31 July 2013

Do we really have to go over this again?

by Frank Turk

I was going to write an open letter to the Holy Spirit this week, but I couldn't find a way to make it both poignant and non-blasphemous.  Rather, here's what you ought to read today:

Voices in our heads

What's necessary for the Church?

Remember Todd Bentley? (Yes: He's back)

Signs and Wonders

A More Excellent Way

The PDF of my exchange with Dan Edelen, as linked by Monergism.com

Fantastic.  Tell Dr. Michael Brown we said Hi.

30 July 2013

The key idea (and sine qua non) for understanding Proverbs (and everything else of consequence)

by Dan Phillips

Joe Carter, good brother that he is, had a very clever, creative idea. He asked himself: What if wise King Solomon were the speaker at a graduation ceremony? What sorts of things might he say?

As it turns out, Joe figures that the sagacious sovereign would make a number of disconnected, semi-random observations about life. Joe gets this from his read of the book of Proverbs which, I take it, Joe sees as doing about the same thing. In fact, Joe characterizes Proverbs as "a wildly popular advice book." This is how many people view Proverbs.

And so Solomon's speech is a series of largely disconnected bits of wisdom, including this: "One of the most important things I know is this: Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."

"One of the most important things I know," he says. Towards the top of a long list. There are many other important things on the list, but this one shares a place at the top, along with them.

As you doubtless know, Proverbs has long been a love of mine. And as you Faithful Readers know, I actually wrote a book on it. In that book I make the case that all of Proverbs actually centers on a particular theme, a theme that Solomon characterizes not as "one of the most important things" he knew, but the most important thing, the sine qua non of knowledge and wisdom. Without that foundational reality at the very start, there's no knowledge and no wisdom.

That theme is the fear of Yahweh.

I say all that to point you to the sermon I recently preached on that verse and that concept. In that sermon I sketch out both the meaning and importance of the idea in all of our thinking. I also show how revolutionary this truth is when it comes to to how we read and understand the book of Proverbs.

A number of  you have shared that the Proverbs book has been helpful to you in seeing Proverbs in a new light. In fact, a number have told me that the chapter on the fear of Yahweh is "worth the price of admission" all by itself. Hearing that, to say the least, doesn't ruin my day.

If that sermon and concept, and/or the book, are of any value to you, may I ask you two favors?
  1. Tweet and blog the link to the sermon.
  2. Tell people like Joe (though I think Joe himself now knows about it) about the book.
As to that latter, I'm still finding that a surprising number of people — including those with well-earned reputations for being information-centers for YRRs — somehow seem unaware of God's Wisdom in Proverbs. Well, only God can know everything. Right? So share it with them, if you're willing. Assume that (A) they don't know about it, and (B) since they have great love for the OT and for Proverbs and for Christian books of substance on both, they will be delighted to learn of, and spread the word about, a new book that God is using to open up Proverbs to all who read and use it.

After all, don't we all hope to see significant gains in reading, understanding, preaching and living the marvelous book of Proverbs? Old Testament scholars like David Murray and Jim Hamilton (both rightly much-loved by TGC-type bloggers and Challies and all) say this book helps in that direction. The publisher did a terrific job in presenting it, for which I'm very grateful. You can help do the sort of word-spreading that larger publishers like Crossway and Nelson and others have built in to their much-larger organizations. Nothing is so catching or persuasive or winsome as enthusiasm, and I know many of you have it for this book.

Some of you have said, "I only have a few readers/followers." Sure, I get that; but you read and enjoy writers and pastors and conference speakers who influence a great many. Share this with them, warmly and winsomely and persuasively, and they may thank you for it!

I surely do!

Dan Phillips's signature

28 July 2013

Persecution's perks

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Sword and the Trowel, August, 1894, "A life-belt for daily use."
"If your persecution were to cease, it might be the worst thing that could happen to you." 

I knew right well a young man, in a good station in life, a believer, apparently a very earnest believer, and the most indefatigable worker I ever met. He was constantly opposed at home on account of his religion, yet he never yielded an inch, but kept on earnestly working for Christ.

The opposition is all gone, and he has a house of his own; but I do not see any earnestness in him now, it disappeared as soon as the persecution ceased.

Some of us are very much like those gas bags that we have when we are exhibiting dissolving views; we put heavy weights on them to press out the gas so that we many have a more brilliant light. I do believe that most of our troubles at home and abroad are just like the weights on the oxygen bags.

I am not disposed to wish that every young Christian should have a smooth path, for I notice that the bravest believers are often those who have had the severest struggles to maintain their integrity. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”

If you have too much fine weather, you will be like some gardeners' plants that grow too fast; they never get much heart, they had too much sun at the first, they would have been all the better for a little early nipping. You know that celery is not really good till it has had a sharp frost on it, and there are some Christians who seem all the better for a little persecution or trial; it seems to pinch them back, and at the same time it sends a sweetness into the very heart of their religion.

If you ask me, “Do you like to hear of our being opposed?” I answer, —“No, I do not; but I would not take this burden off you if I could, for it is best that you should have at least a little of it to bear.”

To be truly saved, to be a Christian, to be on Christ’s side, to know that you have an everlasting Saviour, is worth a great many fools’ laughs, is it not? You can bear to let all the asses bray at once, and yet not be troubled if you know that you have Christ, and eternal life in Him.

My dear friends, I do pray that you may be led to weigh and estimate these things, and that you may be drawn by the Divine Spirit to say, “Jesus shall be mine, I will trust myself to Him whatever the consequences may be.”

26 July 2013

Disasters: "God's great blessings in disguise"

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This post (republished in its entirety) is from the blog back in June 2007. Phil points to the story of Jonah as an example of Romans 8:28.

As usual, the comments are closed.

Sometimes—all the time, if you are a Christian—the worst things that happen turn out to be great blessings in disguise. Whatever disaster befalls you, if you are a believer, you can be certain God will use it for good.

Consider Jonah's experience inside the fish. To the human eye, that whole episode might look like an expression of divine wrath against Jonah: The Lord hurled a great wind at the ship Jonah was using (sinfully) to try to flee the will of God. The whole ship was about to sink, the entire crew's lives were in danger, and finally in desperation (and at Jonah's own behest), they threw him overboard. Every aspect of it might look (to the human eye) like an utter and unmitigated disaster.

But it was not a disaster. There was far more divine love and mercy (rather than divine wrath) evidenced in that storm and the subsequent events. In fact, the goodness of God is a thousand times more profound and lasting than His displeasure—if you see this whole event from His perspective. A tremendous amount of immediate benefits came from the discipline God lovingly meted out to Jonah.

Take, for example, the ship's crew. Not only were their lives spared, but their souls were also saved. They turned to Jehovah in faith (Jonah 1:16).

