Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Selling Photos of Scripture To Raise Money

Dan Wallace of Parchment and Pen/Reclaiming The Mind exploits photos of some Scripture manuscripts as a fund rasier:

OK, I admit it: this is shameless of me. It’s tactless, mercenary, and almost despicable. Nevertheless, I’m going forth with it because I believe that, in this case, the ends justify the means. Not that I’ve changed my ethical convictions, but rather than the ends are so vital that a “certain moral flexibility” (as Martin Blank said in his self-description in Grosse Point Blank) is tolerable. And if not tolerable, at least I can always ask for forgiveness (I’ll take that route over asking for permission any day! (;-)).

Here’s my spiel: This past Saturday evening was the annual fundraiser dinner for the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. As many of you know, we are trying to raise $500,000 for 15 months’ worth of photographic expeditions, starting next month. After the fundraiser, we now have over $150,000 toward that lofty goal. We are extremely grateful to all who have contributed to the work of digitally preserving ancient copies of the Word of God. We did a new thing at the dinner, and it’s something that I’d like to pass on to you who live in the USA. We had some blow-ups of manuscript photographs for sale. The size was 18” x 24”. Each was laminated and was glued to a stiff backboard. The resolution was outstanding. Each picture is numbered on the back; we will only make 500 copies. Then no more. Each comes with a certificate giving the details of what’s in the image, including the age of the manuscript, the text, etc. (A much briefer description is found below.)

The images are for sale at $150 apiece. Half of that money constitutes a tax-deductible donation to CSNTM; half is the market price of the image. Shipping is extra: $10 for the continental US. Many of you live in the Dallas area and could pick up the picture yourself, thus saving on shipping costs. Some of you may wish to add more to the check as a donation to CSNTM. We’ll note the difference and send you a statement to that effect.

Wallace is right, this is shameless, dispicable, and tactless. He should be ashamed, selling photos of Scripture's manuscripts. Whatever his excuse is, it doesn't pass Scripture's test:

2Co 2:17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

2Co 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.

1Th 2:9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

1Ti 6:20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called "knowledge," 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

We Can't Be Overcommitted to Scripture: We Usually Hold the Word Too Low

Psa 138:2 ... for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word.

I came across an excellent article by Stephen Macasil that expresses my own views very clearly. In this article Stephen deals with J.P. Moreland's error. Moreland has recently been offered by Reclaiming The Mind's Converse With A Scholar program (this is a ministry arm of Dallas Theological Seminary & Stonebriar Community Church). Here is part of Stephen Macasil's article:

Too many times we have been passé rather than angry! What if Jesus, when he saw those money changers in the temple, acted passively instead of what John tells us he did? What if he nudged one of the other observers with his elbow and said “wow, check out those dudes, no respect for the temple man,” and went about his day shaking his head in disappointment. He didn’t! He saw it, grabbed some cords and braided a whip. Then he stormed in there with whip swinging, turning over heavy granite tables and kicking people out. His actions provoked the question: “What sign do you show for doing these things?” He answered: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” You all know the story (John 2:14-22).

When a notable philosophy professor at a Christian University speaks to a crowd of conservative Christian leaders and says that Evangelicals are “over-committed to Scripture,” it should make you angry. It should not be simply waved off for what it is: irrational and absurd. It should make us angry to the point that we do something about it. That’s what we will be doing here for at least the next year or ??? If nobody challenges an ideology, it is bound to grow into something bigger. What Moreland has done is create a straw-man (bibliolatry), drawn absurdities from the straw-man, and swooped in with a solution to the very problem he has created with his own hands. What must be challenged is his negative portrayal of the role of Scripture for those who hold a very high view of Scripture. This can be done by demonstrating that the Bible opposes what he teaches and that it can be reasonably believed as the motive for why he has created the fictive bibliolaters in his imagination. Such unbiblical ideas like freewill, natural theology, natural law, man’s Reason, contemplative meditation, pagan philosophy etc., are ideas that are foundational to Moreland’s worldview. Reduce the role of Scripture in theology and practice and these ideas will fly like the eagle! Maintain that the Bible is the final authority and these ideas die!

