31 August 2008

Pray for India

by Phil Johnson

eports out of India over the past week or so describe a dramatic increase in violence against Christians, mainly at the hands of radical Hindus in the state of Orissa. The conflicts are to a large degree rooted in Hinduism's caste system and Hindu resentment over lower-caste people who have converted from Hinduism to Christianity.

But the incident that sparked the current violence was the August 23 murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, Orissa's top leader of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a hard-line Hindu nationalist organization. Saraswati was well-known for his militant opposition to Christianity. He is alleged to have directed the burning of hundreds of churches.

Maoists (communists) have taken responsibility for Swami Saraswati's murder, but Christians have been the main targets of the radical Hindiu backlash. VHP leaders insist Christian missionaries plotted the murder.

More than 50,000 Christians are said to have fled the region, hiding in jungles and forests to escape the violence. Many of them will likely be permanently dispossessed of all they have.

Reports also allege that the partisan government in Orissa has done little to stop the anti-Christian violence, and has perhaps even been complicit in the persecutions.

I've received a few e-mails this weekend from friends in India describing some of the persecution. The Web is full of stories about it as well. None was more disturbing than this e-mail I received, from an evangelical church in India:

Yesterday one of our church members B_____ P______ hailing from Orissa reported that Fanatic Hindus came to her home in Orissa and asked all of them to become Hindus. On refusal they started threatening the family, so her brother said, "We will worship our Lord Jesus." The Hindus said that they would kill him, and asked, "Don't you fear to be killed?" He said, "I am willing to die for Jesus." So they cut him in three pieces. They also killed her maternal uncle, burnt the whole house and threw them on the road. Kindly keep on praying. Things are started happening in our state also. Kindly see Orissa violence on Net for more information.

I thank you all for praying, & we can say that He is El-Shaddi God. S_____ F______.

Here's another document, compiled by the Evangelical Fellowship of India, listing forty-six typical acts of violence that have occurred over the past week. At the end of the document is contact information for three government officials to whom letters of concern and protest may be addressed.