And Jonah—he was thrown overboard at the very peak of the storm. From the perspective of the sailors, Jonah was a dead man. There's no way a man can survive a raging sea like that. But as soon as Jonah was thrown overboard, the sea was calmed (Jonah 1:15). The sailors sacrificed to God and worshiped. Nothing suggests they saw the fish swallow Jonah. I suppose it's possible that they saw the fish swallow him. But more likely, from their perspective, he just disappeared into the deep. Either way, from where the sailors stood, Jonah was a dead man, a victim of divine wrath.

From Jonah's perspective things looked pretty bleak, too. He knew he had displeased God, and that he fully deserved what was happening to him. If he had been digested by the fish and that had been the end of him, it would have been just.

But the fish turned out to be a vehicle for Jonah's salvation, not his destruction. The fish also returned Jonah to where he should have been, and multitudes in Nineveh were saved because of Jonah's preaching.

Remember those things the next time you feel as if you have been thrown into the sea in the midst of a raging storm—then swallowed by a giant fish and taken even further ionto the depths. Even if your circumstances are the consequences of your own sin; and especially if you are a believer whom God is chastening for your own disobedience: This is all for your good, and that means it is already more of a blessing than a curse. Look beyond the earthly circumstances of the calamity, and you'll probably see it.

25 July 2013

The First Order of Business

by Frank Turk

I am posting excerpts from my talk at the "Call to Discernment" conference last weekend since DJP feels a little dry this week.  You can hear the full audio for my talk, or any of the talks, when they all go live.  I'll post the link here.

Today is Thursday, so keep it between the ditches.

We continue in Mat 16:
Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! [He says] For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
That’s quite a declaration from Jesus.  He started with what looked like some sort of opinion poll or a survey of ideas about what it is that was happening as he was going around with these fellows teaching, and he changes the discussion from what everyone is expecting from Jesus to what God Himself is doing, and is about to do, through Jesus.

See: Jesus did not come to appeal to flesh and blood, or to fulfill the desires of our flesh and blood: Jesus came to do what God Himself wants accomplished.  Those who see it, says Jesus, are “on a rock” – like Simon who is the first to say it out loud. This is plainly a reference back to the parable in Matthew 7 -- the wise man and the foolish man, yes?  The foolish man built his house upon the sand; the wise man built his house upon the rock – and the rain came tumbling down.  Right? This is the end of the sermon on the mount -- “the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”  So on the same rock which caused Simon to declare Jesus to be the Christ and not merely a prophet, Christ himself will build what he calls “my church” – and the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

Jesus has set up the priority of things carefully here, contrasting what “everyone” thinks against what the Disciples think about himself.  But as soon as He gets the right answer, Jesus draws a conclusion: Since I am the Messiah, the Christ, I will build my church on the rock of faith which God has given.  That’s the first conclusion Jesus draws about the priority of things – in this passage anyway: Since there is a Christ, there must be a Church.

When I say that, it will upset a lot of people.  Some people will say, “But Jesus is here speaking about the universal church, or the invisible church – the set of people from Adam to the last person saved in Revelation – and that is as broad as the scope of the cross-work of Christ.”  The reason they do this is simple: they read Jesus here to be saying, “I will build a church in general, with an indeterminate number in it.”  That's an orthodox reading of this statement, and one which I agree with.

But there is something there which I think we also want from this passage: nobody wants Jesus to do anything which offends.  We want Jesus to be saying things which are inviting only, and not in any way intimidating or putting demands on us.  And let’s face it: it’s easier on us if we think the church is merely an indeterminate and disembodied set of people because that means there’s nobody in particular in that church.

I think Jesus is making a different point here.

We must see that Christ is not saying this to the wind, or writing it in a manifesto as a claim for the ages to people not yet in evidence.  He’s saying it to the disciples who are right here, right now, in front of him.  This fellow here? He is Simon Peter.  He’s standing on the rock of faith Jesus was talking about back on the hillside.  And what he’s got is what Jesus will build his church on.

This gets buried behind our English word “church.”  In Greek, it is the word “ecclesia.”  Most of you have heard that before, I am sure.  The word means “an assembly,” or “a group called together for a common purpose.”  It is not a word like “citizen” – although Christians are called “citizens” elsewhere in the Bible.  A “citizen” can be in a place but not of a place – or at the same time, they can be an American, but present in Canada or Mexico or China.  To be a “citizen” is to be a class of person without regard to your current whereabouts.  People being “ecclesia” is not like one person being a “member” – because I can be a member of a political party and never vote and never meet another soul who believes what I believe.

But an “assembly”, a “church” as we translate it: it’s not an association in theory.  It’s an association in person, a coming together in one place.  In an “ecclesia,” people are called out and get this: they come.  Everyone is present.   When the Greeks used this word, they used it to describe a body of people which is called out in public for a purpose of common cause.  I’m working this over for you only to say this: for us to misread Christ here to mean some kind of invisible body only where the people are virtually linked together merely by a mark or a quality entirely misses Jesus’  point.

He’s saying that as the Christ, he’s going to bring a real body of believers together, starting with this fellow Simon Peter.

Christ will build his church – it is the first necessary consequence Jesus tells his Disciples.  This is interesting because Jesus had what we might call a target-rich environment in Judea and Caesarea.  The Romans occupied the land; the religious rulers were corrupt and hypocritical; the standard of living, let’s face is, was, to say the least, impoverished – and Jesus was the Messiah.  He could have said anything as the first order of business:

“Flesh and Blood did not declare this to you Peter, and because of your faith I will rain my wrath down on Caesar, after whom Caesarea Phillipi is blasphemously named.”

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah – and to show you my power as Messiah, bring the Scribes and Pharisees as my enemies before me so that I may lay them under my footstool!”

“Upon your faith, Simon, I claim healing upon the whole land, and wealth, and prosperity, and good marriages!”

But No: the first order of business was to declare that as Christ, he must have his Church.  He must have the people who have faith in Him, built upon the rock which cannot be shaken.

Therefore, when we ask the question “what is the church?” we can make our definition of the church using Jesus’ term:  “The Church is that which Christ builds, on the basis of real faith in him, in real people like Peter.”

“The Church is that which Christ builds, on the basis of real faith in him, in real people like Peter.”

24 July 2013

The Sunday School Answer

by Frank Turk

I am posting excerpts from my talk at the "Call to Discernment" conference last weekend since DJP feels a little dry this week.  You can hear the full audio for my talk, or any of the talks, when they all go live.  I'll post the link here.

The comments are closed until Thursday.

It says in Matthew 16:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
Jesus asks the question which puts us in-focus of what really matters.  Whatever, whoever it is that people say Jesus is, that is what is going to drive what they think about Him, and how they think they ought to relate to Him.  Jesus knows this.  Just up the page in Mat 16, he is confronted by the Pharisees who test him for a sign from Heaven – as if God could send somebody to Earth for any reason, and some men could therefore command that person to do anything.  Jesus of course tells them that the signs are everywhere, but they can’t see them.  This is why he sets up the Disciples with this question, because he knows that someone who thinks of Him wrongly will decide to do all manner of things wrongly.