In his response to his paper’s critics, he mentioned that his intention was to deliver the paper to academics, not laypersons. But as Frank Pastore said, Moreland is a master wordsmith that chooses his words very carefully and knew exactly how he was going to say what he wanted to say. Never did he ever give any examples of who the infamous bibliolaters are. I have waited, searched, waited some more, and he never gave the example of any church, theologian, denomination, movement, etc., that claims that nothing can exist outside of the Bible. Are there even real people out there that believe this? Are there any Christians that really believe cars don’t exist because they’re not in the Bible (except for the accord)?

Thank you Stephen! I'm so tired of professing Christians speaking the lie of Satan, who made the first attack on God's Word with such a low view was Satan himself:Gen 3:1 "Did God actually say...?"

I'm equally tired of professing Christians not getting angry about the attack on God, His authority, and His Word. If that doesn't get us involved in the War on Truth, WHAT WILL? Jude speaks to this very issue--we are to EARNESTLY CONTEND for the faith! Sin, error, deception in HIS name SHOULD anger us. It SHOULD anger us to see His sheep led astray and given a diet of garbage instead of healthy food. Read Jeremiah7, the 11th verse is what Jesus was quoting when clearing out the moneychangers:

Jer 7:8 "Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Jer 7:9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, Jer 7:10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered!'--only to go on doing all these abominations? Jer 7:11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD.

The deception done in HIS name and in HIS temple was an abomination to God. He was angry. David also conveyed this idea:

Psa 139:19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain! 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Like Moreland and others, when you have a low view of Scripture, you will also have a low view of God and a very high view of man.

To quote Michael Patton (he's a member of the Evangelical Theological Society as is Moreland, and also director of Reclaiming the Mind (minstry of Chuch Swindoll's church and Dallas Theological Seminary):

The presupposition is this: All writers of Scripture, by virtue ofdivine inspiration and inerrancy, must have recorded everything in a technically precise way. I take issue with this presupposition. I do not believe that inspiration and inerrancy require technical precision."“The Gospel writers were simply telling the story of Christ asenthusiastic reporters of good news who were emotionally committed to the truths upon which they were reporting. This happens every day in ourown news reporting system and we don’t hold their feet to the fire oftechnical precision.”“Did the writers record the very words of Christ or the spirit oftruth that his words represent? I would say any inductive approach to arriving at a hermeneutical method demands the latter.”

More low views of God's Word by Michael Patton defending his friend and Dallas Theological Cemetary (he's written a book for New Testament Greek classes in cemetaries), Dan Wallace :

We believe that the Bible is a product that involves 100% man’s input and 100% God’s, don’t we? If we don’t, then we might as well take man out of the picture all together and admit we hold to mechanical dictation (that God simply used the human authors’ hands in writing the Scripture, not their head—sometimes called biblical docetism). If mechanical dictation is true, then we should not care who the authors were writing to and we certainly should not care why they are writing since their motives do not influence the interpretation. I take it that this is all Dan is doing when he makes such statements. He is trying to help people understand that in order to discover the divine purpose of Scripture, we must first take into account the human purpose. I do understand that people have taken this type of redaction criticism too far. Some have gone to the point of denying the truthfulness of the event based upon the expediency of the moment. But this is not in any way what Dan is doing. He is just giving the authors liberty to write an accurate account of the events, while not having to be technically precise with the wording or structure. Scholars refer to this distinction as the difference between ipsissima verba (the very words) and ipsissima vox (the very voice). Did the writers record the very words of Christ or the spirit of truth that his words represent? I would say any inductive approach to arriving at a hermeneutical method demands the latter.

The Canon of Scripture isn't closed, Patton says.

