I guess to get the maximum appreciation of the short video that follows, you would want to know that the underlying theme has to do with the idea of open theology, but I’ll let you Google that one for yourselves!
February 22, 2015
January 30, 2015
January 2, 2015
First of all, I promise we’ll do our best to move away from #the15 as a topic tomorrow and look at something else. I also modified yesterday’s post mid-afternoon yesterday slightly so as to not characterize the whole thing as a Reformed-based or Reformed-centered. More blurry lines. But you don’t have to follow TULIP to have that spirit, but again, as I said, the issue here was LifeWay, not who specifically was calling them out. The nuances to this story are endless…
However, from the beginning, I kept thinking I’d seen the name J.D. Hall somewhere*, and then I found this on my own blog, from Summer, 2013. The books in question indoctrinate children to fear Arminians (i.e. in this case, people who believe a different ‘religion’) so I wonder if a good lawyer here could prove that under Canadian law, they constitute hate speech, and it could actually be illegal to bring them across the border. I’m not about to find out.
Tag this “grieving the Holy Spirit…”
I hate it when I hear of children waking up with Arminian nightmares. Yes, seriously. Do I look like the kind of person who would make this up? From the description at Amazon:
Publication Date: April 15, 2013
Come along on a journey with Mitchell, as he recalls his nightmare for his mother. Mitchell was in a land of darkness and gloom, when due to no cooperation of his own, a Knight in shining armor saved him and all the other captives He intended to save. “Help! Arminians are Giving Me Nightmares Again!” is a children’s allegory designed to teach your kids the Doctrines of Grace through the use of creative story-telling.
About the Author:
Hall is the pastor of Fellowship Church in Eastern Montana, where he lives with his wife, Mandy, and three children. JD is a co-founder of Reformation Montana, a network and mission society consisting of Reformed Baptist churches in Montana and the surrounding region. He is a columnist for the Intermountain Christian News, and operates the Pulpit and Pen website. JD received his B.A. in Christian Education from Williams Baptist College and M.A. in History from Arkansas State University.
Oh no! It’s part of a series of books…
We heard about this at the blog Spiritual Sounding Board which did an analysis of the doctrinal war going on in the comments section — and remember this is for a children’s book — at Amazon.
…We’ve talked about the idolatry of doctrine before. I believe the idolatry of doctrine can create an environment in which abuse is allowed to continue in churches. The obsessive focus on doctrine can become a distraction to the message of Christ and what it really means to live out the life Christ intended: loving God and loving others.
I have a problem with training children (sic) this stuff at such a young age. What is the purpose? To raise up little like-minded warriors to defend your brand of Christianity?…
…LDS carry their Bibles, too, along with the Book of Mormon when they go to their wards to worship. I have seen some combo versions that include the Pearl of Great Price and The Doctrines and Covenants. These are all part and parcel of LDS.
The way I’m seeing it, there are some Christians who behave the same way as Mormons. They have their Bible along with the Institutes of Calvin. I wonder if there is a combo Calvin Institutes/Bible in publication yet?…
Staging this doctrinal battle in the pages of a children’s book is indoctrinating kids at the earliest against anyone who is part of the Arminian tradition. It’s almost what we in Canada would call hate speech (which is illegal here) against groups such as the Wesleyan, Free Methodist, Anabaptist, Salvation Army, Church of the Nazarene, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Four Square, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, Free Will Baptist, Charismatic, and many, many others.
Sadly, while the blog post at Spiritual Sounding Board — who is now over 450 comments since Saturday — gets a little worked up on this, we have to agree with her. The Reformed movement just sunk to a new low. This is unconscionable. This type of book is simply not of God.
The fracturing of the body of Christ continues…stay tuned.
* [Update] It turns out that was the only place I knew the name from. (Remember, I track about a hundred stories weekly.) It gets worse: read more about him at this story. This guy is a menace.
Related post: Drawing the Body Together, Tearing the Body Apart
December 23, 2014
Recently unearthed, or it should have been:
“Our goal is to completely dominate Christian publishing and internet media so that anyone, searching out any topic related to scripture or Christian living will land on one of our publications from one of our authors connected to one of our churches which is linked to our parachurch and conference organizations; and all quotations contained therein will be from the ESV.”
I want to continue where I left off yesterday. Consider this a two-part year-end rant.