So Jesus asks this question, and the Disciples say, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  As I read that, I wonder what would happen if I asked you here, “Who do all of you think that I am?”  If the answer came back, “well, some think you have a sharp tongue like Elijah, and some think you love the people of God like Jeremiah, and some think you are politically dangerous like John the Baptist or one of the other prophets,” that would be a pretty fantastic compliment.  Completely undeserved, completely over-the-top, but extraordinary high praise.

But think about this: people were saying this about Jesus.  People meant it for good – because these are not the things that the enemies of Christ were saying: these were the things that the people who thought much of Christ were saying about him.  They were trying to capture the truth of who Jesus was.  But in that, these people were actually wrong.

Here’s how John Calvin reads this response:
[Here] we perceive how great is the weakness of the human mind; for not only is it unable by itself to understand what is right or true, but even out of true principles it creates errors.  
That is to say this: even in meaning well toward Jesus, and thinking highly of him, men could not know him when they were left to their own devices.  As true as it is that it would be wrong to call me or any of the speakers here today a prophet, it is also wrong to call Jesus only a prophet, only some kind of teacher or messenger.  That answer actually aims too low.

That’s why Jesus responds to this by saying, “who do you say that I am?”

Think about this with me because this is the whole point of this passage.  The Scribes and Pharisees want Jesus to belong to them, and answer their questions, and perform miracles when they command it – because they have somehow put themselves out of the right place in God’s way of running the universe.  The rest of the people, who thought much of him, merely made him someone who rightly serves God for their sake.

What Jesus is looking for is the right answer from someone – an answer which prepares them for something else.
[Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  [and] Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
We have to wonder if Simon knew exactly what he was saying here because of what comes next – which we will get to in a few minutes.  But Simon gives what I think we can call a theologically-precise and sound statement.  In some of our churches, we might call it a “Sunday school answer” – because it uses all the Sunday school words to say something about Jesus.

Simon calls him “Christ” here – in Hebrew, he would have called him “Messiah.”  That is: He is someone God has promised to Israel to do something for Israel.  He is present in the Jewish Scriptures, and predicted by the prophets.  He is not merely a prophet, but someone for whom God has the greatest of intention for – which is the deliverance of Israel from exile and bondage into the foremost place among all nations.  And to make sure he said something which sets Jesus apart from other Messiahs, other anointed ones, he says Jesus is the “Son of God.”  He wanted Jesus to know he was convinced that Jesus had some sort of dignity or station above the prophets, above John the Baptist.
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven."  
When Christ says this, he is plainly setting Simon’s statement apart from the guesses of “people” in general about who Jesus is.  When “people” in general looked at Christ and listened to him, they heard something encouraging – apparently, they heard something they liked.  They liked the idea that the oppressors of God’s people like Ahab and his filthy wife Jezebel were going to get theirs, or that if one like Jeremiah had come, Israel would again be returned to the protection of God.  That is: people in general were looking to Jesus for something for themselves.  They wanted God for themselves, on terms they could understand.

But Jesus makes something clear here: Simon’s response is not that like that.  It doesn’t come from the place where Simon is thinking with and about his own flesh and blood.  Simon’s response comes to him from God, as a blessing.

23 July 2013

Open Mic Night

by Frank Turk

I am posting excerpts from my talk at the "Call to Discernment" conference last weekend since DJP feels a little dry this week.  You can hear the full audio for my talk, or any of the talks, when they all go live.  I'll post the link here.

The comments are closed until Thursday.

It ought to be a pretty scary thing if, when we talk about the Christian faith with reasonably-intelligent people, the words “church” and “christian” are not clear in their meaning. There are a lot of different kinds of christians and churches represented here today, and I know in the circle I’m usually involved in we worry about the definition of words like, “Gospel,” and “Justification,” and “infralapsarian,” and “the aseity of God.” We sort of assume that we all know what we mean when we say words like “church,” or “fellow believer,” or “ministry,” but let me suggest something to you: I think we don’t understand those words very well. I think we often insert our generic interpretation of those words as a short-cut so we can get started on the Christian Life rather than thinking a little harder and discovering that we have made mistakes, and we have misinterpreted what we ought to mean when we set about living as if the Bible is true.

Because that’s actually the point, right? I’m going to assume that we all want to live as if the Bible is true. That is at least part of what we mean when we say we want to be “Ambassadors to the World.” There is ample opportunity to do so every single day. I’ll bet that there’s nobody reading this who thinks that our nation is doing just fine, our churches are just fine, and the state of the Christian faith is just fine. I’ll bet I could let any one of you who is willing come up here and you could, without any prepared notes, fill a whole blog post with concerns and remedies for our families, our local assemblies, and our cities, and states, and nation.

However, before we start open mic night , let me suggest something to you which many people – even those with the best intentions -- do not consider: It’s that inclination which causes us to want to organize ourselves into groups of like-minded Christians who agree with us about the problems and the solutions – but I think we forget that there is a difference between trying to do what’s morally right, and living as if the Bible is true.

Before we start with our diagnoses and treatments of the world and its ills, we need to make sure that our priorities are the ones which Jesus intended, and that our efforts are the ones which Jesus intended, and then that our results are the ones which Jesus intended. Most importantly: we need to make sure that we are clear about what Jesus says regarding these things, and that we are clear when we live them out and tell others about them.

21 July 2013

The unequal yoke

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Sword and the Trowel, December, 1901, "Unequally yoked together."
"Having these cases coming immediately under my own eye, or brought before me...and all of them having turned out badly..."

I recollect a young woman coming to ask my advice about marrying an unconverted man. I soon saw that she had made up her mind—as they mostly do in such cases,—what she was going to do. What is the use of asking advice when you have made up your mind as to your own course of action?

However, she said that, such was her influence over the young man in question, that she felt certain of bringing him to the Saviour. She has not done so, but he has been the means of our losing her from church-fellowship, and I do not know where she is now. I remember that I said to her, “Well, if you believe what you say to be true, I will tell you what to do; go home, and try this little experiment."

"When the young man comes to see you, climb on the top of the kitchen table, and try to pull him up, and tell him to see if he can pull you down. If you succeed in pulling him on to the top of the table in spite of all his exertions to drag you down, I think you may safely marry him.” Why, the result always is, and always must be, that the one who is down pulls the other down; at least, I have always found it so, and I have the painful knowledge of many such cases.

Do not you run such a risk, my young friend, or you will bitterly repent of it. Even when young women marry young men who are members of the church, it is not always that they make a happy match, for there are men who even become members of a Christian church for the very purpose of winning the heart and hand of another of the members.