Spurgeon deals with those who have such a low view of Scripture:

"Find Jesus where you may, He is the antagonist of those who would lessen the authority of Holy Scripture. “It is written” is His weapon against Satan, His argument against wicked men. The learned of this hour scoff at the Book and accuse of Bibliolatry those of us who reverence the Divine Word; but in this they derive no assistance from the teaching or example of Jesus."—Spurgeon

"Not a word derogatory of Scripture ever fell from the lips of Jesus Christ; but evermore He manifested the most reverent regard for every jot and tittle of the inspired Volume. Since our Savior, not only before His death, but after it, took care to commend the Scriptures to us, let us avoid with all our hearts all teaching in which Holy Scripture is put into the background."--Spurgeon

Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason ministry (also a guest of Reclaiming the Mind's Converse With a Scholar) questions "Is the Bible Sufficient?" which Martin Bobgan of Psycho-heresy Awareness Ministry critiques and says:

One of Koukl’s arguments supporting his insufficiency-of-Scripture position is his view of what he calls "Wisdom from the Heathen." Koukl’s position implies that if the Bible contains wisdom taken from heathens, then Christians can use wisdom from psychology heathens or others. Koukl says:

The Wisdom Literature of the Amenomope is a body of work from the Middle East that pre-dates Proverbs. It’s of interest because it contains a section of material almost identical to Proverbs 22:17-24:22. It’s highly probable that the authors of the latter part of Proverbs borrowed this material from the Amenomope and inserted it into the inspired text.

Scripture says:

Psa 119:89 Forever, O LORD, Your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.

Psa 138:2 I bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word.

Is. 8: 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Joh 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.

Mat 4:4 But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Psa 119:104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

Psa 1:1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psa 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;

Monday, April 07, 2008

Submerging the Mind With Poison

Submerging has a recent post touting Henri Nouwen via Ben Witherington.

Submerging is an arm ministry of Reclaiming the Mind

"This is the community blog of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries and sister blog to Parchment and Pen. We have a variety of contributors who add daily to the contents. The discussion is biblical, Christ-centered, and irenic.The views expressed here do not necessarily represent that of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries (although we are hopeful!)"

Favorite quotes of Nouwen given by Joanie D:

“To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our own imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear.

If it is true that God in Jesus Christ is waiting for our response to divine love, then we can discover a whole new perspective on how to wait in life.”

Ben Witherington (RTM's Converse With a Scholar offered him in the past although finding a direct link to him is removed for some reason) is pro-Roman Catholic, which means he's ecumenical and does not understand how the Gospel stands in contrast to what the RCC teaches:

He writes for inter-religious beliefnet:

“There can be little doubt that Cardinal Ratzinger had some of these deeper nuances of "following" in mind when he preached the Pope's homily. After all, we have now learned that the Holy Father actually contemplated stepping down in 2000, but then realized that Jesus had called him, like he had called Peter (his protégé and model as Pope) to follow him, even unto death, as a leader of the church. He was to spend his life force in that service, pouring out his life as an example of self-sacrificial love for others--the very opposite of self-centered or selfish behavior.

We may trust he has by now heard the Lord say those very things to him. We may hope that the next Pope is nearly so good and gracious a follower of the one who said "Follow me."

Its no wonder then, that Witherington has offered Nouwen as a positive teacher for his readers.

Richard Nouwen

"Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God."—From Sabbatical Journey, Henri Nouwen's last book page 51, 1998 Hardcover Edition

New Age Universalism:

Prayer is soul work because our souls are those sacred centers where all is one, ... It is in the heart of God that we can come to the full realization of the unity of all that is. (From Bread for the Journey)

"a place for everyone in heaven"(Life of the Beloved - p. 53)

"The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is the same as the one who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being." Here and Now by Henri Nouwen; page 22

Henri Nouwen and His Buddhist Sympathies

Seminaries, Bible-studies and churches use his materials and quote from him. What did he really believe? by Ray Yungen

An individual who has gained popularity and respect in Christian circles, akin to that of Thomas Merton, is the now deceased Catholic theologian Henri Nouwen. Like Merton, Nouwen combines a strong devotion to God with a poetic, comforting, yet distinctly intellectual style that strikes a strong and sympathetic chord with what could be called Christian intelligentsia. Many pastors and professors are greatly attracted to his deep thinking. In fact, one of his biographers revealed that in a 1994 survey of 3,400 U.S. Protestant church leaders, Nouwen ranked second only to Billy Graham in influence among them.