  1. On 24th of August Pastor Jeebaratna Lima from Khurda District, was attacked and beaten up mercilessly. The miscreants doused petrol on him and about to set him on fire but timely arrival of Police saved his life. He was in Police custody but later was released on bail next day.
  2. Pastor Bahumulya Paik of Bamandei, Patpur Police Station. Ganjam District was beaten to a point of death by a mob of around 100 people. He vomited blood and later gained conciousness and managed to flee from the place while the group was engaged in attacking the local believers. Since the hospitals were closed no medical help was available. On August 26, the police escorted him to some distance by their vehicle and left him on the way to take a bus and go away.
  3. Pastor Bishnu Kumbhar and his pregnant wife of village Dutta, under Madan Rampur Police Station of Kalahandi district, were chased out. To save their lives, they ran away in the darkness and hid themselves from the attackers.
  4. Pastor Susanjit Beero of Tengada Pathar under Tikabali Police Station of Phulabani, was attacked by a group of Hindutva miscreants. Along with few believers he is still reported to be taking shelter in the forest though without food and clothes from the last 48 hours.
  5. Pastor Dillip Koshla of Tiangia village, under Raikia Police Station was attacked by the mob. His house and property are burned and looted by the unruly mob.
  6. Pastor Birendra Harijan, of Nakapolo Church under Dharmasala Police Station of Jajpur District was beaten up badly. As the miscreants were about to set his house on fire the timely arrival of police saved the disaster.
  7. Pastor Amit Pani of Ampani village, Koksora Police Station(PS) under Kalahandi district was chased out and locked in a house but they manage to escape.
  8. Pastor Lebiyo Raito of Kanjamendi, Nuagam PS, Phulbani, was attacked and chased away from his house. He is still hiding in the jungle.
  9. Pastor Jatan Nayak, of Bhadrak district was attacked and his house ransacked. He is in the Police protection at the moment.
  10. Pastor Abinash Garjang, of Tattaguda, Malkangiriis attacked and the Church building was ransacked.
  11. Pastor Aurobindo Sahu of Tumgurpada Church, Bargarh District is threatened to leave the place with dire consequences.
  12. District pastor Anant Benya of Badibahal church, Luisingha PS, in Bolangir District was issued threat to attack the church on 26th August.
  13. Pastor Pabitra Digal and Pastor Dharmendra Digal, of Sundargarh district have received threats to their life burning the church.
  14. Pastor Thomas Bhoi of Petapanga church Raikia, Kandhamal district was attacked by the mob and their household items were damaged.
  15. Pastor Ramakant Pradhan of Dotta Church and Pastor Sulaisng Barik of Hatibandh Church under Sinapali PS of Nuapada District was chased away from the village. Their whereabouts are not known.
  16. Pastor Bijaya Surya of Penkam Church, Gunapur PS, Rayagada District is threatened and asked to leave the place.
  17. Pastor Mothilal Sagar and his family, also along with 5 Sisters and two brothers in Madekela, Godphila block were attacked but they managed to flee and hid themselves. The miscreants are searching for them.
  18. More than 15 church buildings of Believers Church alone and several churches of other denomination are damaged. The rampage is still going on unabated.
  19. Church building and 60 houses in Tiangia village, Raikia, Kandhamal burnt. Two Christians named Dasarath Pradhan, Bikram Naik killed.
  20. Church building was bombed and destroyed. 30 houses burnt in Tengdapathar, Tikabali, Kandhamal.
  21. Church and parsonage damaged, 20 houses burnt, Two believers killed in Pettapanga, Saranggada, Kandhmal.
  22. Chandrasekaharpur, BDA Church, Bhubaneswar damaged.
  23. Tangupada, Bargarh District, the anti-Christians have threatened the pastor Arobindo Sahu to leave and they have a plan to destroy the newly built Church.
  24. Audio Visual Team are hiding in the jungle in Chandragiri, Gajapati District because of the threats.
  25. BOH (Education centre for Children) in Kuttenpalli, Bolangir District having 120 students was threatened to close down.
  26. Tattaguda Church of Pastor Abinash Garjang in Baipariguda, Malkangiri demolished.
  27. Bhatta Palla Church of Pastor John Naik in Madanpur, Rampur, in Kalahandi demoslished.
  28. Tujung Church of Pastor Basant Digal in M. Rampur Kalahandi damaged.
  29. Ladapanga Church of Pastor Rajanikanth Nayak in Daringbadi damaged.
  30. The residences of Pastor Bijaya Kumar Surya, Pastor Susil Lima of Miraguda, Gunupur ransacked and looted. No police protection given.
  31. The Church of Pastor Junus Digal destroyed and 180 houses of Christians burnt in Balkidadi, Kandhmal. Without food and drinking water the Christians are in the jungle from last three days.
  32. The church building and all the houses of the Christians in Kurmingia of Kandhamal burnt. The Christians have fled to nearby jungles.
  33. Church building and houses ransacked and later burnt in Tattaguda of Malkangiri District.
  34. Churches destroyed and houses burnt along with 4 believers killed in Dadingia of Raikia, Kandhamal.
  35. The church of Pastor Alif Nayak alongwith 12 houses in Ranipada, Kandhamal burnt. Pastor killed.
  36. Houses burnt and Christians attacked in Madkela, Tusura in Bolangir.
  37. Pastors Dandapani and Junus Diagal chased out of their place but they managed to flee to safety in nearby jungle.
  38. Four incidents of attacks reported in Koraput. 39. Carmel English Medium School in Khurda threatened to close down by Hindu fundamentalists.
  39. Houses in Khariapada, Udaigari were bombed by petrol bombs.
  40. Unconfirmed reports suggests around 10-11 Christians were killed in jungles by angry and unruly mob.
  41. Church in Balangir demolished.
  42. Complete failure of Law and Order in violence affected areas. Police and Para-millitary forces are mere spectators.
  43. 300-400 attackers burnt houses of Christians in Kurmanga, Raikia.
  44. Nuagaon village dominated by around 50 Christian families completely burnt down.
  45. Church in Nuagaon village burnt.
  46. Grace Girls Hostel having 60-70 students in Kotagarh, Phulbani attacked by more than 1000 people. Just 10 Police personnel posted for protection were not sufficient to protect the Hostel.
The [Hindu] fundamentalist group are going from village to village destroying Churches, burning houses, attacking and killing Christians. It is reported that thousands of extremists have been brought from Gujarat and Chhattisgarh to perpetrate this violence which has spread to all the districts of Orissa. Their agenda is to wipe out Chrisitians and Christianity from India starting from Orissa. Christian community is saddened by the response of the Government so far to tackle the situation in Orissa that has become the boiling pot of crooked political agendas of the Sangh Parivar. EFI once again request the concerned Christians to voice their concerns at the below mentioned addresses: Dr. Manmohan Singh Prime Minister of India Room No. 152, South Block, New Delhi, 110001 Shri Navin Patnaik Chief Minister of Orissa Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road, P.O.-Bhubaneswar, District-Khurda, Pin-751001 (Orissa) Email:cmo@ori.nic.in Shri Amarananda Pattanayak, IPS Director General of Police Rev. Dr. Richard Howell General Secretary Evangelical Fellowship of India New Delhi, India Evangelical Fellowship of India (established 1951) is a charter member of World Evangelical Alliance, an accredited NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Do pray for our brothers and sisters in India. Phil's signature

The Bankruptcy of "Progressive" Doctrine

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "How To Meet the Evils of the Age," chapter 4 in An All-Round Ministry.

andel, on one occasion, played the organ in a country church; and, at the close of the service, he gave a voluntary of such a sort that all the people lingered to hear it. The old organist [who usually played in that church] was indignant, and said, "Now, let that organ alone, you can't play the people out; let me do it."

