Friday, January 27, 2006

Her Head May Be Big Today

Why is Mrs. Groover's head is swelling (Steven's 5th grade teacher)? Every year, the Scott City Christian School hosts the Mid-Winter Tournament. My part in this fun filled day is simple. I am the guy that reads the questions during Pace Bowl. It is sort of a quiz bowl on a game show. It is a lot of fun.

There is simply one problem. By lunch time, my son has won three Blue ribbons. One is for Geography, one is for Bible, one is for Cup Stacking. The final (fourth) one was for pace bowl, and that was a team effort. He even made it to the third round in the spelling bee (an accomplishment for him). So in the end, I miss seeing how smart that kid is.

Rachel managed to get a Blue ribbon in Cycle Cup Stacking and Pace bowl. Rachel was the youngest and fastest in her group for Cup Stacking. The old saying, "When she is good, she is very good..." applies to her.

So I guess, I just had to brag. In the end though, Mrs. Groover deserves the big kudos. She has had experience in both homeschooling and private education. It was her 5th graders that took every Blue Ribbon available and some others as well.

There were so many Christian families that gathered today. Many were private schools, but there were many home-schoolers too. It always amazes me how many of these people come out of the woodwork. But none are blessed with Mrs. Groover.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Modern Prophets Verses the Spirit

A discussion with a pastor friend of mine reminded me of a conversation I had with a Pentecostal woman many moons ago. This Pentecostal woman believed she had the gift of prophecy, and therefore, was some kind of woman prophet in our local church. I realize that the idea of prophesying brings up a whole host of questions, but I mainly want to deal with a question that my pastor friend is dealing with.

We [the prophet and I] had discussed Chuck Swindoll’s style of preaching. According to my “prophet friend”, she thought he was being too intellectual and missing the meaning of the Bible by getting too much into the meaning of words and technical stuff. Although I had not seen Swindoll’s preaching as being overly technical, she did. How should we approach people, who think pastors are being overly studious in their approach to Scripture?

First, the question should be asked, “Why do pastors need to study the Scriptures and if possible in their original languages?” The answer is quite simple. They are responsible before God to be as accurate as possible in their understanding of God’s Word. They are also responsible in their teaching and preaching of that Word.

Quite often, a pastor that is attempting to be faithful to the text of Scripture is seen as being an intellectual snob. Although this does happen, those men, who are faithful, are attempting to communicate the truths of Scripture to the people of God. Men do not need moralistic mumbo jumbo that makes them feel good, but the Gospel proclaimed consistently and faithfully.

Therefore, to answer the first question, we must understand the Spirit of God has given to us everything we need for doctrine in the Scriptures. Yes, the Spirit has given us other gifts besides the Scriptures. However, those gifts are governed by the absolute Authority of the Spirit as expressed in the Book He wrote.

To claim all we need is the Spirit at the loss of the meaning of the Text is to divorce the Spirit’s work. This is dangerous. I have personally seen the road that this leads churches. Once again, those of you, who pastor churches, must remain faithful in season and out of season. These false prophets will come and go, but the Word of our Lord remains.

Monday, January 23, 2006

In Season and Out of Season

Quite often, Pastors are so busy doing the "work of the ministry" that they don't do the work God calls them to do. A great job description of a pastor was written at Today's's Blog. Albert Mohler gives a good reminder to those men, who preach and teach and pastor in Christ's church. Pastors will be encouraged today as you remember why you entered the ministry. He says:

The life of the preacher is a life of study, and it has been so from the very beginning. The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to study so that he could present himself to God as an approved worker, "a worker who has no need to be ashamed" [2 Timothy 2:15].

A word of honesty is necessary at this point. Any honest assessment of the contemporary church would indicate that vast numbers of ministers serving Christ's church are derelict in this duty. They are intellectually lazy, biblically illiterate, slothful in their study habits, and they often steal the learning of others in order to hide their own disobedience. This is a scandal that robs the congregation of the learned and faithful ministry the people of God so desperately need and deserve.

He concludes his thoughts by stating:

Ultimately, the preacher's calling is a call to serve the people of God. That's why a consideration of the call should include a careful analysis of the man's ability to preach, to teach, and to love the church for whom Christ died.

