15 July 2018

“I believe in creeds"


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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 11, sermon number 659, "Simeon."


"I like a doctrinal religion." 

I do not believe in the statement of some people, that they have no creedA man says, for instance, “I am not a Calvinist, and I am not an Arminian, I am not a Baptist, I am not a Presbyterian, I am not an Independent.” He says he is liberalBut this is only the license he claims for his own habit of disagreeing with everyone

He is one of that kind of people whom we generally find to be the most bigoted themselves, and least tolerant of othersHe follows himself; and so belongs to the smallest denomination in the worldI do not believe that charity consists in giving up our denominational distinctionsI think there is a “more excellent way.” 

Even those who do not despise faith, although they almost sacrifice it to their benevolence, will sometimes say, “Well, I do not belong to any of your sects and parties.” There was a group of men once, who came out from all branches of the Christian Church, with the hope that everyone else of true heart would follow themThe result, however, has been, that they have only made another denomination, distinct alike in doctrine and discipline

I believe in creeds, if they are based on ScriptureThey may not secure unity of sentiment, but on the whole they promote it, for they serve as landmarks, and show us the points at which many turn asideEvery man must have a creed if he believes anythingThe greater certainty he feels that it is true, the greater his own satisfaction

In doubts, darkness, and distrust, there can be no consolationThe vague fancies of the sceptic, as he muses over images and apprehensions too shapeless and airy to be incorporated into any creed, may please for awhile, but it is the pleasure of a dream

I believe that there is consolation for Israel in the substance of faith, and the evidence of things not seen Ideas are too ethereal to lay hold ofThe anchor we have is sure and steadfastI thank God that the faith I have received can be moulded into a creed, and can be explained with words so simple, that the common people can understand it, and be comforted by it.


09 July 2018

The Rise of Woker-Than-Thou Evangelicalism

by Phil Johnson



nless you have been living in seclusion somewhere, you will have noticed that a radical putsch is currently underway to get evangelicals on board with doctrines borrowed from Black Liberation Theology, Critical Race Theory, Intersectional Feminism, and other ideologies that are currently stylish in the left-leaning secular academy. All of these things are being aggressively promoted in the name of "racial reconciliation." I'm WokeThis has suddenly given rise to a popular movement that looks to be far more influential—and a more ominous threat to evangelical unity and gospel clarity—than the Emergent campaign was 15 years ago. The movement doesn't have an official name yet, but the zealots therein like to refer to themselves as "woke." Evangelical thought leaders boast of their wokeness and vie with one another to be woker-than-thou.

In many ways, today's Woke Evangelicals are merely an echo of their Emergent forebears. The central threads of their rhetoric are identical, and many of their goals are similar—starting with their campaign to convince other evangelicals that gospel clarity alone will never reach a hostile culture. To do that, they say, Jesus was intersectional?we must strive for postmodern political correctness. We need to try to "make Christianity cool." Nowadays, that means race must be an issue in practically every subject we deal with. Meanwhile, diversity, tolerance, inclusivity, and a host of other postmodern "virtues" have begun to edge out the actual fruit of the Spirit in the language and conversation of some of our wokest brethren.

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and Together for the Gospel (T4G) were founded little more than a decade ago to bring Christians together around a shared commitment to the foundational doctrines of gospel truth. Earlier this year both organizations sponsored conferences promoting Woke dogmas. Both of them, for example, paid homage to Dr. Martin Luther King not only as a great champion of civil rights (which he certainly was), but also as an exemplar of gospel truth and authentic Christian conviction (which he emphatically was not). Those of us who don't believe that kind of "wokeness" reflects biblical integrity have been scolded, shamed, and called racists by key leaders from both organizations.

In other words, these two organizations that were originally founded to unite believers in the proclamation and defense of the gospel are now dividing evangelicals over something other than the gospel. Under the guise of being Woke they are championing ideological dogmas and political policies that no biblically-minded Christian in any generation of church history ever considered germane to the gospel. They are actually shifting the evangelical focus away from true gospel issues.

In short, I fear both TGC and T4G are dangerously close to becoming exactly what they were founded to oppose.

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08 July 2018

Expected expectoration

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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 49, sermon number 2,824, "Mocked of the soldiers."

"Far be it from us to seek a crown of honour where our Lord found a coronet of thorn."


I do believe—I cannot help believing—that our blessed Master, when he was in the hands of those cruel soldiers, and they crowned him with thorns, bowed before him in mock reverence, and insulted him in every possible way, all the while looked behind the curtain of the visible circumstances, and saw that the heartless pantomime,—nay, tragedy,—only partially hid the divine reality, for he was a King, even then, and he had a throne, and that thorn-crown was the emblem of the diadem of universal sovereignty that shall, in due season, adorn his blessed brow; that reed was to him a type of the sceptre which he shall yet wield as King of kings, and Lord of lords; and when they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” he heard, behind that mocking cry, the triumphant note of his future glory, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The Lord God omnipotent reigneth; and he shall reign for ever and ever!” for when they mockingly bowed the knee to him, he saw all nations really bowing before him, and his enemies licking the dust at his feet. 

Our Saviour knew that these ribald soldiers, unconsciously to themselves, were setting before him pictures of the great reward of his soul-travail. 

Let us not be discouraged if we have to endure anything of the same sort as our Lord suffered. He was not discouraged, but remained steadfast through it all. Mockery is the unintentional homage which falsehood pays to truth. Scorn is the unconscious praise which sin gives to holiness. 

