31 March 2015

Repost: The most offensive verse in the Bible

by Dan Phillips
If life is funny, blogging is a laff riot. The oddest thing I've learned about it is that predicting the impact of my posts is — at least for me — completely impossible. More times than I can say, I've posted something that by rights should have created a tsunami response... and then, biff! Nothing. 

Then on the other hand, there are posts like this one. The thought occurred to me as I described, I sat down and dashed it off, and it became our most popular post, ever. It has been reprinted, cited by AIG's Dr. Georgia Purdom, used by Doug Wilson in debating Andrew Sullivan about "gay mirage," and so forth. As I write, it's received 38,716 views. The next runner-up received 29,173.

I'm deeply grateful that folks have found it helpful, but I never would have predicted it.

Today at 2:00pm, Texas time, Janet Mefferd and I will have a chat about the post and its implications. I thought it might help to make this easily available.
In the Sunday School class at CBC we're doing a series called Marriage, the Bible and You. In the second lesson of the series, I brought up the subject of secular talk shows and how they like to try to beat up on Christians of any size, shape, and significance about whatever topic they think is most embarrassing and controversial. Of course, at the moment it's "gay" "marriage," or the topic of homosexuality at all.

In the course of the lesson, I remarked that I think — from the comfortable quiet safety of my study — that I'd take a different approach.

When Piers or Larry or Tavis or Rosie or Ellen or The View or whoever tried probing me about homosexuality, or wifely submission, or any other area where God has spoken (to the world's consternation), I think I'd decline the worm altogether. I think instead, I'd say something like,

"You know, TaPierRosEllRy, when you ask me about X, you're obviously picking a topic that is deeply offensive to non-Christians — but it's far from the most offensive thing I believe. You're just nibbling at the edge of one of the relatively minor leaves on the Tree of Offense. Let me do you a favor, and just take you right down to the root. Let me take you to the most offensive thing I believe.

"The most offensive thing I believe is Genesis 1:1, and everything it implies.

"That is, I believe in a sovereign Creator who is Lord and Definer of all. Everything in the universe — the planet, the laws of physics, the laws of morality, you, me — everything was created by Another, was designed by Another, was given value and definition by Another. God is Creator and Lord, and so He is ultimate. That means we are created and subjects, and therefore derivative and dependent.

"Therefore, we are not free to create meaning or value. We have only two options. We can discover the true value assigned by the Creator and revealed in His Word, the Bible; or we can rebel against that meaning.

"Any time you bring up questions about any of these issues, you do so from one of two stances. You either do it as someone advocating and enabling rebellion against the Creator's design, or as someone seeking submissive understanding of that design. You do it as servant or rebel. There is no third option.

"So yeah, insofar as I'm consistent with my core beliefs, everything I think about sexuality, relationships, morals, the whole nine yards, all of it is derived from what the Creator says. If I deviate from that, I'm wrong.

"To anyone involved in the doomed, damned you-shall-be-as-God project, that is the most offensive truth in the world, and it is the most offensive belief I hold.

"But if I can say one more thing, the first noun in that verse — beginning — immediately points us forward. It points to the end. And the end is all about Jesus Christ. That takes us to the topic of God's world-tilting Gospel, and that's what we really need to talk about."

I mean, why quibble about minor offenses, when we know how to take them right to the mother lode of all offense — that God is God, and we are not?

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29 March 2015

The bloodied Church

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 54, sermon number 3,093, "The Church of God and the Truth of God."
"Remember how your fathers, in times gone by, defended God’s truth, and blush, ye cowards, who are afraid to maintain it!" 

Remember that our Bible is a blood-stained book; the blood of martyrs is on the Bible, the blood of translators and confessors. The pool of holy baptism, in which many of you have been baptized, is a blood-stained pool: full many have had to die for the vindication of that baptism which is “the answer of a good conscience toward God.”

The doctrines which we preach to you are doctrines that have been baptized in blood,—swords have been drawn to slay the confessors of them; and there is not a truth which has not been sealed by them at the stake, or the block, or far away on the lofty mountains, where they have been slain by the hundreds.

It is but a little duty we have to discharge compared with theirs. They were called to maintain the truth when they had to die for it; you only have to maintain the truth when taunt and jeer, ignominious names and contemptuous epithets are all you have to endure for it. What! Do you expect easy lives? While some have sailed through seas of blood and have fought to win the prize, are you wearied with a slight skirmish on dry land?

What would you do if God should suffer persecuting days to overtake you? O craven spirits, ye would flee away, and disown your profession! Be ye the pillar and ground of the truth. Let the blood of martyrs, let the voices of confessors speak to you. Remember how they held fast the truth, how they preserved it and handed it down to us from generation to generation; and by their noble example, I beseech you, be steadfast and faithful, tread valiantly and firmly in their steps, acquit yourselves like men,—like men of God, I implore you!

Shall we not have some champions, in these times, who will deal sternly with heresies for the love of the truth,—men who will stand like rocks in the centre of the sea, so that, when all others shake, they stand invulnerable and invincible?

Thou who art tossed about by every wind of doctrine, farewell; I own thee not till God shall give you grace to stand firm for his truth and not to be ashamed of him nor of his words in this evil generation.