It is the duty of the minister of God to study God's Word diligently and to feed His sheep. May those pastors who might read this be encouraged to remain faithful in the most high calling. As has been said by many who have gone before us, preachers can steer the world to or away from Christ. Christ's sheep are hungry for God's Word. We desire to hear from Him every Lord's Day. It may be difficult to overcome the entertainment that fills so many worship services, but remaining faithful and being ready in season and out of season is your duty.

May God Bless the faithful Pastor, who preaches the Word when people listen and when they do not.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Needing a Prisoner Exchange Program

I first saw this link on Dr. White's Blog and thought it was a Roman Catholic Priest speaking Protestant terms without their meaning. But even Dr. White seemed a little impressed. Then John Mark gave a quote of the Meditation on his Blog that was too amazing to shrug off:

"All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood, to prove his righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed, through the forbearance of God -- to prove his righteousness in the present time, that he might be righteous and justify the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:23-26).

Nothing of this text can be understood, even to the point that it could inspire fear more than consolation (as occurred for centuries), if the term "righteousness of God" is interpreted incorrectly. It was Luther who rediscovered that "righteousness of God" does not indicate here chastisement, or worse, his revenge, toward man, but rather it indicates, on the contrary, the act through which God "makes" man "just." (He really said "declares," not "makes," just, because he was thinking of an extrinsic or legal justification, in an imputation of justice, more than a real being made just.)

Here is the novelty that distinguishes the Christian religion from any other. Any other religion draws out for man a path to salvation by means of practical observations and intellectual speculations, promising him, as a final prize, salvation and illumination, but leaving him substantially alone in achieving the task. Christianity does not begin with what man must do to save himself, but rather with what God has done to save him. The order is reversed.

Is Luther getting a second chance? This is the beauty of a church that is as large as Rome's. Even though Rome has anathemetized anyone who holds to the doctrine of "imputation", sometimes a man will become overwhelmed with historical reality and Biblical truth.

In conclusion, I remain convinced that there are many Protestants who are now apostates from the Biblical faith. I see there are also many Roman Catholics who may equally be lost from Rome while standing in their camp. Perhaps we should send some delegates and arrange a prisoner swap.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Counted Righteous in Christ and The God Who Justifies

Disturbing Footnote 10, page 125:

"Gundry sees himself as a part of a larger shift away from the historic doctrine. 'It is no accident, then, that in New Testament theologians' recent and current treatments of justification, you would be hard-pressed to find any discussion of an imputation of Christ's righteousness.... The notion is passe.'"

I have been noticing a trend. More and more good solid pastors are fearing what is coming down the pike. What is coming down is Open-Theism, and a denial of the Imputation of Christ's righteousness in the historic doctrine of Justification. So I highly recommend John Piper's book Counted Righteous in Christ (125 pages).

The book is written for the average layman even though it admits "Chapter 3 is a rigorous and demanding exegetical argument. But disciplined minds can follow the argument without advanced theological training or foreign languages. In fact I would encourage the effort. Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves. Digging is hard, but you might find gold."

He is right. The book is very readable and challenging at the same time. But it also follows John Piper's typical passion for God's Glory. The book is not some scholarly treatise written to bore the average person, but instead is written to convince the minds of Christians to remain faithful to God's Word.

Two things I walked away with from the book. First, is cited Wilberforce's argument that Justification with the doctrine of Imputation of Christ's righteousness is necessary to redeem a society. So many churches and preachers are willing to have "Justice Sunday's" shown in their churches. This may force society to follow certain laws by mere external force, but it will never convert society to Christ from a regenerated heart.

Second, I was reminded that so many are on the road back to Rome. When Justification becomes more like Roman Catholicism's "Impartation" or "Infusion" of righteousness, then men will simply never have peace with God. Justification must be forensic and Christ's Righteousness must be mine by faith alone. It is this Imputation or Crediting of Christ's righteousness (a Declaration of being Righteous in Christ) that sets a soul free from the guilt of sin and allows for and gives a basis to sanctification and a life of moral goodness.

Buy the book!

