Thursday, September 1, 2011
I’d like to weigh in on something that’s been on my mind a lot of late as I observe “Christian culture” at large, and going back even into the 1980s when we had the televangelist scandals.
I really believe we have too much of a celebrity culture in the church. I say that as someone who has been in the public eye for a long time, and as someone who’s had the chance to be around people who are considered really, really “high profile.” My late stepfather told me of an incident when he was out in California working as a custodian at a popular ministry often featured on TBN — and this particular ministry is now defunct after the leader was caught up in a scandal. My stepfather personally witnessed high profile speakers coming in, and after events, briefcases with thousands of dollars would be put into the trunks of limousines when the speakers would depart. And many of these guys off camera would be some of the most arrogant people you could imagine.
I would watch the same speakers in public appearances or on television/radio, and they would typically be on the receiving end of effusive praise. “Oh, you’re such a gift from the Lord. Oh, what a powerful message from a powerful man of God. Oh, you’re so talented and gifted. Oh, you’ve changed my life . . . “ and so on. Once in a great while, someone might actually give a little credit to the Lord, for which He could have said, “Thanks for the crumbs from your table, Mrs. Dives.”
I’ve seen the same thing myself over the years up close and personal, and not just on media. I’ve seen it in churches with pastors and speakers/teachers. It really gets nauseating after a while, and all the more so because it is such a trap to the human ego. People love being stroked and praised. At first, it starts out with no doubt genuine pleasure that someone has been blessed through their ministry. But after a while, the praise and hero worship becomes like an addictive drug. And the One being robbed of His glory is God. In the end, He ends up having to kick the slats out from under the one doing the robbing, because He will not give His glory to another.
I am discussing a broad generality of a problem to which we all can be susceptible, even if we are not in a high profile role. So much of this could be solved and resolved if we would just hold our praise and give it to Whom it really belongs. If you’ve ever been blessed by anything I’ve done, taught, written or said, wonderful. Praise God. And I do mean — PRAISE GOD. Not me. When someone begins gushing over me, the first thing I’m tempted to do is to follow the example of Barnabas and Paul in Acts 14 and “tear my robes.” Trust me, that would not be a pretty sight if I actually followed through!
Monday, July 4, 2011
It's been quite a while since anyone has posted on this blog, and for that, I apologize. We've all been very busy with ministry, jobs, personal situations in our families etc. My mother (age 88) is facing heart surgery this week, and at her age it's not a light matter. Prayers are appreciated.
The contributors of Evangelical Free Church Vantage Point would like to wish everyone in the U.S. a very happy, blessed Independence Day. Our hope (and I trust that I can speak for our fellow contributors) is that we will all remember our history, and be thankful for the blessing of living in a free country. A freedom, by the way, that we are in great jeopardy of losing if we don't wake up.
Our freedom ultimately stems from the Gospel, and the faithful proclamation of a biblical Gospel and the resultant regeneration by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who believe is ultimately the only hope for our troubled nation. It is the responsibility of the church (and believers as individuals) to proclaim that Gospel -- the unadulterated, unapologetic version of it. Let's get away from entertaining, being "seeker sensitive," groveling before the alter of postmodernism, and all the other troubles we face in our culture. As Christians, we have nothing of which to be ashamed, especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Some will hear and respond positively. Some will hear and respond negatively. Some will not hear at all. But that is not our worry and our responsibility. We plant the seed, and allow God to do what only He can do -- bring the growth.
Some thoughts on this Independence Day.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
It's been a long while since I've posted anything on this particular blog, but I want to put up a clip from Philip Schaff's "History of the Christian Church." I found it interesting reading this weekend.
Born in Switzerland, Schaff eventually came to the United States and was a professor at Union Theological Seminary until his death in 1893. In Volume 3 of his church history, he takes up the issue of the early church and the battles over doctrine. It's worth reading.
The Nicene and Chalcedonian age is the period of the formation and ecclesiastical settlement of the ecumenical orthodoxy; that is, the doctrines of the holy trinity and of the incarnation and the divine-human person of Christ, in which the Greek, Latin and evangelical churches to this day in their symbolical books agree, in opposition to the heresies of Arianism and Appolinarianism, Nestorianism and Eutychianism. Besides these trinitarian and christological doctrines, anthropology also, and soteriology, particularly the doctrines of sin and grace, in opposition to Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, were developed and brought to a relative settlement; only, however, in the Latin church, for the Greek took very little part in the Pelagian controversy.
The fundamental nature of these doctrines, the greatness of the church fathers who were occupied with them, and the importance of the result, give this period the first place after the apostolic in the history of theology. In no period, excepting the Reformation of the sixteenth century, have there been so momentous and earnest controversies in doctrine, and so lively an interest in them. The church was now in possession of the ancient philosophy and learning of the Roman empire, and applied them to the unfolding and vindication of the Christian truth. In the lead of these controversies stood church teachers of imposing talents and energetic piety, not mere book men, but venerable theological characters, men all of a piece, as great in acting and suffering as in thinking. To them, theology was a sacred business of heart and life, and upon them we may pass the judgment of Eusebius respecting Origen; "Their life was as their word, and their word was as their life."
The theological controversies absorbed the intellectual activity of that time, and shook the formation of the church and the empire. With the purest zeal for truth were mingled much of the odium and rabies theologorum, and the whole host of theological passions; which are the deepest and most bitter of passions, because religion is concerned with eternal interests.
That last line really arrested me. "Religion is concerned with eternal interests." When I consider how loosely some in today's evangelical church throw doctrine around, I have to wonder whether they really have eternity in view at all.