These progressive gentlemen certainly can play the people out. Their gifts of dispersion are amazing. Put them down in any warm-hearted Christian community, and see if they will not scatter and divide it; place them in any town you may select, and though they may be at first attractive (for some people are attracted by any novelty, however erroneous), yet, after a short time, there being no life, there will be no power to retain the people.

We remember the experiment of Daventry, under that eminently godly man, Dr. Doddridge, and we are not inclined to try the like under any circumstances. That worthy man did not dogmatize to "the dear young men" who came to his College, but adopted the plan of letting them hear the argument upon each side, that they might select for themselves. The result was as disastrous as if error had been taught, for nothing is worse than lukewarmness as to truth. Dissent became enervated with a faint-hearted liberalism, and we had a generation of Socinians, under whom Nonconformity almost expired. Both General and Particular Baptists have had enough of this evil leaven, and we are not inclined to put it again into the people's bread.

Besides, we are invited to follow the guidance of men who are not qualified to be leaders. I have waited, with a good deal of interest, to see whether modern thought would be capable of producing a man, a man of mark, of profound mind, and philosophic genius; but where is he? Where is the man who will found a school, and sway his fellows; a man for the orthodox to tremble at, a great Goliath, head and shoulders above his fellows? Truly, there are some who think they have power, and so they have amongst those young gentlemen whose moustachios are on the point of developing; but they have no influence over those who read their Bibles, have had experience, and are accustomed to "try the spirits."

The great lights are the literary men who produce articles in certain Reviews which are the oracles of the elite, or of those who think themselves so. I wonder how many of these precious Reviews are sold; but that, of course, is of small consequence, because the quality of their readers is so high! See what airs a man gives himself because he reads a Review!

Are these things so very clever? I am unable to see it. I used to hear that Evangelical writers produced platitudes; I believe they did, but surely they never wrote more watery trash than is published in the present day in opposition to the orthodox faith; but then, you see, it is given out in such a Latinized jargon that its obscurity is mistaken for profundity. If you have the time and patience to read a little of what is written by the modern-thought gentlemen, you will not be long before you are weary of their word-spinning, their tinkering of old heresies into original thought, and their general mystifying of plain things.

It only needs a man of power to smash them up like potters' vessels, but then the result would only be pieces of broken pottery. "Show us a man worth following," say we, "and when you do, we will not follow him, but fight with him; at the present, we are not likely to leave Calvin, and Paul, and Augustine, to follow you."
C. H. Spurgeon

29 August 2008

Mischief and Miscellany

Plus six all-new Po-Motivators® (see below)
by Phil Johnson

     was going to write a substantive post today. Then I decided instead just to link to a smattering of things that have puzzled, amused, intrigued, or appalled me lately. Here you go, in no particular order:

  • More moral insanity from Great Britain: "A lap dancer, a lesbian, and a lapsed Christian with a pregnant girlfriend are among the participants on the U.K.'s newest reality show, Make Me a Christian."
  • James White posts a collection of YouTube souvenirs.
  • Our own Frank Turk leaves some profound thoughts in another blog's combox regarding the popular notion that there's something unsavory about contending for any mere matter of biblical principle when someone's feelings are involved:
    OK—I'm watching this society of christian brothers begin to populate this meta here with "Yes, more love please" affirmations, and I think that's a wholly-biblical, wholly-spiritually-industrious, wholly-useful endeavor: I think that people should think more clearly about the command of Christ to actually do unto actual others as you would have them actually do unto you.
        Yes: I agree. In fact, I would take that to the root first before I took it to the blogosphere: you should do unto others in your local church and where you do business every day as you would have them do unto you. Because if that was happening, a few noisy scandal-bloggers would be seen as anomalies and not as a proliferation of the Church lady stereotype of christians. (Small "c" intended.)
        The problem—and the issue here is that there is actually a problem and not merely a dysfunctional relational environment—is that the church is sick. Listen: pomos, conservatives, liberals, bloggers, pastors, unbelievers, you add your favorite category of person here—they all agree that the church is sick. The church is not healthy, especially in America.
        But what's the cause of the sickness and what's the cure? Is it the rather-nebulous question of "love"? Or is it something less subjective and more actionable—and is there a resource or a proper authority which can spell out for us what the solution is?
        This is really funny because I was watching a Steven Colbert clip last week about what was going on at Lambeth, and Colbert—a Catholic—was really beating down on the Anglicans because they couldn't figure out if God thought that gay men should be ordained as priests or bishops. His point, of course, was that there should be some guy they could ask who could sort it out for them.
        I agree with Colbert that there ought to be "some guy"—but that guy is God Himself, and the answers lie in His Word, which, btw, is not a collection of Jack-Handiesque comforting maxims. The Bible is full of loving statements, gentle rebukes, and frankly-stark insults against those who are frankly intransigent and wrong.
        Love is good. But it's not just one flavor. Expand your palate and taste and see the goodness of the Lord—no matter which flavor you think you like best right now.