I don’t mind if people want to believe differently on issues such as Bible translations, women in ministry, eschatology (end times), whether children should partake of the communion elements, the role of the laity in church life, or a host of other subjects. God knew what he was doing and his divine providence, he seems to have left a variety of things open to interpretation. Working out your salvation seems to involve a certain amount of thinking.
What I object to is the attitude that overshadows everything else when it comes to certain denominational tribes.
The problem with being so preoccupied with being right, is that it comes across Pharisaical, or to put it another way, not very Christ-like.
But all that is symptomatic. There’s also the issue of the underlying cause.
Here’s what I think: Some people simply want to be in control.
The nice thing about having God in a box is that once you have God all figured out, in a sense Christian growth has been achieved, the only thing left at that point is to amass further knowledge. When everything is word-based instead of Spirit-led, you end up simply wanting more words, more background, more truth, more axiomatic principles; and then there is no place for experience, no room for the Holy Spirit.
This then manifests itself in different ways, especially in print and online, and one of those is a very troll-like attitude, where there is, as we showed yesterday, a quote from an author you regard as outside your particular fence, and, like the proverbial kid with the finger who wants to test the ‘Wet Paint’ sign, you simply can’t leave it alone.
You have to defend the brand at all costs.
And you have to be seen as a brand defender.
And you have to re-post every article or book excerpt by the other brand-defenders because then you feel like you’re accomplishing something.
My point here is this: Try to identify this when you see it and resist the temptation to become absorbed into this mindset, resist the tendency to end up becoming like them.
Having God all wrapped up may look enticing. Having a God you somewhat control may be self-satisfying. But eventually, God breaks out of the box and you’re left with the wrapping paper strewn all over the floor. Because you never should have tried to contain him.
October 27, 2014
One of my strong beliefs is that instead of shutting down for the weekend, perhaps some blogs and websites should ramp it up a bit. For many people, the days off work are lonely and depressing. For several months awhile ago I actually ran extra posts on the weekend.
This week we ran what I thought was a fairly solid series of posts on Friday (parenting kids in the internet age), Saturday (a massive blogroll), and Sunday (one busy family’s activity log). But the rush to do all that left me crashing in terms of what to run on Monday morning. As I went through the archives, I found what you see below. When all the newsy stories, scandals, book releases, church statistics and leadership advice is done and dispensed with, this is what matters:
“I must die or get somebody to die for me. If the Bible doesn’t teach that it doesn’t teach anything.” ~ Dwight L. Moody
“The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden he carries it also.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
“Jesus now has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His cross.” ~ Thomas a Kempis
“In many respects I find an unresurrected Jesus easier to accept. Easter makes him dangerous. Because of Easter, I have to listen to his extravagant claims and can no longer pick and choose from his sayings. Moreover, Easter means he must be loose out there somewhere.” ~ Philip Yancey
“God proved his love on the cross. When Christ hung, bled and died it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.'” ~ Billy Graham
October 6, 2014
Somewhere over the weekend, a series of eschatological fiction books became an object of ridicule online. In a way, the op-ed sentiment was always there: Stories based on a premise that took hold with the American Christian populace in the 1940s and ’50s, but a premise that serious Bible scholars never embraced. “Rapture? What rapture?”
But then the movie remake scored only 2% on the movie review analysis site Rotten Tomatoes. Suddenly the book and movie franchise became fair game both for those within and outside the camp. Ed Stetzer tweeted:
#LeftBehindMovie with a bag of clothes. While the movie is playing, Kaitlyn and I plan to spread them out on seats.
Apparently that sentiment caught on because by Sunday the anonymous owner of twitter account Chet Churchpain tweeted,
Played a rapture prank by leaving clothes in my pew and leaving during prayer, but forgot spare clothes.
Hid in closet until everyone left.
with a follow up:
Still missing my wallet and my good crocs.
Greg Boyd joined in the frivolity on Sunday:
I believe in “Left Behind”! If someone strikes you “on the RIGHT cheek,” turn “the OTHER cheek,” which would of course be your LEFT behind.
In a much longer than 140-character post at CT a reviewer wrote:
I was ready to be upset about this movie, is what I’m saying—upset at a movie based on books that I felt totally mischaracterized my faith, books whose central characters were trumpeted as the saints of the new world but who constantly failed to live out anything marginally resembling real Christianity.
I was ready to be upset because the Left Behind books were not Christian.
