14 April 2008

Paul and Charitableness

The final entry in a long series on Acts 17
by Phil Johnson



For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

harity is defined in 1 Corinthians 13. Among other things, it "does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (v. 6).

"Charitableness" (the postmodern substitute for charity) is something altogether different. It's a broad-minded, insouciantly tolerant, unrelenting goodwill toward practically every conceivable opinion. Its twin virtue—often labeled "epistemic humility'—is a cool refusal to hold any firm and settled convictions. These cardinal postmodern moral values are both seasoned with blithe indifference to the dangers of heresy.

In other words, if you want to be "charitable" by the postmodern definition, you must always leave open the possibility that someone else's truth is equal to if not better than yours. You must never write off other people's beliefs completely. Above all, you must seek to be conciliatory, not confrontive. Bottom line: you pretty much take the position that nothing we believe is ultimately anything more than a personal opinion.

Naturally, then, building bridges to non-Christian worldviews is deemed a better tactic than challenging error head on. Winning the admiration of unbelievers becomes vastly more important than demolishing the false ideologies that bind them. As a matter of fact, one of the best ways to gain non-Christians' respect and appreciation is by looking for common ground and then stressing those areas of agreement, rather than pointing out differences between what the non-Christian believes and what the Bible teaches. The more compliments and congratulations you can give to other points of view, the better. And the more your ideological adversaries like you at the end of the dialogue, the more gratified you are entitled to feel.

That obviously means that candidly telling someone he or she is in error is unacceptable. To the postmodern mind, direct contradiction like that is the polemical equivalent of dropping a nuke; it's an extreme last-resort tactic—rarely used at all in dialogues with unbelievers, but reserved mainly for other Christians whose views are too rigid or too conservative for your tastes.

Did Paul use the tactic of postmodern-style charitableness in Athens?

It sounds pretty silly even to raise that question, doesn't it? You know he didn't. He simply proclaimed the message Christ had given him to preach—"not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Corinthians 2:4). Just as Paul had always done, he headed straight for the one truth he knew very well would sound most like utter foolishness to them: the resurrection of the dead.

Remember, the Areopagite philosophers were all materialists. Even the ones who believed in a kind of afterlife thought the idea of heaven and hell as actual places where people had glorified physical bodies sounded so utterly foolish and unthinkable that when Paul got to that point in his message, it brought the house down. End of sermon: "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, 'We will hear you again on this matter.' So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them" (vv. 32-34).

Three reactions, and I think it's a reasonable conjecture that Luke lists them in declining order from the majority response to the minority.

"Some mocked." That's what you would expect someone steeped in Greek philosophy to do. "Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified . . . to the Greeks foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:22-23). Paul's worldview was so utterly and completely in contrast with the Athenian culture and belief system that most of these guys simply turned away.

That doesn't mean Paul failed. Listen: even if every last person in the philosophers' circle had turned away angry, that would not mean Paul's ministry strategy was wrong. His only task as an ambassador for Christ is to deliver the message clearly and accurately, and he did that. If they had all picked up stones to kill him (as the crowd at Lystra did in Acts 14), God would still have judged Paul faithful. But if he compromised the message in order to win people's appreciation rather than their repentance, that would not have been faithful.

Others said, "We will hear you again on this matter." Paul's straightforwardness evidently gained their interest in what he had to say. He had an open door to preach the gospel again to them.

However, some men joined him and believed. For a handful of people, including "Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them," this was the moment of conversion. They believed, and became disciples.

That's what faithful evangelistic ministry looks like. It doesn't cower before opposition. It isn't intimidated by human wisdom. It isn't shaken by rejection. It doesn't waver from the truth. It doesn't shift and change content to suit the preferences or felt needs of an audience. It has one theme, and that is Christ in His death and resurrection. It has one strategy—to unpack the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection and proclaim it with clarity. It confronts every worldview, every false religion, every superstitious belief, every human philosophy, and every skeptical opinion. It rises above all those things and speaks with unshakable authority, because the gospel is the truth of God, and the power of God for salvation.

Contextualize that.
Phil's signature

106 comments:

Polycarp said...

I suppose that not having this sort of charitibleness in our thinking does little to help us become better conversationalists! After all, wasn't Paul's greatest hope that everyone who bore the name of Christ would be both open-minded and open-mouthed, always ready to be conversant. I think not! The word babbler comes to mind when I think of folks among the ecumenical, "open-minded," unity first (and above all else) crowd. "Tolerance before truth " they say! "Belonging before believing".

Polycarp said...

C'mon Phil, how sensitive or charatable was it to post this whilst the dali lama visits our soil? This may offend someone and work against all of that good vibe karma brewing up in Seattle as we speak. You should have joined in the conversation--or the ohm session following the yoga of course--because after all, you really cannot know him or what he is "really" all about until you do! Shame, shame, shame!

NothingNewUnderTheSun said...

While Sir Isaac Newton did say “Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy”, but ‘tact’ only works if the other person has an honest desire to want to know truth. If someone is bitter and hardened to truth, than anything you say will be considered an attack and an act of intolerance.

Bryan Riley said...

Ok, it's my turn to say:

YES AND AMEN. This is an excellent post. No tongue in cheek- no sarcasm dripping.

Here are my questions:

Is it possible that people of different personalities and giftings misunderstand one another's styles? In other words, if someone like yourself who is likely an ESTJ or an ISTJ sees a feeler and perceiver sharing the Truth you might think they are compromising rather than standing convincingly and convicted upon the Truth?

Is it possible that some whom you would label as emergent or postmodern are finding a different way of preaching Christ and Christ crucified (and I don't mean watering that down at all) that doesn't feel like a bible thumping to the head? Yes, as one is convicted by the Spirit it will become a bible thumping to the heart, but does the man carrying the message have to act like they're thumping a bible on someone?

Is it possible that sometimes God has a heart ready to receive the Truth, but not through a Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God sermon, but through a discussion over a cup of coffee about life in Jesus?

