Thinking Out Loud

April 14, 2013

Don’t Like Controversy? Don’t Read the New Testament

Jay Adams at Nouthetic.org writes Controversy in the New Testament:

DisagreementSometimes it may seem that we spend too much time refuting falsehood. All of us are chagrined at the preponderance of error both within and without the Church. We may write off those who attempt to combat it and set forth the truth in clarity over against it as “heresy hunters.” The term is used pejoratively; but should it be? Take a quick look at the Books of the New Testament, merely scratching the surface, and see what you think.

  • In the Gospels Jesus warns against false teachers, speaks of wolves in sheep’s clothing and the “leaven of the Pharisees.” The record of His ministry is one of conflict with those who refused to accept the teaching He set forth.
  • Acts contains the record of the church’s first major controversy over whether or not a person must become a Jew before he could qualify as a Christian. A church council was called to settle the matter. Paul goes to lengths to warn the Ephesian elders about wolves who would devour the flock and schismatically draw away disciples to themselves.
  • Romans is an entire doctrinal treatise about justification by faith alone in contrast to salvation by works, and how sanctification follows thereafter. In it, Paul also takes up the rejection of the Jewish church.
  • I Corinthians is loaded with problems; schism, misuse of gifts, church discipline, marriage and divorce, and on, and on, on.
  • II Corinthians takes on false apostles who had invaded the church and charged him with pretending to be an apostle. The place of apostolic authority is set forth, along with the qualifications of an apostle.
  • Galatians is a sterling defense of Justification by faith alone over against those who taught otherwise, and were upsetting the church by Judaistic legalism.
  • Ephesians is less controversial, being a universal epistle rather than directed to the adverse circumstances of an individual or a congregation
  • Philippians deals with a split in an otherwise good church. But it has to do with self-centeredness and sets forth a key Christological passage.
  • Colossians is consumed with fighting Judaistic Gnosticism.
  • I & II Thessalonians take up false teaching about the Lord’s coming and eschatology.
  • I & II Timothy & Titus teach “healthy” doctrine over against many false ideas. And, in them, Paul doesn’t hesitate to name specific heretical individuals.
  • Philemon is a welcome exception.
  • Hebrews, in its entirety, combats all influences that would cause Jewish Christians to revert to Judaism.
  • James utterly destroys the idea that one can have genuine faith that does not result in good works.
  • I Peter explains how the New Testament church is no longer a physical political entity, but that the church is now the spiritual people of God, the new Israel.
  • II Peter warns against scoffers and libertines unsettling the church and reveals the true picture of final things.
  • I John argues quite effectively throughout the book against Gnosticism of a Cerenthian sort.
  • II John warns against hospitality for heretics.
  • III John deals with church discipline gone so far astray as to virtually destroy a church.
  • Jude throughout its entirety is an exhortation to contend against the libertines who invaded the church that failed to listen to the warnings in II Peter.
  • Revelation speaks of the warfare of God against apostate Judaism, the first persecutor of the church, and Rome, the second persecutor, and predicts the fall. It also mentions cults like the Nicolatians.

Now, in light of the above, if you can, tell me, why we should not be prepared to detect and refute falsehood in the Church?

September 3, 2011

A Christianity Based on Condemnation

Yesterday’s second post here — about the Southern Baptists collective condemnation of a new Bible translation — was a reminder how some people are so quick to tell you what they don’t approve of. Criticism of other ministries, worship styles and individuals flows like the water at Niagara Falls. There are dozens of websites — like this one — that wouldn’t know how to write something encouraging or comforting or celebratory even if you offered the author large sums of money. No wonder that some well-intentioned pastors are frustrated by the Christian blogosphere and wish it were, well, like this:

Oh show me a home, where the buffalo roam
And the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

But an idyllic “home on the range” isn’t going to materialize anytime soon, as long as there are a gazillion things to nitpick about. The game being played works like this: If I put you down, I elevate myself. I am a better person if I can show everyone that you are severely flawed.

All this, even more so if I am standing for truth or preventing the dilution of core doctrine.

But really, it all comes across as a doctrine of hate. There’s no difference between many of these writers/pastors/spokespersons and the guy who pickets at funerals; name deliberately omitted.  It’s not attractive, and it’s not attracting anyone to God’s Kingdom.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  (Phil 4:8 NLT)

There is so much to celebrate. Each month, one blogger, Brad Lomenick notes the “Young Influencers” who are making a difference in ministry, music, media, sports, and other arenas of life. The rest of the tone of Brad’s blog is equally upbeat; it’s truly a breath of fresh air, especially when so many — and at times I fall into this as well — have “the gift of criticism.” In fact, I created Christianity 201 so that I’d have a place to stay Christ-focused and Bible-focused even as this blog sometimes delves into Christian news stories and current events.

Imagine the emptiness you might feel at the end of your life knowing you had dedicated yourself to be a guardian of doctrine and truth — regularly trashing people in the process — and then realizing you could have spent your time instead doing something like Stephen & Brooksyne Weber do at Daily Encouragement, such as offering people, well, daily encouragement. A much, much higher calling which begs the question: What do you really want to be remembered for?

And so, we leave you with Steven Furtick’s rant. Yes, rant. And a rant by a guy who has been the target of much criticism himself. And whose recent pulpit presence at one prominent church has brought that pastor under fire. It’s here because he accurately captures the spirit of the people who seem to have nothing good to say. About anything. Ever. 

Appropriately, some people hate this video.  But I say he got an incredible number of things in it 100% correct.

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