They talked about Christianity, sometimes. But, at their core, they were political thrillers, featuring characters directly transposed from better Tom Clancy narratives—still violent, hostile, and un-reflecting, they just prayed a little more and took communion sometimes. (This may be unfair to Clancy.)
I was ready to be upset at this new movie because certainly it would have all those same faults. But it doesn’t. It has many, many faults, and almost no positives, but purporting to be Christian while not actually being Christian is not one of them.
I will bold this next point so that readers now searching desperately for the vanished comments section can take note: Left Behind is not a Christian Movie, whatever “Christian Movie”could even possibly mean.
adding parenthetically at the end:
We tried to give the film zero stars, but our tech system won’t allow it.
So where did Left Behind get left behind with some Christians?
A popular version has it that the rapture idea began with a young girl who stood up and gave a word of prophecy at a revival meeting in the UK in the 19th century, perhaps either the 1860s or 1870s. The idea represents a mash-up of Jesus words in Matthew (“one will be taken and one left behind”) and Paul’s words to the Thessalonians (“…will be caught up to meet Him in the air.”)
In various places in scripture however we see that being the one “taken” is not always a good thing, and the parable of the bridesmaids shows us that when the guests go out to meet the bridegroom, it is them, not the groom, who does the 180-degree turn. (See this article at CT.) his idea of rapture, or more specifically non-rapture, is tied closely to teachings about ‘New Earth,’ which for many stands in contrast to an ‘up there’ view of heaven.
It’s also important to note that the rapture doctrine did not travel well across the pond. Christians in the United States did not accept the idea well until the aforementioned post-war period.
Furthermore Skye Jethani articulates this issue well in his book Futureville, explaining that this is really an example of letting the culture dictate theology; that the doctrine is born out of philosophy of escapism, a post-WWII desire to exit the planet and all its evils. He shares this also around the 26-minute mark of the Phil Vischer Podcast episode 15.
Of course some people are willing to loyally defend the brand and attack those who don’t:
Nothing keeps the water muddy on any particular issue like parachuting another issue (or two in this case) into the discussion.
My wife thinks that what we’re seeing is simply the outpouring of criticism that takes place whenever something is successful. Big churches are targets. Top authors are targets. But in this case, the movie’s poor critical showing has intersected with the place where rapture doctrine is slowly falling out of favor among even strident Evangelicals.
So this weekend everybody gets to join in the fun.
Rapture? No we were just kidding, that isn’t gonna happen.
September 15, 2014
Going through our archives, I thought I’d pay a return visit today to Tom Lawson at the (mostly) worship blog, Adorate to see what he’s written more recently.
While criticism of contemporary worship music is sometimes fully justified, I’m baffled that older gospel songs seem insulated from such scrutiny. The truth is hymns, gospel songs, and contemporary worship music all have their fair share of either shallow, silly or even wholly heretical (a phonetic oxymoron) lyrics.
We ought to stop longing for A Mansion over the Hilltop. In 1611 the word “mansion” simply meant a place to live. The actual idea in John 14:1-2 is clearly the “Father’s house” has more than enough room for everyone. The gospel song seems to suggest heaven is going to be a land of millions of eternal antebellum southern plantations. I would note this is an image of heaven many black Christians, for some reason, find less than appealing.
Sometimes, the images are so deeply rooted in the presumed mythology of popular Christianity that even well-informed believers are surprised at the absence of any biblical basis for them.
What’s wrong with any of that?
If we’re talking about the overall intention of the song, nothing whatsoever. The centrality of the atoning sacrifice of Christ in dying on a cross for the sins of the world has been and must remain a core truth of Christianity. For our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered death and was buried. On the third day, He rose again, according to the scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
But, unless you are hiding something in the attic that would be a real show-stopper on the Antique Roadshow there is no “old rugged cross” for you to hang onto…
July 3, 2014
June 29, 2014
May 1, 2014
Every once in awhile I will cross-post an article from Christianity 201 here, to remind my larger readership that the other blog exists, or because I simply put a lot of work into a post that is deserving of wider exposure…
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly. ~James 3:1 NET
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! ~Matthew 18:6-7 NIV
As I listened to both these verses in a sermon last weekend, I was reminded of a something that happened many years ago. The church secretary’s ten-year-old son announced at lunch that his Sunday School teacher believed in reincarnation. There’s a family mealtime conversation for which I would love to have been a fly on the wall.