  • Joel Griffith points me to this article, about author Joe Eszterhas, who says he tried Protestantism and loved the sermon, but felt "empty" because of the lack of liturgy.
  • Meanwhile, John Schoettler sends me this relevant quote from Spurgeon about the seductive dangers of elaborate liturgy and artificial worship. (Spurgeon also explains his preference for a capella corporate worship here):
    There is in human nature a tendency to permit religion itself to become mechanical : priests, temples, sacraments, the performing of services, organs, choirs, all go towards the making up of a machine which may do our worship for us, and leave us all our time to think about bread and cheese and the latest fashions. As cranks, pistons, valves, and cylinders take the place of bone and muscle on board ship, so millinery, bellows and ritual take the place of hearts and spirits in the place of worship. Certain outward appliances may be well enough in their place, but they too easily become substitutes for real heart-work and spiritual devotion, and then they are mischievous to the last degree. The preacher may use notes if he needs them, but his manuscript may steal from him that which is the very essence and soul of preaching, and yet his elaborate paper and his elegant reading may conceal from him the nakedness of the land. Praise may be rendered with musical instruments, if you will ; but the danger is lest the grateful adoration should evaporate, and nothing should remain but the sweet sounds. The organ can do no more than help us in noise-making, and it is a mere idol, if we imagine that it increases the acceptance of our praises before the Lord.

  • Anyone who reads church history attentively can hardly help noticing parallels between some of the current soteriological controversies in the Reformed world (I'm thinking especially of the Auburn Avenue/Federal Vision mess; the New Perspective on Paul; and Norman Shepherd's highly nuanced reconstruction of the doctrine of justification by faith) and earlier controversies where some of the same issues and rhetoric were being hacky-sacked around the church chancel (and I'm thinking here about the Oxford Movement/Tractarian controversy, the Mercersburg Theology, and other movements whose leaders have seemed less than comfortable with the principle of sola fide and whose liturgy has tended to elevate the eucharist over the sermon in order of priority). So I've been reading The Parting of Friends: The Wilberforces and Henry Manning by David Newsome and thinking about the parallelisms between then and now. Then I serendipitously came across this rare little number whilst doing an unrelated Google search, and it reminded me that there really is nothing new under the sun. A fascinating read and an eery deja vu experience for those interested in these cyclical controversies.
  • . . . and finally, I'm sorry, but I just can't help myself:

NOTE: if you're still seeing the Escher engraving on the above poster, hit reload. I redid this one, because if you're going to push the limits of fair use on a copyright question, best to use an image belonging to someone who understands the concept of parody. Besides, I like this version better anyway.

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28 August 2008

Marital jollity: thought-provokers

by Dan Phillips

Pastor David Wayne (the Jollyblogger) just shared Ten Things I Think I Think About Marriage and Marriage Counseling. If I'd written it, my dear wife would say it was too long, and (if I'd written it) she'd be right. But I didn't, so....

Some of Pastor Wayne's more memorable assertions, bolding added:
I think I think we focus too much on marriage and work too hard on our marriages to really be of any help.

...But a reading of the New Testament doesn't reflect an overwhelming concern with marriage and the family on the part of it's [sic] author (God!).

...Almost every serious marital conflict I get involved in eventually becomes a contest of wills, and the struggle is over whose "will" will prevail. This is a contest to rule.

...I think I think that we could improve many marriages if we could treat one another as enemies. In fact, I think that in many cases the relationship could improve immeasurably if Christians could elevate their spouse to that of an enemy.

Biblically, the Christian is called to love his/her enemy. According to Matthew 5 the Christian doesn't retaliate against his enemy, gives twice what the enemy asks, works twice as hard for the enemy as the enemy wants and blesses the one who treats them badly.

I'm thinking that if I weren't a Christian I would want to be the enemy of a Christian, because that's a pretty sweet deal relationally.

...In my pre-marital counseling and marriage counseling I try to tell people that there is no special category of counsel called "marital counseling" [ — ] it's all about basic Christian discipleship. This takes me back to my first point where I say we are missing the boat in marriage and marriage counseling.
I hope that whets your appetite. But do note, they're all out of context. Do not comment on Wayne's thoughts until you read the whole!