Isn't the confronting we need to be doing more a confrontation on the spirit level than one on the physical level? What does that war look like? Does it look like two people arguing over what is truth or does it look differently? Can it look like both, but only as God directs His messenger?

Bryan Riley said...

Nothing new under the sun,

You are so right. That's why the love of God is His wrath to those who reject Him.

Rick Frueh said...

A good description of what charity/charitableness is not. Now besides the "telling them the truth" is charity, what would the charity of Christ look like, as outlined in I Cor.13, as it applies to all levels of Christian theological camps?

*How is Christ's love unpacked to brothers who contextualize?

*How is Christ's love unpacked to post evangelicals?

*How is Christ's love unpacked to Rick Warren?

*How is Christ's love unpacked to the lost?

*etc.

Rick Frueh said...

"That's why the love of God is His wrath to those who reject Him."

There's a square peg in a round hole. Is His wrath His grace as well? I would believe your phrasing could be tweeked, no?

john said...

Love this blog, all your hard work and the Lord!

Daryl said...

"Listen: even if every last person in the philosophers' circle had turned away angry, that would not mean Paul's ministry strategy was wrong."

That sums the whole thing up methinks. Isn't this whole contextualization driven, seeker friendly/EC thing ('cause they're the same thing/ different market) really driven by the idea that if they walk away angry, we've messed up the message?

Shades of "They Love Jesus but They Hate the Church", no?

donsands said...

"These cardinal postmodern moral values are both seasoned with blithe indifference to the dangers of heresy."

There's a huge key statement. The more subtle heresies, and even some of the blantant ones seem to be no big deal. Sin is no big deal really; except for the really really bad sin.

Thanks for the great final post. Great teaching on Acts 17.

One question I have. Paul says in Romans 3 that "no one seeks after God". But here he says that God has placed people so that they will "seek God".
Seems to contradict, doesn't it.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Phil:

Did you know that many "Primitive Baptists" ("Hardshells") believe that all these Athenians were already "born again" children of God? They argue this because Paul said to them "we are all God's offspring." Some of them might call their view "charitable" but I find it disgusting to think that these men who opposed Paul and rejected his gospel were born again children of God! But, if one understands the Hardshell heresy, it is understood why they would want to say such a thing.

Good writing!

P.S. I also enjoyed listening to your interview with James White.

Stephen Garrett

Johnny Dialectic said...

Bryan: "Is it possible that sometimes God has a heart ready to receive the Truth, but not through a Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God sermon, but through a discussion over a cup of coffee about life in Jesus?"

Sure, but I still don't see this as the crux of Phil's message here. It is the inability to draw sharp lines and say, "Over this you cannot pass and remain scriptural" that is the EC deficiency. And using Paul in Acts 17 as an example of such fuzziness is preposterous. That's what I'm getting out of this.

One can preach, discuss, debate, converse in a variety of settings and styles, yet keep the content consistent. But "contextualization" is too often about being inconsistent and untrue, IMO.

Sarah L. said...


"Our Master has never promised us success. He demands obedience. He expects faithfulness. Results are His concern, not ours. And our reputation is a matter of no consequence at all."


"The Cross of Christ is the only hope of the world. Our constant danger is that we cry, Behold this new opportunity. Behold our new methods. Behold our human brotherhood. And forget to cry, Behold the Lamb of God!"


I am pretty sure that both of those quotes were by Amy Carmichael. They are from her book GOLD CORD

The Spokesman said...

"Charitableness" (the postmodern substitute for charity) is something altogether different. It's a broad-minded, insouciantly tolerant, unrelenting goodwill toward practically every conceivable opinion. Its twin virtue—often labeled "epistemic humility'—is a cool refusal to hold any firm and settled convictions. These cardinal postmodern moral values are both seasoned with blithe indifference to the dangers of heresy.

Phil you have hit the nail on the head! Pomo's are interested in neology and not theology. That is why they have unrelenting goodwill toward practically every conceivable opinion and yet are highly intolerant of sound doctrine and view those who hold to it and preach it as "uncharitable." Secretly introduced in this Pomo mindset is the destructive heresy of ecumenism - unity not based on sound doctrine but at its expense!

The fulfilling of Scripture, no? "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away (apostasize) their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

I agree with everything you have said here....But let's not overlook some key things in this passage...Paul did build bridges here...He quoted their poets, he read from an inscription on one of their altars, and he used those things to share the gospel...He didn't even quote scripture to the Athenians, because they were unfamiliar with scripture. Also, he built the bridge of religiosity...."I see that you are a religious people." He made observations about culture and used that as a spring board for sharing the gospel. All of Paul's evangelistic encounters were different, but the same. He always shared the message of sin, the cross, and the resurrection...but he did that in various ways.

Libbie said...

'Contextualize that' is crying out for a t-shirt, isn't it?

Phil Johnson said...

Joshua A. Hitchcock: "But let's not overlook some key things in this passage. . ."

Read the complete series on Acts 17, then come back and we'll talk.

Mike Riccardi said...

Joshua,

Phil actually deals with each of the points you raise quite extensively and directly in this series. I would strongly encourage you to read through the stuff via the link he provided.

I submit that you're understanding of those things is a bit uncritical, and is probably the result of the poor teaching of this passage that has been produced at mass volume by the emerging church. It's definitely worth the read (and you can listen to a semi-shortened version if you get Phil's message at the Shepherds Conference, too).

It's really worth it, dude. Don't blow it off.

Strong Tower said...

insouciantly- a French word for pouring perfume on rotting flesh. Smells better but it still can't dance. It means the opposite of solicitous which would mean that when approaching the target culture with the Gospel, the evangelist should take meticulous care of the details.