It is a most grievous thing, and a shameful sin; and I am sorry to have to say that it has been done sometimes even here. Take care, young friends, and older ones, too, that you keep your eyes open; and if the man, who desires to be your lover, is not a lover of the Lord, do not give your heart to him; and, my brother, if that young woman, to whom you are being attracted, does not love the Lord, let her find somebody else who will be more suited to her present condition than you are.

I am sure that this warning ought to be laid to heart by all of you who are true Christians. If you are a hypocrite, you can get on very well with an unconverted partner in life; but if you are a genuine child of God, and you sin in this way, depend upon it that you will get a whipping from your Heavenly Father.

The best thing that can come of such unequal yoking together will be grievous to your own soul, and dishonouring to your Lord and Saviour.

Remember how the apostle warns us against all wrong association with the ungodly: “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

19 July 2013

A Proper Understanding of Acts 17

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the blog back in April 2008. Phil explains how to rightly understand and apply Paul's discourse at Mars Hill to the idea of contextualization.

As usual, the comments are closed.

[T]here is an obvious and legitimate need to speak a language people understand if you want to reach them. Paul didn't go into Athens and speak Hebrew to the Areopagites. He spoke Greek. There's nothing the least bit remarkable about that. What Paul did not do was adapt his message to suit the basic values and belief systems of that culture.

Observe what he did do. Every dyed-in-the-wool contextualizer will tell you that he quoted the philosophers' favorite poets right back at them. "For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring'" (v. 28). He quoted two well-known Greek poets in quick succession. Epimenides, a poet from the island of Crete in the sixth century BC, wrote the line, "In Him we live and move and have our being." And Aratus, a Macedonian poet from the third century BC, wrote "we are also His offspring." Two lines from poets who were already ancient in Paul's lifetime.

Epimenides and Aratus weren't exactly the Lennon and McCartney of 1st-century Athens. Paul was not embracing aspects of the first-century Greek worldview or culture just to relate with the Athenians; he was not affirming something just because he wanted to seem hip and this poetry was fashionable in the Greek academy of his own day. Quite the opposite. He was quoting from their ancient literature to express his own worldview. His point was that these were truths about God that their own ancient ancestors once recognized also. Common grace had made these truths obvious (Romans 1:19), but the Athenian intellectuals had suppressed them. In other words, those quotations from the literature of their forefathers actually confronted the more contemporary and popular worldview of that generation.

As a matter of fact, Paul was doing his utmost to demolish their worldview, so he went systemically through a list of ideas they held in error, and he confronted them with true ideas instead.

There he stood in Athens, amid countless temples and idols. Talking to the culture's most enlightened minds, all of whom held worldviews that were for all practical purposes atheistic, materialistic, and superstitious all at once. Half of them (the Stoics) believed in an afterlife, but it was a disembodied, spiritual notion of the afterlife. The other half (the Epicureans) were such hardened materialists that they believed when the body died and the molecules went back to dust, that was it. By their way of thinking, there was no such thing as a human soul and thus no conscious existence after death.


It begins to look like Paul was deliberately trying to provoke them. And in a true sense he was. He caps the sermon in verse 30 with a demand for repentance. And believe me: that was no less offensive on the Areopagus in the first century than it would be in the UN general council today. Paul could have hardly packed more hard truth and counter-cultural commentary into those few words. Every sentence Paul said had something in it that would be offensive to those philosophers.

Now, it should be obvious that in the sense postmodern evangelicals use the term, Paul was not contextualizing the gospel in order to reach these philosophers with a message that would sound friendly, comfortable, and easy for them to embrace.

17 July 2013

In No Particular Order

by Frank Turk

Recently, someone said we have to keep on talking about race in this country.  While I think I agree with the essay where he says that as a whole, it's not the most helpful turn of phrase as I see it.  But I have a couple of thoughts that are, it seems to me, useful.

In no particular order:

What does anyone deserve?

A long time ago in blog years, I posted an essay at my old blog about the primary pitfall in engaging with homosexuals and the people who love them.  I know most of you have not mastered clicking thru (maybe: you're just committed to not driving my page counter, you stingy louts), so I'll copy the key bit right here:
See: if I say, "well, homosexuality is a sin, Dustin," what Mr. Rowles hears -- and I think he's listening just fine -- is the subtle hint of this outrageous lie: "he actually deserved what he got." I know none of you regular readers of this blog would actually mean that, but the ones who harnessed that conclusion up to the horse of my assertion are the ones who pounded his Dad's face in for being gay -- you know, God hates fags, boy, so I'm going to smash a coke bottle in your face. ...
So the problem in talking to Mr. Rowles now is not trying to convince him what the Bible says about (for example) homosexuality. The problem is convincing him that you don't want to bash his father's head in over it. That kind of ferocious evil is what Dustin Rowles associates with the moral affirmation "homosexuality is a sin". My suggestion is that helping him believe what you believe about homosexuality is frankly a stupid gambit.
The application from the question of evangelizing homosexuals and the people who love them to evangelizing people who are committed to measuring anything by means of race is this: the problem is that somehow the facts are all interpreted right now toward the interpretation that anyone who is the victim of a cross-racial crime "got what he deserved."  Referring to the facts simply sounds, to the people you are talking to, like this statement: "When you think about it, he got what he deserved."

Your righteous indignation at the crime rate of blacks against whites? It sounds like you're saying that the victims of non-black-on-black crimes got what they deserved.

Your erudite notification of statistics which indicate that far more black people are killed by black people than by white people?  It sounds like the victims here, therefore, got what they deserved.

Your socio-economic analysis of what is the problem behind the problem?  It sounds like the victims here, therefore, got what they deserved.

What if we start here: it doesn't matter what Trayvon Martin was doing in that neighborhood.  He didn't deserve to die. He wasn't putting anyone's life in danger; he didn't deserve to die.  Until and unless you are willing to say that out loud -- and I don't care which side of the argument you are on here -- if you can't say that Trayvon Martin did not deserve to die, you frankly have no place in this discussion.  Your moral compass and your real empathy for other people are both broken.  You can't do anything to make this or the future better until you deal with that.

Having it both ways

The problem with our legal system is that, ultimately, it will make a decision.  That is: when something comes before it, it's meant to take action and not merely take it to committee for deep pondering.

Two weeks ago, our legal system decided that the Federal Government had no business saying anything about what constitutes marriage in this country.  That, apparently, was a victory.  This weekend, the same system at a different level reviewed the charges against George Zimmerman, the evidence presented, and concluded he was "not guilty."  Listen: it didn't say he was innocent.  It didn't say that Trayvon was not dead, nor that George did not pull the trigger.  It said that this man was, at the end of the day, not to be punished for the crime which he was brought before the court.