27 March 2015

Some Here, Some There — March 27, 2015

by Dan Phillips

Once again, start small, grows until noon TX time.
  • If you (like me) never wander to First Things, you probably missed Carl Trueman on the 20th anniversary mourning Evangelicals and Catholics Together. It's informative and thought-provoking and a bit snarky (hel-lo! Trueman!), and has wonderful quotables. Such as:
  • "...stadium platform ecumenism is personality heavy and doctrine light. It has placed some very theologically inept people in positions of significant public influence based solely on their ability to pull a crowd. Not all of its senior leaders ultimately seemed particularly clear even on the nature and importance of the doctrine of the Trinity."
  • "...can one really claim to agree on the Gospel of God without first agreeing on the God of the Gospel?"
  • "Before we start thanking the Lord that we are not like other men, we should ask ourselves whether our own alternative ecumenism, so often controlled by a few unaccountable powerbrokers and by big money, really possesses more integrity."
  • Bam.
  • And this, from the What Could Go Wrong? department:
  • The Jolly Scott, Prof. David Murray, has a very helpful note on 1 Timothy 4:10. That's one of those verses, like 1 John 2:2, that folks with a deficient view of God's saving work plop down on the table, as if the mere citing of the verse is contraindicative to affirming God's sovereign grace — blissfully unaware that the verses are at least as problematic for their own view.
  • Here's a review of Logos 6 from Jason Helopoulos. My own is forthcoming.
  • This just gives me a chuckle. I'd shared that a poor pastor, given TWTG as a gift, found it "terribly disappointing." I guess my readers have found his review "terribly disappointing," as currently 167 have found it unhelpful, to 9 who found it helpful. And I'm not certain what those nine mean, because I know at least two whom the review "helped" decide to buy the book.

  • Here, BTW, is Olson's article, subtitled Them Calvinists SO 'TUPID! Olson is helped to his conclusion by failing to allude to, let alone deal with, as much as one verse of Scripture.
  • And here, BTW and more helpfully, is Doug Wilson's first takedown thereof. (To be evenhanded, it is also without Scripture references; it is more of a very effective exercise in Proverbs 26:5.)
  • To me, Roger Olson is kind of the Bob Dylan of theology. In that every time I take a sample of actual product, I am baffled at the reputation.
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26 March 2015

"A church full of pretty people"

by Frank Turk

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

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

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in March 2010. "A church full of pretty people with no problems" can be a source of discouragement to those in broken circumstances.

As usual, the comments are closed.
There's this guy I used to work with.

He and I had a few conversations about the Christian faith because he says he's a Christian, but he doesn't go to church anymore -- and here's the irony: it's not because church is too judgmental. It's because, as he says, church is too full of pretty people.

That's his phrase: "pretty people." Now, if you ask him what that means, he'll tell you that he's a pretty messed-up guy with a lot of spiritual problems, and a church full of pretty people with no problems doesn't do anything for him but frustrate him. Their lives don't encourage him or make him a better person or turn him toward God: their lives actually discourage him because he knows, frankly, that he'll never get there.

I bring this up for a couple of reasons. The first one is this -- we really have to answer the questions people have, and not the questions we wish they had. In one sense, those of us with the Gospel are driving along on the highway of life and we see a lot of cars on the side of the road -- all kinds of breakdowns -- and we are in the only bus that is going to get people to someplace other than the junkyard. And we're supposed to be stopping and picking people up, not just driving past and worrying about these people.

But if we stop the bus and get out wearing a tuxedo (or, for the ladies reading, a wedding dress) and tell these people we've come to help, they're probably not going to take our offer at face value -- because they don't really need a pretty person in nice clothes to help them with a busted jalopy: at the very least, they think they need a mechanic, or a cell phone to call a mechanic, or maybe a guy with a toolbox. They're not looking for someone in clothes so nice that they'd be afraid to mess them up.

The other reason to bring this up is that while they may recognize some part of the problem, the other half of the truth is that they don't really know what they need. They have "felt needs," right? They might be worried that they can't get to work because their car is busted, or they might be worried that they can't afford a new car so this old one has to keep running. But the real solution for anyone is that they have to get on the bus. They don't have to pay a fare, they don't have to sit in any particular seat: they just have to get on the bus and leave the old car behind.

We probably should be dressed in a way that they'll believe us when we tell them to get on the bus, but they have to get on the bus -- and the reason is not because the bus will take them where they think they want to go: it's because the jalopy is going someplace they definitely don't want to go, whether they believe it or not.

24 March 2015

Was the Serpent right?

by Dan Phillips

God told Adam, "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17). In response to the Serpent, Eve more or less quoted God: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die'" (Gen. 3:2-3).

Satan flatly denied this threat: "You will not surely die" (Gen. 3:4).

Well, what happened? Eve ate, Adam ate. Did they die? We read, "she took of its fruit and ate" (v. 6) — are the next words, "and she died"? No; they are "and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate." Oh. Okay; so are the next words, "and he died," or "and they died"? No again; they are "Then the eyes of both were opened," and so forth.

So... what happened? Did that bomb fizzle? Was the threat empty, or forestalled?

Or was the Serpent right?

It's interesting to read in the aftermath that God does not say to the man or the woman, "you will die." He does say Adam will return to the ground (v. 19); but He doesn't say he will die. Why not? Is death just implied or assumed or reworded? Or possibly something else?

In answer, this excerpt from The World-Tilting Gospel, pages 47 and following:


We watch expectantly, like the Maltans in Acts 28 watched Paul after the serpent bit him. They expect Paul to swell up and fall down, or something. Not to keep eating his barbecued chicken.

In the same way, we watch Adam and Eve after they eat the fruit. Cue the “death scene.” Any minute now they’re going to gasp, maybe clutch at their throats, reel around a bit, cry out, then collapse in a heap, dead. Any minute now. Yes, sir. Soon. Really soon. Should be big. So we watch, and we watch, and . . .

Nothing! They just go on. They make some itchy lame clothes. But them? They seem fine. Apparently air’s still going in and out, heart’s still pumping, blood’s still flowing. Not so dead as all that.

What gives?

Not dead? Are you sure? You don’t think they died right away? I think they did. Just like that. It simply took their bodies a few centuries to catch up to the fact.

