Monthly Archives: October 2016

Institutional Backsliding, Part Five

God’s Word is truth. Truth anchors the human soul. Without it, one is adrift in a sea of relativism; in other words a shadowy realm where there is nothing to depend upon. The story of New Testament scholar Eta Linnemann, as disclosed in her book, “Historical Criticism of the Bible”, is revealing.

(Historical Criticism is a theologically liberal approach to Bible study which assumes that statements in Scripture regarding place, time, sequences of events and persons are accepted only insofar as they fit in with established assumptions and theories of human origin.)

As a convert out of theological liberalism, Linnemann wrote: “…God through His grace and Word has given me insight into the theoretical dimensions of this theology. Instead of being based on God’s Word, it has its foundations in philosophies which made bold to define truth so that God’s Word was excluded as the source of truth.source”

There is surely a place in Christian practice for a legitimate version of the high ideals which come to mind when we remember our fine old family of English words: liberality, liberate, liberty, and even liberal. In fact, those ideals only can be “fleshed out” well in the context of moral absolutes and bedrock truths. Among believers, there must be loving tolerance, mutual acceptance, and respect when it comes to non-essentials. Some Christians kneel to pray, some do not. In the apostolic church, some ate meat sacrificed to idols, some did not. Some Christians are very animated and sanguine in worship, others are more reserved and quiet.

Whether or not a Christian may be theologically liberal, however, is not a matter among the “non-essentials”. All should pray in faith, and worship in spirit and in truth, and all should stand against this form of idolatry…for that is what theological liberalism is! The ancient Israelites forsook God and served man-made idols in the days of the judges. So God’s people today do, when they despise His word and remake “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) into “the faith that has the approval of modern man”.

How can Christians fight this plague? Let’s revisit the book of Judges. Like the intermittently besieged descendants of Jacob, Church is under great oppression in our land in these days. Might this be on account of wholesale backsliding into complacency, compromise, and theological liberalism? Would God afflict us needlessly with a surrounding society that is perhaps worse than Sodom?

“He does not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:33). Is He not the sovereign without whose permission not even Satan can lift a finger (cf. Job 1)? “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 10:1). The American Church’s compromising ways have not pleased Him. Perhaps He is allowing our enemies to chastise us.

Today, the battle is spiritual; we wrestle not against flesh and blood Canaanite oppressors. The Ashtoreth of theological liberalism has seduced us, and we have served Baal: theological liberalism dressed up as orthodoxy. Now is the time to cry out to the Lord! Cry out to the Lord of the harvest. Implore him that mighty deliverers be raised up. What is needed in America today is not another program for economic or educational aid by the government, not a clever political solution, but loud, trumpeting blasts of the pure, unadulterated Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Not yet following this blog? Parts One through Four were posted on the first four Saturdays of October A.D. 2016

Previously published March  6, A.D. 2016

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Ghosts

And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. (Matthew 14:26)

About two thousand years after Jesus walked on water, many people including Christian disciples can be afflicted with the fear of ghosts. As All Saints Day Evening, popularly abbreviated Hallowe’en, approaches, let’s think Biblically and soberly about that eerie topic

The materialist, one who believes that only physical things exist, typically expresses contempt for even the mention of an unseen, immaterial realm and anything that might be there. His sneering position is that ghosts don’t exist, period. As Christians thinking Biblically, we can’t establish a “theology of ghosts” based on the materialist’s myopic presuppositions.

Against the materialist we insist that there is indeed an unseen realm (what he might call the supernatural) and that God has revealed all we need to know about it for our present good.

At the other end of the spectrum is the superstitious person. He acknowledges the unseen realm, but lacks discernment about it. Events in his life coincide in an unusual way. He sees or experiences something very strange. He might attribute these things to divine intervention, to demonic mischief, or to the visitations of aliens from the Andromeda galaxy. He has no difficulty believing that the spirits of human beings who have passed away can appear at will and interact with those still in the flesh.

To help guide that person out of fear and ignorance, we might ask questions like,”Why are the activities commonly attributed to ghosts done by those ghosts?” Or, “If all who depart this earthly life go to a better place as is commonly believed, why would they want to keep hanging around in this worse place, apparently with nothing better to do than frighten those who are still here?”

Simply declaring to a materialistic or superstititous friend that he is fundamentally wrong will likely accomplish little. Asking him probing questions might be a little more fruitful. But ultimately, the application of the word of God in the power of the Spirit of God is the only hope for one lost in either materialism or superstition.