Nouwen also attracts many lay people who regard him as very inspirational. One person told me that Nouwen's appeal could be compared to that of motherhood a warm comforting embrace that leaves you feeling good. Despite these glowing attributes, several aspects of Nouwen's spirituality have earned him a place in this book.

Unfortunately, this widely read and often-quoted author, at the end of his life, stated in clear terms that he approached God from a universalistic view. He proclaimed:

Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.

Nouwen's endorsement of a book by Hindu spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran, teaching mantra meditation, further illustrates his universalistic sympathies. On the back cover, Nouwen stated, "This book has helped me a great deal."—Read Entire Article, Henri Nouwen and Buddhism

Ray Yungen goes on to say:

Nouwen also wrote the foreword to a book that mixes Christianity with Hindu spirituality, in which he says:

[T]he author shows a wonderful openness to the gifts of Buddhism, Hinduism and Moslem religion. He discovers their great wisdom for the spiritual life of the Christian ... Ryan [the author] went to India to learn from spiritual traditions other than his own. He brought home many treasures and offers them to us in the book

God demands purity in doctrine and practice. Nouwen, Witherington, and Submerge does not.

2Co 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2Co 6:15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 2Co 6:16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 2Co 6:17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 2Co 6:18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."

Jer 6:10 To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.

Claiming what you are doing for the glory of God or for His church won't work. Its been done before by the slick false prophets of old:

Jer 7:4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.'

Peace? Shiloh ("Peace")will not have peace, nor will those "temples of the Lord" that combine pagan practices and doctrint with Truth. Using His name as a mantra for His glory yet combining it with evil doctrine and practices like that of the Occult and New Age will anger God:

Jer 7:9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered!'--only to go on doing all these abominations? Jer 7:11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD. Jer 7:12 Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. Jer 7:13 And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, Jer 7:14 therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.

The God Who Sees Is Intolerant

Jer 7:23 But this command I gave them: 'Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.' Jer 7:24 But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.

Jer 7:27 "So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. Jer 7:28 And you shall say to them, 'This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.

Jer 7:29 "'Cut off your hair and cast it away; raise a lamentation on the bare heights, for the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.' Jer 7:30 "For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the LORD. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. Jer 7:31 And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.

Deu 4:24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

One of Joanie's favorite Nouwen's quotes is, “If it is true that God in Jesus Christ is waiting for our response to divine love...."

This doesn't make sense, as most of Nouwen's thought don't. Reading his paper was definitly a wading through fuzzy, confusing, New Age mumbo-jumbo. What SCRIPTURE says though is this:

Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ....5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

1Jn 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Php 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

2 Thes. 2: 13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

Eze 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Eph. 1: 11 In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him
who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will,

Rom. 8: 30 And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.

1Th 5:23 Now may the God of peace HIMSELF SANCTIFY you COMPLETELY, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; HE will surely do it.

I don't see God "waiting" but rather bringing all things in conformity to HIS plan and HIS will. We wait on Him, for Him. HE doesn't wait for us. Scripture doesn't show God as passive, but rather as active (as the verses show above). Even in the crucifixion which Nouwen touches on, God was clearly active, indeed, since Gen. 1:1.

Acts 427 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.

I'm so thankful that the true God of Scripture isn't man-centered nor waiting for man to do anything or understand anything. HE is truly in control of His whole creation and is conforming His true children actively by the power of the Word and the Person of the Holy Spirit. To HIS glory and grace.

Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as HE chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before HIM. In love 5 HE predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which HE has blessed us in the Beloved.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Not Irenic, But Dogmatic on Truth

1Th 5:21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

Contrary to being "irenic", Scripture calls us to be black and white, engaged in spiritual warfare, where we know our enemy and fight to the death for Truth against error.

Below are excerpts taken from John MacArthur's sermon series on 2 Thes. 5:21-22

A Call To Discernment by John MacArthur from 1991:

The Weakening of Doctrinal Clarity and Conviction

There are, I believe, some identifiable causes as to why there is such a terrible lack of discernment in the church today. The main one I'll give you first, the weakening of doctrinal clarity and conviction...the weakening of doctrinal clarity and conviction. That's number one. There were much better times in the history of the church when Christians were encouraged to think biblically, to think theologically, to test everything, to search the scriptures thoroughly, to distinguish carefully its truths. And when discovering what was true, to take a stand and be immovable. Today, those who take firm stands on biblical doctrine are very frequently criticized for splitting hairs and being unloving because the norm today is to gaze lazily at the surface of scriptural truth and then even justify such cavalier shallowness as the desirable generosity of spirit toward those who differ. This is rampant in the church. You sort of just scan Scripture and you don't want to be too dogmatic because if you're dogmatic that's unloving to someone else who has a different opinion. And after all, we certainly don't want to split hairs. Jay Adams writes, "Nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in Christian counseling." He also writes, quote: "Self-styled experts in psychology, sociology and education who hold Ph.Ds in their fields and Sunday-school degrees in Bible pontificate on Christian teaching and life setting themselves up as spokesmen for God."

What he is basically saying...end quote...what he is saying is that the matter of biblical interpretation has been invaded by people who are ill-equipped to do that work. There is a lack of discernment, however, not only in the arena of counseling but there is a lack of doctrine and conviction in the ministry in general, it seems to me. Sharing has replaced preaching.

It is not an accident that the church in the name of unity, love and relationships has moved away from clarity and conviction and doctrine and has begun to favor openness, rejecting narrowness and dogmatism. This has been the prevailing climate in the culture around us. In fact, there's a war on standards. The war on standards is wholesale, isn't it? I mean, if you had a conviction about something it would have to be utterly arbitrary because there isn't any standard.

If I can kind of give you a perspective on all of this, I'm sure Satan knew we Christian evangelicals would not buy the theology of liberalism so he sold us the hermeneutics. What do you mean by that? Satan knew we wouldn't buy their theology so he sold us their principles of interpretation so sooner or later we would arrive at their theology...a kind of Christianity where doctrine and conviction are scorned. You go into the typical town, find the pulpit where the man of God clearly and deeply and profoundly and faithfully articulates doctrine and I'll show you a small group of faithful folk.

The Gospel

The other day I was doing a radio interview, a two-hour interview and the host of the program said to me, this is on a Christian station, the host of the program said to me, "Well how does a person become a Christian?" I said, "First of all to recognize your sinfulness, it is necessary to recognize that I am a sinner and to be willing to turn and repent from my sin and then to recognize that I cannot save myself, that I have no resources within me to redeem myself and cast myself on the mercy of God and to believe in Jesus Christ as God's Son who came into the world and died and paid the price for my sin and rose again for my justification." The host said, "You don't believe that everyone who gets saved has to believe all that, do you?" I said, "YES...yes." That host said to me, "I certainly didn't...didn't deal with any of my sins when I got saved." I said, "How did you get saved?" This was the reply, "I was in drugs, alcohol, living with my boyfriend in Science of Mind for six years and one day I just got Jesus' phone number." I said, "You just got Jesus' phone number?" "I just got Jesus' phone number and I just knew where He was."

What in the world are these people experiencing? When you don't even lay down clear doctrine at the level of the gospel, where you going to go from there? And the cry is, as one man said to me when my book on The Gospel According to Jesus came out, he said, "Your book is divisive. Your book is divisive." You want to know something? He's right. He's right. What to know something else? Doctrine divides. People say, "Oh doctrine divides...doctrine divides." I say, "Amen, preach it, doctrine divides." You know what it does? It confronts error. It separates true from false. It makes judgments. Today's climate, however, of unity in the priority of relationships, that's not tolerable.

