press released a story on the gathering yesterday, "Dissatisfied Jews, Christians Share Ideas." It reports the following:

Over two days, representatives from nearly 30 emergent Jewish and Christian worship groups talked about abandoning traditional worship in search of a more personal connection with God that they said they can't find in temple or church. They also shared their vision with more traditional Jewish leaders who hope this new "emergent Judaism" might help bring young Jews back at least to some style of worship.

Ryan Bolger, co-author of the book Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, also attended the event, and has posted
his initial thoughts on his blog.

Here is my question: Should Christians be sharing our missional insights and strategies with Jews? Isn't there something wrong with giving Jews more effective ways to grow and to reach others with their religion? After all, they do not have the Good News. The Gospel is only to be found in Jesus Christ. Why would those that claim to be evangelicals decide to work together with Jews to help them become more faithful? Their faith is not in the One who can reconcile them with their Creator!

Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). The Apostle Peter told Jews, "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). The only reason to attend this kind of event would be to proclaim the Gospel to those gathered, not to help them remain in their false beliefs.

Of course, I do not say these things out of hatred. I am no anti-Semite. I write this because I love the Jewish people and desire for them to recognize the Messiah--Jesus. Giving them a false hope of a renewed faith in Judaism is no help. I pray that true believers will recognize this truth and proclaim Christ and Him crucified to all people, including Jews.
 
posted at 11:00 AM  
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Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Cal Thomas Reviews End of the Spear
Cal Thomas (a well-known conservative columnist) has just posted his review of the movie End of the Spear on Townhall.com. He gives it a glowing endorsement. Here is his conclusion:

All films carry messages ("Brokeback Mountain" is not just a movie about cowboys). In recent years, with some notable exceptions, many of those messages have appealed to our lower nature. "End of the Spear" is not only a true story, but also a compelling one. For those, like me, who have longed to go to movies that are uplifting instead of bottom feeding, this is one of the best.

"End of the Spear" is the latest in a steadily growing number of films that are taking on culture on its own turf. Instead of cursing darkness, more independent producers are beginning to make good movies (do not confuse "good" in content with bad in execution) containing positive messages.

This is a story that is not only worth retelling, but is worth emulating. A liberal neighbor of mine has a sign in his yard that reads, "War is not the answer." We can debate that, but we can't debate reconciliation as the answer. It works, as this marvelous movie so beautifully and breathtakingly demonstrates.


I, for one, look forward to seeing this movie. And if it is as good as Thomas claims, I hope other Christians will watch it as well (even with the controversy brewing around Chad Allen).

 
posted at 11:00 AM  
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Update on Chad Allen and End of the Spear
CNN.com has posted the transcript of last night's Larry King Live program. Included in the panel discussion was Dr. Albert Mohler (president of the seminary I attend), Janet Parschall (conservative Christian radio talk show host), and Chad Allen (homosexual rights activist and actor in the new move End of the Spear). Here is the interesting conclusion to this program:

KING: And, Janet, do you think you're losing this battle?

PARSHALL: No. Truth always reigns, Larry. It will be debated for a long period of time. And you know what? Chad Allen stars in a wonderful film called "End of the Spear." He plays a fellow by the name of Nate Saint, who was macheted to death by a very, very aggressive tribe in Ecuador. And you know what, Steve, his son, is now alive today. He travels with the man who macheted his father to death. And they didn't say to the Wadoni (ph) tribe, hey, make it up, you can find your own path to God. They told them exactly how to find God, and their whole lives and their entire culture changed because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, Chad, it's a great film, and I'm going to be happy to be seeing it.

ALLEN: Thank you very much. And I appreciate that. I couldn't agree more. Steve Saint called me today, and he said, I need you to know that I'm sitting here with Mincayani. We'll be watching you tonight. We love you. We are on your side. And I know that we have those differences, but we are walking through this together. That's where we're going to go.

KING: Great to end this program on a wonderful note. And I thank you all very much.
 
posted at 8:50 AM  
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Tuesday, January 17, 2006
To See or Not To See: End of the Spear

Coming this Friday to a theater near you, End of the Spear. The Voice of the Martyrs Persecution Blog summarizes the movie as "...the dramatic representation of the true story seen in Beyond the Gates of Splendor. End of the Spear follows the life journeys of Mincayani, a Waodoni warrior who led a raid on five missionaries in 1956, and Steve Saint, son of missionary Nate Saint." Stacy Harp concludes the post by saying (in bold), "If you love missions and the gospel, please see this movie and tell all your friends to see it too."

However, others are not as enthusiastic about this film's release.
Randy Brandt and Jason Janz have both pointed out that Every Tribe Entertainment has chosen gay activist and actor Chad Allen to play Nate Saint and Steve Saint in the movie. Tim Challies has posted on it twice: here and here. What is the conclusion of some? Boycott! We must not support this movie!

