05 May 2015

Brain trust: how to prepare local churches for the coming Gaystapo

by Dan Phillips

The "Gaystapo" is on the march. We're where we are thanks to years of rampant relativism, the gospel of "follow your heart," postmodernism, and Christianoid defection and/or timidity. Any day we may find it knocking at the door of our church, no matter where we are. That this is just one tentacle on an octopus of rebellion against God is beside our point, which (as is my wont here) is very focused.

I mean to pose to you the question I find surprisingly absent from the blogs I'd expect to take lead on it:
what language do we need to put 
in our church Constitutions 
to proof us (to any degree) against lawsuits?

I don't ask in the interest of evading all persecution. I think that's coming, and Christians shouldn't be surprised. But I would sure like to spare churches the waste of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours each frivolous lawsuit, even the "successful" ones, always mean.

So here's what I want from you:
  1. Not just "I think" and "we probably oughta" and "gee I don't know."
  2. But either (A) link us to an online Constitution that actually has included such language, or (B) refer us to an online article giving useful and specific direction, or (C) transcribe for us what your church's constitution has included.
We're being told we'd better prepare, we'd better put in in our Constitutions. Probably so. Using what words?

This topic is vital to faithful churches across the land. So let's see what we can do, to serve local churches of Christ.

Contribute if you have it to give, or get out the word.

UPDATE: m'man Denny Burk, who has been doing some first-rate, very helpful writing in these areas, has responded with pointers to very helpful resources. If Denny's blog isn't a regular stop for you, I commend you make it so.

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03 May 2015

Fire desired

 Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 7, sermon number 375, "Temple glories."
"When the congregation is asleep, it is a sign the minister ought to be in bed, where he could be comfortable, rather than in a pulpit where he is mischievous."

Oh! I have heard a man preach a sermon to which an angel might have listened for its faultless truthfulness, but it lacked fire; but I have known another whose ministry was faulty in many respects, rough were his words; the Gospel which he preached was not a full-orbed gospel, but yet he spoke like a man who meant what he said, with his heart boiling over at his eyes, with his soul rolling out of his mouth in one tremendous cataract, and men were moved, and the masses flocked, and thousands listened, and souls were saved because the man was in earnest.

Ah! when I see a man go up into his pulpit and ask the Lord the Holy Spirit to assist him, and open wide his manuscript and reads it all, I wonder what he means; and when he prays that he may have the tongue of fire, and then speaks in such a mumbling, cold, unearnest manner, that his hearers detect at once that there is no heart about him—I wonder what he means.

 Oh! fire of God, come down upon the tongue of the minister! But we need this fire upon the hearers too. How well people listen when they come to hear something! When they come up, and do not expect to get anything, it is not often they are disappointed; but when they are willing to listen to whatever is to be said in God’s name, how delightful, how easy, how pleasant it is to address them! We need much of that kind of fire.

Oh! how we want the ear that is circumcised,—the heart that is softened! The minister is the sower; O God, plough the furrows first! The minister is the waterer; great God, plant the cedar first! We are but the lights; great God, give the eyes. We are but the trumpets; O Lord, open thou the ears. We do but speak—great God, give, life that when we speak we may not speak to dead men, but that life may be given through our word. Fire is abundantly wanted upon the hearers.

01 May 2015

Some Here, Some There — May 1, 2015

by Dan Phillips

Very brief to start, will try to expand a bit up to noon, Texas time.
  • Oh, you have got to see this. I was on the fence about doing an SHST today, but this pushed me over — I had to do one, if only to send you to Tom Chantry's TGC-nuanced version of "Imagine."
  • Then, and relatedly, I think a lot of you somehow missed the Janet Mefferd interview. You shouldn't've. Read, and share: Part OnePart Two.
  • Kregel's 40 Questions series has now produced 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution. Read the review by Bob Hayton.
  • I love happy endings. Here's the testimony of a professor's conversion as a young man from Scientology (!) to faith in Jesus Christ.
  • M'man Mike Riccardi taps academics to give a good word on the Greek term translated "homosexual."
  • Interesting, in prepping to preach Ephesians 1:13 about being sealed with the Holy Spirit, to find Lloyd-Jones held that sealing was equivalent to baptism, and was a post-conversion experience. Even more interesting to realize that his reasons and conclusions were very like Sandemanianism (Dallas doctrine/no-lordship/gutless grace). Listen to the sermon here.
  • This week's But We Haven't Changed Our Mind About Jesus/Irony Can Be Pretty Ironic award winner.