You can't have it both ways: either the system is working, or it is not working.  You can't say that the system works only when you like the outcome.  That every outcome does not benefit you politically or socially or even in terms of your self-esteem is probably about right.

Never Coming

Is racism a problem?  I live in a cul de sac where the families are mixed about 70-30 white-to-black.  There is no open animosity on the street (except for the one guy who posts anonymously to the neighborhood watch about his problems with every other person's yard, pets and children)(who is not me)(as far as you know)(no seriously: not me), but let me admit something: there is also not always the most neighborly atmosphere.  Maybe: it's a southern thing.  Maybe: its a local culture thing.  Maybe: the middle class changed from when I grew up and people just don't make friends the way they used to. But there are some families who do not even come out of their houses, and never come to neighborhood parties.

Without a doubt, what is happening is better than open hostility -- but only just barely.  It worries me that there are fences in place I don't understand and don't really know how to cross.  I am open to suggestions because I have tried the normal stuff, and it is received, at best, with kind indifference.

14 July 2013

Random Update on the AHA/D'OH! posts from last week

by Frank Turk

First, I think it's a shame to bump the Dose of Spurgeon for updates, but the friends of AHA/DOH! (note: after 2 weeks of looking at these acrostics, I am still amused by them.  I can't believe nobody looked at those and said, "um, guys? maybe we need something that will cause other people to take us a little more seriously?")(says the guy whose blog is named "TeamPyro" where they call themselves PyroManiacs, so there's that) have linked me via Facebook to the start of the rejoinders:

When it went live, I was entering a cave in the Ozarks in a place where my phone had no signal; I responded on FB as soon as the signal returned (briefly).  I am now seated at my PC with a stable internet connection, and you can see that I am putting this ahead of lunch and ahead of a much-need nap after canoeing 9 miles down the Buffalo River.

My response to the AHA counterposts is as follows (slightly amended):
I ask every person who reads the series of responses at AHA's blog to do 3 things:
[1] read the AHA website (particularly, read the 5 tenents, no compromise, the difference, funding philosophy, and then the following links from ChurchRepent.com: one two three (for "three," browse until you feel like you've had plenty)
[2] read the 3 blog posts I wrote
[3] then read AHA's response (I'll link to part 1, and then I'll imagine that you are able to navigate the internet with more finesse than  someone from the 1950's if/when the balance of these posts are made)
I am utterly satisfied that any English-speaking reader can decide for himself what to think.
Also, Steve Hays has posted a note about one aspect of this exchange.  I thank him for it as it may be useful to anyone following along.

I consider this topic closed.  The comments will also remain closed.

To lovers of God

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The New Park Street Pulpit, sermon number 159, "The true Christian's blessedness."
"The doctrines of sovereign, distinguishing grace, are the sum and substance of the teaching of the Bible."

There are many things in which the worldly and the godly do agree; but on this point there is a vital difference. No ungodly man loves God—at least not in the Bible sense of the term. An unconverted man may love a God, as, for instance, the God of nature, and the God of the imagination; but the God of revelation no man can love, unless grace has been poured into his heart, to turn him from that natural enmity of the heart towards God, in which all of us are born.

And there may be many differences between godly men, as there undoubtedly are; they may belong to different sects, they may hold very opposite opinions, but all godly men agree in this, that they love God.

Whosoever loveth God, without doubt, is a Christian; and whosoever loveth him not, however high may be his pretensions, however boastful his professions, hath not seen God, neither known him for “God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”

True believers love God as their Father; they have “the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry Abba, Father.”

They love him as their King; they are willing to obey him, to walk in his commands is their delight; no path is so soft to their feet as the path of God's precepts, the way of obedience thereunto.

They love God also as their Portion; for in him they live and move and have their being; God is their all, without him they have nothing, but possessing him, however little they may have of outward good, they feel that they are rich to all the intents of bliss.

They love God as their future Inheritance; they believe that when days and years are past they shall enter into the bosom of God; and their highest joy and delight is the full conviction and belief, that one day they shall dwell for ever near his throne, be hidden in the brightness of his glory, and enjoy his everlasting favour.

Dost thou love God, not with lip-language, but with heart-service? Dost thou love to pay him homage? Dost thou love to hold communion with him? Dost thou frequent his mercy-seat? Dost thou abide in his commandments, and desire to be conformed unto his image?

If so, then the sweet things which we shall have to say this morning are thine. But if thou art no lover of God, but a stranger to him, I beseech thee do not pilfer to-day and steal a comfort that was not intended for thee. “All things work together for good,” but not to all men; they only work together for the good of “them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

12 July 2013

What Biblical manliness looks like

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the blog back in June 2008. Phil shows how true Biblical manliness is far different from popular notions about it.

As usual, the comments are closed.

Biblical manliness is about authentic character. It's not about bravado, and it's not about boyishness. Going out into the woods with a bunch of other men, putting on war paint, making animal noises, telling scary stories around a campfire, and then working up a good cry might be good, visceral fun and all, but that has nothing to do with the biblical idea of manliness.

Real manliness ("mature manhood"—Ephesians 4:13) is defined by Christlike character. Not just the Gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild-style character, but the full-orbed fruit of the Spirit rounded out with strength, courage, conviction, and a stout-hearted willingness to oppose error and fight for the truth—even to the point of laying down your life for the truth if necessary.

When the apostle Paul writes about the characteristics of true Christian manhood in Ephesians 4, he focuses on one vital mark of spiritual maturity: "That we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (v. 14). You want to be a man as opposed to a little boy? Grow up in your grasp of the truth. Get a grip on sound doctrine and quit being influenced by every new trend and every undulating breeze that blows across the evangelical landscape. Quit chasing the evangelical fads. Get anchored in the truth, and learn to defend it.

That's the main mark of true manhood Paul singles out: doctrinal stability—and along with that are some clear implications: you need to be certain of what you believe. You need to understand it. You need to be able to defend it against everything—ranging from the changing winds of whatever happens to be in style at the moment all the way to human trickery and the cunning craftiness of Satan himself. Because the enemy will offer all kinds of counterfeit doctrines that look good and sound OK—false doctrines where the error is so carefully nuanced it's hard to put your finger on what's wrong with it. He will tempt you to set aside what is precise and carefully defined in place of dumbed-down doctrinal formulas that don't necessarily sound dangerous—but are.


If you want a taste of what real manhood looks like, do some gospel ministry in a hostile environment. Stand up for the truth in some venue where it is under attack. Get a solid, manly grasp on the Bible and stand up and teach its hard truths in a way that helps make the truth clear to people who are struggling to get it. Contend earnestly for the faith when some nice-sounding heretic wants you to sit down and have a friendly dialogue about it. Be the kind of man Paul describes here: someone who is steadfast and sure, with a solid grasp of classic biblical truths that have gone out of vogue. Stand against popular opinion when you know you should, and do it every time the opportunity arises.