It’s all in what you mean by death and life.

What is life, anyway? In the Bible, life can denote physical existence (Eccl. 9:4), but it connotes far more than mere existence.

People in hell exist forever, but I can’t think of any passages that refer to their existence as “life.” Life, in its fullness, connotes the enjoyment of God’s presence, and the blessings that this enjoyment entails. To die is to be cut off—not from the bare reality of God’s presence, which is impossible (Ps. 139:7–12), but from the enjoyment of His presence, from experiencing Him as other than terrifying (2 Thess. 1:8–9; Rev. 14:10).

Life isn’t merely the length of the line on a chronology chart; it is the quality of that line. Moses elsewhere paints it so; when he preaches that man does not enjoy life merely by eating bread, but by feasting on what comes from Yahweh’s6 mouth (Deut. 8:3). When Moses lays before Israel the options of life and good, and of death and evil (Deut. 30:15), and urges them to choose life (v. 19), he means more than mere existence. Moses parallels “life” with “blessing” (v. 19), and says plainly that the Lord “is your life” (v. 20). Solomon will later describe life as the opposite, not only of death, but of sin (Prov. 10:16).

...Looking millennia ahead, we see a validation of this when the Lord Jesus prays, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). The essence of life is knowing God, relating to the triune God.

Real life, then, is a gift of God, and bears His presence and blessing. Likewise, if life is the enjoyment of God’s intimate presence, then death will be the loss of the joy of that presence, and of all of the blessings that fellowship with God brings.

And so I say that Adam and Eve did die, right away. When the horrible reality of physical death eventually overtook them, it was the culmination of a ghastly process that began the moment sin touched them.

Disease produces symptoms. When she was a young girl, my dear and only daughter Rachael caught Chicken Pox. In those pre-vaccination days, we wanted her brother Matthew to catch it as well, to get over it while he was still young and the symptoms would be mild. When he became a bit ill and broke out in red spots, we knew he’d caught it. (And so did I, by the way, with a whole lot more misery!)

So we see Adam and Eve breaking out in death right away. The symptoms begin to appear immediately. What are they?

We see one “red spot” of death instantly in their self-consciousness and awareness of guilt (Gen. 3:7). Before, being naked had not been a problem. They were naked, and not ashamed (Gen. 2:25). Suddenly, now, being naked is a bad thing. They feel guilty because they are guilty; they are ashamed, because they are shameful. So they patch together some leaves.

But a worse and more extensive complex of “spots” is seen the moment Yahweh arrives for fellowship with the man. The presence of God really brings out the symptoms. Our bold, brave, pioneering godling-wannabes actually hide (3:8).

Isn’t that just the most pathetic scene in the entire Bible? Adam hiding in the bushes from Him who made the bushes. As if God couldn’t see him!

So, you see, this one wretched act is in truth an ugly constellation of “spots,” and reveals the spread of death in their mental/spiritual makeup:
  • God’s presence is no longer beloved and welcome and sought-out, but excruciating and terrifying and repellant.
  • Offending God, indeed insulting Him (by running and hiding from Him who fills heaven and earth) is an acceptable option; so
  • God is no longer God in their universe; so
  • God’s glory is no longer their central heartbeat; it has been supplanted by their own self-preservation according to their own pitiful notions.
  • Their very notion of God has become warped and inadequate. (“Hide here, honey! He’ll never see us!”)
  • They are evasive about their sin, blame-shifting (“Maybe I can throw Him off!”), rather than openly confessing it, throwing themselves on His mercy, and pleading for a way back into His favor.
  • Adam, in fact, has the dead/blind audacity to blame his sin not only on Eve, but also on God (“The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree” [v. 12]; as if to say, “It’s not my fault! You gave me a defective woman! You messed up!”). 
Adam and Eve, then, have died both in vertical relationship and in horizontal relationship. They’ve lost sight of God, and they’ve lost hold of each other. All that remains is their dead, blind, sinravaged selves. Thus, even after He redeems Adam and Eve, God will send ultimate physical death almost as a blessing to relieve them of an interminable existence in sin.

But what is infinitely more gracious and glorious, one day God will send a second Man, a last Adam, to win out where they so miserably failed (Gen. 3:15; more on this in chapter 3).

As the scene closes, God pronounces His judgments on the couple (Gen. 3:16–19), and they begin to ponder the repercussions of their act. Their responsibilities and structures—work and marriage—remain. But all will be more difficult, and physical death waits at the end. Childbirth will be an agony, and the relationship between husband and wife will become a difficult competition


Subsequent chapters then deal with the transmission and the total effect of sin, with our hopelessness, and with God's grand plan of salvation, first announced in Genesis 3:15.

So was the Serpent right? Of course not. He is the "father of lies."

Adam and Eve died; and, in Adam's death, we died. Only in Christ can we be made alive.

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22 March 2015

No discharge in this war

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 30, sermon number 1,773, "What is your life?"
"The old must die, the young may die."

If, therefore, death be so impartial that he smites down the captains, let not the rank and file hope to escape. Death, which forces entrance to a prince’s bedchamber, will not respect our cottage door. To us also in due time shall be brought the message, “The Master is come and calleth for thee.” My ear hears a voice crying aloud, “Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.”

Will not you hear it? Will any one of you refuse the voice which speaketh from Heaven? Death evidently pays no respect to character, age, or hopefulness. A man may addict himself to the service of his country, but his patriotism will not protect him. He may be surrounded with a wall of affection, but this will not screen him. He may have at his command all the comforts of life, and yet life may ooze out before the physician is aware. He may be tenderly loved by an affectionate mother and his name may be engraved on the heart of the fondest of wives, but death hath no regard to the love of women.