What higher tribute could these soldiers give to Christ than to spit upon him? If Christ had received honour from such men, there would have been no honour in it to him. You know how even a heathen moralist, when they said to him, “So-and-So spoke well of you yesterday in the market,” asked, “What have I done amiss that such a wretch as that should speak well of me?” 

He rightly counted it a disgrace to be praised by a bad man; and because our Lord had done nothing amiss, all that these men could do was to speak ill of him, and treat him with contumely, for their nature and character were the very opposite of his. 

Representing, as these soldiers did, the unregenerate, God-hating world, I say that their scorn was the truest reverence that they could offer to Christ while they continued as they were; and so, at the back of persecution, at the back of heresy, at the back of the hatred of ungodly men to the cross of Christ, I see his everlasting kingdom advancing, and I believe that “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be exalted above the hills,” and that “all nations shall flow unto it,” even as Isaiah foretold; that Jesus shall sit upon the throne of David, and that of the increase of his kingdom there shall be no end, for the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and honour unto him, “and he shall reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah!” 

Glory be to his holy name!


04 July 2018

Christian Dating: An Introduction

by Hohn Cho



One of the things that I so appreciated about Pyromaniacs back in the day was the sheer breadth of topics that Phil, Dan, and Frank covered. I was regularly blessed by biblical critiques of the latest evangelical fads, solid thoughts about theology, timeless quotes and passages from Spurgeon, formative articles on seeing our culture through a Christian worldview, and incredibly helpful practical pieces like this one from Dan Phillips, on Christians dating non-Christians, which I've cited many times, as recently as yesterday.

In that spirit, I think it's important for this blog to speak to a variety of matters. And while I'm no polymath like Phil, I've spent the great majority of my Christian life in ministry alongside primarily single folks, and so I'm passionate about the topic of singleness and marriage. So having written my first two posts on the innocuous and uncontroversial subject of "race," I've now decided to dip my toes into the far more placid waters of Christian dating, and this post will serve as an introduction to an occasional series.

As an initial matter, please note that I'm using the term "dating" somewhat loosely, in that I'm really talking about any intentional process that two Bible-believing Christians might follow in figuring out whether or not they ought to get married. One could call it dating, one could probably even call it courtship in certain contexts. In fact, Josh Harris, who over 20 years ago (when he was a 21-year-old single man) wrote "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" (a book which was widely credited with starting the "courtship" craze in Christian circles) subsequently defined courtship in a 2005 sermon as "a purposeful relationship in which a man and a woman are intentionally considering marriage" . . . which sounds a lot like what I would call intentional dating.

Even just a few months ago, Harris said, "I learned that intentionality can be taken too far, to where people can put the relationship under a microscope: Is this the person I'm going to marry? With such tremendous pressure, it's devastating when the relationship doesn't work out. It makes it hard for single people to get to know other people in a more relaxed environment . . . We don't do well with complexity. People latch on to movements for simple answers and promises. Even now as I revisit this issue, I don't want to fall into the trap of thinking this is the real answer. We need to go to God humbly as a community and recognize there's no one-size-fits-all approach."

Given how intensely the courtship concept has been applied in certain conservative evangelical circles, it's very interesting to see Harris' evolving views on this topic. And I wholeheartedly agree with many of his more recent comments, particularly that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. And one of the main reasons why is that we need to remember, the specific topic of dating isn't even in the Bible! We do have some descriptive examples and civil laws of Old Testament Israel relating to how people got married in the Ancient Near East, and some of those examples might even be helpful as we consider Christian dating today . . . but to be candid, some of the examples are, shall we say, not so helpful.

In the absence of clear imperatives on how specifically to go get a spouse, we're left with some excellent and timeless biblical principles, as well as some commands on general Christian behavior. The commands are straightforward. I can declare with confidence that in dating, one must abstain from sexual immorality, because that's what 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says. But it gets harder when we move to broader biblical principles, and that's because in any given situation, people apply biblical principles differently, they apply them with greater or lesser degrees of emphasis, and they sometimes even dare to apply entirely different—but still valid—biblical principles.

This means there's necessarily a lot of Christian liberty when it comes to dating. And so despite the yearning we've seen in the courtship culture and elsewhere to turn dating into a rigid, easy-to-follow formula, the reality is that there is no biblical formula. Speaking generally, there is no "you must approach it this way" or specific how-to guide in Christian dating. That can be one challenging part of Christian liberty, and it can become even more challenging when one realizes that certain things might be fine for one person in his liberty, but they might not be fine for another person in her liberty. And when we get right down to it, many times, we're merely talking about competing preferences that need to get hashed out.

In light of all of that, in future articles in this series, I'm going to be offering some observations and viewpoints. And as with any topical series, there are any number of specific biblical principles we could discuss—so I'm not saying the points I ultimately choose to highlight are the only important ones, or that it will be anywhere close to a complete word on this subject. They're not at all intended to be dictatorial edicts from on high, but rather as words intended to help from a fellow laborer and brother, speaking to his family in Christ.

Now, my genuine hope and prayer is that the perspective I'll be presenting will be centered on biblical principles, and that the opinions will be at least slightly informed, based on my over 13 years of experience in singles ministry. But at the end of the day, if you find something I say to be helpful, great, and if you don't, no problem. No offense taken if you don't follow my advice, I promise. Next time, I'll start the series with a discussion of the importance of Christlike character, and what that might look like practically in the context of Christian dating.

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