Friday, December 23, 2011

Islam, the Islamic State, and Persecution of the “Infidel”

Why is the USA straining to encourage the “Arab Spring,” when by all indications it is actually a “Winter” – the emergence of highly oppressive Islamic states? According to

• Despite long-term U.S. military occupations aimed at establishing representative governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Christianity now faces the real threat of eradication in those countries because of severe and persistent persecution of Christians there, according to the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

• Similarly, despite the “Arab Spring” rebellion in Egypt earlier this year, the survival of Christianity is also threatened in that country because of the escalating persecution of Christians.

• USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo [stated] in a video interview, “Unfortunately, that is sort of the pattern throughout the Middle Eastern region. The flight of Christians out of the region is unprecedented and it’s increasing year by year. It’s a very, very alarming situation.”

Meanwhile, failing to understand the nature of Islamic law, this nation continues to compromise its own legal principles in a vain attempt to appease Muslims. Janet Levy writes:

• In June 2009, a divorced Muslim woman (unnamed by the court), who was raped and assaulted by her husband, requested a restraining order from a New Jersey family court. The presiding judge denied the woman's request and stated that "the court believes that the husband was operating under his belief (Islamic sharia) that his demand to have sex whenever he so desired was not prohibited." Remarkably, the husband's imam testified at the trial to affirm that under the sharia, a wife is required to comply with her husband's sexual demands.

• However, according to New Jersey law, coerced sex between married persons is considered rape regardless of whatever imams, rabbis, and priests declare it religiously sanctioned. Thirteen months later, the decision was overturned. But in the interim, the woman endured the stress of living without protection from a violent man whose right to rape, sanctioned by sharia, had been supported by the American judicial system.

• These cases, which received limited media coverage, illustrate failure by the courts to maintain the integrity of state and federal laws.

The West blindly continues to try to appease this “religion of peace,” thinking that by doing so, Islam will then appreciate the West and want to assimilate. However, the West fails to realize that such an expectation is at odds with Islamic law. Levy continues:

• Sharia is Allah's law, and it stands above all man-made laws. This immutable Islamic legal doctrine derives from the Koran and other sacred Islamic texts, interpretations, and rulings. It mandates gender apartheid, religious discrimination, Muslim supremacy, cruel punishments, and the denial of free speech and religion, among other things. Requirements are detailed for every aspect of life, from the correct use of the toilet to the treatment of non-Muslims to proper wife-beating techniques.

• Islamic doctrine recognizes men as superior to women in matters of civil arbitration and thus promotes the unequal treatment of women. Under sharia, the list of inequalities include: a woman's testimony is valued at half that of a man's, she may be convicted of sexual misconduct if she is raped unless she produces four male witnesses, she receives half the inheritance of male offspring, her husband may freely divorce her without providing for her welfare, she may be raped with impunity, and she may be beaten as her husband sees fit. All these abuses, which violate U.S. laws for equal treatment of the sexes, are perfectly acceptable under sharia law.

To be friends with Islam is to be at enmity with the very principles that have elevated the West. It is also to close our eyes to the persecutions and murders of the “infidels” throughout the Islamic world.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Is Scripture Totally Trustworthy?

Today, we ask the question, “Is Scripture inerrant” – without errors in its original writing. And it’s an essential question! Theologian R.C. Sproul writes that although believing in “inerrancy” might not be necessary for salvation,

• It is a very important part of the growth process of the Christian to rest his confidence in the truthful revelation of the Word of God and thereby be moved inwardly to conform to the image of Christ. A strong doctrine of the authority of Scripture [which you can’t have if you believe that Scripture pock-marked with errors], when properly implemented, should bead a person to a greater degree of conformity to that Word he espouses as true. (Can I Trust the Bible? 64)

In opposition to this understanding, the late theologian and professing “evangelical,” Clark Pinnock, wrote,

• God uses fallible spokesmen all the time to deliver His Word, and it does not follow that the Bible must be otherwise.

However, when confronted with a difficult command, like “forgive those who have hurt you,” it will be difficult to apply if we’re not sure that the teaching is free from error. It’s just too easy to convince ourselves that our enemy has just gone too far.

Just last night, I was at a discussion group at the Ethical Culture Society. One Episcopalian woman lamented that everything is now up in the air, and she no longer knows what to believe. Her state of confusion was palpable and fully understandable. Her church no longer preached the Bible as God’s inerrant Word. How then could she discern truth amidst the many competing voices circling her head like flies?

However, this is precisely the perplexity resulting from Pinnock’s position:

• It is important to insist that the Bible is a merely human text – written, copied, translated, and interpreted by fallible people. It contains all manner of internal contradictions, moral blemishes, legend and saga, inaccuracies, and the like. It is a collection of intensely human documents and is not an authority beyond criticism or correction. To regard it as God’s written Word is an idolatrous perversion of belief which must be dethroned.

Why is this belief “idolatrous” when it is exactly the teaching of the Bible! Jesus taught that “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). If Scripture is man’s word, then there is every reason in the world that it should be broken or set aside. Instead, Jesus taught that our lives depended upon embracing every word of Scripture as God’s Word:

• Jesus answered [the devil], "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4)

Jesus always quoted Scripture as absolutely authoritative, never giving any indication whatsoever that any of it was in error! If taking Scripture as the Word of God is idolatrous, then following Jesus is also idolatrous, since this is what He taught! What then wouldn’t be idolatrous in Pinnock’s mind? According to Jesus, even the smallest letter had its divine purpose:

• "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

Consistent with this assertion, He taught that everything in Scripture had to be fulfilled:

• He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." (Luke 24:44)

He left no verse out of this equation. Even the most personal of the writings – the Psalms – had to be completely fulfilled.

Jesus’ teaching was also the teaching of all of His Apostles. Peter claimed that the teachings of the Apostles weren’t their own private teaching but the teaching of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21; 3:2; 1 Peter 1:10-11). John even wrote that the words of his own book were as inviolable as those of the Torah (Rev. 22:18-19; Deut. 4:2; 12:42). Meanwhile, Paul claimed that all Scripture was breathed forth by God Himself:

• All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Has there been errors in Scripture, then Paul would have been wrong in writing that the “man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Errors would mislead and not reliably equip!

The Old Testament was equally insistent that Scripture is God’s very Words. Israel had to obey everything that had been written, not just those sections that could be reliably established as inspired. There could be no picking-and-choosing!

In contrast to this teaching, Pinnock maintained that inerrancy was not relevant to Scripture:

• Instead of placing emphasis upon the saving truth of the Bible to bear witness to Christ, attention is focused on the precise accuracy of minor details. This unfortunate development does not do justice to the kind of book the Bible is. Minute inerrancy might be the central issue of the telephone book, but not for…

However, the teachings of Jesus depended upon “minute inerrancy.” His teaching that the Patriarchs still lived was based upon a tiny detail. Jesus proved His point by quoting from Exodus 3:

• “But about the resurrection of the dead--have you not read what God said to you, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." (Matthew 22:31-32)

The details make all the difference. God had not replied, “I had been their God,” but “I am…” Paul asserted:

• For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

None of the teachings of the Bible suggest that we have the liberty to disregard details by virtue of “higher criticism” or any other consideration. Pinnock and many others also claim that the doctrine of inerrancy is a recent invention, unknown to the fathers of the Church. However, no church father could possibly be ignorant of this teaching if he had any knowledge of Scripture. Besides, Sproul argues that they indeed had been in agreement with this vital doctrine:

• Luther argued that the Scriptures never “err.” To say that the Scriptures never err is to say nothing more or less than that the Bible is inerrant. So though the word “inerrancy” is of relatively modern invention, the concept is rooted not only in the biblical witness of Scripture itself but also in its acceptance by the vast majority of God’s people throughout the history of the Christian church. We find the doctrine taught, embraced and espoused by men such as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Jonathan Edward, and other Christian scholars and teachers throughout church history. (58-59)

Inevitably, when we dump this doctrine, we then make ourselves the ultimate authority. We decide what portions of Scripture are truly inspired and which aren’t. Instead of Scripture judging us, we have positioned ourselves to judge Scripture – which parts are truly inspired and which aren’t.