You know, I believe...I believe that when evangelicals are willing to depreciate doctrine and when they're willing to set aside unpopular convictions, and when they're willing to stay silent on biblical teaching that offends people in error and sin, opposition will disappear and we could all get together. I believe that. I could start a unity movement...eliminate doctrine, set aside unpopular convictions, don't say anything that offends and we'll all get together. That isn't any surprise. But you know some other things are going to disappear too along with doctrine, like truth, conviction, discernment, righteousness, holiness, discipline, true love and spiritual maturity. They're all gone too and then God will disappear, Ichabod. That price is too high. That will produce a church victimized by hell's deceptions.

What do you think Paul had in mind when he said, "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth?" It is a shame not to rightly divide the truth from error.

So the main contributor to this lack of discernment has been the weakening of doctrinal clarity and conviction in the name of unity, in the name of mystical experience, and so forth. And as I said, the liberals couldn't sell us their theology so they sold us their hermeneutics, relationships, love, unity, mystical experience and we buy in to that and we'll end up with the same chaos. Everybody talking about heaven ain't going there. And everybody talking about Jesus, Charismatics, neo-orthodox, Roman Catholics and everybody else, don't necessarily know Him.

A failure to be antithetical: be black and white

There's a second contributor, and I at least have to get two of these this morning. And this builds on it, and I want you to follow this. I don't want to get too philosophical for you here. The second is this, a failure to be antithetical, a failure to be antithetical. You say, "What do you mean by that?" I mean to be black and white. In debate, in argument, in theology, we talk about thesis and antithesis, a thesis is some truth that's laid down or some idea that's laid down or some concept that's laid down, and here is the opposing concept...black and white, thesis, antithesis. We have to think antithetically. We live in a culture that some say thinks on what you could call a continuum. In other words, there's no black/white. There's no right/ wrong, true/false, good/bad, there's just this long continuum of relative shades of gray. And everybody sort of is on their on there somewhere. Religion is subjective, spiritual experience is subjective. But listen, biblical preaching is not relative, it is not subjective, it is absolute, it is sharply black and white, it is pointedly antithetical to error. And I'm not trying to defend myself, I'm just dealing with the text here. But I tell you, the criticism that comes back to me all the time is, "You are so strong on doctrine." I don't know what else to be because that is the nature of truth, the truth divides and sets itself against error. We must think antithetically. You hear a thesis, and you must look at an antithesis, the opposite and test it. And it's absolute, truth is absolute, therefore it rubs people the wrong way. It hits them with conviction.

Since worldly thinking pollutes the minds of most church goers, and worldly thinking is this big gray area, nothing is really black and white, nothing is really right and wrong...

How the Bible is antithetical

So we have a culture growing up with continuum kind of thinking, that things are not black and white they're just different shades of gray. Black and white preaching, teaching from Scripture is seen as offensive and fanatical. But in the Bible, antithesis is crucial, discernment is essential. And the Bible just lays things down black and white. I mean, just follow this thought. From the Garden of Eden with its two trees, one allowed and one forbidden, to the eternal destiny of the human being, in heaven or hell, the Bible sets forth two and only two ways, God's way and all other ways. People are said to be saved or lost. They belong to God's people or Satan's people. There is the mount of blessing and the mount of cursing. There is the narrow way and the broad way. There is eternal life and eternal destruction. There are those who are against us and those who are with us. There are those within the Kingdom, those without the Kingdom. There is life and death, truth and falsehood, good and bad, light and darkness, kingdom of God, kingdom of Satan, love, hatred, spiritual wisdom, wisdom of the world. Christ is said to be the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Him, He is the only name under the sky by which one may be saved. Everything in Scripture is absolute. It is basic to divine revelation.