That's the real gauge of "mature manhood" as Paul describes it in Ephesians 4:13-14. A grown-up man is firm and steadfast in the truth. That means he is disciplined, knowledgeable; anchored; he understands the truth well and is devoted to it. He has his senses trained for discernment.

11 July 2013

Running Around without a Church

by Frank Turk


BEFORE you dive down to the comments, they are on moderation, and I'm not going to check them until about 7 AM Central Time.  You might as well read this post before you comment and are disappointed that your comment didn't magically and instantaneously appear ...

As of 2 PM on 14 July 2013, the comments are closed

Welcome back -- some of you are already diving for the comments as this will be the first day in 3 when they will be open -- but sadly for you, they are also set to moderation (as is our New Normal), so your comments won't crash onto the internet with the speed and ferocity of rabbit darting out onto the highway to avoid a fox, but sadly ignoring the oncoming 18-wheel truck full of machine parts.

That said, over the last two days I have been, due to some odd interactions I have had over the last week or so, examining the organization which calls itself "Abolish Human Abortion," or "AHA."  We have covered their version of absolutism, and also their view of being "biblical" about their endeavor, and I find myself left with one other complaint that seems glaringly-obvious to me but maybe not so much to them.

However, before proceeding, and to make sure nobody missed it, I'm going to say this one last time.

Let me make sure I say this as clearly as possible:

All murder is wrong

That's the moral premise which under-girds any work to limit or abolish abortion.  Anyone commenting or responding after this series of posts goes live who ignores this essential fact of Christian ethics in my position is selling something unsavory.  And, since the comments are open today, let me be especially clear: anyone ignoring this statement when they comment will not make it out of moderation.  Those of you who are dying to say that I have already, or would, endorse abortions?  I am talking to you.

OK: so maybe they aren't actually as biblical as they claim to be, and maybe they aren't as absolutist as they claim to be -- but so what?  Shouldn't we just embrace them as an ally in a war against one aspect of our culture which, let's face it, needs to be abolished?  Should we just sort of class them as the Marines and the rest of us can be maybe the volunteer militia or the tax payers who fund the efforts of those who see themselves as called to the front line of the battle?

I have a lot of sympathy for that idea -- because I believe that there is one body but many members.  While there may be a priesthood of believers, some are called to be pastors, some teachers, some evangelists, some janitors, some bloggers, some just as members in good standing who are fathers and mothers and sons and daughters.  In short, God did not save us into a family of uniform Lego minifigs.  For some people, it is right to be more of one thing and less of another because this is what they are gifted for -- and to ignore this is to simply ignore the places where Scripture actually says this.

These are not the Saints you were looking for ...
And there are two ends of the spectrum in that error -- one being the obvious: demanding from everyone that they demonstrate your spiritual gift to the scope and extent that you are personally going to do it.  Demanding everyone be a blogger, for example, would be very bad.  But: demanding that everyone in every church dedicate all time and resources to one aspect of pleading the Gospel to the culture is equally bad. In fact, demanding that every church be a militant abolitionist church is also bad -- because let's face it: since 34% of women live in counties with no abortion provider, it's a likely statement that about a third of churches are in counties where there is no abortion provider.  In those counties, shouldn't those churches minister to the sinners they have rather than the sinners they don't have?

But the other end of the gifting spectrum, it seems to me, is less-obvious, but more important.  It's the view that I don't need the other gifts of the church.  This, it seems to me, is rampant in all manner of good-doing under the tablecloth tent with the letters "G O S P E L" plastered on it with a sloppy paint brush.  People get outside the church in order to do something that seems good -- for example, stopping babies from being killed -- and then they take the moral authority of obeying what is plain in God's created order as the authority to forget the rest of God's plan for the world.  Specifically: they forget that the church is the place where the authority of the Gospel is located.

Don't think so?  Review Mat 16:16-19.  Here's what Calvin says about this passage:
Here Christ begins now to speak of the public office, that is, of the Apostleship, which he dignifies with a twofold title. First, he says that the ministers of the Gospel are porters, so to speak, of the kingdom of heaven, because they carry its keys; and, secondly, he adds, that they are invested with a power of binding and loosing, which is ratified in heaven. ... We know that there is no other way in which the gate of life is opened to us than by the word of God; and hence it follows that the key is placed, as it were, in the hands of the ministers of the word. [Emph Added]
The Gospel is not running around without a church.  The rest of the New Testament testifies to this -- for example in Titus 1-2, 2 Tim 2, 2 Peter 3 and so on -- and demands that the Gospel come from the church under the good order of the body as protected by faithful men.  The fact is that all the people saved into Christ in the NT were saved into the church -- a local church, a physical body of people -- and worked together from the church into the world.

In that: so-called "Gospel" ministries in which the workers and especially the leaders are outside of the protection of the church, and are not accountable to the church for their actions, are problematic.  It's not enough to say that they are members in good standing at their local church: if they are doing the work which is prescribed for the local church but they are not under the authority of the local church, they are either robbing the local church or scoffing at it, or both.

The problem, at its heart, is a failure to see that there is a need for all the parts of the body for the right function of the body -- in this case, the function of leadership over the function of social action.  This problem is present in spades in the AHA organization.

First: there is no visible, accountable leadership structure.  After inquiring with someone who knows, I was able to get a short list of fellows who are sort of running AHA, but that list is not readily visible to the public.  In the best case, that's AHA simply asking for grace that they aren't willing to give anyone else.  They are hell-bent to make sure the names of the people they find lacking are well-known and well-dunked in the shortcomings they have charged them with.  Imagine what AHA would do with a church that wouldn't list its leadership, or an outfit which funded abortions but shielded its leaders behind an anonymous "inquiries@prochoicepayouts.com" e-mail address.  At best it puts them at risk of wandering around without any real purpose; at worst, it gives them a license, as they said in the '70's, to do until others, then split.

Second: they have removed themselves from Gospel accountability.  That is to say, it seems obvious that there is no one with a mature view of Scripture out in front.  Yesterday we saw at least two significant errors in theology and in the meaning of the Gospel; there are more to be found on their website.  Those errors are replicated as this organization goes about its business.  It stems from failing to have a local church accountable for and accounting for their actions, and overseeing their work to make sure both that it is wholesome and godly and also that it is not a scandal.

Think about this for a second: if they were a seminary that cropped up out of the wild blue yonder, or a publishing house, or a prison ministry with no means of maintaining confidence in the theology they were teaching and preaching, who would take them seriously?  But in this case, there is no visible means of doing that at all, and (not surprisingly) they have given themselves a free pass.