Ironically, it isn’t even us who are the judges but our culture. Thomas Jefferson had re-written the Bible, leaving out the miracles. Why? Because in his Deistic culture, miracles were an offense to the modern mind! Today we are more apt to reject the teachings about divine judgment. They have become the offense to our permissive culture.

But do we then stuff the problem verses – those that seem to contradict? Are we putting our heads in the sand as some allege? Sproul, while admitting that “there are some as-yet-unresolved apparent contradictions,” claims that progress is being made:

• A great many alleged contradictions have been resolved…The trend has been in the direction of fewer problems rather than more of them. (49)

More importantly, an apparent contradiction doesn’t prove an actual contradiction. Sproul argues:

• The number of seriously difficult passages compared with the total quantity of material found there is small indeed. It would be injudicious and even foolhardy for us to ignore the truth claims of the Bible simply because of the so-far-unresolved difficulties. We have a parallel here with the presence of anomalies in the scientific world. (50-51)

If we don’t throw away science because of the anomalies – apparent contradictions to prior scientific findings – should we do so when confronted by the anomalies of Scripture? Of course not! Besides, the Creator is further beyond our understanding than is His creation. Therefore, we should be less insistent to throw away the doctrine of inerrancy simply because Scripture doesn’t seem to fit together coherently.

If we throw away this doctrine, we throw away any possible vitality that the church might enjoy. Sproul affirms this concern:

• We believe that history has demonstrated again and again that all too often there is a close relationship between rejection of inerrancy and subsequent defections from the matters of the Christian faith that are essential to salvation. When the church loses its confidence in the authority of sacred Scripture, it inevitably looks to human opinion as its guiding light. When that happens, the purity of the church is direly threatened.

“Threatened?” The church soon becomes ready for hospice care!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Fine-Tuned Gift of Speech

The gift of speech has been given to us with its hundreds or perhaps thousands of fine-tuned necessary features. Bruce Malone details some of these special components:

1. A deep throat as compared to an ape’s shallow throat. A deep throat allows a great variety [50] of sound to be produced.

2. Fine muscle control of the vocal tract. Humans have over 100 muscles to control the vocal chords and tract while apes have far fewer muscles.

3. Uniquely agile tongue and lips. Humans can shape many sounds because of their agile tongues and lips. Apes do not have fine control of their lips and tongue, thereby limiting their range of sounds.

4. Language center in the brain. Humans have areas in their brains dedicated to processing language; apes do not. (Inspired Evidence)

Without the mental components, the morphological equipment would prove useless. Everything has to be completely synchronized for speech to be functional and adaptive.

Speech has also given us a great survival advantage over the other primates. This seems to suggest that if speech had evolved slowly, we should be able to find various primates which had also evolved a far more advanced form of speech – missing links between humans and apes. These “missing links” would surely have been able to out-compete our present crop of apes. This is what evolution would have predicted.

Instead, we find a humanity separated from the family of apes in many significant ways, thereby suggesting design, rather than lineal descent.

How Do We Love God? By Shutting Down Our Minds?

If you happen to be looking for a teacher/leader/guru who will con, dupe, and manipulate you, just look for one who will tell you to turn off your mind, your critical faculty. The Hindu guru Baghwan Shree Rajneesh had stated that the,

• Goal is to create a new man, one who is happily mindless.

And this is what he did! He had his followers dance, gyrate, jerk themselves about, and to engage in orgies – whatever was required to turn off their minds and to make them subservient to his program. However, God lovingly gave us a mind for our protection and His glory:

• Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'” (Matthew 22:37)

Using our mind with its power for discernment is not optional. It is required!

Eckhart Tolle, Oprah Winfrey’s New Age guru, attacks rationality and discernment in a different way:

• If you go deep enough in your religion, then you all get to the same place. It’s a question of going deeper, so there’s no conflict here. The important thing is that religion doesn’t become an ideology…the moment you say 'only my belief' or 'our belief' is true, and you deny other people’s beliefs, then you’ve adopted an ideology [theology]. And then religion becomes a closed door.

Thinking and ideology are evils, while experience apart from mental discernment (unless it’s Tolle’s) is the good. He is not alone in teaching that the mind is a great obstacle to transformational experience and enlightenment. Another guru, the Emergent Church’s Tony Jones – and he labels himself “Christian” – informs us that we can’t know divine truth:

• There’ll be no cutting corners, no easy answers, no magic bullets. (The New Christians, 111)

• To assume that our convictions about God are somehow timeless is the deepest arrogance, and it establishes an imperialistic attitude that has a chilling effect on the honest conversation that’s needed for theology to progress. (114)

Not only can’t we know God’s truth, but when we think that we do, we’re just being “arrogant.” Why then bother to study Scripture and to exercise discernment! However, this is far from the Biblical message. The entire Bible is a revelation of God. Rather than this revelation making us arrogant, we are told that the knowledge of God is the one thing that we can boast about:

• "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

Throughout the Bible, we are instructed that this knowledge is of critical importance. In contrast, Jones assures us of his surpassing knowledge:

• The Kingdom of God is expansive, explosive, and un-pin-downable (to coin a phrase). Consequently, our characterizations of God and God’s Kingdom are necessarily fleeting? (114)

If God can’t be pinned-down, then God can’t be understood. Nevertheless, Jones seems to understand a lot about our inability to understand.

Dismissing knowledge creates a vacuum. The Emergent Church is quick to fill it with experience. Consequently, Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline) and the contemplative spirituality movement have become popular when Scripture is disparaged. Foster argues that we miss out on the blessings of God without using his techniques – silence, visualizations, imaginations:

• Imagine the light of Christ flowing through your hands and healing every emotional trauma and hurt feeling your child experienced that day. Fill him or her with the peace and joy of the Lord. In sleep the child is very receptive to prayer since the conscious mind, which tends to erect barriers to God’s gentle influence, is relaxed. (39)

Scripture never teaches that our “conscious mind” is a barrier against His influence. Instead, He is omnipotent! His grace cannot be impeded by our weaknesses!

Furthermore, we are not in need of Foster’s unscriptural techniques. Instead we have EVERYTHING we need in Christ:

• For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Col. 2:9-10)

If we refuse to believe in this “fullness,” we become vulnerable to every false promise to fill some area in our lives where we feel empty. Not only are we complete in Christ, Scripture gives us sufficient guidance for every spiritual matter:

• All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

We commonly hear claims that we fail to receive the good things from the Holy Spirit, because we block Him by thinking too much. Pastor John Arnott of the Vineyard Toronto Airport Church (“Toronto Blessing”) argued that the “greatest deception” was a matter of missing out on the blessings of the Spirit because of a concern about being deceived:

• If you’re going to be concerned about deception, then please be concerned about the greatest deception that there is, and the greatest deception of all, in my opinion, is not to fall for teachings of a false prophet or fall for some, you know, wild goose chase of a rabbit trail out there or whatever and wake up in tens years [sic] that you’ve been deceived. In my opinion the greatest deception of all is to have a move of God come through and you not recognize it. (Quoted by Hank Hanegraaff, Counterfeit Revival, 231)

However, this does not line up with Jesus’ opinion. He was very concerned that His sheep might stray into false teaching:

• "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast [or “teachings”] of the Pharisees and that of Herod." (Mark 8:15)

• "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

Paul also warned about the dangers of false teaching:

• See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Col. 2:8)

According to both Paul and Jesus, missing out on divine blessings wasn’t a matter of exercising too much mental discernment or mental activity. Instead, it was a matter of listening to false teaching. Paul tearfully warned the Ephesian elders about this threat:

• I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard…(Acts 20:29-31)

The flock wouldn’t suffer because they failed to be open to new experiences but distorted teachings. Paul therefore argued that an Elder,

• Must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it…They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach... (Titus 1:9-11)

When we turn off our critical faculties in order to experience something new and exciting, we shouldn’t expect the Spirit to bless us. Why should He, when we are walking contrary to His Word. He warned us that

• And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Cor. 11:14-15)

We therefore mustn’t listen to those who are teaching contrary to the Word, even if they are performing miracles:

• If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 13:1-3)

When we put other things above Scripture – experience, miracles, social concerns…whatever – we prove that we don’t love the Lord with all of our “heart and…soul.” Loving God is a matter of keeping His Word (John 14:21-24; 15:6-10). This is how He wants to be loved.