In response, Justin Taylor has posted a much needed reply on his blog. Taylor's main thought? "Film acting is a sophisticated form of make-believe. Good-looking people who talk and memorize well are paid lots of money to act out stories. In my mind, the main issue is whether they do a good job with the task." I agree.

Please do not misunderstand me. I do not necessarily deny that Every Tribe Entertainment could have hired a better actor to play the part. I also question hiring someone for this film who is politically involved in the homosexual cause. Additionally, I wonder about the movie's faithfulness to the true story. Nevertheless, I do not believe the proper response is automatic condemnation and refusal to watch the movie.

Honestly, the argumentation from those against the movie leaves a lot to be desired. Here are a few reasons I do not find compelling:

1) The Christian message and the messenger are intricately related. If this movie was being used evangelistically, then this argument may hold more water. But to my knowledge, pastors and others are not using this movie as an outreach tool. I do not see it being used as the Jesus film or a Billy Graham evangelistic movie. It is retelling the story of Mincayani and Steve Saint, and it should be judged in this light.

2) We will be giving a homosexual activist a platform of influence by watching this movie. As Tim Challies says, "...when we accept a movie, and thus accept the actors who act in a movie, we provide them a platform. This may be unintentional, but it is also undeniable." I agree, but I ask: are we to blame for the existence of this platform? Our country undeniably has a "cult of celebrity" problem, but the fact that a number of uncritical entertainment lovers may hang on to the uninformed words of actors and actresses means very little to me. I pray they will see the light. At the same time, my paying to watch a movie is not responsible for the incessant thoughts and ramblings of celebrities. They have a voice because others will (unfortunately) listen.

3) We must clearly hold and explain the biblical truth that homosexuality is a sin. Absolutely! But how does my watching a movie deny this? Is it because of the platform reason mentioned above? Again, I don't think the case has been made. Cannot we maintain both that we love the movie (if it is good) and that homosexuality is a sin?

I fear more heat than light is coming out of this discussion. Why not share with Chad Allen the good news that Nate Saint died for, rather than simply judging him as a rebellious sinner? The later may be true, but only the former will make him right with God.

UPDATE: Tim Challies has included this post in his daily "A La Carte," suggesting that I seem to misunderstand him in thinking he is calling for a boycott. This was not my intent. I included his blog posts with a group of different individuals criticizing the movie, going on to state that some individuals desire a boycott. I was not necessarily including these critics in the call for a boycott. Regardless, to be clear, Tim Challies is not one of the individuals requesting a boycott of this film.
 
posted at 5:00 PM  
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My Family and Little House on the Prairie
Now that the TV series Little House on the Prairie has been released on DVD, my wife has begun watching the first season. She has even pulled me in to watch it on occasion. In addition, she is now reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books from which the series is based.

All of this makes me stop to think: why is Little House on the Prairie so popular among Christians today?

I can think of several reasons. First, it is a portrayal of a family that is taking its faith seriously. Christianity is at the very heart of the Ingalls family. Second, the world of the story is real but positive. While the situations can be difficult, the Ingalls family perseveres. Third, we admire the values upheld in the series. Love, faith, hope, hard work, reconciliation, and forgiveness are just a few of the principles displayed. Fourth, we are intrigued by the time in which they lived, by the difficulties they faced as well as the advantages they had. Technology has brought us a long way from Plum Creek. We have gained a lot of improvements and conveniences since that era, but we have also collected negative consequences which come with technological innovation. There is the loss of family and community, the loss of simplicity and rest, etc. Neil Postman wrote of these kind of changes in his works (including Amusing Ourselves to Death, demonstrating that technology has both its positive and negative sides. Little House on the Prairie shows them to us.

At the same time, there are also potential dangers in enjoying Little House on the Prairie. We can begin to think of it as an idyllic time that we yearn to go back to—"The Glory Years." Unfortunately, this yearning denies the providence and sovereignty of God. He did not place us in the late 19th century. He has determined we will live in the 21st century, and our purpose is to glorify Him in the time He has given us here. Another problem with desiring the past is a misunderstanding of the world in which we live. The problem is not fundamentally out there (in the media, in the government, in our unsaved neighbors). The problem is inside of us—the sin in our hearts. As a result, the atmosphere of an earlier period would not make things better for us. What needs to change is not external; it is internal. The Ingalls family continues as a testimony to us because of their devotion to Christ, not because of when or where they lived. Therefore, we must not escape to the past, but embrace the present while respecting and appreciating history.

It is in this sense that my family has begun to enjoy and appreciate Little House on the Prairie. In many ways, the Ingalls continue to be a model for us today. With such an example, my family will continue to enjoy this classic series.
 
posted at 11:00 AM  
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About Me

Name:
John

I am a former Mormon who has been saved by Jesus Christ. Now I am a missionary involved with the Africa Center for Apologetics Research (ACFAR). I seek to live in light of Paul's words: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 ESV)

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