I also want to recommend a book that may be a little more difficult but equally worth the read, The God Who Justifies by Dr. James R. White. This book gives much more on the Doctrine of Justification and gives exegesis of the major texts that demonstrate the historic Protestant view. What is also good about this book is that it offers the most in depth exegesis of James chapter 2 written for laymen that I have read.

In fact, now that I have read Piper's book, I think I need to go back and read White's book again.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Final Exam

Well, it is finally over. I almost hate to see it end. Today, I preached my Final Exam for Pastor Glidewell and his congregation at the Southern Baptist Church in St. Francis, KS. It was a little rough at points and some of my points didn't quite flow like I wanted. There were even some things I wanted to say and just didn't. But hey, the basic message went out, and God's people seemed to benefit from it. So I guess I received atleast a D-. ;-)

After the service, Pastor Glidewell had my family and me over for dinner (his wife really went all out. I thought the Christmas season had started again...), and we had some great fellowship for most of the afternoon. In fact, I think if my wife didn't get up we might have spent the night talking. Discussing the things of the Lord just seems to pass the time.

I look forward to the next class I will be able to take with Pastor Glidewell. Thanks Pastor.

BTW, if you would like to suffer through the message, here it is.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Children Are Not Choices

Sometimes I just wonder about the Pro-life movement. I just listened to a Pro-life commercial talking about the need to give women a real choice. In this way, if women have a real choice, then they can have the opportunity to choose life.

I find this kind of philosophical mumbo jumbo just that...mumbo jumbo. How is offering a woman a "real" choice from killing her child any less offensive? It may be a great marketing tactic to get women to come to a Crisis Pregnancy Center, but it is intellectually devoid of any real thought.

As my bumper sticker says, "I'm A Child, Not a Choice!"

Why Not Add the Wachowski Brothers?

“Therefore, I find hyper-Calvinism to be gross error at best. In my opinion, it is merely pagan fatalism dressed up in Christian garb. It makes Jehovah/Yahweh no different than Allah, the Greek and Roman gods, the Norse gods, etc.”

In Larry and Andy Wachowski’s movie The Matrix, a story is written about a man named Neo, who attempts to save a place named Zion from certain destruction by the “Machines”. The Machines have invented a place called the Matrix in order to enslave humans as a power source for their world. Humans only live mentally in this Matrix world as they are hooked up through a computer system. So it is simply a computer generated world in which people live.

The problem with this computer-generated world is that the original world made by the machines was a failure. It was too mathematically perfect. The Machines had to make a world full of calamities in order for people to “accept it” as reality. The problem with the second Matrix was that a mathematical anomaly was built into the system. The anomaly had to account for “choice”.

A Machine woman character named the “Oracle” was able to predict many things Neo was going to do. This drove Neo crazy. He hated the idea that everything he was going to do seemed fixed. He wanted true freedom and no one to be in control of his future. In the end, Neo was satisfied that both were true. Though the future was mathematically fixed, he still did what he did, because he “chose” to.

How does this apply to this conversation? It is obvious that many false and man-made religions have recognized that the future must be fixed if it already exists in someone’s mind (mathematically or otherwise). Therefore they sought to suppress that truth as being to an infinite God and giving that power to a human like deity. A deity they could control. There simply is not much of a parallel left when God becomes a pathetic man.

Instead, what we have today is naturalism determining our future. Natural chemicals cause everything we do. Hence those judges, who believe we need not punish but rehabilitate. The problem with naturalism is that you truly have fatalism of the worst kind.

Again, to compare God to some impersonal creation as controlling our fate, or comparing Him to Zeus is simply out of bounds. The God of the Bible is personal. He has created all things for his glory. He is extremely personal. Therefore our choices are real. Even, if He has ordained them all. God is beyond our comprehension. Compatabilism is plainly taught in the Bible. To explain it would be to remove one of the greatest mysteries that even the Wachowski like pagans seek to understand and control.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Point 3, The Gross Caricature

"It also makes Him capricious in that He chose winners and losers before the foundation of the world based on whim. In other words, He chose to affirmatively damn billions of souls before he ever created them. That kind of picture of my Lord is a gross caricature of Him."
I agree. The above is a gross caricature, not only of God, but the Reformed beliefs that supposedly teach this. Perhaps this is a repeat of Dave Hunt's "doomed from the womb" mentality. Whatever the case is, it shows that most people who think this way have never really read Reformed writings for themselves. Therefore, they have passed judgments on a system they have never truly investigated.