Third and finally: they have inverted God's economy of the church.  Yesterday I linked to the "Church Repent" site to show how they are shaming churches they say are not living up to the standards these unaccountable fellows have established.  In the best possible case where these fellows are 100% correct and the churches they are shaming are 100% wrong, this activity is simply never found in the NT -- it's not even implied.

The flimsy excuse they use is from Eph 5:11 (it's telling they don't use James 5, although in private conversations they will use Galatians 2), to "expose evil."  It's fair enough -- but that exhortation is actually regarding shameful personal acts which one is actually doing, not sins of omission.  Moreover, it's a call to personal accountability and not a call to form a non-church mob to heckle a functioning church.

Worst of all, because they have no church accountability themselves, there's no way to correct these fellows.  Talking to them about their opinions is about as productive as talking to the college kid who just discovered Schrodinger's Cat -- it seems to him that everything he knew before is now wrong, and there's no two ways about it.  I'll offer up the anticipated content of the comments section as supporting documents to this point.


Now: so what?  If I'm right, AHA has a significant list of issues to resolve before they can be seen as credible, let alone useful or (to be fair to their point of view and not reason only from pragmatism) faithful.  Should we simply toss them off as another ill-conceived parachurch ministry and consign them to the ash-heap of church history?

Let's go back to my original premise: all murder is wrong, and in this country, abortion is the most-common form of murder.  Whatever we think about AHA's methods and mode of operation, and whatever we think about their theology, abortion is still a vile crime.  To that end, I think it's wise to call these fellows not to fold up the tents and go find another hobby to spoil, but instead to repent of their obvious and critical errors in order to rightly approach the problem:
  • They should repent of their absurdly-bad view and use for the local church.  They behave shamefully toward the local church because they are not accountable to a local church, and have an unbiblical view of discipleship and evangelism.  If they found themselves accountable to elders in a church for their actions, they would find most of their other problems would head toward correction.
  • They should repent of their unwise, misguided use of the Bible.  What they do not need is to replace their random statements with someone else's systematic theology; what they do need to do is to read the Bible as it comes, as it was intended to be read, and ask themselves, for example, how did those people change their culture when they hand little or no political influence, and definitely no active theology of civil unrest?  What does the Bible teach us regarding the role of the local church in changing the culture?  And what is the Christian's role in society when the Christian faith is a minority view?
  • They should repent of their own self-righteousness.  Disguising pride with phony expressions of camaraderie when what is being said is, effectually, "You are an idiot and probably a criminal, brother," is not impressive except as a hallmark of one's own assessment of one's worth.  Hiding behind God's sovereignty as an endorsement of your "ministry" when one's own method of reading God's word is, at best, idiosyncratic, is underwhelming.  Claiming to be the wounded party when one is falsely calling local churches aiders and abettors of murderers is ugly.  They should repent of the idea that they are the ones on the high moral ground.
  • They should repent of their current methods and modes until they have adopted the fruit of repentance from the previous 3 items, and then re-assess their manner of establishing engagement in the communities they operate in -- both toward churches and toward abortion clinics.


What I did NOT say this week:
  • I did NOT say abortion is morally justified
  • I did NOT say Christians should do nothing about abortion
  • I did NOT say that Churches should do nothing about abortion
  • I did NOT say that protesting abortion clinics was wrong
  • I did NOT say that Christians have no duties as citizens
What I DID say this week:
  • the AHA version of absolutism on this issue is inconsistent at best, and morally and biblically untenable at worst
  • AHA's condemnation of anyone who doesn't agree with their philosophy or methodology is not morally or biblically tenable
  • There are biblical problems with all 5 of their major tenets for conducting operations as they are stated on the AHA web site
  • The two most important problems are a lack of a clear approach to hermeneutics/interpreting the truth of God's word, and a complete lack of clarity regarding whether or not the methods/means of accomplishing their goals matter.
  • AHA lacks a clear and workable theology of the church, and therefore they don't get right the responsibilities of the local church, and the responsibilities of believers, and the responsibilities of believers to the church and vice versa
If you disagree with what I actually DID say this week, I welcome your comments -- I welcome your critiques in detail.  If you simply cannot stand that I have criticized them, that's another matter.  Ranting about your disbelief that I would criticize these people doesn't interest me.  I don't have an obligation to give anyone who is angry because they are wrong a platform for their ravings, nor do I  have to answer such ravings.

The comments are open, and under moderation.  Mind the gap.

10 July 2013

A Lot More Bible to Cover

by Frank Turk

Yesterday I posted part 1 of 3 regarding the organization "Abolish Human Abortion," a group of fellows who are very proud of what they have set out to do -- which is the right-minded objective of abolishing human abortion.  Yesterday I made one statement that ought not to be ignored, so I'll repeat it here.

Let me make sure I say this as clearly as possible:

All murder is wrong

That's the moral premise which under-girds any work to limit or abolish abortion.  Anyone commenting or responding after this series of posts goes live who ignores this essential fact of Christian ethics in my position is selling something unsavory.

Yesterday we covered the interesting idea that these fellows are the only ones doing anything not-evil in the fight against abortion.  Today we are going to cover some of their theological reasoning.

The five major tenets of this organization are as follows:

1. Biblical

Usually, when an organization says it is "Biblical," it means that it reasons biblically to its objectives and to its means.  The tenet of "biblicism" is therefore usually a foundational objective -- not a list of Bible verses.  It usually outlines the method or approach the group takes toward the Bible -- it establishes a hermeneutical standard, or a tradition in which it stands.  The list of Bible verses usually comes later.

In this case, they present the Bible verses right here, and the list is simple:
Micah 6:8
Isaiah 1:16-17
Eph 5:11
James 1:27
Luke 4:18-19
That is: the tenet here is not that they will use the Bible as a sufficient and infallible authority.  If they did, maybe they would have a local church which was overseeing them to make sure they weren't doing things they ought not to be doing, for example.  The tenet, rather, is a list of Bible truths which they demand to be taken at face value without further comment:
  • do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God
  • make the church holy, reprove the ruthless, and defend widows and orphans
  • expose all evil
  • be holy and "visit" widows and orphans in need
  • Keep the two great commandments
  • Human beings are in the image of God
  • Jesus became a man to save men from "sin, self-destruction, death, and eternal separation from God."

This is interesting because at first glance, the list is actually a random list of true statements from Scripture.  All of the statements are true.  The question we have to ask is why these in particular have any priority over any other statements of truth -- for example, the commission of the church to make disciples of all men (Mat 28); the demand of Christ to love one another (John 13); requirement of Husbands to love their Wives (Eph 5); the demand that there be no divisions in the local church (1 Cor 1-3).  And just to keep things testimentally balanced, how about the idea that God hates divorce (Malachi 2); or that God hates all evildoers (Ps 5:5); or that God hates the double-minded and liars (Ps 119); or that God hates Robbery (Is 61)?