[Quoting Jay Adams here]In other words, the clean/unclean system was designed to develop in God's people an antithetical mentality. Forbidding the mixing of materials in clothing, for example, doesn't seem to arbitrary after all when considered in the light of the biblical concern to create a antithetical posture toward life. But with pastors and people alike growing up in an environment that stresses continual thinking, antithesis is dulled as more and more people attempt to integrate sociology, psychology, business management principles with the Scripture. Teachers in Christian colleges now consider it one of the key tasks of Christian higher education to seek to integrate the professor's faith with his learning. The key task, you see, is no longer to distinguish God's ways from others, but to find places of agreement."

That's a dangerous thing. The psalmist, listen to this, Psalm 1, "How blessed is the man who doesn't walk in the council of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night." There's a clear line drawn. They're over here, we're over here. But this kind of continuum thinking has contributed to the climate where discernment is unnecessary, unthinkable and to pursue it is foolish, to pursue it is divisive...are you ready for this?...to pursue it is evil. You're an evil person if you draw lines. You're an evil person if you think in absolutes. You're an evil person if you have convictions. Discernment can only thrive in an environment of doctrinal absolutes.

Listen to Titus 1:9, "Holding fast...there's that same term about holding to what is good...holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, the doctrine, holding fast your doctrine so that you can exhort with sound doctrine and refute those who contradict." We're in the refutation business as well as the affirmation business. When elders were to be selected, they were to have the ability to refute error.

A preoccupation with image and influence as the key to evangelization

The third one, the third cause in this lack of discernment is a preoccupation, listen carefully, a preoccupation with image and influence as the key to evangelization. A preoccupation with image and influence as the key to evangelization.

In other words, you hear this all the time, that if we are going to win the world we have to win their favor. The church has got to become a beloved agency. They've got to like us. So we don't want to fight for truth. We don't want to be too doctrinal. We don't want to offend anybody because image and influence is the key to evangelization.

Now what we're supposed to do is market ourselves so that we become a friendly place. Well, we certainly want to be loving and gracious but one sermon would convince most people that we're not all about just being friendly, we're all about preaching truth. The man who once took his stand for truth and preached it is now asked to take his seat. He's a problem. We don't fight for truth, we don't boldly proclaim truth because we're afraid we might offend an unbeliever. And after all, if anybody is going to get evangelized, it's going to be because they find us a friendly place, a nice place. We want to be popular with the world because we believe that's the key to evangelization. Imagine that. We are in to this whole deal that the image of the church and its non-threatening structure is the key to evangelization. This kind of movement believes that the church will offend unbelievers if it preaches sin or hell or repentance or the cross and it will lose its prestige. So the new trend is for the church to build an image of love and care and being very nice and make everybody comfortable and make everybody happy and entertain the unbeliever and make sure they're never offended and make sure they are very very comfortable. And the bottom line is, if they like us they'll like Jesus. That's the bottom line.

And when the church began to say we're going to have to have influence, and we're going to have to have prestige, and we're going to have to have popularity, we're going to have to be intellectually accepted, and we're going to have to embrace these people and show that we really like them and they're going to have to like us a lot if they're ever going to like our Jesus, it made a major turn...a major turn. Paul the Apostle said we are the scum, we are the dregs, we are the off-scouring of the world. Jesus said they hated Me, they'll hate you. But we've gotten sophisticated. This view believes that our prestige, our influence and our popularity is what gets people to the place where they'll believe the gospel. How absolutely wrong that is. How absolutely wrong. Real spiritual men fight and real spiritual men pay the price for bold clear loving proclamation of the truth. What I'm seeing happen I could call the feminization of the church...so soft.

We are an offense to all in error. We are an offense to all in rejection of the truth. We are an offense to all those who refuse Jesus Christ. We are an offense to all those who live in sin and to mitigate that offense is ridiculous because it is precisely what the Holy Spirit is intending to produce. He wants to convict because conviction and confrontation in conviction leads to salvation. Those offended should be offended.