To give a great example, I once heard James White debating Dave Hunt on a radio program. Hunt admitted having never read the Reformers. Yet in six months time, he was suddenly an expert and decides to write, What Love Is This. It is more than the inability of Hunt to even understand Reformed theology, it is his inability to be honest with the people he ministers to, that may lead to such confusion.

The idea that God has forced men against their wills and forced them to sin in Adam is not Reformed theology. Confusing God's decree and his wrath against sin as being on the same basis as God's positive election of sinners to salvation by Grace Alone as being "capricious" is simply showing a great misunderstanding. Simply because we do not see why God has chosen to do what He does, does not mean God is "capricious". If God decides to give one man salvation, and God decides not to tell us why He chose that man, how is that being "capricious"?

Was God being "capricious" when He chose to raise Pharoe up for destruction? Was God being "capricious" when He chose to show mercy to Moses? God's secret purposes were being fulfilled in the lives and nations of these men. To be honest though, God did tell us why He raised Pharoe and Moses. He explains His purpose for Pharoe's destruction as well Moses's receiving mercy in Romans 9.

I once called the Dividing Line and talked with Dr. White about "Double Predestination". His conversation with me may shed some light for those of you, who may be wondering how God works in our lives when He has decreed all things. Here is the clip.

Using terms that enflame a discussion on an emotional level simply will not convince a Reformed person who knows his Bible. Saying God makes decisions based on a "whim" is simply nonsense, and any Reformed person reading the above quote would wince at the thought of comparing God's choosing of men based on His uniting them in Christ to a mere "whim". More thought needs to be put into a critique of Reformed theology before the non-Calvinist becomes convincing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

We Are Just Machines, So Some Chemical In Me Says

Why presuppositions and worldviews are important to discuss. Ideas have consequences. Here is a quote from an evolutionary website:

Retribution as a moral principle is incompatible with a scientific view of human behaviour. As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics. When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software.

So men are just chemicals and machines that respond to their environment in a mechanicalistic manner. Is this not fatalism in the realm of naturalism? The creation determining its own impersonal fate? Perhaps Richard Dawkins wrote this piece while under the influence of the lack of good chemicals in his brain. Perhaps he was sniffing too much grass in his backyard and it forced him to write such nonsense. Do these people even think or is thinking not really happening in their minds?

Never mind that man is a person. Never mind that he is made in the image of God. Never mind he is bent by sin in every part of his being.

The idea that punishment or retribution needs to rehabilitate man is nonsense. When judges start letting rapists off because they see punishment as not solving the problem of evil, then we truly have gone down the evolutionary rabbit trail too far.

By the way, punishment is not meant to be rehabilitative for the ungodly. It is meant to glorify the holiness of God and to proclaim righteousness. When God (the Biblical Triune God) is not the presupposition of a society's laws, then chaos will follow as a result of God's wrath against sin.


I forgot to ask when I originally posted this, "Why is someone's moral behavior wrong?" On what basis does Richard believe anything wrong ever occurs? If nature determines all things chemically, could it be that some chemicals in his brain are making him think that someone's immoral actions are wrong? He might even be wrong in his perception since the chemicals in his brain may not be functioning properly. How would he ever know.? How did we ever even come up with the idea of morality in a chemically driven world? Why even think when we are not really thinking!!!

Epsitemology (how we know things) becomes absolutely problematic in an atheistc/naturalistic/evolutionary world.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Dealing With Objections In Point 3

A very common objection:

3. I reject covenant theology because when understood and taken to its logical conclusion, it disparages the character of God as revealed in Scripture. It logically makes Him the author of sin. It also makes Him capricious in that He chose winners and losers before the foundation of the world based on whim. In other words, He chose to affirmatively damn billions of souls before he ever created them. That kind of picture of my Lord is a gross caricature of Him. Therefore, I find hyper-Calvinism to be gross error at best. In my opinion, it is merely pagan fatalism dressed up in Christian garb. It makes Jehovah/Yahweh no different than Allah, the Greek and Roman gods, the Norse gods, etc.