Insouciantly is a great word, then, to describe the pomoemer approach. One of the things that is appealing in the pomoemer's message is the universality of spiritual archetypes which produces an insufficient view of love which tends to ignore sin and cover its mephitic nature by offering a balm of cheap perfume. The appeal simply defined is that we all share common beliefs therefore we really worship the same God. Behind this is a crude hope that some christness will attach itself to the culture's core beliefs, and maybe, given enough time, the true message will come forth. It is a infelicitous view of the Gospel and really robs it of the power to save and makes the common appeal, rather than the power of the Holy Spirit, its active agent in salvation. It denies the entire thrust of the Gospel's demand of repentance. Instead, it is exchanged for a gospel of readjustments.

One must wonder, whether in a public forum or in individual approaches, at what point the offense will be offered. Paul demonstrated in Athens that it is at the beginning. The entrance point was the sharp rebuke of the deficient view of God that was common to the culture he was speaking to. It was not a discussion session, but a direct confrontation. He rebuked their view of reality and called them to account for their sin: "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent..."

Polycarp said...

Bryan:

I was tempted once again to plunge into a long explanation regarding my take on the details in this post in light of what you have said (and detail the points of disagreement I see between us), but I've done that and you've done that; our positions do not change towards the other's comments/views. I believe this is primarily because underneath even your most seemingly non-confrontational comments (you are usually looking for something in the meta most days to challenge on some level), there is a sort of passive/aggressive twist on the Socratic method of inquiry (which, I must say, is an emergent characteristic--call me a labeler). Even with this meta today, one in which you begin your comments by saying you agree, you proceed to take to task the same issue you voice your opinions about in nearly all of your comments: "how dare any of you here on this blog think you can group/label people--especially as being right or wrong--when in reality we are all just different". Again, myself and others have gone to great length to explain the error in such a perspective and you choose not to hear/accept it. It is not because you are in any way lacking intelligence nor communication skills; in-fact, I think you are quite strong in these areas.

No, this is a stubbornness of the will I've only encountered among emergents (not to "label" you as being in this camp...just yet), emergent sympathizers (who say "surely there must be good bits we can take from this movement?"), or generally liberal propoents of unity-first ecumenicalism ("it's all good"). Because I know you really dislike categories, let me end this by focusing on the common denominator I see among all three groups above: they all hold to an estemed view of man--his decisions, his motives, his fallen characteristics--that is unbiblical. In my experiences, when someone has this perspective of man himself, they likewise have an esteemed view of man's (worldly) ways (which the Bible tells us are not God's ways), systems, reasoning, and values (which are continually at war with God). In short, I think our primary disagreement in recent posts centers on our view of man, as I do not see him (me,you, others) in the same positive light. Incidentally, the Bible does not either. I work among secular-humanists every day, and I've (unfortunately) read enough humanist literature for two lifetimes; I know it's stench when I smell it, and it is really permeating the church these days as postmodern emergents and liberals have attempted to marry it to Christianity. Hence, I'd like to spend more time finding my identity/personality in Proverbs, for example, rather than clinging to my letter assignment from Myers-Brigg.

Polycarp said...

Libbie:

As a fan of t-shirtography, I'd love to see it. But, what would the image be underneath the words?

Polycarp said...

Bryan:

Correction. Scratch the "just yet" bit, as I have no business predicting what anyone will think tomorrow. You are not in this camp now, which is all that matters. Sorry.

Bryan Riley said...

Polycarp,

I don't want to fight with you at all. I want to strike iron together and pray that I will be edified with the help of the Holy Spirit showing me more of God. Thank you for the kind words, but it is only by the grace of God that I can speak at all.

The only reason I have continued to comment is because I feel like God is revealing that there is more unity amongst the Body than many see here and that He continues to intercede for unity IN HIM. I cringe (yep, I FEEL badly) every time I hear this camp and that camp and those guys and the like because that is not what God has called us to and I believe He feels badly as well.

I absolutely agree with you about Proverbs and identity and wisdom and the like. I only spoke in terms of the MBTI because it is a common discussion today and because it is true that we all approach reality through slightly different, God-given lens.

The most interesting thing I hear you say in your most recent comment is that you believe those in "the camp" of emergents hold too high a view of man. I find it interesting because I have begun to feel that those who are most dogmatic are those who hold too high of view of men - particularly of themselves. They feel they absolutely must make apologies (in the sense of the word as connotes "argument") for God and on His behalf. If they don't do that, then people won't have any chance of knowing God properly. It's as though if there isn't one out there giving a perfectly reasoned argument for every aspect of a particular doctrinal belief, then all faith falls apart.

I tend to have a high view of God and His sovereignty. I see man as desperately loved by God but separated from Him because of His sin and unrighteousness and greatly in need of reconciliation through Jesus Christ our Lord. I absolutely believe I must obey Him in all His commands, and that I can join with Him in His purpose and mission, a ministry of reconciliation, but I also know that if I muck it up, it will be okay.

I see Abram, who didn't even follow the very straightforward commands given him in Genesis 12:1-2, but God still used Him to reveal His purpose for all of humankind. And the list goes on - these men and women of great faith - but all of it points to the object of their faith - God - and it is to His glory and to His Kingdom that we all must die to ourselves and rise again clinging only to Jesus and Jesus crucified.

I agree that secular humanism is a great deception and I would say equally that religion is a great deception. God calls us to faith in Jesus and His fulfilling work, not our own.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

RememberPolyCarp writes: "I know it's stench when I smell it, and it is really permeating the church these days as postmodern emergents and liberals have attempted to marry it to Christianity. Hence, I'd like to spend more time finding my identity/personality in Proverbs, for example, rather than clinging to my letter assignment from Myers-Brigg."

Thanks for a most excellent post which elicited a most excellent laugh.

Incidentally, you have become one of my favorite commenters on TeamPyro and I actually did a wikipedia search on PolyCarp. If God calls you to persevere in joyful suffering like PolyCarp, then I'm sure He'll give you the strength. In the meantime, enjoy dialoguing with pomo emergers, liberal revisionist Christians, and their sympathizer-enablers.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

C. Michael Patton of the Parchment & Pen blog wrote this in an article: “Sadly, it often seems as if there are people out there who not only think they are an apostle, but also think that they are talking to their own congregation. Some even seem to enjoy polemical engagement in an unhealthy manner. In fact, I think that a lot of ministries would not know what to do if they did not have someone to fight.