  • Have a good weekend. Live like you're being watched. You are.
  • That's not what I meant, but anyway...

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30 April 2015

Perfect? Not in this life.

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in November 2006. Phil mentioned his brief flirtation with perfectionism, and discussed how and why he came to reject it.

As usual, the comments are closed.
I've said before that I despise all kinds of perfectionist doctrine. During college and after, I was enthralled with a kind of perfectionism for a few years. Far from being any help or encouragement to my sanctification, perfectionism was a constant cause of frustration and failure.

I finally purged every conscious taint of perfectionism from my thinking after reading volume 2 of B.B. Warfield's excellent Studies in Perfectionism. To this day, that book ranks pretty high in the top five whenever I'm asked to list the books that have influenced me the most.

My contempt for perfectionism (and not merely a doctrinaire commitment to Calvinism) is actually the main reason I'm something less than a fan of Charles Finney and his disastrous long-term influence on American evangelicalism.

As a matter of fact, my disapproval of Finneyism and my abhorrence of perfectionism are more than matched by the animus certain perfectionists have directed at me in return.

For those who imagine that they have attained perfect holiness in this life, I think more in-depth self-examination might disabuse you of that idea. Here are some questions to consider:

The first and great commandment is "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matt. 22:37). How's your obedience to that commandment? Perfect? If imperfect, how close to perfection do you actually come? In other words, how does your level of "perfection" compare to Christ's absolute perfection?

Seriously: Is your love for God really something that moment-by-moment consumes your entire heart, soul mind, and strength? Have you managed to banish lustful and covetous thoughts forever from your mind? And if not, how frequently and how passionately do you repent of your sin against the First and Great Commandment?

Do you believe you can summon the willpower to obey even the Second Great Commandment (Matthew 22:39) perfectly? Is your love for your neighbor really equal to your self-love?

Reading perfectionist writings, ranging from Charles Finney to his latter-day heirs, one gets the impression they think their salvation ultimately hinges somehow on how well they obey from now on. Search your heart; if that's the way you think—and yet you still have hope that you will be saved, then you have not truly come to grips with what Scripture teaches about human depravity. You have too much confidence in the flesh.

This is precisely what I despise most about Finneyism and all forms of perfectionism: while talking a lot about "repentance," holiness, and sanctification, these views actually amount to a denial of what Scripture teaches about the depth of human sinfulness.

In other words, that kind of "repentance" (the kind that leaves a person thinking his own future performance is necessary to secure his salvation) is no repentance at all, but a stubborn refusal to acknowledge how truly sinful we really are.

28 April 2015

Janet Mefferd: the interviewer interviewed (Part Two)

by Dan Phillips

Introduction: see Part One. In this interview, Janet has the opportunity to share her thoughts and perspectives on some matters on which until now her voice hasn't been heard, or to which she has not yet been able to respond. Here, too, is the explanation of her move from her Salem Radio Network show.
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DJP:  What was the distinctive aim of your show? 
JM: Everyone always asks me that, and I never feel like I have a great answer.

We always billed the show as taking “a Christ-centered look at the news of the day, both in the church and in the world.” But I really wanted the show, from the very beginning, to be very Christ-centered and not a nonstop “culture war” show. I certainly covered politics and cultural goings-on, but I didn’t want the show be just politics or cultural stuff.

 I wanted non-Christians to hear the gospel, so I would share the gospel. I tried to encourage Christians who were listening to really trust the Lord, to obey Him, to honor Him. I did a lot of theological and biblical topics, and those were probably my favorite shows.

Along the way, I also thought it was important to tell the truth about a lot of things going on in the church that are just wrong and dishonoring to Christ, so that also wound its way into what I did on the air. And in that last category, I think we ended up distinguishing ourselves a little bit from other shows. I hate heresy and corruption, and I am outraged by the rampant child sexual abuse in evangelical churches. So I tried to speak out about those things whenever I could. 
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DJP:  Were you surprised at anyone who agreed to be a guest?
JM: Three come to mind: former Vice President Dick Cheney, Brother Andrew and the man who knew in advance he was going to get some tough questions and agreed to come on, anyway. And you know who that was.
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DJP:  Who was the most intimidating to interview, and why?
JM: Hands down, R.C. Sproul. He’s so biblically and philosophically brilliant, but he also has that good-natured ribbing edge to him that can come out. I just didn’t want to ask him anything stupid. If I did end up doing that, and I probably did, he was too much of a gentleman to point it out!
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DJP:  What were some of the greatest surprises in interviews, unexpected turns?
JM: There were a lot of funny moments.

I had one guest who was supposed to be on the air for an hour. But every time I asked him a question, he took a while to answer, and you could hear him loudly opening and closing doors and slamming cabinets in the background. I think he even went to the bathroom once; no joke. Uh, are you aware you’re doing a national radio interview, sir? Think you could hold it until the break? You have to
wonder what these guys are thinking. I had to cut him loose. 

Now and then, I would also get the guests (usually fellow radio hosts) who would just completely hijack the interviews and not let me get a word in edgewise. I also had a guest burst into tears on the air once. That was a little awkward.

But the end of the Mark Driscoll interview -- when he just didn’t answer at all and then hung up – was probably the most unexpected moment. Though if you listen to the preceding half-hour of that interchange, I guess it wasn’t at all surprising!
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DJP:  What feedback or contact from your audience stands out over the years?
JM: Again, the Mark Driscoll interview and its huge fallout would have to be the most memorable. I received so much hate mail, especially in the early days after the interview. That was tough. I was called everything from an “arrogant female” to “Satan.”

But there was a lot of supportive feedback, too, especially as time went on and I was vindicated in my accusations that Driscoll was a serial plagiarizer and worse. The emails that definitely meant the most to me were from inside Mars Hill -- from people who’d been personally abused by Driscoll or finally saw the light about him because of that interview. 
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DJP:  Did you have any relationship with Justin Taylor before his infamous Tweet? Have you had any contact from him since?
JM: He’d been a guest on my show once early on, but I didn’t know him at all. After that infamous tweet, someone also sent me a diatribe he wrote about me in the comment section of his own blog. He basically ripped me and falsely accused me of being a liar about the Driscoll hang-up, despite the fact that we’d released the raw audio and put out a statement about exactly what happened.

From the beginning, I told the absolute truth. But think about it: What possible motivation would I even have for staging a fake hang-up at the end of an interview in which I’d already proven  that Driscoll was a plagiarizer? The truly damning portion of the interview was already over at that point. It makes no sense, and I wouldn’t and didn’t lie about it.

On the other hand, a megapastor with a long history of lying and deceit and ties to The Gospel Coalition got the full benefit of the doubt from his Gospel Buddies. And in addition to playing footsie with Driscoll for years, Taylor’s M.O. was so obvious. He is the publisher for books at Crossway. Crossway has published a lot of Driscoll books. There’s a lot of money tied up in Driscoll. And there’s probably more plagiarism in them thar hills. KILL THE MESSENGER! Or at least discredit her so no one will listen to her. That’s all he was trying to do.

But no, he’s never contacted me to apologize for anything. Let’s be honest; that’s not what the Gospel Boys do. Repentance is just something they tell the little cash cows to do.
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DJP:  Tell us about the process that led you to decide to end the show?
JM: There were a lot of reasons for my decision to end the show, but one of the main reasons was the toll that my job was taking on my life and on my family.

I was talking not long ago with Dick Bott, founder of the Bott Radio Network, and he described my life better than anyone: “Doing three hours of live radio every single day is just a monster to feed.” He nailed it. If you want to do it right, and I did, it’s the kind of job that absolutely engulfs your life, 24/7.

For over five years, I was working on the show all the time, every day, weekends, evenings, even on vacations. I was staying on top of the news, reading books and articles, choosing guests, finding topics, doing social media. I was traveling. I was speaking at events. I had been approached to write a book, so I was working on that. And all the while I had a lot to do at home, too. I have a husband and four children, who I love more than my own life, and who I just missed all the time. I had no time to even be involved in something as basic as a group Bible study, which I did for years -- I even led a women’s Bible study for years -- and desperately needed and wanted and missed.

I did the best I could, but I was constantly exhausted and stressed out, and there was never any let-up. I eventually just reached my breaking point. Very few jobs are worth your life. So in January, I asked Salem to let me out of my contract early, and they agreed to let me do that. And I haven’t had one moment of regret. Sometimes the Lord just calls you to do something for a season, and then He calls you out. He’s definitely called me out of this particular job.
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DJP:  What’s next?
JM: Spiritual and physical detox. Uninterrupted time with the Lord and with my family. I’ve also got some more irons in the fire. I’ll have more to announce in the next month or so. Stay tuned. 
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DJP:  What talk show(s) will you listen to or recommend, now that you’re off the air?
JM: I’ve been a huge listener to talk radio for years. But I’m on a prolonged, intentional break from all talk shows right now. If I tune into any talk show in the next few months, it probably will be Mark Levin’s; he’s great. The only Christian radio I’m tuning into at the moment is KFUO via app. I’m not technically a Lutheran, but I love the hymns and the sacred music on that station. Soothes the savage, tired soul like nothing else.
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DJP:  Finally: as an expert interviewer, what question should I have asked?
JM: I can’t believe you didn’t ask me my life verse. Then again, I could never just pick one Bible verse as my favorite. 
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Thanks, Janet, for all you've done for the truths we hold precious. Godspeed.

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26 April 2015

Make your calling and election sure

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The New Park Street Pulpit, volume 3, sermon number 123, "Particular election."
"By the word 'calling' in Scripture, we understand two things—one, the general call, which in the preaching of the gospel is given to every creature under heaven; the second call (that which is here intended) is the special call—which we call the effectual call, whereby God secretly, in the use of means, by the irresistible power of his Holy Spirit, calls out of mankind a certain number, whom he himself hath before elected, calling them from their sins to become righteous, from their death in trespasses and sins to become living spiritual men, and from their worldly pursuits to become the lovers of Jesus Christ." 

Why is calling here put before election, seeing election is eternal, and calling takes place in time? I reply, because calling is first to us. The first thing which you and I can know is our calling: we cannot tell whether we are elect until we feel that we are called. We must, first of all, prove our calling, and then our election is sure most certainly. 

"Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Calling comes first in our apprehension. We are by God's Spirit called from our evil estate, regenerated and made new creatures, and then, looking backward, we behold ourselves as being most assuredly elect because we were called.

Here, then, I think I have explained the text. There are the two things which you and I are to prove to be sure to ourselves—whether we are called and whether we are elected. And oh, dear friends, this is a matter about which you and I should be very anxious. For consider what an honourable thing it is to be elected. 

In this world it is thought a mighty thing to be elected to the House of Parliament; but how much more honourable to be elected to eternal life; to be elected to "the Church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven;" to be elected to be a compeer of angels, to be a favourite of the living God, to dwell with the Most High, amongst the fairest of the sons of light, nearest the eternal throne! 

Election in this world is but a short-lived thing, but God's election is eternal. Let a man be elected to a seat in the House: seven years must be the longest period that he can hold his election; but if you and I be elected according to the Divine purpose, we shall hold our seats when the day-star shall have ceased to burn, when the sun shall have grown dim with age, and when the eternal hills shall have bowed themselves with weakness. 

If we be chosen of God and precious, then are we chosen for ever; for God changeth not in the objects of his election. Those whom he hath ordained he hath ordained to eternal life, "and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of his hand." It is worth while to know ourselves elect, for nothing in this world can make a man more happy or more valiant than the knowledge of his election. 

"Nevertheless," said Christ to his apostles, "rejoice not in this, but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven"—that being the sweetest comfort, the honeycomb that droppeth with the most precious drops of all, the knowledge of our being chosen by God.