"Merry Christmas" - Verbotten!

My Dear Wormbottom,

I know that you will be delighted to hear of our latest victory:

• Members of the House of Representatives have been banned from using the phrase “Merry Christmas” in any “franked,” or taxpayer-funded, correspondence to their constituents, but have been told that “Happy Holidays” is permissible. A December 12 memo from the Franking Commission Staff reported by the Washington Examiner noted that the “Franking Manual” already bans using taxpayer-funded postage for correspondence whose sole purpose is to mark special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, births, retirements, or holidays. This year, however, members are being told that even in correspondence sent for otherwise legitimate purposes, the phrase “Merry Christmas” cannot be used. The ban extends to any e-mail, website, or social media posting that uses “official resources,” according to the memo.

I have to congratulate you on your brilliant strategy of separating our beloved secularism from the other banal religions. It’s really worked! No one now thinks of our beliefs of materialism, multi-culturalism, religious pluralism, moral-relativism, and naturalism as a “religion.” This glorious strategy has enabled us to demote and marginalize all of the other religions while ours successfully operates under the radar.

I am certainly not complimenting you too highly when I say that it had been your brilliance that has engineered and guided this strategy. Who else had foreseen that the First Amendment, forbidding the establishment of one national religion, could have been distorted in such a way as to keep all the other religions out of public sight, while ours reigns unquestioned!

And you were right – nobody even pays attention to the second phrase of the First Amendment:

• Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF…

And this is exactly what your strategy has enabled us to do – to prohibit “the free exercise thereof,” by prohibiting those hypocritical congressmen from sending out their manipulative little Christmas greetings. They care no more about Christmas than we do.

Who would have thought, just several decades ago, that your strategy would have produced such delectable fruits! I can now walk comfortably down the street without concern that anyone will wish me a “Merry Christmas.” In fact, we have pulled the strings so effectively that even Christians now feel twinges of guilt when they even try to articulate those two hated words.

However, this is just symptomatic of our greater victory. It has now become illegitimate, even in their own minds, to drag any vestige of their faith into the public domain. While we can push evolution in every nature presentation, we can yell “foul” whenever they try to bring out any evidence against this idiotic dogma. It has been because of your strategy that we have been so successful in silencing any opposition by invoking “separation between church and state.”

Yes, I am aware that you don’t like us to refer to evolution as “idiotic,” but it is. Nevertheless, I agree with you that it’s the best God-substitute on the market. I can’t even imagine a better one. With this clever alternative to God, we have been able to jam moral-relativism down the throats of every school child.

We started by using “values clarification” exercises. These were able to subtly teach the children that there are no right answers – that morality was just a matter of clarifying and understanding their own subjective feelings and choices.

Once again, our successes all come back to your initial strategy. We were able to convince the ignorant public that we weren’t teaching another religion, one in direct opposition to their own, but were merely helping their little darlings to better make moral choices.

Of course, we also sold this program by claiming that it would teach tolerance for other points of view. Brilliant, eh? They failed to see that, in the process, we were actually teaching intolerance for their system of absolute moral law.

Well, these ignorant fools deserve just what they are getting. Perhaps someday, they will look back and thank us for liberating them from their superstitions. In fact, I’ve already heard many glowing testimonials!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our Secular Institutions Lead the Charge against Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America reads:

• Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

However, the institutions that should be most concerned about defending our freedom of speech are flagrantly violating this right when that speech goes against their own religious dogmas:

• Jennifer Keeton was enrolled in the Counselor Education Program at Augusta State University (ASU), a Georgia state school, seeking to obtain her master’s degree in school counseling. After Keeton completed her first year in the program, ASU’s officials asked her to participate in a remediation plan addressing what the faculty perceived as deficiencies in her “ability to be a multiculturally competent counselor, particularly with regard to working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (GLBTQ) populations.” ASU’s officials required Keeton’s consent to the remediation plan before Keeton could participate in the program’s clinical practicum, in which she would have to counsel students one-on-one. Rather than completing the remediation plan, Keeton filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that requiring her to complete the remediation plan violated her First Amendment free speech and free exercise rights. Along with her verified complaint, Keeton also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction that would prevent ASU’s officials from dismissing her from the program if she did not complete the remediation plan.

• After holding an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied her motion for a preliminary injunction, and it is from this order that Keeton now appeals.

• Keeton claims that ASU’s officials violated her First Amendment free speech rights in three ways: by discriminating against her viewpoint; by retaliating against her for exercising her First Amendment rights; and finally by compelling her to express beliefs with which she disagrees. We address each specific claim in turn.

Although our right to express our opinions, however unpopular they might be, is being threatened, in many circumstances, it prevails:

• An Alliance Defense Fund lawsuit has led to official recognition for a student-led Christian club at the Hicksville Union Free School District, which originally refused to recognize the club. In light of the district’s decision to change course and grant the club equal access to the rights, benefits, and privileges extended to all other non-curriculum student clubs, ADF attorneys filed a voluntary dismissal of the club’s federal lawsuit against the district Friday.

• In addition to granting recognition and equal access to the club, the district also adopted a resolution affirming its “continuing policy to comply with the Equal Access Act,” a federal law that prohibits government schools from discriminating against religious student clubs that wish to meet on campus during non-instructional time.

The struggle to maintain our right to freely express our cherished faith can be very discouraging. However, we have heavenly resources:

• Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37:3-6)

Perhaps the Church isn’t so Bad After All

Our youth are abandoning the church in torrents. The secularists argue that our Gospel is hate speech. Hillary Clinton was recently emboldened enough to assert that our religious arguments against LGBT issues are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

We are routinely called “sexist,” “racist” and “homophobic.” The church now seems to be held in such contempt, that its enemies now feel confident enough to challenge its tax-exempt status and to impose secular standards upon worship and speech and even to discriminate against churches by preventing them from renting space in public schools.

In contrast to these dismal assessments, a recent study found that:

• Three-quarters of Americans believe that churches are a positive factor in their communities. Just 1 out of 20 adults believe that the influence of churches is negative.

It seems evident that the churches are doing more good than the media and the schools are ready to admit. Besides, the church’s light isn’t shining brighter because it is found in the midst of a dark society. Another recently published study found that,

• The United States now ranks the highest in terms of charity in a massive global survey that put the nation in fifth place in 2010, according to CAFAmerica []…According to those surveyed, two out of three Americans said they donated money to charity (65 percent), more than two out of five volunteered their time (43 percent) and roughly three out of four helped a stranger (73 percent).

Perhaps the church and its influence might even take some credit there?

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Fruit of the Secular State

Atheists monotonously charge that the church does everything wrong and Christians are evil. There are several ways to respond:

1. “Yes, we are evil and do bad things, and that’s why we all need the Savior.”
2. “You have no basis to talk about ‘evil’ or ‘bad,’ since you, as moral relativists, don’t believe in an objective ‘good and bad.’”
3. “Okay, let’s compare the evil of the church to the evil of atheists!”