Sadly, many times this attitude is found more in my own conservative Calvinistic circles than in any other. For this I am sorry and ashamed.”


I asked him, "CMP, would you say that your lament is descriptive of Phil Johnson and his TeamPyro co-authors? They are conservative Calvinists."

He said that he did not have enough familiarity with TeamPyro to answer the question although I did remind him that he listed TeamPyro as one of his top ten Christian blogs of 2007. Given that he listed TeamPyro as one of his favorite blogs, I thought he would have answered with a charitable yes.

From: What Part of Gentleness and Respect Don’t You We Understand?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I thought he would have answered with a charitable yes."

Oops. I meant to say that "I thought CMP would have answered with a charitable yes to the question of whether the TeamPyro's blog-authors followed the "Pauline rules of engagement".

Phil Johnson said...

TUaD: "I thought CMP would have answered with a charitable yes to the question of whether the TeamPyro's blog-authors followed the 'Pauline rules of engagement'"

Be fair to him. I don't think he was trying to pick any fights. After all, that's what his whole post was about.

We actually do try to follow the Pauline rules of engagement. Those who read our posts without reading the commenters' remarks tend to have a higher perception of the "tone" of the blog than those who come into our meta with chips on their shoulders. As a matter of fact, we've had a standing challenge to critics for the past two years to point out any actual examples where we transgress the bounds of biblical charity, and that challenge has gone unanswered.

I all candor, though, I think each of us Pyros would probably acknowledge that there have been times when we might fall short in answering hostile commenters too sharply. We certainly don't revel in unkind interaction of that sort, though we don't mind a lively discussion.

Bottom line: 1) I think I agree with the thrust of Michael Patton's post. Having only enough time to scan it just now, I don't think he's contradicting what I'm saying above; merely giving the balance.

2) My post isn't about "tone" or "attitude"; it is about candor and courage. It's a pity these postmodern times are colored by so much confusion about the differences between those qualities. We ought to recognize that all those qualities are vital, and they are also compatible with one another.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "My post isn't about "tone" or "attitude"; it is about candor and courage. It's a pity these postmodern times are colored by so much confusion about the differences between those qualities. We ought to recognize that all those qualities are vital, and they are also compatible with one another."

Amen. I totally agree. Tis a pity indeed that there's so much confusion and conflation of these vital, compatible qualities.

"As a matter of fact, we've had a standing challenge to critics for the past two years to point out any actual examples where we transgress the bounds of biblical charity, and that challenge has gone unanswered."

That's why I happily gave you all a passing grade on the "Pauline Rules of Engagement."

PJ: "Be fair to him. I don't think he was trying to pick any fights."

I was fair. I never said or believed that he was trying to pick fights.

steve said...

Phil wrote: It's a pity these postmodern times are colored by so much confusion about the differences between those qualities.

Well said.

Lisa Nunley said...

t-shirt:

The gospel is the truth of God,
and the power of God for salvation!


Contextualize that!

Rick Frueh said...

"As a matter of fact, we've had a standing challenge to critics for the past two years to point out any actual examples where we transgress the bounds of biblical charity, and that challenge has gone unanswered."

Wow. Something "overtly subliminal" in such a challenge. The standard of that transgression being wholly subjective, I will subjectively suggest that everyone crosses that boundary both unknowingly and sometimes with frustration driven vigor.

I will interpret the paragraph that follows that one as an admission to that transgression on occasions. Is there a prize to that challenge? Can I use the examples you suggest without specifics to win the challenge? :)

I have just started the same challenge for myself but with only a 24 hour challenge window.

In Biblical Charity,

Rick

DJP said...

From one of Phil's links -- Doug Pagitt, evangelical author

Oy.

And

Wow{3}

Daryl said...

So that would make the Dalai Lama what? A Charismatic church leader?

Rick Frueh said...

The "Seeds of Compassion" conference is actually a Broadway play formerly known as:

"Hello Dalai".

The Spokesman said...

The "Seeds of Compassion" conference is actually a Broadway play formerly known as:

"Hello Dalai".


It definitely is the broad way!

steve said...

From the Seeds of Compassion site: Global, national and local luminaries representing faiths from around the world will gather to discuss nurturing youth with spirituality.

Jesus said no one comes to the Father but by Me. Will participants Rob Bell and Doug Pagitt have the guts to point out to the other luminaries that "nurturing youth with spirituality" is a futile goal by any other means?

steve said...

I should add that for Rob and Doug to proclaim that truth would be the most compassionate thing they can do at that gathering.

Daryl said...

"Will participants Rob Bell and Doug Pagitt have the guts to point out to the other luminaries that "nurturing youth with spirituality" is a futile goal by any other means?"


Ummmmm...they'd have to believe that first, otherwise it'll come off as all fake 'n stuff.

Rick Frueh said...

Very funny, spokesman!

Polycarp said...

"Ummmmm...they'd have to believe that first, otherwise it'll come off as all fake 'n stuff.'

Yeah...believe; hmm, that's a tough one. Well, they certainly feel a whole lot and that must count for something! Wait a minute--they do believe! They believe the dali lama is a nice guy with a good spiritual message...like they believe about Jesus!

Strong Tower said...

Wasn't there a cloned llama, named Dolly?

The pomo/emerg/new age/eastern mystic gene pool is not very deep is it?

I wonder if Pagitt will really be "there?"

SolaMeanie said...

I begin to think we should come up with a name for the postmodern bridge-building exercise.

We could call it "Senator Ted Stevens" missiology. Definition: "A bridge to nowhere."

SolaMeanie said...

Strong Tower,

For some reason, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" came to my mind, but I don't think that's what Spokesman was thinking.

I know. I'm an oddball.

Strong Tower said...

Baaaad Sola! It's a man made light!

stratagem said...

Tolerance toward everything: "Thinking themselves wise, they became fools..."

The Spokesman said...

Actually, it's speaking the truth about the broad way play that brings accusations of "uncharitable" from the pomo camp. The apostle Paul was neither ecumenical nor tolerant of the idolatry in Athens - but the pomos have to say that he was or else they would have to call him uncharitable also.

trogdor said...

So I was looking through the descriptions of the different sessions and seminars at the Seeds of Compassion conference, and quite a few of them seemed to be pushing socialism and the "it takes a village" nanny state view. A socialist view with the idea that the state knows best and should control as much of your life and child rearing as possible. Basically, it's pushing communism. With the Dalai Lama as the featured guest.

Does anyone else find the irony saddeningly humorous?

Mike Riccardi said...

I wonder if Pagitt will really be "there?"

Ughh.. Strong Tower... you're such a Platonist!

wordsmith said...

The 9-12 classroom resources for that Seeds of Compassion thing is a hoot. The first lesson glorifies the Dalai Lama as someone "qualified to talk about compassion," and includes the question "What is the relative importance of the Dalai Lama as a non-sectarian spiritual leader?"

Let's see - they bill him as a "simple Buddhist monk," yet they still insist that he's somehow "non-sectarian." Must be a pomo doublespeak thing. Do you suppose they'd be as charitable towards someone like John MacArthur or Al Mohler? We already know Pagitt's opinion of MacArthur ("he's weird"), and somehow I don't think the other participants at that event would be any more charitable.

NothingNewUnderTheSun said...

Strong Tower:"The pomo/emerg/new age/eastern mystic gene pool is not very deep is it?"

True.

That shallow genetic trait is certainly nothing new and is as old as humanity. In fact those labels are just clever marketing tactics to make people feel good about their own sinful predisposition.

Polycarp said...

Nothingnew: Amen to that!

Lisa: Perfect! Where can I get one of these shirts? Centurion?

Strong Tower said...

Dalai Lama knows best, trogdor. Now, if you'll send me your rebate, I'll make sure it gets invested in the right village ;)

Stefan said...

Well, wouldn't you know it, but Bruce Ware just delivered a whole session at our conference on Acts 17:24-25 (specifically), on the sovereignty and self-sufficiency of God. (See here.)

Not that it's directly relevant to Phil's ongoing series, but it was a providential turn of events, and I'm excited about my first turn at liveblogging. D.A. Carson is here tonight, and R. Kent Hughes tomorrow.

Soli Deo gloria!

Strong Tower said...

ummm- I didn't know Canada was out of focus.

Polycarp said...

If this video is not the official "seeds of compassion" promo, then they really should use it because it goes into great detail explaining the wonderful rewards of having "a llama in your life":

http://www.llama.org/Real_Video/default.htm

It is just amazing how accurate and spot-on specific they are in several places throughout this video, appealing to numerous EC virtues and values; they even make special mention to the Pacific Northwest!

Echindod said...

Phil,

I agree with Rick's first comment, that you have done a good job of saying what charity is not but what is charity?

I find the seeker sensitive/emergent/whatever definition of great the great christian qualities of love and charity reprehensible, but I would like to see more engagement on what those things are.

donsands said...

Carson and Hughes? That's heart shaping preaching and teaching.

I guess next to T4G this has got to be quite some spiritual engagement.

It's encouraging to hear of these types of Conferences happening. We need them, and many more.

SolaMeanie said...

Actually, Strong Tower..

I think Rael could well be an Emergent. Who else would "exit into daylight, spraygun hid? I often feel Emergent writings are similar to the graffiti you'd find in an urban environment.

The more I consider this series of Phil's..and how spot on it is...the more amazed I get at the pomo rewriting and deconstruction of this passage of Scripture. How some of them could get accomodation out of it is beyond me.

Phil Johnson said...

Echindod: "you have done a good job of saying what charity is not but what is charity?"

Not sure what you have in mind. I cited only a fraction of a verse, and the snippet I quoted included both negative and positive: Charity "does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6).

For the purposes of this post, that was the salient point. Real charity is not something that winks at serious religious error and unbelief whilst looking for "common ground" with the purveyors thereof. It rejoices in the truth.

Eventually, I'll probably do a complete exposition of 1 Corinthians 13 (which, as I will show, is an exact parallel to Paul's description of the fruit of the Spirit in Ephesians 5).

But that's a whole nother post. This one was about Acts 17 and Paul's approach to the Athenian Academy.

Michael Mercer said...

If our calling is to win arguments, then I agree 100 percent with this post. The problem with the "pyro" mentality is that winning arguments is the be all and end all. In certain settings and occasions that may very well be the goal. However, for most of us, loving our neighbors in ongoing relationships requires a certain willingness to shut up once in awhile and let people be wrong while we continue to live among them and serve them in Christ's name.

Rick Frueh said...

"Eventually, I'll probably do a complete exposition of 1 Corinthians 13 (which, as I will show, is an exact parallel to Paul's description of the fruit of the Spirit in Ephesians 5)."

A complete exposition of I Corinthians 13. That reminds me, I have written the most comprehensive and inspiring thesis on humility ever written.

Phil Johnson said...

Michael Mercer: If our calling is to win arguments, then I agree 100 percent with this post. The problem with the "pyro" mentality is that winning arguments is the be all and end all.

Actually, the goal is to win people, and the gospel is the only legitimate instrument for that. That means we can't stifle the truth just because it's not well received. Making ourselves seem more winsome isn't the be-all and end-all, either.

But you're right about this: neither is winning an argument. Nothing in all these posts on Acts 17 suggested that winning arguments should be our goal. Far from thinking that's the be-all and end-all, we would all say that's not really the point at all. Proclaiming the gospel with clarity, candor, courage, and conviction is. Changing hearts and minds is the Holy Spirit's role.