So exactly what as Bible believers can we say about ghosts? Let’s consider a few passages.

“There shall not be found among you anyone who [among other things] calls up the dead*. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD…” (condensed from Deuteronomy 18:10-12)

In Luke 16, Jesus tells of a rich man and Lazarus who begged at the rich man’s gate. Both men died. Lazarus went to the pace of comfort and bliss called “Abraham’s bosom” and the rich man to a dark place of torment called Hades. Much could be said about this passage, but for our purposes note this well: although the rich man desired that his brothers be warned about the misery that awaited them if they did not repent, he apparently was not able to warn them himself. He appealed to Abraham, asking him to send Lazarus to do the warning.

Abraham’s answer underscores the truth that God’s word is the most powerful persuader: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)

On the other hand, the lot of believers who depart this earthly life is depicted by Lazarus’ afterlife and is expressed at 2 Corinthians 5:8. “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” In Hebrews 12:23 departed saints are described as “the spirits of just men made perfect.”

Consider this: would a person perfected in holiness, enjoying unbroken and unhindered communion with God, the holy angels, and all the other saints in pure light have any interest in dealing with us who are as yet full of corruption and living in a fallen, corrupt realm? Would they even be able to do so?

In at least one extraordinary instance, two men who had departed this life appeared back on Earth for a very brief time. This was of course at the event known as the Transfiguration. Moses and Elijah appeared in glory on a mountain which Christ and three of His disciples had ascended. Matthew (ch. 17), Mark (ch. 9), and Luke (ch. 9) all record this amazing, singular event. It is very significant that all three inspired Gospel writers are careful to say that although Elijah and Moses were SEEN by the three sin-corrupted disciples, they SPOKE only with Jesus the sinless One, appearing temporarily in glory Himself.

So to sum up, the wicked dead cannot communicate with those on Earth. It is unlikely that the just, now perfected in spirit, have any desire to do so. Meanwhile God has commanded those on Earth not to make any attempt to communicate with the departed, and in at least one case we can read of the disastrous results of disobeying that command. (Cf. 1 Samuel 28:6ff and 1 Chronicles 10:13.)

Meanwhile, the word of God tells us that “…satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14). It is reasonable to infer that he and his fallen angels, all who hate God and mankind, have the ability to impersonate the dead in their arsenal of deceit. With their superhuman knowledge and faculties, they are probably able to do so effectively. Preying upon susceptible minds and perhaps even with some limited ability to manipulate matter (as in the book of Job, strictly under God’s control) the evil one and his servants convince humans that they have seen, heard, or felt ghosts.

Jesus taught that the devil “…was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44). That ancient serpent, arch criminal that he is, only seeks to kill and destroy, and to supplant faith with terror and confusion…to frighten God’s sheep.

Be a Christian ghostbuster. Cry it out loud with faith, “I ain’t ‘fraid o’ no ghost!”

Previously published elsewhere in two installments, May A.D. 2016

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Institutional Backsliding, Part Four

The fatal human tendency to apostatize which we traced in the sacred record from the time of the Biblical judges on through the prophet Jeremiah’s day has not ended. Jesus and the apostles dealt with the Sadducees, who “…say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both” (Acts 23:8). Down through Church history to the present, there are the Pharisee type heresies wherein many of the cardinal, heavenly doctrines of the Bible are confessed but legalism or other problems exist.

However, there are also the Sadducee type heresies, where the satanic strategy seems to be to set up a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5). The first type of error self consciously distances itself from historically orthodox (which means true glory) Christian bodies, claiming that “the truth is with us only!” The second type of error usurps the place of historic orthodoxy within Christian bodies, hence effectively neutralizing it. Theological liberalism is rightly categorized in the latter group.

Perhaps we can further expose liberalism by considering some of its fruits. Let’s return to the example of evolution. What has accomodating this evil, anti-Christian system of thought brought about?

First, it allows people to reason that they are only animals; a particularly bright species of primates. Some animals kill and devour other animals. Some animals abandon their young – or devour them! Animals heed only their instinctive sexual drives when it comes to mating, no higher morality is involved. Why then should we be surprised if children kill other children, if parents abort their babies, if promiscuity and associated evils like pornography and the “sex industry” proliferate? Why marvel when one ethnic group asserts its supremacy over another? Perhaps they reason that they are entitled to do so, as the more highly evolved version of humanity!