Regarding the last response, I’ll invoke the militant communist/atheist experiments under Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot, and remind them of 100 million that these idealistic atheists had exterminated.

Of course, they’ll protest that these evils were not the result of atheism but communism, and that if we really want to see the fruits of atheism, we should look to secular (atheistic) nations of western and northern Europe.

Although these countries are going in an atheistic direction, they are not militantly trying to stamp out their Christian roots as some of the communist nations had done. Instead, their secularization is slow and far less proactive. Consequently, these nations still retain strong vestiges of their Biblical roots. Therefore, it’s harder to gauge the impact of atheism, and this requires more time.

However, this task might be easier than I had at first thought. It seems that as secularism has taken hold, so too has crime:

• The 9,350,000 inhabitants of Sweden reported 1,410,000[1] offences to the authorities in 2009 (approximately 151 offences/1000 inhabitants). The number of reported crimes have increased radically since a national statistics began in 1950. A lot of this is attributed to a higher degree of reports, but the largest factor is the factual increase of crimes. Increase in the rate of reports of violent crime in Sweden from 1976 to 2006. In three decades, reported violent crime have increased by about 200 %. (Wikipedia)

• If we next look at the crime level, the Danish Statistical Yearbook 2002 shows reported crimes from 1935 to 1960 to be stable: about 100,000 crimes per year. But from 1960 until today, the number of crime reports has increased by 500 percent, to more than 500,000 per year. And if we look at violent crime, the picture is even grimmer. The number of violent crimes in 1960 was approximately 2,000; it is approximately 15,000 today. This is an increase of more than 700 percent, and it is still rising steeply. This is a very surprising development. Welfare state advocates often say that crime is caused by poverty. Well, Denmark has become about twice as rich per citizen during this period of rising crime. Another argument is that poverty is caused by economic inequality. Well, Denmark has engaged in the most comprehensive income redistribution program of any nation. Denmark is the most egalitarian country in the world today.

This identical crime explosion is found throughout the Western world:

• With the end of World War II and the economic recovery in Europe in the 1950s, crime rates and particularly rates of violent crime began to climb once again throughout the West. In England and Wales, murder and assault cases increased from 13 per 100,000 in 1950 to 144.3 per 100,000 in 1975, for an eleven-fold increase (Gurr, p. 363). During the same period the rate of larceny-theft rose from 847 per 100,000 to 3,659 per 100,000 for a more than four-fold increase, and by 1997 this figure came to 4,083 per 100,000. In Scandinavia much the same pattern unfolded. Between 1960 and 1974–1975, assaults and murders in Finland more than doubled from 127.9 to 282.0 per 100,000, and thefts more than tripled from 886 to 2,850 per 100,000. And in Stockholm between 1950 and 1971 the rates of thefts, assaults, and murders more than quadrupled (Gurr, p. 364). These increases in Europe were recorded mainly in the cities, and a similar pattern prevailed in the United States. Between 1960 and 1997 violent crimes known to the police in the United States shot up from 160.9 to 610.8 per 100,000, and property complaints rose from 1,726.3 to 4,311.9 per 100,000 (see F.B.I., 1961–1997).

How do we explain this explosion? It can’t be attributed to poverty, because the Western world had become wealthier during this period. In the sixties, the USA experienced a secularization outburst. Prayers were eliminated from the school systems as “unconstitutional” in 1962. Wayne Grudem argues that this one change had made an enormous impact:

• In the book [“America: To Pray or not to Pray”] Barton documents the dramatic rise in teen pregnancy rates, teen suicides, and drug abuse since pray was removed from public schools. (Politics according to the Bible, 506)

This change was accompanied in the West also by the teaching of moral relativism through “values clarification” exercises. These communicated to the students that there are no correct moral answers. However, without correct moral answers, there is no longer a higher rationale for acting one way or another. Morality is reduced to what you feel and whether or not it will work for you. Consequently, if we are no longer governed by moral absolutes, the strongest impediment against peer influence is removed.

Yes, parental influence is remains foremost, but this influence has also been undermined by secular thinking. Without absolute moral principles, emotional fulfillment becomes paramount. Instead of parents training their children in accordance with what they had always believed to be true, they now want to be liked. They therefore overly indulge their children: “I just want my Johnny to be happy and fulfilled.” And Johnny not only agrees, but he has very definite ideas about securing his happiness.

The Attraction of a Non-Judgmental, Universalistic God

Americans are opting for an egalitarian, non-judgmental God. According to

• Half of Americans (50%) believe that all people are eventually saved or accepted by God no matter what they do, while 40% disagreed.

What can account for this strong universalistic trend? I think that there are several factors involved:

DETERMINISM: Many no longer believe that we have some degree of freewill and are therefore morally responsible. Instead, we are entirely products of powerful deterministic forces – “nature and nurture,” genetics and social influences. We act and think the way we do because we are programmed to do so. If this is the case, then we’re no longer guilty of our sins, and a reasonable God should no longer hold us culpable.

For many, this is an attractive idea. One atheist friend confided that he likes the idea that we lack freewill – we’re just a collection of electro-chemical reactions. As he systematically practiced reminding himself of this lack freewill and culpability, he would reduce his sense of guilt. However, to be consistent, he would also have to acknowledge that the murderer of his family is likewise not guilty of any wrongdoing.

JUDGMENTALNESS: In the West, it has become a virtue to be non-judgmental of others. After all, everyone is trying their best. Everyone has a good heart. Seen through this lens, God also sees our good heart and wouldn’t judge us for things that are outside of our control.

LOVE: No one seems to argue against the virtuousness of love, and the vast majority of people understand God as love. However, “love” has now taken on a different connotation. According to the updated understanding, love cannot include any offensive message. Love must always be affirming. The understanding that love also entails truth, disagreement and even punishment has been lost from Western culture.

Consequently, a loving God can’t be a punitive God, and the idea that there are eternal consequences for our sins has now become unacceptable, even in the case where the individual might choose eternal separation from God over eternal intimacy with God.

EQUALITY: Radical equality has become the ultimate virtue. It is no longer enough that we are all created in the image of God and are therefore all beloved by their Creator. There must also be equality of outcome. We all must share the same nirvana, universal consciousness or heaven. Reality and humanity are one, and any distinctions are an affront to this supposed oneness.

A God who discriminates is no longer a God worthy of worship, even if He discriminates according to principals of justice and fairness.

However, our beliefs are largely influenced by our situations. If and when a genocidal leader comes to power, we will, of course, be crying out for justice – both human and Divine. And we should. Our God requires it:

• When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:15-17)

It is out of love for humanity that God requires justice! It is easy for Western society to entertain dysfunctional ideas as long as their lives are still being protected by a justice system based upon Biblical values. However, once this justice system and the necessary discrimination that it entails are completely undermined, we will return to the rule of darkness.

We fail to see the very obvious historical fruits of “oneness” theology, a theology that is unwilling to make necessary judgments based on our behaviors. The Hindu Vaishnavite, Prabhupada, in his “The King of Knowledge” gives us a flavor of what oneness theology looks like:

• The hospital making business is being conducted by the government; it is the duty of a [Hindu] disciple to make hospitals whereby people can actually get rid of their material bodies, not patch them up. But for want of knowing what real spiritual activity is, we take up material activities.

However, real love and real justice should not only pertain to our extra-material existence. They should also pertain to our material existence. Eastern thinking tends to be life-denying. Swami Yogananda was founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship, which denies reality:

• Then this cosmic movie, with its horrors of disease and poverty and atomic bombs will appear to us only as real as the anomalies we experience at a movie house. When we have finished seeing the motion picture, we will know that nobody was killed; nobody was suffering.

