Thinking Out Loud

October 3, 2014

The Heart of a Discernment Blogger

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:44 am

Do Not Be Surprised

At least 24 hours after hearing of the death of Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries, it occurred to me that Erin Benz at the blog Do Not Be Surprised would probably have noted his passing, and I was correct. In a ten minute span that followed I clicked around her blog and gained some insight into what motivates her as a blogger.

While there are probably some theological things Erin and I would disagree on, I want to say that I am in total agreement with everything I’ve copied and pasted below. I don’t feel called to do a blog that has the same tenor perhaps, but I have waded in on certain breaking stories, but I’ve also waded out when the stories went mainstream. Similarly, Do Not Be Surprised doesn’t seem to belabor a particular issue.

But first, the name as explained in her very first post:

Strangely, it took me quite awhile to determine what I wanted to call this blog… But then it all just sort of came to me. Not Surprised actually has a dual purpose. Of course, it seemed a natural title considering everything that’s happening in the world. Yes, I’m frustrated and saddened by so much of it, but at the same time, we had ample warning that this was all coming, so why should I be surprised? Then as I was flipping through my Bible, two passages stuck out to me:

1 Peter 4:12 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” and

1 John 3:13 “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”

The words “do not be surprised” really stood out to me as I was literally simply flipping through the Word and I thought, “duh, Erin, everyone thinks you’re crazy anyway, why are you surprised? God promised you they would!”

In what is probably a more-frequently read section of her blog, the “About” page, she writes:

As Christians, we are called to “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This blog seeks to answer that call.

The truth is everything and God’s truth has been under attack from the beginning. Today, churches and Christian groups and organizations have readily and eagerly compromised the truth of the Gospel. They have done so in favor of gaining numbers, filling pews, and over-filling offering plates. Truth, even the truth of God’s unchanging Word, has become relative, and has become secondary to one’s personal experience or revelation. Those who see this compromise, this denigration of God’s Truth, must stand up and speak out against it. Even our proclamation of the true Gospel of Jesus may be marred if we choose to remain silent in the presence of “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1) because our silence betrays a subtle acceptance of these lies.

As we contend and stand firmly on Scripture, we will be called divisive, mean, unloving, and perhaps worse. Yet we stand strong nonetheless. And we remember the warnings of Jesus and Paul and others in Scripture:

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. (Matthew 24:4-5)

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30)

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Remembering these warnings, and resting in the grace and strength of Jesus Christ, may every Christian have the courage to earnestly, boldly, unashamedly, contend for the saving faith and salvation in Christ that has been granted unto him.

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)

Part of the problem in the body of Christ is that we don’t really know each other. So when we disagree on doctrines or practices everything becomes very quickly polarized. Like I said at the outset, there are some areas where I am coming from a doctrinal position quite opposite Erin’s but there is no denying either her sincerity or her passion, as in this January 2010 post, Why I Do What I Do:

Discernment ministries, and less formal blogs of the same nature (like this one) oftentimes receive a lot of criticism for speaking the truth in love. Be it negative, even hateful comments on an article, or mean-spirited emails, discernment ministry is not for those who fear confrontation! Since these responses are rarely constructive, but are rather composed of name-calling and weak arguments, I suppose I am blessed to be part of a generation that simply unfriends me on Facebook when they are offended by one of my articles! But so many people ask “why.” Why do I and others choose to be so “mean” or “divisive” toward our Christian brothers and sisters? To be clear, discernment and the consequential boldness to speak the truth is not done in malice, but in love. The answer to why I maintain this blog (and to why I’ll “call a spade a spade” in any conversation) lies in Ezekiel 33:6

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

If I saw that your house was burning down, but you were in a far room and were as of yet unaware, would you like me to alert you of the impending danger? Or would you prefer that I stand back and watch the house burn with you inside of it? The same idea applies to what I am doing with this blog: I see a destructive, un-Biblical teaching in the church and instead of sitting back and watching you drown in a sea of apostasy, I am led to boldly speak up for the Truth and stand against the false teaching…

So the question of course that many would ask is, “Fine, but who are you to think that your view is correct?” Or “By what authority do you publish your blog?”

I think Erin partly answered that question this week when she noted the passing of Ken Silva:

On a personal note, having served at one time alongside Ken at Apprising’s sister site, Christian Research Network, I am thankful for the way in which the Lord used Ken in the life of Do Not Be Surprised.

So she brings some practical experience to her writing.

I should also say that as this blog’s Wednesday Link List approaches its Monday night deadline, I always check Erin’s This ‘n That column, a Saturday link list, to see what stories grabbed her attention that week.