The Church is called to be preserving salt and exposing light in the corrupt, dark world. When she believes in the Biblical truth that man was specially created in the Divine image, a rational and spiritual being as far above the animals as the heavens are above the earth, she can powerfully proclaim, “thus says the Lord” to them who knew themselves to be His creatures, accountable to Him. What does the theologically liberal preacher say against adultery, abortion, and murder? “You shouldn’t do those things because they are icky, OK?” Or “just say NO – because…because…well, just because!” Can he effectively oppose racism when his own doctrine provides an (erroneous) rationalization for its legitimacy?

Another fruit of liberalism is the way it changes people’s view of the Bible. If the Bible is inaccurate about the nature of creation, the miraculous birth of Christ, the historicity of the Exodus, etc. how can we trust it on anything? At 1 Thessalonians 2:13 we read, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe.”

Instead of such a high view of Scripture, theological liberalism allows the (practical, if not confessional) position that says, “I’ll take 7 out of the 10 Commandments that seem plausible to my ultimate judge, i.e. my own mind.” Like Thomas Jefferson, theological liberalism cuts out of the Bible those parts which don’t have what it considers the feel of authenticity. When subjective “inner light” usurps the place of objective revelation from on high, the “search for the historical Jesus” is underway. Although the Jesus of the Bible IS the historical Jesus, theological liberalism’s false wisdom asserts that much of what the Gospels attribute to Him He could not possibly have said…”not MY Jesus…”

Not yet following this blog? Part Five, the last in this series, is scheduled to posted on Saturday October 29, A.D. 2016

Previously published elsewhere, February  28, A.D. 2016

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We’re Not Playing Games

The ancient and enduring game of chess is able to help train the mind to plan ahead, to respond decisively, and to handle the unforeseen. These are crucial skills for life with all its rows, columns, diagonals, and “L” shaped aspects of circumstance. Foresight, resolve, and resilience are invaluable assets when far more is at stake than any tournament’s temporal prize or fleeting thrill.

The apparatus for playing western chess (Asia boasts a few different versions of the ancient game) has unmistakeable contrast built in. The square board on which the game is played consists of 64 smaller squares, all of equal size: 32 of them are white and 32 are black, arranged in a simple checkered pattern. The playing pieces consist of two opposing forces or armies. The two human players are designated White and Black, and their respective battle forces of King, Queen, Bishops, Knights, Castles (Rooks), and Pawns bear those respective colors.

As in the pretend warfare of chess, so in real life there is an ongoing, cosmic battle between two kingdoms. The kingdom of darkness, sin, bondage, and death has a usurping, wicked ruler: Satan. The Kingdom of light, holiness, freedom, and life is led by the Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate, the rightful King of all creation. These two kingdoms are locked in mortal combat. The eternal, indestructible, precious souls of men and women are the stakes.

Imagine if all 64 squares of the chess board were a seamless, uniform gray. There would be no knowing upon exactly which “square” any particular piece stood! And what if all the playing pieces were that very same shade of gray? There would be no way of identifying an “opposing” piece from one’s own! In such a wacky chess world, there could be no clear vision, no standards of discernment, nor any firm basis on which to make a move. Such a “game” would be judged at the very outset, by wise players, as doomed to an early and meaningless stalemate.

The microcosm of chess needs its white and black squares and its white and black playing pieces. Even so it is very necessary to use the eyes of faith and the mind of Christ (as His mind is given to us in holy Scripture) to see the whites and blacks of the spiritual universe. In chess, a molded plastic Bishop which is black is identical in form to a molded plastic Bishop which is white. In real life, the sons of the kingdom of darkness often have the same outward form as the sons of light. Jesus said that by their fruit you will know them. By their fruit you will know to which kingdom they belong. That is how we see spiritual contrasts.

As do all analogies, this one breaks down at some point. In the game of chess, an opposing piece is retired permanently from the current game when it is captured*. In real life, Christ’s strategy often is to transform, supernaturally, a son of the kingdom of darkness into a son of His kingdom. Thus the good and rightful King plunders the enemy kingdom, bringing good out of evil and rejoicing to His loyal subjects.