If “nobody was suffering,” there is no reason to be concerned about suffering! This philosophy inevitably leads to injustice because it refuses to see injustice. If everything is no more real than a “motion picture,” then there can be no concern about love and justice. If we are to preserve justice, we need to believe in a God who is concerned about justice.

We also fail to see the inherent contradictions that non-justice and non-judgmentalness bring into our lives. It not only means that the courts cannot judge the criminals. It also means that parents can’t judge their children, or teachers their students, or supervisors their subordinates. We must judge and so must God!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bullying, Intimidation, and Hypocrisy

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the anti-bullying campaign resulted in more bullying:

• A Catholic student in Michigan is suing a teacher who reportedly punished him for stating his religious belief against the gay lifestyle when that teacher asked him his opinion on the issue. The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) announced in a press release Thursday that they had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Daniel Glowacki, a junior at Howell High School at the time of the incident, against the school and his economics teacher Johnson McDowell.

• According to TMLC, which is representing the student in court, Glowacki was specifically asked by McDowell about his feelings on homosexuals; he responded that as a Catholic he was offended by the gay and lesbian lifestyle. Because of his answer, Daniel was ordered to leave the classroom under threat of suspension.

• “This case points out the outrageous way in which homosexual activists have turned our public schools into indoctrination centers, and are seeking to eradicate all religious and moral opposition to their agenda,” said Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of TMLC, in the release.

• “It defies common sense for schools to ban all sorts of unhealthy foods while at the same time promoting the homosexual lifestyle, which hard statistics show increases drug abuse, suicides and reduces the life expectancies by several years. Schools that promote such lifestyles are engaging in a form of child abuse.”

While it is praiseworthy that schools should not tolerate any bullying, it seems that many have simply used this campaign to purposely bully a different group of students. It would be another matter entirely if Catholic or Christian teaching advocated bullying. However, we find the exact opposite in the Bible – “Love your enemies!” It would also be another matter if it had been found that devout Catholics and Christians disproportionately bully gays, but this also hasn’t been found.

Meanwhile, we consistently find that today’s secular religion discriminates against other religions, even to the point of prejudicially characterizing them. Just recently, Hillary Clinton compared those (Christians) who raise religious objections to SSM to those who try to justify honor killings.

This is not to say that religions shouldn’t be above criticism. There are times that religions should be held to account, but we all have our religious/philosophical worldviews. (No one should be exempt from scrutiny merely because their belief system doesn’t fall under the category of “traditional religion.”) For example, it is hypocritical for schools to cite Christians as “bullies,” when the real bullies fall under the radar and are given a free pass. It’s not fair to allow gay advocates to bully Christians and then to penalize the Christians with charges of “hate speech” and “bullying” when they attempt to express their views.

Meanwhile, if the schools and our secular authorities are really interested in curbing bullying and hate speech, they might look at the sayings of Mohammad:

• Muhammad said that “the hour will not come until Muslims fight and kill the Jews and the Jews will hide behind trees and rocks, and these trees and rocks will cry out saying, ‘O Muslim, slave of Allah, this Jew is hiding behind me, come and kill him.’” (Hadith no 5203; Reported by Muslim)

Because of these negative characterizations, Jews have fled Muslim countries en masse and are now suffering from escalating Islamic persecution as Muslim populations grow in Western nations. However, our secular authorities seem to be unconcerned about this as they – lacking any higher, objective moral principles and governed only by pragmatic concerns – are being pushed by circumstances or the loudest and pushiest interest group.

Meanwhile, according to the Voice of the Martyrs, 160,000 Christians are being exterminated a year, mostly in Islamic countries, but no Western nations are protesting in any meaningful way.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens: Deceased at 62

Hitchens died of pneumonia, a complication of cancer of the esophagus, Vanity Fair magazine said.

• “Christopher Hitchens – the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant – died today at the age of 62,” Vanity Fair said.

• Hitchens was not one to mince words. In his book on Bill Clinton “No one left to lie to”, he called the former U.S. president a “rapist” and a “con man.” He once referred to Mother Teresa of Calcutta as a “fanatical Albanian dwarf.”

• The 2001 attacks on the United States by Islamic fundamentalists in hijacked passenger planes made Hitchens ever more critical of the role of religion in the world, and led him to appreciate the merits of American democracy.

• “I am absolutely convinced that the main source of hatred in the world is religion, and organized religion,” he wrote.

Hitchens was right – “the main source of hatred in the world is religion.” However, I think that he defined “religion” a little too narrowly, leaving out Communism, Atheism, Secular Humanism, Nazism and a variety of other “isms.”

Why should we regard these as “religions?” Well, for one thing, they always had been regarded as such. Here are some affirmations of this fact:

• BERTRAND RUSSELL: “The greatest danger in our day comes from new religions, communism and Nazism. To call these religions may perhaps be objectionable both to their friends and enemies, but in fact they have all the characteristics of religions…”

• THE FIRST HUMANIST MANIFESTO (Paul Kurtz, 1933): “Humanism is a philosophical, religious, and moral point of view.”

• JOHN DEWEY, WHO SIGNED THE MANIFESTO: “Here are all the elements for a religious faith that shall not be confined to sect, class or race…It remains to make it explicit and militant.”

• THE US SUPREME COURT (Torasco v. Watkins – 1961): “Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others.”

Why does secularism and atheism now disown the idea that they are religions? If they were regarded as religions, they would then be subject to the legal rulings that discriminate against religions and their promotion, and this is something that they find unacceptable. David Noebel observed that,

• Kurtz understands this, admitting that if Secular Humanism is a religion, "then we would be faced with a violation of the First Amendment…” (All the above quoted from, Understanding the Times, 16-18)

If you doubt how tenaciously the Atheist denies that Atheism is a religion, just call Atheism a religion, and you’ll receive an angry denunciation.

What is Our Humanity and Why this Question Matters

Historian, Richard Weikart, claims that when we fail to understand humankind correctly, we will fail to treat humankind correctly. He cites the late psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl:

• When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone. I became acquainted, with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment--or, as the Nazi liked to say, of 'Blood and Soil.' I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.

Frankl and Weikart couldn’t be more right. As surely as the sun shepherds its rays as it traverses our sky, so too do ideas govern our thinking and subsequently our behavior. If we regard humanity as a product – merely a result – of deterministic forces, then we’ll treat humanity as a result and think nothing of manipulating them into whatever suits us.

It matters little whether the deterministic forces are of “nature or nurture” – genetics or social conditioning or a combination of the two – we are still no more than an accident of mindless uncaring forces. Think of a baby, long-awaited and beloved by her parents. Now think of a baby hatched in a laboratory, the result of an experiment or perhaps one of millions concocted by an economic enterprise to raise an army of workers. Which will we respect and value more? Our ideas matter!

The degradation of humanity was hastened by materialism of the 19th century. Humanity was relegated to the status an evolutionary accident, even to the extent of denying our freewill. After all, according the materialistic orthodoxy, we are merely a sack of chemicals producing electro-chemical reactions. Also, we are animals without any qualitative difference from fleas and mosquitoes. If they can be swatted into oblivion, so too can we! Weikart writes:

• One of the most prominent popularizers of Darwinism in Germany, the famous materialist Ludwig Büchner, published The Power of Heredity and Its Influence on the Moral and Mental Progress of Humanity in 1882. In the midst of his extended argument for biological determinism of mental and moral traits, Büchner showed where his vision of humanity led. He stated, "In the flow [of time] the individual is nothing, the species is everything; and history, just as nature, marks each of its steps forward, even the smallest, with innumerable piles of corpses."