This is my favorite part of the e-mail. Some of you may be thinking, “Wow! The Reformed view of the bible is just horrible.” I suppose I ought to go bury my head in shame. I would too, if any part of it was even remotely an accurate description of Calvinism or Reformed theology. I see this objection so often I wonder if it has been copied and pasted in the minds of many Baptists today via the Internet by the likes of Dave Hunt. Since there is so much being said that is not being said (simply assumed), I will attempt to interact with this portion over some time.

The first point is that Covenant Theology is accused of disparaging the character of God by making God the Author of sin. I’d like to know how God is not the Author of everything in some sense. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology describes it this way:

“The analogy of an author writing a play may help us to grasp how both aspects can be true [God’s Providence and man’s will]. In the Shakespearean play Macbeth, the character Macbeth murders King Duncan. Now (if we assume for a moment that this a fictional account), the question may be asked, “Who killed King Duncan?” On one level, the correct answer is “Macbeth.” Within the context of the play he carried out the murder and is rightly to be blame for it. But on another level, a correct answer to the question, “Who killed Duncan?” would be “William Shakespeare”: he wrote the play, he created all the characters in it, and he wrote the part where Macbeth killed King Duncan.”

So I must ask, if God does not have a positive decree by which everything is determined by His own council, then what determines history? Impersonal chance? The pagan gods? The creation itself? Perhaps Man is the ultimate in Dispensational theology? Is life just God winding creation like a top and letting it go to see what happens? If this is the case, then God’s decisions in our world are total reactionary. His decisions must always be based on the creature and never His own sovereign purposes. What am I to conclude by the above point number 3? Does this not pave the way for Open-Theism?

This only leaves the Christian wondering why all things work to the Glory of God. If He didn’t decree it, if everything just happens by its own autonomous free-will, how is God glorified? If my wife is raped and murdered, what is the purpose? If my brother loses three babies prior to their birth, what is their purpose? When a bug squashes upon my windshield, what is its purpose? Dispensationalists claim their theology is all about glorifying God. How is this the case?

Let’s go to the Bible and look Acts 4:24-28:

And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, "O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, 'WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS? 'THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.'
"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.

Was Jesus’ death on the cross a sin? Were the men, who crucified Christ, sinning when they did so? Did God decree this event? If God was the Author of this major historical event, is God the Author of sin? There is simply no way of consistently explaining this text outside of Reformed theology. Hopefully we will not resort to saying that God simply looked down the corridor of time and saw that the Cross would happen. This may be the Bible Answer Man’s explanation (a national radio program), but it is not Biblical.

So I leave a challenge to those who think Reformed theology disparages God’s character by making Him the author of sin. Please exegete the specific text where that is stated. Then explain 3 texts. Genesis 50:20, Isaiah 10 and Act 4 (see above).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Dealing With Part 2

Now for a more difficult part. Dealing with methods of interpreting prophecy. My pastor friend states:
"2. Regarding the point you make about Israel, it's not a difficult concept. One simply must look to the Seventy Weeks of Daniel. Plainly, there is one week of years yet to be accomplished through and with Israel."
It may be plain that one week is left, what is not plain is the hermeneutic or interpretative method. If we are going to take the Bible literally, the question still must be begged, do we interpret the Old Testament as if the Old Covenant were still in force or do we interpret the Old Testament knowing that a greater fulfillment is occurring.

For instance, the Apostle Paul teaches that not all who are Israel are Israel. Does this mean national Israel is how the Old Testament prophecies must be fulfilled? If so, why does Paul redefine for us the meaning of Israel? How often does Paul teach that those who are circumcised in the flesh (ethnic Jews) but not circumcised in heart are not truly Jewish, and teach that Gentiles who are not circumcised in the flesh to being truly Jewish?

Peter also redefines “Nation” to mean the “Church”.