If we are to fight bravely alongside of the King of light against the king of darkness, we can not make believe that morality is relative. The King says that the real world is one in which the eternal God has told man, “Yes, this is good”, and “No, this is evil”. We do not live in a universal gray area wherein Yes and No have blended to produce a constant Maybe. The Bible, our King’s standing orders, bids us to see the profound contrasts: to see the definite white areas and black areas of the ethical landscape. It directs us to plan, to respond to whatsoever comes to pass, and to handle all our affairs accordingly.

* Actually, there is a variant of western Chess that imitates Shogi, or Japanese Chess. It is called Loop Chess or Chessgi, and captured pieces can be “re-enlisted” in the army of the capturer.

Previously published elsewhere

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Institutional Backsliding, Part Three

In Part Two we discussed the mischief of Lyell and Darwin and how the “scientific” establishment of today regards the twin errors of uniformitarianism and evolution as unquestionable truth. What about the Church? To what extent have we followed the world into this destructive error…gone down a slippery slope?

Like the little leaven that leavens the whole lump (1 Corinthians 5:6, Galatians 5:9), theological liberalism has crept into many branches of the Church – the true pillar and bulwark of truth – because of the way she reacted to the ideas of “the two Charlies.” Lyell and Darwin. Instead of being willing to appear foolish for Christ’s sake, to stand for the truth of Scripture though Mr. Worldly Wiseman lampooned and mocked it, some Christians compromised. They became willing to allow the Holy Spirit inspired, infallible, inerrant, fully authoritative Word of God to be judged and distorted by the sin corrupted, fallible mind of man.

Compromising doctrines such as “theistic evolution” were baptized and put forth as orthodoxy, when in reality it is as far from orthodoxy as is a Christology with no virgin conception and birth. Thus we have today not only declarations by the papacy that evolution and Christianity are compatible (cf. easily documented statements by popes Pius XII, John II, and Francis), but leaders and teachers of formerly evangelical bodies asserting the same thing. The sneaky lie has suddenly taken on the authority trappings of Truth!

Although the term theological liberalism is fairly new, spiritual declension of course is not. The wisdom of God in Ecclesiastes tells us that “there is nothing new under the sun”. Thus we can find the same force that drives theological liberalism in the pages of the Bible itself.

Consider the book of Judges. In the days when the judges ruled, when “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 21:25), there is a self-evident cyclic nature to the history of God’s people. Finding themselves unoppressed by enemies, prosperous, all things going well for them, they would forget God, Who gave them all their blessings. In their sinful folly, they would begin to serve other (false, of course) gods such as the Canaanite idols, Ashtoreth and Baal, forsaking the one true and living God. The Bible clearly teaches that this one true and living God is indeed the God of love, but He is also a jealous God, a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29).

Seeing His people forsake Him, He wrath would rise against them, yet not so as to completely destroy them. To chastise and corrrect them, He would raise up adversaries against them to oppress them. This would have the effect of causing them to call out to the LORD for deliverance. God would then allow Himself to be moved by their entreaty, and raise up a judge, an heroic deliverer such as Moses and Joshua had been, who would remove the yoke of bondage. For a season, all would be well. Then the cycle would repeat itself, as the people forgot God, served false gods, and were again disciplined by the true God who condescended to tolerate them again and again, having determined that He would have a people for Himself, often in spite of themselves!

This trend among the covenant people of God didn’t change with the end of the period of the judges and the advent of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The prophet Jeremiah wrote – “Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid; be very desolate,” says the LORD. “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:11-13)

Not yet following this blog? Part Four is scheduled to be posted on Saturday October 22, A.D. 2016

Previously published elsewhere, February  21, A.D. 2016

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Analysis

The American Psychiatric Association, in the Fifth Edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , makes this assertion:

DSM-5 aims to avoid stigma and ensure clinical care for individuals who see and feel themselves to be a different gender than their assigned gender. It replaces the diagnostic name ‘gender identity disorder’ with ‘gender dysphoria,’ as well as makes other important clarifications in the criteria. It is important to note that gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition.”

So here are six questions for the A.P.A. from yours truly:

1. Regarding the assigned gender referenced in the first sentence, who assigned it?

2. On what basis can the assignee change the assignment? Suppose a student was given an assignment by her Psych 101 professor, namely to write a paper on the origin and history of psychiatric practice. Suppose she submitted Dante’s Inferno to the prof, asserting that she had changed her assignment and felt free to hand in this bold and brazen plagiaristic substitute?

3. What are the “other important clarifications in the criteria” as per the second sentence? Can a mere layperson peer into these arcane mysteries?