Now, here's what I think I think about some of what David thinks he thinks.

First, I think his central point is a really good point. Here's how I'd put it: there isn't a marriage failure that isn't also (and more fundamentally) a failure of discipleship, a failure as a Christian. I have thought that more times than I can possibly count, wanted to say, "You don't get this. It isn't simply that you need to be a more faithful husband/wife. You need to be a more faithful Christian. This isn't just about you and Mary/Bob. This is about you and Jesus."

Or, rephrased once again, you cannot legitimately say, "Yeah, I'm not much of a husband — but I'm a spankin' good disciple of Christ!" Nuh-uh.

Second, of course I think one of the ten things David thinks should be the big thing I know I think. I laid it out over two years ago in Pastoral marriage counseling: What if? Don't know whether David ever read it. Hope you do.

In that (among other things), I said:
What if, when the pair began to trade accusations, [the counseling pastor] held up his hand, and said, "Not yet. We can get back to that. What I want you to tell me now is what Jesus Christ means to you. Bob? You first. Then you, Tina."
And then I suggested that the pastor assign some directed Bible study on the nature of marriage and the nature of vows, have the couple bring in their marriage vows, and work from that basis. As Christians who've made sacred, binding, lifelong promises.

That goes right along with what I think David's main point is.

Pastor Wayne's other point (not mine), in my own words, is that we can mess up marriage by focusing on marriage as if it were a special, detached thing, rather than simply a facet of discipleship. It's equally an error to treat it as if it's unrelated, and to treat it as if it's everything. "You shouldn't talk to your husband that way" sometimes is equally "A Christian shouldn't talk to anyone that way"; as "You shouldn't treat your wife like that" sometimes is equally "A Christian shouldn't treat anyone like that."

So David is saying that if we focus on what should be central (loving God with everything, loving our neighbor as ourselves), that itself will improve our marriage.

I would, however, add this — and David can say for himself whether or not he agrees: it isn't pastorally wise to approach a troubled marriage and just say, in effect, "Be better Christians and everything should work out fine." As simplistic as it sounds, there is truth in that... but there's some important truth missing, too.

I think of it as analogous to physical health. Anything I do that's good for my body is also good for my finger, my leg, my heart, my kidneys. But if I develop a problem in one of those areas, I can't and shouldn't just ignore it, saying, "I'm not going to be distracted from doing what's good for my body, and throw my focus off onto something peripheral." When some part of my body suffers, I need to do something for that part, because it is a part of the whole.

Now it may turn out that B really is affected by neglect of A. Maybe I'm having kidney stones because I never drink enough water. So I need to drink more water. That would be good for my whole body, and especially for my kidneys. But, while I'm having kidney stones, maybe I need pain meds, or maybe I'll even need some sort of surgery.

HSAT, it's always good to be reminded: God's goal should be our goal, and His stated goal is that Jesus Christ come to have first place in all things (Colossians 1:18).

Including our marriages.

Dan Phillips's signature

27 August 2008

Signs and Wonders

by Frank Turk

Now look: before the torches and the pitchforks come out on either side, read what I posted last time on this topic. If you don't, or if you ignore that I have said that, don't expect to receive a warm welcome and a cup of tea when you comment on this post.

Fair Warning? Ok.

Now, that said, I want to underscore broadly about 30 passages from the OT and the NT about the question of signs and wonders, and you can find the passages I am talking about here. The phrase "signs and wonders" turns up about 30 times in the ESV -- and it is used in two different ways.

In Psa 135:9 and Acts 2:22, for example, the phrase is used to indicate the supernatural and unmistakable work of God which God used to reveal himself. That is: it is closely associated with the act of special revelation -- as in the covenant at Sinai and the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, of the 30 uses listed, all but one uses the phrase to refer to the work of God making special revelation, using His power to make it clear that what was happening was His work.

The exception to that practice is in 2 Thes 2:
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
So in one instance "signs and wonders" are predicted by Paul to describe the work of the "lawless one" (the antichrist) in deceiving those who are perishing.

Which is fine, right? Who wouldn't agree with that? When the antichrist comes, he will deceive those who do not believe. But think about this a second: if those who do not believe are deceived by the antichrist's false signs and wonders, what about the believers?

Paul says this about them:
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
This is important, so let's make sure we get this straight: the false signs and wonders will deceive those who are unbelievers not just in some intermediate way but in a final and eternal way. The supernatural deceptions of the devil will, in the final account, lead to destruction those who are unbelievers. But in the same way, those signs and wonders will not deceive the believers because, first and foremost, God has chosen to save them. But in chosing to save them, God has given them the truth in the Gospel by which they can discern the false signs and wonders from the revelatory signs and wonders.

And I am sure nobody reading this blog right now is offended by this. But some will take exception when I point out that one advocate of the continuation of signs has said this:
... I want to honor the uniqueness of the apostles—that they are once for all eyewitnesses and authoritative revelatory spokesmen of the living Christ. We have their final revelation in the New Testament and that remains now and always will remain our measuring rod for all doctrine and experience. But now the question is: Do we need to keep the gifts of healings and miracles away from ordinary church members because that was the only way the apostles could authenticate themselves? No. The miracle working power of the apostles was only PART of what authenticated their authority. If the only thing that set the apostles apart as authoritative and true was their signs and wonders, then false prophets could claim the same authority and truth, because Jesus and Paul both tell us that false prophets will do signs and wonders to lead people astray (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; cf. Revelation 13:14; 16:14; 19:20).
Now, I am willing to stipulate that these other passages also say that false signs and wonders will deceive some. What I am wondering is whether or not these passages say that false signs and wonders will deceive those who believe in Christ.

For example, does Mat 24:24 say that the elect -- the true Christian disciples, the one who is saved by Christ -- will be deceived? I think it says, as John Gill writes, "to deceive these [elect] finally and totally, is impossible, as is here suggested; not impossible, considering their own weakness, and the craftiness of deceivers, who, if left to themselves, and the power of such deception, and the working of Satan with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, might easily be seduced; but considering the purposes and promises of God concerning them, the provisions of his grace for them, the security of them in the hands of Christ, and their preservation by the mighty power of God, their final and total deception is not only difficult, but impossible."

So as we wade into the question, again, of what exactly we are talking about, let me point out that a significant flaw of one argument against the cessation of the gifts is that it has a misguided assessment of the purpose and power of divine "signs and wonders".

26 August 2008

Coming attractions

by Phil Johnson

Springs Of Life Bible Church
Durham, NC
November 21-22, 2008

Send (or bring) your pastor.

BONUS: Click HERE to listen in on a conversation I had with James White earlier this year.

(Incidentally, James White and I will also be speaking at a conference together in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 20-24 August 2009. Watch this space for details.)

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Book review — If You Could Ask God One Question, by Paul Williams and Barry Cooper

by Dan Phillips
If You Could Ask God One Question, by Paul Williams and Barry Cooper (The Good Book Company, Ltd.: 2007; 127 pages)
This was one of the amazing array of books we were given at the T4G conference in April. Though two authors are listed, the the book is written in the first-person singular, with Paul Williams (not the diminutive songwriter) as the speaker.

The book is brief and eminently readable. Long ago I wearied of professional apologists writing books telling Christians about the theory of apologetics, but themselves not actually addressing non-Christians, and showing us how. (That's why I did this.)

One Question is a book that is meant to be given to non-Christians. The authors work to provide readable, Christ-centered answers appealing to unbelievers and pointing them to Christ.

How successful are they?

First, let's consider the array of questions. What questions do you hear from unbelievers? The authors take the engaging premise captured in the title, and come up with these:
  • "If you're really there, God, why on earth don't you prove it?"
  • "Isn't the Bible just a bunch of made-up stories?"
  • "All good people go to Heaven, right?"
  • "If you're a God of love, why send anyone to Hell?"
  • "If Jesus really was your Son, how come he got killed?"
  • "If I can be forgiven everything, doesn't that mean I can do whatever I like?"
  • "How can anyone be sure there's life after death?"
  • "What about followers of other religions?"
  • "Isn't faith just a psychological crutch?"
  • "Why do you allow suffering?"
  • "Why do you hate sex?"
  • "Why don't you just do a miracle?"
  • "So, God, if you could ask me one question, what would it be?"
These questions are approached throughout in a style that is light, conversational, and frequently humorous. You get this feel from the very start, where the author asks a friend what he would ask God. The friend pondered deeply, then offered this:
"Is Elvis really dead?"

I blinked.

"That would be your question?"

"Yes," said Martin.

Trying to be sensitive, I suggested, "It's not really a matter of life and death though, is it Martin?"

He thought for a moment.

"It is if you're Elvis."
But this breezy tone actually conveys some pretty substantial content. The book itself frequently and extensively engages Scripture. Additionally, the footnotes (!) provide documentation, and often point to web pages. The down-side is that URLs seem frequently to become dead links; the up-side is they're free and immediately accessible — and how many unbelievers actually go out an buy a bunch of academic books to get their questions answered?

In fact, the whole is backed up by the web site Christianity Explored. Right at the start, the URL is provided in this book to find resources for more extended research.

Next, how good are the answers? The frame of the whole is Biblical Christianity. The "voice" is human and real, but the stance is neither timid nor abashed. The writers know they're not telling people what they want to hear, but this is not "I'm-sorry" apologetics.

In fact, this isn't a book on the theory of apologetics; it is apologetics. The don't compare and contrast evidentialism, presupposition or the rest. Instead, they simply wade right in to dealing out Scriptural responses to the questions.

As a result, I think just about any apologetic school could use this book. I find their approach fits just fine with my own basically van Tilian approach. Every time, they basically take the question to Christ, and show the meaning and cohesion of the Gospel answer.

For instance:
  • To "If you're really there, God, why on earth don't you prove it?", their response is "He did, when He became a man," coupled with a solid overview treatment of the deity of Christ.
  • To "Isn't the Bible just a bunch of made-up stories?", their response is to give Christ's teaching on the authority of Scripture, and to explain why His view makes a difference.
  • To "All good people go to Heaven, right?", they answer with Christ's response to the rich young ruler, and with what the Lord says about the human heart.
  • "So, God, if you could ask me one question, what would it be?", they reply in Jesus' words: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Luke 9:25 NIV [sorry]).
This is Christ-centered apologetics, evangelistic apologetics. I recommend it.

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25 August 2008

Hey, CT Told Us the Megashift Was Coming

New-model Christianity, or old-model heresy?
The following post, and some of the material that will follow in subsequent posts, has been adapted from one of my messages at the 2005 School of Theology at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London in 2005.

(First posted Thursday, August 11, 2005)

PyroManiacbout fifteen years ago, Christianity Today (February 19, 1990) published a major article describing several novel theological ideas that were (at the time) barely whispers among a handful of influential academic evangelical writers and theologians. Written by renowned Canadian theologian Robert Brow, the article was titled "Evangelical Megashift."

According to Brow, evangelical theology was quietly being remodeled by some of the movement's most influential thinkers. He used some benign-sounding language to describe how evangelical thinking had already changed radically, even though most evangelicals had not yet noticed the changes. But Brow implied that even more monumental changes were on the horizon. Subsequent history has shown, I believe, that he was exactly right in his predictions.

(Don't take that as an endorsement of Brow's theological perspective. In my assessment, he is himself a theological miscreant of the worst stripe. I've listed him in the "Really Bad" section of my annotated bookmarks and given a brief explanation for that assessment. I don't need to rehash it here.)

Brow's 1990 CT article pretended to be an objective report about what was happening in the theological world, but the truth is that Robert Brow himself was one of the main figures working hard behind the scenes in the academic world to bring about a wholesale remodeling of evangelical theology. He was an ardent advocate of virtually every theological innovation he described. So the article was actually a propaganda piece promoting what Brow referred to as "new-model theology."

Today the new model exists in full form, and it has a name: Open Theism. Every issue Brow discussed in that 1990 article touches on a key point of doctrine where some or all of the leading Open Theists have departed from the historic evangelical position.

But here's something I find even more interesting: Read Brow's article and notice that virtually all the issues he raised are also the pet issues of several leading figures in the Emerging Church movement.

I'm not suggesting everyone associated with the Emerging Church is also tainted with Open Theism. Nor would I necessarily accuse Emerging Church leaders of harboring deliberate sympathies with everything their "openness" cousins stand for. But I do believe the two movements clearly have common roots, and the Emerging Church, in a very real sense, represents the metastasis of the same unhealthy theological tendencies that gave rise to Open Theism. Brow's article is a catalogue of those pathologies.

In the days to come, I'll say more about this and examine some of the key similarities between Brow's "Megashift" and the Emerging Church. But in the meantime, if you want to take an interesting romp down memory lane, review the article referred to above, and notice how the theological agenda being touted by the more outspoken leaders of the Emerging Church (including various champions of innovation ranging from Steve Chalke to Tony Campolo) is a clear, almost point-for-point echo of what Robert Brow was already talking about more than fifteen years ago.

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23 August 2008


by Phil Johnson

eet Allyson Felix, a neighbor of mine. Her dad, Paul, teaches at The Master's Seminary. She won silver and gold medals in the Beijing Olympics this week.

Believe it or not, Allyson was actually a little disappointed with those results. But watch this short video-essay about her, and I think you'll see that Allyson herself is no disappointment:

Yes, she really is that good.


Why Error Is Now Thriving in the Church

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from chapter 12, "The Minister in These Times," in the book An All-round Ministry.

t is as important to know Christ as the truth, as it is to know Christ as the way and the life.

Some excellent brethren seem to think more of the life than of the truth; for when I warn them that the enemy has poisoned the children's bread, they answer, "Dear brother, we are sorry to hear it; and, to counteract the evil, we will open the window, and give the children fresh air."