So Erin, if you’re reading this and you decide to look around here, you might notice that I am passionate about some individuals and ministries that perhaps you disdain, and I want you to know that is probably matched by an equal amount eye-rolling when I read your blog. But when I read the posts I’ve linked to here, I can’t deny that your online work is born out a desire to see God’s word rightly divided and God’s truth setting people free.

To my readers, I would say that as you get to know the heart of someone, you can agree to disagree on things; and you can determine to celebrate the things that unite us.

September 29, 2014

Currently Reading: Apologetics Beyond Reason

James W. Sire is the author of the landmark apologetics book The Universe Next Door (1976) and the more recent A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics (2006) and has been an editor at InterVarsity Press (IVP) for several decades. In the first chapter of Apologetics Beyond Reason: Why Seeing Really is Believing he explains that it might be time to chart a different direction.

Apologetics Beyond Reason - James SireFor those in our culture who put their trust in human reason, these apologetic approaches have worked well. Many Christians today read and benefit from them. Without the, thoughtful Christians would have too few resources to analyze the clever arguments and glossy lifestyles presented by our culture’s media, its pundits, its fraudulent experts and its passionate prophets of health and wealth.

But many in our postmodern world have come willy-nilly to distrust reason, and the arguments of the modern Christian rationalists now seem irrelevant, doubtful, lifeless. The approaches of C. S. Lewis and G. K Chesteron avoided this fate by clever and imaginative grasps of the paradoxes of the human condition. The value of human reason for them was to permit a conclusion to be wrested from within a framework of paradoxes. It took account of the human desire for simplicity, tied the reader in knots and then showed how Christian faith both accounted for the knots and then untangled them. Their work has attracted readers from across the intellectual spectrum from the simple to the sophisticated.

But highly sophisticated rational apologetics itself is limited to those who can understand it…

…There is another limitation in many arguments Christians use to prove the rationality of belief in God. The God who is “proved” is only a transcendent, impersonal God, maybe a Creator, but not necessarily personal. Only a God whose existence is important to human understanding or human flourishing is worth troubling about. The arguments may support deism as a worldview but be silent about the existence of a fully Biblical God. Of course, such arguments can be stepping stones to a fuller argument for the God of the Bible. And that’s no small matter…

Apologetics Beyond Reason pp. 16-17

He then continues along this line mixing the writings of classical literature and philosophy with his own story.  I’m only part of the way in, but it’s a type of subjective apologetics, or intellectual testimony. My words, not his; or at least not so far.

August 6, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Mega Christian Wedding B I N G O

Another week that started with, “I think we’ll only do about 20 links this time;” and ended with…

Oh oh! The internet meter just ran out again and I’m out of quarters.

Paul Wilkinson is widely regarded as the world’s best writer who does a column called Wednesday Link List for PARSE, and blogs the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201.

Calvinist Problems on Twitter

July 2, 2014

Wednesday Link List

hypocrites

A Happy Independence Day to our U.S. readers and a one-day belated Happy Canada Day to readers in the land north of the 49th. On with the linkage…

When not playing one of the 820 Solitaire variants while listening to sermon podcasts, Paul Wilkinson blogs at at Thinking Out Loud, edits the devotional blog Christianity 201, and provides hints of the following week’s link list on Twitter.

June 25, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Church Organ - Air Conditioner Combo

While this is list number two-hundred-and-something at Thinking Out Loud — and probably about the 400th link list over all, it’s list #52 at PARSE. A year! Time flies when you’re having links. Since Leadership Journal owns this weekly piece, clicking anything below takes you to PARSE where you can then link to the item you wish to read first.

Thursday through Tuesday, Paul blogs at Thinking Out Loud, both writes and steals devotional material at Christianity 201, and provides hints of the following week’s link list on Twitter.

 

It's not every day that we see a Jaguar X16 with a Jesus fish in our part of the world. Mind you it's a gold fish, nicely framed and matted.

It’s not every day that we see a Jaguar X16 with a Jesus fish in our part of the world. Mind you it’s a gold fish, nicely framed and matted.

May 4, 2014

Books Worth Reading…

Whenever we roll into a new month, I always look back on things published one year prior, to see if any of them deserve a re-look. This time around, I was struck by some books we were reviewing a year ago…


I don’t want to toss out cheap superlatives like, ‘Best book I ever read,’ but 24 hours after finishing Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron, I definitely feel that this is one of best written books I’ve ever read. With equal parts contemporary ecclesiology, church history, and Italy travelog, You can practically taste the Italian food. Chasing Francis is an excellent work of fiction that’s more about facts than fiction.

Chasing FrancisSome explanation is necessary. For me, this book fits in with the type of fiction that I’ve been attracted to over the past few years; what I call Socratic dialog. Think Paul Young in The Shack and Crossroads, Andy Andrews in The Noticer and other titles, David Gregory in the Perfect Stranger trilogy; books that use story as a motif for teaching.