Consequently, the idea of producing a master species became acceptable, a fact evidently not lost on Adolph Hitler. The eugenics movement was a logical corollary to this philosophical shift:

• By the 1890s and especially in the early twentieth century, the eugenics movement gained popularity, especially in medical circles, in Europe and the United States. Eugenics was driven in part by fears that modern institutions had set aside the beneficial aspects of natural selection. Eugenicists continually played on the specter of weak and sickly humans beings preserved through modern medicine, hygiene, and charitable institutions, while the more intelligent and supposedly better human beings were beginning to voluntarily restrict their reproduction. This was producing biological degeneration, according to many eugenicists. Their solution? Introduce artificial selection by restricting the reproduction of the so-called "inferior" and encouraging the "superior" to procreate. Biological determinism permeated the eugenics movement, which pressed for marriage restrictions, compulsory sterilization, and sometimes even involuntary euthanasia for the disabled, because they were deemed biologically inferior.

It is inevitable that, as we think, so too will we act. If our view of the human race is mechanistic, our treatment of humanity will be mechanistic and manipulative. A variation of this materialistic and deterministic understanding – Marxism – also arose in the 19th century. Humanity was no more than the product of the economic system. (Well, who made the economic system?) Change the system and you change humanity. Therefore, humans were once again merely objects for manipulation and even extermination – whatever it took to build the Marxist paradise. We, mere products of chance and accident, were expendable.

We need an accurate understanding of humanity, one that recognizes our glorious origin and Divine purpose, an understanding that confers honor upon us and not dishonor (No wonder there is such a pre-occupation about building self-esteem now that society has destroyed it!). This understanding is found in the first chapter of Genesis:

• Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

Whenever this vital understanding is lost, so too is our humanity.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Deception: Counterfeit Signs and Wonders

Jesus prophesied that, in the last days, demonic miraculous deceptions would proliferate:

• “At that time [of Tribulation] if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.” (Matthew 24:23-24)

Although those who are truly His will continue in the faith, I don’t think that we are at all prepared for how powerful these deceptions will be and how many will leave our ranks – perhaps only temporarily – because of them. Recent counterfeit wonders and the resulting apostasy give us a small taste of what is to come. It is therefore profitable to acquaint ourselves with them.

In 1990 Rodney Howard-Browne was invited to preach at Benny Hinn’s church. Hank Hanegraaff writes that “pastors and parishioners began to fall, laugh, and get drunk in the Spirit.” Consequently, Hinn declared that “This is the Holy Ghost, people, I’m telling you. Lift your hands and thank Him for this. This is the Holy Ghost here!” And this was only the beginning. In Pastor Karl Strader’s church:

• Some even went “dumb in the Spirit.” Most notably among them was Pastor Strader, who struggled pathetically to speak but could only emit unintelligible grunts. Eventually, when he came to himself, Strader declared this extravaganza to be “the greatest move of God I’ve ever seen. It was like something in the history books. (Counterfeit Revival, 29)

Howard-Browne was then invited to speak at Oral Roberts University, where Roberts claimed that he,

• “Touched the life of our student body, including our athletes. Nobody has ever touched our athletes…All of them got the Holy Laughter…thousands of ‘em, and when he came by and said ‘Fill!,’ they fell in the Spirit on the grounds.” The response, in fact, was so overwhelming that classes had to be cancelled as students fell to the floor and laughed…There’s no question about it, he changed my life and my son’s life.” (32)

Although there is no Biblical assurance that these are genuine manifestations of the Spirit, a couple of revivalists were so impressed that they concluded,

• The Spirit of God is moving in breathtaking and sometimes startling new ways, and people of every tongue and every nation are…falling in love with Jesus in a brand new way! (33)

Hanegraaff relates so many accounts where people were absolutely overwhelmed by the supernatural, sometimes against their most strenuous efforts:

• “Suddenly she tried to get up and got as far as a crawl position on her hands and knees, and then she froze right on the spot, completely unable to move…She remained in exactly the same position for at least forty-five minutes.” (35)

Others have similar accounts:

• When standing to be recognized in the church gathering, many mothers “fell and remained on the floor for about 20 minutes, laughing.” At a previous January service, the “participants were swept up in a fervor of what they said was the power of the Holy Spirit. They laughed or shook uncontrollably and fell to the floor.”

• About what happened at one Vineyard gathering, a pastor reported of a fellow who, “described [his] . . . experience as equivalent to six months of therapy.”[3]

• “What am I to believe about these manifestations? Do they come from the Holy Spirit? Or, in failing to appreciate and apply the ‘Toronto Blessing,’ am I missing something that could bless my personal Christian walk and the congregation I pastor?”

The revival was then imported by Toronto Airport Vineyard Pastor John Arnott, where it became known as the “Toronto Blessing.” The experience radically transformed Arnott’s ministry. He had to “relearn” a lot:

• “We used to think when people shook, shouted, flopped, rolled, etc., that it was a demonic thing manifesting and we needed to take them out of the room.” (52)

How did Arnott overcome his former reservations? He decided to turn off his critical faculties and trust in this new work of the Spirit:

• “If you play it safe with this thing, the Holy Spirit, you know what? You’re never going to get anywhere.” (52)

This became the operating practice for the Vineyard churches – leap first and ask questions later, if at all. In 1995, Phil Johnson visited the Anaheim Vineyard and was shocked to hear from the pulpit:

• “And above all, don't try to rationally evaluate the things you will see. God isn't trying to reach your mind; He wants to reach your heart. Analyzing spiritual phenomena through the grid of human logic or religious presuppositions is the quickest way to quench what the Spirit is doing. Subjecting the revival to doctrinal tests is the surest way to put out the fire. Don't try to find reasonable explanations for what is happening; just turn your heart loose and let the Spirit flow through your emotions. Only then can the Spirit have His way in your life.”

However, leaping first meant that Scripture had to be put aside. Scripture didn’t give any sanction to disorder – leaping, barking, laughing, and twitching all over:

• But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (1 Cor. 14:40)

• The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. (1 Cor. 14:32-33)

In contrast to the “Toronto Blessing” chaos, Paul argued that disorder would turn people away from the truth:

• So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? (1 Cor. 14:23)

No “Blessing” can be complete without prophets to encourage and interpret it, and the Vineyard became a magnet for them. However, they lowered the bar. Vineyard prophet David Ravenhill (and the others) changed the Rule-Book:

• “I believe the test of a prophet is not whether his word comes to pass…it’s the nature of that person’s life.” (75)

The fruits of their lives would only become apparent much later. Removing the prophecy test opened the door to many “prophets.” However, removing this test is a violation of Scripture:

• You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him. (Deut. 18:21-22)

The Word of God required stringent protective tests. This test would insure the purity of the Word of God. The false prophets would be infallibly ruled out, otherwise Scripture, the basis of all life and worship, would suffer contamination. Consequently without this most stringent test, the Vineyard had a surplus of prophets, and they consolidated their position through intimidation. One, Rick Joyner, warned:

• “Some who are presently in leadership that resist this move will become so hardened they will become opposers and persecutors of the church. Others will be changed and repent of their hardness of heart, even though, in some cases, their resistance to the Holy Spirit will have disqualified them from leadership. This growing tide of unity in the church will reveal the true nature of those in leadership.” (96)

As a result, the Vineyard prophets could not be tested, lest the doubters become charged with resisting the Holy Spirit. However, testing the prophets or spirits is something that we are commanded to do (1 Thess. 5:19:21; 1 John 4:1-3). If we fail to do this, we are derelict in our duty:

• If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. (Deut. 13:1-4)

Faithfulness to God’s Word had to take precedence even over miraculous wonders. However, the Vineyard prophets protected their exalted position by eliminating the Biblical safeguards. This opened the door to a lot of bad theology. Even John Wimber, the leader of the Vineyard churches, warned that,

• “Evangelicals all over the country are worshiping the book. They have God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Book.” (109)

Wimber had come out of the Calvary Chapel movement but turned against them:

• “Calvaryites are sometimes a little too heavily oriented to the written Word. I know that sounds a little dangerous, but frankly they’re very pharisaical in their allegiance to the Bible. They have little life and growth and spontaneity in their innards. Sometimes they’re very rigid and can’t receive much of the things of the Lord.” (109)

However, without the Word, we have no defense against Satan who “transforms himself into an angel of light” (1 Cor. 11:14). Peter instructs us to “be vigilant” against the devil (1 Peter 5:8), but we cannot fulfill this without the guidelines of the Word.