“It is appointed unto men once to die.” There is no discharge in this war: we shall all march into this fight, and unless the Lord himself shall speedily come and end the present dispensation, we shall each one fall upon this battle-field, for the shafts of death fly everywhere, and there is no armour for either back or breast by which his cruel darts may be turned aside. I would to God that all of us retained this truth in our memories.

“Lord, make me to know mine end and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.” We have a very clear conviction that others will die, but as to ourselves, we put far from us the evil day, and care not to dwell upon a subject which smells so unpleasantly of the charnel-house.

Yes, we admit that we shall die, but not so soon as to make it a pressing matter; we imagine that we are not within measurable distance of the tomb. Even the oldest man gives himself a little longer lease, and when he has passed his four-score years, we have seen him hugging life with as much tenacity as if he had just commenced it. Brethren, in this we are not wise; but death will not spare us because we avoid him.

What is there about any one of us that we should fare better than the rest of our fellow-men? We are in the same army, marching upon the same field; how shall we escape where all others fall? Only two of our race have gone into the better land without crossing the dark river of death—Enoch and Elijah; but no one among us will make a third.

20 March 2015

We scarpered

by Dan Phillips

My dear wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary yesterday (I write proleptically, so with a "DV" attached). This year, we ran away! We headed off Wednesday to some not-too-far-off part of unexplored Texas — "unexplored" could describe about 99.9% of it, in our case — for a brief anniversary getaway. We're headed back today.

So no SHST today. Instead, in keeping with the theme, you could listen to the Sunday School series I taught on marriage. Or you could read the first blog post I ever published.

See you next week, or in church, whichever comes first.

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19 March 2015

Overtolerance of Heresy

by Phil Johnson

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

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

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in February 2011. Phil addressed one of primary reasons for American Evangelicalism's vulnerability to false teaching.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Rob Bell's latest heresy neither surprises nor interests me. What does intrigue me is the tragic drift of popular, mainstream evangelicalism. Here we see clearly why the evangelical movement is in grave trouble: The passions of today's self-styled evangelicals are easily aroused in defense of someone who makes a career dabbling around the edges of truth. Rob Bell likes to play with damnable heresies as if they were Lego bricks, and yet anyone who points out the glaring errors in Bell's teaching will be met with a wall of angry resistance from young, self-styled Christians who grew up in the evangelical mainstream.

Where is that much passion ever employed these days in defense of the truth?

I'm not looking for crass watchbloggers or anti-intellectual zealots for whom every disagreement is an excuse for insults and a shouting match. We are up to here with people like that. They are a tiny minority, I think, but a noisy one. They represent one extreme out there on the evangelical fringe: people who can't tolerate any difference of opinion.

But the other extreme seems to be a much larger, more pervasive problem (and this is the trend currently pushing the most evangelicals off the edge): people whose "tolerance" is bent in favor of distorted and unorthodox teachings. They despise unvarnished criticism. They especially hate it when a critic suggests this or that heresy is truly damnable. Evidently there is no doctrine so important that they are willing to fight for it—much less die for it.

Both our Lord and His apostles told us plainly that we would need to defend the faith against false prophets, vicious wolves in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15), minions of Satan disguised as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-14), and corrupters of doctrine who arise within the church (Acts 20:29). Why is it that the average Christian today flatly refuses to take those warnings seriously?

As we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century, American evangelicalism is clearly confused, fragmented, and frighteningly vulnerable to false teaching. Evangelicals are too worldly-minded and untaught to be able to recognize all the deadly errors that have made themselves at home within the movement. Evangelical leaders are far too tentative and timid in denouncing those errors—up to and including the damnable ones. Rank-and-file evangelicals won't stand for it if their leaders do point out false doctrines, especially when the error is being peddled by a slick celebrity.

These problems are serious. What we commonly refer to as "the evangelical movement" is actually no movement at all anymore. It has morphed and melted down into a variegated, muddled, incoherent swamp—without any meaningful boundaries. And we are sending to the world a message that is as garbled and bewildering as this ersatz movement.

17 March 2015

The power of the word of God: oft-overlooked ramifications

by Dan Phillips

All Christians attribute power and authority to God's word, for the simple fact that it is God's word. In his Sufficient Fire talk, Phil Johnson mentioned that Brian Maclaren attempted to make mileage over the fact that 2 Timothy 3:16 said that Scripture was useful, not that it was authoritative. In my later talk I chuckled a bit over that, wondering how much more authoritative you could get than "God-breathed"!

I find John Frame's phrasing of Scripture's authority very helpful and memorable:
[Scripture] imposes on them an obligation to respond in an appropriate way. That is the proper definition of authority: an authoritative word is one that imposes obligations on those who hear. And the word of God imposes an absolute obligation.
[John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 529.]
There are obvious implications to this. It's easiest to see in the commandments. For instance, when God says not to commit adultery (Exodus 20:14; Ephesians 5:3), I'm to obey by not committing adultery. When God commands that we love Him (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37), we know we are to love God.

But do the narratives obligate me, as well? The Bible begins with a narrative: God creates the universe in six days, and rests on the seventh. Does that narrative obligate me? Or does the narrative of the call of Abram, or the Exodus, or the Passover, or Balaam's loquacious donkey, or Jonah and the big big fish? Or the narratives of Jesus' casting out demons, of His resurrection, and of dead rising in conjunction with that resurrection?

Do these stories obligate me in some way? Is there something I must do, reading them?

One's first thought might be that no moral obligation arises from a story. If so, one's first thought would be mistaken. These aren't newspaper items or oddments in old books. These present themselves to me as God's Word. As such, I am obligated — morally obligated — to believe them. If I disbelieve them, I not only err, I sin.

How so? God tells me they are true, on His honor. Reject the stories, I reject His honor. If that doesn't plunge me into blasphemy, doesn't it bring me right up to the door and knock?

But wait, there's more.

What of the passages that tell me I should fear God (Proverbs 1:7; 1 Peter 2:17), that I should rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 3:3-4), that I should hope (1 Peter 1:13)? Do those obligate me as well? Surely they do.

But wait, there's still more!

This all brings us to the Charismatic issue.

The great achievement of modern Charismaticism is to dupe so many otherwise-fine people into letting Charismatics carve a niche for themselves where they can both promote themselves and avoid all meaningful accountability. Or, put another way, both to canonize and sanctify their personal experiences and claims and to avoid testing of any sort.

One of these ways is that they will ostensibly quote God, some "word from the Lord" — but then, when challenged, hurry to say "That's just for me!"

But is that option open? They have dared to claim to quote God. They have had the breath-taking, astonishing hubris to position themselves as mediators of revelation — claiming that God said words directly to them and them alone, words they now convey to you and to me.

Can that be a private affair? If so, too late now: they've spoken. They've claimed to speak God's words!

So now I am indeed obligated. Their word obligates me. I cannot escape. (Nor can they, though they try.)

You see, if what they speak is a word of God, I am morally obligated to believe it. It doesn't matter what the content is: a word from God has God's authority, and "an authoritative word is one that imposes obligations on those who hear." Well, I hear. What is my obligation?

If it is God's word, I am obligated to believe it. And if it is not, I am obligated to rebuke and expose them as false prophets.

I want to be sure you get this. Even if what they say is "God told me personally, 'Hey, buck up, my precious darling cuddly lambie-dear, I just want to cuddle you close in sweet saccharine waves of My unconditional love and approval, and have great plans for you'" — now that they've told me, I'm obliged.

If that's God speaking and I do not believe it, I am sinning.

But if it isn't, and I do? Same result — or, at the very least, I am complicit in enabling another's sin (cf. Ezekiel 3:18).

And so, an open-but-clueless sort is obligated to search out every claim to revelation, and decide whether to embrace and submit to it, or reject and expose it. That means that such poor souls are morally obligated to be constantly directing their attention from inspired, inerrant, sufficient Scripture, to vet and test and decide on every modern claim to quote God. Because if those are words of God, I am obligated to receive and believe them, myself.

Those are our choices. Either reject the movement as a whole and stand on the sufficient Word of God, or devote yourself to constant, daily distraction.

My, that sounds like a clever way to keep Christians off-focus, doesn't it? Devilishly clever!

Claiming to speak for God is a big, big deal, as I argued at length. They want us to forget it, so they can keep the charade going.

But we mustn't forget it. And we mustn't lose focus on God's real, abiding Word.

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15 March 2015

The power of the Scriptures

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 Speeches at Home and Abroad, pages 21-22, Pilgrim Publications.

"Dear friends, what are you doing towards scattering the Bible?" 

Do you give it away? Somebody may say it is of very little use to give away Bibles and Testaments. That is a very great mistake. I have very seldom found it to be a labour in vain to give a present of a Testament.

I was greatly astonished about a month ago. A cabman drove me home, and when I paid him his fare he said, “It is a long time since I drove you last, sir!” “But,” said I, “I do not recollect you!” “Well,” he said, “I think it is fourteen years ago; but,” he added, “perhaps you will know this Testament?” pulling one out of his pocket. “What!” I said, “did I give you that?” “Oh, yes!” he said, “and you spoke to me about my soul, and nobody had done that before, and I have never forgotten it.” “What,” said I, “haven’t you worn it out?” “No,” he said, “I would not wear it out; I have had it bound!”— and he had kept it very carefully indeed.

It encourages one to give books when they are so valued. Sometimes people will not value a tract. I believe it is often the cheapest thing to give a better thing; that which costs you rather more will be more highly treasured, and “a Testament for twopence!”—who would not scatter such a thing broadcast?

Should you be unable to give away the Book itself, quote the Scriptures often. A colporteur last Monday said there was a man in the habit of addressing him upon religious subjects when he was “half-seas over,” as they call it. Whenever he had plenty of drink in him he came to the colporteur to talk about religion. This colporteur said, “He came and knocked at my door, and I felt vexed that he should so often come to me in that condition, and I hurled four texts at his head out in the street with all my might.”

He quoted the four texts. They were very appropriate to the man’s condition, and contained a full statement of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He said, “I do not know whether I did that man any good or not, but there was a woman next door, who had just opened her door to put two dirty children off her doorstep. She stood still, and heard all the four texts, and the Spirit of God carried them home to her heart and conscience ;” and he added, “I have been awakened at night many times, and glad to be awakened, by hearing her sing, whilst she lies dying upstairs in the room next to mine.”

I wish every person here who knows the power of the Scriptures on his own soul would incessantly be trying to spread the Word of God and to expound it.

13 March 2015

Some Here, Some There — March 13, 2015

by Dan Phillips

Here y'go. Updates through noon, TX time.
  • Over at the indispensible (I keep telling you that) DBTS blogJohn Aloisi fills in popular gaps about Patrick, missionary to Ireland.
  • God gave cats a lot of the 'tude quotient of the animal kingdom. Deal with it.
  • So much damage has been done by incomplete and false repentance, and by confessions that aren't really confessions, that you will want to bookmark this fine essay by Doug Wilson. Anymore, I find I have to listen to confessions like a lawyer reads a document.
  • Ah, Christianity Today.
  • It's sad. When I was a young Christian, Christianity Today was a terrific magazine, with substantive articles and book reviews and all. And even then, in the 70s, it wasn't fully what it had been. Then came embrace of female preachers, shoddy handling of the days of creation... and it's been downhill since.
  • Now some female writer tried to redeem the monstrous Margaret Sanger. In Christianity Today!
  • Thankfully, the indispensable Denny Burk tersely notes that "Sanger’s legacy has a body-count," and pretty thoroughly fisks the CT article. Denny's piece features many quotables... and the meta isn't even too bad! (Yet.)
  • Doug Wilson writes about the same issue, noting that the pro-aborts "disproportionately target black boys and girls — with the connivance of black quislings", and that "they have a kill rate much higher than that of the Ferguson Police Department." He adds that, "as bad as Sanger was, she wasn’t as ghoulish as her heirs are."
  • Check out what William Gurnall has to say to those who choose to sleep during sermons.
  • Bacon donut hot dog. That is all.
  • For good reason, at one point, Stan Gale did not want a funeral to be held when he died. But now, for good reasons, he's changed his mind.
  • No, the order of the last two items is not meant to send a message.
  • Me, I'd like one. Not for dueling hagiographies, but to give "me" one last chance to preach Christ, in the person of whoever does the funeral preaching Christ. Funerals are, or should be, a great opportunity (Eccl. 7:1-4).
  • Here's a post from 2009 about paper pastors vs. local church pastors.
  • Here's a post from this month about podcast preachers vs. local church pastors.
  • BTW, in case you didn't notice: I posted on one of my "off" days, telling how to search Pyro for past articles.
  • If the Lord doesn't come first, one day I'll die. I just don't want to die in a dumb way.
  • Aimee Byrd commends a book offering help and encouragement to women who have suffered a miscarriage.
  • The popular atheist dodge-topic of slavery in the Bible receives a treatment by Fred Butler.
  • Concluding with one of my very favorite Po-Motivators:

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12 March 2015

5 Reasons Why Your Marriage Matters

by Dan Phillips

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

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

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in May 2012. Our marriages matter to God, to our spouse, to us, to our children, and to the Church.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Though I've written often on marriage (see this and this and this and, somewhat famously, this), I am returning to it from a number of angles, Lord willing. My hope is both to help couples, and to give an "assist" to fellow-pastors.

Here I just have a simple point to make: your marriage matters.

"Matters" to whom? Well: 

It matters to God. Really, if I'm writing to actual Christians, we should be able to stop with this one, shouldn't we? You took vows invested with meaning He'd given to them, and He cares about that (Num. 30:2; Deut. 23:21-23; Pss. 61:8; 76:11; Prov. 20:25; Eccl. 5:5). He is invested in your marriage. He invented it, it's His institution, and you entered into it. 

It matters to your spouse. You promised that man, that woman, that (s)he could trust you absolutely. Brother, you promised to lead and love and sacrifice, as Christ did for the church. Sister, you promised to respect and to subordinate yourself, as the church should do towards Christ. You told this person, "Though all else fail you, you can count on me. You can forget about looking for sex or love or devotion anywhere else. I'm your man/woman." 

It matters to you. In more ways than you can think, it matters to you. Let's just start with the boneheadedly obvious: supposing you're in a marriage that is other-than-humming, and there's something you can do about it. But you're not. Why? You were going to get going on that when, exactly? When life really starts? Dude, sister, news flash: it started. When you get to Heaven? That's stupid. When the kids are grown? That's stupid, hateful, and irresponsible (see below). 

It matters to your children. This is the saddest part. We all say we think it's the saddest part -- even people who tolerate and even cultivate marriage-harming sin in themselves pay lip-service to caring about The Children, while their lives show they care a whole lot more about unrepentantly indulging their flesh in this or that way. But kids see, they notice, they take note, they know at some level, and they are harmed. Not merely discouraged, distracted; harmed. Home should be a safe, healthy, Christward place for them. They get their ideas about marriage by watching yours. 

It matters to your church. Maybe not right away, because it is possible to put on a good face for an hour or two a week. But you can't be giving yourself to godly, Spirit-led worship and service with a bunch of relative strangers if you're not obeying the great and the second commandment (see numbers 1 and 2, above) at home, can you? Does that make any kind of sense? Seriously. Wake up.

I plan to say a lot more with a lot more specifics. If you want a lot of Biblical study and content and counsel, you can get a head start right here, as perhaps some readers could attest.

How to search for articles on Pyromaniacs

by Dan Phillips

We get asked to find old posts for folks often enough that I conclude the following not to be common knowledge. So, I share.

Google has a terrific feature that lets you search sites. Basically, you just enter whatever terms you want to search, applying normal search rules, then a space, then site:{blog URL}. As simple as that.

So it looks like this. If I want to find that post that has something to do with paper pastors, and know that's an exact phrase in the post, I would do and receive the following:

If you enclose in quotation-marks, it will search the exact phrase. If you don't, it will search all the words. Just like normal Googling.

You're welcome. And thank you!

PS — I've now added a link to this on the Sidebar. Because otherwise, one day you'll think, "I want to find an old Pyro article. Let's see... they did a post on how to do that once... um... somewhere..."

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10 March 2015

If a "faithful Jew" would agree with my OT sermon, have I failed?

by Dan Phillips

It isn't too uncommon to hear in our circles that some preaching on OT passages falls short, because it contains nothing that a Jew might not agree with.

Here's the way Trevin Wax put it. He says a Christian preacher should ask himself: "As I preach from the Old Testament, is there anything in my sermon that a faithful Jew could not affirm?" Trevin then adds this comment:
  • This question reminds me to consider whether I am approaching the Old Testament from a distinctly Christian perspective. It increases my desire to show the congregation how the gospel is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises.
The intent clearly is the laudable aim of being true to passages such as Luke 24:27 and 44, among others. Insofar as Trevin's point is that a Christian sermon should not be mistakable for mere travelogue, history lecture, or moral pep-talk, I'd unreservedly agree.

However, the question as phrased was, "Is there anything in my sermon that a faithful Jew could not affirm?"

To that, my own response is, "Goodness, I hope not!"

Trevin said faithful Jew. I take that to mean believing Jew. That being the case, why would I want to break faith with a faithful Jew? Why would I want to imply to a believing Jew that the God's words to Him were not perspicuous, were coy, or perhaps were even borderline deceptive?

Was this Jesus' approach? Hardly. To pick just one very telling interchange, hear our Lord's words to his opponents:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:39–47)
faithful, believing Jew, Jesus says, would have been led by Moses' writings to faith in Him. In fact, He said that Moses himself would accuse anyone who did not follow that progression. How could Moses accuse his readers for not finding a meaning in the text that was not, in fact, in the text? How could he accuse them for not understanding what he himself would never have understood? (This argument is made, and this hermeneutic developed, more fully by Michael Rydelnik. See also the specific application to Proverbs in Appendix Four of God's Wisdom in Proverbs.)

If Moses' writings did not actually point to Christ, the Lawgiver must instead rise and say "You know, I can't really blame you for not seeing Christ from what I wrote. I didn't see Him, myself!" But this is not what Christ claims, is it?

In my preaching Christ from OT Scriptures, I must be true to the OT Scriptures. I will be able to point to fulfillments which the original authors and readers could not know (because they had not yet happened). But those fulfillments will be in line with the words of the text — or, as we've often said in response to postmodernism, the text is plastic, the text no longer is the control, the text itself has no authority, and the author is dead.

Which, I'd argue, no Christian should want to affirm.

This question can lead (and, in many cases as we all know, has led) to reading in meaning not resident in the text, as well as minimizing the content of the text. The challenge — and it is a challenge — is to remain true to the text as given, in context, and show in what ways it points forward to Christ.

Perhaps what Trevin meant was, "Is there anything in my sermon that an apostate Jew could not affirm?"

That would make for a more useful question to ask myself.

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08 March 2015

Too much knowledge, too little experience

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 Till He Come, pages 37-38, Pilgrim Publications.
"It is a pity that we know so much about Christ, and yet enjoy Him so little." 

May our experience keep pace with our knowledge, and may that experience be composed of a practical using of our Lord! Jesus casts a shadow, let us sit under it: Jesus yields fruit, let us taste the sweetness of it. 

Depend upon it that the way to learn more is to use what you know; and, moreover, the way to learn a truth thoroughly is to learn it experimentally. You know a doctrine beyond all fear of contradiction when you have proved it for yourself by personal test and trial. 

The bride in the song as good as says, "I am certain that my Beloved casts a shadow, for I have sat under it, and I am persuaded that He bears sweet fruit, for I have tasted of it." The best way of demonstrating the power of Christ to save is to trust in Him and be saved yourself; and of all those who are sure of the divinity of our holy faith, there are none so certain as those who feel its divine power upon themselves. 

You may reason yourself into a belief of the gospel, and you may by further reasoning keep yourself orthodox; but a personal trial, and an inward knowing of the truth, are incomparably the best evidences. If Jesus be as an apple tree among the trees of the wood, do not keep away from Him, but sit under His shadow, and taste His fruit. 

He is a Saviour; do not believe the fact and yet remain unsaved. As far as Christ is known to you, so far make use of Him. Is not this sound common-sense? We would further remark that we are at liberty to make every possible use of Christ. Shadow and fruit may both be enjoyed. Christ in His infinite condescension exists for needy souls. 

Oh, let us say it over again: it is a bold word, but it is true,as Christ Jesus, our Lord exists for the benefit of His people. A Saviour only exists to save. A physician lives to heal. The Good Shepherd lives, yea, dies, for His sheep. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ hath wrapped us about His heart; we are intimately interwoven with all His offices, with all His honours, with all His traits of character, with all that He has done, and with all that He has yet to do. The sinners' Friend lives for sinners, and sinners may have Him and use Him to the uttermost. 

He is as free to us as the air we breathe. What are fountains for, but that the thirsty may drink? What is the harbour for but that storm-tossed barques may there find refuge? What is Christ for but that poor guilty ones like ourselves may come to Him and look and live, and afterwards may have all our needs supplied out of His fulness?

06 March 2015

Some Here, Some There — March 6, 2015

by Dan Phillips

Small start; expect updates through noon, TX time:
  • Sigh.
  • Holy mackerel. I thought we had a couple of funny things happen on our honeymoon. But those were nothing, nothing. You have got to read professor David Murray's hair-raising tale of his "worst ever" honeymoon. If you don't gasp and yelp a couple of times, check for a pulse.
  • Then there was this picture, crying out for a caption. I heeded the call:
  • Pastoral morale tip: are you about to share a "concern" with your pastor, something about something he's done or said, or hasn't done or said? Fair enough, and often very needed, and very appreciated. But also ask yourself: have you ever told him that you learned something — anything? — from him doing what he pours his life and soul into? Learned anything, been helped or encouraged, been reproved or corrected... anything? Isn't that also fair enough?
  • Pastoree morale tip: brother pastor, are you about to speak a word of exhortation, correction, or even rebuke to one of your dear ones? Fair enough, and a crucial part of your calling. But remember that whatever you say, however you intend it, will be heard as about 5-10X more intensely-said than you meant it. So isn't it best to assume a tender heart and conscience, and err on the side of grace, gentleness, and kindness? Sort of a Matthew 7:12 type deal? Isn't that also fair enough?
  • On pastoring, here's a worthy word from William Gurnall, who's in the course here of warning pastors against being accessory to their flock's ignorance which, he says, a pastor can become...
By his unedifying preaching, when he preacheth unsound doctrine, which doth not perfect the understanding, but corrupt it. Better he did leave them in simple ignorance, than colour their minds with a false dye, or when that he preacheth is frothy and flashy; no more fit to feed their souls, than husks the prodigal’s belly, which, when they know, they are little wiser for their soul’s good. Or when his discourses are so high flown that the poor people stand gazing, as those who have lost the sight of their preacher, and at the end of the sermon cannot tell what he would have. Or those who preach only truths that are for the higher forms of professors, who have their senses well exercised, excellent may be for the building of three or four eminent saints in the congregation; but in the meantime, the weak ones in the family, who should indeed chiefly be thought on, because least able to guide themselves, or carve for themselves, these are forgotten. [William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour (London: Thomas Tegg, 1845), 118.]
  • Someone in Facebook loaded this:
  • To which I — NO FAN of the NIV, as you well know — replied:
  • When this, plus some simple statement of facts and logic, did not seem to penetrate, (— does it ever, with KJV-onliers?) I created this:

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03 March 2015

Our own “Men's Fellowship”

by Dan Phillips

Some years ago I knew of a young man with what was, to all appearances, a fine and stable Christian walk. After leaving home, he fell badly, and unrepentedly. His parents were utterly heartbroken.

Knowing this situation led me to reconsider what I was doing with my son Josiah, who was nearing his teen years. Proactive is my watchword, when I can help it. Nothing brews a more bitter cup than regrets, and my own mistakes and follies have served up quite enough of it as it is.

Josiah was around twelve, and a professed Christian. I thought: "What better text than Proverbs?"

And so the Two-Man Men's Fellowship was born.

The title was lifted from the Men's Fellowship I'd attended at church, only our group was much more exclusive. (I think it tickled young Josiah to be going to a "Men's Fellowship" with his dad.)

Each Saturday morning, we'd go out to the nearby Peet's Coffee, get our fine and fresh joe, sit down with our Bibles, and go through the book, verse by verse. Sometimes we'd do a couple of verses, sometimes a few. There was no hurry. It took years.

The way we did it was to trade off chapters. I led us through the first, Josiah the second. Whoever was leading was responsible for doing his best to guide us through the chapter. Having Josiah lead a chapter gave him some ownership, some responsibility, and ideally some added incentive to dig in and ponder before we met to study.

The times were delightful. And discouraging! More than once we came on a verse that I'd sweat over, in Hebrew and multiple tools, before figuring out what it meant — and, seemingly without effort (and none of that struggle), Josiah would just hit the right meaning. As if it were the easiest thing in the world. I kinda hated him.

No, that's not true. I'm his dad. I loved it. And I made notes of his remarks in my beloved BibleWorks notes feature. With Josiah's permission, here are some choice examples. (Josiah was born in 1995.)
  • Proverbs 2:2 — Like turning your radio to a specific channel, so that it will receive it and broadcast it to your brain. (8/15/09)
  • Proverbs 4:14 — Solomon speaks of this choice as if it is a trailhead that splits. Two trailheads: righteousness, wickedness.  (10/3/09; I think we had recently been on a hike)
  • Proverbs 10:20 — If the tongue of the righteous is choice silver, his heart must be mithril! [If you don't get that, Google it or ask a Tolkien fan.] (1/9/10)
  • Proverbs 12:13 — If this is true of human words, how much truer of God's words? (4/3/10)
  • Proverbs 13:25 — This has both a physical/financial application, and a spiritual/intellectual application. (6/5/10)
  • Proverbs 14:17 — The second man is more deliberate than the first. The first acts in a fit of rage; the second lays plans. (6/26/10)
  • Proverbs 16:19 — "Better to be a humble hobo." (1/1/11)
  • Proverbs 17:19 [notoriously difficult to interpret] — The person who loves to sin loves fights, and making the door high is making a fancy, decorated gate that invites people to come and attack it, knock it down. Application is not to be proud, but humble and embrace God's Word. (No date; would have been 2011)
  • Proverbs 17:21 — Part of the sorrow is the pointed fingers, the assumptions about a fool's father (3/12/11)
  • Proverbs 18:9 — Made Josiah think of the Death Star in Star Wars. (4/23/11)
Josiah is now 19, and we still meet Saturdays. The move to Houston meant, to our sorrow, no more Peet's.

We tried one place, but it was too loud and Josiah noted (accurately!) that the coffee "tastes like stewed tomatoes." We tried another, but it was too loud.

Finally, we settled on Panera Bread, whose coffee (when fresh) compares well with Peet's, and which usually has a very nice atmosphere...when they aren't playing "soul-destroying Emo music."

I started these meetings publicly for two reasons: first, to make it special to my son; second, in the hopes that we might catch someone's eye and have a Gospelly dialogue.

Josiah and I went on to spend some time in Richard Phillips' book on manhood, and have recently watched Sye Ten Bruggencate's debate with an atheist (Josiah is a Sye-fan, as am I), and have begun Thabiti Anyabwile's discussion with a Muslim.

I began the same tradition with my youngest child, Jonathan (now 15). We went through a Bible book also, and are now reading together a childhood favorite of Spurgeon's, A Sure Guide to Heaven, by Joseph Alleine.

You're the best judge of what your child needs. But does this sound like a good, doable idea to you, to frame some good one-on-one time in the word for those formative years?

If so, launch your own one-on-one fellowship! (If you want to do Proverbs, Douglas Wilson has a recommendation.)

For my part, I know that the day is fast approaching — too soon! too soon! — when Josiah and I will have our last regular Two-Man Men's Fellowship coffee together. When that happens, ol' Dad will be very sad indeed.

But I'll cherish the prayerful hope that all the golden eternal truths we enjoyed together, over good coffee, will stay with and guide Josiah (and then Jonathan) long after Dad's there to do it in person.

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