On another note, I think we can also see that theological controversies never go away. That's because we have an enemy of our souls whose zeal to deceive has never relented. All the more so in these last days, and that makes it all the more important to hold on to biblical truth.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
We've all witnessed the piranhas in the tank pushing the church to be "cool" and "hip" and "trendy." Maybe it's time for a rethink on that issue.
Take it from this 27-year-old who writes for the WSJ. He thinks churches had best get back to biblical truth. Being markety and trendy will do nothing in the long run but push young people out the door. The new crop can see right through it.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Now and then someone forwards me an email with a new website or blog to add to my list of things to check out. Today, I received this 2008 article on the Emergent Church written by Eric Barger.
The article is archived on the website of a ministry called Sharing Biblical Truth. While I haven't had time to go through the whole site, it looks interesting and worthy of bookmarking. I certainly share the concerns about the Emergent Church movement, which some are saying is crumbling. I don't think it's really crumbling at all, it's just morphing into another form. The same errors will be there and will be until Jesus returns for His own.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
by Bill Randles
Believers in Grace Ministries
Do you remember the social and moral revolution of the 1960s? The youth movement of the left was destined to break all the rules and liberate society from the dreary bondage of the past. They were going to show us how to do it the right way! As an anthem from that day proclaimed, “All the world over so easy to see, that people everywhere just want to be free.”
Isn’t it ironic that those same revolutionaries, now come of age, have created a society that is vastly more restricted than the one they worked so hard to undermine? We now live in a “brave new world” in which every aspect of daily life is hyper-regulated, speech is scrutinized to the point of absurdity, and even thought is criminalized (hate crimes laws)!
Although they have, in large part cast, off the shackles of any fear of God, they have a rigid concept of “righteousness”: they are very religious about global warming, population control , a woman’s right to choose (abortion), tolerance of all religions (except of course evangelical Christianity), woman’s liberation, transgender acceptance, and multi-culturalistic dogmas.
My theory is that they are so religious, although godless, because people are made in the image of God and must have some kind of religion. Furthermore, they are raised in America, where once a vast Christian consensus permeated our society and its institutions. It is for this reason that there has developed among the secular elite a “godless righteousness.”
The idea of any accountability for the sins enumerated in the ten commandments has been cast off, but they have their own tablets of stone. “Thou shalt not, ever, ever, make a moral judgment,” “Thou shalt not smoke (in public or private),” “Thou shalt support all forms of abortion,” “Thou shalt not claim any absolute truth,” “Thou shalt not think western civilization is any better than any other culture,” and so on and so forth.
It has often been pointed out that as long as these pieties are observed, it doesn’t really matter what a person does as an individual. All personal indiscretions are excused as long as these positions are held.
The real sins, which have proliferated and intensified as a result of the sexual revolution of the sixties (i.e. the rampant fornication, the destruction of marriages, homosexuality, adultery, abortion and pornography) affect the consciences of those who practice and promote them whether they believe in God or not. One cannot escape the psychological trauma of these evils by just dismissing the concept of a God or a binding personal morality.
That’s part of the reason why the Left has developed an alternative morality, to try to feel good about themselves, to assuage their conscience. They have to assure themselves over and over again that they are all right, because they support Cause x, and wear the ribbon in solidarity of Cause Y. They are good people, on the good side regardless of their personal immorality.
In short, godless righteousness isn’t individual – it is collective. As long as you hold to the positions of the Left Wing, you are “in right standing” regardless of your personal failings. This is why the counter culture has always shamelessly championed people like Che Guevarra, a mass murderer, Albert Kinsey a known fraud and pervert, and other personally sordid fellow travelers. As long as they hold to the dogma, it doesn’t matter.
The tragedy is that this righteousness is a sham and will be found to be as helpful as Adam and Eve’s fig leaves on the day of Judgment. It may feel good to “be in the right” with the culture – there is no doubt a certain satisfaction in it. But there is no way that “godless righteousness” can heal the troubled conscience. Is this why this generation needs so much valium? There is no possibility that “godless righteousness” can take away the shame of sin, and it certainly will not reconcile anyone to the true and Holy God.
There is a true righteousness, a right standing that can be obtained before God, but only as a gift to be received from Him. The good news is that what God demands, perfect righteousness, God provides for us, as Scripture says, “For he [God] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Used with permission. You can also check out Bill Randles' blog by clicking here.
Monday, April 26, 2010
This is an excerpt from "The Fundamentals," the classic, multi-volume turn of the century work on Christian doctrine.
by Dr. L.W. Munhall
Sin separates and estranges the sinner from God; and he becomes an enemy of God by wicked works (Romans 8:7), has no peace, (Isaiah 57:21), no rest (Isaiah 57:20), is polluted (Ephesians 4:17-19), condemned (John 3:18), and without hope (Ephesians 2:12). Oh, the curse and ruin of sin!
If unrepenting and unbelieving, the future has for him, first, inexorable and awful judgment, second, the wrath of God, and third, eternal torments . . .
The preacher who ignores these three awful and inexorable truths preaches an imasculataed Gospel, be he never so faithful in proclaiming other truth. He who preaches the love of God to the exclusion of God's justice and wrath proclaims idle sentiment. No one will ever truly desire salvation unless he first realizes that there is something to be saved from. "By faith, Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house" (Hebrews 11:7); all of which symbolizes the sinner,s condition, need, motive and hope.
In no way can the love of God be so clearly, beautifully, and convincingly set forth as in the fact that God makes plain to the sinner his condition and peril, then shows him the way of escape, having in His great mercy, Himself provided it at infinite cost. Now, at this point the Gospel comes in as indeed good news, showing God's love for the sinner.