1Pe 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Is Peter to be taken strictly literal here? Are Christians national Israel? If the church is now the New Israeli nation of God, then could not God fulfill His promises in a way that He sees fit? The literal sense of this passage by Peter is that the Church is the new Nation that God has created in Christ. This Nation is made of both Jew and Gentile.

Now to be fair, there are Historic Premillenialists such as John Piper. He interprets Romans 11 as showing that national or ethnic Israel will come as a whole to embrace Christ. This however will only incorporate them into the heavenly Jerusalem and the New Covenant and the Church. As long as the prophecy is interpreted in light of national Israel as being incorporated into the Church (the True National Israel of God), one could potentially solve the dilemma.

To be consistent though, if I am going to take the Bible literally, why should I take an Old Testament prophecy about an Old Covenant people as needing to be fulfilled when the Old Covenant people were rejected? In other words, the New Testament teaches that God has done away with the Old Covenant in the book of Hebrews. Do I ignore this? Should I ignore the fact the author of the Book of Hebrews warns in the strongest of terms ethnically Jewish people not to go back, while Dispensationalists are teaching that we should go backwards in Redemptive history?

The truth is, Dispensationalists ignore the New Covenant, as predicted by Jeremiah 31:31-34, as now being instituted and fulfilled in the Church even though the prophecy describes the New Covenant as being for Israel and Judah. I simply see no attempt by Dispensationalists to deal with such passages.

Simply claiming to believe the Bible literally, does not release one from ignoring the many passages of the New Testament’s teachings about the nature of prophecy and Covenants in how they are to be fulfilled.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Strictly Literal or Natural Sense II

Strictly literal or natural sense? Both mean believing in the literal interpretation of the Bible. How do our differences work themselves out?

Several years ago, I read a book by John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Throughout this book, John Owen argues for the perfection of Christ’s mediatorial work and proves the doctrine of Substitutionary atonement as being Biblical and forever perfecting those who draw near to Christ and for whom Christ died.

During the book Owen spends 10 pages of argumentation on the “natural sense” of the term “world” in John 3:16. Should the term mean every single individual ever or even every person living during the church age, or does it mean both Jew and Gentile. Norman Geisler in his book, Chosen But Free, dismisses Owen’s arguments by appealing to a “strict literal” method by assuming “world” means every person ever, therefore no discussion was offered by Geisler at all.

The natural sense of the text however, leads not to every person ever. Jesus is speaking to a Pharisee who believed salvation was for only Jews. Jesus was explaining that the Jews were misunderstanding the promises that were to be fulfilled in the Messiah. Jesus was not interested in a “strictly literal” fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies by conquering Rome and taking a strip of land back from the Romans, but instead explains salvation will be worldwide.

Here is another example that Sam Waldron gives in his eschatology series. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus quotes an Old Testament prophecy and applies it in a “literal” sense that could not be taken as “strictly literal”.

Mat 5:5 "Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Is Jesus merely speaking in a strict literal sense from the Old Testament? The original prophecy was given under a different covenant to mean that strip of land called Palestine. Jesus however is establishing a New Covenant with His people. This is not a divided (Jew and Gentile) people. They are not merely some spiritual people that have no tangible expression in this world. He is referring to the church inheriting the whole world.

Interpretational methods are important. But simply assuming a “strictly literal” method does not mean one will escape error.

Literal Verses Natural

A pastor friend of mine sent me an e-mail in response to Covenant Theology. This person is a highly respected pastor and a friend. I value his thoughts greatly and with his permission I will interact with his email. He gives three reasons as to why he rejects Covenant Theology, and in this post I wish to interact with position one.

1. Dispensationalism is a framework for understanding Scripture which is the natural outgrowth of a literal, grammatical, historical method of Scripture interpretation. In other words, for those of us who believe that God spoke plainly to man and not in any sort of spiritual "code", dispensationalism is the best way of understanding the Word. We realize that it is not a perfect system, but it requires no extra-biblical presuppositions.