And, as a matter of fact, there are indeed times—lots of them—when the right thing to do is shut up and serve those we're seeking to win. But that sn't the be-al and end-all, either. Sooner or later, we need to verbalize the gospel (Romans 10:14-15).

The sooner the better. The clearer the better.

I like your Bach blog. You didn't give it up for Lent, did you?

Phil Johnson said...

Rick Frue: "A complete exposition of I Corinthians 13. That reminds me, I have written the most comprehensive and inspiring thesis on humility ever written."

Yeah, I take your point. What I meant was that I'd like to do an exposition of the full chapter, as opposed to an offhanded quote from part of a verse. I didn't word it very well.

Send me your thesis. I need to read it.

eastendjim said...

"If our calling is to win arguments..."

I think Paul never "won" any of his arguments. He was ridiculed, run out of town, beaten, stoned, imprisoned and eventually executed.

However, the Holy Spirit did grow the church through his uncompromising faithfulness and obedience.

Rick Frueh said...

Phil - humor becomes you. Thanks for receiving mine, with a subtle slant. I would send you my thesis, except it's all plagiarized!!

Thanks - Rick

Strong Tower said...

"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ...

The be all and end all...

Depends on what you mean. Paul seemed to think that the winning of the argument was the purpose he was sent. Funny how this chapter begins with: "Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ --I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!" What fools to think that it was mere words, a mere argument of a mortal. So they thought it all about words, words, words, when in reality, it was about the Word of Truth.

kathaireo: to pull down, demolish
the subtle reasonings (of opponents) likened to a fortress, i.e. to refute, to destroy

logismos: a reasoning such as is hostile to the Christian faith

gnosis ho theos: the perfect knowledge of God.

Tying it together: We are pulling down and demolishiing the subtle reasonings of the opponents of the perfect knowledge of God and the Christian faith, destroying completely their fortresses by thoroughly refuting them with reasoning. We are to take those thoughts that are enemies of God captive and force them to be obedient to Christ, leaving no survivors.

Aye, then sound the trumpet in Zion, rouse the troops for war, for the end of the argument is our God.

While it is true there is a time for silence, there is also a time to speak. Or, have you not heard what this uncircumcised Philistine is saying about God? The sole purpose is to win the argument with a shot right between the eyes. But, there is more to it than that. It is the Name under whose banner we march that makes the difference.

The be all and end all is putting an end to all arguments that exalt themselves above the knowledge of God. If that is the end of all, the glory of God, then let there be blood...

Stefan said...

Strong Tower, Donsands: Thanks for the feedback.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Sorry Phil...My fault for not reading all of the series...I have not been in the blogosphere as much as I would have liked to this year...I used to read your blog alot more...I will go back and read your posts....Please forgive me....I intended to meet you at The Band of Bloggers today, but I was unable to come..IF you are still in Louisville and have time, I certainly would like to meet you...I work at the Chick Fil A at St. Matthews Mall.....Alot different than working in a church as I did before seminary...Again....I appologize for making a statement without reading your entire series....Forgive me...

The Spokesman said...

strong tower: Tying it together: We are pulling down and demolishiing the subtle reasonings of the opponents of the perfect knowledge of God and the Christian faith, destroying completely their fortresses by thoroughly refuting them with reasoning.

Also, "I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute" (Luke 21:15).

It is very Christian to silence men who are rebellious, empty talkers and deceivers, teaching things they should not teach (Titus 1:10-11). Especially those who claim to be Christian.

Polycarp said...

I haven't yet learned how to make my links appear as blue hypertext (I guess I'm a luddite...see Bryan, I have labels for everyone, even me :^). This is probably why some have missed the following video I mentioned earlier:

http://www.llama.org/Real_Video/default.htm

Just watch it, and as you listen to just about 70-80% of the comments the narrator makes about the wonder of having a "llama in your life," think of the liberal pomos, seekers, emergents, all gathering around THE chief lama up in Seattle at the seeds of compassion, driven almost entirely around emotion and little more. Interestingly (and quite humorously) there are some chillingly ironic parallels between what they describe in the video and what is happening at the seeds venue and amongst emergents in general.

Phil Johnson said...

Joshua:

No need to apologize. I don't have time to read everything in the blogosphere, either. Chik Fil A would be perfect. I have to meet a group of Reformed baptist guys who want to grill me in a restaurant downtown. (Not literally, I hope.) If Darlene and I can make it to Chik Fil A this evening, we'll ask around and try to meet you.

Rick Frueh said...

If anyone is interested in viewing the two panel discussions in which Bell and Pggit partcipated you can go here - http://seedsofcompassion.org/webcast/index.html

and scroll down on the left the the two final events. You will see two men who claim to be preachers speak nothing. Bell never mentions Jesus and Pagitt uses His name as an adjective describing where he comes from. (Jesus tradition)

If there ever was a gift from God to be used to educate people about the emergent/emerging movement it is these two panel discussions. Even Billy Graham, no flaming orthodoxist, gives a form of the gospel on interreligious panels.

Watch the two videos in their entirety and see people quote the Koran, quote Buddah, and give all sorts of support for universalistic views of their divine entity, and then hear the two professing Christians blend in and even refer to the Dalai Lama as "His Holiness (Bell).

And listen as Bell makes an obscure reference to Friday and a coming Sunday in the context of "endure suffering" (Friday) and it will make youa better person (Sunday). Oh yea, it's a smorgasbord of blasphemy and New Age spiritualism.

steve said...

Thanks, Rick, for that summary. I had wondered how the panel discussions would go.

So representatives of the other faiths were bold enough to quote their books and voice support for their spiritual perspectives.

But not Bell and Pagitt.

I also have strong doubts the apostle Paul would have called the Dalai Lama "His Holiness."

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Phil...awesome....if you have time....just come by the front of the restaurant and ask for Josh Hitchcock. I wish I could be at together for the gospel. How has it been?

pastorbrianculver said...

thank you for this post. It addresses some key areas that have been coming up recently in our conversation on my blog. I appreciate your ministry!God bless

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Jim Wallis wants you to know he's not a liberal. Yes, he's been a chief critic of the Religious Right since its inception, gave the Democratic weekly radio address after the 2006 midterm elections, and has been an often-controversial voice for social justice since his early-'70s days at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. But, he says, his chief critics these days are liberals, not conservatives. "There is a Religious Left in this country, and I'm not a part of it," Wallis said when he stopped by Christianity Today's offices during his February tour for his latest book, The Great Awakening. Meanwhile, he says, theologically conservative evangelicals (especially young ones) are flocking to his message and are "deserting the Religious Right in droves" because it attempted to "restrict the language of 'moral values' to just two issues—abortion and gay marriage."

Hmmmmm, Jim Wallis does not exhibit the postmodern "charitableness" that Phil describes in his post. Would he be an example of a Christian who confronts strongholds in a biblical way? But honestly I'm doubtful whether Apostle Paul would embrace and affirm all of the activist positions that Jim Wallis and his sojourners are promoting although Wallis does believe he is orthodox.

From Christianity Today: Where Jim Wallis Stands

Echindod said...

Phil,

One of the things I was hoping to see in your series on Acts 17 (and let me know if you did cover it) was a how Paul spoke to the Athenians with charity.

I think your point about charity rejoices in the truth, but I think its a starting point...

I think what I am actually hoping for is some practical guide for how to exhibit charity. Or maybe an explanation of the different and specific ways which Paul demonstrated charity in Acts 17.

Bill Honsberger said...

Gee, I wonder why CT forget to ask Wallis about his defense of dictatorships (Castro, et al) and his denial of the slaughter brought about by Pol Pot in Kampuchea??? How come every marxist/theological group uses the same language of "social justice"? Why doesn't CT ask him if marxism has a track record of helping the poor and if not - why build his theology/ethics around it? And if so - show us this workers paradise?
When was the last time CT was useful or informative on anything? sigh...

Polycarp said...

Thank You Rick!

Well, after hearing such
nonsense--and such offense to our God quite frankly--I'm left again with perfect clarity concerning what needs to be said to Bell and Pagitt and emergent leaders. We really just need to forget about addressing each and every particular issue in their laundry list of errors doctrinally, theologically, and even logically with such exhaustive detail. On this note, I actually find myself in one point of agreement with the ec sympathizers when they say things like "stop over-analyzing every single point of their beliefs." Why? Because hearing transcripts like the ones Rick has provided, by these emergents, makes it abundantly clear that such can be simply defined (i.e. grouped) as: desperately lost, on their way to a very real hell without Christ, and completely unregenerate. Hence, THEY ARE NOT CHRISTIANS; the problem is not merely that they are a "different" variety of Christian, they are lost pagans. In fact, unlike the lost pagans with whom I work in a secular institution of higher education, these individuals have dragged the glorious name of Jesus Christ through the mud while falsly claiming to follow Him. My prayer is for their repentance and for their subsequent salvation as a result.

Rick Frueh said...

I do not know whether Phil will accommodate this on some other post, but almost everyone there spoke of their god, The Muslim quoted the Koran, the Sikh Hindu quoted his scriptures, the Dalai Lama quoted Buddah, but nothing from Bell about Jesus. And Paggit said that our "Christian traditions" have told us to be all "Jesussy" in the world. No one on that panel would have spoken of their god in such glib irreverence.

This is a quote from the Sikh Hindu man:

"The Sikh scriptures start with a word “aconcard” and that is “God is one”. And I think that’s the core thing, we are all children of the same god. It is universal. So when we recognize that feeling that we all are from, whether we believe in a formalized god or an infinite being or a spiritual sense that pervades humanity or cosmos, does not matter."

That statement went unchallenged by Bell. Not even a gentle "different perspective" comment. Nothing. Sirs, this is not just contextualizing the gospel, this is leaving the faith.

I have personally transcripted all of Bell's comments. I will e-mail them to you at spcrick@msn.com

Phil Johnson said...

Joshua:

We had an hour for supper tonight and tried to make it to Chik Fil A, but Google Maps led us astray. Not knowing where St. Matthews Mall is located, google pointed us to Mall Street, and it was evidently not near you. Sorry we missed you. We ended up eating at Sonic, which was second best and nowhere near as healthy. Frank and Dan and our wives say hi, too. Next time we're in Louisville, we'll try to find St. Matthews Mall again.

steve said...

That statement went unchallenged by Bell.

Per Larry King Live, MacArthur and Mohler would not have allowed that statement go unchallenged.

Rick Frueh said...

Steve - exactly.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Hey Phil....bummer...well I am glad you tried...that's cool. I guess I can say I almost met Phil Johnson...anyway...I have a prayer request...My former pastor and spiritual father is having to resign froma typical SBC church that was founded on reformed theology, that no longer knows what Calvinism is because they found out we are all Calvinist. If you can pray for Fred, that would be great. He is having to resign, and now is trying to discover how he will provide for his family.

Strong Tower said...

Biblical exposition will only flourish when a preacher believes that Scripture is wholly inerrant, totally sufficient, and massively potent. If you truly believe this—not merely claim to believe it, but believe it with all your heart and soul and mind,—then you will countenance nothing less than wholly preaching God's word.

Why preachers don't exposit

But why is it that many evangelical, ostensibly biblical preachers claim to belive in the inerrancy, sufficiency, and potency of Scripture, and yet do not preach expositorially? It could be for such reasons as:
They don't truly believe in the inerrancy, sufficiency, or potency of Scripture.


They do not really believe that the plain word of God (Calvin's verbum nudem) will connect.


They are convinced that the Bible was written in the past for a past audience (but we know that God had future audiences in mind as well as contemporary audiences).


They think exposition isn't worth the effort, and that counselling or programs engage people more.