24 April 2015

Janet Mefferd: the interviewer interviewed (Part One)

by Dan Phillips

I think that, before Kregel got me an interview opportunity with her, I'd never heard of Janet Mefferd. As it turns out, Janet's questions were so insightful and incisive that I started listening, and found that she was doing what, as far as I could tell, no one else was doing, and doing it with excellence. Hugh Hewitt calls Janet "extremely esteemed in the world of talk show hosts," and her listeners would heartily agree.

Obviously with a solid background herself, Janet had an array of scholars, preachers, authors and opinion-formers on her show, and always seemed to ask just the right central questions — like an expert jeweler, who knows just the right point at which to tap the raw diamond.

Of course, her interview with Mark Driscoll, and the disheartening aftermath, is the stuff of legend. To say the least, many we'd respected in the past did not cover themselves with glory. In what followed, Janet herself was more than vindicated. 

Then — I believe it was the day she had me on to talk about Sufficient Fire! — Janet unexpectedly announced her coming retirement from Salem Radio.

This is, I believe, Janet's first interview since her show left the air.

DJP: So, wait… you’re not Janet Parshall?
JM: Nope, I’m not Janet Parshall. I met her once, so I have to operate on the assumption that we’re not the same person!
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DJP:  Sketch the show: when did it start, what was the growth of its coverage? 
JM: It was really a rather accidental career. I’d worked part-time at SRN News as a weekend anchor for several years, and I was asked by one of the Salem Radio Network executives to fill in one time for a local Christian talk show on KWRD-FM in Dallas. Before I knew it, I was being asked to take the job permanently. I really didn’t want to do it. But my husband, who’s also in the Christian radio industry, strongly encouraged me to give it a shot. I prayed it about it a lot, and I eventually decided to try it out.

Within six months, the Salem Radio Network approached me to syndicate the show nationally. We launched the national show in February 2010, and we were on about 180 radio stations by the end of my run.
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DJP: You refer to a time “in J-school,” and clearly have doctrinal background. Sketch out the course of experience and education that prepared you to host this show. 
JM: I majored in journalism and history at Baylor University, and I worked at the school paper for several years. I also took a radio class my freshman year, and I worked shifts at the campus radio station and did on-air news, as well. After college, I worked in newspapers for several years as a reporter and editor, while staying active in Christian radio on the side.

But I’d say my biggest doctrinal preparation for my show started in college. My roommate and I decided that when we went home for Christmas break one year, we’d research a doctrinal topic and report back to each other what we’d learned. I remember heading into my public library, determined to research some great subject, but realizing I didn’t have a clue where to start. The only Christian author I knew at the time was C.S. Lewis. So I prayed, “Lord, please lead me to a good Christian book!”

I scoured the shelves for a long time, and  a little red book on a bottom shelf finally caught my eye. It was called “The Christ of Christmas” by James Montgomery Boice. I’d never heard of him, but I went home and read the book, and it honestly changed my life. I kept saying out loud, “Dr. Boice knows the same Jesus I know, but he knows so much more about Him than I do!” And I became something of a Dr. Boice fanatic, wanting to read everything he wrote so I could learn more about Jesus and the Bible -- and he taught me so much. I went on a quest to own every book he ever wrote, at a time when there was no Internet to help me.

And soon after, I started reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones and had the same response. What I didn’t realize at the time was that these men were teaching me the Reformed faith, though they never named it as such. I just knew they were teaching me the Bible. It wasn’t until a few years later that I really learned what the Reformed faith was and started reading theology and doctrine all the time. I took a few seminary classes here and there for fun, but most of my doctrinal preparation was through a lot of reading and listening to Christian radio.

It’s so neat to look back on it all now and see God’s clear and providential answer to that one little prayer: “Lord, please lead me to a good Christian book!” Did He ever!
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DJP:  What books have been most formative to you? 
JM: That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child! But as far as Christian books, I’d have to include “The Christ of Christmas” by James Montgomery  Boice; “Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones; “The Christian in Complete Armour” by William Gurnall; “Sanctification: Christ in Action” by Harold Senkbeil and the four-book “No Place for Truth” series by David Wells. I also can’t fail to mention”The God Makers” by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt. That book was formative in my life at a time when I was completely obsessed with studying and refuting all the cults, particularly Mormonism.

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THIS WAY TO PART TWO, where we turn to surprising guests and interviews. You know what that means.

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