Paul warned the Ephesian church that,

• Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:30-32)

According to Paul, it is the “word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” It is also the word that will alert them against those who would “distort the truth in order to draw away disciples.”

Another Vineyard prophet, Jack Deere, also warned against exercising any discernment:

• “God is in the process of offending our minds in order to reveal our hearts.” (76)

According to Deere, our thinking just gets in the way. Therefore, the Spirit has to take it out of the way so that we can receive. Wimber also had warned that this rigidity of mind would prevent us from “receiv[ing] much of the things of the Lord.”

However, nowhere is Scripture do we read that too much thinking on Scripture impedes the work of the Spirit. Instead, the Berean church had been commended because they didn’t receive Paul’s teachings immediately but “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17 :11).

Similarly, Jesus instructed His followers to not believe Him without corroborating evidences. However, because there were such supporting evidences, they were to believe (John 5:31-38). This is only reasonable. In the Bible, everything had to find support from at least two or three witnesses (Deut. 19:15). The Bible wasn’t about blind faith but a reasoned faith.

Although the Vineyard had many prophets, they also had one premier prophet, Paul Cain. How did he become prophet #1? Orrel Steinkamp writes:

• Cain was given a special place of recognition because of his nearly always-accurate clairvoyant ability to see things that no one else could. In a sense, he was like the second coming of Branham. All the other prophetic wannabes aspired to become like Cain and were always having to justify the fact that their prophecies never really ever attained anything near to Cain's apparent accuracy. To be sure, Cain has had an occasional slip. He once prophesied that Bill Clinton would lead America in a worldwide revival.

Wimber declared that the prophetic power resident in Cain is so awesome that:

• “He’s interacting in two dimensions continually. He’s not only seeing you and talking to you, but he’s hearing from God constantly.” (145)

Despite his powers, Cain erroneously prophesied that,

• “God is now raising up a Christian army to take over the socio-political systems of the day…Not even Elijah or Peter or Paul or anyone else enjoyed the power that is going to rest upon this great army.” (106)

In addition to a number of erroneous prophecies, Cain had other problems. One of the Vineyard prophets, Rick Joyner, who also had had his own sexual flings, wrote on his website:

• "In February 2004, we were made aware that Paul had become an alcoholic. In April 2004, we confronted Paul with evidence that he had recently been involved in homosexual activity. Paul admitted to these sinful practices and was placed under discipline, agreeing to a process of restoration, which the three of us would oversee. However, Paul has resisted this process and has continued in his sin... With our deepest regrets and sincerity, Rick Joyner, Jack Deere, Mike Bickle." http://www.morrnnsstrarministries.ore/oages/ special~bulleu.ns/0ct_19.html

A prophet of God can be no less a man-of-God than elders. The Apostle Paul stipulated the requirements for eldership:

• Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (Titus 1:7-9)

David Pyches, who has authored a book extolling the Kansas City prophets [forerunners of the Vineyard], explains the clairvoyant talent of Paul Cain:

• "Paul's mother, grandmother, and great grandmother had all been born with the gift of seeing. His great-grandmother would sometimes see things in broad daylight and ask her friend or family if they could see them too. If they said they could not, she would occasionally wave her hand upon them and they would immediately see the identical vision... Paul now found he was "seeing" also and would know things that were going to happen to classmates at school or were happening to absent friends. (Pyches, pgs. 24,26.)

We shouldn’t be overly skeptical at the mention of clairvoyance. The Bible refers to many false prophets. And there’s no reason to dismiss the idea that they might have had a supernatural demonic connection. Paul had even cast the demon out of one woman who had been so successful that she was able to make her master money with her “gift.” However, without the demon, she became worthless to her master.
So many had been hurt by the “Toronto Blessing!” Many of the disappointed had wandered away from the church after the inconsistencies had become apparent! This could have been avoided had people been willing to put Scripture before experience. Sadly, we are too ready to put miracles above the warnings of the Bible, the quick-fix above God’s truth.

Paul’s final words to the Ephesians included these:

• Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)

We are too ready to think that we are missing out on some spiritual blessing. However, we are instructed that we have everything that we need in Christ (Col. 2:9-10) and in His Word:

• All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

If we truly know that we are “thoroughly equipped for every good work.,” perhaps we might be able to resist the next prophet or the next set of miraculous signs!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Investigating the Fruit of the Politician

Politicians are rightly known for their love of power and influence and what they will do in order to obtain and maintain that power. Hitler might be an extreme example, but he was also a very typical politician in his use of deception and manipulation to achieve his goals. In his public persona, he charmed his people, demonstrating that he was truly one of them:

• In public statements, especially at the beginning of his rule, Hitler frequently spoke positively about the Christian German culture, and his belief in an Aryan Christ. Before his ascension to power, Hitler stated before a crowd in Munich: "My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice."

• In a proclamation to the German Nation February 1, 1933 Hitler stated, "The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life."

• Historian Joachim Fest wrote, "Hitler knew, through the constant invocation of the God the Lord (German: Herrgott) or of providence (German: Vorsehung), to make the impression of a godly way of thought." He used his "ability to simulate, even to potentially critical Church leaders, an image of a leader keen to uphold and protect Christianity," according to biographer Ian Kershaw. Kershaw adds that Hitler's ability also succeeded in appeasing possible Church resistance to anti-Christian Nazi Party radicals. For example, on March 23, 1933, he addressed the Reichstag: "The National Government regards the two Christian confessions [i.e. Catholicism and Protestantism] as factors essential to the soul of the German people. ... We hold the spiritual forces of Christianity to be indispensable elements in the moral uplift of most of the German people."

• According to Hitler's chief architect Albert Speer, Hitler remained a formal member of the Catholic Church until his death, and even ordered his chief associates to remain members, however it was Speer's opinion that "he had no real attachment to it."

• "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."

• Elsewhere in Mein Kampf Hitler speaks of the "creator of the universe" and "eternal Providence." He also states his belief that the Aryan race was created by God, and that it would be a sin to dilute it through racial intermixing:

• "The folkish-minded man, in particular, has the sacred duty, each in his own denomination, of making people stop just talking superficially of God's will, and actually fulfill God's will, and not let God's word be desecrated. For God's will gave men their form, their essence and their abilities. Anyone who destroys His work is declaring war on the Lord's creation, the divine will."

However, as is often the case with the most successful and skillful politicians, their private beliefs pronouncements, which drive their policies, may not at all match their public proclamations. His closest associates, “Joseph Goebbels, Albert Speer, and Martin Bormann suggest that Hitler generally had negative opinions of Christianity.”

• It was Goebbels opinion that Hitler was "deeply religious but entirely anti-Christian." In his diary Goebbels reported that Hitler believed Jesus "also wanted to act against the Jewish world domination. Jewry had him crucified. But Paul falsified his doctrine and undermined ancient Rome. "Albert Speer quotes Hitler stating, "You see, it's been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn't we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?"

• Author Konrad Heiden has quoted Hitler as stating, "We do not want any other god than Germany itself. It is essential to have fanatical faith and hope and love in and for Germany." According to historian Laurence Rees, "Hitler did not believe in the afterlife, but he did believe he would have a life after death because of what he had achieved." Historian Richard Overy maintains that Hitler was not a "practising Christian," nor was he a "thorough atheist." (All the above quotes are taken from Wikipedia.)