But the publisher, Zondervan, didn’t see it that way, identifying the advance copy I received in the Christian Living category and avoiding the category thing entirely on their website….

[continue reading here]


Much as I hate to admit it, while I’ve been aware of him for many years, this week was the first time I finally got around to reading one of the more than fifty books by R. T. Kendall. The American born author and pastor is best known for being the pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel where he succeeded the likes of Glyn Owen, G. Campbell Morgan and Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

R. T. Kendall - These are the Days of ElijahThe book I asked to review is These Are The Days of Elijah: How God Uses Ordinary People to Do Extraordinary Things (2013, Chosen Books) which was compiled from a series of Sunday evening sermons given at Westminster in 2000-2001; and if those Sunday night sermons were this good, I can only imagine what his preaching was like on Sunday mornings.

The book is an exposition of the story of the prophet Elijah. That said, you would expect the book to rest firmly in a Old Testament setting, but it’s as though Dr. Kendall can’t complete a paragraph without reference to a New Testament character or narrative… 

[continue reading here]


Cold Case ChristianityEvery decade or so a great work of apologetics appears which breaks the boundaries of the discipline and reaches a wider audience. Josh McDowell did it years ago with Evidence That Demands a Verdict; Frank Morrison with Who Moved the Stone? and more recently Lee Strobel brought a large audience to the discussion with The Case for Christ series.

Enter former Los Angeles County homicide investigator J. Warner Wallace and his book Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. (2013, David C. Cook). Like Strobel, Wallace was a skeptic turned believer, and like McDowell, Wallace leaves no stone unturned in his study of the reliability of scripture, from obscure passages to those central to core doctrine.

The book is divided into two parts, the nature of cold case investigation — and this case is 2,000 + years old, and the particular evidence that the Bible offers…

[continue reading here]

February 5, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Things I Hate

They left the worship band’s spotlights on during the sermon this week, and my pastor saw his shadow, which meant six more points before the benediction. Here are some links as I try to forget… 

Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, which has exclusive rights to the mid-week link.

…if you’re new to this whole link list thing, I did a rare Weekend Link List about ten days ago with some reruns from 2011.

January 25, 2014

Weekend Link List

The Weekend List Lynx

The Weekend List Lynx

Some classic stuff from my files; none of this is new — most is from the Summer of 2011 — but it might be new to you. Mostly these are links I saved that I felt worth keeping at the time…

  • For those of us who are too Evangelical for Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” here is a new set of lyrics for which the author obtained a mechanical rights release, the way you’re supposed to. You might want to bookmark this for Easter.
  • “Are religious enthusiasts just naturally obnoxious? Or do certain forms of Christianity attract people who have an insatiable need to impose their beliefs on others? Do some of us simply have nothing on the the mental dashboard that registers “too intense?”  Classic Michael Spencer at Internet Monk.
  • And some classic Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen: What if the Apostle Paul’s story of the Messiah were a book proposal or a movie pitch? Paul would almost certainly get a rejection letter for having something unmarketable.
  • From a 2011 Pew Forum study, when asked what is the main threat to Evangelical Christianity 47 percent of leaders said Islam is the main threat  but 71 percent put secularism in that category.
  • There are a lot of blogs and websites for pastors about leadership, but Mark Galli suggests that what is really needed is pastors trained for chaplaincy.
  • Ten quick facts about Mormonism.
  • The part of the church service that usually doesn’t come under the microscope is the announcements. The author of this piece once tweeted, “I wish the bible had direction on how to do announcements during a service. It has to be the least effective thing the church does universally.”
  • Since the beginning of time as we know it, Phil Johnson and the Kalvinist Klan at Pyromaniacs have been offering us a “Weekly Dose of Spurgeon.” if C. H. Spurgeon has never been on your radar, drop your scanning speed down a gear and soak up his explanation of what it means to say “Jesus emptied himself.”
  • “..There was a bacteria in this youth-ministry entrepreneurial movement that has now been passed on to pastors. Because the focus was on winning participation, there was a little need or desire to reflect, especially to reflect theologically about the practice of ministry.” Andrew Root at IVP’s Online Pulpit.
  • Predating The Phil Vischer Podcast: Skye Jethani interviews Phil Vischer in April, 2012.
  • I remember when atheist Hemant Mehta posted this like it was yesterday: A survey that found many atheists who were also scientists enroll their children in a church program.
  • Ravi Zacharias quotes one of his professors: “Prophecy is very difficult, especially when it’s about the future.” What’s the future of western culture?