It is true that Dispensationalism is a framework or a hermeneutical (interpretative method) method for interpreting the Bible. I want to concentrate on the statement “literal, grammatical, historical method” for interpreting Scripture. Many people down through the centuries including today have misused the Bible and twisted it to mean just about everything. As a person who takes a reformed and Baptist view of the bible, I agree with this method. Therefore if it is being said the Reformed theologians do not use this method, then that is just a red herring. I doubt that is the case, so the question will be, “what is the difference between Dispensationalists and Reformed/Covenantalists?”

Time for a little history. Many centuries ago, Christians (mainly gentile) and Jews had a major split. It is my understanding that the wedge between Judaism and Christianity was quite nasty. Over time, theologians began to lose the context of the Old Testament. A more spiritualizing of the Old Testament became prevalent for centuries. The problem however was that for every theologian, one could find an interpretation of an Old Testament text. This obviously leads to interpretations that could actually make a text mean the opposite of its original intention.

It was not until the Reformation and with leaders like John Calvin did theologians begin to go back to a method of interpretation that allowed the text to speak instead of forcing the text to say what we want it to say. In other words, they sought “original intent”.

Over time, Liberal theologians began to deny the historicity of the Bible. This led theologians to begin spiritualizing texts. This time, though it was even worse. Now instead of misinterpreting the Old Testament, now the Resurrection of Jesus is being seen as “non-literal” or "spiritual". As a reaction to liberal theology, we now have groups, who adopted a stronger literal approach (Dispensationalism) to the Bible. This stronger literal approach began taking Old Testament prophecy in ways that the New Testament may not teach.

So do Reformed theologians simply spiritualize texts? Both sides (Dispensationalism and Reformed) believe in the term “literal”. Reformed however take the term literal to mean “natural sense”. If a text is an allegory, then that is the “literal” means by which an author communicated. If an author used a parable to communicate a truth, then we need to interpret using the literary means the author used.

How does this apply to the discussion? For some Dispensationalists it may not, since they may agree with what I have said. The question then becomes how do we approach prophecy? Do we interpret the New Testament in light of our assumptions about the Old Testament, or do we interpret the Old Testament prophecies in light of what Jesus and the Apostles teach.

So in reality the questions are more difficult, such as “Is there a distinction between the Church and the ‘true Israel of God’ throughout the New Testament?” Are there two groups of Christians, Jews and Gentiles? Is the Old Covenant still in place? Does the New Covenant embrace all Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, and tear down the dividing wall? Some things to think about.

In my next post, I would like to give an example of "strict literalism" verses "natural sense".

Friday, January 06, 2006

Natural Results Of Bad Theology

YNet news article provides a great example of the problem of Dispensationalism as opposed to the clear teaching of the New Covenant throughout the New Testament. Pat Robertson is quoted in a portion of the article below:

"Conservative Christian evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson on Thursday linked Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke to God's “Enmity against those ‘who divide my land.’”

“He was dividing God's land and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations, or the United States of America," Robertson said on his television program, “The 700 Club," Broadcast from his Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach. “God says 'this land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.’”"
Isn't it ironic that Robertson believes God is judging Israeli leaders today for not keeping some Old Covenant land promise, when Jesus condemned Israel in A.D. 70 for attempting to keep the same promises, while ignoring His pronouncement of a New Covenant. In other words, Jesus says in Matthew 5, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Here Jesus changes the Old Covenant promises from National Israel, and it's little strip of land, and makes the New Covenant promises universal referring to the whole earth.

While attempting to help Israeli Jews, we actually keep them divided from New Covenant promises that can only be fulfilled in Christ. The Old Covenant with naturally descended Jews has passed away. Only those who trust in Christ, will inherit the Promises of the New Covenant. That includes Jewish people too.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Covenant Theology/Dispensationalism

Many moons ago, a Jew for Jesus came to my Dispensational/Pentecostal church to explain the Sader meal at Passover time. It was a quite a time to see what the Last Supper may have been like and to see the context it occurred.

I managed to catch the speaker later that evening. I asked a point blank question. Do Jews need to believe in Jesus now, or are they still under the Old Covenant and a distinct people of God from the Gentile church. I'll never forget his response. He quoted Acts 4:12:

"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
Then he said something which amazed even himself. He said, "I am always amazed when a Jewish person reads the New Testament and does not see Yeshua as Messiah. I am equally amazed when a non-Jew reads the New Testament and is able to understand it. For it is an extremely Jewish book."