Yes, open the window, and give them fresh air, by all means. You cannot do a better thing, in view of many purposes; but, at the same time, this ought you to have done, and not to have left the other undone. Arrest the poisoners, and open the windows, too.

While men go on preaching false doctrine, you may talk as much as you will about deepening their spiritual life, but you will fail in it. While you do one good thing, do not neglect another. Instead of saying that the life is more important, or the truth is more important, or the way is more important, let us be united in the firm belief that they are each one equally important, and that one cannot be well sustained and thoroughly carried out without the rest.

Some quit the teaching of Christ out of sheer wantonness, and childish love of novelty. To younger brethren, false doctrine comes as an infantile disease, a sort of inevitable spiritual measles. I wish them well through with the disorder, and I trust it will leave nothing bad behind it. With deep anxiety, I have watched over minds infected with this raging epidemic; and I have rejoiced as I have seen the rash of unbelief come out beautifully, and have heard the patient say, "Thank God, I shall never go back to that any more."

Still, it is a pity that so many should find it needful to traverse the foul way which has bemired others. They remind me of a certain worldly lady, to whom her minister, remarking her great gaiety, said, "Solomon has said, 'Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.'" "Yes," she replied, "I know what Solomon has said; but he found it out by his own personal experience, and I should like to do the same." She was no Solomon, assuredly; for they who have wisdom will profit by the experience of others. If you have seen others go abroad for wool, and come home shorn, prudence would suggest that you need not go also.

Some fall into doubt through an inward crookedness. Certain men start new doctrines because "something is rotten in the state of Denmark," and out of rottenness fungoid growths must come. You may have read Pliny's "Natural History." If you have not read it, you need not do so, for the history is not generally natural, but fabulous. Pliny tells us that, when the elephant goes to a pool of water, and sees himself in it, he is moved with such disgust at his own ugliness, that he straightway stirs the water, and makes it muddy, that he may not see himself.

Such an elephant never lived; but I have seen men who have been very comparable to it. Holy Scripture has not agreed with them,—so much the worse for Holy Scripture! Such-and-such doctrines do not suit their tastes, so they must be misrepresented, or denied.

An unregenerate heart lies at the bottom of "modern thought." Men are down-grade in doctrine because they were never put on the up-grade by the renewal of their minds.

C. H. Spurgeon

22 August 2008

More unbridled cruelty

by Phil Johnson

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21 August 2008

A Question for Our Arminian Readers

by Phil Johnson

ow is it that God inspired the Scriptures in such a way that every word—indeed, every jot and tittle—was what He determined?

Every standard evangelical definition of inspiration would emphatically insist that God used the personalities, vocabularies, intellects, and learning of the individual authors—and we completely agree. Let's also stipulate that He did not employ dictation (except in a few cases where this is expressly stated).

Yet the product was still determined sovereignly by God. The words are avowedly His words (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Corinthians 2:13).

So how did this miracle occur?

I say you cannot answer that question without embracing the very essence of the Calvinist position regarding God's sovereignty and human free will.

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20 August 2008

Not more, nor less

by Frank Turk

Since last week I promised that I was going to approach Dr. Piper's sermon series on the gifts more particularly, I want to do that from a different place than having said that Dr. Piper and C.J. Mahaney need to clap on the apologetic 6-shooters and become the new sheriff in those there Charismatic parts.

I want to start with something I said in the meta a while ago which, I think, people need to keep in mind as we approach the question of how the Holy Spirit works in the church.

My opinion is that a "cautious" continualist and a "cautious" cessationist have way more in common that they have in contention. They agree that prayer is efficacious; they agree that God is the giver of all good things; they agree that the Christian has a privilege to ask God for his needs; they agree that we should rejoice when God supplies those needs.

The problem is when someone claims more than that, or less than that. I would say that those who fall outside of those affirmations put themselves in spiritual danger -- a topic about which I am sure I have more I should write down.

19 August 2008

Where I've Been

by Dan Phillips

This is just a really-brief space-taker, because that's all I've time to do. My wife packs our days with brilliant plans, and today's no different. Nut sure when I'll manage a more "substantial" post, since everything will continue to be a bit of a whirlwind through the weekend.

We walked the Freedom Trail in Boston, about which I'll say more, later, somewhere. But the most exhausting part was this: the Bunker Hill memorial obelisk.

Rachael and I climbed 294 steps that spiraled straight up, and straight down. The narrow stairway barely accommodates the two-way traffic, and there are no real areas to rest. You just stop, try to make a narrow profile, and gasp until you can hear something other than your thundering heart, then move on.

At the top, forty-eight gazillion feet in the air... there are coins on the sill. No idea how.

Then after an exhausting day and at Frank Turk's recommendation, we dined at Legal Sea Foods. Yum.

So glad not to be under the law of Moses.

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