Needless to say, an investigation ensued, the child’s report was accurate, and the teacher was relieved of responsibilities.
I’ve probably shared this story about a dozen times in the twenty years since it happened, but only today did I ask myself, “I wonder if anybody ever set the woman straight?” Obviously, removing the teacher from the classroom was the first thing that needed to happen, but someone also needed to set her straight on why Christians don’t see themselves as having existed before in another form and then, at the end of this life, returning to earth in another life-form.
About a year ago, I discovered something I had previously overlooked; namely, that in the various doctrines which join together to form a systematic theology (or as I prefer, a cohesive theology) there is a doctrine of man and for that the term used is anthropology, the same term we normally use to describe a particular discipline in the social sciences alongside things like psychology or sociology or philosophy. Perhaps you took ‘anthro’ in school but never thought of it in a doctrinal sense.1 In the list of branches of theology at Wikipedia, it’s listed as “Theological Anthropology”
- Bible – the nature and means of its inspiration, etc.; including hermeneutics (the development and study of theories of the interpretation and understanding of texts and the topic of Biblical law in Christianity)
- Eschatology – the study of the last things, or end times. Covers subjects such as death and the afterlife, the end of history, the end of the world, the last judgment, the nature of hope and progress, etc.
- Christology – the study of Jesus Christ, of his nature(s), and of the relationship between his divinity and humanity;
- Creation myths
- Divine providence – the study of sovereignty, superintendence, or agency of God over events in people’s lives and throughout history.
- Ecclesiology (sometimes a subsection of missiology)—the study of the Christian Church, including the institutional structure, sacraments and practices (especially the worship of God) thereof
- Mariology – area of theology concerned with Mary…
- Missiology (sometimes a subsection of ecclesiology)—God’s will in the world, missions, evangelism, etc.
- Pneumatology – the study of the Holy Spirit, sometimes also ‘geist’ as in Hegelianism and other philosophico-theological systems
- Soteriology – the study of the nature and means of salvation. May include Hamartiology (the study of sin), Law and Gospel (the study of the relationship between Divine Law and Divine Grace, justification, sanctification
- Theological anthropology – the study of humanity, especially as it relates to the divine
- Theology Proper – the study of God’s attributes, nature, and relation to the world. May include:
- Theodicy – attempts at reconciling the existence of evil and suffering in the world with the nature and justice of God
- Apophatic theology – negative theology which seeks to describe God by negation (e.g., immutable, impassible ). It is the discussion of what God is not, or the investigation of how language about God breaks down (see the nature of God in Western theology). Apophatic theology often is contrasted with “Cataphatic theology.”
But we’re digressing from our Sunday School teacher. I’m not sure at this point that it would be helpful to revisit a 20-year old discussion, nor to reveal I was party to something that might have been considered confidential at the time.2 But I am reminded of this verse:
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness… (Galatians 6:1 NRSV)
Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again. (same vs. NCV)
The context is more overt sin and wrongdoing, but the principle is the same: To gently guide that person to the right path, using scripture. (See my treatment of II Timothy 3:16, especially the final paraphrase.)
The chorus of the old hymn, “Brighten the Corner” describes this. While you might not fully understand all the nautical imagery, it’s easy to see the gist of the sentiment:
Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!
Our responsibility is threefold:
- To identify (discern) false teaching
- To remove the person caught in error from public ministry3
- To try to restore that person to sound doctrine
1Not having engaged in this study formally, I would suspect that at the most elementary level, it would entail some notion of the teaching that “It is appointed onto man once to die, and after that the judgement” Hebrews 9:27 KJV, italics added. A Christian theological understanding of man would assert that we don’t come back in some other form as taught in Spiritism or Hinduism.
2I have however in my limited contact with this person over the years encouraged them along the lines of deeper Bible study. It grieves me to think that someone could be in church for so many years and hold to views that are so far from orthodox. However, there are times when spiritual confrontation is appropriate.
3This is for their benefit (to avoid being under judgement, as in today’s opening verses) and to prevent them from causing “little ones”(which can be literal in terms of children, or figurative in terms of people new to the faith) to stumble.
Note: Wikipedia is not the best place to go for Christian theology. Better to check out a textbook like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology or Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology, reviewed here. Even browsing the table of contents will give you a list that, while similar to the one above, will provide a more authoritative list of areas of emphasis.