I agree. The New Testament is an extremely Jewish book. This caused me to question some of my beliefs in a system that at the time I didn't even know the name of yet. After hearing Christian preachers such as John Hagee explain that Jews are still saved under the Old Covenant, I began to see that Dispensationalism had inherent flaws. Yet I had no knowledge of any other system. I simply assumed that everyone believed in Dispensational theology.

Some years later, I read a debate book on differing views of eschatology. After reading that book I became convinced Dispensationalism is in fact a great error. The verse that put me over the top was that Jesus is already sitting on the throne of David and is sitting at the right hand of the Father according to Hebrews 1. Therefore there is no need of Jesus coming to sit on an earthly throne when He already rules and reigns from an established throne.

I have still struggled through the years though. I am a subscriber to a semi-annual publication called the Reformed Baptist Theological Review. I have been reading about Covenant Theology for quite some time. Only recently have I become absolutely convinced of Covenant Theology. I am finishing a book called A Reformed Baptist Manifesto: The New Covenant Constitution of the Church by Sam Waldron, sold at Solid Ground Books.

This is a must read for any layman. It is simple, and (even better) it is short (102 pages). You do not need to be reformed or a Baptist to read this book. If you want a simple overview of the nature of the New Covenant as established by Jesus Christ, then this book is a must read.

Sam Waldron explains Covenant Theology while contrasting it with Dispensationalism, Antinomianism (against law), Arminianism and Paedobaptism (infant baptism). He then comes to a conclusion of a Reformed Baptist Manifesto.

I would also suggest listening to his four part Eschatology series. After reading his simple book and listening to his lectures, I think you'll agree that Dispensationalism is a system with serious flaws, and Covenant Theology (from a Amillenial viewpoint) is a system taught all through the pages of Scripture explaining Redemptive History in a systematic fashion. part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

Monday, January 02, 2006

Give Away Everything, Including The Gospel

Texas Church Plans To Give Away a House in order to keep the faithful from being unfaithful. I shouldn't be surprised, but I thought Evanjellyism was supposed to be a People of the Book. We constantly preach about the sufficiency of the Bible, the Spirit, the Work of the Son and so on. Yet we don't put into practice what we say we believe. We will literally attempt to manipulate the congregation in order to get them to have an appearance of being godly.

2 Timothy chapter 3 teaches:

"But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these."

Christians should be living the power of the Gospel. Instead, Christians are the most manipulated people. It makes me wonder if the Gospel is even definitional of the church anymore.

I was told that at a recent youth rally well over 180 teenagers "came forward at the altar call". I have come to believe the "Altar Call" has become the replacement for the call to repentance. If the gospel itself is not able to tangibly change the heart of a man or teenager, then all the Altar Calls in the world isn't going to save anyone.

What strikes me the most is how people who favor "Altar Calls" seem to doubt their reality. They will always say, "Now among those teenagers, who will persevere?" Great question! So why put so much stock into them in the first place? Why do we judge evangelists, who have no one come forward at an Altar Call, to be poor evangelists? Do we really believe that the Gospel and the Spirit of God to produce what God desires? Do we really believe the Gospel to "be the power of God unto salvation? Do we really think Altar Calls HELP the Spirit in helping people in living the Christian life?

It would sure be nice to look to Scripture for the answers to these kinds of questions. Perhaps when Evanjellycals are willing to question their Traditions, then maybe we'll get there. For now, I hope God's Undershepherds remain faithful in their duty to preach the Word diligently and consistently. I still know a few who do. I pray that if the Lord is willing, He will send more.

Teaching Christian Kids To Shoot Stuff

I meant to get this up earlier. On Christmas Eve, my family watched that silly movie Christmas Story. The next morning, behind that couch at Grandpa's house was a box very similar to the one in the movie. Needless to say, my son guessed the content and was immediately wisked into the back yard.

Rachel was not far behind. Thank God for America and the freedom to shoot stuff. Does it get any better than watching your 6-year-old daughter shoot a weapon?