 

I think we’ll limit this rewind edition to a dozen; sometimes there are so many and people don’t know where to begin. I tend to be a “hoarder” with bookmarks in my computer; I hate to delete things, even if they appeared in previous link lists, because I keep thinking they are going to be needful and relevant to someone.

There is definitely a wealth of “backlist” items in the blogosphere that one hopes will keep being discovered.

January 6, 2014

We Track a Story People Were Willing to Die For

Crucifixion of St. Peter (Wikipedia Commons) Click image for link

Crucifixion of St. Peter (Wikipedia Commons) Click image for link

This appeared back in August — that’s forever ago in blog years — at Nailing It To The Door, a blog by Dan Martin. It was the eighth in a series of posts titled, Why I Believe; this one being The Testimony of Witnesses. To read this at source and then navigate to find the other parts, click this link.

There is no question in my mind that one of the most compelling reasons to believe specifically the accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings is the testimony of those who were there.  This is, I’m quite sure, a problematic claim for those who object to faith; I’ve encountered many rants on the unreliability of the gospel accounts, though I find that the same people who protest about the unreliability of the gospels tend to be far more credulous when looking at any other ancient written histories.  But there are two particular things about the Apostles and other first-century Christians that I find highly compelling.

The first is specific to the Evangelists who wrote the four canonical gospels (and I really do mean the canonical ones; I’ve read a number of the others and they differ so much in character that the judgment of the councils in rejecting them seems to me quite sound).  C.S. Lewis probably said it best in his 1959 lecture “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism:”

“I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one [of the stories in the Gospel of John, for example] is like this… Either this is reportage – though it may no doubt contain errors – pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative.” (see the full essay here; quote on p. 155)

Put perhaps a little more simply, the gospels just don’t look like anybody else’s idea of what mythical or divine characters ought to be, do, or say.  Weird and off-center as they might seem now, they were even weirder and less-probable in the time they were written.  Things only turn out that oddly if they’re either real (truth really is stranger than fiction) or very creatively written.

But even more compelling to me is the fact that the authors and their other compatriots were willing to die for the truth of what they had written or said.  And die they did, in some pretty horrible ways.  According to tradition and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563):

  • Philip was crucified
  • Matthew was “slain with a halberd”
  • James the brother of Jesus was beaten, stoned, and clubbed to death
  • Matthias (elected to replace Judas) was stoned and beheaded
  • Andrew was crucified
  • Mark was “dragged to pieces”
  • Peter was crucified upside-down
  • Paul was beheaded
  • Jude was crucified
  • Bartholomew was beaten and then crucified
  • Thomas was speared
  • Simon the Zealot was crucified
  • John was “cast into a cauldron of boiling oil,” survived, and was later exiled to the island of Patmos; “He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.”
  • Barnabas is said to be martyred, though the means of his death is not reported.

These guys, unlike later generations of Christians killed by the thousands under various rulers, knew exactly what they were dying for.  They claimed to have seen and heard it themselves.  If they were faking it, they sure were willing to take their deception to a really crazy, extreme end.

I’m not saying that death alone testifies to truth.  Many hundreds and thousands have died for falsehoods throughout history … I think of the infamous Jonestown mass suicide in the 70s … but the difference, at least as I see it, is that these people were deluded by a charismatic leader who ordered them to their deaths.  Jesus did no such thing, and in fact he was already dead and gone (if we presume fakery) or dead and raised (if we accept the Gospels) before any of the apostles faced their deaths.  These men went willingly to gruesome deaths because they couldn’t recant the truth of what they’d spent their lives teaching.

There are, of course, many more martyrs since the first century.  While I have no desire to diminish their testimony, it seems to me that it’s of a different category.  Except for however they may have experienced the Holy Spirit in their own lives, the thing for which they died was removed from them in that they no longer could testify to having seen Jesus with their eyes, heard his teachings from his very lips with their own ears, and even sat and broken bread with him.  No one, however intense their experience, has had the same level of personal, experiential linkage to Jesus Christ that those first-century apostles had.  And when they were invited to either confess to their lie or die in pain, they insisted it was no lie and accepted the consequences.  Two millenia later, that testimony remains, to me, difficult to refute.

December 18, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Church Stage Design Ideas - Harvest Chapel Christian Fellowship

One week to the big day, here is a mix of both seasonal and regular links. It’s exciting to think how many people get saved each week just reading these story teasers.Click anything below to read the list at Out of Ur, a blog of Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal

Upper Photo: From the blog Church Stage Design Ideas, a picture of Harvest Chapel Christian Fellowship in Bradenton, Florida. Click here for more.

Lower Photo: Unnamed church at a related website, VisualWorshiper.com uses a technique called Environmental Projection. Click here for more.

Environmental Projection from VisualWorshiper dot com

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