Superficially, there is no question: they have seven true statements from Scripture.  Whether these statements are necessarily the most important statements of Scripture regarding the existence of the church or the purpose of men (with or without faith) is simply undemonstrated.  What's the cause from the text or from good reasoning which causes these verses to be so true that they cause us to create a new #1 priority for the church?

In that: I think the idea that these fellows are "Biblical" remains to be seen.  They have Bibles; they can extract true statements from the Bible.  Whether they use the Bible for its necessary purpose, to say what it means to say, remains to be seen.

2. Providential

The next part is worth transcripting fully:

We rely on the Providence of God, not the pragmatism of man. Abolitionists do not trust in warhorses or chariots. We trust in the spiritual means and methods God has given to us in His Word. Abolitionists have always cried, “duty is ours, the results are God’s!” We look to the Spirit of God to lead us, believing He is our ever present guide and that He is not silent.

We depend upon the Providence and Sovereignty of God. “… He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” (Acts 17:25) It is the power of God working through His Holy Spirit that changes hearts. Yet we acknowledge that God has deemed men active participants in this drama. He gives us choices, and these choices have consequences. (Matt. 9:38, Acts 27:22,31) We are called to be faithful – to walk in righteousness – to speak the truth in love. We leave the results in His hands.

These fellows escape being true hypercalvinists or fatalists by admitting they are, at least, called to do something -- and good on them for that.  They say they have a moral obligation to participate in the drama -- which is a fascinating turn of phrase.  But it's funny that they demand that they do not trust in chariots and warhorses -- because they do rely on graphic posters and sandwich boards. (see some examples here, but click at your own risk as they are explicit regarding the cost of abortion in human terms)  That is: they do rely on shock and awe to deliver a message.  And at the end of it, they do want the laws to change -- they want the horses and chariots of the Government to protect unborn lives, yes?

Moreover, they also are not merely content protesting abortion at local clinics: they have an explicit mission to "exhort" local churches (again:explicit warning) who do not meet AHA's definition of being sufficiently-militant towards abortion.  It seems, at least, odd that they are worried about relying on means when, frankly, they have such explicit means and militant means -- and demand the same from others.

Let's be clear about the reasoning here: they can't accept an incremental change in the law of a local state or a nation because that's complicity with evil, but they can protest exhort one church at a time to change that church's ministry objectives (changing one church, not all churches) to suit the objectives of AHA.  And they don't trust in horses and chariots, but they do demand these churches change their behavior right now.

We'll have to wait for tomorrow for the comments to be open to see what sort of response AHA can muster toward the charge that while they are not politically incremental, they are unquestionably spiritually incremental -- even if it is because they have limited resources.

3. Gospel-Centered

You know: someplace in this neighborhood of the internet, the phrase was coined, "The Gospel is the Solution to Culture." I have made the T-Shirts.  It's my attempt to doff my hat the best-in-class in post-millennial theology to see the Gospel not as some weak tea which causes us to lose a lot of battles so that Christ can just win in the end, but rather as our vision of what's the right priority in this world.  It's the way Paul saw the world -- that all suffering is worth enduring if we can only tell people the truth about themselves and about God.  We would to God that all who hear us at any time might become such as we am—except for the chains, as the Apostle so blythely said. (Act 26)

And to their credit: the AHA team says this:

We are committed to an uncompromising adherence to the good news that God stepped down into human history as Jesus Christ.  He was conceived in the womb of a young unmarried woman who did not choose to be with child. He lived a sinless life, and by His death redeemed a lost, wandering and wicked people from sin, punishment and eternal separation from God.  

But then they spoil it by saying this:

The fullness of the Gospel of God is supreme above all philosophies and ideologies and without the Gospel there would be no call or means of Abolition.

Well, no.  First off, the Gospel is not an "ideology."  It's a declaration of fact.  It's not a system of political thought, or a religious scheme.  It's a declaration that God has done something which spares sinful man from judgment.  The Gospel is a message, a word of Good News.  You'd think biblical fellows would know this, but like all people overwhelmed by an agenda of social justice, they have simply forgotten it.

But second, the reason that we abhor murder is not that Christ was murdered: the reason we abhor murder is that the Law teaches us that Murder is wrong.  In fact, the idea that murder is wrong is so obvious, Paul tells the Romans that such a thing is written into the very fabric of the universe and the very conscience of man (purists: Rom 1-2).  The call to "abolition" comes from the fact that murder is wrong -- not from that fact that sovereign God has made a way to forgive men for sin.

And this, frankly, also goes back to whether or not these fellows are actually "Biblical."  They are unable to distinguish the Glory of God in Creation from the Glory of God in Christ -- they cannot, in fact, distinguish between revelation in creation and the special revelation in Scripture which Christ fulfills.

That's troubling.  And it's not the only place these guys could do with a second or third reading of the whole Bible for the sake of actually being a little more Biblical.

4. Body Driven
5. Immediate and Uncompromising

We should let them, again, speak for themselves:

We believe that Abolition is an Obligation of the Church. We seek to awaken the Church to fulfill her ordained purpose to be salt and light in this sin spoiled and darkened world. The primary means God has ordained to display his manifold wisdom to the world is through his people, his body and bride. The church must take the gospel to the ends of the earth and bring it into conflict with every dark deed of man.

Read that again, especially the emphasized part (I added the emphasis).  Abolition is not the spread of the Gospel: Abolition, by their own definition, is the end of abortion first and with gusto.  While they say their primary means for this is the Gospel (to which they do injustice when they explain it), think about this: they have equated Gospel proclamation with the uncompromising end of one particular form of sinfulness.  In that, they have re-defined the mission of the church not to see to it that we are ambassadors of Christ, pleading from God a message of reconciliation: they have made the church's necessary obligation the improvement of society for one particular moral end.

Look: I have no problem saying that, because a church is located in a place where there are lost people, they SHOULD minister to those lost people and not to lost people in theory or in general.  A church next door to a strip club ought not to cut a deal with its neighbor that it will not preach the Gospel in front of their business because their business will be harmed.  A church next door to a casino shouldn't turn the other cheek when that parking lot has more people in it than the church lot does on a Sunday morning.  And to be as clear as possible, a church in a neighborhood with an abortion clinic ought to be involved in making sure that this place with those sinners receive the word of God so that they will repent.

But here these fellows have made a statement that places "abolition" on-par with Baptism.  They have put it on-par with the Lord's table.  They have put it on-par with weekly worship -- and they do it for all churches.  That's what Capital-"C" "Church" means there.  All Churches, right now, should drop what they are doing and Abolish Abortion.

For a group claiming to be, first and foremost, Biblical, I think they have a lot more Bible to cover before they do anything else.  And while that shortcoming is evident here, I think it is far more obvious in what we'll cover in the last installment, tomorrow.

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