4. Regarding the third sentence, BY WHAT STANDARD is the determination made that “gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder?”

Suppose a person saw and felt himself to be a rhinoceros, although that person was not assigned (again, by whom?) to be born a rhinoceros. Would the A.P.A. say that species nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder? If not, why not and if so, why so? BY WHAT STANDARD are such determinations made?

5. Let’s continue the previous analogy. Would the species nonconformist likely experience “clinically significant distress” if, acting upon what he saw and felt himself to be, he wandered into the heart of Kaziranga National Park in India and was found trying to use his cell phone to text the other rhinos who live there? How would the A.P.A. suggest that individual’s distress be addressed?

6. Finally, how can the statement above from the DSM-5 about “gender dysphoria” be regarded as legitimate medical science? Apparently, irrationality is not in itself a mental disorder…

Have you ever found it difficult to pick from among Baskin-Robbins 31 ice cream flavors? In New York City, it is now illegal to discriminate anyone whose gender is male, female, “or something else entirely.” In May of this year, the mayor’s office released a list of 31 genders approved by the New York City Commission on Human Rights. The list is a guide for businesses, which can now be fined as much as $250,000 if establishments refuse to address someone by their preferred pronoun.

The 31 genders listed include “drag king,” “drag queen,” “butch,” “femme queen,” “gender fluid,” “gender blender,” “gender gifted,” “gender bender,” and “femme person of transgender experience.” *

* source: newsmax.com/Newsfront/NYC-releases-gender-list/2016/06/01/id/731809/

Previously published, August 7, A.D. 2016

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Institutional Backsliding, Part Two

When something like the denial of the virgin birth of Jesus (discussed in Part One) occurs, theological liberalism has crept in. The acceptance of one such a watered down position makes the next one even more acceptable. Subsequent attacks on the incarnation and deity of Jesus Christ eventually establish an emaciated Christology (doctrine of the person and work of Jesus Christ). Jesus is perceived as only a man and a noble example, instead of the Redeemer Who is both fully God, fully Divine, as well as being fully human (and Who is also an example for His disciples). Thus a major characteristic of theological liberalism is its dangerous “slippery slope”.

The term slippery slope originated with England’s late nineteenth century “prince of preachers”, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The image is almost self explanatory. Once you’ve finally worked up the courage to start down that water slide at your favorite summer theme park, no natural force is going to bring you back up to the top platform. A skier contemplating her jump may decide to abort it before her descent begins, but once she begins, turning around and skiing back to the top is essentially impossible.

Apply the concept to spiritual life in the kingdom of God, and theology. Writing under Holy Spirit inspiration, the apostle Paul wrote as following in his zeal for the Corinthians: “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Like the first inch or two down a slippery slope, stealthy and deceitful theological liberalism creeps into faithful realms within Christ’s vast kingdom, and begins to woo believers to a more worldly, humanly manageable, pseudo-Christianity which is nothing more than moralism with Christian wrapping. Like the diabolical work of Jeroboam the son of Nebat who led ancient Israel into idolatry, theological liberalism is spiritually seductive.

Adding insult to injury, theological liberalism goes on to the treachery of sanitizing the apostasy it has engendered. It provides a justification and rationale for the slippery slope descent of a previously faithful Christian church or denomination. The mid 19th century provides a classic example. Imitating Dickens we might call it “A Tale of Two Charlies”.

The less well known Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875) and his fellow Englishman Charles Darwin (1809-1882) both advanced what in their day were radical ideas. Lyell assumed uniformitarianism – the idea that the same geological forces observable today are responsible for all the earth’s features (stratified sedimentary rocks, the Grand Canyon, etc.). This fatal assumption led him to conclude that the earth was far older than a Biblical worldview will allow.

Darwin, self consciously dependent on Lyell’s ideas, advanced the theory which today bears his name and also despises the clear teaching of Scripture. We can think of these two men as the fathers of twin errors of pseudo science: that the earth is untold millions of years old, and that all life on earth arose by evolution. The unbelieving masses, as if intuitively seeing in this doctrine an escape from accountability to the Creator God of the Bible, drank in the twin errors like water. The “scientific” establishment of today regards the twin errors as twin pillars and bulwarks of truth.

Not yet following this blog? Part Three is scheduled to be posted on Saturday October 15, A.D. 2015

Previously published elsewhere, February 14, A.D. 2016

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