Word and Spirit

Against all these problems, Pastor Hughes expressed his main point thus: the word of God and the Spirit of God are inseparable. Where the word is preached, the Spirit is at work; and where you don't have the word, you don't have the Spirit.


Crazy Canucks, their getting all focused...

Some good stuff happenen up there in CahNAHDah, eh, Stephen?

Stefan said...

Joshua: That's really sad to hear about your father. What a scandal, that God alone has the power to save!

Phil: I just learned today that both of your boss's parents were Canadian...and that his father was pastoring in the Vancouver area when he was called to SoCal. (The rest, of course, is history.) So for us Canuckleheads who lurk around this blog, that's an interesting bit of trivia.

Stefan said...

Strong Tower:

Thanks for the quote! Yes, it was amazing. My first conference as a born again Christian. A huge room full of the genuinely regenerate, hearing from all these godly men. Every speaker preaching on the authority of God. Wow! The energy was electrifying.

And Hughes' point at the end of your quote: Wowzers! He was citing John Woodhouse, but man, can I testify to that! Preach the word of God faithfully, and the Holy Spirit will work through it to regenerate and effectually call whomsoever the Father wills—even the most stiff-necked of sinners—by the atoning blood of Christ.

Stefan said...

(I slipped some Ware in there at the end, too.)

For anyone else who's curious, I've got notes from all but the last session up on our blog.

And how come our TP boys are not liveblogging T4G? It's kind of a letdown....

Strong Tower said...

?They were using Google and couldn't find a Chik-Fil-A at St Matthew's Mall Stefan? Seriously! One would have thought they would've known to ask for directions, but nooooooo. Which one of the smoldering flax boys do you think was driving?

One way or another they're gonna google, their gonna googlegooglegooglegoogle, one way or another...

Stefan said...

Hey, we're manly men around here. What are you talking about, asking for directions?

Stefan said...

Okay, some of the details may be off—it looks like it may have been Jack MacArthur's father who was called to pastor in the LA area—but Jack MacArthur was definitely born in Calgary: A Father's Legacy.

James and Tasha said...

Phil--I have long been a fan of Purgatorio, and am ashamed to admit I am just now discovering Pyromaniacs as of this morning. I'd say, "brother, where have you been all my life?!" but it was the cave I've been living in.

All that to say, AMEN to this thread and thought. I am nauseated with the irenic age in which we live, where even my friends in the PCA church I used to attend chide me for openly rebuking them when the rare occasion arises.

More to the point: I have been warning so many friends and brethren about the EC movement, and am met with blank stares. "Contextualizing" and "Missions" are being used to blur distinction. Viz: The Shack,an EC book with an EC "godhead". (**retch!**) Trying to denounce heresy and heterodoxy in an age where the church is being politically correct is irony of ironies (perhaps has something to do with our culture's health concerns over salt intake? Salt must lose it's saltiness for our heart's sake?).

Thank you, Phil, and Pyromaniacs, for validating and vindicating the good fight. Gets lonely.

NoLongerBlind said...

For anyone who's interested,
there's some updates about the T4G conference at Tim Challies' blog
(www.challies.com).
(I can't get links to work either!)

BarryDean said...

I just have one recommendation for this blog site. Could you upgrade your blogspot version to utilize the openID functionality. This will allow those of us who use a better blogging platform like Wordpress the ability to post comments with our wordpress ID. This way we don't have to create and ID in Google or create a Blogspot ID. Thanks guys.

Phil Johnson said...

BarryDean: "I just have one recommendation for this blog site. Could you upgrade your blogspot version to utilize the openID functionality."

Done.

Strong Tower said...

Since the Pyrocats are away a song for the Emergers among us. You love this one too.

John Bird said...

How can I get the friend of sinners icon on my blog to link to you?

Thanks.

Polycarp said...

Like I've admitted already, I guess I'm a luddite because I cannot figure out how to do a couple of things I see others doing every day. Would someone mind telling me how I (and perhaps others who are likewise techno-challenged) can: 1) show quotes from other peoples' posts in boldface italics as opposed to merely cutting and pasting with quotes around the text that is not italicized nor boldface? and 2) show links in blue hypertext as opposed to cutting and pasting the url in the search bar and pasting it to my comments on the post? Thanks in advance to anyone who can assist this technological numbskull!

Sharon said...

I tried to post how to do this, but I can't do it without Blogger thinking it's an actual link, or rejecting it because of missing tags and stuff. So, either see here, or email me.

A Musician by Grace

barrydean said...

Thank you Phil. You are a brother, gentleman, and a scholar.

Stefan said...

Polycarp: Sharon's link will work just fine. If it's too much information, I'm going to try to show you here, but because of the issue Sharon mentioned, we have to do some trickery to make it work.

Everywhere you see a [ in the examples below, replace it with a < and everywhere you see a ] replace it with a > .

To make something bold:
Soli [b]Deo[/b] gloria
becomes
Soli Deo gloria

And for italics:
Soli [i]Deo[/i] gloria
becomes
Soli Deo gloria

And for both together:
Soli [b][i]Deo[/b][/i] gloria
becomes
Soli Deo gloria

As for links,
[a href="http://www.t4g.org/"]T4G[/a]
becomes
T4G

Hope that helps.

Stefan said...

John Bird:

Read this post (in its entirety), then read Phil Johnson's comment for the technical details.

In his list of HTML code, change fos_lg (on the line that begins with 'src="') to fos_sm for the small graphic, or fos_xsm for the extra small version.

John Bird said...

Thank you my kind friend.

John Bird said...

I am now a proud displayer of the "Friend of Sinners" link. Rather than having to paste the code in the sidebar HTML, there is now a shortcut under "add page element." Easy even for someone like me!

By the way, we used to sing a wonderful hymn in the Primitive Baptist church:

Jesus, thou art the sinner's friend
as such I look to thee
While thou art sitting on thy throne,
Oh Lord, remember me.

Stefan said...

Amen!

The Doulos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.