Here are some quotations from Hitler’s own mouth:

• Night of 11th-12th July, 1941: "National Socialism and religion cannot exist together....The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity....Let it not be said that Christianity brought man the life of the soul, for that evolution was in the natural order of things." (p 6 & 7)

• 10th October, 1941, midday: "Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure." (p 43)

• 14th October, 1941, midday: "The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death.... When understanding of the universe has become widespread... Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity....Christianity has reached the peak of absurdity.... And that's why someday its structure will collapse....the only way to get rid of Christianity is to allow it to die little by little....We'll see to it that the Churches cannot spread abroad teachings in conflict with the interests of the State." (p 49-52)

• 19th October, 1941, night: “The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity."

• 21st October, 1941, midday: "Originally, Christianity was merely an incarnation of Bolshevism, the destroyer....The decisive falsification of Jesus' doctrine was the work of St.Paul. He gave himself to this work... for the purposes of personal exploitation....Didn't the world see, carried on right into the Middle Ages, the same old system of martyrs, tortures, faggots? Of old, it was in the name of Christianity. Today, it's in the name of Bolshevism. Yesterday the instigator was Saul: the instigator today, Mardochai. Saul was changed into St.Paul, and Mardochai into Karl Marx. By exterminating this pest, we shall do humanity a service of which our soldiers can have no idea." (p 63-65)

• 13th December, 1941, midnight: "Christianity is an invention of sick brains: one could imagine nothing more senseless, nor any more indecent way of turning the idea of the Godhead into a mockery…When all is said, we have no reason to wish that the Italians and Spaniards should free themselves from the drug of Christianity. Let's be the only people who are immunised against the disease." (p 118-119)

• 14th December, 1941, midday: "Kerrl, with noblest of intentions, wanted to attempt a synthesis between National Socialism and Christianity. I don't believe the thing's possible, and I see the obstacle in Christianity itself....Pure Christianity-- the Christianity of the catacombs-- is concerned with translating Christian doctrine into facts. It leads quite simply to the annihilation of mankind. It is merely whole-hearted Bolshevism, under a tinsel of metaphysics." (p 119 & 120)

• 27th February, 1942, midday: "It would always be disagreeable for me to go down to posterity as a man who made concessions in this field. I realize that man, in his imperfection, can commit innumerable errors-- but to devote myself deliberately to errors, that is something I cannot do. I shall never come personally to terms with the Christian lie…Our epoch in the next 200 years will certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity.... My regret will have been that I couldn't... behold ." (p 278)

He might not have been a “thorough atheist,” but his promotion of himself and his race reflect a humanist rather than a theist perspective:

• The claim to be the representatives of a new paganism was not just a personal idiosyncrasy of a few minor figures in the Nazi regime. The conviction of being in the vanguard of a new ideological force in European culture was an integral part of Nazi thinking. Among the most prominent features of this new paganism can be discerned in the exaltation of the personality of Adolph Hitler, the propagation of the ‘religion of blood’ and the attempts to provide pagan equivalents for outdated Christian ceremonies.” (J.S. Conway, “The Nazi Persecution of the Churches”)

His policies also reflected his negative assessment of the Christian faith:

• By 1939, only 2% of the university student body was enrolled in theological students as compared to 6% in 1933. (Conway)

• In West Prussia, out of 690 parish priests, at least 2/3 were arrested and the remainder escaped…No less than 214 were executed…By 1940 only 20 priests were left in their parishes. (Conway)

• Christian schools disappeared altogether by 1940. ‘The Catholic German Center Party’ was extinguished; Christian trade unions were undermined; religious youth groups were bullied and vilified, and their sporting events, camps, parades, and uniforms banned. Monks and nuns by the hundreds were brought up on bogus charges of currency violations and sexual perversions. Carols and nativity plays were barred from classrooms; crosses gradually stripped from hospitals and schools; the religious press censored and circumscribed…and theological faculties at universities starved of replacements. (Carroll and Shifflet, Christianity on Trial)

All of this means that we must be discerning. It is not enough to simply listen to what someone says. Instead, we have to also look at what they do (and what they have done.):

• Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:15-20)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hate Speech, Bigotry and the Bible

The Bible pours forth “hate speech.” Peter and the Apostles had just been arrested for the third time for preaching the Gospel. The ruling religious council, the Sanhedrin, reminded them:

• We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name…Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood. (Acts 5:28)

The Apostles had been deemed guilty of uttering “hate speech,” making the authorities “guilty of this man’s blood.” However, Peter, filled with the Spirit, did nothing to retract the damning indictment:

• We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. (Acts 5:29-32)

In fact, Peter intensified the charge stating “you had killed [Jesus] by hanging him on a tree.” That’s calling your judge a murderer! It might be true, but the truth is seldom well-received:

• When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. (Acts 5:33)

Hate speech is one thing but hate speech which indicts the ruling body represents a quantum leap. Couldn’t Peter have expressed himself in a less offensive way? Wasn’t he foolish to not anticipate the response, which should have been entirely predictable? But perhaps offensive speech, if it poignantly reveals the cancer of sin, should not be regarded as “hate speech,” but as “love speech!”

The Gospel proclaims many things that are highly offensive. It tells us all that we are sinners who deserve nothing less than judgment and death. It gives us the one solution to our problems – the death of the God-man Jesus, who we all put to death by our sins – and warns us that He is the ONLY way. This, of course, is entirely offensive to those who believe in and rely upon other ways. It is so offensive, that many now regard the Gospel as “hate speech.”

Indeed, the Gospel knows nothing about political correctness, multi-culturalism, religious-pluralism, and honoring the spiritual solutions of other religions. Jesus even informed the doctors of the Law - those under the Mosaic Covenant:

• You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins. (John 8:23-24)

No sensitivity at all! The Rabbis had to believe in Jesus! No wonder they put Him to death! The Jewish leadership had their own God-given covenant. How could Jesus have suggested that their way wasn’t good enough? What hubris! What hate speech!

However, this was healing speech. If the Rabbis had alienated themselves from God through their sins, the first step was to correctly diagnose the problem. The second step was to apply the solution – Jesus the Messiah!

Peter had learned well from his Master. He revealed to the Sanhedrin the problem – their sin. Then he offered the “offensive” solution: “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.”

Yes, the answer is highly offensive. It informed these educated and esteemed Rabbis that they are sinners – murderers – and they had to seek forgiveness from the One they both hated and murdered.

Was this “hate speech?” No! It offered them the only hope for the worst of fates – eternal separation from God! Did they regard this as “hate speech?” Yes, and they beat the Apostles.

Today, many in the church maintain a highly errant belief: “We aren’t supposed to confront others about their sins. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit!” Well, even if it is the work of the Spirit, everything else is the work of the Spirit. Even the hairs on our head are numbered by the Spirit (Matthew 10:30).

However, simply because everything is the work of the Spirit, it doesn’t mean that some things aren’t also our work. (We theologians call this “synergism.”) Even though we are His workmanship (Eph. 2:10), we also bear the consequences of our unfaithfulness and disobedience. Likewise, we have a responsibility to be His representatives, sometimes even to convict others of their sins. This is what the Prophets of Israel had been called to.

Is it therefore “hateful” or “bigoted” to confront others about their sins or is it loving. It might be convenient to not say anything, but does it demonstrate loving concern for their ultimate welfare? We have a duty to uncover sin:

• Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them…But everything exposed by the light becomes visible. (Ephes. 5:11-13)

We are to be the light! Of course, this isn’t easy, and it isn’t even advisable if we are guilty of similar sins of which we haven’t repented. However, silence is taken as acceptance. If through silence we fail to expose sin, we are saying, in effect, “You are fine just the way you are.” We thereby become partakers, and their blood is then upon us (Ezekiel 33:7-9).

It is therefore loving to confront others about their sins, whether financial, sexual, or even sins of the mind or mouth. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise!